Category: <span>Blogvember</span>

The air is cool as it moves around us. Under foot, crimson leaves lie fallen, their work done, and far above our heads the empty branches whisper in the wind. Decades of stories are whispered back and forth, as we stand below them, looking up as they sway and talk, telling their tales in a beautiful language.

On we walk, enjoying the crisp air on our cheeks, our hands warm in gloves, feet swathed in socks and boots. The path changes to gravel, then grass, and back again as we meander our way through the forest. Mushrooms peak from fallen logs, fir trees stand vibrant in the morning glow, in the distance a burbling stream tumbles its way to meet the river some miles from here.

We chat about nothing of importance for that is not why we are here. For us this is a hallowed place, a church bigger than any other, a nurturing land with gentle qualities, one that can be as harsh as it is tender, as beautiful as it is stark. There is no place for religion here, only nature in all its glory. Even at this time of the year it is powerful and beautiful in more ways than I have words to describe.

Stand under a large tree, let your eye travel up that gnarled and weary trunk, decades old, strong and solid. Look at the branches as they spread out to capture the sky, the twigs that twist ever higher, and even in these autumn months a few leaves who haven’t quite finished their work cling on to the last. Not yet, they say, not yet.

Look up through those branches to the sky, the cold blue ceiling above us, pocked white with clouds.

Marvel at all of this, at the vast scale on display and realise how small we are, how insignificant in the face of such wonder and beauty.

Walking on we turn a corner and a single flat sheet stretches out before us, reflecting the clouds above as they scroll across the surface to the other side, disappearing into the reed beds. Some ducks emerge from the opposite shore and send ripples across the water, rendering the sky surreal.

We stand and breathe the clean air, sharp and cold on our lungs, ruddying our cheeks, and together we smile, happy and content as Mother Nature looks over us all.

Blogvember Life

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It took ten minutes of chopping – carrot, celery, onion – plus a bag of yellow split peas and some vegetarian stock, add salt and pepper, some more water and, after slow cooking for several hours the kitchen was filled with the wonderful aroma of split pea soup. Thick, creamy, utterly deliciously.

I’ve written about food here before, although I’ve stopped reviewing every restaurant I visit, and used to write even more when I was an active member of the local Yelp community (that got closed down, a fact that still annoys!). It’s such fun to write about food, trying to find more and more ways to describe a flavour, or a texture, or that wonderful combination of both in a dish that simply dances on the taste-buds.

I like food, a fact not lost on my regular reader (hey you!) given how often I talk about my weight for yes, alas the two are inextricably linked given that I tend to eat more calories than I burn.

I’m very privileged of course, living where I live and in a comfortable lifestyle where my main problem is deciding what food to eat, rather than if I will eat at all. If anything we have an abundance of choice, far more than I even remember as a child, especially given the availability of goods that used to only be available in the correct season; that said the seasons still apply, a strawberry in December is not the same as a strawberry in June.

But let’s not get too heavy (pun intended) for food is something that should be enjoyed if at all possible although I am guilty of falling into the “food is fuel” thinking, eating because I should rather than I want to. Thankfully that’s exception rather than the rule, and so most days I eat tasty food that is good for me.

Oh yes, I may be overweight but that’s not because I constantly eat bad food, my breakfasts are typically porridge and fruit (with a skimmed milk, sugar-free vanilla latte), my lunches either freshly made salads or sandwiches (not bought from a supermarket) and my dinners are typically cooked in the oven, be they chicken and veg, or just a bit plate of roasted veg (admittedly with some butter but hey, we gotta live!).

No, where I fall off the good eating wagon is the snacks and the chocolate and the desserts. Too often I reach for something sugary, a sweet tooth inherited from my father, and too often rather than one or two little things, it’s four, or seven, or an entire pack.

This I know, and this is the daily battle of emotional willpower versus intellectual knowledge, and even though most days my intellect wins (a rarity in itself!) the days were my willpower collapses completely tend to undo an entire week or two in one fell swoop. I do not fall lightly (because I’m overweight! Ha ha, look at me, laughing at myself).

And then there is eating out, which can be done healthily but more often than not is an indulgence. I do love a well prepared, well presented meal, and some live long in my memory. There is something about having your senses overwhelmed with juicy sauces and piquant fragrances that really seems to make reminiscing on such meals all the more vivid.

Food is a staple, we all need it, and it always fascinates me to see how different people view it. You see articles about people who’ve eaten the same meal every day for years and year, and then read about people who are moving to an insect-only diet. It is a constant in all our lives, yet every single one of us will have a different favourite food, or favourite cuisine, just as we all have differing dislikes (not to mention allergies).

I guess this all boils down to one thing, are you a sane person, or do you actually think Marmite tastes nice?

Blogging Blogvember Food

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Do, or do not, there is no try.

The challenge was to get from the outdoor centre to a specified point a few hills away, and back, before anyone else. Four teams were assembled, all going to different points on the map that only they knew, and we all set out at the same time.

I was the leader of the squad and I did not like to fail. We set off and all was going well, we reached our turning point, where one of the organisers was wanting for us to confirm we’d made it there, and we were heading back, wary of the time as it zipped past, all the time wondering where the other squads were. Were we winning or losing?

About halfway back one of the younger boys started to complain that he was tired, that his backpack was too heavy, his legs sore. After doing my best to lift his spirits and boost his confidence it was evident he was starting to slow us down.

So I took his backpack from him, slung it across my front (I already had my own on my back) and told him that he “had to keep up now” as he had “no excuses”. Failure here, was not an option. As we set off he still languished at the back, head down, demoralised. I shouted at him to keep up.

My name is Gordon and, contrary to that little tale, I am a nice guy. Honest.

Side thought: isn’t that what all nice guys say? And who am I to decide if I’m nice or not, and against what yardstick of ‘nice’ am I measuring myself?

For many years of my life I considered myself, one way or another, a failure. Not in a completist way, but in the far more damaging and hard to detect micro way. Not matter how hard I competed, there was always someone better than me, bigger than me, faster than me, smarter than me.

At school I was in the top classes for Maths and English, but not at the top of those classes. In P.E. I wasn’t great at football, preferring basketball where my height and hand-to-eye coordination could shine through but even then there were two boys taller and better than me.

So I found ways to cope, I picked my battles and worked hard where I was close to the top, eschewing anything that I would immediately fail at. Why bother trying out for the school football team, when I was a guaranteed starter for our house basketball team? Revise and study hard for that English exam, but I’m probably gonna fail Chemistry anyway, so why bother. It’s a crude and basic way to approach things, and I’m still guilty of it preferring to play video games on easier settings so I’ll win, rather than challenge myself to improve and, probably, fail.

Of course, failing is part and parcel of life and it took me far too long to realise how important it is to learn to fail. Dealing with failure is as crucial as learning to win with grace.

Yesterday I wrote about “Trying” and a large part of that was actually about failing and letting that be acceptable. That has freed me up to re-try some things I enjoy as hobbies, safe in the knowledge that I won’t fail at them, because just trying is, in and of itself, very much a mark in the win column!

Master Yoda said “Do, or do not, there is no try” and he is right, well he is right if you want to become a Jedi and save the universe. Thankfully, us mere mortals have less taxing demands so perhaps we need a new Yoda sacrament to be writ; “Try, or try not, there is only fail”, and with that we can learn to fail, and learn that failing is not a bad thing at all.

And, for those who are wondering (and still reading), yes my squad did make it back to the outdoor centre first.

We won.

But looking back on my younger self that day I can see just how badly I failed.

Blogging Blogvember

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A Saturday morning alarm set for 6.45am.

I try to fight the urge to hit SNOOZE.

I succeed (!) and rise from the warmth of my bed. I have a plan.

Once ready, I head downstairs, eat a slice of toast and rouse Dave, one of our dogs, from his slumber. As ever he gets up and stretches, sleepily padding his way to where I stand in the hall, lead in hand, waiting. I fasten the clips around him, double check my pockets; keys, poo bags, phone. We are good to go and head out in the brisk morning air and start our walk.

It’s early so there are few souls to be seen and those we do encounter are also out walking their dogs. Briefly pleasantries are exchanged and we go on our separate ways. At the park Dave is let off to roam, a little, with his LED collar – essentially for a black dog in the dark – giving away his location. He veers too far sometimes but a corrective call is all that is needed to bring him back to my side.

We walk on, round the park once then back to the street. We head away from home and walk beside quiet roads that are slowly filling with traffic as workers wake and start their commutes. At every gate Dave pauses briefly to check, every shop door is sniffed, the occasional piece of litter consulted, as on we walk.

He can be very focussed – the boy likes to WALK. None of this ambling around for him, no! – and so we pass other early risers who want to stop and say hello but Dave walks straight past, determined to get to wherever it is he thinks he is headed. As we cross roads he pulls one way when we are going another. One day I’ll let him lead us, but not today, that is not the plan.

Another park as the morning light breaks through the trees, a few more dogs to greet this time, but soon enough it’s time to head for home. My stomach rumbles.

The final stop, a final pee, and then we are there, back inside the warmth of our home. Sasha gets up to greet us and I swap dogs, letting Dave off his lead and putting Sasha on hers, she too needs some morning relief but we won’t walk as far, her ageing hips need the rest.

Once done it’s time to feed them both – 8am – and once they’re done it’s my turn. Another slice of toast will suffice for now, they will need their post-breakfast pees soon, so I make my first coffee of the day.

Soon enough they’ve both been taken out again, and I start to prepare the breakfast I’d planned for, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and toast.

9am is approaching as I plate up and take my seat in front of the TV, just in time for the Rugby World Cup final.

That was the plan.

I’ve been trying NOT to make plans for a long time now, at least I’ve been trying not to micro-plan my day as much as I used to. It’s been working for the most part, but part of letting go of that approach to living, something I did subconsciously for most of my adult life, is also learning to accept that I won’t always manage it but I am trying, and that trying is all I need to do.

And the more I learn to just try, the happier I feel, simply by removing the pressure to succeed all the time.

Now I’m off to watch the Rugby where I hope there will be plenty of tries (do you see what I did there), and no doubt I’ll spend the rest of the day trying to stay awake whilst being very happy to fail (fall asleep on the sofa).

Blogging Blogvember

It’s probably set in the kitchen in my parents old house. Habitat (?) wallpaper, and a wall mounted set of scales with a dark blue bowl. I think that’s where it’s from, or it’s entirely possible that old photos have further blurred my increasingly bad memory.

I can remember one Christmas morning, before my sister arrived, leaping on to my parents bed and opening my He-Man presents. Again, there is a photo somewhere of that moment which might be why it sticks in my mind so vividly, and this matches most of my memories that can be traced to a photo. Mind you, for some reason it is Christmases that loom largest in my memory, so perhaps there is a level of emotional attachment at play.

My fondest memories of our family Christmases were just that, a time for just the five of us (my parents, myself, my sister, and the dog), all in good spirits, all happy and together. These are always the best memories and those early mornings, chomping on chocolate coins and reading my Oor Wullie annual loom large whenever I cast my mind back to my childhood.

I’ve tried to push my mind further back a few times, tried to get back to the house I spent the first three years of my life in, but I don’t even get a hazy hint at those days. In this example the photos don’t help as I clearly don’t have any memories to grasp on to in the first place. That said, given my parents old house was the family home for 40 years of my life, it’s no wonder that all of my oldest recollections stem from that place, those rooms, our garden, and all the wonderful times spent there.

These days I take a lot of photos, partly because I enjoy photography but more and more I realise it’s a way to capture the memories as they happen as I fear I will forget them, a fear that grows the older I get. Of course the ubiquity of having a phone in my pocket everywhere I go makes this much easier, and I wonder how this wonderful little gadget will impact future generations, how will their memories be impacted? What will their favourite recollections be compromised of?

My recollections are more than the images they represent, of course they are, and photos are just an easy way to trigger those, and for the most part I’m pretty good at putting the camera away and living in the moment itself, for without the emotional connection, without something else to grasp on to, photos are simply a flat, dimensionless trick, a rendering of a time and place that holds no value.

A while ago I realised that I should be more focused on creating more of those connections, and more recently I’ve been mindful of how often I dive behind the camera and make more of an effort to find the balance, putting the camera aside and enjoying each moment as it happens and I find that my more recent memories, ones spent experiencing the moment first hand rather than via the glow of a screen, live larger and brighter in my memory.

Every day Facebook reminds me of memories from last year, and as I pause to look at those photos I find I can recall more than I see, and perhaps my memory isn’t all that bad after all. The details I can recall are all the better for having been present at that time and I find my mind able to recall more and more details of those past events.

I realise now that those will always be the recollections I strive for as they give me a richer pathway to past memories that I hold dear. And those are always the best things to remember.

Blogging Blogvember Life

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