Navigating Weird Times

Let’s be honest and say that the world is a weird place in general at the moment. Perhaps things are getting better (inflation seems to be under control) but they could get even weirder. No end in sight for the Ukraine war, evil old neo-fascist populists don’t appear to be in retreat, Trump might come back, AI may kill us all, more climate change disasters to come, etc.

And, on a micro-level, this is a weird time of the year. Christmas and New Year are a break from the mundanity of life. However, it’s also about making sense of this strange ‘Betwixt’ period in-between. We all have different things to deal with (like families) and you lose track of what actual day it is before the onset arrives of that craving for normality.

It was a nice Christmas though I spent lots of time caring as is my new normal (read more about this in my previous blog here). I’m no great fan of New Year and generally treat it with the contempt I feel it deserves. All false jollity and equally false promises to ourselves of fresh starts. It really is my least favourite public holiday. And I just go to bed when I want.

Clock face showing time

  • A particularly weird time of year but stabilised through my caring responsibilities and exercise
  • Two wonderfully surreal books read, reviewed, and recommended. One by an author I very much like and the other by someone completely new to me
  • Despite everything I tried to keep to my normal exercise routine and had a welcome small weight drop

A good Christmas with mum

Carried on with my caring role for mum. We were together at Christmas, just me and her. Meanwhile, Dave was in the north looking after his mum. He had a terrible train journey back on Wednesday – dangerously over-crowded and surreally weird with a woman stressed about her cat and a dog chewing up someone’s electric toothbrush. This combined with the Eurostar chaos makes me wonder why anyone bothers to travel at this time of year, it’s always hell.

Me and mum opened presents on Christmas morning then I undertook the cooking of the dinner. Basically I just shoved everything in the oven – best way to deal with it. Mum slept in the afternoon whilst I did sorting of stuff I wanted to get rid of next year. Evening was quiet though mum was happy with the Christmas special of ‘Call the Midwife’. Boxing Day was pretty similar with me cooking up the leftovers from Christmas Day.

lights on the tree

Then for the next couple of days, mum went to stay with my brother and his girlfriend at her place. Probably good for us both to have a break from each other. I caught up with her again at the weekend. Spent New Year’s Eve with Dave though, as per usual, I was fast asleep before midnight.

My other caring duty

Meanwhile, I also kept an eye on our elderly friend particularly whilst Dave was away. Just a phone catch-up on Christmas Day but then a big visit on Boxing Day including collection of his laundry. Dave visited him on Thursday for a meeting with his Occupational Therapist. Our friend also had a meeting with his care co-ordinator on Wednesday we didn’t know about but it looks like the recommendation is for him to keep his daily carer; fingers crossed this is what happens.

Me and Dave did another big visit on Saturday including me sorting out our friend’s meds for the week ahead. I’m pleased mum can still do this herself but likely to be a day when she can’t. Overall, his progress continues after the horribly weird two weeks he had just before Christmas.

Two books were completed last week and I would recommend both.

‘Normal Rules Don’t Apply’ by Kate Atkinson

A lovely set of short stories by another one of my favourite British contemporary writers. Her output is prodigious and so wonderfully varied. From crime to speculative fiction to inter-war drama. You can see how many of her books I have read here. Indeed, it is lovely to fall in love with an author and see how their writing style progresses.

This is a collection of generally weird stories that veers towards surrealism with a fantasy and horror twist. Indeed, many of the stories go firmly into the realm of fairy tales and local legends. But there is also modernity in the tales, lovely characters, and wonderful bursts of humour.

Plus there are threads that connect the various stories such as characters and incidents. However, such threads don’t ‘explain’ the stories but make you think how inter-connected the universe is. Indeed, I think those amazing coincidences in life we all experience are just coincidences; they are not proof of God. But they should act to remind us that everything everywhere is connected in some way.

Yep, read this for a fun literary journey. But please do dip into her back catalogue which is wonderful.

‘Time Shelter’ by Georgi Gospodinov

Another wonderfully weird book. Written by a Bulgarian author and winner of the International Booker Prize 2023. I can see why especially as it is quite a ‘literary’ book that would appeal to serious readers. It’s not a light read and I certainly couldn’t imagine reading it on the beach.

This is a book about the past: how we view it and how it affects our lives. It’s split into several parts with the first being about creating past environments for people dealing with dementia. Indeed, this is not weird in that it is something that is already happening and is recognised as a way for people to be less stressed.

But then the book swerves into an imaginary general resurgence of nostalgia across Europe with all countries having a referendum (always a bad sign) to decide which decade they want to permanently exist in. However, another swerve to find a key character is probably fictional and we are in the territory of when we personally consider the past, what is real and what have we imagined?

So what is this book actually about? There’s an interesting message about how we can choose the future to be replaced by the past. And for most this is a disaster. Indeed, the book does indicate that we will all lose our memories in the end as dementia or simple old age impacts and the neurones die. How many of us already are starting to forget names and other key words?

Overall, I think the book is saying that the past is always attractive but if we aren’t demented then it’s a dead-end. We have to exist in the future and make it the best we can. If only all the dicks who voted for Brexit had thought of their kids’ future rather than trying to recreate their own teenage years.

Alternative pic of older person

Two swims and two gyms

Don’t we all try to deal with weird times by clinging onto what we regard as normal and routine? So I managed to get to the gym twice last week on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Wonderfully quiet as so many people are away. Different to the January rush of people trying to fulfil New Year Resolutions. Still got my Achilles / ankle problems but it is slowly healing so long as I don’t aggravate it.

114 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £4.35 per session. And that is the final figure for the end of the year. Worth the money? Yes, I think so.

Meanwhile, swims on Thursday and Sunday mornings. Also relatively quiet before the January rush. Though I think one bloke started on Sunday. His swimming ‘style’ was interesting and he kept veering all over the place. Someone I suspect hadn’t swam for a while. Indeed, the lifeguard had to blow the whistle and have a word with him, he was that bad.

swimming pool lanes

Weight: Welcome stability after the period of excess

After last week’s not-so-surprising increase in the week before Christmas, I actually managed to drop three-quarters of a pound last week. Yep I indulged but on a small scale. And useful simply to have only one main meal on both Christmas and Boxing Day with mum. A good way to lose weight is surround yourself with people who don’t or can’t eat a lot. I’m definitely in my new normal weight zone of just under 13 stone. An achievement in itself but I’m really not sure I can get it lower.

Letting go of stuff

I’m really not into New Year’s Resolutions. It’s weird and insulting to ourselves to think this is the only pivotal moment we have to chart a new direction for our lives. You can start afresh any time and often it’s easier in a period of less stress. It’s like that old addiction prompt: ‘Never stop giving up’.

However, I am definitely going to continue with my personal battle to get rid of stuff in my life. As said earlier, I spent most of Christmas Day afternoon sorting out a pile of things I don’t need primarily CDs, books, and DVDs. Now to work out the most constructive way to dispose of it all. I would encourage everyone to do the same. Get rid of stuff, don’t buy more crap, and make sure we are a ‘lighter’ person by this time next year.

Only Philistines speak just one language

I personally think the world would be a lot less weird if we could all speak more languages. It would enhance conversation and enable mutual understanding to be better achieved. Is there anything worse than British or American people abroad shouting in English? As well as treating residents of other countries as lesser beings there simply for them to be their servants as tourists?

Colleagues and friends

This is part of the reason why I am determined to do my daily language learning. Also because I enjoy it and it may be helping me delay the onslaught of forgetfulness. So I continue to learn Spanish, German, and I’ve started with Welsh which is wonderfully different. I also keep dipping into French, trying to see how far I can skip ahead with the lessons using my memories of O Level.

The World’s Strongest Man: my annual treat

Definitely one of my Betwixt treats. I love this programme which really is Marmite. Some people adore it and others find its non-understandable weirdness truly compelling. From my perspective, the guys do amazing feats of strength and I’ve got a thing for big hairy blokes. Shame it only comes round once per year but it is part of the ongoing inspiration that makes me go to the gym.

World's strongest man

QPR: A lack of pride and commitment

One defeat and a draw. Losing a local derby 2-0 earlier in the week then drawing 0-0 later on. TBH, the latter was away against the team second in the division so not too awful. That said, we stay firmly routed in the relegation zone. Fundamentally a lazy team who don’t appreciate the heritage of the club and a particular problem with the main striker who can’t score goals to save his life.

  • One more weird day with New Year’s Day and then back to normal, thankfully. Though at least the World’s Strongest Man Final to go.
  • Spending time with mum not least on Wednesday for the annual check of the gas boiler. She likes me to be around for things like this.
  • My exercise routine is not totally back to normal. Target is 2 gym trips and 1 or 2 swims. Time to renew my annual gym membership which will be a big financial hit.
  • Reading a really good book, ‘A Desolation Called Peace’ by Arkady Martine, brilliantly weird follow-up to the sci-fi classic ‘A Memory Called Empire’. Think I need some non-fiction after this.
  • Two more QPR games, 2 more chances to make a mark even if it is just for players to market themselves for sale to a new club. Really not sure who would want some of our lot though.
Carl Sagan quotation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.