Monday, 20 January 2014

The World is your Lobster!

As I look out at the January landscape, the sky white/grey upon which the contrast of dark twigs and branches is stark with clarity, I am enthused with the potential of the world. I may be sat at my desk amongst grey corporate uniformity but it is warm and dry and I am not breaking my back to earn enough to live a meagre existence. I can see the world out there and feel what it might have to offer. My mind can roam about freely there, even if I am physically stuck at a desk in my office.
When the life I am forced to inhabit gets too dull and lacklustre, I just think about driving off into the world in my van and suddenly everything seems a lot more exciting.
There are beaches to walk along and woods to explore, fires to be lit, clay ovens to build and fire up. There are welders and glue-guns and self-adhesive velcro. There is wood and fabric and metal to make things from.  There are friends old, new and yet to be discovered with which the world can be explored and there is food to share and enjoy, bread to bake and beer to brew, dancing to be done! Spring is coming and vegetable seeds need to be sown. And there are songs to learn for thrashing out on the guitar or banjo round camp fires.
How splendid is modern life here without plague or barbarians or famine! How full the possibilities for fulfillment. There is no time to waste! Ok, there is the tiresome problem of having to earn a living and there is some minimal level of housework to be done. And when children are younger and more in need of supervision, that can be a limitation. But a magnifying glass and  book describing local insects can provide quite the basis for an adventure. Or some sticks and string to make bows and arrows.
I didn't used to like Winter. I seemed to be the time when real life had to close down as we hibernated in front of the telly. Well, last weekend, I decided to ignore the temperatures and head down to Exmoor in my van. I have a wonderful new thing called a  Frontier Stove which is a small portable woodburner on legs that packs up about the size of  a small holdall such as one might take to the gym with your daps in.
My Frontier Stove. Portable heat for cooking and comfort. And You don't end up smelling like a kipper on account of the long chimney
Ok it was about minus five degrees by bedtime. But the fire gave out some lovely heat and with a few layers of warm clothing, it was quite bearable. Fun even. 
Now, I understand that some people would find this a dreadful proposition: Sitting outside in the Great Outdoors in January in sub-zero temperatures WITH NO TELLY! But actually, that was precisely it's allure for me. It was an adventure! Somewhere I had never explored. Somewhere beautiful, where little tracks headed off into woods to who-knows-where! How can a night in by the telly even compare with that?

At other times, I feel drawn to the city. My home town of Bristol, with all its maritime heritage, has been developed with great thought and inventiveness.
The view from Mud Dock Cafe at Bristol waterside where I had the best burger of my entire life amongst a profusion of interesting bicycles
It really is a lovely city to visit now. As with all major cities, there is culture on offer. The city has a buzz underneath its bustle. Stop and perhaps you may hear it. It is the hum of people doing stuff. Some nights I go to a small hall or sometimes a dark, poky cellar bar,and dance tango with a group of like minded people. It gets me out of the house.
Dancing is much better than telly! Even with HD and surround sound. 
 And sometimes I stay at home. But sitting still isn't my thing so I find myself often in the kitchen. Recently, I did a bread making course with the splendid Clive from Shipton Mill. I have to say I learned some astonishing and dismaying things about the bread-making industry (like the way they add gluten to bread to improve its structure because they need it to rise quickly for productivity reasons so they put too much yeast in it which makes the structure all wrong. Dreadful!). Now, I make so much bread that I barely have to put the central heating on, such is the heat from the oven. 
I made all this bread, Making bread is cathartic. I have to say, the Chelsea buns were gorgeous beyond even my powers to describe. The secret is lots of butter and loads of dried fruit: But no candied peel because candied peel is Satan's droppings.

Making beer is existentially satisfying. Drinking it, even more so.
And beer. I make a lot of beer. Which is quite an involved process but seems to make one very popular. I may describe the process in another post because it is actually quite fascinating. But you don't have to read that one if you don't want to. Or this one in fact.

So, I suppose what I am saying is that we live in an age where the opportunity to do and see amazing things is all around us as never before. The allure of inertia - to sit in the warm comfort of our arm chairs and be entertained by electronic media - can be overwhelming. But look! Look! the world is full of opportunity. Time passes and routine can be reassuring. But how many days are there passed in stultifying unremarkability? That's your life passing by that is! 
The days and weeks will pass anyway. It seems better to punctuate them with little points of light and memories that make you smile. Do stuff that makes you alive, makes you think, puts points of interest on the map of your past life! Don't wait for fate to give you that warning to make better use of your days. In the words of a manager I once knew (but in a far more enlightened context): JFDI!


Friko said...


Otherwise, yes, yes, yes.

Whatever it is you choose to fill your hours, be aware of it!
Typing this, I am also listening to rain bashing my window. It’s fine; I know it’s rain, unpleasant and wet; but listen to the rhythm of it, imagine it beating the earth, penetrating layer upon layer, and eventually rising again, to supply you with the water you need to stay alive and continue the cycle.

Jenny Woolf said...

What a great post! I love it. I feel like cutting it out (if you could cu out things on the screen) and putting it on the wall. I do try to make the most of things, but sometimes when I feel grey I want something to think about and that is when it's good to remember how lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky all of us in the Western world are compared with the vast mass of humanity, not just in the past but possibly today too, in so many countries labouring under dictatorships or privations.

I particularly like the idea of having an adventure.
And your post also reminded me I want to visit Bristol soon, I keep reading about good stuff to do there.
You can come and make bread for me any time. I love the stuff. It looks incredibly professional.