Author Archives: ldnphile

wake up. it’s the first of the month

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Madrid Cathedral colors

I’ve woken up with aches all over. Legs, back and bum creaking. I reached for my phone to see it was 7:23. I’ve slept for nearly 10 hours. I should probably get out of bed before any more aches appear, the bad ones. The aches I’m experience are the good ones. It means I’ve done something with my body. They’ve come from a good workout and a long run with a backpack yesterday. It’s rare these days to spend a weekend sober, but I think this may be the 2nd or possibly the 3rd of 2020. I’ve done my best so far to stick to my new years resolution to tone down my drinking. This weekend it’s helped Jimbo is away and my bank account is empty. But I was still tempted to go out last night thinking it may do me good to see people. In reality though, my introvert mind needed another quiet night and I am happy to have had it this morning. Part of the working through things for me is having my hands occupied with a task (be it scrubbing, weeding, sorting or folding), so let me tell you, dear reader, our house is very, very clean outside of the floor due to some planned messy activities this afternoon.

I’ve slowly been thinning down from the start of the year. It’s a funny thing to be toning up again cause I spent most of the end of last year thinking I was just putting on weight because I was getting older and it was inevitable. Turns out that’s not the case. I was just not working out and consuming all the beer and cider calories possible. It’s amazing what one will convince themselves of. I’ve been reading this book Why We Sleep the last couple weeks and it’s terrified me of not getting 8 hours of sleep a night for fear of heart disease and dementia. It may be the case those late night sessions may have been contributing to weight gain as well. Kids, I recommend more sleep and that book.

The year has been filled with much travel planning and a wee bit of travelling. We were in Madrid and Toledo a couple weeks ago with brother Robby, SIL Korie and kids. It was a fun weekend with the fam, but I think in hindsight I would have preferred to meet up elsewhere than Madrid. We need to remember we struggle enjoying other European capital cities and prefer the countryside or smaller cities for our holidays. I’m not sure what it is, but we always end up feeling bleh about them.

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Ice cream decisions

We have been in full planning mode for our big Trans-siberian adventure which is now less than 5 weeks away. It’s been a bit tedious at points thanks to trains not running on certain days and the visa applications. How come no one told me how ridiculous the Russian visa application is? Details needed include any professional memberships you have. Yes, I am a member of the International Society of Arboriculture. I am a threat. I may judge the risk of your street trees and think about a management plan of your park woodlands. You’ve been warned.

With any luck the Russians will be satisfied with their data harvesting and I will pick up my passport on Friday with a visa in it. My first proper visa since Kenya in 2011 (tekkers had one in 2015 in Zambia, but you applied at passport control, so it’s not as thrilling). That’s way too long between visas and I intend to ensure this is addressed going forward. Any ways, we look forward to going to a truly foreign land where we can’t read the language for the first time in our lives (cept for Tina who can). I am expecting rash decisions, boredom, madness, tiredness, hangovers, clarity, joy and sadness. It shall be a trip like none other I’ve taken and need to break up our quite tame visits to Europe and US.

I leave you today with this photo I call cat on a Sunday morning. I want to work on sharpening my photography skills a bit before Russia, so this was the best of the few shots I took of her this morning. Have a good March, folks.

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Cat on a Sunday morning

 

 

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2020 and beyond

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What a strange time and place the last 5 years have been. All has changed so quickly, it’s been hard for my tiny brain to keep up. New beginnings galore and I’ve just been trying to find some normalcy in it all. After many heart to hearts with people over the last few months I feel like I’m finally able to attempt to do that in 2020.

I’m the first to admit I drank way too much in 2019. Not to the point people should be concerned (at least I don’t think so), but it was a lot none the less. I think it was the only way to find a comfortable place mentally for all that was going on in life. Part of that was just being in the pub where I feel the most like myself and is nearly always a good time. We are not really home drinkers unless we have people over or we’re on our way out. The last couple months it’s been weighing a heavier burden on me and I do believe I’ve turned a tide in regards to drinking. We’ll see how 2020 pans out though. If anything stops me it’ll be the desire to shed some lbs so my clothes continue to fit. But in seriousness,  I have some other ways to cope with stresses and problems than going to the pub. In fact it involves spending less time with people and more time by myself so I can reflect more on life. It also means being more open and honest with friends and family rather than keeping it all inside. I’m so thankful for the conversations I’ve had with friends and family recently as it’s revealed plenty about myself in the course and what action I need to take to make things better.

Listen this stuff isn’t rocket science, but it’s sometimes tough to do the things you know will make you feel good about life and love. It’s a lot easier to scroll through twitter or watch something on Netflix. Or, in my case, go to the pub and scroll through twitter.

I haven’t really set any new years resolutions this year. I just want to make more time for myself in whatever fashion that may come about. Cats are allowed in my alone time as long as they don’t cause too much of a fuss and they don’t mind going for runs in the common.

This may mean more senseless writing on this blog or it might not. I am not sure how this year will go. I do hope to do a lot more writing in April on our trip across Russia. I reckon I’ll have a few spare moments to write down thoughts while staring out at birch tree after birch tree on a three day train journey.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2020. Let’s meet up for a drink soon, but not too many.

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The sun never felt so good

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It had been a weird Sunday morning at FyneFest. With unexpected wind and rain in the early morning, we thought maybe FyneFest may be ending pre-maturely. The vast majority of people were heading home any ways, not staying around the for the ultra cool Sunday night drinking party. The Brewer’s Lounge, due to be our hang out for the day, had been taken down for safety. The unnerving wind continued to blow down the glen shaking the big tent, as we continued to put away  halves of Jarl, Everyone Loves Mandarina and Easter Hill with our American friends the Reinecker’s. We weren’t sure what we would be doing for the rest of the day, potentially packing up our tents and heading back to Glasgow. After a while though, the wind settled and the sun began to peak through the heavy, gray clouds rolling over. We moved outside to enjoy what was a rare bit of Scottish sun at this year’s FyneFest.

By the afternoon, raincoats had been shed and suddenly there was movement around the small international bar that was stationed inside the now defunct Brewer’s Lounge. And then there was beer beginning to flow at the now Al Fresco Bar.

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A small group of  hard core drinkers appeared, realising there may be a chance to have some beer brought over from the US via Shelton Brothers and care of Teresa’s. The beer was slightly warm and very frothy, when being pulled through the lines. As the punters waited patiently, the bartenders struggled against the froth coming from the lines. Realising it wasn’t viable to stand there all day trying to get a decent pour, jugs of froth from across the pond were passed around to eager drinker. Glasses were suddenly filled with some of America’s best beer and the beauty of this moment of the glen started to appear across the faces of those at the al fresco bar.

Suddenly life couldn’t get any better. We had new friends to share banter, jugs of glorious beer and (shortly after) pulled pork sandwiches with hot sauce. All while sitting on a couch in the middle of a Scottish glen in the sun.

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The sun lasted maybe 40 minutes until it dipped down behind the hills of the glen. We continued on the couch, laughing, eating and drinking, living out our best lives. Eventually the rain returned and we were chased back in the main tent. The moment had passed, but the memory and the warm feeling of the sun on my skin and Hill Farmstead Arthur on my lips won’t soon be forgotten.

 

 

 

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Time for quiet

Somedays after work, my husband and I like to stop on our way home at the pub to have a pint or two. It’s a nice experience sitting in a pub. Often, it’s the Harp, which is located just a little bit off our normal path home, but worth the extra couple minutes every time. As much as I love sitting in the pub chatting, sometimes the ride home is just as good. If you aren’t aware we cycle. Lately, it’s been on our cruiser bikes as my other bicycle has been broken and Jimbo has just made his cruiser even better to ride. From the Harp in Covent Garden, we will ride home via Whitehall, Parliament Square and Embankment, typically, with the wind in our faces, side by side, continuing to right all the wrongs in the world. Sometimes if the road is clear we will stop off at Downing Street in hopes of spotting Larry the cat or at least Palmerston. We half-heartedly will call out in the night their names, on the off chance they fancy seeing us.

So far no luck.

The other night we decided to go over Westminster Bridge for a change. I think it may have been to show Jimbo the new face of Big Ben with its nice blue paint. It wasn’t too late, but the riverside was quiet and we had an impromptu photo shoot, which went totally well after a couple pints.

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Jarl makes people happy. Just look at these two.

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It’s blue. I promise.

I do like having the city mostly to ourselves later on a weekday. Time to enjoy the sights, but not so much the sounds. It feels like more than ever I am aware of sounds I don’t like and disturb me. And that freedom to ride quietly at night without much road noise is a magical thing.

The next couple weeks I look forward to being far away from the noise of London. The majority of sound I am likely to hear is waves lapping at the shore, birds talking to one another or maybe the bleating of a sheep. And that’s ok with me.

Cheers.

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Growth potential

It’s a great time of year. Spring has only just ticked over on the calendar. A few bulbs have come out along with some magnolias, hazels, Ribes and, ok, a load of other plants too. But there is still much to go in the growing year here in Britain. And I will give it to England. It has the most spectacular Spring out of any places I’ve lived. The rest of the seasons leaving me wanting, but Spring is great.

This year we have spread out a ridiculous amount of compost and left over apple pulp across our tiny garden. I’m surprised it was able to take all this on board to begin with a few weeks ago and further impressed at how much it has broken down since. On top of the compost I have spread wildflower seeds on top of the existing seed stock from last years annuals and perennials. I am the first one to admit the garden was pretty stinky for a day after spreading the compost and pulp. But the next day the rains came and I haven’t smelled anything since. The decomposers are hard at work across the compost, making our leftover food stuff available for plants once again. And in some cases the discarded food has sprung to life itself.

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Cabbage trying to be a cabbage again

I’m always amazed when people talk about what they are growing in their garden and I create an illusion of a big, bountiful, sprawling patch in my head where they toil over the land. Then I get to see it in real life and think, “is that it?” But then I walk around and begin to notice the individual plants for what they are and what they can produce and yeah, it is pretty magical. Our garden is much the same. Yes, it does look like a heap of shit to most (including myself at points). But you have to look at the potential and know there are many things in the works, ready to come out over the next seven months to delight. Especially me.

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Hops beginning to emerge amongst the eggshells, oyster shells, and apparently a bit of plastic.

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Cascade hops and wildflowers begin their journey once again

 

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Tegernsee

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We spent 5 days in Tegernsee last week, which is on Tegernsee. At 730 meters or so above sea level, it is a snow melt fed lake at the foot of the Alps. The water is insanely clear and hovered in temperature just above freezing.

I find it interesting on holiday when I come to a place like this and end up not spending as much time as I envisaged seeing the bit that interest me. The stay started with a walk from the train station down to the lake. There was a stop for coffee and then a stop on a bench along the shore to take in the view. After that it seemed our visits to the lake were fleeting, walking to get somewhere else. Well, except of course that very fleeting visit INTO the lake when we were at the sauna. A little sign inside said Tegernsee was 1 degree Celsius. We went in three times.

We had a slightly drunken walk along the lake at night after the afternoon sauna and a slow meander in the morning of our departure to burn some minutes. And then, it was all over. That thing I waited so long to see, was slowly disappearing behind the trees as we slowly rolled away in our train back to Munich.

I will try harder to stop take in and appreciate my surroundings. It’s never a waste of time.

 

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Snowflakes falling

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I walked out of the office yesterday with a head full of all the things I didn’t do at work that day. A rainstorm had moved in an hour earlier and a light rain continued as I got on my bike. As I made my way through the hurried, wet streets of central London, I couldn’t shut off the work related thoughts, my mind turning over and over on what I could have done and how I should have done it.

This isn’t unusual.

Recently I began a course on worry management. Its aim is to not stop worrying, but tone down what may be excessive worry (aka anxiety) through different management techniques. It’s not easy. Not when you’ve spent most of your life in this ceaseless cycle.

So as I churned through these thoughts I realized I needed to stop and think of other happy things or, even better, pay attention to everything that is going on around me. And   in London there are no shortage of stimuli to take in especially on a rainy night. Unfortunately, for someone like me who has trodden the same path for many years, I don’t pay nearly as much attention to what is going on around me other than what is going to keep me safe. So I employed a technique (I don’t know what it’s called) where you think about what you are sensing. It’s kind of an eye spy for your five senses. You set out the rules as you see fit. You may want to identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 things you can taste and 1 thing you can smell. Whatever best fits the scenario.

At first it was a bit of a battle to fight off the work thoughts, but after a few minutes of perseverance I was deep into a game of description of all the things I was trundling past on my bicycle. The sound of wet tires on the tarmac. The clicking over of  bicycle gears. Various languages being spoken by strangers. Cold rain peppering my face. Neon lights from shop windows. Snot dripping down on my lips. Dank smell from the fish & chip shop.

Before long I was in Tooting Common and looked down to see small flecks of snow on my damp jeans. The snow had begun to mix in with the rain and my pace fell slightly as I took in the moment, quickly thinking back to the last time I’d seen snow falling in the Common. Tonight the Common was almost entirely empty except for a few hardened runners. Quickly the winter mix turned to full snow. By the time I got home, it was big, beautiful lumpy snow. And the thoughts of what had happened during the day had disappeared. All that mattered now was the snow falling now on my hands.

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Sober times are sauber times

We’ve been sober since Thursday night. This is due to a new years resolution in 2019 to be sober one weekend a month. It doesn’t sound hard, two days and three nights without going for a pint. BUT IT IS. We were meant to be sober last weekend, but failed spectacularly by the Saturday night (after 5 days of sobriety).

So in preparation for this weekend, we went out for a couple of pints on Thursday night on our way home. We had one quick one down at the Priory Arms in Stockwell before heading to Mondo Brewing’s tap room in Battersea. It’s run by a couple of Americans and has a friendly bar manager, Diego, slinging pints. It was a nice time. There was a fleeting moment where an Irish pub seemed like a good next step, but it didn’t come to fruition luckily for the sake of both of us.

We spent most of the weekend doing DIY and cleaning our house. Like putting up shelves and varnishing levels of DIY and hoovering under the bed in the spare room type of cleaning. It doesn’t get much more serious than that. It was fine. Boring, but fine. The hardest point was playing a match of Dutch Billiards which house rules stipulate BIH (Beer/beverage in hand). The cup of herbal tea was not cutting it, so I needed to take a technical time out and get to the shop to get non-alcoholic beers. It was worth the TTO as my game improved and I was able to come through with a strong win.

So while we may find these weekends a bit of a bore, they actually do serve an important purpose of slowing us down for a few days every month. Hopefully they won’t all involve DIY. It’s something we struggled to do last year as we were in constant upheaval from getting our tiny business started. It sucked up a lot of time and brain capacity. While it was fun figuring out the logistics of cider, it was like I was constantly processing information. If it wasn’t the day time job, it was the business. I know I’m only 36, but I can totally see how people have mid-life crises. That amount of stressy shit will bring you down if you don’t find some sort of balance quickly. I have to say, although we’re only a couple months into this year’s production, things are a lot smoother and easier, despite a 50% increase in production. Long may this continue in 2019.

Another thing we’ve done to improve our mental states is booking in a chilled out holiday this year. 2018 holidays were really fun, filled with family and good times, but utterly lacked much in the way of down time. Our plan originally was to visit Chile in April for a 16 day whirl wind tour, but after more thinking we thought we should do something more relaxing. So we’ve booked a 16 day, do-nothing-but-look-at-Atlantic-Ocean-and-fjords-and-sheep excursion to the Faroe Islands. Random choice, I know. But seriously, if you haven’t seen photos of the Faroes, they are totes incredible looking. Google it now! They’re very developed, so you can get around on public buses and ferries without too much hassle. Plus, we’re staying in a house with a mother effin’ sod roof! Count me in, folks.

So hopefully these small interventions will make a big difference.

I realize I haven’t posted my 2019 new years resolutions, so here they are:

– one weekend off booze every month
– read 15 books
– write minimum 3 times a month (2 online)
– continue Germany proficiency
– big walk in Tooting Common/month
– 1 London cultural event/month
– bring back disc golf to my life

I’m looking forward to the disc golf. I think both of us are. It’s about 40 minutes to get to the course down in Croydon, so it’s a bit of a trek. If you really want to enjoy it and get half decent, you need to go regularly. We hope we can do this.  I have started doing shoulder exercises the last couple weeks in preparation. We don’t need any partial dislocations this year to ruin the fun.

That’s it from me today. I don’t believe I’ve taken any photos recently, so I have nothing to share on that front. Sozzles. Till next time!

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So about 2018….

I see my last and only post for 2018 was in February. That sounds about right, because that was the last time I remember having much free time in the evenings. But now in the weird lull between Christmas and New Years I seem to have a bit of time and clarity. And I’m forcing myself to sit down a write again. It has not been for lack of want. Throughout this year I have come up with many moments and topics to write about, but haven’t had the will or capacity to execute. I really want to change that in the new year.

This year has been a bit sad for journaling. I was actually doing a fairly good job journalling at the start of the year, doing a few entries, especially good on trips. But back in March my lovely Green journal, detailing the previous 2 years, was left on a train between Köln and Utrecht in the front pocket of my seat along with the book I was reading. It was the start of many things I lost on that trip, some which didn’t end up being lost (1. I didn’t lose my eye/sight in a bungee cord accident at de Molen brewery and 2. I got my wallet back after leaving it on a Alkmaar canal cruise a few weeks later). I’d never lost a journal before and still was checking the Deutsche Bahn lost and found website for reports of it up until a couple months ago. I’m still sad about it. I lost a few months of journaling because sad. So for my birthday this year I got myself a new journal, but misordered  and got the wrong the wrong size. It’s tiny and actually not very fit for purpose. I will continue to use it though until it’s written through regardless. These events have put me off writing a bit and wondering a points whether it was worth it.

But this year I found myself struggling to control anxiety. It seemed like things were ok and then suddenly I’d feel the slow creep of it to my head, finally walloping me into a very bad place. There were a few days off work as I couldn’t actually bear the thought of having to speak to humans (cats were fine). It would have sent me into a full panic attack. I work with a lot of humans I really like every day, so it made it even worse knowing I was missing work with these people. Good old anxiety.

So maybe stopping to breathe, to gather my thoughts and slowing down will make a difference in 2019. Part of that for me is writing. So I’m going to start again in 2019 with blogging (and keep journalling). I’m going to fucking force myself not to go out and not to book things in every weekend or even weekday for us to do. Even tonight when we’ve done so much the past week, there was still a draw to go to the pub or fill the evening with some event after work even though I knew I wanted to come home and write this. It’s going to be hard to slow down, but with frenetic London life naturally losing pace in January I hope I can reset a bit. I will be aiming for 2019 to be back with at least 2 posts right here on this blog every month. It’s a small, but important commitment I am making with myself. I’m imagining some longer posts with some smaller moments that I would like to capture, something similar to the b-rolls of GBH.

Any ways, here’s a shot from the New Forest in August. I stuck my head out of our tent in the morning and this is what I saw. I wanted to get up and take some more photos when some ponies wandered by, but within 10 minutes all the fog had cleared and I missed my opportunity. I’m pleased I got this one photo none the less. Happy new years folks.

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New Year and the Resolutions

2018 is weird. I was contemplating in the shower, thinking about this post, and realized how weird 2018 is. It’s the first winter where I’ve had very little going on in about 5 years. No grad school. No engagements. No weddings to plan. No major holiday. Nothing. The lack of stuff going on is not a normal feeling.  And, truly,  it feels so good.

I’ve set a few resolutions for 2018, but the overriding theme was to take the stress, the rushing around out of my life. Sort of taking the wind out of my sail, so I can stop and and take a good look around to see how good things are. Luckily the circumstances of life have come along to assist with slowing things down. It’s worked. I feel a lot better. Except for that one time a couple weeks ago when I lost my cool and yelled “YOU’RE A DICK FACE!!” into some guy’s car who refused to get off his mobile while driving. Yeah, besides that, I’m pretty darn chilled out.

Resolutions this year:

1. Read 12 books – In the past I’ve set this goal as high as 50 (and done it) but this year, in order to chill, I set it really low. It also means if I want to read a really long novel I can without feeling the pressure.

2. Walk the Capital Ring with Jimbo – The cat bought Jimbo the Capital Ring OS book and told us to walk it in 2 years. We decided to do it in one. So far, we’ve completed 3 segments totalling 20 of the 78 miles. And as a bonus, a few of our friends want to do it with us. The walk always ends at a pub as a reward. The walk is a continuation of the monthly cultural event we did last year and so is the reward pub. We’re looking forward to the rest of the walk.

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When we finished the first segment: Woolwich to Falconwood.

3. 6 weeks of 6 pints – I realize there are more than 6 weeks in the year, but this was to kickstart my year. As you may know, I like going to the pub and having a drink. It’s one of the bestest things in the world (and I’ll be heading there tonight in fact). We also have all of the cider we could ever want to drink in our garden. Unfortunately, it became clear that I was suffering from too many pints, despite a good diet and good exercising. So I decided to only have six pints a week for the first six weeks of the year to see how I feel. To some that is still a lot, but not to me. Did I stick to six pints? No, except the once. It was more like seven or eight a week. It has helped me feel a lot better physically. Six pints meant I could still go to the pub and have a nice time, but it was limited to only a day or two a week instead of three or four. I’m going to continue this for as long as I can. The cap is lifted on holidays.

4. Run once a week, strength train once a week – This was part of the six week plan too. It was done to prepare myself for my skiing holiday next week. Yes, I did say skiing holiday. That’s not a typo. When I set it, I thought I would see if I could keep it up and I did surprisingly. I haven’t run this regularly in a few years and I am happy to have running back in my life. Coupled with less drinking, I’ve lost a couple pounds, which will  definitely pick up once my walking at work picks up next month. Though I have been working out more, I have found solace in Doritos at work. As soon as I’m mostly out of the office, this  Doritos addiction will need to stop!

5. Stop the stress – If you are a reader of this blog in the past, you’ll know I sometimes struggle with depression and anxiety. Last year I had both going on, taking a toll on my ability to work. To help we that, me and the other half started making up relaxing tea mixes in the evenings. Valerian, hemp leaf, catnip, tulsi, mistletoe and a few others. I couldn’t say it is just the teas that have made a difference, because other things changed at the same time to help me. All I know is I haven’t suffered from debilitating anxiety or depression since we began having the tea. We are definitely going to continue taking it. If you are interested in the blends we make let me know. We source all our teas from Indigo Herbs. So besides the tea,  running, exercise and less alcohol are aiding my less stress. Being conscious of when things are starting pile up and knowing when to step back is another way of coping. Walking the capital ring, talking with friends is another way. Petting fluffy cats is pretty good too.

I think that’s it. At least that’s all I can remember at the moment. Anyone have any interesting resolutions or goals for 2018? Let me know. Hope you’re all happy and healthy out there! Cheers.

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Penis art on a tree

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Wassailing! I finally got to use my cowbell.

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