You’ve all heard of ‘fly-tipping’…… the fly-by-night who leaves his rubbish by the roadside, usually so as to avoid paying an environmental fee at the waste disposal centre. Well, I’m going to add a new concept to the list of English phraseology…..’fly-kipping’. Ever done it? Well, you probably have at some stage of your life, but probably never on a summer solstice.
If you have followed my ramblings for any length of time, you will know I like to go out on an all-night cycle ride through the night of June 20th, and ride into the sunrise, which usually happens about 4.40am round these parts. Well, as with my concept of the ‘flash-dash’ which triggered an eagerness to ring some changes to my riding, I decided to ring a change or two in how I celebrate the summer solstice this year. Instead of simply riding through the night and getting home and into bed at 6am, I decided to sleep out, to ‘stay out on the tiles’ and without a tent. For those of you who like to free-camp (responsibly, of course), the attraction of camping out somewhere on the night of the summer solstice has to be a huge draw.
So, at 23.00 hours, I set off in the dark, my way lit partly by the half-moon peering from behind the clouds, and partly by my bike light of very basic lumen output. I wore high-viz and had flashing lights front and rear, but I was still very wary of potholes, and many of the roads had no white markings, nothing to mark the centre point, not to mention where the road ends and the verge begins. The local fauna were in full voice. There were noises coming from every quarter. Every so often an animal would dart across the road in front of me…..I could only guess that it might be a fox, a muntjac, a rabbit or hare. My average speed was quite low, but I managed to get to my chosen destination by 00.30 hours, hoping that the door would be open. And it was…..!
You might say that I was going to sleep on ‘a wing and a prayer’, or ‘down amongst the dead’, because I had chosen a little country church to bed down for a few hours, the name of which will not be revealed, though I’m sure that some eagle-eyed reader will have suspicions. When you approach a little church at dead of night, with only the light of a wispy half-moon, you may be filled with a mixture of feelings…..as I was. Fortunately, I am not superstitious nor do I believe in ghosts, and I’m (almost) sure that any strange noise in the night will have a natural explanation…..but I can assure you that churches at night are far from silent places. Indeed they aren’t…… there will be the cracking of roof timbers, birds or bats nesting somewhere, wildlife snuffling at the door, the hooting of owls and, if you’re unlucky, there may be church mice (or worse) scurrying about. Are you still tempted….?
My heart was still pumping from the exertion of the bike ride, so not an appropriate physical state for descending into slumber. I laid out my sleeping mat, climbed into my sleeping bag and waited for sleep to descend…..but of course, it didn’t…..well not immediately. But I must have drifted off because when I awoke suddenly a couple of hours later, I noticed that the early rays of dawn were just beginning to light up the windows. Two hours later again I opened my eyes expecting to see the fully risen light, but all I saw was complete darkness…….until I realised that, with the cold of the night, I had snuggled right down into my bag and had my face completely covered.
Uncovering my face I caught the whole building bathed in the bright sunshine of a perfect dawn. I had woken up just 5 minutes after the official time of the sunrise, and it was glorious. The mullion windows filtered the light coming into the nave, and the easterly sunrise enhanced the intense colours of the stained glass window. I immediately went outside and stood enthralled by the countryside waking up to the new day. This was a moment to savour, and the rationale behind going on this little escapade, a micro-adventure that I have decided to call ‘fly-kipping’…..you arrive, you sleep, you leave the place as you found it, leave a donation in the box, and enjoy the ride back home to begin the new day…….or go to bed if you are numbered amongst the ‘retired and idle’.
You won’t be surprised to learn (will you?), I didn’t go to bed……