Taking It Slow During a Scorching Week

Mon 4 – Sun 10 Sept 2023

The hottest weather since June; a week in the thirties. Sweaty and uncomfortable but the next step is the inevitable onset of the shorter, cooler, darker days of Autumn. And with the wet weather of July and August, so everything natural is wonderfully green and full of life at the moment.

This weather is a blessing and a curse but needed to be enjoyed. So I had a relatively slow week to take in the beauty of it and not to get too worn out with the heat. And I am physically forced to go slow with the need to take it carefully as my Achilles is still in recovery – read more details here. Though it is fair to see this slowness as a continuation of the previous week rather than a complete new and unexpected direction.

Sun with glasses

Everyone wants an easy life

Some may say this slowness is a normal feature of places with hot weather like the Mediterranean and Africa. Easy to take the piss out of ‘manana’ and ‘African time’ but it’s crap to say that Britain is not bureaucratic and British workers don’t try to find the way of least effort. I think the truth is that everyone wants an easy life and does the minimum they can get away with.

Living through very hot weather

Health and Efficiency

An uncomfortable ultrasound and a likely operation to come

My slow week got off to a not very pleasant start on Monday morning with an ultrasound of my bladder as part of the investigation of my ongoing prostate issues. An hour before the scan, I had to empty my bladder then drink a pint and a half of water to be held without going for a wee till after the scan.

A probing ultra-scan of a full bladder is not a comfortable experience. Ironic in that my main problem is I keep needing to go for a wee. Such a relief to go to the toilet so they could then do another scan of when my bladder is empty. I suppose I should be grateful that the appointment was punctually kept.

My GP phoned me on Friday to tell me that the scan was indeed showing my prostate was restricting my urine flow. Medication isn’t working so next stop is a urology referral and a likely operation. Though the latter will be by laser so hopefully not too invasive.

operation

Back to the gym but just for upper body and core

Despite the heat and my Achilles in recovery, I was determined to test out going to the gym. Decided to do just 2 sessions rather than the normal 3 but pleased to be there for the first time for about a week and a half. But not wanting to push my Achilles, I took the tube there and back for my visits on Tuesday and Thursday.

I am hating having to spend my limited funds on public transport because I can’t risk walking long distances even going at a gentle and slow pace. Similarly I am taking lifts where possible rather than using the stairs. This is all pissing me off mightily.

Focused in both sessions on upper body and core with nothing that felt like it could test my Achilles. I did some stretches but ceased doing any that felt it was pulling my Achilles and didn’t even try some of the more challenging ones. Overall, it felt OK though I know certain movements are twinging things. And it is going to be a slow return to doing leg exercises again which I genuinely enjoy.

91 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £5.40 per session.

dumbells in the gym

A decent slow swim

Tried out a swim which I felt would be good for my Achilles whilst also getting some useful exercise. Again, annoying trips on the tube to get there and back on Friday afternoon. But nice slow, lazy strokes. Indeed, the pool was really empty (circa half a dozen people) despite the heat – presume most people were at work.

freestyle

Weight: Ups and downs (this week an up)

I have said before but I am pretty sure that I eat less when it’s hot. But that clearly didn’t happen last week as I put on a pound. Slow life means less exercise in terms of walking and that may well have contributed. But I also had some indulgences. Pretty sure the trend isn’t upwards and I may well see a drop again next week. Not the time to panic just yet.

Books and Reading

Managed to get through 3 books during this ‘slow’ week. My best explanation for this bumper haul was that I gained more reading time than normal due to travelling by public transport instead of walking. Though I often read my kindle whilst I walk so I may be speaking crap. Perhaps one of those situations where one should just be grateful and not over think things.

‘The Stasi Poetry Circle. The Creative Writing Class That Tried to Win the Cold War’ by Philip Oltermann.

Another book that I have seen some buzz about. It’s pleasantly short but quite intense. Fundamentally it’s review of how poetry was used and controlled in East Germany. Based on histories of individuals, primarily people involved with the Stasi and some dissidents. Really useful to have a list at the front of the key individuals and then a summary of their later lives at the end of the book.

Basically the Stasi had a poetry circle within their ranks, I suppose the way many organisations these days have Book Clubs. But prominent poets in wider society were spied on as were people within the Stasi itself. I remember travelling to eastern Germany soon after the Berlin Wall came down and seeing a pile of twisted flagpoles, I was told that it was a demonstration of ‘the power of the party broken forever’.

This is a great reveal of the good and bad that was East Germany. Yep a one party, totalitarian and paranoid state with a vicious secret police, perhaps more like Soviet Russia than Soviet Russia itself. But also a place with guaranteed employment and no homelessness. There can be no doubt that communism was a failure but at least it gave an alternative to capitalism. Now we are trapped in a world where unbridled capitalism runs riot.

Berlin

Exiles. Three Island Journeys’ by William Atkins

True life case studies about 3 nineteenth century rebel leaders and their exiles to 3 different islands. The book looks at the lead-up to their exiles, the periods of exile, and their returns from exile. Overlaid with this are the actual visits by the author to the 3 islands (New Caledonia, St Helena, and Sakhalin – all of them still dealing with their own difficulties), the death of his father whilst writing the book, and the exile of the Roman poet Ovid to a barbarian town on the Black Sea.

There are a number of common themes. Like the way the individuals after slow and painful starts became involved with the new ‘backward’ places they found themselves in and created new lives. Particularly learning more about the local inhabitants and their cultures. And then having difficult returns. As the author says, the places we inhabit often come to inhabit us.

The big reveal may be that home is wherever we want to make it. That we travel through life perhaps going places by choice and being forced to other places by things that happen. Sometimes things get worse in life and sometimes things get better. But life is what we want it to be, it’s in our head and heart that we decide where our homeland and happiness is.

Reflecting and chilling in the quiet

‘Thrust’ by Lidia Yuknavitch

Well this is a hard novel to call. Part of me said ‘junk it’ early on as it is very dense and twisting. But it did also engage me and I was keen to keep reading it not least to try and make sense of everything. It’s a book that’s been recommended by many but it is not a simple read.

The plot? I’m not sure to be honest. There’s something about a young girl from an apocalyptic future who travels to other points in time. There are people and ancestors / descendants who keep appearing. The Statute of Liberty is centre-piece as are various other things like apples, coins, and turtles (it’s strange). And female sexuality looms large.

But I like challenging books not least because life is never as linear and simple as so much fiction in books and on screen suggests. The good don’t always win, justice isn’t always done, and baddies don’t always get their comeuppance. And there is immense fun in reading a well written but challenging book and trying to work out what is happening, what is the key message?

I think this is a book about the underdog. It covers nearly every group in modern history that is hard done by: native Americans, labourers, women, children, migrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and others. There is no real happy ending rather an ongoing statement of how hard life is and how different pain is connected. But as a book it neither lectures nor turns into misery lit, rather is stimulates the reader to think.

Recommended but dont’ expect an easy ride.

Waiting for answers

Friends and Family

Mum: Staying indoors to avoid the heat

Lots of time with mum who is OK but really dislikes the heat. Answer to this is that she just stays indoors. Not a great solution as she needs the stimulation of a different environment. But the lesser of two evils with the other being her getting some sort of heat exhaustion and aggravation of her medical problems. Ah the joys of getting older that we all have to look forward to.

Robert from the Velvet Page Book Club

Lovely to meet with my friend Robert on Thursday afternoon for a relaxed two hour chat in the park (we were going to go for a walk but my Achilles problem stopped that). He helps run the brilliant LGBTQ+ Velvet Page Book Club which happens first Thursday of every month 7pm at Waterstones in Piccadilly – find out more here. A nice catch up primarily about getting older, caring for people and being cared for, as well as gay holiday destinations. I must make sure I get to the Velvet Page again, perhaps in October?

Velvet page book club

Patrick and Frances: A nice Sunday pub lunch

A meeting with our friends on Sunday for a pub lunch. The pub itself was cool and not too busy. It’s opposite Chelsea FC so we made sure to go on a non-match day (it’s crazy busy when there’s a game on that day). Always lovely to have a slow and relaxed eat and drink with good mates.

Sustainability

Climate Change and spineless politicians

Yep scorching weather and probably a sign of global warming though I accept sun in September is not unknown. However temperatures over 30 degrees for several consecutive days are pretty unusual. I admit that I took pleasure on several days sitting in the park, in the shade reading a book and people watching. Might as well make the most of it before the floodwater arrives.

But I am more convinced than ever that the best way to go through life is to travel light. To get rid of stuff and not to buy stuff in the first place. Just look around at all the rubbish everywhere. The complete throw-away society. Indeed, poor Dave is having trouble with a spot near his flat becoming a space for fly-tipping. The only way to discourage this is to put the onus on the companies producing this crap to also be responsible for its disposal but there are no politicians with the courage to make this so.

The throwaway society

The Week Ahead

  • May well be another ‘slow’ week in terms of taking tubes and buses to get about rather than walking too much to antagonise my Achilles. Though the weather should be cooler.
  • However, I do plan to push my exercise routine to it’s ‘normality’. So ideally 3 gym workouts (upper body and core with hardly any leg exercises) plus a couple of nice, easy, slow, swims.
  • Carry on with some good reading as well as my daily Duolingo lessons
  • Would really like to get in a nice art and culture visit, thinking about the Courtauld Institute
  • Me and mum are going for flu vaccinations on Saturday
  • Football resumes after a break for the Internationals and the Rugby Union World Cup continues

And Finally…

Worth bearing in mind with reference to Ukraine

Not being neutral

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