August – is it still the ‘quiet month’?

Mon 1 – Sun 7 Aug 2022

The first week of August and a week that had less pain than the previous one i.e. no new phone or dental visit – read my previous blog about it here. Though, as I explained in that previous blog, we have pain in different ways in our lives. And I suppose my big painful thing in the week gone was receiving some bad news about my dad’s health. My other pain (the embarrassment of spilling a cup of coffee in Pret all down myself) pales in comparison.

Two of my favourite cafes are closed for their holidays

I was a bit down as two of mine and Dave’s favourite cafes have closed for the whole of August. One is Portuguese and the other is Italian. In many countries on continental Europe, it is quite normal for businesses to shut for August as everyone goes on holiday and heads to the coast to keep cool. I remember once going to northern France in August and wondering where everybody was. Our cafe owners have respectively gone to Portugal and Italy to see their families.

outside a street cafe at night

August is more disrupted than quiet

Obviously August equals school holidays. And it is normal for families (and people working in education) to go on their holidays during this time. Traditionally, I’ve been told that ‘August is a quiet month’. My feeling is that it might have been once but I don’t think that is true any more.

Yes many people go on holidays but business certainly doesn’t stop. The frenetic nature of modern capitalism means we can never slow down. And what happens is that delays come into business because people are away rather than things stopping. Meetings are put off till everyone is around or they go ahead and the missing participants need to be brought up to speed later.

So I think that in the UK at least, August is not a quiet month any more. Rather it is fairer to think of it as a disrupted month. And that, in itself, can actually make things busier as people need to be updated on their return and things that go ahead do so with delays meaning potentially a lower level of efficiency. In so many ways, life would be better if we were more European and just collectively packed up for a month.

depression or just work?

Health and Efficiency

Gym

I’m not going to be able to go the gym three times every week in August. Not least as on Saturday I was off with Dave to see his mum for 4 days. Therefore no gym next week on Mon or Tues. But I did manage 3 times at the gym on the week gone: Mon, Tues, Thurs. Three great work-outs with me just sharing the gym with one other person on 2 of those days.

In part I was inspired by the Commonwealth Games on the TV. Wish I had done something great in terms of sport when I was younger. But need to take any opportunity I can now to get exercise whether it’s going to the gym or going for a long walk.

Running total: 52 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £9.50 per session.

dumbells in the gym

Family and Friends

Dad

Definitely not a quiet August when I received a call from my stepmother on Tues. It actually came in the middle of talking to Phyllis. Basically my dad had to be rushed into hospital for a surgical intervention. He’s back at home now but very shaken up with ongoing investigations to be done. I had a chat with him and he is OK though feeling very mortal. Me and Dave will definitely go up to see him soon. Important to spend time with your parents while you can.

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope.”

Alexandre Dumas

My mum and Dave

My mum is OK though not looking forward to the August heat – we are back into the 30s again next week. I attempted to point out that we all find it difficult but that goes down like a lead balloon. Meanwhile, Dave is fine managing another visit to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last Thursday and a trip to Portsmouth with our friends Patrick and Frances last Wednesday.

Up North to see Dave’s mum

Me and Dave went up North to see his mum on Saturday for 4 days. No option but to get a car as we need to be able to take his mum about places whilst we are there and our hotel is a fair distance from her place. A decent 5 hour drive with only a couple of delays.

One of the main roads out of London was closed by the police and so we were diverted through the back streets. Then on the M1 traffic was down to a crawl at one stage. All picked up once we got past a 4 car accident with police present on the other side. Basically a traffic jam due to so many people rubber-necking.

A lot of our time with Dave’s mum is linked to food. The fish and chip restaurant we normally go to has been closed due to a fire. So we did take-away fish and chips on Saturday night. Then on Sunday morning, it was a carvery for a Sunday roast after spending a large part of the morning pottering around a car boot sale in the grounds of the local hospice.

Phyllis

A nice catch-up with Philip on Tuesday afternoon. August in Torremolinos is hot with temperatures in the mid-thirties. Life seems to be based on the beach but not in the middle of the day when it is simply too hot. During that time life is quiet as people stay indoors to keep cool. Philip himself is doing OK and I am so looking forward to spending a nice chunk of time with him in Spain towards the end of October.

Stephen

Great to catch up with my old friend Stephen Twigg on Monday. He’s the former MP, the famous one who took Michael Portillo’s seat in the 1997 General Election. We know each other from student politics days. Always great to catch up with old friends to find out how our lives are going plus the plans and ideas we have for the future.

Colleagues and friends

Books and Reading

‘The Grove of the Caesars’ by Lindsey Davis

Raced through this book last week. It’s an easy read and the next one in a series that I really enjoy: the adventures of Roman female private investigator Flavia Albia. It’s all a bit contrived but Davis’ books are well written and it’s great to see the evolution of various familiar characters. The plot includes tracking down two serial killers inter-weaved with an investigation into forged manuscripts.

Davis’ output is prodigious, coming up to about one book per year. And I think I’ve still got at least another two novels to look forward to with the wonderful evocation of Ancient Rome. You can read more about the writer here.

runners making progress

‘All That A Man Is’ by David Szalay

Must be a decent August week in that I managed to get through two fiction books. This was the second one and it’s a collection of stories about men in different parts of Europe facing crises and formative periods during different stages of their lives. I suppose it links with talk of ‘masculinity in crisis’ but could also be seen as the pressure and silly expectations on what traditionally has seen to be the things that make a man a man.

Amusingly I realised about 50 pages in that this is a book I have already read. But I honestly couldn’t remember how the stories panned out so perhaps not memorable but a very engaging book of good stories many that I could relate to for different periods in my life. And, linked to Burkeman’s teaching in ‘4000 Weeks’ (see below), why not spend my time doing something that gives me pleasure even if I have done it before? Life being about enjoying rather than just achieving.

recruiting sergeant

My current non-fiction reading book

As I plough onwards through August so I carry on with my reading. I’m still with Burkeman’s ‘4000 week’ which is ringing a lot of my bells. Supposedly a ‘time management’ book, it is nothing to do with traditional time management thinking of how can I do everything in the time allotted and be amazing? Basically Burkeman is saying realise how little time you have to live, do the stuff you enjoy and accept that, plus be patient because being impatient is a large part of the problems you are having.

Art and Culture

Highlights from last week:

  • The final episode of Love Island. I was delighted that Ekin-Su and Davide won. They remind me so much of mine and Dave’s relationship – arguing but everything being alright in the end.
  • Big news that Big Brother is returning next year. I love that programme. It went a bit off the boil at the end because of silly changes to the format. Hopefully the new series will stay faithful to the original.
  • Radio 1 had its Dance Weekend with lots of stuff coming from Ibiza. It’s the first time this has happened since the pandemic. I love a bit of dance music – reminds me of my clubbing days.
tunes in darkness

Sustainability

Obviously August is a hot month but the situation this year is exceptional and is an obvious indicator of climate change. No rain and nothing expected in the South East of England for about another fortnight. Hosepipe bans and other restrictions have started – probably should have happened a long time ago.

Reduce consumption, save water

We’ve got to reduce our consumption alongside the processes that put more and more carbon into the atmosphere. People, please stop buying shit from China, and using oil and gas from Russia and Saudi! Destroying the planet and funding authoritarian regimes.

But also use less water generally and reuse when you can. One of the tricks I have is to use the water left in the bowl after finishing the washing up to water the plants on the balconies and window ledges. Suspect many people use dishwashers though I’m sure it’s more efficient in terms of water usage to do old fashioned washing up. Bit like showers over baths wherever possible.

recycling symbol

Personal Development

A better week in doing my daily Duolingo language lessons. Perhaps due to the overall reduced frenetic nature August is compared to other months? Possibly or perhaps that mentally I am in a better place. Though that hasn’t helped me in terms of controlling my food intake and trying to lose weight.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Confucius

The Week Ahead

  • Me and Dave are up North with his mum until Tuesday. So 2 days at work next week but losing 2 out of 3 gym sessions.
  • Really must get on with the Burkeman ‘4000 Weeks’ book because it is impacting on my thinking processes so much
  • After time with Dave’s mum, I also need to spend some time with my mum once back in London
  • Meeting up again with my old colleague Faye who has a new job. Be good to have a phone call with my mate Brian who lives in Denmark – unfortunately his partner’s mother has just died.
  • How can I weave some physical visits to cultural and artistic places into my life?
  • Carry on with trying to help save the planet plus develop my skills particularly in terms of learning Spanish and German

And Finally…

Nichelle Nichols RIP

Nichelle Nichols RIP

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