Saturday 20 December 2014

Inexorable Peasant Logic

What to do with this Blog?

It previously served as therapy for me in my role as Chief Executive of Hafal. The idea was that it would be a place where I could sound off from the sidelines while letting users and carers provide the voice of Hafal through mainstream and formal channels. It did work well for that purpose.

I think I had another motivation which was to demonstrate some hinterland aside from my professional role, hence the almost equal number of posts about stuff I did in my own time. This might have suggested either that I was a frivolous person insufficiently dedicated to my professional duties or else that I was setting a good example of what is mischievously called "work life balance".

Some of the fun stuff was also simply an attempt to cheer up or amuse friends and supporters - and possibly to annoy those few bitter and twisted people who are ill-disposed towards Hafal or me.

The risk of continuing the Blog might be that it creates pity and contempt or alternatively envy and resentment at whatever I do next with my new-found freedom. This doesn't feel an easy balance to strike so I hope rather that, if I do continue, the content will reassure and delight readers who are big enough just to wish me well. I'm confident that there won't be anything much here for the bitter and twisted besides that envy and resentment (although if they persevere they will no doubt get the occasional opportunity to sneer and cheer at my mistakes and failures).

So I will see how it goes?

On the very first Monday when I didn't have to go to work (1 December 2014) I thought I should try out some of the routines which might feature in my new life. I imagined this might mean popping down to Tesco to buy some Dublin Bay prawns (what telly chefs call langoustines) which they have recently begun to stock at a good price - and perhaps a bottle of Muscadet - all with a view to filling the evening satisfactorily.

Mrs Blog had other ideas. If I was not paying for my dinner indirectly through earning a salary then I should earn it directly by catching it myself. So it was a 9 a.m., low-tide visit to the beach where I gathered a large bag of mussels. Of course I have done this before but there is a certain frisson, urgency even, in responding to Mrs B's inexorable peasant logic.

Mussels are good the Welsh way - just steamed open and eaten with brown bread and butter and accompanied by a big pot of tea - but it was the Breton way on this occasion (white wine, butter, parsley and garlic - no cream: that's a greedy Norman excess).

Now I am not doing, or even planning, anything serious, strategic or job-wise until the New Year at the earliest. I have however learnt already how easy it would be to fill my life with chores around the house and garden, visits to banks, brokers, and accountants, swanning around shops and so on. But I am resolved not to spend any more time on this stuff than previously or than absolutely necessary.

I have however begun consolidating or forming habits as a platform for a new life - early rising, swimming 40 lengths at least 3 times a week, walking 10,000 steps at least four times a week, regular meals. I've lost nearly a stone doing this and no silly diet in sight. The messages of Hafal's Let's Get Physical! campaign echo still around the staterooms of Blog Towers.


Horace, the eminent Roman writer of achingly beautiful and uplifting lyric poetry, has featured more than once in this Blog. I have been reading oenophile and journalist Harry Eyres' Horace and Me - Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet about his rediscovery of the poet after giving up classics at university (shame on him).

It's a casual, under-researched sort of book but it makes an interesting personal essay. I do agree with him that young classicists all love rude, crude and satirical Catullus and Juvenal but come back to Horace in later life to find the wisdom and comfort.

Worth a look but you need a good translation to hand: Harry's own does that thing of using modern references (like the Taliban) which makes a kind of sense because Horace did put contemporary news in among the timeless lyricism - but he got away with it whereas in modern translation I'm afraid it just grates like a guitar at Evensong. James Michie's respectful, conservative translation of the Odes alongside the Latin is best - various editions (including cheap second-hand) from Amazon. Read that first before looking at Eyres' book.

Cur valle permutem Sabina
Divitias operosiores?