Being less busy is a good thing for all of us

Mon 18 – Sun 24 April 2022

I love times where I am being less busy. Indeed, in my previous blog here, I wrote about the wonderful opportunity that Easter gives for rest and reflection. And I suppose the week just gone was where that quieter time flowed into.

Bank Holiday Monday was peaceful and nothing happened which is nice. Then the week rolled out and it was less busy than other weeks but that doesn’t mean it was totally uneventful. Still had two days of work and stuff to get done beyond just paid work.

But, in the wider world, things are far from being less busy. The dreadful invasion of Ukraine continues but that little nation bravely fights on against the fascism of Putin’s Russia (at least his sidekick Le Pen was defeated). And the economic repercussions continue for us all. Meanwhile, the risks from climate change grow and grow. Rain fall in London this April is just around 40% of what it should be.

Books and Reading

A good sign for me that I am being less busy is when I manage to have time to finish reading books with two completed last week.

A room full of books

‘Shadowlands’ by Matthew Green

Subtitled ‘A Journey Through Lost Britain’, these are reflections on urban communities that have been ‘lost’. A much recommended book and I bought it even though it is still just in hardback – used some book tokens Dave gave me a while back. This is indeed a well researched and engaging volume.

It’s a lovely set of studies of settlements that have gone. Prehistoric ones that we don’t know why they were abandoned through to temporary boom towns, places wiped out by disease, cities swamped by sand or sea, and areas taken over by the military. A massive warning that we should not expect anything to stay the same nor assume the future is guaranteed. It’s a fascinating review of the unexpected that can happen and a particularly salutary warning of what could come with climate change.

‘Record of a Spaceborn Few’ by Becky Chambers

This was a book that wasn’t on my page of ‘Books I have read’ on this website though I had read the first two in Chambers’ series. This, the third book, is one that I think I may have read but I carried on reading as I couldn’t totally remember what happened. Fascinating that I will never know if I did read it or just imagined that I had.

I think this is what I would call ‘space opera’. Her books cover a wide variety of different characters who are brought together in a particular situation. This one is about the humans who still live on the fleet that evacuated the Earth whereas other humans have settled on planets. Thus it must be thousands of years in the future. But it’s a humanity we would all recognise.

That is my main criticism of Chambers’ books. They are engaging and pleasant sci-fi. But totally based on modern American life and folklore. It’s all very sentimental. Everybody is ultimately nice and there’s lots of nods to diversity, equality, and inclusion. It’s a lot like American authors writing about death where Heaven is really like traditional rural America.

I like my sci-fi that is less sentimental and more in worlds that are not just what we wish modern society was like.

My new reading books

Started on 2 new books:

  • ‘Ariadne’ by Jennifer Saint. Wonderful retelling of Greek mythology showing the way women are used and abused plus the capriciousness of the Gods.
  • ‘The Lamplighters’ by Emma Stonex. Very well written fiction about the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers and the ongoing aftermath.

Rows and rows of beautiful books

Family and Friends

When I am being less busy, so I can spend time with people. Not just in a work or business context but with people because they are my family and my friends.

Dave went off to Liverpool – I chilled

Dave went off at the weekend to Liverpool to see a concert to celebrate Barbra Streisand’s 80th birthday. He’s a big fan but she does nothing for me. So he went alone. Obviously he offered me the chance to come along but not my thing plus I didn’t fancy a journey there and back sandwiched between two work days. Rather I took advantage of being less busy by having the weekend to myself crashing at his place. Bit like being on a mini-retreat: coffee, reading, walks, a trip to the library, haircut, snoozes.

Chillin

The mums

Spent a large chunk of last week with mum – largely me working from my room but mum simply being reassured I was there. My brother fancied spending the weekend with mum so I used that as an excuse to have my own space away from everybody at Dave’s empty flat for a couple of days.

Mum generally is fine but she gets so worn out so easily plus gets lots of headaches. We are off at the end of next week to visit Dave’s mum who has only achieved limited liability. Indeed, whilst we are there we are planning to hire a wheelchair to take her out and about – not great. We actually don’t know how easy it is going to be for her to get in and out of the hire car.

Retirement

Faye

You could further tell it was a less busy week by me having time to meet up with friends. And on Thurs I met up with another old Comic colleague. I hadn’t seen Faye for about 4 years and I wasn’t sure I would recognise her – completely unfounded fear. We had a lovely lunch and spent nearly 2 hours catching up on what had happened to us both. Common areas = love of tech for good, redundancy, planning for a different future.

Phyllis

Then on Sat afternoon, an overlong catch-up with Phyllis in Torremolinos. Weather there hasn’t been too clever for the past few weeks. But in the coming months, he will finally be able to appreciate the town as the gay holiday centre it was pre-pandemic. Overall, he’s in a good place though we spent a lot of time talking about and planning for the future as two older gay men.

sunshine logo

Work Life Balance / Tech for Good

Only two paid working days last week as Monday was a bank holiday. Bank holidays normally means being less busy which is why we need lots more of them. And although I talk about a less busy week, my work days were still frenetic and it wasn’t at all a totally quiet week.

Perhaps the difference is that I felt more able to pace myself. I normally deal with emails on my days off – it just helps me feel in control and be able to get stuff done on my work days. But sometimes I manage not to get too tied down with emails (and meetings) on my days off – last week was one of those helped not least by the fact nobody was at work on the long Easter weekend.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao Tzu

Good stuff that happened to help the Tech for Good agenda:

  • Having a special talk with our newly recruited intake of Graduate Developers about how they could help out doing pro-bono work for not-for-profit organisations
  • Continuing a piece of work for CAST to enable better use of their collection of best practice case studies (Service Recipes) by introducing a search functionality – try it out here
  • Getting stuff in place for our Manchester / Newcastle event at lunchtime on Thurs 9th June as part of the Green Software Foundation’s Global Summit – details here

Tech for Good

Health and Efficiency

Gym

Being less busy meant I could get to the gym twice. No reason to do lots of work stuff on my days off and nothing else to distract me like hospital appointments or medical tests. Two great sessions with the usual focus on legs to try and combat the osteoarthritis in my knees.

24 sessions since the start of the year; divide this into my annual gym membership = about £21 per session. Definitely feels like money well spent to me.

Dumbells

Mental health, walks, and weight

Overall, as a less busy week this meant my mental health was generally well; I refused to let things worry me too much. Never that easy as my sub-conscious loves to torture me but definitely better than at other points in my life. Some nice walks but no great revelation in terms of weight loss. Being less busy means less comfort eating. But to make real weight loss progress is going to need a total change in my lifestyle.

Sustainability

If we were all not so busy then the planet would be in a much better situation. On a personal level, being less busy means living ‘within my means’ and not creating so much waste. So much of the crap we do to the planet is based on us ‘needing’ to be busy – travelling, consuming, creating, destroying. If we chill and do nothing then that is good for us and good for the planet.

My personal everyday attempts to lead a better life:

  • Looking after my plants – indoors and on my window ledges
  • Appreciating the birds that come to Dave’s balcony. A mixture of very noisy blue tits, chilled out thrushes, and solitary robins (plus Dave’s nemesis – big, fat, greedy pigeons).
  • Not buying stuff anew plus checking out charity and secondhand shops when I do need things
  • Using my own cup when I get a coffee, eating up stuff in the fridge and cupboards rather than throwing away food, and eating less meat
  • Getting rid of stuff by either selling it secondhand or donating to the charity shop

And don’t forget that if we use less energy so we end our dependence on oil and gas from dodgy countries which means we are less beholden to them and they lose their power.

Close up of a blue tit

Art and Culture

No galleries or museums visited. My concept of being less busy is relative – I’m simply comparing it to a week when I feel knackered from working and there is not enough time to do normal leisure stuff like seeing friends, going to the gym, or reading a book.

However, good TV watched again. Tis a lot easier to do that than to find time to get to a cultural centre, spend time there, then get back home.

  • ‘Art That Made Us’ continues to be brilliant. Last week it looked at art in the Elizabethan period. Now perceived as a cultural golden age but a time that felt far more fragile for those living through it.
  • Also enjoyed watching the first episode of ‘Life After Life’. Based on the novel by Kate Atkinson, it follows the life of a woman who is constantly reborn and able to bypass the reason for her previous death. Thus it is a story of ongoing rebirth. This reminds me of the horrific dream I had about this on the first night when I started taking anti-retroviral meds to control my HIV infection.
  • Carried on with ‘The Drop’ on BBC3. A competition programme about ‘street wear’. It’s good to try to know what is turning on younger people though without personally becoming mutton dressed as lamb.
  • Plus a lovely programme (final episode on Friday) featuring the well worn plot of a group of ‘celebrities’ going on a pilgrimage. Reminded me of some of the lovely retreats I have undertaken. That definitely shows a life that is less busy and less destructive.
  • Also started watching the German series ‘Das Boot’ – the brilliant 1980s drama about life on a Nazi submarine. But it’s a long series lasting several hours so I decided not to get involved. Something to catch up on when my life is a lot less busy, hopefully at some point in the future (my famous ‘semi-retirement’)
Culture from the Saatchi Gallery

Personal Development

The fact that I was able to get some Duolingo done nearly everyday is a sign of it being less busy last week. And I was able to do both some Spanish and German practice on each day. This makes me so happy. However, not so less busy that I was able to make real progress on improving my coding skills.

The Week Ahead

  • Not sure it’s going to be as less busy as the week gone
  • Towards the end of the week, me and Dave are taking my mum up to see his mum for a few days. Be nice to chill out and visit the local charity shops. My mum’s looking forward to that as well and a visit to the fish and chip restaurant.
  • Doing my panel session at the AWS London Summit on Wednesday. Should be fun and I’m looking forward to attending some of the other sessions.
  • Effectively I have only one ‘in the office’ day next week (Monday – several catch-ups to do though) and just one normal non-work day (Tuesday). I will get to the gym on the latter so only one gym session next week.
  • Carry on with my reading. Should finish both current books and start new ones.
  • Hopefully will be meeting my old Comic colleague Irene on Tues afternoon
  • Looking forward to next episodes of ‘Art That Made Us’, ‘Life After Life’ and ‘The Drop’
  • Hopefully I won’t be so busy that I can’t keep up with my daily Duolingo sessions

And Finally…

Carl Sagan quotation

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