24 Citrus Fruit Wrappers © Ed Buziak / Alamy

Or did I stumble at the first slight?

I got “Un-followed” last year by a Tumblr regular with close to 2,500 followers after I pointedly disliked one of his re-blogged items (to me, a zero interest poorly exposed and composed photo he found somewhere on the web) and about which I sent him a personal letter explaining why I thought too much rubbish was being re-circulated. I suggested it would make a great discussion thread open to all. I never heard back… was promptly de-listed… but remain here, open-minded and free to talk.

Anyway… I’ve made more than a thousand posts in the past year of being active on Tumblr and am starting to feel the need to draw back and reconsider where I’m going and, importantly, what I’m gaining from searching-out others’ posts on that site, whether they be photos, artwork, graphics, calligraphy, videos or quotes… or, from being showered by offerings from people I follow, be they original or re-blogged posts.

And for me there lies a dilemma… do I gain more from my own chosen searches and self-edited results, and/or do I gain enough by being surprised by the multiple item posts made and sent to my ‘dashboard’ by people I have chosen to follow.

And there’s another angle to consider because I increasingly look at who has liked a post I’ve liked… and so click on their pseudos to see what they’re producing themselves. If it is visually exciting, original work then I’ll almost certainly follow them. I don’t expect them to like my original offerings – if they just happen to want to see who the hell I am amongst sometimes hundreds of other instant fans, then fine, I appreciate their time and curiosity in doing so – but I don’t hope or expect they’ll reciprocate with a follow too. Why should I? Vanity?

Following it or wallowing in it?

I’ve noticed that some people make a point of writing on their page that they almost always follow when followed… but I feel that’s just being polite in an awkward response to being followed – which doesn’t seem rational at all – and automatically opens you to receiving content from people who liked you first but who may have entirely different ideas, views, visual stimulus, standards and language to your own. What’s the point? Numerical bragging rights? Think it will impress a potential employer on your CV?

There has to be a limit to the visual information one can absorb from so many followers… even followers who you really dig. And I think it worth while to mention the first two points made by Everett Bogue in his minimalist blog “Far Beyond The Stars” where he wrote…

  • “Follow less than 150 people. Your human brain can’t breathe if you exceed that limit. Less is always more. Start large, but work your way down, not up; it’s a river ~ you can’t drink it all.”

He was not talking about following on Tumblr, but on Twitter, which is a not dissimilar internet phenomenon.

Usage and abusage

I was fairly new to that type of social networking – I couldn’t grasp fully what he was implying concerning Twitter… and shortly after I canceled my account because of being numbed by the garbage being spouted and the unenforced abuse of the English language, spelling and punctuation. I thought, God help future generations if “Twitter speak” is what they use and judge as their learning curve. Note: However, I have re-joined Twitter  ;~)

But I’ve lasted much longer on Tumblr, and Everett has a point. I greet, talk with and know far more people daily through of living in a small town (despite it being in a country foreign to my birth and one where I had to learn the language) than I did when residing and working in Manchester (where I was born) or London, a city of now more than 12 million people of an amazingly mixed and interesting culture.

In the meantime I’ve got to know the work of a select few people I follow on Tumblr. I long doubted if I would ever achieve the heady heights of 150 followers, but I have done (the number is now around 600 on my various Tumblr pages) and feel somewhat faux because I couldn’t ever honestly say I’d be more than peripherally in touch with a large majority of them… it’s simply too large a number. Actually, that originally hoped for number of 150 (max) on Tumblr can be catered for if they only post regularly a couple of times (max) a week… but it’s too many followers if they habitually post a dozen or more re-blogged photos a day!

I’ve also been on (and frequently off) Facebook for a couple of years and sometimes feel that my current 15 Friends, including my first wife, our children and grandchildren scattered across the continents, is perhaps enough… although I can now understand the marketing potential of FB, but that’s another story!

Keep It Simple Stupid

However, in his “The Art of Minimalism“ blog, Mike Donghia writes in an article “Facebook Made Simpler”…

  •  “People across the world spend over seven hundred billion minutes a month on Facebook. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million years spent perusing the status updates, photos, and links of our friends and their friends.”
  •  “If we’re not mindful of how we use this powerful tool, it will become just another source of noise in our lives. Another distraction that keeps us from creating, playing, building and really living.”

Further in he writes…

  •     “Scientific studies at Oxford University show that humans can only manage a network of 150 friends. Un-friend anyone you haven’t contacted in the last year and focus on quality relationship over quantity.”

So there we have that 150 number again! I know Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ et al thrive on numbers – big numbers – but I feel one day they will be seriously reduced in their appeal, and maybe ultimately taken over having slumped in vogue and value because of the enormous volume of nothingness (or crap, to put it less politely) that is blogged, followed and re-blogged. There has to be – no, there should have been – a numerical limit to the number of posts made per person per day. It would have concentrated the minds of posters and probably produced better quality overall with more items actually worth following.

Edit… Edit… Edit…

As another example of this dilemma, I have more than 8,000 images with the on-line photo agency Alamy which has left it too late to introduce editing of their licensed content. The result is that a small but growing proportion of their 26+ million images is boringly repetitive, image-wise, and generally unusable for the media despite being from photographers who have satisfied the agency’s criteria for providing technically excellent image files… as if accurate sharpness, good exposure and correct color were ever going to guarantee interesting content and composition!

Before winding up I want to say that having for the first time (last year) re-blogged an item which was part of an early interview with the young Steve Jobs of Apple, and despite feeling that the re-blog was really interesting, I then vowed NOT to re-blog anything else again (apart from quotes I had written down in notebooks in the past) and only post my own original photos, artwork and writings no more than a couple of times a day. I thought that that limited output would be enough for any of my followers to cope with… and they might study those fewer posts perhaps for a little longer and reply with comments critical or otherwise, but at least in a way to stimulate interest, knowledge, understanding, conversation and even friendship. However, that vow didn’t last long because I began to benefit by increasing my subscriptions to others ‘sharing’ re-blogged articles which I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.

BTW: By co-incidence, Mike Donghia of “The Art of Minimalism” asked some time ago… If you have a blog, write a post about what’s next for you in 2011. Consider the above article one of my concerns and appropriate responses  ;~)

Far better than on four   

Why do I think a bicycle is in tune with a smaller spoon today? Well, it’s one form of downsizing in an increasingly popular way – and a minimalist form of transport if you want a simpler lifestyle.

The UK retirement age for men is currently 65, but the daily 9-to-5 work-shift is going to extend well beyond that birthday in future because of the growing pensions crisis. Having lived, worked, sweated, worked, been promoted, worked and given to our families throughout that sometimes rewarding, but frequently frustrating, seemingly unending route through life’s twists and turns – what do many people do after that final day they don’t have to clock-on again?

They literally sit on their butts and fritter away the rest of their lives because they’ve reached 65 and, by convention, they’re expected to take a long rest with their feet up and be waited on hand and foot. That’s a sure way to an early grave… for them or their partner! And having reached 66 myself, I’m not joining that sedate crowd.

When I think about it, the main so-called benefit for people who have worked most of their previous forty-plus years is to enjoy life “in happy retirement” afterwards. But do most folks do that? Statistics show too many depart this world before they’ve experienced any meaningful retirement… I’m not going to quote numbers because any is too many!

Thinking about it more positively, there’s no definite reason why having worked the best part of forty years people shouldn’t go on enjoying themselves for another forty years, again give or take few, and reach that magic century. George Burns and Bob Hope, to name but two, had a laugh all the way to theirs, so why shouldn’t others? George didn’t burn out, and Bob didn’t live in hope – they did more the more they did.

We should all have the same attitude in our heads… and do more using our legs. The more we do now to alleviate all the usual problems associated with accumulating more years to our life’s total, the less we’ll have to rely on others to help us. Sixty-six might be close to the speed limit on most roads using four wheels … but you can easily exceed that in age on two wheels.

As for myself… I haven’t opened my car’s doors since mid-June – so have chosen to shop and see the scenery on my own two feet and two wheels for 150 days. That’s only a small milestone in the grand plan of things, but a significant one nevertheless because one always has to start on day one.

Get back on your bike

There are some key points I remember from my life-cycle with a bicycle. When I was very young I fell off a friend’s tricycle taking a corner too fast because I didn’t know to lean into the bend. As I turned the handlebars the rest of me carried straight on… but without those three wheels beneath me. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

When I was five or six my parents bought me my first two-wheeler. It was bright red with white mudguards and a shiny bell. As I wobbled down the road my mother’s sure hand would hold the back of the saddle to keep me in an upright attitude whilst I steered gingerly and rang the bell at every opportunity.

Money was tight – because my working father’s weekly wage averaged around £10 for a five-and-a-half day week in the late 1940s – so my new bicycle lacked an important feature which for wealthier folks’ children were standard equipment… outriders or stabilisers. And the inevitable happened… the day I achieved that confident combination of forward motion without a wobble, I broke free of my mother’s steadying hand on the back of the saddle, and escaped the safety of her stopping power.

I was on my own heading up the road, still ringing the bell, but not knowing how, when or why to uncurl my locked fingers from the handlebar’s friendly rubber grips and pull the cold steely brake levers to control my advance towards the fast approaching garden wall.

Fear does strange things… my mother said I was still pedalling and ringing the bell when the front wheel hit the wall. Apparently I shot halfway over the handlebars… I still remember butter being rubbed onto the bruised, split skin and being sat back onto the saddle to ride once more up the road. Mother was making absolutely sure I wasn’t going to lose my confidence… and I was going to ride that bicycle by myself, that day, come what may.

Regaining confidence after that memorable episode I went everywhere on two wheels. As my legs grew longer, the wooden blocks were unscrewed from the pedals and I rode to school, to the swimming baths, to train-spotting locations, to the park – ignoring the “no cycling” notices whenever I dared where, even as a child, the gaining strength of my pedal-powered legs outpaced the running-power of the park keeper’s legs. Freedom was two wheels!

My parents both had bikes… my father going to work on his every day and often returning with cuts and grazes from being thrown-off after the front wheel became caught in the railway crossings. On nice days during the school holidays mother would take me for long 20-mile rides into the countryside… for picnics of squashed potted-meat-paste sandwiches, wedges of chocolate cake, biscuits and fizzy drink… I used to think, “Those were the days,” although the fat and sugar rich ingredients of those picnics fill me with shame now.

On sunny Summer weekends we would all go cycle-camping into the hilly Peak District. Being loaded down with a heavy tent and rigid wooden poles, old-fashioned cooking equipment, bulky food supplies and probably spare canteens of water (couldn’t trust the hillside streams for drinking from… they were used by sheep) and all this on bicycles equipped with the then latest, but inadequate, 3-speed Sturmey-Archer “Useless, Normal and High” gearing.

My original red two-wheeler eventually made way for a mass-market “racing bike.” Every morning on the way to school I pressed my nose against the window ex-world champion sprinter Reg Harris’ shop in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, which usually displaying just one of his hand-built lightweight track racing frames… but I still wished and wanted one of them however unsuitable it would have been for going to school. It was all in the name, and of course Reg Harris, dismayed at the lack of any British champion at the sport for so many years, made a remarkable comeback at the age of 50 and took the World Sprint title.

Then for much of my adult life, even though I still had a bike, I joined the rest of the population and went by car everywhere… or squeezed into the tube. And in my so-called free time I sat in front of the other tube… some life, huh! I remember the traffic being so bad I used illegal CB radio to contact other drivers for info and roundabout routes to avoid the standstills. Looking back at that situation in the ‘70s, the only smart people were on two wheels – fit for work and fit after work.

When I took up serious cycling again in my sixties I began to feel the same strength and suppleness as I did when I was sixteen.

Positive points…

I. I started cycling as a child at 4 and felt as free as a bird. When I see youngsters today cycling to and from school and along park paths and country tracks I see their freedom being expressed too. Most of us had bikes as kids, and it’s really smart to own one again.

2. I have a friend with bandy legs (2nd photo above) who’s never been able to walk any great distance – so he started cycling at 70 and still does many miles every day at 90. Although his knees hurt a bit, he’s drinking apple cider vinegar which is helping with the problem.

3. You can join a club for companionship or go solo – either way you meet people going in the same direction or coming towards you… and they’re always friendly.

4. It’s a healthy image – strong heart, supple body, clean lungs, great skin, fresh complexion, lithe limbs, toned muscles and a natural suntan throughout the year.

5. Cars are expensive to buy, insure, fuel, clean, garage, road-test and and maintain – around $5,000 per year is normal. The only time they’re cheap is when you want to sell or p/x them.

6. Most folks become frustrated being stuck in traffic jams and unable to find a slot to park near their destination. So why use a cars so regularly. City car parking can cost the equivalent of $50 a day in central London and $5 for just 15 metered minutes on many streets.

7. Cycling is a non-contact and non-impact activity unlike other solo pastimes and sports such as jogging, rugby or football.

8. Why opt for a quiet life… get on your bike and exert yourself. Listen to your heart beating and the rushing sound of your intakes and out-takes of air. Oh yes, you’ll hear every bird singing too!

9. Don’t let the idea of cycling at 66 conjure up an image of an old man in a flat cap going to the pub, with cycle clips keeping his baggy trousers snagging the oily chain… that’s the Andy Capp cartoon image from the I950s.

10. Fitness, Fitness, Fitness – which regimes are most beneficial? Gym based cardio, aerobic, Yoga, static Nordic skiing, 5BX Canadian Air-Force Exercises, pumping iron, rowing machine, Wii-Fit in the living-room… or a fit life of freedom on two wheels with increased suppleness, strength, fast-recovering pulse rate, powerful lungs, stamina, natural resistance to everyday colds, sore throats and sniffs that are always doing the rounds! Non-impact-non-contact exercise is better for us at any age, not just in retirement.

11. Ageism? Hey, for all those getting closer to the big 66, the nearer you get the faster it approaches. So get on your bike and throw away the implications of what most others in the rich western world regard as their due – a supposedly long, happy, peaceful retirement with your feet up, meals brought on a tray, newspaper laid on your lap, slippers brought to you by your pet pooch and what do you get… well, sorry to put the frighteners on you, but a shorter life for yourself and probably a harder one for your partner!

12. Use all your senses… apart from making common sense, you can use your other senses to see the countryside better, listen what the elements are telling you, and smell the freshness of Mother Nature. Cooped up in a car doesn’t just insulate you from those things, it isolates you from the wide-world too.

A few negative points…

OK… You’ll sometimes get wet – depending on where you live of course – but if you’re that dedicated for two-wheeled travel you a) won’t mind, or b) you’ll move to somewhere with a better climate for an outdoor life.

And… you’ll sometimes get punctures – especially on country roads littered with twigs and thorns after hedges have been mechanically flailed. Keep a couple of smaller spoons in your kit as tyre-levers.

Plus… you’ll have to be very aware of car, bus and truck drivers… more so in certain countries and cities. However, in the land of “la Tour” French drivers – despite their passé reputation for arrogance and drunkenness – are the most courteous I’ve ever shared roads with, always giving cyclists ample space when passing or following.

Some links of great interest for further reading…

This site really appeals to me being a ‘fixie’ cyclist – Urban Fixed Gear Online Magazine

Everything you need to know about cycling is here – Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Technical Info

Another excellent source iof information – Ken Kifer’s Bike Pages

And for anyone considering a long-distance cycling holiday click onto Bicycle Touring Pro

Leo Babauta completely sums up Lessons from a car-free life at Zen Habits.

Plus Everett Bogue talking about being carless at Far Beyond the Stars

And last but not least Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens guest writes for Becomining Minimalist about Being Carless

Spread less on your bread

I ended the last posting saying, “Most people don’t know about ‘minimalism’ yet, and many of the others who should know better don’t quite know what to do about it.”

That’s a bit accusatory, I know, and I realize that when we speak openly about others whom we’re never likely to meet we should take care to also recognize the same problems and ignorance within ourselves.

For example, I can’t talk with any experience or authority about being overweight… because I’ve never been in that situation. My lean figure has always been so because of a) running around like a blue-arsed fly most of the time and b) having a squeamishness at the sight of animal fat.

My ‘running around’ stems from being one of several war babies (WW2) in our northern UK city suburban road in which, in the 1950s, there were no cars parked so frantic games of hide-and-seek, riding around like crazy on our tricycles, screaming around on metal-wheeled roller-skates playing hockey with our dad’s walking sticks and a wooden ball pinched from the fairground coconut-stall, nipping into peoples’ gardens to collect the empty milk bottles from their doorsteps and running after the electric milk-float to clatter them into the metal crates, running after the dozen or so police horses – that used to exercise down our road daily – with shovels to be first collect the steaming plops of horse manure for the roses in our mums’ and dads’ gardens… and that was before I took up cross-country running at school, converting to a fixie bike for the extra exercise (and to be different from the other boys) in my mid-teens, and progressed to running full marathons until at the Veteran stage I was still doing them in 3–25… you name it, I/we did it.

My dislike of animal fat reflects the childhood horror every other Friday evening when my Polish father returned home from his factory work with a pig’s head and a couple of trotters – which after being cooked with cabbage, onions and garlic produced a smell that made me feel sick and a sight that made me almost faint.

So it goes without saying that I prefer vegetables to animals… for preparing in the kitchen and for eating from the plate. I’ve also spent many years growing them so have no qualms about pulling them out of the earth and chopping their heads off… although I do that with a feeling of love, thankfulness and sympathy because they are ‘live’ things.

But I’m a bit of an oddball not eating meat. Yup, being a vegetarian still causes many – an easy majority – of people to give one sneering looks and smirks when they know your preference because it’s a contradiction to their own comfortable, established way of living.

However, many of them complain about piling on the pounds – especially in the winter months – and regard me as a weakling because I’m thinner. They cannot – or refuse to – understand, that if they simply cut down slightly on every portion they would eventually arrive at a palatable solution without noticing any difference in the short term.

Whenever I’ve seen TV and magazine commercials for butter, margarine, jam, cheese, fish and meat pates, etc., the products are always layered on the slice of bread or biscuit cracker with extraordinarily generous helpings which to most starving people in the world would be more than a two or three days nourishment, not simply an in-between-meal snack… and not with anything like the same quality or variety.

Thinking that my own waistband might tighten slightly as winter descends and the occasional comfort food is consumed, I’ve decided on a personal rule of thumb to ward off the extra calories and kilograms… it is to “see through the spread”. If I want a slice of bread with soya margarine, the spread has to be thin enough to see the color, grain and texture of the bread through the spread. And if I want some jam on it – hey, why not occasionally – then the color, grain and texture of the bread still has to show through both additional layers.

Not only but also…

I’m always keen to mention important people whose simpler life-style practices and inspirational writings attract a big, dedicated following. So here are two beautiful people I’m following… both write in a very readable way and give you more than enough to think about every time they do so. Click and enjoy!

Amber Zuckswert of EpicSelf  is a professional modern/ballet dancer, the creator of Virtual Pilates, and a globe trotting environmentalist wrapped into one tall package.And Niels Hermus at Life is a bucket  with a theory to create your own kick-ass lifestyle, drop by drop. He makes a lot of sense!Not directly related to this post – perhaps more to my last one – but I found a really cool “iQuit Stop Smoking Counter” which measures smoking cessation and the length of time one has stopped smoking, the money one saved and the extra period of life gained! What happens with your body if you quit smoking? The Healing Begins!

I’ve put the “iQuit Stop Smoking Counter” gadget in the sidebar to this weblog, which after keying-in dates, numbers of cigarettes and price per packet, on the iQuit website, updates in real time some shocking statistics. I’ve programmed my gadget to calculate from when I gave up smoking the last time in 2006… but I’m thinking of placing a second gadget above it running from when I gave up smoking 30 years before. What I would have saved in money, and extended my life in months if not years would be very revealing and shocking.

You can use the app on a web page, on an iPhone, iPad or iTouch and download it here… Quit Smoking Counter.

Don’t give up starting

I ended the last posting saying, “…it’s all about taking that first step towards something better.” Well, such tentative improvements can come with downsides in the short-term. Think about how hard it is for most people to give up smoking for example. I found there was only one way to do it… to throw the remaining contents of the packet into the rubbish bin.

The more of those slim sticks of questionable pleasure one throws away the better the statement of defiance in breaking the habit… for ever! It’s building false hopes and deceiving yourself to just have one more, then just one more. Throw away the root causes of bad habits… with tobacco it’s only a tiny waste compared to the mounting cost of continuing a nicotine addiction.

Cough… Cough… Can you believe this. The old 1950s French cigarettes I photographed were being smoked by a friend in the bar last month and he said they tasted awful (as in “la merde de chameau” or camel shit) – were branded “Phenix Vie” (Phoenix Life) in order to advertise the well-known family health assurance company!

Same with cakes, candy and chocs… I once threw away most of the contents of a box of luxurious Belgian chocolates… not only did I lose weight by not eating them, I was able to relax and sleep better because my brain and body hadn’t been overloaded with extra caffeine, and I spared myself feeling sick because I’d not over-gorged on their creamy, sugary contents.

Help! who to turn to

During the past few weeks I’ve read the contents of many interestingly inspirational ‘minimalism’ websites and subscribed to newsletter updates from those I find are the most informative, and, in-tune with how I see my life progressing… which is not necessarily the same thing when keeping an open mind. In that time I’ve gained a feel of how previously unknown folk out there in the big wide world are really ‘getting it’ and whom I can trust and shall connect to in furthering my own aspirations for a better way of living and being.

These men and women have adopted the gentle persuasion of “tell it as it is” because they are doing it and living it – rather than the hard practice of “sell it as it is” because they have a large bonus target to hit every month. They aren’t dropouts, weirdos, hippies or oddballs… they’re just like you and me with husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, cats, dogs and in many cases with growing families and living in the suburbs. Others wander the world with less than fifty items in their possession and are equally secure in and with their lives.

I’ve already downloaded several very informative e-books from those writers which were free… and bought a bunch of others which are more in-depth for only slightly more than free. The ones I paid for didn’t actually cost a lot, but their information was invaluable. Whilst the freebies are a great start, the paid-for e-books reflect the increased dedicated input and experience from their authors.

Ridiculous or what!

Basically a good overall plan of action is to search a lot, click a lot, connect a lot, and read a lot. I’ve found the “Buy one – get two free!” way provides a good balance on the continuing path and cycle of learning. Others such as the cool dude Karol Gajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary have free courses sent via e-mail… so sign up there if you do nothing else.

The “Eat With a Smaller Spoon” project is all about ‘minimalism’ – and yet I’ve hardly mentioned the word in the first three postings. That’s because I’ve only just scratched the surface. There’s much, much more to write about because the subject increasingly envelops so many everyday walks of life of most people – like you and I – on this Earth. The day will come when it will not simply be an alternative life-style of choice, but a necessary one. That’s the way the World is heading!

Most people don’t know about ‘minimalism’ yet, and many of the others who should know better don’t quite know what to do about it. There’s great information out there written by wonderful people who have overcome the huge burdens of modern life and its associated expectations weighing down on their shoulders – people who have gained freedom for their lives and who want to pass on their joy of living whilst saving our Planet at the same time.

  • “The first idea that comes to mind may not be so interesting
    but the second and third ideas that flow from it
    can be very interesting” ~ Edward de Bono.

There’s a simple answer to most of our problems – but activating those simple answers is sometimes a little more difficult. We’ll examine those problems one by one on “Eat With a Smaller Spoon” and find the solutions that suit you best.In the next posting I’ll describe some of the e-books I’ve found to be the most useful to read when starting out on a simpler, more respectful lifestyle.

In the meantime here’s a great one to start you off – Leo Babauta, the creator of Zen Habits, has written “Becoming Minimalist” for everyone to understand… and then to think hard about themselves and their lifestyle.

PS :  Remember to bookmark this page and click the Facebook, Twitter and RSS Feed buttons so we can spread the word, stay connected and travel together on an interesting journey, sharing our experiences with each other and our friends to improve our overall well-being.

Eat slow… more go

Following on from my breakfast with a difference, the first thing I did after I’d eaten, washed the empty bowl and that accidentally grabbed utensil, was to log-on to my favorite web-name vendor GoDaddy  and for $11.99 register “EatWithAsmallerSpoon.com” having found it was still available after a quick search on their site. I knew I had to do it. I didn’t need an inner voice or confirmation from an on-line discussion group. There was no hesitation – and to paraphrase (but with a contrary meaning) a line by Waylon Payne playing Jerry Lee Lewis in the Johnny Cash film “Walk The Line” – I just did it… I didn’t think about it… I didn’t think about doing it… I didn’t even think about thinking about doing it.

Then I discovered that Joe Kita writing on Core Performance  went one step further and used smaller plates and bowls as well as smaller spoons to down-size his weight – with no other dietary measures necessary. He also has interesting statistics from the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” amongst which are that people who ate less from smaller bowls actually thought that they had consumed more. And when compared with short, wide tumblers, that narrower ‘highball’ drinks glasses were filled with a third less volume of alcohol by baristas… with their customers not complaining of short measures.

However, as a result I didn’t crave for a mid-morning snack such as a slice of warm buttered toast… nor a fresh croissant from the boulangerie across the road… nor a bar of chocolate always positioned next to the check-out counter wherever I shop and buy and wait and pay. And I didn’t drop into the bar for my regular large, strong jolt of espresso.

In fact I had enough energy to take me through to beyond the regular lunchtime hour when, and only when, I felt hungry again. I’d painlessly adjusted to and adopted one small step in the process of simplifying my life, and it felt good… really good… really, really good… and I had a hunger for more!

This to me seems a very sensible way of eating… to consume sustenance only when one is hungry, rather than feeding when one is not actually hungry but at fixed times which have to conveniently fit in with the established but restrictive nine-to-five office working hours ritual.

I should point out that in rural France where I chose to live a more gentle life with my wife a decade ago, regular lunchtime hours are from 12-30 to 2-30 or 3-00. Yes, up to two and a half hours for lunch. But any workers and shopkeepers will start earlier in the day and continue to 7-30 in the evening… so a lengthy lunch-break will allow traditional preparation and consumption of a proper meal rather than the modern Western trend of office staff dashing out for a plastic wrapped sandwich, polystyrene pack of salad, plus a chemical-filled cold or caffeine-fueled hot drink – and returning 20 minutes later to their computer cubicle and eating whilst continuing to ‘punch-in those data numbers’ – the latter, in a way, now seeming only a little worse than what I was doing with my pre-dawn breakfasts and web surfing.

However, I definitely felt a ‘whoosh’… I felt I was on a new path going in a new direction… and I felt great! I had made a commitment to ‘minimalism’ in a very short period of time that I hope will change my life for ever! I may be entering my ‘third age’ but it’s never too late to start a new life. Too many people go into a rapid decline when they retire… so why retire, in the conventional sense of the word, when you deserve a real break for a change?

What I experienced will make me more awake, more active and undoubtedly more productive. Those are the immediate benefits to this ‘eat slow – more go’ approach. I’ll also certainly decrease the measurement of my waistline, as well as increase the amount of money in my pocket… so I’ll be able to afford a pair of slimmer jeans. Win-win!

You may think this isn’t for you… it’s too simple… or it won’t fit in with your metabolism… or it isn’t manly enough for your lifestyle. But being so simple it’s surely be worth a try. After all, if it’s simple it can hardly be difficult, can it?

However, there lies the rub. It’s more than simply eating with a smaller spoon.

The decision…

Emmet Fox posted his 7-Day Mental Diet on “The Art of Creative Relationship” recently that challenged readers to think, speak and be absolutely positively for 7 days continuously. But if at any time during that relatively short period, in the lifetime of things, there was a single negative thought, word or action that was not instantly batted away by a positive one, you had to go back to the beginning and start over again on another 7-day period. Sounds easy doesn’t it – if you’re a meditating monk!

Well, there’s good reason to try things which are seemingly impossible at first sight. Without exploration across the stormy oceans and inhospitable continents in past centuries where would we be today? Without learning difficult subjects at school where would our lack of extra knowledge have left us? Without jogging that first short fun-run how many would have attempted the full marathon and surpassed the pain threshold with pleasure and pride? Without tackling that exposed rock face as the climbing rope’s leader where would our confidence be now?

The list can go on and on… it’s all about taking that first step towards something better. Not better on an established scale of one-to-ten, or with an award to pin on your chest, but something better with one’s personal state of well-being.

The introduction…

My life changed the other day when I was eating breakfast – by accident I chose something different… and out of choice I didn’t sit down at my Mac. But first an uncomfortable reality. Just because I think I’m pretty smart doesn’t mean I am.

Since my mid-teens I’ve always thought I was a fairly cool, intelligent kind of guy. I got reasonable grades at school… I was married to another student whilst at art college… after graduation I worked up to a senior design post at the largest independent TV company in the UK and worked on many programmes including the world famous “Coronation Street” soap opera which is now in its 50th year… and I have several children and grandchildren doing more interesting things than I did at their age.

But, despite being fairly intelligent, I’ve squandered many tens of thousands of pounds investing in junk… an accumulation of once desirable ‘things’ I thought I wanted but then never, or hardly ever, used, appreciated or looked at during the increasing length of time I owned them. A Freudian slip I almost made was to write, “the length of time they owned me,” but there will more on that angle another time.

To make matters worse, my spending on what turned out to be largely useless accumulated junk was usually at a time when I could least afford it… because I was overdrawn at the bank and running on a credit card.

*An interesting point – have you noticed that the word ‘credit’ includes the word ‘red’ and the three remaining letters in reverse spell ‘tic’ which is also UK English slang for credit? I’ve found out the hard way on a number of occasions that this isn’t a coincidence… it’s more of an implication. But it should be a warning!

Actually to be more honest with myself, I was not simply overdrawn – I was broke. And month after month my bank statements were printed in that warning color of my profligate over-consumption… in red!

Here’s another reality – going in another direction – that most people unfortunately don’t even bother to find uncomfortable…

The world’s rapidly increasing population is consuming three times the amount our Mother Earth is able to supply and regenerate.

Much of this over-consumption is on useless junk… accumulation of once desirable ‘things’ we thought we wanted but then never, or hardly ever, used, appreciated or looked at during the increasing length of time we owned them.

Why not eat with a smaller spoon?

However, I’ve increasingly becoming more aware of this and like to think I’m reasonably careful nowadays. But life has been a roller-coaster. I’ve had a hard time many times since I gave up my well-paid job at the TV studios on my 30th birthday thirty-six years ago. I probably adopted a ‘minimalism’ lifestyle at the start of my ‘second age’ without knowing it because to my knowledge the word wasn’t a popular movement way back in 1974.

Roll on to 2010 and, in a pretty nondescript way, I’ve entered the ‘third age’ of my life. I have a generally healthy regimen… gave up smoking years ago, hardly drink, don’t go to bed late, and always wake, wash and dress before 5-00 am in the Spring and Summer and not later than 6-00 am in the Autumn and Winter. So far so good… but in a rather meaningless way. I feel that I satisfy myself but have always thought I had little to say to the wider world unless writing at length about my photography with some art, nature and travel added to the mix.

The awakening

Then a couple of weeks ago one dark, pre-dawn, Autumn morning, I was preparing my regular breakfast of rolled oats, sliced banana, organic yogurt, a sprinkle of Sunflower seeds, small black grapes and a touch of local honey, when I accidentally grabbed a smaller spoon – the size you would eat a soft-boiled egg with – and began to eat.

For the first time in a long, long time I looked at and thought about that bowl of goodness… without plunging my usual much larger dessert spoon into the contents so they were gone in 60-seconds.

And that was at the same moment I choose to sit in a different chair at the opposite corner of the room to where my MacBook was sitting, open, glowing and inviting. I was also distracted enough to not check my overnight e-mails and surf the web to read about the latest rumor or photographic ‘must have’.

Then it hit me… not just between the eyes, but in my mouth where my tongue and taste buds started to experience – or rather explore because this was early days – the simple flavors of those ingredients being consumed in smaller qualities.

I savored each mouthful by chewing every grain and piece of fruit on either side of my mouth until all the food was liquid and could be swallowed like a thick soup. I was drinking my food, and as a result my intestines and stomach didn’t strain and give me wind… and my bowels didn’t tell me to rush to the lavatory. Sorry to be so basic, but although I’ve always believed in the mantra, “We are what we eat,” I’m now also thinking, “We are how we eat.”

So by happening to “eat with a smaller spoon” I thought I’d eaten more than I had because the smaller spoon made the bowl’s contents look more than they really were. And, there were at least twice as many dips of that smaller spoon into the bowl… not that I’m greedy, mind you, but I was completely satiated.

That’s ‘minimalism’ at work!

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