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Discussion

Walking From Home

Last week I walked the 125 miles of the North Downs Way (the southern route). Because of lockdown restrictions, there’s currently no accommodation available so I couldn’t do it as one long continuous trip. Instead what I did was to get the train to the start, do a day’s walk to finish at another station and get the train home. The next day I got the train back to where I started and repeated until I got to the end of the walk. I did the same thing last year when walking the Vanguard Way.

Previously though, I have walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Cleveland Way stopping off at hostels and B&B’s on the way (although camping could be an option for future walks). I thought I’d do a comparison of the two approaches. (Note: I’m talking back-to-back walking days here, rather than some walks like the London Loop where I’ve just done sections on random days over a number of months/years.)

Walking distances

Both methods have similar problems in that a walk can only start or stop at a suitable point, whether that’s accommodation or public transport within a reasonable distance of the path. The accommodation or transport options also needs to be reasonably spread out throughout the length of the route with no large gaps. Ideally there should also be multiple options. This is probably the hardest part of planning a walking itinerary.

Winner: Tie

Flexibility

Once the accommodation is booked, the route is pretty much fixed. It could be possible to adjust or rebook, but this would have knock-on effects on other overnight bookings. However, unless train tickets are booked in advance, the transport approach provides a much more flexible option. For example, last week on the North Downs Way, my legs were sore and I decided last minute to take a rest day halfway through the week. This was fine as I hadn’t pre-booked anything. Another day, I chose to walk further to the following station because I knew the next day would be wet and I could then walk less far in the rain. That’s just not an option with fixed accommodation (although it does rely on their being a “next” station to walk to).

Winner: Transport approach

Carrying

With the accommodation approach, everything for the whole walk has to be carried for the whole walk, even if it won’t be needed until the last day. With the transport approach, things can be left at home if they won’t be needed that day. For example, there was a wet day last week when I decided there was no point carrying sun cream. I was however grateful that I kept my waterproofs on the “sunny” day as a surprise thunderstorm would have caught me out otherwise. Walking with less weight is definitely a good thing.

Winner: Transport approach

Cost

Accommodation can be expensive. There’s also the additional cost of meals (normally in a local pub) and beers (why wouldn’t you, if you’re already in a local pub?). However, trains are also surprisingly expensive, especially when you have to get two a day, and you probably can’t get a return ticket because the return journey is the following day. It’s probably not as expensive as accommodation, but it does all add up.

Winner: Transport approach (just)

Time

When you have to add on two hours in the morning to get to the start of the walk, and two hours at the end of the day to get home again, there’s no way that the transport approach is going to do well here.

Winner: Accommodation approach (easily)

Convenience

As well as being able to leave things at home on days when they’re not needed, there are other benefits to staying overnight at home. You can sleep in your own bed. You can do laundry. There are downsides though. All the usual household tasks such as cooking and washing the dishes are all still there. It definitely isn’t as much of a break as being away from home. On balance though, being home is a good thing (although some accommodation can be quite nice too).

Winner: Transport approach

Distance from home

Whilst the transport approach could be used for any walk, there’s only a reasonable distance that can be travelled every day. I guess it could be possible to operate from a friend/family member’s house or to rent a holiday home, but then that’s not what I’m comparing here. The accommodation approach can be used geographically anywhere (assuming there is accommodation available).

Winner: Accommodation approach

Other

I mentioned it already, but visiting local pubs is one of my favourite things of doing a long-distance walk. Whilst I could stop off at pubs on the walk itself (which I have done once or twice), I’m really talking about going for a meal (often a pie) and a pint in the evening once the walk is done. Especially in some of the more remote pubs, there’ll often be other walkers around who you can compare journeys with, or local people who will want to share some of their local knowledge. You just don’t get that when you’re spending the evening on a train and then in your own house.

Winner: Accommodation approach

The other part of being at home is having to leave again the next morning, knowing that whilst you have been at home, you haven’t really had much free time there, and it’s quite an effort to force yourself to go out again first thing in the morning day after day. It’s not impossible to do, but it’s not a problem I’ve ever found when staying away from home.

Winner: Accommodation approach

Results

On my fairly arbitrary scoring system, it’s a tie between both approaches! (I may have fixed it slightly.) But I think that both options have their advantages. I personally think I prefer the accommodation approach, mainly because it feels like more of a break as it gets away from home more. But I’m not ruling out doing another walk from home in the future.

What do you think? Have I missed anything out from either of these comparisons? Have you tried either of these? Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Basil Faulty

Sorry, that was the best pun-based title I could come up with, let me know in the comments if you can think of a better one.

Anyway, this is my basil plant…

The last leaves fell off this week, and whilst the top still looks slightly green, I’m pretty sure it’s dead now (or at least not going to recover from its current predicament).

I think I’ve had this basil plant for around 5-6 years, although it’s not produced any leaves worthy of being used in any recipes for the last couple of years. I bought it from a supermarket, and when it grew too big for its original pot, I replanted it into a bigger one. When it grew too big for that, I split it into two different pots. (Technically I guess it was several plants, but it all came in one original pot, so I’m calling it one plant.) The other pot died about a year ago, just leaving this one. I’ve trimmed the bits off as they’ve died, leaving the last remaining ridiculously long stalk. It’s often been appearing to die out before new branches spring up, but this time I think it’s actually the end (it’s never lost all it’s leaves before).

My cooking book advises that basil has a lifespan of “a few months”, so it’s done surprisingly well, although as I said, it’s not been useable for cooking for a while. It also says that it should be watered “in the morning”, but I don’t think I’ve ever specifically done that. I never know how often to water it, so I think it fluctuated between over-watered and under-watered, but maybe that balance helped it out. (The book also says that if it flowers, the plant is about to die, but mine has flowered multiple times.)

Sadly that’s the end of this basil plant. It’s survived far longer than expected (including the great fungus gnat infestation of 2017), but it’s literally outlived it’s usefulness now. At some point I’ll buy a replacement, but until then, I’ll just have to look back on the great memories we shared…

Categories
Pondering

Return to sender

One of the things about moving house fairly often (and in rented accommodation at that) is receiving post addressed to previous residents. I normally just stick it back in the post box with “return to sender” on it and eventually the post for the previous residents dries up. I’ve now lived in my current place for almost three years, so I was surprised when this week I got three pieces of post all addressed to a name I hadn’t seen before.

I do have new neighbours upstairs from me and possibly new neighbours across the corridor (this is London, of course I don’t know my neighbours). Two of the pieces of post were about over 50’s life insurance (although they were from the same company), and I’m sure that none of my (new) neighbours meet that criteria.

There have been a few times recently when takeaway delivery drivers have tried to give me food that’s meant for a neighbour, even though the address they have clearly isn’t mine (it’s the same flat number, but the next block over, which is even a different postcode). [It’s not every delivery, just some takeaways, so whatever takeaway app this is really needs to sort out their database/mapping. It’s tempting just to accept the food, but I haven’t done. Am I allowed to knowingly accept a wrong food delivery?] But these letters are definitely addressed to my flat and are being delivered by the normal postperson. They’re just not addressed to a person who currently lives here.

Which brings me to three possibilities:

  • There was a previous, previous(, previous?) resident by this name who has recently turned 50, or whatever age you have to be get letters about over 50 life insurance, and this has triggered companies sending him post again.
  • One of my (new) neighbours has put the wrong address on something they’ve signed up to and some of their items are going to me by mistake.
  • There’s a 50 year old man sharing my flat with me who I never knew about before.
Categories
Lessons from the lockdown Money

Returning to normal?

I did three things this week that I haven’t done for a long time.

Firstly, I went to the pub for the first time since 15th October. Secondly, I went to the barbers for the first time since 13th October (a 183-day wait for a haircut compared to the 166-day wait between January and July last year). And thirdly I had to get cash out from a cash machine.

This is the first time I’ve had to get any cash out since December. I’ve not had much reason to spend cash though as the only thing I’ve had to buy with cash recently has been the occasional takeaway place that doesn’t take card. However the barber only takes cash and it’s easier to split a group beers bill with cash.

I’ve found all the times I’ve taken out cash over the last couple of years and plotted it into a graph:

The orange dots show each date I’ve taken out cash, whilst the blue line shows the amount averaged by the number of days until I next took out money (I don’t always take out the same amount each time but averaging it should make it comparable). The massive spike in December 2019 is for Christmas meals, because as I said, it’s always easier to sort group events with cash. And that was the last time I had any great need for cash.

Since then, my cash usage has dropped off massively and has been practically non-existent over the last few months. Maybe the cash usage will pick up again as things start to open up again and we can be more social, but maybe the days of using cash are over (other than for occasional beers and haircuts).

Categories
Discussion

Missing

I completed this new straight-out-of-the-box jigsaw at the weekend.

Van Gogh – Sunflower jigsaw

I say completed but it’s clearly missing three pieces. Either, it was already missing three pieces when I opened it, or I’ve managed to lose three pieces.

I’ve had a quick look on the floor but I’ve not been able to see any obvious pieces. My living room is a bit of a mess (I’ve not had any visitors for over a year), so they could easily be underneath something. But I would have thought I would have found at least one of them.

If I have dropped them, I’m sure they’ll turn up sometime. But this jigsaw is taking up valuable real estate on top of my table. How long do I leave this mostly assembled jigsaw in place, hoping that these three pieces will turn up?

Categories
Miscellaneous

Another challenge

This post is the second part to last week’s post, but you don’t have to have read that one first (or at all if you really don’t want to). It was just too long for one post.

But as a reminder from last week: “When lockdown came back in January, I started to think of ways that I could challenge myself and make things more interesting. I came across two physical challenges on the internet. I haven’t done either of them, but because this is the internet I’m still going to talk about them.”


What’s the challenge?

The challenge is the 4x4x48, or to run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. Essentially it works out as 12 runs, covering a total of 48 miles over two days with very little sleep in between each. It seems to be popular with (some) ultra-marathon runners.

What did I do?

I’ve never run 48 miles before, in fact my longest run is about 14 miles. And I’ve never run overnight before either. My brother and I agreed to do a practice 24 hour session together (virtually). We debated how far we should run each time and eventually settled on a 3x4x24 (3 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours, for a total of 18 miles).

What did I learn?

The first thing I learnt was not to do this two days after having walked 25 miles. The first couple of runs were a bit sore but it got better after that – I’m not sure whether this was because I stretched more or because other factors outweighed it. Four hours felt like quite a long wait between runs when awake and waiting for the next run, but a very short length of time when trying to get some sleep. Finding the right time to eat was also a challenge – running on a full stomach isn’t great, but neither is being too hungry. I also got hungrier as the challenge went on, and I think I ended with one (smaller) meal between every run.

Starting in the evening was also the right choice, this meant that the overnight runs were done early and out of the way. It did however mean that I was already slightly tired at the start of the first run (as opposed to starting fresh first thing in the morning), but on balance that wasn’t a problem. Waking up at 2am to go for a run felt a bit novel, but the 6am run felt more like what I might have done anyway.

I chose to do a 1.5 mile loop, which meant running that loop twelve times throughout the whole challenge. It was quite interesting to see how the same stretch of road could vary between being completely dark and empty at 2am, sunny but quiet at 6am, and then getting busy at 10am and even busier at 2pm. The double lap was annoying though and I had to keep remembering whether I was on the first lap or the second which surprisingly gets quite hard to remember at 2am.

Could I do the full challenge?

I felt like I experienced some of the trials of the full challenge. The repetitiveness of having to keep going back out to run was hard and even though I only ran 3 miles instead of 4, I don’t think the extra mileage would have made much difference (not for each run, but it might do cumulatively).

I did experience some of the surrealism of running in the middle of the night and some of the tiredness, but I don’t feel like I felt the full sleep deprivation that I’ve read from other people’s experiences. I also think that 24 hours isn’t enough time to need to worry about a proper eating schedule, and the full 48 hours would definitely make it just that bit harder.

But I think the hardest struggle would be running the exact same route 12 times (or 24 times if done as double laps). Would a more varied route make it more interesting? Maybe something away from home? Be sure to come back in the future to find out how I’ve done.

Categories
Uncategorized

A challenge

When lockdown came back in January, I started to think of ways that I could challenge myself and make things more interesting. I came across two physical challenges on the internet. I haven’t done either of them, but because this is the internet I’m still going to talk about them.

Because this post was so long, I’m going to do one today and will do the other next week.


What’s the challenge?

The challenge is to walk 100 miles in 48 hours (or the subset challenge of 50 miles in 24 hours). This is normally an organised event somewhere in the countryside, but given current events, it’s been made virtual so anyone can do it anywhere.

What did I do?

Since that seems like a lot of walking, and my previous longest walk is about 21 miles, I thought I would do a practice 25 mile walk (because then I could just repeat that loop four times for the 100 mile challenge).

What did I learn?

My main takeaway was that my 25 mile loop worked. It was fairly flat and I’ve now walked most of the route at least twice (on different adventures), so theoretically I should know where I’m going if it’s night-time and I’m tired. However, it’s not the most exciting walk (in places at least) and I’m not sure how I feel about doing the loop four times in a row. There’s a definite advantage of knowing where I’m supposed to be going which I would lose if I changed my route, plus I wouldn’t be able to resupply (and use the toilet) each time I passed my house.

There were a couple of bits that were far muddier than I was expecting and I did have to throw myself into a puddle towards the end (because that was easier than trying to get round it). It also rained for most of the day, which wasn’t what the weather forecast had predicted. Fortunately I had planned properly and had full waterproofs so a future wet walk would be perfectly manageable.

Fortunately this massive puddle from when I tested part of the route in January had now gone.

I did have to add an extra loop of the park before I got home to bring my distance up to the 25 mile target, but my phone GPS recorded half a mile more distance than my watch GPS so it may be that I was already at the right distance. I may have to tweak the route slightly, even if just to ensure that it gets to the right distance.

Could I do the full challenge?

I definitely felt like I could have gone on for another 10-15 miles if I had been prepared. But also my loop took me home, and I think that’s going to be one of the problems. Will I want to go back out for another loop when I’ve already done 25/50/75 miles? Should I just do a 100 mile straight walk? Be sure to come back in the future to find out how I’ve done.

Categories
Miscellaneous

100 posts!

Welcome to my 100th blog post!

They’ve not always been the most interesting reads, but this is a quantity milestone, not a quality milestone (not sure how that one would be measured anyway).

Although since this blog has been going for almost 11 years, maybe it’s surprising I’ve not got to this point sooner. This blog started strongly in March 2010 before dying away and being restarted in July 2014 (I did originally archive off the old blog and start again from scratch, but early last year I brought them all back into one place). And then early on in lockdown last year I started blogging every week which leads us to where we are today (with almost half of my posts having been in the last year).

My stats only go back to 2014 and won’t include people who only access via RSS, but unsurprisingly visitors are mostly from the UK and the USA. But I’ve also had visitors (I know there’s VPNs and so on, but this is what the stats tracker says) from Brazil, Canada, Italy, China, Germany, France, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, India, Australia, Argentina, Sweden, Ecuador, Greece, Netherlands, Colombia, Romania, Chile, Philippines, Peru, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, Norway, Malaysia, Nigeria, European Union, Thailand, Bermuda, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Algeria, Indonesia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Trinidad & Tobago, Austria, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, Uruguay, Denmark, Estonia, Honduras, Georgia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Turkey, Kenya, El Salvador, Jamaica, Uganda, Ukraine, Angola, Cyprus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Japan, Hungary, Pakistan, Iceland, Bangladesh, New Caledonia, Cape Verde, Morocco, Guyana, Macedonia, Moldova, Cambodia, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Mauritius, Qatar, Albania, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, Jordan, Luxembourg, Panama, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Visits from the Top 15 countries (since 2014)

I don’t know anyone from most of those countries so have no idea whether it’s a reporting error or whether people have deliberately (or just accidently) come across my blog. But you’re all very welcome. Please do say hello if you are reading.

I can’t promise the next 100 posts will be interesting, but for the moment I will keep trying to think of something new to write each week. Here’s to 200 posts!

Categories
Technology

One year on

Somehow it’s been a year. Not since that (although it is), but a year since I built my computer (yes, I know I only blogged about it in May).

Even between March and May, I had already added new components to it (the LED strips and an extra fan at the rear of the case). As a reminder, here’s what it looked like then:

And here’s what it looks like now:

Apart from realising that it photographs better with the side glass panel taken off, and that the colour scheme is different, there’s a few significant changes:

Cooling system

This week (yesterday in fact) I changed the CPU cooling system from the stock air cooler to an AIO water cooler. It does add two black tubes into the interior, but it’s generally more spacious inside now and I like the look of the three extra RGB fans at the top. It’s still too early to see what difference it will make – I think it is a couple of degrees cooler than it was, but it also does have a few extra fans that are venting the case now. I always wanted to get one of these, but for budgeting decisions I decided against it a year ago.

GPU

The graphics card is still the same, but I have rotated it 90 degrees into a vertical orientation. Again, I think it looks much better this way round, particularly with it’s coloured ring that is now visible, and this is how I always wanted it. The lights in the ring were spiralling before, but for some reason it doesn’t always. Don’t worry about the fan not spinning, it’s only supposed to do that when it gets hot.

Storage

You can’t actually see it in the picture, but in the last year I have added two new hard drives. I started off with an 8TB and a 4TB drive (as a combined virtual drive), but then I added an extra 12TB so I could mirror it. Earlier this year I realised I was running out of space and in order to avoid rebuilding the virtual drive, I would need to add an extra physical drive. I added a second 12TB drive, but because of the limitations of the original settings I had to rebuild the whole set-up anyway. It took a while, but eventually I got it how I wanted and it should now allow me to expand it again more easily.

Step 1: Originally. Step 2: Last year. Step 3: Currently. Step 4: Future arrangement?

I am also starting to run out of storage on my main SSD drive (thanks Microsoft Flight Simulator) so at some point this year I’ll have to add some more there (or move some applications to my secondary SSD drive).


But that’s for next year, and apart from that, I can’t think of anything else I need/want to add. I realise I’m now a generation behind on both processor and graphics card technology, but I’m fine with missing out for now. With the price and scarcity of components right now, I’m glad I bought my computer a year ago.

Addendum: I do need a new keyboard and mouse. Preferably wireless (at least for the mouse).

Categories
Film Review

The Truman Show

It’s been a while since I’ve done a full film review (in this format) but it’s time again now. It’s not that I’ve not seen any films, it’s just that very few have been worth blogging about. So this week’s entry is about The Truman Show.

Why did I watch this film?

This is a film that a few people have mentioned over the last couple of years, and mostly in a “this film is iconic, you must have seen it” kind of way. I had never even really heard of it so I assumed it was fairly recent and I had somehow just passed over it. Turns out it’s from 1998 (the computer screens definitely date it to around this period), so it’s not quite old enough to be a proper cult film, and not quite recent enough for me to have seen when it came out. Anyway, I came across it on Netflix at the weekend and decided it was worth a shot.

What did I think of this film?

When describing this film, people had always explained that it was about a guy who was constantly being filmed for reality TV, but that he had no idea that he was. I never quite understood the full premise behind this but it sounded like an interesting concept. So it wasn’t until I had seen it that I fully grasped how it worked. And I realise that I’ve not explained it the best way either so I would just recommend watching it for yourself.

It is generally a funny film but there are a few more serious moments too. It definitely made for some light-hearted Sunday evening viewing that didn’t require too much thinking about, whilst at the same time not being a complete switch-off film. The idea that reality may not be what it seems reminded me a lot of Inception (a film I do really like). Afterwards you start to wonder if your own life might actually be just for someone’s reality TV viewing and what the consequences of that would be. If that is the case and you’re watching me right now, I’d like to apologise for having to watch me write this post over the last half hour or so. (Don’t worry, I don’t actually think that is happening.)

Will I watch it again?

I did really enjoy this film and would probably put in my favourite films. It’s not quite in my best ever films yet, but I would definitely watch it again and I think it could only go up in my favourite rankings. In fact, I’m tempted by a second viewing just so I can take it all in again knowing what’s going to happen at the end. Highly recommended.