My Twelfth Week as a Budding Author
I’ll begin this week’s update with an observation that has its origin in my tat filled attic. I was up there on Sunday ferreting about in the mass of discarded toys, mobile phone chargers, book filled suitcases and the odd bat. My task was to find some notes for a cycling article that I had written many years previously but I was quickly distracted by a folder entitled “Continued Fractions”.
I opened this up and was presented with a sixty page paper neatly handwritten by some mathematician who was attempting to bring clarity to a subject that is both obscure and complex. I won’t go into detail, simply because after page three I was completely lost. Huge great equations and words like “incongruity”, “lemma” and Euclidean had me reaching for the kids old “Huppletuckwho” book just to reset my brain back to a mental level that I could cope with.
I put the folder down and then picked it up again wondering what on earth it was doing in my attic, then I noticed the author, it was me, I’d written it as my university thesis. I sat down on a rafter and stared at it for a long time, how on earth had I understood such an obscure subject? how had I found the time to write all of that? how had I managed to make my handwriting legible? Who on earth was the twenty two year old who hammered that lot out, because it certainly doesn’t feel as if it could have been me. I’ve spent years tinkering with all sorts of things, from mapping websites to desktop arcade machines to unfinished Airfix models that are still lurking in drawers somewhere. I’m notoriously bad at sitting down and focusing upon something for months until it’s completely finished.
However, if I’m going to succeed in my writing projects I need to change my outlook. I’ve got to make sure that I attend lectures and listen to the tutors (riding the bike is the analogy here). I need to complete my research and properly document all of my sources. I must draw conclusions and present my arguments clearly and effectively. Basically I need to become that pimply faced youth of twenty years back and become very focused upon my “thesis”.
“Erm, Hello Dave, Ministry of Stating the Bleeding Obvious here, we’d like our paragraphs back please”.
I’m sorry, I’ve written 400 odd words and if you’ve got this far you’ll be wondering why it’s taken me twelve weeks to come up with that revelation. Well, the truth is that it hasn’t taken that long, it’s just that in finding that thesis I’ve gained more inspiration to do this thing as well as I can. This authoring lark does have its ups and downs and I do suffer from the occasional bout of self doubt (if you define occasional as weekdays that don’t begin with “H”). The thesis gave me a little boost, biologically I’m just about the same person that wrote that paper. Dentists, doctors and “stimulants” have taken a few bits out over the years. But if he did it, then I can. And so I started the week with a renewed vigour.
A whole series of new routes were planned including a couple of Welsh epics. Sunday’s Countryfile weather forecast can be summarised along the lines of “This week would be an extremely opportune moment for a mad cyclist to hoon round Wales every day”. And so the van was packed, family abandoned and off I toddled clearly focused upon my book writing research and objectives.
Well, when I say “focused” I suppose I ought to come clean with the fact that in addition to the road cycling paraphernalia, the van also contained two mountain bikes..and Malcolm. Additionally, the van sort of stopped at the Afan Argoed Mountain Bike Centre and Malcolm and I kind of rode for three hours around it’s bestest trail. Here’s a quick video of the two of us racing around like lunatics desperately trying to pretend that we’re still eighteen. The rumour that there may be another video of me crashing from standstill and falling into a ditch has been greatly exaggerated.
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I’ve justified this as business entertainment. Malcolm has chain lube running through his veins, bathes in Muc Off and slices pizza’s with chainrings. As a fanatical cyclist and next door neighbour, his services will definitely be required in the future, so lets just file the Afan diversion under “schmoozing” and move onto the rest of the week’s cycling.
Wednesday saw the sun come out..and with it my legs. I rode for ninety miles up and down many many hills in the Gower region. Cars were flashing me as the sunlight glared off my pale skin, but it felt so good to actually synthesize some vitamin D for the first time this year. During the ride I came across a signpost that had me puzzled.
Dog holidays? Dog Holidays? Whatever happened to kennels and how on earth do Dog Holidays work? I can just imagine Rover and Mitzi getting up before breakfast to throw a couple of towels over a sun lounger, spending lunch lying in the sun demanding cold Dacaris and then heading off for an evening’s worth of Dad dancing to eighties music whilst off their heads on Labrusco. I can’t contemplate how anyone would pay good money to send their dog on a holiday.
Then I realised the genius of the enterprise. I bet the company owner has a fabulous brochure or website or video showing soft focus images of labradors cavorting in daisy spangled meadows. The literature will promise that Bowser will spend a week being pampered, petted and well fed all for a very reasonable (yet not inconsiderable) sum. The owners will be hooked, Bowser will be dropped off and left in the hands of smiling carers who can’t conceal their delight at having Bowser as a temporary companion.
As soon as the car is down the drive. Bowser will be taken up the hill and shoved in a shed with the other “holidaying” dogs. He’ll sup on Tesco’s finest for a week until his owners return to collect him. A quick dust over and he is handed back. How the hell can Bowser grass them up? He can “woof” all he likes , they’ll just think he was raving over the mini bar (for which they will have been billed separately).
Anyway, the ride was mostly ace. I even managed a quick visit to an old colleague or “Bob will definitely be able to code that one” as we used to know him at work. Bob’s planning cycling epic of his own in the near future and I’m keeping careful tabs on his plans as the route looks intriguing.
I must admit that I regretted booking into a campsite at the top of a steep mile long hill and the end of the ride nearly featured walking. Consolation was found in the views from the van and that rare adult treat of a whole packet of chocolate Angel Delight to myself.
The next day I drove to Pembrokeshire, diligently following my directions to a campsite that I had booked previously over the phone. The owner had informed me with great enthusiasm that the site would cater to my every need. I clearly informed her that I had a motorhome, needed electricity and a hard standing to park on. “Yes, yes, yes” she retorted, “We have all of that, it’ll be fine”
I drove past this site three times until I finally spotted the sign and it was then that I realised I’d been talking to a world champion embellisher. The campsite was her garden. My van wouldn’t not have made the turn through her gate and into the mythical motorhome valhalla. I rang the doorbell out of courtesy, but there was no answer, so I sodded off to a much more salubrious site complete with shower, flushing toilets and a Welsh landlady whose accent caused me some trouble.
“Would it be ok if I stayed until 5pm on Friday” I tentatively enquired.
“Pobbleycym llanfarglythwingoggerith” she replied which I took to mean “Yes”.
Friday was quite simply magical. I woke early to see the sun come up over the hills and feasted upon porridge with bananas. I threw leg over bike and then threw the bike over hills as I fought my way around the coastline of Pembrokeshire. I hardly saw a car all day, only a mild breeze blew and the sun’s rays were uninterrupted by cloud in their descent towards my pale skin. Ninety miles later I collapsed next to the van and pinched myself to ensure that this wasn’t a dream. Sun, no wind, no abuse from motorists, sea views and shorts all in one ride? In the UK that’s a year’s worth of highlights crammed into a single day.
25th March 2011
This weeks writing is dedicated to the memory of Sian O’Callaghan and the unidentified other found with her.