#016 — With Us For Millennia

Hi, hello, how are you? I hope (hemisphere-depending) that you’re finding ways to enjoy the tail end of summer. Here in Oxford I took a walk through my local park a few days ago, and found a mid-autumn’s worth of crispy brown and orange leaves sat around in piles, baked by the persistent heat and lack of rain.

Occasionally here at Tendrils, we like to put together an ‘Oops All Bullets’ edition, and this feels like a good time to do so. Let’s get to it: some brief notes from my week.

One thing I learned about alpacas, when my partner and I took some for a walk, was that they never stop eating. On the left above, my friend for the morning: Bollinger. He was a somewhat standoffish chap, recently shorn, a big fan of anything and everything vaguely green amid the yellowed-out fields. If Bollinger wanted to halt progress for a few minutes to consume something verdant, I quickly learned there wasn’t much I could do to dissuade him.

All told, however, I loved his company, and I had it fairly easy. Another thing I learned (as pictured on the right above) is that sometimes one’s alpaca may decide they want to take a dip in the lake. Should this occur, your main preoccupation — as they paddle out, then lay down up to their haunches, before springing suddenly back to their feet in a plume of swampy spray — will be to avoid going in yourself. That there is the aptly-named Joker, making an effort to pull my special lady friend in after him.

This week I watched the documentary Stay On Board: The Leo Baker Story (2022). I found it to be a moving portrait of someone struggling to reconcile their personal truth, with the story the world has told them about themselves. At the core of the film sits Baker’s decision as to whether or not they will take up the opportunity to represent their country in the Tokyo Olympics’ inaugural skateboarding competition. Behind, and surrounding that, is a story about finding the courage to be yourself, whatever the cost might be.

Side note: for five minutes at the turn of the century I was the worst skater you’ve ever seen. I still cherish every glance I can get into the skate community and, whilst Baker’s story is the centrepiece here, I also enjoyed the opportunity to tap back into inspiration from a corpus of people characterised by its warmth, and a mix of creativity, insane rigour, and chill acceptance.

Since we got a one year pass back in March, we’ve walked this route around the Blenheim Palace grounds a few times. You get to see a little of the estate, cross the River Glyme, then spend some time surrounded by gnarly old oaks and thick banks of ancient ferns. You might see some grouse, almost certainly some sheep, once: a fawn. Maybe, at the end, you’ll get an ice cream cone (vanilla & clotted cream w/ a flake).

Speaking of food. This week I had bibimbap for the first time, at Pan Pan Asian Street Food here in Oxford. I remember reading about the dish in Michelle Zauner’s memoir Crying in H Mart (2021) and it stuck in my mind, frankly, because it’s such a fun word to say. It was delicious, and we’ve now purchased the ingredients to take a stab at making our own — repurposing the gochujang sauce from my partner’s diabolical kimchi manufacture.

This weekend was the Oxford City Royal Regatta. After many early mornings and post-work evening sessions, my special lady friend’s boat suffered a non-recoverable equipment failure ~25 strokes into their first race. Certainly super unfortunate, but elsewhere her club had some really strong results. Next time, whatever the weather, every member of the crew is going to be wearing lucky rowing socks.

This morning we walked out to the newly-opened Proof Social Bakehouse in Kennington — a joint enterprise from two local indie companies, which also has a social justice commitment to offering ‘paid training and employment to people currently serving and recently released from prison sentences’. The ~70 minute walk left us too late to snap up any of the (incredible looking) sourdough, but the coffee was dialled in, and I’m told the flapjack was “sticky, but good!”

• • •

The above might provide a neat transition into these bullets within bullets, if I was more talented at composing transitions. As it is, with a clunk, here we go:

• a short documentary on one prison’s programme for teaching chess to inmates;

• Tegan & Sara Quinn have been my favourite indie-rock / pop duo of identical Canadian twins for many years. In 2019 they co-wrote a memoir about their time in high school — titled High School —and that book has now been adapted for TV. To be honest, I’d characterise my interest in the project to this point as ‘curiosity’ rather than uncut enthusiasm, but I think maybe this new trailer has sold me on it;

• some days I’ll take any bit of ‘good’ news I can get, and this piece on The Verge, about advances in the fight against ‘forever chemicals’, was a good read;

• Björk has a new album later this year (!) and this profile in The Guardian is wonderful;

• speaking of music (again, transition game: weak), my pick of the week is Teeth Marks by SG Goodman — a country-inflected folk base, adorned with fun ornaments from other genres.

And that’ll do it. I’m all bulleted out. I hope something from this miscellany was of interest to you. If not — consider this — at least it was short. I hope to write to you again next Sunday, perhaps with something more focussed (though don’t hold me to it). Until then, have yourself a week!


— Adam