A Chinese philosopher once said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a walk to Lewisham Station. This is very true.
The majority of people flew ridiculously early from Heathrow. Fortunately for me, I was flying from Luton at around midday, and could leave home at a more civilised hour. Unfortunately for me, I was carrying one of two bags of tyres with me that the group was taking with us, because they are difficult to get hold of in Palestine. It was a shoulder bag from which the strap had gone missing, so I rigged up something with a bit of cord.
This is Lewisham Station again.
A few people took their own bikes, but most of us hired hybrids from the tour company that MAP was working with in Palestine. I choose not to take my own classic bike with me.
Those who chose to take their own bikes had to take them apart and package them in something like this.
Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport
When the two of us who flew from Luton arrived, the others had been there for four hours already. Several of them had been or were still being questioned.
I was asked a couple of questions and allowed straight through, but others were questioned for hours. In this picture you can see me, a member of MAP staff crouching in front of me, one of our Palestinian guides in red, and then all the people who had been held back for questioning.
I couldn’t possibly say if there had been any profiling.
Anyway, the white people had already left for Jenin four hours earlier, but it turned out that a checkpoint had been closed without warning, leaving them to take a long alternative route, and in the end we met up with them on the way and all arrived at our hotel in Jenin the same time (very late).
Sendoff from Lewisham
I mentioned that seven of us were from south east London. Sadly, one suffered a Ladywell Fields-related injury and had to defer till next ride.
Our flights to Tel Aviv were very early on the morning of Saturday 31 March 2018, so we had to slightly fake our sendoff on Good Friday at Lewisham Station.
Dr Swee Ang, eyewitness to the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre and one of the founders of MAP, came along, and helped to persuade the station manager to let us take our photograph with banners of supporting organisations. She can be seen in the picture.
This was also the first day of the Great March of Return and shooting of unarmed protesters within the perimeter of Gaza, which has been continuing every Friday since.
There was a story published in yesterdays Burnley Express newspaper about this weekends Clarion Sunday event.
A clarion call has been put out for past and present members of a historic cycling group to meet up in the club's long-standing home.
Supporters of The Clarion Cycling Club, now spread around the country, have been invited to the institution's last surviving home, Clarion House at Newchurch-in-Pendle, for the get-together this Sunday.
One former member, Andrew Livesey, who now lives in London, said: "The local club has been based at Clarion House (The Clarion Independent Labour Party Tearooms) for 112 years. We wanted to revive the tradition of past and present members meeting there around this time of year.
"It is an attempt to resurrect the historic concept of 'Clarion Sunday' when hundreds of Clarion cyclists would converge on at a location for fellowship and tea. This has been going on for more than 120 years informally.
"Last year more than 100 cyclists met at the Tearooms in Jinney Lane. There are now an increasing number of Clarion Cycling Clubs within cycling distance of The Nelson Clarion House and their attendance would bring much needed funds to this historic institution, which has served cyclists and walkers every single Sunday since 1913."
Clarion House will be open on the day from 10-30am until 4pm although the normal closing time of 4pm can be extended.
Andrew added: "The plan is simply for Clarion and former Clarion cyclists to arrive and depart at will, the main objective is simply to share a pint pot of Clarion tea (price 55p) with like-minded folk and listen to a Clarion Choir.
"As I used to go there with Burnley Clarion, I’ll be driving up from London with my collection of Hill Special cycles. It would be good if people could attend on a vintage bike, and in vintage dress. Any era of vintage. If I can get a good number of confirmed attendees, I’ll organise a ride out and prizes. Vintage motorcycles are welcome too.
Michael Coulston has very kindly agreed to do a number of guest blog posts about his 240 km cycle through the West Bank in 2018 to help raise money for MAP (Medical Aid for Palestine). Chapter 2
Shaking the Bucket
Here’s a couple of the West Midlands contingent fundraising for their trip in a local supermarket.
Other riders took it on themselves to accost any passing Celebrity (it wasn’t me, but it was someone from south London).
I took a slightly more political approach. Here I am meeting my MP, Vicky Foxcroft, who had previously been to Palestine herself with Unite the Union. She was able to tell me what I should be prepared for.
I am not a religious person, but always wanting to make connections in support of Palestine. I asked if I could come down to Lewisham Mosque to get a photo with the Imam, but he suggested that I said some words and had a bucket collection.
So I had to come up with something off the cuff. I also hadn’t chosen my socks very carefully.
At the end, the bucket collection raised over £400.