How to beat loneliness without actually seeing people

This time last year I was bragging about how much lockdown suited me. I was writing my novel, learning the guitar, doing puzzles and accessing the Hay Festival by Zoom.  I had the whole flat to myself, acres of time, a million things yet to watch, tons of books to catch up on, and all my clients via Zoom so I didn’t even have to keep the place all that tidy.  Smug, is the only word to describe my state of mind last April. Now, though, it’s fair to say [...]

The MyWay Code

We live in a rule-bound world, the last 12 months having demonstrated how quickly we are able to absorb new ones – sidling off the pavement if someone comes the other way, shopping in face masks, not visiting your parents at Christmas, social norms that we’d not have dreamed of a little over a year ago. Some of these rules are applied and others we apply to ourselves.  A Highway Code and a Myway Code. I have been known, when something is taking too long, to feel nearly sick with [...]

How we’ve all heard quite enough about cold water swimming

I was going to write a post called what I have learned from swimming in the sea in winter. Ten short points, nothing particularly original, a bit about endorphins, a bit about doing the thing you think is impossible and possibly a mention of brown fat. Then I saw John O'Farrell’s tweet (gently) mocking ‘yet another’ cold water swimming piece in yesterday’s Guardian, plus a string of like minded comments. So I didn't. I'd write about shame instead; referencing Brené Brown, wondering what shame does to us, how it differs [...]

From FOMO to FOGO

The end of lockdown is just around the corner.  Data permitting (oh yeah?), we’re going to be released in stages, end of March, mid April, mid summer.  Travel companies have started to beg people to book holidays. People are planning their catch up parties.  It’ll be a summer of celebration. Even writing that paragraph has sent a shudder of buzzy anxiety through my system.  Hang on while I take some deep breaths.  Asking around, it seems this feeling is common. There are some obvious reasons for this growing panic: the [...]

A Crash Course in Responsibility

I pranged the car on Saturday, someone went into the back of me. There’s never an excuse for someone going into the back of you, it’s what brake lights were invented for.  That, in the first nano seconds after that horrible crunchy thud, is what raced through my mind. Blame the other guy. By the time I was getting out of the car to inspect the damage, I knew that was wrong.  I was to blame.  It was my fault. By the time me and the other guy were standing [...]

Feel the fear and discuss it anyway

I had my COVID vaccination on Monday.  I wasn't making history, I wasn't doing my bit for Britain, and I certainly didn't feel part of something world beating.  Instead I felt cross, uneasy and anxious, not to mention jolly unwell the following night. I am wary of pharmaceuticals generally, while at the same time recognise, of course, that medical science has changed our lives unrecognisably over the last century.  Mis- and over-use of antibiotics has, as we all know, resulted in serious bug mutation and consequent ineffectiveness of existing treatments; [...]

I can’t be defined by a donkey

One of the ways my daughter made my recent lockdown birthday special was to arrange a surprise breakfast zoom with my sisters; there we all were, croissants, coffee and flowers in three different houses. My sisters had prepared a little game. I had to work out some clues which would lead me to their gifts. The clues related to images, items and icons from my childhood. One of the clues was about my grandparents’ car, another was about push-along donkey, and a third referenced a pair of stilts; all, as [...]

Not drowning but braving

I woke up last Sunday, a mild dose of anxiety making me feel slightly sick – the struggle of lockdown, the crisis in the world and not knowing when it will end.  A dip in the sea, that would do the trick. The high tide was going out.  The water was murky and turbulent; swimmable but with a definite edge and a lot less peaceful than the flat water we enjoyed at the beginning of the month. Normally, I get changed quickly once I’m on the beach, get in, get [...]

Now we are [nearly] six[ty]

I am sixty at the end of this month.  I know lots of people are sixty and some are even older, but it's still ... a bit of a thing. I can’t have a party, which serves me right because I’ve always made a huge fuss about having to have one.  I was going to have a few people round the weekend before; I intended to spend the actual day with my family and I’d planned a holiday with a friend just after.  A perfect triad of low-key celebration, all [...]

How To Not Feel Dread

I am a creature of habit, almost detrimentally so. I never change my running route, I swim at the same time most days, I write my diary, I buy the same things from the supermarket, I have two bicycle circuits. One goes down the big hill then up a short, steep climb to the golf course; the other takes the same roads but the other way around which including a long tough hill on Saddlescombe Road. It’s this second version that I dread, enough to stop me enjoying the entire [...]

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