New Year’s Resolutions – an update on my so called progress.

As much as I was keen to avoid them, I still found myself considering making resolutions as 2022 approached. It’s not a time of year that I like and – although I always end up making some – I never truly buy into the idea of making a brand new start. Essentially, the difference between one year and another is just a day.

So at first I was content to settle for a token three. You know the kind of things: eat healthier, exercise…give up wearing women’s underwear on a Friday, something along those lines. But the more I thought of it, the more I added, until I had nice round 30 resolutions bullet pointed on a piece of A4. So, in order to commit myself a bit, I wrote a blog at the start of the year. It’s on the link below.

2022: Letters, a gammy toe and a fake adopted cat. My New Year’s Resolutions.

Now that we’re a couple of months on, I thought I’d write an update on my progress. So, here we go.

I’d resolved to make sure that I updated you, dear reader, on my resolutions. Thus, this blog represents a big fat tick on my list, which is nice.

In terms of the order of the list though, let’s start with a package deal on my first two resolutions. Learn to moonwalk and start writing my YA novel and my Christmas story. Literally nothing done here. I figure that there’s plenty time with both though. My YA novel is in fact started, but it’s handwritten in a notebook. My Christmas story is still some bullet points that may just be on a scrap of paper…somewhere. Moonwalking will have to wait, maybe until I find that scrap of paper with my story on!

The next resolution was to research and eat more healthy foods and I’m pleased to say that there has been enormous progress made here. Well, I’ve favourited several more healthy recipes on the BBC website, cooked myself a simple fresh pasta sauce (once) and started eating cranberries after a run. So huge might have been a lie. But it’s progress all the same and I’m sure it’ll get better.

My next resolution was to try and be a better son, husband, dad and brother. Soppy, cliched, difficult to quantify. As it goes, I think I’m making progress here. I’ve phoned my mam and dad several times since the turn of the year and as I write, we’ll be seeing them in a couple of days. I even sent my mam flowers on her birthday. I’ve definitely spent more time with my kids, making the effort to pick them up from school on a few occasions and going out for walks despite work and shocking weather. I hope I’ve been a decent husband – my wife is very intelligent and yet still hasn’t walked out, so I must be able to take at least a bit of credit for this. And I’ve been in touch with my sister, although I’d have to admit that this is still limited to sending texts, so I could do a lot better.

In truth, I still haven’t figured out my next resolution which just read ‘modify my Duolingo use’. In short though, I’m on a streak of over 650 days, so I must be doing something that means progress here.

I’d decided to write more content about my work, teaching and my football club, Newcastle United. Well so far I’ve managed a couple of Newcastle related blogs, but nothing on teaching, although there was an idea in the pipeline and that will be getting written soon enough.

My resolution to stop buying crisps was going really well. And then my birthday struck. My lovely work friends, led by organiser-in-chief Laura, got me lots of presents and cake and one of my presents was four (count’em) family bags of crisps! I then discovered crisps that I thought I’d already eaten and worse still, bought another big family sized – as in it’s meant for sharing, not that it’s the size of a typical family – bag of tangy tomato ones today. So. I’ve pretty spectacularly fallen off the waggon with this one. This has also ruined my plans for my next resolution, which was to attempt to get a six pack…

Next I said I’d speak to more people. Again, difficult to quantify but again, if I’m honest, I think I’ve probably failed. I mean, I’ve literally no idea who these ‘more people’ even are!

My next two have also been failures. The first was to play more board games with my wife and this hasn’t happened…so maybe that be a better husband thing is a failure too! Then there was to mow the lawn more and put simply, it’s February and the weather has been appalling. The other day when I was in my garden water was coming up through the lawn as I walked on it. So there’s no chance it’s getting mowed!

Next I resolved to run more and enter more races. I’ve ran regularly, despite being poorly for a bit this year and I’ve already entered two races, with more planned. Safe to say that resolving to do something that I already do has been an unmitigated success!

Sadly, I’ve yet to adopt a fake cat named Fellatio Nelson, but I reckon that one’s pretty doable.

I said I’d make more videos – for teaching and for my own amusement – and as we head towards March nothing’s happened. Said videos are still very much just in my head. But, I have a week’s holiday on my own at Easter, so I will vow right here and now that I will make some videos then. I bet you can’t wait! Easter might also be the time when I make at least some headway with the next idea which was to start a podcast. Until my wife produces a list of jobs to fill my time and I get nothing done at all!

The next two of my resolutions involved what I’d laughingly refer to as my softer side and it comes as no surprise to me that both remain filed away in the space in my head reserved for ‘Good ideas that I’m unlikely to find the time for, even though I’ll clearly have the time’. I really do want to raise a big old amount of money for a charity and yet, going back over my resolutions in order to write this update was the first time I’d given it any thought. So, it’s going to take a gargantuan effort for me to make this happen. Similarly, the pen I was going to use in order to write more to the child that I sponsor in South America, is refusing to work on its own, meaning that this worthy resolution remains untouched. It’s still only February though folks…

And it’s ‘see above’ for the next few entries to my list too. I’ve made up no German phrases for various situations in order to tell people, ‘Oh, the Germans have a word for that’. Nor have I had my infected toe treated (it still doesn’t hurt and I haven’t turned green yet though. Maybe in November I’ll manage to limp to the doctor, just as it actually falls off). The Eurovision and Christmas songs also remain untouched and it’s becoming clear that I should have made my list of resolutions into a sign or signs to put up and maybe guilt myself into more action.

My next resolution was to begin noting down some of the things I heard at work. The idea here being that I had an idea for a book because I work in a school and kids constantly say silly or hilarious stuff. Now, I have actually started this…I just have no idea where the notebook is with the things I’d written down. Maybe I left it on my desk and a colleague is now writing a book. If you are and you’re reading this, could you give me an acknowledgement please? Something like, ‘I’d like to thank the careless knobhead who literally presented me with this idea’.

I’d resolved to learn new words and for the sake of this particular blog, I’m going to say that I have. Please don’t ask me what they are though.

I also said that I’d try to use the expression ‘Amuse bouche’ more as well as just making words up to use on people and amuse myself. Again – and there’s a theme emerging here that tells me that my start to the year has been a lot more sluggish than I’d previously imagined – nothing doing.

Given the previous few paragraphs, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am at the fact that I’ve made some progress with the next two resolutions. The first was to discover more new music. Now new meant both actually new and also stuff I’d heard of but never really listened to, in this case. And I’ve discovered both. In the wholly new section, I give you ‘Jenny and Johnny’ a duo with a terrible name for a band, and also ‘Dry Cleaning’. Check them both out, you won’t regret it. Furthermore though, I’ve been listening to some Minnie Riperton and I’d hardly ever done that before, making her some old new music I’ve explored. And, I know this isn’t music, but it is sound that I’ve explored, so I’d like to mention a podcast I’ve discovered via BBC Sounds, called Fairy Meadow. Again, I’d thoroughly recommend it and it also proves I’ve been a tiny bit successful with another of my resolutions.

For the last two though, we return to a familiar theme. The one of ‘Failure’. I can’t say, hand on heart, that I’ve stopped grumbling at people who happen to walk past me and I haven’t started my ‘Diary of a Middle Aged Singleton’ blog. However, it is still only February, so while I’m not going to look back and put a number on my failures, I am aware that the year still has a long way to go. I remain confident that my resolutions list will all be ticked off in good time, while also remaining utterly amazed that I can still type while crossing my fingers…

Anyway enough of this. Have you met my new rescue cat? His name? Ah, now you’re not going to believe this…

Winter Running – 5 Tips to make those chilly miles that little bit better.

It’s that time of year again. The weather is invariably freezing cold, the days aren’t as long and the nights are closing in, so that it’s getting dark by around 4pm. Add in the potential for rain, snow and high winds and this can be a challenging time in anyone’s calendar.

It’s also the time of year where all sorts of people make all sorts of vows about being better people in the future. Those resolutions, however, are never particularly binding and as we all probably know only too well, they’ll fall by the wayside with the least bit of encouragement.

Exercise at this time of year can be difficult. But unfortunately it’s also one of the things that people see as a good way of changing their lives. An easy win that, in Winter, can turn out not so easy after all. So, for runners and would be runners alike, I’ve written up what I think are some handy some tips for running at this time of year.

  1. Run early. Although Winter mornings can be ridiculously cold and utterly miserable, it’s always worth keeping an eye on the weather forecast. Every once in a while you’ll get an amazingly beautiful day; still, bright blue skies and a tolerable, bracing chill in the air. If you find one, set the alarm, roll out of bed, warm up and then get out and run. I think this type of morning is my favourite for running, especially in Winter. I’ll put on a base layer – maybe some running tights as well, if I think they’re needed – and after some warming up, sneak out of the house while everyone else sleeps and just run. It’ll be dark to start off with and as a result it can be quite an unnerving experience; the sight of anyone at all will put you on edge when it’s so dark. But the peace and quiet is just fantastic. Well worth the early start. It allows me just to focus on breathing, pace and whatever might be on my mind at the time. You’ll see the occasional dog walker or shift worker, but other than that, the world is your own. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll catch the sun rising. I can’t recommend an early morning Winter run enough!
  2. Hi Viz. If you’re running in Winter, chances are that it’ll be dark at some point. Even the middle of the afternoon can get dark at this time of year. So, be sensible. A high viz top or windproof jacket is well worth investing in. A neon yellow works well, particularly in late afternoon and if you can find something with reflective patches or stripes, then all the better to be seen in! Failing that, you can buy anything from trainers to socks that are reflective enough to make sure you’re seen at night. Not everybody can pull off the neon look. In actual fact, I’m not entirely sure anyone can, but safety must took presidence over fashion at this time of year! So even if you might be going out on a run looking like a road worker or a throwback to mid 90s rave culture, at least you improve your chances of getting round your route safely this way.
  3. Join a running club or get a running buddy. Now I’m afraid this is a classic case of the person giving the advice but flagrantly ignoring it at the same time. That doesn’t make it bad advice though. Personally, I prefer to run alone. In company I know I’d either feel guilty for being too slow or grumpy for the company being too slow. But, amongst other things, running is supposed to be fun. And in Winter, it’s just safer to run as part of a group. Another added plus here is that company can be encouraging and even give you a bit of a boost. I’m a far better runner in a race situation, where there are lots of other people to focus on and aim for, so to speak. But I can guarantee that in a race, if I’m flagging, someone will offer encouragement and support. Running clubs or groups are easy to find these days, as they’re only a Google search away and they’re ideal for beginners. I know that there are a few groups around my area where it’s all very informal, friendly and the emphasis is on gaining fitness with a bit of fun and friendship. So, if you made that resolution, joining a club with like minded and friendly people might well be the decision that helps to stick to your vow!
  4. Make sure to warm up and warm down properly. Whether it’s Winter or not, this is a good tip to follow. However, if you’re planning on going out running in freezing temperatures, then making sure that those muscles are fully stretched and warmed up is essential. The temperature alone should be the only shock that you get; you don’t want to have gone 100 metres and find that your body just doesn’t feel right. It’s Winter; you’ve got every excuse you need for turning round and heading back to that warm bed or front room with the fire on! At least if you’re fully warmed up, you’ll have a fighting chance of getting into a rhythm nice and quickly and after that, it’s all about just running! Warming up will help prevent those little niggling injuries that could mean you’re back on the sofa before you know it. Similarly, by warming down once you’ve finished, you’ll feel much, much better. I sometimes finish my run within a half mile of my house and then get home with a combination of light jogging and walking, just to make sure nothing seizes up. I always stretch again once I get back to the house and make sure that I take on plenty of water to rehydrate. It’s no fun when all you want to do is flop down on the bed, but it’s a lot better to have warmed down for ten minutes or so.
  5. Never underestimate the importance of rest. Winter running can be difficult. Motivating yourself to actually go out is tough when you already know how cold and miserable it is out there! So don’t put yourself under too much pressure. If you’ve scheduled a run, but you know your body’s just not right, then don’t go. Rest up instead. There’s always another day. And the same applies for days when it might just seem too cold or too windy. If you don’t feel like it, but know you’ll go another day; do that! Or the other alternative is to go out and maybe run a shorter distance than you’d had planned. I’ve done that a few times recently and spared myself a little bit, but have also been able to say I’d been out and kept my fitness up!

So there you have it. Hopefully a few handy tips that might just help you out a bit when running this Winter. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know if they’re of any use in the comments!

2022: Letters, a gammy toe and a fake adopted cat. My New Year’s Resolutions.

I wasn’t going to write this post. I was reasonably determined not to write something so predictable. I mean, I pride myself on trying to something at least a little bit different and surely every blogger going is banging on about their resolutions? Nothing wrong with that. But I wasn’t going to do it.

And then I woke up just before 3am on New Year’s Day having had around an hour and a half’s sleep. I thought I’d just roll over and slumber on, but no. It’s quite a regular thing for me to get an idea stuck in my head at this time of day and so when it happened this morning, there wasn’t a lot else to do but get up.

I also had a pounding headache, not from the drink I might add. So, I’d go downstairs, have a glass of water and some paracetamol and scribble some things down on a bit of paper. I WOULD NOT stay for long. Just over an hour later and I had written a huge bullet point list of resolutions, a first draft of a poem about resolutions, drank a pint of water, taken two paracetamol and tidied quite a few things away in an attempt to start my resolutions early, even though said resolution (Just pick stuff up, regardless of who left it there) wasn’t actually on my new list.

Here are the results. Some of this is simply exactly what I wrote down, while other bits have been added to because it’s clear even to me that they should get explained. I don’t want people to worry about me. So, in no particular order…

  • Learn to moonwalk. I will study YouTube and then astonish/bore to death anyone within my moonwalking eyeline.
  • Write my YA novel and Christmas story. I started the first of these around this time last year and then ran out of wherewithal. It’s still there, in my notebook and I still like it. It has been a lifelong disappointment to me that I’m not related to Bing Crosby. Imagine the money White Christmas makes every year. My Christmas story is one of many attempts I’ll be making this year to make enough money to speed up retirement. It’s also a good idea, if I say so myself.
  • Research and eat more heart healthy foods.
  • Be a better husband, father, son, brother. There are times when I think that I’m pretty shit in all of these roles. I tried to ring my mam and dad this morning, but they were out. By my estimation, this means that I’m already smashing this one, as the young people would say.
  • Modify my Duolingo use. That’s what I wrote down. I’m not sure what it means.
  • Write more teaching and football content for my blog. These subjects always get more people reading, which fascinates me as even after 22 years of teaching I feel like I don’t really know a great deal more than talk a lot and write stuff on the board. I make a mean display when I can be arsed though. Did I ever tell you about the Andes mountain range that I drew on a huge display board? It was the size of something you’d find in a major art gallery. People gasped when they saw it. I don’t like to talk about it much though…Perhaps I’ll write an epic poem about it…
  • Stop buying crisps. They’re like heroin to me.
  • Attempt to get a six pack – I’ll settle for four – while refusing to give up beer and chocolate, in moderation. Did I ever tell you about my lockdown six pack? Probably not…I don’t like to talk about it much.
  • Speak to people more. People must think I hate them and that I’m just really miserable. I’m not. I’m actually very shy and genuinely can’t imagine that people will want to talk to me. I regularly imagine their thoughts as I drone on about football. As a result, I’ve most likely uttered one word to at least 60% of the people I work with over the last year. That word is ‘Alright?’
  • Play more board games with my wife. She loves them. Be a better husband, see? Seriously, I’m like a freight train once I get going.
  • Mow my lawns more regularly. It looks better and would surely annoy my neighbours, right?
  • Run more. Take part in more races and get back to Parkrun.
  • Amuse myself by telling people I’ve adopted a cat and named it Fellatio Nelson. I might write some spoof adventures of said cat. All because the name amused me. This is genuinely the resolution that kept me awake and got me out of bed, by the way. Some insight into the mind of an idiot there…
  • Make more videos. I created a teacher character called Damian Malarkey in the first days of lockdown. He was the kind of arsehole I really don’t like and as such, made me laugh a lot. My colleagues enjoyed the video and this tells me that Damian deserves another airing. I’ve met quite a few Damian’s in my time in teaching, so I know him well. I also secretly worry that I’m turning into him. For ages I’ve also harboured the idea of videoing myself dancing to certain songs, not because I’m a good dancer, but because it makes me laugh. I do it all the time. I’m like a shit Mick Jagger, I hope. I also mime along to certain songs and have what I think is a brilliant idea for one of these mimes. It’ll no doubt be shit. I’ll laugh though.
  • Start a podcast. I’ve mentioned the idea to my best mate. I repeatedly let him down by floating these ideas and then not being able to find time. I think we’d just chat about middle aged stuff. You know, just moaning and stuff?
  • Get sponsors for a run. Try to raise a silly amount of money. I’ve got a lot of people to be grateful to.
  • Write to the boy I sponsor more often. Over the past 22 years I’ve sponsored two separate children in South America, yet probably only written to them half a dozen times. This is something I hugely regret. (Now you can all join my cardiologist in knowing for certain that I actually have a heart).
  • Make up German words and phrases for things and pass them off as actual fact. “Oh, the Germans have a word for that. Yes, you’re experiencing schencillpumpenhooff.
  • Get my toe treated before it either falls off or I turn into a hobbit or a troll. One toenail is black and has some kind of crust under it. It doesn’t hurt, so what with lockdown conditions and social distancing, I’ve just put up with it. No doubt the Germans have a word for that. If they don’t I’ll make one up for when I go to see the pharmacist.
  • Write a Eurovision entry. I’ve wanted to do this for years. I have the bones of one written down somewhere and it wouldn’t take much to finish.
  • Write at least 2 Christmas songs. One spoof, one real. That second home by the sea won’t buy itself.
  • Start to note down things that pupils and colleagues say. I’ve wanted to write a ‘Things I Heard in Class’ book for years. And boy, do I hear some things.
  • Learn some new words.
  • Invent new words and phrases to impress gullible people with.
  • Use the phrase ‘amuse bouche’ more. I don’t really know what it means, but doesn’t it sound nice? See also words like ‘journey’ and ‘vision’, but only inappropriately. E.g. ‘I’ve just finished reading a book about teaching. I’d like to thank the bedside lamp for all it’s support while I’ve been on this journey.
  • ‘Discover’ new music. Not new like bands containing teenagers, necessarily. More bands that I should know, but haven’t really listened to over the years. I recently discovered James Taylor, someone I’d been fully aware of for years, just by asking Alexa to shuffle some of his songs. I’ve undoubtedly benefitted from this. More please!
  • Stop grumbling at people when I hear them walking past our back fence. Better still, stop this behaviour in supermarkets. Face masks are not soundproof.
  • Write my Diary of a Middle Aged Singleton blog. A spoof, inspired by someone who lives close to us.

The final resolution doesn’t get a bullet point as it is simply to write further blogs updating your good selves on the progress of my resolutions. Some of these are just to amuse myself but plenty of them are deadly serious, which I think is the point of these type of things. In total there are 28 resolutions, plus the promise to keep the blog up-to-date on their progress. I’m genuinely hopeful that I can keep some of them up!

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