2021 Summer Solstice Update

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I once tried to establish a “Weekly Review” type of blog post, inspired by my love of reflective writing as well as seeing how Rhiaro has managed to keep it up and keep it interesting for so long. These didn’t last very long, and I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea that I don’t write shorter posts as often as I’d like. I also have a ‘Now’ section, which you can check to get a relatively-up-to-date and high-level overview of how I’m spending the majority of my time.

I do like, however, to take stock of a lot of things. This year, so far, has been incredibly evenful and we are still in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve also just begun the practice of logging a few things to prompt reflection, and I can’t think of a better time to do it than just after a solar event. I hope I can commit to a twice-yearly post about taking account of everything I’ve had going on. I have strong pagan and animist tendencies these days, and the Solstices mark the turning of the year into their two prominent “modes”. After Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere), the world begins to get darker and colder and slower. Although it often takes us a few months to notice it! So it’s good to take a pause and get ready for the wind-down. This post therefore covers the 6 month period from the Winter Solstice to the Summer Solstice, a brief period before Winter Solstice 2020 at times, plus the few days it’s taken me to write this.

Overall, this has been a mixed half of the year. A lot of chaos has ensued, but through it all I have found love, support, and laughter with my partner; who is simply a blessing to me in every conceivable way and I am very grateful for her presence.

The format of these posts may change in the future, and certain sections may be more or less prominent (or absent) depending on what I have to say about them.

Enjoy.

Key events

  • 2021-02-12: I got the keys to my first flat.
  • 2021-02-27: My father died from Coronavirus, aged 57.
  • 2021-03-12: First night in my new flat.
  • 2021-05-07: Local elections, where we stood a candidate in my ward and achieved 99 votes (a substantial increase over our usual amount, and as a minority party we’re very pleased.)
  • 2021-06-10: I successfully defended my PhD Thesis, subject to minor revisions.

Hobbies

My hobbies have taken a bit of a back seat really; I’m not crafting much at the moment, and the opportunities for mountains is a bit scarce across the pandemic (although I did manage to get up Roseberry Topping on Summer Solstice which is half a mountain!).

I’ve mostly been resting but I’ve been able to maintain some semblance of fun as noted below. Going forward, I can’t promise myself anything yet but I’m feeling a bit more crafty lately. Once I feel the time is right, I may do some more carving! Other than the below, which are my more “active” hobbies atm; I’ve been reading, watching, and listening. These come to the for later in the Logs section.

Esperanto

Languages have always fascinated me, and I’ve had a few half-hearted attempts to learn a few. I actually hold GCSEs at B-grade in each French and Spanish although, as you may predict, these haven’t really done me much good. I also had a solid stab at learning Icelandic across 2010 to 2013, and I’ve had a few spurts on Duolingo at Spanish, and Norwegian a few times and I enjoy reading Anglo-Saxon as well as Old Norse poetry. Languages in general fascinate me, and I really love Jackson Crawford and Simon Roper for their work on the internet discussing these complex topics in a way that makes it enjoyable.

I can’t remember why I picked up Esperanto in late 2020, but I did. I think it was because I was getting an itch to start something wordy, couldn’t commit to Spanish or Anglo-Saxon grammar properly, and just needed something fun to do. Anyway, the long story short is that I fell in love with Esperanto and have been engaging with it across late 2020 and into 2021 at various degrees of intensity. Some days I’ll just be filled with the desire to read and write everything in the language, and others I’ll just do a few Duolingo lessons to keep it ticking over. But, importantly, I’ve done a little every day and it’s really helped. As expected, my reading and writing is definitely the strongest, with my speaking coming in at “strained” and my listening at “ahhh noooo what the hell are they saying”. But that suits me for now; there’s no rush but I do eventually want to get certified at B1 level. I’ve been reading (and writing) Esperanto poetry, and some short stories. I’ve also found another Newcastle-based Esperantist penpal with whom I’ve been writing for around a month, so that’s neat! We’re planning on forming a club when we’ve both got a bit less on.

One of the (alleged) benefits of Esperanto is the ability to pick up other languages a little easier. I’m not sure on the veracity of that, but I’m feeling a lot more confident with my ability to read/write in another langage, and at some point I will likely wish to return to Spanish. I kinda like the idea of being able to say I can understand “EN EO ES”. Those ISO 639-1 Es just look kinda neat lined up I guess.

Exercise

I love my exercise. Historically I’ve mostly enjoyed bodyweight strength training, but in late 2019 I began running using the NHS Couch to 5K (C25K) programme. I successfully ran for 30 mins for the first time in April 2020, just as the earth was heating up. Throughout the summer of 2020 I then embarked on the C25K+ programme to improve my stamina and my speed, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This got stale after a while, as things do if they don’t improve, so I deliberated for ages on what to do, but finally found the Bridge to 10K (B210K) programme which picks up, relatively, from where C25K left off. I first attempted to replace all of my 5K runs with 10K training sessions, but soon found that my knees were complaining after my runs so dialled it back to one 5k and one 10k session per week. I’ve since lost a bit of my speed, mostly noticeably during the 5k sessions, but I’ve enjoyed the 60 minute runs offered by B210K.

While I’ve been improving my running, my strength training has mostly been on maintenance with a few exceptions. I re-added Horizontal Pulls into my routine in late 2019, and have kept them up. I also embarked on Grip Training which I’ve been quite successful at, especially compared to my multiple previous attempts to build it as a habit. I’ve also doubled my Hanging Leg Raises to 20 reps across the last few months, which feels great.

My training’s been a bit disrupted lately as I’ve been backwards and forwards a lot, and it looks like it’ll be this way for a few more months at least, but I’ll be working around it and after September I’m hoping to effectively just say “no” to basically everything after my current obligations run out. One thing that late 2019 and 2020 did teach me; is that my mental health, and my physical health, does indeed do a LOT better with long periods of time at home with solid commitment to my training regime. It’s nice to be validated in knowing yourself.

Current Routine

  • Mon: Rest
  • Tue: Strength Circuit
  • Wed: 60 minute run (~9k)
  • Thu: Rest
  • Fri: Rest
  • Sat: Strength Circuit
  • Sun: 20 minute run (~3k)

Current Numbers

  • Close Pushups: 2 x 10 reps
  • Assisted Pistol Squats: 2 x 4 reps (each leg)
  • Bridges: 2 x 10 reps
  • Horizontal Pulls: 2 x 10 reps (hip height bar)
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 2 x 20 reps
  • Finger-tip push-ups: 2 x 5 reps
  • Uneven Hangs (one arm gripping a bar, one gripping a looped towel): 1 x 25s, 1x 20s (each arm)

Logs

I’ve begun logging a few mundane things to prompt reflection, so thought it’d be nice to list a few of the things I’ve been doing with downtime. The logs only begin truly around March time, but I back-dated a few things, and I’ve stripped dates out for this post anyway because they’re not really important to what I’m trying to convey.

Albums

I fell out of listening to music properly a while ago. I’d still listen, but it’d be disparate songs rather than sitting down and listening to music as an activity or having it on. During my MRes in 2014-2015, there was a LOT of information coming at me and I’d never been able to listen to music while working as it’s, historically, distracted me and left me unable to focus. Throughout 2020 I got into lo-fi girl, which sort of changed that a bit.

I’m also a frequent reader of the Art of Manliness blog, and in February they republished their Top 10 Jazz Albums for Beginners. I’ve always enjoyed blues and jazz when it’s been played to me, or on films/TV, and the list presented to me lowered the barrier to entry somewhat, so I embarked on a journey of exploring some Jazz. I found myself blown away a lot of the time, especially by Duke Ellington and later by Nina Simone (although I knew that the latter was the GOAT). I committed only to listening to two albums a week to avoid overwhelm, but this was quickly thrown out and I ended up listening to at least an album a day for some time.

The jazz sparked my desire to explore new music, specifically albums, and to connect to my friends by asking for three albums that meant something to them. I like albums, I’m not sure why. I’ve always preferred albums to playlists unless I’m after a particular vibe. I’ve listened to less of my friends suggestions because I’ve since rekindled my love of rock and heavy metal and EBM/electronic; but I did get through Miss Anthropocene by Grimes and Walking on a Dream Deluxe edition by Empire of the Sun. I’ve since learned that I don’t really like Grimes or Empire of the Sun. Sorry Rosie. I’ve got a backlog to get through from a few others, but at the moment my listening is tending to a mix of Jazz/blues, rock/metal or EBM/electronic music, and historic/pagan/spiritual ‘folk’ music embodied by Wardruna and Heilung.

My album listening has tailed off a little, as I’ve had a few disrupted days and call-filled days at work where I can’t listen much. But I hope that I’m going to get back into them soon.

I’ve listened to a few albums more than once so I’ve used DeDupeList.com to remove the duplicates. I’ve also removed the dates of these, but they’re otherwise presented in listening order (duplicates not withstanding) from February 2021 to the day of writing (2021-06-26)

  • Alle lust will ewikgeit by Nachtmahr
  • Ellington at Newport by Duke Ellington
  • Blue Train by John Coltrane
  • Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
  • Portrait in Jazz by The Bill Evans Trio
  • Sempiternal by Bring Me The Horizon
  • The Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson
  • King of Tenors by Ben Webster
  • Ella and Louis Again by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  • Miss Anthropocene by Grimes
  • SlipKnot by SlipKnot
  • Ella and Louis by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  • Jazz at Massey Hall by The Quintet
  • Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderley
  • The Sidewinder by Lee Morgan
  • Pastel Blues by Nina Simone
  • Skald by Wardruna
  • Futha by Heilung
  • Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown by Sarah Vaughan
  • Inquisition Symphony by Apocalyptica
  • The Poison by Bullet For My Valentine
  • Duke Ellington and John Coltrane by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
  • Fever by Bullet For My Valentine
  • Maiden Heaven by Various Artists
  • Maiden Heaven Volume II by Various Artists
  • All I Was by Tremonti
  • Collison Course by Jay Z and Linkin Park
  • Rock in Rio by Iron Maiden
  • Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park
  • Meteora by Linkin Park
  • Gab Var Ginnunga by Wardruna
  • Mutter by Rammstein
  • Harsh Generation by Grendel
  • All Hope Is Gone by SlipKnot
  • Ragnarok by Wardruna
  • Yggdrasil by Wardruna
  • Ascendancy by Trivium
  • Portrait In Jazz by The Bill Evans Trio
  • I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone
  • Shogun by Trivium
  • Furiosity by Monster Truck
  • Monster Truck by Monster Truck
  • In Waves by Trivium
  • Mezmerize by System of a Down
  • Sings the Blues by Nina Simone
  • Ofnir by Heilung
  • A Matter of Life and Death by Iron Maiden
  • Somethin Else by Cannonball Adderley
  • The Final Frontier by Iron Maiden
  • Dance of Death by Iron Maiden
  • Trøllabundin by Eivør Pálsdóttir
  • The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden
  • Somewhere in Time by Iron Maiden
  • Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden
  • Powerslave by Iron Maiden
  • Brave New World by Iron Maiden
  • The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden
  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden
  • No Prayer for the Dying by Iron Maiden
  • Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden
  • The Black Album by Metallica
  • Walking on a Dream Deluxe edition by Empire of the Sun
  • Led Zeppelin I by Led Zeppelin
  • American Idiot by Green Day
  • Dookie by Green Day
  • Edward the Great - Greatest Hits by Iron Maiden
  • The Path of Totality by KoRn
  • American Capitalist by Five Finger Death Punch
  • Night Train by The Oscar Peterson Trio
  • Under The Table And Dreaming by Dave Matthews Band
  • Stand Up by Jethro Tull
  • Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull
  • What The F*ck Is Wrong With You People? by Combichrist
  • Reroute To Remain by In Flames
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Kvitravn by Wardruna

Total albums this half-year: 76 (86 with duplicates / re-listens)

Books

I’ve not read as much as I’d like, and it’s a shame. But my head has been full of bees for one reason or another quite a lot. Despite that I’ve been able to read a few really nice books lately.

When we were first dating towards the end of 2020, my partner introduced me to the Wayfarers series by Becky Chamber. I thoroughly enjoyed it almost immediately after picking up the first one, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. I devoured this book, and didn’t think it could be topped but I then lost myself in A Closed and Common Orbit and was touched in a very real way by the content of this follow-up. Seriously, it’s amazing. I was some way through the third book, Record of a Spaceborn Few, when my father passed so I was thrown off. It’s my intention to revisit it soon and pick it up. It’s worth reading it just for the description of the ‘Hexes’ alone.

I’m currently working my way through The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I picked it up after I played through Red Dead Redemption, which was a distraction attempt to keep me occupied as I’d just moved into my new flat, left my PS4 with my old flatmate, and was processing my grief and wanted to keep myself busy-ish. I’ve tried to read the series once before, but got derailed on Book 4, Wizard and Glass. It appears the same has happened again but this time I’m a bit more determined to just power through, I do enjoy the book but there’s just something about this one that means I can’t focus how I usually do. I’m probably going to take a short break after this book, return to the Becky Chambers book momentarily, and then back to the series.

The Jackalope Wives and Other Stories by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) is a go-to feel-good book of short stories by an author who just speaks to my very soul and just gets it. Unfailingly funny, and Ursula perfectly captures the animism of how I see the world in each tale. Go check her out. I always enjoy this book when I go through it, and the dreamer part of me still wants to bump into Granny Harkin some day.

  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
  • The Jackalope Wives and other stories by T. Kingfisher
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
  • The Waste Lands by Stephen King

Currently reading: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King.

Movies

When I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process of logging albums and books, I turned my attention to movies. It’s easy these days to fall into a mindless loop of binging TV shows and, like albums, I’ve always quite liked how distinct films are. One thing I miss about living with my ex-flatmate is our discussion of movies (although we were great at discussing shows too!).

After I completed Red Dead Redemption, as noted above, I was in a bit of a western mood and realised that I’d never actually seen a western! I decided to start with A Fistful of Dollars as a classic, highly rated, and apparently accessible western. I enjoyed it a lot. With my brain being full of grief and of viva-prep, I then turned to the nostalgic and began a bit of a binge of easy watching either by myself or with my partner. The exception being My Dinner with Andre, which I desperately wanted to show my partner (she loved it). There’s not too much to say about these except I’ve not really had an aim or theme with movies. At one point I realised I’d never seen past the fourth Harry Potter movie, and while I wasn’t particularly excited about it I needed something a little mindless to chew on and went through the entire saga. I didn’t care for the later films, and they held no nostalgia for me. I might do a thing later this year where I pick a director and watch a bunch of their movies, as I’m a big fan of the Coen Brothers. But we’ll see. Currently, my partner asked to watch through the Star Wars movies as she’s never seen them before so we’re going through them in the Machete Order.

So, here we go. As before the dates are removed as unimportant for this post:

  • A Fistful of Dollars
  • Daddy Day Care
  • My Dinner with Andre
  • Soul
  • Shrek
  • Coraline
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Pacific Rim
  • Pacific Rim Uprising
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2
  • It Follows
  • The Lorax
  • Sleeping Dogs Lie
  • Coco
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • The Cable Guy
  • Lost in Translation
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Brother Bear
  • Ice Age
  • Super 8
  • Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope
  • Kink
  • Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
  • The Graduate
  • Star Wars Episode II Attack Of The Clones

Total films watched: 32

Takeaway

I set myself a little challenge in 2021 to only eat a grand total of 8 takeaways for the entire year of 2021 and thus save my wallet and my bowels. This would allow me one on or near each solar event at the quarter of the year, as well as an additional four interspersed how I want. In theory I could have a takeaway every 6.5 weeks, and I did have a few additional rules / context:

  1. No sad or angry takeaways. Only happy or cosy. Basically, the job of a takeaway is to enhance a good time, rather than make up for a bad one.
  2. A takeaway is defined as ordering for delivery or collecting takeaway food which is designed to replace the evening meal. This is an important distinction because “eating out for lunch” didn’t really count for me, as it sits in a different rhythm. That said, I’ve only eaten out for lunch a few times this year.
  3. A takeaway has to be shared with others; no binge eating by myself, even after a fast.

This set the challenge as a prime candidate for logging and reflecting on, as each takeaway would then be associated with happy memories! In practice, I went the entire first quarter of the year up to the Spring Equinox before getting takeaway at all and then got three in relatively quick succession, at a rate of one-per-month across each March, April, and May. I’ve not had one in June, and aim to get to the Autumn Equinox without another.

  • 2021-03-20: Nudo Sushi for Equinox
  • 2021-04-16: Nudi Sushi for fun
  • 2021-05-28: Pizzaholic Pizza for fun and comfort

Misc

There are a few miscellaneous things that have occurred in the last 6-to-8-month period that I’m covering here.

  • I migrated my blog to Jekyll, but I’m still not sure what to do with all my old Indieweb notes and all my old POSSE permalinks are broken.
  • I got lumped with a bunch of my dad’s old gear which I’m still sorting through, which means I’m a bit more cluttered than usual. This included my old Bionicle Lego action figures. I didn’t want to chuck them in the landfill, so managed to find takers for 90% of them on Reddit. I shipped them overseas at a loss, but I feel better knowing they’re either with collectors or with people who’re giving them to their brother.
  • I feel I’ve finally managed to celebrate Summer Solstice in a way that feels perfect for me. In the past I’ve either been in Spain, or by myself, and it’s been nice. However, I didn’t feel confident enough to celebrate “properly” and merely… observed them. Which is something I tend to do for the Equinoxes no problem. This year, I was with my partner and her family and it just felt… nice. They made a fuss over me which I absolutely will not take as granted, but we celebrated the day very well and very actively. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to many more Solstices to come.
  • I’m making plans to get a kitten soon, but I’m not sure when that will be.