2013 – New Year’s Resolutions

Here are my resolutions from the coming year. There may be some repetition from last year, but I suppose that just means that either I didn’t keep them and I’m giving myself a second chance, or I think I can make greater progress…

  • Lose weight – I feel like I’ve eaten too much rubbish this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Therefore, this resolution can be broken down into smaller parts:
  1. Eat better food (e.g. more fruit and veg, less sugary stuff)
  2. Eat less (Emma and I often struggle to judge portion sizes for two people while cooking and then eat it all, so this can definitely improve)
  3. Exercise more (I can’t motivate myself, which needs to improve)
  • Swear less – it’s becoming a habit, and one I don’t want.
  • Learn something/improve myself – I want to do a course and/or take more flying lessons so that whatever happens at work, I can finish the year feeling as though I have achieved something.
  • Keep the house tidy – I have a boom or bust relationship with cleaning and tidying. I let things slip until I can’t bear them any more and then spend several hours blitzing the place when ten minutes every day would solve the problem.
  • Be more patient – this is in particular reference to my free time and hobbies. When building my models or the rare occasions when I get to paint (for instance) I get to within sight of the end and then rush things, leaving me with something with which I’m not totally happy.
  • Do one thing at a time – this is kind of a follow on from the point above. I rush partly because I’ve reached an interesting stage with something else and I want to clear the decks and concentrate on the more interesting thing. If I’m not in that situation, I might not hurry so much.
  • Spend less on things I don’t need or can’t use for a while – I have something like twenty unmade models sitting in the loft. I finish approximately five a year. Clearly I don’t need to buy more (unless they’re at an unbeatable price perhaps) for quite some time.
  • Throw things away – this will help keep the house tidy! I need to be more ruthless with rubbish. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is transfer it from shelf/surface/drawer/box/loft/wherever to the bin.
  • Do more washing – I don’t pull my weight in this department and I should.
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Microlighting

As mentioned before (see ‘Convergence‘), I booked myself a flying lesson in a microlight. This Thursday, the 4th of October, it all went ahead, having been postponed from the Tuesday due to gusty winds.

Above is a picture of me in the microlight just before take-off.

The lesson itself was very similar to the lesson I had in the Cessna at Lydd Airport almost exactly two years ago. The take-off was a bit bumpy, and again I went a little light-headed in the turbulence, but this time I found that I settled down and relaxed more as the flight went on. This could be down to the microlighting lesson being an hour compared to the 30 minutes I had in the Cessna. However, I am deriving a certain amount of encouragement from it as it makes me think that continued lessons might see this tension disappear in much the same way as the nerves that were present in my early driving lessons are now a distant memory.

I also found the controls a lot easier to handle during the period in which I was in sole control, and the limited number of instruments also made things clearer and easier to follow. Compare the two photos below, and you’ll see what I mean.

The Thruster microlight cockpit

Cessna 152 cockpit

The view was much better in the microlight too, and made for a slightly more enjoyable experience in that respect. At one point, we could see as far as Canary Wharf from 2,500 feet up in the Essex sky.

The main problem I had with this lesson was knowing whether or not the bumpy ride we had at times was due to the gusty breeze or my clumsy efforts with the controls. I was reassured that it was more likely to be the former, but I retain a lingering suspicion that the instructor was giving me the benefit of the doubt.

I think I will have another couple of lessons before making up my mind whether or not to pursue this seriously. It’s much cheaper than learning to fly a light aircraft, but then “much cheaper” is shorthand for £3,000 to learn rather than £10,000, so it is still a considerable amount of money to spend.

Convergence

If you’ve read my ‘To-do list’, the post I made about my New Year’s resolutions, and possibly even the post about quitting football, there are several things I’d like to do in the future. I’d like to learn to fly and I’m looking for some sort of physical activity to replace the football I have played on and off for about sixteen years. I would also like to lose a bit of weight and get fitter, having ‘filled out’ when I was seventeen and only dropped below thirteen-and-a-half stone once when I had mumps in 2005, when I lost over twenty pounds in ten days.

My problem is motivation. I really want to go for a run, and I will, just as soon as I finish this biscuit. Oh no, hang on, you shouldn’t exercise immediately after eating, so I guess I’ll have to go later.

It’s also no secret that I’m pretty frustrated with work, mainly due to the fact that the pay isn’t the best, which pretty much ruled out learning to fly any time soon. That was, until I stumbled across the idea of flying a microlight.

And then, in one of those strange, coincidental moments, everything converged to hopefully kill all three birds with one stone.

Emma and I were visiting North Weald airfield on Sunday for one of their airshow-type days, and saw that a company called Saxon Microlights were present and chatting to people about learning to fly a microlight. After a prolonged conversation about the joys of flying these aircraft, I started discussing the prospect of booking a lesson. I suggested some time at the beginning of October, and the instructor said “Of course, you’re less than fourteen stone…”, to which I replied, “Well…. give or take…” only for her to rejoin: “You will be”, and promptly weigh me. I weighed in at 91.2kg, and she set me the target of 90kg before my lesson. And now, I have the motivation, an achievable target and a plausible method which should all combine to help me achieve all three of the targets I have set myself over the last nine months.

The Bridge

As I suggested in my previous post, I have started watching ‘The Bridge’, a Swedish/Danish co-produced detective series.

The basic set-up is that a body is found in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, which links the Danish capital Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmö. In fact, the body is found right on the dividing line between the two countries’ jurisdictions, and matters are complicated further when forensics go to move the body and find that it is actually the legs of one woman arranged beneath the torso of a different woman. To seal the deal and ensure that the Danish and Swedish police forces are both involved, one woman was Swedish and the other Danish.

This bizarre premise sets up what looks to be unfolding into a fairly standard serial-killer-with-a-grudge-about-certain-social-issues story (his initial point is that we aren’t all equal before the law – the Danish victim was a prostitute and when she went missing the investigation was shelved after a fortnight, and he posits the theory that the investigation into the Swedish woman’s murder won’t end s quickly as she is a politician and so in the public eye).

However, the story isn’t really what prompted me to blog. The visual style of the show is very distinctive and reminds me of the BBC’s production of the Wallander series and also something else, and I can’t quite remember what. The vast majority of the action happens at night, but rather than being dark the areas are lit by the harsh artificial glow of streetlights and neon signs. It is often the case that the only thing moving on screen is the scene’s main characters, and the sound has been altered so that often there is no background noise other than that made by the actions of the characters, giving the whole thing a disturbed, dreamlike quality. It is also preoccupied with showing the less attractive areas of Copenhagen and Malmö. This, combined with the washed-out palette lends a feeling not so much of despair but more disappointment or disillusionment to the proceedings, as if it isn’t just the colours that have faded, but hope too.

Finally, the Swedish detective Saga Noren (the blonde lady in the picture) is as nutty as a fruitcake. I honestly have no idea how she got through any form of psychological screening to become a police officer. Her behaviour is truly eccentric; she is blunt beyond the point of rudeness, utterly selfish and inconsiderate and seems completely unaware of the social norms (twice in the first episode she strips down to her bra to change her top, both times in the middle of conversations with her boss or her new partner as if nothing could be more normal).

There is also a sequence involving her which goes something like this:

Scene 1:

[Saga is wandering around her flat reading a large book entitled ‘Equality Before The Law’ or something similar. She pauses, puts her hand down her trousers and smiles.]

Scene 2:

[Saga walks into a bar. Makes eye contact with Handsome Chappy across the bar. He walks over.]

HC: Are you waiting for someone?

SN: No.

HC: Can I buy you a drink?

SN: No

[HC walks back to his original position, turns his back on SN and has a drink. SN waits a couple of seconds, clearly confused and then follows him.]

SN: Why did you walk away? [pause] I just didn’t want you to buy me a drink.

HC: [puzzled] OK….

SN: Would you like to have sex with me back at my flat?

HC: [pleasantly confused] Yes, definitely.

[They leave]

Scene 3:

SN and HC are having sex. They finish. She rolls over, turning her back on HC and taking 99% of the duvet with her, all without saying a word, and promptly dozes off. HC is understandably confused.

A few minutes later, HC has dozed off, and SN wakes up. She seems a little surprised to find HC in bed next to her, promptly removes his arm from her shoulders and gets up, fires up her laptop and starts browsing through the autopsy findings which were given to her on CD earlier.

Unfortunately, I have only managed to get the first three episodes on iPlayer, so the third will determine whether or not I invest in the DVD. There are only ten episodes, and with the DVD costing £25 online at the moment, it’s one which will have to wait if I decide to continue with doolally detectives and sleazy Scandinavia.

Forbrydelsen

Or as you’re more likely to know it….

Series One

As you probably know, I like detective stories and I like Scandinavia. In fact, I really like Scandinavian detective stories, so things don’t get much better than this for me.

In the last few weeks, I have watched the two series currently in existence and really enjoyed both. I think I prefer the longer-format detective shows to the feature-length, self-contained shows we tend to get in Britain. That’s not to say the format is perfect – the first series, and to a lesser extent the shorter (and that is significant) second series suffer slightly from the dramatic device which requires each episode to end on a cliffhanger.

However, the extended running time does allow the characters to develop and I think my favourite thing about The Killing was the lack of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ characters. As events play out, peoples’ motivations are more clearly and delicately expressed making them much more realistic and believable as a result. We see them compromise, give in to their emotions and make stupid but understandable mistakes.

Series Two

All of this, added to some brilliant acting (I can’t get enough of the subtle little mannerisms which make the characters seem even more real) and the occasional shot of some striking Scandinavian scenery has made this one of my favourite TV shows at the moment.

I’m now off to iPlayer ‘The Bridge’ and see if that’s any cop.

2012’s New Year’s Resolutions Progress Report

Back in January, I gave these as my New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Manage my money better
  • Manage my time better
  • Be more organised
  • Be more proactive (this could be linked to ‘manage my time better’)
  • Stand up for myself more
  • Progress at work or get a better/better paid job
  • Do a charity run of decent length (10k+)
  • … and therefore get fit(ter)
  • Do a better job of keeping in contact with my friends from Kent (sorry guys!)
  • Keep a ‘book diary’ (idea shamelessly stolen from Emma)
  • Blog more!

So how am I getting on?

Manage my money better – Obviously, it’s difficult to measure what constitutes ‘better’ since I didn’t set a benchmark for last year’s money management. However, I feel that this is one resolution where I am making progress. I’m keeping a better track of what comes in and goes out, and I’m trying to think more carefully about whether things are items I want or items I need, and if I want them, whether they can wait.

Manage my time better/Be more organised/Be more proactive – Again, a little difficult to assess. I would say that I’m doing OK, but that’s about it. The main step I have taken is writing down ‘to-do- lists, both general and day-specific to help prompt me to do things and show me the progress I am making.

Stand up for myself more – I haven’t really had any situations which have called for me to do this… yet.

Progress at work, or get a better/better paid job – Well, I have made no progress, nor got a new job. However, I have had a number of conversations with my immediate manager about progressing at Waitrose, and I have also applied for a number of jobs. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear back from any of them. This sounds like a typical job-seeking experience though, so I am not letting it deter me yet.

Do a charity run of a decent length (10k+)…. and therefore get fit(ter) – I am, as always, doing the Great Baddow 2 mile fun run next month, and I am on the lookout for a 10k in the autumn. I am also seriously considering giving up football and taking up ‘road running’ with Braintree & District Athletic Club. I wouldn’t say much progress has been made yet, but things are advancing through the planning stage.

Do a better job of keeping in contact with my friends from Kent – I really should repeat the apology from before! I have been terrible at keeping in touch, and it has continues this year. I was almost too late to RSVP to Dan and Nic’s wedding, and the only plans I am involved in making are for Franky and Dave’s ‘Philgrimage’ (see what they did there?) which they suggested. Must do better!

Keep a book diary – The one roaring success from my resolutions. After a little tweaking, I’m pretty happy with how it is going, and even though I will probably edit things a little more, it is becoming a central part of my blog.

Blog more! – Prompted by the Book Diary, this is happening. I’ve made a few cosmetic changes to the blog too, in the hope that it looks better and is more readable, though any constructive criticism is welcome!

2012 – New Year’s Resolutions

  • Manage my money better
  • Manage my time better
  • Be more organised
  • Be more proactive (this could be linked to ‘manage my time better’)
  • Stand up for myself more
  • Progress at work or get a better/better paid job
  • Do a charity run of decent length (10k+)
  • … and therefore get fit(ter)
  • Do a better job of keeping in contact with my friends from Kent (sorry guys!)
  • Keep a ‘book diary’ (idea shamelessly stolen from Emma)
  • Blog more!