Putting my blog in the deep freeze

I have decided that it is time to put idonotdespair.com into the deep freeze. Hopefully something I can return to in the future, because the blog has been an important personal project that has given me eight years of reflection and a personal space to share my ad hoc thoughts on cycling, travel, life in Belgium, friendship, food and just about anything else that caught my eye.

But my general trend has been to post less and less, especially in 2019 where I was starting a new job and a new international association. And now of course there is confinement. I may have ridden many kilometres where I live, but I haven’t actually been more than 25km from home since the beginning of February. There is no longer that moment when I get on a train or plane after some stimulating experience or exciting cycle tour and think “I need to blog about this”. Instead I step away from the electronics at the end of the day and say “I need to get out of here” to give my mind a rest from the intensity.

What energy I have for writing and communication has gone into the daily life of Cycling Industries Europe, and that has been intense. In the first six months of confinement I counted about 300 meetings, webinars, presentations and speeches conducted from my “nerve centre” in our converted garage, and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

The blog itself needs a full updating, not to mention going back and checking all those odd links and connections that need to be maintained, but I don’t have the capacity to do that now. I have decided that what I am doing now is “putting the blog in the freezer” because I can imagine a retirement project or some time similar when I can go back to it and give it the attention it deserves.

I do it reluctantly, but I do it with thanks.

The phrase “I do not despair” is more than a repetition of a clever line from H. G. Wells. It has always been a personal manifesto for how I feel about many things in life, but especially cycling. I wanted to share uplifting moments, amazing stories and wonderful people that I have been honoured and proud to have met because I was lucky enough to land a career in cycling over 20 years ago.

When I left CTC to join the staff of the European Cyclists’ Federation in 2012 I needed refreshing after 14 years in the same role. I also found the final couple of years more challenging as we experienced new forms of social media that could at times get quite personal. Today we know it better and the coping mechanisms are more established, but the first exposure was a shock and I struggled with it at lot. Cyclists are an argumentative lot, I find I can always raise a knowing smile from anyone who knows cycling associations with the adage “Two cyclists means at least three opinions, and four associations to argue about the three opinions.”

Back then two wise friends on the CTC Board separately gave me almost the same advice. “Don’t take it personally” they said “People who know you understand your values and your passion for cycling. Hang on to what you believe and find ways to let it come out.”

The step across the channel to Belgium gave me the clean break I needed, and idonotdespair.com was part of that change, kick-started because my wonderful son just presented me with the part-built site as a fait-accompli for Christmas 2011 and effectively told me to stop talking about the idea and get on with it.

So thank you. Thanks to my readers, followers, commenters and sharers, especially anyone who was there in 2012 when I was clumsily finding my way into this space. Your support and feedback have been amazing and the blog became a valuable outlet and a mental release. Thanks to all my family, who somewhat unkindly tell me that they read the blog to find out where I am, but are actually always really nice about it, even if I write about them.

And above all else thank you to anyone who has been in a story. “When I see a friend, colleague, companion, family member, group, club or just a person on a street on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

You made this possible.

Please stay in touch via www.cyclingindustries.com and on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

I would still like to inspired by what you do!

Cycling close to home – voyages of discovery and rediscovery


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There is no doubt that some of my friends and family who might be considered “serious cyclists” are getting pretty frustrated by their local rules which impose cycling close to home. The loss of a right to roam is taking … Continue reading

2010-2019 – some ride!


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Lots of other people are doing it, so I have been tempted by the Christmas holidays to to try and find at least one photo per year from the last decade that made me smile, or brought back a memory. … Continue reading

What is the point of a cycle touring route if no one knows it is there?


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Is the cycling equivalent of the Buddhist philosophical conundrum “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This is the question I have been asking myself for a while, a mental discussion triggered by the relatively recent discovery that I … Continue reading

Time travelling in Yorkshire – biking back to 1998


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The working part of my short trip to the UK this week has been based around the East Yorkshire town of Beverley where a European Project has been holding meetings and workshops. The work part has been great, lots of … Continue reading

Semur-en-Auxois – holiday delights off the beaten track in France


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We were looking for a real recharge on this holiday and that means finding a location where we didn’t have to try too hard to do anything. Half a day travel from home, walking, cycling, sightseeing, great food and wine … Continue reading

It’s a very good week to become Belgian.

An anonymous looking letter from the commune was waiting for me when I got home last night.

It’s been four months, and bang on schedule my Belgian nationality application has been approved.

I am pleased that the process is complete, but I get a warm glow about the timing. Sometime in the next week the Conservative Party in the UK is expected announce that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will become its leader and therefore Prime Minister.

Back in the 1980s with the assurance I youth I spoke out loud and said “If Maggie Thatcher gets elected again I’m going to emigrate.” Life takes over, it never happened until the wonderful chance was given to us by European Cyclists’ Federation to come and try life in Belgium.

Taking Belgian nationality wasn’t automatic when we arrived, as an EU citizen I had a secure job and stability in Belgium. With Brexit and knowing that Boris is intent on the political equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade I would be completely stupid not to make sure my life can continue. To get the nationality approved on the week he becomes Prime Minister is invisible to him, but it has a symbolic value for me.

Belgium is no utopia (where is?), there are a different set of challenges and issues that can easily cause hair pulling and teeth grinding. But I feel that am very lucky that I have the chance to stand apart from the sadness I feel about what is happening to the UK, to its place in the world, the hardening of attitudes that feel so alien to ideas of “home”.

That is summed up by the appointment of Boris, and by the contrasting experience of nationality applications between the UK and Belgium. Theresa May’s legacy of intolerance as Home Secretary leaves an immigration system creating a trail of families torn apart, much needed professionals sent home and an expectation that the NHS cannot be staffed and food will rot in the fields.

People who have contributed to society, raised families and paid far over the average level of tax are being told that Britain is not for them. And even if you pass the climate of intolerance the process of citizenship is slow, stressful and expensive. We know, because my wife went through it after 28 years of living in the UK.

For Belgian nationality there are four tests. Social integration, economic integration, community integration and linguistic integration.  However if you have been continuously registered and employed in the country for 5 years there is an automatic assumption that you are a stable participant in the life of the country.

And when it comes to the application I get no sense that I have signed up for feudal servitude to a medieval institution. I signed to say I accept the constitution (written) and a commitment to human rights, both of which I can happily do.

Frites, beer, chocolate, cycling classics, potholes in the road, shops closed on Mondays, tranquillity laws, multilingualism, etc etc …….., I have signed up to all of it and I have been accepted.

Thank you Belgium.

Witnessing an electric cycling revolution – live!


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On our way back from an Easter break in Germany we stopped to visit the blossom fields of Limburg, the beautiful spring show in the apple and pear orchards of Flanders. And there we saw not only a beautiful scene, … Continue reading

A trip to Paris with campaigners – but not a yellow jacket in sight


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I spent Friday and Saturday of last week at the centre of one of the news stories of the weekend – the invasion of Paris by “gilets jaunes”, the yellow jacket protestors against the French government. However, our group of … Continue reading

Hidden delights – Copenhagen Canal tour


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I am spending two weeks in Copenhagen, which is pretty much close to perfection if you believe that cycling is a symbol of quality of life. However today I had a perfect treat, possibly the only way I could experience … Continue reading