There will be those of you reading this who are old enought to remember the Queen song; ‘I want to ride my bicycle’...that line sums up Gary MacGowan.
At the age of 5 he was fed up because his bike didn’t go fast enough to win the race. He didn’t let it stop him, and now, many decades later, Gary is not only a man who still rides his bike, but one who has built his whole life around cycling. He cycled around the world, into one job and then into a major role within London Transport responsible for cycle routes and all things bike (Tour de France and the borrow a bike scheme in London).
I’ve known Gary for decades but dropped out of touch for a long time while I was having babies and he was getting London organised so it was just lovely to catch up with him and hear how life has been.
When we were hanging out as part of a big group, he wasn’t a man with a grand plan, he was just a man with an itch to get on the road. He was restless and so disappeared off for two years, cycling from Kent to South Afrifca with a friend. Listening to the story of his intervening years, it seems as if his cycling has really guided his life. It is what he does as a passion, what he does with his wife, how he shops, and what his work was an is.
Doing this podcast is just facinating. It came out of lockdown and my need for intense conversation in those dark winter months when we couldn’t meet or hug.
In between lockdowns I met a friend. ‘You should do a podcast’ he says as we walk the circular walk, above the town where we both gather for coffee and books. ‘But I don’t have a thing’, I say, maybe even with a little bit of whine. ‘Maybe that’s your thing’ he said. I shrugged and we walked on, along the well beaten track where races used to run and now dog walkers and nod and stroll in the sharp bright light, looking down on the Shropshire planes, with the hills galloping behind us into Wales and the dark woods shadowing us.
I ignored him until that winter came and night drew in like walls. I missed the walking deeps of conversation, missed the salt water musing of a summer that was locked away from friends. So I started the podcast to fill the gap, completely selfishly meeting an unmet need for conversation.
Had I not started that podcast, I might not have re-connected with Gary or so many other people I have talked to. I certainly would not have had the courage to ask some of the people I didn’t know at all, if they would like to talk with me.
The more conversations I have, the more I am convinced that finding our thing and doing it, is how to be happy. For some people like Gary and Eamonn Kelly, the passion became a career. For other people like Gemma and Charlotte, it brings a richness to their lives. For people like Deborah and Steve Jones, the thing is not career, passion or hobby, but their meaning and way of life.
If you missed some of the conversations you can find them all here. I find them inspiring and they give me courage to trust the calls to random ‘things’ no matter how mysterious the call seems.
If you have a ‘thing’ you’d like to talk with me about, or if you’d like some coaching to help you find your thing, get in touch
Not only has Gary cycled through 117 countries but he also brough the Tour De France to London, improved cycle routes in London and inititated the free bike scheme in the capital.
Here is the information Gary shared while we were talking:
The best websites for local groups and campaigns are Cycling UK www.cyclinguk.org and Sustrans www.sustrans.org.uk For the best maps for cycling, download any of these Komoot, Viewranger, MAPS.ME or OS maps. If people want to plan a route to see how far it is, Komoot is excellent on a smart phone and on laptop, Ride With GPS is superb and free to use – just open an account and use it, if you then have the app to, the route will appear automatically in the app. Plan your route on Ride with GPS, using OSM Cycle, it has all the cycle routes. But to start with, go straight to Komoot
The image is of Gary cycling with Mt Fuji in the background on a very cold day.