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Life

Conjuring Audrey Hepburn

I’m sitting in the study (read: the junk room). Rain is gently falling outside, and I have jazz playing in the background once again. Through the wonders of Spotify and bluetooth, I have discovered how to choose music on the computer, and have it automagically burst from the boombox. I’m sure the neighbours are not happy about this, given the New York jazz band now causing the walls to gently vibrate to a bossa nova rhythm.

I’ve changed my mind about Ally McBeal. I’m expecting Audrey Hepburn to tip her head around the door at any moment, wearing her latest boyfriend’s work shirt, and carrying a black cat under her arm. There’s something about this music – it transports you to a time and a place in your memory.

Anyway.

We just got back from visiting the zero-waste store in town – our kitchen and pantry now look very much like they might fit in at Hogwarts – with glass mason jars filled with all manner of goodies lined up along the shelves and counters.

The store is a genius idea – you arrive with empty containers, weigh them, fill them with whatever you want, weigh them again, and only pay for the weight of whatever you have chosen – no packaging involved. We typically get most of our dry cooking ingredients from them – everything from pasta, to beans, lentils, and all manner of “healthy” snacks. I think my favourite in recent weeks has been dried chilli chick-peas. Or maybe almonds coated in cocoa.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a reading list on WordPress a mile long to catch up with.

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Life

A Day of Two Halves

The first half of the day was spent chaperoning my youngest daughter to a nearby town in pursuit of a meetup with several of her friends. This included waiting at the bus station for an hour while her friends first called to say they were on their way (a lie), and then called to say they would meet her at the railway station.

The original plan had been to meet mid-morning. The revised plan had already skidded to nearly lunchtime. Obviously making it to a bus stop by lunchtime was beyond their capabilities, so they lied, and lied and lied.

Eventually one of their parents dropped them a mile across town. If I hadn’t been there, I have no idea how my daughter might have found her way to them – short of walking the entire route while talking to me on her phone, guiding her at each road junction.

Yes, I’m annoyed.

You can imagine how amused I was (not)  when a story came out about having to go shopping across town because a friend of a friend couldn’t go into the nearest supermarket, because she had been prosecuted for shoplifting there.

Thankfully the central person in this mess isn’t carrying on to college next year – so a natural division will drive them apart. In the meantime we just need to keep our fingers crossed our daughter retains her sense of right and wrong, and doesn’t get coerced into anything untoward.

This afternoon was all about making runs to the dump with rubbish from the garden. While there we bumped into a co-worker, and on the way home posted a photo on social media of our “hot date”.

We know how to live.

While my other half retrieved our daughter late this evening, I walked into town and filled a bag with movie snacks. I imagine most of it will vanish tomorrow. Of course there are no new movies “of note” out, because most of the studios have ground to a halt during the pandemic. I would love to watch “Nomadland”, but it sounds like Disney+ has an exclusive on it in the UK – and I’m not about to sign up to yet another subscription service.

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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

Grease is the Word

It’s heading towards 8pm in the evening, I’m sitting alone in the junk room listening to the Grease soundtrack on Spotify while the light slowly dies outside, and I’m wondering where the day went.

Frankie Valli is singing the title track. I think it might be my favourite on the entire album. When I was young we borrowed the video tape of Grease from my aunt – who was either in her late teens, or early twenties when the movie came out. We watched it for an entire summer, and knew the words to all of the songs – often singing them with other kids in the neighbourhood in the evenings. Such innocent times – we had no idea what Kenickie and Rizzo got up to in the back of his car.

My other half has gone to fetch our youngest daughter from a meetup with several of her friends. I think she felt guilty about turning us into a taxi service to deliver and fetch her, so bought her mum a jigsaw and some liquorice to say thankyou. Perhaps I should correct that – the “bank of Dad” bought the jigsaw.

The rest of the day has been spent in the garden – slowly removing junk and doing runs to the rubbish tip. Of course the junk has mysteriously been exchanged with new plants following a somewhat secretive trip to the garden centre – I’m guessing that’s the universe’s “conservation of mass” law kicking in.

Tomorrow morning is rugby practice for my younger daughters. A surprise present arrived for them this morning – an “Ultimate” frisbee. The coaches have been looking for interesting “socially distanced” alternatives to shake-up the training sessions. Frisbee is a natural fit, and “Ultimate” frisbees are built like a tank (so should survive 20 teenage girl rugby players flinging it at each other). Who knows – perhaps the rugby club might even look at fielding a frisbee team in the off-season if it catches on.

Beauty School Drop Out just started playing. I’m sorry – I can’t type any more – all I can think of is the rest of the female cast of Grease hidden in plain sight in the scene with the pyramid of girls in silver curlers. It took me years to realise they were all in that scene.

Dammit – I’m going to have to go watch the movie now, aren’t I.

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Life

Partly Vaccinated

I received my first COVID vaccination shot today. My age group became available to apply last week – I left it a few hours before looking at the website, then booked the appointments. The nearest dispensing station was about ten minutes walk from home, which made the choice largely academic. I received the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

If I get side-effects, they will appear within 12 hours. Fingers crossed I don’t get clobbered too hard by them – I’ve got a busy week ahead planned with work (I suppose plans can be changed though). My other half was knocked out for about three days.

My return to work tomorrow follows a week off. It has felt a little like limbo.

Fingers crossed I don’t wake up in the middle of the night shivering.

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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

Turning into a Cat

I think I’m turning into a cat. You know how cats have favourite places to curl up or “be” that last for a few days at a time, before they move on to somewhere else? I’m like that with writing. For a while I was writing at Evernote, then a text editor for a little while, then Notion, and now I’m back at Google Docs, where I’ve been writing on-and-off for years.

Google Docs is the easy option for me. It satisfies the paranoid part of my brain that says “what if the computer goes bang in the middle of your Pulitzer prize winning blog post?” – because it saves every word as I write it. Of course this is predicated on the idea that what I’m writing has literary value (I’m humble enough to realise that I’m only a legend in my own lunchtime).

It’s Sunday morning. The clock is just ticking past 10am. I’ve been up for the last hour – emptying the dishwasher, clearing the kitchen up – the usual chores around the house. I didn’t have a shower this morning, and now feel grubby. I usually have a shower every morning – it helps wake me up. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything today, so thought “what’s the point?” – it’s not like I smell or anything. I will admit to washing my face with soap and cold water after brushing my teeth though – to try and wake myself up. It sort of worked.

I need to head out to the corner shop soon – we’ve run out of bread. It’s kind of difficult to make toast without bread – almost as bad as the time our middle daughter made a cup of tea for her Mum after we ran out of teabags. She didn’t let the lack of tea stop her – proudly delivering a cup of hot watery milk. She was only about seven years old at the time.

Anyway.

Time to go find my shoes and socks. At least it’s not raining today (yet).

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Life

Reorganising my Life

For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with an online swiss-army-knife called “Notion”, that allows you to record notes, compile databases of information, and so on. It has a wonderful interface, and can be transformed to solve most use-cases – a veritable rabbit hole that promises all sorts of productivity games. I started using it for more and more bits and pieces of my life – storing blog blog posts, writing articles, keeping code snippets, and so on.

And then it went down. For almost an entire day. With no updates from the management team. At all.

So yesterday evening I started migrating everything away from Notion. Initially I thought about returning to Evernote – and even tweeted about it – but then faced an uphill battle in terms of importing existing posts without having to laboriously re-format writing for hours. After trying several different workarounds I gave up, and turned my gaze to Google Drive.

Sure, Google Drive has it’s problems – nothing’s perfect – but for most of the things I do, it’s “good enough”. I’ve migrated all my old blog posts across, all of my technical notes, and all of the other bits and pieces that were stored in either Notion or Evernote. Google Drive has become my “one place to rule them all” – for now.

I need to stop playing with shiny new toys on the internet, and just live with the core few things I trust. At the moment that’s all the Google apps – from Mail, to Calendar, Keep, Drive, and Photos. Just recently I’ve been using Google Meet for family video calls – it’s every bit as good as Zoom or Facebook Messenger, and is free.

Earlier today I walked into town with my youngest daughter on a grocery shopping expedition. The first in several weeks. We get most of our food delivered via local farms and produce delivery businesses – but there are certain things you can’t easily get for them – important things – like peanut butter, and chocolate spread.

We’ve been ordering some things in bulk from Amazon “subscribe and save” – and had been thinking about buying instant cappuccino in a huge tin, but after doing the math, it turns out buying small boxes of instant coffee when it’s on offer is cheaper than buying in bulk. I hate it when brands do that kind of counter-intuitive idiocy. They must think people were born yesterday (perhaps some people don’t think when looking at prices).

Anyway. Dinner will be ready in a minute. Time to go set the table.

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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.