Apologies for not blogging Friday – yet again my laptop had gone AWOL in the camera car, as had my iPhone recharger, so I couldn’t even resort to my previous Plan B. So sorry that I wasn’t able to update you sooner, but I hope you enjoyed following our arrival on Baldwin’s Blogspot.
So here are the stats: 3 countries, 15 days, 250 miles, an estimated 500,000 steps. Big Ben to Brussels. Me and 4 fantastic but footsore friends.
Friday seemed almost too easy. We woke up with less than 10 miles to go, and had to dawdle along to allow the camera crew time to film us. Walking slowly was surprisingly hard – after 2 weeks on the road we had settled into a natural rhythm, and to slow down was at least as hard as walking faster would have been.
We ended as we had begun – in the rain. To slow ourselves down we stopped for several breaks along the way, including a coffee break in one of Brussels’s more elegant hotels. Think W Hotels (US) or the Sanderson (London) – and imagine 5 little orange people traipsing across the achingly chic reception into the bar, dripping rainwater and shedding mud as they go. Yup, we were about as welcome as pork pies at a bar mitzvah.
The waiter sniffed disdainfully as we deposited our backpacks and skis on the floor and settled ourselves gratefully into their elegant armchairs. Belatedly, and with a sigh of resignation, he finally deigned to take our order. Supermodels and smart businessmen looked in bafflement at these oddballs in their midst. We didn’t care. We were warm and dry and about to have hot chocolate.
Restored, we headed back out into the grey winter’s day. Luckily the media had not been deterred by the weather. We had a good little turnout, including several representatives from UNRIC, the United Nations Regional Information Centre.
Frank Koelewijn, who had contacted me via my blog and became our local “fixer”, presented us with lovely orange roses. Baldwin (who hosted us for dinner at his home in Bergen op Zoom) arrived late and breathless, having been sent to the wrong side of town by a not-so-helpful passerby. He may well have covered more miles than we did yesterday in his desperate search around the city.
Interviews and photographs complete, we went for a short walk through the beautiful squares of Brussels, cheerful with Christmas decorations in the gathering dusk. We dropped off our bags at the house of Yves Mathieu, a Climate Project presenter who had offered us accommodation and then headed out by Metro to find Les Larmes du Tigre (the tears of the tiger) – a Thai restaurant chosen by Frank for our celebratory dinner.
The icing on the cake of a very special day was to find Anthony Swift sitting at our table with Frank. Team BB2B has much to thank Anthony for – it was through him and his wife Bex that I met Laura and Jane, and also the Cherry family who plied us with tea and chocolate cake at their home in Essex, many miles and 2 countries ago. Unable to resist the allure of a party in honour of several good friends, Anthony had in mid-afternoon decided to hop on the Eurostar and come and join us.
So the journey that had taken us over 2 weeks took Anthony just 2 hours. Sigh.
But the quality of a journey cannot necessarily be measured by its speed. My ocean rows have taught me, if anything can, that the journey can matter more than the destination.
Sore of foot, aching of limb, and ever so slightly smelly after our long walk from Big Ben to Brussels, I wouldn’t change a single thing about our amazing trek. We set out almost as strangers – I had met Jane just once before we started planning BB2B, Laura likewise, Alison only during the Climate Ride in September, and Mary briefly at the October 24 Day of Action organized by 350.org – but we were all firmly committed to our goal, and supported each other through thick and thin. Not one of us avoided injury and pain, but we jollied each other along and made each other laugh, think, and grow.
I was feeling nostalgic about our time together even before we had parted company. We are now scattering to the four winds – Laura caught the train back to London last night, and Mary will travel back with Jane and her husband Sunday, while Alison and I caught the UN Climate Express train Saturday morning, bound for Copenhagen.
As I wrote this I was sitting in Coach 2, while Achim Steiner (UNEP’s Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General) was sitting in the seat behind me being interviewed. In the morning Alison and I were walking along the train when I spotted Franny Armstrong and Lizzie Gillett (of Age of Stupid fame) in a private compartment so we dropped in for an impromptu interview. They will be hosting a daily internet show from Copenhagen, in which a “horse race” will show how countries are progressing, depending on their declarations regarding climate change. Make sure you check it out – no doubt it will combine their irreverent humour with incisive analysis of the latest developments.
Our short stop in Cologne was enlivened by meeting up with two German sisters, Cornelia and Kirsten, who brought their copies of my book for me to sign. Unfortunately we were running late due to an unscheduled stop for an engine change, so they had frozen on the platform for half an hour before the Climate Express arrived. But we still had time for a quick chat and for them to give me a box of Belgian chocolate truffles – one for each day of our walk. Much appreciated!
Alison and I are did a joint presentation at 6pm in Carriage 9. Dinner was followed by a screening of Age of Stupid (I may well watch it for now the third time – always worthwhile) and a late arrival at Copenhagen around 11pm.
I plan to continue with daily blogs throughout my time at Copenhagen. Much is still TBD – beyond a few presentations, interviews and events, my diary is still very fluid. But I like it that way – ultimate flexibility to seize opportunities as they arise.
Watch this space!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to all who made BB2B possible – the families who spared their wives and girlfriends to come on the walk, our Kickstarter backers, the blog readers who contributed comments and good wishes – and of course my magnificent teammates, Jane, Laura, Alison, Mary and Nora. It was special. And now, in Copenhagen, we will make it count.