I’m gearing up for the next overseas legs of my journey and after ten years in the same job have taken the difficult decision to move on and make some time to complete the trip. I’m also moving out of my flat so It’s a period of change for me and lots of unknowns. The next stages will take me to the end of the Earth, twice, via the coast of death and I’m a bit apprehensive of what might be in store.
The first ‘Finistere, has long fingers of land sticking out from the north of France and poking into the Atlantic, strong tidal flows over offshore reefs from the headlands makes this a particularly notorious stretch of water. I’ve been watching videos of it online which hasn’t helped calm my fears. The second ‘Finisterre’ is of Shipping Forecast fame and gave its name to the area now named after its founder, Fitzroy. It has long been a point of pilgrimage, seen for millennia as the end of the known world, it’s rocky and exposed coast will often be the first point of contact for storms and swell smashing into this far North-western tip of Spain. I’ve been told it’s like Wales but warmer so I’m not sure what to expect.
I’ve spent almost two days filing emails at work. It’s a bit like watching your life pass before you but really slowly. Now I’ve left my job I can admit, I’m not great at filing. I had around 35,000 emails in my inbox and took the strategic decision to delete anything older than 5 years. The software is glitchy so I’m literally going through them line by line. After a few hours my eyes begin to hurt with a sort of stinging feeling where the lines start to jump around on the screen and I have to narrow my view into a squint to bring it into focus. It feels like a dull and slower version of a scene from ‘Minirity Report’
The week pushes on and I slip back into the habit of waking up with the 5.20am Shipping Forecast. I still have loads to do in the flat, an ongoing list that includes; Cleaning, hoovering, replacing the toilet seat, putting things in storage, re-siliconing the shower, getting keys cut....I eventually reach the point of the last of my handover meetings, I’ve done the long promised kayak tour on the Thames for colleagues, taken part in an open day and said goodbye to the work cleaner. The focus of discussions has shifted to where we will go out on Friday night.
Friday rolls in and there is an overcast sky, it’s cold and has been raining all week. There’s a blocking low pressure system over Scotland and I can see from friends in Iceland that they’ve enjoyed over 22 days of sunshine in a row. Outside, the leaves on the trees are hanging down with drooped shoulders looking deflated but gently swaying and bouncing in the wind. Bright red specks of cherries are hidden behind the leaves. I catch News Briefing on the radio and Susan Rae wishes me ‘Bon Voyage’ via Twitter. I’ve got a bunged up nose and am itchy the from the dusty work of cleaning. A headache forms just behind my eyes, I’m hungry and my stomach is aching, slightly sick and dazed. That evening my colleagues give me a lovely send off with heart felt well wishes, thoughtful presents and a trip to the local pub. We all get a bit tired an emotional and with some teary goodbyes, I’m off
A blur of tasks the next day passes quickly and with another early start I’m leaving London with my friend Michal who will join me on this leg of the journey in Brittany. We’ve talked about it now and this is a good opportunity to go together. The sun is rising and there’s a chill in the air with a heavy dew on the kayaks. It’s wet sliding them over the garden fence and there’s a yellow-blue glow in the sky. The birds are also waking up and the sun is not yet at full strength. I catch it shining from the east across the river and glinting in the glass of half finished towers at Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. We’re joined on the street loading the car by a lost Chinese man looking for the DLR and a Dutch man driving bleary eyed from a gig, looking for the Rotherhithe tunnel and the way to Dover. The river is like a millpond reflecting pylons, wind turbines and sheds as we drive along the A13. A billow of smoke has drifted over the Ford works at Dagenham and there is a silver glow round edge of the clouds. The huge chimneys, cranes and containers scattered around the hinterlands mark the point that the estuary opens up and the sky brightens. ‘living in a box’ comes on the radio and makes me think of all the stuff I’ve lugged to a storage container and the things and people I’m leaving behind. The white cliffs appear as we drop into Dover and join lane 286 queuing for the next ferry departure. I’m feeling tired and empty but with a spark of excitement of what lies ahead. Not the end of the world, but the start of something new.