One Hundred

This is my hundredth blog. It’s been difficult to conceive because, well, you know why; It was 2020 and 2021 looks like being much the same. So although this piece begins very 2020 🙁 it finishes with a glimmer of brightness. 

Various permutations of loss have defined the last ten months. Whether it was the mortal loss of loved ones or missed opportunities to forge ahead in new ventures and relationships, the net outcome will for most, have been more minus than plus.

Things have been lost 

I lost a few things last year; a scarf (very sad because I collect them) a designer jumper that I had sold on eBay and then couldn’t find and so I had to refund the buyer. Perhaps worse, however, has been the loss of these three intangibles:

  1. My weekly game of Walking Football
  2. My weekly 5 Kilometer ParkRun 
  3. My train of thought 
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: 'Thought of Train of Thought, 2016' by Royal Academician Ron Arad is unveiled at St Pancras International station on July 7, 2016 in London, England. The peice has been commissioned for Terrace Wires, co-presented by HS1 Ltd. and the Royal Academy of Arts. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Terrace Wires)

Items 1 and 2 are kind of the same thing; sport coupled with social interaction. This blog began ten years ago and was about football. I had written a book about The Beautiful Game and was asked by the publisher to promote it by producing related blogs. I had long stopped playing the sport and writing was I thought, an adequate substitute. However, I began to play Walking Football in 2016 and as any player will tell you, the absolute joy of participation returned. In the four years until March 2020, I truly loved playing and laughing as I played. The people I met are similar to me, usually ageing men, however, some of the players are younger men and a few women take part too and so the inclusivity of the game has been fantastic. 

The weekly run in the park is also sorely missed. I have managed to maintain my running routine and I actually complete more Kilometres per week than before, but these are all solo efforts. My times have been gradually improving and I am achieving more but the benefit of crossing a finishing line surrounded by friendly time-keepers and the goodwill smiles of other participants cannot be replicated. As a solo runner hitting my goal, I come to a halt on a muddy path, check my time and raise a triumphant fist…to nobody at all. Any feeling of success evaporates to mere relief that it’s over. With nobody there to exchange observations about the hills or the weather or feeling ’leggy’, the experience is severely diminished.  

Mental Health on the agenda

Positive mental health has thankfully become a talked-about subject. We are aware that physical activity supports it, but I am convinced that doing it alone is much less valuable than doing it among other people.

My attention span and train-of-thought have reduced during the pandemic, I believe the major reason for this is that I have had fewer one to one conversations with people outside my bubble. Normal life allows you to talk to people in shops, cafes and in the street. Of course, people do still communicate but talking in a queue with a face mask on hides a lot of important body language. Equally, interactions on platforms such as Zoom are planned and time-limited. This means that randomness and serendipity, things that spark creative thought, become sidebars to what is deemed ‘necessary.’ 

A brighter future 

As I write, the news remains gloomy, but I promised an upbeat finale, so here it is:

Young people have been dealt a nasty hand. Their education has been meddled with, and there are no universally agreed ways to redress the imbalances. This is mainly because older people are running the show to the standards they thought were correct. 

However, new perspectives and methods are more easily grasped by the young and they will carry us forward with them. They have been labelled as ‘snowflakes’ and been accused of being entitled, yet as a generation, they will find a hitherto undiscovered inner strength. I cannot think of a time before now when maturer people looked to their youth for advice and help. Their instinctive understanding of technology is not the only quality, they also know how to use social media to communicate effectively. Of course, the internet has allowed much dark stuff to sneak in, but by and large, the youngsters do understand the difference between good and bad and we must trust in them to carry us forward.