I am back down in Essex today.  My first meeting is at 1200 so I have a bit of time this morning to do a little scribbling before heading out.

We are fostering a young mother cat and her seven kittens.  At only three weeks old, they are so tiny and adorable.  It’s fun to watch them wobble about exploring their den and surroundings.  Feeding time is noisy.  When Molly climbs into the den with them, they swamp her until she lays down on her side and then the feasting begins.  Each of the little ones jockey for position, stepping on each other, pushing and shoving until they find their place.  Molly cleans them while they are eating.

It’s funny the many roles we play in a day.  My train mate (stranger sitting across from me) is a female business woman.  From her notes, I’ve gathered that she is a manager of some sort for HSBC.  She is preparing for a team meeting.  In the space of an hour, she played many roles.

When we first sat down, she brought her loose notes, and her notebook, and her laptop.  Intense and focused, she poured over her notes, made more notes.

Time passed.

She pulled out her blackberry.  I thought she was making a business call, instead she called her daughter to make sure she was ready for school.  Soft voice, mum’s voice… ‘I love you’ at the end.  Phone down, back into business manager role plugging away on the laptop inputting her notes.  In the midst of this transcription, she pulls out her nail file and moves into girly mode and starts doing her nails.  Then back to business manager.

Notes finally finished, she pulls put her iPod and relaxes to some tunes and does the soduku from the morning Metro.

Even her look suggests a women of a thousand guises.  She is wearing a black suit jacket, but underneath is a pink terry cloth top with a white t-shirt that shows just above the rim of the pink shirt.  She is has a small silver cross hanging neatly against her cleavage.  Her hair, short and spikey.  She sports a hard won tan and face that looks as worn a leather glove, not ugly, just haggard.  She is wearing opened toed shoes, pink painted toenails.

I reach my stop, which turns out is also her stop.  We get off.  She has three bags – a laptop bag, her handbag, and some large overgrown back that looks like may contain presentation gear.  Another role, that of the traveler or perhaps the wandering saleswoman…

I wonder how many other roles she will have to play before the end of her day.  Which leaves me to wonder, how many roles do I play in a single day?   And when, if ever, do I get to be just me, no roles, no masks, no walls or barriers?

Picked up the new macbook today.  I’ve had my eye on upgrading for a while, although I couldn’t decided whether to go with the MacBook Air or the MacBook.  In the end price and lack of a decent sized hard drive drove me away from the air, whose most endearing feature is it’s thinness.  Time Machine made it a breeze to move my old MacBook files over to the new MacBook and amazingly fast as well.  Of course all the things I had planned to do today have pretty much gone out the window as I have been playing with my new mac and wiping down the old one so I can pass it on clean.

I woke up this morning feeling the time to make a decision is now.  There are so many competing forces for my time, focus, and energy.  To try to do everything means to do nothing.  I have to choose a path on faith and intent.  But it’s so hard to know what is the right choice to make.  What will I miss if I go down one road as oppose to another?  And that is the crux of my problem, I want to go down all the roads, travel all the paths.  I hate the thought of being contained to one path.  Like this past weekend when we were hiking across the moorlands, it would have been easier to stay on the marked path, the one well trodden by others.  Instead, we chose to make our own path.  We ran into more obstacles/challenges this way, but that is what made the walk exciting.  The marked paths were teeming with people.  Off the beaten track, we saw only two other people and they were off in the distance, probably a pair of souls like our own, wanting to go the way less travelled.

But what are the risks when you go your own way?  What if the bold choices we make don’t pan out, then what do you do?  Is it better to play it safe, be on an even keel as it where?  The two sides of myself sit on either shoulder; one is whispering in my ear to live in the here and now and throw caution to the wind, the other sitting on my opposite shoulder is whispering, be sensible think about the future.  The thing about the future is there are too many what if’s and unknowns, and the ultimate destination is the end of all things.

I have made my choice.  Now can I live with the consequences?  Will I have the discipline and the tenacity to stay the course?

I’ve been slow to post these past couple of weeks, mainly because I’ve been out wandering and enjoying a little time off of work.  Over the weekend, I was out wandering the Derbyshire Moors with my good friend Ed, of Nak-ed-ape.  As usual, we past the walking time putting the world to right and philosophizing about this and that.  One of the questions posed was why do I like spending so much time outdoors in the hills and woodlands?  My short answer was because the outdoors, especially the mountains, are my spiritual home.  Going to the mountains for me is like going to church.  It is my place of worship.  I am guaranteed to be more centered and grounded after a day’s walk in the hills.

This particular trip, we did a 7 hour hike starting from the Moorland Centre in Edale, north up the waterfall, then northwest to Kinder Scout (there is meant to be a trail through the moorland here, but inevitably you loose the trail and end up picking your way through the trenches and mud sinks until you find firm dry land).

At Kinder Scout, we turned South and followed the Pennine Way back into Edale (I think at some point in the not to distant future, I will walk the entire Pennine Way which is 289 miles going from Edale to north going through Yorkshire Dales, up into Northumberland, across the Cheviots, and right up into the Scottish Borders).  Then today we did a 12 mile cycle around the reservoir trilogy of Ladybower, Derwent, and Howden reservoirs.  And now I am totally knackered!

Chow

We are off on a little mini break – some sweet time with the misuses minus the kids. We like exploring different parts of the country from time to time, so I suggested we check out Canterbury, partly because it gave me an excuse to reread Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and also because I wanted to visit a few other places that have been etched in my memory since studying military history at West Point. One of those being battlefield at Hastings.

I’ve been living in and out of hotels since January this year, so Friday night I had to drive home from Essex, unpack my bags, do my laundry, and repack for our 5 day mini break. I know I am a last minute kind of guy and this was about as last minute as you can get! All good though, we weren’t under any time pressures really i.e. no planes, buses, or trains to catch. Our last couple of trips together have been ‘let’s make it up as we go along’ trips. So this was no different in that respect. We had a general destination of Canterbury. The rest we would make up.

We set off at a reasonable time on Saturday morning. We thought the roads would be packed full of cars considering it is a Bank Holiday weekend. But actually, the motorways were fairly clear. We made good time down to Folkestone, which was going to serve as our base of operations for the trip. We would have stayed in Cantebury, but all the hotels and B&B’s were booked. Instead, Ruth found a spartan little B&B in Folkestone called the Rob Roy run by an old couple named Sue and Alan. It’s about a mile away from the town center on the A260. Not the most picturesque place, but we didn’t plan on spending much time there anyway, apart from sleeping.

We picked up a bunch of leaflets from the tourist information center as soon as we arrived in town. I hadn’t realized how much there is to see around the Kent Downs. We decided to spend the rest of Saturday kicking around Folkestone. Now I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that in the area of Folkestone where we are staying, all the locals look like they got a bit of sea-dog in them. A fall out from being a harbor town I guess.

We set out to explore Folkestone by bike. A quick flick through the leaflets and we found a place that looked interesting – The Lower Leas Coastal Park. We could take in some sea and woodlands. Apparently, landslips in 1784 created the park’s basic formation and then in 1829 some enterprising nobleman decided he could make some cash, so he built a toll road to provide an “easy” route between the harbor and and the town of Sandgate. The park has evolved since then as a place for people to come and relax underneath the shade of pines, holm oaks and sycamore trees, or to lie out on the pebbled beach.

We cycled at a leisurely pace through the park stopping at several landmarks like the Leas Lift, which is the second oldest water powered lift in Britain, and the Zig Zag Path, which was built in 1921 as a new attraction and to provide work for the unemployed.

Beneath the Zig Zag Path is an amphitheater. I don’t know if it used for shows or anything, but it provided a nice grassy area to lie down on and take in some sun. We cycled through the park and onto Sandgate before turning around and finding a route back to Folkestone. It was nice to be next to the sea, rolling along watching people and ducking from seagulls.

In the evening, after we recovered from our ride, we found a nice all you can eat Chinese buffet called Kalala. The service was quick, the staff friendly, and the food was delicious, what more could you ask for from a buffet. After dinner, we were both pretty beat, so we headed back to the B&B to call it a day, play a few games and then hit the rack. End of day one.