Perhaps the most common blog post in the world is the one that begins: 'I'm afraid that I've neglected this blog for a while...'
Here, then, is my entry to that esteemed Canon. I offer sincere apologies - I've never really been a blogger, though I do go through phrases of trying. To cover the awkward six-month silence on these pages, let me fill you in on what I've been up to:
From December through until late February, I was locked away in a dark cell, writing a book. Although it didn't seem possible at the time, that book is now close to becoming a real thing that will be in shops and that people (you?) can read, instead of just an endless series of blank documents on Microsoft Word that sucked away my soul.
The book, published by IB Tauris, will be called The Land Beyond: A Thousand Miles on Foot through the Heart of the Middle East, and will be available in all good UK bookshops (news on international versions to follow.)
In March I went back to the West Bank to walk once more, revisiting some of my favourite parts of the region. I'll be there again in November, leading a two week hiking tour. There are still spaces to join me: http://www.edge-expeditions.com/tours/walk-the-masar-ibrahim-al-khalil-november-2017/
In April, as recipient of the Neville Shulman Challenge Award, I flew back to Israel (it's been a pretty Middle East-heavy year) to begin a journey across the Holy Land that culminated in joining the Israelite Samaritans - perhaps the world's smallest and oldest ethno-religious group - for their unique, ancient Passover celebration.
More to follow on that soon - there will be some significant writing on the story, and some radio work too.
Finally, that brings us here to July, where I've just returned from some time in the Italian Dolomites, and am preparing for an expedition to Armenia in a couple of weeks. If you're wondering what the point is here, other than a condensed version of my diary over the first half of the year, then it's probably simply a long-winded way of saying that there have been some exciting adventures recently, and some great stories, and pretty soon they'll be coming your way.
Expect: a film from Patagonia, a radio piece on the Samaritans, a book on the Middle East, a long-form article on Portugal and, hopefully much more.
I'm not sure when I'll next check in here, but I'll try and make it sharpish. Thanks for the support, readers!
Recently, I've been writing a book. Or, at least, I think I have been. Here's how my days look:
5am- plan to get up
7am- actually get up
7.30am- head to the gym for an ass-kicking 90-minute workout!
9am - return from the gym after 30 minutes of light weights and a lot of sitting down
9.15am - eat breakfast at desk- much too busy to take a break
9.30am- arse around on twitter, make and drink three coffees, chew pen. Check Facebook, back to twitter immediately. Remember about Instagram- make a note to check it later
10am- finally get going. Writing writing writing! Pause occasionally to think of parallels with Hemingway. So many parallels
12.30pm- lunch, nap, walk. Consider going to pub- go home instead. Discipline is important. Think about how well book is going
1.30pm consider another nap, play guitar
2pm- spend 25 minutes trying to think of an amusing twitter status about writing
2.25pm - briefly catch sight of what's happening in the real world on twitter, feel humbled
2.26pm- begin complaining about writing again
2.45pm- back on it. Move over, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky...etc. Occasionally look at reference books on desk and think 'Suckers, this is what a real book looks like.'
4.30pm- drink seventh coffee of the day, take a 5 minute break
7pm - act surprised that it's been over two hours since any writing happened
7.30pm - eat toast and apples at desk- too busy to pause to make proper food
8pm- do best writing of the day. What a legend!
9.30pm - read over day's work. Feel horribly, awfully depressed. Text everyone to tell them about the full day of writing that's just occurred
10pm- go to bed - early nights are important
10.05pm-check twitter on phone for an hour. Look at weeks of unanswered emails. Think about how long it's been since any money came in. Descend into deep fear and self-loathing
REPEAT FOR THREE MONTHS
*occasionally replace all steps from 12pm onwards with 'Drink Heavily'