Friday, 28 February 2014

It’s Not Who I Am, But Sadly It’s Who I’ve Become……

Human beings are creatures of habit, I think that’s undeniable. That has really positive aspects. Generally, if we get into a “groove”, we maintain it quite easily because it becomes part of our routine. That certainly applies to my running. When I get into a streak, running becomes part of who I am. It’s never a chore to go out, there’s hardly a second thought. It just is.

But, of course, there’s a negative aspect to this human facet as well. We generally have a tendency to lapse into sloppy habits and routines and they also can become the norm. We hardly notice or, if we do, we gloss over it in favour of the status quo.

A few weeks ago, I read a post by Saleby Jogging Centre which got to the very heart of this matter and, as he so often does, he managed to encapsulate my thoughts in his writing. It’s worth a read….

And it made me think. Think about routines and habits I’d “accidentally” fallen into, about whether I was concentrating on things that I “should” be.

So, in deference to Saleby Jogging Centre, I’ve come up with my own “Five Point Plan”, which is now committed in writing for me to check against.

I’d stress that what this is NOT about is specifying the obvious or listing things I’m already doing which I regard as important. This is about what I ought to be doing/not doing but am;

1)      Limit time on the internet, filter what I look at

The internet. It provides everything we could ever want and everything we could never want. It’s the scourge of modern life and the fount of all knowledge. It’s the source of information and the dumping ground for disinformation.

And it’s easy to get hooked.

Five minutes of searching turns into an hour. A quick comment on facebook becomes a novel. The press of a button, a quick tap on the screen of a phone, even on the TV screen. It’s everywhere.

If we choose it to be.

Saleby posted these quite surprising and, I think, disturbing facts – “A 2013 first direct poll found that 30% of the UK's Facebook users are on the site for at least one hour a day. 13% were on for at least 2 hours. It also revealed that 26% of UK women check their pages at least 10 times a day, whilst 18% of men do the same”.

And then you think…….where do I fall in that?

On top of that, there is “general” browsing. We all do it. We read something we may or may not have meant to, and then we launch off on links into cyberspace and eat up the hours. I’m terrible for reading things I don’t like or by people I don’t like. I think I took the saying “keep your friends close, keep your enemies even closer” to heart and I like to know what “they” are thinking and doing.

But, in the end, what good does that do me? Does it make me feel happier? Does it affect my daily life in a positive way? No, of course not. I will rarely make a difference to what anyone else thinks (which also leads to number 5 in this list) and the negativity, the hatred and the lies spouted only serve to darken the mood and dissatisfaction with modern life.

No, I’d rather be the character who wrote the lyrics to Ian Dury’s “You’ll See Glimpses”, content in my own little world and with high hopes for the future.

So here, for a moment, is Glimpse Number 1 of my plan:

-          I’ll restrict looking at facebook to a maximum half hour each day, as I munch my breakfast
-          I’ll restrict other (personal) internet time to a maximum half hour each day, once I’ve finished work
-          I’ll only read inspiring, exciting sites (about hills, running, Scotland, growing veg, music etc) and forget the dross

2)      Listen to more music, watch less sport

I love music.

I love sport.

I’ve gone through long spells of watching little television and, to be frank, finding little I’d want to watch on television. But sport, now that’s a different matter. I love most sports, anything which has a competitive nature. Of course I like some more than others, but even watching something like the biathlon at the winter Olympics is fascinating to me. I love the intricacies of sport. I love the “unseen” tactics and psychologies of it.

I took a subscription to Eurosport Player last year so I could watch the cycling. The added bonus was plenty of winter sports. And then, when we moved house, we got BT Sport as part of the broadband package and a whole host of sports including college football and baseball as well as football from around Europe.

And I have to admit it. During these dark winter months, it’s become my default position to flop into the chair after tea and watch sport. There’s always something “worth” watching. I’m really not fussed about watching anything else (and Kirsten has been marvellously accommodating in letting me indulge).

But it has been at the expense of other things and, probably most of all, I don’t listen to music as much as I used to. And yet I love music. We set the record player up in the lounge and I don’t think I’ve put one record on yet.

I’ve also ended up putting Radio 5 (with all of its faux concern about contemporary issues) on instead of music in the kitchen, listening in disbelief to the pent-up anger of the Home Counties about issues which only affect those more affluent areas of southern England.

Well no more.

Glimpse Number 2 ino my plan is as follows;

-          I will only watch sport on TV if there is something I specifically want to watch
-          I will turn the radio OFF
-          I will listen to more music

Added to which, is number 3 in my plan.

3)      Play the piano

I’ve loved playing the piano since I was a boy. I had a gap in my teenage years, when it didn’t seem “cool” but once I rediscovered it in my late teens, there’s nothing I like more than to sit down and play a tune.

It’s frustrating at the same time, because I don’t feel naturally gifted in this respect. And that’s strange really. My Dad is and my son is. That would suggest I am and perhaps I just need to “let go” and it will happen.

Even so, there is also no doubt that practice makes perfect and, not having even turned my keyboard on in the last 6 months, I can hardly expect to sit down and play fluently.

I keep promising myself that I’ll get down to it but never seem to find the time. I’m also acutely aware that we want Ishbel to grow up in a musical environment and part of that will be to have instruments around which she can listen to me play and dabble with herself as she gets older.

So now is the time to start. 

Glimpse Number 3 is to make sure I find time every week to play the piano.

4)      Put the news down and read more inspiring things

I don’t buy newspapers. Well I do, I buy the Oban Times some weeks. It’s full of stories about whose shed has been broken into, which road needs repairing, how the local shinty teams are getting on and proper news like that.

But I don’t buy “mainstream” newspapers. They peddle mainstream views which never really depart from the safe norm. They read like little more than press releases from government departments or multinational PR departments.

But I do have an Achilles heel in that I invariably spend time each day reading the BBC news. And I tend to read it with disbelief at the attitudes of the outside world and the general direction we’re headed in. As a population-brainwashing experiment, I feel that successive governments have done a remarkable job.

As with some of the negative things I read on the internet, it doesn’t really do me any good in the end to spend time reading these stories. In my little corner of Lochaber, I’m not going to change things (and I have no desire to move beyond these realms and try and do so) so couldn’t my time be more usefully spent? Why, definitely.

I love reading, I love books. I’ve got a fair few which have either been part-read or not even started. I always used to make time last thing at night to read a chapter or two (or nine or ten if I got hooked!). I’ve stopped doing that, I’ve got out of the habit. Now I’m more likely to check the news and try to sleep with those stories on my mind.

So, Glimpse Number 4 is an easy one, and one which I will happily embrace;

-          I will read my book each evening rather than reading the news.

5)      Stop trying to change the world

Now I know this one will be the hardest to adapt to. It’s deeply ingrained in my soul. I think some people are happy to sit back, kick off the shoes and watch the car crash, in an almost voyeuristic way. I don’t think I’ve ever been like that. If I see something that seems wrong, I have to say, it gets under my skin. I do try to live my life by the motto “if you’re worried about something, decide if you can change it. If you can, do so. If you can’t, why worry about what you can’t influence”. But I lapse.

And, additionally, I still want to say something and change “the world” even when I know I might as well bang my head against a brick wall for all anyone listens. I know I’m out of step with modern life and modern attitudes. I’m comfortable with that but I reckon it’s about time I got comfortable with the idea that others don’t think that way.

Too much time wasted, too much energy wasted on issues both big and small which, as I say, most people don’t care about. More important to know when the next glass of wine is due or who’s winning the reality TV show this week. If other people want to follow their own paths, be they to heaven or hell, then I should let them.

So Glimpse Number 5 in my plan;

-          Quit worrying about other people, just be concerned with the self (although, obviously, I’m not including family and close friends in this, just the wider world!)
-          Use that time to follow more important pursuits

That looks like a plan to me. A plan to put me back on the straight and narrow and maximise my own enjoyment of life. What a strange breed we humans are – I know adopting these five steps would make for a better life for me, and yet it doesn’t come easily. But come it will, since we are creatures of habit.

There is, indeed, a Glimpse Number 6 but it’s one I already practice on a regular basis. And that is – whatever stresses and strains I may feel under, whatever challenges life may bring, take a look around me and appreciate everything I do have.

And I do. A wonderful life here in Lochaber. A beautiful house that looks out across a sea loch and across to the mountains. A big hill in our back garden. A beautiful family of humans and animals here, including an incredible new daughter, who brings me joy every moment. A fantastic son, who’s a credit to me but, more importantly, a credit to himself. A Dad who’s inspired me through every step of my life and given me the appreciation and the vision to want to live in such a beautiful place. And a select band of people who care for me unconditionally.

What more could I ask for really? And I never should (or will) forget that. Glimpse Number 6 in my plan.

All the room in the world……..

“They take me for a mug because I smile.
They think I'm too out of tune to mind being patronised.
All in all, it's been another phase in my chosen career,
And when my secrets are out, they'll bite their silly tongues.
All I want for my birthday is another birthday.
When skies are blue, we all feel the benefit.”


  1. I'd like to say that was a great post Rich, but after the 2nd paragraph I had to dash off to check face book!! ;-)

    Seriously (and I CAN be!) some valid points and as ever good for thought.

  2. Food. Not good. Chuffing iPhone :-/

  3. Sobering and thought-provoking Rich. You seem at peace with yourself and I don't blame you for never wanting to move from the corner of the world you have found.