2021 week eight

Hello. Another week has gone by and I don’t know how that keeps happening. 

This weekend I managed to run further than I’ve ever ran before in one go. I recently ran just-about-25 kilometres, helped along by my occasional running partner Melanie. Last weekend I did a neat half marathon (21.1km) into the City and back. And then this week I plotted a 25km route, also into the City and back, and managed to clock in 26.2km, which amused me because a full marathon is 26.2 miles rather than KM. I’m enjoying running into the City on the weekends: it’s so quiet at the moment, and having such monumental parts of London to oneself is a wonderful novelty. It also means my route trends downhill for the first part, which I much prefer. I don’t mind running uphill (a little) towards the end of a run. It’s sufficiently distracting running in such distractingly pretty streets.

I also distracted myself the last few long runs I did by listening to James Acaster read his collection of memoirs Classic Scrapes which has been really enjoyable. I love his delivery in this, as it strikes a middle ground between audiobook read and stand-up routine. In the past I’ve enjoyed Acaster’s openness regarding mental health issues – though I’ve still not seen his recent-ish show which deals strongly with that subject, as it hasn’t come to DVD or streaming yet (apart from ONE SODDING livestream which I didn’t find out about until a month or so later). Hopefully that’ll happen, because I, too, have strong memories of the solar eclipse of 1999 and not being In A Good Place.

This long distance running has also meant I clocked up about 150km this month which feels great. I think that’s the most I’ve run in a month – I’ve only recently started using Strava’s 100km-in-a-month challenges to really track this. I do also tag myself into the 200km-in-a-month challenges, but I don’t know how often that’s going to be a possibility.

I am not a competitive, overly ambitious man, but I know that coming home having deliberately run further than I have ever run before made me feel good and made me want to do that again, but more. I don’t know where that will end.

Services subscribed to in the past week or so:

  • Flickr
    • I’ve had Flickr subscriptions for years but a few years ago gave up on it when the service had a fallow period between owners. They then moved from hosting infinite photographs to limiting free accounts to a thousand images (which is fair enough, especially for a service as longlived as Flickr), and I just got into the habit of curating my favourite thousand shots whenever I wanted to upload something new. Over the past year or two, my use of Flickr has increased hugely (in terms of browsing), and this has led to me updating my account again. Ironically, the thousand-limit instilled in me a discipline for pruning older shots, and only uploading the best of the best (IMHO), and so I never felt the need to renew my subs. But I’ve just grabbed a three month subscription to a) not worry about pruning to a thousand and b) to see some stats and live the Pro life for a while, and I guess a little of c) to support the website I use daily.
  • Ordnance Survey / OS Maps
    • Another service I have actively subscribed to in the past when it’s been a useful thing to have on my phone. Insert caveat about relying on electronic devices for wayfinding in the sticks, but god if seeing a GPS dot on an offline-downloaded OS Map isn’t some sweet, sweet piece of 21st century magic. But I let it lapse a while back and then something strange happened… My subscription continued, with the expiry date increasing every now and again.  No idea why, but whenever I checked in to use it, I found my subscription was still active, even though I was certain I wasn’t paying for it. Well, a couple of years on and the jig’s up: I got an email (sent to me and however many other users) saying they’d finally worked it out and would have to cut access. But though the email directly tackled the issue itself, it lacked punishment or judgement – and they offered a year’s subscription for £10 (rather than £23.99, which is still a great deal), and I gladly took them up on that. I’d love to see some numbers on this loophole (and indeed how many have now gone back to an active subscription).
  • Disney+
    • We’ve had Disney+ since Boxing Day and have very much felt like we’ve been getting value out of it. Blockbuster Disney and/or Pixar films new and old, some really enjoyable documentaries and stuff from National Geographic, and having all of The Simpsons on tap are all very big value adds for what is a reasonable monthly fee (albeit one which has recently gone up slightly, though existing members are locked in for six months).
  • Eurosport Player
    • Cycling’s back! The BBC showed some bike race coverage recently and I was pleasantly surprised to see that – Cyclo Cross, even – but there’s nothing else on normal telly for the foreseeable. So, Eurosport it is, and their app is better than I remember it being (this is through the Fire Stick) and meant we could watch this weekend’s two one-day road races of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Both were entertaining, and the mixture of live-but-also-on-demand, as well as a highlights-show-on-demand is ideal for these sorts of events.

On Friday I had arranged to go into the office for the first time in a few months, and deliberately when the office was basically closed so that I could give all the PCs a disassemble, clean, and reassemble. One colleague who had regularly been in the office reported that their machine was making a noise, and knowing that our machines have now basically been on for a year almost non-stop made me concerned that they were quickly filling with dust and could do with a blast of compressed air. Some definitely did, but most were much better than I had expected. Luckily we use all Dell machines which, despite various models and generations, are all easy to disassemble and seem to have decent airflow. It’s regrettable how much I have always enjoyed disassembling and reassembling PCs, and having the goal of cleaning PCs which notoriously get very dusty in an office like ours is a good excuse to do so.

Another excuse to do so is on my own PC at home. My photo library has been heading towards one terabyte for a while, and getting a new camera late last year has accelerated that process: bigger files, and more of ’em. The internal HDD on my PC is a 1TB spinning disk (in addition to my startup drive which is a 240GB SSD), and I have two 1TB external USB drives connected at all times. I should probably think more strategically and have some sort of NAS (network attached storage) but I’m very set in my multiple-disks-both-internal-and-external ways and will continue thusly. So I’ve got myself a new 2TB internal HDD and have been shuffling things around so I can swap them out, with the 1TB drive becoming an archive of the entire photo library to date in a drawer somewhere.

My backup strategies change quite often – which is not what you really want from something that should be consistent, reliable, and forgettable. My photo library (and it is, as far as is possible, my entire collection of digital photographs taken to date) is my biggest collection of data by far that is important to me. A long way distant, but still quite important, would be other files and documents, and my growing collection of audio recordings. I use Adobe Lightroom to browse and edit this vast collection, and it does an admirable job. It also treats files with care: the actual files do not get touched, only viewed, when making edits (the edits being done ‘on top’ via a much smaller database), and although it can be slow to generate thumbnail previews on files rarely looked at, there seems to be no real performance issues to having such a large number of images in a single Lightroom library.

So I’ll swap the hard drives soon, and having opened the Dell boxes at work, I was reminded how useful it would be to have a larger form factor PC under my desk at home. I went for quite a small model when I upgraded from my busted-ass 2008 Macbook about four years ago. It has served me well and I’ve been able to add a PCI graphics card, swap out the boot drive for an SSD (moving the aforementioned 1TB spinning disk to a secondary SATA port and using it for data), as well as doubling the RAM, but I will one day want to get/build a new machine. And it is expandability I will have as quite a high priority, although this neat little Lenovo box has performed admirably.

I seem to have fixed an annoying thing that started happening recently which I think happens to all WordPress sites from time to time: bots attacking the login page. I tried one approach which limited the number of failed logins in a given period, and then blocking the IP address of those which fell foul repeatedly. Interestingly all the attacks came from one specific block of addresses in one country and on one ISP. But even tweaking the settings meant they kept coming, so I tried the other recommended tactic: changing the default URL or the WordPress admin page to something only I know. In reality it’s not a ‘hidden’ phrase or anything like that – it’s just not the default one and that is enough to stop bots trying, apparently.

An unrelated thought, but one that’s come about as I sit at my desk for hours on end hopping between day-job-work and my own projects online: wouldn’t it be interesting to have a website/web presence which has variable hours of accessibility? I’ve come across a small number of websites and online accounts whose availability varies, whether manually via the user’s settings, or due to external/environmental impacts such as the web server being solar powered*.

Some online services like Flickr, WordPress and so on make it easy to perform bulk operations on a huge number of objects – it’s possible, for example, to make your entire collection of Flickr photos completely private, or to reverse that in a click of a mouse, or to do with a subset based on a tag. It’s feasible that you could have a set of objects which are available or not, depending on your own actions at the time.

And of course I grew up with the practice of logging into ICQ, MSN Messenger et al and being ‘visible’ while online. I guess this practice continues with Slack and Facebook Messenger reporting onlineness, but I feel like with phones and apps running in the background, it’s not quite the same.

I realise the novelty of an actual webpage or similar going offline is almost entirely for the owner of the webspace – for the reader/viewer, it could only really ever be frustrating: going to a website to find it is ‘offline’ or ‘closed’ for a period of time is kind of… stupid? And yet the idea of a live presence on the web which is only live while I’m physically near to it is kind of interesting, too. I’ve recently found it quite thrilling to browse someone’s website seeing they had just updated it (or were perhaps updating it while I browsed), and this liveness of something static was exciting. (This thought was also brought to me recently from following someone on Twitter whose sleeping patterns I reckon I could plot with about 96% accuracy based on their incessant updates.)

* Ironically, the last couple of times I went to check this page, I thought the battery level display wasn’t working, but I think it’s because it’s spring now and the battery has been kept topped up by the Spanish sunshine. I first came across the website in deepest mid-winter and delighted at the prospect of a website with a battery percentage, especially one which was occasionally something like 32%, and the very real possibility of the website going offline because the energy had been depleted.

Anyway. I won’t be making paulcapewell.com solar-powered or limiting the opening hours of it any time soon, but I do find the idea intriguing and I might hack together a little project which toys with that notion. My biggest problem – or should I say learning opportunity? – is not knowing how to get computers or servers to do anything automatically at given times or based on variables… Maybe that’s enough of a nudge for me to finally learn what a cron job is.

On a very manually-updated note, there are a couple of new recordings up at /audio – nothing special, but a couple of fleeting notes captured this weekend while out on a walk.

2021 week seven

A much-needed few days off.

It being half term and M being off work, I took a few days off myself. Partly so that we had a block of time where we were both off work – rather than one having to tiptoe around the other. And partly so we could maximise on what we are currently able/allowed to do that most closely resembles taking a short holiday.

This mainly meant: some baking and cooking, whereby I mean more advanced/time consuming cooking. It’s a rare day that we don’t prepare one or both of our main meals from scratch, but with time off it’s fun to try out a more laborious recipe. Or make a cheesecake, which M did admirably and I was very lucky to devour a lot of it.

There were some days of watching films and TV without worrying if it was for “too long”. And there were a couple of days of extended walks in the local area. We challenged each other to plan a circular walking route that the other would end up either lost or at the very least going somewhere they’d not been before. We both succeeded on those counts.

It struck me, one of those walks having been to both Willesden Cemetery and Kensal Green Cemetery (and St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery next to it), how cemeteries are about the current equivalent of an outdoor museum or art gallery. That slow, self-guided shuffle around the various objects. Spotting interesting items and stopping to read the details of the ones that really stand out. We saw a number of names that deserved a quick Google – a renowned newspaper hoaxer, whose epitaph was simply: “Storyteller”; a pioneering aviatrix microlight instructor who tragically died pursuing her dream; and so on.

It’s nothing new that I enjoy spending my time wandering around cemeteries. But it struck me recently, it having been such a long time (bar one lucky afternoon) since I spent time in a gallery or museum, that this is very much an equivalent pastime in a number of ways. We were given a stark reminder that such places are not merely mothballed recreational spaces, however. The running order displayed at the entrance to the crematorium at Kensal Green Cemetery was fully loaded, and we saw some quite neat logistics involved in getting hearses and funeral parties in and out down the limited roads. A sobering sight. I am always careful to be respectful in cemeteries, but especially at the sight of a funeral party while visiting.

The other walk (which touched on the route of the first, in a neat sort of butterfly-shaped layout with one wing per day) took us around a planned housing development complete with community buildings and so on that we’d never really seen before. Rows of terraced housing and associated working men’s clubs and the like and it felt rather like parts of Manchester. And I discovered a park I’d never heard of which a) had a cool name, b) had a walled garden designed by an architect I’m familiar with, and c) has a combined children’s adventure playground and goat enclosure. Like, actually combined. Not a Venn diagram I ever thought would overlap, but here we are. No children being headbutted out of the way today, but I must return when lockdown lifts so I can see how the two sides interact.

We also stopped to pick up expensive bread and beers from local places, which really helped make it feel like a city break somewhere new. Our flat isn’t quite a neat and tidy AirBnB, but it’s not far off, and I count myself lucky to call it home, let alone pretend it’s a holiday home.

So, a successful few days of holidaying. I also took some pictures on my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s for the first time in about nine months. The stark sunshine was perfect for the black and white film. I’ve had some issues with the scans, but it may be due to the type of film, rather than an issue with the camera. Hopefully anyway. More on that in another post perhaps.

Here’s a shot I had to take, as I was channeling my inner Shawn Granton:

This weekend I had a bash at a project for Sunday Sites, which encourages participants to create simple one-off websites following a simple theme or prompt. The latest was trying out a WYSIWYG web editor, something I’d not tried in years. Didn’t even know they were still around, to be honest. Anyway, my thoughts (and the results) are here: https://wysiswyg.glitch.me/

Long story short, it’s fun to make simple standalone web pages and I want to do it more often. I know my understanding of web development will never really advance beyond what I’d learned by mid-2002, but maybe that’s fine, and if it’s fun then let me have my fun, I say.

As usual I feel I have more to say, but if it ain’t coming, I shan’t force it. Thanks for reading.

2021 week six

Is it worth writing a weeknote when there’s so little I can recall from the week in question? The problem, really, is trying to recall a whole week at the end of the week – or worse, several days into the next week. So the highlights that still stand out are fewer. But there were some! There must have been.

As an aside, I have spent the last wee while browsing the lovely underside of the swanky mainstream platform version of the web – the web of handmade personal websites. Websites with ‘about me’ pages and, sometimes, not ‘blogs’ but ‘journals’ or ‘diaries’. And in that alternative word, so much else can exist. A blog has a certain vibe to it, but a journal or diary? Ooh… 

(In fact, one such personal website sent me right down a rabbit hole which saw me type out a thousand words breathing new life into a decade-old project of mine: why do people keep diaries? It turns out there’s still meat on those bones.)

((Aside number two: an alternative to the weeknote is, if course, a notebook of disparate thoughts and subjects, alongside a very neat and minimal journal kept in the form of daily bulleted entries – both examples here from Wesley Aptekar-Cassels.))

Anywho. On Sunday I managed to run a decent half marathon distance into the City – down along Regent’s Park to the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral, then back along the Strand. It was a long way but felt pretty comfortable, and took me to some really interesting areas. Doing it on Sunday morning meant London was pretty deserted, too. I hope to do another similar route again soon. 

The weather was still very cold and icy most of the week. During the week I was getting back into running but still finding icy patches and seeing frozen-over ponds on the Heath etc. The robins were very grateful for the ‘buggy nibbles’ I’ve started putting out. Little mealworm-stuffed parcels of goodness. They’ve also been collecting leaves and other bits for their nest, which is super exciting.

Wednesday nights lately have become cocktails and board games nights in this household. In one novel suggestion we’ve managed to turn the middle of the week into something to look forward to. It’s so simple that I can’t believe it took so long to come up with, and can’t believe I initially sneered at the concept. It’s great!

We started watching Deutschland 83 after I fell down a GDR/stasi wikihole started by watching Nils Frahm’s concert at the Funkhaus and me looking into the history of the venue. It’s a fun show – doesn’t take itself too seriously, and although it necessarily has to lay on the this is a period show here’s some pop music to remind you vibes, it’s done well, and makes for a believable world.

We don’t watch much drama (is drama the right word? I mean ‘TV fiction’, really.) Most of our watching is factual stuff – whether of the Grand Designs genre, the cosy travel/biography/history genre, or the ‘behind the scenes at the factory’ genre. I’m the same with books – I read far more non-fiction than fiction. Not sure why that is. Possibly something like wanting to feel like I’m learning something new…but that’s real? I don’t know. 

To a similar end, I also watch an ungodly amount of YouTube. I’m definitely in that trap of just finding comfort in the algorithm and how it, gasp, always seems to find something I want to watch. It’s a trap, I know. I read occasionally of people who follow the YouTube channels that they want to watch by using RSS, thereby only seeing each new video and never what the algorithm throws up. It seems enlightened and… Not for me. I take comfort in the feeling that there is always something else out there for me to see/watch/read/learn. And so I continue to soak up whatever is chucked my way.

On that note, I want to end on a few links to a few things I’ve enjoyed this week:

Megan Hallinan writes about all sorts of things but she always manages to give her blog posts a neat arc, which I love. She draws on a wide range of lived experiences, places travelled (and lived-in), and people she’s met to tell an interesting new story. Two recent examples include a post about her memories of the dark room, and (re)discovering Marconi’s wireless station not so far from where she grew up.

Jesse B. Crawford writes quite technical articles at Computers Are Bad and… I don’t know – you know that cliche where someone has a voice so good that you’d happily just listen to them read the dictionary? Something about the way Crawford explains often incredibly technical subjects makes them so damn readable. It’s uncanny. Possibly it’s just a nice overlap of personal interests with my own. But I’ve definitely found myself happily reading 1000+ words on something like credit card terminals just because of how he writes.

A recent post covers North Korea’s ‘wired radio’ broadcast system – and that’s a pretty good microcosm of the subjects Crawford covers: broadcast/network technologies old and new.

I think I nailed early on what it is I love about Computers Are Bad: each post is reminiscent of that one great article in an issue of 2600 magazine. Typically there are some articles I skim over. There’s one or two shorter ones that make me go ‘huh’. There’s the ‘hacker perspective’ column which I usually love. And there’s the Telecom Informer column which I find fascinating every time. It’s the latter that a) is my favourite feature in 2600, and b) most closely resembles Computers Are Bad. And rather than once a quarter, Crawford is posting almost weekly recently. It’s wonderful.

And Shawn Granton continues to write just the most comforting and readable regular blog posts, mainly on the two subjects of either cycling or photography (often both). I’m always happy when I’ve got a post of his lined up on my Kindle to read at bedtime.

And finally, this NY Times piece about an almost-lost archive of local history on the Shetland Islands.

2021 week five

Managed to run every (week)day this week. Good stuff. The weather turned a bit this weekend, so instead of running just went for some longer walks. Saturday’s walk took me through Chinatown, which was a little busier than the surrounding streets, and I enjoyed the sight of strings of lanterns being put up, presumably for the lunar new year.

I made another recording of church bells – luckily not an uphill run away as with the others, and the results were very pleasing. It’s the second time I’ve found myself startled by the first hit – at the moment I go to churches that I don’t know for sure have striking bells, and of course I don’t know the precise second they will strike. So I stand and wait around the hour and then suddenly it begins, usually much louder than I had anticipated.

It’s also the second set of bells I’ve captured now that (at 12 o’clock, anyway) follow the 3-3-3-9 pattern that I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed before. I know I now need to read up on church bells or striking clocks/chronometers to understand the significance. It’s fun learning this stuff ‘by accident’.

This was also a nice one as, after the bells died down, the nearby birdsong picked up again. The new recording is up at /audio (St Anne’s and St Andrew’s).

I realised that me going out recording church bells has a number of similarities to short wave radio listening: it’s about going out somewhere and experiencing something ephemeral yet somewhat predictable or repeatable. It also has a bit to do with the local atmospherics and conditions.

Made another thing in Garageband which, I think, owes something to Wilco’s Reservations. That’s up at /audio, naturally. It’s called Shannon. We played board games on Wednesday night and listened to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born and it had been too long since I’d heard both. So, so good.

I nuked both my phone and my iPad this week – the former was something I’d been meaning to do for ages as Android systems do slowly fill up with crud over time, and I’m guilty of occasionally adding apps that run background services to help with one problem or another, but it does all add up. And the iPad is a similar situation: it’s an older model with just 16GB of storage, of which the system takes up about 6.5GB. Now that I’m mainly using it for Garageband I have wiped it and left it only with that and the Minimoog Model D app and it all runs a bit happier and with plenty of storage headroom. It still chokes occasionally, helpfully ‘optimising playback’ for a few seconds before continuing. Better that than crashing, though.

Watched Nils Frahm’s concert film Tripping with Nils Frahm this weekend which was bloody lovely. His music is wonderful – a mixture of incredibly intricate piano with layered synths and electronics – and it was just nice to watch a concert film that puts you right in the thick of it. It was performed in the round so the crowd is always just off behind Frahm as he plays. I was captivated by the clouds of mist above the audience’s heads and reminded of that strange occurrence when many warm bodies gather together to watch a performance. I hadn’t thought about that in ages.

And the venue – Berlin’s Funkhaus – is really interesting. I found a great tour of the facility by Sound on Sound on YouTube, which includes some fascinating characters explaining the way the building was designed with the acoustics first and foremost. I highly recommend it if that sounds like your thing.

Tripping with Nils Frahm is exclusive to Mubi – if you want to watch it you can start a free trial using my Mubi referral code if you like.

Not much else to report this week. The rhythms of the weeks in early 2021 are a touch repetitive, but if it means repeatedly being able to do things I enjoy then I can’t complain. Nagging thoughts of ‘I’ve just realised I’m a bit bored of all this’ or wondering when I might see the sea again do feel a little bit selfish. But they creep in nonetheless.

Finally, the robin taste tests continue. Robin definitely appears to prefer mealworms to chopped almonds. Picky sod. But a new addition of (delightfully named) Buggy Nibbles are going down a storm.

2021 week four

January is done.

As I’ve seen a couple of people say, though, this is merely a calendar page-turn, and doesn’t really help much. On the one hand, woo, progress. But on the other, progress to what? A twelfth of another year has slinked by, barely noticed? Not sure how celebratory a mood this leaves me in.

Nonetheless! This week I have enjoyed a few silly hobbies, including more tinkering with Garageband and the Minimoog Model D iOS app, which was kindly made available for free back in the first lockdown. I had only dabbled with the latter before this week, but I’m now seeing how incredibly feature packed it is, and how it can be worked into a Garageband workflow more successfully.

There’s a process by which you can jump out of Garageband into a supported app, noodle around in there – with a tiny Garageband record/play button superimposed – then jump back into Garageband to place the track you just recorded in the other app. It’s very clever. And yet another surprise that my old iPad mini still happily handles this kind of abuse on its RAM and CPU.

I was running low on storage which initially caused problems, but once I’d had a tidy up it worked surprisingly smoothly. I didn’t make anything worthwhile of course – I mostly just spent an hour or two trying out the different presets and twiddling the knobs to see what effect they have. I tend to go for the bassy ones, holding down a low note, and getting lost in warbling, flanging bass notes turned up a little too high in my headphones. Precisely what I would do with a real synth, I’m sure. It’s a lot of fun.

I’ve hit a stumbling block in the shape of not being able to envisage actually making a song with a proper structure. Or, not quite knowing how to achieve that in Garageband. I know about building sections and being able to rearrange them. But I’m not quite into a proper flow state where I can do so successfully. I’m getting close though, and I imagine the two crucial missing pieces are 1) jotting down some notes and having a structure planned out to begin with, and 2) devoting enough time in one sitting to seeing an entire project through.

Until then I’ll just bung the headphones on and hit a bass note and just low it go BWAAAAHHHHHH in my ears for a while.

Other sounds that my ears have been delighted by this week are from the other end of the scale: church bells. Having successfully captured one church a few days earlier striking 12 o’clock, I noticed that a nearby catholic chapel struck the hour a minute or two later, so I went to capture that this week. The results are over at /audio of course.

Two notes on the newer recording: it unfortunately contains some unpleasant construction sounds – which I don’t mind as it is a true representation of the sounds of church bells in an urban environment. And the striking of this church bell was odd – I had expected 12 single strikes for the hour, but what I got was three groups of three, and then nine. I don’t believe I’ve heard bells do that pattern before. Possibly it has some significance relating to its… catholicness? Anyway, it was actually a pleasant surprise.

I think now that I have two in the bag, my quest is now to record all the striking church bells within a set area; NW3 seems reasonable, particularly as I once started and failed to finish a project to sketch all the extant pubs in NW3.

The return the other week of a robin has now become two robins, which is fantastic. They are feisty, territorial birds, so I am fairly sure that seeing two birds happily feeding near one another must mean they are a breeding pair. I really hope we see babies later in the year. I’d love to spot an identifying feature on these birds that pointed to one being one of last year’s babies (if that timeline even stacks up). Either way, it’s a delight seeing and hearing them at close quarters again.

This weekend’s main sporting entertainment was the cyclo-cross world championships at Ostend, Belgium. I love watching cycling, but cyclo-cross is just on another level. This course contained muddy slopes, steps, long 21% ramps, and a couple of sections on the beach – both through thick, dry sand and along the wet, harder sand, with some riders edging into the surf. Amazing.

The men’s and women’s elite championships were shown by BBC, and we enjoyed them both, though it has to be said the women’s round was a bit more interesting as it was a shorter, closer race. The men’s race felt a lap or two too long – towards the end, the podium was basically assured and the main players just plugged on to the bitter end. The men’s was a showdown between two previous title holders which had its moments. It’s just such an impressive sport to watch as you can just feel how their legs must burn as they come off a rutted, deep patch of sand and immediately have to dig in to power up a steep ramp.

I’d love to go and see a cyclo-cross event some day. By all accounts it is growing in popularity here.

After having a little moan last week about missing the freedom to go and do as I please during lockdown, I’m pleased to report that over the last few days I was able to… well, basically go and do as I please. Within reason / guidelines.

Long walks on Saturday and then Sunday morning took me to some familiar places, albeit (on Sunday) seen at a much earlier hour and with very few other people around. It was just what I needed, to be surrounded by interesting sights and trees and birdsong, and to have a few options for my next part of the route.

And finally, bitten by the bug of the Pottery Throwdown show on Channel 4, we bought some clay and had a bash at making some stuff. It’s really not very easy at all, though it is a nicely tactile process. I ended up making a tealight holder and trying to make a tortoise. Pictures when they’re good and done, I promise. 

Afterwards I felt a little unsure if I want to continue with pottery. I will try one or two new things just to see. But the abiding feeling was one I’ve had before when doing analogue art type things. The imprecision (not to mention my own lack of skill) is often what I find so disappointing about using tools in the physical world to make things, whether that’s pen and paper, paints, model-making, or now clay. I like clean likes and precision, and it’s hard to achieve those in the physical world. Or at least I find it hard.

And so all this made me realise something: that’s what I like about digital creative forms.

Photography, editing audio, and even writing and web design to a degree. It can all be done with pixel-sharp precision. The tools are infinitely precise. I love that about digital media. There are elements I love for analogue’s roughness – the decay of a delay effect on an audio sample, the somewhat unpredictable element of film photography, or the imperfections left in something screen printed, for example. But I think what I seek most of all in creative output is sharpness and accuracy. God knows I don’t always achieve it. But that’s what I’m chasing, and it’s good to acknowledge that.