Suddenly summer

Back to the intervals today…

…because Geth wants to start doing intervals, so he came running with me this morning to observe how they work. I only did half the number of sets I was doing a few weeks ago though!

It’s not been a great day. I had an absolutely terrible night’s sleep last night – partly due to the muggy heat and partly due to ongoing stress – and then we had some bad news this afternoon. I had hoped to get some work done on my next adventure game today, but there have just been too many distractions. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to lose myself in it a bit.

On the plus side, we did go for a walk in the glorious warm sunshine, largely because we needed to get out of the house. Spring has felt a bit sudden this year due to the lockdown; the world has been on hold, but obviously the seasons haven’t. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of walking over the summer, even if we can’t do much else.

Ukulele collection
My ukulele family has expanded this week, thanks to a generous gift from Dad! Looking forward to having a good strum over the weekend.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Ollie Wride – ‘Back To Life’
Daniel Bedingfield – ‘If You’re Not The One’

A slow day

Back to my mile route today…

…and my legs were pretty thankful for a short recovery run after the last few days!

I’ve been finding it really difficult to concentrate today. I slept very badly last night because I can’t stop worrying about everything that’s going on, and there are various COVID-related stresses that are really starting to get to me. I find myself kind of wishing the next two months away, simply because (I would hope) there will be a bit more certainty by then in terms of some of the things I’m concerned about.

In the meantime, I’ve just been trying to get on with my routine as best I can. I’ve planned out my next competition writing project, which I’ll be working on over the next few weeks, and I’m trying to keep on top of my admin and housework (not always successfully, but it’s nice when it happens).

Videogames have been my absolute salvation in all of this. They’re the only thing that allows me to relax properly at the moment – I drift off in my own thoughts if I’m just passively watching a film or TV show, and even sometimes when I’m reading. Writing, meanwhile, though it’s my passion, is tiring and requires brainspace, so I try and keep it for the ‘work’ hours of the day. Videogaming is just brain-engaging enough that I can lose myself in it without feeling like it’s tiring me out – it strikes the perfect balance.

I’m hoping to feel better tomorrow. The exercise restrictions are being lifted slightly, so though I’m still being cautious about going outside, I have an afternoon walk planned in addition to my morning run. It’ll be nice to get a bit of extra fresh air.

Trees
Now that it’s May, the blossom has disappeared from our front garden trees along with all the others. As such, it was a good time to have them professionally trimmed back! Our tree worker came and did them today, and they look a lot tidier now.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Revo – ‘The Land Of Beginnings’
Bucks Fizz – ‘Making Your Mind Up’

A different kind of excursion!

One last quick mile for this busy week today…

…because, for weeks and weeks now, in accordance with government guidelines, Geth and I have only left the house to go running (daily exercise) or walk/run to the supermarket/pharmacy/bank (picking up household necessities and/or daily exercise). As such, we’ve never been more than two or three miles away from home, and all of our excursions have been on foot.

Not today, though, oh no. Today we were able to drive to B&Q. It was SO EXCITING!

B&Q shut all their branches at the start of lockdown, but have gradually reopened about 200 branches over the last couple of weeks. Like most households, I expect, we have found that spending all our time in the house has meant that we’ve noticed a lot of things that need doing around the house and garden, and so hardware and the like has started to fall under the banner of ‘necessities’. Furthermore, I’d not driven the car since we returned from our Inverness trip on the 11th of March, and I know cars shouldn’t be left to sit idle for too long. As such, we felt that a B&Q trip was wholly justified. I originally intended to go last Sunday, but we decided against it when we realised that everyone else in Newcastle would probably have had the same idea. It turned out to be a good thing we waited, as by the time we were ready to go this morning, our preferred (i.e. easier to get to) branch had also reopened.

It was really nice to get out for a short drive. I always sort of worry that I will forget how to do it if I don’t get in the car for a couple of months! The queue outside B&Q wasn’t too bad – around about a twenty-minute wait, which is fairly standard for big shops at the moment – and we probably added about three or four items to our shopping list while we were waiting, as Geth was people-watching to see what other shoppers were buying.

B&Q haul in full:

  • Four bags of gravel for the garden (the original thing I’d planned to go for). The gravel we put down last year has moved around over the winter and exposed some of the webbing underneath, so we need to make the gravel layer a bit thicker.
  • A new hard broom for sweeping up in the garden. The house did come with one, but it’s very threadbare!
  • An aerial cable for the TV, as we’ve been rejigging our setup and need a longer one.
  • A new interior door handle to replace the one that infuriatingly and irreversibly loosened itself the other day.
  • A couple of small bayonet incandescent lightbulbs for my globe lamp. I already had some LED ones ordered from Amazon, but due to the current situation they’re not scheduled to arrive for another couple of weeks, and I’m getting fed up of that lamp not being on, so these will do nicely in the meantime.
  • A pot of paint for repainting the downstairs bathroom, which is going to be a summer project. It’s the smallest room in the house, so it’s a good place to start with the repainting (one day, I will no longer have any magnolia walls. One day).
  • Some Polyfilla for a bit of uneven wall in said bathroom. I already had some from years ago, but it’s probably turned to stone by now.
  • A roll of masking tape to help with my abovementioned painting adventures.

It was a fairly straightforward trip (and something I wouldn’t have thought twice about pre-lockdown), but it felt like such a novelty! I really hope it won’t be another seven weeks before I get to drive somewhere again. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ve spent the rest of the day getting on with a few housework and admin tasks, and am now looking forward to the weekend. Longer runs and even longer videogame sessions await 🙂 I’ll be putting up a couple of review posts over the next couple of days, and will be back to tell you all about my weekend on Monday.

B&Q haul
(Part of) today’s B&Q haul. I’m looking forward to getting on with all these house projects!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Revo – ‘The Land Of Radiant Flowers’
And One – ‘So Klingt Liebe’
Thought Beings – ‘Echelon’
Rebecca Black – ‘Friday’
The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘The Firewall Song’
Bee Gees – ‘First Of May’

Keeping going

Another morning, another mile…

…because I’ve still got quite a lot to do this week, and also I woke up slightly later than I would have liked. I think that for the next few weeks, long runs will be a weekend thing, with maybe a middling one squeezed in on a Wednesday if possible. This would be a return to my marathon training pattern, which is no bad thing, given that marathon training is currently scheduled to start again in just over a month.

I’m happy to report that I weighed in this morning and lost 4lbs! I’d been struggling a bit for the last few weeks, as I’ve not been getting nearly as much exercise in as I did before the lockdown (when I was marathon training and doing a lot of walking in addition), and yet my marathon training appetite has not gone away. This last week, I’ve been a lot stricter and have reduced my portions. It’s obviously working, and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, because I would love to be back at my target weight by the end of lockdown. I’m currently paying a reduced Slimming World fee so as to maintain access to the website – I also have the opportunity to attend group on Zoom if I want to, but I’m not sure if it’s for me, because being hard of hearing has always meant that I’ve found teleconferencing difficult in the past. (I could write a whole post about my anxieties about social distancing as a hard of hearing person – and I probably will at some point!)

It’s nice to be getting back to writing at the moment. I’ve got a small number of competitions to submit to over the next few weeks, and I’m also going to be spending May deciding which novel project I’m going to finalise over the summer, so that I can start querying agents again in the autumn. For various reasons relating to my career plans, late 2020/early 2021 is probably going to be the last substantial chunk of time for a good few years that I will be able to dedicate to writing, so I want to make the most of it.

I feel that being stricter about making sure my evenings are downtime-only has really helped with my productivity as well, because I don’t feel quite so burnt out. This is definitely something I’m going to continue with, even after lockdown has come to an end.

(Oh, and as promised: the link to the video of the group poem we did for poetry night, read by Pantisocracy Poetry founder Charlie. The first verse is mine!)

Getting to target at Slimming World
31st May 2018: with my brilliant and much-missed first consultant Katie, on the day I first got to target at Slimming World. I can’t wait to have that feeling again.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Roxette – ‘Dangerous’
Tight Fit – ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’
Roy Zimmerman & The ReZisters and Sandy Riccardi – ‘The Liar Tweets Tonight’

Two metres, please

I managed a slightly longer run this morning…

…and felt so much better for it! My shoulder pain seems to have subsided for now, although I will be putting it to the test with a bit more yoga later today. I’m hoping to get out for some longer runs over the weekend as well.

It’s a bit busy inside my head at the moment, and I feel like my creative ideas are not keeping their two metres of social distance apart from each other (or, you know, two centimetres, or whatever the correct scale is for inside your brain). I’m not working on as many creative projects as I usually am – I’m having a few months’ break from prose fiction writing in order to refresh (and it’s probably working because I miss my characters BADLY); I’m not writing as much poetry as usual due to poetry night having gone virtual like everything else (although I did enjoy writing my short verse today for the group poem we’re doing this month!); my adventure game creation process is currently in a drawing-bad-graphics phase rather than a writing-interactive-fiction phase; and I’m not actively seeking out writing competitions and submission requests and the like because it was starting to stress me out by the end of last year.

It’s good to take a semi-break, especially in the current circumstances (many writers have blogged more eloquently than me about the fact that a pandemic does not actually make for an efficient writing period, despite all the additional free time, because the ever-present sense of dread is something of a distraction). However, I’ve always found that if I don’t get my ideas out, they rattle around in my brain, and at the moment there are a lot of them in there.

I think I just need a couple of days to write freeform and see what happens. Maybe next week, if work is still quiet.

I’m looking forward to the weekend (such as it is) now. Geth and I will be doing the parkrun quiz tomorrow morning and taking a trip to the now-reopened B&Q on Sunday in order to get more gravel for the garden and stretch the car’s wheels (I’ve not turned on the engine since we returned from Inverness last month, and I know it needs to be done every now and then). I’ll be doing a couple of scenic runs and not thinking about the parallel universe and my parallel self’s trip to London. And, of course, I’ll be playing a lot of videogames.

As I mentioned last weekend, I won’t be doing diary posts tomorrow or Sunday – I’ll be sharing my running vlogs, though, and I’ve got a couple of review posts that will be going up. I’ll be back on Monday to update you all on my continued lockdown adventures 🙂

Cherry blossom
Today’s run was another sunny adventure with bright blue skies and beautiful blossom everywhere. This spring has been so good to us weather-wise.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Toto – ‘Africa’
Pulp – ‘Common People’
Survivor – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’
Timecop1983 and Primo – ‘My DeLorean’
Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Elysium, In The Blue Sky’
Chaka Khan – ‘Ain’t Nobody’

Filling the space

I did another 10k this morning…

…and managed a similar pace to Saturday, which I was very pleased about! I feel as though my daily training since the start of the year has sped me up in what seems to be a permanent way. I’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.

I have most definitely filled up the routine extra time afforded by the lockdown now, to the extent that I’m not sure how I’m going to go back to regular life when this is all over. I’ve written before about how it’s going to be a slow process out of lockdown for me – I won’t just be jumping back into a routine of multiple classes and groups and meetups per week, because I think I would find that overwhelming. But the thing is that I’m not sure I ever want to go back to that busy routine. All of the individual things were meant to be fun, but taken together, they made life a bit stressful. As such, I think there are things to which I won’t be returning – things I’m going to have to learn to let go of. I don’t know which things yet. The only thing I know I will definitely be going back to post-lockdown is parkrun – it’s free of charge, it’s helpful for my running improvement, and I love it to death.

In short, my big takeaway from this year is that there’s no point spending time and money on things that cause me stress, just because I feel that it’s something I SHOULD do. As such, I’ve stopped buying all the magazines I’m not getting round to reading, including breaking my decade-plus streak of buying Doctor Who Magazine (that was a wrench… but I’ve just not had time for Who fandom for a good two or three years. I haven’t even watched the most recent series yet, which would have been unthinkable when I was in my twenties). I no longer attend every vintage fair in Newcastle just because it’s on (this is something I discussed in my personal style post the other day). I stopped going to Pilates and dance classes last year – I enjoy those things, but they’re just not a priority for me any more.

Learning to let go is something I’ve always found difficult, and something I discussed a lot in my counselling sessions earlier this year. I am a consummate hoarder, not just of physical possessions but also of memories and identities and personal connections.

(If somebody de-friends me on Facebook, I hold a grudge like you would not believe – because why would we want to lose each other from our collection of contacts? Collections are to be grown, not ‘culled’! We may not have anything in common now, but we did once, and why would you want to move on from that? Why would you want to let go?)

My identity as a Doctor Who fan is one of those things I’m struggling to let go of, hence why I am trying not to think about having broken my magazine-buying streak. My identity as a goth is another. I became goth in my teens, made all my university friends and met my future husband in the goth and rock society, spent my twenties in various states of consciousness at goth clubs and gigs and festivals, and then… I last went to a scene event in August 2018. I only still wear my old goth band t-shirts and hoodies because they’re comfortable. It’s been years since I last listened to the music – I prefer ’80s pop and soundtracks and synthwave now. I got sober, and so I don’t really like spending time in pubs and clubs anymore, and I think it’ll be some time before I can brave a festival again.

‘You do still wear a lot of black, though,’ my counsellor said when I mentioned this to her. I suppose I do – some habits are hard to break, and it’s a practical colour. It’s just… I just don’t feel drawn to that particular aesthetic anymore, and while I’ve still got a lot of friends in the scene, I don’t see myself wanting to go back to the events, and I don’t think I can really call myself ‘goth’ these days, and I’m not sure I want to.

Accepting that fact requires a big shift in thinking, though. Just like accepting that these days I’m a casual Doctor Who viewer at best, and accepting that there are some old acquaintances I’m never going to see or speak to again (and that I probably won’t miss them), and accepting that I really need to chuck out those manky old Ikea cushions I’ve been hanging onto since 2002.

I’ve never yet been capable of making that big shift in thinking. But it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that it’s a necessary process.

I’m videogaming again tonight. In recent months I’ve occasionally felt a bit sheepish about mentioning that every day – like it’s a bit sad to be spending all my time videogaming, even if lockdown does provide me with the perfect excuse. But it’s what makes me happy at the moment, and that’s all that matters.

Newcastle Town Moor
I ran on the Town Moor today for the first time since the final pre-lockdown parkrun. It felt strange, even though I’ve often done solo runs there before. While I was enjoying parkrun touristing in the months before coronavirus happened, I think that I will be back at my home parkrun on the Moor when it’s time for the great parkrun return.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Where It All Began’
Nina Nesbitt – ‘Stay Out’

New routines

Just a mile today…

…because I’m planning to do some slightly longer routes over the weekend. We’ll see how I get on!

I feel like I’ve settled into my new daily routine now – and after nearly four weeks of lockdown, I suppose it’s not really ‘new’ anymore. Today is a lighter day work- and admin-wise, so I’m looking forward to getting on with my videogames from this afternoon onwards.

I also have some tentative new plans for future Sunday blogs. Watch this space.

Cat on decking
‘Pictures of next door’s cat in our garden’ will probably become a regular thing over the course of this lockdown. He’s taken to sneaking in through the front door when I get back from my morning run, so ‘pictures of next door’s cat on our staircase’ may also become a thing if I remember to take them.

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Beatles – ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’
Elbow – ‘One Day Like This’
Cast of The Lion King – ‘Circle Of Life’
Sacre – ‘The London Marathon’
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Road Trippin”

Finding balance

I went out for an absolutely beautiful run this morning…

…with perfect sunshine, and perfect energy, and so many lovely spring flowers along the way. I’m planning to do a few new and different routes this week and am really excited about my morning runs. They get me out of the house for just long enough every day that I don’t feel trapped or cooped up by the lockdown, and am perfectly content to stay inside for the rest of the time.

In all honesty, other than the general feeling of apocalyptic dread and accompanying nightmares (which I’m guessing is the case for everyone at the moment), I have been lucky enough that the current situation is working out quite well for me:

  • While my day job work has slowed down a bit, it hasn’t stopped completely, and I work from home anyway so haven’t had to adapt my work setup.
  • Obviously I was hugely disappointed a month ago when it was announced that the London Marathon was postponed, because training had been going so well. However, I’m really appreciating the more relaxed approach to running I can take at the moment, and I hope that I’ll be able to build on the work I’ve already done and run an even better time in October, presuming the new date goes ahead.
  • Stress-wise, I am actually benefiting hugely from life going on hold. For the last couple of years, I have felt as though I have had far too much on and have been constantly falling behind with my to-do list. I end up dreading going away on trips, because I know it will disrupt my daily routine so badly and lead to weeks of stress as I try to catch up with everything. But right now, I have nothing getting in the way: all my trips and events have been cancelled or postponed, and all my weekly classes and meetings are on hold. Every day is exactly the same, and for me, it turns out that that is exactly what I need. I am going to have to do some serious thinking about what life is going to look like for me after the lockdown is over.

I feel pretty guilty that it has taken a horrible worldwide pandemic for me to have the free time I’ve been dreaming of for years, but it has given me the impetus to reassess my priorities in life.

Tomorrow is a Wednesday, but that doesn’t really matter right now. I’ve got no middling-distance midweek run to do, no ukulele class to go to, no worries about fitting everything else in inbetween. It will be very similar to today, and that is absolutely fine by me.

Cat in spring garden
Another paparazzo shot of next door’s cat exploring our garden. He’s a little confused by the shorter grass now that Geth is out mowing it regularly again.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Cast of The Lion King – ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’

An almost-perfect Saturday

I did my first pace run in two weeks this morning…

…and I didn’t do too badly considering I’ve been taking it easy for a fortnight! I am missing parkrun on Saturdays, but I’m hopeful that I will be able to maintain my speed during this lockdown.

I’ve now got an afternoon and evening of game creation and game playing to look forward to. I feel fairly lucky that I’m an introvert and a homebody anyway, so I can keep myself quite content during this awful world situation, but I know it must be pretty unbearable for people who thrive on social contact.

Tomorrow will be similar, with added Easter chocolate 🙂

Pixel art tunnel
Light at the end of the tunnel. Made for my upcoming graphical update of Goblin Decathlon.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Abba – ‘I Have A Dream’
Ram Jam – ‘Black Betty’
The Knack – ‘My Sharona’
Flogging Molly – ‘Drunken Lullabies’
The Pogues – ‘Fiesta’
Rei Kondoh – ‘We Should Turn In For The Night’

And a bonus track that Geth was humming earlier:

Ultraviolence – ‘Elektra’

Keep on running

I hit 100 days on my ‘run every day’ streak today!

Despite the awful world situation that has transpired over the last few months, I’ve felt happier and more stable in my own life than I have in a long time. Getting out for a run every day really lifts my mood, and I plan to continue my streak indefinitely.

I’ve spent most of today finishing off day job work ahead of the Easter weekend, and making a multicoloured wall chart to keep track of all of our cancelled and postponed events. I’m looking forward to getting a bit more work done on my text adventure projects this evening.

Geth and I are also starting the long weekend off with a Maundy Thursday takeaway. In my drinking days it used to be a Maundy Thursday pint, and last year it was a Maundy Thursday synthwave night, but I’m very happy for the tradition to move to Domino’s Pizza this year. However, with the exception of my Easter egg, I’ll be eating healthily the rest of the week – I’m finding my weight loss has stalled a little since my marathon training came to a screeching halt, so I need to keep more of an eye on it.

Hope everyone has as good an Easter weekend as can be expected given the circumstances!

Celebratory cake
If there’s one thing parkrun has taught me, it’s that you celebrate running milestones with cake.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu – ‘Hymn Of The Fayth’
Takeru Kanazaki – ‘Life at Garreg Mach Monastery’
Bill Withers – ‘Lean On Me’