Exploration; Calderdale, The Arctic, The Mississippi…

CalderdaleBeing temporarily somewhat underemployed – the supply teaching has yet to materialise to fill the gaps between procrastinating about writing book 3 – I have at least been afforded a bit of time to get out and see what’s happening in my new old home of Calderdale here in West Yorkshire. I’ve been rediscovering the area where I spent the first 20 years of my life on the bike, on foot as well as in my new four-wheeled friend, the iced-chocolate Mini… It has been good to meet up with old friends (and family) in the area as well as cycling enthusiasts such as Ian Street in Leeds a couple of weeks ago for the first Leeds Bicycle Film Club evening (there’s another one coming up on the 28th September) and the team at Blazing Saddles in Hebden Bridge who have got me thinking seriously about a replacement for you know who… (Shhh!) I’ve even made it into the local paper talking about my own cycling exploits!

However, I’m also trying to edge my way into the local cultural scene (in the widest sense) and have penciled in a few potential trips to the local film society and a drive over to Ilkley in mid October to listen to Ranulph Fiennes talk about ‘Heat’ and the Snows – Peter and Dan – tell me what I don’t already know about the battle of Waterloo from having visited the field earlier in the summer. I’ve also highlighted a couple of talks at the Square Chapel Centre for the Arts in Halifax which will hopefully keep my appetite whetted for future ‘adventures’ in life (aside from the supply teaching that is…). On October 1st Neil Gresham will be talking about his ‘Life on the Edge‘ (no, he’s not a supply teacher too; he’s a climber) and last night I attended ‘An Evening of Exploration: From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico‘ hosted by ‘Halifax’s premier explorer‘(!), Ken Robertshaw…

I suppose it was the ‘Arctic’ bit of his talk that first drew my attention. Having recently returned from the not-so-frozen north (not in July…) myself it would be interesting to hear about someone else’s experiences. And so it was. Ken is a retired police inspector who left the force about 15 years ago after having been run over by a driver (well, the driver’s car I suppose). He recovered and in recent years has taken on a couple of challenges in aid of good causes (notably the Theodora Children’s Charity for whom he has raised an impressive £25,000 through his talks and his books). The first of these was back in 2012 when he was invited to join a group who planned to spend a week husky dog sledding in the area just to the east of Tromsø. With the snow covering almost everything in his photos it was difficult to reminisce about my own trip where the white stuff was limited to the highest peaks but I could sympathise with his comments about the cold. To a certain extent anyway; I endured summer night temperatures which may have been as low as a couple of degrees whereas in April he had had to endure temperatures of minus 30 (at which point the scale on his thermometre stopped).

I chatted briefly with Ken during the interval and asked a few questions about travelling in Norway and Sweden. Curious to know if he had any further exploits up his sleeve he was a little hesitant before admitting that his next trip may involve two wheels rather than four dogs. “Come along for a week” he joked without knowing of my own adventures with Reggie…

Part 2 of the talk was very different focussing upon a much longer trip by kayak along the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s around 2,500 miles and he travelled with a woman in her early 20s (who was also in the audience) during the late summer and early autumn of 2014. A trip not without its considerable challenges from fathoming a way along a barely detectable stream in the north, over dams made by beavers and those made by man (the latter seemed to provoke more problems that the former), dealing with somewhat erratic and potentially dangerous weather conditions to ensuring that the local bears don’t eat your dinner before you do. Or indeed eat you. This is Ken’s website with more information about his experiences in the deep south.

Perhaps I should crack on with organising my own speaking tour…

What’s that? Really? You want a pretty picture of a sunset looking west from Calderdale that looks as though Putin has dropped the bomb on Manchester!? O.K. Here’s one I took earlier…

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