Quarantine Journal Entry #2

Day 5.

I wake up to the sound of my three youngest nieces, squawking away, frolicking about the garden in this wondrously mild weather. Is there a more heartwarming alarm clock? (Yes, the same one at a later time than 7am…)

With legs barely liftable and obliques crying for mercy, I think today, yes, today shall be my rest day.

A full Falun Dafa meditation then a big fat coffee whilst writing my journal.

I edit and polish my notes from the last few days at my standing desk, whilst watching the nieces racing on their scooters and pushing each other on the swing. I publish Quarantine Journal Entry #1.

I manage to hook up my heavy-bag single-handedly and lay into it for a few rounds, leaving some in the tank for when I’m feeling 100%, and I can move my legs without wincing.

However, the tonic effect prevails, resulting in ladders of clean and jerks with the two 24kg kettlebells, totalling 100 reps. A modest sweat on. Let us call it “active recovery”.

Break my fast in the afternoon, with seeds and fruit, saving the inevitable jeanbar (vegan beanjar) for later on in the day. It feels wrong to fast all day when I’m doing so much exercise – or is that a convenient excuse, I wonder?

Begin writing a piece which I’ve been hesitant to start, on social and cultural history and hangovers of the Soviet Union. Too big, too knotty, too hard to span the history whilst working in my own experiences in a digestible article. More the reason to try and write it now, with all the time in the world, I guess.

Watched Malcolm in the Middle, through a totally different lens than fifteen or so years ago when my sisters and I would watch it together. Like The Simpsons, you get the higher level of humour rather than just the slapstick, both of which are hilarious.

Read Peter Hitchens. He is the catalyst behind attempting the article mentioned above. Hitchens describes watching We Can’t Go On Living Like This in a Moscow movie theatre in 1990, just months before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The film, which the censors did not want to green-light for good reason, sought to capture the gist of the decades of misery, the stress and sordidness of surviving week to week, the daily nastiness experienced by those so lucky to live within the Soviet’s socialist utopia.

Everyone else in the cinema was weeping… Why were they crying? Because the film openly told the truth they all knew but had never been able to discuss… hideous prisoners, faces grotesque from habitual evil, being herded in sordid dungeons; the desolate cityscapes of concrete slabs under poisoned skies, the filthy yellow waste trickling from a crooked pipeline into a polluted sea, the excrement-smeared, desecrated ruins of what had once been churches, the corruption and the unending official lies. Soviet citizens all knew life was like this.

Day 6.

Awake after a ten hour sleep, arguably the highest upside of quarantine.

Falun Dafa, listening to the wind a-howling outside.

Then I write my journal, as the sun bears down on me through the window, with rain falling, quite like Irish summer. I miss Guernsey’s squalls, and I cannot wait to get caught in one during a dip. There is no better feeling.

Did 80 snatches with a 24kg. For those interested, this is an anti-glycoltic style of training, snappy sets of ten reps with plenty of rest. The theory is, you build mitochondrial capacity without dipping into glycogen stores nor torching the muscle with lactic acid. It’s minimalistic, assuming you are saving yourself for other sports and/or exercise, giving you a big bang for a modest buck. Check out Pavel Tsatsouline if you want to know more.

Did somebody say – deadlifts?

BEHOLD! My ghetto olympic bar, fashioned from used scaffy pole, with kettlebells hanging off either side. The instability factor, and the thickness of the bar, make it more challenging than its conventional, preened, secure, pretty and evenly-weighted cousins. Pulled a few doubles and singles with 142kg in kettlebells, then ten sets of five reps with 110kg. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

Roasted some chickpeas, wrote some more of an article, fannied about in the kitchen, then broke my fast in the afternoon.

Bugger, Iron Wolf posted another video with kettlebells and burpees. I did a one to ten ladder: swings with the 48kg, then burpees, then press-ups. That’s one swing, one burpee, one press-up, then two of each, then three, etcetera. Got a sweat on with just one to ten, that’s 55 in total.

Then the inevitable jeanbar, the vat of which I am finally making a meaningful dent in. After that, I sink into the sofa and laugh raucously at Peep Show. Genius. Ridiculous, but only to the extent that you can imagine experiencing such situations in your own life, or in fact have. Peep Show will be, in decades and centuries to come, a cultural text studied by students wishing to understand the UK of ten and twenty years ago.

And so to bed.

Today’s quote, from Charles Haanel, who possesses a unique knack for condensing a lecture-worth of information into a sentence:

The intention governs the attention. Power comes through repose. It is by concentration that deep thoughts, wise speech, and all forces of high potentiality are accomplished.

I should have read this in the morning before procrastinating, rather than at night before sleeping.

Day 7.

Already? Wow.

Falun Dafa, listening to more of the wind and rain outside, ethereal enough of a background track to meditation.

To the journal. Looking back over the past three weeks of entries, I can see they are the same but different. Overarching themes and principles remain, only the specifics of goals or thoughts for the day change. One of my specific intentions for the day, to stop jumping from one article to another, and to focus my thoughts and energy on the completion of one. Clarity of intent will focus me – in theory.

Knock out a few swings and press-ups, nothing mad, my almost-quarantine-buddy Luke and I have a big day of exercise planned for tomorrow.

Then I picked up one of the the 32kg kettlebells, knocked out 100 reps of clean and jerks, 50 per arm in ascending ladders. Think that’s plenty for the “rest and recovery” day, now. My palms are getting mashed up.

Read a stunning letter sent by Seneca on friendship. He’s incisive as always, but catches me at a time when it is enormously applicable. I promised not to jump from writing one thing to another – but I must. Tomorrow.

Notice I become more easily distracted as the day goes on. There is no ‘reset’ button, no walk or swim or social contact after which I can return home refreshed and with renewed vigour and focus.

Focus not forthcoming with writing, I do a few sets of weighted pull-ups and kettlebell rows instead. There is no way I would be feeling sane and sleeping soundly without this intense exercise.

Spent the remainder of the evening eating and laughing at Peep Show. The two pathetic but loveable protagonists, Mark and Jeremy, take every conceivable moral shortcut, and avoid telling the truth at at all costs, if the truth might cause them inconvenience. Things invariably go tits-up, yet they never learn, burning bridge after bridge, sinking further into raucous indignity, justifying their misdeeds along the way with sometimes insightful and always hilarious remarks.

I will mix the inspirational quotes up with two rather more unprincipled quotes, the first from Mark and the second from Jeremy:

“I’m not marrying out of spite, I’m marrying out of fear. There’s a very big difference.”

“Justice is done. Not actual justice, but what I wanted to happen, which is basically the same thing.” 

Day 8.

Baby we’re half way there. One week from now I will be marinating in that glorious briney.

Took a day off the Falun Dafa. Journaled with a coffee, watching and listening to the rain.

Re-read Seneca’s letter on friendship, sent to his pal Lucilius some two thousand years ago, and took some notes ready to write an article.

Then, chirpy burpee time with the incredible Luke. We set ourselves the target of 500 last week, modest by Iron Wolf’s standards but quite the effort for us mere mortals. We video-call and smash out 500 strict burpees in about 1hr 40mins. More about mindset than muscles, I’d say.

My youngest niece knocks on my window during the workout and says, “Beard! Look at my ponah-tayer!” She means ponytail, bless her heart.

After stretching and some sun salutations, I eat – voraciously. Tell me, do you know another human who has eaten beanjar for seven consecutive nights? I have some left over for tomorrow, too. Joy of joys! The funny thing is, I am not being sarcastic.

Sunk into the sofa and began writing the article on Seneca. That man was something else. He talked the talk, and he walked the walk. Wind howling outside, nieces squawking inside (the other side of my cage door – don’t fret), cup of mint tea on the go – glorious. It’s nice to feel like you’ve earned sitting down, despite being inside all day. I wonder if these legs will feel so nice tomorrow?

Today’s quote has surely to come from my man Seneca, whose philosophy borders on the Buddhist when read at an angle, and has found ample application in my hovel this past week.

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach.

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