Got my mojo back…

I’ve  always loved music. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who played lots of different music in our family home. Blues, jazz, rock, folk and a lot of other sounds besides. I can remember going to my village newsagent when I was young and buying 7 inch singles with my pocket money at the weekends, and my favourite thing that I spent my birthday money on when I was ten was an album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Over the years I bought lots of albums and singles, most of which I still have stacked up in the attic. I love having music on vinyl, and have started collecting vinyl and cassettes again recently. At present, I’m really enjoying listening to The Stupids from my college days, and new discovery (to me anyway) Mammal Hands. I love all kinds of music.

About 5 years back, I really got into actually making music, as well as listening to it. It was great release, and I felt that I had found a missing piece of myself. Making music was also good for my mental health, as it always lifts my spirits. That all changed a while ago, when I had a breakdown, and the thought of even listening to music, let alone make it, was the last thing on my mind. 

Over the last year, music has starting creeping back into my life, first by going through my collection of vinyl, thanks to the kind gift of a stereo from old friends. This also sparked my buying of music again, on vinyl, and also cassette. I started digging through Bandcamp, finding new sounds to complement my older ones. Then I bought some new harmonicas. Slowly, I started playing music again.

In the last few months, I’ve been working on new sounds, enhanced by GarageBand on the iPad, and in the last week, through a new amp onto a new digital recorder. Some of them are fast punk tunes, some slower jazz pieces, and I’m really happy with how things are coming along. I don’t intend on rushing myself, just taking time and enjoying playing and learning to play better and with more feeling. When I’m really happy with what I play, I may just release them through Bandcamp.

Music is very strongly linked with mental health, and it’s really making a difference to mine. I definitely feel as though I’m coming back to myself.

You can hear my progress here: https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/free-fall

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BMX!

IMG_0019I blummin love BMX. Riding, bikes, culture, style, the whole shebang… I’ve been riding BMX on and off since I was 12 (There is that age again…), and cannot imagine not riding it in some form until I drop!

I started riding Flatland BMX (standing on your bike spinning around in circles and not falling off…) back in 2008, and you think I would be good at it by now, but the fun of mucking around on little bikes rather than worrying about new tricks and fads makes me happy and puts a smile on my face.

I had an ace time riding with my eldest grandson (he is a natural!) at the weekend, and getting a new sprocket (I snapped my old one in competition) for Christmas means I will back out there before you know it…

Grow old gracefully? On your bike! (Ha!)

Goodbye Fizz…

Our beloved German Shepherd, Fizz died suddenly today… We don’t know why she died, as we thought she had a 24 bug yesterday and would be back to normal this morning. She was out of sorts and not interested in anything at all, even food! Fizz had seizures today whilst we took her to the PDSA, a high temperature and low glucose levels.

The vets and nurses tried to cool her down but she stopped breathing, then her heart stopped. I think Fizz actually died at 12:30pm. She is home now, and we will bury her in the garden and have a send off in the afternoon with family. It is really sad, but it was quick and she didn’t suffer.

We will really miss exploring our beautiful countryside with her. xxx

Happy trails Fizz...
Happy trails Fizz…

I wish my brain would shut up sometimes…

Urgh, what a week. My brain has been tripping me up over the last few days, leaving me in a depressed state and on occasion, close to tears.

Yes, I know it’s not my brain directly, as it is an organ which carries and processes chemical and electrical signals throughout the body, amongst other things. It’s how you choose to act on these impulses that causes the problem and issues. Of course, if you haven’t taken prescribed medication, supported a partner with serious mental health issues, written assignments, made music, drawn, written…

As I got so physically tired out by the end of Monday, after studying counselling all day, I was shattered and the week loomed ahead of me, full of meetings, conferences, projects and assignments. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be me. Been there, done that. I got my fresh supply of meds, turned off my alarm and cancelled what I could. I know that getting so exhausted was an alarm call warning me to back off and slow down. I took heed and stopped. The last time this happened, I didn’t heed the warning, and ended up being signed off work for three months. Mind you, this was one of the best things to happen to me, as it gave me time to take stock, focus on my needs and decide what I wanted from the future.

The first thing to go was my job. Working in education has been amazing, but it was costing me my mental health. That last spell was my third serious ‘episode’ of depression in 10 years working in education as a teacher, library assistant and media technician, not all at the same time, however!

So, I decided to really focus on being self-employed as an artist and designer, educating myself about mental health, restarting my counselling studies, making comics and music, and looking after me. Yes, there’s my trait of taking on too much, but I was self-aware, ready for the fallout and had support in place. Since January 2014, I have rebuilt our art and design business from the ground up; written, drawn and published three comics; released loads of music and played it live (performing live was a big scary thing to tackle); passed my Level 3 Counselling course; started networking for business and pleasure; started my Level 4 Counselling course and a ton more besides.  Yes, I still try and do too much, but I’m happy and in charge of my life now. I’m closer to my wife, our children and my family; I walk our dog most days and play fetch with her; cycle when possible; enjoy reading more often; listen to way more music and podcasts and generally look after myself and the world I inhabit.

I’m proud of where I am now, and as I can read the warnings now and know what to do. Life might catch me out sometimes, but I can stop it from completely pulling the rug from under me.

Thanks for reading!

March!

On Saturday just gone (7 March), I went down to London with my sister and her husband to go on The People’s Climate March. We also met up with my eldest nephew (their son) at Westminster University, where he is studying Graphic Design, of which we’re all very proud. He was our guide for the day, helping through the tube and streets of London… once he’d got up of course!

On the Common
Setting off from Lincoln’s Inn Fields

We all plowed into London on the tube, and finally made our way to Lincoln’s Inn Fields (only half an hour after the march started…), where we tagged onto a Greenpeace group and started the march. There was an excellent atmosphere, the sun was shining and we were all in fine voice and spirits. Our first funny moment was when we got to The Savoy hotel, where we were informed that the head of the march had arrived at Parliament, so we all sat in the road and made LOTS of noise – brilliant! As we got closer to Parliament I burst out laughing at the sight of a heavy police presence outside McDonald’s of all places! I said to my sister that they must think we’ll attack it as a symbol of capitalism! (Maybe they were waiting for Big Macs…) And as we passed Downing Street we all told David Cameron to ‘Frack Off!’ (I don’t know if he heard us though…)

McDonalds
The Met protecting McDonald’s
Marching 2
On the March to Parliament
Savoy
Outside the Savoy Hotel

We finally made it to parliament and made LOTS more noise to ‘Wake Parliament Up’ and ‘Stick it to the man’. It was wonderful being in the midst of so many folks with common causes and really felling a part of something important. Sadly, there hasn’t been lots of media coverage, but the initial estimates are of 20,000 people marching on the day!

Crispin Street
Crispin Street, on our way back from Brick Lane

After hearing some of the speeches at the meeting point, we were all really hungry, so we headed off to Brick Lane, on my nephew’s recommendation. Another tube journey later, we wandered down to Brick Lane, hunting for bagel shops and curry houses. I love London (I’ve been visiting since I was tiny, and my wife was born there), and it was lovely being with family in a part of London I haven’t explored yet. My sister and I fancied bagels, whilst her husband and son fancied a curry, so we spilt up to eat. One bagel shop had a MASSIVE queue, so we went next door where the queue was much smaller and the bagels were… amazing. I had salt beef with mustard and coleslaw, my sister had cheese and coleslaw AND and slab of cheesecake. We loitered outside the shop scoffing our fresh warm bagels and catching up on the day. Fab.

Grub over, we wandered down Brick Lane, revelling in the sights of fantastic clothes, lots of dogs, and wonderful food. There was a big old warehouse which had been turned into a massive food court with music and a bar. The food was incredible, I think you could get food from anywhere on the planet in there. As lovely as our bagels were, we both wished we’d come here first! My sister called her husband to tell him about the food court, but he was already there with my nephew, buying HUGE foil containers of fresh cooked Chinese food, which was delicious. Seriously, my mouth is watering as I type this! And the food was CHEAP too. My sister and I grabbed a coffee (only the second of the day), and we grabbed a table outside to eat, drink and chat. More exploring and a cold drink later, we were all shattered, and ready for home, so back on the tube to my nephew’s halls, where we had parked that morning. What a wonderful day!

The whole day was amazing, seeing my sister and husband being mum and dad, still being (slightly) shocked seeing my nephew having a beer, being with family, being in London and ‘sticking into the man!’ I finally got home around 10:00pm, for a late coffee, sandwich and cuddle from my lovely (sleepy) wife.

Thanks for reading!

Time to think…

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a good New Year and didn’t over indulge… I spent mine with my grandson, who just about managed to stay up past midnight (he’s 10…), and had a lovely evening. We watched funny stuff that he chose on YouTube, and classic anime, also on YouTube, that I chose. Oh the irony, seeing as this site is about having fun offline! We did also have fun making comics, playing games, eating sweets and dancing! I love spending time with my grandson. He’s funny, smart, energetic, loving, crazy, creative, and a ton more besides…

The following morning, New Year’s Day, we did a double whammy at our local park. We took Fizz, our German Shepherd for a long walk and plenty of chasing after her ball, then went back to play football. Well, for my grandson to ‘coach’ me in football. He got hooked on football (soccer to those outside the UK) last summer at school, as they have weekly games in PE, and he really enjoys it. He’s also really good too. So, we used the basketball area to practice shooting and goalkeeping, then the main pitch for ball control and getting used to controlling power and saving goals in a full size goal. After an hour and the threat of rain, we went home for hot chocolate and lunch.

We relaxed for the rest of the day, watched some lectures about robotics, drew more comics and laughed a lot, then I took him home. The next morning, my right knee was really hurting. I thought I’d rested it properly after my running injury, but apparently, injured knees and moderate football practice don’t mix. To cap it off, my back has been really painful this weekend. I’m a little concerned…

I’d already decided to focus my exercise regime around cycling, as it’s easier on my joints, and will allow me to build my strength and stamina up again, and get properly fit. Riding differing disciplines (BMX, Road, MTB) enables me to exercise different parts of my body in different ways. It’s also great mental exercise too… I can really zone out and focus on nothing but riding.

BUT. I had to cut a family get together short today as my knee and back were really painful and wouldn’t let me settle or properly interact with my grandchildren… Back to the GP in the morning. Fingers crossed.