Category: Personal Musings

Posts about me

Gordon and Becca looking ahead

9 years later

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… – Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities

It was around about now, some nine years ago, that the house my ex-wife and I had owned in Hamilton sold and I found myself on the hunt for a place to live. We’d agreed to separate earlier in the year, and had started making our own plans for our lives apart and this was the last vestige of our shared life. A tale of two lives indeed.

I had already decided to move to Glasgow specifically to the West End as I’d always enjoyed it’s mix of old and new; the grand spacious tenements, the constant buzz as new influxes of students descend on the area each year, the mix of working class, artists, and the aspiring upper-middle classes (so bourgeois darling!).

The timing was less than ideal and I quickly found myself upping my budget so I wasn’t in direct competition with the aforementioned, newly arriving, students. And so after some fruitless weeks visiting tiny box after tiny box, I finally found a nice flat with big rooms in a good location. It was an open viewing and there were several other people there also making appreciative noises, and so the next morning I resorted to ringing the letting agency 15mins before their office opened. Lo and behold someone picked up and the flat was mine!

It was a perfect base from which to begin a new chapter in my life, with my home city of Glasgow within walking distance. I moved in a couple of weeks later and not long after that I joined the local Yelp community, which remains one of my better decisions as I’ve made friends there that remain to this day. I was already using Yelp as a way to find places to visit, places to eat, and on my first ‘community event’ (a pakora evening in Mother India) I happened across a work colleague, what a coincidence, from there … well, I’ve mentioned this before (in what appears to be staggering foresight but, well, I didn’t know then what I know now).

The next years staggered forward with nary a plan in sight. My career was going well enough, a new role gained, trips to our offices in Belfast, Boston and Sunnyvale (California), and a memorable customer visit to the headquarters of Sears – a vast building about the size of two large UK shopping centres, which had two full size coffee shops as well as a massive 2000 seater canteen that had more food on display in one place than I’ve seen or since, it took us 20 minutes to walk from the entrance to the meeting room – and it felt I was on the right path, finally.

My career had always been a thing of change. I studied Electrical Engineering but left college early and worked in the local McDonalds before my Mum found a job advert for me which took me to a small cottage and started my first career in technical authoring (writing software manuals). A year later I was made redundant and ended up moving to the south of England with a job secured in Aylesbury, a year and a half after that another redundancy, a brief six months working in Reading and a return to Scotland (Hamilton) before I ended up at a software company that changed names five times, and owners twice, before they too made me redundant. A frantic few weeks (with a holiday in Singapore in the middle) got me to where I am today, contracting in a bank doing ‘IT stuff’.

Lesson learned, careers can be planned and targeted but will always be at the mercy of those capricious cherubs of fate. In a way I was lucky to go through two redundancies so early in my working life, as it made me realise that whilst you can have hope and dreams, and work hard to better yourself, you are never fully in control. I have chosen to leave two companies of the six I’ve worked for so far, and as I get older, so the work and the people become more and more important to me. Who knows where my next career move will be, but as a lot has already happened in the intervening nine years I can only presume the same for the next nine?

On a more personal note you could also say that matters over the heart and the intricacies of relationships are as much influenced by chance as they are fate. Not long separated, with a new flat, so came a new relationship and with it other new experiences, a chance to explore more of myself once more and a door that opened to yet another, simultaneous, relationship. It was all very new, and was as rewarding and fun as it sounds. To have two partners, who are fully aware and comfortable living in such a relationship structure was not something we happened upon, it took work and effort and emotional growth and many more things but I’ve written about being poly before.

So if you fast forward through the last nine years and I’ve moved home twice, been through two polyamorous relationships, attended Glastonbury a few times, been made redundant for a third time and subsequently switched careers, made many many new friends, and spent the entire time exploring and learning as much about Glasgow as I could. I also spent a fair amount of time discovering and understanding more of myself.

There have been family members that have passed, others got married, my gorgeous little niece arrived, both my parents health took a hit, and through it all I’ve been lucky to have had the love and support of my best friends and my wonderful family who have never batted an eyelid no matter what news I turned up with. I am very lucky.

It’s been a wonderful nine years for the most part. I find myself looking forward to what the next nine will bring and feel much better equipped as to whatever life will throw my way, although I must admit it does help that I have much more clarity as to what my future holds…

About a year ago life, as it is prone to do, threw me another curve-ball and it’s safe to say that I find myself at a very different place both figuratively and literally, one I would not have predicted as the freshly divorced singleton I was all those years ago. We moved in together early this year, her two wee staffies are now our two wee staffies, and I feel happier and more content with each passing day. We frequently comment to each other that whilst this has all happened quickly, it has never felt rushed and has always felt natural and right and easy and stress-free. We make each other laugh and smile. She is my best friend.

If you’d told the newly divorced version of me that this is where I would be today I would not have believed you. There are plans for the future and I am excited for them to arrive and every morning I wake up and smile.

Over the past nine years (and many before that) I made many mistakes and with hindsight of course there are things I’d do differently, but we can’t go back, we can only look forward and the path ahead of me looks so much richer these days. I will make mistakes in the years to come as well, but I take solace that no matter what happens I have people in my life who love me as much as I love them and who I can rely on (and not JUST because I know too much about them…).

If the last nine years have taught me anything I’d be a fool to share it with you as my life, my decisions, and the path I took to get to where I am today will not be the same as yours.

Yet if I were to pass on any learning let it be this; Say Yes more than No, surround yourself with positivity and love, accept that you have and will make mistakes, and focus on living life not owning things. Laugh more than you cry.

Who knows maybe the next nine years, with all the wonderful adventures it will bring, will see me finally embrace that advice for myself. Regardless I will face it all with a smile on my face and a heart full of love, and no small amount of dog hairs on my clothes.

Autumn arrives

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” — Henry David Thoreau

After a wonderful weekend in Gothenburg – which I highly recommend you visit if you are searching for a long weekend of relaxed wanderings – we returned to a Glasgow where it’s safe to say that the nights are fair drawing in 1 and with the ever darkening evenings marking the change of the season I find myself looking ahead at the coming months; trees are turning and with them the joy of autumn flourishes.

I’ve always preferred Autumn to Winter as the slow folding of time takes us through profound change, skies darken earlier, plants return to the earth, the light changes day by day. Equally Spring is preferable to Summer as it brings with it new energies fuelled by the world around us re-emerging, days brightening, and the promise of new peeks over the horizon.

I’ve always been drawn to change, always find the turn of a season motivates me anew. I am not one for resolutions made at the chime of the New Year for during those long days of Winter there can be little to distinguish a dark and cold early December morning from a mid-January evening, neither light nor temperature vary. Give me substantive change, something I can see and sense, and my brain suddenly sparks into life with a rejuvenated sense of purpose.

A few weeks ago I sensed this change was coming, Autumn was upon us and new motivations were found and plans made to get back to the gym, and to finally book that wonderful weekend away. And how wonderful it was; a beautiful city, small enough to walk around, big enough to hold more secrets to return to in the future, filled with friendly smiling faces, I have rarely felt so relaxed.

Once home, I felt re-invigorated and with the hint of Autumn on the nostrils I look to other pursuits and ponder the novel that has been creeping back into my mind these past few weeks, plot points are crystallising, character emotions emerging, and even now as I write this post it appears that my previous lost prose is returning.

It were ever thus.

Be it Spring or Autumn I always find myself itching to dive into something new, a yearning to immerse myself completely. In Spring it’s easy to find renewed vigour for something new with the premise of taking it forward into the rest of the year. Autumn offers a different motivation in the desire to blanket myself from the increasingly grey world as a means of escape.

With a successful, if already belatedly painful, gym session behind me (and another looming this very evening!), my mind is turning once more, cogs whirring like an antique time piece, and the novel I’ve long hoped to finish is being reshaped in the hope that I can capture its new shape in the coming months.

I am mindful to guard against my own habits, where an interest is piqued and followed to a place beyond immersion to an entirely unhealthy location that occupies my mind over all else. Yet that was then and this is now, and with my life and self irrevocably changed for the better in the past couple of years, I welcome this new Autumn heartily, safe in the knowledge that my occupations will be split appropriately across more important matters, with the heart overruling the head more often than not.

And, if nothing else, I have two dogs to walk.


Notes of foot
  1. A Scottish colloquialism to represent the darker evenings that impact our northerly latitude as we head towards Winter.


Apple iPhone 11

In conflict with new

I recycle, I have for many years. My partner is a lot better read on it though and I’ve learned a lot from her since we moved in together; I’m much more conscious of single use plastics et al these days and have started to question my entire habits of consumption. Quite simply, I buy too much stuff.

I’ve known this for a while and even though I’ve been a lot better at being mindful of new purchases it’s still a habit that I relax on too often. I have a drawer full of t-shirts – I could wear one a day for a month I reckon – yet have added a couple of new ones recently with the premise that ‘it’s ok because I’ll pass some of the older ones on to charity stores’. Which is good but missing the point entirely. I don’t NEED new t-shirts.

Just as I don’t NEED a new iPhone, my current one is just fine for what I use it for, yet…

I’m in the Apple upgrade programme and have the option to upgrade to the latest shiny new iPhone each year and so far I’ve done just that and justified it by, somewhat rightly, positioning an iPhone as more than just a smartphone as it’s the only camera I now have and with most year on year upgrades including improvements in photography (this year is no exception) it is entirely possible to reason my way into yet another upgrade.

Editors note: He has already upgraded, this post is really just a way of working through his angst.

I don’t NEED a new iPhone, I know this, I can rationalise that side of the argument very easily. The upgrade programme is essentially a finance option so if I choose NOT to upgrade and finishing the payments the handset is mine to keep for as long as I want.

I could also argue that in a couple of years the battery life will start to diminish on an exponential scale and will render my smartphone annoyingly dependent on having a 3rd party battery charger to hand as the battery gets worse and worse. I reckon 4 years is the longest it would remain ‘workable’ and that’s only because I work in an office and can keep my phone charging all day if I want, however the weekends would be fraught.

Perhaps THIS iPhone is the last one I get for a few years. Battery technology has come a long way in the last couple of years, with this model (iPhone 11 Pro) touted as having 4 hrs more than it’s predecessor and I’m presuming that means the slow decay of capacity is also slower (I’m not expert though, I should’ve probably have checked this out..). Improvements to the camera also are notable, so notable they spent most of the keynote presentation talking about them, and if the low light/dark mode is anything near as good as is suggested then it’ll be worth it for that alone.

So yes, I have ordered the upgrade and promised myself to double down elsewhere. The iPhone is a luxury item for sure but it is the one thing I use day in day out – there is a whole other post about those habits – and in a way it feels a little more acceptable to treat this differently to other purchases, a little different on the WANT vs NEED scale, somehow.

And perhaps this really will be the last time I do this.

Looking at the news I have to wonder if my mind might be focused on far more important things over the next year; Brexit and the current farce that is British Politics, the utter inhumanity and horror that Trump is unfolding around him on a global scale, and no doubt further global climate change implications will come to the fore. These will all come to bear on day to day decisions more and more and, I fear, such frivolities as ‘ohhh a new shiny iPhone’ will start to become more and more a thing of the past, a dinosaur relic, a tribute to my destructive consumption tendencies and some might say bring a level of karma to my hideous over-consumption of the past.

It’s a sad thought for sad and scary times but hey, at least I have a shiny new iPhone.

Oh.

Blogger homepage

Why am I STILL blogging?

Is it just me or are the number of blogs on the rise again?

Despite all the other methods of social media available, blogging remains a unique option, better suited to those wishing to publish thoughts, ideas, commentary and the like, than the more recent incumbents of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Honourable mention for Tumblr but it just never had the richness to provide great content, and I think remains a little too focused on its own model of interactions rather than the content it holds.

As a long-term blogger (aka old git) it’s interesting to see the ebb and flow of popularity that blogging goes through. I think this is the third or maybe fourth wave of ‘the rise of blogging’ that I can recall and each time things change a little bit further without ever straying too far from the basic roots of blogging.

Yup, when I started round ‘ere it were all but fields…

Blogging is about mostly about words and links (I’m putting photo only blogs aside for now). Some blogs are heavier on one than the other, the best have a mix of both, and they all tend to be well written with a distinct voice. Admittedly, those are pretty wide parameters, which have been continually tweaked and stretched over the past 20 years and my blog is a reasonable example of this evolution. It weren’t always such and if you head back through my archives you’ll see I started writing short pieces every few days, then through the next couple of years (as soon as Blogger came along) I began publishing new posts multiple times a day, often linking to something interesting I’d just found and over time, as I wrote more often I found more and more of my ‘voice’, despite not ever having much of an audience (or much in the way of quality).

Today a successful blog is just one part of an online presence, sitting alongside Instagram perfect photos, sound-bite worthy Tweets, a stream of Snapchats, and lots of promotion; Read my new post! Yeah it’s not actually new but I need to keep my presence refreshed so I’m posting it again for the umpteenth time this week but hey, my stats say these are the best times for interaction/hits so I gotta do it to stay relevant!!

I see talk of things like discovering your brand, of finding the perfect grid, of honing your voice. It were ever thus of course, just that the terminology has changed a little as blogging is, for many, a business not a hobby and understandably that leads to a focus on views, hits, and stats, and as they start to grow their brand, so the focus turns to monetization (if that’s even a word) and the key to social media hierarchy, influence.

I know several bloggers who have successful blogs, that are well written, personable, gorgeously designed and well presented, and they deserve all their success for their hard work. Yes, it is hard work to maintain a blog over a long period of time, to find your voice, hone your craft and produce content regularly. Any old fool can churn out a 500 word diatribe and throw it into a templated design, but to build an engaged audience takes a level of honesty and integrity that not everyone can maintain.

To which I should admit that I look on at the latest crop of successful bloggers who appear (although we know how looks can be deceiving) to be having that ‘better life’ and I wonder. When I started my blog, if I’d really gone for it with a passion, could I have been as successful? (hint: no, or I’d have done it already).

This isn’t a grumpy old man rant though, I’m not bitter about those people as they all work hard to get to where they are, it just isn’t for me.

Which begs the question, as blogging has changed so much, why the hell am I still doing it? If it ain’t for the money and the rewards then why keep doing this, I mean, it’s been twenty years!

Let’s cut to the chase. The reason I still write and publish posts on this blog is down to pure and utter vanity. I can parcel it up any way you like, put a big bow on it and say that this is a way to process a whirl of random thoughts (which it is), or that I continue to post in the (vain!) hope that someone else might find something I’ve written useful, or perhaps I would even go so far as to suggest that my voice is actually important, my opinions should be heard, and I’m actually utterly dismayed that my blog is not more widely read but hey, I’m not that (white) guy and, frankly, I’m amazed that anyone person reads this at all. Aside from my parents of course, they remain my most loyal of readers but that’s largely because I’m a terrible son who doesn’t see his family often enough!

Essentially though, and I think whilst the means may differ, all bloggers have the same end goal in mind when they hit Publish. They want to be validated, they want to be heard and noticed. Even if it’s only a little as sometimes that’s all we need.

When I started out, part of my reason for blogging was purely the fact that I, little ole me, could write some nonsense and with a few HTML tags, and a quick FTP upload, it would appear on the internet right there next to Yahoo News! You’d search AltaVista and find my website, or perhaps you’d spot it in the list of 30 or so in the UK / Weblogs category in the Yahoo directory. Regardless, there was a strange ego boost to seeing something I’d created ‘up there’ with all the others, all of which I presumed knew exactly what they were doing and why whereas I was making it all up as I went along. Ain’t hindsight wonderful.

However, it soon became a vanity project and with valid reason for a while when I separated out my professional thoughts to a separate blog. That got me a couple of speaking slots at some industry conferences and made me very aware of being fairly high profile, admittedly if only in a small professional circle. Yet it was never something I took over into my personal blog, other than one presentation I did on blogging many moons ago, it remained a hobby.

All of that ‘fame’ happened just before the latest wave of social media, Instagram wasn’t long launched, Snapchat was a few years away, and Twitter was king with all the cool kids. I was still blogging, but it was starting to feel very much like shouting into the void.

And to be honest, it still does. But then, isn’t that the point of a vanity project? You shout and shout simply because you want to, simply because you can.

I’ve been lucky. I am still in contact, even if it’s just social media contact, with some of the bloggers that started around the same time as me, some of which are still blogging as well (we are a stubborn bunch!) but the longer this blog goes on, the more I wonder why I keep doing it, it’s a habit, sure, but is it a bad one?

When the 20th anniversary of this blog rolled around I contemplated closing it down and as each post becomes more and more of a challenge that may still happen and I can’t imagine many people will mind. What’s more important is whether I’ll mind or not, and therein lies the root of this to-blog-or-not-to-blog angst.

For a long time I wrote fairly intimately about various aspects of my life and whilst I stopped shy of discussing my sex life, other aspects of my personality, my sexuality, my political leanings, and my feminism have all been fair game. Yet over the past couple of years I’ve gotten away from that. It probably, unconsciously, started when I went back for some counselling a few years ago and while that prompted some deeper introspective posts, I’ve not really been quite as forthcoming as I have been in the past.

Perhaps it’s the growing sense of my place in the world, something I’ve touched on many times, and my growing belief that the only thing I should really be doing with my voice is to amplify the voices of others (and ohhh how I wish more men would take this stance) although I recognise the irony of that statement amongst this gushingly ponderous post. As time goes by I struggle with what to write, and yet, and yet… I still find something, so the hobby continues, even as it veers away from certain areas of my life it embraces new ones.

Even now, as I write this post, I’m trying to find an answer and half wondering if I’ll even post this – because frankly this is getting embarrassingly self-serving – yet it strikes me that I enjoy this habit, this hobby of mine that doesn’t really offer any value to anyone bar me, as it was and as it should be.

So yeah, I’ve wondered if I’m done with blogging, but it appears that I’m not. Not yet.


Apparently I’m not alone.

Fail stamp

Happily failing

It’s late afternoon as I move through the room and throw back the cover. The dust shimmers in the sunlight streaming through the window. I cough, run a hand over the stool before I sit down. Once seated I reach forward and ruffle through a stack sheet music and make my choice. I glance down and place my hands on the keyboard. After a few moments I realise my fingers are finding the keys on their own, the melody is mostly maintained, and the familiar strains of Bach fill my headphones.

I do not play piano often enough.

It’s one of many things that seem to slip from my thoughts as day follows day follows day.

I don’t play piano often enough, I don’t meditate often enough, nor have I found the time to write, or the inclination to get back to the gym.

My days slip from work, to home, to work again. My leisure time has moved to shared time on the sofa, walking the dogs, and the minutae of everyday life. I put more value on these things than my hobbies (rightly so?).

I am failing at many things.

Yet I am happier than ever.

It’s taken me some time to realise, time to reassess the balance that my life has found and how the subtle shifting of weight that some things previously held (or perhaps I gave them) has brought me to where I am now. I’ve let go of some things, and embraced others.

It’s a shift in my thought processes prompted by many little reminders here and there, themselves made possible by a shift in my approach to social media (goodbye negative voices, hello positivity) that’s made me realise that none of these things are failures.

Every time I sit down at the piano is a success. It doesn’t matter if it’s only once a month.

Every time I take time to stop and meditate for 10 minutes is a success. Every time I think about one of the two novels I have half-written is a success. And once I am past my (current) batch of physio I will get back to the gym a couple of times a week; success.

Recently there was an article doing the rounds about how people need to stop treating hobbies as things to get good at, instead we should enjoy them for what they are, a way to relax with no expectation. As I continue to step away from my old habits and learn to stop setting expectations, stop making plans, so I find myself failing more and more often. And it’s wonderful.

Life is a journey

Aftermath

Sometimes when I sit down to write a blog post, ok MOST times when I sit down to write a blog post, I’ve only got a vague idea of what I’m going to write about. I start to type and the words flow and my brain forms ideas as I go and more often than not I end up at a different place than I expected, writing about a whole other thing than the original premise. Most times I’m lucky that it kinda flows together and makes some sense and I can finish what I’m writing without too much effort.

But sometimes whilst the first few hundred words flow out easily, I start to get bogged down more and more as I head towards the end. I have about 6 posts sitting in draft at the moment and 5 of these remain there for exactly this reason. I don’t know how to finish them (the 6th is a list of iOS apps I recommend so that’s more a ‘can I bothered’ issue than anything).

Most recently, what started as a quick post about the ‘aftermath’ of my sisters wedding (which was wonderful) I, as originally planned, started to write and reflect on her future with a view to turning to my own plans for my life, and it was about then I started to get stuck. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the right words (we know what our plan is for the coming years, that isn’t the issue) it was more that I couldn’t find words that didn’t make it sound like I was bragging or celebrating the fact that it feels like I’ve got my shit together. How very dare I!

Why is that? Why shouldn’t I be proud of being happy, of being in a good place in my life? It doesn’t negate any of the previous experiences I’ve been through, doesn’t minimise the impact others have had on me, and as Becca and I keep saying, we wouldn’t be WHO we are, or WHERE we are if it wasn’t for our pasts. We’ve both made mistakes, both gone through some horrible times, so surely we deserve the right to be able to talk about our plans with a smile and without any shame?

Examining why I struggle to praise myself, why I struggle to stand up and say, despite knowing I have fucked up in the past and will fuck up again and knowing that I still have issues to work through (self-image issues, money/debt issues, etc etc), that I feel so very happy and so very lucky and that that is a GOOD THING… well that’s an entirely other topic (and probably something I’ll figure out mostly in private if it’s all the same to you).

It’s an odd feeling, to be quietly proud and almost secretly happy of our life, and yet still feel like you can’t shout about it. So, frankly, fuck that attitude. We know we are happy and we know that life moves forward so it’s time to embrace that. Looking at my sister as she danced her heart out on her wedding day confirmed, above all, that love is the best thing so I’m gonna focus on that, and use that as a basis for our future.

Anyway, with all of that said and done, here’s the post as it stood round about when I realised I was struggling to finish it and then realised why.

It’s fair to say that my sisters wedding was a huge success, a joyous day all round and it was wonderful to see so many happy faces throughout the day; a testament to my sister and her (now) husband. The happiest of them all was my sister and, during the final songs of the evening when I managed to grab her for a dance, she professed as much. I hugged her tight, we both welled up (as we do) and I told her for the umpteenth time that day that I was just so happy for her, that I loved her, and she deserved all of the love in that room.

What a wonderful day it was, seeing friends and family come together, all the people there to help celebrate with Jennie and Steven, my gorgeous niece stealing the show at every turn, not to mention Bob the Shetland Pony who made an appearance too (the venue is part equestrian centre, I should hasten to add). The staff were superb, the food was good, the band were awesome, and the whole day went off without a hitch.

Emotions ran high, as they should on such a day, and at the end of the evening when Becca and I got back to our room it’s fair to say that the day caught up with me. Tears flowed, happy ones, sad ones, poignant ones, they all came tumbling out. Thoughts of family, my parents, of loved ones that weren’t there, or my future, our future, and everything we already hope it will contain, it was all in there. A wonderful stramash of emotions that reaffirm my belief in love and happiness being at the root of all good things.

The next morning we helped gather up the last of the presents, and the various items from the wedding ceremony that were lying around. As we did, the hotel staff busied themselves for the next wedding happening later that day. A marker that time does not stand still and that, all too soon, normality returns.

When you consider all the planning that goes into a day like that, the myriad choices made months ago, it’s a marvel that they all came together so seamlessly and gave us all, not just the bride and groom, a nice relaxed day with little to no stress for those directly involved.

And so it is with life, or at least so I hope it will be in the coming years.

I’ve never really been one for grand long term plans and as age/life experience starts to offer me what may be referred to as wisdom by others, certainly not by me, the futility of such things seems all the more imposing given how often life will throw in some curveballs just when you think things are on track. Conversely, it may be those very curveballs that define the direction of your life, even if you don’t realise it at the time, yet I still find myself striving for a plan, after all what is life without some sense of direction, some view of what’s next? The cliche stands; life is a journey.

As I started to wonder what was next for my sister (I have a rough idea!) it prompted that very question – what’s next? – to start rattling around my own brain although, truth be told, I know roughly what the next things are so my mind quickly turned to the more practical matter of how to make them happen. This is all very “5 year plan” of me and part of that makes me uneasy for I know those curveballs are waiting in the wings yet, despite that and for the first time in a long time, these things feel achievable.

I’m not really planning in great detail though, but having a clear direction of where I want to be, where we want to be, in a few years time makes things much easier to deal with, much easier to prioritise.

Life is a beautiful ride

It starts when I get my leg over.

And it’s always my left leg due to whatever odd reasoning of biometrics and learned habits dictates such things, always the same one I swing up and over the saddle and, after a quick re-positioning of the pedals, we’re off. After the first few metres of making sure shoes get clipped in and the right gears are selected we are soon on our way and, without fail, a smile spreads across my face.

I always get the same feelings of nostalgia when I get on my bike, the simple childhood pleasure and sensation of speed all come rushing back, and isn’t it funny how we don’t remember all the scrapes and bruises we endured trying to learn to ride the damn things? Although not every child is the same, whilst I distinctly remember having stabilisers for a while, one of my friends was put on his new bike by his big brother, shoved off down the driveway and off he went!

Boxer bicycle

My first bike was a blue Raleigh Boxer. It was a solid little thing, almost like a small BMX (which were still a couple of years away from becoming mainstream) and with no gears it went as fast as my little legs would go. It was small enough that I could cycle round the back garden, round and round the large concrete slab that was the base of the old garage. At one end of the concrete was a grassy slope and my wonderful father added a small concrete slope at the other end so I could spend my summer evenings spinning in circles.

Many years later I’d help my Dad smash up that old concrete base with a sledgehammer. It was about then as a gangly 14 year old that I started to realise I was going to be bigger and stronger than him, an odd realisation for a boy who was still learning about his own body. I was already a little taller than him and had longer levers with which to swing the sledgehammer, sure it’s simple physics but it’s stuck in my brain as a ‘moment’.

Raleigh Enterprise

I’d moved on from the little Raleigh Boxer by that time, with my first almost full size bike being a Raleigh Enterprise*. A big black straight handled touring bike with three gears. Looking back it was a great bike, but at the time it was highly unfashionable with all my friends on Choppers or BMXs. Yet with thin tyres, a solid frame and three gears to use, I quickly started to appreciate the sense of speed it gave me as I weaved my way round deserted early morning streets, leaning into corners just like I’d seen the riders on Le Tour do, on my way to my piano lesson.

It was probably my first real sense of speed, self-powered and fully under my control. The sound of rubber on tarmac, the noise of air rushing past, clothes rippling, every sensation heightened with the threat of a sudden spill looming larger and larger the faster you went, the further you leant into a corner. I still get the same sense, with all the added weight of adult responsibility, when I’m out on my bike.

Falcon bike

That bike gave me love of speed and I started to read up on bicycle maintenance, techniques on how to ride faster (keep that inner pedal up when leaning into a corner) and as I got more engrossed in the sport so my next bike was an obvious, if not fashionable at all, choice. My friends moved from BMX to early Mountain Bikes, but for me it was all about speed, and so it was I got a 21-speed Falcon. I moved from three thumb controlled gears to 21 gears controlled by two frame mounted levers, and from straight handlebars to drop handlebars with two additional brake levers. It was a revelation and my cycling got much more fun and MUCH faster. Sure it helped I was growing bigger and stronger but once I figured out the fancy gears, and stopped flicking the levers too far and knocking the chain off the cogs, I was a veritable flying machine, at least in my own head. Trips to the town centre (slightly downhill) flew by, and the journey back was a breeze, that summer I spent a lot of time just cycling around and a recently opened local cycle path was perfect.

It was this same cycle path that I cruised down last weekend, it runs the length of the Forth & Clyde canal and winds its way through my home town before following the River Leven to Balloch (my destination on Sunday). The stretch from Bowling to Dumbarton always brings back memories of my childhood and that 21-speed Falcon flying machine.

I’d set off on a summer evening. From my house I’d have to make my way along quiet streets before I reached the sanctuary of the cycle path at the far side of town. Then it was a few miles of newly laid tarmac, only open to walkers, runners, and a young blond haired blur on his bike. The far end of the path at Bowling crosses a road, so that became the turning point as the path rose up to that junction. I’d stop at the top of the climb (it was a small incline but I hadn’t really yet figured out how to properly gear things) before turning around and tucking in for the descent, seeing how long I could free-wheel with the wind ripping past me, mindful to keep mouth shut after the ‘bluebottle incident’… .

And so it was again when I got to that spot on Sunday, as soon as I set off down that hill I was taken back to my childhood, the hot summers spent doing nothing of anything, cycling around the town and only stopping for a Fab lolly or a bag of chips. As I sped down the hill I could easily have been heading to my childhood home, turning up the driveway, bumping the gate open with my front wheel and dumping my bike in the back of the garage.

I’m wary that my increasing nostalgia is a sign of my advancing years and that all of these memories are tinged with the hue of fondness but I really don’t care. All I know is that when I’m on my bike with blue skies overhead, the world seems like a better place and for a couple of hours I can recapture that sense of naivety and innocence. Perhaps it’s because when you are on a bike that’s all there is, you, the bike (I will save my dislike of those who cycle with headphones in!) and the world around you. It’s an easy way to disconnect for a couple of hours and just enjoy this amazing world we live in, putting everyday life aside.

The bike I own now is far more complex and modern (and expensive) then any of the ones I had growing up but the real value of any bike, be it a carbon-fibre, razor saddled flying machine or a rusty old banger that creaks when you brake, is unlocking that feeling. As the tyres whirr on tarmac and the wind buffets your face, it’s hard not to smile. The best bike is the one you are using.

I really need to get out on my bike more often.

* I’ve always thought this is what it was called but Google suggests otherwise. I’m leaning towards the Executive but from photos it looked more like a Raleigh Sport… hmmmm

Draft Posts

I have a habit of starting to write posts but not finishing them and then complaining (to myself) that I don’t have anything to write about. The moment will pass and then a few days later the urge will come rolling back in like a gentle tide and I’m back at the keyboard, typing out yet more nonsense to post on this blog.

My approach to writing blog posts hasn’t really changed in the past 20 years – which says something in and of itself – I get an idea, I start typing and don’t stop until I stop. I tend not to plan what I write, preferring to just get some words in place, hoping that I can rearrange them later into something that resembles a coherent thought or two.

For my regular reader, you’ll already know that it doesn’t always work out. Sure, I can get the words out but finding a semblance of order and common thought can prove a challenge at times. So I save a draft and go and read something else written by people with actual talent, and then spend far too much time (entire minutes!) wondering why I still bother.

I’ve tried a variety of things to get around this in the past; I’ve posted some creative writing here and whilst that’s something I’m keen to back to it’s not always that easy and takes more time than your average brain dump of a blog post, I’ve tried a regular schedule (3 posts a week all the way through 2018) and that at least forces me to think about what I’m going to post and made me take a little more time to make it ‘good’, and I’ve looked for inspirational lists for ideas. None of these seem to have stuck, and then I remember that this is a hobby and something I do because I enjoy it and I relax and move on to something else.

All of this means that I have a number of draft posts that have never really made the grade. Yes, it’s a very low bar, but looking at the drafts I currently have sitting here I can see what I was trying to say in some, can’t really see it in others, and frankly some should never ever see the light of day.

Draft posts are not a thing to be ashamed of, and so I thought I’d give them a little light by listing them here, in reverse order based on when I last modified them, although what I should do with them. It’s been quite cathartic!

  • iOS Apps – Every now and then I update the list of apps I use on my iPhone. Not done it for a few years and this draft is dated from Sept 2017 as it is. Also, not so much a wordy post but more of a list.
    Update & publish.
  • Writing space – A post about why I wasn’t writing, and how that is based on fear and trying to get back into the habit. Dated Oct 2017 I’m not sure why I didn’t post this one as it was accurate at the time. Alas, time moves on so it is actually talking about circumstances that don’t match my life as it is now so it needs some editing, which is why it’s still in draft. A lot of it is still valid though.
    Update & publish.
  • Clothed for life – I wrote this fairly quickly after reading another post about sustainable clothing. It’s very much a draft and doesn’t really say anything I haven’t since said.
    Delete.
  • Nanette – Safe to say the Hannah Gadsby show Nanette hit several nerves. I started to try and get my feelings out, on things like toxic masculinity and my own role within it. It’s mostly a circular journey of ‘I know I am not as woke as I think I am but I’m trying’ and reads very much like just another cis white male adding his voice and is dangerously close to ‘I’m a nice guy though’ territory. None need ever read that.
    Delete.
  • TV for sale – in which I look at why I watch TV and discuss some of the shows I watching. Written in July 2018, it’s out of date.
    Delete.
  • Glasgow man – written in direct response to an awful tweet from the “Glasgow man club” – which seems like just a good awful place veiled with good intentions; “Glasgow Man Club will give you the tools and teach you the protocols and routines to create a strong, powerful man. A better husband, partner, father, brother, son and friend; create better relationships with your partner, re-light that sexual fire, no more begging for sex; prove to your kids how awesome a father and role model you can be.”.
    Fuck that shit, say I. This draft remains unposted but I do want to revisit it because this is definitely a place where my voice needs to be added. (Dear guy, stop being that guy, thanks, yours, a guy).
    Update & publish.
  • Why am I STILL blogging? – I occasionally feel nostalgic. Or envious. Or a strange mix of the two when another blogger looms into view with tales of earnings and supplied products and… well I’m not doing this for THAT but it does feel like I could’ve made different decisions. But then this blog wouldn’t be THIS blog. My thoughts on how things have evolved then.
    Update & publish.
  • Apple no longer excites – I upgraded my 6 year old MacBook Air and the entire experience was smooth and… a bit dull. Same with iPhone upgrades. Mostly just me ranting about that and then countering those rants with ill thought through comments on WHY this is the case. Meh.
    Delete!
  • Dogs – As those on my Instagram will know. I now live with two dogs – Dave & Sasha – who I adore. It’s been a big change but a welcome one.
    Update & publish.
  • Going Monzo – My new bank account, and our joint account, is with Monzo. A ‘fintech’ company that offers an excellent app with instant notifications, balance updates and more. It has, in a short space of time, given me a renewed focus on my finances, just because it’s easy to use (the ability to syphon off money into distinct ‘pots’ has been a life changer). That said, this is mostly me waxing lyrical and linking to my sign up link.
    Delete.
  • Story of a back – Just me moaning about my sore back which, since I wrote this draft, has been treated and is on the mend.
    Delete.
  • 20 years – written in preparation of the 20th year of my blog.
    Update and schedule to be published on the big day itself.

So, it turns out I have plenty still to write about, I just need to focus on finishing what I’ve started.

Ohhh were it ever so!

Back to fitness

I’ve not been to the gym for a couple of months whilst I get my hip and ankle issues sorted. Shockwave treatment worked a charm, and physio is going well so far which leaves me confident of getting back to some level of fitness sooner rather than later.

I don’t do New Year resolutions but will admit I did have some soft goals for the year around shifting a little weight; specifically with a trip to New York in June and my sisters wedding in August as milestones so as I hadn’t been able to exercise as much as I wanted, I was starting to feel a bit meh about myself.

And now it’s March (March!) and with a tentative all-clear from my physio to start doing more exercise, with strict instructions NOT to do any dead-lifts and if I want to run to TAKE IT EASY! the time to give myself a kick and mix things up a little has arrived.

And, with a level of accountability in mind, here is what I’m thinking.

Step 1: Quit the gym.

I know, it sounds counter productive but my enthusiasm had been waning through the latter part of 2018 anyway. I’m very goal focused and after achieving and bettering my 1RMs I could feel myself losing interest. I know I could keep going and set new/different goals, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for it. I’m also going to be movement limited until I get through a few more weeks of physio so this way I can manage it myself.

(There is a LOT more behind this decision, but for now it’s the right thing to do).

Step 2: Set a new goal.

I was out walking Dave (the staffy) last Saturday at a local park and we happened to be there at the same time as a ParkRun. I watched all the people, of varying ages, abilities, sizes, and speeds, and it took me back to my days at jogScotland.

I miss running.

I don’t want to run marathons, but a 5km run each Saturday morning feels like an attainable goal over the next couple of months. 5km by the end of May at the latest.

Step 3: Get a new routine!

Quitting the gym means I have two evenings spare (the third session was a Saturday morning… see step 2 above!).

Weather permitting I can walk home from work in just over an hour, and this’ll allow me to revisit some podcasts that have dropped off my radar. I’ve always enjoyed walking and it’s always nice to wander home and unwind from the day.

And I have the option of picking up a NextBike from right outside my office, and cycling most of the way home before dropping it off. Again, weather will dictate, as will remembering to take my cycle helmet with me!

And, oddly, I have just joined another gym, so at least I have some options (and being a chain, it’s a lot cheaper per month). It also means I can hop on a treadmill to get to my 5k goal.

All change then.

It feels good to be moving on and trying something new, even if I’m not fully sure how it will shake out. When I first signed up for a boot-camp a couple of years ago I didn’t think I’d last more than the 12 weeks it ran for, so the fact I made it past two years is great! I may venture back there in the future, but for now it looks like 2019 will be a year of trying a few different things in the hope that something new ‘sticks’.

Wish me luck!

The more you see, the more you see

It is such a lovely shade of blue. Tiny sparkles bloomed as the early spring sun danced off the bonnet as I walked towards it, key fob in hand. A short press of a button brought bright amber flashes to signal that my new car was unlocked and waiting for me.

It’s a Mazda3 in Blue Reflex Mica if you must know. The colour isn’t important for this tale though, but the model is.

I drove it out of the garage and turned and headed West. A first drive deserves to be more than the journey home, and I had plans to head to Helensburgh, savour it’s views of the Clyde then turn and head up over the hills to Balloch, flirting with Loch Lomond before taking the long way home towards Drymen and the hope for quieter country roads to explore, twists and turns to enjoy with a new machine under my control.

Minutes into my journey it started. At first it was just a curious yet explainable coincidence, I had just left the Mazda garage after all, so of course I’d see another Mazda3 nearby. But soon there was another, and another, and yet another. Differing colours and wheel trims aside, the roads were suddenly awash with Mazdas, or so it seemed.

I knew that it wasn’t actually the case though, that there wasn’t suddenly an influx of Mazdas driving round the West of Scotland, it was a simple case of frequency illusion/cognitive bias, aka Baader-Meinhoff. You’ve no doubt experienced it yourself; A friend mentions a new band, a couple of days later you hear them on the radio, the following week they are touring in your home-town.

Last year the humorist David Sedaris visited Glasgow as part of a promotion tour for his next book. I’ve been a fan for years, his wonderful wordplay, sardonic and dark imagery, as well as the heartfelt and raw honesty of his writing was a pleasure to hear. He told some stories, read some of his pieces and mentioned, somewhat in passing although the topic is an important one for him, how sad he was when he walked around Glasgow, seeing how dirty and litter-ridden it had become. He wasn’t wrong and having being based in the city centre for the past few years I can attest to his statement. It really is a dirty city these days.

The more I walk around, the more I’m noticing how dirty the streets are everywhere. Walking the dogs is making me look down even more, and it feels like the more I see, the worse it gets. What has changed? Why are our streets littered with mess?

There are obvious answers, Council budgets are stretched and getting thinner, so bins aren’t emptied as often nor are the streets cleaned regularly, all of this is compounded by the glib nonchalance of those who drop rubbish wherever they see fit. But then, the streets are already littered so what difference does it make? Yet maybe these are both symptoms of a wider rise in the throwaway/takeaway society which supports the idea that everything is disposable.

Is this the tip of an iceberg, as we’ve moved our focus to recycling, and having the right bins for everything, is it now MORE of a hassle to put things in a bin? Is it perhaps a push back on that?

Or is my own view, the move towards being better at recyclying, more aware of plastics, is that throwing these things into sharper relief? Is it bringing that cognitive bias to bear?