Sunday, 13 February 2011

Beaches, Lunches, Reading and Quiet Contemplation


This week has been one of quiet contemplation. I have been up in Scotland on a week’s annual leave. It is the first time I have been here at this time of the year. The weather has been a mixed offering of frost, ice, torrential rain, high winds and brilliant sunshine. Despite the fact that most places are closed until March, the compensations have been considerable.

The hills have been completely deserted, the woods empty of people, and the beaches places to walk upon without seeing anything move except the tide coming in and then going out again. However, it took me until Tuesday (some four days) before my mind cleared sufficiently and I was able to really enjoy the opportunity to truly relax.

Since then I have been able to let my hair down, as this picture shows. This photo did provoke some unkind comments about how many dog owners grow to resemble their dogs over time. As Billy Connolly might say, I prefer to think about it as a windswept and intresting look, and I am not talking about Cello.

One of my New Year resolutions was to try and have a proper lunch break once or twice in a week. In the six weeks since then, I have managed to do this only on three occasions. However, this week I have enjoyed a two hour lunch every day. The local village has a pub (The Anchor), with a roaring log fire, real beer, and enough of a vegetarian menu to make lunch interesting. Whilst my waistline has expanded considerably, my stress levels have tumbled and I even had a couple of after lunch naps – allegedly!

As some of you will know, I also have a voracious appetite for reading novels while away. At Christmas I bought a Kindle. I have found books much easier and quicker to read in this format. Ordering new books is also very easy. So having loaded up with a dozen new bestselling novels I was looking forward to sitting there, glass of wine in one hand, Kindle in the other. Well it simply refused to work, It was a frustrating start to the holiday and I am sure added to my inability to relax. Amazon managed to fix it remotely yesterday but my faith in this new technology has been challnged. I have never yet had a book that refused to open its covers to prevent being read.

Fortunately I did have three books in my work bag, Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge, Jacques Derrida’s Writing and Difference, and Arthur Kleinman’s Writing at the Margin. Not Lee Child, or Dan Brown I admit, but good reads nevertheless. I was reading these in part preparation to shape my thoughts for a paper on bricolage and the importance of context to mental health research and practice as explicated in therapeutic and research conversations. Kleinman’s work has been a favorite of mine. He’s a great anthropologist and his work is always fresh provocative and challenging. While constructing my PhD, I drew upon his thinking on the way our use of metaphors can help us better understand relationships.

Whilst I have not made much progress towards my paper, I have discovered why some older men start relationships with younger women. Apparently such relationships contribute to human longevity and the survival of the human species. Much evolutionary theory suggests that individuals should die of old age when their reproductive lives are complete, generally by age 55 in humans. Whilst late fatherhood provides no benefit for the older man’s personal survival, the pattern (of reproducing at a later age) has a positive effect on the population as a whole.

However, sitting in the Anchor this week and watching two or three couples with young children struggling to have a relaxing lunch has absolutely reinforced my view that with five children and five grandchildren I think I have already made a positive contribution to the population as a whole. I also discovered day time TV, so for me it might just be a case of recording every episode of Midsummer Murders, Jamie’s 30 minute meals and Come Dine with Me, booting up my Kindle more often, ensuring I have lunches built into my calendar, and counting the days to the next break!

And for all those good folks at HM Revenue and Customs, I had thought my contribution to the National Debit had been paid in full. Thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that over the last few years it clearly hasn't been. I am clearly in your debit.