After-effects day 2

I’m still feeling rough after my booster yesterday morning. I had hoped to be done with the after-effects by now. However, it does make me feel really lucky that I was able to book a slot early so that this won’t interfere with Christmas. Hopefully I’ll feel a lot better tomorrow!

Twisty Little Passages
This is the book I got as a prize for winning the most recent jam I entered. It’s signed with a personal message from the author and only took six days to arrive from the US, which is impressive at this time of year!


Feeling a bit rough after getting my booster vaccine this morning, so I’m trying to take it easy this evening. Fingers crossed the after-effects will be gone by tomorrow.

Booster leaflet
No card this time round so the info leaflet will have to do as a souvenir. Did the fifteen minute wait a few hours before it was discontinued!

A month of two halves

The first half of September has been almost back to pre-pandemic levels of Being Out And About! Weddings, races, gigs… it’s been a busy time, but so joyful to be able to see people and do normal things again. I even finally got to see Duran Duran this week! They announced a couple of short-notice gigs about a fortnight ago and I jumped at the chance… especially seeing as I already had a ticket for Andy Taylor on the Wednesday and so it was set to be the best coming-out-of-the-pandemic return to gig-going week I could have hoped for!

I’ll review the gigs in depth here eventually but I’ve also written pieces on them for a couple of fansites/publications so I want to wait until those are out first.

Anyway, the second half of September, in contrast, is empty, and I plan to make the most of that. I will only be leaving the house to do parkrun and an occasional long-ish run (my short daily runs are now all being done on the treadmill to reduce my risk of injury in the lead-up to the marathon) until I leave for London, with the one exception being the day I’ll be helping Geth unpack boxes in his new office. I am guarding that time very carefully as I want as much physical and mental rest as possible over the next sixteen days!

I am also getting organised for Hallowe’en so that I’m not rushing around with that in October. Some exciting things coming in the post soon…

Gig t-shirts
T-shirt collection well stocked up this week! Love both of these 🙂


The Wombles – ‘The Wombling Song’
Duran Duran – ‘Come Undone’


Mika – ‘Grace Kelly’


Mark Knopfler – ‘Local Hero’
The Running Channel – ‘Run With Me’


Meat Loaf – ‘Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’


Duran Duran – ‘Tonight United’
Andy Taylor – ‘Bringing Me Down’
Gloria Gaynor – ‘I Will Survive’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’


Duran Duran – ‘What Happens Tomorrow’


Tom Jones – ‘Delilah’
Duran Duran – ‘Ordinary World’

The greatest season

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s the start of meteorological autumn and the very first day of the glorious four months ending with -ber. It is officially now The Very Best Time Of The Year right up until the point when I have to take the Christmas decorations down on the 6th of January! (At which point begins The Very Worst Time Of The Year, but let’s not dwell on that just now.)

The length of the daylight is feeling more natural to me again now and I’m sleeping better. The weather has cooled down, and I hope it stays cooled down now, because it’s so much better for running.

NEXT MONTH IS HALLOWE’EN, which means I can start making decorations and watching Hallowe’en TV and horror films. It’s my favourite celebration and very much worth extending for two whole months!

I am also crossing everything that the pandemic doesn’t take another vicious turn and that we can all enjoy a normal Christmas at the end of this season. It will feel extra special doing all the things we didn’t get to do last year. I am really looking forward to an autumn that isn’t spent constantly worrying about the extent to which Christmas is going to be cancelled!

Candles and hot chocolate at the ready tonight. This autumn is going to be amazing.

Autumn 2020
Last year’s leaves. This year’s are already on the turn but I’ve not started taking pictures yet. A task for tomorrow’s long run!

The ‘back to normal’ creep

Just a quick blog admin note to say that Gamebook Wednesday will be back in October after I have done the London Marathon. I’ve been reading/playing (it’s a sort of hybrid action) lots of gamebooks and really enjoying them, but I don’t have the energy to do the reviews justice at the moment. It’ll be a nice project for the autumn!

Somehow, and in some ways unnoticed, my life seems to have become a lot more ‘back to normal’ recently. On Monday evening Geth and I went for a drink in the pub; yesterday we went into his workplace and packed up his office ready for a forthcoming building move; this afternoon I’m going to the hair salon. There have been many long stretches over the past year and a half where none of that stuff would have been possible or legal, and I got so used to my routine of only ever leaving the house for my daily run that I didn’t think it would be possible to revert to old habits so quickly. This autumn, however, looks almost normal on paper, with trips away and races and gigs and a full-length Strictly series to watch on the TV (so excited!). I don’t think I’ll believe it till after it’s happened, but I am very optimistic for the next few months.

Autumn 2020
An ‘autumn leaves’ picture from last year. I can’t wait to see them again 🙂

Two jabs and done…

…well, unless or until they decide we all need booster vaccinations or similar. But for the moment, double jabbed and ergo as fully protected as possible.

COVID vaccination sticker
The staff at the centre I went to are no longer automatically giving out stickers for second vaccines (I’m guessing because they’re starting to feel a bit done with it now). I had to go up to a volunteer and ask ‘CAN I HAVE A STICKER PLEASE’ like a five-year-old haha! He said I could have two if I wanted, but frankly that would have been excessive. This one and Geth’s one will go in a discreet little frame on the wall at some point.

It feels like the beginning of the end at the moment. I’m back at parkrun every week, I’m travelling around a lot to see family, and I’ve even booked a couple of gigs for the autumn (OMG!). The numbers in the UK are giving me cautious optimism that we might be able to have the wonderful proper Christmas we couldn’t have last year, and Geth and I are talking about maybe being able to travel abroad again in 2022. Maybe by this time next year, things will be almost back to normal.

Normal sounds good. Good enough to be worth the rotten vaccine side effects I’m suffering this evening!

1,096 days

I broke a record today.

Faroe Islands, 1986
In a Faroese town centre with Dad, July 1986.

My previous lifetime record for consecutive days spent in the UK was 1,095 days. With Mum and Dad, I sailed back from our holiday in the Faroe Islands to Shetland on 7th July 1986. I then didn’t leave the UK again until 6th July 1989, when I sailed from England to France with Mum, Dad and Malcolm. During that three-year period we did get on a lot of ferries – we were visiting my grandparents in Shetland a lot as my grandmother was poorly by then – but it wasn’t until that French trip in 1989 that we went abroad again.

France, 1989
In a French town centre with Mum, July 1989.

Growing up in the 1990s I was lucky enough to travel a lot with the family. We went abroad almost every year, usually to continental Europe but sometimes to North America too. In my late teens I often went on holiday abroad with friends, and after I met Geth, while most of our travelling was UK-based, we typically ventured out to other countries once a year or so, usually to coincide with one of his academic conferences or work trips.

2018 was the last such trip to date. Geth was meeting international colleagues in Toronto, and we decided to combine that with a holiday as it was an opportunity to visit Malcolm and Steff. Mum and Dad were able to match the dates for their planned trip to Toronto too, and so it was a lovely get-together with the family. I flew back from Toronto and arrived in Edinburgh on the morning of 25th July 2018. That was 1,096 days ago – exactly three years. I haven’t left the UK since.

Canada, July 2018
In a Canadian city centre by myself, July 2018. Mum and Dad were around somewhere though!

I had no idea it would be my last trip abroad for such a long time. Breaking this particular record was obviously not my plan! I passed on joining Geth on a work trip to Oslo in June 2019, as I was really busy with work and other things at the time, but I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020, and we planned to go back to Toronto in summer 2020, and we wanted to have a couple of city breaks in Paris and Amsterdam in autumn 2020…

Yeah. 2020.

It’s funny how much I took travelling for granted before. There were lots of places in the world I wanted to see, and the only things stopping me from seeing them were time, money and the anxiety I always have around travelling due to mental issues with routine. It never occurred to me, pre-pandemic, that the world would ever be in a situation where I simply wouldn’t be allowed to go to these places (or that it would be so logistically difficult and/or risky that it wouldn’t be worth it). Nowadays, as I sit in the house watching cities like Sydney and Tokyo and New Orleans and Johannesburg and Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro fly by, in documentaries and films and videogames on my screens, and in the pages of the books I read, and the academic works I edit, and the stories I write myself… I always think the same old thing I always did. ‘I’ll go there someday!’ And then I feel sad, because I don’t know when that will be possible again in the same way that it was before. Years away, perhaps.

I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020. Then I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2021. Now I have a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2022. I hope it happens. I hope the world won’t make me go a whole quarter of a decade or more without seeing my brother, whom I last saw in person on my birthday in January 2020. I hope I’ll be running parkruns in Paris and Amsterdam next year. But the last year and a half has taught me that I can’t be certain.

I can hope, though. I really, really hope that the world will go back to what we once thought of as normality.

Until then I will just keep patiently counting days. And hope that I am setting a record I will never break again!

Occasional normality

It’s been another busy week at work and I’m really glad it’s the weekend. Geth and I are going to parkrun tomorrow morning! It’s finally back in England for the first time since that strange weekend in March 2020, and I’m very excited to return. Our home parkrun has a new name (formerly Newcastle, now Town Moor due to several other parkruns now existing in Newcastle) and a new course and a mostly-new core team running it, so it’s a bit of a new era all round. It feels very strange that we can finally parkrun again after so many false starts, but it feels like the right time. I hope Scotland and Wales aren’t too far behind.

Other than that I’m going to be chilling out with videogames this weekend, both creating and playing. I have returned to Final Fantasy I this week so I’ll be spending some time with that! I’ve also still got a lot of ParserComp entries to get through before the voting deadline next weekend, and I’m really excited to get some coding done as well.

The weather is still hot and not conducive to long runs. I’ve moved my long run day to Thursday, both because of events happening later in the training programme (to be precise, due to COVID-induced race lag, the rescheduled GNR falls precisely three weeks before the rescheduled-rescheduled London Marathon, and in a marathon training programme you’re supposed to do your 22-miler three weeks before marathon day, and I’m not doing an extra nine miles before or after the GNR! …so I’ll do it on the Thursday and have a gentle plod round the dodgily-rerouted ‘GNR’ three days later, no racing it) and because mental health wise I need FULL WEEKENDS at the moment that are not completely taken up with running, so it’s best to squeeze the long run in on a weekday instead. My last two long runs have ended up being cut short due to heatwave collapse, so next week I’m going to grit my teeth and attempt an out-and-back in the hope that, by the time I’m struggling, I’ll already be ‘on my way home’ and so it’ll be mentally easier.

Lots of groups and classes from pre-pandemic life now inviting me back, but as I’ve always said, these things will need to happen very gradually for me as I don’t want to jump straight back into Constantly Doing Stuff. Ignoring the FOMO and doing my own thing for a while longer.

Weeping willow
My favourite tree in the garden. It looks great in the summer.

This week’s earworm playlists:


Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Yuna’s Theme’
Crowded House – ‘Weather With You’
Don Henley – ‘Boys Of Summer’
Duran Duran – ‘Give It All Up’


Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Cosmo Canyon’


Paul Weller – ‘You Do Something To Me’


Calvin Harris – ‘Summer’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

Nobuo Uematsu – ‘To Zanarkand’


Therion – ‘Summer Night City’
Duran Duran – ‘To The Shore’


Boston – ‘More Than A Feeling’
Levellers – ‘The Fear’
Duran Duran – ‘Shadows On Your Side’


Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Airship Theme’
John Waite – ‘Missing You’
Manami Kiyota – ‘Satorl Marsh (Night)’

Seeds of normality

I have a race tomorrow. An actual real race, not a virtual. There will be COVID-secure measures (we are starting in waves and have to wear face coverings at the start and finish), but it’s an actual race with other people, and I’m really excited. It’s a trail race with lots of hills, and it’s going to be hot, so I will be taking it very slowly and walking a lot. In some ways it should be easier than last week’s virtual half. I hope! I’m also going to be getting on public transport for the first time in fifteen months, which will be interesting.

This last week has been very busy between coding and day job work. It’s going to be like this for the rest of June while I finish my game. I’m doing really well with it on the whole, but I am looking forward to a bit of a break in July!

Summer has hit now, and it just doesn’t seem to get dark at the moment… especially seeing as I’m falling asleep so early. I always feel a bit out of sorts at this time of year as I’m not really built for it. Autumn is my time.

Excited that I’ll have another medal for my collection this time tomorrow. They’re coming thick and fast at the moment!

Whitley Bay
Geth took this photo of a very muggy and foggy Whitley Bay for me earlier this week.

This week’s earworm playlists (still very Duran-heavy):


Duran Duran – ‘American Science’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’


Harry Belafonte – ‘Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)’
Pitbull and Christina Aguilera – ‘Feel This Moment’


Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
Traditional – ‘Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree’


Dee Cooke – ‘Outside Building’
Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’


Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
The Midnight – ‘Endless Summer’
Cornershop – ‘Brimful Of Asha [Norman Cook Mix]’
Stephen Duffy – ‘Kiss Me’
Duran Duran – ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’


David Guetta and Sia – ‘Flames’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’


Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
The Wonder Stuff – ‘Golden Green’

Getting the ball rolling

Geth and I went away last weekend to visit family for the first time in months. We met our sixteen-month-old niece for the first time, which was really special, and generally returned to a world that we’d left behind a long time ago. In some ways, being with people and eating a pub lunch felt strange, but in other ways, it felt completely normal, like we’d never been away from it. It was really nice.

Since we got back, it’s been a thankfully quiet week, and so I’ve been happily ensconced in my coding most of the time. The exception was Wednesday, as I had my appointment for my first jab of COVID vaccine. Other than the standard sore arm I’ve not had too many side effects – I’m a bit tired and achy, but I’m hoping I’ll be fully recovered by Sunday as I’m running a virtual half marathon that day!

Fingers crossed for a similar experience next week (minus the vaccine stuff)…

It's a start
First dose down. I feel a lot happier now this process has started, and look forward to being fully vaccinated in August.

This week’s earworm playlists (which this week have been CONSTANT DURAN DURAN with very occasional lapses. I’m not complaining):


Arcadia – ‘Say The Word’


Harry Belafonte – ‘Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)’


Duran Duran – ‘A Matter Of Feeling’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’


Duran Duran – ‘A Matter Of Feeling’
Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’


Duran Duran – ‘American Science’
The Beatles – ‘Drive My Car’
Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over) [The Story Mix]’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’
Mr Mister – ‘Broken Wings’


Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’
Duran Duran – ‘Union Of The Snake’
Destiny’s Child – ‘Survivor’
Duran Duran – ‘Meet El Presidente’
Duran Duran – ‘Too Late Marlene’


Duran Duran – ‘Union Of The Snake’
Duran Duran – ‘All She Wants Is’