A Mental Health Walk

I walked into town after lunch with two of my daughters – a “mental health walk” – an escape from the walls that have been our prisoner for several weeks. It was good to get out of the house, if only for an hour.

We walked to the big park in town – mostly curious to take a look at the river that burst it’s banks last week. It’s receding now, but that hasn’t stopped the ducks and swans from taking ownership of a huge swathe of the riverbank. I quietly walked up to some of the swans, who showed no fear at all – walking slowly towards me as I approached. My eldest daughter backed away, making worried noises – she had a run in with a swan a few years ago while trying to take a picture of it.

The park was mostly quiet – predictable, given that it was a weekday – but also because it was so cold. After leaving the house snow began falling, and got heavier during the time we were out – beginning to settle on the ground. By the time we got home my face had become numb.

It was good to get out though. The cold weather seemed to remove the idiots that think the Corona Virus doesn’t apply to them. It’s strange how some people are more fearful of the cold than a deadly pandemic.

I found myself in an online debate of sorts with a particular kind of idiot last night, and something occurred to me. The people that complain about political bias, unfair reporting, and support conspiracy theories tend to do so because they have actively chosen to narrow the opinions they take notice of to those they agree with. It’s helped along by the very same algorithmic timeline they also complain about – because they fear missing out on anything. Figure that out – they fear missing out on the very same stories they don’t want to see.


It’s getting late, and I have a meeting first thing tomorrow. I need to sleep.


Shrines and Scarecrows

I took the kids out for a walk today – over the hill to a nearby village, and on through the surrounding woods to a Buddhist shrine I heard about from a friend a few days ago. Of course now I’m curious about the back-story of the shrine – who built it, when, and why.

The village we walked through along the way had been rather inventive in creating an activity for the local children instead of traditional halloween customs – with many houses throughout our route assembling scarecrows in their front gardens. I lost count of how many effigies of Donald Trump we saw. We also saw Ana and Elsa, Spiderman, Iron Man, Yoda, the Cat in the Hat, and countless witches.

After leaving the village behind we found ourselves on leaf carpeted farm tracks and footpaths, and climbed out towards a surrounding wall of woods. My daughters became increasingly worried about the sound of the wind through the trees – it’s no wonder people believed in “the spirits of the forest” in times past.

Finally, after navigating a dense copse of trees, we spotted the flags of the storied Buddhist shrine in the distance, and picked our way towards it. We celebrated by sitting on a nearby bench and eating packed lunches that I had carried with me. I also retrieved a flask of tea, and we took turns – sharing the cup. Hot tea after a long walk harbours magical restorative powers.

My eldest daughter retrieved several pennies from her pockets, and deposited them in small doorways around the shrine. She had no idea why she might be expected to do it, but she had found coins left by others, and thought it the right thing to do. I smiled, and reminded them of the elves in the movie “Eurovision”.

After a very one sided debate about the best route home, we walked back the way we had come, and returned home – back past the scarecrows, and bumping into a friend en-route. We arrived home about four hours after leaving – with a few aches and pains, but mostly with smiles and new stories to tell.

This evening I cooked dinner for everybody – a traditional roast dinner with chicken, roast potatoes, sweetcorn, carrots, and gravy. Everybody clean-plated. There’s something about fresh air, cooked dinner, and a quiet Sunday evening – all seems well with the world if only for a few hours.


I’m Coming Too

I meant to write something late last night. I got as far as writing “it’s half past midnight”, but somehow didn’t get any further.

My mental batteries are drained. I’ve been working on software development projects for the last week. It’s not easy to switch off – you turn over problems in the back of your mind late at night – or at least I do.

I need to get out of the house tomorrow – perhaps an early morning run. Anything really.

The world around us is slowly locking down again – caused by the legions of idiots that surround us. My other half forgot to take her lunch to work this morning, so I wandered up to the school via a service station that has a bakery on-site. While standing in the socially distanced queue with my mask on, I noticed the elderly man in front of me was not wearing a mask. There were signs everywhere instructing everybody to wear masks. He took no notice.

The internet connection is still dropping out all the time at home – we have had little or no internet for a week now. I’m relying on my work phone acting as a hot-spot to check email. There is a call open with our internet service provider, but no news so far. The kids are going out of their mind – deprived of YouTube and Tiktok.

Tomorrow may be all about books, cups of tea, and board games. If the weather is nice, perhaps a long walk away from everybody and everything – well, apart from the kids. I’m pretty sure if I announced “I’m going for a walk – I need some space for a bit”, at least two of them would shout “I’m coming too”…


Not Much of Anything

You find me sitting in the dark of the junk room, trying to switch off at the end of the day. I’m listening to a Carly Simon album, and typing into a minimalist online editor. I sometimes find it difficult to switch off – it’s difficult to stop thinking.

It doesn’t help that with a few days of work left until my vacation, I’m buried in thousands of lines of source code for a new project at work. I need to get it to a “good place” before downing tools on Friday – and I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to happen at the moment.

Of course I’m not really going on a vacation – I’m not going anywhere – it’s more a “staycation”. I’ll promise to read books, watch movies, and lots of other things – and I’ll do none of it. I will go running though, and I will go for long walks. Long walks help with the thoughts.

I must remember to take a notebook on the long walks. I often think of things to write about while out on my own, but almost always misplace the idea before reaching a keyboard.

I often solve computer programming problems while in the bathroom. How does that even work ?

In other news, I made it out for another run this morning. I went on my own, and just ran around town – a couple of miles. I’m still worried about the broken toe and don’t want to push it too much. I tell myself that, but in reality I’ve lost quite a bit of fitness while sitting on my arse for the last month. To be honest I’m stunned I can still run any sort of distance.


It’s getting late. Time to go brush my teeth, and sit in bed scrolling rubbish on a tablet instead of reading the book I purposely took upstairs to read.


Lunchtime Thoughts

It’s Monday lunchtime, and you find me sitting in the junk room at home. I’ve been here on weekdays since the middle of March. Nearly four months now. The only places I have visited in town during that time have been the grocery store, and the pharmacy. I’ve been on a few long walks (even with a broken toe), which we have dubbed “mental health walks”.

This weekend we visited a national trust property called “Basildon Park”, and wandered around the grounds of the estate for a few hours. We took a picnic, and met my in-laws there. While walking, we viewed any and all strangers with suspicion.

Work has slowed down ever-so-slightly this week. Owing to shortened working hours, and various co-workers being furloughed, I’ve found my days pretty full. Busy is good though. Busy stops you looking at the world around you too much and being horrified at the ignorance, division, and idiocy going on seemingly everywhere.

I’ve quickly learned that it’s best not to have balanced opinions about anything at the moment – there’s a strong sense from the most vocal on social media platforms that if you’re not with them, you are against them – there is no middle ground. Facts, opinions, truth, and lies have been stirred into a toxic stew that is fashioned into whatever narrative people wish to subscribe to or promote. It doesn’t help that “defence of self” is such a strong instinct in the wilfully ignorant.


I’m listening to the “Mellow Morning” playlist on Spotify, complete with adverts every few minutes. Music has been one of the huge benefits of working from home – filling the room with an endless stream of songs and stories. I tent to pick playlists completely at random – and rarely know the names of any of the bands, artists, or tracks. If one of the kids were to walk in and ask after a track (which they will not, because it’s Dad music), I typically wouldn’t be able to tell them.

Time for another coffee perhaps.

p.s. I cut all my hair off again.


Saturday Morning

Yesterday evening I posted something vaguely political on Facebook, and almost immediately regretted it – not because of the subject matter of my post – because of the mob mentality of many of those that responded.

Why do so many people only see the world from their perspective? Why do so few people consider the bigger picture? It almost seemed that many had been bottling up personal frustrations about anything and everything, and had been looking for an opportunity to vent bile.

Although I managed to halt most of the idiocy, and open a few people’s eyes, I can safely say that I never want to become a politician. Imagine what it must be like – where you balance the advice of expert analysis to make life changing decisions, and no matter what you do, a proportion of those effected will suddenly become much more qualified than the career scientists, economists, biologists, or whoever else about whatever decision you have made.


It’s Saturday morning. I’m holed up in the study, tapping away on the keyboard of the twenty year old iMac, writing this into a text editor most people have not seen for a decade. After saving the words I will copy them over to a file share on the Raspberry Pi, and then check them into a Git repository on the internet. From there I will be able to grab them on the PC across the room, and pollute the world wide web with them.

It sounds insane, but it stops me from becoming distracted mid-sentence, opening a browser tab, and jumping down some rabbit hole or other. I know I’m my own worst enemy.

Yesterday I got out of the house for a few hours with our youngest daughter, and went for a walk in the sunshine (read: baking furnace in the sky). We walked over a nearby hill that looks out over town, and then out along the river and back – about twelve kilometres or so. Along the way we saw geese, cows, and all manner of idiotic people disregarding social distancing rules. There seems to be a link with money and idiocy – the 1% that own the river-side houses seemed to be taking no notice at all of any of the guidance – with friends visiting, children playing in huge groups – you end up having to compartmentalise them in your head, and try to take no notice.

I find myself compartmentalising a lot recently.

Today is a quiet day. The washing machine is running, the sun is shining, my middle daughter is continuing to paint miniature soldiers, and I’m hoping to watch the SpaceX launch later. In a little while I’ll call my parents to see how they are doing, and then the day is my own. I’m thinking a video game, or a book.

We all know I’ll just end up down an internet rabbit hole, don’t we.


Pretending to Fly

I’m not sure that I have written so little for quite some time. Perhaps years. I haven’t so much fallen off the blogging horse, as taken the wheels off the wagon, and re-purposed the chassis for some other purpose (firewood springs to mind).

There are all sorts of thoughts swimming around my head about the future. Is this the end of my writing a daily journal? Perhaps. Is it a reflection on life slowing down, and realising that some things might be more important than telling a daily story where nothing much happens? Probably. Perhaps I’m finally realising that I don’t have to be out here, scribbling incessant posts every day – recording anything and everything. Perhaps a little now and again is enough.

In other news, I have more evidence that I’m living in a TV show.

I went for a walk with my daughter this morning – along the river to a nearby town, across the hills, and home again. We saw very little evidence of other people until we reached a road junction not far from home – a junction where I have always joked about unwittingly starring in my own show. Having not seen any cars for several hours, we approached the junction, and my daughter announced “cue the cars” – and out of nowhere, we coud not cross the road – four cars passed in a train – one behind the other. I burst out laughing, and pointed into the distance in all directions – there were no other cars in sight for perhaps a quarter of a mile in any direction.

If I AM starring in my own TV show, it would explain a LOT of things.

In yet more news, I’ve been playing with pretend aeroplane simulators again. I was talking to my Dad the other day about the fun he has “flying” online with his friends, and it sparked something inside me. Over the weekend I have taught myself how to navigate via GPS (I already knew how to use VORs, NDBs, DME etc), and had all sorts of fun pretending to fly from pretend airport to pretend airport in a light aircraft.

So there you have it. While not writing endless platitudes about very little, I have been pretending to pilot light aircraft, and inventing challenges for myself. When I finally get around to flying with my Dad’s friends, somehow I don’t think they’ll find my radio skills very humorous – “Heathrow Control, would like to order a deep pan pepperoni for pick up – approaching from the south west at 100 knots, ETA 30 minutes. Juliet Bravo 73 Over.”…