My son texted me at about 3pm on Friday afternoon. It was a short text saying
“Dr son-of-Furtheron now thank you!!”
I very nearly cried. So proud of all his incredible hard work. He impressed me getting into university reading physics. He had to do a foundation year which he aced. At the end of that he said to me that as soon as he could he’d change from the BSc to an MPhys in Space Science. He did and won a place to go to Svalbard in his last year. That was all impressive enough. Then he got a first and won a prestigious prize. Then he landed a good PhD studentship and now in just over 3 years he’s aced that.
So unbelievably proud of him.
… to me. Happy birthday to me… etc. etc.
Yes it is my birthday today. I’m 54. So as my darling daughter pointed out in her Facebook post to me this morning I’m indisputably into my mid fifties. Actually it is an interesting thought that at my next birthday I could officially retire. UK pension legislation allowing you to draw from an occupational or personal pension from age 55 onwards. Whether I want to retire or can afford to next year is a different story but I then will have a dilemma of whether I do or don’t. For years my plan has been to “retire” some point in my mid fifties. However all the predictions of doom and gloom for pensioners who don’t consider how much they actually need to survive for how long have made me start to reassess. Now the time is here when I could (should?) seriously sit down and think about it I’m procrastinating and putting it off. I wrote recently to my old employer with whom I have the largest chunk of my pension stating that my predicted retirement age should be adjusted to 60 from 57 to alter the profile of my investments, many invested funds have a pattern of adjusting where your money is invested as your retirement date approaches so that your fund is less exposed to market volatility just as you plan to take the pension it should fund. My current employer have just changed their scheme to encompass a similar scheme for your additional contributions and when I set my preferences for what fund to use I again put my retirement age as 60.
Why the hang up? Well…. no male antecedent of mine that I know of has ever made it to 60. My Dad got the closest when he passed away at 59 years and 10 months. This is why for much of my life I had looked to getting retirement started in my mid fifties, leaving it any later looked like it had slim chance of any realisation. However when my Dad died male life expectancy was about 74 years in the UK and the latest figures are about 81. So in 30 years a 5 year increase. Even if I accept my families predisposition to popping our clogs early if I had 5 years to my Dad’s life I look to be on target for about 65. But that is ten years away so will life expectancy have risen another ~2 years? Or is this all just me using my usual researching skills and over analytical brain to avoid making a tough decision? Hmm….
Enough of the doom and gloom about getting older though, actually getting older is a good thing since it means I’m still here to get older and luckily I continue to get older sober which is a bonus too.
So what did I get for my birthday? A bunch of blu-ray films which means the next few Saturday nights I can avoid that National Lottery nonsense, an Amazon voucher, a CD from Miloš Karadaglić and tickets to see him at a small gig this month at the Canterbury Festival. Oh yes and some Big Bends Nut Sauce well I mean all men my age need some nut sauce don’t they?
… with myself.
I’ve only just realised that for a while now I’ve been a bit disconnected. With myself mainly. I’ve not been writing on here as my mind has been elsewhere, where actually I don’t know but I’ve been off beam. I knew this. I think some of it goes back to two things. Starting to work in my placement as an actual counsellor and then my operation and sick leave.
The placement hit me hard. I was there in a room sitting with another human being and they thought of me as a counsellor. They had no idea I was a raw recruit trainee, they knew I was “in training” as I asked them in the initial negotiation of how we are going to work together if they’d consider me being able to potentially use my work with them as part of a case study. But I never made it clear that I was a novice, there was no need and it possibly wouldn’t help them. Anyways, I’m there and then I’m out of sessions processing what is going on for me and what I’m sensing is going on for them, trying to mould their comments, actions, body language etc. into the models I’ve studied. Now I realise it somewhat overwhelmed me. It is very like losing your virginity, you step over a line to be a different person and you can never go back you’ve changed permanently in that moment.
I’d hardly got going and along came my operation. That also hit me as it took me longer than I expected to get over it. The sick leave was appreciated but to be fair all I did was sit about a lot watch the Olympics, Tour de France etc.
Also I changed therapist. Simply my old one had a change of circumstances, we looked at options to continue but nothing seemed to fit. She then suggested another therapist at the same centre. I’ve started working with him and that is going well but there was a gap of a month in the summer just as this other stuff was going on too. Thus somewhere in all this I lost some connection with myself. I returned to work a bit on edge as well as there was changes going on with people leaving etc.
In the last week or two I’ve reconnected. I’m forming a good relationship with my new therapist and gaining good insights there. I’ve thrown myself into some new projects at work and found real satisfaction in getting them fired up. Returning to study with my fellow students in the last three weeks has really been the icing on the cake, particularly hearing their concerns about their placements and clients and whether they are “good enough”. I found myself immersed in some papers, online articles and text books looking over topics earlier this week and smiled to myself that I’m active again and as I say connected.
Finally I got back to recording some music. Something I’ve not done in ages. My Ménière’s Disease hasn’t helped but I had some good days and some time and so recording recommenced. I feel my like me again, but a changed me now I am a me who is working as a counsellor.
I had a long hard chuckle at a recent Twitter discourse involving Douglas Carswell (the only sitting UKIP MP) and a leading scientist where Mr Carswell insisted that the sun causes the earth’s tides. I loved Prof Paul Nightingale’s put down. “Douglas, this isn’t a controversial point. Its in Newton’s Principia.” published in 1687. Glad to see our elected representatives keeping abreast of the latest scientific literature. This comes of course on the back of the Leave Campaign during the EU Referendum claiming that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. Well this seems again true given the new PMs latest policy to ignore pretty much any educational expert of the last 50 years and determine to re-introduce grammar schools. I live where there are grammar schools, indeed I’m a product of one as is one of my children, the other attended a secondary modern. Frankly the best education and the most inspiring teachers we experienced were not at the grammar school in my opinion. Those schools seem to take the best and frankly do little but beat them over the with expectations of high grades, Russell Group University places etc. etc. My son’s secondary modern treated him as an individual and inspired him to a point where he has submitted his thesis, will soon get his PhD and is working at an internationally renowned university as a post graduate researcher. Shows to me that grammar educated or not between 11 and 18 what is really needed is to inspire and show belief in the individual.
Against this background then I wonder whether it is even worth drawing attention to this interesting study from Sweden. Quitting Alcohol Can Be Easier To Maintain Than Cutting Back determines that “total abstinence from drinking may be easier to maintain in the long run than trying to cut back”. Any one who knows me will know I’m likely to agree with this. I’ve been abstinent since 2004. For me I’d tried repeatedly to control, manage, limit etc. my drinking and I had repeatedly failed finding myself once again wildly out of control beyond the limits I’d set for myself and once there it wasn’t simply a point of stopping and controlling again. No that took time and effort to get back to some point of abstinence. Guess what. And then I’d start believing I could control it and… the wheel kept on turning.
Previously the most widely accepted position is that an agency agrees with the users of the service what their goal is, reduction, abstinence or control and works in consort with that position to help. This study seems to refute some of that indicating those with abstinence as their chosen path are more successful long term to maintain it.
But then let’s find an MP with a degree in Imperial History willing to offer their tuppenceworth…😉
I was privileged to hear someone talking about a milestone in their recovery. 35 years sober. 35 years!!! For me to have hit that achievement I’d have had to stopped drinking when I wasn’t quite 19! This person though is far from unique in my recovery circle I know plenty with 20 years or so even one venerable fellow who is closing on 50 years. He stopped drinking about the time I first went to primary school!
What is amazing about these people is that they don’t rate their achievement any higher than a person who has a day, a week, a month or a year sober. It is the old adage “one day at a time”. For those that follow this path frankly each day ought to be as miraculous as the first. But for me I’ve grown accustomed to being sober, to not drinking, to not even thinking about drinking other than in relationship to my own alcoholism and my decision that for me the best solution to my problems was to adopt total abstinence. I can take it a bit for granted and that is something I feel guilty about when I sit there and hear someone talk about their sobriety with such great humility.
I also have the privilege to meet someone who is a bit further down the counselling journey than me. We talked about addictions. We talked about food addiction. I stated my belief that overeating is a really difficult addiction to address. I feel that since many (alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.) abstinence is no burden on life. However with some, food being the most obvious example, you have no option but control. You can’t abstain from food can you? You have to eat so that having to control your addiction through necessity must be so so hard.
It was the last stage of the Tour of Britain in London yesterday. Not one of the “grand tours” that last for weeks and weeks in the baking Mediterranean sun and up and down huge mountain ranges. However a week cycling the length of Britain is tough, some of the climbs in the Lake District and Dartmoor rate alongside some of the Tour De France stages in the Alps.
Anyway my wife and I went to meet my son and his girlfriend and stood in Whitehall to watch the last stage, 16 laps around the centre of London. It was really impressive. These guy hum along at 30 – 40mph, when the peloton of 100plus riders come passed you at that speed it is startling that there are not more crashes and serious injuries. Seeing them on a stage like this was great as they did 16 laps and we could see them both come down and go back up Whitehall. In the end Steve Cummings maintained his 20 second lead to win the race overall capping a great year for British cycling with a Brit winning our major home race. And I can say I watched the last stage of the last race by Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, Sir Bradley Wiggins. It was obvious that he wasn’t fit for a race like this, being heavier than he should be after focusing on the velodrome for his last Olympic triumph recently. He stayed with the peloton however but towards the back.
I was struck though by the shear enormity of the effort put in by these guys day in day out. I know cycling has had a bad reputation regarding doping etc. but putting that to one side it is remarkable what the human body can do with training and effort. Watching some of the paralympics has only confirmed that to me – watch Hannah Cockroft win the 100m final. Simply – incredible!
Hello local followers… er follower… oh well I’ll just talk to myself then!
Sorry I’ve been away but the recovery from the operation made me somewhat lazy. I ended up watch a great chunk of the latter stages of the Tour De France, the Olympics and listened to a lot of test match cricket.
But the summer is waning as I begin to see leaves falling from the trees, acorns dropping on my head and the colour of summer fading with the evening light. And so I’ve returned to work – nearly needed a map to find the place. But my desk was still there with my nameplate on it which was grand and a pay check arrived a day or two after my return so looks like I am still gainfully employed.
Not much happened over the summer given I was getting better. I did walk a lot, starting soon after I got out of hospital as I was worried I’d lose all fitness. The first few days were a meagre shuffle around the local roads in my surgical stockings and shorts much to my daughter’s dismay, apparently fashion should come before health in her view. However over the weeks I built up to a reasonable distance and pace so my return to work, which involves four 20 min walks a days to and from train stations has been fine. Also it was interesting to walk parts of my local area I rarely do. Often it is said that in modern life there is no community, no one speaks etc. I can say that is because you are all stuck in your cars not walking. If you walk the majority of folks you pass bid you good morning or comment on the weather etc. I felt more enlivened by community spirit than I’ve done in a long time.