Monday, April 12, 2021

Wandering and pondering - in life and in blogs

Pontypool Folly

This morning I took my little whippet on a walk to the folly above Pontypool. We returned by the Roman road, looping back along the canal and stopping for a chat with my friend at her cafe before returning to the car. In six miles we'd covered a municipal park, ancient tracks, a once-thriving waterway, spring ducklings and lambs and about two dozen dogs that Oscar politely sniffed.

Such is the way of walks, with the variety of what we encounter being very much their essence—or at least outwardly so. For if you're anything like me, there's an inner path too, which is just as varied, just as engaging and just as essential as the steps and stumbles of our physical journey. It's why walking alone—or together in silence—is seldom the solitary experience that it might appear.

And so to start again...

This morning I took my little whippet on a walk to the folly above Pontypool. I thought about grief and what it means; about change and how it takes time; about gardening and moving house and getting old... In six miles I'd sketched out three or four blogs posts, developed ideas for an essay and mused on why, when I'm out walking with Oscar, do we both of us stop to greet so many strangers.

I considered too, a piece I'm drafting on blogging; why we do it; why it matters; and whether the form can ever be serious writing? 

These last questions have been turning in my mind for some months—in part, this is because it's the subject of my next book. But it's also because after an intermittent period I've started to post here on the Bike Shed more frequently. And as all bloggers will know, the more regularly we write and comment, the greater the variety of readers and reflections that will come our way. 

Or do they?

For this afternoon I read a selection of my regular blog feeds and guess what? They spoke of grief and gardening and moving house and getting old...  One even talked of how profound change takes time—mirroring a mile of my walk this morning, on which I'd concluded the orthodoxy of 'progress coming ever more quickly' is a myth. That it's taken 180 years for a female jockey to win the Grand National (also a popular subject this weekend) was my topical evidence of sorts.

Were those synchronicities merely coincidence?  I suppose the meditations on grief could have been triggered by the death of Prince Phillip?  And might the other similarities be explained by the way in which blogging brings like-minds together?  After all, most readers of the Bike Shed are (broadly) of an age, and presumably, they find something here that resonates?  

Often when I walk with Jane, she is irritated by my silence; I might as well not be here, she'll say.  Few things could be further from the truth, but it's difficult to explain or reconcile. Jane is looking for outward companionship; for us to share and comment on what's occurring around us. Whereas for me, the scenery is secondary to my thoughts; the act of walking as much a means to plot a course as to follow one. 

Most times we meet in the middle—and that's a good thing.  Which reminds me of a post this afternoon on the subject of intolerance—and by implication, what constitutes an appropriate response to those we disagree with. Some inner reflection is not a bad way to begin. If later we chose to speak directly, then at least our words will be well constructed—and in all probability more rounded. I shall try to remember that thought.

Which is far from certain. Because although I  have many an epiphany on my walks and wanderings, I also forget or reject a good number on returning. I never consider these lost intentions to be a waste, nor do I strain to pick up my threads. For I've found the meditative process has a purpose we should trust, including the subliminal rejection of those directions that would lead us astray.

Which feels about the right point to stop. 

But before I do, could I ask the bloggers reading this to muse on your life and your writing, how they relate and respond to each other? Does blogging shape your thoughts, or do they determine what you write? 

I'll be asking more about this shortly, and am hoping, if you'd be so kind, to receive views To (not from) the Bike Shed. Perhaps that's something you might take on your journeys this week.


  1. I pondered my response while I walked the dog this morning! Most of my posts are compiled in my mind when I'm walking or cycling. I started blogging a few years ago when we were living in France and travelling a lot. I wanted to share my French bucolic life and travels with friends and family who are scattered far and wide. My blog is just a sanitised snapshot of my life, words chosen carefully so as not to shock or offend because my audience is not totally anonymous and I don't give too much away about my history and the real me. I rarely talk about anything political or deep and meaningful. Quite boring really.

  2. First of all I do't find Sue's blog boring at all. I suppose this is mainly because I am interested in what people are doing, where they have been, episodes from their daily life.And what do I write on my blog? (I have been blogging for a very long time) - when we farmed I wrote about the wildlife and the birds and wild flowers on our land. Then for a while I wrote a lot of (so called) poetry and I published that on my blog. This did my ego a lot of good as everyoe was always complimentary but eventually I came to the conclusion that it was rubbish and didn't write any more. Now widowed, 88 and living in our little town I write about whatever is uppermost in my mind that day. Sometimes something really interesting, sometimes to get something off my chest, and sometimes just something to say I have blogged that day.

  3. I READ a variety of blogs. Sometimes I comment but sometimes I cannot think of an appropriate comment and so I do not. I often try to be humorous in my responses but sometimes I surprise myself by revealing some touching truth about myself or my life that I can't believe I have shared with others. But I hit "publish" anyway and send my feelings out there.

  4. Hari Om
    aarrgghhh.... I spent a good half hour preparing a full response to your post... then it disappeared into the ether. I pondered whether a) to try and reconstruct it and b) whether I even could. The answer to both those was 'no', I'm sorry to say. Instead I offer...

    Having given thorough response to your comment over at 'serious writing' blog as well as the more personal journal one you have already discovered. I began blogging as an outlet for mental and emotional pressure during a spell of committed study and life experience at that time. As the subheading there says, "it began because it could, it continues because it can"!

    I leave it there this time - suffice to say, I enjoy conversation and philosophical exploration! YAM xx

  5. Rarely does blogging shape my thoughts. Tigger's blog has been on the whole rather frivolous, slightly wry observations on people, wildlife and the human effects we cross paths with. Recently however, and partly thanks to reading the views from the bike shed, I have asked Tigger to let me write a little more reflectively from time to time. Maybe its age, maybe its isolation, but I have found myself trying to put random thoughts into something whole, to find the links, to identify cause and effect, to try and see a bigger picture.
    More prosaically, I get what you are describing about a walk in an untrammeled place; the silence and the thinking in particular.

  6. A lot of my blog content these days is about the countryside and my gardens where I spend the majority of my time. I tend to listen to Prog Rock music when I'm walking or gardening. I get bored of my own company. Perhaps that why I write. It's the loneliness of the writer that makes me write.

  7. I just write as inspired..or not inspired at times!
    Sometimes to record something I would like to share...or just to record something.
    I like contact with others in the blogosphere...and even sometimes we meet in the real world!!
    I have never been up to the folly above Pontypool, but used to walk for hours on Mynydd Maen, sometimes alone, sometimes with my late Mountain Man. In all weathers. An inspiring pkace

  8. I think a lot of bloggers are lonely people and write for company. They are intelligent people, capable of writing well but something is missing in their lives. (This is certainlyt true of me at the moment and if I think back truly to the start in 2008 something has always been missing in my life). Many do not divulge any personal details although will happily skirt around the fringes but at the end of the day will not give much away, holding back at the last minute. I can think of people I have blogged with for 12 years or more and yet I don't feel I really know them. I don't know that this answers your question but save writing an essay on it this is the best I can do. I cannot begin to even put into words why I blog, except for perhaps something missing in my life, or what it is about. I remember when I was working I would plan blog posts in my head whilst walking to the train on my way home and this would frighten me. I try not to let blogging take over my life or to think about blog posts in my head in advance of writing. If I find myself doing it I stop myself. I like write spontaneously. But even that I cannot explain.

  9. I just love to write things down. Sometimes something happens that triggers a post. Sometimes it's the result of my own thinking something through. I love reading blogs, the tiny glimpses of lives elsewhere, reading about what they do, and how they get through their days. My favorite thing is 'accompanying' them on a walk. In real life, I am awfully self conscious and I worry about how I sound and what I said...writing is a freedom that I would never feel while talking to someone. I know that it makes no sense, but it is how I am.

  10. I have blogged for years. Going back to the first ones and it was all about learning, swallowing and regurgitating stuff that doesn't seem important now. As I get older, it is about a daily record and the looking back which is important for me.

  11. I started to blog because having stopped working full time I found stories came fully formed in my head up at the allotment which demanded to be communicated in some way... and no longer having 'water cooler moments' to tall those stories and being curious about what blogging was about, I found the required outlet and that I couldn't stop. Now I no longer have an allotment, but I still have stories demanding to be told - often me working something out, or being curious about something and looking it up... or taking a photo of something quirky I find, such as the topiary you commented on the other day (these things to be found more often on Instagram than the blog these days..). It's all stuff I'm interested in, which I hope in turn others will find interesting too, rather than being profound or meaningful in any way. It's interesting what you said about walking too. I've found I need to both walk alone... which is often when my thinking/working out a blog post gets done these days rather than up at the allotment, but like Jane I also need some walks to be companionable ones with friends.

  12. I really liked this blogpost Mark. I have walked many miles in recent years - usually alone. I know exactly what you mean about the "inner path" that is intertwined with the external physical path. Walking is a time for meditation - just as pilgrims of long ago would have experienced when plodding to Canterbury or Beverley or Holywell or Santiago de Compostela or the Amarnath Cave in the western Himalayas. There's something about the rhythm of our footsteps that affects our thought patterns.

    Regarding your blogging question, I will have to ponder that one.

  13. My life and my blog are so intwined that I could barely tease out which is which, which inspires the other. I did not start out for this to happen and yet it has.