Writing

Making decisions about a writing course.

I’ve always liked the idea of being a writer – work when and where you want to, write about things you’re interested in, get to do things that other people don’t, and so on. However, I realise that I might not like the reality as much as I like the idea. Having constant deadlines, having to write in a way an editor wants me to rather than the way I want to, trying to sell my work, and so on. But unless I try I’ll never know. A few years ago I started to think more seriously about this and managed to get paid £100 for a 200 word article I wrote for the Times Educational Supplement. Then life got incredibly busy again and I never got round to writing anything else. I’ve always kept travel diaries, but haven’t really written anything else. So if I do get seriously involved in writing I think it would have to be travel writing in some form or other (I would include outdoor activity type writing in with this though).

A friend who lives in Bali has been writing for her local paper for years. She’s written on education in past, but mainly writes a review and what’s on type column these days. She’d like to get more involved in writing and has found a correspondence course with the London School of Journalism that she is interested in doing. I had a look at the course online and there is a travel writing version of it which sounds really interesting. I don’t necessarily think a course would be a guarantee for me becoming a wonderful writer, but it might focus me and give me some direction in styles and markets.

I was fully intending to apply for this course in the summer when my web design course finishes, but then I got the opportunity to do a post-graduate certificate in specific learning difficulties which is paid for by the TDA. After a bit of thought I decided to go for it. How often do you get the chance of free education these days? And it’s an area I’m interested in and may open up more job opportunities for me in the future. It’s an awful lot of work on top of everything else I’m doing, so now I have to decide whether I can really take on the travel writing course as well. There’s no point doing it if I’m not going to do it properly. But I don’t really want to postpone it by a year. So in the next month or two I have a big decision to make.

Motorbikes

The pros and cons of learning to ride a motorbike.

I’ve always liked the idea of riding a motorbike – having all that power in my hand and being open to the elements instead of hidden away in the tin box that is a car. I’ve been on the back of few bikes and it’s been ok but nothing special. I want to be in control. In the last couple of years I’ve had a go at driving (riding?) a skidoo and a quadbike and enjoyed both.

I’m not really sure how much I’ll like the practicality of motor biking though. When it’s bad weather I want to be tucked away in the warm dry environment of my car and when it’s good weather I really won’t want to be wearing all that hot sweaty protective gear. I’d still like to give it a go though.

Without having a bike I don’t know how good I’d be able to get. I could have a few lessons at a place where they provide the bike, but it’s only by riding regularly on my own bike that I’d get to be good and really know if I like it or not. If I had my own bike there’s the problem of storage. Maybe I could store it in my future hostel?

On my web design course I’ve become friendly with a woman who has a bike and is a member of a group of women bikers. They often go out riding in the Peak District together. So she could be a good contact for my future biking life!

Web Design Course

Why I want to learn how to create my own website.

Ever since I first started learning how to use a computer in the latter half of the 1990s I’ve enjoyed them, found them fascinating and wanted to learn more. As I’ve got more and more hooked on the internet I’ve wanted to understand more about how it works and how it is put together. So this is one reason for my enrolling in a web design course. The other reason is so I can put together my own website for the hostel I plan to own one day.

I started a beginner’s web design course last September at the local college. On this course I learnt the basics of HTML and got quite a good understanding of how websites are created. I enjoyed it and finished in February with a distinction. This motivated me to sign up for the intermediate level course which began immediately after the first course and runs until July. On this course I am learning how to use Expression and Java, amongst other things. I’ve found it a lot more difficult than the first course but think this is mainly due to being so tired and exhausted all the time. I have no time to practice at home and by the time I get to college I’m half asleep. Yesterday evening I was quite alert as it was the first day back at school after the Easter holidays and I’ve had a good rest and feel really relaxed. What a difference! I understood everything and feel that I did quite well. So there’s hope for me yet!

Drums

I want to learn to play the drums, but what sort of drum should I go for?

I don’t play any musical instruments but have always felt that I should. That it would make me a more complete person in some way. I’m not naturally musical and actually think I’m tone deaf, but why should I let a little thing like that stop me.

I’m interested in a few instruments such as the guitar, piano and violin, but the one that really interests me is the drums. I love the sound of drums and there’s just something appealing about having a legitimate reason to bash the hell out of something. What a way to get rid of any frustrations!

As a whole drum kit will take up too much room, I think I should start with something like a bodhran or bongo drums. I bought my nieces one of each for Christmas and so had a go of them then and quite liked them. A couple of nights ago I almost went back on to the same website I got their drums from to order myself some, but decided to hold off for a month or two as I’ve had a lot of other expenses recently. Then towards the end of a school meeting today the Head of Music mentioned that her department had lots of bodhrans that never get used and she’s looking to get rid of them. Straight away I asked if I could have one, as did a few other people. So I think I’ll be getting a free bodhran when she gets round to sorting them out. I asked if she also has any bongos going spare but she didn’t think so. We all have to get rid of so much stuff before we move into the new building next January that I think there will quite a few more instruments up for grabs as well. Hmm, wonder what else I could learn?

I’ve had a look on the internet for a ‘teach yourself drumming from scratch’ guide, but they all seem to be more for regular drums. I’ll keep looking, but also may have to look for lessons in the future. I don’t want to be a brilliant drummer (I know there’s no chance of that), but as long as I understand the basics and can bash out a bit of rhythm I’ll be happy.

Cycling Japan

Why cycling round Japan might be a good idea.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for years. I have Japanese friends who returned to live there a few years ago and visiting them gives me even more of a reason to go to Japan. Why haven’t I gone already?

  • When I’ve had time to go on holiday I’ve been busy visiting other places instead
  • I’d like to go for long(ish) time and so haven’t had long enough holidays off work
  • It’s very expensive
  • It’s difficult to get around and really do anything without knowing the language and a lot about the culture.

So, if I’m going to get around to ticking this one off my list I have to get over these four main issues.

The first one isn’t so major. I’ll make time for it at some point. I have plenty of time to get to all the main places I want to visit before I’m 60 and still have time to visit others as well.

Now I’m a teacher I have 6 weeks holiday in the summer. Spring and autumn are meant to be the nicest times to go as I’d get to see either the blossoms or the autumn leaves. But I could cope with missing out on those as long as I got to see the country. I’m not sure if even 6 weeks would be long enough, but I may get even more time in the future if my hostel and freelancing life plans work out. So issue no.2 is fast disappearing. 

The expense is a problem I still have to really deal with. Some people say it’s not as expensive as I think especially if I’m not staying in luxury hotels. Which I definitely wouldn’t be. I recently read an article in a travel magazine about cycling round part of Japan. Now that would be a really cheap way to get about. I could camp (hopefully – I don’t know much about the camping situtation in Japan), carry lots of packets of instant noodles, and get to out of the way places without it costing me anything.

The problem with the cycling solution is I’ve never ridden really long distances before and never carried all my gear on a bike. I would like to do this though, which is why doing a long distance cycle tour is also on my list of things to do. By doing my cycle tour in Japan I could tick off 2 challenges in one go. So now, I need to think about practising and training. I bought a cycle rack for my car at Christmas so I can take my bike out to the Peak District and cycle some of the converted railway track trails. I do want to cover these as they are very scenic, but they make for boring walking. They will make a good start for my cycle training though. As I’m too busy to even get out walking or go to the gym at the moment I don’t know when this will happen, but hopefully before the summer.

The fourth issue with my going to Japan is the culture and language. I have a friend who is a Japanophile (is there a proper word for that?) and has studied the language for years. Even she had lots of difficulties when she visited. The language is written in a mix of Japanese, Western and Chinese characters. Although she knew the Japanese and Western characters, all the Chinese characters made things very hard to read. Also there are so many rules for every little thing you do. Because foreigners don’t know the etiquette it makes it very difficult to achieve even half of what a Japanese person can in the time, and there are many things you miss out on completely.

Starting my visit by staying with my Japanese friends may be a good move as I can learn a lot from them. Akiko is pretty adventurous and not your typical Japanese woman so she may even be persuaded to do a bit of travelling with me. I’ll need to learn a bit of the language, though I have no plans for that just now. I’m studying a couple of other things at the moment and need to get them out of the way before I take anything else on. I can make a start on the culture though. I’m not starting from zero as I already know quite a bit (not nearly enough, but more than your average British person). I’ve just bought The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture which is a bit out of date but still a good place to start according to the reviews on Amazon. I must also read my Josie Dew books about her cycle tours of Japan. I like her books but I’ve never got round to reading these two even though I’ve owned them for years.

And still on the cycling theme – I’ve just come back from the Netherlands which is the world’s most cycle friendly country. As I go there most years, I could do a bit cycle tour training there. There are plenty of places it would be great to cycle round for a few days and I could carry all my gear to practice. I’ve done some cycling there in the past (including this visit) so I know how easy it is. A great place to start.

So these are my Japan visiting and cycle touring plans so far. When I start writing them down like this I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. When they are just ideas swimming around in my head it doesn’t feel like I’m actually doing anything towards my goals. But actually, they are all ticking over all the time in the back of my mind.

Mud Walking

Walking for hours through cold, oozy, thigh-deep mud sounds like fun. Really.

I’ve just returned from the Netherlands where I spent almost a week staying with a friend in Amsterdam. This has got me thinking again about wadlopen or mud walking. Continue reading “Mud Walking”

Floatation

I want some sensory deprivation.

I first read about floatation tanks in a newspaper article years ago.

Although I read it in the UK the tanks were in New Zealand. Having never been to any sort of spa or having done anything like this before, I loved the idea and resolved to have a go when I got to New Zealand. Continue reading “Floatation”

BBC – The Big Read

A list within a list – 200 books to read covering a variety of authors, genres and times.

In April, 2003 the BBC decided to search for the nation’s best loved novel. Through a voting system they came up with the top 200 novels. This was then shortened to the top 100 novels. I’ve read quite a few of these books already and have enjoyed most of them. By reading the whole of the long list I’m expecting to discover authors and books that I will enjoy but might not have otherwise thought of reading. And it’s a list within my list. And I do like lists.

Continue reading “BBC – The Big Read”

Ballooning

Musing about taking a hot air balloon flight.

I arrived in Germany on Saturday evening and as we sat down around my brother’s kitchen table to eat dinner, a hot air balloon floated past the window. It’s the lowest I’ve seen one. We could even see inside the basket. It was a beautiful warm evening and it seemed so idyllic to be floating about over the vineyards.

Continue reading “Ballooning”