Monday, 12 March 2018

Never Too Busy For Me Time...

No green shoots today.
It's time for another seasonal update. Every few months I find myself being moved to write about the weather, time of year and specific routines that annually kick in. That time has come again. Usually this is something to do with the building excitement of Christmas, or the oppressive heat and sneezy allergies of the Summer. Today we are talking about Spring. 

Now, let's calm it right down. Spring in its own right, interests me not a jot. I can't get worked up into a tizzy of excitement about baby lambs and green shoots like some people can. That is not me. In fact, as I type, the North of England has just had its second bout of heavy snow, causing schools to close and cars to remain on driveways. Green shoots are not too visible right now. And I imagine the baby lambs are sheltering in a barn, rather than gamboling about the countryside. 

My desk top is FULL of it.
No, I'm not that bothered by Spring at all. But it seems Spring is bothered by me. This is the time of year that is without doubt, my absolute busiest. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that I am run-ragged trying to fit in the usual work schedule alongside the list of additional chores and events that take place each year. To put it simply - hyperbole alert - pretty much everyone I know has a birthday in March. Everyone. There are presents to buy, cards to create (hey there, Moonpig!) and outfits to wash or buy for the accompanying meals and nights out. Plus, throw in Mother's Day and Easter and you've got yourself a busy few weeks. My iCal isn't enough this month so I've got a Word doc. carrying the extra weight of each day's tick list. This year seems more full-on than usual because of my own VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY at the end of the month. That in itself has it's own planning document. March 2018 is all about the paperwork. 

And so, in the midst of all this headfriggery, I need things to keep me sane. I need to stick to my writing routine even when it's busy, and I need relaxing things to do in the evenings, when I've hit my day's target and ticked off the extra jobs from my calendar. Let's take a look at some of those me-time activities now, shall we? Over to you, Nicky.

Thanks Nicky. Yes, first up, I have to share my latest Netflix binge. It is everything I need right now. Easy to watch, non-taxing on the brain yet ultimately profound in it's own quiet way, I urge you to watch Queer Eye. I never saw the original (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) back in the day, but the reboot is similar I believe. And yet Oh Em Gee, it is essential viewing. Via the power of a make-over show, five gay men - all of whom are utterly beautiful in their own way - are healing the rifts of Trump's America. Through open-minded, non-judgemental conversation, topics such as politics, religion, racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity, self-confidence and personal pride, are unpacked, sorted out and put away with grace and compassion. It hammers home how limiting and damaging it is to assume there's only one way to be a man. This programme should be shown in schools. Don't be confused by the fun concept. It's breaking down barriers and stereotypes, one moisturising tip at a time.  

My favourite thing about
my cinema card is that
I used a photo of me standing
on the Aberystwyth waterfront.
Not for me, a boring passport
photo. Oh no.
OK, next on my 'activities to chill me out' list, is a recurring topic. The cinema! Yes, I do pay a monthly fee to have access to films all the time, and yes I barely used it last year. 2018, however, is going so much better. As soon as Oscar season hit, I got excited. Not because I care about Oscar nominations, but because this years' Best Picture category was full of films I wanted to see. That never happens! Over the past couple of months, I've seen The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I, Tonya and Lady Bird. I'm not going to review them here, other than to say I loved them all (just call me Barry Norman with that incisive assessment) but that isn't the point. Instead, I've realised that the process of going to the cinema in the first place is good fun. Sure, I can wait for them to come to TV in a few months but then I miss out on the comfy seats and shared experience with strangers. Plus, after Lady Bird last week, I was so moved/impressed/mentally stimulated that I had to go to a bar for a glass of wine so I could type a bunch of notes into my phone before I forgot them.* So yeah, hurrah for the cinema. It's just a shame, after all my efforts, that the Best Picture went to something I hadn't seen. Hey ho. Congrats to The Shape of Water. I have no idea if you deserved it. 

Can you feel the excitement?
Right then, moving on. Look, there's no easy way to casually mention the next seasonal leisure activity on my list. I'll just have to say it quickly. IT'S ONLY BLOODY EUROVISION. Yes! We are creeping into that time of year and you all know how happy that makes me. Normally, I enjoy the build up to the event (this year on 12th May) without listening to the entries first. There's something about saving them for the week of the semis and final that has always appealed. But then last year I was invited onto Martin Adams' show on Wandsworth Radio to chat about that night's contest, so I had to do my homework. And now we are nearing the big day, I'm getting beyond excited about listening to the entries and trying to spot the favourites before I read about them. As the days tick by, more and more countries are announcing their entries. And so have we. SuRie is representing the UK in Lisbon. Her song, Storm, is the most Eurovisionny-sounding song we've sent in years. If politics didn't come into play one bit, I'd be putting money on this to win. But hey, let's not be naive and foolish. The left-hand side of the scoreboard will be more than enough. Let's have realistic expectations of our own success whilst revelling in the out and out spectacle of the entire evening. I'm getting giddy.

Behold the wonder of a yoga mat.
With Agatha Christie books for a head
Finally, let me tell you about my yoga practice. Ha! Did you hear me correctly? YES, YOU DID! Now, calm right down and let me explain. My messed up back is in no way ready for even the hint of a downward dog. Not yet. I am the very opposite of supple. But irrespective of that, I am always attracted to the idea of a roll out mat and comfy clothes. It's my kind of sport. So after my most recent bout of backache last month, I decided to do something. Ladies, Gentleman and those in-between, let me introduce you to the Alexander technique. To the outside world this looks like lying down. And it is. Except it is lying down in a way that makes your spine do the right thing for once. Twenty minutes a day is supposed to be the cure to all ills. We'll see. For now, I'd just like it so that I can sit and type away for a few hours every day without feeling like I've been run over by a steamroller when I stand up. Fingers crossed. Except for the twenty minutes a day when nothing is supposed to be crossed. Except for then.

So there we are. As my mad month of fun, games and frolics continues, that's the stuff I'm relaxing with in the down time. The stuff that will keep me sane and enable me to wake up refreshed each day until mid-April arrives. In the meantime, for those of you that are excited about daffodils and lighter evenings, I'm so happy for you. Knock yourself out. I'll be rolling out my yoga mat somewhere and telepathically demanding a second series of Queer Eye

Have a lovely week, folks.

*It appears my new book is a good impression of a prequel to Lady Bird. No word of a lie. It dawned on me in the opening scenes. I am depicting the frustration of being a ten year old living at home with a family that crowds her. Lady Bird has similar feelings at seventeen.  I expect me and Greta Gerwig would get on well.

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