I thought I’d better break the silence and let you know I was still alive; I’m sure you’ve been worried. Before Christmas I came off Facebook like I do every year and that escalated into a total social media shut down. Like the drug that it is, the first few days I was a bit antsy, fidgeting from withdrawal, and then followed the liberation, the freedom. After nearly 3 months off of all mediums I felt like I’ve been on some kind of retreat from the virtual world. It’s possibly not something to brag about, but I know nothing at all that has happened internationally this year, in fact, if it didn’t happen outside of my window in my little Bulgarian village or on the way to Lidl, I’m oblivious to it, and happily so.
This withdrawal has come with an epiphany or two. Most of us, I think, recall what it was like to take the time to write a letter, buy a stamp and walk to the letter box. Come home to check the messages on the answer machine, alerting us to how popular we were and how in demand we’d been in our absence – the equivalent of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. We paid bills by cheque, played music by removing vinyl from at least two sleeves, three if you cared about the cover, bought insurance by repeatedly divulging all our details to individual companies, navigated by maps, bought and sold from anonymous adverts in the back pages of printed publications often without photos and never with feedback. And we had to go to the video shop to rent a movie and wait for it to rewind before making the return trip. So, now we have all these time-saving devices and no bloody time, where is it? Well, I’ve discovered where; it’s all been wasted scrolling through social media. I’ve been given the gift of time by taking the networks off the hook. It’s great for focus and mental health, but, I have to be honest, it comes at a price, for me at least, and the cost is book sales. Still, you can’t have it all, where would you put it? My gift of time has not been wasted and hence the point of this mail.
Last year I wrote my fourth book Near Varna, it was well received and, as stated on the cover, it was ‘Part 1’. It was eagerly consumed by my readers who had been waiting five years for something new from me, as many of the reviews mentioned the book was often read in less than a week and then the greedy bastards demanded more. However, the promoting broke the flow of writing and it took eight months to fix it. I can now happily announce, and this is rare, for only the fifth time in my life, that, my next book Near Varna part 2 is over half way to completion. I’m somewhat superstitious of announcing a project that is unfinished, much like telling the destination of a planned trip. So much can go wrong on the way and if you have read Eureka you will know that in the past my plans were abandoned, even if for the right reasons and the right results ensued. But the presumption of completion, be it book or journey, is something I’m very wary of. However, I feel I’m on the home straight now and with spring the fruits of my labour are coming to err… fruition.
Without the distractions of planetary events, my thoughts may not have been pure, but certainly not polluted, and I’ve been able to focus clearly on the writing. There has been a lot of laptop time and it’s not been easy. The story covers some traumatic times, which were hard to recall and harder to write about in a balanced and diplomatic way, when I just wanted to scream hatred at some fuckers. But, what do you know, I managed to apply some life learnt wisdom. As you probably know, I’ve been keeping a daily diary for over 30 years and this has many benefits. Reading back through that time, I’ve spotted patterns in behaviours and actions which inevitably brought about recurring consequences. It has been quite enlightening to make these observations, a learning experience, I’m still growing apparently. It’s not a self-help book, but it’s been insightful, I seem to have become more philosophical about misunderstandings, miscommunications, and misjudgments. There is a clarity, a perspective of time and distance viewing a situation so thoroughly described in a diary from 5 years ago. Although I’m not entirely convinced that there aren’t a few fuckers it wouldn’t hurt to yell at. Spiritual growth and forgiveness are a work in progress, after all. It is of course not all soul-searching introspective bollocks, there are the inevitable road tips, the escapism and excitement of a new location, new love, and unveiling the mysteries of my new life. Reliving that time made me even more appreciative of the present not least because this section of the story takes place in the dismal late autumn months of 2015 and when I glance up from the screen out of the window I see spring, feels like I’ve just bypassed the winter.
It’s not all been writing, there are a couple of other things I want to tell you about: It has been a bit slow to get off the ground, but my videos for Adventure Bike TV are now beginning to air on their YouTube channel. Views from the Shed is a vlog, me basically talking bollocks to the camera, saying what, for the previous two years, was written as a column on their website and Reviews from the Shed, which, as the title suggests, reviews motorcycle related products that The Adventure Bike Shop have sent me.
The thing is, I’ve become the person I so loved to take the piss out of. I’ve bought (all used off of eBay) a new camera, wireless mics, gimbal and tripod, finding myself with all the gear and no idea. I’ve watched polished instructional videos on YouTube to learn the capabilities of my new purchases and then produced something so amateur I’m embarrassed by it. However, Tom, the producer, gave me a wonderful pep talk telling me that ABTV is meant to be rough around the edges, as is adventure biking. It’s not meant to be all polished and perfect, corporate and sleek. So, even though I’d love to have those cool panning camera shots, special effects, CGIs and explosive graphics, what you get is, as with the books, honest, open, and definitely not refined, although I do have a smoking hot Bulgarian babe for an assistant and she’s easy on the lens.
I still hope to improve upon my offerings but if you look carefully at the light levels you will see how the sun moved round the sky from start to finish of the 5-minute review because the multiple takes took all bloody day to film.
I’ve also been doing something I’m more experienced in – podcasting, where I’m close to one hit wonderful. I’ve definitely got the look for radio. There is about to be a sequence of shows with host Ted Kettler of Motorcycle Men podcast.. In each show he covers mine and other motorcyclist’s audio books, first we introduce the book, talk a little about what the trip entailed, a few anecdotes and an explanation of what you are about to hear before he plays the chapter in full. It’s a great way to listen for free so you can decide if the audio version of the tale appeals to you.
So, there we have it, a new book, Near Varna part two on the way, some fortnightly visuals, courtesy of ABTV, and some audio via Motorcycle Men podcast. I have been off the radar, but I’m back. Now I’ve just got to regulate my dosage of social media as I have reduced tolerance, keeping a watchful eye on my drip feed to see what application aids withdrawal and prevents addiction. It’s a tightrope, I’ll try and keep a balance.
That’s it, happy spring and I’ll let you know when the much-anticipated part two is ready for your perusal.