The loneliness of the long-distance cyclist

26 Jan

(And before you get all worried about me being lonely – consider that I might actually enjoy that feeling of being alone.)

Regular readers of this column will know that I like to hop on a train in Peterborough and then get off at any of the exciting destinations that Virgin East Coast will take me to. The fact that I can sometimes managed to get a trip up to the Northumberland coast for £20 just adds to the excitement. Some of you will also know that one of my very favourite places to go is to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne… under 3 hours to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and then a bus ride to the Holy Island. Apart from the fact that if you go between September and May, the buses only run on Saturdays and Wednesdays. If the tides are right. Maybe.

Holy Island is cut off from the mainland by a tidal causeway. It opens for around 6 hours a day – attempting to cross the causeway at any other time will result in your vehicle being swept nonchalantly out to sea.

So.. last time I visited, I got the bus down and then walked the five miles back from Holy Island to the A1 and then caught a more frequent bus back to Berwick.

THIS time, I wondered what would happen if I cycled it. Now I know.   
   
A leisurely start to the day, then, although the frantic rush and pressure from the station staff to get the bike on the train is guaranteed to frazzle all but the most Zen-like of souls.

And then, off at the other end, and, carrying a full pack, I and my bike are off on the 26km journey to the Holy Island. Now, you need to be aware of a couple of things. Firstly, I am carrying a reasonably heavy pack. This, when added to the weight of a reasonably heavy human, is making for difficult going. Secondly, I have four hours to do this trip in. Any longer, and I won’t make the crossing. Which means I won’t have anywhere to sleep. And it’s January. This should be easy, but the possibility of issues with the bike are ever-present.

As I set off, I become aware of two other factors. The first is that cycleway route one is not exactly what I would call paved cycling surface. Now, I knew this. But now I am experiencing the difference between knowing, and REALLY knowing. And I have slick racing tyres on the bike.

I also realise that although I have checked the weather forecast for rain (none), I have not checked it for winds. The current 50 mile an hour winds blowing make travelling east a delight, but really do take it out of you when travelling west.

But the day is lovely, the sea is gorgeous, and provided I don’t get blown off the cliff edge, I should be fine. This is what I love about this part of the world – the wild, rough, pure nature – the elements truly unleashed to create an intoxicating and refreshing day out.

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(rocks I am trying to avoid being blown onto.)

  
It’s hard work, but eventually the causeway comes into view. Unfortunately, route one now wants to take me inland. This is the toughest part of the ride across fields in the wrong direction – but knowing that all will come good in the end. The road. The causeway. And finally, I am over the bay and onto Lindisfarne. Tonight, I will have a bed to sleep in.

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Lindisfarne is beautiful. Truly beautiful. And this time of year, it is especially gorgeous.. and quiet. Once the day visitors are gone, and the tide comes in and the causeway shuts, a wonderful peace descends upon the island, punctuated only by the clinking of ships’ rigging – and the incessant winds.

I collapse into bed – deeply deeply happy, deeply deeply peaceful, and totally and absolutely exhausted.

The winds have not died away overnight, and the island is swept by never ending gusts of wind. The gulls seem to be in their element – playing in the wind, held aloft by the roaring energy that they face into. Every now and again they turn and race downwind, as if just for the sheer joy of it all.

One of my favourite spots is The Heugh, a ridge of rock that runs down the west of the island. From there you can see back to the mainland, the twin spires of Heugh Hill and Guile Point obelisk lighthouses, and the ruins on St Cuthbert’s Island, another tidal island cut off at mid tide, where St Cuthbert spent time before leaving for the total isolation of the Farne Islands.

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I wander down to the harbour – the boats are riding out the waves, and I am taken by surprise by a seal in the dunes. The seal is equally surprised to see me, but flops back to sleep – exhausted, I suspect, by the storm. When I check back later, he is gone.

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The shore is peppered with upturned boats, turned into storm-proof sheds with tarpaulins. It is also liberally strewn with crab pots and the detritus of a working harbour.

The castle is still closed for maintenance – surrounded by a giant marquee and a skeletal scaffolding, it should reopen this spring.

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And off I go, braving the wind for a three hour walk round the island. I see very few people, which suits my mood of thoughtful introspection. There are plenty of sheep, gulls, snipe and migratory geese to keep me company..

   
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In places, the sands drift-race across the beach as they dry, freeing up the grains for a mad dash across the beach before they are caught by grass, pebbles, seaweed, a stray seashell. And I am very glad of my hat. And my gloves.

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The dunes are hard work, although at least they offer shelter from the wind, the heavy covering of grass holding them in place.

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But finally I make it back into the village – most of the shops and tea rooms are closed for the winter, although the one or two that remain open show a steady trade.

And so to the evening. Another peaceful walk round the village and out into the welcoming darkness. Time to think. Time to dream. Time to plan. This is my time of year for planning – my New Year starts on February 1st at the Celtic festival of Imbolc, and 2018 feels like a blank canvas, ready to be drawn upon, filled with colour and vivid images. Much has changed for me in recent months – new freedoms, new possibilities, new options – and 2019 brings the possibility of new beginnings, fresh starts, new adventures.

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And the stars! Away from much of our light pollution, the stars are vivid flecks of possibility on a velvet field – reminding me that this universe is so much greater and so much more incredible than I can ever imagine.

Tonight, I dream. More vividly than I have in a long time. The depth of relaxation and peace is working its way into my subconscious, healing and restoring me at ever deeper levels.

   
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The next day, after an early morning walk and some sunrise photography, I am off back on the bike again. The wind has finally dropped, and I cross the causeway with ease, my only deadline being a 6:18 train home. I have 7 hours. I set off on a diversion because: pretty.

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This being a story of me on two wheels, keen observers of my path through life will notice that this trip, apart from the tension of deadlines and the perils of being blown into the North Sea, has been lacking in drama.

Fortunately, normality is restored, and the drama that I have been running from arrives, slightly out of breath. I have a puncture. I manage to reinflate the tyre and cycle on, as I have green gunky puncture proof sealant in my tyres. Sadly, the reinflating does not last. Not only this but the valve core is now stuck in my cycle pump. When the pump is removed, the tyre rapidly deflates, showering me with the remaining green gunk and leaving me looking like Shrek on a bad hair day. A trip to a helpful garage and I manage to recover the valve core, only for the same thing to happen again. Finally I manage to inflate the tyre to something like rideable, and press on. I am ten miles from Berwick.

I try not to put too much pressure on the front tyre as it is only about half pressurised. Unfortunately, this means that I cannot relieve the pressure on my already distressed derrière, and every imperfection in the road is..less than comfortable.

But the bike is rolling. The day is glorious – a bright, sharp January day. The countryside is full of beauty – stark trees yet to gain their spring plumage, snowdrops braving the cold, and in the distance the snow-capped Northumberland hills.

I stop off at a charming 11th century church on the way ..

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And so I ride into Berwick. My legs ache, my posterior even more so – but I am happy beyond measure. A brief ride by the Tweed to catch the sunset, a warming hot chocolate, and back on the train. I am, of course, at the wrong end of the train. The guard gives up, dumps me on the train and rides the bike to the other end. I expect the announcements to be “we are sorry for the delay to your service today..this was due to an idiot cyclist being at the wrong end of the train”.

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In this, at least, I am disappointed.

What will I take back from my trip to this wonderful, spiritual, peaceful place? New dreams. New plans. New possibilities. An end to some dreams, and the opening up of new options. In the blink of an eye, the world is remade anew. Mistakes are erased like footprints on the beach, while possibility and hope rise again like the sunrise bringing the promise of a new dawn. I know that whatever life has thrown at me, and wherever I have been less than I could be, I know with absolute certainty that the world is remade in the moment of now. New starts, new choices, new adventures beckon as I create them seemingly out of the gusts that surround me.

Today, I remember that the world is.. perfect.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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Steve Jobs and success

21 Oct

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There’s a post wandering round the internet and social media that’s purportedly from Steve Jobs.

It isn’t.

I won’t bother to reprint the whole thing, but in amongst its off the shelf self help words about the need to “Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends” and “Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands” lies a deep dark poison.

Before I start, I don’t know Steve Jobs. Never met the guy. I have a lot of respect for his speech to the University in Stanford which contains some real insights into modern life, business and the pursuit of a dream.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

That’s the sort of vision that I’d like Steve to be remembered for.

I have a lot of respect for his achievement. Although I don’t own any Apple technology. Because I don’t like it much. So I’m not a huge fan of Apple.

But I am a huge fan of people following their dreams. And Steve did. And this latest post, which seems to indicate that Steve rejected what he achieved in life, rings false to me, and with it trickles a steady stream of new age poison into our lives and our beliefs.

Steve was a man with a vision. Not a vision to be wealthy, as such, but a vision to create. To create a working personal computer. To create a computing world that was elegant and beautiful. To create a computing world where things worked together. To create devices that were intuitive, effective, efficient and enjoyable to use. And he created that.

In his time with Pixar he helped create the computer animated feature, and paved the way for new stories to be told.

I don’t see any way that Steve Jobs saw his life as a failure, or that it had turned him into “a twisted being”. Steve was a Zen Buddhist, deeply at peace with ‘what is’.

The fake deathbed quote talks about how he was surrounded by life support (he wasn’t, he died at home), and that he had “little joy”.

I don’t think so.

As far as I can see it, Steve followed his dream, his vision, and his heart. For sure, he had feet of clay. He had his weaknesses. There were times when he wasn’t an easy boss. But then anyone with a vision is going to concentrate on pursuing that vision.

I agree with pieces of the post. All you can have at the end of life are “the memories precipitated by Love”. Those are “the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.” Although perhaps the things that you do, or your heirs do, with your material inheritance also goes on. Perhaps your achievements remain behind, inspiring others to achieve as you achieved.

If we forget love, we forget everything. Steve knew that. In an article published in Time magazine Walter Isaacson, his biographer, recorded him as saying:

I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.

The article continues: “He was very human. He was so much more of a real person than most people know. That’s what made him so great,” he added. “Steve made choices. I asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, ‘It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done’.”

So let’s not succumb to the poison that says that you should shun success, that it will make you unhappy. Following our hearts, and our dreams, and our vision – while coming from a place of love and peace and kindness – can only make the world a better place. And that’s what Steve would want you to hear.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS. According to his sister, Mona Simpson:

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

 

Now THAT’S amazing….

A tale to be told. Left handed.

4 Sep

images.duckduckgo.comIt was a pleasant evening at Buckden rounding off a weekend of mayhem (us) and debauchery (not us) in Leeds..(what happens in Leeds stays in Leeds). I’m riding my bike home, carefully, as you do on a wet night, when suddenly the bike makes determined effort to mount the left hand verge. I wrestle it back only to find it drifting across to the other side. The inevitable happens. The bike his the verge, stops dead, and hurls your truly over the top and into a somersault. The aikido rolls and five years of tuck and roll from Sara’s car come into play, and I somersault, dramatically, into the ditch.

I pick myself up and dust myself off, and try and lift the bike. This is not happening. I have obviously done something serious to my right shoulder.

Rather than call for an ambulance, I call for roadside recovery, thinking that I can get the bike home and go into A&E in the morning. Unfortunately, because it’s an accident, I now have to go through the claims process. By the side of the road. In the rain. With a busted shoulder. They advise me all sorts of things about false declarations and stuff. Eventually it’s done and a recovery vehicle is ordered..it’s 60-90 minutes away.

At which point my phone dies. I spend the next hour so walking up and down the road. In the rain. I see no other vehicles in this time. Concerned that they may not be able to find me, and with the nagging doubt that no help is coming at all,I decide to set out in search of help.

I have two choices. . Go on to the sleepy village where no one has ever been seen on the streets, and scare the bejabers out of some poor soul at 2am, or go back to the US Air Force base where surely someone will be awake.

I head for the base, a couple of miles away. I am now aware that my left foot may not have escaped injury.

Eventually the welcome sight of the barbed wire gates comes into view. The place is seemingly deserted. However, I can just make out the shadows of two figures in the guardhouse. They are awake. They are fully armed. And they are not at all sure what to make of the grey clad figure emerging out of the rain. Apparently I am the first walk up visitor they have ever had, and I don’t look like your average civilian tourist anyway.   An early question is ’are you armed’ and I run through an inventory of the contents of a motorcyclist’s pockets to see if I am carrying anything I might get shot for. Newspaper headlines swim before my eyes..”British biker shot after midnight crash’…’Biker attacks US nuclear depot armed with helmet lock’.

images.duckduckgo.comThey take pity on me, but to a man the entire base is equipped with iPhones. I will not be charging my phone tonight. They send for medical assistance. It arrives in the form of two firetrucks driven by a crew with broad Cambridgeshire accents. I am told that my blood pressure is too high (really? I wonder why?) and that yes, my collarbone is probably broken.

The base police turn up. They, too, are reassuringly English but equally heavily armed. I might now get shot or tasered. Choices, choices.

Eventually an ambulance arrives, and takes me to Huntingdon. I do not particularly want to go to Huntingdon, but Huntingdon is where I am going.

At which point the wonderful thing we call the NHS kicks in. The driver is English. She expresses regret because she hoped to see my arm get fixed. She believes it is dislocated. Fortunately, she is wrong. The other paramedic  is charmingly and wonderfully Spanish. If you are female it may well be worth getting in an accident just to meet him.

The hospital is quiet, but am greeted by a United Nations of fabulous medical staff who continually offer me drugs. I turn these down on the basis that if it really starts to hurt, then I will really want all the drugs I can get and I don’t want to waste any on mere discomfort. I have an Asian doctor who takes great delight in poking bones, bruises and other bits exactly where it’s going to hurt. However, he manages this with such good humour that it is easy to forgive him. The Filipino porter manages to move a weight four times his size at the end of a 20 hour shift. The Chinese nurse brings me tea and biscuits. They are all cheerful, helpful, and efficient. They make me very happy, which confuses all of them, and I am transported round the building propelled by my fabulous Filipino friend while grinning like a madman.

The doctor confirms what I suspected. My collarbone is broken, and there is some twisting to my foot. I ah equipped with a boot for my foot and a sling for my arm, along with a single crutch. I feel less stable using the crutch than if I just stomp along like I have done all my life. It may come in handy for waving, threateningly, at people.

And that’s it. One of the nurses finds me a charger and I discover that while the recovery vehicle could not initially find me, my motorbike has already made it home. I will later find that quite a lot of grass verge has also made it home. Darcey has a smashed fairing and bent wing mirror but is not too badly damaged otherwise. I get through to my son at 6:30, who cheerfully comes to pick me up. As he arrives the reception staff are graciously trying to deal with a very irate man who cannot quite grasp the fact that if he has an abscess on a tooth then he needs to go see a dentist. Again, the staff are doing this tactfully and diplomatically.

So. I have crashed my bike. I count myself lucky – my injuries are relatively minor, and they will heal. But I am full of admiration for a bunch of air base staff who rather bemusedly dealt with this crazy Brit who appeared out of the rain with a random story about motorbike and phones – for an efficient bunch wildly international medics – and the fact that I can just turn up and the only thing that’s important is getting me back to a functioning state, without worries about insurance and hospital bills.

I am back home, glad to be in one piece (apart from the bit of me that’s in two pieces, of course). I doubt I will be riding again soon…or, indeed, doing much with my right arm for a bit. But, somehow, it feels like this is a very good day to be alive.

.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Apologies for typos. I am learning one handed typing. Badly.

Down by the water

25 Aug

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As regular readers will know, I regularly take a trip out to Rutland Water for some down time. It’s one of my favourite places to be, and it’s not far away from home.

For those of you who don’t know, Rutland Water is a huge artificial lake in the middle of England (the biggest by surface area in the country), created by flooding the Gwash valley. Down under the waters are a couple of villages, flooded when the dam was built.

And I have always been fascinated by Rutland.. this strangely named county that’s the smallest in England. And for someone who lives in Northamptonshire, the hills of Rutland are just that little bit more extravagant.

I am sufficiently crazy to want to cycle there – then I can cycle round the reservoir, see a bit of wildlife, get some exercise…

Photo 2017-08-17 14.02.05When God designed Rutland, for some reason she decided that all the hills and valleys should run east to west. For a poor soul on a bike, carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, camping gear and a few odds & sods necessary to survival, this means big hills. Long hills. Tire your thighs out till they burn kinda hills. On the upside, I am now toting a backpacker tent rather than the two man version that I had last year.

Photo 2017-08-17 17.05.35But around 35km later, I am happily at my favourite camp site overlooking Rutland Water, and my new tent is set up and coffee is brewing (thanks to a fabulous little gas burner which was a Father’s Day present from my son). There are few facilities here, but it’s peaceful and has fabulous views of the Water. I do have one final task for the day though.. cycle to Oakham cos I need some food. Back on the bike and an hour later I am making dinner. As the light dies, I can see an owl hunting over the field not 20 metres away.

The weather forecast was for a shower. This is, of course, England. At night the skies opened for a downpour, causing one of my friends to ask if I had been washed away. But the sound of the rain on the tent is calming, and relaxing, and the waterproofing holds. I am snug and dry, and deliriously happy.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.30.00The next day sees me back on the bike for a ride round the reservoir, taking in a few diversions on the way. The first of these diversions is to sit and ponder for a while in Costa in Oakham.. the other reason for the trip is to look at the next phase of my life. Lots of things are ending, and I am becoming freer to do different stuff.. so I am looking at what the reboot looks like. And more on that at another time.

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Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21I’m also collecting bolts, for my other hobby, geocaching. Some madman has hidden bolts around the reservoir perimeter with numbers stamped into them. Collect the numbers on the bolts, put them in the right sequence, and the co-ordinates should lead me to a hidden treasure trove. Following these hides around the water leads me to different spots that I would not have otherwise found, and I find myself cycling down a broad road in the middle of nowhere, where the silence seems almost absolute apart from the birds and the roar of tyres on gravel.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.46A few hours and 36km later, I’m back at the tent with a few more geocache hides collected. And all the bolt numbers. Unfortunately, the calculation yields a location 12km away. Somewhere, I have gone wrong. I decide one of the numbers is wrong, recalculate it and cycle off in search of the final location. In the end it turns out that the cache setter has got one bolt wrong, and I am rewarded with a box hidden in the trees and full of odds and ends for the junior cacher. I log my find and rehide it, feeling suitably smug to have not only solved the puzzle, but done that when the puzzle is incorrect. Go me!

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No rain tonight, but I am rewarded with a clear sky, and a beautiful view of the stars. The light pollution is low around here, and the Milky Way arcs overhead. It seems as if I can see the constellations leaping out at me – the Great Bear, Cassiopeia, all seem vivid and real. And I marvel at this incredible infinity spread out in the night sky… I am both awed and humbled at the sight.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.06The next day, I awake to a beautiful clear sky. It’s time to break camp. The tent’s a bit soggy, so that’s going to end up adorning my living room to dry out. And the legs are starting to tire. Those hills are going to be painful on the way home. My spirits are lifted half way by a fallow deer that crosses Photo 2017-08-18 09.30.06my path. And the views across to the Harringworth viaduct always lift my spirits.

And a couple of hours and another 35km later, I and my rucksack are back home. Inspection of my tyres shows that the rubber is missing – 122km of riding has finally managed to cycle the rear tyre down to the kevlar lining. On the up side, unlike my rather traumatic outing last year, I have experienced zero punctures. This is probably down to the kevlar and puncture proof inner tubes rather than improved riding.

As ever, I feel deeply tranquil and at peace.. my state of Zen has been restored, and some of the thoughts I have had will, I am sure, soon blossom into options for my future.

I’d rest and take it easy, but in around 3 hours I will have to lay a dance floor….

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

It’s OK to get it wrong

9 Jul

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Politics is not my specialist subject. So. Let me try and get this straight.

The population of the UK are now on a bus hurtling down a road to uncertainty and chaos. Most of the people on the bus don’t want to go where they are going. The people who sold the ticket to their destination have now been proven to be liars, and the ticket price is continually escalating. The brochure shows that not only are the hotels not finished, but they are not even at the planning stage. Even the people who wrote the brochure now say that carrying on down the road is a big mistake. The people in charge of the bus don’t know where they are going, or have a clue how to drive the bus, and most of them didn’t want to go there anyway. Lots of the people in charge of the bus have got off and don’t want to have anything to do with the bus anymore. The destination for the bus is gloomy, desolate and lonely.

And no-one plans on turning the bus round?

Last year, a squeaky margin of British people voted to leave the European Union, against all the advice of the sensible expertise on the planet.

Since then it has been revealed that we were sold a lie. There is no £350 million a week for the NHS and in fact leaving the EU will mean that even less is available for public services. Leaving the EU will not leave us with more money, but less. Trade will be harder, not easier. We weren’t being regulated into hardship, but helped into increased freedom and well being.

It is clear that there is no prospect of a straightforward exit from the European Union, and that leaving the club will lead to huge and permanent consequences for us as a nation, for us as individuals, as businesses and as a society.

And it looks like the only people to possibly profit from departure from the EU are (guess who) those who are already wealthy and in power.

We can see the possibility of erosion of individual rights and liberties that we fought long and hard to secure.

Even the most generous predictions show that leaving the EU will cost this country and its people many billions, and result in a state of chaos that will take decades to recover from – if we ever do.

Our government are busy negotiating a future for us that results in the citizens of this country being worse off, and no ‘freer’ – that sets aside decades of progress. Is this what we want our government to do for us? Is this what a government should be planning?

If we went to the polls today, would we see the same result? Absolutely not. A significant number who voted to Leave now see how shortsighted a decision that was – and that they were not voting against the EU at all, but rather against the state of politics in this country. A significant number who didn’t vote – particularly the young – have now found their voice and are determined to make sure that we stay in the EU. We have seen that the route we have taken is not likely to end in economic prosperity, in increased freedom or in a better quality of life. Quite the reverse.

So why are we gambling the future of this country on something that even a straw poll of voters would show isn’t the future that we want. In Parliament, the majority know that they face a brutal future and a thankless task.

It’s OK to admit that we made a mistake.

It’s OK for the leadership of the governing political party to admit that the referendum was a mistake, and that continuing down the road that led us on is economic and social suicide.

It’s OK to admit that we don’t have a plan – not even the concept of a plan.

It’s OK to admit that we were naïve, lacking in foresight.

It’s OK to admit that we made mistakes before, during and after the referendum vote.

That’s not called ‘failing’. That’s called ‘learning’. And if this country has learned from its mistakes in the last year, then it will have been worth it. If this nation has realised that it is better for all to stand together rather than apart, then it will have been worth it.

Are we mature enough as a country, as a nation, as a government, as individuals, as political leaders, to admit that we were wrong? That we can recognise where we made mistakes, and then act to get it right in future?

There still seems to be a glimmer of light that shows there is a way back from the edge of madness.

So who is going to help turn the bus around?

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS Lord knows I’ve got it wrong more times than I can count. Just ask my two sons. Or anyone that’s close to me. But hopefully I have learned enough and become secure enough to admit that I was wrong. Goofed. Screwed up. And hopefully I’ve tried to fix what I failed to get right first time round.

Maybe our government could try that?

Father to son

18 Jun

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

My father died over 30 years ago.. he simply fell off his bike and died from a heart attack on the way to work one day. So although he was at my wedding, he missed the divorce – and he never saw his grandchildren, or saw what a success they would be. But I know he would have loved them, fiercely and passionately.

He was a conflicted, loopy, crazy guy – we didn’t have phrases like PTSD to describe it, but he came back from serving with the Royal Engineers in the Tunisia campaign of WWII isolated and introverted. His first wife left him while he was away fighting for his country, which hurt him deeply. He was a great engineer, the son of a mining engineer also tragically killed in a mining accident in the coal mines of Merthyr Tydfil. And I suspect that’s why I became an engineer too. It’s in the blood, you see.

My brother and I will live with the image of a man with a tousled comb over (wildly out of control in the seaside breeze) dancing (we assume, it wasn’t obvious) in bright orange swimming trunks – or floating peacefully in the local swimming baths (which, it has to be said, is a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting it).

I remember clearing out the attic to discover he had been hoarding used beer cans in case they became valuable. And clearing out the shed, where I discovered a small stash of offcuts of copper that he’d been saving to take to the scrap merchants.

I remember the day that he went visibly pale when I came home and announced who I was dating… it’s always a high risk scenario when your son dates the boss’s daughter.

I remember the day we spent together rivetting a new floor pan onto the clunker of a car that I had just bought.. and the look of shock and horror that barely disguised his laughter when I drove the car through the front fence and into the front garden.

And I remember with fondness and thanks the day that I put my head on his shoulder and said ‘thankyou’ to him. It was the last time I saw him alive.

He failed, completely, to teach me any form of sports… those genes had to wait to be passed to my brother… but I was content to watch him play for his local cricket team, or to play a little bit of ‘whack the ball with the bat’ in the local park.

He cheerfully cycled 2 miles to work and 2 miles back every day.. and when, aged five, I decided I didn’t like school dinners, he cheerfully cycled the 4 mile round trip back home again every lunch time to make me lunch. I had no doubt that my father loved me.

He wasn’t keen on change – we suspect that he’d seen enough change in the war to see him through – and quickly discovered that ‘that was a nice meal for a change, dear’ meant ‘please never cook this for me ever again’. We would holiday in the same place every year until the hotel closed or changed hands, or something happened to cause him to fall out of love with the place.. and perhaps in his sense of keeping things the same was born my own desire to change things up – in his desire for uniformity was born my rebel cry to make things different, to yearn for adventure.

Only recently have we discovered the love letters he wrote back home to my mother excitedly looking forward to coming home and being together – letters full of tenderness and anticipation.

Like most men, my father had his faults, his inconsistencies, his weaknesses and his addictions. But he also had his strengths, his wisdom, his authority – and I knew I could rely on him to back me up, to be there when I needed him – and I knew I could rely on his love.

I hope I can bring my sons everything my father brought me – and then to surpass him – to build on the shoulders of a giant to be an even better example to my children as to what a real man is, and what a real father is. And already I see that they will be even better than I.

I wanted to post a song here. Cat Steven’s ‘Father and Son’ is for some reason too raw and painful for me to love. Its inclusion in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy II’ nearly leading me to walk out early, it’s that uncomfortable!

Peter Gabriel’s ‘Father Son’ is perhaps too gentle for the fierce love I feel towards my father – and towards my sons. Queen’s ‘Father to Son’ has more of the bite and energy that I feel – that sense that I will carry on where my father left off – and a rallying cry for my sons to become greater, better, more powerful, kinder, more loving, more successful and even better human beings than I am. Each of us carry the torch for a while, and we pass it on to the next generation for them to build a better, kinder future for themselves, and for those around them, and so for the world.

But I think I will leave you with one of my all time favourite moments in concert – worth listening to for Ged Lynch’s amazing ‘falling through the drumkit’ drumming – worth thinking about to consider what better world we might have if we would just talk to each other – but definitely worth the beautiful interaction between Peter Gabriel and his daughter Melanie in the song ‘Talk to Me’ – skip to 4:46 if you must.

 

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

A vote for hope

7 Jun

compassion

Tomorrow the United Kingdom votes for its next government in what may be the most important election in my lifetime. The democratic system in the Western world has seen some shocks in the last twelve months – and perhaps this time the shock may be one that benefits this planet and moves us forward rather than taking us backward into darker days.

So far I have stayed quiet, watching what others have been saying, taking note of other people’s opinions.. and hoping and praying.

This time, I will be voting Labour. Not particularly because I want to vote Labour – it will be the first time I have, as I have usually favoured voting outside of the two party system – but because I am choosing to vote against a government lacking in compassion, in love, in those shared values that make us human. I am choosing to vote for a future where there is hope, rather than one of despair. And for me, Labour show me the possibility of that future, whereas a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a return to the dark ages of modern politics.

For too long, this government have chosen to support the wants of the few over and against the needs of the many. Their approach to the NHS, to the disabled, to the disadvantaged, to the elderly, has been inhumane. Theresa May’s willingness to tear up the Human Rights Act – a bill of human rights that is one of this country’s proudest achievements – is irresponsible and dangerous, and would take humanity back centuries.

Their protection of the rights of the few, prioritised so heavily over the needs of the many, is anti-humanity and actually works against the prosperity of the nation as a whole. They gamble the future of this nation and the future of its people to line the pockets of a few powerful individuals.

We are ‘threatened’ with a Labour party that would apparently ‘take us back to the seventies’. And perhaps we need to remember those days. Those were the days when we had a National Health Service that worked. A police force that was respected. Where we were still grateful to be a country that was no longer at war. Where the ordinary people were finding their voice.

I have nothing against people becoming prosperous. I cheer on those who become successful. But I do stand up against those who use the power that wealth brings to take more and more for themselves while they forget the simple values of kindness, mercy, love, compassion.
In our continual pursuit of wealth we have forgotten that money is there to be used, not to be owned. We have forgotten that people matter. We have fallen prey to the thought that power is in the hands of the wealthy, the elite. We have listened to those who have the most to lose and to those who control the media that tells us what we should think. Our attention has been diverted to a false enemy when the actual enemy and danger to our humanity is far closer to home.

We have an opportunity in this election to vote for our true values. To vote to take humanity forward, not backward. To vote for love, compassion, hope, integrity. To vote for this country to be an example of what a nation can be – a demonstration to the world of what is possible when a country looks to what it can bring to the world.

So when I rock up at the polling station to vote tomorrow, I will definitely vote with my head. I will vote with my gut. I will certainly vote with my heart. And I will vote with hope that we can change our future.

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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