Monday, May 17, 2010


"When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical.
All the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me.

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical.

Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable."

(Supertramp - The Logical Song)

Isn't growing up a joy?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Your Own Adventure

"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." - Helen Keller

A big part of my enthusiasm for the outdoors comes from my parents. Both of them like being out and about, and have always encouraged and supported both myself and my sisters to do the stuff we wittered about wanting to do as kids. Kayaking, orienteering, mountain biking, all of it. Obviously there were limitations, but we got the chance to do as much as we could.

Something that's been on my mind recently has been something being your own adventure though, and I think that's another thing that relates back to mum and dad. Let me expand, at vague length, on what I mean...

When I was a kid, we went away orienteering a lot. Sometimes it was fantastic, and looking back now it did wonders for my navigation skills and base fitness. But I didn't always enjoy it, and I remember particular patches where I REALLY didn't enjoy going. I wanted to stay in, play computer games, play rugby etc. I sulked and kicked my legs when made to go to ANOTHER orienteering event where I would be out in the woods for HOURS because I'm not a particularly good runner and it was BORING and I wanted to do SOMETHING ELSE. The same when my folks would take me and my sisters out for a walk, whether it was up to Whinlatter, along the old Keswick-Threlkeld railway line or just from the house around the Ireby loop. I've never been a fan of just taking orders, I want to explore things my own way.

So, for someone with so much enthusiasm for the outdoors, why be reluctant to go? Because it wasn't my own adventure.

I loved going out on my mountain bike, unsuited as it was to my trips (Hi-Ten steel frame, no suspension, knackered bearings, hybrid tyres), riding along to Ireby, up onto the fell road, on to Borrowscales, over the back of Skiddaw. I probably gave my parents kittens, some of the rides I used to go out on, solo. But it was my own adventure, and so my whole heart was in it.

Doing things like Chief Scouts Challenge and Duke of Edinburgh's Award developed another side of my own adventures, the planning aspect. Coming up to an Adventure Race or a big hill trip these days, I find it really enjoyable to plot and plan, pick routes, sort kitlists, logistics, camping spots. I love doing that side as much as I do actually getting out onto the hill. It's all part of my own adventure.

So, what's brought on this outbreak of ownership and deep thinking? Last weekend, my girlfriend Hannah and some of her friends were heading out to do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. They've been training together, getting the hills in individually, and working towards the full works. I'd said, initially, I would walk with them, a walk I've done numerous times before and love. They trained, and walked, and planned, and I did my own thing, as I tend to do. Then something occurred to me: I was so fond of my own adventure, why should I interfere with them having THEIR own adventure? I know what I'm like on the hill, in most circumstances I want to take charge, push on, and get people moving. But maybe that isn't what they want, maybe they want to take it at their own pace, enjoy the day, and not be bullied around the hills by a self-professed 'veteran'.

I dropped out of the walk, and drove up to the Dales as their support. I made sandwiches, brewed tea, consulted maps and did the shopping. I went for short walks, took binoculars, watched the fells, and tried to find sheltered places to park the car. I provided encouraging words, snippets of advice, and dry thermals. And I had a great day. I hope they did too.

Everyone should be allowed their own adventures. Whether that adventure takes you across mountain ranges or just around your own back garden is up to you. As long as the adventure is your own. If you can support someone else in theirs, one day they might come to support you in yours. And then maybe one day you'll both have your own adventures together.