The Third World as Seen From The Saddle – 4th July 2021

All about dealing with the stress of suppositories and other pains in the arse.

First up, Happy Birthday America. Next up, my apologies. Because I’m still off my bike pending permission from my eye doctors to resume training before we start the Silver Back Tour in just under two weeks, I’ve had lots of time on my hands to fill this blog with more than the normal quota of crap.

If ever I relaunch my music career, I’ve decided I’m either going to be in a rock band called Frank and the Suppositories, or Frank and the Sore Bottoms. The band names have been inspired not by my doctor, but because planning for a long bike Tour can lead to stress, which in turn can lead to the hard-to-spell ailment of the bottom that has marred my previous Tours, which leads to the use of suppositories. My band names were also inspired by the type of music we’re likely to play, sans any musical abilities whatsoever.

To avoid the resultant sore bottom, I’ve launched a 14-day course of prophylactic suppositories. But I find myself caught up in an unfortunate Catch-22. Google reliably informs me that my ailment of the bottom is often brought on by stress which is brought on itself by the thought of inserting the remedial suppositories in your bottom. Bullet shaped my arse, more like big bloody torpedo shaped, guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes, especially if they slip mid-procedure and you ending up trying to insert them sideways. But better to suffer now on comfortable porcelain with running water on tap than above a long drop in the back of the Zambian beyond.

We’ve also been stressing about the perennial baggage wars. Baggage wars rage when you have riders who, because they were born in the forties, insist on packing 120 gallons of kit instead of 120 litres; when you just know Vicky Bowen will scour Africa for driftwood pieces that used to be baobabs in their previous lives to add to her Natural Science and Artifacts collections; when team members with hair insist on travelling with brushes, combs and even hair dryers, leaving me to further stress about where I’m going to pack my eye drops and ointments, and extra padding for my bottom, and also my English-Swahili phrase book. Having learnt Swahili on my way to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, I was mightily relieved to learn they also speak it in Uganda.

Baggage wars rage even more when you travel with a whole bunch of kit; including a water bowser complete with 600 litres of potable water, not gallons; and his and her hot showers, complete with privacy cubicles; and the ‘BosKak 2000’, also complete with privacy cubicle, unless the wind gets up, leaving you horribly exposed; and the ‘BosKak 1959’ which is like the ‘Boskak 2000’ but without the luxury of armrests. And we need trailer space enough for 10 riders plus 2 spare bikes, fridge freezer space enough for frozen meals for 30 days for 16 appetites that make locusts look bulimic, and battery power to keep them working. We need room for spares enough to fix broken bikes and busted trailers, mechanics and engineers to use the tools, and Allan Wilson boys to supervise. I’m even packing a tool to remove stones from the hooves of horses before we eat them. Chewing on stones can cause all manner of dental problems, another common cause of stress.

And then given all of the above, and you start stressing about where the hell are we going to pack all this stuff and how are we going to pull the trailers? Enter headline sponsors Autoworld and their hugely generous loan of 3 splendid Isuzu D-Maxes and we now have space to burn, so much so that I’m now also able to pack a Speedo for when we swim with cichlids (bright coloured and hard-to-spell species of fish found in Lakes Tanganyika, Victoria, Malawi, and Edward, and not to be confused with coelacanths, which are also hard-to-spell but now extinct) and also a jersey in case it gets cold.

And on the subject of cold, don’t you just love how this blog flows, our fridge freezers will be powered up by the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium portable power station a.k.a. the Gokwe Power Station that we used on last year’s Lockdown Tour and on loan from the Solution Centre for this year’s Tour, the Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Lithium portable power station a.k.a. the Fukushima Power Station before it blew up.

Which brings us on to the naming wars in which we stress about what to call our splendid kit. Because I grew up enjoying Roy Rogers, I want to call one of the D-Maxes Silver, but because Alastair grew up reading the classics, he wants to name it Busyphilis, after Alexander the Great’s noble and venereal steed. And you thought Prince Edward boys only learnt about how much you need to mark Lunchbars and Crunchies up by in order to make exorbitant profits.

I’ve been stressing how to pronounce the name of my new Tour de France hero Tadej Pogacar, who took over from Primoz Roglic, who took over from Geraint Thomas, who took over from Chris Froome, currently lying 166 in the General Classification, behind Mark Cavendish. I worry that Chris is leaving it late to make his move to grab back the Yellow Jersey.

To avoid my legs walking out on me on my way to Uganda, I’ve been watching the Tour de France whilst suffering on my stationary bike, Root Canal. It makes the cyclist’s pain feel more real, sort of like watching the Marathon Man from the comfort of your dentist’s chair.

In terms of live sport on TV, the Third Wave lockdown is way better than the First Wave lockdown. Dan and I have enjoyed watching the UEFA Euro 2020 Finals, albeit a year late. I shouted loud for Holland, but clearly not loud enough, alas, while Dan is an ardent England supporter, only because David Beckham married a Spice Girl, is rich and lives in Florida. Because Dan only shouts for England come the business end of big tournaments, he doesn’t get to shout for them often. One of his greatest regrets is that he wasn’t alive in 1966 when they won the World Cup. Dan is bitterly disappointed that the England selectors have overlooked Beckham again, but is hugely relieved that new captain Harry Kane is good looking, as compared to Wayne Rooney who was selected instead of Beckham when last Dan shouted for England.

After their 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine, Dan is predicting an England v Uruguay final.

Because Brazil didn’t make it to the UEFA Euro 2020, Jen is boycotting the tournament. She is also boycotting the Copa America because they live in a stupid time zone.

I’ve also enjoyed international rugby, albeit with rusty teams. British Lions laboured to a 28- 9 win over Japan, ditto the Springboks in their 40-9 win over Georgia, ditto the All Blacks in their 102-0 win over Tonga.

I also enjoyed the inaugural finals of the ICC World Test Championship which pitted New Zealand against India against English weather slightly less. English weather won, New Zealand came second and India a lucky third.

Oddly, one of the things I’m not stressing about is Covid. Like the Irishman who wore two condoms to be sure, to be sure, on top of being fully vaccinated, I’m back on Ivermectin, and I’ve just ordered 100 of coolest face masks ever, see below, and I’m about to take social distancing to ridiculous lengths in northern Zambia, where people have to drive hundreds of kilometres to hug it up, but not with me.

In the interests of improved aerodynamics, I’ve decided to forgo stressing about my hair, and instead of my usual bangs plus a mullet, asked my hair stylist to give me a short back and bugger all instead, with a very pronounced centre parting. I love my hair stylist and so look forward to my bi-annual haircut.

Thanks to Rowena Melrose at the Yarn Barn and Mac Fallon, Hope Holland, Geraldine Melrose and Wendy Windel, I am also able to worry less about how the old guys at the Salvation Army Braeside are coping with a bitterly cold winter.

This year and despite the Third Wave lockdown, the Yarn Barn team were able to hand over 46 wonderfully warm blankets, lovingly handmade, square by square. I had to draft in extra Old Legs team members to help carry the blankets off.

But even more heart-warming than the blankets was the response I got from the old gents at the Salvation Army when I dropped the blankets off the next day.

The one old guy made me cry. I watched him spend the best part of half an hour going through the huge pile of blankets, one by one, looking for the blanket he wanted. At first, I thought he was being over-fussy. But then he told me he was looking for a blanket made out of squares made of his late wife’s favourite colours. And he was so happy when he found his blanket.

Another old guy also made me cry on the way home. I hadn’t been in the car ten minutes when I received a photo forwarded by a friend who’d had it forwarded to him by a pensioner who couldn’t wait to share the good news that he had a new blanket in pride of place on his bed. You know that good news that travels fast is the best news.

Too funny. Every year when one of the old guys at the Salvation Army who used to be a doctor in a previous life hears that I’m back riding to somewhere ridiculously far away on my bicycle, he tells me that I that really need to go and see a doctor. Not so funny is the realization that the Salvation Army Braeside is one of those places where the phrase ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ could have been coined. I am so happy we chose to give the blankets to the Salvation Army this year.

Thank you to those of you who’ve been asking about my eye. Bar a few oil pressure problems, it is fine. The retina has been stuck back on and is working again, sort of. After not enjoying all black, peripheral vision has never looked so good. So I have been cleared to resume my training on Wednesday in plenty of time for our departure the following Wednesday.

We are riding 3000 kilometres to Uganda to helping the old guys at the Salvation Army and others. Please help us help them and others by following the donate prompts below and on http://www.oldlegstour.co.zw. Also follow us on Facebook and share our adventure, but beware, we ride slow like pain dries.

In closing and back by popular demand, this week’s Swahili 101

Kuwa na yoyote ndogo mishumaa? – Have you any smaller suppositories?

Ni ni baridi. Ingekuwa wewe kama banketi yangu? -It is cold. Would you like my blanket?

Roy Rogers ni njia baridi, Homer huvuta. – Roy Rogers is way cool, Homer sucks.

Until my next blog which should come to you from Guruve, don’t stress, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Pictures below- our very splendid Isuzus, the coolest face masks ever, trying out the Boskak 2000, my hair stylist hard at work, and blankets to warm the heart, and most importantly. how to donate.

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