Monday, February 24, 2014

And back from Halle

Came home from a lovely evening at the opera last week, having really enjoyed the performance of Lohengrin (although I have to admit that I didn't think the staging or costumes worked at all well - I loved the overture though and it was amusing to here the Wedding March in it's original place). Kudos have to go to Simon Neal, the bartione who took to the stage despite being in the throes of a flu. Unfortunately, an hour or so after I got home though, I started shivering. Since it wasn't all that cold, I somewhat nervously took my temperature. 36.7 - hmmm, not so great considering my normal temperature is 36.1. It continued to rise and was over 37.5 by the next morning so I dragged myself off to the doctor. He checked my lungs but there was nothing but some slight whistling in my upper left bronchi so he told me to go home, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetemol before bed. Just want I wanted to hear on the second week of my holidays. One of these days I'll get to actually enjoy a full two week break!

The fever just did not want to give up and I had sooo much I wanted to get done. I did my best to do as little as possible and confined myself just to those things which were actual appointments with other people. So that was a counselling session on Monday evening (apparently physical issues and recurring illness can often happen due to grief and/or depression - perfect!), nothing on Tuesday but then a few different things on Wendesday which meant I was out and about for quite a long time, although I did incorporate long breaks between appointments rather than running around putting up posters for our next concert as I had originally planned to do. I gave choir a miss in the evening and after the AGM of the choir supporters' group was over, headed home to pack and have an early night.

Yes, even though I was ill and really not sure I'd be able to do anything much, I decided to travel to Halle for the annual Happy Birthday Handel performance of Messiah. Well, I had already paid for the hotel and the train ticket and would have only gotten a portion back if I'd cancelled so late. And since the hotel room comes with a cleaning lady, I decided that even if I did nothing more than lie in bed for the four days, it'd be better than lying in bed at home for that time.

I'm very glad I did go as despite feeling kind of miserable, especially on the first day, I still had a fantastic time. It's so nice to catch up with people I haven't seen for a year - and, of course, with some of them it seems just like yesterday was the last time you were together and you can pick up the threads of conversations just like that. I missed the first rehearsal but dragged myself to the second one, which was on Friday. That was a bit of a struggle to get to and to get through but then again, singing always makes everything feel better, too. I didn't take long after it was over to get back to bed, though! A few hours saw my rested and well enough to venture out for dinner with a few people and a quick stop at the concert some of the choirs participating in the main event were putting on. Saw a really fantastic group of young men perform - just five guys (called Mehr als Vier or More than Four) from a youth choir that got together outside of normal choir rehearsals to do their own thing. So, so talented. And after that it was off to the pub for one of the usual get togethers. We didn't stay to the bitter end though, a couple of hours was all and then it was back to bed for me to try and be rested for the big day on Saturday.

I did wake up feeling much better that day and not only made it to breakfast but to rehearsal, too. With a bit more voice than the previous day even. And then in the evening the performance was held for a packed out Handel Halle, that's over 1,200 people, which isn't bad. My voice just about held out, although the last bars of the Hallelujah chorus were definitely a bit of a strain. And I had a horrible coughing fit come on just as one of the quietest and delicate orchestral and solo parts, the Pastoral Symphony, was starting and was in tears trying to suppress it. It probably only lasted twenty or thirty seconds before I managed to get a lozenge into my mouth but it was hellish. Apart from that, things went well enough and by the time we got out of the concert hall and were able to head for something to eat, it was nearly 11 and it was off to a local Italian restaurant for a well-deserved pizza, the first thing I had eaten with a true appetite all week, before hitting the pub and staying up till three having a ball. It was awfully hard to get up and leave the next day - it was the kind of weekend you just don't want to end. But after another day of plenty of rest, tomorrow it'll be back to work. I'm going to head to bed and focus a bit more on the lovely new memories I have than the thought of work now, I think! I'll leave ye with a video of one of my favourite parts of Messiah. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Off to the opera

It's not raining (although it's supposed to be), I've done some stretching exercises, finished the ironing, gone for a quick swim, had some lunch and am about to head out the door to walk to the opera, where I'll be seeing a performance of Wagner's Lohengrin. It's scheduled for four and a half hours so afterwards, we're going to go out to get something to eat. All in all, not a bad Sunday afternoon - some stuff done and something to look forward to.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tough day

Don't know what it is. Coming to the end of a week's holiday I feel like I should be in a better mood but instead I'm hovering between feeling a bit depressed and sad and being in a complete fouler (as we used to call it when I was a teenager)! I think a lot of it has to do with the weather, which has been grey all day and then progressed to rain at around half-three.

Partly though, I'm disappointed that I've been struggling to keep to the detox kind of week I had planned on. I've done okay-ish where food is concerned but I really wanted to do a bit extra this week when I had the time to put in the effort cooking and so on. I have exercised every day, which is good. I had a just over one hour walk on Tuesday - headed from home down the road towards the big park and then walked around that for a while before continuing into town, down to the river and then back home that way. On Wednesday I just headed straight down towards the river and then walked into town and then kept going right down the Rheinpromenade. The sun was shining and the weather was just beautiful - cold enough to be glad of a coat but so, so bright. I sat for a few minutes when I got as far as I wanted to go and then simply turned around and walked back again. All told, it was still just a walk of about an hour or a little bit more - distance wise, it'd be just a little bit over 5km. About ten minutes before the end though, just when I turn off from the river to head towards my road, I sat down with the sun shining into my face for a good ten minutes. That felt good.

Yesterday then, instead of walking, I went swimming. I was in the water for 45 minutes and swimming for most of that - I spent just a few minutes in-between just floating and stretching, mostly when other people were being irritating by standing around chatting and it was easier to stay down the other end of the pool rather than get more annoyed by being close to them taking up space. Eventually I actually just gave up and swam widths across the shallower part of the pool, which was almost completely empty.

Today, I just walked into town through the park. I needed to go and pick up my suitcase, which was in for repairs. So, about a 30 minute walk and it started to rain just as I was getting in to town. I decided a hot chocolate and a half-an-hour spent reading my book in a cafe would be nice - really what I wanted to do was find a supermarket and load a trolley up with lots and lots of crisps and sweets so I decided to try and have a really nice (but more modest than a trolley-full) treat instead. I ended up going to probably one of the most famous cafes here. I've eaten stuff from here before as one of the managers in work, when it's his birthday, always brings cakes from this bakery. It was really nice, I had a lovely hot chocolate and a slice of cake (this cake - delicious) and made a note to definitely come back again the next time I have visitors. Then I left, collected my suitcase, headed home and the whole time, all I could think about was how much I wanted to get chips or pizza or both for dinner, how much I really, really wanted to call into the supermarket to get crisps and sweets. It actually started yesterday evening on the way home from class - I found myself coming up with all sorts of reasons why I needed to stop and buy crisps. Or anything that would have meant me needing to go into the supermarket, which would have ended up with me buying crisps. I resisted though. And I resisted today as well. So I do have that to be proud of, I suppose. But I'm so tired of having to fight times like these. I've had good food to eat today. I've had a lovely treat. I've gotten fresh air and exercise. I've just had a lovely dinner (mixed bean/lentil stew with tomatoes/onions/chard and a sausage) and I am full. But I know that if I had crisps, for example, or a large bag of Maltesers here at the moment, I would be shoving them into my mouth as fast as I could. I wish I felt more of a sense of accomplishment at having resisted buying anything earlier but I don't think that will come, if at all, until this period of craving has passed. It's exhausting.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Good things going on at the moment

Two weeks off work. I'm planning on not doing very much and by the time I add in just a small amount of normal housework, choir, my course plus homework as well as getting ready for my annual trip to Halle to sing Messiah at the end of next week, not doing very much is already taking up quite a bit of time. It's all good so far though. I'm going to use this week to do a sort of a detox week again, starting today. So I made some spicy carrot and lentil soup earlier and had a big bowl of that for lunch, I got some bananas on the way home from a nice long walk and had one of those and will have more soup shortly. And I'm planning on banana pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Haven't had bananas for ages so this is lovely. I even got six of them for just one euro - I stopped at the fruit shop on the way home since I was really craving a banana and I just had one euro in my pocket, which I thought should be enough for at least one. Since I expressed interest in preferring the slightly black-speckled ones from yesterday she weighed a bunch for me and then said she'd give them to me for the one euro I had instead of the 1.55 they should cost. So that was nice.

My house isn't a total catastrophe at the moment. I would like to hoover tomorrow but I've been doing really well on keeping on top of the washing up and I got the washing finished and hung today (after taking the weekend off from any housework). Ironing has been going pretty well the last few weeks, too, so I think I might find a half an hour tomorrow to get that done and get the clothes horse put away. For now though, I've lit some candles and am going to just chill out for the rest of the evening. Ha. That makes it almost sounds like I've done anything but chill out all day! I'd like to get the remains of the Table of Doom finally dealt with this week and I've bought a big wall calendar to fill in all the stuff I have on. I do use a pocket diary to keep track but I feel like I need an overview this year. I want to fill in stuff like remembering to take my vitamin D tablet every two weeks, schedule time for reading for my course and that kind of thing.

That comes partly because for the past month I've been making a big effort to get things under control at work. I came up with a to-do list of sorts to run in parallel with my normal to-do list. This new list is broken down into three sections - daily, weekly and monthly - and contains all the stuff that I used to just do and never forget, or at least always manage to remember to do in the nick of time. But that doesn't work anymore as my memory is completely shot. I've had the second of my individual therapy sessions now and my counsellor was fairly impressed when I told her about the lists. She confirmed that memory can be badly affected by depression and by grief and that people often express a fear that they've begun to display signs of dementia when they begin therapy. It was nice to know that the group sessions had had enough of an impact and been enough of a reminder for some of the techniques that I already know to get me sorting my own problems out.

I know my memory isn't great and hasn't been for years but have mostly put that down to lack of use of my brain and kind of figured that if I put any effort in again, I'd start to see an improvement. And in the meantime, it was good enough. But since my sister died I really have been feeling like something in my head just broke. I could get by in work for a few months but at some stage I had to accept that I might not just snap back to 'normal' and so I came up with the lists to try and stop feeling overwhelmed. There are lots of small tasks I do that don't take up a huge amount of time if they're done daily but if I don't get around to them they build up really quickly to seemingly insurmountable obstacles. So, I've incorporated not only those tasks into my list but also incorporated dealing with the backlog, too. Kind of like I did with the Table of Doom - ten old emails dealt with every day, ten old sent emails filed properly every day. I do still have some old temporary folders with hundreds and hundreds of old emails but even in just the few weeks I've been doing it, I have almost entirely cleared everything that had built up last year. And that was quite a lot, given that I was out sick so often during 2013.

The last few days of work last week were such a change from my normal preparing for a holiday, when I'm trying to make sure I've at least covered enough to be gone for two weeks without anyone noticing how many things are lying unfinished. I knew exactly what I needed to still do and it wasn't a lot, because I was mostly caught up on everything. I had one big task that I hadn't gotten to and that I planned to finish on Friday but unfortunately Friday ended up being a ridiculously busy time and so I didn't get to it. A couple of hours into Friday morning though, I realised I wouldn't have time to finish the task and so I just decided to not every try and start. That meant that despite the busy-ness of Friday, it was a fairly relaxed atmosphere and then I just went in on Sunday and got the task done properly. Very glad I did that as it ended up taking longer that I anticipated - nearly four and a half hours compared to the three I had thought it would. It confirmed though, that the better option was not to stress myself out trying to get it done on Friday as that was four and a half hours of uninterrupted time - on a normal work day, with phones going, emails arriving every few minutes and all the staff to deal with, I could have probably spent nearly a day and a half trying to get the same amount done. And now I get to totally relax, knowing I've left everything in really good shape. That feels really good and so far, although I've done practically nothing, I am really enjoying my time off!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Garth Brooks fever

I'm not sure if this has made the news much outside Ireland but Garth Brooks is going on tour next year and chose Ireland to hold his comeback special concerts. In July (hooray, I'll be in Ireland) but the last weekend (boo, I need to be back in Germany before the 22nd). I toyed with the idea of flying back on the Saturday and then home on the Sunday, which wouldn't involve me taking any time off work and I even spent a couple of hours when the tickets went on sale trying to get some but wasn't able to. I'm really disappointed that I can't go but the sensible part of me knows it's for the best. Concert tickets were not in the budget for this month and flights back to Ireland just for a weekend in the height of summer would have been going a bit overboard. Not that there aren't loads of people going overboard, some have tickets for all five nights that he is now playing! In total about 400,000 tickets were sold. The first three dates within about two hours and the second two within maybe three hours. It was madness, I tell ye. Someone on the Irish discussion forums boards.ie suggested that he should have done it a few years ago and lifted the country out of the recession sooner. LOL

At any rate, for now, I'll just wait and see where he actually plays during the tour in 2015 - maybe he'll be in Germany, too. I've missed tickets for his other shows years ago, too, so it has to work out sometime, surely. In the meantime, this comedian put together a song for Garth Brooks, to explain what's been happening in Ireland since he last played there. In 1997 the Celtic Tiger was well under way and seventeen years later, the story is very, very different. It's very Irish so apologies to those who aren't familiar with Irish politics and things that have happened there in the last couple of decades.