I took a break from posting over the summer holidays to give myself a breather as I pursue other projects. Just over a week ago Emma and I took a little impromptu adventure road trip. Starting out on Friday afternoon we drove down to the South Downs for the weekend.
I have mentioned a few times that my daughter is neither naturally sporty, particularly active or indeed fearless. She is perhaps the opposite. So I was especially proud that she decided on the Saturday morning, as we dithered whether to have an hour in the water at Buzz Active Cuckmere, that this was indeed the ideal opportunity for her to go solo in a kayak for the first time.
I was happy to let her go, happy to let her play around in the slow salt water that drifts towards the estuary and happy to “lose” a race back to base.
Of course in our excitement to get started before meeting an old friend and wandering down to Cuckmere Haven, we failed to find the time to change into appropriate clothing so, after our short adventure, there followed 15 minutes of wrangling in the back of the Land Rover as we struggled to get out of sopping wet clothes.
After returning from our walk out to look at the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and lunch with an old friend of mine, Emma and I headed back for the hills and camped in a pub campsite.
The next day saw us up with larks (remember when there used to be larks?) and, hot chocolate in hand, we wandered up Black Down and then aimlessly in the early morning light between bright pink heather and wild blueberry bushes.
We took some time just lying in the sun, hiding from the cool breeze, and enjoying the peace of a Sunday morning in nature. Peace is a relative term of course - in truth it was incessant chit-chat to which I felt compelled to answer, what with being a parent and all that. But, it was special nevertheless.
Home… away from home.
The next day I found myself on a flight leaving the UK for a few days for work. It’s not often I cry on a plane packed with people - the only other occasion was almost exactly 10 years ago at the end of one relationship and the beginning of another but ....
I took the opportunity to finish watching Home: An Outward Journey Inward, Sarah Outen’s utterly compelling film about her human-powered round the world trip.
I first saw Sarah talking about her London 2 London: via the world trip at Kendal Mountain Festival a few years ago. I bought the book, read it, loved it and then had the good fortune to be able to speak to Sarah a year or so later.
Sarah is an extraordinary person and it’s because she appears to be a ordinary one, if you know what I mean. Like the rest of us, despite her feats of endurance she is a vulnerable human being. I often watch or read tales of adventure which are heroic and full of glory - I guess it’s just the way - and they focus on the physical struggles, the majesty of the terrain and more often than not, the victory of completion. They are often full of hyperbole and hubris. I don’t really mind too much - etc an often be a kind of fantasy and I enjoy living vicariously through other people’s courage and spirit of adventure as much as the next man. But Home is different. It is a mix of pain and joy, an exploration of the struggles of someone battling inner demons as much as the adversity of her mind-bogglingly difficult journey.
It wasn’t the escapism I often crave when watching adventure films. It was heart-wrenching at times and inspiring, not because it made me want to row the Pacific or cycle across North America but because it highlighted the strength and resilience of the human spirit - physically and mentally - in a way that other films don’t.
I thought back rather soppily to my own child, paddling alone for the first time at the weekend. She will probably never go around the world solo but I hope she will have the bravery to push herself, the understanding that her strength lies within herself and the awareness that failure is not trying things in life.
I feel like this film and Sarah’s book will at some point be part of her education.