Life: An Adventure or Nothing

Last week I wrote about how much I can’t stand the gloom of January and February – read it here. I’m still feeling negative about this time of year. But I’m also aware that we only have one life and we have to live our best one. We have to make sure that we do have the adventure or we really have nothing. And you are a long-time dead.

But January and February are bloody awful. It’s so cold and grey. I am definitely sure I am sleeping more – it’s like a form of hibernation. Me, Dave, and our friend Patrick sat having lunch in a cafe during the week. A nice event but we stared out of the window onto an environment of grey. No sun and people wearing padded jackets and hats to keep warm – so depressing.

  • Time with mum and Patrick doing my caring duties
  • 3 very good books read including one based on original documents and interviews about the Stonewall riots in 1969 that created the modern LGBTQ+ world
  • Good workouts and swims alongside trying to be part of the circular economy and feeding my love of archaeology

Time with mum: TV and shopping

One huge aspect of my current life is caring for others including my mum. Generally, our time together is spent watching the TV despite us often having very different tastes. But it is easy to get drawn into some of mum’s favourite repeats like ‘Vera’ and ‘Downton Abbey’.

But I also took mum out to the shops on Monday getting the post-Christmas food bargains. These trips are her main adventure these days. I know she enjoyed it (‘Look at those lovely meaty strips of belly of pork!’) despite moaning about the cold – we had snow flurries which immediately got her worried about her hair.

Time with Patrick

I popped round to see Patrick on Tuesday and then me and Dave went together to see him on Friday. His new carpet looks great and hopefully his bathroom will be altered as part of the general drive to enable him to stay at home.

On Tuesday, we decided to pop out for a coffee but both the local cafe and the pub were closed. So we had a little adventure going on the bus to a nearby Starbucks and then doing a food shop at the supermarket. On Friday, the cafe was open and that was where the three of us stared out at the greyness.

Cup of coffee

Managed to finish 3 books, all thought-provoking.

‘Yellowface’ by R F Kuang

A critically acclaimed novel by the writer of ‘Babel’. The latter is a speculative fiction adventure book, again much acclaimed, and my review of it is here. ‘Yellowface’ is set in the current day and without any fantasy edge. I really enjoyed this book and I can understand the commendations for it.

It’s ostensibly a pretty straight forward story of literary plagiarism. But, unsurprisingly, it’s a more complex and nuanced story with several themes going on including grief, obsession, spirals of hate, and the desire for revenge. Two of the strongest themes are around racism and the publishing industry.

The question of plagiarism leads onto the issue of racism – should a white person write about non-white people? But revelations in the story about the plagiarist’s dead friend casts some questions for us to think about. The question is if we can just take things at face value as much as it would be convenient for us to do. Never black nor white but always grey. And the power of tit-for-tat to lead to never-ending war.

This is also a study in the fallacy of the idea of the wholesomeness of publishing. It is an industry based on profit. Writers are raised up and then dashed down in a viciously competitive industry. Indeed, it reminds me a lot of when I was a post-graduate. The idea of integrity but actually a world of jealousy and constant rivalry whilst trying to achieve financial success. Again perhaps the message is don’t always look for utopias as well as easy answers.

Rows and rows of beautiful books

‘The Stonewall Reader’ edited by New York Public Library

A collection of original documents and oral histories of the period directly leading to the 1969 Stonewall riot, the seminal event itself, and the repercussions. The Stonewall riot was the first major incident where LGBTQ+ people stood up and fought against police harassment. And so began the adventure that was the Gay Liberation movement.

Stories of how people had to hide their sexuality in 1960s America where in every state except one (Illinois) there was a prison sentence for the ‘crime’ of sodomy. Then recollections of the actual riot which lasted over a few days and saw the police besieged in the Stonewall bar at one point. And followed by details on the various Gay Liberation movements that arose.

Particularly fascinating to hear from different voices. Most lesbian and gay people led lives in the closet. But there were also plenty of people on the margins who had nothing to lose and got involved such as drag queens, transvestites, street homeless, black people, and sex workers. The Gay Lib movement that followed became one that made many LGBTQ+ people choose deliberately to become more visible.

‘100 Queer Poems’ edited by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan

I have said several times that I find poetry difficult. And this collection hasn’t really enabled me to surmount that hurdle. The majority of poems just passed over me. Pleasant to read the words (or even say them out loud) but they left no long-term impression.

Only two things really made an impression. First, the works by the classic poets shine through compared to the modern ones. Second, I was impressed by one particular poet: Sean Hewitt. You can read about him here. He has been on my radar for a while but his poem about clubbing in Berlin really hit a chord bringing back memories. I will definitely be investigating his writing more closely.

I love it when literature becomes an adventure. When you find an author and pursue their other works. Or when you choose to investigate new literary themes or publishing houses.

Queer

Gym but with my clothes on

Trying to keep fit is definitely a part of my current life. I managed to get in 3 gym sessions and 2 swim sessions which has brightened up a dreary and cold week.

Gym on Monday morning and I shared the space with 2 other people. Both working out with their tops off and just shorts on Fine if you are a young, fit Hispanic guy. For me, I would only dream of having the adventure of working out bare-chested when there is no-one else around. It is actually a good way of exercising as you can observe the parts of the body you are working on to make sure your technique is good. But I think most of us would feel inhibited.

Wednesday and Friday mornings saw me working out with my top on. On both days, I did a slightly shorter but more intense exercise routine than normal just because that’s what I felt like. Really focused on doing exercises for certain body parts and making sure those parts felt really worked out.

5 gym sessions since the start of 2024 divided by the annual membership = £99 per session.

dumbells in the gym

Swim: Dealing with the cold, other swimmers, and blocked ears

It’s hard to get motivated to swim with such horrible cold weather. Indeed, it’s an adventure pushing yourself to walk to the swimming pool on mornings like these. January is also difficult as you are joined by the people who have made new year resolutions to do more exercise – many will disappear as the year ages.

Visited the pool on Thursday morning though other people seemed to share my hesitation with the cold – at one point there were only 4 of us in the pool! But just 20 lengths of mixed strokes. My muscles were aching from the hard gym workout the day before so it didn’t feel appropriate to really knacker myself out.

I have been getting water in my ears after swimming and I thought it was because of the wax in there. So to the ear suction clinic on Thursday afternoon. Interestingly, the audiologist didn’t find too much wax but suctioned out what was there. I also bought some ear plugs but didn’t feel comfortable swimming with them. I think I’ve got misshapen ears.

Went for a swim again early on Sunday morning, early enough that there weren’t too many there but a lot more were arriving as I left. 22 or 24 lengths which explains my problem with swimming – I find it dull and lose concentration. Again mixed strokes and it felt like a good workout.

swimming pool lanes

Trying to live in the circular economy

Not much of an adventure but I did go to the Notting Hill Exchange on Tuesday. All part of my plan to be part of the circular economy and to live with less stuff. Over Christmas I sorted out a load more DVDs and audio-CDs I didn’t need, for the latter I have downloaded many of them. No cash for trade at the moment so I had to make do with vouchers which I spent on some more books. Ironic when I am trying to get rid of stuff but I suspect they will end up back at the Exchange in due course.

recycling symbol

Digging for Britain

The second half of the new series was last week: 3 more wonderful episodes. I love archaeology because it is like an adventure where you don’t know what is going to happen and wonderful things can be revealed. It’s amazing the way you are given little insights into how other people lived. People who were just like us but who are now dust.

Parthenon

  • In keeping with the theme of gloom for January and the need to try to make an adventure out of existence, Monday is Blue Monday – apparently the day of the year when we are at the highest level of depression.
  • Should get in 3 gym visits and at least one swim
  • Got my rearranged meetings with friends, shifted due to the (last minute postponed) tube strike. So Fang Fang on Tuesday night and David aka Daisy on Wednesday afternoon.
  • I’ve started to read the novel that won the Booker 2024: ‘Prophet Song’ by Paul Lynch. Dystopianism set in a Republic of Ireland sliding into dictatorship and totalitarianism. As well as a collection of writings on ghosts by the great author Jeanette Winterson.
Militant homosexuality

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