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Monday, January 3

Foreword
Unsurprisingly, I set out to write a diary during my stay in London and started it while I was still there. Indeed, I’d only just arrived. However, this resolve only lasted for the duration of one entry. After the first 1800 words or so, I had a break which lasted until the third day of 2005. I know. I’m weak. However, the story has been written, so you may as well still read it. Gasp in wonder at the combined optimism and realism of my first sentence below:

In London
I thought I might keep something of a diary of my stay in London. Experience suggests that this attempt will fail, but, as always, there’s something to write about right now, so I shall note it down. It’s a good discipline for me to record my thoughts in written form and even fragmented memories are better than no record at all. The number of occasions when I have both questioned and then justified the process of writing a diary within said diary is so embarrassing large by now that I shall say no more about it.

Journeying from Newcastle to London on Tuesday was a pleasant enough experience. I managed to get out of the house before the 10pm mark, which was a surprise. Knowing myself, I firmly expected plenty of time to have been wasted between an inadvertently late exit from the office and a final check of the house before setting off. I think I used the time moderately effectively within the house. Admittedly, I did spend a little time watching the VideoCD of The Musical! which I had made in the office before leaving. However, this was in order to make sure that this CD actually worked. I was about to send a couple of copies across the world, and I wanted to be certain that they were worth receiving. I also wanted to know how bad the track changeovers were going to be. The original DVD, from which the VideoCD was ripped, was broken down into seventeen minute segments and I wanted to be sure that the segments appeared to run into each other when watched. They apparently did. I got as far as watching the love scene in the show before I turned the DVD player off and got to making the duplicates.

Oh dear. I already appear to have been sidetracked from the tale of journeying to London. In fairness, it was the sidetracking which kept me from leaving the house until the 10pm mark, and so it’s probably important to record it as such. In addition, there’s not a great deal I’m going to be able to say about sitting in the car for 4 hours driving 290 miles.

So… I set about writing a couple of Christmas cards before I completed my packing. I had decided not to send any cards this year. My commitment to this resolve waned when I, cynically, decided that it would be a good thing to reciprocate the card-giving-generosity of my neighbours, especially since I was about to desert the house for 10 days… especially since I could use the little message in the card to hint at my forthcoming absence. Oh, and I quite like my neighbours and felt bad at not dropping them something to represent that I hold them in high regard. In the case of the neighbours who are joined onto my house, I even gave them a CD of the show which we bothered them senseless with while we were rehearsing and recording it. Perhaps that might come across as a sick joke. “Remember all that noise from between May and July? Well, here’s a recording of it, so you can hear it all the time if you want.” I hope they take it more as a token of my gratitude at their tolerance, and a token of apology for the disruption.

Realising that the Christmas cards were just over the size of a CD (I may have lost my resolve not to send them, but I didn’t go out and buy a fresh lot – I had a bunch of them in a box, unused, from last year – I bought them last year at two for the price of one, which struck me at the time as a bit miserly, since they were Oxfam charity cards and I would have expected Oxfam not to have to diminish their fund-raising in order to sell me a card… I could have bought only one lot, but I can’t resist taking up a bargain) I began to wonder whether I should not put a CD into all the cards I sent. I decided that none of the other neighbours might genuinely “get” the show, so I didn’t. However, I also wanted to send one or two cards to people outside of my street. Before I knew it, I was writing a card to a large proportion of my, somewhat limited, address book. In all the cards I wrote, I stuck in a CD. I didn’t, however, have any stamps. The date was 21st December (late at night) and there were not that many posting days left before Christmas. I really needed to get these things posted.

I compiled an envelope with a card that would DEFINITELY not arrive before Christmas, along with VideoCD and audio CD for my chums in New Jersey. I had received a card from these folks earlier in the month – see, they can get themselves organised – and I had somewhat foolishly allowed the card to remain unanswered. Hopefully, they’ll feel the joy of the video and the sentiment of the card and forget my disorganised ingratitude. When I received the card, I had been slightly stuck for words at one of the comments within it. I was wished many good wishes for the new year and “maybe some excitement”. As far as I can tell, this was an innocuous good wish, and I took at as such. It could be taken a completely different way. It could look like the writer was saying “get out there and find some excitement” as though I’m usually living from day to day without excitement. Given that I don’t think it would be exaggeration to describe this year gone by as the most eventful and exciting of my entire life, I honestly hope nobody is looking on me as if to say “that Ashley… he’s a bit sedentary and dull”. Anyway, as I said, I was unable to find words at the time, but I found something to say in a Christmas card and I’m hoping that they’ll be so shocked at the visual spectacle on the video that they’ll forget anything else about me.

I prepared a copy of the video for my brother, who, given that he lives in Israel, was unable to come to see the show in Edinburgh. That video was stuck in a box to be given to my sister for her to give it to my parents for them to drop it with the chap when they next see him in a few days’ time.

So, I wasn’t just packing that got achieved on Tuesday evening (we’ll put the adventure of tackling Westgate Hill to shame in later comments). I did, however, get around to the packing, slowly accumulating a pile of stuff in my hall to take with me. It had been a good idea to spend Monday night tidying and vacuuming, rather than packing. Everything just fell into place nicely. In a tidy hallway, that which is intended to be taken out of the house stands out.

Eventually, I was ready to start packing the car. The bike went in first, leaving no space for anything large, except in the front seat. I had planned for this, only having packed one large bag. The rest was in smaller bags or supermarket carrier bags. Planning is a key to success. The best planning is done in the mind and spirit. I knew exactly what I intended to do and I got it done pretty much as expected. All the little threads came together pretty much just in time. I had planned to leave Newcastle as a cycling man with an MP3 player to listen to while doing it. I wanted to have tons on the MP3 player including enough stuff to put my 6 disc CD changer in the car to shame. I wanted to be able to listen to the contents of this thing in the car on a long journey… I don’t know WHY… but I just did. Within only a few minutes of starting, the car was laden with the stuff I intended to take and I was off to get a bite to eat for the long journey ahead.

There are two sorts of plan. There are core activities and there’s the gloss. I’m a man who appreciates both. The core stuff has to be done. Indeed, in London I shall quickly get my life down to the basics. I shall be sleeping, eating and then going off to do my designated “work”, putting effort into the journeying. However, at my age, I’ve also come to appreciate the toys, the gloss which makes things just a bit more fun. So, if I want to have a cute toy to play me any of the 1800 recordings I’ve stored on it so far, I defend my right to get myself such a toy. It’s not really important. No. It’s not important at all, but I’ve noone to please but myself, so I should get on with it. If you can’t make yourself happy, how could you possibly entertain someone else? especially since you can’t really know anyone as well as you know yourself.

Yes. Journeying. I set off from Newcastle. I drove on the A1, M18, M1 and back onto the A1 at London for a bit. I stopped at services once, at which I bought a map. I listened to some 12 year old radio comedy from my MP3 player, which was transmitting its sound to my car’s radio via the neat transmitter I bought on ebay. I felt a few judders in the running of the car, which worried me quite a bit. I don’t know if the car is warning me of imminent failure, or whether it was just bemoaning the fact that it was a damp night and I haven’t done a 300 mile journey in it for a while. To add to the burden of car troubles, I lost my driver’s side windscreen wiper about 3 hours into the 4 hour journey. All of a sudden there was a cracking noise (it was in the process of wiping at the time) and the wiper blade flew away. The motorised arm bit was fine and still moving, but it had nothing on the end of it. I had been worried that the arm might scrape against the screen and destroy it, but it’s a good half inch away from the glass and so didn’t. I needed to replace this vital component before I next take a serious journey (like the one where I come back to Newcastle from London).

I arrived at 2am in London, where my amiable host was half an hour into his “power Z”. In other words, he was in the worst possible state of tiredness that one can be in. I felt pretty guilty. However, we unpacked the car and I parked it (badly – I’m really poor at reverse parking) and tried to avoid the subject of interrupted sleep. By that time, it had been something of a rollercoaster of a day and I was fairly giggly from my own tiredness. I wasn’t sleepy, since I had had to keep alert during my trip and so had taken in suitable quantities of caffeine and calories (albeit via bananas, rather than chocolate… okay so I had some mini jaffa cakes, but they’re quite low in fat and calories… and I had some yoghurt/blueberry covered raisins too, but that’s surely more of a fruit-thing?).

I went to bed at around 3am on my first night in London. It’s more luxurious to be staying in Highgate than staying in the cheap B&B near Kings Cross station that I’ve been using over the last two Christmases. However, it’s also further away from town and the cycling was the next thing to worry about.

(At this point the writer couldn’t be bothered to write any more and gave up for a couple of weeks.)

The Cycling
In order to cycle to Moorgate every day, I needed three things. I needed a bike – check. I needed the strength to cycle the 11 or so miles round trip – I was going to work on that. However, firstly and foremostly, I needed a route. Americans might want to pronounce that as “rahwt” – they would be incorrect. It’s route as in “root” but with a different meaning. There’s no reason for this lesson on pronunciation.

My benign host decided to put me through my paces. I was to learn three things during the day’s outing into London from Highgate. I was to learn which roads to follow, how to cycle assertively in London traffic, and how much strength I had yet to gain in my legs in order to achieve this. To give a full and detailed account of our cycle ride would probably be quite dull. In addition, the precise details are less clear to me as I write this. I’ll find the highlights. The route is straightforward. Avoid lots of cars and buses while blasting down the A1 (known locally as Archway and Holloway Road) until Highbury Corner. Then hop down Canonbury Road and find Old Street. Soon enough you hit Moorgate, which is where Moorgate tube can be found. Very easy. Very easy indeed. It’s 5.2miles from Highgate.

On the exploratory mission, we got slightly lost, looking for Moorgate tube on London Wall. But this half-mile detour was nothing and we found the exact location of the Crisis shelter, at which I’d be spending much of my time in the next few weeks. Then we needed to head up to Brick Lane to run an errand. After the completion of the errand, we started to head back. However, disaster struck. A puncture. Not my bike. I had a puncture repair kit and spare inner tube… so it wouldn’t have made sense for it to have been my bike. That would have been too easy. No. It was the other bike. A racing bike with high pressure tyres and no pump. My pump wouldn’t do the job. So, we could have fixed the puncture, but it would have done us no good, since there would have been no way to inflate the tyre. We needed a cycle shop.

We wandered around for a while looking for a cycle shop. Eventually, after a few phone calls, including to the shop we’d been recommended, we got the inner tube replaced. We were running late and my cycling buddy had an appointment to keep. He rode with me until we arrived at Angel (Upper Street, connects with Holloway Road) and then dispatched me North. I was charged with the task of getting back to Highgate alone. In route terms this was straightforward enough. However, in gradient there was a problem. A problem in the shape of a gradient which starts on Holloway Road and culminates in the mile long Highgate Hill. I was told that Highgate Hill is a bitch. I was advised that it’s the shortest route and that, if I was going to end up getting off the bike and walking, it might be the most efficient. However, I would have more of a chance staying on the bike and cycling if I took Archway Road.

I had only just gotten over the satisfaction of beating Westgate Hill in Newcastle. I owned that hill’s ass. Well, I’d managed to get up the hill without dying or getting off the bike. Westgate Hill, Highgate Hill: what’s the difference? Four letters! Surely no big deal!?

As I resolved to climb Highgate Hill, so I had to face the reality of a 1 mile long climb. The mountain bike comes with low gears. My legs came with very little preparation for the task in hand. At the bottom of that hill I looked up to the horizon and saw no obvious signs that it got any flatter up there. I laughed quite heartily. I had no idea whether I could do it. However, the sight of another cyclist dismounting was all the incentive I needed. I was not going to let some hill call me a Hontuss (don’t worry was Hontuss means, just assume that you don’t want to be called one). So, I tackled the hill. I spent most of the journey in the lowest gear on the bike and travelling at less than walking pace. 2 or 3 miles an hour ain’t fast. You don’t get to coast. If you stop pedalling, then the bike falls over. It’s tough. I took frequent stops. I grunted. I laughed. I muttered that “I ain’t no Hontuss”. I reached the top. At the top, the gradient changes to flat, then a downhill. I blasted down the downhill stretch in the highest gear. The elation was amazing. Well worth the climb. I was not a Hontuss and I’d owned that hill’s ass. I proceeded to make that trip 6 more times over the next few days and got a lot better at it. If you ever go to Highgate Hill, look for the signs that say that its ass is mine. There are none at the moment, but maybe someone will erect one.

Talking of erect – no, I’m not going there – I was barely able to stand upright as I dropped the bike off at the flat and set out for Highgate village to post my Christmas cards. I managed to make the most of my staggering and arrived at the Post Office. For some reason in this day and age in a small Post Office in London on a Wednesday afternoon… well, you can guess, can’t you? It was only closed. I believe I ejaculated the words “The bastards” under my breath before I turned around and set about getting a sandwich. There would be other days for posting. Admittedly, only one before Christmas Eve itself.

To celebrate the healthy cycling trip (I think we covered the better part of 20 miles) and my new ownership of Highgate Hill’s ass, we went out for a Pizza, followed by a couple of pints in the local pub. Not a bad first day in London.

Failing to sleep in
One of the tricks for getting oneself into nightshift sleeping patterns is to sleep in on the day of the first night shift. The idea is to keep the time difference between waking up and finishing the first shift as short as possible. To achieve the late wake up, one should stay awake the previous night for as long as possible. The cycling had tired me out and thus I was unable to keep awake that late. Equally, as I bedded down quite early (well, early enough), so I woke up before lunchtime. D’oh! Never mind. I’m quite good at keeping myself conscious over long periods of time, at least I am if I’m busy. I reckoned I could still manage to crack the first shift with a minimum of fuss. To occupy the day I organised to meet my sister, who works in the city, in the city. I reckoned that I could probably find a Post Office in the city and sort out the greetings cards and other packages.

My A-Z of London showed several Post Offices. None of these Post Offices seemed to exist anymore. I’m a big fan of Starbucks coffee, but I have a funny feeling that Mr Starbuck has plundered a lot of Post Offices in order to serve it. D’oh! The conflict. I eventually managed to find a suitable outlet of the postal variety. I was served promptly and my postage bill was exceedingly affordable. A smashing result. Then coffee with the female sibling… in a Starbucks of course. The circle of life continues.

I took the tube back to Highgate and found it to be occupied by a chap who, at first glance, appeared to have some sort of palsy. His head was shaking from side to side. On closer inspection he turned out to be reading a newspaper. His method for reading involved keeping his eyes fixed and moving his head from side to side as he scanned the text. I’m sitting here typing and I’ve just paid attention to the movement of my body as I do so. My posture is fixed and the only things moving are my fingers, wrists (perhaps parts of my arms as I serve the needs of my fingers to find the keys) and eyes. I’m not moving my head and I’m WRITING. For reading, YOU DON’T NEED TO MOVE YOUR HEAD. It’s very straightforward. Especially, when you’re reading the narrow columns of a paper, all of which fits neatly into the field of vision, no matter how close you hold it. I wonder whether this guy has never been taught this technique. Or maybe he actually has a nervous tic and he’s worried about it being discovered, so he’s concocted an ingenious cover story in the form of a strange reading habit. Either way it was very very silly.

Returning to Highgate, I bought some supplies for the week ahead and then proceeded to help my host pack his car and disappear to Leeds. I then only had a few minutes to prepare for my first trip to go on shift.

The First Shift
I paced myself on the cycle ride into town. I had no reason to hurry – there was plenty of time, and I wanted to conserve my energy for the duration of the shift and the inevitable cycle home. However, I messed up. I cycled past Moorgate tube, took a couple of turnings and then ended up on a mystery tour. I added about 3 miles to my journey going here there and everywhere… everywhere but where I intended to go. Luckily, I had plenty of energy and the streets were largely flat. I eventually worked my way back to where I should have been – I’d always been within about half a mile of it – and I made a mental note of what I should have done instead of the mystery tour. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

The first shift came and went and I cycled back. It had been a long day. By the time I reached my bed, I’d cycled the better part of 15 miles, been awake the better part of 24 hours, showered, plugged in my alarm clock and put fresh linen on the bed. By fresh linen, we’re talking brand new pure cotton sheets. I cannot express how much of a contrast there was between my tired body and the totally fresh bed into which I collapsed. As moments of relief go, it was one of the finest. I slept heartily.

Days blurring into one
As I expected, the remainder of the shifts all seem to have blurred into a single continuous experience. I know that I cycled in and out without incident. I know that it seemed an easier experience than previous years. We did what was necessary. I managed to avoid the need to clean any toilets, which seemed a boon at the time, but now I feel a little guilty that I shirked the bowl-cleaning duties. I was involved in helping to get a fellow to the toilet. He had trouble with his legs, so needed two of us to prop him up as we took him to a cubicle. As he’d completed what sounded like a painful operation, he proceeded then to fall off the toilet and behind the locked door of his cubicle. This could have caused us a lot of grief. However, one two pence piece was all it took to unlock the door from the outside, and the door itself was easily removed, being on a hinge possibly designed for the purpose of easy door removal. Once we had the door off, we were able to pick up our floored fellow. Luckily, he’d managed to get his underwear in place before he went for a lie down. We soon had him righted and back in bed.

Anyway, the last shift merged into a pub trip. The pub trip, arriving at about 9.30am, helped us speed time up. We sped time up in such a way that it was soon mid afternoon. On the outside of one or two pints of alcohol – I’d had no desire for any alcohol at all when I arrived in the pub, but the first pint didn’t even touch the sides and I realised that I’d probably have no problem following it with one or two other pints – I left the pub and headed back to the flat.

I tumbled into bed after a stop over in Costa in order to get a coffee and an all-day breakfast sandwich. The idea of the coffee and the blood-sugar-raising food was to keep me from falling asleep for as long as possible. Eventually, I faded out.

Waking up on New Year’s Eve
I woke up at about 5.30am on New Year’s Eve. I’d not set an alarm clock. I wanted to sleep for as long as I possibly could in order to get back into regular waking hours. 5.30am wasn’t a bad wake up time. I could have had a lie in, but I felt rested enough and so I left the bed and sat reading – the Stephen King novel “Dreamcatcher” had caught my attention and I was in the “can’t put it down” phase. This made the time pass by with much speed. I played the piano a bit as well. Although I’d been unable to write anything during my stay, I’d had a few fun sessions on the other sort of keyboard, so I felt like I’d had something creative to do during my non-working waking hours.

When daylight had finally cast its glow over the whole flat, I started the process of packing up. I put washing in the machine, so that the fresh linen which I’d used would be once again fresh. Then it was time to set off in the car in search of a windscreen wiper. Frustratingly, the rain started soon after I commenced my mystery tour in search of the wiper blade. It seems that many of my London trips end up as mystery tours. I’d foolishly left the flat with neither a mobile phone nor an A-Z in tow. The folks at the nearby petrol station had given me very specific directions to a car parts shop in the vicinity and I reckoned that I wouldn’t need the map. Sadly, though I found the shop with ease, it proved not to be open. Bastards. I foolishly decided to go for a general drive to see if I could find another. This could have been fatal. I took enough roads to be uncertain of exactly how to retrace my steps. I was somewhere in the Finchley area. Luckily, I had an idea of some of the areas through which I had passed, and took a left hand turn which returned me to roads I knew from previous trips. Nearly lost, but not quite. I eventually headed along Holloway Road and found a motor shop. I’d cycled past it about 14 times over the last few days and perhaps should have noticed it previously. Still, I got there and found a nice Bosch replacement windscreen wiper. The escaped wiper had been a Bosch as well, so I examined the fitting more closely to make sure it was as tight as possible. Surely lightning won’t strike in the same place a second time. We’ll see. So far so good.

Driving back up Holloway Road and Highgate Hill was immeasurably easier than cycling that same journey.

Back at the flat, I packed the car and set off up North. I was going to go to Leeds to see the new house that my friend and host had bought as a development project. There’s not much more to say about the trip to London. Stuff happened, I cycled a lot, ate relatively little and then left. The journey up North was quite uneventful, so I’ll skip an account of it. I did spend some of the journey working with my special FM transmittery thing, which (as you may recall from earlier in this account) conveys the sound from my MP3 player to my radio. I discovered that this device works best when its lead is extended vertically like an aerial. I fiddled with this idea, working on the best way of threading it round the rear view mirror to get the best reception. Not exciting, but it helped pass the time.

The House of Horrors
Once in Leeds, I met my friend at some mutually convenient junction (he was also on the way to his house) and he led me to his very own piece of Chapeltown. We then spend a few hours wandering around the house taking the piss out of the workmanship that had gone into various aspects of its maintenance over the years. It’s rare to go to someone’s recently purchased house and be presented with a crowbar and the instructions “go ahead – wreck something”. We went through various phases of excitement about home-wrecking. Some activities were more fun than others. I think I enjoyed chipping whole segments of wall off. We had a competition. Who could chip off the singularly largest piece of plaster. We equally had fun with wallpaper removal – similar rules. The largest piece wins. I’d done this sort of thing before in my own home. Admittedly, I’d not been removing plaster, but I had done it with wallpaper stripping. It’s good clean fun!

I eventually left the house quite late on, having contributed to the rubble somewhat. I had giggled my arse off at some of the wrecking too. Wrecking is fun.

Arriving home, I put some washing in the machine and went to bed. As had been the case over the last 3 years, I met the New Year in bed. I think I was pretty much asleep as Big Ben chimed. Sad, but that’s the life I lead.

New Year’s Day
I woke up bright and early. I forget the exact time. It wasn’t like me to be awake so early, so I’m probably suppressing the knowledge. I suspect that it was around 7.30am. I had reading to do and porridge to eat. This seemed a good way to start the day. Soon after I’d achieved a suitable level of satisfaction with these activities, I set out of the house on my bicycle and covered in one go the sort of distance I’d been accustomed to covering in two trips while in London. The climax of the cycle ride was Westgate Hill – after Highgate Hill, this seemed fairly tame.

Arriving home, I wacked the bike into the garage and then hopped into the car in search of shopping. One trip to Tesco later and I was the proud owner of various raw ingredients for food preparation. I also bought a couple of CDs.

I got home, hot and sticky from my cycling and gave myself a hot bath. So far, in the New Year, I had spoken to a neighbour who said hello as I left the house and I’d spoken to the woman in Tesco who served me at the checkout. Since that point (it’s now after midday on the 3rd January) I have spoken to virtually nobody, though I have sent a couple of texts and emails (I also received a phone call telling me to go to a rehearsal tomorrow night). It’s a strange sort of isolation being me. However, with work starting shortly, I think I need the break from the world to continue.

After the bath I had to decide what to do next. I’d been watching a fair bit of cable TV since waking up that morning and noticed that the movie “School of Rock” was on the pay per view. I haven’t bought a pay per view movie in about 3 or 4 years. I’m not against them. Indeed, paying £3.50 for a movie is cheaper than buying the DVD and then watching it once. It’s also cheaper than going to the cinema to see the film. It has the advantage of only requiring a few discreet clicks of the remote control. So I pushed my buttons and ordered the movie. While waiting for the movie to start, I noticed another one – “Looney Tunes, back in Action” – which looked like good fun. A sort of modern day “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, starring Daffy and Bugs along with Brendan Fraser. This latter movie also had the advantage of being half-price. However, I wanted to see “School of Rock” a rather silly and twee movie with Jack Black getting a bunch of school kids to form a rock band.

I enjoyed School of Rock. It had a few out-loud moments and Jack Black is very watchable. In some ways it was total rubbish, sanitising what Jack did in Tenacious D and giving it to a family audience in a sickly sweet sentimental package. However, it scooted along nicely. If you want to see a movie about a musician forced into teaching learning a lot about himself and changing people’s lives, then go and see “Mr Holland’s Opus”. However, if you want to see Jack Black asking a 10 year old guitarist to give him a “face-melting solo” then see “School of Rock”. It was good fun.

At some point soon after that, I finished reading the Stephen King novel. It hadn’t been a short read and it had become remarkably vivid. I enjoyed it and it had seen me through nearly two weeks of reading.

On the evening of New Year’s day, I did some roasting. I roasted a chicken with some potatoes, sweet potatoes and chipolatas. I quite enjoy the process of making the Christmas roast dinner. I didn’t get the chance to make or eat one over Christmas. Thus, I gave myself the next best thing on New Year’s day. It was most pleasant. I didn’t get the potatoes even remotely crispy. I didn’t care.

I went to bed after eating. It was probably about 9.30pm. I was tired. I’d spent some of the day cycling and bathing. A lot of the rest of the day had been spent hiding (and sometimes farting, if I’m honest) under a duvet in the rather warm confines of my living room with the TV on.

Would my lethargy be at an end on the following day?

January 2nd
No.

I would have woken up at 8am. Indeed, I woke up a few times during the night, including 8am. However, I managed to continue to doze until 10am. This seemed like a good thing. I felt I might be getting back to normal. I’m normally asleep at 10am on a Sunday, to be up around that time would be fine – just a slightly earlier take on my usual Sunday. In order to impose a new regime on myself, I got myself onto the bicycle and did another 12 or so miles. I had intended to cycle to the coast, which would have given me something like a 30 mile round trip, but two things stopped me. Firstly, I didn’t know the best way to go. This didn’t really matter, I could have worked something out. Secondly, I wasn’t feeling at my absolute best. I had a bit of a headache and I wasn’t certain that I wanted to be too far from home in that condition. However, despite not having achieved an impressive distance, I still tackled plenty of hills and felt like I’d gained a lot of ability on the bike. The bike itself is not behaving brilliantly, but it’s due a service in two weeks, so it can be sorted out then by the chaps in the bike shop.

As a brief aside, as I sit here in trousers which feel a little tight, I’d light to comment on my progress with weight and exercise. On 17th December, the day before I bought the bike, at the Domino’s Pizza next to where I bought the bike shop, I spent about £12 on a high-calorie package of pizza, garlic bread and chicken pieces. This was consumed quite rapidly by my high-powered food-processing engine (known as mouth and stomach). The following day I bought the bike, the antithesis of the pizza (well, I’m sure it’s not quite the antithesis, but it’s certainly not born of the same intent as pizza), and I also went to Asda and bought a couple of shirts. Both the shirts have the double vent in the back that I like shirts to have. I like the double vent because it makes shirts fit better and because I also feel that it makes shirts a bit larger.

Neither of the two new shirts fit me. I didn’t take them back to the shop. I am determined that they should fit.

Following my return from London, during which I ate only one full meal a day and cycled a lot, I tried the shirts on again.

Both shirts now fit. Not brilliantly, but a hell of a lot better than not at all.

So, I’ve lost some of the excess weight. However, there’s a long way to go. I’m now eating three meals a day and I’ll have to find some way of counterbalancing that with exercise. I expect that breakfast will be the first victim when I get back to work.

Anyway, we’re back with a hot me returning from a bike ride. I made myself some lunch and sat down in front of the TV again. “Ah what the hell!” I thought. I ordered the “Looney Tunes, back in action” movie and watched it. It made me laugh out loud quite a few times. While I may have been spending my days isolated from human contact, I have had some “me time” and been able to enjoy good quality family entertainment. Bizarrely, the two movies I had watched were linked by the fact that they starred Joan Cusack. Well, that’s not bizarre, but it’s a coincidence. Isn’t it? Surely it’s not a conspiracy. That would be pointless.

For some reason, the long hours under the duvet in the living room, watching the movie, then watching Futurama, then The Simpsons, made me feel somewhat lethargic. I couldn’t keep my eyes open beyond 6.30pm. In some ways, it was a blessing. I was too tired to eat an evening meal. So, a bit of yoghurt later, I was tucked up in bed. I feel like I’ve been hibernating so far this year.

3rd January
I woke up at 5.30am, dozed for a while, got up at 8am (quite a while spent dozing), had breakfast, watched some Dad’s Army, and then spent the morning busying myself around the house. A lot of the morning has been spent writing this account of the last few weeks. Some laundry has been done as well.

Real life starts tomorrow. The last year has been the busiest year of my life. I should probably write a retrospective of it. Perhaps I will… later.

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