Day 22

Day 22

Sadly, my trip down to Christchurch to do a surprise visit for Mum’s 89th birthday got cancelled by Air NZ. Well, I’m sure Air NZ didn’t want to cancel it but they have no choice as we’re not permitted travel until Alert Level 2 is here. So Mum will have to see in her 90th year just with Dad, which will be just fine!

Mum’s been bottling fruit  since 1952 – 67 years  – as long as her and Dad have been married, and there’s no bigger fan of it than Dad who loves it with his Tip Top Boysenberry ice-cream. On our annual road trip in January, Mum picked up some apricots from the place just on the edge of Cromwell as you head towards Queenstown. I enjoyed a bottle of it tonight, slightly warmed, with some Vanilla Ice-cream. Perfect. I’ve been eating it, not regularly, but all my life. I remember the annual bottling ritual when I was a boy – it’s been apricots, peaches, plums (off the tree), pear and stewed apples. Despite the sugar that I recall going in the big vat, it must be alright for you!

If you’re ever at Mum and Dad’s the bottles are safely stored in the cupboard in the laundry. It always seems full, despite them eating it for breakfast and dessert every night. Just don’t go there at night-time because the cat is locked up in there, heated bed and all, safely for the night.

Apricots all eaten up

During the Lockup it’s definitely been a time to enjoy home pleasures and of course home-cooked food. There’s not much else. But growing up I don’t remember much else either. There were occasional visits to friends, rare fish ‘n chip nights and even rarer meals out. Nowadays, they’d never been a week, or in fact hardly a day, when I wouldn’t eat out or at least purchase out.  So maybe it’s not so bad for us all to have some, hopefully, home-cooked nutritious meals. Who knows, it might keep the ‘rona away!

I walked twice today – total 16.5km – and there’s little doubt that La Résistance are firmly in control of Cornwall Park. The security guards on duty have gone from stern occupying sympathisers, to silent, but benevolent supporters. Never have there been so many smiles and acknowledgements from passing walkers. Yes, we’re in this together, but we’re also in this– our democratically empowered exercise – together. If we have to choose, it’s the walk, so don’t mess with us!

There’s been some weird stuff in the park. A well groomed small man with immaculately trimmed barista style beard and hi-vis vest hurtling down the road from the peak of One Tree Hill on his tiny cycle, to skid sideways to a halt just before the barrier; a woman who I knew but couldn’t remember her name who claimed to have a gun to ward off runners who came too close; selfies with bulls; a child out of control on her balance bike down the hill in the wet, smiling all the way; people with masks protecting their chins only; golf; one man soccer games; and skate boards that go up hill (I need).

When we get out of our motor vehicles, play, interact and stop being busy and important, real things happen. This isn’t new to me, but like the ‘rona is said to compress the mortality rate of those most at risk from 12 months to 2 weeks, the Lockdown has compressed these great pleasures into a few weeks.

Can I say keep it up! Well the walking yes at least!

By the time you read this it will be Friday. Enjoy your dessert. Only two people will have it as good as mine was tonight.

Stephen

 

Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

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Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.

Day 4

Day 4

It was a fab day in Auckland, not so in other parts by the look of it. So, surprise, walking. Beautiful relaxing walking.

Today felt almost normal, and in many ways it was. Nice breakfast, good walk, lunch, some personal admin, relaxing, dinner, Country Calendar and – this has been a long time coming – Season 3 of Ozark.

I’m a big fan of Country Calendar. It shows a life that reminds me of Uncle George’s farm, my own place in the country and thousands of kilometres of road trips. For me it’s the Kiwi life at its idyllic with lovely countryside scenes, filmed beautifully. The perfect anti-anxiety fix.

Ozark, not so much! It’s beautifully filmed too, but tense, gripping. It’ll keep me going for a few days of evening Netflix, as long as the internet doesn’t break which we’re told it won’t.

This coming week is a big test. How will we go for a whole working week at home I wonder? Routine will be important as will focus and mindfulness. Giving ourselves a break, both actual and and emotional. Some days we just won’t feel so flash, I’m sure. Remembering that it will all pass.

So I’ve tried to rate myself for this weekend.

A Herald journalist tried to give everyone a scolding for treating the Home-D like it was a holiday at home, using a narrative that we were in an apocalyptic, once in a lifetime state.  That we shouldn’t just think we have to “stay at home”, that it’s vital we do our bit. And don’t even think about trying to make anything good out of it! We get it I think. We also get it that there’s strong and serious messages. I’m not sure why the media need to yell it at us like it needs their amplification. How about some other news, some insight and critical thinking? An uplift at a critical time is nice.

We're not completely broken!

My weekend gripe, but beyond that I feel I’ve come out stronger, more resilient and good to go. It wasn’t so bad.

Only thing is thinking about the weeks ahead, creating stress by worrying about the future. Can I survive?! Kind of where I started on the night before the Lockdown. Somehow I need to put that little voice to bed!

Which is precisely where I’m headed, ready for the working week. Let’s call it week 2, and congratulate ourselves on a first – first weekend nailed.

Stephen

 

The Mule

The Mule

The Mule is a 2018 film directed, produced and starring the 88 year old Clint Eastwood. He plays an older man called Earl Stone, a horticulturist who specialises in Lily cultivars. I couldn’t help but think of my Dad, of similar age, healthy and energetic and life-long horticulturist.

But there, fortunately (!), the similarities end. Earl has a problematic relationship with his family – he’s focussed only on the Lilies and related events – and sacrifices family and family events for his passion.

Earl becomes, unwittingly a mule, running cocaine across country for a Mexican Drug cartel. Any more information and I’ll have to put a spoiler alert out, but it’s beautifully filmed, and very tense.

iStock-491697130.jpgHe’s a man without the filters of needing to prove anything which is why he’s such a successful mule.

In the end, the film is about family, time and paying attention to the relationships that matter to you. You can buy anything almost, but not time.

I wonder if the film is intended to be cathartic for Eastwood – he reportedly has eight children from several relationships – and one of his daughters plays his on-screen daughter.

A gripping, at times funny, film with a strong message and a typical Eastwood ending that isn’t feel good but kind of is.

Enjoy*.

Stephen

*Time with those that matter.