My neighbour next door has given me an astronomical telescope he has never been able to set up. I have spent the day trying to work out what all the knobs do and learning some new vocabulary eg. Azimuth? I just managed to focus it, upside down, on a tree branch in the garden, not exactly a revelatory celestial discovery but I am going to call that sufficient progress for the day. As a kid I was very keen on astronomy but really only from the point of view of the mechanics of the telescope (especially enjoyed cleaning it) and dreaming about alien invasions targeting all teachers – (I also made a wooden tripod for the telescope which my Nan praised very highly comparing it to something my grandad could have made (he was a great maker). Praise was something she didn’t do and it really stuck with me- I still feel proud – even if she was a dreadful old bat) As for proper astronomy I was too lazy and dumb for the boring hardcore maths and geometry and suffice to say I still cannot be bothered to figure out that bit.
A theme emerges.
My commitment to anything important, or lack of it, is a feature of my life that I will probably regret on my deathbed – if I can be arsed to bother to regret on my deathbed – let’s hope I am too morphinated to regret.
So, I am in the process of leaving the Labour Party, they don’t make it easy. I can’t really say why I want to leave, or I could but it would just be for bogus reasons designed to sound good but aren’t really true. The truth is I don’t know why – I have just gone off it. I have gone off ‘causes.’ I don’t think I am a cause type of person anymore. Feel free to criticise, call it giving up or getting old but just now I feel unexcited at the thought of being a member of anything worthy or serious so Momentum and the Humanist Society are next for the chop which leaves only membership of Curries PC World, Blockbuster and a coffee club – a free coffee every 10 – at some long forgotten coffee place in Scarborough. I’ll keep that one.
Yep it’s nearly September/October, my most hated time of the year and I am making Herculean efforts to stave off the grumps.
I have explained the September thing in previous posts, but at the risk of being boring it’s simple – darker, colder, wetter, winter, SCHOOL – the only compensation is better TV but even the new season of ‘Strictly’ just serves as a reminder that it’s darker, colder, wetter, winter and soon you will be stuck inside watching TV on Sunday dreading school the next day, trying to elicit cheer from dancing celebrities you have never heard of.
Going back to school was always a massive downer for me (sometimes lurching towards the clinical) and even now my heart goes out to anyone imprisoned by compulsory education confined for 12 years with classmates you don’t like, and teachers who don’t like you. Rest assured ‘young school aged person reader’ whatever some old Tory codger (who went to a school where they wear boaters) or well-meaning liberal education reformer (who went to a school where they teach foraging) might say to you, all school amounts to is is a sentence to be served out, hopefully without being beaten up or having your imagination drained out of you like sump oil from from my gold ford cortina my friend Jonathan sold me after it failed its MOT – it is absolutely not ‘the best years of your life.’ If possible, find a way to bunk off. My preferred escape was orienteering classes (designed to help us audition mor effectively for service in N.Ireland I suspect) in the course of which I would orienteer home for a banana sandwich and a Jimi Hendrix tape telling my mum we had the afternoon off for revision. “What revision?” She should have cried but she was much too nice and always pleased to see me. She loved me even when I was a bolshy teenage git skiving off school.
I am just getting to the end of a delightful few weeks of annual leave where my significant achievement has been to relax quite a bit and not obsess about a project. That said I have managed to shift the mental block that has been inhibiting my bass playing practice such that I felt I was letting myself down. I really used to enjoy playing in the family band but then both my boys got to be very good at playing all sorts of instruments and I stayed really bad at one, despite trying really hard and so I became despondent and I kind of packed up and sort of sulked – but now I am back reenergised – still a dreadful musician but no longer sulking – the secret is to do very very little practice, 20 minutes is quite enough, but do it regularly! Also set realistic achievable and modest goals, not I will be the next Ray Brown in a year. Embarrassing though it is to report, I started first day of the holiday by learning where the notes were on the bass fretboard – ok I should have known that already but I didn’t. Once that started to gel I used an app called IReal to practice hitting the root note of the right chord while a song was playing. Went through a big chunk of the Beatles catalogue which was a joy in its own right. Had to slow some of them down but never mind I muddled through. So while I will never ever master walking bass, (something I have always wanted to do – it’s so cool and my composer best mate wrote an opera that centred around walking bass lines) it requires musicianship, taste and a quick brain (so forget that). I can now more or less hit one root note per chord in a jazz standard or Beatles song and occasionally provide a bit of rhythmic variety – that is as long as I have the chord chart in front of me and I don’t get lost in the repeats and whatnot. Ok it’s not much but it very satisfying and I am pleased with myself.
While on holiday we met up with extended family which was lovely and very kind of them as we obliged them to travel stupid distances just because we didn’t know the geography of southern England. Just because Deal is in Kent does not make it close to Tonbridge Wells Chris! I am lucky to have a not boring family that I don’t see enough of but the traditional big do’s where we all meet up on mass don’t do it for me and the last big one for familial ash scattering was marred by a dramatic, sudden and scary bout of appendicitis (not mine) and a general sense of weirdness and overwhelment on my part. Seeing them in small groups this time was just great. It’s easy to forget that family beyond those you partner up with or make within partnerships (ok that sentence is total rubbish as I try to extricate myself from the accusation of old fashioned morality – when I wrote it it read …’family beyond those you marry or make within marriage’ which I must say worked better) are important and aren’t just for Christmas, weddings, christenings, birthdays and all that tiresome ritual crap that gets on my nerves as, loyal reader, you well know.
Yep I am succumbing to the September grump
But I am not pissed off to be back at work. I will have to do tons of prep, make loads of new videos, learn lots of software and support lots of student who have been derailed during the last year but I like the teaching even remotely so tomorrow I am intent on cracking on with enthusiasm.
Research wise I finished a draft version, rough cut, of a short film on the phone box over the summer. It’s not terrible but needs lots lots more work, so this time I am returning to work with something to offer up to the gods of research which I need to do after a long period in which I have contributed zilch. Which in university terms is the equivalent of giving up trying – double cross xx for effort – call yourself an academic – huh!
The precise nature of my return to work is a bit uncertain. To Zoom or not to Zoom? I am waiting for a verdict from my consultant on Tuesday on the risks and then further discussions with the Uni. The Uni have been exceptionally supportive, and it seems I can continue to teach from home if that’s what’s safest, so we will see what he has says and take it from there.
In general I feel ok on the treatment – taste buds are still the only noticeable side effect – energy levels a bit low and at certain times in the cycle I am daft as a brush and make loads of stupid mistakes, really can’t think straight but it’s all perfectLy tolerable and the results seem positive. The visits to the Royal Free will kick off again in November (stopped for 2 years) so that’s good as they can do a more detailed analysis of my current state and make recommendations. A close member of Avani’s family lives yards from the Royal Free so I may have someone to talk to if, as we suspect, Maria is not allowed to come with me. It’s not that it’s particularly scary it’s just a lot of hanging around and entertaining oneself waiting for results. She’s a doctor so she can shed to some light on some of the bizarre tests I have to take that I have never really understood the purpose of. Loyal readers may remember the trotting up and down the corridor test and then reporting whether you are more or less tired than when you started trotting – duh yeh! Who would say no?