Saturday, 29 September 2007

Writing Blog

Until I discovered the clever system of 'Tags' on this blog I used to have a separate writing blog. No longer! From now on it will all be kept here.


Tuesday, 25 September 2007


A rare thing: a travel TV show that is not dull or trite, nor is it patronising to either the viewers or the subjects. Bruce is my new hero! A great show!

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Monday, 24 September 2007

Movie Premiere

Screenshot_1 In the summer of 2006, Snowline travelled to the Indian Himalaya to shoot the short film, ‘Special Delivery’, a dramatisation based on a true story.
Special Delivery is the account of a box belonging to a Zanskari that is taken on a journey past some of the highest mountains on Earth.
The film follows the owner as he drives the box to his home, where its secret is finally revealed.

On Thursday October 11 at 7pm, the flagship Apple Store on Regent Street in London will host the premiere of Special Delivery. Al Boardman, Paul Deegan and Seb Mankelow will introduce the film, describing the origins of the movie, the challenges associated with shooting high definition footage in the Himalaya, and how they brought the 15 minute film together over a period of seven months and a distance of three continents.
Entrance to the premiere is free. Reservations are not possible in the 100 seat theatre, so please arrive early to be guaranteed a seat.
The best way to get there, of course, is to cycle to the venue.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

A "new generation of travel writers"

Screenshot_2An interesting article in the Guardian about the exciting new potential of the internet as a means for new writers to get published in a cheap, effective manner. This is what I did for my first book. On the back of that a publisher has now picked up my second book. I really, really recommend it to anybody who wants to get started as a writer. Just a shame they labelled me a Scot...


London Freewheel

Screenshot_1 On Sunday September 23rd the streets of central London are being closed to all traffic. 40,000 cyclists will be able to cruise through 14km of the city's streets unimpeded by polluting, dangerous, slow vehicles. Well done to the Mayor of London for really promoting cycling in London. Indeed, the number of cyclists in London has ridden by an impressive 83% in the last year. This is great news as the best way to get people out cycling is for their to be more people out cycling. When more people cycle then more people will cycle. It is a positive feedback loop, so days such as the London Freewheel are superb ideas. Visit their website here.


Thursday, 20 September 2007

The first page of my new book...

For all of you who have kindly pretended to be excited about my new book coming out [you are both very kind], I thought that I would share a sneaky preview, a world exclusive, of the first page of my new book...
The book will be available, on this site only, conveniently in time for Christmas!

Chapter 1: Gone to Patagonia

Above the fireplace at home, ever since I was a child, hung a painting filled with a maelstrom of slate green waves and leaden troughs, a wild and savage ocean heaving and pounding and shattering with a boundless energy. In the thick of this fury, unmoved and constant, looms the rain-shrouded, craggy black outcrop of Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America and, amongst sailors at least, the most feared and revered spot on our planet. And, incredibly, ludicrously, in the foreground of this ferocious scene, alone in the midst of such power and fury, is a little boat. A mere 53ft of mahogany sailed by one man. This painting of the yacht Gipsy Moth IV, sailed by Francis Chichester, was my first introduction to Patagonia and the deep south of the world, 50 degrees below the equator, past the “Roaring 40’s” and into the “Screaming 50’s”. The old sailors used to say, “Below 40 degrees, there is no law. Below 50 degrees, there is no God.”
Patagonia, the southernmost portion of South America, spans both Argentina and Chile. Its mountains, plateau and plains taper down to a rocky southern tip. Head south across the Straits of Magellan and you reach the island of Tierra del Fuego and, at the southernmost tip of that island, the town of Ushuaia, the most southern town on the planet.
Words like Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia had thrilled and lured me for years. Sadly, upon arriving in Ushuaia, I discovered that I was not particularly original in my yearning for el fin del mundo. A six-foot tall fluffy penguin demanded two pesos to pose for a picture with me as I celebrated my arrival amongst all the tourists at the remote end of the world. Ushuaia is a colorful hotchpotch of pink, blue, green and orange corrugated metal buildings in the lee of mountains on the shore of the tranquil Beagle Canal.
Tourism flourishes in Ushuaia, but not, I imagine, due to the guided city tour, of which highlights included Mr. Pastoriza’s old house, “a man who worked in a sardine canning company. The project failed because the sardines never appeared.” Or Mr. Solomon’s General Goods store which “became very famous because of the variety of its products and closed in 1970.” Instead people went to enjoy the beautiful ruggedness of Patagonia, to look out to sea and to know that only Antarctica lay beyond the horizon. I looked in the opposite direction, however. I looked north, up the road that I intended to follow right to its very end. To Alaska.
On the morning I began riding I found it even harder than usual to get up. How do you persuade yourself to leave a nice warm sleeping bag to begin cycling when 17,848km lies between you and your destination (the distance to Alaska according to a signpost in Ushuaia)? Staying in bed seemed a far more attractive option. All of the riding I had done so far felt as though it counted for nothing now. I was right back at the beginning again, a brand new start at the bottom of a continental landmass whose top was one third of the circumference of the globe away. Riding from England to South Africa had pushed the very limits of my capacities but now I intended to tackle a ride even further in order to try to reach Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean of Alaska.
I pedalled out of town, but southwards, away from Alaska, and down to the seashore where the road to Alaska truly began. I looked at the empty car park, at the line of six white portaloos and out across the slate-coloured Lapataia Bay. There were patches of white snow on the upper scree slopes of the sharp grey mountains behind me. As if to welcome me back onto the road a headwind was brewing. A clean green stream wound slowly through the boggy fields and blended into the clean, pebbly shallows of the bay. My ears were cold and a light mist pearled tiny droplets over my fleece jacket and eyelashes. I stood still and I felt small in the silence and in awe of the phenomenal distance that lay ahead of me. My bike was heavier than I was accustomed to, loaded with extra clothes never needed in Africa such as a fleece jacket, hat and gloves. I noticed that the gaffa tape was peeling from where I had repaired one of the holes in my faded bags. I needed to remember to fix that: I was probably in for a few weeks of rain. Far away a chainsaw started up and I realised then how quiet the little cove was. I crouched and swirled my hand slowly through the cold water. I was intimidated by the road ahead. The old self-doubt was rising through me but I was determined not to cry. I was determined to start taking the dominant role in this runaway expedition which had so far been dragging me along as it stampeded crazily away with me only just managing to cling on. I was determined to enjoy this ride up the Americas. I was determined. Come on, Al, let’s go have some fun!
I climbed onto my bike and began to pedal away from one sea towards another distant one. The first pedal strokes of millions, turning up the crunching dirt track through the lichen covered thick forest, dripping and mysterious, away from the sea, back into Ushuaia and out the other side. It was mid-February. I hoped to reach Alaska by the end of summer next year.
My ride up the Americas was underway. But even that would not be the end for from there I planned to cross to Asia and cycle back to England. But this leg of my journey had actually begun months before, thousands of miles away, on some other distant seashore.


They think it's all over...

Wow. The deadline was 9am. The email was sent at 3am. Bed. Sweet sleep. Aaahhhh...... BEEPBEEPBEEP! The Alarm! Aggghhh! 4.45?!?! What was going on?!
...I had set my alarm wrong. Going to bed absolutely exhausted at 3 I had somehow set the alarm for 4.45 rather than 8 o'clock! This spaced-out weariness does not bode well for me having written anything particularly pretty in my final chapters, but -to be honest- I wanted only to sleep.
The last few weeks of book-writing have been so, so busy and it is a delight that they are over.
Book 2 is finished. I hope it's OK!
People have been so kind about my first book that I have felt nervous about the pressure of matching up to that level. I really hope it is OK...
But, at least, this is really the end of the 'Round the World by Bike' days. What on earth am I going to do for the next 40 years...

Planning an expedition?

If you're planning an expedition you should consider attending the RGS's
Weekend. It kick-started my own first big expedition.


Screenshot_2 A poem to get the wanderlust boiling...
And, a couple of factoids: Captain Scott's epitaph is the final line of this poem.
And -
- the title of my second book is now taken from this poem too. Any guesses...?

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known - cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all -
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard mysell,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle -
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads - you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -

One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Swimming Lake Windermere

Screenshot_1 One of the reasons I am forever procrastinating about taking on a triathlon is because of the thought of swimming a couple of miles. Humans are so bad at swimming and it is ridiculously hard work. So I was really impressed to hear that Jenn and Matt are planning to swim the length of Lake Windermere, a whopping 10.5 miles!
Their gruelling swim, which will take about 6 hours, is raising funds for Cancer Research UK. I wish them all the best in their challenge: it is certainly way beyond me! Good luck!
Visit their website here.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Rowing around the World

Screenshot_2 My friend Ollie Hicks is certainly mad. Ordinarily when my friends speak of impending expeditions I feel instantly jealous and want to join in immediately. But to row, alone, around the world...?! No thanks! Impressive stuff though. Great news also is that he is hoping to raise £500,000 for Hope and Homes for Children through his expedition. Here's what it says on his website:

Oliver Hicks will attempt to become the first person to row solo around the world.
He aims to travel east along the 50’ South line of latitude which will take him from New Zealand heading east passing to the south of Cape Horn and then far below the Cape of Good Hope and finally returning to New Zealand about two years later.
This Expedition will be a world first; it has yet to be successfully completed. The row will be the first to take in the world’s three major oceans in one voyage – the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It will be the longest voyage undertaken in a rowing boat.
Oliver will be travelling through some of the most dangerous seas on the planet in a bid to complete this unique and ground breaking voyage.
As well as the achievement itself the aim of the voyage is to raise £500,000 for charity as well as collecting scientific and medical data and highlighting the effects of global warming on our planet as well as demonstrating what can be achieved using renewable energy sources.

Sad news: amazing Jane Tomlinson has died

Jane Tomlinson was diagnosed with incurable, advanced metastatic breast cancer in August 2000. The disease spread was extensive and the prognosis was for her to survive six months. Over a seven year period, Jane fought through numerous courses of chemotherapy and various drug regimes despite also developing chronic heart disease.
During this period Jane, a mother of three from Leeds, took on a series of apparently impossible challenges, for someone suffering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment, including a full Ironman (4km Swim, 180Km bike ride and full marathon – completed inside 17 hours), two half Ironmans, the London Marathon three times, the New York Marathon, three London Triathlons and three long distance bike rides – John O Groats to Lands End, Rome to Home and her final huge challenge a 6781.8 km ride across America.
Jane received numerous awards for her efforts including:
  • An MBE and subsequently a CBE by the Queen
  • The Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2002
  • Twice recognised at the Sportswoman of the Year Awards
  • A Great Briton Award
  • Voted the most Inspirational Woman in Britain in 2003
  • A Pride of Briton Award in 2005
One of Jane’s motives was to show that people with a terminal prognosis can still lead an active and fruitful life and proclaimed “Death doesn’t arrive with the prognosis.” She proved beyond all doubt to be true to her word and with her uncompromising drive, unwavering determination and supreme bravery Jane provided true inspiration and genuine hope to a great many people.
Jane efforts also raised over £1,500,000 for charities including Macmillan Cancer Relief, SPARKS, Damon Runyon Cancer Research, Yorkshire Cancer Centre, Martin House Hospice, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and Hannah House.
Despite finally having to retire from competition at the end of 2006 Jane channeled her remaining energies into an event which is destined to provide a legacy for many years to come – The Leeds 10k ‘Run For All.’ The first event was held in June of this year and was a fantastic success attracting 8,000 participants, which is truly remarkable for a new event of this type. With plans to grow the event year on year this is destined to be one of Britain’s major sporting spectacles and will help ensure Jane’s Appeal will continue to raise substantial funds for Cancer and Children’s Charities.
She will be sadly missed. You can visit Jane's appeal website

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