The Gloom of January (and February)

Hooray, normality has returned. The weirdness of Betwixt (between Christmas and New Year) that I documented here is now all over for another year. The blessed return of routine and normality. Indeed, we had one final day to deal with on Monday. But, TBH, I also hate this time of year – it fills me with gloom.

Let’s be honest, January and February are the arsehole of the 12 month period. Presumably they are only made better if you have a birthday during this time. The weather is pure gloom. It’s cold, wet, and dark. I hate waking up in the morning and it takes so long to lighten (and warm) up. And on a personal level, I feel so gloomy. This really is a time to just get through.

Things have not been helped by the death of a contemporary. I have said before that the clock is ticking and facing up to one’s own mortality is inevitably a gloom-inducing thing. I knew Derek Draper at university and to hear of his death at 56 puts life into perspective. Perhaps I have another 20 years however there but for the grace of God goes I. Need to lighten up and enjoy every moment still to come but not easy to put into motion at this time of year.

Dalai Lama

New Year’s Day: Waiting for it to be over

As laid out in my previous blog, I didn’t bother staying up to hear the chimes of Big Ben. Although I was staying at Dave’s and he woke me at midnight to do ‘Pinch, punch, first of the month’ – hmmm. New Year’s Day felt like just waiting for the day to be over. The excess of Christmas passed and the gloom of the rest of winter to come.

We watched the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna as it is a tradition for me and Dave. And then we went out for a walk. Though this walk didn’t last very long as it led to Sainsburys and the purchase by Dave of 48 cans of Diet Coke for £15. There was no way we could carry on walking with 2 crates so we just went straight back to his place and spent the rest of the day there. Main highlight was watching the final of ‘World’s Strongest Man’ won by Mitchell Hooper who I suspected would do well.

  • The weather is gloomy and I am feeling that gloom as are some others around me
  • One good sci-fi book read and a great series on TV
  • Progress around exercise and health including possible proof of how work stress makes us over-weight

Mum: Helping her deal with her own stuff

She’s a bit gloomy as well at the moment. Mum also hates cold and dark perhaps even more than I do. But her general wellbeing was not helped last week by the man who came to do the gas boiler check on Wednesday who she really didn’t take to. Thankfully he didn’t have to spend too long in the flat to do get the job done.

From a wider perspective, thankfully her physical health has improved over the last few months. But this could only be temporary and indeed we are all trying to postpone the impact of the ageing process. Plus she gets confused by stuff sometimes. I spent time with her last week though there were no outings. There was the possibility of a trip to the library on Friday after I had seen the physio but mum decided she didn’t feel in the mood.

Lots of time spent watching TV together and I often go to bed leaving mum up still watching it. She worries about not keeping more regular sleeping times but I tell her not to worry as she can do what she wants at her time of life. If she wants to watch TV till the early hours and then have a lay-in when the morning arrives, that is not a problem at all.

woman lays awake in bed

Providing practical help to friends

Meanwhile, me and Dave carry on supporting our elderly friend. Lots of practical stuff last week including moving furniture around as well as sorting out meds and laundry. And Dave waited in on Friday for the delivery and installation of his new carpet to stop possible trips on the old one. The new carpet looks brilliant. We are trying to do everything we can on a practical level to make sure our friend can stay at home in a safe and comfortable environment.

Dave: A rough week but he’s dealing with it

He’s been a bit gloomy this week as well. The weather and darkness gets him down as well. But then on Wednesday he got hit by the norovirus with stomach trouble and vomiting. Basically he spent the day in bed. And had to cancel his meetings with friends on both Thursday and Friday. But things got a bit better at the weekend with his annual solution to winter gloom. His slow cooker came out of storage and winter stews are on the menu for him (can’t stand them myself).

‘A Desolation Called Peace’ by Arkady Martine

Just one book finished this book last week and it’s the sequel to one I read in October 2023. You can read my review of ‘A Memory Called Empire’ here. I really enjoyed the first book and this one was just as enjoyable. The author is not only a sci-fi writer but also a historian of the Byzantine Empire. And both books see royal court intrigue with the sequel having an encounter with non-understandable barbarians on the empire frontier.

TBH, there is an element of cheesiness in the second book. This includes a lesbian love affair, wise-cracking anti-imperial rebels, amazing technology breakthroughs, an adolescent hero, and the promise of immortality. They don’t call it space opera for nothing.

It does have the same weaknesses as the first novel. There are some plot holes like the way our two heroes happen to get themselves involved in the central inter-alien confrontation. And it still ultimately feels like a big adventure yarn rather than a massive step forward in the genre of sci-fi. However, I would recommend both novels as fun reads that kept me hooked.


‘Digging for Britain’: A programme I adore

A light in the gloom is this TV series which had 3 episodes on TV last week with 3 more to come next week. I love archaeology and it’s fascinating to hear about the discoveries that throw light on how lives have been lived. Lives like us dealing with the same issues we do but remembering that whatever those people thought ultimately didn’t matter as they are dead now. A message to us all.

Fascinating light thrown on strange times. I loved the story about the objects found at a late Roman site which may have been a temple where people made offerings. Imagine the stress of that period as the Roman legions literally boarded ships and waved goodbye. Plus finding a huge Roman bath house near Carlisle almost certainly used by the Emperor. And a nunnery where local records tell us how unhappy many of the nuns were.

QPR: Another f***ing disaster

No wonder I am bloody gloomy. Another home defeat on New Year’s Day then an FA Cup debacle. We were 2-0 up against Premiership team Bournemouth. What do you do when you are 2-0 up? Defend, defend, defend, defend, defend, defend, defend, defend. You get the idea; create an eleven man wall in front of the goal. Which, of course, is not what QPR did and so lost 3-2. Unfucking believable.

Good news, my weight basically stayed the same as the previous week. But, more importantly, compared to a year ago I am in excess of 10 pounds lighter! That’s pretty amazing and a real shaft of light to the gloom I am currently dealing with.

One of my targets when I decided not to actively set out to get a new job in Jan 2023 was to focus on health and lose weight. Feels like this target is achieved. Perhaps this all demonstrates how work stress contributes so much to modern obesity.

man weighing himself

Gym: Starting the New Year well

I didn’t even try to travel across London on New Year’s Day to get to the gym particularly with the New Year’s Day Parade going on. So only two gym sessions last week to relieve the gloom: Wednesday and Friday mornings. Both great sessions where I tried some heavier weights to help strengthen and build my muscles.

Time to start anew with my calculation of the cost of going to each gym session. Ended up at £4.35 per session for last year. Much better than £5.38 for the end of 2022. Doesn’t really matter how much it costs as I enjoy it but still a fun exercise to see what the score is at the end of each year. I need to renew my annual membership which has gone up by £55, a reasonable sum considering everything has gone up in price.

2 gym sessions since the start of 2024 divided by the annual membership = £275 per session.

tom of finland fragrance

Swim: Doing more lengths

Managed to get to the pool twice last week: Thursday and Sunday mornings. Both relatively early times when the pool was quite empty. Respectively I did 28 and 30 lengths. My aim is 20 but if I get in the zone then I just keep going. Also mainly front-crawl and back-stroke but I’m also doing some breast-stroke. This has aggravated my knee in the past but I reckon a few lengths won’t hurt.

Only problem after my Sunday swim was that annoying problem of water in the ear. I can feel it swishing around and hopefully it will spontaneously come out. However, it may be time for me to go for ear suctioning.


Physio: Slow progress

Caught up with my physio on Friday about my right Achilles / ankle injury (though I think I have a general problem with my right leg including my knee and hip). We practised my current range of exercises and added a new one. Plus the physio told me about a useful stretch. He had actually told me about this before but I pretended it was new to me. It’s a good stretch so I will re-start doing it.

The exercises are helping but not over-taxing the injury; I’m sure they are assisting the healing process. I’m not next seeing the physio till February. This will give it a good time to get on with healing. I am slightly optimistic that by then things may have made sufficient progress that we can tentatively start a return to jogging. Though this may be too optimistic and an Easter start date may be more realistic.

  • Another reason for gloom was the tube strike we were due to have in London next week. Cancelled at the very last minute but not before I had already shifted two meets with old friends to the following week.
  • With no strike, my target is 3 gym sessions and 1 swim next week. I do need to renew my annual gym membership which will be a big financial hit but absolutely necessary.
  • I’m reading 3 very good books at the moment and should finish all next week. The critically acclaimed novel ‘Yellowface’ by R F Kuang. As well as two wonderful LGBTQ+ books: ‘The Stonewall Reader’ (a collection of contemporary writings) and ‘100 Queer Poems’.
If you're not careful...

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