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Life

Missing Days

I think it’s fair to say I’ve well and truly fallen off the blogging horse. After several years posting almost every day, I’ve dropped back to posting every few days, and it feels strangely fine. Nobody has come after me with a pitchfork (yet).

I’m sitting in the junk room for the first time in three days. It’s just getting dark outside, and I’m wondering what I will fill the next four days with – I’m not due back in the office until Tuesday next week.

I’m still running with my youngest daughter every other morning – working our way through the “Couch to 5K” programme. She has unwittingly become something of a superstar at school – they are taking part in a challenge where all pupils are asked to walk, run or cycle, and to submit their miles towards an overall total. We are heading out on bicycles in the morning to finish the challenge in style – it finishes at noon – so will hopefully add quite a few kilometres to the final total.

It will surprise nobody to discover that I still haven’t read any of the colossal mountain of unread books that I listed at the start of the coronavirus lock-down. Evenings have been spent watching movies, playing board games, meddling with computers, or running quizzes on Zoom. Days off have been spent fighting with our jungle of a garden.

I am starting to wonder how difficult it will be to resume normal life. For years our live has run on rails – working all week, doing chores throughout most evenings, then running ragged most weekends taking the children to sporting fixtures, washing kit, buying groceries, and so on. I’m not entirely sure how we did it, because even with days to burn, we’re still somehow managing to fill them.

Anyway. It’s getting late. Perhaps a glass of wine, and then bed.

p.s. I’ve been listening to a lot of Katherine Jenkins recently. I’m not entirely sure why. I didn’t used to like her voice, but it’s grown on me.

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Life

Monday Morning

The clock has just ticked past 9am on Monday morning, and you find me sitting at the dining table in the living room opposite my youngest daughter, who is starting her school day – with a laptop propped in front of her, a pencil case full of pens and pencils, and a paper notepad open next to her. She has a habit of reading text on the screen out-loud, which I’m rapidly discovering is quite possibly the most distracting thing in the known universe.

My middle daughter is sitting on the floor in her bedroom doorway in her pyjamas, watching YouTube videos on her phone. While retrieving a hoodie from the bedroom a little while ago, I enquired if she was going to have a wash and get dressed, and she told me to stop having a go at her. If you were wondering, this is a normal teenage girl response – if you ask them if or when they might do anything you might normally expect them to do, you are “having a go”.

Perhaps the most entertaining negotiation at the moment happens with my eldest daughter, and the attempts involved in brokering the “Couch to 5K” runs around town. I am currently not allowed to wake her up, or knock on her door on a morning. Two days ago I went for a run at 8am with my youngest daughter after the others were no-shows, and then – at perhaps 11am, the eldest finally emerged from her room, and asked “why didn’t you wake me up?”. I reminded her of her own rules around being woken up, which caused her to not speak to me for quite some time.

I’m not complaining – just observing the idiocy of it all. We finally went running together yesterday morning – myself and all three daughters. Of course it didn’t happen until nearly lunchtime, when the eldest finally got up (the rest of us had been up for hours), but it was fun. We’re only in the early stages of the “Couch to 5K” programme, so the runs are not difficult at all. I say that, but then it transpires that if you’re our middle daughter, and you have no sense of pace, energy, or stamina, you almost die. During the final run of the session, she repeatedly fell back to a walk, complaining “I CAN’T DO IT” to anybody that would listen (none of us listened).

You know my youngest daughter was supposed to be doing school work? She’s now “taking a break”. She lasted half an hour. She’s doing a fitness programme on YouTube, rather than any written work – dancing around the lounge on a yoga mat, doing lunges, high kicks, burpees, and so on. I imagine she’ll start hunting for food in a few minutes.

I keep wondering about filling out my bullet journal for the day, to make myself look busy. “Make coffee”, “Make another coffee”, “Write a blog post”, “Post to twitter”, “Take a photo for instagram”, and “Search the cupboards for some junk to eat”… there’s no end to the possibilities.

On that note, I can’t hear the washing machine any more. That must mean there is some washing to hang out. I better go do it before Miss 15 realises, and uses it as an excuse to avoid getting on with any school work.

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Life

On Call

It’s Friday, and you find me holed up in the junk room at home, putting together another quiz. This evening the company I work for are having a “virtual social” on Zoom, and I volunteered myself as quiz-master. Although I have run several quizes recently, I’m putting together an entirely new set of questions, so the rest of my family can take part.

While I work on the quiz, the younger children are heading into town to get some groceries. I can’t really go anywhere today – even though I’m not working – because I have agreed to be “on call” for any support issues at work. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, so it’s not really a hardship.

While tidying the junk room up yesterday I fished the old iMac out, and powered it up. It’s over 20 years old now, and STILL WORKS. I keep wondering if I should give it away to somebody that might get some use out of it, but can never quite bring myself to part with it. I keep telling myself I’ll use it for writing, but I never quite get around to it.

I bought a game for the kids to play yesterday – a crafting and exploration game on Steam called “Starbound”. After not hearing anything from our eldest for a few hours, I checked in on her, and discovered her still playing it – so it can’t be that bad. If I make some time later, I might have a look at it myself.

Finally, I watched the movie “Midway” last night. I hate to say it, but it’s nowhere near as good as the version made in the 1970s with Charlton Heston. Yes, the new movie has got spectacular special effects (which look very fake), but it has none of the strategic maneouvering that is covered so well in the older movie. The dive bombing scenes were unintentionally hilarious – with the age-old “every time we cut back to see the ground coming, we’re still as far away from it as last time we looked”… I swear – some of the dive bombing runs fell through the same altitudes four or five times.

Anyway.

This post was a bit random, wasn’t it.

Although I’m only posting every other day at the moment, life goes on. We’re still running, and I’m still cycling fairly regularly. Work is down to three days a week at the moment, which strangely means that I’m struggling to figure out which day of the week it is. We’re all well though, so we can’t complain.

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Life

Almost Midnight

It’s been a day. Somehow it’s already heading towards midnight, and I’ve only just sat down to write something. I know, I know – I could scratch today, and write something later in the week – but then I started thinking “it migh tbe nice to write every other day”… and that’s my slippery slope, right there. Within days I’ll be writing every day again.

So what DID I do today ?

I scraped myself out of bed early this morning, retrieved my bike from the shed in the back garden, and set off to cycle a few miles around town. Along the way I reached a really rather ridiculous hill leading out of town, and thought to myself “I actually feel ok – I’ll go up it”. On reflection, this was a really stupid idea, and my lungs and legs still haven’t forgiven me.

As I turned the pedals, eating up the tarmac, I could see a cyclist ahead of me on the hill. I kept my head down, and kept turning the pedals – slowly slipping backwards through the gears. I was gaining on him at quite a rate of knots, until I ran out of beans rather spectacularly. Still – thought I was doing remarkably well, and could have cheered when I saw him pull into a layby half-way up the hill. I pulled in behind him, and then realised he was just turning around – to go back towards town. He also looked as fresh as a daisy. And was about seventy years old. And I wanted to climb into a hole in the ground.

After a few moments catching my breath I continued on up the hill, with my legs slowly turning to rubber. The rest of the half-hour on the bike was remarkably easy after that – smiling at people as I passed them walking their dogs, as they no doubt thought “that idiot just cycled up the hill, didn’t he” (it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t shaved either – so not only did I look like I might die at any moment, I also had pretty good caveman stubble going on).

While cycling through town, I was overtaken by two cyclists on racing bikes. I convinced myself they were only faster because they were on racing bikes (I was on my commuting bike) – even though they were probably ten years old than me. I started grinning at my own idiocy, and before I knew it arrived back at home.

It’s the effort that counts, right ?

After a shower, a shave, a round or two of marmite on toast, and a coffee, I settled into the work day, and sat through a number of Zoom and Teams meetings. For the record, I think Zoom works far better than Teams, even though I’m not supposed to say that.

This evening has been all about updating my eldest daughter’s computer, teaching her how to use the terminal in Linux, and installing Steam for her. Fingers crossed the computer keeps working – it wasn’t doing a very good job of it earlier this evening.

Ah crap. It’s almost midnight already. I wonder if we have any cereal left? I need the energy for the morning – the PLAN is to do the next Couch to 5K run with ALL THREE daughters. It remains to be seen if they will all get up.

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Life

Unfollowing Drama Queens

I’m sitting at the dining table this morning, opposite our youngest daughter who is getting on with school work. My other half is in the junk room, working. I have the day off. So far I have thrown a couple of loads through the washing machine, cleared the washing up, been for a cycle around town, and had a shower.

The cycling thing is my master-plan to “fix” my right knee. It’s been hurting for the last week when I run on it – I imagine because I’m nowhere near as fit as I was three months ago, and have probably put on weight while at home. It seems to be working so far. Thankfully the “Couch to 5K” running plan doesn’t really ramp up for another couple of weeks, so we’ll see.

Cycling around town was… interesting. If not for gale-force-winds, it would probably have been really enjoyable. As it was, it turned into a serious workout – but miraculously my knee was fine. I only stayed out for twenty minutes, and covered about 6 kilometres. I saw nobody throughout the ride, other than a car that got stuck behind me on an uphill stretch of the route. I imagine they were pretty furious – given that I didn’t see any more cars anywhere in town – and they got stuck behind the only cyclist they probably saw all morning.

One up-side to the wind? It’s making short work of drying the washing on the line.

This is what my life has been reduced to – washing clothes and dishes, running and cycling to avoid becoming enormously fat, and minding children to make sure they get their homework done. I’m starting to identify really strongly with the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day”. At least I’m working tomorrow – even if that does mean sitting in the junk room, instead of the lounge.

Following the Prime Minister outlining plans for the beginning of the UK lifting itself out of lock-down last night, Facebook erupted with a torrent of ignorance, misinformation, fear, and uncertainty. I swear – some people love nothing better than to set fire to the ground beneath their own feet, before climbing atop a soapbox of their own construction, and attracting as much attention as possible. For a change I think the government are doing a pretty damn good job in impossible circumstances – and now is not the time to start pointing fingers, blaming, or whatever else. How quickly people forget what it means to be British, and instead start whispering “but what about me though?”.

I blame the social internet, and the ability for people to foster their own insular bubbles filled with self-obsessed attention seeking idiocy. And yes, I realise there is a certain amount of irony involved here – given that blogs are of course insular bubbles filled with personal content – but they tend to describe life in a fairly even handed manner (or at least the good ones do) – not complain, shout, scream, and wallow. Bloggers tend to be highly introspective and reflective – rarely finger pointers or blamers.

I had to un-follow several people last night – if only to protect my own mental health.

Anyway. Here’s to you and yours, and another day in lock-down. I’m here all day.

Categories
Life

Running the Roads

Last autumn I took part in the “Couch to 5K” running programme at the local running club – to support my eldest daughter both with her fitness, and in her battle with anxiety. We joined a small intrepid band of new runners each week, and pounded the streets together every Tuesday evening. Over time the distances increased, and in early December we “graduated” – completing several organised 5K runs around town.

We had planned on starting to take part in park runs – a weekly 5K organised run at the big park in town every Sunday morning – but then the entire town flooded for several months, and then the Corona Virus hit. We stopped running in early December, and haven’t done anything since.

Having been in lock-down for the last several weeks, the children were becoming increasingly restless, so my other half volunteered me to re-start the Couch to 5K programme with them. In case you’re starting to see a pattern forming, yes – I get volunteered for a lot of things.

We made it through three weeks before a mysterious injury afflicted me on the way down the stairs one day. I was carrying a pile of towels towards the washing machine – as you do – when something suddenly hurt. That was last week.

This morning, we reset again – this time with the NHS Couch to 5K App on my phone – with Olympic champion Michael Johnson encouraging us throughout the programme, with his deep booming voice announcing “You’re doing great – the next run starts in 3 – 2 – 1 – go for it!”. Part of the reason for resetting is because a circle of acquaintances on Facebook have also started from zero with the same app – so we get to share our progress, and encourage each other.

My only reservation so far is that my knee hurt almost immediately this morning. I’m wondering if it’s just because I’m sitting down a LOT at the moment, and perhaps crucially, not cycling. On a normal workday, I would cycle 6 miles – that hasn’t happened since March. I’m going to try getting the bike out on the in-between days, and just go for a quiet ride around the local area.

Fingers crossed!

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Life

Jackanory

You find me sitting at the desk in the junk room – sipping coffee, looking back over the morning in my bullet journal, and half-watching the indicators at the bottom of the computer screen that tell me when emails have arrived, or conversations have started that concern me.

Apart from work, the day has been filled with a continual struggle to keep on top of chores – clearing the kitchen, tidying the lounge, putting clothes through the washing machine and hanging them out. When in the office I might wander down to the kitchen for a break, and gaze from the window while waiting for the kettle to boil. At home, those few minutes are filled with mad dashes here and there. I can’t imagine it’s good for your mental health.

The girls are camping out in the lounge today. Miss 15 is sitting at the dining table with her laptop – supposedly getting on with school work. Miss 16 is sitting on the sofa, binge-watching Netflix, and our eldest is sitting on the floor by the patio doors, doing a jigsaw.

My other half is at work today – yesterday we shared the junk room together while she worked on cutting videos together for the school website. She taught herself how to use Lightworks – a professional video editing tool – similar in most respects to Adobe Premiere, but free. The teachers are busy recording themselves reading story books to the children, and my other half is cutting in views of the book pages, zooming and scrolling “Ken Burns” style – as both Jackanory and Reading Rainbow have done over the years.

I did warn her before she started that if she learned how, it would become a living hell. Each five minute story takes well over an hour to turn into a slick video. After doing one book the evening before last, she came home the next day with an arm-full of books, and gigabytes of video clips. Thankfully the school have requested and received permission from the publishers. Today’s challenge (evidenced by a chat conversation with me) has been how to prevent parents from downloading and sharing the videos.

Anyway!

I should really get on with some work. Maybe another coffee first though.

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Life

Coffee, Cake, and Secrets

I’m sitting in the relative quiet of the junk room at home, listening to spotify, sipping coffee, and finishing off a piece of cinnamon swirl my other half made a few days ago. It’s a bit stale now, but still edible. My work laptop is sitting alongside me, with numerous notes filling the screen – the beginnings of the design for something.

There’s always a temptation in my field of work to design a tool to solve problems like the problem at hand, rather than the problem at hand. We always have half an eye on common problems, and common solutions.

At some point in ancient history somebody realised that if you put gunpowder in a tube, you could fire something out of it. It was probably an accident, and probably got somebody killed. Who would have guessed when they started to design the first cannon that it would end up with people walking the streets in the US with semi-automatic assault rifles.

I wonder how many times in human history a solution to a problem has been devised that rapidly became the solution to lots of other unintended things ?

You might argue that nuclear physics is the poster child for unintended consequences. A paper in the 1930s postulating the release of energy possible if a certain chain reaction could be manufactured was initially seen as a break-through in power generation. Obviously somebody that liked blowing things up in their back garden then saw the paper, and said “hold my pint”. This ended up wth Albert Einstein warning whoever would listen about people like that, and – almost inevitably – nobody listened (no really, go search for the letter).

Last year I watched a documentary talking to Robert Lazar – the guy that became famous in the 1980s for having supposedly worked at Area 51. Although the press turned him into a joke, it’s worth noting that none of his claims have ever been disproven – quite the opposite in fact. The interesting thing to me isn’t that he may have worked on a crashed UFO, or the reverse-engineered science recovered from one – it’s the story he tells about the engine technology, and the possibilities in terms of free energy that (if any of it is true) have been withheld for decades.

There’s a common view that the discovery that we are not alone would lead to immediate anarchy, panic, and whatever else. I don’t agree. Those with religious faith would claim their god invented the aliens too – but it might start a debate about who got invented first. Suddenly the more abstract passages from the old testament about fallen angels would be wheeled out, to explain how the good books have already got us covered.

Wow. This post went sideways.

You see. This is what happens when I swear myself off from blogging for a while. I take a coffee break, and BOOM, out comes all this rubbish.

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Life

One More Thing…

Before vanishing for a few days, here’s a video of me flying an F-18 in the DCS simulator – as mentioned in the podcast last week. Enjoy!