Category: <span>Personal Musings</span>

I’m guessing it all started with Sun-Maid Raisins.

If you are of a certain age (shut up at the back!) they were a staple part of your packed lunch, sitting right next to the tuna paste sandwich and, if you were really lucky, a carton of Ribena. Ahh yes that little red cardboard box that contained a small handful of such a sweet delicacy, the raisin.

As I’m sure you know, a raisin is simply a dried grape BUT, ahh yes, it’s not just any grape. Typically the word “raisin” is reserved for the dark-colored dried large grape, with “sultana” being a golden-colored dried grape, and “currant” being a dried small Black Corinth seedless grape. And you thought you weren’t going to learn anything today…

I love raisins, I love how they taste, I love how they feel in your mouth eaten raw, I love how they are just at home in a spicy curry or freshly baked cake.

As I got older I got my own pocket money and the temptation of the previously unknown chocolate coated raisin loomed into my world view. I’m pretty sure I kept the local shop in business the summer I discovered them; rarely was I happier than having a box of raisin Poppets in one hand, a (red) box of toffee Poppets in the other. It was a simple time; One raisin, one toffee, one after another, popped in my gob and chewed and savoured and swallowed. Repeat.

Somewhere along the way the toffee Poppets were replaced by chocolate coated peanuts, and I veered away from the brand names to the stores own-brand, I noticed no difference, plus it’s only £1 for a bag of chocolate raisins, heaven! If I was really well behaved I’d sometimes be able to make them last for a week or so, but most times that sneaky addition to my shopping cart were scoffed quick smart.

In fact it’s why I started buying the chocolate peanuts as well, to bulk things out a bit, to make the pleasure last that little bit longer.

So you can imagine my glee when, on returning from the supermarket the other day, Becca said she’d gotten me some treats.

We have a snack drawer at home, it’s mostly Nakd bars and the like (we do try and eat healthily) but in these current times it’s fair to say that I’m struggling a little more than usual to keep my inner ’emotional eater’ in-check. I knew I had treats waiting, and I’m proud that I lasted a couple of days before heading to the kitchen to raid the snack drawer and see what she’d bought me.

I was watching a movie, and fancied a little something to munch on. I kept the movie playing so I could watch from the kitchen (we have an open-plan layout downstairs), and went through and opened the snack drawer and, to my delight I could see TWO little bags of treats in the drawer, the top one of which read “Milk Chocolate Raisins”, YA BEAUTY!! Raisins and peanuts!

I quickly grabbed a small bowl so I could mix them up and, whilst I negotiated the usual hazards that living with a dog who likes to check what you are doing when you are in the ‘food room’, I grabbed the top bag, snipped it open and tipped a small (ok large!) handful into the bow, I grabbed the second bag and did the same.

I returned to my seat, engrossed in the movie, got comfortable and dipped my hand into the bowl. First item out, a chocolate raisin! Oh yes! I think it smiled a little as the chocolate gave way to the rich sweetness that lay with in.

Now, I’m an adult so I took my time, savouring each chew until it was all gone. I forced myself to wait a few seconds – again I’m an adult, honest – and dipped my hand into the bowl, enjoying the tiny silly suspense of guessing what I’d get next, raisin or peanut, raisin or peanut.

RAISIN!

Two in a row.

A few minutes later, I tried again… RAISIN AGAIN! This was wonderful but I gave the bowl a little shoogle to make sure the peanuts and raisins were properly mixed up.

Another try and, another raisin, what the … and then I realised, as I’m sure you already have.

She bought me two bags of raisins, didn’t she.

I’d only gone and opened both bags, tipping a little from one, then a little from the other, into the bowl thinking I was getting a mix of peanuts and raisins.

What. A. Numpty.

Still, I enjoyed the rest of the bowl, safe in the knowledge there were no chocolate peanuts waiting in disguise.

Food Life Personal Musings

My alarm goes off at 7:30am.

I get up and have breakfast.

At 8:00am I log in to my work laptop, check any tasks/calls for the coming day.

I take a break every 50 minutes to stand and stretch.

I write in my journal during a break.

At midday I stop for lunch.

After that I spend 10 minutes meditating.

Then back to work for the afternoon.

I am lucky to have this routine, it’s about to change from next week whilst the project I work on is scaled back to almost zero staff, but it’ll pick back up again in a few weeks, maybe a month.

So I’ll have a new routine from next week.

The routine is helping, having something to do, something to focus on is helping.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we get used to change, how quickly we adapt and accept that this is just how things are for now, how quickly I’ve started scanning the street ahead of me to see if anyone is going to walk past, crossing the road to avoid them. How quickly I’ve learnt to just make do with whatever food we have in the cupboards and fridge.

We are lucky. We are both healthy, able-bodied, and we have each other. Hearing news of friends, isolated, who may have contracted the virus, is heart-breaking. They will be fine, I tell myself, even though I’m not sure.

And to stop myself worrying too much I return to my routine.

My new normal is getting me through.

I hope you are getting through this as best you can.

Personal Musings

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Wrote this a couple of days ago, still processing all this, still adjusting. We are ok. I am ok but my emotions are veering all over the place from ‘it’s horrible but we will get through it’ to utter fury and outrage at the reaction of a government I didn’t vote for, to a quiet calm as I take time to care for myself and my mental health.

I was in the local Co-op yesterday, we didn’t need anything urgent, I was really just seeing if they had any pizzas. The shelves were mostly stocked, plenty of fruit and veg, milk, butter, bread, even a few packets of toilet roll.

They had the pizzas I was after too, so I got those and grabbed a couple of cartons of oat milk because they were there, and some eggs, again because they were there.

As I turned to walk down an aisle and elderly woman with a fully laden basket was walking towards me, I stopped to let her step around one of the end of aisle displays and as she passed she smiled and said,

“Not even really sure what I’m buying!”

She had a twinkle in her eye, and half a laugh in her voice when she said it. I got the sense that she’s been through stuff like this before and isn’t sure what to do but knows she should do something and this is all she can think of.

I’m in the same boat.

I’ve not been through anything like this before, but I know I should be doing something I’m just not sure what.

I’ve had a weird feeling in my stomach a few days ago, roundabout the time the first confirmed patients were recorded in the UK, and it took me a couple of days to figure out that it was anxiety that was bubbling away. Last night, in the midst of eating my feelings from our snack drawer, I paused and thought, no this is not enough. I wasn’t talking about the volume of snacks (although are there ever enough snacks?) more reflecting on my attitude to the current pandemic.

Pandemic is an odd word. The stuff of movies, or zombie-led TV series, it’s not something that actually happens. Yet here we are.

And as world leaders stumble and bumble their way through this, displaying all their worst traits and more – hey if you voted Tory or Trump, some of this is on you you utterly selfish prick – and in the meantime so many people are going to suffer in so many ways, a lot of which we can’t even understand yet.

But enough ENOUGH of this negativity. I’m distancing myself (officially working at home now for… some time) and I’m lucky that is an option. My partner is self-employed and we know the time will come she can no longer go out to work. We will cope, we will get through this.

Meanwhile small businesses we use, small restaurants and cafes we frequent, are closing or closed. And yes, again the government has a hand to play in this – Tories will always look after the rich, if you voted from them, fuck you – and it’s horrifying and scary and oh hello anxiety.

But no, I will not get dragged into this.

I am finding my new normal, working from home, finding a routine, carving more time for self-care, meditate, breathe, write, read.

It’s time to look around and remember the good things in life. There are more people who care and love than those that hate, the news is the worst tip of a small iceberg, the majority of people are not like that. Amplify those messages please, focus on the good, on the small gestures that mean more at times like these.

Go outside, breathe in the air, get soaked in the rain, walk on the grass.

Do not give in to anger. Smile as you pass strangers in the street.

I don’t know what else to write. I have a journal but it’s all that is on my mind right now. There is no fiction, just a reality that seems so improbable that fiction feels false.

Surely this will pass in a couple of weeks. Right? That’s the optimist voice in my head, it’s a small voice, and usually hiding away from change and uncertainty. Everything will be ok, it says.

And it will, logically, scientifically, I know it will. I am relying on that part of my brain to process this, as the emotional part is bunkered down in a duvet fort, eating chocolate buttons and re-watching the West Wing.

But I know it will be ok. We will get through this.

Most of us at least. The fallout is unknown, and that’s the scariest part but we can’t deal with that today, we can plan and hope to stave it off and lessen the impact but today is always about today.

So I sit at home and count my blessings for they are many.

I will not succumb to negativity. I will be kind to myself and to others, I will come out of this changed, as will the wider world. New values will be established, and I hope they hold fast. Maybe this is the radical action that will shift the world away from the right-wing governments that hold power?

But no, enough of that. Enough of this.

I am ok. We are ok.

How are you? Reach out if you need to, together we will prevail.

Life Personal Musings

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tldr; I set myself some aims at the start of the year and, by and large, I’ve been mostly successful at sticking to them. Yay!

I wrote a few weeks ago about some aims I had for the coming months, all of which were built from one core resolution, and I’m happy to say that it’s been going well. I’m spending a little more time writing, meditating, and exercising, and conversely have less time and inclination to spend on social media; it’s almost like I planned it that way (oh wait, I did).

I should admit that I have been gaming myself a little on this, or more specifically I’ve been tracking each activity to help build them into habits. This way I can lean on the Don’t Break the Chain thinking (often attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, yes THAT Jerry Seinfeld) and see my habits build which further re-enforces the habit itself.

To do this, because I am a geek, I’ve resorted to using apps. I have apps specific to each of the three aims I laid out, and one more to track the activity when it’s complete so I can see how I’m doing. Here’s how I’m doing it.

First things first, my eagle eyed reader (hello you!) will spot that I’ve changed the aims I originally wrote about. The thinking was to give myself some breathing room, I mean who wants to commit to doing something every single day, especially when experience dictates that ‘life’ will get in the way now and then.

Primary aim: Write in my journal most days.

I use Day One and whilst I don’t always write directly in that app (I mostly use S.Notes which syncs across web and iOS) it’s where I store my diary/journal style thoughts. It also gets any photos I post to Instagram but that’s by the by. I write as and when I find any spare time, the time I’d typically be turning to idly scroll social media.

Progress so far: Managed this almost every day, definitely been good for my mental health.

Primary goal: Meditate for 10 mins a few times a week.
I use Calm for this, in fact the 10 mins is specifically derived from the fact that the ‘Daily Calm’ is 10 mins long. I mostly use it around lunchtime during the week as it forces me to move away from my desk, with weekend usage varying around whatever plans we have.

Progress so far: Managed this almost as often as planned, not quite managed to carve out dedicated time for it, it’s still a bit hit and miss. But that’s ok, every little helps.

Primary aim: Stretch almost every day.
I use Seven for this, an app I’ve used on and off for a while. I am trying to make this a morning activity but no matter how I try I just can’t get my brain into gear, I’ve spent far too many years viewing morning as the time to get up, wash, dress, and leave the house ASAP to get to work, so despite my best efforts, this is more of an evening activity.

At present those stretches include rehab focused ones from my physio appointment which naturally gave me an added incentive to make sure I didn’t skip too many days.

Progress so far: On and off. Whilst I’m managing it almost every day, it’s not found a place in my morning routine. So I’ve adapted. The main thing is, I’m doing it more often than not.

Tracking my progress
I’ve been using an app called Streaks. It’s simple enough to use, just add an activity you want to track, set how often you want it to happen (daily, 3 times a week, on specific days, etc, there are many options), then mark each activity when it’s complete.

For example, whilst I’m trying to do stretching exercises every day, I’ve not committed to meditating every single day, but four times a week instead.

It’s a simple way to track progress, and because you can see the tracked number rise it very quickly helps to make sure you aren’t breaking the streak for any of the activities, re-enforcing the habit more and more.

Of course, as I’m a geek, and I’m already using apps to help me, I’m also using iOS Shortcut Automations to automatically mark each activity in Streaks as complete as soon as I open the relevant app (details here).

And here are the results so far.

(The Weigh and B.P. trackers are for my weekly ‘stat’ check and, as I use apps for those too (EufyLife scales, and iHealth Blood Pressure cuff) I also have automated shortcuts that log when I’ve done those).

Like I said, so far so good and whilst it’s only February it does feel like these things are sticking and the habits are building, which in turn makes me all the more determined to stay the course and keep those streaks going. That and I’m feeling the difference both physical and mentally which, after all, is the real aim here.

I won’t lie, I have had a few days where doing any of these was a struggle; writing only one sentence for my daily journal entry more than once, and limiting my stretches to a one set rather than three, that kind of thing. But I expected this to happen so it hasn’t deterred me; sometimes you need a day spent doing fuck all!

There has also been a nice knock-on effect too:

I hope you are getting on ok with any resolutions or goals (aims?) you set yourself, and if not, I hope you give yourself the ability to falter or fail. Remember, you are not the sum of your resolutions.

For me, I’m just glad that a few things have stuck, and I know this will change over the course of the year, and that’s ok too, in fact it’s half the fun.

Health Life Personal Musings

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At the start of the year I set out some aims for myself and, in the spirit of accountability, here’s how I’m doing with each.

Writing – Write in my journal every day

  • Progress – I have written in my journal everyday for the past 45 days!
  • What’s next? – Get back into writing short fiction pieces.

Meditating – Meditate for 10 mins every day

  • Progress – Managing 10 mins a day, mostly during my lunch time, almost every day.
  • What’s next? – Keep it going!

Exercising – Stretch every day

  • Progress – OK. I’ve not managed to nail the morning routine and I know it helps my mobility.
  • What’s next? – Try and build that stretching routine.

Note: I’ve also been seeing a Physio which has gone VERY well and I’ve just (last night) completed the first session of Couch to 5K so I’m giving myself a break on this one. But it’s probably more important moving forward to get this one sorted.

Thoughts

The real reason to have these aims was to give my brain a focus away from social media. On that front it’s been pretty successful and the best metric is probably the seven books I’ve already read this year.

I’ll write more about all of this throughout the year, largely to keep myself accountable, and I’m already feeling the difference to my mental health from not being on social media so much. I can dip in and out without getting sucked in (and down) into all the noise.

And, most important of all, the balance of all of this feels right.

Life Personal Musings

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The full moon glowed, peeking out from behind the racing clouds. Glimpsed through the dark winter branches the surface, in all its mysterious pockmarked glory, seemed visceral, a small step away, a gentle leap into the night sky. As the clouds parted, glittering stars appeared, transporting me to places at the edge of imagination, beyond my reach as I stood rooted on earth with the wind ruffling my coat. I gazed at the heavens and dreamed of looking beyond…

My parents front room went through many iterations, but my most prominent memories were of two tall bookshelves that lined the sides of the bay window. Those shelves held all manner of things; the bottom sections were dedicated to LPs, the next shelves up were devoted to the ornate, and the rest of the shelves that stretched up far beyond my height were given to the many books of differing size and colour that are writ large in my childhood memories; I can recall the maroon, leather bound Readers Digest compendiums, a cook book or two, a copy of War & Peace and next to it a book that was signed by a certain Neil Armstrong, you remember him, right, he’s the “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” guy.

Oddly I don’t credit that book with my fascination with space as I don’t think I ever read it. Instead we turn to a different book from the same bookshelf, one without a dust cover, a dark red tome that was heavy in the hand, it’s thousands of pages wafer thin, scattered with tiny words and sentences. Picked out in gold lettering on the spine were the words Selected Works by Arthur C. Clarke and it included The City And The Stars, The Deep Range, A Fall Of Moondust, and Rendevous With Rama. It also held, as it’s opening story, the first science fiction novel I ever read; 2001/A Space Odyssey.

The origin story was written before the moon landings had happened and led to the classic film of the same name, which Kubrick and Clarke wrote together. The novel is an expansion of that story; a sprawling languid story that begins tepidly enough but soon leaps out from the black monolith and into an entirely other world. I reckon I read it some time in the mid to late 80s, just as my early teenage world was expanding to include high school, a time during which I frequently took solace and refuge in the pages of a book. And so it was that I found myself following the journey of Dr. Heywood Floyd as he travelled from Earth to a perfectly imagined moon-base, my attention rapt and imaginative synapses firing like crazy.

I can remember losing myself in that story, consumed by the battle between HAL and Bowman, and whilst later books managed to similarly consume my attention, this was the memorable first. I guess it was partly because I was reading a ‘grown up’ book, one which dealt in both fact and fiction and also managed to tackle various themes along the way; other than the stories we’d been made to study at school, it was the first time I can recall wanting to learn more about something because of a novel.

Equally the subject matter tapped into the sense of wonder that begun when my Dad first pointed out Orions belt, standing there staring into the night sky, picking out stars as they twinkled above us. 2001 added to that fascination, as did the immediately fantastic worlds of Star Wars (not Star Trek*) which I guess is probably a common occurence for those of my generation, the children of the children of the space race.

After reading 2001, and because I was a bookish geek even back then with a cherished set of encyclopaedias given to me by my Grandfather, I started reading about the Apollo missions, tracing back to the first attempts to reach Space (technically achieved by a V-2 rocket by Nazi Germany), on through the Russian successes of Sputnik and Laika and Luna 1, before the USA entered the fray with Explorer 6 and the helter-skelter rush through the early 60s of Ham, Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shephard, Valentina Tereshkova, and back round to Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong.

Yet with history only offering a distant impressions, it was the movies that exploded us all into space off the back of the phenomenal success of Star Wars and latterly, as the films started to dwindle, along came the Space Shuttle and once again we turned our gaze to the skies, our hearts and dreams open again to exploring the dark corners of the universe. My gaze has been drawn there ever since.

A few years ago I attend a talk by Commander Chris Hadfield, best known as the astronaut who recorded himself playing Space Oddity during his time on the International Space Station. He is an engaging speaker, intelligent but not boastful, and he retains the sense of wonder of his own achievements that is at once humbling and totally engaging. He spoke of watching the moon landing on TV and how it inspired him, he gave advice to the children in the audience, to aim high and work hard and they too might end up in space. He was ‘just a kid from a farm in Ontario’ but he ended up spending time in zero gravity in command of a space station.

I can remember leaving that talk invigorated to do more with my own life, I know I won’t make it to space, but that wasn’t his point. Very few people become astronauts, but that’s only half of the journey, the rest of it is exploration. Exploration of places and of your own abilities and aptitudes, all of which are a good thing to test and push forward. I can also remember leaving that talk and imagining what it must’ve been like for a child to hear those words, and how I hoped it sparked something in them to be better, to aim higher, in the simple hope that no matter where it takes them, they’d be happier in this world.

I’ve written here, many many times, about my own journey and my own challenges and changes. Some of them have been successful, some not, but that has never really been the point. Rather the point is that I keep trying.

Someone once said to me, why not just accept who you are? And it’s true that I have largely accepted many things about myself. I am bald, my beard is full of grey hairs as is, increasingly, my chest. I will never be slim, I will always cry at movies. I accept these as truths but I don’t accept that they are all of me. There is still more to learn, still more understand, still more to explore.

Looking up at the moon that night, I reflected on where my life is now. I was out with one of our dogs and as he roamed around I stood there, eyes drawn up to the nearest celestial body as it glowed there in the sky. It was a crisp clear night, the craters and valleys were visible to the naked eye, somewhere a landing module remains, the imprint of boots, an unfluttering flag. I wondered what it must have been like to stand up there, just as I wondered what it must’ve been like in those early, terrifying, days of space exploration, when the only thing you could do was keep going, from problem to problem, until the solution presented itself.

Earlier that day, three astronauts had returned to earth from the International Space Station. The usual photos were shown, all happy faces, the shaking of hands, and congratulations all round. But two of the images that stuck in my mind weren’t of the three people safely returned to earth, but of the charred, battered capsule in which they had returned. Why would you put yourself through that?

But then, why don’t I just settle for who I am today. I have a good life, a happy life, I’m very much in love, we have an exciting future ahead of us, and everything else is, as some would say, gravy. Why explore when everything around me, and within me, is good?

Well, in the words of Aaron Sorkin, delivered by Sam Seaborn (aka Rob Lowe):

“Because it’s next. Because we came out of the cave and we looked over the hill and we saw fire and we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West and we took to the sky. The history of man is a timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.”***

Just as mankind continues to explore, both this earth and our surrounding universe, so I find myself pushed to continue to explore my own mind, to challenge my own beliefs, and examine how I live, my interactions with the world around me. Because that’s what we should do given the luxury we have around us.

And that’s how things change, how societies evolve, how movements swell and grow, and hopefully how life improves for all. It all starts from exploring my own mind simply because I have the capacity do so.


* For my 21st birthday my parents got me, amongst other things, a small holographic print** of a certain space ship that most certainly was NOT in Star Wars.

** These were a thing for a while, it was a simpler time.

*** Whilst this post was not inspired by it, I did happen to watch an episode of The West Wing and this quote leapt out at me.

Life Personal Musings

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I’ve already stated that my main resolution for 2020 is to be more mindful when I use social media. My reasoning is that I want to waste less time aimlessly scrolling, to give me more time to do other things that I get more personal value from, things that I know are good for me but which get pushed aside far too easily.

Which begs the question, what are these things I want to do more of? Well, broadly speaking there are three areas I want to focus on, all of which will make me a happier me. So, in the name of accountability, they are (in no particular order):

  1. Writing
  2. Meditating
  3. Exercising

I’m trying to be sensible about this, so I’m setting myself one primary aim for each of these areas whilst allowing for a couple of additional hopes as well; activities I’m hoping to pick up (or do more of) with the time I’m ‘getting back’ by spending less time on social media.

I’m also being very deliberate with my language here, these are not goals I’m setting with specific targets that I may not achieve, these are things I’m aiming to do (with some level of accountability) and which I hope to build new habits for along the way. It also means I’m not being too prescriptive as I want these things to find a natural place in my life, and I’m willing to concede that there will be changes along the way but ultimately the end point should be the same.

The use of language is a subtle but important difference and I’m hoping it reduces/removes my fear of failure.

Writing

Primary aim: Write in my journal every day.
I’m not bothered about the volume of what I write, it doesn’t have to be much, it just has to happen every day*. It’s been useful to me in the past as a way to process thoughts and emotions, and also (more often) as a way of remembering the good things that happened.

Additional hopes:

  • Write two blog posts a week. One fiction (from weekly prompts), plus one other on any topic. This sort of happens already but every time I sit down to write I want to focus on it properly.
  • Write/read/edit the novel I have in progress at least once a week just to keep it alive. Some days I’ll get an idea and sit and write for a couple of hours, others I’ll re-read and edit, move things around. I’m sure there is a finished novel in there somewhere.

Meditating

Primary goal: Meditate for 10 mins every day.
I pay for an app called Calm for this exact reason but the habit fell away in December as varying work hours/holidays kicked in and I didn’t dedicate the time to it.

I got into meditation a couple of years ago, attending some meditation classes after work with my good friend Andi, and it’s stuck with me it just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. I always feel better, lighter, calmer, and more aware of living in the present, when I meditate no matter how long for. I’d like to feel like that more often.

Additional hope:

  • Attend some more meditation classes again, it’s a different experience and I think Andi and I would benefit from making it a regular thing!

Exercising

First things first, I can’t really get moving on the longer goal (be able to run a 5K again**) until I get my crappy knee sorted, but there is plenty I could do until then, but I’m going back to some basics.

Primary aim: Stretch every day.
My intention is to build a morning habit to increase my lower back/hip flexibility. 7-10 mins each more, and I’ll incorporate whatever physio exercises I need to do as well. I sit at a desk most of the day and in the last couple of years, specifically since I stopped going to the gym 3 days a week, I’ve really noticed the difference, feeling much stiffer and sorer than I used to (plus, I’m getting old!).

Additional hope:

  • Walk Dave and listen to podcasts. I’ve stopped listening to Podcasts as I don’t really have an hour to dedicate to them so I’m invariably left part way through and don’t revisit them. So I’ll double up on this one and listen to them whilst walking Dave which is always a good way to get a little exercise!

So there you have it, three areas, some gentle achievable aims and some additional hopes.

The next trick is to make these things habits, time will tell if I succeed.


Caveats
* I’m presuming I’ll be able to hit the primary aims every day but I know that won’t hold true. Life will get in the way at times and that’s ok, I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.
** My long-term aim to run 5KM is just that, long-term, it may take me all year, or it might not happen until 2021. I am not putting a time scale on it, but it is where I want to get back to in time.

Health Life Personal Musings

Welcome to the year 2020! A new year has arrived and with it a new resolve is found and plans are forged; a time of personal goals and improvements, a time to re-invent, to start over, to become a better you!

To help you in your quest you’ll be pleased to find there are many new methods and approaches that will happily take your money to help you achieve (or at least make a start on) your goals, get that shiny new day planner, or a sumptuous new journal, or perhaps take a look at the myriad of apps to help you better yourself, all for the low low price of a tiny piece of your soul! BUY NOW!

Ohh hark at me, on my high horse already. I apologise, I don’t mean to be so pessimistic but it’s hard to avoid the onslaught of such things, with nary every advert that pops up on every website and in every social media feed proclaiming how you truly are only a 6-step plan away from your new perfection! Sign up now and download our app (only £5.99 per month (billable at a discount of only £70.20 per year!)).

And, of course, I really shouldn’t rant and rave against such things, it’s more than a little hypocritical of me given I’ve already, recently, shared my own resolutions for the year.

I am nothing if not inconsistent.

Yet with all that said and done there does seem to be a subtle shift in the focus of these things, it certainly seems like I’m seeing more goals prompting a focus on mental health, alongside the general view that we need more positivity throughout our lives, and I believe this is very much a good thing.

Regardless of what science tells me (a new year is just another revolution of our little planet around the Sun), it still feels particularly prevalent to focus on messages of love, of self-care, of moderation and tolerance in the month of January as so many people are setting themselves up for new challenges, new goals, new words to live by, and it’s easy to get swept along by the volume of people stating they are trying to change.

So much the better, what does it matter if it’s an arbitrary date change that helps give people a push to try something new? I sincerely hope that if you have made any resolutions this year that you are successful with them, and if you aren’t, I hope that you learn and maybe grow a little because of the experience, just don’t give up, you can try again any time you want!

These days January is no longer only about new gym goers, but is also the haven for those going dry, or vegan (Veganuary) both of which are laudable goals, and one of which I’m already part way into myself.

Last year, around late November, I watched the documentary “The Game Changers”. It’s largely about proving whether or not a plant based diet is a good thing and the bulk of the content focuses on elite athletes (the documentary is also backed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton and others) and how the ‘eat meat to get protein to build muscle’ is a myth.

Now, I know you are all more than capable of googling facts about the documentary, some of which supports the evidence shown, some of which doesn’t, and for the most part it was just an interesting watch. I found myself watching it with a sense that, sure, if you are an elite athlete and that is your life then adjusting to a plant based diet is just one facet of what you do every day so is certainly more achievable (and measurable). For the rest of us mere mortals, the ones who work in offices and don’t exercise twice a day (twice a week?) just how applicable is it?

Those were the thoughts in my head while I watched, after all this is a production backed by people who likely have some vested interest in furthering a particular view?

And then it got to the section with the New York Firefighters.

Here was a group of 40-something men, mostly over weight, who have a high stress, physical jobs. What would eating a plant-based diet do for them? Measurements were taken at the start of a week long test, and again at the end and one set stood out. Each man who had switched to a plant-based diet lowered their blood pressure, fairly dramatically, in one week.

I have high blood pressure. I’ve been on medication for it for about 10 years. One of the drugs will, eventually, start to damage my liver (so I’m on a second drug to counteract that). It’s been my reality for long enough now that I stopped thinking about it and just accept it’s part of who I am and I’ve let my focus be more around losing weight/fat as that’s what the doctor – when he’s not banging on about leptins – keeps telling me would be the best thing to do; lose weight and lower the dosage of the drugs I take to give my liver a chance.

Watching that section of the documentary made me realise that, whilst I’ve never really been one for diets in a ‘lose weight’ sense, I’ve long known how to eat a balanced diet but I’d never considered it as a specific way to tackle my high blood pressure. It really was a light bulb moment for me.

I live with a vegetarian, she’s been one for a while now and she has a lot of working knowledge on the topic, so we discussed it, and what challenges it might throw up and the next day I decided to give it a shot.

That was 6 weeks ago and, despite the festive season of over-indulgence being slap bang in the middle of that period, I’m happy to say I’ve stuck with it throughout.

My weight has fluctuated a bit, mostly because for the first few weeks I was very focussed on what I was eating and also cut out a lot of snacking, no more sneaky KitKats for me, and so it wasn’t a massive surprise that I also lost weight. That said, I wasn’t really doing much more than that, I was still eating loads, and I was starting to feel the benefit, starting to feel less bogged down and sluggish each day.

More importantly my blood pressure has dropped. Because I’m on medication I take my blood pressure every month and, on average over the past year it’s around the 138/96 mark. After four weeks of eating a mostly plant-based diet it had dropped to 116/84. In other words, it’s dropped from being in the upper regions Mild High Blood Pressure range (and remember this is WITH medication), to the mid regions of the High-Normal range. In less than a month.

A few other things on this then.

  1. I don’t think I’d be vegan. I have switched from cows milk to oat or soya milk, but I still eat eggs occasionally, and have butter on toast most weekends. I’ve never been a big cheese eater anyway so the occasional chunk is about all I’d have anyway.

  2. I take a supplement to make sure I’m getting some of the basic vitamins I might be missing (B12 being the main one) but I did that when I was hitting the gym and lifting weights so that’s not a big deal.

  3. No, I’m not a vegetarian. At least I’m not in my head, it’s more that I’m just unlikely to eat meat again any time soon but I’m doing it primarily for health reasons, not because I think meat is murder. It’s very rare that I buy into one thing so utterly and completely that it becomes canon and I don’t see this being any different.

  4. I don’t like bell peppers (the big red/green/orange/yellow ones). If you don’t either, be sure to check what you are buying if the food is already prepared, they get shoved in a dishes they have no place being.

  5. I am exercising as well, mostly dog walks at the moment (physio on my knee commences tomorrow!) but that has been fairly constant through the last few months so I’m putting the lower blood pressure and weight loss down to the change of eating habits.

I understand this is a hot topic for many people – some people oppose meat eating due to the impact that cattle farming has on the environment (that is part of my thinking as well), others follow the meat is murder mantra – but for me it’s a personal choice, and not something I’ll be crowing about, or nagging anyone else about (yes, I realise I’m writing a post about it).

And, for the complete avoidance of doubt, no I was not made vegetarian by my partner, far from it! She still forgets I’m not eating meat at the moment and points out tasty things in the supermarket or on a menu for me, “Ohhh that chorizo dish looks tasty… oh wait!”

I guess the clearest way to state what I’m currently doing is that I’m making a conscientious decision to eat less meat and have a mostly plant-based diet, with the aim of reducing my biologically high blood pressure enough that I can lower my potentially liver damaging medication intake.

But I guess saying, hey I’m vegetarian at the moment, is a bit simpler.


And for those wondering, post title courtesy of The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

Food Health Life Personal Musings

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