The big ’40’ was coming up. I wanted to do something special to mark my fortieth year. I had a birthday party planned, but beyond this I want to make it a ‘landmark year’. They say life begins at forty, so I was determined to be fully alive! Why we feel the need to mark significant moments in our life as individuals got me thinking about this cultural tendency in a broader sense – how communities make and mark ‘sacred time’: festivals, anniversaries, seasonal celebrations. I had a brainwave: what better way to celebrate my fortieth year than to travel around Britain on my motorbike (a Triumph Legend 900tt) seeing how folk … celebrate. I would visit places and people who mark the ‘turning of the wheel’ in their own distinctive way. I would keep a journal and a blog throughout … and this fed into the book, which I got commissioned to write from O Books, after pitching them the idea. They had already published a previous title of mine – The Way of Awen: journey of a bard; and I had been keeping my Bard on a Bike blog for a couple of years (as a professional storyteller and performance poet, my motorbike is my sole means of transport to gigs, talks, etc) and so a book seemed the natural next step.
The birthday party kicked things off with a bang and, after I’d recovered, I hit the road… I took a Brysonesque approach to this travelogue, accepting my own fallibility and subjectivity of experience. I could physically only see and do so much within one year, and inevitably things wouldn’t always go to plan. I would break down, get lost, turn up late, or find ‘life getting in the way’. Lacking a fat advance to pay for a year off, I had to fit my trips inbetween the business of marking a living – which is mainly tutoring for the OU. Still, it provided a welcome relief from the piles of assignments! By the end I had a deeper understanding of ‘sacred time’ – something that can be found in the most unexpected places and moments. The ways folk celebrate are endlessly diverse and delightful – Britain excels at eccentricity. Perhaps, in my quirky methodology, I was contributing to that. I felt I had certainly marked my fortieth!
Kevan is a tutor for OU creative writing modules at all levels: A174 Start Writing Fiction, A215 Creative Writing and A363 Advanced Creative Writing.
Turning the Wheel is published by O Books November 25 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84694-766-7 £15.99 313pp