The week before Berlin

This is a review of the last five days (Sunday – Thursday) before I go off to Berlin. Indeed the majority of this blog was written at Heathrow Terminal 5 using my 45 mins of free wifi – very generous (not).

Well this week my beloved mother-in-law, Gloria, has been in town – she arrived on Saturday. Les Dawson type jokes apart (oh will anybody under the age of 30 know what I am talking about?), we get on well and she is very nice though she does like to be kept busy especially going to the shops – she particularly loves the big Waterstones in Piccadilly. Slightly separately the French for mother-in-law is ‘la belle mere’ (the beautiful mother), I think this is an example of ironic French humour. Gloria stayed with Dave so I could not stay with him over the weekend which gave me more nights in with my mum than usual. She is OK and we managed not to murder each other instead just concentrating on winding each other up. I met up with Gloria and Dave for dinner on Sunday evening at All Bar One. Huge portions (encouraging waste) though also expensive. She looked very well and is doing OK for a lady in her mid seventies. She did fall out of bed recently but was not injured; her neighbour heard but did not come and check out how she was! Then we met again on Monday afternoon but this time my mum came along as well. Her and Gloria sat on one table talking about families, medicines, doctors, etc while me and Dave caught up on the next door table. A nice time all round. And then Gloria went back home up north on Tuesday with Dave seeing her off on the train.

My health has been OK after last week’s wobble (amazing how traumatic can become ordinary; human beings have an ability to just about deal with anything) though I think the new medication prescribed after last week’s hospital visit is giving me headaches. I did visit my GP on Thursday morning to get a renewal of all my meds bar the anti-retrovirals which come via the hospital. And in preparation for this I had to buy a new annual pre-paid prescription certificate of +£100 which I see as a tax on having long-term health conditions. I saw a very nice young GP who drew out of me some of negative thoughts I am having particularly in terms of getting older and life not being what was planned for when I was younger. But the past is gone and ultimately all we have is future. I am not a great fan of counselling, feeling that for me I just go over old ground in constant repetition without solution. And mindfulness also does not really work for me because I feel without giving ourselves hope in the future then the present can be just bloody grim filled with the banality of everyday life (though banality can be quite beautiful as with the comfort of routines). My way of dealing with depression is looking to the future with as much hope as possible.

In terms of fitness, I managed to get to the gym twice. First on Sunday morning where I found myself working out alongside an underwear models shoot – this really could only happen at a gay gym. Obviously I was not part of the shoot and had to keep out of the way. People may think that this was a big distraction but actually they were all smaller than I expected; yes they had very defined bodies but they were not at all the chunky and blokey types I like. Sara my trainer was visiting friends in Oslo so I got an extra session at the gym on Monday. Sunday I concentrated on upper body and core; Monday I worked on legs. I still have the post-run ache in my left achilles but it gets better with resting and I will not be running again until the weekend after next. I attended my physio session, which normally comes every two months, on Monday afternoon and we concentrated on stretching my left achilles and calf as well as mobilising my right knee which continues to be a chronic ‘injury’ I carry.

It’s been another busy week at work, when is it not,and I worked on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning. Tuesday saw my attendance at New Philanthropy Capital breakfast event about digital vs traditional (grassroots) activism. The basic message that came through overall was that ‘click activism’ can be an important part of the the campaign armoury but needs to be inter-weaved with more traditional measures. For example, e-mail does have an impact on a politician if it includes the postcode to prove the sender is a constituent. However, politicians are still impressed by hand-written letters (presumably a generational thing and so long as the letter is not written in green ink with as many words on the page as possible) and face to face meetings with constituents – turn up to their surgeries. Interestingly the event did not reflect so much on how digital can be used to change public opinions or deal with non-statutory power holders such as big companies. There followed a busy day back in the office that felt a bit like treading water to keep afloat without making any significant progress. Wednesday was marked by a difficult shortlisting meeting where we had to decide which funding applications should go forward for assessment and more interrogation, and which ones should be declined. It’s a sad event in that there are many proposals that are not good enough, outside criteria or ineligible but in addition to the normal half dozen that goes through there is always another two or three that would have been funded if more money had been available. But that is the decision that has to be made and the world continues whatever we decide. The rest of day was another busy desk-bound one including lots of e-mails and phonecalls to chase people. Again a key part of my job is making sure the money is wisely spent and can be fully accounted for. Thursday morning before the tube to Heathrow and after my GP visit, I attended the steering group monitoring the abstinence-based Recovery Community projects we are funding and that I have found so inspirational when I have visited them.

My social life this last week has largely been linked to meeting Gloria but there have been some other adventures. Sunday after the gym was a pure potter day (note not Harry Potter day). Coffee on Old Compton St was followed by a glass of wine and some peanuts in the Retro Bar followed by more coffee at Waterstones’ cafe – with lots of reading and dipping into the internet. Monday after the gym (a non-work day) I got my hair tidied up (there is too little to be cut) as prep for looking good in Berlin. After work on Tuesday, I went with Dave to see the Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern. This was a real wow in terms of his wonderfully prodigious and varied output whilst at the same time living through a series of major events including World War One, the Russian Revolution, collectivisation, starvation, Stalinism, purges, arrest, and show trials! And ultimately it was interesting how his style became circular in some ways ending where it began (very figurative). His most famous work is the black square which was revolutionary in its time but there was much more to him than that. For me, the exhibition demonstrated the artistic glory and colour that Russian culture has (there was a similar pre-revolution art exhibition at the Royal Academy a few years ago); this is in sad comparison to the seemingly narrow, homophobic, masculinated and bullying nationalistic themes that dominates Putin’s current-day Russia.


Wedneday night was works leaving drinks for Katie who is going onto a really interesting Home Office job. She has been an excellent worker and I will miss her cheerful helpfulness sitting opposite me. And it was nice to have chilled social time to catch up with my colleagues. I do not go to work for a social life but I also do not want to know the people I work with just as employees of the same business.

My main reading book this week has been Gerald Walker’s ‘Cruising’. A great book, written in 1970 with lots of very non-PC language and lots of stereotyping especially of gay men. But still a period piece and a bloody good thriller containing lots about distorted masculinity and sexuality denial. As good as the film though the book is more straight forward to understand and intricate; a good thriller rather than a sensationalist film – but I still like the film. I have moved onto reading another gay book, ‘As Luck Would Have It’ by Samuel Lock. He is neither a well known writer nor a prodigious one, as far as I know, but the book has been acclaimed by Beryl Bainbridge and Edmund White. Written in 1995 but about the claustrophobia of being gay and in a dying relationship in fifties / sixties London. On digital skill development I have sadly nothing to report and it is the same on language skill development. Perhaps my weekend in Berlin will help though there is always the risk of getting languages mixed up.

Other bits and pieces I have comments on from this week.

  • There has been a lot of criticism of last Saturday’s ‘Robot of Sherwood’ Dr Who episode. Guys, Doctor Who was not meant to be taken too seriously – we love it because it was a key part of our childhood and has become watchable again. It is great just to have him back and fun to have an old fashioned type semi-historical episode. I am loving Peter Capaldi as a cantankerous Doctor in a William Hartnell mode. And I am tired of too many silly and young Doctors.
  • Strictly re-started on Sunday night. For me, this is a real comfort programme in the run-up to Christmas. I am rooting for Scott Mills who I have always thought was cute and witty. He actually uses the gym where I train with Sara.
  • News has been dominated by the debate on the Scottish Independence Referendum. My position is that I like giving power to people as much as possible although sometimes they do stupid things like vote for UKIP or not bother voting as with the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. But I hate nationalism; it can never be predicted where it leads and can easily end in arguments about purity of the blood line as well as blaming others. Nationalism is an easy trap to fall into and I do it sometimes myself with England whereas my British and European identity are far more important but not to the point where I want to trash others. I love Scotland and I don’t want to live in a UK without it, FFS we fought and defeated fascism together in World War Two! Linked to this I am worried by the rise of anti-establishmentarianism which is so often reactionary rather than radical (not voting, nationalism, etc) and about fear of the future (i.e. being swamped) instead of creating and grabbing opportunities.

So off to Berlin now for Folsom; this is a great fun scaled down version of Pride with more people wearing leather and rubber. You really do need to see some of the outfits people wear which have a big wow factor. Report back next blog.

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