Gym

It’s bad enough that, being a web worker, I spend most of my days sitting at a desk, but it’s even worse when you work from home: the word “sedentary” gets a whole new meaning. I’ve also started to think that having no physical strength is probably not good if I want to keep my RSI under control. I decided it was time to get back into swimming (which I have practiced on and off since I was 6), and my physiotherapist recommended the Robinson Centre.

The actual “gym” part of the gym is pretty boring, so I’ve started attending some of the classes. At my physio’s recommendation, I tried spinning and, to my surprise, I loved it. It’s so loud and exhausting, it makes me feel quite peaceful. I’ve noticed that quieter classes, like yoga (which I’ve started doing over a year ago) or Pilates, make me feel anxious — because they are so focused on the mind as well as the body I have too much time to think and drift away – and they also don’t help my need for cardio activity, for getting tired and sweaty. Swimming is good to clear my mind too — I just can’t focus on anything else other than breathing.

So there. I finally felt the need to go to a gym – being breathless after walking up the 5 flight of steps in the London office helped me to see the need to do something, and I’m glad I found somewhere close enough to my house, with a large swimming pool and interesting classes so that I can at least enjoy myself in the process. I still do a bit of yoga movements everyday though, as it’s a great way of stretching and of releasing all the tension that makes my RSI get worse.

The sun

Half way through what some people called “the summer”, I noticed something had changed in me: I was missing the sun.

Since I left Portugal in 2008, I had never missed the sun; I’ve never been a “beach person”. Living in the Algarve doesn’t mean you can stop working and enjoy the heat, it just means as soon as you get to work you need another shower. I never liked that.

But this time it was different, the lack of sunlight and heat was really getting to me, to the point that I would check the temperature in other cities like Lisbon, Stockholm, New York, San Francisco, daily, and complain to N how everyone else seemed to be having a “proper summer”.

My first thought was that I’ve been here a while so I guess it’s time I miss it. And for a while I believed it. Then I remembered it was not just my fourth summer in the UK, it was my first summer away from London.

Don’t get me wrong though: I had a good summer. We had parties, barbecues, lunches, dinners, lots of people visiting, friends coming around, and a really great time around the house. But I think I’m more forgiving about the weather when the backdrop of the cold and the rain is London.

Background and perception

I was surprised to know that BBC Radio Ulster is not very well regarded within the intellectual circle. To me it sounds like any other local radio station: local news, lots of talking, corny jokes, some hosts more annoying than others, etc. I find this lack of context or historical background from my part interesting because it skews my perception of everything, from brands and shops to TV channels and newspapers or even people.

When I first moved to London I didn’t know which was the cheap grocery story just by looking at the logos above the storefront. I didn’t know Morrisons was cheaper than Waitrose: they were just across the road from each other in Holloway. I thought Pizza Express was a nice pizzeria in St Christopher’s Place. I assumed everyone carried an ID card at all times. And this kind of situation still happens to me all the time. I am, lots of times, wary of saying something that will betray how little I actually understand about what’s going on around me, that will reveal how very simpleminded I am.

It’s odd to live somewhere and not understand the jokes about some TV show presenter from the 90′s, and it reminds me of what I’m missing from not being in my own country, where I would make a joke about a TV presenter from the 90′s. When (if) I go back, I expect I will also be missing the context of more recent things that are happening now. It’s a thought that makes me a bit sad.

“And do you like it here?”

I’ve been living in Belfast for over 7 months now. Time flies indeed. The question I most get from people who hear my story has to be “and do you like it here in Belfast?”. An awkward pause invariably ensues. Because I didn’t move here because of my love for Belfast. I moved here for something else. If people were to ask me “and do you like your new life/house/working from home?” no pause would follow because I do. Very much so. Belfast is where I happen to be. It certainly provides a nice, quiet backdrop, one that I very much enjoy and now consider home. But I still carry London in my heart.

BBC Radio Ulster

Whenever I step into my car I turn the radio on and listen to BBC Radio Ulster. The only time I change station is when they’re speaking in Irish – that’s no fun. Apart from that, I think it’s a great way of understanding a bit more about Belfast and Northern Ireland. They talk about celebrities I’ve never heard of in my life, about difficulties with parking in towns with funny names, of whose birthday it is that day, stuff that’s going on in town, shows, museums, roadworks. It’s nice. I’ve learned a lot already.

Ace

Yesterday evening N decided to take me to the new place in Belmont Road, Ace. Apparently these are the same owners as Il Pirata, so the decor and tapas-style food made them feel very similar. I had a (virgin) Chunky Monkey shake, The Works Burger and the Spiced Aubergine Chips, everything very good! N had some wine, Pita Bread and Hummus, and Crayfish with Avocado Taco. I didn’t try the taco, but the other stuff was all right (mine was better). Total bill was about £26. I think it can get a bit busy at lunch time, but I’d recommend it if anyone else is looking for somewhere to grab a bite.

Driving

Even though my knowledge of Belfast geography has been improving in the past few months, I still find it a challenge to drive to nearly anywhere in or around town. N has been very patient with me: if I have an appointment somewhere that I will have to drive to on my own, he’ll teach me how to get there once or twice beforehand, sitting next to me in the car while I drive. But this weekend I’ve noticed a problem with this setup: I only know how to get to places from my house.
The other day I had to go to three different places in one day, all of which I knew how to get to, from home. So I had to go back home twice, which probably added about 30 or 40 mins of useless driving around to my day. No fun. I think the next step is to either get a TomTom, or to just try to make more drivable connections between places.

Electoral roll

It’s been over 3 months since I moved to Northern Ireland, so now I can finally register on the electoral roll. I had never come across this rule while I was living in London, but hey, I’m glad the wait is over.

Aye, dead on

After I bought my car, the salesman told me customer services were going to call me some time in the near future to know whether I was satisfied with how the purchase process had gone. The only thing he asked from me was to, instead of using expressions such as “aye, dead on”, just say “I am very satisfied with the process”. Apparently the headquarters are not familiar with Northern Irish slang and rate “aye, dead on” as “bad”.

Doctor

Got my Northern Irish medical card and healthcare number in the post today, I can get sick now!