Still Trying To ‘Take It Easy’

Three years ago today I began my series of #SaturdaySongs. This kind of ran out of steam, although I have revisited it on several occasions, and its spirit lives on in the #SongOfTheDay I post on the Facebook page for this blog – the link is in the right hand column if you want to take a look, and maybe even sign up. The first post was, as I said at the time, an easy choice to make: after all, I’d used it for the title of my blog! If you haven’t seen it you can find it here or from the #SaturdaySongs section of the main menu, at the top of this page.

The post tells the story of how the song came to life, in a collaboration between Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. I won’t repeat myself here (for once!) but do take a look if you’re interested. I was prompted to revisit that post by one of those chance findings on YouTube: a live performance of the song on Spanish TV by Jackson Browne, Sharon Shannon and an uncredited mandolin player. I’ve tried, but haven’t found anything to identify her (help welcome!). This version is lovely, and really gets to the heart of the song:

It got me thinking, mostly about why I gave my blog this name. At the outset, if any of you remember, I chose the amazingly original and creative name of ‘Clive’s Blog,’ but when I retired in September 2013 I felt the need to rebrand, to reflect the way I wanted my life to be from then on. I had several possible choices but settled on this one, and I’m not thinking of changing it again anytime soon. I had always wanted to retire at 60 and achieved that aim, and had lots of plans as to how I would spend my time. This included increasing the number of music gigs I attended, theatre visits, museums and art galleries, and getting a season ticket for my ‘local’ Football League team – Leyton Orient. I live at the end of a London Underground line which enables me to be in central London within around 40 minutes, and Leyton is on the way in, so it was all going to be easy.

For the first two or three years I really did ‘Take It Easy’ and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Many gigs, museums and galleries were attended, and I managed a few theatre trips too. The highlight, though, was that first season of being a regular at the Os: it was the team’s best season for ages, culminating in a wonderful evening when we won our promotion play off semi final and then the final itself – at Wembley Stadium, no less. Sadly, we lost on penalties after being 2-0 up in both the match and the penalty shoot out. It’s the Orient way!

So what changed? My health let me down, that’s what. By that I mean physical, not mental, health – for a change. I have a condition which affects my mobility and travelling on public transport, especially up to London, is an absolute no-no at present, and has been for a few years. So much for being in charge of my life or, to use a phrase which has been prevalent here for a while now, ‘taking back control!’ My entertainment is now home-based, with reading, television and music to the fore. That wasn’t a change I had envisaged being forced to take, and it has taken a while for me to come to terms with it. I may never be ‘safe to travel’ again, and have had to accept that I might also not be able to attend live music, theatre or sporting events again. My ‘social life’ is now largely based around visits to the hospital and my doctor, and home visits by those who live close enough to me. I have the phone and online communication to keep me in touch, so I don’t feel cut off from the world, thankfully. But this experience has taught me that, whatever our intentions may be, we may need to make changes to our plans.

I probably sound as though I’m feeling sorry for myself, but I’m not. It would be easy for me to give in to ‘losing’ my ability to be more active and outgoing, and to sink back to the kind of depression I suffered eight years ago – which is why I began blogging, in case you missed that part! But I’m determined not to let that happen. I went for one of my regular blood tests yesterday, as part of the monitoring that I go through for my health – they want to check that I don’t develop diabetes. I guess that at some stage that may happen, and I’ve been reading up on it, as there are some horror stories about what it can mean for you. But I don’t have any of the symptoms, and would therefore be surprised if it was diagnosed. Even if it were, I would be hopeful that it would only mean a need to alter my diet and possibly take a few more pills every day, and that feels manageable.

So why should I feel sorry for myself? There are millions of people around the world who are far worse off than I, and I have much for which I should be – and am – grateful. There is, I think, a simple lesson for all of us in this: look for the positives in life, not the negatives. If you do, you will be far better placed to cope with the curve balls life can throw at you. I think I sound a little glib in saying that: after all, who am I to tell anyone else what to do? But I say it with feeling: it seems that modern life surrounds us with huge amounts of negativity every day – for example, politics appears to be based on it – and it can feel overwhelming. But if we can wade through all of that there are plenty of good things to be found, and perhaps the act of seeking them out can help us to appreciate them all the more.

I’m still trying to keep ‘Take It Easy’ as my mantra for life. Some days it feels more difficult than others, but I choose to look for the positives. I hope you do, too.

Reliving The Celebration

To complete my resharing of some of my favourite posts (which I featured in 300 Not Out – A Retrospective) this is A Celebration, originally posted on 16 September 2016. As you will see, this date is my birthday, and having reached the grand old age of 65 yesterday, I am now officially a UK State Pensioner – I’ve applied for my pension but, despite their saying that I would be sent the details in the 14 days before the due date, I’ve yet to hear what untold riches will be coming my way. I guess the government has been too busy screwing the country over Brexit to worry about me!

As before with these posts, I’ll give you the original and then rejoin you at the end for an update. So, here’s the 2016 version:

“Today I awoke – or, more precisely, was awoken by a thunderstorm and torrential rain – to the thought that I am now 63. I’ve never been this old before! But we are told that ‘age is just a number’ so who’s counting? Three years ago today, I retired from a lifetime of work, on my 60th birthday, and to celebrate my milestone my two wonderful daughters arranged a special day out for me in London. I had commuted into the capital to work for more than 35 years, and this marked the beginning of my re-acquaintance with London as a place to enjoy, rather than somewhere I was happy to escape on a daily basis. During a comments ‘chat’ with a fellow blogger a few weeks ago I realised that I had never written about that day out. I would have laid odds that I had but when I checked I found several photographs in my Facebook and Instagram feeds, but no blog posts. I decided that I would write something as part of my celebration of three years’ retirement – so here it is.

Due to their work commitments the girls arranged the day out for the weekend, Saturday 14th to be precise. This had the bonus of there being lighter usage of public transport than on a weekday,img_2695  which made it easier to get into London and get around while we were there. They knew that I had a longstanding desire to take a ride – or ‘flight’, as it is officially known – on the London Eye, so to be honest I wasn’t surprised to be taken to the Southbank Centre, adjacent to the Eye. And yes, that was where my grand day out was beginning, with a flight in one of these:

img_2696And in case you haven’t seen it before, this pod is part of a much bigger structure. This, in fact. I don’t have a head for heights, but didn’t at any time have a problem. The Eye moves very slowly, and the only real sense of movement that you have is the changing scenery around you, as the ground disappears further into the distance!

London has centuries of history and many famous landmarks, most of which are visible from the Eye. Here as an example is the Shard, one of the more modern buildings

img_2693

And this is Elizabeth Tower, previously known as St Stephen’s Tower, until it was renamed in 2012 to mark QE2’s Diamond Jubileeimg_2691

Before anyone corrects me, Big Ben is the name by which the clock goes, not the tower itself. A common misconception, which the pedant in me (I am, after all, a Virgo) takes delight in correcting! The ‘guide book’ to your flight is an iPad, suitably encased in a stand to prevent theft, which is programmed to show you where all the landmarks are as the flight progresses. A nice touch.

Having had a wonderful time, we then went into a nearby bar for a light lunch, before the next part of my treat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any more but shortly afterwards we were climbing img_2690onto one of these

Spot the operative word: ‘amphibious.’ Believe it or not, this little bus worked both on land and water. Apparently they were originally designed and built in the Second World War for troop movements, and the actual bus that we travelled in was 70 years old. After a trip around some of the landmarks by road, which covered quite a lot of London’s history, we were driven to the side of the headquarters of MI6 – appropriate, I thought – and down a ramp. Moments later, we were in the Thames

We've fallen in the water!

We’ve fallen in the water!

We then went for a ‘boat trip’ along part of the Thames, which was quite an experience. To prove it, here’s a shot of the Parliament buildings – the Palace of Westminster – as seen from the river. As it was a weekend nothing was happening inside, but I’m reliably informed that on a working day you can see the hot air rising from here

We all bowed in reverence, of course :-)

We all bowed in reverence, of course 🙂

Until that day I’d not been aware of this service, and it really was an unusual experience, which I felt very lucky to have enjoyed. Doubly so a few weeks later when one of the vehicles caught fire while on the river, causing a suspension of the rides until thorough safety checks had been undertaken on the entire fleet! There but for the Grace of God…..

After all of that excitement, we ended the day in a lovely restaurant tucked out of the way in Camden, where to my further surprise I was treated to a cake, and a candlelit rendition of Happy Birthday To You from staff and customers. Truly, a lovely day and a perfect celebration I’ll always remember, made special for me by these two beautiful young women

img_2687

As you may have noticed, I have for some reason I don’t understand been looking back to three years ago quite a lot this week – my Facebook friends have been treated to reminders of my week of songs for the day which I posted in the lead up to my retirement, so count yourselves lucky to have been spared that! I don’t think this means that I have been wallowing in the past, as some might say, and I feel it important that we don’t lose touch with our past. It is, after all, a part of who we are now. I’m intending to do a post or two on linking the past with the future, when I’ve worked out what that means for me. For now, cake is beckoning, so I bid you adieu until the next time.”

And here I am again, back in the now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this trawl through some of my earlier posts. This last one is particularly special for me, as it reflects a wonderful day out given to me by two wonderful people, who are the focal point of my world. As you may have noticed from some of my recent posts, they have been joined in my affections by the most recent arrival to our family. Looking back on the good things in your life is great, but the future is there to be enjoyed too. Yesterday my older daughter sent me this to mark my birthday:


Our new focus of special memories will, I’m sure, feature here again at some point. It’s good to have the future, looking forward.

 

My Mind’s Eye – Looking Back and Ahead

For the second episode of my resharing from the posts I referenced in 300 Not Out – A Retrospective here is the post originally written as My Mind’s Eye. This was first posted on 14 July 2013, and is notable for me both for the fact that it was in response to one of the WordPress Daily Prompts – back in the days when they were sensible and helpful – and for the time in my life that it represents. I’ll be adding a few words after the post, but firstly here’s the original:

Daily Prompt: Opposite Day

“I hadn’t planned on posting again so soon after two posts in the past three days, as this is my 50th post and I wanted to mark it in some way. It is a bit of an event for me, as well as a surprise that I’ve kept going at this, so I’d like to thank you all for being part of my blogworld – especially those who have endured this since the early days! As you may have noticed I’ve rather taken to WordPress’ Daily Prompts in the past couple of months and today’s gave me an ideal opportunity. So here I am again! With its theme of doing the opposite of normal, the prompt reads:

If you normally write non-fiction, post a photo. If you normally post images, write fiction. If you normally write fiction, write a poem. If you normally write poetry, draw a picture.

I don’t think I’m capable of writing fiction or poetry so what I do must therefore be non-fiction. It is all true, certainly: I don’t believe in being creative with the truth (i.e. lying) or in jazzing things up for effect or to draw attention to myself. So that must mean my challenge is to post a photo. I wanted something with some meaning, something which was symbolic for me, and this is what I chose:

The London Eye

The London Eye

iPhone pics 029An odd choice? Not for me. I took this on a grey evening in May from the walkway at the Southbank Centre in London. I was there for one of my bucket list wishes: to see Steve Earle in concert. You may not have heard of him but he’s been one of my favourite artists since he started, which was c.1986 I think. But that’s not why this picture has meaning for me: the reason I am attached to this is that it symbolises my future.

That probably sounds strange if you don’t know the background. For all but two of the past thirty-eight years I’ve commuted into London to work. When I retire in September I plan to make London a place for leisure and enjoyment, rather than work. As I don’t have much of a head for heights, but have always liked aerial photo shots, I want to go up in the Eye to conquer my fear and to take my own aerial pictures. To me this symbolises my future: looking down over the city where I have spent so much time will, I’m sure, give me a feeling of taking control. And what is retirement if not an opportunity to take control of my life and ‘do it my way?’

The Southbank is one of my favourite concert venues. The architecture is hideous – Lasdun’s concrete period – but the two main halls are beautifully appointed with superb acoustics. As this would be the last time I was there before retiring and making my epic voyage on the big wheel, I took a few shots to remember the evening by. That is the one I like best, but I’m also quite fond of the view across the river:

iPhone pics 008

And of the cute little busker:

iPhone pics 012

And the view from my seat (I booked late!):

iPhone pics 021

These photos are a memory of a great evening and of some fabulous music, and a lead in to the rest of my life. I’m looking ahead with a great deal of optimism and marking this new stage in my life with a ‘flight’ or ‘rotation’ on the Eye is, for me, a perfect way to do it. I may even do this on my 60th birthday, to celebrate the occasion. And there are reduced rates for the over 60s 😉”

Back to the present day. Life has a habit of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it? For the first couple of years of my retirement I really did enjoy London- concerts, the theatre, museums, galleries and even a bit of shopping. Not to mention my very regular visits for a few seasons to Leyton Orient, including a great day out at Wembley for the League One playoff final in May 2014 – even if the result went the wrong way. But my health has turned against me, and a long term condition has severely restricted my ability to get out and enjoy myself. It’s not life-threatening or anything serious like that, but I look back at that post ruefully, thinking of what might have been and hoping that those plans and intentions can be restarted at some point. I mentioned that I was aiming to take control of my life after retirement. That phrase has, to my mind’s eye, been seriously devalued by its appropriation to support the Brexit campaign. I had no real idea what my future would hold, though I had hopes: those who (unlike me) supported Brexit have no more idea what it means than I did! But my post resonates with me now perhaps even more than it did when I wrote it.

I did get to visit the London Eye, and will be sharing again the post I wrote about it as the next instalment in this extended retrospective. Its significance for me still remains, and one day I intend to pay another visit, and take some more photos to mark the event. Revisiting my previous post has reminded me how important our memories are for us, and also how important it is that we keep making new memories. Life is too short not to!

As a sign-off, I’m correcting my oversight from the original post. As those of you of a certain age – or with a good knowledge of great pop music – will have recognised, I ‘borrowed’ the original title from the Small Faces. I really should have given them the credit for that so, by way of apology to the sole surviving band member, here is two minutes of magic: