Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Danda and the blackberry

This is a story. A story that I am calling Danda And The Blackberry. It contains adventure, daring, far away lands and valiant mission.

One day, a few months ago, I was out walking. I was listening to Vanessa Paradis’ ridiculous but catchy hit, Joe Le Taxi as I roved. I was pottering up and down hills and following the river through London and having a lovely time. The summer was at that lovely not-too-hot, just-a-slight-breeze stage. The leaves on the trees were green and I stopped often to photograph the beautiful flowers.

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I was having a lovely time. That’s when I saw it. The single ripe blackberry on the blackberry bush…

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Ah! I thought. Look what the summer day hath delivered unto me. I shall pick this single ripe blackberry and present it as a gift to somebody.

But to whom should I give this beautiful gift of the summer’s first blackberry? Hmmm.

And that’s when I thought, I shall give it to Danda. Because he is a taxi driver, he is quite often on the move and I thought he might be in the area. I gave him a quick call and he was nearby but he was taking someone to the top of the hill that I was at the bottom of. So, thought I, I shall race to the top of the hill and hopefully see him there.

Off I sped, bearing the summer’s first blackberry aloft. It was quite a long walk and really quite steep but I was on a Blackberry Mission and determined. As Danda drove up the hill, I walked as quickly as my legs would take me. He was held at a red light for ten seconds or so. This gave me the edge. Holding the blackberry gently, I power-walked through fields and past trees. I was determined. Danda’s taxi was approaching the top of the hill just as I hurried to the end of the path and out onto the pavement.

It was like someone had organised us, like chess peices, to collide at exactly the right moment. We reached the bend in the road at the same time and waved. Danda drove a little further down the road to drop the person in his taxi off while I stood panting a little and trying to regain my composure.

A minute or two later, Danda was back. He pulled over and I climbed in the back.

“Danda!” I declared with great aplomb, “I have brought you this blackberry from the Alaskan wilds, from whence I have come after my long exploration there.” (Not really, I had just been wandering around aimlessly by the Thames but that’s beside the point. Stick with me on this one.) “I have brought this, the first blackberry of the summer, to you, as it reminds me of your summery disposition and your great love of blackberries.” (He once said he’d had an apple and blackberry crumble which was tasty.)

He looked a little uncertain about the grandness with which I presented the blackberry to him but nevertheless, he took it, popped it in his mouth and ate it.

I waited, with baited breath for his verdict.

Silence.

“Danda. What of the beauty of the blackberry? Do you approve of it?”

“Mmm….” He said, nonchalantly. “It’s a bit sharp….”

Silence.

“Do you want a lift anywhere?”

A book review or two

In my quest to Finish All The Books I’m In The Middle Of Reading, I have found a few gems that I thought I’d tell you about.

First up is Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes. This is the story of a man who, after resolving to spend his summer doing next to nothing, gets a little bored and dreams of adventure. He decides to travel from his home in Reading to the southern tip of Italy, following a route known as the Via Francigena. He covers France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

For five weeks, he heads determinedly toward southern Italy and the book details the hours spend on the bike each day and the distance covered. Once you have seen a few of these, you start to understand the massive task that he is carrying out. His writing is extremely readable. I’d often intend to read a few pages while on the bus or before work and find myself transported to a campsite where Andrew and Reggie searched for somewhere away from the noisy midnight fishers or party people. Suddenly I was late for work or had almost missed my stop.

Andrew makes sure we are privy to everything his trip threw at him. Rarely are we left with a quick summing up of an entire day in a few sentences. I really love the diary style of this book. It puts you right there in the scene with him and Reggie and connects you to his journey in a way that, upon finishing it with him, you experience a sense of achievement.

Various things stick out in my memory on finishing the book. The scene where Andrew and Reggie cross the lake near Buochs in Switzerland and we are given a detailed explanation of how one “lashes” a bike to boat had me laughing out loud. When Andrew stops for lunch near the end of his journey, in Valrano Scala, and finds something called a “chip pizza” I was utterly mystified. The entire Italy section was very exciting reading for me anyway, given that I have had a preoccupation with Italian cuisine for quite some time and I am also going to Rome in a few weeks. So I read with anticipation and soaked up every bit of it. Then the scene with the chip pizza occurred. And it made me doubt everything. It make me doubt my trip, the Italians, and the future of food in general. What was this madness?! I have since been assured that chip pizzas are very tasty…. I remain sceptical.

Another thing which struck me about this trip is people’s willingness to offer a helping hand. Andrew finds a welcoming face every so often on his trip and these people always show such kindness, it makes you feel good about people in general (the chip pizza inventor excepted).

It is a lovely lovely book. A little while ago I read a book about a man who cycles to India, called You’ve Gone To Far This Time, Sir and love love loved it. Therefore, when I saw this book, about another cycling journey, I came to it with high expectations, having had such a great read last time. I was thankfully not disappointed. It is well written and fascinating. In light of epic journeys being taken, I have start making more solid plans for a walking adventure. Given that I can be quite lazy though, I think Andrew and Reggie will put me to shame as I’ll probably just walk to the shops for some chocolate and back….

(I read this book on the Kindle app on my phone.)

I thought I’d do another quick book review as I recently finished listening to The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy on Audible.com and it was very good. It was read beautifully, the story was beautiful and it’s one of those books I keep telling people to listen to if I hear they have the Audible.com app.

An older couple decide to move to Alaska and buy some farming land, against the advice of their families. They are childless and it has always been an unspoken heartache between them. Their first few months are hard but one day, with wild abandon, they play outside in the snow and build a snowman. Well, more precisely a snow-girl. They put a scarf on it and carve a face. When they wake up, the scarf is gone and for a long time afterwards, they catch glimpses of a little girl running in the woods outside their home.

The development of this story is handled with such skill that your thoughts on first hearing about the ‘girl’ they see are a world away from your thoughts when the story concludes. It’s a story that creeps up on you. First you’re just listening every so often, thinking that the book is quite good. Then suddenly, you can’t wait to take your break at work, in order to listen to a few more minutes of it.

Finishing this book was something that took a few days of recovery. My initial thoughts about the final scene changed over time and I still feel uncertain about exactly what happened.

It is a book of uncertainties and therein lies the beauty of it. It is intriguing and enticing. It draws you in steadily until every twist and turn occupies your thoughts long after you have stopped listening/reading.

It is also read very well. When I downloaded and listened to a few other books, I realised how lucky I had been with the reader of The Snow Child. If you are already with Audible.com, listen to this book.