Sunday, 6 February 2011

Barking at the clerk

Oh what fun there is to be had when running errands during weekdays. I took a parcel to the post office on Monday and stood behind what looked like a middle-aged woman dressed in clothing that was fashionable when her mum were a lass. When the talking started I realised it was actually an old man with a severe speech impediment who was dressed as a frumpy woman. His 'talk' was a monosyllabic shout that sounded a bit like an exasperated dog barking slowly and loudly to some foreign dog to try to find the way to the beach. He couldn't do what he wanted as for some reason he had to use his 'usual' post office which was apparently in Exeter. He accepted this and left. When I got to the window the clerk had turned and was talking behind her hand to a colleague: it turns out the bloke had had a poor-fitting set of dentures which his erratic speech had dislodged so violently he'd almost spat the upper plate at the window. Rather than pushing them back in he gave up and just took them out, which turned the poor clerk's stomach. Care in the community? More like: set them free so the plebs have someone else to dodge when walking down the street. Nice.
Walking along Queen Street in Exeter on my way to work on Friday I saw a man rummaging in one of those small bins that are occasionally attached to lamp posts. He's a familiar face, mainly because his face is tattooed and his complexion is the sort of dark colour you get when the dirt is so ground in it's immune to soap. He's one of the local 'homeless' crowd who always seem to find somewhere to sleep/eat but still looks rough and in need of some help, either to get him off the drugs or to get him the right ones - the kind prescribed by a mental health professional so that his life is easier to cope with. He fished out a local newspaper, skimmed a couple of pages and put it back in the bin. I'm pretty sure that at some point in my life I'd have been somewhat repulsed by the sight of someone rummaging in a bin but now I find myself agreeing with what he did; he made use of something that someone else had discarded (scoring 2/3 in the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' competition), put it back in the bin when he was done with it (no littering), and didn't even block the pavement while he was doing it (consideration for those around him, even if accidental). He also saved himself some money and the time/effort it would have taken to go to the library to read a free copy. All it actually cost him was a little dignity, and I got the impression he'd left that behind when the money got too tight to maintain a respectable image. I smiled at the incident because I realised that I too would probably do exactly the same thing and not be embarrassed about it. Perhaps now's the time to become a freegan...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Accept the fuct

For once I had a positive entry planned - the title was there, a few notes had been made about some potentially good news and I had a series of paragraph-sized smiley faces lined up. Now it's going to have to wait.

A few years ago my Taiji teacher gave us an amusing hand-out, just one side of A4 containing a few guidelines for our practice, each paragraph beginning with the phrase 'Accept the fact...' My positive entry was going to include a bit about my favourite one: Accept the fact that not everyone will 'get' your desire to train. After the inauspicious beginning of 2011 I'm going to have to use the first one on the list: Accept the fact that sometimes your training will suck bilge water.

OK, training wasn't actually that bad tonight but there've been enough annoying little knocks recently that I could easily bleat on for a good few pages like a spoilt kid who's been told he's not getting any Easter eggs this year. I'm not going to but that does lead me nicely into the airlock and ready for expulsion into space.

In an uncharacteristic moment of optimism early in 2010 I made a note of the following phrase which had popped into my head: 2009 was the year of broken eggs; 2010 will be the year of omelettes.

That didn't happen. Instead it was more like: 2009 was the year of broken eggs; 2010 was the year of standing around in a pile of broken eggs. 2011 can only get better. It'd fucking better.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Experiments with Discipline 1 - the easy start

The road to mediocrity is paved with unrealistic expectations. Examples include basically every New Year's resolution I've set myself in the last few years plus numerous other goals aimed at throughout the course of the year(s).

This time I've decided to try a slightly different approach: I have things I want to do in early 2011 but I know full well I've previously tried to do too much and fallen at the first obstacle. Perhaps, I reasoned, the failures (which were all due to a lack of tenacity) were caused by my lack of practice at seeing things through. So the new approach is this: I'm typing this on December 1st, having decided to complete a minimum of 30 minutes per day of French language practice throughout the whole of December.

That's a twin-headed goal-monster whose aims are to both bring my working knowledge of French language to a noticably improved level (note I said 'improved' - the target is relative to my current level of ability rather than being something absolute) and of course to see if I can actually do something disciplined on a daily basis for a month. If it works out it'll be a stepping-stone into putting more work into my Taiji (which is progressing but in an unfocussed way) and into the usual health/fitness gumph (which never gets as good as I'd like it to be) in 2011.

Of course the language work itself (which includes brushing up my grammar terminology so I properly understand the language of language) will continue with French until at least my first visit to my Mum in late January and probably beyond as French should be the easiest language to work on, 3+ months of Greek (for the late Spring visit to Dad) and ideally then leaping back onto the Japanese with the potential aim of going for the Japanese exam in December. We'll see.

Speaking of the phrase "We'll see" I'm going to stop there and finish the rest of this entry off at the end of December. The final paragraph(s) will show my progress over the month. TTFN

Quick update: it's still December 1st and following an email exchange earlier I've discovered that my first visit to France next year will be mid-February, giving me an extra 6 weeks of potential practice. We'll see...

Et par finis: here we are on January 2nd 2011. There's not a lot to add, merely the results of the experiment.
Did I complete at least 30 minutes of French study/practice every day throughout December? No; some days I did as little as 15 minutes. However, I definitely did some work every day and although some days were short of 30 minutes some exceeded an hour. That may be a factual 'no' but in actuality I see it as a 'good enough'. Now I'm going to keep the French practice going until my trip to France as I have another 6 weeks in which to further my skills. I'm also going to add the Taiji practice in to the 'discipline experiment' - when classes start again on Tuesday I aim to do at least 15 minutes a day of solo practice. That (solo practice) is supposed to be the bedrock of your ability anyway and given that there are two weekend workshops in the pipeline I'll need the firmer foundation.

Of course the new year also brings the usual health kick but I'm being easier on myself in the beginning so as to do a better job of it all throughout the year. The next 'discipline' entry will state how well the daily Taiji practice is coming along.