That’s Fifteen Miles in the Old Money!

As I mentioned the other day, I’m not one for gargantuan physical efforts.  But I do have my moments, and just the other day one such Moment occurred.  On Saturday the weather was perfect – oo!  I’ve just discovered an icon at the top of the page which apparently means ‘mark as sticky’.  What?  Anyway, back to the post… Saturday being a lovely day and it being a Bank Holiday weekend I decided to go for a bike ride.  I had already ridden over to the Martyrs for breakfast so after that I decided to hit the canal and keep going South out of the city until I got to Kilby, whereupon I would come back up the A 50 (or A5199 as they call it nowadays), across to Knighton Park and hence home.  This turned out to be a total of 15 miles; not far for some but quite a way for me as I’m generally used to doing two or three miles at a stretch.  It’s a lovely ride out of town, finding canalside pubs and cafes; locks and quaint old humpback bridges, horses in fields and the quiet backs of houses.  Everyone I met was friendly and helpful and the route was easy; though that didn’t prevent me stopping every so often to check how far it was to Kilby.  Once I got to the main road it was a gentle rise up to Wigston (though I did walk a bit to save my energy, being unsure at what point I might conk out).  Which reminds me of a joke:

Me to OH: I can’t walk that far – I’ll conk out!

OH to me: Yes, but you’d conk back in again.

On with the bike ride.  Pausing like a steam engine (and probably resembling one in some respects) to take on water, I arrived in Wigston and found a handy cycle path away from the main road; following this I hit Knighton Park much sooner than expected.  And so home, where I spent the rest of the day feeling thoroughly energised before predictably feeling knackered the day after.  Anyway, this is what the canal near Kilby looks like:

I’m fascinated by the life of canals; both traditionally, as transport highways, and nowadays as largely leisure locations (although a few people still live and work on the canals and we’ll be seeing some at this weekend’s Riverside Festival.)  There’s something quite detached about a canal, like a separate life that coexists with ours; a quiet backwater that cuts through our lives almost unseen and unheard.  I’ve only once been on a narrow-boat holiday but it’s something I’d really like to do again: it’s peaceful, friendly, interesting and – most importantly of all – features lots of pubs.

Anyway, I was inordinately pleased with myself when I got home – but then of course I logged onto Facebook and instantly saw a map posted by a couple cycling from Lands’ End to John o’Groats who had completed 74 miles that day.

But hey, ho – as I said the other day, no matter what you achieve, there will always be someone who’s done more, so why worry?  You could do the entire Tour de France and still find someone who’s done it backwards or sideways or upside down or in a kilt.  So I am happy with my fifteen miles.  Because it’s significant to me.

Kirk out

Stuff I’d Like to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how human relations might be improved if people adopted the Quaker approach to speaking, which is to ask yourself before engaging gob (or keyboard) the following four questions:

is it true?

is it helpful?

is it kind?

is it necessary?

For example, was it necessary for a driver, when I was trying to get across a road on my bike in a limited time, to hoot angrily and repeatedly at me?

Was it kind?

Was it helpful?

It was not.  I was quite proud of my reaction though: instead of growling or howling I smiled sweetly and made a gracious ‘you go ahead’ gesture.  And then I was reminded of the words of the Buddha about anger: that to show anger towards someone is like holding a flaming spear by the lighted end.  I can’t find the quote but I’m sure he said it – or something like it.  Oh, apparently it wasn’t him although it is within the Buddhist tradition and entirely consistent with Buddha teaching:

There’s also the old saying that when you point a finger at someone there are three pointing back at you.  So although I was slightly shaken by this driver’s excessive and unnecessary anger, I reflected on these things and also on the fact that he has probably shortened his life by several seconds due to increased blood-pressure, heart-rate and tension.

I’ve had a great day so far: first Tomatoes, then the Real Junk Food Cafe where, having had breakfast already I restricted myself to a mince pie and an apple.  This is the first time I have been there since it opened and I have to say it’s a great initiative; collecting ‘rejected’ food from supermarkets and turning it into delicious meals which are free or ‘pay as you feel’.  There, serendipitously, I ran into Christine who is going to help me with my ESOL interview as she teaches something similar; we had a really useful chat.

And so home, where I began writing to you, dear reader.

Kirk out

Cold, Clubbers, Clobber and Syriza

What a horrid cold and wet time was had by all, standing at the Clock Tower in the wind and rain to get people to support Syriza.  As I cycled into town, the wind at my back serving only to remind me what hard work it was going to be coming home, I thought ‘Why am I doing this?  Why am I giving up two hours of my Sunday to stand in town freezing my fingers and tingling my toes?

I’ll be honest – I hate being cold and wet.  Some people don’t seem to mind it: I’m constantly astonished by how many brave souls you see confronting the elements in the most basic of outfits.  I’m not even talking about clubbers here – clubbers are a whole new level of crazy in this regard – I just mean ordinary shoppers who face a day like today in only a hoodie or a thin jacket.  Whereas I, in thick jumper, scarf, cagoul, hat and gloves, shivered for an hour and a half and then I’d had enough.

Maybe it’s cars that make people behave like this?  If you just step outside your house and into a warm car, and thence into a warm shopping-centre spending minimal time on the street I guess it’s hardly worthwhile getting togged up for the cold and wet.  Whereas some of us slogged home into a fierce wind getting extremely wet but arriving home with a warm glow of self-righteousness.

And yet in spite of the cold it was encouraging to see how many people stopped to sign the petition and have a chat.  The level of support for Syriza was very gratifying, especially since at the beginning we were wondering how aware of the situation people were.  Yet many of them stopped, appended signatures and took stickers and left some left messages of support.

I think people in general should get a medal for doing these things in the name of democracy.  We should celebrate those who, like Mags of the Green Party, tramp the streets to give out leaflets or stand on freezing corners with cold petitions – or just get out and talk to people about issues they are concerned with.  It’s good to know that there are still people prepared to brave the elements in order to campaign for the things they believe in.


Kirk out

Under Thorpe Cloud

Now, I’m not what you might call a fitness freak.  Every time I pass the gym on Upperton Rd and look at the row of people all cycling towards me without getting anywhere, I feel like laughing.  Joggers are more liberally-sprinkled on our pavements than lamp-posts, but I think jogging is a form of torture and marathons an extreme form.  On the news, both national and local, there are daily reports of outlandish feats of endurance raising money for this or that; but I don’t begin to comprehend why anyone would want to put themselves through something like a triathlon.  My leisure time is taken up with reading, watching TV, drinking beer with buddies and listening to music.  And when I go on holiday I enjoy a gentle walk; a stroll along the beach, a little light climbing perhaps, a bit of a swim.  Nothing too demanding.  Yet the last two church holidays I’ve been on have involved rather over-enthusiastic types who think nothing of shooting up a steep mountain the moment they’ve pitched their tent.  Such as this one:

which I declined to ascend at that point as I’d spent all night in a freezing tent and had to get up twice to pee.

The beach holiday, years ago, was much nicer.  Still on the first morning I wanted nothing more than to laze in the sun and hope my children didn’t drown themselves.  But it became clear that a group of these said hardy individuals were planning to latch themselves onto a rope for the purposes of pulling a bus along the promenade!  Why they would wish to do such a thing when they could be soaking up the sun, was a mystery to me, and when they had all charged up the shingle yelling ‘huzzah!’ I expressed my view to someone sitting near me.  ‘They’re bonkers, aren’t they?’ I said.  ‘Why don’t they just sit and enjoy the sun?’

She gave me a look, part-sorrow and part-anger.  Turned out she was just putting her trainers on so she, too could dash up the shingle and go pull a bus!!  I ask you!

But recently all this determined non-climbing and non-bus-pulling has started to catch up with me.  Living where we now do, I need to cycle a fair bit to get around; and so I’m having to supplement  my usual diet of fairly gentle yoga and sporadic walking with some good hard chugging up slopes and down again.  I’m getting better at it; and the other night when it was cold and wet I actually broke into a spontaneous jog!  Whatever next?

Better save me a bus, I guess…

Spring! workshop tomorrow, folks at the Embrace Arts centre.  Our workshop starts at 12 so see you there!

Kirk out

OK That’s Enough

I’ve given up on the digitising tablet as I can’t cope and you can’t comprehend a single non-word I’m not saying – so it’s back to the mainframe.  Well, it’s not a mainframe but you know what I mean.  A busy day today; cycling up to the Quaker’s on Queen’s Rd for an hour of lovely silence, punctuated by a few thoughts: the youngest contributor is Zeb, who as a Home-educated lad is obviously totally together and articulate.  Then home for soup and Casualty, our usual Sunday ritual, and so to town for the Left Unity People’s Arts’ Collective meeting.  This is a political effort which I am totally behind (or behind which I totally am, or something) which aims to introduce a dialogue between politics and the arts.  It’s not about funding for the arts, particularly, but about ways in which poetry, art, music, drama, street theatre and so much more, can contribute to the political dialogue.  Plans are afoot for a launch in September which will almost certainly include poetry and music but perhaps also many other art forms as part of the First World War commemorations.  We are particularly keen to represent the experiences of ordinary people and somewhere in my book collection I have a volume called ‘Forgotten Voices of the First World War’ (there’s a companion volume about the Second World War) which presents what I suppose we must call sound-bites from ordinary people about their perspectives and experiences.

And so home, meaning that I’ve cycled about 8 miles today.  Not bad…

Kirk out

Another Day, Another Acceptance…

I thought I’d better post something before you decide I’ve forgotten you all.  I’m still here – it’s just that settling in and writing the umpteenth draft of my novel have taken precedence.  the novel is turning out to be a tapestry or patchwork affair, where I insert bits here and there to build up a pattern.  Still, at least I have some inkling of what the overall pattern is, which is more than I did before.  So that is good.

We went to Tomatoes this morning and returned to the old house to find a most unwelcome letter informing me that I need to pay a penalty for driving in a bus lane.  Bloody annoying… the other post wasn’t too bad, though I am now entirely of Mark’s view that nothing good ever comes in the post.  Trouble is, not much comes via email either apart from promotions or updates on campaigns I joined years ago or petitions I signed last month or groups I am marginally interested in or other groups I am not quite uninterested enough in to unsubscribe… RANT ALERT

incidentally I can’t go on without commenting on the difference, so rarely observed nowadays, between ‘uninterested’ and ‘disinterested’.  Uninterested means ‘not interested.’  I am uninterested in golf.  Mark is uninterested in tennis.  Etc.  ‘Disinterested’, on the other hand, means ‘not having a stake in something’.  Such as a disinterested observer at a meeting or a disinterested view of politics.  So get it right!


However, today I did have an email saying a book review of mine has been accepted by Thresholds.  Thresholds is a site which specialises in the short story, and I have written the review about three times for them and FINALLY they have accepted it.  So that’s a relief.

As I write there is a rather tremendous thunderstorm over Leicester and it’s raining quite hard.  I’m glad it didn’t do this earlier as I cycled over to Tomatoes and back.  I am getting better at cycling; once I reach this stage of proficiency (incidentally I always wanted to do cycling proficiency as a kid but we couldn’t afford a bike.  Or else our mother thought the roads were too dangerous.  Anyway…) I usually think, ‘I must keep this up and get better and better.’  And invariably something happens to prevent me.  Usually a knockout bout of apathy…

But! since it’s too far to walk into town from here, and since buses are expensive, I will probably cycle more in future.  So long as it doesn’t thunder.

Incidentally, when I go over to the West End I pass a gym where I am treated to the surreal sight of a bank of people all cycling towards me and getting nowhere.  I feel vastly superior to these people as I pass by on my real bike, actually going somewhere…

We are doing a bunch of entertaining at the new house, having people over for lunch and dinner and all sorts.  On Wednesday we had eight of us round the table for dinner, and yesterday Mark’s mum came for lunch.  And tonight Mary and John will turn up bearing wine and will be served curry and stir-fry with rice and chappatis.

It’s great!

In other news, I am reading Joyce Carol Oates for the first time, and I have finished the Kathy Reichs I was reading for the second time.  Sadly I have failed to interest Daniel in her books for teenagers.  Daniel is UNINTERESTED in them.


Kirk out

The Warm War

I hope you are reading this at the right time.  I am writing it in GMT which is of course the Proper Time of Day from now until whenever it is that the clocks spring forward again.  Yes, BST is at an end; and we have all acted accordingly – but the weather doesn’t seem to have realised.  There’s no sign of winter yet, and autumn seems like a duller, damper and less leafier version of summer.  The more days we have without frost, the more anxious I feel about global warming.  I have nightmares, as I walk the streets in t-shirt and cagoul, about ice-caps melting, polar-bears dying, flood-plains flooding, and all the horrid plagues of disease and overcrowding and rats that will precede our eventual demise.

And yet… and yet – there is still hope.  Thirty years ago I was having similar nightmares about nuclear winter and the extinction of vast swathes of the planet – and that didn’t happen.  Does this mean we can just assume that worst-case scenarios in general are paranoid fantasies?  Can we carry on and laugh at the gloom-mongers?

Absolutely not.  There were various reasons why all-out nuclear war didn’t happen, and the main one, I contend, was the realisation that whatever the differences between communism and capitalism, it didn’t – and doesn’t – make sense to address them in this way.  Yes, there was the breakdown of communism and all that as well, I know.  But the fact that we drew back from the brink gives me hope.  Perhaps before long people will realise that everyone having a car is not sustainable; not only because it’s bad for the environment but because if everyone has a car and every car is on the road, no-one actually gets to go anywhere.  Perhaps before long people will realise that having the central heating and a gazillion kitchen gadgets is not a Good Idea.  Perhaps before long people will start to see reusing and recycling as positive options, not just necessary ones.

Things are starting to happen.  They’ve been starting to happen for a long time; we just need to carry on with them.  That way we can – at the risk of sounding like a hippy – live in harmony with the planet rather than being at war with it.  Because the warm war, like the cold war, has no winners at all.

Kirk out