The chair

Another blog devoted to being seated? Surely not! Well, plonk yourself down, cross legged on the floor if you can (I’ve got no chance, as 1) I’d look like a Buddha doll; and 2) I wouldn’t be able to get up again).

Having reflected on it being a beautiful world, I now find that the view from the chaired ground is a bit challenging. What a week, what a month, what a year. How could anyone predict what 2020 would bring?

Well, there are some who tell us that they have been preparing for this day for years. How they have learned to challenge their inner being to ascend the chaos that they leave behind. Hello, you’re still here you deluded fools!

There could be an argument that some had predicted the events of 2020 and, well, I’ll leave it there.

For most of us, this is unprecedented. Totally unprecedented.

So, we have to look at what we can do to centre ourselves and normalise the not so normal. Regularise the irregular. Almost focus on the day, rather than all of the white noise around us.

I think a challenge many of us have had this year has been to forget the good and to be distracted by the bad and the ugly. Sometimes it’s so much easier to think ‘this is absolutely rubbish’; ‘I’m sick of this’; ‘another day of not being able to do what I used to do’.

It’s funny, at #TeamDurky HQ, Gaby was saying how wonderful it was that she’d been to a MacDonalds to get her lunch. It felt like a treat. But, 12 months ago, for many, it was just the norm to grab a Maccy’s for lunch. Why? Because we could. It was easy. It was just there. Now? It’s a treat. In reality, for those who like a MacDonalds, it should always be a treat. Why? Because there are millions on our beautiful planet who don’t have the luxury of being able to afford one or they have never heard of the place.

But, it’s those little things that we took for granted that are now pure magic.

We could strip that right back and even look at going for a walk. In those days of distant memory, it was a walk. Just a walk. Now, it’s wow let’s get out and have a walk. Reality is having the ability to walk is a treat. It’s a blessing that we should always celebrate.

It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the bad. COVID is horrible. I keep reading this nonsense about people questioning whether COVID really exists. My recommendation is that those who are trotting out their ill advised stupidity should contract the virus and then let us know whether it’s true or not.

It’s bad at times. For some, it’s bad a lot of the time and we should always try and be there for those who are really struggling.

As for the ugly. Speaking from a U.K. perspective, it’s hard not to get wound up with some of the speeches from our government leaders and ministers. No names necessary. I’m not going to go all political, I’ll leave that to my rants on Facebook. However, mixed messages are difficult for the mental health of population. I truly wish those in positions of power recognised the risk we have around mental health and the long term damage that will remain long after COVID has been vaccinated away (of sorts).

So, the good is what is so important to grasp hold of with all the strength we have. And every day, it’s important to focus on that good that we have. If we can create good, even better.

One of the joys I share with Aud to looking through photos from those heady days of travelling, or from concerts, or from walks, or parties, or time with friends, or, or, or ………

Enjoying those memories.

Even reflecting on 2020, when it feels like it’s been the year to forget. Actually, that’s no necessarily the case. Yes, holidays cancelled; concerts and festivals cancelled until next year (we hope); birthdays not celebrated with a meal; family and friends not seen. But, also yes – mini breaks experienced, concerts at the start of the year still happened, meals out when the opportunities arose and, most importantly, good health enjoyed.

From a health perspective, if we’ve got it, let’s be damned grateful. Too many people are not that lucky. Let’s not take it for granted.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this new normal. Yes, we all want the old normal back. But, what ever normal looks like in the future no one can really know. So, the new normal is here for us to grasp, elbow bump (because we can’t hug it), and to celebrate.

Let’s walk, talk, run, have fun, smile, go the extra mile, and be happy.

And, as I sit in my chair. My chair is ‘the chair’. It’s where I can reflect every day on what was, what is, and what will be. It’s always been my chair. I guess it’s my was, is, and will be. Its my safe place and it’s my normal, regular, view from the ground. And it always will be.

We all have our chair. What we see, or how we want to see it, is our choice to make. Let’s make the right choice. I like what I see (which, right now, is the Christmas lights we’ve just put in the tree outside the house).

Take care.

Jon

It’s such a beautiful world

How often do you hear a song and it’s like a light bulb moment? A song that, in just over 3 minutes can sum up a few years of your life.

Tom Chaplin captures it all. He grasps what I’ve tried to say in countless blogs. In one bl00dy song, my 100,000+ words are just blown away. From ‘It’s such a beautiful world. So why do I feel so down?’ and ‘I’m flying out of control. Headlong into the ground. And all the people that love me. They never know if I’m up, down or round.’

Yes Tom, did we meet a few years ago?

Well Tom, thankfully you must have seen me again recently, as you say on my behalf ‘But it’s a beautiful world. Taking what I’ve got. Happy with my lot. Now I know that I am not hurting everyone I know. Here’s hoping that the signs are real. And tomorrow with a spring in my heel. Somewhere on the road of sadness lies a better deal.’

I know I’ve chopped up Tom Chaplin’s brilliant song ‘Hardened Heart’ to suit the start of the blog but, regardless of what life threw at me previously , ‘I know that my hardened heart is beating still’.

Road of sadness? Probably an extreme way of saying, wow, there’s been some challenges but we’re riding the waving.

And with that serenading, join me on my blue bench as I take another view from the ground. Welcome as we contemplate how precious every second is and cherish those moments that matter.

Another crazy few days. More time to reflect. It feels like we have been given 2020 as a year of reflection. There’s been times, I’m sure, we don’t like what we see. But perhaps that’s because we spend too long on focussing on the few blemishes rather than seeing what is good.

I know I talk a lot about making every second count. But, right now, in amongst everything that has happened this year, it feels like the most important mindset to have. But, it’s our choice, isn’t it?

On Thursday, I posted on Facebook “A 6km blast of walking on the hunt for some enthusiasm. I think it’s been located. Something to do with mindset. Accompanied by Lonely The Brave. A massively underrated band who can make me feel euphoric and then be reduced to rubble between a verse and a chorus. #everysecondcounts‘.

As with any Facebook post regarding a morning walk, it’s accompanied by some pictures from the walk. I capture what I see with the intention of sharing the beauty of what is around us. During #lockdown1 I had this as a daily mission. It was tough, being told you could only take outdoors exercise once a day. So, that walk was special. But, what I truly learned was to celebrate what was in front of me, rather than over dwelling on what we were being told we could or couldn’t do.

I’d take pictures of the same part of the walk – through a nearby park or the beautiful countryside – just from a different perceptive. Capturing that exact moment. Making that second count and then sharing that moment with anyone who dropped by on Facebook, or Instagram.

With #lockdown2 straddling autumn, the picture opportunities are not so regular but, still, the chance to breathe in the beauty around us remains.

I appreciate it’s really tough for so many people. I heard so many stories of things people have experienced or are experiencing and it is truly heartbreaking. It certainly pulls me up. I know I’ve had my own challenges over the last few years. But, in reality, taking what I’ve got – again, using Tom Chaplin’s words – I’m the luckiest person around. And that just makes me determined to help as much as I can when I listen to other people.

It can be too easy to wrap ourselves in our own world. 2020 has been tough. But, as I said early it has been a year to reflect. A year where we need to rip open the memory box, like a child tears into a present on Christmas Day morning. We need to find that treasure. Find a moment from the past that makes us smile and allow that memory to make the present (pardon the pun) feel so much better. Find a picture. Find a video. Find something that just brings you alive.

I love travelling through pictures on ICloud from the holidays, day trips, concerts, parties, concerts, meals out, concerts, selfies and, of course, concerts. We love our concerts in #TeamDurky.

I love lying in bed and just thinking about the good stuff. I also love lying in bed and looking at the gallery of pictures on the walls. Memories from Catalonia, Ibiza, Bordeaux, and many other holidays And, of course, I love lying in bed ………… full stop.

I guess I’m just trying to share some more thoughts of a grumpy old man who is trying hard to unleash an untapped into positivity.

Why do I resist releasing this positivity? Good question. I guess I’ve got a bit to go before I truly heal the wound that was ripped open by lies and betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, from a personal life perspective, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I am truly lucky. That journey will continue and will keep on going from strength to strength. However, one day, this positive spirit, which is waiting to explode like a trembling champagne cork, will allowed to flow. One day!

So to close, I think I’ve mentioned before I get a daily Thought For The Day. Some are a bit naff but I liked this one:-

‘Some rules of life ……………..1. Never quit 2. Always remember rule 1″.

Appropriate today and every day.

Take care. If you like this blog, there’s loads more on www.viewfromtheground.co.uk. You can also check up on my #lockdown2 walks on Facebook and Instagram (as Jon Duke). There’s a new Instagram page soon to roll out – Every Second Counts 62. Just a few pictures.

Remember, it really is such a beautiful world.

Jon

Creating a seismic tremor

Having very great and usually damaging effects. Imagine that. Just think about creating something that significant. It sounds quite negative but, let’s not go into negative mode. No, let’s make today the start of a seismic tremor inside us that propels us forward in a much more positive way.

Welcome to another view from the ground. A view from my blue bench, surrounded by autumnal leaves. A view into the yellows and golds of the trees surrounding me. The smell from the damp air, and the feels of the cold that invigorates the mind and the spirit. The sound of the breeze rustling the crisp leaves on the ground, and the anticipation of the taste of a glorious mug of Yorkshire Gold tea when I arrive back at #TeamDurky HQ. If you’ve not had Taylor’s finest Yorkshire Gold, you’re missing a seismic tremor of a tea.

It’s funny, I woke up this morning with that dull thud of the work I need to do. It’s Sunday but needs must and all that. But, as I lie here, staring out into another misty morning, it’s all good. Ringo (our wonderful dog) is sprawled on the floor, recovering from a 4th night of hiding, terrified, under a chair because of another night of fireworks. I love fireworks but, come on people, try and remember the horrendous effects the noise has on animals. In the U.K., bonfire night is 5 November not every freaking night that surrounds it.

Anyway, Ringo being with me is great. As is Zeekee (cute cat), who is lying on the bed, chilling and encouraging me to stay here a while longer.

So, why is it good? Well, good question and the question back is, why shouldn’t it be good? If you read the last blog, Every Second Counts, that’s what I’m trying to do and would recommend we all try. Sure, there’s a lot of things that could bring us down. I know there are many people living through a hell at the moment, so I know it’s so tough for them. However, those of us who’s difficulties are surmountable, have the chance to turn around the thinking and grasp the opportunity to make a potentially naff day a good one.

Now, can can hear the seismic tremor of the trample of feet from those who know me well to see if I’ve banged my head. No, that was Aud (beautiful partner) falling down the stairs. Yes, she really is the chaos in my life. Thank you, I really mean that x.

However, I’m trying to grasp the thinking that you wake up every day with the chance to make as much of it a good one as possible. There’s alway aspects of it that can pull you back. But, I really want to focus on the parts of the day that you can make good. The many parts of the week which are there just to enjoy. A walk, a talk, a meal around the table, some TV, a glass of whisky, a cup of tea, a hug, and the list goes on. But, how much of that list have we taken for granted?

To wake up! Now there’s something that we take for granted but shouldn’t. To roll out of bed, and start that day afresh. I feels like it’s time to remember the really basic things and start appreciating just how lucky we are. To get out of bed, to have that cup of tea, to take that autumnal walk and return for another cup of tea. And, then the day starts. For those of us lucky enough to have a job, to crack on through the day.

To speak to loved ones – and to see them when they’re with you.

And, to take a run. Yes, take a run. Again, those who know me know, at best, I’m a chunky monkey. At worse, fat! However, a few weeks ago Ben (handsome son) suggested we started the Couch to 5K running initiative and, here we are, 5th week of running and enjoying our achievement to date. However, a word of warning to those who live in North Leeds, that seismic tremor referred to in the blog title is just me thumping my feet down as we continue on our drive to fitness (and, in my case, not fatness).

And, that the thing. I hope we can all grab at the opportunity or opportunities to make every day, or at least most, a good day. No, let’s make them great days. There’s so much that we can enjoy, even during lockdown.

I know it’s tough, and we all have our own levels on how tough it is. But, I’m determined to make every second count whilst I’m lucky enough to have the seconds to count. I know, I’m one of the lucky ones.

And with that, I’ll close. A bizarre blog? Probably but stuff I wanted to share. In these difficult days I hope we can all find and enjoy some happiness.

For me, in the right hear and now, that happiness will be a quick walk with Ringo and then a FaceTime breakfast with Aud – poached eggs on reindeer crumpets and a strong black coffee (reminiscent of those that we enjoy on our early morning walks in Catalonia).

Take care.

Jon

Every second counts

What are you doing this weekend? I question we have always asked others as we run towards Friday night in anticipation of some fun with friends, catch up time with family, and rest and recuperation from the norm that has gone before us in the week that is just closing.

Of course, for the last few months the standard reply has been “not a lot” as we face the year that has been 2020. Doesn’t it feel like Groundhog Day? Well, I’d like to present the argument for making sure every second counts. Yes, the last blog was just one great big grump. Sorry. I’m still looking for my spine (you’ll need to read the last blog – ‘It’s 4am soon and the cats are yawning’. Yes, I know. A bizarre title but those who have joined me on these blogs know I reference songs and song titles a lot).

Anyway, the grumpiness (in the blogs) has moved on and I’m looking at ways of remembering what is important.

In the right here, right now, the importance of focusing on the good stuff has never been more important. It’s a global crisis the likes of which many have never experienced. I know it’s not a world war – in the military sense. But we are fighting an unknown and it feels like our only weapons are ourselves.

I’ve said my piece previously on the way the U.K. government is dealing with this and won’t labour the point. All we ever ask for is honesty, consistency, and an understanding of how mixed messages impact on the population.

From a global perspective, it looks like the people in power are dealing differently nation by nation. From the sublime (New Zealand) to the ridiculous (take a bow Mr Trump, but hold onto your hair as you tip forwards). All I know is these scary times when we need to stick together, take the necessary precautions to help slow and slow the spread of this horrible virus and then look to a better future.

I look forward to a day when you go on-line to read the news only for your spirits to be drowned by another negative headline. I appreciate that what is being reported (in the quality media outlets) is what is being said. However, as we reel from the announcement that another – 4 weeks – lockdown is due to start, I read the headline ‘English lockdown may last beyond 02 December’. Now, I accept those are the words of Michael Gove. A man who makes the most obnoxious person seem likeable. A man who has as much apparent emotional intelligence as a robot. Hopefully, I’ve made my point. He’s not on my Christmas card list and hasn’t been since he completely wrecked the Education system in England- for teachers and students alike.

I worry, however, about the impact on the mental health and well-being of millions of people who have had enough. I worry that the governments, globally, have lost sight that people are struggling and need an understanding that the fight is not just the coronavirus, it’s mental health. It’s loneliness. It’s poverty. It’s finance. It’s an increase in domestic abuse. It’s an increase in alcohol consumption.

So, I ask all governments to open up their eyes to the wider issues we have here. Please!

However, as I opened with, we need to make sure every second counts. That we focus on understanding every second is precious. It may feel like every day is like Groundhog Day but then I would argue we get chance to enjoy the repeated day and days better than the previous day and days.

During the first lockdown, I walked around the same park something in excess of 50 times and every time I saw something new to enjoy. Something different to appreciate. At this point, I apologise to my friends on Facebook as they had to endure day after day of pictures of flowers, trees, water, the sky and so on. But it really was wonderful to revel in the beauty around me.

I’m grateful for all of the pictures I have taken and stored because I spend hour after hour enjoying the memories. Enjoying what ever that moment was that was captured, as it was a moment that truly mattered.

Lockdown presents a chance to do something new. I’ve discovered an interest in baking. It’s different and it’s a distraction. It’s a making those seconds count.

And, of course, I enjoy writing. I still want to do a book. Something for kindle and good old fashioned paper – with a spine. Whether it gets finished, who knows. I’ve got 4 book ideas part started, and already saved for another time. Many thousands of words. There’s ideas aplenty and one day I’ll sit down and complete something. It has to be meaningful as I’ve seen some real nonsense recently. All ego fuelled and not with the reader in mind.

It really feels like the way to get through these difficult times is to focus on those things that are good in our lives. Focus on being loved and loving others. Focus on those times we’ve had or, are having. Ben and I decided to set out on the Couch to 5K challenge a few weeks ago. In part, to gain some level of fitness. Also, in part, to fill in for those times when we aren’t able to go to watch the Leeds Rhinos or attend another concert. It’s making those seconds count. It’s brilliant and I look forward to reporting our achievement in a later blog.

In essence, I guess it’s a call to arms – following my last blast of grumpiness. Let’s focus on what we have and what we can do. Let’s get through this better and stronger. Let’s believe we can do it, because we will. Look on the bright side, we’re not Michael Gove. Let’s be grateful for that.

Take care of yourself and all of those around you. For now,

Jon

It’s 4am soon and the cats are yawning

There are times, many times, when I wonder how and where did that blog title come from. Well, this time, it’s thanks to an early morning walk with Ringo (the dog, for any first timers); my music was seeping through the earphone things; Psychedelic Furs were the band of choice; and Richard Butler’s lyrics weaved in my brain. Hey presto! A paraphrase of some lyrics. The question is, what’s it all about?

It’s been a while. I thank you for joining / rejoining me to talk through things.

I’ve grabbed my seat on the blue bench – so, let’s have a chat.

The View From The Ground has certainly evolved from its origins. Over the last 4 years, I’ve walked through a lot of thoughts, emotions and experiences in the hope that sharing will help others.

I’m conscious I’ve shared a lot of personal things. Laying out in words a lot of challenges experienced. I guess, sometimes I’ve overstepped the line, certainly in the early stages of my life changes. Separation, and then divorce, is never easy. There are always questions, which can never be answered. Self doubt and, of course, the pride hurts when you are tossed aside.

However, to paraphrase the great songsmith Liam Fray, I’m just trying to be the better man, whatever that is. Whether it’s disconcerting or not, I’m not sure. I suggest you listen to the absolute banger by The Courteeners, Better Man, to find out.

I hope those who have read the blogs over the years will have enjoyed the wonderful upturn in the blogs as I have tried to map out the journey we, as in #TeamDurky, have travelled.

It’s certainly been a case out of the dark a great big beacon of light in the shape of Aud has shone. When I say big, at 4ft 11ins, it’s no surprise she is known as The Wee One.

#TeamDurky are my rock. A rock that will never crumble. Regardless.

I’ve learned a lot over the last few years. About me. About others. I think this year has allowed everybody a chance to reflect.

From my own learning, time needs to move on. Perhaps the blogs, as they have been, have served their purpose. I’m not sure, but I feel a push do something. Change? Stop? Start something new? Just carry on regardless? Who knows.

It’s a tough time for millions of people. We all feel the challenging times in different ways. We all feel sorry for ourselves at times. I know I do. But then you hear about something or someone and it stops you in your tracks. It makes you reflect. It makes you understand.

So, lockdown is rubbish. Not being able to see some of your loved ones. Not being able to see friends. Not being able to go to the pub like we used to, rammed at the bar, breathing beer breath to your heart’s desire. Not being able to randomly go to a restaurant and get crammed into a corner table, pushing passed the next table where one of the occupants has their chair stuck out.

But, then you hear about someone’s truly tragic story. Someone who has just received devastating news. A family losing a loved one. A person taking their own life because they can’t see a way out of the darkness that has engulfed them.

And, then you see on the news, the British government – in essence, the Conservative party which really was only voted into government in England – have voted against extending free meal vouchers out of term time at a time when families are struggling more than I can remember.

Whilst the government – and MPs in general – enjoy excellent salaries, subsidised food in parliament, lunch allowances, incredible expenses, and ……….. well, I won’t go there. It has taken Marcus Rashford, a young footballer, who despite his new found wealth, has remained his roots and spoken up and made a difference. A truly remarkable young man who has the backing of the nation. And, the nation has risen. Businesses, many struggling, have step up and stepped into where the elected government has hidden. Whilst this goes on, there are some Conservative MPs who have taken to Twitter to justify their odious stance.

And, it’s these things that keep many of use awake at night. As the clock ticks towards 4:00 am, the thought that there are people suffering, it’s heartbreaking. That children are going hungry, is wrong. Sure, this has to stop?

Sorry for the rant, but I worry. I long for the day that as a nation, including the government, we unite. We come together as one. Will that day arrive? I’ll leave that question hanging there.

For now, let’s stay strong and let’s be that united force that we know we can be.

And so, as we potter towards the close, it’s been a funny old week on top of everything else.

Just when I have truly moved on, I find myself being referred to as spineless.

To my face? Of course not. To me direct? Nooooo! Interestingly, it was in one of a few bile filled texts received by Ben (to those not familiar, Ben is my awesome son – with me on this journey in #TeamTurkey – surely just a Christmas reference, or better known as #TeamDurky).

I had thought about how I could respond to such a description. Well, it’s tough. I’m standing whilst I write this so I must have a spine. And, in reality, how can I respond to such a remark? It’s all down to perspective, of course. So, let’s just leave it that, shortly after reading it, I had a beautiful glass of single malt an reflected on my blessings to have such an incredible family and friends. And, afterwards, I probably had the best night’s sleep. Strange that.

Sorry you a slightly grumpy read. I hope it makes sense.

Stay safe, and let’s support those in need.

Jon

And when the door opens

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me….You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” —Walt Disney

A door closes; a door opens. Or, in reality, a door must open to enable it to close. Distinctly different, particularly from a metaphorical perspective.

So, welcome to my blue bench as we take another View From The Ground.

4 years ago, I had an idea for a book (yes, one of the many books talked about but never quite manifested, even though the ICloud is looking after over 200,000 words for me).

The book title was ‘And so the door closed ……’. The concept was around someone walking out on their, what we will call, normal existence, to pursue their dreams of greatness in another realm. The idea was to base it around the fantasy world of the likes of Harry Potter. A good idea but the under tone was negative and, thus, it never got into 2nd gear let alone the 5th dimension.

You never know, I might take the idea and create something of comedic value.

However, when you think about it, the expression ‘closing a door’ on something is used quite regularly. I guess in the same way as ‘closing the book’. It’s all about finishing something. But, in the words of the magnificent band, The Editors, ‘even an end has a start’.

Is it a British thing that we focus on the more negative stuff? I know I’m blighted by a propensity to seeing too much negativity rather than thinking about the better things. Ironic, when I strive to write about positive thinking. That’s my dream, wake up and think everything is good and to maintain that thought throughout the day. Rather than sleep badly and then, when the alarm goes off, thinking ‘oh bo11ocks’.

Since thinking of this theme for the blog, I’ve become obsessed with doors – as Aud can confirm. ‘Oooo, that’s a nice door’ is a regular comment on our walks. However, it’s not just a door. Is it?

A door is many things: –

* it’s something we use to close out what we’ve just left behind

* It’s something we use to protect ourselves from unwanted intrusions

* It’s something we have to keep in what we don’t want to lose (don’t think horror movie thoughts here)

* It’s something we open to embrace what is outside

* It’s something we open to allow others into our space, our place of safety

* It’s something we open to look out to the endless possibilities beyond where we are standing

Of course, there are those times that we keep the door ajar. What does that indicate? I’ll stick to the idea it’s to let some air in.

It would be easy to go all deep on this and start analysing what it means when we don’t lock a door versus when we do (when we are still at home). It’s not for me to step into that territory. I lock the door because the crime rate has increased. It’s that simple.

That said, let me return to my thinking for the blog and, I guess, how I am trying to develop my thinking. Obviously, it would be great if this is something that people could relate it.

My thinking in the past had been on doors closing – either behind me or on me.

When I think of a door closing behind me, my previous self would be stood there looking into the vast horizon on nothingness. A canvas blank. Rather than a blank canvas.

When I thought of a door closing on me, the thinking would be of being left behind. So, being left in a room of nothingness; of isolation.

It’s a good job I’m not going to analyse about a door being ajar. A nothingness inside and outside!

Let’s confine the door closing on me to the past. That could have been, in hindsight, self absorbed ‘poor me’ thinking.

Now, there’s an expression I’ve not used for a long time – ‘poor me’. We all know a few people who fall into this category. And for a long time I was one of them. No more. Most of the time 😀.

Ultimately, when a door closes on me, it signifies the end of whatever it is closing out, or in. That’s it. However, that then presents the chance to start again. Start better. Start how I want to start. And leave behind whatever the door has closed out.

And when the door opens. A canvas blank? No, it really is a blank canvas. It’s the opportunity to create exactly what we want. It’s our life. It’s our chance. I know, right now, our lives are heavily restricted by the effects of pandemic. But, one of my biggest life lessons is to look forward. Not to look back at the door, but to look at the view ahead.

Ultimately, it’s trying to take control of a more positive outlook because, for too long, I’ve allowed myself to get dragged back – sometimes by fear of wanting to be optimistic so expecting the worse.

So, when the door opens, it’s important not to look back and try and run behind the closing door. But to look in front and enjoy the view in front. It’s about whether the door is a barrier, or an opening.

I hope that makes sense. As I said at the start of this latest blast of words, the blog has risen from what, originally, was a negative reflection on things way in the passed. What a waste of energy. I am empowered to reflect on my wonderful life now. And what a wonderful, wonderful life it is. Thank you #TeamDurky.

We are all empowered. Let’s take that chance.

“Life is a series of little miracles, try to notice them.” So, when the door opens, look out for your miracles. They are there and they’re waiting for you.

Take care. Stay safe. #blacklivesmatter

Jon

The blue bench

Come and take a seat on the blue bench. It’s a place of comfort. It’s a place of peace. It can be a physical place that you visit. Or, it can be a place that you imagine; your safe place; your mind sanctuary.

Whatever it is for you, welcome to the blue bench. Perhaps a new way to take a view. Not from the ground. Let’s rise from the ground and enjoy a seat. Our seat. Our place to go when we need to just be. A view from the blue bench.

So many weeks of lockdown inevitably brings a time of reflection. A time of self analysis.

I saw a great Thought For The Day recently – “Sometimes we never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory’.

As I’ve said before, probably too many times, I do spend a lot of time reflecting. Life is one huge mirror. The difference with our mind mirror – as in what we use to reflect on / from – we choose what we see.

Lockdown has certainly allowed a lot of time to grab some moments and it’s our choice to decide whether to enjoy the moment or reflect on what then becomes a memory.

And, so, join me and take a seat on your blue bench. Clear your mind for a time of everything and anything that is happening in the world, or has been happening so far to make 2020 the hardest year in my living memory. I know there are countless others who have suffered or are suffering worse. But, we all have a starting point as we sit on our blue bench.

I’m not going to list or pass comment on the events of 2020. I have opinions – of course. But I’ve already had some un-necessary reaction to my honest views on situations. I don’t need it.

I love the idea of having my blue bench on sit at. The blue bench is based on an area of blue benches that Aud and I found on our last visit to Girona in Catalonia. A beautiful, peaceful area in some gardens near the Cathedral. Bizarrely, we didn’t have time to sit down when we were there.

Ironic, isn’t it? I’ll just repeat that back to myself. ‘We didn’t have time to sit down’. And there in lies the lesson in our 21st century lives. We don’t have time to sit down. And, in lockdown, it’s the same. We don’t give ourselves enough ‘me time’.

So, it’s time to take some ‘me time’ and take a seat on your blue bench.

Ever since I saw the blue bench in Girona my mind has wandered back there. I’ve framed in my mind the feeling on sitting on it. I’ve sensed the safe feeling of the strong wood that I’m seated on. The wonderful smell of the trees and nature around me. The sight of those trees. Which trees? Whatever trees I want to see in my mind. The sound of the breeze stirring the leaves and branches, and the sweet sound of birdsong. The taste of tranquility. How do you taste tranquility? It tastes how ever you want.

As I said earlier, lockdown has brought a lot of time to reflect. I have a daily work morning walk, which is usually between 4 1/2 and 5 miles. Time to think. Time to clear the head. Me time.

My mind often drifts to the blue bench. Where ever I might imagine it is. There a spot in the park I walk around in the morning where it would be perfect. A place to be peaceful. A place to just think. A place to remember all of the good things in life. I know there are a lot of struggles at the moment and those struggles can overwhelm us but it’s important to remember the good stuff when we can.

It’s also good to share the blue bench for a chat, be that with someone physically with you of someone you wish could be with you. Share your thoughts, your dreams, your worries. Who would you share your seat with?

I spend a lot of time thinking about mental health and well-being. One of the big things as I see in trying to ease that pressure on well-being right now is taking the chance to talk. So, use your blue bench to do that. I’m lucky. I can think of many people I’d share my blue bench with. I’m lucky I’m surrounded by people who let, and encourage, me to talk.

But sometimes you need your blue bench to be on your own. Not because you don’t want your nearest and dearest with you, but because you want to step back and just be. To just breathe, look, and make sense out of what’s in your head. It’s just good to have that place to go to.

I hope that all makes sense. I know what I set out to say. It’s strange, until I saw the blue bench in Girona, my equivalent place was a bench in Tamariu, our beautiful holiday village. A bench on the promenade, overlooking the beach and the stunning Mediterranean. Again, somewhere peace literally overwhelms you. Just thinking about it evokes great memories.

And to close, as I write my final words today, which is Fathers Day, my late dad is very much in my mind. Gentleman Jim. I think of us sitting together on the blue bench. I think about what I’d tell him. Probably what I have done, in my mind, over the last nearly 33 years since we lost him. I’d like to think we could have a wee glass of single malt, and he’d be proud of where my life is right now. Thanks dad.

Take care. Stay safe as we hopefully move forward towards, at least, some normality – whatever normality is these days. As a global population we have learned so much in the last few months. We have so much more to learn. But, we need to stand together. We need to be united. We need to be strong. Black lives matter.

Jon

Banana cake recipe

There’s nothing quite like the smell of baking. Be it bread, cake, biscuits, it smells good. There are, of course, other wonderful smells that set the memory going – the sea, freshly cut grass, a spring morning, food cooking. I know someone who had a thing about petrol, but I’m not sure what her memories of that were 😀.

So, welcome to a View From The Ground aka lockdown at the end of week 7 in the U.K..

As is the norm at the moment, which I am sure those who have ventured into any recent blog will realise, amongst other strange thoughts my focus has been on the things we can do in a time whilst our options have been reduced.

Well, as I look at a bowl containing 140 grams of softened butter and the same weight of caster sugar, which looks like it needs a good mix, I’ve been reflecting more on this lockdown time as a chance of stepping back and making the most of things.

It’s funny, there’s a feeling of frustration and helplessness and yet, as we’ve just marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day, you can only think, what have we got to complain about. So, we are living under strict government guidelines. Well, I say strict but, really, with the stripped down police force – thanks to the said same government – how strict can those guidelines be applied? I see an increase in cars on the road. I see an increase in speeding cars on the road. What’s the rush?

It’s a worrying time, there’s no doubt about that. But is it really more worrying than waiting for the next air raid siren? More worrying that the thought of a loved one never returning home?

And, then there’s the moments of free time – in the house. Free time, when so many of us have access to 24 / 7 TV. We can watch inane nonsense to our heart’s content. What have we got to complain about. And, if you don’t like inane TV, don’t switch it on.

Or, in the free time right now, we can find 2 eggs and a shake of self raising flour and lob that into the butter and caster sugar. Remember about that earlier on? Go on – do it. And then, give it a mix. Exercise that arm. Better exercise than the continuous pressing of the TV remote control.

TV is an interesting thing. How many conversations do we have on the phone, on FaceTime, by text etc when we’re comparing notes about what we’ve watched?

Due to lockdown, a lot of the staple TV diet for many people (not me!) is the soap opera feast that is available. But, social distancing has meant they haven’t been able to been able to record so soon the pavements of Coronation Street will be empty, the Queen Vic of Eastenders is closed. So, the focus will be binging on the fattening plate full of series catch up. We will be glued to anything and everything we can work through.

We should be so grateful to have this as a distraction, if we are lucky enough to have it available.

You might even find yourself watching cookery programmes. And one of those cookery programmes might then suggest that you add to your butter, caster sugar, egg and a bit of self raising flour, another 140 grams of self raising flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, and 2 mashed ripe bananas.

Now, seeing you have a wonderful mush of mixture in a bowl you might as well fold it, and keep folding until it’s a nice, smooth consistency. Go on. Do it. Lockdown fun and exercising that arm.

Strangely, somewhere in the gap between the above paragraph and this, there’s been some movement from the U.K. Prime Minister with regards to lockdown. However, to avoid the blog police ripping me a new one for my interpretation of what the PM said, I suggest watching the broadcast to form your own thoughts. The media have their views on it, wide and varied, but have a look.

A note of caution, the PM has made his comments on behalf of the UK, I think. But then, Scotland and Wales – I’m not sure about Northern Ireland – have other thoughts on how to deal with lockdown just now. So, has the PM spoken for the U.K. or just England? I’ll let you decide.

Whilst your working through that, drop your mixture into a ‘loaf’ tin – which by the miracle of forethought you’ve already greased with butter and lined with some grease proof paper. Then pop that into the equally forethoughted (no such word) preheated over at gas mark 4 and walk away with your thoughts, forethoughts and after thoughts for 30 minutes.

This is the point at which you look out of the window and think – TV, walk, wine or a combination of the three? That’s lockdown for you. But, as a word of caution, if you’re looking out of the window at 7:00 am, I’d opt for the walk only.

Hopefully, our options will expand shortly but, again, at least we have options. In mainland Europe the chance to exercise outdoors has only recently been granted in some countries. I am so grateful for my daily walks. If only I could stop falling. Two falls in 4 days, bumped, grazed and twisted. However, the show must go on. Ringo needs his exercise and I’m glad I can oblige.

So, let’s see what happens next in which ever part of the globe you live. And whilst you wait for news, open up the oven door (after 30 minutes of baking) and bring out the banana cake. Once it’s cooled a bit, grab a slice, with a fresh brew of Yorkshire tea (it’s the best), and sit down. It could be a whole lot worse.

Thanks for joining me on another blog. It’s ended with us having a brew from the ground. Take care, stay safe.

Jon

Love

Love is. Love has. Love will. Love can. Love it. Love you. Love to love.

“The most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling for someone. Love is an incredibly powerful word. … This love is unconditional affection with no limits or conditions: completely loving someone. It’s when you trust the other with your life and when you would do anything for each other.”

What is love? A question that has been posed many, many times but ultimately the answer is personal to us all. What is love to me will be different what love is to you. The core emotion, the feeling might be the same but the trigger for that feeling of love will be very different.

So, here we sit, staring at the locked down door, with an eye firmly fixed on the view from the ground.

As the song goes, love is all around us. From a personal perspective that is so true on the one hand, and so challenging on the other. As I’ve said previously, I’m am so blessed to have Liv at home with me. And we have Ringo and Zeekee with us, who are just awesome creatures.

But, I miss being able to see Aud so much. Yes, we FaceTime 3 times a day, but not having that physical presence is tough. I long for the day that we can be together again.

I miss Ben and Gaby. Yes, we talk everyday but, again, it’s the lack of physical togetherness that is tough.

I miss our friends. I miss my mum.

But, we all feel the same. And, I fully appreciate the relatively short period of time that we have been apart is nothing when compared to what some have to go through. And I know that there are so many who miss someone who they will never see again because of this virus. My heart goes out to them all.

During the lockdown I’ve learned so much about love. About true love. And about opening yourself up to appreciating everything you had and everything you have. And everything around us.

My relationship with Liv has always been strong but I’m proud at how, for me, it’s strengthened through the good and the not so good times.

The daily calls with Ben, and Gaby, have been wonderful and again just strengthened such a strong bond. After the lockdown Ben and Gaby are joining me and Liv at the #TeamDurky base and it’s going to be great fun.

As I’ve already said I miss Aud so much. We came together a bit later in life than a lot of couples do and we see this as a new beginning. Before we found each other, I was blessed with Ben and Liv, Aud was blessed with Eilidh and Liam. We have friends and family to bring into our collective new world together. We are so lucky.

I now know a deep love that can only come from the journey to where we are now. I’m grateful we have the chance to start our time together – well, that was 3 years ago – but our collection of life memories have helped propel us forward.

I love the life we have. Thank you to everyone who have helped us. I love the notion that we will soon be together again, physically – because we are never apart.

However, this relative isolation has helped unleash a love for nature. Those who are unfortunate enough to be connected with me on Facebook will probably be bored of my daily download of photos from my 6.30 morning walks with Ringo. The countless photos from the local park. The regular updates about my obsession with the swans on the lake. The stream of Ringo photos.

Sorry if I’m boring you. That’s not my motivation. Quite the opposite.

I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of nature that has always been there. Perhaps I’ve just been a little blind to it.

I’m trying to encourage us all to see that there is life outside the door for those of us who are lucky enough to get a daily dose of release.

I’m celebrating what life can really mean. There are things we can’t do, people we can’t see but there are opportunities to create something else whilst we wait to hold those that we miss.

I know in a previous blog I’ve already talked about the love of springtime. Of watching new life take hold. Magnificent.

I guess these last few weeks have been a unique opportunity to reflect, adjust, and then take a chance.

It won’t be long before we get chance to get out and get together.

But how much of what we have learned will stay with us? Will we just jump in the car to drive somewhere to then go for a walk or will we enjoy the walks that we discovered when that was the only option available? Will we drive to the supermarket on a whim for some flour or eggs when, during lockdown, we have walked to a local shop who has during lockdown has sourced those much sought after products when the supermarket couldn’t?

Will we accelerate into that crazy pace of life that existed before, or will we take a deep breath, look around, and just take in and enjoy what we have, rather than hurtling forward demanding more of what we don’t need.

My commitment is to use what I have learned over the last few weeks, which includes never taking anyone or anything for granted. I’m not saying I ever have, quite the opposite but, be warned those I see in the early days of post lockdown – Mr Not Tactile is shedding that name. Watch out.

I’m certainly going to continue to really celebrate this love of nature. The step count targets have been smashed so long may that continue.

Support your local businesses. They need you and, when we needed them, so many were there for us.

And, in the U.K., we are so lucky to have the NHS. Let’s not forget that – ever!

Let’s just remember, love is a powerful emotion. It’s the best one to have and it is all around us.

Take care,

Jon

My crumpets have popped

All I need is the air that I breathe. Every breath you take. Something in the air. Breathe. And my favourite – Still breathing.

Just a few songs about ……… breathing. What would we do without it? I think we know the answer to that. So, let’s not think about that.

And while I’m rambling, what in the name of a rather nice bread is the blog title all about? Read on, it’s not what it appears.

And with that, welcome to another phew from the ground. Lockdown continues. It’s become the new normal.what is normal? What was normal? What will be normal? In reality, why do we need normal? That’s a bit of a learning for me. Why is normal so important? Interestingly, I’ve recently seen a UK government minister has said we need to find a ‘new normal’. How bizarre.

Now, I fully appreciate, for many normal is critical. It could be for physical health reasons, it could be for mental health reasons.

For me, I have always being one to aim at normal. To have routine. To know what I need to do, and be aware of what I am going to be doing. But lockdown normality leaves me wondering what ‘not normal’ would be like.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an eye opening, thunderbolt of an awakening. I need the foundation of my life – Aud, Ben (and Gaby), Liv, family, friends, Ringo, Zeek, work, home etc, etc. And much more. But, with my foundation well and truly in place, the thought of not normal – as in unplanned, exploratory is kind of interesting.

To be fair, the closest I get to ‘not normal’ at the moment is venturing from not having an Indian take away on a Friday night . Even in lockdown, that normality has been retained. Phew! But, then should that be phew or should it be new. Try something new. Try to break the normal and reach out to something else. Vietnamese take away? A brave new world?

But then, by changing from the normal does that become the new normal of not being normal. Normally I’d have an answer but I don’t know. All I do know is, why don’t you give yourself a try. After all, life is what you make it.

So, what’s with the breathing song titles at the start of the blog? Good question. As a starter, it’s a change from the normal. In addition, it’s something I’ve been focusing on this week.

I’m lucky to work at a company who already had a great focus on employee wellbeing. As we work our way through this crisis, wellbeing becomes even more important. I was delighted to join a webinar on Wellbeing last week and at the end, the host / presenter talked us through a 5 minutes meditation which focussed on breathing.

Now, those who have known me for some time know I have tried, and enjoyed, meditation. I guess I’ve drifted in and out of meditation – rather then in meditation. But when I give it a go, it does help relax me.

My problem has always been emptying my mind and just being at peace. There’s always so much going on. I’ve tried guided meditation, using music and just lying in silence. I guess my preference has been guided and I would strongly recommend it. It’s good for the soul, particularly at times of stress. Just concentrating on the voice. Losing yourself. As they say, when thoughts come in to your mind you should acknowledge that thought but then let it go.

However, the 5 minutes breathing meditation was a very pleasant revelation. 5 minutes of purely focussed breathing – deep breathing. Not in a weird heavy breathing down the phone sort of thing. Just deep breathing – filling your lungs and then releasing.

I’ve incorporated this into my morning routine. It’s simple and effective. It’s good for the brain and it gets my breathing process up and running before my walk with Ringo.

I would strongly recommend meditation to anyone and everyone. Go on, why don’t you give yourself a try.

It’s all about doing the not normal. And, I really am trying. Some might suggest I am very good at not being normal. That’s not what I’m suggesting. It’s doing the ‘not normal’. That is, the not normal to you.

We’re living in very unique times. Getting up and not jumping in the car or getting the bus or train to work. For many, that’s a new world. Sitting at a desk or table at home and doing work, for many that’s a new world. But the new world becomes the present world – doesn’t it? The present normal.

It is nice, however, to transfer some of the previous normal into the present normal and, hopefully take it to the new normal. Some things are just perfect to have as normal. Maybe, we have to adapt them into the new version of the normal.

Now, let me think? Old normal; new normal; and now new version of normal. So, it’s not a new normal it’s just a new version of the old normal. Confused? Bored? Headache? Bored of your headache? Take two normal tablets and a glass of new normal water and you’ll be fine.

I’m loving a specific new version of mine and Aud’s normal. Sunday breakfast. Over the previous several months of old normal we developed a lovely routine of poached eggs on crumpet for breakfast (I’m glad I just re-read that, as I’d put poached eyes!). A combination of the inspiration of a breakfast in Glasgow and a breakfast request from Eilidh (the eggs), and there we had it – our Sunday treat and a chance for another chat.

Well, even in lockdown, we can maintain our breakfast. FaceTime and we are 2 happy chefs, serving up our breakfasts and chatting , and laughing . I miss not having Aud with me. But this really helps. And, last Sunday, as I was watching my eggs boil, I heard those words of magic – “My crumpets have popped”. I nearly projected my coffee across the kitchen.

The old normal really is now the present normal Just a different type of normal. I’m lucky.

So, on that note, as is normal, I’ll finish while I’m on a high and wish you good health and happiness.

Stay safe.

Jon