What Happened Next?

It occurred to me today that while I bring up a lot of subjects on this blog, I seldom revisit them. While I know what happened next, I don’t often share that with the rest of the world.
How has it been since I cut my hair short? Have I actually done any of the exercise I praised, fun or otherwise? Have all my screeds over the years on the subject of decluttering had any measurable effects in real life? Or was it all just talk?


1815 Isabey Portrait Katharina Pawlowna von Russland anagoria

My hair is still short, and definitely curly. On a good morning, there’s a vague resemblance to Helena Bonham Carter; on a bad morning, the resemblance is more to Edward Scissorhands – and a lot stronger. I’m planning to grow it out as winter approaches – partly for warmth and partly just to see what happens!

As for exercise, I mentioned that my exercise goals included buying a skipping rope, and learning to dance the galliard (aka the cinquepace). I have indeed bought a skipping rope, and have even skipped with it – mostly outside on the grass for the sake of my joints. It’s harder than it was when I was little, though I have not yet tried any fancy touches like the Inverse Toad.

Woodcut Galliard

When it comes to the galliard, however, I have met with less success. Apart from the useful information that one could dance the galliard to the tune of God Save the Queen (perhaps why the dance was so popular with Queen Elizabeth I, who danced six or seven of a morning by way of exercise), I have got nowhere. As wonderful as our local library is, it is singularly lacking in books on how to dance the dances of history. I shall have to keep looking. Next stop: the great wide web.

I have also acquired a new swimming-suit (of which more hereafter) and gone to a swimming-pool for the first time in a long time. (Years.) I happily paddled and splashed about, enjoying the absence of large waves trying to give me a forcible sinus rinse, and even essayed a few lengths, with variable success. Running your head into the wall while swimming on your back: not success.

0ld keyboards

On the same day as we went to the pool, we took a quantity of e-waste to the safe-disposal-of-electronic-waste people. I was very happy to see the back of it. As well as safely breaking down the parts of things no longer functional (recycling), they also fix things where possible (reuse) or turn them into other things (repurpose) – all very good for the planet, as well as those not able (or not willing) to buy their belongings new.

Since I last wrote about tidying, decluttering and purging, I have also gone through the bathroom cupboards like a dose of salts (pun intended – please forgive me) as well as the pantry cupboard and the shelves in the hallway.

I’m also sleeping better. I stopped worrying about it, and that seemed to help, although I’m inclined to give the recent sudden arrival of autumn a bit of credit too – no more waking up overheated. Now I sleep like a hibernating dormouse, although happily I don’t snore like one.

Glis glis (edible dormouse) in winter sleep

What have I missed? Is there anything I mentioned once and never got back to you about? Let me know in the comments!

Not for All the Jewels in the Crown

I’m having trouble sleeping. (Sleep? Sleep? I couldn’t sleep tonight…)

Württembergische Königskrone-MFr-3

I could have danced all night – the cinquepace, perhaps, although the mazurka somehow seems more appropriate for midnight dashings – but I am afraid the crashing noises would keep more than myself awake.

The problem isn’t so much that I don’t sleep. The problem is more that my brain doesn’t flick the on/off switch – which is to say the un/conscious switch – until I’ve been lying in bed for an hour or two*. Which is a waste of perfectly good consciousness.

After taking the questionnaire which recommended a 12:30 a.m. bedtime, I had the brainwave of spending that hour or two reading or knitting.

For each solution, a new problem. I have yet to master either reading or knitting in the dark, and keeping the light on kept the Caped Gooseberry awake – and no-one is recommending a 12:30 a.m. bedtime for him.

not yet read

For each problem, a new solution. I used the candle-lamp of my ancestors, which provides enough light for me to read or knit by, but little enough that the Caped Gooseberry can go to sleep.

And this is where my dastardly brain pulled the ace out of its sleeve: I don’t go to sleep until an hour or two after the light is out.

It doesn’t matter how deliciously sleepy I get with the candlelight flickering on the page, how about-to-lose-consciousness I feel, once I take off my glasses and blow out the candle, my mind knuckles down to the serious business of the night: Think About All The Things!

Well played, brain. The ball is in my court, and… I got nothin’. I already refrain from drinking tea after mid-afternoon, I have a milky drink at 8:30 p.m., turn off things with screens, follow a wind-down routine…
What more can I do? Relight the candle and keep reading? Find a copy of Virgil’s Aeneid, books 7-12, aka The Most Boring Thing Ever Written? Send a flock of neural sheep trotting one by one from parietal lobe to occipital lobe?

Neuronal activity DARPA

Do you ever have problems sleeping? What do you do? Do you know of any books more boring than the second half of the Aeneid? Please share below!

*My method of estimating duration of wakefulness without looking at bright cellphone screen for time: take ‘how long it feels I’ve been awake’ and divide by two.

Fun-Filled Forms of Exercise

An oxymoron, some might say. But as C.S. Lewis wrote, “If one could run without getting tired [or stitch, or thistles in ones soles – DM], I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.”
Having a body that works well is enjoyable, and I am convinced that getting there can be fun as well.

Child Running

So here are a few potentially fun forms of exercise to consider. Note, I say potentially fun – anything can become unfun if it becomes an onerous ought of obligation, or a grim-faced goal-oriented grind.

Walking! It’s cheap, it’s easy, and if you find some nice springy grass, it’s easy on the joints. Walking on the beach is also less high-impact than pavement, and if you feel the urge to push yourself harder, you can always walk (run) in the water à la Chariots of Fire.
Walking can be done alone, with a friend or significant other, with a dog, or even with your cow. Er, bull. Definitely.

Giant bull Sohar

And while we’re at the beach, consider swimming – also very easy on the joints. Of course, beach swimming may be too cold for some or most of the year, but this is why we have indoor swimming pools.
“Swimming” can include water-based games, too – tag, water polo, or aquatic Calvinball. Just keep an eye out for bulls.

Harder on the joints, but nostalgically invigorating, is skipping. You can skip from A to B, skip in place, or even try some of the more advanced moves mentioned in the Wikipedia article, such as the Awesome Annie, the Inverse Toad, or the James Hirst. (“The jumper performs a backflip into a split and then back to a skip in the upright position.” Do not try this at home unless you have a paramedic osteopath on speed-dial.)

Skipping is a good illustration of how no matter how fun and jubilant an activity is, it can still be made into a joyless chore. Exhibit A: the U.S. military.

US Navy 070523-N-5459S-039 Lt. Steven J. Ayling, a training administrative officer assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72), jump ropes on the flight deck of Mahan during a physical fitness workout

One can’t quite imagine them chanting skipping rhymes. (Feel free to write a suitable one in the comments section.)

And speaking of activities which should not be made into joyless chores, Robert Heinlein wrote that “Sex without love is merely healthy exercise.” To which I would add that returning love to the equation by no means diminishes the healthiness of the exercise – in fact, if one considers emotional health, quite the opposite.

And then there’s the whole area of dance. This includes everything from slow stretchy interpretive dance to a riotous cinquepace to acro to those enjoyable circle dances which go faster and faster until either the dancers or the furniture all fall down.

Söndagsafton i en dalstuga utan ram

But as the saying goes, the best form of exercise is the one you actually do. The challenge now is to incorporate a few more of these forms of fun into my everyday life. For which I shall need a skipping rope, and someone who knows the cinquepace. Off we go!