weeknotes 100 Words Books

Weeknotes 065: You can’t go to your bed, daddy

Child’s drawing of Teletubbies In case you’ve been wondering what we’ve been watching all week.

The Chef flunked her lateral flow test. We knew the wedding was a risk. But one we’d take again. Fortunately—so far—it’s not been bad. She’s isolating with the other flowers in the attic and Piglet remain symptom free.

She’s joined in isolation misery by my sister who was clearly copying The Chef’s homework. She made it back to Dorset and has managed to cadge a friend’s subscription for a week on the couch with Succession and Mare of Easttown.

We started the week in happy ignorance taking my Dad out for fish & chips and a stomp. Piglet is lucky to have the grandparents she does. And we’re lucky to have the parents that we do. They inhabit the same bodies, but they’re different people. And we love all eight of them.

A brief non sequitur: I’m reading a book written in the 1970s and it uses the phrase sobered down instead of sobered up and, well, that makes more sense doesn’t it? Was there was a time when they were in competition?

I had a bad day midweek. Work things 40% done and no edorphin hits from completed tasks. The roofer failed to show again. I discovered the bath is leaking. I dropped my crappy new phone1 on the drive and cracked the screen. Even undropped it managed a Schrodinger’s text where I had a send message and the person who we ordered food from had nothing. At least we got food after an apologetic plea. Maybe the bad phone contributed to my bad mood. Frequent minor annoyances. The Chef was patient through my ranting.

And the next day she got Covid.

Our humane mouse trap worked and I released a second mouse in the nature reserve. A fortuitous escape given the theory that Omicron can infect mice.

I took a carer’s day for Friday and me and Piglet spent as much of it outdoors as possible. Piglet’s doing well with constant daddy, but you can see the confusion and hurt that she can’t kiss and cuddle her mam. Mealtimes are the hardest with The Chef separated either by time or distance. We’re hoping for a better rest of 2022.

With my love of RSS, it would be remiss to not share the RSS Discovery Engine (via Jamie Adams). Have a play with it while listening to Come on in by Lady Wray. Just don’t come on in to ours—we’ve got the plague.

  1. Don’t buy a Pixel 6. It doesn’t work. I mean selfies crash the phone, which is a bug they should have found before selling to the public.↩︎

16 January 2022 weeknotes

Weeknotes 064: Spider-silk. Spider-web. Spider-man.

I’d forgotten the tiredness that comes after a big night out. You don’t sleep as much as pass out in a bed. It’s not unwelcome because it signifies the night with friends that preceded it. Those that cleared their lateral flow tests at least. And a more happy and bumbling lot are harder to imagine. In fact, some of them read these. Hi! Hope heads weren’t too sore and you can agree that the couple were lovelier than even the stereotype.

It was the bookend to a week which started wholesomely in the Life Centre staring with childish wonder at a giant, rotating globe. So wondrous was it that we had to periodically return from other exhibits to point at it.

Despite the Bank Holiday, most kitchens were closed till the evening and we had to move pub lunch to pub tea. We walked in to a drunk being kicked out. Thankfully, my mask prevented recognition being mutual and we were spared excruciating minutes of inappropriate patter.

Between the bookends I’ve started on the Morning Pages resolution1. In the nice notebook. They’re unexpectedly intense. I anticipated a page of inchoate work noodling while my brain waited for me to add coffee. Instead I’m having 30 minutes of daily therapy with myself. It’s not helped with the work malaise and procrastination yet, but it’s identified the causes of my poor sleep and is making it easier to talk to The Chef about stuff.

On the theme of resolutions I’m taking inspiration and installed a habit tracker to encourage stickiness. I haven’t opened it yet. I’m doubtful of its effectiveness.

Piglet has added pastiche to her repertoire. While she doesn’t understand the reason for a set of tasks, she can mimic the outline of them. She’ll diligently clean Lǎoyé’s fish pond, without ever dangering the pond with cleanliness. And the half of a phone conversation I caught while she paced with an old case held to her ear was excellent.

Lastly, because I read Open Water this week (read it; it’s short and superb) and it’s infused with music, this week’s recommendation comes straight from the pages: Church by Kelsey Lu. I’ve got it on now.

  1. These aren’t up yet if you’re reading today, but are on backlog.↩︎

9 January 2022 weeknotes

2021 Reads

1. The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Book 01

The subtitle is an ambiguous utopia”. And I can’t top that as a review.

2. This is how you lose the Time War by Amar El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Book 02

Punk-stylised letter-writing sci-fi romance that’s popular enough to float across my feed repeatedly, but it was the Desert Island Discworld podcast with El-Mohtar that swung it for me. I liked it.

3. Fake Law by The Secret Barrister

Book 03

Many politicians are called out, but Chris Grayling’s malicious, negligent incompetence runs through this like a stick of rock. And despite the anger leased on his many failings, it’s the solipsistic media and proprietary legal archiving that come in for the greatest ire. I guess the one hope I have left for the current Labour leadership is for this to get righted if they get into power.

4. Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Book 04

Sunday night TV: the book. Enjoyable in the mildly engaging way expected after a big roast a couple of glasses. Diverting without being challenging and I think I’ll tap out of the incipient series here.

5. Foundation by Issac Asimov

Book 05

There’s a noticeable absence of women. I guess equality wasn’t one of the things expected to develop in the 220 centuries of empire.

Which isn’t the only anachronism. Someone’s phone goes off while their in the bath. Which was a thing back in the day.

Along with Dispossessed, Dune and Roadside Picnic I’ve been doing the, ahem, foundational Sci-fi works recently.

6. Foundation and Empire by Issac Asimov

Book 06

Maybe it was better before he introduced female characters. The characterisation of Bayta is cringe. But he offsets and redeems with beautifully phrased sentences:

The sea became wrinkled with nearness


[the] soundless sibilance of Bayta’s voice.

The 1950s was a good era if you wanted to read about mutants in your SF. It was also a good time for three-act structured trilogies.

7. The Maker of Swans by Paraic O’Donnell ★

Book 07

Magicians magically told.

Then I read this and my heart broke. You can read the lines stolen and repurposed by his characters—often the villains. And the metaphor of Navaire being undone by nature…

8. The Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Book 08

Two novellas spliced into a book. Persevered to complete the set, but my heart wasn’t in it. I prefer LeGuin.

9. Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel ★

Book 09

Reading the foundation trilogy got me to buy Gibbons’ Decline and Fall. Even the abridged version of that thing is biiig. I chickened out and dived into Part 2 of the Cromwell trilogy. He’s starting to act as the other stories portray him; a medieval Beria.

Mantel has such sympathy for him, that you can’t help but be enchanted. I’m going to wait for a good opportunity to binge before starting the last book.

10. Intimations by Zadie Smith

Book 10

Collected pandemic essays. I read them as it was easing and the essays on its rise already seem of a place. A time of upheaval preserved in the aspic of words. Highlights are Contempt as a virus which remakes my clumsy Brexit as Racism comparison with finesse. And the elegiac eponymous capstone, which looks for the beauty in everyone.

11. Brigada by Enrique Fernandes ★

Book 11

Short bastards break and fix the world. The story is lean and there is an alternate reality where, with better funding, the series is longer. Even with the brevity, I confess to writing myself a character crib-sheet to keep up.

12. English Pastoral by James Rebanks

Book 10

Autobiography by a farmer doing rewilding. Different ethos to Knepp Farm and one that I’d probably like less at first look, but prefer as I saw it through a decade or more. And then possibly less again a decade after that. What I’m saying is, I don’t know who’s right” but I’m glad both options are being tried.

13. Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing & Joe Bennett

Book 13

An actual ongoing comic series. Look at me keeping the industry alive or something. The shame is, it’s not complete and I’m stuck on a monthly schedule now to see how the story arc will bend. It’s been a lot of fun so far though.

14. New X-Men by Grant Morrison & Frank Quietley

Book 14

What if we follow through mutants as stand-in for oppressed minorities further? Cultural appropriation. Fetishisation. Yet, still demonised.

15. Planet Hulk by Greg Pak & Carlo Pagulayan

Book 15

When the good guys were bad and the big guy was happy. Plundered for iconic scenes in Thor: Ragnarok which at the time was excellent, but now I’m sad that I won’t get a full standalone Planet Hulk.

16. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman & Sam Kieth

Book 16

This is more straight-laced than where the series goes. Not the auspicious start I was anticipating.

17. Thud! by Terry Pratchett (Re-read)

Book 17

Comfort reading. The dadness of it cuts closer these days and I could feel myself brimming with Vimes’ fire when he was washing down the underground river fighting a demon. We share the bedtime stories in our house which means I’d not have the ritual to cling to and in the same situation I’d go on a berserker rage in a mine. Beats lockdown, I guess.

18. Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Book 18

Really quite good. Took me half a book to realise it was a traditional aliens vs. humans story. I’m worryingly ignorant of the history of China, so kept dipping out between chapters to do a spot of Wikipedia-ing. And I later found out the chapters were reordered in the translation to cater to Western ignorance by front-loading the historical information.

It’s unashamedly political and if I revisit it in 60 years, will it feel as dated as the Foundation books? I’ll have to cut back on the bacon to find out. I think I’m down for the rest of the series.

19. We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

Book 19

Comic one-shot about sad animals getting abused. About as depressing as that sounds. My least favourite of the Morrison/Quietly’s so far.

20. Gnomon by Nick Harkaway ★

Book 20

Sci-fi, fantasy, tech-dystopia affair. Read parts of it with a fever and ended up having other people’s dreams. That kept me awake and I managed a serious overnight binge leaving me wrought. It’s an apt way to read it, I think.

He drops a lovely fourth-wall breaker on the reader near the end which made me smile for a day.

21. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Book 21

A bird flu-like disease kills almost all of humanity. A near-miss in real life (but coming as the permafrost melts) and it’s a good thing I didn’t read this last year. Vaguely optimistic, but carrying the bleak view of humanity that pervades North American apocalypse fiction.

22. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro ★★

Book 22

Wow. I can better express myself for having read this. And need to for having read this. The film will likely be on BBC at some point and I’ve my eyes peeled. Hopkins, Thompson and Reeves are superb casting choices and I hope it lives up to my imagination.

23. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (Re-read)

Book 23

Tiffany Aching beats up some nasty elves and gets ready to be the new Granny without becoming the new Granny.

24. A Hatful of Sky by Terry Pratchett (Re-read)

Book 24

Tiffany Aching shares her head with Dr. Bustle and is now better at pub quizzes.

25. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (Re-read)

Book 25

Tiffany Aching kisses an elemental not called Swamp Thing but who may be as powerful.

26. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

Book 26

Tiffany Aching jumps over the fire and the Cunning Man doesn’t. Poor choice by one of them.

The Tiffany book that plays closest to our current times with the incipient anti-vax movement and the kill poedes” crowd.

27. The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (Re-read)

Book 27

The One Where Granny Dies. The one where Tiffany doesn’t become Granny. The one where Terry writes The End”. And the one where the author description plate says Terry Pratchett was”.

28. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin ★

Book 28

Semi-autobiographical raging at the injustice of the world from an only moderately likeable narrator. Baldwin. We were lucky to have him.

29. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro ★

Book 29

Not as good as Remains of the Day (few are), but still so delicate, caring and deep.

30. The Circle by Dave Eggers

Book 30

This reads like Eggers got bored during a Silicon Valley Keynote and recast the personalities on stage as deep sea creatures and enjoyed himself so much that he turned it into a book. Granted, I’ve never been to California and it may be that the myopia of the characters is observant and true, but even from my privileged world view, many of the book’s central characters’ arguments fall down with the merest puff of a breeze.

I can forgive the ingénue narrator—a perfectly acceptable trope—but the supporting characters are drawn from too narrow a slice of life for the book to raise above moderate. In a USA where ~1/3 of the population don’t have a Facebook account, I can’t not imagine greater resistance than just that of an artisanal (it’s important that he’s creative; but in a homely, hand-crafted way. Don’t contrast Elite with Elite) furniture maker.

31. Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford ★

Book 31

Our Friends in the South

Caroline Crampton bought a set of pens explicitly because Francis Spufford uses them. She follows up the turquoise-coloured anecdote with a list of recommended books. The library had none of them. But it did have this. If the rest of his output is this good, I’m in for the haul. If you want the full middle-aged-Dad-musing-on-the-meaning-of-existence experience, read this, coupled with Ocean at the End of the Lane.

32. The Variable Man by Philip K Dick

Book 32

Solid 50s pulp. Rhymes with Foundation, but it’s smaller scope and aims have dated it less. It is still Old man yells at cloud” in it’s outlook: weren’t people just better back in the day, eh? Not like the kids these days, trapped in their Cold War and not knowing how to build stuff.

33. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Book 33

I think I’d get a better time-to-reward two from watching TV miniseries. There’s not much exploration of the characters inner world that would be lost in watching actors do their thing.

31 December 2021 Books

Weeknotes 053: This is so humiliating!

Keen to get a start on the week, Piglet gave up on sleep by 5 am. Mid-morning and both our moods were fractious. Tantrums were allayed by turning the couch into a den-cum-car. Lǎolao called to say she’d made dumplings and we postponed Sunday roast to Monday and headed round for our fill. She’s recuperating nicely.

We’re now confident that Piglet’s bad sleeping is the final arrival of the final molars. We drug her before bed, 4 hours later give her more and again 4 hours after that. I avoided sleep myself in the middle of the dosing regime, favouring our bathroom instead. That portentous inability to finish my steak fulfilled. Unlike me.

There was no chance of making Monday morning meetings. I called in sick and went to bed. At midday I repeated for the afternoon. In the evening I left The Chef to care for our daughter while I suffered cold chicken soup straight from the tin. I’ll grant that sounds disgusting, but it’s my comfort place when I’m ill. The Sunday roast ingredients moved to the freezer.

The Chef was treated to a 1 am declaration that If I cry, mammy comes.” followed by sinister chuckling. What do you do with a power move like that?

Feeling moderately better I took the monitor while The Chef recovered from that psychological attack. I wasn’t awake enough to make it through the rounds of patting an had an involuntary co-sleep of sorts on the floor. The Chef responded by ringing the grandparents to baby-sit at the weekend to give us time to decorate the dining room.

Piglet can curl her tongue now. Just another in the ledger-book where my genes have top-trumped.

We made the mistake of putting her in an 18-month-old dress. I had to dislocate her eyebrows to get it off.

When she’s being tickled, if she’s enjoying it she’ll ask again” once she’s got her breath back. It’s reassuring because without it, tickling is low-key aggressive.

Her toys will occasionally cry. When we ask why it’s because they’re sad. When we probe as to why they’re sad, it’s because they’re sad. Tautological, but you can’t argue with the truth.

After last week’s sombre tunes, a more upbeat paring of Nation of Language and Gabriels. The Gabriels EP has the quality of making me think this is the best song on here” before the next starts and I revise my opinion up.

I left my charger at work on Thursday, so needed an unplanned office trip on Friday. After nursery we avoided traffic while playing in the park. Piglet needed to go for a wild wee and, unpracticed, that included over me. I’ll point her at the tree next time. Once home and everyone tucked up, I spent a couple of hours readying for decorating by (quietly) moving furniture and doing repair plastering.

Ever-eager grandparents turned up early to take Piglet to the farm while we decorated. Her presence elsewhere is enough to defer procrastination: we’ve given up the shared time and let’s put it to use. We had two coats on by 7pm. With other bits and bobs crammed in while the first dried. It was without guilt that we played games and bathed that night.

10 October 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 052: … … I want a pat

Through missed weeks, these don’t add up to the equivalent real-life passage of time. These aren’t the one year anniversary of weeknotes. I missed that a month ago. Oh well. Happy thirteen month anniversary instead!

We were joined on the park roundabout by a younger kid and her grandad. She was near-verbal, spouting gibberish with the candence of speech. The grandad shared that he thought we all learned to sing before we speak. Which reminded me of a quote that I can’t find. So congratulations Park Grandad, you get the credit.

The afternoon held a toddler meet-up. The Chef explained that it’s not the type of things that dads go to and I was left to plant out the winter flowers, turn over the worms and shovel a wheelie bin’s worth of weedd. Piglet returned—having staked her superior claim to the door handle from one of the other kids—to solemnly tell me about the watermelon she’d eaten.

We accidentally ended up eating out again on Monday. That same album of terrible covers playing. Now Piglet has ditched the nappies, we’ve got her salopettes instead of a puddle suit for those few vital seconds. Worth it.

Her internal world is growing. Overheard her reciting episodes of Hey Duggee when out on a walk. And she’ll sing Hush Little Baby to herself. Albeit she gets stuck in a loop of buying mockingbirds. Which, to be honest, is a better remedy to a non-singing bird than the adventure the actual lyrics go on. The washing basket now doubles as a bedroom sledge/cocoon. And I’ve convinced her that there’s an On/Off switch inside everyone’s nostrils. If she finds a sleeping adult—usually The Chef—she’ll jam a finger up their nose to wake them up.

I’m bored of contractual gubbins at work. It needs to be done. I just wish it could be needed to be done by someone that isn’t me. I distracted/rewarded myself with another round of office tarting. I now have an artfully arranged YouTuber background for video calls and a succulent shelf.

Shelf of succulents This is the same as productive work.

A sombre and autumnal tone to the music this week. Gia Margaret, Beck and Low.

Speaking of albums, this Moo Card player is all kinds of awesome. The kind where I overcome inertia and copy. It’s another link from Phil Gyford. He’s very good. Go read him.

We used the pickler to build Piglet a den. Our first where she cared, rather than our last. It’s better served as a den frame; she needs more derring in her do now. At Tumbles—once we got her off the trampoline—she scaled the gym ladders, gloated and shimmied down without a worry.

Steak night was moved from Friday to Saturday and what a steak to finish the week on. Shame I couldn’t finish the steak for a sense of poetic symmetry. Too full and uncomfortable a stomach. Here’s hoping that’s not ominous.

3 October 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 051: What makes you happy? Mama

Meadowhall Travelodge wasn’t as bad as anticipated and we slept for another glorious 9 hours. A sterling start to a Sunday. Our timing worked out better in nabbing a charger and we had a leisurely coffee while juicing the car for the home leg.

Piglet was happy to see us and took us to visit 黑马和白马 (black horse and white horse) at the farm at the end of lane. Back at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s, over delicious home-made 羊肉烩面 (lamb noodle soup), we were recounted with stories of her excellent potty usage.

The final drive home of the day had a rainbow, one of those ridiculous sunsets where a painter would get told to tone it down, diggers and Hey Duggee on the phone. It couldn’t have been a better drive for Piglet without a unicorn dancing past.

The Chef is over her cold and I’m back in the Big Boy Bed™.

She’s replaced her cold with hand, foot and mouth disease. Looks like Piglet wasn’t teething after all. Because of the foot blisters, she’s hobbling about like a pensioner with severe gout.

I’ve had a strangely productive start to the week when I stopped procrastinating on the thing that’s been Too Big To Start and just started it. Evergreen lesson, that one.

Lǎoyé came round to watch Piglet over lunch. I found him in the hallway struggling to get into her room. It is an effective baby gate, to be fair.

After years, Chinese class is over. Sad, but we’ve been shedding students each term. We’ve kept going with just the four, but three of us have small kids. We’ve promised to meet up for a drink in 2022. I think I’m still going to go for the HSK3 exam in December. I’ve enough native speakers around to help me when I get stuck and it’ll keep me going till I come up with a plan for next year.

Lǎolao underwent surgery on Wednesday and my folks were away in their new caravan, so I took a child care day. As it was 20 °C and sunny, we went to the nature reserve where we saw deer. They eyed us suspiciously while Piglet sat on my shoulders barking excitement at them. Once I let her down they scarpered. A post-nap trip to the park included a meltdown on the boat over needing to take turns on the steering wheel. The other toddler felt sad about Piglet’s tears and offered her a turn and when I asked her to say Thank you” she snarled No” which led to another chat and meltdown. We made up over chocolate covered ice cream and The Chef joined us for a cheeky meal out.

It was another tasty meal, but the music was atrocious. Limp, soulless cover versions. I forget where I read it, but someone pointed out covers frequently miss the sexiness of the originals. Especially the twee ones beloved of adverts. Which put me in mind of this write-up of acoustic rap covers (via Phil Gyford).

Piglet managed no backsliding in nursery with her potty. Two days and only one minor accident. And The Chef has her Covid booster in her arm. It means I keep the overnight shift. But it’s all about Daddy this week anyhow. I’m so f■■■ing tired.

I was the only person in the office on Friday. I’ve got a dedicated desk now that I’m back and spent half an hour being an office tart again. There’s a clean desk policy—no plants or books—but everything tidied and aligned the way I like it.

Saturday was spent manufacturing mRNA and pottering about the area. A new cafe, a new butcher’s bag and new plants from the garden centre. Popped round to see that Lǎolao is recovering well. We even booked up Santa; already too late to get a weekend slot though.

We finished the week playing computer games and drinking beer while The Chef told me she used to keep her baby teeth in the bobby pins box. And that she can’t remember what she did with them. Sweet dreams.

26 September 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 050: It tickles my bum.

We took part in our own Great North Run this week. Not out with the joggers, but at home with the potty.

Piglet’s reaction was to fuse her hand to her arsecheek, as she wandered about in a state of nappyless wonder. The book The Chef had read on the matter1 advised to treat it like poker: watch for her tells, give nothing away and if she pees at the table to pick her up and plop her on the potty. (I think I remember that last one happening at a late night game in The Bay once.) This was made difficult by her tell being playing with her arse (see above) and her pee lasting all of a gushing second.

Still we felt we made alright progress on day one. I was at work for day two and could hear the setbacks though. I took over at the lunch nap and left her to self-settle. She instead elected to jump around and crap her pants. At least The Chef had some friends over in the afternoon to lower her cortisol. Piglet is firmly in the toddler, No! Mine!” stage of sharing. We’ll have to plan for a few more visitors to smooth that out.

Day three something clicked and we mostly hit the potty. The evening I read a story to her while she stared fixedly into my eyes, puce, and did her business. From there we’ve only improved. Chatting to other parents, that was a quick training.

I’m still in the spare room while The Chef fights off the remnants of her cold. It means I’ve been up through the night while Piglet teethes(?). I accidentally confined her to bed when I asked her to try and sleep while I lay down. I left her for an hour and she looked up as I returned and asked if she was allowed to leave the bed to play. We continued the story of the little boy on his bike. He’s become a cypher for her to process her experiences.

At work, my tiredness has been amplified by a week of contracts, paperwork and admin. These weeks have to happen sometimes, but they’re bloody dull.

The constant up-and-down did give me the chance to finish reading the Tiffany Aching stories. The final back matter which describes how Pterry was a beloved writer still hits.

Aching The End.

We finished the week with a Chef birthday / friend’s wedding one-two. I bunked off to go for a delightful meal out complete with champagne and chablis for The Chef, while I nursed sparkling water. My revenge was to inflict the woohooctopus playlist on her during the drive. She fell asleep, upset by the jarring tonal shifts, but pleased at the banger ratio.

I’ve never managed to get Scotch Corner’s electric chargers to work and there are only three at Wetherby. It meant lots of waiting round and polite small talk while queuing. For petrol sales to stop in 9 years, infrastructure is going to need some major work. Good job we’ve a competent government who are up the task…

By the time we got down to Derbyshire we were well past mingling mood and hid in the AirBnB with wine, junk food and Yasmin Williams. The place was a converted barn and the definition of quaint. It was providential that we spent the evening relaxing there because we woke to a Thank you for your stay” note. Turns out we’d booked one night instead of two. We managed to book a Travelodge for the night. A downgrade to be sure, but in terms of time to screw it up, a post-wedding, child-free night with no plans the next day is about the best we could ask for.

The wedding itself was a marriage between two small Yorkshire villages. A background soundtrack of thees and thous through the day. The boxes all ticked: happy couple, tearful parents, good speeches, easy table company2 and catching up with people not seen in the flesh since pre-Covid. The lack of masks indoors wasn’t entirely comfortable and when the band shorted the power with a rousing Jailhouse Rock, we took our chance to slink away and let some of Yorkshire’s finest hit the shots.

  1. A feminist oversight from me to let her do this prep by herself.↩︎

  2. We did retreat to the safety of sport as a conversational crutch between men who don’t know each other without reaching the parody status of naming old football players and smiling at the memories.↩︎

19 September 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 049: Franny-Annie

It’s that one hot, sunny week in September. Piglet chose a summery dress from her wardrobe and demanded bunches. We chased—in the specified order of me, Piglet then Mama—across the moor to the Hancock via the park and pizza. A shade over a mile and Piglet pretty much ran the whole thing. Those legs are getting stronger. I blame all the jumping in the new bed.

Probably the best thing about the Hancock was the concrete rhino outside. Except maybe the elephant. Hello elephant.

Back at work on Monday, the morning was spent in meetings that could have been emails. Happily I had the afternoon off to bimble round a warm beach. We got home the same time as the neighbours and Piglet conquered her fear and went in to play. She took her emotional support flamingo and it was rechristened Franny-annie”, which is the single funniest thing that she’s heard. She was still giggling to herself about it when we put her down to sleep.

To free ourselves from the prison of endless patting and singing, The Chef trialled two songs and a goodnight. The first two nights went smoothly and I copied. We’re one week in and waiting for the regression, but we have a self-settling toddler.

It being that one sunny week, we snuck in the last BBQ of the year. Granddad’s rubber arm was twisted and he consented to a couple of beers.

The Chef is struggling to shift a chest infection and I’ve relocated to the spare room away from her impression of a chainsaw with a faulty motor. Lying there I realised my dreams have shifted from vivid lockdown tedium back to being forgotten on waking. Can’t say I going to miss them.

Piglet’s newest request is to have a chit-chat”. It revolves around a little boy on a bike whose shoes have run away and he’s chasing them. It’s been unfolding over the week and I’ll keep you updated if he manages to catch them.

We’re trying to raise her in a considerate way and she has a couple of toys who use they/them pronouns. Piglet hasn’t a clue and the only three genders she recognises are mummy ones, daddy ones and baby ones.

I took to drastic measures on Duolingo to complete the achievements. Frustrated with the score-getters (shut up, I see the irony) and skipped Monday to enter a league with more chill people. And look at this shiny fella:

Diamond Needless task completion.

It totally wasn’t worth it, but I can relax and go back to studying normally now. I don’t understand the people doing it just for the scores; I lost one week to someone with over a million points who’d only learned 800 words. They were literally signing in every day for years and doing the first dozen lessons over and over to rack up high scores. I mean, why?

Anyway. Inspired by the Department of Enthusiasm I’ve made a playlist of the miscellaneous tracks that get mentioned on here. The latest track is from Little Sims, which the whole world (Mercury excepted) thinks is marvelous. Have a gander and chuckle at my atrocious taste.

We rounded off the week with a final pre-6 am start for Daddy-Daughter day. Nap time worked against us for meeting for the playout on the village green. But we took the balance bike out for a whirl regardless and had our first bit of independent whatever-the-balance-bike-equivalent-of-cycling-is.

12 September 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 048: I can’t remember how to disintegrate anymore

I’ve had an inexplicable grump running for the duration of this week. I’m not ruling out the cricket as the cause. But otherwise, an unidentified churl is a precursor to me working out what’s actually bothering me.

Sunday was supposed to be my lie-in and I wasted it with an inability to sleep. Knackered, we set out. Everyone in Newcastle had the same idea. About once every 15 minutes we bumped into someone else we knew. Piglet did well with the many cuddle requests from—in her eyes—strangers.

Her reward was to play on the Quayside summer see-saws and the Baltic’s senso room. She all but popped with delight at the interactive LED wall before claiming a toy car as her own and trying to do off with it.

Bank Holiday Monday meant I could join the girls for tumbles along with every other dad who was off for the day. Piglet’s nursery cold was developing nicely and there was liberal need for the hanky before the ball pit. As befits August, it was too mizzly to stay out and we headed home for the girls to nap while I caught up on these.

We managed to get back out to Seven Stories in the afternoon. Which included an unexpected interactive story time. A determined, if sheepish, Piglet went to the front to get her finger snapped by a crocodile hand puppet. She’s getting better at interacting with the other kids too. Covid’s high tide receding.

By that night her snots had reached critical mass and her nostrils were no longer useful. Overnight comforting was back. We’re out of practice. How did we / will we cope with the bad nights?

We’ve read her books to her enough times that she can read” them to herself. With the right sentences for the page. It’s like those old magic tricks where horse could count”.

It’s official. I’m going back to the office. They want their stuff back by the 20th or they’re sending round the heavies1. I’m ambivalent at the moment, but we’ll see how I readjust. Friday Night Steak Night softened the news.

By Saturday Piglet’s nose was clear and she was up at 5.45 to let me know the good news. Hey Duggee helped me by babysitting while I nailed coffee and whimpered. Caffeine is a wonderful mind-altering substance though, and we were down playing with the blocks not long after. She’s playing with them now too. Not just smiting towers for upsetting her love of a horizon. An afternoon was notionally spent in shops. But was actually spent on the escalators.

  1. Emailing me with my manger on cc.↩︎

5 September 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 047: Oh George, it’s long enough for a ponytail

These weeknotes brought to you by the song Down in the Jungle”:

A quiet afternoon with both girls sleeping let me catch back up on these. Apologies to RSS readers for a glut of out of order weeknotes.

On the topic of RSS, Jeremy Keith splits his RSS into two folders: blogs and magazines. It’s like Hey and their feed and paper trail. It worked for me while I used Hey (before everything happened) and I ported the labels back to Gmail. Is it too broad for my feeds? I might try and simplify.

Last bit of RSS. I found an RSS club in one of my feeds. I’d link out to it, but they ask for secrecy and organic discovery. Both of my readers can be disappointed here.

Weeknotes have been steadily growing in length. This is mostly because I’m in the habit of jotting down ideas as they happen. And I’m also in the habit of not leaving myself time to edit before publishing. They’re overly indulgent these days which marks the shift in focus from an attempt to improve my writing towards memorialising our lives. Still, I’m going to try to edit down to 500 words max. You know, to improve my writing.

It’s taken me a few days this week to shake last week’s illness. Work’s been too busy for me to wallow and I’ve had to carry on, albeit more grumpily in calls. The Ivy League To Do + Analog is keeping me on track.

In one of my grumpy calls, I was chatting to someone with a beautiful office. Then I found these and I want to repaint our office and move the furniture about. Just need to do all my other DIY jobs first.

Piglet’s been processing the round of everyone is ill with Daddy’s not sick. Daddy feels better. Mama’s not sick. Mama feels better. Piglet’s not sick. Piglet feels better,” on loop.

The Chef took her to Seven Stories where The Chef was very brave and joined in playing with the toy spiders and Piglet raged when she couldn’t take the tigers home for tea.

HSK2.jpg Nerrrrd

I passed my HSK2 with 100%. I’m feeling swotty.

29 August 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 046: That’s Duggee on CBeebies.

Birthday lists get harder to write. Particularly when everyone thinks I already have too many books. Piglet thought long and hard and got me norovirus instead.

It started last weekend at Whitehouse Farm. We met celebrity owl Pigwidgeon, fed milk to calves and jostled around the go-kart track. It was at the petting rooms after this that Piglet projectiled. It caught us off guard and—forgetting how literal toddlers are—I asked where it came from. Piglet offered her best not now Dad” stare and deadpanned My mouth,” which brought levity for the poor staff swiping up her puke.

We spent the rest of the day trying to decide which food we’d poisoned her with; leftover rice and Weetabix were both in the running. Her late afternoon attempts at vomiting on an empty stomach were heart-breaking. She retched and cried with confused betrayal, I don’t want to be sick any more.”

It was a fitful night for all. Piglet was upset and restless with discomfort. We were nervous that she’d vomit, choke on it and DIE. We made it through, but when she cried again the next day while dry heaving, it was a fresh punch to the heart.

The Chef took ill that day too. We moved our earlier food-poisoning diagnosis back to norovirus. Regardless, she’s not getting leftovers any time soon.

Away from Plague House, Lǎoyé has rescued a baby pigeon from a seagull attack and has been nursing it back to health. There were regular progress updates on the family chat. Which ended abruptly when Lǎolao put it out in the garden to get some sun and a cat did off with it. It’s not the first time she’s done this to him either. The family chat stayed tense and terse for a day.

Piglet had been enamoured of it when she visited. Not that she wanted to visit. With the various sick days she’s been extra clingy. There was a full sobbing into my neck hug when she had to leave in the morning. Which switched to sweetness and light by drop-off. She was so charged up that she again refused the sleep. She did get me to corpse during the second hour by singing I’m going to stay awake forever” to herself.

It gave me the chance to ruminate on the fact that my lot have stopped listening to new music. I think I have a causal theory: Radio and blogs. They’re both human-driven discovery services. Here is something worth listening to. And here’s the reason. With that in mind, two recommendations this week. First Lucy Dacus (via 6music) and second, the Sweeping the Nation playlist (via Phil Gyford’s blog).

My second work weeknote was late, but it went up. It even got an unsolicited compliment. I guess this is a thing now.

A propos of nothing else either side of this sentence, isn’t the NHS wonderful when it’s various parts manage to talk to each other?

Piglet has been baffling nursery with her one-handed counting. Her clarifications in Chinese didn’t help. Away from nursery her formerly prodigious vocabulary has shrunk to I want insert thing here.”

Shipped off to her grandparents on Friday freed us for my birthday meal out at Bichon Bistro. Expectations were too high for a meal that was alright. But it was more than redeemed by the sterling company.

This essay on the Qualities of Earth (via ADS) is so precise. There’s texture to the words.

The earth (or shingle) we tend becomes an extension of our physicality — I suffered from a lack of vigour last summer and the weeds soon told on me. When I returned to the plot after six weeks away, an allotment holder I admire was momentarily cold and uttered the words, they soon come back”.

An allotment is too much for us. But as a system for displaying your own mental health to yourself? There’s something in that. A to-do list is no good. It doesn’t tell on you; it just whines that you’re not paying it enough attention. Maybe I should photograph the kitchen floor as a proxy for vigour. A casual relationship between brain crud and physical crud.

Which brings us full circle to my turn feeling crud and spending my birthday holed up in bed. It’s an effective technique to get quiet time. 4/5 would recommend voiding yourself to avoid others.

22 August 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 045: C’mon beautiful

I needn’t have worried about Piglet. We went round Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s and after hugging The Chef she glommed on to me and refused to leave me for more than a few minutes. When we got home she proved difficult to settle. At the point where I felt frustrated she sat up, beamed her biggest smile then lay back down to be patted to sleep.

We visited my parents for the anniversary itself. We couldn’t think of a gift to ask for, so they made us Sunday dinner instead. And gave us a bottle of champagne too. It was with a supreme feeling of contentment that we sat in our forever home drinking and radiating good vibes.

These were punctured in the morning by the return to work. I remembered my password, which was a better than normal start. We’re off-shoring one of my projects and I’m in meetings about it all week. Flatteringly, there are over a dozen people from different disciplines taking it on. I might not be 100% useless at my job after all.

Two weeks of holiday meant two weeks of wearing shoes. I’m sure that didn’t used to give me athlete’s foot, but here we are.

Piglet’s shoes and slippers fit on the shoe rack now, instead of falling through the gap. This wasn’t a milestone I was expecting to be in any way poignant, but again, here we are.

She struggled to get to sleep one night. She lay in bed scrunching her eyes tight and patting herself to no avail, before turning to The Chef, I’m sad mama. I can’t do it. I want to sleep.” 🥺

She managed in the end, only for me to make her cry again in the morning when I confiscated a toy for her kicking me. It doesn’t feel pleasant, but it’s got to be done. Right?

DuoLingoLevelOne Look at this little guy

I’ve completed the first level crown in Chinese Duolingo course. It’s not a good app by itself for learning Chinese, but it’s helped my unthinking grammar, which is an area I struggle with in class. I’m scarred by high school Spanish and instinctively go to Latin grammar, despite Chinese more closely following English word order. Counter to its reputation, only the characters and (for the musically illiterate) tones are hard. Otherwise Chinese is one of the easier languages to learn from an English starting point. And there are no irregular verbs to memorise.

RSV has been running through nursery and we kept Piglet out last week. It’s settled down enough that we’ve sent her back in after much circular fretting over our decision. The two weeks out led to a temperamental drop off. Which was soothed by an offer of toast.

The neighbours two up have a two and five year old. They walked past while Piglet was driving” the car and The Chef was sat in the garden shelling peas for tea. Which was enough to pique the eldest’s curiosity and she asked to help. That led to the youngest having a go on our tree swing. And that somehow led to everyone doing Ring a Ring o’ Rosie. It’s a nice neighbourhood.

This week’s new” music is the Ace of Bells. I played it to The Chef while she finished choosing her 20 photos in a swift three months. They’re ordered and now on to procrastinating over layout.

This article about the bleakness of Recaptcha has been doing the rounds. And it captures everything wrong about them.

It was Lǎoye’s birthday at the weekend and we celebrated with wine, more champagne, BBQ and blueberry cheescake. His highlight though was the video message from Piglet to say 生日快乐!”

That off-shoring project I mentioned. Well, I did it: I did a weeknote at work. Not sure how I feel about that to be honest.

I visited Giles Turnbull’s website for tips from the master on doing a work weeknote and spotted an unexpected link in his blogroll. That one exception aside, it’s a good list and I got another dozen high-quality feeds for my RSS. I’m through the 800 barrier and should make a blogroll of my own. I don’t know what I did to get on Giles’ list, but I’ll take it. This is my first shot at blogging, so getting linked by respectable strangers is still weird. In fact, you should stop wasting your time here and head over to read some better quality stuff.

15 August 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 044: Daddy’s a silly sausage

Week two of my holiday started lazily. Relearning the locations of toys with an excited toddler.

ToddlerGodiva.jpg Toddler Godiva rides again

Following a day of indoor play, Piglet let herself out of the bathroom after her bath and sprinted to her Big Girl Bed” shouting for stories. The acceptable adult reaction is to remain in the bathroom whispering Squeeee.”

Rather than go into work for a single day, and continuing the day of odd jobs, I picked up the forever unfinished to-do list. Not as productive. Mostly standing in shop queues, despairing at the British public.

It was in service of leaving with banked brownie points before the Annual Boys Cricket Away Day: 2020-ish Edition in Nottingham. It’s my first time away from The Chef and Piglet since March 2020 and it felt unexpectedly sad to be leaving them.

A quiet sunny morning to re-pot the tomatoes and tidy with a strong coffee was a sterling tonic. I embraced my hipster leanings and rode my first eScooter to the train station.

Once all there and as, let’s say, mature gentlemen we decided against trying to save ourselves for a night out after the cricket and went big (for a group of dads) on the first night. Almost breaking a table in the burger place while the staff despaired at the British public was a giddy start. On to pints and Indie Wednesday with Jaegerbombs aplenty, we left when down to our last soupçon of dignity. Never did the Courteeners sing more aptly.

Shockingly, I’m the last one listening to new music. Have a Curtis Harding interlude to acknowledge this.

With surprisingly few sore heads, we sat under heavy skies for the cricket. The game mirrored our energy levels. One for the purists as the euphemism goes. The arrival of afternoon rain meant we could sneak back to the flat for naps. No-one pretended to be upset. The rain, in a bout of cruelty, stopped before we could lie down. And started again after we’d returned to the ground. A taxi ride to walk home in the rain twice. That soupçon of dignity was damp.

The last day was filled with clear heads, vicarious Olympic triumph and a wander around gentrified Sneinton market. I met The Chef off the train for delicious food to celebrate six years. We matched the years with six glasses of wine. Between us, mind.

She told me of Piglet’s bad night’s sleep and crying out for daddy from her nightmares and my heart just.

So I’m looking forward to being reunited tomorrow and hoping she’s in the clingy-cuddle mood and not the punish-and-ignore-me one.

8 August 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 043: Nancy said BYE!

tldr; We had a holiday this week.

As you couldn’t bribe us to go near an airport at the moment, we spent our week’s summer holiday glamping in Berwick. We’d each taken a piece of fiction with us. I think I derived more enjoyment from the Conan books than The Chef did from the weather reports.

Setting off was the one day of guaranteed sun and we stopped off at Whitley Bay to play on the beach with the grandparents and Auntie R before heading North. It was tiring enough for the girls to sleep in the car and for me to turn off the cruise control before I joined them.

It remained pleasant on arrival at our wooden home and we headed to the long shallows of the local beach; the dangerously named Cocklawburn. We waited to hear a local say it before we strayed into tourist territory (pretend to be a French, lost somewhere between Newcastle and Scotland and say Coq-le-bun in your best Geordie-Scots). The best way I know to pronounce British place names correctly is to live here for hundreds of years first.

With the storms imminent, we sat over the BBQ sipping a bottle of red and watched the farmers work together to race the rain to get the harvest in. The first combine harvester startled a deer from the long grass to complete the bucolic atmosphere.

Piglet embraced the countryside by mimicking an angry owl at 3 am, bellowing without recourse to comfort for over an hour in the dark hours. It was with sheepishness that we apologised to the neighbours at breakfast the next morning. They were all polite enough to pretend to have heard nothing.

It was an unspoken agreement that we’d nap before attempting anything for the day and we headed over to a surprisingly lovely Berwick in the afternoon. The local pool has no right to be as good as it is. It even had a free electric charger to refill the car. The town itself is a mix of charm and neglect typical across England.

The Chef has done her pre-holiday homework and we headed over to a mini steam railway on the next day—even spotting a heron chilling over the river Till. Piglet, exhausted from shouting choo-choo for 20 minutes, napped in the sling while we took the riverside walk. And we were lucky enough to see another heron—fishing this time—while we sheltered from a passing shower.

Piglet had fared better than the previous night, but was far from flawless and I drove a tired Chef and child back to camp to cook delicious pasta with more nutritious wine. Piglet by this point was bored by the regular beats of Baby Shark and was asking for improv and it’s at this point we realised the bisyllabic nature of most relatives in English.

The wind had died down enough by this point in the week that it was worth venturing across to Lindisfarne for another sling walk. This time it was seals, curlews and (the surely made-up) wigeons. When she woke, we were in the town itself, which is boring for a two year old, but she stuck with us as long as we’d let her run in circles. A late enough tide meant we could grab tea on the island. Eat at The Ship if you get the chance. The fish stew. Woof. And they were good enough to get our food out early so we wouldn’t be stranded. While The Chef cheered for the encroaching sea on her first trip across the causeway, Piglet ignored it in favour of sticky, sticky, stick, stick.

Our last shower on the campsite came after they’d run out of hot water. We didn’t know they’d run out until 30 seconds into it. Bracing. Still, it was an improvement on the previous day where Piglet had tried to run away and ended up splatting on the concrete. We got through both experiences with a rousing chorus of ABCs. Piglet refuses to bow to Americanisation (or rhyming structure) and finishes with a Zed.

Frozen, but clean, we set off to walk the walls of Berwick. In the rain as it turned out. Cowering in a covered alleyway we Google mapped around to find somewhere to eat. A fat thumb found us Atelier. We’re blessed to have a toddler comfortable in a hipster bar-cum-cafe eating raclette. A second day wandering round rainy border towns had soured her mood and she spent the meal soothing her sad toys. We took the hint and didn’t hang around for a second drink.

Clearing out from the camp, we scored Piglet one sleep-through, one near sleep-through, two climbs into our sleeping bag and one howler. A win for us on balance. Albeit a win without music, because she demanded, Alexa, play twinkle twinkle by boy,” whenever she saw the speaker. We tacked on a final return to Atelier for lunch and pub grub for tea before managing to unpack better than last time.

Being offline except for the ever-more-complete maps app and keeping up a Duolingo streak (Pearl league) left me feeling like I’d missed nothing except for the Olympics. We drove back with the previous week’s 6music on Sounds adding to the effect of news standing still. Upshot is that I’m going to remove a few more news apps from my life.

A good first week.

1 August 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 042: Want big bed. Want pictures

  • When Piglet hands me a toy cake, I pretend to eat it by shoving it down my T-shirt. When it emerges, she screams with delight and shouts Daddy pooped out a cake!” That’s never going to get old.
  • She’s reached an age where she’s starting naming her toys. Beautiful. Teeny tiny. Sprout. Mammy. Daddy. Steve. Tillakaratne the Sri Lankan Polar Bear. It may be apparent in that list when Piglet took over from me in the naming department.
  • We’ve accidentally created a game where I shout 六月, I’m a get you!” and I have to chase her around the block. That one might get old.
  • The Chef had a rota’d day off with plans for a (late) Spring Clean. These were scuppered by a call from nursery to say the regular rotation of viruses has hit Piglet’s intestines.
  • She was recovered enough to be carted off to her grandparents on Saturday to free me up to assemble her Big Girl Room™. Time’s not slowing down. The Chef had me clear out the nursery too. Providential as, after her bath, there was a moment when Piglet wanted to sleep in her cot. We took her to the empty room and, content, she returned to her new room to sleep in her Big Girl Bed™.
  • After a restful night’s sleep for everyone, we visited my family for Auntie R’s birthday. We need to invite our parents round for Sunday roast soon. We keep turning up at their houses for food and we’re accruing significant cooking debts.
  • Dappled is a word which I hear only in reference to sunlight. It’s an inherently joyful word and I’m trying to shoehorn it into other contexts where there is a happy smattering and interplay.
  • I metaphorically sprinted (Agile folks, you know what I mean) to the end of work. Yet I still spent Saturday and Sunday evening on the couch hacking away at my remaining to-dos. I need to get better at leaving for holiday. I’m on holiday now though.
  • Magnet fingers!
25 July 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 041: Nanananananananananana Batman

Bullety-bullets this week:

  • HSK2 exam day!
  • Cycling across the moor wearing my best middle-aged hipster-dad gear and listening to Fana Hues in the sunshine was the perfect preparation.
  • The exam itself went OK? I saw my class in the flesh for the first time in a year. It’ll stop feeling remarkable any day now…
  • I mooched around a coffee shop and a book shop before meeting a mate in a beer garden. Where we stayed for the majority of the afternoon. I pushed the bike home, rather than have a tipsy crash. Too old for them these days.
  • Watching Piglet chat away I can compare her development to my own in Chinese. We’re about equivalent and she’ll surpass me in the next few years. I’m stuck at the better-than-a-two-year-old-but-worse-than-a-five-year-old level. I can be understood in rudimentary ways, but I’m frustrated at my inability to articulate any complexity. And I’m going to be at this level for years. I need to stick with piglet and keep powering through.
  • The nice weather meant Piglet managed two beach trips. Once to Blyth with Lǎoyé and Lǎolao and a Costa del Druridge with us. Via a miniature choo-choo train en route. And via fish and chips ordered on an app on the way home. Modern times.
  • I’ve been feeling so-so, so I’ve taken my first Covid test. Negative.
  • All the furniture has arrived for the Big Girl Room™. I’ve a day next weekend where Piglet is being sent to grandparents for me to put it all together.
  • She threw her first proper hour-long wobbler on the way to the park after nursery. Coupled with the new room, she’s a toddler now. One who doesn’t deal with being hot. Like her mother really.
  • The Euro final could have ended better. The salve is that Italy deserved it.
  • We visited Gosforth Nature Reserve but didn’t think to wear DEET. We’re recovering from 20 mosquito bites each.
18 July 2021 weeknotes