Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Category: Myself (page 1 of 2)

Ant Cule Reviews… Clearing Out Your Email Inbox

It’s no exaggeration to say I’m not a particularly organised person. Recently, though, I’ve been making a push to become more efficient. Or at least less messy. I don’t know quite what prompted this switch. Societal pressure? Podcasts with people bragging about workflows? Exasperation at my messy desk? All of these are questions. I don’t have the answers.

One of the first steps I took was to look at my email inbox. Not a pretty sight.

I thought I stayed on top of them. At least, I knew what to search if I ever wanted to pull up an old email. What’s a few unread emails anyway? But that bold 167 unread emails started to nag at me. And then I noticed how many emails I had in my inbox in total. Around the 2,000 mark. Not so bad maybe. But then I realised that the ‘in total’ Gmail gives you is just for the particular ‘tab’ your on. As it happens, they’ve also helpfully divided my emails into three other ‘tabs’: social; promotions; updates. I only recently discovered that each of those has around the same amount of emails. More in the case of ‘updates’. That had around 4,000. The amount of emails I had to tame increased fivefold, without me doing anything. Which was great.

I'll just keep chipping away until I reach the hallowed 'Inbox Zero'. (This snazzy picture is originally found here http://www.nycrgb.org/images/email%20icon.png)

I’ll just keep chipping away until I reach the hallowed ‘Inbox Zero’. (This snazzy picture is originally found here http://www.nycrgb.org/images/email%20icon.png)

My technique so far has been to start from the oldest and work backwards. I set up my email address in 2010. I have mostly deleted anything from pre-2015 unless it looks ultra important. It’s amazing how few emails look ultra important.

And then I discovered the ‘labels’ feature that gmail has. So I’ve been merrily labelling up my emails with all manner of things. Receipts, Writing, Personal, Personal/Family, Work. Now all I need to do is remember the fifteen and counting labels I use.

I’m now down to around 4,000 emails total. But I am on Inbox 54. Obviously that’s still a swollen bloated mass of an inbox, but you know, credit where it’s due.

And what of the act of doing all this? Of clearing out, organising, deleting, labelling? It’s liberating. I’m removing clutter. With every email deleted it’s a small amount of my past that I no longer have to carry around with me. And those bits that I keep, are bits of my past that I want to carry around with me. It has given me tremendous perspective on what is important to me. Emails from friends and family are important. Emails from hotel chains I stayed in once, six years ago, not so much.

Overall I highly recommend clearing out your email inbox. It is at once liberating and practical, and gives you real perspective on what is actually important to you. The next step is to unsubscribe to all those damned mailing lists I’m somehow on.

Ant Cule Reviews… Being Poorly

I looked something like this. (photo from mumsthenerd.co.uk)

The few days before: Notice I’m looking kind of pale and splotchy. Internalise it as just my usual complexion gone a little haywire. Rosalind notices paleness. Claim it’s just my complexion. I’m a pale sort of guy. In the sun I go from pale to sunburnt. Nothing in between. I know nothing of healthy glows. Feel more tired than usual, but otherwise okay.

Sunday: Play football, as is tradition. It’s a hot day. Wear suncream, take drink. Play. Really badly. Feel the heat even more than usual. Tire out even more quickly than usual. Work harder to make up for mistakes. Drink lots of water afterwards. Game ends (last goal wins thanks to my mistake). Stupid body, not doing what I want it to. Walk back to tube station. Feel strange. Thirsty. Hot. Light-headed. Buy water, snack, and head home for lunch. On the tube just stare into space. Get home. Feel odd. Have lunch. Eat half. Feel strange. Drink water. Nothing will tame this thirst. After lunch, feel a bit better. Like myself. Feel guilty that girlfriend has been cleaning the bathroom whilst I’ve been playing football. That doesn’t help anyone. Have a cool shower. Feel a bit better. We go shopping. Stroll around the supermarket. Lean on the trolley. Definitely not feeling right. My stomach is roiling, my head is aching. Just concentrate on shopping. Drive home with the window down. Not a long drive, luckily. Once car is parked I sit there feeling ill. Put my head between my legs. It’ll pass. Try and carry shopping in. Get to turning, and have to throw up. As is apparently perfectly normal, I feel better after throwing up my lunch. Rosalind says it smells of cucumber. Sorry about that.
Lie on sofa. Drink liquids. Get into bed, and snooze. Wake up only to throw up twice more. Sleep.
Rosalind clears up sick. Feel bad.

Monday: Still feeling rotten. Sleep most of the day. Otherwise, lie on the sofa. Watch ‘Frank’ (feat. Michael Fassbender). It’s good, and weird. Wanted it to be funnier. I mean, it was funny. It was also sad. I feel funny. I am sad. At least I’m not throwing up any more. Watch a lot of Community in bed. Snooze. At least I can have toast for dinner.

Tuesday: Feel dozy. Snooze. Get up. Haven’t even got the energy to walk around the house. Watch The Babadook. Which is really good. Why am I watching sad/disturbing films in the midst of my illness? Misery loves company and all that. You know, it could be worse. I could be battling The Babadook. Otherwise, it’s mainly a diet of snoozing, and toast. I haven’t had a coffee for two days. I wonder if part of the illness is my caffeine dependency kicking back. It feels like there’s a fuzzy veil between me and the world. Manage to get enough appetite to eat something that’s not toast. Lasagne, in fact.

Wednesday: Manage to get out and about for a little bit. 2 hours of tutoring. Feel completely spent afterwards. Do manage to enjoy it during the actual teaching though. Appetite returning somewhat. Still kind of grey-looking and feeling.

Thursday: Have a meeting in the morning at Liverpool Street. It goes well. Enjoy it. Have a cup of tea instead of a coffee. No coffee for four days(!). Discover that coffee binds to iron and prevents your body from properly absorbing the iron. Wonder if the amount of coffee I drink (a not-excessive, yet definitely dependency-forming 2 cups a day before this) combined with going vegetarian has lead to me not getting enough iron. It would explain the lethargy. The greyness. My family is prone to that. Need to eat more irony food (and I don’t mean, like, cool, forgotten 70s throwbacks). Finally register at the doctors. No time like the present, hey?

Friday: Feeling more like my old self. Still tired, still fuzzy. Bit better, though. Manage to go to the theatre in the evening, and see Calculating Kindness at the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s really well performed, with a great set, and great lighting. Just wanted the ideas to mesh even more. Something about it felt a little unsatisfying. But still, it was good. The theatre got really hot. Possibly because we were sat just below the lights. It really was distractingly hot. Felt completely spent after that.

Weekend: Mostly relax. Do some shopping, get a herb garden for our balcony. Plant the chilli-seeds I’ve been meaning to plant since last year. Spend time with Rosalind. Start to feel restored again. We play a lot of Xbox (The Lego Movie game – we’re a great team). Feeling restored. Still, need to get a blood test. Will probably pass out when they take my blood.

Overall, I really don’t recommend getting ill and it taking a week out of your life, with the feeling awful and having no energy to do anything. Instead, try eating healthily, drinking less coffee, and listening to your body.

UPDATE: Do nearly pass out when they take my blood.

Ant Cule Reviews… Discovering A Pristine Notebook

I’m a man who loves stationary. I can spend up to an hour in Paperchase. I could spend a portion of time in Waterstones looking at the stationary. Rymans is perfectly nice too. The point is, I really love stationary. Actually, I really love paper. Pens are okay, though often seem overpriced to me. Paper though. Whooph. You can’t put a price on that.

Where does it come from? My love of books? My love of tactile experiences – like dipping my hand in a bag of seeds, errrrrm YES PLEASE! ? What is it about blank notebooks and pads of paper that keep me coming back? I mean, I have gadgets, I have plenty of digital storage places that are much more convenient for note taking than actual paper. So why do I keep just seeing what they have if I stroll past a stationary shop?

On my desk, which is pretty messy, I have books and notebooks just about everywhere. This morning, I looked through a selection of four – in two of them were notes from around this time last year, when I was tutoring at UEA. Another had been designated my ‘book club’ notes – really interesting to read again, by the way. And also, who wants to start a book club, friends??! – and the fourth and final one, conveniently, fatefully at the bottom of the pile… A total blank. Crisp, clean, clear white pages (well, a kind of cream colour – premium paper grade). An optimistic little clutch of pages waiting for ideas to be expanded upon, waiting for thoughts to be jotted down, waiting… Waiting… Full of poise, promise, potential, paper. Full of the possibility of becoming pages of notes that I’ll look over in another year’s time, and briefly be transported back to where I am now.

There’s something personal, isn’t there, about handwriting notes. As if your thoughts are travelling down from your brain, into your shoulder, along your arm, into your fingertips and out onto the page through the conduit we call a pen. Your handwriting is what it looks like inside your head. My handwriting is loopy.

Evernote, much as I like and use it simply can’t compete with that ancient, infinitely flexible, physically strenuous (sometimes) act. It makes it too easy. Writing should be hard. It should be messy handwriting, crossed out misspelt words. It should be the physical embodiment of you wrenching your ideas out. It should be challenging. And sometimes it takes finding a new, unblemished notebook to remind you of that, and all the possibilities that a blank page holds.

Overall, I highly recommend discovering a pristine notebook and jotting something down in it. Even if you forget about it for a year or more, it only makes its rediscovery more rich for future you. For a similar experience, buy or steal a new notebook. (don’t steal)

A notebook. What will you write in it? NB. Do not attempt to write in this notebook, it is merely an image of a notebook.

 

Ant Cule Reviews… Returning From A Holiday

On the off chance you’ve checked in here over the last week or so and wondered “What the-? Where are all the reviews at?!” let me tell you this: I’ve been on holiday.

We had something of a staycation (as modern parlance has it) and went to Centre (Center?) Parcs. And very relaxing it was too, being in a foresty environment, all bracing walks and cosy evenings in. A very refreshing break.

And now we come to the nub of the review. Returning from a holiday. It’s a different beast entirely to going on holiday. Returning from a holiday signals the end of “official” relaxing time, and the beginning of “feeling guilty for relaxing because it means you’re not being productive” time, aka what the world is pretty much like.

Returning from a holiday always leaves me grateful for the time I’ve had to relax and to read and watch films without the back-of-the-head-tingling feeling that I could and should be doing something else. Why is it that a holiday is the only place I permit myself those pleasures – and pleasures they are for I love relaxing and reading and watching films – without nagging myself?

And I certainly still do these things whilst not “on holiday”, it’s just I feel bad for doing them. For doing them in the day especially. That is something that feels like a luxury when not “on holiday” and like a real delight, like how I would love all day every day to be when “on holiday”. What are these arbitrary distinctions we impose on ourselves? I’m constantly amazed by the invisible worlds we construct for ourselves and the rules we choose to live by. I’m sure that’s probably come across if you’ve read more than a handful of these reviews.

Overall, I would not recommend returning from a holiday, and implore you instead to reserve a little holiday spirit for even those times when you don’t consider yourself “on holiday”. We could all do with relaxing a little more, I reckon.

Ant Cule Reviews… Missing A Self-Imposed Deadline

Today is Saturday. I’m supposed to be following a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule on these posts.

Monday: tick.

Wednesday: tick.

Friday: NOTHING.

It haunted me yesterday. It would just creep in, whilst I was out for dinner (at a delicious Ethiopian-food place), tap me on the shoulder and remind me – “You can’t relax, because you have this to feel guilty about.”

And yet, this has got me thinking. We all miss deadlines, even just once in a while. And it’s fine. It’s annoying but it’s fine. And this is a self-imposed deadline. No-one’s paying me for this. No-one’s demanding I write three posts a week. No-one other than myself.

I often bind myself up in knots about missing a self-imposed deadline, I take it as a reflection on my inability to do anything well or efficiently. I take it as a mark of my inherent tendency towards laziness, towards slapdashery. I resent myself for my strict deadlines, and I resent myself for not meeting them.

But none of that is actually useful. None of that helps me write more, or makes me any more productive. It just makes me seethe at myself. It creates negative energy, and makes me tense. And I don’t want to be tense, I hate feeling tense.

So I’ve decided to forgive myself for missing my self-imposed deadline, and while I will try and meet it in the future, I’ll try not to beat myself up if I don’t. After all, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Overall, I recommend missing a self-imposed deadline once in a while, as it can give you a chance to reflect on what you value, and what you think of yourself. And a spot of self-reflection can be an important thing.

Ant Cule Reviews… Having No-One To Go To The Circus With

Yesterday I was given tickets to the circus. Two tickets. Bright and shiny. Promising joy and fun and maybe clowns though I’m not really sure about that.

Two tickets, I thought, Excellent – one for myself and the other for… Who?

My girlfriend, alas, was away, else she would have been first on the list, as UK law dictates.

I asked friends. They couldn’t get shifts covered, were working till after the start time, WAS EVERYONE WORKING ON THIS HALLOWE’ED THURSDAY EVE??

At least some were honest and just said they plain old didn’t want to go to the circus.

But what of the gymnasts? What of the trapezists? And the elephants? What of them?

My panic deepened. Did no-one truly want to go to the circus? Would this circus be performed to a room full of empty seats? Does the circus exist if no-one goes to see it?

I never found the answers to these questions as I stayed in and had a bath. I was racked with guilt for not going, though the hot water soon sluiced those feelings off me.

After all, I was given those tickets, I hadn’t sought them out. They had sought me out. And I couldn’t sort out a circus-going colleague.

The worst thing? The thing the clowns would all laugh/cry at?

A friend contacted me this morning, a friend who didn’t want to go to the circus, and who answered on their partner’s behalf with a no. They said they’d mentioned it to their partner this morning. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: Do you like the circus?

Partner: Yes.

F: Would you have gone last night?

P: I wouldn’t have said no.

SO CLOSE! At least the tickets would have been used then. If only. Alas. What might have been.

But I still had a bloody lovely bath. So every CLOWN has a silver lining.

Overall I would not recommend not being able to find anyone to go to the circus with, for the existential and relational questions it brings up, along with the angst for the tickets and indeed the circus.

Ant Cule Reviews… Needing The Toilet on a Long Bus Journey

THIS IS THE FIRST IN A NEW SERIES! 

The series is ‘Requested Reviews’ whereby I review an experience (that I have been through) as requested by YOU, the reader. In order to request a review, either send me a ‘Holochat’ or, if technology hasn’t yet advanced that far, leave a comment! On any of my articles! And it will be added to the list!

This was requested by Kate. And the subject is ‘Needing the toilet on a long bus journey’.

It’s raining. A Sunday.

Yesterday was the worst day of travel of my life (which, okay, isn’t that much of a hardship). I ended up having to fly to Gatwick, when my car was parked at Stanstead. It was either that or fly to Southend. I didn’t even know Southend had an airport. I didn’t even know Southend had running water.

Which leaves me, the next day, to make a weird Ouroboros of a journey, and get a bus out to Stanstead in order to pick up my car and drive it back home.

So I get the tube out to Stratford, and buy a coffee to keep me warm. It’s raining, by the way. Maybe I didn’t set the scene well enough. It’s raining miserably. The sky is heavy with rain, and also, rain is coming down from the sky. It… Well, yeah, it’s raining.

I arrive at the bus terminal in time to see a bus-conductor sell the last of his tickets, meaning ar wait for the next shuttle-bus to Stanstead.

This is similar to the bugger I was waiting for. Imagine it’s raining for full effect.

Now, what I didn’t mention on Monday is that coffee goes through me like water through a sieve. Not literally. That would be WEIRD. I mean it seems to travel through my system very quickly. So by the time the bus  arrives, my bladder is tingling with the early tickles of needing a wee.

Push it to the side, think I. You’ll be at the car soon enough.

It’s raining. Like in Inception when they need a wee. It’s like this is my dream, and I need a wee, so it’s raining.

The bus journey takes about 1hr 20mins. Not excessive for a bus journey, but as the coffee sets to work on my bladder, the pressure grows. After half an hour, I’m crossing my legs. After an hour, I’m crossing them both ways at regular intervals. After an hour and twenty I’m sure I’m more water than man, and more urine than water.

And then the bus drops us off in the middle of a car park some way away from the airport.

It’s okay, I’ll just walk to the car, think I.

Big mistake. It’s raining. I need a wee. There are too many people coming and going to their cars, to and from their holidays, to successfully pass water without prying eyes.

Eventually I stagger to a bus-stop and get on a bus to the terminal. I’ll have to go right the way round.

But at least there’s a damned toilet.

HALLELUJAH!

I’ll spare you the grizzly details. Needless to say, the rest of the journey was a breeze, tired and damp though I was – I was free! Free from the oppressive chains of bladder-pain!

Overall, I would not recommend needing the toilet on a long bus journey. To mitigate the likelihood of such an event, always carry two water bottles with you. One for drinking (hydration is important!) and one for urination. Just don’t get them confused!

Ant Cule Reviews… Drinking Hot Coffee

It’s Monday guys. Just in case you hadn’t noticed. But I bet most of you had! I know I did. And how did I come to realise it was Monday?

Because I drank a glorious cup of HOT COFFEE!

And suddenly, my day-telling prowess increased by around about three-fold. No longer did I have a head weighed down by work-a-day worries; I had a head SPINNING with WONDERFUL COFFEE FEEL! I also was able to function like a normal human being (finally AM I RIGHT?!) – to answer emails, to pace around frantically, to wonder if there is a god, to rub my temples seriously, to gawp at a frog, JUST LIKE ANY MEMBER OF THE HUMAN RACE!! All because of a simple hot cup of coffee!

The drinking process I prefer is thus:

  • Make the coffee.
  • Sniff the coffee.
  • Drink the coffee.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

Make the coffee. You can do this however you prefer. I prefer to use coffee beans and smash them into a fine powder and then douse them in scalding hot water. I find this makes for a great mug o’ the brown stuff.

Sniff the coffee. 90% of coffee is consumed in the smell. The rest is just a thin brown gruel. It’s a widely accepted fact that coffee smells great and kick starts your brain like a great jolt of electricity kick starts your nether regions.

Drink the coffee. Gulp down the bitter nectar with a grimace.

Not convinced?

Okay. So let’s go back to that Monday feeling shall we?

How we all look on a Monday morning. Every. Single. One of us.

That’s how we all look on a Monday. Every single one of us souls. Without exception. But with the simple addition of one cup o’ steaming joe, we can all feel like this:

Me, after a glorious cup of coffee. And you, also. And everyone.

So join me in raising a steaming hot cup of coffee a little too high in the air and declaring “We love this stuff, it makes us feel like normal folks!”

Overall, I highly recommend drinking hot coffee on a Monday, or indeed any day of the week. For a similar feeling, boil up some grit and tar and gulp that down! All hail coffee!

Ant Cule Reviews… Having Knees That Feel The Cold

You may have noticed, it is cold in the UK.

If you’re not reading this in the UK, which means ‘United Kingdom’ (even though we have had a queen for a long time), then know this – it is cold here.

Ordinarily I like the cold. I love wrapping up warm, wearing scarves, many layers, hats, gloves – essentially wearing a bed outdoors. And in December I was dismayed that whenever I did that I ended up sweating. I had to suffice with wearing a light jacket. A light jacket! In December!

All of that changed – well, okay, none of that has changed, but still – when I ‘did’ my ACL (which means anterior cruciate ligament) in 2012. Without going into too much details IT WAS TERRIBLE AND PAINFUL. And I had to have an operation, and couldn’t walk for a long time.

The upshot of which is, when it gets cold my knees ache. Boy, do they ache! Dang! One owing to the operation, I suppose, where the doctor rootled around in my knee. The other, probably owing to a changed gait, putting pressure on all sorts of weird parts of my knee.

I can feel a cold snap coming in my knees. In my knees! I’m only just out of my mid 20s! My knees!

All in all I wouldn’t recommend having knees that feel the cold, as it makes you feel prematurely old. For a similar ability to predict the weather, invest in a barometer.

Ant Cule Reviews… Having Cold Hands

As winter finally settles in after the second summer that was December, so my damn hands get colder in the day time.

It’s a creeping kind of coldness that you don’t notice setting in. When you’re in bed, it’s morning, the covers are warm, you’re fine. Hands warm. All is well. But once out of bed… All bets are off. Except the bet that says “Boy, your hands are likely to get cold today.”

And suddenly I don’t have fingers, I have icicles that chill the very face I have on my head. When I touch my face. Which I do a surprising amount, it turns out. I only notice when I have chilly hands.

It also means my hands don’t work as well as they do oftentimes. What can I do to counteract this miserable state of affairs?

Put the heating on? Don’t really know how. Our flat is usually held at a nice ambient temperature.

Put socks on your hands? Then my hand-mobility is greatly decreased.

How about gloves then? Gloves? Inside? What do you think I am some kind of convention-defying bohemian?

Will you at least wear gloves when you go outside then? Oh yes, oh yes, I’m not a total fool.

Rub your hands together really quickly? Ah… Yes… Yes! It’s working! It’s working! Oh no! It’s working too well! Arrrrrrrrgh!

Overall, I would not recommend getting terribly cold hands. Keep them warm by rubbing them together, but not too vigorously lest you start a fire from your hand-sparks.

This is a surefire way to make your hands even colder! (Unless that is some kind of ‘hot-ice’.)

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