Tag Archives: lancaster

An afternoon pilgrimage: Heysham Rock Cut Graves

So last year some time I bumped into the website of The British Pilgrimage Trust who are kind of funky, and their mission seems to be to restart the tradition of pilgrimage in the UK, which they define as an “unbroken journey on foot to holy places” (which … has some kind of ableist connotations) and they define holy places in a very vague sense:

There are many kinds of holy place. There are temples – i.e. chapels, churches and cathedrals of all faiths. There is water in the form of holy wells, springs, river sources and confluences. There are ancient trees, sacred stones and hilltops. And there are the places where great people were born, lived, died and buried.

They specifically include all temples (be they in use or not), including a suggestion of reworking Christian churches in your minds as nexus points for attempts to contact higher truth and also marking big events in life (births, marriages, deaths) even if you don’t agree with other things the church does, so that’s kind of an interesting perspective.

They also have lots of advice on when, why, also a lot of suggestions on where (either the “great routes” or things that just speak to you), and finally a whole section of articles on how to approach it (which while it does have lots of “do it now with whatever gear you have available!” also includes some suggestions of really expensive kit and a little bit of looking down on some cheaper gear in some ways) – oh and they also advise that you take a pilgrim staff along with you, which is quite sensible.  The main how article is called The Pilgrim Pledges, which suggests the best way to approach this is to:

S:      Slow Down – Seek Holy Places – Stop More.
I:       Set an Intention – Be Instinctive – Improve the Way
N:     Need Less – Notice More – Be Natural
G:      Give Gifts – Practice Gratitude – Be Good.

First Pilgrimage: Heysham Rock Cut Graves

Rock Cut Graves

Being as today is continuing strike action for my Union and I’d been on the picket in the morning and Mish was working at home in the afternoon I got the idea into my head to go and do a simple pilgrimage, somewhere I’d been before, and that I knew was local and reachable as a good first starting point and I wanted to get out into the landscape before my enthusiasm for the idea went from “Oooh good idea” to endless planning and pondering.

So yeah, got in from town, ate a solid warm lunch, packed a bag, wrapped up warm, took up a staff/walking stick I already had in, then stepped out the door and into a wider world of adventure.

And it was nice, it was good to get back out there into the country side.  I’ve been idle from doing a lot of direct paganism for a while now, burnt out on running pagansoc and then gender stuff got in the way of bodily interactions which put a stymie on things really, but its nice to get back out there and be active.  Since this was a first go for me I tried to remember what it was I was doing but mostly concentrated on slowing down and paying attention.  Things I noticed included:

  • It was good to have layering options – I was cold at the start but once I’d gotten going I was warmer and took more layers off
  • I needed more water because I hadn’t drunk enough that morning
  • Grass walking is much more pleasant and relaxing than road walking, heavily trafficed roads (as formed a bunch of my route) got in the way of me slowing down and connecting with things
  • I need a backpack with both side pockets for things and also straps that are good for wearing on my shoulders.
  • People look at you funny when you’re carrying a walking stick

Staff and cup

Once I got to the Morecambe bike/human path things were nicer, but over in Heysham itself things were calmer, I was more off road, I could interact with people passing more, enjoy the scenery, listen to the world (lots of birds were out, and the electric train tracks sound like insects).

St. Peter's Church

There seemed to be some work going on at St. Peter’s church so I didn’t get to go in and see the hogback grave, but I did go up to St. Patrick’s Chapel and enjoy the view, sit with the graves a little, and sit on the cliff top, watching the sea, listening to the birds and some young people who’d also walked up there.  I had a spot of tea from my flask, made offering and then walked back to the bus – which technically ended my pilgrimage.

So all in all an inspiring day, next time I’ll plan routes to use the canal and footpaths better to get to more places locally and see whats going on I think :)

I took some pictures along the way which are in a flickr album but I’ve inserted a couple of choice ones in this post.

The approach to the cliffs

Delayed Games means delayed squee

Yeah so basically I was expecting to be writing more about things I’d been preparing for the upcoming Room 13 game Secure Facility Seven at the minute but … yeah, well due to the epic weather that descended upon Lancaster that kind of fell by the wayside.

It was probably an interesting time to use the phrase.  The centre of town took water levels pretty high, and a lot of Cumbria got pretty badly devastated, a lot of us were without power for a while, and even the phone network was down for parts of it, but it was heartening to see locals pulling together to check in on each other and keep supplies and news flowing by landline, by snatches of internet, by biking, driving, and walking to each others houses to hang out and chat.

Framing your day

I’m pretty sure I’ve written this exact same post before but eh, worth another go :)  So yeah sometimes I like playing about with how I frame my day which can make things more fun and change motivation towards other tasks.  I find it best to start early on, preferably soon after waking and before getting bogged down into other things, when the flavour of the day is still malleable.

One of the old ones I like to use is about framing the day as an adventure – to make everything have that edge of questing, to sort of make it feel like holiday.  So you get up, usually a little earlier than normal, you make sure to pack food, you concentrate on the travelling, and the things you may see, or work out maybe a slight deviation from the normal routine in the middle of the day, and hence you change the flavour of the day to be more about adventuring or questing, trying to see something new in the everyday

The other I’ve used quite a bit at the minute often involves my commute, which usually comes over the top of a hill high up over Lancaster, so I can look down across the town, across the bay, across the countryside out to the sea.  From there I can reconnect with the whole scale of the town, again searching to connect and make things less than routine and dull, to earth myself into the idea that here I am, working at a centre of learning and education the likes of which there isn’t for miles around, working to help scholars do cutting edge research.  All the while embedded in the glorious countryside of the bay, with its ancient hills overlooking at the edge of the lakes, with the roofs of the houses making the whole thing feel like a Ghibli film, with all the historic links of Lancaster – the commute is sometimes within sight of the Castle (and the whole area is a strange Dutchy of the Queen and strangely linked to the crown), built on a fort from Roman times, the ancient priory is there, the misty hills are all kinds of magical, yet at the same time there are people going about their day to day lives almost oblivious to all this strangeness.

So yeah, framing on commutes, it can make a difference.  Holding onto it in the office is something else however.

Trains, planes and automobiles

So I’ve done another round trip circling the Pennines this weekend, and stopped off along the way to have a drink with a friend and a general nice in person catch up, which was awesome.

On the way there I had a hot water bottle resting behind my shoulder for a lot of the trip, and on the way back I thought I’d save weight in my backpack by not packing it, I kind of wish I had, the seats were not overly comfy and ouch.  Still things aren’t as bad as last week so hopefully a good nights sleep will help reset it.

Now back to work on the ‘morrow, although when I got in I got to watch the tail end of the Star Wars trilogy which is awesome as I’ve not seen it for years.

And tomorrow I also get to try and catch up on the news and work out my reactions to the horror I’ve seen floating up from the other side of the pond.

Visability and Graduations

As several of you know I get to go sit on the stage and wear a silly hat for other peoples graduations, and these are graduations I really quite like for various reasons.  I was never much of a fan of my own graduations, because during the first one I was just all bleh for public appearances in general for reasons that made no sense to me at that time, during the second I knew I was trans and was just filled with dislike for inhabiting my body or my social role at that point, however when you’re on the stage its quite fun as you’re not the centre of attention so much its not about focusing on you, also I’m way more comfortable in myself than I used to be I think, at least in some ways.

Interestingly I quite like going to graduations because it helps remind me why I’m where I am, and why I do what I do.  A lot of the time working for the Uni its easy to lose sight of the awesome good work we do, we educate students in all kinds of things, we do kick ass research, we improve the state of human knowledge at least in some ways – however in the day to day grind of projects and support its easy to get lost from this and instead just throw up your hands at all the politics that floods the place.  So graduations are nice for in some ways fulfilling the promise of the establishment, a time we can come together across departments and do our act as formal academics (processing in is nice, because everyone does their best formal and proper thing, we present a professional front, also you never know who you’ll be lined up next to so a nice point for a chat with new people in the queue) and present a united front to celebrate the achievements of the students.

Also it’s a more personal thing, in that not only does it give an institutional/group celebration but I tend to mostly come and sit on the stage for students I know through various societies, so its also a personal thing of celebrating the achievements of friends and giving them a grand sending off as yup – you are now officially recognised as more awesome in some specific manner, its nice to sit on the stage and try not to grin too much to be improper while applauding them :)

The final point, which is kind of what spurred me on to post this (being as I’ve just come back from watching the Manchester Pride Parade at the weekend) is the visibility aspect of it.  Whenever I go to graduations I make sure to flag with at least a small rainbow pin, if not a trans one as well, and also while I tend to blend into crowds in direct or focused interactions I get read as trans pretty easily – and this is one of those cases where I don’t mind.  By being there, being in a group of academics and walking formally with them as a colleague and academic doctor and making myself obviously visible I aim to get some subtle exposure – to help say to people that hey it’s okay to be trans or queer, I’m here, looking respectable and not hiding.  And hopefully I’m helping out closeted students, and I’m helping normalise various minorities as a thing that exists for visiting friends and family who are in the hall, and those who watch the remote streams or for times I’m caught in pictures (amusingly I was grabbed for pics out of the line with some students this year, I’m not sure what I was doing beyond featuring as an academic to pose with, I have no idea how they were even reading me, and I don’t really mind).

While it’s true this could be said to be in some ways being over obvious with my sinister dark agenda (okay I’m maybe being snarky), or “rubbing their faces in it” I like to think I’m striking a balance between being too obvious (on a day that’s about the students), and being too hidden.  All I’m doing is wearing a small rainbow badge in my outfit and just existing and being there which is the part I think is important, physically being there and in front of people and being comfortable – and I can do this because the University is an accepting place, I know that 99% of the staff and students wouldn’t give me shit, so based on the work of others (standing on the shoulders of giants) I can help continue that work by being there, by normalising things, by being visible and wearing small subtle symbols to help make it okay for others to come out and be themselves.

Changes in distence

Okay, this was initially entitled something far more dramatic, but really this is more a change than an end to things, and I’m doing my best to reframe things like that in my head as I think it’ll be good for me.

Okay so as most of you should now know (it’s been posted to facebook and hence is true) my beautiful boyfriend will sadly be no longer living in Lancaster as of the end of the month really, instead moving far away to the lands of Durham to study for his epic PhD.

And I’m glad for him on that front, but while I’m kind of excited by him doing research again (he’s really awesome when he’s academicing) and the meeting new people in a new town thing sounds kind of exciting its also a whole scary experience where he’ll no longer be right here where I can hug him.  And it’s more than that, there’s going to be a big hole in my current schedule which normally includes stuff relating to him, so the half the week or so we tend to hang out I’ll be doing other things or chatting over skype with him, the Sunday evenings where the polycule gathers to watch crime shows and eat together and chit chat … well chances are he’ll be far away or on trains heading home for those evenings and I’d gotten kind of used to being able to just wander casually between my place and his if I left something behind in one of them, and now it’s looking like I’ll need to pack carefully and take long train journeys or drives.

But still – we both knew it was going to happen sooner or later, our relationship has always been built on a certain amount of risk and uncertainty, we got together pretty much as we were both starting to move forward in transition stuff and we’ve never been sure if we’d end up living so close for so long, where our lives would take us or even if we’d be attractive to the other persons tastes 6 months from then.  But from that we’ve actually grown to be living in each others pockets more or less for the past three or so years so adjusting to getting used to being at the other end of a phone rather than the other end of a 5m walk will take some doing.

I’ve done distance relationships before when Mish was off travelling and working overseas and it kind of sucks, but in other ways its kind of fun sometimes, knowing that someone is there and you’ll see them again, but in the meantime you’ve got so much free time for things, but I find having a definite end date can help that, gives you something to look forward to and schedule projects around that are in the free time I guess, and the thing is he’s off for a PhD and then who knows, so its not really on a definite timescale.

Anyway, general update – been trying to get my head around it since it became increasingly the more common option in the past couple of months and especially now its become a certain thing, so if I’m a bit weird here’s just one more reason to add to the pile :)

Revelatory?

There’s a project afoot to record the stories of my University as a place a community, and one of the parts is filming people holding up single words to describe the place, I was talking to Lee online about this and saying:

How do I sum up the place I came with no real clue why I was here, that’s given me an education and a job, friends, a house, where I’ve gone from asexual to heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual to bisexual queer, from aromantic to poly, from experiencing self as male to experiencing self as female, transitioning, falling in love with people, failed relationships, taking up new hobbies, dropping old ones, walking about in the early hours, learning magic, becoming a kind of pagan, running talks, reading books, the fog and mist and rain straight from the sea and lakes and mountains in the distance :)

And his suggestion was just “Revelatory” which I think kind of fits.  It’s not so much the University itself – as in many ways upper management are kind of lizard people at times and feel disconnected, but its the community that it fosters on its campus and in town, the friendly people I’ve basically grown up with (I think I avoided doing a lot of growing up pre-Uni, or at least it feels that way now) and who have been there for me and let me be there for them in adventurous too numerous and surreal to list them all.

Sure I may not live here forever, but I’ve really rather enjoyed a lot of the time I have lived here, so thanks to everyone who’s done that with me.