Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bikes and gratitude

I meet the true me, or at least a truer me, in silence maybe in a Quaker Meeting, or in a holy place which might be an old cathedral, or a stone circle, or even a tree in blossom in the park. The important thing apart from a sense of holiness is that I am usually alone or apart in some way. For example in Quaker Meeting with eyes closed and non-one speaking. When I am relating to people I take a social shape, adopt a persona, call it what you will. I would argue that the true me exists in relation to Creation, God/dess if you like but it is only in these holy moments that I am not shaping for others.

The interesting realisation for me is that these holy moments also occur when I am cycling especially on extended bike rides which is why I am happy to cycle alone. I go through similar stages or patterns as I do in Quaker Meetings. I have things on my mind, some of which beg attention and sometimes I find they do resolves for the better or some times things not on my mind come and resolves for the better. So there is a de-stressing, a sorting out going on but then there is an emptiness and sometimes in that emptiness new awareness comes or sometimes a holy moment or two of communion with creation.

What is clear to me is that physical activity helps, so maybe all religious services/worship could usefully be preceded by Yoga or Tai Chi or bike riding etc. On the second day of my recent Coast2Coast ride it was tough going, it rained for the first 2 hours (‘Are you really serious about this William?’ the weather was asking me!). And then late afternoon the heavy cycling, or rather pushing bike up steep hills, was done and I had got confirming directions that I was on the right route from a lovely local man and then the sun came out for the first time in 48 hours. I felt blessed and thankful and said ‘Thanks’ out loud. In that moment it meant so much to me, life was simple, and the sunshine lifted my spirits. When I am on my bike and thirsty a few swigs of water from my water bottle taste like the best wine and in fact seem more use that most food during the actual ride.

So cycling encourages such a gratitude in me, a spiritual quality. And I am thankful that my body works well enough to cycle me around all day. I don’t know about tomorrow but today I am thankful.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Poetry to music

In the early hours of Sunday morning I wrote a poem called ‘Where are you?’ On Monday after putting the poem on this blog I found myself singing the poem and adding a few words. On Tuesday I plucked up the courage to sing it to my music teacher Rebecca in the hope that she could write it out and help me develop the tune. (I have been secretly hoping for a while that she would put some of my poems to music). She told me that’s he was not a composer and her time at the RNCM included no classes in composition. Well she ended co-writing the music. It turns out that the poem needs to be song by a choir boy or a woman backed by a cello.

I only got the guts to do this because the 330 words site had accepted a short story from me ‘The Manchester Riots’ – and this my first ever short story in print or at least on someone else site heartened me so much.

Today at work I found myself signing two other recent poems ‘God your spirit was good’ and ‘He’s far away’ . He’s far away is another choir boy song but ‘God your spirit was good’ I could sign more easily so I think it is to be sung by a man.

So maybe I have got a cycle of songs maybe a requiem, I don’t know. It is exciting and strange.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Coast to Coast

140 miles Coast to Coast (C2C) in 3 days what a mad idea! When I was pushing my bike up yet another steep hill on the 2nd day it occurred to me what was wrong with this idea. It’s the coast to cast bit. This means you start out at sea level climb up a lot and then coast(!) down to sea level again. And the climbing up a lot in this case meant the Pennines. I actually climbed to the highest point on the cycling network in Britain!

So the form is that you start your journey by dipping your back wheel in the sea (don’t ask me why I don’t know but that’s the ritual). It was great fun seeing someone fall off their back into the sea at this point! And this was the promise of more water to come, 4 hours of rain on the Friday, 2 hours on the Saturday and a good hour on the Sunday.

There was some magic scenery which I experience in a more vivid way when I was not too tired to notice it that is. The view of the lake outside Keswick, lots of beautiful Pennine Hills viewed from the bottom, middle, false summit, and top. There’s a wonderful converted railway track that runs across the moors up from Stanhope which is slightly elevated and the view is stunning.

The climb up to summit of Hartrigg was hard work and d-espiriting. At the top was a cafĂ© full of about 50 cyclists and a few bikers all over 40 and 95% male. Some of them in bare feet which was curious until I noticed the open fire with about 30 pairs of wet cycling shoes drying out in front of it! A strange sporty male vibe – which I am not sure I like, it was a bit like male skiers but not so narcissistic. Everyone, everyone had whippet legs and some with very over developed calve muscles. Lots of home made cakes. After a full English I could only eat cake.

Born in the West Midland I feel that living in Manchester and the North West that I am living with a cousin tribe. This C2C trip took me farther North into Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Tyneside. I loved the quiet unegotistic but friendly people who lived in the farms and villages I met en route. They felt like tribal cousins once removed.

The cyclists I met en route looked out for each other. You only had to stop for a breather, or a swig of water, or a bite of a fruit bar for people to say: ‘You OK?’. 90% of the cyclists (and runners and walkers) I passed swapped greetings with me and several of them I met up with again and again, passing and being passed. It’s like being a sailor - you look out for one another as you never know when help might be needed. And one of the people I was cycling with for a while had a glancing encounter with a tree branch in the twilight and crashed with a great groan. He looked a bit twisted up and I thought maybe his leg was broken but once I untangled his bike from him he was OK if somewhat bruised. He didn’t even have to tell me to ‘Put me back on the bloody bike!’

Noticeably when I got to Newcastle people cyclists stopped replying to my ‘Hi’ but these were city people and not on a long distance bike ride. Also noticeably when I got to Newcastle the heavens opened but at least earlier on I had seen a rainbow and occasionally the sun. Indeed the seeing sun at all was so rare that I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving every time I saw it!

So I am looking forward to my next cycling adventure and still California dreaming of the East Coast of North America. Coast sounds good! My next trip will be less steep hilly and probably not on a mountain bike though I did love having suspension.

Best to all, Bill not on bike today but resting his weary body :)

Where are you?

Where are you?

Where are you my sister?
Where are you my brother?
You turn up in my dreams
And you feel like you are very near
I can talk to you
But you don’t answer
At least not in words

I hope to see you again
Some day over the rainbow
But right now it’s raining

Friday, 2 September 2011

He's far away

He’s far away

Awake early
The sun’s not up
But I am
I’m stone
And cold
And sober

And the tea’s drunk
And the milk has run out
And so have you
But you’re still here
In body
If not in spirit

And he’s dead
And wont come back
And I can almost feel him
Just out of reach