Well-worn paths


‘Originally erected 1815 to commemorate the surrender of Paris to the Allies after the Napoleonic Wars. Rebuilt, after collapse, to a new design by John Green (Portsmouth, Todmorden) in 1856 by public subscription. Restored 1889.’ Historic England

View from Stoodley Pike to the eastern track of the Pennine Way.

View from Stoodley Pike to the eastern track of the Pennine Way.

Stoodley Pike, obscured by the clouds from the bottom of the valley. Pronounce it “stud-lee”. Victory monument, a stocky stone peace memorial. Ascend from Mankinholes Bank from the busy, pedestrian-unfriendly, Causeway Wood Road. Slip down Lee Lane, take a left near Lee Dam (observe a group of wild swimmers preparing to bring in the New Year through goosebumps when they dash into the icy waters). Squelch through the muddy bridleway, past Incredible Farm (site of organic growing, site of heated debate on online fora). Up to the stone flags past the sheep (Swaledale? Rough Fell? Lonk?) and a photogenic ram.

Ram posing face on to the camera, there are two ewes in the background which is a sloped field.

Curious ram

See him pose for a few photographs before he shakes his tail and trots off to find better grasses to chew.

It’s sheltered along the wall but the gentle mizzle provides a gossamer veil over my glasses.

Follow the path, the flat flags, the gritted surfaces maintained by Calderdale Council (signs decree that no mountain bikes are allowed nor horse riding along certain parts of the Pennine Way). Some of the nearby surfaces are carved by intertwining thick lines, telltale cycle tracks. This is no wild landscape; it’s carefully maintained and gleefully used. Even if I tried to avoid it, following this path to the Pike is inevitable.

An uneven flagged pathway through fields

The flagstones of the Pennine Way from the southeast approach to Stoodley Pike.

These flat, uneven teeth bisect the field. Looking around see how the grasses sweep back in the wind like hair. Like a comb-over. The blond and russets yield in this extreme breeze.

A landscape photograph of different fields, the landscape slopes down towards the market town of Todmorden.

Russets, blonds, and greens.

Approach the pike from the southwest like our ramble, or the steep, precarious northwest. Or from the east, the way from Cragg Vale. Approach it with your eyes down to the ground against the wind, the ends of your fingers reddening in gloves. (You may feel almost a tingling sunburn feeling on your face later from the relentless wind.) Leap onto the erratic boulders that jut out, avoid the peaty mulch of the ground between the gritstone rocks. Be grateful that this isn’t tick (Ixodida) season. But do wonder where the insects are as you stare down. Stumble the last few hundred metres to the pike. Shelter on the eastern side from the wind, pass and say hello (many “hellos”, many “nice weather for it!”s). Clamber up the dark spiral staircase – bring a head torch! – within the pike and risk a lookout over the barrier, take a picture in spite of this tumultuous weather. And consider the route down to the market town. But first, before returning, consider the nearby pub to defrost and have a pint to celebrate a kind of success.

Stoodley Pike monument is in the distance of this image where millstone

Life in a cloud.

I’ve lived in Calderdale for nearly three years now and hadn’t visited Stoodley Pike. Which is daft, really, as it is a less scrambly venture than several other walks I’ve done since living here. Time slips past, wind through the grass.

I know it’s been a while, nearly two years, since I last blogged. There are myriad reasons for this. (Life happened, basically, as well as other reasons including bouts of fatigue, job hunting, losing my writing groove a little post-PhD.) I know this is imperfect; the grammar is all over the shop for one thing! But this is a way back into writing, a way back into blogging. Well-worn but it works. (Not that I’m ever worried about experimenting and going off-piste rather than off pissed.)

And in a world that’s increasingly frightening, I’d like to find my path back to being able to process and write about things in a way that could be helpful for others. (Either through creating, either through signal boosting information.) So yes, I’m following familiar metaphorical paths (writing, activism, making) but implementing some changes along the way as well as trying to not overstretch myself which I’ve had a nasty habit of doing to the stages of burnout over the years. To stretch the walking metaphor further: I’m exploring the many erratic boulders of ideas that are poking up in my mind. Observing, following, or willfully neglecting any waymarkers – to stretch that metaphor to absolute breaking point. I’m changing direction, a little, in that my online presence is changing. This site will now be dedicated to blogging which will include writing anything I like, reflecting on creative practice, sharing ideas (which I really hope get some engagement as I love a good debate), and keeping notes for folkloric work I’m planning to do during this year. The latter will be just for fun, just to keep making and exploring some creative pieces that I’m not sure fit anywhere, also I want to sing and make music again. This creative work may not lead to anything but I know I will put my heart into it as there’s no pressure and so no anxiety over it being “perfect”. (Whatever “perfect” is anyway.)

Academic work, research, tutoring, and what I consider – possibly somewhat flippantly – the “grown-up, professional stuff” will live on the other website for now. I may integrate the two in the future, I may not. The URL £ rent isn’t mega on either so they’ll be separate for now. As for posting, I am working on having loosely scheduled writing going out. I do still offer freelance project/ad hoc work, but I’m employed in two different – but not completely unrelated – jobs where I’m on a casual contract so any planning is mostly on a week-by-week basis in the short term.

Until then, I hope all is is well in your worlds and that you can safely get out into the elements at some point.


Impostor Syndrome and the “Imposter Syndrone”

Imposter Syndrome waspy "syndrone" as heavy-handed metaphor.

“Imposter Syndrome”, a waspy drone.

You may have had one of those days – or possibly weeks, months, or years – where you’re faced with the dreaded Inner Critic. Mine is a wasp – the “Imposter Syndrone” who drones on and on internally, constantly poking your brain with the “you’re not good/clever/attractive/bright enough; you will never succeed” stick. Or worse, bashing your conscience with the “there are more important things in this world than your paltry project” cricket bat.  Based on the feeling that someone is about to tap you on your shoulder and tell you that you don’t deserve to be where you are – this is common in PhD study (indeed, in anything really not just study; it’s just a relief to know that this is not an unusual thing as I’ve had to deal with this feeling for flipping years pre-PhD).

July has been a month where I’ve been dealing with “Imposter Syndrone” trying to piss its poison into the wildflowers I’m attempting to grow. A few of the seedlings have been failing this month as I’ve chosen to believe “Imposter Syndrone” – after all, it’s obvious that It is more accomplished than me with Its waspish waist, Its successful life of glittering prizes, Its quick witted way of zapping out put downs. Sometimes it’s worth downing tools – albeit briefly – and leave “Imposter Syndrone” chunnering on while popping out for a quick walk, or reading a book in a different room, or chatting to friends, peers and/or colleagues. Then try to begin enjoying the feeling that things are achievable – yeah, they may not change the shape of the universe, however, they are baby steps to being able to function as a human.

So because I cannot kill the wasp (when stinging, or squashed, wasps release a pheromone to invite its hymenoptera comrades to avenge their death) I drew this to cope with It.

“But you can’t draw!”
“Oh, I know that, Imposter Syndrone, but I’m pinning your ass down in pen and I don’t need to be able to draw to do that.”

Took a walk and a deep breath of the July air – albeit autumnal this is always a useful way to clear out those poisonous thoughts. Coming home, I reread this beautiful way of silencing that censor by author Rosie Garland who calls her whinging inner critic “Mavis”, which you can read here: Dealing with the internal critic Or A 12-Step Programme for Coping with Mavis.

I think Mavis and Imposter Syndrone need to get together sometime, possibly with the promise of strong tea and Nice biscuits, and are left emptily gossiping by the drying washing at the back of a 1950’s Manchester terrace with no one around to pay either of them any heed.