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.

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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).

Challenges, Westworld, and Spaghetti Bolognese

Today has been a difficult day. A work project suffered a setback, and while nobody in particular did anything “wrong”, you can’t help wondering if there was something you could have done that might have resulted in a different outcome. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I don’t typically write about work, so I’ll leave it there.

In other news, I started watching season 4 of “Westworld” last night. Somehow it’s production completely passed me by. I’m two episodes in, and wow. Just wow. One of the most intricate, clever plots I have seen in a TV show – it keeps the cogs turning throughout.

I’m writing this during a quick break from work – I didn’t really stop at lunchtime.

I’m making spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight. Before that can happen I have to ask the kids to fold the clothes that are stacked across the dining room table. I wonder how much encouragement will be required to make that happen?

Anyway. Better get on.

Bank Holiday Monday

The final day of my staycation started at 7am when I heard Miss 17 leave the house to go feed a neighbours cats (they are on holiday). She returned ten minutes later after not being able to get in the front door – so guess who extracted himself from his sleeping bag (yes, I’m still on the sofa while my other half self-isolates) and accompanied her back to the house is question.

At least it’s sunny outside.

There’s an old saying – “a change is as good as a break” – that’s been the story of my week. Rather than working each day I’ve been washing clothes, cooking, grocery shopping, washing up, tidying up, and so on. Granted, I do most of those things anyway, but it kept me busy at least.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to cook today. Perhaps a curry? At least curry is relatively straightforward. I’ll wander into town in a bit and get some quorn or something. My other half is vegetarian, and two of the kids are coeliac – so it’s easier to make one thing that everybody can eat, rather than a collection of different meals.

(a couple of hours pass)

I bought quorn pieces, and a ready-made curry sauce. Lazy, I know. We already have courgettes, onions, and peppers in the fridge, so I’ll bulk out a vegetable curry with that later. At least I don’t need to think about what to cook now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go jump down the deepest internet rabbit hole I can find – because that’s how we’re supposed to spend our last day “off work”, isn’t it ?

Leftovers for Lunch

Of course I’m really here to make life easier for my Mum. Dad has slept a lot each day so far – no doubt the result of the cocktail of drugs he is on. He’s getting better each day though – little by little. This evening we are ordering food in for the first time this week – essentially me letting my parents off the hook before I cook again tomorrow.

For lunch I re-heated the leftover bolognese from earlier in the week. I think pasta meals always taste better the next day – the sauce thickens up and becomes proper comfort food.

It’s very strange – being out of the loop with the rest of my life going on several hundred miles away. Even though I’ve worked from home – via the internet – for the last couple of years, I have still been in a busy household with my daughters coming and going, or heading into town running errands most days. My parents live a much more secluded life – away from nearby towns, and rarely visiting them. I’m not sure I could ever get used to it.

Earlier today I looked in on my work email account to make sure I’m not needed for anything too urgent. Later this afternoon I’m joining an online meeting with my daughter’s college teacher to find out how well she’s doing. It feels like reaching out to normality.

Drinking Tea and Cooking Bolognese

Tonight I made a vegetable version of bolognese and must have done something right because everybody clean-plated. We had enough left over for a couple of lunches in the week – mostly because I’m used to cooking for a family of five. I think somehow I’ll be helping re-write the grocery delivery order tomorrow morning – adding fruit, green vegetables, and juice.

It’s been an interesting stay so far. The biggest struggle has been to stop my Mum helping. I’m here so she gets a rest – but trying to stop her is… challenging. I get it. I will probably always be the same with my children. Somehow I managed to keep her out of the kitchen long enough this evening to get the meal cooked before she could offer any input. I wonder if I’ll be able to achieve the same tomorrow?

We’re having beef chilli tomorrow night.

My Dad is on the slow road to recovery. He’s not allowed to do too much and is on a cocktail of tablets, but is doing well. I’ll let him have a cheat night or two in terms of food later in the week – for the moment I just want to get some half-decent food into him.

We’re drinking cups of tea at a frightening rate. I don’t think I’ve boiled the kettle so many times in a single day ever before.

Anyway.

That’s all I really have to share. I’m taking each day as it comes, and seeing what the next day brings. That’s all I really can do. Feel free to message me (details are in the about page) – I’m here all week!

Boxing Day Morning

It’s the morning after the day before. A very different Christmas than those that have come before – certainly when compared against the last decade at least. The children are no longer children.

The entire day was mercifully relaxed, and unfolded more or less as expected. There were no complaints about moving the opening of presents to later in the day to coincide with the arrival of extended family, and the walk to the pub for lunch was made in good spirits despite the rain.

We have gone out to eat on Christmas Day for the last several years. We did the math some time ago, and figured that the cost comes out remarkably close when you add together the various food and drink you might buy to feed a house full of people for the day. When you also factor in the hours you save preparing vegetables, cooking, and washing up, it becomes a no-brainer.

This year we visited the pub where our middle daughter works. The meal was wonderful, the serving staff were friendly and attentive, and we all ate too much. We can count the times we have been out for a meal on one hand in perhaps the last three years, so it was a rare treat.

Of course we all did COVID tests yesterday morning, and will test again today, and tomorrow. It’s become a way of life. We had all had both vaccine injections and the booster shot. We only came into close contact with our server throughout. I wonder how we will look back on these times in years to come?

The clock has just ticked past 10:30am, and only myself and Miss 17 are up. She’s watching whatever seventeen year old girls watch on television while wrapped up in a “snoodie”, and I’m holed up in the junk room writing this while listening to the “coffee shop jazz” playlist on Amazon music.

We seemed to get each other small, inexpensive, thoughtful presents this year. I asked my daughters for chocolate, and they fulfilled my wish. A number of books were requested and delivered between each of us. A couple of new board games were unwrapped.

It’s been kind of lovely so far. Given that so many of us spend so much of the time going “flat out” – either working, going to college, writing essays, doing overtime, or helping with community projects, it’s nice to slow down for a change.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Here’s to a quiet, happy, and healthy start to the new year.

Emptying My Head on Saturday Night

I’ve been staring at Evernote for the last several minutes, wondering how to begin this post.

If you’re wondering why I write in Evernote, I should probably do a quick walk through the insanity of where/how I write.

For years I wrote in text editors – in markdown format – and saved the text files in a neat tidy year and month folders on my computer, backed up to the internet. Then a couple of years ago I started using Evernote to write – mostly because it was convenient, and free. For a little while I tried out Notion too – because it was shiny, clever, and new. I decided pretty quickly that it was also a gigantic rabbit hole that surrounded me with far too many distractions. For the last year I tried Google Docs – again, because it was conventient, and free, but there was something I didn’t like about it that slowly pulled at me like the loose thread – the pages. When I write, I don’t want to see pages – I just want to see my stream of writing stretching off down the screen. I know it’s ridiculous. Anyway – I’ve been back with Evernote ever since.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just write into WordPress, or wherever my blog is. Do you even know how many places my blog has lived? Actually – that’s not the reason I write elsewhere. I just don’t like writing in blogging platform interfaces. I would rather write somewhere that’s designed to handle writing, and then copy the words into wherever. It takes seconds.

Anyway. I’m still staring a Evernote, and now I’ve written however many hundred words about nothing at all. Well, nothing about my day.

I went shopping earlier. Shopping for a surprise for my eldest daughter to cheer her up a bit. She’s been struggling a fair bit recently, so I thought it might work as a kick-start of sorts. I came home with chocolate, an “anxiety busting” colouring book, some nice coloured pens, and a book by Matt Haig about his journey with depression. She had her nose in it over dinner, and has vanished off with it this evening. I bought pizzas from the supermarket for dinner.

I’ve read several of Matt Haig’s books. If you’ve not read any of them, do check them out. They’re all available from Amazon, Kobo, and of course brick-and-mortar bookshops. I will admit to becoming a bit of a fan during the pandemic. I think the most popular of his books you might have heard about is “The Midnight Library” – where people are invited to take a different path at an earlier point in their lives to see what happens.

Anyway. It’s getting late. I think perhaps it’s time for a hot chocolate, then read a book in bed for a bit (you know, and fall asleep with the book propped on my chest, as per usual). I’m still reading “Sapiens”, by Yuval Noah Harari – it’s about how we came to be here – our story on the planet. It’s a pretty huge book, but the story is told wonderfully and is full of intresting side stories. Did you know there were originally several different subspecies of “Homo Sapiens” – and that they have slowly merged into one? They’ve figured this out through DNA in recent years, and through analysis of various burial sites. I’m not talking about the neanderthals, or anything like that – they were an entirely different species. They did overlap with the homosapiens though, and there is evidence of their cross-breeding. I find it all fascinating.

I find most things fascinating. I suppose that’s why I regularly end up noodling around on the internet in the early hours – reading random articles and papers about all sorts of things. Last week I watched an hour long math lecture about integration. I have no idea why.

Reorganising my Life

For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with an online swiss-army-knife called “Notion”, that allows you to record notes, compile databases of information, and so on. It has a wonderful interface, and can be transformed to solve most use-cases – a veritable rabbit hole that promises all sorts of productivity games. I started using it for more and more bits and pieces of my life – storing blog blog posts, writing articles, keeping code snippets, and so on.

And then it went down. For almost an entire day. With no updates from the management team. At all.

So yesterday evening I started migrating everything away from Notion. Initially I thought about returning to Evernote – and even tweeted about it – but then faced an uphill battle in terms of importing existing posts without having to laboriously re-format writing for hours. After trying several different workarounds I gave up, and turned my gaze to Google Drive.

Sure, Google Drive has it’s problems – nothing’s perfect – but for most of the things I do, it’s “good enough”. I’ve migrated all my old blog posts across, all of my technical notes, and all of the other bits and pieces that were stored in either Notion or Evernote. Google Drive has become my “one place to rule them all” – for now.

I need to stop playing with shiny new toys on the internet, and just live with the core few things I trust. At the moment that’s all the Google apps – from Mail, to Calendar, Keep, Drive, and Photos. Just recently I’ve been using Google Meet for family video calls – it’s every bit as good as Zoom or Facebook Messenger, and is free.

Earlier today I walked into town with my youngest daughter on a grocery shopping expedition. The first in several weeks. We get most of our food delivered via local farms and produce delivery businesses – but there are certain things you can’t easily get for them – important things – like peanut butter, and chocolate spread.

We’ve been ordering some things in bulk from Amazon “subscribe and save” – and had been thinking about buying instant cappuccino in a huge tin, but after doing the math, it turns out buying small boxes of instant coffee when it’s on offer is cheaper than buying in bulk. I hate it when brands do that kind of counter-intuitive idiocy. They must think people were born yesterday (perhaps some people don’t think when looking at prices).

Anyway. Dinner will be ready in a minute. Time to go set the table.