Eye2i: Three Men on a Bike

Book Review: in the new world of Covid-19, Paul Sorensen’s book may well prove to be the last of this particular genre for a while.

Eye2i charts the often, wobbly course of three septuagenarians, ex-teachers Paul Sorensen and Chris Rockell, and ex-banker Chris Dowdeswell, as they cycle furiously from London to Istanbul, supported by the faithful Mothership – a wheezy 18-year-old Peugeot van.

Today, there is a poignancy in reading of their ability to move freely across borders, unencumbered by lockdowns and the exploiting last hurrah of their European passports. They visit new places, meet new people and get drunk with them. Let’s hope the day will soon return when travel becomes a pleasure once again and strangers no longer represent danger.

BeatSCAD charity

The inspiration for the obviously ridiculous idea of three old men cycling across Europe was to raise money for a good cause, BeatSCAD. Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) is a dangerous condition, often affecting normally fit women such as Chris’ wife Sarah.

After a recce, detailed route planning and what seemed like very little physical training, certainly on Paul’s part, our intrepid cyclists were waved off by loved ones from the London Eye on the 15 September 2019.

Their journey took them through Holland, Germany and Austria, along the Danube and the Rhine Circle Route – mystifyingly complicated by the fact the route had to be followed backwards. Then on to Eastern Europe, countries once behind an Iron Curtain.

A pattern develops: the major concern of each day quickly becomes apparent. Where is the next beer coming from? Luckily man downing pint gestures seem to be a lingua franca and they rarely end the day disappointed.

I enjoyed reading Paul’s account of the adventures of the three old gits: his style combining travelogue, Boys’ Own adventure and subtle literary allusion to please W B Yeats afficionados.

Friendships prevail!

The cycling was often dangerous and always exhausting . For example, on the road from Lom to Rasovo, Sorensen notes the road was ‘cobbled and vertiginous,’ which left him ‘panting like a dog in the desert’. What emerged from this tale was the strength of the friendships that had been forged many years before at Kingston Grammar, and strengthened through a lifetime of team sport.

The competitiveness of youth had been left behind in the acknowledgement of the realities of ageing. Perhaps their greatest achievement was to live together in such close quarters, despite prodigious flatulence, fermenting Lycra and continually disturbed sleep due to the demands of the mature bladder.

Some of the places they travelled to inspired me to visit myself. The town of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, and also Edirne in Turkey which sounded delightful. The latter’s ‘vibrant bazaar where sweets are piled high at every other stall with clothes and shoes and cakes filling the gaps’. And of course, their final destination, the always enchanting Istanbul. Less attractive were the camp sites, notably in Bulgaria, which sounded as if they were the setting for a Solzhenitsyn novel.

What I learned from reading about these adventures was firstly, my decision never to learn to ride a bike was clearly the right one. Moreover, that travel is as much about the journey and the friends we take with us as it is about the destination.

I am perversely heartened by the news that the Mothership continues to rack up traffic fines even though it is now firmly ensconced in the Home Counties.

A great journey for a good cause and an excellent book to record it!