On Your Bike!

General cycling

I was out on my bike this morning intending just to enjoy a little summer sunshine. As I was cycling along that breath of wellbeing suffused my soul. Cycling is simple, just turn the pedals and enjoy the countryside.

I had been doing moderately well as I climbed hills and dashed down dales. This was what cycling was invented for, getting back to ones youth and enjoying the exceedingly simple pleasures of life. Not wishing to put a dampner on things, I decided not to consult my Strava. Although an excellent tool for checking ones output, it can instil a little too much internal competition and turn a good ride into a painful one. Nevertheless, when I came to a particularly challenging climb I put the hammer down significantly more than I had done for some time.

The results were good.

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The little yellow medals there are personal bests. How very, very sad for me to worry about that set of insignificant achievements.

This form of exercise has played a major part in my recovery from burnout. I recommend it. 

 

Food For Thoughts…

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Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.

Anthony Bourdain
Big decisions had to be made and I was not the man to make them. I was waking up to another morning of completing a profoundly profound post and then moving into a contemplation of my life from that moment on. It was set to be a long day conversing with myself.

Before I started my arduous toil, a cup of coffee was needed. Coffee, unlike tea, is not a domesticated drink. It is a drink to be consumed in public, amongst others who share the same addiction. My favourite place to upload caffeine is a cycle themed cafe, Cafe Velo.

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The coffee is sublime and there are cycle magazines in abundance. In the last week however, my choice of venue has received an unwanted complication. I visited another coffee shop, one that served amazing almond croissants as a morning freebie. It is unfortunately part of a chain, but I have been there.

I was in the midst of this internal dilemma when I saw myself in the mirror. My hair was wayward, suggesting that there was still some madness within. A shower was in order. Yesterday, I shaved and I had already completed any other toilet tasks earlier, so it was just a shower. The random mayhem of the night’s sojourn would soon be mended.

On my way into the bedroom, I noticed my phone sitting on the bedside table. As I went to uplug the charger, it lit up. The phone was on silent and it was not set to vibrate. There was a certain fortune about this as it would certainly have gone unheeded if I hadn’t noticed my lunatic follicles.

Unwanted phone calls have been plaguing my life recently. There are a number of companies who have my number. They hand it out to any trainee cold-caller who happens not to be able to get a job, and have declined the golden mitt of teaching, so call unknowns up to try to sell them things. There are tribes of these telephone tormentors in Glasgow, Manchester, and London. The ones from the Indian sub-continent, with spurious names such as Grant or Mitch, have fallen off the map of late. Anyway, I checked the number and recognised it to be local. It may have been that the tribes had invaded my region, but I sacrificed due caution for curiosity (the cat was safely out of doors at this point).

“Is that Mike, Mike Evans?”

“Speaking.”

“Could you possibly do a day’s supply work?”

“Yes. Where?” I was a little too enthusiastic for my own liking.”

“Could you do Darfield?”

“No, that’s one of the places I said that I would not do.” Darfield had been the place where my pot finally boiled over.

“Could you do Polaris?”

State controlled private schools seemed to be involved in a competition to have the most stupid of names. Polaris was a set of officially ‘Good’ academies. It did a half decent job of educating the offspring of an economically, and culturally, deprived area. I had spent almost six months there until the person I was covering for annoyingly reappeared.

“Yes, I’ll do it.” Again that overly enthusiastic tone.

“Good. Get there as soon as you can.”

I bounced in the shower, brushed my teeth, ironed a shirt, said goodbye to my bemused middle daughter (but wasn’t that the place you left on Monday?), patted the cat for good luck, took the car to the petrol station, bought a cheap sandwich and drove to the north star.

It was with a happy indifference that I walked into the reception to find that my details were still on the clocking-in system (data protection error) and received my lanyard, class lists, and temporary timetable.

It was with well acquainted irony that I discovered that my first class of the day was maths, but with a number of students who were collectively my least favourite.

It all added up; I didn’t particularly like maths, I didn’t particularly like a number of  those students, but I also didn’t like the prospect of sitting with my own company trying to reach a difficult decision.

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Life had become a smorgasbord of indifferent delights.

In memory of Anthony Bourdain

 

 

Awake And Wake Again…

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I am still here. Again, I open my eyes onto a world that remains in place. The night has only brought dreams; no resolutions. 

There is a chill in the air. It is summer and yet it wants to be something else. I wrap myself in the promise of tea and descend the stairs.

Mornings have become this. They have become times of acceptance and resignation. This is how it will be for each of my days in which I wake. There is no world out there that offers sunshine. Only slate grey skies await.

Still, I rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Maya Angelou

In evangelical mode, I rose from sleep this morning. The dream that had played upon my  sleeping self had been about betrayal. One person after another person turned their backs upon me even though they saw what the world had done. I wasn’t begging nor pleading, I was only continuing with my grey dawns. And yet somehow they had me down as a charlatan and a fraud. Face after face, friend after friend, family after family, all turned away.

Shunned. I was being shunned.

Somebody had been planting the seeds of doubt around my home. Somebody had been turning the earth, refreshing the soil for another plague of locusts. And they were coming, as true as the slate grey skies would come. But this time, the skies would be grey and clamorous with the multitudinous beating of their wings. And when the blighted crops would raise themselves, deformed and devoid of hope, the plague would descend and devour them.

In my dreaming self, I walked towards the sower who was turned against me. My arrival brought him to slow his activities. He would not turn, but I knew it to be my father.

I woke. 

My father is long dead now. I believe that he wouldn’t betray me, but something has. Each day when my eyes open to greet a new world, the old one smirks back at me. Each time I allow the seeds of hope to fill my palms, they shrivel and die.

When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)

Its heart sinks lower under the sod.

But something has to be left to God.

Robert Frost

 

Yet, still I rise. I rise every morning because that Is what I have always done. I rise to the promise of sunshine even when only the grey of the world awaits. I will rise, not for my mug of tea, but for the chance of something better. I will not bother God or any other deity with my concerns, but I will rise.

And there I go, all preachy and full of promise. The world awaits to knock the shine out of my hope. Yet, still I sit here at my desk and write the words I now cannot say. In a darkened room, all alone, I may whisper them so as not to be overheard. I may be cursed with bad luck, the worst kind, but still I rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Maya Angelou

Whoever that cloaked character was, it was not my father. It was doubt dressed as man. Me dressed as doubt. When it has all betrayed me, I will rise. I will rise every mother fucking grey day and I will go about my business of keeping the flame alive.

I need to rise each morning and feel that, for that day, there will be some sunshine, some rain, some life-affirming pain.

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And whatever curse I may have dreamt about was just that…a dream.

 

The Place Where Time Goes…

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Eighteen years ago, my middle daughter was born. It was a momentous day and the sun was shining as if in confirmation. 

She was born sometime in the early evening after delaying her entry to the world, in the way a seasoned performer delays their re-entrences on stage to garner the applause of a grateful audience. If our eldest daughter had remained inside the comfort of her mother’s womb for a decent amount of time, after the designated kick-off hour, the middle one set about beating that record; and she did.

Her eldest sibling could not wait to see her freshly grown baby sister. Her anticipation had been simmering towards fevered excitement and by the time we brought the little one back from the hospital, we expected an eruption of joy. What we got instead was a sudden realisation that her place within the family had been usurped by this pink staring thing that didn’t even make baby noises. Our middle daughter was so unlike our eldest one as she did not scream or yowl at the passing world every single minute of the day.

No, our new daughter remained wide-eyed and apparently zen-like in her appreciation of her newly-found state.

Time flies. It moves with invisible wings across the span of our lives; and then beyond. Now that she is eighteen, she has reached the first stage of being an adult. I think that that means being somebody who is really still a child but is made to pretend otherwise. She is treading into this territory by spending the day revising for her A Levels. Only in the evening will she allow herself to relax, kick-back, and enjoy the moment.

To A Daughter Leaving Home by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.

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 Happy Birthday, Kate!

x x x

Being Creative On Sunday Morning…

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Or Going For A Bike Ride…

 

Being an individual in a culture that prizes the group over all else is difficult. There have been times when I thought it to be impossible. Even so, I pulled away from the general gravity and tried to free-step into a space where few had gone before. A little Captain Tiberius Kirk, eh? But it is true. It seems that all of my basic philosophy has been completed by mainstream writers. Surely, that does not make me an individual. What it makes me is a ‘sucker’ or a dreamer. Perhaps that is it, I am a dreamer and always have been. I have also built.

I think that I am a ‘creative’. That means something to me because it tells me that I do belong, but I belong to a small tribe of strange individuals who rarely meet. The thing with being a ‘creative’ is that you do create, but you follow a very different path to that taken by others.

Creativity is very messy.

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

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Taken from:

THE MESSY MINDS OF CREATIVE PEOPLE

By Scott Barry Kaufman

This is a little like mine but there are some subtle differences. When I was young,  loved the challenge of creating something new. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time thinking about it and then forgot to apply myself properly to the finished product. My processes went something like this:

 

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This:

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Somehow, knowing that I was who I was, right from the off, has made my decisions for me. I am a fish that finds it impossible to swim backwards. I didn’t chose the road-less traveled-by, it chose me.

 

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I knew I was licked before I started, but I did it anyway. 

 

 

Hull And High Water

“the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

“events as yet unseen”

He had been shaken from sleep by a hand belonging to some thing that he could not comprehend. The hand had come at the end of a particularly tempestuous week with the warmth of new hope being chased by the storms rising up from the ground. Now he wandered on the keyboard of his life, choosing words that might describe the things that he may have seen.

The pre-deluvian world was coming to a close. He had not considered this as he started out upon his journey at the start of the week. For him, the clouds had parted and a languid ray of acceptance had thrown down his path. Some inner voice had whispered that his struggle was done, that it was time for him to put down the sword, or the pen, and just live.

And, in that moment, he was content.

He had carried the bundle of content to the place of learning. The content was wrapped up into a tight roll on the back of his bike as the sun arose. He cycled surely yet found time to appreciate the little things that nature had thrown into the fields along the way that he went. “Enjoy the little things,” the voice had whispered and he was even more content. It was only when the great road arrived with the faces of those inside that he took another moment to consider. Yet he, and his roll of content, found shared warmth.

In this manner, he navigated the first of the week’s days. The day of the moon was the day of the sun. For others, Monday was not so fair; tragedy had been visiting in its randomised reasoning and its victims bore the marks of its unwanted gifts. He tried to keep his roll of content to himself as to show it around could have been to invite envy or worse.

“Chairo,” the voice had whispered, “chairo.”

It was all Greek and his tongue did not stretch to it. Yet upon tasting the word, he rejoiced. He had reached the place of contentment and it had been with him all along.

“Chairo,” he sang as his peddles turned for his homeward journey. There was some sunshine within him, some cloud too, some warmth, and some cold.

Chairo. 

When he reached home, he stabled the bike and set about creating a feast for the family. He searched and searched the kitchen, the pantry and the cupboards until he realised that all the food had been eaten. He searched the house for signs of any of the three bears that may have wandered in, but none were to be found. The only thing left for the ‘feast’ were eggs. He counted them and was content that a meal could ensue.

Chairo!

That night, he slept with contentment. All the house slept. And the following morning rose with another sun. His wife and he were exhausted from deep repose and they questioned the reason over morning tea.

When time came for his daily journey to begin, he again brought the bike from the stables. He set off with a hummed tune that was to slowly disappear before he reached the gates of learning. During the day, he did not need to do battle with his wards who appeared to have tired of the struggle. Once again, he was content. But it was at that moment, that he realised with cold concern that he had left his tight roll on the bed that he had risen from.

“Chairo,” I said with more than a little caution.

Then the afternoon arrived and with it came a message. In those days they were called emails rather than the voice of God. The email promised much but was blackened when it reached his heart. He was to be tested for his ability to perform the tasks that he had performed so well for so long.

Chairo was the furthest thing from my mind.

The night, his displeasure oozed from him like liquid from a wound. He did not sleep well having used poor words to speak to his wife. She also shared his cobbled rest.

The next morning he left the bike in the stables and used the car. He took a cloud into the staffroom to share with the people there. He had fallen from a false state and was being punished for his carelessness.

Still with anger at his previous night’s work, his wife accepted apologies and gifted him with another email. It was the words that he had been waiting for, but thought that he would now never receive.

Chairo! Another place of learning in another kingdom wished to speak to him. All was well.

It was later in the afternoon that he discovered a plot by one member of my school to unsettle him. False words, wrong insinuations, damning connotations about his teaching.

He had little time to build an ark, but build it he would.  

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Chairo…