It’s summer on the south coast

Summer is well and truly here. After a harsh winter, spring barely got a look-in before the solstice came and more or less brought the warm weather with it in shed loads.

Brighton and indeed the rest of the South Downs area is bathed in sunlight, the beach is gleaming, the water dazzling as the light bounces off the surface. All very romantic for a hippie-at-heart like yours truly and the plants love it, too. When the weather broke the other day, it was a relief, as there had been precious little rain for a good three weeks, but now the sun is winning the battle again.

This is consistent with my current mood. I may be a not-so-closet goth, even though I wear as much purple as black and I don’t dye my hair black (or white) or wear white face paint. I prefer the more natural look (and have better things to do than spend three hours every day on make-up). However, goth or no, I’m in a happy place right now and that’s got much to do with work and just as much to do with the improvement in my kung fu that’s come with it.

Recently, as things improve, I’m remembering that this is the Chinese Year of the Tiger, so this is a fantastic time for me to grab opportunities when they arise, to recognise them for what they are and grasp them with both hands.

I’m also not watching the news as much as usual and, trust me, that lifts my mood no end. As I write, I have on the BBC news channel, with a report about the Yorkshire Ripper. In the past few days, there have been reports about more military personnel being killed in the Middle East and they’re also talking about the oil spill in the USA, beyond doubt a massive disaster for wildlife and the environment. I’m not trying to be an ostrich, but the reason I avoid the news much of the time is so I can avoid being depressed by what it tells me. Of course we need to know these things, but when it all arrives in one big mudslide, it becomes hard to take. So I ‘do’ the news in drips and drabs and then I’m fine.

One way of dealing with environmental issues, small though it may be, is to D-I-Y. Baking my own cakes and flapjacks, making my own body lotion (thanks to James Wong for the idea and the basic recipe), growing our own herbs and veg. Just as importantly, buying only the best-quality food from organic sources (vegbox schemes, local independent suppliers), free-range eggs from a guy round the corner (again, avoiding big corporate chains), and quite literally watching what we eat. For me personally, the martial arts part of my life makes me extremely aware of what I do to my own body and it also makes me more alert to the fact that so many people are generally unhealthy. Since my training began more than two years ago, I have felt healthier than I’ve ever been; even the hay fever has begun to subside, only flaring up when the pollen count is immensely high and I happen, that day, to be somewhere in the countryside. (Another thing that gives me a good feeling is when I take homemade flapjacks to class with me and my instructor, having eaten one, goes on to grab a couple more before I leave: flapjacks, in our club, are popular and never last long.)

I’ve even got my mitts on the latest Michèle Roberts book, Mud, a collection of short stories. She’s one of my favourite writers, but she’s not massively well known, which is a shame. It’s usually a few years between book releases, so when I find out there’s a new one, I get it without question. It takes a writer of her calibre to produce short stories with little or no dialogue and still keep you reading, wanting to know what happens. Her style of writing is not for everyone but, since I read The Wild Girl at university (now re-published as The Secret Gospel of Mary Magdalene), I’ve been hooked. If you’re not familiar with her work, try one of her short story collections. The Wild Girl hooked me because I’m interested in early Christianity and what it was about it which made it expand the way it did, to become a major world religion in whose name many wars have been waged and so much blood has been spilt. Michèle Roberts’s book is narrated by Mary Magdalene, a much-maligned historical figure, bringing these people to life in a way religious tracts (for me, at least) never could. (Not that I read these things – I only read them at school when I had no choice… and the lack of choice was something which, when I left school, I naturally rebelled against. I read what I want to read, thank you very much.)

Right, I’m off. But before I go, I will give you one of my favourite quotes, from Groucho Marx. It’s very deep and meaningful and should be remembered at all times: Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

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