Sun 15 – Sat 21 March
Following on from my fortnight of travel covering Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland; last week was another action-packed one to reflect on but without quite so much far-flung travelling and no famous people to regret moving onto the spirit world. I feel like I’ve been so busy especially with work stuff but also even in my social life. I am really hopeful that this period will end with mine and Dave’s Easter break in Berlin but life in the main evolves and flows rather than has revolutions and clearly defined phases. And such phases are often only identifiable long after they have happened. Worth noting that I had such a positive experience around digital last week, I have written that up as a separate mini-blog – feel free to have a read.
My frenetic social life starting with Mother’s Day
Last week began with Mother’s Day on Sunday so off to see mum along with my brother (who is doing really well in his new business ‘Decorating Danny’) and his dog who mum completely adores. We had a really nice lunch – an Indian take-away from round the corner with mum providing crumble and cream for dessert. Mum so loves ‘having her chicks’ with her as she puts it. Dave was up north with his mum taking her and two other old ladies to a local carvery for lunch; he reported it was very busy – no shit Sherlock, it’s Mothering Sunday! Back to Dave’s for a quiet Sunday evening on my own reading, playing on my computer, and watching the other DVD bought the day before, ‘On the Beach’. This is a fifties Hollywood movie based on the classic end of the world book by Nevil Shute, one of my all time favourite novels and well worth a read.
Monday day off and how ‘Whiplash’ upset me
My key social days last week were Monday and Friday. Monday became a pleasant but busy ‘rest’ day. Up and out early from Dave’s to see Sara for a PT session. From there to Soho to get my haircut at the friendly Chinese barber’s, only £6. Then onto Carnaby Street to get some new New Balance trainers. They did not have the ones I wanted with yellow laces in my size but I was persuaded by the enthusiastic young woman working there to buy some new all blue ones. They really are quite lovely but have been rubbing the back of my heels. To my gym for a shower and clean-up.
I had the whole afternoon to myself and so I decided to go to the cinema. I had seen good reviews of ‘Whiplash’ so I went to see that at the cheap Prince Charles cinema off Leicester Square (is there a more disappointing tourist site in London?). I found it a very upsetting film, basically a study in bullying by a teacher against a student. People in audience were laughing at his abusiveness for goodness sake. True the film suggested that once a bully always a bully but the way the bullied person bloomed in end was not uplifting for me especially as there was a suggestion that this flowering in part was due to the unrelenting pressure the young person was put under. The reality is that bullying destroys people and they never recover.
Weekday time with Dave and mum
I met Dave outside the cinema after he had walked down from Kings Cross. Coffee and cake at a busy and not too efficient Crypt cafe at St Martin in the Fields. Then Monday evening spent with mum particularly watching double Coronation Street though she has got this annoying habit of trying to change the volume but hitting the button to change the channel instead.
My other free day last week was Friday. Before that I spent Tuesday evening at Dave’s (though I didn’t get there till late after my WordPress group – see separate mini-blog), Wednesday night in Birmingham on my own (see below), and Thursday night with mum again particularly watching double Emmerdale together. She was in good form that night eating a curry that turned out to be too hot for her. She managed not to mix up the buttons on the remote control that night but she also has another annoying habit of flitting between channels such that we were simultaneously watching programmes about vets treating animals, couples having triplets, and older women marrying young men from abroad which end in (predictable) disaster.
Friday day off and cinema again: Flare – the London LGBT Film Festival
Thursday night’s sleep was deep but accompanied by a weird dream/nightmare about being committed to several things and not being able to decide which to progress with. Up and out for coffee then onto my beloved gym. Good all-over body work-out followed by a walk down to Waterloo making a couple of work-related calls on the way; both went well. I found a nice Cuban restaurant doing a special lunch menu so I had Cuban style falafel followed by a lovely chicken stew.
Over to the BFI to see the first film in Flare – the London LGBT Film Festival. ‘The View From Here’ was a series of shorts with a particular theme about young men in denial coming to terms that they are gay and in love with their best friend. Seven films – two from the UK and one each from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, France and the USA. All good though the most disappointing was one of the British ones which did not quite ring true or have the detail and tension of the others. The only off-putting thing for me was the fat man behind who smelt of stale urine. The young chap next to me was breathing into his jumper the whole time. Back to Dave’s and he turned up back from Plymouth around 9pm – feels like we are ships crossing in the night at the moment.
Work – in the office and remote working
‘Office’ days last week were Tues, Wed and Thurs. Tuesday I was actually in the office, the first time in a fortnight; my job is so much about being on the move and working remotely which is only possible because of digital technology. A busy day spent primarily working on our exciting new programme around funding digital innovation (Tech for Good) – we need to get the application form, guidance notes on completing the application, and website blurb all agreed and signed off by key people within the next fortnight; that means moving fast. Wonderfully my afternoon meeting was cancelled so I gained time freed up to get on with reviewing and signing off grant assessments as well as finishing shortlisting on first stage applications.
Wednesday and first of all to my gay Italian cafe for breakfast where the new guy who works there was missing one of his front teeth; I didn’t say anything but it was pretty obvious – had he had a fight? More work around the new digital grant programme (thank God for my colleague Nissa Ramsay who is helping me) as well as the abstinence based recovery projects whose grant funding I oversee. Also supervision with my line manager and we agreed time off / altered work days to attend Flare next week and then Berlin at Easter.
I left work later than planned at 4.15 to get to Euston to catch a train to Birmingham. Surprise, surprise – problems with the trains and my train cancelled. I got the next one but it was packed as one would expect. I didn’t arrive in Brum till 7pm and by the time I had dealt with deadline work stuff on e-mail then checked into my hotel, it was about 8.30pm and time to eat. A nice Chinese (Birmingham’s China Town is very good with loads of reasonably priced restaurants) but I was too tired after to explore the gay area around Hurst Street so I just had a drink in the hotel bar and an early night. Birmingham is a great place for a party weekend and I need to organise for me and Dave to come back.
Thursday I woke up after another weird dream though that was due to too many large glasses of wine me thinks. Off to Stoke on another packed train and far too cheerful, bouncy announcements by the conductor. Met up with digital expert James at the train station to discuss the new funding programme and our Stoke project itself to set up digital exploration centre like a FabLab or MakerSpace. We then went off to the meeting I had gone up for specifically around the new space (Stoke Wavemaker). The meeting took place at YMCA North Staffs (I think YMCA of the year) which is a really impressive set-up with modern facilities, well worth seeing if you get the chance. A good meeting, all the key people were there and still enthusiastic. I am really hopeful this project can do exciting things particularly for the young people of Stoke and be sustainable. I walked back to the train station across a very nice park and delivered James’ laptop to him; he had left it behind at the meeting which was a pretty impressive thing for a geek to do. Train back to London was OK though I was knacked and had to have a doze.
Exercise and health
Mothering Sunday I did my jog (not calling it jog-run any more as little running in it); decent performance after a fortnight’s break: 28 mins, 4.75 km, 5.54 pace, 347 calories burnt. Achilles and calves tender but quite bearable, previous week they had been a lot worse. On Monday I saw PT Sara for a core and kettlebells session. I like my routine so perhaps it is time to change to a new one so I feel challenged. Nothing again until my gym workout on Friday and nothing on Saturday because I was volunteering / attending WordCamp. I weighed myself on Tuesday to find I had stayed the same at 13-6, good and bad for obvious reasons.
I finished C J Sansom’s ‘Lamentation’ in midweek. Nearly 700 pages long but thoughtful and constantly engaging. The story is nonsense but it is comparable to the brilliant TV programme ‘Wolf Hall’ in showing the normality of people in history and at the everyday pace of life exactly the same then as it is now.
My next book was Catherine Hall’s ‘The Proof of Love’ She is a very good author I was introduced to by attending the Velvet Page Book Club that meets monthly at Waterstones in Piccadilly. And this book was good (I didn’t realise it was set in 1976 till half way through) but then the ending raced up and it finished. This really could have been a better book by being much deeper and longer.
I am currently reading ‘What They Always Tell Us’ by Martin Wilson It is a contemporary gay novel set in Alablama and written in 2008 by a writer from Alabama. Bit of autobiog going on her me thinks though perhaps made more dramatic and romantic than just coming out in redneck America. Still a perfectly decent read.