Negativity stopping the world from spinning

“In a world that has left you unspoken, with surprisingly little to say” – Wrest (from the beautiful song, Poetry)

I think I’ve listened to this song 15 or 20 times since I saw the outstanding Wrest, an up and coming band from Edinburgh. First gig the day after the easing of restrictions in England. The first time in a venue for 16 months and 1 week.

A beautiful celebration of the magic of live music. A moment to just be. A time to fall in love with being in the moment. For 80 minutes, an escape from the negativity that gets spewed out by the minute where ever you stand.

For 80 minutes, it felt like the world was back on its axis and spinning to the sound of the music. I truly didn’t want the music to stop. Another last song please.

So, welcome to the sounds from the ground. The view from the crowd.

I wish I was still there. Standing, watching, listening, dreaming. Sometimes, just closing my eyes and soaking in that moment. The moment that had been only a dream for 16 months and 1 week.

In the run up to England being released from most of the restrictions, we had the mind mess of hope and positivity getting mixed with the constant negative news. Of course, the number of people testing positive and being infected with this horrendous virus is a continuing worry. But, the government constant change of tactics as to which data they rely on only causes confusion. And, unfortunately, you end up asking what is their actual objective?

Now, I accept, I’m not a picture of smiles and optimism. Hard to believe? Ask my family and friends. Optimism is definitely a work in progress. Smiles? It’s not a natural thing. Some people have a wonderful way to just smile. I mentioned the band, Wrest. They just smiled all the way through their performance. It’s infectious. Come to think of it, if smiling is infectious, that must mean my expression of having a face like a slapped ar5e has a similar effect.

But negativity is getting in the way of getting on the way. Getting on the way to being happy. God help us, they don’t want that. I’ve just looked at the top 10 BBC news stories this morning. 6 of the 10 are negative. So, were the other 4 stories positive, moments of hope, opportunities to smiles? Of course not, this is the BBC we’re talking about. The happiness quota is not going to come from that source, unless you want to watch the likes of Gavin and Stacey. Always worth a watch!

So, I looked to Sky News for a glimmer of home. 7 out 10 news stories tell me I shouldn’t have bothered.

Now, I accept it’s a personal choice to look at the news; to look at anything. But, surely there’s some good stuff to report? Surely?? Or, are we just programmed to expect bad news, so, in fact, my brain is tuned into hunting out the negative, axis slowing, news.

Well, I took a new look at the BBC. Still seem to be wallowing in all that is bad. But, and it came in at number 7, I found something good. ‘An 11-year-old boy has begun a 200 mile (321km) walk from his home in Yorkshire to Westminster to raise awareness of climate change.’ Not only a positive story but also about something focussed on making sure the world keeps spinning.

However, of course, I’m looking at the responsibility that others have, such as the on-line news websites, for how we see things. How our day starts, by pumping constantly bad news.

There’s a great line in the magnificent song, Hereafter, by Architects – ‘I’ve been searching through the wreckage. But it’s like standing in the eye of a storm’.

I guess that’s how it feels wading through the quagmire that is the news. I know, there’s a lot of bad news! But there’s plenty of good news as well.

But, of course, we are masters of our own destiny. We are in charge of the filter that we apply to what we see and hear.

We have to create and find our own happiness. It’s that simple. We have to realise that there is bad stuff out there. We have sadness to deal with. We have anger to cope with. We have days which are garbage. But, we have the ability to filter the way we receive those things that we can’t affect – the daily news.

Of course, how we react to COVID, to preventing the spread, to social distancing, to being responsible is critical. Of course, we have to deal with the conspiracy theorists who claim it doesn’t exist or whatever other nonsense these pathetic people trot out.

But, 9 out of 10 news stories are just that, ‘news’. We have no control.

We have to create a state of positivity. A state of mind where we flip our mindset. Easier said than done? Yes and no. Yes – it’s perhaps a big ask to do it immediately. No – if we see it as a work in progress.

I’ve already said, maybe not in as many words, but my natural state of mind has been one of being Mr Grumpy. But, I’m trying. I’m trying to create a positive mindset – most of the time 😀.

It’s there for us all. We can choose. We have the chance to shake the axis and keep this amazing planet that we call home spinning.

It’s worth a go.

Right, with that I’m going to listen to some music and enjoy being in that moment.

Take care.

Jon

Well-being from the ground – a view of the sea

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, as the old song goes.

Obviously, we have all lived through a lockdowned world for the last 16 months or so. In the U.K., we’re lucky in that the travel restrictions were eased a few weeks ago for travelling in the country, and now some relaxation for going abroad . Sensible travel. The ability to travel in the U.K. started at a time when I’d been lucky enough to enjoy a month between changing jobs.

With well-being at front of mind – following the last blog (that seems a long time ago) – welcome to my take on the magic of sea air, sea views, and sea sounds. Seeing as that’s 3 of the senses ticked off, let’s not ignore the taste of seaside fish and chips, and the touch, the feel of the sand.

It’s a bit of a mish mash of a blog, as I started it during my month off; left it; came back; left it, and so on. Just like a good cup of Yorkshire tea, it’s nice to spend time allowing time for the ‘flavour’ to come through. Hopefully I haven’t over-brewed it.

Well-being has been front of mind this year. To be fair, anyone who has joined me with the blogs will know well-being is a passion.

I’ve always being obsessed with the coast. Time spent near the sea awakens all 5 senses, every time. And it’s always so important to fuel the 5 sense; to excite them.

I’m sure it’s the same for many of us, just the sight of the sea awakens memories of the past but, equally, stirred hope for a beautiful day.

I’m focussing on Whitby because I was lucky enough to visit twice during my month off. It’s also a place with special memories.

These recent visits though have really sparked something beyond that normal love of the seaside. It’s invoked a real appreciation of the therapeutic benefits of it.

Just thinking about those visits now makes me want to jump in the car.

The excitement of the drive (traffic permitting); perhaps stopping for some breakfast on the journey; some well chosen music in the car; some beautiful scenery; and then the first glimpse of the sea on the distant horizon. Your mind tells you that you can smell the sea – from miles away.

A memory of my wonderful father convincing us all that we could taste the salt on our lips. All those years ago.

And then the arrival in the car park and the day ahead. That feeling of the worries that you’re carrying slowly rising out of your body and disappearing towards the distant horizon.

The deep inhalation and smell of fresh, sea air. The sounds of the seagulls. The feel, hopefully, of some warmth on your face. The sight of the waves rolling in. And the taste of the salt 😀.

I’ll avoid this evolving into a tourist information blog for Whitby. All I will say is, if you haven’t been – go there. If you have been – go back.

It’s beyond beautiful. The Abbey. The harbour. The beaches. The cliff top walks. The promenade. The town. And, now, Whitby Brewery. Obviously, the multitude of fish and chips restaurants and ice cream parlours is a given.

It’s heaven on earth.

Whitby captures everything that is magnificent about a British coastal resort, and more.

As you can, I hope, tell I love being at the coast. The well-being qualities, for me, are like nothing else.

To just sit, and watch the swelling sea, or the gentle waves, whichever, is the best wide awake meditation I can think of.

The chance to rip off the shoes and socks and feel the sand on the feet. What a shame we can’t just rip everything off and enjoy the feel of the sea on our bodies. Too far! From a personal perspective a passing whaling fleet would enjoy the opportunity to harpoon me. And, well, it’s not a good thought so replace the image with the sight of looking at the beach, with people having fun, and just being at peace.

The seaside is where we can embrace our love for life and, when we return home, have locked in our hearts and minds all of those memories. I always have loads of pictures which I return to daily.

It’s where we can always be grateful for life. But, then, we should always be grateful for the life we have been gifted.

As i say regularly, we have been gifted this life so let’s seize the moment. If you haven’t found that place of happiness. Don’t give up looking. It’s there. It’s not hiding but you might not see it so just focus.

When you find that place, Embrace it and always remember that moment.

For me, it will always be by the sea or with a view of the sea.

I hope you find yours. Whitby is a good starting point.

Just as a footnote, apologies for typos etc. It’s just me.

Take care.

Jon

View from the ground -well-being

“Well just beyond the blue horizon. We see the clouds begin to form. Don’t be afraid. We must keep fighting. And cling to courage in the storm” – Ides Of March – Myles Kennedy

I’ve just been reading the news. Reading about the new variant of the Covid-19 virus that is unleashing itself in the U.K. Reading about the impact on the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions – particularly in England. Reading the panic that is being instilled into the exhausted population.

Of course, it’s important that everyone knows the need to respect and abide by the guidelines set by the government. However, it is absolutely exhausting that for about 14 months now, it’s being all about what we can’t do. Obviously, it’s all for the right reason. This virus is deadly. But, just when there’s hope, this latest variant and the worry it’s causing feels like a serious blow.

I worry for people’s well-being. I was listening to the new album by Myles Kennedy and particularly the stand out track, Ides Of March. The lyrics at the start of the blog stood out as particularly relevant at this time. We must remain courageous at what feels like a storm just as the blue horizon was within sight. We will get there. But, whilst we wait, a real focus needs to be maintained on our own well-being and that of others. We need to reach out to those who may just need to know we are there for them. I’m committed to do that – today.

Welcome to the latest View From The Ground blog.

We have just had Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s great to have a week focussed on all matters mental health awareness related. However, this has to be a daily focus. The more I see, read, and hear, the great the issue is and the more important it is for everyone to appreciate the depth of the issue.

I was looking for a definition of well-being online. I found this, which is a reasonable start.

“Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It’s a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Wellbeing is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction. In short, wellbeing could be described as how you feel about yourself and your life.”

I hear too many times, still, that people. With well-being challenges are told to get a grip. I remember a ‘person’ saying someone close to them was attention seeking. I’ve heard some many dismissive comments about mental health and well-being.

The above words sum up well-being perfectly by referring to it as a ‘complex combination’. There are so many component parts to an individual’s well-being.

I’m no expert and I am certainly not medically qualified on the subject. I look at it from a heart centric perspective. And I’m worried.

I hear too many times about people struggling. The news is littered with sad stories related to the effects of mental health. And they are just the stories that make the news. They are the tip of the iceberg.

It’s an issue that is not going away. Quite the opposite. So, we have to face up to it.

I’m very conscious of my own well-being pressure points and, like many others, have to have them front and centre of my mind everyday.

The above description states ‘wellbeing could be described as how you feel about yourself and your life’.

Interesting, I am fortunate enough to be preparing to launch into the next chapter of my working life. Something needed to change and, through various circumstances, the change became a possibility and subsequently a reality. So, it could be said I became aware of how I felt about life and, with a little help, took control. We can all do it.

But, how we feel about ourself and our life has to be a daily process. A daily exercise regime on our well-being – both mentally and physically. As is well publicised, mental and physical well-being come as a partnership. They are a marriage made in heaven. That’s a rarity in itself! That said, for a marriage to work it also needs a daily focus – from both parties. Just like mental health and well-being.

It could be said I’m not the right person to comment on either subject 😀😀😀😀😀.

However, let’s stick to well-being. Obviously, as I said at the start, the current concerns about the new Covid-19 variant is a concern. Other than sticking to Government guidelines, there’s not much more we can do about that. But worry about the possible impact on the easing of lockdown restrictions is a real threat to mental health and well-being.

However, maintaining both physical and mental well-being is something we can continue to work on. I’m grateful to have my regular walks. The target is between 500,000 and 600,000 steps per month. Dependent on the time of day for the walk, it’s a combination of fresh air (always), music or conversation, and great scenery. To be fair, for the year to the end of April, I’ve covered just short of 2.5 million steps. I’m pleased with that after 4 months.

I mention this to try and emphasise this is something that we can all do. I’ve found it helps my well-being significantly, both from a physical and mental perspective. It’s a release from the walls that surround me and it helps with the appreciation of all that is around.

Just a thought 😀. It’s that simple. It’s just what I do. Thousands of others have thousands of better ideas. I hope they can share them. We can all learn about better ways to preserve and improve of well-being. The walking certainly helps my perspective of myself.

And with that, it will be time for a walk soon, so I’ll close.

Take care.

Jon

This is a blog

“When one door of happiness closes, another one opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we don’t see the one which has opened to us”. – courtesy of Denny Training

A quote that landed in my inbox a few weeks ago and once upon a time it would have had an impact. At the time, it kind of resonated. However, I’m one of the lucky ones. As a door closed, I was grateful to grasp the handle of the opened door and take the opportunity to explore inside. More on that later.

It’s been a tough few weeks and I’ve had the opportunity to experience a lot of what too many people been through. Disruption.

I’m not going to blab on in a ‘poor me’ way. We all know / knew people like that. I guess I just want to explore how we deal with disruption.

So, with that, let’s experiment with surrender and join me on the blue bench to take a reflective view from the ground.

It’s been a while. As was once sung, you say it best when you say nothing at all.

Disruption – “the act or process of disrupting something: a break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity, process, etc.”

Obviously, disruption can come in many forms. Let’s face it, the last 14 months has seen significant disruption in global life. From the lockdown disruption, many thousands have had residual effects of the lockdown that have changed their lives for ever. It’s been tough.

But, out of the flames, we have learned to rise like the proverbial Phoenix. Or, in some cases, it may have felt like being out of the frying pan and into the flames.

All disruption. But, we learn. We seek to fix the break in our normal course, and find ways to move towards continuation, even when that continuation is a move towards a new normal. We find a way of life that suits our new circumstances. We learn a new sense of appreciation for all that we had, all that we now have, and all that we can gain.

Am I making sense or is this just a rambling outpouring of words? I hope it makes sense.

I saw a great line from the magnificent BrewDog empire – tomorrow starts today. Those are such great words.

I was presented with unexpected disruption. I didn’t like it. I got angry. I tried to better understand the reason for the disruption. I still didn’t like it but, ultimately, the choice was to remain angry or to find a solution.

Sometimes decisions made that are out of your control can move you to then make a decision that is within your control and that, in itself, can be as simple as seeing the open door in advance of the other door closing.

I guess a learning I took from reading The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer was to let go of my own fears; stopping listening to the little voice of doubt and control in my head – and just letting go to where life took me.

The learning helped me to see the disruption not as a problem but as an opportunity.

So, literally It was a case of one door opening as another door threatened to close. As a consequence, I can look back behind the closing door with fondness and pride, rather than anger. I can reflect on all that was good. I can also propel through my new, open, door with real enthusiasm and excitement.

The message the disruption provided was to just go with the flow, ride the wave, and land on 2 feet on the beach (in my case like a beached whale).

I hope we can all learn from Lockdown disruption about how we rose above the chaos it presented. I equally hope that when disruption presents itself to you, you can see an opportunity, not a problem.

And as a closing learning, I’ve sought to surrender to enjoying each and every day in the moment. Have I banged my head and gone a bit la la? Noooooooo. Hear me out – please. And this is just about my own wiring, not judging how others think.

Last week, I was lucky to have a wonderful day with Ben, and Ringo, on the East coast of Yorkshire. The sky was grey, the temperature was cold, the wind blew (that’s the weather), the waves crashed, and we had a magnificent day. It couldn’t have been better.

The follow day, when I was having my early morning walk, the sky was blue, the temperature was cool, the wind was still and, for a second, I thought ……………….. I thought how bloody lucky I’d been to have such a wonderful day with Ben. I knew no kind of weather could have made it any better.

So, there you have it – disruption = opportunity; every day = opportunity.

And, to close, another little gem of a thought – “If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room” – courtesy of Denny Training

Keep well and stay safe.

Jon

Learnings from unlocking down

“Start where you are. Do what you can. Use what you have.” – Arthur Ashe

“Realise deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Well, hasn’t 2021 been a blast so far? Party, party, party. Holidays aplenty. Hugs, happiness and hope.

Okay, I accept. That’s the dream. It was the dream. It is the dream. It will be reality. However, let’s be honest, Eckhart Tolle has summed it up in one sentence. The present moment really is all that we have. However, we always have had, do have, and will have hope. And that where my story begins. Hope!

Welcome to my very clear view from the ground as I try to explain what I’ve done to try to unlock the lock that has locked us down.

I know previous blogs have walked through the past 12 months, looking at the beautiful world we are blessed to inhabit, about throwing the curtains wide.

It’s been one hell of a ride and, as we see the light at the end of what has been an ever extending tunnel, I hope we can take so much of what we’ve learned to create a better future post lockdown self. Let’s not waste the last 12 months.

We all know it’s been tough. But as I write this I appreciate how lucky I am in the knowledge it could have been a whole lot tougher. I haven’t suffered COVID-19 and I’m not aware of family or friends who have contracted it. I do know that it’s been hell for those who have, and that’s just those who survived it. The death rate in the U.K. has been so sad and, of course, questions will be asked about why. I’m not going use the blog to make a political statement as COVID-19 isn’t about politics. I don’t need to. The statistics and the denial of the decision makers says enough right now.

So, the question is, to us all, what have we learned? The art of survival is definitely one this. The ability to enjoy recycled TV programmes is another. The repeats have been a joy to behold. And the repeat viewing of series of series has been quite incredible.

But, genuinely, what have we learned from lockdown that we can take as we move forward into the new world? We can’t say back into normality because life will never be the same again.

As lockdown eases, a bit at a time, it’s definitely a time of reflection and, as I say regularly, I do like to reflect.

I certainly think we have learned never to take anything for granted. And I mean anything. After 14 months of waiting, I managed to see my mum. 14 months! Before lockdown, this was an easy, accessible, go when you want, hour’s drive to see mum and Stuart (her legend of a husband).

So, to be able to see her after 14 months, of course it was emotional. But it was also a slap in the face of ‘don’t ever take this for granted’. To all sit there in the sunshine – a bit chilly – talking, smiling, laughing, remembering, and every now and again, all just looking at each other and being grateful for being in that moment. Beautiful.

I’m lucky that I have a beautiful park just over 10 minutes’ walk from the house. In the year pre-lockdown I probably went to the park no more than 10 times. That is scandalous. The park is a place of beauty, where you can revel in the development of nature through the seasons. Since lockdown started, I must have been there over 150 times. Of late, as the daylight hours have increased, it at least a once a day must.

The lesson is certainly to never take the availability of such beauty for granted. Ever.

Of course, lockdown brought those horrible times of me not been able to see Aud. My beautiful partner for the last 4 1/4 years. Very grateful that FaceTime allowed us to ‘see’ each other.

To paraphrase an old line, you never realise how much you need someone until they’re not there. Of course, we are now allowed our walks and some social contact but once full clearance is given, I’ll make sure Aud knows how much I need her in my life (I can say that here as she doesn’t read the blogs).

Resilience has been a lesson. Emotions have ebbed and flowed. The lows and, not quite highs, but the appreciation of life. The last year or so, from a personal perspective, has seen change and is bringing future change. I guess, out with the old – as in lockdown – it’s right to welcome in the new. It’s good to embrace the new. More on that later but, suffice it to say, I’m excited for the change. But, in equal measures, grateful for where I am now.

Lockdown has been a significant time for everyone. It’s been tough for many. It’s been tragic for too many. 12+ months that have shaped our future. For many reasons. Think about it – something as simple as the workplace for those who work(ed) in an office, it will never be the same. And that’s good.

Lockdown will change the way we think. Release from lockdown will, hopefully, mean we spend more time living in the present, living for today, rather than always looking to tomorrow (after the frenzy of booking tables in bars and restaurants has slowed down).

We need to celebrate today. Enjoy the gift that it is. Cram if full of memorable experiences. Reflect at the end of the day that we made the most of the opportunities that were granted to us.

Life has always been precious. The moments that matter should now been seen as every minute we have. Let’s not miss any chances.

Looking back, pre-lockdown, how many of us procrastinated over the simplest things? I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll make that visit to a special someone next week. I’ll go there later. 12 months later …………. If we could turn back the clock.

As I said earlier, the pure joy of seeing my mum after so long. Emotional is an understatement. A joy that will live with all of us who were there for a long time.and, it’s those moments that are even more special than ever.

It’s making sure that we embrace what feels like a new chance to get things right. During lockdown there was a go drive to ensure we spoke to people. Well, now let’s make that same commitment to see people – family, friends, and those people that we know who might just appreciate a knock on the door and a cheery face to greet them.

Just a note of caution here. If you knock on our door, Ringo will kick off. He just doesn’t like it when he hears someone at the door. I know we’ve got him primed for what to do if there’s an ‘unwelcome’ visitor, but family (well, there’s always one exception 🤣), friends, neighbours, postal workers, Amazon delivery people, you are welcome. Please bear with him. And, sorry, there’s no cheery face. I’ve tried. It looks false. Sorry.

And with that,I will continue to wile away my time continuing to absorb my own learning from being lockdown to take into being unlocked down.

Take care. Keep respecting the guidelines. God bless the NHS.

Jon

One day like this a year will see me right

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” – Buddha

It feels like Buddha is the source of all wisdom as we continue through this global crisis. Some parts of the globe have faired better than others. Let’s not get into analysing why as I’ll stray into controversial territory. Whilst in the U.K. we look forward to reaching the light shining at the end of the tunnel and we ride the vaccination train of hope, New Zealand bounces to the beat of live music. Whilst the U.K. dithers about when to do what, how, and why, Perth in Australia lockdowns due to one COVID-19 case. Like I said, let’s not stray into analysis.

That said, I do take my hat off to all involved in the amazing roll-out of the vaccine across the U.K. And on the basis of taking my hat off, I’ll lay it here in the U.K., as that’s my home. For those old enough, that’s one to think about.

Welcome back to the view from the ground. The view is the same as it always was. But, then, is it?

A quick look back at Buddha’s words – Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”

So, with those words in mind do we live today like Groundhog Day or do we inspire ourselves to make today the best day we can?

That is, of course, dangerously assuming, in lockdown, our Groundhog Day isn’t a brilliant day already. Sorry, I guess I’m being a little self reflective – where everyday can just feel like ………………every other day. That’s not to say that every day I wake up, I’m not grateful. I’m very grateful!

Each week though brings moments of thinking ‘here we go again’. Wake; walk; work; walk; eat; work; walk / run / walk; eat; watch (TV); wash; sleep and do it all over again.

I’m sure millions feel the same – in that immediate moment of thought.

But, and it’s a big but. Not a big butt, or a cigarette butt, just a big but. Time to step outside the ‘poor me’ bubble, take look inside ourselves, as an outsider, and rethink that thought process.

So, referring back to the ‘every morning we are born again’ why do we allow ourselves to think ‘here we go again’? Why not just stop that thought process at ‘here we go!’?

Here we go – let’s make the most of the opportunity we have. Easier said than done? Of course! I am not a morning person at the best of times. And I’m a grumpy old man. But (let’s not go thrown the butt comments again), I’m not suggesting that we all bounce out of bed, arms in the air, shouting ‘yes, here we go, here we go, here we go’.

It’s just case of trying to turn the thought process around from I don’t want to get up, to just get up and own the day.

Try to intersperse the day with moments that matter. For those of us who currently have a job, we are lucky. But then, in that working day, when we have been sitting in the same space that we eat, or watch TV, or sleep, for months on end due to being locked down, set yourself milestones or rewards.

It’s simple – do it in steps.

Schedule time for exercise, through out the day. Walking, running, whatever makes you happy.

Plan your lunch. I like to pre-cook some pasta to have over the course of a couple of days and think about what to have on the other days. It’s better than just think, here we go again (again) and just grabbing something quick. Or nothing at all.

Don’t be glued to a computer screen. Get up, move, do something. Apart from anything, get a few steps in.

Allow yourself a treat. A nice coffee / tea – I drink tea all day but vary it up so each drink feels special, not functional. A biscuit. Some fruit. Whatever grabs your interest – within reason. But, don’t be a slave to worrying about the effects of a little treat. If you grab some exercise – bang, sorted. If you don’t, double bang, you’re had a nice treat, who cares.

Smile. Now, there’s irony. Advice from Jon Duke to smile. Mr. Grumpy himself. So, yes, this is advice to me as well. But, let’s have a reason to smile. To laugh. To skip joyfully through the meadow, singing at the tops of our voices. Well, okay, the skipping bit is for others. But to smile and to laugh. Let’s try it. I will if you will.

And, breathe. Sit back, close your eyes, think of something or someone that makes you happy. And breathe. That will hopefully also make you smile. But, just try it. Hold the thought and enjoy the moment.

To end your day, have some proper rest time. No work. No housework. Nothing. Just rest. Watch some TV – not the news; listen to some music; read a book. Whatever makes you happy.

Before you know, it’s time for bed. Where you can, hopefully, reflect on a good day. A better day.

Hopefully, it won’t just be one day like this that will see you right. Everyday will be like this, and then you’ll be right. You’ll be ready to throw those curtains wide, run up that hill. And believe it is a beautiful word.

Have a great day, and take care.

Jon

What is my age again?

“Life has a funny way of turning you into the one thing you don’t want to be.” – Jonathan Levine

Have you ever looked at a group of young people having the time of their lives and felt that pinch of envy? Obviously, I don’t mean right now as we’re all doing the same thing. I mean, when we’re out of lockdown and we’re not in tiers. Hopefully, we’ll be in tears of laughter.

Or is it just me?

Have you ever actually thought ‘I can do that’? Let’s explore my conundrum as I stumble towards the birthday before the birthday where it all falls apart. The up and coming birthday that signals there are 365 days before I have to accept there are some things that I really should withdraw from. Or, should I have arrived at that station already? Some would say yes.

I’m in a pickle. But then, I probably have been for a while. The view from the ground is a tad hazy.

The challenge is greater because post lockdown we will all feel like propelling ourselves out of the house and going just a little bit crazy. Won’t we?

I guess this is a bit personal but, hopefully, the conundrum is something others will relate to.

There a long list of things I enjoy doing where I think, perhaps it’s time to grow up. But, then, in equal measures, is that a problem? Is that they problem? Society places this expectation that by a certain point in our lives we should all behave in a certain way. We should all act responsibly. Or, is that pressure actually something we place on ourselves because we think that is what society expects?

Let’s give an example. Now, as I blab on about, I love music. I love attending concerts. I love the energy of concerts, and I equally love watching the crowd erupt into a swaying mass of energy and pure excitement. I’ve always stood on the periphery of this bedlam (I’m referring to a certain kind of concert – of course). Watching bands demand a circle pit opens, or just instilling the kind of enthusiasm where the crowd bounces – off each other. The collective spirit of being together.

So, why, as I’ve been moving towards respectful old age am I drawn closer to this mass of enthusiasm? Why 3 1/2 years ago was I towards the front for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, being shunted in every direction, and loving every minute? Why, 2 years ago, was I drawn into the crowd for the same band and bouncing with unbounded energy whilst Frank told us all to get a f@£king crowbar? Why, 3 months later did I join a circle pit with Liv (daughter) fir some fun with Bring Me Horizon? Why, at most concerts, with Ben (son), Aud (The Wee One), and Liv have we edged further into the crowd? (Note: Gaby (Ben’s partner) does come to some concerts, just (in the main) not the chaotic ones).

What is my age again?

And there’s the problem. Am I regressing? Should I give in to pressure and start going to middle of the road, sit down and nod (off) concerts? Don’t get me wrong, mu musical tastes stretch all over place. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, sit and sing. Yes! Bear’s Den, stand and marvel at wonderful music. Yes! Evanescence with an orchestra, sit and cry. Yes! I could go on. To do go on, sorry.

But, it’s the draw to being involved in those incredible experiences of loud, bouncing rock music. Seeing the whites of the eyes of the band, and the passion from the crowd.

I worry. I worry that maybe now is the time to retire from these shows. Or at least from being in the midst of it (or close). Just as I’ve started. Just when I’d shaken off the disguise of who I was pretending to be and become the person I wanted to be.

And, then that raises a question for us all? Who decides who we are and what we do? Is it society? Is it peer group pressure? Is it our perception of how we see others within our age group behaving so that how we think we should behave? Or can we decide to think, let’s just do it?

My problem is, I try and imagine people within my age range who are a lot more successful than me (not difficult) throwing themselves into some of the concerts I enjoy. No way. So, is that one of the many reasons why success as evaded me? I haven’t grown up? What is my age again?

I could list the things where I think – is it time to press reset and accept old age with a grunt of resentful grace? Can you even have resentful grace?

Time to quite social media and those daily updates? Time to stop the 100s of selfies? (Note: surely these are a record of today to share with yet to be born family members tomorrow?) Time to step out from behind the door before leaping out on an unsuspecting Aud (The Shrieking Wee One)? Time to be oh so sensible? Time to watch documentaries rather than another comedy? Time to stop shouting at the referee for another appalling decision? Time to stop????

And all of these decisions to be made in the midst of another lockdown?

Or is it time to stop overthinking? Is the problem that we can just get caught up in a worry about who we perceive people expect us to be, rather than thinking ‘who do I want to be’?

Do we get wrapped up in remembering how our parents were when they were our age and worry that we should be like that? Reality is, the world was a very different place and I do remember my mum listening to the music that made her happy on the radio. Well, I do that, it’s just different music.

Do we always the expectation of others to cloud our own fun loving self so that we morph into an android of so many grey people? I’m not judging others here, insofar as to asking not to be judged.

The world is very different. How we live our lives – out of lockdown – is a different world. A more open world – in the free world, that is. So, am I worrying too much?

It’s a tough one and I’m sure I’m not the only person with this challenge. However, in 376 days from now, the line is there? The question is – will it be the finish line, will it be the start line, or will it be just the completion of another lap and off we go on the next lap? Time to be brave, perhaps.

What is my age again? Should I care? Only time will tell.

Take care.

Jon

Running up that hill

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken. Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools” – Rudyard Kipling

Only a short piece from a most beautiful poem. The words feel very appropriate, at many levels. Words that draw out that reflective side of me.

Thanks for opening up the blog. Welcome to my view from the ground. If you get chance, why not have a look back on previous blogs. I think I’ve been writing for over 5 years now, although maybe start at 2019 and work forwards from there.

So far in recent weeks I’ve thrown those curtains wide and then asked not to stop me now. All with the dream of making every second count.

The blog are always written with the right intentions and I hope that’s how they are seen. I write from the heart but, perhaps, my head sometimes gets in the way.

As I said, I’ve been writing these blogs for over 5 years. It all started as a contribution to a book and grew from there. It’s been a bit of a journey. There have been some dark times when, in hindsight, the blogs became too focussed on the past.

It’s interesting, the blog ‘Throw those curtains wide’ started with the quote ‘Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.’ from Buddha. If only I’d read that 4 years ago.

We can get caught up in anger. In betrayal. That then becomes a focus. The focus. Before we know it, we’re lashing out and spilling forth our vitriol. In the end, the person that effects the most is us. We are damaging ourselves. By dwelling on what was we are preventing ourselves from seeing what is and eventually what can be.

That’s where I was, that to #TeamDurky (there’s a blog about #TeamDurky).

As Martin Fry sang, that was then, this is now. It’s as simple as ABC. Good job I didn’t use a line from Andy McCluskey, that would have been as simple as OMD. And thankfully I didn’t look to Andy Partridge, who was making plans for Nigel. That would have been a more complex XTC. Sorry, I’m off on an 80s music tangent and as I keep saying, I love 80s music.

It is important, sometimes, to express anger. To lance a boil, to release the poison. But, then, it’s time to allow the healing process. If you dwell on a wound for too long, it can easily develop into an unnecessary scar.

That’s why in, at least the last 2 years, I’d say more, the blogs have been purely focussed on the present, to then provide a helping hand to the future. Buddha suggested we don’t dream of the future. For me, that doesn’t mean we can’t plan for the most magnificent future we can create. But, let’s build a strong foundation right now.

And concentrating the mind on the present moment continues to be essential. Here we are, still locked down, still unable to socialise, still asked not to travel.

Sometimes, it feels like we’re somewhere towards the foot of a hill and the top is shrouded in a strange kind of mist. Oddly, where we are standing, in the present, feels very familiar. We’ve been here before. In fact, it was only yesterday. In fact, it could be any day from late March 2020. However, maybe we should ask ourselves why are we still standing here. Yes, we’re in lockdown but that doesn’t restrict our movement from a self help perspective. I know there were a few weeks of movement. Those joyful days. But, we were still looking up the hill.

I hope I’m making sense. I guess life in general is like a hill. We can walk up it. We can run up it. But we have to make sure our purpose is to ascend it. To always strive for the summit. Don’t stay in the valley, because it looks a long way up – especially with the lockdown shroud of mist hiding the top.

To be absolutely honest, maybe in the past, I’ve spent too much time looking at the hill, knowing what needed to be done. But, looking back into the valley I’m trying to leave, need to leave, was easier than starting the climb.

Right now, for so many people, moving one step forward is a challenge when the question might be – what’s the point? Where is there to go?

I’d like to share more words from Buddha. “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most”. Every morning it is critical that we try to stay focussed, regardless, and know what we do today is what matters most. Yes, right now, our ability to physically leave the house are restricted. But that doesn’t mean we can’t move forward. It doesn’t mean we can’t run up the hill – forget walking it!

I’ll be straight here. When I woke up this morning, I really felt like I couldn’t be bothered. I can’t see Aud – apart from our twice daily FaceTime, which includes a Sunday morning FaceTime breakfast. However, coping mechanisms kicked in. 1) Mug of Yorkshire tea; 2) meditation. In that order. Winner winner. Today is a new day. It might feel like every other day, but it isn’t. To start with, it’s a gift. Then, it’s an opportunity. How many poor souls are having that opportunity taken from them every day? Equally, how many heartbreaking times do we read or hear about someone deciding they can’t cope anymore. Thinking about it, we don’t read about this. For some reason, it doesn’t get reported.

So, let’s look at today and make it matter the most, because that IS what matters most. Coming back to our hill, every step we take forward is a step towards the top. If we focus on each step we take forward, rather than what’s behind, surely that’s got to be good. Of course, the past is a learning – but we / I should use that learning as a source of energy to propel ahead, not an anchor to hold back?

Let’s run up the hill. Let’s get to the top and enjoy the view. To take in deep gulps of positivity to solely focus on achieving our goal. But let’s do this every day. By running up the hill imagine the view. The view from the hill, ironic as I write about a view from the ground. So, come and sit on the blue bench at the top of the hill and enjoy the view.

Every day, let’s just do it. Some days it might feel every so difficult but it’s worth it. We can create our day with the view from the summit that we chose. Let’s not look into the valley but look out at Mr Blue Sky, to use just 2 more song references.

I hope that all makes sense. I write live, so if I’ve veered off track a bit, sorry. It’s difficult writing when you’re running up that hill. That said, If the paths are icy again, I might need to reimagine my run in the garage.

Take care.

Jon

Don’t stop me now

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

Beautiful words from a beautiful human being. I was tempted to start with ‘oh what a circus, oh what a show’, but I don’t want to go there. I’m not qualified to give opinion on such world events. So, let’s move on and breathe in the wise words from Michelle Obama. And don’t forget, hope + health = happy.

Thank you to everyone who had a look at the last blog, Throw Those Curtains Wide, and for the kind comments. I try and look at everything from the heart and with a passion. If a blog can put a smile on someone else’s face or life their spirits, job done. I still plan the book, but all in good time and there’s the little thing of getting a publisher to believe in my ramblings.

Anyway, welcome, or welcome back, to another view from the ground. I’m on a bit of a roll, so please don’t stop me now.

2021 starts with the U.K. in lockdown and other parts of the globe being in various degrees of similar restrictions. Scary times. Our capital city is in a state of emergency and yet I read of another anti-lockdown protest in London. How can such a minority of the population, these deluded idiots, put the majority at risk? Don’t they see the hell that is unfolding? Do they not understand the incredible work the NHS staff are doing everyday?

This lockdown feels different. I think part of that is we almost know what to expect. Another aspect is the concern at the number of people contracting the virus or, worse still, losing their lives. This new strain is a massive worry but the roll out of the vaccine keeps the hope alive.

However, I’ve found having coping strategies is a fundamental key. Doing things to occupy the times when socialising or attending something would be the norm. Doing things that keep that hope alive.

Those who have been with me on this View From The Ground journey for a few years will know I’m a music obsessive. As I’ve said before, not being able to attend concerts over the last year has been tough. They are an escape. They are a gathering of like minded souls. They provide a collective release.

I was lucky enough to see one of my musical heroes pre Lockdown 1 2020 – Pete Wylie – at my favourite venue in Leeds, the Brudenell Social Club. One man, a guitar, a bag full of songs and a lifetime of stories.

When performing as the Mighty Wah, Pete wrote one of my all time favourite songs, The Story Of The Blues.

Another of my passions, is walking – as will be referred later -particularly early morning walks with Ringo. Perfect peace, apart from the music I’m listening to. Again, I’ll come back to this.

My I-Pod tends to be on shuffle, so every morning is filled with an eclectic mix of current stuff (note: not chart nonsense, but decent music recommended by Ben), hard rock, 80s classics, dance, through to classical guitar.

Anyway, enough rambling. On a walk last week, Story Of The Blues Part 2 came on. This is a spoken word passage by Pete Wylie. I’d say it was a reflection of how he felt back in the early 80s.

I wanted to share a couple of parts of this track as I, personally, can relate to the words, to the emotion, and to their spirit. I hope they strike a cord with you.

1) “Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to that. So let’s have another drink and let’s talk about the blues. Blues is about dignity, it’s about self-respect, and no matter what they take away from you – that’s yours for keeps.”

2) “There’s a solution, it’s not easy, but it’s a matter of coming to terms in your heart with situation you’re in, a matter of choosing how things go for you and not having things forced upon you.”

I’ll just leave those words there. I would recommend listening to the track. Listen to the passion with which they are said. Feel them. And once you’ve done that, listen to the original Story Of The Blues. A classic and one I’m sure I’ll be singing to, very loudly, today.

I’ve talked before about my morning walks, which since lockdown have been a work day feature. A minimum of an hour, usually more, music plugged in, and off we go. Ringo loves it. When I was going to the office the most he’d get was 20 minutes, so it’s great for both of us.

Walking really is good for the mind and the body. The music is good to raise the spirits. Anything to just get a positive focus in these days of having to expect the unexpected. Or is it unexpect the expected?

It’s not just the early morning walks. Whilst working at home, a lunch time walk has become a feature. Not only that, I’m lucky to work with a company who introduced Well-being Wednesday, where every colleague is gifted 30 minutes every Wednesday to do something which helps their well-being. Brilliant! A company that truly cares. Brilliant again!

More often than not, Ringo and I are joined by Ben and Gaby. A time to catch up on the day so far (just in case there’s a concern over breach of lockdown rules – Ben (son) and Gaby (son’s partner) live with me, as does Liv (daughter). This only one who doesn’t is Aud (my partner), thus why she’s not on the walk. Complicated? I’d recommend scrolling through previous blogs. There’s a bit of a story 😀).

A walk and a talk is great to clear the head but also to allow others to do the same. If you can’t walk together physically, a FaceTime walk is equally therapeutic.

And then it’s the same at night. Now, I realise that the new lockdown rules restrict the number of times that we can exercise, I.e. do something good for our mental and physical health, so we have be creative. I’m grateful that we have a reasonable sized garden, so 1000 laps of that should do the rich, or walking on the spot in the garage. Just something.

Running had become a feature, so I can now be seen running on the spot in the dining room. Needs must.

I hope there is a more flexible approach allowed to exercise. We just need to ensure full social distancing rules are followed and respected. By everyone.

I could go on. I’ll keep that for another day. On the basis I can’t be with Aud at the moment, I need to prepare for our FaceTime breakfast. Poached eggs on crumpets + a strong Spanish coffee. Today mine are teddy bear crumpets. I might be an old man but it’s nice to release that inner child. Please don’t stop me now.

Don’t forget = Hope + healthy = happy.

Take care.

Jon

Throw those curtains wide

‘Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.’ – Buddha

Interesting words from Buddha when you think about where we stand right now. 2020 behind us. 2021 in front of us. Today all around us.

Today is a view from above the ground. Standing at the bedroom window. Possibilities endless. All it takes is a quick thrust of the hand. It will take no time. But, it’s a decision to make. Yes or no.

I chose yes, so here we go. With trembling fingers, let’s do it. Let’s throw those curtains wide. To paraphrase the magnificent band Elbow, 365 days like this will see me right.

It’s a blank page. Or to use throwing the curtains wide concept, it’s a clear sky. The garden in front of you is inviting. The path in front of the garden is there to be walked.and walk it we will. Metaphorically of course.

However, the walk today can be what we want to create. But, by creating the right walk today can help us to set up the rest of the year to be the best we can hope for.

Am I making sense? Thinking about the Buddha quote – ‘ ….. concentrate the mind on the present moment’, I see that as the first step on the 2021 path. By throwing the curtains wide, we are opening ourselves to the life that we want to create. By concentrating on the present moment, it is our choice what that first step, that first sight from the curtains drawn bedroom window looks like.

Whilst we shouldn’t dwell on the past, the last year will live with us forever. Compared to what many live through every day of their lives, lockdown and the like was nothing really. We still have a roof over of heads, warmth, food on the table, clothes to wear, and many things we can wrongly take for granted. But, we don’t live in a worn torn environment, or, worst, travelling thousands of dangerous miles to escape a war that’s not of your making. Paying money we don’t have. To be illegally snuck into a country where you are then a slave to those transported into the country where you wouldn’t be made to feel welcome.

So, in the scheme of things what do we have to dwell on? Reality? It’s been tough and had an effect on mental health and well-being for many.

Of course, many thousands have lost their lives to the horrendous virus and we all now hope and pray that the vaccination programme achieves the dream of wiping out Covid-19. That must mean wiping it out globally. The vaccine must be rolled out to every country across the global, available to all. It is a global responsibility to fund and provide the vaccination to every living human being.

Of course, by looking at the wipe out of Covid-19 I am doing exactly what Buddha warned again. I’m dreaming of the future. It’s difficult not to. After 2020, I think we all dwell a little too much on the past and through that dream of the future. So, let’s just get back to concentrating on the present moment.

It’s good to throw open the curtains of the mind and create what we want to see. I think I’d like to see my blue bench. My place to sit and reflect. But, for the purpose of the first step of the year, I’m just just looking at the here and now. I suggest we all do.

So what does the present moment look like? What’s reflecting back? Hope. Health. Happy.

Happy? Well, hope + health = happy.

My natural state of mind is to be reserved and kind of suspicious. Certainly introverted. However, 2021 needs to start with a belief in being overall happy.

Sure, there’s a lot, too much, which raises questions and uncertainty. However, if we / I can start 2021 with hope and health, surely that allows us to start the year happy.

As has been the theme, it’s as easy as standing at the window and just wanting to throw those curtains wide. 2020 is behind us in that dark, curtains closed room. Let’s not dwell in it. Just follow our heart, don’t hold back, and pull at the curtains with all of our might. The view above the ground is what you want it to be. Let that view be one of hope and health. Let that view bring you happiness.

Happy New Year. Take care.

Jon