Beware, this is a long blog. Take a deep breath, jump in, but be prepared to navigate in manageable segments.
Yes, the tent last night stayed dry inside, as did the sleeping gear, and I even dreamed of warm and snuggly sleeping bags.
OK, I have had to wear my socks and expensive 100% waterproof (not) rain jacket this morning to dry them out. And sitting in a warm and dry café on the Vienna Ringstrasse, just round the corner from my old BBC office, my shoes are still sodden.
But hey, I survived. And even made the last 20 miles here this morning with reasonable comfort. Rest of the day is quiet to rest old Achilles. No wonder we use that metaphor for our weak spots.
I’m going to muse a bit on blogging today, having had some lovely supportive emails from friends and family after my early morning bleat.
But first (as Kate Adie, who doesn’t believe journalists can possibly get traumatised, says introducing From Our Own Correspondent on Radio Four), an explanation of the pictures.
Sue in Cirencester and Clare in Berne especially will appreciate the photo of a power station on the NW approach to Vienna prettified by Austria’s oddest but most brilliant post-war architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (what a fantastic name), a kind of Central European Gaudi.
See here http://www.outbackphoto.com/places/2000/20001022_Hundertwasser.html for some more images of his work.
I was reminded passing the pictured recycling plant with its disguised chimney of a once boring old East German school block in Wittenberg which Sue and I saw last year, also given the Hundertwasser treatment, and of a totally outrageous but beautiful hotel and appartment complex in this style in the centre of nearby Magdeburg.
Flair, colour, inspiration and curves – all lost in so much of modern industrial architecture.
Curves and straight lines also in the quite arrestingly pink piece of modern art (yes, that’s what it is) I cycled past just before Vienna this morning, outside a large (square) museum dedicated to the artist who created this interesting and in my view rather unnecessary piece.
I forget his (of course, his, not her) name – Essl, I think. But if you can enlarge the image (the squeamish may not wish to, this already being quite large enough) it’s is on the plaque on the wall to the right. (Blast, on re-reading the blog, I realise I posted a different picture, one without the plaque. But I’ll leave the thought about enlargement…)
I wonder what it’s intended to represent. No answers please. They might be stopped by my spam filter.
The lady in the remaining picture with me and Raven outside the café where I’m now sitting is Susanna Hamad, a young Austrian broadcast journalist now embarking on a Masters research project into journalism and trauma in this country.
We had a good conversation about her research questions and people to talk to, useful timing in terms of where Vienna fitted into my travels and Susanna’s research. Clive, that photo, although a bit distant, is in part for you…
So, why blog? Narcisisstic self-indulgence, as Sue would probably think? Or serious connection and communication?
I’ve actually been surprised what fun this is, having vowed not to. As long, of course, as one has something to say in which people might be interested. Alastair, my number two, is well up on matters internet, and warned me firmly of the dangers of vacuous blogging for its own sake.
But as one who has always found writing for work really hard, despite it being my core profession for so long, doing a blog is very different.
It’s personal, direct communication, without having to satisfy editors or programme-makers or established, usually unexamined and unquestioned, agendas blocking authentic connection between the writer/reporter and the user/consumer/reader.
One of the reasons, also, why From Our Own Correspondent, which has always been a bit bloggy, is so popular with both listeners and BBC reporters.
Awareness of the blog, I find also, gives structure to my thoughts as I pedal along during the day.
I’m chatting with you all all the time, whether you like it or not. Not sad and self-indulgent, but a real conversation. And if I forget to include an important thought one day (well, what strikes me as important anyway), I can put it in tomorrow. There’s a continuity and a flow which is rather rewarding.
And given how many said how much they envied me doing a trip like this, I do feel emboldened and encouraged to share a little of what it’s really like to do something as challenging, fun, different – and wet – as this.
For the therapeutically-minded, it’s also about Attachment with a capital A, as in John Bowlby, and the need each of us has, from infancy on, to feel emotionally connected/bonded with people who care for us and vice versa.
It’s also a form of diary writing, which I always encourage my therapy clients to do for the sake of their own emotional well-being.
It’s good for the brain chemistry. Putting ideas down in writing connects our thinking and our feeling bits, and helps us act and feel in a more integrated way. Especially when it’s shared.
Time to switch gear a little.
The industrial age has been – will have been – a catastrophe for the human species, and for many other species besides.
(My hobby horse, as you know, but on which see a serious, authoritative and alarming report today in the Daily Telegraph on the security implications of global warming. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/23/eaclimate123.xml&DCMP=EMC-new_23042008).
But again with James Lovelock, author of the Gaia thesis, I believe that amid all the bad things we have done, the internet and mobile technology are good, a quantum leap in evolution and consciousness.
And at a very small level, that’s what serious blogging (this one included, I hope) is about.
E.M. Forster summed it up in A Passage to India well before the internet was even dreamed of, in the novel’s core message about, in effect, the Meaning of Life, which has stayed powerfully with me from A-Level English.
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