Jan
2014

Armchair Traveller

I’m sure many of us relate to the charm of being an Armchair Traveller

Sometimes when we can’t find the time or energy to get out, a good travel book can substitute for a real adventure. If we can’t get out far enough for an invigorating walk, it’s easy to be the Armchair Traveller, imagining all of the exotic and fantastic places we could visit, but perhaps never will!

Recently while strolling around Central London,  I  popped into Waterstones Piccadilly & saw a wide selection of books about walking.

One for my reading list is Ramble On The story of our love for walking Britain by Sinclair McKay, but I was disappointed with Will Self’s novel Walking to Hollywood.

I since discovered ‘Walking to Hollywood ‘was not a literal walk, but some kind of intellectual satire. I tried to read some of it, but the prose left me baffled. Having picked it up second hand it was no big deal to recycle it. Someone would get it. For me, it was too much to laboUr through the dense over intellectual text.  

Something I had waited for a long time was the new Donna Tart Novel. 

The Goldfinch 

Inside the cover, it has a beautiful cutting printed and pasted, it is a picture of a Goldfinch and sitting on a little bird table and has a very delicate gold chain tied around its ankle.

Donna tarts young character who has somehow acquired this original painting says of it.

When I looked at the painting, I felt the same convergence on a single point: a flickering sun-struck instant that existed now and forever. Only occasionally did I notice the chain on the finch’s ankle, or think what a cruel life for a little living creature fluttering briefly, forced always to land in the same hopeless place

It kills me that quote and I have to hope that the finch was only chained for the purpose of the painting and was then freed!  I have mentioned in other posts my hatred of cruelty to animals, and keeping birds in cages. It is akin to being a fit human being kept in a prison unable to leave.

Donna Tartt

Cover for The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch painting has now taken on a new lease of life. See below for more details.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-goldfinch-painting-drawing-crowds-since-donna-tartt-book-release/

Let us all try to spread our wings in 2014 and not be chained to outdated, compromised lives.

KEEPING ON WALKING

At present, I’m having a break from the canvassing work for Westminster Council. It is the sort of exercise I could do without. Walking around Belgravia knocking on doors, trying to fill in forms for the electoral register is a thankless task. The job is badly paid, and joyless.

 I am planning on researching some new walks. As always I will be taking some pics on my last two weeks around Belgravia and posting them.

I am awaiting news from a rambling friend out in Croatia at present. She made a lucky escape from the Storms and chaos of Christmas.

Hopefully, she can inspire me with her tales when she returns! I have never been on a walking holiday as such, but it’s something I would like to do.

Best Wishes and Happy New Year 2014

 

Julie

Secluded in the mews. Winter sun in Belgravia

 

 

 

 

Dec
2013

From Brixton to Belgravia

From Brixton to Belgravia – The contrast couldn’t be more different.

I am thrilled to say I have now finished the canvassing job for the electoral register in the Belgravia/Chelsea and Victoria area. I swear I was dazzled by the sun reflecting onto the whitewashed buildings.  At times I felt completely spaced out! Everywhere was so bright in the winter sun, especially in the mews all secluded and cosy, the mews were a real sun trap. Comparing Brixton to Belgravia may seem a futile exercise but I couldn’t help myself, I like to do that.

"There aint alf been some clever bastards" to quote Ian Dury!

“There aint alf been some clever bastards” to quote Ian Dury!

 

“Noel Coward was a charmer. / As a writer he was brahma. / Velvet jackets and pyjamas” Ian Dury

An area where Lords, actors, and a mixture of well to do people live; as well as their housekeepers, nannies, cleaners, & doorkeepers. The place is always busy and buzzing with:  builders, cabbies, chauffeurs, and delivery vans.

It has a very uniform feel to it, smart it is yes, clean yes it’s very clean, but it is a bit aloof, there’s nothing actually going on there, other than workers going into the houses to maintain the already perfect houses. Although dare I say, I did come across a few famous names in the area, but I’m not allowed to say who.!

We're secluded in the mews

We’re secluded in the mews

 

A frustrating job at times. Most of the time it was the housekeepers who answered the doors,

The job seemed pointless after a while and the pay was lousy, it hardly seemed worth the bother. Trying to get results was frustrating.  We are employed by Westminster Council to canvass the area, trying to find good folk at home who had ‘forgot’ to fill in their electoral register form! A t times it just seemed a futile and a doomed mission!

If they hadn’t put their name on the register already, in the main they were unlikely to answer the door to me to fill in the form.  

To console myself I consider that I’m at least walking about and getting some exercise, and I’m seeing something different 

Eaton Terrace

Eaton Terrace

 

All Done and Dusted

The evening proved to be worse than the day, struggling to see in the dark and getting no answers in Eaton Place! I almost threw the whole lot of paperwork and folders into the street.

White Washed Belgravia

White Washed Belgravia

 

Continue reading

Nov
2013

Wild

The Wild years

I mentioned in my last two blogs that I was reading the story of Cheryl Strayed. In her book,Wild she describes herself asThe woman with the hole in her heart”  She managed to endure a 1100 mile journey on foot from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border, alongside California known as the Pacific Crest Trail .

AFTER THE RAIN comes the sun.

SUN COMING THROUGH CLOUD was taken on my recent coastal walk near Torquay, Devon.

 

A different type of Wild

I feel like my wild years are behind me now but there is still something of the rebel in me that wants to steer off into the wilderness. My wild years were lived out on the streets of London and before that Newcastle Upon Tyne. Punk Rock and squats.

There was an innocence to it all and I remember giving up a boring job, I had worked in for less than a year. I was working for Lambeth Libraries in London; but desperately  wanted  to go to New York , where I believed all possibilities existed, as I did when I ran to London aged 17.

When I was in New York, after a few weeks I was running out of money and my return ticket was valid for one month.

 I advertised my plane ticket for sale in the hostel I was staying at, known fondly by the locals as ‘The White House’ ; in the hope of having enough money to go to L.A.   It was not to be, I took a volunteer job in New Jersey in a campsite for abused children ran by what I considered at the time to be Religious Weirdos.

It wasn’t for me.  I had to get out of there and go back to NYC. I could not sell my ticket and returned to London and formed a band.

 

Ever since that trip, I never did manage to do anything adventureous in terms of travel anyway.

I came back and started a band, and that led to some fun and misadventures. At 30 I opted to take a degree as a amature student despite having no formal qualifications. Part of that did lead me to living in Galway for three months, which was very intersting.

 

 

Next episode coming soon.

Oct
2013

Walking the PCT

Walking the PCT comes with many ups and downs.

 

Last post I talked about the book Wild and what motivated the author to think about walking the PCT.  Her story interests me enough to want to write more about her adventure.

You might think it will be full of the right on hippies and happy campers! Eventually, you will come across two types of people; those you like and make your life feel better and those who make your life worse and you cannot possibly like.

Walking anywhere or not necessarily walking but in life, there are people who make life worth living and those who seem to make life difficult for us. Going off walking the PCT, I guess you might hope to find, happy, outgoing, people, but like anywhere there are arseholes on the roam!

 

 

 

 

Take a walk on the wild side

 

You either pay or you leave.

Whilst hitching a lift on a slight detour from The PCT route a campsite exists, she reckons a free nights camping is on the cards, before getting back on track. It is dark late at night, & she hasn’t any money her much-longed-for parcel hadn’t arrived at the last drop off post.

  On the trail, there are points where you can pick up post, have a shower, make contact with other humans.

At times like this, you can only hope for human kindness.

Unfortunately, she comes across a mean couple who were monitoring the grounds and wouldn’t let her have a free pitch up for the night – despite it being a virtually empty campsite.

 

If a woman alone is hiking you would think they would have at least some comprehension of her plight.  

They could have made some sort of deal, – you know, wash the dishes!, send us a cheque later.  There you go, even in these types of places, you get Mr. and Mrs. Jobsworth, where a rule is a rule is a rule mam, and don’t you forget it.

 

Cheryl strayed is nothing if not resilient.

She survives and moves on in the dark fumbling about. It only proves her strength of character. At a further point walking she meets 2 ‘bow ‘hunters’ i.e. dehydrated dumb asses!  They were asking her for water. She does the ‘filter trick ‘for them for them using their Pepsi cans. This involves the muddy water into the can (the wells are dry and they have been walking for some 20 odd miles in intense heat) into it then the iodine pills, this process takes about 30 minutes to filter and turn into something drinkable.

Although grateful, they were like typical rednecks leering at her and making suggestive comments about her being out there alone and how they wouldn’t let the girlfriend do that.!? 

She did get a bit scared at this point, & made her excuses saying she was going to hike a bit further. Although she was terribly exhausted and wanted to sleep. She didn’t even get to put her tent up. She had laid out on her tarp and the two men later came over, to annoy her.

 “I thought you were moving on you tricked us, you changed your clothes! I like your pants, etc.. She philosophically concluded that they were just creeps and eventually she left, shoved her tent into the monster (her massive rucksack) walked then ran…..!

 

Reading Maps

I must admit as I was trying to figure out the actual distances she was walking. In my virtual journey on google maps, I ended up somewhere around Alaska where there are places such as Desolate Bay! (Sounds like a Bob Dylan song!)  It was scary just seeing it and I instantly felt frozen.

Imagine whirled peas!  Has there ever been a serial killer who imagined whirled peas?

Luckily she meets a few more hippy types and comes across a driver with a sticker on his car stating. “Imagine whirled peas “A car sticker that states Imagine whirled peas, has to be a phrase a good person might stick in their car window! (Apparently they are a band)

Then still on a lucky streak finds a few Mexicans who see her as a Nature Warrior; a Swiss woman who wants to massage her feet in peppermint oil and sees her as some kind of spiritual pilgrim & tells her “the spirits told me to massage your feet”!!!!

Some people can be lifesavers! Others can wish you hadn’t been born. 

I am looking forward to getting dirty boots again! In the meantime, I’m looking for a winter walk as I haven’t been on a proper ramble walk for a long time now.

In the meantime…

Continue reading

Sep
2013

A walk on the wild side

This is the real walk on the wild side. it is a great read for anyone interested in travel or adventure.

The trial is a continuous wilderness stretching from the Mexican border in California to just beyond the Canadian border- along the crest of the Nine Mountain range. To walk on the wild side as Lou Reed sang is to break free from convention. It’s not just wildflowers and a pretty picnic, this is leaving everything behind and making new beginnings. I have always admired people who can do this. Her quest came from pain, but that’s often the energy needed to break free.

 Walking With The Beast 

Turning her idea into a reality She Started at a Motel a dozen mile from the start of Pacific Crest Trail with a newly required rucksack.

PCT ROUTE

 

THE SACK MONSTER.

A sizable burden far outweighing that of her contemporary males she met up with at various stop of points. Cheryl Strayed was a practical person, she has her iodine pills and a copy of the Pacific Crest Trail Volume 1 (California) to name a few of the many items in the sack monster.

Newly discovered to me I was to realise during reading her story that The PCT is a popular trail in California. 

 

Her drive and determination to’ do the PCT’ was that at 22 years old her mother died aged 47. A painfully prolonged death in which the author was the main carer.  

About the vastness & discoveries during her journey she says.

I hadn’t expected it to rain in the desert and certainly hadn’t expected it to snow. As with the mountains, there had been no deserts where I grew up. I didn’t really understand what deserts were. I’d taken them to be dry, hot and sandy places full of snakes, scorpions and cactuses. They were layered and complex inexplicable and analogous to nothing. My new existence was beyond analogy, I realized on the second day of the trial I was in entirely new terrain.

 

I love her description, it says it all.  There is something very hopeful about that especially under the circumstances that have almost forced her to make the journey; the death of her mother, a recent divorce followed by messy affairs and dabbling with drugs. She has left all of that behind her, with a great vastness and possibility in front of her. Despite the drama of her huge walk, there is always the ordinary tedium, monotony and crass people to deal with.  

There is still always reassuringly, serious shit and assholes.

Life is rarely too good for too long! She certainly is not pessimistic nor overly optimistic, but a realist and has to be to do a walk like this. It is an inspiring read

No water in the Tank.

She is running out of water when the heat is 101 degrees in the shade. With 14 miles to the water tank, she reaches it only to see a sign saying, no water in the tank.

 With five miles yet to go to the reservoir it turns out to contain undrinkable water. It is a murky pond grey and as warm as blood, this is where her iodine tablets come in handy. She dissolves them into the murky warm pond grey water into the water in her bottle. The water was dense with sludge she took out her iodine pills desperately thirsty. She drank 1 bottle down,

Warm water tasted like iron and mud, yet seldom have I tasted anything so amazing.

She then fell asleep too tired to put up her tent and woke up with hundreds of small cool black frogs over her body.

 

Until next time

RIP Lou Reed … (Walk on the Wild Side…)  I have just found out at the time of writing, that Lou Reed has passed away.

 

For more blogs about being wild try : Walking With The Beast