Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Lockdown 2

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

October started with Duncan’s birthday. It was a pretty quiet affair at home with Christine’s parents visiting and a film in the evening. Friday night has become film night more generally now (after a trial of Sky Cinema we signed up for a discounted subscription). Trying to select a film is always a bit of a trial, particularly balancing Emma’s desire for action against age-appropriate content for Duncan! I’m usually the one who ends up making a final decision to try and satisfy everyone’s needs.

Swimming lessons continued, as did long walks and cycle rides at the weekend. In addition to Tuesday Night Runs (now with beer inside but with face masks and table service), I managed a couple of runs with the IBM gang. We went to another SCJS training with Duncan, this time in the New Forest. We were back in the Forest a couple of weeks later for an event I planned at Anderwood. I managed to put one control in the wrong place – the perils of doing all of my planning in one visit to the area the week before the event – but otherwise everything went well!

Still with vacation to burn, I had half term off. Much of it was taken up redecorating Emma’s room: out with the little girl pink, in with the teenage grey (there was much debate about quite how dark a grey she could have!). Duncan and I amused ourselves soldering and assembling the MERG DCC command station and handset kits for his railway. Two pairs of hands definitely made the job easier, not to mention Duncan’s eyesight when it came to the surface-mounted components in the handset. Remarkably, it all worked once assembled but the train and track now need a bit of an upgrade to get a reliable signal.

Lockdown returned for four weeks in November which brought the more sociable activities to an end (at least face-to-face). You were still allowed to exercise with one other person, so Tuesday Night Runs involved Ian and I running around Chandler’s Ford, and I could still go out cycling with Alasdair. Through an article in CompassSport, we had discovered the Turf app (think Pok√©mon GO but without the cute characters) which, even four months later, is still getting us out the door.

Duncan bought himself a small drone which we then promptly had to retrieve from the garden two doors down the road! He also bought himself a penknife which has, so far, only caused the loss of blood on one occasion! The month ended with Christine’s birthday. Come December, Christine was also allowed to tell the world that she had succeeded in her promotion to Professor. At least she now needn’t worry about being called upon to help in an emergency!

Emma’s inflatable boot had not helped her ankle but we were then left waiting for the hospital to start operating on children again. We were eventually given a date at the start of December (still over a month before the NHS would have even started to look at her ankle). Christine would go with her so both had to traipse up to Basingstoke for a Covid test three days beforehand, and then the whole family had to isolate until the day itself. Having been on the front of the list, Emma was awake again by mid-morning and home early afternoon. All seemed to go well and, rather than a plaster cast, she got to use the inflatable boot again. By Christmas, she was walking around normally again although is still a bit wary of cycling.

Things opened up again for the next few weeks. Orienteering resumed with events at Bramshaw and Farley Mount. We even managed the annual Run the Pubs, albeit that the meal afterwards had to be in the pub garden as we were not all from the same household. I managed to give blood (having been turned away with a sore throat on the previous occasion). We also had a big online launch event for the Software Delivery Management product I’m working on, for which everyone in the company received a set of glassware in the post so we could drink a toast. (You had to provide your own drink though!)

The dreaded R-number was on the rise again in the run-up to Christmas and there was much debate about what we might be able to do. At best, it was possible that we might be able to meet family for a few hours outside but, by the 19th, Hertfordshire (where my family is based) was put in the topmost tier, ruling even that out. By Boxing Day, we joined them in Tier 4 and we were to enter another national lockdown in the New Year. The Christmas period was therefore spent at home, enjoying the frosty conditions outside, and doing yet more decorating!

New Year’s Eve was made a bit special as we cashed in the money that CloudBees was contributing to a festive meal and had a nice takeaway. Emma was then determined to stay up until midnight and we thought we should probably keep her company! As the year came to an end, I’m sure everyone had the same wish: that 2021 should be a better one.

Socially Distanced Summer

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

July continued in much the same theme as June with a mixture of online and socially-distanced face-to-face activity. The children continued to be schooled at home until the end of the summer term. Duncan even got to meet his teacher for next year (who is new to the school) online. The orienteering club continued to have online sessions on Zoom, including the AGM at which I was delighted to receive the “outstanding contribution award”! Duncan and I continued with PE with Joe until it stopped at the end of the term.

In the real world, Tuesday Night runs continued in the New Forest. It was pleasant enough sat in the garden at the Sir Walter Tyrell but the beer options were limited and served in plastic glasses. There were also regular visits to friend’s gardens for socially distanced beverages. Long walks at the weekends were another continuing theme.

In other news, when the dentist re-opened for business, Emma had her last child’s tooth removed at the request of the orthodontist. Sadly the orthodontist is not permitted to start any new work though so no further progress there. We also participated in a Covid-19 saliva test trial run by the University of Southampton. Over six months later, there are now plans to use the test at Emma’s school.

August brought the summer holidays. We were immensely thankful that travel to France was possible. Not because we had any intention of going, but Christine’s brother did, which meant we could make use of their newly renovated home in Cornwall for a week. (Just to be clear, it’s their only home!) They live away from the tourist hotspots which meant we could do some local walks away from the masses but, to be honest, even when we did go to the beach, there was generally plenty of space for all, although the lifeguarded area in the water was sometimes a little cramped.

We had one trip out booked which was the gardens at St Michael’s Mount. The gardens were lovely but it was not a day for lounging around on the terrace afterwards. We left the day Christine’s brother and family returned but we did spend a lovely morning messing around on the river with the paddleboards. We also took the opportunity to call in on my uncle in Devon on our journey home.

Having not been away at Easter, I could afford to take to the following week off although the excitement was fairly limited. The swimming pool re-opened but you had to book so I think Christine and Emma only went the once. It did mean that the children’s lessons resumed though.

The last week of August we de-camped to Monmouth although Christine and I continued to work during most of the week. We did a lovely (if wet at times) walk in the Brecons with Duncan that took in the horseshoe including Corn Du, Pen Y Fan, and Cribyn.

Back home, we booked the children into Clarks in preparation for the return to school only to discover they had no shoes that would fit Emma! They could, however, suggest what size and style we should buy online. Duncan had a day of outdoor activities at Woodmill which he enjoyed. Emma, meanwhile, went to Basingstoke to get an x-ray of her ankle. We’d given up on the NHS who offered Emma a first consultation in February and found a private consultant covered by our medical insurance. Sadly, he’s not currently operating out of Winchester, hence the trip up to Basingstoke.

Christine and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary although it wasn’t exactly the big family get together that we had originally planned. We did see Christine’s parents the following day as they passed through having finally picked up their electric car. A friend’s 50th birthday and a walk at Lepe took us to the end of the holidays.

September saw the children both return back to school and it was suddenly very quiet during the day with just Christine and myself ensconced at opposite ends of the house. It was great to see them fall straight back in with their friends though. They’d only been back a week when Emma went back to Basingstoke for an MRI scan and came away with an inflatable boot that meant she needed ferrying to and fro from school. The staggered start to the school day meant the traffic wasn’t too much of a trial.

I took Duncan along to a SCJS training session at Ash Ranges which was a welcome diversion. A mix up over dates did mean that we ended up going two weeks in a row though! Orienteering events also resumed with a SOC event held at Hincheslea. Forestry England constraints meant that we were limited to thirty competitors which was a shame.

One upside to the pandemic has been the rise of the virtual conference. I was given a free ticket to a GOTO conference which had some great content. CloudBees also had its annual DevOps World conference and saw a massive increase in participation over the usual in-person event. It was, however, also very nice to meet up face-to-face with the CloudBees Whitely crew for a sociable pub lunch.

Run some Pubs

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Just to record the event for posterity, “Run the Pubs” did take place in 2017. As in the past few years, we deviated somewhat from the original format in that the pubs we visited on the run weren’t all those that we visited during our Tuesday night runs in the summer. This year,
we even went to one pub that we hadn’t been to earlier in the year but it made a nice loop of around 15 miles. Unfortunately, the heavens opened towards the end of the run but it made warming ourselves by the fire at the New Forest Inn all the more pleasant!


Wassailing at The Vyne

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Wassailing at The VyneWe went over to The Vyne yesterday to meet up with friends. Unfortunately it turned out that the playground there is closed until 13 February but there wasn’t too much complaining from the children. Whilst everyone else had lunch, Duncan and I joined one of the gardeners for a spot of wassailing to assure a good crop from the orchard. This involved drinking cider (at least for me) in a toast to the tree, placing toast soaked in cider around the tree (to encourage the birds to come and eat any pests), making lots of noise (to ward away the evil spirits), and party poppers (which left the tree suitably decorated). After lunch we wandered around the lake and up in to the woods. Remarkably 20 month old Alice insisted on walking the whole way until she finally fell asleep within sight of the car park.

Look Out

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

The Look OutThe summer holidays are now in full swing. Christine and her Mum took the children to try out the latest summer trail and new wild play area at Mottifsont yesterday. Today, I got to join in the fun as we joined friends at the Look Out Discovery Centre, near Bracknell (familiar to many orienteers as the base for many a Star Posts event). We’ve not been in to the Look Out since it gained the Discovery Centre suffix but were suitably impressed as it packed a lot in to the small space. Indeed, despite having many of the same exhibits as Intech, they seemed to do a much better of providing short explanations suitable for children. The children particularly liked the ‘Build it’ exhibit and spent ages winding tiles up the conveyor and then sending them straight back down the chute! We probably also benefitted from the sunshine keeping the hoards outside. Despite being there for nearly six hours, we didn’t make it further in to the forest than the playground.

The Vyne

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

The VyneFor the second time this year we headed over to the National Trust’s Vyne Estate just the other side of Basingstoke to meet up with friends. As on our previous trip we were treated to lots of sunshine although there was a bit of a nip in the air for the first half of the day. There is plenty to keep the kids amused whether it is the sculptures scattered around the grounds, relaxing on deck chairs on the lawn, counting (toy) rats in the rooms of the house, the bird hide, or the imaginative playground. This time we also wandered a bit further in to the woods and enjoyed the bluebells and building dens.

Hoggs at Hursley

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Duncan, Katy, Emma and Ella at Farley Mount

Duncan, Katy, Emma and Ella at Farley Mount

Last week we had the pleasure of another weekend in the company of Andy, Nat and family. We met up at the SOC Summer Series event at Hursley. Nat had first run whilst Andy took the girls round the yellow and I went with Duncan. At least that was the plan. Duncan was quite upset to be going round ‘on his own’ and did his level best to keep up with the others, until they ran in with Nat at the end.

Andy and I then battled it out on the Light Green where I made the most of the home advantage. I don’t run round the site very much and it reminded me how lucky I am to work at such a beautiful location and how I really should make more of it (more play, less work!). Christine joined us after her University open day and we lazed around in the sunshine before relocating to the back garden and the paddling pool.

On the Sunday, Andy and I ran up to Farley Mount where we met up with the others, playing in the woods. The combination of the heat and an abortive attempt at all sleeping in the same room meant that the children’s tempers were a little short but everyone still looked to be having fun. We waved them on their way to Exeter, not knowing when we’ll see them again. Such a shame that there are usually 10,000 miles separating us!

Midsummer on the Gower

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Emma leads Katy and Ella out to seaLast weekend we’d decided to go to the Midsummer on the Gower orienteering event, persuaded Christine’s parents to go, and persuaded our visiting Australian friends and family to meet us there. Needless to say, the forecast for at least the first half of the weekend was therefore rain and strong winds. All the more fun given that we were camping! Our new tent (Vango Halo 400 – a lot lighter and quicker to pitch than our monster holiday tent) stood up to the challenge though and there was always the in-laws campervan to retreat to in search of a solid roof and walls.

The Saturday’s event was a fun 2×2 relay on nearby Whiteford Burrows. It was a bit of a trek down to the start for the kids but, after a slow start, the children were all eventually playing together. Christine and I formed a team. I quite enjoyed the short loops round the dunes and we finished in a respectable fifth place.

Unfortunately the rain returned in force as we returned back to the car but had abated again by the time we arrived at Rhossili where we regrouped with Andy, Nat and family and headed down to the beach. It was a bit windswept but in the shelter of the cliff we had fun building a sandcastle and the girls tested out the temperature of the water.

Children of DuneOn the Sunday, it was another short drive to Broughton Burrows. Christine and Nat ran first so Andy and I took the children up in to the dunes along with Vanessa and her two. The children had great fun taking it in turns to race up the dunes. And then when they were done with the sand, there was always the children’s playground handily located next to the car park.

I had a reasonable run. Not particularly fast through the terrain and my routes could have been more direct but no great mistakes either and I had my second fifth place of the weekend.

It was great meeting up with Nat and Andy again after so many years. It was the first time we’d met Ella and Katy and, being much the same age as Emma and Duncan, it was lovely to see them all playing together. Through their blog, I felt we already knew them so well (and you can find out what they thought of the weekend there!). We’re looking forward to meeting them all again before they head back to Australia.