The top of Great Britain is passed without note; (John O'Groats is cheap-o and not worth a mention),
Once in Inverness
The comrades peel off, leaving torrential rainstorms and brotherly tension.
This coastline's forgiving around Moray Firth, no more Highland peaks so dramatic and gnarly,
But rather pine forests
With roads straight and flat, where scent of haggis hangs o'er vast fields of barley.
To top public schools
One must take terns at draughting,
Past pig farms
And meadows a dark shade of pink,
No trace of a tourist from Buckie to Banff
(but for the tall cyclists - out sharking for Skink).
The Skink can be found in the charmed town of Cullen, whose whole reputation is built on the soup,
Dear Elly fills bellies - both so rarely filled,
Two humbled by kindness instinctively stoop.
A dusk hunt for campsites surprises poor locals, when grey-shirted strangers step forward like phantoms,
But soon ushered in and fast brooded upon,
A breakfast of quail's eggs
And feeding the bantams.
Big Brother: the sequel's set in Aberdeen,
Where foolish three head for the Chinese buffet,
Again gorge more food than all meals combined,
That were scoffed from the Spey to the Dee to the Tay.
Some odd-looking cycles appear near Dundee,
And follow through Fife the Pied Piper-like cranks,
Who wince in St Andrews to find ancient streets
So monopolised by the golf-obsessed yanks.
The Firth of Forth bridge is traversed with great care; the parapet's low, so go slow, lest you fall,
Violent squalls are braved on this memorable entry into Edinburgh for the Fringe festival.
Avoiding throngs from Arthur's Seat to the Mound, tattoo-hungry tourists swarm down Prince's Street,
While pussies are purring in quiet Morningside,
Where thank God, there's room for an urban retreat.
It's tough to adjust to the urban intensity: bars vs. repose is such a fine balance,
Boys ride the Royal Mile, but not to see shows, yet focus their efforts on much-practised talents:
Near Waverley Station,
A contest is held, to see who can slot in the most pizza slices,
Perhaps the imbeciles deserve what they get: 30 slices each
"Hey....what?!" a huge crisis:
A teenage upstart has nicked a taxi and is chased down the High Street, pursued by the feds,
He runs down a young man and hits the tall bikes (which is one of the brothers' most persistent dreads).
Road's closed for high drama, police sirens flash,
Cycles on the tarmac's a terrible sight,
A wheel is mangled and fork bent in half,
But miraculously, both the frames are alright.
What's more they're metres from a volunteer bike place, who give full support in a bad situation,
And work overtime in their cavernous shop,
To perform emergency resuscitation.
So close to defeat, yet spurred on by good will, the film team arrives once again - right on cue,
And follow back out to the calm pace of fields,
And fires glowing late
For the friends and the crew.
Out of Alba - back to Albion,
And Berwick skirted,
But Lindisfarne causeway's so bumper to bumper, it makes Oxford street look, by contrast, deserted.
The tall bike godfather, Hilldodger appears at the five-thousandth mile (how superbly fitting),
He whips out a cake for this momentous point,
Which, needless to say, is devoured in one sitting.
Plus Berry has come and is doing his share, collecting driftwood and samphire for the stove,
Fog horns on the Tyne,
Pilgrimage to Byker,
No sign of the Grove.
A night with the B-boy along the seaside,
An urban pastoral in three stripes and nylon,
Flip it and switch up, next night is a sizzler: brains fry in the rays underneath a large pylon.
Nowhere to stay; the weather's turned foul (to give some variation),
But firemen rescue the two weary waifs, with showers and ablutions back at the station.
At 4am, piercing bell wakes them all up, causing a kerfuffle in the dormitory,
The firemen rise and quick-shuffle out - not your average night in a small B&B.
The main roads of Middlesborough roar in the tempest,
And mist from the North York Moors swallows the pair,
Until the smart facades of Whitby raise hope, to elegant esplanades, Scarborough-
Down spindly Spurn head, across reclaimed land,
Not heaven but Hull where they've got a phone number,
Some old gap year friends, now policeman and nurse, give Beverley break before crossing the Humber.
Fish-tailing to Grimsby,
The giants stop off
At 'the End of the World' (which is not far from Skeg),
Around The Wash basin it's East coast fatigue, so desperately close to the grand final leg.
Back to Mum's bosom (penultimate time),
The tracks blocked by dykes so there's lots of dead-ends,
So frequently back up the way they've just come,
At last reaching King's Lynn, surrounded by fens.
North Norfolk's chalkboards and gentrified pubs, apart from Great Yarmouth it's not hugely mixed,
First Country Life coast hosts
Then Micky pops up, who's ridden from London, direct on his fixed.
Deep dreams on the sand
Are disturbed by some youth, (out drinking and shouting and causing a rumpus),
And late oats in Lowestoft: last in the series, of all four extremety points of the compass.
With days getting shorter
It's high time for harvest,
For bushes are laden and ready to pick,
And punctures keep coming as tyres wear thin, an average of five a day - taking the mick.
From Southwold to Aldeburgh
Ice cream crowds swarm, and form queues for fish & chips (which can take ages),
While riding above such things, Blythburgh church yard, the cyclists acquaint themselves with local sages.
The bikes are locked up and left there for the night, all four head for Ipswich (the home of the chums),
Both live in a commune with like-minded souls
Who welcome their guests with warm talks and loud drums.
Autumnal thunder-storms roll over Suffolk,
Where fairy god mother gives love and protection,
Before they reach Felixstowe, ferry to Harwich
To "G'wan my Son!": the souped-up Essex section.
Clacton's old-fashioned and Colchester's ancient, it's also the home of the Tall Bike Tour charity,
Re-Cycle HQ is very impressive, it gives re-assurance and fills boys with clarity.
Final few boat trips across lovely rivers,
For Essex is lacking attention it warrants,
Despite the boy-racers and Essex-girl jokes, the final friend alongside
At Shoeburyness, some deep thoughts well up: across the brown waters, the opposite shore,
A view of Kent beyond the shifting expanse, along which the Tall Bikes set, five months before.
After Southend, the tarmac takes over; it's hard to take in that the trip will soon end,
The tide pulls in Tilbury, tent's in Thames grasses, with massive container ships rounding the bend.
Back to the factory backs, concrete crescendo,
Pears on a lonely tree (last chance for bagging them),
Grays precedes Purfleet; against all the odds, a quiet last night on a wasteland in Dagenham.
Night sky glows orange, M25's crossed; tube stations appear, though still in zone 6,
Tackling big roads
On this sad wet morning, last breakfast of oats and a last flat to fix,
Fanfare of traffic lights through Tower Hamlets
Gliding like phantoms through streets dense and grey,
The city's unchanged on both sides of the Thames, and looks as it did when they left the first day.
So many landscapes at once seem imagined, exactly five months and a day, to the hour,
A pink-ballooned convoy's waiting to escort them, along Embankment from the Gates of the Tower.
Gusts whip up the leaves, clock tower chimes two,
And now the last mile of the six thousand travelled,
In the same windy park the two ends meet up, a great ball of wool that's now fully un-ravelled.
So many new places, from new to known faces,
In pictures and verses - so carefully written,
The journey concludes
As the brothers return,
The end of the tallest bike ride around Britain.
(Photographs of the London return are kindly supplied by Dave Martin and Boris Austin www.borisaustin.com