I drift into consciousness slightly before my 5.30am. Love it when that happens. Blessed by restful enough sleep that you awaken naturally rather than by a jarring alarm clock. I heard someone tell me it should be called an ‘opportunity clock’, which I’m all for in terms of attitude, but the fecker still alarms me.
So I lie in bed for the 10 minutes or so before my alarm opportunities me, and listen to the blackbirds.
I love blackbird song, it’s otherworldly and different every time. It became more special for me after I arrived in Kyrgyzstan two years ago, in the dead of the snowy night with nought but a backpack and a name, and my trepidation was mellowed by the liquid song of a blackbird. Who knew they were so far-flung and far-flying.
I pop on my swimmers and whip down to the bathing pools, where I should have 3 friends awaiting me, but I have one again, like last week, but it’s Jimbo!
Jimbo (the slender straight-talking swearing electrician and captain of our dodgeball team the Hairy Helmets, otherwise known as Calamity Jim) is ready to rock and roll – with the exercise, not the swim – and we just wait on Stew and Jordi.
Stew (the soon-to-be-married viking-looking gruff-but-sweet carpenter) sends a message, “Sorry boys woke up late just wiping my ass then be there”.
And Jordi (the house of the brick shit variety, but soft and loveable) messages, “Shag, nature is calling without mercy, gonna leave the pools for north beach to unload my back. I’ll be back.”
They both arrive and apologise for their lateness, we all stretch and shuffle around the Men’s Pool overlooking Havelet Bay, warming ourselves up.
“I forgot my bitch mitts!” Stew says, looking jealously at my gloves. Wearing brown gloves, bathers and birks, he knows I am the pinnacle of functional fasion.
All cats are herded and kettlebells arranged, I tell them, “We’ll do 10 goblet squats, 10 press-ups, then 8 squats, 8 press-ups, then 8 squats-“.
“Oh, we’re getting a maths lesson too?!” Stew pipes up.
“Er, pipe down over there!” I reply.
And we commence, short and sweet and fast, lungs heaving, plenty of grunting and rasping.
Getting things moving helps recovery. I’m sore all over. Yesterday had a session with an awesome young person, we ended up having a pull-up competition and press-up competition. Then I had boxing in the evening. The day before I was doing deadlifts with the brick shit-house Jordi; lots of pre-lift hype and popping neck veins. I contorted the poor sod into some yoga poses afterwards. Jordi said he’s more sore from the yoga. It was like getting a bull to do the splits.
We sit down and do some breathwork, Wim Hof style.
Then it’s time.
Coach Calamity Jim spurs us on, jogging behind us toward the water’s edge with us.
Stew says, “I’m going to my pussy bar,” meaning the metal handle at the edge of the pool. Jordi slides himself in gracefully so not to wet his beanie. I do my leaping frog-dive thing.
Five minutes later, we are all reborn, cold but not frozen, red-skinned, pumped and buzzing.
Sunrise is nigh, the air is warmer, springtime is a-springing.
Jordi says, “Suddenly life doesn’t seem like a chore!”
He shares that his days at work have felt better for these early morning chirps.
“Same,” Stew agrees, “I feel like I’ve already had time to myself.” Which you need when you have a fiancee, a child, a dog, a full-time job, work to do on the house, and a wedding afoot.
We all hug bye and I get into my pre-heated car sauna, which doesn’t feel too necessary this beautiful morning.
My partner Alana is still living it up in Sri Lanka, five hours ahead of our time, so she’s already bagged a surf, sends me some hotdogs-or-legs photos, and some voice notes whilst she walks across the beach.
I had sent her a half-dozen voice messages yesterday evening before I went to bed, detailing my day, missing our daily debriefs.
“I remember the time when you sent me those voice messages in the morning,” Alana tells me, “I was pissed off, but if I woke up in the morning now and I didn’t have any I’d be pissed off!” Her voice is full of life and sun and happiness. She makes sure to request another day in the life blog, and I say I’ll make sure to write one.
I dress into dress-down clothes, I put my newer pair of Birks on which don’t smell from a distance, I drink a coffee and I go to work early feeling spritely and happy.
To my standing desk, I have lots of work, and I plug away at it.
No daydreaming about sparring today, it’s fight night for the boxers tonight. I saw a couple of tonight’s fighters at the boxing club last night. One of them I took on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition a year ago, and he’s since grown into a competent and courageous boxer. His work ethic is exemplary, infallible even. Meeting young people like that and contributing to their development is such an honour .
One of the young people at the club yesterday I’ve been supporting for about a year, formerly as part of my old job and now by virtue of getting him into boxing. Some weeks it was a challenge to get him out of bed to come to training. Now his issue is wanting to train every day of the week.
I make sure to message his family saying, “He’s bossing it at the moment, chuffed and proud.”
I get a message back saying, “I am so pleased he stuck to it thanks to you always will appreciate what you’ve done for him you’re a star xx”. I well up a little.
Sun is shining outside, begging for me to bask in it.
Alana sends photos of her and her friend sunbathing and drinking cocktails in the wavy tropics.
I have already worked a half-hour over my contracted hours, so I drop the self-imposed ‘should do more,’ and I leave to go and sunbathe myself, and work on the things I really want to work on.
My car, my beautiful car, welcomes me with it’s ever-growing ecosystem of plants and insects. That gorgeous plant in the middle is called Love, as named by my 5 year old niece about a year ago. It outgrew its pot, so I repotted it in my car’s cup holder, which I did with a young person I was supporting at the time.
Another young person I’ve been supported told me a couple of weeks back she has a small plant at home she doesn’t care for that needs a home, so we spent our session this Tuesday repotting it in my car’s cup holder and moving Love to an actual plant pot.
“I’m sad Love is leaving your car,” the young person tells me, as we put it into an actual pot.
“There’s no space though,” I reply. My eyes rest on the central unit between the two car seats. My friend Roy suggested about a year ago that it could be used as a plant pot. I look at it, and look at the young person.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Fast-forward ten minutes, we have emptied the unit, filled it with soil and repotted Love.
I actually enjoy sitting down in my car, because I can smile at my plants, give them a stroke, and feel proud I gifted two young people a unique and somewhat bizarre experience packing soil and planting flora in an electric car.
I sing wantonly en route home.
I arrive home to voice messages of Alana singing along to an acoustic guitarist at a bar. I message her back telling her I love how she is always the first to sing and dance, despite her singing voice being something of an acquired taste, which I am proud to say I have acquired.
We reminisce about a friend’s wedding last year, where we were the only couple on the dance floor. It’s amazing how, at the time, it was lovely, done without thought or care, but looking back now it is a glittering memory, imbued with beautiful eternity.
Chirp to the old girl, who’s cooking away happily, a vegan curry which I’ll eat and feed (and possibly pass off as my own) to my friends this evening – invited people around for a chill and chirp and music and boardgames. Being old and boring rocks.
And I grab my stuff to make my way to Humphrey, the old boy whom I help with rehabilitation and the like. (Apologies: on my last blog post I opted for Humphrey over Roger as the best pseudonym for the old boy, but I erroneously left a Roger or two in the piece.)
Humphrey has not long since woken up, sat up in his comfy chair, wearing shorts and a smart shirt, leather slippers and long socks.
We get him from comfy chair to wheelchair, give him a reshuffle to make sure he’s comfy, and I ask our thrice-weekly question, “To whom shall we listen today?”
“Sibelius,” Humphrey replies.
“Sibelius! That’s a name I’ve never heard before,” I reply. “How do you spell it?”
Humphrey spells out the name as I put it into Spotify.
Jean Sibelius is Finnish composer with some sweeping, gut-wrenching refrains.
We go through the motions of our motions, ending with our regular crescendo of standing, straightening and walking to the best of our ability.
Life is a precious and fragile thing. Our meat vehicles feel invincible one minute and are invalid the next.
Aside from being intrinsically rewarding, helping Humphrey out rewards me with a very real reminder of that precious fragility of life. It is too meaningful to stop doing.
I shake Humphrey’s had at the end of our hour, congratulate him on his hard work, and I hop into my car, with its ecosystem happily fed by slanting shards of waning sunlight.
After an hour of Sibelius, I’m tired of the complexity of music-mediated meaning, so I listen to Elton John again. Warm happy vibes for a warm happy Friday.
I rattle out as much of this blog as I can before Jordi, Roy, Jemma and Cody arrive for a chill chirp, curry and games.
The old man Paddy sings Mum and I a Gaelic song praising St. Patrick. He commends his singing voice with a lash of sarcasm, I commend his memory quite seriously. It’s nice to hear a sing-song sung in the ancient language of our forbears.
He has a Paddy’s Day card signed by Mum and I. Mum’s written ‘to the best Paddy there ever was’ and I write ‘hats off to Mum for finding the only card without a reference to alcohol or religion.’
Friends arrive. Cody is merrily half-cut after finishing work and spending the afternoon at the KGV; Jemma is chirpy and squawky, unfazed by being the only female – save for my old girl, who joins us happily; Jordi is chilled out and beaming after a long and productive day; and Roy is his usual wholesome self, arriving on his bicycle with a cider.
We listen to music, chat and chirp, and eat a Thai green curry together – green for St Patrick’s Day – and we all wish the old man a happy Paddy’s Day.
We get down to the business of Pictionary, which is as hilarious as it is intense. You get given a word which you have to draw for your teammate to guess – no words allowed. Some are objects, some are actions, some concepts. It’s quite the brain clench.
Cody and Jemma request the Tarzan theme tune for background music.
Teams are me and Mum, Roy and Jemma, Cody and Jordi.
Cody and Jordi have some sort of telepathic visual communication going on, and they win comfortably, somehow guessing each other’s ultra-minimalist drawings.
These are some of the works of art that earned them that win.
Our game finishes about 11.30pm, we say bye, hugs all round. “Games night next Friday!” Jemma says, gloriously competitive.
And so to bed. Before lights out, I get the gratitude journal that Alana and I usually fill out together, and I write some bits in it from the day. One of the prompts is ‘I was proud of someone because…’ and I write ‘The boys for swimming. Alana for being herself. Mum for cooking for everyone. Jordi and Cody for winning Pictionary.’