Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Detox time

For the last four years or so I've undertaken a detox every six months. It's a way of righting some wrongs in my opinion. The term itself, "detox", comes in all shapes and sizes and guises. My one (or strictly speaking, one based on a Tony Robbins plan) removes from your diet meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, certain fats and artificial sugars; avoids combining proteins with carbohydrates; and ensures that a large percentage of each meal is 'water-based foods' (i.e. fruit or veg). On top of this, you've got to drink lots of water and do at least 15 minutes cardio six times over a ten-day period.

There must be thousands of detox plans out there, each one of them trying to add some value to you and trying to remove something less pleasant from you. For me, this one was the first I fell upon and has stuck ever since. It feels reasonably natural, where you eat actual food and remove some of life's stimulants and processed foods. Regardless of whichever approach you take, for me the detox period ultimately forces me to be a bit more conscious of what you're consuming - in simple terms, that's food and drink but for me it's more than that. I've tried to extend the principles of the detox period to focus more on my inner workings rather than just diet. It's a time when I seek to be a bit more aware of what I'm doing with myself, rather than the 24-7 autopilot that we're all very prone to. So this time round it's more meditation, less Facebook; more speaking to a financial adviser, less throwing money down the proverbial manhole; more writing, less TV for TV's sake; more spring cleaning, less dead New Year's resolutions; more quality time, less time flying right before my eyes. It's not a magic bullet to cure all ills or a way of putting me on the path to some golden pot. But it does help refocus me towards some of the more important things in life, while pushing me towards a few better habits. So hopefully my world over the next couple of weeks can inspire my writing as well.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


About a year ago, I was sitting at home watching something of no consequence on television when a friend rang me out of the blue. I say out of the blue because, although we had been friends for a couple of years, I don't think I had ever had a chat on the phone with her. The fact that she was a little bored and just fancied a natter with someone she hadn't seen for a while was beside the point - we had progressed. And ultimately the call had value for me.

In the course of the conversation she asked me what I did for hobbies. I paused. Well, I go to the gym. Mmm, that's a start but she didn't see it as something someone did as a passion, as such. More a health angle. I didn't 100% agree with the assumption but accepted it enough in my case as I've often just been a functional gym person. Get in, get out. Okay, what else? I like to hang out with people. Again, that didn't do much for her - "we all do that", was the sense of her response. I paused again. Somehow I'd managed to fill my non-working waking ours with "stuff". A 30-something year-old man with no dependents, not too onerous work hours and a degree of disposable income, and the best that I could finally offer up was "I watch a bit of television"...

It's not a judgement call on how people use their spare time and I was never going to be the wakeboarding, sailing, hiking individual that this friend of mine was. But in my head I'd always thought of myself as a hobby kind of guy. There are lots of things I reckon I'd be good at and would enjoy. Then I realised that it had often taken me so long to initiate with gusto any of my grand plans that I had been too often left floundering directionless at the start line. Anyway, that conversation gnawed away in my subconscious for a few months until I fell upon a flyer for a kung fu class. Trying out kung fu had been on my mind for a good 3-4 years prior and it became very clear that it was an "if not now, when?" moment. Fast forward to now, and I'm still doing the classes 2-3 times a week. I'll talk about the kung fu itself at another juncture as it has given me some interesting insights. But at least now I can walk a bit more of my wishlist talk. I do believe I can properly call it a hobby.

Monday, 23 March 2009


No one belted it out better than Aretha: “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find out what it means to me.” In a media world of war, prejudice, hatred and discourtesy, it’s a wonder that we human beings ever get along. But in the main we do. Sure, there are places in the world that can argue the case for everyday animosity, sometimes entrenched. And for the rest of us there are arguments, disagreements, differences of opinion, and so on. But deep down, the vast majority of us are able to discard our differences and embrace a greater good in our own uncertain environments. At least that’s what I believe.

If I ever got to run a newspaper I would hope to be able to call it “The Good News” – a voice that speaks of respect still thriving in this funny old world of ours. Not always, not in every state. But it does, or at least it can, in most places. It can if we take a bit more responsibility as to how we impact the lives of others. So if you’re having one of those days, one of those rages against the world and the people aimlessly in it, take a step back and think whether it's adding or subtracting from us all. Or as another vintage soul singer once sang: “Try a little tenderness".

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Natasha Richardson

Even if we've never even met them (and that's most often the case), it's always quite sad to see the passing of a celebrity in the prime of their life. It's not that their life is worth any more than the next person's or that they've necessarily left a mark on human civilisation for generations to come, but sometimes, somehow we feel that we kind of know them. Maybe we felt some emotional connection with them when at the peak of their power in whatever field they may have found success. Maybe the world of Hello! and OK! has given us an excuse to feel that we can actually relate to these individuals from music stage, screen or sports field. Regardless, such occasions do give us a moment to pause for thought and think about them, though a fair few notches below people you actually have a real-world connection with.

I'm saying all this following the sudden death of Natasha Richardson, the actress wife of Liam Neeson. The "gone too soon"-ness of it all is obviously sad. A young, attractive, talented, mother-of-two disappears due to a freak skiing accident. This sort of thing can happen to anyone and celebrities are not above the laws of nature. But what also struck me was an interesting comment she made back in 2003 following a motorcycle accident that her husband had had in 2000. She said that his serious injury had made her appreciate life more: "I wake up every morning feeling lucky — which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away." So very true. I hope that at least one or two of us can take something from that thought. Thankyou and God bless, Natasha.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ups and downs

From time to time I'll refer to the yin and yang of everything. Good follows bad follows good. The important thing is how we deal with both the bad and the good. I've noticed this on a personal level over the last week as I've been pretty hard on myself, pretty hard on the world and very unfocused. When I'm in the zone I'm like a purring, high-octane, finely tuned machinery. When I'm not, I'm crap personified. Of late, I've been the latter. Well, now that I'm once again conscious of all the above I can "make that change", as Michael Jackson once sung. Mmm, now he's an interesting one to write about but that's for another time.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Moving and moving on

I moved into my current flat about a year ago. It's not anything fancy. A decent-sized lounge, a master bedroom which backs onto a poor relation of another bedroom, a kitchen that isn't really designed for doing much cooking in, and an uninspiring view of another apartment block out of the window. But it's home for now, which is fine by me.

But I was thinking recently that I've moved around a fair bit in the last eight years or so, for one reason or another, collecting all sorts of stuff along the way. And every time I've moved I've done a bit of preening usually on a cosmetic enough level to make sure everything fits in. Well, the other day I was browsing through some boxes that I'd had in storage from the year that I lived in the US. I went through the boxes item by item. My conclusion? What a load of rubbish! It's not that I had collected crap along the way, per se, but it was more the fact that some of the stuff had been stored away over six years ago and had in essence lost some of its charm or worth. Imagine hiding away your favourite camera six years ago and then digging it up now. Use it or lose it in some ways. But it wasn't so much the technology dating in this instance. It was more the fact that I'd moved on on so many levels. It's not always easy to gauge personal development over a time period but in this case I felt I had - time and tide wasn't going to wait around for anyone's bits and bobs of six years ago.

I don't like Mondays (sometimes)...

Well, I had such high expectations based on my thinking on Friday's blog. The idea that we can all easily manage the period between our wakening ups and falling to sleeps worked fine in weekend thinking. Then came Monday again. It was another one of those days that I got out of the wrong side of bed, which in my case probably means getting stuck between the left hand side of the bed and the wall. Yep, it was one of those days where the non-descript rain was wetter than usual, the standard Monday TV fare were worse than usual, my usual journey into work was less inspiring than ever, and all in all everything could do no right. Well, Monday rolled into Tuesday and all was right with the world again. All in all, it's good to remember that we're all human after all.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

TGIF and some

This morning my alarm clock radio kicked in with a bit of Neil Sedeka crooning away, with my eyes taking very little time to adjust to the new day and before I knew it I was simply bouncing out of my slumber. The grey cloud that had seemed to hover over my bed and which had followed me to the bathroom for much of the week had somehow disappeared. And out of nowhere I found an extra spring in my step. Yep, I've got that Friday feeling again. Let's face it, we all know that Friday has no more and no less seconds, minutes and hours to its bow than any other day. The air is no fresher and there's no guarantee, as far as I'm aware, of any extra sunshine. But what it does represent is a doorway to possibilities of the coming few days and that gives us that extra bit of a kick. I am truly thankful that I'm able to at least be in a position to get that extra push simply from a day in the week - let's face it, I'm a living, breathing bundle of fun with something to hope for. Still, my goal somewhere down the line is to be able to celebrate every day the same - when TGIF may as well be TGIM. That's really what I should be shooting for. A more balanced existence.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Speaking in public

As I've said in the past public speaking would never be my chosen 'specialist subject'. But today I went on a skills course focused on this area and was amazed that I'm not so bad after all. Breaks included, the dozen or so attendees were engaged in the mechanics of presentations and public speaking for nigh on 9 hours. I learned quite a lot over the day, such as techniques on how to relax and how to focus, and not least the fact that even after minimal practice my legs don't actually have to turn into strawberry jelly when I'm standing in front of people, nor does my voice have to climb up two extra octaves. The fact that we were all active participants proved to be key. I left the whole event warm and fuzzy, knowing that I'd added some value to my Monday and had engaged in something that had filled me with dread the minute I'd rocked up this morning. I'm glad that I pushed myself a little. Big gold star.