More ziney loveliness: Shawn Granton (via Charles Pope, cyclist and diarist)

Let’s just file this one under “things I was convinced I’d already blogged about but…2020?” and pretend it’s not already December, okay?


As well as the recent zines I have been enjoying, earlier this year I was a very happy recipient of a nice selection of work by Shawn Granton, behind the wonderfully-titled Urban Adventure League. A Portland resident, Shawn has a number of interests which dovetail neatly with my own: he’s regularly out on his bike, camping, taking pictures with film cameras, or playing with a short wave radio. Often all in one trip!

In fact, the detail that first led me to Shawn’s online presence was his use of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, a lovely 35mm range finder camera I’ve talked about several times before. The Hi-Matic gets a nice amount of coverage on blogs, Flickr and Instagram, and it’s always nice to see what people get out of theirs when you know the exact tool they’re using (differences in film stocks aside).

And as well as an enthusiastic film photographer, Shawn is also a great blogger. He’s been at it for years, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him in a distant sort of way via his blog posts which cover all of the kinds of hobbies I mentioned above.

As I was getting more familiar with his interests this past summer, during the same period I had been reading a lovely book called A Golden Age of Cycling, being a collection of recently-published selection of diaries kept by Charles Pope between 1924 and 1933. Pope wrote – somewhat prosaically at times – about his cycling adventures around the UK, and occasionally on the continent.

The mileage Pope would rack up on a given weekend – and the sheer numbers of weekends he spent awheel in any given year – boggled my mind. A lot of the places he visited were familiar to me, and it was always nice to see how much detail he wrote about the places along the route itself – or rather, the names of those places, if not vivid descriptions of them. Pope rarely waxed lyrical in his diary entries, but they often read as though he was frantically jotting down details at the end of a long day’s pedalling, or while he wolfed down some gargantuan breakfast, keen to hit the road again. At the very least, his route listings helped me to visualise a mental map of his route – or occasionally would lead me to actually try and plot the route he took on a map featuring today’s roads.

This always gave me pause, though; Pope was cycling Britain’s roads at a time long before motorways and dual carriageways, but also quite early on in the British love affair with the motor vehicle. These roads were old, windy – and very quiet by today’s standards.

Crucially, Pope could navigate towns and cities of various sizes without having to contend with vast ring roads, junctions and multi-lane roundabouts. He could instead weave his way in and out by the old roads which were still carrying the size and volume of traffic they were used to.

He did of course occasionally grumble about the vast numbers of day-trippers in their gas-guzzling automobiles clogging up pretty little Cotswolds villages, so I mustn’t presume the roads were entirely empty of cars. Pope was not a fan of this new menace. And it was therefore especially gut-wrenching to learn via this book that Charles Pope ultimately lost his life on his bicycle after a road traffic accident.

But despite this tragedy, what a happy book it is to read. The tales of his adventures have inspired a few of my own, and although I constantly needed to remind myself that British roads 100 years would be virtually unrecognisable to Pope, there are still pockets of the countryside – country lanes and pretty little villages – that would be instantly familiar to the man, as he propped his bike up and strode inside the nearest pub for his trademark refreshment of bread, cheese and Bass ale.


I provide all this detail into the Pope book because, as I read it, and as I became more familiar with Shawn Granton’s blog and general demeanour (not to mention his obsession with British three-speeds), I knew this would be a book Shawn would enjoy. Having read his blog for a while, I was aware he had a public PO Box address on his site, so it was clear what I had to do next: I sent Shawn a copy of the Pope book.

To my delight, not only did the book arrive in what seemed like less than a week, but in not much more time than that, I had received a reply by post from Shawn as well! I sent the book via what I presume used to be called ‘surface mail’ (Royal Mail’s International Economy) and had imagined it would be flung into the bilge of a creaking wooden ship and might wash up on the eastern seaboard of North America some time after a storm broke up its hull. Then, through snow/rain/heat/gloom it would eventually cross that vast continent and make its way into Shawn’s hands long after I had forgotten ever sending it.

But no! Even in a pandemic, the postal service blew me away, and did Shawn proud too: his neat little package was a joy for me to unpack, stuffed as it was with varieties of the stuff he makes and sells. You see, not only is Shawn an entertaining and knowledgable writer, but he’s also a great artist, sketching comics and logos for all sorts of projects.

I was thrilled to find in the pack he kindly sent me in gratitude for the Pope book a series of photography- and cycling-related comics, zines and stickers.

Thanks so much, Shawn – and if any of you reading this would like to see some of Shawn’s work, his Etsy store is the place to pick what you’d like: https://www.etsy.com/shop/urbanadventureleague – or just check out his blog at https://urbanadventureleague.wordpress.com/ – if you like the things I’ve been blabbing on about for a thousand words now, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Shawn’s blog, too.

Oh, and PS: after mentioning my delight at seeing some of the other recent zines in e-ink form, I should add that I regularly read Shawn’s blog posts on my Kindle – and here’s a recent example which just shows off how great e-ink makes certain types of illustration look:

What’s updates?

I was already vaguely aware that I hadn’t updated my blog in a little while, and then yesterday I was pruning and sorting some RSS feeds in Inoreader, putting less active feeds into folders that identified them as being less frequently updated. I saw mine there as it hadn’t been updated in more than a month. (Inoreader’s ‘no updates in more than a month’ is a bit black and white, hence why I use folders for stuff that, say, hasn’t been updated at all since 2019, and so on.)

(It was interesting to me that the previous posts are all about experiences or things I did, and it made me wonder when I got away from writing about just anything, as opposed to specific events. I used to basically just keep a diary on my blog. The biggest change might simply be that I keep my diary more private now, so the stuff that ends up on my blog is the tip of that iceberg.)

Anyway in that time I’ve been thinking about the stuff I’ve been consuming recently, and a lot of it has been people’s homepages – not blogs as such, but homepages (which may incoporate a blog) – and yet again it’s something I find myself enchanted by.

Noah’s Distinctly Pink is a chaotic-yet-ordered collection of hyperlinked words – almost a wiki of their mind.

Evy’s Garden is a neat distillation of various ideas, concepts and mediums* into different rooms.

Meanwhile, Jamie just updated his blog with some updates and rationale that seem very sensible.

* I’m sorry, I know I mean media but it never feels right in my mouth

Noah has helped me want to further the development of a thus far hidden bit of my website which lets me hack together basic HTML pages to see if that’s a process I prefer to, say, using WordPress, or if it will remain a tinkering hobby and not a full standalone site. Crucially, Noah helped me by reminding me of some neat command line tricks for uploading data to a web server.

Evy gave me some ideas for how to present disparate, orphaned content: she has a jukebox that plays random songs she’s recorded, along with brief bits of metadata, and it gave me the idea to do something similar with various field recordings I have collected over the years. And to do it in a way that means inserting a single line of code pointing to a local MP3, and not a Soundcloud link or similar. I struggle with knowing how and where to present various types of content all under one website. I still think about this here website as blog-first, with optional sub-domains to be added as I see fit. But that’s the reverse of a website which also incorporates a blog.

And Jamie highlighted some design and layout choices that he has adapted to suit his blogging style, and – crucially – he has written about those choices, which I find interesting and helpful to read. Reading about a writer/web designer’s choices is a bit like seeing a website you like and viewing the source code – it reveals things that you might not have considered or thought possible/worthwhile. And that can set me off down another path of thought. That path of thought may not lead me to anything… but it just might. Either way, the process of wandering down that path is enjoyable in itself.


There’s a passage in this 2018 piece by Laurel Schwulst that I enjoyed a lot. I liked a lot of bits from the piece, actually, but this one really struck me. It has echoes of Evy’s ‘garden’ metaphor (and possibly I found this piece via Evy? I cannot remember now).

Website as plant

Plants can’t be rushed. They grow on their own. Your website can be the same way, as long as you pick the right soil, water it (but not too much), and provide adequate sunlight. Plant an idea seed one day and let it gradually grow.

Maybe it will flower after a couple of years. Maybe the next year it’ll bear fruit, if you’re lucky. Fruit could be friends or admiration or money—success comes in many forms. But don’t get too excited or set goals: that’s not the idea here. Like I said, plants can’t be rushed.

Website as garden

Fred Rogers said you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. Sometimes, once they’re little seedlings and can stand on their own, it helps to plant them outside, in a garden, next to the others.

Gardens have their own ways each season. In the winter, not much might happen, and that’s perfectly fine. You might spend the less active months journaling in your notebook: less output, more stirring around on input. You need both. Plants remind us that life is about balance.

It’s nice to be outside working on your garden, just like it’s nice to quietly sit with your ideas and place them onto separate pages.

Re-cyclblog

I recently remembered I had a cycling tumblr (remember tumblr?) called cyclblog and thought to myself: ‘huh: there were some pretty nice posts on that tumblr.’ And so I am planning to re-host the best of that blog somewhere here. I can’t decide whether to just import the old posts as WordPress posts, sufficiently tagged and dated. Or to keep the idea of a cyclblg-esque sub-domain and keep it separate.

The tumblr, naturally, combines my own blog-type posts with reblogged tumblr posts from other users, as well as ‘hey, this is cool’ brief links to other web properties like tweets or photographs.

Tumblr’s export function (when it finally worked – mine took about a week!) has produced some actually quite nice, clean standalone HTML pages of each post, with embedded media linked to a folder. I’m tempted to just use these de-tumblrified HTML pages under a sub-domain, but maybe I’ll do something else.

My own longer-form written posts are (I like to think) decent enough to warrant retaining and reposting (or re-hosting). But there’s something about the re-blogged stuff on cyclblg that I like, too, and want to keep alive. It’s a sort of scrapbook of stuff that either felt adjacent to my own interests, or even served to inspire the activities I would go on to write about myself.

Three of those longer-form posts borrowed the term microadventure from Alastair Humphreys who was one of a number of folks back when cyclblg was active who absolutely inspired me to get out there and have some little adventures of my own. My own microadventures tended to be bike overnights** from my base at the time of Milton Keynes:

** Bikeovernights.org is another website that definitely inspired me around this time

Anyway. It’ll be nice to do something with these old posts, and hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable experience re-reading some of those adventures again.

Thoughts on blogging, and blogrolls

I’ve read a lot lately about the web, personal websites, blogging, and the indieweb movement.

I keep meaning to properly underline one particular article or post I’ve read that has inspired me to finally sit down and write, and failing because there have been a lot and they’ve all kind of blurred into one movement in my brain. That’s the problem with ‘studying a subject’ and not ‘keeping references’ I guess.

(I’m going to try to semi-regularly post lists of links to ‘stuff I’ve starred on Pocket or sent to my Kindle’ as this is probably the best filter for links I’ve enjoyed reading or that have inspired me in some way.)

One such post I can point at this time to is Roy Tang‘s Thoughts on Blogging, 2020 edition, which I really enjoyed. I’ve actually been slowly making my way through a number of Roy’s posts – on the subject of blogging, blogging platforms, and so on – for a while now. Hi, Roy!

The post above chimed with me because I go back on forth on what I’m doing when I’m blogging. My blog has, at times, been:

  • a diary or journal;
  • an unrelated series of essays or write-ups on specific subjects or trips;
  • a linkblog;
  • a collection of weeknotes.

And possibly others.

Every few years I find that I want to tidy up old blog posts, and the ones that are often quickest to get culled are either too brief, too personal, poorly formatted, or linkblog entries.

The latter are just… Not what I’m interested in doing. I often feel the urge to post links to stuff, but increasingly I think that’s what Twitter might be better for. Plus Twitter kind of decays gracefully where as a blogpost which is nothing more than a link to a thing with little to no contextual information is a bit weird to have archived as an active page in a blog. think, anyway.

Similarly, as a result of occasionally moving host or CMS, I always end up with a number of broken posts, often those with images embedded. Best case, the images just go a bit wonky, or the formatting of some styles changes significantly from the original design. But worst case I end up seeing a long list of image placeholders where the original images are either no longer loading from the CMS correctly, or the external host has changed the URL or altogether removed them.

The posts that seem to hang around, however, tend to be more standalone essay-type posts. Plus a few trip write-ups where the image formatting hasn’t been completely b0rked – or I’ve felt compelled enough to unb0rk it.

Anyway, Roy and others have written recently on the subject of blogging, and it’s enjoyable to read, and possibly feel as though there’s a small renaissance happening around blogs and RSS and so forth. (Possibly this is just an echo chamber of ever-decreasing circles, but hey).

Like Roy (and Phil, and others), I have found myself adding a number of new blogs to my RSS feeds recently.

This new ‘discovery’ of other blogs has come about purely because people who I enjoy reading have posted links to people they enjoy reading. Sometimes these are occasional ‘new blogs to follow’ type posts (Hi, Kicks!), and other times these new discoveries are thanks to a reprisal of that old-school blogging stalwart, the blogroll.

A blogroll is basically just a list of links to other websites and blogs on a person’s website. No more, no less. It’s different to a webring, which I have also seen a sort of revival of recently, but every implementation I’ve seen of it between now and about 2002 just seems way too hacky and buggy and unpredictable and please just give me a list of URLs.

I don’t have a blogroll on this website yet, but I’m in the process of compiling one. Like others, it’ll basically be a list exported from my RSS feed reader, but I won’t be using JSON or any sort of automation. I don’t know how to do all that. But I do know how to copy and paste. So I’ll do that instead.

Roy’s mention of his own blogroll also mentioned another blogger by the name of Jan-Lukas Else. Jan-Lukas’ blog has already crept into my feed reader’s ‘newish’ folder, and I like the sorts of things he writes about. Hi, Jan-Lukas!

One thing that caught my eye when browsing his website, though, was a neat little banner which goes some way to solving some of the issues of archived/historic blog posts I mentioned above:

banner-9292133-6809606

It’s a simple solution and I’ve seen it used on news websites that aim to help readers who may have visited a link to what ostensibly looks like a ‘news’ story which (thanks to the less and less ephemeral nature of some big websites like the BBC and the Guardian) might be a decade old or more.

I was, therefore, even more amused to see that – amidst me starting to think about my own beginnings with websites and ‘blogging’ eighteen years ago, that Jan-Lukas – who makes such good use of the banner above – is just twenty years old himself.