Race To The Line.

The shed has been a distant threat for ages, first because of the build time, then putting it on hold because of my broken shoulder, then further delay until delivery. Suddenly it’s all happening. I’ve got the sand and gravel arriving tomorrow morning, then the shed is arriving the week after. I’m hoping this time tomorrow I’ll have a nice flat surface for the shed. It’s really hard to do with mud, I’m hoping the sand will make it really easy to level off. Then lay the plastic grid things and fill with gravel. That’s strong enough to drive cars over so it will be overkill for my shed. I can’t wait to have it up. The ‘having a new shed’ thing is going to be great. The ‘getting a new shed’ thing is a bit of a nightmare. Also, to add to my stress, when I ordered the shed their website has a link to some bank that offer interest free loans for a year to spread the payments. Why not? It doesn’t cost any more and it makes it less of huge bill. I think they make their money by people running up credit they can’t afford and paying the minimum payment each month so essentially just paying the interest. I seem to recall us being in that situation at some point. Got to say, lorry driving (and not spending all the cash on beer) has completely changed things in that regard. As usual, I digress. I was approved for the 12 month loan, ordered the shed, all fine and dandy. Then I broke my shoulder, the shed was delayed and the loan agreement went past 6 months without initiating, which apparently makes it void. So I had to re-apply. They refused me! I think my time on sick pay benefits must show up on the credit report. In the end I had to pay for it in one huge lump sump. That stung. Grrrrr.

Other news, which is totally splendid and has just happened as I’m typing, is I think my bike has sold. For the full asking price. It was lockdown that was deterring the punters. Some guy has asked me to hold it for two weeks until lockdown eases then he’s coming to pick it up. He’s sending me £100 deposit, which he’s totally not getting back if he backs out of it. So that’s brilliant. Yup, I’ve just got the £100. He’s coming for it the Friday after lockdown lifts. Excellent. Full asking price and not gouged for £250 by eBay! That feels good.

I’ve had a few little rides on my new bike and the acceleration is a hoot. For a bike that feels a bit breathless and vibey at a ton, oddly the second gear is good from about 5mph right the way through to 80mph! It’s basically a big rev-and-rip. So much fun when you want to overtake. Blip the throttle and it’s ‘prepare for the jump to light speed, mister Sulu’.

My shoulder is as good as new now. Still a bit oddly shaped, but I seem to have full mobility and no pain, so, job’s a good ‘un. The gamble on not getting the plate fitted seems to have paid off. Now it’s my foot I have to worry about. Again. 5½ months resting it. For nothing. If I follow the Trainer Road triathlon plan I can hold it together. Run one day, cycle the next, it hurts my foot but gives it time to rest. The trouble is the emphasis is on the cycling part in the plan. That is where you can make the biggest gains in a triathlon. Which is fine, but my triathlon isn’t planned until next year, and I’ve got a bunch of marathons and such planned this year. So I thought I’d try upping the running distance on run days. Being the fool I am I decided to do it on the long run day. And doubled it. On a hill course. Yeah, I can see the slight flaw in that plan now. I went from a ‘long run’ of 7 miles to a hilly half marathon. Which smashed my foot something fierce. I’ve given it a week and it’s back to being usable again, but it’s very discouraging. I have a marathon in two months, a 24 hour race in 14 weeks, and supposedly a sub 3 attempt in 5 months. With a foot that refuses to heal properly. Today I stuck to the plan, more or less, and did a 10 mile, mostly flat easy run. I threw in one mile flat out, just to see where my fitness and speed are after all that time off. 22 seconds slower than my PB. That’s not too terrible. The main thing I was pleased with was I was able to maintain flat out speed for the mile. When I uploaded my data it said my heart rate peaked at 100% of max and the training effect was “5. Overachieving”. (Keep it up and you’ll damage yourself rather than improve.) It sounds a bit negative, but that is the idea of the 80/20 training plan. You spend 80% in zone 2 (easy heart rate) and 20% in zone 5 (up to maximum heart rate). That way you build the endurance with limited damage, and improve your speed with short bursts. The good news is my foot is sore, but not feeling done in like last week. I’m going to try and nurse it through all this year’s events and then consider taking all of next year off. I’ll be 40 stone and very miserable but it will be worth it if I can cure the tendon injury.

Twitter has been making me sad. I quit my politics account as it was just depressing news and a constant stream of impotent outrage. I set up a running/ triathlon one to try to focus on better things. Even so, the tories are being so vile it’s seeping into, and poisoning, that account. In a week they’ve announced they are going full-on nazi and wiping out gypsies/ travellers, banning the right to peaceful protest, and blanket monitoring all internet history of UK subjects. They are introducing laws to seize all traveller vehicles that park anywhere they don’t like. The ban on protest is to stop Black Lives Matter and Climate Change demos. It will basically give the police the right to stop anyone (a single person is a demonstration) from protesting anything (if they feel it could “impact” on one person) with a further caveat that the home secretary is passing a law that allows her to arbitrarily change any of the definitions to any part of the law to make anything she doesn’t like illegal. Up to 10 years jail for spraying graffiti at a demo.

This was on a week that women were out holding a vigil of remembrance for a woman who was walking home and got kidnapped and murdered. They’ve arrested a copper for it. Before the new nazi police state powers have even gone to parliament the police, from the same police department as the alleged murderer, have gone all fascist on the women.

They had the gall to claim it was a covid thing.

The propaganda wing of the tory party, the BBC, fearlessly revealed the police state abuse:

And we heard the same BBC was killing off one of it’s most successful comedy programmes because it was critical of the government and not in line with the new pro Brexit jingoism that the state media has now to churn out. North Korea would blush.

That is the state of the nation. We are goosestepping into authoritarianism.

But what of the saviour of the the Labour party, Sir Keir? He’s a human rights lawyer. He knows to what unchecked police powers lead.

Until the women’s protest/ nazi overreach event went viral on twitter he had told the party they had to abstain on the police state bill. Everyone on twitter has been calling for the head of the Metropolitan Police to resign. Sir Keir has just come out in her defence. What is the actual point of him or his “Labour” party?

The only good thing, and the only reason I’ve not actually quit twitter all together is that the twitter outrage caused the Labour Tory to change his stance.

It has been making me sad though.

I’ve taken a decision. It’s cowardly, but I’m going back to the original purpose of my sports twitter account; sports and motorbikes. I’m not engaging with the politics anymore. It’s no better than Sir Keir’s ‘roll over and play dead’ school of effective opposition, but it’s my last shot at twitter.

OK, that was depressing. Moving swiftly on.

Work is pretty good. I’m getting my head around the multidrop nature of many of the local runs. I have 4 shifts again next week (so far). This week I’ve had 3 really good distance runs, which made the job so much better. And one local multidrop run. I was up at the top of the Lake District for two days.

Still fairly parky.

I’ve been going through my ‘weeks worked’, and I reckon from the beginning of April I should be on full pay parity again. If I’m still on 4 shifts a week I should be on decent money. The bike should have sold. Might as well use that money to pay off the last of the bank loan. We’ve already paid for the shed now. That means we’ll be totally debt free for the first time in many years. If I keep getting the shifts we should be able to save! Lots! Hooray!

I thought we were going to be throwing the money at Wendy’s planned facelift, but she’s changed her mind. The full job is about £8K but if it made her happy it would be worth it. She’s decided she couldn’t live with the thought of blowing eight grand on vanity while there are starving kids in the world. We pay tons to charities. She deserves to be happy. But now she’s convinced herself she wouldn’t be, due to guilt. Meh. Guilt fades, cosmetic surgery is good for 10 years. Do the maths.

Talking of ‘er indoors, she’s had her first really good day today. The pills are finally kicking in. That’s great news. I hope that means she’s starting to get better now. Being loony is the worst thing in the world. My sister had to stop taking antidepressants so the smoking cessation drugs would work, so she could quit smoking, so her dentist would fit a false tooth.

Not. For. All. The. Tea. In. China.

I’d have walked around without a tooth in my head before I’d willingly go loony again. Terrible, terrible.

I was falling into the same mistake as last time by trying to “help”. “Don’t worry about it, don’t even think of going back to that job, stay sick for as long as possible then quit”, etc. Exactly like last time. Idiot. The more you run away from the less you can face. My “helping” last time lead to Wendy being housebound in a state of terror for years. She has been calling it right. Go out each day. Do difficult things. Be afraid and do it anyway. She’s a trooper.

Some other good news, Wendy and Lisa have their vaccination jabs next week! Yay! For some reason I’m still in the “expendable” category, apparently. Ah well, I’ve had a good innings.

Twitter wasn’t all despair.

Ooh, also I’ve ordered some plug plants after Wendy finding a previous gloriously successful hanging basket picture.

Roll on spring/ summer, nice weather, and hopefully the end of lockdown and Covid.

Stay safe out there.

Buck.

typing practice

He awoke from death a little uncertainly. The sun was shining on the dew-damp grass upon which he lay.

He’d died on the pavement.

He cautiously looked around, not moving his head. Grass, trees, not a building in sight.

He’d died in the middle of a city. He had a vivid memory of the pavement covered in a spreading pool of his blood. His shocked face reflected in the shop front, a look of idiotic incomprehension as he cradled his spilling guts in his hands.

This was unbearably cruel. This hope. He closed his eyes and slowly, reluctantly,moved his hand down to his stomach. Stifling a sob he laid his hand on the gaping hole left by the bullet’s exit. His stomach was whole. Oh god, oh god. He opened his eyes and forced his gaze down. His stomach was undamaged! And he was oddly naked. He sprang to his feet and started patting every inch of himself he could reach. There were no wounds. He checked his pulse. Present.

‘This makes no sense’. It was his voice. The damp grass was still cool on his feet. He had a pulse. He was experiencing sensation. His senses were working. He breathed on his hand. Breath. Surely that means I’m still alive? But I can’t be. As an atheist he was was fighting really hard not to call this the afterlife. I’ve still got a physical body, a pulse, breath, all the things you lose in death. He was starting to freak out, he realised. Take deep breaths.Be amazed you can take deep breaths. The only thing he could think of was this was the last dying reflex of his brain, a comforting fantasy to ease him into the void.

‘That’s the spirit. Snatch despair from the jaws of miraculous hope’. He pondered the “miraculous”, and thought it best to move on. He wanted to soak up every second of this last experience. Drink in the colours of the sun rising through the trees. Smell the crushed grass beneath his feet. Suck every possible atom of joy and sensation from this moment.

What he really wanted, he realised, was a piss and some clothes. Maybe a fire. Coffee and an internet capable device. And wifi.

He turned around slowly, scanning the grass until it lead into trees on all sides. None of the above. No fences, or cattle, no smoke in the sky. Nothing to indicate he wasn’t the only person in existence.

Ah well.

He relieved himself.

He stood gazing around for a while longer, taking stock. He was fairly sure he wasn’t dead, any suitable rock would refute it thus. But that raised more questions. If he wasn’t dead, let’s go with that, he thought, if he wasn’t dead… well, everything. It was all a questions after that premise. How did he get here? Why wasn’t he dead? Where were the wounds? Where were his clothes? Why, if the sun was rising, was he getting colder?

He looked at the short grass around himself for clues. He was from the city and had no tracking skills, all he could tell from the grass was that it was short (who was mowing it?) without anything obvious like footprints or tyre tracks. He reasoned there was nothing further to be learned from staying here. Which meant he should move. In which direction? This was too much to ask of  the recently deceased.  He thought for a minute. Until he could find any answers or alternative he’d have to think survival.  Which meant his first priority would have to be water. He set off at a careful walk downhill.

Water, fire. Oh god, how to make fire? Flint, and tinder? Rubbing sticks together? He’d read about it and seen it on telly. He had never tried himself. Does it have to be flint? What does flint look like? What is tinder? Oh god, oh god. I’m going to die. Again. Then food and clothes. He was fighting a rising panic. He had no training or survival skills.  The grass under his feet gave way to roots and twigs as he transitioned from the glade to the trees. Shoes, he realised. Shoes are right up there on the to-do list. The land was still falling away in front of him so he gingerly walked on into the trees.

He’d been on walks before. In the country. Through woods. He’d never tried it naked before. Each footfall was uncomfortable, the branches scratched at his naked skin, and above all else he felt vulnerable. As a token gesture he snapped off a branch to carry as a club.  He supposed the usual fear of getting lost in the forest was entirely redundant when he was lost in a whole reality.

After a while he realised he was wasn’t cold  any more. He looked through the leaf canopy and was surprised at how high the sun had risen. He wasn’t thirsty, but he knew enough to be worried that he would be.  It got warmer still. Hot, even, as he cautiously walked on.

The sun had moved from overhead when he first heard it. Suddenly he became aware that there was no sound previously. No engines, no voices, not even the sound of birds in the trees. The only sound was his quiet breathing and the noise of his passage. And now this. He followed the sound. It was a gentle murmur that grew ever so slightly the nearer he got.

It’s water. It’s got to be water. Please let it be water.

The downward slope he’d been following started to rise in front of him. He turned around. One way was was slightly lower, so he followed it.

I’m in  a forest.  Trees must drink gallons of water. It has to be here.

A few minutes later the trees opened up in front of him and the noise grew to a distinct sound, that of running water. Stepping through the trees he saw water running over stones  thirty to feet to his right and splashing into a small lake, directly in front of him. As soon as his feet felt grass again he raced forward and put his face in the water. It was cold and clear, and tasted of hope. He drank fully, relieved to have overcome the first hurdle.  He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and froze. Suddenly he was remembering all the wildlife documentaries where the watering hole was a prime killing ground for predators. Trying to remain as still as possible he slowly reached back for his club. He tilted his head slightly to look in the direction of the movement. He lay still for a full minute, staring at the bank where he’d thought he seen something. Nothing moved. Everything was as still and silent as before. It was a good lesson though, he thought. I’m a naked man with a bit of a stick. I have to remain as stealthy as possible. He tore his gaze away warily, glanced into the now smooth lake from which he’d been drinking, and screamed loudly, leaping back. He looked around frantically, no change. He looked back into the lake. There was a naked man reflected there but it wasn’t him. Or more precisely, he realised, it was him, but he wasn’t him. He’d never seen the face looking back at him before. Or maybe he had, there was something sort of familiar about the face, but nothing he could put his finger on, and it certainly was not his own face.

After spending the morning musing on how he’d got here, where here was, and why he wasn’t dead, he’d mentally shelved his questions until he had something to go on. Now he was badly shaken again. He scooped up a hand sized rock from the lake shore, stared at the stranger who’s body he was wearing, shuddered, and set off again.

Keeping to the just inside the treeline he worked his way around the lake. From his initial position on the lake he’s seen something of interest. A golden, beach-like patch of sand amid what was all else trees. The nearer he got to it the less natural it looked. The edges were too well defined, too straight.  The trees grew all around it but there  were no twigs or leaves on it. He cautiously approached until he was stood a few feet from one of the edges and looked at it. It looked a perfect square. There were no containing walls it was just sand in a perfect square.

It made no sense, but since waking nothing had. He walked to it and placed a foot on it. After the stones and twigs is felt gloriously warm and comfortable. He stepped on with his other foot.

He awoke with a scream, thrashing about in bed.  He threw back the covers and patted himself down through his pyjamas. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, but no wounds. He glanced around the room but could make little out in the near dark. He fumbled and found a bedside light, which he flicked on. Most of the room was still indistinct. Next to the light switch he found a pair of glasses. He tried them on and the room snapped into focus. I wear glasses now. Oh. He got out of bed and navigated the unfamiliar room to one of the doors, opened it and went into the bathroom. He looked in the mirror.  Neither of his faces looked back.

OK, that just leaves madness. Which is marginally better than death. I can work with madness. He used the toilet, took time to enjoy brushing his teeth and having a shave and then a shower, before even thinking what was going to happen next.

Running water. Civilisation. The likelihood of food. And the distinct possibility of clothes. Hell, pyjamas would do. He studied his new face for a while. Thinning brown hair, possibly balding. Brown eyes. An average nose. Chin, teeth. Slightly too large ears, but they seemed to suit the face. Things could be a lot worse, he concluded. They just have been. Twice.

He noticed the flippant attitude creeping into his thoughts. It was, as Morpheus said to Neo, because he expected to wake up. He stared at the face in the mirror looking for answers. If he was so psychotic that he was having entire episodes surely he would just accept each state and not be questioning and incredulous? And no dream stayed so linear and rational, albeit with jumps from one body to another. Which left him staring at the stranger’s face in the mirror, no wiser than before. “Well?” He asked the reflection.

His eyes widened in alarm in the mirror. He sounded Southern. He had a mental image of himself sat on the toilet, crying helplessly.  He dismissed it as not helpful. Besides, he thought, he’d not eaten in two lifetimes.  He was turning away from the mirror when something registered on his consciousness.

Two toothbrushes. His head snapped back.

Two.

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Pyjamas don’t even come close to making up for this level of bad. How could he possibly deal with this? The part of his brain that wasn’t screaming in panic, or possibly a different manifestation of that part, was cursing him for never having watched Quantum Leap. “It wasn’t supposed to be homework!” he hissed, suddenly wary of making a noise again.

He crept back into the bedroom, alert for other clues.  A lamp on a bedside table on the other side of the bed. Some pictures, one a landscape, one a seascape with a sailing boat. Neither were to his taste, but he was the first to admit he wasn’t feeling himself at the moment. Perhaps they were to his new self’s taste. Either answer was bad. He walked to a wardrobe and pulled it open. Men’s clothes. And shoes. He picked one up, size 8. Not his then. Ah, but wait a minute. He slipped it on. Oh. He was an 8 now. He found some black trousers, a grey shirt, and some underwear and quickly got changed. Everything fit well so he was assuming it was ‘his’.

Now for it. He stealthily crept along the hall then down a flight of stairs.

Three Bikes and Work.

My cunning plan to sell my old bike to pay for the new one hasn’t paid off yet. I suppose I’m the only idiot who buys motorbikes in the middle of winter in a lockdown. It didn’t sell on th’ebay, and after I’d listed it I realised they want 10% of your selling fee for listing it! Say, £240 to sell your bike! I’ve put it on Autotrader for 6 weeks for £32. And Gumtree for free. I put it through the MOT without a problem, but then had to cancel the insurance on it to transfer my no claims bonus to the new bike. I’ve moved my old bike into the garden and moved my new one round the front. Now I’ve just got to wait for lockddown to ease and the weather to warm so the old one will sell.

I took the new one out for a quick blast as it was unseasonably mild and sunny the other day.

It’s not the prettiest of bikes, but it’s amazingly capable. I’ve taken the boxes off the back until I need them, you just unlock them and press a button and they lift off. I did a dry run loading the boxes. I can fit my proper boots, bike leather and layers in the side boxes, my lid and waterproofs in the top box. I am set! Roll on my first marathon in May. That’s down in Milton Keynes so it will be a good test. It does the luggage thing, it seems economical and comfortable. There is great wind protection so it’s not noisy. And it is a hoot! Unlike it’s engine donor bike, the banzai Fireblade, you don’t feel you should be winding it up all the time and getting peak performance near the red. This is especially frustrating as second gear is good for 90, so you thrash through two gears then have to back off the fun or lose your license. This one doesn’t need winding up. Whatever gear you are in you can just open the throttle and the acceleration will sit you back in the saddle. I was on a twisty country lane, patiently sat behind two cars, there was a small straight so I pulled out and opened it up. The bike just exploded past them like they were in reverse. It took a lot of the fun out of it, in a way. I can’t wait to ride it properly.

My third bike from the title is my triathlon pushbike. All I wanted to do was tighten the gear shifter thing in the end of the handlebars. I took the shifter off, tightened the nut, put the shifter back on, the gears had gone really stiff. Took it off. Reassembled it. Nope. Looked it up on the internet, tried again. No. I finally got the shifter working but suddenly it felt like I had an extra few inches of cable. I’d lost all tension in the gear cable. I have no idea how. Both ends of the cable remained fixed at all times, yet suddenly the cable is totally slack. Lots of head scratching. I took it apart several more times. Somehow I got tension back but the gears shifters were stiff again. Then the cable on the other gear shifter, which I hadn’t even touched, went slack. Enough. I know when I’m beaten. When the laws of physics cease to apply I give in and take it to the bike shop. I took it in this morning.

I’ve been having a clear out. I realised I had tons of bike stuff that I’m never going to use. I was just going to shove it in bags and throw it in the shed, when that finally gets here, but then I wondered why. It’s not stuff I’m ever going to use. The road gear shifters which I’ve taken off for triathlon bar end shifters, cycling shoes that I bought that were supposed to be wide fit, but weren’t. Workshop manuals for a bunch of bikes I’ve sold. Rather than hoarding it all I decided to sell it. I didn’t know how much to put the gear shifters on sale for, ebay suggested £35 so I went with it. They sold for £163! That bike really was a bargain. It turns out just the gear shifters are £280- 350 new!

I’m happy with that. Of the 12 items listed only 3 didn’t sell. Most of them were a tenner or so, but I’ve cleared some room and made some money. It’s all good.

I’ve finally dug out the base for the shed. It should have been a lot easier but I’ve been hampered by the sabotaging of moronic younger me. I’ve been cursing him steadily. The amount of plastic, metal, plant pots, basically anything I couldn’t be bothered to take to the tip or throw in the bin, that has been stashed behind the shed! And so much rubble. Young me threw it all behind the shed. Then threw all garden waste on top. Eventually it formed a decent compost, layered through with every kind of rubbish. Which has meant digging it out has involved pulling out sheets of plastic, digging around logs, sorting half rotted plastic bag bits out of the soil and separating all the lumps of concrete. It’s taken forever. If I ever meet young me he’s getting such a punch.

Dug now. Then I started trying to flatten it out and realised there is a 2′ wide stretch that runs across it that is pure mud. You tamp it down and it oozes mud. In the end I used all three bags of rubble I’ve not yet taken to the tip to firm it up. It just kept sucking the rubble under the mud. I think I’ve done enough for now. Now I need to tie some string around some sticks, make sure the string is flat with a spirit level, roughly level the dirt, put down the ground sheet, then it’s get the sand down, the plastic tile things, the gravel, and then collapse. I’ve still got 3 weeks or so, so I can pace myself.

Work have ruined my decadent 3 days a week lifestyle by putting me on 4 days for two weeks. This is good as I’ve just found out that because I’ve only worked for 8 of the last 14 weeks, I’ve not qualified for the 12 weeks pay parity. Instead of the £17.54 I’ve been on it has gone down to £12 p/h for the next 4 weeks.

I was looking at the pay chart for Royal Mail and getting a bit miffed. Overtime, £2.50 extra an hour? No Bank Holiday pay? 6th Shift at standard overtime rate? No paid breaks?

At Booker it was time and a third for overtime, time and three quarters for 6th shift, double time and day in lieu for Bank Holidays, paid breaks.

Then I did the maths. Time and a third, or time and three quarters is all about working over your 45 hours, and it’s multiples of £12.57. For a flat week of 45 hours Booker was £565 (with paid breaks), Royal Mail would be £700 (after stopping 5 hours breaks). Oh. Right. Fair enough. Not that I can see myself getting taken on any time soon. There are tons of agency workers before me in the queue, and Royal Mail is dead man’s shoes.

But if I can get 4 shifts for now, then 5, then all the hours I want in peak period, it could comfortably pay the bills. And if the only other company who pay like this (Home Bargains) advertise, I can have a go at that.

I was talking to Lisa about it. She’s on flat rate £8 p/h even if she works Christmas Day. That is criminal. Not that she is working right now. She’s still off with sciatica.

Lisa has a vent pipe from her tumble dryer that she puts out the kitchen window. To do that she has to hop on to the table. She fell off and has broken two toes on her good foot! Oh Lisa! I told her to get her son to do it, he’s young and is used to hospitals from his brief career as a biker.

Wendy is still poorly ill. There’s no signs of the pills kicking in any time soon. Poor sausage. She’s worried that if she doesn’t get back to work they could sack her. I don’t think there’s any danger of that, but personally I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. If she wasn’t working there it would give her the stimulus to try something else. While I was working at Booker I kept looking but I doubt I’d have ever left. Wendy’s the same but more so. Seeing only the people who’s plans have crashed and burned, non-stop, every day, has made her a bit negative and very cautious. She is scared to leave a steady job, however bad it is for her. You can’t put a price on sanity and mental health. I’d prefer her to be a happy lollipop lady than a loony debt advisor. It’s just not worth it.

Right, some Dino’s and bedtime.

First though, our hero, the human rights lawyer, people’s champion, the saviour of the Labour Party, Sir Keir:

Later,

Buck.