Please join me for the 16th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture!
Professor Jim Al-Khalili and TV producer John Lloyd will be the guest speakers at this year’s Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture, an annual event organised by Save the Rhino International, to be held on Thursday, 18 May, at the Royal Geographic Society in London.
The event, a tribute to the late Douglas Adams, one of the charity’s founding patrons, will bring people together for an evening of science, exploration, and comedy, all in support of rhino conservation.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili will share his perspective on the nature of infinity, time and space, giving answers to the questions many people want to know, but have been too afraid to ask.
John Lloyd will be reading from the hilarious The Meaning of Liff, a book that he co-wrote with Douglas Adams, whilst reflecting on his life and career in his trademark witty yet insightful style.
The audience will also hear from Jon Taylor, Managing Director of Save the Rhino International, who will provide insight into the world of rhino conservation. The evening will be hosted by me, Rachel Wheeley, comedian and fan of Douglas and his work.
Douglas Adams, famous for writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, helped establish Save the Rhino in the early 1990s. Before his untimely death in 2001, Douglas was passionate about supporting the charity’s conservation efforts, including by hiking to Kilimanjaro in a rhino costume in 1994.
Since 2003, Save the Rhino has held Memorial Lectures in Douglas’s honour. The events have featured comedians, explorers, and scientists, including Alice Roberts, Stephen Fry, Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, Mark Carwardine, Baroness Susan Greenfield, and Benedict Allen.
The lecture will be live-streamed for audience members around the world to join. Both online and in person tickets for the event can be purchased via the link below:
All proceeds will go towards Save the Rhino International’s work to support vital rhino conservation projects across Africa and Asia.
I hope you can join me for this very special 16th Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture. I’m so excited to be hosting this event again, and keen to build the profile of the event to encourage more people to come and hear inspiring talks by scientists in Douglas’s honour.
Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you there.
Welcome to a special blog post complementing the current series (Series 35) of my walking podcast, Walk the Pod! In this series, I’ve been discovering an amazing initiative called Beat the Street in my local area of Merton. This program promotes walking, cycling, and running, transforming communities and making a significant impact on people’s lives and the environment. Let’s delve into how Beat the Street works.
The Birth of Beat the Street
Beat the Street is an innovative, real-life game that encourages communities to get moving by turning neighbourhoods into a giant playing board. The initiative was created by Dr. William Bird MBE, a doctor and entrepreneur, who is passionate about the preventative benefits of physical activity. Dr. Bird created a fun, engaging, and inclusive way for people of all ages and abilities to become more active, with the aim of ultimately improving their health and well-being.
How Beat the Street Works
The concept of Beat the Street is simple yet effective. Participants sign up and receive a card or fob, which they use to tap onto “Beat Boxes” installed on lampposts throughout the local area. Points are earned for every tap, and the more points collected, the more rewards and prizes participants can win. In addition to individual rewards, community groups, schools, and workplaces can also compete against each other, fostering a sense of camaraderie and friendly competition. In Merton, the local schools are giving packs of cards (one for the child, one for their grown up) to all children under the age of 11. Players over the age of 11 can collect a card from a distribution point (libraries and health centres) and connect it to their player profile. Is there a Beat the Street app? Of course there is!
The Impact of Beat the Street
Since its inception, Beat the Street has been successfully implemented in numerous locations around the world, resulting in increased physical activity levels, reduced congestion and pollution, and stronger community bonds. The initiative has motivated people to ditch their cars and opt for more sustainable forms of transportation, ultimately leading to a greener environment. I’m delighted that Beat the Street has come to my local area, and lovely to see that Dr. Bird gave a talk at Merton Council to launch the game here.
Walk the Pod and Beat the Street: A Shared Vision
My walking podcast, Walk the Pod, shares many common goals with Beat the Street. Both initiatives focus on promoting the benefits of walking and the importance of connecting with nature, our surroundings, and each other. As the host of Walk the Pod, I have witnessed first hand, and experienced for myself, how walking can help individuals de-stress, improve their mental health, and build a sense of community. My friends at trundl love Beat the Street too, and you can Beat the Street whilst racking up kms for charity via trundl at the same time – and with Sustrans—a government department dedicated to walking and cycling improvements in London—the walking ecosystem is expanding all the time.
An inspiring initiative
Discovering Beat the Street in my local area of Merton this week has been a delightful experience. Walk the Pod can draw inspiration from this initiative and continue to encourage more people to take up walking as a way to enhance their lives.
Beat the Street is a remarkable project that has the power to transform communities through increased physical activity and social connections. As I continue to explore Merton and share my walking experiences through Walk the Pod, I’m excited to see the positive impact of initiatives like Beat the Street on local communities. So, grab your trainers, tap into your local Beat Box, and join me on this exciting journey as we walk our way to a healthier, happier, and more connected world.
Stay in touch for future blog posts and podcast episodes, where we’ll uncover more fascinating insights about the transformative power of walking. And if you haven’t listened to Walk the Pod before, or are interested in joining the Walk the Pod lunch time walk club, a global walking community, do get involved. Until then, happy walking!
I walked down a road called Grand Drive in Morden today and stopped outside a tennis academy, which had a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s If printed on a large, Wimbledon branded, hoarding:
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
I’ve read If before and like the bit about not losing your head when all around you are losing theirs (and blaming it on you.) Dad quotes that to me occasionally. Working in a Higher Education setting, it’s good advice. But the bit about triumph and disaster hadn’t caught my attention.
It’s interesting that the All England Club Community Sports Ground chose to put this quote in a prominent place (visible from the entrance of the ground). I caught the attention of a security guard in a hut by walking up to the gate so I could take a picture of it.)
“It’s ok!” I reassured the guard, “I’m not coming in, I just want to take a picture of that quote.” He smiled at me in a slightly pitying way and went back to his paper.
But the quote made me think. Often, I hear giddy sports journalists bouncing up to cricketers and trying to get them to display a bit of emotion after a particularly spectacular win, or defeat (mostly win these days, amazingly.) “How did that feel?” they implore, hoping the triumphant captain will drop the veil of grace and humility and admit that they enjoyed smashing all hell out of New Zealand just a little bit.
They absolutely refuse to comply. Presumably, media training these days recommends that an astonishing victory or defeat should not lead to a change in behaviour. Why? Because of the knock on effect on team mates and our own confidence. Melancholy, or complacency, sets in, and performance is negatively affected. Much better then to treat the latest result as a fleeting occurrence, and to get back to the nets.
Tennis stars are much the same. Andy Murray used to come in for a drubbing by the satirical Radio 4 show, Dead Ringers, which used to poke fun at his monotonous responses to any and all questions from journalists. But whatever you think about Andy Murray as a person or a player, the approach is spot on. Whether we win or lose, we should disengage from the result, and get back to practice.
The I Ching agrees. When we look at hexagrams such as 63: After Completion, it counsels to avoid any kind of unbalancing thoughts that might disturb our dignity or independence (Anthony, 1988). The I Ching may be a bit ‘woo’ for many Walk the Pod readers, but my position on things like tarot or tao is that if the guidance is sound, and written by a wise person whose values I agree with, then it doesn’t matter whether cards, tea leaves or the shape of an ink blot was the origin.
I don’t believe that anything supernatural is going on, but I like to believe that in a world where we can occasionally see all of science overturned by a new theory, it’s possible that human intuition taps into something more profound and scientific that we don’t yet understand.
The ancient Persian saying, ‘this too shall pass’ is popular for just the same reason. The good, as well as the bad, shall pass, and this phrase reminds us to take it one day (one hour, or one minute) at a time when things are bad, and to enjoy every moment when things are good. Because nothing lasts for long.
Anthony, C.K., (1988) A Guide to the I Ching. 3rd edn. Massachusetts: Anthony Publishing Co.
I walk, always have. School and back was four miles a day, rain or shine, in clothes made mainly of polyester (oh, the sweaty 70s). Buses were too random, and in any case were full of sharp-elbowed, tough old ladies. So I walked everywhere, and liked it. It was just me and the road and the sky, and we became firm friends.
But I never got into counting steps, I’ve never been tempted to wear a Fitbit and I’m a bit wary of people who do. Hell, I don’t even measure my waistline, except by seeing which pair of jeans fits (the elasticated ones). So, why am I trying out a walking app called trundl?
The short answers are, because trundl is not your typical walking app and my friend Rachel thought I’d like it. And she, I believe, would rather nail jelly to a wall than persuade me into something competitive.
It’s also a sad fact of life in the suburbs – where I and more than half of us live – that, after a few years, our motivation to go out and walk around our all-too-familiar home patch can dwindle, especially if there are no nearby green spaces big enough to get satisfyingly lost in. So, I was kind of in the market for a kick in the backside.
Not that trundl ever kicks; it prefers to nudge. The app sets up a triangular relationship between charities, businesses (‘brand partners’) and you, the individual trundlr. You pay a monthly subscription – currently £3.99 – and trundlr commits to giving at least 10 percent of that to the charities. But that’s not the main deal: at the heart of the app are Community trundls, in which all trundls completed within a period of about a week count towards a specific distance goal. Reaching the goal triggers extra donations, often given by a business, for a specific charity (they rotate). You don’t have to sign up to a Community trundl; your trundls are automatically counted towards them when one is happening, which is often.
trundl describe their app experience as ‘Go, Give, Get.’ ‘Go’ means recording your walks—trundls—in the app. ‘Give’ means selecting your preferred charities from a list, currently just five. ‘Get’ means getting rewards, which consist of Badges, i.e. markers of your progress, and Offers in the form of discount codes from trundl’s brand partners. There is also News: summaries of past and future Community trundls.
I asked my twentysomething kids if they’d use trundl. They’re digital natives and have a sharp appreciation of what they see as the true nature of most internet commerce: when there’s no discernible product or the product is free, you’re the product – or your data is.
So, no surprise when they were sceptical. “What are you getting for your money? You can count your steps or track your walks for free on any smartphone, and if you want to give money to a charity, give it direct; they’ll get 100 percent plus Gift Aid instead of just 10 percent. The app is just serving you up on a plate as a niche market to businesses.”
OK, thanks lads. And go easy on the cynicism, it costs, y’know. I don’t doubt the app has a commercial logic behind it. But come on, if the offers work, if they give you discounts on stuff you actually want, what’s happening is, your subscription is supporting a platform that promotes a net flow of money through the app from businesses to charities. That’s good, right? That’s different from direct giving, and maybe better.
I’m a realist, I hope; I know I’m the product and this ideal scenario is likely to be realised for only a fraction of users at any one time, but I’m not just the product; I’m a walker who believes small acts of kindness help the world to turn – and why let the perfect be the enemy of the good? Its a great idea to link walking & giving, and I hope trundl succeeds. As the app grows, more users will attract more brand partners and more offers, so the fraction will grow too.
Ideally, I’d like more ways for trundlrs to interact; you can share your trundls on completion and add a comment, but I feel inclined to share only really big or particularly lovely ones. A way for Community trundls to connect trundlrs in actual communities would be good.
trundl is aimed at an underserved demographic, one I’m happy to fall slap in the middle of: those who walk for pleasure as much as health. I believe there’s no niche anyone could cram us all into. We power-walk seldom, amble often; we’re amiable rather than ambitious. And at the end of the day, we want to be tired out by our walking, not our walking app.
Editor’s note: trundl is available from your favourite App Store, check out the app here.
“Do not dream of possession of what you do not have: rather reflect on the greatest blessings in what you do have, and on their account remind yourself how much they would have been missed if they were not there.
“But at the same time you must be careful not to let your pleasure in them habituate you to dependency, to avoid distress if they are sometimes absent.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7, Chapter 27
In this passage, Marcus Aurelius, the renowned Stoic philosopher, Roman emperor, and star of What Would Marcus Do, a much loved segment of Walk the Pod episodes of the past, highlights the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the abundance present in our lives.
It’s all too easy to become fixated on what we lack, and to believe that our happiness and fulfilment depends on obtaining these things. The reality is that once we get to our chosen rainbow uplands, we spot another rainbow upland! Just over the horizon with an extra unicorn!
And immediately, we adjust our happiness downwards to accommodate the JOY we will feel when we reach this new and shiny destination.
But Marcus reminds us that by taking stock of the blessings we already have and cultivating gratitude for them, we can come to appreciate the richness of our lives and find contentment in the present moment.
Perhaps we should scan the horizon only for genuine threat rather than opportunities, and instead pay attention to what’s directly in front of us.
This idea of inner independence is a central tenet in Taoist philosophy, as exemplified in the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching.
I Ching says that true fulfillment comes from within, and encourages detachment from the frustrations of life, alongside the cultivation of inner independence in order to find peace and contentment regardless of external circumstances.
As I explained in today’s episode, I don’t mind if my daily reminders of how to be a happy human in the world are based on a system that taps into the supernatural, IF the advice behind the tarot card, hexagram or tea leaves is sound.
I see these systems, rituals or games more like a trusted friend whose advice I can take or leave. An alternative way of looking at it is as a way to randomise snippets of good advice on subjects that I need reminding of regularly. Such as, for example, not to try to get too much out of a situation, to detach and remember not to strive too much for success.
Simply choose a sound direction, then keep turning up, doing the good work, fighting the good fight and be prepared to seize the moment when those fleeting opportunities come along. And crucially, be prepared to change course when needed, no matter the upheaval required to do so.
Both Stoicism and Taoism advocate for embracing abundance as a means of cultivating inner independence. This is not to say that we should ignore or downplay our struggles, but rather that we should recognise and be grateful for the myriad blessings in our lives, rather than fixating on what we lack.
By following this approach, we can learn to find fulfillment and contentment in the present moment, regardless of external circumstances.
So, how do we go about counting our blessings and cultivating gratitude? Here are a few ideas:
– Take part in GratiTuesday: Take some time once a week to write down a few things you’re grateful for, or voicenote a friend with your GratiTuesday thoughts. These can be as simple as noticing a beautiful sunset, a warm meal, or a good, tipsy laugh with a friend at the end of a long week. Reflecting on these things can help shift the focus to everything that’s provided a little light.
“No matter how vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
– Stanley Kubrick
– Practice mindfulness: Pay attention to the present moment and all the good things that are happening. Take a few minutes each day to simply be present and notice the beauty and blessings in your life. Ignore, just for a moment, the cereal strewn around the place or the clothes that have been piling up all week. When the news is bad, look for the helpers, and try to help them.
– Show gratitude: Expressing gratitude to others can not only make them feel good, but it can also help us appreciate the good things in life. Take the time to write a thank-you note, say thank you in person or rugby tackle them to the ground to cover their upturned face with a thousand kisses, if you have consent to do that kind of thing.
– Give back: Helping others can also help us appreciate what we have. Consider volunteering or donating to charity. This series, I’m encouraging everyone to download trundl, the walking app that converts your kms into donations for charities including Dogs for Autism and the Trussell Trust. We hope it will be available outside of the UK before too long.
We have one week to go until the end of Series 33, dear Poddies, and I look forward to completing our topic of abundance.
Of course, I will need regular reminders to flip myself out of scarcity mode, so I dare say we’ll come back to this regularly.
You are warmly invited to join me next Friday evening at 6pm for our end of series wrap party, from 6-7 GMT. Find me in the Discord voice channel, for which you’ll need to join the Walk the Pod lunch time walk club, via patreon.com/rachelwheeley
As I continue to ponder the concept of abundance, something intriguing has come to my attention. And that is, nothing truly changes. We may think that in the future, things will be more manageable, that we’ll have a better grip on our to-do list, or that we’ll no longer be constantly rushing from one thing to the next.
But the reality is, if we’re the type of person who takes on more than is reasonable (guilty as charged), we’ll always find something to fill the void when we don’t feel we have enough to keep us busy.
I’ve certainly experienced this in my own life. I keep thinking that life will eventually slow down, but it never does because I take on more until I reach my limit.
Busyness is similar to the price differentiation marketing strategy of luxury coffee companies?!
They offer the same product at multiple price points to cater to different budgets. So, even if you’re perfectly content with a cheaper option, if you think you can afford the luxury, you’ll end up spending more.
Just like a cheap coffee vs an expensive flat white, there is a level of busyness that suits every person. We may think that having more will lead to greater satisfaction, but it’s important to recognise that it may not be the case. We might do better to appreciate the abundance manifest in what we have instead.
If abundance is the aura that we send out to the universe to say, I’m ready to receive more, then we should be careful what we wish for.
Walking is a simple and effective way to improve your physical and mental well-being, and podcasts are a great way to entertain and educate yourself while you walk. That’s why at Walk the Pod I’m thrilled to announce my partnership with trundl, the UK’s leading non-competitive walking community.
For anyone not familiar with trundl, it’s an app that connects walkers with like-minded people, so they can enjoy walking together. Unlike other walking apps, trundl is not focused on competition or ‘first over the line’, it’s all about building a supportive community of people who love to walk.
I first met the trundl team, Hil and Tess, in December and it was clear from the start that we shared a vision for creating a more walkable world. We believe that by working together, we can inspire more people to walk more often, and make walking a more social and enjoyable experience.
Through partnership with trundl, I’ll be building the walking ecosystem, introducing people who share a passion for walking to one another, and helping to build the non-competitive walking community.
I’m so excited to be working with trundl this series. Whether you’re walking in the city or out in the countryside, our episodes will provide you with information and inspiration to help you explore the world on foot.
This partnership with trundl is a great way to make walking even more fun and accessible. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to download the trundl app today and start connecting with other walkers in your area. Happy walking!
Are you ready to experience abundance on your daily walks? Join me on Walk the Podas we embark on a new series all about abundance, and how to recognise and find abundance in our daily lives.
Starting on Monday, January 9th, I’ll be taking a daily stroll through nature and exploring the many facets of abundance – from gratitude and generosity to mindfulness and simplicity.
On each episode, we’ll explore practical tips and insights on how to cultivate more abundance in your life. Whether you’re looking to manifest more financial abundance, or simply want to feel more fulfilled and content in your everyday life, Series 33 has something for you.
I’ll be inviting listeners to send me their voicenotes about what abundance means to you. You can send me a message now, before the series even begins, so that I can share your thoughts from episode 1.
It’s accepted that walking is good for you, and unlike other sports, it needs very little by way of equipment. Just some trainers or boots, depending on the weather, perhaps some rainproof equipment and an umbrella. Although I have been amazed since I started recording a daily walking podcast to find that 95% of the time, I’m recording on the most beautiful day in the world, or an overcast day, but not in torrential rain. I can remember the number of rainy days on the fingers of two hands.
So when I recommend tools and tricks for walking more this year, it won’t involve a shopping trip. The greatest challenge is finding the time and embedding the habit. And it’s this principle on which I offer you the following walking principles:
Social media is bad for the mental health because it gives us a raft of people to compare ourselves with, flipping ourselves into a scarcity mindset and making us crazy. OK, that might be me more than other people. But what I’ve found with everything, including walking, is that the more I am exposed to other people doing faster walking than me, the more demotivated I get. I do not enjoy logging onto an app to log my walk when the first thing it tells me is that my ex-girlfriend just won a medal for a 10K PB, when I like to travel at under 4 miles per hour.
Enter, Trundl. Trundle is a fantastic little app on which everyone is travelling slowly, and collaborating together to walk kms for charity and raise money for good causes. Trundl helps you give consistently to remarkable causes as well as access a platform for tracking your non-competitive steps. The non-competitive nature of Trundl is what makes it appeal to me. I’d highly recommend you download the app and give it a try. Plus, like other more competitive apps, it lets you record the pattern of your walk, so you can trace the shape of a kitten as you walk, should you be so inclined.
Don’t get bored
Walking can be boring and if there’s no awe-inspiring nature on your doorstep it’s hard to stay motivated, especially on gray and mis days. So my second principle is, don’t get bored. I would highly recommend making calls on your walks, or subscribing to book tape apps like audible, or podcasts, so that you have something stimulating to listen to while you walk. A Spotify playlist can also be a treat to listen to on a walk. If you’re really trying to pull some movement jujitsu on your brain, you could even make a rule that you’re only allowed to listen to your favourite podcast or playlist while you’re walking.
If one just keeps on walking, everything will be alright
I can highly recommend the audiobook of Mort by Terry Pratchett, narrated by BAFTA award-winning actor Sian Clifford (Fleabag; Vanity Fair; Quiz). BAFTA and Golden Globe award-winning actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually; Pirates of the Caribbean; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) reads the footnotes, and Peter Serafinowicz (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace; Shaun of the Dead) stars as the voice of Death. It’s truly excellent.
Very best of luck with your walking in 2023, and do share your own tips and principles in the comments.
Balancing work and rest is essential for both productivity and creativity. First of all, it’s essential to put in the time and effort to do the work and pursue our creative projects.
Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” But then, on the other hand, it’s also important to take breaks and give ourselves time to relax and recharge. As Seneca wrote, “Consult with wisdom, it will advise you not to sit forever at your desk.” Does anyone remember Celebrity Death Match? I’d like to see a contest between Pablo Picasso and Seneca on the subject:
Seneca enters, with a sling, “Do not sit forever at your desk!” he yells, unleashing hell in the form of a few boulders at Picasso. Picasso shields himself with an easel, and in response chucks a volley of cubes at Seneca (I may be missing the point of cubism here). Seneca skids hopelessly on a thousand tiny dice, falls down and breaks his coccyx.
This idea of balance is particularly relevant when it comes to creativity. In a TED talk (thank you Helen, Maker of Things for recommending this to me), Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the idea of “genius” and how it has changed over time*.
In ancient Greece and Rome, citizens believed that genius would visit them rather than being something that they possessed themselves. Gilbert argues that this perspective can be helpful in reducing the pressure we put on ourselves to be “brilliant” or “genius.” By thinking of genius as something that visits us rather than something that we are, we can have a more realistic and healthy relationship with our own creativity.
Ultimately, it’s important to find a balance between putting in the work and taking breaks. If we work too hard and never take a break, we risk burnout and decreased productivity. On the other hand, if we take too many breaks and don’t put in the work, we won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities for inspiration and creativity that come our way. By finding a balance between work and rest, we can produce our best work and maintain an ability to exist with contentment in the world.
What’s worked for you in terms of a balance between work and rest? Let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading.
*In the early 2000’s, I was lucky enough to appear on an episode of Dave Gorman’s Genius, a Radio 4 show in which Dave Gorman assessed various ideas to see whether they were “genius” or not. Stewart Lee was the guest judge on the programme, and decided that my idea (which wasn’t even mine, it was my then boyfriend’s, who didn’t want to speak on the radio) was not genius at all. The idea was, what if you invented a telephone that allowed you to hear what the person on the other end of the line said just after they hung up the phone. “Genius” it seems, is in any case, highly subjective.