Josie Dew

Welcome to the official website of Josie Dew: cyclist, writer and cook.

Writing Progress

July seems to have gone much the same way as March ? out of the window.

That doesn?t mean that there wasn?t a lot of time for cycling (1,256 miles) and bedroom floor rowing (several rucked rugs worth) and panicky book-writing (up to 90,000 words now).

Am feeling itchy to set sail on my wheels for foreign parts, but instead I?m going to stay put for a little longer to write a book about cycling around New Zealand, which is what the book that is bobbing about on my editor?s desk is supposed to be about, but isn?t, as it?s about bobbing about on a boat instead.

Oh Deer

Oh Deer

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Crossing the Bedroom Pacific …

I am pleased to announce that I have finally made it to New Zealand after spending several longwinded months rowing single-handedly across the Pacific of my bedroom floor (see February update for explanation).

This has resulted in me sinking up to the gunwales in 80,000 watery words. These water-words are now riding at anchor on my editor’s desk awaiting further orders.

 This is the Russian freighter of rusty delights that conveyed me 15,000 miles to New Zealand.  This is the Russian freighter of rusty delights that conveyed me 15,000 miles to New Zealand.

This is the Russian freighter of rusty delights that conveyed me 15,000 miles to New Zealand.

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One Bright and Breezy Morning…

Here?s an example of how your day can be momentarily ruined in one easy step.

Early one bright and breezy morning I cycled to the local bottle bank to dump my jars and bottles. Once nicely smashed I then pedalled out of the car park and rejoined the road. This road is a quiet road at the best of times and at this time in the morning it was empty. I looked left, I looked right and off I spun. About thirty yards from the entrance of the bottle bank car park is a crossroads. I wanted to turn right at the crossroads so I cycled in the middle of my lane, passing the entrance to a small cul-de-sac in which I was briefly aware of a car reversing erratically out of a driveway. The road was still clear ahead. I glanced over my right shoulder. All clear behind too.

Then I heard the engine.

Cartoon taken from The Bristol Cyclist, the magazine for the Bristol Cycling Campaign.

Cartoon taken from The Bristol Cyclist, the magazine for the Bristol Cycling Campaign.

When you cycle regularly, you get very attuned to the varying pitches of the various engines of the varied vehicles that veer up from behind. Like wing-mirrors your ears are your eyes in the back of your head. Your ears transmute sounds into instant pictures so though you may be facing forwards and riding into what you see, your brain downloads the sounds into a pretty accurate visual scene of what is unravelling behind. That?s one of the reasons I would never cycle wearing headphones plugged in my lugs. I like to hear what is happening all around. It helps to keep you upright, aware and safe from a biff up the bum.

The engine that I heard behind me on this particular morning was impatient and angry, and its sounds sent out immediate warning signals. Without even looking over my shoulder I knew exactly what was happening and what was about to happen. I knew that the erratically reversing car had shot out of the cul-de-sac and was about to try and overtake me, even though I was a mere swinging cat?s length from the crossroads. As I didn?t fancy being overtaken and then cut-up, I quickly glanced behind, caught the driver?s eye, indicated very certainly that I was turning right and moved from the centre of my lane to ride down the centre of the road.

The driver didn?t like this at all. He wanted to overtake this obstacle in front of him even though this obstacle was turning right and he wanted to turn left ? all in the space of about ten lengths of bike pump. As I didn?t want to be squashed while an impetuous driver cut across my front wheel, I held my ground and kept him in his place. After all, if this man were to overtake at the same time a vehicle was turning left off the main road into our road, there would be a lovely smashing crash. So in effect, I was doing this driver a favour. What angels us cyclists can be! Unfortunately Mr Honda Civic Man (as that is the motor he was irritably revving) didn?t see it this way. He wanted to get past come what may. And because he was impotent to do so, he did the only thing he could think of to demonstrate his frustration: he gave me a prolonged blast on his horn.

By the end of his blast I had stopped at the junction of the crossroads, properly positioned to turn right. But before I made my turn I thought: I?m going to have a little word with him. So the moment Mr Honda un-civil Civic Man came to a sudden halt on my left, I said a very civilized, ?Good morning! Can I help you?? through his open window. He shouted, ?You stupid @&!#$!?! ignorant ?&@#$!!!!!!,? over and over and over again. I was more polite and simply asked him not to try overtaking cyclists when they are trying to turn right when he is trying to turn left. He then revved away in a big erratic huff.

I carried on cycling the six miles to my local family-run veg shop, muttering unsavoury words to myself as I went. When I arrived at the shop, the daughter, Mandy, said, ?Hi Jose! How are you!?

?Slowly seething,? I said, ?but apart from that, fine.?
Mandy asked what had happened. So, backed up against the wooden shelves of curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli, I related my tale. A customer putting kiwi fruit into a brown paper bag overheard. When I had finished, the customer, an elderly Yorkshire woman with a wicker basket and a pile of silver-grey hair heaped high on her head, said, ?My husband?s just the same, love. He?s a perfectly nice man, but whenever he gets behind the wheel he turns into a completely different person. We have only to drive past a cyclist and he starts effing and blinding at them even though they are doing nothing wrong!?

I laughed, had a bit more chat and paid for my veg. As I was leaving Mrs Yorkshire Woman put a hand on my forearm and said, ?You know what you say to men like that, don?t you love??

I said, ?No, you tell me?.

?UP. YOURS!? she said, enunciating each word ever so clearly.

I laughed.

?And you know what else you do?? she said.

I said, ?No, please tell me. I?m all ears!?

?You give him the finger. But only one finger, mind, because two fingers would be wasted on him!?

I cycled home much happier after that.


PS. Boat Book word count to date: 71,000

PPS. I am still rowing single-handedly across the Pacific of my bedroom floor, and I have just arrived in Tahiti. Russian container ship still conked out.

PPPS. A very big thank you to all you up and thumbing thumb-uppers who thumbed me up (and down) in my Guestbook department re. boat book versus bike book. Should anyone else feel so moved to give me a good (or even a not so good) thumbing, please see request alongside the cycling high postcard in April 2005 bulletin.

PPPPS. Off for a spot of cycle-rowing writing now. Have got a long way to go.

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A Postcard From Home

Just in case anyone is wondering what happened to March – so am I. Isn’t it strange how sometimes you can sweep a whole month under the carpet without even realizing? In fact, did anyone even notice March? Maybe there wasn’t one. Maybe March decided to not so much march as walk – clean out of the door. Well, whatever month it was, all I know is that it is one that I would rather forget as two particulalry unpleasant things happened to me, none of which I feel like sharing with a wide-eyed web. Sorry about that!

Anyway, as well as still rowing single-handedly across my bedroom floor, I’m back to two fully knee’d cycling again. Don’t know where I’d be without my cycling as it makes everything seem better even when it isn’t.

High Bike

High Bike

As for book-writing, I’m still at it, thought what with everything else that has been happening, it has gone slightly out of the window. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m still on the boat to New Zealand. Amazingly I’ve made it across the Atlantic and through the Panama. I’m now bobbing about in the middle of the Pacific. If it’s all right with you I will probably be floating around here a while because the Pacific is blinking big.

Come to think of it, is there anyone out there who is remotely interested in a book by me that doesn’t involve cycling – i.e. me and immobile bike stuck on a rustbucket Russian freighter with a sizable shipment of Russian seamen sailing (and breaking down – plus almost everything else that can go wrong) across the world’s two largest oceans to New Zealand.

I promise my next book will be about me cycling (and breaking down – plus almost everything else that can go wrong) around New Zealand.

Should anyone feel so moved, please either give this idea a thumbs up or a thumbs down in my website Guestbook department. If you give me the thumbs up I will pay you handsomely and love you forever. If you give me the thumbs down I will wedge you up my bottom bracket. There, how’s that for a threat?

Must fly, I’ve got some long-distance cycle-rowing, not to mention long-winded writing, to be doing. Might just have another look for March under the carpet. There again, I haven’t yet looked in the bottom of the laundry basket. That’s usually where the most unexpected things turn up.

Boat Book word count to date: 54,500

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Just in case you?re wondering why I?m sending you a picture of a boat instead of a bike, that?s because I?ve taken up boating. Well, not exactly boating, rowing. But unlike this postcard, I?m not rowing in a boat on a nice bit of water. In fact I?m not even in a boat. I?m simply rowing round my bedroom (which is also my writing room-cum-log-burning room-cum-eating room and a few other things besides) on a dilapidated machine I spotted in the local paper for a tenner. I only bought it because I?d wonked my knee. Not my bad knee (again) but my other knee. And that?s supposed to be my good knee for heavens sake! I am now cycling again, albeit slightly lop-sidedly.

The Lake

The Lake

But for those few days when I couldn?t cycle I thrashed around on my rowing machine causing imaginary large bow waves to splosh down the stairs. So as to avoid using my left leg, I rigged up an ingenious cats-cradle device utilizing an old inner tube (26?x 1.75) that I lassoed around the foot pedals. This meant I was able to row to my heart?s content by keeping the inner workings of my twanged patella nice and straight.

Should anyone be faintly interested to know how the devil I injured my knee, well, I?m not quite sure. I wasn?t competing in the Ironman or diving off a hundred foot cliff or rugby-tackling an unsavoury character who had just mugged an old woman of her handbag. No, I was simply going to the toilet when something went wonk. I?m now trying to pay a little more attention to my technique.

By the way, I?m still trying to write a book, but it?s going badly wrong. It?s supposed to be about cycling around New Zealand yet I?ve now written a quarter of it but I?m still bobbing about on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic trying to get there. It?s amazing how much drivel I can write about a large and lumpy sea and a cargo of Russian seamen.

Word count to date: 28,000 words.

All I can say to that is: oh dear.
I think I?ll go and have another row. Because as Confucius (551-479BC) remarks on the front of this postcard: ?If there is no wind, row?. Very sensible advice, if you ask me.

There again, if there?s no wind, I might just go for a cycle.

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New Year Update

The trouble with trying to write a book is the trouble of trying to get around to writing it. I would far rather spend all day riding my bike ? or even bailing out my tent ? but seeing as I?ve just spent the past year performing both of these activities, there comes a time when you?ve run out of windows to wash or floors to hoover and simply got to force yourself to sit down, stare at a blank sheet and type a word. And once you?ve typed that first word you can think: only 999,000 words to go. Easy really.



So that?s what I?m doing now, writing words and stringing them together to form a haphazard heap of sentences. Despite the complete lack of exercise it requires, and the shutting yourself away from everything and everyone, I strangely love writing. My wonked knee seems to love it too because it can at last lie back, put up its feet and have a rest. For once I?m not forcing it to haul me and my weighty load day after day over mountain over mountain. That said, I do still have to have my thirty-to-forty-plus miles-a-day dose of cycling. If I can?t cycle daily I tend to get horribly fidgety and crotchety and?well, thoroughly unpleasant.

So here?s my writing day:

Fall out of bed at 6am, if not before. Sometimes, if I?ve got a real writing head on, I?ll get up at 4am. Also, looming deadlines mean extra early rising. Sometimes it?s easier just not to go to bed at all.

The first thing I have to do when I get up is to go cycling for an hour or two or more, no matter whether it?s dark, freezing, frosty, raining cows and horses or blowing a gale. Unless I have a good heart-pounding cycle I can?t write.
When I get home I have breakfast ? a hefty pot of porridge. Then I sit a foot off the ground on a small square stool I made when I was eleven, at a low makeshift table with a removable top of plywood wedged against the window, and write for five hours until it?s time to eat again. (Another very large pot of food). I then go for another hour or two?s fast cycle. Then I come home, pick up the axe and chop up a barrow-load of wood. Then I light a fire and write for another five hours. Then I eat another very large pot of food and maybe have a little light entertainment with the builder. And then I write until about midnight ? give or take an hour depending on the word flow and the weighted state of my eyelids.

Then I flop into bed, ready to start all over again.

Word count to date: 16,500

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Festive Greetings

Just thought I’d send a non-news update and to say Merry Festiveness and all that sort of thing. I haven’t got a lot of action to report, though happily my knee has flopped back into position and I’m now pounding the pedals again to make up for lost time / miles. At least I was up until 2 days ago when I had to stop to push a car out of my bicycling way (it’s a long story) and something dared to ping in my knee again. So I’m swinging around on crutches once more. But I don’t think it will be for long as it doesn’t feel an overly serious malfunctioning. Meanwhille, I hope Santa brings you all lots of lovely shiny bicycles and bicycling widgets and gadgets.

Moo-rry Christmas

Moo-rry Christmas

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Postcards From Oz

G’day mate! Have made it to Oz! But only just. The good news is that my German freighter finally turned up. The bad news is that an hour after sliding away into the murk from New Zealand’s Port of Tauranga, we hit a Force 9 storm. All night and all day and all night again the ship slammed and fell into the scary large potholes of the mountainous seas. My innards turned inside out and upside down. Felt like a dead dog. The Filipino and Kiribati crew were all very lovely and helpful though. They kept trying to get me to drink green tea and eat hard boiled eggs and buns which was not easy as sipping water even made me sick.

Oz Wildlife

Oz Wildlife

Then, no sooner had I got back on my wobbly sea legs than we careered bow-first into a Force 10 nightmare with 50-plus knot winds and 10 metre (30-very-high-feet) waves. The captain looked not a happy man. Nor did anyone else for that matter. The ship bucked and slammed and jammed and jarred into the bottomless troughs and walls of waves and took on a worrying amount of water.

Aussie Lingo

Aussie Lingo

All bilges going full pelt. Hit a massive electrical storm too. Sky exploded. Engine power was cut from 17? ? 20 knots to 6 knots. Just had to try and ride it out. Everything smashing. Everything crashing. Much later and into the clear, the captain told me that had the storm last much longer than the 20 or so hours that it did, we could have rolled, which would have been a bit more excitement than I’d bargained for. I had always wanted to cross the Tasman sea by ship, but I can’t say I’ve ever been that keen that I’ve wanted to swim it.



At last I landed on my feet in Melbourne, a stone lighter than I had been a week earlier. I can certainly recommend a sea-crossing of the Tasman as a very effective diet, if nothing else.

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Right Side Up Update

If you’re thinking this postcard doesn’t much look like a kangaroo or a cockatoo but more like the bike dreamed up by Mike Burrows, designed by Lotus and ridden to victory by Chris Boardman in a bygone year, you’re right. And if you’re wondering why I’m sending something of a Blighty flavour rather than an Aussie one, that’s because I’m here instead of there.

Postcard From Oz

Postcard From Oz

After a year spent mostly upside down, returning home was all very sudden and all very unplanned. Had things gone as I thought they were going to, I should now be cycling around the wilds of Tasmania. But thanks to being charged at by a big brute of a dog, resulting in a twisted knee (yes, THAT knee!), damaged cartilage and multiple Melbourne hospital visits, x-rays and scans with a possible knee operation on the cards, I decided the best thing was to come home to write about New Zealand while getting mended properly rather than flop around in my tent feeling all woeful.

So here I am hobbling around, one-legged cycling and determined to get another hundred thousand miles under my wheels before the wonked knee gives up the ghost for good.

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More Postcards

Unlike what this postcard says I’m not in the Antarctic but in Bluff, in the very south of South Island, which is about as close to the land of icy Emperors as I’m going to get ? at least for a while.

Banking on my being scooped up as a shipment of ‘super cargo’ by a freighter this weekend, my next postcard should be emanating from Oz. But til then

miles cycled so far in New Zealand: 4151;
No. of Punctures: 0;
Tyres used: Continental Top Touring (have just put on new pair Conti Travel Contacts);
No. of baths had in past year: ?
Thing I miss most about home: Baths!

Best things about New Zealand: multiple rainbows; very un-cloud-like clouds; colour and clarity of light; large amount of large areas with no-one; tui, bell-birds and fantails; matey-ness of people – specially the Maori and the postwomen on bikes; Haast Pass, Lindi’s Pass, Arthur’s Pass, road over Crown Range (highest one in NZ), road to Mt. Cook, East Cape, Kauri Forest, Catlins, Wanaka, South Island West Coast in Sun.

Worst thing about NZ: the drivers!!

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins

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