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

It’s the hope that keeps you going

It’s strange how out of adversity it feels like there is unity across the globe. Unity borne out of challenging times. Unity borne out of sadness. Unity borne to bring a belief of ‘we will conquer’.

It’s strange how I try and think about a title for a blog. I’m sure it doesn’t look like I give the titles much thought, but I do. And, then from a conversation with the ever wonderful Ben (best son in the world), he says ‘it’s the hope that keeps you going’. There it is, because never a truer statement could be spoken.

And, here we are continuing through lockdown. Around the globe, at different stages of lockdown, but it’s so real. So unbelievably surreal. I remember, my view from the round ……. the table at Christmas – be that the scene before me during dinner or evening festivities. Fun, laughter, smiles, hope. Not an idea as to what was to come. Even then, it was the hope that kept us going.

Hope that 2020 would be the best year yet. I always have a thing about the year, and my age being an even number. Not a superstition thing, just something that’s there. Ben (wonderful son, see above) and Liv (wonderful daughter) were born in even years. Thinking about it, Aud (wonderful partner) was born in an even year, as was Gaby (wonderful partner of wonderful son – see above). Thinking more, Eilidh and Liam (wonderful daughter and wonderful son of wonderful partner – see slightly above) were born in even years. And a final thought, my now defunct marriage started in an odd year. I have nothing to say 😀😀😀.

Just a ‘don’t take it too seriously’ notice: the above is a bit of fun and not meant to cause offence. Of course, so many wonderful people were born in an odd year – sorry, odd numbered year. And some wonderful events happened in an odd numbered year. I hope that provides suitable reassurance.

But, to get back on track, I went into 2020 hoping it would be the best year yet.

Clearly, in the UK, we still had Brexit hanging over us. Not the best start really given the division this caused. I’ll avoid opinion here.

And then, storm after storm battered us and really got 2020 off to a really damp start. But, it was the hope that kept us going as we tried to look into the horizon as spring was just ahead. However ………

And, as they say, the rest is history. The lockdown legacy commences. Legacy? Well, that the interesting thing. I see this period that we are living through will very much present to many of us a legacy that we take with us through the rest of our lives.

I know I’ve already reflected in recent blogs on the various emotions that the lockdown has triggered – be that missing loved ones through to revelling in the glorious smells that spring brings.

Listening to the news, true sadness and sympathy is felt towards those who have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus, and to those who are ill to the virus.

So, for those of us whose worse experience in this current situation is to have to stay at home, we really can look to make life as good as we can, within those restrictions. Life really is what you make it.

I guess I’m becoming obsessed about making the most of our situation rather than getting overly emotional about missing those who I can’t see – for now.

I get a bit of criticism for expressing opinion within the blogs. But, surely it’s wrong that people keep breaking the guidelines as laid out by the government regarding un-necessary. I rad a piece about a family who travelled 200 miles overnight from London to Devon ………. to go fishing. Unbelievable stupidity. I won’t comment about fishing 😀.

But, it really does feel like a time to grasp those opportunities to stamp back, slow down and just be. To just look. I’ve become obsessed about the cherry blossom tree at the front of our home. It’s always been there. I’ve always loved it and I’ve always looked forward to watching it bloom. But, it has always felt that within a blink the blossom is being blown off the tree and scattered across the ground. I remember last year, just looking at the blossom less tree and wondering how that had happened.

So, this year, I am revelling in watching the blossom grow each day. Celebrating the beauty of it, and noticing some white blossom from another tree intermingling with the pink to create a beautiful tapestry.

On the daily walks, it’s a joy to watch bare trees taking on a green haze as the leaves start to spring to life.

When walking along the main road near our home, the relative quiet due to the lack of traffic is remarkable.

I’ve always loved to hear the roar of planes thrusting into the early morning sky from the local airport. Always dreaming about being on one of those planes. Thinking about a future holiday – because it is the hope that keeps you going – or remembering a flight and allowing those feelings of excitement to re-enter my mind. But, funnily, the early morning bird song is so much more pleasing.

And, then there’s meal time. So often a functional time during the week. You get home; you cook; you eat. Done.

Now – as with everything we do when we are lucky enough to have someone to interact with, it’s a chance to talk …….and talk and talk.

It’s making the most of everything we have as we also look ahead to being reunited with those that we miss so much. But, let us never forget the journey we have been on and ensure those learnings stay with us – for life.

So, yes, it is the hope that keeps you going. But let’s not forget, hope isn’t all that we’ve got. We’ve got today.

Enjoy today, and hope that we can beat horrendous virus. Hope that we really unite. It is that hope that keeps me going.

Stay safe.

Jon

Love to feel the fresh air of the springtime

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.” — Audra Foveo

Waking to another day in lockdown. The sun starting to glint through the window. Opening the window, to feel the freshness of an early spring morning. Silence, apart from the pacing of Ringo (dog) wanting his daily walk, the scattering of Zeekee (cat), and the bird song through the open window. A solitary mug of coffee. A sense of ‘here we go again’.

But an overall feeling of gratitude. Picking through the above paragraph: –

1. Waking – feeling well.

2. Sun – welcome back old friend.

3. Silence – no cars screaming down the nearby road, as the drivers hurry through life (it could be any of us).

4. Spring – such a glorious season of new life, freshness and hope. Yes, even in those worrying days, we must always keep hope.

5. Ringo and Zeekee – such beautiful creatures. A real distraction.

6. Open window – with improved weather we get chance to you lay like broccoli and enjoy the sound of the birds.

7. Coffee – a weekend treat.

8. Here we go again – thankfully!

So, how do you feel about the day? Have you looked at the news? Yes, it’s not good. Loads of facts mixed with opinion. Reality is that we are living through something none of us could have imagined 4 months ago.

A lot of us are living apart from loved ones. The previous blog – Missing You – was very much about the emotions we are exposed to, and a week later they continue and, from a personal viewpoint, they only get more acute.

However, as we live this stripped back existence I see reasons to be cheerful.

I can only speak from a personal perspective and we will all be dealing with this lockdown in our own way. I nearly referred to it as ‘isolated ‘. But that feels wrong. At the moment, we are allowed a daily dose of exercise.

I am worried that the chance to exercise might be removed as there are some who see the sunshine and think that’s their ticket to jump in the car and head to the coast. Social distancing gets forgotten about and, in the UK, the already overwhelmed NHS risks collapsing under the weight of these people. I might be over worrying.

In the here and now, I’m trying to focus on what is available to me, rather than being overly sad about what I can’t, temporarily, do.

The ability to have an early morning walk, with Ringo, has been an absolute joy. I’ve always taken him out at the start of the day. Usually a quick 1 mile blast round the block, and then in the car to get to work.

Now, an awesome 2 1/2 to 3 mile walk to and then round the local park.

Spring is probably my favourite season of the year. New life literally springing up around us. But, how many of us – usually – love it from a far and at speed as we rush around. We see the beauty of Spring through the car windscreen. We glance at lambs jumping around the fields. We blink as tree start to fill, and the fields start to change. We say we love this newness, but do we feel it?

With lockdown though comes a chance to embrace the opportunity to literally feel the new life rising right in front of us.

We can stop and admire the beauty around us. We can watch sheep protecting their lambs. We can smell the freshness in the air. We can feel that freshness and just take a moment to just be at peace.

In reality, we have always being able to do this but we have allowed ourselves to be overcome by the manic need to get to places as fast as we can. We get into that space where we believe that we have to do everything at such a speed we stop seeing what is right in front of our noses.

Or, is it just me? Have I allowed myself to spend so long not seeing; not feeling; not breathing it all in; not hearing; and ultimately to tasting life? Is it just me? I don’t know.

But it feels like this current time is chance to reacquaint with nature and just step back will we can. Once we are released back into what we describe as normality, we can decide whether what we’ve learned during lockdown comes with us into what will be new normality.

Ultimately, it’s our choice.

It’s tough going, there’s no doubt. But, really, for most of us it’s just adapting. For those directly affected by the Corona Virus, that’s tough. My heart goes to them. For the workers who are providing essential services, that’s tough. The NHS workers, they have it really tough. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all who are helping us.

So, let’s enjoy the spring. Let’s love to feel the fresh air in the springtime. Be that in an allowed walk or in our back garden.

And with that, take care. As always, the opinions and thoughts within this blog are those of the writer.

Stay safe.

Jon

Missing you

A blog in the continuation of the theme of Life’s What You Make It and, as we all currently live in a situation most have never experienced, it brings a rollercoaster of emotions.

Welcome to a View from the locked down ground. Welcome to waking up. Waking up healthy. Waking up with love in our hearts.

So, a different kind of blog, I hope, although I’m not sure where it will go.

The last blog, ‘Let’s Stick Together’ provoked a quite opposite response to what was intended. I stick by my word; my observations. That’s it, just my observations. I’d like to think 95% of the blog was positive and supportive. However, in this state of uncertainty and fear, I have real worries. I’ll leave it at that as we need to focus on getting through this pandemic – by sticking together.

Every morning, we wake to hear the grip of the virus takes a stronger hold across most of the globe. More lives are taken despite the valiant work of the relevant doctors and nurses. In the U.K. we have the quite brilliant NHS. Words are not enough to express the gratitude we have for the brilliant people who work within the NHS.

Every morning, we wake and we take another breath. A magnificent start to the day. For most, what feels like a different kind of day will, over the next few days etc, become a routine kind of day.

Every morning we know we are confined to the very place we wake for the rest of the day. Be that to rest, eat, work and, if you’re lucky enough, play. That is, of course, unless you are one of the awesome critical workers.

Of course, we are allowed a walk a day. So, I have found, making the most of that opportunity is a real must. As those who have read previous blogs, we’re blessed to have Ringo in our lives. Not the Beatles drummer, although that would be interesting when we need some help and, right now, all we need is love.

However, our Ringo is a beautiful border collie. And, he loves a walk. He’s always had an early morning walk, round the block as we call it. However, given the current restrictions, that early morning blast has grown into a full on walk. Part to get the exercise, part to inhale the air and the freedom whilst being outside, and part to watch Ringo explore, oblivious to everything.

Of course dogs pick up our anxieties and they do what they can to provide much needed love. But, thankfully for them, they don’t know what is going on. As I’ve said several times, I wish I was a dog.

I love watching Ringo forage for a stick to bring to be thrown, and then chase it. Pure gold at a time where it’s so important to grasp those moments; moments that matter. Moments that hammer home enjoying what we have in the right here, right now.

And that’s one of the early lessons from the early days of the lockdown. Appreciating everything that we have.

Ringo appreciates every stick that he finds. He appreciates the feel of the lead been unclipped from his harness so that he can run. Run freely without a care in the world. Run just so far that when he turns around, he can see me ambling behind. Me with all the cares in the world, watching Ringo without a care. I wish I was a dog.

Every morning, another day dawns without the ability to see those that we love that don’t live in the same house as us.

At the moment, I can’t see Audrey. My beautiful partner for so long now. I miss you Aud. it’s that simple. It hurts. The hugs. The laughs. The being together. As I write this, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol just came on TV. A bit emotion for a bit. I miss you.

I can’t see my handsome son, Ben, and his lovely partner, Gaby. I miss you. It’s a real challenge not to sneak out of the house on the basis of needing to us the supermarket near them. But, I won’t. We’re in this together and must abide by the government regulations. But it hurts.

Liv and I were just in the car going to the pet store near where Ben and Gaby live for some essential stuff. I wanted to suggest they walk down but that’s not allowed. I couldn’t have a hug anyway. I cried. I miss you. But, this is a small sacrifice for something cataclysmically bigger than we really know.

My mum is 30 miles away. I can’t see her. We speak and it’s important that will all speak to those we love.

And there are family and friends that I can’t see / we can’t see.

But, there are millions in the U.K., billions around the globe feeling the same pain. We are all in this together.

But, all of those people that we miss are with us. They are in our hearts. They are in our memory bank. They are in our pictures. They are days / weeks away from us all been reunited – I hope. We are lucky. They are still here. Just not with us right now. But, I miss you.

We just need to keep positive. We need to speak. We need to feel connected and that we don’t feel lonely. That we don’t feel isolated.

We need to talk. We need to text. We need to reach out. We need to use social media for the greater good. But we need to use our brains and do what we are told. We need to stay safe and we need to protect everyone.

Every morning, I ask that we give thanks for waking. We need to think about those who might just be feeling vulnerable, feeling isolated. And we need to contact them and make sure we unlock that isolation and let them know we’re with them.

We’ll get through this and it will feel bloody good.

Stay safe.

Jon

Let’s stick together

Part of the ‘Life’s What You Make It’ series

I saw a quote from Ricky Ross, singer of Deacon Blue, “Cities are places where stories happen”. For me this is so true. As I’ve got older, I’ve really developed a love for exploring cities, along with trying to capture images that tell a story.

And, of course, I do love a good story. So, welcome to another View From The Ground. A weaving path of words, to a destination that has something to do with the title and a lot to do with how I see things in the world.

For the title, I was going for ‘in music we trust’. My thinking was around some the constant love of music. I still want to reflect on music. Wow, it’s got an important job over the next few weeks. But my instincts suggested a title which relates to where my head is, right here right now. Well, not literally as the title would be ‘pillow’.

Instincts go a long way and I think we could all do with trusting them. What’s the worse that could happen? At the moment, let’s not think about that.

I hope you are all well, wherever in the world you are. One thing is for certain, we are united for the first time in living memory. I just wish it was united for better reasons.

Coronavirus 19? 6 months ago, we hadn’t heard of it. Now, hundreds of thousands effected by it. Thousands killed by it. Beyond sad. Beyond worrying.

How did it happen? How is it spreading? How can it be stopped? Questions I can’t answer and this blog isn’t for me to spill forth with a tirade of conspiracy theories. I’ll leave that to others.

The media spews forth it’s vile opinions and fear laced nonsense. In the U.K., the Daily Depress expresses words of panic and sends the hordes into the supermarkets to clear shelves of everything. The Daily Wail spreads their version of fear faster than the virus itself. As for the rest? Only fit to replace the toilet roll that we are running out of.

And yet, in a time of such concern we all need a hero – and, they line up one by one to lead us forward with hope.

In the U.K., we know how magnificent the NHS is. But, bloody hell, if it’s not hard enough for them at what is always a difficult time of year. And there are staff shortages. And our government have constantly failed to provide adequate funding. But, they are absolute heroes. Take a bow everyone NHS worker. Every doctor, nurse, specialist, auxiliary worker, ambulance driver, driver in general, paramedic, kitchen worker, cleaner, administration etc etc. Whilst idiots have crowded the pubs, these heroes have worked tirelessly to fight on our behalf.

The sadness thing I’ve seen recently was a video of an NHS worker in tears. She had worked 48 hours. Needed to buy food etc and the shelves had been cleared by the hoarding, marauding morons. Do they really need to do it? I hope they enjoy their chick pea, bread and rhubarb casserole. That’s all I can imagine they can do with the stuff that’s gone.

There are so many other heroes. I take my hat off to the delivery drivers who must think they might as well park their trucks at the supermarket entrances so the idiots can just take it all home.

Supermarket workers? Heroes! They put up with the abuse of the idiots who can’t take home their 50th pack of toilet roll, and their 20th pack of chicken. Abused when they get paid not a lot more that a minimum wage. I hope they have managed to grab some food before the maniacs lurch forward. One I spoke to hadn’t. I’d found a solitary pack of pasta and she was amazed.

A request to the marauding morons. Look at what you’ve got. Then, look at it again and acknowledge you are an idiot. Say after me, ‘I’m an idiot’. Then, collect, let’s say 20% of it. Bag it, find you’re nearest food bank and donate your booty. There are pure evil people breaking into food banks and stealing much needed food and other things intended for the poor souls who can’t afford to buy them.

I know we are all in a state of panic. I know we want to provide for our loved ones. But, come on, get real. Even when we go into lockdown we will be able to shop. Surely?

The list of heroes is endless and will grow. As the title suggests, now is the time we need to stick together. We are moving towards things like working from home. So, rather than been together in offices we’ll be working in isolation. Employers need to take steps to safeguard their people.

I’m lucky to work at a company that really – genuinely – cares. Colleagues are placed at the forefront. Clients are priorities. It all comes together to provide the best possible platform. Our own CEO makes himself available every night for any colleague to call him on a personal number. He did this in the USA post 9 / 11. Unbelievable compassion and care for him people. A big shout-out to Marsh Commercial. I’m truly proud of the company and the people.

Let’s make sure, though, that we take care of ourselves when at home. Don’t become a prisoner in our own homes. Remember, it is your home which is a temporary office. Remember, to get fresh air, hydrate, eat the right stuff (assuming you’ve managed to get some), take a break and so on. Talk to people every day.

Let’s be aware of our family and neighbours. Is there anyone who needs help? Be aware of our health. If in doubt, check the symptoms online.

Overall, take care. And keep positive. I must admit, I struggle with the latter at times but I know I’m lucky to have #TeamDurky to check in with.

And, when you need a lift, there’s always music. As I’ve written about before, music is one of my great loves. I’m going to pull though some recommendations in the next few blogs just in case ideas are needed.

I start the process, I want to flag up a couple of massively underrated bands who have released new music this year.

Victories At Sea. A band from the Midlands who we first saw supporting the Slow Readers Club at King Tuts in Glasgow. What a band. 3 musicians making a sound that filled the room. I guess, since the, I’ve become a bit of a fan to say the least. We’ve also seen them support Boxer Rebellion at my favourite venue in the U.K. – Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

It’s one of those cases when you find music which just pulls you in.

So, when the released their new album – Everybody’s Lost and All I Want Is To Leave – I listened with hope. That hope, turned to awe. And that awe has turned to constant plays of this album.

I honestly think these guesses should be being showcased on mainstream radio and being taken out on tour by a major band so that they achieve the exposure they deserve. Someone has to pick them up.

Until then, as you’ll be at home for a while – get downloading; look them up; order online; buy the tee shirt.

By second recommendation are named above – Slow Readers Club. I first discovered them 3 years ago and they’d already been round a bit but, with the first song heard to the last. Bang – brilliance on a CD, or vinyl, or download. We’ve seen them rise from playing to 100 to a sold out 3,500 in Manchester.

They’re latest epic, The Joy Of The Return, is a joyful return (see what I did there? Yep, I know. Very poor).

Now, this one took a couple of plays to get but once I did get it, it’s brilliant. A combination of 80s vibe, a modern twist, decent lyrics, and a real step up in overall musicianship. It’s great to see a band really develop and show they should be performing on the big stages all of the time.

A bunch of blokes who are really connected to their fan base and that forms a strong union. Again, should be on mainstream radio on a regular basis. Get downloading and buying. Once you hear them you’ll understand why those who have followed them for a while believe enough to lose control.

Music is the best therapy. And, right now. I think that kind of therapy would help us all.

We really do need to stick together and make life the best we can. Let’s be grateful. We have life! Let’s drop the greed. Let’s help others. Let’s make our cities a place where we can tell stories in years to come about the way we united in the face of adversity. I certainly want to make Leeds United (😇).

Take care. Stay safe.

Jon