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Fleet on Foot

I haven’t made any new year resolutions, but if I had, one of them would be to make more time for walking. It almost doesn’t matter where. Rebecca Solnit, in her fascinating book ‘Wanderlust’, talks about the sense of place that can only be gained on foot:

‘…people nowadays live in a series of interiors – home, car, gym, office, shops – disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one…lives in the whole world rather than in the interiors built up against it.’

Whenever I can, I love to be out of London with mud on my boots. But that obviously requires time and organisation. And you can enjoy the freedom and ease of a good walk without even leaving London.

So, with a free morning early in the new year, I took the train up to Hampstead and walked back into central London.

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Becky says things about … reasons to be cheerful

I loved this post on the ‘Becky Says Things’ site (which you should check out).

My own reasons to be cheerful might differ from Becky’s, but it’s good to be reminded that they’re out there.

BECKY SAYS THINGS

Oh, brave Listener. We’ve all had a bit of a rough time recently.

There are several reasons why we are all feeling a bit peeved, irked, and somewhat vexed:

1) It is February. February is an obnoxiously depressing month, it knows it, and it doesn’t care. February is insufferable.

2) We are still paying off our Christmas credit card bills. This is intolerable.

3) Our New Year’s resolution diet and exercise regimes have failed miserably and we are eating more doughnuts, peanut butter, and full fat milk than ever before to cope with the depression of February and Christmas credit card bills.

cheerful5

4) The couples amongst us have had a relationship-busting argument on Valentine’s Day, and the singletons amongst us have just been reminded that they are SINGLE and ALONE and destined to remain that way for the rest of their sorry lives.

5) There is nothing to look forward…

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Music and Words: 2013 – Ten Things, numbers 5, 6 and 7

Continuing reflections on what I learned from 2013….

5. Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth

…is one of numerous lapidary phrases that spring from the best song on my favourite record of the year: Modern Vampires of the City, by Vampire Weekend.

Vampire Weekend - StepUntil now, I haven’t really got Vampire Weekend. I could tell they were talented. But they sounded just a bit too cluttered to me, a little too pleased with their own eclecticism and proficiency. But on this, their third album, they sound like they have clicked into the zone, relaxed a bit.

The song, Step, also demonstrates yet again that iron law of pop – that if you get the drums and the voice (including the words) right, you’ve pretty much cracked it.

Discovering a new favourite band also leads me on to my next lesson. It’s good to…

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At Last. Spring.

P1010423

As I get older, I notice a couple of things.

The change of seasons feels more important to me than it used to. The world turns, the leaves fall, and I notice it in a way that I never did when I was younger.

And another thing: you get older and you understand more of the bigger picture, but oddly the smaller and more personal things give you greater pleasure.

I’ve noticed both these things in recent weeks, as winter finally gave up its grip on Britain.

There have been plenty of reasons to be miserable.

Of course, winter’s always cold, but this has been beyond a joke.

And I was wrong in my post early in January – it did get wetter.

British “Summer Time” arrived as long ago as March. Feeling even more of a cruel joke than usual.

The country, and much of Europe and the world, has continued to be stuck in an economic downturn that still shows little sign of easing. Tough decisions have – surprise – turned a tough screw on poor and vulnerable people.

At work, some people I’ve known for years are leaving by choice. Others face losing their jobs unwillingly.

Over the winter, people I know and love have been ill and unhappy. Some have died. Too young, too soon.

After months of worry, the woman I love most went under the surgeon’s knife in February and for a few hours I wandered muddy fields in Kent, waiting for her to recover consciousness.

My beloved Reading Football Club have been relegated from the Premier League.

And yet.

And yet we have a fantastic capacity for optimism. The sun has reappeared in recent days and leaves are back on the trees. Parks are carpeted with flowers.

P1010406A friend at work gave me some daffodils, and I put them in a my favourite blue vase.

And just that small thing made me feel absurdly cheerful, despite everything.

So, spring is here, and looking forward feels worth doing again.

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B RSONBL – Mrgncy Covr with no A and E mks no sns

2013-01-26 13.00.40My gorgeous wife Laura marched in support of Lewisham Hospital in her own unique way. As she does in all things. Max, who is with her in the photo, was gorgeous too.

I won’t go into the details of the campaign to save services at Lewisham Hospital. You can read about it at the campaign’s website here. Just two comments.

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My Writing Life

Chris lives in and writes about south London.

We all live a collection of interlocking lives, don’t we? Parent, brother, employee, customer. Bloke who comes in for coffee every morning, says hello and leaves. We juggle these lives usually without thinking, but how often do we fully inhabit them all? And how common it is that we find ourselves spending too long in the lives that interest us least? Usually because someone pays us to be there.

I’m no different; I live the same nested portfolio of more and (usually) less interesting lives that you do. They include many years working for the government, inventing and promoting policies I sometimes agree with. And more recently the more enjoyable task of setting up my own business, trying to work only on those policies I support.

And a lot of time spent doing the same kind of domestic stuff that every home and family demands, as well as probably too much time (and money) spent following the fortunes of a relatively unsuccessful English football team. You won’t read much about those things here.

What you’ll get here is a window into the life I have to fight to make space for among everything else. A world where I work harder than anywhere else, because I want to, not because I have to. A place that I can’t claim is limitless in its possibilities, but where no one else places constraints upon me; where the only limits are those I impose myself through the poverty of my imagination and the naivety of my craft. This is about my writing life.

How interesting is that? You’ll have to judge for yourself and maybe we can find out together. No spoilers, no vain promises. I know that I can offer you scary tales of London life and sad tales of people who lose their way and can’t get home again. I can offer you tasty recipes and meditations on popular music, made-up stories of the future and stories from history (some true, some also made-up). There will be free fiction, which I hope you enjoy and which I would love to know your views on. And sometime – probably more often now I’m not working for the government anymore – I can offer thoughts on how the world is and maybe could be.

Let me know what you think.

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