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Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal,
Saturday 17th August 2019:

“And it’s no small wonder”

Working through the night is rewarded with a sunrise

I’m at the turnover point in my year, where traditionally one lot of work gets tidied away and another begins – with work trialled over the Summer in festival season being finalised to start new lectures and workshops for the next 9 months. This year, though, is radically different. I’m heading off on a different path, and that necessitates some reorganisation of the baggage I routinely carry with me… though I’m not sure how many “friends” will react to that.

Route: Banbury, Green Lane, Oxford Canal, Canal Lane, Bodicote, Oxford Road, Banbury.

Metrics: Distance, 6.1km/3⅘ miles; ascension 45m/150ft; duration, 1⅖ hours.

Go to: Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal Summer 2019 Index (July-September)

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I don’t mean to work all night. It’s just that sometimes you’ve a following wind, and it’s far more effective just to keep going. As I grow weary, and bring things to a conclusion, I look out of the window and realise, ‘dawn’s coming’. Put on boots, grab bag, and out the door!

Normally I would be preparing my Autumn tour now, having prepared a lot of new work over the Summer. That isn’t happening this year – quite simply because I’m no longer capable of doing it. I can use a computer for 20-30 hours a week; a successful operation according to medical advice. Thing is I used to use them for 50-70 hours a week; which if I try to do now results in eye strain.

So! All change!

As I cross the bridge over Upper Windsor Street the north-eastern sky is a shade of peach with grey clouds – and just at that moment, a flock of seagulls flies by.

“Well another moment in life’s great adventure, It’s no small wonder”… a few lines from an old Bob Geldof track come to mind, inspired by the view.

Well past nesting season now so the hedgerows are quiet. Just a few alarm calls as I pass down Green Lane and cross over to the canal towpath. All is quiet in the moored narrowboats; just a swan passing silently by on the mirror-flat grey of the pre-dawn canal.

I ponder my predicament.

I can work half as much as I did before. Unfortunately I used to get paid for less than half of the work that I did before. That means I have to change what I do simply because of basic economics. But there’s something else that’s been nagging at me for a while too.

For too long I’ve been avoiding a necessary change in the focus of what I do. A gut instinct that while what I was previously doing (‘fracking’) was OK, there was a whole new area that I should be exploring, and charting for others to follow – just as I did for fracking 10 years ago.

Problem is, it’s probably the most controversial idea I’ve ever had.

I’m currently – and painfully slowly because of my eyes – rewriting a lot of my basic work. That’s what last night was all about. Concluding and tidying away the last of my ‘old’ work. Now I can start again on the ‘new’. The problem is, I think it’ll infuriate many people; even a few friends!

That’s the path I must take. Like the towpath, I see it clearly before me now – I just have to walk it. It’s “The beginning of a great adventure”the warm tones of Lou Reed’s voice and guitar fill my head.

Almost at Canal Lane I catch a glint in my left eye. The first bright dot of the sun’s disc has just cleared the tree line above Warkworth.

More music. At first, a little bit of melancholic Beth Orton, but then my mood presses ‘shuffle’ and I get The Beatles instead.

Despite all the stirring air and beauty of being outside, I’m tired. Rather than do the longer loop I take a right and walk up the hill into Bodicote. I turn at the top of the ridge and look behind me; the bright sunshine startles my eyes, which up until then had been focussed on the receding disc of the moon.

The MP3 player in my head starts up with a little jolly Jimmy Cliff number. Oh no, too much effort! My mind slides back down-tempo to the Johnny Nash original version.

That’s another weird thing. Now I’m not working so hard my music has returned, in spades.

At the Green Gathering I did a little singing and drumming around the firepit. I’m even wondering about whether I should take my guitar & mandolin out in public again, after all these years. I stopped because, as the intensity of my work grew, it edged out the music inside. That’s not the case now.

To reinforce this transition, as the ancient Canal Lane dives through the new housing estates that fringe the town, I see a small group of starlings furiously singing their morning news to each other. The music changes to Leonard Cohen

OK; so having your own mental MP3 player that riffs on whatever triggers your memory isn’t always good!

I wander back into the now stirring town. Well after six now, people begin to start their day just as I’m planning how I should end mine. With every end there’s a new beginning – the Conservation Law ensures that is so. “I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again!” Ah! Appropriately a line from Seize the Day!.