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the lockdown log 54


It is grey and cold again today after a brighter start. The greenhouse is working as the temperature was up around 40C earlier when the sun was out. The plants that I started out with last week have all come on leaps and bounds under glass and so I am very pleased with progress.

I had intended to weigh myself when I got up this morning, but I was about 45 minutes later getting top and forgot so I will try and remember to do it this evening before bed. I am always heavier in the evenings, but I do want to have a quick check on where I am especially after a lax Easter weekend as far as calorie control was concerned.

I did try to re-start exercise walking in the afternoons this week as the weather has been cold and windy with of which preclude some of the jobs I want to get on with, but on my one effort it snowed and so I gave up having only managed 2k. I am still getting in over 10k a day in the mornings any work though and have been filling in using a neighbour’s treadmill on days off. She is moving this weekend though and so that option is going to be closed to me. I don’t want to re-join the gym (even if it does open) and will rely on the weather getting better and allowing more pleasurable walks.

This morning I have done the shopping alone as The Berkshire Belle does not do cold outings and she stayed in bed whilst I went off foraging at first light. A three shop trip this morning; Lidl, M&S then Aldi, but we are shopped for the week. I will make fish pie tonight; we haven’t had that for a while and it will give us a second seafood meal of the week. As a confirmed carnivore I am getting used to moving away from red meat and these days a steak that is about half of the size of the ones that I used to eat myself will do the two of us as the protein content of dinner.

We are down to red meat about once a week now, not so much from trying to avoid it as because there are so many other things that we can cook and enjoy. Whilst we do have our routines around food, always having dinner at 6pm for example, we have never got into the pattern of certain meals on certain days of the week. We might make a slightly greater effort for our dinners Friday through Sunday and possibly try and do something special for lunch on Saturday and Sunday, but that is about it apart from our bottle of wine that we make last over two days, usually Friday and Saturday, and firing up the coffee machine for a latte on Saturday and Sunday.

Trying to keep variety in our meals is important to us and it is surprising how many different things you can do with 250 gas of mince or a couple of chicken thighs. One of the things that has crept more and more into our cooking is the use of spices and using them to impart flavour rather than heat. There is a lot more to a curry, for example, than bunging in a handful of chilli and some the best curries we have eaten have not been hot at all.

One thing that we two differ on is that if the Berkshire Belle enjoys her meal she will not go looking for extras, but if she has something that she does not enjoy the contents of the cupboards develop a strong gravitational pull for her. I am the opposite and if I have really enjoyed what I have eaten I have to fight hard to stop myself going after more, even if I know that I will regret it by overeating, but if I don’t enjoy my meal I will usually just give up and have no interest in a supplementary bite. Having had a nice meal going out to the kitchen to wash up can. be torture for me with all of the temptation around me and I will often just make a black coffee (instant from a jar) because it will fill me up to a degree.

Out in our back garden Mrs Reynard has three babies, not the two that I thought. She has the task of finding food for that family as well as for herself and as she entertains them under our deck for at least part of the day I am not sure what we might face in a few weeks time by way of unfortunate aromas. The last time that we know we had a fox family living under there it was before the council had introduced wheelie bins and we got back from an early holiday to find the back garden full of part destroyed bin bags. Nature is wonderful, but…

I am back on clearing out my upstairs office as it is too cold for concerted efforts outside. I thought that the purge of last February had got rid of most of it, but there is still more rubbish coming to light, most ion which begs the question “Why am I keeping this?” A lot of it is stuff that would be useful to me if I was still widely working as a consultant, but as I have largely given that up I really do not need this vast source of reference and so there is a steady pile of paper feeding the recycling boxes.Last weekend I read through one of my day books that covered the period October 1998 to November 1999 and was staggered by just how much I was doing and how far that I travelled to do it, despite a car crash (hit from behind) and a bout of diverticulitis. It brought back a lot of memories of people and places.

That’s it from me for this week. Stay safe wherever you are and thanks for looking in.

the lockdown log 53


The Berkshire Belle has had her second Covid-19 vaccination and is showing no ill effects beyond a bit of fatigue. All being well I should get the call for my second one soon as I was about 3 weeks behind her for the first jab.

The greenhouse is built and in use. As with some many elements of these jobs I am going through the anti-climatic phase now and fighting the urge to stop working on all of the other little jobs that need doing. It was not an enjoyable construction job and I had to push hard to make myself get it done, but four afternoons over last weekend and into this week saw it finished apart from a couple of cosmetic touches that I will get around to at some point.

More jobs loom though and the spurt of growth amongst the vegetation brought on by the warm weather of the last few days will drive my next priorities. One thing that I want to get done before things get too advanced is to put in the cabling for some garden lighting. I can wire up the lights later, but need to get a new cable from the junction box on the house down to the bottom of the garden fairly soon. These little jobs help keep my mind active and distract me from other things that I would rather not have to consider.

My blood test results came back on Tuesday and I am at the same level as 6 months ago. I am waiting for a call from the surgery to discuss, but the bottom line for me is that I have maintained my blood sugar levels below the diabetic threshold and so would like to get off the Metformin if I can. At the test this time I was not weighed in and nor did they take my blood pressure so I assume that they are not too bothered about either factor and that that is another good sign.

I have not weighed myself this week either. Last weekend I decided to let myself off the leash as far as food and drink intake was concerned, not that that means that I gorged myself, far from it, But I was doing a lot of physical work both paid and any home and so I ate to support that effort. As far as alcohol is concerned we shared our weekend bottle of wine as usual making it last two days and I did, on Tuesday, down a 500ml bottle of beer as a reward for finishing the greenhouse. Hardly a blow out and I have not had to loosed my belt off; if anything I have thought that I might need to open top a new hole soon.

With the holiday weekend coming up we might be a bit more generous with the food and drink. A second bottle of wine is traditional for us so that we get a glass and a bit each Friday through Monday. I am working every day except Sunday so it is like any other weekend to us. We will not get any visitors nor we will we go visiting so it will be js=ust us and the cats as usual. I will have a check weigh next Thursday just to see where I am and I will take it from there. Next week looks to be very cold again and that is not conducive to light eating, but the better weather is not far away and I will soon be back on salads for lunch. We have already started a policy of sharing a pear or an apple for afters at lunchtime and will try to keep that us. If it fends off temptations for a mid-afternoon snack then that is a good thing.

It is Friday afternoon now and I want to get this finished and uploaded before I settle down to cook tea (spare ribs and stuff to go with them, but cooked indoors; it is too cold for firing up the barbecue).

Take care all and stay safe, wherever you are.

the lockdown log 52


Well, that makes it a year and what a year it has been. Ignoring the plague, as best as I can, I am still working on the transformation of the back garden and am physically a different person. Mentally I am holding it together and do not think that I am any more, nor less, weird than I have ever been. Perhaps others should judge that though.

Tomorrow I go for my 6 monthly blood test and should know the outcome of that on Monday or Tuesday. I am hoping that my blood sugar results will still be down where they were last time and that I can reduce my Metformin dose or come off it altogether. I am not losing any more weight at the moment, but muscle build up may well be part of that. All of the heavy lifting and other activity that takes upon my afternoons is having a visible presence in the way some tee shirts are getting tight across the chest and shoulders (this time last year they were tight across the belly). I did have one moment of extreme hope earlier this week when I went for a weigh in before bed and the scales had me at 98.5 kg. I moved them to find an old fuse on the carpet beneath and they then gave me a more realistic 107 kg. Never mind.

My new greenhouse has the frame up, but I have found some other problems that need sorting before I finish it off. One of these is a couple of rotten deck boards that I will replace as soon as I can find the right sized timber and another is in dealing with my neighbour’s rotten fence that is now exposed. Project management was ever thus, but I will get there soon. Once the greenhouse is up and operational I can start work on some of the rest of what needs doing to get the deck functional again as a deck rather than a construction site. This time of year is one where planting starts and I am trying to get my head around the hanging baskets and what need to go into the areas that usually get planted with annuals.

Some of the management training and experience kicks in with this sort of thing and I find myself instinctively treating it all like work. I have a day book back in use for keeping To Do lists, sketching ideas, doing little for and against lists to help decide on problems and so on. I suppose that I did it for so many years it has just become second nature and I find that it does help me.

The skip has gone now so I am starting to get a pile of discarded or unwanted stuff that will had to go to the council tip soon. Most of the old shed is getting reused for various things and to such good effect that I might not have enough of it left to build the bench for the BBQ that I had planned on. I am a compulsive hoarder of things that might be useful though and may well have enough odd pieces of timber available. You’ll find out here in the coming weeks how I have got on.

I am writing this early on Thursday with the aim of getting the bulk of it written before nipping out on a shopping run around 0800 and then being able to get out into the garden for two or three hours before the rains that are forecast arrive around lunchtime. If I cannot work outside later then there are some inside jobs on the list that can take up my afternoon and then it will be time to cook dinner and another day off will be gone. I have some celeriac soup that I made last night for lunch today and tomorrow; just diced celeriac with a little garlic and about half an onion plus salt and pepper with water to make it liquid all whizzed up with the stick blender. I am not sure how it will taste, but it shouldn’t be too bad.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

PS.

The promised rain not only arrived early, but we had a couple of showers through the morning so no power tools in use outside today. A very frustrating morning in that, in addition to weather delays, my plan for the greenhouse would not work. A re-think over lunch fixed that and good progress was being made when it chucked it down and I abandoned further work to come indoors and study the greenhouse assembly manual to get to grips with the next couple of stages.

I may have been an interrupted day, but I have got a significant part of the greenhouse build behind me now. The rain may be a benefit in that, sitting here, I realise how much the day has taken out of me. I have had to indulge in some serious contortions as well as using a lot of physical strength, things that I could have done easily even ten years ago, but which are a lot harder now. A paracetamol beckons I think and then half an hour with the Revitive before I start to cook dinner. Sole tonight – looking forward to that.

My labours have been helped a lot, at least mentally, by wearing my headphones and getting the old iPod into action. I do love my music and find that it keeps me in a good place when all about me is not going so well. It was a big factor in keeping me sane during my 6 weeks in hospital a few years back.

See you next week

the lockdown log 51


Progress on the garden project is still picking up and, despite discovering a couple of things that need fixing that I had not anticipated, there is a lot of visible progress. All being well the greenhouse assembly will start any day now.

The exercise regime is slightly compromised by all this work in the garden, but over the last week I have gone through the 800 km (500 mile) mark for the year to date so I am looking god for over 3000 km for the full year if I can keep this pace up.

I have talked about some of my soup making in earlier posts and thought that a bit more on what I do might be off interest. I don’t pay too much attention to quantity as I am most often using up things rather than working to any recipe so I have put some photos below to show one of last week’s efforts.

The first photo shows a mixture of veg cut up ready for roasting. There is squash, onion and a white sweet potato ready for the oven and then the same tray after about 40 minutes on 160 in a fan oven. The final shot shows the results having been whizzed up with a stick blender. I allow the veg to cool before putting in a jug and adding water to about cover the veg before blending. I like my soups smooth and fairly thick, but you could just add more water or stock if you like a more liquid end product. I add salt and pepper before blending and then try the soup as it warms up before adding more seasoning if necessary.

The end product sometimes, as here, does not always look too appetising, but there is nothing in it by way of preservatives or additives; it is just veg and water and usually it is fairly tasty. A litre of soup lasts me a couple or three days. I make whatever I can with what I have; parsnip (usually with a dash of cumin or Garam Masala), red pepper with sweet potato or tomato, celery, leek. I try to avoid adding potato as I am trying to keep the carbs down, but eek and potato is a classic combo.

In the background of the middle photo is the start of a seafood risotto that was in production for dinner that night.

I don’t know what the calorific values are of my various soups, but they should not be too bad and they seem to work for me.

And so here I am one week away from a year of lockdown logs. There have been a good few times along the way when I wondered if I would get through this far. So much has been learned about this plague since we first encountered it and often what was first thought has proved not to be the case. As an asthmatic I was at ne time though to be more vulnerable, then evidence suggested that people like me have a better resistance to Covid-19 for example. There is still much to learn, but as the weeks pass science learns more. I feel much more comfortable, although nowhere near complacent.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 50


It has been a big week for me in that I have got a huge amount done. That all helps me feel good in general even if it does still mean that I have bad days or parts of days. We all do. For me though the issue is about how I react to how I feel.

It is so easy to just drop into a funk and do nothing. I am not that keen on what’s on TV these days, but I can read or just play games on a tablet or even just gaze at the ceiling. The problem with any of those things is that I end up feeling guilty about having wasted time and so I end ups feeling worse. For me the answer is to just do something; there is always something that needs doing and, if I do something, it reduces the job list a bit and I feel a bit better even if it is only because I have knocked off a few of the things that are hanging over me.

The same applies on those mornings when I wake up and don’t feel like working. Maybe my sinuses are playing up or my digestion is out of sorts or my joints are a bit creaky or I just feel yuk. There are dozens of possible causes, but I just get up and go to work. Skiving off might be attractive, but that is not how I am wired or how I was brought up so I get on with it. I don’t like the alternative because it is about self respect and if I lose that then I am not going to feel too good.We have choices and it is up to us how we choose.

Today is my day off as usual and the weather is grim with high winds and occasional heavy rain for the second day in a row. Monday and Tuesday were spend largely securing the garden for this bout of weather and tying a tarp over the skip to stop the contents going walkabout. Yesterday and today I have been camping in the garage sorting that out and tidying up. The old shed is two thirds gone and I am keen to get that job done, but taking the rest apart is not a job for days like this and so a bit of time working indoors is a welcome diversion and it needs doing anyway.

One of the benefits of spending so much time out of the house is that it takes my mind off eating and removes me from the pantry, ‘fridge and cupboards. With no temptation and my mind on other things it helps the diet along even if I am not over bothering about it. I have the appointment for my 6 monthly blood test set for the last week of this month and am hoping that the results of that will confirm that I have moved out of the diabetic spectrum. If so perhaps I can come off, or reduce the dose of, Metformin. Fingers crossed. Although I am not taking especial notice of diet I am trying to stick to keeping my carb intake down and managing portions. My weight is fairly stable on my weekly weigh-in so I am achieving a balance between muscle development from all of the heavy DIY and taking off fat.

My walking is closing in on 750 km for the year (over 460 miles) and so my thoughts of trying for over 3000 km walked by the end of 2021 is looking possible. That is just from exercise walking and does not include pottering about during the rest of the day. I am still finding that the Revitive works for me and have suffered a couple of time when I have forgotten to use it the day before.

Anyway, I have, as I said, had a good week overall and I can’t ask for more.

Stay safe wherever you are.covi

on freedom of speech


I was musing here the other week on standing up for causes and here I am standing up for one of my own; freedom of speech. I am, at this moment, fuming at the news that Piers Morgan has left the building over expressing his opinion on a certain interview. This is wrong!

I do not agree with Mr Morgan on many things. His views on the handling of the Covid problem I find appalling, but he has the right to hold and express such opinions. Just because I don’t hold the same views is immaterial: He should be allowed to speak his mind.

Rant over. Enjoy your evening.

the lockdown log 49


It has been a heavy week. The skip that I ordered on Tuesday arrived the next day and is now pretty much full. Three or four hours every day have seen a lot of progress and the garden, garage and my upstairs office all show signs of improvement and I am almost at the point where I can start to disassemble the old shed (some of it is already gone).

I am at one of those stages in a project where you move from one phase to another and there is a psychological effect. One the one hand you have the feeling that the one part is over and are thankful, but the next stage looms and can seem daunting. There is no respite, you have to keep going and it can be hard. That is possibly why I had something of a crash yesterday and was terminally depressed for most of it, l=almost on the verge of tears all afternoon and then feeling very ill just at the point where I needed to be cooking dinner.

The way that I deal with these things is twofold. Firstly I try to just get on with it; if I can do something that I can focus on I can lose myself in that task and, even if it is for only twenty minutes or so, it burns off the clock and moves me onwards. It also aids the other tactic which is my old faithful ostrich principle of burying my head in the sand. I just ignore anything that I don’t want to think about. Time passes and I get over these depressions.

It’s daft in so many ways because I should have been thrilled with the progress that I had made by yesterday afternoon, but I wasn’t. Things that I would normally brush off or treat as motivators just kept knocking the stuffing out of me. I could have packed up and just flopped on the sofa, but I felt that I would have felt worse if I did, not least that a sense of guilt would envelope me for skiving off and so I just kept going u til I was too tired to do any more and at that point the feeling of not being too well kicked in and as I though about how I was going to cook tea I just wanted to throw up. I told myself not to be an idiot and went into the kitchen to cook salmon trout fillets over a savoury rice and, by the time I was ready to dish up, I felt better. After eating I felt better still.

This coming week I shall have to get my finger out on the garden work as we have gale force winds forecast for Thursday/Friday and I do not want to leave anything too vulnerable. If the old shed is coming down I need to have it done quickly, but my neighbour’s fence is in a poor state and without my shed protecting it a high wind might see it fall down. That will be a problem for me even if it is their fence and so as soon as my shed is gone I will have to do a bit of reinforcement on my side so, again, I have to have all of that done by Wednesday or think about deferring it all until next weekend. Plands A, B and C are under consideration…

We are certainly doing better for garden birds at the moment. As I sit here at the dining table I have a blackbird quarrying the from lawn for worms, a pair of amorous wagtails chasing around the cherry and the hawthorn and a blue tit watching on. The starlings are back regularly through the day although their flock is around a dozen rather that the thirty or more that we used to have swarming around. The blackbird oil one of a pair and we also have a pair or robins that follow my earth moving operations with interest, They all provide enjoyment and I love to see and hear them whilst out and bout around the garden. My neighbour has tried to dislodge the fox that is camping under his shed without much success as it is still around and seen on a daily basis. It is not too bothered about me these days and will sometimes sit and watch me work for a while.

Stay safe wherever you are.lock

the lockdown log 48


With the better weather I have been so occupied in the garden that I am a bit behind on this week’s log and whilst the high winds of a week ago did not help I have got a lot done. It has been a good week.

A couple of weeks on from my Covid jab I have still had no further side effects since the thumper of a headache over the first 24 hours. Another week and I will be as resistant as I can be until the second jab comes along in May. I will be keeping contact with others to a minimum anyway, but hopefully the risk of suffering the worst effects should I catch it are diminishing. We are considering whether or not we might try to get a holiday towards the end of the year, but it is so hard to predict how the world will be by then. My gut feeling is that it will be another year before things are settled enough, but you never know.

On the diet front my lack of discipline has been shameful, albeit that I have not put much weight on. All of the physical work in the garden has had an effect that the Berkshire Belle has noted in that my upper body is showing signs of developing muscle and, as she has counselled, muscle weighs heavy. So a couple of kg up from where I want to be at the moment is, perhaps, not too bad under the circumstances, but it does not help when I eat three days’ ration of chocolate in 20 minutes as I did the other evening whilst cooking dinner. Yes I was very distracted thinking about what I was going to do next in the garden whilst trying to focus on cooking something that I had not attempted before, but I managed to eat three squares off a bar of chocolate despite having told myself that I could not have my usual one. Not a major catastrophe, but it does not help.

In exercise terms I am still walking at least 10 km per day on average and have passed 600 km for the year. In old measurement I am averaging 6.1 miles per day and am close to 375 miles for the year so far. With 2-3 hours an afternoon labouring in the garden in lieu of an afternoon exercise walk I should be during calories at a reasonable rate and, despite the slip(s) described above, I have not piled the weight back on. Working in the garden all afternoon does keep me away from the temptations of the cupboards as well so as long as I can avoid stupid consumption of treats I should have a fair chance of losing a bit more weight over the Spring and Summer. Roll on salad weather.

That’s it for this week I think. It is Sunday morning and I am part way through the weekly chores that we save up for today. Outside it is still freezing and foggy, although there is a sign that the sun will break through shortly and warm things up enough for me to get back outside and move some more things along there. So far my morning has not gone too well so I am hoping that the day will improve when the sun comes out.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 47


A week on from my Covid vaccination and I am feeling fine. About 2 hours after the jab I got a headache that got progtressively worse and so, after another couple of hours, I took 2 x 500mg paracetamol. That didn’t fix it, but it did take the edge off and I took another paracetamol before going to be at ten. The next morning there headache was still lingering and so I took another pill at 5 before going to work and the headache faded out over the course of the day. I had no other side effects as far as I can tell. Mine was the Pfizer job by the way.

Despite various extremes of weather I have been getting into the garden now and again. Just half an hour at a time does wonders both for the garden and my general wellbeing. It is also helping me get my mind back into ideas for how to get on with the work that I started last year. There is a lot to do and expectations from the Berkshire Belle are high so I do feel a little pressured. Still, I have a plan forming and if I can start to make visible progress she will be a little placated.

I am making a weekly trip out to do the supermarket shopping with the odd top up when I finish work; milk, bread and so on. Beyond that we are finding new suppliers on the web although not many of these are not too conducive to my diet. That said I am holding my weight static at the moment again having had a could of good weeks. Due to the weather I have not been taking my afternoon exercise and I think that the loss of that is compromising me a little, so if I can ease back into that it might help me. To get back to the half a kilo a week loss again will be nice and start me moving toward the 100 kg mark.

With outdoor work still curtailed somewhat I have been turning my attentions to indoors projects and have put up the new light inn my bedroom office, the one that I bought last year and then did not get around to using. I have to replace the four spot ceiling light in the kitchen now too as I have run out of spare bulbs and can no longer buy replacements as they are out of production. The new one should be available for click and collect on Monday so another electrical project beckons.

The days are drawing out and we have a lot of bulbs coming through. So far only the snowdrops are flowering, but the daffodils will soon be out too and, for me these signs of Spring are one of the things that I love about the seasons. Whilst OI have mentioned a lot about the weather disrupting my exercise and gardening we have had it very light compared to some and I am grateful for living far enough above sea level for flooding not to be an issue. We do have a heavy clay soil in these parts so there is some localised flooding, but only in small pockets and it in no ways causes me any problems.

Time for me to go and warm up dinner. I have a chicken casserole ready to re-heat and add a bit of extra veg to. Good peasant food and just the thing for a Winter evening. I hope that you all have enough to eat. Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 46


At home and back from having my first Covid-19 vaccination earlier this morning. A quick and efficient process over at Swindon’s steam museum saw me in and out in about 20 minutes, 15 of which was the required waiting period to make sure that there were no immediate ill effects. I mentioned to my boss that I was just going to chill out for the rest of the day and he suggested that, as I was having the Pfizer version of the jab, I should have a German beer so lunch was washed down with a bottle of Pilsner: no side effects so far.

I have a few chores to do around the house, but am otherwise taking it easy on the sofa. The weather here is cold and the wind chill is making it feel very cold. My neighbour left me use her treadmill (in her garage) this morning so I have got a couple of hours walking in without having too brave outdoors too much. My weight is coming down, another 1.5 kg lost since last Friday, so I am keen to keep the exercise up.

Not much else to report this week. The garden is frozen and there is not much that I can do for the moment beyond a bit of tidying here and there. Next week looks positively balmy by comparison and perhaps I can do more that just look at it all and plan what I can get up to in the coming weeks.

I shall have to drag myself into the kitchen later to knock up some soup for lunches tomorrow and Saturday. Probably pepper soup as I have three red ones available so they, with an onion and the last couple of garlic gloves, should make a tasty brew. Low in calories too and no additives so healthy as well as warming. I like cooking from scratch and tonight, for example, am making a Chinese chicken dish that the Berkshire Belle found in one of her magazines. We do still have cook chill food most weeks, but probably only once a week and everything else will be cooked from scratch. It takes a little longer, but not much.

That’s about it for this week. Stay safe out there wherever you are.