Watching for the Keymaster

Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in the various projects you’re involved in – but also realise that you started each project? I suppose you could say I’m terrible at saying no to myself.

I was supposed to go for a run this morning – to begin getting some miles under my belt ahead of a charity fun run in December. I woke up with the alarm clock at 7am, and then fell asleep for another twenty minutes (and had a weird dream – I seem to be having a lot of weird dreams recently).

It doesn’t help that I’ve been playing the “stay up late to avoid tomorrow” game – although the game seems to have transformed into “stay up late to do more things today”. I need to just stop. Slow down. Step back. An acquaintance who has been witness to one of the online projects I’ve been tinkering with asked “do you ever sleep?” – another friend chipped in with “he’s a robot”.

Anyway.

Today I’m going out for lunch. A group of us from work are gathering at a pub within walking distance of my house. It will be nice to see some of my co-workers – working from home is great, but it’s also a bit like a fish-bowl most days (a fish bowl that also contains laundry, washing up, and tidying up after the rest of the house guests).

Time is marching on. I should fire up my work laptop.

Did you see that Elon is going ahead with the acquisition of Twitter? Do you have a Twitter account? Are you now part of the angry mob with pitchforks? I will admit to not quite understanding what the big issue is – you know, apart from him wanting to open the gates of the underworld. If I see Rick Moranis stumbling around the internet in search of Sigourney Weaver, I’ll know exactly how it’s playing out.

Advertisement

Finding Time

As a few might have noticed, I’ve returned to WordPress. This had absolutely nothing to do with platforms – more about separation of concerns. I needed to use Substack for something else, and would rather have something of a dividing wall between my personal blog, and other endeavours.

So what have I been up to in my absence?

I started a damn fool escapade on the internet a few weeks ago, and it exploded in popularity – turning from a few minutes of my time into a full time second job. I’m doing it of my own volition though, so I only have myself to complain to.

I was up until 3am last night trying to find out what was eating disk space on a web server – this after going round in circles trying to find out why on earth something was failing – before realising the software was lying to me.

Today I spent the majority of the day at my youngest daughter’s school – running a second hand book stall to help raise funds for the school. I ran the stall for the better part of three hours – greeting parents and children and attempting to part them with their money. While I sold books, my other half ran the perenially popular “lucky dip”, and “hook a duck” games.

While setting the book stall up a man approached with his daughter, and spied a collection of perhaps 100 issues of a popular comic – obviously somebody’s entire collection. He initially bought 10 issues, before returning later to take a second look. I offered him the entire collection for quite a small amount of money, and he said something that made me smile – “I’ll never get away with it”. He wasn’t buying them for his children at all.

Anyway.

It’s nice to be back. As time allows, I will try to catch up with some of the blogs I follow – to find out what you’ve been up to.

If not now, when?

Tonight (or this morning) I’m taking a leaf from a good friend’s book – and asking myself “if not now, when?”. I’m talking about the blog of course, and writing a blog post.

It’s 1am. We got back from a night out a couple of hours ago. Dinner out to celebrate putting up with each other for 21 years.

We went to a small thai place in town called “Giggling Squid”, which was filled to the gunnels with a very noisy birthday party populated with women between perhaps thirty and forty years old. Given the length of their table they shouted conversations at each other – which caused the rest of the restaurant to shout conversations too. Sitting at an otherwise intimate table for two, we had to lean towards each other and shout in each other’s faces to hear each other. Once the birthday group left, it was quite difficult to stop shouting – we had got used to it.

On my way out of the restaurant – which is housed within an old victorian building, the lady in charge of the serving staff wished us a good night, and seemed quite anxious that I might bash my head on a roof beam. As I unfolded from my chair, she exclaimed “and mind your shoulders too!” (I think I may have been a good deal taller than she initially imagined).

Anyway.

We had a lovely night out, a great meal, and then wandered along the high street to a bar we have often seen people sitting outside of, but never had a reason or the time to visit. We’ve never been in most of the newer places around town. It was… “meh”. I imagine if you went with a group of friends it wouldn’t make any difference – but being there on our own it was curiously without atmosphere. We wished we had stopped at an earlier pub that had cosy corners to sit in while drinking a night-cap.

Washing and Writing

We got home on Wednesday. It’s now Saturday. The washing machine is still going. I think we can see the end of the washing mountain now though (thankfully). It’s just a case of getting it all dry, folding it, and putting it away – which we know won’t happen, don’t we. A family home isn’t homely unless there are piles of clean washing stacked everywhere.

I’m listening to Spotify while writing this. We signed up for a family account while we were away – so the kids could listen to music in the car without chewing through data. I need to remember to cancel it soon.

I posted some writing on Medium last night – a few thoughts about the ridiculousness of the whole “productivity” charade. I’m trying really hard to write about “me”, rather than “you”, because “you” looks far too much like mansplaining. I’m not quite sure what happened in my head, but in recent months mansplaining has become a massive trigger for me – as soon as I see it, I have to resist the temptation to reply to the author “thank you for mansplaining that to me”.

It’s not just men that mansplain – my middle daughter is a master at it – mostly because she is as literal as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. On more than one occasion she has laughed (very late) at a joke, turned to us all, and started with “that’s funny because…”

Did I mention that I’m on a diet? Our middle daughter needs to lose weight, and we could all do with losing a few pounds, so thought “why not”. There is now a ban on snacks around the house. I guess this is three years of sedentary pandemic behaviours catching up with us. The end goal – for my daughter – is to pass the army fitness test. Yes, you heard that right – she’s looking at the army as a possible future. I’m not worried about that at all.

The Journey Home

We left my parents house in Cornwall mid-morning. The final hour was a huge game of backwards Jenga, where our belongings (and various acquisitions) were re-assembled into the car.

Seven hours later (after a wander into a nearby fishing village, and a rest-stop mid-afternoon, we arrived home. Our car doesn’t seem particularly happy with us – dropping in power somewhat spectacularly during the final 20 kilometres, but it did well for the previous 360.

This evening has been all about unpacking things, setting fire to the washing machine, and wrestling the house back towards normality.

During the journey home I pulled the trigger on a new laptop for myself. A Chromebook from Amazon. It arrives tomorrow. If you’re wondering why, you might not know that I’ve been soldiering on with a rather decrepit, ancient laptop that was once bought for one of my children. It dies within minutes when not connected to a power source, and isn’t worth repairing because cost would outweigh it’s worth.

This evening I also resurrected my account at Medium. While away I reminded myself how much I enjoy writing. Sure, I might not always have a lot to say, but Medium will give me a platform for the longer-form idiocy that I wouldn’t dare post to this journal. I hope that makes at least a little sense.

The task now – or rather once I return to work next week – will be fitting all of this into a chaotic, busy life. I guess we’ll see how that goes.

Final Day at the Coast

After booking a restaurant table last night, we visited Fowey today (pronounced “Foy”) – across the estuary from the small village we visited so often in my youth. We caught the local ferry, and somewhat remarkably found a parking space in the local car-park.

The route into Fowey takes you through winding back-streets – mostly built a century or more before modern motorcars were dreamed of. Watching occasional cars or delivery vehicles navigating through the town is therefore pretty entertaining – with those on foot scattering into doorways along the route.

Most of my memories of Fowey are from 40 years ago now – from childhood visits. Today I made my way through the town, and climbed a hill to the location of an emporium that used to fill us with wonder when young. While the tiled floor remained, the shop had become a gallery, and was closed. In the middle of the town I spotted the 1930s art deco tiled steps of “W H Smiths” – long since replaced by a succession of cafes and clothes shops.

While walking towards the town I was passed by a flustered looking large lady in a very bright dress, who complained to her husband – “come on – let’s go home – they are arriving like rats from all directions”. I smiled.

Lunch was booked at a small restaurant called “Sams” – a bizarre slice of Americana in the middle of a coastal fishing village. It has been chosen by our daughters in one of the endless debates where if they don’t get their way, they ruin everybody else’s life. The restaurant was lovely – but it would have been nice to sit out on the waterfront in Fowey instead of a dark corner of a diner below a poster of Mohammed Ali.

This afternoon I stayed behind while the children went for a final dip in the sea. They returned a few minutes ago. Given that we all ate enough for several days at lunchtime, we’ll be skipping dinner this evening.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it might be time for a coffee. Or a glass of wine. Or maybe one, then the other. Apparently there are plans to visit the penny arcade in Looe later this evening – a last hoorah of sorts (or rather, an opportunity to exchange quite a quantity of money for some unbelievable tat in response for tipping two pence pieces over a series of steps).

Rainy Days and Aquariums

The weather has taken a turn for the worst over the last few days – so we’ve been rattling around my parents house. This afternoon we’re escaping for a few hours to visit the national aquarium in Plymouth. Our younger children visited when they were young – we doubt they will remember much about it. My main memory is of the main tank and coral reef, where sharks and turtles swim above a glass tunnel.

(several hours pass while we corral the children, and set off towards Plymouth in search of said aquarium)

After an hour journey to Plymouth, two laps of a multi-storey car park, and our middle daughter managing to fall down some steps (we re-framed the story as her picking a fight with a car park to make her laugh), we arrived at the National Aquarium, and saw a complete reversal of character in our children. While our middle daughter went into a huge downer about the stairway incident, our eldest – she of multiple anxiety adventures – was living her best life while looking at fish, crabs, sharks, octopi, and whatever else.

It was a very, very good afternoon.

I had hoped to perhaps buy a book about oceanic research, or marine ecology in the shop at the aquarium, but my hopes were dashed. If you were looking for your name on a fake gold necklace, a novelty mug, or a cuddly toy of a shark, you were in luck.

Before heading back we wandered along the waterfront at Plymouth and explored the fortified defences, and the various “historic” locations at the Barbican. In the heart of the harbour there is a set of steps with numerous inscriptions in the pavement detailing the departure of the pilgrim fathers in the 1600s bound for the Americas. As with any “historic” location in England, as soon as you start reading, the story tends to fall to pieces. Nobody is really sure where the original steps were, let alone the layout of the harbour in the early 1600s.

The story reminds me of William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford – which has absolutely no connection with him. Nobody knows where he lived, what the house looked like, or even really if he lived in Stratford. The house they built is in a faked style “of the era” on a plot of land that was available. Tourists like a nice story.

Anyway. We’re heading towards our last day in Cornwall before heading home on Wednesday. The kids have just set out along the lane near my parents house with bowls in hand – in search of blackberries in the nearby bushes. I imagine blackberry and apple crumble might be on the menu tomorrow night.

A Day on the Beach

After a slow day rattling around my parents house, we escaped to the beach yesterday. A day of sun, sea, sand, and ice creams. We guessed that Saturday may be “change-over” day for many families visiting the coast, so might be the best day to visit the beach – and suspect we were proven right. Not only did we find a parking space in a nearby car-park – we also found space on the beach without difficulty to set-up camp for the day.

No sooner had we arrived, I found myself in the sea with my youngest daughter. I’m convinced she has Frost Giant blood in her veins – while she immediately made her way into the surf, I took a few minutes. While larking around we looked up and down the beach, and realised we were among only a handful of people in the water – a select group of cheerful idiots.

The rest of the day was spent eating ice creams, reading books, and people watching on the beach. I find people endlessly fascinating – especially in places where all manner of different backgrounds are brought together. While quietly sitting on the beach a young lad a few yards away stood up, pointing at a seagull attempting to steal food, and shouted (very politely) “Excuse me Mr Seagull – can you GO AWAY!” – it was all I could do not to burst out laughing.

The Journey to the Coast

I started writing this post yesterday, while packing bags ready to travel – and then realised I had nothing to write about that hadn’t happened the day before. That has happened a lot since I started working from home. Today was more interesting – I promise.

After scraping myself out of bed at about 8am, jumping in the shower, and downing a coffee, I ran around the house like a headless chicken – picking up the last few bits and pieces strewn around the house so the lady looking after our cats might not think TOO badly of us in our absence.

By ten in the morning the bags were in the roof box on top of the car, we had asked the kids repeatedly if they had packed wash kit, phone chargers, and whatever else, and we set off. It turns out we should have asked our youngest if she had packed both of her shoes, but we didn’t find that one out until six hours and two hundred and fifty miles later.

The journey to the coast was almost pleasant – or at least as pleasant as spending several hours confined to a car with your family can be. After running out of half-decent radio stations we played eye–spy, stopped for something to eat, and then finally knuckled down to the last two hours into the back of beyond.

My parents live quite some way from anywhere. Which is lovely. And a bit of a nightmare sometimes.

After arriving, making a very English cup of tea, and unpacking most of our bags, we walked off in search of the ocean. The path to the sea falls downhill for about a mile from my parents home – past farms, remote holiday cottages, and endless fields filled with sheep and bordered by bramble bushes.

After perhaps half an hour walking and after drinking a cider from the beach cafe, we stood ankle deep in the ocean for the first time in quite some time. We appeared to have timed it just about right – missing the hordes that would have inhabited the beach earlier in the day.

A little later we began the climb back up the hill, and I accompanied my Dad to the local fish and chip shop – which would normally be fine – except my other half is vegetarian, and two of the kids are gluten free – which immediately removed 95% of the menu for them. I ended up ordering a random assortment of cheesy chips, beans, mushy peas, and a veggie burger. The burger turned out to be a fishcake.

After dinner, the children retreated to their rooms, and fell fast asleep – it’s funny how the sea air does that. I suppose tomorrow might be a somewhat slow start – after which we’ll buy groceries, and start making plans to fill the days ahead.

Fingers crossed the weather is kind to us.