Easter 2022 – rest and renewal, a foretaste of things to come?

Mon 11 – Sun 17 April 2022

Fascinating to look back on what was happening a year ago at Easter; my blog can be read here. This is a special time. It’s about rest, renewal, and reflection. Indeed, my previous Easter blog also looked back at those of the two years before – lockdown 1.0 and pre-pandemic.

Easter is a good staging post in life. A key date to focus on where you’ve been and where you are going. Less personalised than your birthday and quieter than Christmas. Plus signifying rebirth and light coming. Good to be out of lockdown and sort of over the pandemic thanks to the vaccine (though it is still there and people are still dying).

But who would have thought we would have a war in Europe, a Prime Minister found guilty of breaking the law, as well as a nutty plan to relocate refugees to central Africa and leave them there. The candidate for the Conservatives knocked on my door canvassing for the local elections. I just gave a courteous ‘No, thank you’. I suspect she got a lot worse than that from some other electors.

Sustainability

The spiritual angle

Easter is a spiritual time with its themes of rebirth and resurrection. I absolutely love the Friday and Monday off work. An enforced long weekend can be used for many hedonistic things (not necessarily bad in itself) but also for recharging your batteries and planning ahead.

My blog for the previous week here highlighted that tackling the impact of climate action is possible but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we can do nothing nor make any changes but expect things to get better. I continue to think a lot during the last week and over the Easter weekend about how humanity can survive climate change.

My feelings about the need to take action on sustainability have also been influenced by a panel discussion I’ve been asked to take part in as well as a chat with a friend – details below. But it’s also just what is weighing on my mind. I have limited time left on this Earth (perhaps less than 20 years) and what can I do to help future generations? It’s quite simple, I can try to reduce the damage of climate change and encourage others to do the same.

Close up of nature

The IPCC report and the need for direct action

We know climate change is happening and the latest IPCC report lays out the urgent action we need to take or the consequences we will face – you can find out about it here. But there is a complete lack of urgency in the responses coming from the world’s different governments and businesses. Lots of good will and lots of greenwashing. It falls to us as individuals to take action and I totally understand what Extinction Rebellion is doing. Yes it is inconvenient but if we do nothing then the planet is doomed.

Stop buying shit!

The key thing we can all do is reduce our levels of consumption – energy, food (particularly meat), stuff in general. Stop buying shit people – ultimately that is all it is. The less crap we buy from China, the less energy that will be used to produce and transport it. If you need to buy, try to buy stuff that is better for the environment and helps poorer people. And stop flying – it is evil.

Break the addiction

We need to break the addiction of having stuff because it makes us feel good. These possessions won’t stop you dying. And, realistically, do you need this stuff or are you using it? I’m enjoying going through the process of letting things go. I will travel lighter in the future. Easter has been a great time for pottering around the flat and selecting stuff to get rid of. I’ve built up another lovely pile of books to go to the Exchange that I know I am not going to have time to read.

recovery

Plants are lovely

Meanwhile, I see the plants are happy that Easter is here. Blossom is on the trees and flowers are coming out. Dave did an inspection of my window boxes and gave me instructions on what needs to be cut back. Remember, any small piece of nature will help wildlife in whatever form. And I bought yet another indoor plant. If we can squeeze in plants in any small part of the world then that has to be for the good.

Spring - trees in blossom

Work Life Balance

A big theme of Easter 2021 was that I had been on the search for a job after the cruelty of redundancy – trying to prove that I was still a worthwhile person. And a year ago I knew I was starting my new job which made me hopeful but I also had trepidation.

Confidence restored but…

Well, a year is over and I’m still there. Indeed, they like me and my contract has been extended. I really needed the confidence boost of knowing that I was still wanted despite being in my mid-50s. Not always been an easy year but it has given me confidence. But also made me realise how tired I am of working life in general. 35 years of working and I am worn out. Such that I am really looking forward to going down to 2 days p.w. from the end of May and the fear of not working doesn’t scare me any more.

Feeling swamped

…semi-retirement beckons

Indeed, I have said before that I am heading towards a period of semi-retirement and that is the truth. I have given up on the evil career ladder – I’ve reached an age where I don’t care that I won’t earn more and be ‘successful’. I am lucky, that isn’t an option for many young people nor for those with dependents. But the fact we are wage slaves doing jobs and long hours that make us unhappy show what a crap system we live in.

And I feel good

The future will be about me living off my savings and getting small bits of income where I can. But in return I will have more time to do things that matter to me. Learning, reading, enjoying nature, caring for family and friends, travelling (without destroying the planet). And it will free me up to say what I really feel and want to say. There’s that thing about speaking truth to power but you can only do that if you are able to and don’t have to worry about the consequences.

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

Virginia Woolf

Tech for Good

After my much enjoyed time with our new team based in Newcastle the previous week, the week leading up to Easter was both short and more routine though a nice catch-up with our MD. But big exciting news is that I have been invited to be part of a panel discussion at the AWS London Summit on Wed 27 April.

Title is ‘Leading with purpose: What does it take to create sustainable, social impact?’ Alongside 4 other people, I will be discussing how we can use technology to drive social, environmental and economic impacts for communities around the world. I plan to use the digital referral product built for Citizens Advice as a great example. It’s free to attend the summit – find out more details here.

Family and Friends

Easter is for family and friends in a way. With so much extra spare time then some of that should definitely be spent with the ones we love and have responsibilities for. Although the time and the theme of Easter also allows us to have space for ourselves to think about where life is taking us.

Mums

Last Easter, me and Dave were waiting for our mums to get their 2nd vaccination. How things are different now. I spent a large part of Easter 2022 with my mum. She is doing OK and definitely less negative that it is warmer and brighter. It’s that time when the weather is just right for her – she can stop moaning about the cold and it’s still to come when she will be complaining about the heat. Nice to buy her flowers and she loved getting some Easter cards. Good to spend time chilling with her as parents aren’t there forever.

Meanwhile Dave’s mum continues her slow rehab but she still can’t get out of her flat. She’s been given a personal alarm that she carries with her all the time. That’s a weight off Dave’s mind especially if his mum falls again during the night.

Dave

He’s doing OK and Easter marks the change from his thick winter quilt to the much lighter summer quilt. Persuaded him to simply take the latter to the laundrette after six months in storage rather than buying a new one. He came over to see me and mum on Maundy Thursday bringing mum a big chocolate Easter Egg and a strawberry gateau. Later me and Dave went to one of our favourite restaurants – a Turkish one in Fulham where we had a lovely meal to celebrate the arrival of the Easter holiday.

Joe

Great to have a catch up with this old mate over zoom on Wed. We met about 9 years ago in the early days of the Tech For Good movement when I ran an Innovation Lab at Comic Relief to find ways to use digital to support young people around their mental health – very prescient. Joe is both great at tech and a strong environmentalist. In many ways, he lives the life I aspire to. So nice to talk tech and green issues with someone on a similar, and yet different, wavelength. His website is here.

Patrick and Frances

Me and Dave met up with these two friends on Saturday for an Easter lunch at the Union Jack Club. Both have had an exceptionally difficult 12 months. Perhaps it’s that thing about the futility of making plans. But both are dealing with their new lives very well. It was good to meet for a drink and lunch at one of mine and Dave’s favourite places to celebrate where we all are in life, that we are still here, and life continues.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

Books and Reading

A constant of my life is my love of reading. And last week I managed to finish 2 books that I’ve been reading (and enjoying) for a while.

‘The Royal Secret’ by Andrew Taylor

A great piece of historical crime fiction. It features the next in the series adventure of the duo James Marwood (investigator for Charles II) and Cat Lovett (female architect). All far-fetched but well-written with good characterisation as well as creating a realistic historical setting. It is based around the secret negotiations on the Treaty of Dover in 1670 which ensured Charles II received funds from Louis XIV in return for allying against the Dutch and agreeing to convert to Catholicism at some point. All in all, a pretty shady deal for a pretty shady monarch.

‘The Magician’ by Colm Toibin

The fictionalised biography of the German writer Thomas Mann by this brilliant Irish writer. There is a lot about his family – large and quite dysfunctional though Mann himself wouldn’t win ‘Father of the Year’ (though neither would my dad). And it is amazing the times he lived through including the Germany post-unification, WWI, the 1918 revolutions, the Weimar Republic, the rise of Hitler, WWII, and the division of post-war Germany. As a result of all these historical events, Mann spends much of his time in exile in different places including other parts of Europe and the USA.

Has made me think I must read some of Mann’s books. He wrote some wonderful stuff including The Magic Mountain and Death in Venice.

Rows and rows of beautiful books

My new reading books

I’m still getting on with ‘Shadowlands’ by Matthew Green and ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche. They are books I can happily read bits of before I go to sleep. But I have also started 2 new reading books.

First, I am reading a hard copy of Becky Chambers’ sci-fi novel ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few’. Number 3 in the Wayfarers series. Excited to pick it up at the local library as it’s not on my list of books I have read though the first 2 books in this series are. But as I read it, I am sure I have read it. Although I can’t remember what happens so I am enjoying reading (and perhaps rereading) it.

Phobos

Second, on my kindle I am reading the much acclaimed ‘Ariadne’ by Jennifer Saint. It’s an interpretation and retelling of a story from Greek mythology. Currently a surprisingly popular genre, not sure why. Though this is very good and sums up brilliantly the way women are mistreated.

Health and Efficiency

Mental health

Is my mental health better now than it was a year ago? I think between Easter 2021 and 2022, I have made a lot of progress in terms of my tech and product knowledge through my paid work as well as just having a lot more confidence in myself, my choices, and the plans I have for the future. But I have also had periods where I’ve felt down and stressed. Perhaps that’s my personality.

Certainly I have benefited from having a decent chunk of time off this Easter – my first since Christmas as me and Dave had to cancel our planned Feb break in Gran Can because we were both busy with work stuff.

Gym

A step backwards that is also a massive step forwards in that I am back at my beloved gym. Just under 2 years of not attending the gym stopped when I rejoined my gay gym on a year’s membership in January 2022. Managed to get there twice last week though I wasn’t 100% motivated on Thurs. Still two bloody good sessions focusing on my legs in particular but that did also aggravate my knees.

22 sessions means the cost of each session to date = about £23 per session.

Gym

Jog-runs

Interesting to note that a year ago I was lamenting the fact that I was no longer doing jog-runs due to my knee problems. And I was remembering how I used to do a weekly 10K pre-pandemic. The year gone has seen physio on my knees and a return to the gym but no return to jog-runs. Partly because of the lack of time with work, gym, and mum. One things I would love to do by Easter 2023 is to go back to doing some jog-runs though accepting my 10K days are probably long gone.

man busy jogging

Weight

This is clearly where I have gone backwards in the year since Easter 2021. According to my blog then, I was sitting between 13 and 13 & a half stone. And I was celebrating coming down from 14 stone. Well I am back up to over 14 stone again. Interestingly I put forward the idea that I had lost weight because I wasn’t working. Over the last year I have been working and I have put on weight. I’m pretty sure that’s a correlation rather than a coincidence. I will lose weight in the future but I need to have moved into the semi-retirement period I am looking forward to.

Art and Culture

In my previous blog I wrote about my love of the new art series ‘Art that made us’. And in my blog for Easter 2021 I also wrote about great TV. Perhaps I berate how important TV is as an art form. A memory of the last year is the fun me and Dave had in watching ‘Squid Game’ together.

‘Art that made us’ continues to look at art during key parts of British history and have it interpreted by contemporary artists. The first episode was about the hybrid ‘British’ society of the Dark Ages. The second episode looked at the dislocation caused by the Black Death in 1348 and compared it to the Covid pandemic.

Personal Development

Hmm, looking at the Easter 2021 blog it appears I was doing more personal development and learning particularly around tech. Perhaps that simply reflects that I was unemployed and had time on my hands. No tech learning unfortunately in the week gone. But progress nearly every day on Duolingo where I am trying to do a daily lesson in both Spanish and German.

The Week Ahead

  • Another brilliant thing about Easter are the two short weeks either side! 2 working days next week, I’m gonna take it easy.
  • Plus 2 non-work days means 2 gym sessions
  • Plenty of time with mum but I’ll also catch up with Dave though he’s off to Liverpool next weekend for a concert
  • Lunch is planned with another old Comic Relief colleague (Faye) next Thurs. Hopefully a catch-up with Phyllis in Torremolinos as well.
  • Will at least finish reading ‘Shadowlands’ next week. Meanwhile will carry on with Becky Chambers and Jennifer Saint
  • Continue with personal development especially Duolingo and good TV particularly ‘Art that made us’ and ‘The Drop’

And Finally…

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