I ran away with the circus or rather, it ran away with me.
Running Away With The Circus And Finding Out About My Father
I ran away with the circus in 1990 or rather, it ran away with me. Over the three seasons I was with them we toured the UK, Europe and, on one occasion, played a week long residency at Timna Park in the Negev Desert in Southern Israel. Here I felt a strange sense of belonging and an affinity I was unable to explain.
Meeting My Mother
Ten years later when I was forty, I met my birth mother for the first time since being adopted at four months. She was finally able to explain to me that Hamid Hamidi, who I was only aware of as being the name given on my adoption certificate as my father’s. He was Iranian and I learned from her that you couldn’t see him for dust when he heard about my imminent arrival.
At the time he was studying in London to become a dermatologist and my mother helped him with his English. As time went by I became increasingly curious about whether I would experience similar feelings if I were to visit his country but had no clear idea of how to do this.
Minor Surgery And Spontaneous Cessation
Following some minor surgery, which required an overnight stay in hospital, six years ago, I unexpectedly and spontaneously stopped smoking cigarettes. I had been a committed, heavy smoker for my entire adult life and overnight, I abruptly stopped. As happens to many other quitters I had begun to pile on weight. Three years after stopping I had become obese and feared I was on the way to ill-health and an early demise.
Riding A Bike
A very good friend had spotted this worrying trend and intervened, encouraging me to take long walks amid the beautiful scenery in the hills surrounding our home town of Hebden Bridge. But my enjoyment of these walks was often marred by chronic back pain due to carrying all the extra weight. He persuaded me to fettle an unused bike that had been knocking around my flat for a couple of years.
Those first few rides took some effort but I quickly realised that my range had more than doubled compared to walking and that the rewards were fantastic. After a few weeks I found myself able to cycle up our steep valley sides and onto the moorland to explore the many quarries and reservoirs. I was able to enjoy the wildlife and flora of these open spaces. As my enjoyment grew I realised that this bike was too small for me and that I should get another, bigger and better one to pursue my new found passion.
I started visiting Blazing Saddles, my local bike shop, where they helped me pick a bike and allowed me to save up to buy it. By February of 2014 I was the proud owner of a brand new Orange Clockwork Pro. My range instantly doubled again and I was hooked! In the three years that I’ve been walking and cycling I have slimmed down considerably and am much healthier and happier.
As 2015 wore on, I found myself facing the prospect of needing to find somewhere else to live but felt unwilling to commit to another long term, high rent let. With homelessness a real possibility, I started thinking about which direction to go with life. Not so much an existential crisis but a crossroads, an opportunity maybe to choose another path. It was during this time that the idea to cycle to Iran was conceived and I started planning how to go about it.
Thickening The Plot
Realising that I needed a touring bike, clothing, camping gear, the ability to cook and obtain drinking water and, of course, the ability to finance being away for several months. I also needed to find someone else to look after my IT clients while I was away. Divesting my work obligations meant an untimely reduction of income so I started looking for ways to make up for the shortfall.
Another friend once told me that he earned extra cash by taking part in clinical drug studies and so I started looking for companies which undertook them. One such company was Quotient Clinical based near Ruddington, south of Nottingham. Quotient offered a number of studies with attractive remuneration and I set about applying to participate in one of them.
An induction day was arranged where I visited their facilities and was shown around before subjecting to a screening where my vitals and ECG were measured and samples taken. As it happens, I wasn’t invited onto that first study as the requirements are very strict and one of my measurements was out of the required range. In fact, over the following weeks I attended several more screenings but was unable to participate.
Don’t Give Up
I was close to giving up when they finally invited me to participate in a study which also saw me being released before dosing had taken place. It was hard to continue at this point but I summoned the will to try again and this time was successful in gaining a place on a study consisting of a ten night stay which I successfully completed.
I was fortunate to meet some very hard working members of staff who have earned my admiration and also the other volunteers, some of whom I have maintained contact with since. In mid June I completed a second study which consisted of eight visits to the unit, a screening visit and seven three night stays. This has taken just over three months to complete but will supply most of the money I need to subsist during my cycling adventure.
If anyone reading this has ever wondered about taking part in clinical studies and remains undecided, then I can wholeheartedly recommend that they arrange to visit Quotient for a screening, your expenses will be paid plus an additional amount to make it worthwhile.
Giving Up The Comforts
Sacrifices had to be made. I moved out of a high rent apartment in Hebden Bridge and into lodgings in neighbouring Todmorden. I started to live frugally and became focused on making this hare-brained scheme a reality. By the end of December, I had paid for a new touring bike and was well on the way to obtaining the rest of the kit I needed when disaster struck.
Here Come The Flood
On Boxing Day 2015, widespread, record breaking and catastrophic flooding inundated the Calder Valley. Many local businesses, including the bike shop and the place where I had stored my belongings, were wiped out by the worst river flood ever to have been recorded. So many people lost their homes, businesses and livelihood and were facing a very uncertain future.
Suddenly the focus had shifted and my plans had to be put on hold while helping the local community clean up the terrible mess that the river had left behind. People’s possessions lined the streets and there was mud everywhere. The effort of such a great number of people from all over the country was overwhelming and heartwarming. Kitchens and temporary accommodations were set up, along with food banks and stores of donated household items.
Dealing With Loss
At some point during the first few days after the flood, the realisation dawned on me that I too had lost many of my possessions. Those which had been placed into storage. My new bike, which had yet to be assembled, had been submerged but my good friends at Blazing Saddles were able to rescue it and about six weeks later than planned, supplied a new touring bike which I was eager to try out.
Increasing Strength And Stamina
Since February I have undertaken trips of increasing distance and duration and have gradually loaded the bike with all my kit. My strength and fitness is such that I feel that I’m ready to depart and in a few short weeks, will ride to Hull to board the Rotterdam ferry and embark on this adventure.
Finding My Iranian Family
It might even happen that I discover what became of my father and maybe trace some family members. Who knows? I have already made some progress in this respect, but that’s a story yet to be told.
Raising Money For Médecins Sans Frontières
I have decided to combine this journey to Iran with raising money for the heroic Médecins Sans Frontières who place themselves into situations of the utmost danger in order to be able to help others.
Please give generously by visiting my Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cycletoiran
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