Open Thinkering


Tag: work

Weeknote 32/2022

Mural of crabs holding a spade

Team Belshaw is currently in Rouen, France. As I seem to have said quite often this year on this blog, it’s been quite the week.

Last Sunday, we got the car packed and ready to drive south after a football tournament that involved my daughter’s new team. Not only did she score a volley direct from a corner and a penalty in the quarter-final shootout, but her team finished runners-up after losing narrowly in the final.

After the celebrations, photos, and receiving of medals, we returned to our car and were… stuck. The electronic handbrake was literally locked on. As this has happened before, I knew that this was going to be neither quick nor cheap to fix.

My dad picked up my wife and kids along with the luggage, while I dealt with the recovery service sent by Volvo Assist. The rest of the story is too long to recount here, especially as I’m typing this on an e-ink touchscreen. Suffice to say it involved boy racers, fire, bald tyres, our car being towed to the wrong garage, an even larger bill than last time, and driving down to Devon in one go on Wednesday!

Monday and Tuesday were weird liminal days where we weren’t sure when we’d be able to set off. I took the opportunity to literally just sit and wait in the local EE shop while the manager endeavoured to sort out the issue with the lack of refund for the 5GEE router I bought several months ago. It’s amazing how things get resolved when you’ve got nowhere particularly to go and can just stare at the person who you need to get a thing done.

The travel down to Devon wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be, and it certainly helped stopping off at a National Trust property (Hardwick Hall) instead of a crowded service station. Once in Devon, we stayed at a house owned by a friend of a friend, sort of a free Airbnb they keep. It’s an extremely kind thing to do and we’re very grateful.

After seeing Hannah’s sister and family on Thursday, and going for a walk down to Sidmouth, we spent Friday preparing for and attending a family wedding. It was good to see people we hadn’t seen for a while.

On Saturday, we got up early and travelled along possibly the most boring road in the UK across from Devon, round London, and to a place in Kent around 45 minutes from the Eurotunnel. Stonehenge was the only, fleeting, thing of interest during the journey.

Thankfully, at the end of it, was a wonderful lunch from Hannah’s auntie, and some family members who came around with whom we get on well. It was the perfect send off before heading to France.

Unfortunately, we were really early for our train as Eurotunnel was delayed. By the time we drove our car on and waited almost an hour they announced that the train had broken down. We were absolutely sweltering, stuck in a hot metal box without air conditioning.

Once we changed trains, everything was fine. We drove to Rouen, arriving at around 23:00 local time. We took turns in the shower at the Novotel Suites, and went to bed.

This morning, we explored Rouen’s old town which is… OK, I guess? The cathedral is impressive, but not unlike cathedrals in which I have been before. The old marketplace contains what can only be described as a crazy-looking church which marks the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

After a bit more walking, we ended up going back to the hotel room, playing some games, and sleeping for a bit. Dinner courtesy of McDonald’s, the French version od which has a lot fewer options for vegetarians than the UK.

Tomorrow we head to our Airbnb just south of the Loire valley. It’ll be nice to chill out with the swimming pool and table tennis for a few days before moving on to Reims, and from there back home!

Photo taken in Sidmouth, Devon

Weeknote 31/2022

Colorado scenery, including The Rockies, and a speed limit sign saying that it's enforced by aircraft!

I spent most of this week in the beautiful environs of Boulder, Colorado. Travelling there last Saturday, I was in town for The Badge Summit, an event that this time around was held at CSU Boulder and had around 200 attendees. WAO‘s client Participate enabled this to happen, and we (Laura, Anne, and I) stayed in an amazing Airbnb with them (Mark, Julie, and Don).

On Sunday, I went for a hike into the Rockies with Julie and one of her friend’s daughters, who happened to be pet sitting in a $4m dollar house in Boulder. The views were incredible, and I got back to watch England women beat Germany in the Euro final football match. It was a shame I couldn’t be at home to celebrate with my family, but the massive screen I watched it on almost made up for that.

I had a great time in Boulder, going for a couple of 10k runs in amazing scenery, helping run two sessions, one of which you can find out much more about in this post on the WAO blog. I was reacquainted with some awesome people who have been part of the badge community for a while (the OG’s!) as well as meeting new people. I’d forgotten how much I miss going to events.

On Wednesday, everyone headed off before me, so I went to a zero-waste shop that my sister recommended, travelling there on an electric scooter. I then got an Uber to the incredible Meow Wolf immersive art experience that Julie had recommended. I really have no words other than to say that if you’re ever near Denver (or Las Vegas, or Santa Fe) you really need to go. What an experience!

My trip back home went more smoothly than the trip going out, as my wife Hannah tested positive for Covid last Friday. My parents were amazing and looked after the kids at their house while I was away, meaning she could recover without having to worry about parenting while feeling rough. I think the current strain is more virulent than the one I had back in January of this year.

British Airways rearranged my connecting flights between Newcastle and London so I had a long layover in both directions. Thankfully, on the way back I got the entire back row of seats to myself on the flight from Denver, so could stretch out and slept for seven hours straight. I then got on a train instead of waiting 9.5 hours for my next flight, meaning I was back home in time to take my son to training!

Thankfully, I don’t seem to have suffered from any of the jet lag I usually get going forwards through timezones. I think that might have had something to do with the quality of sleep I got on the way back, and the fact that I exercised every day while I was out there. In addition to running, there was a decent gym in the Airbnb where I could do free weights, pull-ups, etc.

On Friday, I spent most of the day with the family, running errands for Hannah, and sorting out my expenses. There were some things I needed to order from Amazon to either arrive before we go, or to be sent to the in-laws’ while we’re in Devon next week. One of these things includes a new battery for my son’s phone which he (despite my many warnings) plugged into a charger much too powerful for it to handle. So part of our holiday will include performing some open heart surgery on his device. Every day is a learning experience, etc.

I’m composing this on Saturday morning, and am about to go for a run before going to the gym with my son. We’ve pretty much just got today to get things sorted for our trip to Devon for a family wedding and our holiday in France. That’s because my daughter has a football tournament tomorrow night for her new team — so we’ll be hitting the road straight from there.

Photo taken during one of my runs in Boulder, CO

Weeknote 30/2022

Teams lining up before England vs Sweden women's Euros

This week caught me by surprise. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

On Monday night we travelled down to stay over in Doncaster in preparation for the England vs Sweden match as part of the Women’s Euros. Ideally, we would have stayed Tuesday night after the game, but everywhere was booked up. We found out why the next day, as we saw people in university graduation attire as well as lots of swimmers competing in an international event at Ponds Forge.

Consequently, we spent most of Tuesday wandering around Tickhill, the market town in which Hannah and I lived for five years. Our son was born in Doncaster, but we moved to the North East when he was two, so despite our best efforts, he couldn’t remember walking around the pond next to the castle, feeing the ducks! We also spent time in Sheffield, eating and shopping before the match. It was an absolutely incredible occasion which we all enjoyed, my daughter (face-painted, and be-scarved) in particular.

I spent Wednesday co-working with Laura and Anne, finishing things off as they were due to fly to the US the next day. While we’re all meeting in Colorado for The Badge Summit, they’re including the event as part of a longer trip to visit Laura’s family in different states. It’ll be the first time since January 2020 I’ll have seen Laura in person, and the first time ever meeting Anne in 3D!

On Thursday I spent time doing logistics: upgrading my travel insurance, preparing invoices, getting small-denomination US currency for tips, and booking a train to cover the last leg of my journey back from London to Newcastle next Thursday. British Airways cancelled my Newcastle/Heathrow flights on the way and the way back, replacing them with ones that mean that I have longer layovers. I wasn’t willing to experience a 9.5 hour layover on my way back home, so instead I’m getting the Tube to Kings Cross and then the train home. Fingers crossed everything goes well, as we’re in the midst of industrial action and strikes.

Friday was interesting. It began with me running my fastest 10K for a decade, and ended by sleeping in an airport hotel. Between those times, I collaborated on and sent a grant application, finished painting my office (despite an unscheduled torrential downpour), and… Hannah tested positive for Covid. As a result, I had to organise getting the kids looked after by my parents while I’m away.

It’s ironic that Friday was a bit mad — my smartwatch told me I didn’t sleep as well because of the stress involved — as I’d consciously spent most of the week winding down. After The Badge Summit, I’m taking most of the rest of August away from work and although I haven’t got the most stressful ‘job’ in the world, I do like to relax. My time off will also involve travel: down to Devon for a family wedding, and then to France for a much-anticipated Team Belshaw holiday. We’re looking forward to doing some kayaking and sightseeing.

Next week, then, I’ll be in Boulder, Colorado at the event and hanging out with people I think are awesome. It should be worth the slightly painful travel. After that, my kids have got various football-related things and then we’ll be heading to Devon.