Day 84: Nuts!

This evening I’m making a special effort and wearing my glasses as I write. Not because I’m struggling to see what I’m writing — goodness, no. Instead, I’m using Jude’s lovely shiny new laptop that I got today. It’s a 13″ macbook pro retina, which has just the most wonderful screen.

When I got my laptop, the retina screens had only recently been available on the macbooks and I couldn’t see the difference between the resolutions. Two months later I discovered that I needed glasses for reading. Great! All of a sudden the slightly blurry but perfectly fine screen was now a crisp platter of teeny tiny pixels. Each one perfectly visible and mocking me in crisp, clarity. Not now. The smaller sibling of my much loved, much hacked, bashed, upgraded and tweaked 15″ MBP has a crystal clear screen which looks even better when I don a pair of specs.

So tonight I shall write bespectacled.

The only reason that I’m using it is because I’m supposed to be installing apache/php/mysql, but that took about five minutes. It’s more fun to play with!

Anyway, I spent the morning working on again — while trying to turn off all other devices that were trying to coax me to do other work. This afternoon I was at the hospital for a follow-up on the nut allergy diagnosis a couple of months ago.

Long story short, I’ve been told that I need to avoid hazelnuts (and birch pollen). All other nuts are fine. It’s an oral sensitivity thing, for which there’s a term and I can’t remember it. Basically, I scoff hazelnuts and apparently my body mis-interprets the proteins as birch pollen and then reacts. So no more Nutella, which I was resigned to anyway, but I can go wild on the salt and vinegar peanuts — which I thought were written off for good. This makes me very happy.

They also asked if I would consent to being involved in some medical research into allergies and asthma, which I agreed to. To start with, it involved a long series of questions into my medical background with particular emphasis on when I would have reactions and from what age. I confess that I’ve never been one to be in tune with his body, and so I wouldn’t normally notice when things were right or particularly wrong. I did a good job of frustrating the consultant by shrugging, waving my arms and generally being unable to identify when I would have an allergic reaction. “Well”, I would say, “my eyes get all gloopy in the spring, but that’s just what happens isn’t it?”. “No Mr Hanlon.” she said, too many times, “It’s because you’re allergic/asthmatic. That’s not normal.” Hmmm. We didn’t hit it off as well as last time. Also she seemed quite cross that I wasn’t carrying my antihistamines around with me. I felt like I’d disappointed her. I’ll have to keep some in my wallet.

However, I shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture here. The consultant told me that I could scoff most nuts to my heart’s content, and this makes me very happy.

Most of the rest of the evening has been fairly run of the mill. My Mum had picked up the children because I couldn’t be at the school in the afternoon. We’d also had a pre-first-communion session with Joel at 6pm at the Parish Centre. So I’d grabbed the children, had a chat with Mum and then zoomed over to the church to get to the session in time. When I finally got home, I heated up the chilli that Mum had super-kindly made for Jude and I. I’d been panicking a couple of days ago, not knowing how I would fit everything in, and so she came to the rescue.

It was about 8:15 and I realised that I hadn’t been for a walk yet. I checked my phone and it was as flat as a fluke. Panic! (Again…) I couldn’t walk if the phone was dead because then I couldn’t measure it with runkeeper and therefore it would never have happened. In the end I got the phone charged to the point where it turned on again. Then I threw my trusty old macbook into my rucksack with the phone plugged into the USB and I headed off, with the phone charging from the laptop and with me listening to audiobooks as I pottered. I also grabbed some milk, wine, biscuits for the children and some test peanuts at Nettos down the road, so I did the subsequent 30 minute walk weighed down with the weight of the laptop and the groceries. I had to remind myself that I’ve lost a lot more weight than that over the past 12 months, which helped – a bit.

Tomorrow is more of a clear run at things. I’m hoping to get some reporting into the system so that I can then make a new set of code live. If there’s no reporting, then it’s as if all the other stuff isn’t actually happening!

Until then, best wishes.x

Day 83: Interesting times, busy days

It’s about 1:30am which seems to be the new normal time for writing these updates. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I’m due to be up early in the morning to get my walk in before breakfast. Let’s see how that one goes.

It was an early start today, too. Up at 6am and out for a 3.5k run – down the “long mile”, just past the Booths and then turning around and heading back.

It feels difficult doing intervals outside. I know that I should count lamp posts or similar, but it’s very difficult to judge. Instead I decided to try and improve the tempo that I run at. I’ve recently been running at about 155 steps per minute according to runkeeper – pretty consistently too, when I start digging into it. I’ve gone back to last November and the rate stays the same. So I thought that I should try and pitter-patter along with a higher tempo to see how it went.

I’d read that one should aim for 180 steps per minute, which seems like a lot, and it’s hard to judge, but with nothing to gauge it by I set off and took smaller, quicker steps. The idea was to try and get used to moving my legs quicker – even if I’m not striding out. I got there and back at 157 steps / minute, which is a reasonable increase. I could certainly feel it in my legs at the end. It was also my fastest time over the distance (19:30) which I’m pleased with, given the teeny tiny strides while running.

The rest of the day has been just getting on with things. I spent most of the day and evening working on the Shapie project. With some time this afternoon put aside for some WYZ work and following up some problems that had been reported over the last day.

We had music lessons as well. I was hankering after going out for a meal, but in the end I started boiling a ham while Joel had his lesson, and then roasted it after my lesson. I’m glad we didn’t go out now, as it was very tasty and I’ve got lots of ham for the children’s sandwiches for the rest of the week. The lessons were ok. Joel’s starting out properly on his grade 1 piano pieces now. Whereas I had been terrible and hadn’t practiced all week. Instead, we spent the lesson listening to Professor Longhair “Go to the Mardi Gras” and playing it on the piano. So I’ve had my first piano lesson and some twelve bar blues (in B#, apparently). It was good fun, and also a relief to do something different from the work and the cooking and sorting out the children.

On top of everything else, the day started with a discussion about possibly going over to Amsterdam (for some 3D scanning), and ended the day looking like I’ll heading out to Las Vegas at the start of May to the Collision conference. It’s been busy… and interesting.

Ten days to go

The countdown to our holiday is well and truly on. It’s 10 days before we head off, and it can’t come soon enough. 

It’s been another day mostly wrangling code. I pushed out the work in progress for the new project. It’s using Laravel Forge to manage the server. Not because I can’t maintain or administer a server myself, but because it wraps things up beautifully. Especially the queues and deployment. Commits to the master branch are automatically deployed and notifications are sent to Slack. It’s a nicely put together system. 

I’d planned on finishing off another script this afternoon, and then a trip to the gym. However just 15 minutes before I was due to leave, and with one final bit to code up, I realised that the library, Python xlrd, couldn’t do the very last part and therefore the whole piece of work was consigned to the bin. It can’t detect the formatting in Excel2007 formatted spreadsheets, which was needed for tottin up a final figure from a sheet. 

After some tests with PHPExcel I realised that I could script something up, and I had the logic already. But it meant that I missed going to the gym. 

I did get my 4kms in by walking Lily to scouts and walking back with Joel. Lily and I spent most of the time wishing away the days until we’re in Portugal. It can’t come soon enough.

So I’m knackered now. I was up way too late yesterday and Saturday, so it’s an early sleep and hopefully an early start tomorrow. I need to get my 3k run in first thing.

Code, run, code

While Jude’s been away I’ve been plugging away at some coding that I need to try and get done by the time we go on holiday (soon!) So today was blocked out as getting my head down and working away.

Lots done, too! We’re handling large objects uploaded to Amazon and then on to third parties to get information and pull in services, and so I’ve been learning all about the way Laravel handles queues. The more I dig into the framework, the more I really like it. I’ve worked with a few versions of CakePHP and Zend — both MVC frameworks, and they’ve been okay, but not what I would call decent coding frameworks. Laravel seems to take that step up, and I’m enjoying how it all fits together.

So my various uploads are handled in the background, I can buy stuff and generally things are working so far.

Jude’s been working on some bits of the code while travelling and so most of this evening has been spent merging the two sets together and checking that everything still works. It does. Thank goodness.

So besides plugging away with the coding, I also did my walk at lunchtime — into town and back — and I went for what was planned to be a 10k run mid-afternoon.

I’d planned to go out towards Aughton and then back again. However, I’d was bored and tired just running along the A59, plus there was a lot of traffic. It seemed that the air was full of fumes, so I took a turn off about 4km in with the intention of zig zagging back home and trying to make it up to 10k.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 01.26.00

It didn’t work. Instead, I approaching our house having done just 9.5km. At that moment I also watched Jude drive up Burscough Road and then into our drive. Having not seen her since Thursday evening, it seemed a bit churlish to run past the house to get another 500m in, when the exercise was basically done. Perhaps it just shows that I wasn’t really in the mood.

That said, I did 9.5km in 55:56, so some quick sums on my pace towards the end suggest that I would have finished 10k in about 58:35ish, basically the same time as my run last week (well, 15 seconds slower, but *basically* the same time). So I’m reasonably happy with that.

I sorted out dinner when I got back and then have been consolidating codesets since then. Now it’s about 1:30 and I’m thinking that it’s probably time to go to bed… there’s enough to keep me very busy through the week.

Pizza and coding

A quiet Saturday today. A walk to the bank this morning to get my 30 minutes in relatively easily. I’d left the house without a form and remembered about five minutes in, so walked back got the form and then headed back into town by a more direct route. I still had to do a quick loop around the town centre to get up to 30 minutes, but not the greatest of walks ever.

I got some very lovely and unsolicited comments about my weight loss from the rep at the bank. I’d last met her about a year ago, when I probably looked like I scoffed lard for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was very satisfying — although I’ve got no doubt that she was also angling that I should remortgage with them.

We also had our first lunch sat outside in the garden today. When the sun was out it was lovely and warm, so it was a real treat. I also grabbed my laptop to get a bit of work done outside afterwards, but the sky turned grey and it got cold quickly. There’s still a long way to go before Summer.

I’ve mostly been working on the new project today. All good fun and I’ve made progress across a number bits, but I’ll want to see what J’s done while she’s been away before merging code and seeing how it looks end to end. There’s still a lot to do and so I spent most of the afternoon and this evening working on it. We even ended up having pizza delivered, which is a rare event these days.

The other highlight has been getting the children to the hairdressers today. Lily has been talking about getting her hair cut short for a few weeks and as I was walking back from the bank this morning I thought that I should just get it sorted. I made an appointment for her this afternoon.

We dropped her off at three, and I left her to talk possible hair cuts with the stylist while Joel and I popped over the road for a coffee and a slice of cake (juice and cookie in Joel’s case). For the record, the ginger millionaire’s shortbread that they serve at Source is delicious! We came back about 40 minutes later to find the stylist still busy and Lily sporting a bob and a side parting. She looked delighted!

While it looked like we were going to be sat around for another 15 minutes or so, I bounced Joel into getting his hair cut as well. It wasn’t the transformation that Lily’s cut had been, but it was shorter — and as a grumpy old dad, that made me happy.

Lily and Joel, post haircuts.
Lily and Joel, post haircuts.

Broken chain

So I missed two days posting here, which is a bit of a pain. There wasn’t ever a decision to post every day, but when I got to 50 days in, it felt like it was becoming a thing. However, the past couple of days have been very full and I was both up early and late to bed, and on both days, I simply forgot that I would normally post something here.

I had reached 74 days in a row. However, I’m not going to start posting things as day 1, day 2, again as that was really only ever the day of the year; but I’m now wondering if I can get through to the end of the year only dropping two days. As it stands at the moment, it feels like that could be a challenge.

The past three days have been full. The main problems have been distractions from the main work. So there is the new project that I’m working on, but I’ll still get calls and there is the flotsam and jetsam of other projects that will insist on getting in the way. I’m not really complaining, it just means that the days can get long when dealing with everything.

Alongside the missed blogs, the other casualty has been the training. I missed my 3.5km run on Tuesday and had good intentions to do it on Wednesday at the gym before my strength training programme. However, it was late when I got to the gym on Wednesday and so it didn’t happen.

Today, however, I did get out to do my 8k run — which had been originally scheduled for yesterday. There should have been intervals in it, but that’s quite difficult when running around Ormskirk at midday, and so I was happy just to get from point A, back to point A via the other side of Edge Hill in less than 48 minutes, which meant that I kept under the 6 minute / km threshold. The first half was all uphill and the second half was downhill, but peppered with road junctions and crossings. At the junction by the Cricketers, a car ran a red light as I was crossing the road which almost hit me — not cool. Then crossing Derby Street I was waiting for what seemed an age until I could get to the other side. It felt like I was the target for every car, bus and lorry hurtling through Ormskirk, but at least I got out and did the run.

I’m feeling a lot more positive about my weight as well. It continues to creep downwards, and while I’m still sporting a delightful spare tyre around my waist, the scales were reporting a fat measurement of 17.7% today. I suspect that is a mis-reading, but is in line with previous readings of 18 point a-bit last week. I know that the fat measurements can be thrown by hydration and recent exercising but it looks like those effects are to add fat to the measurement. I’m not really complaining, the scales are basically telling me that all my extra weight is around my waist, which I sort of knew… just by looking.

Yesterday’s dancing lessons went well. We were pulling things together in the starter lessons — mainly six count and eight count basic moves; and we were doing similar work in the improvers lesson — this time it was running and tandem charleston. It’s all very well but at tonight’s social dance I still found myself unable to put them together into a coherent dance or to feel confident about different moves.

This worries me less than it used to. When I started I would get terribly self-conscious and I wondered if I was actually learning anything. However I learned to give up worrying. The couples at the dance this evening seemed to be split into two groups — the ones who started the same time as Jude and I, and others who had been doing it for 3,6 or 12 months longer. The ones who had started around the same time were generally dancing with their partners and were conservative in what they were trying. The others seemed more adventurous. I had a few dances plus some with the children and then we went through the “shim sham”. The last time we had tried it, I had felt like the whole world was determined to make me feel incompetent, and that the dance was invented to remind me how rubbish I was. I hadn’t enjoyed it. However, tonight it was much more fun. I was still a bit crap… getting out of step and unable to keep up with the “break”, but this time it was fun to try rather than it feeling like some terrible burden (which didn’t exist in the first place). I put this down to personal growth! Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for too long and we left at about 10pm. I’d left the children at the bar, talking to Peter the barman, who did a sterling job of babysitting while I was dancing.

The other fun thing today was the meal that the children and I went out for this evening. I’d got my 30 minute walk in by taking a long route to pick up the children from school. I picked them up at about 5:30. On the way home, Joel was complaining about having been bullied in after-school club. As soon as I had arrived a staff member had asked me to sign a book that had a report of another child grabbing Joel and pinching him. When he told me about it, it sounded all harmless and like a bit of fun. Later, when Joel recalled it, he was in tears and said that he had been bullied, that he’d been jumped on, pulled to the ground and then pinched, then they’d taken his bag and sat on it. It didn’t sound like the happy accident that I was told about earlier. However, I’m aware that events can feel different and be recounted differently depending on the point of view. I’m minded to ask a few more questions on Monday.

So Joel was upset as we walked home and nothing would console him. I didn’t have anything planned for dinner and I thought that taking some time out and having a nice meal together would be a pleasant thing to do. Plus, I’m quite happy for any excuse for a tasty meal. We checked the menus outside the different restaurants in town and settled on Left Bank. We piled in, with rucksacks, book bags and a slight sense of chaos. But we were seated and things settled down quickly.

The children seemed to really enjoy it — I was asked “why do we never come here?” and “can we come again, soon?”, etc. as we left. Basically if they get parma ham and melon as a starter then they’re happy, regardless of what else they’re presented with. Joel hasn’t mentioned the problems at after-school club since we had our meal, so in that sense it worked. Also, it felt like some proper decadence to be walking home and then going for a meal with the children. It’s one thing popping into the sweet shop and getting a bag of sweets for the children to share (bad, I know…) but I felt like I was taking it to another level. Less bad, and much tastier.

So Jude is away until Sunday, I think. Actually, I realise that I’ve got no idea when she returns from Twickenham. The weekend looks like it will be mostly working on the new project but the children will be happy with that, as it means being left to their own devices, on their own devices.

Whatever way the weekend unfolds, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have time to post something at the end of the day. I don’t intend to break the chain, again, any time soon.


It’s about 2am and I’m just finishing preparing for a meeting in the morning. A mix of badly timed appointments and a theatre trip this evening (plus working on the more fun stuff) meant that the list of things to do was longer than I’d remembered. 

No running or gym update today, just the walk to get the kids from school.

Tomorrow there will be a proper update. Promise.

Mostly normal Monday

Tl;dr – basically a normal Monday. Some bits of work at my parent’s house, some bits at home. Didn’t stick to Kitchen Revolution plan and then went to break myself at the gym in the evening.

The day has drifted through three distinct parts. House-sitting this morning at parent’s place this morning, while waiting for an engineer to arrive; working back at home through the afternoon; and then dealing with a sudden avalanche of questions and support issues from about 5pm – just as I was lobbing the lamb into the tasty tagine I was making. Oh, and then the usual Monday evening routine of cubs, scouts and gym.

Last weekend saw the re-opening of the camp-site in Abersoch where my parent’s caravan is pitched. Mum and Dad were keen to get out there as soon as they possibly could and had departed first thing Sunday. There had been the risk that this joyous moment would have to be delayed by 36 or more hours because an engineer had to come and fix their washing machine, and he could only come on Monday — sometime between 8am and 8pm.

Given that they are so generous with their time looking after the children when Jude and I are away, doing a stint of house-sitting seemed like the least that I could do. I could take the laptop and it would be just like working from home — and it worked fine, except I couldn’t find a way to make coffee. It’s a miracle that I survived.

Apart from the lack of caffeine, it was no great burden. The engineer turned up at 10am and was gone by 10:30. I cracked on with what I was doing (taking snapshots of 3D models in browser canvases – yay!) and then went for a walk around Up Holland. I must have been a bit quicker than previous strolls, as I had to weave in and out of the neighbouring streets to get to 30 minutes.

This afternoon’s work was unremarkable. There were some server problems which caused a bit of a panic, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted with either a backup or a reboot.

Everything was basically going to plan with the day and then at 5pm the phone started ringing and when I was talking to one person, I could feel the phone buzzing as someone else was emailing me with another problem.

It wasn’t a tsunami of problems, four different issues seemed to simultaneously hit at 5. It would usually be fine, except that I’d just started to soften the onions on the lamb tagine that I was making. So had to juggle stirring and lobbing ingredients into the pot alongside some quick connections to servers and digging around to find problems. Plus I had to get the kids shortly after 5 so that I could get them ready for cubs and scouts.

I suppose if something is going to go wrong, then it will always be at the worst time — and with a bundle of other things going wrong simultaneously.

I had enough time to get the children and get Joel back to cubs, plus have dinner ready for when Jude got home (and had most of the problems sorted). So the madness didn’t last long.

Those who know the Kitchen Revolution will recognise that I’m off-piste this week. The big meal from scratch had a sad face etched next to the recipe and I was also juggling a couple of busy nights where there was very little time to cook and another three nights when Jude would be away. So I lumped for some simple and quick recipes. Lamb tagine and chilli. The plan is for some of the KR recipes later in the week. I got enough shopping done at the weekend to get us through to Thursday… by which point, anything could happen. If the children have their way, we’ll spend the rest of the week eating Subways.

It felt like a long hard slog at the gym tonight. In a good way, of course. I’d done the dumb-bell parts of the programme last week at home, but there was a lot more interesting things. I’ve never really done the machines, so using the shoulder press, chest press and leg press machines was a whole new world, and still hard. I think that I like using the weights for the shoulder and chest press, but I’m willing to give it a go.

My programme also instructed me to hold a plank for as long as I could. I had done three minutes in the past, so I aimed for that. I felt relatively fine passing three minutes and then it was like someone flicked a switch and my stomach muscles suddenly felt like they were working really very hard. I stopped at four, but that was mainly because my shoulders were aching. The side planks were difficult after that, and then after all the leg work I couldn’t bring myself to do a single leg raise. That said I hammered away at it for over an hour and it felt like it was all hard work.

The rest of the evening has been spent plugging away at new project stuff and a couple of quick fixes that had come in through the day. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mostly a normal Monday.

Day 74: Running update. 10k to Scarth Hill and back

We’re 20% of the way through the year and I haven’t really knuckled down on the weight loss again. Too many tasty things lying around the house since we started making packed lunches at the start of the year. Before I could rely on there only being lentils and goop around at lunchtime, but now there are hams, bread and chocolate biscuits. I need to lock everything up during the day so that I’m not distracted by the loveliness of it all.

So I’m down a few pounds on my weight before Christmas, but not as much as I’d hoped.

However, I’ve been gently getting back into the running since my chest-pain concerns at the end of January / start of February. It feels like I’ve not been totally on top of the running programme ahead of the Manchester 10k in May – although when I look back, I’ve done most of the sessions so far, so I must be basically sticking to it.

Today was the first 10k of the programme. Previous ones that I’ve done have peaked at about 9 / 9.5k a week or two before the run and then the sense of occasion is supposed to be sufficient to push you over the last few hundred metres. I don’t think this works terribly well, and I prefer this programme that has 10k early on and creeps up to 13k in a couple of weeks, alongside some faster runs. I was pointed to this schedule by a friend and the aim is to try and break the 60 minute barrier. I’ve been steadfastly in the 1 hour 10 – 15 minutes for most of the 10k races that I’ve done. Merrily bringing up the rear and feeling knackered at the end of it.

However, last year’s Manchester 10k didn’t go very well at all. By 4km I was unable to keep running and the remainder of the race was done by run/walking the route. The training hadn’t been great. A couple of months before I’d torn my calf muscle at the Milton Keynes half marathon — right at the end as I was sprinting for the finish. So my training had been short and half-hearted. I’m determined not to make such a mess of it this year.

The muscle tear last March is what finally got me going to the gym. Or more specifically, doing so badly in the Manchester 10k and then letting things slip through to the end of June made me resolve to finally do something about it. I started going to the gym and trying to lose weight at the start of July and I’ve been much better for it. So there is a bit of a silver lining.

I checked my old routes on walkjogrun and found a 10k that I had plotted out a while back — along Country Road, up Holborn Hill, then Long Lane and up Scarth Hill Lane. Then down Ruff Lane, back into town and heading home along Burscough Street / Road. Both Holborn Hill and Scarth Hill Lane are quite difficult. Holborn hill feels steep, but only for about one km. Scarth Hill Lane keeps climbing for about three km. The uphill route feels relentless for a while. When I first did the Holborn Hill run, it was hard to make up any time on the downhill because I was so knackered.

I headed out and tried to keep a steady, but brisker than usual tempo. I didn’t expect to maintain it for too long, knowing that the hills were ahead, but wanted to see how it felt. I kept at it and then tried to keep that tempo going uphill, while at the same time shortening the length of the stride.

I was listening to Jon Ronson’s new book about internet shaming to keep me moving, and the regular interruptions telling me the time, distance and pace were encouraging. Despite having slowed down on the hill, my average hadn’t gone over 6 minutes per km. At about seven km into the run I was just starting to go downhill again and my slowest average pace hit about 5:54 per km.

It’s not the hardest maths in the world — if I kept the average below 6 minutes then I’d be able to complete the run in under an hour, and was quite motivated by this. As I’d experienced in the past, the downhill was more difficult than I’d hoped. I was able to stretch my legs, but not as much as I would have liked. I picked up the tempo a bit, but by now I was just concerned that I shouldn’t do anything too stupid and just get home in a reasonable time.

My audio cues in Runkeeper are set for every five minutes, so at 55 minutes it told me that I had done 9.4-something kilometers. At this point I realised that I could walk the rest of the way and still come in under one hour. My initial internal cheer was then overwhelmed with a desire to stop and walk the rest of the way! Thankfully, Runkeeper also keeps the splits and I knew that the Gods of Running would pour scorn on me if I’d sneaked in at 59:59 and had walked the last 400 metres. I had no choice but to run it, and to give it a reasonable push.

It wasn’t anything anyone could call a sprint, but I didn’t need to. I came in at 58:19 and had beaten my PB by 11 minutes. I’d also hit a goal that I had set for May, nearly two months ahead of time. Yesterday I had explained my plan of running 10k under an hour to my Mum when we were out at dinner. It seemed ridiculous and I felt a bit of a fraud at the time. I know that it’s slow compared to many men in their 40s, but for me it seemed almost impossible.

I’m quite pleased.

Route and graphs from today's run.
Route and graphs from today’s run.

I just need to keep up the rest of the training over the next two months and will try to make a reasonable go of the Manchester 10k.

I also went walking earlier in the day. I had made a plan for dinners for the next few days, which looked to be quite busy, and needed to walk to town to get some bits and pieces. I took Lily and Joel with me and we had a very pleasant walk to Morrisons and back. I try not to mix chores with the walking these days — I know that it displeases the Gods of Walk — but it’s difficult to get everything in when Jude’s away, and it’s just lovely taking the time to have a walk with the children. Even if it is along the main road into town.

The week is looking quite busy, with morning walks and runs and evening trips to the gym on gym days. There’s a lot to do. Fingers crossed I can get through everything.

Opera, mostly

Tonight my mum and I went to The Lowry in Salford to see Opera North’s production of The Marriage of Figaro, and very splendid it was too. The original plan had been for Jude and I to go see it, but a yarn festival in Edinburgh turned out to be more appealing. No problem, it was a good opportunity for me to take my Mum out — and fortuitously it was the day before Mother’s Day.

By the time we were leaving, the day had seemed to have flashed by.

Jude and Debbie had left for Edinburgh at 9am. I cracked on and did some coding for the 3d project for a few hours while the children played video games. I appreciate that I should have probably been doing some awesome parenting, but I had stuff that I wanted/needed to do — which probably makes me sound like a terrible parent. I squeezed in a walk by heading into town to get some soup for lunch. This worked fine, and I had the children make Mother’s Day cards (for their Nan) while I was out walking. I thus avoiding being sucked into the creative process and ensured that the work was all their own.

Lunch seemed to take forever and by the time I was tidying up, there wasn’t enough time to go to the gym with all the associated rigmarole and then get back to pick up Mum on time. Somehow I had lost an hour somewhere, and as I think back, all I did was take about 15 minutes longer than I’d planned on a handful of things.

So I grabbed the weights and resistance bands and did my exercises at home. There were some exercises that weren’t appropriate at home. I couldn’t really do the pull ups nor the tricep dips, so they’re saved for my next trip to the gym. 40 minutes later I looked like a wreck, but a wreck with enough time to leave the children with Dad and take Mum to Salford.

We ate at a place called Damson in Media City. We chose from the set / pre-theatre menu and the food was delicious. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to really relax and take our time because we had to be back over at the Lowry. This also meant that I couldn’t try their tasty desserts, which looked very tempting… although the one that had caught my eye was a vodka chocolate and pecan cake thing, which sounded amazing but was off-limits because of the pecan. The cheese platter looked tasty too… *quiet sob*

I have a real soft-spot for opera and Opera North. When I was at Leeds I used to sneak off and get the cheapest of the cheap seats and watch from behind a column in the upper-upper circle. I loved it. I loved stepping into the theatre with the sound of the orchestra warming up before a performance and the terrifying sheer drop down from the very highest, furthest back seats. It was my guilty pleasure, away from James, the Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. I’d rock up wearing the most ridiculous baggy, flared jeans and sporting a Manc bowl haircut and then be in tears as the heartbroken leading lady would lament love lost. I still love it, although when you’re 46 years old it’s less of a guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, Jude doesn’t like it and so I’ve been to very few over the past 19 years, but I made a decision to try and go to some more — even if that means going by myself (which is looking likely)

Having said that, tonight I was joined by my Mum and she seemed to really enjoy the show. It’s not hard to enjoy, given the quality of all the performers and the number of well-known tunes. I even thought that the set was brilliant, despite the reviews that I’ve seen from people complaining about sight lines, we could see everything perfectly from our seats.

We don’t have anything else lined up just yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open. Instead, we have Anything Goes booked for Tuesday night, in Liverpool, which will be quite a different experience I’m sure.

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