The Old Songs :: Two

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Okay, I’m back at a PC: I took a tablet with me across the weekend, but there was simply not enough time to write. Honestly, the last three days have been more packed than has been the case for MONTHS… and I want to make sure I get it all recorded before memories fade. Therefore, let us start with Friday night, and I’ll detail Saturday and Sunday starting next week.

Dinner: Prawns, courgette fries BOOM

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

This time, we left early as last year’s driving around in the dark in a strange place was, to put it mildly, quite stressful. Once the Hotel was found and we’d checked in, the next task was to find somewhere to eat. Having missed dinner, we were directed by hotel Staff to The Old Dog at Ashbourne, and dinner was simplicity and brilliance all rolled into a small, perfectly formed package. Mr Alt took a burger and I went healthy, until I ordered a pint of Rhubarb Cider and everything went downhill very fast. It was, more or less, like drinking highly alcoholic cordial, and there could have been many, MANY glasses bought. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, because the plan for Saturday morning was to cycle to the event.

Thanks to the wonderful way the railways were fairly savagely shut down back in the 1960’s [see Beeching’s Cuts] there are a lot of cycle paths around the Derbyshire Peak District, one of which is conveniently located at the back where we were staying, effectively providing a direct route to Eroica’s doorstep. Nine and a bit miles is more distance than I’ve taken on in any form since the operation, so I’ll admit being nervous, and that’s probably why not too much got drunk on Friday night. My bike was bought especially for the occasion: a Nigel Dean World Tour (circa 1982) which is now, I suspect, going to get a complete overhaul, and we were up bright and early on Saturday morning to do the run to the event.

You can have those stories tomorrow, after I’ve had a much needed night’s sleep in my own bed…

Save Me

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I’ve been thinking about the sonographer yesterday probably more than I should, trying to work out what it was I sensed from him, and there’s one word I keep coming back to: irritation. This is one of those moments where I wish I’d had someone else with me, so I could check if I read the whole thing right or not, because inevitably one of my failings is grasping intent from strangers. I’m hoping what I sense was annoyance, that a perfectly healthy woman was wasting his time with a set of scans that showed that I have no infection, I’m completely fine and don’t need surgery. That’s my hope, that when the GP sits down with me next week and looks at the ultrasounds there’ll be nothing except the understanding I have the stones, but as of right now they’re causing me no discomfort or issue whatsoever, and we can all go back to life before all this stupid happened.

Of course, there’s also a part of me that is worrying he saw something horrible but because he’s not a medical professional, that isn’t something for him to pass on.

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Whatever happens, I’m in no pain at all right now. This is the best I’ve felt for close to six months, and in terms of fitness and energy, pushing 20k steps yesterday would not have been possible were my body not doing the business. I’m trying really hard not to think about what might happen, and have reconciled myself to the surgery option should it be required, but then I have to think about the sense of sticking me under the knife if I’m feeling perfectly fine, and can continue to ensure I never get a repeat of what happened by eating sensibly going forward. I’m not a doctor, after all, but it occurs to me that considering the current strains on resources, and assuming I have no issues with my health right now, what happens in a situation such as this. Do you assume it will happen again and plan regardless, or is it left to me as the patient to make the choice, I wonder?

I’ve never been in this situation before, so I have no idea.

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I’ve taken a day off exercise. PT is normally scheduled for tomorrow, and I’m back on focus towards losing the last of my excess weight. It’s also May 1st and that means it will be a month before I effectively become totally self-employed. It is a bit scary, all told, what is coming up however has got me more excited than anything for several years. Here is the opportunity to sell myself effectively, based purely on my ability to create content.

I hope I can encourage people to take the chance.

Good Night

Something interesting happened to my Fitbit in the week, which I think is worth discussing this morning.

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My Blaze now utilises its own heart rate monitor to show me what kind of sleep I’m getting. There’s been the ability for a while to ‘track’ how long you sleep using the internal accelerometer, but many people challenge the validity of the results, to the point of taking the company to court over claims of exactly what happens to your body in bed. Now, knowing that heart rate varies when asleep it is only logical that someone would put the two separate sides of the wearable equation together. Sadly, this is only available from this week, there is no means to retroactively judge the quality of rest based on what I know were historical factors. However, what I can do is begin to understand what makes a good night based on what has come before.

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This was last night, and the first thing I can tell you from this is when I woke up at just gone 2am I genuinely believed I’d woken up at 5am. That is the longest block of uninterrupted sleep I’ve managed for close to a week, so it makes sense that my body would react in that way. If I understand the science correctly, I can be awake and not aware of it as such (which is the blip past 3am) and then… well, this is the most interesting part of all, at least for me. I woke at 6.15 because I have an issue with a trapped ulnar nerve. Once awake, something happened that I know I’m capable of creating under certain circumstances: I can direct myself into a dream state of my choosing. Amazingly the Fitbit seems to have picked this up, and so in future I’m going to check my sleep records to ascertain whether I can do this when desired.

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This change is, I have to say, welcome if it is proven to be both consistent and accurate: anyone with a tracker will tell you that that is as much to do with the device’s individual quirks as it is those of the wearer. Some days it is impossible for me to get a consistent rate from a wrist sensor and I have to return to a chest strap to have any idea of how well (or otherwise) exercise is performing. When you grasp the restrictive nature of such devices, and the variance between, then you remember that any such ‘research’ has to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, I can attest that looking at last night’s record does correlate with how I feel this morning, and what I remember of the night before. Bearing those factors in mind I can see this as being a useful tool going forward, especially as I can corroborate what feels like a good or bad night with the watch’s recording of data.

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This is an interesting development, but whether it is welcome or not? We will see. It certainly shows that we’re seeing an evolution of the marketplace in terms of features, especially now as my Fitbit Phone app will look at my recorded activity and then offer me tailored videos to promote exercise based on habit. I’m not sure where else there is to go after this either, especially with mounting concerns over who will have access to your personal data in the future.

If nothing else, these will make lovely headers for the Blog.

Don’t Sweat the Technique

I have a very bad short-term memory. It’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember (badum-tish) and what this leads to is a fair amount of repetition in daily life. I’m also a great sufferer of inertia, that my brain can get caught in cycles of ‘I’ll do that in a minute’ and it never happens. It is why, more and more, I am pushing out of those established comfort zones into places where I’m forced to react more and function less. I’ve also come to the important conclusion in the last few weeks that, like it or not, a lot of this stuff has to happen alone, without either reassurance or praise. In fact, as I discovered yesterday, sometimes most of what happens is for my own benefit and nobody else’s.

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My husband is not a regular reader of my posts online. Many of the people I call friends don’t read them either, finding me too prolific to keep up with. I also had to chuckle this morning as it transpires someone whom I enjoy interacting with a lot thought they’d muted me yesterday when instead they’d unfollowed. This was one of those moments where me asking the question out loud bought up the mistake and this morning, all is well. However, as I am well aware why this happened, it gives pause for thought about what makes a solid online relationship work to begin with, and undoubtedly that has a lot to do with give and take. I learnt an important lesson about this person yesterday, completely by accident, and I’m very glad I did. My feed would be less than it is without Simon in it, but the fact I prompted him to mute is a lesson learnt.

Sometimes, you have to stand alone for the things you believe in.

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I said a lot of stuff yesterday that caused certain people issue, who then left my feed as a result. However, I’m still convinced what I said was fair, and I wouldn’t go back on anything that transpired. I wrote a post for my paid job yesterday on how my favourite MMO isn’t a place to go hide in when things get tough. If you want to do anything properly, in my head, there has to be a notion of effort inserted, and that can often come into direct conflict with other players notion of what is acceptable application and what isn’t. The next two years for the UK and anyone who never asked to exit the EU will be, at certain points pretty difficult to live with but I’m sure as Hell not about to bury my head in the sand or in a game in order to pretend difficult things are happening. For some however, that’s the least of their issues, and although I’m prepared to accommodate all such opinion, that isn’t the place where I live.

Then comes the notion of whether making a noise is worthwhile.

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What bothered me most yesterday, and this doesn’t go away, is how entitlement has become a badge of honour for some when once it was selflessness and application that mattered more. The needs of the one constantly outweigh the many, and more and more people would rather play alone than participate in group activity because, they say, of the toxic nature of the random gaming player. However, playing alone is, especially in group-based content, the very definition of toxic behaviour. Most simply wish to avoid ‘drama’ online but honestly, it is often only through conflict that we discover the true meaning of peace. I really don’t use social media to start fights but honestly, sometimes, the arrogance and narrow mindedness of some people is staggering. It is as if, in effect, they are the only person that matters, and that’s just so wrong on so many levels that it beggars belief.

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I’ve seen a number of personalities of late tweet out messages from fans which ask them to stop talking politics and just go back to being mindless distractions from daily life, and a reassuring number reply that actually, that’s not going to happen. Before the world went to shit and all we had to argue about were cat memes, it was okay to not worry about all this stuff ‘in public’ but now, everything has changed. Those public figures who show me they can think outside of their basic needs are undoubtedly heroes. This is the mindset I feel everyone should aspire to, but then comes the reality check. No, I can’t fix everything and NO you can’t make some people understand, however hard you try. If everybody thought the same, life would not be as rich and varied as it undoubtedly is. Sure, I can teach my kids the value of dedication and application but it matters just as more understanding how to do nothing and to goof off.

Balance is where its at, and maybe yesterday I worried a bit too much about being ‘right’, which in its own way makes me as bad as the people I often belittle. In the end, even when Life the MMO requires you to interact, you do have to learn the value of solo play. Early morning, late night, on a treadmill or at a keyboard, I must be able to be a decent self-arbiter. These are the moments where what matters most is not to be right but open, to other people’s reactions and how that makes you feel, to decide what matters most without blindly sticking to your path. Nobody said this would be easy, either, but the analysis is well worth potential discomfort. Learning to be comfortable alone is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learnt, with being confident in my own judgement a pretty close second.

Both things however have been well worth the effort expended.

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Rupert Murdoch’s been around a long time. He’s a shrewd businessman and his media empire is, like it or not, as much a part of my ongoing existence as the three times weekly milk delivery and today’s trip to the supermarket. However, I don’t have to like that, and I am now especially dismayed that of all the people that could have been picked to speak on a major US network behalf of London, his organisation decided to choose the woman who, as we have spoken of before in this Parish, is hardly an ambassador for anything. In the interests of balance therefore, and because I hold a public platform, let me put a few things straight.

Some people MIGHT be cowed, but many others are defiant, confident and reassured at the actions of both the Police, NHS and counter-terrorism services. Many people believe that Tobias Ellwood (born in the USA) is an absolute hero, and hope that if we were the one stabbed in a public place, someone as selfless and brilliant as him would be the person who would come to our rescue. However shoddy and underhand Teresa May might have been in Prime Minister’s Question Time mere hours previously, she did a better job of sounding like she was in charge than Cameron ever did in his entire tenure, and her speeches both last night and this morning have a genuine ring of determination. Yeah, she could be a credible actress, but maybe giving her the benefit of the doubt at this moment is acceptable.

Admittedly, there could be those who are afraid this morning too, but not of terrorism. The guy who did this didn’t check his laptop into the hold of a flight from the Middle East to get here. This isn’t someone who appeared out of left field either: the security services knew who he was. This wasn’t terrorism so much as opportunism from someone who will now be remembered for years to come as the man who killed a policeman in the Houses of Parliament. As far as making a name for yourself goes, that’s a pretty terminal approach. PC Keith Palmer was 48, slightly older than my brother. He’d been an officer for 15 years and was part of the Metropolitan Police’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command. Palmer and Ellwood will be the lasting takeaway for me in all of this: two heroes, in differing guises, who should never have had to have suffered any of what they have and now will as a result of another British born man’s actions.

Oh, and I’m absolutely determined, galvanised and totally united this morning, over quite a few issues. People like Ms Hopkins don’t ever speak for me, at any point ever. Networks like Fox News in the US run sensationalist, often borderline fictional reporting to maintain a reputation for journalism long upheld by Murdoch’s other newspapers and media outlets, and I’m even more determined never to allow that form of ‘news’ to be taken seriously. I’m pretty convinced that if Donald Trump’s son thinks tweeting the Mayor of London over ANYTHING counts as diplomacy in the current climate, he needs to go back to being a male model (or is that not the one who’s NOT sitting on a tree stump in all those memes, I get confused.) Mostly this morning the position is simple: stop doing stupid shit so that people pay you attention.

Nobody speaks for anyone at a distance. Those with a proven record of exploiting situations will continue to do so as long as they’re allowed to get away with it. The only sure fire way to ensure people are held accountable is to do that yourself. Yes, you can be kind and understanding, but if somebody says something without thinking and is clearly talking only to deflect interest towards themselves? CALL THEM OUT. You can do this without resorting to libel. You don’t have to threaten anybody ever, either, because if you do that ends up making your actions no more noble than the person you’re throwing rocks at. Everybody has a voice on Social media, so let’s start using those for good and not evil, shall we?

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This is your daily reminder not to believe everything you see on Twitter or are told on the news, and to verify your reports from trusted and approved sources before deciding the Sky is falling. It is a reality check that tells you that home born nationals are just as likely to be as dangerous as anyone who arrived here from overseas. Most importantly, in the era when everybody can speak for themselves, that’s what more people should really be doing. If you don’t think your version of the Truth is being taken seriously, write it down and get it seen. If you don’t like how Netflix has taken Asian manga and turned it into middle class entertainment? Bitching about it on Twitter might get you noticed, but you’re far more likely to gain traction with a blog or Tumblr post that can be read and retweeted in the right places. Let us not forget that the successful challenge to Article 50’s triggering, which resulted in Parliament’s involvement, came about as a result of a blog post.

If you don’t think somebody is speaking for you? Time to do that for yourself.

Confusion the Waitress

Monday, it must be said, seems a very long way away.

It didn’t help this week that I’ve not had a regular PT session, that my son spent Monday and Tuesday at home, that I spoke to a Therapist on Wednesday and yesterday went outside for longer on my own than I have been for a while. This morning, therefore, I inserted 45 minutes of ashtanga yoga into my day and frankly, the benefits make me wish I’d done this again sooner. The biggest problem I’m having right now, without a doubt, is making sure what I want to do actually gets accomplished. My brain would rather stop thinking, especially with some of the frightening stories I’m reading from across the Globe. I have to remember that there’s only one thing I can control, and that’s myself, so above all else that needs to work ahead of anything.

I am now considering Mindfulness as a way forward in my personal development.

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There is an online course which costs a paltry £30 to access, and I can’t honestly see why I shouldn’t be doing it, especially as my therapist suggested I’m probably going to get at least some kind of benefit from just listening through to the concepts once. Having a willing and open mind can often be a hindrance, because everything gets taken in, good and bad, and then it is up to me to filter and find a level for it all. These are techniques that have fascinated a curious mind for years anyway: rooted in Buddhism, the desire to eliminate noise and to learn to focus on things that really matter whilst elimination the stuff that doesn’t. With a world that is full of stuff I cannot influence, there needs to be a means by which I separate the possible from the damaging.

This, to be honest, seems a great way forward.

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I’m tired of accepting there’s no better way. This is an alternative that I’m prepared to grasp, and willing to learn. If it helps me sleep better and feel more confident, it will have been worth the effort alone, and for the price of a meal out? It’s hardly going to impact on my finances. I’ll take the first part on Monday before my PT, and we’ll see where we are from there. I’ll keep you updated on how things go, but I’m already cautiously optimistic that this could be a significant breakthrough, and if it is I will be falling over myself to share. What I really need right now is a continued and clear path forward, but without anybody else’s agenda to worry about but my own.

I think, on consideration, I have absolutely nothing to lose.