My guest post on has been published. “New Year’s Revolutions: The Best of Belgian Cycling for 2015”

This is quite fun, Late last year I was invited to contribute a guest post on cycling for the blog and the forst part has been published today.

Denzil Walton is a freelance wrote and author of some good books of walks in the towns around the Brussels area. He has an excellent blog which has a diverse range of Belgian content from walking to crafts, history and countryside.

He asked me for some ideas on cycling content and I suggested that I quite liked the idea of a New Year piece with some of the cycling things I want to do and see in 2015.

I suspect some of my Belgian cycling friends will rush to tell me about dozens of great rides that I missed, but this was written with a bit of a visitor’s perspective. There will be room for lots more stories on this blog – maybe you just need to invite me for more bike rides.

Anyway here it is, in the first of two parts, with Blue Bikes, city rides, the Limburg Fietsparadijs, Pays de Famenne, and the Forêt de Soignes/Zoniënwoud.

Writer’s block. More cycling needed?

Photo Tony Russell, CTC Twenty days since I last posted on the blog, the longest break since I started almost two years ago.

I could it put down to a lot of personal and professional disruptions that just consumed my time however I have to muse that there seems to have been something else going on. That is because the blog was not the only casualty in this period. We were in the middle of one of the voluntary sector’s moments of madness – “bid writing”.

I guess it is not an unfamiliar process to anyone who has been through writing professional tenders, teams of people put their best thoughts together in trying to not only second guess the purchaser’s real intentions but also beat an unknown opposition to the prize. And this is a prize that doesn’t just mean jobs, it means you can make real progress on something you are passionate about. For us it isn’t great architecture or an engineering marvel, it’s getting the resources to promote cycling so it matters hugely to us and the whole team is busting a gut for weeks to put together our submission.

Normally this is a process I relish. Call me odd, but I really like bid writing. I have a horrible suspicion that this is the closest I get to being a professional sportsman. Make this a competition, start the adrenaline flowing, mix in some team spirit and a big enough prize and I’m driven. And fortunately my bid writing for cycling is a hell of a lot better than my competitive cycling – which is just as well because my competitive cycling record was pretty woeful. A few tiny minor places in 20 years wouldn’t pay the bills then or now!

But something was horribly wrong with the writing this month, I think I actually experienced what authors call writer’s block. Hearing that some writers go through it for months or years I can imagine the agony, this is almost physical.

Photo Tony Russell, CTCI spent hours facing this very screen with page after page of notes that just wouldn’t translate into meaningful prose. I went back to my tried and tested handwritten formulae, writing by numbers…. Objectives, beginning, middle, end, only to abandon the notes on the page. Life crowded in and I found myself satisfying my need for progress with short term tasks instead of meaningful words.

Only finally as the deadlines loomed did I crank out my sections of the bid, fortunately carried there both other colleagues who delivered their sections and gave me some momentum. Some midnight shifts, a horribly long weekend a family with the patience of saints and we crawled over the line.

And now it all goes quiet for four months while the bid is assessed, a horrible waiting period. At least in the meantime we will hear how we did on a batch of applications we completed as long ago as last May, a ridiculously long wait but apparently a blink of the eye in EU decision-making.

Photo Tony Russell, CTC

In the meantime I have to do some reflection on where the writer’s block came from because it isn’t something I want to experience again.

One factor I am certainly considering is the role of my cycling. Back in February I wrote a post about the role cycle commuting plays in my mental state. I have long realised that a solo bike ride of around 1-2 hours on a familiar route that I can ride without a moment’s thought has enormous therapeutic value for me. Just as scientists have shown that certain forms of sleep are essential to well-being because they allow the mind to reorganise itself I find that only exercise of a certain type and duration enables me to process creative thought. Too short and the mind never gets beyond chaos. An unfamiliar route or riding with companions demands too much attention.

During the past month I have worked from home far more than usual. We had a stunning Indian Summer here in Belgium with a long spell of dry sunny days that would not have been out of place in high summer. But I was dashing out for a quick hour here and there for a ride or to walk the dog, not least because I was worried about my writing. Could it be a coincidence that when I took myself back to the office for the final days of the process I decided to cycle the full distance instead of getting the train and when I did so I was able to start unravelling the blocked thoughts and get them onto the page?

Maybe I overstate it, let’s not downplay the stimulation and support that comes from being back in the team environment. However if I could just prove that cycling makes me a better bid writer then I guess I might have a case for compulsory cycling sessions during bid processes. In fact I could start selling it as a consultancy service to other organisations and companies. You pay me to go cycling and your bid gets written. Now there is a business plan. Who can I pitch that to……..oh dear, here we go again.

Better that I start catching up on my blogging. I do not despair indeed ……