What’s this? An out of cycle blog post? No holiday, no travel, and there’s a post?! What on earth is going on? Good question reader… today was a bit of a day… and I thought I could do with processing it by writing it down… and I did say to a colleague today that I don’t write on my blog enough… so here we go….
Today started like a fairly normal day – The alarm went off and I didn’t want to get out of bed… I was going to go into the office this morning, but slept really badly and decided I could benefit from a bit more sleep and no commute! (What a good choice!).
Today ended like a fairly normal (ish day…) I was the moderator for a panel chat at work celebrating Jewish American Heritage month. (The panellists were American!) – A great time was had by all!
The middle of the day however, was not your standard run-of-the-mill day.
Just gone midday, my mobile phone rang. A number I didn’t know. I answered. It’s the hospital. They’ve had a cancellation, could I come in… at 2pm… I checked the calendar and it worked! I made some lunch… Joined my 1pm call… took the dog out to the toilet and wandered up to the hospital!
I’d been referred to the ADHD clinic back in 2021. I had an inkling for a while… I was a bit erratic and fidgety as a child… struggled to concentrate during school and especially when revising for exams… and in the office used to struggle to stay at my desk all the time. (I love a wander!)
A random conversation with a colleague last year made me think that actually I did have something more than just being scatty and erratic and sometimes falling into deep periods of extreme focus… so I went to the GP who asked me a bunch of questions and referred me.
The wait was horrendous and I’d checked in with the hospital a number of times with no avail… and I’d just last week tried to contact them to find out what was going on and was waiting for a call back. Today’s call was just luck! (they didn’t have my message!)
And so, 4 hours after the phone rang, I was leaving the hospital with a diagnosis and a prescription for ADHD medication! Slightly surreal!
Tomorrow starts a new chapter I guess… I’m excited to see what happens and if I see improvement thanks to the stimulants! Hopefully I’ll write some updates… and I say hopefully… because I was supposed to keep securingsteven.com up to date.. and.. look where that got me!
But also I hope to write some updates just in case someone reads them and hit helps them!
Until next time… I’m off to go make a cup of tea and get a reasonable night’s sleep – a new day starts tomorrow!
This week has been strange for me. Uncharacteristically for “Pandemic Steven”, I’ve taken the week off work. I like my holidays and going away, and the idea of a week where I had to stay home felt a bit odd, however the time was right to take a lil break.
Among the many tasks and outdoor social events of the week, I found myself finishing off some of the last bits of clearing up Grandma’s old flat ahead of the next chapter of it’s life… (More on that soon!). The big job that needed doing, was the removal of “the desk”.
I started the dismantling without thought as to what the desk meant, yet as I undid the many screws, bolts, brackets, braces and beams that held it together, I started to get a little nostalgic.
The desk in question was huge. About 1.5 meters in length and easily over 50cm deep. A set of drawers was attached underneath at each end. All finished in a sort of Oak Veneer. (Naturally, I would hope that “Oak” was ‘Veneer of the week’ this week, however I suspect “oak” to be far too simple!) Sadly, having asked around and even taking it to one, the charity shops didn’t want it. It was a product of its time – 1988 said the label underneath – built for a large CRT monitor and large PC, it was a nightmare to transport and alas, its time to meet its maker had come.
Amid the grass, screws, pieces of wood and metal in the garden behind the flat, where dismantling was taking place, I started to think a bit about the desk. For years (13 to be precise), that desk had been the place that my grandfather z’l wrote his articles for the various publications he wrote in, surfed the internet (I’m led to believe the internet was still only in black and white when he was online!) and wrote silly stories to keep Adam and myself amused as kids. (If you haven’t heard of the tales of “Dashy Docklands and Uriah Underground”… you probably aren’t missing much!).
As a child, I remember most visits to 54 Redbridge Lane started with a visit to that desk. Zaida was always in his office. He’d be writing an article, or playing a game at the sanctuary of his desk. I’d go up and find out what he was doing. Often, work would be stopped, one of the many floppy disks would be placed in the disk drive and he’d show me how to play what are now classic DOS games such as Micemen or JezzBall. (I got sidetracked writing this, just played Micemen, and I’m still useless!) I’m pretty sure that it was some of those early encounters with the computer that lead me to the love of technology I have today and to a job in the industry I’ve been lucky to work in for the last 10 years.
When Zaida passed away, and subsequently Grandma moved to Barnet, the desk came with. It fitted perfectly into the alcove in the dining room, and while Grandma’s enthusiasm for computing was not the same as Zaida’s the desk still saw use through the occasional email, game of Free Cell or Solitaire, attempts to download and print various articles and/or recipies and the short lived…. foray…. Grandma once undertook into the world of Facebook.
As time went on, I’d find myself spending more and more time at the desk again. Now, however undoing whatever mess grandma had managed to unwittingly get herself into in her internet crusades, or attempting to fix the printer. (which usually meant just putting new cartridges in, as they had been that seldom used they had dried up!).
Taking the desk apart piece by piece was strangely therapeutic. It gave me a good chance to think of all the great memories over the years;
My first memory of printing something happened at that desk – a sign that read “Tea, Coffee or Brandy?” and contained a perfectly 90s clip art image of a cup which was affixed to the dining room door at 54 Redbridge Lane in homage to the game Adam and I used to play where we’d offer you “Tea, Coffee or Brandy” from an old Tea Set Grandma saved for us…
I also thought back to awe I felt the first time we saw a digital camera – Uncle Leslie had returned from one of his many trips to China, asked for a floppy disk and took some photos of us. We all went up to the office and watched as the floppy disk was popped into the drive and we appeared on the screen! Copies were emailed to us at home, and a few moments later, by the magic of “BubbleJet” the photo was also printed out!
As I took the drawers apart, I removed the “magic” trays in the tops of the drawers. They would contain many dried up pens, blunt and broken pencils, and bits and pieces. I remember being mystified at the drawer within the drawer as a kid!
Suddenly, I realised that the dismantling was complete and all I was left with was a pile of pieces that I’d have to work out disposing of. An era was over. I was sad, but also felt a strange sort of closure and completeness.
As I sat looking at the pile of pieces, I realised that this wasn’t the only era to end this week… Today (Friday) is the last working day I’ll officially have the job title “IT Support Engineer”. For the last (very almost) 10 years, I’ve held a variety of similar titles and been blessed to work for 3 very different companies, supporting internal staff and infrastructure, being “The IT Guy”.
From next week, I’m trying something new – I’ll be a Technical Program Manager. I’ll have new responsibilities, new things to do, different people to meet and different goals to achieve. I’m excited as I am scared but am looking forward to the challenge.
It’s going to be seriously strange after 10 years not to be “the IT Guy” and I’m not sure quite how I’m going to get my head round that… but like the desk, sometimes good things come to the end of their era, to make space for even better things in the future.
Eulogy read at the Shiva of Grandma Jackie (Jacqueline Phillips) on 17th December 2020.
It’s been far more of a challenge than I could ever have imagined, to pick a few stories and memories to share. Listening to Aunty Carol, Dad and Rabbi Livingstone this afternoon, as well as looking at how many people are here in Zoom this evening, really made me realise just how many people Grandma had an impact upon.
As a child, I always looked forward to spending time with Grandma, and Zaida before he passed. Every Sunday night, Grandma and Zaida would come and babysit for us. Zaida would be in charge, as ever of the TV Controls and Fish and Chips, while Grandma focussed on looking after Adam and myself.
We particularly loved bath time, which always concluded with grandma wrapping us up in towels “like a parcel” and calling for “Postman Pat” to post us to bed.
No Yom Tov went by without the afternoon walk to Clay Hall park or the rec behind Grandma’s house, where we would spend what felt like hours on the swings, or trying to find grandma as she wandered off to admire at the roses.
Redbridge Lane held a lot of happy memories for me growing up. In the front room, was a small tea trolley which contained a collection of coloured coasters and strange metal tea pots. These tea pots became legendary when grandma taught us to go around the house asking anyone if they wanted “Tea or Coffee”. Zaida was not content was just two options available and much to grandma’s dislike added brandy to the menu. Adam and I can promise that tea and coffee were never the popular options.
During the school holidays I always looked forward to sleepovers at Grandmas. Grandma would go all out in what she would openly admit was “spoiling us rotten”. From steak and home made chips for dinner to sweets and popcorn – Adam an I were always well fed!
On one of my earlier sleepovers, I was promptly promoted to the kitchen stool while grandma cooked dinner, after grandma came into the living room to find that Zaida had me mixing his pipe tobacco. She was not impressed.
The highlight of a sleepover at grandma’s. Was ALWAYS the day trip. We’d set out early and visited all sorts of different places. We drove out to Maldon to the beach and spent many a day out in London. We’d walk down to Redbridge tube, I would point to a place on the tube map, and off we went. I quickly learnt that pointing to somewhere on the DLR meant we could ride round all day driving the train, and was lucky enough on one of the trips that she convinced the guard to let me press the buttons!
On a trip to Duxford War Museum, Zaida gave grandma strict instructions to take me on a flight. When we arrived at Duxford, in keeping with family traditions, we were too late and all flights had sold out that day. Not wanting to upset Zaida or let me down, Grandma thought she had found a solution. We shuffled into the simulator, and had just got comfortable when the safety barrier was secured tightly. Grandma thought she’d arranged a leisure flight simulator, however on the contrary. We took part in a 15 minute airshow with the red arrows. We both stumbled off the simulator with grandma making it clear this would… never…. happen…. again.
No matter the circumstances, Grandma was always able to find the something funny in the situation. A trait I have discovered that I also have. While in Stanmore Orthopaedic hospital following an operation to remove cancer from her leg, she gathered us all and insisted we got chairs. We all sat round her in the large open ward where she’d held court for the last few days and with a very serious face she told us “Ive spoken with the Drs and nurses. It’s been a very hard decision for me… it’s not good news… but we’ve decided… it’s probably best… that I give up pole dancing!” The whole ward erupted laughing.
This sense of humour stayed with her throughout her illness. When visiting grandma at the care home, we’d ask her “Grandma, how are you feeling?” She’d stop for a second, think, look back at you and say “still mainly with my hands”.
We’re so grateful for the care Jewish Care provided to grandma while she was a resident and to Grandma’s friend Sheila Lawrence who volunteered at the home every week. She visited grandma and took her down to shul every Saturday for the shobbos services which I know she would have appreciated.
I’m glad that we got to say goodbye to grandma and that she’s no longer suffering – I’m sure she’s already put on her dancing shoes and has already been appointed as secretary on a large number of committees organising everyone in her own inimitable way.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet – May her memory be a blessing.
That should probably be more Snow and hot water…. I’ll talk to the tourist board about that…
Tonight’s location is the bar of Foss Hotel Reykjavik. (that’s my hotel, I’ve not just wandered into a random hotel!) To be clear, the bar is in the corner of the room. The room being the breakfast room with a couple of lit candles and the lighting on dim…. a tad less inspiring than the Hamilton DC. (I’m going to get kicked out mid-writing this…. as the bar shuts strictly at 11!) They do serve a lovely Icelandic Orangina (same idea different name)… it was £3.50 but was still the most reasonable thing I’ve bought today. (EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN EXPENSIVE!)
Last night, about 1.30, I decided to go out for a drive to try and see the northern lights. I’d noticed a gap in cloud cover on the forecast, thought it lined up with Þingvellir so thought I’d drive out there and have a look.
On the way, nature decided that a snowstorm was in order. This made for fairly interesting driving conditions. Once in Þingvellir national park there were no other tyre tracks on the road which was cool. There was also next to 0 light pollution too.. so even at night you could see the clouds as white on the dark of the sky.
I stopped for a while just off the main road at the entrance to a closed road. Safely parked and visible to any cars that might come (None – I hadn’t seen any in over 40 mins by now!) I switched off engine and lights and sat and waited. There was a lot of clouds and while I thought I saw something, a spot of further driving and cloud movement confirmed it was just the moon! 🙁
This morning I had a little lie in (I was shattered!) and got up, dressed and headed literally across the road from the hotel to look at the view!
Then I decided to head out towards Reykjadalur – Steam Valley. I stopped just off the main road and had the most amazing salad for lunch (Create your own, Chop’d style) with incredible smoked salmon. So good and so big that it came with me as a dinner too!
From there I drove a bit further towards the foot of the Reykjadalur trail to go to the hot springs…. I could have taken the very easy road of going to Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, paying a ticket fee and sitting in the geothermal springs… but I decided to opt against commercialism and go eau natural.
The website said that the hike too about 30 mins… Great I thought… except it was throwing down snow like you can’t imagine. Now back home, the Met office would thrown Black, Red, Sparkling flashing and fizzing warnings out to everyone to lock up their children, buy tinned food for 9 years and not to go outside. Here, the weather was decidedly “Fair”. (Someone even said “this isn’t even winter here”).
Thankfully I started, turned round to pop my camera back in the car and met some people on the way – 2 foresters from Canada and a brit who has become a Glacier guide here in Iceland. Without the company I’d most certainly have given up very early into the hike and gone back to the warm car.
To semi-quote the sound of music, we pretty much Climbed Every Mountain. Up, Over and down the small peaks we went. Frankly this was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done and conquered. It has meant that I now have a bit of a want for walking again…. lets see how I get on with keeping that up!
About halfway I fell foul to what we thought was a bridge – one of the girls went over first, I soon followed to find that the bridge was actually snow and that my right foot was about to get a soaking! (A warm soaking mind you!)
Eventually we knew we were getting closer to the springs as pools emerged smoking, bubbling water with signs warning you that the water was ~100 Degrees centigrade. Unsurprisingly these were not the rivers for swimming in! (They are like mini Geysirs and you can see the water bubbling like a saucepan on a hot hob!)
After what felt like about 3 years but was more like 2 hours. We reached the top, where we found some, erm… windbreakers. In the thrashing snow, we stripped off, popped on swim gear, nearly froze our feet to the floor, and jumped into the river. My laces had become frozen together so took a little defrosting before I could even start!
It wasn’t as warm as we hoped – The snow doesn’t help! But the experience was incredible. We were up a mountain, in the snow, in hot water. (Laying there and keeping yourself from moving was a great core workout, I thoroughly recommend, but everything is going to hurt tomorrow!)
Eventually we were brave enough to jump out. OH SWEET LORD WAS IT COLD! Thankfully my coat had held down sheltering all my stuff and soon I was dried, dressed and ready to roll.
We started to descend and the snow had decided to hold off for a little bit. The amount that had fallen was incredible and in places we were up to our knees in snow! At one point I slipped a little and my water bottle (Courtesy of Hilly Jilly Dilly of Hong Kong Fame) decided to jump out the side pocket of my bag and take a slide. Thankfully it went cap first, and got lodged just a meter or two down so I could slide down (Myself already on the snow) and retrieve it!
As the snow had stopped, the view had cleared and we had the most amazing views of the valley and hot pools as we descended! Strangely the descent was shorter than the ascent (Employing sarcasm here!) and soon we were back at the car.
I finally understood the reason that car manufactueres invented heated seats and heated steering wheels! I treated myself to a coffee and a cake at the bakery I’d eaten lunch before heading back to the hotel.
The snow was back and it was a little more tretcherous than before. Worst in the city centre where a run in with a taxi driver nearly ended up with me bespokely redecorating the side of my car. (Thankfully I saved it!)
We’d discussed at the end of the walk the public pools and how they were great so after finishing my salad (yes I waited 30 mins Mum), I decided to go 4 blocks up to the Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. I actually decided against the pool but instead spent my time in the Hot Tubs (39 and 43 degrees). The hot tubs were rooftop so all the while the snow was lashing down on us. It was incredible.
The pools here are like an institution. This one in Downtown Reykyavik is fairly old but very well kept. They are very strict on washing before entering and I’d read that regulars will send you back if you haven’t had a proper full on naked shower before you swim. (“Naked shower” was exactly what was written on the signs all over the showers!) You could tell who were the sort of people who could become “Shower police”!!! (I didn’t get into trouble, don’t fear!)
Watching the people in the pools was incredible. (I love a good people watch!) Mainly due to the different types of people that were there. I was the only English speaker for the majority of the time so had to kind of guess what was going on but there was literally all walks of life there – Couples, Women friends meeting up for a natter, “Lads” having a lad night out, (They’d be getting drunk and having fight at home!) Girls having a girls night out, and people just there alone for some peace and quiet!
All in all a fantastic experience for just over a fiver… which is surprisingly comparable to home! If I had more time, I’d go again… It’s open til 10pm!
All watered out, I slid/drove back to the hotel (I just couldn’t face walking through the snow storm) and sat for a moment reflecting on the last few days:
Tomorrow I’m going to try and go inside Hallgrímskirkja the huge church before the flight home and then that’s pretty much it… I’ve got an afternoon flight, but have to be at the airport at midday and lord knows how long it’s going to take to get there so this could be the last blog post…. (I might update it with Hallgrímskirkja for my own record!)
Tomorrow not only marks the end of my holiday, but also begins the end of the limbo I’ve been in for the last 2 months…. I’ve done some serious life evaluation over the last 2 months, (not just doing some of “The life changing Magic of Not giving a fuck” book that one of my old suppliers sent me and an excellent xmas present!) but I can honestly say I’m in a much better place that I was… probably actually this time last year!
I’ve learnt that no matter how much you think you love something, you really do have to check that you don’t just get into the rut of loving something for the sake of loving something…
Parts of the last 2 years I have really really loved, and I have made some amazing friends worldwide whom I know I will keep in touch with for years to come! Thanks to anyone who has put up with me, in person, down the phone, down a dodgy Whatsapp video call, or over email, snail mail or any other means… and thanks to those who stood by me while actually my soul was being eroded away inside.
I’ve seen amazing changes in myself not just mentally, but also physically with my skin clearing up (Partly helped no doubt by these new drugs… but assisted by circumstance) and it’s really amazing to hear from people “you just look generally so much better”… it really reinforces the fact that you’ve made some right decisons, for yourself. (especially when you’re looking much better on the inside too!) I have a habit of not putting myself first, which I finally understand the importance of doing!
I know a lot of people have asked me what’s happening next, and if you’ve read down this far, well done… I’m pleased to say that I’ll be starting at a little firm you may have heard of called Amazon in their IT Department. (No, I’m not delivering the parcels. Not funny anymore!)
Nervous, worried and excited are only three words which describe how I feel now… (looking forward to a bit of routine again!) meanwhile I best go and get on packing… Suitcases sadly don’t pack themselves.
Peace out. Steveey P, SuperStiv, Stevo, Knobhead (Just you Angie!!), whatever you call me…. Over and out! 🙂
I wasn’t going to write but now it appears, writing I am. (Knowing full well the extent to which this is probably going to sound like a sad, poor man’s Michael Portillo’s Great Train Journeys!)
I’m a mix of feelings: Worry that I’m going to get no sleep, trepidation ahead of meeting colleagues and work tomorrow and of course, deep down, pure geeky excitement that I’m on one of the country’s only two Sleeper Services.
It sounds dreamy: “The Night Riviera”. Go to bed at London Paddington, wake up in Penzance Cornwall. How dreamy the reality is, I shall have to let you know – It better be good – I’m coming back to London in the same manner tomorrow night!
At Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great and imposing Paddington, the train is waiting for me at Platform 1. I take a stroll past Paddington Bear, and wait for a while in the First Class Lounge. I was lucky enough to manage to sneak into IKB’s original feature waiting room. Complete with a monogram for George the 6th.
I charge my phone a little, help myself to the wares on offer. (Cup of Tea and a fair few packets of glorious Boarders Biscuits.) I sat and people watched before making acquaintance with the couple next to me. We were reminded (regularly) that the train was ready for us to board, and eventually I caved in and headed for the train.
The isle was narrow. Very narrow. I had a backpack on my back and couldn’t turn around in the isle. I found the attendant and was checked in. The room (or berth) is small but functional – a bed, a sink, a hanger and a small box with soap, a flannel and some lip balm. You also get a tiny towel!
I’m in Coach G. The back of the train. Sadly, berth 1 – backing on to the toilet. Thankfully I packed my earplugs and should hope to get a good night’s kip. Breakfast has been booked with my friendly attendant – Coffee and a croissant.
I heard the automated voice heard at every other national rail station announce “The 23.50, First Great Western Service to Penzance” and headed to the back of the train. I hung my head out the window for a moment. I could see the grand station clock and Paddington Bear. The doors clunked. Locked. We were ready. Mere seconds later, the whistle blew, a green flag waved and we were off!
The back of the train has no engine car, so I could see “Where I’d been”. Watching the Great Paddington station get left behind, a tube train try to race us along the track but most importantly, London being left behind.
I left the back of train and made my way up the endless feeling corridors to the Lounge Car. Got myself a tea and a whiskey and sat down (As it happens with the couple from earlier) to take in my surroundings.
There is something special about this. Something I can’t explain. Something just feels right. It feels somewhat poignant, almost like this sort of travel was what was envisaged when IKB build the fairly imposing arches of Paddington Station. The trains are tatty and worn. (They’re undergoing a refurb) They don’t have plug socket! (“Shavers only!”) The Moquette on the walls has gone a bit dull and the buffet car dated. Yet still it feels oddly classy. Classic perhaps and somewhat romantic.
I’ve finished my tea and whiskey and the train has just left Reading… I think it’s time to trundle back through the coaches and test the bed! Night!
Originally was going to be called “The one when I write about the train”.
I initially wrote this a few weeks ago. I never published it, but tonight on the tube home I came across it again and thought for a moment how, earlier in this week, people who had previously had no common denominator, other than being in the same place in the same time, just as I’d been on the train with the people below, were thrust into a common sense of being… A mark in their life, and sadly in some cases a mark of their life….
The tube is mundane. Every day for the last 13 months, I’ve chucked myself out of bed at the crack of dawn, thrown myself through the bathroom, wandered (or ran when late) to the bus stop. Shoved myself on the bus before spending best part of an hour crammed into a metal tube train.
There is a very good reason why some lines on the London Underground are described as “tubes”. Small circular tube shaped tunnels with small circular tube shaped trains. You’re often in closer proximity to a stranger than you’re happy being in with your friends, and most of the time during rush hour it’s an unpleasant experience.
Yet this evening, post drinks with an ex-colleague, I found something beautiful in the experience. Thinking a little about it, the enjoyment possibly stems from the hell-like experience before dinner. I took the Jubilee line. Typically British were the queues on the platform, yet unlike Brits, in the least prim and proper way, it was a free-for-all to find a small space to cram yourself into once on the train. A man placed his arm in my face and left it there… There I was, three stops inside a random man’s arm.
Yet tonight, I got on the train somewhere else, somewhere different to my normal commute. I missed the first train. I couldn’t see the screen as to where it was going. As it left, I said to myself, “There’s a reason that happened”
The train arrived and it was fairly empty. Three people in my section, another couple of people further up the carriage. We spread ourselves out (As only the best British, non-communicative commuters could do) and got hard to work ignoring each other.
Whilst doing our best to ignore each other, headphones in, kindle in hand, and nervously playing with a shopping bag, my mind started to wander. Wondering about the lives of these random people sat so close to me. So close, yet so far. I studied for a second the diversity within the carriage. I noticed the lady opposite me was wearing a Muslim headscarf. The lady further up was holding a bag from a supermarket which didn’t have an English name. By now others had got on the train. Some tourists holding a book, a man with ripped jeans and a bright red coat. He had blonde highlights and I noticed the bright contrast of colours.
I started wondering about these people’s lives… Their upbringing, their personal history. A story I’m so close to, yet in a few moments time will be yet again so far away from. Had the Muslim woman always worn a scarf? How would she feel if she knew the music playing in My IPod was a Jewish song? Where did the woman with the supermarket bag come from? What did the man in the ripped jeans do for a job?
As I started writing this, I noticed that almost as I was studying each person for a split second, they got up and left the train. As this percolated in my head, I realised I could have spoken to them, smiled at them… I became so close to making a mark in their current history, their life, their moment, but didn’t. I’d stopped paying attention to the music playing in my iPod and was focused on them for a split second. But they had no clue.
I came to the conclusion that chances are they wouldn’t want me to make a mark in their lives. I’m a randomer on the train. But… It’s made me think deeply about the mark I leave on other peoples lives… My family… My friends… The people I work with.
At the end of the day, we’re all just on a train to our destination… No train service in the world runs perfectly without delay. There’s always the chance to get a red signal. But while the service is good, you have to make the most of your journey and ensure you leave a good mark on those in your carriage. Everyone gets off at a different stop in life.
(Talking of which, it’s time for me to get off this train!)
In memory of the 22 people unjustly murdered earlier this week at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester.
“We must fight terrorism as if there’s no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there’s no terror.” – Yitzhak Rabin
So, I’d written a blow by blow account of my year. You could call it “2016 lines about 2016”. Thankfully I didn’t publish it. Frankly no one would want to read it.
But while at home the last few days. In and out of bed with a chest infection, I came to realise something;
No matter what went on in 2016, it taught me to Step Out Of My Comfort Zone...
Stepping out of my comfort zone has made me:
Leave my job with no new job (aaah)
Fly to America alone… and although I was staying with people, I spent two days on my own in Florida. (And the alone time was amazing)
… So, I learnt to appreciate alone time. I never used to like being alone and now I love spending a just a little time in the quiet!
I learnt how to be skint for a while. (I didn’t enjoy it, but it was my own fault for spending too much in America!)
Push myself for a job I didn’t think I stood a chance in getting.
Completely change my lifestyle when accepting aforementioned job.
At work I’ve learnt bits of new languages, Geographies of new Countries and how to get someone to restart things when they are 1000 Miles away!
I tried tablets to try and combat a health condition. When they didn’t work, I’ve learnt to accept my weird skin a bit more.
I learnt more about who I could trust….. and who I couldn’t.
I’ve learnt to be less of a fussy eater. (No really! I’m still fussy but I’m much better than I was!)
….. And most recently being away from loads of my friends, not being at camp like I normally am, I’ve learnt I need to start listening to my body. I’m not enjoying being at home. It’s not nice seeing everyone having a great time while I’m here in bed. But I needed to rest. (Hopefully I’ll be well enough to join the fun later in the week!)
I needed to rest because 2017 boasts so many more opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone – Including two trips abroad in the first month alone! (Bring on Spain and Hong Kong!)
So whatever the New Year brings (and I hope it’s great for everyone)… I thoroughly recommend you try stepping outside your comfort zone just once or twice…. you might even enjoy it! 🙂
HAPPY NEW YEAR (Oh and a Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah/Hanukkah/Hanuka/Chanuka, Happy Kwanzaa, or a happy whatever else you might celebrate!)
disclaimer: this is not the suggestion that you make “Stepping out of your comfort zone” a New Year’s Resolution… as we all know no one sticks to New Years Resolutions! 😛
I’ve thought about writing about this for a long time…. But I was never really sure how to most effectively write something like this without becoming a rambling mess… Well, I’m now going to try….
A Friend of mine (@JadeSanders) offered me a ticket to McFly. I literally felt like I was about 12 again! We were quite early and quite close to the front…. We got into a slight altercation with a young lady whom thought she owned the 02 Forum. She was rather angry with myself, my friend and the people around us who wouldn’t let her and her sister push all the way to the front, especially as they strolled in about 10 minutes before the start, bragging how “Daddy got us free tickets”… And we’d been there for over an hour.
Eventually in a fit of rage, as she was split from her sister (and we’d offered her the chance to swap with us to go and stand with her sister a number of times), she sent the following, now deleted tweet:
Being the only male (not attached to a girlfriend) in the vicinity at the time, stood with the girl in front’s mum, I think we are pretty safe to assume it was about us.
Firstly the lady was NOT that old. She was actually very funny, and didn’t really care for McFly, but cared for her principles and was not gonna let them past.
Then the part about me. Not only is it a touch Homophobic, but also factually incorrect… And I’m a little bit fed up.
Nowadays, it seems that one can’t appreciate the theatre or cheesy music (McFly being from my childhood!!!) or be a little camp, without constantly being branded “gay”. I sing in a choir, Play a huge variety of instruments and Am a pretty sensitive person…. But I also drive a moderately fast ride, love going to theme parks and often find myself standing shouting profanities at a football match. That’s my personality, my musical preferences, my life choices and it has NOTHING to do with my sexuality.
It is crazy to think that not that many years ago, should you have wanted to find yourself a girl, you went to a dance. You weren’t dancing like we go clubbing nowadays, but you’d have to summon up the courage to ask the lady you desired to a ballroom dance. Should you even suggest that you might do a samba or a tango now days, you’d also be instantly branded “gay” by a huge number of people.
THIS IS NOT OKAY!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am used to being asked the question; “So are you gay then?”. I’m used to managing to find an answer to try and stop the situation from becoming awkward. (Or one that makes it just suitably awkward enough!)
On one hand, it’s a pretty awkward question and you should be minding your own business… But on the other hand, WHAT DIFFERENCE. Get to know me a bit more and you will probably be able to work it out! (Clue; I used to be a regular buyer of nuts magazine – not for the articles and was distraught when it was discontinued! 😉 ).
I am thankfully ok with answering such questions. I know how I feel and no one is gonna change that. That’s not how the world works. If you keep calling a dog “Cat” it doesn’t become one. However, I feel for those who might not be so prepared. I feel for the kids at school who constantly get the bullied for “being gay” when they’re not.
At the end of the day, no one is going to change me; if we were only how other people wanted to see us, then the world would be a weird place. Meanwhile… I’m going to go back to my tube ride to work. I’ll shuffle the iPod and see what I’ve got. Could be Welsh Rock band Manic Street preachers, or could be Spice girls. Who knows. Who cares. I’m gonna sit here smiling to myself regardless, happily knowing the fact that what other people think ain’t gonna change a damn thing.
Clicks fingers, drops mic and walks away.
SteveeyP, Over and… Well… In I suppose.
I’ve been thinking for a while as to what I’d do on Yom Kippur. I’ve established previously that I don’t believe in G-d…. and that I do love many of the Jewish traditions. I’ve established that although I don’t believe, I have a VERY strong connection to “my people”, to “My heritage” and to my ancestors. Yet here I am, writing this at the start of, and then adding to it during Yom Kippur (So, please excuse the differing tenses!), the Jewish “Day of Atonement”. The day where you atone and repent for the things you have done over the last year, the one day a year where people who do little else religiously or spiritually all year round, decide they are going to withhold from eating… and I’m Drinking tea…. or maybe eating lunch.
Discussing my eating habits recently I realised that actually the vague adherence I keep to the laws of Kashrut (keeping Kosher) are one of the few areas in my life where I regularly exercise self control. While not strictly the rules of Kosher, I have a clear set of rules in my head and I stick to them. Monday this week, I found myself in Waitrose and for the first time in a very long time I was genuinely enticed by a chicken salad. I almost picked it up, before a voice in my head said “no, Exercise some self control!” (The Pesto Pasta was lovely all the same!)
Having thought long and hard about what keeping my form of kosher means to me, and that mainly being self control, I thought in the same vain about what Yom Kippur means to me. I have never “fully” observed Yom Kippur in the Traditional Orthodox Sense, just like I’ve never kept strictly kosher. (No Use of anything electrical, no driving, no washing, no making anything… etc)… But to me, it means time spent with my family, it means time spent in Synagogue; it means being dehydrated, hungry and feeling irritable. But as well as those things, the one thing I think of, possibly the most each year as the day approaches is the time I spend Counting Time.
Counting the time until the fast is over.
I am the one counting the pages, before checking my watch, before recounting the pages again. My mind becomes distracted from the purpose of the day and focuses on how long until I can stop my raging headache and my tummy from rumbling.
“On the tenth day of the same seventh month (Tishrei – The Month both Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur fall) you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial” (Numbers 29:7). “Self denial”. The Torah is a little vague. Our ancestors interpreted “Self Denial” as not eating, as well as not washing, and not engaging in sexual relations. But is that a true representation of Self Denial today?
For me, practically Yom Kippur is a nightmare. Practically in the sense that I am a grazer. I eat 3 meals a day, but they aren’t huge. But between the meals I’m eating. Be it sweets or chocolate, or crackers or fruit, I love to eat. I think this is partly the reason that I find Yom Kippur so difficult – because my body is expecting snacking or a cup of tea. I’ve thought for a few days as to how I can help reduce the want to graze, how to survive the fast, how to distract myself from counting pages and time to focus on the actual purpose of Yom Kippur – To make yourself a better person in the coming year.
Thinking about what I could do to pass the fast, led me onto thinking as to if I actually wanted to fast. I thought long and hard at what I felt fasting would achieve and concluded that actually other than the piercing headache, hunger and distraction, personally the fast wouldn’t achieve anything potentially lasting.
In my commute, I have been blessed (and when I say that, I mean it) with a solid central part of my commute being underground. Underground where the phone signal doesn’t reach. Being phoneless means I have had to find something else to pass the time. I’m thankful for this time as it has enabled me to start reading again. As the northern line rattled its merry way north, on the night before Yom Kippur I was deep in the final pages of Schindler’s Ark. Since Poland, I’ve been meaning to read it, and this commute has given me the chance to finally read it. As the train rattled out of the Tunnel toward East Finchley, I felt the customary “East Finchley Vibrate” of both my Phone and my Work phone. For the first time I found this really inconvenient.
Engrossed in the book, the vibration made me anxious and it distracted me. On one hand I wanted to carry on reading, finalising the complex story I’ve been reading for weeks, yet on the other hand I was bound by the buzz to stop reading and stare at the lit screens of my phones, reading who wants to play candy crush, looking at photos of friend’s last meals before the fast or looking at emails from work. Whilst the prisoners of Zwittau , in the book, were liberated from the sub-camp that was Schindler’s factory, I was, you could say, incarcerated by the urge to stop what I was doing and flick aimlessly down social media, checking my emails and watching pointless updates about food.
I am undoubtedly digitally addicted. I work in IT. I love Technology, Gadgets and things that ping buzz and light up. I am constantly checking my phone, thinking I’ve got a notification, writing messages, sending pictures and liking posts. Not a day goes by without a considerable amount of “Idle time” spent aimlessly on my phone. Even on Rosh Hashannah and previously on Yom Kippur, I’d find myself flicking aimlessly.
With that in the forefront of my mind, and with the conscious realisation that for the next 24 hours I didn’t actually need my phone, at about 8pm…. I switched off.
The last time I switched off, was 2 years ago. I had no choice. I was on a cruise. We were at sea. There was no signal, the phone was useless. (Lord did I try to get signal – on the top deck of the boat pointing at the land, refreshing the empty list of unavailable networks). Yet now, 8pm on the 10th October 2016, I found myself consciously choosing to switch off.
Just before switching off, I was heating up my dinner. I found my-self aimlessly scrolling as per normal. Frantically scrolling through nothing. Re-looking at old posts, totting up how many likes I’d gotten here and there aggressively time wasting with no purpose.
Once I’d eaten my dinner and had started washing up… it was when I had the rubber gloves on that the final straw broke this Camel’s back. I’d just put the gloves on, just run the water, when *Buzz* *Buzz*. “For Goodness sake” I muttered as I took one glove off my hand to be distracted by the glaring screen…. A spam email…. For Goodness sake” I muttered again, and decided that was enough. I’d already turned my laptop off and had set my tablet to flight mode to allow me to write without interaction. (I’m dyspraxic – it’s my version of pen and paper!!) I pressed the power button, I held the power button, and then I pressed power off. I took the currently silent iPhone from my pocket, held the power button, slid the slider and both phones were plunged into darkness.
Lying in bed is a funny feeling. Firstly I noticed it’s 10:30pm. For me that’s pretty early. I am often up late reading random articles people share or chatting to friends etc. Finally I’m experiencing that myth I talk of often… an early night!
Not only is the early night funny, but I’m consciously aware that normally I’d waste valuable sleeping minutes distracted by the old stale news feeds of my phones.
Without the distraction, there was more time for a quick spot of reading, following which, sleep came easy!
Waking up was again interesting. I overslept. Majorly. Which is odd because I had such an early night and compared to a work day was having a lie in anyway! Once I did actually wake up, my default action was to roll over and reach for my phone. On rolling over, I realised it wasn’t there and rolled over the other side and got out of bed!
I decided post lie-in not to go to synagogue this morning… Arriving late at our Synagogue is a little awkward plus, by the time I got there, the morning services would be nearly over. Instead I’ve sat talking to mum who is feeling ill and I’ve done more reading and more thinking. (and a little dozing!) I’m incredibly relaxed.
Frankly I’ve not missed it. I’m not craving it as much as I thought I would be…. or really at all! There was an odd time that I wanted to look something up, and a time I considered checking my phone to pass a moment of time or just to see what other people are up to. But from this I have learnt, that I don’t need to seek or give the constant approval available from having my smart phone attached to me 24×7.
After getting dressed and eating some food, I decided it would be nice to go down to the hospital and visit Grandma who is currently in. Often I’d find myself sat in the room with her idly flicking through my phone whilst talking to her. Sharing my attention between two. Not today. We sat and chatted at length about all different things, giving her my full attention. Walking out the hospital I felt really good.
During my visit, mum had spoken to someone there who came down to see grandma and asked me to call mum. I could have very easily taken this opportunity to turn my phone on and be met by a barrage of notifications. I made a point of not turning my phone on, but borrowing grandma’s to phone home – I knew that by turning it on, I’d become distracted and so decided to exercise higher self control to not turn it on at all!
I came home from the hospital and got dressed and went to Synagogue. It was pretty
uneventful apart from the 47ish second Tekiah Gedolah Blown by my brother! I noticed that I was not interested in how many pages were left, how many minutes, or seconds… but was happy to be sat there joining in.
What was exceptional was that upon leaving Synagogue, I had no urge to turn my phone on. In fact, I drove home, came in, got changed and still didn’t turn my phone on. If anything I started to feel like actually I didn’t want to turn my phone on at all.
I’ve not craved my phone like I normally crave food. I didn’t really think explicitly about food. Lunch time came and I had something to eat before carrying on with my day. I’ve not been distracted by my usual distraction, and yet in removing something else, I’ve not really been distracted by that either.
Removing the distractions, you could even say fasting from my phones, has allowed me to focus more on personal reflection and what I’d like to change personally in the coming year, a process that’s roots seem stem this year from my extreme reaction to some drugs in September. Removing the distraction has allowed me to focus more on talking to my family, writing this post and actually relaxing on what is supposed to be not just a day of repentance but also a day of rest.
So there you have it. I didn’t fast on Yom Kippur. Not at least in the traditional sense. But maybe in a more modern sense, I’ve learnt the value of spending time without constantly seeking reinforcement through likes, I’ve learnt not to constantly need digital conversation, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, but most of all, I’ve learnt how to pass Yom Kippur without counting the pages, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, until it’s over.
Day three started with pancakes. Not a bad way to start! Following the pancakes I got dressed and spectated a game of monopoly while waiting for the bus! Soon it was time to walk around the corner and get the bus into town.
I’ve been surprised every time as to how easy it is to get about here… Especially the bus between New Jersey and New York (which I happen to be on right now writing this!)
Once in town, I managed to make my way on the subway to the world trade centre.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but the size of the holes in the memorial are unbelievable! Somehow ( I’m not quite sure how) on a day like today when the weather is about -15 C, the water was still flowing into the abyss in the centre.
Surrounding the pools, cut into the metal are the names of those who lost their lives in the tradgedy. It’s hard to realise how many names there actually are.
Having wondered peacefully round the memorial, looked at the queue for the museum… It was massive!! I had a thought back to our trip to Barcelona… Walked across the street and using the free wifi booked a ticket for an hours time.
Meanwhile I thought about food. Went for a wander and found the McDonalds which was featured in so much of the footage of the attacks.
I can tell you, the Fillets of fish are almost identical as England but the apple pies are totally different! Baked and served in square boxes… What’s going on?!!!
I wasn’t really sure how long I’d be at the museum, on the surface the building looked really small. Little did I realise that actually the museum was underground!
I still have not processed entirely what met me when I got off that escalator into the memorial museum. To see the foundations of the towers… the walls holding back the water and so many other artefacts was a lot to absorb.
The depth detail and care that has clearly gone into the exhibitions and the entire museum is astounding.
I watched a timelapse video of clearing and rebuilding of the site… It was very clever, projected onto three walls in the room… Lots to look at in every direction.
Having walked a bit further around I came to the exhibition called something like “11th September 2001″… The detail in here was someething else.
Literally a minute by minute breakdown of the events with real recordings of calls, TV footage and real artefacts. I was shocked to see bits of seatbelt from one of the planes that impacted the towers… And fusalage with window hole of the plane that hit the pentagon. Detail was astounding.
The start of the exhibition (and the main throw) focus on the events of the day; the towers, the pentagon, and the plane that was crashed into a field possibly headed for Washington. The exhibition then goes on to look at both before 9/11 and then after 9/11 including a section on the 1993 bombings.
I could and maybe will write a whole post in itself about the museum… It truly was educational and moving.
The end of the museum allows you to write a message which is then projected onto a map over the area you are from. They are then stored like a visitor book…
As I’d been in the museum longer than I’d expected, it had now gotten dark. This allowed me to see the memorial pools by night which is just as imposing… If not more imposing as by day. At night the thousands of names round the outside of the pool are lit up.
With a trip up the Freedom Tower booked for tomorrow morning, I decided to take the subway to the Empire State Building. This meant I’d get to see the city that never sleeps from above in both dark and light!
Wowsers…. 88th and then 102nd floor observatories both provided an amazing view. You could literally see for miles and miles and everything was lit up. Night time meant the grid system of roads was illustrated lights.
The building itself is decorated in a style I can only really describe as “old luxury”. Dark red marble… Chrome everywhere…
I did smile a little as the main elevators up to the first tower have had (obviously) an extensive refurb allowing them to be despatched by remote control by a man in the lobbies… The single lift between the two observatories however had manual doors and a man inside operating.
On the way down I was alone in the top lift… The lift man told me that this was the original lift… To prove he was really in control he stopped the lift between floors!
As I wandered back from the Empire State Building I was a little hungry… I popped through Macy’s but got chucked out as it was closing and then Stumbled accross “Mr Broadway”… Imagine Sami’s in New York!
A very happy Steven walked back to the bus station, nearly an hour early for the bus… But happy as he had a very fat brisket on rye to Munch while he waited!
I’m shattered – apologies for the lack of photos in this one… I’m writing on my phone.. Will plug camera Into tablet at some point and may add some photos!