Books: 3 inspirational ones (plus a day of lethargy)

Mon 9 – Sun 15 Nov 2020

Welcome to my latest weekly magazine-blog; this one is especially about 3 books that have really inspired me during this horrible, dreary time.

Last week saw the first complete week of the second lockdown. I wrote in my previous blog about coping mechanisms to get through that and any future ones (read it here). Great new on the vaccine front but basically March 2020 – March 2021 looks like being a lost year.

Clearly one of the things that has helped me through this crap, and that I would recommend to others, are books. Particular fun last week to spend online the book tokens given to me by my wonderful old team. 🙂

Meanwhile, the kerfuffle around the American election continues giving us all mental health issues. Trump truly is an awful man though thank God we finally got rid of some of our own awful men Cain and Cummings last week. 🙂 What is the most worrying thing about America is the way belief in democracy is being trashed and we all know Putin is rubbing his hands in glee about this. 🙁

Black Lives Matter

Books and Reading

Regular blog readers will know I am a voracious reader – though I would like to read more, it’s simply about time 🙂 Sometimes books are there for entertainment. Then other times they can actually guide the way you think and the way you live your life. Last week I had the pleasure of 3 books that did exactly the latter.

Dealing with death anxiety:

‘Staring at the Sun’ by Irvin Yalom

Finally completed this non-fiction book I have been dipping into for a couple of weeks. It covers the topic of death anxiety and how to come to terms with it. Indeed, the sub-title of this book is ‘Overcoming the Terror of Death.’

The view of the author (a celebrated psychotherapist – view his wiki page here) is that anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems are often caused by latent death anxiety. This would seem obvious but it is a challenge to other theories that emphasise the importance of things such as sexual desires and experiences in infancy.

The book looks at the different reasons why people may be terrified of dying. It then suggests methodologies for challenging this fear and re-orientating personal thinking. Yalom draws widely on his own experiences in counselling. And he is a firm advocate of the therapist being open about their own fears in order to encourage those being supported to open up.

Ultimately Yalom comes back to a very Epicurean view on death. That it is inevitable and the best thing we can do is to live a good and happy life without damaging others. This reminds me of a dark patch in my own life when I quoted to a friend that we come from dust and we return to dust. His brilliant response was that we should try to enjoy ourselves in the bit in-between. 🙂

Rows and rows of beautiful books

What will be your legacy:

‘We are not Ourselves’ by Matthew Thomas

The second book I completed last week. A lovely first novel. It traces the story of a woman from a poor background who strives for a better life – she wants to live the American Dream. She marries and has a son. But her husband tragically comes to suffer from early Alzheimer’s. We follow the story up to and beyond his death looking at his legacy.

It’s a big and audacious book in the ‘great American novel’ tradition that, overall, works. It can occasionally feel a bit artificial and speeds over quite momentous events that could be novels in themselves. But that is in the nature of a wide-ranging story such as this. I definitely recommend reading it.

Ultimately the novel makes you consider what is the purpose of life and what will be your legacy? Life isn’t always about legacy in the sense of changing the world. But it can be how people remember you and how you made them feel. Yalom refers to this as ‘rippling’ – the ripples our lives lead. I would challenge anyone to read this novel and not question what legacy they want to leave. 🙂

How different alien life might be:

‘The Black Cloud’ by Fred Hoyle


The third book finished last week was a short but intense piece of 1950s British sci-fi. It is regarded as a classic and rightly so. You can see how it was influenced by great people of the same period such as Isaac Asimov. But you can also see how it may well have influenced modern sci-fi writers such as the brilliant Cixin Liu.

Very much of its time with some offensive contemporary thinking and based on a scientific prowess akin to Quatermass that Britain probably really never had. It is also based on an artificial idea of ‘impartial’ scientists being better than politicians. And it amazingly glosses over the deaths of billions of people.

But it is fantastic how it envisages the Earth could make first contact. And the author creates a plausible alien that is completely different to us. It’s that lovely experience of reading something and thinking ‘how did the writer think of that?’

My 2 current reading books

After the joy of these 3 inspirational books, I have moved onto 2 equally great books but not ones that will change how I look at life. First is a short horror story by the brilliant Susan Hill. The other is a fictionalised study of upper class German gay men that surrounded the Kaiser before WWI.

Health and Efficiency

My day of lethargy

Whether to do it?

A strange and unusual experience in that Friday I basically spent the whole day in bed. I woke up feeling completely worn out and lethargic. Managed to go out for a coffee but then came back and just stayed in bed all day. Perhaps it was a bug, perhaps it was my long walk the day before (see below).

Inevitably I felt a bit guilty – giving in to lethargy is an anathema to me as there always seems so much to do. But sometimes you just need to listen to your body. Thus a day spent snoozing, reading inspirational books, and playing on my phone.


We all know regular exercise is vital to staying healthy. I love walking and I have done some each day during lockdown. Thursday I did a very long walk (listening to Dr Who adventures) that incorporated going to the GP for my regular INR – blood clotting test. Ended up walking nearly 22,000 steps and I was absolutely knackered. Frustrating that the INR fell below the required reading so I’m prone to clotting. That means altered level of medication and back for a test next week. 🙁


animation of a fat man running

Ha ha, God sees our plans and laughs at them. The plan in last week’s blog was to do 3 short jog-runs. I managed 3.5 km that went well on Monday. But it caused my knees to feel a bit dodgy so I didn’t go out again on Wed as planned. Did my big walk on Thurs and that also aggravated my knees a bit.

I did manage to get out on Sat mid-morning for a slow 3 km jog-run. This is my new plan to help lose weight (see below). I am still going to try to do 3 jog-runs per week. But they are going to be over shorter distances (c.3 km or less) and they will be slow.


man weighing himself

I am determined that I am going to lose some weight during this second lockdown and get back towards the weight I was before the first lockdown. Good to see my weight is down to 13 stone 8.5 pounds largely due to me constraining my eating. Details on weight (and jog-run times) here. 🙂

But, thanks to my super-gadget watch, I also know my metabolism is raised and extra calories burnt through the whole day when I do a short jog-run. Thus, as laid out, I am going to focus on trying to achieve 3 (very) short jog-runs each week. I read that a ‘run’ can be as little as 2 km or just 15 mins.

Personal Development


Regular blog readers will know that I enjoy playing at learning languages and that this has become the focus of my personal development. I’m continuing with my daily Duolingo and Drops commitment. Indeed, I have increased the time I spend on the latter each day. It all started with wanting to particularly improve my Spanish and German but it has expanded. 🙂

Indeed the two languages I am finding particularly interesting (and hard) at the moment are Russian and Greek. Simply because they are so different to English. My dream is to be a polyglot fluent in various languages. Then I can travel easily to lots of different countries and really appreciate them. Perhaps I can even leave the UK for good one day. 🙂

Family and Friends


Mum continues to be well though bored with lockdown (aren’t we all?). Hopefully with the arrival of the vaccine, she will be one of the priority groups to receive it and she can start getting out again. I’ve managed to get her some books to read but she doesn’t like all of them. 🙁


Let life wash over you and enjoy it

I did have two big catch-ups with two mates last week which was excellent. First, my mate Philip in Spain. We talked about him probably moving to Torremolinos, a place I really enjoy despite it being out of gay fashion at the moment. For me it’s a chilled location where you can have fun without being as pretentious as some other places. Indeed, I could definitely live there myself.

Swing It

Second catch-up was with my old Brighton mate Rob (aka Swing It). He’s fine though bored with lockdown. His normal January holiday in Spain is obviously on hold. Once life is back to normal then I definitely plan to go down and see him for a weekend.

The Week Ahead

  • Carry on with lockdown 2.0 including frugal living and looking after the plants 🙂
  • Will definitely finish the Susan Hill book and start another one so I have two books on the go which I really enjoy 🙂
  • Try my plan for 3 short jog-runs and see if I can lose more weight
  • Have some long walks but not so much that I feel wiped out the day after!
  • Try to incorporate more stretching into my everyday routines
  • Snoozes if I need them 🙂
  • Get my INR rechecked 🙁
  • Continue learning languages 🙂
  • Try to make sure I have a couple of catch-ups with friends
  • Must try and get some more art and culture in my life particularly by catching up on good movies and TV

And Finally…

It's not Trump, it's Putin

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