Twelve Adventures – 2013

The things I’d planned to do in 2013 – and whether or not they got done.

January – Set up a writing group ≈
This, in its original form, was not a success and 2013 cannot really be said to have been a good writing year. Having identified a group of people who wanted to carry forward the momentum of NaNoWriMo I tried to set up an online group via Moodle but vastly overcomplicated the whole thing and found I didn’t have time to make it work or the spare energy to drive it forward. A classic case of an unrealistic project which duly went the way most do. October/November was also a very difficult time in work and course terms and meant that there was no chance of doing NaNoWriMo 2013 or of working further on existing stories. However, I do know that writing new stuff is not the issue – my goal remains to edit the stuff I have, possibly starting by identifying which story is most promising. I have spotted a couple of ways forward and am doing a one-off Cary Tennis workshop in December using the Amherst Writers and Artists Method. Another possibility is a Faber Academy course.
February – Go to a WI meeting ✓
This was very much a success, so much so that I went to the February meeting of my nearest WI and was a fully-fledged member by March. I had intended to try out another WI close to work but, in the event, didn’t need to. Eight months on and I have been to almost every meeting, have been taking part in the regular knitting group, going to social events and joining in with days out. Definitely looking forward to another year of membership and to getting increasingly involved.
March – Do a psychology course on OpenLearn ✓
This one was initially scuppered to an extent by the vocational MSc I’m supposed to be spending all my ‘spare’ time on. I have had some moderate success with it, however. I identified a psychology taster from the Open University that I’d really like to do and have very recently managed to complete it. In future, I think, I might like to do some fuller psychology modules with this institution. I also found that cognitive psychology was the particular branch of the discipline I was most interested in and found a further online course that covers the subject in more depth. I was also motivated to complete a proper Myers-Briggs personality test and discover what my personality type was.
April – Go on a Buddhist or Quaker retreat ✓
In April I spent three nights at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre located in the Selly Oak district of Birmingham. I didn’t do a specific course but just went along for a quiet few days. This worked incredibly well – I was able to stick to a vegan diet the whole time I was there, largely because the catering allows that option, do some Tai Chi and meditation, walk around the amazing labyrinth they have in the grounds and read a book on non-theist Quakerism I’d been trying to make time for. Oh, and also plenty of knitting and leisure reading. Definitely a successful experiment
May – Visit a naturist beach ✓
This we managed during a short break in Devon during early June. We decided to give Wild Pear Beach near Combe Martin a try, which was interesting since it takes a considerable hike along the cliffs and a steep descent to get there. The first striking thing about the visit was the sheer breathtaking beauty of the path down. It was steep and somewhat strenuous but the views of the impossibly sheer cliffs, the seabirds, the jewel-like blue of the sea and the lush vegetation were breathtaking. Of course, this is why Wild Pear is a good bet for naturism – can’t be seen from the top and it’s too far down for most voyeurs to bother. The beach had plenty of secluded spots and was populated with people mainly interested in getting quietly on with their own sunbathing and leaving others alone – so the experience was remarkably stress-free. We did get a visit from the notorious tour boat, and the beach also turns out to be popular with clothed dog-walkers looking for an unregulated spot to visit with their pets. I managed a (clothed) dip in the sea, but it was cut short of a proper swim after I spotted a common jellyfish in the surf and came over all cautious.
June – Go keelboat sailing ✘
This was a great idea that never happened – there just didn’t seem to be sufficient time, money and motivation – at least, not all together. I had been feeling a little bereft since we haven’t done any sailing for a long time. But not enough, it seems, to actually go out and get in a boat. However, we have located a very local sailing facility where you can hire keelboats by the hour and get instruction if you want it. So this is something that will be eminently practical in the future.
July – complete a wild swim ✓
This year’s wild swimming itinerary was as follows: Wild Pear Beach, Devon in early June (sea dip, see above); River Oughton in Hitchin at midsummer (river dip); Porthminster Beach, St Ives in July (sea swim); the River Cam in October (river swim). We also had a fantastic trip to Penzance in July to finally swim in the Jubilee Pool. The swim to count for the purposes of this challenge was undoubtedly the River Cam swim. Our outdoor swimming, with the exception of the River Dart, had been rather light on river swims and this made up for it. We rounded off the year in splendid style by taking part in the Cromer Boxing Day Dip.
August – bivouac in a wood ✘
This was an abject failure, but not for want of trying. The ideal would be to go wild camping on Dartmoor but this idea is not universally appealing in our household and is probably something best not attempted solo. Also it is clear that we require equipment. Our little two-person tent is serviceable on a campsite but also heavy, ancient and a very bright shade of blue. We really need a bivvy tent for this and that’s an outlay easily in three figures. We also try a local farm campsite that’s advertising wild camping but, when we try it, turns out not to be very salubrious at all. So, major rethink needed before this can go ahead.
September – go to Imber ✓
We managed this towards the end of August after the September dates we were planning were cancelled by the Ministry of Defence. With the prospect of days getting shorter, and access increasingly difficult , we decided to seize the day and just go. And it was an amazing experience. The village is situated in what must be the only area of genuine lowland wilderness in southern England and it was fascinating to see what the normally intensively-cultivated land looks like when left to go wild. There’s masses to explore, including a tank graveyard (viewed at a safe distance from the road) and the grounds of a former baptist chapel as well as the more well-known landmarks such as the church, the military buildings and Imber Court. We did some great caches and met some other cachers while we did it. A memorable day, set to stay in the imagination for months to come.
October – try a month of veganism ≈
I’m having a torrid time trying to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet – and October 2013 was a difficult month to attempt a big lifestyle change. Where I have had some success is in making sure some of the regular products we use are vegan – for instance margarine, and in managing a couple of vegan days a week, generally when I’ve not got huge amounts of exercise planned. I’m also now much more aware of what animal products I am eating and am trying to keep meals vegan when they lend themselves to it. So, not a whole month of veganism, which was far too ambitious a target, but some steps in the right direction. And some things to build on next year.
November – NaNoWriMo or go to Arvon ✘
Not a chance with this one. On October 28 I started a new job, ruling out having the leisure to complete NaNoWriMo – and that was without the study deadlines I also had to meet. We had some possible time off to go to Arvon but they weren’t running any courses that week. And then the time off was cancelled because of the new job. See? Not happening. One to pursue next year if it seems right.
December – visit Scandinavia in winter ✘
With this one finances didn’t really allow and those pesky course deadlines were also still in play. But we did identify a few things we’d love to do, including Helsinki with a side order of Estonia, and Copenhagen/Malmo (Oresund Bridge or even Ystad, anyone?) So, some nice plans to pursue in the future.

Extra adventures that were not planned for but which made the year special:

  • Staying in a yurt and going extreme caching in June, including knocking off 53 caches in one day and venturing into two mining adits, one running a considerable distance underground.
  • Going to an international cricket match at Lord’s in August – a one-day match as part of the Women’s Ashes
  • Visiting the Essex seaside village of Jaywick in October
  • Invigilating art exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard
  • Going on the Cambridge Food Tour and getting a whole new outlook on being a foodie
  • Visiting Bletchley Park
  • Finding our 1,000th geocache at Lowestoft Ness in May – and attending our first caching flashmob on the same day
  • Walking over the Hitchin Flyover before it opened to trains
  • Taking the Harry Potter studio tour
  • Visiting the UEA for its 50th anniversary weekend

Weasel words

A flyer comes through the door.

It is for a bible study course so it comes within an ace of going straight in the recycling. But there is one limited set of circumstances under which these things interest me and a second glance shows that this flyer meets them very neatly. This is a flyer for a bible study course predicated on the concept that we are entering the End Times.

Now, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next thriller fan. But, reading on, I realise that this flyer is a masterpiece of a certain iniquitous kind of copywriting – a kind designed to literally put the fear of God into the person reading it by a combination of suggestion, bland general statements, playing on the reader’s insecurities and flattering them for their intelligence and discernment – in other words, the hallmarks of the Barnum Effect and all its dodgy practitioners around the world.

Such a masterpiece that I thought I would share some of it with you, dear reader, to complement the advance-fee fraud emails and similar communications that sometimes grace this blog. I’m not going to repeat chunks verbatim and make it Googleable but instead discuss the techniques that are used.

A title referring to a seemingly important and widely-understood event but giving no specifics and creating a sense in the reader that everybody else knows about something that has passed them by. The notion that the news we hear is only partial, snippets from some bigger story that is being kept from us. Reference is next made to several events which are usually in the news – but, again, with no specifics or verifiable, time-sensitive details.

The rapid pace of change is invoked along with the feelings of insecurity this can reliably provoke in the calmest and most balanced individual. It is suggested that there may be no place for the reader in the changing world. It then suggests that the reader is possessed of unusually sharp critical and reasoning faculties and in a position to make a choice rather than accept events passively.

Last, but by no means least, is the offer of a powerful book that will reveal everything – showing how all this is predicted in the Bible and not comprehensible without it. Is the reader up to the challenge?

A very interesting example of persuasive writing using less than ethical techniques. Now, into the recycling with it.

Milton Keynes International Festival

We went to three fabulous events at the 2012 festival, so here are a few mementoes:

La Compagnie Carabosse @IFMKFest from Joe Barefoot on Vimeo.

The French fire artists 'La Compagnie Carabosse' visited our concrete city as part of the Milton Keynes International Festival this July. For three nights they transformed Campbell Park into a mesmerising, dream-like escape. It has to be one of the most visually captivating things I've ever seen and created an atmosphere rarely felt in my hometown.

The Music in the video is 'La Pie' by Frani52; one of the talented artists that play amongst the fire.

Shot with a Helios M44-2 58mm f2 on an Olympus EP-1.

And now for a Storify:

Here’s an Audioboo:

“Personal Fund Manager to the late President Muammar Gaddafi for many years…”

Not for the first time, a close business associate of Colonel Gaddafi has been in touch, soliciting our help with some tricky but of course strictly temporary financial circumstances. How could you think otherwise, dear kindly friend? And who could resist a SECRET CODE DEPOSIT?

• As usual, if you have arrived here via AN Other Search Engine, you should know that these emails are always fraudulent, should never be replied to, and are only posted here in order to publicly identify the different tricks used by such scammers. Don’t fall for it, and never engage with them. Certainly never pass on any personal details.

Very Urgent Kindly Respond

I’m Hendrick Marais, 52yrs, branch manager of one of the international Banks here in Malaysia. I have been the personal Fund Manager to the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi for many years. Total sum of Ten Million United State Dollars (US$10,000,000.00) was deposited under Escrow Account on behalf of the late president under a SECRET CODE DEPOSIT where none of his personal information was used for the deposit. This is known between two of us before his death in 2011.

And not even our bank head office has information about the owner of the fund. Now that President Muammar Gaddafi is DEAD, I can not be directly have access to this fund as an officer in our bank. So my aim of contacting you is to seek for your partnership to team up with me and receive this fund with your bank account by claiming the title holder/depositor and get 35% of the total fund as commission for your partnership.

There is no risk attached and the funds in question can never be traced. You may wish to read more about late Muammar Gaddafi’s death on the below link to confirm.

Kindly get back to me urgently so as to furnish you further details. Also, you can call me on +[redacted] for voice conversation

Mr. Marais