Charles Harries

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May 2022

Busy month: lots of long weekends, lots of driving, sun's back out, bring on the summer already.

May was a heck of a month, with long weekends galore, plenty of time spent in the car, and a full calendar.

Dad visiting

Kicked off the month with a visit from dad, come across from his new digs in Miami. We drove down to Heathrow in the Volvo, loaded it up with my old Schwinn Super Sport, my powder skis from Japan, and a massive suitcase containing all sorts of historical Charles-alia, and started on the narrow road to the deep north.

The three of us atop Roseberry Topping on a blustery day at the beginning of May.
The three of us atop Roseberry Topping on a blustery day at the beginning of May.

On the way, we stopped in Oxford for a couple pints at La Belle Sauvage's Trout Inn, at Sam's mom's in the Midlands, in York (more pints & a ramble among the shambles), then in Whitby, and finally safe & sound back in Wingate. Not all in one day. A couple walks in the North York Moors rounded off the weekend, as well as a couple pints with the team at Creator and a bit of train-spotting in Goathland. By the time dad got on his flight in Newcastle, I was thoroughly worn down & spent much of the following day in a bit of a stupor.

Aging

Not much to say here, but the dad trip coincided with my thirty-second birthday. I guess it's the 33rd if you count the actual day of my birth—but I'm 32 now. I think that there's a certain point in your mid-20s where it stops being cool to host any celebrations more rousing than a nice dinner and some time off, but it was good to have dad here and to make a bit of an event out of it. I'm not too old for a bit of fun yet.

I don't subscribe to the idea that you're "old" in your thirties, either, but I recognise that's probably down to being a man. Although I'm certainly feeling what age I have accrued, mostly in a bad knee from a repetitive use injury I gave myself running on an off-camber sidewalk a year and a half ago. In the intervening time I tried to ignore it, mostly, which only made it worse. For that reason, I officially Got Off My Injured Leg and submitted it to a daily routine of icing, ibuprofen gel, and (insufficient) stretching. It's feeling much better on the whole, but I'm still not squatting or deadlifting; and at the end of the month the pain had started to migrate to my back.

Another shot of a couple of 32-year-olds on Roseberry Topping.
Another shot of a couple of 32-year-olds on Roseberry Topping.

Manchester

Midmonth Sam and I took a trip down to Manchester, nominally to see Men I Trust live but in practice mostly an excuse to visit some more secondhand clothing stores more hip than the British Heart Foundation in Peterlee.

What a good city. It's eminently walkable but fitted out with a regular and accessible tram system; cars are mostly relegated to the main roads through the city centre. I saw fewer bikes than I'd have liked but maybe I wasn't looking for them. Manchester is just intimate enough to visit, too: you're never at a loss for somewhere to hide out for a pint or a coffee, especially in the Northern Quarter. Although I bet that if you lived there full-time you'd find yourself in a routine pretty quickly, having just about expended everything new that the area has to offer. But maybe that's not so bad.

Media diet

Since Jason Kottke is taking a bit of a break, I'm picking up where he left off.

Didn't watch very many movies in May, probably due to being so busy with everything else, but caught The Long Goodbye right at the beginning of the month; went to the theatres twice, for The Northman and then Top Gun: Maverick; and filled in the middle of the month with Turning Red and What We Do In the Shadows. Not a bad movie among them—if you're going to skimp on quantity (and I am), go for quality!

After what I would call a truly horrific month for doomscrolling on Twitter, I managed to put down my phone and finish Jonathan Franzen's Crossroads, for which I haven't posted a review yet but which I enjoyed heartily. Reading Franzen is always like eating something pretty tasty but mostly very good for you; I agreed that the prose wasn't particularly stunning but the pacing was great and I loved how the narrative was fractured across points of view. Up next: Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun. If I can maintain a modicum of Twitter disclipline I might even be able to finish it before July.

Outdoors

Other than the two walks I did while dad was here, we didn't spend a ton of time out in the open air in May. The exception was a long section of the Weardale Way between Durham and Bournmoor: easily the least attractive part of the way thus far. The section around the bottom of the Durham Bailey was quaint & made me want to live in Durham, but beyond, Frankland Prison and Finchale Priory break up a long stretch of road walking. Past Great Lumley the walking's alright but the Way doubles back on itself near Lumley Castle and gives you the sense you're going nowhere.

It's not all bad: there's a lovely bridge just past Finchale Priory just below a wooded bank you'll have to climb up.
It's not all bad: there's a lovely bridge just past Finchale Priory just below a wooded bank you'll have to climb up.

That being said, we're now within spitting distance of the North Sea, so we're starting to plan for the Teesdale Way. I expect it'll be much the same as the Weardale Way, but at this point I'd give anything to get back out into the hills and forests of the Pennines.

At home

Sam and I also made the most of our midweeks, her by working in the garden and me by picking up my (now 10-year-old) Fender with some regularity. I'm not nearly good enough to play for anyone else at this point, but I'm glad to have a musical instrument back in my hands. I've started working through lessons online, which is my favourite way to learn anything: I always thrive when there's a clear progression from one stage to another. I love to watch numbers go up.

Sam's been putting a path into the garden from the little deck near the house to a future spot by the hedgerow at the bottom of the garden where we'll have a little table and chairs. We collected a couple carloads of bricks and Sam's been busy bedding them into the soil as a bit of a boundary to make mowing the lawn easier. She's also been collecting flowers to put in all along one side of the garden as well; the whole enterprise is progressing like a house on fire. We'll be sipping rosé in the 10:30 pm twilight in no time!

The garden at the moment: a little cluttered, but the bones are good.
The garden at the moment: a little cluttered, but the bones are good.

Monthnotes