Sun 19th – Sat 25th Oct
I am so getting used to not being in Spain now – it is cold and windy, cafes do not serve alcohol nor stay open after 6pm, and a nice glass of wine costs significantly more than 1 Euro. I knew life would get harder as winter draws in so I had planned some time away and the highlight of last week was a trip up to Edinburgh. By booking train journeys on East Coast, even when not travelling on East Coast trains, you get reward points and I had accrued enough for a first class return to Edinburgh. So I also booked a couple of nights in a cheap hotel and got myself a mini-break. The four and a half hours on the train were used to sort work and personal e-mails plus reading for pleasure and work. First class gives the treat of free sandwiches and wine and, perhaps even more importantly though, free wi-fi but with a decidedly iffy connection. I arrived on Thursday afternoon and in the evening caught up with my mate Andy who is a teacher up there. We did a nice drink in gaytown and then headed up to Greyfriars taking note of Bobby’s statue (a dog who ostensibly attended his master’s grave but probably just went for the cemetery bones). Though I claimed to not be fussy, I turned down several restaurants including one priding itself on ‘mum’s home cooking’. This is no attraction to me as my mum fries everything including baked beans and all in lard. But we found a fabulous Italian restaurant called Vittoria on the Bridge. I had a wonderful pizza and Andy had a nice Carbonara though the first one they brought was the incorrect one so that was whisked away and replaced but he was left wishing that the first one had been left behind. Then on for few more drinks till we were not wankered but nicely sozzled.
The next day (Friday)I took Andy’s recommendation and visited Real Mary King Close. Basically it’s a stretch of fifteenth to nineteenth century houses and streets that got built over but left completely as they were as part of the new building’s foundations. Pretty amazing and also it really struck home how bleak life was. We were shown around by a fifteenth century maid called Agnes. Back to Vittoria for their £10 lunch special and then onto the National Museum of Scotland as well as a bit of the National Galleries of Scotland exhibition on contemporary Scottish artists. And I also picked up some cheap geeky knick-knacks in HMV including an MTV wallet, a Star Trek key ring with 6 legendary lines, and a set of Dr Who christmas cards. In the evening, I ate at the Elephant House cafe where J.K.Rowling wrote a lot of the first Harry Potter books and then went on a ghost tour going into the Edinburgh vaults. Andy had been and experienced some ghostly occurences but I felt nothing unfortunately – perhaps that was because I have visited so many gay clubs based in basements smelling of damp? Saturday, I pottered in the morning before my four and a half hour train back. More interneting and reading but East Coast does not serve alcohol in first class at weekends. Indeed, they ran out of sandwiches but thankfully managed to get some more at York. Overall, I had a fun little break and really learnt to love the difference of Edinburgh to most other UK cities, something I had not really appreciated before.
So the week finished with Edinburgh but started with Brighton. On the previous Sunday I went off to the gym though not before having my little chill time as my gym does not open until 10am at weekends. I managed to get hold of the ‘Culture’ section of The Sunday Times which I love and noted that there is an Egon Schiele exhibition coming up at the Courtauld as well as some good stuff happening at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in the North East – perhaps I need to plan for another little mini-break? After the gym, I went up to St Pancras and got the Thameslink train to Brighton (cheapest ticket available). I always forget how noisy these trains are and prone to delays. There were also engineering works which meant a bus from Three Bridges. It was breezy by the coast and I had a chill afternoon. Unfortunately my favourite charity shop was closed and I had to deal with the agony of checking the QPR vs Liverpool match on Twitter. QPR are a very hard team to support. It all became very Keystone cops at the end with four goals in a matter of minutes and a final score of 3-2 to Liverpool. I am not really sure we are up to being in the Premier League (two own goals!); perhaps Harry has lost it – we all do at some point. Time will tell. In the evening, I treated myself to a nice Mexican and then back to my hotel for a free glass of wine and chill in the hotel bar with my latest reading book.
On Monday, I managed to bump into my bloody ex again as we were crossing the road. I have not seen him for over ten years and then we meet each other twice in the space of a month. Thankfully just a brief ‘hello’ was exchanged but I suppose it is also a shame that a seven and half year relationship had just come to that. I saw the first of the two old chaps I keep an eye on. Bob looked very well and the good weather meant we could go down to the outdoor Portslade coffee shop to watch the world go by plus he could have bacon sandwich. He is not allowed them in his nursing home in case he chokes on it. I then took a bus along and met Brian for lunch. He is doing OK though has got a new ulcer come up on his leg and heartburn problems. However his favourite manager has returned to her post at his sheltered accommodation. A decent train journey home was followed by an evening in with mum.
There was a strong social element to last week including, beyond even meeting up with Andy and checking in on Bob and Brian. Mum is OK and looking forward to a holiday with my brother, his girlfriend, the two children, and the dog (rather him than me). On Tuesday night I met up with a former boyfriend James. It is decades since we went out together. He is really looking forward to leaving London at the moment and has got his dog (Becky?) that takes up lots of his time these days. James is an excellent artist and I was encouraging him to do more of that and more of his blog. I also outlined my new philosophy for life which has developed from some of the shitty things that happened between around 2001 and 2007. This is very much about being future focused and trying to be as optimistic as possible which does not come naturally to me, I am a natural pessimist. I now think the past has little to offer us and we must not dwell in it – all we have is the future and we must make the most of that. I also caught up with Dave on Wednesday night and we had a catch up meal. And I was with him after my return from Scotland on Saturday. A quiet night-in, we watched Dr Who – I think Peter Capaldi is great but I do not think he is getting good stories plus some dodgy scripts. We then watched Strictly. I do love the Charleston which both Scott Mills and Judy Murray did though very badly. Bed by 9.30 for reading then sleep.
I was in the office last week on Tuesday and Wednesday with Friday being a leave day. I was late in Tuesday because I had to have my bloods taken at St Mary’s hospital in advance of my six monthly appointment with my HIV consultant on this coming Friday. This went OK though I did get some dirty looks from the staff for turning up in the waiting room five minutes before it officially opened. In work my main duties have been getting the final version of a digital report finished so it can go into the public domain. Some very sad news about the collapse of the innovative internet-based charity BeatBullying which could be a real loss for young people. There was also a good meeting with the evaluators (Liverpool John Moores University) for the abstinence based recovery communities being funded which will lead into a projects and evaluators meeting day on 1st Dec – very exciting. I met up with two people who want to apply for funding – both good projects but there is only enough money to fund just a few projects. On Wednesday we had an internal showing of a film about suicide which was very moving. And on Thursday morning before going to Scotland I attended a meeting of ‘intrapreneurs’, people committed to innovation and working in large organisations where this is not always easy.
On my long-term goals, progress last week was OK but nothing great. Around fitness I did a good workout on Sunday concentrating on weights for 50 mins. Later that day in Brighton I had a massage which was in part inspired by the need to get over the earlier footie result. Not the best ever massage I have had but the guy was particularly good at working on my thighs. Then on Monday night after my return from Brighton I had my monthly physio session concentrating on both my dodgy right knee and dodgy left achilles. There was no other time this week for a gym session which actually has worked out well as my monthly membership has just expired. My weekly jog is taking place on Sunday this week as on Saturday I was travelling back from Scotland; details about the jog in my next blog.
Health-wise I am feeling very tired and on Monday I had to have an early night after getting back from Brighton, I was in bed by 9pm but still had trouble getting up on Tuesday. I wonder if it is all linked to the increasing lack of light? I have been looking forward to clocks going back. It will be interesting to find out my blood results next week though I am expecting a decent CD4 count and an undetectable viral load. Around languages and digital, things this week have been a big failure especially having done only one DuoLingo session with no real excuse for such tardiness. In reading, I finished Duplechan’s ‘Blackbird’ which was OK. There were some strange plot lines thrown in and I agree it is more a Young Adult book than anything. However, its radicalness lies in being one of first books to try to portray a ‘normal’ young black guy coming to terms with being gay. Especially interesting were the documents, reviews, and interviews contained in the updated edition I had. Amusing that a letter from the editor was pushing the author to get something else written before this book had even been published. I then moved onto Paul Hoffman’s ‘Left Hand of God’. A good fantasy novel, very well-written though crossing over with so many familiar fantasy stories including Harry Potter, Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games plus a bit of real human history chucked in.
Website of week: http://ctrlaltmad.wordpress.com/ – Dan Harris is a good friend and better at WordPress than me but I have done a guest blog. Please feel free to have a read and look around Dan’s impressive site.