Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

I became a MAMIL in the summer of 2015, and it has been a constant source of exhilaration, camaraderie, calm, and some damn fine cake. However, during all the stuff that happened last year, I stopped riding for a while: in fact, I only rode my bike a handful of times between mid-July and March. I became anxious about riding, about even getting changed to ride. It was too windy, too cold, too wet. I told myself there were good reasons, but in fact I was scared; of being slower, less fit, less strong; of not enjoying it, of never being able to enjoy it again.

Winter miles…

Instead, I devoted myself to the gym, riding the upright indoor bike to at least try and stay fit, get endorphins coursing through my system, feel like I’m doing something. And slowly it became true that winter miles (even in the gym) might make for summer smiles.

Back in the Saddle

I started riding again in March, after what seemed like an interminable winter. The predictably unpredictable Spring weather continued through April even into June, as I rode through freezing hail at Lacock, through a cloudburst up from Wotton under Edge so intense I could barely see the road in front of me. On the other hand, I rode over the old Severn Bridge to Chepstow in glorious sunshine. I pushed myself into tackling new hills; Cowcombe, Hyde, Horsley and Frocester were all achievements I couldn’t have imagined last Christmas.

Severn Bridge Chepstow

All this was gearing up to a charity fundraising challenge I had set myself. In his last weeks Dad was cared for by the fabulous team at the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice near Cheltenham.

And in the end, thanks to my wonderful network of friends, family and indeed a few strangers too, I’ve raised more than £1,500 (plus £320 GiftAid) for the Hospice. This is so much more than I had originally hoped for. Thankyou all.

#Ride4Ryder (Sunday 24th June, 129km, 1,453m)

This was the main target of my training, a long ride of 80 miles that included some daunting Cotswold hills. The day was hot, comfortably over 80º, and I was definitely apprehensive. But my buddy Miles proved the quiet voice of determination and resolve that helped us both get around.  He’d never ridden 70 miles, let alone 80, so for quite a while he was in uncharted territory. Being (even) heavier than me, he was also less tempted to be aggressive on the climbs, and I can only thank him for that.

‘Easy Chris’ … ‘Steady Chris’ … ‘See you at the top’

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice cycling sportive 2018 route

I think this is called back-loaded…

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice Ride 4 Ryder Sportive 2018

I love cycling alone, but I love it more with a mate.

Tale of the Century (Sunday 29th July, 169km, 1,056m)

Miles and I had meant to ride 100 miles last year, but somehow it never happened, so I had always targeted this date as it would have been Dad’s 80th Birthday. The 5 weeks between the Sportive and the end of July had been virtually unbroken sunshine and heatwave. Except that final weekend, when it poured with rain and the wind blew at 20-30mph for much of the 7 hours we spent in the saddle. Miles and I set out in heavy rain, and rode through countless fords flooding Cotswold lanes, avoided fallen tree branches, and ploughed through gusty headwinds for most of the journey home.

Tetbury Oxford Century 100 miles

I focused my charity efforts on these two rides that both had strong connections to my Dad, but it turned out there were two other significant days out that made this summer even more special for me as a MAMIL.

Giro di Garda (Tuesday 21st August, 67km, 1,313m)

Lake Garda Bardolino Cycle 50 miles We spent an idyllic week in Bardolino on Lake Garda in August, and I had planned this route for a day’s bike hire. These are the foothills in the area but they’re many times higher and longer than anything in the Cotswolds, albeit not quite so steep. I was more than nervous as I set out along the beautiful lake shore. After an hour riding it was more than 90º, which was actually more of a problem than the hills. But the views and the downhills were spectacular, and I enjoyed a fabulous lunch of polenta with porcini at the top of the second climb.

 

Misty Mountains (Sunday 10th September, 74km, 1,470m)

Welsh Mountain cycle bwlch rhigos

A friend recommended riding the Bwlch and Rhigos climbs in South Wales as they are longer and steadier than many English hills. The weather was not good: started greay and misty, became downright foggy at the first summit of the Bwlch, and at the foot of the Rhigos it started pouring with rain. 4 miles and a few hundred metres climbed and it was still pouring. As I started descending into the wind I could barely see for water on my glasses and the road was a series of rivers. By the time I got back to the Bwlch summit it had mercifully stopped, but now the visibility was down to less than 25m. Descending was actually terrifying for a few miles.

But eventually I reached the valley and the a gentle 10-mile drop back to Bridgend. This was proper fun. Fast roads, the growing pride in having scaled those peaks in genuinely awful weather, the adrenalin of it all.

Bwlch viewpoint wales

The Bwlch summit: a classic Welsh mountain vista

Rhigos wales mountain viewpoint

Views from the Rhigos not improved by pouring rain

The Velominati Rules are almost infamous among MAMILs. But I’m especially drawn to #9, which definitely applied to my best rides. I’m looking forward to more.

If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Mad Men is one of my favourite TV series, documenting the good/bad old days on Madison Avenue through the 1960s from JFK to **SPOILER ALERT** Coca-Cola teaching the world to sing.

What it also documents is how many ad agencies in the 1960s were kept afloat by Big Tobacco. Don Draper’s agency is frequently over a barrel to the whims of its Lucky Strike clients, and not just by advertising their cigarettes despite the growing health evidence against them. But all that advertising clearly worked, for a while. Almost everyone in the ad agency and their social milieu smoked, a lot, at work and at home, in the bar and in the car.

Who could blame them, when doctors smoked Camel, cowboys smoked Marlboro and your favourite actors sent cartons of Chesterfield as Christmas presents?

doctors camel smoking advert

Cherish your T-Zone. That’s what will go first…

Ronal Reagan Chesterfield cigarette advert

Because cancer is forever, not just for Christmas

With hindsight, it’s almost terrifying how long it took to establish restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes. The first UK study linking smoking and lung cancer was published in 1954, but a TV ban took a further 11 years to take effect, and health warnings on packs another 6 years. 47 years later, it’s still pretty easy to buy ‘death-sticks’. Apparently the Government needs the tax revenue.

Our generation’s tobacco?

More than 10 years ago, Nicholas Carr was already discussing the impact of the worldwide web on human brains in his tremendous book, The Shallows. The immediate access to knowledge about anything and everything, at a moment’s notice, was already starting to shape the way our brain’s memory and attention systems worked. And this was years before the smartphone really put such astonishing power in the palm of our hand.

And so ad spends have morphed out of tobacco into technology; Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Google, Facebook and more. Celebrities talk to their devices instead of gift us cigarettes.

samuel l jackson siri apple iphone advert

In 20 years time, will we look back on this and shudder?

Last week Apple released iOS12, its latest operating system, with a new Screentime feature prominent in its announcements. In short, this is a tool to help users measure and restrict the time they spend on their phones. Apple has included a self-regulating device in its newest products, because it feels it should help people use them less.

I might be wrong, but I Reckon this is Apple getting ahead of the game. Rather than wait years for clinical evidence that excessive mobile phone / social media use can have damaging consequences, they are trying to beat the slow-moving regulators to the punch.

Before the smartphone became ubiquitous my older child (now 16) was bullied through their mobile phone. More recently, our younger child (12) experienced spiteful classmates setting up closed chat groups that excluded her, and created a ‘fake’ avatar account to anonymize herself.

My own experience is that keeping up with constant updates on Twitter can become all-consuming, and often a source of anxiety as the sound of these channels is increasingly angry, extreme and even sinister. They’re an always-on way to remind yourself how shit the world can be. Or they’re packed with irrelevant trivia that dissolves brain cells.

I’m not saying phones are like cigarettes; they don’t kill you if used properly. But I’ve already set Screentime to help me reduce my ‘just having a quick look at…’ time, and I will be encouraging my family to do the same. Right now it’s mid-afternoon and I’ve not opened Facebook or Twitter yet, which (sadly) is saying something.

Maybe I’ll start talking to people more, or writing, or reading, or just doing nothing. Because doing nothing can be better than doing something.

Read Full Post »

It’s not hard to feel a bit shit about stuff sometimes; Trump, Brexit, school bullies, Mrs Brown’s Boys. So with a beaming glow in my heart I’m delighted to express my undimmed faith in the power of people to be amazing, and to do amazing things for other people.

You’re my inspiration…

20 years ago I ran the London Marathon to support Macmillan Cancer Relief, whose wonderful nurses had helped my Mum during her treatment and recovery from breast cancer.
Last month, my cycling buddy Miles and I rode the 30th edition of the Ride 4 Ryder cycling sportive; 80 miles through the Northern Cotswold Hills to support the Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice on the edge of Cheltenham.

This hospice is the only facility in Gloucestershire that provides 24/7 in-patient care, as well as day services and Hospice at Home care. It’s estimated that as many as 4,000 people in Gloucestershire are in need of hospice care, while Leckhampton Court has just 16 in-patient beds. Helping people to have a good, dignified death takes medical expertise, round-the-clock care and huge amounts of compassion and empathy. And all that takes money; in this case £10,000 per day.

Leckhampton Court only receives 32% of its funding from the Government; the rest has to comes from donations, which is why we chose to ride to raise money for the hospice and its team who cared for Miles’ Father-in-Law and my Dad, both of whom spent their last days receiving peerless, compassionate, dignified care.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice Ride 4 Ryder Sportive 2018

Of course this is the start, we’ve not seen the hills yet…

Winter miles make for Summer smiles…

For 5 months up to March I didn’t ride my bike at all on the road – as previous readers might know it’s been a funny old year. I spent many hours over the winter doing strength intervals to simulate hill climbs, cadence drills, sprints and ‘just f***ing pedal HARD’ sessions to drive away the demons and the doubt.

But slowly I rediscovered this hobby I’ve loved so much over the past 3 years. I’ve ridden over 1,000 miles since then and am as fit as I’ve been in ages. I’ve ridden in freezing hail and gale-force winds, in torrential rain and 85° heat.

And it seems to have paid off in that I feel I can ride faster than before with a lower heart rate, that I can get up hills I wouldn’t have dared attempt, and I have become much better at knowing how hard to ride, how much to eat and generally how to reach the end of a ride tired, but not broken.

Setback

A few weeks before the sportive I was cycling into work in Bristol, a 30-mile commute I tackle only occasionally. It was a lovely day and I had made really good time. The last few miles are on a shared cycle / foot path and it’s always busy in the mornings. I was cycling quickly but with care when from a side lane I hadn’t even seen came a cyclist I didn’t even see until we collided. A schoolboy (aged 11-12?) had come out of the lane and not stopped until he hit my front wheel. 5 seconds earlier or later and it would have been a near-miss. One second earlier and I would have smacked into him and it would have been worse for both of us.

The short version is that he was unhurt but his front wheel was knackered. I had a sore hip and elbow for a few days, but needed a new helmet and spent over £200 getting my bike repaired.

Ride 4 Ryder #30

This wasn’t my longest day on the bike, but it was the hilliest, and most of the climbing came in the last 1/3 of the distance.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice cycling sportive 2018 route

I think is called back-loaded…

The first 40km were simply lovely, through beautiful villages on great roads and a great warm-up for what was to come. The first serious climb was Dover’s Hill, a very steep but mercifully not-too-long brute that, had I driven up it beforehand, I would have sworn I’d never be able to complete. On this and the longer Saintbury Hill at 85km I helped myself to keep turning the pedals by remembering and thanking out loud the people who have sponsored me. Your donations really did help me get over those hills. Thank you.

The last 45km were fantastic for Cotswold scenery, but relentlessly unforgiving. But we battled on and were thrilled to arrive at the Hospice with only a few km to ride.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice Ride4Ryder Sportive 2018

Not bad for 75 miles…

The volunteer marshals and all the teams helping on the day were fabulous, positive and encouraging, a tribute to the Hospice and its ethos. It was something to see the building where my Dad spent his last weeks after nearly a year since my last visit. But I couldn’t feel anything but gratitude and pride that I have had the privilege and fortune to ride my bike to raise money for this hospice.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice Ride4Ryder Cycling sportive 2018

The 1st floor windows behind me were Dad’s room.

So thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far; the total is slightly under £1,200, far more than I had originally hoped for. But, to be honest, I’m hoping now for more.

This coming Sunday 29th July would have been my Dad’s 80th Birthday. Miles and I have long talked about riding 100 miles as a target, so to commemorate Dad’s birthday and complete a double-ride, we’re riding from Tetbury to Oxford and back – actually 105 miles by my route, and we would love to raise some more funds for Sue Ryder.

So if you had considered it, or even if you hadn’t, or even if you’ve already donated, how about a little more?!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chrismoodyforleckhamptoncourt

Thank you very much. I’ll let you know how we get on…

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »