Taking life as it comes (learning to chill)

Mon 2 – Sun 8 Sept 2019

It’s often hard to think of a defining characteristic for each week’s blog. Any week is a random collection of things that happen which we try to make sense of. Often, for me, it’s simply about taking the main point of personal learning. If one of the key reasons for keeping a blog is to help promote positive thought patterns, then it is important to record those when they happen so I can look back from some future point when I need guidance.

Sometimes you just need to take a chill pill

Last week was about learning to chill if it was about anything. A couple of well-planned things went to pot. But good things came in their place. And, ultimately, if we don’t learn to chill then we are all really screwed. Churchill apparently once said, ‘If you are going through hell then keep going’. And that is an earlier 20th century way of saying ‘Take a chill pill’. Fundamentally ride the situation until the good times come again.

Indeed, is that not what we need to do with the political situation. Will we leave the EU – who knows? I hope we don’t and will do all I can to stop it. Really stupid to talk about ‘dying in a ditch’ rather than allowing Brexit to not happen on 31 Oct and appear flanked by the massed ranks of policemen – neo-fascist imagery if ever there was. Everyone needs to carry on the fight but also chill in doing so. Though if your brother doesn’t trust you…

And unfriend the bastards

One of the best things I did last week to chill was to unfriend someone on social media. I know the argument about living in an narcissistic echo chamber but why give yourself hassle? It wasn’t the person I was following but his friends who were abusing me when I left comments on his stuff. I got told by them I was a cunt, a shit, and should fuck off. Usual nastiness to expect from Brexshiters. I gave as good back but also decided I don’t need people like this in my life. 🙂 Reminded me of The Specials lyrics, ‘If you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end.’

Our York weekend away

At the weekend I broke out of my usual routine (10K jog-run and gym), instead me and Dave had a chill-time going off to York to see our friends David and Gordon. Then in the evening all four of us went to see the brilliant Jane McDonald in concert.

Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens

Fine journey there and back by train – up on Saturday and back on Sunday. Met up with the guys and their 2 dogs. Out in the afternoon for a visit to the nearby Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. Basically a private nursery and gardens run by a wonderfully no-nonsense matriarch. Only open at certain times and £5 to enter but very worthwhile. A well-maintained but quite wild series of gardens that is wonderful to wander around. Loads of different plants as well as chickens and guinea fowl. Also a fab tea room with homemade cakes. Overall, a beautiful place – wonderful just to relax and chill in. 🙂

Jane McDonald

Out in the evening for drinks and dinner before Jane. A really fun show, very much traditional entertainment. She’s got a very good voice and her live show is much less cringey than her TV cabaret sometimes come across as. It’s more like the humour when she does the cruising shows. The audience was quite elderly – I reckon the average age was about 60. Not too keen on the 1960s stuff but I love it when she does more of the modern diva stuff – bit like Kylie, can’t stand ‘Locomotion’ but love ‘Confide in Me’. Jane really stood out for me when she did her cover of Freddie Mercury’s ‘Who wants to live forever’ combined with ‘The show must go on’.

Back to the boys’ mansion for more drinks. I slept well on Sat night, chilled out with all the alcohol. 🙂 Breakfast in the morning followed by a car drive into York and back to London. As Dave said, it really felt (in a good way!) like we had been away a lot longer than just 24 hours.

Books and Reading

3 books about estrangement

3 very good books read last week, one for the Velvet Page book club. And all on the theme of estrangement – or that’s how I interpreted them.

‘Hold’ by Michael Donkor

This was the book read for Thursday’s Velvet Page book club and I finished it just before the meeting. 🙂 I wasn’t sure I was going to like it partly because I had not heard anything about it. But it is highly enjoyable. A story centred almost entirely on a group of female characters. The lead is a young Ghanaian woman who comes to London in the early 00s. She comes from a damaged childhood and has to adjust to living in a very different place.

Velvet Page

A really great meeting – the ideal book club. The author was there and we chatted around a bottle of wine. I suppose it helps that I liked the book. Indeed, I skipped the previous meeting as the author was going to be present and I really didn’t rate the book (‘Madonna of Bolton’). It’s incredibly difficult to tell an author to their face that you don’t like something they have slaved over.

A wonderfully wide-ranging discussion took place covering many areas. Why were there no significant male characters? How far is the novel auto-biographical? One of the most interesting discussions was if there should be a glossary for the reader to get the meaning of Twi words when spoken in the book? Indeed, should non-English words be placed in italics as is normal? I must admit I didn’t look at the glossary, just chilling and enjoying the ride of the read English and non-English words.

‘My cat Yugoslavia’ by Pajtim Statovci

Similar but different to ‘Hold’. The story of Kosovan refugees who finds themselves in the totally different environment of Finland. Indeed, I’m sure it’s semi-autobiographical and was originally written in Finnish. The publishers are Pushkin Press who really are putting out some excellent translations of modern European writing.

There’s a clear gay undertone (as in Hold) but neither are blatant gay novels. The estrangement and differentiation of the lead individuals are not based simply on sexuality. ‘Yugoslavia’ is far more surreal than ‘Hold’ with lots of times when you are wondering what is true and what isn’t. Indeed, Statovci’s writing reminds me a lot of a less sophisticated Murakami set in a cold European setting.

‘Shatila Stories’

This short book is the result of a creative writing project that took place in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. Site of the infamous massacre, participants in the project wrote their own stories which have been used to create a narrative. It’s bleak – what would we expect of a refugee camp that has existed for decades? Stories about the estrangement of people from ‘normal’ society. There are some glimmers of hope and it shows how we can learn to live through anything but why should people have to do this? Indeed, that is my challenge on Brexit – why force ourselves to live through shit?

Health and Efficiency

I think this was the area that really taught me the value of chilling last week. As much as the books I read taught me about the need to think of dealing with isolation and estrangement.

No jog-run, no yoga – chill

‘We make plans and God laughs at them’. How true is that statement. It speaks to the need to make plans but not be slaves to them and chill when they don’t happen. Ultimately nothing will matter on the day we die.

So Thurs came and I decided to skip my 5K jog-run because of the need to sort stuff before our holiday to Berlin next week remembering we were away for the weekend. Then on Fri I went over to east London for the last yoga session before my instructor goes travelling in Asia. Problem in the building housing his studio meant we couldn’t use that and it was too cold to be outside – Fri really felt like the end of summer temperature-wise. So we just chilled over a coffee and talked about what I would do for yoga whilst he is away before I got the train back.

Gym, weight, and nice clear ears

man weighing himself

Managed to get to the gym on Mon and Tues. Thus last week wasn’t a total disaster in terms of exercise. Also good news that my weight appears to be slowly declining still. I put myself between 4 and 5 pounds over 13 stones (weight details here). I find the ongoing importance of distracting myself when I am hungry.

Then on Thurs morning, managed to squeeze in getting my ears suctioned. This replaces ear syringing and is much easier but also expensive. I have a problem with my ears regularly blocking with wax such that I need them cleared out at least once a year. But everything is so much better afterwards and my hearing is lovely. 🙂

Work-Life Balance

My 5th week back at work after the sabbatical. One day I will stop counting. 🙂 A decent week with me working my normal hours – all-day Wed and the afternoons of the other weekdays. I focused on getting all my emails sorted and minimising my inbox. Currently, it’s just over 50 but all read. Some good meetings to plan ahead. But also a meeting about a meeting. 🙁 Time is so precious (I’ll be dead in 20 years’ time) and I do find it hard to chill in the face of wasted time.

The Week Ahead

  • Obviously next week’s highlight is going to Berlin on Wed for a week’s break particularly to attend Folsom Europe. 🙂 The great thing is me and Dave will have a couple of days chill time before and after the main event in which we can appreciate the city as normal tourists.
  • Mon & Tues afternoons at work and mostly filled with meetings – hmmm
  • Seeing my old friend Phyllis (Philip) for lunch, he is over from Spain
  • My target is gym on Mon morning and a 5K jog-run on Tues morning. Not planning any Berlin exercise bar walking.
  • Will try to keep on top of personal and work emails whilst in Berlin, it makes life so much easier on returning
  • Hopefully being in Germany will assist in improving my German. It’s useful little things you remember and learn whilst being abroad.
  • Fingers crossed that there is plenty of time for reading as well as sight-seeing and partying. Target is to get through at least 2 books. Might go for a big chunky one that demands time and concentration.

And Finally…

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.