A month of slow meandering back towards a sense of normalcy, with plenty of two-wheeled conveyance and first steps out in the wide world.
Ghyll progress update
Everyone tells me that he’s getting bigger, but I’m not sure that I see it. In pictures of him from last month, he looks basically the same. But I can tell that he’s actually getting bigger because he can reach the edge of the countertop now, just barely. Give it another week or two and the whole countertop will be fair game. In a sort of escalating arms race of Mischief, I’m developing a sense for which objects, laid idly about a room, are catalysts for trouble. We’re getting better at tidying up after ourselves: not leaving cups around on the arm of the sofa, not leaving plastic bags near the edges of the counter, not leaving magazines unattended on the coffee table. Something we'd been meaning to do for a while but never with enough of a standing threat to do something about it.
He’s had his vaccines as well, which means that he’s allowed out and about among other folks and other dogs; he's generally interested in dogs but he wants to be best friends with every human he sees. He hasn’t figured out how to greet people (or other dogs) yet, so at the moment he just jumps up and chews on sleeves.
He’s also getting better with house-training; maybe 2/3 of the time he’ll quite happily make his own way downstairs to relieve himself in the garden. The first time he did it on his own we were very pleased. He still whines when we’re not around—especially when Sam leaves the room—but we’re told that he’ll grow out of it and develop a strong independent streak in the next couple of months, so we oughta enjoy the attention while we still have it.
Midmonth we had a visit from my second cousin (or first cousin once removed?) Eric, whom I’d last seen a few years ago at Family Day. He was on a tour of Europe over the summertime and was stopping through the UK near the end of his trip, so we took him out for some of the best that the North East has to offer: a jaunt up to the bothy at Haughtongreen, a takeaway from Wingate’s finest, and a trip up to Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman fort at Housesteads. As the sun set we stopped at a country pub for a pint of local ale to round the trip off. The following morning, Eric was bound for Scotland on an early train out of Durham—talk about a whirlwind tour.
After doing our motorbike Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) back in July, we figured it was high time to get our hands on a 125cc motorbike (the only kind you’re allowed to ride with a CBT) and get practicing. Lots of folks are getting their bike licence at the moment, with the high price of fuel, so we had some trouble finding a decent-looking bike. 125s at competitive prices generally disappear within a couple of hours. By and by we found one for a great price up in Scotland, the owner a bit bemused that we offered to put a deposit down sight unseen. Only problem: it was up in Scotland.
Nevermind—we heeded Hokkaido’s informal motto, “Boys, be ambitious!” and struck off for Scotland with the intention of riding our new bike the 200-odd miles back to Wingate. No problemo.
Nerves elicited an uneasy sleep the night before; and on actually taking ownership of the bike, the first laps around the estate where the (erstwhile) owner lived were fraught ones. After half an hour of rickety shifts and undismissed indicators, however, we took to the open road and the prospect of a long trip home.
We took the trip in short stints at first: 15 minutes, then half an hour, then an hour of continuous riding at a time. Sam & I stayed on the phone while I rode, but as we took to the rolling hills of the Borders—no way we were taking the A1 home—signal cut in and out and left me alone with the buzz of the single-cylinder engine. Stopping for energy drinks in Whitburn, fuel in Peebles, Carter Bar for photos, and Woodburn for dinner, we rode out the sun and into the dark as only Northumberland is dark. Ghyll bore the long miles out better than any of us, causing only a minor stir at the pub over dinner despite having been forced to spend the whole day in the back of a car. Leaving the windy roads behind us, I gunned the engine, hopped onto the highways, and sprinted the last long stretch home.
In the office
At the end of the month, I headed down to Leeds for my second-ever day in the NHS Digital office. Last time I was there was back in February. While the pandemic has made a remote work convert of me, I always feel supremely productive when I'm in a big faceless environment. It's probably just the change of scenery.
After work we dropped into Editor's Draught for a couple of beers with the team. I don't think that meeting teammates for the first time in real life will ever feel quite normal; seeing someone you thought you knew face-to-face always reveals something else about them that doesn't come through over the camera—even if it's just that they're a lot taller than you thought they were. I'm sure you've read more thinkpieces about remote work than you'd care to consider so I'll leave it at that. We had a great time, though, so I'm already trying to plan out my next trip down, fuel prices permitting.
Awful road works on the A19 northbound on the way home, though, so from Thirsk to Yarm I was stuck on B-roads behind a Lithuanian lorry that evidently had a 20-mph speed limiter installed. Home very late.
Outside relatively little in August, owing at least in part to the heat. At the beginning of the month we took a trip out to Waskerley Reservoir with Ghyll to see how he'd like being out in the wild and lonely places that we like to frequent. We didn't go much further than 2km but that must have been a bit more than his little legs were ready for, so we fell back on training walks around Wingate for the rest of the month.
After a couple of weeks we got the sense that he'd developed a bit more stamina, so we brought him up Guisborough Moor, which he seemed to love. We even let him off the lead for a little while, and his strong puppy desire to be near us kept him from getting into too much trouble, even if he was a bit over-keen on eating sheep poo. A walk down Castle Eden Dene late in the month confirmed it: the pup loves the outdoors.
Besides that, our gym in Hartlepool was closed for refurbishment and my knee's been feeling a bit better, so I took back to the gravel tracks around my house for a bit of running, the first in a while. I'd like to get back to the Hartlepool parkrun, as well, but most Saturday mornings I'm so spent that I struggle to get out of bed at all.
Also got back out on the bicycle for a 25km trip around Peterlee—the first preparations for an attempt at the Coast-to-Coast ride from Whitehaven to Tyneside, tentatively scheduled in for May of next year. I've wanted to do Wainwright's Coast to Coast for a few years now but it requires two weeks to complete and I don't have that much PTO left—so doing the cycling version is, for the moment at least, an adequate substitute. Based on a 250km trip I did before leaving Hokkaido, I'm scheduling two days for the ride, which feels ambitious—hence the early start on training. More to come as plans develop.
The weather finally seems to have turned at the very end of the month: the first rains are starting to fall, the wind is picking up more often than not, the nights are getting cooler. After the hot, dry summer we had, it's a huge relief—even if it means I'm not as likely to get out on the motorbike. The days are getting shorter as well: we take a headlamp on our evening walks now. England's a weird country for the changing of the seasons; it gets dark before it gets cold, and daylight saving time knocks you for a loop. If you're not paying attention, changes in the climate sort of sneak up on you.
The weather's finally turned, so I've got to choose my days out strategically or spend the next 5 months soaked through.
July was exhausting and overwhelming—from weather to life events to sheer lack of sleep—and I’m glad that it’s over.