New Year’s Resolutions

It is a couple of weeks away from January 1st, last January (New Year’s Resolutions) I made some resolutions, I reviewed the progress in September and overall it was disappointing.

1. Get into shape: I’m still 70 kg, no increase, no decrease. I’m walking around 12 000 steps a day according to the pedometer app on my phone, this went down in July and August, with few lessons I had less motivation for getting out of the house. This month, December, I have been intent on hitting 10 000 steps a day, and have managed to do this for 14 days in succession, sometimes this has involved just extra walking around town, when normally I would have taken the metro or a bus. I also climb the 172 steps up Ikalto Hill to home about twice a day.  (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 4 out of 10).

2. Start eating healthier food, and less food overall. I am visiting fast food outlets less frequently, I can’t remember the last time I visited Wendy’s or McDonalds’s (I used to visit Wendy’s at least once a week), I still visit KFC about twice a month.  I also eat far too many sweets. I do occasionally opt for a salad and chose water rather than a sugary drink. This still needs more work. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 4 out of 10).

3. Stop procrastinating: At the beginning of the year I was bingeing on “Grey’s Anatomy” then other series like “The Wire”. I have a fuller timetable now, so less opportunity to laze around. I still find I’m not making the most of unscheduled time. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 2 out of 10)

4. Meet new people: Apart from new students, most of the new people I meet are those who attend the English Language Exchange on Mondays, this is the social highlight of the week for me. I have trouble remembering names. So I have taken to writing new ames down in my phone, to help my memory. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 3 out of 10)

5. Give up cigarettes: This was a joke resolution, I have never smoked… (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 10 out of 10).

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6. Read more: My target for the year is 40 books, I have just met this challenge, but I have been cheating a little, some books are bigger than others. I could spend more time reading and less time on Facebook. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 6 out of 10)

7. Become tidier: I really need to work on this. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 1 out of 10)

8. Start saving money: and this… (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 0 out of 10)

9. Learn a new language. I have been using Memrise to learn some Georgian words and Duolingo to learn some German, Portuguese and Dutch. I don’t know how useful these apps have been. My Duolingo streak reached 123, but if I were to meet a Brazilian or Portuguese person, there is a limit to what I can say. I’m listening to Georgian songs on YouTube, the tunes stick but few of the words are sticking :/ (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 2 out of 10)

10. Pick up useful skills or fun hobbies. I have bought a computer with photoshop but haven’t done anything with the program yet. I also have an idea to try some stop motion animation, I have bought two lights and a Lego set but have yet to do anything with this. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 0 out of 10)

11. Travel more. I haven’t been out of Georgia this year. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 1 out of 10)

12. Go see your doctor more often: the only doctors I’ve seen are the pretend doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” and those I have taught English to. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 0 out of 10)

13. Learn to cook new recipes: I have watched lots of cooks on YouTube, like Laura Vitale, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. But I have yet to turn their inspiration into actual cooking. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 1 out of 10)

14. Start being more creative: need to work on this…. (How do I think I’m doing on this resolution: 2 out of 10)

I think on 1st January, I’ll make the same resolutions and try to stick with them far more than I have this year.

In the mind of a collector

The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself”, is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek writer Pausanias. The phrase was later advanced by the philosopher Socrates who taught that: The unexamined life is not worth living.

how much is too much?
How many is too many?

I collect diecast cars, my collection really began when I moved to Tbilisi, Georgia in 2009. I feel the need to analyse this. I came to Georgia with just two suitcases in which were maybe a dozen diecast cars along with the rest of my worldly possessions. Now I don’t know how many diecast cars I have, around 1 400 at a guess. There are too may to display, you can see above the shelves are very cluttered and that is just the tip of the iceberg, many more cars are in boxes, not on display.

I have a separate blog for posting about this hobby: my diecast blog (click this link).

I am very lucky to have a tolerant wife, who tolerates my hobby even if she doesn’t understand it. Once she gave me a diecast car as a present, a BMW X5 by Kinsmart. I appreciated the gesture but this isn’t the kind of model I collect. I’m not a fan of BMWs, it is also a larger size than my preferred (3″/1:64) collecting size. I do have a few BMW models but they tend to be older models and sports cars or coupes.

BMW x5
BMW X5

I have had small diecast cars for as long as I can remember.  On my first birthday cake was a Matchbox racing car, so I’m told. Then there was a Matchbox Pickford’s Removal Van with sweets in the back, occasionally restocked by my mother. My earliest actual memory is being on a train holding a Matchbox Racing Car Transporter, I would have been three at the time. Collecting model cars…toy cars…is fine as a child but as an adult?

For most people toy cars are just for kids, especially for boys from 3 to 10 years; I get that. I think part of my collecting is a subconscious desire to connect with my childhood self, I notice my collecting greatly increased after my father died in 2011.

Nostalgia can be stimulated not just by the toy cars of my childhood but also by other items, I recently found a copy of “The Cat in the Hat” a Dr Seuss book, I had another copy,  when I was learning to read. Smells and tastes can also evoke the past, the smell of TCP an antiseptic will take me back to the school playground where I often would fall and have my cuts treated with TCP.

the cat in the hat and breakdown truck
The cat in the Hat and the Matchbox Breakdown Truck both evoke childhood memories

As a child my interest in toys cars waned when I was thirteen or fourteen and I got into music, my pocket money was then spent on records instead of toy cars. Later in my twenties a lot of my energy was channeled into going to gigs and travelling.

I left my records behind when I moved to Tbilisi, if I want to hear music now I usually go to Youtube, I no longer spend money on music. The Internet has changed many of my habits.

Here in Georgia, I haven’t met any other collectors of toy cars, there are a few sellers at Dry Bridge Market, who may also collect, but there is a language barrier (my struggles with the Georgian language are the subject of a third blog : the Reluctant Georgian Learner). Even more than in UK, here people see toy cars as just a plaything for children.

Facebook however and other social media let me connect with adult collectors all over the world, so I don’t feel such an oddity. I am on several Facebook groups related to collecting diecast cars. I have many Facebook “friends” in countries such as the Netherlands, Philippines, USA, UK and Estonia, who have vast collections of toy cars. Occasionally we have exchanged models, I don’t buy models online because the postal service here is not great. Most of the models are found locally, I regularly visit Dry Bridge Market and hunt through the secondhand toy shops near the central station. The thrill of the hunt is part of the reason I collect. Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete. Once the prize is actually obtained, the nucleus accumbens ( the primitive pleasure center in the brain ) shows less activity. The anticipation of the reward is more exciting to our pleasure centre than having it.

On Monday, I found eight models in the secondhand shops to add to my collection.

dilemma of choice
Monday’s haul…on the left those I was very happy to find

The models on the left, I’m really pleased to have but those on the right I could have left. I asked my wife, which four of the eight she thought I liked the best and she was half right.

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My wife chose the four on the left as the ones she thought I’d be most happy with

If I were to create an algorithm, there would be many criteria to be weighted in the selection equation… price, size, style, diecast brand, car make, age, country of manufacture…a Matchbox sports car produced between 1968 and 1972, would get me most excited, providing the price wasn’t too extortionate. None of the eight above, although being secondhand, are particularly old, although the Mustang, Beetle and Anglia are reproductions of cars from the sixties and have some of that nostalgia buzz I crave.

There is a thin line between healthy collecting and unhealthy hoarding, I could probably lose half the collection and still be happy. I tried selling some at Dry Bridge Market last summer, I didn’t make a lot of money, that was not the objective. The value of my collection is not monetary, but it is emotionally valuable—I’m not looking to profit from the sale of the cars. I usually take the cars out of their blister packs, which would reduce their value if I was looking to resell, but I want to hold the car to feel it in my hand and look at it from different angles.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to evolve my hobby. I don’t wish to just collect but do something more with the collection like restoring older broken models (but I don’t as yet have the tools or practical skills) or make some stop frame animation videos with the models. My collecting already ties in with my other hobbies of writing and photography.

There are many reasons collectors, whether wealthy or not, collect. But there is one common underlying motivation for all—pleasure. Other secondary motivators include  “bragging rights,” (when you land a bargain) a sense of history and creating a legacy, as well as intellectual stimulation, social rewards, and crafting a sense of order.

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions

A New year’s Resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.

My New Year’s Resolution in recent years has been to learn Georgian. I have made maddeningly slow progress on that front, it is a difficult language and I haven’t devoted sufficient time and effort to this task. I have a whole blog about my travails entitled The Reluctant Georgian Learner

I need some SMART goals. When I studied education and was obliged to write a Professional Development Journal, we were told to set SMART goals to develop and overcome obstacles in our way. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Specific…what do I want to achieve?

Measurable…how can I measure progress?

Attainable…is it within my ability?

Relevant…is reaching your goal relevant to you?

Timely… Time is money, they say! Deadlines are what makes most people switch to action, I too often procrastinate until the last minute.  But keep the timeline realistic and flexible.

Googling “New Year’s Resolutions” comes up with many useful ideas. Everyone’s Google search will be different depending on how their algorithms work for you. One result I got was from Lifehack: Lifehack Resolutions

These include : 1. Get into shape: we are all some shape or other, I guess they mean a shape we find pleasing to look at. I’ve been 70 kg for a while, I could ideally lose 5 kg. I could eat less junk food and walk 10 000 steps a day. Going home to my flat on Ikalto Hill means climbing 172 steps…I’m not sure if this will wear me out or make me stronger…lately it actually seems a little easier so maybe, just maybe, I am getting fitter. I’ll never be an Adonis.

2. Start eating healthier food, and less food overall. It is very tempting between lessons (I’m a travelling English teacher) to pop into Wendy’s or KFC for their budget meal. I know this is mostly junk. I’d be better carrying a healthy snack around with me. I also need to eat more fruit, now mandarins are plentiful.

3. Stop procrastinating: The biggest barrier that keeps most people from reaching their goals is the desire to relax and do something fun instead of working hard. Once you get used to procrastinating it’s difficult to snap yourself out of it. I am particularly good at procrastinating: Checking Facebook needlessly or binging on TV series like House, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Mad Men.

4. Meet new people: Meeting new people can be beneficial to your mental well-being. Most of the new people I meet, I meet digitally. I have around 1000 friends on Facebook, most of whom I have never met in real life. My socialising away from the computer mainly revolves around the Language Exchange Club Tbilisi (link) meeting locals and visitors who want to improve their language skills.

5. Give up cigarettes: This is one I don’t need to do, I never started smoking, I didn’t see the attraction. It must be tremendously hard to give up.

6. Read more: Books are an excellent way to gain a lot of knowledge on a huge variety of topics, and are also a great exercise for your brain. I love reading but this year has been a bit lax, I only read 20 books.

My Reading Stats
My Reading Stats

For 2019 I will aim for 40 books.

7. Become tidier: There are a lot of slobs out there, I’m one of them,  who can’t really get their stuff organized, and a cluttered desk or chaotic home will negatively affect your productivity and even your mood. My diecast car collection numbers around 1400 models, this is crazy, I only have space to display maybe 500, year on year its getting bigger, I need to look at ways to reduce the size. I also need to sort out the papers I have all over the place.

8. Start saving money: It’s time to start putting some money aside. I am not very savvy when it comes to saving and investing.

9. Learn a new language. I know English and French, I want to become fluent in Georgian, this won’t happen overnight and won’t happen without me putting in some serious effort. I have been in Georgia NINE years… it is embarrassing that I can’t hold a conversation in Georgian. Other languages: Turkish, Russian and German would all be interesting and useful but the priority is to learn Georgian.

10. Pick up useful skills or fun hobbies. My hobbies are photography, blogging and collecting model cars. I would like to explore some other aspects of these hobbies. Maybe making some stop motion videos or learning photoshop, maybe restoring or customising the model cars. I’d also like to do windsurfing (I’ve done it in the past) and explore nature more.

11. Travel more. This year (2018) I only ventured out of Georgia once (to Cyprus), I used to travel more and would like to again.  In Georgia I’d like to see Svaneti, Tusheti and Lagodekhi. Outside Georgia there are many places I’d like to see, the neighbouring countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan are tantalisingly close, yet I have not visited them yet.

12. Go see your doctor more often: I really should have a regular health check up. I don’t have a doctor here in Tbilisi. I don’t feel ill but its worth getting checked out.

13. Learn to cook: I can cook but tend to use the same recipes, I need to try cooking new dishes. Laura in the Kitchen and Gordon Ramsay on YouTube are inspiring.

14. Start being more creative: I like art, I want to draw and paint far more. I  have had a blank canvas sitting in my closet over a year.

and finally Stick to the good healthy habits you’ve developed: The last, and most important point to mention is that all the positive changes you make have to be permanent. You will need to work on sticking with the good habits you have adopted.

Okay, let’s be positive as we enter a New Year.

 

 

Heidegger and Cemeteries

heidegger cemeteries

We have forgotten to notice we’re alive.

We know it in theory, of course, but we aren’t really in touch with the sheer mystery of existence, the mystery of what Heidegger called ‘das Sein’ or ‘Being’.

Martin Heidegger was a 20th Century German philosopher, following a lecture, in 1961, Heidegger was asked how we might recover authenticity, he replied that we should simply aim to spend more time ‘in graveyards’.

I used to have a student who lived near Vake Cemetery and if I arrived early, I would wander about the cemetery, taking photos and reflecting on my own mortality. Georgian graveyards are different to British graveyards, many of the gravestones have photos etched into the stone of the deceased person. Many of the deceased lived for less time than I have.

Heidegger cemeteries 2
She died young

At 53, I am acutely aware that I am nearer death than birth (I won’t live to 107+). Heidegger like Kafka and Murakami highlighted  the uncanny strangeness of everything, wondering why things exist as they do.

For Heidegger, the modern world is an infernal machine dedicated to distracting us from the basic wondrous nature of Being. It overwhelms us with information, it kills silence, it distracts us– partly because realising the mystery of Being has its frightening dimensions. What we’re really running away from is a confrontation with ‘das Nichts’ (The Nothing), which lies on the other side of Being.

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The Nothing is everywhere, it stalks us and it will swallow us up eventually, it’s only when we realise that other people cannot save us from ‘das Nichts’ that we’re likely to stop living for them; to stop worrying so much about what others think.

Two years ago, my mother died, I posted about the experience at the time: Between Funerals. When our parents die, we realise we’ll probably be next. Sometimes I believe in an afterlife, sometimes I think there is just nothing. Wandering around a cemetery, I realise I am alive but at any moment such being may cease.

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Jikia Cemetery

Decades

Today 3rd September is my birthday.

Birthday Ana blowing out candles
my granddaughter with a birthday cake

Birthdays like New Year offer a time for reflection.

Looking back at different decades:

1967: Aged 3, I move (with my parents and baby brother) from my birthplace: Hillingdon, London to Slough. I was born at home not in a hospital. Living in many countries it is easy for me to communicate where I am from by saying I was born in London. I was born in the sixties but don’t remember much about the decade.

1977: The year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The Sex Pistols single “God Save the Queen” released in this year is my current ringtone. I started at Slough Grammar School, where I would be educated for the following 6 years.

1987: I went to Australia, the first time I had lived and worked outside the UK. I loved Australia, visiting all the states except Western Australia. I worked in Sydney. My favourite part of Australia was Kuranda in the tropical rainforest of Northern Queensland. I wish I still had the photos of my Australian days, I took many but only a couple have survived my many moves.

me in swansea australia
This is me in Swansea, Tasmania wearing an Aberystwyth University Sweatshirt
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My route around Australia. 1.Swansea, Tasmania 2. Kangaroo Island 3.Kuranda, Queensland

1997: I returned to UK after six years in France. My first wife was ill, we moved first to Corsica then to mid Wales to give her a quite place to get well. The time in mid Wales (Llanfihangel Nant Bran and Llangammarch Wells) was probably the nadir of my life.

2007: Living in Worcester, England. Teaching at Worcester College of Technology and sorting mail at the Worcester Mail Centre. In my four weeks of holiday, I tried to visit as many places as I could, travel has always been a passion, I hoped to visit every country of Europe by the time I was fifty (I didn’t achieve this aim) but I did visit Sweden, Finland, Israel, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic in that year.

my-travel-map

I have visited Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France,  Georgia, Greece, Croatia (when part of Yugoslavia), Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia (but only in transit), Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Turkey, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the United States (New York, Niagara Falls, Ohio and Chicago).

2017: Now I live in Tbilisi, Georgia. I don’t travel as much as I did, this year I have only been to Cappadoccia in Turkey outside Georgia. I have a wonderful wife, we will soon celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. I teach English, I collect model cars, take a lot of photographs and spend far too much time online (mostly Facebook). I really need to learn Georgian, it is a tricky language.

 

2027: Will I still be alive? Who knows? If I am, I expect to be still here in Tbilisi, Georgia. If the Russians invade again, I might have to move to yet another country. I hope the world is more peaceful.

This first blogpost is rather self indulgent but it is my birthday 😉