The busy week when Steve Strange died

Sun 8th – Sat 14th Feb

RIP Steve Strange, one of my teenage heroes
Looking back at the titles for my weekly blogs, a feature does seem to be that the main thing in many of them is that a key person died. Perhaps that is me being increasingly sensitive to the fact that I am getting older. But it does also reflect the fact that when important people go then it makes me realise the big role that they played in my life and how much I am going to miss them. Robin Williams then Deirdre Barlow and now Steve Strange. I remember when I was a teenager and the New Romantics were big. I loved, and still love, synth music and I adored the creativity of what was being done by people like Steve and the Spandau Ballet boys in those bleak days of the early eighties – music was the only light in the darkness. I was a member of the Visage Fan Club, wore the badge with pride on my school uniform and so gave the other kids more of a reason to call me a ‘pouf’ – like  I gave a fuck. Steve had some health issues in later life, perhaps the excesses caught up but I’m going to miss his creativity and thanks for the inspiration you gave to one young man.

Health and fitness
The big thing when I go away is that I miss doing exercise. I suppose I could hunt out gyms abroad or go for a jog but that sort of defeats the point of going on holiday and taking a break from normal everyday life. Sunday, back to my jog-run with a decent but not exceptional result: 27 mins, 4.56 km, 5.55 pace, 336 calories. My Achilles held up pretty well and was tender but not painful afterwards. Indeed, it was worse later in the week and especially after being sat down or laid up for too long i.e. on rising in the morning. Basically it gets better through the day as I move about more. It’s been a heavy week regarding my paid work but I did get a session in with my PT Sara on Monday concentrating on legs and core then getting back to the gym on Friday and Saturday. I so missed the gym while I was away. It’s jog-run each Sunday so I did legs and core on Thursday followed by upper body and core on Saturday.

The good news in health terms was weighing myself on Tuesday and discovering I was 13 stone 5 pounds. That actually means I have put on a pound over a fortnight but that was primarily my holiday period. Now I did not eat a lot on holiday but I did not do much activity (basically laying on my fat arse on a sun lounger as much as possible) and drinking lots of alcohol (two cocktails for 6 Euros). So back to trying to cut down my food and drink intake whilst increasing exercise so that I can try to reach my health aim of 13 stone by the end of March.

Other main health issue was around my mental health. Friday I was at the hospital for an appointment where we explored some of my head problems. Basically I am going to be doing some speaking therapies (but not counselling which I find no longer helps – going round chewing over the same crap) with someone attached to the sexual health clinic and experienced in gay lifestyle. I have been diagnosed with chronic depression for about 20 years. The hospital want to see if there is a way of dealing with this that would bring me off anti-depressants which I have lived on for that period and which may now be contributing to my other issues i.e. making me lethargic. And inevitably there’s crap wrapped up in being an older HIV+ gay man that needs some special consideration.

I am a creative person who does not define himself by my paid work
This is a mantra I am trying to live up to. Last week has been busy, busy, busy with paid work stuff – taking up all of Tues and Wed plus a major chunk of both Thurs and Fri. That does not include the work e-mails I checked on holiday / days off to stop myself falling behind. On Wed I had my mid-year review at work and with one of our five values being ‘Creativity’, the main thing it told me was that in order to be creative I actually have to do only the hours I am paid for. Indeed the reason I work part-time is for my own wellbeing and to fulfil my caring duties to my mum but I also want to do wonderful things with my free time rather than just being a wage slave before I die. Going back to Steve Strange, he died at 55 – that’s less than a decade away and I don’t want to waste time.

Doing wonderful things with my non-work time
On Tuesday evening I went to a talk about Frugal Innovation (and bought the book afterwards). This was really trying to make sense of several current trends including low cost experimentation (particularly pertinent in developing economies), agile development (long-term success through rapid short-term failures), the sharing economy (i.e. open source software), and the need to use flexibility, responsiveness and good design rather than simply pushing down costs via lower salaries – the latter leading to a non-virtuous cycle of low wages and low spending power. I see so much waste in the world everyday and I feel we should be using our resources better not least because they are finite and the way we live now does not make us happy. So I try to live that belief out through reading books from charity shops and then trading them in with either Amazon or the Book Exchange or returning them to the charity shop, walking as much as possible, and getting most of my clothes secondhand or from charity shops.

On the previous Sunday, me and Dave hit both the local car-boot sale and my favourite charity shop buying t-shirts, books, and CDs (including fab blasts from the past Japan and T-Rex) although I did have an argument with someone who claimed I nearly knocked him over which was bullshit – I asked him twice to move and he didn’t. Thursday morning before going to a work meeting and then the office, I did post off some books to Amazon for a trade-in before checking out two charity shops I have not visited in ages. I got one book (Terry Pratchett) and looked at a Doctor Who book I didn’t buy but regretted not doing so later however a great lesson of buddhism is the need to let go when we make ‘mistakes’. I also popped to the local library and picked up a new book by an author I adore.

One other way in which I show creativity is by making sure I get enough sleep. I met an old acquaintance recently whose face looked pretty knackered though too many late nights, drugs, and sunshine. I am usually in bed during the week by 10.30 and this is certainly true on Friday and Saturday night as well. I am a morning person and so I am catering to the natural rhythm of my body. Generally I do not like to snooze during the day as it feels like wasted time but sometimes there is nothing else to do as I am so knacked. That is what happened on Sat afternoon, 90 mins that set me up for the rest of the day.

Can’t ignore that it was a big chunk of last week after getting back from hols but in the spirit of positivity I will try to dwell on the good bits. One of the key events was getting back to my usual Italian cafe for breakfast but feeling the difference without the guy (Max) who used to work there. You could always ensure he had some weird music on like Madonna singing in Italian. Actually at work, my colleague Nissa had done loads of work in my absence on a digital strategy paper we are writing together. And there was a genuine excitement in team around the whole issue. I love it when you get a buzz from working with other decent people and creating a nice team.

Getting back to work, it was pleasing that the extra work I had done before going away had generally paid off and things were coming together reasonably well on the three big projects I have to push forward with the next Grants Committee for funding. Though that is not to say some curve balls did not happen and I have had to make alterations to what was planned.

Thursday and Friday were both work days when I was supposed to only do half a day on each day. Thursday I went off to have a meeting with Ben Rowland of Arch Apprenticeships (see WotW) about digital apprenticeships. These are a great idea for young people who want to build themselves a career and for organisations who need tech-savvy Generation Y + Z young people working for them. I have arranged for Ben to talk on this to a group of funders so we were discussing that. Then on into work to carry on with office stuff. Friday was more flexible with e-mails and phonecalls before the gym then, after that and the hospital, working remotely especially writing a political e-mail and making phonecalls to catch up with some of the key projects I oversee the funding of.

My glittering social life
Last Monday saw me meeting up with my mate Jamie, the talented friend who has written a play and had it performed. Him and his partner Dale spent a couple of weeks in Thailand whilst me and Dave were in Gran Canaria so we had a catch up on our holiday gossip. I would love to go to Thailand primarily just to experience all the amazing food. Then on Monday evening I was with mum winding each other up, for instance me telling her to be careful of getting raspberry seeds stuck under her plate – even funnier as she’s proudly still got all her own teeth. We watched double Coronation St together (though if I am truthful then I am also getting into Emmerdale with its very sexy male cast) whilst I burnt CDs onto my i-pod. After the lecture on Tuesday night, I was back with mum and we were both really happy that QPR had won away at Sunderland 2-0, their first away points of season. However there was also an injury to one of our key players Leroy Fer. Wednesday after work I went to the sauna to relax then spent the night with Dave watching some good TV including a very funny Great British Bake Off and an atmospheric Wolf Hall. I loved the latter as bloody good drama to immerse myself into even though I had missed the previous two episodes. Thursday night was back with mum and then Friday after work it was to Dave’s to spend the weekend with him. Double Coronation St again. Saturday after the gym and my snooze, we spent time together though TV was crap with Take Me Out being the highlight – or Take Me Down as Dave once more appropriately mis-called it.

Chasing the sun, digital skills, and multi-language fluency
I was really knackered on Thursday morning due to two intensive full days at work. And I still had half a day to do on both Thursday and Friday. I have made a decision that I love sunshine and so I am going to treat myself to some more cheap trips away. I do not have children or pets and so I am going to spoil myself. To that end, in the evening I booked myself a break in Sitges in Sept when it should still be sunny and warm but not too busy and looked at other potential time away to avoid the UK when it is grey and cold. Me and Dave have also booked ourselves into Berlin during the Folsom festival – a wacky time to be had.

Around digital I am still not making the great progress I want to but I have been looking at some educational videos online. Interestingly a number of people I know have told me how they are giving up on Facebook. This seems silly to me as digital living is here and I think our inevitable future is to be akin to Cybermen and Borg which we need to accept and ensure that we have benevolent digital and humanity linkages. What I do need to do with developing my digital skills is to get into a regular learning routine as I have achieved with languages; I now try every night in bed before going to sleep to do a session on the Duolingo app on my phone.

Happy St Valentine’s Day
Me and Dave swapped cards on Saturday morning and we had lunch together. I have had a couple of funny Valentine Days in the past. Once where I had boyfriend but also got an anonymous card from an admirer – my boyfriend went ballistic but he was a self-obsessed weird twat who refused to ever let me see him naked anyway. And another time it was the other way around, I sent a card to someone I was after and he got sent an anonymous card as well. I fought and got my man – boy what a disaster that turned out to be.

My main read last week was a very well written and engaging book ‘City of Women’ by David Gillham (2013) which I got for 20p at the car boot. It is about life in Berlin around 1943 thus the title because all men had been mobilised. It really is a book all about women but actually written by a young man living in Western Massachusetts of all places – totally removed from Nazi Berlin. Perhaps this exemplifies the beautiful paradox of well-written fiction. Though I am not sure how realistic it is about the widespread efforts to hide Jews, I suspect most Germans simply turned a blind eye and did nothing. At the library on Thursday I picked up the latest book by David Mitchell, ‘The Bone Clocks’ (2014). He is an author I love. He has done about five other books but the most famous is Cloud Atlas which is a wonderful book and one that put me on the course to do more reading several years ago. Bone Clocks is a bloody good book and I am slowly getting through it savouring its pages. It was great on Saturday to have coffee sitting outside reading my book in semi-sunshine though there was some drizzle later.

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