Members 60. Quit Lit. A genre.

I had no idea such a genre existed. Stupid of me, there’s a genre for everything.

Update

As I type, I’m 45 days dry. I’m getting used to ordering alcohol-free drinks and people around me are more settled about it too. In a couple of days, I’m heading off to Rome with Mrs L, to do a bit of work, writing research, tourism and a Six Nations Rugby match.

So, as a non-drinker, first holiday, first business lunch and first rugby match. All three of those events would ordinarily have involved a fair amount of drinking, probably too much, actually. I’ll cope, I’m sure.

Support

One Year No Beer (OYNB) send me an e-mail each day, linking to a short video. They also maintain a library of extensive resources on their website. I find the Slack workspace the most useful. Here, are several channels, where “The Tribe” (I know…) help and support each other. One channel is called blogs and reading.

Reading List

This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.
The Sober Survival Guide by Simon Chapple
The Easy Way to control alcohol by Allen Carr
Blackout by Sarah Hepola
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

I’ve read three and a half of these so far.

I know at least two fellow tribe-members, (look, it’s what we call each other, don’t mock) who are writing their own quit lit accounts. I write a separate OYNB journal, as do many. It’s easy to see why there is so much “quit lit” out there.

Content

The books come from a variety of starting points. Some are self help manuals, some science-based, some pseudo-science based and most are a blend, incorporating personal experience.

Purpose

Alcohol is embedded in our culture. Particularly for my generation. Children of the 90s seem less bewitched by the idea of getting hammered. I take comfort reading that people can, and do find life more rewarding with no alcohol. Confirmation bias aside, it’s reassuring that social events don’t suddenly become impossible to cope with, that holidays are still fun.

Will I write one?

Perhaps. Writing my journal, I recall drunken exploits that apart from illustrating an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, are pretty damned funny.

For the moment, I will focus on keeping the streak going, and perhaps drafting out some of those anecdotes…where’s the harm?

Working Tools 29. On the road again

This post first appeared on Nero’s Notes.

Regular readers, or listeners to 1857, will know that I do like a bag. Briefcases, messengers, backpacks and holdalls, I’ve an ample sufficiency of bags for days on the road.

Why so many?

I need so many, as one never knows what peculiar circumstance may arise when I head out on the road. (That’s what I tell myself anyway.)

Rome

By the time this publishes, I will, all being well, be in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Mrs L and I are mixing business and pleasure for a long weekend in the Eternal City.

Four nights, five days, a mix of business and pleasure.

This trip is almost custom built for one of my travel setups. Hand luggage only, changing flights in Athens, I’m not trusting my t-shirts to the hold.

  1. Away Carry On Spinner.
  2. Briefcase / Messenger depending on nature of business

However (Look! A peculiar circumstance!) – Mrs L has a bad back. She is not going to enjoy the two flights that will deliver us to Rome, nor the interval between them. I’m keen to spare her the need to manoeuvre luggage.

Mrs L would probably have a similar setup to mine for a trip of this duration.

Plan

The new plan (to cover both of us) is:

  1. Away Carry On Spinner
  2. Away Holdall
  3. Kensington Backpack
  4. Small ladies hand bag / purse.

The thinking is that the holdall fits atop the spinner, I can heft the backpack on my shoulders, leaving Mrs L with just the handbag.

In packing terms – this makes for constraints. And I love a constraint. (Stop thinking that!)

Rather than bemoan how few things I can take, I’m leaning into a more minimalist approach. I’ll spare you the undies count and wash bag.

My Backpack

On the road

Kensington Ultrabook Backpack K62591

Tickets, bits of paper, travel ephemera, a kindle for Mrs L.

Tech.

10.5 iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard.
iPhone X
Apple Watch Series 3
Anker IQ something or other wall charger (4 ports)
Lightning cables and Apple Watch cable
Kodak 10400mAh Power Bank (not pictured)

I could live without the iPad, but I prefer it for reading, and in case I need to do any emergency work. The phone is capable, but it’s just a lot smaller. The perfect minimal tech carry when on the road?

Stationery

Moleskine City Journal – Rome
Moleskine Roller Pen
Penco Hold Fast Stapler

On the road tech

This is as minimal as I can go. I packed a pencil case, then put it aside. Out and about, I’ll have the city journal and the pen clipped to it and that’s it. I intend to record details. Sean is going to come through Rome, and I’d like to be accurate. We have a few scheduled events, a tour, a couple of lunches, and of course a Rugby match, but we also have plenty of time set aside for strolling around, searching for the perfect coffee.

Should disaster strike (my standard excuse for carrying seven pens and twelve pencils), I’ll buy another pen. It’s Rome, not the Arctic tundra. The stapler is for scrapbooking. Travelling, receipts, tickets, cards all make great keepsakes. So each morning, I’ll staple in mementoes of the previous day.

The Match

On Saturday, I, a Scot, will take my wife, an Italian, to see the Six Nations match between Scotland and Italy. I did that before, in Edinburgh, and Italy thrashed us. I hope Scotland does better on the road.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Members 59. Rome – the Eternal City

It’s no secret that much of Sean 1 is set in Budapest.

Nor will anybody be surprised that Sean works in a field where I happen to have spent my first career.

That first career involved living and working in many places. One of them being Rome. A city which I will be visiting in a few days.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Analogue v Digital 3. – Task Management

Who can resist a bit of productivity? It’s the Holy Grail of the 21st century.

Whether it be David Allen’s Get Things Done methodology or a variation thereof, everybody has a task management system. I have several. There’s nothing more productive than working on productivity, right?

OK – my tongue is in my cheek, I’m almost certainly the most guilty. It used to bother me, until I re-framed things. The quest for productivity is one of my hobbies. Like golf. Now, I don’t feel guilty about playing with apps designed to make me more efficient. A large part of productivity is task management.

The Digital

I shudder to think how many task manager apps I have purchased. Some examples:

Omnifocus. If managing my own 8 hours a day is the walnut, this is the sledgehammer. “Fresh and familiar design for the trusted, gold standard to-do app.” Get them. Yours for $100 a year. (Cross-Apple fee) Most reviews will casually mention “a learning curve.” That’s affinity-marketing speak for “block two weeks on your calendar, this thing is impenetrable.”

ToDoist. “Free up your mental space. Regain clarity and calmness by getting all those tasks out of your head and onto your to-do list.” Quickly. Off you go. There’s a free version, but should this be your silver bullet, you are going to want to upgrade to Premium for $3 a month. Somebody looked at Omnifocus, cut out the 75% that nobody understands, and painted everything white. I think Jonny Ive would prefer ToDoist.

Things. “Things is the award-winning personal task manager that helps you achieve your goals.” Go you! $50 for Mac. $10 for your iPhone and Watch and then $20 for your iPad. It can be as complex as Omnifocus or as simple as a To Do list.

Currently, I am playing with Moleskine Journey. “Designed for creatives minds (sic), independent workers, audacious backpackers, and free spirits, Moleskine Journey is the first app that blends productivity with wellness tracking features to help you get stuff done and find inner balance every day.” I feel windswept and interesting already.

Honestly, I could continue for pages and pages. I have tried many, many task manager apps.

Occasionally however, I have to be productive.

The Analogue

Write down the tasks. Do the tasks. Tick them off.

I have written elsewhere how I use notebooks. There’s plenty of scope to bury myself in “productivitying” with paper, but I tend not to. Task management is simplicity itself. I spend ten minutes to write a list. Five minutes to prioritise and then I get working. When a task is complete, I pick up a pen, tick the item and go again. As the day proceeds, the ticked items act as a pat on the back.

I task manage in my desk books, and my pocket books. My current favourite on the desk is the Endless Recorder, where the Tomoe River paper allows me to use fountain pens. In my pocket, there currently lives a Moleskine softcover, dotted notebook, but I use all sorts of pocket notebooks.

The Winner

Doh! The analogue, obviously. The digital is great fun, a lovely distraction. Sort of Twitter with less hysteria.

But to get things done? Get your notebook out.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

 

Members 58. A dry month

As I type, I am on day 38 dry, and day 36 of my One Year No Beer challenge. To date, I have been alcohol-free every day. A dry month, complete.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living The Dream 77. The Haunted Pump of Doom

Question

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the pending bathroom refurbishments.

We were in a second bathroom store, looking at shower units.

“Pump or gravity?” The salesman quizzed Margaret. She turned to me.

“Pump or gravity?”. I turned to the paint pots.

“Pump or gravity?”

Damned paint pots were silent.

“I’m not sure. We’ll check.”

I believed we had a pump, but being sensibly averse to ladders, I hadn’t actually checked the roof myself. I checked with the previous owners.

“Mum. Is there a water pump on the system?”

“No. Definitely not.”

The answer

Several hours later, I received an e-mail from Mum. Memory had returned, there was definitely a pump up on the roof.

This talk of the pump had unsettled it. Within days, the pressure dropped in the bathrooms. The haunted pump of doom was on strike. The following day, water damage was noted the ceiling beneath the water tanks. Had we offended the God of Pumps?

Yianni, our contractor, scampered up a ladder, accompanied by Andreas, a plumber and heating engineer. Together we chatted in a bizarre combination of English, Greek, Russian and sign language.

The haunted pump of doom was a thing of the past.

And the leak?

“That’s nothing to do with the pump. That’s the rain.”

Mags and I looked at each other. Neither believes that the pump is innocent. The timing was just too close.

Solution

It seems that our tanks are designed to be pump-less. Our options therefore, are:

1. Use the tanks as intended (as they currently work). More trickle-shower than monsoon-shower.
2. Replace the haunted pump of doom with a similar model. Better, but not ideal.
3. Replace the hot tank with a new one, designed to work with a pump and have whatever showers we want. Likely to make the credit card squeak.

A series of quotes are inbound, and frankly, I can’t wait to get that belligerent pump off the roof.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

 

Members 57. Finding the Why

Why would he do that? More to the point, why would she? I knew, the characters are my creations after all. The reader, however would have to guess.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Analogue v Digital 2. – Journals

This week, Journals. First, let me narrow down the definition. When I say Journals, I am talking about reflective journals, where I log events and feelings.

I wrote last week about Calendars, with the digital winning out for me, because of its ubiquity and shareability. The first version of this post appeared on Nero’s Notes last week, before I discovered Moleskine Journey.

The Digital

Day One is an absolutely superb app, that I have had on my devices for a long time. The first entry is the 3rd of August 2013. I have used it on and off since then. It lives on all my devices, syncing from one to the other. As with calendars, this is a baked-in advantage of the digital.

I just randomly opened an entry.

“They tried. They could not save him. At 2300 we got the call that we had dreaded. RIP Nero.”

Reading that again still brings tears.

Back to the app; the post has metadata, so I can see when I wrote it and where. Other posts have photos and maps attached. I can have limitless different journals, all accessible from the one thing that I am pretty much guaranteed to have with me all the time. I can type, or I can dictate.

Day One, teamed with an iPhone is fantastic.

Soon after the first version of this article was posted, I was directed to Journey, an App by Moleskine. There is a web app and an IOS app.

“Designed for creatives minds, independent workers, and free spirits, Moleskine Journey is the first app that blends productivity tools with tracking features that keep tabs on your overall well-being to help you get stuff done and find inner balance every day.” – So there.

I have been playing with it on my iOS devices. It’s a lovely app to look at. Using a + button, I can add planner items, journal entries, photos, challenges, mood trackers, goals – all sorts of things. In fact, if you set your mind to customisation, you can make this app your central hub.

I’m on the free trial version, and having loads of fun.

Moleskine is an Italian company, so your data is covered by GDPR, which is good. However, under the hood there’s an amount of Google – which is less good.

The Analogue

This year, I’m trying something new. Actually, I’m trying a few new things.

Hobonichi. I bought one of these famed Japanese notebooks specifically to start a daily reflective journal. It’s A6, Tomoe River paper and lives in a funky cover. Each afternoon, as part of my “close-down routine”, I take a fountain pen and summarise the working day. Usually in about half a page. The following morning, I finish the page, covering the evening and my reflections on the day.

Rhodia. Rhodiarama A5 Ruled. I’m doing a challenge. One Year No Beer, OYNB. I’m not drinking alcohol for a year. In order to help that, I get an email each day from OYNB, linking to a short video. Each morning I watch the video and then write an entry on the video and how I’m getting on with the challenge.

As I write, we’re 24 days into the year, and I’m still going on both, writing decent length entries. I would consider that as “working.”

The Battle

My last entries into Day One were on the 6th of January. While away in Turkey, I used the app extensively. In fact, the entries in my analogue journals for the beginning of the year came from Day One. On the road, Day One is unbeatable for me. I can have multiple journals (I have 5 – Stuart, Business, Food Diary, OYNB and Instagram) at my fingertips, without needing to carry lots of notebooks.

Back at home though, I write in my analogue notebooks. Why? Intention, ritual, tactility. I am at my desk, open the book, select a fountain pen and take a few moments to reflect. I revel in writing with a real pen on real paper. The act of writing is mindful and cathartic in a way that typing on a screen is not.

The Winner

Don’t be daft. They’re both winners.

Trip Journals

In a month or so, I’ll be on a plane with my wife, heading for a fun long weekend in Rome. On the little seat back table will be a Moleskine City Notebook that will be full of ideas for things to do and places to go. My mobile phone will be next to it. I will take photos, and compose journal entries into Day One.

Writing my journal in my Hobonichi doesn’t mean that I can’t love Day One and Journey too

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

 

Members 56. One Year No Beer

As I write, I’m beginning day week four, day 22 of the challenge. Just 344 to go, if you’re counting. In case you are wondering, beer is the catch-all for alcohol. No booze for a year.

Why?

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 76. Property Repairs

Property repairs, not my thing.

We are fortunate to live in a villa with a pool, set on a substantial plot in a beautiful spot. My Mum and Dad bought the land, commissioned architects and builders to create it. That was more than a quarter of a century ago, and the house has been permanently occupied for most of that time. Discounting decoration, the house is unchanged. We have done some work outside – recommissioning the pool, and having a fence built around the property.

Internals

Now, our attention has turned to the inside. First order of business, bathrooms. We are renovating the guest bathroom and our own, main bathroom. We have a quote from our favoured contractor, and are now investigating materials.

There’s a bathroom store, quite local to us. A charming salesman swooped upon us before I had even closed the door. He toured us around the store, furiously taking notes. So far, so good. We’ve done renovations in the UK, and it worked much the same way.

“How much are those tiles?” I asked.

Antonis, our salesman squinted at the fading sticker on the corner.

“22€ per square metre. I’ll do it for 13.”

I nodded, feigning disinterest. Inside, my mind was whirring. 22-13 is 9. 9 over 22 is, give or take, 30%. Blimey.

In the UK, we had been given a price and then, at the end attempted to get a discount. Usually we had got some, but 30%? Never. As we toured the store, I kept stealing glances at Antonis’ notes. Some items we were getting 50% discount. Awesome.

Two days later, we received an itemised quote, covering everything we need for the two bathrooms, from tiles to toilet roll holders. Instinctively, some of the prices look really good, while others look expensive.

Project Management

Here comes my masterstroke. I have put Mags in charge. She is Project Manager. We’ve agreed a provisional budget, and I have declared myself entirely comfortable with whatever decisions she makes. She is drilling down into each cost, and sourcing alternate suppliers, including recycling some of the existing items. Mags possesses a ruthless, investigative streak that I lack. I’m confident we will know what prices we should be paying.

Most importantly, Mags has “an eye” for things. I’ll be honest, once the bathroom has changed, I’ll instantly stop noticing it. I’ll struggle to tell anyone what colour it is, without going to check. Mags sees detail. Constantly. She is a perfectionist. This is, in equal measure, a superpower and a curse. Inspecting work, she misses nothing, meaning that any and all contractors get away with no corner-cutting. On the other hand, once she has spotted something, she can’t un-see it. It’s really, really difficult for her to be accepting of imperfection.

Property Repairs

For example, the floors throughout the house are concrete, and in places are showing their age. Replacing them however, is a big, disruptive and expensive job. One that we have decided not worth doing, at this point. That decision doesn’t stop Margaret noticing every blemish, every day.

Predictions

I predict that we are going to end up with two sparkling bathrooms at a reasonable cost. Whether the contractor will survive the process remains to be seen. My role? Possibly peacemaking from time to time, but mostly, it’ll be the paying thing.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.