With the lockdown and limitations to freedom of movement, I have had plenty of time to think about writing, do some writing, find things that I have written long ago, write a few words ….. and then have another coffee or go out into the garden and watch the tomatoes growing.
I discovered the attached article when tidying up my desktop. There are so many things that have drifted into the deepest corners of my mind. However, this continues to be of relevance.
I can report that the topic has been discussed at Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL) conferences, has been written about further in Horizons has and has also been the subject of some presentations and papers at The European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE) conferences.
I know need some time to reflect on this further. Time for another coffee and check on those tomatoes. Watch this space.
P.S. When setting the Featured Image to appear on the main page I had to deliberately avoid sunsets. Then I find that the selected photo has the word autumn in its title. Time to think a bit more about stereotyping!
Almost a year has passed – a creative week on Anglesey (May 2019) – painting, photography, sewing, reading, watching the world go by — dreaming — remembering.
We had deliberately routed ourselves along the Ogwen Valley. A scattering of snow still kissed the shaded valleys of the Glyders , where in our distant memories the mists around Y Garn had opened to give a window across to Devil’s Kitchen . Tryfan stood clear and proud – Heather Terrace distinct; the Ridge silhouetted against the spring sky; specks of walkers. Did they have the courage to jump between Adam and Eve?
I had remembered the hut circles on Holyhead Mountain, visited one damp day of escape from the soaking of Snowdonia. I had remembered the pathway to South Stack. I had watched the TV Climb …. Gogarth …. and the names that conjured mystery …. A Dream of White Horses. I lacked the expertise and confidence to consider climbing on Anglesey …. but I could dream and I still do. I remembered tales of the pioneers of my early climbing days … Joe Brown, Don Willans, Ian McNaught-Davis.
Perhaps it is a mistake to re-visit a place full of such personal nostalgia. Creativity refused to flow, except with the camera. Searches for archaeological sites were unsatisfactory, Yet, remembering eventually prompted a feeling of pensive calm. And, it is good to remember today, when feeling interred in the four walls of the house, as the lockdown continues. Again, I will escape with my memories and dreams and plan new adventures.
Over two weeks have elapsed. The time has flown. I’ve been busy reading and following up links to actions for and thoughts about our post-virus world. What will it look like? I’ve read in the newspaper that many people are welcoming this opportunity to have the time to re-connect with nature, air quality has improved and that wildlife has been returning to our urban areas. I have certainly seen more birdlife in our small back garden. A bowl of water has attracted pair of robins, blackbirds, jackdaws and wood pigeons. We had not seen birds in the garden for a number of years. This morning the dawn chorus was deafening. It reminded my of days spent camping when the bird song woke me from my slumbers. How can we maximise the positives that have come as a result of the lockdown?
I’ve also been supporting colleagues who are submitting applications to become Accredited Practitioners of the Institute of Outdoor Learning. I love doing this, particularly when the applicants have plenty of time to reflect on their experiences, and to recognise and celebrate their achievements. The experiences of the applicants can be humbling. It’s a time for me to learn and re-vitalise my passion for outdoor learning.
All this has forced me to become much more familiar with apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom and gotomeeting, and the ‘joys’ of online meetings. ‘Attending’ my yoga class via Zoom has been an experience. When balance isn’t my strongest attribute, getting into some positions whilst online is a struggle. (There’s a pun in there – I will leave it with you to ponder.)
I have a heap of writing ideas, which hopefully will flow through the keyboard. I’m determined that these remain a pleasure rather than a chore. There are also so many other things to do – clear out the workshop/studio; finish clearer up the roof space; sort out the attic and turn it back from a dumping ground to a usable workshop and office space; and my own office needs a good clear out so that I dispose of the materials from my paid working life and can find the resources that I now need. My photographs also need some organising. The garden needs some tidying up so that I can plant out some tomatoes as we will be here for the whole growing season and will be able to harvest our crop. I could add to this list. I have to remember that it is a wish list – it is for me to decide what to do and when I want to do it – after all, I am retired.
The weekend has started well. The fact that we would have been in the Orkneys right now, exploring archaeological sites, doing photography, painting and writing, have almost dimmed into the mists of time. The sun is shining. I’ve had elevenses – a hot chocolate, using powder brought back from our trip to the Nilgiris a few months back. This has been strengthened with Baileys of course …. and so to action.
Daily, I had been attempting to reflect on what ever has come to mind and I’ve also been taking regular exercise and likening it to an imaginary expedition. I love having this time to respond to what I am seeing, reading or hearing. It feels very self-indulgent. It leads make back to so many positive, and a few not so positive, past experiences.
I’ve also been trying to keep up regular exercise, so that my muscles are in good shape when eventually I get to having something done about my knees. I reckon this will be about two years away. As I first referred myself six years ago, another two years is hardly of any consequence. However, as is my way, my self-image is of someone who is still mountain fit. The realities are that I’ve been pushing myself too hard and so after a few rest days I’m coming up with a cunning plan. I used the cycle the other day, but the after effects were too painful. Yesterday, I walked to the end of the road, which was further than I had planned. It also took me much longer than I had anticipated, but my recovery from the exercise seems OK … and I saw Langstone Harbour and some bluebells. At last, I am back in touch with wild nature, even if it is in an urban environment.
My plan is now to exercise whenever I feel fit enough and to tie this in with my imaginary expedition. In addition, I will keep up writing this blog, but it may not be on a daily basis. I want a life!! There are so many other things I want to have time for in this enforced lockdown. Many years ago (almost forty – help!) I escaped from teaching and went into youth work with as much outdoor education as I could cram in. I loved the lack of routine and the opportunity to have experiences that would not have been possible in a routine teaching career. Then I escaped from that into self-employment when the challenges and opportunities were innumerable. Now, as a retired person, I am enjoying the opportunities to work and play in so many ways that previously would have been unimaginable. So, routine begone. I will dictate when I exercise and write and not be dictated to by a timetable, so there!
I was reading The Guardian (30 March 2020, page 28), and was hit by the headline, “Mobiles mean children will no longer be free to get lost – Attenborough”. The article begins “Children will never again know true freedom because mobile phones mean they cannot get lost, David Attenborough has said.” Further on, he explains that this is something that those of us who are pre-mobile may have experienced, but is unlikely to be experienced by today’s teenagers,
In my most recent experience of being lost, I had a mobile with a map, but no compass. I was going to a conference in London and full of false confidence, I had booked an Uber Taxi. I departed the station and looked for a road sign, but could see none. I wondered around. On the map I could see a ‘blob’ moving, but I couldn’t work out where I was and I couldn’t orientate the map as the sun was obscured. I could feel a panic rising and decided to get a coffee and ask for help. I ordered another taxi, this time confident …. only to see it disappearing into the distance, as I hobbled after it, trying to attract the driver’s attention. I felt tearful. I gave it one more try and this time was rescued. It was a sobering moment. I might be able to navigate across the world, through forests and in mountains, but in an alien environment, the city, I am lost.
Recently, pre- isolation, I went with a friend to Port Quin on the north Cornish, and looked longingly as the sunset over the headland. The next night I commented that I thought I could walk as far as that, but that I might be slow. “We must leave now, to get there and have time to get back before the light goes completely.” She was bemused that I could be so direct. She is not an outdoor person and said that outdoor people develop an innate knowledge of being on and moving through the environment. How could I work out. by looking at a map and the landscape, the time required? How would I know about the time it would take for the sun to move below the horizon? How could I judge that we would have enough ‘night sight’ to return to the cottage? This amused me.
I am a Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition assessor, working mainly in the New Forest. I think it is this innate way of being in the outdoors that we are encouraging, along with many other things. I am always heartened when young people get lost and manage to sort out their position and put themselves back on the right track. I am also surprised at the numbers of adults I meet who seek reassurance from me, that they are on the right track, when faced with being a few metres from a carpark. Let’s hope that post-lockdown we will again be able to access the outdoors and have the valuable experience of getting lost and then finding ourselves …. and congratulate others when they experience the joy of this simple event.
The last few days have been days of memories and reflecting on these memories as the First picture shows. In this post’s photo, I was on Braeriach in the Cairngorms . It would have been in the 1070s, probably at Easter, What adventures and what friendships!
I didn’t manage to get anything written yesterday. I had a day of adjusting! It was much like any other Saturday with shopping, joining a friend for coffee, time spent down by the sea – except I didn’t do any of these things. Shopping is only for essentials, meeting with friends doesn’t come under the social distancing and the sea front and the car parks have been closed except to the physically-able for exercise, so that counts me out at the moment. I did some laundry, but apart from that the time seemed to drift into eternity, which is the frightening thing. It would be so easy to lose track of timer and not accomplish many of the things on my to do list. I abandoned rowing yesterday and today, but will get back to it. I’ve pulled a muscle in my dodgy leg because of my enthusiasm, so I have had enough warnings that I must be more cautious. The best outcome yesterday, was making an orange drizzle cake. Baking is an escape, just as it was for my mother. I so wish i could make sponges and meringues as she did.
Today has been another strange day. We’ve spoken to friends on the phone, eaten orange drizzle cake and I’ve cleaned the floors downstairs. This is always a bad sign. If the floor is visible does it really need to be cleaned? I didn’t think it was that bad but once the chore was completed, I knew it was. I treated myself to a gin and tonic. I managed to spray the tonic around the kitchen and the floor had a second wash. Fortunately there is enough of both gin and tonic for a few more days.
The other thing I did, having read Robert Macfarlane’s Tweet about Jan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, was to look at my book shelves and the memories and dreams stored in them. I may never climb a mountain or even a rock face again. I might never be able to ski again, I certainly will never go caving again, but I can get in to the mountains to take photographs, paint, write and just wonder and I can make plans for other adventures.
I am fortunate that I have had so many opportunities to travel, work and ‘play’. Two years ago we were in Vancouver, appreciating the amazing cityscape before setting off back to the UK. We had re-visited places we where we had been skiing some years ago and were completing our mountains to shore trip (See ‘From Summits to Shore’). I had also been here with my mother a couple of times, so it is a city full of memories. This time we were struck by the contrasts – an amazing city in a superb setting. Yet, there where some streets were the obvious poverty and social needs was so unexpected. How are those people fairing in the current situation?
Just a month ago we were returning from Cardamom House, Tamilnadu, South India. Here we had had the time to read, write, paint and experiment with photography, as well as enjoying superb food and the company of our many Tamil friends. When we go to weddings and other functions I am hit by the number of people I know and the warmth of their friendship, whether we understand what each other is saying or not. I sometimes think I know more people there than I do at home, which is a sad thing to say. Life here can become quite narrow and isolating.
Yesterday a friend telephoned. She had gone to the Estate where she worked. People who were self-employed had lost their jobs, others had lost their work, many could not access the Food Banks etc etc. The government, agencies and charities are trying to respond, but there are so many people in dire need and getting things set up takes time. By contrast, earlier I had received messages about how this kind of blog can prompt positive memories and raise the mood. Later, a friend telephoned to read a poem about friendship. These are such mixed times. I know I must remain positive for myself and for others. …. and I’m not rowing today. I am feeling stiff so I am having a rest day … and my yoga teacher has set up an online yoga session.
There is some good TV on this morning. I’ve just watch the climbing of the Cioch on Skye, in the manner of Collie and Mackenzie, who pioneered the first route in 1906. (Coast on BBC2) I am in awe that anyone could venture on rock in such clothing and with nailed boots. This opened into an exploration into some of our climbing guidebooks. I can visualise many hours being filled in the future weeks exploring these guides and drifting into reliving memories and friendships.
Alongside the Scottish guides was an aged climbing guide to Malta. Ian and I ventured there after he came across a late 1940’s guide, that had been his uncle’s. It had instructions like “climb from the plane’s wheel to the Spitfire engine” – both humorous and sobering. I wish I could find that booklet. So many memories tied up on the book shelves … and some people wonder why I love books.
…. and I’m now watching a programme about a research plot of daffodils in the Brecon Beacons. (A to Z of TV Gardening on BBC2) A liquid is being extracted which can probably delay the development of Alzheimer’s. Amazing! Warning – do not liquidise your own daffs – this is being researched, trialed and prescribed under strict medical research conditions.
I’ve just made a discovery. I was enjoying my late breakfast/elevensees of apple and yoghurt and sprinkled some rice crisps on the yoghurt and it DIDN’T snap, crackle and pop! The things you can discover right here in the house.
It’s time to go out past the tulips and wallflowers to the rowing machine. Today I’m feeling mere energised, although my knee is playing up. I’m hoping to try to make up the distance that I missed out on yesterday. In my mind I’m heading along the shore, still on my way to Southampton Water. It’s a beautiful sunny day, so I’m hoping the going will be easier, provided that my volunteer cox and the fishing friend don’t slow me up too much. It is so good to get feedback from friends, who are reading this blog. Thanks. it raises my spirits and I hope this will raise yours.
Last night was a small celebration of friendship thanks to the delivery of a bottle of wine and a packet of ginger nuts. We were able to raise a glass to the absent friend.
However, today many things are beginning to feel like hard work.
Today is another beautiful warm sunny day, but my body just doesn’t want to work. I’m reminded of long expeditions. The first day is better than I could have imagined. Bouyed on by the adrenaline and the enthusiasm for engaging in a new adventure, my energy levels are high. The second day is even better. I have realised what I can do and engaging in the activity becomes a refreshing and reinforcing experience. I remember this being the case on the Marka Valley and Stok Kangri Trek and again on the Bowron Lake Chain Paddle. However, by the third day the reality begins to set in. The longevity of the expedition is clear. On the Bowron Lake Chain, it always seemed as though it didn’t matter on which side of the lake we chose to paddle. The wind was always blowing into our faces or the side at the bow. In the Marka Valley, the sun bounced off the rocks and we just couldn’t rehydrate adequately. Then comes the fourth day and the enormity of the task sets in. It is a case of one foot in front of the other, or head down and keep paddling. There is no let up. There is no escape. we are here for the duration . … and that’s how this virtual rowing machine expedition and the isolation is becoming. The muscles are beginning to ache and the tedium of doing tasks to fill the time void becomes clear.
I’m re-structuring my time. Today I will do the rowing in two phases. I’ll reorganise my working time – two writing sessions, one creative session, one house maintenance session and at least one session of sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee and of course a liberal coating of Factor 50 – I’ve had enough warnings over the last few years about the negative effects of too much sun on unprotected skin. In my mind, today I will be rowing past Hill Head and Titchfield Haven.
I have just read an article from Outward Bound about learning patience when we are in the outdoors. From my experiences, I have also learned perseverance, the fact that I can achieve more than initially I think possible, that I have reserves of energy and that I can commit to a task. I’m sure I’ve learned many other things that will reveal themselves as time passes. It is now time for a coffee. Another thing I have certainly learned is how to ration food and how to be inventive with food. So what will we eat tonight?
Last night, it dawned on me. There are probably at least another twelve weeks to go. That is over 80 days. While I quite enjoyed the first two days of isolation, I am realising that there are plenty more of these to come. Talking with friends on Zoom and just on the phone helped. I miss not getting a hug, or reading the emotions in their faces. It’s also good to get letters and emails, because these can be read and re-read. It has even felt that I might be saying goodbye to some people, who are ill. I am definitely saying farewell to a way of life, as attitudes, travel freedoms and materialism are challenged. Having the internet has helped and thanks to TA Loeffler for the contacts about the Banff Mountain Centre Film Festival , with the list of films, and her encouragement at my rowing machine “expedition”. I have achieved some things, but I am really going to have work at keeping myself motivated. I have managed to complete some work tasks that I had been putting off and I now know I need to do a few more days of planning, so that I don’t slump in front of the TV. So ACTION.
After my negative start as the realities begin to set in, I have changed the title of this blog to Corona Light. On the internet I saw a photo of the corona around a Brocken spectre. Where have the photos gone of that amazing Brocken spectre in Torridon? so that is another task – sort out those boxes of colour slides.
I must stay positive. It is good hearing children outside laughing and giggling … and then being called back inside to continue their home schooling …. even better ….. oooh I can be so mean! Our next door neighbour has contacted us to say to get in touch if we need anything. Another friend has dropped in porridge as our supplies were getting low (plus wine and ginger nut biscuits).
The rowing has helped to lift my spirits and in my mind I am off the shore at Lee on Solent. I have learned that I must be careful as to what I listen to on the radio, so as not to dampen my spirits.
There’s another bonus with the sun. Its has heated up the kitchen, so that we don’t need to turn on the heating until the evening. Now that is a bonus.