A little UK co-op tour

I’ve been intending to do a little UK tour, hitchhiking around talking to people, visiting co-ops, a bit of camping, and as the colder season is drawing in I better leave soon.

I’ll start in Glasgow and slowly make my way down south. I’m looking for sofas/floors to sleep on and co-ops to visit of any kind, housing co-ops are good for sleeping I guess, but I’m particularly interested in tech co-ops. I’ll probably write a blog post or two.

I’d like to talk about saving food (esp. with https://karrot.world), web hosting, kubernetes, platform co-ops, volunteers, grassroots, open source, CoTech, social.coop, etc…

I should be leaving in the next couple of days. If you wanna host/meet me lemme know! You can email me at hello@nicksellen.co.uk if you don’t want to write publicly on the thread.

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Sounds awesome, looking forward to you reaching Sheffield :slight_smile:.

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I can most likely host you in Newcastle, Nick. Sleep in the room next door to me again

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Hi Nick – let me know when you’re likely to be passing by Lancaster and I’ll see if it might work you sleeping on my sofa or somewhere…

Simon

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and I should add of course we have an interesting cohousing community here, and a workspace co-op.

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Hey Nick,
There are loads of co-ops in Oxford, so I do hope you’ll come this way on your travels. Let us know when and I’m sure we can sort out places to kip. I might even have a sofa bed by then!
Look forward to talking to you.
Cheers,
Finn

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As mentioned on https://social.coop, very happy to talk if your travels get you into the South Pennines. I’m interested to talk about #platformcoops and what comes after that, and Mark Simmonds and I would be keen let you know about what we’re plotting with Platform 6.

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Hi @nick , would be happy to host in Birmingham at our housing co-op anytime. Would be interested to hear more about Karrot as we are doing communal Suma orders currently in our network.

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Hey, all, thanks so much :+1: I’m quite touched how many people responded (and on the mastodon thread).

I’m planning to leave tomorrow. The planning could be a bit crazy, the further south it is the more vague my planning will be I think, but I shall do my best. I’ll intersperse visits with some camping too so my brain doesn’t explode.

My possible stops so far are…

I think I’ll message people individually/privately so as not so spam everyone. And I’ll endeavor to write some of it up on my blog.

Look forward to seeing some/all of you :smile:

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Hey Nick,

Just got sent a copy of your plan from Cath (Leeds but not in Leeds).
I’m not at home (Talamh) but I’ve forwarded to some who are. Recommend connecting with Bruce particularly. He’ll be in one of his workshops… either electronics or metal.

Enjoy.

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Do a quick video tour of each stop? That’d be great! :grinning:

Looks good for Lancaster, Nick. A couple of days notice would be great. Thanks.

Simon

Thanks @Abi_Talamh! I heard back from Bruce already (I actually bumped into him in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago after first meeting him 7 years ago on a bike trip). I’ll arrive tomorrow at some point :slight_smile:

Would be really cool for you to reflect on each one as you went by @nick Happy to copy edit unpolished thoughts as you see fit.

Up for obviously hosting you at our fledgling coop in East London, though probably enough overlap with the Newspeak lot!

Thanks @alex :slight_smile: I’m writing some notes as I go… let’s see how it goes…

I have decided to slice the trip into two. My brain will probably explode if I keep travelling at this intensity.

… but given the CoTech event next month I will continue it then to coincide with that (and the colder weather) :slight_smile:

I managed to visit:

Thanks so much to all those people :slight_smile: (and the ~20 people that gave me rides, the possible ~30 other people I’ve chatted with) and sorry to the people I missed.

I made notes along the way, so lots to write up when I get back to Glasgow!

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Go Nick! If we could all cycle to see ~10 other CoTech members we’d be hyper-connected!

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Well, a year later, I randomly opened my notes I made whilst on the trip, I realised I never wrote anything up afterwards, so here we go!

It’s very rough writing, I haven’t re-read/edited anything, and more a series of scrappy notes than a cohesive piece of writing, but that’s all I feel like right now :wink:

Hitchwiki told me hitching from Glasgow directly would be tricky, but I wanted to try it anyway, being walking distance from my (then) house. It worked! Got picked up pretty quick by a Polish guy with an interesting Polish/Glasgow accent mix. A freelance barman. Next ride from a climate-concerned, lib dem, health and safety values training guy - sounds like the kind of forced health and safety training sessions workers are forced to attend, don’t envy the guy leading the sessions!

I made it down to Talamh housing co-op in lovely sun, I had already met a couple of them 8 years ago on a bike tour and it felt familiar, although they had suffered from a fire since then, but the rebuild/repair seemed well underway, but meant the main living area was relocated to a different building. It feels a free and wild place, I never quite felt I could live there though, but I like the mix of people there, a decent range of ages. I had a great game of chess whilst there, intricate, free, and naive, just how I like it! (not interested in learning pre-defined combos).

Got picked up by the guy behind https://www.businesshitchhiker.com/ - who tries to apply hitchhiking logic to business, interesting! I’m a bit allergic to entrepreneurship and don’t share his enthusiasm for the capitalist version of the “sharing” economy (which is more about wealth extraction than sharing imho). He was quite enthusiastic hearing about my low-cost lifestyle and insisted I should write a book.

Then got a ride with a super chilled young guy in a lovingly cared for old Volvo 240. I could see he was going to pick me up as he approached.

That took me right to @KingMob’s family house. I actually spent most of the time chatting with his lovely and engaging GP mum and hearing about the politics of the various GP groups. I heard I was an intense but interesting visitor :slight_smile:

Hitching from urban/central areas in cities is almost impossible so I took a bus out to the A1/A69 junction, seems not a great spot, but got a ride in a van in <1 minute. A very peaceful straightforward couple, had been to look at a campervan. Then a motorway junction, and another <1 minute wait for a ride, in a lorry this time, I love those high riding positions!

@asimong kindly then picked me up from my drop-off point at a roundabout, which is very conveniently located for https://www.lancastercohousing.org.uk/ where he lives.

We had a lot of lively conversations about standards and protocols to allow more co-ordination between things, and a lot of chat about the storm that had recently happened over at social.coop. I had wrote more notes on our conversations as a lot of stimulating topics, but unfortunately lost in a sync error :confused: … something about the difference between individual and structural issues. In general though, I feel a bit more chaos to his order :slight_smile:

Got a ride out with a raver/hippy woman, she had been teaching but hated the work conditions, so now does various bits and bobs to be free-er. I can get with that… Next ride was a sad story, the guys son had committed suicide recently and he was over from New Zealand (I think) to deal with that, but also did work driving cars around for auctions, and then he relies on hitching himself.

That got me into Blackpool where I visited https://eahotel.org. I have been intrigued by the Effective Altruism movement, but a bit sceptical of the application of narrow rational logic to the problems of the world - I think it’s too easy to miss the role capitalism, power relationships, climate change, and other systemic factors have to play. I really enjoyed my stay though, and feeling a very different social vibe to other communal living environments I’ve been in (here it seems acceptable to abruptly end a conversation and walk off, less interest in “social padding”, which for me, is mostly fine, more free/direct, but could feel rude to others I think).

I found many of the topics discussed there too abstract for my deep interest - likelyhood of insect consciousness (lots of insects, so if conscious, need to radically alter plans to improve wellbeing), and different models of mathematical infinity (for mathematical ethics calculations). I am interested to hear about the topics, but would not pursue them further myself. I realise I believe more strongly in enabling human freedom (via democracy and other approaches) than trying to understand the world rationally. I kind of trust we can’t do better than that.

With that said, I found all the people there enjoyable company and we had a great time playing a real-life adventure game. It’s a massive book of challenges that you randomly select one, then go and do it. We had to try and prove the cliche that “a fool and their money are soon parted” (seemed true down at the seaside arcades), and playing a nighttime boules-type game in the local park. A lot of laughter. Not all abstract rationality!

Hitching out of there I got moved on by the police for being on the motorway on-ramp, but they suggested another spot, got picked up there by a lovely family off on a holiday. An IT tester for DWP and a therapist. The IT tester was involved in supporting old VMS applications to run in VMs. Was interesting to hear from him about the cycles of insourcing and outsourcing the work across various governments. The same actual people end up doing the work.

That got me to the edge of Leeds from where I walked/bussed into the centre, and onto Cornerstone Housing Co-op. It’s my 3rd visit there and was great as usual. I met a bunch of new people and some existing people. Always a lot of inspiring energy from various people in that house / Leeds. Got a nice connection to
Adam at https://trjfp.com/ about potentially using the open source https://karrot.world/ project I work on to help co-ordinate food pickups (although no outcome since… just followed up again actually). I helped out chopping some wood, very ineffectively! (very knotted and hard to chop).

After that I nipped over to Slaithwaite to meet up with @Graham and Robin Lovelace for a very energetic conversation about many things! Talked about https://www.pct.bike/ (Robin works on that as was interested to co-opertize it). I didn’t write notes on all the topics, but very stimulating.

Then a whole series of small rides through the countryside on my way towards sheffield. A tattooed dude in a van, a secondary school programming teacher, a couple heading back from a walk, a guy dropping his girlfriend off, and a pair of cyclists heading for the pub (as I was). I decided to have 1 night of camping on the edge of the peak district, but first a nice pub evening chatting with the cyclists. They were both IT people, doing corporate stuff, and we talked about pushing software policies to worker teams. Which was somehow quite interesting! After a couple of pints I wandered off into the hills and put my tent up at a lovely little spot.

Had a glorious coffee powered morning in the sun in a beautiful valley making my way towards @chrisc’s Webarch office. I stayed at his too and had a great time chatting with his partner about public health topics, especially gambling, and all the evidence based approaches (see the cochrane systematic reviews - https://www.evidentlycochrane.net/what-are-cochrane-reviews/). Very impressed!

Then a few rides to Birmingham. A quiet ride from someone on their way back from a golfing trip in Tenerife, then someone who had driven a long way to get his car tuned, but then didn’t trust them, and drove back. And finally a lovely ride from an ex-army, ex-police Jamaican-heritage Buddhist guy from Birmingham. Was very nice guy, very into giving his kids freedom, strongly believed in trust, and second chances. He now did investigation work and was tracking down a guy who was evading payments to support his child. He was tracking using invasive surveillance techniques. Suspect technology for a good cause! Tricky moral dilemma.

Then a great Stirchley, Birmingham visit thanks to @kawaiipunk. A super nice network of co-op businesses (cafe, housing, bakers, bike shop), and a positive atmosphere throughout. I was interested to overhear a conversation in the co-op cafe between an artist who had come up from London chatting to a guy who had been in/through the mental health system. Seemed like from two different planets, and a uncomfortable yet interesting mix of social and economic themes possibly misogyny, class/privilege differences, north/south divides, hipster/gentrification topics.

By this point I realised I was a bit short on time (I had left my partner in Glasgow shortly after moving there so felt should actually be there a bit more), but also super exhausted by then. It takes a lot of my mental energy to hitch and to visit people. Super stimulating, but I realised I was out of energy. I would have loved to spend longer though, the ideal is probably interspersing visits with more camping on my own between. I only had 1 night of camping on this trip but even that was super rejuvenating.

Rides felt slow on the way back up (maybe mirroring my energy), but eventually got a very dubious ride from a drunk guy (didn’t notice at the time, but then he pulled out the beer whilst driving). Pretty scary, but also really wanted to make northbound progress. He was super nice. Well, intense, he suspected he was ADHD but never diagnosed, seemed to have a very chaotic life, not at all really supported by society. He had such a big loving heart.

Was very glad to swap rides later with a super calm polish vet. Exact opposite, everything seemed in control. He was doing some kind of emergency vet service thing.

My mood was dropping and it was getting cold and dark near Preston. Eventually was approached by a workman guy who overheard me asking someone else. He had been repairing a digger earlier and was off to his holiday home in the lake district. Repairing diggers makes good money! … he worked long hours though. A ride from a friendly scot who did education work to break down hierarchies, he picked me up almost right away.

Final ride home was by an offshore platform worker, although currently working on a power station. He saw me and my “Glasgow” sign, and phoned his girlfriend to ask if he should pick me up. His girlfriend is a Vegan and involved in PETA, and seems to have opened him up to new mindsets. He was super open and itnerested and curious about all the things I’m up to. Seemed far from the typical offshore platform worker (from the stereotype and my sampling of the 5 or so I’ve met).

I got back to Glasgow tired and somewhat broken and drained.

I wasn’t very interested in hitch hiking most of my life, but when I started, aside from being a cheapskate and liking the free rides, the thing that keeps me interested is that I end up having quite deep conversations with people I would be very unlikely to meet in the rest of my life.

My estimate was I had pretty decent conversations with about 50 people in a few weeks, not bad given I used to be so socially anxious I couldn’t open the front door as a kid due to the uncertainty of who might be behind it! … and when I could manage it, could barely look people in the eyes.

I kind of want to make a grand conclusion from all the interactions with people (and since then I’ve hitched/travelled/chatted many other times), but nope, cannot rationalize all that input!

Thanks for reading :heart:

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That was brilliant @nick, many thanks for sharing. I think a longer version could make a really great short story. Perhaps do the longer more relaxed version with more camping and write a book? I’d certainly read it! Not since I first met https://mobile.twitter.com/evangineer have I discovered so many Interesting New Things in a single post :smiley: