Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Year of the rabbit

According to the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2011 was the year of the rabbit. A year in which we should catch our breath and calm our nerves. A time for negotiation. If you force issues you will ultimately fail. Those born in the year of the rabbit are reasonably friendly individuals who enjoy the company of good friends.

I was born in the year of the rabbit, 1963, and I know that my friends are the most important and precious aspect of my life.

This year saw me lose too many friends that were very dear to me, some through horrific events. Two of these events occurred just weeks before I left the UK to cycle across the United States. It was very sad, and still is, but I know that friends come in and out of your life as time rolls by, but if you're lucky some stay forever.

2011 seems to have been a year for extreme weather. Pauline and I set off from Boston on the 18 May and from almost day one we experienced wild and unusual weather patterns, repeated across the globe.

In January, Queensland, Australia had major floods. On 22 February Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake destroying large parts of the city. March brought the worst tsunami ever witnessed in Japan.

In April, the month before I left for the States, over 300 tornadoes had already hit America. A figure that would rise to 753 by the time the season ended. At one point 200 tornadoes touched down in the space of 48 hours. Just one week after I landed in Boston, a 1 mile wide tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri, killing 162 people. With caution we continued to push west keeping a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. Not long after the Joplin tornado, Minot in North Dakota suffered a terrible flood as the Mouse River swept away many homes. In August we would find ourselves cycling through Minot and would witness the aftermath first hand.

June saw a large volcano in Chile erupt, and by the time we were almost across Montana in August, Hurricane Irene swept up the east coast of the States putting 65 million at risk.

I returned home at the start of October to learn of severe flooding in Thailand and shortly after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey. Then, just two weeks ago, Christchurch finished the year as it had started with another quake hitting the town.

We were lucky to escape most of these terrible weather events, though coming very close at times. I used to think we had poor weather in Scotland but these events go to show how calm and temperate Scotland really is.

2012 is the year of the dragon, a year that is meant to bring much happiness and success. To all those who had to deal with so much devastating change in their lives over 2011, I hope that 2012 lives up to it's Chinese zodiac meaning.

A happy and prosperous new year to you all. Stay safe.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Christmas wish

This season of goodwill brings with it a proliferation of invites to lunch, dinner and parties for many of us, and we tend to take it for granted because of the time of year.

Why is it that people rush to get in touch and cram their diaries to bursting, insisting that we should get together before Christmas? By January we've run out of steam, conversation and money, leaving a void because "we managed to see everyone before Christmas". It's a strange concept and all part of the modern day Christmas I guess. Many people make a special effort at Christmas to see people they wouldn't normally see throughout the year, which is in part a good thing.

But why do so many of us take it all for granted? Isn't it a great thing that people around us like our company enough to extend an invite to meet and take part in their lives.

It is surprising how much we all take for granted, from our jobs and work colleagues, to our possessions and even the ones we love. The worst part of this of course is that fundamentally we are not appreciating and respecting the needs of others, which could result in us losing their respect in return and thus no more invites, leaving you reeling and wondering what went wrong.

There are a number of commercials on at this time of year appealing for help to assist those who are homeless or may not eat any kind of meal at Christmas. I'll bet not a single one of the recipients of this charity take any of it for granted.

So it is my Christmas wish for the future, for myself and for you, that we always appreciate those we are closest to, and the privilege that is extended to us to participate in their lives, for food on the table and shelter over our heads.

Merry Christmas everyone. Be kind and thoughtful to each other.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

End of an era

End of an era is a commonly used term for all sorts of events these days, but it really applies to long periods of time, such as the Victorian era, or in geological terms, the Jurassic era. 20 years therefore doesn't seem to warrant being called an era, but in this case it feels right.

In 1990 I was coming to the end of working for various companies in the advertising industry. It hadn't been the greatest working experience of my life by that point to be honest. Advertising well deserves it's reputation as a back stabbing world and I witnessed several incidents of people undermining another's work in order to have them fired and then take their job. This was early on in my working life as well and didn't serve as a good example to be setting I thought.

But a recession hit at the start of the 90s and a large number of advertising agencies went to the wall, including the company I was working for at the time. It came as a complete surprise on a cold morning in January and I vowed never to work in that industry again.

Within a few months I had really thrown a curve ball in my working life. I found myself the owner of a small delicatessen in my local town and for want of a better title named the shop Kitcheners Delicatessen, which was rather vain on reflection. It was still a creative type of job though, especially the marketing side, and I found myself enjoying every moment, working long hours 7 days a week.

5 years on and I expanded to the property next door and created a coffee shop in the original deli area and a much larger deli in the new extension. Overnight it went from me and one other member of staff to me and 9 staff. The workload multiplied overnight as well but so did it's success, largely due in part to my great staff and to my best friend's support.

Over the following years it became a destination for the local community. Several times over the summer months I would have live jazz bands outside and together with the tables and chairs on the pavement it created a real cosmopolitan atmosphere. I returned to film making at the end of the 90s, in tandem with running the business. Everything was going well but then a period of physical illness hit me over a period of 2 years and it became obvious that it was time for me to change my working routine. And so, partly on the advice of my GP, I said a tearful farewell to the deli on the 2 April 2006 and left it in the hands of two new owners.

I don't think they really knew the first thing about running this particular deli, despite my best efforts to help, but whatever the reasons the business started to nose dive. They sold it on just 2 years later and the new owners had a steep uphill challenge ahead of them. They apparently didn't get the business in the same healthy state I had left it in.

Then the global recession hit. Try as they might the economy was against them. As has happened to so many businesses in the past 2 years they have finally decided it's time to call it a day. And so, on 31 December this year, after just over 20 years of trading, Kitcheners Deli will close it's doors for good.

My best friend wrote to me about the deli once, comparing it to a scene in one of our favourite films, Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe:

It will always make me think of the deli and the wonderful times so many people have had there. In the film the main character says at one point that when the cafe closed the heart of the community was lost and people drifted away. But it always held a strong place in people's hearts and memories, no matter what.

I owe that period of my life so much. So many important memories were made there, and not just for me. I will miss the old place.

It truly is the end of an era.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


I was asked the other day if I would be putting up a Christmas tree in my house this year, being that I am on my own. I answered I wasn't sure yet, which met with the reply, oh but you must, it's tradition.

This intrigued my as I had often heard that this "Christmas" tradition had it's origins in Germany, so I did a little digging. Turns out the Christmas tree, or Yule tree for those wanting to avoid a religious connection, actually has it's origins in 15th century Livonia, present day Estonia and Latvia. It wasn't until well into the 16th century that northern German churches decorated an evergreen inside the church and hung sweets and apples from it. In present day we have replaced these apples with shiny glass baubles, whose origins was something else I had pondered.

In previous years my best friend and I would put up an advent calendar. It was a large, cloth robin with 24 pockets, and we would each buy 12 small items, with a value of £1 or under, and individually wrap them, taking it in turns to open each one leading up to Christmas, always with the cry "advent calendar present!" It's origins I discovered go back to the early part of the 19th century when German Lutherans would mark off a chalk line on the floor for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas. Though advent can officially begin as early as 27 november or as late as the 3 December commercial advent calendars always start on the 1 December.

Well, I was on a roll now, and speaking of food . .

Christmas pudding. I love Christmas pudding. In fact, too much. Plum pudding, as it is more accurately called, has its origins in medieval England when the Roman Catholic church decreed that a pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, made from 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles. During the making each member of the family should take it in turns, going from east to west, to stir it in honour of the Magi whose supposed journey took them in that direction. All manner of hidden items would sometimes be included in the pudding, the most common of which was a silver coin, being kept by the person whose portion it was served in, unless he died by choking it on first of course!Personally I just get mine from Marks & Spencer.

Then I thought about the line from a Christmas hymn, love came down at Christmas. What of this tradition of kissing under mistletoe? It all started because the plant was seen to represent the male "essence" so to speak, with the white berries representing, well, you know what. According to custom the plant must not touch the ground between being cut and Candlemas, around 2 February. According to an ancient Christian custom a man and a woman who meet under the mistletoe are obliged to kiss, and should remove one berry. When all the berries are gone the privilege stops. I suppose the trick is to have one the size of a garden hedge! Bit difficult to conceal it though I guess.

Wherever these common delights of Christmas have their origins, I know that for me it is all about friends and family . . . and lots of mince pies!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Don't forget the day job

The movie Sleepless 'til Seattle is now officially in post production.

It has been a long time coming but various things had to be set in place before the work could begin. This included upgrading the existing edit suite to handle the large high-definition files and creating a back up system to ensure the project would never be lost. I learned that lesson the hard way!

There is roughly 140 hours of footage to watch, which may just take a while. I have to get this edited down to just 100 minutes! It's going to be fun revisiting the journey though. But this is only part of the post production stage.

There's a particular sound I want for the film in the way of music, and I have a wish list of tracks. Six weeks ago I started talking to the likes of Sony Entertainment Inc, Oh Boy records in Nashville, and so on, with a view to gaining the licences to use certain tracks in the film. At first the monies being quoted were reasonable, but the process quickly turned into a minefield. There are three licenses I need to use music in my film: a licence from the owners of the recording; a synchronisation licence to cut images to the music; and a publishers licence, the owners of the original composition. This last one can cost anything from $1 to millions. And it's not that clear cut.

Six weeks on and I've had enough. No amount of pitching the passion and importance of the film moved things on. It was becoming apparent that it was all about money. So a decision has been made: I'm going to commission music specially for the film.
It will be a fraction of the cost and I'll own all rights with no limit to it's use. I just have the small matter of raising the funds! I'll most likely create a Crowdfunding project for this, which I'll blog about later.

My next challenge is to commission animation. This will be in the form of showing the route with a fly-through over a 3-D landscape. It may be I have to use Google Earth for this but it's my hope to have something more bespoke.

Time will pass quickly, so I'll also have to fit in the research for festivals and the requirements for submitting. And there's a cost in that too!

Recently a TV company, out of Minneapolis, aired an 8 minute programme on Life To The Max. You can catch that here: Sleepless TV slot. Most of the footage used is mine, which is great in terms of ongoing publicity, another vitally important aspect.

I also have to cut a minimum 25 minute rough cut by mid January in order to submit a funding application to Sundance, and shortly after that there will be a short trailer online. To keep up to date with everything, or even register your interest in the movie, keep checking out the website at

Oh, and there's the small matter of the day job!

Maybe I should just forget about ever going to bed for the next 9 months?!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Stay calm and carry on

"The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind" - Mandarin Chinese proverb.

If you take this ancient proverb literally it is not strictly true. Whilst crossing the US I witnessed several tress, some hundreds of years old, blown over by storms. Some had demolished houses.

Of course we are meant to apply this proverb to the way we react and deal with situations.

I found myself in a local DIY superstore today, ordering a new kitchen that I will fit for a friend of mine next week. A very helpful assistant was showing me around the many options of taps but as she did so my view was blocked by another customer. So I asked politely if I could move past in order to see better. This resulted in a filthy look, no answer and not allowing me past. I decided not to pursue it further and resorted to going up on my tip toes and leaning forward to see better. I then inadvertently brushed against the woman which resulted in some fairly rude comments directed at me, accusing me of pushing her around. Of course I defended myself but this fell on deaf ears. Then, as tempers were rising, I remembered how situations like this would be dealt with in America. So I interrupted her rants and with enthusiastic politeness said: "in the interests of all of us enjoying our day, I apologise for brushing against you. Have a nice day", and smiled. For once she was speechless. I left relaxed, happy in the knowledge, like the mighty tree, I had bent to the furious hurricane of abuse.

However, this does not always work. I have been waiting for a number of weeks for a delivery from Apple Inc of a new computer to upgrade my edit system in order to start work on the film of the US cycle. It arrived today, and I excitedly unpacked it. Unveiled from all it's packaging, I plugged it in and switched it on.


After an hour of help from the technical support team it transpired the computer was faulty. At first I was simply offered a replacement, but I felt this didn't go far enough, especially as I would now have to wait another two weeks. I made my point as strongly, but still with politeness, as I could, and used the magic phrase, that I find always seems to bring a positive result: "What can you do to help me?"

The end result was a free upgrade to the computer, plus a discount and a few other goodies, all of which added up to the equivalent of over 20% off. Of course Apple is an American company, and service and reputation are everything to these companies, so this didn't come as a huge surprise.

I felt a reasonable compromise had been achieved and both parties left happy and both would "have a nice day".

So sometimes it pays to blow like the wind, but maybe making like a breeze rather than a storm, and staying calm, yields a better result for all.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hundy Mundy

On a beautiful autumn day, with clear crisp blue skies and the earthen coloured tapestry that this time of year weaves, I traveled 35 miles south of Edinburgh to just outside Kelso in the Scottish Borders. We were visiting a natural burial site called Hundy Mundy wood.

In this relatively small mature wood stands an 18th century folly attributed to the Scottish architect William Adam, and is in sight of Mellerstain House, home to the Earl of Haddington.

An unusual name. It comes from, so it is told, a Princess who lived in a tower that has long since gone, from which the stones were used in 1725 to form the folly now there. A young girl, whom I cannot recollect now how she was connected to the Princess, could not correctly pronounce her name, but could only manage Hundy Mundy. And so, many years later, the folly was given this name.

For the past 5 years it has been available for natural burials. This can be in the form of ashes or a biodegradable coffin. At the place of burial a tiny sandstone plaque, engraved with the deceased's details, is placed flat on the ground. Time, and the prevailing weather, eventually return the sandstone to the earth, leaving no mark that anyone was ever there.
That said there are now a number of stones that are harder wearing but which are still natural looking and feel they belong there. It was also pleasing to note the absence of benches. Instead old fallen trees had been carved into a seat shape for visitors to rest their weary souls.

Oscar Wilde once said: "Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence".

This is Hundy Mundy. The site is so peaceful. I couldn't hear a single sound save for the birds and the gentle rustle of leaves as a gentle breeze made it's way through the wood. The view across the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders in autumn, with wisps of mist hanging in the valleys, was breathtaking.

"To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace".

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I recently visited my local multiplex to see this new adaptation of John le Carre's classic book on cold war espionage, directed by Tomas Alfredson, who brought us Let The Right One In.

I grew up in the 70s, the period that this piece is set in, and I can still recall my parents being glued to the television set watching the original BBC series, which at that time was seen as very contemporary drama, starring Alec Guinness. As a young boy I found the whole thing rather dull, preferring the more exciting world of James Bond.

And I haven't changed my opinion this time round.

The production design was exceptional however, capturing the beige, anorak-wearing world of the 70s and showcasing the classic vehicles of the time and the penchant for concrete box buildings, most of which are still around unfortunately, much to the delight of the location manager no doubt.

In this most recent adaptation, when we first set eyes upon its key character George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, you could be forgiven for thinking the whole film was going to be dialogue-free as we wait so long for him to speak, almost half an hour.

The film centres around the hunt for an internal mole within the intelligence service, headed up by Control, played by John Hurt. George Smiley, having been dismissed previously, is brought back in to root out the mole who's been selling secrets to the Soviets.
The suspects are all senior people in the Service played by an impressive cast of Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik. Smiley's dogsbody assistant, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a far more interesting character throughout and a fantastic performance by Kathy Burke gave us much needed relief in the form of a few laughs. I couldn't help feeling though that the casting was a little too heavyweight, probably in order to guarantee attracting an audience, to what was, overall, a very slow moving, 2 hours plus, where nothing ever really happened with any degree of pace and I was left wondering how well it would have done at the box office office without these popular stars.

What was very enjoyable was the realistic portrayal of this shabby and disorganised world of the spy, with it's drab decor and pallid offices filled with secondary smoke, typing pools occupied by only women, old telex machines, heavy steel filing cabinets and large clunky telephones. It made you realise just how far we've come in terms of computers, mobile phones and of course the world-changing internet.

The opening few minutes gave me a feeling of hope and anticipation. Set in Budapest we enter a nervous atmosphere as an agent, played by Mark Strong, enters a situation where he is to meet a contact that will assist in the defection of a general. It is very tense, where everyone in the scene could be an enemy. But from this point on it gradually changes down gears to almost stall at points.

Jason Bourne it certainly isn't, and though it is a great atmospheric piece it is still, overall, a period drama that never really gets you onto the edge of your seat.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Never go back

A number of years ago when I was in my 20s (OK, so 2 decades ago!) I went to the cinema to see Walt Disney's classic movie The Jungle Book during one of the rare occasions it is re-released. I'd seen it many years before as a small child with my friends, and it was the memory of that time which led to me returning once more to see it on the silver screen. It is a great film. A timeless classic. But at a certain level I was disappointed this time. It just wasn't the same as the first time around.

In the past few days I found myself returning to places I had once visited in the not too distant past. Whilst traveling there I was filled with a certain feeling of anxiety. Would it be the same? Was I doing a foolish thing? True enough things had changed. It was a different time of year for a start and the colours were different than my memory served up.

There was something else though. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The views were familiar and I found my way around without any problem, so it wasn't that. The people were as friendly as I recall so it wasn't that. I found I wasn't really enjoying this revisit, which seemed to be against my reasoning that it would be exciting. It wasn't.

Then I passed by a few places that I remembered well for a particular reason, be that a photo-taking opportunity or a lunch stop, and it dawned on me what was wrong. It was very simple why.

I was on my own.

Previously I had shared the experience of these places and now I was alone. It wasn't the individual places that had made fond memories, or the time of year, or the people, but everything together, and the glue that held it altogether and made it whole was the friend I had shared it with.

So just as when I returned to see The Jungle Book I was older than the first time, on my own and not with friends. It wasn't a shared experience, and so in my opinion only half as enjoyable. The simple pleasure of turning to another to comment on a view, can burn that moment into your memory forever.

I had to accept that this was a new adventure, separate from before with it's own memories. I also had to accept that to revisit a moment or place from the past and expect the experience to be just as magical is unreasonable. It never can be. It's like attending a funeral and sensing the loss soul of what was once a glorious individual.

As Bob Dylan once sang, you can go back but you can't go back all the way.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

It's just different

I have been fortunate over the years to have travelled to the USA many times and have never found a problem with jet lag. That seemed to change this time. Since arriving home four days ago I have quite literally not slept and constantly feel that 2 in the afternoon is actually time for breakfast. I guess it's just the time difference still being set in my body to west coast America.

Despite being away for 5 months, like most people after visiting foreign climes, I find myself looking out of the house window to a familiar view and feeling that I haven't been away at all. I think this is connected to seeing that nothing has changed. If nothing is different from when you left, then after so many new and rich experiences, life back home can seem, well, dull. But today I noticed many different things.

I pulled the cycle gear back on and ventured out into a beautiful Fall, sorry, Autumn day. As I pulled out of my street, for a fraction of a second, I almost started cycling along the right hand side of the road. Thankfully oncoming cars reminded me that it's different here in the UK, and I pulled across to the left. I was aware that not a single motorist gave way to me, or yield as they say in the States, to allow me to cross the road. How different that is over there where 99% of drivers are very courteous.

I visited a couple of local stores for groceries and to buy some good bacon (sorry America, you can't do bacon) and marvelled at the difference in prices to America. There a single apple would cost as much as £1 whereas I could now buy 3 for that. As I checked out and paid, still wearing my cycle helmet, no one asked me where I was cycling to or where I had come from. That felt a little sad but I suppose the difference is we're far more used to cyclists here. I pedalled on through my local neighbourhood and noticed several new shops. Some had closed down and others had a fresh lick of paint. One new shop was a wonderful large organic market with a coffee shop on the way in spring next year.

With my toned and strong legs from America I pushed on through the town and out to a local park, climbing a steep hill on the sides of Arthur's Seat with ease. Breathless yes, sort butt certainly, but flying up as if it were level. This eventually joins a cycle path that was once a railway, called the Innocent Railway, what they would call a rails-to-trails in the US. I barreled along through Autumn colours to a local supermarket and found to my amusement that the staff were wishing me "have a nice day". As it is owned and operated by Walmart this shouldn't be a surprise, but I thought it was "kinda funny".

Heading home I detoured to another local park in the hope of catching the last of a wild flower meadow, but it was too late in the season and it had all but withered away. As I approached a train passed over a railway bridge and my thoughts went back to the mighty locomotives on the Northern Pacific Railroad. How different their trains are and how I miss their sound.

My final route home took me along what has been known affectionately for decades as Jobby Lane. That's not it's real name of course, but gives you some idea of it's historic use by dog walkers. Well. I was blown away. Here was a real difference. Now proudly named the Christian Path it has been landscaped and paved to 5 feet wide and is an excellent cycle path short cut to my house. For years it has just been a quagmire of mud and you-know-what. Not anymore.

Now that was a nice difference.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The American Dream

As summer draws to a close in the northern hemisphere everything starts to reveal it's hidden colours of Fall. I say Fall and not Autumn, as I am still in the United States at present in the final few days of my great American adventure.

Already the bright reds and golds of the maples have started to appear, brightening up an overcast day. Back in Scotland the trees will have begun to shed their cover and when I return they will be almost bare. On my departure back in mid May the cherry blossom of Spring was still in full bloom, but a full cycle has now passed, and all good things must come to an end eventually.

Speaking of completed cycles (do you see what I did there?), I must pack my panniers and load my bicycle one last time and head for the international departure lounge for a long 11-hour flight home. No doubt the journey home will be filled with thoughts of the adventure:

The strangers we met, all too briefly, who became friends and whose faces I can still see. It feels like we said goodbye just yesterday. If only. They represent the real America to me, their generosity and kindness knowing no bounds as they invited complete strangers into their homes. My life is richer for those experiences and I feel I can say I know, and love America because of them;

The American people as a whole, always interested and excited by our adventure, with their positive outlook on life and a can-do attitude that makes this country great;

The small town diners along the way, with the farmers meeting for their early morning coffee and chat and always with eggs over easy, hash browns and links;

The landscapes that greeted us, sometimes with high temperatures, winds or thunderstorms but always with a renewed sense of awe at the new vistas we encountered from state to state, from the forested roads of Massachusetts to the rolling hills of Wisconsin and the big skies of Montana;

The constant companion along the way in the shape of the mighty mile-long freight trains. The bright orange of the three locomotive engines pulling their load with ease from sea to shining sea. Most of all the sound from a bygone era of their distinctive horn blowing it's tune as it approached every crossing. They kept me awake at night as they rumbled through our camp spot in the blackness of night, but I miss them already;

The simple life of each day. We rose at 5.30, packed our gear and struck our tents, ate our cereal then downed a morning dose of caffeine before pedalling further west to another town or campground to pitch, eat, sleep and do it all again the next day. Life really is as complicated as you want it to be or others make it for you;

My trusty two-wheeled transport that faithfully carried me and my kit more than 4,000 miles. We will go home together to cycle another day somewhere else, but none as great as crossing America.

However, without one other ingredient it would have been incomplete. My best friend Pauline. Always in my mirror or up ahead, sometimes cycling alone for miles but always affected in the same way by the people and the landscapes we encountered. Oh what a great joy it is to have memories but what an even greater joy it is to have someone to share them with.

It all adds up to an unforgettable experience. A dream come true. Our American dream.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


For a long time now I have been in denial. In denial that my eyesight is not what it once was. Reading very small text in newspapers or maps for example, has become almost impossible.

Today I found myself trying on reading glasses in a pharmacy store on 3rd Avenue in Seattle's downtown area, and enjoying the comedy value of how different I looked with them on. They certainly made it easier to read small type, but I think there was an element of the experience that frightened me. In some way it brought it home to me that I'm getting older. Almost 50 in fact.

I'm lucky though. To reach 50 with pretty good eyesight is good. In recent years I've spent a lot more time in front of computer screens, and maybe this has, to coin a phrase, blurred my vision to an extent.

Over the last 4 months I've cycled more than 4,000 miles across North America, and without wanting to sound too smug, I'm pretty proud of that at age 48. I didn't do this alone of course but had my number one friend with me all the way. Unlike my eyesight the decision to go on the adventure was always clear.

There's a lot of things I never see clearly though. Indeed I would go as far as to say that a lot of us don't. Sometimes when you're frustrated and everything's not quite going the way you want it to, and you think the whole world's against you, the person standing right next to you will be there to help you see a rational way through. You get so wrapped up in your own problems, which you often blow out of proportion, that you don't see this silent act of friendship. In essence you take them for granted without meaning to, and for some inexplicable reason they're still always there for you. Maybe they won't always be though, if you don't wake up to your ways.

There's an old saying that you don't know what you have until you lose it. I think the fear of losing the most important things in life seems to bring out irrational behaviour. It's a catch 22 though, as this can lead to you losing that which is most dear to you far quicker than you ever thought possible.

But, and another well known saying coming here, isn't hindsight a wonderful thing. We all have regrets, of course, and I am no different. Overall I've had a wonderful adventure cycling across North America. An experience and memories I wouldn't swap for all the rice in China. But I also have a number of regrets over that same time: film shots I missed; people I wish I could have spent more time with; places I wanted to spend longer in; things said and done I want to take back.

Metaphorically speaking, those were my rainy days, and there were too many now looking back. Eventually the rain usually cleared, the clouds would part and the blue skies would return. Whether I am any the wiser remains to be seen. I hope that this experience will help me see more clearly in the future, before the cloud cover becomes permanent and the rain washes everything away for good.

There isn't a pair of glasses in the world that would fix that.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


I suppose perception is different for everyone. You may think that something is great while another may feel exactly the opposite.

I repeatedly feel that I have been on the road cycling for years. That some how I was a different age when I started. Yet some friends back home tell me in email that the time has passed so quickly. That they can't quite believe I'll be home soon.

Neither can I, sadly.

Email is something which has become the accepted way of communication now. Gone are the days of the written letter. For a time I was writing the "old way" to my friend Ewan in Australia and I loved getting his letter in return. It's lapsed a bit but I think I'll start that up again. Emails often tend to get misread and people's perception of what you are trying to say gets lost in translation sometimes. To me a written letter is never misunderstood and it's a joy to see the persons handwriting.

Sometimes my perception lets me down. I'll often be shopping in a small grocery store or a large supermarket for my evening meal, confident that I am ravenously hungry and buy way too much meat, vegetables or fruit. Maybe the occasional donut too.

One of my favourite fruits that I enjoy as part of my diet are peaches. It's a hit or a miss sometimes with peaches. I get to the display and give it the ubiquitous squeezy squeezy test, perceiving that this one not that one will be most juicy. More than half the time I'm wrong, even though I feel I have built up a good frame of reference over the months.

My perception is spot on sometimes though, especially when it comes to the friendliness of the American people. Not once have I met anyone that has been anything but kind and generous. Well, maybe the odd checkout person or diner waitress. And I do mean quite literally, "odd".

Speaking of odd people, Pauline and I have had perceived many things differently as we have gone along. Sometimes it may be what we feel about a small town we are in, or what certain scenery reminds us of.

But one perception we both share is that this is a wonderful experience cycling across America.

Sadly it's almost at an end. And that's not just my perception.