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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.

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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…”

 

Eighteen images from 2018

January 4, 2019

Over the last few years, I have featured some of the ‘stuff’ I’ve produced throughout the year; 2017  2016.

Yes, I’ve worked on a few ‘other’ projects for people this year, but just a few select favours.

Instead, I continue to enjoy the small amount of functional creativity (and the large amount of productivity) involved in my 9-5 job.

Throughout 2018, my 50th year alive, I have tried to take a few deep breaths, and just ‘notice the sky and feel the wind’ as a friend put it recently.

I bike, I create images, and I try my best to be present… I’d like to wish you best wishes for 2019!

Back to the topic – here are eighteen relatively random pics, quickly plucked from my various online streams. You can see my Instagram feed here: @julesprichards

 

And here are all of last year’s (2018) witterings below:

Tale as old as time…?
One by one…
Bike Gadgets – Lights
That was November
The Lane, reimagined…
To be more porous…
Biking Gadgets
Belts, not chains, a year on.
Sunday Mornings
Sports Massage
Fractions Percentages – a visual resource
Persian Silk Tree
Sit up and breathe!
A few weeks out…
How much?!
Conversation with constructions
Just a person, on a bike…
On your wall…
Let them make cake.

Tale as old as time…?

December 28, 2018

It’s a time of stories.

Through the rest of the year time flies. Essentially, routine and habit take us through our days, but at Christmas, if we are lucky, we get some time out and a chance to suspend disbelief. Hope and freedom for all!?

Before Christmas, we had a treat at Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre where the cast and crew of Sandi Toksvig’s ‘Treasure Island’ took us on an affirming trip “Raising our hopes”. They reminded us that “you can be anything”, #greatshow. It’s amazing where you can travel with a good story, a hearty chorus, some great characters and some dramatic lighting and effect.

Experiencing theater, character, drama and tragedy is an affecting opportunity to think beyond ourselves. If we choose to accept it, we can be reminded of visceral truths and thoughtful insights that might help us deal with some of the stuff life throws around. For me, song, music, story and the imagination are one of humanity’s only hopes.

Last January we were entranced by The Greatest Showman. “’cause every night I lie in bed, The brightest colours fill my head… A million dreams are keeping me awake”, “But I won’t let them break me down to dust… For we are glorious”

As I said last year, from Dickens to Mariani, Moana to Skywalker, Paddington Bear to P.T.Barnum, we can wonder into films, stories, theatre and paperback novels.

I have just tiptoed through Simon Parke’s ‘The Secret Testament of Julian’ – a contemporary reflection of fourteenth-century life. Simon has a way of playing with age-old truths in an entertaining personal way. Towards the other end of the spectrum, I have just received the 18th book in Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope extravaganza. The Ben Hope adventures are light-hearted escapism, slugs and spice, literary pop-snacks without too much indigestion. Chapter one tonight.

It’s amazing where you can travel with a good story, and some great characters. The strength of a compelling hopeful loving narrative can be strong and resurrecting real force for change, healing and hope. The power of Good is an almighty thing that we can indeed celebrate. The power of Good is arguably the only hope the world has. For some people, the story is wrapped around a personal conviction. The Mastery and Lordship of freedom and righteousness are not something I can personally understand. But some people move mountains with it.

Stories: We can, of course, see the value in honesty, sharing, caring. We can see the value in putting others first. We can see the value in turning away from unhelpful things, being aware of distractions from what is good, honest and wholesome. We can see the value in compassion for all in need; the poor, the despised, the outcasts. We might see the possibility of healings through faith, forgiveness and sincerity. We can see the value of stories.

Dare I say, “tales as old as time”? It’s good to celebrate stories that sing hope and allow us to be free. I have asked before, what would the world be without bread and circus? Perhaps the bread we crave might sometimes need a sugar coating to help us swallow disbelief.

This message might self-destruct in due course.

One by one…

December 15, 2018

December… What can we say?

ChrimCard2018xIn other years I have wittered about suspending disbelief, magical jingles, tingles of spicy tonics, simple riches, and hope…

Somehow this December feels different. More real.

This year saw us sell up and move house. We’ve reviewed habits, routines and rituals, we pulled the metaphorical cloth from the table to see what stayed in place. We spent a while putting things back on the table. As I said back then, you realise that you build life around many things, objects, spaces, habits, routines and rituals. We take a lot for granted. We are very grateful.

“…Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.” Ovid

We have had a good year. I have no specific words. Just lots of resonating good things to be thankful for.

Here’s to the reality of spirit; to flavours, colours, images, sounds, thoughts and feelings…
Less fabrication, polish, and plastic, less catalogued lifestyle, less click and collect culture.
Here’s to the colour-soaked spirit of things.

Sorry, but I have to come back to my daily ride as an often wonder-infused grounding leveller. So often I am blessed by a combination of simple things.

The simplest smile from a man in a red hat.
The giggles from a child as he holds his mum’s hand.
The ‘Hi ya!’ from the family as they leave their flat.
The morning puja.
The nod of hello, a man in yellow, on patrol.
The smiles as the boy and his dad ride their bikes.
The wave of the lady that helps cross the road.
The morning welcome.
The chatter of the ladies on the fluorescent daily run.
The ‘morning’ from the girl with the curly dog.
The warmth of the morning sun.
The warmth of community.
The courtesy of the man in the green hatchback.
The eyes that smile as they wait for their bus.
The fellow people that you see every day.
The strength of the morning.

As my nana used to sing, “count your blessings, name them one by one…”

Though I love the memories and sentiment of the song, I think the joy of it is actually not to tot up your blessings… Start to count or realise a few blessings, and that’s enough, surely. I think it’s a song of thanks for the now.
To stop and breathe and truly feel alive… is perhaps enough.
Life’s all relative, and we’re only as good as our last attempt, but ‘the now’ is always a good time to be alive, if you can, try to feel the spirit of things.
If it’s not working for you, then peace be with you, hold on, the tempest will pass.

No doubt there are challenges ahead, but at Christmas, I hope we have a chance to pause, take a big breath… hold it… exhale… pause… and smile.

We wish you Peace.

Here’s to more celebration of our spirit, one by one.

Bike Gadgets – Lights

December 5, 2018
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Another Bike Gadgets post. A quick shout out to Serfas UK.

I have used Serfas lights for 7 years now. I wrote in Nov 2011 abouth my Serfas ‘True 250’ . Alas, sadly the LBS is no longer there – It seems t’internet has taken over the world.

In 2016 my True 250 it took a battering and Leicester based Walkers, who stock Serfas lights came up trumps and put a new rubber clasp in the post!

Sorry to say my bike took a tumble in the dirt last year and the True 250’s mount took another battering – after 7 years of regular winter use. That’s every day, twice x 45mins use, clipped on & off the handlebars twice a day. That’s about 1500 uses x45mins. The light works fine but the mount is shattered and strong glue only lasts so long.

Time for an upgrade!

And there’s no need to break the bank!

Although the internet has its uses, it can’t quite replace a good LBS, and the folks at Future Cycles Leicester always have a good selection of stuff to peruse!

Yes, you can spend! and OK you may want to go night riding at speed in some cavernous God forsaken forest or the-like – but really, for simple commuting, who needs more than 500 lumens? I got by fine with 250 for years.

For less than £40, for me, the Serfas e-lume 500 does the job well!

I cycle for 8 miles twice a day, using shared paths, off the road for ~7miles.

I do occasionally set the light on to it’s highest setting in bad weather for the darker riverside parts of the ride, but for the pavements and short stretches of road, I just need to be seen and the lowest setting is fine.

I have to say, I do sympathise with pedestrians issues about the brightest lights on bikes, and I regularly have to look to the floor as when people on bikes with the brightest lights come beaming towards me (and why flashing!?). I won’t make an issue here, but I do wonder is there really a need for more than 500 lumens on a shared pedestrian path when other people are approaching? Slow down dude, life’s too short to get there early!

Anyway just to say – the e-lume 500’s doing great, and when I had an issue with the strap, the folks at Serfas UK jumped and speedily sorted me out again. Thanks Abi!

All good!

If you’re interested, you can read about my Camera and bone conductor Headphones here:
https://julesprichards.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/biking-gadgets/

That was November

December 1, 2018

…and that was also Movember.

Now to let it go.

The first day of Advent.

What can one say about the activity of fashioning a moustache? Cease striving?

A few staff at work did the same, to help draw attention to the Movember charity and it’s concerns over male health awareness. It drew a few comments and laughs. And perhaps made one person think.
Nothing against the moustache – my Papa had a fine moustache all of his fine life and that’s how I fondly remember him. But alas, facial hair is not really me. Of course hair full-stop is not really me, lol. Then again what is me?

We construct an idea of our self. Others see us in a certain way.

How long would it take for a moustached Jules to become the accepted (if unconventional) norm? We build our lives and create our culture.

The things we create are indeed often something to celebrate. Our industries of service, sport, productivity, care, art, science, entertainment, community support etc are what humanity has become. Yes, much falls short of ideal, and perhaps some constructs should be reconsidered and re-evaluated. But yes, there is much to be proud of and to celebrate – any excuse, for a wholesome party!

But perhaps behind the moustaches, under and inside out designs and monuments, is an essence that keeps us alive – is the essence of what matters.

Perhaps behind the accoutrements that we collect and enjoy is something more precious.

This year we’ve experienced untimely illness and the deaths of several friends and acquaintances. We know of challenges near us that highlight the messy side of our world. A reminder that behind the faces and things that become familiar and routine is a fragile humanity.

So as I remove the Mov, at the start of Advent 2019, we pause, breathe, relax, smile and celebrate an essence that’s lies behind every good thing ever created.

Here’s to a more honest humanity, here’s to the stuff behind the creativity, here’s to the essence behind the ambition.

Here’s to the advent of new things.