Saturday, September 27, 2008


The season of mists is upon us...

Fred's really the expert in this, although there's none yet from him this year.

A few processing tweaks, admittedly

A string o' pearls:


You might think,
reading only the words here,
that I spend my time gloomy,
melancholy, anguished.
it’s not like that;
not all of it, anyway.

People, life, worlds,
have many layers;
that which is so often exposed here
- or partially exposed, and ill-expressed at that -
is a place where dragons live:
angst, doubt, uncertainty;
self-loathing, fear,
I could go on...

Dwell here too long and
the dragons grow out of all proportion
seeming to be all there is. But really
there is so much more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Nearly October already; where did the year go? Days follow their familiar pattern, each weekday punctuated by the same routine as every other weekday, the colours of each weekend looking like those of every other weekend, the cycle of monthly work activity endlessly repeating.

No real variety; the content may vary a little but the structure remains the same. Time, space, and consciousness too it seems, all locked into their set patterns, as predictable as the sun and the seasons.

I barely notice the years passing; just the continual stream of days, weeks and months. One day I’ll wake up, find I’m old, and wonder where the years went.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A day out 

The bike ride… What can I say? Perhaps it did achieve its objective of giving me a much-needed ego boost. But why should I need such a thing? Why do I keep falling into a pit of self-doubt? Why do I need constant validation of worth? Indeed, why do I seem to equate achievement with worth? Isn’t personal worth about who we are not what we do? Although on the other hand, isn’t it inevitable that who we are is made manifest in what we do? I have some ideas about answers to some of these questions, but they expose areas I’m not yet ready to discuss here; nevertheless there’s no doubt that without regular fresh evidence of ability – any kind of ability - I have very little faith in myself.

It went well though. An 8am start to rendezvous (in the drizzle) with the small group of extra-keen (extra-insane?) cyclists who had started 2 days earlier in Cardiff,

meeting up with the main group who were starting at Epping, about 20 miles further on,

then a pleasant ride through quiet Essex lanes (though not all as leafy and narrow as this short-cut alongside a ford between two roads)

with a break for a fish-and-chip pub lunch.

Much needed calorific fuel, but rather heavy on the stomach! Eventually more persistent rain set in, necessitating the donning of waterproofs, nevertheless spirits remained undampened.

(In the interests of personal safety and the avoidance of wrecking the camera as I crash to the ground whilst trying to follow the road through the camera viewfinder, I'm afraid photos are only of occasions when we were stopped.)

Perhaps I should have chosen something else for lunch, but the poor girl’s face fell when eleven hungry lycra-clad cyclists descended on the pub, eager for a full cooked lunch – she was on her own; clearly the pub is usually very quiet on a Tuesday lunch time – and scanning the menu I thought fish and chips would be less trouble to cook. The only snag was that our evening stop turned out to be at – a fish and chip shop! I couldn’t face more of the same so just nibbled a few spare chips. I wonder if it occurred to the proprietor that his sign in the window appeared to represent a cannibal? Or maybe the fish only ate the chips...

It was getting dark by the time we arrived at Harwich, but we’d made good time so I was able to catch the 8.06pm train back to London, whilst the rest of the group occupied a local hostelry until it was time to board the overnight ferry bound for Hook of Holland from where they would continue to Amsterdam. By the time they were on the ferry and settling into their cabins - or were propping up the bar - I had reached Enfield Town station from where it was a short-ish ride home.

It wasn’t long though before I realised I’d made a poor choice. I took this route to avoid an unfamiliar late night cross-central-London ride from one railway terminus (Liverpool Street) to another (King’s Cross) which would have landed me up within a few hundred yards of home. Enfield is close – by car – but much further than a few hundred yards, and I’d never cycled it. Close in car terms turns out to be nearly 7 miles, 6 of which are uphill - gradual, but for the most part unrelenting. Not pleasant when they feature as miles 94 to 100 a the end of a 15 hour day! I suppose the merit though was it did take me just over the magic 100 mile figure.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly. Will I do it again next year? Quite possibly. Will the beneficial effect last? Unlikely. But it still feels good right now.

Direction of view 

Well, well, well. Have I come out of the tunnel yet? Is there hope once more? The sun seems brighter, certainly, the air clearer, the colours bolder. No reason why, but then, there was no reason why not. No reason for the onset of hopelessness, it just happened. The colour ran out of the world. No reason then why it should not just un-happen.

Talking of happenings, I’m woefully remiss in recording them here. My excuse has been that no-one would be interested, but such reasoning doesn’t stand up against the interest I find in others’ happenings. So, an update is long overdue. Part one today, parts 2 and 3 to follow.

My son – and his new wife – have finally made it to Zambia and his new teaching job, having had their departure delayed by four weeks. The first set of work permit application support paperwork failed to complete its journey and is no doubt languishing in the bottom of a mailsack in some forgotten corner somewhere; the second set made it, but the application was rejected and had to go to appeal (a practice no doubt intended to discourage employment by the school of foreign teachers), the hearing of which was further delayed by the unfortunate death of the country’s President and the resultant grinding to a halt of government administrative processes, which I suspect are not exactly fleet-of-foot even at the best of times. Thankfully it eventually all came good – but not before both we and they had begun seriously to doubt whether they’d ever depart these shores – an eventuality which would have left them newly wed, without jobs, without a home, without money. That prospect hung over all of us for a while, a cloud growing bigger and blacker with every passing day of no news. History shows though that he has a knack of metaphorically falling on his feet - a practice, incidentally, in stark contrast to his childhood ability physically to land on the opposite end of his frame, resulting in at least three visits to hospital casualty departments and a still-visible scar amongst his hair, if you know where to look.

But back to that tunnel for a moment. We call into being the world we imagine. I foolishly allowed myself to imagine a personal world of hopelessness and lo, it came to be. Why do I find that so easy; why do I find it so hard to imagine my world full of hope, of possibility? It wasn’t always thus, but something has changed in the last few years, coincidentally within the lifespan of this blog.

I was looking today at a friend’s photos of Egypt. Two very different scenes, yet both were taken from the same spot, the only difference being the direction of view. One of a barren desert, one of a green and fertile plain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

100 miles in a day 

It went well. But I'm in no state at the moment for story-telling, what with one thing and another. More words another day.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A step 

It’s getting pretty desperate that I find a way out of this current slough of despond, as Bunyan would call it, even if only temporarily – say by finding a small island and clawing my way onto its low summit to catch a glimpse of the land beyond this place. Whilst mired deep in the bog, the view of the landscape seems endlessly hopeless in every direction. With no hope, there’s no reason to move. So rather than moving anywhere, the first step must be to find hope.

Tomorrow therefore I join a group of work colleagues for part of their sponsored bike ride to Amsterdam, in aid of the BBC’s Children in Need charity. Last year I did the whole trip; this year I couldn’t commit the time (a story I’ll tell when it’s fully unfolded) so I’m just cycling 90 miles from St Albans to the ferry terminal at Harwich; when they get on the ferry, I’ll take the bike back on a train to London, which should see me home about midnight.

Charity event though it is, I have to admit I’m doing this primarily for myself. Work is becoming, shall we say, problematic. My overwhelming negative feelings towards it have built such a barrier in my mind that, struggle as I might, I barely manage to achieve anything at all from one day to the next. Yet no-one seems to notice, or if they do, they don’t seem to care.

(See? This is why I’ve stopped writing –every post, one way or another, turns into a whine about work).

So, tomorrow is about doing something – putting a marker post of achievement in the ground to remind me that I do still have some capabilities, however under-utilised they may be.

As I say, it is a charity event so if any UK readers (or anyone anywhere for that matter) wants to make a donation, here’s where you can do just that.