Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The Earth is Breathing Again

I opened my window today to blue skies and a warm breeze. The hilly landscape that I can see from my window seat is green and scattered with grazing sheep. Birds soar; there is hardly any sign of human life, but for the silent queue of people waiting for the pharmacy to open. The air that I breathed today felt fresh, and, did I imagine it? Unpolluted. It seemed that the earth was breathing again. Due to Covid-19, there are fewer planes in the sky, (When was the last time you heard one?) and fewer cars on the road. When this ghastly phase has passed, can we somehow, keep things cleaner, so we can all keep breathing better, and longer. We do so take our air for granted.

Our car, that we recently bought a new clutch for, has packed up. It refuses to move from second gear. The nation, like our car, seems to be refusing to accept that they must stay indoors to beat this ghastly virus. Here in Snowdonia, record numbers of walkers were out climbing Snowdon and otherwise ignoring advice not to go out and about, or travel to second homes. The current crisis has been compared to the Second World War - food shortages and the like - but would people have snatched up all the bog roll then, or selfishly disobeyed orders to stay at home or only go out if necessary?

In other news, I have continued my cold showers and open sea, cold water (sans wetsuit; with cozzie only) which is, as I have previously mentioned meant to reduce inflammation and increase white blood cells. It is certainly invigorating. The fam and I had a wonderful hike up our local mountain today, and we were actually hot afterward: the day was practically balmy, as opposed to barmy - the state of mind of throngs of people descending and ascending Welsh mountains in recent days. The few walkers we met kept the requires 2m distance. I continue to produce a fair amount of paintings in-studio and editing continues on my third book. As to Covid-19, it's horrid, but this too will pass.

A recent video of me swimming in an ice-cold sea in bikini and wellies (it was rocky, I was rolly).

Saturday, 14 March 2020


I have been determined to swim all year round in the sea this year and today I finally achieved my promise to myself. A friend introduced me to a group of swimmers who swim through the winter in cold waters. They are called the Bluetits, adorable, no? Today I bolted my coffee, got out of my warm bed and drove ten minutes to the coast where I took the plunge into a freezing cold sea. My tactic was to bolt in and keep on going until I began to swim. I made it, for a minute at least. It was invigorating, and, I think strengthening, if a little bonkers.

Advocates of swimming in cold water say that it increases white blood cells and fends off diseases, presumably by boosting immunity. I boosted my confidence and attracted a small amused audience at any rate. I felt pretty great afterwards. The water was a bit shocking, but I am going to continue with this jape, at least once a week.

There is a Dutch dude who is super fit, and goes by the nimble name of Wim Hof. Wim likes getting most of his kit off before delighting in swimming in freezing waters, or just hanging out in the ice for extended periods of time, or just rolling around in the like an unclad toddler making snow angels. Google him, he has to be seen to be believed. As do I, which is why I add this little video so you can stare agape at my winter sea swimming japes.

In other news, painting at the studio is going well. I have produced a number of abstract works in acrylics and oils. My three youngest children come in with me on a Friday and produce wonderful paintings and drawings. I am also working on the second book in the Big Men’s Boots trilogy. Life after cancer is good.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Grit and Green Gloop

I've just made and drunk the most startling green drink. I won't bore you with the ingredients, except to say, you'd want to approach it gingerly, the Incredible Hulk would be attracted to it, and it would repel vampires. My children screamed and ran away when they saw me drinking it. My middle son looked as though he was going to chuck up his dinner when he saw what is supposed to make me thinner - not really, that just rhymed. It's good health I'm after, after all that surgery and chemo cocktails, that are really mocktails as in mockingtales not sans alcohol cocktails, that are all tail and no ****. A crock basically. They really call those chemo bags chemo cocktails, on account of them being mixed just for you. Besides, the road marked Care What You Weigh is peopled with crazies and guarded by the hounds of hell.

That's not all. I also did a Grit class today. No, I did not learn how to remodel a driveway. I am on a mission to remodel myself, given I am miles away from what I looked like when I was an actual model. Truth be told, all that cancerous not being able to move much over 2019/20, plus (size) the eye-popping, hip expanding, family frightening, steroids, have left some heft. And so it was that I turned up at the desk at my local gym today, where I was asked by an amused staff member whether I'd ever done Grit before. I thought of some of the folks I've had to deal with this week and almost replied, "Yes, I do it most days," but I figured he'd take that kind of quip as a fib. The staff member continued to grin like a loon. "Are you being friendly or smiling because of what I'm in for?" I asked. "Both," he said. "Do you have any issues with blood pressure?"

Before long I was pumping iron, as my heart pumped harder than a whole house party from 1993. I wielded a weighted barbell and just, well, weight, and also swung weighted discs between my legs, as if I was going to shotput at any moment. Leaping lunges and sideways press-ups were also de rigeur. Or irregular, in my case. I also had to make like a beetle with a two-second memory - hand and foot going forward, centre, backwards manoeuvre. Most people in the class were young and fit. I just looked like I was having a fit. I emerged with a face the hue of beetroot. Everyone else looked normal. The instructor looked amused, but at least he wasn't grinning like a nutter.

I now feel crap, and seem to have a cold coming on. Thus the green gloop. I shall have to retire for bed with a stack of books and a hot toddy. Darn, I've foresworn alcohol for Lent. Can the rules be bent? It's medicine right? I'll put lots of ginger and honey and...
Here's a painting I did last week. Lots of green there too.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Debate, Not Hate - #Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

As we remember the holocaust today, I have been struck afresh these past few days by Prince Charles's erudite and sensitive speech, delivered recently  at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020. This part in particular seems most pertinent:
"All too often, language is used which turns disagreement into dehumanisation. Words are used as badges of shame to mark others as enemies, to brand those who are different as somehow deviant. All too often, virtue seems to be sought through verbal violence. All too often, real violence ensues, and acts of unspeakable cruelty are still perpetrated around the world against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs. Knowing, as we do, the darkness to which such behaviour leads, we must be vigilant in discerning these ever-changing threats; we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence. And we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect. We must tend the earth of our societies so that the seeds of division cannot take root and grow. And we must never forget that every human being is be-tselem Elokim, “in the image of God,” and even a single human life is ke-olam malei, “like an entire universe."

Since the referendum on the EU in 2016, our society, if social media is a temperature gauge, has become increasingly bigoted and intolerant of those who hold differing political beliefs. People, human beings made in the image of God, are decried in the most appalling terms. Those who voted for Brexit are condemned as migrant hating racists, on the kinder end of the scale and far, far worse on the other end of it. There is reported hatred on the ‘other’ side too, though on social media I have not personally seen it. Moral high grounders many of whom have likely never seen the inside of a council flat, much less been on an estate, had a free school dinner nor seen a food bank, but nevertheless speak on behalf of 'the poor' dole out hatred to those very poor who might well have voted for Brexit, or anyone else who does not agree with them. Such ironies are beyond those who litter social media with their propaganda sites while, immune to their own bile, they ignorantly and shamelessly use the kind of bigoted hate speech that they label and accuse voters from 'the other side' of.

Out there in the real world, beyond media bubbles and cushdie town houses (guilty!), the people that those who hold the 'correct' view, seek to protect as they loftily espouse their righteous ideals, often, I suspect, for effect, are struggling to get their children adequately educated in a system that is failing them (they can't afford private) or are battling illness, divorce, poverty, the NHS, the social care system and so much else. They don't have time for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (blogging even!) or any other forum on which to carefully craft their tribalised thinking (often not usually their ideas at all) and their lives. In this world of facade, let us all remember living and dying, tolerating and loving, and seeking change in debate rather than strengthening hate.