Preparation over Planning

This picture reminds me to just keep taking the next right step.

By far the most frequently-asked question of me at the moment is “How is the planning going?”  I had a bit of deja vu writing that sentence and thought I must have written about it last year, but I’ve just had a look back at the entries for February, and I can’t see anything.

So yeah, “planning”.  We’re taught that failing to plan is planning to fail.  But I can’t say enough that this trip is an improvisation, it has some structure that makes the concept understandable (I’m starting on the left hand side and ending up on the right…) but beyond that I will be making it up as I go along.

There are two bits to that.  

Firstly I’ll be making it up, I don’t know what it is yet, I don’t know what’s going to happen.  Even the things that I think I know are actually uncertain. The trip will unfold just like every other bit of our lives.  I’ll be making decisions about what to do and whenever I remember to (or whenever there’s time to do so), I’ll be asking you for help making those decisions.  So actually, we’ll be making it up.

Secondly it’s as I go along.  I’m not going to make big decisions beforehand.  There are things that I’m strongly drawn to – I do want to spend time in Austin for SXSWi,  I do want to visit certain people.  But the story will be whatever the story is and it will emerge day by day.  It may turn out that I need to make decisions about later in the trip, but I will be trying to consciously observe and reflect on that decision-making process and always asking whether the actual decision has to be made now.

So I’m more interested in preparation than planning.

  • I need to take as much rest as I can and look after myself this week – I’m going to be on the road for a month and I need to be match-fit for that.  No late nights.  No helping out people on their projects who really can do it themselves.
  • I need to put some things in order back here – y’know all the little bitty things that I would somehow have managed to get done during March but it would be better to get done before I go rather than waiting till I get back.
  • I need to make sure I have appropriate clothing for the length of the trip and the likely differences in weather that I’ll encounter.
  • I need to get to know any kit that I’m taking so that I can use it confidently from the very start.
  • I need to have a spending plan to help me make decisions based on however much money I raise.
  • I need to make sure all my bills get paid on time here while I’m away.
  • I need to pack, but not really until next weekend.

I think that’s all, but I’m bound to have forgotten something

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

What Perks?

IndieGoGo has the concept of Perks – incentives for people to contribute, these might be simply emotional: "We'll love you forever and you'll feel warm and fuzzy"; they might entitle donors to access to early product "Get a DVD of the rough-cut  of our movie"; or something else connected with the project, t-shirts, high-res images, etc.  It really can be anything you can give to people.  You then associate levels of perk with levels of donation, so the ones for $100 are cooler than those for $10.

I'm having a bit of a creative/imagination failure about what I can offer here.  Last year we sent postcards to everyone who made a donation (and gave us a postal address)  I'd like to do that again, but it might be nice to have some way of expressing gratitude at the very low level as well as higher up.

So what would *you* want?  What can I give you, associated with this project that would encourage you, or people you know to make a donation?  No promises of course, and I can keep it without perks until I have some good ideas, but I'd quite like to add something in.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman


This is me at the end of the line last year – sitting in Union Station, Los Angeles having made it coast-to-coast despite my constant doubts that it would happen. I'm starting to have those doubts again from time to time, but I look at myself there and see my shaggy unshaven self just off a 36-hour train journey and I remember the cool fresh spring air (yes, in downtown L.A.!) and the sunshine and knowing that there never had really been any doubt – uncertainty about the detail perhaps, but no real risk that it wasn't going to happen.

This is the nub of good story (and I think by extension, a good life), we want to know it's all going to turn out all right in the end, but we also crave doubt, uncertainty, jeopardy.  We need that uncertainty to throw the success into relief – if all we ever did just worked out exactly to plan we would never know the ecstacy of success, it would all be the same – win after win after win after win.

The trick as an artist, performer, writer, human being is to remember that we have created the possibility of downside *in order* that the upside can exist, and to make it all the more delicious.  The journey is much more comfortable though if I can remember that it's just an illusion that I'm using to make the story interesting and to motivate myself to action.

So I know that at the end of March, I'll have some similar shot of me looking tired, wrinkled, dishevelled, but happy and satiisfied that I've completed something.  And then I'll start all over again.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Playing with photographers outside the Really Free School

A wise friend just said to me when I was explaining what i'd been doing this afternoon, "I don't know what the laws are around squatting".  Neither do I, I suppose I should have at least given it some thought before I entered one, but you don't do you?  I mean I've never read the Transport for London bye-laws but I get tubes and buses every day.  And I've entered into god-knows-what EULAs without thinking or reading.  So I might have been naughty this afternoon, but I'm not sure that I've done any harm to the owner of the property.

Anyhow, so I went along to the latest incarnation of the Really Free School aka "Guy Ritchie's £6m mansion in Fitzroy Square"  I went to show one of the British Council films from the 1940s that have recently been digitised and made available online to run a discussion about it.  I chose General Election (1945) which tells the story of the election as it happened in Kettering, Northants (including a tremendously over-confident Lt Col John Profumo as the Conservative candidate)

But when I arrived, there were a group of photographers waiting – I don't understand why it's still a story, I suppose anything to do with anyone famous requires 24hr coverage.   I was met by "Dan from ITV" (he's the one with the video camera) and 3 other photographers all of whom kept silent.  Dan asked me whether I knew who owned the building.  I said I did, that I'd read the newspapers.  I asked them what their names were and where they were from.  I also said something like "and you can have your release forms ready in a minute" to which Dan said "it's a public place" and I replied, noting that we were actually on the doorstep and probably within the curtilage of the property "well either  i'm on someone else's property or I'm in a public place, you can't have it both ways" oh dear, too clever by half sometimes…

Luckily at that point our friends indoors let me in and we got on with what I'd come for.  People enjoyed the film and we had a discussion about how politics has changed in the last 70 years (not much in terms of mechanics – quite a bit in how we talk about it)

On the way out, my self-righteousness rose up again and I shot a little video of them.  I love the way one photographer just stood stock still completely ignoring me while the other one just used his camera to cover his face and keep taking close-ups of me.   Some cringeworthy banter followed…

It left me with a very playground feeling, the need to be right and be seen to be right, the need to come out on top and have the last word.  I don't come across much confrontation with strangers like this (I know, this isn't serious confrontation – it's a measure of how little I do see that I describe it that way) so it felt unusual and then I just thought, "Poor sods, they must be freezing, what a way to earn a living".  If I go there tomorrow I might take them a cup of tea.

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Giving up control and asking for help

I learned, experientially, two important lessons during last year’s trip that I thought I already knew.  It turned out I knew the theory, but I needed some schooling in the practice.

Firstly, I learned that more interesting things happen when I give up (the illusion of) control over what happens next.  The classic example of this was the day that I ended up jamming with twenty beaming ukulele-playing senior citizens instead of snoozing in a DC hotel room.

The second is the reason that I have this picture of a small street of shotgun houses in NOLA in my flickr stream.  It’s because when I was in New York, 5 days earlier, I blogged that we couldn’t afford to pay for anywhere to stay and we needed help.  And in no time Taylor had introduced us to his friend Laura who generously gave us the use of her house for four days, the front step of which I stood on to take that picture.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to have the chance to practice them again, except this time I’ve purposefully built them into the structure of the trip.  What I’ve also learned is that I don’t necessarily get to be immediately more comfortable with either of them, I just have to keep practicing.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

Two weeks to gogo

It's getting more and more exciting.

Bits of corporate support and sponsorship are coming together, though no announcements yet.

I've set up an IndieGoGo page for individuals to contribute and help spread the word.  If you want to help, of course a donation's great, but really really what I would love is if you could push that page out to your networks with a recommendation to help me out.

My parents have said that they will underwrite a 30-day Amtrak rail pass for me in return for including a photography project in what I do while I'm away (more details of that later) I'm hoping it makes them feel more secure that I'm not going to be completely stuck 🙂

I've started talking to friends in California about the first days of the trip – sadly it looks like Loic is going to be in NYC at that point, but I'm hoping to be able to visit the lovely Scobles in Half Moon Bay – not sure, of course, how long I'll be in the SF area but get in touch if you're there and want to meet up or do something interesting.

I'm sorely tempted to move on from there down to Long Beach for the BIL Conference – it doesn't get me terribly far east, but y'know it's the people 🙂

Deep breath…

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

#canalwalk haikus

I took the shortish walk from Westbourne Park to the Paddington basin along the canal this lunchtime.

I took photos as I walked and tweeted spontaneous accompanying observations in a pattern of 5-7-5 syllables – so haiku in form if not in elegance – I think I'd warmed up a bit with the second one.

pigeons on the bridge
ignore the back of a bus
lip licking chicken

majestic westway
curves above a berlin wall
must build more stuff, must!

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous

Don’t make me fake it!

Tremendous bits of support coming in that I'll be able to talk about once they're confirmed.  However, while this is really really welcome, there's been much more response to help with kit than with direct cash support (to cover my overhead back here, some travel costs and contingency for daily subsistence).  

I'm putting up an indie-gogo page shortly for small-scale donors but I'm also offering things like post-trip workshops with staff and product or brand evangelism.  I've been joking today that I may have four laptops, six phones and a pocketful of dongles, but I may not be able to get over the pond in the first place!

Of course, it then occurred to me that I could do a Capricorn One-style fake journey.  Sit at home for a month, tweeting only during US daytime hours and working on putting together fake photos of me at a range of American landmarks – probably spending lots of time explaining to American friends how come I was in town but didn't manage to say hello!

I don't think that's going to be as interesting as actually doing the trip.  So if you know anyone who might be interested in supporting at the £250-£1,000 level do point them to me and share the sponsorship opportunities page.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman