Nick Shields

Cycle To Iran

Fundraising for Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
raised of £1,500 target
by 12 supporters
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We provide emergency medical care worldwide to people affected by conflict & disasters.


So, um…. I’m going to cycle to Iran.

I was wondering why getting chucked out of my flat wasn’t causing the expected urgent push to rehouse myself, despite the increasing concern of some of my friends and the looming spectre of homelessness. I began to reject the idea of committing to another spell inside yet another private, money-sapping let but had no idea initially what the alternatives might be. Something was cooking in my brain though and I didn’t have to wait long before the timer went PING! And the idea popped out that I was going to cycle to Iran.

Cycle to Iran, land of my father. A father I never met and a land vilified by the English press, who would portray a country filled with mad bombers and a government hell-bent on nuking The West out of existence.

I digress.

So yes…. Iran.

No, with a little bit of yes perhaps. My identity is English and always has been. I walk English, talk English and unless you know any different, look English. Inside though I have a growing curiosity. I don’t have a general wanderlust but Iran is calling to me. My friend Grahame is forever posting beautiful images of Iranian countryside, architecture and culture. He’s been implanting these subliminal messages for several years and reinforcing a distant ancestral calling within. Diana, an ex-partner and enduring and abiding friend, has repeatedly told me that one of her Iranian friends said that Iranian people are among the most friendly and hospitable people on the planet. Further investigation reveals that everyone who has written on the subject of traveling within Iran tells the same story, there are nearly 25,000 Couch Surfers ( within a 25Km radius of Tehran which demonstrates an uncommonly widespread willingness to be hospitable. So yes, if by some miracle, the news of my activities reaches an Iranian family member and they somehow make themselves known to me then yes, that would be the cherry on the cake and I would be overjoyed to meet them. But it would be a miracle and I am just keeping an eye open because, hey, there can’t be all that many dermatologists called Hamid Hamidi, can there? He’ll be long gone but there are likely two generations blissfully unaware of my existence. The thought is beguiling.

In recent years I have allowed myself to become very overweight. I would catch sight of myself in shop windows and see myself in photo’s and think things like, “You fat bastard, what the hell are you doing? Get a fucking grip”. Florid, but true. A good friend, Tony, saw my plight and started dragging me up the hillsides around Hebden Bridge but, because I was carrying so much blubber, my back would begin to hurt and the walks would be good but short. He persuaded me to fettle a bike that I’d bought from a colleague a couple of years earlier, which I did and he basically saved my life by doing so as this proved to be very effective in getting me out there and increasing my range enormously. The bike, a hardtail mountain bike, was too small though so, after saving for a while, I bought a new, bigger, better, redder and just plain fantastic bike, an Orange Clockwork Pro (Or Clockwork Orange) which, over the last couple of years, I have ridden thousands of miles, something I wouldn’t have thought remotely possible before then. The weight loss is going well but I still have a way to go.

About the charity

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is the world's leading medical humanitarian aid organisation. We work in over 70 countries - in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics. We are independent, neutral and impartial. We provide medical care where it's needed most.

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