Thursday, 31 July 2008

Yellow Triangle

Here is a gem from the latest CTC members email newsletter:

"Yellow Triangle
Here’s just one example of how CTC is helping more people across the UK to experience the benefits of cycling. A mum in Sheffield wrote: My son Will has Asperger’s Syndrome which for him manifests itself with deep depression and anxiety. Earlier this year at an appointment with his psychotherapist, he was asked to colour in a sheet of paper to reflect his feelings. He coloured the whole page black and used sharp, thick, heavy lines to represent his anxieties but in the bottom corner of the page was a small yellow triangle. The psychotherapist asked "what does this represent?" and he replied "riding my bike". He went on to explain that when he is out riding his bike everything seems ok and manageable. As a result, we decided that we should ride bikes as a family and, with encouragement from CTC’s Cycle Champions Officer Steve Marsden and affordable second hand bikes bought from Recycle Bikes, we now have at least one long bike ride a week."

When I began to cycle more regularly training up for my LEJOG trip I discovered that cycling to work 5 days a week in all weathers made me feel so good in myself. 2 or 3 times a week previously had not had the same impact. The dose, if you like, for me needed to be at least 5 times a week - 25 minutes twice a day. This sense of physical well being is visceral and tangible. On my bike I figure all kinds of stuff out - work problems, life problems whatever. I also go pleasantly blank from time to time and yes occasionally it gets boring. But the net affect is beneficial.

CTC tells us that regular cyclists have the body of a person 10 years younger. So I told this to my daughter Grace and she immediately said 'Oh so I will have the body of a baby in the womb!"

Best to all,


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Lorraine: returning to 18

I recently remembered this meeting wiht Lorraine when I was 18 and it turned into a poem.

We met on a beach
On the warm sand
A casual encounter
I was convinced that you were Italian
And older than you were
You had deep dark eyes
That seemed to reflect
Some infathomable truth
Any a Brummy accent
You could cut with a knife!

But I wasn't sharp
And your parents were nearby
So we talked
It was easy so easy
An interlude
A chance encounter
In our very different lives

Where are you know?

I am older
I doubt that I am much wiser
And remain a Kiddy lad at heart
But your ease in conversation
Remains marked in my memory
Along with your deep dark eyes.

Back in the saddle

Today was my first big bike ride since I completed my LEJOG (Lands End to John O'Groats) trip Last October. I followed my old training route from Manchester via Wilmslow, Alderley Edge then a circular route mostly on country lanes in Cheshire then back via Alderley Edge etc. It is a round 50 miles trip and it took me only just over 6 hours including a sandwich break - picnic on a farm gate!

For most of the first hour it rained, though that did not dampen my spirits and then the sky cleared. It was so good to cycle and I found myself to be fitter than I thought though I am tired now back home. I am too busy to really have cycled today but life is short and I was able to muse on some of the shed load of work I need to be doing!

I was called by the open road. I have been resisting this call for months and it was time to give it its due and muse on my priorities, time to think and then hopefully act smarter - a period of what Moustakas would call 'incubation' but that's another story!

Best to all Bill-on-bike

Monday, 28 July 2008

Talking about Frankie


My recent posting about Frankie, the Boss and Q provoked the following comment from Louise:

"William Thanks for the info on your blog about 'Frankie' - I thought he was real!! I will read him through new eyes. Excellent! Best wishes Louise"

This is intriguing and of course highly entertaining. Frankie started out as a joke ("Oh really Boss!") but I have to admit he does represent the drama queen inside me and I, like Frankie, am getting a taste for Rufus Wainwright especially when he is produced by Neil Tennant of the Pets on Release the Stars CD. ("Naturally" - Frankie. That's rather an obscure Pethead joke!).

But my friend Graham North (no relation!) cheekily suggested that Frankie was a similar sort of creation to Samantha from Radio 4's 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue' panel show. However, Samantha is only ever spoken about and then usually rather lewdly. Now Frankie is rather vulgar at times ("Oh really Boss that takes the biscuit or should I say-" "Don't go there Frankie!") but he does blog and email - and has been subject to literary feedback, an altogether superior existence to Samantha.

What I am learning and these comments show this to be true is that when you dream up/invent someone like Frankie you are not in control of your creation nor are you in control of what people make of him or her. But then all my life has felt a bit like that. I find out and make sense of my life looking back. I don't control it much I recognise and shape. Which of us can add an inch to our height as the good book says short of some growth hormones...

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Skyping with Francisco

Skyping with Francisco

This stranger is filling up my computer screen
He looks like a South American
But he is speaking English
And sounds like a Yank
I've only known him for five emails
But already we have that curious intimacy
That can arise in cyber space
When two souls meet unprotected
By the visual cautions of a face-to-face encounter
I look at him real curious
And make conversation at first
To get my bearings and figure this out
I lean back in my chair but go
Off vision, off webcam
So I force myself to lean forward
Closer to this large face on my computer screen
It gets easier it gets fun it gets exciting
It's my first time on Skype
But Francisco is a veteran with a glass to hand
How about a virtual pub crawl?
Or a meal, or cyber dancing?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Story so far - for new and confused readers

I thought it might help to explain this blog for new and confused readers. Back in February 2007, I think, I started this blog to record my preparations for my 1,000 mile bike ride from Lands End to John O'Groats i.e. from the bottom to the top of Britain. This is the big one for British cyclists. Some do it in 10 days most take 14or more. I figured that I might do it when I retired but then had a minor health scare summer 2006 and thought why wait? I reckoned going public in a blog would encourage me not to back down(!) and also raise some interest for sponsorship. People had asked me who are doing it for for. I hadn't planned it this way at first but it became obvious to do it for KAPC a HIV counselling NGO in Nairobi who I have contact with through my work.

I finished my glorious bike ride in 3 or 4 parts in October 2007 over 15 or 16 days and for a while the blog lay dormant, but I had been bitten by the blogging bug and decided rather than launch a new blog with a new name that I would carry on with this one. This came clear to me whilst I was in Bangalore this January and began to blog about being in India etc. Whilst I was there I found always myself writing poems again for the first time more or less in 35 years. Some of these ended up on this blog.

Then in May I went to Cardiff and developed the fantasy of having a PA called Frankie. Well it was inevitable that Frankie blogged. In answer to questions from my daughter and others it was established that Frankie was 33, born on 12th March 1975 in Swansea with a Welsh mother and a half Italian father. Frankie is rather camp, 33 going on 16, mad on Rufus Wainwright and has an irritating habit of calling me the Boss.

The Boss is loosely based on my work persona and I guess Frankie is the drama queen inside me. Recently Q has appeared on the blog and Q represents the ideal spiritual director I don't actually have. There is a character called Tracey who is very pedantic and good at copy editing about to burst forth onto this blog but currently I don't seem able to give her a voice!

Confused - you soon will be!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Pam poem

On meeting Pam again after 30 years

I was ill
Sitting at a table
In the Art Gallery
Awaiting a friendly bowl of soup
"Is it Bill?" a voice said
And I looked up
And saw
a grey haired woman
With a somewhat familiar face
"It's Pam" you said
"Of course, I replied
Time travelling
back and forth
Over 30 years
From the blond haired young woman
Of spirit
- who I loved
To this defeated short grey haired mature woman
Were you time travelling too?
But at least you had the advantage on me
Of seeing me at a distance before coming over
I told you of the recent deaths
Of Mole and Woody
You had not heard
You'd been mad on a psychie ward
You told me you were here with your OT
And not to let on I knew you
Oh my God paranoia on your part
Or playing safe self care
You left me
With a whiff of our shared and separate histories
of sadness, of time passing
Of my survival and flourishing
Of your survival by your fingertips
Isn't life strange?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Frankie goes to graduation

Hi Friends and fans!

The Boss smuggled me into the graduation ceremony today and I dressed up(!) and processed in front of everyone. It was like soooo medieval. The gowns, the hats, the hairstyles, the clothes, the shoes and that was just the men! And then there was the photo opportunities! (Let’s take lost of photos to paraphrase the Pets!). “Frankie looks this way!” “Frankie here!” “No Frankie over here!” All the Boss’s students were so keen to be photoed with me. The Boss was quite put out by this but he did look rather fetching and so King Henry like in his floppy hat and gown but rather naff patent leather black shoes. Yeuch a real fashion disaster there Boss. And then we hit the wine and then later the wine hit us. But it was worth it!

Yours not knowing whether I’m coming(!) or going,



One of my students commented recently how she felt I treated her and the others more as equals than many lecturers do. That's set me thinking.

1) I offer what I wished I got and sometimes did not.
2) It fits with my humanistic/Quaker value system. "You say you better than no-one/and no-one is better than you". "All men (and women!) are created equal". "We are all equal in the sight of God".
3) I have always had so much inside that needed to be expressed, I needed help and inspiration from teachers but not filling up, not rote learning.
4) I often could not voice my truth I hid it away and acted dumb or insolent.
5) My dad found it hard to hear my truth when it differed from his.
6) My upbringing was a bit Victorian at times - 'children should be seen and not heard'.
7) As a teenager and a young man I found most adults conservative and dull.
8) Meeting elderly Quakers in 1990 was mind blowing they looked like my dad but were radicals. Suddenly I could trust some people over 40 - I was 40 myself then!
9) I have had some amazing teachers - Dennis Handley (Primary Head), Jake Potter and Charles ?(Grammar school teachers) John McLeod (MA/PhD), Prem (Yoga) Peter Jones (Reichian therapy) Dorothy Lewis (Colour Healing) Tony Slides (creative writing) Grace (my daughter), my mum...

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Meeting with Q(2)

The Boss came to see me recently and posed the following question:
'How do I know that I am doing God's Will?'
'Why is that important to you?'
'Because... because, I like to feel that my life serves a greater purpose.'
'Yes but you could get that without invoking the notion of God.'
'Maybe, but that is how I figure things.'
'Fine. I was just checking. So, to feel that you are going God's Will is important to you?'
'And you have been doing God's Will before?'
'Yes, albeit imperfectly.'
'And now?'
'And now I feel that I am a crossroads in my life - I am wondering how to best spend the time I have left-'
'Does doing God's Will inevitably involve big life changing decisions?'
'God, let's think about doing God's Will in your life at home, with your family.'
'Aaaaah' sighed the Boss and he slowly breathed out.
'How about a few moments of prayerful silence,' said Q.

We sat in a silence that grew deeper and deeper, like a shared meditation that swept us into the quiet place where souls meet one another and their creator.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Frankie says gets lit crit

Yes it is true! Philip Craggs, the Fiction Editor of Blank Pages, which published my Grabiella poem, had some interesting things to say about Frankie says blogs.

"I find it difficult to believe that the Boss would be so easy going with his PA in the circumstances. Hacking into his blog to post stories about him flirting with staff members is surely a firing offence, and Frankie does not seem to be a very competent PA. And the tricking him into signing a release form does not ring true. I think it would work better if the two characters have their own blogs and the story cuts between them, although it still leaves the problem of why Frankie isn’t fired for spreading rumours about his boss. Perhaps Frankie posts anonymously in a way that prevents his boss working out whose blog it actually is?"

"I’m also slightly confused about the boss’ job. He’s clearly in education, and while I know that high up people in that sector can end up travelling a lot, it seems odd that there are trips to both Barcelona and Hollywood coming up in the near future. .. The relationship between the two is very odd for boss and PA, and you could use their posts to shed some light on why this is... You could investigate how their accounts of the same incidents differ, and use their own words to give the reader an insight in their characters – possibly more insight than the characters themselves actually have."

I love it! It is also a great help for the writer-in-me which is apart from the Boss-in-me, Frankie-in-me and Q-in-me.

Best to all,

Bill on bike - utterly rain swept today and yesterday and whilst not quite glorying in it its' great for our strawberries and raspberries!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Barcelona days (Frankie says 14?)

Hello my blog readers! Frankie here - I must tell you about how stunning the flamenco dancers were in Barcelona. The urgent staccato rhythms of their heels hitting the floor, the hand clapping, the frenzied guitar playing, the body movements, the striking poses struck, the swirling movements, the high energy of the whole performance.

Now the bit you probably wont get is that I can see elements of flamenco in the score of the dancers at the live Pet Shop Boys performance and on their videos.

I was entranced by this flamenco it spoke to something deep within my Welsh soul. I am an archetypal Pet Head. This is because like Neil Tennant I love too deeply to be able always to show it directly. So it has to be at least half ironic, half passionate, half universal, half gay, half straight, half English, half Welsh. All Frankie not afraid to show some passion!

Even the Boss has his passions but no let's not go there too much!

But the Boss was on his feet cheering and whooping the flamenco dancers.

The Boss was aghast that someone at the conference in Barcelona accused him of being a 'romantic'. Well I ask you the Boss romantic! OK he can be mushy at times but he is about as romantic as Cliff Richard! (Who you might well ask!).

Even Jeni putting in a good word for romance did not really lift the Boss's spirits. I think this calls for a vote - all of you out there if you think the Boss is romantic email 'Yes Boss' to and if you think the Boss is not romantic email 'No Boss' to

Love to all,


Am I a romantic?

It was suggested in Barcelona at the SPR Conference that I am a romantic and I don't think this was a compliment. It stung because there was some truth in it and searching Wikipedia only helped a bit; finding out that my favourite poet Wordsworth was see as a Romantic poet. And yes I am Romantic about my Welsh blood; my mysticism; the art of counselling and so on. So it called for a poem which owes a bit to Christopher Logue' 1963 Poem 'I will vote Labour'!

Am I a Romantic?

Am I a romantic?

If believing in love, peace and understanding
Then I am a romantic

If liking the Pet Shop Boys
Then I am a romantic

If dreaming of equality of all people
Then I am a romantic

If believing Aston Villa can ever again win the Championship
Then I am a romantic

If believing you love me
Then I am a romantic

If following my inner Light
Then I am a romantic

Best to all,

Bill on bike enjoying the sunshine

Ooops, I blame Frankie


My good friend Graham has pointed out that the link to Blankpages 3 that amazing arts online magazine that has published my Grabriella poems does not work. Personally I blame Frankie for not checking it out. ("For goodness sake Boss you were so over the moon you didn't know what you were doing!")

So try this out:

Best to all,

The Boss

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Poem published


40 years ago I used to write poetry and occasionally get stuff published. Since then I have written prose but since January I have written a number of poems some of which have appeared on this blog. One of them - Poem for Gabriella, one of my best I reckon, has just been published in Blankpages an online magazine. You can download it from:

I am as excited by this development as I am when my more academic stuff gets into print. Thanks to Tony Slides of paperplanes my inspirational creative writing tutor for the idea.

Best to all,

Bill on bike