The constructiveness of doing nothing

Mon 1 – Sun 7 April 2019

My sabbatical has started and basically I am doing nothing. And that is pretty good. It’s not really doing nothing as this blog will tell you. I’m doing quite a few things but it’s stuff I want to do which is brilliant plus I’m not feeling guilty in any way about not being at work. 🙂

I suppose in the modern world there is the assumption that doing nothing means nothing is being done – time and opportunities are wasted. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. And beyond just how I feel, I have made real progress on some of the things I really wanted to motor on.

Personal Development

Not running away

So no massive journey of self-discovery to another part of the world. Indeed, I have said before that much travel in the modern era feels like running away from your problems. In the same way leaders focus on foreign affairs as it’s easier than trying to deal with problems within their own countries.

Daily language learning and coding practice

Coffee computer pen+paper

I have done two things last week that I have been intending to do for ages. Each day I managed to do some language learning and some coding practice. For the former, I do about ten minutes of learning words on Drops and then grammar practice on Duolingo. My main focus is Spanish but I also dabble in other languages.

Meanwhile I am using Free Code Camp to practice HTML and CSS whilst watching their JavaScript tutorials on YouTube.

Controlling emails

Emails wise, I’m pretty up on them. I am still sneaking a look at my work ones. Obviously I am not acting on them. But I’m noting what’s there and simply deleting. It’s interesting that there are a lot less than normal simply because people aren’t sending stuff to me (or ccing me) because they know I’m not around. It’s just ‘all’ emails containing info.

Art and Culture

A great way to start my ‘doing nothing’ sabbatical – last Monday I went off to Tate Modern. Me and Dave are members (think we did it to get into some sold-out exhibition) which means we can get into any exhibition foc. I went to see Pierre Bonnard followed by Dorothea Tanning.

Bonnard – nice but…

Bonnard is a twentieth century French painter who is perhaps best known for his use of colour. And, indeed, the colour of his paintings is wonderful. They are the beautiful French summer colours he must have experienced so often. But his paintings are also a bit ‘bourgeois’ – representations of middle class life. Lots of countryside views. And also lots of images of women getting washed though he’s not actually very good at painting figures.

A missed opportunity?

I like his paintings when they are less bourgeois, even some of his more abstract still-lifes are good. Indeed, it’s a shame that content is one of his weaknesses. His life covered the fascinating period of WW1 and 2 plus the horrible bit in-between. He was internally exiled during the period of Nazi occupation / Vichy France. And yet his main focus were always scenery, nature, and his lovers having a bath.

Dorothea Tanning – not sure she works for me

Onto Dorothea Tanning, a modern surrealist artist from America. Some of the pictures were good particularly her abstract ones. Although they felt over-crafted and fairly typical of commercially produced output of the 60s and 70s. She also produced a lot of sewn stuff that really doesn’t work for me. Overall, OK but didn’t cause great emotions to surface.

Creating my own art – it’s difficult

Pleased to say that one of the doing nothing things I am also achieving on my sabbatical is getting back to creating some art. I bought myself pastels and paper on Monday and forced myself to doodle. Two pictures produced last week, one very sketchy and another a bit better but a bit knocked out. I remember now how much hard work and time it takes to produce good art like I used to. 🙁

Missed films

In my previous blog, I had planned to see a couple of films last week – ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Girl’. As part of my doing nothing strategy, I made decisions that sometimes I didn’t want to race around doing things. This particularly meant that I decided to skip these two. I am sure I will catch up with them in some way in the future. Perhaps nothing is every really lost.

Health and Efficiency

Losing weight – it’s happening

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One of the focuses for my sabbatical, whilst doing nothing, is to lose some weight through a combination of sensible eating and exercise. Last week I think I lost about 2 pounds which is great. 🙂 I’m watching the calories and trying to avoid snacking. I’ve discovered the ‘joy’ of having soup at lunchtimes as well as eating lots more vegetables and fruit.

A very good jog-run


A great result on Sat morning – one hour, 4 mins and 2 seconds. My pace per km came in at 6 mins and 24 seconds. Indeed, things may have been even better if I hadn’t gone over the dreaded 7 mins on 2 separate km stretches. No jog-run next Sat as me and Dave are going to Birmingham for a weekend away.


Funny that on Sat afternoon I had to have a snooze – I do find the jog-run can knacker me out for the day. And whilst I slept, Dave went off to protest outside the Dorchester Hotel about the Sultan of Brunei and his evil Sharia law that says gay people should be stoned to death. I must say that being on sabbatical is so good for my sleep patterns. I never wake up dreading the day ahead. 🙂

Yoga – a temporary break

Some tragic news on Mon that meant my yoga session for the next day was cancelled. My tutor’s cousin had died and he had to rush back to Spain. Perhaps the rest was good for my body.

Pilates and massage – understanding my body

Still had my massage on Tues afternoon. That was good. Then on Thurs night it was class 3 in my 5 week intro to Pilates. Between yoga, pilates, and massage I do feel that I am becoming more aware of my breathing and perhaps a bit more supple in my body generally.


Bad news that my gym’s opening was postponed again until Mon 8th April. So hopefully next week my long awaited gym return will finally happen. Indeed, I am prioritising getting there rather than trying to squeeze in a jog-run next week.

Books and Reading

Doing nothing means being able to do lots of lovely reading. And I managed to plough through 2 very strong books last week, both a pure joy to read and very stimulating making me think about the world around me as good reading should do.

‘The Burning Man’

The next one in the sequel of stories about detectives Bryant and May by Christopher Fowler – one of my favourite contemporary authors with a prodigious and varied output. This isn’t the most recent book as I am still catching up on the whole series. But it’s recent, having been written in 2015. This is the story of anti-capitalist riots in London alongside a thematic serial killer. It’s all wonderfully silly but I love the characters who I have got to know so well over the course of 12 books. And the series is almost impossible to work out in terms of timing – when it is all taking place.

Great fun and fascinating that he has introduced one of the main characters developing dementia – I wonder if I’m starting to head that way… 🙁


Another one of my favourite contemporary authors, Kate Atkinson. This is her most recent book and pleased I did read it as it has been recalled by the library. A beautifully written novel detailing the involvement of a ‘lowly’ secretary with the secret service during WW, monitoring fascist sympathisers on the ‘home front’. But then with the repercussions after the war. It really drew me in and the multi-layered, twisting story keeps coming back to me. Indeed, makes me think about how surveillance might be happening now.

The Week Ahead

  • Keeping up my agenda of doing nothing – wonderful things are happening and I am simply enjoying life
  • Going to carry on doing my daily brain exercises in learning languages and practising coding
  • Me and Dave are taking my mum down to her friend on Wed and then on Fri we are off to Birmingham for the weekend
  • No jog-run because of our weekend away. But back to my re-opened gym as well as a yoga and pilates session plus a massage 🙂
  • Will get through at least 2 books this week. One is Stevan Alcock’s ‘Blood Relatives’. This was the one to read for the Velvet Page book club last week which I had to miss due to my pilates class.

And finally…

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