My first tattoo

As a kid, I loved tattoos. I used to enjoy a bubblegum (Bazooka?) that came with temporary tattoos.

Then I became older and, back in those days, tattoos were seedy things that only former service men, prisoners, and ne’er-do-wells had.

Times change of course. And for several years, I’ve been wanting one myself. But I wasn’t going to rush into anything (I saw an old school friend on Facebook recently post ‘I’m getting a full-sleeve tattoo next week – anyone got any ideas what I could put on?’ – seriously?!)

I’ve been thinking long and hard about any tattoo I get. It’s basically, apart from expensive and painful surgery, for life.

I wanted to get one last year when I was 10 years sober. But I still couldn’t think of anything I wanted that I was 100% sure of.

Liberation by Escher

Liberation by Escher

Eventually I hit upon the concept of peace doves. My late Dad was a tireless campaigner for peace, and he wrote and proposed the motion that made Manchester the world’s first Nuclear Free City. It’s something he was, and I am, very proud of. And the peace dove also symbolises inner peace (being sober) etc. Overall I was quite pleased with the idea. I was thinking something in the style of an Escher piece. Something in that style could cover an arm nicely.

But after a long chat with the artist recommended to me (her work is great), she made me re-think. I wanted either a full or half-sleeve (I don’t do things by half-measure normally). She suggested I needed a couple of more themes along with the doves. This was back in November or December, and I’m still not quite sure what I want (although I’m getting there…).

Anyway, today is the 6th anniversary of the death of my Dad and I was in central Malaga having dropped my ex off at the airport.

The tattoo artist is only 20km or so away… I got thinking.

Why not start with a small peace dove? It makes more sense to start small (even the artist thought going for a full-sleeve as a first tattoo was a bit ‘over the top’).

By the way, my Dad would have thought I was a total dickhead for getting a tattoo, no matter what the design or size. But to be fair to her, when I told my Mum last year she took it well. I guess at 43 she’s given up trying to control me, more or less.

So, I had a couple of coffees in Malaga and googled some ideas. I narrowed it down to a couple of choices of design and placement. Just something small. Probably wrist, maybe onto my hand… I’d speak to the artist for her opinion. Of course, I was only hoping she would have a slot for me to do something so simple – she may have been booked solid.

I set off to see her – very excited, slightly nervous, but having decided the timing was good and, frankly, why not?

I even saw a peace dove vandalised on a street sign on the way there (I’m not saying I believe in that sort of ‘sign’ – no pun intended – but it was odd!)

I got to the tattoo studio…

and… she only opens Wednesday to Saturday.

I guess it gives me a bit more time to think about it.

Work less, do more?

In my last post I discussed whether or not I was going to buy a TV because I don’t currently have one here in Spain. My ‘logic’ was that because I was using my laptop at night time to watch Netflix etc, that stopped me working at night.

I did buy the TV in the end (once I get an idea in my head…) and it’s very nice indeed.

But the original reason for buying it – logical as it was to me at the time – made me realise something.

I work too much. Or, rather, I work too long but don’t get enough done in that time.

I work from home. I open my laptop in the morning, and I close it at bedtime.

With the laptop open most of the time, the line between work and relaxation becomes increasingly blurred.

Of course, I do go out sometimes… but on days when I don’t, it’s easy to end up glued to it all day. And even if I do go out, the first thing I tend to do when I get in is open the laptop and check a mixture of work and personal web sites. Nothing that couldn’t wait until the next day but … it’s become a bad habit over the years.

So I’ve started a new regime.

For the last few nights I’ve largely left my laptop off at night time.

I’ve also started leaving my phones (I have a UK and a Spanish one) downstairs at night time, rather than by my bedside.

I got my first mobile phone around 1992 (and I still have the same number – apart from the addition of the 7 during the ‘Big Number Change’) and always have one close to hand.

So leaving my phones downstairs was odd for the first night or two – what if I get an urgent call at 3am?.. – but I’ve quickly become used to it. And there’s a lot of research – as well as common sense – that suggests sleeping with a phone nearby disrupts sleep.

And I’m leaving my laptop downstairs too, so I can’t use it in bed – either before I go to sleep, or when I wake up – both bad habits I’ve developed over the years.

So with my laptop off, and my phones out of easy reach, I’ve been enjoying relaxing in the evenings. Watching some films (Boyhood and Birdman were both superb), a bit of comedy (I’ve just discovered US comedian Marc Maron), and I enjoyed a good three-part series on BBC iPlayer called Sound of Song by Neil Brand.

I’ve also started using my Kindle again. For some reason I started using the Kindle app on my laptop more than my Kindle, but it’s too easy to jump between reading and checking emails etc.

My Kindle is ‘a book’ and that’s it. Put some background music on, and read. No distractions. My current book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, which I’m sure has had an effect on my thinking. I’m also enjoying it in small chunks, rather than my usual binge-reading.

How long this new regime will last is anyone’s guess but hopefully I can make it a long-term habit. I’m working fewer hours, getting more done during those hours, and sleeping better.

And the irony I’m writing this on my laptop, on a Sunday afternoon, hasn’t been lost on me.

I’m now going to post this, turn my laptop off and, in the words of one of the worst TV programmes of my childhood – ‘Why Don’t You?‘ – I’m going to ‘go out and do something less boring instead’.

TV or no TV… that is the question

My TV is in the UK and I’m in Spain. This is a problem.

I keep meaning to ship it over, along with lots of other goodies vital objects (especially my hi-fi equipment which I’ll write about again – God, I miss my vinyl).

But I might be moving house soon and it’s a lot of extra stuff to move, so I’ve been holding off until I know what I’m doing.

For the last several months I’ve been using my macbook to watch Netflix etc and – very rarely actually – my UK TV (which is BT Openview in the UK, sent over here using a Slingbox).

This works fine apart from the fact it ties up my screen and stops me ‘working’ at the same time.

As well as my work during the day, there are lots of things I need to do that aren’t particularly challenging – the sort of thing I can easily do outside of normal working hours whilst half-watching something on TV.

Last night I nearly cracked and bought a new TV.

My UK TV is a decent Panasonic 42″ plasma. The screen is superb – the blacks, like most plasmas, are incredible. It’s from 2011, so the smart TV functions are poor but I have more than enough alternative options. Combined with my A/V receiver and speakers (also in the UK…), it’s a great system. A lot better than a 13″ macbook screen!

But it’s not here…

My thought process started innocently enough yesterday when I saw a second-hand 19″ LCD for 50 euro on a local ‘buy/sell’ web site. I called the seller but I was too late, it had already gone.

But by then the thought was in my head. I wanted – no, I needed – a TV. This wasn’t a personal decision for my own pleasure you understand, it was a business decision. I’d do more work at night if I had one…

I quickly progressed to the idea of getting a new 32″ for now, and when I do get my plasma over, I could move the 32″ to the bedroom or something…

But… well, one thing leads to another. For just a bit more… but this one has… oh, look…

I ended the evening at the shops looking at 49″ TVs for around 600 euro… (Give me some credit – at least I managed to totally ignore the 4k and curved screens…)

As a comparison, it would cost about 300 or 350 euro to ship over my TV and all my other stuff – but it would take weeks and I’m back to the problem of having to move it all again when I move house… And then I have no TV in the UK…

Somehow I managed to leave empty-handed. I drove home with very mixed emotions. Partly proud of myself for resisting (rare, very rare). Partly pissed off that I still had no TV.

The long and cold (no, really) Spanish winter nights are passing now though, and it’ll soon be summer again. That means the end of sitting by the log fire watching TV, and a move to sitting outside all evening listening to music.

But I still have the feeling I’ll be going through the same emotions today and over the weekend too… Somebody please stop me –  or, better still, give me permission to get one!