Cassandra – is anyone listening?

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

At first glance, the following comments might not seem relevant to renovating a house in the Czech wilderness. But they are.

The idea that healthy brains rely on good diet is not new. Research has underlined the link incrementally over the last 70 years, and it also seems obvious on an intuitive level. Slaves as we are to our environments, what we give out depends on what we put in. A person who spends a year in a dark room eating junk food is not going to emerge with the same mental fitness as someone who eats fresh seafood, fruit and veg on a beachside terrace.

Brain food – or all washed up?

You can give a band the best set-list in the world, but if they’re not good musicians, the concert will be terrible. Apply that to the brain. You want well-fed grey matter that’s spent years in the proverbial rehearsal rooms, concert venues and recording studios, rather than a nutrient-poor version weaned on X-factor junk.

Which brings me to the point. In the course of my work I recently read ‘breakthrough’ research that suggested, amazingly enough, that a healthy brain relies on a healthy diet. Congratulations to the researchers from Noshitsherlock University.

You wouldn’t think scientific research was prone to reboots like an ailing movie franchise, but the evidence says otherwise. Rather than stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before, researchers in a university vacuum that might as well be located on Metebelis 3 in the Acteon Galaxy, have set sail for brave new nutritional horizons and made landfall on the shores of the blindingly obvious.

Meanwhile, another generation has gorged on the rubbish that messes up the mind and matter we call ourselves, and diet-related mental and physical health conditions drain the western world’s health services. We’ve ignored the science and the prophecies of a dietary doomsday.

Cassandra speaks, but we never learn, because we never listen, and because no one reads text books any more. This ties in with another theme I’ve rattled on about recently – how history repeats itself; and no matter how much of a cliché that assertion has become, the fact of the repetition remains. Bad shit orbits around the generations and returns with all the inevitability of a rock band reunion.

But the point – the actual blog point, this time – is this. Magda and I ignored all the existing evidence and set our course for some very obvious brick walls, finally reaching conclusions that were first concluded centuries ago. We behaved as if we were Adam and Eve pondering what to do with all the timber from the ransacked Tree of Knowledge, while in reality we were the billionth couple to underestimate the true costs of selling your soul to the building trade.

We used to watch housebuilding shows on TV. Grand Designs was the main course (sorry, the food imagery is still in my head), with side dishes of Renovation and Amazing Spaces, and even those series where someone would hijack a house and transform it into something unrecognisable in the hope that the residents would burst into whoops of joy or horror (but, being British, they usually just mouthed a few clichés while looking faintly embarrassed).

In truth, it was Magda who chose to watch these shows. I was the passive Other Person In The Room who lacked the gumption to bugger off and do something else.

Anyway, Grand Designs had a cosily familiar format. The hopes and dreams came first, followed by the grim realities of rubbish weather, unreliable suppliers and builders, and the inevitable emptying of the coffers, months – and thousands of pounds – before the architectural folly was complete. Kevin McCloud would then deliver his eulogy to camera while prowling outside the new build like a poetic debt collector.

Maybe the show is still being made. Being a self-inflicted foreigner these days, I wouldn’t know.

Why then – and here’s the main point: thanks for staying with me this long – did Magda and I “do a Grand Designs”? We drooled over the architect’s drawings, and ignored all the warning signs that told us, very plainly, that there was never going to be anywhere near enough money to pay for it all.

Our living room is full of potential, full of nothing, and fed up of waiting

Almost two years into the adventure, we’re rather glumly waiting for the downstairs living room to be completed. The money is long gone, and that includes anything laughingly labelled ‘pension funds’ in my bank account. The completion of the living room will mean that we’ve semi-tamed about one fifth of the building. The rest is a building site. A fairly neat and tidy one these days, but a building site nonetheless.

But… because everything in life has a ‘but’… I guess if we heeded every alarm bell and lesson, we’d never attempt anything. We’d accept grey skies and close horizons as our lot. But once you leave the safety zone, anything can happen – and that includes all the good things, as well as the bad – the exciting stuff, the serendipity, the windfalls, etc.

Meanwhile, when the optimism of the ‘but’ has receded again, it does seem we’re locked in that ever-relevant legend of the prophet Cassandra, who was able to predict future events with alarming clarity, but doomed to have no one listen to her.

In the dog house: our hounds get to enjoy one of the country’s biggest kennels

#dogs #Finances

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