Part 1: Training week
Bread Matters, West Linton
Thanks to True North cyclists Joe Toogood and Zoe Fidler
After packing up the trailer for the first time and weaving my way to Kings Cross amongst the disgruntled early morning traffic I finally found myself in the station and frantically searching for my fellow Otesha people. They weren’t hard to find, high vis and helmets tend to stand out. Then, pausing only for some last minute dashing and the occasional sigh as we remembered what we’d forgotten (pants, radio, toothpaste) we boarded the train and found our seats. We failed to notice it was a silent carriage and commenced to munch/chat/generally annoy everyone in the vicinity on our way through the lush green (read wet) countryside.
Emerging from the train we were greeted by several strangers, soon to be friends and allies in sweaty swearing at hills. Alex, Zoe, Beth, Indea and, eventually, a rain soaked Nicola all came together under the watchful gaze of our fantastic tour co-ordinator Annie.
As the rain gently came down to welcome our exposed flesh and find its dribbling way to what we thought we’d covered adequately we began what was to be the first of many journeys together. We received a warm welcome when we eventually arrived at Bread Matters and pitched our tents both excited and nervous for what the week held in store.
After our first night in the tents, we properly began our training week. We briefly introduced ourselves and then delved straight into learning about the values of Otesha, as well as the other nitty gritty details we needed to familiarise ourselves with. One of the workshops that particularly stuck with me was about our standards as a group – exploring how we want to feel and present ourselves to others. This activity was a great way to look what was important to each of us, and to refer back to as an overall aim for our journey. The day was pretty full on, and we ended it with a surprisingly deep delve into what motivates us. The last workshop definitely came as a shock to all of us, so I won’t ruin it for anyone. We collapsed after dinner ready to settle into another cold, hopefully not so wet night.
We woke grateful of a small 15 minute lie in (thanks Alex) to a tour staple: cold oats. You can learn to love anything. Today was our introduction to consensus decision making, a vital part of our life as a travelling sustainable community. It was a fantastic experience to be in an environment where everyone made an effort to listen to each other and strive to open up an equal space for everyone. We worked on our food mandate before Shaun blew our tiny minds with the Best Lunch ™ of training week. We got our food mandate half way up the mountain but agreed to work on it at a later date, everything tends to take longer when using consensus! Today also saw the first read through of what will come to be something we live and breathe…the play. Even at this early stage there were some cracking performances, noticeably Alex’s turn as a rubbish bin and Indea’s total ownership of the Tupper rap. Scotland, prepare yourself.
Today was another busy day (I’m not sure this week is ever going to be relaxing!!). We began with the transport shapes game as warm up, where teams have to create the shapes of transport using their bodies. There was a pretty inventive camel involving a strategically placed head as a hump. In peak heat of the day we were given a tour of the farm we are staying on. Andrew, one of the owners, had so much to tell us about wheat, and the history of bread making. You could feels his passion resounding across the farm as he spoke. He told us about his trips to Russia in search of the perfect, most nutritious grain – a man on a mission. After the tour, with our heads practically exploding from all his exciting stories we did a bit of work on the farm to help (weeding). It was a lovely opportunity to just freely talk and get to know each other a bit better (Don’t forget we were all strangers a few days ago). We also teamed up with some wwoofers that were volunteering.
One of the advantages of staying at such an amazing, inspiring place that prides itself on wholesome baking is, of course, the bread. Today was brightened significantly by the inclusion of some of this delicious doughy goodness with breakfast. Andrew and Veronica are definitely finding some converts to the Wheat Way on this tour. We ran through a slightly rain soaked Fairtrade workshop to come to grips with some of what we’ll be taking to the schools of Scotland.
After some beautiful canopies from kirsty we went through some more workshops and visited e whitmuir organic farm to gaze at the rows of lovely organic things. Dinner was fantastic and was marked by kirsty’s insistence on clutching toilet roll to her chest for the duration. That and the age old question of which veritable is most practical to take to bed. Just as we were ready for bed we has a final bash at the food mandate and after a lot of tired consensus hands waving weakly in the dark, we wrote what will be the rules that our stomachs must obey! Vegan it is.
We woke up revived after a warm sleep. We spent the morning with Edd looking over our bikes. They all past the M test just about; Indea needed a new chain and Joe fixed his up with yet more gaffa tape, cable ties and love? Well determination at least. After possibly the best lunch ever, we had another workshare. This time we set about collecting the hay. Naturally we challenged ourselves to carry the biggest wheelbarrow of hay, there were some impressive entries. We had to pile up the hay in a 2m stack. The image that sticks with me is Annie’s gleeful face as she bounced on top. Afterwards we set out on our first group ride with the trailers! We went to Penicuik and had dinner cooked by the wonderful cooking team ‘lentil central’. We rode back through the sunset and was met by friendly faces and beers back at the farm.
Finally a warm night came to us in our sleep and offset the strange dreams we’ve been having (dead geese searching for their missing wings and trying to rouse us from slumber to help by pecking bad dreams into our heads is the current explanation). Today was a heavy day of sharing hopes and fears for the tour with each other. The intenseness was however slightly counteracted by the wonderful presence of edd and a distracting ergo well placed game of jenga. As the afternoon wore on we welcomed into our slightly wonky-rough-around-the-edges presence two neighbouring children who has agreed (we presume) to watch is perform The Play. Ten minutes later and two little minds blown away we emerged from the barn confident that what we’d performed was ready for the road. Our test audience proved too cool for our message though, after a reference in the script to Heat magazine we asked what kind of magazine he read. RSPB and National Geographic. Whatever happened to the Beano? The evening saw a sad farewell to Liam and Kirsty, we will miss them and all their toilet roll clutching, awkward dancing brilliance.
Last day of training! We had 1:1s talks with the staff just to check we were all ok to go, and then tidied up the farm ready to make an early start the next day. Annie sent us on a treasure hunt around the farm whilst Edd, Shaun and her cooked us a delicious final meal – aubergines potatoes and green beans from the farm. Andrew and Veronica joined us for dinner, and we sung a thank you song to the tune of ABBA. That evening we said our goodbyes to the staff that had trained us up so well and received our recycled Otesha t-shirts ready to hit the road!