Be grateful but carry on striving for better

Mon 23 – Sun 29 Nov 2020

Inevitably as you get older your perspective on life changes. What I’ve been thinking about last week is how lucky I am to have some wonderful things going on. In the midst of the pandemic, I’ve been considering the things I should be grateful for.

However, regular readers will know I’m not a dippy hippy who thinks the world is candy floss. Yes, be grateful otherwise your life is going to be bloody grim. But the world is also an unfair place and there is always someone better off than you. To that end, appreciate the good stuff in your life but don’t stop striving for a better world for everyone.

A classic last week was the government decision to cut the UK’s international aid commitment. So to make up for their own failings around handling the pandemic and pushing through a disastrous Brexit, the world’s poorest people will pay the price. There are poor people here but tax the rich to help the poor (do you know that Rishi Sunak is one of the richest if not the richest MP?)

This cut in aid means children will die because they are not vaccinated or fed or treated for disease or provided clean water or have somewhere to sleep. Meanwhile, we increase military spending. These weapons may well be used against people fleeing hunger and disease because we cut the aid budget. 🙁

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Health and Efficiency

In my personal life, I am so grateful that I am relatively healthy despite dealing with various chronic health conditions. I am under no illusions that life will get worse as I get older. So I must appreciate it when it is good as well as strive to keep myself active.


pain from back problems

One of the main ways my body is showing its ageing is through the joint problems I am dealing with particularly my knees. Last week, I went easy on my knees by not running till later in the week (see below). I can constantly feel my right knee as a problem.

Life is very much around balancing keeping active and not aggravating this problem. Wasn’t helped by also pulling a muscle in my lower back the previous Sunday which, thankfully, improved gradually as the week progressed.


I know that my knee is aggravated by over-exercising on it. However, it is also made better by doing some exercise. And I can see the increase in my metabolism even by doing a small jog-run. There is a beneficial knock-on effect of burning more calories through the day. I am grateful that I can still do jogging but I know that I must pace myself.

So last week I waited until Wed to go for my first jog-run (a week’s break from the previous one). Mid-morning after my body had warmed up. I kept it very short and slow: 2 km though probably 2.5 with warm up and warm down little jogs before and after. Result was a time of just under 13 & a half mins, pace of 6 mins & 40 seconds per km.

Out again a couple of days later on Friday. At the time (famous last words…), the jog-run felt good and so I did 2.25 km with a slightly faster pace. Knee did hurt afterwards, perhaps I should have rested longer. 🙁

Details on jog-runs and weight can be found here.


Be happy and grateful about nice things

This is probably the best exercise. However, strangely sometimes it feels like a long walk can aggravate my knees more than a short jog-run. Though perhaps this may be more in my mind than in reality.

Went for a long walk on Mon and another one on Tues. Then one on Sat and another on Sun. I’m grateful for my gadget watch that encourages me to do 10,000 steps a day and tells me how many calories I am burning.


Definitely somewhere where I need to strive for better rather than rest on my laurels. I am sure that my knee would benefit from carrying less weight.

Good news is that my weight does seem to be steadying and slowly pushing a bit lower. It’s amazing how easy it is to put weight on compared to taking it off. 🙁 I am really trying hard to cut down on my food intake. The depressing thought is that I may be doing this till the day I die.

Books and Reading

I have to be grateful for my love of books and reading. Dave, my partner, once spoke to someone on a plane who expressed his severe depression that he had lost the ability to read after having a stroke. Sounds like one of my worst nightmares. 🙁

‘Damascus’ by Christos Tsiolkas

TBH I have always found St Paul difficult not least because he seems very dogmatic and homophobic. I think Tsiolkas had the same problem. He has tried to write a novel of Paul’s life set realistically in the bitter and nasty times in which he lived.

This is a very good book showing the splits between the different people who knew Jesus and continued spreading his teachings after his death. There’s as much tension between Christians and Jews as between Christians and Romans. It’s a dark and horrible chaotic world – we should be grateful to live in slightly better times (for some).

A William Blake angel

Fundamentally we are left wondering what was ‘the truth’ about what Jesus said? And we can wonder if the ‘goodies’ did beat the ‘baddies’ to establish the modern church? There’s a lot of reference to the gospels not selected to be in the Bible such as those of Thomas and Mary Magdalena. The book raises the issue of ultimately how do we ever know what is true and the need to reconcile that we will probably never fully know.

‘I’m the King of the Castle’ by Susan Hill

One of my favourite contemporary authors. I particularly enjoy her ghost stories (see last week’s blog here). This is one of her earliest books written in 1970. Fundamentally it is a story about bullying. It does feel old fashioned and set in the Victorian period which I don’t think was its intention. But it is a wonderfully dense, claustrophobic and dark novel. Another one perhaps to be appreciated rather than enjoyed. 🙂

be grateful for books

Family and Friends


I am grateful that both of my parents are still alive and relatively healthy. So many of my contemporaries are dealing with parents who need very high levels of care. And I think we all know that social care in this country should be so much better than it is. It’s no accident that so many care homes have been affected by Covid. There’s always that horrific latent thought that runs through so many things of the old being the ones to be sacrificed as ‘they’ve had their lives.’ I have certainly seen that in the older people I have cared for.

In my previous blog, I stated how mum had been upset by an ‘official’ and insensitive letter. I gave her lots of support last week which I know she was grateful for. The result is that she was able to calm and consider options. We are now waiting for the follow-up letter which we will deal with when it comes.


Surprise on the phone

Grateful for my partner but he had a difficult week. Dropped his phone which cost nearly £250 to repair. And then he had to go off for several nights for work. He did some cooking before he went and left me mince pies made with gluten-free flour because he had to use this up. Taste was OK though quite biscuit like.

Dave’s mum

Bad news regarding his mum. She is fine though her next door neighbour has tested positive for Covid. 🙁 Also her area has been classed as Tier 3 – I’m grateful we are Tier 2 though for how long, who knows. She is really down that she can’t go back to her favourite cafe, keep fit, or bingo. We’re almost certainly not going to be able to see her at Christmas as well.



Two great catch-ups last week and I should be grateful for a great network of friends. First was my old job-share colleague Dilhani. We haven’t spoken since we both left Comic and it felt like old times. Big news is her new dog who is only 4 & a half months old and doesn’t like it when she is left alone. 🙂


Second phone catch-up was with good old Phyllis (Philip) in Andalucia. We have a lot in common including dealing with getting older, caring for parents, and coping with injuries. Great to catch-up especially with his plan to move to Torremolinos. One of my favourite places and somewhere I really want to visit once the pandemic is over.

Good news that I have a couple more phone calls with friends lined up for next week as well. 🙂

Personal Development


Grateful for my love of languages. Still doing Drops every day. Gone back to basics on Russian and Greek to try to consolidate my very basic knowledge on these. Also using Drops for German but did have a 2 day break. 🙁 Oh well, put that behind me and keep buggering on as Churchill would say.

Handheld video

You can’t be anything but amazed by the range of free personal development material now available via the internet. I’ve been checking out free language learning vids on YouTube. And playing with some other language learning websites like

progress being made

Why am I so excited by language learning? Because of the communication possibilities it opens up. Increased future opportunities for travel and possibly even living abroad before I die. 🙂

Art and Culture

Thank goodness that I can find rest and recuperation through art and culture even though the galleries and museums are closed. Didn’t immerse myself as much as last week. But still experienced some good stuff:

  • Ongoing enjoyment of the TV programmes I like and listed in last week’s blog (read it here).
  • Watched another classic Dr Who adventure. The first doctor again in the crazy adventure ‘The Chase. It’s like it says on the tin – the Daleks pursue the Doctor and his companions across space and time. It’s a classic written by the genius that was Terry Nation – great imagination paired with dire special effects.
  • Watched another foreign language movie online. This time it was ‘La Belle Epoque’. A 2019 French romantic comedy. The story of an older man who is distanced from his wife and so goes back into the past to find out what attracted them originally. Another lovely film about time. 🙂


Haven’t referred to this in my blog for a while, well it’s easier than ever to live frugally during a lockdown. Obviously that will change next week and there will be more opportunities to spend money. I am grateful that I have savings to draw on after redundancy. But I also see the unfairness of how some people have really suffered during the pandemic and some people have done very well for themselves. 🙁

The Week Ahead

  • Really grateful that Dave will return to London next week and our lockdown is easing 🙂
  • Need to keep a check on both mums
  • Gonna rest my knee but also try to exercise. Should be able to get in at least a couple of short jog-runs and a couple of long walks.
  • Focus on trying to keep losing weight primarily by diet control
  • Looking forward to catch-up phone calls with my old mates Joe and Peter 🙂
  • Will carry on with my book on German gay men around the Kaiser and the famous WWII novel ‘The Painted Bird’ by Jerzy Kosinski
  • Velvet Page on Thurs evening. Pretty sure it’s our Xmas social with no particular book to discuss.
  • Back to the Doc’s on Thurs again to check my blood clotting levels 🙁
  • Language learning continues also finding relaxation and inspiration through art and culture. Can start visiting galleries and museums again next week. 🙂

And Finally…

be grateful he's going

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