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Life event

London Marathon = Done!

I’ve posted quite a lot recently about running, but last Sunday was the London Marathon, so this will (probably) be my last post on this topic for a while.

I had three goals in mind when taking part:

  • Complete the marathon ✔

I’ve walked an approximate marathon distance before a couple of times (even ignoring my 75 mile epic challenge walk), but I’ve never run a marathon before. And this would be an official event with a timer and crowds, rather than just me on my own. So I knew I’d be able to cover the distance even if I had to walk it. It wasn’t in too much doubt, but I made it over the 26.2 mile distance on Sunday. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon without walking ✔

I know there’s nothing wrong with walking in a long race, and some people even recommend a walk/run method (and say it’s faster than just running). But I know myself and I knew that if I started to walk, I would never start running again. It was tough, but I knew that I had to keep trying to run. And I did. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon in less than 4 hours ✖

I finished in 4 hours 2 minutes and 58 seconds, so just outside my target. But three minutes over four hours/26 miles of running isn’t too bad. And it’s only my first marathon so I had nothing to compare it to. I’m still very pleased with what I achieved. And I now have a target to beat for my next marathon…

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Life event Money

Halfway there!

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post on how my student loan amount had decreased in the ten years since I finished university. My plan was to not revisit the subject on this blog for another 7 years until it was paid off (assuming I’m still updating it by then). However…

AS OF THIS WEEK I’VE NOW PAID OFF HALF OF MY STUDENT LOAN!!

It’s been almost 15 years since I started university and just under 10 and a half years since I started paying it off. I don’t have the exact numbers (because the website takes a few days to update) but I think I’ve now paid off £13,684.38, leaving me with around £13,371.67 to go.

(Note: some years have interest added monthly (where known), whereas other years only have interest added annually, therefore the slight increases each April can be ignored from the trends)

The next half should take much less time to pay off because that’s how interest rates work and also my salary is higher than it was when I first started working. Assuming that things stay the same as currently (interest rate and salary), I reckon I only have another 6 years to go…

And if you missed my previous post on what else I could have spent £27,000 on, you should go read that too.

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Life event

The tale of the bathroom light

Back in May, my bathroom light stopped working. The light itself worked fine, but (almost) every time I pulled the cord to turn it off, the lighting ring main for the whole flat tripped as well. Cue a call to the landlord who sent round the electrician who replaced the pullcord and the light fitting. Everything worked fine after that, although the extractor fan would sometimes turn off straight away with the light, rather than staying on for another minute or two like it should do, but I didn’t really consider that a problem.

And then I got back from a few days away at the end of July, turned on the bathroom light and the extractor fan just started making a clicking noise. What’s worse is that the pullcord then stopped working so I couldn’t check whether the extractor fan was a one-off or whether it was actually broken. Fortunately the light was off when the pullcord stopped (I mentioned showering in the dark in my recent post). I duly called out the electrician again and he replaced the pullcord again.

The extractor fan was working when he left (I don’t know if he actually did anything or it just happened to be working when he was there), but over the next couple of weeks it was very temperamental – sometimes it would turn on fine, sometimes it would turn on fine but then randomly stop for a second or two every now and then, sometimes it would just make a clicking noise, and sometimes it wouldn’t do anything at all. I decided that I could probably live with this and it would probably all work fine again when the electrician came. Then last Saturday I noticed this happening when I turned off the light:

It’s not the best quality video (blame the autofocus), but essentially after pulling the cord, the light flickers for about 10 seconds before eventually deciding to turn off. Strange, but again, it didn’t seem quite worth the hassle of getting the electrician out. That video was filmed at about 10pm on the Saturday evening as I went to bed. Three hours later I woke up to a light coming in under my bedroom door. Going to the bathroom I found the light doing this:

If it’s not clear, the light switch was turned off and yet the light somehow has power and is flickering (quite brightly)! I turned off the lighting ring main at the trip switch and went to bed, making a mental note to contact the landlord on the Monday.

On the Sunday evening I was sat watching TV and I could hear a dripping noise. The cold water tank sometimes drips, but this was louder and more frequent so I went to check it out. And then I found water coming in through and around the light switch pullcord and the shower pullcord.

You can’t really see the water, but you can see the orange stains left where the water was (the almost brand-new cord was white to start with!)

I instantly turned off the lighting and shower ring mains (I had turned the lighting back on so that I could have lights in the other rooms of the house). I then went up to my upstairs neighbour and informed them of the leak.

Skip forward a few steps and their plumber came round on Monday morning and apparently found a problem with the waste pipe from their bath. It does seem like there must have been some underlying reason behind all these problems over the last couple of months, so hopefully that was it and it’s now hopefully sorted.

The electrician then came to my flat yesterday afternoon but found that the wiring was still too wet to safely to turn it back on. Apparently they will need to replace both pullcords (again!) and the light fitting (again!). Hopefully he will be coming back tomorrow to do the work, but until that happens I’m sat in the dark and unable to have a proper shower.

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Life event

Double-jabbed

Last week I got my second pfizer jab. I booked them both as soon as I was eligible to do so, with the second around 11 and a half weeks after the first one. The only location listed when I booked was a hospital about 7 miles away. According to a friend, there were more possible locations if you clicked cancel and then reloaded, but anyway I had booked and didn’t want to change it. However, when they started to recommend second jabs at 8 weeks (rather than 12 weeks), I looked to see if I could change the location of my second jab. Which I did, with my second jab at my local council’s Civic Hall.

I thought I’d do a comparison of the two experiences:

First jab: NHS hospital COVID vaccination centreSecond jab: Council COVID vaccination centre
I arrived about 10-15 minutes before my appointment because that’s what times the trains were and I didn’t know exactly where I was going.
The signs said don’t arrive more than 5 minutes before your appointment, so I sat outside and checked my phone for a bit before wandering up to the security guard who just waved me through to the single reception desk.
I arrived about 10-15 minutes before my appointment because I walked there and I didn’t know exactly where I was going.
The signs said appointments only. There were a couple of people sat outside but I just went in anyway. I told the volunteer in the jacket that I had an appointment but they just waved me through and told me to follow the arrows.
After following several arrows and corridors to the main hall, the man on the door asked me if I had my card from my first jab. He then pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab and that they must have written it down wrong. He then told me to go to the third reception desk (out of three).
The woman on the reception desk took my details. She gave me a load of paperwork which I wouldn’t have time to read and then told me to follow the long corridor round. There was no-one else around and despite the woman calling “next” there was no-one behind me.The woman on the reception desk took my details and then pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab. I commented that they must have written it down wrong. She gave me a load of paperwork which I wouldn’t have time to read and then told me to go to the next set of desks.
The woman on the next desk took my details and asked a few questions about whether I had any allergies and such things. She pointed out that it couldn’t have been five months since my first jab. I commented that they must have written it down wrong. The woman corrected my card and told me to join the queue that was behind her.
I got to the end of the corridor without seeing a single other person waiting to be jabbed. I was then directed to one of the nine pods that they were using.A man directed me to join the queue of about 12 people before directing me to one of the three pods that they were using.
The man in the pod said “you must be Adrian” and then checked a few details and asked if I had any allergies and such things. I was then jabbed and he filled in my vaccination card and a piece of paper with a time on it and told me to follow the next corridor round to the waiting room.The woman in the pod checked a few details whilst the man in the pod did something on the computer. I was then jabbed by the woman, and the man filled in my vaccination card and I was told to move into the waiting area behind.
I was told to take any seat in the waiting area until the time on my piece of paper. I was then free to depart, leaving my piece of paper with the time on on the chair so they knew it had been used and needed cleaning. I left as soon as my fifteen minutes were up.I took any seat in the waiting area before being told there was a system and got moved to a specific chair. As the last person in the row, my time defined when the rest of the row could leave. I was allowed to leave as soon as my fifteen minutes were up. Everyone else in the row also had to wait until my fifteen minutes were up.
I got the train home. About 2-3 hours later, my arm started to feel a bit sore. The next morning it was very stiff, but by about 24 hours after the jab it was all back to normal. I walked home. About 2-3 hours later, my arm started to feel a bit sore. The next morning it was very stiff, but by about 24 hours after the jab it was all back to normal.

If I had to do a third jab, I’d probably go back to the hospital, even though it’s further away. Although that may just be because it wasn’t as busy. That’s a question to ponder for another day (if it ever happens).

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Life event

Duvet Day

Two weeks ago was Duvet Day.

Duvet Day, noun. The day at which I switch from using a duvet and duvet cover to just using a duvet cover.

Duvet Day happens every year, normally towards the beginning of June. When it gets too hot overnight for a full duvet, I switch to just using the duvet cover by itself. There’s normally a delay between the temperature increasing and Duvet Day, mainly because removing a duvet from its cover is awkward, as everyone knows.

Yesterday was Re-Duvet Day.

Re-Duvet Day, noun. The day at which I switch from using just a duvet cover to using a duvet and duvet cover.

Re-Duvet Day happens every year, normally towards the beginning of September. When it gets too cool overnight for just a duvet cover, I return to using a duvet inside the cover. There’s normally a delay between the temperature dropping and Re-Duvet Day, mainly because inserting a duvet into its cover is awkward, as everyone knows.

But this year is one of those with an early Re-Duvet day as the temperature has dropped early. Here’s a graph showing the temperature this month:

(Taken from Accuweather)

The first half of this month (bar the 4 June) has been well above the average temperature for this time of year. However the last few days have been far below average, hence the return to a duvet. It does look like the temperature is rising again, and I’m sure there will be a second Duvet Day in the next few weeks. Until then though, it’s back to my trusty 4.5 Tog.

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Life event

Challenge (partially) complete!

I did it. Well, partially did it. Remember the challenge to walk 100 miles in 48 hours? Yeah, I didn’t completely do that. But I did walk 75 miles continuously and in doing so I did achieve the secondary target of walking 50 miles in 24 hours. At triple the distance of my previous longest walk (27 miles), I’m very happy with what I did achieve.

Here’s three things I learnt:

  1. 100 miles is a very long way to walk
  2. 75 miles is also a very long way to walk
  3. Eating a pot noodle without a t-shirt on isn’t the best idea (it’s quite splashy)

Here’s three things I’ve done since finishing the walk:

  1. Slept for 11 hours
  2. Washed all my walking clothes
  3. Realised I’d left my earphones in the pocket of my walking trousers (they’re actually fine)

Here’s three things I should have done since finishing the walk (but haven’t):

  1. Fully unpack my backpack
  2. Clean the mud off my walking poles
  3. Put some effort in to writing a blog post about it
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Life event

Self-isolation, epilogue

Last week I described how I was forced into self-isolation. Today I look back at the experience…

And really there’s actually not much to talk about. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’m aware that I only had to do it for 8 and a bit days.

I did have a mild cough for a few days, but I got tested and that came back negative, so I definitely didn’t have COVID last Monday at 1pm. It’s possible I developed it at another point in the week but remained symptomless, or I just never caught anything in the first place. Either way, there was no reason to extend my self-isolation beyond the initial period.

If I had known it was coming I’d have stocked up on food beforehand, but I did already have enough for a few days. I did get some food (and a couple of other things) delivered during the week, so that all worked out for me not to have to leave my house.

And I’m probably introverted enough that I didn’t mind not seeing any real people for 9 days, although I did have various (work and personal) phone calls/text chats/video chats throughout the time so I wasn’t completely disconnected.

And I was planning to work from home all last week anyway, so it was actually quite fortuitous. If it had been this week, it would have been much more awkward to work from home. So that worked out.

The only thing I did miss was being able to go outside to exercise. I normally go running every couple of days, and this along with my walk to work normally brings me up to the target 10,000 steps. However, being stuck at home my step count rarely got above 500 (if I even bothered to wear my watch). And having not done any exercise, I found my body wasn’t tired at bedtime so it was harder to sleep (much to my brain’s annoyance).

But that was my only real issue with having to self-isolate. But I do hope that I don’t need to do it again.

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Life event

Self-isolation

I was travelling home from work last Thursday evening, when a notification from the NHS COVID-19 app alert popped up on my phone:

Self-isolate for 9 days
The app has detected that you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Please stay at home and self-isolate to keep yourself and others safe.

According to the information, I had come into contact with someone who had coronavirus last Saturday (i.e. five days earlier) and now had to self-isolate for the next nine days. The app registers contact at either less than 2 metres distance for at least 15 minutes, or less than 1 metre distance for at least 1 minute. So it should be easy to work out?

Last Saturday, I was in the office (and was the only person there) so I definitely didn’t pick up anything there. It could have been in the pizza place that evening (but I was the only customer and wasn’t there for long). So it was most likely on my way into or back from the office.

The journey into the office on Saturday wasn’t very exciting, and it could have easily been then as my train journey is over the 15 minute criterion. The train wasn’t particularly busy, but I could have been sat within 2 metres of someone.

The way back home was more exciting (although of course that doesn’t make it more likely) as I had to go via London Bridge. I had timed it badly for the train from Charing Cross station, so decided to walk over to Waterloo East and catch the next train from there.

View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge on a cold foggy Saturday evening

That was possibly a mistake because the South Bank was crowded as it seemed to be the only central London location that was serving food or drink. There were hundreds of people stood around and definitely not social distancing. But I was just walking through, so even though I may have had to come fairly close to some people, it would have been for way less than the requisite 1 minute period.

Having also timed it really badly for Waterloo East station, I then decided I may as well just walk to London Bridge. I took the back streets for this which were much quieter. I would have easily been social distancing for this walk, so it’s unlikely I would have triggered the app in this part of the journey either.

The Shard on a cold foggy Saturday evening

I then had to wait around on the platform for about 5 minutes before the train. This would have met the 1 minute time period, but I was social distancing so that wouldn’t have been it. But then I was on the train for longer than 15 minutes. It wasn’t particularly busy, and I don’t think I was sat less than 2 metres from anyone. So I don’t think that was it either, but again, it could have been.

So I’m not sure at what point I broke the 1 metre 1 minute/2 metres 15 minute rule. But maybe at some point that day I did. At least the app thinks so anyway. Only another three days to go now anyway…

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Life event

Run Along

Towards the end of August, I felt like I was in a bit of a rut and wanted to do something different. Chatting to a friend, he had read about a challenge to run 5km every day in September and suggested we both do it. He obviously ended up not even starting the challenge, but I did. And I finished it. (And I roped in my two brothers too along the way.) Here’s my thoughts on it:

Variety – Even before I started I knew that I would want some variety – variety in when I ran, and variety in where I ran. In the end, this turned out to not be so much of a problem due to my changing work schedule over the month, including being away for two of the weeks.

Planning routes – The challenge was to run at least 5km per day. I was thinking of doing some significantly longer runs in there too, but in the end I decided against this. I generally aimed to have runs between 5.1 and 5.5km in length since the GPS sometimes cuts off bits so I wanted to make sure I definitely hit the 5km and target, but didn’t want to exceed it needlessly. Having decided I would do a different route each day, this meant a lot of time spent planning where to run. My ideal route would be a single loop, starting and ending at the same point. I reckon I spent about 1 minute of planning a route for every 5 minutes of actual running. This obviously depended on the route, but some routes were much more complex. I also needed to have backup sections that I could add on if I hadn’t reached the 5km target when I thought I would (which did happen a couple of times). Only twice did I do an “out-and-back” run when I ran for 2.5km and then turned around.

Distance – My total distance for the month was 156.77 km, which averages out at 5.23 km per day. My longest run was 5.66km whilst my shortest was 5.02km, but otherwise they mostly all fell into the 5.1-5.5km range.

Speed – My total running time for the month was 14 hours, 33 minutes and 10 seconds, with an average of 29 minutes and 6 seconds per run. But since the distances varied slightly, and the terrain and the routes varied every day it’s not possible to realistically compare them all. For example, one of the days I ran through a woodland at night time without a torch, so spent most of the run waving my arms in front of me to make sure I didn’t run into a tree. Knowing that I would have to run every day, I deliberately ran at a pace that was comfortable, rather than going full out (“marathon not a sprint”). Since none of my runs were races, there was also no incentive to actually run fast. My fastest run was one of the “out-and-backs” along a straight country road, which shows that turning corners and crossing other roads slows the pace down. My fastest run was on the final day, probably because I knew it was all over and I knew I didn’t have to run again the next day. [That’s what happens when you write a blog post with three days of activity left to do.]

Anyway, here’s it all plotted on a slightly complicated graph:

As can be seen, there’s not much of a trend across the month in terms of distance or time, other than a slightly above average length run is often followed by a slightly below average length run. The speed has also stayed fairly consistent across the month, although there is a potential increase towards the end of the month. This is probably because I knew what I was in for towards the end so I knew I could go a bit faster without having to pace myself for another 20-something days.

The hardest part wasn’t actually the running though. The hardest part wasn’t even finding the time to go for a run each day. The hardest part was probably actually having the motivation to go out running again each day. The weather was never particularly bad and the sunset/sunrise times were still reasonable, but it was sometimes a struggle to want to run again. Generally though, once I had started running it didn’t feel as bad.

Now that I’ve achieved this, am I pleased? Yes. Although I feel that I’m more pleased that I don’t have to run tomorrow. Was this the different thing in my life that I was looking for? Probably not, but it was fun to try. Will I do it again? No. Well, maybe. At least not until this is so far in the past that I’ve forgotten about how painful it was.

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Life event

Lightning Strikes Twice

I was planning to write the first part of this post at some point, but the second part is not what I wanted to write…


Back in January, I was out walking near Stonehenge in some fairly heavy rain. I had my waterproof jacket and trousers on and was feeling nice and dry. I stopped to took the occasional photo on my mobile, but otherwise it stayed in my trouser pocket, underneath my waterproof trousers.

When I got back to my hotel, I noticed the phone battery was low (not surprising since I’d had the GPS on all day), so I put it on to charge whilst I went off for a shower. When I returned, it had got itself stuck in a loop where it was turning on, coming up with some problem and then restarting again. It was also having problems charging and whatever I did, I couldn’t get it to start up again.

I do have mobile phone insurance which I have had to use once before. For a long time I was considering cancelling it as I hadn’t used it for so long, but fortunately I hadn’t gotten round to it yet. Unfortunately though, my BlackBerry Key2 wasn’t saveable, and even more unfortunately, as a non-mainstream phone, they couldn’t send me a direct replacement. I chose the cash replacement option and went off to get a more up to date Samsung S10 Lite.


Fast forward to this week, and on Monday I was heading home from work. Shortly before I got off the train, there was a very heavy downpour of rain which showed no signs of stopping (and didn’t for a couple of hours). Having learnt from my previous experience, I put my phone into the pocket of my waterproof jacket and didn’t think any further about it (although you can probably see where this is going…)

I was using my phone all evening, and it was only shortly before bed when I noticed that there was some condensation around the camera lenses. I turned the phone off and put it in a bag of rice to get the water out (as recommended on the internet).

The next morning I returned to my phone, and yes, it had worked and was now dried out. Unfortunately, it also wouldn’t turn back on again. I do wonder whether it would still work if I’d just left it on, or whether it would eventually have stopped working anyway as the insides dried out.

Either way, I’m glad that I still have the mobile phone insurance. After not needing it for over 5 years, I’ve now used it twice in eight months. Are mobile phones more susceptible to water damage now? Is the rain worse than it used to be? Am I just outside more? Whatever the answer, I’m back to the olden mobile phone-less days* until I find out whether my phone can be repaired or needs to be replaced again.

(*I am using an old phone temporarily, but I’m not planning to actually install any apps on it as it is, hopefully, just temporary.)