Much as I love watching the pro road riders what I love to do is cross country mountain biking and there is very little better in the world for me than to head up into the Dales and ride the bridleways up there. Today saw the first off road ride of the year but there was no time to get up into the Dales, no worries said my good mate PB lets go local. He then took me on a fantastic route using tracks through woods, bridleways, canal towpaths etc. It made me again look at the city I live in through totally different eyes as we went to places that I simply didn’t know existed and you would never have believed that you were in the middle of a big city, incredibly refreshing. PB also managed to work the route to stop off at a great pub halfway round.
As we rode and chatted we also came across some great little historical and quirky landmarks including the place where 30,000 people turned up in the 1820’s to watch ‘Prophet’ John Wroe attempt to part the river Aire and walk across the river bed !, the chapel where Spike Milligan got married and the cricket ground where Sir Len Hutton learnt his trade. So while riding in the Dales is great sometimes you just need to look what’s right under your nose.
It was muddy out there though !
I don’t think that I get too hung up about brands (others who know me may well disagree) but I do know what I like and howies is right up there for me. Their approach is best summed up by them in their own words
We are howies, a small active clothing company based in Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales.
We make men’s and women’s clothing for the sports we love – biking, running and the outdoors, as well as for our day to day lives.
We believe in a thing called quality. We believe that making a product which lasts longer is better for the environment.
And we believe in making our stuff in a low impact way. So all of our t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans are made from organic cotton and no silly stuff. After all, that just seems like common sense to us.By the way, we also believe that tea should be made in a pot. But that’s just our way…
and they deliver just that as well as supporting riders, surfers etc. I wear one of their incredible merino base layers almost every day and it works brilliantly. They are of course just a clothing company but as we’ve got to wear stuff everyday I like supporting a Welsh company making good stuff.
There was much debate (by those who support them) a few years ago when howies got bought out and became part of a much larger entity, however they have recently bought themselves back out of the arrangement and are now independent again. Hope they enjoy running on their own again and to remember they will always have friends to run with.
This weekend saw the first meeting of the book club of the year, which as always was a great night out. Over the years that we have been meeting we have read pretty much every genre of book; classics, contemporary, sci fi and sly fi (!), poetry, graphic novels as well as novels from different countries and cultures. What we have never done up till this point is read a book that is solely aimed at children, which is how we came to be reading Michael Morpurgo.
When reading this book I reflected very much on the state of children’s literature. Of course when you start out with your kids you will, if you are anything like me, read to them as much as possible and surround them with great fun books so that hopefully they will come to love the written word and all the escapism, adventure and knowledge that good books can provide. As they get older they begin to find their own likes and you end up reading to them less as of course they don’t need you to do this. However this means that you have much less knowledge of children’s books. What I have realised though is that with the likes of Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling, Philip Pullman etc great stuff is being written for our younger ones to discover.
In Shadow I was amazed at the breadth of subject matter that was covered in an intelligent way all wrapped up in a great story. The main character Aman is an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and is detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre awaiting deportation to Afghanistan with his mother. His story unfolds as told through his friend Matt and Matt’s Grandad who go to visit him and begin to understand why he is there and all that his family has been through. So complex themes unfold: why is there a war in Afghanistan, different religions and ethnicities, death and grief, people trafficking, asylum, corruption and war to name a few. Now that might seem a grim read but it’s anything but, Morpurgo handles the story brilliantly and while doing so brings more light to the subject matter than many British newspapers and never patronises his readers.
Of course in reviewing the book the book club was split as it is after all a children’s book and we are looking at it through adult eyes, however what I do know is that children’s literature is in very safe hands if books of this quality are being written for them to discover.