Mindweasels, Paris climate talks, and Euro2016


On events at home and abroad

I had a lot of people looking out for me on Saturday night – the first time I had properly gone out and stayed out till stupid o’clock since…this time last year. And for the first time in ages, I stopped worrying…for a couple of hours. (Which feels like a lifetime when you have a chronic anxiety disorder!)

So a *****big thank you***** to everyone who looked out for me this weekend.

The thing is, when your mind worries about everything all the time, what is a normal night out for most people on a Friday/Saturday night (and once was for me 15-20 years ago) suddenly becomes an operation that requires military planning – accounting for things that 99.9% of the time won’t happen. Yet your mind still makes you pay interest on it!

Spending Saturday catching up on sleep

…because my sleep patterns have been all over the place for ages, and my niece & nephew who stay over on Friday nights are normally up and about at 7am on a Saturday morning. Any of you who have little children know that ‘the patter of tiny feet’ is anything but. (I love them to bits though – despite the noise in the mornings). But it meant pondering how much caffeine to have to keep me awake without setting off the anxiety spiral. As a result, in my mind I spent much of the day pondering over:

  • how much to eat/drink, and what, bearing in mind I might not be back late
  • what’s the right caffeine/alcohol balance to keep me awake, relax my mind/body but not set off anxiety or nausea (or tiredness)
  • synchronising bus times to get to different places
  • working out what time I needed to be up in the afternoon to wash & change
  • dammit did I charge my phone? (turns out I did)
  • dammit did I charge my camera (turns out I did)
  • dammit did I put a memory card in camera? (turns out I did)
  • work out what my options were in terms of getting back home safely given my dislike of the atmosphere in Cambridge town centre late at night
  • which of the many outfits I’ve collected over the years & used to wear regularly but no longer do, should I wear
  • dammit I should have given myself more time to choose!
  • which shoes are best for comfort, wet weather and dancing in?
  • how much I can afford to spend
  • how much of what medication should I take given I’m not due a new prescription till next week.
  • I always forget something – what will it be this time? Not my entry ticket surely? (Turns out it was the bottle of wine – which meant having to buy another one en route – which fortunately turned out to be a better bottle).

Now, imagine all of the above going through your head over-and-over-and-over again to the extent that your mind cannot switch off. (The CBT weekly appointments I have, and the work I have to do for them are utterly exhausting in trying to combat this – hence coming around to the view that ‘distractions’ rather than confrontation of negative thought patterns are a better route for me). The point being that things that are routine for many people are anything but for people like me with anxiety problems. Your mind is constantly thinking.

“How can your heart be racing when you’re sitting still on a bus?”

My friend Hester said ‘come over for dinner & the Strictly semis’. Eventually I accepted – hesitating on whether I had enough spoons to cover two social gatherings in one evening. (See spoon theory here – the biggest usage of spoons for that evening were the bus journeys). Fortunately it also meant not having to worry about what to cook that evening. These days, meal planning is one of the things that occupies more ‘mind time’ than it should – not least because I want to have a more healthier diet & reduce food waste.

It was also a chance to catch up on all things local democracy – Hester being one of the people who runs the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. When it came down to explaining what The Dowsing Sound Collective was, I struggled to find the words to do it justice. So I played a clip off Youtube – which was streamed onto a big screen. It was then that I realised just how powerful the sound and visuals were when videos were streamed through decent hardware

Put the above through a big screen/speakers & you’ll feel the difference.

“Yeah – whatabout strictly?”

I didn’t tweet much because I had people in the same room to talk to about it.  At this stage, the judges are getting increasingly technical with their critiques – which lost the non-dancers in the room. ‘Yeah – I had no idea what Len just said then’. Fortunately we had enough floor space for me in pink shirt & silver trousers to demonstrate the footwork he was referring to. Far easier than trying to find the words to describe it.

Actually, what made things a bit easier to explain was that some of the errors the dancers made were basic technical errors that were quite easy to spot. For example too much daylight between dancers in hold (chest-to-chest) in the slow waltz. It’s also interesting to hear people with different experiences of dancing (from zero to lots) expressing similar views on how the TV programme has evolved over the years – backing dancers and too much ‘non-dancing acting’ with tacky props not going down well.

“And the party afterwards?”

It was hot, sweaty, alcohol-fuelled and filthy. And we loved it! And no, you can’t see the photos. Actually, my main camera really struggled with the low lighting in the rooms so it ain’t me with the evidence 😛

Being in a venue with many familiar faces and it not being post-gig (like it was this time last year) – enough of whom were familiar with my personal battles made a huge difference too. When you’ve got a critical mass of people who are like:

“We know stuff is shite and has been for a long time – we’re going to make sure it doesn’t stay that way”

…is the sort of thing that helps change my mindset for the better – similar to the audience reactions from our Christmas gig this time last year – see here.

Basically what I’m saying is that you can make a positive difference to your friends who suffer from anxiety disorders – and so many people on Saturday night proved it to me in spadefuls. And for that I am incredibly grateful – especially given how difficult this year has been for me.

Dancing vs dancing

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to not dancing with a partner after spending most of my spare time in my 20s at partner-dance classes of various types. Just over a decade ago, me and a dancing friend were the odd couple dancing a viennese waltz to The Divine Comedy’s drinking song at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Yeah – I’m one of those types. Sorry.

Despite having not regularly danced this side of 2010 – and (as I found out last night) being horrifically out of shape physically I probably did more exercise on that dance floor last night than all of the days put together this side of the general election. Thank you DJ George for playing continuous music all the way through till 2am and Cathy for refusing to let go of my hands…even though this meant towards the end getting into a bit of a tangle when I was expecting you to let go & you didn’t!

Trouble en route back?

There were a few police cars & officers parked outside one night club – which I noticed officers tweeting about a couple of hours later. I managed to share a cab back with Alex & Paul – which meant not having to clock-watch for the hourly night buses that Cambridge has on Friday & Saturday nights. But yeah – got back safely to find the results of the Euro 2016 draw.

“Oooh! Who’s got who?”

England vs Wales is the standout tie for the traditional ‘home nations’ with the Republic of Ireland in the closest to what can be called a ‘group of death’ – Belgium, Italy & Sweden against them. Also, Northern Ireland are back – facing World Cup winners Germany. Because of repeated disappointments over the years, I’m tempted to back Puffles’ home nation of Wales in that face-to-face. Although man-for-man the pundits favour England, Wales have a much stronger team spirit plus the most influential player from the home nations in Gareth Bale.

And the Paris Climate Change talks?

Big business lobbyists got to them – but at least its something. Read it here for yourself -> http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf

My worry is without shipping & aviation emissions included in the text – along with multinational corporations, there are too many big gaps where no one nation state will account for those emissions. Furthermore, I’d like to see something about the environmental footprint of consumption rather than just production. On paper the UK might not have all of those coal-fired power stations and factories compared to days gone by, but have we simply outsourced those polluting industries to other countries?

Next week in Parliament will be interesting as there are a number of debates in the Commons & on select committees where ministers will have to account for what was achieved at Paris, and also how Government policy will change as a result of the agreement. For example we cannot go full-steam-ahead with fracking if we need to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.

Furthermore, big oil has questions to ask itself & account for. How much of the estimated fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground to achieve 1.5 degrees C? Because reserves that have to stay in the ground are effectively stranded assets that cannot be made use of, and whose value cannot be financially realised. What impact will that have on their balance sheets and how will their shareholders react? Are those who are divesting from fossil fuels already ahead of the game?

Food for thought.



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