My progress was, for the most part, steady. A late arrival from France – perhaps the last flight I shall ever take – meant a late departure for the West Country, and my getting caught up in delays due to a road traffic accident which I might otherwise have avoided. It was dark by the time I opened the flaps of my luxury tent at the Youth Hostel Association’s site at the Eden Project and this may have contributed to my fatigue the next day or two. The first, the bike failed to start – the first time in my experience – after stalling at the side of the road; I was lost, just outside Ashburton in Devon. I bump-started it, and rode, as quickly as I dared across Dartmoor in heavy rain against the descending mist and darkness to find the YHA hostel. The second, still tired, I made a mistake, en-route to Frome, exiting a roundabout in the pouring rain, and trespassing momentarily into the path of oncoming traffic before being able to turn the bike back my side of the road. I got lucky. My friend in South Bristol, whom I reached by the early evening, advised me not to continue with the trip for the moment, on the basis of how shattered I looked. Fortunately, the sofa in his landlord’s living room was comfortable, and I had a restful and restorative night. I was not the only danger to myself – and others – on the roads. This was duly confirmed in Haverhill, Suffolk, some weeks later, as I entered the town centre, and a driver pulled out in front of me. I had seen the danger though, and was able to break hard enough to avoid a collision. I know I felt pushed for time on the run up to my scheduled ferry in Cairnryan from Liverpool too, and am glad the weather was kind; it would not have been easy to make the time I did on wet roads, once over the border. These sorts of experiences were not the rule however. The risks to my overall schedule were more likely to come from theft or fatigue. I was warned about where I had parked the bike, in Belfast, and I am fairly sure my tent and some other effects were taken from the back of the bike in a covered Cambridge car park. Again, given how often I left the bike exposed, I feel I got away with things somewhat. As for fatigue, outside of the near-death experiences, I quickly settled into a routine, often finding accommodation online, when I needed to, the afternoon or evening of the night in question. On not a few occasions, I chanced my arm, trying to find somewhere I had made a reservation late at night, sometimes in difficult conditions, with little or no mobile phone signal, charge, or petrol in reserve. Once or twice, I arrived somewhere without a bed for the night. Often, I relied on the kindness of strangers, for help with directions, a web search or a phone call. I never did come up short, or find myself challenged to do some wild or stealth camping. Any bad luck could have contributed to fatigue and potentially loss of time.
As well as experience, what I amassed was an important collection of illustrative material. As one of my parents’ friends quickly pointed out, this is not evidence, as such, as I had first put it, in conversation. It is a fair point. The evidence, in a scientific sense, is that present in the selection of forty or so sources, which I believe represent some of the finest scientific, including social scientific work done on the matters in question. The materials I collected rather provide firsthand illustrations of the arguments and evidence in the literature. The collection includes many hundreds of photographs – portraits, scenes, and landscapes. Whilst these were shot using the modest camera in my smartphone, and I am not a trained photographer, they nevertheless provide a complete, visual record of the road trip and a visual representation of much of the country. I travelled with a digital ‘handy recorder’ too, which I used to record most of the conversations I had arranged in advance. The more rudimentary, in-built recorder in my smartphone was used to capture more spontaneous conversations, ambient noise, and the hundreds of voice memos I saw fit to make along the way. Several conversations were recorded after the trip had been completed, as it had not been possible to conduct them in person. In all, just under forty conversations were recorded and transcribed, with at least one per region. These include four with senior academics – in economics, sustainable transport, sociology, and peace studies – two of whom are each the authors of one of the principal forty sources considered; a number of other professionals, including a senior teacher and trade unionist, a visiting American scientist, and one of the UK’s preeminent whistleblowers; activists of all kinds including the Chair of CND; elected councillors, past and present; members of the Labour Party, the Momentum movement, the Green Party of England and Wales, the Socialist Workers Party, and Independents for Frome; workers – often encountered at work – in the private and public sectors; people who are homeless and who have been homeless; at least one retiree and several students and young people. All will be accessible in the online archive in due course.
Above En-route to Bodelva, Cornwall and the Eden Project