A bit of a slow start to 2013, but Happy New Year, nonetheless.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my father died peacefully, after a short bout of pneumonia, surrounded by his family. The time of year seemed aptly appropriate: he had shrugged off the old life and put on the new. What a perfect way to go.
We as a family have regarded these last few months as precious: the wonderful timing of an opportunity for our father to come back to UK from Cyprus and have a great end-of-life quality during these last few months, in the company of family and the local church and community; rather than alone and far away in a distant land.
Considering the short time my father was here in UK, there was a surprising number of people at his funeral. The plan now is to take him back to Cyprus for a memorial service in the church and community in which he was actively involved for about 27 years; after which, interment with his second wife, who died and was buried there 12 months ago.
We were all young once.
And finally, a touch of sentimentality: my parents' wedding in 1954, Kristiansand, Norway.
God bless them both. :-)
* * * * *
I have a few projects currently under way, in the offing, or on my wishlist:
This last one has been suggested (a couple of times) by friend, Joe, in Prince Rupert, Canada. I don't know how much of a commitment I have now bound myself to by mentioning it on this journal, so
let's just say, 'I'm thinking about it'. :-)
I continue to give talks about my trip - and still hugely enjoy them. As do, I'm glad to say, the audiences to whom I speak. The positive responses from everyone is what I had always hoped they would be - because it means there is a chance that others will be encouraged to do whatever is their burning inner conviction.
I shall forever be incredibly thankful for the inspiration that came to me from simply reading a book; which then sent me on my own wonderful journey of encouragement and enlightenment. Therefore, I make no bones about the fact that I am open to speak to organisations and at events, hoping that others might be similarly inspired.
As for reprint copies. Well, yes, sales have gone well enough for me to be ordering a reprint run of paperbacks. Yippee.
And I'm making concerted efforts to get the ebooks off the ground. But it seems more complicated to get the simplest thing done than I'd thought (it could just be me, of course), but I shall get there in the end.
An audio book is definitely on my To Do list. My elder brother will lend me decent recording equipment and I need to make sure recording conditions are quiet enough to make a good quality product. There's not point in spending hours reading and recording to end up with a rubbish end sound. I'm looking forward to this project; sure that I shall enjoy it.
In the meantime, I've not forgotten about getting back onto the Camino.
* * * * *
It is coming up to 3 years since returning from my trip and so it was quite a surprise this week to receive a phone call from BBC Radio Bristol inviting me on to the mid morning show at 11.30 this coming Friday, International Women's Day. What fun. :-)
And for those of you, locally, who have not yet heard me talk about my trip, you'll be pleased to know there is a chance to do so at Thornbury Library on Wednesday 20 March, 7.30 pm. :-)
I'm currently re-formatting my book manuscript (having lost a fair amount of it during conversion from pdf to Word), part of the long drawn-out preparation for getting it ready to produce ebooks. How anybody creates one in 30 minutes is beyond me.
Even so, it's not that bad; it means I get to be reminded of certain aspects of my trip which are not necessarily at the forefront of my mind, such as: the occasional snakes in Italy and Japan; paddling in the alligator-infested Everglades' mangrove swamps in Florida; paying a flying visit to New Brunswick, Canada and seeing Anne of Green Gables' house; watching salmon jumping up the creek in Ketchikan, Alaska; realising that some Iron Man participants compete in bare feet, and that the oldest woman contestant at that time was a nun. And not forgetting the glorious sunsets down the American west coast, which take some beating.
* * * * *
Yikes - and double yikes! It's 4 months since my last journal entry - and we're already halfway through the year.
Having thought I was getting close to a properly formatted manuscript for ebook conversion, I had to abandon it during April whilst I undertake an intensive 5-week TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. And, yes, the word 'intensive' does not belie the description. For anyone who has done such a course, they will agree wholeheartedly that it takes over your life for that brief period of time that seems to go on forever; during which there are tears of exhaustion and emotion by the trainees (8 of us) and bucketloads of patience and understanding from the International House tutors. An experience not to be missed - but never to be repeated - so it's just as well we all passed at the end. :-)
As well as having a go zip-wiring - wheeeee ...
After which I got back down to the formatting of the manuscript (I hope it will be worth the effort!). Which, although slow and time-consuming, is, nonetheless, an interesting challenge and will be a satisfying achievement (but only if I can successfully upload it at the end).
Again, an interruption, whilst my older brother and I went off the stay a long weekend in Norway with Cousin Helene and family to join in 17 May (National Day) celebrations, wearing my Mum's Norwegian national costume for the first time on this day. That, and having continued contact with Norwegian relatives, felt really good.
My print book has been selling surprisingly well, particularly these last few weeks on the back of an article I submitted to 'Cycle' magazine - the bi-monthly magazine of the CTC (Cyclists' Touring Club), which came out on 29 May. I've been going almost daily to the post office to despatch book orders. A great feeling. I am now on my 3rd print run. :-)
During Bristol Bike Week (17-22 June), I was invited to give a lunchtime talk to the employees of Ernst & Young in Bristol, apparently in the hope of encouraging them to cycle to work. I've no idea if it did the trick, but it at least got me out cycling for my first longish ride in a while (37 miles).
Radio Bristol interviewed me on International Women's Day (8 March) and for their 'Up Your Street' programme on Almondsbury; and invited me to participate in an afternoon quiz slot, whereby I had to recount two stories from my trip, which could be: both true, both false, or one of each; the listeners had to guess/work out which they were.
The continuing saga of my manuscript was once more interrupted when I went off for a week (5-13 July) cycling in the Netherlands.
I took the overnight ferry from Harwich to land in Hook of Holland early on the Saturday morning. Then a half day's cycle ride to arrive in Voorschoten in time for the 2.30pm licensing service for Ruan, our former curate here in Almondsbury, into his new church.
A church building had to be hired for this occasion, as the Anglican Church of the International Community is set up each week in the hall of the British School. There were 3 of us from Almondsbury and we were made incredibly welcome by everyone in the church, not least by Ruan and his family.
An afternoon was spent sightseeing the pretty nearby town of Leiden ...
... where we happened upon a Woodstock Revival Music Festival (1969 - way before most of you were born, although you might have heard about hippies and flower power) - on water. Fleets of boats containing various bands played music of the time, including songs from the musical 'Hair'.
Ah, yes, I remember it well.
As you might expect, the Netherlands is cycling paradise: flat terrain; fully comprehensive network of cycling routes and roads; motorists giving way to cyclists. A joy to be cycling here. And in
Belgium. And quite often by quiet, peaceful canals and rivers - with the added bonus that there is less chance of me becoming lost.
Mostly, I camped, except when issued a spontaneous invitation to spend the night in Helmond, with a namesake, Astrid, and husband, Rene, after I had asked for directions. Such easy hospitality was delightfully reminiscent of my trip. :-)
As are these flowers - my 'glomp roses'
Now, back home - to the news that my son had been involved in a car accident a few days previously, but not wanting to tell me until I was back in country. This week, then, trips to hospital for surgery to a fractured hand; then up country for a weekend stag 'do' (my son, not me!).
Maybe next week I can make a return to the ebook manuscript.
I'll get there. :-)
* * * * *
Here is the third-quarter update for this year.
Since last I wrote anything (on my return from cycling in The Netherlands), I have been continuing to spend a disproportionate amount of time getting my book into ebook formats. Well, now, these have finally been completed. Whew!! Where there remain imperfections (well, are any of us perfect?), I can only hope they do not detract too much from the overall end result - a reasonable read?
For those who might be interested in taking a peek at (even purchasing?) the ebook, it is available through Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple. Prices will vary slightly, depending on the conversion rate from US$ to local currency that each of these companies use. The price has been set at $9.99, which, for UK, produces retail prices of £6.68 (Kindle)/ £6.89 (Kobo).
For those who know something about self-publishing ebooks, I went directly to Kindle Direct Publishing for the Kindle conversion (distribution via Amazon); and to Digital2Draft for conversion of the non-Kindle version, who distribute to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple.
The hard copy book is still available in my local Waterstones store (who also receive requests to supply the occasional copy to other branches); it is always face out when I periodically go along expressly for the purpose of seeing it on display in their travel section. Oh joy. :-)
It is also still for sale in the local independent Thornbury Bookshop. :-)
And what's more besides! It can be bought in Amazon Marketplace - but only in UK, I'm afraid; the associated costs through Marketplace to anywhere outside UK would cause me to run at a loss. :-(
So you'll just have to buy directly from me. :-)
Besides the ebook, I spent a relaxing weekend on the water with my son and older brother, timing it for his birthday in August.
I recently spent a residential weekend in Bristol at the start of my Formation year to become a LLM (Licensed Lay Minister), which, if I'm deemed suitable at the end, should see me licensed as a lay minister in a year's time. So, not quite a dog collar, but giving me leave to stand up in front of a captive audience and continue sharing my enthusiasm for God, an unforeseen consequence of my cycling trip.
See how one thing leads to another? So, beware. :-)
I had the pleasure of an unexpected house guest recently: round-the-world cyclist, Greg Healey, returning to his home town, Swansea, after a 7-month, 12,000 mile, not one rest day, push around the world!
In the meantime, I am off to Uganda for two weeks. I am part of a 17-strong group from churches in Bristol West Deanery visiting our 3 church link areas in Kitgum, Nebbi, Gulu. In theory, we shall be taking in turns to write a daily blog of our activities, so feel free to follow us here.
And, finally, my garden in the summer ...
* * * * *
The end of yet another year that has fled by. Always a shock, don't you find? And generally accompanied by the resolution to make time to do what we didn't get round to doing, but then wishing we had? Will it be any different in the coming year? Well, we can only wait and see this time twelve months from now.
As for me, following the gentle sorrow of my father's death on the twelfth day of Christmas, I've since had a varied and interesting year: in which I've undertaken a TEFL course - my first student starting next week. :-) ; visited family in my Mum's home country and wore her national costume for the first time in Norway and on 17th May, their national day; exhilarated in cycling paradise in the Netherlands; accomplished the release of ebook versions of Cycling Full Circle; experienced the eye-opening and rewarding challenges of Uganda (pics at the end of this journal entry); surprised myself in actually enjoying my current training as a licensed lay minister; chosen and rewarded (with £250 Rohan gift vouchers) as one of four winners in a Rohan competition.
One of the main things, though, post-trip is that I value being in the same country as my family, particularly my children, and seeing them reasonably regularly; but mostly knowing that we are accessible to each other. That's been a huge blessing because it was about the hardest aspect of my trip, the distance separation from them.
This past year has seen me live very much by faith, as to what paths I should be following to stay on my life's course, which inevitably has to include requisite financial means to remain above water. All I can say is, that doors seem to open at propitious moments and I am learning to trust that I am going through the right ones. If I'm open to God, then I should be safe. :-)
There's a wonderful Ugandan greeting and response that I now use frequently; a simple and apt reminder that
God is good.
All the time.
All the time.
God is good.
For that is his nature. Wow.
And now, some random pics from my year:
And some from Uganda ...