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Life

One Meeting After Another

I have spent nearly all day in meetings – one meeting after another. I don’t think I could ever be a project manager, because their life seems to consist purely of meetings, calls, and gantt charts. Being a software developer suits me down to the ground – I get to obsess over my own little world of code, bits and bytes, and pretty much shut off from the rest of the world.

I’ve been humming “Video Killed the Radio Star” all day, after YouTube suggested a video of the band “Buggles” re-forming to perform it. YouTube has been knocking it out of the park recently – suggesting some amazing time-wasting procrastination aids to me. Perhaps the best musical performance has to be “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, by Procol Harem – google the live performance in Denmark, 2006.

Anyway.

Time to sleep.

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Life

Movies, Vineyards, and Elitist Snobs

Last night we went out for the first time in 18 months.

A farm perhaps a mile out of town has several vineyards, and is owned by one of the bigger wine producers in the country. They had cleared an area of one of their fields, erected a huge cinema screen and sound system, surrounded it with bean bags and deck chairs, and setup a wonderful bar serving their various wines and local beers.

We walked from home. The walk probably took half an hour, with the final mile through farmers fields and finally through vines to the screen we could see looming above them.

Most of the evening was wonderful save for one thing – the food. We had pre-ordered pizzas, and arrived an hour before the movie to have time to eat. The catering company drafted in to make the pizzas on-site had some sort of disaster and ended up cooking elsewhere and ferrying the pizzas to the field. We finally received ours half-way through the movie, and most of the way through a bottle of champagne on an empty stomach (we were celebrating being “out out”).

Apart from the movie, the queue for the pizza stall was perhaps unintentionally the most entertaining part of the evening. I’ve probably mentioned before – we live in a very wealthy area, which is populated with a great number of privileged, self-righteous, self-interested people with little or no empathy for anybody or anything other than themselves. The next several people in the queue for the pizzas ticked all the boxes, and then some. I’m surprised they didn’t call their lawyers from the queue.

While aspersions were cast, I quietly expressed my disbelief with my other half – feeling very sorry indeed for the two teenage girls taking pizza orders; obviously drafted in on a minimum wage to do a menial job – and who were muttered about, shouted at, and treated pretty horrifically. When we were finally called to collect our pizzas, one of the girls smiled uneasily as she handed them to me, and I tried to find some words to let her know we were on their side. She looked like she might start crying.

Imagine a field full of 100 “Lady Totty” characters from “Wallis and Gromit and the Curse of the Warerabbit”, and you get some idea.

The movie was the salvation of the evening – “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. I had a vague recollection of watching the first few minutes of it some time ago, but couldn’t remember much. If you’ve not seen it, you’ll either love it or hate it – I suspect it’s something of a marmite movie for most people (you might not get that reference either, thinking about it). I loved it. I love marmite too.

Here’s the trailer:

Anyway.

On that note, I’ll bid you farewell for the moment. It’s late, and I need to get up in the morning for a run, and then work. Thankfully the weather has sorted it’s life out and had dropped a little below the “surface of the sun” antics it’s been playing around at recently.

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Life

Ankles, Earwax and Wasp Stings

It’s been an eventful few days in my little corner of the universe. Where to start?

For the last few days my ankles have decided to start something of a protest against sitting at a desk throughout my working day. They have done this by accumulating water and swelling up really quite impressively (I was going to write “spectacularly”, but that seems a bit over the top, although also accurate). I had been hoping to get out running, or on the bike to combat it, but the weather has had other ideas – the temperature has rarely dipped below 30C in the UK during the last week. It’s supposed to drop by a few degrees over the weekend – not before time.

Over the past couple of years my ears have decided that they really like conjuring up earwax from wherever they conjure it up from, and have gotten really, really good at it. This week I decided enough was enough, and enlisted the help of an over-the-counter remedy. You pour a few drips into your ear, tip your head over, and let the magic happen. The bottle mentions nothing about the party going on in your earhole while whatever it is fizzes, and turns into the itchiest substance known to science. I won’t trouble you with the gunk that fell out of my ear after pumping water into it afterwards. It was impressive.

Finally, at lunchtime today I decided it might be a good idea (to combat the ever increasing ankle radius problem) to go outside and play frisbee with my youngest daughter. Five minutes into said shenanigans, a wasp decided to fly between my foot and my sandle – which caused me to jump around like somebody that had just stood on a small explosive device. My daughter couldn’t stop laughing as I walked back to the house with one bare foot, and then took a rather morbid interest in the dark vein of poison spreading up my foot from the sting-site. Thankfully ice blocks from the freezer stopped it in it’s tracks, and I stopped hopping around and cursing mere minutes later.

In other news, once my salary falls into the black hole we like to call our bank account in a few days time, we are going to pull the trigger on replacing our mobile phones. We’re switching everybody to Google Pixels. Apple can shove their idiot devices that never play well with others wherever they like.

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Life

Strange Dreams and Fond Memories

I dreamed last night that I worked at an office a few miles from home that I cycled to. The route took me over a bridge – the only one for miles – and that bridge was closed for some reason. It may have even been removed. In the strange way that dreams dissolve hour by hour, the minor details have already gone.

I cycled across the river. Yes, you read that right. It wasn’t a “walking on water” feat of improbability – the bike was half submerged – but somehow the bike held my weight, and although I got wet feet and legs, I was able to cycle across the river.

Sadly I don’t remember anything else.

On a completely different and entirely unconnected subject, after cutting the lawn this morning (disrupted by the lawnmower packing up), I was talking to my other half about childhood memories. I’m not sure how the conversation came up. We started listing off the odd things that have stuck in our mind for the rest of our lives.

I remember going on a trip with my Dad one day – I would have been less than 10 years old – and stopping at a road-side cafe (a “Little Chef”) for something to eat. Given that we didn’t have much back then, and my experience of the wider world was almost zero, that meal has stuck in my mind for the rest of my life. Chips, beans, egg, and sausage. I can remember the salt and pepper coming from paper sachets, and the pepper being ground black pepper – which I had never seen before.

Another memory we both laughed about – and something I have not seen for at least twenty years – novelty ketchup bottles on café tables. When I was young, if you ever went to a café for something to eat, they would invariably have plastic squeezy ketchup bottles on the table. In a strange sort of way, those bottles were “exciting”, because we didn’t have anything like that at home. I remember sometimes the plastic bottles would even look like a giant tomato.

Finally, who remembers “salt and shake” crisps? A normal bag of plain potato crisps, with a small dark blue paper sachet inside containing salt. They are burned into my memories as “special” in some way. While recounting the memory, we both laughed about the final crisps in the packet turning you inside out, because most of the salt had settled among them.

What strange memories about going out, or things that were “special” have stuck in your head from your childhood ?

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Life

Friday Night

It’s nearly midnight on Friday night as I begin writing this post. I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room, typing this into the desktop computer. My other half is watching television in the lounge, and the kids are fast asleep.

It’s been a strange week. A week filled with research, investigation, head scratching, chores, learning, struggling, and not getting anywhere particularly quickly.

Late yesterday one of my co-workers messaged me, asking “what do you have planned in the morning?”. Following a back-and-forth exchange of messages we met up at another co-worker’s house this morning. Three McDonalds breakfast rolls, and three cappuccinos. After spending so many weeks working in solitude it was great to see them face-to-face.

I’m not really sure what the weekend will bring. I’m hoping to go for a run first thing in the morning, and will try to get my eldest daughter to go with me. On Sunday there is a social at the rugby club – an “end of the season that never was” barbecue. Other than that, not much else.

Anyway. It’s gone midnight. Time to go fall asleep with a book propped on my chest. Again.

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Life

Wednesday Night

It’s late on Wednesday night (or early on Thursday morning, if we want to be accurate). I’m sitting in the dark of the study in silence – the rest of the family have already gone to bed. All I can hear is the blood pumping through my ears, and the drumming of my fingers on the keyboard.

After several days feeling terrible, along with my youngest daughter, she went for a COVID test yesterday morning, and we received the results late last night – negative. Although I suspected it was a seasonal flu type virus, it was nice to get confirmation. It’s all too easy to begin counting symptoms, and comparing against the fear, uncertainty and doubt pedalled across social media by self-proclaimed experts.

Trust in science. Always trust in science.

On that subject, I fell down an internet rabbit hole earlier this evening – watching a series of “debates” at Speaker’s Corner in London, where various religious people had filmed themselves or others arguing tooth and nail that their beliefs were more valid that those of the other person. Something struck me about almost every conversation I watched – when some people are faced with difficult questions, they re-frame the question to one they can answer advantageously to their position, and few people seem to realise they have done it.

In other news I went for a run with my daughter early this afternoon. I had worked through lunch (I usually do), and her middle-sister had let her down, so I found myself volunteering to accompany her. She’s in the early weeks of the “Couch to 5K” programme, so intentionally let her lead the way, and just provided inane conversation and hilarity along the way. It’s just nice to spend time with her, to be honest – to see her out of the house, in the world after so long hiding away. She’s not brave enough to run every time on her own yet, but she’s getting there.

Late this evening we heard “huffing and puffing” in the back garden, so quietly tip-toed out to see what was going on. Two hedgehogs were circling each other. The kids asked if they were going to fight, or mate – I had to admit I had no idea. I think they’ve gone about their business now. It was just nice to see hedgehogs in the garden again – they have been visiting the garden for the last twenty years, and yet we haven’t seen them for a few months until recently. We wondered if they had gone.

Anyway.

It’s getting late. I should probably go get some sleep.

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Life

Four Kilometres Before Breakfast

After watching the alarm clock digits tick over for the better part of half an hour this morning, I eventually slid out of bed and retrieved a pair of running shorts from the bedside drawer.

After half a glass of water at the kitchen sink, I pulled on the no-name running shoes I bought from Amazon a couple of years ago, and wandered out into the morning air.

For the next half hour, the Truman Show rain clouds overhead delivered a steady pitter-patter of rain. It was quite pleasant to begin with – refreshing, awakening. Unfortunately after half an hour my t-shirt and shorts had become shrink wrapped to my body, and sweat was running into my squinting eyes – burning them from their sockets.

I suppose in a way the burning sensation distracted me from the imminent “end of all things” feeling that often greets the final yards of a run.

I ran four kilometres. I only found this out afterwards, after plugging my route into a very clever looking website. I’m purposely not logging my runs in Strava, or any other social one-upmanship hell-hole app. I’m just going out running.

This morning was my first departure from the “Couch to 5K” programme. Having worked my way through the programme in recent weeks to accompany a good friend as she did the same, I had begun to grow bored of the celebrity advice parroted into my ears. Of course the rain this morning meant my earbuds didn’t stay in my ears anyway. Bloody things.

I ended up running for four kilometres. I forgot to look at my watch as I left the house, which is probably a good thing. I don’t really want to know how fast or slow I went – I’m more concerned with how my knees hold up.

I injured my right knee a few weeks ago (while carrying washing up the stairs – work that one out), and it’s been taking forever to fix itself. I’m gently stretching every day, and running every other day – sometimes every three days – but it’s still stiff. I imagine this is “getting old” – where your body takes several times longer to correct anything stupid you’ve done.

Getting back to the Truman Show theme, every time I have run over the last few weeks I have become more convinced that I’m starring in my own TV show. Yet again today, as I approached a road junction that had been empty for several minutes during my approach, it filled with cars and bicycles. I almost started looking for cameras.

I wonder if Ed Harris will talk to me from the sky if I buy a rowing boat, and set off from Central London for the new world single handed ?

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Life

An Adventure in London

The alarm clock filled the bedroom with one of the national radio stations at 7am this morning. I listened for a few minutes before my other half rolled over and murmured “are getting up then?”. A few moments later the bedroom door creaked open, and my sixteen year old daughter stood in the doorway grinning.

“Time to get up Dad”.

An hour later – after a shower, a shave, a piece of toast and a coffee, attention turned to my eldest daughter – who miraculously emerged from her room as promised.

Today was all about her really. Yes, we went to London, and yes, I cracked open the “bank of Dad” a little, but it was really about my eldest leaving the house for the entire day and testing herself against the world at large. She’s been fighting a crippling battle against anxiety for the last several years – today was something of a howitzer shot against it, orchestrated over dinner a couple of evenings previously.

We got on the 9am train towards London, masks on our faces, and hand-wash in our pockets. After a change of trains en-route, a little over an hour later we arrived at Paddington and set off through the back streets rather than into the Underground – avoiding the percentage game with the virus beneath the streets of the city.

Our journey took us the length of Hyde Park and St James Park. Along the way we explored the Princess Diana memorial fountains, and discovered a herd of wooden Elephants among the park trees. After perhaps an hour on-foot we started threading our way through the streets of London – picking our way along Shaftesbury Avenue towards our ultimate goal; “Forbidden Planet” – the biggest comic book shop in the country.

Before submerging ourselves in all things Manga, Anime, Marvel, and DC, we wandered to a chain Sushi restaurant a little way from the comic book store, and realised we were actually quite hungry. I got arm twisted into trying a dessert called “mochi”, and fell in love with it.

After eating ourselves to a standstill, we returned to the comic book store for perhaps an hour – pouring through comics, board games, and all manner of collectible figures and toys. I love the artwork, but can take or leave the stories. My eldest is hugely invested in Manga, and always has been. It’s my fault really – I introduced her to the Studio Ghibli movies when she was young, and then bought her first Anime series on DVD, and first Manga books. She now has a bookshelf full of them.

Our youngest picked up some blind-box collectibles. She’s so easy to please. In some ways she doesn’t weigh the world in the same way as other people – she has never been attached to money, or things; she would much rather spend her money on others, or spend time with them than have anything for herself. She has never been overly influenced by others either – she walks to her own beat.

On the way back we stopped in St James park and sat on the grass with a drink – watching the world go by. A group of models with an entourage arrived to pose with one of the herds of wooden elephants – we laughed at them tottering through the grass in platform shoes, miniskirts, and not much else. I remarked that one of the girls had calf muscles to die for – my eldest immediately agreed – she had noticed too.

Finally arriving back into Paddington station, we stopped at Pret for something quick to eat before finding a train towards home. I bought some chocolate for the journey, which caused endless hilarity when I discovered you can’t really eat with a face mask on.

This evening we will sleep well. I’m not quite sure how many miles we walked, or how much money we spent – but that wasn’t really the point. Today was about being outside, pushing comfort zones, battling demons, and getting used to the world once again. A very big world that has largely survived the last eighteen months unscathed – thanks mostly to scientists, and the quiet majority following guidance when issued.

While walking through the park, seeing life happening around us, it struck me that sometimes it pays to switch your phone off, put it in your pocket, and go for a walk. I’m reminded of the advice Bilbo gave to Frodo – “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

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Life

A Quarter to Midnight

The clock is ticking towards midnight, and you find me sitting in the dark of the study, tapping away at the keyboard while a random playlist on Spotify tries to convince me I’m sitting in the bar of a hotel in Paris, swishing the remains of my drink around in the bottom of a glass and watching the bar staff slowly bringing their day to a close.

I have nothing new to share – I’m not going to let that stop me though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this damn fool blogging escapade, it’s that you don’t need to have very much to say. Quiet posts often seem more truthful than keyboard crusader manifestos.

I made ham sandwiches for lunch today because they were easy. Two pieces of bread, olive spread, pre-cut ham, and a little mustard. I finished making them before the kettle boiled water for yet another coffee.

I’m running in the morning. The “Couch to 5K” idiocy has reached week six, and I’m wondering about going off-piste; just going for “a run”. At this point I don’t really see much value in the programme. I’ll see how I feel in the morning.

The clock just ticked into tomorrow. I’m pretty good at pretending tomorrow doesn’t arrive until I wake up in the morning. I’m also good at not reading much any more – I have a stack of books on my bedside table that have been there for months – several half read, several never opened.

I need to make time. Time to read, to watch TV, and to catch up with distant friends. It’s been too long.