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Needs and wants…

June 1, 2019

I’ve just had some days off from ‘work’, and any ritual routines and soft disciplines have gone out the window. My daily endorphin hit and my usual duties have been replaced with some priceless time with my family, and time to conjure thoughts, needs and wants.

A certain old lady once said… “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go…”

As I said last month, occasionally everything can seem utterly defeating… When found wanting, we tend to look for a validating script, a role, a purpose, a narrative. We seek value, reason, a righteousness… We like to come up with things to define stuff, things that help make sense of the worlds around us.

To differing degrees, I guess we are all wanting (or needing?) to paint something on the raw cave walls. Whether it be reading a novel, watching drama on TV, knocking a ball around a field, playing or listening to music, cultivating a garden, building machines, walking the dog, painting, giving blood, creating routine, eating healthily, writing, acting*… we all want to fill the void…  I do find the human capacity to make more of what’s there exciting, perhaps it’s part of what makes us more than animal. It is to be encouraged, it is to be celebrated, it is to be respected.

I’m a person who likes to play with variables, I find it hard to accept definitions, I like to create more out less, or perhaps less out of more… (I am excited by the current Frank Bowling exhibition.) However, a problem with this approach is when you do find you need to rely on something it can be hard to find…

*A ‘retired actress’ character in a play I am currently in says she considers her ‘acting’ to be “the best escape you can have”, “escape from the burden of being oneself…”.

On reflection, I find that quite sad…  rather than acting out an escape from the void, can we create acceptance, find enchantment, capture awareness of what we really have, where we really are, what we truly need, and not create a burden of want?

When you want me but no longer need me I can be hard to find…

 

 

You can see this ‘stuff on the wall’ in 2012: HERE

 

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4000 miles, an update.

March 9, 2019

So… Gazelle Ultimate S8, ~4000 miles, an update.

Back in Oct 2017, you may remember I made the gazelle-like leap (ho ho ho) to a Gates Carbon Belt Drive, Shimano Alfine 8 Hub Geared city bike.

Gates ‘Belt Drive’.
Gates say “Free yourself from oily, rusty chains… Clean. Smooth. Strong. … last longer than chains, never need grease and are nearly maintenance-free … goodbye to high-maintenance bike chains. Say hello to simplicity and fun”.

 

Shimano ‘Hub Gears‘.
The Shimano Alfine 8 speed. Shimano say “a stylish and sophisticated way to enjoy the ultimate urban riding experience”Reviews are good: “…does an impressive work … you don’t have a problem with its weight … rapid and silent functioning … unpretentious maintenance”.

One of the reasons for the upgrade was gear, chain & chain-set wear & maintenance.

Over 6 years, I have discovered that bike commuting ~16 miles a day takes a large toll on the mechanics of a bike. The condition of our roads and bike paths throws dust, debris and all manner of crud into the mechanisms of a bike. Without regular cleaning and maintenance parts wear. Even with cleaning and maintenance parts wear! The novelty (and cost) of this is ok for some, but I am not naturally a dirty-hands bloke. I have to put a thankful word in, to the lads at City Cycles in Thurmaston – great service always!

But I digress, in 2017, my ‘Gazelle Ultimate S8was supplied by the great folks at Leicester’s Future Cycles. If you have any questions or are up for investing in something that might change your life, speak to the guys at Future Cycles. There’s more to a good bike than the loud-brands will tell you!

But as I say – an update…

As mentioned before, one of the reasons for the choice was that on an urban commute, a chain/gear mechanism picks up so much muck and dirt that a regular adjustment, clean, degrease, lube etc is essential!  Of course with a quality hub and belt, the bike still has to traverse the same paths, but the theory is there’s not so much mech to maintain. But, there still is mech to be wary of!

Other the planned service, my bike has had little attention, but after about 4000 miles (15 months) the rear sprocket needed attention as you can see below.

After consulting Future Cycles and the helpful folk at Velorution, I discovered that my S8 came with a ‘durable composite’ rear sprocket. This is the basic choice, and in retrospect knowing that I do ~80 miles weekly, I should have opted for a more durable one.

To fit with a Shimano hub a Gates 24 tooth sprocket come in; CDX:EXP stainless steel, CDX:SL aluminum, CDN steel, or CDN composite.

Thanks for the advice from Andy at Velorution, and I the fitting and service from Jon and Tim at Future Cycles.  I now have a steel one. We’ll see how this fairs.

You can see below the state of the old one against the new one.

 

So onwards!

You can see ‘bike posts‘ since Nov ’17 below, and other ‘bike posts‘ can be seen ‘here’

 

Words

March 9, 2019

Words…  Go Big Reach Love Find Swim Run Grasp Hello…

Without certain words, the futility of everything can seem utterly defeating.

So understandably we all look for a validating script, a role, a purpose…

As it’s been half-term I have of course been thinking too much, but hey that’s what I do.

Yes, I need to get out more – and I do try to.

I recently have been learning lines for a small local play – it’s been quite a while since I ‘acted’, so I am a tad apprehensive and nervous.  I recall ‘reading’ (bad acting) Teddy in Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’.  I remember really attempting to know Doug in Lucy Gannon’s ‘Keeping Tom Nice’.  I specifically remember a whole summer getting to know Lucky in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. I remember walking up and down a Cornish high street hunched in a mask as a wordless creature in a bowler hat. How could one possibly feel those words? “…quaquaquaqua … the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia… unfinished!…”

As I learned years ago, as Stan’ said; “In the language of an actor, to know is synonymous with to feel”. Feel the words, feel the world around you. I tell you, I did feel something of a ‘Lucky’.

I am still learning this new play’s lines, but again, a key part is to make those lines real. Not just read or even speak them out, but live them out in the performance space.

A friend asked me recently “How many of us can hold on to hope in a hurricane? Is hope still good when wild winds rage?”  My immediate thought was “Words can be powerful. It’s one of the only things to hold on to when nature roars…” But again, the key thing is to feel those words that we hold onto. Words can be powerful.

Unfortunately, some of the words I can’t shake are the mindless criticisms, the failing disappointments, the expectant comparisons… like devilish stains, they can colour our worldview. Thankfully, there are some other words that good friends have shared. The harsh words are often based around material or cultural expectations. The more creative words are more respectful; selfless, generous, forgiving, love-filled words.

So, especially when wild winds rage, stuff goes wrong, promises are broken, disease, damage and loss overwhelm us, and we feel utterly defeated, I pray that we might know, and feel, words that are more selfless, generous, forgiving, and loving. And I remind myself that I am still, and probably will always be, learning my lines.

Perhaps actions follow once we have helpful words…

Flowering… Giving up Lent?

March 2, 2019
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Who can miss the blossom? I wonder do we all notice it? I think we do. Even the most hardened amongst us sense the growth outside at (almost) Springtime.

You may have noticed that my bike commute pictures have recently taken second place, as my mind has been occupied with learning lines (more on that another time). But last Friday, I shelved the script for a day and returned back to Mr. Trelawny at Breakfast.  An early morning cycle to work, accompanied by the day waking, the sun rising, wildlife scurrying, geese soaring, breakfasts cooking, people greeting… all this, and the fresh air is enough to lift the spirits daily! But accompaniment by music often adds another level to the experience.

You may recall that my headphones leave my ears clear to hear anything from my surroundings, the sound is transmitted through the skull, the node sits just on the cheekbones.

Usually, the radio is just a nice accompaniment to the waking day, but often a piece of music will coincide with a hill, a stream, a dart of geese, the sun over the lake… and the experience is amplified. The physical experience of riding through an environment, together with the musical experience, transcend the normal.  It’s hard to explain, but when it happens, it is incredible.

This week it was a piece played on @PetrocTrelawny ‘s BBC Radio 3 Tuesday morning programme that caused me to stop. The piece was called Flowering Jasmine composed by Georgs Pelēcis in 2007. Specifically, it’s the start that might capture you. It begins with a resonant plucked bass and some sensational minimalist vibraphone. You can hear and see it played via the link below.  Sometimes the music alone is not enough, it’s the experience of the music together with a bespoke experience within our environment, an experience both physical and cerebral, that cause a reaction.

I would never have predicted that I would listen to regular BBC Radio 3 (except I have listened to its Late Junction for decades now), but its Morning Program is often quite eclectic, and if you can put up with the 10% that might seem predictable output, it’s a great accompaniment to the day.  More on Music here: ‘music’

Back to the flowering blossom that is all around, us early this year… ?

Lent is almost upon us and in a break to tradition (or habit) I am giving up Lent for Lent this year. For many years I have followed a specific contemplative Lent practice with an online community over the 40 days. This year however, I have (almost) decided to not do the default thing. I am going it alone (I think). We might venture away from the constructed routine, to a desert/wild-erness space, alone?

The jasmine in our garden is far from flowering but is showing signs of life.

Here’s violinist Gidon Kremer performing Flowering Jasmine by Georgs Pelēcis in Berlin in 2017.

#Beautiful

To Amble…

February 20, 2019

Verb: amble.

Not ‘ramble’: not, to wander around in a leisurely, aimless manner. But to ‘amble’: move at a slow, relaxed pace. The word originally denoting a horse’s gait, moving with a slow four-beat rhythm. From the Old French ambler, from Latin ambulare ‘to walk’.

We recently took some time out and, much thanks to my wife, we enjoyed a few days (walking) in Northumberland. Specifically in England’s friendliest port, Amble*.

Ever since I left Cornwall roughly 30 years ago, I constantly return to a deep wonder of the sea. As many do, we head for the coast a few times annually. It’s been said I am often ‘like a fish out of water’, a high-maintenance fish out of water. I confess, I am often seeking tonic.

Census data reveals that people living near the sea are happier than those inland. Another study found that people’s mood increased more when they were shown a blue environment, compared to green, urban or a blank wall.

Some argue that blue, and water, and the coast are more familiar to core human ‘being’ than the constructed urban, and ever-growing digital, environment.

For me, personally I find an overwhelming grounding sense of peace, or relief, whenever I encounter the coast. That edge of the world where land meets the sea, where the sea meets the sky.

Is it to do with the raw nature and lack of human influence? The edge of something definitely bigger than the messiness we create?

Or is it linked to the 20 years I spent growing up by the sea?

I guess put simply, for people living ‘inland’, the coast can be a novel tonic to the dry urbanism of contemporary life. Some find a significant stress relief by spending time near to the sea. I have to say, personally it seems there’s more to it than that, but perhaps I am over sensitive.

In a tweet Dr Amy-Jane Beer reminded me that “Coasts are liminal places – the edge of the known, {coasts offer} opportunity… For the timid, {coasts} may seem to be barriers, but for the bold, or the wishful, they are routes to somewhere.”

An amble around Amble harbour can be such a tonic. In the main it’s ‘the natural’ that acts as a tonic and soothes and recalibrates the noise. A lone curlew totters along the sandbank feeding on the bounty that the low tide uncovers. A host of smartly preened oyster catchers scour the seaweed then take flight with flashes of black and white as the dog gives cchase. Coiffured eider ducks take turns diving down below the pier. The sea constantly ebbs and flows, washing, cleansing, reviving the shoreline. Standing facing this wild frontier, the horizon resonates clear as a crystal bell, stretching wide, not a soul in site. It’s fresher and cleaner, more mountainous, more colossal than the busy world behind. A cormorant stands proud on a weathered post, wings outstretched drying in the warm sun-kissed breeze. It is this breeze, this nature, this natural fresh air that is part of tonic I crave.

I love the buzz, the vibrancy, the music of urban life. I love the energetic juxtaposition of characters and cultures that most urban environments create. I remember the first time I found myself alone, swimming in the excitement of bright lights, sounds, smells and tastes. It was in London, outside a bar, and the pavement life excited with buzzment. I was young then, but I have enjoyed, and hopefully will continue to enjoy, similar rich cultural reverberations – good times. But they are momentary fleeting hits, fanciful fascinations, adrenaline fuelled enjoyment. Multifarious, concordant, harmonic, polyphonic, moments of magic…. Life outside its fullness. With this excitement comes times of turmoil when the chords clash, when rhythms fail, and when we just can’t maintain the energy or ambition that the music demands.

Sometimes we need to default back to the stuff that grounds us. Back to the primary notes, the conventional harmony, the tonic. Back to the edge of something essentially more natural than the hypnotising synthetic artifice we create.

Perhaps if we can sustain those primary notes, that underlying essence of true life, and hear and see a tonic in and amongst the messy busy lives we live, perhaps that’s what a visit to the edges might teach us.

Inside the messiest of lives, behind the noisiest of coagulations is an ambling rhythm that if lost might cause the lot to come crashing down. I hope that we might know the edge of the natural and that when the noisiness of our culture gets too much, we can see and hear the ambling breath behind it all.

*Incidentally Amble earnt its friendly reputation because of one encouraging line of deference that was said in passing. It might only take a kindly word to change things.

Pulse, and breath…

February 3, 2019

581px-The_Mulberry_Tree_by_Vincent_van_Gogh

“Here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning…”
I wonder if Van Gogh sang this in the asylum as he painted? “…painted during a time of great self-awareness and yet surrounded by chaos.”

“On a cold and frosty morning…” is an action song my wife sings as she teaches infants to swim. It’s essentially a rhyme about action… “This is the way we {insert action}…”

This week, on a cold frosty early morning, the sun was still below the horizon, the city was waking. As I rode along the banks of the icy river Soar, through a frosted Leicester city, I caught the distinct smell of Asian spices on a frozen morning air. Just delightful. The contrast of the warming aromas and all the significance and colour that goes with the flavours resonated through the ice gripped air like music.

mde

Been thinking recently, about the pulse of life, and the breath of life.

It would seem one cannot exist without the other. Pulse, and breath.

Those that ride bikes, indeed anyone who does cardiovascular exercise regularly, will be familiar with with the rhythm of our pulse and our breath. My daily commute brings me more in touch with my pulse and my breathing. As does the act of singing regularly. You find a rhythm in your breathing and become aware of the body’s mechanism, the physical act of inhalation and release of breath.

But we don’t have to exercise to feel alive. If you are reading this, rejoice, you are alive. Just pause, relax, breath in and… feel alive… …stretch. Hold that breath, and hold onto life. Release your breathe, open your hands, and give it away. Keep your hands open…

There has of course been much study around our breathing. Yogic breathing, slow breathing etc, the health benefits around the recognition of our breathing. I am not going into this here. I am just thinking about the initial momental mindful notion of realising we are physically alive and the celebration of that.

You may also feel the pulse in your body. Your pulse is separate from your breath. A rhythmic core beating literally in the heart of you and resonating through your body. Your pulse may be quickened by your environment and the things you encounter and entertain. Our culture has a pulse, the things and ideas we subscribe to have a pulse, the infotainment we imbibe has a pulse.

It seems we rarely celebrate the breath of life. We celebrate its pulse, through our art, food, technology, entertainment, music, sport, products… Rightly so! Our creations add a pulse and drive to our being. But behind or inside the rhythm of life is our true breath and heartbeat. It is this core heartbeat and breath that brings true life. It can be hidden or smothered by the intense noise of our culture, language, and interactivity.

To simply feel the wind, touch the sky, receive an embrace, shake a hand, dance and sing, can realise an essential reverence for our world. To see the stars, soak up the rain, walk barefoot, truly notice a wild animal…

“This is the way we breathe again… on a cold and frosty morning…”