Author Archives: J Russell
My mind looked a little like this at the start of the week. And then came the snow, muffling and slowing everything down… saving the tangle of neurons and synapses inside my bleached out skull from sparking and shorting into an electric bonfire.
So, snow, thanks.
I went swimming this week and had a whole blog I wanted to write, which I was going to illustrate with this detail from an oil painting in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. I have spent far too long this morning trawling through the museum’s online catalogue in order to attribute the painting correctly and time marches on, so the whole swimming thing will have to wait until the next blog.
As well as failing to write the intended blog, I have also failed to attribute the picture. Winning at life…
I seem to remember asking at the time of the visit what the painting was titled and by which artist and no-one could answer. The mystery lives on, but look at that sea boil.
I’ve been pot-holing this week. Exploring the cracks, crevices, fissures and trenches where glaciers, rivers and oceans pulse, slowly.
If I’ve been spinning with my head in infinity for the last while, this is the week where I came back to reality with both a bump and then, for one alarming dreamsleep moment, a slipslide beneath the tide encased in a sealed train carriage.
Dreams tell me things. How I am doing now. How I did in the past. What I need to watch for in the future.
Trouble is, I don’t often know what they were telling me, except in the thin shadow of a very long and highly blurry hindsight.
Turns out that, far from making you fart and look like an idiot, an hour of yoga helps you ping out of bed the next morning without the stiff back (and associated grunting and groaning) you’ve been putting up with for the whole of 2017.
“According to the ONS, no form of commuting enhances overall levels of satisfaction and self-esteem. Worse, its study of 60,000 travellers found that each 10-minute increase in journey time has a significant impact on the well-being of the commuter. On the other hand, once the trip to work exceeded 90 minutes, the harmful effects began to disappear.”
Having just spent half a year trying to avoid driving more than an hour and a half one way to Colchester, and another hour and a half back, I cannot agree with this survey at all. Two hours spent in the car in total was tolerable, three hours was seriously pushing it, tipping over that golden ninety minutes each way sent me steering wheel gnawingly insane.
In my case, exceeding a commute of 90 minutes had a number of ill effects ranging from fatigue, deep grumpiness, migraine, travel sickness and what felt like incipient night blindness. In short, I quickly realised that over 90 minutes spent commuting in the car bent me out of shape. Mentally. I was seriously close to buying a BMW 5 series, that’s how deranged I had gotten before Christmas. Fortunately I was pulled back from the German automobile brink, but physically I have been altered, perhaps for ever…
I finished with the super commute last week, so this week I started as I mean to go on, and went to a yoga class. My hastily assembled outfit caused some merriment in the children when they came home from school (now teenagers, they judge their mother harsh sartorially and often with, it has to be said, good reason). Little do they know that what I looked like in the actual yoga studio was the least of my worries.
Even a few short minutes of sitting cross-legged on the floor (or whatever the usual yoga seated pose is called) had me thinking I would never make it through a whole hour. Fortunately we moved through a few poses, which I cobbled together as best I could, with my back and right hip complaining more or less throughout. Additionally, and somewhat unexpectedly, for the class duration I seemed to be dealing with a whole small gibbon wrapped round my frontage. This beast clung on tight throughout, impeding any movements that involved bending forward; threatening to suffocate me on occasion.
This week I have learned that spending a thousand hours in a car is not a recipe for yoga success. I have also learned that one’s best efforts to get all ironed out in the body department will be considerably hindered by wearing a small gibbon, as if in an invisible baby sling. Still, I’ve signed up to go again, because at the very least something must be done about the gibbon.
I am between jobs. I finished one job yesterday and will start the next in February.
I celebrated with 10mg of valium and a trip to the dentist. The fact that I did not have to be put more under than that with chemical coshes is what I am going to call progress. Further evidence that might be considered change of sorts include:
I have ditched the world of Apple and Microsoft and migrated myself to cloud-based computing.
I am lying on a bed that does not need changing, with a silk pillow and net curtains that are clean.
The dog has developed agoraphobia, so rather than taking him on a nice walk, I might have to walk myself.
I have ditched eating meat.
I have stopped wishing I still lived in London.
I have decided to let some stuff go. That happened yesterday. Today is a new day.
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
Wittgenstein, (1921) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
London has held my devotion for as long as I can remember. My favourite place in the world to visit was the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, travelling a few stops on the tube with my grandmother. My own children were both born in Hackney. I lived in the borough of Hackney for 15 years – four homes were in social housing – ranging from the 2nd floor through to the 15th.
The events that unfolded with terrifying speed and yet horrific slow motion at Grenfell Tower have been so close to home that I have deliberately failed to imagine them. I have switched off the news, averted my eyes, avoided eye witness reports. And yet the almost unbearable torment of the lost souls and their family, friends, has crept in.
I have my own brief experience with flames on the 8th floor, in a flat, asleep in the early hours. I was pregnant with our first daughter and I owe my life to my partner who shook me awake, having smelt smoke. Next door was on fire.
I realised then, and quickly, that had that fire taken hold, on the end of the balcony as we were, the furthest from the stairs, we would have been in real trouble. And yes, our public landlord was crappy back then. Like now there were no sprinklers or alarms. But there was not the raging divide between rich and poor and the rampant gentrification there is now. Our block was not clad in a flammable facade waiting to engulf the whole block if one person nodded off with a cigarette in their hand. An event, like the fire I woke up to, could have been a tragic accident, but an accident no less.
Grenfell Tower is no accident. Those who call for culpability are correct. Those who question why the media, even whilst poring over every gruesome detail and lapping up eye witness accounts, are strangely coy about the actual number of people lost, are correct. Those who criticise the use of the cladding, are correct. Those who question the laws and regulations that remain unmade and not updated, are correct. The clamour of voices in the last 48 hours, not least those of the residents who spelled out the danger over the years, paint a picture of multiple shortcomings, where organisations and public servants failed to listen, failed to respond, and failed to act.
Tonight, protestors are on the march in a broken city. I stand with them #JusticeforGrenfell