Sun 15th – Sat 21st Feb
Why the title of the blog?
Simply that one of the big things last week was visiting Brighton to see James (who has cancer and is one of my best friends) plus to keep an eye on my two old chaps, Bob and Brian. Regular blog readers know I have very complex feelings about Brighton. Living there is a right of passage for every LGBT person and I was there for about 12 years with many good times and some lovely friends. But ultimately it went bad largely because of my relationship breakdown and falling out with the group of people around my partner. I can remember one night over-hearing his closest friend telling him he didn’t need a boyfriend and my partner said nothing – he didn’t agree but he also didn’t disagree; guilt by silence.
It was very difficult leaving behind the crazy party life that had developed and re-establishing things in London but I don’t regret what I have done for a minute. I love big cities plus I am very happy with my new partner, my new circle of friends, and my new colleagues noting how I ignored many good people whilst I was living my selfish and indulgent lifestyle on the south coast. Of course I would have done things differently if I had realised but in one’s own personal life there is no point in dwelling on this. As the old saying goes, ‘If your aunt had bollocks she would be your uncle but she hasn’t and she isn’t!’ So now I love many of the friends I still have in Brighton but I wouldn’t want to go back to what was a very negative period of my life.
Last week’s Brighton adventure
So I was in Brighton on Thursday and came back to London on Friday. Up at 7 on Thursday morning feeling a lot more refreshed after an early night and clocking up ten hours of sleep. I went to the gym then via the train (slightly late-running as usual) to Brighton where I met up with James. He has been dealing with cancer for the last three years. It has been dealt with in his bowel and liver but now he has it in one of his kidneys. The doctors are confident they can deal with this and have advised him that he is now someone who will be living with cancer as long-term chronic condition for the rest of his life. He is looking better but in his head he is feeling a bit down, possibly due to delayed shock? The key thing now (apart from dealing with the kidney problem) is thinking about how to fill his time. He has been medically retired but could not go back to his mega-stressful job anyway. What he needs to do is work out how to keep himself occupied beyond his current housework, cooking dinner, and watching TV. He does also need to bear in mind how things fit with his partner who is still working full-time and very committed to his job.
The weather in Brighton was dreadful with pouring rain and strong winds. I decided to treat myself to a massage so after seeing James I went off to the gay sauna. But unfortunately my favourite masseur Alan was not on and the replacement had not turned up – presumably put off by the weather. So I just had a sauna to warm up and make the most of the free tea and coffee. Back out into truly appalling wind and rain to find somewhere to eat. I went down Preston Street with loads of restaurants and dived into a cheap Thai busy with lots of East Asian students. A good choice – the food was lovely. Back out into the horrible weather and to my hotel to chill in the bar reading my book but being disturbed by the banal conversations of the other guests – ‘Isn’t it cold in here’, ‘This food’s not very warm’, ‘That taxi wasn’t as expensive as I was expecting’. I did not stay too long and went back to my room to check out the end of Eastenders and find out who killed Lucy – that was disappointing. The hotel looked out to the sea but heavy wind and rain meant no pleasant view and lots of noise – the big sash windows banged all night. I did not sleep too brilliantly either because of the room being very bright as there was some sort of floodlighting on the outside of the hotel.
Breakfast on Friday was a bit of a disaster as there was no coffee – ‘the machine is broken’. Nobody seemed to have the brains to think of going out and buying some decent instant coffee so we all had to drink tea. I did not fancy the cooked breakfast so only had cereals then hit the coffee shops before going on to the nursing home where my friend Bob now lives permanently. About twenty years ago he was the chair of directors at a social enterprise I worked for. We sat in his room and chatted – too wet and windy to go out. Then onto see Brian who I’ve also known for about twenty years. We had the lunch at the usual cafe and he filled me in with what is happening in his sheltered accommodation and with his beloved dog. Then up to the train station and back to my partner’s flat in London for a snooze before he returned from work.
48 hours of exhausting work
Last week I was in the office on Tuesday and Wednesday before going to Brighton; these became two very full days with little rest in between, 8-4.30 on Tues and 8-6 on Wed. I get completely exhausted doing intensive days like these as I need to keep so many things on the go at once: liaising with current and potential new projects, monitoring how different initiatives are performing, dealing with e-mails and phonecalls, etc. So many things that do not sound like a lot typed out here but actually take up loads of time and effort. Particular things I had to do as well was a telephone assessment on a new project applying for funding and a managers’ meeting. There was a lunch-time meeting about mindfulness on Wednesday which I wanted to go to. But when I came to it I realised I would probably get more out of going off on my own for a quick lunch break at my mad little gay Italian cafe to continue reading The Bone Clocks which I have very much enjoyed reading.
Social life and gaycations
So last week was dominated by the Brighton trip and two very intensive work days. I also did exercise (detailed below) and, in between all that, found some time to relax. The previous Sunday I could have gone to the local car boot after my jog-run but decided not to as I don’t want it to become routine nor end up as a buyer-hoarder. In the afternoon Dave dragged me to a matinee Edith Piaf performance by Susan Black at the Jermyn Street Theatre. I wasn’t sure initially but it was really good – very atmospheric in such a small underground setting.
The previous Sunday evening was spent watching TV including some people buying a winter sun place in Fuerteventura. I have an ambition this year to chase the sun and so last week I booked some November days in Gran Canaria as well as Sitges dates for late April but that’s my leave allowance for the year almost all gone now. Thank God for the internet and the ability to get cheap hotels and flights. However, I was pissed off on Friday to to find out that the flights I had booked for Gran Canaria had been cancelled so I have got to rebook with another airline.
I had time with mum on Monday and in the evening she cooked toad-in-the-hole for dinner and we watched double Coronation St together. I was excited that evening to see that the programme for Flare (formerly the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival) had been released – always a mixture of weird and brilliant cinema. I try to see a couple of films as much for the atmosphere as anything else. The next time I saw mum was on Saturday lunchtime when she came over to Dave’s way and we all met up to have fish and chips. Mum loves fish and chips but the two nearest her have closed down.
I was with Dave at both the weekend starting and ending this blog. Plus I had time with on Tuesday evening after the WordPress Users Group had finished (see below) and also on Wed night. That night I should have gone to a launch event at the ICA for mySociety (see WotW) – a great digital outfit but I was just simply far too knackered. I got back from work at around 6.30 and ate comfort food (curry, egg-fried rice, and rice pudding) before lying almost comatose on the sofa. I could hardly keep my eyes open and so ended up going to bed at 9pm thus missing the second half of Celebrity Bake Off and all of Wolf Hall.
Health and fitness
One of the big things in my life now is the joy I get through doing exercise and last week was a good one. I did my weekly jog-run on the previous Sunday and achieved a good result: 27.15 mins, 4.71 km, 5.47 pace, 344 cals. Truthfully my Achilles was slightly hurting after but this was much more noticeable Monday morning after getting up and lasted well into Thursday. On the Monday, I met up with my PT Sara and we did work on my legs and core including a lot of stretching of calves. Following my two exhausting work days, I managed to get to the gym for a general all-body workout on Thursday before catching my train to Brighton. I targeted all the main body parts: chest, shoulders, upper back, lower back, biceps, triceps, legs and abs. Saturday morning it was off to the gym again for another general body workout. I weighed myself on Tuesday and I had stayed the same as the week before, 13 stone and 5 pounds. Not the best news but a good jump-off point to carry on losing weight which is important not least to help take weight off my aching Achilles and knees.
A couple of good progress points last week. First, I got myself a new Chromebook as the operating system on my old one finally died and I did not have a back-up although I had had the old one for about two years or more. Chromebooks are cheap (the new one cost £200) as they are basically just machines to run the internet on but my new one looks sleek and modern, a bit like a Mac. One of my digital-savvy friend called Chromebooks ‘the spawn of the devil’ but I think he was being unfair. Then on Tuesday night I went to the WordPress Users’ Group London that I had found out about on http://www.meetup.com. The second session and as good as the first particularly due to the charismatic leadership of Eugene. We went through twenty top things to do once you have set up a WordPress site. I had actually already done many of them which was reassuring but there was still stuff to learn. We were also given details on a big get-together of WordPress users in London during March called WordCamp (see WotW) and I signed up to be a volunteer so getting free entry although it is only £30 to go anyway.
Reading and books
I have spent the whole week reading David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone Clocks’ as it is about 600 pages long. It is a series of semi-fantasy stories that don’t seem connected but then you realise there are subtle connections (and even to some of his other books) – similar to ‘Cloud Atlas’. The book is actually about one main character but there are great descriptions of other characters although it does get very complex as people exist within other people and the ending is familiarly apocalyptic. Main problem is that as a big, hardback library book so it was a pain in the arse to cart around with me everywhere.
I did use my visit to Brighton to pop to a couple of my favourite charity shops but stopping myself from visiting every single one I passed, and I did pick up some classic (retro) gay literature as well as a very good collection of counter-factual stories – what would have happened if…? During the week I also picked up a book at Oxfam in London by Sean Strub ‘Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival’. Sean is an AIDS activist and this book is a personal history especially about the early days of the plague.
In line with my attempts at frugal living outlined in the last blog, Monday I popped up to the Notting Hill Book Exchange to do a trade in on old books I had read. I got £20 worth of vouchers but I could not find any books there I wanted so I treated myself to some Dr Who CDs which I will burn onto my i-pod. I have been listening last week to two good lost stories from the sixth Doctor’s time (Colin Baker) – ‘Leviathan’ and ‘The Marian Conspiracy’ (the latter being about the Doctor meeting Mary Tudor.