Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dull Pain, Dull Day but Glittering Music.

I was in two minds whether to post today or not. For a while I thought I had nothing to say. The outlook is not great, I'm still in the dull pain of a damaged shoulder. It is a dull day and I feel quite cold. But I cannot waste a precious Sunday.

In a move away from opera I have returned to the glorious Messiah. That masterpiece has been a constant in my life since I sang it in my first Founder's Day concert at King's in December 1978. That was the month the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. I was a sometimes quiet and sometimes overwrought 9 year old. Yes I went away a week after my 9th birthday. Sometimes people erroneously choose to call it being sent away. I actually quite enjoyed boarding and chose to do it. That I paid a price is evident years later but I do not regret it.

Almost 40 years ago. That makes me feel old. Well older than the middle age I actually am. Does time speed up when we get older? I have certainly hurtled at alarming speed from 40 to nearly 48. I always remember my 40th as it was the day Jayne came back into my life. That the hiatus in our friendship was at least partially explained later was down to my mania that is unrecognised by the shrinks. I call them my buzzy times. Not full blown mania as I have seen so often in others but a more down to earth but arrogant elevation of my sense of self.

I still wish those days would come back but they have been markedly absent in recent years. What I learned from that unfortunate and painful break is that I must lower mood and well as raise mood when the time comes. Too many extremes are not good for me. Since then I have kept my mood diary.

On this dull day my mood is a little dull and flat. But then I would hardly be ecstatic with this unexplained shoulder pain. I'm hoping Alyssa is able to help when she comes over later. I will be treating my friends to roast pork. Bit low on apple sauce as I forgot to buy another jar. But having disliked it for so many years, fruit and meat was never my thing, I'm sure I can do without it just today.

Tomorrow another working week dawns. Will I feel better? I do hope so. Enjoy the rest of Sunday and see you next time.

I Heard a Voice.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sore Shoulders and Bruised Heels.

The weekend is on to the second day, the sun is sporadically shining, the intense heat has dissipated but the humidity remains. I have brought forward opera and reading to a Saturday night.

I'm not really feeling at my best. Mentally I'm fine but feeling a little battered physically. In my zeal to walk more I rather overdid it and have a battered and bruised heel. Then completely out of nowhere yesterday afternoon in my office I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. A day and night on it is just as intense and has spread to my neck. Moving is not easy although the typing is going better than I feared.

Knowing nothing about shoulders or why this should be I'm seeking the advice of Alyssa who it transpired does sports massage. Hopefully that will sort it out. More painful broken sleep nights like I have just experienced will inevitably impact on my mood.

Not all is lost though. Gary, Ali and Alyssa took me out to lunch in return for cooking for them. My love of cooking transcends a need to pay me back but we had a lovely afternoon and good to see Yang.

Having overeaten at lunch something simple was needed tonight. So clams with garlic, parsley and Manzanilla sherry with a salad dressed with sherry vinegar took centre stage. And very good it was too.

As it is opera night now do I relax my rule tomorrow and have a little adventure in the country before cooking? It depends somewhat on my shoulder. It was not easy looking both ways whilst driving to the butcher today. Let's hope for a better tomorrow.

With that I will return to my Albarino, Mozart and book and bid you all good night.

I Heard a Voice.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Long, Hot Days, Solstice Again.

The music of Tudor England has been my companion this week on my travels. The sacred works of Byrd and Taverner still fill me with wonder. Dark days those but sublime music in a time of religious and social change and upheaval.

We live in pretty dark days if we were to only look at the headlines of the last few months. Religion is once again a place of conflict and division. Not religion in the sense that most people take it. Religion is about peace, tolerance and a belief and relationship with a deity. That some corrupt it is age old but not welcome now.

It has been another tragic week in which innocent people coming back from prayer in Ramadan were mown down by a fanatic. Who knows what this man believed but attacking innocents is heinous. That a perverted form of revenge was meted out was only a matter of time. When will it stop? I can't see it happening any time soon.

Against this backdrop and that of an unprecedented heat wave we celebrate the summer solstice on the hottest June day since 1976. It was hard going in my office. Goodness knows what it is like for those fasting for Ramadan. A Muslim student of mine reminded me that it ends at the weekend and we can go for our cup of coffee as planned next week.

Hard to believe that six months have passed since I posted on the winter solstice. I'm getting older each day. As my friend Mike often cynically says no wiser. But I think I am. I have yet to get a happy medium of term time chaos and holiday time boredom. That hasn't changed in the last decade. This month marks the 10th anniversary of my momentous train journey to Hatfield one sunny morning that led to me being where I am now.

So on Wednesday opera night, sweltering despite the windows and doors being open, I march on to the sound of Handel, the taste of Hoisin glazed chicken and D H Lawrence awaiting. Thunder may well end this period of my life. It promises to be cooler tomorrow and given that I have to address a conference in the morning I will take that.

I Heard a Voice.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Not Quite Deserted.

The streets of London were noticeably quieter yesterday than they normally are. My trip to China Town saw not quite deserted but quiet streets, a less packed tube, an almost empty pub and dim sum away from the throng of a warm Saturday in June. We can only speculate. Did the fear of terrorism keep people away? Was it a sign that London is reeling from the devastation of recent weeks? I do not know but it was not the London I remember.

As repercussions swirl following the tragic fire in West London is my country changing forever? What seemed normal seems gone. There is anger on the streets the like of which has not been seen since the riots of late summer 2011. Our leaders are in more precarious straights and I suspect it is only a matter of months before we all go out to vote again. Uncertainty adds to that fear.

On this very hot sunny Sunday I'm staying indoors at least for the moment. Sleep was not great, dreams of mum and associated anxiety pervaded what should have been my lie in. I was up early and reading. Maybe I will pop out for a walk after lunch and opera. I will be pan frying some squid with harissa for lunch.

Gary, Ali and his niece Alyssa are coming for roast beef later. Mum tended to avoid beef in the summer as she felt it was quite heavy for hot days. I do not hold such qualms. I didn't make it to the butcher yesterday as normal so Waitrose had to suffice.

Miriam is back from her holiday but away in the Yorkshire. My thoughts are turning to a visit to see dad soon. Not been down since his party. I would have gone last week but I wanted to catch Sue and Duncan in The Butt of Sherry and they were away in Cyprus. Many people taking holidays. I'm having a stay home summer, no plans to go away. Still waiting to decide when to take my final week of leave. Need to book off the day I'm meeting Miriam. We will visit the British Museum for an exhibition for her birthday. That should be fun.

Despite not the best sleep mentally I feel quite well. Friday was a challenge as it marked that anniversary. Why do dates impact so on us? But I bounced back. In the week I will be sharing a platform with Paul Farmer who is CEO of MIND. I'm on a panel with him taking questions at a conference. I don't really know much about it but I'm sure I will be fine.

Enjoy the rest of the sun soaked weekend and see you soon.

I Heard a Voice.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Reflections in the Water.

It would have been nice to see the old lake on this sunny day. The world reflected off its shimmering surface, the fish darting around and maybe just maybe a dragonfly. It was not to be. My travels didn't take me there today.

But I did reflect. Reflect on what was, what came to pass and what might have been. The darkness started in earnest on this day 27 years ago. That it already existed is abundantly clear to me now and apparently many years before to Cedric. In all the years that followed my reflection both mental and physical was distorted. Gaunt, thin, tired and always wearing shades I shambled around that small seaside  town where I lived as a distorted wreck of a human being. That is what mental breakdown does to people. To outward appearance I was quiet, rarely spoke and never looked anyone in the eye.

In my mind the world was on fire. A world of chaos, pain, fear, anger and powerlessness. And all the time I asked myself those infernal what if questions. I lost touch with so many of my friends. My new friends were ghosts of humans devastated by mental illness.

On this day each year I shut the world out and mourn. Mourn for my loss. I never felt I had the right to do that as I saw myself as the most appalling excuse for a person. Caroline taught me to mourn for me.

I am so moved that two of my friends who knew me before in all my flawed arrogance, Ros and Rebecca are now back in my life. It was the day Rachel walked away. We met after until she just disappeared 5 years later. 5 years after that when I was at my lowest she chose to contact me again.

I did not respond and never will. It is easy to think of what might have been. But better to think of what I have now.

So on a warm Friday evening I have my Mozart, I have my Albarino, I have my friends in spirit and I have my life. It is not and never will be perfect but given where I was all those years ago I think I have done pretty well. Later I will listen to my sad songs and look at my photos. Yes I still do that even now. But unlike then I will put them away and they will not bite me for I will let them go.

I Heard a Voice

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Darkness and Light.

On a day when tragedy once again visited London knowing where to start is so hard. The bleakness of the news that seems in a way to emphasise the divisions in our society. How can a tower block completely burn out in a terrifying ordeal for those who lived there? It is the 21st century in a modern wealthy society. That many of those caught up in this disaster are amongst the poorer people of our land stands out on this terrible day. The generosity of others is lighting up social media. I fear for the death toll. And the recriminations will come. It is not a day to make political points as some are trying to do but it raises so many questions.

For all the darkness engulfing West London both literally and figuratively speaking there was some joy in East London. For today Borough Market reopened in an act of remembrance that I wish I had witnessed. As that disaster unfolded 10 days ago I was fearful of return. Not today though. Work and the dentist stopped me going to support my friends there whose names I do not know and who know not my name. But they are my friends down there.

After all my fear today's visit to the dentist went very smoothly. Such a different experience to my last set of work done in 1999. She talked me through, gave me head phones to listen to sounds from the 60s, anaesthetised gently then painlessly did what needed to be done. I'm hoping that is it but given that the damage was more extensive that we had hoped further difficult treatment may be needed.

I'm in some discomfort now as she told me was likely to happen. Not anything that a couple of paracetamol can't remedy.

I managed to eat. To Thailand once again for prawns with holy basil. Came out pretty well and not as fiery as it might have been. At a loose end last night I precooked a Chang Mai belly pork curry for later in the week. Had a little taste as it was cooling, it was what Bronwen would call "an angry curry". When I met her she said she didn't eat fiery food but eats what I bring, says she doesn't like pork yet consumes with relish my offerings. Now I must convert her to rare beef.

Bizet is currently on the radio, quite enjoying it. I think I will listen to Puccini after. Please stay safe out there and do not let the fears of anxiety hound you. Tragedies happen sadly and we can all be lucky that we will mainly be fine even if the great deceiver that is anxiety tells you different.

I Heard a Voice.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Carrion for the Crows.

A once promising day has grown dull. There is a threat of rain. The wind has blown up. And another Sunday is underway. Although I woke late after trouble getting to sleep the hints of anxiety were there. I was almost anxious about being anxious. True my long delayed trip to the dentist is coming up. But that thought was not too prominent. More just a fear of today and what is to follow.

The airwaves are still alive with the fallout from the cataclysmic election. That is of course depending on where one is looking from. As I see it May is now carrion ready to be picked apart by a murder of crows and any circling buzzards and vultures that happen to be around.

The young and many of my friends continue to crow over an astonishing result. I am just fearful. It would have been better to have an outright winner of either camp than this. Uncertainty pervades my country through and through. Are friends turning on friends as the did after last year's vote to leave the EU? There is a nasty atmosphere.

On a more down to earth level though it was joyous to see Southwark Cathedral reopen today after last week's savage attack. I'm hoping to go to London to meet Kiwi Sarah on Saturday. Others may be less keen on risking our bustling capital. I have to go back some time though.

I have no desire to go out today. Only want to stay in and keep my shaky confidence in check. Why is it so today? It never used to be like this. Yesterday was fine so why not today? Perhaps slow roast lamb with help. That will go in around 3 pm. My neighbour Richard will be joining me.

Dentist aside I'm not too concerned about next week. This is partially as I steadfastly refuse to check my e mails or open my diary. That can wait until tomorrow morning. I'm missing being able to speak to Miriam who is currently away in Sardinia. Dad asked once again about the possibility of us going away but I'm kind of wedded to the idea of rest and the odd day trip. Nikki's wedding is now less than a month away so that will be a weekend away. I'm slightly apprehensive of going to a wedding where I only know the bride and groom plus one other guest. Given that Nikki was one of my students it will be interesting having to explain how I know her. They were all out for her hen do last night, hoping they had a great time.

Back now to my opera and reading. Wherever are, whatever you believe please have a good week in these uncertain times.

I Heard a Voice.