Spring is (not) here?

Here in Blighty (marked on maps as England, Great Britain or United Kingdom) we have been having some really abnormally mild weather for February. I’m pretty sure I smelled the whiff of a barbeque on Saturday.

Out and about, the signs of spring are everywhere. The birds aren’t sure what to do. They now think it’s April and are frantically building nests. My walk in the woods on Saturday afternoon taking photographs captured bluebells coming up rapidly. The snowdrops from January are beginning to fade away, and it’s nice to see the seasons moving on, even if it is a little peculiar.

I do have a rational fear though. One of my many voluntary occupations (also known as hobbies) is allotmenteering. At the moment, my allotment is looking pretty stark and bleak, but it is a work in progress. Within the allotment territory, where it crosses over with my outdoors interests, there is a widespread interest in flora and fauna and gardening in general. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than sweeping autumn leaves aside to reveal spring shoots pushing through, such as now. However, my fear is that this mild weather is short-lived and will soon be replaced by cold, frosty weather, effectively wiping out the new growth, as well as the insects already awake looking for nectar (I’ve seen butterflies, and bees this weekend), stunting the whole process of nature. I want to avoid the whole global warming thing as that’s a massive area. Let’s just blame Brexit. Much easier.

I’m not complaining obviously. It’s nice to see the back of what feels like a long winter, and just like a mountain hare, I shed my winter coat over the weekend, having my first wet shave since October 31st 2017. I now look like a man ten years younger. On my run yesterday morning, I found that the sweat had nowhere to go and just ran off my chin like a dodgy gutter.

As mentioned, Saturday afternoon was spent strolling around the woods trying to capture something photographically. I found initially that I struggled to get going. My photography over the past few months has been city-based and city-inspired and faced with nature and all of its non-man made glory, I struggled to see shots and scenes. Eventually I was snapping away, but it struck me as interesting that my inspiration can shift like that. In the city, there is intentional symmetry, something on every corner, reflections in glass. In nature, it’s a different thread, and you almost have to undergo a personality change, or put on a different pair of glasses. I guess it goes back to a previous post where I discussed beauty, asking what is beauty? What makes the woods beautiful? Is it something we’re taught to think? Nature is beautiful, yet cities aren’t? I know the difference, and I see beauty in both, and I’m still able to choose between them. It’s just a problem as a photographer!

When the (big) smoke gets in your eyes

Every weekend I do something outdoors-related, whether it’s running or walking, or cycling and nine times out of ten it’s in the British hills, mountains and countryside. Except last weekend. I was in London. If you’re anything like the majority of people I told I was going, you’re probably saying to yourself in an awful Cockney accent, “Laaaandaaaaan Taaaaaannnn”, which baffled me and I found mildly irritating after the fifth person felt the need to say it.

Anyway, it was a good trip. Most of it was actually spent outdoors, even if it was urban. I’ve always liked London, especially at times like the weekend where you are just free to stroll along. Time was spent in Regent’s Park, which is a huge open space. I wasn’t completely able to switch off and pretend I was in the countryside however as hovering in the distance at all times were high rise buildings and the sound of sirens. I thought on a couple of occasions I heard a green woodpecker, but it was some of the many thousands of parakeets that populate the city.

rhdr

I was impressed with the bits of greenery that I saw as well as the random standard trees in places, so old that the city has been built around them. I love to explore, no matter where I am, and I was not disappointed, when in Fitzrovia, there was a narrow passage with Regency period houses terraced on each side, and almost every one of them had a frontage jam-packed with potted plants, adding greenery where there is none, fulfilling the need to care for something.

rhdr

I have always said I could never live in a city, although I can see the appeal. One thing to be said about city living is that it’s a constant flow of change – redevelopment of areas already developed. There is no need to fight for the greenbelt, and stand up for the countryside because put simply, there is none. It went centuries ago. People in London fight for the preservation of historical buildings, not nature for the greater part. They don’t get that pang of disappointment, coupled with anger and dread when another developer’s sign goes up on a narrow country lane that was once enjoyed as an escape route from modern life and urban mundanity. Rubbing shoulders with city dwellers, you can sense that they are different. Whether it’s a good different or bad different isn’t an argument short enough to go on this blog, and it also isn’t my argument to make.

As good as the two days were, as the old saying goes, it was good to be home.

Teaching an old dog new tricks

When I left school, some time in the last century (sounds dramatic doesn’t it?), I assumed that my days of revising and textbooks were behind me. In higher education, I was lucky to choose a vocation that assessed me on coursework, with no examinations, so I survived all of that and allowed my brain to absorb other things, like the back catalogue of the Manic Street Preachers, and alcohol.

Fast forward some twenty-odd years and I find myself huddled in the corner on the train to work, trying desperately to absorb something and block out the background prattle about what so-and-so did to such-and-such and then put it on the internet.

I decided three years ago that I loved being outdoors so much and keeping fit, and being in the mountains that I wanted to do something beyond the occasional hike. After the usual internet sweep, I found mountain leadership qualifications, that allow you to (unsurprisingly) lead groups in the mountains. The mixture of being outdoors, learning new skills and meeting new people was too strong to resist. So I joined. My course in particular is at your own speed, no deadline, but at the same timet I don’t want to dawdle.

For the first time in a long time I have had to buy textbooks to revise from. In the revision process, which I admit I have been intermittent with at best, I have noticed that, just like I was at school, I am naff at revising and get too easily distracted.

It is quite frustrating because when I last tried to take on information, it was because I had to. What is different now is that this is something I want to do. So I find myself researching revision techniques. Using highlighters. Eyeing up stationery. But at the same time, I am driven to achieve, and I think that will make all the difference this time around. So it’s a double test – trying to get to that end goal, and also seeing how stretchy my brain is these days. Ironic that I have to do so much indoor revising for an outdoor pursuit!

Mixing it up

Well the illness that held me down last weekend was starting to dissipate by Wednesday and I didn’t fancy another weekend watching from the sidelines. I ended up by really looking forward to the weekend, and spent a chilled out Friday night catching up with stuff on TV, hoping for a good night’s sleep.

I definitely got a good night’s sleep because I overslept. Unfortunately, Saturday morning is Park Run time and I’m on a pretty good streak at the moment, edging towards completing 100 runs. I’m in an unofficial competition with a mate of mine to see who can get to 100 first. As it stands, I have a distinct advantage but I can’t afford many slip ups. When I got out of bed on Saturday, I wasn’t too worried, just get dressed, jump in the car and head down there. 5 mins, job done. However, it dawned on me as I was getting ready that the car, and indeed the roads, were frozen solid. It would take 15 minutes to clear the car, and I would definitely miss the run. Only one thing for it. I would have to run the two miles to the park, and only had 12 minutes to do it in. Long story short, I did it, but only just. I sprinted across the field to the start line where everybody was lined up ready to go. I must have looked hilarious. I slipped in to the line just in time to hear, 3…2…1…Go! A tough run, silly story, but a good one to recall all the same.

A few years ago, the same friend who introduced me to tabbing, also introduced me to a local-ish 10 mile cross country race that happens every February. A kind of curtain raiser for the year. Sunday just gone was my fourth. I like this event particularly because of its atmosphere and reputation as well as for the fact that you don’t get a medal! I’m not sure about all this medal (or bling) lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a few medals that I’m incredibly proud of and are a memento of a great day, but I don’t enter races just to get them. Anyway, given the week I’d had with the black death and all, I knew I wouldn’t be shooting for a personal best on Sunday, so I decided to run it in my military boots, carrying my Bergen. It made it a test of another dimension and I thoroughly enjoyed it, feeling the pressure of another kind. It made me think about doing it with other events like half marathons and 10k races etc.

In a roundabout way, both weekend events required my mindset to switch tracks – to crack on and complete my task in whichever way possible. Granted, a little surreal, but that’s what makes the adventure all the more richer.