Happily Imperfect‽ Posts

Work is busy, which is good. I invested in a stand/sit desk and spend most of my day standing which, oddly, seems to keep me focused and productive.

Outside of Work I have a few other things going on AKA “small w work”; I’m finishing a rebuild of a large website which should go live next week. After that, and the usual immediate tweaks and corrections that will ensue after any project go-live, I will shift my focus to the website I’m building for a wonderful small Glasgow (soap) company. And after THAT I’ll shift my focus to another local companies website. Support local and all that. More on those later.

I’m also just coming off a crap week health-wise as I managed to tweak my back and it’s only been the last few days that it feels like I’m getting back to normal (with a sneaky little migraine yesterday too). More stretching needed I think, but not being in pain does mean I can get back out for walks with the dogs and out on my bike.

Away from work, and my new found passion for Sudoku, I’m still reading and acting upon a lot of thoughts and suggestions raised over the past few weeks as Black Lives Matter rightly still resonates across social media. Some of my learnings are echoed in the articles I’ve read (and shared on the column on the right), and some of those are for my own consumption. I’m widening my sources, changing who I follow, and learning as much as I can. It will be a long battle.

Beyond that I know life will be different for me in the coming weeks, month, and years. Parts of this I already knew and is in the future Becca and I have planned, parts of this I’m still learning about, and parts of it I’m still figuring out.

At best I hope to be more mindful of my place in the world, what I consume and where it comes from, how my actions impact others, and how it all impacts me.

It’s part of the reason I’ve not been on social media all that much these last few weeks. It’s not about avoiding what is being posted there, but more about giving myself the distance to lessen the impact and find what I really value. I’m not starting over, nor stripping back, just making sure the time I spend there is positive and worthwhile.

And fundamentally it’s about me finding ways to love myself more as that’s where this all has to start. Maybe 2020 will be the year. It definitely feels that way.

Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA_CXcBp7Rg/

Life

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It’s overwhelming

It’s overwhelming because I’m white

It’s overwhelming watching all these images all the brutality and hatred watching a man kneel on another mans neck until he dies he can’t breathe

It’s overwhelming because I haven’t experienced it first hand

It’s overwhelming because there are so many other forms of hatred to fight but I know that this is the time for this fight

It’s overwhelming because we can’t stop, I can’t drop out, I need to be part of the solution

It’s overwhelming because it’s evolving everyday

It’s overwhelming because traditional media and those that control it are pushing it away using tried and trusted methods to keep their white agenda foremost in the minds of the masses

It’s overwhelming because of the years of systemic conditioning and fascist rhetoric that seems part of our every day now; my privilege easily hides this from my eyes

It’s overwhelming because I feel powerless

It’s overwhelming because my privilege is allowing me to learn about this through reading not by experience

It’s overwhelming because my feelings of being overwhelmed are a privilege that black lives don’t get too choose

I am overwhelmed

But I am working on it

Resources

There is much more to say, so much more to do, but this is where I’m starting. Pushing aside those overwhelming feelings, pushing aside my own guilt at not doing anything before now.

Black Lives Matter.

Life

On the 2nd of June, 1999, I wrote about Sunglasses.

Once I’d written it I opened an HTML page template I had created by hand, pasted the text in, formatted it using the few HTML tags I had available, updated all the site links to include the new post (I had a sidebar back then too), and then I manually uploaded the new page, and all the other pages I had to update, via FTP to my website.

The content hasn’t really improved since then, but the publishing mechanisms sure have.

As I’ve written before, it started as a fascination, a simple way to publish my own little thoughts for the world to see. Given that the world wasn’t all that big – in internet terms – at that time it wasn’t such a big deal and, weirdly, it still isn’t.

I don’t get that many people reading what I write, I never really has, not even during the pre-Twitter boom years when I was the first of a wave of UK bloggers who followed on from the trend-setters in the US. We were few but we were mighty.

And I’m still here, writing nonsense.

And deep down I think I always will be. If for no other reason than it allows me to reflect on my life and how it has changed over that time, and to wonder how it will change in the future.

Here’s to another 21 years? Here’s hoping.

Blogging Life

And lo, it was June and the sun was shining and, all of a sudden, just as the world seemed to be slowly getting itself back on track, America exploded.

Everything else seems somewhat removed from the reality we are living in yet we must continue. And yes, I have more words, thoughts, and emotions about all of this. Soon.

Watched

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

  • Duel – Spielbergs first movie (originally shot for TV) which, while dated, is just wonderfully on edge and eery the entire time.
  • Tales from the Loop – Glorious slow sci-fi set in an everyday town in middle America. Based on art sketches, it’s moving, compelling, beautiful shot. If you liked Arrival, give this a watch.
  • Modern Family – our current go to for post dinner easy TV. Nicely silly, and oddly moving at times.

Read

Listened

  • Radio 2 or one of my many Spotify playlists. It seems I don’t have the headspace for new music right now (I’ve tried).

Wrote

My Favourite Photo(s)

With lockdown measures eased in Scotland, we got up early on the first day we were allowed and took the dogs somewhere ‘different’! Having been limited to walking them in our local neighbourhoods, I think they enjoyed being out in nature again almost as much as we did.


Life

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After school the rush to get home was palpable, mostly for those blissful moments from 4.30 to 6pm when the TV was mine and mine alone. All those childhood programmes I consumed and which still hold a special place in my pop culture heart; Battle of the Planets, Dungeons & Dragons (did those kids ever get home?), Grange Hill, Bananaman, Super Gran, Tony Hart, the list is long.

And every evening, inevitably, along came 6pm and it was time for The News. It was all very serious and boring and for grownups, so I’d take my cue and head to my bedroom to escape.

I did the same yesterday, or at least the 2020 equivalent, and stopped checking social media completely. It’s a tactic I’ve used before and one which I’m starting to use more and more.

Whilst I happily publish to social media, I tend not to post opinions that are singularly mine, preferring to share views and thoughts that I endorse. Beyond that I tend to post things that are silly or funny, things (I think are) thought provoking, or just photos of nice things I’ve seen/cute pics of the dogs.

OK, it’s MOSTLY cute pics of the dogs, shut up.

Yet the current pile-on culture is just so far removed from how I want to act that I find it more and more bewildering and so I turn away from social media more and more often.

So many people are posting – to use the most recent example – about how disgusting and awful and terrible the actions Dominic Cummings took (and I agree). But as the media circus descends, it quickly becomes a tiny echo chamber as more and more people shout and holler and wail, and very quickly it’s no longer news. It’s just noise.

My opinion, posted on Facebook or Twitter, will not change the mind of the people involved.

My opinion, posted on Facebook or Twitter, will not add any more weight to the volume of people calling for action.

My opinion, posted on Facebook or Twitter, just adds to the noise.

And, in this current example, I find myself looking around for the leaders, the voices I expect to hear speaking up about this. Be they Tories supporting or vilifying Mr. Cummings, or anyone in the opposite parties taking a stand, these are the voices I want to listen to. Those voices should be news.

Except they aren’t. Not any more.

With each new generation of politicians comes another swathe of self-interested, self-promoting, egotistical morons. Yes, it’s the system we have but the more often I vote the more I realise the choices are slimmer and slimmer and quickly become one evil over another (but I will still always vote!).

I guess my tolerance for all of that noise is just getting lower and lower and, all took quickly I find it all a bit much. Or perhaps it’s not too quickly at all, perhaps it’s right that I run out of patience and interest sooner than I have in the past, perhaps after spending 20+ years online I’m finally learning to step away when I should.

I strive for a simple happy life, and for the most part I have one that is all those things and more. Away from the screens there is much love and laughter, and I’m more and more content to just enjoy those moments.

So I turn off the news.

I mute the noise.

And maybe tomorrow I will have the desire to turn it back on.

Life

I keep sitting down to write and before I know it the moment has passed, my attention has slipped elsewhere.

Somewhere, between the act of deciding to write about something and the physical machinations that are required to start that process, I lose complete track of what I was going to say, the thoughts flitter from my head unformed and not matter how hard I try I cannot catch nor wrestle their jittery forms into anything coherent. No sentences are rendered, few are even started.

I am reduced to epithets and cliches as I bumble about, trying to capture the myriad emotions and fleeting glimpses of what I can only hope passes for reasoned thought during these seemingly unreasonable times.

This is the umpteenth time, in the past however long, I have sat here and started writing. The previous nonsense has been cast aside, deleted and forgotten already, and I should probably do the same with this but no! I will not be defeated, I will prevail, the Publish button will taunt me no more.

This ennui-etic block (for that’s all this really amounts to, the boredom of enforced routine and all that) is not particularly worrying nor of any weight. Whilst this blog is a mouthpiece for parts of my brain it is not a required entity, it serves little purpose and holds no value to anyone else bar me. Yet it’s been my friend and companion for over 20 years and when that connection breaks then I find myself casting around and finding little of note for me to write about (so I’m now relying, once again, on that old writers trick of writing about not being able to write so as to have something, anything, to write about).

Yes yes we live in difficult times, the world has been turned on its head, and though I am definitely, define-ably, not giving myself a hard time over the paucity of both content and quality here – I gave up on that very quickly – I do still stride to my desk with grand intentions only to have the acting of sitting down and staring at the keys halting all my momentum. It troubles me. A little. A smidge. What am I if not a blogger?

It is a little puzzling though, it’s not like we are doing absolutely nothing during these lockdown days. We are still living our lives and, aside from the aforementioned chocolate raisin incident ohh and lightly stabbing myself the other day, we are both well in body and mind, our spirits remain untarnished and we laugh regularly, both at and with each other.

Yet this block seems to be deeper than it has been before, it’s more than casual procrastination (to which I am prone) and feels more like a stuttering, faltering notion of losing ones way, despite there being ohhh so much to say.

Perhaps that is the problem, with so much on my mind I am lost in the woods. Despite being amidst a common forest of words and thoughts through which there appears to be many new paths, I remain stuck. I find myself venturing down one path for a few steps only to lose my faith and return to the junction to try a different route, only to give up yet again and return moments later, still unsure, still lost, aimless.

Perhaps all these paths lead to the same destination as is usually the case, or perhaps they all lead back here again and there is no way past this? Regardless I find myself less and less inclined to be bothered to find out. I’m quite happy where I am thank you. At least, I think am?

I guess part of this is my own ornery approach at times, pushing back against the waves of productivity battering the shores of my social media and I might well be positively revelling in NOT doing what others are doing. We are not proving sourdough, nor undertaking a lockdown challenge of any sort, and I for one am quite content with the hobbies and past times that I already have and have no need to learn a new language, or take up crotchet.

Thinking on it further, it comes to pass that all of this preposterously ponderous procrastinating has made me realise just how much of my brain is fed all day long by all the tiny moments and thoughts that would normally pepper my day. It could be something overheard on the bus on the way to work, a random comment from a co-worker, an article read on my lunch break, or something seen walking home, they would register somewhere and slowly form into ideas to be borne forth here on this blog, or perhaps in my journal or even on rare occasion be committed to the vaulted tomes of the novel I am continuing to fail to complete.

It seems that, without those additional prompts and nudges, my brain seems to be losing the ability to process things the same way. I’m not reading as many articles as I used to, despite receiving the same email newsletters, and skimming the same online sources as I was even if they too are all noticeably more focused on the current preoccupation than they have been. Yes, try as I might I cannot escape the covid, corona, catastrophe that spills forth from every screen and speaker on a regular basis.

And rightly so I suppose.

It’s just that it’s getting rather tiresome and I find myself irked at yet another mention of government this, or NHS that. It will be weeks until we are clear of this, months before any notional semblance of ‘normal’ is returned, and 2021 before we can all start to properly go back to the things we all enjoyed. And yes the pubs can just bloody well stay shut thanks.

Now, that all sounds churlish so let me be clear. In my opinion, and I’ll let you be the judge of any aperture of humility that these comments may be viewed within, the government fucked up. It wasted time we didn’t have and still seems to be struggling to provide clarity and cohesion to the nations it is supposed to govern. I did not vote for these bumbling, self-interested, loathsome cretins yet they there are on my TV screen, fumbling their way through platitude after platitude whilst thousands of people die. It’s hard not to presume that the underlying thinking is ‘well as long as WE don’t get it, that’ll be ok, now how do we come out of this better off’? And then, of course Boris ‘got it’ yet the attitude appears to be retained.

And so I veer away from the news almost purely to keep my own blood pressure and anxiety down.

I am lucky, I am working from home, in a safe environment and the main contention we have is which local business to support next. Slowly they are re-opening for takeaway/deliveries and we are picking our way through them as best we can. Far better our money goes to a small business.

Social media offers some respite, with lots of sharing of beauty, comedy, and thoughtful posts. Yet even there it is a slippery slope to a place I don’t want to be. From a chuckle at social distancing attempts by neighbours to the calling out of those improvising masks and full body binbag outfits at the supermarket. Such stupidity! Let us mock them mercilessly, and so what if they are utterly terrified by this unseen killer that now lurks among us.

I’ll let you into a secret. I’m terrified too.

I’m 46, overweight and take medication for high blood pressure. The best medical advice I’ve seen puts me in the low-med risk category of being very ill/dying if I catch this. In the first couple of weeks as this pandemic spread I read reports of how it attacked the lungs and, having had a very bad chest infection a few years ago from which I can still vividly recall the wheezing nights I spent wondering if I would suddenly not be able to breathe at all, the thought of catching this virus scares me deeply and vividly.

I am staying home as much as I can, but when out walking it’s very noticeable that some people don’t fully understand the basic concepts of how this virus spreads and I am rendered a scowling, Hyde-esque character, growling as they pass.

But I am healthy, and fit, and the logical parts of my brain kick in with the usual admonishing tones, telling me off and reminding me not to give in to fear, as fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate. I do not want to come out of all of this mentally suffering and full of hatred.

Our glorious NHS is bearing up admirably but against the long and continuing move to privatisation is creaking at the seams. I stand on our verandah and applaud with my neighbours (which is still genuinely a lovely moment in the week) before returning inside to rant about how many lives would’ve been saved if the very government that is slowly killing it would’ve backed and supported the NHS for the greater good. Ahhh but now we venture in conspiracy theory and false news and my boiler runs out of steam for this part of the journey. We are powerless to change things and so we are where, it could be claimed, they want us to be. Under control and in fear. Right?

And yet, and yet, I will social distance and stay indoors.

Ahhh, what a strange dystopia this is, all the control, the military overtones, the disaster unfolding on our doorsteps as an invisible killer randomly picks victims from our communities. It is not what we envisaged I think, having watched disaster movies of various flavours over the years.

But no, I will not succumb to these thoughts. We can’t change how we got here (although by god I wish we could change the people in charge) so all we can do is get through it day by day. Yes, I am actively refusing that line of folly, the what ifs will remain where they are, they are not needed here today!

And, with a passing nod to social media (I suppose) I turn my thoughts forward, I look for the positives and I wonder if I can bring the good things I’ve learned during the past few weeks, and those I’ll learn in the weeks to come, to help shape and mould things differently to make the future better, my future, our future.

Enter Gratitude. If this period of isolation is going to bring anything then, for those lucky enough to be able to process things thus, it will maybe see the emergence of a new found appreciation for the simple things in life, one of which is finding the ability to remember them and be thankful for them.

I am grateful for many things.

My amazing partner, who has spun my world entirely on its axis (in the very best way, who makes me so happy, who supports me, loves me, takes care of me, and sees me for what I am and who I am.

My family, without who I wouldn’t be here. My parents for bringing me up to be the man I am today, my sister for tolerating me and still loving me, my brother-in-law for adoring and loving my sister (and continuing the rich vein of mockery she leaves herself open to) and of course my adorable niece who is growing up a little too fast!

Also my friends who have maintained the same level of sarcastic nonsense throughout, even if there has been a more serious and definite consideration to each others well being.

So yes I have much to be grateful for and I find the more I focus on those things, the quicker my mind casts forward to the future. Not with any grand schemes or plans in mind, but more with an acceptance of the changes times like these naturally bring. It’s odd to think, right now, that these moments we are living through will be, for many, defining moments into which their lives will be split. Pre-Corona/Post-Corona.

Where were you when lockdown began? We will ask in years to come. Who did you spend it with? Did you make sourdough bread too?

Perhaps learning to be thankful for what we already have will be one thing we can take with us, and if we can do that then maybe this, for lives that haven’t been formed and shaped by a world war, or had their trajectory shifted by planes and buildings, will be a way to look to a new future. One of compassion perhaps, one where we don’t immediately think the worst of people, but presume the best. One where we push back against our inner cynics that say that this won’t be possible.

Maybe then we can change things for the better for everyone, get rid of the hateful self-serving government, keep in contact with all those neighbours we see applauding at their front doors and windows, and be more mindful of what we consume.

But maybe I’ve been blinded by focussing my gaze at all the inspiring, positivity that I’m seeing everywhere?

Or maybe my difficulty in seeing much else is the point? For the first time in a long time, this trend towards positivity seems to be everywhere, a noticeable, pervasive trend. It’s understandable given how the world has changed, so dangerously and uncertainty, that people are reaching for something ELSE to focus on, but perhaps, after all this starts to fade away all those posts and words and images full of love and compassion will come to the fore, and the aftermath of this pandemic, alongside the grief, will be one of hope and renewal.

I hope.


Post image courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/gabrielletreanor/ (full image here)

Life

And just like that April is done. How strange to have spent a month with every day following a similar pattern. It’s not been bad, it’s not been good, it’s been odd. We are lucky to have each other, lucky to have the dogs to keep us entertained and give us a focus, and lucky that we both have our health.

A lot of my downtime has been spent consuming, but also reflecting. I’ve written little but meditated, exercised, and started a gratitude journal. Little things, but they are making a difference.

And on we go.

Watched

Amongst a swathe of TV shows, and previously seen movies, here are the new things I watched this month.

  • The Last Dance – Documentary series covering the end of the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls years. Fascinating insider view of the greatest player of all time.
  • Three Identical Strangers – a documentary that just gets more and more intriguing. Will get you right in the feels, in many ways.
  • Minimalism – documentary about minimalism, timely given we are spending so much time surrounded by our stuff.
  • Beastie Boys Story – Told live, in a theatre setting, a remarkable story of a (still) remarkable band.
  • Game of Thrones – a rewatch for me, because Becca hasn’t seen it before.
  • And because we got Disney+
    • Moana
    • Hercules
    • The Jungle Book
    • Oliver & Company

Read

  • Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman – No spoilers but whenever I read two thirds of a book only to have a twist based on the lead character suddenly appear I always feel a bit cheated. That said, imaginative thriller, and despite the oddly stitles dialogue at times it rattles along smartly enough, just leave your disbelief at the door, or better still, burying it in the ground…
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – Whilst somewhat dated in tone, and of language, the eccentric vagaries of a Mr.Fogg are not to be ignored. A calm soul amongst the ravages of travel, across the wonderful continents of the world, it is no less a surprise to discover if he did, or did not, succeed in his challenge!
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – The language may well be dated but perhaps this short read is all the better for it, richly describing the simple enough tale that most of us already know. In fact in reading this for the first time now, will full knowledge of the gruesome twist, it is the prose that becomes the focus.
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Far more than just Mowgli, these stories explore many worlds rich in colour and wild in adventure. Read to explore the story Disney took, and read on for many more tales from the vivid jungle. Glorious.

Started but Won’t Finish
Stories We Never Told by Sonja Yoe – a bit too rambling and didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Listened

Mostly Radio 2, or this playlist I cobbled together from a few different source:

Wrote

  • The Other Side – Wasn’t much writing going on but I was glad I was able to gather my thoughts for this piece.

My Favourite Photo

Life

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I have a long rambling post drafted that I can’t seem to finish, mostly because it’s long and rambling and has no real focus, very much a stream of consciousness style waffling which, rightly, hasn’t been shared with the world.

That post is mostly me trying to capture my thoughts as we enter week whatever of lockdown, it ranges from anger and bemusement at how the government have handled it (the UK government that is, Scotland’s officials seem to be doing a better job of at the very least sounding competent), to stoic acceptance, to the admittance of utter terrifying fear.

But enough of that for now, what I’d like to do instead is reflect on the good things that have come out of this current situation, acknowledge them and see which I might be able to take with me once life approaches whatever the new normal will be.

Part of this is related to the aims I set out at the start of the year and I’ll readily admit that I’ve been subconsciously leaning on these as a way to cope, but given they are things I’ve been aiming to do anyway I’m calling that a win!

There are a few things that have become more of a routine, one of which is reading before I sleep, something I used to do a long time ago but as the wonders of the internet crept into our devices and social media promised endless scrolling, so my consumption of well written and well-considered content has dropped. I’d also like to find more time to read longer articles (the type I current link to if you know where to look) and can see a time they will be part of my weekend routine, something to try out next weekend I think.

Cycling to work is another. We live not far from the River Clyde, and my office isn’t far from it either so there is a nice flat route to work which takes about 20 mins to cycle (I know because I’ve tested the route already). The bus takes about 25-30 mins and will still be an option some days but I’m going to do my best to switch to cycling to work. Easy to say in a week that’s been wall to wall sunshine, but with some wet weather gear I should be fine, and we have showers in the office and secure bike storage so really the question is, what’s been stopping me before now?

I’ve also been writing in my journal most days, and even added in specific entries centred around Gratitude. If I take only one thing out of all this madness, it’s to stop now and then and remind myself of how lucky I am and all the many things I’m grateful for each day.

The other night I watched the documentary Minimalism. It’s a few years old now and most of the spiel I’ve heard and read, even if indirectly, yet I think it was a timely viewing to remind myself that my recent splurges have been driven by a need to sate my boredom and that I’d be better off being better at being bored. So add that one to the list, spend more time being bored and being ok with that. My thinking for this will be to try and further limit my screen time on my phone, it’s the go-to ‘boredom cure’ and so if I can curb that craving then I think that’s a good step forward.

Of course, I’m not naive enough to think all this will just fall into place, but then I think we’ve still got a few months yet of figuring out what the new normal looks like. That said, I know that part of me is a little bit anxious about how these post lockdown days will play out, so having things to focus on is part of a coping mechanism, it’s just that I’d like the mechanism to be a positive one.

And perhaps that’s really what I’m trying to do, trying to find a way to make some sense of the world we live in today and use it as a catalyst for change, use it to bring out more of the me I’ve discovered over the past few weeks.

I’ve learnt that I’m even happier in my own company than I realised. I’ve realised that I miss my family and friends and need to make more of an effort to see them than I have, more of an effort to keep in touch. I’ve noticed that the quiet that has settled over our streets is something I need to seek out more and more, in whatever way I can.

And I’ve realised just how very lucky I am to be where I am right now.

Yes, there are things I want to improve upon but I’m slowly learning to make peace with those and to let them change in their own time.

It’d be easier to dictate a prescriptive view of how I want my life to be in the coming months, yet I think the biggest lesson I’m taking from all of this is just how quickly life can change and how powerless I can be in the midst of all that. Yet if I take each day as it comes, good ones and bad ones, and just let them be whatever they are, just let myself feel whatever I feel within those moments of those days, that’s all I need to do.

Yes, it’s a good step to look ahead and think of positive things to take from times like these, but maybe I’d be better off doing more of what I’ve learned to do simply because I’ve been forced to learn it. Maybe the other side of this, for me at least, is to keep on being present today, and let the future take care of itself.

Life