The week Leonard Nimoy and Boris Nemtsov died

Sun 22 Feb – Sat 28 Feb

Linking my blog title to the death of major people actually seems a good thing to do because when I or other people look back then we will remember these great people that have gone and, hopefully, be inspired by them. The amazingly original and inventive Star Trek was a fundamental part of my childhood (when we only had three or four TV channels) and Spock was a wonderful character. There is much to be said for living a life based on logic. The shooting / execution of Nemtsov demonstrates the dogdy places that exist in abundance in the world and why we should be more grateful for the stability we live in that very much is worth fighting for. Russia is such a great nation, why have they returned to Stalinism? And then we get vile people like Mohammed Emwazi who is a murdering thug although some look for reasons to let him off what he has done. Compare this evil (not misguided) lunatic to the achievements of actor Leonard Nimoy and then answer the question if you could only save one of them, who would it be? Not difficult.

I had some other great ideas for blog-titles this week but without noting them down they were soon forgotten; such forgetting partly remembered is part of getting older. It’s exactly like going into another room for a reason then thinking ‘what was I coming in here for?’ One of my thoughts was around the title ‘Old + fat = ugly, young + thin = beautiful’. This was largely based on my response to a book I was reading (‘Death in Venice’ – see below) but it is a depressing thought that often crosses my mind fuelled by the sex and image crazed world we live in. Strange how even in religion – holy people are always shown as good-looking, able-bodied, and generally with body shapes achieved through good diet and plenty of exercise; no imperfections for God.

Pacing myself for a very busy week at work
The main thing that comes to mind about last week was just how busy it was – all related to work. In theory I only work three and a half paid days. Last week it went well over that and the tentacles of work intruded into every day. Fundamentally I was working every day so my main concentration was on how to keep calm and pace myself. Do not worry, I am taking TOIL (Time Off in Lieu) next week to make up for my extra hours worked. It does make me laugh when people talk about their overtime being cut back, I have never worked for an employer that pays overtime – TOIL is always the best I have had.

Monday I was not physically in the office but did have to do some work on my pooter including sorting arrangements for my upcoming work visit to Belfast. After a session with Sara, I had options of going to a free concert, the cinema, or paying to have massage. Based on what I knew was coming up for the rest of the week, I decided to skip everything and just went straight back to see mum and catch up on stuff indoors such as sorting out books to trade-in on Amazon as well as dealing with work bits to keep my head above water.

Tuesday was a big meeting day. The abstinence-based recovery projects I oversee and admire were gathered to report back to each other on their first six months of funding and directly to Russell Brand who raised the money they were using. It was a great day, very inspiring to hear what the projects are doing (all are increasing their presence in their local communities) and fascinating to meet a celebrity and realise that they are as human as the rest of us. Russell is charismatic and very good looking plus his passion for recovery is infectious. I was in the office at 8am on Tuesday and did not arrive home until 8pm as I attended a session after work providing guidance to charities on what they are legally allowed to do around political campaigning – salient with the General Election coming up. This was a very good seminar, I wasn’t sure if I should go after such a heavy office day but I was very glad I did.

Wednesday it was back into the office for 8am with phonecalls to make and a shortlisting meeting to do where we decide which applications should be invited to submit a more detailed proposal. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Combat Stress, one of my projects which I really admire that deals with Veterans’ mental health (see WotW). On Thursday I got into work for a project meeting at 11 though there was a mix-up and the other side turned up at 11.30. Not a major problem but it simply cut back our time to talk as I had to get off to a meeting in Birmingham at 2.45 which I made and it was a good, constructive meeting. The train up was fine but the one back was very busy. And then on Thursday night I got one of those evening e-mails where people need a response by the next morning even though I don’t work on Friday mornings. It really is linked to our 24 hour news culture and the constant need for attention-grabbing new information.

Friday morning I went off the gym – boy did I need that. All went well even though the gym was unusually busy. Into work to find my e-mail last night had got things sorted. Then the ongoing battle to get on top of e-mails as well as do some of the urgent deadline-related work that was demanding my time. I got an agreement with my boss that I would work over the weekend at home and take time off for it next week. We had an office celebration as one of the more colourful members of our team (he is Italian) was moving on. A fun time was had including revelations about his early poor English – once he talked about getting a wardrobe from IKEA and ‘mounting’ it as this was most similar to the Italian word for ‘putting it together’!

Social life: mum, Dave, my brother
Several evenings in with mum last week – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday (the latter after I got back from Birmingham). She is in reasonable form though her movements are still slow and stiff after the latest blood clot in her leg. But we went round to the laundrette together on Thursday morning before I carried on into work.

Dave’s been busy with work as well last week though I think I might have been busier despite him being full-time and me only part-time. I stayed with him on Tuesday and we met up for meal out together after my legal seminar finished. I was back with Dave on Friday evening and into Saturday. We actually went out again for dinner together on Friday, popping down to the Union Jack Club (a Veterans’ club) for a slightly chaotic meal (‘Have you booked?’ – the restaurant was 75% empty!).

The previous weekend had been very family-orientated – mum on Saturday for fish and chips then on Sunday over to see my brother and his girlfriend in Enfield. My brother is doing up the flat and it looks very nice. We also saw Chubbs the bulldog (slobbery as usual) and met my brother’s partner’s daughters for the first time. We went out for massive and delicious Turkish meal made up of different dishes to share though the decent weather in the morning turned into pouring rain by the time we got back onto the tube in the afternoon.

Exercise and health
The previous Sunday, as my Achilles was still tender, I made a decision to not do my weekly jog-run. Instead I went for a gym session concentrating on an all over body workout. I met Dave afterwards and we travelled to Enfield together to see my brother. I had a session with my PT Sara on Monday including going back to using kettle bells at my request as we had not done them for a while and I really enjoy them. Friday and Saturday morning I was back at the gym, respectively concentrating each day on legs and core then upper body. These gym sessions were absolutely vital to help with stopping myself being overwhelmed by the constant spectre of work haunting me. Good news – I weighed myself on Tuesday morning and found out I was back down to 13 stone 4 pounds – a good achievement. And I saw my GP at 7.15 on Thursday morning in order to get renewal of all my meds – the dull routine of dealing with chronic illness.

Reading
With sadness I finished all 600 pages of David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone People’ – what a fabulous book, both clever and beautifully written. Although not his best and the fantasy elements were reminiscent of others I have read such as the wonderful Susanna Clarke’s ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ and the general writing of Kate Mosse (note not the skinny model). In a lot of ways the final ‘chapter’ affected me most. About a world in the near future where the oil is running out and the internet has gone. For a pessimist like me, a very possible scenario with no happy ending.

For my next book I needed something totally different so I switched to the 80 page novel(la) ‘Death in Venice’ by Thomas Mann. I have never seen the Dirk Bogarde film but the book is good. Written in 1912 (so over a hundred years old), it is an ageless story of an older man who is gay but not allowed to live this out and his unrequited love for a younger man. Again, no surprise that there is an unhappy ending. And, of course, this was part of the inspiration for the possible blog title I discussed earlier. A nice short break from The Bone Clocks but revolving around the same pessimistic sun.

So I moved back to an old familiar to cheer me up, the brilliant Sir Terry Pratchett. Next installment in the discworld series (number 26) ‘The Thief of Time’. An under-stated and witty almost mystical read dwelling on how to live life and the different ways we conceptualise time. As you can tell, it really is a very clever book wrapped up in being a bloody good fun read. I would always recommend Terry Pratchett’s books – the guy is a genius being able to come up with at least one fantastic book every year. Bit of a disaster though, half-way through Thief of Time, I left it at mum’s on Friday morning so would not be able to continue reading it till Monday as I was at Dave’s for the weekend. So…

My contingency plan kicked in and I started reading the emergency book I always carry around for such unforeseen circumstances. ‘Harvest’ is by Jim Crace who is a very good writer. A novel set in medieval times, it really did mean a retreat back to the bleak lost-civilisation theme I had left behind with Bone Clocks. Excellent writing (reminding me of Hilary Mantel’s style) and engaging but ultimately quite dark but that is typical of Crace’s stripped-back humanity writing. I really think I have got to lighten the tone next week.

Digital, languages, and Flare
I have made some digital progress particularly by watching videos on the internet (about WordPress) and I have got into a regular slot using the DuoLingo app on my phone before I go to sleep to boost my language skills .

Finally, last week saw the opening of priority booking for Flare – formerly the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (Flare is such a crap name, sounds like a brand of margarine or a dodgy clothes shop). I am only a BFI member so I can use priority booking to get tickets for this before it sells out. The programme this year is good though it is always hit and miss what the movies are actually like. The festival atmosphere is also good though it can feel elitist and snobby in a way that arts festivals only can. Priority booking opened 11.30 on Wednesday but I couldn’t pile straight in because I was at work. I did my bookings in the evening but several were already sold out especially the shorts. Separately I was tempted to go to the cinema on Wednesday night to see a Spanish sci-fi film but my busy week and the need to pace myself meant I knew I would be too tired for the next day.

Websites of the week:
http://www.combatstress.org.uk
http://www.bfi.org.uk/flare/

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