He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

One Ticked Off The Bucket-List

On Sunday 27th September, I completed this event.

Whilst I'm obviously pleased that I completed it, the strategy that I took beforehand came straight from the school of "how not to prepare for a marathon". I entered just four weeks beforehand, my training distances went up and up every session and because of the timescales involved I barely had time to plan for nutrition and hydration. It was a risky plan because injury was a very realistic possibility. Luckily, I got away with it. My time won't make Eluid Kipchoge sweat, but my 26.3 miles is just the same as his.

I'm already being egged on by friends to run an ultramarathon, but to be honest I can't think of a more stupid and masochistic idea. The reason I entered this event was that it was a virtual event (so no pressure) and it was so much cheaper than a regular organised race. With no crowds, photographers, or statistics (apart from what I posted to Strava), I could quietly do the event in my own time and pace. And if nothing else, it's proved I can run for quite a long time - even if my feet now feel like they've been hit with hammers.

Aside from that, I just prefer half-marathons. The amount of time a marathon demands is too much. Whilst it's nice to know I can do it, I prefer the 13.1 mile distance, not that there's many events to enter at the moment!

As the weather changes and the running season comes to an end, it's nice to close it with a sense of achievement. I was concerned that the half-marathon I ran back in February was going to be all I'd manage. As we head towards 2021, I wonder if "virtual races" will be the default way we enter events for the next few years, until we're all vaccinated?

Beetle Bird

Just a quick post today. Last week, I took Chicken to the vet for her annual checkup (which all went OK). However the temperature was exceedingly hot that day (30 degrees+), so I drove home from the vets with her sat on my shoulder - and she was a very well-behaved passenger. Here she is after we stopped in a lay-by for a bit of fresh air, whilst we waited for the traffic to clear.

She's adjusted so well to being on the harness and most loud outside noises now don't freak her out. Keep an eye out for further photos/videos of her outdoor adventures over the coming months.


"If you loved me, you'd….."
"You're not normal."
"You must have some sort of problem to do something like that."
"You're suicidal? You fucking coward."
"You would've run that marathon quicker if you weren't so fat."

These are the words of a narcissist.

Initially they idolise you.
Then they devalue you.
Finally, they discard you.

They want to control who your friends are, any interaction with your family, your thoughts, finances and social media. It'll never be a partnership because it's all about them and you'll be punished for anything that makes them look bad. It's day-in, day-out psychological, emotional, financial and (sometimes) physical abuse.

Just remember that there's no way you can bargain with a narcissist because they'll be looking for what they can get out of any interaction with you. You're not worthy if they have nothing to make use of you for. Be prepared to be forgotten about when they move on to the next person who supplies what they want.

The only way to win their game is not to play. Leave. Block all contact. Forget they existed. Get therapy. Journal it out. Live your best life. Move on.

I left nearly 18 months ago. Whilst I miss my son a lot when he's not around, I otherwise have no regrets and being free from that abuse feels like a weight has been taken off my shoulders. I'm happier and can make my son happier as a result. It's been good to be free.

The Road To Hell

It's been about four months since lockdown started in the UK and the fog of the pandemic is starting to clear. The pubs opened up last weekend, most businesses are trading again and life is reverting to "normal", whatever that new version of normal is going to be.

That whole period at the beginning of March when things really kicked off seems a lifetime away now because January and February were so different. It was a new year with a new start. I had a little trip away to Dublin for a few days in February and not long after I came home things quickly exploded. Lockdown happened. Shit got real.

I remember that surreal evening when Boris Johnson announced the lockdown. It didn't take long before people were proudly declaring projects and intentions in the face of this new-found adversity. They were going to get super fit with Joe Wicks each day, write that book they had never quite managed to complete, learn a new language, play a new musical instrument and be a domestic goddess. The list was endless.

Good intentions are nice and all that, but I wanted to be a bit more pragmatic when the lockdown commenced. However, if there's one thing that really makes you want to do something, it's having the right to do it removed from you. Deprivation is a bugger of an incentive.

Despite those good intentions, I spent the first three-ish months of the pandemic in my living room. I ate there, played there, worked there, talked to family there and watched the news there. It was all-consuming and most of the time, I only left the house to pick up a shopping order, go for a ride/run or have a distanced chat with my son. Some days were a struggle.

But here we are, coming out of the other end. If all the drunken people don't trigger a second-spike, the worst has hopefully passed.

And in a tweet, here's what I achieved during my three months of lockdown:

So I've not written a sonnet, lost seven stone or mastered the trumpet - but who cares? I have a parrot who gives me high-fives and also comes to any spot I point to just like a dog, which can't be bad. I'm lucky. I still have my job, I've not been ill, I have a roof over my head, food in my capacious belly and my son is fine - and for this I should be grateful.

We've all been guilty of it, guilty of putting ourselves under pressure to achieve. However, we must remember that this is an odd period that none of us have experienced before. We are our own harshest critics and in all honesty, it's not going to do your mental health any good if you're going to punish yourself for failing to achieve unrealistic expectations during a time of great stress and worry. The objective for those of us who weren't in hospital and ill was to avoid getting ill and ending up in hospital ourselves. Basically, don't die.

If you managed to do that, then literally anything else you've achieved, even if it's just getting up in the morning can be considered a win. Give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back, you've made it.

And remember that book you haven't yet finished? It can wait. There will be a better time.

The Great Outdoors

Yesterday was a bit of a landmark day. I've been harness-training Chicken for a little while now and for the first time we went outside, as you can see from the little video below.

As you can imagine, harness-training a bird isn't an easy thing to do because they're not going to just let you slip the harness on like a dog would wear a collar and lead. The first few times she took big chunks out of my fingers, but she's got better every time and this morning I got her kitted-up in just a couple of minutes.

The intention is that when the lockdown is over, I'll take her out with me every so often. Like you walk your dog, I'll go out for a walk with my bird. Like so many other bird owners, I want her to have an enriched life beyond the cage. Whilst she flies around my house and is my velco-like sidekick whilst I potter around, I think she'd love to experience the outdoors, especially during the warmer summer months.

If you've got a parrot and want to go down this route, take a look at the Aviator Harness. They're slightly more pricey than regular harnesses you find in pet shops, but they're extremely well-made and more comfortable for the bird to wear as there's no metal bits remotely close to them. They include a tutorial DVD and you can also get lead-extenders so that you can free-flight train them.

As we get more adventurous and go a bit further afield, I'll post a few more videos of our travels.

iPhone SE (2020)

Is this phone some wafer-thin, all-screen vision of the future? No. But it's very good at what it does….

edge

Huawei B535

So here we are, all working from home. Before the lockdown I used to work one or two days a week from home, but having now gone to the point where I'm barely stepping out of the door (apart from taking my daily government sanctioned hour of exercise), I thought that perhaps my 4G router could do with being a little more "robust".

I have to say that the MiFi I've had for the last year has performed really well. I stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, do the odd bit of online gaming and RDP to servers over my work's VPN, but having an improved router would definitely give me more flexibility and reliability. I've not been able to use my Pi-based cloud storage since moving house and using anything over ethernet has been out of the question. It's time the MiFi became a backup device.

Enter the Huawei B535. It's quite a nifty little 4G router, which looks more like the usual sort of thing you hook up to a phone line.

No phone-line required: Bear shown for size-comparison purposes.

When it comes to getting things set up, it's as easy as the MiFi was. You just pop your SIM card in and switch on. The SSID name and password is on the back of the router (which I've obviously blurred out here). On your first connection, you're prompted for a few things to finalise the setup, but you can make things as complicated or as simple as you like. My network is hidden, is not the default, I've setup dynamic DNS and am routing HTTPS traffic to my Pi so my cloud storage is back in action. Virtually anything you can do with a normal router, you can do with this one. The only extra lights you'll see on the front of this router versus a "normal" one is the network signal strength indicator. It's a pretty solid device.

Of course, that's not all. It's got four ethernet ports at the back and connectors for antennae should you want to boost the reliability and speed of your connection. Antennae can be either internal for a little boost, or you can get larger antennae that you can fix to the side of your house if you want a big boost.

For the moment, however, I'm happy. Apart from being able to use 3G and 4G, the router will also lock on to a 4G+ signal if it can get one - and this means I've been able to get some quite good speeds at times, as you'll see below.

Speeds vary depending on the weather, who else is using the mast, time of day and a butterfly flapping its wings in China, but my download speeds very between ADSL and Fibre broadband on a fixed line. My upload speeds always seem to surpass that. The ping is the only area that I'd say could do with some improvement, staying very similar to how it was before, but I've not noticed any issues whatsoever on the odd game or two of Fortnite, so perhaps that's less of a problem these days. The connection has hopped between regular 4G and 4G+, only once or twice dropping down to 3G, but even then I've still managed 6MB as a download speed. I really can't complain.

The most pleasing aspect of this, however, is that I now have unlimited data usage (well, it's 1000GB, but even I couldn't max that out) and it's just £17 a month. Most fixed-line broadband is more expensive than this. A quick look on uSwitch right now shows PlusNet as the ones coming closest on price at £17.99, but given how they've gone downhill in recent years, no thanks.

As I'm writing this I'm streaming music and downloading a game in the background - and nothing is stuttering. The router can handle up to 64 devices at once. Should I ever move house again, I'll just pick up the router and shift it without having to think about changing telephone lines. At worst, I might have to consider using an external antenna, but that's not the end of the world.

Should 5G ever come to my area then I can really see this becoming more mainstream as it becomes faster than a fibre connection. In the meantime, though, all I can say is that I'm extremely happy with the upgrade and would definitely recommend it. With the lockdown looking like it's going to carry on for at least another month or so, a good internet connection helps you connect with people, even if you can't go out and meet them. A worthwhile investment.

A Reminder

This is a picture of my son and I, taken during the summer of last year. It feels a universe away now.


As the Easter bank-holiday finishes and the UK death toll for this pandemic passes 10,000 I have to remind myself that this awfulness will come to an end one day. Without wanting to use The Queen's Vera Lyn reference, I'm holding on to a future time where we'll be able to do this again, to be like we were in this photo. It's been a month since I last gave my son a hug, but self-isolation is what the UK population needs to do at the moment. It's hard, but how I'm feeling right now is minor in comparison to the people who've already lost someone. It's the sacrifice that we've all got to go through to ensure that things will be OK again in the future.

I'm no Conservative and I'm definitely no fan of Boris Johnson, but please do what the blond buffoon says and stay at home. Thank you.

Ten Reasons Why

Firstly, take a look at this:

…and now you've had a chuckle, read on. Here's ten reasons why you shouldn't own a parrot. Read More...

Hello Blog, I've Missed You

Hello there. Would you look at that? It's 2020. Where did the last decade go?

Apologies for the distinct lack of updates in the last six months. My website nearly turned into a cobwebsite (good old Dad joke there), but fear not. I'll be getting back to slightly more regular updates "'dreckly", as us Cornish say.

Over the last year a divorce has happened, a decade has finished, I'm living somewhere new and I've finally blown the cobwebs off my passport. Bad things have happened, but it's not all bad.

Onwards and upwards. And I now have a search page that actually works. Huzzah!