The Best of Times is Now

Mon 20 – Sun 26 Feb 2023

These are bloody hard times. Someone recently said that there were no highlights of 2022, just slightly less shit bits. Certainly we are in a dark period with the evil Russian war against Ukraine. We are genuinely seeing a fundamental threat to the long-term existence of liberal democracies by an unholy alliance of countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as well as neo-fascists within fighting their culture wars around issues such as abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Have no doubt how fragile is the life we have now.

We have to be optimistic or we might as well give up now

My previous blog (read it here), focused on the importance of discovering new things in life. We also have to believe that the best of times is now in that we should enjoy the life we have as things can always be a lot worse. And we need to make the most of every single day. To be optimistic, we are coming towards the end of February and I am very pleased as I find January / February to be the arsehole time of the whole year: cold, grey, dreary.

TBH, I would rather be back in Gran Canaria

And it is largely to do with the lack of light and heat. Though it’s also linked to the current stupidity of British politics and society. Apparently the fruit and vegetable shortage is not due to Brexit although countries in the EU are significantly less affected. The fact is that dreams of British exceptionalism and a return to Empire have screwed up supply chain networks.

But I am ignoring the stupidity of so many people (as well as their judgements) and living my life as the best of times. I’m basically doing OK and things may or may not get worse in the future. Ultimately there are so many people I don’t give a toss about not least because they couldn’t care less about me. But I am building the best life possible within a network of people I care about.

Stunning half naked man - how could you not smile?

Books and Reading

‘Demon Copperhead’ by Barbara Kingsolver

I normally save big books for holiday times. But I wanted to get to grips with this one not least because I have heard such a good buzz about it. It is over 500 pages and looks quite intimidating. However, it is very well written and, actually, a relatively easy read. Indeed, I have loved reading it and the characters mean something to me. Now I have finished it, I will miss it.

It’s the story of a boy born in the ‘redneck’ area of South-West Virginia. There is an element of misery lit – the story of unrelenting childhood suffering. But it’s not done just for shock value. Rather the author is trying to tell the modern story of Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ – a brilliant book in itself that I must try to read again before I die.

The life of our anti-hero has clear ups and downs. I can empathise with the drift into a life where drugs (legal and illegal) can be so dominant. But it is also a novel that calls us to be aware of when we are in the best of times. That we should appreciate when things are good and do everything we can to keep them that way. As RuPaul says ‘Do your best and don’t fuck it up’.

recovery

Health and Efficiency

Gym – definitely the best of times

3 times last week – the best of times definitely in that I am able to get to the gym so regularly. I’m actually always worried my gym may go under with the rising energy costs. Though even if it did then I would just have to find another one. Timed my sessions well so that it was me on my own each time. Got carried away on each occasion and spent around an hour and a quarter doing different exercises. And a lovely spell in the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi afterwards.

18 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £27.50 per session.

lighter than air

Jog-run – ongoing progress to a full 5K

Again, good news and optimism in that I got 2 jog-runs done as part of my couch to 5K programme. And I feel I am making real progress as it is getting easier each time with more running and less walking. By the time of the Coronation in May, I may well be at the stage of running a full 5K.

animation of a fat man running

Family and Friends

Mum is still ill

As per my previous blog (read it here), my mum remains unwell with her chest infection. ‘The best of times’ is a relative concept in that she may be ill now but she may get more ill in the future. Indeed, we all have to face up to our parents getting incapacitated, perhaps going into a home, and ultimately passing away.

So I am spending time with mum at the moment whilst we can and encouraging her to stay as active as possible. To this end, I persuaded her to come out shopping with me one afternoon. She found it hard work and we only went to the local Tesco convenience store. Think she enjoyed it though she moaned about the prices.

teddy is ill

Patrick and Phyllis

Me and Dave met up with our older friend Patrick twice last week. One of these was mainly concerned with packing up his new TV and taking it back to the shop for a refund (the value of not buying the cheapest option on the internet). Really sad that we couldn’t get him a bigger and better TV but he is happy to go back to his old one. Pleased that I persuaded him and Dave not to dispose of the latter.

Then Phyllis on Friday before his holiday in Egypt the next day. We went out for lunch in Soho as we often do although our regular restaurant was far busier than usual. He is fine and looking forward to his break though not the 8 hour flight to Cairo. I told him to take care and we will meet on his return where I will probably have to look at hundreds of photos.

Work Life Balance

The Pros of not working

The fact I’m not working at the moment does partly make it the best of times. I don’t go to bed worried about the next day and I don’t wake up dreading what is ahead of me. Plus I am loving not dealing with work-related emails, stupid meetings, nor workplace egos. Indeed, it humours me enormously to hear people out and about on their mobiles dealing with work stuff that they see as so important and I can hear it for the pompous silliness that it is.

The Cons

However, I am missing the regular income as I eat through my savings. Plus there is an element of not having challenge in my life. So I have started the process of thinking what comes next. I am actually thinking my next career step may be outside the not-for-profit sector. I know it so well but I don’t want to simply do something because it feels comfortable and easy.

What next?

First steps are to think what I enjoy and get excited about then explore options further. So areas that I am thinking about in terms of paid work:

  • Exercise (but I don’t want to be a personal trainer)
  • Health (I would love to train to be a nurse but I’m not paying to do it as our stupid government now insists on – and they wonder why we have a nurse shortage…)
  • Art and Culture
  • Books (I always wanted to run a bookshop but they don’t make money any more)
  • Nature

So next steps are thinking how there might be a fulfilling work life from those areas. Good food for thought and I ain’t in too much of a hurry.

Waiting for answers

Art and Culture

‘Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’ – a difference of opinion

Me and Dave went to the Prince Charles Cinema on Wednesday to see this film. It’s up for an Oscar and I really enjoyed it. A mix of Chinese and English language, it is a fantasy film based on the concept of multiple dimensions and one woman travelling across several of them simultaneously.

I loved it. Perhaps a bit too long (so true of many films) and lots of special effects plus a slightly confusing plot. But a spectacle for the eyes and mind. Dave hated it. He managed to stay for the whole film but I could tell he wasn’t happy. However, didn’t affect his appetite with him managing to get through a giant diet Pepsi, a tuna baguette, and a bag of popcorn – which he didn’t share!

Personal Development

Loving language learning

I am definitely having the best of times in that I have the time to focus on my language learning. And I am loving it. So enjoyable to be able to practice my Spanish on a daily basis. And now I am also dipping back into German and French. I can’t imagine a life where I was not able to learn new things every day.

Sustainability

Doing your best

Things are clearly bad with the environment. The vicious weather swings in North America (snow in California, heatwave on the East Coast) and the dryness of February in the UK are signs of the future. Climate change is happening and it will affect our planet more as time passes.

I continue to do what I can particularly by trying to consume as little as possible. Don’t believe the capitalist bullshit – buying things does not make you happy. Reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle, repair. And I continue to offload stuff. I have seen so many people I know surrounded by stuff till the day they die. It ultimately means nothing and becomes just something somebody else has to get rid of. I intend to travel lightly into the future.

Spider plant

The Week Ahead

  • The plan is gym 3 times and jog-run twice plus lots of walking
  • Spend time with mum, hopefully she feels better soon
  • Definitely want to get to the cinema again or to a museum / art gallery – the best of times means me being able to do this
  • Exciting to be starting a new reading book and to carry on via my kindle with the brilliant short stories of sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg
  • Bloods at the GP to do checks on my liver and gall bladder. My INR was cancelled last week as person doing the testing was ill. May well end up seeing her again this week.
  • So QPR finally get a decent new manager but the issue seems to be that he’s inherited a team that just can’t be bothered. Me thinks this season is about trying not to get relegated and then start building a new team with drive and ambition.

And Finally…

On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine fights for the rest of Europe

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