Last week, this week, sorry I’m late (42.20)

I’m a little bit late catching up on last week. I was on holiday, and it took me a little longer to get my thoughts in order when I got home.

This ad is old news now; I think they have been pulled when public reaction went so strongly against them. It’s so wrong in so many ways. Fatima has been training to be a ballet dancer since she was five. Her feet are destroyed. She hasn’t been able to eat what she wants since she was 12. She has devoted weekends and evenings to her ballet, and she has given up precious time with her friends and family to practice and perform. She doesn’t want a job in cyber because she’s a ballet dancer. That’s what she trained to do. And even if theatres aren’t open, she is still a ballet dancer and she will still be practising so she’s ready for the next part. However Fatima still has bills and rent, and it’s a struggle when you’ve lost your main source of income. She might be able to get some money teaching online barre or ballet classes, and her part time job working in a cafe brings in a little money, but really she is living off her credit cards and waiting for theatres to reopen. She really needs the theatres to reopen. Pubs and restaurants are open, so are cinemas. What about theatres?

And what is cyber anyway? This ad strikes me as something written by someone who wanted to sound clever. We won’t call it IT, they thought, we’ll call it cyber. That sounds cool. But what is cyber? Cybernetics – the study of systems? Cyber crime – do they Fatima to become a hacker? Cyber security – fighting hackers? Or do they want her to become a cyborg, like the Cybermen from Dr Who?

Fatima’s next job is as a cyberwoman and she is gunning for whoever approved that atrocious ad

I despair that there are people in our government who thought this was a great campaign. Great enough to approve taxpayer money to be spent on it. Great enough to think it will convince people who have dedicated their lives to a specialist field at great physical cost (have you ever seen a dancer’s feet?) to change to a job they have no interest in.

We need the arts. We need people who create and inspire and who amaze us. Not just dancers like Fatima, but singers, actors, comedians – anyone who has put themselves up on stage to entertain people. And not just performers but writers and musicians. And the support people – the electricians and carpenters who build theatre sets, the crew who set things up and keep things running, the seamsters who design costumes, the people who take your ticket and sell you a programme and sell you expensive wine and ice cream in the interval. All of them are needed.

And for anyone who doubts the importance of ballet, this week Arnold Schwarzenegger made an Instagram video about how being open minded, and being willing to do something different and do some work with a ballet dancer, helped him be a better body builder.

Ballet taught Arnie how to move gracefully between poses

This week, as I was on holiday and had to get to a train station to travel, I took the tube a couple of times. It’s strange to be back on public transport and to see the much reduced passenger numbers. There’s also a post-apocalyptic zombie film feeling, with everyone in masks, and all the posters in the Tube advertising events that took place months ago, if they ever took place at all.

Our first stop was Canterbury for four nights in a B&B that asked us on arrival to pay extra if we wanted breakfast “due to COVID”. We declined that offer, and will give the place a scathing review for selling us a room on bed and breakfast basis, only to want extra payment for the breakfast.

While on holiday in Canterbury, I went for a run one morning. It was different to my usual run around the park. This time I ran in a field beside a river, and the path was sprinkled with sheep poo instead of dog poo. I ran in a straight line, and on my return I saw the towers of Canterbury Cathedral in the distance.

This week’s second trip was a foray out to visit a friend in rural Cambridgeshire. It’s all very pleasant and peaceful, but it reminded me about something. The countryside is nice to visit but you’ll have a hell of a job getting phone signal there.

This week’s trips to rural towns also reminded me of the importance of scheduling your visits appropriately. Don’t go to small towns on Sunday, most things are closed, except the pub (if you’re lucky). All there is to do is walk around and maybe have lunch, if you can. (“Have you booked?”)

I also realised that somewhere along life’s journey, Husband and I have become People Who Go Walking and People Who Visit Antique Shops. When did that happen? How did this happen without me being aware it was happening? I guess the number of recent acquisitions from retro/antique/second hand shops should have been a bit of a clue.

(Confession – I came back from Canterbury with nine more books from the various second hand shop visits we made.)

This week I’ve also come to the realisation that I can’t get by on crap food anymore. My body just doesn’t like a greasy, carb-heavy diet these days. While we were away I had a bad stomach ache for a couple of days after not eating good food, and I was worried it was a recurrence of the stomach problem I had a few years ago. Back then I had persistent acid pains, and after some tests revealed no obvious physical cause, I was diagnosed with “broken” stomach nerves. Stress or poor diet or a combination of the two had upset the wiring on my stomach nerves, and they were firing even when there was no cause. As a result, my stomach spent almost a year on anti depressants to calm the nerves down. I don’t want to go through that again, so it’s good that my stomach grumbles from time to time to remind me to eat well and drink plenty of water.

This week I did some garden clearance with help from Husband and our bubble-friend. I moved some plants about, making sure the ones I liked most were closest to the house, and the ones I don’t like either got cast away (So sorry lupins but I just can’t take your ugly infestation of aphids) or moved to the back of the garden. We also pulled the overgrown plants out of the pond and realised that our pond has very limited water and lots and lots of plant roots. No wonder we had a shortage of wildlife.

This week London moved up the COVID alert schedule to High. I’m not sure what that means, and I’m not sure what has to change from what I’m already doing. Some cities and regions are already doing short-sharp-shock lockdowns for two weeks. I’m not thinking about that yet.

This week we got persimmons in our Oddbox. Please send me your best recipes for persimmons if you have them. I really have no idea what to do with them.

We are only halfway through our Bond film extravaganza and since we started, I have noticed that Bond is following me around. On holiday this week, as we enjoyed having a proper TV in our B&not-B room, we found The Living Daylights in one channel. “Quick, switch it off,” we shouted, “we’re not up to Timothy Dalton yet.” On Tuesday when we visited Petticoat Lane Emporium in Ramsgate, we found a framed Octopussy poster in Japanese that we just had to have. On Saturday night we went to bed while our neighbours continued to play their music at a moderate volume. Loud enough for me to recognise Sheena Easton singing “For Your Eyes Only” through the wall.

Octopussy – in Japanese!

Longtime readers might remember I started a Find Your Ikigai course earlier this year. It was supposed to be a combined yoga and discussion group. I think we got two proper sessions in before lockdown; there have been a couple of short Zoom catch ups since then, but now we’ve heard from Sarah again, that she’s put some dates together to wrap things up. Like many of us, she was waiting for things to return to “normal” to finish the course. Except normal isn’t returning anytime soon, and time is ticking peacefully by meanwhile. She said this John Lennon quote inspired her to get the classes going and get us back on track again.

I hope that life doesn’t get too much in the way of your plans this week.

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