Category Archives: Life

Microadventures

Thanks to several friends for telling me about the inspirational Alastair Humphreys, and his microadventure ideas.

As you can see from his website, Alastair is an extreme explorer. He spent 4 years cycling around the world. He ran the London Marathon in less than 3 hours. He trekked the 1,000 mile Empty Quarter on the Arabian Peninsula.

But his concept of microadventures is for people who have full-time jobs, commute to work, have a mortgage and don’t have the luxury of being able to undertake such extreme challenges.

To quote Alastair:

Adventure is all around us, at all times. Adventure is accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money.

Adventure is only a state of mind.

That is why I came up with the idea of microadventures. Simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise. Ideas designed to encourage ordinary people to get Out There and Do Stuff for themselves, even in these tightened financial times.

He’s right. When I was working full-time and commuting to London, weekday evenings were invariably spent having a bite to eat, perhaps guzzling a mind-numbing glass of wine, and watching some inane TV.

You work 9 to 5…but what about your 5 to 9? 

What indeed?

I do remember something Gill and I did a few years ago, when our noses were still pressed very hard to the grindstone. At the time it was just a bit of fun, but with hindsight – and thanks to Alastair – I’ll call it a microadventure now.

We got up very early, went to the top of local beauty spot Hydon’s Ball, where we wassailed with the local Morris Men to celebrate the pagan first day of May, as the sun rose on the Surrey Hills. I got on the 7:45 to Waterloo with a little extra spring in my commuting step. And a whiff of alcohol on my breath.

But if only I’d done more. Much more.

Perhaps I’ll go back to work so that I can really embrace the concept, and think up our own microadventures before it’s too late…..

Extreme Bucket List

One of the silly little Christmas prezzies I got Gill was a pack of cards.

But not a normal deck. These cards contain a list of 500 Totally Extreme Awesome Out There & Radical Things To Do. “The ultimate list of 500 EXTREME things that just have to be done at least once. WARNING! Not for the faint-hearted.”

The original idea behind this blog was to share the spirit of a vibrant post-work life with you. With that in mind, have a crack at some of these ideas from Gill’s special cards. Some of them really are radical, extreme and out there. Gill has already done some of them. I’ve done others. Some are impossible….whatever your age. Some are just stupid.

Here are a handful to inspire/scare/appal you:

12 – hike Corsica’s GR20, Europe’s mountain trek  (we’ve done a couple of very small bits, does that count? Doing the whole thing is a real challenge, but one that was always on our list. We’re not getting any younger though….)

497 – meditate every day for a year (Gill doesn’t slow down enough to meditate for 5 minutes, so a whole year would be a real stretch)

256 – take the bullet train in Japan  (I’ve done that one – on business in the 1990s – but Gill can keep it on her list)

372 – start your own business   (Gill started and ran South Minster Kitchens for 14 years)

398 – stand in a supermarket, pretending to do market research, preferably with an accent (I like this one: fun, easily achievable….and totally humiliating. Sainsburys in Godalming, you’ve been warned)

344 – mentor a youth (do Gill’s nephew Ben and nieces Jess & Lucy count? She’s always telling them what to do. Sorry, helping to steer them in the right direction)

44 – press to impress with extreme ironing – it really is a sport (unlikely…..Gill doesn’t even know where the iron lives. That’s my job)

480 – go to a train station and take the next train to its destination (love this one too. Also, go to an airport and take the next flight out…wherever it’s going)

479 – start a religion (an interesting challenge, but dangerous. The ones we’ve got already don’t seem to co-exist very peacefully)

211 – climb Kilimanjaro  (woohooo…we’ve both done that one already. A painful tick)

154 – learn kung fu at Wudang Shan – but you have to become a monk first (I told you some of them are just ridiculous)

55 – ride on the outside of a tram in San Francisco (great excuse to book a trip to the West Coast)

345 – go to a naturist camp (no offence Gill, but if we’re doing this challenge, let’s do its sooner rather than later)

85 – climb Mount Everest (that might have stayed on the list….until a few days ago)

79 – walk hot coals in northern Greece (now this is timely….we’re going to Thessaloniki and Halkidiki in April. I think Gill should take up the challenge. Well, they are her cards)

457 – throw a tomato at an electric fan (ha! While it’s going, presumably. And preferably in someone else’s house, Gill)

OK, you get the idea. Fun, crazy, ridiculous, impossible…but also strangely inspiring. And the clock is ticking…..

Good luck, and enjoy the card game with a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bears and guns

It may be wilderness myth, but when we were in Canada a few years ago someone told us that you should run away if you see a grizzly bear, but stand your ground if it’s a black bear.

Image result for black bear

Or maybe it’s the other way round.

Either way, what are you going to do if you’re not an ursine expert….ask the rather large animal which type it might be, before you make your decision? Even more tricky if you happen to be colour blind.

I was sadly reminded of this impossible quandary in the last couple of days, when a firearms officer was arrested for shooting dead Jermaine Baker, who was allegedly on the point of attempting to free two convicted criminals from a prison van in Wood Green, north London.

Jermaine Baker

All sorts of conflicting rumours are now swirling around.

Jermaine was a gang member. No he wasn’t. He was armed. Maybe, but it was a fake gun. He was asleep in a car when he was shot.

I fear the officer has been arrested in an attempt to alleviate community tension in the Tottenham area, close to where Mark Duggan was shot by armed police in August 2011. That death caused widespread unrest and rioting across London and other parts of the country. An inquest in January 2014 found that Mr. Duggan had been lawfully killed.

We hope of course that our justice system will ultimately get to the bottom of this latest – and highly inflammatory – death.

But if I were a betting man, I’d guess that the odds of Jermaine somehow being involved in the failed escape plot – either with a fake or real gun of his own – are higher than those that he was an innocent, sleeping victim who had nothing to do with the alleged escape attempt.

In which case, what message are we sending to the police and security forces who risk their lives for us every day to try and prevent armed criminals from perpetrating violent crimes, and terrorists from murdering innocent people?

David Cameron has today ordered a review of the use of guns by police in this country.

According to the BBC report:

There have been warnings that fears of lengthy investigations, public inquiries and even prosecutions following a shooting could deter police officers from taking up firearms roles.

Former Met Police commissioner Lord Blair told Sky News the “investigative and judicial processes” needed to change, rather than the law.

“When somebody is shot dead, of course the police have to account for what has happened, but some of these cases take five, seven, 10 years to resolve. That’s completely absurd.”

He added: “These are men and women who go to work to do an incredibly dangerous job for which they volunteer and if they do their duty and shoot somebody because they have to… they should not be treated as criminals.”

So what was the firearms officer supposed to do….politely ask Jermaine if that gun he had with him was real or fake? Loaded or empty?

Madness. Utter madness. We’re putting these people in an impossible position, and unless we take steps to defend them, fewer and fewer will be willing to carry guns on the streets, on the hopefully infrequent occasions that we need protection.

And then we’ll feel as vulnerable as a hiker in the Canadian wilderness, with a bear – whether grizzly or black – running towards us.

 

 

 

Nobody is safe now

A few hours ago, a knife-wielding man injured a few people at Leytonstone tube station. He yelled “this is for Syria” as he slashed his innocent victims. Police are treating it as a terrorist incident.

On Wednesday last week, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot dead 14 people and left another 21 injured in San Bernardino, California.

Their victims were attending a holiday party of social services organisation The Inland Regional Center.

The FBI found an arsenal of weapons at the couple’s apartment, otherwise left as though they had just popped out to do the shopping.

They leave behind their 6 month old daughter, dropped off with Tashfeen’s mother before they went to the party.

On Friday 13th November, 130 people were killed in a series of meticulously planned attacks on soft targets in Paris…..a music venue, bars and restaurants. A football match at the Stade de France was also targeted.

But something else in the last few days has appalled me even more than all these ISIS-inspired attacks around the world.

Remember the innocence of our youth, playing hide-and-seek on the local common, or around the house?

ISIS have just released their latest propaganda video. It shows boys, as young as 8 years old, being given loaded guns with which to hunt down captured Syrian soldiers – “spies” – in a ruined castle. The children execute the bound and defenceless men.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the 6th boy beheading his victim.

It’s been reported that this updated version of hide-and-seek, played out like a computer video game, was a reward for the boys winning a competition.

The message is clear. You can bomb our training bases in the Syrian desert. You can attack us on the ground. You might in time return Syria to some kind of uneasy peace.

But around the world, our supporters will deliver our message wherever and whenever you least expect it.

It might be meticulously planned, It might be random and spontaneous. But it will be deadly. And we have already trained the next generation to continue the fight.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that this clash of ideologies is an insoluble conflict.