Whether We Like It or Not, It Is a Connected World

Mon 6 – Sun 12 March 2023

A pretty dreary week in London regarding the weather. The coldest nights of the year so far, generally low temperatures, and rain that is almost snow in London but heavy snow in other parts of the country. Oh to be back in Gran Canaria! But it’s also been a week in which I’ve noticed again how connected things are in our lives. Like we shouldn’t be bitter (see my previous blog here), so we can’t pretend we live alone on a desert island.

Indeed, this came to light particularly during the week when Dave woke one morning to find water dripping through his ceiling. One of those ‘oh shit’ moments. He went upstairs but his neighbour had already gone to work. Buckets out and on the phone to the Housing Association. Resolved eventually when his neighbour came home and called in a plumber to see to her leaking boiler.

There is no such thing as splendid isolation

It’s a lovely idea to think that we can be independent and exist without dependence on anyone or anything else. But it’s a fallacy. Remember when we all had to quarantine at home with the pandemic; isolated atomisation? ‘Splendid isolation’ but it wasn’t really. Ultimately we were all climbing the wall to get back to normal and have contact with others. Thank God for technology otherwise we would have all gone stir-crazy.

Connected networks

Like Germany in the 1930s

And the government’s new immigration policy panders to the idea of isolation. It is based on the belief of foreigners as enemies and invaders with Britain under siege. Dreadful to hear the way some refugees and migrants are described. Gary Lineker was right to call out the Home Secretary. Let’s put a fast-track application process in place so people can apply from outside the UK (i.e. from northern France) rather than having to use dangerous routes – note they are not ‘illegal’ if there is no other way to apply.

Yes some people are economic migrants and should be rejected or sent back asap. But we also need to make sure people fleeing persecution are not treated as scum (the way many Jewish refugees that fled Nazi Germany were treated). Indeed, why not have a scheme where people can ‘earn’ citizenship thereby meeting our labour shortages in areas like social care? We live in a connected world, there is no choice.

City living

And we are particularly connected in big cities. I love city life – I love the craziness of metropolitan areas. People are on top of each other and we exist totally connected to each other for better or for worse – witness Dave’s leak. Though believe me, I don’t always find other people easy to deal with (the lack of action on the window repair is driving me nuts) and one thing I can’t stand in life are street parties…

Health and Efficiency

I know my mood is completely connected to getting exercise. As is my attempt to keep my weight under control. Indeed, exercise is one of the key focuses of my life at the moment without the presence of work.

Gym and jog-run

Big celebration in getting to the gym 3 times again. And each time it was a lovely, long workout. Tried not to overdo the leg exercises as that can aggravate my knees – pain in these sometimes wakes me up at night.

24 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £20.50 per session.

On the jog-run front, two more sessions in the ‘couch to 5K’ programme. Thursday was particularly interesting as it was cold and wet but I had to jog 20 mins non-stop

Gym

Weight

Still making progress in that I haven’t put weight on but am firmly on the plateau just above 13 and a half stone – see details here. It is very interesting how different things work for different people in losing weight. One of the main things for me is skipping breakfast if I am not really hungry. Whereas Dom (see below) has a weight loss success based on not eating ‘white food’ (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc) after breakfast. Perhaps the message to be taken if you want to lose weight is do what works for you.

Family and Friends

Dom and reflections on London’s ‘gentrification’

Great to catch up with my old mate Dom on Monday night. We’ve known each other for about 35 years and it is always so nice to explore how far our lives have been connected. Over a nice meal, we talked about how sanitised London is becoming. A load of glass boxes with luxury flats owned by rich dodgy people from overseas who see them not as homes but as investments.

London was a much better place in the past. Indeed, Dave lives round Victoria where so many lovely shops, cafes, and coffee shops have gone. He says it is now so dead at the weekend that it reminds him of weekends when he was growing up in the North.

outside a street cafe at night

Phyllis is back

Phyllis returned from his holiday in Egypt and I met him to go through all the photos on his phone. Definitely the trip of a lifetime to go down the Nile stopping off at various historical sites. He said how amazing it was to see the tombs and temples that are massive and carved by hand thousands of years ago.

Mum

Obviously we are all connected via our families but sometimes these connections work and sometimes they don’t. Mum’s ongoing recovery continues though she can be tiring and cantankerous. I spent a lot of time with her last week taking her to the GP, the shops, and the library. Sometimes we just sit and watch the TV together (primarily antique programmes) – I think she likes just having me around. One day, my brother went to the fish and chip shop and brought in saveloy and chips for her. She’s old school and that made her very happy.

Art and Culture

Back to the V&A

Tuesday morning and I went with Dave to the Victoria and Albert. It’s a museum we love just taking time to drift around it but also checking the lovely (but slow) cafe. Indeed, although we went on a Tuesday morning, it was surprisingly busy.

Donatello – we are all constrained

In particular we went to the big Donatello exhibition. Not Versace or the Teenage Ninja Turtle but the highly influential Renaissance sculptor. It is an exhibition about his art and the connected world around him especially those he influenced.

One of the big lessons for me was the way his art was constrained by two particular influences. First, Christianity. Indeed, it is a bit depressing to see an exhibition so full of repeats of the Madonna and Child. Second, the ancient world. The Renaissance was about the rediscovery of Greek and Roman art though I think it could be rightly claimed that this influence never really went away.

But then how could Donatello have moved away from these two artistic straight jackets? Politically and culturally, he was tied to them. Perhaps he may have seen art from elsewhere like Turkey but he wouldn’t have been allowed to work in that style. And styles in places like America and Australia were unknown as even were those of ‘known’ places such as India, China, and Africa. It’s a classic lesson in how we are limited by the world we live in.

The shock of the new

Books and Reading

‘The daughter of Doctor Moreau’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Finished this library book last week. Well, I had to as this is the last time I’m allowed to renew it. It’s a really worthwhile read. I was inspired to borrow it as the reviews were good and I had enjoyed the author’s previous book, ‘Mexican Gothic’. Indeed, Silvia is definitely an up and coming writer to keep an eye on – more about her here.

This latest book is a reinterpretation of the classic novel by HG Wells, ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’. It is reset in nineteenth century Mexico with a more modern perspective on the original novel. It’s wonderfully dreamy but also engaging and very readable. The hybrids aren’t the monsters in this novel. Mexico is definitely a country I would love to visit.

Illness - death heads

Robert Silverberg, sci-fi genius

Still reading the collection of essays by sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg on my kindle as I am walking about. This really is an excellent assembly of stories and I am absolutely delighted that I have discovered such a brilliant writer. Should finish the book this week then really looking forward to reading his other stories and books.

Sustainability

If nothing screams ‘connected world’ more than anything then it is the way humanity’s future is tied up with the wider global ecosystem and what happens in nature. Dreadful to see that the BBC won’t be showing on its main channels a programme by David Attenborough which may be too controversial regarding the threat to nature in the British Isles.

Eating less meat

So I keep doing the little things I try to do to help the planet (though obviously I have also done big things like not having children nor a car). I’m particularly noting how much less meat I am eating and red meat in particular. Actually, it makes me feel quite sick – I can imagine nothing worse than a steak or a roast dinner. And I am really enjoying finding more non-meat options to eat.

Fruit and veg

Personal Development

Multi-lingual brilliance

My planned language learning continues apace. Everyday, I get several Duolingo lessons done. I am in complete admiration of people (especially children) who are multi-lingual or bilingual. It’s an absolute tragedy that British and American people are so crap around speaking anything apart from English. It limits our understanding of other parts of the world and other cultures. We would be so much more connected with people at a meaningful level if we didn’t rely on everyone else speaking English.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Week Ahead

  • Target is 3 gym sessions though the tube strike on Wednesday may cause problems. I will walk to and from the gym but the staff may not be able to get in.
  • 2 more sessions in the ‘couch to 5K’ programme. Should be up to jogging a (slow) 5K in about 3 weeks.
  • Will spend time with mum again. We’ll probably journey out to the local shops at some point and perhaps another trip to the library.
  • Really looking forward to seeing another old friend on Monday night, Daisy. Another person my life has been connected with.
  • Was great to get to the V&A this week and I would love to go again in the coming week or another gallery. I note I managed to miss the Cezanne exhibition at Tate Modern that ended on Sunday. Doh!
  • Finally a QPR win, 1-0 at home against Watford. We’ve got Blackpool away on Tuesday and Birmingham at home on Saturday. Both teams in as much (or worse) trouble than us. Two wins there and relegation fears will be massively eased.

And Finally…

Be careful

We are all being played

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