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July 4, 2012 / ggalegrant

The benefits of an inventory

I was having a discussion with some friends the other night about my inventory.

For those of you that don’t know, I keep a searchable inventory of all my possessions. No, really, all of them. Yes, even those cables you get free with a new printer. It’s a bit over the top, most people who are organised don’t feel it totally necessary to keep an inventory. But I find it great for the following reasons.

  1. I know what I’ve got, where I got it and how much it’s worth.
  2. I know what I haven’t got.
  3. I know where to find everything.
  4. It helps me decide what I actually need. I can see duplicates, I can see things I haven’t used for ages, I can see when things are getting old or nearly out of warranty.
  5. It connects you to your purchases. If I find I’m heading to the inventory to update it all the time, I think about whether I’m buying too much stuff.
  6. If I’m not removing items from the inventory and just adding to it, I wonder if I need to declutter.

Setting up the inventory was a pain in the neck, I’m not going to lie about that. It took a couple of days of work, and I don’t have that much stuff. But now it’s done it is great and easy to maintain.


May 5, 2012 / ggalegrant

Me, the Past and Panic

Recently it was the two year anniversary of my first ever real panic attack.

I’d had suggestions of panic and anxiety before that, at the gym, after running, in exams, but it wasn’t until May 2010 that it became apparent that I was not dealing with something. I had ten or eleven panic attacks over the course of the next eighteen months, a couple at work, two at the Fringe, one at the National Portrait Gallery, one at the Department of Health and one while playing squash. I had what I would describe as very classic panic attacks. My heart raced, my vision narrowed, the floor seemed to swoop beneath my feet, my hands went numb, my legs felt wobbly. It was, in no way, fun.

I’ve blogged a bit about that time in my life, but I can’t really begin to express how awful it was. I know this is a massive white whine, but in the course of my cosseted, cotton-wool-wrapped life, it was a big deal. I spent much of 2011 trapped in anxiety, scared to move. The simplest of tasks became monumental. I couldn’t go into shops without feeling like I was going to pass out. I couldn’t go to the gym or go running. Meetings at work were torturous as I sat there, struggling to focus, to keep my brain on anything other than the feelings of terror. I had to go away for a work meeting for a week last summer and I couldn’t pack my bag. Every time I got up off my bed the room would swim and shift and I’d have to go back. My head would whirl.

Travel was even worse than usual. If I couldn’t ride my bike I couldn’t get there. Trains were fine, but getting to the station and waiting for train was awful. The Tube terrified me. Car journeys, especially if I was the driver, I could easily cope with. The feeling of movement was distracting and calming, like being rocked gently. Walking was deeply unpleasant. I would feel like I was swaying from side to side. I’d spend the whole day feeling worried and I’d wake up worried.

Lots of things suffered, as a result, although I don’t know if anyone (apart from those closest to me) noticed. I didn’t like going to pubs and bars to meet friends because of the crowds and the waiting and the feeling like I’d pass out. I would leave things early, arrive at things late. I couldn’t run or go to the gym so I got a bit chubbier and unfitter than I’d like. While mid-range biking was fine, long-range was awful, as I’d worry it was too much for me. I panicked for five hours on Brighton beach having done the London to Brighton ride in 4 hours. I thought I’d ridden too quick. I would sometimes be unable to sleep, or wake in the middle of the night feeling so stressed every nerve tingled. That was annoying, I imagine.

If you’ve stayed with this until this point you’ll want to know if there’s a happy ending. Well, yeah, I think so.

Six months ago I decided I couldn’t deal with this by myself and I found a psychiatrist and a therapist. The psychiatrist gave me anti-depressants and the therapist listens to me talk about my life and suggests things I could do to improve it. Both are great. My close friends and relations were great. My dad came and picked me up from places when I couldn’t cope. B sat with me on a bench for three hours while I recovered from a panic attack. Y emailed me supportive things nearly every day and told me it wasn’t my fault and that I’d had a tough year. A reassured me I wasn’t going to die.

Where am I now?

I’m in a really good place. Yes, sometimes things bother me, but I can do nearly everything and not freak out. All the symptoms of anxiety I had have mostly gone. I’m not nearly as down as I was. I haven’t had a panic attack for six months. I’ve made positive changes in my life and in the way I deal with things. I’ve fought, and I’ve nearly won.

April 30, 2012 / ggalegrant

In which I face a Stoic challenge

So, my stuff got stolen.

I was having dinner in Chiswick, nice, respectable Chiswick and during the meal, my rucksack got stolen. In it was my iPad, wallet, cash, graphics calculator, important work papers, text books and box of tricks.

The first thought that went through my head was, “Ah ha! A Stoic challenge!” This is my opportunity to see if I have managed to actually put in practice all those things I have been spouting about, that stuff is just *stuff* and not *feelings*, that we have to plan for negative events, that we must imagine living without things because one day we might have to live without things.

I am pleased with how I handled the Stoic challenge.

  1. I had prepared for the idea that my bag could get stolen or lost. I had enabled the feature on the iPad that allows me to wipe it remotely, which I did, protecting my data. I had kept a separate note of all the numbers I need to call if my cards get lost. I had made records of the serial numbers. I didn’t keep all my important cards in my wallet and my phone and keys were in my pocket. I have insurance that should cover most of it.
  2. I had thought about how stuff is just stuff. There are only two items in the bag that I am a little upset about – a silver ring my father made for me and my Oxford University student card that I had as an undergraduate. But it is just stuff and I am not damaged by its loss.
  3. I am using this opportunity to really think about what I should replace (when I hear back from the insurance company), because now I have to live without it, I am aware of what I need and what I just like to have.

Thank you, Stoics. You made what could have been a negative experience quite a joyful one.

April 6, 2012 / ggalegrant

My life, now

Hello all.

A month ago I left my job, in the middle of a recession, with no job to do go to and no real plans other than get out, get out, run away.

Foolish, no?

No. I’ve worked every day since I left my job. I have been teaching chemistry and maths to a variety of lovely kids, I have been writing websites and working on my business plan and having coffee with friends and drinks with new friends and emailing dear friends and hanging out with my favourite people.

Do I make a load of money? Nope. Do I make enough money that I can buy the food I want, take train trips when I like, get new t-shirts when I’m told to (I would wear clothes until they fell apart), have the phone I like, the house I like and enough free time that I can take the morning off to pick my parents up from the airport? Hells yeah.

I know I can do this because I don’t have a family or kids or massive debt. I have lovely and supportive parents who were kind enough to make sure I wasn’t homeless five years ago when I left university. I am well lucky.

But I guess what I’m saying is if I can do it, anyone can do it. I’m an idiot, after all. If you don’t like what you’re doing, don’t do it. Make the changes you can make, and you’ll be surprised how far reaching those changes can be. Do what you can. Oh, and, don’t be a dick.

March 21, 2012 / ggalegrant

Why don’t we want a Maharishi Free School?

There’s a current bid to open a Maharishi Free School in South West London. The Maharishi Foundation is an umbrella UK organisation with links worldwide. They used to run the Natural Law Party of yogic flyers but made no impact, losing deposits at every election. They now run fee-charging courses in transcendental meditation. They set up a 4-16 school for their followers’ children near their Skelmersdale HQ.  In September it became a Free School funded by the taxpayer. They now want to open another Free School in Hampton in SW London, on the site of a disused special school in Oldfield Road.

Why should we oppose this?

1. Their campaign literature is misleading.

They claim the “Maharishi Free School” has Outstanding OFSTED reports. This is untrue, as the inspections did not cover the Free School, only the private school for Maharishi followers.

A government minister is misquoted to make it seem as if he has already given the go ahead to the Hampton plans. In fact, a decision is not to be made until August.

They misquote the International Baccalaureate Organisation and say it has recognised their Science of Creative Intelligence. The IBO say they have not done so. The Maharishi Free School does not even teach the International Baccalaureate.

2. There would be significant environmental consequences.

The Oldfield House site (the proposed place for the school) is on green belt land. The plans would involve developing the site and building a school for about 750 pupils. Not only would this be used during the day, it would also run profitable adult courses in Maharishi philosophy. There would be a large footprint in terms of development and ongoing use.

3. The curriculum includes some unconventional subjects.

The Maharishi Foundation aims to teach all pupils “the subjective approach of Maharishi’s Vedic Science” but they do not admit this openly, hiding it deep in a document for the Charity Commission.

Transcendental Meditation forms part of the daily curriculum (

4. They appear to be unwilling to share information, which is unacceptable for a state-funded school.

The Lancashire Maharishi Free School have refused requests from people interested in the details of their curriculum to look at their textbooks. State funded schools should not have secrets.

The School’s latest annual return to the Charity Commission was 246 days late and is marked in red on the Commission’s website. This cannot be a well run organisation.

5. Their recruitment policies are suspect.

The teachers they recruit have to be experts not only in Transcendental Meditation and the Science of Creative Intelligence but also in the TM Sidhi programme which involves Yogic Flying (a mental-physical exercise hopping while cross-legged).

Their recruitment procedures for teachers seem at odds with equality laws by asking for an applicant’s age and marital status and the names of his/her children.

6. There are already suitable state-funded schools in the immediate vicinity.

The Maharishi Free School would compete directly with Hampton Academy. Taxpayers are making a multi million pound capital investment in the Academy’s new buildings. The Government would be paying the Maharishi organisation to compete with Hampton Academy before it could benefit from that investment.

Please oppose the Maharishi Free School in Hampton. Please share this post on Facebook and Twitter and email the local MP Vince Cable ( and the Education Minister Michael Gove ( with your concerns.

Follow us on twitter: @normdfreesch

March 19, 2012 / ggalegrant

Not around much

I know I haven’t been blogging much recently. This has a lot to do with me not having all sorts of time on my hands now I have quit my job and am un SELF-employed. I’m working all the time. For myself, which is incredible. I mix my days up between teaching maths and science, working on my website business and planning my decluttering business.

Oh, exciting news. I have a name for my decluttering business. Unjumblr. It was named by an awesome person who is super funny and clever and is on twitter.

But anyway, aside from that I have been getting vaguely overwhelmed by all the astonishingly crap stuff going down right now. The NHS reforms. Police using guns at protests. The undeniable flop of the London Transport system during the Olympics. The UK Border Agency being truly perverse. People (mostly religious leaders) telling me what I can and can’t do in the privacy of my bedroom/heart.

But I do have things to say, so I’ll say them. After I’ve had some wine and hidden under a blanket for a bit.

February 21, 2012 / ggalegrant

The secret of fitness

A long time ago, I discovered the secret of being fairly fit and fairly toned. For a while, in my early twenties, I was pretty sleek. I didn’t go on any crazy diet, I didn’t pay for a gym or a personal trainer, I didn’t even read about what I “should” be doing on the internet. I didn’t want to run a marathon in under 4 hours or play hockey  in the NHL or anything. I just wanted to have more energy, for my clothes to fit better, to feel a bit more confident.

The secret is simple. Make working out part of your day. Some tips:

  1. Do a few push-ups or sit-ups a few times a day.
  2. Get some weights and do some slow lifts whenever you pass them, or swing them like a kettle bell.
  3. Take the stairs.
  4. Get a bike and ride it around.
  5. Pause before stuffing your face with crisps or having another glass of wine.
  6. Have some healthy snacks around the house. I like raisins and dried pineapple and oat biscuits.
The most important thing is that these things have to hit you in the face as you’re moving around your space. This was the error I made a couple of years ago when I stopped doing most of the things on that list. I moved my weights to a box. I didn’t get healthy snacks for the fridge or take stuff to work. I did bike (everywhere) but I didn’t do any sit-ups or press-ups or pause at all.
I cleaned my room this morning and as I was doing so, I made a “work out corner”. It’s right next to my desk and it’s got my 5kg weights, my medicine ball and my stability ball in it. When I pause to think, or come back from getting a glass of water, I can pick up the weights and do ten bicep curls, or triceps extensions or weighted squats. It’s no effort to get out my stability ball to do sit-ups or push-ups.
The total cost of this stuff was about £60, but I got it over several years. Given that most gym memberships (especially where I live) are hundreds of pounds a year, I think I’m on to a good thing.