Friday, 18 January 2008

wild and free

Since mid-November when my car went back on the road I've been sampling the delights of driving again. Visiting petrol stations with an empty tank is not a delight. The concentration needed for driving after being a passenger only for a year is not a delight. Not being able to gaze out across the fields, daydreaming, is not a delight. The knowledge that driving pollutes is definitely not in the delight column.

But the feeling that I can get on and do things, can get places, can get to events whenever and wherever they are, can visit people anytime... this is wonderfully liberating!


Of course it's not sustainable both ecologically and economically. A 1.4 litre Peugeot 306 doesn't generate carbon as bad as some other cars but nor is it in there with the least worst. But the independence! So what is the solution, where is the right balance?

In my year of not-driving the few weekday buses from the village instilled some discipline in me – shopping lists probably being the most practical. But I no longer need the extreme of planning my route around the town in order to get everything done in time, or if seeing a friend or acquaintance saying a rushed "hello, sorry can't chat gotta catch a bus". Awkward was when additional extras came up, like needing to browse for a present for someone, or trying on clothes, or getting back already outdated library books. But I did manage to evolve shopping (and banking) to one half day a fortnight, a habit that seems to remain.

Impossible was trying to get anywhere independently other than Launceston. Of course there are onward buses to Camelford, Bude, Exeter, Plymouth, and Liskeard and getting to these places was there for the taking. Getting back in the same day would mean leaving the village on the 9 am bus, and getting back at 6 pm – all for about an hour in the intended end destination and much loitering in Launceston waiting for connections. That's when you're lucky – other places like Bodmin, Truro, Redruth, Penzance and Falmouth pretty well require an overnight stay.

A-ha! What about my shiny new bicycle? Well yes, I cycled to Camelford, Callington, Launceston, and the coast a few times. But not across the moor on the A30 to only-14-mile distant Bodmin. It's a good quality dual carriageway but chocka with trucks, caravans, cars being driven at 100 mph, and cross winds. There's a 40 cm wide rough hard shoulder when you're lucky.

The ever-present reliance on friends to take me places became humiliating and sometimes brought its own unimaginable difficulties such as a driver's last minute decision to alter their timing – throwing your careful logistics planning into disarray.

During the summer I gave up trying to exhibit. Most of my work is in my work storage unit in Launceston, and I needed to get it back here and checked over before sending out anywhere. One lift. Next lift to deliver. Final lift to collect at show's end (usually best to assume no sale!). It all becomes too much.

It's strange, once the pattern is lost the momentum goes too. I am having to make super effort to feel inspired to exhibit again. I hadn't realised how much public feedback actually boosts an artist's... confidence? Or maybe it's that the exhibitions/organisers seem oblivious to sustainability issues, while I am thinking about number of journeys/fuel costs.

It may also link to the unproductive time I had over the second half of the car-less year. I produced no new batik. This is scary, you start wondering if 'it', the motivation, will ever come again... Of course I was doing a lot of research into sustainability, and writing this blog and other articles. But starting the blog was mostly a tool to keep me focused, to give me purpose and direction while I was feeling exceptionally dependent and hopeless and frustrated. It gave me short term deadlines. Although I originally had loads of other plans for my 'year out', few were fulfilled.

But now I am frustrated at not creating. The blog now needs to take backstage and give me a chance to get going again. I now want space without 'public' commitments (for that is what it now seems), and definitely time with less computer. I may be away for a while but be assured I will still be working on sustainability and reporting findings.

The bird image that started this article is – as you can see – a work in progress (as we are to call unfinished pieces). I am going to start on completing this. It's hung around so long because this, the final stage of adding pond water, is going to be even more complex than the rest. I am really done with complexity... "Wild and free", the title of this post, refers to those birds with no inclination to interest in being fed bread.

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