Be Happy, Have Fun, Don’t Destroy the Planet

Mon 15 – Sun 21 May 2023

At last, it seems we have turned the corner weather-wise. It’s time to be happy as Spring really has started. Lovely chilled but bright mornings and warm enough to sit outside for a coffee. Then warming up through the day to the point where sometimes I am wearing shorts and looking for shade to walk in. But still patches of cloud, coolness, and even rain.

My niece has started a placement outside the UK as part of her degree course and my advice to her (in the relevant language) was to ‘have fun and be happy’. Ultimately this is what life is all about. It isn’t money that matters – we take nothing with us when we go. Rather it is the emotions and feelings we generate in ourselves and those around us.

But happiness and fun isn’t based on hurting others nor on destroying the planet. Terrible news this week about the rising global temperature (see below). The danger is that we over produce and over consume in our quest for happiness.

Spring - trees in blossom

Health and Efficiency

Gym

Exercise clearly gives me reason to be happy. And I was delighted that I achieved 3 good gym sessions last week. My normal mornings of Mon, Wed, and Fri. I was still battling the throat / sinus infection that I wrote about in my previous blog – read it here. But I just got on with it and worked out till I got into the zone and the discomfort didn’t matter. I am clear that if the throat / sinus lurgy doesn’t shift by next week then I will try to find a way to see my GP.

50 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £9.90 per session.

Jog-run

A very decent jog-run on Thurs morning. Ran for 30 mins and achieved just over 4.5km. All one kilometre stretches under 7 mins though the 4th km was the slowest. Should be that the slowest is the first one and each one gets faster from there on. Ran round Green Park, it’s amazing that they still haven’t fully re-opened all of it after the Coronation which was nearly a fortnight ago.

I am so pleased that I have got back to running a decent jog-run each week. I won’t be doing the weekly 10K I once did but a 5K each week is achievable. Did my last 30 min jog-run as part of the Couch to 5K programme, next time it’s a full 5K no matter how long it takes…

animation of a fat man running

Weight

So another small drop in weight. But in many ways I wouldn’t be worried if my weight slightly went up as I think it can fluctuate. The overall trend is down and I am lighter than I have been for many years which is a definite reason for me to be happy.

Family and Friends

Mum

Spent time with mum as usual. She’s no worse but no better. There seems to be less and less things that make her happy these days. She does get the hairdresser in every few weeks (like last Friday) and that is a thing which pleases her. God forbid that I fail to notice when she’s had her hair done…

Tim and Bob

Absolutely brilliant catch up with old pals, this time it was Tim and Bob. Me and Dave met them for lunch on Tuesday at Daquise, the lovely Polish restaurant in South Kensington. This is a legendary eating place that has been open since 1947 – more details here.

I have known Tim and Bob for about 40 years, getting to know each other originally through local politics and the struggle for gay rights. Between the four of us there was tons of history and experiences of living through the darker periods of the fight for equality and tackling AIDS.

We hadn’t seen each other for years. Certainly before the pandemic which is the defining point of all our lives these days; everything is pre and post-pandemic. We’re all older and it was nice to catch up on where we are in our lives now. A fair bit of the conversation was about where we are in terms of health and other things that matter as you age (like how many times you have to get up in the night to go for a wee).

As per my meeting with my old colleague Fang Fang a couple of weeks ago, we won’t be leaving it as long till we meet again.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

Books and Reading

One of my biggest ways to be happy is through reading. As well as visiting a bookshop or library – the latter I did on Thursday afternoon. And a much better week than the last one with three books completed and a good new one started.

‘Paris’ by Julian Green

Much regarded as a ‘modern classic’, this book came out in an English version in 1991. Although it was first published in France in 1983. It really is ‘the most bizarre and delicious of travel books’. Green was an American who, like many Americans such as Edmund White, fell in love with the French capital and lived there. This is an eclectic selection of essays and ruminations on the Paris he knew and how it is changing.

It isn’t a list of places to see and their background. Rather it’s his memories of various places and the emotions they raised in him. As such, I can empathise in terms of how I feel about London. A wonderful city that has changed so much and, in general, not for the better. I always feel we never really appreciate anything until it’s gone. Like how London has lost all of the cheap places to eat that it once had.

‘Joan’ by Katherine J Chen

This is styled as a ‘stunning feminist reimagining of the life of Joan of Arc’. Eminently readable and the creation of the character of Joan is great. She is a very human person battling to survive in the cruel world in which she exists.

In this version, Joan’s energy is the hatred of the English and Burgundians after what they did to her loved ones. Indeed, she doesn’t claim religious visitations rather those around her furnish these to enable them to understand her. But ultimately she is betrayed by weak and politicking men demonstrating how things were stacked against her from the start simply by being a woman.

It’s a great book but my criticism is that it is a modern interpretation and it doesn’t take enough account of the time in which Joan lived particularly the power of religion. The disadvantages she would have carried as a woman would have been massive and religion was her key motivating factor. She would almost certainly have been driven by religious fanaticism and that would have justified everything she did.

Still a good book and worth a read.

A William Blake angel

‘Malcolm’ by James Purdy

I love reading classic gay literature. Basically stuff from written before the 1980s. What you find is that the books themselves often aren’t that great. More important is the fact that this was material published in the face of legal and popular opinion which shows the latent demand for it. Although there were also some classic gay novels such as ‘Maurice’ though even this was only published posthumously.

‘Malcolm’ is a strange book – ‘a classic novel of innocence and corruption’. Written in 1959, it exemplifies bohemianism and the jazz age. The story centres on a 15 year old boy who mysteriously appears on a bench and is introduced by ‘pederast’ Mr Cox to various people. It’s timeless, placeless, and not very true to life in terms of the characters. Indeed, it ends very melodramatically with Malcolm himself getting married despite being under age.

There is clearly a strange relationship between Malcolm and his ‘father’ who has disappeared. Is this book a story of the abuse of a vulnerable young man? Or is it some sort of social commentary? I can’t make my mind up. Not the easiest read but it is short which in part makes it such a weird book, a longer one may well give more explanation of what is happening.

Worth reading here about James Purdy who himself was quite a strange character with an unconventional life.

My new reading book

My latest book is ‘The New Life’ by Tom Crewe. I am alternating between reading it in the traditional book form and also on my kindle as I am walking about. It’s an admired piece of new gay writing. Set in the late Victorian period, it focuses on men and women living a Bohemian lifestyle and challenging norms around marriage and relationships. Inevitably many of the men involved are married but really gay.

Art and Culture

The V&A

I have been very aware that I haven’t been getting enough artistic and cultural experiences in my life as per my previous blog here. Art and culture is a key thing for me to be happy. Thus I made a decision to change that and, on Tuesday morning, me and Dave went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It fitted perfectly as it was the time to fill before we met Tim and Bob for lunch in South Kensington – see above.

I love the V&A. When tourists ask me where to go in London, it is the first place I suggest. It’s free, big, and incredibly diverse; a wonderful place just to wonder around. Indeed, the collection is so big that I only ever limit myself to a small section to appreciate each time I visit. And, they do have a great cafe.

Early Modern expressions of power

We spent nearly a couple of hours going around the Early Modern British galleries 1500-1760 looking at objects with wonderful stories to tell. It’s a fascinating historical period encompassing Henry VIII, the Reformation, Elizabeth I, the Civil War, and the Georgians. As well as Britain developing its relationship with the rest of Europe and the World.

Lots of stunning artistry though inevitably it tells us more about the wealthiest and the state more than anything about ordinary life. In particular, it is fascinating to look at the propaganda of the people in control and the means they tried to maintain their power such as through religious imagery.

Tattoos

A really funny experience whilst I was at the V&A. One of the guides approached me to talk about my tattoos. She is doing research on tattoos done in the period 1970-90. She was really happy that I was able to tell her all about mine done in the mid-80s. In particular, she loved hearing my stories about the dodgy tattooist who did them. He was an older gay guy who loved tattooing young men and taking pictures of them with their tops off afterwards LOL.

skull and crossbones

Sustainability

The future looks bleak

Terrible, terrible news this week that there is a 66% chance of passing the 1.5C global warming threshold by 2027 – read it here. It’s fucking hard to be happy knowing the planet is going to hell in a handcart. I will probably just start to see the negative impacts of climate change in my lifetime. Many baby boomers who have done so much damage will be long gone. But it’s our children and our children’s children who are going to suffer.

So we’ve got to start doing everything we can to ameliorate the horror that awaits them. And one of the key things we can all do is simply consume less. We have all got to stop buying plastic crap from China. As someone said recently, anything we don’t need is superfluous.

Extinction Rebellion fighting climate change

Work Life Balance

Getting more clarity on my return to work

Gradually I am edging back to returning to work. I certainly don’t enjoy not having money coming in. But then it was pointed out to me that many people in work have no money. Indeed, I think our consumption expands and contracts based on what income we have. Rich people always spend more and buy stuff they don’t need.

But going back to work will be on my terms. I am not desperate (yet). And life is finding out about how to be happy; I am enjoying my life at the moment more than I have done for a long time. I did see a job I liked but it was 4 days p.w. and was a big job that you would be hard put to do in less than that. I want to work part-time – 2.5 days p.w. would be great and my ideal would be afternoons Mon-Fri so I can do my exercise stuff in the mornings.

Trying to let work wash over you

Personal Development

Onwards, onwards, ever onwards

Main focus has been German but also dipped into Spanish. Don’t want to start ‘unlearning’ though there is always the risk of confusing languages. Doesn’t happen in general, though I do often realise I know a word or phrase in one language but not in another. That is an incentive to make sure that I am covering common words and phrases in all of them.

The Week Ahead

  • Plan is gym on the usual 3 weekday mornings and jog-run on Tues morning
  • Hopefully my husky voice will finally disappear and the sunny periods will get more regular so I can stay in shorts
  • Me and Dave are going to visit my Dad on Thursday. Been several years since we’ve met up.
  • Looking forward to a catch up meal with my old mate Daisy on Wed evening
  • Will finish ‘The New Life’ and move on to a couple more books to read

And Finally…

The Planet on Fire

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