Looking back in wonder …

We all know the years fly by.

Back in the 80’s I was wondering what the year 2000 might be like.

We are now 20 years past that.

I have been keeping a personal blog (DayOne) since May 2014.

I never believed I would keep it going.

I have.

Every day without fail.

Maybe because it is on my phone.

And I’m always on my phone.

It allows me a search facility to pin down certain events, places, people that are vague, until it brings up the detailed journal page.

It is my retrievable, detailed memory.

Stored in the cloud as backup to my brain.

It offers a peek at what I’d written 1 year back, 2 years back etc on the same day as I may be writing today.

“Can it really be 2 years ago?” I sigh ….

Memories captured, neatly and clearly (well to the best of my ability).

It is, essentially, a book of my recent life.

Well since May 2014.

And when I read it, at random, complete with photos I have attached to the relevant journal entry, I marvel at what I have experienced.

I smile often and sometimes cry just a little.

But I remain grateful that I am blessed with being able to keep on writing my book …

And still looking back in wonder at an incredible journey ….

6 months a blogger …

At school I used to dread the annual reports on my progress.

The teachers told it how it was.

No holds barred.

“If he put as much energy into his school work as he does into his chatting to his mates he might do well”

My father would smile.

My mother would frown.

So I approach this half year report into my new experience of being a blogger with an objective and reflective stance.

I’ve realised that I just love writing.

I also enjoy reading what others have written.

I get a kick out of following other bloggers and commenting when I feel the urge.

And that’s often.

Quite simply it’s been both educational and amazing.

My e mail in box is full of notifications of new posts … and I don’t mind at all.

I love it, in fact.

I feel I’m building up a connection with lots of new people, continuously.

It’s been a really supportive and friendly community.

Yes, I know I am still chatting to mates – to quote my teachers.

But I think I’m doing quite well and enjoying the experience immensely.

Thank you blogging community – all of you! 😎

Driving me up the wall … Part 2

L and I arrived far too early for our climbing induction at the Colchester Climb Project.

We built in loads of contingency to our travelling plans because the roads at that time in the evening were normally full of slow commuter traffic.

We sat in the car outside the Climbing Centre.

We can’t go in yet. Too early.

We chat.

We don’t watch the clock.

We chat.

We realise we really have to go in.

We are greeted by a jolly chap wearing a bobble hat (and other clothes!) who asked us our shoe sizes so we could be issued with climbing shoes.

“They should be tight” he said.

Mine were excruciatingly painful so I asked for a size up.

Then Alex appeared (aka Aly) who was to be our instructor this evening.

A slim, bubbly lady with a great sense of humour. Also wearing a bobble hat.

It is chilly in this warehouse of climbing walls.

We were joined by Jeremy, a fellow inductee (is there such a word?) a charming Finance guy from the City, we learned, who looked remarkably fit.

Aly (who was simply an awesome trainer too by the way) has us doing warm up exercises before she leads us to the first wall.

She explained about the safety issues in some detail, what to watch for, how the walls were structured.

I did not want to go first so avoided eye contact with Aly.

Jeremy stepped forward and off he went up the wall.

Impressive.

I was next.

L looked on, hoping I would survive.

I surprised myself by following Aly’s guidance and reached the top and got down in one piece.

L did the same and when she got down we just hugged for a bit.

More relief than a need to keep warm.

A shared emotional experience.

We tackled other walls with gusto.

All encouraging each other.

No competitive egos here.

After 40 minutes Aly offered us the option of a cup of tea or a further 10 minutes climbing.

It was a no contest.

Tea always wins for L and myself as we watched Jeremy scale a few more walls.

We will be back.

We do hope we see Jeremy again too.

Next time with a family audience perhaps to confirm that we really did do it….

Driving me up the wall… Part 1

I blame my Gym Buddy, L.

She is prone to suggesting challenges that would normally be off our “sensible” radar.

I always accept her challenges.

I don’t know why.

Ok, we have completed bike rides and walks to supplement our regime of Yoga, Spinning and Pilates.

They are familiar activities and a walk in the park, literally.

But this time she suggested we tried out the local Colchester Climb Project near to where we both live in Essex.

It is a dedicated bouldering centre.

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing where there are no ropes, instead there is a foot of matting surrounding the climbing area to make falling more comfortable.

What an inspiring explanation.

Before I committed I suggested we visited the Centre to check out the facilities, the people running it and the climbing walls.

And secretly hoping it would scare us both off.

Our review resulted in us seeing a 10 year old girl behaving like Spider-Man (strictly Spider Woman) climbing up and down the walls without a care in the world at great speed.

We both sat drinking tea on the leather settees around the climbing area looking at other participants scaling the walls, with our hearts in our mouths.

Neither of us would admit to each other that it looked like a challenge too far.

We therefore signed up for the 60 minute Introductory Session a few weeks later and the dreaded day approached fast.

It’s probably best to tell you what happened in part 2 ….

Once you open the door …

I have had a week of the most amazing long conversations with friends.

I was politely advised this morning by my wife that I needed to stick to a day of silence for everybody’s long term sanity.

And to protect my voice.

On Fridays I often accompany my 93 year old Aunt Lil (I’ve posted about her before) to the local shops in town to get her weekly shopping.

After our shopping I was back at Lil’s flat for a cup of tea and the mandatory mince pie.

However I keep wanting to chat.

Asking questions and reflecting.

And following up.

Trying to be sensitive and not intruding.

This time Lil strayed into the subject of sewing machines (I am currently trying to get her sewing machine repaired and she was pleased that I’d finally, after a long time, booked it in for her).

However, little did I know what would unfold.

We had the history of her work career (she was a machinist).

Different employers, different locations.

How she had to walk to work, often in the dark, early in the morning, across desolate fields in East London, to the sewing factory, and, one day, injuring herself by walking into a concrete lamppost.

Hospitalisation was deemed necessary for a few days plus, apparently, some poor eye wound stitching by the nurse (resulting in odd shaped eyebrows – I’d never noticed) …it continued and continued.

We had stories about her evacuation locations during the war.

I really struggled at times between tears of laughter and sadness.

I was very moved by it all.

She then continued to unravel the detail, the stories, the matter of fact accounts.

Once you open the door you have to just hang on.

Different companies, different jobs, low wages, her “boy mad” mate who asked her along to support her at meet ups outside the local dance hall.

I think I’ve probably found out what really affects me the most.

It’s just the talking, the listening, the enquiring.

The exchanging of stories.

The time just passes.

Effortlessly and enjoyably.

And so unpredictably.

And no, it’s impossible for me to be quiet.

I’m just genuinely interested.

Perhaps I always have been but was afraid to ask the obvious question.

Just sharing thoughts, issues, different perspectives.

Just supporting by listening and trying to understand people a bit better.

When I was 18 I had no idea at all that it would be like this many years later 😎

It really is something quite special …

Head in the clouds – Part 2

The electronic pager flashes and vibrates around my breakfast table.

I just about stop it falling on to the floor.

It meant it was time for my flying lesson and the pilot and plane were now ready.

My heart rate climbed a notch.

Well perhaps more than just a notch.

Mark was my instructor for the 30 min flight and I was wondering if he knew what he was letting himself in for.

Where do you live Steve?

“I live in Chelmsford” I responded.

“Ok we will have time to fly there and back, so I’ll take off and land the plane and you can look after the flying once we are up”

He must be kidding.

He wasn’t.

Mark was flicking switches, checking gauges, pulling out choke levers, moving the pedals, pressing radio buttons, multi tasking like he was in a competition.

And that was before we took off.

The plane was dual control of course and Mark, once we had taken off, let me just mirror his control of the plane early on to show me it was all quite subtle.

I’ve never been accused of that.

“Can I take a few photos?” I asked

“Only when I take back control of the plane” he said with a smile.

I got us to Chelmsford and spotted a few landmarks that I recognised – then I banked the plane to the right, deliberately, then levelled out and headed back.

I was navigating of sorts, lining up icons on the display in front of me with something that looked like a plane.

He kept changing where the icons were …. almost testing my calmness and concentration.

When we approached the runway at Stapleford Aerodrome it felt like he’d shutdown the engine completely and we were floating.

Heart rate up a notch again.

No admit it , up quite a few notches.

Mark’s landing was superb.

The flight was a sheer delight and I understand why you can get addicted to this.

I have two friends, Keith and Martin, who are pilots and I appreciated for the first time why they enjoyed it so much.

Thank you Mark, who made it look so easy (and I know it ain’t) and to Andrew for such a thoughtful and surprising birthday gift ….

I am just so lucky….

The 365 Update …

We meet once a year in London.

Normally in November because D visits her family in Australia for a couple of months in December and January.

We used to work together in my Corporate days and we have stayed in touch via annual update lunches.

She never forgets to remind me that it might be a good time for us to meet up.

A text message always asks me for some free dates.

We then meet up and have 3 hours of information exchange, amusing stories, recommendations on reading and films.

Both trying hard to not let our lunch go cold as the information flows back and forth.

She is bubbly, interested, a supreme listener and full of energy.

She reads more books, in more depth than me.

She sees more films of all types than me.

She makes allowances 😎

A review of our past year takes place minute by minute but is nicely topped up with a sharing of current perspectives and experiences from our busy and different lives.

A highly recommended annual event.

A bit like an automatic (and much needed) software update but much more fun.

I just need to remember a list of 4 or 5 highlights of my year so I can contribute to my side of the exchange.

And still gratefully reflecting on the fact that limiting to 4 or 5 highlights is still a real challenge – there is always so much more to highlight.

And for that I am extremely grateful.

Today was like a continuation from last year’s meet up.

Almost seamless.

Always enjoyable.

Thank you again D for that annual text message reminder ….

I am updated once more….

On the radar …

It was my birthday yesterday.

I’ve never been fearful of age – in fact I seem to positively embrace it.

I tend to confirm my age nowadays by taking my birth year from the current one but that’s not an issue.

My mental arithmetic is still good 😎

But yesterday’s birthday was something special.

Nothing to do with presents/gifts at all.

Although I did appreciate them (before I get into trouble!).

It was stand out special due to the number and care of the number of contacts I had with family and friends.

People who are often off the radar, due to their busy lives, just taking a moment to wish me happy birthday via social media, via text message, via a phone call.

People from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, South Africa, USA and the UK.

Yes, I’m now quite surprised and humbled at the global reach.

I have been reflecting on why I am just so fortunate to be receiving this attention and care.

I hope it might be because I do try really hard to do it to others – just a moment of connection and support whenever the opportunity presents itself.

There really is no greater feeling.

Thank you … all of you.

Catch them if you can …

I’ve become much more adventurous.

I used to be so risk averse.

My response now to the question

“ Would you like to?” is often “Yes”

Before I even learn what it is.

So let me go back a bit and think about what’s changed.

I used to worry about failing at stuff.

Worry about the risks if things didn’t work out.

Worry about what others might say.

Always evaluating the worst case scenario.

Just in case.

As I get older I’ve noticed this hesitancy has declined significantly.

I believe that, on reflection, I probably ignored many life enriching, but risky, opportunities in my comfortable “safe mode”

Over the last few years I’ve made quite a few new friends from across the Globe who just seem to take the world by storm.

Travelling all over the place, undertaking all sorts of activities with energy and style.

Changing careers, taking on new ventures and seeking out new places and challenges.

I’ve met some of these “trailblazers” on some of my cycling holidays and listened, often spellbound, to their personal adventures and journeys.

They have intoxicated me with their positive outlook and passion.

I’ve also, sadly, experienced an increasing number of younger friends and relatives who have recently left this Earth at very short and unexpected notice.

Full of life one minute.

Not around the next.

Tragic, and unexpected losses.

I know that’s the way of life.

But all the same …it’s been quite a shock.

I suspect that these factors have made me much more aware that, if I am fit and able, I need to just catch opportunities and give them a go.

And do you know what?

I’m definitely doing much better at recognising opportunities.

And doing much better at catching them whenever I can …

Long may this continue … I’m convincing myself that it’s never too late.

In fact I’m having the time of my life… 😎

How did I miss them? …

I’m not sure I really noticed them in the past.

In fact I know I didn’t.

It was only when I started my walks that I was completely overwhelmed and totally fascinated by them.

They were everywhere.

In all colours and shapes.

Changing with the days, the weeks, the seasons.

I’m talking about trees.

I love them.

What a history they tell.

How beautiful they are.

When I see the sun reflecting through the leaves, changing by the minute, I could watch them for ages.

My friends even post tree pictures on social media and specifically tag them to me in a lovely “saw this and thought of you” way.

After I got past my “how did I miss this?” phase I realised I was just rushing too fast in life and missing the journey.

Almost everything on my walks became amazingly fascinating.

The photo in this post is of a local tree I’ve been trying to capture for ages but my timing has always been wrong.

One afternoon last week, driving home, I saw it but couldn’t park anywhere near it.

So I went home and did the long walk back to it and thanked it for not shedding its leaves while I parked up!

In a previous life I suspect I was probably a tree…. well that would be my choice if I had any say in who or what I was 😎 …