One can be a slack-arse on climate change for only so long

Another Big Year gnawing away at me, the idea of getting back into activist mode to secure a better world for grandchildren. This Big Year is problematical  but why? Because activism just doesn’t suit a loner geek. But it can and must be done.

I couldn’t find a 2018 climate change book that beckoned to me for holiday reading, so I’m turning to the most recent (2015) book by one of the clearest voices on the issue, Joseph Romm. His “Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know” ( could be a book that helps me sort out my priorities. (If this proves to be too basic, I have a fallback I can go for.)

Should I be like Martin Sheen for a year?

Remember “The Way,” the half-hokey, half-wonderful film about the Camino? The closing scene has Martin Sheen, having conquered the Camino, striding sunburnt and righteous on another unspecified pilgrimage. Well, an easy notion for me at the age of 60 was to dedicate a Big Year to what I called Long Walks, and what I saw as long walks was pilgrimage-style epics. Perhaps, I imagined, I’d do five or six of the classic global pilgrimages in Europe, Japan, and United Kingdom. I’d experience being away from home half the year, trudging maybe close to 4,000 kilometers.

I’m not so sure now. I still love the very idea of hypnotic trudges on well-worn routes but several factors mitigate against trying this. First, my better half undoubtedly would only join me for a portion of such an obsessive quest, and I’m at the age I’d prefer not to be apart too long. Second, this kind of Big Year chews up time from writing (although I’ve toyed with the idea of hiking early mornings and writing in the afternoons). And third, and this is most important, what would be the point? Always, that’s the question to ask: what’s the point?

Long hikes naturally fit into the domain of religious pilgrimages and I’m a rabid atheist. Does this detract from or add to the appeal of such trips? So . . . during this hike (itself a piligrimage route), I’ll dive into Phil Cousineau’s “The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred” ( This is defiantly not “my kinda book,” so let’s have a go at it anyway.

Birding is more than a hobby

Three days into an eight-day birding tour in the northwest of Spain, it’s clear to me that steady, sustained birdwatching feels highly meaningful to me. Of course, being chauffeured around and having birds pointed out to you and identified for you by a guide is a different proposition to birding by yourself, but they’re both equally enthralling. For hours you focus your eyes and your mind on the terrain around you, looking for movement and then attempting visual contact and then identification. You’re in nature, as deeply as you’ll ever be. You’re affirming a future for the world, a future you know humankind is messing with. You’re puzzling out, it seems to me, your role in the wider world.

My cultural Big Years: it’s not a case of when but how . . .

Next year will definitely see me returning to some form of cultural obsessiveness. Abstaining this year is driving me nuts. Probably I’ll launch back into reviewing, which is a punitive and often thankless role that nonetheless fills me with joy.

I’d like greater clarity on the societal role of this kind of activity. So . . . an easy choice seems to be Houman Barekat’s “The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online” ( I’ll report back.

100 days in: Happy with 2018?

Taking two months out of Big Year obsessiveness, it’s vital for me to prop and ask: am I okay or is change needed when I reboot in June? The last four days’ posts have assessed, for my benefit, each of my four Big Years, and I’m pleased to leave Australia’s shores with a smile on my face. 2018 has not unfolded quite as hoped, and I’ve battled myself and the world, but I’ve done myself proud.

So . . . a break and then leap back in, Andres!

100 days in: 1,000 Big Year

Big daily goals – early rising, no morning Facebook, good planning, a thousand words slapped down – have produced dismal statistics, even allowing for some compulsory downtime. With a success rate of around 75% on my “process” goals and with the full 1,000 words/day fully achieved only a third of the time, how could I possibly count this as a “tick so far”? Well, it’s my life and I’ll accord a trembly tick to my 2018 so far. Why? Because I’m pouring blood, sweat, and tears into drafting the albatross book and the big year gives me the structure to do so.

100 days in: Freshness Big Year

If I could, I’d restart this Big Year with a greater degree of simplicity, but here are the tedious ticks and crosses, moving from the biggies to the minnows:

  • Cycling – going for a low 2,000 kms, I’ve struggled to find the time to hit my weekly targets, but am at 750 kms now and should achieve 2,000. Tick. (I now won’t ride a bike for the next ten weeks!)
  • Jogging – after a major low, and impacted by travel and minor health issues, I’m now almost at my weekly target but only have just under 300 kms against a year-end target of 1,250. I’ll either need to up my weekly budget a bit or make a special effort while in Europe (I can probably jog five of the ten weeks). Cross.
  • Gym – I’ve only gone 24 times and, after Europe, will need to increase the weekly goal from two to three sessions in order to hit 100. A big cross.
  • Overall exercising – I’ve missed a quarter of my days. Most missed days have an excuse but a meaningful number haven’t. Even with the best will in the world, I have to count this as a cross.
  • Alcohol – does anyone like their wine as much as I do? Given that, I’m delighted to have stuck to 42 of the targeted 45 AFDs (3 per week), and my average weekly glasses are only a bit over target. It’s hard to describe how buoyant this analysis makes me feel. Tick.
  • The minor daily impositions/prohibitions – alarms, cheese, and snacking – are close to 100%. Tick.

Overall, this Big Year has been one exhausting struggle but the major reason – I’m prioritising writing far more – is sound. As I’ve discussed previously, I’m yet to feel “fresh” as was the intention, but I haven’t flagged at all. So . . . not a tick but let’s commit once more to the full year’s aspirations!

Need to switch reading to Crime Fiction

I used to be right into the crime fiction/murder mystery genre and it remains close to my heart. But I’ve had to triage reading and viewing over the last couple of years and for some reason gravitated to sci-fi. I’ve just finished watching the stunning Netflix series “Altered Carbon” and on today’s flight will binge watch the “American Gods” series and the movie “Annihilation.”

But now that the Tractor Big Year has taken control and is directing me to self publish my first murder mystery, it occurs to me I should zero back into the crime genre. Accordingly, I’ll begin seeking out new mystery series (I’m sick of the oldies) and will commence on two Netflix series. The first is “Jack Irish,” starring Guy Pearce, based on the brilliant novels of Peter Temple, sadly just deceased. The second is “Shetland,” a series based on books by Ann Cleeves, someone I’ve never tried. I’ll be intrigued to see if the old crime fiction magic recasts its spell on me.

100 days in: Tractor Big Year

Daily research into and exploration of how to self publish towards the end of the second decade of the Twenty-First Century . . . have I accomplished that? A resounding yes, for 85 days (15 days have been travel days or sick leave).

My assessment of this Big Year’s impact? Entirely positive. I have a halfway understanding of what I need to do, I’ve put steps in place to self-publish a murder mystery upon our return to Australia, and websites/blogs have been refreshed in a most satisfying manner. So . . . a tick for this Big Year.