The importance of time with people we love

The big thing in the last week has probably been my regular monthly visit to Brighton to catch up with friends I am keeping a special eye on. I went down on Thursday lunchtime – a nice but busy train journey as it was the last week of the school summer holidays. I got straight on a train at Brighton and went up to Lewes to see my friend James who is dealing with liver cancer. He was on good form but has to wait until October to find out if his chemotherapy is working and the tumours are getting smaller. James has been one of my very best friends for the last thirty years and I have never envisaged a future without him. I so much want him to get better and both he and his partner are in my thoughts and prayers. The next day (Friday) I caught up with ‘my two old chaps’. Bob lives in a nursing home after having had a massive stroke that has basically left him incapacitated apart from in one arm. The weather was decent (though we did get slightly caught out in a short rain shower) so I took him to the shops at Portslade where he bought a new watch, some doughnuts to cheer up one of the ladies who live in his nursing home, and various personal items such as tissues and shaving foam. Plus we had a lovely relaxing coffee with Bob treating to himself to a bacon sandwich and together we watched the world go by. Later that same day I met Brian for lunch. Like Bob he is in his mid-seventies and also has limited mobility. The big news is that he has a new NHS frame that is basically a streamlined Zimmer frame with wheels. It looks good and is modern with a bag on the front and brakes. Relatively old tech but it’s made Brian mobile again and getting more exercise than he has done for ages so good news.

I did two days in the office this week with Friday as my first leave day from my new 2014/15 leave allocation. I managed to keep to the work-life balance rule – arriving in the office both days at 8am, taking time for lunch outside the office, and stopping by 4.45. It was particularly nice to have my desk neighbour Laura back from holiday. My work on both days was not physically demanding but it had enormous intellectual and mental intensity not least because there are so many things to balance at the same time. My website of the week is a partner I am working with on developing a digital innovation centre for young people. After work on Wednesday we had a mini-social night organised by Olly and Dom. It was a really good thing. Someone once said you don’t choose your family or your work colleagues. This is true and so you have to work at ensuring good relations in both. I think I get along well with my work colleagues and I enjoyed the table football and a beer though I was crap at the footie having never played it before so I got clearly beaten and own-goaled 3 or 4 of my opponent Peter’s winning score.

It has been a busy week socially:

Bank Holiday Monday was a complete washout, it poured down incessantly – very bad news for the Notting Hill Carnival though I have not been for several years as I just find it too busy these days. So on the bank holiday I did the gym in the morning then concentrated on pooter stuff including lining up work e-mails to be dealt with at the office the next day – this is a recommendation of the time management book I am reading. In the evening I was in with mum and we watched Coronation Street plus Celebrity Big Brother together though we also flicked over occasionally to the Scottish Independence Referendum debate which was a vile shouting slanging match – totally unedifying. Mum seems well at the moment which is one less worry for me.

Tuesday evening I met up with my friend Dom. He is someone I have also known for decades and he is coping brilliantly at the moment looking after his ill mum. Indeed sometimes he is having to spend 6 out of 7 nights each week at her home to ensure she is safe. We had a lovely Turkish meal and bumped into my old friends Tim and Bob as we left the restaurant. This set up an interesting conversation as Tim is also looking after his mother who is ill. So many of us now are having, quite rightly in my opinion, to look after parents who are living longer than ever before but not necessarily with good health.

Wednesday night I met up with Dave after the work mini-social. We had a nice meal at Frankie and Benny’s with £10 off for completing the online survey after our last visit. I would highly recommend this – keep your bill, go online, put in the bill code, and get your voucher at completion.

Thursday night I had the evening alone in Brighton. I need time alone and I treated myself to a massage with an excellent masseur down there I try to see whenever I visit. He concentrated on my legs – lovely. Then I ate a nice Mexican meal at Las Iguanas followed by a drink at the bar in the hotel where I stayed. I keep trying to visit a recommended independent Mexican restaurant but, strangely, they never ever seem to have a vacancy for one diner – suppose it could not be that they are trying to keep the free tables for bigger groups?

And to complete the week, on Friday night Dave and I met with our friends Stephen and Patrick for a very entertaining drink and meal at the Union Jack Club. The UJC is a great place, it’s for serving members and veterans of the British armed forces – I have membership as Dave’s legal partner; a real sign of the progress we have made on gay rights.

In terms of fitness, I managed the gym twice this week – on Sunday and the Bank Holiday. Going on two consecutive days meant I could do the exercises I like on one day then the ones I had left out, and generally dislike, on the next day. On both days I included ten minutes of cardio on the rowing machine as well as my normal weights. I had planned to go to the gym or do a short jog-run on Thursday morning before going to Brighton but I was hit by a mini-exhaustion – more details below. I did manage my weekly main jog-run on Saturday morning but this was disappointing because although I covered the same distance as last week (twice round St James Park and once round Green Park) the time was slower than last week’s poor performance. My achilles has been aching afterwards. I think to start making a difference I am really going to have to lose weight. And one of the redeeming thing from the run was that I was not hungry after it so managed to avoid breakfast.

I do not think or write so much about my health these days as things are as good as they are going to be and I want to have a positive outlook. I have not forgotten to take any medication recently but a couple of issues have reared their ugly heads. The first is a headache I get over my right eye every so often. It is quite painful and appears every few weeks. It is really annoying in that it is only over the one eye. I wonder if it is a sinus problem? The second relates to a nightmare I sometimes have where I have no energy and am unable to undertake any physical effort. On Thursday before travelling to Brighton I had a plan to go to the gym or for a short jog-run but when I awoke at 6.30am I felt completely knackered. I had felt tired the night before when I met with Dave for a bite to eat but in the morning I felt as though someone had put a plunger in me during the night and drained me totally of all energy. I could not get out of bed and Dave was worried because he had never seen me like that before. Basically I crashed back into sleep and did not feel I had enough energy to get up before 8.30. I then got up and pottered before the train to Brighton.

And again when I look at developing my language and digital skills, there was no progress. I think I am going to have to do something pretty dramatic to change this situation (perhaps in the same way that only dramatic action will help me lose weight). That definition of madness – doing the same thing continually and expecting different results to what always happens.

For reading I finished the wonderful Decline and Fall (again) then started on the equally old-fashioned but entertainingly bizarre ‘Travels with my Aunt’ by Graham Greene. I have never read Greene’s books before and thoroughly enjoyed this book about somebody giving themselves a new life. Indeed I was left wondering if, and how, there was any element of Greene’s personal experience or aspiration in the book? During the week I also picked up a thin volume of award winning poetry, ‘The Frost Fairs’ by John McCullough. I have a real problem engaging with poetry, I just do not get it. This modern work was ok though sometimes it lost me and I frequently found myself doing a school game of pretend which object is being written about or whose voice is it in the poem? I have started doing some of my own short poems and putting them on Twitter. It is a type of writing that I would like to understand better, I keep thinking I am missing out on something. I am still pushing on with the recommended time-management book; useful content but it is certainly not an entertaining read.

And finally, I am writing up this blog on the afternoon of Saturday 30th Aug as a retrospective of the week gone. I have been out to trendy Hoxton this morning to buy leather jeans for when me and Dave go to Folsom in Berlin in a fortnight – you will hear about this in a future blog. When I wrote my previous blog last Sunday, QPR were losing to Tottenham and indeed the final result was that we lost 4-0. And then during the week we lost to Burton by a goal to nil. Things were looking iffy and poor old Tony Fernandes must have been wondering where this was all leading to. But we have just won, perhaps with a bit of luck, 1-0 over Sunderland. So mid-table and a week tomorrow we are at Old Trafford against the currently underwhelming Man Utd who are also below us in the league table.

Website of the week:

Wonker of the week:
This was an easy one (especially as I do not want to include Vladimir Putin again even though he is invading Ukraine) – Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner. The scandal of 1400 abused children in Rotherham came to light and it turns out Mr Wright was the councillor in charge of children’s services for a large chunk of the time when the abuse was happening. He does not see why he has to resign – what a wonker.

Something positive to leave any readers with – a really nice TED talk I found this week. It’s J.K.Rowling speaking to a Harvard graduation ceremony with inspirational messages about the positivity that can come from failure, the importance of being able to imagine, and responsibility for others. Plus a helpful hint on doing presentations – leave them with something to remember, in this case ‘gay wizard’

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