Moving forward

Mon 14 – Sun 20 Nov 2022

It’s that horrible time of the year when things are getting darker, colder, and wetter. But one of the better things in life is when you feel in control of what is happening around you, and that you are moving forward. That is where I am at the moment primarily because I made the decision last week and agreed a finish date at my current job slightly ahead of the contract end date which was 31st Dec.

For me, I feel that I am at a point where I want to move into my new life. I’ve outlined this previously – the period of semi-retirement or pre-retirement I will be going into and I just want to get on with it. It’s a bit uncertain and scary particularly the prospect of no guaranteed monthly income. But it’s the opportunity for me to do some of the things I don’t feel I’ve had time to do and explore new possibilities while I still can.

“One should count each day a separate life.”

Seneca

Work Life Balance

Work itself was relatively quiet last week. It was mainly about me catching up with my colleague Jeantine after our respective holiday breaks. But, obviously, it was a big week in me getting the go ahead to leave a bit earlier. Looks like my last working day will be Fri 2 Dec and then I’m effectively unemployed.

But I am in a positive place and I am moving forward: having a break and working out where I want to go next in my life. I’ve had a great time at Thoughtworks and learnt so much. TBH, I think I won’t really appreciate in total what I have learnt, gained experience of, and can offer others until after I’ve had some distance and reflection time.

The future - next exit

What I won’t miss

However, there are so many features of the modern world of work that we all find frustrating. I have basically experienced them at every paid job I’ve done. So I can say that some of the things I am not going to miss for a while at least whilst I take a pause from normal working life:

  • Meetings
  • Pre-meetings
  • Meetings about meetings
  • Supervision sessions
  • Appraisals
  • Personal Development Plans
  • Team-building sessions
  • Wellbeing activities
  • Work-related social events
  • Emails and particularly going through them outside work hours

Do you think there’s a common theme here of questionably useful things that take up our precious and finite time?

Books and Reading

It’s been a good week in terms of getting through my never ending reading list. Three books read and two of them outside my reading comfort zone.

‘The Lonely Hour’ by Christopher Fowler

This is an author I love. His writing is brilliant particularly these adventures of Detectives Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. I would highly recommend checking out his website here on which he regularly posts blogs. And all this is tinged with sadness and awe as he is terminally ill.

This book is a great continuation of the PCU’s adventures and there does feel of a branching out to give more characterisation of the other members of the Unit beyond just Bryant and May. This pair have started to split apart with one particularly putting himself and the Unit’s future into a risky position.

The mystery itself of what is happening in terms of the crimes being committed, why they are being done, and who is doing them are all beautifully unpeeled as you progress through the book. Yes, there are always some bits where coincidence fit together too perfectly but it’s fiction and I don’t think anyone would claim it’s meant to be real life. Rather it is writing that relates to the world we live in without actually being in it.

Moving forward, hopefully at least one more adventure to come. But all things end eventually…

‘If Cats Disappeared from the World’ by Genki Kawamura

A secondhand book I picked up somewhere though it escapes my memory where it actually came from. I enjoy Japanese fiction particularly the dreamlike writing of Haruki Murakami. Indeed, one day I must get round to catching up with the writings of gay icon Yukio Mishima.

Is all Japanese fiction deep and thoughtful? Almost certainly not but this book is. The story of a young man who lives with his cat and discovers he is dying. The devil appears and grants more time for the man to live in return for things being removed from everyday life. Thus, it’s partly a meditation on some of the key things around us that make our lives better and worse.

Short and thoughtful, definitely worth a read.

Do nothing cat

‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan

Another quite short book like the one by Kawamura. A novel about life in Ireland in the mid-80s. The background is the scandal we now know about of homes run by the Catholic church for pregnant unmarried women. Basically these ‘fallen women’ were treated like dirt with their babies murdered and secretly buried or forced into adoption. I can believe it because my nan used to tell me about the evil things done by the nuns at her school – beatings, not providing meals as a punishment, harsh cleaning duties, and so on.

This is a beautiful and haunting novel. I dare anyone to read it without drifting into an Irish accent. The main character reflects on the fact that his life was good because his mother was unmarried but a wealthy Protestant woman took pity on her. It ended all too soon and perhaps the ending is a bit of a cop-out. However it’s still a lovely but harrowing book that I would highly recommend.

Health and Efficiency

Health and efficiency magazine cover

Gym

The stomach ‘injury’ detailed in my previous blog here appears to be getting better. Good news, suggests it wasn’t a hernia (hopefully). But perhaps it was a beneficial warning. So moving forward I must be aware of exercising more carefully and without creating risks of injury especially as I get older.

Managed 3 gym sessions last week. I took each one slowly and carefully particularly trying not to over exert myself. Great to be on my own in the gym for 2 of those 3 sessions.

The ongoing calculation of the value of my annual gym membership: 79 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £6.25 per session.

Diet – it’s harder than I thought

I laid out in my previous blog how I was going to build on my holiday weight loss which was basically due to starving myself. But moving forward is harder than I expected. Last week I managed to increase my weight by half a pound which is very disappointing.

Clearly normal life means I am not losing the weight I expected to. Skipping breakfast and reduced alcohol aren’t giving the answer I was hoping for. One of the big problems may be the family sized packets of crisps that Dave keeps buying and which make my determination crumble.

But never give up giving up. And so we carry on next week with the aim of trying to make a small weight reduction.

overweight black and white cat

Vaccinations save lives

Had my vaccination against pneumonia last week on the recommendation of my HIV consultant. I know two people who have had it so it is a danger. Though I think both of them had it on the back of flu. Now I am fully vaccinated for Covid, Flu, Pneumonia and Monkeypox. The only thing I need to check about is Meningitis. I only know one other gay man who has contracted it (and he was really ill) but being vaccinated against this seems to be a big thing in the gay community at the moment. However, I haven’t heard about a major outbreak.

Family and Friends

Mum’s window repair – no progress, no accountability

Still no update on mum’s window repair. It’s a minor thing in the scheme of things but it winds mum up and I have to deal with the consequences. Indeed, she’s getting as disillusioned as me – doubting if we will ever be able to open it again. I phoned the Housing Association again on Wed, apparently it’s still awaiting approval.

The news of the death of a child due to the mould in his social housing flat is an absolute tragedy but no surprise. I have lived in social housing for much of my life and one of the big permanent features of social housing is the inability to get repairs done and there being no way for anyone to be held accountable.

Party Dave

Dave is fine. Indeed, he’s had a very big social week being out socialising on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Great to meet up with our pal Patrick on Saturday morning for coffee. He is doing OK and we are meeting next week to recognise the anniversary of the death of his partner.

Lunch with Phyllis

My mate I met up with in Torremolinos is in London. Great to meet up on Tuesday for lunch with Dave also able to join us. We met in Soho which was relatively quiet. One of the big losses has been all the good, cheap cafes and restaurants that have gone from the West End. I still miss the Stockpots. Moving forward seems to mean more chain restaurants with samey menus at high prices. We did manage to find a cheapish Bistro. Food was OK but, more importantly, we had a great catch-up.

Sustainability

The build-up to the disastrous World Cup and FIFA continues to show itself as a tone deaf organisation. Meanwhile, the pantomime of COP27 also continued. These global gatherings in themselves contribute to climate change; all those planes flying in and out. We will have Davos soon – more private jets. And do you know where COP28 is taking place? The United Arab Emirates. A total fossil fuel giant and another location that is crap on human rights and LGBTQ issues.

So where do we go from here? Moving forward, there are two pathways.

First, take individual action. It’s easy to be despondent and say this will make no difference. But if we all make lifestyle changes then the planet can be saved. Key things include consuming less generally, not having so many children, stopping driving and flying as much, eating less meat. Black Friday next week and Christmas very soon. But ignore the capitalist propaganda – stop buying shit you don’t need!

over consuming

Second, pressurise those with power. Press politicians at all levels to do more. Politicians go whatever direction they think there are votes. And push companies and institutions. They have huge power. If a company is unethical including not taking climate change seriously then use your consumer power and don’t use them.

Personal Development

I’m still carrying on with my daily Duolingo lessons in Spanish. Interesting that there has been a significant upgrade of the app. And I think it is easier to use and learn a language by using it. Moving forward for me in this area, I am determined to be much better at languages in general. And delighted to say that last week I found time to do a couple of lessons in German as well.

Do you speak German

The Week Ahead

  • So only 4 working days until I finish my current role. The focus will be on handing over to my colleague though we’ve worked closely together for the last 18 months. And also sorting through things online to sort and delete everything before I lose access.
  • 3 non-work days and a definite intention to get to the gym on each of them
  • Tuesday me and Dave are meeting up with Patrick and Frances for a drink in memory of Stephen. Strange to think it’s only been a year but so much has happened.
  • Currently reading 3 books: Paterson Joseph’s novel about the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho, ‘Treacle Walker’ by Alan Garner, and ‘Gloriana’ by Michael Moorcock.
  • Try to get back to the process of losing weight
  • Continue with my daily language learning
  • Didn’t get any art and culture into my life the week gone unlike the great cinema trip the week before. Moving forward, I must get some art and culture in my life each week.

And Finally…

Well I think we know the answer after this week’s ‘years of pain to come’ Budget

Box

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