So long August

I’ve never really liked August.

As a child, it was a month of ending. The holidays would come to a close, my freedom would gradually diminish, and newly formed friendships would end. As I grew older, I would work through the holidays but still August was a month apart. Friends and family would visit, setting my routine off-balance, the quieter roads would get incrementally busier as my environment prepared itself for the return of normality in September. And I would inevitably feel like a fish flapping frantically on the beach, trying to get back in the water.

This year has been no different. August came. August went.
Friends visited, family stopped over, days out were enjoyed, a new job was begun. And I enjoyed it all. But throughout the period, I felt like I was constantly catching up with time. The new job didn’t help. My commute time more than doubled and my hours changed from late evenings to early mornings. Looking back, it’s easy to understand why I was so out-of-sync last month. I was just tired from all the changes, and failing to find a new routine in a month that defies the very word.

Which is why nothing happened on the blog. I had a lot of plans, still do, but nothing got written, nothing got edited. August is gone now and this is about to change. I have a lot to share, from new projects ready to be launched and experiences waiting to be shared, the months ahead are going to be busy.

I hope August has been less of a turbulent month for you. What did you get up to?

Advertisements

Nature Sound of the Month – June round-up

Last month, the nature sound of the month focused on doing something wild, asking you to listen more to wildlife and nature around you. Here is what has been captured:

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
Recorded by Alwennia.


Recorded by me.

Other nature sounds that caught my ear in June:
by Forgotten Fields

Flood noises and After the flood by Sounds Like Noise

by Richard Fair

What have you been listening to this past June?

Nature Sound of the Month – April round-up

Last month, the nature sound of the month focused on animal life, asking you to focus your attention to the wildlife around you. Here is what has been captured:


Recorded by Still Walks


Recorded by me

Thanks a lot to everyone who took part. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening out for sounds and will join again this month. The new theme will be published later today.

Other nature sounds that caught my ear in April:
by Colin Hunter

by Memorial Bench

by Reuben Derrick

What have you been listening to this past April?

Cycle touring for four months taught me a thing or two

This is not my usual kind of blog post and really it’s more of a reminder to myself that the lessons I learned on the road are important. I should not forget them.

Doing nothing is good

resize_P1120797
My days would usually start with a frenzy of activity. There was breakfast to be made, my belongings to be put back in panniers, my tent to be dismantled, and my bike to be made ready for the road. I rarely rushed doing it, but it had to be done, occupying my mind and body for the first hour of the day. And then I was off, pedalling an inconsequential part of my travel. My legs knew what to do, freeing my eyes to take in the scenery, and my mind to wander where it would (which often was nowhere at all). A feature in the landscape would stop me or a bench in a village invite me to rest. So I would. Brakes on, bike leant on a wall or laid on the ground, I would stop and watch life go by for five minutes or an hour. I didn’t need to think, didn’t need to read, didn’t need to check my phone. I was allowed to just be there and take in the world.

It’s easy to forget this is okay. And I’m the first one guilty of it. I always have one more e-mail to reply to, one more book to read, one more blog to catch up with, and don’t I also need to go to the post office to send a parcel right now? No. I can stop and sit at my window to watch the garden stand still.

There are many hours in a day

resize_P1110045
If there was one thing I was rich with on my journey, it was time. I had no watch and my phone was buried deep in my pocket, an accessory to be taken out in case of emergency. Time didn’t matter. The days were long and mine to shape according to my stomach and fancies. I rarely had to be anywhere and there were no deadlines to reach. I could meander at will, knowing that the feature in the map that had made me turn left, would still be there the following day. I could sit on the grass and read for hours if I wished to. I felt like the master of my own time.

Back in employment, I let this lesson slip too often. I look at the pile of books by my opened laptop and despair. Where has time gone? Nowhere. It’s the same as it has always been, but I get carried away by the constant ticking of clocks on walls, phones, ovens, computers… I have time. It’s up to me to shape it according to my fancies.

A cup of coffee goes a long way

resize_P1110814bis
Cold and shivering from the rain and wind, I huddled closer to the tree in vain hope that its leaves would shelter me better closer to the trunk. Someone passed by and gestured for me to come out. We established quickly that our shared language skills were scarce but it’s okay the warmth in their eyes and their constant pointing at the café opposite the road were words enough. I followed them in, my muscles relaxing as the heat engulfed them. A chair was brought for me and a steaming cup of coffee followed soon afterwards. I would offer to pay but they would refuse, almost offended by my coins. Sometimes they would stay with me, sometimes not. Sometimes it was rain that made them buy me a cup of coffee, sometimes not. But always it was kindness for the stranger on the other side of the road and a need to let me know I was welcomed here.

I am not invited for a coffee any longer, my vulnerability eradicated by the simple fact that I blend in. But not everybody does. There are people who are alone and sometimes cold. It costs me nothing to bring them a warm cup of tea.

It’s important to make time for conversation

resize_P1060881
Complete strangers opened the doors of their home, sharing the sanctuary of their privacy with me. They cooked extravagantly, a feast they would have to pay with scarcity the following week. They showed me around their town, proud to reveal the gems to be found in their locality. And then I would leave, a sadness gripping my heart and theirs most of all. I knew I would meet more people further along the road but they would have to remain where they were. Lonely and deprived of human contact in a world where time is made to feel scarce, where busy is the golden word, and were strangers are to be avoided at all cost.

So I remind myself to talk. It’s quite cold today, isn’t it? The person turns their head incredulously and for a second we may be awkward, an unspoken rule has just been broken. But I’m smiling and yes it is rather cold but they’re saying it should warm up next week. And in the minutes that follow, we become humans again.

I have earned this moment

I stand at the kitchen island, looking at a rich chocolate cake and the flame of a candle flickering in the dark. Behind me the sink hides the remains of dinner, the empty cookware weathered from months on the road. All around, the house is empty, rooms resonating and echoing with the quiet sounds of my footsteps and laptop. In my bedroom, my deflating sleeping mat is hidden below my sleeping bag still cocooned into its bivvy bag.

This is all a bit ridiculous, but my partner and new housemate have not moved in yet. So I’m alone, in this new house, in this new city, camping within four walls. Family and friends have laughed at how ridiculous this is but it feels right to end the year as it started.

resize_P1100312

For months I have been on the road, happily cycling in the Iberian Peninsula with not a care in the world. Life was easy back then. There was nothing to think about, no commitments, no rent, no bills. But I came back and life got complicated. I felt trapped by modern sedentary life. I wanted to go away, shut myself from job applications and house hunting. But how could I? I needed to be there, ready to jump on the coach to Bristol to attend an interview and visit a house. My life was not mine to enjoy. It was held at the mercy of employers and estate agents. I was not happy.

I spent long hours on my longboard, the focus needed to acquire new skills obliterating every thoughts from my mind. But however long I stood on that board, I always needed to come home, to check e-mails, to apply for jobs, to arrange for viewings.

resize_P1100615

I became drained. I snapped and yelled and cried. And finally, after three months of toing and froing from London to Bristol, and countless rejections, I found a home and a job. A home that is empty for now but will soon be filled with friends, with books and bikes and maps and happiness. And a job that is unlike anything I’ve ever done but is getting me excited.

I blow out the candle on the cake, I dip my fork into it, and I savour every last bit of it. I have earned this moment.

P1100979