Learning Portuguese and other 2017 goals

At the beginning of the year I didn’t make resolutions. I had vague ideas of things I want to achieve in 2017 but I didn’t vow to make them happen. This tends to put too much pressure on me and I end up not sticking to my goals.

So as the new year chimed, I let my ideas simmer and grow over January, finding time for them in my everyday life, seeing what was going to work and what wasn’t.

A month later, I’m happy to report that the goals that truly mattered have been incorporated into my life. Some are still unfulfilled, but I’m holding on to them and hoping to see them come to fruition later in the year.

In no particular order, here is what I’ve been up to:

  • Learn European Portuguese

    I’m making videos about my learning journey. It’s both a way to connect with other learners and assess my progress.
    Follow me on YouTube if that’s of any interest to you.
  • Record a sound every day

    I never planned for this goal, but as I began to take a photo every day, I thought it would be cool to add sounds to the themes. This however proved too difficult and I ended up simply recording random sounds. This is harder than taking a photo every day but I really want to make this happen. It is forcing me to focus on sounds more often, to really listen, and to make full use of my recording equipment. It’s only been a month but I already feel like I’ve learned a lot.
    Follow me on SoundCloud if you never want to miss one of my recordings.

Other goals include setting up a new blog, sharing the sounds and story from my journey through Spain and Portugal, going on a longboard microadventure, walking the West Highland Way with Zoe and Jenni, exploring the areas around my new home, and reading a book by a Portuguese author every month.

Have you set up goals and resolutions for the new year? If yes, how are you doing with them?

A walk along the Beverley Brook

The Beverley Brook is a minor English river in London. It begins near Worcester Park Station and ends just above Putney Embankment where it flows into the Thames. It lives for 8.9 miles and for 6.5 miles there is a (more or less) waymarked path following it. I walked along it last week-end and made this audio slideshow from my experience.

If you prefer YouTube, you can watch it at this link.

More photos from the walk can be seen on my Flickr account.

If you’re tempted to go on this walk, Merton Council has a handy downloadable guide for you.

Moment of zen

Living in London, I don’t spend a lot of time on a beach. But it is less than 70 miles away so it would be ridiculous not to travel there when an oportunity arise. And so, on the last week-end of August, I found myself in Hastings. It was a bank holiday and I had three days to explore. I could have had a microadventure, after all I hadn’t slept outdoors that month and this was my last chance. But I decided not to. Instead, I took long walks on the cliffs by the coast, I explored the old streets of Hastings, and lay on the beach thinking of nothing and enjoying the last of the Summer holidays.

All the while, I was conscious that I had missed a month in my year of microadventure. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did. So when I remembered, Jonathan (from In Which I) microadventure challenge, I rose to the task. His microadventure challenges are simple. There are no rules, not even a need to spend a night under the stars. In August, the theme was ‘Explore a border’. This was perfect. I was after all at the frontier between land and water, between the UK and France. To make it more of a challenge, I decided to make a short film about the sea. I kept it simple, focused on the water meditative aspect and created this video.

Moment of zen from Allysse Riordan on Vimeo.

Sunset by the Thames

Sunset by the Thames from Allysse Riordan on Vimeo.

The days are still warm under the sun but a chill is coming. If I walk in the shadows for a few minutes, goosebumps will rise on my unprotected arms. Soon, it will get dark before I finish work and the commute back home will be completed under artificial lights trying to combat the darkness. But for now, there is still daylight and some heat to be enjoyed at the end of the working day. So last Friday, as a distant church rang five o’clock, I switched off my laptop, packed a jacket and flask of tea in my bike pannier and set off along the Thames Path. I was after the sunset.

I found a quiet spot behind the fences of Kew Gardens and settled down. I set up my camera to capture a few shots, poured myself some tea and sat down on the high banks to enjoy the view. The sun was beginning its descent in the sky, transforming into an orb or fire in the hopes to send the sky ablaze. It was a meagre attempt and only the clouds deigned to take on a hint of colour.

Down on the water, ducks and gulls were oblivious to the sky. Life was carrying on as normal for them. They paddled and flew, flirted with the water and occasionally dipped in. Undisturbed by the other animals, a swan lazily travelled on the river. I followed it with my eyes and became accustomed to its gentle speed. The tension in my shoulder eased away, my jaw unclenched, and I found myself leaning back.

When next I raised my eyes, the sun was disappearing behind the trees. Its flames were so bright I couldn’t stand to watch them for longer than a second, my vision turning into a white field. But it was difficult not too look. The orange glow was so compelling, its warmth drawing me in like a moth. I forced myself not to gaze directly at it, focusing my attention to the horizon behind the trees and the clouds above. Shades of orange and yellow had invaded the world. Everything was soft and mellow.

I heard the rocking of oars on the water and peered down. A rowing boat was passing by, its occupants gently navigating the river. They too had finished their work and were now idly heading back to their rowing club to store their boat away for the night. I observed them pass and noticed a fox watching them from the other side of the river. I smiled.

When the boat had disappeared at a bend of the river, I turned my eyes to the sky once more. The sun was falling. It was no longer blazing and only the bottom of the clouds still acknowledged its presence with a faded shade of pink. A minute went by, and then another, and without me quite realising it, the sun was gone. The horizon was a dull ochre. I wasn’t sure if it was trying to remember the colours of the sun or if it was tinged with the first signs or light pollution. I looked up to the clouds. They were grey once more and above them, the blue of the sky was becoming dull, as if someone had blown a thick layer of smoke towards it. On the grass, the hair of my arms raised themselves, vainly trying to capture my escaping body warmth. I slid my jacket on and spared a glance to the water below me for a last time. The reflection of the trees were dark now. I tidied my camera away, drank the last of my tea, and cycled away. The sun had set.

This post was submitted to In Which I, September microadventure challenge.