Just a handful of shots taken on the Saturday at Bristol Grillfest.
Down on Bristol’s harbourside outside the super buffet zazabazar perched this moving statue with a constantly pouring jug of water, the coolest moving statue/thing I have seen in a long time.
As I write this I am still unemployed waiting for a decision to be made on my benefits claim along with the conclusion to an interview I attended 2 days ago and am awaiting feedback from a client on a website I have been working on , unpaid , so I can build up a portfolio to sell my skills as a web developer and eventually get paid when his site starts to make money.
I don’t want to take benefits, but until I have full-time employment I have to. The way I see it my taxes have helped cover any benefits I’ll receive, if any, and I’ll be paying them back ASAP.
Unemployed since the last week of January I have kept really busy to avoid the mental slump that us out-of-work folk can fall into.
Here is the list of things I have found useful to do during this time, some of them are specific to Bristol, but are hopefully still relevant if you live elsewhere.
So work had finished and having sat down at my desk all day I was a bit twitchy , we are not designed to remain static for long periods and I have been getting more and more aware of my sedentary lifestyle. To kickstart the new year I wrote a plan to get more jogging into my life as it’s pretty cheap and can be done when you fancy , starting with a jog from work to home, I thought this was being smart with my time.
I still cannot jog very well preferring to run or sprint, I struggle to keep a steady moderate pace. Problem is sprinting has caused some really unpleasant heart disturbance in the past, arrhythmia, the irregular beating of my heart. The sensation is a bit like a fish thrashing and writhing in my chest, not nice.
Numerous tests couldn’t confirm anything concrete but it appeared I didn’t have a life threatening condition. An ultra-sound scan showed a structurally normal heart and a stress test suggested there were no blocked valves.
Since I don’t have these episodes often I decided to sprint home from work rather than jog. Pelting along as fast as I could, only a short sharp burst, mindful of my breathing, I was doing OK until just as I reached my apartment block my chest erupted.
Calling 999 still feels dramatic regardless of how many times I’ve dialled that number in the past as a petrol station attendant, concerned citizen and heart issue guy. After reporting where I was and the symptoms I had a paramedic arrived pretty damn rapidly.
The female paramedic was tired, she hooked me up to a mini ECG machine and captured the funky jazz bassline my heart was playing
An ambulance pulled up behind us.
I moved inside the vehicle where I was hooked up to another older looking ECG machine for more readings to be taken of my heart. The ambulance drivers were friendly and cheerful, the vehicle stayed stationary for some time as they took readings.
It was definitely going to be a visit to A&E, but it wasn’t the flashing sirens jobbie which was reassuring
At hospital I had to be wheelchaired in , even though I was perfectly capable of walking it was not worth arguing and to be fair the severity of my condition had not been fully established.
Until I could be signed into the care of the hospital the 2 ambulance drivers had to wait with me. This felt a bit wasteful but protocols and rules meant I was still in their care until a bed in the heart ward was free.
They were nice people, you could tell they had experience of the unpleasant side of life.
30 mins or so of waiting and it was back into the room/ward where I had my first ECG reading taken upon initial arrival. I said goodbye to the ambulance crew member, ‘hope they don’t have to keep you here long’ she said kindly, I was then passed a gown and a blanket. I really didn’t want to stay.
I had a bed , was hooked up to a heart monitor and had a little bit of curtain to conceal myself if I so wished but I could see most of the room in front of my spot which gave some entertainment.
To my left a guy was struggling to breathe , asthmatic from what I could gather from the conversations with staff, he sounded terrible to begin with but over the next few hours he would start to sound much more regulated in his breathing.
Another ECG reading , then they took blood , I lay back and was asked about quitting smoking , it was a good distraction from the needle even thought I was aware of the tactic.
From there it was several hours of waiting , the nurses would periodically come by to ask a few questions or mention I was next on the list to see the doctor. To pass the time I played angry birds on my HTC phone and eavesdropped. The guy to my right had taken an overdose of sleeping pills with alcohol.
Over the 3-4 hours or so I was there I watched my heart rate go from around 80-90 down to 60 and occasionally zip down to 58 which I was quite chuffed with. I was very glad my heart had slowed as there was always a chance they would need to ‘reset’ the heart by either drugs or shock if it didn’t slow down.
he longest wait was for my blood test to come back, clear luckily and a conclusion had been reached to what I had – Atrial fibrillation.
The good news was great!
I was happy to leave , I thanked the smiling doctor and managed to say thank you to one of the kind nurses , I was aware the man wearing the mask caught glimpse of me leaving , I didn’t envy him at that moment.
When leaving hospital there was a very apparent contrast from the buildings calm and the outside hustle and bustle. After walking through numerous corridors the final one led straight outside , no door just straight into the street, the traffic and drunken shouting more striking.
I walked home feeling sobered , relaxed and happy to be out, a reminder of the other side of life that can and probably will affect us all at some point.
I now know what I have and can now be more mindful of the condition. It is likely my condition has been created by my excessive binge drinking and smoking in my teens and twenties/early thirties. Of course the irony could be it’s been all the green tea I have drank copiously throughout my life, but then its all speculation. Either way it is now with me and I just have to live with it.
And the beat goes on….
I have a habit of delaying things. Now I don’t mean avoiding telling someone something that needs to be said or deliberately affecting scheduled public transport, I mean delaying doing those nice things in life like trips and holidays to exotic locations.
Now I would say this hasn’t been a problem, I’ve managed to limp through life bravely. I honestly didn’t give this characteristic much thought and it has only made it to a blog post because recently someone I have started seeing picked up on it and explored it a little deeper.
My lady friend will have to remain anonymous as ‘she’ is training to be a counselor. As part of her gruelling post graduate studies/training she is already counseling adults who have suffered horrific abuses and traumas, rest assured she discloses nothing to me about her clients or their experiences. So for her remaining anonymous on-line is important and I have to honour that.
The reason she picks up on this trait of mine is because it is opposite to her ability to live in the moment. For me booking a holiday is rare, I always see ‘the future’ as the suitable time to do those nicer things wanting to get more time behind me to earn the right to holiday first.
For her booking a holiday can be done minutes after voicing the desire to visit said place.
Now currently I am having a nice long 9 week break from cigarettes and alcohol, this could well become a lot longer but it has been firmly established I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I really enjoy drink but I easily slip into bad habits and spend every weekend available nursing a hangover.
Sitting in a nice cafe on a Saturday day with my anonymous friend I couldn’t help but share my appreciation of a non-hungover day. I have said this a bit too often in her presence and coupled with what I believe is a mild concern of hers that I could slip into old habits she used some of her counsellor powers to explore my drinking habits.
‘You have to look at what you enjoy about alcohol’
Saying the first things that came to mind I came up with:
On a hangover I feel terrible, physically not great and mentally awful. There will be a moment where I feel ashamed of the time wasted, so many bad things you read in the news, so much suffering in this world, terrifying countries. I live in the privileged percentile. I am pretty damn free in my country, we are not oppressed or living within a police state, the negative list is vast but you get the picture. My issue is I am privileged yet I am wasting my life , wasting the opportunity I have been given.
There is the guilt which couples nicely with my tendency to leave things till later , the delayed gratification , leaving nice things till later. Basically because I am undeserving.
Why mention all this? Well, something I had revealed to my companion a while back was that I had lost my Brother when I was 2 years old. He was tiny, only a couple months old himself when he passed away , it was obviously devastating for my parents but I honestly remember nothing of it.
Apparently something that dramatic at that age can have a significant impact. A young child can feel a guilt for what has happened, feel to blame for the events playing out around them. There is a possibility they grow into adults who feel they don’t really deserve to do some of those luxury things like holidays,maybe even feeling a heavy guilt when they have wasted their time hungover, wasting their life, the one they were given when others had theirs taken away so young.
It’s just a thought.
It is just as likely the reasons are far more plain, but I did find it interesting to explore these behaviours and consider the possibilities. After all we are pretty complex monkeys!
Another year and another set of resolutions and this year I intend to get a lot done , more than previous years, way more. I won’t necessarily call these tasks resolutions because I feel they are that important why add the constraint, but starting them at the beginning of the year feels comfortable and makes tracking progress easier.
This is going to be the year of completing those things I’ve meant to do for a long time and getting the healthiest I have ever been, smarter and sharper is the end goal.
From physical improvement to inward consideration. This year I want to get more into meditation.
It just feels like a good thing to do. From reading books to listening to podcasts anything that can improve general mental well-being is no bad thing and the more people I have met over the years who are reassuringly normal and into this scene adds to my confidence that time invested in this far eastern concept is not time wasted.
Moving from the mind back to the body I want to get active doing more jogging this year, I need to get more cardio done to ward off years of evil smoking and feel it’s a cheap and possibly social activity with several free running clubs in my area.
On top of the jogging I want to get super fit from boxing training. I feel the noble sport is one lineage of martial arts that requires a very high level of fitness, more so than a plethora of styles, one I would like to attain. Of course I don’t mean the fitness of a professional boxer as I simply won’t have the time, but I want to get to a level when I can keep up with the gruelling 60 minute high intensity cardio of a decent local boxing class nearby.
This year I want to continue with martial arts training but am less concerned with belts. I just don’t want the unnecessary concerns of training to deadlines, it’s not for me, I have other interests and don’t wish to clog my head with desires for the next colored sash or belt. I would like to aim to improve in skill but gradings , etc , no thanks.
Back to the mind and I want to explore NLP and Mnemonics , I am not going to really go on about these disciplines now but they are subjects I have longed to study further to help improve mental acuity and help forge a career from my childhood dream….but I am not going to tell you what that is yet and yes it is legal and normal and I will be telling you soon because it will happen!
I haven’t really got milestones in place as yet but will create them as each day/month or week passes.
Actually , slight lie, I currently have one and that is to be able to re-see my ab muscles after burning off the over-indulgence of christmas by the end of January.
Oh! And I am also off cigarettes and alcohol for 9 weeks (hence the title), nearly past the 2nd week mark come Wednesday next week and really feeling good for it.
So, I am going to be doing (and subsequently blogging about) the following and much more besides to make this a really good year for me and those around me:
- More travel either in this country ( the UK ) or abroad
- Learn how to meditate
- Explore more on the subject of NLP / Mnemonics
- Thai boxing
- Jog / run / free run / parkour
- Try other martial arts
- More boxing training
- Improve that memory
- Learn another language
- Achieve childhood dream ( future blog )
- Make chocolate / coffee stout (Always wanted to)
- Make more pickle ( I like cooking )
That’s it for now, it feels positive, exciting and achievable to list those things and I fully intend to finish the year writing another blog post where I can list each item as an achievement and not a neglected failure. It will all happen!
Warning: If your family then please don’t read this!
Making Christmas gifts has been quite a lot more hassle than I originally anticipated. I felt quite confident I was in the home stretch as I completed a spicy beetroot/apple chutney and 2 bottles of vodka chilli at the beginning of the month. But there has been a handful of gifts remaining and buying the ingredients , acquiring decent jars , preparing , cooking and washing-up all adds up.
Has been inspiring though.
Normally I’d not spend too long on wrapping because it’s only going to last seconds and you can chuckle at your inability to wrap as the recipient tears it off , but how you do something is how you do everything and having spent that little bit more time and care to get things close to perfect means I am more inspired to get other things done well , be it other meals or assignments both for work and personal.
I spent a good 10 minutes today scrubbing away at those vodka bottles to remove their labels after siphoning out the original chilli fruit and seeds and adding a fresh de-seeded Jalapeño chilli for appearance. They look miles better , proper quality and I feel pretty smug about it. I didn’t entirely need to but its the extra touch that really matters.
Sitting in the fridge are also two new jars crammed with Florentine butter. A luscious combination of butter, muscovado sugar , brandy , flaked almonds , sultanas , mixed crystallised peels, sunflower seeds and glace cherries. It is going to be stunning and I am glad for that hour or so spent in the shops 7pm after work seeking out the simple ingredients and preserving jars.
It is quite surprising how long it’s all taken , having started all this at the beginning of the month I now appreciate how long things take. It’s a case of cracking on and getting the shopping done when your free rather than putting it off for another day, which I very nearly did.
I still have one more gift to make and that’s for my Mum. Having already acquired a really snazzy stout for her I still need to make something special and knowing she likes fruit and nut chocolate bars I’ll be creating something similar….better.
Although I have 4 days left I am going for drinks and meeting people within that time and one of those days is also the day I travel, without proper planning I am lucky I got the other gifts done instead of thinking naively I’d get everything done in on the 21st. Its’s also given the other gifts time to blend together and taste so much better.
Nearly there, making the gifts has been quite a lot more hassle, a fair amount of money still ( although me and my housemate have been appreciating by-products from this such as a healthy amount of Brandy left to drink ) but it’s felt much much better than the alternative of racing round shops and on-line stores waiting for inspiration to load in my browser.
Disclaimer: If you’re family read no further.
So operation Christmas is under-way, my problem with that is the wording. Christmas shouldn’t seem like a burden but I get a little overwhelmed with the commercial bombardment of tailored ads all with added jingly bells and snow.
Christmas is about family but it can feel like we’re also sharing time with those giant retailers reminding us to part with our cash at one of their many national outlets.
This year has felt different and a little less tiring. Normally this far into the month I’d still be unsure of what gifts to get. By months end I’d find myself darting around shops the day before the journey to my home town. Inwardly scowling at myself considering I’d had 11 months notice to get this shopping sorted.
I think part of this is a great dislike for shopping.
This year is definitely different because I have already cracked on and got 1 gift sorted and 2 are on their way.
My decision to make my presents is a simple one , but almost brings the true magic back to my Christmas (minus santa….who is real of course!). When I was really young and money was unknown Christmas was amazing, giving was just as good if not a little better than receiving. I’d love making that simple little macaroni picture for my Mum/Dad and seeing their reaction as I handed it over.
So far making my gifts has actually been more effort than picking up gifts in the shop , which I guess is a no brainer, except it hasn’t felt like it. Making things is good, a weak sounding sentence, but its true and for all the planning and preparation not a wisper of it has felt like a bind.
A nice homely lever action preserving jar has a warming concoction of beetroot , apple, orange, cloves, red wine vinegar , cinnamon, coriander and mustard gently blending together waiting to be handed out Christmas day and used with a chunk of nice cheddar on crusty bread.
Nearby that are two medium bottles of vodka, the clear liquids forming a green tinge as the jalapeño chilli I added is slowly colouring and more importantly flavouring the liquor.
My sense of well being is a lot higher than it would be from purchasing goods directly from stores. By making these gifts I have a sense of pride and can make something way more tailored to each individual.
Cost wise I’m finding the price is creeping up a bit, but not significantly and it’s going to be easier to give everyone a gift that costs the same. Not wanting to mention cost too much, but it is a factor.
3 down 5 to go!
Disclaimer – If you’re family then don’t read this.
I intend to make all my Christmas gifts this year. Not MINE. But the gifts I’ll be giving out to family and friends.
There are a couple reasons.
One is to avoid the ghost of my Christmas pasts, a hurried looking apparition, ill-prepared, haggard from the last minute shopping.
Two, I am struggling to think of meaningful gifts right now ( would love to have got one of those raspberry pi computers for my youngest brother but that would take months!) , so I reckon I should make gifts so I can get closer to personalised items rather than the same old DVDs and bath salts.
Three, a part of me wants to avoid handing out (more) money to large corporations that really only give a toss about profit over anything else.
Four, people used to get an orange and be thankful, an orange!
No real point actually, just find it mad how it’s all changed so much.
Now point three is a toughie. Firstly corporations are obviously about making money but they need this to stay ‘alive’ employing the many thousands that they do in-house and of course through manufacture and distribution. A percentage of the people running the show will be evil (lack empathy if you want to be realistic) but the majority won’t be or at least will have lessened levels of evil within themselves.
So corporations aren’t really on my list of reasons to make my gifts, but it will be nice not having to zip round shelves in a department store looking for inspiration for my gift purchases. In a way the shops tell me what to buy with what they stock and the price they put on each item.
Anyway let’s forget them for now this is about Christmas.
So, reasons given. Now I may have made the whole present manufacture sound more skilful than it really is. What I am talking about is rolling my sleeves up in the kitchen slicing things, infusing, blending and generally creating tasty stuff and putting it in fancy jars.
For example , flavoured vodka (chilli for my bros) some decadent chocolate cookies or spreads and really British sounding pickles. The kind of stuff you’d break into a note to purchase as a single item.
I might even make labels with some calligraphy on them to really add to the quality.
So far my inspiration has come from the BBC http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/recipes/christmas/christmas-gifts/ (yes a corporation!). I have been on the lookout for other ideas but that particular site has some really tantalising suggestions.
OK I’ll probably print the calligraphy from a computer.
Excitement aside and I am excited about this there is some reality to investigate. These things I choose to make could really start to wrack up in cost, like fancy liqueurs, if I’m not careful. Also santa will be delivering my family’s presents via a mainline train and a rucksack this year as he still hasn’t acquired a driving license so he’ll have to be mindful of all those kilo jars and bottles.
Still, I reckon this will be a cool little venture.
The devilled egg, a cleverly named cooking academy found in a sleepy Clifton neighbourhood played the perfect host to the unearthed foods supper-club, purveyors of quality ingredient sourcing their wares from an ever expanding list of global food producers.
The night kicked off with a healthy mingle as people arrived in from the cold , our efforts rewarded by a comforting spiced rum and somerset cider cocktail to warm the cockles. Several trays of ‘nibbles’ were circulating the room laden with ‘Unearthed Prosciutto and gorgonzola cheese straws’, ‘Unearthed tarte flambee’ and ‘Honeyed unearthed chorizo’. The first 2 appetisers were nice but The Honey glazed chorizo really pandered to some primal senses,those sweet & smokey meaty morsels were undeniably moreish.
Unearthed are pretty passionate about food it must be said. They started out their range at waitrose selling olives in 2008, their core idealogy is to source out the more exotic ingredients from the far reaches which can mean conducting business in Mafia run Calabria,Italy or poverty stricken Haiti.
They also have a charitable aspect to their business and for every one of their packs of food they sell they will give 1 pence to Action Against Hunger because in their own words “not everyone gets to enjoy food as much as we do”.
The prawns were light to the bite and a nice garlic infusion. A beautifully crispy breaded kiev shaped rice parcel accompanied this dish The red harrisa added a nice flavoursome heat, the sliced macadamia dip was lovely , a creamy sauce given added bite by some sliced nuts.
The main course led to another little introductory talk. Iberico pork ,we were informed, is closer to a boar leading to a different taste and a texture more like beef steak. ‘You might find it served rare but don’t worry’ our host Simon told us.
It came neatly housed in a wellington pastry which had soaked in some of the meat’s flavour especially from the Calabrian Nduja which tastes pretty much as you’d hope a spreadable spiced pork would. This was ‘the’ sausage roll!
The red cabbage really brought out the flavours spectacularly, the acompanying veg cooked perfectly. I honestly don’t remember the carrots, the artichoke mash a nice delivery.
The dessert was really sweet , sickly sweet but I couldn’t stop eating it. It had a nice chai tea flavour, to me it really made this a festive dessert especially with the ice cold interior. This dessert could transport to a wintery christmas village as easily as a hot Indian summers evening.
Afterward the air had a pleasant caramel/vanilla scent to it.
Meal finished and a pleasant atmosphere lingered with conversation in flow.
On the walk home with some food bloggers I think we were in agreement that the cost of £45 was pretty fair. For a meal of that quality ingredient and preparation it would leave you more than satisfied.
The meal was good but I think the dining experience could be improved by a bit more moody atmosphere, lower lighting. The lights were crystal bright and the music was a little too easy to dismiss.
I honestly prefer the homely feel of somewhere like the Bishopston supper club , which I think the devilled egg would struggle to recreate due to the nature of the place and the layout. It was a nice experience and one I would happily repeat. I do think the unearthed supper club will fit in nicely into the cultural and social landscape of Clifton.