Sun 19 – Sat 25 April
Hope you like the blog title – it came into my head, made me laugh and it’s true! Dave has grown a big jasmine bush on one of his balconies and there’s a bird nest in it. The nest has been built by two little birds that flit about – we think they might be wrens.
Last week was definitely one of two halves. Work stuff up to midweek then off for a few days to Sitges, one of my very favourite places. After a period of intensity especially related to work, I am feeling on top of things (as much is as ever possible) and more in control of my life
A weekend when I felt in control
The weekend before last was very nice. Strictly outside the chronology of this blog but that Saturday night was really enjoyable. I went to bed around 7.30 as there was nothing on the TV (the best thing was Dad’s Army!). Dave stayed up but I laid there reading books and magazines interspersing with catching up on social media and Google. Overall, a wonderfully relaxing evening to be enjoyed every so often.
Then on Sunday I did my jog-run before going off on my own to the local car boot; Dave had work stuff to do. I love just wandering around and bought some books, a nice tin for Dave, and some Keith Haring cups – a great artist and one of the many brilliant people who died in the AIDS epidemic. Work stuff before the train to Brighton as I was staying over to see Bob and Brian the next day, the two old chaps I keep an eye on. A ridiculous conversation on the train. I was sitting by the toilet that was broken – people kept coming up and I would say ‘It’s broken’. Strange how people react, some were pleasant and some seemed to think it was my responsibility. The best reply was a dim guy who responded by saying ‘Oh, broken as in not working?’!
Brighton, Bob & Brian
Sunday night, I stayed in a room above a pub – clean but old and tatty though what should one expect for £33? I must have been on one of my saving money kicks when I booked it. But I treated myself to a Thai at one of my fave little Brighton restaurants. The ‘hotel’ turned out to be quite noisy mainly because the place was so old and creaked. Then I had to get up during the night and walk to the shared toilet in my pants & a t-shirt, thankfully I bumped into no-one. I slept OK but left quite early. The police and paramedics were in attendance downstairs when I left, God knows what that’s about – probably a guest wrecked on drugs.
Last Monday was a beautiful day and I was strangely reminded of the crazy period I lived in Brighton with some nice memories before it all went rotten. This song always reminds me of that time.
The lovely weather meant I was able to take Bob in his wheelchair down to the local cafe for coffee and a bacon sandwich. Then onto one of my favourite gay charity shop to buy some books and a ‘Sleazy Madrid’ t-shirt. I met up with Brian for lunch who was quite well though thinking of paying for his beloved dog to go on holiday to give him a little break as the dog can be quite boisterous. Unfortunately the dog has also been diagnosed with diabetes – Lord only knows what he is costing in vet’s fees.
Embracing messiness and creativity
Back to London on Monday evening and to see my life coach Kerr for our quarterly catch up. I have been working with Kerr since I was diagnosed HIV+ around 7 years ago so he has a good measure of me. We particularly talked about whether it was time for me to move on at work. We also agreed that I need to embrace messiness more and learn to love it and the creative space it provides, moving beyond my normal concern to make everything orderly and solve problems.
Tuesday was my office day last week. As expected on the day before one goes on leave, lots to do and unfortunately I had to skip going out with my lovely colleague Katie for her leaving lunch. Most of my work stuff was around the Tech for Good programme but there was also stuff around other grants I oversee to my inspirational abstinence-based recovery projects and Stoke Wavemaker. I attended a briefing around the work we fund to help people avoid debt and a catch up about the mental health projects we fund. After work, I met with Dave for dinner before going back to his place to finish packing my holiday bag.
Adventures in Sitges
Wednesday breakfast with Dave then off to Victoria and Gatwick. I actually enjoy airports if you check in early – they have a transient and dreamlike atmosphere. Coffee, laptop, reading before a problem-free flight to Barcelona then the train to Sitges, a route I know very well. I stayed in a nice old fashioned hotel right in the centre of the town with a beautiful big room all to myself. My first night was quiet – wine and pizza followed by coffee and ice cream.
Good weather on Thursday and Friday meant that after the amazing hotel breakfast buffet I could go down to the beach for a couple of hours to lie in the gentle pre-lunchtime sun. I went to Balmins, the gay naturist beach past the church and by the cemetery. Back for a nice curry lunch on Thursday and a more conventional Spanish Menu Del Dia on Friday (the traditional lunchtime offering by restaurants of a three course meal including bread and wine for under 10 Euros). Then on both days I went on a long walk along seafront to Los Bosques (nature park / public woodland) to wander around. Lots of reading as you would expect but a big disappointment that my ipod died.
Sant Jordi’s Day
Thursday was particularly interesting because it was St George’s Day in the UK but he is also the patron saint of Catalunya where he is known as Sant Jordi. Patriotism linked to the desire for their own independent state meant people treated the day very seriously giving out red roses to everyone. There was also a big secondhand book fair on the seafront (apparently books are a traditional gift to men on St George’s day in Spain but I think the day may also have been linked to some international book / reading event?). I did manage to pick up several English language books including a couple of gay ones.
Cloudio at the weekend
Saturday was a cloudy day so no beach which was probably good for my skin but generally a bit annoying. I went for my normal long walk along the promenade reading a book as I went and ended up at los bosques. Lots of people go there for hiking, etc and I did chat to some Spanish people to try to improve my Spanish. One really friendly, chatty Spanish man spoke no English at all but I managed to get most of what he talking about. It was a busy Saturday night in the town and I had an afternoon snooze (a disco nap but without the disco later) before going out in the evening to watch the world go by. Sitges is renowned for its gay bars but I wasn’t really in the mood. What I do love about Spain is simply the ability to stay up late and have coffee and alcohol whilst just watching the world go past. And there is plenty to see in Sitges including men dressed like peacocks, drag queens, macho Spanish men, and sexy stag parties. Very much a place to see and be seen.
My sleep on holiday was a bit weird. I slept well on the first night but then intermittently after that. Lots of strange dreams particularly related to very difficult times in my past. Overall, not too unpleasant and I actually enjoy getting a wee bit sozzled then having weird dreams knowing I have not got to get up for work the next day.
Exercise, languages, digital – all my development stuff
Jog-run went well – I am keeping details on a separate page. No other exercise last week because of my holiday though lots of long walks. For language skill development, I relied on being in Spain to absorb the language plus bit of Duolingo and I started an iversity e-learning course – big question is will I keep it up? Digital was disappointing because I was supposed to go to WordPress User Group London on Tuesday evening which I really enjoy but I was simply too tired. After looking at the presentation online post-event I wished I had gone – bugger.
Books and reading
I finished Colm Toibin’s ‘Nora Webster’, a beautifully written story about a widow’s life in rural Ireland in the early seventies – a very old fashioned existence. Toibin really is very good novelist though I wonder if he is falling into the trap of sanitising and romanticising the monotony of the past?
I then moved onto another Terry Pratchett novel, ‘Night Watch’. I still can’t believe he is dead and the Discworld novels have now ended – depressing to think that such creative genius is over. The novel was great fun, a time travel story giving some of Ankh-Morpok’s history.
Time to move to something perhaps less ‘fantastic’ so I went onto Hans Fallada’s ‘Once a Jailbird’. A very earthy German who unfortunately lived in the first half of the twentieth century dying in 1947. This book was written in 1934 and covered the depressingly grim life of a man who has left prison and is trying to start his life again. Thank God for the welfare state we have now.
And finally, I also dipped into John Brunner’s ‘Times Without Number’ – classic sixties sci-fi. An alternative history where the Spanish Armada successfully invaded England in 1588 and time travel was discovered by twentieth century. But the same civilisation had not learnt about nuclear bombs or space travel. Basically a story of the chaos of time being tampered with especially via proliferation by nations and individuals. In many ways, I think this was as much a commentary on the contemporary nuclear threat and that has come right up to date with the threat that now comes not just from rogue states but also lone terrorists. And ultimately the suggestion is that our history is the false one…