I’ve been eating out quite a bit at lunch time in recent years.
Brigitte (my wife) works in a school about half an hour away in Yvonand and I often drive over and we go for lunch somewhere in Yverdon, which is the nearest sizeable town.
We’re lucky because there are a number of good restaurants in the area near the ice skating rink and parking is easy.
Something that was beginning to bother me though, was that we’d often take food home with us in cardboard or aluminium precisely because we didn’t want to overeat at lunchtime.
I’d order a pizza, for example, eat maybe two-thirds of it and then take the rest home in one of those take-away cardboard pizza boxes.
The sheer wastage of these pizza boxes, destined to be thrown away as soon as we got back home, started to get to me.
So rather than compromise and eat more than we wanted to, we got some varying sizes of food boxes and now we take home the pizza and other food portions in those.
It seems the perfect way not to overeat and act against wastage at the same time.
Of course, you have to wash the boxes after use and remember to put them back in the car and take them with you the next time you eat out.
Sometimes we forget.
In spite of this, I think we’ve managed to cut down considerably on wastage from eating out.
After all, there are only two solutions if you want to avoid overeating. Leave the rest on the plate or take it home.
If the food is good, it’s a waste to leave it on the plate. It will only get thrown away. It deserves a better fate than that.
We frequently get an extra meal in the evening out of a lunchtime restaurant portion with the result that eating out is not so expensive after all. It’s often little more expensive than buying a sandwich and I’d much rather have a hot meal – or two – for the same price or less.
So if you find that the portions in restaurants are overlarge, don’t hesitate to ask to take the rest home. You might feel awkward asking to begin with. You might even be afraid of what other people might think. But it’s a mark of respect for all the work that goes into preparing that food, from field to kitchen, and towards the food itself.
And if you bring your own boxes, you don’t even need to ask.
When I was a kid, I went on holiday with my family once and we stayed at a place in the West Country, UK.
The owner told us a story about a woman he knew who’d been a missionary in China all her life and had just come back to England. He was bemoaning the fact that all her possessions for shipment had fitted into a tea chest. He thought that it was incredibly sad that she had worked all her life with so little to show for it and my parents agreed.
‘Just one tea chest of things, after a lifetime of work,’ he kept saying.
I was perhaps about fourteen at the time, but this story has stuck in my mind over the years, probably because I wasn’t sure whether I agreed with the others about this even at the time.
There was something about the discipline involved in not collecting stuff or in making the choice to throw a lot of it away that rather impressed me.
I’ve got to say that I’m a work in progress where hoarding is concerned. My wife would certainly say that I’m a hoarder.
But I think I know the limitations of possessions pretty well.
One of my favourite self-quotes is, ‘More is not necessarily better,’ and that applies to everything but especially to music, I’ve found.
It’s amazing how the desire to embellish and vary can kill the emotion.
In architecture too.
But there are some possessions I’d rather not be without and maybe one should start from that end and work backwards.
My Petrof, for example, even if I don’t play it nearly enough at the moment.
What possessions would you rather not be without?
All good wishes for the Christmas season and for 2019.
May your life never become an endurance test….
P.S. I must give credit where due. I was reminded of this story while reading a short post by Derek Sivers entitled Subtract. Well worth the read!
Anyone who watched Hsieh Su-Wei playing in the Autralian Open Tennis Championships at the beginning of the year shouldn’t find it in the least surprising that she knocked out the world number one Simona Halep at the Wimbledon championships.
What distinguishes her play from virtually any other tennis player on the circuit is that her tennis is not based on brute force but on intelligence.
She hits the ball where the other player isn’t.
To understand the importance of this, it is perhaps interesting to reflect a little on the way we perceive things.
Way back when we were hunter gatherers, I imagine that our main visual concern was objects, and in particular objects that moved. A space would not have been threatening. A moving animal might well have been. Or a source of food. Hence our vision historically more attuned to moving objects than still ones and our lack of concern over spaces.
Have you ever been behind a driver on the road who brakes every time there is a vehicle coming in the opposite direction ? This is particularly flagrant with a large vehicle like a lorry or a bus. The driver in this case is concentrating on the object rather than the space available, which is usually more than sufficient. If the driver was concentrating on the space on the road ahead, he would not even be braking.
The same thing happens when a vehicle slows down to turn right (left if you are in the UK). 99% of the time, the car behind will slow right down as well. The left side of the road may be completely clear and overtaking the car no problem at all, but the car stays behind the car turning off until the road is completely clear. No end of time is wasted because of this. Again, the driver behind is concentrating on the object and not the space available.
Now, I’m not an expert in tennis. But in the last couple of years, I have watched quite a lot of highlights of matches on YouTube. I don’t have a TV and life is too short to sit through two and three hour matches most of the time anyway.
But through watching these highlights, one thing becomes clear.
The person who usually wins the point is the one who gets the opponent to run. And this involves hitting the ball where the other person isn’t.
Which brings us back to Hsieh Su-Wei.
If I was coaching a female tennis player, I would look very closely at those matches in the Australian Open. As things stand, there are far too many women trying to play tennis like men. There’s a lot of bashing away from the baseline, hitting directly to the opponent, with no real strategy at work at all. It may have something to do with the fact that the majority of tennis coaches for women seem to be men. I don’t know.
But from my point of view, any repetitive rally back and forth hitting the ball as hard as possible to the other player is a pure waste of energy on the part of both players. Sure, one or other of the players will eventually make a mistake, but it’s a very energy inefficient way of winning a point. The error rate is usually too low for this to be a viable « strategy. » They are professional players, after all.
Hsieh Su-Wei doesn’t play tennis like a man. She is not a power player. She uses her intelligence, varies her shots and exploits spaces. Watching her play is a pure delight. She usually breaks a baseline power rally very quickly, after a couple of shots.
Some players have immense presence on court. Serena Williams, for example.
Remember that driver who kept braking every time he saw a truck coming the other way.
I see her opponents behaving in exactly the same way. It’s as if all they see is the tennis player – their respect or awe prevents them from seeing and exploiting the spaces.
Serena Williams is a very fit player indeed. But she isn’t the best mover about the court. And the times when people beat her are the times when they really get her to run about.
And it’s strange because afterwards, those same players who managed to beat her by using the spaces don’t seem to understand why they won and the next time, there they are bashing away at her from the baseline again and dumbfounded because it doesn’t work.
No one can trade power strokes from the baseline better than Serena Williams. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.
All this to underline the importance of watching spaces, even if our vision is more drawn to objects.
The medical establishment has of late been trying to trash the idea that coconut oil is good for you.
Worse than butter for your heart, they say.
About the same as eating beef fat, they say.
The usual arrogance and ignorance.
So you’ll be pleased and reassured to read this article and see that an independent test comparing extra virgin coconut oil with extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter proved the value of coconut oil in keeping ‘good’ HDL cholesterol up and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol down.
For the first seven years of our life together, my wife and I shared a one room studio apartment with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom.
There was a magnificent white cherry tree outside the window and a view over pasture that has now, unfortunately, been heavily built upon.
We didn’t have a great deal of money.
Fast forward to now.
We have more money.
We have a house with different floors and a number of rooms.
There is a small hedged garden which requires quite enough work, but not too much.
We are fortunate enough to live in the countryside with more cows than human beings.
Now here’s the thing:
In which abode do you think it was easier to communicate?
Answer: the studio.
If you only have one room, your interlocutor is obviously in the same room.
But the more rooms you have, the greater the chance that the person you want to talk to is in another room, on another floor, in the garden.
Communication becomes more complicated.
There is interference of all kinds: kitchen noise, bathroom noise, music, computers, mobile phones and so on.
There is more clutter in every sense of the word.
You have to repeat yourself a lot.
We actually enjoy staying at hotels and studios or taking cabins on ferries whilst travelling because it takes us back to those days when communication was simple and there was not a lot else in the room besides ourselves.
So my question to you is this:
What percentage of your conversations with your loved ones takes place in the same room?
If you feel frustrated because there is less than perfect communication with your partner or family, then this might be a place to start.
And with Christmas fast approaching, we will all have another opportunity very soon to taste the unfortunate truth of this.
Some people – a small minority, I think – have supportive families, but for many of us, this is not the case.
So here’s a small suggestion.
Before you go back to see your parents or your parents-in-law, or your sisters and brothers or your cousins or whoever, take a moment to decide what you are willing to discuss and what you are not willing to discuss.
Maybe, but you’ll thank me for it.
It’s a question of survival, of self-care.
You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.
I’ll say it again.
You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.
This might come as a shock to some of you.
Perhaps you’ve always communicated everything with your parents, siblings etc.
This is perfectly ok if said parents are supportive and do not judge you.
If, however, you are secretly dreading another bout of sarcastic and belittling remarks, not to mention more arguments, then you owe yourself protection.
And the best way to do this is to decide what and what not to talk about.
If you are in a couple, then you must spend time with your other half making sure that you are on the same wavelength about this.
It’s no good not talking about that wonderful but expensive holiday you had in October that you haven’t told your parents about because they always complain that you go on holiday too much and anyway where do you get the money? – if your girlfriend blurts out what a wonderful time you both had in Botswana.
Get your stories straight and stick to them.
Believe me, this is a vital step towards self-preservation and if you’ve never tried it, then I urge you to do so.
It’s not a question of lying to people.
It’s a question of setting limits.
Are there things that you’d rather keep to yourself?
Then do so.
For example, perhaps you’ve recently become unemployed and need some time to get things sorted out without having confusing and unwanted careers advice from the whole family.
You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.
Just be very clear about what you are going to say if Daddy asks you about work.
In my experience, many people and unfortunately many parents, take information given to them and use it to hurt you either instantly or later on.
Don’t ask me why.
I don’t have children.
And I can’t understand the point of having them if all you are going to do is judge and belittle them. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Shouldn’t you all be playing on the same team?
Instead, some parents are toxic.
So change the parameters.
Learn to say to yourself,’I don’t want to talk about that and I’m not going to.’
If you just talk about the things you feel reasonably comfortable with, then this Christmas might actually turn out to be the simplest and least fraught with friction for a long long time.