I’m something of a sceptic when it comes to fortune telling but last Saturday I couldn’t turn down the chance to meet the world famous Asparamancer in Evesham. Jemima Packington is the world’s first and only person that can predict the future by throwing asparagus spears into the air and reading into the arrangement that lands. She’s made dozens of accurate predictions over the years including the recent elections in France.

I was intrigued so after receiving instructions I took hold of the round and tossed it into the air to see what the future would hold. It was a bad start as one of the spears rolled straight off the table. “Don’t have any more cider” was Jemima’s advice. Elsewhere, several spears had come together at their tips to form an arrow. “This means that an important relationship will become closer very soon”. Another spear veered off to one side. Apparently this meant that “Someone will try to steer you onto the wrong path”. Finally two of the spears had formed a V at the edge of the table. The Asparamancer looked at me solemnly and told me “Someone with the letter V in their name will have an important impact on your life”.

Channelling the power of the Vale of Evesham Asparagus (photo courtesy of Doggett Photography)

All very cryptic and at the time I left none the wiser and no more a believer in predictions from throwing vegetables, even if they are the finest asparagus spears grown anywhere in the world.

There wasn’t much time to dwell on these messages for long as the next day was spent busily getting ready for our revised plans for the trip from Lands End to John O’Groats. After the stress fracture in my leg was clearly not going to be healed up in time we’ve decided we’d both cycle the length of the country instead, taking packrafts so we can paddle some of the wet bits. These little inflatable boats are our new favourite bits of adventure kit and served us well on a trip along the length of the Severn last year.

With a pile of ripped up paper next to the drawing board we had put together this hastily concocted Plan E (A-D being foiled by pandemics, injuries and illness). This one had to happen as we’re rapidly running out of ideas and letters of the alphabet. Thinking about it, this trip would bring Kirsty and I closer together, much closer as we’d be spending the best part of a month living out of a small tent. Could there be something in that prediction after all?

After a good rummage through the kit box and filling a few panniers on that sunny Sunday afternoon it seemed the right time to clean the bikes. It’s always good to have them nice and shiny for the big ‘off’. But while giving my bike a scrub my heart sank as I worked round the top tube area. What looked like a hair line in the paint quickly revealed itself to be a crack that ran almost all the way round the tube. I had wondered what that creaking noise had been for the last couple of months! This looked terminal as the chances of getting this tricky welding job done properly with only 5 days before we had to leave seemed almost impossible. I could borrow another bike or play around with another one from our stable but the bike I had planned to use was something a bit different. It was a long tail that has additional capacity for bigger loads and I’d be needing it to carry the packrafts. A normal bike would knock that idea on the head.

A crack-in frame

The pen was raised and ready to sketch out plan F.

But after posting about our woes online a message came in from a friend in Bristol. “Hey Marky, do you need a Kona Ute?” with a photo attached of the exact bike that I needed. Within 24 hours his bike had been stripped down and so had mine, I’d raced down to Bristol to pick it up and got back home to build it up.

The rare sight of two Kona Ute frames together
Ready to roll

My usual advice to anyone taking on a big race or journey is to “never use anything that you haven’t used in training”. The newly built bike will have had a sum total of about 4 miles testing before we begin our 2200km journey on Saturday. Not ideal but it seems to go forward when I pedal and stop when I squeeze the brakes which is a good start. It doesn’t have any critical structural failings which I consider important too. Any other issues can be sorted out on the road.

I feel very lucky that that particular friend saw my post as soon as he did and that he was willing to part with his frame. His real name is Richard but most people know him by his nickname: NouVeau.

The Asparamancer does it again! #believethespears

Now, which way to Lands End?

The challenge has changed but the cause hasn’t so we’re still supporting WaterAid with our journey. Now with appropriate water based travel too! With 1:5 people not having access to a proper toilet and 1:10 not having access to a clean water supply the work that WaterAid carry out to supply decent toilets, clean water and good hygiene is life changing. If you’d like to contribute to this amazing charity then please click here.


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