Walking

I used to live in a small town where nothing was much more than an hour away on foot. If I didn’t walk, I cycled. I was in pretty good physical condition. That was until I moved to a small city, bought a motorbike and eventually a car. The car is an expensive luxury, but incredibly convenient. The downside is that it became my default way of getting around, and before long my jeans didn’t fit and climbing the stairs at work was more tiring than it should be.

Changes at work over the past couple of years have seen me driving a lot more than normal – around eighteen thousand miles a year and sometimes for four or five hours day. I basically became completely sedentary without realising. I did realise that I completely hate driving. Thankfully since the end of last year I no longer need to drive so much, so I started to think of ways that I could reduce my car usage further. I bought a folding bike, thinking that I could replace some petrol powered miles with foot powered ones. This was not entirely successful.

This week I tried to walk my commute. Google said its only two and a half miles, which seemed doable, so I marched past my car this morning and headed in the direction of town. My commute is not particularly interesting by car. It is equally uninteresting on foot. It takes me past a long row of terraced houses, a huge car park, a railway crossing, alongside the Victorian cemetery and then on to Spring Bank; a melting pot of takeaways, off-licences, newsagents and houses of multiple occupation. I discovered that there are a surprising number of drunk people around at 8am on a weekday morning. I was a bit scared that I was going to be robbed. It rained a little.

My carefully formulated plan was to walk to work and get the bus back. The singular flaw in my carefully formulated plan was leaving my debit card at home and being unable to obtain my bus fare. So I walked home too.

The journey was around forty minutes each way. It can take me longer than that driving at peak time, and I saved the money that I would have spent on fuel and parking. Theoretically, it’s a no brainer – there’s no practical reason to use the car on days where I’m working from the office. But the car still feels more convenient and it’s that psychological hump that needs beating down.

Anyway, I’m very tired and I need to iron my clothes for work tomorrow. I think I’ll go in the car. Best not overdo things.


Liars, populists & cretins

I’ve tried to avoid reading about Brexit for the past year because it’s a really good route to short-term depression.

Roughly two years have passed since the UK Government prematurely triggered Article 50. There’s been lots, and lots, and lots of talk since then, but in reality very little has happened – well, quite a lot has happened, but very little of the big stuff that needs to be done by the deadline has happened.

The EU 27 set out their position early on:

  • The UK chose to leave, so they’ll leave and lose access to the benefits of being a member.
  • The EU will manage the exit in a way to cause the least damage to the EU, and hopefully the UK (but they’re the ones that chose to leave, so…).

Seems reasonable. Brexit, as far as the EU is concerned, is a legal process and an exercise in damage limitation – not a negotiation. The UK fundamentally misunderstands this as intransigence.

The UK, under the Chequers proposals, asks for access to the single market (with the ability to strike external trade deals – though with who, nobody yet knows), along with opt-outs from freedom of movement, paying into the EU budget and being under the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

The EU have not been particularly enthusiastic about these proposals,since they undermine the core structures of the union, and the UK has been banging its head against this wall for the past six months.

Theresa May tried to use an EU summit in Salzburg to go over the head of the intractable negotiators and appeal to the generosity of the individual member states, but this failed spectacularly and without benefit of a better plan, she threw a wobbler and announced that it would be Europe’s fault if Britain crashed out without a deal, and that they need to prevent it from happening. The irony is delicious, but there we seem to have become stuck.

Theresa ‘Strong & Stable Leadership’ May is at the mercy of the cretinous elements of the Conservative Party, no one can quite understand what the Labour Party intends to do, and time is ticking.

For a very readable view of the current status of the EU talks, read Chris Grays Brexit Blog. For a giggle (or a cry), read these reports of meetings between the PM and Angela Merkel.


I wish I had the guts

From Derek Sivers, back in March this year:

You are the way you are because of what you’ve experienced.

Your country, family, town, random circumstances, and friends shaped the way you think. If you grew up on the other side of the world, you would have a different set of values and thought patterns.

But if you keep experiencing the same things, your mind keeps its same patterns. Same input, same response. Your brain, which was once curious and growing, gets fixed into deep habits. Your values and opinions harden and resist change. If you don’t flex, you lose your flexibility.

You only really learn when you’re surprised. Unless you’re surprised, everything is fitting into your existing thought patterns. So to get smarter, you need to get surprised, think in new ways, and deeply understand different perspectives.

With effort, you could do this from the comforts of home. But the most effective way to shake things up is to move across the world. Pick a place that’s most unlike what you know, and go.

I wish I had the guts.

Read the full post on Derek’s blog.


In need of adventure

Read Jane’s short account of her small camping adventure on Harlosh Island and then weep about how rubbish your week has been:

We loaded our kayaks with all we would need for the night and made the short paddle across from Harlosh to Harlosh Island where we set up camp for the night. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring the island and swimming.

If that got you in the mood for adventure, head straight over to read Katie Tunn’s comprehensive tips for quick outdoor adventures.

It’s been a good few years now since I’ve done any wild camping. Both of these popped up in my feeds today. Someone, somewhere, is trying to tell me something..


Changes ahead

Sixteen years ago my life was profoundly changed by the arrival of a small baby. It was somewhat unexpected and I was wholly unprepared. Things were never quite the same again. It wouldn’t have worked out if they were.

Parenting is tough. I mean _really _tough. Despite there being a million and one books on the subject there’s no proven way of knowing if you are doing it right. It’s a like trying to complete a giant jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box to refer to. You desperately hope that the finished picture is something you like, and that you haven’t lost any important pieces along the way because once you’ve started it’s far too big and complicated to try again.

Sixteen years on and that hapless and noisy baby is now celebrating the end of secondary school and the beginning of a new chapter in her life – by attending ‘Prom’. Prom is officially a big deal for teenagers. Many hours have been spent choosing the right dress, shoes, make-up and hair-do. Tonight we stood dutifully with a small crowd of parents and watched as a series of limousines, sports cars and horse drawn carriages ejected their well dressed cargo. We saw a young woman instead of a child in front of us, and suddenly the enormous possibilities of the world in front of her hit us. In a few short years she’ll be off to university, and then to wherever the winds blow her.

The jigsaw pieces are all in the right place, and we do indeed like the picture. The scary bit is not knowing what comes next.


The Quiet Space

I like building websites. I wouldn’t want to do it for a living but I enjoy the challenge of taking a rough idea through to a finished project. Since I rarely get to do it for anyone other than myself I was happy to offer my services to my brother when he needed a site for his new venture.

The site runs a custom Bootstrap theme on top of a Jekyll back-end. I’m really pleased with it.

My brother is brilliant, and well qualified, so give him a shout if you are looking for a therapist in Scarborough. Tell him you liked his website!

Link: The Quiet Space


End of The Listserv

I opened my email today and found a message from The Listserve, announcing the end of the long running project.

The Listserv was an email based community with a simple premise. Each weekday a member of the community is randomly selected and asked to craft a message for distribution to all list members. This was known as ‘Winning the Lottery’ and was something that only a small proportion of members would experience. Some of the emails were sad, but an equal amount were optimistic; brimming with compassion, humour & joy. Each was a privilege to read and I will miss it.

I never did win the lottery though.

The first email is still my favourite.