Watermead to Abbey Park

A gentler walk today, intending to be around 6 miles but working out at nearly 8.  Once again I got lost on the way back: once again I failed to understand how this could have happened.  Either I took another path which had vanished by the time I came back, or I’d failed to notice a long row of houses and a large pub.  Now call me unobservant if you will, but if there’s one thing I notice it’s pubs.  Because I like pubs.  I’m interested in pubs.  I like to take a look at them and see what sort of pub they are; whether they’re likely to do good beer and have a good atmosphere and so on.  And it turned out that, my phone having died and the map being rather too small-scale to provide the requisite detail, I entered said pub and asked if they knew where the Meadows Lane car park was.  And a very nice young man said he did know it.  He told me where to walk and even came out with me to make sure I understood.  He was such a nice man that I felt like Harry Enfield and friends:


Where was I?  Oh yes, walking.  Well let’s start at the beginning.  I parked up at the Birstall end of Watermead Park and found the river with no problem.  It was going to be a pretty straightforward walk along the waterside with the added excitement of estrenar the sheewee (estrenar is a Spanish word for which there is no direct English equivalent: it means ‘to use for the first time’.)  I had some difficulty with this, not logistically but psychologically, as I was somewhat inhibited by the fear of being seen; however I’m sure everything will improve with practice.  The path goes past Belgrave Hall, an 18th century house now, sadly, only open for special events, and the Space Centre which houses a rocket that actually went into space:



It was noticeable how much less friendly and more hurried people got, the nearer I approached Leicester, being less inclined to say hello and more inclined to rush past you.  I reached Abbey Park in time for lunch and mooched around there for a bit.  Abbey Park houses the remains of an abbey where Cardinal Wolsey once lived; there are also very pleasant gardens, the wide meandering of the river Soar, a miniature railway and a cafe.


After spending a while here I started my walk back which was just the same only in reverse, except for the end bit which I told you about.

And that was today.

Kirk out


Developing Nations: An Occident Waiting to Happen

I wish I had a fascinating post for you on the subject of developing nations but alas, all I have is a pun which occurred to me this morning, that developing nations are an occident waiting to happen.  If I were so inclined I could deconstruct the whole notion of ‘development’ and the assumption that it is not only necessary and good but inevitable; that underdeveloped nations must be developed as soon as possible (which means their natural resources being seized for the benefit of others and their people being forced to work for the economy) and that ‘developing’ or ’emerging’ nations must be hurried along to join the top table.  Of course, we don’t want them to develop too fast otherwise they’ll be in competition with us: just enough so that we can exploit their resources and sell them lots of stuff.

But there’s a problem with this narrative; a problem which goes to the heart of the question ‘what is the right way to live?’  Very often I come across people on social media advocating a certain lifestyle which harks back to a golden age: the paleo diet, for example, from the pre-agricultural era, or the idea that we are ‘really’ designed to be hunter-gatherers.  So what is the right way to live?  The other day I came across a post about free houses in Wales.  The Welsh government will allow people to build their own houses without paying for the land.  Great.  Ah, but there’s a catch.  You have to be self-sufficient and carbon-neutral within five years.  The carbon-neutral thing might not be such a tall order; after all, there are carbon-neutral houses already in existence.  But self-sufficiency is altogether another order of tallness.  My sister and her husband are semi self-sufficient in Wales, and I’ve seen the amount of unremitting daily work which that involves.  To be fully self-sufficient is a heck of a tall order.  Think about what you eat in a typical day: protein (meat or otherwise: if otherwise you have to grow a ton of pulses) veg, milk, cheese (or their vegan equivalents, again usually made from soy) bread, margarine or butter, tea, coffee… I could go on and on.  The thought of total self-sufficiency totally does my head in.  But maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way: maybe you need to look at what you can produce and focus on living on that.  But I wouldn’t want to.  I can’t post the link at the moment but if you look up sustainable self-build in Wales you should find it.

The trouble with the search for a golden age is that every age has its problems.  There’s no point in history where everything was perfect until some horrible people came along to spoil it.  Negative things have certainly taken place (the enclosures, the first factories, slavery) but things were not perfect before (though I’m sure they were a damn sight better for the slaves).  The industrial revolution led to much misery for workers, but how much better off were they when they worked the land?  None of us is immune from harking back to some golden age: there’s also a feminist utopia (a sort of anti-Gilead) in the concept of a prehistorical matriarchy.  There’s even some evidence for the hypothesis, though it’s not very strong.  Here’s a rather long but excellent analysis:


Besides, helpful though it is to think beyond the current paradigm to other possible worlds, there do actually exist some matriarchal societies today.  They are small and tribal but still they survive and some do seem to practise a kind of equality:


Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

image removed on request

So whether matriarchy was actually prevalent or not in prehistory, the idea helps us to imagine other possibilities, since oppression is usually founded in the dogma that ‘there is no alternative.’  This underpins austerity, and the general idea of economic growth.

Which brings us neatly back to where we started…

Kirk out

PS For some reason the Welsh link has posted below…





The Handmaid’s Tale’s Tail


I was dubious when I heard they were doing a second series of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: having come to the end of Atwood’s story with the first series I didn’t see how they could successfully carry on.  But they did.  OH and I have been gripped every Sunday by the dark (and sometimes frustratingly inaudible) action which has taken the original story and really run with it.  It has been shocking, unpredictable and fascinating and at no time have we been able to tell what was coming.

The second series was, if anything, better than the first, but at the end of it I found myself wondering: is it the story or the franchise that’s taken over?  There’s a moment in a successful series when the desire to milk it can overtake the natural length of the story and when that happens, you’re in trouble.  Has it happened here?  I’ll be honest – I’m not sure.  The second series kept me guessing all the way through, with the women’s small acts of rebellion meeting with brutal repression and one young woman who believes in Gilead and tries to be a good wife, being drowned in a swimming pool.  When Serena, fearing for the future of ‘her’ baby (in reality June and Nick’s child) goes with other wives to petition to be allowed to read the Bible, the Commander (her husband, lest we forget) responds by having her finger cut off.  Just as a reminder.

The series ends with June/Offred being smuggled to safety with the baby via a network of Marthas.  Her friend Emily/Ofglen, having been posted to a mysterious Commander whose intentions are not at first clear, arrives with him in a van and shouts to her to get in.  They are on the brink of escape when June thrusts the baby at Emily, shouts ‘Call her Nicole’ and walks away.  I was gobsmacked.  I mean, what?  Why the hell would she do that?  Has she been so conditioned by Gilead that she’s afraid to leave?  Or is she determined to stay and destroy it from within?  We won’t find out until the next episode, but I suspect the real answer is that Offred sacrificed herself so that the programme could run for another series.


I have to report that the BBC is generally free of these unnatural extensions: things run for as long as the story works, and no longer.  On the other hand, maybe the third series will be just as exciting as June works undercover to subvert Gilead and save her other daughter.  We’ll just have to wait and see.


Kirk out

Le Shewee Est Arrive!

Yes, it’s here; the little piece of equipment that transforms any woman into a fully-functioning, go-anywhere, freewheeling sort of gal.  All you need is the cover of some bushes and you can pee standing up!  It arrived this morning and I tried it out – it worked brilliantly!  No drips, no mess, no spillage, just fully-directable stream-of- stream-of- well, not exactly consciousness but you know what I mean.  Many times both recently and in the past I have had to examine bushes to see if they provide not only cover but also nettle-free areas in which to squat; and even if I find such an area it’s a hell of a performance peeing without getting any on your shorts and underwear.  But now I can say goodbye to all that (as Robert Graves once said) and pee standing up.  It is a joy.


It’s a lovely shade of pink, just so I don’t get confused about my gender…

Kirk out

I’ll Have an Eight-Mile Walk With a Side Order of Getting Lost When I’m Exhausted Please

I wasn’t planning to go too far today.  I’ll just start off from Mountsorrel and see where I get to, I thought.  Well I walked and I saw where I got to and lo! it was Watermead Park.  And I saw that it was good.  I was quite tired by the time I’d walked a bit in the park and seen several expanses of water, lots of geese and a couple of herons. 


Watermead Park is an area of low-lying land which is now dedicated to leisure and pleasure: there are hundreds of walks, a lake which you can sail on, loads of cycling routes and hides for bird-watching.  There are also picnic tables, one of which I chose to have my lunch at.  It had a white object left on it and I approached with caution lest it be something nasty but it turned out to be a painted pebble with the name ‘Alice’ on it.  Wherever you are Alice, your pebble is waiting for you on the picnic table.

I rested by some trees but there was no denying the fact that I would have to walk back again, so wearily I set off.  I guess I got into my stride after a while but what should have been a fairly straightforward walk was complicated by my taking a wrong turn somewhere and ending up lost.  This was very trying as by now I was exhausted and could barely remember my own name, let alone where I was going (I’d had a bad night again, which makes five or six in a row) but once somebody put me right I recognised the path again.  I’d got to the point of thinking I simply couldn’t put one foot in front of the other when I saw the blessed outlines of the Waterside Pub


where I’d parked.  And there sat faithful Bertie ready to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet Ford Focus…

Sheesh, that was a hard day.  And I still can’t figure out where I went wrong…

Kirk out

I Think You Ought to Know

The character known as the paranoid android, aka Marvin in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was fond of saying ‘I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.’  Eeyore has similar conversational openers although he is more adept at emotional manipulation (‘we can’t all have houses’, ‘very natural, and it was only Eeyore’s tail.  But still I wondered.’)

But when I’m feeling depressed I have a dilemma – to talk about it or not to talk about it?  I’m only too aware from certain miserablist individuals of my acquaintance of the total downer it can be when you subject others to your own depression; I’m also aware of the potential value of thinking and acting positive.  But then again there’s the need to talk about it, not to be in denial.  So what to do?

It seems to me that there’s an optimum amount of expression required.  Naturally I tell my dear OH when I’m feeling down and OH is always concerned and wanting to help.  But whilst it’s a relief to get it off your chest I’m aware that feeling better is largely down to me.  Fortunately most of the time I can find something that works: watching a comedy, digging the garden, going for a walk, reading a book.  Equally important is avoiding things that bring me down: listening to the news, reading Facebook, thinking about the future.

Food and drink can also help: eating good, fresh food gives you energy but there’s nothing to beat chocolate.  I avoid alcohol as it’s a known depressant.  Sleeping properly also helps; unfortunately this is not under my complete control and sometimes everything I try fails – or at least only succeeds partially.  I can drink my chamomile and swig my herbal sleep mix and put on my sleep CD and still stay awake for ages.  It’s very annoying.  It’s as if there’s a part of my brain that resists all efforts to put it to sleep.  This part of my brain is like a recalcitrant toddler and insists on being awake no matter what I do.  

In my previous incarnation as a yoga teacher I used to teach groups of depressed people.  I would always focus on active postures; plenty of movement, no contemplation or meditation and some high-up music like this:

video removed on request

High notes seem to reach a part of the brain associated with euphoria; there are better tracks than this but I don’t know what they’re called so I can’t find them.

I’m off now to buy some salad stuff and chocolate biscuits…

Kirk out

A Slow Day

My legs were in recalcitrant mood today.  We ain’t going far, they seemed to say as I got out of the car in Cropston.  I planned to walk around the reservoir and maybe a bit further afield but the legs put their feet down and said nope, no way nohow.  No siree.  Jus’ round the reservoir an’ that’s all (for some reason my legs have a Southern US accent, don’t ask me why.)  When you stop to think about it your legs do an awful lot: I was noticing how quickly they bend and straighten, locking the knee every second or so, and that’s at around three miles per hour.  And they do it over and over without complaining – until one day they’ve just had enough.  Well, I respect my legs, so I said OK then, round the reservoir it is.  And it was.  The path leads on from a tiny cul-de-sac at the top of Cropston village and winds through fields towards the reservoir.  I walked through acres of broad beans which had been burnt: this made me very sad as they were probably destroyed due to their small size – I split open a pod and saw some small and very sad beans inside.  Mine haven’t done much better: after producing a few decent pods they were hit by the drought and gave up the ghost.  Tomatoes have been good though… but I digress.  After a while the path seems to give up trying to find the reservoir and instead leads into Bradgate Park with a nice view of Lady Jane Grey’s house.


It was time for a sit down and a cup of tea.  Alas, the stag I’d been admiring for a while decided to come and stand right behind my bench, causing all the passers-by to crowd round taking photos.


I decamped a little to a pillar-box viewing point by the other side of the reservoir from where I took this photo as I had my tea:


The view of the reservoir from the other side is very pretty; though you can’t actually get to the water you can get close enough to look at the birds.  After lunch and a rest I continued to the road which cuts across the head of the water, and so back to Cropston.  Not much of a walk but enjoyable.

Tomorrow I shall mostly be… resting.

Kirk out