A Period of Change – The Queen’s Death

Mon 5 – Sun 11 Sept 2022

Ultimately, life is about change and thank goodness it is otherwise it would be dull. But some periods of change are nice and some traumatic. There can be no doubt that the UK is going through a significant period. Even before the sudden sad news of the Queen’s death on Thursday, on Monday we got a new Prime Minister. So a new King (who may reign for perhaps 20 years) and a new government (who will be around for a lot less time).

A sombre period

We are in a period of mourning. And the weather feels fitting with its coolness, downpours, and quicker coming night-times. Beyond the formalities, I think many of us feel a strange sense of dislocation. I’m not a big monarchist, indeed I veer more towards republicanism.

But the Queen has been a constant through our lives (my parents in their seventies can’t remember before she was on the throne) and she carried out her responsibilities wonderfully. Her sense of duty and the way she always acted with honour and decency in public life is in severe contrast to so many elected politicians.

Dying but still beautiful flower

When I met the Queen

I did meet the Queen once and she was lovely. I was in a line-up and we shook hands then had a few brief words. It was near Christmas and I said I hoped she would have a Happy Christmas. She stressed how worried she was that everybody would have a good time. I think it may have been around the time of the 2008/9 financial crisis. I assured her that I was sure people would.

Things will be different

It will be strange until funeral is over. A weird only semi-normal time for at least another week. But things will return to normal over the next few months though with many changes to come such as new money, stamps, etc. Physically the world will be different. And then we will start to see how people really feel.

Periods of change happen throughout our lives. Some big events we share with other people and sometimes personal episodes. I am pretty sure that we will look back to this week in Sept 2022 as a significant moment in modern British history. With the new monarch and the new Prime Minister, we will date it as the beginning of their period of either success or failure.

The future - next exit

Health and Efficiency

Gym

Getting knocked out by illness over the past fortnight has created a personal period of change. I took time off from the gym and rested. But last week I returned and it felt good. Three great sessions (two with me on my own in the gym) though with a difference that I deliberately pulled back on the amount of time I do in each session. So instead of an hour of intensive working out, now I am trying to keep each session to 30-45 mins and each one focused on a smaller number of body parts.

dumbells in the gym

Pleased to be able to go back to my Value For Money calculator on my purchase of an annual gym pass: 60 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £8.25 per session.

Weight and walking

Sometimes we need to create a period of change rather than just waiting for them to arrive out of the blue. One of those for me is moving into a period of weight loss. I’m pretty sure that my health will be better if I am simply less heavy. It is common sense that my arthritic knees would benefit from supporting a less fat body.

Last week I got a lot of walking in. Indeed, I regularly knacker my trainers and it looks like another pair have hit the dust. And yet, my weight did not continue the good move down that I highlighted in my previous blog (read it here). Sadly my weight took a small shift up.

weight

It’s amazing how I can see what I need to do to lose weight – simply to eat less. But I can’t seem to get my head in the right place to do this right now. I honestly think I won’t be able to until I take some time off work from the start of next year and disassociate myself from that and other pressures in my life.

Books and Reading

We all have constants that see us through periods of change and reading is one of mine. Two books completed last week, very different to each other.

‘Stars, cars and crystal meth’ by Jack Sutherland

I like reading memoirs from recovering addicts not least as it chimes with my own experiences. This is the true life story of a young British man in Southern California (SoCal) who develops addiction with drugs and sex. It’s particularly interesting because he is gay and it’s primarily set in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. As such I can relate to it.

pills

All of us addicts have our stories to tell; often they are repetitive and self-indulgent. I am always reminded of what somebody said: ‘Poor me, poor me, pour me another’.

Why is it that some people turn to addiction when others faced with the same problems cope without going down that route? However noting that there are many insidious, acceptable and even stylish addictions like drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, spending, sex, gambling, hoarding, being thin, exercising, and so on.

Clearly Jack was in a ‘good’ space when this book was completed. I hope he still is. But he identifies that all us addicts are not far from where our addiction is and it’s a constant battle to stay clean. A battle that means we often have to keep away from the situations, people, and places that will push us back.

‘Temeraire’ by Naomi Novik

Said my two books were very different. This is a fantasy story and the first in a sequel I have been meaning to read for a long time. It is about a world where dragons really exist but human history has fundamentally followed the same course. The setting is the Napoleonic War.

It is an amazing crossover of so many things. Written in 2006, it is within the orbit of Harry Potter. But its roots also lie in Dragons and Dungeons. Think also of a book that comes from merging together the novels of Jane Austen, the brilliant ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke, and the equally brilliant series of Aubrey and Maturin maritime conflict novels by Patrick O’Brian. The book’s plot itself is basically the Battle of Britain happening 200 years early with dragons instead of planes.

A fun and challenging piece of speculative fiction / alternative history. I look forward to reading the next novel in the series.

Work Life Balance

There are many who have a much tougher job than I do. It’s only 2 days per week but with an element of constant monitoring of what is happening on my days off so I am not overloaded on my work days. And my actual work days are often very intense. Like Friday where it was back to back zoom meetings all day.

Under pressure

Part of my problem is the fact that I find identity through work though don’t we all? When we are asked ‘What do you do?’, nearly everyone starts by stating the job they are paid to do. Plus I want to do a good job. I suppose like the Queen, I have a very old fashioned belief in being totally focused on delivery when you commit to something. The negative to that is the burnout and the tiredness that inevitably comes.

Only with a break from work do I think that I will be able to focus on some of the other things that need attention like reducing my weight. And the Queen’s passing shows us more clearly than ever that our time on Earth is limited.

None of us are invincible and all of us one day will return to wherever we were before we were born. That could come more quickly than we expect such that we need to make the most of the time we have for the things that really matter to us.

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

Coco Chanel

Tech For Good

Good things happening in terms of work being done with charities to improve their digital offering. I help make this happen. But my role at Thoughtworks is also about raising staff awareness of things that are happening in the UK not-for-profit sector. We often do this through charities and social enterprises coming to speak to the wider staff body. And on Wednesday we had Chayn to talk.

Chayn

Chayn is an innovative charity that aims to support the survivors of gender-based violence and abuse. What makes them so unique is that though based in the UK, they offer a global service and they are tech-based. It was particularly great to hear about the work they do to highlight where tech is enabling abuse to happen and what technologists can do to stop this.

Responsible Tech

Totally chimes with the concept of ‘Responsible Tech’ me and my colleagues seek to promote – the need to consider ethics and consequences in developing technology. Thoughtworks has produced a brilliant resource called the Responsible Tech Playbook with exercises to promote these issues in development – fell free to download and use it from here.

Colleagues and friends

Personal Development

This theme is normally me updating on how I am doing with my regular Duolingo language lessons but failing to do any of the tech learning I want to do. But last week I did something that awakened in me a thing that used to be a key part of my life – volunteering.

I was part of a panel discussion for the national charity Volunteering Matters. I have historical links with this organisation and it was great to be part of their Pride Panel talking about our lives as LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the discussion was what has changed as the result of the pandemic? I pointed out that I think we are going through a more seminal period of change since 2015 consisting of various inter-related events: Brexit, Trump, Covid, Climate Change, the invasion of Ukraine, the collapse of global supply chains, and Culture wars. The new PM and King really are part of this long period of change.

But one of the things I realised through doing this talk is how important volunteering used to be in my life. I did lots of it from when I was at school then right through university and alongside paid work as my career took off.

Then it stopped. Primarily because personal health issues and paid work meant I just didn’t have the energy. Through doing this talk, I have realised that I need to put volunteering back into the mix for 2023 – my future period of change.

progress being made

Sustainability

And that volunteering may well be linked to my personal commitment to sustainability. There is no doubt that our planet is going through a period of change as the climate crisis develops. And some of those changes might be irreversible. Like we know the sea levels are going to rise and land flooded, we simply don’t know how bad it will be.

So I will continue to do everything I can to save the planet. Surely the terrible flooding in Pakistan must be a signal of how we are fucking up? Key things for me are the constant attempt to live frugally and lessen the possessions I own. Let’s be honest most of us have so much stuff that we don’t even know what we do have.

Brands are destroying the planet

Another thing we can all do is to try to buy non-branded stuff. I remember reading Naomi Klein’s great book ‘No Logo’ several years ago. And brands really are part of the curse of modern society. Obviously some brands can be for good such as Patagonia and Oxfam. But others are the cheerleaders and generals of the ongoing attack on the environment.

Yeah I suspect unbranded trainers are probably made by people in the Global South paid 2p per hour. But I also suspect branded trainers are probably made by the same people for 2 and a half pence per hour. Why feed the brand machine until it can show it has the power to do good?

The throwaway society

Family and Friends

The death of the Queen being played out before us is also a family tragedy. We feel like we have lost someone important to us but there is a family that has lost a mother and grandmother. And during periods of change it is our friends and families that are important to help us through.

My mum is doing OK as is Dave and his mum. My brother and his family went to visit my dad who has not been well. Thankfully they found him in good form.

Meanwhile, me and Dave met up with our friends Frances and Patrick on Sunday. Both have very sadly lost their partners in the last year. Despite everything we all wanted to meet for lunch at the Union Jack Club not least to celebrate a birthday. It was so good to see them, a moment of normality and togetherness during a sombre period.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

The Week Ahead

  • Our national period of change will continue as the Queen lies in state in Edinburgh and then London
  • My personal week will be quite normal in that it’s 2 working days and 3 non-work days
  • Work is busy as we support a charity and another big project may be in the offing
  • 3 gym sessions but keeping to my new routine of energising myself rather than wearing myself out
  • The excitement of starting new reading books

And Finally…

motivational picture

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