Life during wartime

Mon 26 Oct – Sun 1 Nov 2020

The weather is certainly turning. It’s been a week of lots of rain and wind. Autumn hints at the coming of winter. πŸ™ And we await the results of the American election. Not that we can do anything but simply to see what the world might be like for the next 4 years. Personally I think we are seeing the decline of American influence so the key questions is what will replace it and the big danger is of life being dominated by authoritarianism rather than liberal democracy. Plus life back in full lockdown next week. πŸ™

Last week was another one where a book I read influenced my thinking. Sometimes books are there for pure entertainment and escapism. And other times they give you new insights and stimulate your thinking. The latest book is one about life in wartime Berlin. And it made me think about how life now is a bit like living through wartime.

WWI painting - blinded soldiers

Obviously living through real conflict is far worse than anything any of us are going through now. But the restrictions on ‘normal’ life combined with not knowing when and how it will end is similar to what wartime living is like. We will never forget this period in our life and no-one would want to live through it again – that’s a definition of ‘traumatic’.

Hundreds dying each day and we all know the coming winter is going to be incredibly grim on so many levels. Perhaps I am being over-dramatic. Hopefully a vaccine will come. But we are probably still talking about two years until some type of normality returns – with luck.

“You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plough right ahead.”

George Lucas

Books and Reading

Two books read last week and one nearly finished.

‘Berlin diaries 1940-1945’

I read this book and it is a fascinating account of life in Berlin during WWII. The author was Marie Vassiltchikov – a Russian aristocrat who left Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and moved around Europe before settling in Berlin just as the Nazis came to power. Life in Berlin was as bleak as you can imagine especially as the allies advanced and bombs rained down.

Ypres after the first bombardment

It’s a fascinating book as Missie, as she is known, mixes with the other great European aristocratic families like Bismarck, Hohenzollern, and Metternich. She was also linked to the 20th July ‘Officers’ Plot’ to kill Hitler and the fallout that arose from that failure.

The book was published in 1985 as part of Missie’s estate – she died in 1978. And you do have to wonder if it was slightly embellished afterwards. But it clearly shows the chaos of war and the everyday uncertainty of life. What is amazing is how social life was maintained. As well as her stamina and sheer determination in physically travelling around between different places to keep life going.

‘Staring at the sun’

I am still reading the death anxiety book I based last week’s blog on (read here). It’s actually a very life-affirming book in that it makes you realise the importance of living a good life before you die and trying not to live a life just in fear of what is to come after it is over. But I haven’t finished the book yet and I will write about it more in next week’s blog once it is completed.

‘Men without women’

This was the piece of fiction I read last week (though ‘Berlin diaries’ felt like a novel at times). In my favourite charity shop, I found a recent collection of stories by one of my favourite contemporary authors – Haruki Murakami. And only Β£1! πŸ™‚

This collection, as the title suggests, is the author’s view of how men and women relate to each other. It is very heterosexual, generally tied into Japanese life, and most of the relationships are about men and women having affairs. But it’s more deeper than that with some serious weirdness woven through several of the stories. Nice, escapist literary fun. πŸ™‚

Details on the books I have read, including which ones by Haruki Murakami, can be found here.

Health and Efficiency


Managed to squeeze in more than just one jog-run last week – I did three! πŸ™‚ Mornings of Mon, Thurs, and Sun. I’ve given up very early morning runs as I need some time for my body to warm-up. So mid-morning runs even though I feel more conspicuous at these times. But I’m realising that no-one is looking at me. πŸ™‚

Still relatively short at around three and a half kilometres but slowly increasing the distance each time. And my pace is good, coming in at around six minutes and 15 seconds for each km. πŸ™‚


One of the most exciting things linked to my jog-runs is that my knees are holding up well. πŸ™‚ I think by letting my body, muscles, and joints warm-up a bit more before; doing shorter but more regular runs; and doing lots of stretching thus I am avoiding aggravating my right knee in particular. I can still feel it is not 100% right but that is life and almost certainly linked to the wear and tear of old age. The important thing now is minimising discomfort.


Good news, down to 13 stone, 8 & a half pounds. A result of doing more exercise and changing my eating patterns. I am now eating my main meal at lunchtime and just something light in the evening. Twas the other way round. My theory is that by eating earlier in the day then there is more time to burn the calories. πŸ™‚

My new cunning strategy…

animation of a fat man running

I have a plan! I am going to try to do more short runs and keep to my new eating pattern. Hopefully, this will increase my metabolism and encourage weight loss. I must do a minimum of two jog-runs per week, ideally three. And I will keep them short. Indeed, what if I were to do a 2 or 2.5K jog-run every other day? Hmmm….

I am reflecting that I used to do a weekly 10K jog-run which I really enjoyed but, ultimately, played havoc with my knees. Perhaps it is better for my own wellbeing to do that 10K, or even in excess of that, over a week via several smaller jog-runs. πŸ™‚

Details on my weight and jog-runs can be found here.

Personal Development

Planning for the future

Last Tues morning, had my long zoom catch-up with the life coach provided by Comic Relief when I was made redundant. Weirdly I was really nervous but it obviously went fine. A wide-ranging chat about where I am now and looking at what I have to offer. Basically we agreed that I will probably be treading water for the next few months as the pandemic, Brexit, and winter roll-out. I can cope with that financially though obviously I should be ready if opportunities arise. Possibly checking in again late November.

A short article I would recommend

Surprised monkey

Separately I came across this article where someone lays out their eight main pieces of life advice. I found it quite inspiring especially: there is always too much to do; choose enlargement over happiness; and the advice you don’t want is usually the advice you need. πŸ™‚ Read it here.


This is clearly my current main PD focus. Continued with my 100 day challenge on using Duolingo and I’m up to over 90 days. Also have a pattern now of alternating Russian and Greek each day as they are so complex. Also doing Polish on the same day as Russian as there are some similarities. And I have also made a good habit of using the Drops app to do some German learning each day. πŸ™‚

Art and Culture

A week without a significant cultural trip. And now there’s going to be no chance for at least a month to see some of the current great exhibitions. πŸ™

Union Jack Club

However, me and Dave did manage to get in a visit to our old favourite The Union Jack Club in Waterloo for lunch and a drink. Still cultural in that there ain’t much going out in our life these days. It’s a place for ex-armed forces people (Dave) and is usually buzzing. However, it’s very quiet and ‘civilised’ these days. Plus it feels good to be able to support some parts of our hospitality industry. πŸ™‚

‘A Prophet’

I have been watching this classic but contemporary French movie online originally released in 2009. Though I have been watching it in bits now and then rather than one single chunk. It’s the gritty story of a young man’s life in prison. A few caricatures but then there’s no smoke without fire and many stereotypes are based in truth.

TBH it’s great drama but grim, violent, and depressing. The classic story of prison life where the last thing that happens is rehabilitation, Fascinating how there have been so many excellent prison dramas including Oz and Scum. Plus this film has been good for my French though bits of it are also in Cosican and Arabic.

‘Varda by Agnes’

Keeping the theme of watching films to improve my language skills (and staying with French), I have moved onto the documentary about an artist – ‘Varda by Agnes’. More details next week but definitely easier to understand and less slang French.


The harsh side of frugal living

Not too much to report – sentences like that make me think what the hell did I do with my life last week? A sentiment we all have I suspect. πŸ™

I am still trying to be an exemplar of frugal living. Good for the environment but not always good for my mental health. I am most definitely eating into my savings now – the rainy day has arrived. And it’s annoying things now like seeing how long I can go without a haircut and stopping being able to donate to so many charities. My basic guideline is fund the smaller, less known, less popular ones as the big boys can look after themselves. πŸ™

The charity shop and plants

Spider plant

Popped stuff to the charity shop last week and picked up two Β£1 DVDs and the Β£1 Murakami book referred to above. New lockdown is going to hurt them. πŸ™ Also continuing to look after the plants. Dave bought some new balcony plants as, apparently, the old ones ‘had it’.

Don’t understand myself as plants don’t seem to need replacing in the wild. But I bow to his knowledge as he’s more of a gardening expert than me (doesn’t mean he can’t be wrong though LOL πŸ™‚ ).

The Week Ahead

  • Back to full lockdown for a month. ‘Hooray!’ said nobody ever. πŸ™
  • Obviously no meeting up with friends. Should have been meeting Jamie next Sat but obviously cancelled. Back to life with friends based on contact via zoom and social media.
  • Suspect there will be even less opportunity during lockdown to find a new job πŸ™
  • Goodbye to charity shops but it will definitely be easier to live frugally with no shops to spend money in
  • Will finish ‘Staring at the Sun’ and move onto a couple of new books πŸ™‚
  • Hopefully two or three jog-runs next week and continued managing to live my life with dodgy knees
  • Wonder how my weight is going to fare with going back to lockdown…? It was a disaster first time round… πŸ™
  • Focus on language learning in my personal development and watching films to feed my cultural thirst as well as improving my language skills

And Finally…

Trump is cosy with Putin

2 thoughts on “Life during wartime

  1. Interesting and compelling blog Billy! Well done on the running. Very interesting to see what you are reading. And very intrigued with learning so many languages at once! Does that work or doesn’t the brain get muddled?! Sounds brilliant though, looking forward to hearing more about that πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Jo. Great to hear from you and hope life is good. Thanks for the feedback. It’s really weird, I didn’t enjoy languages at school and didn’t get them. But with travel I realise I want to be able to communicate better and not rely on everyone in the world speaking English. Yep may be more sensible to focus on one or two specific languages. But it’s entertaining to see how languages connect up in different ways and I can always switch to learning another when I get a bit bored with one. Stay well. B πŸ™‚

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