Someone once said 'the best things in life are free'. Think about this statement. What does it mean to be free?
On a recent trip to New Zealand, I began to understand that New Zealander's see themselves as resourceful and limitless in terms of their potential and opportunity. They possess what is known as 'No. 8 wire' mentality.
This blog is about trying new things and ignoring the rules. We live in a society that demands evidence; a rationale for everything we do. I disagree; something's just are.
Living could be about taking responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others. It's about making the most of every precious moment. It's about being creative and resourceful and following your instincts, without allowing rules and the desires of others to change your mind. Be passionate. Live courageously.
Power to the people
The Manic Street Preachers opened "Design for life" with 'Libraries give us power'. For many years this sentiment from James Dean Bradfield has stuck firmly in my mind and influenced art projects and pieces of work I have produced over the years; particularly regarding the aspect of social identity and sense of community and empowerment that print offers. Knowledge provides opportunities.
On reading the papers at the weekend, I deliberately chose to focus only on articles that I found meaningful, this meant ignoring most of the newspaper, but I felt happier for doing so.
Reports from retailers suggest that real book sales have increased (albeit by 4%), and that digital sales have fallen. There is a song in my heart and part of me wants to jump for joy, despite consideration for the physical processing aspects impacting on the environment.
You see, I view e-books as something that divides and isolates people; the lost art of human communication; the war against the screen. The resurgence of physical books is encouraging for libraries under threat. Not everyone has an e-reader, nor wants one. Imagine a community without libraries; the social isolation it would bring, but worse than this is the denial of opportunity for all regardless of the factors that make an individual who they are. It is also a statement about the class system - think about it. Governments hate people feeling empowered or free.
Real books provide people of all ages with a sensory experience. Real books wear the signs of life - this is reality, and a conscious connection with time and our own time here in this life. For me, this is the best news of the week.
Today, I took my first cycle commute of the year. My chosen route (cycle route 51) took me away from the hazards of the A120 and A12, instead taking country lanes and B roads.
Cycling to work is more than a cheap commute, and I am not the first to talk about 'Micro adventures'. Alistair Humphreys blogs and has even written a book about it. His point is the same as mine; it's about noticing and feeling part of your environment, taking responsibility for it, respecting it - the opposite of my experience of being stuck in the car in traffic on the A12 (source of daily misery). Bodhi from Point Break sums it up beautifully "those dead souls inching along the freeway in their metal coffins" or something close anyway. Dumb film, but conveys the spirit of this blog.
Cliched, but nature, when you stop and actually look really is miraculous. The morning was so busy with birdsong; blackbirds, pigeons, gulls, thrush, geese, pheasant, partridge and the occasional cockerel, was the extent of which I could identify. Bees and countless insects shared the air with me.
My concentration on the road is responsible for missing all the other life going on around me. The casualties of the night show me other creatures; hedgehogs, partridge, pheasant, moles, shrews, mice, fox, barn owl, muntjac deer.... they all live quietly here.
Sounds and sights are beautiful; meadows, fields of crops; barley, wheat, corn and rape are just a few staples being grown. Cows are grazing and the air smells of manure, meadow flowers and straw. It occurred to me how much we take for granted.
Recycled garden furniture
What do you do with broken garden furniture?
On a recent trip to the tip I felt a bit gloomy about the amount of broken teak garden furniture I saw lying at the bottom of the hopper. Whilst this isn't a criticism of the people who put it there; it is a sad fact that 'sustainable teak' (plantation teak) is still both wasteful in terms of the unbroken 'good' timber on those chairs and tables, but wasteful as a crop itself.
Teak is native to Indo-Asian countries such as Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, but also grown commercially in South America (think of all those air miles). It is now grown sustainably following the destruction of teak forests (and human rights atrocities) in Burma (renamed Myanmar). It is a naturally durable wood, water resistant and therefore traditionally used for marine carpentry such as boat decks.
In terms of sustainability, it is a timber of choice. It grows fast and doesn't require artificial fertilisers or irrigation. However, it troubles me to see the carefully steam-bent good pieces of wood resigned to landfill.
I have recently had to disgard our broken garden furniture. I spent a couple of hours carefully removing screws and bolts (which I will reuse) and I have stored all of the good teak in preparation for using on boat repairs and making new creations - watch this space.
My first project using the teak from the broken furniture has taken the form of storage for my kayak.
Easter bonk holiday
Easter bonk holiday and shoulder injury prevents sailing, kayaking, working on the boat and other vigorous activities. What's a girl to do?
Yes that's right, let's make a flagstaff for my ensign on the boat. I could buy one....
Having discovered they are £30, I think not. Instead I went to a boot sale this morning and bought a snooker cue for £1. I cut it to 60cm length (small ensign) and was delighted to find it fits the bracket perfectly. Next after much garage rummaging, I found a wooden door knob. Sliced that in half and glued it to fit the pole. Next, after more rummaging and failing to did a cleat, I decided to make one from a brass lid I found in Suffolk a couple of years ago in Walberswick creek.
I cut the brass with a hacksaw to form a strip and after some filing and bending, created a rustic looking cleat. All I need to do is to sadoline it tomorrow. Flagstaff complete. Plus it has only cost me a quid.
Bank holiday Monday bargains
After the success of transforming Friday's boot sale items into cheap boat hacks; I am delighted to announce today's purchases of five snooker cues for £3, umbrella 50p, toolbox full of tools £5, navigation light cover 50p, outboard fuel feeder line with bulb 50p, stainless steel nuts and bolts - under a pound.
What am I going to do with more snooker cues? Wait and see. What am I going to do with a knackered old umbrella? Well, I'm going to make a man over board flag to replace the tatty one on my Danbuoy (man over board marker).
My children's first wheels
Almost 18 years ago I was the owner of a Landrover three wheeler. When Hannah was born, we went everywhere together across all sorts of terrain. It was a lovely time and seems like another life now.
Recently, my ex husband gave me the now moss covered buggy that had lurked by his front door to deter burglars - apparently our children stayed the same size for the last few years. My intention for the buggy was to use the wheels to make a kayak trolley for my youngest child Phi (a bit like this one).
I've spent an hour using a punch, hammer and a drill to remove the rivets and rusted bolts. The chassis has stood the test of time owing to its aluminium composition, and now it's in pieces I am beginning to see it's potential.
I have salvaged everything. The canvas seat will be used to make a halyard bag for my boat (watch this space), male and female aluminium press studs have been saved to be reused (for mounting halyard bags - see picture), the axle and wheels will form the kayak trolley - so what to do with the handle?
The handle has a folding lock mechanism which enables the buggy to fold. This feature is perfect for a folding swim ladder, essential for any boat should you want a swim or fall overboard. The style of ladder needed for my boat is a four rung folding one (see pic)
Last week I bought a two rung boat ladder at the boot sale for £1 - a perfect bargain on which to extend to a four rung ladder using the buggy and it's connecting parts. Here's the progress so far.
It is a cheap break. Having spent the day wandering around Jardín da estrella (garden of stars) and the arrabita district, we have eaten well (fried octopus and chips) with a couple of beers and the nourishing company of good friends, visited a flea market (buying straw hats, a book and fresh fruit) and still have change from €50.
The next instalment
We walked to the Barrio Alto - the old quarter of the city with a mix of styles; from baroque, rococo and medieval. The influence of the moors is everywhere. The cobbled streets shine and prove troublesome with the wrong footwear; everywhere there is traffic along the narrow streets, and hoards of people weaving through the car horns and music spilling out of doorways.
The creativity here is amazing; art gallery display giant metal brings and canvases splashing with colours of sex, life and death. The museum of natural history stands imposing next to another botanical garden - of which there are many. Clothing shops display fabrics of intense colour and pattern. I can feel the life coursing through the veins of this place, and I can feel myself being filled with colour.
As the evening continued we discovered a wonderful street bar called "O Caracol" - The Snail - and also family name of owner Anthony, who simply cannot do enough for us. A few grilled sardines later, he tells us his best jokes, including "what's green and smells of bacon?" (Kermits cock) - obviously. The fact I knew the answer then led me to be engaged in winding up the sommelier in the restaurant opposite; a regular pastime of Anthony's. She didn't crack her face when faced with my sardine tainted hands grasping enthudiastically at Anthony's man-boobs. However, this endeavour paid off, as on leaving Anthony escorted us to the most popular Fado bar ensuring we were seated and treated like VIPs.
If you saw Rick Steins long weekends show (Lisbon episode), you may know what Fado is, and we were lucky enough to have visited the same bar featured on the show. Fado meaning (history, fate) is a genre of music of classical guitar and powerful song interpreting stories. As with most oral traditions, this dates back to 200 years as a way of preserving tales, and it is passionate stuff.
Another glorious day of walking around the city, and this time heading toward the port. It's been a day of glorious weather, food, drink and company. I have eaten the most amazing custard tarts in the world.
Sunday evenings in Lisbon are very quiet. Walking through Barrio Alto, we tried to locate the vibrant buzz experienced on our first night. Everywhere appeared closed; pavement restaurants gone, very few people in the street aside from some equally confused tourists, restauranteurs trying to haul us into their not-so-great establishments and drug dealers who very openly offered us speed, hashish and cocaine three times.
Passed some nice street art and a lot of aimless wandering before our travelling companion Kevin got 'hangry' and dragged us into what he understood to be an Italian. Transpires it wasn't. On entering the tiny establishment, that was in fact a tardis (a tardis filled with coachloads of old people - mostly wearing leather trousers) we were informed that the meal comes with more fado.
Before we could escape, Kev had been shepherded to the only empty table which just happened to be for four people right next to the stage - excellent. Unwilling to admit to his hunger fuelled misjudgment, Kev proceeded in ordering the wine whilst we chose steaks and fish from the menu.
The lights went out. The Fado began. Kevin's face was a picture, and consequently his wife Jan, Terry and I have never laughed so much at anything. Kevin, still starving was served the wine, but it was some time before the waiter arrived with the bottle opener, and our hysteria grew as the very loud clog dancing and wailing continued into Kevin's sober ears. Eventually, wine was consumed, food arrived in the dark (I'm trying to forget) followed by more wailing, more hysteria and a bill of €190, oh how we laughed, well except for Kev.
The last day
Big blue sky and hot sun. Everyday is gorgeous and explains why the Portuguese are so happy.
We took a train to Sintra, then a bus a few miles off the beaten track to a beautiful beachside restaurant, the one featured on Rick Steins TV show. Was it worth the effort? Yes it was. The local delicacy of goosefoot barnacles may not be to everyone's taste, but worth trying as the flavour is sweet and salty and just so fresh.
Trip to Bélim
The last trip involved a stroll toward Bélim, the river port of Lisbon. Temperatures have reached in excess of 35•c today, resulting in less walking and more taxis.