Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

The Quiet Life.

I woke up earlier to the distant sound of a lawn mower, which stopped soon after. Almost a hour later, and one car drove past the house. Since then, the only noise has been the sound of confused bees flying into the windows.
The soft tapping as they try a few times, before realising it is pointless.

The quiet life indeed.

Remembering the sayings of my youth today.
‘Live fast, and die young’. ‘Better to burn out, than just fade away’.

I genuinely never expected to get old. I worked in stressful jobs, smoked too many cigarettes, and liked a drink too. I lived fast, but didn’t die young. I used to say that I would be lucky to see sixty, and when I got to sixty, thought another five years might see me out. But that didn’t happen. I think about why that didn’t come to pass, and can only put it down to living a quiet life.
I stopped worrying about being able to go to shows and exhibitions, or the ability to eat out anytime I chose to. Stopped worrying about having to keep in touch with everyone, and to meet up on a constant rota of plans and engagements. And I moved away from the stress of life in the big city, the constant noise, and crowded streets.

I got a dog, and started to wander about. Living a quiet life.

I rarely go out in the evenings, and there is no circle of friends for me to socialise with. I sleep longer, think a lot more, take some photos occasionally, and read some books. The closest I get to excitement these days is enjoying a binge-watch of a TV series, or a good film that I have been looking forward to seeing.

When I lived in London, I used to hear people talking about wanting to live a quiet life, somewhere peaceful. I thought they lacked imagination, and would regret that choice. They would hanker after the bright lights and entertainment choices they had left behind, later realising that they had made the wrong decision. I didn’t tell them that of course, believing they had to find out the hard way.

Then I got to the age when I could imagine the same thing. I remembered those conversations with a wry smile, as I found myself having them with younger people keen to deter me from making the same decision. I concluded that you have to wait for the right time. That time when the quiet life beckons, and you are able to embrace it.

And I did.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

So Tired.

I had a good sleep last night, but woke up feeling overwhelmingly tired. I did do a fair bit of grass-cutting yesterday, and I am not as fit as I used to be. But this isn’t the usual aches and pains associated with moderate manual labour. This is bone tired. Reluctant to emerge from the bedroom.

I considered that it was mental tiredness. That led me to wonder if you can indeed be ‘mentally tired’. Does life sometimes just get too much to cope with? And does that mean that there is something wrong somewhere inside me? I shrugged that off, as the last thing I am is a hypochondriac.

But I cannot deny the reality of how I feel. The sluggishness, the apathy, the indecision.

I feel as if I could go back to bed and lie down again. I might not sleep, but the idea is there, undoubtedly. A Sunday awaits me, with all its possibilities. And yet I see none of them. Instead, I am just feeling tired.

Is this a product of getting older, I wonder? If so, I sincerely hope that it doesn’t become a regular feature of my life now.

On a day when so much could yet happen, and lots could still be done, my first thought is to escape back to bed, and avoid all of that.

Not a nice way to think, as I am sure you will agree.

Hope

There are many things that separate humans from animals, even our closest relatives, the great apes. I have always considered that the most important one of these is hope.

Animals don’t hope. They tolerate, they expect, and sometimes they suffer in silence. But they don’t hope, despite what we might like to think.

For us, hope comes in many ways, at very different levels. We can have everyday hopes. We might hope to win the lottery, or hope that a planned trip can be done in good weather. Some might hope that they will get a phone call from a friend or relative today, whilst others simply hope to have the strength to get out of bed and face the day ahead.

But most of our hoping is very serious. Hope for good health, and long life. Hope to enjoy the benefits of retirement, and hope for the same for those near and dear to us. There is hope that medical treatment will work; alleviating suffering, or prolonging life. Hoping that fertility treatment will bring the child that is desired, or that the morning after pill stops that same thing happening.

In the modern world of social media, some hope for popularity, a notion of success based on contacts or likes. We hope that people find us attractive, amusing, and want to be close to us. And most people hope to find love. Not just any love, but true love, everlasting, fairy-tale love. And if that goes wrong, hope gets us through, and allows us to continue to hope that it will eventually be found.

Parents hope for better lives for their children. They hope that the future will bring happiness to their offspring, and make it all worthwhile. Then those children in turn hope to do well in exams, find a good job, and continue the cycle of humanity.

Many people hope for others. They hope that society will evolve to be fairer, and allow the same opportunities for all. They hope to see disease eradicated, animal extiction stopped, and climate change reversed. They spend their lives hoping selflessly, asking nothing for themselves.

Everyone hopes. Wherever they live, whatever language they speak, however rich or poor their condition in life, they hope. Billionaires hope for more billions, and people living on the streets hope for something to eat, and a dry place to sleep. Artists hope for recognition, writers hope for publication. Teachers hope that their students will learn something, and soldiers hope that it won’t be them who is killed or wounded.

Religious people hope that the afterlife they believe in will actually happen, and atheists secretly hope that too.

Hope is constant. Every day, even when we are not aware of it, we hope. The word itself has become so common, it is easy to see why its importance may have become trivialised. We all say things like “Hope you have a nice time”, “Hope the traffic isn’t too bad on your way home”, or “Hope to see you again soon”. But that is just a word, and not real ‘Hope’.

Hope might well be the one thing that keeps us going in adversity. Hope stops us walking away, living our lives under clouds of depression, and allows us to carry on with the mundane, with the prospect of something better on the horizon. Hope keeps us balanced, and in some cases, keeps us sane.

Without hope, there is only reality.

Let’s all keep hoping.

A little bit crazy

I’m not talking hospitals and sedation here, I should state from the outset.

But 2019 has undoubtedly driven me more than a little bit crazy. I have to face that fact. Sixty years ago, what is going on in my mind might well have got me committed to an institution, I have no doubt. Perhaps fortunately for me, such homes and asylums are now long gone, mostly closed to save money.

It is easy to speculate it might be my age. Perhaps I am going senile? But I don’t think so. (They never do, of course) Being able to write about it tends to suggest that my faculties are mostly intact, and I will get it down on my blog, just in case I am wrong about that.

My brain is completely overwhelmed with predominantly irrelevant ‘stuff’. This affects my ability to sleep properly, so makes me listless during daylight hours, with a tendency to fall back into yet more strange imaginings, and dwelling far too much on my past. Let me know if you have noticed that. 🙂

If I was a renaissance poet, such things might well be considered to be advantageous, even a confirmation of my talents. But I am not, so that doesn’t work. If I was one of the Bloomsbury Set, no doubt my confused musings would be regarded as fascinating, perceptive, and ahead of their time. But I am not, so that doesn’t work either.

Perhaps if I had artistic talent, like Byrne-Jones, the vagaries of my mind would be attributed to the genius within. But I don’t have such talent, so that doesn’t work at all.

I have to conclude, therefore, that I am just a slightly mad old man, wandering around in remote Beetley, with his head full of stuff that increases on an hourly basis.

That’s very disconcerting, I can assure you.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Guns.

No idea why, but I woke up thinking about guns this morning. I often hear shotguns going off around here, mostly farmers shooting crows or pigeons, sometimes rabbits. Then there are the ‘Game Shoots’, lucrative massacres of thousands of Pheasants, bred for the sole purpose of being shot out of the sky. For ‘Sport’.

But that wasn’t actually what I was thinking about. For some reason, I had the Dunblane killings on my mind. A tragic event that completely changed the laws regarding gun ownership in Great Britain. If you have never heard of that, here’s a link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_massacre

Sixteen children and one adult teacher were shot dead by a man who later killed himself. Such was the shock and outcry, that personal ownership of handguns and many other types of firearm was banned in the UK.

Compare that to the regular mass shootings in the United States.

Despite a never-ending cycle of mass shootings, including those of school children, gun ownership continues to increase unabated in America. Many states have even changed the restrictions on buying guns, to make it easier. Other parts of the US allow gun owners to carry their weapons on their person, either openly displayed, or concealed. Even President Trump advocated arming school teachers in classrooms, to combat the next inevitable atrocity.

I found this image online. For someone in England, it is staggering to behold. And this was in 2015. (Click on image to enlarge)

I know that many Americans, some of them valued online friends, cherish their right to continue to own personal weapons. Some keep them because they fear for their safety, others because they just enjoy firing them at things, or hunting animals. They have the Second Amendment to the Constitution to support them, the famous ‘Right To Bear Arms’.
https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment

Then there is the powerful gun lobby, The National Rifle Association. https://home.nra.org/ They have popularised the much-quoted saying, ‘Guns Don’t Kill People. People Kill People’.

They overlook the fact that someone armed with a selection of assault rifles and automatic pistols can kill a lot more people that one person armed with a knife or a club.

I found another interesting image online. It shows how much personal firepower is available in each state, often much more than the armies of major foreign countries. (Click on image to enlarge)

I feel for America, I really do. It is never going to end.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Weather, and illness.

I went to bed last night with an annoying chesty cough. I took some tablets, and retired early. I had been feeling cold for two days, after a change in the weather from twenty degrees and sunny, to thirteen degrees and showery. I woke up not feeling that much better, even though I had slept soundly for over ten hours. That got me thinking about the connection between illness, and weather.

When I was young, many forms of illness were blamed on the weather. Coming home in wet clothes, I would be told, “Get out of those wet things, or you will catch your death of cold”.
During some of the famous London smogs, we were issued with cloth ‘smog masks’ at school, and told that we must not breathe the air outside without wearing them. Apparently, the air would affect our breathing, and leave us with long-term lung problems. They seemed to forget that I was returning home to a house heated by smoky coal fires, and to parents who chain-smoked cigarettes.

Sitting too long in the sun was never considered to be a health hazard though. I never knew that sun cream existed, until I was in my mid twenties. But when I started to get severe hay fever in my teens, I was told it was ‘the hot air’, and that I should shut my bedroom window as I slept, so as not to breathe too much in. Visiting sick relatives or friends was never an issue either, as long as they put their hand over their mouths when they coughed or sneezed, I was reliably informed. Once they had finished coughing or sneezing, we were of course expected to hug them, and kiss them goodbye as we left.

It wasn’t long before the government became involved with trying to tell us all that it was nothing to do with the weather. It was ‘viruses’, and they were spread by close contact, especially among families, and on public transport. Information films began to appear, with catchy titles like, ‘Coughs and Sneezes spread Diseases’. They showed people using handkerchiefs, and covering their mouths when they coughed. But despite this new information, my Mum still insisted that the weather was mostly to blame, and that I should always take a jumper or coat when I went out, “Just in case”.

Now I am older, I have discovered that I am more susceptible to illness. A long life has weakened my immune system, making things like cuts take longer to heal, and other medical conditions much harder to shake off, once established. But I socialise rarely, and use public transport even less. Other than walking around with Ollie, I am inside most of the time, and always dressed appropriately for any conditions. But having gone from walking in warm and pleasant sunshine, to having to dress up in warm clothes to take my dog out, in the space of three days, something has got into my system and has left me with a cough that seems difficult to shift.

I blame the weather.

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Blogging.

I woke up thinking about blogging this morning. Considering that I generally post things on my blog every day, and follow around one hundred other bloggers, that is not unexpected. But it rarely happens on a Sunday, for some reason.

I awoke thinking about all the people I have met through the process of blogging. In almost seven years, I have not only encountered people from every continent, but many have become firm friends. Some might even considered to be close friends. Yet in all that time, I have only ever met one other blogger in person, and she no longer has a blog.

What usually begins with some friendly comments on a post can often develop into much more. Email communication, mutual promotion by guest posts or reblogs, even collaborations between bloggers on a regular basis. Other bloggers have featured articles that I have written especially for them, and one has even published some of my writing in a ‘real’ magazine.

We come to care about each other, and even worry when postings are scarce, or non-existent. Perhaps contact them directly, to make sure they are well. And if they stop blogging, they are missed in the same way that we might miss an old friend, even though we have never heard their voice, or even know their real name. That community spirit fostered by being part of a group of bloggers is something rare in the real world, and hardly exists on other platforms, like Twitter or Facebook.

Photos from exotic lands appear alongside those of familiar towns or streets. Recipes and Crafts, Poetry, novels, even music. There is almost nothing that you will not see featured on a blog.

When I started blogging, I imagined it would be something like an online diary of my day-to-day life. Something to look back on in years to come, and recall specific days or events. I had no idea that it would be so much more than that, and might become such a large part of my life.

But I’m not complaining. Here’s to seven more years.