Some people might call it foolish: to take off for three months, with a nearly four-year-old in tow, travelling across Europe by train, living in hotels and the spare rooms of friends and family. Those people might be right — but the three of us seem to have survived intact.
On the last day of April, we handed over the keys to our old house and caught the night train south. For a little while, we became a HOME away from HOME, and much of our work in those months took place around other people’s kitchen tables, as well as in local cafés, village halls and the occasional lecture theatre.
Which parts of the story can I tell you? There were plans that didn’t come to fruition, unplanned events on both sides of our family that caused us to change course. It was a time of transition, as I handed on the last of my responsibilities after ten years at Dark Mountain, and that took up a lot of time along the way. In the last ten days of those ten years, we walked from the edge of London to the edge of Oxford in the company of friends and fellow travellers, old and new — and to do that with a small boy in a buggy was another kind of foolish, but we did it all the same.
There were so many conversations, on the banks of the Thames, in children’s playgrounds, late night around the latest kitchen table, or in the lounge at Newspeak House — where we were their first family-in-residence for two weeks in June. Everywhere we went, people asked us about the plans for the next stage of this school, and as we talked about the plans together, I could feel them taking shape. There will be more to say about that soon.
Meanwhile, there were also public moments along the journey, and a couple of these were captured on video. Someone has clipped together a five-minute ‘highlights’ of the talk I gave at the European Commission’s CONNECT University on 13th May, as part of an event with Jem Bendell and Alison Green of Extinction Rebellion.
A week-long tour through Devon and Cornwall in early June included an evening at Falmouth University, hosted by Café Disruptif and the Dark Ecologies research group, a chance to expand on the theme of ‘negotiating the surrender of “our” way of living’.
If you prefer reading to watching videos, then I’ve also written about these things for This Is Not A Drill!: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook — and you can read my chapter online here.
Then there’s the essay I wrote for Issue 15 of Dark Mountain, ‘After We Stop Pretending’, which traces the thread that led from our first course in Sweden last June to meeting Gail Bradbrook in Stroud last October, weeks before Extinction Rebellion first surfaced into public consciousness:
Now look again at the island — the one in the photograph on the homepage for this school called HOME — and see how it changes when I tell you that the scatter of low buildings by the jetty is the oldest preserved oil refinery in the world, the soil still poisoned from spills before our grandparents were born. This is where we meet, in a landscape whose beauty is haunted by a history of extraction. Whatever else there may be to say, this is the background against which our voices rise and fall.
We are back in Sweden this autumn, looking for a place to call HOME, and I will write more soon about where all of this is headed.
Meanwhile, we’re working with our friends at SAKUM to host a workshop here in Västerås on 4 November — Wild Ink is an evening of hands-on ink-making with our collaborator Caroline Ross, whose houseboat was a home away from home in the days before we set off to walk the Thames. I’ll post more details here shortly — but meanwhile, you can read all about it on the Facebook event, including who you write to if you want to book a place.
Finally, thank you from the depths of our well-travelled hearts to all of you who took us into your homes, broke bread with us, brought out old boxes of Lego and made us welcome in a hundred other ways during this season of wanderings. May the path ahead bring you to our threshold, one of these evenings, that we might sit together around the table once again.