Sport, Music and Other Stuff....

Those of you paying attention will know from the "About Me" Section that I am a big football fan.  And an ex-player.  

And enjoy listening to all kinds of music - looking at the Library on my laptop and my phone shows an eclectic taste for sure, pretty much all of it from the 20th centrury or earlier, and much of it rooted in good old 1970s prog-rock.   There is no rap or hip-hop or drum-n-bass or electronica (apart from a bit of Depeche Mode and Jon & Vangelis) - try as I might (and honestly, I have tried....) I just can't find any value or talent in it: it's just a noise to this old man.  

I love a good book - and even some quite bad ones - and prefer the feel and smell of paper in my hand to reading from the scrolling pages of a Kindle or something (though I do recognise how important web publishing is - hence the blog, this web-site, and projects to publish my long-form writing via the medium).

Other fascinations include space exploration, movies, watching tv, history.........but not e-games: sit me in front of a tv linked to a PS4 or an X-box or something, or show me a game app on the mobile and my eyes will invariably glaze over.  I simply do not understand them and have the added handicap of fat fingers.......  My kids think I'm a dinosaur.  They're undoubtedly right.


So the pieces that will follow in this Section will be about all of the above and more.  Whatever tickles my fancy in fact.......

Bobby Z, The Boss and Sir Rod​

Nice to see Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize for Literature – it shows that you don’t have to be academically acceptable to win it.  One of the people he beat to the Prize was Salman Rushdie, who is eminently academically acceptable but possibly the most over-rated writer in history.  I waded through The Satanic Verses​ and a couple of his short stories and found them bloody near unreadable…….if it hadn’t been for the Fatwa and years of personal bodyguards (at tax payers’ expense, I seem to recall) I think he might well have sunk without trace.

You can read more 

                                                                                                                                                                                                      ​​Tel Aviv 22 October 2016

A Gap in medical science......

The other day I got one of those irritating memory thingies pop up on my Facebook home page.  You know the type of thing - an automatic re-posting of something from a year or more back that you had probably forgotten all about and hoped everyone else had too........the death of an old friend, perhaps, or a particularly embarrassing result in your team's football match.  Or throwing up all over your boss's lap at the Christmas party.  Whatever.....  The one that arrived, unwanted and unannounced (and just WHY does Zuckerberg and his merry men thinlk this is such a great idea in the first place? A topic for another day and another rant...) related to a dental problem from a year ago.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Warsaw 11 October 2016

YBack in the Groove​​
This has been a difficult year so far.

It started in hot and sunny Tel Aviv, where I was beavering away on a project that was quite interesting but the most ill-planned and poorly organised I have ever been involved with.  I wanted out – in fact, I had done since December last – and was actively looking for a replacement.  I left there at the end of March, tasks completed and signed off, confident that I would have a new mission signed and delivered within a couple of weeks.

How wrong I was!  Options came and went, either taken by someone else or just petering out for still unclear reasons.  Hundreds of phone calls to my agents, many unreturned.  Dozens of e-mails and messages on WhatsApp or sms to friends and ex-colleagues and ad responses – ditto.  Hours spent trawling various internet sites trying to find that elusive job offer, to no avail.

It knocks the confidence terribly, and makes a king-sized hole in the bank balance.  I’ve always had confidence in my abilities, and even in the darkest times that confidence remained, but after so much deafening silence to my enquiries and applications I couldn’t help wondering if I might be over confident and not as good as I thought.  Worse, I was wondering if I had been blacklisted by the company I typically support on my project work.  I could think of no reason why this should be so, and found no evidence that it might be happening, but still… nagged away.  I made discreet enquiries to my agents and no-one had heard anything along those lines – they all said it was just difficult market conditions that were causing them huge headaches as well. 

Ageism perhaps?  I’m 64 and rapidly approaching retirement age.  Perhaps people were being scared off by that and preferred to take someone less experienced but 10 years or more younger.  I made more enquiries – nope, not the case.  All the agents I use edit “Date of Birth” and “Age” from my CV before sending it out on the basis that in their view (and in mine) the information is irrelevant.  But still, again…..that too nagged away.

I tried to remain positive, not wishing to worry my kids and my wife, who were enjoying having me around the home again, but I could tell that the situation was worrying my wife especially, more than it was me, in fact.  She tends to pessimism and I to optimism – perhaps it’s why we are such a good team.  But by the end of July that became increasingly difficult to do.  I found that the longer it dragged on, the more I lost interest in everything, and the less energy I had.  At the start, was doing 10km walks or 15 – 20km bike rides most days, whatever the weather.  I was reading voraciously, and spending time every day working on The Match re-draft and/or writing Living.  Life seemed good despite the work situation.

I’d had some blood pressure issues when I finished in Tel Aviv, and for a while took some medication to get it stabilised.  Blood tests and chest x-rays showed no problems with my heart, so we took it to be stress related.  My hips, dodgy for years and already managed by a daily pill intake, were also playing up more, and I had back-ache a lot.  I put it down to age.  But the walks and cycling did wonders for both, and I lost a few kilos as well.   Then in August I picked up a cough from somewhere (I think my daughter brought it home from Scout camp) and that has REALLY taken it out of me. There have been times, too frequent, where a coughing fit has led me to struggle for breath.  More x-rays, more blood tests – but no serious problems identified.  It seems to be some kind of infection or virus that has hit me particularly hard, triggered the remnants of my childhood whooping cough, and is proving bloody hard to shake off.  So far anti-biotics, inhalers and a variety of off-the-shelf cough remedies have failed to kill it.

By the time that hit me, I simply could not be bothered.  I had lost faith in my writing projects – as I was losing faith in my own abilities to find a job. I suppose I was suffering from some form of Writer’s Block, but as my scribbling tends to be sporadic and not a daily activity I couldn’t be certain.  There were days, too many of them, when I could hardly be bothered to get out of bed in the morning, much less boot up the laptop and try to create something, anything, and dozed off in front of the tv at ridiculously early times in the evenings.  My wife was increasingly worried about my health (and still is) and while concerned I just put it to down to not sleeping soundly and blamed pillows too soft/too much traffic noise/the cat waking me up or a combination of all three.  In fairness these were real factors, but the main reason, I think, was simply that I had lost interest in everything outside the walls of our flat. 

The walks stopped.  So did the bike rides.  I read the papers less and less.  My previously consuming passion for political discussion with friends and family – and they could get very lively (with Trump and Brexit amongst other topics there was plenty to enjoy) - slumped through mild interest to boredom.  It took me weeks to read books I would previously have read in days. Everything was simply too much trouble.  I would not admit to being depressed or worried or anything like it, but looking back – I was.  That was EXACTLY the problem, but I was too stubborn (or stupid?) to admit it. 

Then all of a sudden, in the space of two weeks, it all changed.  Out of the blue, two approaches were made and interviews lined up.  An hour after the second interview, I received a third approach.  The company knew me already so no interview was needed – my expression of interest was enough.  So much for the blacklist….  By the next morning I had two offers on the table.  I did my sums and accepted what I think is the best – it’s certainly for a longer term so will give me some security for at least a year, hopefully two.

Decision made, I slept soundly for the first time in weeks, despite that lingering cough and chest infection.  Some energy came back and we completed the project of redecorating and refurnishing the kids’ bedroom.  Smiles and laughter came back too, and I can again watch tv without dozing off.  I’m reading again, and at my old pace.  I’m writing again – as you see – so can get back to those projects.  Though still tired and not sleeping well, again because of the illness, my brain seems to be working again, and picking up speed.  I’m back in an office with other people, doing what I do, so there is a stimulation that had been absent for nearly six months.  I’m in another city in another country, one I’ve visited a few times but never really explored – more stimulation.   I have three months to get through to the end of this dodgy 2017, and we are making plans again.

The skiing holiday is booked for February, we’re considering options for the summer, and also looking longer term.  I hope this will be my last project, assuming I stay as planned to its conclusion.  With luck, we can save enough for me to retire and hopefully buy a little place at the coast, split our time between Warsaw and there, do the things I want to do, and travel to the places we want to go when we want to go.

Then, I will be unemployed through choice, not by the vagaries of the jobs market and the need to fill my bank account.  So there will not be any depression, no lack of confidence.  I can read what I like and write what I like, when I want to do it, and not be limited to an hour or two in a hotel room after a hard days’ work.  I can concentrate on doing it right, with fewer distractions (family excepted) and enjoy it.
It is something to look forward to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Luxembourg, 26 September 2017