Downshifting: How I’m Learning To Love Tap Water

Almost three weeks ago I wrote that I feared I was about to be fired. In the end I wasn’t but I have ended up in the same place by resigning. The whys and wherefores are a case of “he said, she said” and, while enlightening and a learning experience for me, they will to you be just another sob story. Suffice it to say that when one door shuts another opens and although I don’t have a new job, a few projects that were stuck at GO in my mind have now rushed mightily to the fore.

Over time I have gotten older only to look wistfully over the shoulder at all the things I could have done but didn’t. There were some good ‘uns, as they say, but still I wasted so much time and sadly, spent time is the one thing no human can ever buy back (along with youth). Life, I now understand, is really not a rehearsal and I better shoot for the stars now (not tomorrow) or stay the frustrated and silent nonentity forever. So here’s to pursuing my startup project and the great novel.

[PAUSE] However, however … being also a realist I fully acknowledge that dreams and action plans don’t pay bills or procure food; and so absent the regular pay check my lifestyle will have to undergo a substantial downshifting. The Top 10 quick wins that come to mind are:

  1. Eating out: I wasn’t doing a lot of it but the occasional Michelin star and the more frequent “good food, price irrelevant” mantra will have to be exchanged for a copy of Cheap Eats and lots of home cooking.
  2. Wine: Every fortnight at £30-40 a pop will have to go. In comes once a month at the “good value” end of “outstanding”.
  3. Clothes: Just as well I didn’t buy that expensive new suit. What I have now will just have to do. Designer underwear? Pffft!
  4. Perfumes: £80 for a 50ml bottle is great when one is comfortably above the poverty line (with no kids) but not when on the breadline.
  5. Hair: I’ve got dreads which needed maintenance every four weeks to look sharp. Now, every six weeks.
  6. Books: I buy an enormous amount of the stuff. With a couple hundred or more still unread and lying about I think I’ll be OK for a good while.
  7. Holidays: Nice hotels, nice places, cocktails, nice bills … bye, bye.
  8. Coffee: Tough one this ’cause I love the well made £2.50/cup variety. I carry around with me the London Coffee Guide. Well, no more 3-4 at weekends and cutting down to 1-2. It’s about time I got full value out of that Nespresso machine in the kitchen.
  9. […. buffering …… still thinking…..]
  10. Water: I heard on TV (so it must be true) many moons ago that London water has been filtered multiple times through sewage or something equally distasteful. After that I switched to bottled water but since I hate paying for still water I took to sparkling, particularly San Pellegrino (yeah, only the best). Back, back, back to tap, tap, tap. Tap is not that bad tasting after all!
Musings, Politics

The Iron Lady’s Not (Re)Turning

It’s been said that only psychopaths can be leaders. Now that The Iron Lady is dead many are gambolling on her grave singing: “The witch is dead, ding dong, the witch is dead”. I hated some of her politics but she did revitalize Britain at a time when the country was going to seed. She was a tough girl and you had to be to get to where she did. This is her comment in 1969: “No woman in my time will be prime minister or foreign secretary.”

Ten years later she was Prime Minister. Funny how times change or in her words: “It’s a funny old world.” What a perfect illustration of how our tendency as humans to extrapolate and project current conditions is seriously defective. Who would have thought that a negro would be Preseident of the United States less than fifty years post Martin Luther King proclaiming that he had a dream? Who could have thought it would take only five years from the death of Emily Dickinson in 1913 to women being given the vote in Britain? And how long ago was homosexuality a crime in the West and now we are talking gay marriage? Quoting MLK again: “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”. Perhaps the moral here is not to give up on a worthwhile venture even when the probability of achieveing it looks like zero from where one is standing. Amen.

There was a toughness to Baroness Thatcher (otherwise she wouldn’t have earned the moniker The Iron Lady). One quote signified this perfectly:

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

Indeed the one memorable time she turned was when she introduced a divisive tax (the poll tax) that set off riots on the streets and also the chain of events that eventually led to men in dark suits knocking on her door. She met their demand that she step down after unconvincinly winning a vote of confidence with a characteristically defiant “I fight on, I fight to win. She resigned the next day. Her quest was over.

Anyway back to psychopaths …. there was also a mean streak to Thatcher. Two quotes epitomise her schizophrenia:

“I don’t mind how much my ministers talk, as long as they do what I say.” (1980)
“It was treachery with a smile on its face. Perhaps that was the worst thing of all.” (1993 after she was gone).

What did she expect after treating people like fodder?

BTW: all Thatcher quotes above from the BBC website


Culture, Musings

If It’s Magic

If it’s magic…
Then why can’t it be everlasting
Like the sun that always shines
Like the poet’s endless rhyme
Like the galaxies in time

If it’s pleasing…
Then why can’t it be never leaving
Like the day that never fails
Like on seashores there are shells
Like the time that always tells

It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst

If it’s special
Then with it why aren’t we as careful
As making sure we dress in style
Posing pictures with a smile
Keeping danger from a child

If it’s magic…
Why can’t we make it everlasting
Like the lifetime of the sun
It will leave no heart undone
For there’s enough for everyone

– Lyrics by Stevie Wonder


Smart Ass, Dumb Ass

It’s clear then that there are three kinds of people in the world. Smart asses: they really get it, really fast; can spot life’s lacunae and opportunities in split seconds; have read The Fountainhead; boastful and deluded heroes; leap into frays without cause causing wars, smashing obstacles, stepping over people, making money, grabbing power and feeling really smug about it. Next up are Dumb asses: they don’t get it except “it” fits on their prix fixe menu of preconceptions and prejudices; read nothing; always banging on about tradition; the “I am what I am and bricks and stones can’t shift me” sort and really smug about it. Finally there are Us people: the ones whose brains objectively ping-pong conflicting ideas and decisions between outcomes and consequences for what seems like eternity. By the time Us people have taken their best courses of action the Smart people have already moved leaving Us people to clean up the mess. And that, people, makes me mad.