When this world bruises you, leaving you battered and forlorn,
Hold on, hold on – I know you can brace this storm.
Don’t think about the past or be guided by future fears,
Just anchor yourself in the present, let go of those tears.
Stay grounded in this moment – there’s so much joy in the now,
Send a message to your heart, I promise you’ll get through this somehow.
(*All you need to pay is your monthly internet bill).
As the rain slaloms down my front room window on this gloomy October morning, I’m on an early morning summer stroll around Tokyo. The throngs of early morning commuters seem oblivious to the giant electronic boards displaying all sorts of products and famous faces overhead. All the while, I march on the spot next to my sofa. Soon, as I’m hiking through the affluent Ginza shopping district, I hear the kettle begin to reach the boil. I hit pause on the screen and nip into the kitchen to make my coffee, then don my headphones once more and continue on my journey around the Japanese capital.
This has become a very common event for me in 2020: like a lot of people in these times of pandemic, I’ve had to become creative about how I travel. I still love to go outside and explore the countryside. However, having been through the gruelling national lockdown earlier in the year in the UK and with an uncertain winter looming, I’ve had to take the outside indoors.
I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts that one way to achieve this has been to watch virtual hiking videos on YouTube of other places around the world. I’ve explored the Icelandic wilderness, traversed heavenly Hawaiian beaches and reached dizzying heights in Swiss mountains.
Although I’m not in these places for real, I’ve journeyed the world on a more intimate level than before.
This whole experience seems to be evolving and becoming a hobby in its own right.
Then, earlier this week, I watched videos by a YouTuber called Drew Binsky. He has been fortunate enough to visit every country in the world; it seems that he’s managed to captured a staggering amount of his trips on film. One feature of certain trips he undertakes is to challenge himself to see how far he can go on ten dollars in a day in capital cities across the world.
This made me think: maybe I could visit every capital city in the world! Okay, as I’ve highlighted, travelling afar isn’t a realistic option for me at present. Plus, I can only really afford a small holiday each year. But visiting every country is doable via YouTube. Every single 195 of them.
I’ve set myself a few rules for the challenge:
• I have a year to do this.
• I have to walk in at least each capital city for forty minutes a time.
• I have to learn five amazing facts about that country.
• If I can’t find a virtual walk of a country’s capital, then I must watch another video or two on that country and walk on the spot during that.
I started in Tokyo as Japan is the number one country I’d love to visit. I think I’ll tackle this challenge continent by continent, but it’s fine if I chose to tackle another area of the world for a bit too. If I think I’d like to stay in a country for a while and escape the city vibe, then that’s a good reason to read more widely and visit another part of that land via YouTube. I’m going to make a list of all the countries and capitals and write a few brief memories of each.
From previous searches on YouTube, I know it’s also possible to do tours of certain landmarks or museums in various cities. This will help me to explore the culture in various destinations a little more.
Also, I’ve found that by typing ‘Virtual World Tours’ into Google, there are other websites that open the world before my eyes.
Although this health and budget friendly way of travelling doesn’t beat immersing myself in the real world, I’m looking forward to gaining a flavour of what each country has to offer.
I hope this inspires anybody reading this to take up the challenge or even just to try a few virtual hikes. Who knows where it may take you once we’re more free to travel?
I’d be interested to hear what you think. Or it’d be great to hear from you if you’ve come up with any novel ways in being creative with your travel bug during these crazy times.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I truly hope that you and your loved ones are safe and have a good week.
Peace and love for now
In the puzzling universe of Parallel Time, Professor Overbach studies the Moon from his observatory. With his eye fixed tight to the lense of the telescope he notices some odd goings on.
‘Over there! Over there!’ he exclaims to his quiet assistant. ‘Did you see that?’
The assistant shuffles in the background, feeling nervous that the professor is becoming overexcited again.
‘Here, take it. That’s right. Tweak it left a little…up a bit…Perfect.’
The assistant gasps.
‘You saw him? The old guy in the rocking chair!’ squeals the professor. ‘He gets up occasionally and lifts up a small flap in the Moon’s surface.
The assistant whispers in Professor Overbach’s ear.
‘He’s ejecting video tapes, you say?’ says the Professor. ‘Let me see.’
He observes, contemplates and observes again.
‘He’s handing over the tape to a blade of grass in a canoe. They’re talking about something.’
The quiet assistant nods quietly.
‘The blade of grass is starting to paddle. Keep an eye on this for me. I’m off for a sandwich.’
Even bizarre events can’t stop Professor Overbach from pampering the needs of his stomach.
The Professor returns and asks for an update. The silent assistant whispers in his ear again.
‘Let me get this right,’ Professor Overbach muses. ‘You saw the blade of grass paddle up to a pelican wearing a pair of green carpet slippers holding a ‘No Access’ sign?’
The assistant nods.
‘Then the pelican pulled a lever to reveal a large circular hole that it then lobs the tapes down.’
The assistant nods yet again.
‘Pelicans, old men, blades of grass, large holes on the surface…What is going on here?’
The assistant takes to the Professor’s ear again.
‘You think we should call NASA right away? Not just yet. Keep an eye on it. I’m popping out for a milkshake.’
Once the Professor is back the silent assistant makes hushed tones in his lughole.
‘You’ve noticed that when the pelican throws a video tape in the hole a new one pops into the old man’s hand at the same time?’
The assistant confirms with a smile and a nod, then whispers again.
‘You’ve come to the conclusion that the Moon’s energy derives from recycled video tapes of human history? You mean they’re recording us over and over to power the Moon?!’ inquires the Professor.
Predictably, the assistant nods.
The Professor puffs his cheeks.
He consults charts.
He punches calculations into the computer.
He takes a gulp of strawberry milkshake and peers into the telescope once more before coming to one final unshakeable answer.
‘Stuff this for a games of soldiers. I’m off down the pub!’
Autumn fires burn
Yellows and oranges lick the air
Rising up and cleansing us
From what has come before.
On this still, calm evening
As wood cracks beneath the glowing flame
I wonder if He-Man has ever caught a bus
To avoid looking at some roof tiles.
There’s a break in the cloud
Like a chimney hole in the sky.
If Skeletor hadn’t hired those dodgy builders,
Then Battle Cat could’ve made He-Man a nice fruit salad for the bus journey.
I push the dying embers about
With a fallen branch from a tree,
Reflecting that Castle Greyskull is light years away –
At least He-Man has two left hands and a box of Captain Crunch.
Hope you’re all well.
Whenever I watch the news these days it seems every country has measures against Covid-19. Here in the UK we’ve been subjected to more Covid-19 restrictions. Another national lockdown may be looming. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing I truly hope you are safe and well.
These crazy days have made me dream of things I’d like to do in a post-pandemic world. I think at the present time having dreams is so important. Dreams feed the soul and bring hope. Even if, as times pass, those wishes change, that initial spark and the processes that stream out from it provide a way of making the day-to-day world more bearable.
So – even if my dreams stay as dreams – here’s my top 5 of things I’d like to achieve:
1) FINISH MY HIKING BOOK
Lockdown put my novel on hiatus. Life had become so static that I took long gaps in my writing. It was a job to keep my head in the game. As the weeks went on, I decided to keep a diary of my lockdown adventures. I think this has kept me sane and has given me fresh material.
Covid-19 has meant that I’ve had to re-work large sections of my book – and the idea of this contributed to my procrastination as well – but I’m in a better place to finish now, even if I’m six months behind!
2) DISCOVER MY LOCAL AREA MORE
Whilst I can’t wait to be out traveling across Beautiful Britain again, local walks have taken on a whole meaning of their own this year. For instance, after living in my adopted home town in Berkshire for the last ten years, I’ve only just found out that I live near the woods that are said to have inspired Kenneth Graham to write ‘Wind In The Willows’! Also, back in the day a local quarry was used to supply stone for Windsor Castle.
I can’t wait to unearth more local history on my hikes soon – it’s become quite addictive!
3) LEARN NEW ADVENTURE SKILLS
Lockdown contained us. I think a natural response for me has been to try and live life to the fullest (in a socially distanced and responsible way).
I recently went kayaking for the first time. You can read about my ‘attempts’ in my recent poem ‘Kayak Attack’. My friend and I had been discussing other stuff we could do to vary our adventures up. For instance, we’ve started taking a small camping stove with us on day hikes and making meals. Part of the fun is finding somewhere secluded in the woods to knock up some tasty treats. There’s something very satisfying in cooking and eating a hot meal outdoors.
It would be so great if we could get to the stage where we’re competent kayakers and could paddle to an island in a lake for an overnight cook and camp.
4) ICELAND HOLIDAY
During the original lockdown I watched a lot of YouTube videos about people travelling across Iceland. It was a virtual holiday from my own front room.Then I bought a couple of cheap books on Iceland and the idea to go there grew traction.
I put this to my friends and it’s something we hope to do once the pandemic lifts.
Erupting geysers, lava fields, glaciers, fjords…honestly, it’s such a breath taking country.
I’d say to anybody to at least try a virtual holiday of a country. Watch videos, do research, try foods from there. Look on YouTube for virtual walking tours across your chosen country’s towns, cities and wilderness; then, jump up in front of your screen and march on the spot for the duration of the video.
Who knows where it may take you once the pandemic ends?
This is my favourite super power – and, well, this is a dream post after all! As I said above, doing a virtual holiday can be fun. Now, imagine you can turn that up a notch: one moment you could be strolling along a beach in Hawaii, the next you could be amid the hustle and bustle of a street market in Istanbul.
With teleportation you could be in these places for real. Think about it. It’s a Tuesday morning at 6am; you look outside your window and it’s a dreary grey day. You check your phone and see that it’s a hot sunny day in Mumbai, so you teleport there for breakfast. A quick teleport back home for the working day and come 5pm you decide you want noodle soup in Tokyo or on a guided tour down the Amazon River!
You could also use your chosen power to fight the forces of evil too.
Just writing that makes life seem more bearable!
I hope that this inspires you in some small way to chase pursuits of your own. What I’ve realised is that dreams – whether fulfilled or not – are so important in us developing a sense of ourselves.
If you have any comments, it’d be great to hear from you. I’d be interested to hear what’s on other people’s post-pandemic hitlist.
I hope you’re able to achieve a little something for yourself during this crazy time.
Have a good weekend, Everybody 😊
Through the hazy glow of dawn,
As pinks and golds stream across the land,
And dance and glint across the rivers,
It’s only when I’m with you that I understand.
For here Time pauses and suspends,
The World becomes wonderful and new.
The Sleeping Sun has awoken
And casts hope on everything we do.
Cloudy Monday morning, it’s 10 am.
I’m jumping back on the train again.
Lockdown: a four month gap gone at last.
Now I settle into my seat donned in face mask.
Some people, like me, look warily around,
Others are maskless and wearing a frown.
Still, on this first train there’s a respectful distance
Between all of us wishing to extend our existence.
I’m on the connecting train now to my destination,
Beginning to brim with anticipation
At seeing my daughter, it’s been ages
As I reflect that lockdown couldn’t contain us.
Video chats where we played, had meals and laughed,
Kept us bonded together as the time past.
And as the train now snakes through countryside once more,
I look forward to what the day has in store.
In this train carriage there’s hardly a soul about,
So when will we return to normal with no doubts?
I step on to the platform scouting a rest room to wash my hands,
Recalling I’ve got paper towels as part of my hygiene plan.
I’ll use my own cutlery in the pub for now, but that’s okay,
If it means we’re safe and healthy for another day.
I see my daughter in the car park with a smile and wave,
To you all: if you travel, have fun, be responsible and safe.
Wherever you are in the the world, I hope you get to see your family and friends soon. Please travel safely and responsibly.
I’d love to know what you think of the poem. If you have any comments, it’d be great to hear from you.
Peace and love, Everybody 😊
As the sun rises and sets casting it’s pink and golden hue across the city,
I while away my days perched atop this building:
This building I’ve long called home, far above and far away
From the people who scuttle on, oblivious to one another as I am to them.
But I prefer it this way, maintaining my own space.
I’m no bother to anybody save the birds who vie for my attention.
They’re my friends, after all, and they keep me on the narrow and straight,
Seeking my wisdom in all the ways they consider me wise.
A few centuries ago (before the time of cars and planes or when the smoke of factories filled the air)
They gave me a gloriously feathered coat.
Up to that point mine had been an unsettled existence
As that of a Lone Traveller is fated to be, lost between all realms in Time and Space.
I always enjoyed the dream of a solitary existence, just not to be lonely.
My avian friends answered the cries of my heart, respecting my independence when people did not.
And my cape of feathers brought me unbridled freedom, then:
A cloak of invisibility to pass by undetected.
As Time and Memory bounded on I settled my weary bones in this World.
And in this city with its noises and lights and colours
My heart beats strongest as I march through the hordes and the throngs without trace
To carry out the business of the birds – for they have needs like you and me.
How grateful I am when my work is done to return and share my rooftop with the sparrows and the magpies and the robins to name a few.
I wrote this inspired by the character Old Bailey in Neil Gaiman’s book ‘Neverwhere’. He’s an old man who lives on top of a building in London with birds to keep him company.
Having also watched a YouTube video about people who preferred being alone, I was able to expand on the themes of the poem. I also wanted to highlight the therapeutic qualities of the pets and animals in our lives.
I hope you liked reading it. Please feel free to leave a comment below – it’d be great to know what you think of this work.
The hum of the fridge and the tick-tock of the clock sound off in my head. My eyes are too heavy to close. I’ve stared blankly at the telly for the best part of an evening, hoping to lull myself away in front of some mindless show.
Tick tock! Tick Tock!
I’m trying to sleep in the living room because as soon as I go to bed I fully wake up. But trying another room has little effect; there’s just different distractions.
It’s been like this for four solid weeks now. I’ll drift off at some point, only to wake two, three or four hours later and that’ll be my quota of sleep for the night.
It’s not funny. I’m grouchy, snappy, overly emotional: all things that I’m not usually. I can’t be bothered with people at work; I’ve no energy for family or friends either. My personality has completely altered. I don’t have anything particularly bothering me to keep me awake, except now, obviously, I just can’t sleep. I’ve lost the ability to care about anything due to exhaustion, anyway.
Remedies, cold showers, no technology before bed…. you name it, I’ve tried it. I. Just. Can’t. Sleep.
Do I want a sandwich? Or a beer? Or to read a book? No, they all involve actions that may stimulate my brain too much and induce this insomnia more.
So, I’ll stare at the ceiling until my eyelids are pasted shut against my eyes and hope that this time I can break the spell to stay in the land of dreams for longer.
I found this piece of work in a random ideas file on my laptop and spruced it up a little bit before I put this post up. I remember when I wrote it a couple of years ago I just couldn’t sleep for weeks for seemingly no reason. It affected my creativity, so I just ended up writing how I felt at the time.
All this reminded me of how I felt early on in lockdown: like a mindless zombie that couldn’t see a way through. I thought it apt, therefore, to post it now.
THANKS FOR READING
I appreciate you reading this post. If you have any comments, it’d be great to hear from you.
Stay safe (and sleep well), Everybody 😊