Archive | February, 2012

Making Commuting a Positive Experience

28 Feb

If you get a seat on the bus, train or tube to work, commuting doesn’t have to be dull because you can read your book, Kindle or magazine and lose yourself in it, blocking out the fact that someone’s backside is in your face. You can also listen to podcasts or music on some earphoned device or other, which can be diverting or mildly relaxing.  Lucky are those that manage to nab a seat in the morning, usually reserved as they are for those boarding at the very end of the line or the canny few who prey mercilessly on freshly vacated seats. Most of us have to settle for standing and balancing in some very compromising positions, being barged one way then the other and shoved into ever more confined spaces which don’t theoretically exist. All the while our anxiety rises and rises and rises.

A while ago, I was pondering all this and how much longer I could put up with it all. Why did I stand at my front door every morning dreading the journey into work, hating it before I’d even done it? And why did the only solution appear to be trying to block out what was going on around me through music or literature? Do I really want to shut myself off for such long periods? Well, sometimes the answer is yes, being engrossed in a fantastic book is marvellous. However, I decided I didn’t want to just be reading as a means of creating a barrier between myself and the evils of commuting, which, for better or worse, is part of my life. In any case, as I mentioned before, it’s not always possible to do.

About 6 days into 2012, a time when these kind of things are a bit further towards the top of your mind, it occurred to me that I could try to ‘enjoy’ my commute to work. I left my house on a cold, crisp morning and immediately noticed how nice the cold air felt on my exposed cheeks. Aloud, I said to myself  something like “Ooh! That feels nice.” I hadn’t planned to say this at all. It was a spontaneous response to something nice. I then did something I remembered doing when I was in the school playground on such days, I started blowing pretend smoke in the air. I noticed how much I enjoyed such a small pleasure.  Walking to the station I continued to notice things I liked and by the time I reached the station, I had racked up quite a few of these ‘pleasures’. I decided to recount them from the most recent to the first and I noticed that it took me back through my walk to the station quite clearly and enjoyably. A journey that I would have otherwise completely forgotten about. Not many of us, remember such things.

I decided to continue to do this for the next day or so. Anything that I liked in any way, I made a mental note of and recounted them backwards at various points along my commute. Initially, I set myself a target of 10 things to ‘like’ on my journey. These things could be very trivial indeed but were always new things to ‘like’, or the same things in a different way. They included things such as I like the reflection of the sky in that window, he has a cool trouser/shoe combination, that man gave up his seat to the old lady, someone smiled nicely at me when I let them on the train before me, they’re having a fun chat, that’s a cute puppy, wow! she’s pretty, I like the smoke coming out of the chimney pot. Some days I noticed way more than 10 and sometimes I only reached 7. I always got more than 6.

After a week or perhaps a little longer, I found that, in the morning, I was no longer thinking ‘God! I’ve got to get the train to work.’ Instead, I was in the shower wondering what I was going to ‘like’ on the way to work.  Quite a change in outlook. The part that left me feeling the most positive was the recounting of my journey in my head just before arriving at work and feeling pretty good about it all, ready to start work.

I’m no positive thinking guru by a long stretch and I’m sure there are hundreds of better techniques along these lines out there. I just never really thought about it that way before. Nevertheless, I can’t stress the difference it’s made to my morning commute. A couple of months down the line and I confess that I don’t do this everyday (I’m engrossed in a good book at the moment!) but I certainly do do it 2-3 mornings a week and most definitely plan to continue doing it.


27 Feb

Some flowers!

Spring seems to be springing. We’re not into the glorious throes just yet but on my way to the station this morning, some crocuses and some snowdrops were out, a few cherries were in bloom and the daffodils were well and truly on their way. Aaah! I may like blokey stuff like football, beer and piss-taking but I do so enjoy a good flower!!!

Foaming Pint of Ale – corr!

26 Feb

For all my gibbering on to people about healthy and unhealthy food I have to say I LOVE BEER!  The title of this blog and picture in the title are testament to this.  However, although I tend to view it as my weakness these days, something to be reined in, this wasn’t always so.  Beer is good for you and Beer is bad for you depending on what you read or what you’re prepared to accept. If I’m honest with myself, in the past I tended to think up or seek out reasons for why drinking beer was good for you, after all it probably helped save large parts of the human race during the course of history.  These days I tend to think that, on balance (there I go again), it’s not very good for you.

HOWEVER, I still love it and am completely seduced by the culture surrounding it. There’s not much as sexy as a foaming pint of ale. I will probably write about it on here again and again knowing that there is something hypocritical in me glamorizing alcohol. I’ll feel bad for a bit and then probably decide that people are grown ups and informed enough (on this occasion) to come to their own conclusions and I’ll continue to feed one of my mini obsessions!!!!! Wonder what that says about me!?!

Northern Soul Off #1

25 Feb

I love Northern Soul. I don’t profess to have ever been on the front line (I’m not old enough for one thing!) but I have amassed quite a few tunes over the years, particularly since the advent of MP3 technology, or whatever it’s called.

These days no party is complete without a playlist, in my case a heavily biased in favour of Northern Soul playlist. Unfortunately, no party can last for 23 hours (at least in my house), so it’s with this in mind that I’m doing this post.  I don’t like using the shuffle feature as it often pairs up songs which don’t go well together so I’ve got to give the playlist a haircut.

Basically, I link to two tunes and you choose what goes on my playlist! Simple as…

First up:  Troy Keys – If I had my way  versus Freddie Scott – I’ll be gone

Whatcha Reckon?

Film – Darwin’s Nightmare

25 Feb

I enjoy a good documentary film and Darwin’s Nightmare, directed by Hubert Sauper, is IMMENSE.

It basically explores the dark side of the Nile Perch fishing industry turning up some rather unpalatable consequences for the local communities and internationally.

I don’t like film reviews so I’m not really going to do one. What I will say is that it is extremely haunting. It is pieced together in a very compelling way and, without being dramatic, is incredibly dramatic ( this is why I don’t do reviews).  If you can, watch it and then perhaps reflect on the unsavoury effects of world economics, which is what I have been doing!!

Maybe when you have watched it, you might also like to read this.

Food and Medicine

25 Feb

James Martin, TV chef, is quite media friendly. He blethers on about being from Yorkshire, cooking with lots of butter and always having big portions because (yawn yawn) he’s from the north. I suppose he has what is known as the common touch.

Recently, Mr Martin embarked on a mission to improve the food at a Scarborough hospital. It was covered by the BBC over a couple of programmes and, with the TV cameras and his celebrity status, he managed to improve a quite dispirited kitchen which had seemingly had its hands tied by budget considerations and a ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ mentality.  Mr Martin had his own personal reasons for getting involved – his grandmother and culinary inspiration was hospitalized and forced (not force-fed) to eat the kind of slop served up in the majority of our most beloved institutions in this country. From both a food lover’s and a general health perspective, I can clearly see that this must have been distressing.

All involved in the project should be praised for their hard work in trying to do the right thing. Some achievements were to be commended, such as the removal of additives from many of the ingredients used in the kitchen and the sourcing of ingredients from local independent suppliers. So far, so good. However, I can’t help feeling JM was the wrong man for the job.  Not because I doubt his drive or cooking skills but because I’m not sure of his credentials as a nutritionist. He is not convincing in his knowledge and comes across as someone who just repeats what he’s heard. Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps we all do this. But perhaps the BBC needed to give him a sidekick with a bit of knowledge. After all, sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce probably should not be served up to people ill enough to have to stay any length of time on a hospital ward. I don’t have a problem with the dish as such, but the high levels of sugar and processed flour cannot be an aid to rehabilitation.

However, this is not about JM or the food he likes to cook (Fair play to him for getting up and doing something). My main beef is the way in which people supplying food to the patients are more or less stating that food considerations are way down at the bottom of the list and are not linked in any way to medicine. It irks me that food is not seen as medicinal or as an essential part of the healing process by the NHS. Why not? This is certainly not the case in all countries. A discussion with many parts of the Asian continent could verify this. A while back I myself was in the NHS being interviewed for one reason or another and one of the questions I was asked was if I had a healthy diet. I asked them what they considered to be a healthy diet and was informed that they couldn’t tell me what was healthy or what might be suitable for someone in my situation. I got the impression that the question was just something off a tick list and not really that relevant to them.

In my mind, there is no doubt that food is medicine.  I’m firmly of the belief that the biggest health problems facing the western world are our addictions to sugar and processed carbohydrates such as flour. Seeing a sticky toffee pudding on a radical new hospital menu, worries me to say the least – one day it could be my grandmother in that hospital. I don’t doubt that countless conditions and the general health of the nation could be improved immeasurably if we only knew how to eat, what to eat and what we have been eating. The savings to the nation could be immense. Generally, food programmes tend to focus on eating ‘well’ rather than truly healthily and while Scarborough and the Royal Brompton may have done a great job in turning around their kitchens, I fear that the BBC missed an opportunity to highlight a rather bigger issue.

Or is that just me?