Being More Sparrow

A quick midweek post-work / pre-work two wheeled escape featuring a sweaty coastal bivy and some musing on being more sparrow.

“Why can’t people be more like sparrows?” It’s a question that comes up often in conversation with a mate, and almost every day as I watch the sparrows outside my window. For sure they squabble from time to time, probably over women, but by and large they seem to be a contented bunch whose days consist of eating, flitting here to there and back again, hanging out with other sparrows, not shitting on each other but rather behaving as equals in a generally good natured way, and not trashing their environment. They don’t hog the bird feeder, they don’t kick other sparrows out of their nests in order to rent them on AirBnB for a quick profit, and they don’t place an unsustainable burden on the planet by driving around in “status cars” the size of houses, or concreting over their surroundings by building “status houses” as second (or third, or fourth) homes that, in size and appearance, have more in common with a branch of Lidl than anything you might call a home. Such are the things I think about while out riding a bike here in Cornwall.

It’s not exactly Confucianism, but I think if looking for a motto to live by, one could do a lot worse than “be more sparrow”…

I use my bike as a means to maintain my balance.. it’s a balance that is particularly strengthened whenever I travel for any length of time on my bike.. the pleasure of living with minimal material baggage, minimal exposure to  consumer culture, politics, certain crappy people, and the man-made problems that go with all of that. The return from such a journey is always to subject that balance to a steady erosion that comes from being immersed once again in “modern life”. Much as a diver might have to equalise the pressure in the middle ear as they descend, I find that, when stuck at home, I need to compensate from time to time for the external pressures of the world in which I live with an impromptu escape on my bike, even if it’s just a mid-week post-work / pre-work overnighter.

Cornwall has had such a problem with “fly camping” over the last couple of summers I decided that, for such impromptu escapes, a simple bivy is, for now, my best bet. Extremely low profile, I can unroll it at dusk, and roll it up again at dawn and be gone within minutes. This pic is around 5am, I won’t lie.. it wasn’t a particularly pleasant night – super muggy and damp / humid, and itchy with the current intense pollen-loading in the atmosphere.. it was also “ticky”.. not something I’ve had a problem with before in Cornwall so it wasn’t until arriving home that I discovered my passengers.. I’m starting to think I prefer camping here in the winter, much as I did when living in Canada… no bugs, no bears!  Dawn was beautiful as a weak shaft of sun, attenuated by the mist, slanted in under a layer of low cloud.

Last Wednesday was one such escape, taking advantage of the long summer evenings to throw some gear at my bike and hit the trail after everyone else is already in the pub beer garden, at the beach with their disposable BBQ, or at home on the sofa. It wasn’t quite as effective as hoped as, being in Cornwall in the summer, it’s hard to escape what’s happening here, something about which I do care deeply, and months of working alone has also taken a toll in that I found it impossible not to be preoccupied with a coding problem. Still very much worth it however, and as it happens the ride was the lubricant needed to imagine a creative solution to that problem so my preoccupation was perhaps not necessarily a bad thing, for now.

Anyway, back to the sparrows. It’s not exactly Confucianism, but I think if looking for a motto to live by, one could do a lot worse than “be more sparrow”.

I rode about 2 1/2 hours each way.. evening and early morning trails were deserted. Wonderful.
Another early riser, out to pull his pots.
Perhaps because it has been so wet, the wildflower blooms on the heathland are far more vibrant than I remember seeing any other summer. Quite beautiful.
It’s still foxglove season…
Around 8am on my way home. I confess in no particular rush to get back to my desk…
Everything feels extra lush at the moment.
This sea holly will soon produce some beautiful blue flowers.
Long summer evenings… it’s easy to underestimate the value of such a quick escape, much as it is too easy to become “stuck” at home, and, similarly as it is very hard to unstick others to join… such are the pressures of life that we create for ourselves and others.
I love the dark tree tunnels that come with the explosion of summer growth.
My bike, because, well, bikes. My Mk1 Brother Big Bro with a 13 litre dry bag on my bars; a home-made frame bag carrying a 2 litre water bladder and my tools and stuff; under the saddle a Puffin Burrow with my stove, stuff to eat, coffee, down jacket and a few other bits and bobs. The whole lot is nice and light which is just as well as the route I chose includes some awkward hike-a-bike. I carried my X-Pro 2 with a 35mm lens in a waist pack.
Dinner on. Rice and beans essentially, grabbed from the cupboard at home. The whole point of such a quick escape is that there isn’t any planning or shopping required. Just grab “something”, and so long as there’s coffee and some calories that’s good enough.

8 thoughts on “Being More Sparrow

  • Hi mate, another lovely view of your world. My brother in law lives in Eastbourne and we have visited once years ago and drove along parts of the south coast. Even then the amount of people was noticeable, you show a different side to that, even if you have to go early/late and off the well trodden path to find a little peace. Here’s to the mob being set free to party in Europe soon.


  • I guess at least the fact that most people are un-sparrow-like in their waking habits means you got to enjoy dawn on the cliffs to yourself! Lovely photos.

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