Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Doing the garden

I resigned from my job in January and so since February 1st I have been on "gardening leave". I have been using the free time to a) prepare for my trip and b) prepare for my trip (which has included tidying up the garden/courtyard - had a brilliant bonfire - us blokes love those, so I guess that weird employment term is semi accurate).

Resigning from the job was the easy part. Deep down it's a great feeling to literally stick two fingers up at the corpoate world and say "I'm off to do what I want to do". Wonder if I'll still be saying that when I return in April 2008, unemployed, carless and broke (but with a great sun tan). However telling those I am close to of my decision was hard, particularly with my son Sam.

Sam is twelve going on thirteen, and I love him to bits. My decision to go was one of those rock and a hard place ones. I could wait until he goes to university and then head off exploring, but then I would be fifty. Would I still be able to climb volcanoes and sleep in hammocks in the jungle then? Mmmm I guess by then five star accomodation would be preferable. Other factors I thought of were that Sam is now well settled in his fantastic school, has a superb Mum and extended family support, and a solid group of mates (whom he may well soon prefer to spend his Saturday's with as opposed to his grumpy father). I figured this was the least bad time to jaunt off: no exams, no huge teenage issues.

He was a little upset when I sprang the news on him, but once he heard he would join me for five weeks in summer and for his Easter holidays 2008, and thought carefully about it, he actually became quite excited about it for me. Bless him.

Sam now has a ticket to fly to Lima (as an unaccompanied minor) to join me for a high altitude/Amazonian adventure in Bolivia. KLM, you have been warned, your stewardesses are going to be charmed off their trolleys!

Sam now has taken possession of my Bolivia Lonely Planet Guide. We want to explore the Salar De Uyuni, take time time to go pirranha fishing in the jungle, and cycle the "world's most dangerous road". (Don't worry Mum it's the truck drivers who disappear over the edge - I believe!). It is a bit weird that Sam has a ticket to travel and right now I don't! During Easter 2008 he will again come over and help me explore the Lake District area of Chile (hopefully including a climb up another active volcano this time with crampons and ice axes and possibly a gas mask - he and I loved going up Pacaya in Guatemala) and then head out over the Pacific to Easter Island for my trip's grand finale. What other thirteen year old can claim to have come face to face with a Moai, and sit and think "this is one of the remotest corners of our planet and I'm here". I just know Sam has inherrited my wanderlust - he had better return the favour and invite me out during his gap year - Myanmar appeals hint hint.

Here's a pic of Sam on Pacaya volcano, in Guatemala. I had to wait till I was 42 to see flowing lava, he was eleven.

Telling others was also hard. The next worst was the bellringers at Mold. I am a committed member of the band there. My year long departure will mean team ambitions are lowered unless the young ones come on strong. So you hooded youths - go for it. Fill that vacancy.

I took up bellringing when I was about ten. By thirteen I was dinging Stedman Doubles, then the hormones set in, and other things started to become more interesting (blame 35mm films on puberty) and I gave it up. I was so pleased to become re-accainted with this historic old art twenty five years later. I had to re-learn most of it, but took a lot a pride in passing my old milestones of achievement. Thank you Mold. I will be back, having fully studied Yorkshire Surprise Major on the bus to Ushuaia.

Here's Mold's new tenor bell prior to being installed late last year. Got my initials on it.

The reaction of most folk I know has been interesting. Some have been shocked : I'm quitting a good job; others think I am totally mad. However, though most have not expressed it aloud, I see in their eyes envy. Why didn't I do this? I couldn't do this, but wish I could. I wish I had followed my heart not my wallet. Young people of course think it is totally "cool". There is hope for the future of our world!

So the preparations are on going. Been doing a lot of painting, mainly gloss stuff which stinks to high heaven, despite the low odour label on the tin. Been packing up my stuff, ready for storage. Have fully discovered EBay, and sold all my old guide books to the previously visited places. At the same time I have been buying stuff: guide books to Argentina, Chile and Brazil. I have also invested in an Ipod (definately could not go one year without a dose of Abba/Muse once in while). Also I've gone digital. Lord knows what my binary bit rate is but my new SLR digital camera seems to be upping my snap happy attitude. Here's one of my first dSLR experiments. Church Bay on the north coast of Anglesey.