Appreciating Good Friends

Mon 5 – Sun 11 Dec 2022

And so ends my first week of semi-retirement; I talked about making the jump in my previous blog here. To be honest, the week wasn’t what I expect to be a typical one with half of it spent out of London. And me still finding what I want to fill my new found freedom with.

Key physical feature about the week just gone has been the very cold weather. Plus the distraction of the World Cup which really shouldn’t be happening whilst we are getting ready for Christmas. But on a higher level, it was a week in which I made lots of contact with good friends and really appreciated what wonderful people they are.

lights on the tree

Friends and Family


I was in Brighton on Monday and Tuesday particularly to catch-up with people. Regular readers will know I used to live there and have a weird relationship with the place. Some horrible things happened there but I have lots of good friends who still reside in the city. Indeed, I have also known some good friends who have moved there during my time in London. Brighton & Hove really is a place that most lesbian and gay people live in at some stage.

Good friends caught up with:

  • Monday lunchtime with Paul and Lee. So impressive to see Lee still pursuing his passion. And great to have a political chat with Paul; his knowledge and perception always makes for good conversation. Looking forward to meeting in London and getting to a cricket match at Hove in 2023. I took the Bounty and Snickers sweets from their celebrations as they don’t like them and I do. 🙂
  • Monday night and it was over to see my good friends Emma and Beth at their house. I’ve known this couple for about 20 years from when we all worked together in Brighton. Unfortunate that their children weren’t around (they are now at university) but that meant we could spend time just catching up on what we had been up to. A lovely night.
  • Tuesday afternoon and I met up with my old mate Dave for coffee and a glass of wine. We are old football buddies. Great to check out what we are both up to in our lives, what the future might hold, and how other people are getting on who we used to knock around with.
  • Was due to meet my mate Rob on Sunday night but he was too ill. I really appreciate that despite still feeling rough, he dragged himself from his sick bed to meet for a quick eat on Tuesday night before I headed back to London. I definitely won’t forget the raid on the restaurant by Immigration Police and our food arriving cold.
  • Should have met my old work colleague (from nearly 30 years ago) Antonia on Tuesday morning. But she had a positive Covid test the day before so we couldn’t meet. Hopefully we will catch up early in the New Year.

I’ve written in other blogs about other good friends I have stayed in touch with either by meeting up, phone-calls, or simply via social media (perhaps even just with a Christmas card). I am just so lucky to have such good friends. But these friendships need to be cultivated and that is one of the things I plan to do in the future.

WWI painting - blinded soldiers

Mum and Dave

Important I don’t ignore these two as I am paying attention to my mates. Poor mum has been suffering with a really heavy cold, perhaps it is flu. She is trying to keep warm and recover. We went out on Thursday so she could get to the post office and get some shopping. Meanwhile, my brother took over keeping an eye on her over the weekend.

Dave is gradually chilling and winding down. Though he still has some work related stuff to do before Christmas. And he is slightly wound up about having to return to where he grew up to spend the holiday season with his mum. I suspect ‘returning home’ to be with family is something many are feeling slightly apprehensive about.

Bit of fun in that Dave got a new mattress. It’s always interesting to sleep on a new one with your body used to the old one and aches the next day. I think mattresses soften over time and bodies get used to them. Hopefully they do because my back is killing me.

pain from back problems

Books and Reading

I relayed in my previous blog (read it here) that I had made no progress in finishing a book. This was due to the general busyness of finishing at work. However, pleased to say I finished one book in the week gone.

‘Gloriana’ by Michael Moorcock

Also entitled ‘The Unfulfill’d Queen’, this is a classic piece of fantasy / science fiction / alternative history originally written in 1978. It is a court intrigue based in the court of Queen Elizabeth I in a world where England dominates the world.

It’s very gothic in the manner of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ (though I think this is a better novel). And the story must have been an influence on the film ‘Orlando’ starring Tilda Swinton. Although ‘Orlando’ the book was written in 1928 by Virginia Woolf. Not read it yet but look forward to doing so one day.

A wise person once said to me that you won’t find good friends in politics. This a story of court rivalries, factions, and alliances / counter-alliances. But the key feature is how one man almost destroys the carefully constructed edifice that enables the Queen to rule. But one of the main ‘characters’ to me is simply the giant castle / palace that almost everything is based in with all its secret tunnels and lost rooms.

You can read about ‘Gloriana’ and the original controversy around it here on Wikipedia. And please do think about giving a donation to Wikipedia. It’s a fantastic, free resource and to lose it would be devastating.

The importance of books

My current reading

The key feature of last week was spending time with good friends. As such, I perhaps didn’t make the reading progress I had planned. I think this will increase as my semi-retirement weeks enter a sense of normality. Albeit with Christmas / New Year and a Gran Canaria holiday to come.

As per my previous blog, still reading ‘Project Hail Mary’ on my kindle and ‘Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho’ as my bedtime read. But to replace ‘Gloriana’, I have begun reading ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. It’s a lost classic that is definitely a very intriguing novel.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes.”

Benjamin Disraeli

Health and Efficiency


Slight gym disaster in that the combination of time in Brighton with good friends as well as with Dave and mum, meant my planned 2 gym visits only became one.

Had intended to go on Thursday and Friday. The former happened and it was a very good workout. Fascinating that the morning walk to the gym took me across a park covered in frost. But perhaps the workout was too good with me worn out for the next day. When I woke on Friday morning, I felt absolutely knacked and spent the day focusing on bits and pieces like sorting presents and cards.

85 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £5.80 per session. Not sure I will reach my target of £5 by the end of Dec.

range of dumbells

Diet and illness

One of the problems of spending time with good friends is that my dieting can go to pieces. I love meeting friends over dinner. And it is hard to eat healthily when you are eating out. Or simply if you are having a drink in a bar. So think my weight went up a wee bit at the start of the week but then came down at the weekend.

Big factor causing the downward momentum was me being a bit ill. Up at 1am on Sunday morning to be stuck on the toilet. Imodium taken (thank God for that drug) but still felt poorly on Sunday. Didn’t get up until 10.30am which is so not me. Then back to bed for a 3 hour snooze at 2pm. Didn’t feel like eating at all. I’m sure it will pass and don’t know where it’s come from but I’ll take the loss of weight that will probably come with it.

How I feel after a difficult week


Charity shops ain’t as good as they used to be

I had very little time to myself in Brighton. Indeed, beyond the good friends I met with there were others I would have liked to meet but there just wasn’t time. In the little bit of my own time, I checked the charity shops I used to visit. As is normal these days, the ones run by big charities were a disappointment and many of the smaller ones have gone.

I’m rarely looking for anything specific in a charity shop. Rather I am seeing if there is anything I or others ‘need’ with it being more ethical to buy it this way. However, these days most donations are checked on eBay to find out if they have value and then either sold on that website or very highly priced in the shop.

So you end up with charity shops full of the same mass produced and overpriced stuff of no great value. Why buy something that is worn out and could be purchased brand new for a similar price (£10 for a charity shop t-shirt!?).

So, I only ended up bringing back a couple of books from Brighton. These were the sole things I needed and felt were worth buying.

Frugal living is hard

I said in my previous blog here that I needed to reduce my consumption and live a more frugal lifestyle as I don’t have an income coming in. That’s harder than I thought. It’s so easy to spend £3.50 on a coffee and lunch or a trip to the supermarket takes care of £10. Sure I will write about this more in future blogs.

Personal Development

My new found freedom means I am managing to keep to my commitment to Duolingo every day. And I’m often doing more learning per session than I did previously. It’s interesting that I listened in on a Spanish conversation at a coffee shop and understood much of it.

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

George Elliot

The Week Ahead

  • Should be my first proper semi-retirement week. Particularly looking forward to Monday when me and Dave are going to spend the day together at the V and A.
  • Aim is definitely to get to the gym three times: mornings of Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. Be easier if it wasn’t so cold nor dark when I wake up.
  • Me and Dave are taking mum to do her Christmas shopping on Friday if she is well enough
  • Meeting up with our good friends Patrick and Frances on Tuesday for lunch at the Union Jack Club. We will exchange presents and cards. Also must have a phone catch-up with Phyllis.
  • I am hopeful to finish at least one of the three reading books I have on the go at the moment
  • Will definitely continue with my daily Spanish learning and trying to live a frugal lifestyle

And Finally…

The England team is built on migrants

One thought on “Appreciating Good Friends

  1. It was so good to see you Billy. Love reading your blog to keep up to date, but having the chance to see you and catch up in person was wonderful!
    Enjoy your week ahead, I hope you and Dave had a great day at the V&A xx

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