I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ll be honest: I’ve had it up to here with this m************ lockdown

Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in a scene from Pulp Fiction

“ARE YOU OK? Are you all well?”

Have you noticed that, since the start of lockdown, people are asking questions like that and sounding as if they actually mean them, for once?

It’s one of the nicer aspects of being in the middle of a global pandemic – a sense that the person asking actually cares how you are, and isn’t just doing it out of politeness.

I reckon this comes from a tacit acceptance that we’re all vulnerable at the moment – so it’s all right to admit to a certain weakness.

Which is not the worst way to be in Mental Health Awareness Week.

But even now, when someone asks if I’m OK, I’m not laying my entire soul on the line.

I might say something guardedly revealing of certain susceptibilities – and then slap back on the stiff upper lip and add: “Of course we’re coping better than expected.”

So it’s not exactly full disclosure – but this is: today I feel pretty fucking far from OK.

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How Putting On Weight In Lockdown Made Me More Humble

Coronavirus has helped me accept that it’s fine to be like everyone else

Man measuring his waist
Image: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

I’ve been thinking a lot about over-indulging while we’ve been in lockdown – and I know I’m not the only one.

The other day, a friend sent a list of Coronavirus phrases trending on What’sApp, including “Covid-10” – meaning the extra 10lbs some of us have put on through comfort eating and drinking since March 23.

In the UK, alcohol sales jumped by 22 per cent in March, while the tendency to binge and put on weight – also known as “fattening the curve” – was likewise observed in countries that went into lockdown before us. 

When the UK followed Italy indoors, the novelist Francesca Melandri wrote from Rome to warn us of the changes that would take place in our lives, many of them involving food.

“First of all, you’ll eat,” Melandri warned. “Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do… You’ll eat again. You will not sleep well… You will put on weight. You’ll look for online fitness training…You will eat again.”

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Hurrah for the Tories! No, really!

I thought I’d never say this – but the Government is being quite cool…

I’M NOT A FAN of the Conservative Party. Never have been. Never will be.

I couldn’t stand Maggie and her ‘No such thing as society’ nonsense.

I hated austerity, and I’d be deliriously happy if we never, ever, ever Got Brexit Done.

The way the Johnson administration has handled the Coronavirus crisis has also been lacking in many ways (although, to be honest, I doubt that I’d do any better if I were leading the nation).

There was the early, misguided, flirtation with herd immunity before social distancing was imposed. There are still big problems with testing, and now there’s the Prime Minister’s distressing failure to heed his own advice about social distancing.

But I’m proud of one thing that the Government has done: at least they’ve tried to treat us all like adults.  

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Springtime For Introverts

Coronavirus is a bad thing – but there are upsides, particularly for quiet types

I KNOW we’re all supposed to be in this together but – on the quiet – I have been indulging in a bit of gloating lately.

That’s because the Coronavirus pandemic – though it’s tragic, frantic, dreadful and economy-wrangling – has temporarily created almost perfect laboratory conditions for introverts like me to thrive.

Just like the shy deer, birds and sea turtles who are reclaiming habitats worldwide in the absence of humans, Lockdown Britain has suddenly gifted withdrawn folk the quiet and solitude we need to thrive.

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I Wandered Lonely…

I’ve always felt guilty that I’m not a social runner – but at least going solo is perfect for escaping Covid-19

A cloud passes a couple in a park
Original Image: Anita Morgan/Pixabay

FUCK SELF-ISOLATION: that was the unspoken message in the air around London’s open spaces yesterday.

I ran through three parks as I knocked out my Sunday 10-miler, and it looked like everyone in the city was outside with me, despite the Coronavirus.

Given some half decent weather for once, Londoners were seizing the chance to stretch their legs, and for some space and fresh air.

Kids, Mums, Dads, old folks, lovers and dogs – they were all out – along with runners. Dozens and dozens of runners.

It even felt a bit Blitz-Spirit-y, being out there mingling in the face of Covid-19.

‘Bring it on!’ said the dog walker, bending to bag a turd”

Bring it on! Said the business-as-usual body language of the dog walker bending to bag a freshly minted turd. London Can Take It! said every Dad standing his ground quietly against a toddler baying for ice cream.

But in the midst of all these heroes was a coward – and that coward was me.

Because, as I dodged and weaved through the throng – woolly gloves on despite the sunshine and maintaining a safe two metres at all times – I wasn’t being brave.

I was just self isolating in plain sight….

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A Good Sweat

Sweating doesn’t just boil bad stuff out of us – it makes room for creativity and our better selves

The Turin Shroud juxtaposed with a sweat-stained T-shirt
One may be the face of Jesus, the other is a sweat stain shaped like a stubby cock and balls
Turin Shroud image: Wikimedia Commons

OH, I NEEDED that!

I’ve just run a fast five miles because I was turning into a bit of a nasty bastard at home.

It’s never a good sign when I threaten the cat with a kicking – swearing and jabbing a forefinger at him like someone I was squaring up to in a pub – and just because he keeps getting under my feet.   

But I’ve been feeling tired, stressed, and a bit ill for the past couple of days.

I had a couple of pre-holiday vaccinations 48 hours ago and have been sniffing and sneezing quite a bit.

It’s probably just the injections but – like everyone else in the world – I’m secretly terrified that Covid-19 has tracked me down.

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Now The Future’s Brighter, The Past Doesn’t Seem As Dark

Now I’m feeling better, I can look back on my years of depression and think I wasn’t useless, after all

Candles, poo, flowers, Keith Richards skiing

Original Images: Raph_PH (Wikimedia Commons), cathfinch73, Beverley Buckley, Erzsebet Apostal, Patrick Hodskins, Willy Sietsma (all via Pixabay)

MAYBE IT’S JUST the Spring that’s making me feel better but I feel strangely…. hopeful lately.

Just like the irises, hyacinths and daffodils starting to break through the cold earth in our front garden, little hopeful thoughts have been pushing up all around my mind.

It could be just a trick of the – fast-lengthening – daylight, but it’s beginning to feel like the end of my decades-long depression and, finally, the start of something better.

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Why I’m The Only One, Running In The Snow

I hate always having to run, but it’s the only thing that turns my mood round

snowflakes swirling around an eye

AS YOU MAY have gathered by now, I love running. But, sometimes, I hate having to do it quite as much as I do.

I’d like to be Less Is More and only run when conditions are truly agreeable. I’m thinking: azure skies, green fields, little pink candyfloss clouds and white bunny wabbits cheering as, serenely, I float past.

But lemons, lemonade: some days you have to settle for running through grey South London in the snow…

I really didn’t want to go out yesterday morning. It was just a notch or two above zero, with the winds whipping big wet snowflakes down at a rakish angle and pregnant puddles everywhere I might want to plant a foot.

I had an upset stomach, limbs still stiff from 13 miles at the weekend, and I’d necked an inevitable beer or three the night before – all of which made me feel far from the acme of mature athleticism I like to pretend I am.

I knew it would be unpleasant, going out, but I needed to change the old brain chemistry after a setback in my job search. I kept telling myself it was only a small setback, but they tend to look much bigger when you’re 50-something and haven’t worked for year.

So off I went…

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Running: A Communion With The Divine

When I don’t like feeling ‘ordinary’, a run can always make me feel special

God wearing running shoes
Original images: Tom Radetski, doc price, Bruno Nascimento, Maksim Sansomov (all via Unsplash) and Welcome to all and thank you for your visit/Pixabay

WHEN I STRUGGLE with being ordinary – aka a bit of a failure – the grown-up thing to do would be to accept the way I’m feeling.

If I went with a psychotherapist-type solution, I’d accept the reality of being ordinary, and try to change the way I thought about that reality.

And if I went the Mindfulness route, I’d try to just ‘be’ with the feeling, which means accepting that I’m feeling shit, and that feeling shit is OK.

More often, though, I think: Fuck this for a game of soldiers! I’m going for a run!

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A Life More Ordinary

Why did it take me until I’m 50-something to admit I’m nothing special?

Original images: Pexels/Pixabay and Mabel Amber/Pixabay

I HAD A very dull – and slightly unpleasant – epiphany on the road to Lidl yesterday.

I finally conceded that I was just an ordinary guy. A nobody, in fact.

I’d just bought stuff to top up the Ocado delivery – sausages, detergent wipes, a small pack of rocket.

I self-check-out-ed and walked home the way I always walk: past the library, up the slope and the alley behind the secondary school.

There was a lake-like puddle near the end of our road and I scurried past, so as not to get marinated by the passing cars.

And thought: “I’m so ordinary.”

I wonder: has this flash of insight ever happened to you (assuming you, too, are ordinary), or did you always know?

Please tell me that it’s not just me that’s been walking around for 50-something years, doing painfully ordinary things – but still believing, deep down, that they were somehow special? 

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