Music on my commute to and from work

It’s been a while since I shared a playlist.

I am not sure if anyone listens to them, but I really enjoy putting them together.

With it being Mental Health Awareness week it is important to remind ourselves to give some attention to our mental health. One suggestion is to do something everyday that you enjoy, if you can it is best to spend an hour doing something that makes you happy. Now putting together this playlist took slightly less than an hour. So I have another 45 minutes left to fill today. Now that is fairly easy on a sunny Saturday. However during the week that can be a little more challenging. Trying to fit a an hour in our busy days can feel a little indulgent. Trust me, it isn’t, it is vital, vital for your health and well-being.

So if it is we have to be a little more imaginative about how we fit that time in. Firstly though we all need to examine our days, and think about those activities we do in a day where we derive enjoyment, that could be spending time with our children, taking the dog for a walk or cooking. Create an inventory of enjoyable activities, once you start you will realise how happy you can be simply by appreciating the things you already do. When you add them up you may be halfway there. Now cherish those activities, and if you need to move them up your importance order.

Once you have created your inventory, then look at those redundant parts of the day, such as your commute to work. My commute is about an hour a day, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. To fill that time I know put my music library on my phone on shuffle and sit back and listen. Now I have a couple of playlists that automatically update with new music that is downloaded onto my phone, so when engage the shuffle option I can listen to a song for the first time. Therefore that anticipation of not knowing whether I am going to listen next, it could be an old favourite or a new classic is so exciting.

My boring 30 minute commute is transformed and flies by. So why not in the car, on the bus or train put your music on shuffle sit back and see what happens. For me I have nailed in hour of happiness.

Because I like to share here is a playlist made of a shuffle I did this morning, not on a commute but sat on my sofa. Have a listen if you like, if you don’t that’s ok too, I have had my fun.

My commute shuffle

A bit of escapism

I Love to daydream. It takes me to a happy place, when I am feeling a little fed up.

Most days foggy makes an appearance as I have mentioned before. That on the whole is fine, I have come to accept him and his negativity, he is me after all. Some days the things he says are more painful than others, and I find it a little harder to be passive and not try to suppress what he is saying. This is normally when he is highlighting my shortcomings. Paradoxically in the long run him shining a light and exaggerating these failings is useful as it spurs me into action, to at least go some way to addressing them. That is no doubt why they are more painful.

To help me handle the discomfort I will often reach for my music to help distract me, to take me to another world. If I am feeling sad a melancholic I might go through my back catalogue of sad songs to allow me to wallow and enjoy the misery of self pity. Now self pity is a comfortable state to be in as it requires no action. The thing is I want action, I don’t want these shortcomings to be shortcomings I want to turn them into actions. I need to be forward thinking.

I still reach for my music, music creates emotions and changes the way I feel. When I want to be positive and forward thinking I listen to new music, music I have never heard before, sometimes it is brilliant, sometimes it is ok and sometimes it is awful. It is always exciting and creative and optimistic. It makes me feel creative, optimistic and forward thinking.

Now I will not address all my shortcomings because I listened to Father John Misty’s latest song but I might just start working towards some of those neglected goals and remind myself of all the things I have achieved over the last week.

We all find our ways to pull us out of our funk, just remember do the thing that makes you happy and creates optimism, not what you think you should do, or what makes other people happy.

Writing this blog always makes me happy. Sharing playlists makes me happy.

So here’s both my blog, and below is a playlist. An Apple Music one this time. If you want it on Spotify let me know otherwise enjoy my little bit of escapism this month.

My New Music Escapism Playlist

If you want to discuss how you can create an optimistic future for yourself get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or this blog.

Have a great rest of the week and remember we have a rough times, it’s what we do with them that counts.

Have a Hug on Me

Everybody needs a hug, some of us more often than others.

The restorative powers of a good heartfelt hug are amazing. If you are feeling out of sorts or mentally and physically drained, a proper hug will leave with a spring in your step and a song in your heart.

A hug reminds you that you are appreciated and people do care. A hug lets you know that someone thinks you are great and they are interested in how you feel.

Now I love giving out hugs, because I think most people deserve a hug and that most people are pretty amazing. The thing is I understand that there are a lot of people who feel uncomfortable being in close contact with people they hardly know. I think that is strange but I respect their choice, the last thing I want is to make people feel uncomfortable. The whole point of my hugs are to make people feel empowered.

So with that in mind and the fact that I can’t hug you all, I thought I would offer you all a virtual hug. A hug for your ears and your soul. A musical hug. In fact a heartfelt musical hug.

This morning I lovingly put together a playlist of songs that make feel warm and fuzzy, hoping that at least some of you with feel the same.

Why not share this hug with your loved ones or make your own musical hug. Just imagine what our world would be like if we shared our hugs rather than our hate.

So hear accept it with my love.

Gizza Cuddle

An Easter Gift from Me to You

At the moment I seem to fluctuating between a positive week and a challenging week. This week has been a challenging one. Some of the projects I have running at work have been stumbling and faltering. Nothing unusual just the normal obstacles encountered when undertaking projects. Everything seems to be happening at once I suppose and by Thursday I was feeling overwhelmed with all of it. I needed to take stock, as I could feel the negative commentary in my head was beginning to take over. I needed some mindfulness and then a plan of action. Well I created a plan of action and then sat back today and cleared my head. On Friday I organised a coach for myself, and today I have been for a run (first one for over a month) and then put together a playlist. Both these activities clear my head. They are engaging activities I can immerse myself in the activity without bringing in unwanted interference. I can do them purely for the sake of it.

This mindfulness is reflected in the playlist I have put together today, it is an eclectic mix of whatever took my fancy this morning. None of it has any connection to Easter other than I created it the weekend before Easter. It does have some of my favourite songs, such as:

I love you Honeybear by Father John Misty

Seasons (waiting on you) by Future Islands.

The other thing I love to do is to share, so please accept this Easter Mix Tape with my love

Mattycoach Eater Mix Tape

A shivering March Mix Tape

On this cold and snowy March morning I thought I would share my warming March mix tape. The music that has sat with me through this month of contrasting temperatures and moods.

I put this together based on what has turned up on the radio or in shuffle on my phone. Music that has peaked my interest throughout the month. This music has sat in my ears providing a soundtrack to my commutes and when cooking.

Music is such an important part of my life. Because of that I think it is important to share what is resonating with me. Feel free to dip in and have a listen, you might already know the music, but their might be a song in there that really connects with you and changes everything.

As always the playlist is just the right length to fit on a C60 tape for all of you old enough to remember mixtapes.

Think of this as my monthly gift to you.

My March Mix Tape

A Week Off My Birthday and Foggy

I always book the week of my birthday off. I rarely do anything, but I just like having the time off with nothing in particular planned, a week of chilling out.

Well there was certainly a lot of chilling with ‘The Beast From The East’ arriving in the Monday. I had the first few days by myself, which was perfect, some time just for me, apart from a short meeting at work on Monday. To be honest both Monday and Tuesday were largely taken up with work. With the first day of the coaching course starting on Monday I wanted to do some preparation. I needed to refresh my memory of some of the reading materials and feel comfortable with what Anthony has planned. I didn’t have to do it, but I wanted to. I don’t see coaching as work, it is as much a hobby. I enjoy it so much.

If I am honest I have spent most of the week, reading about coaching. Well the weather was so cold there was not much else to do. I spent some of my time writing some notes about my story. This is s project I have written a lot about and published a blog the other day based on those notes. I find writing about and dissecting my early life quite helpful understanding why I react the way I do.

The cold weather prevented my Mum coming for my birthday, which was a real shame, as we were all looking forward to seeing her. We will however being seeing her at Easter, which is not that far off.

Saturday was my birthday and the last day of the cold weather. As Birthdays go it was quite low key, with just a trip out to the pub for lunch. It was lovely spending the afternoon with my family, eating drinking and laughing.

The highlight of the day was getting a flat cap and a pair of doc martens. A man of simple pleasures. It has been about 20 years since I last owned a pair of docs, and I have wanted a cap for about a year. The kids think it is hilarious, simultaneously having a middle aged crisis and embracing middle age at the same.

This morning I was woken up by Foggy. God knows where he came from, I have felt really positive and optimistic for weeks. Then all of a sudden he fills my head with negative thoughts and pessimism. I woke up with a pit in my stomach and a feeling of hopelessness. I was at a loss to why this was happening. Now previously I would try to fight it or start to feel sorry for myself. This time I just let the feeling sit there. I concentrated on the physical feelings I was experiencing. My jaw was tight so I focused on my jaw and it started to relax, the same with my neck and shoulders. Just by focusing on them, they relaxed. This is something I read again recently in John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance. The first time I read about it a year or so ago, I thought it was interesting but didn’t actually give it a go. After reading about it this week again I thought I would give it a go. It works! On top of that it helped turn Foggy’s volume. By concentrating on my physical symptoms the negative thoughts gradually dispersed. I am certain it will not chase Foggy away, but it does help turn him down, more quickly than just letting him act out. No doubt he will be back tomorrow before the course starts, amplifying my anxiety so I will give it a go again.

Growing up in Gosport

Today I thought I would add some more to my story. I decided to write some more about my early life in Gosport. Now this will not necessarily be accurate as I left Gosport 37 years ago on Saturday. Saying that it is my version of events so is true to me. I found it quite entertaining to write. I also found it quite revealing about where I put myself in the scheme of things. Enjoy.

Grove Road

I was 6 when i started St Johns (Grove Road) Primary School, so I had only been at school for a year when I got there.

It was a primary school so had children from 5 yrs to 11 as opposed to Brockhurst Infants who only had children until they were 7.

It was a much older building than Brockhurst Primary. the 2 last teachers I had at St Johns were both men and both ex Royal Marines therefore hard as nails. I can’t imagine ex Marine commandos being primary school teachers nowadays. There wasn’t much messing about in their classes. Saying that I don’t remember them being really scary in fact other than one of them being scottish and in 42 commando and the other one being in the Royal Marine band I have very little memory of them.

For the first year I remember we still got free milk in the morning. Up until the late 70s all school children got free milk at school. This was a throwback from post war Britain when most children were not getting enough calcium in their diet. By the mid to late 70s most people could afford and get hold of dairy products. Also the economy was in a bit of a mess therefore Margaret Thatcher when she was a minister stopped free milk in schools. Another reason why my generation hated her so much (Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher). When we did get free milk, it came in small individual glass milk bottles. In the winter it was fine as the milk came to you cold, when the weather was warmer the milk was a little sour. The milk monitor (the well behaved boy or girl who was chosen to hand the milk out) would give you the small bottle with a straw. The bottle had a foil cap which most of us pierced with the straw. thinking about it now, parents would have a fit if this happened now. Giving children warm sour milk, encouraging them to pierce a dirty foil cap with a straw to drink this slightly off milk, can you imagine the outrage. I wonder how many of us poor hapless milk drinkers died of dehydration due to severe food poisoning.

When you were in the older years (the junior side of the school, rather than the infants) you were allowed to buy sweets and crisps in the tuck shop, such delights as blue bird toffees, mojos, and small packets of snacks (normally beef or tomato flavour) along with tip top sugary drinks, could be purchased during break time. my favourite was blue bird toffees. Little did I know,that I would eventually live in the city where they were made.

The class I was in had a pet guinea pig, that we could look after at weekends and half term holidays. I duly put my name down to care for this pet. We looked after it once, my mum had misgivings which in hindsight were correct. We only had it for a weekend, but never again. They are smelly, noisey and shit a lot. We kept it inside, that is why we noticed the smell. No one told us you could put it outside! I only found that out as an adult when Lisa insisted we have 2 as pets. To be fair they are no bother when they are not in your bedroom!

Just after the guinea pig debacle, I embarked on another ill conceived activity. I took up the violin, much to the joy of my big brother. It lasted about 2 months. Saying I was shit is a bit harsh, I was only 9, and I can tell you playing the violin is fucking hard, our teacher said so (well not using those words obviously). You have to memorise where to put you fingers to create the correct notes! So you really have to want to do it and have an understanding non-aggressive big brother to stand any chance at succeeding. Luckily the school had an instrument loan system so mum and dad didn’t have to fork out for a violin.

Playing Out With Mates

The estate where we lived was very child friendly, with the vast majority of the space being car free. There was also at least 5 play areas, and then just across the road was the rec, which went right up to the hard.

At weekends and during the holidays us kids had the run of the estate.

We would ride up and down the paths on our bikes. The popular TV programme of the time was CHiPs. A drama about the exploits of 2 motorcycle policemen from the California Highway Patrol. To recreate the motorcycle noise, we would attach football cards to the spokes of our rear wheels, thus generating a buzzing noise, that to an 7-8 year old sounded just like motorbike (of course it sounded like a piece of card had got caught in the wheel, and nothing like the engine of a motorcycle). All the kids on the estate either had Grifters (the coolest bike in the world ever) or choppers (more old school, and fucking dangerous). Now I had asked for a Grifter for Christmas, I understood they were expensive, but I thought Santa could stretch to it. Santa clearly was having a difficult time in the late 70s, and for some reason had got me mixed up with a middle aged woman. This is the only explanation I could come up with. I imagined there was a middle aged woman somewhere in southern England looking puzzled at a green Rayleigh Grifter and wondering how she was going to carry the shopping back from the High Street on it. Meanwhile I was stood in our dining rooming staring at a Rayleigh Mayfair. A fucking Rayleigh Mayfair, the bike of choice for district nurses and women that like to keep active by going to the shops on a bike, not, I repeat not for 7 year old boys to re-imagine the exploits of the California Highway Patrol. “It’s a girl’s bike!” “It’s unisex, anyway that is all that Santa had”. Fortunately I did not have any impressive swear words in my vocabulary, otherwise I think I may have been eating soap for quite some time. Gutted would have been an understatement. So started a childhood of humiliation. “oi Smithy why have you got a girls bike?” “Are you a girl?” “No its unisex!” This was always met with fits of laughter. The word sex is and always has been hilarious to boys under 10 (any age really).

So anyway I ended up loving my girls bike and everyone got used to it in the end. Look here comes Smithy on his girls bike.

One of our other favourite games we played as did most children in the 70s was War. All boys (and girls too for that matter) played war in various different forms. We all had toy soldiers (the airfix ones were the most popular) so we all recreated battles in our bedrooms. When we played out we would organise ourselves into the allies and the germans, and having running battles through the estate. We all had toy guns, but we often preferred to fashion guns out of windfall branches (once you found one the right shape you would keep it for weeks). I was fatter and slower than the rest of my friends and they would shout at me to catch up on a regular basis. This time we were running from the Germans when we got to a wall on the edge of a playing area. The other boys had climbed the wall and jumped over the other side when I had got there. I hated climbing, they were shouting for me to climb over and join them. They implored me not to be such a girl. The wall my side was chest height so about 3 foot. I managed to clamber up and sat on the wall. Without looking I swung my legs round and pushed myself off the top, fully expecting the same drop on the other side. This however was not the case, I plummeted 6 feet through shrubbery and nettles coming to rest on my ample backside in a bed of nettles. Upon hearing my screams and cries for help my friends promptly ran away in fits of laughter exclaiming that i would have to be a POW for the rest of the game and that the mission was more important than the individual.

The Stag Beetle Incident

As mentioned previously I nearly always the good guy. Most kids liked me because I was just nice. There was once whilst living at Pipet Close where I was unintentionally mean to a girl. I have felt bad about it ever since, so I am satisfied that I have paid penance for this heinous act. I will in my defence say that it was not all me and the said girl was a gobby cow, and probably had it coming, just not that.

We we playing in the alleyway at the back of my house where there was the shell of pigeon coop (i think that was what it was. It was a raised up structure running alongside the alley that had 3 walls and no roof). There were 3 of us boys and this girl, who frankly was being a pain in the arse. As we were playing this huge beetle flew in and landed on the ground next me. The girl gave out a shriek. Someone shouted, that is a stag beetle, put it in her hair. So without thinking I picked it up and did what I was told (I am not sure but I think it may have been me who gave the instruction). She started screaming really loudly, informing me it was hurting her and pulling her hair and asking me to remove it. So I pulled at the beetle, the more I pulled it the tighter it gripped onto the girls hair. This was not going well. The beetle attempted to fly away, no doubt scared witless. No matter what we did (which to be honest was limited to pulling the beetle away from her hair) the beetle did not move. The girl ran off screaming something abusive. I legged it along with my friends. We never spoke of that moment again.