When you’re going through Hell, keep going

Mon 28 Dec 2020 – Sun 3 Jan 2021

The title of the blog refers to a supposed quotation from Churchill. Perhaps he said it, perhaps he didn’t. But it’s got real meaning. Of course, the Hell of WWII was a darn site worse than the Hell of Covid. But we still need to keep going whatever.

My annual Gran Canaria holiday was cancelled this week. I was pretty certain this would happen and I know others are suffering a lot worse. But I was looking forward to it after a shit year and it’s gone now.

Plus my annual check-in with the HIV consultant next week, due to happen by video, has been cancelled. This is because all docs and nurses are being redeployed within the hospital to deal with the Covid crisis. Appointment rescheduled to June. 🙁 Thankfully my HIV feels like it’s under control.

All we can really do is keep going. The next couple of months are going to be dark, cold, and lots of people will be ill with many dying. But the Spring will come eventually with warmth and light. The vaccines will slowly get rolled out. If we can put our heads down and just keep going then things will get better. Plus Biden will be president and fight back will have begun to reverse Brexit.

What the new normal will look like, who knows. But I’ll take the chance it is not worse than now.

Keep going to fight Brexit

New Year itself

I’m not a big one for New Year’s Eve. Indeed, I have mixed feelings about the space between Christmas and New Year. In a normal year (i.e. when I’ve got a job), it feels a bit indulgent and a time to plan ahead. This year it feels like ongoing drudgery in a year that none of us wished had happened.

raving

Obviously there was no going out on NYE. And this year I could go to bed before midnight like I normally do and nobody could make me feel guilty for doing so! 🙂 Did manage a nice jog-run on NYD as well as a film catch-up – see below.

Books and Reading

‘Shuggie Bain’ by Douglas Stuart

Two great books completed last week. This was the first one. It’s a debut novel and winner of The Booker Prize 2020. The latter was definitely deserved, this really is a well-written and emotive book to read. I would heartily recommend it.

It would be wrong to describe it as ‘enjoyable’ as it is the sad story of a son (Shuggie) growing up with an alcoholic mother (Agnes). The characters in the book are created and built up wonderfully. It could be described as ‘poverty porn’ and some have criticised the negative portrayal of Glasgow life. I think it sits just the right line of the former and it is set in 1980s Glasgow – over 30 years ago with many things different now (I really like Glasgow 🙂 ).

The portrayal of a family living in poverty and someone dealing with an addiction are excellent. For the latter, you obviously have sympathy for Agnes. Though clearly Shuggie and his siblings are the main victims. The author does not shy away from showing the level by which addicts can feel sorry for themselves and always justify their actions. I know, I’ve dealt with addiction in the past and how self-centred I was still shocks me now.

Three particular things sit with me after reading the book. First, the reality that some kids have terrible lives. Second, I can’t help but wonder how much of this book is based on the author’s real-life experiences. Where does it sit on the line between fantasy and autobiography? Finally, this is a very high level to set for a first novel. Will Douglas Stuart be able to live up to it in his next book?

‘Destroying Angel’ by S G MacLean

A William Blake angel

I enjoy historical fiction. Though there’s a lot around and the quality varies. Nearly always at least one famous figure appears, perhaps the real challenge is for such fiction to be about just ordinary people. MacLean’s books follow the adventures of The Seeker, part of Cromwell’s secret police.

This is the third book and takes the Seeker out of London. He travels North in search of a Royalist renegade and gets drawn into a local dispute. Plus we find out more about his mysterious past.

Overall, it’s a fun read that feels saturated in the everyday life of the Puritan Protectorate between the English Civil War and the Restoration. Recommended but start with the first in the series and work your way through.

Current reading

Two books on the go at the moment and both very good queer ones. The first I’ve been meaning to read for ages: ‘Days without end’ by Sebastian Barry. Two soldiers in a relationship during the American Civil War. The second is on my kindle and was recently recommended to me: ‘Beneath the streets’ by Adam MacQueen. Rent boys, politicians, and murder in 1970s London.

Jog-runs

a form of exercise

In my previous blog (read it here), I set the goal of just two jog-runs between Christmas and New Year. The main issue is to get motivated and keep going when it is so cold. That, along with my niggling knee, meant I did indeed just two jog-runs as well as hardly any internet exercise sessions nor long walks. 🙁

First jog-run was Tues, only a day’s gap after the previous one. But the weather was OK (a bit of sunshine) and I was in the mood. A decent one: up to 2.8 km and nicely slow though breathing control wasn’t great.

Second was on Fri (NYD). Had planned to do Thurs (NYE) but it was too cold. Fri was still cold (when is it not in January and February? 🙁 ) but I felt in the mood again and wrapped up well. Turned out to be a pleasant, relaxed jog-run – slow and covered 2.9 km. 🙂

Weight

man weighing himself

Good news on the weight front. Down to 13 stone 5 & a half pounds! Really pleasing and I know that I’ve been cutting back. I can feel myself hungry at times. Clearly I’ve got to just keep going but it is hard. Though I do feel ‘lighter’ especially when I am doing my jog-runs. 🙂

Hot baths, dodgy knees, and new sleep patterns

My knee is still playing me up (though not as bad as it has been) and I ‘treated’ myself to a knee support. But it is coping OK with the slow jog-runs which may be making it stronger. And I find relaxing in a bath after a jog-run may make the knee feel better. Could all be psychological but if it is then why should that be a problem?

Indeed, I’m finding baths preferable to showers generally. I’m slightly guilt-tripped as I know they are not as environmentally friendly. Perhaps it’s not just to do with making my knee feel better. But also to do with the cold weather and this time of year that are so attractive and comforting.

The weather and short days are definitely affecting my sleep patterns. Basically asleep around 11pm and letting myself wake up naturally which might be 8, 9, or even 10 am! I’m sure this will change as the seasons and the weather alter.

Art and Culture: ‘Interior. Leather Bar’

Caught up with this queer film on New Year’s Day. It’s based on the classic movie ‘Cruising’ starring Al Pacino. A wonderful and controversial portrayal of gay life pre-AIDS. ‘Interior’ is based on recreating graphic sex scenes rumoured to have been cut from Cruising. It is graphic but the film is as much about the issues for actors in appearing in gay sex films when they are straight. Not a great film but nice to be immersed in queerdom for a bit. It also features the very sexy James Franco. 🙂

Putin and Trump

Art and Culture: ‘World’s Strongest Man’

I wrote in my previous blog about this being one of my highlights for this time of year between Christmas and New Year. Carried on watching the heats and then the big final on NYD. The feats of strength are amazing and it feels like old-fashioned vaudeville.

Some of the contestants keep going (what else can they do?). But there are also some new stars coming through, Tom Stoltman and Oleksii Novikov in particular. You can find out more about WSM here and the 2020 context (heats and final) are available on the Channel 5 website here.

Phyllis

My regular weekly catch-up with Philip in Andalucia went ahead. He’s moving to his new flat in Torremolinos. Life in Spain sounds so much better than life here. This is reinforced by what me and Dave hear from our other friends in Spain. I’m still watching ‘Place in the Sun’ and have dreams of moving abroad. Though Brexit has made that a lot harder. 🙁

Gran Canaria Hotel Neptuno

Personal development

I keep going with my language learning. I’ve upgraded my plan with Duolingo so I’ve got unlimited access to all the exercises. Means I can dip in and out of as many exercises as I want to whenever I want to. Also still reinforcing that with Drops and Busuu. Indeed, have signed up to the 90 Day Challenge with Drops. The aim is to do at least one 10 minute exercise in German each day for 90 consecutive days.

Meanwhile, I continue with my tech learning sessions on Free Code Camp. Don’t always feel greatly motivated in the way I do with languages. But you’ve got to keep going and so I try to do a couple of exercises each night.

Sustainability: The Circular Economy

Still need to keep going without income from a job. My frugal living continues: I’ve never been so aware of what I spend! But am trying to gain a bit of extra money by selling stuff online; the perfect example of the ‘circular economy’ in action.

It’s actually a lot of work for not very much. But it does make you realise how much shit you possess that is worth very little. And the best way to save is not to spend in the first place. 🙁

Words explaining the link between design and waste

The Week Ahead

  • So we keep going until vaccine critical mass is achieved. Key thing is to do everything possible to avoid infection at this stage: mask, distance, wash hands, fresh air.
  • Need to think about putting my job search up a gear
  • Will carry on with my current two queer books and then move onto some new stuff
  • Velvet Page book club zoom meet on Thurs evening. Might join but haven’t read the book for this month. 🙁
  • Again, for exercise just setting target of two jog-runs
  • Weight target is to stay at 13 stone 5 & a half pounds. Less than that would be amazing. 🙂
  • Back to doc’s on Mon for INR (blood clotting) check 🙁
  • Art and culture next week will be some films online and soaps on the TV at best
  • Catch up with Phyllis on Wed – so nice to hear about a place where there is sun and something nearer to normal than here. Must also sort out some catch-ups with other friends.
  • Will continue with my new online selling as a way to get some money in
  • And obviously will keep on with the language learning I love and boosting my tech knowledge

And Finally…

Tadpoles to frogs

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