Started the week on a high note: I took the day off and we finally cashed in a spa day we received two Christmases ago. Visited the Bannatyne in Durham—maybe less of a spa than a "health centre", which functionally just means that it has a wading pool and a sauna and a jacuzzi and a bunch of treadmills and erg machines and a cafe that sells smoothies. I didn't bother with the treadmills and erg machines but after our couples massage—not quite the sports massage I used to receive off old Japanese women at the local onsen, but a welcome relief nonetheless!—I sat in the sauna for maybe longer than I should have and did a few halfhearted laps in the single 15m lane tied off at the end of the pool. We then ducked into Durham for a late lunch at a pan-Asian place called Zen. Uninspired name, absolutely fantastic fare. I rarely find more than 2 or 3 things on a menu that I really crave, but this single piece of laminated card was a who's-who of Charles's All Time Greatest Hits. I made Sam write an IOU for a return visit at some point.
Unfortunately, the week took a bit of a turn for the worse thereafter. Hay fever (or a mild cold; not sure) rolled in on me on Monday night and didn't let up for a few days afterwards. I struggled to see through itchy eyes and serial sneezing fits and skipped out on an exercise or two midweek, but was back on form by Thursday or Friday. My bike's developed an awful ticking noise when applying force to the left pedal, and I can't locate the source. It's been an annoyance.
At the weekend we took a trip up to Polmood with a couple of friends for a weekend off the grid. They'd brought their dogs and we were keen to see how Ghyll would get on with them. They weren't much bothered with Ghyll, being 9 and 13, and Ghyll got the message eventually. By the time we were ready to leave, Ghyll was quite content to potter around the garden on his own—an unfathomable situation just a couple days prior, when just the sight of a dog would send him into tail-wagging hysterics. Proud of him!
As for us hairless bipedals, Saturday morning found us taking a briefly soggy walk up Worm Hill—at last. Worm Hill is a big symmetric triangular thing that sits right in the frame of Polmood's front door, crowned with a crumbing surveying tower and with no established paths to the top. We've always wanted to climb it—it dominates the Tweed Valley looking north from Polmood—but never managed to get round to it until now. It was a shorter walk than I'd thought, and the views from the top were lovely—especially up Stanhope Glen (once the rain'd let up).
Saturday afternoon Sam and I drove up to Fruid Reservoir to do a bit of test open-water swimming. I thought that I'd found my open water legs (fins?) swimming in Lake Sir John growing up, but for some reason swimming in Fruid (just like swimming in the marina last weekend) has got me absolutely petrified. We're talking inconsistent breathing, shaking hands, terror both up and down my spine. Not Fun. Anyway I think it's probably just a question of exposure, so I paddled around for half an hour in the shallows, and then climbed up onto the shore and ogled wetsuit-clad reflection in the car windows. What a cool, adventuresome guy. A return to Fruid on Sunday morning proved more fruitful: twenty minutes of solid swimming (mostly breaststroke with some crawl thrown in for good measure) with only minor panics along the way. My main obstacle is putting my head in the water. Only two weeks until the Castle Howard triathlon, too, so I betta getta move on.
What else? I lost one of two bolts holding the instrument panel to the forks on the motorbike, so I took the remaining one down to Hartlepool to match and buy a replacement. The guy at the hardware store probably thought my buying a single bolt a little odd, but the instrument panel's rock-solid again. I rode halfway up to Newcastle but got lost along the way, and had to race home against my phone's dying battery.
Read a bit more of Why Nations Fail, but as I close on the last chapters, I'm not sold on the purpose of the book qua book. The central message of the book is pretty straightforward, and it's addressed in the first couple chapters; the rest of the book is historical evidence that props up but doesn't really add to the thesis. I feel like the authors could have trimmed it down and published it as an essay on a smarty-pants website. But I suppose that wouldn't have been very prestigious.
I've been reading the book using the Books app on my computer (and my phone), and I'm not sure that I'm sold on the experience. The sync between the two is flaky at best, and while Apple hardware has some of the best screens available, there's no beating physical paper (or e-ink!) for long reading sessions. I can feel the pattern on the screen burning in to my eyes after like 15 minutes. Got a couple books waiting for me at the Peterlee library, though, so it'll be back to paper soon enough.
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Getting back into it.