Monday, 28 September 2015

...Like riding a bike

The exhilaration I feel when out and about on two wheels is hard to describe without sounding gushy.  At times, I fear I may even sound evangelical.  That said, I'm going to risk gushing evangelically and share (yet) another bicycling anecdote...

I did not conceal my excitement at being invited to take to the roads of Kent on a Sunday morning.

The autumn sunshine greeted us.  Whilst it couldn't be described as warm, our meeting point coffees certainly were.  We were off to a good start before we left.

The roads were pleasantly quiet, save for a few hurried drivers (presumably making their way to morning service).  I knew not the route ahead of us, but was given ample warning of the sticky climbs and one 'rather naff' descent.

For all my evangelising, the only action this bike has seen in over two years has been to be moved from one hallway to stand wistfully in a sitting room - only to return, rather unceremoniously, to inhabit another drafty hallway, where she has been climbing the wall for at least 6 months (hanging from a hook installed by a sympathetic neighbour who understood the poor machine's plight, and even made me an offer for her).

I quickly found my legs.  And my gears.  Who knew clearing the cobwebs could be such fun?  It was never going to be anything but brilliant:  I was out on my road bike with Charlotte as my guide.

She was on great form.  Judiciously setting a steady pace, she accommodated my tortoise like progress beautifully, ushering me along and delivering much needed encouragement at just the right moments.

Our pitstop was entirely my call.  We had ascended for what felt like (and possibly was a few) miles, and there was a stunning view to take in.  I chose our vantage point, a perfectly situated hostelry in which we were met with smiling service and delicious refreshment.  I needed to sit on something more generous than my saddle.

We were accompanied home with a headwind, but there was no wiping the smile off my space.  36 miles under our belts, and I was one seriously happy tortoise! 

Whilst Carboplatin's contributions to our little outing are not to be forgotten, it was Charlotte's inimitable spirit that I could not ignore as she merrily sailed up the hills just ahead of me, my dearest friend and formidable athlete, leading the way.  

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mindfulness for Missing

I was delighted to be asked to prepare and deliver a 'taster' of mindfulness at a recent Family Forum hosted by the charity Missing People.

If we can deeply understand the power of the mind; 
how we can both injure and benefit this world,
we see how practice is not a luxury, but an imperative.  
It returns us to ourselves, to our sanity, to our true capacity.
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold

I have yet to attend an event organised by Missing People from which I depart feeling anything other than very deeply moved.  Being in the presence of those left behind when a loved one has disappeared is a difficult pleasure.  

It is difficult in that it challenges me from the inside out.  Despite having been heavily involved in the development of the work the organisation does with families of missing persons in recent years, I have yet to develop any immunity from the shock that reverberates somewhere deep within me, as I contemplate what it means to find yourself living in limbo.

I am alive to the anguish this entails, but cannot say I comprehend its vastness.  It is a language in which I have developed a modicum of proficiency.  I have been helped in this feat in no small measure by the service users with whom I have come into contact.  Their fluency is all too real.

There are too few of us who, as professionals, speak the language of missing.  As a therapeutic issue, unresolved loss inevitably throws up more questions than it answers.  It is a bleak and inhospitable landscape, but one made all the more bearable when not journeyed through alone.

The workshop felt to be a testament to the thinking we have done about the benefits mindfulness based approaches offer to those who find themselves plunged into the dark depths of missing someone whose whereabouts they do not, and may never, know.

Sometimes, when one person is missing, 
the whole world seems depopulated.
Alphonse de Lamartine

Sunday, 20 September 2015


Another swim inspired post...  Swimming:  it shifts my mood like nothing else.  And only for the better.  It is the best mood enhancer I know. 

I have resolved to continue swimming outdoors as long as possible.  I am still without wetsuit.  Much to the confusion and concern of those that never remove theirs.  Mine, I have decided, is to be kept for when the temperature drops to single figures.  It was a lovely 13.5° today.  Fresh, but not yet cold.  The sunshine helps.

Sunshine always helps.  But, from the water, there is so much more sky to behold.  It is the expansive sky that shifts and lifts my mood, and allows my soul to soar.  

Staying indoors when I could be in the pool achieves very little.  Opportunity presents itself, and asks to be taken.  Hence the renewed resolve.  Bring on the cooler weather, the leaves, and the endorphins!

 You may be whatever you resolve to be.
Stonewall Jackson

Sunday, 13 September 2015

AMICI: Amazing Grace

It was quite the highlight of my weekend.  I had been looking forward to the evening since Charlotte booked our tickets.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  So I expected nothing, and looked forward with tremendous anticipation nonetheless.  Expectations are rarely helpful.

The performance was like nothing I have seen before.  It was beautiful.  It was harrowing.  It made me think.  It forced me to feel.  It challenged me.  It humbled me.  It reminded me what a privilege it is to be alive.  

Their wonderful show was about difference.  And it was about commonality.  There in front of us were a cast united in their mission.  They entertained us.  But they did so much more besides.  They invited us to look beyond physical ability.  And there it was.  Talent in abundance.

Each one of us is so much more than a physical being.  And that was what I was reminded of by Amici.  In their humanity they made magic.  In their embodiment of aliveness they prompted me to rethink my values, and my priorities.

Their movements encouraged a subtle yet profound movement within me.  Today I recognise that that movement was an alteration in my attitude.  A shift in my perspective.  A dose of gratitude. 

I am alive.  This is a privilege.  Not a right.  I have mobility.  When I think about what this means to me, I can choose to celebrate it.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The affair

I felt a pang of guilt as I turned my back on her and left home today.  Off we went, me and my new love.  Three and a half years ago, I blogged about getting out and about on my trusty single speed.

She has been a stalwart.  And yet, I came to the decision not so long ago, that it was time for a change.  She has not been replaced.  But today she was substituted.  It's good to mix it up...  Right?

Someone once asked me whether I knew the answer to the all important question.  The question that plagues the mind of an enthusiast contemplating an expansion of the collection.  How many bikes does one need?  The answer is, of course, N+1.

I am the proud owner of a(nother) pair of wheels that truly suit my commute.  I have joined the Fold.  I have become a Bromptonite.

Bigger is not necessarily better.  My new wheels fill me with joy.  I cannot remember enjoying my journey to or from work as much on any other steed.

My new bicycle has a bell!  I could not resist greeting-ting-ting my fellow Brompton riders.  On my journey home I sported a great big grin, and everyone else on a Brompton smiled back, knowingly - we have something to grin about!