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

Thank you for ……………..

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow’ – Melody Beattie

Thank you for joining me on another view from the ground. I hope what you see makes you smile, or at least creates some really positive emotions.

I’ve banged on about what a challenging year it has been so I’ll try to not walk over previously trodden ground too much. That said, a challenging year it has been.

However, as we lumber towards the end of the year, with anticipation of a better year to come, I have reflected on, I guess, a lot of what I have tried to capture in the blogs over the last few months.

My natural propensity is to dwell to much on why my glass is half empty whilst encouraging everyone else to enjoy their half full glass. It could be argued that’s why I can work my way through a bottle of wine so quickly. Every-time I’m asked if I want a top up, I look, think the glass is half empty so I’d better get a refill.

However, I am work on practicing what I preach. I am trying to look at how to see the sun, rather than the clouds. How to see a chance for a refreshing walk rather than the rain that is battering down outside. And how to appreciate who I am rather than how much better I could be – if I’d done things differently. Just to clarify, that relates to me as a person, not my life right now.

But, my drive to encourage others to always see the good continues, and will continue regardless. My dream has always been if one person’s life is improved by what is read in a blog, I’ve achieved the equivalent of a lottery win. It’s that simple. The blogs don’t reach a big audience – unfortunately. One day I’ll work a way to, 1) improve the writing skills; and 2) increase the audience. Through that, I can dream of improve one person’s life, then two, four, sixteen etc etc.

For now, I am so thankful you have joined me for this rambling of a recovering misery.

I look at life as it is – as the person I am, and there remains so much to be thankful for.

Things that some may see as simple. I’ve been so lucky to remain employed throughout this difficult period, with a company that truly cares about all of their employees. That passion for the people runs right through the company, from the top. Thank you.

To have a roof over my head, to have a warm home, is something that I should never, ever take for granted. Homelessness is a major issue around the globe. Surely in the 21st century, with the wealth held by the few, there should be the ability to provide a warm, dry place for everyone.

To have my wonderful partner and family and friends, aka #TeamDurky I say thank you. There were times in the past where I was so lonely, even though I wasn’t alone in my home. Now, I can sit in the same home on my own and feel surrounded by love. It is a blessing to be part of the wonderful collective that we have named #TeamDurky. It’s really funny, and seasonally tinged, when a person diametrically the opposite of what we are referred to us as #TeamTurkey. What a wit, or something life that.

During this year I think many of us have become so aware and so grateful to wonderful people’s daily around us. Being in lockdown can be so isolating and to have people we can reach out to has been so important. As we step into 2021, it is important to remember the same people are still there. And we should also remember to be there for anyone who may need us. No one should ever feel alone.

I’ve talked a lot about getting out of the house, getting exercise, and clearing our heads, so I’m not going to labour the point. But, just do it. That’s not an advertisement for a famous sporting brand. It’s a call to action. I no longer go with the idea of New Year resolutions but I do go with the idea of setting ourselves challenges. What greater challenge can there be but to rise from the couch, put on some walking shoes, and getting some exercise. For those of us fortunate enough, it’s in our gift – obviously I am mindful of those with disabilities.

And, don’t forget, thank you for the music, for giving it to me. Music was my first love and it will be my last. Well, maybe in amongst my last. But, as has been highlighted before, I love listening to music and attending concerts. It’s been tough not going to concerts since March. So many shows rearranged and then rerearranged. I feel for the bands impacts, for their road crew, for the venues, for the workers at the venues, for everyone impacted by the effects of this virus.

Ultimately, life comes first but who could ever predicted what we are all living through.

But music is, and always has been, a welcome distraction. When walking, when eating, when relaxing, whenever. During lockdown, in which ever form it has taken, music has been a wonderful source of enjoyment. It’s always been there and I’m so thankful for the music.

I’m lucky. I could list so much that I’m grateful for.

To all and everyone who have been there for me, and for #TeamDurky, thank you for ………… everything. We are, and always will be, there for you.

Take care and here’s to a healthy 2021.

Jon

All together now

“The same old story again, All those tears shed in vain. Nothing learned and nothing gained. Only hope remains.” The Farm sum it all up as we all absorb more restrictions imposed as we fight against this horrendous Covid-19 virus. Fear not, I’m not going all political. Not in the blog anyway. I also don’t want to waste any more energy on the U.K. government. They’re not worth it.

So, with more tiers than the average tissue can deal with, let’s just sit on our blue bench and enjoy another view from the ground. It’s sometimes all you need. The view that is, not a rambling blog. But, seeing as you’re here, let’s have a char.

I’ve always been a deep thinker but, what with all of the walking I’ve been able to do this year, there’s been plenty of time to think. And, there’s been plenty to think about.

One of the biggest things I’ve missed this years has been unable to see and hear live music. We were lucky to have the awesome SKIES play in the back garden in September as part of their Garden Tour. Talented and underrated and so entertaining. Kind of taking music back to an organic level. Other bands should try it. We loved it. All done with social distancing obeyed.

Just to see a live band! It’s easy to, not so much take it for granted but, just have attending shows as part of your routine. I feel for musicians who love, and need, to play live. I also feel for their crew whose livelihood is touring with bands. There been no work. It’s been great to see so many bands trying to raise money to support their crews.

I look forward to the return of live music and promise to love every minute of it. Even more than before, if that’s possible.

As I’ve reflected in other blogs, the various versions of lockdown down have provided time to reflect. Do we like what we see? I guess it’s a double question. Do we like what we see outward? Do we like what we see inward?

Outward is a bit easier and, in many ways – on a surface level – it’s probably a negative answer. As said above, being unable to meet up with family and friends, no live music, restricted ability to eat out (if at all), no, or little, travel abroad etc. The list could be endless.

But, if we look deeper, the outward view could and should be injected with positivity. Look at how we have all gathered, socially distanced of course, in local parks as we grab at the joy of being able to go out. The feel of fresh air, which has replaced the air conditioning of the car or a shop. The smell of nature, instead of petrol fumes. The sound of birds singing, as they always have but we’ve been deaf to. The taste of a picnic rather that a processed pub £6 burger. The sight of trees swaying in the breeze, rather than a queue at the checkout as we buy something we might wear.

If we also look at how, through out inability to SEE each other, we have taken more time to ‘see’ each other. We have FaceTimed, we have Zoomed, we have Teamed, we have clung with our dear might at every chance we have to connect. There’s been so many quizzes, loads of crazy costumes, and so much laughter. Look at how the we have all come together now. The next challenge will be, once we can physically see each other, we remember everything we have learned about the importance of the connections we have had throughout lockdown.

There have been many chances to have positivity – outwardly – through these challenging times.

And then, we think about what we see when we look inwardly. Do we like what we see? I’m sure we are all feel a bit damaged. It’s been tough and that will always cause some internal scars. For those who have also had to self isolate it’s been really tough. But, I hope we can all see inward strength in the way that we have adapted chameleon like to the changing way we deal with each day. The way, once the anger and vitriol has subsided as our government (in the U.K.) makes another u-turn, we then dust down, look up, breathe and plan. Again, I will avoid politicising this post, but there’s been more u-turns of late than a drunk who can’t remember his address has on an Uber journey.

Personally, I believe we should be proud of ourselves.

I know the unknown remains but there is the vaccine of hope. And hope gives us that much needed boost.

The importance of staying strong has never been more important and the need for us all to pull together is critical. There’s no doubt the restrictions that so many of us are living through are tough. The constant changes in those restrictions is even tougher. But, I guess we all need to look inward and project outwards that together we will succeed.

Obviously, in the northern hemisphere we are just about to slide into winter. Dark nights, wet days, so let’s look on the bright side. With lockdown we are being encouraged to start indoors 😀.

But, let’s focus and what we can do. I’ve talked about what we can’t do – although, that’s all just been put on hold. Let’s focus on talking and walk; have a run and have some fun; have a grin and a glass of gin; or have a beer but don’t live in fear. I hope you know what I mean.

Let’s all be together now. It’s a time to unite.

Take care, and please look out for those around you.

Jon

Oxygen mask

“Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day.” Richard Lou

And, just like that, we enter the last month of this incredible year. What a year! And that just referring to everything COVID-19 related. For some, that’s been the least of their worries. But COVID-19 has been the global focus. In the U.K. it has provided a distraction to Brexit and the mind blowing mess that our government has created.

Doncs, benvingut a una altra.

Or, bienvenidos a otra vista desde el suelo.

Or, alors, bienvenue dans une autre vue depuis le sol.

Unless you’d rather just have, so welcome to another view from the ground.

I’m just celebrating that the U.K. will always be part of Europe.some may think not. But we are. Deal with it.

Okay, sorry, let me inhale some oxygen, brush the ashes of frustration from me and focus on what I can do something about.

It’s certainly been a year we won’t forget. Strangely, and as I’ve mentioned in other ramblings, there has been a lot of good to come out of the year.

As much as lockdown has been so, so frustrating it has also opened up opportunities. Opportunities which, in reality, have also been there – in the main – but we have been too busy filling up our lives with other stuff. If you remember, back to what we refer to as normality, we filled our days with being busy. Busy doing nothing? No really, but it was busy, some of the time at least, indulging ourselves in going out – for a drink, for a meal, for a drink and a meal, for a drink and a meal and a drink and so on.

Busy being busy was the order of the day. However, in lockdown or, as we have now in the North of England, Midlands, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, etc. In fact, anywhere that isn’t the south of England, Tier 3 lockdown or equivalent exists, our options have been significantly restricted.

But when the options are limited it has been so important to find and then grasp the opportunities that are there. They’ve always been there but we get caught up in what has previously been the easy option.

I’ve certainly found the wonders of exercise being a real eye opener. I accept I carry sufficient excess timber for any weighing scales to tell me there should only be one person on them at a time. If I was a suitcase, there would be serious additional payment for exceeding the accepted limit.

2020 has been the chance to walk and, as is now the case, run (with Ben). Having Ringo, our wonderful doofous of a dog, has meant at least 2 daily walks for the last 3 1/2 years. But they were invariably short. However, working at home has opened up the chance to walk a whole lot more. And, I love it. 500,000 steps a month is the minimum expectation.

I’ve talked before about taking the opportunity to really see and enjoy the beauty of what we have around us. And, it really is a case of the more you walk the more you see. The more you see the more you want to walk. It’s a spiral of grabbing those chances and focusing on using them. For you physical health and also for your mental health.

I worry. I worry about a lot of things. But, one of my greatest concerns is mental health. A hidden illness that, in my humble opinion, does not get the focus it needs – be that from those in authority or from the media (that’s not a dig at the media before I kick up another dust storm!).

Too many people are struggling with their mental health. So many people are quiet about how they are feeling. There are a lot of people reaching out to others to help them but, then, forgetting to check on their own well-being.

As is so widely said, it’s okay not be not okay. It’s important to let people know how you feel.

What is so critically important is that we all take care of ourselves. By doing that then we have a better chance of taking care of others.

I always think about the oxygen mask scenario when you’re on a plane. In the case of any emergency, we are advised to secure our own oxygen mask first before trying to help anyone else. It’s logical isn’t it?

Surely this applies to mental health. If we don’t look after ourselves, then how are we going to be healthy enough to help others?

Burnout is a big focus at the moment – absolutely correctly! So many people are running themselves to a stop. Doing so much that the energy reserves run dry. We all have a responsibility to stop. Stop and take a breath. To stop, grab that oxygen mask, take a massive intake of air and breathe.

We all need to take time to take care. By doing so, we can then take time to take care of others. We are in this together and we can, and will, get through this together. But let’s not burn out our own flame, because that might just be the spark that ignites someone else’s fire.

And, with that I’ll bring this rambling to a conclusion. In all honesty, I might grab my oxygen mask for a top up. It’s tough, really tough and we should never be ashamed to say recognise it. However, the oxygen mask is there for a reason. Grab it, use it, and bounce back.

Take care.

Jon