Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Not All Chess

There are times when you can get so caught up in something that it seems to completely take over your life. That has been the case with me and chess over the past 6 months. My work has cranked up to more intense levels, and helping to set up and run a chess club has taken a lot of time. I also follow chess news and still try to analyse a bit myself, though not as much as I'd like. This blog will soon be taken over by chess as I play in the Australian Masters starting this Saturday and report about it here. So I thought it time to look at some non chess things, just to prove that there are other things to me than chess.

Combining a love of reading with a love history, I recently read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I'm not usually a big fan of historical fiction, but when a book is written as well as this, about as interesting a subject as the rise of Anne Boleyn in Tudor England, it is a sure winner. I can't really say I've deeply studied Tudor history though I did quite a bit of deep study into the Stuart period and that necessitated some background into Tudor times (there's always Blackadder if all else fails).

Now I can't say I'm much of a TV or film watcher, but the new TV adaptation of Wolf Hall is certainly something I'd be interested in seeing. I also get the urge to read more history. The only trouble is that whenever I get some spare time, non fiction is not really what I want to explore. I guess that is a consequence of examining so much non fiction in the form of chess literature. The program is due to air on BBC 2 in the UK early in 2015, and hopefully it won't be long in coming to Australia. I'll probably have read the sequel, Bringing Up The Bodies by then.

Are you a dog or a cat person? This question always amuses my wife Caroline, as I have claimed to be a dog person. We currently have 2 cats which I've become pretty soppy over and Caroline likes to remind me of my claims of being a dog person. She rightly wonders why we can't just all be animal lovers. And, of course, Caroline is absolutely right. The pets that we have had have come from animal shelters and I admire those who work at shelters, or advocate for them. With Christmas coming up, the usual problem with unwanted pets will no doubt come about, something which really angers me. Not all people are capable of looking after an animal, for one reason or another. Some of those do the right thing and don't try to keep a pet, while some carry on regardless, start to build a bond with an animal which then gets broken when the animal is sent away.

Proving I'm a not just a dog person

Gratuitous cute cat picture!
Last year Caroline and I decided on a gift at Christmas of animal adoption, and bought our good friends Nick and Zoe a gorilla sponsorship. This is the sort of gift that I'll be giving again, making a donation to an animal charity/sanctuary on behalf of someone else. A little bit of research is needed to make sure the organisation is worthwhile, and local organisations are always better to support to my mind.

While chess certainly promotes mind fitness, I also like to run for general fitness. Don't get me wrong, I'm no racer, but I do keep fit by stepping out the front door and running between 5 km and 12 km. I want to extend this to 20 km, but it is a long and slow process. I try to run 3 times a week, with one of these being a long run, usually at the weekend. I've been hampered by a time consuming work schedule, and a bout of some gastro type illness in the past couple of weeks, but I've still managed to get out a bit. The plan when I started this around early October was to get up to a distance of about 20 km by Christmas. Well, I'm a bit behind schedule, and I think 15 km is a more reasonable target. I'll just have to wait until the summer hits full temperature before I go for the big 20 km run!

This post has taken me a week to write, I've just had such a heavy workload, and awful time management and energy levels. Today was a good day where I was bale to spend much of it with Caroline. We spent a nostalgic few minutes at one point today having coffee and thinking about places where we've visited and where we want to go. The upshot of that is that we're going to try to read novels set in places where we've been. This should help us remember those places. Our holidays over the years have taken us to diverse places, including New York, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Salzburg, Budapest, Kuala Lumpur, New Zealand and the Canary Islands. We've been to many other places in the UK and Australia, and individually, we've covered much of Europe, but the idea is to read novels which take us back to those places we travelled to together. I'll keep this blog updated about this little project next year. Now I'd better get some Christmas cards written.

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