Finishing Last

We attended yet another fund-raiser quiz last night – this time for the local hockey team. My other half put a call out on social media for team mates, and we quickly found ourselves with a table of seven – we would have been eight, but our middle daughter was waiting tables – or rather, up-selling bottles of wine and packets of peanuts to the various parents in attendance.

We finished LAST out of perhaps ten teams – off the back of WINNING the junior school fund-raiser quiz two weeks ago. Go figure. To be honest, we knew by half-way through the evening that we had no chance, and convinced each other that it was more about having a cheap night out than anything else. I drank far too much wine, and had quite an impressive headache first thing this morning.

The peanuts were called “Nobby’s Nuts”, which caused all manner of entirely predictable propositions as they were offered around the table – “do you like Nobby’s Nuts?” – or just plain “do you want some of my nuts?”. Yes, we all have the humor of a thirteen year old after a few glasses of wine.

Today has been all about watching the Rugby World Cup on the television, and getting washing done. Our poor old washing machine must dread weekends. It’s been forced through about five loads so far today, and as Curly said in City Slickers – “day ain’t over yet”.

Getting Better All the Time

After work this evening I headed out with Miss 19 and put another few kilometres in the bank. I’m not sure what she’s been eating – it might have something to do with her being nearly thirty years younger than me – but she FLEW tonight. Of course she complained that this hurt, or that hurt, but she FLEW.

So. Running done. Kitchen cleared up. Kids ominously quiet. Time to sit in the junk room listening to spotify and attempt to come up with a few insightful or entertaining words. Except of course I don’t really do insightful or entertaining any more – it’s more humdrum, chores, frustrations, and the struggle is real.

I sometimes look at other people’s blogs, and think “how do they DO that” – and then I realise they don’t work, and appear to have a magically bottomless bank account, which funds restaurant meals, endless clothes shopping expeditions, and a camera that cost more than our car to take photos of it all – filed everywhee with a “#nofilter” tag.

I’m not bitter. Just jaded I suppose. Cynical. Tired.

No matter how hard I try, I always seem to end up back where I started. Getting ahead is temporary – I have learned that now. It always seems to involve luck rather than hard work. Maybe the world just works that way – some people work their arse off and get nowhere, whereas some people fall on their feet continually. Maybe that Bruce Willis movie “Unbreakable” was right – balance extends to everything.

Spotify just stopped. I wonder if that means I’ve listened to all of it now ?

(a few moments pass while I pick another playlist)

I just noticed the “Favourite Coffeehouse” playlist has vanished. Dammit. You know sometimes you just want a not-too-terrible playlist on in the background that you don’t hate too much? That was the favourite coffeehouse playlist for me. What am I going to do now? I’m not sure I can be bothered to curate anything.

In other news, I downloaded all of the old Infocom text adventure games to my laptop at lunchtime. I’m about to go sit on the sofa in the living room with it and open the mailbox to the west of an old white house. If you guessed the game, you win the nerd lottery.

Sitting in the Dark

I have been sitting in the dark of the junk room in front of the keyboard for an hour. Nothing seems to be making it through my fingers and into the keyboard. I’m not entirely sure why – I don’t think I have a lot on my mind.

I put in a request for a week off work – for the week after next – half term week. After a seemingly endless slog through two long software and web development projects over the last couple of years I have amassed a huge number of holiday days. It’s time to burn through some of them.

I have no idea what I might do with the time off – the museums in London are always a good day out (and free!). There are lots of galleries too – all within walking distance of each other. Half the challenge will be exploding the kids out of bed to come with me.

I’ve got half an eye on doing a park run soon too. I’m not sure if my eldest daughter will be up for it, but if she is I suppose we’ll use it as our weekend training run – and do intervals as-per-normal. I’ve never done a park run before, so have no pre-conceived ideas of how they are organised. I have a bar-code printed out that identifies me – apparently I can buy a key fob or wrist band with the barcode on to make things a little easier.

How is it nearly 11pm already? Yes, I know the kitchen and lounge were wrecked when I got in from work, but they didn’t take THAT long to clear up, did they ? Perhaps they did.

Maybe I should switch the computer off, grab a book, and have an early night (he says, not missing the irony of writing that at 11pm). It’s kind of early for me though – I rarely go to bed before midnight – often the early hours. Of course I pay for it the next day, and never learn.

Perhaps a cup of tea first.

Putting the Work In

Four sets of six minutes running, and one minute walking around the back streets of town this evening with the running club. The running intervals are slowly ramping up. I’m guessing the ultimate aim is to get the group running for half an hour without rest.

It’s been interesting to run along near the back, watching the behaviour of the rest of the group. Some naturally gravitate to the front, and others to the back – and while you might think that’s driven mostly by each individual’s level of fitness, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s more going on. Two guys in particular push their way to the front continually – even after being looped to the back in order to make the slower runners feel better about themselves. I guess for some people it really is all about “me”, rather than “us”.

Anyway – super proud of Miss 19 this evening. She completed the intervals without cheating. For a time I drifted away from her – leaving her running with strangers on purpose – hoping that peer pressure would kick in (it did). She learned a valuable lesson too – that after the initial wave of tiredness passes, running becomes all about rhythm – longer runs are actually easier than shorter intervals.

After saying goodnight to the group, I walked across the park to the hockey pitches, and found our 15 year old waiting at the edge of the pitches with her goal tender kit in an enormous bag by her feet. After shaking her coach’s hand and introducing myself, I hefted the bag onto my back and began the mile and a half walk home. My other half was supposed to be picking her up, but had got timings wrong – she found herself waiting on the touchline of a football pitch a few miles away, waiting for Miss 14 to finish training with her team.

It’s now ticking past 10pm, and I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room at home. The shower has just shut down for the night. I imagine the washing machine will be full of towels again in the morning – it feels like the washing is never-ending.

I could murder a bar of chocolate, but I’m “being good”. Why do I have to hold myself accountable – why can’t I cave like everybody else and stuff my face with secret chocolate? lol

As Little as Possible

When I went out for the regular training run last night, I knew there was some tightness in my chest, but dismissed it as a virus of some kind – all sorts have been doing the rounds at work, so it would be no suprise if I had caught something or other.

And then I woke this morning finding it difficult to breathe in properly.

I emailed work, and informed them I was taking a day off. Of course then while setting “out of office” on my work phone I spotted an email from a client, and had to fight every instinct to get changed, jump on my bike, and cycle in.

The world can wait for once. I’ve been warned more than once by friends that always putting everybody else first all the time is a recipe for disaster. The torrential rain throughout the day may also have influenced my decision.

Here’s the thing – sitting quietly at home and doing nothing is REALLY difficult. I will admit I didn’t actually do “nothing” – I filled the washing machine about five times, and tidied up around the house throughout much of the afternoon. For the rest of the time though – as little as possible.

I’m not good at “as little as possible”.

Bill Bryson, Rugby Sevens, and Late Night Running

On Saturday night we visited Oxford – the city I think of as my real home – to see Bill Bryson present a show at the New Theatre in George Street. I had no pre-conceptions going in, other than it might follow the format of so many other “an audience with” type productions – and I was more or less right.

If you’ve not read any of Bill Bryson’s books, I urge you to do so – from “The Lightning Bolt Kid”, about growing up in rural Des Moines, Idaho, to “Notes from a Small Island”, about living in England, to “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”, about his return to live in the US with his family after twenty years in England. He has written many, many books, and they are without exception brilliant.

The evening in the theatre flew by – wrapped in stories about Bill’s various adventures, and delivered in a self deprecating humor, mischievousness, and irreverence that has become his trademark. The anecdote about Russell Crowe writing him a fan letter that turned into a drink in London, and then lead to an acting masterclass at Durham University where Bill had been invited to act as Chancellor was one of those stories that could never be made up – because you see Durham University doesn’t have a drama course at all – and Russell Crowe still doesn’t know that.

During the interval, halfway through the theatre show, I looked around the audience, and a scene stuck in my mind. On the edge of the first tier of seats above us, a young man – perhaps twenty years old – was standing, leaning on the wall, engrossed in his mobile phone. Standing directly in front of him was the most strikingly beautiful girl I have seen in quite some time – I’m guessing his girlfriend. She looked a little lost, gazing at him, and occasionally across the audience below – while he continued to obsess over whatever was on his phone. When will the millennials wake up and realise that life exists outside of their phones? It was both the best and worst illustration of the problem the mobile internet has caused that I’ve ever seen.

This morning (Sunday) we headed off around London on the M25 towards St. Albans, and a rugby “Sevens” tournament for Miss 14 and 15. My other half has somehow been enlisted as the club medic, given the training she has received through work (she’s the lady that decides to call ambulances at the infant school, along with 1001 other duties).

Nobody could have guessed that we would end up calling for two ambulances.

Our girls were fine – our youngest scored a cracking try – running the length of the pitch, and our middle girl threw herself into perhaps the most spectacular tackle I have seen – taking down the opposition’s biggest player in a do-or-die last-girl-standing defence of the try-line. Unfortunately at least two families we know through the team ended up in accident and emergency at nearby hospitals.

After getting home from rugby, emptying the car, cooking dinner, and clearing the decks, I went out for another training run with our eldest daughter. Another set of intervals around the back-streets of the town. Given the bad run earlier in the week, I was somewhat apprehensive, but in the end everything worked out fine. We went slowly, I distracted her throughout, and she completed the intervals with a smile on her face. She’s starting to suffer from shin-splints, but I’m guessing that will sort itself out over the coming weeks – she’s getting fitter and faster, and putting more strain on her legs.

Looking at the clock, it’s somehow now 11pm on Sunday evening. The weekend has gone. I’m wondering about grabbing a bowl of cereals before bed – give my body some fuel to help re-build me ready to go again in the morning.

Running Around in Circles

After getting in from work last night (and eating home-made pizza), I finally made it out with Miss 19 for a training run – the one that was supposed to have happened the night before. It didn’t really go to plan – she had her first “bad run” – but the important thing was that she got out there and did something at least. It all counts, I suppose.

Today the roof of the world seems to be falling on us – rain has been drumming off the flat roof all night, and all morning so far. My other half is still sitting in bed with a book – I’m up and about, getting chores done, and procrastinating with this post. The kids had a friend stay for a sleepover last night – they were all up at ridiculous o’clock.

(ten minutes pass while I re-load the washing machine, hang clothes in the air dryer, and make a coffee)

I weighed myself a little over a week ago (for the first time in years), and then again a couple of days ago – to see if all the running, and not eating so much rubbish was having an effect. Somehow I lost 5 pounds in a week. This is obviously an anomaly, because nobody loses weight that fast, but at least it proves something to the kids. I probably have about 20 pounds to lose until I’m anywhere near where I should be.

In other news, I’ve been informed that we’re off to see Bill Bryson tonight. He’s doing some sort of “audience with” thing in Oxford – I’m guessing to help sell his latest book (that I spotted in a book shop last weekend). I nearly bought a copy, before reminding myself about the leaning tower of unread books on my bedside table.

Anyway. Better get on I suppose. Thanks for reading if you did 🙂

Two Miles with Miss Fourteen

Ever since the children were little, we have tried to eat dinner at the table as a family. I suppose it started as an excuse to talk to the children, and to get them to talk – to tell stories about what we had done during the day. When I say “we”, I of course mean “everybody except me”, because nobody ever asks what I have done. I complained about it once – and my other half stopped the children:

“Why don’t you ask Dad what he did today?”

“What did you do today Dad?”

I had their undivided attention, and launched into a really interesting overview of a workflow I was building to integrate two business systems. My other half waited for me to finish, and then said this:

“And that’s why we don’t ask Dad what he did today.”

They all laughed.

Anyway. I sat down for dinner this evening and Miss 19 sat opposite, looking like thunder.

“Are we going running tonight then?”, I asked, in the most uplifting tone I could summon.

No answer.

“It’s training night!”

“I’m too tired.”

I very nearly lost my shit instantly. Thankfully Miss 14 interrupted.

“I’ll come running with you Dad!”

It’s very difficult to talk Miss 14 out of things – she is perhaps the most optimistic, persuasive, instantly likeable people pleaser I have ever known. And that’s how we ended up getting ready to go running together an hour after dinner.


We ran a loop into town, along the high street, and back towards home. Normally the training consists of intervals of several minutes running with a minute walk inbetween, but I wondered how far my younger daughter could run, given that I had never been out with her before. It’s worth noting that she goes to a special school – a sports academy, so does some form of sport every day.

I worried throughout the two miles that I would be causing some sort of lasting damage to her legs, so repeatedly slowed her to a gentle jog – asking again and again if she was ok – if she was tired.

“I’m fine”

Towards the end I think the people-pleaser side of her nature had kicked in, and she was actually knackered, but I didn’t say anything. While running we talked about all sorts of things (or at least, the all sorts of things that run through the mind of a 14 year old girl – mainly about her friend who’s online accounts had been hacked earlier in the evening after she told a stranger her passwords).

We both agreed that perhaps it might be best if she doesn’t tell her big sister how far she ran.

Talking of big sisters, apparently I’m heading back out tomorrow night with Miss 19 to do intervals training. I wonder if my legs will remember all about this running lark, or if they’ll start complaining bitterly?

While out running this evening, we passed one of the leaders from the club session earlier in the week, I presume out with her regular mid-week running friends. She waved and cheered as we passed each other – the smile on Miss 14’s face was priceless.

Little to Report

I have never let the absence of anything interesting or exciting going on in my life stop me from writing at length about it, and I’m not about to start now. Or maybe I am, because I have no clue what I might write about – just a nagging feeling that I should write something, because that’s what I do.

My gravestone will read “Here lies Jonathan Beckett – he wrote some things”.

We went to the running club tonight – our second session of “Couch to 5K” shenanigans, where the interval time was increased from four minutes running to six minutes running. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing it to support my daughter – even though there’s a tremendous temptation to sneak off and do a 5K, if only to have some half-decent numbers appear in the running app I installed on my phone.

Anyway. It’s getting late. Time to go fall down internet rabbit holes for an hour instead of falling asleep.

Maybe something exciting will happen tomorrow.

Cycling on Canvas

I had a decision to make this morning – either walk to work again, or repair the punctures on my bicycle. Given that the walk takes perhaps three quarters of an hour, and that it was spitting with rain, I fished my bicycle tools from their hiding place in the junk room, and dragged my rather sad and dejected looking bicycle from the shed.

After a few minutes in the rain I found the puncture, prepared a patch to stick over it, and opened the tube of glue that has been sitting in the puncture repair kit since it was bought perhaps two or three years ago – and discovered the glue had mysteriously evaporated.

I walked back into the kitchen, hands caked in oil and dirt from the bike, and looked at the clock. I could still walk to work, but would be late. Dammit.

Fifteen minutes later – while nearing town – a mental process of sorts kicked in, and instead of turning left and continuing on towards work, I turned towards the cycle shop that wouldn’t be open for another half an hour, but is fortuitously situated just round the corner from a cafe. I emailed work – letting them know I would be an hour or so late.

And that’s how I ended up buying a tube of glue this morning. Quite possibly the smallest transaction I’ve ever been involved in at the cycle shop.

After trudging home through now persistent rain, I fixed the puncture, and re-assembled my bike. It’s worth noting that getting a bicycle tyre and inner-tube back onto a wheel is one of the darkest arts known to man. It’s also worth noting that while performing this dark art, I noticed that the still-inflated rear tyre of my bike was almost bald – with patches of canvas exposed around its circumference.

Guess who will be returning to the bicycle shop in the coming weeks for new tyres that he can ill afford?