Lincoln And Parental Visit

Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) assures me that I went to Lincoln with her over 30 years ago.  My degrading memory apparently doesn’t stretch to that.  So, when I visited Lincoln last weekend, it felt fresh and surprising.

River Witham in Lincoln

River Witham in Lincoln

The cathedral was bigger, taller and more imposing than I had imagined.  The hill up to the cathedral tested my fitness more than I anticipated.  The medieval castle walls, around what is now a rather impressive Victorian prison, were more intact and offered better views than I expected.  It is a lovely city centre built on a hill by people who understood the dangers of flooding and the benefits of a prominent position in low, flat countryside.

Lincoln Cathedral From The Castle Walls

Lincoln Cathedral From The Castle Walls

I was in Lincoln to support my football team – Forest Green Rovers (we played very well but lost narrowly and unluckily to the league leaders).  I took the opportunity to combine a bit of footy away travel with a visit to my parents in Nottingham.  It was great to catch up with them, to check on how they are doing, and to sample a local restaurant with them.

Views of Lincoln, The Castle Walls And The Prison

Views of Lincoln, The Castle Walls And The Prison

We also progressed some recent discussion I have had with them about my family tree.  My Dad has already done a fair amount of work on his side of the family but my Mum’s side is largely blank at the moment and I want to investigate and document that more fully.  So far, all I have done is translate my Dad’s investigations and free text notes into a PowerPoint graphic.  I’m not sure how far I can go but I am thinking that fleshing out the family tree will give me an excuse to revisit my Dad’s roots around Kintbury in rural Berkshire, and my Mum’s on the Isle of Wight.

While I was with my parents I also followed up on my desire – as I mentioned here a few weeks ago following attendance at a couple of funerals – to document my preferences for my, and my parents’, funerals.  As expected, I got some good ideas for classical music selections from my Dad.

I got some very useful pointers on what to think about in a blog comment from an old friend who had had similar recent funeral experiences.  I have used that as a starting point for a simple spreadsheet structure listing things like preferred coffin type, flowers (or not), music, readings, speakers etc.  I will use this to document the things that will help guide organisers of my funeral, and that of my parents, when the time comes.  It sounds morbid to be thinking of this now but I think this is bound to help those who follow at a time when they will be stressed.

Back at home, I have been working increasingly diligently through my day to day to do list.  However, as mentioned last blog post, I have strained something in my side – is it getting better or am I just getting used to it I wonder – and that has restricted me to only light physical activity and little gardening.

I have, though, had sitting-on-the-sofa time to finish reading the Milkman by Anna Burns.  I can see why it won the Booker Prize.  It’s difficult to recommend it since it is so unconventional.  It has page-long paragraphs filled with snatches of dialogue and long sentences that are written as one thinks and talks rather than as one normally writes.  But it is very relevant given the current issues around female abuse, fake news and the potential Brexit threat to the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland.  Ultimately, I enjoyed it a lot and so I do recommend it.

I’m now choosing my next book to read and then heading off on a brief trip to London.  Centrepiece for that is a gig with Middle Son (MS).  Nothing like a bit of Europop to elevate the spirits…..

 

Doing More With Soup

On A Local Walk Recently Recommended By The Sunday Times

Another Beautiful Clear Autumn Day: On A Local Walk (Recently Recommended By The Sunday Times)

Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) is in the second of her twice-annual gap between garden guiding and packing hampers in a warehouse.  We failed to maximise use of this gap to get away on holiday this year.  However, the weather has continued to be great and we have managed some lovely, long, local walks together – usually with rest and relaxation in a pub at the end of them.

Pinbury Park

One Of Our Favourite Local Walks Around Sapperton And Pinbury Park

Despite sustaining these walking expeditions, I’ve slowed down overall as autumn has drawn in and the days have got shorter.  I’m not getting as much done as I did in the summer.  It’s nice that I have the ‘slow down’ option but it doesn’t feel right; indeed, it’s not.  I should be trying to get more done in a shorter daylight period and shifting to tasks that don’t need daylight.

I recall that I went through a similar period or relative sloth last year after the early glow of not having to go to work every day had started to wear off.  Then, I needed to structure my days a bit more and the main response was to set out layered to-do lists – for the long term, the medium term and for the immediate.  Those to-do lists worked then and so I have resurrected them in the last week.  They hadn’t entirely lapsed but I haven’t been maintaining them religiously enough to drive activity.  Now I am, I’m already feeling the benefit and the quiet satisfaction of ticking things off.

To be fair to myself, I do have an excuse for recent relative inactivity.  I strained something deep in my right side while digging up a particularly long-rooted and recalcitrant dock plant in the meadow.  I didn’t think much of it at the time but getting old means longer recovery times and, three weeks on, I’m still struggling with it.

After a couple of weeks I started looking up possible other causes for the nagging ache.  Predictably (for those who know me), I ‘Googled’ liver disease, kidney failure, pancreatic cancer and other disasters.  More rationally, LSW rubbished that as catastrophist, ‘Googled’ side strain and confirmed that such muscle pulls can take 1 to 2 months to repair.  She’s right and avoiding bending and sharp movement is the only treatment.

That has been my excurse for reducing the amount of gardening I have been doing and for stepping up my investment in sitting on the sofa reading fiction.  I have just finished the excellent Before the Fall by Noah Hawley and am now half way through the remarkable Milkman, the Booker Prize Winner by Anna Burns.  Unfortunately even the high quality of the prose is usually insufficient to prevent inadvertent siestas.  It is those little sofa dozes I most want to cut out.

One way of sustaining activity has been to increase cooking of meals.  I have had some unexpected success with some (admittedly straightforward) Yotam Ottolenghi evening meal recipes.  Also, as we have moved from summer to colder weather, I have swapped out the salad lunches which I used to make for LSW (ready for her return from her mornings’ work) for soups.

Dinner Looking Roughly Like It Did In The Recipe Book

Dinner Looking Roughly Like It Did In The Recipe Book

These soups take longer to make than the simple salads I made routinely earlier in the year.  However, there is a greater sense of achievement (and better aromas) in cooking combinations of celeriac, leeks, beetroot, apples and so on than there is in simply slicing lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes into a bowl.  Also, I can make quantities that last us for days so the cooking doesn’t need to be daily.  Anyway, I’ve got the time, vegetable soup fits with our aim to reduce meat consumption (and our impact on the planet), it just feels better that the ingredients are in season, and the warmth of the soup feels in tune with the chillier temperatures outside.

One other achievement not requiring much movement of my side has been that LSW and I were in a Quiz team that won a charity quiz event.  This was at the nearby and beautiful Westonbirt School which I had not been to before.  I had a good time being supportive of other team members who knew far more answers than I, and LSW and I took away a bottle of Prosecco each for our efforts.

Approaching Westonbirt School And Victory In Their Annual Quiz

Approaching Westonbirt School And Victory In Their Annual Charity Quiz

Earlier that same week, LSW had also won her end of season quiz at her place of work.  She is on a roll!  I can’t make our local pub quiz next week (due to a clash with football – Forest Green Rovers are doing well since you ask!) but I expect to hear of more of her quiz team’s success at that.

Hopefully, by then, I will be fully operational and firing on all cylinders again.

2017 Resolution Review

I hope that you had a great Christmas.

I enjoyed the festive period a lot, and probably even more than usual. There was variety – terrific Christmas lunch with family, visits from very old friends, and sunny walks with local, relatively new friends. There was proper Winter weather with quantities of snow we haven’t seen for a few years. Critically, for the first time in a while, we had all three sons with us plus the added dimension of Middle Son’s girlfriend and a great friend of Youngest Son over from Australia. Things were going on a lot of the time but it was relaxed.

Nailsworth In Winter

Nailsworth (My Local Town) In Winter

The snow made the landscape beautiful. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) and I had a lovely walk through it just after Boxing Day with a friend from university (and Best Man at our wedding). His Christmas period visits over the years have often coincided with cold, crisp weather and he wasn’t disappointed this time around. The only down side was the ice which caused us both to fall over like little old men – in my case leaving me with a ricked neck that I am still nursing. Since then, LSW has frequently pointed out the efficacy of actually wearing the ‘Yak Traks’ that aid shoe grip rather than just having them in one’s pocket!

Snowy Cotswolds
Snowy Cotswolds

 

Inevitably perhaps, I ate and drank a lot over the Christmas period. That messed with two of my 2017 New Year resolutions concerning weight loss and the count of no-alcohol days. Before resetting the resolutions for 2018 I have briefly taken stock of how I did in 2017.

Resolution 1: Retire. That was achieved and made 2017 a momentous year for me. It impacted – mainly favourably – my ability to achieve the other resolutions I made a year ago.

Resolution 2: Increase My No-Alcohol Days from 2016 (124 days). I failed on this by 8 days. It is noticeable that the number declined after retirement in July. I used to drink almost exclusively at weekends and, now every day feels like a weekend….. well, it’s harder to maintain discipline.

Resolution 3: Get Below 11 Stone. In practice this meant losing about 10 pounds; I failed. I got close in mid-December but failing on Resolution 2 and overeating during the festive period put paid to success. I feel retirement has allowed more control over what I eat and I am helped by LSW also managing her weight proactively. I can achieve this target in 2018.

Resolution 4: Average 13,500 Steps/Day. This fairly aggressive increase on previous years – as measured on my iPhone – was achieved easily due to my new pattern of daily living post-retirement. My daily average for 2017 was 14,200.

Resolution 5: Read the Daily Newspaper Thoroughly. This was in response to my feeling that my attention span was becoming shorter. I think this had been the result of increasing reliance on the Internet as a way of receiving and digesting news. I felt I was missing out on depth of analysis. Retirement has given me the time to achieve this resolution – although it’s hard to measure the success and impact on my understanding of current affairs.

Resolution 6: Keep Going to Gigs and Cinema. This has been partially achieved in that I have been to lots of gigs before and after retirement. Several recent local ones have been excellent. However, local availability of the sort of cinema I like is very limited now I have retired to the country. I am retreating to boxed sets on catch-up TV and that’s fine for now.

Resolution 7: Read 16 books. Retirement has really helped here and I achieved this with 3 weeks to spare. My most enjoyed book this year was Under Major Domo Minor by Patrick De Witt.

Resolution 8: Buy LSW Flowers Occasionally. This was achieved, although ‘occasionally’ is the operative word here. I promise to do better Dear!

Making A New Friend

Christmas – A Time To Make New Friends

Time to get busy setting resolutions for 2018….. Have a Very Happy New Year!

Music, Reading and Box Set Catch-up

I’m not a musician (at all!) but I have always loved listening contemporary music. For the last decade, I have particularly enjoyed watching live performances, usually in small, intimate venues in London.

I have also always enjoyed reading. During my working life, I have got on best with fiction that can be read in 5 to 10 minute doses just before sleep (do people really read books at a sitting as they claim in some book reviews?)

Additionally, in terms of cultural pursuits, I have always enjoyed going to the cinema and watching TV drama.

Now work is out of the way, I can spend more time on all of these cultural activities.

Reading is something that I have already stepped up. My new year’s resolution of reading more than 16 books in 2018 now seems achievable, despite a slow start to the year pre-retirement. I’m enjoying that pleasure of finishing a good book increasingly frequently. The only problem is that the habit of falling to sleep after a few pages, which used to be fine having gone to bed, is now creating what might charitably be called successive siestas.

Despite those soporific moments, I have recently finished A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain; I would recommend them all. I can’t imagine when I last completed three books in 6 weeks (though admittedly the former was only 150 pages and felt a bit of a lovely cheat).

Having moved from living above Cinema 2 and 3 at the Barbican to a village near Stroud, the options for watching current and relatively high brow film have drastically reduced. LSW and I did see Dunkirk at the Stroud multiplex last week which was fine. However, the cinema there generally only manages kids films and blockbusters.

I’m told there are local independent cinemas I should visit and there are occasional live broadcasts of West End Opera and plays at the multiplex. I will try out all of that in due course but my immediate retreat from arty cinema has been to catch-up on TV drama series.

I particularly like the new wave of continental crime thrillers – will they still be available after Brexit? Most recently, I have been watching I Know Who You Are (Spanish), Black Widow (Dutch), Dicte (Danish) and The Passenger (French) and it was only my predilection for delayed gratification that prevented me ploughing through all of these at an unhealthy rate. With the facilities afforded by catch-up TV, there is an almost unlimited supply of gripping drama.

I miss the London music scene but I am starting to explore the local live music options. More on this next post….