Tag Archives: adventures

In SatNav We Trust – a review

One of the great things about being a reviewer is when authors come back to share their new adventures in life and publishing. Back in 2013 I reviewed Jack Barrow’s The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. Now he’s back, with something completely different!

Over a period of six weeks, Jack toured every county in England – the historic ones, not the modern metropolitan areas because he was camping and no one in their right mind wants to camp in a metropolitan area. This is an adventure that from my perspective, involves alarming amounts of driving, but, there’s a lot of good in it, so, I’m going to focus on that.

Taking in a county a day is of course just a ruse. It allows the author to have experiences and reflect on life, landscape, free will, identity, and rationality. It is the philosophical process that really engaged me, more than the often surreal exploration of England. For anyone who enjoys some non-academic philosophy, this is a great read – it’s all totally accessible and highly relevant to how we live and think.  Ideas about rationality and the place of the irrational in our lives are probably going to stay with me in perpetuity.

All too often, adventure writing is about the antics of privilege – it’s usually for the well off and well resourced. Adventure is usually portrayed as ‘away’ in some distant, exotic place. Adventurers so often go looking for pristine landscapes to adventure in, away from other humans – In SatNav We Trust is a glorious rejection of all of that. Jack goes to camp sites. He camps in places that anyone could camp in, and while his adventure format isn’t for everyone, he signposts the scope for much more affordable adventuring. The book demonstrates that a person can have interesting experiences without having to sleep on the side of a mountain, or having to dig holes to poo in!

I can probably forgive Jack for the miles he clocks up on this tour, simply because he demonstrates how we can have adventures where we live. Every county has plenty to offer. There’s history, landscape and fascinating people to be found everywhere and anywhere. It’s ok to be a small scale adventurer, finding joy and excitement in the little discoveries along the way.

The book is written with wit and self awareness. It’s entertaining, and thoughtful, and easy to dip in and out of. It may well be the sort of book people end up buying as a gift for Father’s Day. It’s also an invitation to plan your own mad tour on whatever terms you like. A tour of places that have given their names to cheese rather appeals to me.

Taking the adventure one step further, Jack Barrow is publishing with Unbound. For those of you not familiar with this, it’s an unusual publishing company that raises subscriptions and then publishes once a book is funded. Historically, a lot of houses used to do this, often depending on rich patrons to get a book moving. These days of course crowd funding allows us all to get involved. You can get a copy of this book by pledging now, and then when it funds, everything moves and you get a copy. As with other crowdfunding arrangements, if you want more than just a book, there are options – do saunter over to the website and have a look! https://unbound.com/books/in-satnav-we-trust/

And there’s more information about the book over here – http://jack-barrow.com/travelogue-in-satnav-we-trust/ 

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Honouring the numbers

Years are numbered in arbitrary human ways, and this is just one of the many points when people have deemed that a solar year has ended and a new one commenced. Still, I am a sucker for culture and traditions, so let’s sweep a bow to the rolling on of those meaningless numbers anyway!

2013 was in many ways better for me than the years before it. Highlights included getting off the narrowboat, and actual warm summer, the joys of Druid camp, starting Auroch Grove, and lots of hill walking. The new luxuries in my life- plentiful hot water, a toaster, reliable internet, have resulted in me being a lot more comfortable and feeling a lot better as a consequence. The sheer joy of a permanent bed has really enhanced my life.

On the downside there have been more political nightmares than I want to have to think about. Bedroom tax, climate change, fracking, the badger cull… so much that is hideous and wrong, that at times I have felt overwhelmed with despair at the state of the world.

I’ve learned a lot about politics in the last six months or so. I’ve read vast reams of political history and current thinking, trying to understand what’s happening and how best to make a positive difference. Alongside that, I’ve made a long study of prayer practice across religions, and started putting together what I know about dreaming. I had a novel come out (Intelligent Designing for Amateurs) and a Pagan Portal book (Spirituality without Structure) and the second volume of Hopeless Maine. There was travel – Doncaster and Scarborough were excellent experiences.

I have more sense of direction than I did this time last year. Back then it was still very much about survival and getting some control over my life. Now I’m thinking a lot more in terms of what I can do. What can I add? Where can I make a difference? Where am I needed? I have a lot of projects underway, and I know that next year is going to be both busy and interesting. I spend more time looking forward than I do looking back, and a lot of time getting on with whatever now has brought me. My days are full, busy and interesting, and I’m spoiled for choice in terms of opportunities to go out and have new and interesting experiences. Sometimes the downside of this is that I end up very tired, which can make me ill, but I’m learning when to stop and how to balance things.

The last year has forged some very strong relationships for me. I have a sense of being part of a community, and a network of people with whom I feel very much engaged, who inspire me, and with whom I am able to share all manner of things. People to walk with, to share music with, to contemplate with and who share creativity with me. There have been a few mistakes on that score too, and a few hard lessons but as I get more confident about who I am and what I want, it gets easier to see where I fit and where I should therefore invest my time and energy.

I’m anticipating that next year there will be Hopeless Maine part three, Professor Elemental the novel, and a book about prayer all in print. I will be at events in Frome and Bristol, and at Druid camp. I mean to try and do the epic Five Valleys Walk, and to sit out overnight on the hills. There will be more music, and more reconnecting with people I lost during the hermit phase. There will be adventures and I am going to attempt a few crazy things (more on that as I do it). I feel more positive about this calendar shift than I have about any other in a long time. I feel like I’m winning, and I think I know what I’m doing, where I’m going and how to achieve my many and curious goals.


The return journey

If the adventure doesn’t kill you, then when it ends, you may go home. Sam goes back to the shire, but Beowulf stays put. Some are done with adventures, others take to the road at once in search of new ones. Most of us, these days, go home. At least for a while.

If the adventure has been a good one, then recognising it is over and going home, can be a bit melancholy. But if your adventure was a happy departure from normal life, a convention, camp, re-enactment or the like, then it will be finite, and leaving is pretty much required.

It’s easy to see the journey home as what happens after the adventure is over. But of course it isn’t. The way home can turn out to be challenging (I think of hobbits again), or take a lot longer than expected, (Odysseus) or otherwise become a thing in its own right. Even when the adventure was a small one, more alcoholic than heroic, the journey home allows time to reflect and digest what happened. There’s a space to shift gears, putting the adventure into perspective, weaving it into the story of who you are and what you do. We can’t remember everything, and it tends to be the memories we dwell on that stay with us and most influence us. Deliberate reflection reinforces memory, is part of our inner story-making process.

Then, the return. Before we went adventuring, home may have felt like a small and unimportant place. An irritation. A trap. But now, coming back after the adventure, home is full of sweetly familiar things, reassuring, affirming and comforting. Think of Dorothy and how Oz changed her feelings towards Kansas. In going away, we can find perspectives on what we had all along. Exhausted and footsore from epic travels, hung over, battle bruised or however it’s taken us, home brings relief and a space in which to recover.

And plan for the next one. (In my case Asylum in Lincoln, 2 weeks hence).

I love to travel, to adventure, meeting new people, seeing new places. If I’m too long in the same place, I become restless and melancholy. I’ve come to realise a home is something I treasure most when it’s a place to come back to. The return journey is always one of discovery, the familiar seen with new eyes. Wandering is in my soul, but it’s good to have a place to belong as well.