The passage of time and how to deal with it

Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey – not my great aunt!

I went to a family funeral this week – that of my Great Aunt Jean who was 92, a lovely woman who I spent a fair bit of time with when I was a kid.

I have many fond childhood memories of family gatherings, evenings playing cards (for pennies) and walking the dog with her, but as is often the way, though, I haven’t seen her much at all in the recent past. In fact, I struggled to remember the last time I’d seen both her and her husband, John.

In fact, I probably haven’t seen much of my extended family for a number of years – not a deliberate choice, but just ‘one of those things’.

So the funeral was a wonderful chance to catch up, but also to be reminded of age and ageing. Everyone looked broadly the same, except most of us were all a bit older, greyer – possibly bigger – and slower.

Ageing isn’t exactly a revelation. We all do it – but for the most part it’s imperceptible. We often only notice when we see an old photo of ourselves and the physical difference feels rather marked. Continue reading “The passage of time and how to deal with it”

Have you reached peak TV yet?

Best TV of 2022
The Responder, Top Boy and Gentleman Jack Composite: BBC, Netflix

It’s safe to say – for most people – the TV was a lifeline during the pandemic, particularly those long weeks of confinement when we were only allowed out of the house for a limited time.

But, as the coronavirus threat has dissipated and ‘normal’ life has broadly returned, our need to fill evenings with TV watching should have diminished. And yet, it feels as if there’s more TV than ever.

Best TV of 2022?

The Guardian recently published an article about ‘The Best TV of 2022 so far’, showcasing 26 shows or series. I kid you not, 26. Given that we’re not yet at the end of June, that’s more than one ‘best’ a week.

Now, admittedly, these aren’t all series. There are a couple of documentaries in there (such as Navalny and the Netflix Jimmy Savile one), plus shorter comedies such as Starstruck or Hacks, but – by and large – these require dedication.

And, to save you the bother, I’ve added up the viewing time of all 26 shows featured in that Guardian article. Are you ready?…

Give or take the odd 30 minutes, if you’d watched every single one (and that doesn’t include the shows that have previously-aired seasons, such as Stranger Things or Ozark), you’d have wasted, dedicated 142 hours of your free time in 2022 to sitting in front of some sort of TV screen to see ‘the best TV’.

That’s an insane amount of screen time. If you watch the average 3 hours a night (according to 2020 figures), that works out at 47 days’ worth of viewing. At time of writing, that means you have had to watch only these featured TV shows, once every three days in order to have seen everything.

And that’s without all the stuff that’s not on the list. There’s nothing from the Marvel or Star Wars canon over on Disney+, for example.

Then there are the soaps, the news, sports events, regular dramas, all the Jubilee coverage – they’re all omitted.

Not forgetting all that stuff that you end up watching by accident, because it’s showing when you switch on, like Masterchef.

I get that TV is a primary way for many people to spend their leisure time, but even so, that’s serious commitment.

What’s more, it also requires you to have a lot of subscriptions. While many of the Guardian-featured shows were terrestrial, there are also recommendations from Sky Atlantic, Netflix, Apple+ and Amazon Prime, meaning you’ll be forking out an extra £40pm (roughly) to keep up.

Now I consider myself fairly well up on TV, but I’ve only watched about a third of the recommendations.

So have we reached the point where we can no longer keep up? Is there any point trying? Don’t we have lives outside the TV? What do you think?

Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping

Dom Knigi (House of Books) in St Petersburg
CC photo via Flickr: House of Books in St Petersburg, one of my favourite places to visit

Given the 21st-century backlash against consumerism, it might seem contrary to write a post about my experiences of shopping in Russia, but different country, different era.

What’s more, shopping presented one of the best opportunities we had as students to practise our language skills in a ‘real’ environment outside the classroom.

As I mentioned in my first post about living in Russia in the 90s, after morning lectures had finished, we invariably headed off into the city centre of St Petersburg to see what we could find.

Shops in Russia – even a major city like St Petersburg – were an oddity. Not their existence, rather what they sold.

Buying food

There wasn’t much originality in shop names in 1992. For example, there were numerous places called ‘Moloko’ meaning milk. The irony was that milk was almost never on sale in these shops – in fact, the primary product available appeared to be cognac (the Russian version).

Looking for items of food was always a major element of our excursions into town. Certain items were always available: every second shop’s window display was stacked with jars of pickled goods.

Pickling was of course, a necessary way for citizens to preserve a glut of produce before they went bad (although I didn’t properly understand that at the time). Continue reading “Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping”