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Life

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.

Anyway.

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.

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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.

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Life

Friday

For those that don’t know, I very rarely write blog posts straight into the WordPress editor interface – I used to write everything in a text editor, save it into a neat and tidy folder structure, and copy it into WordPress. In recent months (since lockdown, I suppose), I have written in Google Docs, copied the text across.

Why am I writing about it?

Because I’ve had this post sitting on the screen all day – with no more than the title at the top – “Friday”. I typically give all posts the same title when I start writing, and then re-name them when a title presents itself. Quite often the title only relates to the final paragraph.

I don’t really have anything to report. My toe is still broken, the cat still has half his hair shaved off after his most recent hospital adventure, and I find myself becoming increasingly distant from “social” media.

I’m not sure that I’ve given up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on – so much as re-framed what they’re useful for. Or at least, what I find them useful for. I used to see “the social internet” as a way to reach out to the wider world – a way to discover interesting people, make friends, and share a little of each other’s lives. Somewhere along the way that all became somewhat poisonous though – Twitter became a place to stand on soapboxes and shout louder than the next person, Facebook became a place to have bitter disagreements with acquaintances, and Instagram became a place to show off.

I will admit to thinking quite a bit about shutting my blog down, and just reverting to a personal journal. I’ve thought about it before – I’ve DONE it before – but it doesn’t seem to be so much about me changing any more – it’s more about the world changing around me – becoming a little less friendly, a little more abrasive, and a little less welcoming.

I get it. Blogging has ALWAYS been a bit of an odd pursuit – sharing the guts of your day with a nameless audience. It’s just always been something I’ve done though – for twenty years now. I qualify it by telling myself that it helps keep me sane – and yet I filter perhaps half of the words I might share – all the most interesting stuff. The anger, the frustration, the gossip, the scandal, the unpopular opinions – the good stuff.

In other news, I weighed myself this morning. I’ve lost about 18 pounds since lockdown began. It’s not something I’ve done intentionally – we just haven’t bought any junk food for some time. It was mostly about saving money. If I lose another few pounds, I’ll be the same weight I was twenty years ago. Go me (sarcasm intended). I keep telling myself that I feel better for it, but I could murder a chocolate bar.

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Life

Toes and Teeth

Somehow I have managed to break a toe, and a tooth. I know, it sounds ridiculous. On Tuesday morning the phone rang, and I ran through the house barefoot to pick it up (while my teenage daughters stood around the phone, debating about picking it up) and managed to kick a door-frame.

Ever since I have been sporting a comically swollen foot, and a couple of purple toes. I’ve broken toes before – I know how it works. In about a month it will be better – until then, I’ll be hobbling around like a little old man.

Bang goes running!

Then the night before last, I was sitting in front of the TV with my other half watching some rubbish or other, snacking on leftover tortilla chips, when I thought “this one’s a bit crunchy”… and discovered it wasn’t tortilla at all – it was half of one of my teeth.

I had a tooth repaired many years ago – one of the molars at the bottom. It was filled with amalgam (I think that’s what they call it – it looks like metal), and has been good for the past twenty years. Until the night before last.

I now have half the tooth left, and of course no money to go anywhere near a dentist any time soon (or a dentist to go to – they are all closed at the moment because of the lockdown). It doesn’t hurt at least – I’m guessing because it died twenty-something years ago, before it was re-constructed.

I’m wondering what will go wrong next.

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Life

The Last of Three Brothers

Our enormous ginger tom cat “George” is back in hospital tonight. After a major operation last week to save his life, complications arose over the weekend. We did the math, and it came down to saving his life for a second time and wiping our savings out, or having a difficult conversation with the children.

We now have no savings.

The operation went well, and he’ll be home in a few days. Our bank account may take six months to recover though. I guess we’ll be getting used to beans on toast for quite some time.

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Life

Virtual Flight

This “virtual flight” thing is addictive. While most people have been reading books, and watching TV shows during lockdown, I have been learning how to operate and fly a Boeing 737.

I’m not even sure why.

I’ve always been interested in aircraft. I grew up next to one of the busiest Air Force bases in England, so they were unavoidable really – always in the air overhead, or rumbling away in the distance.

Perhaps it’s to do with the complexity – the challenge of mastering something complex. Taking a commercial airliner from cold and dark on the tarmac to a humming, hissing, roaring, fifty ton lump of metal thundering down the runway and into the air – and navigating across contintents via GPS, navigation beacons, and radio communication requires a certain mindset.

In many ways I suppose the attention to detail, following of procedures, planning ahead, and working through scenarios have parallels with my real-life work. My real life work doesn’t involve travelling at thirty six thousand feet with a few hundred people’s lives depending on my skill though.

While talking to some friends about my idiotic new hobby earlier, they asked if flying an airliner was actually pretty straightforward then – given that I had learned it in a few weeks. I responded that yes, it was pretty easy – as long as everything went as planned. I have learned just enough to operate a perfectly working machine. If anything untoward happens though, I’m in trouble.

Have you ever seen a pilot being tested in a simulator? The only time they really use simulators is to throw Kobyashi Maru style tests at them (unwinnable situations) – to test their decision making skills – to find out if they follow procedures when under stress.

There’s a wonderful moment in the movie “Sully” – about the landing of the plane on the Hudson in New York – where the air accident investigation board suggested that pilots in simulators had been able to get back to a runway in the city after the bird-strike that wiped out the engines. They had one crucial advantage – they knew what was going to happen in advance.

One unexpected outcome of playing around with the simulator is taking friends on virtual flights. I’ve done a couple now. This morning I flew from Melbourne to Canberra in Australia – while being watched both by my teenage daughter (sitting next to me), and a friend on the internet (sitting at home in Melbourne, Australia).

If you would like to tag along for the ride, sit in the virtual cockpit with me, and fly from and to somewhere in the world while talking about anything and everything, let me know – all you’ll need is Zoom. If you’re scared of flying, it might even be a good way of “pulling back the curtain” – seeing what the flight crew do, and how the plane really works.

Anyway.

Coffee. I need another coffee. I think I might be continuing from Canberra to Sydney a little later this evening.

Categories
Life

Friday

Yes, I’m still here. No, I haven’t shut the blog down (yet). If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that I’ll always return. Eventually. I’m wondering if this “every other day” (or less) plan is better, because I end up with things to write about, rather than just dumping the events of the day into the keyboard – and yes, I know many people thing the random miscellany is the best stuff, but I have this idiotic machine ticking away in my head, that thinks of things from time to time, and if I record the mundane, the crazy stuff doesn’t get it’s chance in the sun.

I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with “people” at the moment. Few people seem to have much perspective any more – it’s all about them, their concerns, their opinions, and their soapbox ranting. There is no grey area in a debate any more – you are either with the shouty people, or you are the enemy.

As an example, J K Rowling posted a fairly innocuous tweet last week about women losing their voice in the world. She termed them “people who menstruate”, and nobody seemed to get it – she got shouted down by a rapidly moving mob who invented their own message from her words and busily organised pitchforks and a bonfire. Her objection to the Spartacus situation many people find themselves in immediately played itself out – drowning out her voice just as she highlighted was happening to others.

Very few seem to want to see a bigger or wider picture, because it’s easier to tear people down, rubbish their views, and walk away. In this supposedly “woke” world where there are so many opportunities to educate ourselves, there seems to be a LOT of wilful ignorance going on.

Anyway – enough of that.

It’s been a quiet week. We have had builders in at home. Our house now has shiny new windows and doors – and we have no money. Well… we obviously have enough for food and bills, but that’s about it.

I’m still running. I’ll be out first thing tomorrow – probably on my own – running around town. I may well go for the full 5K distance – I’m fed up with repeatedly back-tracking the “Couch to 5K” plan to suit the children. My eldest can’t run this week because she has shin splints, and my youngest is suffering from “can’t get out of bed-itus”.

In other news, our ginger cat – the last of three brothers – has been unwell. He spent most of this week in hospital, and has returned home tonight. Fingers crossed he will be ok, but of course now we have the ridiculous job of making him take tablets several times a day. Have you ever tried to get a cat to swallow a tablet? Yeah… you kind of need chain-mail armour.