Category: Family life

For Whom The Bell Tolls

I stumble in the night,
Never really knew what it would’ve been like,
You’re no longer there to break my fall…
The heartache over you;
I’d give it everything but I couldn’t live through.
I never saw the signs,
You’re the last to know when love is blind…

Monday

Another Monday morning. Hooray. Up early, online, to find an email from my new starter, who hasn’t been given her login details yet. Chased D, who hadn’t got them either. Eventually sorted it out by 10:30, so we could get started with setting up access requests and so on.

Today was particularly full-on; didn’t seem to get a break for anything until I finished about half five, when the question reared its ugly head: “When will dinner be ready?” The only answer to that is, sadly, “Oops”; we both thought the other was preparing the meal. After a brief consideration of the benefits of takeaway pizza, I recovered my senses and threw a paella together. We eventually finished up and got the kids into bed late.

Tuesday

The weather’s getting warmer. While I was busy with my meetings, all I could hear was the noise of the kids outside, noisily having fun with the paddling pool in the sun. As usual, spent all my day in meetings; though I got to share the fun a little bit, bringing along my new starter to one of the planning meetings to give her a hint of what it is that she’s going to be doing over the next few weeks. Hopefully I didn’t terrify her too much when she asked for the detailed diagram and I apologised at how enormous it was.

Lunch was delayed, though my mood was much improved by having a quick game of football in the garden with the whole family before settling back upstairs. The afternoon passed quickly enough, then it was dinner and time to catch up with friends online. We tried using Google Meet, and won’t be doing that again; it doesn’t cope at all with more than one person talking at once. Abandoned it in favour of Zoom; whether we’ll be back on FaceTime next week is anyone’s guess.

F mentioned a fantastic deal on Beef Fillet from Turner and George while we were on the call; as a result we’ll all be eating steak soon, and there’ll be plenty to go in the freezer for the net few months. Finished up quite late, but not as late as we have in the past.

Wednesday

I’ve given in and I’ve started wearing shorts. Realistically I should have before now, but I’m in the habit of dressing for an air conditioned office even though I’ve not been near one for two months. Spent nearly the whole day in meetings with Architecture, interrupted only by the arrival of an Amazon delivery – a new water gun for the kids, and various bike bits for me, including three replacement inner tubes.

Once I was done with work for the day, I set about replacing the destroyed tube; at least, I tried to. The first tube exploded again even while I was inflating it, causing my ears to ring for a few minutes, and drawing the attention of various neighbours in the form of “There’s that banging noise again!” . The second tube went on, I inflated it to a sensible pressure and… it went pop ten minutes later while I was preparing dinner, in this case a couple of wonderful rib eye steaks for us and lasagne for the kids. This time the outer tyre was obviously badly damaged; there was a massive rip in the side wall. The bike will be out of action until at least Friday when a replacement tyre is due to arrive.

Thursday

What happened to the rain we were promised? The day started with not a cloud in sight, the temperature climbing again. Just the right sort of day for having fun in the garden. Unfortunately, that wasn’t on the menu; what was on offer was a day of work which I knuckled down to, though I found time to at least attend half of my skip-level boss’s drop in session; he thinks we’re unlikely to see a return to the office for our division before January, which was interesting. Mentioned it to D, who disagreed, but I think January’s closer than any other date realistically.

Broke for lunch for sandwiches made with the last of the weekend’s brisket, and again found time for a short kick around in the garden before heading back to work for a discussion of project progress, then a knowledge sharing session with another team who haven’t started their AWS journey yet, then a check-in with my new starter who’s getting to grips with everything.

Finished up the day with a bike ride, which started out later than planned after dinner took a long time and then my mum called to see how we were. Headed out with Sleeper, Jr at gone 7pm, and was back a little before 8. At least by then the heat of the day was fading, and it was pleasant to move around. One more day of work; I’m ready for a long weekend…


Sleeping Satellite

Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance?
In the rush of the race,
The reason we chase is lost in romance;
And still we try to justify the waste
For a taste of man’s greatest adventure

Saturday

Lazed in bed for a while, then got up at 8am. Showered, then noticed my Fitbit Versa was misbehaving; it was acting as though one of the buttons was stuck down. Rebooting didn’t help; on careful examination I noticed that there was what looked like water on the inside of the screen. That’s been the last straw.

Over the past three years, I’ve been through five fitbits – two Charge 2s, and three Versas. The Charges both developed cracks in the screen, and when I had the opportunity to upgrade to the Versa for (almost) free thanks to my employer at the time, I jumped at the chance. The first one I had served me well for all of six months before it developed a screen fault. The replacement for that one had a bluetooth problem and wouldn’t sync correctly. The most recent one appears to have bad waterproofing. It might be still under warranty, but I’ve lost patience. In the absence of a return of the defunct Pebble Time 2, I’ve bit the bullet and ordered an Apple Watch. I at least have some confidence it’ll last me unlike the junk I’ve had so far, even if it’s expensive.

Both kids were over tired this morning, despite having slept well; think they needed a low-key couple of days. We did a little light gardening and then, because it hasn’t moved in nearly eight weeks, attempted to start the car. Inexplicably it turned over just fine; I took them both out for a spin just to get the battery up to a decent charge before lunch; for most of the trip they were both glassy-eyed, barely awake. After lunch, it was A’s turn to choose a film, so she subjected us to The Little Mermaid. Despite the protestations from her brother that he wasn’t interested, he soon dropped all pretence of paper craft and joined her on the sofa; it’s the right kind of no-thinking entertainment that was needed.

While the terrible two were occupied, I made a start on my attempt at the Detroit-style pizza I’d been threatening. The dough was so loose it was almost a batter, but it worked fantastically; a slug of olive oil in the bottom of a deep roasting tin, keeping the dough from sticking, with pepperoni layered on top followed by cubed mozzarella and cheddar, finishing up with a tomato sauce made by reducing a couple of tins of tomatoes with herbs and garlic. Definitely one to repeat.

Sunday

Well, I’d been threatening it for a week, and this time I actually did it; got up early and was out on my bike not long after nine. Made it to Hampton Court Palace in next to no time, and was delighted to find Kingston town centre full of people on bikes; seems like there were more people cycling than driving by a huge margin. Got a little lost in Thames Ditton on the way back after running into a road closure, but after getting my bearings, I followed the main road into Epsom before heading home. That last bit of the ride was but far the hardest, seems like 90% of the hill climbing was in the last quarter of a 25 mile ride. Got some decent speeds on the downhill though. Most annoying was the last mile home, a road that was incredibly badly surfaced, and I was bumping all over the place. Stashed my bike in the garden and let J go for her run. I’ve been delighted with the it now that it’s run in, and hope for a few more longer distance adventures in the near future.

After lunch, I was asked by D next door if I’d heard the loud bang? Nope, was my reply, though I soon discovered the cause; seems like the cratered road had done something to my tyres and pinched the front inner tube, which had conspired to explode not much later. I stood for quite a while puzzling over how it was possible for a bike to get a puncture standing on a lawn before I figured it out. Once I’d discovered my spare tube didn’t work either (it was already patched, and the patch somehow split when it was inflated over 60 psi), I gave up and turned my attention to the BBQ, where I smoked the most delicious brisket for dinner, accompanied by spicy wedges and a side salad.


In Our Cathedral

There was a time, you forget,
You were losing every bet.
Your hope was shattered,
Your trust betrayed,
But you found a place where you don’t need to be afraid:
In our cathedral…

Thursday

Settled into the usual routine of dragging the kids away from the TV for breakfast before getting them dressed in time to start some kind of school work around 9am. In theory Thursday is supposed to be a meeting-light day that I’d planned to spend doing some bits and pieces I’d promised members of my team that I’d look at days if not weeks ago; that dream died before it was even fully formed. The morning passed quickly enough with the usual mix of catch ups. I try to take an hour for lunch each day, and have my calendar blocked out to ensure that. Today, however, conspired to keep my lunch break as short as possible and I only managed to snatch 30 minutes with the rest of the family before heading back into what seems to be my role as chief referee between different teams who’ve interpreted the same requierments in entirely different ways.

At one point D pinged me in one of his own meetings because he thought I’d agreed one thing and allowed my team to delivered another and he was getting heat for it. I apologised for the fact that I’d obviously miscommunicated something and then went away, realising a few minutes later exactly what the problem was, pinging him back and establishing that he wasn’t going mad, the person he was talking to was discussing something very different to what D had thought, and no-one was misleading anyone. I seem to be getting good at talking more senior managers down from the edge. Not sure yet if it’s a good thing or not.

Friday

Awoke super early for no reason I could discern. Persuaded the kids away from the TV and got breakfast, then started the workday. Nothing much to write home about there other than two meetings, one in which it turns out we’re not going to be held to the June deadline we’d had agreed on our behalf – in fact the implication was that if we delivered by December, no-one would bat an eyelid. In the other I did something that took me minutes but saved the bacon of the team working with a very large and influential hardware manufacturer. Not sure I deserved the praise I got, but, hey, good feedback is good feedback, right?

Took delivery of a batch of meat from Turner and George this morning; cooked the sausages for dinner and they were by far the best sausages I’ve eaten in a long time. I miss working next door to their butcher’s shop. Also in the delivery were ribs, steaks, bacon and brisket, which I’m going to smoke on the BBQ. We’re going to eat well over the next week or so.

Finished up the day kegging the saison I brewed a few weeks back, and putting the Kölsch on tap. My least favourite part of home brewing is cleaning lines and kegs, but it’s done now, And the Kölsch tastes just right; as does the sample of the saison. I’ve named the former Rehana, because she asked, as the latest in a series of beers called The Beer Called <Name>.


If I Burn

I could beg a thousand times.
I could explain.

I could use rhymes
And rhythms meant to catch your eye,
But I know you won’t see
.

Tuesday

Completely failed to get the kids dressed before breakfast. Oh well. Seem to have settled into what seems like a low-stress rhythm at work, which no doubt can’t last for long. By the time I broke for lunch, things had started to go south, of course. There was an interview booked in for the afternoon, which it turns out our recruitment team had forgotten to invite the candidate. D’oh. Apart from that little issue, though, the rest of the day passed reasonably without incident.

Ended the day getting the kids into bed slightly late, then a conversation with J about the nursery arrangements – they’ll be re-opening on June 1st and had asked when each child is expected to return. From July onwards if the kids aren’t back, they’ll be charging half fees. We’ve said early July for now; who knows what will happen in the next seven weeks? Finished up with a FaceTime drinks session; this one was low-key and we finished around 10:30, plenty of time to sleep.

Wednesday

… or not. Woke at 5am and failed to get any more rest. Eventually gave up shortly after 7, and chased the kids, who were downstairs watching TV, back upstairs to dress before breakfast. Miraculously, everyone was ready for the day well before 9am, something that hasn’t happened for weeks.

Any pretence that the wildlife hasn’t completely destroyed the carrots is now well and truly over; I checked on the vegetables before breakfast only to find the planter half emptied, compost and battered looking seedlings surrounding it. Argh. I’m currently planning on sowing some replacements at the weekend and using something substantial, like chicken wire, to keep the blasted animals away. The potatoes at least seem to be doing OK; I’m not sure about the beans which probably didn’t take well to the late frost a couple of nights ago.

Work was… fine, I guess? Some good parts, some bad? I’ve had worse days by a long shot; punctuated by meetings which were broadly productive. Nothing really to report there.

After dinner, took Sleeper Jr. on a bike ride. I’d been researching local routes and found a dirt track not far from us that leads to a decent-sized park right on the edge of the green belt, surrounded by countryside. Was pretty fun, but very slow going. I’d taken the hybrid as I didn’t expect the terrain to be suitable for the road bike. On that I was entirely correct; even that was a struggle with the narrow road tyres it has fitted, making for one of the few occasions that my son was a much faster cyclist than me. On the way home he complained of a headache, which he was really struggling with by the time we got back. I suspect his helmet was too tight, after his sister decided to play with the adjustment dial. Either way it’s a trip we enjoyed on the whole, but we’ll probably not head that way again in the near future.

Tonight I was supposed to be kegging the saison in the fermenter and cleaning the beer lines before hooking up the kölsch ready for drinking; by the time everything was settled, it was way too late. One for Friday. Instead I’ve been planning a vague route for my next road bike foray; I’m pondering Hampton Court Palace and back on Sunday morning.


A Little Less Conversation

Baby, close your eyes and listen to the music,
Dig to the summer breeze.
It’s a groovy night and I can show you how to use it;
Come along with me and put your mind at ease!
A little less conversation, a little more action, please

Saturday

Up at 8am, ready to take delivery of the shopping. This time it seems that there’s no preserved sweetcorn in Ocado’s warehouse of any description, be it tinned or frozen. We do at least have the fresh, on-the-cob, variety for this afternoon’s firing of the barbecue.

Mowed the lawn while J did her online Zumba class, while attempting to referee the usual arguments between children. We did the usual things of topping up the compost on the potatoes, watering the beans, and so on, before lunch. After lunch the kids ran around with water pistols, enjoying the warm weather while I mostly skulked indoors trying to avoid the direct afternoon sun. Turns out I wasn’t all that successful; there are definite tan lines on my feet to match my sandals. Lit the fire around 4 and cooked the usual favourites – burgers, corn on the cob and wings, followed by smoked caramelised apples and pineapples, accompanied with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday

Didn’t sleep at all well; despite having retired around 11 the previous night, didn’t get to sleep until nearly 1am. As a result the start to the morning was even lazier than usual, and breakfast wasn’t done until gone 9am.

Went out on the bike a little after 10. The adjustments to fit and brakes I made on Friday have made a world of difference. Put in a 20 mile route in an hour and fifteen minutes, and could have done so much further without needing to be back at home for lunch and the kids. Next weekend I’ll aim for that bit further. This time I got grumbled at for being out enjoying myself, which was fair enough as she wanted to go out for a run too.

After lunch, the weather turned as we’d expected, so time for a film afternoon; apparently it was my turn to pick the movie. Flicking through Netflix the other day we’d noticed The Never-ending Story, which I’d not seen since I was about Sleeper, Jr.’s age. Amazingly, it kept everyone’s attention for the full ninety minutes, including a break for homemade popcorn.

Despite my protestations that it’s a side dish, one preferably dipped in breadcrumbs and deep fried, J made a macaroni cheese for dinner, with bacon and mushrooms. Pretty nice, but way too filling; there’s more than enough for a second meal left over.

Kids packed off to bed, I collapsed in front of the TV; a combination of too little sleep and the morning’s bike ride had conspired to tire me out.

Monday

Up about 7:45; the kids were already watching TV downstairs. A decently unhurried breakfast followed by settling into work. A quick catch up with D before the first of (count them) three stand-ups; he’s got the afternoon off work because he has to go pick up his new car. “New Tesla is it?” I joke, and it turns out, that, yes, it is a new Tesla model 3. I’m slightly jealous, but only slightly, because I don’t drive that much anyway and even if I could afford one, I don’t really need more than the sensible and boring car I have.

The afternoon was mostly taken up by the third session of the security assessment we covered last week; in our weekly sync meeting one of the other leads passed on some news that was both unexpected and disappointing with regard to an offer we’d made to a prospective employee. Oh well. Finished up attempting a crispy sesame beef stir fry with green vegetables and baby corn. The beef wasn’t crispy enough but everyone else seemed to enjoy it well enough.

Finished up the day covering over the nascent potatoes; there’s rumour of a frost overnight. Hopefully the other vegetables will survive. Let’s see in the morning.


Courting The Squall

In the hills it’s an overcoat colder.
Come by, see me…
If big things, life things, are waves at your door,
Come by, see me…
Come grab a sleep on my floor.
No more courting the squall…

Monday

Woken rudely at 6:30 by a request to be allowed to go downstairs and watch TV, which I denied. Got up not long after 7 and had everyone dressed and eating breakfast at about 8am, which seems miraculously early by recent standards. The good start to the day lasted until about 9:30am when I was pinged on Slack to ask why I wasn’t in a meeting I hadn’t accepted. The answer of “I’m in a different meeting” wasn’t well received, even though the organiser hadn’t actually checked whether I was free before sending me the invitation on Friday afternoon. My mood wasn’t helped by the next meeting being cancelled at late notice when one of the key attendees didn’t show, nor by the frustration at being unable to give one of the vendor employees joining my team any work, because somehow he hasn’t been given access to our systems, and no-one can agree on whose fault it is – the resourcing team are blaming the access team, and vice versa.

More meetings after lunch, including three that ran together and all overran, even when I gave the other attendees plenty of notice. I might have to start just pulling the plug at end time; while I can’t help disparate people inviting me to different discussions one after the other, I can at least be brutal about the fact that they’re being rude to others who also need my time. Pottered in the garden after dinner; something, probably one of the local squirrels, has been digging up my carrot seedlings. Grr.

Tuesday

Not quite such a great start to the day as yesterday; by 8:45 the kids were still in pyjamas, but not too terrible. Straight into a discussion with one of my team about how to proceed with an issue he’d had; told him to park it and move on, it’s taken up way too much time already. Straight after standup, another question, this time about how to get a piece of information from one system to configure a dependant one. Architecture meeting was half the usual length, but twice as much trouble as usual; I’ve been pushing back on work my team don’t have time to even consider and someone’s been riled up as a result.

The afternoon was where it all started to come apart; as a follow on from the issues raised in the morning, D and I had a meeting with the architects requesting the work. Turns out that despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I couldn’t give an answer for when the work will be done, she’s already promised someone very senior that we’ve agreed a delivery date. To say I was absolutely livid was an understatement. Fortunately I think it’s going to backfire on her, most likely incredibly badly. Closely following in the horror stakes was a meeting which I declined to attend, believing it to be a waste of my time; D decided to go and was apoplectic to discover that certain members of other teams were arguing against us behind our back; there’ll be fireworks later there too, I’m sure.

Finished up the evening on the usual Tuesday night FaceTime call, which went on rather later than I should have let it. Oops. My only excuse was that I was enjoying myself.

Wednesday

Despite not going overboard on the beer last night, woke with a splitting headache which didn’t respond well to paracetamol. Got the kids dressed and breakfasted and settled in to the first call of the day, a four-hour cloud security review call which is itself the first of three. That went reasonably well; turns out we’re already implementing a lot of best practice.

Lunch break was decent, marred only by a cry of “Can you have a look at the camera, Dad? There’s a big black line on the screen…”, which heralded the fact that one of the kids has hit it (hard, it’s meant to be shockproof) against a solid object; after turning it off and then on again it’s stopped focusing completely. Argh. I’ve ordered them a cheap replacement from Amazon and told them that the next time they’ll pay for a new one themselves. Attended a bunch of meetings in the afternoon, which were mostly productive.

Finished up the day with another father/son bike ride, managing about six and a half miles in our hour. Not what I’d call intense exercise, but good for the mind at least. Got to bed early, hoping to make up some of the previous night’s sleep deficit. Hah.


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…

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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…

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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.

Monday

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…

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.