Charles Harries

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July 2022

July was exhausting and overwhelming—from weather to life events to sheer lack of sleep—and I’m glad that it’s over.

July was exhausting and overwhelming, and I’m glad that it’s over.

Ghyll

Probably the most important thing that happened in July is that we got a dog: our little Wingate clan is now up to 4. His name is Ghyll and this is what he looks like:

Ghyll the pudelpointer, 7 weeks old
Ghyll the pudelpointer, 7 weeks old

And let me tell you: having a 6-week old puppy is Hard Work, monopolising just about 100% of my previously-free time, and a good percentage of my non-free time (sleep, work) as well. It’s a lot.

It’s been, weirdly, a very reflective period, during the intervals in which Ghyll isn’t chewing on furniture. Far be it from me to pretend that having a puppy in the house is like some insuperable effort—but it’s effort in a different direction than I’m used to. Everything else I do has well-defined starts and ends; everything else bends more or less to my ability. I’m as good at running as I practice to be (which is, not very). Sometimes writing is easier and sometimes it’s harder, but I get to choose the words. But Ghyll has a will of his own, and no matter how much I practice saying “Come,” or “Leave it,” he can elect to stay where he is, elect to continue eating rocks and used tissues.

At the moment he doesn’t have much of a personality, outside of puppy-esque mischievousness, so there’s not a ton for us to latch on to emotionally. It’s nice when he falls asleep in one of our laps. Lots of people seem to love puppies, but I guess it’s because they don’t usually have to take them home; the real reward of having him around will come when he’s old enough to be a trustworthy bud.

In the meantime, Sam’s been carrying most of the load; she’s with him during the day while I’m at work, and takes him out once a week to meet another dog, with whom Ghyll is apparently becoming fast friends. Sam’s also a lot more patient with him than I feel like I can be, and has a lot of faith in him enabling new experiences for us in the future. She can see the friend that he’ll grow to be. That’s helping a lot.

Online

Didn’t write much on the blog this month—mostly since Ghyll’s monopolising my time. A single Stream entry near the end of the month and a few book reviews scattered throughout, a relic to my above-average reading quota—small victories!

Although Twitter’s a tempting pastime when Ghyll won’t go back to sleep at 3:30 am, I’ve been trying to gradually wean myself off it. I think I’ve had a high-functioning addiction to Twitter for a couple years now, ineffectually tempered by App Limits on my phone.

Twitter’s a great resource when you’re starting out because it allows you to converse fluently on whatever’s trendy at the minute without having to do the legwork. Importing other people’s opinion is elevated to an art form on Twitter— and having a strong opinion on something new is great for clout, as well, if you’re looking to build your own brand.

I’ve never been very good at posting regularly to Twitter, but I think I’ve gotten to the point in my career where that doesn’t count for much anyway. At a certain point in your career I think that you have to let go of being up-to-the-minute aware of the latest trends, relying instead on RSS feeds, podcasts, and aggregators (like newsletters) to surface the important stuff. Just a lot of noise on Twitter.

Independently, it feels like tech Twitter is crossing a critical mass of grifters. I’m talking about these kinds of tweets:

In a similar vein, there’s been a weird uptick in “harmless” misinformation—here’s a breakdown of an astronomy-focused account posting fake facts about Barnard’s cloud (50k likes), and here’s another thread where someone has photoshopped Wolverine’s hair onto Theodore Roosevelt (132k likes), for no clear purpose. And then there’s the proliferation of accounts that just repost pictures à la 9gag, with esoteric names like “cakes with threatening auras” or “out of context humans”. It’s gotten to the point where tweets acknowledging the trend rack up hundreds of thousands of likes.

I think this probably has to do with the bottom falling out of the market for web3/NFTs over the past month—it’s a pretty easy pivot from crypto grift to generalised grift—and, more specifically, web grift, since developers are a suggestible bunch.

Reading

For all of those reasons, I’ve tried to replace Twitter with books, moving the Twitter app off my dock and replacing it with the Kindle app: to encouraging results! Continuing the streak I had going in June, finished 4 books in July:

True to expectations, Legg was indeed a bit of a chancer; No Fixed Abode was an interesting read but mostly repetitive. I’ve started W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, which thus far has been dense in the extreme (no paragraph breaks); and I’ve also got Douglas Hofstadter’s I Am a Strange Loop, which I’ve been meaning to read for years but which I expect will be no less dense.

I don’t have much of a rhyme or reason to what books I read—I don’t really talk to anyone else about books, so no one’s recommending them to me and I’m not really recommending them to anyone. It’d be nice to be part of a reading group.

Outdoors

Started off the month with a ride down to Hartlepool on my bicycle, which turns my ride to Horden back in June from a solitary occurrence to a trend! After getting back from Hartlepool, I noticed that the front tyre was coming apart a little bit (I think it’s the original tyre from the 80s, so it was bound to fail on me one day or another), so I didn’t spend any more time in the saddle for the rest of the month.

Right at the very end of July I also struck off on my own on Isaac’s Tea Trail, but made it barely 12 km into the total 60 km before losing heart. I think the lack of sleep, combined with being away from Sam, the bad weather and clouds of flies, just took the wind out of my sails. The trail wasn’t bad or boring by any means, but it spanned mostly farmland and crossed wide moorland gravel tracks and just wasn’t what I was looking for. Instead of dropping down into West Allendale I crossed Knockshield Moor, Kevelin Moor, and Acton Moor—where no trails are to be found and the heather grows hip-deep—before dropping down past the Allendale chimneys and back into town.

A cairn up on the moor—or a "currick", as they call em in the Pennines
A cairn up on the moor—or a "currick", as they call em in the Pennines

Not sure I’ll be back to complete the trail, though the roads above Allendale are tempting for a cyclist (which I am now).

Motorcycle

Another milestone on two wheels: Sam and I did our Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), which is the first certification that you have to receive to drive a motorbike in the UK. And altogether, it was a lot easier than I’d thought. I was expecting to spend a few days trying to get my hands and feet to play nice with each other, but after only a few hours we were out on the open road touring around Hartlepool on a couple of Yamaha YBR125s.

We’re allowed to ride up to 125cc with learner plates, but we’re struggling to find a bike of that displacement, in good shape, for a reasonable price. Not a big deal: we don’t have much time to practice at the minute anyway. Bit of a shame, but we might find some good prices on bikes going into the wintertime, when people won’t want to ride.

Weather

Mid-month, we recorded the hottest day ever in the United Kingdom. 40 degrees down in London, 36 up in the North East. Not much of a record for a lot of people living in the southern and southwestern United States, but for us it was more than we could bear. We don’t have air conditioning, and houses are built to hold on to heat as well as they can, so most interiors got up to 40-odd degrees by the end of the afternoon anyway.

The fact that this happened at all is cause for alarm—it’s without a doubt one of the most visible effects of climate change in the UK yet. I think there’s a sizeable demographic in this country that believes it was a one-off, a fluke, a bit of holiday weather we could all enjoy at home—but the reality is that days like this are going to become more and more frequent until we’re all regularly sweating it out on the floor, nonfunctioning puddles of humans.

Which, at the end of July, is what I feel like anyway, apocalyptic weather or no. Not to end it on a bad note.

Monthnotes Ghyll