Dear readers,

I’d appreciate it if you could indulge me for the next few paragraphs. There’s a bit more for you at the end.

Dear Small Beds & Large Bears,

Thank you, my dear blog, for the past twelve years of companionship. Thank you for helping me to chronicle my life, air my grievances, compose my thoughts, and attempt to assemble my own theory of how my own world and the wider world work. I haven’t finished yet, but trying to do so has been tremendous fun.

What the world (still) calls blogging has changed immeasurably in the past decade; who I am and what I want out of life has changed too. Facebook and Twitter have appeared, while confessional platforms like LiveJournal have, as a genre, faded somewhat. Writing (certainly fiction) as a career is less important to me than the environment, or social issues; furthermore, I no longer see myself as some anti-academic, grimly self-exiled to the shire, yet still academic in my own way (much as the anti-popes, at the time, very much saw themselves as popes.)

While I still plan to blog in some form, somewhere, the time has come for me to say goodbye, both to you and to the persona I present here. We show respect for the works we love by knowing when they have come to a natural end, and the gradual diminuendo of my posts here suggests that I have left my past life, with its small beds and its large bears, far behind. Now I need to take my leave of you too.

Readers: a postscript

Thank you, too. Thank you for your patience and indulgence. Thank you to the few long-standing readers, to the many occasional ones, to the friends who came to read and the friends I made as they read.

I hope you will understand: I write elsewhere; I exist elsewhere. Along with my somewhat dry career blogging, there will be other blogs: perhaps about gardening, or about the environment. I haven’t quite decided yet. Whenever one closes and locks the door on a lodging of many years’ standing and hands over the keys, then sometimes—if baggage and heart are both light—the bright road ahead is sufficient in itself to lift the heart. The destination, on the other hand, can wait for another day.

What I’m trying to say is: this isn’t really goodbye. Wait, no, it is. It is goodbye. A glad goodbye. Goodbye!

Posted in meta, readers | 3 Comments

Settled to Car-free

We’re here. The broadband went live today, a week after originally planned. A locksmith has changed our locks. A plumber has OK’ed our boiler, but failed our gas fire, which now has the ignominy of a big yellow-and-red sticker on it saying it shouldn’t be reconnected until the flue has been somehow re-flued (I forget the details, but it sounded expensive.)

Meanwhile, the car’s MOT is due on October 20, and we’re opting to fail it before it fails itself. This is unlikely to end well: for the car.

(More updates later: now we’re online, we need to do an online shop. Online.)

Posted in buildings, environment, here, location, sheffield | 2 Comments

Ordering on the menu

I’m visiting my parents again. My dad is in a long queue for a new knee on the Spanish national health service, so after my conference I trotted a couple of hundred kilometres down the coast to boost his spirits by spending all his money.

I love Catalonia and Valencia a lot, and in theory I love Spanish food: their fruit and vegetables are all quite casually like the winners of some UK competition for growing for size, succulence and flavour at the same time. Their hard manchego cheese is excellent, and they can do a mean line in nuts and legumes. With that in mind, what you get in restaurants is often disappointingly meaty and fishy. They also have a longstanding and torrid relationship with ham, about which sadly Lévi-Strauss is no longer with us to write a fascinating if stomach-turning thesis.

We found out a few days in that a local restaurant, intent on spoiling their marvellous Greek salad with unadvertised jamon iberico, has finally, reluctantly listed it as an actually advertised ingredient on the menu. Ironically, though, this meant I felt comfortable going back. It seems an offence against propriety, to order something with itemized ingredients but then demand an absence of something not even listed; now it’s on there, I could ask explicitly for a Greek salad without that unGreek bacon in it.

At another restaurant yesterday I saw under “Bocadillos” (baguettes cut lengthwise and determinedly not French) the option “Queso” among the long, long list of meats and seafood. Already rather hungry, I decided that would have to do. The conversation went (roughly translated):

“Cheese baguette, please.”

[Consternation] “… What, just cheese?”

“I don’t know. It’s here on the menu.” [points]

[As though I was clearly yet sorrowfully entirely insane, but with the air of a last-ditch effort to convince me otherwise] “You just want cheese?”

[Worried I might get ham] “Yes, please.”

If my Spanish had been better, I might have added: it’s not my menu. It’s yours. The power is also yours to have a sandwich-based cuisine that permits more than one ingredient without throwing ham or fucking tuna all over the shop like you’re the Muppets’ Swedish Chef. I can’t dictate how you embrace and ultimately the international language of sandwich into your own local culture. But it was much easier to just say .

In the end, it was quite nice cheese. Could have done with some salad, mind you.

Posted in body, experience, food, holiday, location, occupation, person, privilege, society, spain, surprise, tourism | Leave a comment

Very, very quick update on the house

We’ve exchanged. I would’ve said earlier but I’ve been away at a spectacularly badly-timed conference.

We move on October 8. I panic, oh, about now.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A shout in the street

After having temporarily dislodged my kneecap, I spent a few moments unable to think of anything else but that ice-cold, roiling ache. I barely opened my eyes as I swore continuously and rather loudly, entirely out of keeping with the otherwise pious atmosphere of the church.

Eventually the wisdom of past experience told me to try to get back on my bicycle, and get the joint moving before it swelled up. I tried the disastrous manoeuvre again but, forewarned, managed to clear the various metals and fabrics of my bicycle and settle onto the saddle.

As I bounded down the hill, trembling slightly, I was struck by the sun setting, suddenly blasting between the clouds and the horizon, over to my right. Then a partridge, startled, took off over my left shoulder. Squirrels bounded in front of me like I was some kind of herald of spring, caught out of season, conjuring life out of the hedgerows.

I wondered if this might be an admonishment of my earlier succumbing to piety. That wasn’t anything to do with God, something was trying to tell me. Avert yourself. Head out into the fields. God might not be in the sunset, but might God be the bench you sat on to watch it? Might God be the sap in the grass, or the skitter of claw-dotted paws on a bank?

Not far from home, I found my front wheel a mere inch away from running over two panicked geese. I don’t know how they fit into this spiritual revelation at all; they were fine, but they didn’t have give me a look.

Posted in belief, body, comparative_religion, cotswolds, cycles, discomfort, environment, location, nature, paganism, person, transport, understanding | Leave a comment

Agony written by a country churchyard

In a bid to say farewell to some of the places I’ve habitually cycled through, on Friday I took a roundabout route to Leafield, a quiet, hilltop village. It was all I could do to get out of my funk, as exchange still hadn’t happened, and I needed to get rid of the desire to smash crockery and punch walls.

The cycle ride was relaxing, through the low-slanted sunlight of an approaching September evening, and I even bumped into an old colleague as I plodded my way towards my goal. When I finally reached the village, the world held its breath and it was like a scene from the poem Adlestrop:

… for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

yet another village to which I will likely not cycle again.

In the quiet suspense of the top of the hill, I wandered around Leafield’s churchyard properly for the first time. I circled the warmly grey-coloured church walls, spotting different flowers on different graves, and wondering what it meant to leave a tender begonia in memoriam, given the somewhat autumnal weather. It felt like there was something crouched, incipient, in the calm and the restfulness; given the stress of the past few days, it was the onset of either religiosity or a nervous breakdown on my part, perhaps.

As I went to re-mount my bicycle, swinging my right leg high to clear the saddle, I caught my thigh in my shorts material and mis-aimed. My knee cracked ringingly against the pannier rack, lifting the kneecap slightly; as I screwed my eyes up I swear I could see stars.

Posted in belief, christianity, comparative_religion, cotswolds, cycles, emotions, environment, fear, hope, location, mind, person, transport, understanding | 2 Comments

Cycleless, marketless, townless

I managed to sneak in a cycle ride yesterday afternoon. There was still potentially work from clients, but in practice it would wait for Monday, and I was feeling really rather rough: like I was coming down with a cold, but quite possibly just the result of stress and long hours in a short week. Given the weather kept threatening rain, then rather than heading out like an arrow I zigzagged north, hoping to zigag back south afterwards, and thus get more fresh air than the crow might in flight.

I reached our local marketless market town at—and I checked—16:26, and was glad to see the door of a local food shop open. As I approached, with almost comic gardez-loo timing, a woman stepped one foot out across the threshold and flung soapy water down the street from a bucket. The door was then shut with finality: after all, it was nearly 4.30pm, and who wants to buy food after 4.30pm?

Further investigations elsewhere proved fruitless, apart from chains like the Co-Op. Here, it seems, is the town with almost nothing open after 4.30pm. Come from miles around, to see this strange sight: the marketless market town; the townless, marketless market town. You don’t need to tip your guide, but please be advised it’s 20p for the toilets (parking your cars, rather than your stools, is of course free; and good luck finding a Sheffield hoop.)

Luckily I had another hour’s worth of zigzagging ahead of me, and could work off the dull funk that had descended upon me while fighting both the unwelcoming meanness of the Cotswolds and my dropping blood-sugar leves at the same time. But do ask me again why we’re moving. Go on, ask.

Posted in body, cars, cliques, commerce, cotswolds, cycles, enmity, entertainment, environment, fatigue, health, illnesses, local_independents, location, made_our_own_fun, opinion, person, provision, rants, society, transport | Leave a comment