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Life

A Weekend in the Garden

Another weekend is slowly winding down. A weekend filled with gardening, and trips to and from the local rubbish tip. Over the last year, the rubbish tip has been the only place my other half and I have gone together – we have joked about it being a “date” of sorts.

After a sustained assault on the garden throughout the weekend, it has slowly turned into a nice place to be once more. If the weather warms up just a little more we will begin planting vegetables in the kitchen garden. Last year we grew beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes, melons, marrows, carrots, and attempted potatoes in some deep grow-bags. I’m pretty sure this year will be more of the same. I’m tempted to plant some rhubarb – I love rhubarb crumble.

I took some cuttings from the school spider-plant that has lived in the kitchen window for the last year, and potted them in up-cycled coffee tins in the window of the study. They are the first plants ever to make their way into the study – now I just need to remember to water them each day.

In other news I’m drawing battle lines with the grey squirrels our cats are too fat/slow/stupid (delete as appropriate) to combat. We just lost yet another bird feeder this evening after one of the squirrels acrobatically leapt onto it and smashed it on the floor. I’m not sure how many peanuts he managed to stuff in his face before I arrived and chased him the length of the garden. After picking up the pieces of the feeder I discovered one of our cats pretending to be asleep in the kitchen. I imagine the other cat is busy picking bits out of his feet on some fresh bedding somewhere.

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Life

Unused Holiday, Rain, and Fake Followers

It’s been a strange sort of day – and it isn’t over yet.

After a very strange dream that I can’t remember a lot about any more I slid out of bed at about 8am, had a shower, shave, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and wandered into the junk room to begin work. On Tuesday mornings we have an “all hands that can make it” video call – just to say hi to each other – to combat sitting alone at home for hours on end.

I made a comment about perhaps taking a few days off this week (it’s half term), and spending time with my daughters. Within a couple of hours of the call a holiday request had gone in – and by this afternoon had been approved. It kind of makes sense – there are projects afoot at work, and when they begin the chance for time off will vanish – much as it did for the last year, leading to the mountain of untaken holiday still sitting there.

It’s still raining. By my reckoning, apart from a brief bit of sunshine on Saturday morning, it’s rained pretty consistently for the last twenty years. I should really see about building a boat out of what’s left of the shed. I checked the weather forecast earlier – there’s a 60% chance of rain all-day every-day throughout the week.

It’s “pancake day” in the UK today. I’m not sure if the kids have found out yet. If they do, one or other of us will find themselves standing in the kitchen for an hour later, pouring batter into a frying pan, trying to look like we know what we’re doing.

I wonder who invented pancake day? I wonder if it has something to do with an overrun of milk somewhere, and a crafty scheme to get lots of people to use theirs up ?

In other news, a lot of people have started following my blog at WordPress just recently – 99% of them marketers and business owners. They follow, never read, and never comment. I wonder what they think they achieve when they follow blogs? According to the stats, across Tumblr and WordPress I have several thousand followers. In reality, I have about twenty regular readers, and of those, only two or three interact in any meaningful way.

It’s lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I read a post by somebody I know fairly well on Tumblr recently about being dropped and blocked by friends online. I used to really take it to heart when people either unfollowed or blocked me, but have slowly hardened up over the years. I suppose I came to realise that somebody falling off the radar is rarely about those they follow. I miss a lot of people who don’t post any more – more than they know. I sometimes wonder about reaching out, but then talk myself out of doing so just as quickly.

Anyway.

I think I might need to go and find the packet of cheap chocolate biscuits, and put the kettle on. For reasons.

Categories
Life

Saturday

I started writing this post on Thursday, and provisionally titled it “Thursday”. I got no further than writing the title before I was called away. I then re-opened it on Friday evening, and got as far as re-titling it “Friday” before being called away again. Let’s hope the third re-titling leads to more than just the title being written. It’s looking good so far.

It’s been a bit of a day.

Since moving into our house a little under 20 years ago, a walk-in cupboard has existed in the corner of the kitchen that has become the classic Monica junk cupboard (you need to have seen a specific episode of Friends to get the joke). Well today that cupboard no longer exists – where it once stood we now have a neat, tidy larder.

I spent much of the day fixing plaster, re-painting, and putting shelves up – covering an entire wall with shelving. I have some skin missing on a palm, and a pretty good spinter buried in a finger to deal with, but otherwise – just glad to have gotten it done.

I guess the idea is to get rid of much of the food from the kitchen cupboards, and use them for saucepans, and so on. Like most families, we end up with tins and jars of this and that buried at the back of cupboards for months or years – and they end up being thrown away. Hopefully having all the food in sight will stop that happening.

It took our eldest daughter no time at all to realise she can visit the new food store without being spotted walking past the living room doorway.

(ten minutes pass while I fall down a Spotify rabbit-hole, adding a number of playlists to my short-list)

We signed up for a family plan on Spotify this week. Having gone nowhere and done nothing for a year, and in spite of spending more than the price of a car to save the cat’s life, we have somehow managed to put some money back in the bank. A family spotify account was suddenly affordable. I think the kids are just happy that their Echos can now find anything and everything they might ask them to play.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find the cereals (if they have not been hidden in the new food cupboard), and make myself some supper.

I promise to write a less pedestrian post soon.

Categories
Life

An Unexpected Staycation

I have the rest of the week off work!

Because I’ve worked at the same company for years, I’ve pretty much maxed out the holiday allocation – accruing 25 days per calendar year. We have to take Christmas, Easter and so on from the allocation, but still – it amounts to about 4 weeks during the year. On top of that, we are allowed to carry over up to 5 unused days – or up to 10 under extraordinary circumstances.

Long story short – after working on big projects two years running, I arrived at the start of this year with over 30 days in my back pocket.

I’m almost giddy with excitement – it’s still only 9:40am – I’ve tidied the lounge up, cleared the dishes in the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, and put two loads of clothes through the washing machine already.

I have no plans for the week, short of spending time helping our youngest with home-school work when she needs it, and (apparently) recording a work-out for her PE coursework later. I imagine she’s going to turn into the coach from Glee this afternoon, and laugh at my pathetic attempts to follow instruction.

I’m sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by piles of folded laundry. It seems stunning to me that even though we have gone nowhere and done nothing for months, the washing machine is till being run into the ground every day. I’m starting to wonder if the bottom of the laundry basket is entirely mythical.

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Life

Nineteen Years

Almost exactly nineteen years ago, in about half an hour if memory serves, I stood at the business end of a church in Oxfordshire, waiting for the future Mrs Beckett to arrive. Several aunts stood outside waiting for a Rolls Royce to pull up, and didn’t quite know what to tell anybody when it drove straight past. It turned out the driver had just missed the church (it was very small, and my other half talks a lot).

An hour or so later – after forcing us through the rigmarole that Churches do (this was years before I stopped sitting on the fence, and stopped believing in any of it), I turned around and was quite shocked. While you’re facing the vicar, who is invariably quoting chapter and verse and being very solemn and sensible, you tend to forget that most of your family and friends are right behind you.

I’m just trying to think what we have spent the last nineteen years doing since. Before children arrived in our lives we visited quite a few places around the world – France, Tunisia, Corsica, Spain, North America, Turkey. We also visited the various corners of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and various places around England.

A little over fifteen years ago we started thinking about children and didn’t get very far. After a long and tortuous story that I won’t get into in this post, we finally became parents about twelve years ago – going from zero to three children overnight (four if you inclulde me as a child too). Suddenly I found myself living in a house with four women. Somehow I’m still lucid enough to tell the tale.

Twelve years on and the children are almost grown – leaving schools and colleges, getting jobs, and beginning to find their way in the world. I have no doubt their directions will vary, and that we’ll need to continually remind them that it really doesn’t matter where you’re going, how you get there, or when you get there – as long as you’re going somewhere that you’re not too unhappy about.

Has it all been perfect? Of course not. Has it always been fun? Hell no. Do I regret anything? Of course. Would I actually change anything though? No. I tend to believe we are a product of our journey – of the decisions we make, the things we do, the things we don’t do, successes, failures, and so on. Without the journey we have no story to tell – no wisdom to inform what we might do next.

Maybe the secret to putting one foot in front of the other is to not be too unhappy about where the next foot is about to land. Everything else follows.

Categories
Life

Mostly Offline

I was going to to title this post “Working from Home”, but this is my life now – working from home.

I’m glad I still have a job, and I don’t really miss the office environment – but a few things have started to happen that I’m not too happy about. It’s interesting to see how different people deal with the impersonal and disconnected nature of home working – I hadn’t anticipated that some would take advantage of it. I guess we’re all learning and adapting though, so it would be wrong to call anybody out. Lets just say it seems some are adapting more quickly than others.

While doing chores at the weekend I realised I haven’t left the house for a couple of weeks. I get up, work, eat dinner, wash up, play video games or watch TV, and go to bed – again, and again. I have found myself playing chess late in the evenings just recently. I used to play years ago, and the internet has pretty much solved “finding people to play with” – just as it has solved so many other things. It’s not quite the same as sitting across a board from a real person though, and emptying your head while pretending to care about the board game in front of you.

I wonder how many other games are really just excuses to spend time together? I know sometimes I offer to play board games late at night with my other half – purely because we haven’t spent any time together recently. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve lost at Trivial Pursuit against her – and scrabble. She lulls me into a false sense of security – like a cat playing with a mouse – lets me feel quite clever, and then ruins everything with some stupid word that scores more than my total score.

For the last several days disaster has befallen our house – our internet connection has been intermittent at best. This evening it appears to have given up entirely (we were told at the end of last week that engineers would work on it today – I’m not holding out much hope). The children are going out of their mind – deprived of Tiktok and YouTube, they don’t know what to do with themselves. I asked if they might go and read a book, and they looked at me like something they had just trodden in.

If the internet continues to bless us with it’s absence, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to continue working, or how our eldest daughter is going to do her college work (she is going to be working from home a couple of days a week via Google Classrooms).

Anyway. I’m sure there are bigger problems in the world than not having an internet connection. Probably.

Categories
Life

Thursday

It’s nearly 10am, and I’m sitting in the variously titled “study” or “junk room” at home, working. I’m a software developer. My job usually involves sitting in front of a computer all day, trying to turn somebody else’s ideas into reality. Sometimes it’s interesting. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s incredibly annoying. I won’t get into why.

I’m listening to Spotify. I made a retro playlist a few weeks ago – it’s playing now. Debbie Gibson is whining about something or other. The start of the song was quite good, but the louder she gets, the more whiney she gets. I’m moments away from clicking the “next track” button. Ah crap. Tiffany is now singing about being “Alone Now”…

The second coffee of the day is sitting next to me on the desk. There are bubbles of fat floating around the rim of the mug – we accidentally bought full-fat milk the other day, and I’m the only person that will drink it. I hate wasting things.

I quite like working from home, but I really need to start doing something about fitness. I haven’t been running for the last few weeks. It’s too tempting to stay in bed until work starts on a morning – especially given that my commute is essentially the six or seven footsteps from the bathroom to the junk room. I think perhaps home working suits some people better than others – even though I think of myself as a black belt at procrastination, I’m also a bit of a lunatic when faced with long and difficult projects – burying myself in them and confounding expectations all around me.

I am often my own worst enemy, because if you continue hitting things out of the park, people begin to expect it.

I resurrected my old Filofax diary the other day. I’m using it alongside the bullet journal at the moment, which I know is a bit mad. The bullet journal records the things I do each day – the filofax records the things coming up in the future. I somehow have always preferred paper over Google Calendar, Outlook, or whatever else.

My coffee is going cold. I should drink it. Heart are now singing Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. I might have to sit, drink the coffee, and listen.

This post was brought to you by procrastination, and apathy.

Categories
Life

Fourteen Days

I have the next two weeks off work. Ten working days. Fourteen days in all. It all seems a bit giddy at the moment, although I’m mindful of a conversation with my brother-in-law earlier today, who has just had two weeks off – “I looked forward to it for ages, and then before you know it, it’s gone, and you realise you have to go back to work in the morning”.

I’m going running first thing tomorrow. I was supposed to go today, and woke up in time – but then fell asleep, and then the bed seemed warm, and comfy, and… well I just didn’t get up. It’s funny – while laying there, gazing at the ceiling, I quietly became annoyed with myself. I could have been up, out, running, doing chores, clearing the decks, and whatever else – instead I daydreamed, and did nothing – for nearly an hour.

Maybe I should give myself a pass from time to time. It’s incredibly rare that I sit and do nothing. I’m starting to realise that this whole slow-down on the blog can mostly be explained by the world slowing down during lockdown. Suddenly there was no reason to be running here, there and everywhere to get this done, that done, and the other done. Slowing down made me realise that I didn’t HAVE to do all the things I had been doing – and that included emptying my head into the blog each day.

Of course I substituted blogging for something else. Something tremendously useless in the grand scheme of things – I learned to fly a Boeing 737, and an Airbus A320 in a study-level simulator. If I’m ever sat near the flight deck of a commercial airliner in the future, and a member of the cabin crew runs down the cabin looking panic stricken, I can put my hand up. “Yes, I can fly a pretend one of these – I’ve logged several tens of hours, and not crashed one yet – but there was that time I nearly froze all the pretend passengers to death after forgetting to route warm air into the cabin…”

I can even re-programme the damn route into the flight computer. Yes, I’m THAT guy.

Anyway.

Tomorrow morning I’m getting up bright and early, and going for a run around town. My eldest daughter has indicated she would like to come too. I’m not banking on it. I told her I will knock on the door in the morning, but if she doesn’t emerge in her running kit by 8am, tough luck. Yes, I’ve become THAT Dad too.

Maybe I should blog my way through the fourteen day staycation. It will give me something to do – to distract me – to occupy my mind.

Categories
Life

Ends and Beginnings

I visited the office yesterday – for the first time in four months. A flying visit to empty my desk, and collect a monitor and an office chair. The company I work for is finally following the example set by the likes of Automattic, and doing away with the office entirely – at least for the moment.

The convergence of ubiquitous fast internet connections, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, and the Corona Virus opened everybody’s eyes to the realisation that we were able to carry on operating very much normally while working from home. I imagine the focus of the management naturally turned to the office, and the question  “why do we have an office?”.

I now have a much better chair in the junk room at home.

I imagine in time the company may end up hiring somewhere more suited to meetings – and we will perhaps gather every few months – mostly to remember what we all look like. While in lockdown I have been the instigator of several “Zoom Quizzes” – open to all staff, and their families. The next quiz happens in a couple of weeks time. After we all emerge from lockdown, I imagine the quizzes might turn into group meals – picking local bars or restaurants to catch up with each other.

It seems strange to think I’m not working in an office any more. I’ve been sitting at a desk most weekdays for the last twenty five years. I suppose I still will – just not in an office. There are already murmurings at home about finally decorating the junk room. If I have to sit here all day every day, it would be nice if it was a little more habitable.

I better turn running and cycling into a much more regular thing too – if I’m not cycling to work and back every day, my backside will develop its own gravity.

In other news, my middle daughter has started studying to become an air traffic controller. It’s surprised all of us. Since discovering the entire damn fool escapade while accompanying me on a virtual flight on the simulator, something switched on in the depths of her brain. She has already enrolled on a training course, and is studying books. Before long, I’ll contact London Centre, and be greeted with my daughter’s bossy voice, instructing me to “maintain flight level two hundred”, and to “put the kettle on Dad”.