The Uncertainty That Surrounds Us

Mon 16 – Sun 22 Oct 2023

TLDR

  • Uncertainty surrounds us at a both macro and micro level. We all face the issue of how to live with this.
  • Some improvement in my ankle / Achilles problem meaning that I could get some normality on my exercise routine.
  • A review of two decent books I have completed: a sci-fi adventure and a biography of one of the greatest Black British icons

Life during difficult times

Crass management thinking tells us to thrive in periods of uncertainty. That everything is about opportunity. All written by people who have been through difficult periods and come through it. History is written by the survivors. Meanwhile, in the dimension we call reality, most of us are really struggling with this period of turmoil we are living through.

I am not sure I can remember a time of greater uncertainty since the end of the Cold War. My mum tells me that her and my dad married because they thought the Cuban Missile Crisis meant war was inevitable. And I remember growing up in the 80s with the realistic belief that an exchange of nuclear weapons would happen.

Perhaps there was a period in the 90s and 00s where things felt more stable. But how our we and our politicians fucked up that period of calm, not making sure the future would be just as good. Not only in the last couple of weeks the conflict between Israel and Hamas making a wider conflict very plausible. But also Ukraine, Russia, Iran, China, Trump, climate change, Covid, inflation. And then we all live with our own personal uncertainties.

Depressing times

Where is the comfort, calm, and reassurance?

Clearly there is an answer to uncertainty. The people and events that will make us believe in the future again. ‘I still believe in a place called Hope’, said Bill Clinton. Thank God we have Joe Biden as president – old but a fundamentally good person with depth and experience. And looks like we are moving towards a change of government in the UK at the next election. But, meanwhile, it feels like the current one will just be treading water for a year.

Dave tells me not to worry about things I have no control over. Eminently sensible but harder to do and easy to say. Perhaps the best thing I can do is just to stop worrying about tomorrow. Pretend it doesn’t exist and everything that comes along that is decent will be appreciated.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

Health and Efficiency

Injury update: Light at the end of the tunnel?

My 2 most recent previous blogs have been a bit grim. One about the general frustration I am feeling (read it here) and the more recent about my general sense of feeling down (read it here). A massive part of why I am in a darker place is due to my ankle / Achilles problem. Spoke to the physio by phone on Tuesday and am going to see him in person to practice some exercises next week.

The good news is that though I am still feeling pain and discomfort, this is getting better. And so I have dealt with my personal uncertainty by trying to re-establish my exercise routine. Indeed, the physio recommended this. Though without doing anything specifically putting pressure on my lower legs and warning that some after-exercise comfort was probably likely to enable the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to strengthen and heal.

shadowy streets

Back to the gym

Good news in that I got to the gym twice last week – Mon and Wed mornings. Although the gym was quite busy each time and I had to work my routine around the other guys there. Hadn’t intended to spend too long working out but actually ended up spending about an hour for each session. Focus completely on upper body and core with nothing directly intended to put strain on my lower legs.

Had planned to also go on Fri morning. But a bad night’s sleep meant I woke later than usual and I just didn’t feel motivated. Always that question whether to push on with exercise even when you are thinking no or just give in to what is holding you back. I chose the latter and I ain’t guilt tripping myself about it; in a period when I am not feeling great with myself then that won’t help.

And I took another rest day from exercise on Sunday due to my ankle / Achilles aching after walking a fair bit on Saturday. Again, I’m not feeling guilty.

102 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £4.85 per session.

A swim and a chat

Just one swim last week, Thurs morning. Pool was moderately busy and I did about 20 lengths. A mixture of front-crawl and back-stroke with a slightly greater number of the former. Another swimmer started chatting to me whilst I was there. She was celebrating reaching her 50th by visiting 50 different pools, my one was number 23 on her list. Funny what motivates people and the things they do.

freestyle

Weight: A need to end my own uncertainty

So another small weight increase, up to just under 12 stone and 13 pounds. I think the period of my just blithely assuming that I will continue losing weight without doing anything is over. Indeed, I seem to be systematically putting weight back on.

And I don’t want this period of personal uncertainty of ‘will I go back to the weight I previously was?’ to continue. So I am going to make changes to try to get back on my weight loss trajectory. The only person who can make a difference here is me. But it will be hard particularly with my upcoming holiday with lots of nice food and alcohol.

animation of a fat man running

Family and Friends

Mum: Ongoing worry

She’s struggling with administering her eye-drops and has had a recurrence of some painful problems in other parts of her body. I feel a real uncertainty about her future but I suppose this is how we all feel with elderly parents. Growing old inevitably has a negative physical impact, the only thing we can hope is that mentally we are able to overcome this and live with it.

I had wondered whether I should cancel my upcoming holiday in Spain. But I can’t be with mum all the time to administer her drops – she needs to do this for herself sometimes. And my brother has committed to spend more time with mum whilst I am away despite the demands that his work puts on him.

Books and Reading

A Memory Called Empire’ by Arkady Martine

One serious book completed last week and one that was a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Martine’s book is the latter. It has been lauded and represents a great piece of modern space opera. It’s a sci-fi novel but also a grand theatrical narrative, focused on adventure and the interaction of the characters rather than being too seriously factual and actively science-based.

A huge space empire faces a massive period of internal uncertainty. Thrown into the Byzantine intrigue is the ambassador of a small, just about independent planet on the edge of the empire. Can the ambassador find out why the person before her was assassinated and maintain the independence of her home world? It’s a big adventure that could easily be taken from so many periods in history.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it as accessible sci-fi. However, there are some holes in the story like the all conquering empire not having access to certain technologies. And it is such an adventure yarn that it almost feels like the Famous Five in outer space.

Still, a very good book and cleverly set-up for the sequel that I look forward to reading.

Phobos

‘CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries’ by John L Williams

This is a wonderfully intensive review of the life of this great modern black historian. It covers both his professional career as well as his personal life. He never even went to university but his thinking and writing has had a big cultural impact; he helped create the modern world we live in.

James was a landmark writer about Touissant Louverture and the Haitian Revolution – a key development in the modern history of the Global South. He went on to develop several general themes that we now take for granted:

  • That race and identity are as important as class in the struggle of poor and marginalised people
  • The emphasis for change is often likely to come from movements made up of the most marginalised groups of people such as black people, women, young people, and LGBTQ+ people
  • Modern identity is based in large part on popular culture that includes many facets such as sport, music, literature, and media.
  • The importance of taking the long term view and staying optimistic
Toussaint Louverture

And yet James’ life was not a series of successes. He lived a transient existence in poverty dependent on others. He spent a lot of his time wasted in internecine political debates and arguments. Perhaps his biggest failure was his inability to have a successful long-term relationship and to properly care for his son.

Indeed, James’ life demonstrates how much all our lives are full of uncertainty and dead-ends. I am reminded of the eminent sense someone spoke when they said that we live our lives forward but can only understand them backwards.

‘Time needs to ripen, things have to happen in their time, the road is long. Eventually things will happen.’

CLR James

Art and Culture

  • Uncanny Loved the second episode in the TV series (why is it only 3 episodes long?), this one about poltergeists. Also totally addicted to the radio episodes that I am gradually catching up with and absolutely savouring the uncertainty it creates about the reality we think we know so well. Just the right thing for the run-up to Halloween.
  • Strictly and Big Brother Yep, my addiction to crap TV continues. These particular programmes along with the soaps and antique programmes give me the reassurance and comfort I need in difficult times. There’s a strong element of creating links with the characters involved and following the stories.
  • Rugby Following on from the previous week’s tight and gripping quarter finals, the week just gone we had the semis at the Rugby Union World Cup. Two more good matches. New Zealand rampant and South Africa edging England. Next day England vs Tonga in Rugby League. The masculine power, strength, and skill on display was magnificent.
  • QPR Clearly in a period of uncertainty with the only certainty being the likelihood of losing. Another defeat away against Huddersfield despite Rangers having the majority of possession. West Brom away on Tues and Leicester at home on Sat. Lose these two and the manager has to go. I think we should give Michael Beale another chance.
QPR

The Week Ahead

  • Getting ready to go away to Torremolinos on Thursday. Hopefully I can leave the uncertainty behind and spend some time relaxing as well as thinking about the future. Though holidays always have an element of uncertainty not least hoping that the weather will be good and querying what what I will actually do each day.
  • Looking after mum till I go away then handing over the reins to my brother and Dave. We’ve got 2 hospital appointments literally as soon as I get back.
  • Physio on Monday about my ankle / Achilles and my 6 month meeting with my HIV consultant on Wednesday
  • Getting my big pile of holiday reading books ready 🙂

And Finally…

There is always light

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