An overcast and oppressive Gotham City, errrr, New York
I had breakfast in London, lunch in mid-Atlantic, and am now surrounded by people speaking French. I must be on my way to Montreal.
I had planned to overnight in New York, but it was too grey and glary and humid, so I went straight to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and am now Greyhounding it out through the northern NY suburbs. It will be a long day's travel, arriving in Montreal around 2am local time, 7am BST, but it will be good to wake up in the 'right' place tomorrow.
It's been a smooth journey so far, an auspicious start to this next chapter of my life - 10 weeks in North America. There was a spooky outbreak of numbers matching various house numbers of places I've lived. My original plane seat was 36F (First Floor Flat, 36 Bendemeer Road, Putney) but I changed to a window seat - 23A (23A Parsons Green). In US immigration I was sent to desk 17 (17 Cambridge Cottages, Kew). The plane had left from Gate 16 (16=4 squared, and I lived at 4 Queensgate, Northwich - OK, maybe a bit tenuous) and the Greyhound bus left from Gate 63 (63 Gilbert Road, Cambridge). I suspect that this means nothing more than that I've lived in lots of places, but you never know when you might stumble onto a sequence that actually is significant.
Apropos of nothing in particular, I watched a thought-provoking film on the plane - 'V For Vendetta', with Natalie Portman and John Hurt, portraying an England of the future where the government secretly uses biological agents against its own citizens so it can then 'protect' the terrified people from further attack by unspecified terrorists. Not so different from Michael Moore's theory in 'Bowling for Columbine' that the Bush government nurtured an atmosphere of fear so that it could win the election on a platform of law and order.
Other interesting questions raised: when does spin become censorship? When does politicking become wilful manipulation of the truth?
The film ends (look away now if you don't want to know) with a memorable 5th November fireworks display - and blowing up the Houses of Parliament, the face of Big Ben exploding in a slo-mo spectacular. Feel free to add your own comments to this blog as to whether this strikes you as a good idea...
03 Jul 2006, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon
Hours of entertainment - and the rowing was quite engrossing too...
Wednesday 28th June, and the row-fest of Henley was upon us once again. 5 days later, I am in dire need of liposuction and a liver transplant, but otherwise have had a thoroughly fantastic, fun, and hopefully productive time. Here are a few images of Henley from my album....
Lord Moynihan dishes the prawns
Me, George, Sally - ocean rowers being as sensible as usual
Oh go on, then, just one more glass of champagne... with friends on a launch to watch the fireworks
Getting arty - white wine and smoked salmon
15 Jun 2006, Oxford High Street
17 years on, and I still have nightmares about it - that I'm about to take my finals and I'm totally unprepared. Not so different from the reality of 1989 - I wouldn't have had a chance had it not been for the efforts of some fine friends who during that last stressful term would sit me down with a packet of chocolate Hobnobs as an incentive, and cram my head full of the bare minimum required to scrape through my law exams.
You might have thought I'd be over it by now, but the stress has clearly left its scars.
By contrast, when the exams ended the feeling of elation (coming shortly before a feeling of being extremely drunk) was incomparable.
I suppose I'd hoped for a similar feeling of elation and release from stress when I finished the Atlantic row, but I didn't - probably something to do with the fact that I already knew I was going to attempt the Pacific. While that is on the horizon there can be no let-up.
Why am I always chasing something more? Will I ever be satisfied? Will I ever again experience that feeling of closure, relief, completion, unburdenment (is that a word?)? Or will I always be planning the Next Big Adventure?
Finalists on Oxford High Street
Who knows. For now, I can live with it. They say that you only stop learning just after you stop breathing. I hope the same doesn't apply to adventuring. One day, a few years down the line, I'd like to start doing my learning a less strenuous way.
13 Jun 2006, Canary Wharf, London
This is Amy Fawcett, Chief Administrative Officer for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Europe. Soon to become Amy Fawcett, transatlantic sailor.
She is a high-powered investment banker, I am an impoverished ocean rower, but we have this much in common - a compulsion to get outside our comfort zones. Here's what it says on Amy's website, www.makewaves4breakthrough.com
'I'm Amelia Fawcett, and in addition to turning 50 this summer, I am going to sail for the first time across the Atlantic Ocean on a 47-foot yacht with four men! As someone who has spent her entire career in the City, and therefore much more at home navigating the murky waters of financial services, this challenge is a first for me and represents a true leap out of, what management consultants call, our "comfort zones". And it's not just me - none of us on the challenge has made an Atlantic Crossing on a small boat before, and this unfamiliar 3,000 mile voyage is expected to be anything but comfortable - tightly rationed food, a routine of four-hour watches, battling fear of the unknown and nobody immediately able to provide help.'
Add to this that Amy suffers from labyrinthitis, which makes her feel dizzy and queasy (a bit like being drunk, but less fun), and you start to appreciate the full scale of her challenge....
They set sail from Manchester, Massachussetts on 30 June - join me in wishing them all the very best in their bid to raise £250,000 for breast cancer research.