I describe my blog as being about life, llamas and cycling. Well, today it is more about death and cycling, which sounds awful but as death is part of life and affects us all at some time it is only appropriate that I write about it here when it does.
I was searching for something on google and by accident came across this news story from June 2007 concerning a plane crash in Malawi which five Britons died. Reading through, I recognised the name of one of them, Daniel Turnberg as I had been on a mountain biking holiday with him in Greece about 10 years ago. In fact, I still have an old photo from that holiday up above my desk at work showing us all sitting in restaurant by the sea, enjoying a beer or two. I remember him as a really nice guy, easy going and good company. I knew he was a doctor but he never told us that his father was a Peer. He was the sort of person that could get on with anyone from any background or walk of life and really was popular. My particular memory is of the last night of the holiday, when everyone was rather drunk but we were both less drunk than the rest and were very worried about people diving in the sea. In the end we escorted the tour guide home and made sure she got to bed safely as she was too drunk to stand up!
I was a little shocked and surprised that I had not been aware of this news at the time and it felt very strange to be hearing this two years later, but now that I have looked back on by blog to check what I was doing I can see that it was at the time when my mother was ill and we were packing up her house, so I guess I was otherwise distracted.
I read down the article a little more and two of the other names seemed familiar as well. I then realised that Dawn and Colin, two of the other victims, had been on the mountain bike trip that I did to Japan in 2004. The trip had been hard and we had faced hurricanes, landslides, rain, Japanese food and the intrusion of a BBC film crew together for two weeks. You get to know people quite well in those circumstances and although I did not keep in touch for long after I felt very saddened by this additional news. Out of the five dead I knew three of them. It felt so strange to think that in my head for the past two years I have been imaging them as alive and yet they haven't been.
I have had enough happen to me to realise that death happens quite easily and I don't take my life or other people's life for granted but those thoughts don't stop the sadness and I sat at my desk and shed a few tears over the computer. I feel quite a bond with people I know or have known from my various cycling activities and I think it is because it seems to attract the type of people that definitely take 'the road less travelled' in life. Most have not gone down the married with 2.4 children route, or if they have, they often have a far from traditional view of the world and within this broad group I have found people that I can identify with.
So...to Dan, Colin and Dawn. Thank you for the memories and for making the holidays such great fun and for being such good companions for all those ups and downs, even though I did not know you for long. I imagine you all now tackling that heavenly singletrack, laughing over a cold beer afterwards and gliding smoothly down the celestial hills.. and if, while you're there, you happen to come across a nice titanium framed hardtail mountain bike that looks like it might fit me, please put it aside for me when I arrive.