Family – remembering its importance

Mon 21 – Sun 27 Sept 2020

I suppose its primarily due to the ubiquity of social media and the internet, but it is easy to downplay the importance of family and play up that of friends, colleagues, and potential business contacts. Certainly I know I haven’t always done as much as I should to keep in touch with my family. πŸ™ Remember, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family or work colleagues. πŸ™‚ However last week saw some correction with family members I don’t normally see particularly as they are ‘up north’.

Family and Friends

With the mother-in-law (again)

Main feature of last week was my second trip within a month to my partner’s northern home town. Immediately post-redundancy, it was to see his mum as no-one can be sure what the future holds. This time it was so Dave could attend his uncle’s funeral. There and back in a hire car with a couple of nights in a hotel.

At the funeral, Dave was able to catch-up with his wider family. Due to restrictions there was no wake but we had jointly caught up with some of the family on our recent trip. Particularly good to see Dave’s mum again and check she is OK. Plus meeting some of her local friends though making sure all Covid restrictions were kept to. Thankfully, she has a good support network.

β€œIt’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

John Steinbeck


Trip back from Dave’s family, we popped in to see my dad and his wife. They also live up north now and we don’t see each other much unfortunately. But it was on the way back to London so seemed stupid not to take the opportunity. Great to see them both and catch up on what life is like now as well as details on parts of the family I don’t often check on like my half-siblings and dad’s relatives.

Was quite a fun journey back from the north even without the family catch-up. We got stuck on a stretch of the motorway for about an hour and a half due to a lorry shedding its load (very windy day). Then my directions to and from dad’s weren’t as good as they should have been. Finally, Dave’s heart was broken by the failure of the KFC computer system at the service station so he couldn’t get his favourite (disgusting) snack.


Family usually relates to the time I spend with mum each week. Not so much of that last week due to the time we were spending with Dave’s family up north. However, lots of check-ins and she remains OK during this worrying time which we’ve just got to get through doing the best we can to stop the spread of the disease.

Science matters but you don't

Books and Reading

‘Beyond Time. Classic tales of time unwound’, edited by Mike Ashley

Only one book read last week. πŸ™ But it was a great collection of time travel stories written by various authors between the 1890s and 1950s. It’s published by the British Library and turns out that they have put together several similar interesting collections as well as republishing some ‘lost classics’ – check them out here.

‘Beyond Time’ was a great read. Began with an excellent introduction / overview of time travel literature and then some great stories with most coming from the 30s and 50s. Nearly all from authors I had never heard of. Wonderfully imaginative stories primarily about people travelling into the future which, generally, seems to be pretty grim. Highly recommended if you are into sci-fi and I’m definitely inspired to look up the other British Library collections. πŸ™‚

My current reading book for the Velvet Page book club

Velvet Page on the first Thurs of the month so I started the book for our meeting as Dave drove back from our trip to the family up north. The book is ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ by Ocean Vuong. It’s a much lauded piece of contemporary gay fiction looking at the life of a young Vietnamese migrant and his family in the USA.

The author normally writes poetry and I wasn’t sure if the book was too ‘literary’ but I’ve really started to enjoy it. There’s a wonderful sense of dislocation throughout it. πŸ™‚

Why are you afraid of being in a minority?

Health and Efficiency


A perfectly decent 5K this time round. Just 18 seconds over my 32 min target. Better than last week and it felt so much better (vid can be seen here). Main problem was the penultimate 1 km stretch which came in at nearly 7 mins. πŸ™

London Marathon next weekend which disrupts my running route so I may need to make some changes to my jog-run schedule next week and may not be a bad thing. πŸ™‚


Bleeding finger

Before our trip up north to see the family, to the hospital for my six month HIV bloods. I will be contacted if there are any results needing urgent action. But the main thing will be to use them as part of the annual consultation with my HIV consultant due in January. Very efficient service by a lovely nurse from Russia called Barbara. πŸ™‚


Oh dear, looks like two evenings of eating out with Dave and his mum up north has not benefited my weight. Indeed, fish and chips one night then burger and chips the next… Result that I am hitting 13 stone and 11 pounds – my heaviest for 18 months. πŸ™ But have I got the gumption to do what is necessary to bring it down?


Still trying to put lots of walking into my life for the physical health benefits (though doesn’t seem to be helping with weight loss). Also for my mental health benefit – walking and thinking, love it. πŸ™‚ Some walking during our family trip up north. But more going to and from the hospital plus walking related to my cultural visits – what a good lead-in to the next section!

Art and Culture

My target is to visit and / or have one major artistic and culture event each week. Even with most of the week taken up by family stuff and going up north (we did the local museum on our previous recent trip there), me and Dave still managed two events which is great. πŸ™‚

The Wallace Collection

First trip was on Tues morning to this wonderful museum / gallery behind Oxford St. A collection of paintings, furniture, and armour in a mansion. With a particular emphasis on French eighteenth century so lots of OTT aristocratic grandeur (more details here). It can get a bit too much at times – it’s like a rich culinary treat.

But for me the highlight are some of the amazing paintings. These include works by the genius Velazquez, sadly not always brilliantly presented. But the highlight is Frans Hals’ masterpiece, The Laughing Cavalier; it’s absolutely scrumptious. The paintwork is so modern, just look at the ‘impression’ of embroidery and lace.

The Laughing Cavalier

Chelsea Physic Garden

Friday was all about our long drive back from up north. After a very deep night’s sleep, me and Dave were up on Sat morning to visit this beautiful garden on Chelsea Embankment (more details here). It’s a hidden gem and was free to enter this weekend as part of Chelsea History Festival. A garden established in the 17th century and full of plants from all over the world. Great just to wonder around and wander at the variety of plant life across the globe. πŸ™‚

Personal Development

A short coaching session but I am in no rush

Had a catch up with the coach provided by my old employer. There’s only 2 and a half hours available so just half an hour to check in and plan ahead. We’ve booked a big session for the end of October to really pin down and identify my future options then prioritise.

As I wrote about in last week’s blog (details here), it feels to me like the key thing is that I want time to detox from my old job, recuperate, and think about what I really want to create next. Indeed, I’ve been redundant for less than a month and half of that has been spent up north with the mother-in-law!

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

Albert Einstein


Language learning continues to progress well which makes me so happy. The 100 day challenge of using Duolingo remains on course with me not having missed any days last week. I continue to study a variety of European languages with part of the learning fun coming from identifying linkages and commonalities between them. πŸ™‚

“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fall.”

Serena Williams


Frugal living – being more aware of money

I continue to try to live a more frugal lifestyle. Probably not helping the national economy to recover but sod the national economy. Post-redundancy I am far more aware of my day to day spending and what is left as it is not getting topped up any more. I suppose this proves the thinking that the more you earn then the more you spend which, of course, is what capitalism is based on.


A trip to our local charity shop before going up north. Dropped off a couple of t-shirts and picked up an old jacket for Β£1 which should be useful for winter as well as a couple of books to feed my book addiction. A nice juicy modern diary / autobiography by Tina Brown for Dave as he loves these type of gossipy books. One of the highlights of our up north trip was raiding the local charity shops. Goods are definitely cheaper and I came away with a couple of books, some crockery, and a t-shirt.

The joy of buying (cheap) plants

We also hit the local market particularly to buy some cheap indoor plants; succulents which are so trendy at the moment. As well as the big Morrison’s supermarket (with horribly unfriendly staff) where we snapped up some reduced neglected plants for the balcony. Basically nothing wrong with the plants than them needing watering.

Overall, great to be able to use one’s limited personal buying power to help charities, boost local economies, and have more plants. πŸ™‚

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

Harvey Fierstein

The Week Ahead

  • Family this week will mean time with mum particularly with the threat of the pandemic getting worse πŸ™
  • I have an ambition equal to the art and culture one to meet up with at least one friend each week. This coming week me and Dave are meeting with our old friends Patrick and Stephen.
  • Killing two birds with one stone (so to speak), our meeting will be in Brompton Cemetery which is a cultural experience in itself. I love old, unkempt cemeteries.
  • I will finish the Ocean Vuong book and hopefully take part in Thursday’s Velvet Page. Then start at least one, and hopefully two, lovely new books. πŸ™‚
  • My weekly jog-run may be different next week due to the London Marathon. Need to think how to play this one. Could be a useful variation to the norm.
  • Lots of lovely walking and we will see how my weight goes
  • Daily language learning continues – I’m aiming to achieve that 100 day challenge
  • Still going to try to live with low environmental impact

And Finally…

'Christian' prejudice

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