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:

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.