Tonight, we watched Simon Armitage’s documentary on Gawain And The Green Knight, and it gave me the irrational urge to go trekking up into the Marches until I find a cottage in a small valley with thick woods. It reminded me that, a while ago, I was sorely tempted to walk the Severn Way, the long-distance path that starts in the centre of Bristol, running through the back of dodgy estates, past the chemical plants of Hallen and the nuclear power station at Oldbury, and follows the river north and west right up to its source on the flanks of Plynlimon. It’s 224 miles long with a net climb of about 600 metres, just under 2000 feet, which sounds like a relatively gentle 1:600 slope on average. Somehow though I doubt it would be a sensible idea for me to just set off walking until I get up into the mountains; I would barely get past Lawrence Weston before I started complaining of blisters or something.
Local news: today, incidentally, was the day that somebody found a severed human foot in a park in Bath. We are waiting on tenterhooks to find out where it came from.
Yesterday, the sky was black with cloud, wind driving rain through the city all day. Storm Imogen, apparently. I’m not sure I like this new idea of naming all our winter storms like hurricanes: Imogen is the only one this year so far to have made an impression on me, watching the black bare branches of trees thrashing wildly outside the office window. Before that, even: yesterday morning I was woken by thunder and lightning at 5.30am. Two hours before dawn seems like a very strange time of day for a thunderstorm.
Today, though, the skies seemed to be positively springlike, clear and blue, and I could get on with work without worrying the house would be blown down. I’m not sure work wanted to get on with me, though, as I spent a few hours chiselling away at a strange problem and making no headway at all with it.
So it didn’t snow. I was back on the railway yesterday, and everything went rather well. None of the equipment failed, I didn’t do anything stupid, and I didn’t drop any tokens, which is always my biggest worry. It was a relatively quiet shift; I sat in the big armchair with the coal stove roaring away next to me, handwriting a diary piece about how sitting in the big armchair with the coal stove roaring away next to me and the clock ticking on the wall reminded me of visiting my grandmother’s house on winter Saturday afternoons when I was small. I was the first person to arrive at the station; and by the time I left all the station staff had already locked up and left too, it was getting dark, and all the lights were on. Although it didn’t snow, it felt all day as if snow was potentially on the menu.
I do wish the children could come with me to the railway, but I doubt that getting them in the same room as a cast-iron coal fired stove is a good idea: it would result in severe burns and trips to casualty, if not a full-scale conflagration. It is a shame, though, that I spend all day working on the line and then am not home until after they’re in bed.
Today, well, we have a strict no-romance-on-the-14th rule in this house; so instead of doing anything special we went into town and did the usual mundane weekend shopping: new gloves for the children, some stuff from the craft shop; a new USB cable. The Child Who Likes Fairies has learned the word “gouache”.
Most of the intractable problem I was slowly chipping away at at work was solved, today. I suddenly realised that the vast majority of all my unsolved problems - and another, urgent problem, that an outside contractor had asked me for help with - were in all likelihood all just different facets of the same thing. It wasn’t, it turned out, the sole cause of all of them, but it was enough of a hint to clear most of them and give me the boost of encouragement I needed to sort out the rest.
I don’t mean to bang on about the weather, but I’ve been warily watching the forecast all day today. On Saturday I’m due to go and work on the railway, and to get there I have to drive 90 miles ending in a good mile of steep, twisty country lane. Saturday is forecast snow. I really don’t fancy driving there in that weather, and I definitely don’t fancy the risk of getting there, the snow starting, and being unable to get home again. Still, even if it does snow, it should be too warm and wet for the snow to stick.
In one way, today was a completely unproductive day. But in another way, completely unproductive days are themselves a good thing, if you’ve managed to relax.
We did get out of the house, at least, to go to the shop to get various staples. When the children walk there, instead of taking the pushchair, it does turn a ten-minute trip to the shop into a rather longer adventure.
After we got back home, The Child Who Likes Fairies decided a large plastic box was a boat for rowing across he floor in - not unusual - but also asked me to take photos of her posing in it, which is new. When I had taken a few, she looked through them and decided which she thought was best. “Better. Like it me.”
Lots of wind and rain today, rain being blown hard, the sort of rain that seems to be in your face whichever direction you are travelling in.
Went into town with the kids to do various dull things, like go to the bank to pay the bills, and pick up some firelighters ready for a turn on the railway next week - being February, I will probably want to get the stove going. The regular busker who only seems to play Nirvana and Green Day was in the Podium again, and as usual The Child Who Likes Fairies approved: “Like it music!” She has started introducing herself to other children when playing.
One of those days when everything seemed to go wrong at work this afternoon. Partly because of things I broke, partly because of things that other people had messed up before I got there, partly because of things that seemed to go wrong entirely by themselves.
For example - warning, dull technical paragraph ahead - I hadn’t realised that Visual Studio can cope remarkably well with slightly-corrupt solution files and will happily skip over and ignore the errors; but other tools such as MSBuild will throw the whole file out, curl up and cry into their beer. Visual Studio, whilst ignoring the error, also won’t fix it. Therefore, when git is a git and accidentally corrupts a solution file in a merge, you will have no problems at all on a local build, but mysterious and hard-to-fix total failures happen whenever you try to build on the build server.
Update, September 8th 2020: At some point I will write a proper blog post about what happened here, how to spot it is going to happen, and how to fix it, because although MSBuild is going away now we are in the .NET Core world there are still plenty of people out there using .NET Framework, and they still occasionally face this problem.
Has anything happened so far this month?
Work has been the sort of place when I get irritated, because of people approaching to ask stupid questions when I’m trying to concentrate. It’s at moments like that that I start to answer the questions undiplomatically, if not unprofessionally. No, I don’t know anything about the issue you are asking me about. No, I don’t mind if you rewrite the workflow in the ticketing system, because negotiating the workflow will still be an unhelpful distraction from actual work.
At lunch, a woman at the next table was showing her colleagues pictures of shiba inus she’d favourited on her tumblr.
At home, we have been rearranging the furniture. On Tuesday I bought a couple of safety gates. We had one across the door of the front room; now we have a wide one to go across the archway that separates dining room and kitchen, and a narrow one to go across the stairs. I am not supposed to refer to the stair gate as “SG1″, incidentally. With these gates, and with some rearrangement of the dining room furniture, we’ve been able to take down the front room gate, to give the kids free roam throughout front room and dining room. Of course, their first response was to rearrange furniture themselves, pulling the nappy box in front of the TV so they could climb up and scratch the screen of the TV with a screwdriver I’d forgotten to put away.
Not been feeling good in the evenings in the past couple of days: have been staring into space, scrolling through stuff on the Internet, and really not feeling like writing anything down.
I can tell you, though, that 30 years ago it was a Tuesday. I know that because Tuesday was the day my mother ran a judo class at my primary school. I didn’t do judo, but I had to sit in the corner of the hall and read whilst my mum held the class, because otherwise there would have been nobody to take me home. Sometimes we then had to walk home after the judo mat had been put away; sometimes one of the other parents would give us a lift. That particular Tuesday thirty years ago today, I remember, we got a lift; I remember getting into the car and being told, by the parent giving us the lift home, that the Space Shuttle had exploded.
As soon as we got up on Sunday morning, The Child Who Likes Fairies made it very clear what she wanted to do. “Museum! Museum!”
So, we headed into Cardiff, amazed at how quiet the city was. No more than five or six cars parked in the park-and-ride by mid-morning. The museum was, indeed, a hit, particularly the “Evolution of Wales” gallery starting with geology and the Big Bang then running through dinosaurs before ending the a fake cave of Paleolithic animals. “Dinos!” shouted The Child Who Likes Fairies and “Daaaaaa!” shouted The Child Who Likes Animals, running back and forth from the dinosaurs to the prehistoric marine animals and through to the mammoth and bison, then back again backwards in time.
There are always so many little things I spot during the day and think: “I must put that into a diary blogpost,” but when it comes to the time for writing things down, I can’t recall what any of them are. What else? We left the museum and walked around the city for a while, popping in the art supplies shop and various phone shops, looking to replace the one that turned into a brick the other day. I notice the site of the Ian Allan transport bookshop in the arcades, closed down nearly a year ago because of a rent increase, is still empty and untenanted even though the landlords have split it into two shop units. After we got home, at bedtime, The Child Who Likes Fairies could still remember what we had done: “Museum! Walk! Dinos!”
Today, back at work, was one of those days full of meetings. The longest meeting, however, was in The Tower, a board room way up above the rest of the building on a little floor all of its own, with panoramic windows looking out over suburbs and fields towards the mountains. As the afternoon dragged on the sun came out, its angle highlighting all the slight ridge-and-furrow remnants of ancient agriculture in the fields of pasture alongside the motorway, and just as the skies all turned blue the tower rocked, slowly but firmly, in the wind.
When I got home, I asked The Child Who Likes Fairies what she’d done today. “Go museum see dinos!” was still the answer.