I was teaching this formula to a group of disinterested 14 year olds earlier in the week. (Not including the bit in brackets.) They had clearly been reading the book I have just started reading myself; Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck… I give a f*ck far too often. I think I shouldn’t. I’m not sure if this ties in with what I’ve written below but I think it might. If it doesn’t, well, I don’t give a f*ck and clearly the £18.99 spent at Waterstones wasn’t wasted. I’m going to go back and remove the apostrophe in ‘Waterstone’s‘ as I’m trying to no longer give a f*ck. I digress…
On a personal level, the Coronavirus has, until now at least, been kind. (Let’s hope it stays that way.) I’ve spent the past six months being ‘furloughed’ from my part time job at the arts centre in Halifax, and that continues until at least the end of October. As for the teaching, after having been similarly ‘furloughed’ by the teaching agencies, I have spent the last four weeks working almost without a break as a substitute English and Maths teacher in a local school as the regular teachers have been at home isolating. A few days ago I was asked to work the final week of term – from the 19th – covering for a maths teacher. (I appreciate that this is rather long-winded but stay with me…) I’ve already agreed to work on the 12th – tomorrow – and the 13th at the same school but not the 14th, 15th and 16th. The clocks go back at the start of half term on the 25th. During the holiday there are, of course, all the families heading off in the hope of some reasonable autumn weather. Can you see where this is going? (Or perhaps you don’t give a f*ck.)
Well, the upshot of all that self-justification is that I have booked three nights to stay in a two-person ‘camping pod’ at the YHA hostel in Malham this coming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This will be a new experience as, although I have stayed at the hostel in Malham (back in 2009) I have never stayed in a ‘camping pod’. Here’s a video explanation from the YHA:
Looks good, no? I suspect the two-person pod may be a little smaller than the one shown in the video but as someone who is more accustomed to a tent, I’m sure it will feel like a palace in comparison. (If you were unaware that you can camp at some of the YHA hostels, you may wish to check out this page of their website. There are several options – including bringing your own tent – but, alas, the number of hostels that actually embrace camping is relatively low. Whenever I arrive at a YHA place and see acres of grass without any tents I do wonder why it isn’t allowed more widely across the network… STOP! I’m practising not giving a f*ck.) Expect a detailed run-down of my ‘pod’ experiences later in the week.
Aside from wishing to make the most of British Summer Time while it is still with us (although I’m not expecting any kind of heatwave next week), one valid criticism of my cycle around the four capitals of the United Kingdom in July and August…
…was that it did become, at times, a race from A to B (to C and then D…), especially as I made my way from Cardiff to London in the last three days. Various people have asked if there will be a book written as a result of the 28 days I spent cycling (and the handful of ‘rest’ days). The answer is simply ‘no’ as I don’t feel that I would have a great deal to write about. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the trip (well, most of it, when it wasn’t raining…) but apart from when I stopped in the capitals I didn’t really do much apart from cycle and watch the world go by. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But such an approach to travelling doesn’t make it easy to write a travelogue, especially when the journey was ‘only’ one of four weeks. (Incidentally, there will, at some point, be a film and podcast about the trip once I get round to piecing together all the audio and video. Perhaps a job for half term, after the clocks have changed.)
I was aware of this rushing from place to place as I was cycling around the UK but with the accommodation having been booked, by COVID-enforced necessity, in advance for most of the trip, it was something that I didn’t feel as though I could easily change. I have always been torn by the competing desires of travelling long distances on my bicycle (who remembers this epic?) while at the same time stopping cycling (or at least slowing down), getting off the bike (well, unless cycling slowly…) and having a pootle around a village in the middle of nowhere, sitting down on a bench, people watching, eating an ice cream, chatting with a local, reading the details of a tourist information board, following a sign to a top of a hill because of some obscure attraction… That kind of thing. I’ve certainly done this in the past but perhaps not half as much as I should have (or would have liked).
As I was racing from West Yorkshire to Edinburgh to Belfast to Cardiff (via Liverpool and a two-week break back home) to London, I came to the conclusion that one way of travelling long distances with a bicycle while at the same time giving yourself the time to stop and stare far more often is, well, to ‘cheat’ and jump on trains where that’s a possibility. OK, it’s not cheating (and is a laudable approach adopted by many more worthy travellers than my good self) but the purest in me does like the idea of cycling from end-to-end without breaking the sacred line of cycling continuity. Would Tarifa to Nordkapp back in 2015 have been so satisfying if I have ‘missed bits out’ (that’s not actually an accurate expression to describe what happens but…) and travelled on a train from, say, Paris to Brussels? At the time, it probably wouldn’t. But if I were to do something similar again – my doomed attempt to cycle the length of Japan in 2020 for example – wouldn’t such an approach simply enrich the travelling experience? I think it goes without saying that it would. Cycle a bit, a few days – perhaps even a week – and then ponder the map, spot a black train line and jump on the 15:34 to Sapporo, for example. The more I consider this approach, the more attractive it seems. Should I ever get to Japan to cycle from Cape Soya to Cape Sata, expect it to be one that I adopt.
But back to October 2020 and my trip to Malham. It’s a perfect opportunity to put into practice what I have been preaching above. On the assumption that our Great Leader Johnson doesn’t ban me from doing so in his statement to the House tomorrow, I will set off on Wednesday morning and, after a short cycle to Halifax train station, will take the train to Skipton from where, after a suitable ponder around the town, will cycle the 15 km to Malham. With three nights in one place, I will spend the next two days pootling around the southern Dales with the express purpose of not cycling very far but rather, seeking out the interesting nooks and crannies that, despite knowing the area relatively well, have, until now, escaped my attention. If I see a tourist information sign, I will read it from start to finish. If I spot a sign pointing to a curiosity, I will follow it. If I happen upon a dry stone waller (or similar) at work, I will endeavour to have a chat. If I see a view, I will stop and stare at it. If there’s a bench to sit on to appreciate said view, I will stare even longer. And now, with my newly discovered sketching hat on, if I see a building that merits it, I will stop and sketch it. Brace yourself for this next one… I will also switch off Strava.
There, I’ve said it. And I don’t give a f*ck.
As a slight addendum to all that, I referenced above a previous visit to Malham in 2009 when I stayed the night at the YHA hostel en route from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Derby as I cycled the Pennine Cycleway. Most of the photographs from that trip remain hidden on the broken hard drive of an old laptop that I have kept for the day when I am rich and can pay someone to retrieve all the data. But a few remain for all to see in the annals of CyclingEurope.org. Here they are:
Despite it being 11 years ago, I still have clear memories of sitting in the garden of The Buck Inn writing my diary (the written blogging only kicked in the following year when I cycled to Italy). You can see a page of my diary in one of the photos above. Writing a diary is subtly different to writing a blog post on a website as a diary remains private until you either reveal it to others yourself or, frankly, you die and people have a good giggle at what you wrote. Well, I’ve fished out my old diary from 2009 and found the relevant entry for my visit to Malham. It reads a little like a Victorian explorer might express his feelings but hey! It was over a decade ago. I have to say that my day spent cycling to Malham and my evening in Malham were not without interesting encounters. Let’s hope that this is also the case next week…