Lockdown Positives

13 May

I started to lose track of days, weeks and months a while ago. I don’t know when the current crisis will be over and things will be back to normal. Although what we knew to be normal might be something different in the future. I’ve been thinking recently about what positive things have happened since lockdown was introduced. Because there are definitely some.

Here is a list I put together of things I’ve been grateful for which I definitely wouldn’t be if there was no coronavirus:

  1. I’ve realised how stressful I find travelling on public transport. It’s very reliable and clean but trains in the morning and evening are packed with noisy, rude people who reserve seats with their bags and play music too loud so everyone in the carriage can hear it. People have video calls without using headphones which is so inconsiderate. I hate listening to someone wittering on to a relative when I’m trying to read my book in peace. I’ve been so grateful to have no commute (more time in bed for one) but I feel relatively calm when I sit down to work rather than feeling harrassed.
  2. I’ve spoken to my niece and nephew more over the past few months than the rest of their lives put together. I’ve been doing ‘lessons’ with my friend on most weekdays which I would like to think we both enjoy. I’ve also spoken more with my brother and mum as well. We have weekly family quizzes which are so funny they should be televised.
  3. I have also had contact with friends who I’ve not seen or heard from in a long time. With not being able to go out, I’ve finally found the time to give them a call or write to them. These are things I’ve overlooked and taken for granted for a long time. It’s starting to redress the balance a bit.
  4. I’ve been able to bring some projects forward. For instance, I’ve started writing a novel. I’m probably about 40% of the way into the first draft. This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember but neither never got round to it or started it and soon given up. I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes and feel like I’m making real progress. In the time I would have spent commuting I have been able to invest time into my writing project. Fingers crossed the first draft will be ready by the end of May.
  5. I’ve been taking photos every day since the start of lockdown as a record of what I have been doing during this time. It’s a good way to see that it hasn’t been so bad even though I’ve been stuck inside most of the time. I’m not sure when to finish the project. I might start taking one photo a week until things are back to normal.
  6. My drama classes have moved online which has been great fun. I’ve met some new people in a virtual sense and learn a lot. I’ve also been able to use some of the exercises and activities in my writing. My drama teacher is hoping to put on a performance of the pieces we have created live when it’s possible to which would be very cool.

I could probably go on and go about the positives. I think there are a lot of them if you look hard enough but I know not every one feels the same. I quite like pottering around the house, reading, starting projects that I have been meaning to for ages and I like not having to think up excuses of why I don’t want to go somewhere or do something. No one is doing anything at the moment so I don’t get any invitations!

Wherever you are stay safe and try to find some positives, no matter how small they seem to be.

Adios April!

30 Apr

It’s been a funny month. Today is the 44th day of Lockdown in Switzerland but things are slowly, slowly beginning to reopen.

I have heard people saying they have lost motivation to do anything during Lockdown but I’ve managed to keep myself busy over the past month, despite the restrictions. I’ve been quite productive. Being stuck at home has meant I’ve had time to re-organise my bathroom cabinet, take better care of my house plants and other small things I keep meaning to get round to doing but end up forgetting or being too tired when I get back from work.

However, aside from these little jobs, I have been busy with quite a few other things. Firstly, I set myself the challenge of running 70km this month. I’ve only done one long run (which was 11km and that’s not all that long really). The rest have been shorter. I’ve managed to run my 90th kilometer this afternoon! I was so surprised that going 6 times a week and doing short distances would add up to such a large total. I guess my goal for next month should be to run 100km or more.

Of course, I have been baking more than usual over the past 30 days so this might be a motivation to my running success. I’ve baked hot cross buns (2 batches), crumpets, scones and a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even though I’ve only done this, I now don’t think applying for Great British Back Off is just a pipe dream.

I’ve also been reading a lot, although over the past couple of days I’ve not been as interested in it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the book I’m reading or because I’ve reached my fill for April.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing and I’ve been dabbling in screen writing for the first time since being at school. This project came about because I signed up to do an online drama course with the drama teacher I studied with at the end of last year. In one of the sessions we looked at home to write a theatre scene and now I am trying to finish it. It will hopefully be a short 3 act play. The drama course has been great fun and I have learnt so many things that I can use for my fiction writing as well.

I’ve also decided now is the right time to sit down and start the first draft of my novel. I am (almost) 5’000 words in and it is interesting to see where the book is going. It seems like it might be a Young Adult novel or a children’s book which isn’t what I thought it would be like when I sat down to write.

Aside from all of this, I’ve been playing online board games with friends and virtual quizzes with family and the netball club. It has possibly been one of the most productive month’s ever for me so I am sad it is over.

Let’s see what May will bring and what I will find myself doing if they let us outside again!

Fitness Goals Update

24 Apr

2020 was going to be the year that I got fit and ticked more of my fitness goals off my list. Unfortunately, it looks like Coronavirus has put a stop to my modest ambitions for this year.

Two running races I was going enter have now been cancelled which has left me at a bit of a loose end. I find exercise a lot easier if I have something to aim for. With these races off the cards, I decided to set myself the target of running 70km in April. Just to be clear that this means literally putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not trying to break a world record or anything! Today is 24th April and I’ve already surpassed 72km. I guess I’ll keep going and see how many kilometres I can get in total.

I have enjoyed running more than normal I think because this is the only reason I leave the house. I feel a bit like a dog let off the lead and I end up running further than I had planned to. But not every single time. It just goes to show that doing something little and often adds up to a big difference.

Having to put off the races I was planning for this year, means that I might not make my target of running an Ultramarathon this time next year. To help me get fit for my 50km race next year, I had also started personal training sessions to get me into shape quicker. I was 2 weeks into a 12 weeks plan when Coronavirus shut my gym.

On reflection it is far better to have stopped 2 weeks from the beginning of the training plan than 2 weeks from the end. I will have to restart the programme again when everything is back to normal and the gym is reopened.

I’m currently deciding what my fitness goal should be in May. I might try and beat the amount of kilometres I ran in April or I might switch to the bike for a change. Or I might do something completely different. I have a few days to decide yet.

I think at the moment the best thing to do is make sure you’re getting enough exercise for physical and mental well being. I think I’m probably doing enough at the moment. If anything it is a good excuse to get out and enjoy the amazing weather we’re having.

Films I’ve watched recently

20 Apr

I watched another bundle of films in my quest to watch the top 250 films on iMDB. Admittedly the majority of these I watched before lockdown. Perhaps you might find a suggestion of something good to watch here. These are the latest ones I’ve seen:

3. The Godfather: Part II

The carried on the story from the first part that I’ve also watched for this challenge. I think one Godfather movie was enough for me. I know people say that this is one of the greatest films of all time but I don’t see the appeal really.

53. Sunset Boulevard

Weird, weird and weird are three words that I would use to describe this film. A struggling writer ends up being kidnapped (sort of) by an aging actress who is desperate to get back into making movies. He sneaks off in the night so that he can work on a script with a woman he has fallen in love with. The actress finds out and is enraged by jealousy. It reminded me of Psycho but with a female lead.

64. Princess Mononoke

This was another Japanese anime film. These films actually remind me of a cartoon I watched as a child – The City of Gold – which is why I think I quite enjoy them. It was typical in the sense it had enchanted forests, a romantic theme and demons. Good film!

67. Witness for the Prosecution

The more I watch black and white movies, the more I wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I loved the character of Sir Winfrid Robarts, the barrister whose health is failing but he still manages to successful defend his client in between sips of brandy and a handful of ills. I didn’t see the twist at the end of the film coming which made it even better.

86. Your Name

Another Japanese anime on the list. I can’t make my mind up if I like these styles of films or not. I don’t love it but I don’t hate it. The story is about a boy and a girl who switch places with each other when they dream. They work out this is happening and leave clues for each other on their smartphones so that they know what the other one has done while they have switched places. There is a twist in the story when the boy finds out that it is impossible that they could have switched places. The ending reminded me a little of the Butterfly Effect.

89. To Kill A Mockingbird

I’ve read the book this film was based on so it wasn’t a surprise what happened. I thought it was well acted and I would happily watch it again.

92. 2001: A Space Odyssey

This was an odd film. Mainly because it was made years and years before 2001 and, having lived through the 2000s, I know that the scientific things in the film are unrealistic. It was a bit like watching one of the old Star Trek movies – dated and a bit corny. 

107. The Apartment

I loved this film. It was about a man who works at an insurance company and rents out his apartment to his superiors at work so they have somewhere to have affairs. Considering it was filmed in the 1960s, it could easily be remade set in the present day and would be just as relevant now. It was a comedy but also deals with some more serious themes.

117. Some Like It Hot

This is the first film I have ever seen starring Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know how I managed to let that happen. I thought it was very funny and had a Shakespearean quality about it in that the two main characters dress up as women to join a band after witnessing a mafia hit in Chicago. They don’t look like convincing women but obviously no one realises that they are men in drag.

141. Bladerunner

The weird thing about this film is that it is set in the year 2019 (the year I watched it in). Like the 2001: A Space Odyssey there is something very weird about watching a film set in the future when you are living in that future and it is nothing like it was predicted.  Overall it wasn’t really my sort of film to be honest. 

160. The Deer Hunter 

This was such an interesting film but another film about the Vietnam War. Even though the film is 40 plus years old the themes in the film are still very current. I can see why it has received such high praise from critics and fans. 

169. Logan

I haven’t seen all of the X-Men films and I was wondering if it would spoil my enjoyment of this film. Everything is explained so not knowing what has happened in the other films didn’t matter. It was a sad and emotional ending which I wasn’t quite expecting. Having watched it, it hasn’t made me want to rush and see the other films in the series though.

186. Wild Tales

Beautifully bizarre is how I would describe this Argentinian film. It depicts 6 individual stories about people in distress. It was wonderfully macabre and tragic but also funny. I would happily watch this again and again. 

205. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In essence this is Robin Hood set in the Wild West. I normally get confused watching Westerns because I can never work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies. It was fairly obvious in this!

248. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

A very odd film about the relationship of two sisters who found fame on the stage. It starts off innocently enough and then gets weirder and weirder and turns into a Hitchcock-esque type film. Disturbing!

Only 70 more films to go!

Challenge #38 – completed!

13 Apr

Lockdown has gifted me with some time to crack on and try and complete more of my challenges. One of the challenges I never thought I would be able to complete was Challenge #38.

I have never been able to touch my toes. I’ve always used the excuse that my legs must be too long. I had heard that it’s possible for anyone to be able to touch their toes by stretching each day. That was why this challenge was on my list – to see if this theory was true or no just fake news on the internet.

As I have been trying to exercise in some form each day I decided I might as well throw in some stretches and see if I would be able to tick this off the list. I found a 30 day programme of stretches on the internet (working up to 5 minutes of stretching a day) and decided to do this after every run or workout that I’d completed.

Drum roll please…. I did it!

It’s an awful picture but it proves that I did it! I managed to touch my toes after 13 days of doing the stretching programme. I’m still amazed I was able to do it. It seems like it is true that anyone can touch their toes if they stretch every day. In fact, I am sure stretching every day is beneficial even if you don’t want to touch your toes!

I have now completed 19 out of the 40 challenges on my list. Almost half way there!

Great News

7 Apr

I got some great news yesterday and right at this moment in time it’s important to focus on the good!

I found out I have been shortlised for a short story competition I entered last year meaning my story will be published in an anthology later this year.

I had very low expectations when I entered the competition and still can’t really believe it. This is the first short story I have ever entered into a competition which I would say is a very good sign.

While we have been locked indoors, I have been writing more and this news has given me a real boost to carry on going with it. I feel like I’m making progress in the right direction. It’s now a case of getting my head down and write more and, if possible, better.

The longer we stay confined to our houses, the more likely it is that I will write my first novel so maybe something positive will come out of this after all.

I have no idea when the anthology will be published but I will let you know when copies are available in case you want to get your hand on a copy.

So long, March

1 Apr

March 2020 should go down as the weirdest month in the history of mankind. It feels longer than any January I’ve even experienced and it’s gone on and on, and on, and on… Even though it’s only 15 days since we went into lockdown mode in Switzerland and like many other countries around the world life has been a bit different.

I don’t mind staying in the house, pottering around, reading and writing but even this is a bit much for me. It doesn’t help that Mother Nature is proudly displaying bright blue, cloudless skies taunting me.

Typical! Perfect weather when we all locked in

I’m flipping between being unmotivated to exist to having bouts of seemingly limitless creativity. I also have a huge compulsion to bake and cook anything and everything. Like hot cross buns. Like flapjacks. Like scotch eggs. I looked at a recipe for scotch eggs and the compulsion quickly left me.

I’ve been reading quite a bit and working on some short stories that I will hoping to enter into competitions later this year. I also think I have had a great idea for a novel but I’m still working out the details and wondering exactly to do with it and what type of book it would be. Being shut in and not being able to go might be the perfect opportunity to get a book written. But I’m sure I will find an excuse not to put pen to paper.

No one can travel (my trip to Dubai in the middle of March was cancelled) so I’ve had to put on hold some of my challenges but it does mean I’ve been able to spend some time working on the other ‘indoors-y’ challenge that I don’t need to leave the house to complete.

I’ve finished my challenge to make some art, learnt some more origami designs and have been making use of time spent in front of TV by making my way through the mammoth challenge of watching the Top 250 Films on iMDB.

On 1st March I decided to start my 365 days of not drinking alcohol. Only 334 to go! I’m not sure if this is a stroke of genius (all of the events I was worried about missing out on in the summer will probably be cancelled and the pubs are shut so there is less temptation) or the worst idea ever (if you can’t drink to drown your sorrows during a global pandemic when can you?). I know when lockdowns are finally lifted and life returns to normal, there will be the biggest party ever and – story of my life – I will be sat on the sidelines drinking a glass of water, looking on with pure jealousy and hatred. But I’m trying not to think about that and keep strong.

Booze is a distant memory

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Challenge 40 – completed

25 Mar

Life under lockdown is tough. I am managing to spend time on trying to complete challenges on my 40 Before 40 List. Of course, travelling is a no-no so I am concentrating on those that I can achieve by being locked in the house.

Last week I completed Challenge 40! The original challenge was to start and maintain my own travel website but I decided to change it to create a piece of art because I’ve done a bit of travel writing and I have to say I prefer travelling to writing about it. I made the change well before the Coronavirus outbreak!

So I made this:

In case you can’t tell, it’s a wolf. Okay, so it isn’t a painting by hand or something that I’ve conceived of myself. But I still think it’s impressive and you can’t say that it’s not art, even though I’m not sure what the exact definition of art is!

All of the materials were included in the pack that I ordered and then it was fairly simple to put together. The picture is made up of tiny squares, each with a symbol on them. You then have to look up on the key what colour needs to be glued into that square.

The squares are really tiny. I’m glad I didn’t order one that was bigger – I would have been doing it forever. This took me about a week to do. I did end up getting slightly addicted to it; just telling myself I will do another 10 minutes and still being hunched over the desk an hour and a half later. During this mad times, it provided a good distraction from everything going on in the world right now.

Incidentally, I have managed to almost destroy my left shoulder from leaning over it. I’ve had heat packs and all sorts on it trying to ease the pain. I have suffered for my art.

There are a lot of other challenges I can work on while I am house-bound. I am hoping to be able to tick off some more over the coming weeks. So stay tuned!

March Madness

15 Mar

I’ve just realised it’s been more than a month since I updated my blog. And what a month it’s been.

I spent 2 weeks in Tenerife mid-February. It was an opportunity to get back into a regular running routine and to get back into a regular writing routine. I would say I managed to achieve both of these goals. I ended up running more than 60km in total in February and I managed to write quite a bit too. I was pleased with some of the writing.

I then got caught up in the sandstorm in Tenerife that saw flights being cancelled but I go lucky because my flight wasn’t affected in the end. A day earlier and I would be stranded there.

The night the sandstorm hit

Of course, a few days later the news about the Coronavirus making its way to Europe hit. Since then madness has reigned supreme. Here in Switzerland we are in a semi-lockdown situation. Schools, libraries and restuarants and bar with a capacity of more than 50 people have been ordered to close. People have also been advised to stop using public transport. When the Swiss are stopping using public transport, you know that something serious is afoot.

We’ve had to cancel our trip to Dubai next week because the situation is so volatile and getting stranded abroad is not a situation I want to find myself in. Plus my employer has urged people not to travel unless 100% necessary.

Life is not going to be the same for a while. I just hope everything returns back to normal soon. In the meantime, I will be focusing on some of my challenges that don’t involve international travel. I have a stack of non-fiction and German books to read and that list of 250 films is not going to watch itself!

Stay healthy!

Book Challenge by Erin 12.0

12 Feb

As usual I kicked off this year by getting very excited that it was time for the Book Challenge by Erin to start again. I have been taking part in this online book challenge for a couple of year now and it always gets me excited to start reading again in the new year.

I managed to finish the challenge by 30th January – 10 books in 30 days isn’t bad going. I managed to read 8 books that I already own which means I have more space on my book shelves now. The other two I borrowed from the library.

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As ever there are 10 different categories. Here are the books I read:

Freebie (any book over 200 pages) – I chose The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham. I don’t often read biographies but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. In my ignorance I had no idea about the struggles of Burma gaining independence nor about Aung San Suu Kyi and her and her family’s part in the fight for independence. It’s incredible that the book touches on points of history within my lifetime. It makes me want to read more about Buddhism, non violent struggles and the story of India’s independence which the author compares with Burma’s story throughout the book. I still have no idea how to pronounce her name though.

Starts with ‘I’ – I chose It Ends With You by S. K. Wright. I picked this up from the second hand book shop because the cover looked interesting. Not the best way to choose books, I know. It was a quick and easy read. It was told from the perspective of several different characters and via different mediums (WhatsApp, Blogs, diaries as well as individual characters narratives). It was a who-dunnit and I did work out who was responsible before it was revealed in the book but that didn’t spoil the ending.

Two or More Authors – I chose Run Faster: How to be Your Own Best Coach by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald.ย I have had this book gathering dust on my shelf for longer than I care to remember and, as I want to try to improve my running times this year, it’s about time I read it! The book was aimed at runner who are far more advanced and better than I am but I still found a lot of useful tips in the book that I will definitely try to incorporate into my running. I am super keen to beat one of my PBs this year and I hope this book has helped me to work out areas I can improve on to do that.

Tree on Cover Art – I chose Frau auf der Treppe by Bernhard Schlink. This is a German novel that I’ve had for a long time. The book starts with a dispute over the ownership of a painting and ends up being a tragic long story between an unlikely pairing. It didn’t end as I expected it would. It was a good read but I can’t say I loved it.

Who What When Where or Why in the title – I chose What to Do When You Become the Boss by Bob Seldon. I bought this book when I got a job as a manager for the first time. It didn’t work out and I left the job but I decided to read it anyway. There were a lot of interesting tips for people who aren’t managers and it gave a different perspective on working in a modern environment. Some of the tips I don’t agree with, like only checking your email once a day. I guess it depends what your role is but, as my job is operational, it’s just not all that practical to do that. I do see how constant email checking can be addictive and a waste of time though!

Set in Africa – I chose Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland. I went to Zimbabwe went Robert Mugabe was president and this was a fascinating read. I had no idea that he was very intelligent (he had 7 degrees) and he was a very religious man. The account in this book paints a different picture to what I imagined the man to be like. It presented a balanced view of him by looking at historical events and talking to people who knew him the best, while trying to pinpoint the reasons why such a shy and thoughtful man ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous dictators.

A Female Relative in the title – I chose Motherland by Paul Theroux. This is an incredible novel. It’s written in such detail that it reads like an autobiography. The narrator is a writer who’s writing a memoir about life with his aging mother and his six siblings. The characters were so relatable, especially the matriarch of the family. I loved it.

A Winner of the Edgar Award – I chose Mr Mercedes by Stephen King.ย  I always had the impression that King’s novels are just out and out scary but the more I read them the more I know that’s not true. This was a straight forward thriller. I was completely hooked from the beginning of this book – a person in a Mercedes kills people who are waiting in line for a job fair and the now retired police officer who was involved in the case comes out of retirement to hunt down the killer. This is the first of a trilogy and I am tempted to read the rest.

Locked Room Mystery – I chose And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. A locked room mystery is is a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime (almost alwaysย murder) is committed in circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. I thought this book was a bit slow to begin with and it took me a while to get into it. Once people started dying one by one it started to get a lot more interesting!

A Book mentioned in Show Us Your Books blog post – I chose One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. This was similar to the book I read for the Title Begins with ‘I’. Both of them are YA books. I thought this was a good read. There was a lot of intrigue around the death of a high school kid. I liked the characters and the pace of the plot was good.

There is a bonus round for the challenge but the rules have changed slightly. I would have to read a book from all of the categories again but all of them would have to have been chosen by other participants – before you only had to choose five previously chosen. As my to be read list keeps getting longer, I have decided not to take part in the bonus round this time to concentrate on the books I already have to read!