The week Robin Williams died

The extremely sad and untimely death of the comedy genius Robin Williams casts its shadow over this whole week (and to a lesser extent the death of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall the following day – please enough nice celebrities dying). I think it was on Tuesday morning that I switched on the radio when I got up at 6.15am and heard about it. The outpouring of grief has been akin to the death of Princess Diana; no-one seems to be untouched by it not least because anyone who could have spent five minutes with him would have told him how he was one of the most loved people in the world. If we try and take anything good from it (and there must be good in all things) then it is surely the frank discussion that has come forth about depression and suicide as well as how it is reported in the media. I remember from my own period when I was severely depressed and suicidal how irrational my mind was and how I just could not see what other people were trying to tell me. My ‘cure’ was a combination of strong medication, my network of friends and family, and physically removing myself from where I had lived for more than the past decade.

At work last week but not a normal work week. I was in the office on Tuesday and kept to my determination to get a grip on the work-life balance by having an early chill at my favourite breakfast cafe before starting work at 8 (my boss was already there) and then leaving around 4.45 with a proper lunch break; oh the joy of not dealing with the tube manic between 5.30-7pm. And on Wednesday I deliberately started late (going to the gym beforehand) because I knew I would be leaving late – I actually didn’t get away till 9pm. The reason I had to stay late was to attend a reception for staff from British Airways who have raised money for Comic Relief. It was a really good event and my particular duty was to look after a speaker from one of the funded projects New Horizon Youth Centre in Kings Cross (see ‘Websites of the Week’ below). It was heartening to meet people who want to raise money for good causes on top of doing their everyday work and the genuine surprise of those announced to be the most successful fundraisers who will go on a project visit.

The other main thing that took up a lot of my time last week was two days in Glasgow. I went up for a meeting with the SeeMe partners (including Mental Health Foundation and SAMH – Scottish Association for Mental Health) and the Scottish Government regarding the work being done to tackle stigma and discrimination around mental health. Indeed, the ongoing need for this has been demonstrated by Robin Williams’ death and really good work is being done by SeeMe (again see my ‘Websites of the Week’). Thursday morning saw a dull long tube journey from Kings Cross to Heathrow followed by an easy check in at Terminal 5 leading onto a surprisingly busy departure lounge once I got through security. I tried to use my waiting time constructively especially doing reading as well as chasing after a man to return £40 that had dropped out of his pocket. Using dull time constructively is an important skill to develop. Later whilst at my hotel I was catching up with ‘Royal Marine Commando School’ (my current favourite programme that I look forward to seeing each week), there was a lot of buffering on the Ibis’ free wife so I used the buffer pauses to update my diary and plan ahead on things coming up. The flight itself to Glasgow was good partly because I travelled light just taking hand luggage and had my free glass of wine (thanks BA).

I am used to going up to Glasgow now, it really is a cool city, and so I know where to get the bus from and the way to my regular hotel. I treated myself to a massage on the first night there going with the masseur I had used before – he is very forceful particularly paying attention to my legs as I requested. I then ate at an eat as much as you like ‘world’ buffet which was alright and I did not go too mad eating only two plates of food. Finished the night off with a drink in the hotel bar; I genuinely like hotel bars. My meeting the next day went very well and later that night I met up with my mate Andy who works and lives in Scotland. We had a a coffee at an independent coffee shop then went to the Underground bar (which I remember visiting about 15 years ago on a gay football tournament weekend) followed by Tony Macaroni’s for a fun Italian meal, a bottle of wine, and good conversation. Back to Underground then onto The Polo Lounge which really is an amazing venue (see the pic below and on my twitter feed of me on my throne). I was inebriated but I can control my drinking knowing the point I need to stop at. Back to the hotel and I crashed out before getting up at 8.15 to get the bus back to airport. Another good flight was ruined when we arrived at Gatwick to deal with a long delay getting bussed off, and a £20 ‘fast’ train ticket to Victoria with a delayed departure. Basically flight Glasgow to London = 80 mins; from plane landing till train left station = 60 mins – crazy.
Billy in Polo Lounge

So in terms of some of my long-term goals, what happened last week? Fitness – things went well. I got in two gym session both concentrating on muscle development of the upper body, core, and legs but without doing any specific cardio workout. I met up with Sara my trainer on Monday and we continued our work with kettlebells which I am really enjoying. Perhaps the exercise highlight of the week was my run/jog moved from Saturday to Sunday because of my travel back from Scotland. I achieved my longest time running (33 & a half minutes) and covered the furthest distance making it once round Green Park and nearly twice round St James Park.

For my reading, I managed to finish John Rechy’s ‘City of Night’. This was very evocative of traditional gay culture including male and female roles being played by gay men as part of their survival mechanism. It is a bit like a gay version of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ but darker and gay. It is a hard read at times especially when it dwells on questions like ‘what is love?’ but classic in that it was written in 1965. It is interesting since then that so many ‘road’ books and movies have arisen. And after finishing that I started on Christopher Fowler’s ‘Full Dark House’, the first book of the Bryant and May series. I knew the author more as a horror writer but this book was highly recommended. It is definitely readable and very well written although there are simply too many crime thrillers and the idea of strange people working on unexplained crimes is not new – remember TV’s ‘The X Files’. Unfortunately, no progress on developing my digital or language skills.

Socially, I had two very useful meetings. On Monday, a catch up with Bryan from Wapisasa (another of my ‘Websites of the Week’). We met at a digital awards ceremony and I decided to keep in contact with him and his fledgling social enterprise because apart from being a nice guy he also has good digital knowledge, a commitment to helping young people, and he understands the social economy. Before we met, I walked from Oxford Circus to London Bridge which reinforced my belief that a good journey is as important as reaching your destination. Then on Thursday before I went up to Scotland, I attended the Intrapreneur group – an informal meeting of people committed to innovation within big charities. It is important to have a mechanism where one can meet and talk with similarly minded people so getting support but also being challenged in a closed and supportive atmosphere.

Other highlights of the week just gone:

  • Dave had a pigeon on his balcony that could or would not leave. After two days of feeding and watering him, we managed to catch him and take him to the local park. Then two days later Dave walked into his front room and there was another one in the front room – ‘I looked at him and he looked at me’. We are not sure at all how he got in but again he was collected up and taken to the local park to be released.
  • Mum was very entertaining criticising the European Athletic Championships; regular blog readers will know how much she loves sport on TV. According to her, many of the women athletes are either too skinny, too podgy, or too made up as well as on their kit ‘I wish they would wear a bit more on their bottom half’. A stunning championship for Great Britain and my high point being Jo Pavey winning the 10K Gold at the age of 40.
  • Sleeping at Dave’s after the late reception, I got bitten by some flying insects arising from leaving the windows open to keep cool and being near a park. I don’t react well to insect bites and one of the bites on my stomach has turned into a not very attractive raised red and hot patch.
  • My brother came round to Dave’s to fit some new fancy shelves (he’s a great handyman and available to do work) and brought round my lovely niece and nephew as well as my mum. A fun day including pizza at Pizza Express.

And finally… the pain of the new football season, QPR managed to lose their opening home game despite having a host of chances including missing a penalty. Oh well, too early to say yet how things will pan out.

Websites of the week:
http://www.wapisasa.com
http://nhyouthcentre.org.uk
http://www.seemescotland.org.uk

Wonker of the week: Putin for his cynical strutting particularly using a humanitarian convoy as a political manoeuvre to undermine Ukraine as a sovereign state and perhaps even as cover to bring in support to terrorists as well as possibly then taking out key things like fighters and evidence. And at a time when the world needs to unite to fight the extremism of the Islamic State.

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