Sunday, 19 January 2014

Land's End to John O'Groats - The Itinerary

JUNE

10th
Land's End to Penzance
11 miles

11th
Penzance to Pengoon Farm
17 miles

12th
Pengoon Farm to Truro
17 miles

13th
Truro to Tregolls Farm
21 miles

14th
Tregolls Farm to St Breward
11.5 miles

15th
St Breward to Trecollas Farm
14.5 miles

16th
REST DAY

17th
Trecollas Farm to Launceston
10.5 miles

18th
Launceston to Bridestowe
17 miles

19th
Bridestowe to South Zeal
12 miles

20th
South Zeal to Crediton
14.5 miles

21st 
Crediton to Tiverton
14.5 miles

22nd
Tiverton to Taunton
24 miles

23rd
REST DAY

24th 
Taunton to Street
22 miles

25th 
Street to Midsomer Norton
16 miles

26th
Midsomer Norton to Bath
16 miles

27th - 28th
Travelling to London and back for Annie and Ben's wedding

29th
Bath to Old Sodbury
19 miles

30th
Old Sodbury to Cam
16 miles

JULY

1st
Cam to Painswick
12 miles

2nd
Painswick to Gloucester
7 miles

3rd
Gloucester to Tewkesbury
13.5 miles

4th
Tewkesbury to Worcester
19.5 miles

SUBTOTAL = 325.5 miles

5th - 7th
Travel to and from Sam and Hayley's wedding in London

8th
Worcester to Bewdley
17.5 miles

9th
Bewdley to Pattingham
18 miles

10th
Pattingham to Penkridge
16 miles

11th
Penkridge to Abbots Bromley
17 miles

12th
Abbots Bromley to Air Cottage
21 miles

13th
Air Cottage to Waterloo Inn
13 miles

14th
REST DAY

15th
Waterloo Inn to Edale
11 miles

16th
Edale to Crowden
17.5 miles

17th
Crowden to Standedge
13 miles

18th 
Standedge to Hebden Bridge
15 miles

19th
Hebden Bridge to Lothersdale
18 miles

20th
Lothersdale to Kirkby Malham
13.5 miles

21st
REST DAY

22nd
Kirkby Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
15.5 miles

23rd 
Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes
14 miles

24th
Hawes to Keld
12.5 miles

25th
Keld to Baldersdale
15 miles

26th
Baldersdale to Langdon Beck
15 miles

27th
Langdon Beck to Dufton
13 miles

28th
REST DAY

29th 
Dufton to Alston
19.5 miles

30th
Alston to Haltwhistle
14 miles

31st
Haltwhistle to Bellingham
19.5 miles

AUGUST

1st
Bellingham to Byrness
15 miles

2nd
Byrness to Jedburgh
21.5 miles

3rd 
Jedburgh to Melrose
16.5 miles

SUB TOTAL = 707 miles

4th
REST DAY

5th
Melrose to Peebles
24 miles

6th
Peebles to West Linton
14 miles

7th
West Linton to Edinburgh
18.5 miles

8th 
Edinburgh to Linlithgow
22 miles

9th
Linlithgow to Kilsyth
21.5 miles

10th
Kilsyth to Drymen
23.5 miles

11th
REST DAY

12th
Drymen to Rowardennan
11.5 miles

13th
Rowardennan to Inverarnan
14 miles

14th
Inverarnan to Tyndrum
12 miles

15th
Tyndrum to Kings House
18.5 miles

16th 
Kings House to Kinlochleven
9 miles

17th 
Kinlochleven to Fort William
14 miles

18th
REST DAY

19th
Summit of Ben Nevis and back to Fort William

20th 
Fort William to South Laggan
22.5 miles

21st 
South Laggan to Alltsigh
21.5 miles

22nd 
Alltsigh to Drumnadrochit
11 miles

23rd
Drumnadrochit to Inverness
18 miles

24th
Inverness to Dingwall
16 miles

25th
Dingwall to Alness
9 miles

26th
REST DAY

27th
Alness to Dornoch
20 miles

28th
Dornoch to Brora
17.5 miles

29th
Brora to Helmsdale
11 miles

30th
Helmsdale to Forsinard
25 miles

31st
Forsinard to Golval
12 miles

SEPTEMBER

1st
Golval to Thurso
17 miles

2nd
Thurso to John O'Groats
20 miles

TOTAL = 1,130 miles

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Peter Cranie For Leader

It's been a fair old while since I posted anything on this blog. What with the law conversion course and the search for pupillage as an aspiring barrister, I haven't really had the time. However, the ongoing contest for the Leadership of the Green Party of England and Wales has brought me, at least briefly, out of hibernation.

I knew who I wanted to support from the very start of the contest - indeed, I asked Peter to stand before he had even declared his candidacy. I am now acting as his campaign manager. One could say that I am a partisan...and I wanted to explain why.

I've known Peter for almost a decade now, ever since we worked together on the Green Party Executive. From the beginning, I was impressed by his calm, diplomatic and efficient work behind the scenes of the Party - and also his passionate but coherent delivery of Green messages to external audiences. It was clear to me that he would be a future star.

Heartbreakingly, Peter was pipped to the finish in the 2009 North West Euro elections by none other than the odious Nick Griffin. You can tell something about Peter's character by the fact that this blow didn't send him out of politics - he's back for another go in 2014, and I'm confident that he can kick the fascists out of the European Parliament and become one of a new crop of Green MEPs in that election.

Basically, the reasons I am supporting him for Leader are simple:

- Focus on social justice. Peter has worked on the frontline of the battle against poverty. He's a former Liverpool social worker and a current lecturer, often dealing with deprived kids. He puts his money where his mouth is, standing in one of the most deprived wards in the city and putting the Green message not just on climate change and localisation but on equality, social justice and fairness too.

- Passion and eloquence. Anyone who has heard Peter speak about the issues closest to his heart know that he cares, and that he is able to transmit that passion to his audience. We need someone inspiring, someone who can lift Green politics out of the 'also ran' category and into the stratosphere. Peter can do that.

- Broad appeal. Even if I thought I would be good as Leader of the party (which I wouldn't be), I think someone like me standing would be a mistake. We are already identified with the 'green ghetto'...liberal, middle class, latte drinking Guardianista types. Electing Peter as our main spokesperson is one important step towards busting that stereotype. Much more needs to be done, but we have to start moving in the right direction.

- Experience within the party. It's great to have the right politics, passion and appeal...but not much use if you know nothing about the Party, the people in it, or how it operates. Peter was on GPEX for three years as Election Coordinator, is a staple performer at Conference, and is popular across every region. He'd hit the ground running and use his diplomatic and organisational skills to brilliant effect over the next two years.

- Good guys should finish first. Simply put, I like Peter. Some politicians are egotistical, narcissistic and generally unpleasant. We have less of those in the Green Party (ego doesn't tend to be served by struggling to get elected to a council seat, after all), but Peter stands out as being a genuinely nice guy. I think that transmits itself when he speaks, and we badly, desperately need authenticity in British politics right now. Peter can provide that.

So, those are my reasons. It hasn't been as easy as they might suggest, because Natalie Bennett is also in the race. I've worked with her as a fellow Parliamentary candidate and when she was on GPEX - and she's excellent. She's also campaign managed by Jim Jepps, who's a good friend of mine and whose political judgement is nearly always spot on. She'll be getting my number two preference...but not my number one. While Natalie is highly competent and a brilliant organiser, I'm not convinced that she has the kind of broad appeal across the country or passionate delivery that I know Peter can provide. For that reason, I'm supporting Peter Cranie for Leader - and if you are a Party member, I hope you will too.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Messenger by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

30 Essays in 30 Days for my 30th?

I've always loved to to write, and yet I've never managed more than a few chapters of a first novel, and of course a fairly voluminous set of blog posts. The disparity between the former and the latter has led me to the conclusion that, ideally, I'd like to write a collection of essays rather than a novel - at least at this point in my life. There are a few problems with this idea:

- No one publishes essays unless you are a public intellectual, preferably one who uses your initials rather than your first name to show just how intellectual you are.

- No one reads essays unless you are the above.

- It's much much much easier to be a pompous preaching prig while writing essays. In a novel you can just claim that opinions which people don't like are held by your characters, and not the author.

Despite all of this, the idea of trying to set down my thinking on a series of issues which are important to me remains intriguing. SO - in the spirit of being a ludicrous Protestant work ethic influenced type of person and therefore liking milestones, goals and challenges - I'm toying with the idea of writing 30 Essays in 30 Days for my 30th Birthday. Sort of like this guy, except less insane and with less risk of my knees falling off.

It would mostly be for my own good - a kind of stock taking of where I am at 30, so that I can look back in 10 years time and laugh at myself - but my vanity does insist that at least *some* people have a read of them too. So - my question to my dear readers is this - if I took up the challenge of 30 Essays in 30 Days for my 30th (about 1,500 words each day, in August 2012 I reckon, given the gaps in my various courses and committments), would you read them? If you thought they were good, would you bung the link around your networks? Would you help me get an average of at least 30 readers for each one?

If so, I reckon I'll give it a shot. Why not. If there's one thing the world needs more of, it's random opinions on the Internet. :)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mens sana in corpore sano

"A healthy mind in a healthy body" - Juvenal

"Run while you have the light of life...run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love." - St Benedict

Well, it's been over a year! When I last wrote anything on this blog, I was - to be frank - both depressed and aimless. I had not done as well in the General Election as I had hoped, and was uncertain where my life was going. I'm pleased to say that now all that has changed. Of course, all life has peaks and troughs, and I'm sure I'll take some more hits before long - but at the moment, I'm at a peak.

In fact, I'm probably at the highest peak I've ever found - and, strangely, it's extraordinarily difficult to write about. It's socially difficult to write about depression or gloom, but not that hard to vent about it in writing once you've made the decision that you want to. Writing about optimism and a 'state of grace', on the other hand, is almost impossible to do without sounding like a naive sap who needs a good dose of real life.

I might have thought exactly that a year ago - but, in fact, it is the experience of real life that is bringing me such joy. Or rather, the specific experience of a balanced intellectual, physical and spiritual life which my enormous good fortune and privilege is currently affording me. I am of course well aware that most people in the world don't have that good fortune. Intellectually, I am in the middle of the Graduate Diploma in Law - the 'law conversion' - which provides more than enough material to stretch anyone's reasoning and memory skills for a year. To be honest though, intellectual engagement has never been my problem. It is the physical and spiritual sides of my life which seem to have blossomed in the last few months.

Physicality

I was once described, during a P.E. class in my early teens, as 'the most physically inept boy' that the teacher had ever seen. Slightly harsh, but a fairly good indication of my own attitude to any kind of physical effort during my school years. It was only during my gap year - which, given I spent months in the middle of the rainforest hacking at things with a machete, carrying food in on my back and hiking every day, couldn't help but get me fit - that I discovered the glorious feeling that being at one with one's own body can bring. Alas, that didn't last very long when I returned....the first year of university will do that to you.

Over the last few years I've dabbled here and there with some forms of physical exercise - a 5K here, a bit of martial arts there - but it's only over the last few months that I have decided to get properly fit again. Ironically, the extreme demands of the GDL have meant that I don't have much time for procrastination - and have therefore meant that my time at the gym or running on the roads serves as a much needed mental break. More than that, though, I've gotten to that stage where the investment in physical fitness - what Stephen Covey calls 'sharpening the saw' - more than repays itself in increased energy and massively improved mood.

If it just had those physiologically and psychological effects, getting properly fit would be excellent in itself. However, it's more than that, for me. It's fitting into my spiritual practice, as well - awakening me to my potential as a human being after many years of believing that 'athlete' is, by definition, a word used about other people. After reading works by a number of authors, specifically George Leonard and George Sheehan, it's become increasingly clear to me that in fact most people have the potential to get in touch with their bodies through exercise - and that this can be an intensely spiritual practice.

Spirituality

My other release from hours of memorising contract law cases and trying to understand state liability in the EU has been lots and lots of meditation. I've been practicing for a decade, but in a very patchy way, and it's been a while since I've sat regularly. Combined with the greater awareness of physical sensation brought on by exercise, and the improvement in mood which is stabilised by regular, calm, sitting, I'm starting to glimpse a little bit of what some of our great poets and writers have understood about the 'holistic' way of life.

In particular, as always, I'm drawn to Robert Lax - and especially what he wrote about the athletic practice of the acrobats with whom he lived during his time writing Circus of the Sun:

Acrobat's Song

Who is it for whom we now perform,
Cavorting on wire:
For whom does the boy
Climbing the ladder
Balance and whirl -
For whom,
Seen or sunseen
In a shield of light?

Seen or unseen
In a shield of light,
At the tent top
Where the rays stream in
Watching the pin-wheel
Turns of the players
Dancing
In light:

Lady,
We are Thy acrobats;
Jugglers;
Tumblers;
Walking on wire,
Dancing on air,
Swinging on the high trapeze:
We are Thy children,
Flying in the air
Of that smile:
Rejoicing in light.

Lady,
We perform before Thee,
Walking a joyous discipline,
A thin thread of courage,
A slim high wire of dependence
Over abysses.

What do we know
Of the way of our walking?
Only this step,
This movement,
Gone as we name it.
Here
At the thin
Rim of the world
We turn for Our Lady,
Who holds us lightly
We leave the wire,
Leave the line,
Vanish
Into light.

....

Indeed, it was after a really excellent recent workout, during a meditation that I decided to do in order to take advantage of the endorphin rush, that I had one of the more meaningful mystical experiences I've ever had. It takes many things to come together for that to happen...and, frankly, I don't have the words to describe it. It was something like this:

"At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will...It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billion points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely….I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere."

- Thomas Merton

Now, don't worry. I've not become a Christian nor a raving lunatic. No more than I was before, in any event. I'm neither going to start putting flowers in what remains of my hair, nor retreat to an ashram. And I still recognise that the world, for the majority of people today, is a difficult, brutal and deeply unfair place. None of that negates the fact, however, that when you get it right - and it's a rare and fleeting event that you do - life can be *wonderful*.

So - more running and meditation for me. And hopefully no irritating people to tears with too much ecstatic burbling....I'm sure my upcoming exams will sort all that out soon enough.

Til I next decide to post something,

All the best. :)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A Ghostly Batsman Plays To The Bowling Of A Ghost...

It probably didn't take a particularly astute reader to scan my last blog post and sense that I am a little disheartened with politics at the moment. I'm sure that after a little rest and reflection I will throw myself back into activity of one sort of another - but at the moment, the two things that are keeping me vaguely sane are cricket and writing.

So, this is a post about cricket and writing. Imaginative.

Probably the most relaxing day I have had this year, if we ignore anything that involves walking along the beach and listening to the sound of the sea, has been spent at Lords, watching an inconsequential County Championship game. The third day of Middlesex vs Leicestershire, despite featuring Hoggard and Shah (and a fine century from a young batsman named James Taylor, who I reckon will play for England one day) was not exactly a crowd-puller. And yet it was glorious. Its very lack of consequence was its beauty. Being able to sit in a mostly empty Lords, and watch the cycle of overs - drinks, lunch, tea, close of play - and the cycle of wickets and batting milestones within them - I cannot imagine anything more genuinely meditative.

To be honest, if I had my way and could do any job, at any time, I would be hard-pressed to resist being a cricket writer. Not a cricket journalist as of today (though I'd settle for that at a pinch) but a real cricket writer, given the licence and authority to describe the game for people who, before the advent of TV, could only see it by attending themselves. Sure, there would be much more worthy things to do - but trying to capture what it is about cricket that speaks to my soul is not an unworthy task for a life. JM Kilburn certainly didn't think so, whose collected works I am currently reading. And what a writer he was!

Describing Tom Graveney: "Whenever Graveney was out of the England side England cricket was not necessarily weakened but it seemed slightly unrepresentative, as a June garden without roses or a banquet without wine."

Or Walter Hammond's walk to the wicket in 1938, before he had even made a stroke: "Hammond's walk was the most handsome in all cricket, smooth in the evenness of stride, precise in balance. It was a flow of movement linking stillness to stillness."

Today's cricket journalism is full of statistics, gossip, news about the oligarchs who run the ICC and debate about the IPL. What I wouldn't give for just one person to have the licence to follow the England team around and really describe Pietersen's hitting in full flow, or Swann's cunning in tricking batsman out of their wickets. Maybe that era is gone. I hope not.

Meanwhile, any aspiring cricket writers in search of a silky batting technique and flawless bowling action to describe could do worse than turn up to the Hands Off The People Of Iran 2010 fundraising cricket match on Sunday 29th August, Victoria Park, and watch in awe as I attempt to better last year's glorious effort...

P.S.

The title, of course, comes from Francis Thompson's poem "At Lords", written shortly before his death of tuberculosis in 1907.

For the field is full of shades as I near a shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run stealers flicker to and fro,
To and fro:
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago !


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Politics, Life, and Disappointment

People are often surprised by my affection for America and American people in general. After all, not only am I a raging leftie (and therefore, through groupthink, must hate the Great Satan and all its works), but I'm also "the most English person alive"(TM). This is fair, but only to a point. Because, you see, I am beginning to think that I sympathise with the American 'national character' much more than I had originally thought. True, I'm somewhat more introverted and anti-social than the popular image of America might suggest is appropriate, and I still don't get the appeal of the NFL (seriously, it's rugby with shoulder pads and more ad breaks) - but importantly, I'm goal driven. Over my life, I have enjoyed nothing better than setting an aim, normally a stratospherically high one, and then smashing it. That is a very American trait. It's what got them to the Pacific, to the Moon, and (for better or worse) pretty much all over the globe.

Why this sudden discourse on generalised Americana? Because, over the last few months, I've been trying to deal with the end of a goal - one that, frankly, ended in failure. Like America, it seems I don't do too well with underachievement - and that realisation has led to a whole series of different thoughts.

The most potent train of thought has been depression and disillusionment. It is difficult to commit one's life to something for a year, only to see everything turn out worse than when you began. I'm indulging in hyperbole, of course - after all, we now have an excellent Green MP in Brighton - but the truth is, I had very little to do with that achievement, and a lot to do with halving the Green Party's share of the vote in Hackney North. Where I was personally engaged, the message did not get through.

Or, in my darker moments, perhaps it did get through, and the large majority of people simply did not agree with it. After all, why would people want to listen to someone who, honestly and plainly, is saying that things have to change radically if we are going to have a continued, vaguely sane way of life on this planet? Someone who is openly admitting that our current existence cannot continue, and that it can either end in unplanned collapse or planned transition? These are not palatable truths, even for those who understand why they probably are true.

Those involved in the Dark Mountain Project know better than most that these truths are unpalatable, and that to espouse them is to risk calumny. And yet, I must admit, with each month that goes by, the more I find myself in agreement with a lot of what Paul Kingsnorth and others have to say. Where is our realistic and achievable path towards stopping climate change? Where is our strategy for social change using 21st century 'democracy'? I'm afraid that, to me, it's all looking rather forlorn. And rather than attempting, again and again, to achieve the unachievable - I'm beginning to think that perhaps it is time to acknowledge the truth, stop setting ourselves impossible goals, and start turning our minds to how we are going to salvage what is left after our adolescent, selfish, consumption-fixated society starts falling to bits around us.

That is not to say that we should stop 'trying' or that I advocate a counsel of 'hopelessness'. Rather, it is to use our rational faculties to try to work out what is actually achievable, and focus on that, rather than banging our heads repeatedly against the brick wall of actually existing culture and politics - both of which seem hellbent on plummetting over the Niagra of environmental disaster without even a slight course correction. We should fix our hope on what we can actually do - ameliorating the consequences and building a society for the future within the shell of the old - and focus our 'trying' on projects which are actually going to get us somewhere.

At the moment, I'm not convinced that those projects are situated in attempting to influence existing political and economic structures. Perhaps I'm wrong. I hope so. Right now, as you might be able to tell, I've had one disappointment too many.