Those New Year Resolutions

It has taken me a while, but I think that I might have nailed down to the floor some New Year resolutions for 2017.

It’s a list:

  1. Drink an Adnams Beer in Geneva.
  2. Own my routine.
  3. See ten sports live in Switzerland.
  4. Sell an artwork I created.
  5. Do an outdoors activity in Switzerland that I don’t usually do (such as sailing, or paragliding).
  6. Get a book published.
  7. Pass a B2 French exam.
  8. Coach someone else to success.
  9. See an eagle in Switzerland (alive, in the wild).
  10. 365 meaningful friendship interactions.
  11. Publish a successful new website.
  12. Get published in 3 different places that aren’t mine.

So, that’s it. I made 12, which seems neat, what with there being 12 months in a year. Here’s a quick summary of where I’m going with them.

1. Drink an Adnams Beer in Geneva

In Switzerland, like anywhere, there’s a lot of good beer available and a lot of terrible beer. But there’s not a great deal of great British beer, at least not where I have been looking. So, I have decided to get hold of my favourite beers, those from Adnams, and enjoy one (or more)  in Geneva. I have never seen it sold in Geneva, or anywhere else in Switzerland, so this may require a certain amount of work. As of today, I have started work on this one, so I hope to tell this story sooner rather than later.

2. Own my routine

As I haven’t had a conventional job for over two years I have done a lot of experimenting with how to make my life work for me. I pack a lot of looking communication projects, volunteering, exercise, household management and looking after little people into my life. Right now I’m working on creating a routine that keeps the mundane and practical in order and makes sure to create space for my creativity. This one might be one of life’s ongoing projects.

3. See ten sports live in Switzerland

This one is just for fun. I have a season ticket for Servette FC. Occasionally I persuade friends to come to games with me and as much as anything it’s about having quality time with friends rather than watching the match. The quality of the football is variable at best. This got me to thinking about how, if the sport isn’t the main event, I could change the background and mix it up a bit. I haven’t thought too hard about what the sports might be. Football, rugby, ice hockey, volleyball, basketball, tennis, cycling… I’m struggling now, but perhaps this one will come together later on!

4. Sell an artwork I created

In the past year or so I’ve been practising drawing. I’m very much an amateur but I enjoy the pursuit for its own sake. I’m in no way saying that I could go pro in this discipline, but I would like to see if I can make something that other people want to buy. Maybe it will be a piece, like a painting or a photograph, or perhaps I can come up with a Christmas card design or a greetings card. I have no idea in which direction this might go.

5. Do an outdoors activity in Switzerland that I don’t usually do (such as sailing, or paragliding)

In December 2015 I broke my elbow while ice skating in Geneva. It was a most frustrating experience. It stopped me running and cycling and well, ice skating, not that I was any good in the first place. But it certainly damaged my confidence at trying new things. A lot of those new things might be far enough away from me anyway that I wouldn’t ever do them but I might convince myself that I will one day. It’s already six years since I completed basic sailing and windsurfing courses on holiday in Turkey. Six years. So this year I need to get out there and do something. Be open to the possibility and see what flies. Or sails. You get the idea.

6. Get a book published

A few weeks ago at music group all the children were asked what their favourite book was. My kid named something that no one else had ever heard of. But I had – he chose one of my stories. If he likes them, I need to get them out into the big wide world and see if anyone else might like them. I have been working on several projects over the past couple of years, so now I would really like to get them out there and make space in my notebooks for other ideas that I can work on.

7. Pass a B2 French exam

After we had been in Switzerland for a couple of months, I met up with some other Dads for a beer. They had been here for any time from a year to five and none of them were fluent in French. I can’t be like that, I thought to myself, I need to pick up the language. Fast forward another couple of years and I am just like them. Passing a B2 exam feels like a fairly hefty ambition to me, so I have set it in order to try and stretch myself and see where it takes me.

8. Coach someone else to success

Back in our London days, I worked for East London anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action. One of their many interesting projects was “This Way Up“, giving people on low incomes the opportunity to work out their goals and how to reach them. The approach QSA offered was one-to-one coaching and mindfulness practice. It was a really interesting project to see from the side. It was great to hear the stories of the people who took part and see what a difference these practices made to their lives. I have some mindfulness practice in my life so I would like to work on the coaching side. But I would like to see it from the coach’s side and learn the practice that way and see how I can help other people with it.

9. See an eagle in Switzerland (alive, in the wild)

In an earlier draft, this resolution was to see 120 different birds in Switzerland this year. And to see 10 different animals, 10 butterflies, plus a reptile, an amphibian, a dragonfly and an orthoptera. You what? I use a website to record my bird sightings, every day that I’m in Switzerland. In 2016 I recorded just over 100 birds, plus five animals, 3 reptiles and a butterfly. So this resolution is about expanding what I see. Looking up and looking down. But I haven’t seen an eagle yet, so I came up with the simpler and snappier resolution of getting it down to a single bird. I’ll still aim to see all the others and every day I will keep practising in the hope of getting good enough at birding to know an eagle when I see one.

10. 365 meaningful friendship interactions

I just noticed that I have 362 friends on Facebook. So that got me to thinking as to whether I could interact with every one of those people this year. Not with a comment or a facebook update, but in some meaningful way. Write a letter. Hang out with them. Of course, not all of my friends are on Facebook, so I don’t really have any idea how many friends I have or what is realistic. But 365 seems like a good number to start with.

11. Publish a successful new website

Last year, I did learned about coding. I learned basic HTML and CSS. I took on a voluntary role too, with the requirement that I update the Geneva Quakers’ website. Go ahead, take a look at which is the site I am now responsible for. Some time soon I’m going to need to bite the bullet and re-do that site as I haven’t done anything yet and I have been responsible for it since September. Then, I would like to do another site. And get my blog up and running again – it has been broken for several months – so that I can learn about WordPress. Finally, I’m going to have a go at blogspot too and to that end I am working on a plan for a hyperlocal site for our neighbourhood. Watch this space.

12. Get published in three different places that aren’t mine

I would like to use 2017 to start working on building my contacts and connections. Delivering on my resolutions above will test me and will be hard work. I would like to use my experience as an opportunity to share my stories in places that aren’t my own. Whether it’s your blog, another website, a newspaper, a video or whatever, this is an opportunity for me to practice putting myself out there.

So that’s my twelve resolutions for 2017. Thanks for sticking with me throughout this post! And wish me luck for 2017.


The age-old January resolutions thing

New year, new opportunities. Have you got your new year’s resolutions sorted yet?

The fashion now seems to be to disregard them. They don’t work anyway. There’s too much, not enough time.

This year, I have decided to go the other way. And make loads of new resolutions. They’re not major though. Just little changes here and there. A commitment to the journey, to the experience.

Back on with the yoga. Thankfully, Adriene made that one easy today with a whole new 31 days of yoga programme. Tick.

I’m aiming to write regularly, in various places, hence a blogpost or two here. Tick.

I’m creating more art. So I made a quick sketch of a cormorant. Tick.

Not eating after 21h00, is that possible? Today it is. Tick.

A bit of French every day. I read a couple of articles in an old 20 Minutes newspaper and a whole load of comments on a football fans forum. Tick.

There are more. Spend only when I really want to. Stick with teaching the boy to read. In English and in French. Manage my photos. Back up the computer regularly. Maybe I should write them all down!

Birds probably don’t like fireworks

I remember as a kid, growing up in the UK, that there were lots of warnings about fireworks. We got the message every year around Guy Fawkes night on 5 November. Lots of warnings about children who had lost eyes or suffered other injuries after playing with fireworks. The need to let a responsible adult do all the work. Look out for hedgehogs hibernating in the firewood. And look after your pets as they will be scared by the loud noise.

Mute Swans making a swift getaway during the fireworks display.

In Geneva, Switzerland, the major fireworks display is held on our lake and is at a much more civilized time of year weather-wise – August. They spend a lot of money on the fireworks and hundreds of thousands of people come to see the spectacle.

Usually, I can’t say that I have much time for fireworks. It’s a lot of bright lights and noise, but I just don’t get much enjoyment from it.  So I don’t go. If L wants to see the fireworks, she has to make plans with other people or go on her own.

One factor changed it this time around. Geneva also has a much smaller fireworks display on 1 January just after midnight and I happened to mention it to my son. He got excited and we promised to wake him up in time to go to the fireworks.

It was rather funny waking boy up at 23h40. He fell back asleep a couple of times as we put trousers, t-shirts and jumpers over his pyjamas. I offered to him that we didn’t have to go, hoping he would agree, but he was adamant that he wanted to see the fireworks. So off we went. It only takes a couple of minutes walk to get lakeside from ours, so we left it quite late to set off.

Despite the short wait it was bitingly cold last night and the fog of the last few days had also come to see the fireworks, so there was low cloud. Thanks to the multitude of lights everywhere we could see light banks of fog sitting gently on the lake. It was mysterious (mist-erious?) and beautiful too.

The boy loved the commotion. There were hundreds of people around, people parking their cars seemingly randomly along the street to come and get a view, people in fancy dress costumes with flashing lights on hats and shoes and people blasting hooters here there and everywhere.

Then it turned midnight and the fireworks began. They were okay. L liked them, she always does. The boy loved them. His first ever fireworks! The birds, they probably didn’t like them. I don’t think that we ever had warnings about birds when we were kids, just the animal warnings mentioned earlier.

I don’t do a great deal of lake visiting at midnight, so I don’t know how birds usually behave at that time. My assumption is that most of them are sleeping. As it was, there were three Mallard ducks knocking about right by the shore and people were feeding them god knows what.

Once the fireworks were set off the Mallards went a little crazy, going this way and that. And Mute Swans turned up – three groups of five or so – swimming pretty fast and then flying away, joined by the Mallards. A Goosander went the other way. Then a couple of Mute Swans followed them. I imagine it was rather disorienting for them. The noise, the lights, the people.

Thankfully, it was all over after about ten minutes and we were back home just after 00h15. The boy was fast asleep and I already had three different birds on the 2017 list, all in the first ten minutes. Hopefully the birds got back to sleep soon afterwards.

Car! Door!

Today we did jobs, Junior and I. Visited the launderette, pruned the hedge, refilled the birdfeeder, did some online retail therapy (secateurs, bath mat, doormat, that sort of thing).

Every day Junior learns new words. Every day, Junior has to label the things he sees.

The route to the park is a slow one, though the park is nearby. Junior tells me what he sees. Door! Every house has a door. Every car has a door. Today I taught Junior to say ‘car’. This was a mistake. There are a lot of cars between home and the park. They are parked on the pavement and they pass in the road. Both ways! There are a lot of cars to point out.

When we got to the park Junior ignored the swing, the slide, the climbing frame and the elephant. He got his ball out of his trolley and we kicked the ball around the park for an age. Around and around the slide, the swings. The elephant got an occasional touch.

I knew it was time to go home when Junior picked up his ball and put it in his trolley. He walked the trolley to the gate. I suggested we go back to the slide or the swings but both suggestions were met with an emphatic “No!”

So we set off home. After about 5 yards of walking, Junior gave me the ball. He then indicated that he wanted me to take the trolley. Then he grabbed my leg. I know the code – I put him up on my shoulders, picked up the ball and the trolley and we went home. Walking back took about 2 minutes, getting there had taken over 20.


City farm

We hocked it over to Surrey Quays City Farm on Saturday. It’s a great place to go for a family outing.


Junior crowed back after a cockerel cock-a-doodle-dooed. He oinked at the pigs too.


We bleated with the goats and watched the ducks.


Junior liked the geese especially, but we tried to keep him apart from those dangerous looking beaks.


This was Junior’s fourth visit to the farm.

Thank you Hilly Fields parkrun, Janathon, Jantastic

Oh my, Elizabeth Fry!

Today, I really didn’t fancy running. I put my clothes out last night and my beloved put them away thinking I wasn’t running until Tuesday. I got to work and my running colleague, D, said she’ll run tomorrow instead of today. At least she went out running on Saturday, so she’s building up her schedule. Then I was stuck in my big project, letting my mood slip as I’m alone in my office today. I was finding reasons not to go. Put it off to tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the schedule collapses. 

I took a few breaths. Stepped out of my day. Listened to my thoughts. Noticed them. Noticed that they’re thoughts, not facts. 

Some more breaths. Letting the thoughts go. Finding some facts. I’ve got a schedule. I need a break. I’ll feel better afterwards. I can have a slow plod if that’s how I feel. 

I took my phone, started the Endomondo app from the top of our steps, walked the few yards to the street and set off. I was feeling okay. Had to dodge a few people. At a roundabout I had to wait for a car to pass. The driver acknowledged me. Another runner, noticing I had broken my stride? At the building site a chap standing chatting on the pavement stepped out of my way. Through the park. Out of the park, across the zebra at Grove Road. Back into the park. Noticing other runners, walkers and cyclists. Smiling to a few. It feels almost as good as last Thursday, when my colleague S and I hit 8:34 in our first mile, then slowed it a bit out the back. 

The voice of Endomondo calls out the first mile. 8 minutes, 11 seconds. 

8 minutes 11 seconds! I’ve never knowingly hit this pace before. I’m doing the sums, Two miles in 16:22, three miles in 24:33. Plus a bit more to finish off the 5k. My fastest parkrun is 25:07. This is could be the same pace. 

Of course, now I’m on something akin to record pace my body starts complaining. My shins start to feel tight. My mind knows that when I run with colleagues we’re on the track but today I’m on the path. My knees are complaining. Is my shoe lace coming loose? It’s mind games. I’m stronger than this. 

Being Victoria Park, I can see the pub that roughly marks the 2 mile spot. It’s miles away. I settle again. On the far east side of the park. Up ahead are some chaps with leaf blowing machines. Whatever happened to rakes? And a tractor. A 13-plate, I notice as I get close. It’s blue so I assume it’s Ford but it’s not, it’s New Holland. Past the men with their blowers. Past their Ford Transit truck. 

Around the corner. My shoe lace is undone. Bother it. I stop and tie it up, another double knot. Will I lose my time now? I recall my slow start from the steps. I’m doing okay. Sweat in my eyes. Seem to see a lot of women with babies along this stretch. And a chap with a baby. From now on I wonder with each runner if we’ve passed each other already. 

Endomondo woman announces the second mile. Seven minutes thirty seconds. Two miles in 15:41. Oh my, Elizabeth Fry! I’ve gone faster than the first mile! I’m tiring though. I tell myself it’s okay, even if I ran the next mile at 10 minutes a mile it will be respectable. 

The north side of Victoria Park, parallel with Victoria Park Road goes on forever. You just have to keep going. Eventually you get round. Keep going, I tell myself. When I notice my pace falling I encourage myself on. 

Back to Grove Road. Over the zebra. Into the next stretch. The section that we sometimes think is the last but it isn’t. There’s another divider to go. 

At last, the back bend, the furthest west section of the park. I almost get entangled by a dog walker. One with about seven or eight dogs on leads. Round the final big bend. Another runner just ahead of me. I use him to pace myself, he’s going faster than I’d like to be going but I’m nearly home. 

Endomondo woman again. Seven minutes fifty-three. Three miles in 23:34. I’ve never done this before. I pass the runner I was pacing with, sprinting as hard as I can to the gate. But it isn’t over at the gate. I’m fiddling with my pocket as I run, to get my phone out, to open it up, be back at the pause button. It’s a 90-degree corner and onto the bridge. I begin to slow as I’m onto the gate. Remind myself to push. Last few strides. Over the (imaginary) line. I lose a few more seconds fumbling with my phone. 

Finally: 24:27. I’ve done it. I’ve broken my record. Broken? More like smashed it. I look at the time again. I’ve ripped 40 seconds off my best parkrun time. No hills, but still. 

I walk back to the office, triumphant. 

As I walk I’m thinking of my friend David, who demolished my reasons for not running and guided me through my first eight months of running. And it was David who first told me about parkrun. I’m thinking of the my friends Mike, Stefan, Chris and Mark who have all run parkrun with me. I’m thinking of the Hilly Fields parkrun community. And my colleagues who run at lunchtime. I’m thanking the Jantastic crew and the Janathon bloggers. And my mindfulness group. Because it’s good to have goals and it’s great to find old friends and new inspiration. And my beloved and Junior. I’m thanking you all as I walk. 

Finally, I’m thanking me. Because I did it. And I can do it again.

Stats so far today: 6,441 steps. 5.3km run. 

Our London

We have this park near us with a fabulous view of London.

Every time I take Junior up there I show him the panoramic view from the city in the east to battersea power station in the southwest.

At new years eve and fireworks nights hundreds of people gather here. In the summer people gather for picnics. All year round there are joggers and dogs being walked.

And as we stand there, I tell Junior that London belongs to him and every one of the children in London. I tell him it’s his playground. I tell him that London belongs to him. I tell him never to be afraid of claiming his city.

And then we get on with our day.

Jessye days

Today was a Jessye day. You know the ones, you probably have another name for it, or maybe you don’t call it anything.

They’re the days when you do nothing for the whole day, but you do lots of small things. It’s usually a day of rest, of respite and refreshment. A day for getting jobs done.

They’re mongrel days – a bit of everything is in them. But the best mongrel days are special so we named them after the best mongrel I ever knew, Jessye.

Jessye picked my aunt and uncle out when they visited Battersea Dogs Home looking for a pet. They brought her home and she gently became a figure of importance in many people’s lives. She may even have been my first love. She was kind, beautiful and generous. When she died, the mourners were many.

Sharing a tart with friends

Our Jessye day today has been a mixture of jobs, playing in the garden,

Distant view of canary wharf from the allotment

visiting Ever Sunny Park, inspecting our allotment plot, eating and time spent with friends.

Ever Sunny Park

My favourite exercise was kicking a ball about in Ever Sunny Park with Junior and his mother. It’s a slow game but he laughs a lot and it’s the best sound in the world.

Exercise stats: 3,095 steps.

Father, Quaker, communicator, fundraiser and networker