One foot in front of the other (12.22)

Second week into my new job and I’m starting to realise just how much I don’t know. I’ve gone from working very intensely on seven or eight projects, to working at a very surface level on potentially over one hundred projects. This is requiring a significant change of mindset and an ongoing sense of panic that I’ll miss something because there are now so many more things to miss. I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time (out of the five or six concurrently urgent tasks that there always seem to be) and hoping at some point I’ll be able to look up and take a forest view instead of focussing on one tree at a time.

But it’s the weekend now and not time for thinking about work.

Instead I’ll talk about coming last at Pub Quiz on Tuesday night. Over the few weeks we’ve been attending we have gone from 3rd last to 3rd, 3rd again, and then this week – outright last! It’s disillusioning to come last. We did particularly bad in the movie section where the Quiz Host played a tune on his Casio keyboard and we had to name the song, the performer, and the movie where it was featured. Ah, this is the song from Ghost, we nodded amongst ourselves, but what the hell is it called? I hum the whole song through in my head and cannot “see” the title in the lyrics. What the hell is it called? It’s called Unchained Melody and it’s by the Righteous Brothers, not the Isley Brothers. Rack up several errors of judgement like this and it’s not surprising we came last. We’ve decided we really need to recruit another person for the team, someone who watches TV and listens to modern pop music, because this is where our serious Pub Quiz gaps in knowledge are between me, Husband and French Friend. (Admittedly French Friend correctly identified Louis Pasteur in the picture round one week but I think we talked her out of it.)

I went for a run this week but before I say anything else, “run” is probably not quite the correct term to use. What I went for was a walk with some periods of running interspersed. But it’s all about raising my heart rate and getting myself out of the house on a fine spring morning. The mornings are still cool, so long sleeves and a hoody are still required, especially as I don’t run for long enough to really heat up. I’m seeing more runners out now in the park; probably there are a lot of fair-weather runners like me who have been holed up for the winter and are only just returning to the park now.

We’ve passed the 2nd lockdown anniversary this week, the day in 2020 when life went on hold “for a few weeks” before it changed for two years. I wonder if all those people who were stockpiling toilet paper back then have worked through their supplies yet?

Speaking of stockpiling, we took a big pile of our completed jigsaws to our closest charity shop – the Salvation Army store (“Sally in the Stow”) – on Saturday. On the way home (having bought eight books while we were there – don’t judge us – they were 4 for £1) we also picked up a jigsaw puzzle from a pile of goods someone had left piled on their front fence – Walthamstow signals for “please take me”. This one was a London Underground Tube Map puzzle. I suspect there will be a lot of white involved, but that helps make it challenging. We are down to about 10 puzzles in our to-do pile now, including a “Faces of the Queen” puzzle that we’re saving for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration in June.

Television this week: We’ve started watching The Blacklist again. We were already behind somewhere in early 2020 when we heard that part of the last season was done as Japanese style Manga due to Covid lockdowns. I think we have one and half seasons to still get through. Watching this, I am amazed at how James Spader has transformed from his 80s fluffy-haired, softly spoken persona (Pretty In Pink, Stargate, Sex Lies and Videotape) to the balding and deep voiced international criminal mastermind he is in The Blacklist. I think what keeps us going with this show is not the overarching plot around Elizabeth or the episodal bad guy chasing by the FBI, it’s Reddington (Spader) and his stories, which I’m happy to see are nicely compiled on YouTube. I don’t know who writes Red’s stories, but they are works of pure concentrated genius. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but each one a perfectly formed jewel of a story.

Reading this week: I finished The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. A novel based on the true story of how she and her husband lost their home through a bad investment and a court case. The same week they found out her husband had a degenerative condition that would eventually kill him. No money, no home, nowhere to go, they head off to walk the South West Coast path – 630 miles. If you’ve read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, parts will be familiar, like being ill-prepared and ill-equipped and having little or no money to buy food, or passing through small touristic villages that only have cafes, and what shops there are will sell you souvenir fudge but no actual food.

This book also taps into the bigger picture of homelessness in the South-west of England generally, especially in a places like Cornwall and Devon that are popular for second homes; homes that sit empty most of the year. The demand for second homes drives up the price of housing, taking it out of reach of local people, especially anyone on low wages (which will be most of the population); the empty second homes mean there are houses unavailable for local people who work in the area year-round, instead of wealthy 2nd-home-owners who are visiting only for six weeks in the summer.

I had been keen to walk some part of this path at some point – maybe I still will, although the West Highland Way calls me more and is much shorter at “just” 96 miles – but this book reminded me of the relentless up and down that a friend who had walked the Path had warned me about. Walk up a cliff, get buffeted by the wind at the top, make your way down into the next inlet, then toil back up another cliff on the other side. Repeat. I don’t mean to give the impression the book is gloomy, because curiously it’s not. It’s about how you keep on going when you have nothing left. And the answer is one foot in front of the other.

Wherever you’re putting your feet this week, may your path be smooth.

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