Friday, 12 July 2013

Sun, scenery, and a slower pace of life...

What a great couple of months it’s been since I arrived in France. I’ve probably already mentioned it in my last blog or on facebook posts, but I’m enjoying it so much I can’t stop telling people!

Fellow TP guides Ben, Chris and Emily enjoying the late evening light by the river near Clamensane 
I’m working in the best job I’ve ever had, surrounded every day by the most staggering scenery, riding my bike along incredible trails where it’s impossible not to whoop with delight all the way down, and finish grinning from ear to ear. Every day I wake up and can’t quite believe I’m in yet another beautiful place, working with a great team of like-minded people, and generally awesome guests who are equally as excited about the trip as I am. Even though there are busy and at times stressful moments when things don’t go to plan, I feel relaxed and calm, and like I have a sense of inner peace that I haven’t felt for a long time.

Taking a break on the Col des Champs
There are always the days and moments when I miss Gareth from the bottom of my heart, but recently, even when I’ve been missing him, although it’s still painful, and I’m sure always will be, I can picture his cheeky grin as though he’d just ridden the same trail or seen the same view I just have, and smile because somewhere I know he’s glad that I’m starting to feel like this.

I’m seriously loving riding my bike at the moment, and maybe even starting to ride it in the way Gareth was able to (ok, perhaps not quite as rad as that! But I’m definitely faster, smoother and feeling relaxed and comfortable in moving the bike around to feel more flow on the trails than I was at the start of the summer). Last week’s group was probably the most fun to ride with of the whole summer, and Sandra, Pat, Toby and I had a great week working together and showing the guests trails which they were uber enthusiastic about.

Last week's guests still smiling despite all the pushing!
Just one of many fantastic balcony trails high in the Maritime Alps

Another spectacular view

 This week is my last week of work before a 3 week break, and I’m mainly driving, as Ash is guiding a group of product designers and photographers from the US around the Trans Provence route as they test some new gear and get photos and video footage for promotional material. They are a nice bunch of guys, and in between all the shuttle driving to and from trails, I’ve been able to ride up and meet them for some of the descents. To be honest, it’s been nice to have a week with a bit less riding, as 3 weeks guiding the trip without a day off is hard work physically and mentally! I've been enjoying the driving and a bit of time to myself in the van listening to music, and appreciating the places I'm passing through.

The pretty perched village of Roubion

Driving through incredible scenery every day
It’s also been good to have an easier week, as the first part of my “holiday” is riding the Haute route from Chamonix to Zermatt next week. Tom and I rode it last year, carrying all our kit and bivvying en route. It was great, but this time we’re going lightweight, staying in huts and hotels so we don’t have to carry as much and can shred the descents J. One of the other TP guides Toby is joining us for a day or two as well, and this year we’re taking a slightly different route…involving more carrying and pushing no doubt, but also even more amazing long alpine descents….It’s fair to say I’m pretty excited! If you hadn’t already realised, this is the kind of big mountain, epic trip that I live for J

After that I’m joining some friends in the Ardeche for a couple of chilled out weeks sport climbing, sunbathing and swimming in the river, before heading back to Sospel to work throughout August with Ash on a new trip which he is putting together for next year. It’s basically going to involve riding a bunch of amazing trails, recce-ing some new ones and figuring out transport logistics to link them….it’ll be hard, but I guess someone’s got to do it ;)

Back at the start of May, my friend Fi asked if I wanted to write an article for an online magazine, and I said I’d give it a go. I’ve written a lot in the 20 months since I lost Gareth, and have found it a really helpful way to clear my mind of worries and anxieties. I’ve kept a diary, writing down things which in the past I would have talked about with Gareth, but now I don’t feel like I have anyone who knows me as well as he did, or who I can be totally, completely myself and speak my mind to honestly without being judged, and knowing that he would still love me unconditionally. I’ve had an amazing amount of support from friends, and my wonderful family, but there are some things that I would only have shared with Gareth, and as I can’t now do that, it’s been helpful to write them down to get them out of my head at least. Writing this blog has also been a way to remind myself of how lucky I am for the many opportunities I have and parts of my life I am grateful for, and to remember that although Gareth can no longer be an everyday part of my life in a physical sense, in a way, he will always be part of it, in the sense that the 10 years we spent together shaped who I am now, and gave me experiences and adventures that have opened doors, and opened my mind to knowing what is important to me, and what I want to do with my life to get the most out of it and feel alive and glad to be alive every day.

But writing for other people, and not just my random thoughts and ramblings, felt harder to do. In a way, it was hard reading back over what I’d written and thinking that other people would be reading about my “story”, when for me it’s not a story, it’s real….it all really happened, although sometimes that’s still hard to get my head around…..I had the most amazing husband and a fantastic life that we had built together, and now they are gone, and it’s hard not to wonder “Why?”. Why us? To some people, it might seem “inspiring” how I’ve tried to rebuild my life and keep busy doing the things I love, and that’s great if some people feel like that, but I’ve purely been doing what I can to help myself cope…every so often, I still can’t help but feel a sense that life has been very unfair though…

Anyway, for anyone who didn’t see the link to the article on facebook, it’s here if you want to read it.

This morning I’m sitting outside a café in the sun, waiting for the guests to finish their ride, looking at the old houses and narrow cobbled streets of the pretty little town on one side of me, and the towering wooded hillsides on the other, watching all the locals go about their daily business, listening to the sound of birds and two old ladies nearby having a conversation  whilst they pick their vegetables from the local grocers….it’s calm, tranquil, life is slow here….it feels good...

Tomorrow would have been Gareth's birthday, and I know I'll inevitably feel a bit low, so I'm glad I'll have the long drive to Chamonix to think lots of him and how we would have been celebrating, I like to think we would have been about to take on an adventure together like the one I'll be starting next week...hopefully I can persuade some friends tomorrow evening to remember Gareth with me over some of his favourite things....cakes and single malt whisky....Missing you as ever Gareth xx

Riding in the Alps

Summer holidays in Orpierre France

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