Creating my New Normality

Mon 12 – Sun 18 Dec 2022

If the main feature of the first week of my semi / pre-retirement was appreciating the good friends I have (read the blog here), then I suppose the second week was about starting to sketch out the new normality of my life going forward.

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

Lao Tzu

Meanwhile, the weather continued to be viciously cold with snow hanging around for a few days before gradually melting. Plenty of snowmen around. Rain and higher temperatures came to mark the end of the cold fortnight on Sunday and coincided with the World Cup Final.

The shame of FIFA

Argentina on cruise control for 80 mins but then a memorable match ultimately defined by massively significant twists and turns. Big congrats to Argentina and Messi though Mbappe was the game changer. Let’s not forget that this whole event was sportswashing by Qatar and FIFA.

Health and Efficiency

Gym

Exactly as I wanted to do, I got to the gym three times despite the freezing cold and dark mornings. Indeed, I’m thinking about getting there more than that if I am able to as part of my new normality. Not weekends because it is too busy but possibly 4 weekdays or even all 5.

It is fascinating how much of a buzz I get from being at the gym and using the weights. Indeed, I was talking to one guy who spent an hour on the cardio machines and no time on weights / machines because he gets the opposite buzz to me.

88 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £5.62 per session.

Diet and illness

I really want to use this time without work to get my appetite under control. That has happened in the week gone though I have been assisted by not being 100% well. The stomach trouble I ended the previous week with carried on. As such, I just wasn’t that interested in food. Result that I was down to 13 stone 12.5 pounds. That is a weight I last hit in February of this year, nearly a whole year ago. I really hope I can continue this progress.

man weighing himself

Art and Culture

The Victoria and Albert Museum

On Monday, me and Dave had a lovely day out together. This is the sort of thing you can do when you are semi-retired. We spent the day at one of our favourite places, the Victoria and Albert Museum. More galleries and museums are definitely part of the new normality I seek. The V&A was wonderfully quiet compared to other times we have been. Presumably due to the cold weather and the schools not being on holiday yet.

We visited two particular exhibitions with one detailed below. Dave also attended one of the free guided tours, this one about fashion. And then we had lunch in the Members’ Room which was delightful. The afternoon was primarily spent looking round the Theatre and Performance galleries particularly the Re:Imagining Musicals exhibition. Very entertaining especially with details about some forgotten musicals and impressive costumes.

Culture at the V&A

Hallyu! The Korean Wave

This was the V&A exhibition which we spent most of the morning at. It is about Korean culture and its influence across the world in the second half of the twentieth century. To be honest, I was the one really keen to see this and Dave was more reticent. But we both loved it.

As soon as you walk in, the front wall is covered with screens showing the iconic ‘Gangnam Style’ by PSY. You then go into the tragic history of Korea from its occupation by Japan, post-WW2 division (without Koreans being consulted), the Korean War, and military dictatorship until the transfer to democracy in the 1980s.

Following the founding of South Korea, the economy began to develop. And this was not accidental but rather a deliberate policy of developing key areas. Korean technology has become cutting edge and this has been accompanied by the international rise of Korean cinema, pop music, and fashion. Indeed, one of the highlights was me and Dave getting ourselves filmed dancing and having that incorporated into a video.

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.”

Maxim Gorky

Family and Friends

Mum

She’s still ill but gradually getting better; unfortunately still too unwell to come Christmas shopping with me and Dave on Friday. Her cold / flu has dragged on for a couple of weeks and she is still worn out as well as chesty. But she is slowly getting there and bringing up lots of phlegm which makes me think it ain’t Covid. It is a sad fact how long it can take people to recover from illness as they get older. It comes to all of us.

Dave

Has been on very good form this week. As said, we spent the day together on Monday and I hope going forward that we can spend more quality time together. He actually treated himself to a cheap ticket (due to the train strikes) to the show ‘Cabaret’ on Wednesday. I couldn’t go because I was with mum. And then he had a great meeting with his friends Pippa and Stuart on Thursday.

Patrick and Frances at the UJC

I have said before in my blogs that one of the new normality features going forward will be spending more time with friends. I suspect it will be easier as the weather gets better. But on Tuesday, me and Dave took our lovely friends Patrick and Frances to lunch at the Union Jack Club. It’s been a momentous year for both of them and we wanted to celebrate Christmas and our friendship through all the difficulties. One of the highlights must have been the Parsnip and Lavender soup which was interesting.

Fairy land

Books and Reading

Only finished one book last week which I hope not to be a regular occurrence in my new normality. Finally I have the time I have sought for so long to be able to spend more time just enjoying reading.

‘I Capture the Castle’

A fascinating book by Dodie Smith written in 1948. I wanted to read it because it is classified as iconic. The fact it was written nearly 75 years ago doesn’t come across. Yes, it is about a family in abject but genteel rural poverty that doesn’t ring true. But it could be seen as a fantasy novel. Indeed, there is no specific reference to the time it is set in but it must be 1920s / 30s.

It’s a book about human relationships. Clearly both an eccentric family and collection of friends. But it centres on first and unrequited love. One review talks about the story being written by a girl at the beginning who is a woman by the end. I can see that. A very thoughtful piece of writing.

Sustainability

Frugal living and inequality

This has to be a feature of my new normality not least because I don’t have an income. I am living off my savings which does mean I won’t be able to use them to pay my nursing home fees if I survive that long. Thus, I have a sudden awareness of everything I am spending each day. And it’s so scary how easy it is to spend money.

Have a coffee – that’s £3 gone at least. So a coffee (just one!) each day is going to cost about £1,000 per year. Of course, it is good not to over-consume and not to waste resources. But I am more aware of how hard it is for people dealing with poverty to try not to spend money. And I don’t even have kids to worry about.

It also makes you realise how much inequality there is the world. That there are people who can just have whatever they want and not have to worry about whether they can afford it or the damage it does to others. What is the point in having wealth if others around you are suffering and you are doing nothing to help them?

Nature-rinsing

On a separate note, have a read of this great article about ‘nature-rinsing‘: brands hijacking images of nature whilst meanwhile destroying it.

Personal Development

Languages and WordPress

So pleased to be able to do Duolingo every day and to do more of it in each session. And even to do some German done as well as my normal Spanish. It’s especially easy when I am at the gym and no-one else is there so I can focus on it out loud between sets.

I also managed to watch a video on using WordPress better. Improving this skill is one of the things I want to do as part of my new normality. For anyone else interested in this, I would highly recommend subscribing to the channel of Jamie Marsland of PootlePress on YouTube here.

Handheld video

The Week Ahead

  • Christmas week arrives. For me, this is about finishing things off and resting. For others it is a time of anxiety and I hope that everybody will have some happiness. Think of the kids in poverty in the UK and the people being bombed by Russia in Ukraine.
  • Dave goes back to stay with his mum on Saturday. So Christmas weekend for me will be with my mum as well as some time on my own when she visits my brother’s girlfriend. Me and mum are actually thinking of having a take-away curry for Christmas dinner.
  • Dave has some work to do this week so I will give him space. But we are meeting Patrick on Wednesday. And on Thursday, at Dave’s insistence, we are going to see (again) The Muppet Christmas Carol Sing-a-Long. That may well be my main ‘cultural experience’ next week.
  • Can I keep up my weight loss as part of the new normality? Cold weather and Christmas will push back against my efforts unless I am very careful.
  • Target is 4 times at the gym this week plus some long walks
  • Should finish both the Paterson Joseph and Andy Weir books. I’ve also started on a 1974 sci-fi classic by the brilliant Ursula Le Guin, ‘The Dispossessed
  • I’ve had a big sort out of books and comics which I hope to take to the Notting Hill Exchange if there’s a buyer there
  • Phone call with Phyllis

And Finally…

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