All Good Things

All Good Things

The Game of Thrones has finally finished. It’s over. Done. Eight years of television has come to an end. The actors involved can all move on to other projects now, and try to escape a small army of people who hate the script-writers of the final season of the TV show that made them all household names around the world.

We’ll try to forget that I got up at 4am to watch the final episode – not because I’m a Game of Thrones fanboy – more because I woke up at 1:30am choking on my own snot (yes, I’ve still got the head cold), and then couldn’t get back to sleep.

In the last 48 hours I’ve slept for 2. I can feel my body starting to overheat, in that peculiar way it does when deprived of sleep. I just need to get through dinner, then I can try to sleep again – aided this time by a variety of medication purchase on the way home from work.

I just want to be well again. No sooner had I stopped coughing, the insides of my head went into snot production overdrive – I’ve been clearing my nose for the last three or four days perhaps every hour. If you’re thinking “ew!”, just be thankful you don’t have to see the tissue as it get thrown into the toilet bowl each time I blow my nose.

While at work earlier I began to wonder where snot comes from – surely it must use water from elsewhere in your body. I guess I helped it along the way last night be drinking continuous cups of tea for several hours.

Anyway.

I loved the final episode of Game of Thrones. It re-balanced a number of the problems I had with the final season, and almost redeemed the season as a whole. I say “almost”, because some things still don’t make sense – but I’m not going to write about them because that would turn this blog into one of THOSE blogs.

A Chip on my Shoulder

A Chip on my Shoulder

I spent the greater part of yesterday working on the garden – cutting the grass, cutting the hedge, chopping back all the dandelions that had taken over the area under the old apple tree, and doing six loads of washing in-between.

We acquired the hedge trimmer from the lady that used to live next door – it wasn’t until I came to use it that I realised she had half-cut the power-cable. I finally made it to the local electrical store yesterday and bought the fittings to repair the cable (it now has a wonderful plug a little way along the power cable which actually makes it easier to put away).

Here’s the thing about hedge trimmers – you need shoulders like He-Man to use them for more than an hour or so. At one point while decimating the 6ft hedge that lines either side of our driveway I stopped for a break, and laughed at my own inability to hold a glass of water. Our middle girl noticed, and asked what was wrong with me.

“Lactic acid – that’s what’s wrong with me”.

After finishing working on the garden, we all gathered to make dinner together – a quorn curry with rice – and then collapsed on the sofa with snacks and drinks in time for the Eurovision Song Contest.

For those of you reading this on the other side of the world with little or no knowledge of the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s an annual “spectacle” in Europe where multiple countries send acts to perform, and each country votes at the end on their favourite acts. Years ago the voting was done purely by juries, so was rife with political and prejudicial voting – this has been turned on it’s head by the internet – with the people now able to vote too, which often turns the jury votes on their head.

The one thing that saddens me about the Eurovision Song Contest is that a lot of the performers are becoming very mainstream – years ago the songs and music would reflect the culture of each country – now it’s become a succession of cookie-cutter chart music tracks. Not always though – and the more strange or nutty the performers, the more chance they have that I will vote for them.

Several years ago a band from Moldova performed with massive pointy hats, with fairies unicycling around the stage to heavy rock music – you can find them on YouTube – they were brilliant. A few years later a thrash metal band called Lordi swept the board with a track called “Hard Rock Halleluja”. Last night I voted for Australia – who suspended three singers on huge poles above the stage, singing quite the most bizarre song you’ve ever heard about being weightless or something – we were laughing too much to really take it all in.

The one huge downer of the night was Madonna. Inbetween the acts performing, and the voting starting, a guest performance typically happens – and last night Madonna appeared, apparently to help sell her new album. She was DREADFUL. Back in the 1990s I was a huge Madonna fan – I had the picture disc of “Rain” in a frame on my bedroom wall at one point. I’ve never heard anybody sound as flat, or out-of-tune in my life. Actually – that’s a lie – our kids were playing “Singstar” on the Wii on Friday evening, and it was almost as bad as Madonna.

Anyway. While watching Eurovision there’s a slightly odd tradition that we use Facebook to comment on each of the acts appearing – and while ourselves and one or two friends did just that, it never really took off – mostly because three quarters of the entire town had gone to the big park to watch the Kaiser Chiefs, and Scouting for Girls.

For the last couple of years a celebrity chef that owns half the pubs in town has run an event in the big park on the river called “Pub in the Park”. He invites various restaurants to attend with their chefs, and people can go along to watch cooking demonstrations and sample the food – all while drinking continuously and watching various bands play. Last night the Kaiser Chiefs, and Scouting for Girls both played.

There’s always been something about Pub in the Park that annoys me. I’m not sure if it’s the ticket prices (it’s expensive to get in), or that the samples of food are expensive, that the drinks are expensive, or that the entire operation has become a money-making sausage machine. Not long after the event last year the team behind it rolled the same model out to multiple other towns around the country.

Maybe my misgivings are really rooted in the elitist thing that is rampant in this town. This morning Facebook is obviously filled with photos and movies of the various exhibitions and performances going on – and I noticed something. The crowd – almost without exception is white, and well off. I ended up looking at several different people’s photos – wondering if Facebook was just doing it’s thing, where it only shows you things that match your own circle of friends and acquaintances – but no. When you looked at the crowd, they were 99.9% white, and wealthy.

Anyway. Enough soap box philosophering for one day. I know some people will laugh and say “here he goes again – with that chip on his shoulder, and the inverted snobbery”. The same people that seem to change their tune though, when their children grown up and can’t afford to live within 20 miles of where their parents live.

Today I’m having a quiet day. A day of blogging, reading, liking, commenting, eating cheese and pickle sandwiches, drinking tea, and wondering how long it will be until the kids say “I’m hungry”…

That Friday Feeling

That Friday Feeling

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m taking a break from work for a bit to empty my head into the keyboard. The chest infection is slowly clearing up, replaced by a head cold. Go me. I’m battling on though – fuelled mostly by chocolate bars, cups of tea, and badly made sandwiches. I have a can of Dr Pepper sitting on the corner of my desk at work, but hot tea seems like a better idea at the moment.

One part of me wants to celebrate because the weekend is nearly here, but another part of me knows the weekend means cutting the grass, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, and so on. Urgh.

The highlight of this week was almost certainly our middle daughter becoming a prefect at school. We were invited to a morning assembly where those becoming prefects were awarded with new ties by head teacher, and photographed. Watching a room full of teenage girls wrestling with their ties for the next ten minutes was unintentionally hilarious – after most of them had worn ties throughout junior school, the secondary school issues clip-on ties to students – to prevent them wearing them backwards, upside down, or however else teenagers dream up. The prefect wear proper ties once again.

With a little help from parents, teachers, and each other, the group of new prefects trooped outside into the sunshine for photographs. While being ordered this way and that by a teacher armed with a camera, a member of staff sidled up to myself and my other half.

“Are you Natalie’s parents?”

“Yes?” (we both looked at each other, and at the member of staff, somewhat questioningly)

“I just wanted to say how proud you should be. She’s a wonderful person. A real credit to the school, and to you and your family.”

We didn’t know what to say.

Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

You know that whole idea I had about using Scrivener for writing projects? Yeah. That’s not going to happen any more, after it decided not to like the graphics driver on the new laptop. I figured out – quite by chance – a way of making Scrivener not only crash itself, but also bork Windows 10 pretty badly.

I’m kind of annoyed – but also relieved in a strange sort of way. There’s something about using Scrivener that reminds me of the people you find in art classes with the expensive paints, easels, and drawing pads that can’t draw for toffee. I’ll just stick to my trusty text editor. The only thing the text editor is good at is words – and that’s kind of all you need really.

So. I’m finally starting to feel a bit better. I still feel like there’s something stuck in my throat throughout the day, and the feeling gets worse in the evening – but my body finally seems to be winning the fight against the virus it’s been waging war with for the last couple of weeks. Today I’ve been able to do pretty good Maximus impersonations – “Father of a murdered son, husband of a murdered wife…”

I find myself keeping Facebook and Twitter at the end of an ever-lengthening stick just recently – more to protect myself from reacting to things than anything. I saw the news today about Alabama banning abortion, and wanted to write something – but knew it would just end up being an attack on any and all religious people – the pious for being mindless idiots, and the rest for being hilariously hypocritical. Like I said – it’s better that I keep my mouth shut. I try SO hard not to question other people’s beliefs directly, but sometimes they make it incredibly difficult.

I also find myself posting less frequently to Instagram. I’m not really sure why. Seeing the world, and capturing moments requires that you’re out in the world – and I haven’t been for the last several weeks. Hopefully that will change soon.

Oh crikey – look at the time. It’s nearly midnight. I promise to catch up with some of your blogs soon.

Small Thoughts

Small Thoughts

After a week away from writing anything on the internet, I’ve not so much had time to reflect, as time to not think about anything. Actually that’s not entirely true – for the greater part of the last week I’ve thought various combinations of “holy crap I feel terrible”, “I wish I could stop coughing”, “why doesn’t cough medicine fucking work?”, “maybe another cup of tea will help”, and “maybe some more paracetamol will help”. Just for the record, nothing has helped much. The doctor that once told me that cough medicine worked more as a placebo than anything was right.

I considered taking a swig from the cough medicine bottle last night, rather than a 5ml spoon. I guess that harks back to a childhood where my parents would rub Vics vapo-rub directly under our noses if we had a cold – the label tells you specifically NOT to do that, but it never seemed to harm us.

I’m getting sidetracked already.

I think perhaps being absent for a while has given me a little perspective on this whole blogging thing – a chance to take a step back and realise that the words I churn out don’t have to be insightful, interesting, or important. Nora Ephron once said that blogging was kind of like an exhale – I like that idea. A post captures our thoughts at a fleeting moment – they don’t have to be big thoughts either – even the smallest of thoughts might be just as valid.

What am I saying here? Maybe that it’s time I cared less, shared more, and perhaps knocked a few bricks out of the wall I typically surround myself with. Of course writing it is one thing – doing it is quite another.

Falling Off the World

Falling Off the World

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but it’s been a week since the last post to the blog. I can’t remember missing so many consecutive days for years, let alone months. I suppose I might have when we have gone on vacation in the past, but certainly not while I’ve been here.

So where on earth have I been? Sick. Really, really sick. A chest infection has been busy moving from family member to family member, and I got it last. I think perhaps sitting next to our middle daughter for three hours to watch Avengers Endgame at the local cinema might have driven the final nail into my body’s defences.

Of course, “being Dad”, I don’t get to take time off like everybody else. It hasn’t helped that I’ve been working overtime to do two projects at the same time at work either. Just to add an almost comedic element to the mayhem, catching the virus has coincided with the end-of-season Rugby awards evening, and the end-of-year dance company show. I attended both – running a ridiculous temperature in both cases. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I got through either event.

Anyway – fingers crossed – I’m on the mend. After a spectacular coughing fit while cooking dinner for the kids this evening (other half went out with her Mum), I appear to have dislodged something deep inside my chest, and actually feel half-human again. No doubt whatever war is being waged inside me will continue for some time yet though – I keep hearing horror stories of people being knocked out for weeks with it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, we have the next episode of Game of Thrones to watch – before we see any spoilers. I’ll get around to catching up with your blog posts soon, I promise.

Back to Work

Back to Work

The clock is ticking towards midnight, and you find me sitting in the dark of the junk room after watching the latest chapter in the Game of Thrones saga. I’m still fighting a chest infection, but that hasn’t stopped me putting in a couple more hours of overtime – continuing to quietly construct a software leviathan of sorts. A leviathan that few will ever see, but that may impact more than most would guess.

The new laptop arrived today – I replaced the hardware, tripled it’s RAM, and installed Windows 10 on it this evening. It’s ridiculously fast compared to anything else in the house. The only remaining improvement will be a replacement battery – to double it’s life away from a power source. A slip case might not be a bad idea too.

While I write this, my other half is toiling away in the lounge – sewing dresses for a dance show at the weekend. Neither of us has much of a life at the moment.

Anyway. Time to go brush my teeth then fall fast asleep before doing it all again tomorrow. And again the day after.

Before you say it, I know the “too much work makes Jon a dull boy” story only too well. I’ve installed Scrivener on the new laptop. I’m writing this post in it, as it happens – when work slows down a little in a month or so, I’ll start thinking about writing a few stories.

Not Going to London

Not Going to London

I was up at ridiculous o’clock this morning, showered, shaved, dressed, and ready to go. While brushing my teeth a small black cat stood in the doorway of the bathroom staring at me with huge green eyes. He only ever braves human contact when he’s hungry.

We were supposed to be going to London for a day wandering around the museums. By “we”, I mean Miss 18 and I. She had appeared in the junk room last night while I tinkered with Scrivener – wondering if we might do something together today. I offered her visits to local towns to go shopping, and she looked decidedly non-committal. I laughed, and said “you want to go to London, don’t you” – her face fell when I told her she would be buying her own train ticket.

We didn’t catch the first train out of town. We didn’t even leave the house. Miss 18 appeared in the kitchen a little after me this morning in her pyjamas, gazing at me as I stood by the kettle eating a bowl of cornflakes.

“Can you make me a coffee?”

“What sort?”

“A cappuccino please.”

I made the drink, then followed her into the lounge. She doesn’t like cappuccino from the Tassimo pods – she only likes the instant powder from the supermarket. If you make it like gravy it turns out pretty well – I taught her the method when she first started drinking coffee, and she’s become a complete and utter snob about how to make various hot drinks as a result. She spent part of her first pay-packet on her own china tea set.

“Are you not getting dressed ? We’re leaving in half an hour.”

“I’m not sure I want to go.”

“Why?”

She shrugged, and looked into her cup of tea.

“I should probably save my money”.

I smiled, and wandered off through the house. My other half had been planning to drop us off at a nearby railway station – to avoid maintenance work on the local railway line. She was now off the hook, and could have a well earned lie-in. Downstairs I immediately fell into the usual round of weekend chores – filling the washing machine with clothes, hanging last night’s final load on the line outside, and switching the dishwasher on. It seems there’s always something to do.

It’s now heading towards mid morning, and the day has rather unexpectedly become my own. I’m busy trying to talk Miss 18 into walking to the park with me – to feed the swans our leftover scraps of bread.

(Two hours pass…)

After walking the mile or so into town together, then camping out in Starbucks for a while, we eventually found our way to the park, and emptied our bags full of leftover bread into the water – trying to share it equally among the swans and geese that rapidly converged on us. The park was full of market stalls – each year a twinned town in France descends on the park, selling everything from soft cheese to berets and 1950s jazz albums. We stopped at a stall selling street food, and bought garlic potatoes. After trying to eat and walk, we realised the impossibility of it all, and perched on a bench in the corner of the park for a few minutes – feeding our faces, and laughing about what other people might think of us. Trying to convince Miss 18 that nobody would be taking any notice of her was quite a challenge.

After stopping at the grocery store to grab a late lunch for everybody, we walked home via the bookshop. Although the town we live in is quite small, it has a very lovely bookshop, and we try to go in it as often as time or money will allow. For years there was no bookshop in town – when I first moved here there were two, but they were forced out by rent increases. Don’t get me started about commercial property owners in the local area – they have pretty much destroyed the core of the town in the last twenty years. All of the independent shops have gone – replaced by chains, or hobby shops run at a loss by the wives of wealthy husbands – I imagine to keep them either quiet or busy. Maybe both.

I hadn’t planned on buying a book – I have several books still waiting to be read – both on the shelf at home, and inside my Amazon Kindle. That didn’t stop me picking up a few interesting looking books as I waited for my daughter though – and also explains how I managed to reach the counter with a book in my hand. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I bought “The Night Circus”, by Erin Morgenstern. I’m not really sure how it got my attention, or how it ended up in my hand – perhaps it whispered to me as I walked past – books seem to do that sometimes.

But first, another cup of tea.

But first, another cup of tea.

I was going to open this post with “it’s Saturday morning”, but having looked at the clock, it’s already 2pm. Where they hell has the day gone already? Oh yes – I walked into town with our youngest, cut the grass, hung washing out to dry, cleared the kitchen, and moved the living room around so my other half has room to make five dresses for next weekend’s dance show.

The postman arrived this morning with a jiffy bag containing the memory and solid state drive for the recycled laptop that should arrive with me on Tuesday. It’s going to be odd – having a half-decent laptop again after so many years without one. The old desktop computer is still here, but is edging closer and closer to retirement. You can feel yourself physically ageing while waiting for it to boot-up or login.

Anyway. What else has been going on recently?

We went to see Avengers Endgame last night. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m sick (I’ve been coughing and fighting endless headaches for the last few days), or if I’m burned out on comic book movies in general, but I really couldn’t understand why the critics have been giving it such stellar reviews. Yes, it was good – entertaining – all that other stuff – but it wasn’t exactly brilliant.

I’m not going to give any spoilers away if you’ve not seen it. I will however say that I thought the movie was disjointed, rushed, and tried to cram too much in. Only a couple of the avengers really got time invested in completing the story arcs – I thought that was a shame. And the appearance of Captain Marvel pulled the rug out from under the entire story in much the same way that Superman did in Justice League. She could have beaten Thanos single-handed, which beggars why the rest of the movie was happening at all.

I get it – no, really, I do – it’s a children’s movie. It’s not supposed to make that much sense. It’s just… oh, I don’t know. I just wish it had been better.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m taking the day off today from working endless amounts of overtime. It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK, so apart from investing in myself for a change and trying to beat the cough I mentioned earlier, I’m also tidying up the various writing projects I’ve dipped into over the last few years. That reminds me – last year’s tilt at NaNoWriMo is still on the iMac – I’ll need to plug it back in if I’m going to recover it.

I keep wondering about selling the iMac, but I can’t imagine anybody would have a use for it any more other than nostalgia. Although it still works perfectly a minor change to the internet last year means it’s essentially dead in the water. You know the “https” protocol ? The encryption scheme behind it got upgraded last year – and pretty much everybody in the known world rolled out the upgrades. Unfortunately the Internet went dark for the iMac as a result (if you’re technically minded, I’m talking about the switch from SSL to TLS).

Sitting here and writing this isn’t actually helping me get anything done, is it. Maybe I’ll just go put the kettle on first though, and then think about what to do next.

A New Laptop

A New Laptop

Well… when i say “new”, I really mean “new to me”. For the last couple of years I have been carrying around a hand-me-down laptop that used to belong to one of our children. I ended up running Linux on it, because it’s not really capable of running anything more than that.

Well that’s all about to change. Earlier this week one of my co-workers arrived in the office with a new toy – a second hand laptop he had bought from E-Bay. I have to admit I was hugely impressed. He had essentially bought a laptop that had cost £1200 six years ago for about 8% of it’s original price.

I’ve now done the same. I did my homework, compared ten or so of the same machine that had appeared on E-Bay, and chose one from a professional referbishment factory. I guess you could call it a “recycled” laptop. I’ve already ordered more memory, and a new solid state hard drive for it – it’s going to be fast. I also checked the price of replacement batteries, and was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s not going to run all day like modern laptops, but it will last for a good few hours away from the power supply. That’s good enough.

I almost forgot – it’s got a touch screen, that flips around to turn the laptop into a tablet. Now there’s a party-piece I’m never going to use. Perhaps more importantly, it has a VGA socket – so I’ll be able to plug it into the projectors we inherited from the school.

Anyway.

I guess it’s time to dig out the Scrivener license key.