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Life

Where did the weekend go ?

It’s Friday evening, and the “week off” has vanished. I’m wondering where it went. The last few days are a mental jumble of running, working on the garden, doing chores, and jumping down internet rabbit holes.

In-between the usual mayhem, I have been slowly falling back into the clutches of Medium – writing essays, and publishing them into their partner programme. Choosing subjects that people might be interested in is something of a mystery to me at the moment – a little like throwing spaghetti at the wall to find out what sticks. I wrote a throw-away piece yesterday that gained immediate traction – then spent all morning today writing a well researched long-form piece, published it, and waited for several hours. Nothing. It’s all a bit of a mystery.

I have to keep telling myself that Medium is very different than WordPress. Where blogs are very much about the “here and now”, essays are more about ideas and thoughts – they float around for longer in the content delivery machine, and unexpectedly re-surface months after you’ve written them. An article I wrote in January suddenly earned over a hundred dollars last month. I’m guessing it caught the wave of a trending topic somewhere.

I guess the take-away is that I’m writing again. That’s good, right? I suppose I’m not posting here though, and I’m not “present” on social media though.

Saying that, I finally started playing with “stories” on Instagram this week – the self destroying photos that only live for a little while. I was sitting in McDonalds with my youngest daughter (our first meal out together for 18 months!), waiting for her to finish. I didn’t realise you can have the story photos appear both on your Instagram wall, and on Facebook as a “story”. It’s all tremendously confusing.

Anyway. I should probably be writing something of consequence, rather than emptying my head here. I guess this keeps me sane though. I will be back soon, honest.

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Life

Visitors, French Cafe Playlists, and a Week of Running Ahead

The sun is setting on a busy day. I’m sitting in the junk room, trying to gather my thoughts while sipping a cup of black coffee, and listening to a “Paris Café” playlist on Spotify. I’ve just pulled on a zipped hoodie – combating the after-effects of having caught the sun earlier in the day.

My in-laws visited today. My brother-in-law brought power-tools to help construct a raffia fence along the edge of the garden. My mother-in-law accompanied him to oversee operations, and to watch the tennis at Roland Garros with me (or at least, when I wasn’t cutting the grass, washing up, or washing up some more). We bonded over running injuries today – I showed her the lump on my achilles tendon, and she showed me her ankle – which apparently hurt, but looked fine. Thankfully my rugby playing daughters were not present, or it might have turned into a pop-up meeting of hypochondriacs anonymous.

While writing this, a Frenchman is expertly playing an accordian in quite the most wistful manner you might ever imagine. He has given way to a crooner singing about some disaster of the heart or other – I can’t understand a word of it, so can only imagine the subject of his anguish. Perhaps his girlfriend didn’t share her peanut M&Ms with him? (I would have been distraught too)

Anyway.

I have the week off work. The possibilities of how to spend the coming days are many, but I fear procrastination may defeat almost all of them. It’s not that I’ll waste my time off – I’ll find all manner of interesting things to do – I just won’t get around to many of the things I should perhaps have been doing. It’s interesting how the most mundane rabbit holes become increasingly interesting when faced with doing anything productive instead.

The one thing I will do during the week is run.

As mentioned a few days ago, I’ve re-started the “Couch to 5K” programme – partly to support a good friend, and partly to avoid my backside establishing it’s own gravitational force. I’m hoping that “Park Run” will be back up and running in the autumn – it will give me something to aim for – and something to do each weekend. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a pretty common international movement where parks organise 5K runs for all abilities – usually on a Saturday morning. You register on the park run website, get a barcode, and off you go. You can of course buy all manner of “official” merchandise – such as wristbands or waterbottles – or just print out the barcode and tuck it in your sock. Lots of people do.

I guess the attraction of doing an organised run is both to run in a group – where you get swept along by the crowd – and to have medical people on-site, should anything unfortunate happen – you know, like the town finding out you have no running talent. I’m pretty sure the town know I have no running talent, having seen me trudging the streets over the last few years – that’s not the point of running though.

There’s probably really good research on the huge release of endorphins after running. It’s hard to explain – you often feel like absolute garbage during a longer run – especially if pushing out to a longer distance – but afterwards a huge wave of euphoria sweeps through you. Body chemistry is an amazing thing.

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Life

Friday

The staycation is coming to an end. Friday has arrived, supported by coffee, and bacon sandwiches. I woke a little after 6am, then convinced myself to sleep for another hour. I’m not sure why I’ve been waking up so early recently. At least it gives me time to do this – write a few words – before the rest of the house appears.

Spotify is quietly humming away in the background – filling the room with a supposedly relaxing playlist. It sounds more like angst and longing to me.

Earlier this week I ventured out of the house for the first time in months – escorting my youngest daughter to meet some of her friends in a nearby town. We travelled by bus, wearing masks throughout the journey. Along the way I discovered that none of her circle of friends had correct phone numbers for each other, and none of them knew where they were, other than “on the bus”. They had pre-arranged to meet at the bus station, and more by luck than judgement managed to do just that. I’ve begun to suspect that when together their common sense is far greater than the sum of their individual parts. The best part of the day? When they called each other after getting home, to make sure each other got home in one piece.

After waving goodbye to my daughter I wandered over to a used video game store, and picked up an arm-full of last generation video games. Ten old games for the price of a cinema ticket. I thought my middle daughter might have an accident when she saw the games (she has always been the gamer – her sisters not-so-much).

While on the subject of electronics, I resurrected a laptop yesterday – robbing parts from two old laptops to make one half-decent one. It’s sitting on the desk next to me, with a fresh install of Manjaro Linux installed. When I summon some enthusiasm later, I’ll finish installing it. My youngest daughter walked in while two of the laptops were in pieces across the desk – with circuit boards and screws everywhere. She recoiled in horror – “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Thankfully I’m pretty good at putting things back together.

Late last night I got sucked into watching a few episodes of “Chicago Fire” with my other half. I did a double take when some cast members from “Chicago Med” showed up in an episode – apparently there are several series that cross story-lines on a regular basis – among them PD, Fire, Med, and Justice. One particular story crossed three of the shows in consecutive episodes. I love it when TV shows do things like that.

Anyway.

I think it’s time for another coffee.

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Life

Nowhere Quickly

It’s Sunday afternoon, I’m sitting in the junk room in front of the computer, the chores are done, my other half is out, and Norah Jones is singing about being Alive on the colossal beat box my cousin from California got me for my birthday.

I woke at 6:30am this morning, and stared at the ceiling for an hour before getting up.

I’m sipping an instant cappuccino made from a packet that isn’t half bad, and wondering what to write next. Probably a defence of instant coffee would be a good start. I’m pretty sure there’s a very vocal yet tiny minority who own coffee machines that cost more than a family car that only touch coffee beans from a small corner of Africa.

While on the subject of idiots, I saw a wonderful take-down the other day – where an anti-masker was mansplaining about half a million years of evolution not evolving face masks, therefore we shouldn’t wear them. The first comment asked “do you wear shoes?”

If nothing else, the last year has highlighted both how wonderful people can be, and how horrific too. I keep reading that “the world has changed”. Of course it has – just like it does every day, for everybody.

So. I have a week off work. I’m a little giddy at the prospect at the moment – filling my head with all the things I won’t get done. Apart from cutting the grass. If I don’t get the grass cut, I’m fairly certain we could film another sequel to Jumanji in our back garden. For all I know, one of the Jonas brothers really has been living at the end of the garden for the last however many years.

I stepped back into the “interpals” foray one evening last week. It bills itself as a website for finding pen-pals. I thought it might be a good idea to build a bigger circle of online friends for myself, but quickly remembered why I walked away some time ago – within minutes several men and women had messaged me, inviting me to learn about Bitcoin, and a seemingly lovely chinese lady cut me off at “hello” (having not read my profile) because she was “only looking for husband”. I wondered if she was looking for *a* husband, or *her specific* husband… had she lost him? Had he run away? Was he sneaking around doing bitcoin deals behind her back?

I think maybe the best idea is to just write my words in the blog, and see who finds them. The internet is pretty good at connecting the dots between people all on it’s own if you have a little faith in it (and tag the crap out of everything).

Maybe when we finally climb back out of lockdown, I’ll explain my continued absence by leaving a note on the front door – “I have replaced my circle of real-world friends with bitcoin scam robots – they’re surprisingly good listeners”.

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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

Slowly

I started writing this post a little after 8am this morning, and then a world of chores, distractions, and errands took over. It’s Wednesday – half-way through my second week off. I would say I’m starting to look forwards to going back to work, but of course that’s not happening, because I work from home now. Next monday I’ll be sitting at the same chair, in front of the same desk – just with a different laptop in front of me.

We’re heading out again today – to walk around the same place we walked around last week – a National Trust property a few miles from home. I imagine the fresh air will do us some good. My mother-in-law is coming with us – she’s due to arrive in the next half an hour or so.

I didn’t go running this morning. I haven’t done a lot of things recently. I’m not really sure why. Maybe this is me slowing down (that’s if slowing down discounts washing clothes, dishes, putting things away, tidying up behind people, putting garbage out, and so on, and so on, and so on). I realised yesterday that I haven’t been out on my bike – you know, the shiny new bike I bought just before lockdown – for weeks.

Anyway… time to go. I’ll write more later. Maybe.

Categories
Life

The Loneliness of the Short Distance Runner

I woke the first time with a start at 5am. I know this, because I looked at the clock before falling back asleep. I woke the second time at 8am, remembered I am on holiday, but also remembered about going running. One little voice said “but the bed is so comfy!”, while another little voice said “you’ll get enormously fat”. I’m turning into Gollum.

After scraping myself out of bed, I knocked on my teenage daughters bedroom doors, and enquired if they might be running with me.

Five minutes later, I left the house. Alone.

I didn’t really have a plan, and set off in the general direction of town – listening to my breathing, and not really feeling like running at all, but I was already out, and running, so thought it a bit stupid to stop. I would only have myself to answer to anyway.

While running along one of the suburban roads down by the river, a woman in her fifties (I’m guessing) ran past on the opposite footpath. She was hunched over, and running seemed like an enormous struggle for her, but she was doing it. She reminded me that I really have no excuses.

After looping back through town, I passed several people completely ignoring the one-way signs on the pavements (a very low effort way of safeguarding people from the virus). I’m not quite sure what level of stupidity and/or laziness is needed to ignore social distancing signage.

By the time I got home my other half had already left for work, and none of my daughters had yet surfaced. I busied myself with hanging washing out, filling the washing machine with the first of many loads, and clearing the kitchen and lounge of wreckage from the night before.

I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever know how our house so reliably destroys itself every evening. I’m pretty sure the missing mass in the universe is directly linked to pens people have “borrowed” from me, and unwashed tea spoons.

My eldest daughter surprised me mid-morning with a number of questions about bullet journaling. I’ve been writing in a bullet journal for the last two or three years – keeping a record of the things I do each day. I think she’s finally coming around to the whole “rapid logging” thing – where you DON’T make each page into a ridiculous faux arts and crafts production, and you just write down the things you have done, or the things you want to do.

I pointed her at the Ryder Carroll book on the bookshelf, which she studiously ignored.

Late this afternoon I let my middle daughter attempt to “air traffic control” me in the simulator. With her at one end of the house, and me at the other, she watched a radar screen, and barked instructions to direct me through a number of circuits of an airfield in southern England. I realised we might have a problem after the second time she told me to turn in the opposite direction than she meant. Somehow I don’t think air traffic controllers are ever heard saying “left, no, the other left”, “my bad”, or “you can do if you want”.

Anyway. One day of holiday used up. Very little achieved. Must try harder to do something of consequence tomorrow. Maybe a long walk. We’ll see.

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.