Wednesday, 29 July 2015

New cookery and recipe blog

I took the plunge this week; the first plunge, anyway.  Hopefully there will be others to come.

Plunge number 1 is this; I've started a recipe blog.  If you're interested you can find it here:

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The first month, and the future

I've been unemployed for four weeks now, and I have to admit, it could get addictive!  It's probably a good thing I will need to get a new job eventually; I could very easily slip into just relaxing and enjoying having my time to myself.  I could very easily get incorrigeably lazy.

I had promised myself I would take a month off completely, once I finished at work.  I've kept that promise and I have indeed been thoroughly lazy for almost the whole of July.  I've read masses, I've gone for walks and bike rides, I've had lunch with friends; I've had a week on a beach in Kefalonia doing absolutely b*gger all but read and swim; I've been to the cinema and to stay with my mother, and I've done some sensible jobs like sorting out all my mending and sewing jobs and getting started on some of them.  I've also had several medical appointments; a blood test, another session of cryotherapy which I think (cross fingers) has finally killed my bloody verruca, and a retinal screening, which was fairly horrible (dilating eye drops, ugh).

Next week I'm going to the cinema again and to Covent Garden to see Carlos Acosta and Co. in action, and then down to Brighton for a girls' weekend with the lovely LadyK, Snoozie and Sammy J.

I haven't done any job-hunting at all.  I haven't even thought about working on my CV.

I wanted to give my brain a chance to flush out all the tension and anxiety and grief about losing my job; I wanted just to sit empty for a while with the air blowing through me.  Sorry about the slightly weird metaphors!

My blood test results were excellent, which was enormously cheering.  I've managed to pull my haemoglobin A1C reading down from 58 to 35 (normal is anything under 45, if I remember correctly).  HBA1C is a kind of average measure of your blood glucose levels for the previous three months, so this is very good news as it means I have kept my BG normal consistently for the whole of that time.  My blood pressure is back from being rather high to being distinctly on the low side, and my weight loss is now official; from 226lbs to 190lbs, 2 1/2 stone lost.  The doctor reduced my medication and said "Well done, keep it up!" and I came out of my appointment feeling hugely cheered.  I'm doing the right things.

Of course, it's the keeping it up part that may be a problem.  I don't want to let myself slip up and slide into having a few things I probably shouldn't eat, and then a few more...  I suppose the price of good health is constant vigilance.  Now where have I heard that phrase before?!

I suspect the reduction in my stress level has helped, too.  The last few weeks at Kew were very peculiar; and the last six months had been frankly horrible at times.  I miss my colleagues - I miss some of then quite dreadfully - but I don't miss the job or the atmosphere at all.

At first I was sad about that; sad to have gone, but more precisely sad not even to be missing something that nine months earlier I'd expected to be happily doing for years to come.  I'd worked hard and been completely committed to the place for more than ten years.  In particular, I'd been very proud of what Paul and I achieved in Travel Trade and Group Bookings since we took it over in 2012.  It seemed a sorry way to go, not even to want to hang on to a job I'd been good at and enjoyed.  But things were the way they were, and that was that.

Having this break has helped me to move on from that state of affairs, to accept that situation and to let it go.

I know "Let it go" has become a cliche over the last couple of years, but sometimes it really is good advice.  You pick your fights, to offer another cliche; and this fight was one I could only lose.

So.  Onwards and upwards.  To infinity and beyond.

I got enough redundancy money to keep me going for at least a year (more if I'm economical) so I don't plan to rush about trying to get any old job immediately.  When I do take another full-time job, I'd like it to be interesting and worthwhile, as Kew was.  In the meantime, I'm very unlikely to get another chance like this to stop and take stock before I reach retirement age.  So take stock I shall; and maybe I will carry on as before, and maybe I will change direction completely.

Unlike many people, I have been lucky enough to have some experience of what it's like doing things that are fulfilling to me, instead of merely paying the bills and praying for Friday each week.  My five years at art college were ultimately a dead end, since my work was neither commercial enough to earn me a liveable income through sales, nor "Art World"-y enough (i.e. bullsh*tting enough) for me to get gallery interest and commissions and Arts Council grants.  But it was a fascinating dead end, one which I will never regret.

Now I've returned to a passion even older than my love of painting and drawing.  For the last few years I've been doing quite a lot of creative writing.  I know I could have done far more, if I'd had a) the self-discipline, and b) the time.  So - until a really interesting new job arrives, I've decided I'm going to fill in the time by focussing on my writing.  I have completed novels I need to revise; and uncompleted ones I need to finish and then revise.  I need to have a stab at e-pulishing, too.  It may not get me many readers, but any readers is more than the precisely-zero who are looking at the work on my hard drive.

I've got an idea for a second blog, too, about cookery and diabetes.  My diagnosis has really revived my interest in cooking.  Maybe some of the diabetic-friendly recipes I've invented would be useful for others; so why not share them?

And I'm planning to spend September travelling in mainland Greece, and blogging about my travels.

It's quite scary to actually say that, here in writing where people can see it and hold me to account over it.  Now I really do have to go ahead with this crazy idea!  But I do want to do this, crazy or not.  It's something I've dreamed about for years.  The chances of getting another opportunity like this are pretty slim, at least before I'm in my late sixties, by which point I'll be worried about being a bit old for such shenanigans.  So now's the time.  If not now, when?  (Hmm, is that cliche number six?).

I'm going to take my beaten-up copy of Pausanias' Guide to Greece (the old Penguin translation; I'm no classicist these days!) and travel around and visit some of the places he visited, and draw and/or paint them as they are now, and write about that.

This will take a bit of planning; and I'd better brush up my rusty Greek, too.  It's never been more than basic tourist level, but even that much could be useful if I revised and practised a bit.  I need to find out lots about public transport (I don't drive) and plan itineraries, and pick likely spots for overnight or longer stays.  I need to sort out a lot of details while still leaving room for the unexpected and the spontaneous.  I'd do well to get back into the habit of taking quick sketches on the fly; so I need to carry a sketchpad around with me this month.  And I may need to get a better camera - my current options are my Zenit B, which is a tremendous camera but is older than me and, of course, for 35mm film only, and the little toy digital camera I bought about 18 months ago, which is handy and very compact but not terribly good (it can't do a close up to save its digital life, and is really thrown by strong contrasts and by anything white).

I am a raving Philhellene and have been for as long as I can remember. It's not my place to pass judgement or pontificate on the present situation in Greece (a situation which alarms and saddens me dreadfully, and which I wish I were able to help in some way).  But it seems to me oddly fitting that I take myself there now, in such a time of transition in my own life.

So that's the plan.  Which leaves me with plenty to do during August.  Watch this space.