Mental Health? Hardest Game In The World

Here’s a quick rant about the sheer drudgery of staying on an even keel

Image: Schäferle/Pixabay

I SOMETIMES WISH that I had a quid – or even a penny – for every hour I’ve spent working on my bloody mental health.

I feel like the Fast Show character – “Mental ’ealth? 30 years, man and boy, I done it! Hardest Game in The World, that is!” – when I think of all the time I’ve lost to shoring up my mood.

I’m thinking about all the runs and rides I made myself do, so I’d feel better…. the hours and days reading self-help books and articles…. the journaling and unsent letters to people who’d hurt me…. the years and years in therapy.

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The Purpose of Having a Purpose

Feeling low? Just try doing something different…

Picture: S. Hermann and F. Richter/Pixabay

I HAVEN’T WRITTEN MUCH lately, because I’ve been pretty down. 

As a writer in his mid-50s who worries constantly about his work, I often think of myself as useless. And, of course, that’s not good for productivity.

I’m not the only one struggling to cope with the world as it is at present, but lately I’ve been feeling particularly past it, unfit and old.

I was also finding it hard to imagine an enjoyable future, and so it wasn’t long before some familiar thoughts popped into my head.

“What if I killed myself?” I wondered. “Surely they’d be better off without me?”

And that was the point I realised I had to do something.

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Let’s All Stop Hating On February

It’s the month when things start to change for the better – just not fast enough

Original images: Prawny, Darwin Laganzon, Clear Free Vector Images (all via Pixabay)

IF EVER A MONTH had no mates, it would surely be February.

The 28 days we’re currently living through – or should that be enduring? – have had no end of detractors. In word and song, as well as in real life.

Perhaps its most famous rinsing came 50 years ago, when Don McLean sang: “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”.

And since then, a long queue of writers and musicians has formed to give our least favourite month a proper kicking.

Author Anna Quindlen, for example, once called Feb “a suitable month for dying”.

“Everything around is dead,” she added, “the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”

Alice McDermott asked: “late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?”

Terrible, dreepy, dark”

Sebastian Barry, meanwhile, called the year’s second month: “Terrible, dreepy, dark”, and Clive Barker likened it to a monster, writing: “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”

But, personally, I think we should be laying off February: for me it’s nowhere near as horrible as it’s made out to be, at least on this side of The Pond.

In fact, February is the month when things start to change for the better – it’s real problem is that it doesn’t change things quickly enough.

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Scared of Running? It’s Just Your Inner Caveperson Talking

Understanding why I get stressed before a workout has helped make running fun again

Original images: Artur Luczka and Ryan McGuire/Pixabay

WHEN I WERE a teenager, Space Invaders machines were the latest thing, jazz-funk bands like Linx and Shakatak were riding high in the charts*, and I used to go to swimming club every week.

I bloody hated swimming club.  

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Getting The Caramel Going

With its gibberish subtitles, India v England cricket on Channel Four is a sweet experience

Ravi Ashwin, cunningly lobbing sweeties at our batters

A CERTAIN SORT of English person is really quite excited at the moment because, for once, we can watch our national team play cricket on the TV without having to fork out for the privilege.  

The four-match series against India is currently being screened free-to-air on Channel Four – the first time we’ve seen our heroes in action abroad for nowt since the mid-1980s.

It’s difficult to express the uplift in mood that these pictures from sunny Chennai have given to the lockdown-weary, snowed-in and Brexit-battered people of these isles over the last five days – especially as England wasn’t having its arse handed to it, for a change.

And, having been denied the chance to travel pretty much anywhere because of Covid-19, there’s something more than usually awesome about having satellite pictures of the world’s best players beamed 5,099 miles, straight into your living room.

Denied stimulation of all sorts in lockdown, it’s been particularly poignant to watch our captain, Joe Root, smack 258 runs off India’s formidable bowlers during the course of the first match.

It was even better watching our plucky spinner Dom Bess dismiss the mighty Indian captain Virat Kohli for bugger all in the first test, and then follically-challenged Jack ‘The Nut’ Leach bamboozle Rohit Sharma with his mastery of dip and turn.

But perhaps the very bestest thing about Channel Four’s coverage is the way that its live commentary subtitles mangle both the game and the English language in the most surreal manner. It’s really worth the price of a subscription on all its own.

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You Are Now Entering A Testosterone Free Zone

I’m increasingly risk-averse these days – is it just another sign of ageing?  

THERE’S STILL A LITTLE bit of snow lying around here, left over from the flurry at the weekend.  

Today, I was thinking about going to the shops on my bike, but I didn’t fancy it: I was a bit worried about hitting a frozen patch, and tumbling off.  

I haven’t been running for a while, either – partly because of the still-icy pavements and the possibility of a slip, followed by yet another muscle tear or strain.

And while I was thinking all this, I asked myself: “When did you become such an old man? What happened to all that testosterone?”  

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Thighs Don’t Lie

My knees and hips are also furious about my new exercise regime

OF COURSE I’m on a health kick at the moment.

It’s January, season of new starts. And anyway, what else is there to do these days if you’re not a sainted Key Worker?

From what I can work out, everybody else’s motivation and productivity seem to have fallen off a cliff while we mooch around at home, waiting for our distant vaccinations and the post-Covid New Dawn.

Despite this (and as if there wasn’t enough for us to be down about already) many of us still feel we should be achieving something with all this lockdown downtime.

So I’ve decided to try and turn back the clock, yet again, to when I was thin and thirty-ish.

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Hiding From Covid In Another Century

In times like these, being stuck in the past can be a comfort  

Original image: girlfeet/Pixabay

WHEN I THINK BACK about what I did during the Covid-19 pandemic, I wonder if I’ll remember how much time I spent not being there.

What I mean is, I’ve spent a lot of this year hiding in books, which is something I’ve done to distract myself from sadness and worry ever since I was small.

But for some reason, most of my lockdown reading has been about history – whether it’s a novel set in times gone by, or an academic account of what went down back then.  

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You Only Ride Twice

Finding it hard to sleep? Imagine being back on your bike…

Original image: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

SINCE I TURNED 40, and started getting up at least once a night to visit the bathroom, I’ve found it increasingly tough to get back to sleep in the small hours.

As well as my glitchy personal plumbing, work and life stresses gradually helped me to perfect the art of waking up at about 4am, and then failing to drop off again.

Typically, I’d spend a couple of hours a night lying awake with my worst, most useless, thoughts – about someone horrible at work, for example, or being mean to an ex-girlfriend 20 years before.

And then, when I finally gave up on the prospect of sleep at around 6.30, I’d get up to start another day – gloomy and totally keyed up, as well as just fucking tired.

Lately, however, I’ve stumbled upon an unexpected solution to my insomnia. 

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Rioting And The Over-50s

I never dreamed older people would try to overthrow The State in their spare time – until I saw pictures from The Capitol

It’s striking how many people in and around The Capitol were middle-aged or older

WHEN I STARTED writing this blog, I wondered what the future might hold for me and other 50-somethings.

I thought – correctly as it turned out – that I’d be writing mostly about dodgy knees, grey pubes, baldness, and binge drinking.

But, until I saw the pictures from The Capitol, I never thought about us rioting.

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