Lost Sentences

A notebook for half-formed ideas and other things on the mind of Emma Cragg.

My goal for day two of my trip (read about day one here) was to cycle a full loop around the reservoir. At 40 km this would be by far my longest ever ride. On the whole I was looking forward to it, but in the back of my mind I had a few anxious thoughts about what could go wrong.

Thankfully those fears remained in my imagination and my day was characterised by some good decisions. The first two made before I even left the B&B…

  1. Opting for a sausage sandwich and small pot of coffee instead of a full English at breakfast.
  2. Choosing to wear the padded liners in my cycling shorts, despite the heat.
  3. Seeking advice about which direction to cycle around the reservoir… and then listening to it.

This last one, I believe, was the difference between me finishing the ride and being beaten by it. Starting at Tower Knowe and cycling anti-clockwise meant that I was descending most of the steepest sections. There were still a few uphill stretches that proved a challenge for me but in general they were more gradual rather than short and sharp.

I also managed to avoid any nasty tumbles. Only on one of the latter steep descents that included some sharp turns did I feel the bike slipping from under me. I was able to respond quickly and managed to regain control.

I set off a little before 10AM with the intention of taking my time. However, there’s little reason to stop on the north side and little shade, so bar a couple of short stops to take photos and grab a drink, I continued along my way for 19 km.

Bike leaning against bridge overlooking dense forest behind and water below.

I arrived at Kielder well before noon. This was originally where I had planned to stop for lunch as it’s roughly half-way. I was feeling relatively fresh, and not in need of anything more than a snack, so decided to keep going.

A few kilometres further on, near Matthew’s Linn, I found a quiet and shady spot next to a jetty to eat my sandwiches. I would have loved to sit here longer to read and enjoy the views but the lack of a breeze meant the midges were out in full force.

Six small sailing boats moored in water off the end of a concrete jetty.

At 27 km, stopping for a tub of ice cream (the flavour was cherry crush, in case you were wondering) at the Waterside visitor centre felt like a brilliant idea but when I got up to get going again my legs felt like jelly. Thankfully the next few kilometres were pretty steady, retracing the route around the peninsula that I’d walked the day before) and I got back in my rhythm.

View across Kielder Water from the top of a hill on the north side of the reservoir. Edges of the water lined with trees. The sun is shining and sky is blue.

With 5km left of the loop I hit a wall. The loudest sound I could hear was my heart thumping in my chest. A brief stop half-way up a hill to throw cold water over myself and refuel was necessary. That pick-me-up just about got me to the finish line, where I arrived around 2:30PM.

Before setting off for home I bundled my bike back into the car, thanked the visitor centre staff for their advice, refuelled with my remaining sandwiches and a coffee and chocolate brownie from the café. I’d intended to take myself for a celebratory pint on my return home, but instead crashed on the sofa with a cup of sugary tea.

Cycling stats

Distance covered: 40.11 km

Elapsed time: 4 hours 36 minutes

Moving time: 3 hours 1 minute

Average speed: 12.5 km/hr

Max speed: 30.3 km/hr

Max elevation: 231 m

Tags: #holiday #northumberland #cycling

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In anticipation of starting a new part-time role at the end of the month, and losing the flexibility that my freelance life offers, I booked myself a midweek overnight stay near Kielder Water in Northumberland.

My plan for day one of the trip was to walk a 10 km loop around Bull Crag peninsula, starting and ending at the Waterside visitor centre. Day two would involve cycling the full 40 km loop of the lake on the Lakeside Way.

On day one I set off for my walk around 11:30AM and, given the number of parked cars, I was surprised how few people I met on the path. For long stretches all I could hear was the crunching of my footsteps, the birds and the gentle lapping of water.

I walked for around an hour and stopped in the shade of the pine forest to eat lunch. I made sure that distance wise I was at least half way along the route. My picnic spot was idyllic with a strong, and welcome, breeze coming off the water.

Shingle shoreline at the edge of a reservoir. Water showing a tint of red from iron content.

Before setting off again I swapped my camera for my binoculars to see what I could spot in what proved to be a dense section of forest. There was plenty of activity, based on the birdsong. I heard wrens, robins, and a willow warbler but only caught sight of the underside of a siskin and a very friendly chaffinch.

View along sandy path cutting through pine trees.

The last section of my walk along the ‘alternative route’ which helps to form the loop around the peninsula was by far the least scenic few kilometres. It was hilly too with a far more uneven surface and very little shade.

I finished the loop around 2:45PM and treated myself to an ice cream (a mint Magnum was the day’s choice) and an espresso. After this refuelling stop and with a couple of hours to go before I could check in to my B&B, I hopped in the car, parked up near the dam and set out to check out another stretch of the shoreline.

Top of a wall covered in moss in foreground with water from reservoir a deep blue behind it.

Walking along the dam gave a great angle across the reservoir and I enjoyed the return of the breeze. With the exception of a few cyclists on the dam who were coming to the end of their rides at Hawkhope, I only saw one pair of walkers who were following the same route as me onto The Belling and up to the Wave Chamber.

Stone kairn seen through trunks of a few towering pine trees.

On the dot of 5PM I made my way to the nearby village of Falstone to check in to my accommodation for the night. After cleaning up, I secured a quiet spot in the (relatively) cool bar to enjoy a meal and refreshing pint (or two) before turning in for an early night ahead of continuing my Kielder adventure on day two.

Walking stats

Distance covered: 16.46 km

Elapsed time: 4 hours 46 minutes

Moving time: 2 hours 7 minutes

Average speed: 5 km/hr

Max elevation: 249 m

Tags: #holiday #walking #activity #northumberland

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If you happened to pass by me this morning while I was out for a run you’d have seen me in my usual state during exercise; huffing and puffing, streaming with sweat and growing increasingly red in the face. Look a bit more closely and you’d also have noticed the tears rolling down my cheeks.

The tears took me by surprise and were brought on by my choice of listening — an episode of the podcast Changes where Annie Macmanus interviews Kae Tempest. It brought up such a range of emotions for me that are bubbling to the surface again while I write this. The tears came from recognition, frustration, overwhelm and ultimately hope.

The interview starts with a conversation about words and writing, and it feels appropriate therefore that the reason I connected with this episode so much was because Kae was able to put into words their experience of childhood, a childhood that has echoes of my own, in a much more articulate way than I’ve ever been able to talk about mine.

They talk about effectively living as a boy until puberty at which point the world kind of forgets that we’re all just kids and starts to streamline the sexes — girls to the left, boys to the right. Of the challenge of getting your hair cut or buying clothes. Of constantly being asked ‘what are you?’

“But the people that knew me, knew me, and they accepted me for who I was. But it was hard to meet new people because you always have to start from zero. Like you know, what are you?”

I’m grateful that my family knew me too and let me be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. But when you’re out of that bubble it’s tiring, and lonely, not feeling like you fit in and constantly having to explain yourself. I used to think it would be so much easier if I’d been a boy.

Now, with a whole heap of hindsight I’m grateful for my experience. Of being neither one nor the other. Of having such a strong sense of myself, and a big dose of stubbornness, that I didn’t feel I had to change to fit in to a world that wants you to pick a side. It makes me unique.

“I'm very glad of being this person now because I have the perspective of both. I have the perspective… which makes me sensitive to things about gender that cis people or people that have always been confident and comfortable in their gender, it would be much harder for them to have contact with. And this is real. This is what we have. This is the blessing of it. This is why it's beautiful to have people like us in the world, because there's things that we know that other people just don't know.”

There’s so much more covered in this interview about discovering yourself, the creative process and how we cope amidst everything that’s going on in the world, that it’s well worth an hour of your time to listen to it all.

To finish though, I want to return to that question, ‘what are you?’ There are many answers. Each one is the right answer for a different audience. But ultimately the answer I want to give and that should be enough is — I’m me! Emma, Em, or Craggy (whatever name you know me by). That’s it. No other labels or qualifiers needed. Just me.

Tags: #reflection #listenting #exercise #gender

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I’m fascinated by the different ways we consume, interact and engage with different forms of media. Over the past few years I’ve become very aware of how I’ve adapted my own approach to suit my needs and save my sanity.

I’ve read a few posts where people have shared the what and how of their media diet and thought it would be an interesting activity (if only for me) to write my own…


When it comes to reading blogs, RSS is my friend and I happily pay an annual fee to Feedbin. As with newsletters I try to be judicious with what I subscribe to and review the list regularly. When I do this I try to notice when I regularly stop reading and start skimming posts in a certain feed.

Here are a few blogs that keep me reading:

I also predominantly follow my micro.blog timeline via RSS (primarily on my phone). When it comes to the social aspect of micro.blog I switch to the app.


For the last couple of years I’ve committed to reading only books that I already own. Before that the ‘to be read’ pile (or shelves in my case) was only growing. Now I see that I’m making a small dent. An occasional books slips through the net though — a gift, something for work or a loan from a friend or family member.

I mostly read in the mornings as I wake up with a cup of tea. I switched to this approach after I realised I couldn’t get past a few pages at bed time before nodding off.


I made a conscious decision to stop watching the news on TV in the run up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. I briefly went back during the early days of COVID but was soon reminded how very narrow the reporting is and how there’s so much pressure for news to be 24/7 that often we just end of watching the same features over and over. You can add to that the increasing feeling that much of what is reported as news these days is merely gossip. These things all contributed to the sense that for me watching the news does more harm than good.

My consumption of news is now filtered through other channels – often word of mouth – and then I make a conscious choice to engage with it or not.


I use a separate email alias to subscribe that allows me to set up a rule so anything sent to it skips my inbox and gets dumped in a ‘Newsletters’ folder so I can choose when I want to see them. Nevertheless it’s still easy for them to get out of control so I’ve recently cut my subscriptions down to what I consider the essentials ie those that I read in full every issue, including:

Lately I’ve discovered that Substack newsletters have RSS feeds. I prefer to read in my feed reader so I’ve moved most (I’m keeping some essentials in my email) Substack newsletters over there.


Here is where the overwhelm lies. So many podcasts so little time to listen.

I prioritise sports podcasts. Why? They’re time limited. Next the list I call ‘downtime’ which includes my other interests and hobbies outside sport; film, food and books. I mostly listen when I’m exercising, on the move or in the kitchen. They’re also my go to when I’m struggling to get to sleep.

Everything else, especially work-related stuff, is building up and up and UP. Sometimes I think about declaring bankruptcy…. but the FOMO is real!

Social media

I only access Twitter via Tweetdeck on my laptop. I don’t have the app on my phone and I have Hide Feed turned on in my browser to block my timeline and all the trending topics that do nothing but raise my blood pressure if I have to visit the website for any reason. Until the API was turned off I mainly followed a few private lists via Feedbin. Since then I’ve noticed my engagement has dwindled.

The two social apps I have on my phone are Mastodon and Instagram. I check these a couple of times a day each and post occasionally.


I’m not one of those people who spend hours browsing YouTube or following breadcrumb trails from video to video. I go with a specific purpose in mind which is usually to watch a live sporting event, a recording of a live event that I missed or an instructional ‘how to’ video. I use lists to create a queue for watching things later. Anything over 15 minutes usually gets added to the queue and I then schedule time to watch these over a lunch break.

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On my walk to work today I listened to an episode of On Being that was a conversation from 2016 between Krista Tippett and the poet David Whyte. About 10 minutes in, as a precursor to reciting his poem Everything is Waiting for You, Whyte said:

we have so many allies in this world, including just the color blue in the sky, which we’re not paying attention to, or the breeze or the ground beneath our feet.

I have to be honest, although the rest of the episode played on, I wasn’t giving it my full attention. I was too hung up on these words and how they made me feel.

I looked up to the blue sky above me, with barely a cloud in sight. My world felt vast. I turned my attention to the feeling of the solid concrete under my feet. I felt supported. Safe.

I know the benefits of feeling connected to the world around me, of grounding myself, and feeling a sense that I’m part of something bigger (sympatheia is what the Stoics call it). But, I haven’t had a hook that calls me back, or reminds me of this connection. Now I do. It’s the idea that when I need it most these things will be there, without fail, to support me and lift me up.

Tags: #quotes #DavidWhyte #OnBeing #nature

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Today’s quote for reflection is taken from Eleanor Roosevelt’s book You Learn by Living.

It is your life — but only if you choose to make it so.

This quote feels particularly pertinent this week as I try to make choices — especially in work — that have me swimming against the stream.

It’s so very easy to get drawn along in the flow with everyone else and not realise that there’s another way, a choice to be made to do something different. Something that sits more comfortably with who you are and what you want to achieve.

The first step, of course, is noticing. Noticing that something isn’t right, that your needs aren’t being met, that you’re struggling or frustrated, and that something needs to change. And with that comes the realisation that you do indeed have a choice about what happens next. That you can break free from expectation and first make, then walk, your own path.

That metaphor of the path is something I’ve used before and have returned to recently. I used it to help me in the early days of starting my current freelance career. The path is mine to build, brick by brick. It will meander and possibly need to divert to avoid an obstacle in the way but overall it’s headed in the direction I choose.

I have a reminder of this on my house keys. A single yellow Lego brick reminds me I choose where and when the next brick is laid.

Tags: #quotes #reflection #journaling #EleanorRoosevelt

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Today’s quote for reflection is taken from a lecture by Alain de Botton (it’s another one I was directed to from Dense Discovery #181).

It is our expectations that define what will anger us.

I really relate to this quote as I recognise that when I most often get angry it’s because I’ve set unrealistic expectations for myself or others. I’m also very aware that in those cases where I have expectations of someone else often I’ve failed to communicate them clearly or at all. It’s in the gap that anger festers.

I write this in the full knowledge that I have a history with anger and how I respond to it. I have spent a lot of time working on this relationship and I know giving it my attention has paid off. I feel different and see that my behaviour has changed. I knew this quote was coming up as today’s prompt and so I asked my partner whether she had observed the same and I’m pleased to say she verified it.

In fact, I can’t actually recall the last time I was angry had an angry outburst. I changed what I wrote there because it isn’t that I don’t still get angry (although it’s also happening less) but what’s changed is how often I act out as a result of that feeling.

Returning to an earlier thought, I feel a lot of my anger is bound up in non- or mis-communication on my part. Through bottling up my feelings and not letting the people close to me know what I needed from them and then consequently feeling frustrated and angry when my expectations weren’t met. Things changed when I started talking with those close to me about how I am feeling and allowing myself to be vulnerable. They’ve changed even more since I started a more regular dialogue with myself through journaling.

Another thing to explore further is this distinction between the feeling of anger itself and the response to it or behaviours that result from it. It’s natural to feel angry sometimes, what happens next is the important bit.

What’s changed for me is that I’m getting better at noticing when I feel angry. Spotting it before it has a chance to fester and cloud my judgment... and then pausing before I act. That pause gives me space to choose what happens next. Happily, more often than not these days that choice is to let go.

Tags: #quotes #anger #choice #behaviour #reflection #journaling

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I’m a member of a community who meet for daily mindfulness and journaling sessions. I host one session every week too and in this capacity it’s also my responsibility to contribute to the prompt schedule. This week we’re using quotes as prompts for our reflections. Writing in response to these quotes is something I had planned to do personally, to breathe life into this blog, and I decided to share them with the group too.

Today’s quote is...

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. — Lao Tzu

When I first came across this quote (in Dense Discovery #181) I felt a response to it physically. A jolt. A lightning bolt. As I repeated it again and again in my head trying to distil its essence, and its lesson, I settled on the line that things will happen when the time is right.

I think the reason these words stopped me in my tracks is because I know I have a tendency to want to be further ahead with things than I am. When I set my mind on doing something, I feel a pull, an urgency and I want it to be done... yesterday.

What is the rush? Where are the benefits of hurrying to get things done? What can be gained from slowing down and paying attention to the process?

The longer I sit with this quote, the more layers emerge. In this morning’s session I was thinking about the various cycles in nature. Sunrise and sunset. The tides. The seasons. Migration. Metamorphosis. They happen without fail. Again and again. There’s no rush. No fuss. And yet again I came back to thinking about the routines in my own life. How they help me stay calm and balanced. How they help me to slow down.

I’ve got far more to explore on this topic than I have time for today. And so I’m taking a lesson from Lao Tzu. I’ll not hurry it. I’ll sit awhile longer and ponder it. And come back another day.

Tags: #quotes #journaling #nature

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When you turn to the sports pages today you'll see elated Newcastle fans celebrating the end of the Mike Ashley era. That's something I can join in with but what comes next is not.

I can't ignore the human rights abuses of the new owners. I don't want to support a team that is funded by the leaders of a country where people like me are flogged and put in jail.

I hoped for something better for Newcastle but this isn't it.

I'm out.

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Within the space of two hours today I've been addressed as brother and, as part of a group, ladies. Neither is correct. On both occasions the speaker made an assumption about me. In the case of the former that assumption was based on my appearance. And in the latter, on my name.

I know that the intention behind the use of each of these words was to be friendly and welcoming, but that's not necessarily how they are received.

I wanted to share this experience to encourage you to take a moment to think the next time you find yourself default to using gendered language. Especially when it's in conversation with a group or someone you don't know. Who are you addressing? What assumptions are you making about them? What non-gendered term could you use as an alternative?

This is day 39 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

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