Open Thinkering


Tag: holiday

Weeknote 22/2021

black and white photo of sea fret coming inland over fields and trees

I’m sitting writing this, one beer in, listening to Despite a couple of work meetings yesterday morning, I’ve been on holiday all week ⁠— including three nights away last Bank Holiday weekend. My stress levels are low enough that I’ve stopped taking L-Theanine. I’m not sure if this is a permanent thing, or whether I’m just experimenting with what I feel like when I’m not on it.

If you asked me, I’d say that I’ve been taking L-Theanine “for about 18 months” but, given that I reference it in this post from January 2018, I guess it’s more like “at least 3.5 years”. This is something you can buy over-the-counter (or, my case, from Amazon) so we’re talking a mild, but nevertheless noticeable, effect. It’s found naturally in cups of tea, which makes me wonder if there’s a correlation between that fact and my maternal grandmother being effectively a walking tea strainer while she was alive. I’ve never seen someone drink so many cups of tea in one day.

It’s quite discombobulating to realise that it’s now June 2021. To me, it feels like the year has just started. Yet here we are. My son’s school moves all the kids up a year after this half-term, so he’ll be officially in Year 10 and starting his GCSEs. It doesn’t feel that long ago since I was doing mine, so this, and the fact that he’s now the same waist size as me, is a bit of a shock to the system. Yes, I’m (getting) old.

There’s not much to report on the work front other than the aforementioned meetings. I wasn’t really planning to have this week completely off, but it just made sense to do so given that my wife starts her new NHS Digital contract next week, the kids are off, things are a bit quieter, and colleagues are away (or taking things easier).

I’ve taken the opportunity to write here and also post a bunch of things on Thought Shrapnel. I’ve hooked up the RSS feed of the latter to both Twitter and Mastodon, so you can subscribe for updates. Alternatively, you could sign up for the monthly roundup email. I’m not sure if I should say “you’re welcome” or “apologies in advance”…

The things I’ve written here are:

As ever, I’ve been merrily (well, perhaps not merrily) posting away at Despite what you might have read or watched elsewhere, the world is still completely shafted. I recommend you watch all 24 minutes of this video if you’re in any doubt:

Next week, I’m back to work. Hannah and I will be in the brave new world of both working remotely but on different projects. This is likely to be, as the young people say, ‘a thing’ from now on, so we’re changing a weird half-room / half-landing in our loft conversion to an office for her.

Laura will still be away, so I’ll be heading up most of the new and existing client work. We’ve just got a small continuation contract with Catalyst to support some charities embed their innovation work, so I’ll need to schedule some of that in. In general, I’m happy to keep things ticking over during the summer, as it’s the first time Hannah’s worked full time since before our eldest was born, and (as a former teacher) the first time she’s worked over the school summer holidays. I might need to be on-hand a bit more over the coming months!

Header photo is my poor attempt at an arty photo of the sea fret coming in near St Abbs while we were on holiday last weekend. Interestingly, the fishing village features in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (the highest grossing film of all time) as New Asgard.

Weeknote 21/2021

Chickens seen through a mesh fence with a coop signed 'Chicken Run'

I’m composing this weeknote from our holiday home just over the border into Scotland. Prices are as eye-wateringly expensive as you’d imagine during a Bank Holiday weekend when overseas travel is severely curtailed.

Nevertheless, it’s important for Team Belshaw to get away somewhere, given how much time we’ve spent in our house during the pandemic. I may have painted my home office mental health green, but that only goes so far…

This week, I have managed to take it easier than most and indeed managed to clock up a mere 13 hours of work. A few Catalyst meetings, some internal co-op stuff, and a smattering of client work has taken a back seat to exercise, reading, and a wonderful shopping trip to Newcastle with Hannah, my wife, on Wednesday.

That trip was the kind of thing that was so normal pre-pandemic but this week felt so liberating. Just buying a pair of trainers in person, sitting in a coffee shop, and browsing things in a 3D space registered high on my novelty meter.

The other thing I did on Wednesday was to go for my second Covid jab, after getting a text message invitation a few days earlier. They’ve brought forward the second doses due to the new variants popping up, so I had my second 10 weeks (rather than 12 weeks) after the first. Apparently, they’re planning to shorten that to eight weeks soon.

Given I took it a bit easier on the work from this week, I ended up writing more, updating as usual along with publishing two posts here:

Having a bit more time on my hands made me want to share some of the articles and blog posts I’ve been reading with a bit of commentary. After a brief experiment with Pocket, which I use for saving articles to read later, I decided that the natural place to do this is, of course, Thought Shrapnel.

I’ll not list these every week, but here’s what I’ve shared there in the last few days:

Next week, I’m spending most days chilling out with my family, especially as Hannah starts a user research contract with NHS Digital the week after.

Photo of some curious chickens near where we’re staying.

Weeknote 32/2020

This week, and most of last week, I’ve been on holiday. Ideally, I like to have three weeks off in a row, as it’s only then that I find I can truly unwind. However, given I’m now (by choice) no longer employed, holidays have the double hit of both costing money and getting in the way of me making more. As the main earner in our family, the responsible thing to do is to only take much as I need.

Usually when we go to Devon, we stop off at a hotel to prevent it being a full day of driving. The pandemic, though, means that not only do we want to avoid hotels, but there’s less traffic on the roads, making our journey quicker. That means we got to my wife’s parents’ house by mid-afternoon.

We stayed in a place we’ve been before, a hand-built holiday cottage constructed by by friends of my in-laws. They bought a smallholding 25 years ago when they were about my age. They’ve turned it into such a welcoming and restful place that I was able to relax immediately.

We spent our time in Devon visiting family, going on walks, and generally relaxing. I had prepared for the trip by uninstalling or disabling every work-related app on my phone. The only screens we took for the kids were on their e-readers and MP3 players. For it to a be a qualitatively different experience to the last few months at home it was important not to just take the same screens with us.

On the way back from Devon, we stopped off for a couple of nights in Shropshire at a self-catering cottage we’d booked. It’s not a county I’ve spent much time in, so we visited Ironbridge, which is somewhere I only know about due to teaching it as part of the Industrial Revolution. While we were there we had our first meal out for months thanks to the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, dining on outside tables.

The accommodation we stayed at in Shropshire wasn’t the best. In fact, for only the second time ever, I left a negative review on I feel a bit bad for doing so, but the place wasn’t as clean as it should have been, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Also, the photos of the property managed to skilfully omit the huge power lines right overhead.

Since we’ve been back, we’ve inevitably been talking about what would happen if we bought a smallholding. Our circumstances are different, though. Unlike our hosts in Devon, we’ve got children, houses and land is no longer so cheap, and there’s the small matter of the pandemic. The sensible thing to do is to try and pay off our mortgage in the next decade or so…

Despite that disappointment, we did manage to have a good walk up The Wrekin, which I think technically qualifies as a mountain. There was an Iron Age hill fort on the site, but there’s not much evidence of that now. Still, the panoramic views were superb and our children will climb and jump off any and all rocks.

Next week, I’m back to work. I genuinely have not looked at my inbox or calendar since turning on my out-of-office before going away. So I guess my Monday morning is going to be spent wading through messages before getting started with anything more productive!

Photo of Ironbridge run through the Game Boy camera filter of the Retroboy Android app, reducing it to 59.39kb. The Roy Lichtenstein filter looked slightly better, but resulted in a filesize 2.5x larger!