My bedtime book these nights is Anna Hughes’s, Eat Sleep Cycle: a bike ride around the coast of Britain. It’s proving to be something of a treat.
To be honest, my expectations were not all that high. The title is perhaps a little weak? The cover did not inspire. I feared the worst, but still parted with my £8 from Amazon: cycling has taught me to travel optimistically. However, I feared it was going to be one of those cycle tour books – we went from A to B, we ate here, we met Fred, we got soaked and lost and we ate a lot before retiring to our tent to post to our blog.
It might well have been one of those – but for one pretty important redeeming fact – Anna Hughes is really good with words. As old Eric Morecambe (almost) said, she not only uses many of the right words, but she also puts them all in the right order: and that makes a big difference to the reader.
Here’s an example taken at random as she rode towards my home town of Elgin. “Surprised I was riding alone, people asked if I was lonely. It had taken time, but I had come to love those hours of solitude, the anatomy of my solo journey something that suited me. Being alone is not the same as being lonely.”
Or this, from the road to Durness, “I set off into the early morning, the sea mist gradually dispersing as the sun emerged from its shroud. I would spend the entire day going from east to west; I could almost feel the planet rotating beneath me, the road turning against my wheels, the sun rising at my back then beckoning me forward until it disappeared into the sea.”
Believe me, I read a lot of cycle books and this is not the normal fare. This is something of a banquet. At her best Anna Hughes is up there with Anne Mustoe and Dervla Murphy in my book. Her journey may be a little less ambitious (she only set out to cycle the entire coast of Britain) but her prose compares well with the very best.
Will you enjoy it? I don’t know, but if you like a dash of the author’s inner journey as well as the road trip; if you enjoy description that blends geography, history, culture and people’s lives; if you are looking for lyrical descriptions of our beautiful country and the joy of cycling through it – then give it a go. You have nothing to lose but your £8 and I very much doubt you will regret it. I certainly didn’t. This is a keeper for sure.