Second week of vacation

Or: Will I ever be able to chill and not feel bad about it?

You may gather from the above that it has been a bit up and down this week. The low point was yesterday morning when I woke up feeling lower than I have for a very long time. I am scared because I worry what could have happened had I been alone in the house – yes it was that bad.

So, having got that off my chest, it actually wasn’t a terrible week. I didn’t settle to drawing much, but got things done in the garden.

I got my hair cut on Friday. This might not seem a big thing, but readers of my Instagram will know that whilst I care nothing for my appearance I am very particular about the actual process of the dreaded haircut…

When I was a little boy, my hair was cut by an elderly old-fashioned barber who, handily, had a shop on the corner of our road. One day he was drunk and managed to cut a piece from my ear… I subsequently started going to another place nearby and persisted there, reluctantly, until the owner retired and closed the shop. By this time I was about 20. My hair got very long until one day, out of desperation, I tried a place with all female staff and they were lovely. Then we moved to Lancaster. 18 years later I have tried practically every eligible option in town. Given the requirement for the job to be done by a woman this rules out every Turkish barbershop that have sprung up in recent years. The place needs to be quiet, with no kids running around. So on Friday, at a colleague’s recommendation, I tried The Men’s Room in Lancaster. I booked beforehand, with one of the female staff. But even the guys were terrific and friendly. I was even offered a drink twice during my short wait. I’d never tried this place before because it seemed a bit like it had a young and trendy clientele and I figured I might not feel comfortable. Happy to say I was wrong.

Photography stuff

I did buy myself a Raynox DCR-150 macro filter. This is basically a lens that fits onto the front of your normal camera lens and has a magnifying function. I wanted to buy a proper macro lens but decided to go down this route instead, coupled with my usual extension tubes for close-ups:

Yes, another Hoverfly, dusted with pollen grains. On Crocus banaticus.

4mm seedling of Conophytum mirabile. A fuzzy little hatchling.
Unidentified shiny beetle on Lavender.

These were all hand-held. This is not ideal but setting up the tripod seemed a hassle. Maybe next time.


I’ve got two books on the go at the moment. One a very thick biography of Clint Eastwood which is proving to be surprisingly uninteresting so far. The other is a re-read of ‘Foxglove Summer’ by Ben Aaronovitch


Back in May I went to my first gig in three years and saw Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets. This is Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and their latter-day bass player Guy Pratt, with Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp on vocals. They play early Pink Floyd, complete with light show etc. They were superb and are touring North America this autumn. I bought the double CD and have been playing it a lot.

On a more avant-garde front I’ve been listening to Anna Von Hausswolff a lot:

What next?

My earlier ‘return’ post suggested some of my longer term plans. But one thing that taking two weeks off work and only leaving the house twice has brought home is how much my world has shrunk in recent years. Yes, Covid was a big factor in this, but as I have indicated elsewhere I was already on the downward slope before that.

What am I going to do about it? Well I do have a bit of a wishlist. I thought I could blog a series called ‘Darren Tries’ in which I experience new things and write about them from the point of a messed-up introvert…

Looking at what is available locally:

  • Life Drawing (You might think this would be the easy option, but I never draw people. Plus it requires speed. Plus as a middle-aged man I worry that people would be suspicious of my motives. We have all heard the jokes about ‘photographers’ taking pictures of models without film in their camera)
  • Axe Throwing (Yes really. There is an axe throwing place in Lancaster. With a bar attached, which sounds like a real winning combination doesn’t it???)
  • Dancing (Not sure why I included this. Maybe because it would challenge me to be sociable)
  • Scuba diving. (Again, I have my doubts. I only learned to swim five years ago and am not good at it. Also, the local dive place is in a very cold flooded quarry. I don’t do cold…or drowning.)
  • Yoga. (Yes, I’ve been there before. But I am now older, less fit and even more shy. My main worry about this is actually a practical one. For obvious reasons, yoga instructors are softly-spoken and I really need to lip-read which is not easy when you are supposed to be facing the other way….)

Any further ideas? This seems a short list!

Any new activity proposed in this household has to pass the test of not being too expensive and not triggering either my anxiety or my wife’s – which is a bigger hurdle. Consequently, such dreams often fall by the wayside because the battle to make them reality just isn’t worth it.

Anyway. I am saying I need some help and encouragement and a reason to try new things. The chance to write about them seems a good reason.

Finally. I am back at work tomorrow. Wish me luck. I leave you with this photo, which reminds me of work because the youngster is standing in food, with it’s head next to a block of food and yet it is STILL demanding the grownups do the work….


  1. It’s a zig zag path to wellness. One step forward… I try very hard to just take one day at a time (that sounds so trite) and not to look backwards but sometimes it’s difficult. On a positive note, your photos are fabulous. Murmurations of starlings are still perceived as otherworldly here in the States.
    This week has been challenging for me too with some really stressful events and my reaction to them. Next week will be better. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Kerry. We love starlings. My teenage bedroom had a starling roost in the tree outside. There were hundreds of them! When we lived on Walney island those murmurations would fly under and around the bridge to the island. It was magical.
      Sorry to hear you have had a rough week. Yes – it will get better. x

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You are doing great, Darren. Give yourself a big pat on the back for getting your hair cut.
    Maybe you should go to a nice outdoor cafe and have a nice lunch.
    In Australia, there has been an increased interest in volunteering on environmental projects, e.g.. land care and rehabilitation. I think because so many of us feel powerless, it is nice to spend a few hours once a month working with others to care for country. Do those sorts of groups exist there, Darren?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tracy😍. I do intend to have a meal out after work one day in the next couple of weeks. Maybe with a cinema trip.
      There are lots of environmental volunteering ops here too, and they are certainly on my radar post retirement, hopefully in 2024. But it is a good idea for me to look now, thank you. If it is just occasional days it is feasible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the ax throwing idea. I saw a place near here offering the same and I almost had Bill convinced we should try it. I’m really not sure why he’d be so hesitant! ;P And I TRULY love your idea of “Darren tries…” Maybe an art genre you’ve never explored. I’m currently into alcohol ink abstracts, among other things. I wanted to up my journal game and got sucked into crafty stuff I’d never tried before. It’s a whole new world! Maybe you could throw axes in a pattern that resembles a Starling! Now THAT would be something new for Darren to try!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you and I need to team up. Susan would not be up for it either – despite always wanting a double-headed throwing axe. Always worried me a bit, that…
      Thank you and I am so pleased to hear you have been so creatively busy! I have not tried inks, yet. I would live in terror of stains on the carpet and the Wrath Of Susan!
      As for throwing axes in a pattern – that is rocket-science level stuff. I will settle for not cutting my own toes off..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel your pain. I hate going to the hairdresser and I hate noisy salon but at least my heats are both still in one piece. That must have been a shocking experience but I’m glad you now found what sounds like a dream barber place. May be I should try it tooπŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmmm. Many questions and thoughts. First! Do you tell hairdressers of your early Van Gogh experience? Does anyone ask for the Van Gogh? Seems a bit of stretch, but ppl are fucking weird.

    I’ve never heard of the ‘snapping photos w/out film’ trickery — whatever would someone want to do that for? πŸ˜›

    Stay away from ax throwing, art class (what you do is lovely), but how about joining a book club? Volunteering at the library? Walking club?

    Do you have MeetUps there? It’s a site that looks good and you might be able to find interesting groups in your ‘hood. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would not surprise me at all if people were weird enough to ask for a Van Gogh… and, no, I haven’t told them πŸ™‚

      There was this thing where photographic clubs would occasionally hire a model for a shoot. Members they had not seen for years suddenly turned up just for the chance to see a naked woman. There was some debate about whether they actually put any film in their camera…

      No ax-throwing?? 😦 The book club idea does intrigue me. And yes – there is Meetup but i have not looked for years. Maybe I should? Thank you Lani.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Darren, your photos are fab! Nature is a great way to relax and regroup, I always find a walk clears my mind and you can do it alone (I love alone!) I also hate going to the hairdressers, albeit for different reasons, I have my friend do mine now, much nicer and there are only 2 of us! Axe throwing with the bar made me chuckle. I also find exercise is good, if you dont want to go to a class, I use FitOn app, it’s free and you can choose to do whatever virtual class you fancy and you can do it at home. Or, what about doing something with your lovely photos – a photo book or calendar? Take things slow and dont be too hard on yourself. Have a lovely weekend and take care. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Gill! I agree nature is a huge benefit if I can enjoy it alone. Exercise would help hugely. I do have a gym membership but can’t get there now. I will look for somewhere on my commute again I think.
      The photo book idea is a good one – and thank you :).


  7. What a bunch of conundrums (conundrum?) I’m sorry you were so down that you were worried. Have you tried any of the new apps for depression or wellbeing? We have several here and I might know of some that are also available in the UK but you can easily find out in playstore or equivalent. I’ve heard they can be really helpful. I hope you find some pastimes to give you a sense of vim and achievement. On my list is minibreaks (short-stay holidays) and the outdoors (walks and hikes). There is something to be said for having a new thing to look forward to, and being in a different place, but not for too long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No. I have not tried any apps for this. Thank you – it is an intriguing idea.
      Your point about mini-breaks and walks is an excellent one. I have become too isolated and stuck at home too much and really need to get moving again. The trains being permanently disrupted over here is cramping my travel a bit – I wanted to go to an event in Manchester last month but it was a rail strike day. That said – I absolutely support the strikers.

      Liked by 1 person

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