Friday, 27 April 2012

What's Missing From An Active Urban Life-Style

I ran across this quote on VK's Empire of Dirt while wandering around what's known as the manosphere.

"... most of the guys I know... work a full hard day, ...go straight to the gym put in some work there. The[y] go home, cook a nice meal, watch a little bit of tv, write, or do whatever with the little time [they] have and then go to bed. I might be weird but in my social circle I don’t know any guy that goes home and just drinks a six pack of beer for the hell of it and if they did, I’d ask them what’s wrong with them."

If you live in a Big City, you will recognise that life. I do. I wake up at 05:30 and get to bed at 22:00. I'm seriously thinking of making that 21:30 or even 21:00. I used to be a night owl, but now I wake the birds up so they can sing their dawn chorus. There's no evening left. Anyway, I'm an old geezer while VK and the guys he knows aren't. The thing is, there's something missing from his day. Look at it carefully: it's the life of a single man. There's no-one at home. And there's someone else missing...

The Gang.

That variable-sized, varying-membership group of guys and gals you hang with, call up when you want to go out, go to sports and concerts and clubs with, drop in on when you don't want to be on your own, and who make up the cast of your social life. I was in or at least connected with three gangs, one at university, one in my twenties and one in my thirties, but being shy and non-social and an alcoholic, I only really used them as an occasion to drink. The mythical literary groups and artistic movements of the twentieth-century were Gangs, sometimes ex-pats and other times brought together by common interests (the Surrealists) or common ambition (the YBA's). Not that my Gangs were as glamorous, but it's a vivid illustration.

VK could be taking Gang Time for granted, but I wonder. It takes a reasonable amount of commitment to keep a Gang functioning: most of the people in it need to show up at least once a month, and it needs two or three parties a year so that everyone can gather and keep up.

People move jobs, find partners and think they don't need to go out, get jobs that leave them no energy. Or they start going to the gym. Unless it's on your way home, the gym takes up the last bit of spare time and energy you have for the day. My commute doesn't help much either. Social-life Gangs eventually fade away, and there's quite a few ex-members who thought they were being more mature and growing up and like that as they contributed to the fade. But they weren't. 

I was chatting the other day about networks and Masons to someone at work. Cynics both, we agreed that such things were useful to people who could be useful. A regular salaryman with no authority to do anything and no useful friends or contacts - like me - brings nothing to a network (let alone the Masons) and consequently doesn't get included in, however polite people may be. It's the same with The Gang. People drop out when it no longer meets any of their needs, or when they realise that it never did.

Until they find themselves putting in a full day's work, going to the gym, going home to cook a nice meal, watching some Netflix and going to bed. Maybe going to the movies or a show or a gallery every week, and going girl-hunting whenever. It works for a while, right up to the point where you notice that your morale and motivation has dropped to zero and you have no idea how to get it back again. When I had a Gang, all I had to do was spend some time with them. It made me feel like I had a life - even if I really didn't - and that was enough to get me back again.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Resolutions From A Stay-At-Home Holiday

I spent last week on holiday, at the Plage-de-Sept-Cadrans in the further western reaches of Greater London. That's a shot down the path to the road leading to the Plage. When it was hailing.

Each day I went to bed at ten-thirty and woke up between half-six and seven the next morning feeling something I haven't felt for the longest while. Rested. Relaxed. Content to just lie in bed for a few moments. You know what a real holiday is? When you don't have a giant to-do / must see / must keep busy list to tick off, but there is some stuff you'd like to get done, just not some giant project.

Mine was about getting all the DVD's and CD's off the shelves and into boxes - I'm neat, my house is small, and those things no longer represent a "collection", a subject I will write about later. Over the week I bought twelve packs of plastic CD slips from Rymans and six shoe-box size boxes from Paperchase, and it's still not completely done. I had ten black plastic bags of DVD covers and CD boxes. Nine three-foot shelves of box sets and single CD's / DVD's are in six double CD-width boxes. It took a lot longer to make the transfer than you might think. I sourced, bought, assembled and used a new lawnmower, since the last one burned out after a lot of service. I had lunch at some good local restaurants, went to the gym and watched a bunch of movies and stuff on the DVD player. 

Mostly I enjoyed the feeling that I could set off to do something and have enough time to do it, without feeling it was taking time from other stuff or "life". For the first time in a very long time, I wanted to leave the house to "do stuff", rather than wanting to stay in so I wouldn't have to see the outside world. (Not sure if that will last a week at work though.)

As I revelled in having a proper relaxed level of hormones going around me, I was able to get a few things straight:

1. Spinning and running are on hold for a while - I suspect Renata-the-trainer is right and both activities mess my hormones up

2. The corrective training schedule Renata's given me, done three times a week gives me the feeling that "I've done enough work" whereas what I was doing before didn't give me the feeling that what I was doing was enough

3. Gym is twice during the week and Sundays - the other evenings are for kicking back one way or another.

4. I will blog twice a week from now on - right now, three times a week is taking too much time and effort, and the quality is too variable. Tuesdays and Fridays. 

And when I say "hailstones", I mean, like this. Click to enlarge and see April hailstones.

Friday, 13 April 2012

On Not Begging In Cafes

Big Issue Guy just came into the Caffe Nero where I and a number of other people come first thing (I mean 07:40) in the morning to have a quiet cup of coffee, sit at our laptops and get into whatever mood we need to be in. He walked from table to table with his spiel and we all said NO in one way or another. I just shook my head and didn't even look at him. None of us felt bad about it and all of us felt irritated that he was in the cafe importuning us. Does that make us selfish salarymen with no sense of charity and not a shred of human kindness? 

I don't think so. Just because he's short of money and down on his luck doesn't mean that he gets to be inconsiderate to us. Why was he being inconsiderate? Read my opening sentence. He knows why people come into cafes and he knows we don't want to be disturbed - more or less by anyone or anything. We don't want adverts, let alone passing life insurance salesmen (they don't sell on the street any more now I guess) or charity collectors. We don't really want other people bringing their arguments and bad vibes in. Everyone knows this. People who then ignore it are being inconsiderate. 

However, what applies to Big Issue Guy applies to anyone trying to sell me something. This is what's wrong with hospitals and doctors' surgeries showing fake TV channels stuffed with advertising. I didn't ask for it and I'm already paying for the place with my taxes - making me watch ads is making me pay twice. London Transport long ago struck the right balance, using the ads in effect to decorate the stations and sticking to posters, which after a while I find I can tune out. Almost no-one else gets the balance right: I accept that commercial radio needs to broadcast ads to make money, but then I don't listen to it, and ditto for commercial TV. That's why I buy box sets. I have no idea at all how 8Tracks pays for itself, and assume that at some stage it will be polluted by ads. When Facebook inundated me with dating ads I nearly cancelled my account, until I said I wasn't interested in finding anyone of any sex ever.

What I'd like is for The Big Issue to tell its vendors not to enter cafes, restaurants and other places. Robust proprietors chase them out anyway - but I can't expect the pleasent and busy barristas in Caffe Nero to do that. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Maya Jane Coles - Nowhere

There's a free paper called Crack I pick up from Rough Trade Records (East) now and again. Brought up on the NME and Melody Maker as I was, I still like a good music paper or magazine. Snag is, most of the high street magazines are, well, crap. A good interview makes me want to check the music out. Crack clearly loved Maya Jane Coles, and now, so do I.

If you're not into deep house, you're not going to like this, but if you are, you're going to love it.

 Happy Easter.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

On The Vietnamese Bus

There's a bit of the Kingsland Road - which is up the way from Bishopsgate - known as the "Pho Mile" for the density of Vietnamese restaurants. The very wonderful Truc Lieu, who was part of the team until she wangled a job back in the West End, knew her way around Vietnamese food, so soon after we moved in to our new office, she guided us to her favourite on the Pho Mile - Tay Do - and we've been going back ever since, usually on a Friday lunchtime.

The trip starts on a 149 0r 242 bus at Bishopsgate..

 ...passes this odd sculpture, and this bridge...

 ... this bit of graffiti...

 .. and under the bridge for the Hoxton extension of the North London Line...

 ... and we get off at the stop after this bridge...

 ... have a throughly pleasant lunch, leaving few remains...

 ... catch a bus back on what looks like a suburban high street on a quiet April afternoon...

... pass the church and finish at Bishopsgate again.