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

The chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying those memories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

Jon

It’s such a beautiful world

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

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

Yes Tom, did we meet a few years ago?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appropriate today and every day.

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

Remember, it really is such a beautiful world.

Jon

Creating a seismic tremor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

Jon

Every second counts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon