THE PILGRIMAGE, PT. 4

Adventures

We had just enjoyed a great night of RiskStorming in Cambridge, some pizza, beer and the company of  a nice group of expert testers trying to solve the same problem at the same time.
The workshop went rather well. I figured I wanted to try out something new this time and focus the RiskStorming format on a sprint-level change. Instead of focusing on a specific application, we looked at a new feature that would be added to an existing app already.
This is something more lifelike. You’re in a sprint, a new feature is proposed and you’re asked to come up with a plan to test for it. Turns out RiskStorming deals pretty well with this refocus as well.

We ended up in the pub afterwards and that’s where my toothache hit me hard.

Long story short: I was crippled by throbbing pain for 2 days. The first one I spent in Karo’s spare bedroom, the second on my bike to London.

The pain was thundering like a drum inside my head and I was pedaling to the beat.

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To London! I don’t care if I haven’t prepared a thing! I NEED TO GET RID OF THIS PAIN!
Not having a plan is normally not a problem if you go anywhere else but London.

This time, it got me into a halfway house… I think.
Riding in London with a big, packed bike is dangerous. More dangerous than the snow-covered Scotland I had just left behind.
Looking for a place to stay in full youth hostels gets you laughed at, apparently. Until I met one guy who’d ‘do me a favour’. He took my money and sent me to a house down the street, which is supposed to be part of the youth hostel. It wasn’t listed on Google maps, I wasn’t able to find a website or anything but the front door.

People seemed nice, but didn’t talk to me and looked, sounded and smelled as if they’ve been living there for some months now.
After barely sleeping, I left at 7 in the morning. It’s also where my teeth started swelling.

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Taking the train from London to Sevenoaks, because I prefer hills, forest and nature over big buses, traffic lights and fumes. From there I cycled through a beautiful piece of the UK. I quite loved both the North and the South. The middle, except for Lake District, isn’t very exciting to say the least.

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As by chance I visited the coffee and gift shop that was home to one of my very favourite heroes: Winnie the Pooh! On this empty plate was an waffely, vanilla iced goo topped off with Maple syrup.

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A final AirBnb in the forest, felt like home and had a nice warm bath for me.

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My tooth didn’t hurt anymore, the days were spent in the forest and up-and-down hills. Rather uneventful, but damn beautiful.

I arrived. Brighton. TestBash.

During my journey I’ve had some bad luck. But I was able to cope with it. The most important part is that I learned and learn I did. Putting things in perspective and looking at exactly what changed for me is for the next coming weeks.

Thank you for following my pilgrimage, if you’re at Brighton, let’s have a talk!

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The Pilgrimage, pt. 3

Adventures

Having gone through Lake District, I took the train to Nottingham for a bit of a rest and some working days. Just like Del’s home was opened for me, the coming nights were spent in the wonderful company of Constance, Neil Studd, Neil Younger, Shey, Mark and Karo.

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A new quote for Constance’s fridge

The testers I got to know over the years turn out to be real friends, who open their doors, welcome me with open arms and check up on me and my travels afterwards.
I feel very lucky to have such people in my life and I try to give back as much as I’m given.

Vegan for two days

In Nottingham, with Constance, I was mostly working in coffee shops and following to her Vegan lifestyle. I was worried about energy levels and my bowels adjusting to quality foods for a second, but I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. By Constance’s tips and guidance, I found incredible cakes, burgers and pizza’s, served in the vibrant scene that is Nottingham. Which seemed to be a bustling city, but not very beautiful…

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The road from Nottingham to St. Neots, however, was brightened by godrays.

The South

From there on out, I made my way partly by bike and partly by train, to St. Neots, where I met with Shey and his lovely family. If you had the pleasure to meet Shey before, you know he’s a ball of energy and really connects people at the party. I could now see where all that positive energy comes from. Shey’s wife and kids are so incredibly empowering, active and kind. I absolutely envy Shey for having fostered such a beautiful family. I had felt a similar boost at Del’s though conditions up North were different.

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Surprisingly, Neil Studd also lives in St. Neots. We had a lovely evening in the pub where I discovered some local beer and ‘pork scratchings’. Both were… interesting. I finally was able to get rid of my Scottish pounds after charming the 50-year-old barmaid. Apparently, nobody in the South wants currency from Scotland… Which is actually the same currency. No wonder this country is going down the Brexit path.

Spending the next day working with Neil, we went to two coffeeshops and eventually, his homebase, as screaming kids seem to follow us across town. If you want to know what Neil’s home looks like, picture shelves with videos. Shelves with videos. Also quite a nice interior in which the shelves with videos fit nicely. He showed me his bookshelf, which was filled with videos.
Having had an amazing breakfast and lunch at a charming coffee shop where Neil seems to be a regular, I felt strong enough to move onwards to Cambridge, where the next RiskStorming was organised.

Cambridge

After a night at a guest house and another day of work, I found the incredible group of Cambridge testers ready to partake in Pizza-eating, Unicorn-destroying and beer-inhaling… and some RiskStorming too of course!

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And then,… the Toothache hit me. Hard.

The Pilgrimage, pt 2

Adventures

Crazy, brave lad, professional nutter, ‘that man from the TV?’

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Just a few of the things people have called me the past days. People give each other names all the time and that’s great. Makes you put things in perspective, how others look at your actions. It’s an opportunity to learn.

Heavy weather had hit Scotland and the rest of the UK. Red and Amber alerts were issued and I was sitting right in the middle of all that, in Del Dewar’s guestroom.
It had been snowing off and on for the past few days and left the whole country crippled. Especially the train network was impacted. Unless I made my way more South, I might be stuck there for quite some time…

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A picture taken moments before encountering the reporters.

Starting off in the Snow

Apart from feeling restless about the weather, I did set out to go on a bike adventure so there was no way I was going to stop at the first challenge. North to South. I wanted to be moving. I didn’t want to impose on Del and his family any longer, even though I was welcome to. I wanted to taste the snow and conquer the cold. Be Braveheart.

I decided to take my chances.

Down a hill in Dunfermline, a BBC reporter was filming a car that was blocking the road as it was absorbed by a mound of snow. His attention shifted as he spotted me trying to circumvent the blockage through a snowbank. Later on I appeared in the lunch and late evening news. They even gave me a separate webpage:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-scotland-43256847/meet-the-man-trying-to-cycle-from-scotland-to-brighton

It feels like they’re mocking me, the music certainly alludes to it. Though I can see reasons why they’d frame this in a dis-encouraging way. Wouldn’t want any Scots to take an example. But here’s an explanation why my journey wasn’t all nuts.

The Thin Line Between Crazy and Brave

People sometimes do the unexpected. The ‘out of the ordinary’, the misuse and abuse cases. Why? There’s many different possible reasons. Mine was a sense of purpose and a thirst for adventure. I took to the road with a good idea of what I was going to find. I know most of the risks and planned for them.

Because that’s what testers do.

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We plan, plot, prepare and train to deal with shitty situation when they’re presented to us. It’s what we face multiple times on a daily basis.
I have been training for years, testing out my gear thoroughly, buying equipment that will help me get through the direst of situations.
I came prepared. That’s what makes the difference.

Sailing across the Forth rd bridge, by means of grabbing my coat, pulling it backwards and have the wind carry me forward, I found a Scotsman telling me “You’re a brave lad, I’ll give you that.” A few miles further, a Polish cyclist and me joined our way to Edinburgh hoping to find a running train. When none were available, we split ways. I cycled onward to Biggar, he stayed in Edinburg. From Biggar I made my way to Carlisle then Penrith. On the bus an elderly man recognised me ‘Are you that man from TV?’. We had a pleasant talk about Neil Armstrong and Lake District cake.

The nice thing about travelling by bike is that people immediately see you’re travelling and start talking to you. It gives plenty of opportunities to view the world through different eyes.

I arrived in Penrith when a train had yet to leave South from Glasgow. For me it’s a personal triumph. A triumph of perseverance over common perception.

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Lake District

A must see for cyclists here in the UK. I’ll definitely return when it’s warmer and more sunny, though the foggy hills gave an exuberant feel to the journey.

Lakes, hills, cyclists. Why use words when pictures can describe it better?

Am I cold? Sure.
Do I get tired? That’s part of it.
Am I having wonderful views? Absolutely.
How do I feel? Alive.

 

 

The Pilgrimage, pt.1

Adventures

It’s cold. Damn cold. I keep telling myself that if you’re suffering a bit, you’ll appreciate warmth, a good meal and friendly people even more. But how much abuse is the right amount?
It’s ‘the beast from the East’, also known as Russia’s cold wind, vs. the beast from the South, also known as me. It’s a fight I’m pretty sure I won’t win, but I’ll settle for survival. I’m equipped with a folding bike and four bags containing all I need.
At the end of it all, there’s a treasure worth ploughing through the snow for…

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Test. Bash. Brighton.

The reward to be found at the end of this trip, will be in the warm arms of my tester friends as we hug, drink, laugh and inspire each other to become better at whatever we do. I say whatever, because I keep being astonished how we’re still so inherently different, value other things and pay attention to varying topics, yet somehow feel connected through our passion for quality & testing. If there’s something I’ll be keeping my eyes open for on my adventures, it’d be these wonderful moments of finding the unexpected, different views on the same thing. Test the world, as you will.

My cycle down will not be uneventful. RiskStorming in Edinburgh (though cancelled), img_20180228_181440.jpgRiskStorming in Cambridge and a workshop in Brighton. There’s a Grumpy Tester, Del Dewar, waiting for me in Edinburgh who’s opened his home to me.
I keep being amazed how supporting and caring the Testing Community is. I struggle to phrase exactly how much I appreciate it. That’s why I support Ministry of Testing in all their ventures. They make this happen.

 

The Route

The plan is to cycle North-West to a Scottish national park called Loch Lomond & the Trossachs to reach Glasgow. Take the train from Glasgow to Carlisle and cycle through Lake District to Manchester.
From there I’ll cross Peak District to end up in Nottingham, then Cambridge, London, Brighton.

Don’t know where I’ll sleep for most of the times, don’t know which route I’ll take, but I’ll manage and I’ll enjoy. One thing you can count on is the resourcefulness of a human being.
Yesterday I had a lovely ride from the airport to Del’s. Crossed a windy bridge and icy forest-y roads.

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