Back towards the start of 2013 I decided I was going to write this piece regarding the word ‘solo’. Not a whole two thousand words dedicated to the tangy Australian lemon drink, but an exposition of the pros and cons of travelling and – to some extent – living on your own. The independence, the freedom, the ‘ah sod it I’ll do what I like’ luxury that means you don’t have to compromise with anyone over choice of cake. Offsetting this, the boredom, the lack of conversation, the absence felt by missing out on the subtle interpersonal politics of deciding on a cake that all parties can be happy with. A double-edged sword ripe for some no doubt articulate and witty analysis. But I got sidetracked.
Throughout 2013 I was going to write 26 pieces that were no doubt articulate and witty, based around a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Beery Fairytales with Golfing Elements from Home and across the Oceans, getting Lost on Petrol laden Journeys only to recover Awesome Momentum to finish by the end of the year. I gave myself 365 days to do this, only really because it sounded like a nice round number with a good ring to it. A personal challenge, a resolution of sorts that was far easier than the usual New Year goals of healthy eating and vigorous exercise. But I got sidetracked.
I got sidetracked by New Zealand for a trip across the ditch. A country that is so brilliant around every turn and corner that I could happily get sidetracked by it time and again. Surely as close a country can get to perfect, a sensual smorgasbord of landscapes and moods, wrapped up in an undeniable, welcoming charm. Here cloudless days in the land of the long white cloud peak as high as the mountains all around. Lookouts and scenic spots, grand walks and rest stops, a true traveller’s paradise where there is an overload of distraction, and time for just a fraction of written reflection.
I got sidetracked by Australia, a rather large obstacle in anyone’s books. From its golden surf swept coastline into its Great Dividing Range, from its shimmering cities into its one street country towns. Across wide brown fields and into the red, an expanse of emptiness from which rocky ancient wonder rises. Sidetracks to vineyards and bays and wooded vales. Diversions to ridge lines and creek beds and trails. Along B-roads and byways, from mud tracks to highways, ocean-side swag sites and huge mounds of termites. So much to traverse and get in the way.
I got sidetracked, just occasionally, by work and other chores. Life goes on and money goes around. Sometimes things that you really don’t want to do need doing. Often it turns out they weren’t so bad to do after all. Car cleaning means a clean car. Food shopping brings the added benefit of food. Tax returns can lead to tax refunds. Work itself can stimulate the senses and open up a series of interactions and conversations and relationships. And there is the satisfaction brought by the completion of a task, something which I may eventually feel when the 26th article is published on this site.
I got sidetracked by a European summer which itself sidetracked me towards its winter. In Munich there were sunny meanders interrupted by shady spots and thirst-quenching beer. The Dolomites offered a natural jagged wonderland of routes and pathways, a spaghetti network of cable cars and trains, a confusing conglomerate of the Austro-German-Italian. A dollop of pretzel pizza strudel. Spain was easier going, but here a car countered any chance of settled discipline. And so mountain hairpins and coastal cruises restricted what writing could be achieved in between siestas.
I got sidetracked by family and friends, sharing barbecues and roasts, brewing up tea and buttering raisin toast. A culinary backdrop for some love and affection that tastes even sweeter with a biscuit selection. I had the business of new nieces to welcome and old ones to help welcome into a minefield of teen angst, quelled with a kick about in the park. There were countless timeless trips to playgrounds with all the youngsters , and walks in the woods a common escape with the older ones. Then there were the moments set aside for sad Saturday nights with X Factor, stuffing our faces with pizza, burping and twerking and perhaps some flirting then hurting that that singer went out who was a bit shouty but really ab-sol-ute-ly fan-tas-tic.
I got sidetracked by my beautiful southwest of England, in two prolonged spells of adoration. Spare sunny days were taken over with a bus and rail rover, a bag packed with camera and a sense of adventure. From the very end of the land distractions spread out on every rail line and country lane still serviced by bus. Around every corner of the coast path there was just a little bit more to see: another cove, another headland, another vista of purple heather in perfect weather plummeting down to the alluring azure of ocean. In every town there was just another side alley to head up, hopeful of stumbling into a nirvana of homemade pasties and fudge. On every day there was the diversion of a walk to the sea, a trip to the top of the hill, a visit to the bakery. Days that rightly meant writing was fleeting in between eating and falling in love all over again.
I got sidetracked by anything other than writing, in those spells of sublime sluggishness when you just can’t be bothered with doing anything that might require one iota of effort. When the Internet and apps are a prelude to naps, or an accompaniment to the cricket, slouched on the couch playing Words with Friends while England’s innings ends in a flurry of wickets. When Breaking Bad is so good and Grand Theft Auto is grander and Pointless is far from it. When Daenarys Stormborn is way more exciting than the thought of writing, so much more arousing than public housing and reliving through words your own dread that winter was coming, having no heating or dragons to warm things up.
I got sidetracked by arriving back in Perth and embracing its warm sunny disposition so much that every day feels like a holiday and it is hard to motivate to do anything other than loll. I had work and chores and sublime spells of sluggishness, suffering with a cricket background and Words with Friends malaise. But I also had the diverting allure of stunningly beautiful beaches down the road and the vibrant lilac burst of jacarandas along the way. There was the return to coffee breaks and barbecue steaks, sushi rolls and laksa bowls. A life in shorts so very inviting, that it’s hard to feel like writing, unless for time in air-conditioned refuge.
I got sidetracked by sidetracks so much that I figured sidetracks are actually not sidetracks at all. They are simply our own journeys, each of us a little bus network trundling through lanes and accelerating on dual carriageways and stopping for a while to pick up passengers and perhaps coming up against a dead end and forced to turn around. And so I merely got sidetracked by living life, busy seeing and doing, thinking and not thinking, pausing at bus stops and refilling on diesel. With hundreds of trips, thousands of interactions, millions of breaths, there is simply not enough time or no point to write it all down.
I got sidetracked but have still made it to number 19 out of 26, so far. That’s 73%, which I think you’ll find is a high enough mark for a first class honours degree. It doesn’t meet original targets but it’s far closer than anyone anywhere is doing in relation to carbon dioxide emission reduction targets . And there could be more to come, depending on how much more I get sidetracked this year. It may take 366 days or 465, but I will get to Z and feel happy and proud and perhaps a bit relieved. A goal achieved, just a little later than planned. But then, how many buses run to time anyway?
 Along with CBeebies, parks and playgrounds truly are the saviour of parents everywhere
 I hold my hands up and acknowledge my own rather sizeable carbon footprint; however carbon offsets include not using as much electricity I might have if I had achieved 26 articles on this blog, dedicated use of public transport in the UK, and buying lots of cake instead of baking it myself.
Solo drinking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=504OzK-VZjA
100% awesome: http://www.newzealand.com/au/
Words with jismslap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCkc5rcSOwo
Don’t let a bit of science get in the way: http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/