Categories
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.

Categories
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 🙂

Categories
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.

Categories
Life

Running, Motorbikes, and Pretend Plane Crashes

I’m at the stage of having fallen off the blogging horse where I’m starting to wander around looking for the horse, shouting it’s name from time to time – hoping it will come clip-clopping around the corner from a nearby saloon bar. Actually, I think cowboys whistle for their horse in movies, don’t they ?

Maybe blogging works like whistling up the wind. Maybe if I whistle, the words will begin to appear once again. I wonder if I have to whistle a particular tune ?

Anyway. Today was Monday. A fairly average Monday, if I’m honest.

I scraped myself out of bed at 7am, and met my eldest daughter in the kitchen – already dressed, preparing to go for a run. She has recently discovered that some of her clothes don’t fit any more – so it having a mad health kick to reverse the situation. Of course she discovered perhaps twenty minutes later that running several miles around town is much harder work and less pleasurable than watching Netflix.

I’ve run for two consecutive days now, and my shins have begun complaining about it. A dull ache has returned that hasn’t been there for over a decade. I’m ignoring it, but I know exactly what it is – I have “hyper-flexibility” (or some other such idiotic condition) – meaning my joints are a bit more bendy than they should be. While this doesn’t mean I’m the next Mr Fantastic, it does mean that too much running causes my legs to hurt. It’s as good an excuse as any to have tomorrow off.

I wasn’t supposed to be working today at all, but ended up helping out with a few bits and pieces. My commute is of course hilariously short – about ten steps from the kitchen to the junk room.

What else has been going on?

Oh yes – our middle daughter – she of Rugby and cooking fame in the hereabouts – has been bought a motorcycle. She starts college in September, a few miles out of town. She’s not old enough to learn to drive yet, but is old enough for a 50cc scooter. I imagine (hope) she will use it to get to rugby training when the weather is nice too. Before being let loose on it, we’re forcing her to do a training course. My other half is already threatening to borrow it to get to work.

I looked at getting a scooter for myself a few years ago, but ultimately decided that cycling to the office is a better idea long-term. If not for cycling (and now running) I would end up putting all sorts of weight on. Talking of cycling – I should get out on the bike in the morning, and go for a ride – stop the cycling muscles from checking out completely.

Finally, I’ve continued messing around with flight simulators in the quieter moments of the last few days. It turns out the flying bit is the easy bit – it was always the easy bit – it’s the “doing what you’re supposed to be doing” that takes some learning – flying departures and approaches “by the book”.

I kind of a have a scary story about the simulator too – that happened last night, and took me a while to calm down from, which is ridiculous, because IT’S A VIDEO GAME!

In order to learn more about the procedural stuff, I have been hopping from airport to airport in the simulator, working my way down the coast of Alaska, Canada, the US, across to the US east coast, and then out to Cuba. Last night I setup a flight plan from Havana to Gustavo Rizo – from one end of Cuba to the other.

To make the flight more interesting, I set the time in the simulator to the dark of night, the weather to overcast, filed the flight plan, tuned the radio to the computer-generated air traffic controllers, and set off.

Everything was going SO well. An hour into the flight I had flown the length of Cuba, and was descending into the pattern at Gustova Rizo – following instructions to descend first to 5000ft, and then on the base leg of the pattern, to 2000ft. I couldn’t see anything outside, so blindly followed instructions.

Suddenly every warning light in the cockpit lit up like a christmas tree, and the flight management computer started shouting “WARNING! PULL UP! WARNING! TOO LOW! WARNING PULL UP!”. Before I had a chance to react, there was a horrible scraping sound, then a few seconds of silence, then a sickening crunch sound, and the cockpit went dark.

Flight over.

I went to bed, wondering what on earth had happened, and needed to calm down. I was genuinely shaken up, even though it was a simulator. This morning, I created a new flight – from the destination airport, and flew the route in reverse – looking at the GPS track to figure out where I had been.

The computer generated air traffic control had generated it’s own “standard” approach pattern, because the database of known “standard approaches” didn’t cover the exact airport I was landing at. Unfortunately the flight simulator wasn’t clever enough to figure out that the approach might lead directly through the 3000ft high hills a few miles south of the runway. I had essentially glanced off the highest peak while descending through the clouds in the dark, and ended up in the forest a few hundred yards further on.

It was galling really – if I had been earlier or later making my turn, I would have missed the hill – but no, I was doing exactly what the simulator air traffic controller was telling me to do, exactly when they told me to do it.

So yes. Anyway. Enough about that – before I bore you to death.

The reason for messing around with the simulator at all is to get good enough at it to do a flight with my Dad. Since retiring, he spends his free time doing virtual flights in a flight simulator with a group of friends around the country. They meet up online a couple of times each week, and “fly” a pre-determined route. One of them even acts as air traffic control – managing the queue for departure and arrival. And that’s the bit I’m still terrible at – saying the right thing to the controllers. Once I can do that, I can do a simulated flight with them, and no doubt be mocked mercilessly for any mistakes I make.

I’ll let you know how it goes, if and when it happens.

Categories
Life

Running and Working

Slowly but surely, I’m losing track of the day of the week. I’m only working three days a week at the moment – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – so my weekends have become longer than my working week. After decades working five days a week, it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

I didn’t help that I went to bed at 2am last night. I somehow scraped myself out of bed this morning, and went for a run – I looked in on our youngest daughter, but all I could get from her was a muffled groan about something or other. I asked for a final time if she was running or not – yes or no – and she shook her head into the pillow.

So we lasted three weeks of “Couch to 5K” runs until I found myself as the “last person standing”. Rather than continue on with the programme alone, I decided to just “go for a run” this morning – to remind my body what a longer run feels like. I ran the same route we have been doing recently, but without any walking at all – and of course the weather cooperated by trying to cook me slowly throughout the run. I kind of surprised myself though – and survived, even after so little sleep.

The rest of the day has been filled with conference calls, emails, writing documents, and jumping down development rabbit holes. Pretty standard stuff.

I can’t help wondering if our ways of working and living have changed for the better in some ways – for many companies, the only reason they have an office is convention, and lack of trust in their own staff. I think perhaps the last few months have made many realise that their fears were unfounded – and that the internet, and platforms such as Office 365, GSuite, Teams, Zoom, Slack, and so on have made remote working a viable alternative.

I guess I’m lucky because I have no problem working alone – I don’t really rely on anybody else for anything, whereas I know others do. There’s going to be a huge problem bringing new starts up-to-speed, and perhaps recruitment will look much more towards self sufficiency as a desirable trait.

Here’s the thing though – if I’m going to end up sitting in the junk room for months of the year, perhaps it’s time to declutter, and decorate it.

Categories
Life

If Only We Had Some Cookies

My youngest daughter’s school has been taking part in a huge effort to rack up as many kilometres as possible in physical exercise while in lockdown – by either walking, running, or cycling. Each day after our Couch to 5K runs she has been emailing the distance covered to her teachers, who have been compiling the results, and letting everybody know how many kilometres were left to reach the target. Last night the remaining target stood at about 49 kilometres.

This morning I set out on bicycles with Miss 15, with the intention of lopping as many kilometres off the total as possible in one go.

I had agreed to cycle around town with her – perhaps doing 10 kilometres or so. While cycling out towards a nearby town, it occurred to her that we might visit her school. Great idea – except her school is quite some distance away.

“Are you really sure? – it’s a long way.” (this was one of those “are you really sure” conversations, where the parent is actually thinking about themselves, but trying to make it sound like concern for their child)

“Yeah”

And so the epic journey began – cycling across the county to her school – a twenty eight kilometre round trip. I think the biggest shock to me was the amount of traffic on the roads. It would appear that pandemic really doesn’t exist any more for a lot of people. We saw car parks filled to bursting, and queues of people at many of the shops we passed along our way.

I know people joke about Darwin taking care of those that either believe the pandemic is a hoax, or massively over-blown, but trust me – I know several people that have had (still have) the virus, and it’s nothing to joke about.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance is the citizen journalists that are jumping on the anti-establishment band-wagon at the moment to gain traffic, and therefore advertising money. They are cyncically playing to people’s frustrations, peddling fear, uncertainly, doubt, and just about every anti-establishment fiction, or distortion of statistics they can dig up and fashion to fit their agenda. It’s not helping anybody.

Anyway. I bought some coffee earlier. We ran out. I’m thinking about installing a panic button in the kitchen – one of those Amazon “instant order” buttons – specifically for coffee.

If only we had some cookies.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

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!