Aspiring to Normality

Mon 11 – Sun 17 Sept 2023


Too Long, Didn’t Read. Here is a summary of the main points in my blog:

  • We all have a real or aspirational normality in our lives and I’m trying to get to mine which is currently about regular gym and swim sessions
  • Spent a lot of time with mum including getting our flu vaccinations done
  • An inspiring visit to the Courtauld Gallery
  • A review of the book ‘The House of Fortune’ by Jessie Burton

Defining your own normality

I have often written about this in my blogs but I think we all believe, want, and hope that there’s a comfort zone of normality in our life. An expected way of living where we feel some sort of contentment. And when we don’t feel we are in that zone then we spend a lot of time and energy trying to reach or get back to the comfort of it.

Definitely been like that for me in the week gone and in the current general period. My normality was once working though that hasn’t been the case for 9 months now. The normality that replaced it was the ability to exercise. Thrown into chaos by the recent Achilles injury which feels a bit better but is still fragile.

I suppose the change in weather has reinforced this feeling of trying to get back to normality. The crazy heat of the week before has gone to be replaced by weather that signals Autumn is coming. Indeed, the coming week predicts lots of rain again. You can read about last week’s intense heat and my slow Achilles progress here.

Sheep going back to normal

Health and Exercise

Gym: 2 busy sessions

Managed to get in 2 gym sessions in – Wed and Fri morning. Though on both occasions my often quiet gym was busy with about 4 other people there including one gentleman in very skimpy shorts – the joy of a gay gym LOL.

Both good sessions with a focus on upper body and core plus trying not to put strain on my poor ankle / Achilles. Some progress in that I’m basically getting public transport one way but then managing to walk for the other leg of the journey. Saving money plus getting in some precious aerobic exercise. Though it does currently feel like I will never get back to some of the long purposeful walks I used to do.

93 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £5.30 per session

range of dumbells

Swim: 2 relaxed sessions

I really wasn’t in the mood to go to the gym on Monday morning. Not sure why but I decided to follow my feelings. So I pottered in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon. Did my new normal of 20 lengths alternating between front-crawl and back-stroke.

Then I did the same again on Sunday morning. I am definitely feeling so much more relaxed in the water and it was really enjoyable that the pool wasn’t very busy on either occasion.

The jump

Weight: The new normal

Put on a pound the week before last but then took off a quarter pound in the week gone. Basically I think my weight is in a good place where my new normality sits just under 13 stone. The challenge may now be if I have the drive and ambition to push it down further.

man weighing himself

Family and Friends

Mum: My normality of becoming a carer

My new normality is definitely having to spend more time supporting mum. The worrying thing is that it is likely to intensify rather than lessen as time progresses. That may make it harder to go back to work. I often spend time with mum just so she knows I am there. Indeed, sometimes she just goes off for a sleep or early night.

But I did take her out shopping on Tuesday morning. Nothing major, just visiting some of the local convenience stores with me carrying the bags and getting them back to the flat whilst she can get back by bus. I know mum really wants to go for a big shop so me and Dave have offered to get a Zipcar to take her – hopefully she will agree to it one day.

Then on Saturday morning we both had to go to the GP’s to get our flu vaccinations done. Mum really didn’t want to go out but forced herself and felt really knacked when she came back. But Dave came round so she had some entertainment beyond just me.


Art and Culture

Aspiring to art and culture as a normality in my life

It’s interesting how we can perceive normality not only as a period that has happened but it can also constitute things that we aspire to have in our lives. For me this means that I would far more frequently and regularly be getting artistic and cultural experiences. And to that end, I went for a visit to the Courtauld Gallery on Tuesday afternoon.


Justifying my National Art Pass

I have a National Art Pass which is great value if you do lots of visits to museums and galleries. There’s an element of my thinking ‘build it and they will come’ i.e. have a pass and you will use it which isn’t always the case. I need to make more use of the pass and with it entry to the Courtauld is free.

The Courtauld’s amazing permanent collection

TBH, it’s a fabulous gallery that is now part of Somerset House. The total collection is breath-taking but particularly the Impressionist selection including masterpieces such as Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies Bergère’ and Van Gogh’s ‘Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear’. There are also beautiful works by great artists like Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Gauguin.

‘Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection’

There is also a fun little exhibition at the moment on fakes and forgeries within the main collection. It’s fascinating the effort that is put into making these and how hard it can be to identify if the art work is fake or genuine. Modern methodology has made it easier to identify fakes but there are still some pieces where that can’t be proved true or false. And some of the forgeries take value in their own right being quite old and with artistic merit.

Books and Reading

‘The House of Fortune’ by Jessie Burton

Only one book read last week. This is the follow-up to the much celebrated and bestselling novel ‘The Miniaturist’ (details here), a book I have read but I can remember nothing about. That said, this book stands on its own and can be easily read without having gone via the prequel.

A story of eighteenth century manners with a sprinkle of fantasy woven into it via the strange presence of the miniaturist. It’s set in Amsterdam and I suspect conveys well life in the tight mercantile oligarchy that ran the city. There is an element of the popular TV series Bridgerton and Sanditon, if you like those then you will like this book.

A large part of the story focuses on the development of a young mixed race woman who is under pressure to marry. But there are other interesting characters not least her aunt who was the focus of the previous book. Her story is the most interesting of the book and I’m not 100% sure the nuances, confusions, and contradictions of her character are fully explored – indeed what is the normality she is searching for? But still a highly recommended book.

Toussaint Louverture

The Far Reaches Collection

Regular readers will know that I have no great love of Amazon. I can’t deny the convenience it offers in terms of getting hold of niche stuff – got some powder toothpaste on it recently because of the sheer waste created by normal toothpaste tubes. But Amazon does contribute massively to the amount of junk in the world plus they don’t treat their staff well and undermine small shops.

However, Amazon does also commission new writing. Presumably PR to detract from the damage they are doing to the environment (their packaging is ridiculously wasteful) and how they treat their workers. And last week I read the 6 short stories that make up their ‘Far Reaches Collection’ – details on my ‘Books I have read’ page here.

6 sci-fi stories by prominent contemporary writers. TBH they were good but not brilliant, perhaps a bit formulaic. And massively reinforcing the theory that sci-fi says as much about when it is written as to what people think the future will be like. Main themes are long distance space travel, colonisation, conflict, AI, and relationships. My favourite is the one by John Scalzi that follows the journey of an AI life-form through space.

sci-fi - future focus


Making the circular economy the normality

A trip to the Notting Hill Exchange on Tuesday to do a trade on books I had read and no longer wanted. Didn’t have a load of time because I was going off to the Courtauld so I went back the following day after the gym for a leisurely browse and to spend my vouchers. Got some books that were on my Amazon wish list and some intriguing sci-fi novels.

I love the idea of moving stuff on to people who can still appreciate and enjoy it. But at the same time getting something back. Even better if I can use that to then get other stuff that is also secondhand. There is a part of me that dies when I have to buy new things and contribute to the mass of crap that is in the world.

The Week Ahead

  • Aim is 3 gym sessions and 1 swim or 2 gym and 2 swims – we shall see what mood I’m in
  • Taking mum to hospital on Tuesday morning to have an assessment done for an operation on her cataracts
  • Really looking forward to meeting my old school chum Pete on Tues evening
  • Enjoying my new reading book ‘Cuddy’ by Benjamin Myers, an alternative view of the life and death of St Cuthbert
  • QPR have 2 chances to recover from Saturday’s defeat, one very winnable. Though also a real chance our normality becomes losing and we go into the relegation zone.

And Finally…

Quotation by Einstein about value

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