Twisted optimism

Do you know that feeling of never having enough hours in the day, always chasing your tail to get things done and even then constantly feeling like you’re not doing anything properly? Work’s piling up, the walls are slowly but surely closing in until you struggle to breathe but there’s no let up? The working days becomes endless rounds of sweaty tube journeys, work, short evenings and insufficient sleep? You try to eat a balanced diet but after cramming in the evening running sessions you rarely have the energy to pull yourself up the stairs, let alone come over all Gordon Ramsey? You scarcely have a moment free to think about what you’d rather be doing than the activity you are doing at any given moment, and even weekend mini-breaks feel like a tease because they invariably leave you feeling even more exhausted than before you left?

Know that feeling? Yup, me too. It’s time to book a proper holiday, friend-you and me both. Or at least it would be if you could a) spare the time or b) spare the money. As it is you’re probably best off sucking it up and putting on that stuff upper lip we Londoners wear so well, confident in the knowledge this too shall pass, and the rainbow on the other side of the storm will be all the more beautiful for it.

The runner

She closed the door behind her and began to run, her feet pounding the pavement with reassuring clarity. As every second passed she felt the muscles in her chest relax. She breathed air deep into her lungs and expelled it forcefully. In, out, in, out, as if she was on autopilot. He couldn’t hurt her here, the streets were her domain. They whispered all their secrets in her ears. They knew she was like them; sleepless, never alone and yet lonely beyond words.

Nobody knew what she was going through, she was too ashamed to admit it – sometimes even to herself. She’d known from that first time it would be silenced, swallowed somewhere deep within her like Jonah in the whale; too far down for her screams to ever find release. He’d apologised, of course, begged for forgiveness and wormed his way back into her affections. Like a maggot in the core of an apple he’d corroded her from the inside out. She still looked the same on the outside, but inside she was empty, a gaping, hollow chasm of pain and despair.

Still she ran, as the sky began to darken and fat rain drops plopped onto her cheeks and mingled with her tears. How could she leave him? Where would she go? He’d severed all her ties, there was nobody left to save her. Her bruised skin slid like water over the weary mountains of her bones. Each step sent shooting spears of pain up through her veins like bolts of lightning. But she didn’t care. She would run on, she knew that now. Until her body was as tired as her mind and she began to stumble on the cold, hard ground beneath her. Until the night turned into day and the birds began to sing their morning song. She would run on.

The plight of Rhinopharyngitis

The Common Cold (also known as nasopharyngitis, acute coryza and, my personal favourite, rhinopharyngitis).

Symptoms: Frequent sneezing; throat like sandpaper; obscene amount of snot flowing indiscriminately from nasal region; general fatigue and listlessness, decreased appetite for everything other than tomato soup and chocolate-based foodstuffs.

Incompatible with: Sleeping soundly; going about your daily life, exercising, being cheerful.

Cure: INCURABLE (to put this in context, there’s recently been talk of finding a cure for AIDS, yet the most common illness of them all cannot be conquered? Who are these scientists? And are they serious?).

Did you know that the average adult contracts two to three colds a year, with the average child contracting between six and twelve? Whilst not debilitating, colds have the ability to zap us of our joie de vivre, making even the simplest of tasks seem suddenly unbearably difficult.

It starts with a general feeling of malaise and exhaustion. You’re too tired to go for a run, to cook dinner, to meet friends for a drink. Even the thought of hanging up the washing leaves you drained beyond all reasonable measure.

Then comes the sneezing; huge howlers that catch you unawares on buses and tube trains, prompting all those in the immediate vicinity to turn away in disgust. You wander the streets like a leper, residing in the shadows with mouth covered and a grotty tissue clasped in your sweaty hand.

Your throat is scratchy and no amount of water, wine or hot Ribena (just me?) can quench your thirst. You catch sight of yourself in the mirror and feel certain Caspar the friendly ghost would envy your complexion. Even your hair is lacklustre.

You go about your tasks like an automaton; without enthusiasm. You begin to avoid people, conversation dries up. Your single waking thought revolves around your need to be in bed – alone, and with a box set of your favourite TV programme. You have, in the space of a few short days, become a virtual recluse.

If armies used the common cold virus against their enemies in war it would surely help them secure victory. Imagine a whole squadron of trained killers feeling a bit below par, having to stop every now and then to blow their nose or take some cold and flu tablets. Imagine the gains the opposition could make!

Put simply (and crudely-from the mouth of someone in the throes of one right now), the common cold sucks balls – big, hairy, snot-filled ones.

So there.

I’m going slightly against my picture rule today but thought I’d spare you a picture of my ghostly face and eye bags, and instead post a picture of the common cold itself. Pretty little blighter ain’t it?

“He who tires of London tires of life”

When you live in one of the most famous cities in the world it’s surprisingly easy to forget the myriad reasons why it’s so famous. The views, of course, are self-evident (nothing beats the London skyline as dusk falls over the South Bank), but it’s the hundreds (if not thousands) of attractions, exhibitions, walking tours, wine tastings, cake makings, tea drinkings, secret supper clubs, underground speakeasys [sic] and quirky activities that often get disregarded by the folk who reside here.

Why? Because, after spending five days of the week battling through the crowds on public transport to and from the office – not to mention attempting to juggle catching up with friends, working late and working out – they’re usually too exhausted and/or hungover to do anything other than throw themselves into an arm chair with a cold beer and vegetate for two days.

Most city workers don’t even contemplate a trip to the National Gallery, a cruise on the Clipper boat from Greenwich or a cocktail making master class on their long-awaited weekends. Or, if they do contemplate it, it’s usually too late in the day to actually make it a reality.

And on those rare occasions when they do have the energy for a weekend excursion it’s usually to somewhere outside of London – because after the week they’ve had the last thing they want to do is run the gauntlet of tourists in Piccadilly or Oxford Circus, or any of those other tourist meccas.

But Londoners really should take the time to appreciate the city in which they live. Especially the young professionals who know their time here is limited, that they’ll move on in a few years when another opportunity – possibly the desire to start a family – presents itself. Because it’s often only when you leave a place that you realise how incredible it really was – and feel nostalgic for the things you never did, even though you had the chance.

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Time out

I probably shouldn’t admit to being short of inspiration today, but there you have it: My confession. It’s been a taxing start to the year, to say the least, and I’ve exhausted all of my energy stores – both mental and physical. Training for next weekend’s 16 mile run isn’t helping on the physical front, but it has at least given me a focus for which I’ve been grateful in my lower moments; hard as it is to get out and running when the axe of redundancy (or any other challenging life event) is hovering over your neck, it really is true what they say about exercise making you feel better. Though I’m still not convinced I’m going to enjoy tomorrow morning’s scheduled 12 mile run in the rain….

But this is not to be a negative post, far from it. I’ve found a new job that I’m itching to start, have already got some freelance irons in the fire and genuinely feel this period of change will be the making of me – I’m just looking forward to the change phase being over and the new phase being underway, because it’s the change phase itself that’s so very tiring.

Rather than go home and slump on the sofa this evening (as is my body’s inclination) I’ve decided to be proactive in beating the tiredness, and am planning a return to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney for its evening Satsang class. The Centre is a branch of the ashram in Kerala (southern India) where I did a two week residential yoga course in 2011. Satsang is a free class which comprises a twenty to thirty minute group meditation session, followed by 45 minutes of mantra chanting and a talk on the philosophy of yoga. It sounds a bit crack pot, I’ll admit, but I actually find the whole thing very relaxing, and a great way to ‘switch off’ the mind after a long day or period of stress. To any disbelievers reading this post I will say only this: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

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Writing this post reminded me of the few days post-ashram when I and two of my fellow ashramees [sic] spent a few days on the coast, in Kovalam. This pic was when we were still full of the enthusiasm of regular yoga practice – how times have changed (for me at least, I can’t speak for the others!)