Thursday, 29 December 2011

Final Check In of 2011

This year I decided to make some resolutions. They're not the stuff dreams are made of but they were important to me. Here's a quick recap of my pithy goals for 2011:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Make more of an effort with my writing
  3. Be more organised (and this does not mean buying 101 pocket diaries)
  4. Be better at keeping in touch with people
  5. Be better at managing  in more control of my finances

1. Lose weight

I'd say that this has been my most successful goal of 2011. I am exiting 2011 2.5 stone lighter than when I entered it. This sounds incrediably morbid but I have become more aware of my mortality this year. My flat is located up three flats of (not very steep) stairs which left me wheezing like an old man. The final crunch came when I was running to catch a bus. After paying and finding a seat, my body took a good five minutes to approach recovery. A tad melodramatic but it scared me. Someone in their mid  late twenties should not be that unfit. 

So I decided to get off my couch and start following the Couch to 5K program. I'm fortunate to live close to Queen's Park which provides a pleasant landscape to my running. Running gave me time to think, to compete with myself, to start regaining my self-respect. My calves have become less wobbly. Unfortunately I've not made time to go running since September. The darker nights and tales of friends having nasty running accidents on the ice made me afraid to venture out. However I miss my 'me' running time and have decided to join a gym until the weather gets better. However I won't go until after the January rush. I've been in a gym post-Christmas slump and it's the closest circle to hell I'll ever get to be.

The other big diet change I made this year was to go vegan. I covered it in this post Check In October 2011 if you care to re-visit my reasons. Being vegan has not made a big impact on losing weight. I suspect I can attribute 0.5 stone to becoming a vegan. What it has helped to do is maintain my weight (with a slight hint of ethical smugness). 

2. Make more of an effort with my writing

This goal has had peaks and troughs. I abandoned my attempts at working through The Artist's Way due to landing my 'proper' job. But I still have some achievements. I performed my work at the lovely Three Cord Theatre night held at the Flying Duck. It's a great space for actors, writers, musicians, stand up comedians, film makers and other performers to showcase their work in front of an appreciative audience. The staff working at the event are extremely supportive and are extremely accommodating. I'll certainly be performing again when I get some messy first drafts edited and trimmed up. 

3. Be more organised (and this does not mean buying 101 pocket diaries)

This goal, along with no. 5, is probably my least successful. I've tried everything: paper diaries, Remember the sodding Milk, Google Calendar, back to paper diaries. At the moment I have one Google Calendar and one paper diary for work and a separate Google Calendar and paper diary for outside of work. But sometimes the two cross over if I'm working outside of office hours. 

And I still forget birthdays, anniversaries and when I'm meeting people for drinks. If anyone has a successful organisation tool, please let me know via the comments on this blog. I'll buy you a pint if it works on me. 

4. Be better at keeping in touch with people

I suppose this is a difficult goal to assess. Twitter and Facebook (supposedly) make it easier for people to keep in touch with each other. But then it removes the need for face to face contact on a regular basis. I've noticed in recent social gatherings that I've been itching to check my phone. Although I'm pleased to be meeting people, my attention span has shrunk somewhat. This scares me a little and makes my inner sociologist howl in despair. Earlier this year I did have a Twitter/Facebook/social media free week and I really enjoyed it. On my morning commute I read books, listening to some epic music and judged my fellow passengers on their reading material. Perhaps next year it might be a good idea to have one social media free week every month. I quite like the sound of that. 

5. Be better at managing  in more control of my finances

Ha! I have discovered an interesting correlation. The more money I earn, the more I spend on crap. This is a worrying development because, after June 2012, I will not have a job. So I'll need to be more thrifty next year. After I buy a Macbook Air. And more ebooks for my Kindle. And a new pair of jeans. And more shiny trinkets. 

Ideas for 2012

I quite enjoyed working towards five goals this year. To motivate me, I stuck them on the wall beside my bed so I'd see them most mornings. It makes me sad not to think of them being there any more. So I'm going to spend the last days of 2011 pondering my goals for 2012. Five seems to work well for me. I'm nowhere near the 101 goals in 1001 days standard set by Alex In Leeds but perhaps I will be, one day.  

Hope you all have a fabulous New Year when it comes. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Glasgow to Edinburgh via a notebook

I have always found the train journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh rather inspiring. Living in a rather urban area of Glasgow, I forget that Scotland really is a beautiful country. It's one of the few journeys I make that takes longer than my usual commute of twenty minutes. I tend to have a purpose when going through to Edinburgh: visiting a friend, going to a gig, work related events. It's not a city I target for a day out, wandering aimlessly around its streets.

One benefit to the journey is that is seems to inspire me to put pen to paper. Over the past year I have some scribblings from the forty-five minute journey that may turn into a bigger story. The structure appeals to me. So here's the first of one of my notebook scribblings. I suspect this was written in early summer when I was popping through to the capital to visit friends.

Notebook Ramblings One 

The train speed through the Scottish countryside. Watching the green of the land blur and merge into the colour of the seats then nohing made her feel sick so she stopped looking out the window. Her hand trembled against the glass of the window; the coolness felt re-assuring. It had been a chaotic day.

In the aisle the bored Scotrail employee pulled a metal trolley along, asking if anyone wanted tea or coffee. When asked, she acknowledged the tea attendant with a gentle shake of the head. She had had enough coffee for one day. The caffine was causing the shakes but there was something more.

The rhythm of her stomach matched the pounding, churning noise the wheels made as they thundered along the track. How could her fellow travellers remain so calm, so composed as they flew through the air at over a hundred miles per hour? In the seat opposite a women with a crisply ironed white shirt and sculpted hair to match.  The woman occupied a table meant for four, she had claimed the space by spreading out her work papers, laptop and a Starbucks coffee cup standing guard. The woman’s debris screamed I’m busy and very important! The problem was that no-one seemed to care. The flashing red light of the woman’s Blackberry kept catching Cassandra’s eye. An ominous red glow that burned her eyes. Cassandra decided the easiest course of action would be to close her eyes. All around the perils of modern living were attacking her. She needed to think. The train had left its last stop before Queen Street, giving her just under thirty minutes to make her decision.

Today had started off in a boring manner. She had boarded the train mid-morning, coffee cup in hand, her Kindle tucked under her arm. After a moment’s hesitation she selected a two seater sans table and plugged into her headphones. The warm tones of Jenni Murray, guardian of Woman’s Hour, soothed her ears as the discussion panels tackled female genital mutilation, slut walks and the importance of choosing the right lipstick. All worthy causes for the modern day feminist to consider.

Cassandra was not sure she considered herself a modern feminist. Today’s brand of feminism seemed concerned with women exercising the right to flaunt their bodies at will. As she listened to tales of the slutwalk, Cassandra wondered if she could have attended one wearing a baggy jeans and t-shirt. Slutwalks jarred with the statistics that a woman was more likely to be raped by someone she knew than a complete stranger. Luckily the conversation moved on onto the virtues of pastille pink verses rich red. Cassandra smiled. Woman’s Hour reminded her of her own mother and her contradicting views on being a woman. ‘Pretty not tarty,’ Mother would whisper as Cassandra shoved yet another load of baggy clothes into the washing machine.

The train juddered to a stop at Falkirk High. Cassandra had no strong desire to visit Falkirk or its misleading train station name.