Category Archives: Lifestyle

Tsundoku revisited

I’ve written about tsundoku before – the habit of piling up unread books. It was brought into painful focus earlier today when I opened up  a box of books that has been undisturbed for several years. For “several” you could probably substitute “ten” judging by the publication dates.

When I read The Elements of Murder  last month I was surprised at my familiarity with poisons and notable poisoning cases. Not only surprised, but quietly impressed with the breadth of my knowledge.

So when I found a copy of the paperback edition in the box today it was a bit of a downer. Not only is my knowledge based on reading the book ten years previously, but my memory is in fact so bad I didn’t remember buying the book twice.

It’s also a reminder that when I pictured the seven books in the photograph I was intending to review them swiftly. I’ve actually managed two and started two more. I haven’t even finished reading one of them. But I have bought more, and read several of them.

Ah well.

I suppose this officially the start of old age…

 

Micawber and Me

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.” Wilkins Micawber (David Copperfield)

I suppose you can sum the philosophy up as “enough is enough”. The difference for Micawber is just a shilling. The difference for me is just a few plastic bags. Fifty bags are good, a hundred would be too many and I would start to worry about waste and storage. In general this seems to be the way. Research on lottery winners suggests that large amounts of money aren’t enough to make you happy as you adjust to having it.

That’s a great comfort to me for a number of reasons, including, I admit, envy. I can take a certain amount of pleasure from the idea that the rich aren’t happier than I am, and derive satisfaction from the knowledge that, no matter how much money I may have, this is as good as it gets (in other words, working harder would have made me richer but not happier).

Unfortunately, in my quest for knowledge, I looked up more links and found  this research . It seems that lottery winners can be happy, though this one doesn’t seem overly cheered by their million pound win. Some people are never satisfied.

A million pounds would come in handy, and I’m sure I could handle it. I certainly wouldn’t sue anyone for giving me a million. But in truth, I don’t need it, and I can do without it. This is all part of the thinking I’ve been doing whilst sitting round healing.

Obviously I’ve concluded that health is more important than money, and that Julia has a price far above rubies, as Proverbs tells us. Well, it does in the King James version, more modern versions say jewels or precious stones, which is not the same at all. Whoever used rubies (and it may well have been Shakespeare) knew how to select his words.

Whilst watching daytime TV I’ve also seen plenty of adverts for charities and learned to appreciate access to clean water, the NHS and a fridge full of food. Then there’s the electricity to run the fridge, the road to the shops and the roof over my head.

It’s amazing how much we have, what we take for granted.

To be fair, though it does provide the above lessons, I probably could give up daytime TV.

 

We may see the small Value God has for Riches, by the People he gives them to.” — Alexander Pope (1727)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees are Good for You

The sun has just broken through the clouds, bringing a welcome brightness to a wet, grey day. I’m typing and watching antiques programmes on TV after a late lunch of home made pea and mint soup. Today has been productive and pleasant and all is right with the world. The only thing that could improve my mood is an invitation to stay at Blandings Castle.

So why am I wound up to the point of homicide?

Because yet again I’ve had to go to the phone to answer a call from an overseas call centre. I’m registered with the Telephone Preference Service but unfortunately this doesn’t stop the overseas calls and we are getting one or two of those every day. We notice them more that we are at home.

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Trees at Arnot Hill Park

As a general rule I try to be polite because the callers are only doing a job, but today I wasn’t in much of a mood for manners. I was forthright rather than rude, but I don’t suppose I improved their day. In fairness, they didn’t improve mine either.

As part of my on-going process of self-improvement I’m going to stop being irritable and start letting karma take its course. As I always told the kids, you shouldn’t let the actions of others dictate your behaviour.

From now on I’m going to stay polite and let karma sort things out. It’s just that I’d find it easier to do if I was allowed to pick karma up and hit people with it.

The trees are archive shots because if you want to be calm, trees are good for you.

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Sunset in Sherwood

Julia’s New Project

Julia’s first project of the year was to make me fitter and thinner. I’m going along with it because it’s easier than becoming industrious and efficient.Two months in and I seem to have lost half a stone without inconveniencing myself too much. I can also walk significantly further than I could at Christmas, and my joints are feeling better.

So far it’s down to eating better, rather than eating less. The next stage is to start reducing portion sizes too. You will have to imagine the expression on my face as I type that last bit.

Storm Doris is currently whistling round the house so I’m cutting back on the walking today. I’m in the middle of an Amber Weather Warning at the moment, with gusts of wind of up to 80 mph. That’s the magic of the information age. When I was a lad “windy” would have been the only word I needed. I was certainly never on first name terms with the weather.

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Squirrel stealing bird food

Anyway, now that exercise I am (slightly) smaller and fitter she is transferring her attention to a new project.

The Danes have hygge and the Norwegians have Friluftsliv . Even the Germans have Gemütlichkeit, and they aren’t a famously cheerful nation.

Julia’s new project is to discover a suitable English equivalent. We have mindfulness, though I’m not sure it’s quite the same. I incline to morosity myself, which is about as opposite to hygge as you can get. Yes, it is a word. More than that, it’s a word I’ve never used before.

Looks like we need a new word for English-style happiness. I favour something with a Scandinavian twist, because they seem to be the leaders in the field.

Julia favours something more domestic, something along the lines of “middle aged man snoring in front of the TV, which sounds more like the basis of a haiku to me.

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Can you see it now?

I have translated  “middle aged man snoring in front of the TV” and my favourite (“ducks and sunshine”) into various Scandinavian languages.

English: Middle aged man snoring in front of TV – ducks and sunshine

Danish: Den midaldrende mand snorken foran TV –  ænder og solskin

Norwegian: Middelaldrende mann snorking fra foran TV – ender og solskinn

Swedish: En medelålders man snarkningar framför TV – ankor och solsken

Is there anything there we can use, do you think?

Julia doesn’t seem impressed; she’s just wandered off muttering “idiot with a laptop” and I don’t think it’s a suggestion for translation…

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Julia hiding in shrubbery

Photographs have been selected to show examples of things that make me happy. I don’t have a picture of ice cream.

 

Triviata

Yes, was surprised it was a real word too. I was looking for a title that denoted an accumulation of trivia and thought this was about right so checked it up to make sure if it was already taken, and yes it was. Shakespeare introduced 1,700 new words into English, but these days it’s not quite so easy.

There is also a Trivipedia, but no trivicumulation. I’m going to think about that…

I think it can be defined, in my sense, to denote a jumble of trivial news of the sort that makes up conversations between spouses or posts on blogs about normal life. Well, you may discuss world politics or philosophy with your spouse, but we tend to discuss children, what we did during the day, and housework. Or, more precisely, why I have done no housework.

So, his morning, after a day on the road yesterday, I drifted into consciousness just before 7.00 am, looked at the day outside and went back to bed for a while. Feeling energised I then sorted out books for charity, selected clothes for the Salvation Army (they seem to have been shrinking lately) and took a faulty kettle back to TESCO. It hadn’t been expensive but even cheap kettles are supposed to keep the water on the inside.

It’s surprising how long it takes to return a faulty kettle to TESCO. First you have to find someone to accept it, and at our branch that means going and standing at a shabby, anonymous counter at the back of the shop as everyone ignores you. Then, after finally intercepting a passing manager, you have to wait and see if they can find a replacement on the shelves or in the warehouse. They couldn’t. So I accepted a refund on my debit card.

Lunch was soup (Pea and Mint from TESCO) with fresh bread. Yes, I know I should make my own but I wanted something quick.

Blogging next – reading posts and adding bits to some posts I’m mulling over. I still have another post on Crowland Abbey to polish  (you have to ration these things out ) and a few others to develop.

Finally, gardening. I’ve been putting it off until the warmer weather came, and the warmer weather has come. As I have plenty of time this year, it really is time to get on top of the job. It’s also time to add some permaculture design and  wildlife to the garden.

I’m alternating TV, computer and cookery now. Julia is out at a meeting and when she returns she will be expecting meatballs. I’m still looking for a meatball recipe so “relaxed” and “well prepared” are words that don’t currently apply to me.

It will be different tomorrow – the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry is already done.

Meanwhile, I’d better focus and stop browsing. I’ve just been reading this. It’s cookery, but not as we know it.

Readers of a nervous disposition may be better not clicking the link.

 

 

Simple Pleasures

Sitting here on a gloomy grey day I idly wondered if winter  in England could get any worse. At that point an advert for the RSPCA came on TV. Pictures of neglected dogs don’t half bring the mood down.

At least it’s stopped raining, and every day that passes is a day nearer spring. I like spring.

However, it isn’t spring so I’ll have to make the most of what I have.

The best bit of the day, best bit of the week in fact, was being able to go back to bed after dropping Julia off at work. Any of you who are around a foot taller than your partner will know what I mean. Normally you find the duvet wrestled away from you by a small, compact and determined person who insists on sleeping half way down the bed. When you are on your own you can cover your shoulders and tuck the duvet right up to your ears.

It’s a simple pleasure. but the best ones often are, aren’t they?

Same goes for he Welsh Rabbit I made when we got home. It’s only cheese, milk and mustard on toast but there’s nothing better once you get the curtains closed and the fire on. We even had The Persuaders on TV to add to the atmosphere of cheesiness.

It’s one of the 50 new recipes for 2017. I know it doesn’t seem much of a recipe, but after years of making simple cheese on toast I thought I ought to make the effort to do something a bit better. Somehow it seems a lot nicer than ordinary cheese on toast.

I’m trying a new Cottage Pie recipe tonight, inspired by Jackie’s Post House Pie on Derrick J Knight’s blog. I happened to have leftover veg from the hot beef stew and pork with oven-baked vegetables I’d cooked this week, so it seemed too good to miss.

Winter and comfort food could have been made for each other.

We just ate the pie, with peas and kalettes. I’m definitely getting my five a day. With the leftover veg, it’s a very tasty pie, though the presence of chillies does introduce an element of chance into the eating process.

No pictures. When there’s a choice between eating and photography…

Writer’s Block

A proper post on writer’s block would, I suppose, be blank.

What I really mean is that I’m having trouble concentrating and writing anything coherent that has a chance of being interesting for people to read.

Got up, complained about knees, procrastinated, ate breakfast with wife, avoided washing up, watched TV, moaned about weather…

It’s not riveting stuff is it? I’m hoping it’s just the normal dull stuff that everyone does. You do all have mornings like that don’t you, it’s not just me? If you don’t, please don’t tell me. It’s bad enough that I’m having a bad day without finding that I’m the most boring man on WordPress.

I’m supposed to be planning, but that didn’t go well either.

The 50 new recipes I’m planning to make by the end of the year have ground to a halt because I have limited enthusiasm for poorly seasoned veggie burgers. It’s the fault of the recipe, but that doesn’t make them taste any better. The Mark 2 version with double seasoning, plus lime juice, lime zest, Henderson’s Relish and half a teaspoon of chilli powder is still bland, though a definite improvement on Mark 1. I may have to resort to using salt, but if I do that I might as well just buy them from a shop.

The killer CV (resume to those of you living in the New World) lives only in my imagination because I’m leaving job applications until after I’m sorted out health-wise. There’s no point getting a job interview if you then have to tell people you’ll be needing time off for medical reasons as soon as you start.

Then there is the redesign of the garden. We’ve neglected it badly for the last few years and it needs some serious attention. It’s an embarrassment. So I’m going to avoid talking about it.Yesterday I bought one of those tools for weeding between paving slabs without bending down. Tomorrow I may get round to using it. Then I will have to decide on the future of the slabs – they aren’t very permaculture…

Finally, fitness and diet.I’m doing more walking and birdwatching so that’s going OK. The diet seems to be working too, but when you think of the failed recipe experiments that’s not a surprise. I suppose some good is coming from those veggie burgers…