Category: Cookin’

The Wreck of the Beautiful

When the Beautiful set sail back in 1970,
She was state of the art, the flagship of our navy.
But the salt sea took its toll and the rust began to show,
And with a heavy heart we took her to the breaker’s yard.

I thought I heard her call.
Maybe I heard nothing at all.
I thought I heard her call
From the wreck of the beautiful.


Same start as the day before; a swift-is breakfast before a start to the second part of the security audit. Got pinged on Slack by D asking about a blocker on one of my other projects; I was confused because I thought it was all in hand. Following up later, I discovered that it’s some third team who need to make a small change have declined to do so for what I can tell is no good reason; I pulled some strings so hopefully that’ll fall into place very soon. I eventually broke for “lunch” around 2pm.

Took delivery of my new bike in the morning, so spent my lunch break putting the handlebars and pedals on, with the assistance of the kids, before finishing up at a sensible time and cooking a curry for dinner. As seems to happen frequently, didn’t get the kids into bed until late; that said they were both asleep earlier than they’ve been recently. Evidently tired out!


Bank Holiday Friday. There’s a thing that doesn’t happen very often. Also something that doesn’t happen very often these days is that everyone’s up, dressed, and breakfasted before 9.

Attempted to head out on a ride on my new bike; was barely ten yards down the road when I realised the folly of trying to set it up in the garden where there’s no room to ride. Went back and raised the saddle quite a way. Set off again, feeling a lot more comfortable. Managed the big hill just by my house no problem, but started to realise the brakes aren’t set up quite right and my stopping distance is way too high, reinforced by the heart-in-mouth moment when a car, with the first idiot driver I’ve seen in a very long time, turned across my path without looking. Later on I decided the angle of the drop bars needs tweaking. I also need to train myself out of the habit of putting my hands on the flats, expecting there to be brakes there. Don’t know if it’s because I’m used to that from my other bikes, or some dormant muscle memory from the 1980s road bike I had in my teens which had a way of getting to the brakes there. Biggest annoyance was that the Fitbit stopped syncing ten miles in. No idea what my pace was like for the last seven miles or so. A decent first trip though, was glad to be out despite the sun being a little to warm for what I’m used to.

While I’d been out on the bike, J and the kids had been making bunting for the VE50 day celebration. Had a cup of coffee with them then made the bike adjustments; brakes are now a bit keener and hopefully I won’t feel so uncomfortable riding with my hands on the hoods. Pottered a little with the vegetables, mostly trying to rescue any of the carrot seedlings that the wildlife seems to be trying very hard to pull up.

After lunch, made a pizza dough and set about trying to tidy the garage and clear an overgrown flowerbed in the front garden to grow sunflowers in with the kids. Got there in the end, but it wasn’t quick work, and there’s lots more we really need to do in the garden even if we’re leaving the lawn to meadow. Pizza came out thick and chewy; it’s inspired me to maybe attempt a Detroit-style one soon.

Finished up the day reasonably early and watched Ready Player One in the evening. Not sure what I made of it; I read the book a number of years ago and enjoyed the retro references, not so much the story, especially the reveal of Aech’s real identity, which didn’t fit for me with the way the character had spoken and thought earlier in the novel. The film was better in a number of story related ways, but the nostalgia fell flat for me. Probably a combination of pop-culture-at-ninety-miles-an-hour working better on the printed page, and the problem of licensing. It needed more Simon Pegg too – but then I’m struggling to think of a film where he’s a supporting actor that doesn’t.

Hooked On A Feeling

When you hold me
In your arms so tight,
You let me know
Everything’s all right!

I’m hooked on a feeling…


Up at gone 8 again. The waking-up-early stages of the pandemic are well and truly over. Breakfasted quickly and got into work mode. In terms of that at least, an uneventful day, with a decent balance of meetings and decent chunks of time to get things done. The evening was the “Camp at Home” event being run by various scouting organisations, so spent a bit of time here and there getting Sleeper, Jr. to pack his bag to go “camping” complete with sleeping mat, changes of clothes, and so on. Can’t forget a teddy bear or a book to read in the dark by torchlight either.

Cooked pork chops for dinner with roast courgette, red onion, peppers and tomatoes for dinner. Both kids turned their noses up at the vegetables, much to my chagrin. After dinner, created a den in the playroom for sleeping in and got the kids in the bath. Eventually got the boy bedded down round 8:30; he was unsurprisingly still awake at 10 when we headed up.


One child woke around 7; she was told to go downstairs to watch TV quietly until we got up, and not to disturb her elder brother, who was unsurprisingly still asleep. He eventually surfaced about 7:45, not long after I got up. Despite claiming he’d slept well, I could see this wasn’t the case. He burst into tears when I told him he’d be sleeping in his own bed again tonight; he was absolutely exhausted. I did at least say the den could stay up a few days.

School work was no better; his concentration just wasn’t there and he didn’t do as well on his Maths as he usually would, and after an hour of staring at a blank sheet of paper with a title for English, we let him leave it until the next day. J put a movie on for the kids to watch – Inside Out – but he wasn’t interested, instead preferring to tinker with some Scratch program or other.

Penne bolognese dinner done, we got both the kids into bed fairly early and J and I had a decent chat; she’d found keeping a boy who’d had almost no sleep entertained and happy to be a herculean task. Finished up the evening with birthday drinks for F by way of Zoom, during which I managed to get a delivery slot from Decathlon to order a shiny new (cheapish) road bike. The twitter-rumour was they were released at 11pm, so, still up, I attempted to put in an order at bang on 11; no dice. Tried a few more times before I moved from Safari to Chrome out of frustration, and immediately managed to book a delivery. I can’t help wondering whether I’d have had better daytime luck with a different browser.


As usual, a lazy start. We had just about enough milk to see us through breakfast before the Ocado order arrived at about 9:30. By the time the kids were dressed and ready for the day, there was zero chance of me getting out on the bike before J’s online Zumba class, so I didn’t bother, instead taking them both outside to tend to the growing vegetables; of the four potato grow bags we started, two have taken off and the others are going remarkably slowly. Once the gardening, such as it was, was taken care of, I kicked a football around the lawn with them for a while before stopping for food.

After a lunch of sandwiches made with home made (non-sourdough) bread, I took Sleeper, Jr. out for a ride around the residential roads nearby. We managed five and a half miles, though my FitBit conked out at around the four mile mark, irritatingly.

Cooked a lasagne for dinner before packing both kids off to bed reasonably early. Despite not having gone mad with exercise, I was pretty tired. most likely due to the previous night’s festivities. Once they were both tucked in, stuck Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker on the TV – while I saw it at Christmas, J didn’t – she’d been at work while I’d taken the last day of the school holidays as a day off work to spend with Sleepr, Jr. I must have been pretty still; my fitness tracker registered me as asleep for most of the film. Pretty sure I wasn’t, but I was ready to be by the time the movie ended.


Up at around 8 again, got everyone breakfast then headed out for the long-overdue ride. Was cloudy and a little cool but I made decent time for the first eight miles or so, but then I started to get a headache and the first spots of rain started to hit. By the time I got home, the rain had passed but the headache hadn’t; nearly 14 miles is a decent bit of exercise at least, even if it’s short of what I’d intended.

Had a break for a cup of coffee then turned my hand to baking cookies with the kids. Knocked together a batch of egg-free chocolate chip cookies before lunch, discovering that you can tell a four year old to mix the dry ingredients and they’ll do it incredibly thoroughly while you measure out the wet ingredients. First few onto the sheet were way too big and fell apart when I tried to put them on a cooling rack post-baking; there was all around disappointment at my insistence that we had to wait for them to cool before eating.

“Dad, when can we play computer games again?” has been a regular refrain in recent days, so this afternoon we sat down and had a game of Super Mario Party followed by a quick championship of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch. Hopefully that’s sated their desire for a while; Mario Party has the advantage that so much of it is RNG based that even the youngest member of the family has a chance of winning, as she did today. I could also cook coq au vin while playing – chop shallots, play my turn, chop carrots, play a mini game, and so on. Worked remarkably well and on the whole was a delicious dinner for very little effort.

Kids went to bed with minimal fuss; we chilled in front of the TV for a while before I headed up relatively early. Tomorrow, back to work…

Sweet Scorched Earth

I love the way your hair falls on your eyes
And the way the sun hits them as it dies.
There’s poison in the water and the sky;
We’ll hold onto each other if we fry…

It’s you and me forever, together,
For all that it’s worth.
As long as we last on this sweet, scorched Earth


Up at a reasonable hour, breakfasted with the kids before getting stuck into the onslaught of meetings: team stand up, architecture meeting, leadership stand up. A break for lunch before heading into a monthly forum meeting. Finally got time to do some real work come 2pm, before yet another meeting about an architectural change at 3:30. The weather had turned; it was raining most of the day. That had one major impact that I wasn’t expecting – noise. Usually the kids have been letting off steam in the garden, but with the wet they were stuck inside. There were only a couple of times I genuinely couldn’t concentrate on my meeting due to the bickering happening in the rest of the house.

The weather seems to have sent the ant invasion back into hibernation just as the bait stations arrived. I’ve put one down but it seems like we’ll have to wait for warmer weather to return to find out if they’re really gone. This time I remembered to defrost the chicken, so we managed to get to the enchiladas that I’d planned for Monday. The kids still find hem too spicy. I’ll just have to keep increasing their tolerance. I’m not after Pig of Doom levels of tolerance, but being able to add a bit more spice to curries and things wouldn’t go amiss. Kids in bed, collapsed into my chair for the regular Tuesday FaceTime session, which finished up at nearly midnight.


Woke about 6am with a headache. Got up about 7, having somehow remembered I’d agreed to attend an 8am meeting instead of having a family breakfast. From there, and all-hands meeting, stand ups again, before a break for toasted sandwiches for lunch, which I completely failed to help make after saying I would. Oops.

Got some real work done in the afternoon for a change, fixing a problem that would have prevented a new environment from coming online. Finished up about 5:30 then went straight into preparing dinner; the kids have been on Zoom meetings for half the afternoon so J hadn’t had time to prepare anything; I threw pork chops and various vegetables into the oven, which were greeted with less than enthusiasm. Got them into bed late, well after 8pm, at which point I got an invitation to join an impromptu Zoom drinks with some friends and ex-colleagues. I accompanied the call with the alcohol-free hibiscus saison I got from Big Drop. There was something that didn’t taste quite right to me; reading the back of the can later, it’s the presence of Sorachi Ace hops, which always taste like burnt rubber to me.

Dropped from the one Zoom call to catch up with a long-time friend; she had some fantastic news that I’m delighted to learn. We chatted about various bits and pieces for an hour, then called it a night. I’m looking forward to seeing her again in person at the end of all this.

Quest For The Golden Frog

Crash-landed near Tanzania
Surrounded by savages in rabbit ears.
Before you could say ‘My good man, how queer,’
I held aloft my magic spear!
‘In the name of the empire, bring me the frog’!
Amazingly, they made me their king or their god;
I didn’t think this was odd until we got to the volcano…


Woke to a disappointingly gloomy day; having hoped for sunshine the weather was overcast and a little chilly. Eventually finished breakfast and getting the kids dressed by about 9:30, then went out on my bike for an hour or so around 10. By the time I got back, an hour later and 16 miles down, the sun was shining gloriously. J was about to start her online Zumba class, and we had time to briefly discuss the kids’ poor behaviour while I’d been out. Confronted them both, incredibly calmly, about the arguing and fighting that had been going on. Didn’t raise my voice at all, just talked to them (and confiscated their tablets). There were a lot of tears from both, but I think we reached an understanding about appropriate ways of behaving.

Lit the BBQ in the afternoon. The pork belly I cooked on it turned out amazingly, I’ll be doing that again. Ate outside in the sunshine; it’s not yet got to the time of year when our sun-trap garden is too hot to use of a late afternoon. Managed to get the kids into bed reasonably early, and had time for a film before we turned in for the first time in ages: Ant-Man and The Wasp. Fun, but I think I liked the first movie better.


Another lazy start, and after breakfast this time it was my turn to play referee while J went out for a run. As I came downstairs to the kitchen, however, I found unwanted visitors invading the bins. Obviously emboldened by our choice of film last night, a colony of ants have discovered our food waste. Moved the bin outside and gave the worktop where they’d been gathering a thorough clean. I’ve ordered some ant killer online; hopefully it’ll arrive before they get to be too much of a problem.

We fired up the Nintendo and had a good 40 minutes of the four of us all playing Just Dance together. Certainly felt like a (light) workout but because I forgot to put my FitBit back on after charging it, I’ve no idea how much energy I burned. Lunch was a picnic in the garden again, which was lovely – the weather was definitely on our side.

Roasted a pork shoulder for dinner, with an apple juice-based brine injection. Something to do again, the meat was wonderfully moist and flavourful. The crackling picked up the flavour too, though didn’t crisp up quite as much as I’d have liked. Talked with mum outside in the garden while eating ice creams in the sun, then put the kids to bed. Finished off with the season finale of Better Call Saul. Wow. I could see where Lalo’s story was going, but Kim’s… that’s blown me away. Guess I’ll have to wait a couple of years for the conclusion. Boo.


Woken shortly after 6 by a little girl who wanted to go downstairs and watch cartoons; I managed to get her to stay in bed for another hour before bowing to the inevitable. Weather was once again gloomy and there might even have been the odd spot of rain. While not exactly meeting-light, things weren’t too full on for a change, though there was one person who sent out an invitation without an agenda or context at short notice and didn’t want to take “no” for an answer when I declined to join their meeting instead of having lunch. Pressing “Decline” on that one felt oddly empowering.

The meeting after lunch was less helpful. “Here’s something we need that we discussed with, er, the ginger guy on your team. Can you sort it?” Took almost the entire meeting to understand what they’d agreed and with who, and the answer that they could do it themselves and call on us for help was at least acceptable.

I’d intended on enchiladas for dinner but in a fit of complete disorganisedness, the chicken was still in the freezer at 5:30 when I finished work. Instead: emergency lamb curry! After food, the silliness quotient was starting to increase rapidly, so packed the kids off to bed. Just as we were settling in front of the TV, though, we were disturbed by a very much awake boy who was somewhat unsettled. We talked about some fun things we could do (he’s going to make a book about his bears in the vein of Teddy Edward Goes To Timbuctoo, which I’ve had for about as long as I’ve had a bear of the same name), and maybe learn how to knit a scarf for one of them too. Distraction therapy works wonders.

Hand In My Pocket

I’m high but I’m grounded.
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed.
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby.
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine…


Started work at the usual hour after breakfast. The kids are waking up later and later. By the time all of this is over, they might as well be teenagers given their sleep pattern. Meetings were attended, decisions were decided. I’m increasingly glad of the hour’s calendar block around lunchtime, getting a little time away from the desk to see the sunlight and talk to the kids. This time we even managed to put in a little light gardening, moving the runner bean that’s been on the windowsill into a much larger pot outside, topping up the compost on some of the potatoes, and thinning out the carrots, which are going mad.

Yesterday I promised Sleeper Jr. another bike ride, so after dinner we headed out on a three-and-a-half mile ride, a bit faster this time. On the big downhill stretch he got up to a whole 11mph, much to the annoyance of the few car drivers that were around; not that I cared, I positioned myself to prevent stupid overtaking and gave a wave of thanks when the drivers did overtake in a safe manner. The less said about the idiots who went the wrong side of the traffic islands at pinch points, the better. Got home and got him ready for bed in time for the 8pm weekly applause session, then got a decent amount of grown-up time for a change.

On returning from our ride, I noticed from my phone that D had been trying very hard to get hold of me; he’d just come out of a meeting where he felt like he’d been given impossible choices. I lifted his spirits somewhat by giving him an extra option which had the benefit of being easy to implement and fulfil all the requirements he’s trying to juggle.


Slept awfully. Adding to the lockdown stresses we’ve had a concern about the house that could potentially cost thousands to get put right. Today we had a structural engineer coming to visit to prepare a report. I sent the kids out for a walk while he was here, and I discussed his findings with him before preparing lunch. It’s been a great weight off my mind to be told exactly why we’ve had cracking appear around an external door frame; it turns out that there’s nothing we need to be concerned about other than a little light redecoration. I’ve never been more delighted to pay someone a fair sum of money for what will be very little direct benefit.

Made lunch for J and the kids while they walked home and spent some time enjoying the sunshine before heading back inside for a bunch more meetings, including a second-stage interview which went very well; the only snag is that the candidate is probably asking for a little too much salary-wise.

The kids dragged me into doing PE with Joe with them while I was supposed to be making paella. Fun for the doing-something-togetherness, but maybe not so much for the actual exercise; I prefer to be out of doors with the wind in my helmet. Maybe tomorrow I’ll manage that. In any case dinner wasn’t massively late, and I’m sure it helped to tire them both out.

Feeling a lot better today mentally. Sleeper Jr. has some emotional literacy work from school which I think is helping him process things. Spent the evening kicking back with various old and retro video games, finishing off 198X, with the first of my non-alcoholic beers from Big Drop. Looking forward to chilling out a bit tomorrow.

There’s A Melody II

There’s a melody somewhere inside of me,
I can hear it but can’t get it out of me,
In my head it soaring but when it comes out it is all the same note

Is it in discipline?
Like taking your medicine?

You’ve gotta push through the unpleasantness

Give it some time, just let it go
Just close your eyes and soon you will know


Saturday again. If it weren’t for the grocery delivery, I swear I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from one day to the next. This one was missing just one item: the joint I’d planned to cook for Sunday dinner, and use the leftovers for lunches during the week. No big deal, no need to go out and buy anything else, just an annoyance, and not a huge one in the grand scheme of things, and a re-plan of the week’s meals. The big deal that I’d been waiting for was present though: plain flour. Enough that I could take my little sourdough starter and actually make something. But that was for tomorrow, today I just gave it a good feed.

Finally got to play Just Dance 2020 with the kids in the afternoon. Was fun, but if I had a gripe it’d be that you can’t use a phone as a controller for one player while others have Joy-Cons at the same time, so someone always had to sit out. Hopefully my order of a second set of Joy-Cons will arrive soon. Threw a fish pie together while also trying to throw shapes in the living room; I succeeded in at least one of those.

After getting the kids in bed, realised that we’re running desperately low on TV; there’s only two things we’re following right now that are still on, Westworld and Better Call Saul. No idea what we’ll find to entertain us after that.


Woken at 7am with the usual “Can I go downstairs and watch TV?” from the youngest. Within 10 minutes she was back upstairs, getting dressed, and then wanted a cuddle in bed. Unable to put up with Ms. Wriggly for very long, bit the bullet and got up. Took the bike out for a spin after breakfast, same route as the previous time. Somehow FitBit measured it as a quarter mile shorter. I was, however, five minutes faster over the whole course so I’ll call that a win.

While J went out for her run, I juggled both kids, one doing jigsaw puzzles and the other building a cardboard marble run from a kit, as well as starting the sourdough loaf. Mowed the lawn in the afternoon, and weed sprayed all the dandelions that have sprung up over the past week. One of these years I’ll get a decent lawn; sadly, it’s unlikely to be this one.

I noticed that we have the first beginnings of carrot seedlings springing up; I suggested the kids go have a look see if they were growing yet and A ran out to have a look. She proudly came back in the house and announced to me, “I found some weeds, Daddy!”, handing me a few tiny leaves. I explained she’d actually pulled up the carrots and she burst into tears. No real harm done, there’s still plenty in the planter outside.

Almost ruined the sourdough after forgetting it was in the oven, but remembered just in time and pulled it out to rest, before slicing a hunk of it off and devouring it midway through dinner. Can’t remember when I last had properly fresh sourdough; probably it was in San Francisco back in ’07. The taste took me back there. One day we’ll take the kids, I hope.

After talking with Mum and my brother in a three-way video call, the kids ended up in bed super late. Collapsed on the sofa watching Dark Matter, which is new to us; being unfamiliar with the source material I’m curious to see how it goes.

Private Investigations

I go checking out the reports,
Digging up the dirt.
You get to meet all sorts
In this line of work.
Treachery and treason,
There’s always an excuse for it,
And when I find the reason,
I still can’t get used to it.


Woken reasonably early by a little girl who wanted to go downstairs to see if the Easter Bunny had been. We kept her upstairs for a while until her brother was awake, and then despite my protestations that they had enough chocolate and sweets anyway, they had fun looking for eggs around the house and finding most, but not all, of them.

Sleeper Jr. asked “Dad, will you cut my hair?”, and armed with clippers and scissors I managed to make not too much of a hash of it. It’s definitely a don’t-give-up-your-day-job scenario though. Another day of glorious weather. Slightly too glorious, really – by the time I had enough time to go out to exercise, it was really rather warm, so I postponed it until another day. At some point in the morning a broom handle appeared over the fence, balanced from it a bucket containing chocolate for the kids and a card for us, wishing us a Happy Easter. Exchange of gifts, social-distancing style! I made sure that everyone said thank you the next time we saw them out in the garden.

Easter Sunday dinner was roast beef, which turned out really well despite cooking it conventionally. Usually with beef especially I go all pretentious and cook it sous-vide. Something must be using up all our energy, because I could have sworn I’d cooked too much and it all got eaten. Dessert was creme egg ice creams, because if you can’t have ridiculous food on Easter Day, when can you?

Kids in bed, we watched the new Red Dwarf. I’ve been watching the show since I was a young teen, and I’ve loved some of it and found much of the later stuff to be dross. Found myself most unimpressed with an early scene which I thought to be rather unfunny and at the expense of certain minorities. Fortunately the rest was at least acceptable. Thirty years on that’s all anyone can expect, I guess.


Final day off work; having postponed my bike ride the day before, I was rather disgruntled to discover that the temperature had dropped by about ten degrees and there was a pretty strong, gusty wind. Headed out on the same route as on Friday, extending it a little further, and despite the hard work in one direction, felt pretty good at the end of it.

Lunch: Hot dogs. I hadn’t realised quite how enormous the sausages I’d ordered were. The label on the jar said “No roll big enough” and it wasn’t wrong. Spent the afternoon trying, and mostly succeeding, at keeping the kids away from screens, probably helped by the fact that the sun had come out and the wind died down. Had a few choice words for the kids, who keep kicking their football over the fence into next door’s garden. Even though they have been perfectly reasonable about sending it back over, I don’t want to be paying for new greenhouse windows or pot plants.

Cooked a stir fry for dinner that almost ended up without meat; some deep-seated carnivorous instinct persuaded me to at least throw a thinly sliced chicken breast in there. Finished off with an apple crumble made by J; delicious. In the evening I made her cut my hair. Didn’t go too terribly.


Urgh. Back at work, to a full day of meetings, including three interviews and a catch up with D. And none of the candidates were any good. Took a full hour for lunch, or close to it, to sit, eat sandwiches, and moan at the kids for playing with their food before the interviews. Two were with a nearshore outsourcing company, and there was a really weird vibe to them; they seemed to think joining our team was a done deal. Nope. The other was a final interview with a candidate who’d sent us code that wouldn’t even compile.

Apart from work, the day was fairly chilled out. Got the kids playing Just Dance 2020 on the Switch, which seems to be keeping them both reasonably occupied and happy, although I’m beginning to regret the purchase thanks to the constant re-playing of Baby Shark. The potatoes are starting to come up in the garden; added more compost over them.

Also received an email from the place we had a holiday booked for in May, Coombe Mill, a fantastic family-owned farm who have a number of holiday cabins on site. Due to the ongoing situation they’re gradually letting people re-book for later in the year or next instead of losing their holiday; they’re a small business and not in a position to just magically refund everyone’s money. I really feel for them; these are the sorts of businesses that are really hurting at the moment. I had taken out cancellation insurance just in case, at a cost of less than 0.5% of the booking. Seems like some people weren’t so sensible, and are now crying blue murder on social media as they’ve been asked to re-book or claim on their (apparently nonexistent) insurance. I don’t envy the position they must be in, but to me it looks like they’re doing a fantastic job of balancing their fiscal needs with their customer relations. Because they don’t expect lockdown to be lifted by the start of our trip, it’s our turn to choose a new date; we’ll hopefully be going away in August instead.

Finished the day with a low-key FaceTime meet up; got to bed at a sensible hour. Tomorrow I might actually get some work done.

Feelgood Summer

I stopped looking both ways when I crossed the street;
I stopped looking both ways when I crossed the street.
I’d rather take things as they come;
I’d rather wait until the summer’s over!

I can’t remember when I felt this good


Freedom from work! Deliberately left the work mobile phone on my bedside table and spent the morning downstairs with the kids, getting involved in various activities including a sing-and-play-along on Zoom. It’s so much nicer to be able to be 100% present for them without the mental itch that I should be doing something else.

After lunch, planted out some carrots in a large planter to go with the potatoes. Probably used way more seeds than we should have, but never mind – we can always thin them out later. While cleaning up, received a pleasant surprise: a friend who was recently made redundant, and whose CV I passed on to my boss, has been offered a job working alongside me. Fantastic news; D wants him to start yesterday. All that’s left to do now is hope he accepts the offer.

I’ve no idea where most of the day went, other than spent with the kids, and I find that delightful. Got them to bed reasonably early and, while J caught up with friends over her own Zoom call, kegged the Kölsch I brewed a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully the bread-making antics did nothing bad to it; it’ll be ready to drink in a little while after conditioning. Beer chores done, I chilled out playing a golden oldie video game, X: Beyond The Frontier. The early stages make for exactly what I’m looking for here, slow gaming with minimal to zero adrenaline. I guess flying in real time in the empty gulf between space stations is the gaming equivalent of slow TV.


Up a little earlier than usual; J had an important work meeting at 8am, and given her desk is currently in our bedroom, staying in bed any longer wasn’t really an option. Both kids were a delight at the breakfast table, and once they were dressed we resumed the previous day’s mucking about in the garden, until I was reminded that Sleeper Jr. had an online drama class. The drama group they both go to cut their term short suddenly, there wasn’t any end of term show or chance to say goodbye; now they’ve moved online. He really enjoyed the half hour they spent on Zoom performing their usual sorts of stage exercises. Even better, after lunch he got to have WhatsApp video calls with two of his classmates, where he ran round the house and garden, showing off the place and generally talking about all sorts of things. At one point he was in the garden waving to the boy who lives a few doors down while they talked. One of the calls went on for over an hour. There was a bit of a come down later when he remembered how much he misses playing with then in person, but I think he’s still better off for it.

Mid-afternoon brought A’s drama class; they’d been practicing for a performance of Matilda; today was a final rehearsal before they do their ‘live’ performance next week. She seemed to enjoy it but wanted me very close by; she seemed a bit needy; she seems to get in better with these things when we’re not around, obviously impossible here. I was trying to make a ragù for dinner at the same time. It turned out deliciously.

Kids in bed, collapsed on the sofa to watch the latest Better Call Saul, the majority of which depicted two people trapped alone in the desert. At least things aren’t that bad here.

Tonight, The Streets Are Ours

Those people, They got nothing in their souls;
And they make our TVs blind us
From our vision and our goals.
Oh, the trigger of time it tricks you
So you have no way to grow.

But do you know that
Tonight the streets are ours?


Getting far too used to lazy starts. Sent the kids downstairs to watch TV while we lounged in bed. Eventually dragged ourselves out of bed and fed the kids before making a half-hearted attempt at tidying up the kitchen and doing a bit of washing up.

Dragged the kids out into the garden while J was doing a fitness class over zoom. There was much grumbling at first but they both enjoyed planting out the potatoes, and I got the lawn mowed as well. Looks like it’s full of moss. I’ve given up on the front garden, it’s always been pretty scrubby and over the winter it seems like a wild invasion of violas has happened; big parts of the lawn have been usurped by little purple flowers. A few weeks back I sprinkled a load of meadow seed over it; seems like that’s starting to wake up, and later in the year it’ll look wild but pretty.

Just as everything was going a little too well, I sliced into my finger while trying to prepare lunch while distracted by arguing from the garden. The knife is super sharp, so it took a while to get a plaster on it and mop up the blood, but it’s not too deep a cut so in the grand scheme of things, an annoyance rather than a problem.

After lunch, took the bike out for the first time in a week. Aiming for 10 miles, I got home and Fitbit clocked me at a mere 9.93. Damnit. Most of the journey was uneventful but there were a few clowns out there – a group of three women, all pushing buggies close to each other and nattering, and what seemed like the entire population of a small riverside council block sitting out on deckchairs on the grass by the river. The path was a little busier than I’d have liked, and while I could stay well clear of everyone it felt a little claustrophobic at times.

Back home, something had gone wrong with the performance test they’re running. Attempted to log on to AWS but found I’d been locked out of my account. Eventually gained access, having resorted to calling the offshore help desk, and diagnosed the problem as a failure of an application on the other side of a VPC endpoint that belonged to an entirely different part of the business. Cooked a chicken casserole while answering questions on slack, which turned out better than I’d expected (the casserole, not the work, which was much as expected). Got the kids into bed and had a chilled out evening watching the first Ant-Man movie.


Another late, lazy start. Goodness knows where my body clock will be by the time this all ends. At least I had some determination to get things done; spent part of the morning fixing a jammed curtain rail that the kids had done a proper number on, and had been getting increasingly broken over the past six weeks or so. Checked in every now and then with work but all seemed quiet; ready for the big release.

Given the rumours of a more stringent lockdown, I took advantage of the weather and headed out on my bike again, this time sticking to roads. A little bit further this time, but out for about the same amount of time; avoiding potentially crowded (in the loosest possible sense of the word any other year) river paths was probably a good call, I think.

Made pizza for dinner from the “pizza base mix” packets I managed to buy on Friday. Turned out well enough but I don’t think I’ll be repeating the experience, it’s a very expensive way to buy flour and yeast mixed together, and hopefully by next week I’ll have plenty of both. Spoke to mum while the dough was rising, she’s keeping her distance from the world; her only annoyance right now is that her Tesco delivery had no eggs. She’s getting out for walks early before people are about. All sensible stuff.

School term ended on Friday, with a grand total of exactly zero fanfare! As a special end of term treat, we promised Sleeper Jr. that he could stay up late and watch Spider-Man: Homecoming with us. I’d suggested that on the assumption it would be with all the other MCU movies on Disney+. Nope. Thanks, Sony. Fortunately it was available for streaming from Amazon but only paid-for, rather than inclusive. Thankfully it was pretty cheap, or I’d have had to find something else to watch instead. All entertained, I escorted him off to bed, then we headed up ourselves not too much later.

Marshmallow World

Don’t you wish you were this awesome?

Oh, it’s a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts
Take a walk with your favorite girl
It’s a sugar date, what if spring is late
In winter it’s a marshmallow world

Some of you may be aware that cookin’ runs in the family. And because this is Christmas, and there’s a recipe that gets trotted out in the Sleeper household at this time every year, which was handed down to me down the ages, partially embellished from a recipe created by a football club majority shareholder. I give you:

Sleeper Junior’s Awesome Gingerbread House of Awesomeness!

To create an object of such awesomnity, you’ll need:

For The Gingerbread:

4oz soft brown sugar
11oz self-raising flour
2½ tbsp Golden Syrup
1½ tbsp Black Treacle
1½ tbsp water
4¾ oz butter, diced
1tsp baking soda
1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ginger
pinch ground cloves

For the Decoration

60g white chocolate
240g chocolate buttons (assorted colours)
140g crispy M&Ms
Icing sugar

Other things

A four-year-old (optional)
A gingerbread house template. I used this one.
As many baking trays as you can lay your hands on
Baking parchment
A rolling pin. If you don’t have one, use Grandma Sleeper’s Patent-Pending Emergency Rolling Pin Substitute, as shown:

Hand holding a wine bottle above gingerbread dough, ready to flatten it

Grandma Sleeper’s Patented Emergency Rolling Pin Substitute


Sling the liquid ingredients into a saucepan with the spices and bring to the boil. Once they’ve reached boiling point, turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Once that’s melted, gradually add the flour and baking soda a little at a time until you have  something approximating a dough.

Shove a lid on the pan and leave it somewhere for half an hour, or alternatively, as long as it takes to walk down the road to the shop to buy mince pies.

Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Roll the dough to about 3mm thick, using Grandma’s rolling pin substitute if needed, out onto a well-floured surface, and cut it according to your templates.  Once you’ve got all the bits rolled out, bake for 12 minutes.

The instant that you remove the gingerbread from the oven, take your templates and trim off the edges from the hot gingerbread with a sharp knife so that they once again match the shape of the paper. Leave them to cool on the trays for a while. Don’t eat the offcuts, and don’t allow the four-year-old anywhere near them.

While you’re waiting for the gingerbread to cool, mix the icing sugar with water so that it’s about the consistency of the middle of a Creme egg (which is to say almost, but not entirely solid). Wonder why it’s December 23rd and the shop already had huge hoppers full of Creme Eggs even though it’s not even Christmas yet.

Assemble the four walls of the house on a plate, using copious quantities of your icing sugar glue. Apply more glue to the top edges of the standing walls, then attempt to add each of the roof pieces. Fail.

Note the temporary presence of cocktail sticks while the cement, sorry, icing dries

Inevitably you’ll find that they slide down, so scramble through your cupboard and find some cocktail sticks. Skewer each of the roof pieces in place until the icing dries, and hope that it’s before you need to decorate the top of the house.

Now, take your four-year-old, and help them stick the chocolate buttons onto the roof. Attempt to disrupt their attempt to alternate the colours by sneaking an extra button in every now and then, and try to stop them scoffing them all before you know if there are enough to cover the roof.

Similarly decorate the sides of the house with the M&Ms. For the most part you’ll spend more time sticking them back on after they fall off than you will adding new ones on, but eventually you’ll reach a point of equilibrium.

Finally, fill the gaps at the top where the roof meets with the offcuts you made after taking the gingerbread out of the oven. If your four-year-old is like mine and has scoffed them all, despite your earlier protestations, instead just hope for the best. Melt the white chocolate and pour it over the top to cover up the horrible gap that you have between the roof pieces. Hope it looks enough like snow.

Finally, convince your four-year-old to hold off from wanting to eat it for long enough that you can take a picture for Grandma Sleeper.

Devour before the entire structure collapses under the weight of chocolate.