Filtered for the great outdoors

10.05, Monday 5 Jan 2015


What playing cricket looks like to Americans (video).

I’ve been sick since just after Christmas – nothing much, just a light cold that turned into a sinus infection which is usual for this time of year. A slight ringing in the ears; dizziness if I move my head too fast.

Every year this happens! I need my sinuses like I need a hole in the head. Badum tish.

The weirdest effect of this barely-there sickness is that it’s leaching my volition. I have zero ideas. Or rather, I can respond to stuff quite adequately. But self-starting volition: Nope. All gone.

Cricket is simultaneously boring and this long, complex, open-ended… something. The annual-or-so Australia/England Test series - the Ashes - comprises five 5-day games. The place in a series can only be described half as stats and half as story.

All the possible cricket fielding positions.

My favourite is when the games are being played in Australia, because then I have the radio on all night and I listen to the ebb and flow of the game through dozing and the half-light of consciousness. And that fully felt, undescribable sunlit contest builds in my head for a month and a bit, the length of the series. A soundtrack.

I wonder why we fall so easily into accepting a movie soundtrack. Maybe we have soundtracks in regular life. Not heard but felt. And that’s the niche being occupied.

Regularity, daily routine, the beat of a soundtrack composed in microhertz. I can choose.

Good grief, I need to see the Sun.


The Capital Ring (which is in yellow on this map) is a 70-something mile walk circumnavigating London, linking together parks and open spaces in the city.

It’s made of 15 sections.

I think I need some outdoors, that’s basically it.

But I also wonder, why no volition? What’s resting? What’s finding a new direction?


The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publishes random numbers, every minute of the day: FEB25F1F8A3CD0712 7162AAFF20D0B17D 5A7FFF80523028C8 BE793471EED8335 A955C461D6F4B9C2 8075327469F57315 F2CA216CC5805561 1DF490AEAF64F2B9

The story of how it works is interesting. Coin flips, seeds, and trust.

I don’t think having new ideas is quite like having an internal random number generator. But whatever’s gummed up in my sinuses right now, that’s what’s rusty, or sore and stuck.

I think the reason I reach for this kind of language is that one way of seeing illness is as a psychic phenomenon. If I bash my leg, a bruise comes up: fluid builds up around the flesh to hold it and cushion it while it repairs. My being sick is also me wanting to be sick; I am the fluid cushioning, in a way. But holding what while it builds strength?

There’s also something magical about being sick that always brings home to me how embodied we are. No mind/body partition here, no way.

Related: I watched the movie Computer Chess over the holidays. The Guardian review calls it audaciously boring. Human/machine. Recommended!


One of my favourite accounts on Twitter is @herdyshepherd1 – he’s a shepherd in the Lake District. It’s mainly pictures of sheep and his dogs (and fields) early in the morning. Which would be enough…

It’s also, for me, a sense of connection. With sheep and dogs (and fields).

Which is wonderful.

His story.

His photos on Instagram. Must follow.

Then there’s stuff like his commentary on fell walking, for instance, Wainwright’s canonical fellwalks of the 1950s.

It is quite common for Lake District shepherds to have not been to some of the other valleys - knowledge and work is very local.

The idea of ticking off fells like Wainwright is a fairly alien notion to local folk - many would reply ‘what for?’

Older folk thought fell walking was a sign of someone not being a full shilling.

Fell walking is inherently modern - based on idea that an individual can experience something and that the ‘self’ matters…

But older working communities are more medieval in their perceptions and value an individual within their working context… Self irrelevant

‘This accidental present is not the all of me… That was so long in the making’ Oodgeroo Nuunucal

So, Lake District has two cultures… One that is very modern and about the ‘self’ and one very old and native that is about the ‘community’

It’s the X Factor that has set me off… No one gave a damn if you had a ‘passion’ before romanticism. Wordsworth turned in to Simon Cowell

The genius of romanticism is that it says everyone can join the club… Whereas older patterns of experience of place are earned/closed

I’ve been trying to be a farmer/shepherd for about forty years and am in the beginners class… Fell walking is easy to become part of!

[true enough, although walking (and tourism) is surely important for your communities?] Yes. I like guests, not conquistadors

@herdyshepherd1 is James Rebanks, and his book, The Shepherd’s Life, is out in April: His family have farmed in the same area for six hundred years.

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