30 of 365

I feel very spoilt today as the plan for the day is breakfast, blogging, gym, shower, lunch, sauna, massage, sauna, dinner, entertainment (watch an acrobatic display).  I might even get to watch some more of the tennis at Wimbledon – if I can squeeze it in.

It always seems to take a while to know where to start writing now.  It wasn’t like this when I started.  It’s bothering me a little bit to wonder exactly what has changed since I started.  Is it purely and simply that there was a lot more going on in my life at that time and the words poured out of me?   Or maybe I’ve created an artificial environment that is inhibiting the process?

As far as the daily blogging process goes I have two fundamental rules:

  1. Time-boxing:  I started to time-box my posts to a maximum of 30 minutes, I did this early on because I had spent around an hour and a half on a single post.  I knew this wasn’t sustainable and also not very balanced across the other things I wanted and needed to do.  But the limit of 30 minutes also introduces a somewhat artificial amount of pressure – in order to meet the deadline and sometimes this time-pressure can stifle creativity.
  2. Spontaneity:  I never plan what I am going to write, it’s one of the joys to me of writing, I sit down and write what I want to write at that moment – the surprise element.  The teacher in me wants to teach, the creative in me wants to create and the observer in me wants to capture what I have observed.  These players and I suspect others battle for ideas and I try and balance these ideas against what I think my audience might like to hear about.  Sometimes there is not much of a battle because with the time pressure I feel like I have to go with the first thing I come up with.

Maybe I need to re-think these artificial rules that I have introduced to my writing process?  I would be very interested to hear what you think.

Thanks for reading.

Graham.

 

 

 

 

 

29 of 365

The holiday is coming to an end.

It’s Thursday and we fly home on Saturday evening.  The flight is scheduled to be leaving Tenerife between 8 and 9 p.m. on Saturday 6th July and then we will be home in the early hours of Sunday.  Then as they say it will be back to reality.

Until then, there is still time to enjoy the remaining free time.  I still have my 8k and 10k legs of my training to do, I have completed the easier 2k, 4k and 6k training runs on the treadmill.  After completing this post, I will be heading straight to the gym to do the 8k run and then tomorrow after my 10k run I have scheduled a massage in the afternoon, which will act as a nice reward.

There is still plenty of time to read by the pool, I have started reading a book that Natalie brought with her Human Instinct by Robert Winston.  It’s an interesting read, looking across history in a pseudo-scientific way to determine the beginnings of certain parts of human nature.  And trying to separate learnt behaviour from the inherited, not always easy to do.

And one of the things we have noticed as a family on this trip is that we communicate well at meal times.  It’s nice that no one wants to go on their phones and that we have a lot to say to each other.  With 3 grown up daughters it’s a fantastic thing that, in the main, we all get along and the conversation never seems to run dry.

I am not a great sun lover, and have to be careful when I’m out in the sun not to get burnt.  Caroline, Natalie, Alice and Holly are all by the pool on sunbeds now but I’m quite happy to be indoors writing.  When I’m in the gym, they’ll probably be at the local market – which opens on a Sunday and Thursday and I’m sure we’ll then reconvene for lunch.

28 of 365

Yesterday in addition to completing my 4k run on the treadmill in the gym I went parasailing.

It was the first time I’ve been parasailing.  Caroline and I had another amazing lunch at the hotel buffet and then wandered down to the beach.  The beach is very close to the hotel; a short walk away.  At the beach we wandered along the store fronts and found the one for excursions.  As luck would have it, I recognised the logo on their business cards and was able to negotiate a discount – on account of the fact that Natalie had shown me her card when she was approached the day before.  12 minutes in the sky for €29, I thought it was a bargain, especially as the advertised price was €40.

We went for a quick drink overlooking the harbour and then at 4:30 Caroline and I met the driver from AJ Fly, the parasailing outfit.  It was at this point that we went our separate ways, Caroline went back to the hotel to observe from a safe distance – and I took the short drive down to the boat.

We arrived at the harbour and went down to the boat.  It was me and a young couple, on the boat with the driver and an assistant.  We motored out past the rows of jet skis into deeper water and the driver stopped the boat.  In the absence of a volunteer to go first, I proposed myself and stood up on the platform at the back of the boat readied in my harness and holding first the bar above the harness and then the straps.

Under clear instruction I sat down on the platform and with a nod and a glance I was off the back of the boat steadily rising.  Going out and up simultaneously but gently was enjoyable.  There was no expected adrenalin rush, no fear, just a smooth gentle lifting above the water and up.

When I reached top height I felt the rope go taught and it was at this point that I really felt connected to the boat as I was jerked slightly forward.  There was a feeling of uneasiness and the only fear I had was that I would suddenly and unexpectedly come down to the water and get covered and smothered by the parachute.  I had enough faith already in the calm and straightforward approach of the 2-man crew not to overly worry about that scenario and decided just to relax.

I remembered the flyer I had been given after booking that spoke about feeling as free as a bird and I tried to imagine that I was a bird.  I floated for ages, always out to sea, which was a bit of a shame – as I wanted really to see the shoreline and go parallel to the shore.  I just remember how relaxing it was.  I didn’t look straight down and I didn’t look straight up.  At times the ropes above would seem to creak, but other than that small worry – there really were no cares.

On the descent, the driver skillfully kept me out at the back of the boat so that my feet dipped into the cool (not cold) water.  The assistant was taking pictures, some with my feet in the water, and some with my arms out like the shape of an aeroplane you make when you’re a kid.  I was reeled in and then it was the turn for the young couple.

On the way back to the shore, we were reminded that this was a commercial exercise for the operator as we were told that we could buy a short video and some stills of our experience for a further €25.  But I had no cash, and the quality of the stills and the video were less than amateur (sorry guys!).  Not a surprise I suppose when you consider the boat was moving fast.

I had actually an interest in buying the photos for the blog – but if you’re interested, take a look at the AJ Fly FaceBook site, you’ll see some better pictures there than the ones I would have got.

Overall I would recommend Parasailing as a one-off.  As a sport, I’m not sure what more you can do, but as a one-off, it’s a pretty relaxing and enjoyable experience and I would go for it if you get the chance.

27 of 365

I watched Eat Pray Love yesterday with Julia Roberts (she was in it, not with me) and I really enjoyed watching it. This post has some text that you might consider spoils the movie – if you haven’t watched it.

Spoiler Alert

It told the story of a woman who was unhappy in herself and her relationships and went on a journey to find herself by losing herself (sorry if that sounds a bit cliched, it was better than that!).

It talked to me about a lot of things; You don’t have to go anywhere to go on a journey, we cling to things that we don’t need, there is pleasure in doing nothing.  And the movie also unleashed some feelings of vulnerability which were expressed in my dreams.

I am 27 days into this journey, which I started the day after my mum’s funeral.  Every day I have written something and it’s been very therapeutic to do so.  The intention was always to blog every day for a year and I believe that was implied in the title of the first post.  And I have found out some things about myself that either I didn’t know or had forgotten.

  • I can commit to things and see them through
  • There is pleasure in making a decision and sticking to it
  • You can achieve a lot, one small step at a time

I’d like to quote something from the end of the movie.  If you haven’t see the movie, I hope it won’t spoil anything for you, but it does kind of summarise it, so don’t read on if you’re worried about the spoiler.

In the end, I’ve come to believe in something I call “The Physics of the Quest.”  A force in nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity.

The rule of Quest Physics goes something like this:

If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.

I am 27 days into this journey, there are days when I don’t know what to say in the approx 30 minutes I carve out to do this, there are days when I don’t know why I am really doing this or where it will lead.  But it’s ok to not know what, why or where.

I am sure in time that I will learn to feel comfortable with uncertainty and safe with vulnerability.

26 of 365

In 13 days time, if all goes to plan, I will be taking part in the The Hell-Fire Half and 10k.  I’ll actually be completing the 10k, not the half marathon.  I’ll be running this with Denise and her friend.

I haven’t done much running recently, as I decided to take some time off from that.  I had noticed a pain in my hip and wanted to give my body a rest from the stress of running.  In addition, there has been far too much going on recently to fit in the exercise.

After my recent posts though, physical fitness is something I want to focus on, and so on holiday I am going to spend some time in the gym.  This started yesterday with a quick half hour session.  The hotel promotes a number of activities for sport and fitness.

I have a training plan for this 10k in my head, and it’s first and foremost about being able to run the distance.

Yesterday, as well as 1/2 hour in the gym, I watched a documentary about Rich Froning and CrossFit.  I’d seen the documentary before and wanted to watch it again – because I’d been thinking specifically about setting goals.

After the documentary, I decided on the following goals.

Monday:  Run 2 km
Tuesday:  Run 4 km
Wednesday:  Run 6 km
Thursday:  Run 8 km
Friday:  Run 10 km.

I’ll probably just add these to my backlog list and tick them off as I go through this week.

The difficulty this week I suspect is not going to be getting down the gym and completing them, it’s probably going to be eating in moderation – because the hotel is all-inclusive and the catering is just amazing.

25 of 365

In my post yesterday about wellness I wrote about being relaxed as one of the components of mental wellbeing.  It’s only 15 days since the end of our last holiday and already we’re on holiday again.  The trip to Cornwall was short and only for 6 days, and we are now staying in a beautiful hotel in Tenerife. This holiday is also only about a week long.

I am hoping to use this time again to re-charge my batteries.  I was thinking about this phrase recently and how appropriate it is to the present time.  With a high percentage of the UK population from ages 16 to 54 having smartphones, I would expect recharging the phones is something quite high up on people’s agenda on a daily basis.

But do we take the same care with ourselves?  We are not machines and can’t be expected to go on and on.

Charging a phone is cheap.  It costs according to the article, around £1.00 a year.  Holidays are not so cheap.  And whilst I am not bemoaning the cost, it would be nice to find a more cost-effective way to recharge the old batteries regularly.

A friend of mine has a caravan that he uses and another has a camper van.  I am going to make sure I have a couple of conversations with these wise people and find something that helps move me in the right direction.  Regular relaxation without the high price-tag is what I’m looking for, but first it’s time for breakfast!

24 of 365

Something in an email yesterday caught my eye.  It labelled 3 elements of wellbeing; mental health, physical health and financial health.  It was particularly timely and interesting from my perspective because yesterday I was blogging about my weight (an element of physical health) and finances.

These 3 elements are intrinsically linked.  And here’s a few bullet points of what these things mean to me.

Mental Health

  • Belonging and connecting with those around you, maintaining good relationships
  • Being self-aware of both emotions and mental state
  • Having a mixture of time with others and time alone
  • Being relaxed whilst having a degree of good stress for motivation
  • Not overworking
  • Recognising when things are off-kilter and taking positive action to resolve

Physical Health

  • Eating well, good nutrition, not over-eating
  • Regular exercise (walking, yoga, running, swimming)
  • Getting enough sleep

Financial Health

  • Having enough savings for an emergency
  • Living within one’s means.
  • Having a good understanding of one’s financial position.
  • Having a long term financial plan
  • Being in control of finances (payments in and out)

I am sure there are a lot more comprehensive blog posts on these subjects than this one.  But having a simple model is often useful.  And thinking about wellness as consisting initially of these three components is useful to me.

As far as the relationship between them goes;

  • Physical health aids mental health
  • If your in a good frame of mind you’re more likely to exercise
  • If you’re finances are in good shape, this is one less mental stress
  • If you’re finances are ok, and are more financially self-sufficient you’ll have more time to exercise

I wish good mental, physical and financial health for me, my family and anyone reading this post.

23 of 365

It’s the end of the month (almost) and as we’re away on holiday tomorrow I’m taking today as the last day, for the purposes of the weigh in.

During May I was having a friendly competition about losing weight.  And in that month I lost approximately 5lbs.  I’ve now lost another 1lb 8oz.

Reaching a more healthy weight is one of the goals I have been working on (largely unsuccessfully) for at least the last 15 years.  My weight fluctuates about 1/2 stone either way around a weight I’ve been stuck on for some time.  I would say I need to lose about 4 stone to get towards a healthy weight.

Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into a weight-loss blog!

If getting to a healthy weight is one life goal, being free from debt is another one.

I’m comfortable with mortgage debt (although I would like that to disappear soon), but I really would like to pay off car loans and credit card debts, as well as have an amount of money in savings for an emergency.

So in summary, I am looking for a healthy weight and healthy finances.  These are quite personal topics and not ones I’m overly comfortable to go into a lot of detail about.  But, I know I have the resources at my disposal to make progress towards both of these goals over the course of the coming 242 days that are remaining of this 1 year experiment.

I may well come back to you and let you know what’s working and what’s not towards these goals.

22 of 365

A few days ago I blogged about Erik, who was a film-maker looking for summer work.  Since then we’ve had a few chats and swapped a few emails about a mini-project working together in the summer.  We have now broadly agreed terms.  And the idea of the project, in brief, is as follows:

Goal:  To setup a mechanism to regularly capture, edit and publish short clips of comedy material online.

Activities:

  • Set up a place/studio to film with equipment
  • Graham to record raw material
  • Erik to edit rushes into short sections for publishing
  • Graham to review edits and publish

We were not sure that YouTube was the right channel for this material, as the clips are likely to be short, so perhaps FaceBook would be better.

We still need to nail down the objectives of this work, but initially I hope it’s just a lot of fun.  And I’m looking forward to working with Erik when I get back from holiday.

21 of 365

Yesterday I had a touch of writer’s block – and today I have another bout.  Yesterday’s was solved because I decided to review the blog and it triggered a thought about what to write about.  Today I have 2 main ideas but neither seem to have enough meat on their bones for a full post

  • Graph databases
  • Our upcoming holiday to Tenerife (booked yesterday)

I’ll say a little about each:

At work I’ve been working with a graph database called Neo4j.  It has really re-ignited my passion for technology.  A graph is a way of storing data as nodes and relationships between them.  Neo4j is a property graph which means each node and relationship can have a set of attributes associated with it.  Here’s an introduction to graph theory.  I’m hoping to learn more about graph databases over the next 6 months.

We booked the holiday to Tenerife.  All 5 of my immediate family are coming and we’re looking forward to some down time in an all-inclusive resort.  Holidays, I feel, are a bit like buses, none for ages and then they come along at once.  So this is the 2nd holiday I will have had in a short space of time and I’m really looking forward to it.

This post represents 3 weeks of posting every day.  And I’m enjoying it, despite being a bit stuck for things to say yesterday and today.