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October's Journal
December's Journal

[17:10] It was quite pleasant not to have to get up before it got fully light this morning. I pottered around the house, making lunch and having breakfast, until my builder friend arrived at around 08:30. We had a great chat about everything and his analysis and attention to detail with regard to the lean to I want built was very reassuring. Feeling happy I cycled to work in the cold and gently defrosted in front of my computer. Unfortunately he then rang about two hours later with the quotes (which was nice and speedy), for different kinds of polycarbonate roof materials. Both quotes were more expensive than the other ones I've had to date. I trust this person far more than the other two, so I'm going to have to think about which I go with in the new year. There's no way any of them could start this side of Christmas. If I'm honest I'm not really going to be able to think about getting it done before the shower room is done at the end of January. So it'll probably be getting on for the end of February/beginning of March before it happens. If nothing else that'll give me some time to recover from the cost of the shower room and have saved a bit in the meantime, even if it's only a few hundred pounds a month. Anyway, that's that. Most of the day I've spent doing the usual bits and bobs that make up my job, going for a hill reps session in the cold and biting wind (the small mercy of no rain, at least), having an overly long, hot shower, and eating lunch while I tried to fix some weird reverting symlinking issue on some Oracle Linux servers. I'm off home now to keep warm for the evening and catch up on a little bit more downloaded television from when I was away in Kenya and Tanzania.

[17:10] Today has been a fairly productive day. I got up and did an almost recovery run (by which I mean I ran a little faster than I should have, but not much), then after I'd showered, put on far too many layers of clothing (I just couldn't get warm) and had someone come around to look at redoing the roof of my shed and clearing/fixing a leak in my guttering. Once all that was done I went to work, got warm, then headed out and replaced another hard drive in a RAID array at a remote site. Back in the office I was able to get in touch with an old rower (not just a friend from rowing, but someone who is very old) about coming to see the house tomorrow morning and giving me a quote for doing a lean to, moving a fence, putting in some Sheffield stands, and installing two shelves in the kitchen. This is because I've had two quotes now and both were hellishly expensive, and seemed like something that should be cheaper. If this last one is roughly the same amount I'll probably go with them as I know and trust them and have seen their work around the boat house. Over lunch I actually went and ran again. My coach does Wednesday lunchtime sessions so it's a good time to see him in person and get some face to face feedback without paying for the next tier up in coaching. This session was a cadence practice one; upping cadence/shortening stride length without upping pace, at least initially. Once I was back from that I had a very long hot shower and then settled in for an afternoon of work and feeling very hungry, even after having had lunch. I'm heading home now where I will proceed to eat the house bare. See you tomorrow after I stay home to get that visit done.

[17:10] I 'made' a Christmas cake last night. I say made, what I mean is Rachel had laid out all of the ingredients and instructions and I mixed everything together in the correct manner (we hope). I might have spilled far too much brandy into the dried fruit, but we'll have to see what happens. The oven also smelt really weird during the baking process. We can't decide if it was burning insulation (or something) or the cake. Either way, it didn't smell right. We were both shattered come the morning, possibly due to bad dreams and waking up, or just the fact that it was before 06:00 when the alarm went off. Rachel headed to London, I got on with sleeping in another hour and then morning exercises and a shower. At work I was a little slow to get started, but eventually had a productive morning. Over lunch I did my first proper coach-dictated run, heading down to the track with Max to run with him for the last time before he headed back to Stacey's parents and thence to an RAF base to take him, eventually, to a ship heading to Antarctica for two months. So good luck to him. After I got back to work and had showered and had some food I went to one of the server rooms and replaced the first of two disks in a RAID5 set that have been flagging up trouble. Rather than do one, wait around, then do the other straight away, I've opted to do the second one tomorrow morning. This is to make sure that the disk I've just put in had 12+ hours to prove that it's not a DOA. However, now it's time to head home. I might do tomorrow's dictated run before work as it's 45min of 5min/km, which is quite nice. The weather should be OK, too. This then leaves me free to do whatever the coach has planned for the separate (unconnected with my personal training) lunchtime session.

[17:10] I had a pretty great weekend, thanks for asking! On Friday evening my parents arrive at the house just before I did, so I had to cycle home in a bit of a rush, but that was OK. They got to look around the house and decided that they liked it, which was great. I discovered that the felt on the shed roof had blow over again, which was a bit annoying. We had dinner and chatted and before long it was well past the time everyone usually went to bed. On Saturday morning I headed out to do parkrun in a moderately good time given I still haven't been doing much speedwork, then went straight home to be with my parents. Over the course of the day we went out to get a stepladder, back out to Tesco, back out to go to a tile shop, and at the same time get some felt nails so I could do a bodge job repair of the felt roof on the shed until someone experienced can come out and replace the bit that's torn. Rachel arrived towards the end of the day and there was much rejoicing by me. On Sunday we had a fairly lazy morning waiting for my new television to arrive, which it duly did. Sadly it'd been on the delivery truck all night so I had to wait almost an hour until I was sure the condensation inside had evaporated. It's a fantastic bit of kit, though. I can't wait to watch some high resolution content on it. I might even get a Blu-Ray player and some things like Planet Earth (and Planet Earth II) in 4K. Around lunch time we walked to a local pub (it's marvellous living in a village with lots of pubs) for lunch, then came home and watched the remainder of a DVD we'd started the night before but everyone fell asleep during. Rachel started baking for next weekend's housewarming (which she'll miss much of by playing a hockey match near London), as well as a Christmas cake, because she's marvellous, and wonderful, and lovely. My parents left half way through the afternoon to get home before it got too late and dark. After that Rachel and I just spent some time being quiet and happy together before the end of the day rolled around.

Amazingly, it turned out that Rachel could work from (my) home today, so we didn't have to get up horribly early this morning (but will tomorrow morning). I had my first running training programme email from my coach saying that today is a rest day, which was great (although the remainder of the week looks great/quite hard). At work I achieved masses of things today. I sent a load of emails, got in contact with and was contacted by people about bits of my house and garden/shed, registered my television for its guarantee, advertised my old television, ordered a load of books I'm sure I used to own, but are missing, and built one server and configured another. Now it's time to go home and spend the whole evening being happy with Rachel.

[16:30] I put the spare room as much to rights as I could last night. The painting isn't perfect, and the room looks incredibly sparse/spartan when you get right down to it, but at least it's usable. Some furniture and some pictures and a properly made bed will help. Hopefully the smell of paint has diminished by the time I get home this evening.

At work today I've had a very successful meeting, built a VM, made a lot of useful Ansible changes and managed to keep most of my plates spinning in the meantime.

I'm now about to go home and meet my parents who've arrived in town a little ahead of schedule. Hopefully they won't be waiting too long for me. They might be able to give me some advice on the discovery this morning that the high winds a few days ago tore a third of the felt roofing off my garden shed. I've contacted one company about repairs, but they haven't got back to me yet, so I've got two backup companies to try over the weekend. Speaking of the weekend, my parents are with me until Sunday afternoon, Rachel arrives on Saturday evening, there'll be a lot of chatting, looking at Kenya photos, possibly a parkrun (with my dad), a longer run on Sunday (maybe, although that's supposed to be when I start my coached running programme), a pub lunch on Sunday, and a new television delivery, hopefully. See you on Monday to tell you how it all went.

[17:40] I got up early on the offchance I'd be running before work with Max, but he texted just before I was about to leave to meet him at work to say he wasn't going to make it. That was fine; I went into work early anyway so that I could take a longer lunch break. Over the course of the morning I got a reasonable amount of stuff done, not to mention talking with a lot of developers and other people about their stuff. I also was finally able to order my new television which should (I hope) arrive on Sunday. Over lunch Max and I then went to do our run. We ended up doing three loops of a particularly nasty (for someone who always runs on the flat) hill and fields course, with three km to get there and back. There was no way I was able to keep up with him on the uphill sections, definitely not on the downhill sections, and only just, maybe, sorta, on the flat sections. I almost stopped after two laps, but managed to convince myself to do the three. I don't think it did me any harm. Back at the office I had lunch and then went to see a group about a server of theirs which had filled its disk. Other than that I've been working on a server which I created yesterday which needs to be made to look like another one, so there's lots to duplicate and check. It's a match for a server which was created before we started using Ansible, so it's all having to be done by hand.

I'm not sure I mentioned that when I got home last night I not only did the washing up (which had been pending for a little too long) but also put the second coat of paint on the last wall to be painted (the spare/master (although I'm not using it) bedroom). I'll go home tonight and open the window in there to flush out the last of the drying paint smell, collapse the cardboard boxes which have been dumped in there as I've unpacked them, put the furniture back where it's supposed to go (after vacuuming) and hopefully it'll be as ready as it can be for my parents arriving tomorrow evening after work. They're staying for the weekend having not seen the new house in person yet. It should be a lovely few days, especially when Rachel joins us after her hockey match on Saturday.

[17:10] Up at 07:00, exercises, shower, breakfast, to work. A morning of work, with a meeting and some useful progress on some other things. A lunchtime run organised by my new coach (who I'm going to be paying for the next four months to get me to the Manchester Marathon (and some other races)). An afternoon of changing RAM modules, catching up on email, and wondering whether or not the TV I'm about to buy will be driveable at 4K resolution with the graphics card currently in my under-TV computer. I think, eventually, I may have to get a better graphics card, and possibly even a better computer. Anyway, we'll see how things go with the current setup and the new TV, when and if I order it and it arrives. I'm about to go home and make a concerted effort to finish the painting in the other bedroom so it's dry and has stopped smelling by the time my parents arrive on Friday evening. That, and doing the washing up and maybe even some clothes washing.

[17:30] So I'm back at work after a very full long weekend. After deciding to get right down to it and paint the wall on Friday as soon as I got home (after having a joiner come around and realise that he wasn't the right man for the job (wrong speciality)) I rewarded myself with a pizza afterwards as it was late and I was pretty tired (and paint-spattered). On Saturday morning I got up and did a moderately gentle parkrun before heading home quickly, getting showered and shaved and then having the person who'll be redoing my shower room come around to sort out a few more details and logistics for that work, which is now going to take place after I get back from a trip towards the end of January. With luck it'll only take about two weeks, hopefully less. However, we just won't know until he tears down the old fixtures, fittings, and floor and sees what kind of mess we might be dealing with. As it is I'm going to be losing the underfloor heating as it's just a waste of time and energy. Anyway, after that I had just enough time to do some more book sorting and realise that I'm missing at least half a dozen books... or at least I think I am. An email to Kris to see if they were still with her yielded a polite reply, but no evidence of books, sadly. I got into some fancy clothes and cycled over to a church for a wedding, which was lovely, but just a little longer than I would have liked, then cycled home again, did the world's fastest Tesco shop and then ran to the local train station. This left me a sweaty mess on the train, but I was able to dry myself off before I met Max and Stacey in the town centre I'd taken the train to to have a spot of dinner. We then wandered to the hotel where the reception was and had a lovely social time until it was time to head home, at which point they gave me a lift back to my house, which was nice. On Sunday morning I got up horribly early so I could have a good breakfast and have it digest enough that by the time I'd been picked up and driven a few dozen miles to a half marathon race I felt like it'd all gone down. There I waited with baited breath for Rachel to land from Washington DC at Heathrow and then get a succession of trains and a taxi off a red-eye flight to run the race with me. Amazingly, she was able to run very well, although we took the first two thirds of the distance fairly steadily, speeding up massively only after I had to take a seriously emergency toilet break. In the end we were beaten by a number of people I would usually have expected to beat, but given Rachel was operating on no sleep and my training hasn't been all that great recently, I think we did fantastically well. Even I was tired by the time we were dropped off back at home, but Rachel was absolutely plum tuckered out. We managed to keep her awake until the end of the day, to get her back into this timezone, but she went out like a light when we did go to bed. It was probably assembling the last bit of Ikea furniture and then getting takeaway Indian food which did for her, I think. Monday morning we couldn't sleep in all that well as I had an eye test to get to, so we cycled into town and I did that while Rachel got a coffee and ordered us breakfast at our usual haunt. After that we pottered around town buying a few things and having a relaxing time before having a spot of lunch and Rachel departing for London for an afternoon of work. I headed home and did some more housework before sitting down with some television for the remainder of the day.

This morning I got up earlier than I have been in a while and got my morning exercises done, got into work and even did a good morning's worth of stuff before heading out for a sprintervals session with Max which was pretty exhausting. After I got back I managed to finally sort out a virtual Visa card I've been trying to claim with points from a survey site I've been with for many years. Some problem with email in the end which two calls to the US finally fixed. Then there were some calls with Oracle to sort out some licensing issues, and now, finally, at the end of the day, I'm off to have dinner with Kate and find out about her PB at the same half marathon Rachel and I did, and how she was proposed to (and said yes) at the finish line.

[16:25] Naturally, I didn't get round to painting last night. This was mainly because I was waiting for a carpenter/joiner come round to give me a quote for some work. While I waited I thought I'd start something I could stop easily at any time; alphabetising my bookshelves. This turned into something of a mission given he was more than half an hour late. Once he'd arrived and done everything he needed to I carried on and got a little over half the shelves completely organised and the other half at least organised so that all the N's to Z's were grouped together, but not sorted within their letter groupings. Then I had dinner, settled down to a little bit of television and went to bed.

I'm still struggling to get the heating settings quite right for the house, so this morning the energy usage was way up on yesterday at the same time. This might be due to there being a frost this morning, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm also sure that I have at least two radiators whose thermostatic valves are broken. One 'off' (stopping all heat to the radiator) and one 'on' (no matter how much I turn it the radiator stays hot when the heatings on). This shouldn't matter for the most part as the heating is controlled by a remote, room thermostat, but it should be addresses eventually. I might want to test every single radiator at some point so I can get all of the broken ones done in one go. I'm sure that'll be cheaper than multiple jobs.

Speaking of multiple jobs, and things like that, this weekend is extremely busy. On Saturday morning I have to decide if I'm going to do parkrun, then I need to get home, showered and shaved, have a meeting with the plumber who's going to be redoing my shower room after Christmas, then head into town to go to a wedding at 13:30. After that I could probably do Tesco if I haven't already, then in the evening there's a wedding reception out of town that I'll need to take a short train ride to get to. I'll then either get the train home again or get a lift from Max and Stacey. I won't be staying too late as the following morning I'm being collected at 07:30 to drive to a half marathon. At the same time Rachel will be flying overnight from Washington DC and then getting trains directly to the town where the half marathon is and somehow getting from train station to race control before 09:30 (unless I can collect her number for her given registration closes at 09:30 for a 10:00 start). We'll have to see. I've asked the organisers on Facebook, but not had a response yet. Once the race is run we'll both be getting a lift home again and then collapsing for the rest of the day. I have Monday off as I've got personal admin to do, and Rachel's taking the morning off as time off in lieu, but then she has to get a train at around 14:15. I'm hoping we can squeeze in an eye test, looking at new glasses for me, brunch in town and even a showing of Paddington 2 before she has to go, but we'll see. It all seems like a lot. Hopefully everything'll come off without a hitch.

[16:45] I totally meant to go home and do some painting last night. Only I didn't leave until too late to get started, plus I needed to do some other stuff, so ended up just watching television and again worrying about how many kWh of energy my house seems to use on a daily basis. It's practically winter, so heating is required, yes, I know. But still, it's a bit of a stressor, and will continue to be until I come to terms with it.

In other news, I fully intend to go home on time tonight, mostly so I can be there for when the first joiner/carpenter of the week comes over to look over the list of things I want done so he can provide me with a quote. As soon as he's gone I really do intend to have a go at least putting on the first coat of paint (magnolia) over the rather strong purple that I found underneath the wallpaper I stripped off weeks ago.

Workwise I've had a reasonably successful day getting Red Hat Satellite to work with my upgraded web browser (Firefox 57) again, deleting some errored/warning tasks which had been hanging around on Satellite for a while (and managing to in fact delete every single task by accident, not that it matters), and even getting a much-hated, long-running service properly decommissioned by finally and once and for all powering off the servers that were hosting it.

[18:10] I filled my bookshelves last night, after assuming that I'd have space to spare. It turns out that I had more books that I remember, which is nice in a way, but means I'm going to have to order another set of shelves or two in the forseeable future, and especially if (as I hope) Rachel moves some of her books (along with herself) here in the future too. The room looks a lot nicer, friendlier, and more 'me' now. I still have plenty of boxes to unpack, and probably plenty to throw away, too. But that's for another day. Right now I've asked my parents to buy some light shades and underbed storage from Ikea on their way to see the new place (and me) the weekend after next, which should help with a few things. I still need to paint a wall (I was going to do that this evening, but might not, now) and assemble a wardrobe (with Rachel's help, probably this Sunday afternoon) before they arrive so that I can make the front bedroom usable for them. After that... I guess we'll see what needs doing next.

I'm gently freaking out about how many kWh I seem to be using since I got my smart meters installed. Maybe it's just because it's winter and I have the central heating on now, but I seem to be spending (as far as my memory recalls) somewhat more than I did in my old house with an old, inefficient back boiler. I guess we'll have to see how things pan out over the next few months.

Working day-wise I had a fairly quiet one, but still managed to fit in a support call with Dell, sprintervals at the track with an actual coach (who I'm going to ask about marathon training plans since I just entered the Manchester Marathon for 2018), replaced some RAM in the Dell being supported above after doing some major firmware upgrades, and even some minor Ansible work. I'm still here because I've been fixing someone's linux workstation that wasn't updating due to all kinds of RPM issues, which I've now fixed.

Rachel left for America for a few days this afternoon, hopefully to come back safely to meet me at a half marathon we're doing together on Sunday morning.

I should go home.

[16:35] I spent most of last night building bookshelves. It takes longer than you think. Or maybe it doesn't, if you've done it before. Anyway, after a while I had to stop and have some dinner. This morning, after a rather good night's sleep in my re-arranged bedroom with chests of drawers and a bedroom computer (not used for Netflix as yet) with remote (hurrah), I set to building the remaining bookshelves and DVD/CD shelving while I waited for the E.ON smart meter fitter to arrive. I decided to build all four of the DVD/CD shelving units other than the hammering in of the pins to secure the back board, but once I'd built them and the guy hadn't arrived yet I decided that at 10:30 I was well within my rights to engage in a little bit of hammering. So I did, got everything stood up and arranged against the wall and thought that it all looked rather smart. By that time the meter fitter had arrived and, after panicking me with some worries about how the kitchen cabinet fitter had boxed in the house's main fuse, set about fitting the meters for both gas and electricity. He finished around 12:00, which allowed me to unpack one box of books, make my lunch, and prepare to leave for work. As soon as he'd gone I got on my way too.

At work I had just about enough time to get my email caught up, check to see if there were any fires to put out, and then head out for what turned out to be a rather tiring 10K run. The air temperature and weather were perfect, though. Just cold enough to mean I didn't start sweating before about 2K in, which is good, for me. Back at the office I showered and had lunch in double-quick time to be ready for a meeting or two at 14:30, but no-one got in touch about them so I was able to concentrate on stuff at my desk instead.

Now I'm going to head off, see if I can get to the cinema, and then head home to be reunited with books and DVDs that I haven't seen in over six years.

[17:05] Wonderfully, Rachel was with me for some of the weekend, although not before Saturday afternoon after which I'd already done a very wet (underfoot; it wasn't raining) and quite slow parkrun, and done a huge Tesco shop on Friday evening. We then spent Saturday evening curled up together with a curry. On Sunday we waited in for Ikea to delivery a large amount of flat-pack, then (after having the truck return to swap an incorrect package for the correct one) went for a shorter than planned (but exactly as long as we were capable of) run. Following that, a shower, and lunch, we set to building things and didn't really stop much before well past dark, and dinner time. Right now we've built two bedside cabinets and two chests of drawers. What remains is a large amount of bookshelves and DVD/CD racks and a wardrobe. I'm going to start on those tonight on my own and hope not to break anything.

So I promised you some details of what happened in Kenya and Tanzania. I've still yet to process the photos down to a manageable amount, but I will tell you that we took my parents to see some of the places Rachel has volunteered and donates to in various slums, met up with the rest of the people doing the marathon and headed to Kericho and its tea plantations via the Rift Valley, had to deal with the Kenyan elections and a Unilever tea pickers strike which required us to change the race venue and route, and then ran a marathon in blazing temperatures (for me), at 2.5km altitude, with over a mile of ascent and descent over four 10.mumble kilometers laps. The fact that I felt rotten afterwards, came down with a stinking cold, and had 'stomach problems' is probably what contributed to me coming in 45-50 minutes after Rachel did (in 6:00:28), even after she wated for me for around 15 minutes at the end of one lap. That's what she says, anyway. I think she's just a better runner than me these days. The day before the marathon we'd had the privilege of going to a Kenyan dirt track and doing actual track sprint sessions with Kenyan marathon runners, which was just extraordinary. Following the marathon Rachel and I took my parents down to the Mara for a few days of safari, which was truly amazing, then to Elsamere (if you ever saw Born Free) before sending them home via Nairobi. Rachel and I travelled to Tanzania for her to do a few days more work via Dar Es Salaam, then back to Dar, took a ferry to Zanzibar where we had a few days of uninterrupted actual holiday first in Stone Town, then on the east coast in a place called Bwejuu (rather than Rachel having to be on duty, given it was her workplace that organised the whole marathon venture in the first place). We met her parents for a dinner one evening (they'd come to do the same marathon thing, and then had a week on Zanzibar). Of the things I'm most proud of on the whole trip was my father completing his first official half marathon (two laps of the course) at the age of 76, with a pacemaker. Amazing.

Both of my parents really loved the trip, and I hope they, like me, will remember it for many years to come.

[16:30] I'm back from Kenya and Tanzania and Zanzibar. Safe, sound, a little burnt, and humbled by the experiences too many to list. However, I will try to next week when I have a little bit more time, as well as publishing a good selection of the photos I managed to take as well. Suffice it to say it was an extraordinary experience, made all the more special by Rachel being there with me. So, more on that next week.

In other news I'm now back home, with all the things that I'd put on hold for the last three weeks having piled up. I need to get back into running, think about joining a gym, deal with house rennovations (DIY and contractors), go to Tesco so I can actually eat, pay in cheques, deal with the water board, and deal with 1001 emails about all kinds of things. Speaking of emails, I deleted over 10,300 work emails once I'd finished triaging my work Exchange account at lunchtime today. Whilest doing that I solved at least four issues that'd been bothering people during my time away, which was nice.

I've run out of enthusiasm for today, so I'm going home. Hopefully to get the central heating working correctly. This weekend I have lots of Ikea flatpack arriving, Rachel arriving, parkrun (if I can even run), and hopefully a lot of fun with all of the above. See you on Monday with hopefully some more on what I did for the last three weeks.