August 2022
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Papa John’s ‘cycling’ holiday

As it’s the weekend, I’ll lighten up a bit.

A few years ago I had a typical ‘mid-life crisis’ and did all sorts of uncharacteristically strenuous things like going up Kilimanjaro, trekking in the Himalayas, scuba diving and going on weeks-long, bum-achingly tedious cycling holidays.

The Himalayas trek was a bit of a disaster. There were only five of us in the group. A family – father, mother, 23-year-old son and his girlfriend. At dinner the first evening, this family went on and on about how fit they were and many marathons they had run and how they cycled miles to work bla blah blah and how they hoped that small, fat me with my vertically-challenged legs wouldn’t slow them down and prevent them completing the whole trek. In the end, I arrived back in Kathmandu three days before them. The reason – as we got higher up into the mountains, instead of going at a steady pace, they wanted to rush ahead to show how wonderfully fit they were. This led to two of them getting altitude sickness and of these two, one had to be virtually carried down the mountains for about two days. Twats!

Anyway, back to Papa John’s ‘cycling’ holiday. One trip I did was cycling through parts of Northern Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. All the people in the group were pretty young and fit. After all, cycling 80 miles a day in blistering heat being chased by packs of dogs at every village was a bit tough.



But there was one exception – John – a former army officer who was then in his seventies and more than slightly unsteady on his shaky old pins.

Each day John would cycle for a couple of hours then, exhausted, would climb into the bus that carried our luggage and drinks not to emerge again till we had reached our destination. Then most of us would have a shower, eat early and collapse into bed. But not John. He’d freshen up after a tough day sitting in the bus enjoying the view of the rest of us struggling along hour after hour and then disappear off to consort with the local ladies of the night. As most of those in whose arms he found delight were probably about a third of his age, I found out they used to call him “Papa John”.

So why did Papa John go on a pretty gruelling cycling holiday? After all, he must have known he wasn’t in any condition to complete the holiday. My suspicion is that Papa John was probably married to some old bat back in the UK and that it was probably many years since Papa John had his privates out on parade. Moreover, I’m sure Papa John would have had lots of very respectable friends. So, he could hardly tell his wife and friends that he was off to the fleshpots of the Far East for a few weeks to bonk his gin-addled old brains out. And he could hardly take an organised tour as his no doubt charming wife would assume she should accompany him. And that’s why the only way Papa John could escape his wife and the embarrassment of admitting his real intentions to his friends was to sign up for a quite unnecessarily expensive cycling holiday where he could be sure that nobody he knew would wish to accompany him.

When he finally left to travel home, I imagine there were many young ladies in three Asian countries who were sad to see Papa John leave. And, when he got home, I suppose he had wonderful stories to tell about the ‘cycling’ trip, but probably left out the exact details of his nocturnal philandering with his military pension.

I hope Papa John is still alive and I hope he has had many more ‘cycling’ holidays since the time I first met him.

(back to more serious stuff tomorrow)

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