Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Fade to black

Back during my school days, writing was something I did under protest. I could sort of cope with writing up physics experiments as long as they didn't require too much detail, but that was only because it was a subject I found interesting. Technical drawing was fine, as was metalwork class due to the minimal level writing needed. I've always been the more practical sort.
English, Geography and History were my least favourite subjects due to the never-ending deluge of essays, but maybe it was the subject material that caused my struggle.
It's hard to be inspired when you have no enthusiasm for what you're supposed to be writing about, so when told to write three sides of A4 explaining what was going through Lady Macbeth's mind when she said "Is this a dagger I see before me" or an extended piece on the achievements of the Carter presidency I always failed miserably.

For English literature we studied Dickens's 'Great Expectation', Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' by Thomas Hardy, and a compilation of famous poems.
At that time trying to read Dickens was like wading through treacle, and frankly I couldn't understand what he was talking about. To this day I firmly believe that Thomas Hardy is the most boring author I've ever had the misfortune of reading, and as far as I'm concerned Shakespeare is an overrated relic who should be removed from school study lists because his indecipherable ramblings simply do not translate into the modern world. I realise that during the sixteenth century there weren't as many writers as there are now and entertainment of any form was in short supply beyond singing and drinking beer, so any extra opportunity to read something that could drag you away from the reality of hard labour, short average lifespan and interesting skin diseases was bound to be most welcome.
Today, with such a mind-blowing catalogue of well written and interesting books, I see no reason for the educational system to insist on killing off any interest kids might have left in reading for enjoyment by forcing them to endure literature from a time when the English language was so very different.
Over recent years I have managed to read and actually enjoy some classic books including 'Hard Times', 'Les Miserables' and 'Brave New World', but I still refuse to venture anywhere near Shakespeare or Hardy.
Poetry doesn't get much of a look in either, with the only memorable exceptions being Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven', and 'Desiderata' by Max Ehrmann.
Otherwise I still read avidly but mostly things written within my own lifetime.

When I left secondary school in 1987 I thought I was leaving behind any requirement to write anything more comprehensive than the occasional birthday card, and for a long time this was the case.
It was therefore surprising to me when I felt the urge to start doing this blog.
Initially I'd written some longer items on Facebook because I felt I had something to say beyond the usual rubbish that proliferates its pages like "Just been to the gym" or "Here's a photo of my dinner", but I didn't get any response.
Suddenly I found that I enjoyed writing and it didn't matter if nobody read it because as far as I was concerned it was for my own entertainment.
I'd sit down once a week, usually Sunday morning, and do a piece about some random nonsense that had sprung to mind. Occasionally I'd draw a blank and end up not posting at all, and sometimes I'd have a flurry of inspiration and knock out two posts in quick succession.
More recently I've been struggling. The weekly posts have reduced to fortnightly at best and even that is now becoming difficult to maintain.
I know some bloggers post every day whereas others do so occasionally, and I now think I'm beginning to fade away to the point where I'll only do a post if I get a sudden rush of inspiration.
Finally, the title for this post is also the title of one of my favourite Dire Straits tracks from the album 'On Every Street' - if you don't know it, give it a go.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Ay-up lad

We've just returned from our first holiday for over 18 years where it has been just the two of us.
Ever the adventurous types, we set off last Monday for Yorkshire yet again.
Some might consider it a bit sad that we keep going to the same bit of the country for our holidays, but we're both creatures of habit and the simple fact is that we like it there.
That whole band across the country from the lake district in the west, through the Yorkshire dales to the Yorkshire moors in the east is such a pleasurable area that it calls to us time after time. Where others enjoy exploring the world, we are quite happy in our somewhat limited comfort zone.
In fact it's still an ambition of mine to cycle from Morecambe on the west coast to Whitby on the east coast - assuming my left leg is ever up to cycling any distance again.

Having left the tedium of the A1 behind just after Leeds, we struck off northwest in search of a more interesting route to our destination.
The resultant game of satnav roulette saw us directed along a road that brought new meaning to the word 'challenging'.
A word of advice - if you're in this part of the country and in a hurry, selecting the 'shortest route' option on your satnav is as inadvisable as wearing trousers with a button fly during a bout of diarrhoea.
I had plenty of time and a desire for adventure, so that's why I chose that option despite knowing what I was letting myself in for.

We travelled from Kettlewell to Middleham via a single track road which included 20% inclines with double hairpin bends, huge elevation changes, and suicidal sheep. Never before have I had to concentrate so hard on driving at 30-40mph on what felt like my own personal rollercoaster.
Meeting other vehicles coming in the opposite direction almost resulted in trading paint despite the numerous passing places.
To make it even more exciting, there were rocks sticking out of the verge ready to remove a wheel from any car that dared get too close.
It was with a sense of achievement and considerable relief that we finally reached civilization again without any damage to the car.

One of my objectives during our stay was to take another brisk drive along Buttertubs pass between Hawes and Thwaite, this time with a camera on the dashboard.
This is an amazing stretch of road with stunning scenery and a reputation that makes it extremely popular with motorcyclists and other right-thinking petrol heads.
That's why Hawes is full of motorbikes in the summer. It's a kind of pilgrimage to take a good blast across the pass and back, with fish & chips and a pint to celebrate still being alive.
On the return run we made a couple of stops to look at the buttertubs and take a walk up to one of the high peaks.
At the top was a small cairn that was visible from our parking place at the side of the pass, and I added a rock with my initials and the date scratched on it.

None of our activities were of wild or exciting nature, but that wasn't the point.
The whole reason for going was to step away from the frantic insanity of the south - an insanity we try our best to isolate ourselves from at home - and enjoy a place where life is lived at a gentler pace; where people are considerate, friendly and not in a perpetual race for personal advancement and one-upmanship.

The soundtrack of our lives is usually polluted by things like the dickhead opposite with a pressure washer fetish and the boy shouting "Oh for f**k's sake!" every couple of minutes while 'enjoying' his online gaming activities.
In the dales we find ourselves in a world where such things are replaced by the bleating of sheep and the songs of birds with a significantly wider vocabulary than the mind-numbing repetition of "ooh-oooh-ooh" or "aaaggghhh!" that we're used to.
While it may not be completely silent, the general absence of man-made noise is amazingly relaxing.
Combined with dramatic three dimensional scenery that is in stark contrast to the dull flatness of the fens where I live, this contributes to making North Yorkshire our go-to destination when we want to get away from it all.