Life, logistics, timing and the rest don’t always pan out the way you want them to. Elements change, moments appear and opportunities pass.
That was a lesson quickly learnt after lollygagging and hesitating over the idea if i was to attend the Gathering, why I listened to these silly and absurd voices that muttered in hushed tones and unfounded opinion, I don’t know.
My hesitation meant that all the seats at the table were full, and there were no more rooms at the inn. Literally.
The only option that remained was to join in the jolly Ol ride itself.
And humbly enquire about the waiting list for a spot to take in the film that was to premiere.
Testament to the magic of the bond that surrounds the Pan Celtic Alumni, not long after my bashful enquiry I receive a text offering up a room at the inn and a seat to take in the premiere.
While not from a stranger, it also wasn’t a name I could put a finger on but after a phone call, the viscous plot that was thick with mystery became clear like Consommé.
We had met briefly, during this years race, atop the infamous Priests Leap, an ascent that took all by surprise, Tony Trigg, Tamzin Dewar and I all heaved ourselves up it watching the clouds draw closer. A few exchanges made, and then our voices would become so distant that no more conversations could be had. Back to writing our own stories along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tony was the gift bearer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the film excited me, having met Jack of the Friction Collective at Celtic Camping on the day we set off to Ireland this year i couldn’t wait to see what he would put together, how he would further develop the story, around a route so beautifully curated already.
A story in itself.
But what was really drawing me across the country, was the community, the smiles, the stories, and ultimately the clan.
The concept itself before involving myself in the race seemed somewhat ephemeral and maybe even glorified.
Im not a skeptic nor a realist, I just am.
Upon arriving and immersing myself in what the Pan Celtic Race Clan and family have created, I could be just that. I.
I am me, and that is enough.
The joy of racing, cheering and laughing across 2600km is a surefire way to galvanise relationships that will go the distance, far beyond the macroscopic scales that we seem to yearn for on our steeds of technology.
The Gathering is the place to enhance those relationships, and to my surprise and absolute joy create fresh ones.
The Cotswolds is my second home, having studied there for 3 years as a photography student my gaze was wandering but my legs werent quite as curious and its only in recent years that ive come to realise the stunning opportunities that were awaiting the scruffy student turned scruffy professional.
Tony Clare plotted two routes for two days of cycling, chinwagging, comradery and Cafe Au Lait.
While I didn’t get to take part in the Saturday cruise which would begin in the beautiful market town of Cirencester upto Stratford Upon Avon I still managed to catch wind of the routes delights as riders slowly arrived to the Hostel where all would eventually, eat, drink and be mighty happy indeed.
Riders new, riders old, riders young, riders bold, riders all with a wonderful connection.
As numbers grew, spaces grew smaller, doors open, and the overflow would spill into yet more spaces in the old house that was to host The Gathering.
The walls echoed with laughter and name calling, across rooms eyes would widen, seeing faces that have been distant and out sight for years in some cases.
The warmth was genuine, and palpable.
Or maybe that was the cast iron radiators, all cranked to 11.
Following a tasty meal, and some excellent pudding, the refectory received a quick changing rooms touch of magic and soon became the Cotswolds off shoot of Cannes.
With talks from the finest folk at the helm of the Clan, all proud of what was ready to be shared.
A story, a vision, a labour of love executed with every bit of passion you would want from a documentary .
Eye opening moments, incredible achievements and eye watering landscapes.
A triumph, and well worth a watch.
Curtains closed and soon after so did the bar.
Queue – Tony Clare’s sequel.
The early close a wise choice i’m sure, for the next day would bring more rolling hills, some gnarly climbs but luckily, a helluva lot of excellent sausage rolls, coffee’s and the finest local Farm Food that the Cotswolds had to offer, a blend all infused together so perfectly.
Culminating in Sixty Seven miles of well plotted magic.
Waves started in the morning around 9, ebbing and flowing.
Stabby hills, would dissipate bunches, false summits even more so, and then farm shops, cafes and the odd pub would then allow some coalescence.
A pause upon a hill to reflect and remember, Fergus reading a poem, we took a moment for all those that have given so much.
The landscape green and finally orange, a tone eagerly anticipated. Bordered by a crisp blue sky that reached from horizon to horizon. A palette that’s been along time coming, witnessed at different speeds with a host of humans with names and lives all their own
Im hoping i can remember them all, If i dont however, what i will remember were the tales, the snacks, the laughs, the gathering.
Words and photography: Michael Drummond