Tag Archives: travel

Dealing with Change

Change?

Candice: Phil and I have both been dealing with change recently.

We’ve had upheaval in our work environments which means we are trying to find out what the new norm is.   I’m commuting to a new role which means I have had to work out the new logistics of child drop off and pick up as well as how to get to work.  This even involves what shoes to wear as it is a 15-minute walk from the railway station to my office.

It’s been mental fun, as I work out where is the best place to park in the morning, what train pass I need, when to buy my pass, etc. down to how I am now going to fit in going to the gym my number of required times in the week as I don’t get home until past 6pm.  That time is fine in theory, but going straight to the gym means I miss seeing my daughter in the evening, something I don’t want to do every night.

I’m now a month in and still haven’t got it right.  Things like the fact you can’t get a parking space at my local station after 8am are causing an issue, as well as discovering that a snarl up in the town centre means an earlier train still just about gets me to school in time for pick up.  Sometimes I have to say the whole thing is melting my brain.

I’ll get there eventually, but this is the reason that people don’t change jobs, especially when they become parents, the logistics are too much to deal with.

My daughter is not a big fan of change either.  She’s not been happy about the fact I can no longer drop her off at class or pick her up early.  And this morning we’ve had tears as we’ve signed her up to tennis lessons this term, and she was adamant she doesn’t want to go.

What I do know is that she will be fine.  Every time we suggest something different she gets upset, and most of the time she comes back all smiles after a day at the holiday club or swimming lessons saying it was great.  It’s just getting over the fear of something new.  I understand as I feel the same.  I do like change, but I also know that I find it challenging, but putting myself through this widens my opportunities and makes me try new things.

Many years ago I sat an airport waiting to fly to America for the summer, to work in a summer camp, worried about what I had signed up for.  It was the best thing I ever did.  I left my job to do it and wasn’t even sure how I’d get on working with kids (I’m not a big fan) but I loved every minute and had experiences I still think about now.  And I walked straight back into a job when I came back.  This is has set me up for doing similar things over the years, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand on my own, and loved every minute.

With change comes new opportunities and we have to embrace them.  If I hadn’t changed jobs eight years ago, I wouldn’t have met my writing partner.  If I’d hadn’t opened my mouth and started chatting to him I wouldn’t have been two books down and one more in the pipeline (though frustratingly not any further along at present, that’s another blog post).

Go on, give it a go.

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Guide books, too good to be true?

brysonbookPhil: I’m writing this from my hotel room in Adelaide, Australia. Travelling around for a couple of weeks, a guide book of some sort is invaluable. Pitching up in a town and exploring is perfectly fine but having a guide in a book makes better use of limited exploring time.

I don’t really need much help with this leg of the trip as a programme of visits has already been provided by the people who invited me over. However, in preparation I’ve been re-reading Bill Bryson’s book “Down Under” for a few pointers.

Bryson is a very entertaining, and therefore successful, travel writer. I’ve read all his travel books but now I’m on the ground, they turn out to be more use for the armchair traveller. Once inspired to buy tickets, go and get something more practical.

Adelaide gets hardly a mention in the book even though the writer visited. This is odd as it’s a beautiful city full of attractive Victorian buildings. The streets are clean, it feels relaxed, just the sort of place Bryson loves. Not to worry, as I get to enjoy my exploration.

Adelaide Station

One section of the book covers a train called the “Indian Express” which runs from once side of the country to the other. I’m going to be taking the Adelaide to Sydney section of this run next week. Bryson travelled 1st class but obsesses about the people in “coach” until he accidentally finds his way in there and then describes the occupants as owning “124 pairs of sunken eyes” that follow his progress to the refined end of the train.

I will be travelling “coach”.

You see, when you ARE a successful travel writer, opportunities open up. When Bryson ends up in coach, he’s returning from riding up in the locomotive cab. Not something the average traveller gets the chance to do. He’s riding 1st class because his publisher is paying, they don’t annoy their best-selling writers with uncomfortable trips unless there is a very good reason.

Even at the one stop I’ll be making, Broken Hill, he’s off on a pre-arranged trip into the country. Me, I’m hoping that the town is as delightful as he describes. Google street view suggests the most exciting feature is a giant branch of Woolworths.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Vicarious travel is what books and TV series offer. Maximum interest in minimum time. Just don’t beat yourself up if your trip isn’t quite as action-filled. I’m not.

Adelaide Shops

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Why can’t I click on the page?

From: Clients from Hell.net

Client: I love the flyer you sent! It’s clicky!
Me: Great! So we’re done now?
Client: No. When I print out the flyer, the links aren’t clicky. Can you make them clicky?
Me: I don’t understand.
Client: I want to be able to go to our website … when … um, when I …
Me: You do know that a piece of paper can’t be interactive, right?

WGTPhil: I read (on-line) the posting above at the same time as I was reading (on-paper) “Who Goes There – Travels through strangest Britain in search of the Doctor” by Nick Griffiths, and it struck a chord.

I enjoy travel books. Sometimes they make me want to go and see the places described. Mostly my traveling is vicarious but none the worse for that. I also love Dr Who. Put the two together and we should have a winner – right?

Wrong.

Even once you get past the stream of consciousness writing style (it calms down after the first few chapters) and the lack of capital letters in the title (Grrrr) there is a fundamental problem with the book. The author keeps referring readers to his website so they can see photos of the location he visits.  That’s lovely but I was reading on a train and so constantly being pointed at a web page was a reminder that I was missing out on a good chunk of the fun to be had from Griffiths travels.

To compound matters, he keeps referring to Who episodes that I don’t remember. I mean, I love classic Who, but I don’t have an encyclopedic memory of a TV show I watched when I was 5 or even one from before I was born. I’m nerdy, but not that nerdy. Thus, I often have no idea what the location being visited looks like ‘cos I’ve not seen it on telly or on the web.

Frustrating. Very.

But, Candice and I were chatting about this over tea and squash earlier in the week, more and more people are reading on eBooks. Travel on the tube in that there London and you’ll hardly see the traditional paperback. It’s all iPads and Kindles now.

These are perfect for a book like this. If I want to see the picture, I can click on a link and assuming I’m not in a signal-free tunnel, up the photo will pop. If licensing were possible, even a clip from the show could be included. All this makes writing a rather more involved job than traditional, but it creates a very different type of book/website hybrid that could be very exciting.

None of this works (for me) on paper but it does beg a question. If the eBook/website hybrid is the way things are going, has this book about a time traveller fallen back through a wormhole from a few years in the future?

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Filthy pleasures (apparently)

Phil: It’s amazing what you learn from books. Today, I had a day off and decided to do a bit of crimbo shopping. Well, you have to start some time and with the big day many months away in my head, I can afford a gentle start…

Anyway, it gave me the chance to do one of my favourite things, cosit myself on a train with something good to read, some music (& headphones, I’m not 12 and on a bus with my stupid tinny mobile), a drink and excellent cake. The train was going to Worcester, the book appropriately “Eleven Minutes Late” by Matthew Engel and the cake a chocolate and orange muffin. The last item was purchased from the Millies Cookies concession at New Street Station which makes the best muffins in the world.

I think there is nowhere better to read than on a train. It’s safer than doing the same thing while driving a car for a start. I can’t read in cars and buses without getting all travel spewey anyway. No, for me, a warm train seat with food and drink is ideal – you read for a bit then stare out of the window for a bit, then more reading followed by more staring by which time the scenery has changed so you get something different to look at. Because you are on a train, there are none of the distractions that you find at home to take the pleasure out of reading. The washing up doesn’t call, there is no ironing and you can’t use the computer properly (Technical note: yes you can I suppose if you really want to but it’s a lot of effort to ruin a perfectly good journey. A bit like putting Brussel sprouts in a Knickerbocker glory. Better for you but not what you really want if you are honest)

Anyway, as I read, I discover that maybe my love of train travel isn’t all it appears to be. There is a quote from Freud on the subject:

A compulsive link of this kind between railway-travel and sexuality is clearly derived from the pleasurable character of the sensations of movement.

So train travel has the same effects as (reportedly) perching atop the washing machine while it goes through a spin cycle Sigmund ? If that’s true, why do so many people look so miserable while they are doing it ?

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Cup cake week day 5 – Pink with a star

Phil: This glitzy little number is from Patisserie Valerie in London. Yes dear readers, for the love of cake I went down to the big city in search of the best confectionary in Great Britain.

OK, I actually went because I love wandering around London and Chiltern Trains were running a cheap deal. I still bought the cake in the capital from a pearly king having been unable to believe my mince pies when I saw it. This photo was taken on some staging used to show off a new Vauxhall in front of a church. Don’t know why they felt the need to do this, and there was a man taking photos of the car which seemed odd until I realised he had set it up. Just to keep him happy I pretended to photograph the car and not just the cake.

Anyway, my method of navigating the capital is a bit like the journey readers go on when opening a new book. I knew of a couple of places I wanted to go but really I just like wandering around London and seeing what I find. The unexpected is what I’m looking forward to. One minute you are in Parker Street (yes it really exists) thinking that you should start heading for the station. Next you are in theatreland with all the bright lights and glittery people. Next it’s Chinatown. Then outside Foyles Bookshop surrounded by other bookshops. A trip down a side-road and everywhere is selling musical instruments. Then you are on the edge of Soho but being a good boy, skirting around this. And so it goes on.

None of this was planned and all of it was fun.

Which is why we read fiction. If you know exactly how it’s going to turn out, the journey isn’t quite as enjoyable. Yes there are books you can read more than once, but it’s never quite as good as the first trip into the unknown. For a start, unless your memory is terrible, you’ll never experience those moments when you desperately want to read faster to discover what is going to happen or the frustration when the real world gets in the way and the reading has to be put on hold. Who hasn’t read a book in a single session ? Isn’t it glorious but also feels a bit naughty ? Like wallowing in a particually good cake.

Of course this only works if the writer has done their job properly and dropped a few twists into the plot. I knew we were getting the hang of it when I re-read some of the manuscript and realised that without thinking about it, an interruption was dropped into the middle of a story strand and it worked. In fact there were several strands running and the reader bounced their way between these a bit like my trip down musical instrument road and back into book shop avenue. I’m quite pleased about all this as I suspect everyone who write their first book is. Hard-bitten old authors will be wondering what the heck I’m on about since to them it’s as natural as breathing.

The cake by the way was lovely. Hopelessly impractical as a take-away item as the icing sticks to the inside of the bag, which explains why doughnuts are so popular. Not at all sickly either. I know it looks like every mouthful will see the eater on a sugar high powerful enough to get them running up walls, but in reality it’s a good spongy based with creamy topping. Not sure about the white chocolate star though, especially since I read that dark chocolate is as good for you as a run.

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