Tuning Out

I opened the word processor at 8:35 this morning, with every intention of writing a blog post before work started. One thing after another cropped up throughout the day to make sure no writing of any sort happened. Before I knew it, I was up to my ears in source code, meetings, and an endless stream of email.

I really need to take a step back. To slow down.

A good friend messaged me yesterday – that had not heard anything from me for some months – asking if we were still good – if they had done something wrong. I felt awful. While I’m busy tinkering with this and that, I often become consumed with whatever I’m doing, and submerge myself into it – often at the exclusion of anything and everything else. You must have noticed the blog posts becoming less frequent, right? Same reason.

Like I said – I need to take a step back. I need to reach out to those I know, and those I care about – and reassure them that they’re not forgotten – that we’re good – that I just got… distracted. For months.

An old work colleague emailed me yesterday, and sent some scanned photos of a party that happened many years ago – of myself and the girl I used to share an office with. I had forgotten how striking she was. It’s funny – when you know somebody well, you stop seeing them as others do – you see straight past how pretty they might be, and see the person that makes you smile – the person that’s shared worries with you – that you’ve partnered with on so many escapades.

There is a point to this interlude, honest.

The girl in the photos used to roll her eyes at my submergent behaviour (is that a real word?) – and often commented that I disappeared in plain sight when something interested me. I could shut off everybody in a noisy room and focus on whatever I was doing – it drove some people nuts. I always likened it to having music on in the background – when you’re concentrating you just kind of tune it out. I tune the world out.

Anyway.

Perhaps I need to start tuning the world back in from time to time.

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I never thought of that before

It’s been a strange few days.

My other half finished working at a local infant school on Friday. The end of nearly twelve years as “the lady in the office” – and apparently a huge figure in the childhood of hundreds of small children along the way. We’ve kind of gotten used to not being able to walk through town without somebody saying hello. She came home with armfuls of flowers, bottles of fizzy wine, and cards from staff, parents, and children.

Later in the evening she went out for a meal with the school staff, and I wandered along towards the end of the evening – not quite knowing what I might be walking into. I’m not quite sure how teachers do it, but they have a way about them – particularly infant school teachers. There’s a calmness. A kindness. It’s hard to put your finger on. They are without exception quite wonderful people, and I’m going to miss them tremendously – even though I only knew a few of them.

Promises were of course made at the end of the evening – to keep in touch – and to meet as friends rather than colleagues. It’s funny how that works. My other half did wonderfully well until the headteacher said goodnight – then suddenly the tears arrived – for both of them.

The new job starts on Monday, and no doubt dinner times over the weeks ahead will be filled with stories of new characters, new situations, and new challenges. We’re kind of looking forward to it – albeit somewhat apprehensively.

Today we’ve been pottering around the house – or at least we were until some good friend invited us to the pub for a drink. I often remark how lucky we are to have such good friends – and they now joke with me for saying it. Today in the middle of a pub garden on perhaps the last warm afternoon of the year they all sang out in unison “we love you Mr Beckett” (apparently I had told them I loved them all after the birthday party last week). I think they love how much of a colossal nerd I am, really – and that I seemed oblivious to the fact that I was at the pub with five women.

I’ve always found other people interesting. I could listen to other people’s stories all day (and all night, it often turns out – I’ve somehow become the person people talk to during struggles). I always remember standing on a railway platform with my eldest daughter in London when she was young, and pointing at the sea of people on the opposite platform…

“Look at each of those people. They all have their own hopes, dreams, and worries. They’re all perhaps looking forward to where they are going, or missing somebody, or have parents somewhere worrying about them, or children they’re looking forward to seeing”.

She looked at the sea of faces, and held my hand.

“I never thought of that before.”

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.

With a little help from my friends

We went out last night – to help a good friend celebrate her birthday. We met at her house, summoned a taxi, and had the best night out in quite some time. A lovely meal, a few drinks, and lots of stories, laughter and smiles along the way.

I’m SO tired today. Miraculously I didn’t have a hangover this morning.

You know the funny thing? The whole “night out” part of it was kind of superfluous. I would have been just as happy to have gone for a walk or sat on a park bench with my friends and caught up with each other. The rest – the meal, the drinks and so on – that’s all driven by convention.

All you really need is to be together with those you love.

Love is such a divisive word – but only because people make it so. I love my friend’s smiles, their laughter, their stories, and the experiences we have shared over the years. I love spending time with them, helping shoulder their stresses, and just “being there”.

I remember reading many years ago that you can tell a true friend because you can sit together without making conversation. It’s the piglet thing again, isn’t it.

It’s odd though. I’m a pretty solitary person too. I sometimes struggle to step outside the door – to get over myself. I do though, and I’m always thankful afterwards.

A minute here, a minute there

I continue to struggle finding time to write. A window of opportunity opened at lunchtime, but before I knew it one thing after another conspired to slam it shut.

I’m not sure I have much to write about.

I was programming all day again. Working on a project that will hopefully see daylight in the new year. I missed lunch again. I really need to start taking lunch breaks and going for a walk. Either that, or going for a walk either before, or after work.

When I worked in Germany I would go for breakfast as soon as the hotel restaurant opened in the morning, and then head into the city for a walk – watching the bakeries, cafes and newspaper shops opening for the day ahead. I would pass endless runners alongside the river – stomping out a rhythm as they passed me.

Perhaps I need to do something like that – breakfast in town. I wonder how much it might cost? Maybe not every day – but once a week?

We all know I’m going to wake up, look at the clock, and disappear back under the bedcovers, don’t we.

A Piglet Moment

There’s a moment in the book “The House at Pooh Corner” that has always stayed with me:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

I had one of those moments last night, and messaged a friend I’ve not spoken to for quite some time. This is where those that know me will start to shake their head, and smile at the contrariness of it all. I could swear the universe was up to something.

For the last several days – in the quietest moments – it was almost like a whisper on the wind. A calling to reach out. I don’t understand it, and don’t particularly want to pick it to pieces too much. Sometimes it doesn’t do to reach behind the curtain – sometimes it’s better to just admire the magic.

Anyway. That was all really.

We all have our Piglet moments sometimes.

After getting up this morning I wandered into the kitchen and was immediately confronted with a bargain of sorts. If I went to the corner shop to buy milk, my middle daughter would make me coffee and a bacon sandwich. While walking to the shop, I smiled to myself – realising that these are the stories I should write down – the stories I should remember.

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.

The End of an Era

Queen Elizabeth II was buried today. It seems fitting that I write something to mark the day. I’m not a royalist, and never have been, but I appreciate a life well lived, and a life that must have been constrained by endless rules, expectations, and obligations. A life in service. A life not chosen. I’m not sure I could have done it.

I’ve been watching the coverage throughout the day – of the procession through London, the church service, the journey to Windsor, and finally the service in the chapel.

While watching the various high ranked clergy carrying out the procedures handed down to them over hundreds of years, I remembered a moment recreated in the “The Crown” TV series, concerning the televising of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It was the first time any sort of coronation had been televised, and the church was dead against it. In their own words “it would remove the magic”.

At the end of the day, the monarch in a hereditary monarchy is a normal person. The leaders of the church – even back then – knew that all of the pageantry and exhibitionism on show is an act. None of it is real. They were petrified that pulling back the curtain would expose them.

You know the funny thing? Nobody cares. Nobody still cares. People believe that they want to believe, no matter how ludicrous it becomes in the face of the best level of education the world has ever seen.

I do sometimes wonder though – how much longer until people start to open their eyes? Perhaps they don’t want to, and that’s why they don’t.

It’s a bit like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. People know they are made-up, but they continue to go along with the act. I wonder if monarchy and religion are following the same path.

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.