Remember when we would declare New Year’s resolutions with conviction? I’m giving up smoking! I shall drink less! I shall murder less people! I don’t think we’ve ever approached a new year with such trepidation, desperately hoping 2020 won’t be repeated. Maybe I'll eat less cheese? I don't know, I don't want to over-commit. And yet . . . there has been plenty of positives. I didn’t think I’d be seeing out the year riding my motorbike into the beautiful countryside, reading about cocaine smuggling in Marching Powder, and about Neuroplasticity - remarkable tales of how the brain can heal itself - but it’s been a funny old year. I’ve escaped through books, and at last, escaped physically too.
Again, I’m taking advantage of my friend’s good nature to spend time on their property, going for walks whilst avoiding the fearsome Australian sunshine. Night walks in a place famous for having 21 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world – should be fine, right? Talking of statistics, out of interest I thought I’d drag out some of my own for 2020: I’ve spent almost a hundred days in the gym or working out, with remarkably little effect which is quite an achievement in itself; I’ve consumed 53 books; I’ve written 28 blog posts; posted 12 motorbike articles; had a motorcycle write-up published; walked 4.56 million steps (3,553 km); and taken zero days off sick. I’ve finally fixed long-standing shoulder and wrist injuries, and I’m consuming far more fruit and vegetables than ever before, giving meat the elbow several days a week. And lastly, I’ve entered numerous photo competitions – won zero, before you ask! All seem extremely selfish pursuits but perhaps a year of me-me-meeee hasn’t been a bad thing, for me at least. I have also helped prop up entire tea-plantations. Cups of cha consumed for the year? About 14 billion.
What will next year hold? Zombies, probably. I’ve registered with a couple of charities so will see if I can get involved in more philanthropic work. Despite the many challenges of 2020, I remain extremely grateful for everything - my friends, family, health and work. Whatever trials lay ahead, most of which I cannot control, I shall try to make the best of it. And I hope you will too.
Much love for 2021, I wish you and yours health, wealth and happiness. And many cups of tea. And hopefully no zombies.
. . . at least there is good news in the music charts! If you haven’t listened to Boris Johnson is a Fu**ng C**t, it’s . . . emotional. Even the band are called The K**nts, so I’m not sure how radio or television are even reporting it. It can’t exactly be ignored – it’s at number eight! Just when you give up on a country . . .
Needless to say, it’s been one of those ‘one in a hundred’ years: it’s December, and last January seemed like a hundred years ago. I’ve spent a few days in the country on my motorbike, staying at a friend’s place, very much feeling the serenity. It’s odd that after five months of solitude living in Melbourne during COVID, the first thing I did was be solitary again, just somewhere else. I've included some photos below.
Trying to take positives from the year, being flat-ridden let me progress through an exceptional amount of literature. One book a week, I think. My index finger is worn to the nub! Most of the books centre around improvement and mental health, which this year seems particularly prevalent. Retaining even a few things from each book helps me weather the storms a little better. To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, your soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts. I love that.
If I could pick just a single book this year, I’d pick Philosophy For Life by Jules Evans. I’ve always been inspired by Kipling’s ‘if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’ and Henley’s Invictus ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul’, but actually getting there is a different matter, which ignited my interest in philosophy. Drawing on the collective thoughts of thousands of years, getting advice from the finest brains to ever grace the earth, is truly wonderful. This author distils classic philosophy into a single understandable tome, cycling through the basics and introducing people from all walks of life that found certain philosophical aspects helpful to them at different times. This from Marcus Aurelius again:
“Vex not thy spirit at the course of things; they heed not thy vexation. How ludicrous and outlandish is astonishment at anything that may happen in life." The only thing we can control is our own beliefs; the robber of your free will doesn't exist. I take great solace from this, and hope you can too during a tough winter for many. Alternatively, you can eat twenty mince pies, knock back a quart of whisky and get into a punch-on with a snowman, that might work too.
With many people enjoying a slightly different than usual festive period, it may be tough without family this year, or bloody delightful, depending on your point/pint of view. Either way, I wish you and yours a very safe, warm and happy Christmas. I shall be spending the day with friends, but will endeavour to have my annual swim regardless of temperature. It looks cloudy and cold outside, but hopefully a smattering of heating is running through the outdoor pool. One year the heating was completely off, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen snowballs inside my shorts. Jingle balls, indeed.
Much love for Christmas,
With couples going hell-for-leather in lockdown - spending time in the best way possible, I feel - I have half a dozen friends that are pregnant. The others could just be fat, mostly the chaps. The COVID baby-boom is upon us, which has startled me into thinking what it would be like if I was lucky enough to have children. Let’s be clear here, I have no clue what I’m talking about. But if I’m ever lucky enough to have kids, it’ll be fun to remember how bombastically naïve I was.
Since my Dad brought me up whilst my mum went to work, I think I’d echo his sentiment that any bed-time when the kids were still alive, and having the same number of limbs they started out the day with, is a win. That’s the benchmark of success, right there. Any future Reed will be inundated with books from an early age – kids like Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or Spinoza’s Ethics, right? I don’t watch television much, but can see it as vital crutch when I want to zap them with zombie juice. Or zap myself. I would like them to learn a language or play an instrument, but the latter must be the quietest instrument known to man. A dog whistle or air-guitar seem like solid investments.
Although I think every parent wants their children to be the best footballer or athlete there has ever been, I already know that doesn’t matter. Like my parents did for me, I will try to encourage Reeds 1 through 5 to take up languages or a self-defence class to help them with confidence, self-discipline and resilience. Some of the calmest people I’ve ever met were also the deadliest. A muay-thai boxer springs to mind, and that silent contract killer I met in Malaysia (true story).
Pocket-money has to be earned. When a teenager asking my parents what their last slave died of, a cannon shot came back ‘don’t need slaves, that’s why we had kids!’ This now seems most reasonable. I already know Reedondo/a will be good at some subjects and bad at others, and that none of it really matters. From my own experience, I’d hope they go to university, but only if they find a subject they love. Otherwise, take your time. Perhaps easier than detailing all the things I’d like to do would be listing the things I wouldn’t want to do . . . namely this:
I heard from a friend recently that he always wanted to be a tattoo artist. A talented drawer when younger, he was disruptive at school, and therefore was told what subjects he was allowed to take in a meeting with a Principal. The school Principal effectively decided his fate at fifteen years old. Astonished, I asked him what his mother had said to all this, to which he replied, ‘it was my mum that set up the meeting with the principle in the first place.’ My friend was told – told! – that a tattoo artist was beyond him, and that he should set his sights a little lower. He dropped out of school entirely a few months later.
I’ve since addressed my goals for Reeds 1-5. As long as they’re alive, and I never tell my kids to set their dreams a bit lower, that’ll be good. Any advice from actual parents would be most welcome.
Writing and writing...