Culture and friends – making progress in my new life

Mon 28 Sept – Sun 4 Oct 2020

When I (or anyone) looks back at this blog in the future, it’s worth noting it covers the week when we all worried about increased lockdown restrictions, we learnt how little tax Trump paid, the first (acrimonious) presidential debate happened, Trump contracted Covid-19 and was hospitalised, plus it poured down with rain. On a personal level, it felt that it was a week (the 5th after leaving Comic) when my post-redundancy life started to take shape. In particular, with me putting culture, art, and friends more at the centre of things. 🙂

The week just gone

Art and Culture

Brompton Cemetery

Me and Dave met our old friends Patrick and Stephen (details below) on Tuesday morning. We met at Brompton Cemetery which is a place I adore. Indeed, I have a big thing for old, unkempt cemeteries. Humanity always seeks to overtake nature but, ultimately, we all go back to nature.

This is a cemetery full of culture with many famous people buried there including suffragete Emmeline Pankhurst. And there is more recent history. In the 80s and 90s, it was one of the best gay cruising areas in London – when Earl’s Court was the gay centre of London. 🙂

Then on Wednesday morning with my old mate Dom to check out the exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. A huge piece of culture with work from this year’s graduates of London’s various art colleges. Nothing revolutionary – can culture and art be revolutionary any more? But some excellent works here that raised real emotional response from me. I was inspired to take loads of pictures on my phone. And I’ve peppered this magazine-blog with some of my favourite pieces.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery

For someone heavily into art and culture, I can a bit of a philistine in that generally (but not always) I don’t like video, photography, or computer-generated art. But there was some very inspirational art at this Saatchi exhibition including good old-fashioned painting and drawing. Highly recommended and only £3 admission fee. Catch it quick, ends 11 Oct. 🙂

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery

Victoria and Albert

Sunday morning and it was me + Dave off to one of our favourite culture haunts – the V&A in South Kensington (the sculpture in the old main entrance space is the main image accompanying this blog). Pissing down with rain but a lovely morning wandering around the galleries for South Asian art and English interiors 1500-1780. Also a lovely coffee and catch-up between us on the week ahead in the member’s room.

Then back to watch a very good documentary on Sky Arts (what a great TV channel 🙂 ) all about the 17th century female artist Artemisia Gentileschi. Must get to her exhibition at the National Gallery. On until 24 Jan but £20 per person.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

Jean Paul Belmondo

Of course, culture is many faceted. One of my favourite forms of culture is film. At my favourite charity shop, I recently picked up a DVD box-set of films starring the French actor Jean Paul Belmondo. I love French cinema generally and French new wave in particular produced some great films – so wonderfully 60s; I adore the culture of optimism, creativity and challenge.

Jean Paul Belmondo

Jean Paul Belmondo is very distinctive and handsome to my eyes. Partly because he reminds me of one of the other boys at secondary school I had a crush on when I was 15. 🙂 The film I watched was ‘Pierrot le fou‘ – wonderful chaos and subversion from 1965.

Friends and Family

Friends first in this section this time round. Usually in my blogs, I have more contact with family but not so much the week just gone.

Patrick and Stephen

Me and Dave have known Patrick and Stephen for many years. They are a fun couple, we always have a laugh with them. We met at the new cafe in Brompton Cemetery, sitting outside (thankfully the rain had paused) and observing social distancing. They are older and have needed to take special care during the pandemic’s last 6 months. But they are well thankfully and one even managed to get his cataracts operated on . 🙂

Very funny situation when we were walking through the cemetery after coffee. It’s an old cemetery containing old graves. But there was a hearse parked there with the driver in the front. Patrick said, ‘Isn’t that strange?’ To which Stephen replied, ‘Not really, we’re in a cemetery!’ Him and Dave were doubled up with laughter at this. 🙂

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

Dom, Pete and Val

And met up with my old friend Dom for the excellent Saatchi Gallery art visit. We’ve known each other for over 30 years. He was well and it was nice to have a coffee afterwards to talk about life. He is retired whilst I am redundant but we both face the same question of what next?

Also a Twitter DM chat with my friend Pete who went to the same school as me. He’s got a lot on his plate at the moment and I want to be there to give him support if he wants it. Giving support is the point of having friends.

And I was actually supposed to meet with my friend Val who used to work at Comic as well. We were due to meet on Monday but it got cancelled because of her freelance work commitments. Totally understandable and I need to rearrange. 🙂

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show


Thankfully mum remains fine. She’s going out a bit more but not as much as before the pandemic which is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, she’s one of the people who feels physically uncomfortable wearing a mask. I find this strange as I quite enjoy wearing them – they give a sense of mystery and security. 🙂

Books and Reading

Velvet Page book club

My monthly book club took place on Thurs evening. Obviously we can’t meet face to face. So back to zoom which I have been avoiding like the plague since leaving Comic because I was on it all the bloody time. About nine of us and a nice conversation about the book below.

Though we also broadened to other books and culture that we were enjoying – some great recommendations. And we had an interesting conversation about the value of rereading books. Next month’s book is the classic ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ by Quentin Crisp.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

‘On Earth we’re briefly gorgeous’ by Ocean Vuong

This has received much critical acclaim. I struggled to get into it at first but then it really gelled with me. It is culture in the sense that Vuong is a poet and this is his first ‘novel’. Indeed, it strikes me as fictional memoir more than anything; all about the life of a gay young man in America from a Vietnamese family. A few stereotypes, limited story, and little character development. But still beautifully written and engaging. My best description is ‘weird and dreamy’. I would be really interested to see if he writes a novel again and what he comes up with.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

‘The Remedy’ by Adam Haslett

Another short story from Amazon’s ‘Dark Corners Collection’ read on my beloved kindle. Started off OK with a mysterious new way to tackle depression. But the ending for me was a real letdown – disappointing. 🙁

Health and Efficiency

Jog-run: change in routine

I warned in last week’s blog that my normal weekly jog-run routine would be upset by the London Marathon taking place on Sunday. Not because I would be taking part (LOL) but because their course would intrude on my normal course so making it undoable. So no post-5K Sun morning video. 🙁

Did instead a short 3.5 km jog-run on Thurs – details here. And I plan to do another short jog-run next week before recommencing my weekly 5K jog-run the following Sunday. Short jog-run done at a different time of day, not as soon as I got up as with the Sunday 5K Rather did the short run late morning after I had been mobile for a bit. My joints are more warmed up but it feels more public and uncomfortable. Main thing to note was a pace (time per km) that was comparable to what I would normally do each Sunday morning – good news. 🙂

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

Walking and weight

One of the good things about doing a short jog-run is that it gets my metabolism moving and so I use more calories generally during the day. I can measure this on my watch. This combined with some reduced eating and several long purposeful walks (often listening to Dr Who 🙂 ) meant that I managed to get my weight down. Reduced by about 2 pounds on the previous week to just under 13 stone 9 pounds – details here. 🙂


My new post-redundancy life is not just about culture, art, friends, etc. It’s also about having a life and sleep pattern not based on working Mon-Fri 9-5. Why have a life based on something that doesn’t matter when it can be based on me? So a few more afternoon snoozes, some early nights, some late ones. Similarly, some early starts but I’m noticing my body seems to be waking later in response to the later time the morning starts to get light.

Personal Development


Big news is that I continue to make good progress on my 100 day challenge to use the Duolingo language app and improve my language skills. I’m up to 65 days of consecutive usage. 🙂 I’ve also tried to start doing some improvement of my computing skills by watching tutorials on YouTube. Unfortunately this hasn’t strongly established itself in my daily routine yet.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

Twitter gaol

Regular blog readers will know my love of social media. Unfortunately I got put into Twitter gaol for a week starting on Saturday. I pointed out that an option for Trump might be to use bleach to help treat the virus – simply mirroring his own words. This was deemed to be encouraging harm – complete bullshit. But Twitter’s loss and gives me time to concentrate on other things. Shows how fickle are the people who control social media where some abuse is deemed perfectly acceptable or ignored and simply stating facts is punished.

Bleach to treat Covid


My current reading book is ‘Underworld’ by Robert Macfarlane. It’s a very good analysis of the relationship between humans and nature especially in relation to under the ground. I feel I am definitely becoming more connected with nature, perhaps we all are being so enslaved by a little virus. Other interesting aspects of my new life where sustainability is intrinsic:

  • I am more aware than ever of what I spend (waste my money on?) and by controlling this so I am reducing my general consumption
  • I am increasingly aware of the beauty of plants particularly looking after the ones at mum’s and Dave’s. Part of this is learning not to over care or over water them which is something I might have done with a couple of succulents. 🙁 Oh well, nature tells us everything lives and dies. 🙂
  • Still giving stuff to charity shops and checking them out though not buying stuff just for the sake of it
Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

The Week Ahead

  • My diary remains lovely and clear – I am still free to build the new life I want
  • Got to keep putting culture and art in the centre of my new life. Will definitely be some visits and film-watching 🙂
  • Bit like art and culture, nothing specific lined up for next week regarding friends but I’m sure there will be something! 🙂 Also definitely spending time with mum.
  • Planning another short jog-run midweek before the normal 5K next Sunday. Plus long walks and little snoozes. 🙂
  • Will continue to enjoy the Macfarlane book and think about nature in my life. Then move onto some more inspirational reading. 🙂
  • Make more progress on the Duolingo 100 day challenge!

And Finally…

What liberalism is

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