My Commute To Work

It’s January 2016 and as an avid BBC Breakfast viewer I have been watching the daily feature this week about the trials and tribulations of the morning commute to work. Initially the content was very ‘Londoner’ focused and as I only ever travel for pleasure down south and being a self diagnosed geographobist, (aka fear of map reading), I’m aware that, for me, commuting into and across London would fill me with dread feeling like a military operation is required. It doesn’t take much of an Internet trawl to discover that the London commute correlates with a number of worrying health concerns including increased risk of obesity, neck pain, stress, worry, insomnia and even divorce. This made me think about my commute to work which I can happily say is poles apart from the above. ‘Research’, (don’t ask me for the reference), tells us that the average UK commute is approximately 54 minutes, if commuting to the top six major cities this causes this average time to increase dramatically. My commute is from Belper to Derby and can, on a bad day, take me over an hour, so I more or less fit into this category. My commute in the winter months consists of a ten mile car journey, which can take between 20 and 50 minutes and a walk of between 9 and 14 minutes depending on a number of factors. Unlike for others my commute to work is a blessing rather than a curse
The Car Journey

There is something quite calming and therapeutic about the mundane routine of my car journey to work, from the six minutes it takes for the heating to rise to a cosy twenty four degrees, (and I know exactly at what point early into that commute I can unbutton my coat and ditch the gloves). Especially, comforting is on those frosty mornings when the car is already up to temperature when I get in after it has been defrosting itself on the drive for ten minutes with the engine on, (this is the cue for car thieves to visit!).
Every weekday morning when I press the ‘Start’ ignition button in my Prius the speakers jump into life, almost at the same point in the radio program every working day. The same presenters on the same radio features during the sacred period feel almost like they are sat next to me, I am sat in isolation floating to work in my own metallic warm bubble, listening to music, just enjoying life, that is until that is a car roars past me and the promptly, almost deliberately, cuts me up, oblivious to anything but their own bubble.
My thoughts are often diverted from Chris Evans Breakfast show to why said driver is in such a hurry. Nowadays, rather than hitting the horn and flailing my arms in the air, I find myself rather than hoping I come around the next bend and see the guy’s car off the road with a flat tire or, even better, pulled over at the next lay by by an unmarked police car, I wonder why he/she is in such a hurry. Perhaps it’s a husband whose wife is about to give birth and he wants to be by her side, or a worried son/daughter whose father just had a heart attack and they need to get to the hospital to see them, more likely it’s just someone being flipping rude.

When you’ve done the same commute for more than a couple of years you begin to notice the familiarity of the same cars and their owners. There is the young lad who I can hear coming before I see him, his bass tuned to a level he can’t possible hear any other tone. Then there is the cool guy in the Aston Martin, with the personalised registration plate that clearly spells out his initial and surname or the not so cool girl who’s name is obviously ’Gemma’ but her personalised registration reads ‘GAMMY’

Over time I have found three alternative routes for my drive to work depending on a number of factors: 1) There’s the standard route, as the crow flies, when I just want to listen to the radio and subconsciously, mentally prepare for the day ahead. 2) There’s the scenic route, this route takes me through the countryside, narrow lanes and a lot less traffic. This route is especially rewarding for that ‘Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’ Instagram/Twitter shot, there are plenty of lay-bys to pull over and get that perfect, filtered shot. 3) Finally there is the alternative route, this is if I am pre-warned about an accident, it’s a lot further, but generally quicker and a pleasent change from the norm.

The Walk

The second part of my commute is a walk of approximately twelve minutes into the centre of town, this way I get free parking! My walk to work is the most rewarding and refreshing part of the journey, I pass St Marys Church as her bells break into the 8:45am dance and Derby Cathedral at 9am as her chorus of larger bells deliver a symphony of harmonious delights.

A walk does however have it’s down side, the risk of bumping into colleagues and being forced to break that tranquil period of iscolation knowing that they have free access to me for the rest of the day. This is when I pray for rain or wind, that way the hood or the umbrella can go up acting as a barrier from the attack on my personal space, my time, they can do that for the next eight hours, but not before I reach my desk.

The pulling up of the hood, or that dip of the umbrella means I can avoid all contact, I become almost impossible to reach and they would have to physically touch me to get my attention. The hood or umbrella creates an obstacle to make it hard to reach me thus protecting my valuable time checking my Twitter timeline or updating my follows with the mornings commute observations in less than 140 characters.

Those precious commuting minutes allow me to live exclusively in the present, the thought of the future days work pales into insignificance as does the conflict and confrontations of the previous working day. The morning is a time to relax and your commute is an extension of that.



New Year, New Start…Why 1/1/2016 ?

It’s New Years Eve 2015 and I had some thoughts about making some new year resolutions, this is not something I normally would do as I really enjoy New Years Day, I always like a special meal and a few glasses of wine to start day one and the next 365 to come, it’s a leap year. Some people choose to not mark the New Year occasion in any way, others see the new year as an opportunity for self-improvement, the new you, there are even a select group who see the new year as a time to reflect on the past, the future, the changes we want to make in their lives for the better and sustain those changes all year. Depending on what your resolution is, keeping a new year’s resolution can be more difficult than you first think, perhaps that little promise made late new years eve after the overindulgence of Christmas can be far too easily forgotten about when you return to your normal routine of life, whether that be the daily trudge to work, daily cycle of parenthood or even that solitary existence on your own, enjoying your own space and surroundings

Maybe for some, New Year Resolutions are an even bigger issue, a time when you reflect on all areas of your life, you consider how you might have done things differently to have change the course of the previous year, worrying where the year has gone, where the years are going. Most New Year’s resolutions are about health, wealth, relationships, or personal development, in other words, they’re about the kind of things that matter most to us and our existence on this planet.

New Years Day becomes the opportunity to refocus our aspirations, goals into just a single day, the 1st day of the year and we do this by looking at all the negatives in our life, the previous year, which is quite a destructive thought process when you look at New Years resolutions in this context. If you are going to achieve your new years resolution beyond the first week in January a little more planning may be required. Let’s say your resolution is going to be ‘to lose weight’, you are going to eat less and more healthier, do more exercise, that’s sounds like a pretty depressing thought. How about making your resolution, to look sexier, to where sexier clothes, how this will effect your social life, your parenting, your work. Perhaps your resolution is to change job, again how daunting will that sound Monday January 4th at 9am, how about making that New Year Resolution to change the way you look at work change the way you commute, change your eating habits at work for starters.

Whilst writing this blog I have the television on in the background and have just heard the Manchester United manager declare his New Years Resolution: “to be champions next year’, big mistake if he loses the next game. Perhaps his resolution should be a collection of changes to help Manchester United to be champions again. When it comes to the cycle of change it’s important that we understand that change more often than not takes time, energy, effort, and a plenty of patience. At times doubling your effort and energy can give very little reward if any, patience, however allows you to commit to longer term resolutions and not give in after setbacks.

The obvious point is that a New Year’s Resolution requires a full understanding and full investment, it also requires quick rewards to keep you motivated beyond January 2nd. You’re not attempting to change the world, however you are attempting to change norms, habits and addictions in your life, perhaps changing the world may seem the easier option come tomorrow morning.

Something to remember tonight, tomorrow or whenever you make your 2016 New Year Resolutions is that you will never be perfect, that’s one thing I can guarantee, people start out with New Year resolutions with all good intentions they may make a few mistakes, they relapse or even cheat a little and what do they do…they give up, succumb to the fact they can’t do it when there is no reason to, there is the option to continue with your resolution and still achieve those goals.

New Year Resolutions are about breaking habits and you will need new behaviours to fill the space that the habit invaded and this is where many people go wrong, including myself, having gone wrong in the past. These behaviours you indulge in and want to change turn into habits only after long and sustained repeated use, don’t think you can break these habits after a week, a month but set your goal for at least three months. An example is the New Year resolution to join a gym, the fitness industry counts on us giving up, they sell year-long contracts knowing most of us won’t actually sustain for more than a few weeks because we get distracted by other things, overwhelmed, or uninterested. If after three months you realise you are not going to the gym sign back up to your resolution and start again – you have paid for the year.

So, the question is am I going to make any New Year resolutions this year, probably, definitely, am I going to tell you what they are, no. I am however going to try and practice watch I preach, or blog about and consider all the above when trying to achieve my goals in 2016 and if I break those said resolutions I’ll resign up to them the following day for 366 days.

Happy New Year

Forty and still taking #Selfies

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I am forty years old. I could never imagine reaching forty years old, I just thought it was years away and then all of a sudden it just creeps up on you…BANG the big 40 arrives. I’ve have secretly been looking forward to being forty probably for about the past five years, being mature and refined like a good cheese or wine, but actually it feels no different to twenty seven, (unless something dramatic happens overnight).

Whilst I don’t feel any older, what has happened over the years is that my mindset has changed on the way I see my life. I have weeded out those habits, societal norms that were preinstalled into me as a child, special days, birthday, christmas, anniversaries, are just like any other day but different in that I mark them with different music, food, and colour schemes, for the record this years Christmas theme is red and gold.

What is so special about multiples of 10 anyway, 30, 40, 50, 60 years old, I could go on, I don’t understand why we pay such special attention to magic number perhaps it has some magical mathematical properties. I don’t recall my 10th, 20th or 30th birthday in any real detail but for some reason this one is supposed to be a big one – on that note I thought I would think a little deeper about why.

A day shy of forty, I guess I am about half way through my life, gosh that’s a depressing thought, even more depressing my fortieth is more important to me than my birth and my inevitable death. If I only have another forty years to go then perhaps I may only have 25 years in the prime physical and healthy condition that I am in now. Crikey, I sound like I’m having a midlife crisis!

On a more positive note, approaching forty I have a much stronger sense of urgency to remember to appreciate every day, at forty I’m in a much better position professionally now than when I was 20 or 30 and I recognise the rarity of true friendship and the scarcity of true love and empathy. A great leveller to being forty is the thought that in my fortieth year my son will be 18 years old – how cool is that, am I still allowed to say ‘cool’ being forty? I guess that being a young dad has it’s pro’s and con’s as does that of someone who begins fatherhood at the age of forty. In my forties, I’m going to be better dressed than ever before in my life, all my son’s clothes fit me, I have Casual Connoisseur t-shirts, Armani jeans and a Moncler coat – now that is cool.

Certainly, over the last five years I have mellowed when it comes to my intolerance of people, when someone accidentally cuts me up on the motorway instead of hurling abuse and throwing dramatic gestures at them, I’ll await for them to realise their misgivings and acknowledge their apology with a wave, I rarely use my horn these days.

Approaching forty I have started to care more about my social media profile, my Instagram gallery, the content of my blog, my looks and more importantly whether I can still take a good selfie. Whilst we’re on the subject of selfies as a forty year old you are either someone who loves taking them or hates taking them. Selfies, I guess, are the consequence of the fact that everyone has access to a camera, but they are not simply a photograph for you and yours to view. The rise of social media in my life over the last five years have enabled me to connect with all walks of life across the world I guess this is my excuse for posting selfies of everything from the a new pair of converse to the routine #SaturdayNightSelfie’s – why should I not share these events, with people who I have never met, that’s what social media is for, isn’t it? The same cannot be said for bad photos and we’ve all taken one, however, the difference is that we don’t share these, why, because they make us look less perfect, the bottom line is most of us hand pick every single picture that we post on social media sites for different reasons, to boost self esteem, a quick fix ego boost or to simply show the world the perfect parts of our not so perfect life.

While selfies can be viewed in a somewhat negative light, they can also play a very positive role in people’s lives. Selfies help people portray a version of themselves to the world. This is a statement that says “Look at me, this is who I am.” At times, it can be a very powerful statement and inspire people on to great things in their lives, while at other times, it is simply something that helps them get through the day. In real life, people are constantly trying to stand out, whether it is by what they say or the clothes that they wear and the selfie is no different. It is a statement to the world. It allows people to stand out among the masses.

So, this is me, forty and still taking selfies…..the only thing i am missing in my life is a bucket list…that’s next on my #ToDoList. I wonder what I’ll be doing when I reach fifty, will I be a grandfather, will I be alive, will I be writing a blog about being fifty, will I still be tweeting, taking pictures of my dinner. The pets will probably have died, a sad thought but reality, I’ll probably have a new car and the mortgage will be paid off. One thing is for sure, given how quickly the past forty years have gone, I going to make the most of every day, starting tomorrow.