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Life

The Dying of the Light

After noticing dusk had fallen a few minutes ago I wandered into the garden to get the washing in, and was met by a wall of cold air. While unpegging clothes and folding them into the basket I listened to the birds singing their twilight song, and smiled at the huffing of a hedgehog somewhere in the undergrowth nearby.

There’s something tremendously peaceful about the dying of the light, and the effect it has on the world around us. Darkness seems to fall like a quiet blanket over the world, and everything in it. Well – everything except the teenagers listening to music in their car several streets away.

I imagine older people will be complaining to each other about the music – forgetting they were young once, and also forgetting that the reason they sit in their car is because previous generations have systematically opposed any and all provision for young people in the town.

When I first moved here – twenty years ago – there were plans in place to build a civic centre with a bowling alley, a cinema, a club, and so on. The town planners rejected it – instead allowing a developer to turn the site into luxury apartments that stood empty for years because nobody could afford them. There were also plans to build a sports arena – they too were rejected because house prices of senior members of the council would have been affected.

They say coffee shops are an indicator of wealth arriving in an area. A portent of sorts. There are at least five coffee shops in the centre of town now – all within a single scooter push of each other. A town where you can buy any variety of international coffee bean in a cardboard cup, and yet you can no longer buy a washing up bowl, a mug, or a kettle. It has nothing to do with the internet – it has everything to do with wealth, property owners, extortionate leaseholds, and greed.

I can’t help feeling the town is going the same way as a town I grew up near. When I was young it was a busy, thriving place filled with young families. By the time I left it had become a single road lined with antique shops and restaurants, and an almost entirely aged, retired community.

I wonder what causes people to lose sight of everything and everybody around them? What causes them to focus on their own aspirations above and beyond anything else? Will they ever realise that their wish for “a quiet life” eventually means no young families, no parks, no shops, no social gatherings, and the eventual destruction of the town they once knew and liked?

For what it’s worth, I have the windows open, and I’m playing music. Music that somebody, somewhere will probably be complaining about.

In other news, after dinner this evening I sat with my eldest daughter and watched the movie “Freedom Writers”. I’ve seen it before, and I’m now wondering if some movies systematically take us apart – ripping away a different piece of us each time we watch them. Each viewing becomes more difficult.

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Life

Star Wars Day

May the fourth be with you. Apparently today is “Star Wars Day”. It’s all a bit thtupid really, ithn’t it. Thee what I did there?

Anyway.

What news might I have to impart? Perhaps that I’m back using the bullet journal again. My attempt to weld myself to mobile productivity apps lasted all of one weekend. It turns out – for me at least – there really is nothing better than a piece of paper and a pen. Of course the productivity ninjas will probably start wittering on about there being bullet journals and bullet journals, and will reference their own expertly photographed double page spreads of yoga mornings, boutique lunch appointments, and zen afternoon wellbeing meetups.

Idiots.

My bullet journal is an embarrassment to bullet-journal-kind. Each day has a list of things I wanted to get done, and things I did. That’s it. That’s as clever as it gets. Sure, I can’t search it without flipping backwards through it, but it’s not like it takes very long to find a password I shouldn’t have written in it in the first place.

Sure, I could fill the pages with wonderful little doodles that might yearn for a home in a children’s book or a graphic novel, but what’s the point (other than photographing them to become some sort of illustration influencer) ?

I’m not sure if the US version of “The Office” had an equivalent scene to the one where head office turns up, and it turns out the manager has spent all day inventing a new television game show. That’s what comes to mind when I see some people’s bullet journals.

I get it though. Doodling is kind of creative – and if we pooh pooh all creative things, you may as well destroy all books, popular music, and performing arts. Remember the movie “The Invention of Lying” ? Remember the performers reading history text books? That’s what happens if you stop doodling. It probably has something to do with butterflies flapping their wings, and water dribbling across the back of Jeff Goldblum’s hand.

I drank ONE glass of prosecco a few minutes ago, and this post is what happened. Can you imagine what would happen if I drank another glass? Probably not a good idea.

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Life

Pizza and a Movie

I started the week wondering if I would have anything to do – exploring a research and development project, but not having anything concrete to get on with. The entire world seems to be on a go-slow at the moment. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when the world finally wakes from this impenetrable fog. Slowly but surely as the week progressed work appeared. It’s funny how the cogs of the universe work sometimes.

We ordered pizza from a nearby pub that has been delivering during lockdown, and watched a movie tonight. It was a celebration of sorts – the girls came to live with us 13 years ago today. I announced our plans for dinner earlier in the evening, and a cheer rang out throughout the house.

We watched “The Greatest Showman” – the Huge Ackman movie (sorry – Night at the Museum joke). I’ve never been a huge fan of the movie, but will admit to getting sucked into it. I’ve seen it twice now – both times I sat down without really wanting to watch it, and ending up being quite affected.

I’ve been drinking. We ordered a “deal” from the pub – several pizzas, garlic bread, and a bottle of Prosecco. Two glasses – that’s how much it takes these days to make me as giddy as a schoolboy (or a cheap date, depending on how grown up you want your frame of reference).

It’s supposed to snow here all day on Sunday – but before that, we’re getting our twenty ninth year of rain. I imagine we’ll be clearing snow from the escape raft I’ve been planning on building. Seriously though – it rained all day again, and is supposed to rain all day tomorrow too. You would think the weather man would be bored of making all the rain by now.

Anyway. Enough nonsense. I have lots more nothing to be getting on with.

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Life

Sunday Night

It just occurred to me that I should write something on the blog. Somehow I’ve fallen away from writing nearly every day, to writing every few days. Perhaps the promise I made to myself to read books, watch movies, and spend time with my family is working.

I’ve been reading “The Queen’s Gambit” over the last several evenings – I’ve nearly finished it now. It’s every bit as good as the TV series, but perhaps I still have rose tinted glasses – the TV series was incredible. The next book on the heap is Ready Player Two – which seems like a re-tread of Ready Player One. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read it properly – I snuck a little of it at Christmas while sitting quietly in the lounge one night.

We’re still working our way through the box of movies scribbled on raffle tickets. We watched “Eurovision”, and “Bumblebee” last week.

Last night we organised a quiz on Zoom for family and friends. It was fun – a lot of the older family members had never been on a webcam before, so doing tech support for the first half an hour was a bit of a struggle. We got there in the end. As always, the “after party” was probably more fun than the quiz itself – the drinks and snacks came out, and we all got to say hello to people we had not seen for years in some cases.

Anyway.

I have a book to go finish reading. I’ll write again soon!

p.s. the other blog at Medium is doing really well. It’s a bit scary.

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Life

Heat, Humidity and Lightning

I just looked on the weather app built into Windows 10 – because of course I can’t just look out the window. In the interests of accuracy, it’s 11pm and the temperature is still nearly 30C. Humidity is above 50%. Lightning keeps rolling across the sky, but no thunder yet. I have a fan blowing into the room, but all it’s really doing is replicating a fan oven – making sure I cook evenly. I also have an incense burner filling the room with smoke, mostly to try and persuade flies that they will die if they come anywhere near me – the smell is really a secondary requirement.

I’m sitting in the dark, while Spotify plays “my” playlist – the stream of go-to 80s tunes that kind of form the Forrest Gump soundtrack to my life, thoughts, and day-dreams. At the moment Christopher Cross is singing “Sailing”. Elton will follow him in a few minutes – something about Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters.

I’m wondering about staying up all night watching a movie. It’s too hot to sleep. I wonder if I can find the bootleg version of “Almost Famous” anywhere ? Did you know there are at least three versions of that movie? The Bootleg version adds about half an hour to the cinematic version, and then there’s another version – more of a Director’s Cut – that adds another chunk on – turning an already long movie into a wonderful musical marathon through some of the best songs ever to grace a movie soundtrack.

I think the incense has burned out – how long until the flies start arriving?

It’s been over a week since I last went for a run. It’s just been too damn hot. They said something on the news earlier that it’s the hottest run of consecutive days since records began – and doesn’t look like getting any better for at least a week. I had been entertaining thoughts of running at 6am, but woke this morning before that and it was already 30C, with clear blue skies and no wind. Madness.

I’m still losing weight though – mostly through not eating junk. That being said, I just made myself marmite on toast for supper. The choice might have had something to do with there being nothing else that was easy and fast to make. I need to buy some more cereals in the morning.

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Life

It’s a Serious Business

Somehow it’s already the first of August. How the hell did that happen? You know how you’re about to step in a huge dog turd, and you notice at the last moment, and do an enormous step? It feels like the world did that between February and August.

For the first few months of lock-down, we saved SO much money – thousands – and then of course the cat got sick, and wiped out his own insurance, and all of our savings. I guess I can look back at the last few months and realise that I’m lighter and fitter than I was – although I haven’t run for the last few days. I really need to get out tomorrow morning for a run.

Today I seem to have the beginnings of a cold. I’m crossing my fingers that it isn’t. I’m wondering if it’s down to a friend visiting unannounced yesterday afternoon. Our entire house has been in lock-down since February, with only two small groups of friends, and my in-laws visiting throughout (and even then, they were all outside). Yesterday a friend visited, and sat in the lounge with the rest of the family, completely ignoring any sort of social distancing. I made myself immediately scarce, because I didn’t want to have the awkward “um, what they hell?” conversation.

Lots of hot tea, and an early night ahead for me.

In other news, we started watching “The Umbrella Academy” the other night – and even after one episode, I began thinking “here we go – another comic book story where the world is supposed to end, except they’ll save it just in time, and fight with each other along the way”. There’s a part of me that longs for a Star Trek episode where they crew meet something in the first five minutes of the episode that completely and utterly wipes them out, and the series ends, right there. The galactic version of the Spanish encountering the Mayans. That’s a bit dark, isn’t it.

I ended up re-watching the first few episodes of “Halt and Catch Fire” late last night – to remind myself just how good it was. I might have to go back and watch Mr Robot too – although once the suspense and misdirection has gone, a lot of it’s draw will be removed.

I’m still bitter that “The OA” got cancelled.

Over the past few weeks – while not blogging – I’ve carried on with the flight simulation idiocy. I’m a pretty proficient pretend Boeing and Airbus pilot now. I have no doubt these skills will come into play one day while travelling with work, as a gorgeous, panic stricken air hostess runs down the aircraft and asks “DOES ANYBODY KNOW HOW TO FLY A COMMERCIAL JET?”. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it while shaking like a leaf, with pee in my shoes though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more tea to drink. It’s a serious business, this tea drinking lark.

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Life

Has it really been a week ?

Has it really been a week since the last blog post? You would think the absence of pretty much anything from me over the last few days would mean an impending avalanche of thoughts, ideas, stories, and idiocy. The truth? I’m coming up blank.

I’m back working full-time now, although still working from home. I’m just taking a bit of a break to write this. It’s funny – as my world slowly returns to normal, I’m starting to realise how much we used to cram into each day – before the whole lockdown thing started. Every day was a sprint, filled with chaos and mayhem. I’m not sure I want to go back to that world now.

I finally got around to booking some holiday yesterday. Although I have been incredibly fortunate to carry on working throughout the pandemic, I looked at the calendar and realised I had only taken a few days off since the start of the year. Even though we’re not going anywhere or doing anything, it will be good to spend some time at home with the kids – to go on walks together, and maybe even start running again.

My foot is slowly healing. If you haven’t read previous posts, I managed to break a toe on my left foot a few weeks ago. There really isn’t anything you can do for broken toes, other than tape them up, and be careful. I’m now into the third week of it healing, and can walk on it without too much pain. I think another couple of weeks and I can try running on it.

I’m still losing weight. I know! I’m as surprised as anybody else. I suppose the main motivation is how annoyed I will be if I gain any weight. For the last month I have dropped one or two pounds every week – purely by not eating snacks between meals, and making sure meals are not ridiculous. According to the NHS body mass index calculator online (which I just looked at), I’m at the high end of the healthy weight range – I need to lose about another 14 pounds. Hopefully by the time my vacation starts, I’ll be getting close to that.

I drank a glass of wine the night before last – the first in several months. Oh my word – it went straight to my head. I actually wondered after drinking it if it’s really worth it – alcohol. There were things I wanted to get on with (I drank it with dinner), and was conscious it was affecting me.

I’m still playing with the aircraft simulator. I did a flight last night with my Dad and his group of friends – taking off from the mountains of Switzerland, and landing at London City airport. It was fun. I still need to study air traffic control procedures (hence the annoyance about wine having an effect), but I’m getting there slowly. My other half thinks the entire escapade is entirely pointless, and feigns a comical level of indifference if I ever mention anything to do with it. She’s probably right, but it keeps me out of mischief.

Oh – just remembered – the Eurovision movie.

We finally got around to watching the Eurovision movie earlier in the week – a day after everybody else went mad about it. We absolutely loved everything about it. I don’t want to go on and on about it, because you can go watch it yourself if you haven’t already – I will submit that I’ve been listening to the soundtrack album on Spotify all week though 🙂

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Life

Out of the Loop

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you find me holed up in the junk room at home, forcing myself to empty my head into the keyboard. The broken toe is slowly healing – doing as little as possible throughout the last week has helped a lot. Fingers crossed, I’ll be back running again by mid August.

It’s incredibly frustrating – my fitness was at about the 5K mark when the accident happened. I imagine it will take a few weeks to get any sort of stamina back after doing nothing for so long. I have started to wonder about doing some upper body workouts in the meantime. It’s all about actually *doing* it though, isn’t it.

Did I write about losing weight? Throughout the lockdown I have cut out snacks and alcohol. To begin with it was to support my eldest daughter who is trying to lose weight, but then the cat ended up in hospital, and now we don’t have enough money for snacks or alcohol – so that kind of solved itself. In the space of a month, I have lost a stone (14 pounds). If I carry on at the current trajectory, by the time I start running again, I’ll be about the same weight I was 20 years ago.

Anyway. I titled this post “Out of the Loop”, because it describes the way I feel at the moment pretty accurately. It feels like I’m slowly falling away from everything I have clung on to for the last however many years. Last week I removed the vast majority of those I had connected with through Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook over the years. I guess the noise just got too much.

I really don’t like the polarisation that’s going on at the moment. Too many people seem to be standing on soapboxes and declaring that if you’re not with them, you’re against them. The easiest way to deal with it is of course to silence it – which you can do with the click of a mouse – and I have.

My email in-box has never been so quiet. I like it.

This evening I’m hoping to sit down with my family and watch the Eurovision movie on Netflix. I watched a clip from it earlier, and became unexpectedly emotional. Oh – completely forgot – I watched a wonderful movie earlier in the week, starring Morgan Freeman as a retired writer living for the summer in a friend’s house, and begrudgingly befriending the family next door. I love quiet movies about ordinary people. It’s called “Once More” – look it up.

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Life

Life Support

It’s nearly a week since my last blog post. In terms of “falling off the blogging horse”, this isn’t so much “fallen off the horse”, as “let the horse free, and haven’t really thought about it since”. I guess you could say the blog is on life support.

Talking of life support, our cat is doing much better. After a couple of weeks locked in the house after two rounds of surgery – wiping out our bank balance in the process – he has had the “cone of shame” removed, and is allowed out in the garden once again. He wasted no time in establishing authority – bullying neighbourhood cats out of the garden one after another. Unfortunately he looks rather comical while doing so – with his back end shaved, he looks kind of like a poor excuse for a miniature lion.

Work continues on. I’m back working full time – although still working from home. For the last few days I have been running training sessions online – helping somebody build a proof-of-concept for something.

When not washing up, washing clothes, or hobbling around the house (my broken toe is getting better – but still hurts like hell), I have carried on playing with the flight simulator. My Dad chipped in to help me buy a new plane for it – knowing we are very very broke at the moment – so now I am busy learning to operate an Airbus A321 – the same kind of plane I have flown on to Germany so many times in the past.

I’ve taken part in several group “flights” now too – organised for the group to fly various simulated aircraft from and to different destinations – on Tuesday night my 16 year old daughter acted as co-pilot while we flew a Boeing 737 from Paraguay to Brazil. Her short term memory is much better than mine, which helps a lot with carrying out air traffic control instructions. For the first time so far, the entire flight went like clockwork – from “cold and dark” at the departure airport, through to power-down at the destination.

She hasn’t seen the Airbus yet.

I watched the horror movie “The Conjuring” with my eldest daughter last night – a supposedly true story about a haunted house in 1970s America. Apparently it’s the first of a series of movies about hauntings. Now I want to watch the rest (but not too late – I’ll never sleep).

Oh. More developments today. The car packed up (broken brake caliper), and my daughter’s car needed a battery replacement. Several hundred further into the red. We’re deep into credit card territory now for the first time ever.