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Time to Change assert that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year, and half of those people will feel the isolation or perceived shame of their condition is worse than the condition itself.

I was diagnosed with depression on 9th October 2017, but my shame started some time earlier. I know now that my depression built up over many months during which I gradually lost confidence in myself across almost every aspect of my life and I felt certain that others had lost confidence in me.

 

Much more than just a bad day…

I’ve worked long hours in rapidly-changing environments for 25 years. Last year’s professional challenges were no worse than I’d experienced before, except that I responded differently.

  • I felt ground down, chronically exhausted. My mind felt like treacle: I struggled to concentrate, to finish even simple tasks.
  • I could see colleagues working long hours. They seemed to be coping, so what was wrong with me? Was I inefficient, or just not up to it anymore?
  • Some days I was snappy, others I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I was convinced people would notice, but when no one said anything it was merely more ‘proof’ that they couldn’t rely on me and were managing without me.

 

Flight, not fight

No two depressions are alike. It’s an intensely intimate condition, to which our reactions are entirely personal and often irrational.

My feelings of low mood, inadequacy and guilt had little basis in fact, but I believed them. This in turn affected my behaviour in ways that became increasingly self-fulfilling.

I was sure I wasn’t good enough; at my job, as a Dad, as a son. I started avoiding social situations where I might feel vulnerable, even going to the pub or cycling with friends. But while not doing things reduced the immediate anxiety, it only exacerbated my low mood and isolation.

 

Getting there…

My colleagues and the directors at Indicia have been outstanding in their support towards my recovery. I could highlight four key areas:

  • Communication: it really is good to talk. I was consulted about who would be told and what was said to colleagues and clients about my absence. I’ve always known I can speak to colleagues and bosses who will listen and hear me without judgement.
  • Sensitivity: when I returned to the office after 2 weeks away, I was amazed and moved to find my email inbox virtually empty. Someone had thought to remove the hundreds of client project messages, internal announcements and other emails. I was kept away from client emails until we all agreed I could handle it. This made a huge difference.
  • Patience: it took me 3 months since returning to be ‘back’, during which time I was on reduced responsibilities and hours with limited client contact.
  • Flexibility: the variability in how I feel day-to-day has been significant and unpredictable. They have taken this in their stride without me feeling any more guilt than I piled on myself.

 

Ladders and Snakes

Over these last months I’ve often felt that I’m ‘not depressed enough’ or in the ‘right way’. I still sometimes experience huge variability in Good Days and Bad Days, or even volatility in the same morning that it makes me afraid people will lose faith, or that I’ll never be ‘right’ again. It’s as though I have a very full glass, into which something even quite small can make it overflow.

Fortunately, I have learned many things about myself and my depression since October. I know that it’s a selfish disease that can isolate you, often without you realising. So, in my recovery I’ve started to work and live far more consciously in many ways:

  • Setting clearer work priorities: on a daily basis, being aware of what has to be done, and what might be distractions: just getting things done
  • In tandem with that, clearer boundaries between work and home
  • More awareness of, and conscious efforts to have better sleep, exercise, diet
  • A mix of counselling and self-help exploring CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and other techniques
  • Daily Mindfulness, usually 15-30 minutes at lunchtime to (re)focus and understand how I’m feeling. This can be both proactive (training for my brain) or remedial (to give myself some space, reduce anxiety). I recommend it to everyone.
  • Medication

 

Looking Forward

I’m also setting myself a longer-term goal for the months ahead. The Sue Ryder Hospice in Cheltenham cared for my Dad during his last weeks in 2017. It’s the only full-time residential palliative care facility in Gloucestershire and its staff are fantastic.

2018 is the 30th anniversary of their Cycling Sportive, so on Sunday 24th June I will be riding 80 miles from Cheltenham around the Northern Cotswolds to raise money for the hospice. A month later, on Dad’s Birthday, I will complete my first ever 100-mile ride, starting from home in Tetbury. Having had 5 months off the bike over the winter I’m now back in training, which is also helping my recovery.

I’m setting myself a target of raising at least £500, but with your help I could raise much more. Your donations would support me on the roads in training and on the day. If you want to join me in person on either ride, please let me know. Please visit my JustGiving page, and give whatever you can.

Thank you.

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Guidance

This blog almost certainly contains something that someone somewhere will manage to find offensive or at least annoying. To those people I respectfully suggest you lie down in a quiet, dark place for a short while, and think about how you might try to chill out a bit.

Meh indifference

Way back in the 2000s (remember them, eh, kids?!), the smart response to so much content online was meh, like, whatever. It seemed to be a badge of honour, an attitude, that you were, like, so not interested in all this trivial nonsense. You could rise above it. Who needed LOLcatz anyway?

Now Bento, ‘the keyboard cat’ dies and it makes the national news.

The amount of memes and content and reposting and churnalism has overwhelmed us. We’re increasingly incapable of setting our Slow Thinking System 2 to work, rationally processing and analysing the world. Ever-shorter attention spans are driving TL:DR, while ‘intelligent’ algorithms drive us deeper into social and political echo chambers where we only see stuff we already like.

Confirmation bias becomes embedded, debate mutates into violent shouting matches, and the idea of constructive compromise is an outdated weakness.

Anger Inside Out

From meh to outrage

The apathetic shoulder-shrug has long gone, now everything is outrage and offence, hyperbole and superlatives. With no sense of irony, it’s almost impossible to overstate the speed at which the internet can go apesh*t over anything and everything.

In case you’ve not experienced this, allow me to outline the (all too predictable) process.

  • Newspapers splash headlines about ‘fury’ or ‘storm’ as though the nation is up in arms, when in fact they’re simply reposting a few angry tweets or comments from random individuals
  • These headlines spark reactions in others (even if the headline bears little resemblance to the substance in the article). Remember, people aren’t reading the article, just assuming the headline is true
  • Outrage spreads like a wildfire, no one checks the actual facts and ‘an internet storm’ is born. 140 (or even 280) characters is never enough to convey the real nuances or shades of grey
  • The speed with which it spreads seems to validate the outrage through a herd mentality: if so many people are in on this, it must be something…
  • Scepticism or restraint is seized upon as condoning the outrageous behaviour. As President George W Bush made clear more than a decade ago, there is no permissible middle ground

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists

  • And before anyone can draw breath, today’s trending topic of outrage is tomorrow’s ‘seen it, don’t care’. The relentlessness of 24/7 online news, and its ethos that no story is too small or extreme to merit a manipulative headline from which they can sell ad space, means that something else will come along, probably in time for the evening rush hour, or tomorrow’s breakfast news, or lunchtime.

Perhaps the first time I remember this was in 2001, before Social Media even existed, when the hilarious Chris Morris satire “Brass Eye” lampooned sensationalist news stories, often at the expense of MPs and celebrities. Its ‘paedogeddon’ episode about internet paedophiles created a storm among many of the Great and the Good, claiming it to be offensive and calling for it to be banned without having even seen it.

More recently there was Steve Martin’s tweet about Carrie Fisher in the aftermath of her death in December 2016. His attempt to pay tribute to his friend was swamped by moral fury and he removed it within 72 hours.

steve martin carrie fisher tweet december 2016

In the US, Starbucks’ has produced seasonal red cups to replace its usual white & green to celebrate the festive season. They’ve done this for years, such that their release has become a signpost for the season of good will. Until 2015, when the plain red ‘design’ was decried as an ‘attack’ on Christmas, part of the systemic societal ‘persecution’ of Christians and Christianity in the US.

Starbucks Seasonal Red Cups Christmas Festive

I can see a cheapskate cost-reduction that’s pretty offensive, but an attack on Christianity?!

The entertaining and insightful writer Jon Ronson has written extensively about our current culture of offence and shaming. This review of his book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” is terrific, and gets to the heart of things when it discusses

…a scuttling crowd of people who want nothing more in life than to be offended. Offence, for this lot, is not a straightforward emotional response, instinctive and heartfelt. It’s a choice, something they actively seek.

When did we move from offence being a spontaneous and unconscious response to a strategy for life?

 

There might not be too many sportsmen who can unite Piers Morgan, Brian Lara, Gary Lineker and Jeremy Corbyn, but it appears Cyrille Regis can. His tragically early death on Sunday, aged just 59, has led to tributes from all around the globe.

Cyrille Regis Goal Celebration West Bronwich Albion

Big Cyrille was one of my childhood heroes. In an era when most children I knew liked Liverpool (because they won everything), I was a contrarian, a West Brom fan. I loved Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham, Bryan Robson and Derek Statham, Brendan Batson and John Wile and Ally Brown. West Brom played great football, had a great kit and scored blinding goals, and Cyrille was their centre-forward.

At the time, I didn’t really understand about the racism and abuse he and other black players suffered, I just loved the way he played. He was young (barely 20 years old when he joined West Brom), and he seemed to love playing football and scoring goals. Why wouldn’t he be a kid’s idol?

What a player, what a man.

It says something about his calibre as a person that he could play for West Brom, and their arch-rivals in the Midlands – Wolves, Aston Villa and Coventry – and have each club regard him as a superstar, and each club rise to salute him if he ever returned to play against them. Journalist Pat Murphy knows more about sport in the Midlands than most; I commend his tweets and comments unreservedly.

Regis trained as an electrician while playing non-league football as a teenager in the 1970s, but only a few years later he became only the third non-white player to be capped for England (out of more than 950 players at that time). He’s been described as an ‘icon’ in countless tributes today. This NME cover is from the week after Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. The article isn’t about him, but about the general state of football, and they chose Regis, still just 21, in full flight to represent the sport.

That’s an icon.

Cyrille Regis NME cover

How many musicians get on Match of the Day?

Two years ago this week the world was mourning David Bowie and Alan Rickman but I am more sad tonight, because I loved Cyrille Regis, perhaps at a time when not that many people did. I re-enacted his goals with my Subbuteo teams. I created new ones, but they were always absolute belters. And I am sad tonight because we’ve lost one of the Good Guys.

RIP Cyrille.

Despite all the other stuff that 2017 has thrown at us (including more in the last few days, sigh), I can say I have seen some bloody good films this year. As our children are growing up, we’re seeing a more varied range of films on the big screen and at home, so for the first time this list of my favourites for the year is purely based on those I saw in the cinema (and a summary of the best I saw at home too…)

Buckle up…

10. La La Land
This came with an inordinate amount of hype that it almost lived up to. There are fabulous scenes that are acts of pure cinematic joy, but there’s a lot of bitter alongside the sweet. And the ending is terrific simply because it’s not that fairytale-dream-come-true.

9. Goodbye Christopher Robin
Perhaps because I saw this as I was becoming more aware of my own mental health issues, but this resonated so strongly with me. I’ve loved pretty much everything about Winnie the Pooh and his friends forever, and the dramatisation of their creation by a shell-shocked A.A.Milne and his son was touching and extremely moving. Domnhall Gleeson is fantastic as Milne, at times broken, at times putting his game face on to meet society’s expectations. Sometimes his actions are heartbreaking to our contemporary eyes, but the film sympathetically shows his suffering too. Margot Robbie is great at making an unsympathetic character very real, while Will Tilston and Alex Lawther portray Christopher Robin with amazing tenderness and depth, and Kelly MacDonald is superb as Christopher’s Nannie.

8. Thor: Ragnarok
This is a blast from start to finish. By a street it’s the funniest superhero film, and all of it in a good way. Taika Waititi is one of my discoveries of the year, and I love his sense of humour, both as a director and voice actor of the stone-man Korg. It’s full of great lines, features Hulk brilliantly, and introduces Valkyrie as a strong new female character. I could see this again in an instant, not something I can recall thinking about other Marvel films (except one – see later)…

7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos makes unusual films and this is no exception. The subject matter is one thing, but the style and tone is virtually unique to him. Dialogue is clipped and often monotone, there’s a sense of underlying dread and darkness in almost every scene, and yet it’s also shot through with jet-black humour, often surreal and disturbing in its own right.

The revelation here is Barry Keoghan as Martin, a young man who infiltrates the seemingly nuclear family of Colin Farrell’s heart surgeon and Nicole Kidman. From the start there’s something unnerving, almost other-worldly about him, and it gets worse from there. He’s utterly compelling, and I found the whole thing almost hypnotic.

Killing of a Sacred Deer barry keoghan martin

You should see him eating spaghetti, that’s REALLY unsettling…

6. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 ryan gosling

Another release that almost out-hyped itself, this is an astonishing piece of visual creativity. So many frames a so beautiful. I said about Skyfall that Roger Deakins should win the Cinematography Oscar, but this is an even stronger case to celebrate his talents.

I’ve read and heard so much about this complex film to go into the details. I did find it a bit over-long; its deliberate pace and sparse dialogue means you really feel the time passing. This is a fantastic work of art and it tackles big and weighty themes mostly successfully, but I left the cinema thinking I needed to see it again to really process it. I’m sure that will happen sometime soon, but it left me somewhat unfulfilled (unlike my Top 5…)

5. Baby Driver
I love Edgar Wright’s films, and this may just be my new favourite. He’s taken a nothing-very-original plot about a getaway driver doing just one more job for the Controlling Gang Boss so he can escape, and turned it into a breathtaking, thrilling musical, choreographing jaw-dropping car chases, often pretty strong violence and more mundane things besides to a fabulous playlist of songs from more than 50 years of music. The details are stunning, the overall effect is uplifting and exciting. For its familiar themes and characters, it’s not like anything I’ve seen in ages. Loved it.

4. Get Out

Get Out Daniel Kaluuya

It takes something to out-unsettle The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but Jordan Peele’s stunning debut manages it, being both much funnier and more grisly at the same time. Daniel Kaluuya is near-perfect as Chris, the charming and handsome boyfriend of Rose. She wants to take him home to meet her family, and it gets weirder from there pretty quickly. Unpacking, laying bare and then stomping all over White Liberals’ underlying racism, Get Out reveals its secrets in stages. It cracks along at a real pace, but the full story only becomes clear late on, and you’re kept on the edge of your seat until the final seconds.

3. Paddington 2
This is a joy: nothing much more to say, really. It creates a fantasy version of London that’s just close enough to reality for us to easily suspend our disbelief that a CGI talking bear from Peru is at the heart of this brilliant film. There’s laughs throughout (surely Hugh Grant’s career high?!), a prison sequence that is a straight-out homage to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, and real jeopardy that reminded me of Toy Story 3. And any film that can make me think of those two greats has got to be good.

Grand Budapest hotel Prison Ralph Fiennes

Paddington 2 prison brendan gleeson

2. The Death of Stalin
The most scabrous comedy I’ve seen in ages, mostly because it centres on truly horrible people who have done and continue to do truly terrible things, who suffer from the most horrific paranoia, yet continue to utter belly-laugh funny lines. The ensemble cast is amazing and it never shies away from the atrocities committed in the name of Soviet Communism.
The Death of Stalin

1. Dunkirk
We saw this on my Dad’s 79th Birthday, just a couple of weeks before he died. We’d taken him out to lunch, but the Hospice staff said he wasn’t really well enough to see a film, which we had hoped he might be. So after leaving him to rest, we went to the iMax screen in Cheltenham, the first film I’ve seen on such a screen.

It’s such an overwhelming experience that I don’t believe words can fully describe it. Again there’s a sparse script that forces your attention to the visuals and the details. It’s intense, thrilling, human, terrifying and sobering.

21DUNKIRK-master768

Perhaps most strikingly compared to so many films these days, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It tells a story (here driven by the experience rather than plot or characters) and gets itself gone in barely 100 minutes (almost an hour shorter than Blade Runner 2049). It truly needs to be seen, and I hope it wins all sorts of awards. I want more film-makers and films like this to be rewarded.

Dunkirk Beach

Before I go…

I saw some pretty terrific films at home this year, so in no particular order, consider this list a recommendation…

x+y: a sensitive, human, moving depiction of teenagers some of whom happen to be on the Autism Spectrum
What We Do in the Shadows: brilliantly funny mockumentary by and starring Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi about the adventures of a group of house-sharing vampires.
Their Finest: another great WW2 drama, proper characters, lovely stuff
Nightcrawler: wow. Jake Gyllenhaal goes full-on as the citizen-journalist in this chilling companion piece to Network…
Whiplash: the film Damian Chazelle directed before La La Land. IMO it’s better, virtually a horror film about being the best you can be, with an outstanding villain and tremendous Big Band music.
It Follows: a very unsettling horror film about sex and the way it can really f**k you up.
Hidden Figures: fabulous telling of a story that needs to  be more widely known.
Train to Busan: a brilliant, kinetic, heart-stopping zombie thriller from Korea. Amazing.
The Babadook: another great horror film, this one a dissection of grief and the dismantling of a young mother’s psyche.
John Wick: I love me a good Keanu Reeves film, and this is a VERY good Keanu Reeves film. Brutal, simple, takes no prisoners.

Spiderman – Homecoming: Ferris Bueller with suits & powers. Tom Holland is great as the 19th Spider-Man since the Millennium and Michael Keaton a top villain. Loved this.

Let me count (many, but not all of) the ways I have felt anxious, scared, overwhelmed in the last week or so.

  • Driving to visit Mum to help her getting settled in her new house. All the way there I knew that I’d get within 300m of our family home, but then have to turn right instead of going straight on
  • Having left the office early to do the school pick-up, checking my email at home and seeing 5 emails about the meeting in the morning
  • In Tesco to buy milk and bacon for Saturday breakfast, Mariah Carey bellowing over the speakers about what or whom she wants for Christmas
  • Trying to book a train home from London after an evening event with clients (avoiding engineering works and replacement bus services)
  • Not wanting to go out in the snow where our children were excited, making snowmen
  • Being in a meeting room with 25 other people all making small talk
  • Thinking about Christmas presents, shopping, food shopping, logistics
  • Seeing old colleagues for the first time in ages and how to respond when they smile and ask “how are you”?
  • When Rachel is upset about her own Mum’s health and stressed with too many things going on at once (I feel it’s partly my fault for not supporting her more)
  • Catastrophising about when my employers might start getting impatient about how long it’s I’m taking to recover and be back at full responsibilities. In truth, they’ve been brilliant, but that doesn’t stop the feelings
  • Doing a Mindfulness meditation that’s supposed to help me feel better, but I don’t
  • Being at that client event, 20-odd people sat around a massive table; eating, drinking, laughing, talking
  • Leaving that event early, hoping no one notices or calls out after me
  • While Rachel was downloading the details of everything she’s been dealing with in terms of family logistics, the electrical, decorating and plumbing work we’ve had done and whatever else (as well as doing her job in the last week of school term)
  • When someone asks me what I’m up to this weekend

I’ve had good days. For most of the time on most days I’m OK, but these things keep coming through, and they’re often pretty intense.

I’m trying to accept them, not to fight or resist them.
I’m trying not to retreat into my Safe Place where I just watch films or listen to music or podcasts on my own.
I’m trying to take things one day at a time, to be present in the moment.
I’m trying not to feel ashamed that I’m not coping with ‘life’, that everyone else seems to cope with reasonably well.
I’m trying to do some sort of exercise.
I’m trying not to blame myself for being scared, thinking and feeling things that objectively aren’t true.
I’m trying to talk to friends.
I’m trying not to feel guilty about how my colleagues have to cover for me, how I’m not getting better sooner.
I’m trying to be, feel and act positive(ly).
I’m trying not to judge myself.

…Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged…

Ray Lamontagne – Empty

My parents moved into my childhood home when I was 5, in 1974. I only remember anywhere else from photos: Sunny Cottage was where I grew up. Earlier this week Mum finally moved out, downsizing to a smaller place barely a few hundred yards away. And so our home is no longer home.

In fact Mum has been keen to move out for years, but for a long time Dad resisted. The big garden was his pride and joy, filled with densely planted flower borders, fruit bushes and trees, carefully tended vegetable beds and a greenhouse loaded with tomatoes and cucumbers. Eventually it became too much and it was great that, a few months ago, they chose the new smaller house together before he died.

Sunny Cottage

Instead of mourning this hugely significant and symbolic change, I instead hope to reflect a handful of the positive times, memories and experiences I can recall from my many years in Sunny Cottage.

The original cottage is the section to the right of the white porch and is over 250 years old. The middle of the three windows is the original front door. This was our lounge, the heart of our home. Here’s where I played; downfall and computer battleships when they were the latest thing, creating Space Lego crafts and space stations. Here’s where Dad taught me to lay and light and maintain a real fire in our beautiful fireplace, where we toasted bread on a Sunday evening. Here’s where I made countless tape-to-tape compilations on the Technics stack system, first watched Not The Nine O’Clock News, The Young Ones and Blackadder, where I spent entire Saturdays watching Swap Shop in the morning then Grandstand all afternoon…

Fireplace

The fireplace earlier this year, when we no longer had real fires…

Upstairs from the lounge on the far right was my room. The stairs and corridor to reach it are narrow, so when we moved in apparently my bed had to be hoisted in through the window. When we helped Mum and Dad earlier this year to start the clearing-out process, the bed left the house via the same window.

My room, where I listened to Radio Luxembourg late at night, face pressed against the speaker, sound as loud as I dared. So many times I woke up with the corner of the radio digging into my cheek, batteries dead or dying. Here’s where I practised French Horn, created worlds during my Dungeons & Dragons phase, revised for exams, plotted countless visions of a future I was actually clueless about…

Height Chart Cupboard under the stairs

As Mum prepared to move out, she traced out the inside of the door to the cupboard under the stairs. This is where we would periodically stand, shoes off, flat on the floor and she would track our height (I’m on the right, then my brother Mike, then my daughters). The first measurements here were taken in 1979, the last just last week. Now our younger daughter is 12, it turns out she’s the tallest of all of us at this age, while my brother is the (ahem) least tall…

For me the best thing about our house was the garden. It’s sprawling, with countless opportunities for imaginative play. We’d play football against the Cotswold Stone Wall, cricket, frisbee, boules, mini golf, anything – even using plant pots and bamboo canes to create obstacle courses for amazing Spacehopper races (look it up!)…

I remember trying to be Ian Botham in 1981; hitting the ball over the fence into the (main) road meant ‘Six-and-out’ and you had to go and retrieve it. We often had so many apples that we’d use the fallers for smashing around with the cricket bat, spraying pieces everywhere.

Before the path around the house was gravelled it was paved, which made it a great race track. The lane alongside the property went up into a field of allotments (long since developed into houses where Mum now lives). We would ride our bikes up the lane into the field, then come screaming back down the hill and skid spectacularly in the dusty grit at the bottom. We’d laugh and do it again, and again.

Garden Frisbee

Garden Frisbee, 1989, post-interrailing holiday

Rachel and I celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary in the garden in a joint party for Dad’s 70th Birthday. Next year we’ll reach 20 years and he would have been 80, and we’ll have to celebrate and commemorate elsewhere. But nothing can diminish or extinguish the sunshine I’ll always carry from our Sunny Cottage home.

A recent thing that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook has been the 7-day Black & White Challenge: post one photo a day for a week that reflects your life. Photos should contain no people and carry no captions or explanation. And like the best (sic) memes, you’re encouraged to challenge another person to take the challenge each day. 7 times the fun!

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is hardly a challenge, and apparently it’s caused far more ranting on social media than I’d wish for from a civilised society in 2017. But never mind that, I took part and enjoyed it. But why should I let the pictures speak for themselves when I can speak for them?

Birthday Cake
The first day of my challenge happened to be Eleanor’s 12th Birthday, so there was cake. She’s an avid baker and indeed she made this red velvet cake herself, and the icing, and iced it!

Black and White Challenge 2017 Birthday Cake

Whiskers
We adopted Whiskers on 1st July 2016, almost on a whim. We knew the family of his elderly owner, but she had to go into residential care, so he needed a new home. We went round to meet him and he was so immediately friendly that we took him there and then. He’s 9 years old, adorable and adoring, he craves and loves attention. I can scarcely remember a time without him.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Whiskers Cat

Bedside Table
These are a few of my favourite and least favourite things, some of which remind me of my mortality every day. Is it a cheat to have these pictures of Rachel, Jamie and Eleanor? I love (not in the same way, obviously) cinema, films and Empire magazine. The Handmaid’s Tale is my current much-overdue reading material. We’ve been watching the stunning TV adaptation, and in fact experiencing the two simultaneously has in fact enhanced my appreciation and admiration for both. A rare feat.

I’m less keen on needing two pairs of glasses now, and two different daily eyedrops to keep my glaucoma under control. Nor am I thrilled about the Citalopram tablets, but after 6 weeks, I genuinely think they’re beginning to make a difference.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Bedside Table

Sibelius
This coming Saturday the Stroud Symphony Orchestra is playing Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony. It could prove to be an emotional evening, as it’s the first concert I’ll have played since Dad died in August. It will be something not to have him in the audience, as he (and usually Mum too) came to virtually every concert I’ve played in the last 20 years. Sibelius is one of our shared favourite composers, and this perhaps his finest symphony. The epic, triumphant final movement might be tough to play without tears.

Black and White Challenge 2017 French Horn Orchestra Rehearsal Sibelius 2nd Symphony

Headspace
Rachel has been a practitioner and advocate for mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion for a couple of years, especially after she took a course locally with Linda Thomas. I’m using the Headspace app (free for a 10-day basic trial, paid-for after that, packed with loads of good stuff). Just taking time out, focusing on my breathing and how I’m actually physically feeling, not suppressing thoughts, just noticing them and letting them pass on by without beating myself up; observing, not judging. It’s worth a try…

Black and White Challenge 2017 Headspace Mindfulness App

Map
I’ve loved maps since I was a child watching my parents navigate our way through France on holiday, and closer to home. I love OS maps and their symbols, contour lines and clarity. This is centred on Tetbury and barely a day goes by without me pausing to reflect on how much I love the Cotswolds. I’ve planned many bike rides on this. Strava is great, but it’s not everything.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Ordnance Survey Map Tetbury Cotswolds

Clock
My last picture was taken on Wednesday, a Bad Day. I’d been working at home but it hadn’t gone well. After a poor night’s sleep I was down, distracted and dismayed all day. Sunday and Tuesday had both been Better Days, but Wednesday certainly wasn’t. By the time I needed to go and do the school run, I felt like I’d achieved virtually nothing. The clock ticked on and I felt lousy. The volatility and seeming randomness of what can make for a Good or Not Good day is almost debilitating.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Kitchen Clock Cornish Blue

But today I’ve genuinely tried to be present, in the moment. I’ve not thought about next week or next month or should I go to that meeting or what about Christmas Shopping? And it has felt productive. Laundry, cooking food, writing this, doing yoga, going to the gym. It might not seem much, but it’s been a Good Day.