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The Lonely Biker

After Boudewijn de Groot's song: How strong is the lonely biker..?

· Behind the scenes

Arras, France, after 330 km

Dear friends/ colleagues,

The first week is done. And yes, it was very different from what I expected. I apologize to those who might had expected a daily report on my findings. That was my original idea, but the communication ladies from my media partner, Schuttelaar& Partners convinced me wisely to drop that idea and consider a weekly blog, with perhaps an occasional small ‘blurp’ in between. They were quite right: it was a busy week! Hence only my ‘sugar beet pile anecdote’.

The week started well with two days of cold dry weather, eastern wind and blue skies, but turned into a rainy Wednesday and grey days for the rest of the week. But yes, I had anticipated that!

But it is not easy to anticipated what full days of biking and stay-overs with (very kind and hospitable) strangers do to your body and mind. You start to be a 'little different', and change your perspectives of time and 'normal' life issues. It’s just me and a bike and one day ahead, on the one hand but feeling mentally tied to many strings on the other hand: Karin at home, as well as Kamiel and Yoes studying and Nikki in Uganda. And many others, whom I will not see for quite some time. What am I doing? Why did I want this? Am I going to make it? What if I fail? How will it fail?

But these doubts and gloomy thoughts, fade away when I see a flog of -I think- skylarks flying up from a freshly ploughed field that bring the French song ‘alouette , gentile alouette’ in my mind.

On the contrary, the evenings with farmers and their families were truly amazing. It is unimaginable, the hospitality and willingness of people to talk to a stranger-on-a-bike about their lives and work. Farming is a lifestyle, often invisible to us and so different from our lifestyle - yet so intrinsically connected with our lives. All my hosts, were very different in the way they operate their farms - the farm sizes, the things they believe, their education and backgrounds. But they have one thing in common, in spite of the hard work farming is, they would not want to do anything else. They love their work. Ranging from ‘Every day holiday’ of Rokus to Thierry who told me he liked his work most for people who appreciated the taste of his produce.

 

For me the enormous hospitality and kindness stood out. From Teunis Jacob, who accompanied me for the first trip, to Arie who helped to find other farmers in France, to Alex who cooked a delicious meal , while his wife was out and to Miel’s wife Astrid who baked apple pie. Els Boeren, who specially made fresh Belgium fries and mayonnaise because ‘a Dutchman came to eat’ and Thierry who invited others to join the conversation. The list is not complete by far, but provides some annecdotal insights of what I gratefully experience .

On the contrary, the evenings with farmers and their families were truly amazing. It is unimaginable, the hospitality and willingness of people to talk to a stranger-on-a-bike about their lives and work. Farming is a lifestyle, often invisible to us and so different from our lifestyle - yet so intrinsically connected with our lives. All my hosts, were very different in the way they operate their farms - the farm sizes, the things they believe, their education and backgrounds. But they have one thing in common, in spite of the hard work farming is, they would not want to do anything else. They love their work.Ranging from ‘Every day holiday’ of Rokus to Thierry who told me he liked his work most for people who appreciated the taste of his produce.

Tomorrow I will go on, to Philippe, but my trip after that is not set out. I don’t know yet where to lay my hat on Tuesday evening…another challenge to solve apart from a language challenge. Bear with me!

 
 

 

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