Month: <span>July 2020</span>

I can’t recall where I saw it, or heard it. It might have been on the radio, it might have been on Twitter, or it might have been a line an article I read somewhere. Annoyingly I can’t recall the exact phrasing but given I can’t even find it to quote it I don’t think I’m doing anyone a disservice by paraphrasing this in my own way.

I am done with the wilfully inconsiderate.

I do know it concerned right wing factions in the US and their protests against wearing masks – this in a country that is currently leading the way (go America!) in COVID-19 deaths – and how it wasn’t the people who lack an education who we should be dealing with here, no no, instead we should be looking at those people who are WILFULLY IGNORING advice from scientists.

I am done with the wilfully inconsiderate.

At this point I should admit that I have a pet peeve, I identified it a long time ago and it’s one I know I’ll never shake; It’s the person who doesn’t glance behind as they open a door and who just lets it swing back into… well whatever is behind them, they don’t know. It’s the person who litters. It’s the person who looks at an already full and overflowing recycling bin and things they’ll just dump a bin bag next to it anyway.

I’m not sure if it’s a growing trend, this air of ‘but it’s not my job’/seeming self importance, but it is most certainly an annoying one.

Is it a lack of education? I’m not sure, and it’s hard to get into this without rolling out class based reasoning and accusations. So let’s not go there, especially as I’ve heard and seen all the counter-arguments to these types of minor misdemeanours; someone else will do it… I was only gone for… and so on.

Oh yes, there is always a ready excuse, just as there is usually a quick escalation to anger. Is that because they know, deep down, that what they’ve not done isn’t right? That it goes against the idea of a community, a society in which everyone has the same rights and expectations? And when called out on it the reaction is usual a spicy ‘Mind your own business’ (and that’s the polite version).

For a while I thought it was my age, or a change in my demeanour that was making these little transgressions fit into a large pattern, but no, when a traveling writer (himself a renowned anti-litter grump) visited Glasgow a couple of years ago he commented on the same thing, how shameful it was that such a lovely city was covered in litter. Disgusting, he said, and we sat in our shame and agreed.

I miss lockdown. Walking the dogs through the early weeks and the change in our local environment was telling, the streets were cleaner than I remember them for a long long time.

Lockdown lifts and it’s already heading back to where it was, with the added bonus of discarded masks lying in the street alongside the McDonalds containers and coffee cups. It’s all so enraging and I can feel my patience wearing thinner and thinner.

Yet the ones that pique my rage the most are those who actively go out of their way, who wilfully choose to go against the grain. No more so than the current trend (is that what it is?) of choosing not to wear a mask.

It’s all subsumed into a world of fake virus claims, 5G hysteria, and largely driven by bogus information that is easily fact checked and flagged as such. I’ve even seen one Facebook page linking to articles that Facebook itself is flagging as false information (but of course that’s all part of the conspiracy too, right?).

What is the reasoning here? Is it a weird unthinking reflex that flies in thousands of years of self-preservation, or just an obstinate choice to be contrary for the sake of it?

This virus kills people. It damages survivors in ways we don’t yet fully understand. Those are the facts, I’ve a friend who tested positive, had self-isolated and still doesn’t have much of a sense of smell or taste.

But that’s ok, that doesn’t impact you so go ahead, don’t bother with a face mask, don’t look where you are walking, and feel free to drop that plastic bag of rubbish in the street.

Of course there is part of me that realises I’m speaking from a place of privilege (of which I have many), and that allows me to look at people who demonstrate these traits and determine the actions that I want to ensure I avoid (however subtle) and if nothing else they are a shining example of the type of person I do NOT want to be.

Yet I find myself casting around for ways to get a handle on these things, a way to process my initial reaction (anger) and find a way to better approach these things, whether that’s directly with the person – a polite request might be all some need – or through community action perhaps?

It’s the one thing that I hope is carried over from lockdown, a sense of community, a sense of doing good, or at least doing better, for your local area. Perhaps it’s overly optimistic but these days I’m not sure how else to be, and I’m not sure how else to combat these things.

Is it just me? Is the world slowly slipping away from the basic tenet of ‘be nice’? It certainly feels that way.


Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDCHDymJ9jz/

Life

It helps that we live part way down a hill, so the minute I get on my bike I can pump the pedals a few times and head down it to get that instant burst of speed and feel the wind in my ha.. well, you get the picture.

It had been a week or so since I’d last out on my bike but in those first few seconds I realised how much I missed it and, being me, I tried to figure out why I was getting such a buzz of excitement so quickly.

I’ve been a runner for a long time, if I count those teenage years out with my Dad then I’ve spent 30 odd years in a fractuous relationship with something that falls into the classic love/hate Venn diagram.

Becca isn’t a runner, she was brought up on bikes and hill walking (I’m convinced she’s half mountain goat at times), and trying to explain to her why running can be fun is hard.

Maybe that’s because running is hard and, for a lot of the time, when you are starting out or getting your fitness back (or dealing with a myriad of injuries like someone you know, dear reader) it really isn’t all that much fun. It’s a slog. A sweaty, thumping, panting, plodding, slog.

In your head you are lithe, bounding along on springy limbs, the pavements a blur beneath your feet as the sun shines down. You are an athlete, part Mo Farah, part Jessica Ennis, supple, slim, and moving with grace.

In reality you have a weird shuffle because you keep forgetting to keep your head up, and as you religiously follow the voice in your headphones, you silently, cursingly, count down the seconds until you can “Walk for 30 secs”.

That’s partly because of the way we approach learning to run; presuming you aren’t one of those people who is just naturally fit and slim, and slips on their shoes for a quick 5K round the park, running is hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, those Couch to 5K programmes are great for many people but are typically structured to be a constant nag, especially with the myriad of apps with notifications and whizzing graphics that are a constant reminder:

Do your run today!

Run, walk, run, Walk Now, RUN NOW!

I’ve tried a few of them in the past and (Zombies aside) they just aren’t all that much fun and tend to transport me back to my youth, to our P.E. teachers, and the prospect of being the unfit/overweight kid who was only good at two sports; basketball and badminton.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found memories of those gym halls, and it was those somewhat joyless winter ‘cross country’ sessions, circling a muddy, sleet covered field/football pitches, that made me realise that whilst I couldn’t run fast, I could just run and run.

Other memories come flooding back. With a father who was also a P.E. teacher (thankfully he was at a different school by the time I got to Dumbarton Academy!) and who had, for a while, taught alongside one of my P.E. teachers I was quickly singled out for some extra comments, given and taken in good spirit.

These include the legendary, withering put down from Mr. Mackie (sp?) (who I’d later befriend as a fellow fisherman on the banks of the River Leven); we’d been practicing the shot putt, and I’d heaved it as far as humanly possible and I thought it wasn’t too shoddy an effort, yet it was met with an incredulous smirk and the comment “For gods sake McLean, yer granny could throw it further than that!”.

Ahhhh those were the days.

I’ve written before about my cycling history but it’s only the last few months, being out and about more and more on two wheels that I’m realising why I enjoy it so much.

I have no competition.

As a child my bike was used for escape and freedom. I could be alone and travelling, I could cycle over to Levengrove Park and sit by myself. I never raced, never competed, so cycling was always just a thing to do because I enjoyed it.

It was fun.

It still is.

Growing up I realise that most of my youth was spent trying to compete, trying to fit in, with boys who were strong/faster/better at most things than I was. In a way this was a good thing, competition can be, and it drove me trying harder in areas where I knew I had a chance of winning and I found ways of doing just that, mostly through the latter years of Boys Brigade and leading my squad to a clean sweep of all the trophies in my last year there.

Yet, as always, these childhood experiences were helping form behaviours that would stick with me for a long, long, time. They were subtle, hidden at times, and entirely in my own head and of my own construct. Without realising it I was on track to being a perfectionist in all it’s self-defeating and self-limiting ways.

Oddly I don’t think I’d change anything other than the timing of this realisation (a few years ago); but c’est la vie, and with my self-awareness continuing to heighten it’s allowing me little moments like I had on my bike.

It also explains my last run. I’m committed to my long standing goal of running 5KM this year and have been taking myself out for run/walk sessions every now and then, mostly to see where I am fitness/injury wise.

In the past I’d have gone with an app, picked a program that I thought would match my current capabilities and followed it. This time I didn’t, I just pulled on my shoes, popped on a playlist and ran, and walked, and ran, and walked. I ended up covering about 2.5km and felt like I could’ve gone on a little further.

It felt good, it felt freeing. I wasn’t in competition with a voice telling me what to do, there was no-one to let down (yes my brain will feel bad if I’m letting down a digitised voice that I chose to listen to). It was just me, running (with a little walking), ignoring everything around me.

It meant I could focus on my posture (part of the physio I got early this year highlighted this) and for some moments I realised I was just lost in the run, a feeling I’ve not had for a long long time.

It was fun.

Life

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It was a fairly standard evening. We’d had our dinner and were watching a little TV together, it’s part of our routine to unwind and destress from our working days, we chat over dinner and then spend a few quiet moments sitting together, distracting ourselves with (currently) episodes of Modern Family.

As soon as she is allowed Sasha hops up on the sofa and straight up onto my lap. She likes to sit with her back to me, front paws on my knees, so I can give her a hug and a tummy rub/claim me as hers. We think it might be related to abandonment issues (she’s a wee rescue) and she only really does it with me because I’m a boy. Regardless it’s wonderfully sweet if slightly weird to have this little dog just sitting ON you.

Then as she moves around to make sure she’s the only one getting my attention her front claws start digging in and it’s time to heave her off before she draws blood (again!) don’t worry though, I know it all comes from a place of love…

So, that’s where you’ll find us most evenings, with Sasha happily ensconced between us on the sofa – important to note that she is BETWEEN US to make sure I’m not giving Becca any attention! – and Dave roaming around, chewing a toy here, boofing at the window on occasion at a passing… leaf? we are never sure…

Dave isn’t really one for being patted, but start scritching is lower back and that’ll get his tail wagging. Alas – in Sasha world – that means she isn’t getting all the attention which means she’ll then attempt to plonk herself back on my knee or, worse, jump down and instigate yet another snarling play fight over a toy that neither of them have bothered about all night.

For the record, it’s only worse because they make a bloody racket, it’s all (snarling) play but suffice to say I’ve now just accepted that all TV is watched with subtitles.

Aside: Did you know that when they are playing together, dogs will sneeze every now and then to confirm it’s ‘just play’ and not an attack? Funny wee things these fur babies!

At 8pm the dogs get their dinner and some (most) nights Becca will head up for a bath. With only one ‘grown up’ left in the living room both dogs settle down pretty quickly; Sasha will get nicely sprawled on the sofa, snoring away, Dave lying next to her having spent the last 30 minutes grooming his best pal, vigorously, with his tongue (for the record, that’s Sasha, although he’s not adverse to helping me ‘clean’ my hands at times).

I sit there too, deciding what to watch, or what to read, or whether to fire up the PlayStation.

These small moments in the day are peaceful and quiet (snoring aside), and I feel calm and happy.

Through the early days of lock down, with the outside world more distance and muted, I started to take a little time to just sit and do nothing and revel in the silence. For those that know me, I’m usually busy doing something (I am the son of my father for sure!) so it’s odd to catch myself, more and more often, happily doing nothing.

I didn’t fully realise I needed these moments until they arrived. It’s one thing planning to meditate for 10 mins or so but that in and of itself still requires me to do something – it’s a practice so you need to work at it – whereas these quiet contented evenings have sort of snuck up on me. I guess it’s partly a mix of better understanding my own needs, a further quieting of that nagging voice in my head that, for so so long, was always saying ‘you should do something’, and feeling supported, seen, heard and loved.

Sure I am happy, but more than that, I am content.

It’s a word I’ve found myself using more and more to describe how I feel these days. Even in the midst of a global pandemic there has been a sense of calm, of care, of love in our home; a sense of balance which has been there since we first got together and which I’m much more attuned to these days.

It’s odd to realise such a simple thing, to recognise that your life is in a great place, that your future is exciting and full of possibilities.

Becca and I chat about our future often, we know where we would like it go, and we know that no matter how it pans out we will both be in a place where we are happy as long as we are together.

Oddly it feels like we have MORE opportunities ahead of us, rather than a narrowing of options of our shared circumstance. It’s a bewildering thing to contemplate, given the current state of the world, but with an eye to the future I’m already wondering if there are better things I can be doing with my time.

Part of that, and this is no coincidence, has been the last few months of enforced working from home. I know I’m lucky that that is an option at all but the more I think about working back in an office environment, the more I wonder why I’d put myself through that. I am far more productive, and whilst some of the challenges remain, I am fundamentally happier working this way.

Mind you I’m not sure what else I could do (I still need to earn money after all) but part of me doesn’t really mind not knowing. I feel secure enough that I trust that we will figure things out when we need to and, until then, I’m just enjoying what I’m (officially now) considering the second phase of my life.

I’m 46 years old. That number still baffles me but I can still remember a younger me that had plans built around financial success, that focused on material possessions, and like many people my age I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. I know that I have learned from those and in one of those universally truthful cliches it really does feel like all of THAT was simply steps I had to go through to get to where I am now.

Like I said, we have some plans that are already shaping up, and until they come to fruition I’m just going to keep on being grateful for everything I have; the happy home I live in, the wonderful, smart, compassionate, kind and caring (and also beautiful and hot) woman who lets me share her life, for the joy our two little mischievous dogs bring to our life every single day, and for this oddly new state of always feeling happy from the minute I wake up to the moment I fall asleep.

And I know all this to be true as I’ve been keeping a Gratefulness Journal going for the past couple of months and, when you boil it all down, I find myself being happy for the right things and for the right reasons.

Life can seem complicated at times but it’s truly not, it’s very simple if you can learn to focus on the best bits and let all the other noise slide away.

It’s take me a long time to get to this place and the best bit is that there is still so very much left to enjoy, so much more happiness and joy to explore.

Life Personal Musings

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to be more mindful and considerate of where I spend my time. As such I’m not on Facebook all that much, I find Twitter holds less and less appeal, and only Instagram remains as my main ‘idle scrolling’ habit these days.

I guess it’s easy to fathom why, with so much going on in the world and each new ‘moment’ compounding the last, I’ve found these places less and less appealing to visit not because of the content I’m seeing there (although for sure it doesn’t always help) but because the level of my interaction has gotten so fleeting and sparse and light that it feels out of balance.

That’s entirely because the value I place on my time/interactions on Facebook and Twitter has dropped significantly, so I’m just less and less inclined to spend time on those platforms right now. It’s a little bit self-fulfilling I’ll admit but the more I consider it the less bothered I am by this.

I’m not leaving either platform but my usage of them is shifting from casual fun places to something with a little more weight.

Facebook remains a good place to keep in loose touch with friends and family, and is also where I look for local businesses and groups. I’m slowly leaving various interest based groups and unfollowing pages that are mostly about getting hits.

My Twitter usage is much more focussed on news and current events now, and whilst I push things there I don’t tend to follow up on them, popping in now and then to skim, retweet, then leave.

And I have to admit I’m not missing either platforms at all.

So what am I doing with all this extra free time I have? Well a whole lot of nothing in particular and that’s kinda been the point.

Actually that’s not true; I’m reading more books and articles. I’m exercising more often, meditating more often, journaling more often. In short I’m focusing on me more than I ever have.

Of course it’s all about balance, but I’m lucky to have an amazing partner who supports and encourages me, and it finally feels like the myriad of little things I both wanted and needed in my life are falling in to place.

Ultimately it feels like I’ve got a new focus, or at least I’ve regained the ability to focus clearly again. I feel healthy, I’m eating well, sleeping well, losing weight steadily, and every day I find myself more and more grateful to the home I live in, the partner I share it with, and can see our future unfolding in front of us.

Whilst all of this is not COVID related – as you know, dear reader, it’s been a long slow aim of mine to find a way to spend less time on social media – it does seem to have given me the kick I needed.

The world will always be in some level of chaos and the more I free up space in my life, in my brain, the easier I’m finding it to cope with. I’m not sure where this new focus will take me but I’m excited about the possibilities.

Stepping back it feels natural that this is happening now, with or without a global pandemic as a back drop, I wonder if really this is all just a result of the steps I started taking a few years ago, deliberate choices designed to give myself more physical and mental space, choices which were not always easy but which are now coming to fruition.

I need to revisit some of these steps – the gradual creep of consumerism is a hard one to fight – but that’s all part of the journey. I feel much more able to focus on things that matter to me, and much more connected to the wider world around me.

This hasn’t been an epiphany, far from it, but for the first time in a very long time I find myself considering the things I’m grateful for and being happy and content are regularly at the top of the list. It’s taken a lot of work to get here.

Life

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Stasis, is that the right word? It feels like the last few weeks have slipped by largely unnoticed. Watching Black Lives Matter news, reading and learning what I can, the start of the end of lockdown, the return of sports and more, it’s all been a bit of a blur.

That said, it does feel like a new normal is slowly emerging and I’m adjusting to that and, thankfully, finding a new focus and positive energy to take forward.

Watched

Not much new this month, mostly stuck to old favourites and easy watches.

  • Halt and Catch Fire – picking up towards the end of season 2 (not sure why I stopped watching it), a nicely geeky drama that spans early PCs into the birth of the internet as we know it.
  • Homecoming – A great turn by Julia Roberts, an engrossing, odd, thriller of a show. Looking forward to season 2.
  • Amazing Stories – nice throw back style TV series, each episode a weird and wonderful tale. Been moved to tears, anger, and laughter.
  • Modern Family – (still) our current go to for post dinner easy TV. Nicely silly, and oddly moving at times.

And sport. Football to be precise as the Premier League finishes the season behind closed doors which is both odd and utterly charming at the same time and as of this weekend, Formula One again, yay!

Books

Listened

Wrote

  • Black Lives Matter – Yes, it’s still going and yes it’s not something we can put aside. We all need to be anti-racist and stand up against all forms of racism.

My Favourite Photo

Fair to say that our dogs have been a huge help during lockdown, keeping us going and (mostly) sane. This photo was my first solo walk with Dave in Mugdock Country Park. He knows it a lot better than I do so I let him lead me the whole way. One hour later we popped out back at the car, still no idea how he managed that!

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Did a Mugdock. Dave led the way. As always.

A post shared by Gordon McLean (@gmclean) on

Life

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