Enjoying Dun Laoghaire in the sun

I’m in Dublin for work right now, staying here until Thursday night. And lucky for me, I get to stay in the town where I grew up, Dun Laoghaire, which is south of the City. 

I landed to a surprising – but welcome! – amount of winter sunshine, so as soon as I’d unpacked and organised my hotel room, I headed out to walk the pier and enjoy some sunshine, while it lasted. 

Walking the pier was really a Sunday afternoon tradition when I was growing up here. And the crowds today showed that it’s still a popular venue for a walk and a natter. The town has changed a lot since I grew up here, but the coast is relatively unchanged. The pier still faces out towards Dublin Bay and you can follow the path along the coach to Sandycove – so I did!

I walked the length of the pier in record time, so took it a little easier as I made my way over to Sandycove and its Martello tower. And amazingly, despite the cold, there were some people swimming in the sea at Forty Foot. Colloquially known as the ‘Gentlemens’ Bathing Place’, Forty Foot was always known for all-year swimming and a contingent of gentlemen who preferred (and were allows) to swim ‘sans shorts’.  

I came back to my hotel via the new library, the Dun Laoghaire Lexicon. Its striking design is very different to everything around it, but I think it’s fabulous. I know it divided opinion, but I think it makes a bold and confident addition to how Dun Laoghaire faces out to the sea. 

Sun a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. I love coming back to Dublin, especially when I can combine it with work. Now to catch up with some old friends and (hopefully) something to eat. 
 

Food and exercise: another accountability update

I’ll raise my hand right now – this has not been a good week. In fact, it’s been such a ‘not good week’, that I’ve avoided weighing myself so I don’t have to see the harsh reality. The plan has been somewhat abandoned for the last five days or so.

Don’t worry, I’m not ‘get the paramedics to remove the door to get him to hospital’, but I’ve hardly exercised and ‘treated’ myself to food that was off the menu since before New Year’s day.

For (greasy) example, I had a blow out on Papa John’s pizza on Thursday evening. This was on top of failing to get my arse down to the gym, even with the pleasant prospect of an hour in the sauna afterwards.

Not only that, but I had the leftover pizza for lunch on Friday. Talk about adding insult to injury.

It’s very easy to fall back into bad habits and this week’s cause was pure workload and logistics. Lots of early starts and running about the place made healthy breakfasts more difficult, while exhaustion in the evening made it so much easier to get something delivered.

Oh. And that includes last night, when we used Deliveroo to bring us something tasty from Wagamama. On the upside, it was such a disappointment, I’ll never do it again. Some things travel well – pizza being one of them. Chicken katsu curry is never the same having been on the back of a delivery bike.

Plus – and I know this, having had more than my fair share of chicken katsu curries at Wagamama – the recipe for deliveries is…different? The breaded chicken was bargain basement stuff and the curry sauce tasted like it had some straight from a packet. It was like a Tesco Own Brand version of the meal. An insult to all the amazing versions of katsu curry I’ve had in Japan, too! 😁

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Anyway…all this has left me feeling distinctly sub-par and eager to get back into healthy eating and exercise. I’m lethargic and bloated, feeling very different to the last four weeks – so I can only blame the change in diet.

Tomorrow I fly to Dublin for a business trip that lasts until Thursday night. It’ll be tough to eat as healthily as I’d like, but I’ll bring Huel bars to avoid snacking or unhealthy (but oh-so-delicious) hotel breakfasts. I’m also going to be staying five minutes’ walk from the sea and so will make sure I get some nice walks and/or runs by the sea front built into my days.

And maybe next Saturday I’ll have a weigh-in and see how it’s all going.

Maybe.

Moleskine Evernote notebooks: Take a photo – it’ll last longer!

Ah. I’ve never had the opportunity to use this particular sarcastic comeback in real life, but it occurred to me this was what motivated me to trial Moleskine’s Evernote notebook: the ability to accurately record your notes from the page to the digital.

Because they’ll last longer.

Now, I’m pretty confident you don’t absolutely need to use this particular notebook to get your notes into Evernote. In fact, I know it – as I’ve frequently taken quick snaps of my inspired scribblings with my iPhone camera and added them to Evernote.

I’m not sure if I’ve fallen for Moleskine’s very slick marketing, but I think the combination of Evernote’s new 8.0 app on iOS and the quality paper and dotted lines in the Moleskine notebook make for better, more accurate and neater scans of the page.

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In essence, the app recognises when you’re taking a photo of a page and attempts to line up the image – based on the fact that paper tends to have straight edges. A transparent green oblong appears on the screen in front of you as you hold your phone over the page and then Evernote turns it into a neat image within a note.

You can then add several more pages from your notebook into this particular electronic note, summarising a meeting, a workshop or just the usual mental diarrhoea you’ve decided to commit to paper.

I used the notebook for the first time yesterday and found that it did an excellent job of recording my meeting notes. The resulting images in Evernote were crisp, clear and didn’t look like a photo of a piece of paper. It was as if the handwriting were magically lifted from the page and added to the electronic note in Evernote. So, no shadows or creases, no shine from the page. Just my handwriting on the screen.

Nice.

The notebooks come in a variety of sizes and formats. So if you’d rather not shell out £25 for a notebook on the off chance it’ll work for you, you might like to try one of the cheaper softcover notebooks they make.

They’re far from new and I’ve known about them for some time. It’s only now I’ve felt they would be useful for me.

This is also part of my effort to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ I carry with me for work. After last week’s (regular) business trip to Barcelona,  returned with real back pain from my backpack. Emptying it back at home,  realised this was in no small part due to the volume of A4 paper I was carrying around.

Journal articles, hand-written notes on looseleaf A4 paper, as well as magazines and an aluminium clipboard.

Ouch.

So, I’ve decided to leave the A4 at home and use this compact Moleskine notebook for all work-related notes, knowing I can scan the contents into Evernote as I go along.

Yesterday, I used my super-slim Cocoon backpack and took just my iPad Pro 9.7″, my Moleskine, my Midori notebook, some assorted cables for the iPad and a couple of bananas for sustenance. And it was a revelation. Another laptop-free day, but also a productive one. And a pain-free one.

I’m far from a minimalist. But it definitely felt good to carry less stuff around with me and if notebooks like this can help, then I’m all for it.

Huel breakfast on the go

Keeping a Huel bar close at hand saves me from a calorific airline breakfast. Three cheers for Huel!

I’m writing this in Dublin, where I’m working for the day. It’s a typical in-and-out workday, with an early flight in and a late flight back to London this evening.

I used precious time in bed to wake up gradually this morning – the alarm went off at 04:45! – rather than make some breakfast. I did, however, grab a Huel bar from the kitchen on my way out the door to London City Airport.

And boy was I glad I did. I’ve managed to lose over 2kg since the start of the New Year’s better eating habits and I didn’t want to undermine it by eating lousy food at the airport or (sorry, British Airways!) on the plane.

The breakfast offered was a ham and cheese stuffed croissant. Basically, half my daily calorie allowance packed in the form of butter and fat. So I politely declined and had a coffee and a Huel bar. It was tasty and filling and I kept to my plan.

Yay me.

It’s 11:45am and I still couldn’t eat a thing. Huel is incredibly filling. Lunch, however, is going to be a nightmare, as I’m with clients and won’t have much of a choice. But I’ll get back in the saddle for dinner and make sure I don’t over-indulge in the airport lounge.

I’m so pleased I can have something like Huel on the go – especially when airport security rules mean it’s impossible to bring a liquid with me. So I’ll be ordering some more Huel bars when I get home and they’ll become a fixture of my backpack when I’m traveling.

Dear Epilepsy, fuck you very much

I normally try to keep quite upbeat when it comes to living with epilepsy. I reflect on how I basically have it very good, how epilepsy doesn’t impact my life too much and how things could be so much worse.

But today…

Today made it very hard to think positively or optimistically about epilepsy in any way.

This morning, while in London City Airport, between (very approximately) 0900 and 1030, I had five (for me) severe seizures. They started with my usual inability to read what was in front of me – in this case, the departures board I was reading, trying to work out just how long my flight to Dublin was delayed.

This spread to the laptop screen in front of me, as I attempted to decipher a client email, which suddenly appeared to be a string of cities. The same cities that had appeared on the departures board. I know I’m having a seizure when the text from one source appears everywhere else I look, like a freaky ghost image.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, bracing myself for the inevitable experience to follow. And my brain didn’t let me down.

A feeling of inexplicable dread, rushing thoughts and intense, intense focus on the table in front of me. And then, as if someone flipped a reset button on the back of my head. Nothing. No idea of where I was, why I was sitting there or who the people were around me. I was traveling alone, so to be fair, they were all strangers.

Reality slowly dawned and my memories and awareness returned over the next few minutes. I weighed up my options. I was supposed to be flying to Dublin for two days of client meetings and some coaching sessions. If this was a single seizure, I’d snooze on the plane and then work through the inevitable headache until I could get into bed. I probably have to cancel the client dinner, but no harm done.

Sadly, just as soon as I was able to think clearly – marked by me as being able to read the logos on the planes just outside my window – I had another, stronger seizure. I had to squint through the confusion and gripped onto the table as I started to feel like I was falling. Except I wasn’t. Temporal lobe epilepsy messes with your reality and as my seizures are now limited to the complex-partial type, I don’t fall to the ground and exhibit ‘typical’ symptoms.

In fact, I’ve been around people previously who had no idea I’d even had a seizure. It mostly goes on in my head, with very little difference externally, unless I’m speaking to you. Or you’re speaking to me and I don’t respond. Or I burst into song while trying to speak. That only happened the once, but it was to an audience of about 25 people. So it’s memorable.

I sat there and waited for it to pass. Which it did, eventually. I think it took about 15 minutes before I felt anywhere normal. I then had another, not as strong, but enough that I couldn’t move from my seat. I was now in a lot of pain due to the headache and wanted nothing more than to curl up in a soft, warm bed. I had to abandon the Dublin trip and find my way out of the airport.

In my state of mind, that was harder than you’d expect. I looked distinctly ill – a trip to the bathroom confirmed just how pale and ‘shaky’ I appeared. I had to queue at the information desk to find out just how I could leave the airport. I’d already gone through the utter hell of security and was in the departures area. I’ve never walked away from a flight before, so I’d no idea what to do.

I very quickly explained my situation and a very kind British Airways team member escorted me down to the baggage arrival area via several back doors and stairways. I was then on automatic pilot, making my way home via DLR and tube. Yes, a taxi would have been quicker, but the very thought of getting into a car then made me feel nauseous. I kept my shit together until I got home, but then had yet another seizure in the foyer of my apartment building. I had no idea where I was and had to text @FrankDJS to come down and escort me upstairs.

I then spent about four hours in bed, alternating between sleep and panic, waking up thinking I’d missed my flight. I still have a killer headache and no painkiller ever touches these, so I don’t bother. I’ve sipped tea and water and tried to keep still.

So it’s been a bad day on the epilepsy front. But this time, it’s impacted my work too. There was absolutely no way I could have worked in Dublin today, so mature me knows this and understands I did the best in a bad situation. But I’ve let people down and, despite all their friendly and supportive messages, I feel like I’ve failed.

Fuck you, epilepsy.

Working for yourself is hard enough without you getting in the way and taking me out of action. But… tomorrow is another day. I’ve managed to rearrange my flights – @FrankDJS did this for me while I dozed – and can go to Dublin tomorrow instead.

I should feel like a new man by then, but for now I’m exhausted, disappointed, in pain and in need of even more sleep.

A healthy salad

I travel for work. A lot.

And one of the hardest parts of business travel (believe me) is eating healthily. I’m constantly presented with deeply delicious and dangerously unhealthy food on room service menus.

And my will-power is virtually non-existent.

Continue reading “A healthy salad”

A tough week: cough, cold, accidental nudity.

Not tough as in “I just lost an election to a sociopathic orange-skinned, baboon-faced sexual predator with a history of lying and manipulation”, but tough nonetheless.

I’ve spent my week battling a cold and cough that kicked off as soon as I arrived in Stockholm on Sunday afternoon. It was nowhere near bad enough to cancel any work, it just made my work – and sleeping – more difficult. An annoying, back of the throat, liable to kick off at any minute, cough.

And keep in mind that my week consisted of: Monday running a workshop, Tuesday running a workshop, Wednesday running a workshop, Thursday running workshop and Friday morning, presentation to a board. Add to that a bit of a temperature, sore throat and headache. A recipe for feeling rough and being grumpy.

Stockholm was lovely, even if it was a lightning fast visit. And even if the streets were like an ice-rink. Seriously – most of the time, I ended up walking like a newborn giraffe. Legs spread out in all directions in an attempt to stay upright, while pulling my suitcase behind me. Graceful I was not.

I managed a wander around town for about an hour on Sunday afternoon before I realised that I should probably stay indoors to knock my cold on the head. I remembered the hotel had a sauna, so decided to give it a go and have an early night. A good blast of heat in the sauna nearly always helps me sleep well.

I wasn’t sure of the sauna etiquette in this particular hotel vis a vis clothing. So I brought down some swim shorts, just in case they were required. At the same time, I didn’t want to be the only guy sitting there in his shorts, while everyone around me was naked. Unfortunately, I was staying in a lovely, but minimalist hotel. No instructions or guidance anywhere.

As I stepped from the gym into the changing area for the sauna, a Swedish guy behind me stepped through the door and shouted something in the general direction of the sauna door. A completely naked woman stepped through the glass door to answer him and then retreated into the sauna again.

That was my question answered. A single changing area, single set of showers and a single sauna containing at least one naked person. I cast my shorts aside and went to take a shower before getting in the sauna. The hot water of the shower was like a shock to my system after the bracing cold outside, but I could feel myself relax and begin to thaw out.

I was lost in my own chilled out thoughts as I grabbed a tiny towel to sit on and stepped into the sauna.

To find the same woman sitting there alone, only this time wrapped in a towel.

Turns out (as I begin to think how I’d explain this to the police) the guy I’d bumped into in the doorway was warning his naked wife that a guy (me) was on his way into the sauna, so she grabbed a towel to cover up. She’d assumed nobody would be joining her and so decided to go au naturelle. Then I turn up, naked as the day I was born, scaring both of us into momentary awkward silence.

Seconds later, I’m back in the sauna but this time with a larger towel. We had a bit of a laugh about it and actually had a very nice conversation about travel, spas and saunas.

Any awkwardness evaporated quickly, but it was still a heart-stopping moment to begin with. Although, on reflection, I was in Stockholm where attitudes to nudity are very different to the UK. Still…awkward. Definitely awkward. A bit like one of those anxiety-themed  dreams where you find yourself in the office, or in the middle of the street, completely naked and desperate to find some clothes.

(I can’t be the only person that has these kinds of dreams…surely?)

After about fifteen minutes, she left and I lay back to relax alone but quickly realised that our conversation had masked the god awful music that was being piped into the sauna.

Not the usual ‘new age’ crap that spas frequently play. This was full-on club anthems. Thumping base and repetitive, meaningless vocals. It was as far from relaxing as I could imagine. But I gave it a go all the same and after about twenty minutes the playlist moved on to seventies disco, which was marginally better but still not relaxing.

As I eventually left after a few rounds of sauna and cold shower (all this time alone, thankfully) the music moved on to Grace Jones singing ‘Pull up to the bumper’ and I decided to leave. I love that tune, but listening to it alone in a dark sauna was slightly disconcerting.

Accidental nudity aside, I did sleep really well in my minimalist little room that night. With a surprising absence of anxiety-laden dreams. Though waking up on Monday morning feeing like someone had tried to slit my throat wasn’t a great start to the waking week. Especially as I was going to be doing nothing but speaking in front of groups. But I survived!

So today, I’m still in bed and staying in the warmth to get rid of this cold. I may venture only as far as the first floor of my building and its sauna. Where there, at least, there’s no club music. But also a distinct absence of good-looking Swedes. You can’t have it all, I suppose…

This bed, though…

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I travel for business a lot. That means dealing with the rough and the smooth when it comes to hotels and hotel beds in particular.

Right now, I’m working in Cheltenham and staying in a really rather lovely hotel. And I have to say, it has one of the loveliest hotel beds I’ve ever crawled into. I didn’t touch it when I first arrived yesterday afternoon, as I had to hop straight onto a phone call and then sat at the desk at my laptop for several hours.

But when I finally got into bed….wow. I’ve had a run of pretty awful sleep lately and wasn’t looking forward to another night away from home. But last night, despite all the awful news on TV, I slept like a baby.

Right through until my alarm went off this morning.

I prefer a firm bed, but this one enveloped me like I was back in the womb. I drifted off in minutes and really found it difficult to come out from under the covers.

I have to admit, I immediately made myself a coffee and got straight back into bed so I could enjoy just a few minutes more.

Some intensive Sitges beach therapy

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After another night of interrupted sleep, I had a pretty tasty breakfast and headed straight to the beach. Well, not straight. I had about four large cups of coffee to reactivate my brain and packed my bag for the journey home first.

It was disappointingly cloudy this morning. Especially when I spent yesterday’s sunny and hot day indoors working in Barcelona. But we persisted, staying on our loungers and after about na hour, the sun had burnt through the clouds and it was just gorgeous.

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I even managed a swim in the sea. On October 1st!! I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Yes, it was a bit brisker than when I was last in Sitges, but it was still bearable and very relaxing.

We stayed on the beach until about 3:30pm, so I got a good four hours of beach therapy. At least, that’s what it felt like. Just wearing my swimming shorts (as we weren’t on that beach this time), sand between my toes and sunshine on my skin, all set to a musical backdrop of waves crashing on the shore. I felt every ounce of tension evaporate from my body.

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These photos don’t do it justice. Probably because when the sun made an appearance I was too busy lying sprawled like a seal, trying to absorb as much sunshine and warmth as possible. Taking sunny pictures wasn’t one of my priorities.

I’m not typically a beach holiday kind of person. I don’t like days in a row spent doing nothing but lying by the sea. But a few hours every so often is just perfect.

It’s a shame that by the time I’m in Spain for business again, it will be November and I doubt it’ll be nice enough to get onto the beach like this. That was probably my last beach visit and my last sea swim for 2016.

I’m just glad it was so lovely. Definitely a day to remember.