Day 58: Oxford, Dancing

I’m in Oxford for a couple of days at the Oxford Swing Festival, which makes me sound like I’m some sort of expert. Far from it. I’ve been to a dozen or more lessons and went to a couple of dance events before Christmas. I still consider myself to be just slightly better than an absolute beginner, so it was very odd going somewhere where I didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t confident about what I was doing.

Why go? Well, tomorrow and Sunday there are workshops and I’ve signed up for the beginner classes. I reckon that the more I hammer home the basics, the more confident I’ll be. But there’s obviously more to it, which I realised this evening. The lessons only get you so far and you still have to go out to the social dances to actually get any good at it… which I appreciate I’ve been told many times before. Chatting to people tonight, it’s obvious.

Planning ahead, this might mean the occasional trip into Manchester, Liverpool or Preston to get more experience.

Tonight’s social was in the Oxford Deaf Institute. They have a large dance floor – which was necessary because there must have been about 200+ people in there.

To start with, I felt like a bit of a petrified wallflower. Didn’t know anyone, and everyone who was dancing appeared to be awesome. I had a feeling that no matter how hard I tried, I could never ever get to be as good as those dancing, it just looked impossible. However, I finally got up and gave it a go with a few partners.

The differences between them were fascinating. One or two were great to dance with… they were patient and understood that I was finding my feet and the dances seemed to flow. Having said that, it may have been a bit pedestrian for the follower. It turned out that they had been dancing for 3+ years. Another follower who had been dancing for about a year was a lot more demanding and consequently it was a whole lot less fun. Plus I had a few dances with someone who had just started herself. That was probably hilarious to watch, and was enjoyable, but was the most difficult because it took a lot of trying to lead.

Still, it was good to cross the rubicon of asking someone to dance – even if I didn’t feel like I could do the dancing bit terribly well. The workshops tomorrow should be interesting – especially finding out which of the awesome dancers are the ones doing the teaching.

In terms of other exercise – I went to the gym before heading down to Oxford. Not a long session by the usual standards, but still half an hour of getting through most of the planned programme. I also walked half an hour from the B&B to a restaurant called Quod Brasserie, taking in some of the more delightful back alleys of the city while trying to use up the time.

It turns out that it’s a 10-minute walk straight walk from the B&B to the town hall where we saw Frank Turner play last year. Five more minutes to Quod and then 15 minutes looping around the block to try and make up the time. However, the food was tasty and it made the walk worthwhile.

So what was a very tentative and slightly anxious start to the evening turned into a pleasant way to spend the time. They’ll be at it until 3am, but there was no way I could stay up that late. Tomorrow will be a long day.

Day 57: Dancing and running

I’ve been struggling with trying to get an application run nicely on a windows tablet today. The web app works perfectly in Chrome, but Chrome doesn’t play nice with Metro/Modern UI, and Internet Explorer 11 doesn’t do HTML5 webcam capture. It’s still not resolved and I need to get it working quickly. If only Microsoft could implement the standards that the other browsers use. But that would be too easy.

It being Thursday, I was at the dancing lessons this evening. Moving on to the eight count in the beginners classes and some more charleston in the improvers classes. I really struggle with the lindy circle and so it’s good to go over it again in the beginners. I’m not sure why I have such a mental block with it, but it doesn’t seem to click – which is a pain as so much other fun stuff comes off the back of it. I’ll get there. Later we were first doing a tandem charleston, then something called the running charleston and then some spins from the tandem charleston. It was fun but I was knackered at the end of it.

I’m off to Oxford tomorrow for the Lindy Hop festival. I’m looking forward to it, if only because I’m hoping that it will give me an insight into other people teaching it. I’m still grappling with the basics and it will be good to do it with a completely new set of people.

The training plan had me running at some point today. Given that I’d been battling with the windows browsers for most of the day, I hadn’t been out. I toyed with the idea of going to the gym after dancing, but by the time I dropped Jude off at home, it was 9:20 and there wouldn’t be enough time for a run on the treadmill before the place would be closing.

Instead, I ran along the A59, down to Mill Dam Lane and back again. I was looking to do about 3.5km, but it came to 4.2km. I also ran it at what I thought was a pleasant tempo, and it turned out to be a reasonable pace – 6 min/km, one of the kilometers was right into the wind and felt very slow. So I considered that to be a reasonable run.

It was about 10pm when I got home in time for us to watch some Charlie Brooker.

Earlier in the day I’d walked to the school to get the kids and then meandered back. It wasn’t as quick as I’d have liked, but walking through town on market day is never a speedy trek. I covered 5.4km walking.

I may look at this application again and see if I can get it working. If I come up with something I’ll probably post something technical here, but that relies on getting it working first…

West Lancs Budget… Fiiiiiiiiiiiight!

It was the night of the budget at the Council and the bunfight of all bunfights was possible.

Last year’s elections left the council with 27 seats to Labour and 27 to the Conservatives. The Council was split evenly down the middle, but because next year’s mayor had already been chosen, the deciding vote would go to a Tory councillor – Doreen Stephenson.

Recently Adrian Owens left the Tory group to sit as an independent leaving the council with a majority of Labour councillors. It was too good to miss. Well, it looked like it would be more fun than what was on the TV. It was certainly interesting enough to have me visit the Council chamber for the first time in five years.

Behind the shouting and angry yelling (mostly the anger from the Labour members directed to the Tories), there’s something unspoken and wonderful about the local politics. Almost everyone who sits as an elected representative is a good decent person wanting to do the best for the ward they represent, or at least where they live (and with a nod to the ward they represent). There are some who aren’t decent and lovely, but I won’t go into that here.

I only stayed for the first couple of agenda items. Once the formalities are over (the first seven items on the agenda) the first substantive part of the meeting took place — the member’s allowances scheme. Basically everyone is keen to keep the status quo, except the one independent member who is in the firing line from all sides on this one. It’s soon obvious that 51 of the 52 councillors in the room are going to vote for the proposals and the remaining one will vote against (and will be the main target of fury from the other two groups). No change there.

On we move to the budget.

The most interesting agenda item is the General Revenue Account, the GRA budget. These days, this is the budget where the real decisions are made. There are other budgets that are discussed on the night, but the setting of the council tax follows the agreement of the GRA and it’s the one with all the speeches.

At the start of the meeting we had counted heads and it looked like there was one missing Tory. However, Rob Bailey sneaked into the meeting early on and levelled things up, blessing Owens with the opportunity to be budget-maker (possibly). However, it was clear that there were 51 knives out for Owens and so that might be unlikely.

The Conservatives put forward their budget. Some Councillor who I didn’t recognise is the Tory finance portfolio holder these days and he put forward a slightly apologetic speech which didn’t rouse anyone. There was no discussion — incredible, really — and a move straight to the vote. It was lost 28-26.

The Labour finance shadow stood up and gave a good speech — much better than I ever did, I’m sure. However, if you hadn’t read the figures that were handed out, you would think that the biggest difference between the two groups was the serving of alcohol from the “Mayor’s bar”. £800 a year could be saved if this lavish bar was closed. However, the reports showed that Labour intended to spend £141,400 extra next year over the Tories’ £95,700.

Most of the two budgets were the same, but there were some substantive differences, mostly around Housing and Regeneration, which led to the two group positions.

The vote came and Owens voted against the Labour budget, leaving the casting vote with the Mayor who voted against. Both the Conservative and Labour budgets had been defeated. Oops! Owens asks to speak.

It turns out that in the spirit of independent generosity, he had written to both group leaders and offered to listen to the budget proposals and would support the one that best fitted with his aims and where he could perhaps influence things. (This probably over-simplifies his proposal to the point of naive stupidity, but you get the idea). Naturally, this generous offer had been ignored by the Labour side, and had been politely sidelined by the Tories. He had little choice but to offer his proposals to the full council.

What followed was a glorious wish-list of stuff that sounded great. Some of which I completely agreed with — yes, let’s pay for our parking by mobile phone. I certainly can’t park in Wigan, pay by phone and then walk the 20 miles back to Ormskirk to do my local shop. After a good few minutes of “and another thing…” the mayor asked if there were any seconders. Haha! Of course there weren’t. So the motion fell. The independent leaflets just write themselves.

And so the Council was adjourned. The leaders would meet, then the two cabinets and then proposals would be taken back to the groups. After almost an hour, it turned out that no-one could agree on anything except the bits that were common in the two proposals. Mark Taylor, the Council’s chief finance officer and a smart fellow, had a revised budget proposal up his sleeve. It proposed that the Council should agree on all the bits that the two groups have in common, and then defer the rest of the spending until after the election.

The bottom line was that the budget would increase by £890,000 but with £240,800 of that put aside until after the election when the controlling group could spend as it pleased. Naturally both groups went for this.

Well, it wasn’t quite so straightforward.

Everyone trooped back into the chamber and the mayor put forward the proposal. Up jumps the Labour finance spokesperson and proposes an amendment that the Council should not spend any money at all on alcohol. Not a penny. Not just at member’s only shindigs after a full Council meeting, but stop the Mayor from serving a glass of wine to a visiting dignitary, or a glass of sherry for the little-old-lady carer of the year. West Lancs was to be the dryest of the dry councils — bringing in a saving of Eight Hundred Pounds.

Naturally the Tores saw red (or rosé) and couldn’t support it. The idea of being inhospitable was too much to bear and it was voted down — with the support of the mayor’s deciding vote.

Then, up jumps Owens to propose that the free ale and wine should be stopped after full council meetings. This led to debate about whether the proposal was budgetary or policy, but Mark Taylor stepped in to advise the Council that this had been reviewed in previous annual budgets and a saving of Five Hundred Pounds every year could be achieved by denying members a drink after a full council meeting.

For a moment it seemed that the whole budget, and the Council’s ability to meet its statutory duty to set the Council tax for 2015-16, hinged on that post-meeting tipple. Would there be a seconder? The Labour finance spokesperson stood up and seconded the motion and it was passed. The Tories abstained… in their opposition to abstinence.

The jam-tomorrow compromise budget was then proposed and 51 hands shot into the air, it was passed with only Owens showing dissent. By this time it was past 10pm and it was time to go home. There were another 10 items on the agenda and I really wasn’t in the mood to listen to the other budgets or the proposed motions.

It was fun being back in the Council chamber, but there was absolutely nothing that would tempt me back in there as a councillor. Those days may well be completely in the past.

In other news, I got my walks and gym visit sorted this afternoon. I took the long route to get 30 minutes walk from home to Sporting Edge at Edge Hill. Then spent an hour at the gym before walking down to the school. Picked up the children and made them walk home (much to their disappointment).

It was also parents’ evening, so shortly after getting home, I was heading back to the school for a chat about Lily and then waiting around before a chat about Joel. Lily, in particular, has done brilliantly over the past six months and I have no words for how incredibly proud I am of her — of how she has changed her attitude and worked really hard. She’s done good.

So today has been mostly defined by the fun times this evening. I did about 6 km walking (my phone died and I need to map it on google somehow) and a bit over 45 minutes in the gym. Good all round, I’d say.

I Ran. Didn’t want to.

Quick update because it’s 23:16 and I’ve got a document that I want to review before I slope off to bed tonight.

Today I:

  • Worked (a bit).
  • Met some council officers about the fence at the back of the garden. A long story for another day, I think
  • Facetimed.
  • Looked at getting a fancy new 1Tb SSD drive for the macbook. There’s a good reason for this, mostly around virtual server images.
  • Walked — to the hairdressers (still trying to find a decent one in Ormskirk)
  • Walked quickly to get the children (because it was 15:35 when I got out of the hairdressers)
  • Cooked a ham
  • Had guitar lesson
  • Cooked dinner
  • Went to the gym for a run
  • Watched Fargo

Most of this was generally fun and planned. However, I really really really didn’t want to go for a run this evening. I was tired and I knew that I was going to do it on the treadmill, which I didn’t fancy. The only saving grace is that I actually got off my backside just before 9 and did it. Plus I feel much better for going. Apart from my legs which are now feeling knackered.

Tomorrow there is the annual budget bunfight at the Council. Given the recent fun and games with defections and possible changes in balance of power, I think I’ll potter along and watch. I should make some popcorn before I leave. Will report back.

Strength training update

This evening was another session of the NROL Hypertrophy A programme. I started this programme at the start of January, but then had to take a couple of weeks hiatus about three weeks in because of some slight chest concerns.

The Hypertrophy programme uses a system called undulating periodization which means that one session you’ll be doing two sets of 20 reps and the next you’ll be doing 3 sets of 12, or 5 lots of 6 or whatever. It’s hard work and gauging the weight is tricky, but it feels productive. I was able to come back to it after the break and go through the different combinations of programme with heavier weights – which I suppose is the point.

That said, I think that I’m going to move on to Hypertrophy B next week — mainly because I’ve got to the end of my patience with this set of exercises after two months. I’d originally thought that I’d work through the whole set of programmes when I re-started a few weeks ago, but I’ve changed my mind. I think I need to do something different. I’ll work something out and might even post it here.

There’s still Wednesday and Friday to do, so it’s not quite over yet.

I also walked.

I’d had a good day powering through work. I sat down this morning with the Pomodoro app primed and knocked out the work in half-hour chunks through the day. By 3:45pm I’d got everything done and it was time to head out.

I felt like a bit of a cheat driving to the school. The children had been so tired this morning that I had to wake Joel from a snooze after breakfast and before taking them to school. He hadn’t slept well, despite getting to bed at a normal time and so I didn’t think it would be fair to walk over to the school and make them walk back. Instead, I parked up near the school and then walked into town, around a bit and then back to get my 30 minute walk finished.

It went fine, nothing much to report apart from doubling towards the end and then walking around the parish centre car park to add 20 seconds and pass the 30-minute mark before I got to the car. The map in Runkeeper looks like I had no idea where I was going.

More of the same tomorrow, I expect.

Day 53: More onenote

My rekindled love of onenote continued today. I’ve been busily moving docs into there, scribbling over them, pulling out tasks and then binning the results. It’s all good fun. Until, of course, I wanted to start automating the process of getting the messages into onenote.

There are a couple of regular emails that I get, where it’s nice to read on the tablet and just cross out, scribble and comment against sections. I wouldn’t ever do this on paper, so I tend to just read through them wishing that I could. The old process of saving those messages as PDF in google drive and then importing into Notes Plus was time consuming.

Now, of course, I can.

There is a gmail plugin, powerbot, which is supposed to link gmail with dropbox, evernote and other goodies. However, this still requires me to go into my inbox review the emails and then press a button to send it to onenote. After playing with it briefly, I gave up.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 23.26.53

I did some digging around and considered tweaking a google app script which converts labelled emails into PDF and then files in a google drive folder. However, I then had to get those PDFs into OneNote somehow.

IFTTT wasn’t playing nicely, even though it talked to both gmail and onenote it couldn’t create the message in the right format. It would render the HTML message as raw HTML and the unformatted messages came through as a stream of consciousness.

In the end I used Zapier. It’s like IFTTT on steroids and works with a different set of web applications. There is some crossover, but where there is some crossover, Zapier usually does the job better. IFTTT works great for some simple recipes, and I use it a lot, but Zapier is the one when all else fails. The downside with Zapier is that there is a small cost each month, but it’s something I’ve used for a long time now for other jobs and so there’s no additional cost for new recipes.

Both IFTTT and Zapier use triggers and actions. The triggers are events that happen in web apps, for example, a new email arriving. The actions may be performed by a different webapp, in this case, create a new onenote page with the contents of the email.

First step of tying the gmail and onenote services together.
First step of tying the gmail and onenote services together.

The result is a page generated in onenote that looks like a badly rendered version of the email. I might look again at converting into PDF and then uploading at some point, particularly as the formatting is better preserved, but for now this will do:

2015-02-22 23.48.15

In other news, today was down for a run which I got out of the way early. A 6.7k run over to Aughton and back. This was the first time since last September that I’ve run over 5k, and so I was very pleased that I was able to complete it without keeling over and that the pace felt quite conversational. The pace turned out to be 6:12min/km, which is slower than recent runs, but I was pacing myself given the longer distance. I was also listening to a 6 min/km playlist on Spotify which turns out is very slightly slower than 6 min/km. My guess is that I put it together when that seemed like an impossible goal and I tweaked it to be more like 6:20. Still it was all good and I was happy to get it done.

We also walked in the afternoon before dinner. Jude and I walked into town and back again 3.4km at 10:07 min/km. A good pace given that it’s very easy to walk quickly by yourself and much harder when walking together. That said, I might have been going a tad too fast. I’ve subsequently learned my lesson on that.

We meet again, OneNote

Back in the dim and distant past, or more precisely – ten years ago, I used to use an HP Compaq TC1100 tablet. It was the most wonderful machine, and was years ahead of it’s time.


I’d say that it is the second best computer I’ve ever used after the macbook pro. The very best thing about it was the pen and the digital ink. Nothing has ever beaten it. Evernote came close once, when it would allow digital ink in notes, but that disappeared a long time ago. Even the evernote notes weren’t great because digitising on the old XDA phones was terrible.

So since I got my ipad I’ve been looking for something that would give a similar experience to OneNote as it originally wasn’t available. When it was finally released for iOS it only allowed text to be entered from the keyboard – I mean, what’s the point of that, if you’ve got a lovely touch screen?

For the past two years I’ve been using something called Notes Plus, which is a wonderful app, but you would have to export to PDF and then send to Evernote for any permanence and then the document couldn’t edited elsewhere.

Anyway, all that changed last week with the latest release of OneNote for the ipad. The ink was now included and notes could be scribbled with relative ease.

The note taking isn’t quite as easy as with Notes Plus, but the benefits far outweigh the extra care taken when writing. OneNote is on the phone, mac, android and web (and on the PC, obviously). Notes synchronise super quick and very simply, and I can import PDF’s for annotating and export to PDF too. In one upgrade, the program turns from yet another clumsy note-taking and organising application to something super-useful. I’m very happy.

I’ve spent a very pleasant hour or two planning the week by filling in and colouring blocks of time in the week’s calendar:


And then copying it back into my google calendar:

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 23.56.53

I defy anyone to come up with something more fun than colouring-in calendars.

…or maybe I don’t.

This all came about after I was playing with a Lynx 8″ windows tablet, which is an excellent machine. I had mentioned on Facebook that I was missing the digital ink and a friend pointed me in the right direction. Sadly for the windows tablet, the actual digitisation of the strokes was much poorer than on the ipad – but to be fair, the windows machine was a fifth of the price of an ipad. As I said, the Lynx is an excellent machine, but now that I’ve got my digital ink on the ipad, there’s no going back – yet.

In terms of exercising, it was a standard Saturday day-off. So I headed over to Martin Mere for a quick walk. Two circuits of the site came to just over 3km, which I did in around 30 minutes. It would have been quicker had there not been so many gates, so many Other People going slowly and had I not been taking photos. But there are so many birds at this time of year. It’s a lovely place to walk.

Pretty flamingos.
Pretty flamingos.

Day 51: Sleepovers

Both Lily and Joel have had sleepovers tonight. Lily went to a friend’s house while Joel had a friend come here. So from about 2pm I didn’t really get anything done apart from shuttling them around, preparing things and shepherding children. Most work was done in the morning.

One problem with friends visiting is that I’m never really sure what to do about food. I usually feed the children the same stuff that Jude and I have, and that’s usually the day’s recipe from the Kitchen Revolution. The children have long since given up complaining and greet every new dish presented to them with a mix of trepidation and forced delight. It’s interesting to see how different friends react.

Today was chicken wrapped with bacon served with celeriac cooked in wine and butter, broad beans and peas. Perfectly reasonable for a 9 year old, I’d say. However, it’s a good job that I’d bought in some crisps and some bread earlier in the day as it was perhaps one or two standard deviations away from the average meal. This certainly isn’t a criticism, as Joel’s friend was perfectly polite and lovely about it, but I might have judged the meal better with something a bit less celeriacy and bacony.

I’m sure that Lily, on the other hand, is being treated to a sleepover of awesome proportions. My guess is that she’ll be fed all the foods that we never give her, that it’ll be an absolute treat, and that she’ll come back and demand “normal food”. Of course, the answer will be “no, now finish your jerusalem artichokes” (or similar).

Those poor children. When they’re finally off to live on their own, I suspect that they’ll indulge in five years of super noodles and burgers – which, I confess, is a fine meal.

Given that I was trying to squeeze work in the morning and then keep the children’s social appointments met in the afternoon, I had neither walked nor gone to the gym. So at 7:30pm I finally got out the house to walk to the gym.

The journey to and from the gym can be made to be 30 minutes with a slight tweak, so I did just under 3km there in 30 minutes (I was dawdling), got changed and did about 30 minutes in the gym and then another 3.1k back in about 30 minutes. The way back was slightly longer because the gate that I walked to is locked after 8:30pm. Apparently it’s alright for students to be roaming the streets drunk in other parts of the town through the night, but not up Ruff Lane.

The time in the gym was slightly truncated because it closes at 9pm on a Friday – which I always forget. So I got the main exercises in but not the side plank and abs roller that I do at the start of that session (NROL Hypertrophy A). All the mats were taken and I didn’t have time to be waiting around. In any case, I upped all the weights on the differenr exercises, so I felt like I put in a full session.

I’m looking forward to the weekend, though, and definitely to the start of next week. I always start half term with the intention of trying to have a relax and spend some time with the children (which I do) but then end it thinking that there is lots more that I could have done if only they hadn’t been on holiday. That probably makes me really grumpy, but I can’t help it. Next week will be better.

Grove Farm consultation

The children were with my parents today, so I got quite a lot done ahead of going to the Grove Farm consultation this afternoon. I got my 30 minute walk in on the way there, taking a circuitous route to Ormskirk Rugby Club.

The consultation is ahead of the Taylor Wimpey application to build several hundred houses on the fields opposite our house. This has been bubbling away for a few years since the Council first started looking for land for extra housing in the area.

I’m all for extra housing, and didn’t object to the proposed change of use, nor the initial outlines of the development. There is a real housing problem in the area, not to the scale of some parts of the country, but we do need extra homes in the town. The NIMBYs and Tory councillors won’t allow housing to be built in Aughton, but I think that it’s their loss. I think some additional housing in this side of town would be a good thing, but it has to be done right. Unfortunately, that’s where I start to disagree with the development.

Our house is on the main road and is directly opposite where one of the two entrances to the development will be, and I’m concerned about the impact on the traffic outside the house. When I spoke to the traffic consultant today, he said that they had done a traffic survey and found that there was a lot of traffic exceeding the speed limit on the road (No shit, Sherlock!) That survey was probably not done in the last few weeks and so will not reflect the new roundabout that has been built at the Burscough end of the “long mile”.

The junction with Pippin Street used to cause a small tailback every time a lorry or large vehicle wanted to turn right towards the industrial estate. For those of us who live a mile down the road, it was a bit of a lifesaver, because it meant that there were regular breaks in the flow of traffic when it would be easier to pull out, knowing that there was a gap in the southbound traffic.

That’s no longer the case. The roundabout has done a brilliant job of keeping the traffic flowing and consequently there are fewer gaps in the stream of southbound traffic. Taking that along with the significant increase in the amount of traffic over the past 9 years, the road is quite tricky to pull out of. The development over the road is going to make this a lot worse.

The developers are proposing some hatching painted on the road to slow down the traffic, and putting a “right turn” island in the road, a few metres to the left of our drive and a few metres to the right of our neighbour’s exit. My feeling is that this will just make things much worse for those of us on this side of the road. I need to understand the impact of such road markings and junctions, but from some preliminary research it doesn’t look good.

The local highway authority is the County Council and so I might have to write to Niiki Hennessey, our County Councillor. But if the current proposals are those that go in the planning application next month, then I’ll reluctantly have to object. Reluctantly, because I think that it’s not a bad plan. There are lots of benefits, and I really like the linear park that would be built. There is no right to a pleasant view, and personally I don’t mind. However, I do feel sorry for those who will have this built behind their houses. They’ve enjoyed a wonderfully peaceful view, and that will be gone with this development.

As I said, my objections are merely the result of practical concerns about being able to leave our house and safely join the main road. Sadly, I’m no traffic engineer and I might have to quickly learn how these things work. I did complete and leave a feedback form, but I’ll send a fuller response by email over the next couple of days.

So given the work, the consultation and then sorting out dinner, it was close to 9pm when I finally got out for a run. I pottered through Scott estate, down towards the Fiveways then back, taking a detour down Yew Tree Road and finally up Burscough Road. 3.4km in 21 minutes. I blame my slowness on the fact that it was the end of the day and I really really didn’t feel like going out.

Day 49: All the meats

The diary was full today with children, meetings, children, work, children, gym, taking the kids to my parents and then dinner with Dad this evening. The joys of half term… So the walk had to be done early. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly motivated and I lay in bed from 6 to 6:30 trying to find a good reason to get up. I was finally up and out at 6:45, back by 7:15.

I felt like a bad parent heading out for the meetings and leaving the children to fend for themselves, but Lily is 11 now and ought to be able to be able to look after the two of them – and to be fair she did. So they were left home-alone for three hours this morning. They also got another hour and a half to themselves this afternoon when I went to the gym. When I came back the place was fine and they had also packed their bags for their stay with my parents. It’s almost like they’ve been trained.

The session at the gym went well, but it was busy. The exercises that I did were heavier and for longer than I had in the past, but there was no getting on the Smith machine which virtually had a queue for all the time that I was there. I did a few extra squats, but couldn’t hang around because in my head the children were probably demolishing a new bit of the house with every minute that passed.

This evening Dad and I went out to Liverpool for a pint, a meal and a good old catch-up. We went to Bem Brasil, which is where Jude and I (and the children) had gone for my birthday last year. It’s a Brasilian steakhouse where there is an endless supply of meat, and I think we tried all of them… and the pineapple – because it’s the law (I’m told). It was much tastier than the last time we visited – I think that the quality of the food is directly proportional to the number of people in the restaurant. I doubt that there is much incentive to cook twenty different types of meat if there is only one table occupied. The meat tonight was very tasty, fresh and there was plenty of it.

So all my good work on the diet has probably been trashed with one tasty meatilicious meal. It’s a price worth paying, I think.

We then pottered over to Flanagan’s Apple in Mathew Street for a pint (or a Becks Blue for the nominated driver). That place is like an oasis of calm surrounded by the usual Mathew Street craziness. They usually have music on, but sadly there was some football, so the pub was full of zombies staring at the screens. Oh, and Dad and I.

So as I write this I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. I think that I’ll try and get a teeny tiny lie in tomorrow while the children are away.

Day 49: 3.4km walk and 45 minutes at the gym. And about 10 kilos of assorted meats. Nom!