Let us Movemberise this very month and reclaim these four weeks for the triumphal trinity of kettle-boiling, flask-filling and tongue-scorching - arise, unite, and light a fire for Fe-brew-ary!
And a warm welcome with cold hands clasped about a flask.
My blood responds to caffeine with what could be called an excess of vim, so I feel a pang of envious exclusion when I recall the arcadian utopianism of the Coffee Outside movement:
Aeropress. Bialetti. Briki. A kelly kettle or a coffee bag. Java drip, filter, press pot or percolator. A Moka pot and wanderlust for al-Makha. Perhaps you’ll gather twigs and light a fire for cowboy coffee or forage, roast and grind a beech nut substitute coffee. Or maybe you’ll simply carry your cup from kitchen to sunlit garden and sit for a while, caging the minute within its nets of gold.
Coffee Outside is an alchemical substitution, the transference of addiction to connection, but, as an enforced tea guzzler, my tastes are milder.
Then — eureka! — why can we not Movemberise this very month and reclaim these four weeks for the triumphal trinity of kettle-boiling, flask-filling, tongue-scorching?
Arise, unite, and light a fire for Fe-brew-ary!
Thunderstruck by genius, I was.
Turns out, of course, that the punmaster general of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust got there long before me. Naturally, too, the Brewers Association of Maryland.
But that won’t stop us, no. Doorstep, garden, beach and wood await your gentle brew.
For those of you new to these pages, hello 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
Sometimes I get carried away by a pun.
Welcome to edition 347.
This week: follow up stories on two topics I wrote about recently. Because staying connected is a founding principle of Connectivism (whatever that is).
I opened last week’s email with the grim origin story of what I call my ‘yoga’ habit.
I’ve never been under any illusion that what I’m doing is proper yoga, but a table tennis talk with a friend (and reader 👋) has put my misuse of the term to bed.
This is the dictionary definition of yoga that I have to hand:
Discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility that is achieved through the three paths of actions and knowledge and devotion.
Even by that cursory definition, eight minutes of stretches before bed while listening to an audiobook is not yoga — no, not even if that audiobook is Marcel Proust.
Calling what I do ‘yoga’ is like an American coming over to a village green in Oxfordshire and calling what they do with the wickets, whites and willow ‘baseball’.
My friend recommended I watch this short video by Blair Imani about yoga and cultural appropriation:
And, to be honest, I’m not bothered about learning the deep roots of yoga — I’m sure it’s a worthwhile world of study, but it’s not why I’m here.
I’m here to improve my flexibility to the point where I can poo comfortably in the wild. In other words (literally): I’m here to stretch.
Yes, I got a lot of my stretch moves from what were called yoga books, classes or videos, but, if I’m honest, my main justification for using the term is because it’s a short word that fits into a narrow spreadsheet column.
So I’ll add five characters and call it by its name: stretching.
1a. The English Language And Cultural Appropriation
This is not going to turn into a story about cultural appropriation, but it’s worth noting that the English language holds a special place in global culture.
This comes with an astonishing array of benefits for native speakers, but also a few things that we need to look out for.
To stick with the cricket example, imagine if Indian cricketers adopted new rules that meant you got eight points for a six (but it was still called a six for reasons that everyone else has forgotten), you had to hit the ball with a hammer and there was no afternoon tea break. 😱
The England and Wales Cricket Board would be appalled — cricket is our sport, first played on our lawns over five hundred years ago, with the first laws of the game written down by our Grace the Duke of Richmond and the Second Viscount Midleton for two matches played in Surrey and Sussex in July 1727.
I mean — how much more English can you get?
But there are more than 100 million cricketers in India, compared to only 229,100 in England. People from the Indian subcontinent, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, make up 90 percent of the world’s billion cricket fans.
It wouldn’t matter how many cute videos the ECB posted about cultural appropriation: whatever India calls cricket, well, that’s basically what everyone else is going to have to call cricket.
And what India is to world cricket, English is to world language.
2. You Don’t Need Anything But Your Body To Stretch
A few people picked up on my stretching anecdote and asked me for suggestions of videos they could follow along with at home.
But I couldn’t be particularly helpful because the follow along approach never worked for me, not books, not apps, not videos and not even in-person classes.
Stretching this way always ended up feeling like a chore, being asked to do things that my body couldn’t do, with no support into poses that could hurt me.
It was far too easy to feel like a failure.
Stretching only clicked into place for me when:
I realised that one minute of stretching was better than none.
I made it a permanent home in my bedtime routine, usually while listening to something — dribbling through Proust in this way was a transporting delight.
In the first seven months, I missed only three days.
I’ve never had a habit that solid before and the success came from having rock bottom expectations (one minute, that’s all) combined with something I already enjoyed (modernist French literature!)
You simply don’t get that level of kindness, generosity and forgiveness from a follow-along video.
If you don’t know any stretching moves, then my suggestion is:
Follow how your body wants to move.
Flick through a book in the library for ten minutes. You’ll get the idea.
Having said all that, a friend (and reader 👋) recently recommended Do Yoga With Me. I haven’t used it, but I’m sure it’s great.
Before the 1 minute thing landed, I used an app called Down Dog, which puts together a customisable playlist of videos for you. It didn’t stick as a habit, but it did teach me some cool moves.
100 Days Of Adventure, Or: Winning Back Our Right To Roam
As I wrote in 260,000 Year Winning Record For Team Human, there is a tussle going on between a coven of landowners who wish to alienate from nature the rest of us commoners who claim that connection as our inheritance and lifeblood.
It’s a bit of an unfair fight, the many against the few, and, as the Right To Roam campaign group reports, Team Human is indeed winning.
I can only summarise their summary:
Dartmoor National Park Authority have unanimously agreed to launch an appeal against the court ruling that made wild camping on Dartmoor illegal without permission.
You can donate to the Dartmoor Preservation Association crowdfunder if you want to assist with court costs.
This Twitter thread from Jon Moses about micro-enclosures is worth a read to understand why this struggle is important: ‘Kids don’t see the world like the State. So the State doesn’t see them either.’
A Private Members’ Bill has been proposed that would extend the right to wild camp to other national parks in England.
Another Private Members’ Bill scheduled for its second reading on 24 March would extend the right of public access to the countryside, including its waterways, and including the right to wild camp.
Labour government would pass right to roam act and reverse Dartmoor ban. Vote Labour, sure, but let’s not wait another two years for our shot at democracy. There’s more we can do today.
Such as: take a night under the stars between 12-26 February and share your photos, stories and experiences on social media using #TheStarsAreForEveryone.
That’ll be a chance for me to add another green dot to my measly collection:
Three Small Big Things At The End
Correct The Internet: Make Sportswomen More Visible
Correct The Internet would make a superb pub quiz, but it’s actually a community fight back against the hidden bias of search engines.
Many of the world’s best athletes are women. And many of the world’s sporting records are held by women. But due to human bias, our search engines have learnt to prioritise sportsmen in our search results, even when the facts put sportswomen first.
Interestingly, the current top result for this tennis question on DuckDuckGo is a story of Billie Jean King correcting this exact mistake — six days ago. The internet is changing and will be changed!
Via this week’s wonderful Invisible Women newsletter.
Remember That Time We Cycled 2,200km Across Britain On A Route That Spelled Out Refugees Welcome? Oh Yeah!
Fake News: Searching For A Unicorn
Remember fake news? The terrifying, invisible force that brought down moderate governments, eroded trust in scientific ‘experts’ and coronated the fascist far right?
Turns out that maybe fake news wasn’t such a big factor in all that.
Those good old scientific experts have had a little time now to study the phenomena and the evidence they’ve found is that exposure to fake news has only a ‘limited effect’ on people’s opinions and voting habits.
This doesn’t mean that media literacy isn’t worth teaching.
As political scientists Luigi Curini and Eugenio Pizzimenti point out in Searching For A Unicorn: Fake News And Electoral Behaviour, misinformation and disinformation can polarise citizens from each other and ‘distort the content of public debate’.
But what it does mean is that we can’t blame the spectre of fake news for the state of our politics.
Instead, the state of our politics is an open invitation to take personal responsibility and join your local team, already helping build community resilience for a society where everybody wins.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and I hope you found something to take away with you.
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