Netfix Versus The Book Junkie

Why won’t my kids read the amazing books I recommend? 

A book lies unread on the stairs

THE HOLIDAYS – peak time for reading.
 
I’m about a quarter way through The Enchantment Of Lily Dahl – an old paperback by Siri Hustvedt that I saved from the bin at the charity bookshop where I volunteer.
 
Before that, I took ten days to crack through Conspiracy, the last (so far) of S J Parris’ Elizabethan-era detective novels.
 
Prior to those, I demolished Michael Palin’s Erebus and the latest of Ian Rankin’s series featuring the seemingly immortal John Rebus, In A House Of Lies.
 
I bought both of the latter books in desperation at Luton Airport (Ooh-Eee-Ooh!), feeling twitchy about the books that I’d already packed; dreadfully naked and vulnerable without a satisfactory supply of words to burn through.
 
My wife has also been cracking on. She’s normally too tired and busy to read at anything but a snail’s pace, but she read a book a week lying by the pool, which for her is pure Linford Christie.

Continue reading “Netfix Versus The Book Junkie”

I’ll Put You. Together. Again.

Yoga wasn’t for me when I was younger. But in middle age, it really is making me a calmer, happier, fitter person

A golden frog in yoga pose
Image: silviarita/pixabay

​I DID A WEIRD, HIPPY THING yesterday – I took off my shoes and socks and I went for a little walk, barefoot on the grass.

I had just finished stretching, after a run in my favourite park, and I noticed that the soles of my trainers were catching somewhat in the lush grass I was treading.

I thought: I’d really like to walk on that, with my shoes off. And something in me answered: Well, go on then. No-one’s stopping you.

So I did. I took my shoes and socks off and walked just a little circle, about 100 metres in all. Around a stately old tree and back through clover that was gratifyingly cool on my soles.

I felt uncommonly calm and at ease with myself, and the feeling lingered for a while… including when I twice had to skirt around some dog turds. But even they seemed not unpleasant: genteel like the park they’d been laid in, small and firm like chocolate fingers.

I was having a bit of an epiphany, I realised. Here I was, actually feeling completely relaxed and at peace, totally unlike my normal self…. So what on Earth was happening to me?  

Continue reading “I’ll Put You. Together. Again.”

I Go Barefoot, Barefoot!

Forget Christmas – June is far and away The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year 

Country signposts in summer

I LOOKED down at my pale old feet this morning and saw that the soles were filthy – a sure sign that Summer is well and truly here. 

In the Summer, as soon as the earth starts to harden after the Spring rains, I like to get in touch with nature, literally, and feel the grass of my garden beneath my bare soles.

The warm, pumice-stoney tiles of our small patio are also pleasing in a way that I can’t quite explain. 

I don’t mind bringing dust into the kitchen and messing up the floor: the blacker the feet, the better the Summer. 

Continue reading “I Go Barefoot, Barefoot!”

Head Stuck In A Book – For 53 Years

It rips my life away, but it’s a great escape…

An overflowing book case

I HAD A SPOT OF LUCK the other day – I caught a cold.

It wasn’t so bad a cold, just bad enough to stop me working.

And I got it on a sunny day, meaning I could sit in the garden with a book.

The book I had to sit in the garden with – Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje – was a very good one. 

Which meant I could sit in the garden in the sun with a very good book and read all day.

told you I was lucky. Because what my cold had given me was the certainty that I would now be happy for the day. Not so shabby, eh?

It’s not an exaggeration for me to state that I would find this life much, much harder without books. So far, they have been one of my few truly reliable sources of happiness in this world and, since I first learned to read, my constant and true companions.

Continue reading “Head Stuck In A Book – For 53 Years”

God Damn Right – It’s Still A Beautiful Day

THE NEWS is bad, bad, bad. So bad that I feel terrible for being happy.

Beautiful pink clouds

AT THE risk of sounding like a BTEC Delta Bluesman, I woke up this morning.

​And the news was bad. 

British Steel ’bout to fail.

Jamie’s Italian had. 

Brexit was still happening, or not happening. 

Farage was brushing off the milkshake and slipping on the Knuckle Dusters, ready to deal British tolerance another smart whack to the plums at the Ballot Box tomorrow. 

And, worst of all, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty was laying into the Government for recreating a new Victorian workhouse through welfare cuts and austerity.

Continue reading “God Damn Right – It’s Still A Beautiful Day”

Whole Lotty Love

When I’m too low to sweat out The Blues, it’s time to get up to the allotment 

An allotment in bloom

THOSE OF US who admit to problems with our mental health are encouraged to come up with so-called ‘coping strategies’ for when things don’t go well. 

And because I’ve been struggling for years, I’ve developed quite a few, different, ways of caring for myself. 

Eating and drinking the right things helps, of course, as does getting a decent amount of sleep.

I’ve also written recently about how laying off the booze – hard as it is to do – unquestionably helps to start the next morning happily. 

On truly bad days, just putting on some shorts and big trainers and jogging up and down the hills that surround my house was my favourite form of mental alchemy – reliably turning panic into contentment and black thoughts towards silver linings. 

Now, as I continue to nurse busted knee ligaments, I’ve found that I can achieve a similar effect to running by getting on a bike and pointing it up the nearest big hill, Lifting weights, meanwhile, brings a quiet calmness, a greater happiness with myself. 

But most of those things are hard work and there are days when I really don’t have the strength for exercise that involves burning off hundreds of calories. 

It’s then that I like to put on some old, sturdy, clothes, get on my bike and pedal gently up to Lotty – the name we have given to our vegetable allotment a mile or so away. 

Continue reading “Whole Lotty Love”