In The Blink of an Eye

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it

and so quickly if you are aware of it.”    

Marc Bolan

Wow, talk about blinking and missing it. It’s May already and having missed the last few monthly updates, there’s a LOT to catch up with. It looks even worse than the November/December update! Unfortunately the reason for the lack of posting is valid, but that’s all there is to be said of it. I haven’t been slacking…


January 2018

Goals

  • Flotation Tank
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming: Malta
  • Begin new training
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

Summary of the Month

The flotation experience was the first I had ever had and I loved it. If my expectations were speckled with a dusting of ‘oh, this is going to be a bunch of new age mumbo jumbo’, that limited oversight was dispelled pretty quickly. I visited the London Floatation Centre over on the Isle of Dogs which took me around 45 minutes to reach and a little bit of exploring once out of the station. But I found it quickly enough and hung out in the waiting room for the 20 minutes or so before my session, chatting with the guy on reception and a fellow floater.

First though, here’s a brief overview of what a floating experience is all about:

  • The tank itself is filled with a dense combination of water and 525kg of magnesium rich Epsom-salts. At 25cm deep, the ratio of salt to water is very high and slightly greasy to the touch.
  • The temperature of the salty solution is raised to skin temperature (35.5°C) and the environment inside the tank, when the lid is closed, also matches that of skin temperature. This creates the odd sensation of not actually being able to really feel the water or the air: everything is in sync with the body.
  • The salty solution also means that you’ll float: helplessly so. The body naturally sinks into the kind of position it would be should it be reclined on an arm chair. Except…there’s no chair!

Once the pod had been prepared, I was given a brief tour and explanation of the following 60 minutes before being left alone in the dimly lit room. I showered, to rinse myself of dirt and ‘impurities’, but of course, being someone with the biological disposition to take a long time a-washin’, took around 7 minutes to do so.

I took too long….

Now, the interesting thing about floating is that the experience is pretty much set to a schedule. Once the doors to the room are shut, the process works like this:

  • Person showers and gets in the pod, closing the lid behind them
  • Room lights go out completely so as to contribute to the sensory deprivation (can’t be running the risk of light sneaking into the pod and diluting the experience)
  • Inside the pod, sensory lights swirl and tinkle whilst you get into position and slowly begin to relax. Nature sounds play too.
  • Lights and sound are shut off and the world is black and silent.
  • The float experience, for real, commences.

Obviously, having taken longer than was typical to wash I ended up showering in the dark and shuffling towards the low glow of the pod. But. once I was in the magic began. As I bobbed around, helpless against the might of the dense water, my body relaxed and as it settled in its weightlessness various joints cracked back into their natural positions and a ridiculous sense of peace washed over me. The fact that I could not see anything, hear anything but the invisible swish and swoosh of water, feel anything (the water and pod both matched body temperature perfectly), taste anything (‘water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink…’) or really smell all that much (maybe there was a slight whiff of saltiness, maybe…) really did confuse my brain as to whether I was awake, asleep or somewhere dreamily in between. Time passed both slowly and quickly and by the time the dim lights switched back on and the gentle chirrup of birdsong drifted from the sound system I knew one thing: I’d never felt so restored and relaxed. This, I decided, has to be experienced as much as possible.

This month is also Vita’s birthday month and so I booked us a weekend break to Malta – a country that I’d long heard about from my mum who had lived there some years ago, but had never taken the opportunity to visit it. Until now.

The thing about Malta is that it is as if the retiring population of the UK, for any given year, had all decided to up sticks and relocate with the following agenda:

  1. no foreign languages
  2. driving on the left-hand side of the road
  3. lots of sun
  4. in fact, I just want the UK with more sun…

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Arriving there, it was quite surreal in that so many people spoke with such thick British accents. Cockney? Check. Scouse? Check. Brummie? Yup. Once the novelty of this wore off [pretty quickly] it was easy to see why Malta is such an attractive option for so many – it really is like a laid-back Britain in the sun. It’s also very small, so upon making the final descent it’s not unreasonable to make out the entire island, coast to coast. So, we spent our time exploring the island, hoping over to Gozo and generally having fun. The hotel even had access to an offsite pool which was cosey.

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Making posts…Ok, we’ll keep this short: posting this month has been a non-starter. There, I said it. Posting took a backseat.

Though I had initially thought it would be fun to give my gratitude to Tim Ferris, the hero I actually contacted was Anna Hart, and the reason for this is that I wanted to increase my likelihood of interaction. And she replied pretty quickly. At the time of emailing she was on the cusp of releasing her book, Departures, and I was keen to talk with her about it. Unfortunately, despite the conversation going well and a seemingly agreeable idea to meet for a coffee to talk about the journey of becoming a writer, the line went dead. Nevertheless, I remain an admirer of her work and hope the book has sold well.

The other thing about this month is with regards to training. One of the goals for this year is to run several races [see below] so in preparation for them I needed to begin incorporating more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation (I’m looking at you Nordic Race). The training has incrementally increased the incorporation of each of these elements – the biggest test regarding the hardest part (cold water, yikes!) recently happened in Baden Baden, so I feel confident that the body is becoming a little more acclimatised to it. But that’s the thing with training – it’s ever present and never ending.


February 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton
  2. Hero: Michael Booth
  3. Swimming: London x 2
  4. Books:
    1. Spies – Michael Frayn
    2. Gone – Michael Grant
  5. Other:
    1. Sunrise yoga at the shard
    2. Hammilton
    3. Snow!
  6. Blog Posts: none

Summary of the Month

No big travels this week, just a nice little jaunt back home for a long weekend and a bit of reading, which was built around the English lessons I deliver. Spies is a typical school text which I always think, in a way, is a shame because being made to read a book doesn’t often do much for one’s appreciation of it. Spies is a great read concerning an old man’s memories of his life a child during WW2 and deals a lot with memory and the perception of it. Gone, on the other hand, is firmly a YA thriller set in a world where everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving the kids to figure out what on earth has happened. It’s a bit Lord of the Flies meets The Maze Runner. It’s a fun read even if it does happen to be a bit forgettable.

And speaking of books, Michael Booth has been an author I’ve long admired, in particular for his book Sushi and Beyond – a charming account of a trip through Japan with a focus on its culinary offerings. As a long-time Japanophile it was the first book of its kind that I’d read about the country so it also has a bit of a sentimental value to it too. I reached out to him after noticing he’d followed it up, almost a decade later, with The Meaning of Rice and I wanted to talk with him about it. Michael and I exchanged a few nice emails and I came away with the opinion that he really is a decent, down to earth guy with a talent and curiosity that both inspires and educates me.

This month was also good for theatre because, having waited for over a year, the day finally arrived for our showing of Hammilton and boy, did it deliver. Ever since first hearing about it, loving the video of Lin-Manuel Miranda delivering a knock out performance of The Hammilton Mixtape at the White House Poetry Jam 2009 and being knocked over by the incredible soundtrack, and then waiting the 14 months since buying the tickets for the London show, I’d been expecting something special and cautiously apprehensive about it too. After all, it’s not everyday something truly deserves its hype. But, Hammilton does. Everything about it was worked to precision and seeing the soundtrack performed (the entire performance is set to music; all spoken words are lyrics) was a transformative experience. Needless to say, the soundtrack has been worn out this month.

It was also Valentines this month and for it, Vita had arranged a surprise treat: sunrise yoga up at the Shard. Somehow we’d managed to get incredibly lucky: not only was the teacher great and the location within easy walking distance, the weather was so perfect, and the room so well positioned, that watching the sun rise on London was a bit distracting!

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And, of course, this month also brought the snow! I do love a good bit of snow every once in a while 🙂

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March 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Whitstable, Broadstairs and Canterbury
  2. Hero: Amelia Allen
  3. Swimming: no swimming!
  4. Books:
    1. The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge – Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns
  5. Other: Complete first assigned sporting event of the year: March 24th, Tough Mudder @ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Tough Mudder

Summary of the Month

The weather had started to warm up this month, at least sporadically, and so being able to start the year with a run in relative comfort was a real treat. I’ve posted about the run already but to summarise it here: far better than expected!

This month was also the last month of the film course I put together at Imperial College London and I really can’t believe how quickly it all went by. The Wednesday night sessions were always one of the main highlights of the week and it was sad to have to wrap things up for the year. Everyone who attended the classes really helped to make the 2 hour sessions enjoyable and I feel lucky to have had such a great group of people to work with every week. Delivering the course offered me a lot of new perspectives and I’m pretty sure it was me who ultimately ended up learning the most! A teacher can deliver the material but it takes a class to transform the experience. My thanks and gratitude are forever theirs.

The book reading this month was a little slower (in part due to that issue alluded to at the top) than I intended and I managed to only get through two: The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. The book was chosen as a matter of inspiration and proved to be very helpful in further shaping some of my own ideas and whilst it is not particularly a fun read, it is highly visual with a sharp, clean geometric layout. Maybe that sounds boring…

This month I also achieved a 2x bodyweight deadlift with a 160kg single repetition. See here. Not fantastic form but an acceptable PB nonetheless.

This month’s hero, Amelia Allen, is a local photographer who came to my attention after a few pieces about her work hit the headlines and I wanted to reach out to her regarding it. Her work dealt with the perception of public nudity within British culture but it was the fact that it was garnering so much attention that interested me. Amelia’s work is tastefully shot and compiled with grace, respect and intimacy. I did, however, see that the media had latched on to a quality that placed her work second: content. Nudity in the UK is subject to endless association with sex and titilation so a relatively high profile project about a rarely exposed element of British culture was bound to be note worthy for the media. Amelia had tackled the spotlight well and she was equally gracious enough to make a few email exchanges with me. Her work can be found here.

The final note to be made about this month is with regards to the trip to the south east with Vita and her aunt, Lina. It was the last weekend that Lina would be in London with us after spending a couple of months her, brushing up her English and getting familiar with London. I’d suggested we explore a more quiet corner of England and Broadstairs, Canterbury and Whitstable, to my mind at least, seemed to tick a lot of boxes. So we started early and started north, working south before looping back up to London at the end of the day. We drank coffee in the picturesque town of Whitstable, took afternoon tea in the cosiest of Canterbury’s tea rooms and enjoyed a fish dinner on the Broadstairs coast. And between it all we explored the towns, each distinctly their own, and experienced an utterly joyous Sunday.

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April 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton, Vilnius, Baden-Baden
  2. Hero: Mark Manson
  3. Swimming: Baden Baden x2
  4. Books:
    1. Armada – Ernest Cline
    2. You Were Never Really Here – Jonathan Ames
    3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!K – Mark Manson
  5. Other: Circus School – Acrobalance Level 2, TedxLondonSalon
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Baden Baden
    2. Social Nudity and the Germans

Summary of the Month

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April was an interesting month for it’s variety and was also particularly fun for the travel opportunities that it brought about. I’ve written about Germany in a couple of posts but there was also a wonderful trip to Lithuania and an extended weekend stay back home with the parents.

Lithuania has certainly become a home away from home and so whenever I go back now it always feels a little bit like going home. This time, alongside the various things that had to be done, we trundled over to Druskininkai for night, fired up the BBQ, saw friends, saw family, went for lovely spring walks and I even got my hair cut. I know, big deal.

Being in Lithuania also meant that we had to skip out on this year’s London Coffee Festival although earlier this week I did get to be a lot more hands on and behind the scenes at a genuine coffee roastery.

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More about that in the next update though.

This month Vita surprised me with a ticket to TedxLondonSalon where the theme was ‘Tales From the Unexpected’. TED, for the uninitiated, is a fantastic organisation concerning ‘ideas worth spreading’ and the TedXLondonSalon event is one of the many locally curated opportunities to see such inspired presentations first hand. This one was held at the Piccadilly Theatre and had talks from:

  1. DR JULES MONTAGUE Consultant neurologist, author, journalist and storyteller
  2. KAJAL ODEDRA UK Director at Change.org, STEM leader, creative writer and bookworm
  3. SHOSHANA GOLDHILL AND FARAJ ALNASSER Family lawyer, mother and change maker; student, refugee and eternal optimist
  4. DR DARREN SCHREIBER Neuroscientist, lawyer, politics lecturer and rock climber
  5. ADAM ALL Singer, dancer and Drag King extraordinaire

Only realising where we were going as we exited Piccadilly Station, I did not do any background reading regarding any of the guests and so had the benefit of taking everyone at face value. All of the speakers offered insightful perspectives, ranging from dealing with Dementia (Dr. Jules), escaping a life as a refugee (Shosana and Faraj) and how the brain is hardwired for politics (Dr. Darren) but the most impressive story, for me, was from Adam All. I’ll leave it up to you to do a little research but I’ll say this: wonderful, honest talk about identity and sexuality. The organisers had also struck relationships with several book publishers and so were able to offer 1 of 14 different books to every attendee, which I thought was a nice touch, and I received David Adam’s The Genius Within. It’s on the ‘to read’ shelf.

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See if you can spot us, twice, in the highlights video.

The books this month were comprised of 2 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Ernest Cline’s Armada was a considerable let down following the joyride of his previous book, Ready Player One (a title I read on first release so have been able to follow its rise from cult favourite to mainstream behemoth, as well as the development of Spielberg’s fantastic adaptation, from the get-go) and ended up being the first book I refused to waste my time on for quite a while. Admittedly I began by listening to Will Wheaton’s audiobook and felt very uncomfortable with his style immediately. Perhaps I couldn’t shake his presentation and still somehow connected it to the book even when I was reading it for myself, but maybe not. I found the story inconsequential, uninvolving and ultimately very forgetful and I think this is a result of trying to bottle the magic of RPO. Unfortunately the story of a gamer-geek recruited into a real-life version of a computer game is built on a foundation of incredibly niche gaming references and whilst the abundance of pop culture references in RPO was undoubtedly that book’s USP it’s quite the opposite here.

Jonathan Ames’ You Were Never Really Here, on the other hand, is a fantastically lean, muscular thriller much in the vein of Taxi Driver, should it have been crossed with James Sallis’s Drive. It’s a novella concerning a war vet who has built a reputable career of returning kidnapped victims safely home. He’s slightly unhinged, clearly suffering from PTSD and completely at home dishing out all manner of violence when necessary but is driven by a fundamental clarity of vision and a belief in the virtue of his life’s mission. Lynn Ramsay turned this one into an equally muscular film starring Joaquin Phoenix last year. After the let down of Armada, this one was a relief.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!k, Mark Manson’s boldly titled ‘contemplation of how to live a good life’ is one part a genius piece of marketing and another part actually worthwhile treatise on 21st century, western attitudes to life. Manson has built a very solid reputation for himself through his witty, often intelligent blogging and the book is, by and large, more of the same: if you like the blog, you’ll probably like the book. Here, he argues that we all care too much about the wrong things and that ultimately in order to be truly content and happy we need to reconfigure our mindset to focus of the important things in life and not all the bullshit the media heaps on us every waking second. It’s the kind of book you can read cover to cover one sunny afternoon as you lounge about in the sun or, if you like a bit of attention when you’re riding that tube to work, dip in and out of it during your commute: it’s a bright orange-covered book with a gregarious title… Mark’s also won the coveted prize of being this month’s hero.

This month also saw a return to the National Centre for Circus Arts for the second level of Acrobalance and, so far, the few lessons have been a ridiculous amount of fun. Turning up each week to do some sort of climbing, rolling, inversion and/or acroyoga really enjoyable. The thing about this circus-y stuff is not that it’s ‘circus’ but the reconnection it develops between mind and body and the child-like appreciation for them both. It fosters a deep respect for simple pleasures and unashamedly reminds and encourages us to leave pretensions at the door. This kind of physical activity is also incredibly good for functional fitness and core strength, flexibility and generally building a more complete awareness of one’s own body.

Overall, a cool month with a number of highlights.


Looking Forwards

May 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Denmark
  2. Hero: Mark Cousins
  3. Swimming: London x2
  4. Books:
    1. Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
    2. Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors
    3. Christopher Ross – Mishima’s Sword
  5. Other: Nordic Race
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Nordic Race

Sporting Events

May

  1. Red Bull 400
    1. Finland: May 12
    2. Not applicable. This race sold out way before I had a chance to sign up.
  2. Nordic Race
    1. Copenhagen. 19 May. £70. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Vitality Westminster Mile
    1. London. 27 May. £8. 1mile.
  4. Vitality London 10k
    1. London. 28 May. £35. 10KM.

July

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park Monthly 10k
    1. London. 7 July. £18. 10KM.
  2. Colour Run
    1. London. 8 July. £23. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Spartan Race
    1. Market Harborough. 15 July. £79. 5KM.

This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

2 Replies to “In The Blink of an Eye”

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