“Tour de Med” – Santander to Slough in 5 weeks. I was 17, just finished school and very unfit, so it was a rude awakening to bike touring. My only go on the bike before getting off the ferry in Santander, was a slow and painful ride up one of the many hills in Bath with no luggage.
I was travelling with 3 of my school friends who were all a lot more prepared for the trip. They ended up having to be very patient on every climb – especially in the Pyrenees, though waiting for me did allow enough time for a snapped chain repair.
One issue before the trip was where we were going to watch the remaining football World Cup matches. England had already been knocked out thanks to the lack of goal-line technology for Lampard’s goal, not to mention Thomas Muller’s finishing ability. However, Spain were in it to win it and we found plenty of bars showing the matches on TV.
We watched the Germany – Spain semi-final in the Basque Country, but slightly oblivious to local politics we were surprised to be the only ones cheering when Puyol headed in. Then we watched the final in a French town right on the Spanish border. We didn’t sleep as the locals were driving around celebrating all night. A good World Cup that even featured an Englishman in the final; Chapeau Monsieur Webb!
Upon my return I realised how much fun the whole experience had been. Meeting different people, spending time outdoors and being on a bike all day (even if I wasn’t quick) was brilliant and I found myself slightly at a loss back at home.
8 years later, after graduating University, spending 3 years in a job to save money, and a few more bike tours under my belt I am enroute to Russia hoping that in June, England can be at least equal to the sum of their parts, rather than playing like it’s the first time they’ve met. (see England vs. Iceland 2016).
The last England match I went to was against Russia in Euro 2016. It had plenty of unsavory scenes, before and during the match that I hope won’t be repeated this tournament. However, the lasting memory for me was a happy one; being hoarse from singing ‘Don’t take me home, I just don’t want to go to work’ on repeat with the thousands of other England fans who made the trip over to Marseille.