A year of Transition

Last year we did quite a bit actually, with the Transition Town here in currently wet and windy Berkhamsted.  The bits I will remember fondly aren’t necessarily those that would grab the headlines.  OK, the headlines I am talking about are in the local rag the Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.

It won’t be the steering groups and updating strategies that will stick in the mind, even though they have given us the foundations and direction to transition the town as a whole rather than just our own back gardens.  It won’t be the Fresh Local Accessible local food initiative, with the extensive survey of the opportunities, opinion and barriers to local food, mainly because I’ve not personally been involved in that.  I’ll remember singing along while we broke our backs digging up and reclaiming rough ground at the allotment to plant a community orchard with the other allotment holders.  My little bubs running with an excited shout through the runner bean bamboo wigwam thing, and it not collapsing, will stick in the mind.

The work with Safer Routes to Schools, making a difference to plans for traffic so kids can walk around more freely, is great, but I haven’t been involved in that either so it’ll slip the mind.  I will remember finally getting into the habit of cycling everywhere, zipping past Trevor or Kate shouting “hello!” while not being able to wave as I held on for dear life.  It’s great to have got over that initial wobbly stage.

I probably won’t even remember the B-Hive town consultation and all the invention, creativity and scribbling of the townspeople as they designed their ideal town centre.  I’ll not forget how I felt, mouth-agape, as Anna Perry silenced the bustling Civic Centre hall with her breath-taking a cappella rendition of ..?  No wait, I seem to have forgotten that.  I remember the tears in people’s eyes though.  Beat endless meetings with councillors.

I’ll probably forget all of the meetings to organise not one, not two but three big talks – the Positive Money talk with Fran Boait and the first two Ashlyns Lectures, with Ian Roberts and Polly Higgins.  I won’t forget chatting with Ian and finding out we went to the same primary school and that our retired parents are working together on the leisure centre in Beaumaris, or eating Parul’s wonderful vegan curry before being awed by Polly Higgins warmth, wisdom and knowledge.

It won’t be the emails and phone calls organising the first two gatherings of the Transition Towns of Beds, Bucks and Herts that will stick in the mind.  It might be the shared meal with Berkhamsted Transition Towners at Danny and Jo’s understated mansion.

I do like to eat.

I may remember the start of an energy co-operative in Berkhamsted, with the cricket club and potentially one or two of the local schools being lined up by Seb, Tracy, Peter, Tom and John.

The point of this?  I’d like to see Transition Town Berkhamsted grow, not just food, but in numbers and the time we want to put into it, so we can really make the practical steps to live the life we expect to see after the town has transitioned into the future of local energy and food, with less reliance on cars, lorries, planes and fossil fuel and more biking.  Oh, yes, I’d obviously forgotten the Bikefest (but not my 7-year-old Tall cycling out of the Canal Fields car-park without me, onto the main roads and making it up the Bridgewater Road hill without gears during the guided ride – Go Tall).

So my aim for the coming year will be to make the work that we do be include socialising, eating, family, friendship and be attractive for us all to want to spend more time doing it rather than seeing it as a drag .  We can then bring in more members and a lot more will be achieved.

Come to the AGM tonight (Thursday 15 May) at HERE Berkhamsted from 8pm and we can plot a fun year ahead.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke


100 things to do before I die

I’ve had a bit of fun delving into my inner self to figure out what I want to do with my life.  Not that death is just around the corner.  Partly it is to give me a sense of purpose, partly just out of interest.  I’ve surprised myself.

I’m writing it from the perspective of the me that started university, at the point that I started to know myself for the first time.

Which means I can put a few things on here that I’ve already done, so I can feel good about myself as I tick a few things off.

Here we go.

    1. Get a degree. DONE
    2. Get a job. DONE
    3. Get married. DONE
    4. Own a house.  I kind of do, but there is a whacking great mortgage to go with it, so that doesn’t really count.  UPDATE: Mortgage paid off a couple of years back, so now DONE.
    5. Have children. DONE
    6. Read the Bible and the Koran. DONE
    7. Accidentally slip on a banana skin. DONE Was a difficult one to achieve, ‘cause you can’t do it deliberately.  Happened outside Euston station one night on the way home from work.  How I chuckled.  Says something that it was the homeless that came to see if I was alright, even if they did ask for change when they saw I was fine.

Banana skin

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get a book published.  Makes sense at the moment – might need to revise that one in the digital age.
  3. Make a leap of faith.  I.e. Find God or decide He’s not there.
  4. Have a photo of a miniature I’ve painted printed in a magazine.  Yes, I still hold on to that obsession from when I was a spotty teenager.
  5. Play a musical instrument, probably a violin.
  6. Speak another language fluently.  Climate change jargon doesn’t count.
  7. Live in an idyllic house in the country where we can live off-grid.
  8. Write a list of 100 things to do before I die.  This is hard.
  9. Catch a thermal under a hang-glider.  To date, I’ve only ever managed short flights or ridge soaring with ropes attached to the wing tips.
  10. Parachute jump.  How I’m going to get up there without a plane I have no idea.
  11. Travel round the world.  Without flying, of course.
  12. Ride a bike with no hands.  I don’t mean the bike has no hands, I mean I haven’t got mine on the handlebars.  Of course.  Obvious.  UPDATE: Did this last year, before lockdown.  DONE.
  13. Run a marathon. DONE Fantastic experience.
  14. Swim a length under water.
  15. Get pecs.
  16. Go to a celebrity party.  Why on earth?  Shallow.
  17. Get a scientific paper published in a reputable journal.
  18. Patent an invention.
  19. Start a business (not a stupid one – see http://www.onlinetaskmanagement.com). DONE
  20. Sell a business.  UPDATE: Sold Bellvedi April 2019. DONE.
  21. Cook a really good roast with roast potatoes like my Mum used to makes.  She still does.
  22. Win the treble on Championship Manager.  DONE Did it with Cardiff in the middle of the nights while looking after Maddie when she was a baby.
  23. Achieve Enlightenment.
  24. Reach 100 with full use of my faculties.
  25. Keep chickens.
  26. Become a doctor.  Non-medical, I’m assuming.
  27. Get some sort of award, like a MBE.
  28. Make a will.  UPDATE: Completing that now (Dec 2020).  DONE.
  29. Appear in a blockbuster film.  As an extra is fine.
  30. Hit a 180. DONE
  31. Become my own boss.  DONE
  32. Make a pot using a turntable.
  33. Walk up Ben Nevis.
  34. Walk up Snowdon. DONE
  35. Ascend Snowdon via Crib Goch.  Tried it once but left it much too late, and my brother was in a cast, so we sensibly turned back.
  36. Learn how to chop food really fast like a chef.
  37. Bake a moist, tasty fruit cake.  Maybe a Christmas cake.
  38. Make a timelapse animation.  Like Morph.
  39. Truly realise I don’t need to do any of these things.  Not just say so.
  40. Walk my daughters down the aisle.  If that’s what they want to do.

I’ll give it a rest there.  I need to leave room for a future me to think up a few more things.

And then I found an old list I wrote a couple of years ago, where I’d only got to number 26.  But it did contain some other things that aren’t in the list above:

  1. Finish The Hobbit BBC microcomputer game.  I am tempted to take this off the list, but can’t bring myself to do it.  How do you get past those pesky elves?
  2. Read the full works of Shakespear.
  3. Live in a house with a fireplace.
  4. Learn how to plumb.
  5. Learn how to do electrics.
  6. Go to the Globe theatre.
  7. Show a painting or picture in a gallery.

Which leads me to think of a few other things:

  1. Learn how to work with wood.
  2. Learn how to survive in the wilderness.
  3. Teach my kids some practically useful skills.
  4. This one just in.  Thank you Trevor.  Tell my son, in no uncertain terms, that he is a man, at the point that he becomes a man. And tell my daughters they are a woman.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke