Sunday morning ride: better late than never

I was something like an hour into this morning's edition of Channel 4's Sunday Brunch when the horrible realisation that there was another two hours still to go suddenly took hold.

How could this be? Turns out, the show runs for three hours!

I immediately turned off the TV – not before hitting record: they were promising to do a special shepherd's pie later on – and hunted for my cycling gear.

I'd already scoffed a hearty breakfast of egg and bacon sandwiches that would ordinarily serve as a reward for an early morning stretch of the legs, so I decided to reverse the situation and head out on the road bike to work the sarnies off, instead.

Staring down the barrel of a washout of a bank holiday Monday, I was also spurred on by glimpses of sunshine and relatively low wind.

Nash

My route took me along my usual 25km circuit through Whaddon, Nash and Thornborough, but this morning I decided to break through the psychological barrier of the A422 and begin exploring the villages on the westward side of this usually busy road. Sunday morning traffic made this a breeze, and I was soon whizzing through Leckhampstead, Akeley, and on towards Lillingstone Lovell.

Whaddon

The secluded Chapel Lane which winds its way towards this quaintly-named hamlet was free of cars – which pleased me, as I'd spotted a pair of unexpected national speed limit signs either side of a road not wide enough for a single car to overtake me if it had needed to.

From there, a vast network of roads and lanes is available which wind through Wicken, Deanshanger, and many more surrounding villages. This is the kind of environment I've loved ever since getting comfortable riding on roads. It allows you to treat the country lanes as you would footpaths when out walking: picking and choosing routes based on the landmarks along the way. I often navigate with just a short list of village names, looking for the signposts at each junction. Other times, the trusty Ordnance Survey map comes out.

Wicken
Wicken

From the attractive little centres of Wicken and Deanshanger, modern roads slice up the lay of the land, but fortunately there's a neat little suspended, shared use pathway that goes right up and over the busy roundabout and drops you back into the lovely surroundings of Passenham, a tiny scattering of buildings including a pretty church, just the other side of Stony Stratford.

From there, I'm very much on the home straight. I could've gone in the opposite direction, doing another lap of my regular circuit, but I was just the right combination of satisfied and warmed up that I just fancied heading home, ending up with a decent 40km under my wheels.

Now, if only I'd done all this several hours earlier…!

 

Some recent snapshots

Rural scenes in central Milton Keynes
Rural scenes in central Milton Keynes

The weather this past week has suddenly taken a turn for the autumnal…

I think my brain is still convinced we have weeks or months of summer left, but the distinct chill in the air each morning the past few days is quickly showing me otherwise.

Whilst I still have a glimmer of hope left, I’ve been trying my best to take advantage of dry spells and continuing to get out for bike rides and runs. But it’s getting harder…

Accidental bike/shoe colour coordination 1
Accidental bike/shoe colour coordination 1
Accidental bike/shoe colour coordination 2
Accidental bike/shoe colour coordination 2
Not a bad little path for a run
Not a bad little path for a run
Approaching the Quadrant:MK by bike
Approaching the Quadrant:MK by bike
Even road junctions around Milton Keynes can look good in a decent sunset
Even road junctions around Milton Keynes can look good in a decent sunset
A recent stretch of the legs
A recent stretch of the legs

“A physical book is difficult.” – Craig Mod

photodenmark

Every six months or so, Craig Mod (he of subcompact publishing, books in the age of the iPad, and a thousand other things) comes along and does something that makes me sit up and pay attention. Or start scribbling thoughts down. Or plan. Or dream. It’s very much as though there is an audible *ping* when an essay of his appears, as though it is a call to arms.

His latest piece, Let’s talk about margins, discusses the subtly important details involved in the layout and design of physical books:

A physical book is difficult. If you haven’t made one, it’s tough to imagine just how difficult it is. Every detail requires deliberation. There are many details. I will spare you an enumeration. But believe me when I say, if you think about them all before you start, you will never start. The rabbit hole is deep. The truth of any craft.

Huh. I’m reminded of that essay on photography along the lines of, I think, Photography is easy, photography is hard. However, in Mod’s discussion of book margins, quoted above, bookmaking is just hard.

And yet, paradoxically, every time Mod tells me (and, okay, everyone else who cares to listen) how hard this craft is, it only strengthens my resolve to give it a go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ebooks, page layouts, book design and publishing recently. Friends have been encouraging me along the way. Nodding encouragingly. Offering to collaborate. I ride the waves of my inspiration, enthusiasm and energy. I spend whole days forgetting to eat a proper meal because I’m too absorbed in an idea. I get distracted. I spend hours on some small thing, and then I get frustrated. But it’s a learning process, and I push on. I continue to learn. Things continue to come into focus. I understand more, and I see more and more of the bigger picture.

One of my biggest recurring inspirations, though, is whenever Craig Mod sits down to write something about that whole subject. Something about his understanding of the process just hits me for six. When he talks, I listen.

On publishing projects that lack hard cash, but still exude care and attention, Mod writes:

“We may not have had the money to print on better paper, but man, we give a shit.” Giving a shit does not require capital, simply attention and humility and diligence. Giving a shit is the best feeling you can imbue craft with. Giving a shit in book design manifests in many ways, but it manifests perhaps most in the margins.

This is true delight in the details, right here. Not just a fan’s appreciation of the results, but a deep, nuanced understanding of the entire process, gleaned from years of study, collaboration and involvement in the many steps along the way.

Actually doing something. Actually making something.

That slow, gradual process is what enables people like Craig Mod to truly delight in these kinds of details, and then be able not just to pass on nuggets of wisdom, but solid bars of gold which deeply affect the reader: slabs of raw insight which encourage the next person to take up the challenge, and make a thing of their own.

Onwards.

“a calm wholly at variance with the disturbed spirit of the day.”

Amongst numerous first-hand reports on the outbreak of World War One to be found in the media today and recently, the Manchester Guardian's Country Diary column from one hundred years ago provides one of the more subtle and delicate:

The ripening, sun-browned corn, the sweet-smelling stacked hay, the placid cattle grazing in the fields, the beauty of the fertile summer land, suggest a calm wholly at variance with the disturbed spirit of the day. Nature’s resources, nature’s persistent onward and upward growth, add mute appeal in support of those whose efforts at the present time are in the cause of peace.

The ripening, sun-browned corn, the sweet-smelling stacked hay, the placid cattle grazing in the fields, the beauty of the fertile summer land, suggest a calm wholly at variance with the disturbed spirit of the day. Nature’s resources, nature’s persistent onward and upward growth, add mute appeal in support of those whose efforts at the present time are in the cause of peace.

I adore the Country Diary. It scratches so many itches – such sweet, sensitive observations of nature and rural scenes. In the same feed as the present day Country Diary column, The Guardian website kindly presents the very same column exactly one hundred years on – until today, that is.

As noted at the end of today's post from 5 August, 1914, the commencement of war meant that the Diary disappeared from the Manchester Guardian's pages, not to be resumed again until 1 January, 1915, at the request of the editor, CP Scott.

Until then, the current feed will continue to post archive entries alongside the current ones – from fifty years ago instead.

As ever, it's fascinating to pore over old newspapers, and as you can see above, the weather column provides two interesting titbits: a note that the sunset is 35 seconds later for every ten miles north of Manchester; and a suggested 'lamp time' for cyclists, much akin to lighting up time.

A final 'oh yeah…!' can be derived from comparing the variation between sunset/sunrise times of 100 years ago and today: British Summer Time was not established until 1916.