Writing again

I think it’s time to start writing again. I really struggled last year to keep the blog going and it’s taken me quite a while to work out what was wrong. I think I finally understand what has been going on and how to fix it. Fix it for me that is. It might not be quite so interesting for anybody coming along to read this but we will see.

The blog started as a record of our bicycle trip around Britain but in the end it became a bit of a monster. I was quite taken aback by the positive response to some of the posts I put up and I suppose, if I am honest, the tail began to wag the dog. I thrived on the feedback and as the journey progressed I think my writing got more ambitious and I received some very flattering comments. It was only once we got back and I struggled for material to write about that I lost confidence and the posts became first erratic and eventually dried up completely. Now, finally, I understand what went wrong. I had become hooked on the comments and feedback and I was writing for the attention rather than the pleasure. Without any interesting subject matter I felt that what I wrote would be boring, people would stop reading it and then I would feel like a failure so there was no point in writing. It has taken me over a year to realise that I need to go back to writing because I like writing and if people find it entertaining then that’s a bonus, not a reason to write.

Strangely, something similar happened with the cycling. Last spring Gill and I started to go out on our bikes again but it took us a while to work out that we were only doing it because it was expected of us, not because we wanted to do it. It’s such an easy trap to fall into, making other people’s expectations the reason for doing things rather than the reaction to doing them. Gill has since got back on her bike because she wanted to. I am still waiting for the urge to return.

I’m going to try and write something every day this year and see how it develops. It does mean, of course, that if you do keep coming back to read this you will probably find it quite boring. Sorry, that’s the way it has to be I’m afraid. It may be that once in a while I will produce something that other people want to read but I will understand if you have given up on me by then. I myself have given up on a lot of bloggers over the course of this last year so I can hardly complain can I? I’m also going to stop publicising the blog posts and leave it to chance whether people stumble upon them or not. I’m trying really hard to convince myself that I’m doing it for me, not you. Who am I trying to kid? I know.

Well that’s it, all I have to do now is think of something to write about tomorrow.


Cycling with friends

When I was fourteen I attended a Catholic youth club run by the local church. The parish priest, whose name sadly escapes me, was one of those rare adults that could reach out and connect very directly with young people. He introduced me to fell walking, and more specifically, to the glories of the Lake District which is one reason I am sad that I can’t recall his name. Another reason is that he influenced my thinking quite profoundly on a number of topics. One of them was friendship. We used to have this discussion group that met at the youth club to talk about all manner of moral and Christian values. One particular week he led us all blindly down a false trail by asking us one by one how many friends we had. The answers ranged from about ten to fifty (fifty was probably claimed by the unfathomably pretty blonde girl that I was obsessing about at the time). Of course we had all fallen into his trap and he went on to explain the difference between casual friends and true friends. He pointed out that anybody who could claim more than a couple of true friends was rich beyond measure. Of course, he also didn’t know that Facebook would change the whole discussion. 

We were very young and hadn’t even had time to make what are often called lifelong friends and I am not in touch with a single one of those ‘friends’ from that period. (No, I never did date that blonde). Now, with all my many years of experience I can count comfortably on one hand my close friends, and as for friends that would drop everything and come running should I need them then it is probably even fewer. That’s OK, I think we need a balance of true soul mates, friends and acquaintances to juggle with in our busy lives. Cycling, amongst other things, has brought me all three.

Yesterday I had a great ride with friends, some of whom I see very regularly and some not so often. The fact that the frequency at which we meet seems not to make a jot of difference to the amount of pleasure I get from being with them is important. You know a friend is really special when it makes no difference at all that you haven’t seen them for months or even years. When you can just carry on exactly where you left off after so long apart is a great indicator of the depth of the friendship in my experience.

I recently thought I might have lost a very special friend for good. It turned out to be a simple misunderstanding and failure of communication and I am delighted that we have cleared it up. I know that after not seeing each other for more than two years, when we do get together again it will seem like five minutes since the last time. There will be a great deal of silliness and unhealthy quantities of ale and red wine will no doubt be involved. Oh, and maybe a hug or too. She’s good at hugs.

Best of friends

Best of friends

Which finally brings me around to why I started this post. You see our round Britain cycling trip is having an amazing tendency to get us back in touch with old friends, to bring us together with current ones and to start the process of making new ones. This weekend we are making the journey to Gloucester to make sure we see members of Gill’s family before we set off and next weekend we are getting together with all our local friends for a bit of a do to send us off. On our route around the coast we plan to meet up with friends, some of which I won’t have seen for thirty years and also to liaise with at least one person who I have only ‘met’ through social media. When we get back from our travels, friends have even kindly offered us living space while we find our feet once more. It all feels wonderfully enriching. There is something about the nature of what we are doing that seems to draw people in. The sense that they want to be a part of it is heart warming and very special. By the end of all this Gill and I could have hundreds of new friends. So eat your heart out blondie!

I feel very rich at the moment.

P.S. Phone that friend that you have been meaning to for the last few weeks, months or years. Go on, do it now.


To blog or not to blog? Daft question now really.

My wife Gill and I plan to do a long cycle tour around Britain next year. Whenever we mention it to anybody, friends and family in particular, once we get beyond the “why’s” and “are you mad’s” type of responses the next one is more often than not, “will you be writing a blog?”.  (Oh and not forgetting, “what charity are you doing it for?” We are doing it because we want to and for no other reason. We don’t want it to become a fundraising ‘event’ so we are still undecided on the subject.)  My standard response to the blog question is usually something along the lines of I am writing it just because we want a record to look back on in our old age. Well that’s rubbish isn’t it? If we just need a record then I could keep a diary, digital or otherwise so the real reason for publishing a blog has got to be the vain hope that people will read it, and hopefully like it. We all like praise and I’m no exception. Then comes the creeping doubt. What if nobody reads it? Or worse still, what if loads of people read it and they all think its crap. I can’t hide behind the idea that I’m not bothered; because it’s just for our own amusement. Once made public the cat is somewhat out of the bag is it not?

So I’m going to write a blog of our trip. I hope lots of people will follow our progress through the blog, make nice comments on it and generally enjoy it and find it entertaining. And if they don’t?  Well, I’ll just have to man up and deal with it won’t I? That’s if I don’t get fed up and pack it in after the first week. Oh God, I hadn’t even thought of that until now.

I should also mention that I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing so hopefully it should all eventually make sense once I learn how to drive it.

So the decision is made and I’ve now got six months to practice blogging before we leave. Better get started then ……………