Wonderful

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Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

4/5

I found this review difficult to write because, whilst I absolutely loved the majority of this book, I began to lose a little patience with it near the end, which initially left a sourer taste in my mouth than I think its wonderfully told story deserves.

‘Wonderfully’ because, despite any hesitations as the final part drew to a close, so initially captivated was I by the main characters’ lives, and such was my interest in the telling of their stories, that the momentum gained was more than sufficient to keep me involved until the end – and now, only a short time after completing my journey with them, an overall feeling is beginning to be felt and this wonderful connection to the whole story realised.

From the outset, this story makes its inexorable way toward its conclusion with a certain sense of inevitability and fatality. There really are no other directions the paths these characters are on can lead. This is not to suggest that the story feels predictable; merely that they inhabit a living, breathing, dynamic world, where each action and decision has real-world consequences and effects. You become so drawn into their lives, particularly in the earlier parts, that you find yourself emotionally invested in and caring about every decision and choice they make, and every step they take; feeling optimism when they go one way, or dread when they go another; and sharing in the sense of justice or injustice at the fruit that these paths may bear.

All of the main characters are sympathetically-not-sentimentally drawn as fully-rounded human-beings, and are infused with love by the author. As such, their motivations are clear and understandable. Subsequently, you find yourself able to empathise with them all, even in the face of behaviour that may appear disagreeable – and you really do care and do become emotionally invested in the outcomes of their well-meaning if misguided choices and actions.

It is these living and breathing people that populate the story that make it such a joy. This book is a lesson in characterisation. They are drawn so well, within and without, that we feel able to see how they are seen, and feel how they see – and are, therefore, able to empathise with, appreciate, and understand all of these points of view. This gives us a fully-rounded, fully-realised, believable cast inhabiting a generally fully-drawn believable world.

For those that enjoy getting invested in lives populating a convincingly told human drama against the backdrop of a realistic and generally relatable world, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I doubt this a book that will affect your worldview and, although a beautifully framed story, its structure and telling don’t break any new ground – hence the four rather than five marks. However, that’s not what it’s here to do: it’s here to tell the story of this family and various members within – and this it does wonderfully. It therefore receives a hearty recommendation from me.

Made Up Things

Île de Ré and Back [Part 1]: Sunday 20 August 2017

14:55. Mixed emotions today. Beautiful get up and hop to the coast. Top breakfast again – as the sea discreetly reclaimed the shoreline. Great stretch. Some chat with some local dogs and local folk – and away we went!

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Over the three-kilometre bridge linking mainland France with the Île de Ré. Pure exhilaration. Couldn’t get the smile off my face – don’t know what it is about crossing expanses of water on my bike, but I am usually so full of emotions that I have no idea how to express them.

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And the island that awaited was – beautiful!

Maybe I was always going to flatten out a bit after that – I was still high, but didn’t know it in comparison to the earlier buzz.

And though this clearly isn’t lowest-common-denominator holidaying or breaking, it’s still entertainment-by-numbers: paths to be followed – although many you’re not strictly allowed to (?!), restaurants to be sat at, and donkeys with trousers (?!) to be ridden. Beautiful place, for sure, but devoid of heart, and designed only to part people from their hard-earned on things.

Spontaneity channelled down predictable tourist tunnels.

I can’t see the light!

I can’t see the light!

Even touring round the coast is mapped and therefore a little depressing, as I just feel like I’m on one of those farm trails – rather than one of my own design. For the first time since we set off at the end of June I feel a word rumbling to be used, one that I thought I’d kind of forgotten about: ‘bored.’

I felt bored.

I did find €10 though.

And leave the poor fucking donkeys alone!!!

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Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #1

Sunday 05 January 2020

Last Winter only seems like yesterday: coming back to Poland after two years of bicycle-touring, taking over my parents’ garden and beginning our 2019 No-Dig Gardening Project. Here we are again, one year later, with a bit more knowledge and experience – more than ready to start gardening once again.

It’s 05 January 2020 and the weather has been ideal to spend some time outdoors. Geoff’s been fixing tools, and I’ve been mulching the beds (laying well-rotted, green, organic matter on cardboard (brown matter)).

The soil we managed to produce as part of the 2019 Gardening Project only covered about a fifth of the beds, so the rest of them will have to be covered as described above. We will, however, try and produce more soil this year – now we know how to approach the matter 😉 

As you can see in the photos, despite it being Winter, the garden is still producing some vegetables: cavolo nero, kale, beetroots, carrots, spinach, rucola, celeriac, parsnip, parsley, and garlic (some of them covered with fleece).

The process is: as we pull and eat them, the patches of soil left will immediately be covered with the cardboard-and-organic-matter combo, so no beds remain bare. Feeding and protecting the soil also leads to fewer weeds later on.

These are some of the principles behind No Dig Gardening and Permaculture.

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Climate Stripes — I can’t believe it!

I’m obviously not keeping up. Fortuitously, son slipped me the ‘climate’ issue of The Economist from September 2019, which features these ‘climate stripes’. (Our children are of course there to educate us!) Each stripe in the featured image represents the global temperature averaged over a year, from 1850 to 2018. You can see that the […]

via Climate Stripes — I can’t believe it!

Is Greta Thunberg right, and if so, what do we do about it? — Lowimpact.org

I identify with Greta Thunberg. I’m also aspergic, and I understand why she’s so motivated. I talked with several people over the Christmas period who don’t like her, for various reasons – her voice; her team fly even though she doesn’t; her parents are manipulating her; she’s too angry; she once used a plastic bottle,…

via Is Greta Thunberg right, and if so, what do we do about it? — Lowimpact.org

Down and Round the Rabbit-Hole

Corn Field 12k beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer to the Coast around L’Houmeau [Part 4]: Sunday 19 August 2017

Don’t know how long we can keep living like this. “As long as bloody possible!” my heart says. But it doesn’t matter how free you may have broken from certain conventions or expectations, there’s still this voice that occasionally announces itself and starts discussing the long-term- usually when we take our rest-day within the symbols of convenience and conformity that a hotel’s four-walls signify. But too much long-term – in fact, any-term – thinking really distracts you from living now, 

and the future never comes,
but now is always here,

so you may as well fill it with as much of what you want to be doing.

Then whatever future grows out of that will be based upon that, which can’t be a bad thing: built on optimism, hope, and life, as it would be, rather than on a fear of what might happen if we don’t save this or don’t do that.

Out of a fear of losing a future that hasn’t happened yet – and may never happen – you lose the now.

Seems a shame that.

There are things I’d like to do in the future, though, relating to permaculture, eco-communities, sustainable living, and self-sufficiency that may require some funds, but this journey feels so good, so right, why change it or withdraw from it? Withdraw from negative experiences where possible, sure, but positive ones? just in case? to avoid losing something that you don’t even have for the sake of something you do and something you cherish?

Good paths lead to good places. There may be an unwanted surprise waiting along one of them – sooner? later? – but at least the distance you travelled however far you made it will have been filled with you, and full of good hope, optimism and cheer

and these vibes will echo on.

The set of experiences that combine to give us a sense of I don’t disappear when they go their separate ways. They become greater, just keeping going, as part of the whole everything inhabits in their different temporal bundles of energy – so nothing can really be lost

If you sell your present to a future that hasn’t happened, the only sure thing is that you lose the now. And if your hope for that future you’re afraid to lose is based on the-afraid-you now, then who is to say you’ll grasp that hoped-for-future or even recognise it when you get there?

Unless you’re preparing for a rainy-day, which again, if that’s the only thing you see in your future, how will you know it’s the right rainy-day? Won’t they all seem rainy in some way, but never quite as dark as the one you imagine? Even if you do recognise it, won’t that just be a now created out of a present based on fear, which could only ever lead one way – being born as it is: of fear? Even if there’s nothing bad waiting along the path you finally choose, each step will be fear-filled, tentative, unsure – so, really, how much life will be lived? and what reverberates from such a life-path – as that energy’s rebounding, too?

So we’ll continue on as long as we can – as long as circumstances allow. We just have to assist those circumstances – by not blowing money on niceties that aren’t that nice when you see how much of an impact they have on your ability to maintain the real niceness of life.

We’ve begun budgeting properly, which is cool, and as our love and familiarity with this way of life increases, our perceived need for a hotel or Warmshowers may continue to decrease and help our budget stretch a little longer.

It would be nice to do all of this off our own backs and resourcefulness rather than on any inheritance, which being unearned could be used in a quite lackadaisical and disrespectful way, which would also undermine much of the meaning behind what we’re doing: it would become more of a jolly than a way of life we had chosen to lead.

That money will always be there. For what? For when we finish? Finish what? Start what? The ‘what’ that is part of our combined inheritance one day? But when is that ‘one day’? And is that it and when? Do we not live until there?

Of course not.

Are we just waiting for that day? or do we keep living? 

How?

By living right
and this feels so right that where it leads cannot be wrong,
and it’s damned exciting
and damned exhilarating

because it is so bloody fragile.

The whole of life is just more intense, more real, more lived. It just feels full, and if that sounds egocentric, it’s full not really in the sense of ‘I’ – ‘I have this experience’ – but as in I am just one part of experience – and therefore all experience.

Beautiful. Very intense beauty.

For now, we’ll carry this on. We kind of figured we’d have to hole up somewhere over the Winter months – and that looks like Spain – and that looks like teaching.

We’ve got a better idea of how far finances might take us. Amazing how not far given the fact that we only buy food. Even if we get used to not having to hotel and only Warmshower, we still only have enough for the next eight weeks: until the middle of October, so we could be teaching by then…

…but how long will we have to work to be able to have enough to stop teaching and just ride again?

We don’t know.

It’s just: keep going and see.

I’m now being an example of trying to control a future that hasn’t happened.

We can only continue along a strong positive presence that enables us to fill our presents with positivity; and the positive now is to keep doing what we’re doing while it continues to make sense. In order to do that, we need to work out a budget, work to a budget, and work on getting it down: learning to economise wherever we can.

We are, but it is a learning process – quite a harsh one sometimes – and other things will crop up that we need to be ready for, so we do need some rainy-day money, but how do we get that rainy-day money back up to where it was? and have the money to start travelling again in March?

I don’t think we can.

How do we keep this Tracing Horizons’ show rolling without recourse to resources not of our own earning or making?

The way we can.

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23:55. Wow, the stars!

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Down to the Molecule

Corn Field 12k beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer to Coast around L’Houmeau [Part 3]: Saturday 19 August 2017

2150. In the tent. On the coast. You automatically feel like exclaiming: “We’ve made it!” And I’m sure that will be the tag accompanying a photo or two relating to today. It does, however, have a sounding of finality to it: a sense of destination reached – and we don’t really have a destination. Is there such a thing as a destination, anyway? There are landmarks and achievements, but nothing really stops – ever. Even when we reach a stage where we’re not conscious of moving, we will be – on some level. Even when others see us as no more than atoms and cells and molecules, we will still be journeying on: our voices and actions reverberating somewhere, spreading ever further. We may not be conscious, in the traditionally accepted sense, of this continuous dispersal, but a bundle of experiences that became conveniently labelled ‘we’ will be out there, living their own conscious lives, experiencing their own experiences, being experienced, and becoming further experiences; only detached from this frame, so they can no longer be acknowledged and claimed by this thing called ‘I’.

But, we’ve made it to the sea; well, the ocean – as Agnieszka keeps reminding us both. And like meeting and crossing the Czech border, it does feel like some kind of landmark. Smiles beamed broader, spirits rose higher, and that selfie-stick came out for maybe only the second time – the other time being at that Czech border. And it felt spontaneously, unforcedly joyous, so who cares what it meant? or whether it should mean any particular thing? It meant what it did as it happened, for no other reason than it did; and if that was a cliché, then there’s a reason that clichés exist.

And it did crown a wonderful day. A chilled get up in a place you’d never sell as an idyllic overnight stop in a holiday brochure, but which turned out to be a beautiful peaceful place to wake up in, take it easy, breakfast, chat, stretch, and ease into the day while the heavily condensated camping gear dried out. Then a fabulous ride through the flat marshlands of sand reclaimed from the sea, which make up this part of France. Distant distant horizons, lovely weather, the synchronised surfacing fish posse: a natural wonder I will never forget, a man named Geoff, a dog named beautiful, a beaver beavering, some nature reserves of storks, the falcons, the buzzards, the dinner by the road – then we meet the coast as our day’s riding draws to an close.

Lovely.

Using that word a lot this Summer. Lazy writing? Limited vocabulary? Perhaps, but it seems the aptest in my book, so what’s the point of using others? That’d be like using socks as gloves because you felt you were overusing the gloves. Oh, the socks may serve some glovely function, but the fit wouldn’t quite be right, and there’d be a sense of discomfort whenever you wore them.

So, ‘lovely’ it is.

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