The sort of high produced by creativity, beer and extreme hunger

  • Monday, August 01, 2016
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“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”  
Jack Kerouac, Dharma Bums.

The best thing about our run a fortnight ago was sitting around an iron table afterwards at the Battle of Britain Museum in Shoreham. Above our heads was a thick canopy of leafy vine and above that blue Kent skies pocked by summer clouds. We talked and refuelled with steaming mugs of Tea and Coffee and the location was fitting for the conversation that stood out, a strangely relaxed and even funny talk about loss, bereavement and memorial, a cathartic conversation rooted in the power of community that gave me a glimpse of what it is to be human, the circle of life, the importance of memory and the resilience it breeds.
Before we allowed ourselves the luxury of tea we gave ourselves the luxury of a meandering run along the banks of The River Darent, the name rooted in the Celtic 'Derva' meaning Oak or river where the Oak trees grow. The Darent is a cold, clear, fast flowing 20 mile tributary of the Thames. For runners it's a scenic backdrop perfect for a shambling run passing Hops, Lavender fields and the historic 9 arch viaduct near the village of Eynsford. We also passed Lullingstone Castle and a small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle with their red rimmed eyes and clouds of attendant flies.
A badger called Angus. I'm always happy to stay this side of the fence.

I find there is great power in journey and people journeying together. Something creative occurs when we step out of our routines and go exploring together. The subconscious is stirred and ideas float up past the murk to find expression in the warmth and brightness of day. One of the most seminal books I ever read was Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, a beat masterpiece where the central themes of being non conformist, spontaneous and living a simple life are wrapped around wilderness adventure. It's a book about searching for meaning in a crowded and busy life by using the contrast between Bohemia and nature as it's vehicle.
The following Friday I find myself in the Loft, upstairs to the Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch. I'm here with my daughter for an evening of spoken word put on by a massively talented collective of poets calling themselves Rhymes With Orange. It's the sort of dark and atmospheric joint that 15 years ago would have been clouded in a cigarette fuelled fog whilst poets rant hormonally from the stage but I settle for  cold beer instead and leave several hours later on the sort of high produced by creativity, beer and extreme hunger, I am ecstatic, my daughters friend has won the open mic with an impassioned poem about immigration called weeds. She is a weed and so am I and we are proud.

     (Upstairs at the Bedroom Bar. Not my photo)

I've realised since that I'm not the only runner to draw parallels with Kerouac and running. Jenn Shelton, Ultrarunner, lover of Beat writers and one of my heroines draws inspiration from Dharma Bums. She attributes her running philosophy directly from the books text,
"Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don't look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by" And in her own words,"I love just being a barbarian, running through the woods."
This Sunday I returned to Shoreham with Jerry and Michael and this time we were joined by George. We are wild men, trail bohemians and beat runners. During the Internet chatter organising the run the question of a route was put forward and I delegated it to Jerry, the ultimate route guru. You can always trust the bugger to come up with something interesting and unique, he decided that we should go in the other direction and came up with a 10 miler out towards the village of Otford. Like poetry our run became eclectic, a mash up of trails and railway crossings and even a quarry. At the village of Seal we ran through the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul, parts of which date back to the 13th century and where the grave yard has a superb view over the North Downs. We talked to a man in the church yard, saw horses and crossed a motorway bridge. We climbed stiles and passed through kissing gates. I even found time to take a hard fall. From there we looped back to Shoreham once again and the Battle of Britain tea garden. Quote of the day goes to George, delivered in his dry, Northern Irish accent as Jerry minced over some sharp stones in his Monkey feet, "That's why the Monkeys swing through the trees Jerry"
Succinct, poetic and insightful.

Dog in the River Darent, Shoreham Village

Unshaven Zimbo, a proud weed.

Viaduct at Eynsford.

Peace surrounded by peace.

The ford at Eynsford. Jerry taking the dry option.


 St Peter and St Paul, Seal.

 View of the North Downs

Wild men, trail bohemians and beat runners.

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