Updated: Mar 1
Photo: 3/7 members of the new book club
In an interview with Demi Lovato, Arianna Huffington asked her what she does to disconnect. Her answer surprised me because she is a pop star and a youthful 24. She knits!
The article made me think about how I used to ‘people watch’ when in a café or restaurant and now, rather than take in my surroundings while I wait for my order to arrive, I reach for my phone to check the various social accounts I have and handle for others. It’s a bit of an addiction, this device, and it has come to feel like a trusted friend. Or perhaps it's a prop to maintain a barrier between me and any unwanted interaction with, like, real people? Well, that can’t be the case, surely, because I love people and consider myself to be a bit of a social butterfly.
Because I spend so much time online, I am conscious some areas are being neglected. I’ve asked some close girlfriends if they’d like to start a book club and the response was pretty much a unanimous yes. Our first meeting is in a few weeks, starting with supper cooked by the host (me on this occasion). I started a book club before when I lived in Spain and loved how our minds wandered in to the stories, imagining the characters’ lives and giving of our (strong) opinions about what was mostly fiction. I particularly loved how events in a story triggered memories for our group, on occasion causing emotion when recollections weren’t pleasant. Those moments were revelatory and special.
I go to a local gym several days a week – as a keen foodie, I need to exercise - with Body Combat being my favourite ‘kick ass’ class that I do twice a week with my sister. I also lift weights for strength and conditioning. When I am doing this I’m not thinking about my work, I’m just there to keep fit, both mentally and physically. Someone, in response to Arianna’s article, said that we should allow ourselves time to disconnect from “the electronic umbilical cord” and engage in a hobby. I always feel energised and happy after working out and walking home through Southsea Common, I soak up, and appreciate the nature of this wonderful public amenity, loved by everyone who uses it.
Travelling to new places always thrills – I’ve lived and worked on 3 continents, not unusual today - and I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this year I’d go somewhere new every two months, which I have. I love meeting and interacting with people and have wondered at the irony of choosing a solitary work life, in that it’s just me and my laptop and phone most of the time. The digital economy has challenged many of our assumptions about perception. We live at a time of flat, glassy screens, computerised manipulation and the reign of the winking pixel. The wider world doesn't seem to care about the aesthetics, but I believe I wouldn’t be sane if I didn’t indulge in things I believe are good for my soul, like the joy of spending an afternoon at a David Hockney exhibit – the last one was at the Guggenheim in Bilbao - or at the Impressionists floor at the Musée d’Orsay. I've just booked a ticket to visit the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi this month, although I'm kind of more interested in the architecture of the floating dome structure to the artwork on this occasion. I’ve always had an appreciation of art, culture and nature.
Last night at supper with a girlfriend at a local tapas restaurant here in Southsea where I live – see Old Tom’s on #Instagram @oldtomssouthsea – I asked her what she does to disconnect and she said that if she had lived in the 40’s she would definitely have been in the French Resistance; it wasn’t really the answer I was expecting but it made us both laugh!
Photo: me and Tanya disconnecting at Old Tom's