Monday, 22 September 2008

On the road again

Last Friday I snatched a day off work - before the academic year kicks in - for a bike ride on my 50 mile training route around Alderley Edge. Training for what? you might ask. I don't know. I dream about another LEJOG without breaking it into bits. Or maybe a ride in Ireland, Germany, Africa - my list is long.

I felt I was on a mission to do my practice run yet again. This notion of 'mission' seems spiritual to me - 'What do you think Q?'
'If it feels to be spiritual then it is spiritual'

I think there is a lot to be said about what men do because they don't get pregnant! Other things have to be 'birthed' and something has to be done with our energies apart from drugs and rock and roll :).

It was so good to be out in the sunshine, in the open air, in the countryside. I needed this time out from ordinary life, in myself, in, and moving through, the world.

Best to all,


Monday, 15 September 2008

Yet more rain

It was raining when I left home for work this dull Monday morning. I don't like rain after rain after rain. So on with waterproof trousers, over shoes and my yellow cycling jacket. For some reason thoughts and images from my LEJOG ride were with me - maybe because I met up with an old friend Em on Saturday and I talked to her about the LEJOG ride, about growing older, and about how we had many mutual friends with high blood pressure.

I feel a bit dislocated being back at work again after my work visit to Kenya. It almost as if part of my work persona remains over there and the pile of dissertations and assignments waiting to be marked are even less attractive than usual. And the future of my teaching in Kenya remains in the balance.

I wrote a letter to Neil Tennant this week. I hesitate to include the text here so I wont. It was partially a fan letter but much more. I listening to 'Release the Stars' by Rufus Wainwright a lot at the moment and of course Neil produced it.

I am still learning piano, helped by my amazing teacher Rebbecca, trying to perfect my version of Amazing Grace - at least I can play it now with out sobbing. Playing piano is pleasurable but I am not a very quick learner.

Best to all,


Friday, 12 September 2008

Bike, bear and crockodiles

I could not help running this story picked up from the CTC newsletter:

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- A middle school teacher suffered some bruising and a big scratch on his back after he struck a bear while riding his bicycle to school.

Jim Litz said he was traveling about 25 mph Monday morning when he came upon a rise and spotted a black bear about 10 feet in front of him. He didn't have time to stop and T-boned the bruin.

He tumbled over the handlebars, his helmet hit the bear's back and the two went cartwheeling down the road.

The bear rolled over Litz's head, cracking his helmet, and scratched his back before scampering up a hill above the road.

Litz's wife drove by shortly after the crash and took her husband to the hospital. He hoped to be able to return to teaching science at Target Range Middle School on Friday.

Mind you those of us who have had their dingies capsized by a crockodile on the Norfolk Broads think it is quite small beer!

Yorkshire, the Broads and Nairobi

A few years ago staying with my good friends Peter and Mary in Bentham in the Yorkshire countryside I went out one morning into there back garden and I was in nature - no longer was there a barrier between me and nature. I felt a bit vulnerable. It feels that way sometimes on the bike especially on my LEJOG ride and especially when I was miles from anywhere in the Scottish Highlands.

When I was on the boat on the Norfolk Broads in August it was a bit similar. I was closer to nature than usual, the silence at night, the clear brighter stars, the great sunsets and sunrises, the sounds of wild life.

Then in Kenya I stayed at the Safari Park Hotel on the outskirts of Nairobi in 25 acres of grounds. My room was in a one of the 2 storey blocks set in the grounds with lots of wood rather like in Austria. I was woke up before dawn by an amazing exotic dawn chorus of birdsong then gradually, then quickly the light of the sun came up. Magic.

I am thankful to be touched in this way.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

Yesterday I posted a poem I wrote after meeting Ziggy my teenage best friend after 39years. On the day I met him I wrote a poem and it does not seem to work as a poem so I am trying it out as prose.

In Bewdley, waiting to meet Ziggy, I am flooded with a wave of memories and feel pretty overwhelmed by them. There was the cafe near the river where I was chatted up by an attractive fair haired teenager but I remained faithful to my first love who, coincidentally or not worked nearby in the hairdressers shop.

Opposite the George Inn I walked passed the turn off to a house where Ziggy and I had been to a party. Ziggy spent some time there talking to a very pregnant teenager. This excited me at the time as Ziggy had written a song about such an encounter a few days previously. But nothing developed unlike the song.

I walked by the River Severn and passed by the spot where Ziggy and I had rented a boat. We attempted largely unsuccessfully to row upstream against the strong current despite the verbal help of an enthusiastic man on the river bank.

Later I saw the shop where once my cousin Phyl had sold baby clothes from and it was now a hospice charity shop. The same hospice my sister Liz left so much money to in her Will forcing me to meet medics and premature babies and their mums when all I wanted to do was to cry...

Round the corner was a bungalow where my Aunt and Uncle retired to and nearby hidden away the gem of 1690s Quaker Meeting House where more recently I heard the Quaker silence broken by the hoot of a steam train on the Severn Valley Line.

Swimming in these memories I wait on the bridge to meet Ziggy.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

On meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

A few weeks back I met Ziggy for the first time in about 39 years! He was my best friend when we were both teenagers and my daughter Grace has been much taken up with stories about Ziggy, Toad and Chunky. So a poem from my notebook:

On Meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

of times passed
A new version
of an old story
Forgotten memories
Weaving new ones
Of roads less travelled
Of future possibilities
Of current aches and pains
Body and soul
Stories laid to rest
And new ones forged
In shallow-deep conversation

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Don't give up

My taxi driver form the Hotel to Nairobi airport was quiet talkative so I ventured to ask him about the post election violence. He told me how important it was that Britain responded well to Kenya in their hour of need. To him Britain was still the Mother country.

Sitting on the plane writing this I am sobbing because it shows me that we can always make a difference. It is just that we don't know how, when, what consequences will follow.

But don't give up. We are worth it.

Monday, 8 September 2008

A moment in Kenya

So there I was delivering my keynote speech in front of over 300 people - mostly Kenyans but also people form East Africa and further afield. I decided not to do my usual this is my current stuff speech but instead tell them what my visits to Kenya had done to me - what I learnt from them.

I talked about the impact on me of coming from Britain and my feelings about how destructive Britain had been on Kenyan culture and traditions. I also spoke about he terrible concentration camps Britain set up in the Kenya fight for independence and how I thought there was a need for truth and reconciliation, healing and forgiveness.

After my speech a woman stood and set it was history and that I should not worry myself. Then an old man stood up. He told the conference how members of his family had been badly treated during the Mau Mau uprising against British rule. More recently his daughter had married a white man from Britain in the face of opposition from the family. He had been unable to accept his British son-in-law. Now hearing me acknowledging that history he felt differently. We met up after the speech and embraced. We were both very moved. Later that day he rang up his daughter - now living in Britain and talked to her and cleared the air.

I am thankful.