Goodbye Bike, Hello Bike

Earlier this year I moved to Leyton in East London and bought a bicycle. The reasons for this are many but include health and climate breakdown, as well as the fact that the cycling infrastructure in Waltham Forest isn’t too bad.

As a result, I haven’t been using my motorcycle at all so it’s time to sell it. I can’t see myself needing it again and, anyway, I can no longer justify owning a fossil fuel powered vehicle. To be honest, I’ll be very glad to be rid of the responsibility and the enormous expense.

Working on a Virtual Machine

The time is fast approaching when I shall need to upgrade my venerable MacBook Pro. It’s done very well but is beginning to show its age. Partially as a result of this I’ve been thinking a lot recently about ways to be independent of specific machines for my work. I looked at renting a virtual cloud desktop but, while it’s possible, it’s quite expensive.

An alternative was to set up a virtual machine, install and configure all the software I need for work and then keep a copy on a portable drive so that I can use a computer in the office or, in dire need, borrow one from a friend, and have everything I need to be productive readily available.

It turned out to be incredibly easy to set that up, and I now have a nice Ubuntu VM entirely dedicated to work, with all the software I need installed and configured. At the start of the working day I fire it up, connect to the office VPN and off I go. When I’m done I can shut it down and my laptop is all mine. I wish I’d done this years ago.

Less Social Media, More… This

I’m becoming less and less enamoured of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I’m not going to stop using them entirely but I am going to start using this site more. At least here I’m in control of my content, however tedious and uninteresting it may be.

So, check back here if you’re remotely interested in anything I have to say, or merrily ignore me if not.

Not Going Out

Just in case you were wondering, I’m not planning on going to the pub today, despite their re-opening. It’s quite clear that doing so is hugely risky and will only serve to spread Covid-19 even further. I love pubs, I really do, and there’s little to compare, for me, in whiling away a couple of lazy hours over a pint and a book, but no. Just… no.

A Quick Review of 2019

I don’t usually review the past year but 2019 has brought a lot of changes into my life and I have the urge to write about some of them, so here goes.

After a period of separation from my wife I decided in January that it was time for me to start dating, so I joined Guardian Soulmates. I went on quite a few dates and met some very nice people but soon found that endless dating was taking its toll on me emotionally and so I took a break from about March or April, which helped enormously. Then, in July, I got back on the horse and very quickly met someone amazing and wonderful, and we’ve been together since. She’s everything I ever wanted in a partner and I’m incredibly lucky to have her.

My divorce came through in December. My ex-wife and I are still very good friends and will, I hope, continue to be. Not just for the sake of our son but because it’s much nicer and happier to be friends. We’re still sharing a home togther but I need to move out very soon. She’s getting married in April to her long-term partner, who’s a lovely guy. I’m very happy for her. The only fly in the ointment re moving is that my finances aren’t great and I’ll struggle to afford anything at all, so I need to work on that.

I’ve been to some wonderful gigs this year, most notably Bad Pollyanna at Nambucca in March and the Lovely Eggs as part of Manchester Psych Fest in August. My guitar playing has come on a bit, although I’m never going to be a great guitarist. For me, though, it’s about the huge enjoyment that playing brings, not about having to be superb.

I also got to see Ben Elton perform at Watford Colosseum in December, which was a delight. He’s as funny as ever. If you get a chance to see him, I strongly recommend that you take it.

Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client

Courtesy of my recent upgrade to MacOS Catalina, I’m currently testing version 4.8.00175 of Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client for MacOS. Before installing it I was warned that it might be buggy and possibly might even not work at all.

Having tried it for a short while, here are my initial impressions. Installation wasn’t a problem, but then it rarely is under MacOS. The software starts just fine, and connects without fuss. The connection, once made, seems solid but the connection indicator in the application’s dock and menu bar icons remains stubbornly set to an ‘X’, indicating that a connection has not been made, even though it has. Not a major problem, but a bit of an irritation, especially if one needs to check.

I also noticed that the application starts automatically after a system reboot, and there seems to be no way to disable this. Again, an irritation but not a deal-breaker.

It seems to me that Cisco have somehow managed to be caught out by Apple dropping support for 32-bit applications in MacOS, even though they must have known about it for some considerable time, and have rushed out an update that isn’t really ready for release. It works, at least for me, but that’s all that can really be said for it.

More Motorcycle Woes

On Thursday before last I was riding home up the A41 as usual. I stopped at a set of traffic lights and, while I was waiting there, the bike just died. The engine stopped and the instrument panelk went blank. Switching the ignition off and on did nothing.

So, I got off and wheeled the bike around the corner, where I was able to get it up onto the pavement. I had a quick fiddle with it but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to fix it. Fortunately I’m a member of the AA, so I reported the breakdown using the mobile app, grabbed my kindle from my bag and prepared for a long wait.

Actually, I didn’t have to wait too long. A yellow AA van soon arrived (and what a blessed sight it was!) and the AA guy set about fiddling with the bike in a much more organised manner than I’d been able to. However, he wasn’t able to do anything either. I was expecting to have to wait for another couple of hours for a recovery vehicle, but no. He opened the back of his van and proceeded to assemble a rather elaborate but cool trailer. Having set it up and got the bike onto it, we set off for home.

Pausing only at a garage so I could buy some milk, we soon made it home and unloaded the bike. At which point, my spectacles decided to give up the ghost (well, break a bit, anyway). Since then I’ve had the bike collected by the local dealership and I’m waiting to hear from them. On past form, I’m not expecting it to be soon. Or cheap.

Online Dating

I have recently been dipping my toe back into online dating, via the Guardian Soulmates website. It’s rather like other social media in that it’s horribly addictive. The roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows that I’ve experienced, even in the mere couple of weeks I’ve been doing it is quite extraordinary.

Chatting with interesting and attractive people online feels great. Meeting them also feels great. Being rejected by them sucks. Hard. I need to develop a somewhat thicker skin, I suppose, but I don’t want to do so in such a way that I treat anyone with anything less than the respect and courtesy that they deserve. Hopefully I shall find my way through this and, who knows? maybe I’ll meet someone special and wonderful.

A Winter Adventure

Last Tuesday I rode my motorcycle into the office as usual. It was cold but not unusually so, and the weather forecast said there might be some rain but that was all. A little before I left for home in the afternoon I checked the weather forecast again, as I usually do in the winter. It said that it might rain, which didn’t surprise me much.

Anyway, I set out for home and all was fine. Up the A41 and onto the M1 at junction 1. A little way up and it started snowing. Really snowing. Before long I was constantly wiping my visor as the huge flakes settled on it and obscured my vision. Looking at the verges I could see that it was settling. Very quickly the road between the lanes started to get slushy.

Pressing on, I got off the motorway at junction 5 and back onto the A41 past Watford. I considered abandoning the bike but it would have been very hard getting home from there and the road wasn’t actually too bad so I kept going.

The slip road onto the M25 was solid traffic. It all crawled along and I crawled with it as I didn’t want to risk riding on the snow and slush between the lanes. The motorway itself wasn’t too awful, and before long I’d reached junction 17, where I leave. The road surface here was bit more problematic as it’s not the busiest of junctions, so I rode down off the M25 very gingerly.

Despite this, just before I reached the roundabout at the end of the slip road, the bike suddenly slid out from underneath me and fell over onto its right-hand side. I said a few choice words then tried to pick it up, only to find that my feet wouldn’t grip and I couldn’t. Fortunately, a couple of people from the cars behind me got out and helped, and soon the bike was upright again.

I was just considering leaving the bike at the side of the road and coming back for it the next day, when a van pulled up and the driver got out and asked me where I lived. Once I’d explained that we were very close to my home, he offered to give me and the bike a lift. After a bit of a struggle we got the bike into the back of his van and set off. It took us a while because of the traffic but we made it and, refusing even a cup of tea, he drove off. What a kind person!

I’d twisted my ankle jumping out of the van, so I spent the next couple of days working from home. It’s still a tad sore but you know what? It could have been a lot worse. On the whole, I was very lucky.

The British Museum

This morning I signed up for membership of the British Museum. I’ve been considering doing so for a few days as I really love the place and would like to support it. I work in Camden Town, not a million miles from the museum, and intend to visit after work sometimes and maybe on occasional weekends too. It’ll be nice to be able to have a quiet cuppa and a sit down in the members’ room while I’m there.

The Nativity Play

three camels
Max’s drawing of three camels.

This morning I went, along with Juliet and her mum, to see Max’s school nativity play. First up was the nursery, which brought back very happy memories of Max as an angel last year. Then it was the turn of the reception boys. This year Max was playing a camel and he looked utterly adorable in his costume, I can tell you. Unfortunately I can’t show you as the school has, understandably, a strict policy against posting photos online. What I can show you, however, is Max’s drawing of three camels, taken from the inside of the programme. Their tails seem a tad long to me but I guess I’m just nit-picking.

Back on the Road

Well, it’s taken almost three weeks but I finally have my bike back. After messing around with the electronics for a while and finding nothing wrong, the mechanics simply opened up the gearbox and manually put it back into neutral. Having reassembled it and taken it for a test ride everything seemed fine so they pronounced it sorted. Let’s just hope they’re right.

Getting Up

Recently, Max has developed a willingness to get up by himself in the morning and go downstairs to play happily by himself until someone else gets up. This has, I’m sure you’ll understand, been most welcome. Today, however, he decided to revert to his previous behaviour of insisting that Juliet or I get up with him. So, reluctantly, at 6:30 I dragged myself out of bed, pulled some clothes on and stumbled downstairs to settle him on the sofa with a blanket and some warm milk.

I confess I was quite grumpy about this and may have been quite short with poor Max. However, a couple of hot drinks and a listen to the wonderful Infinite Monkey Cage podcast have cheered me up no end and I’m ready to face the day.

My Poor, Crippled Bike

Yesterday on my way home from work my bike broke down. I won’t bore you with the tedious details except to say that it was, naturally, chucking it down with rain as I waited for rescue on a stretch of road with no shops, pubs or cafes. The nice man from the AA who attended wasn’t able to fix the problem and had to call for a recovery vehicle.

I arrived home eventually and had a much needed cup of tea, the all-healing drink, and felt much better than I had. It’s amazing how reviving a cuppa and a snack can be, isn’t it?

This morning I phoned the local Honda dealer and arranged for the bike to be collected on Thursday. With luck it’ll be a quick, easy fix. Until then, it’s the Tube for me.

Better Weather

I can’t even begin to describe the relief that today’s rain and lower temperatures have brought. It’s easier to sleep, easier to concentrate and easier just to be comfortable. The overcast sky means that I don’t get blinded every time I step outside, too. Bliss.

Working From Home

I’m working from home for a few days while the office is cleaned and rewired after a leaky pipe flooded the IT department. I have mixed feelings about it, to be honest. It’s nice to be home, surrounded by all my stuff and with easy access to snacks and drinks, but I miss the ride into Camden Town on my motorbike and I miss the to-and-fro with my colleagues.

I do find the open plan office very distracting at times, though. Once I have home to myself it’s much easier to concentrate here. And I can listen to music without headphones, which I find become very uncomfortable after a while.

Anyway, whether I like it or not, here I am until Thursday. I feel some buttered toast coming on.

A Pleasant Sunday Morning

This morning, the weather being sunny and warm, I jumped on the bike and rode off to Amersham Old Town in search of a cafe for a quiet breakfast. I had a delightful ride but failed to find what I wanted, so returned to Chorleywood and an old favourite, the Peppermill cafe. So here I sit with a veggie breakfast and a cuppa, perfectly content.

Quiet Afternoon Musings

Here I sit on a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon, my four year old son asleep on the sofa next to me, my wife napping upstairs. I have an urge to write something but I don’t really know what. Just some words on a screen. My eyes are sore, my left arm aches. The dryer in the kitchen keeps trying to attract my attention, turning over occasionally to let me know that the clothes I put in earlier are ready to be folded and put away. Later. I’ll deal with them later.

Maybe I should have another cup of coffee, but I’ve already had three (I think it’s three) cups today. That’s probably enough for now. I could make a cup of tea but I’m not sure I can be bothered.

The various bits of housework I could be doing are nagging at me. They’ll still be there when I can summon up the energy. My bike could do with some TLC but I think I’ll wait till it’s dry out.

I know. Netflix.