Back to Palo Alto

The flight to San Francisco only took 14 hours (I guess prevailing winds are a wonderful thing) and I was through Customs and picking up my bag before 9am. It was touch and go for a bit; they have automated machines at SFO to collect your information before you hand your passport to a person in a bulletproof vest, but for some reason the camera and the flash on the machine weren’t playing nice. It kept taking a picture of me so over-exposed you could almost make out my pupils and jawline, and nothing else, and then complained that the picture wasn’t clear and would have to be taken again. Technology, I love you.
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Swimming Lesson #1

I learned to swim ten or fifteen times during my childhood – and forgot how to swim that many times as well. Looking back, I realise that trying to persuade a delicate child that it was enjoyable to bob around in an overchlorinated, chilly pool of preadolescent piss was quite obviously a non-starter. A bit of stress might make you pay attention to your task; constant revulsion, coupled with a fear of drowning, is probably counterproductive to any pedagogical mission.
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Floundering

Last night we went over to friends to drink booze and eat cheese, and play games. I haven’t had a drink since i got back from California in February (being abstemious as I train for the marathon) but I had one bottle of beer and that was enough to send me a bit sideways – who would have thought not drinking would reduce your tolerance to alcohol?

La Serpiente wasn’t at all cooperative when it came to sleep though, demanding extra cuddles, random toys, changes to the lighting level of her bedroom, etc etc, as infinitum, worlds without end. Her sister just lay down and went straight to sleep, but La Serpiente was going for something of a record: maybe 90 minutes of fighting against the dying of the light. 

If there were any justice, that would delay her wake up, but she rose at 7 as usual and demanded everyone else did too. My one beer hangover (plus half a glass of champagne) meant I still ignored her and surfaced at 8, feeling gruesome. Through some self destructive parental urge, we took the kids to the play gym rather than retreat to bed, enduring several more hours of exuberance. At least I had some catharsis, getting to throw La Serpiente into the ball pool at regular intervals. Destroyer was grumpy throughout, shaking her head and saying ‘no’ to most suggestions, until I gave her my lunch to eat. Great. The only thing that placates my youngest is watching her father go hungry. 

Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In the late afternoon I took La Serpiente to her swimming class, and I was really impressed. In the last week she’s graduated from having a parent in the pool to being in by herself, and she was a good strong swimmer, as long as she was propped up by one of those huge foam pool noodles. So much so that she could swim to the end of the pool faster than any of her classmates. (There are only 3 kids in her class though.)

There’s still gaps in her technique, so I may not have a future Olympian in the family, but she’s really confident at this, which is nice to see. If only my swimming lessons hadn’t been in a freezing cold lake of chlorine and infantile urine, who knows how I’d have turned out?

End of the year

It’s the last day of the Year of the Monkey today, and music is wafting from Chinatown towards our eyrie on the 40th floor. Today I walked through a shopping centre in the middle of town, and there were a series of recommendations from an astrologer, put up on placards. Staunch stuff like: don’t expect financial windfalls this year, or don’t drive carelessly, or be careful in relationships. Does nobody ever get a horoscope that says “well, things will be fine for you this year whatever, so you can drive like a tit and stick all your money in a slot machine, you’ll come out on top”?
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Firsts

Out at the pool
Today was the first time in years that I got a blister from running; about a kilometre from the end of the parkrun, I felt my left shoe loosen, and then begin to chafe against my heel, and then the inevitable occurred and I’ve been hobbling ever since. I had an ok run, putting in a 21:30; a couple of years ago that would have been a good result for me, but now it’s much too slow. Blame it on the travel, on the vomit, and the lack of sleep.
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Regrets, I’ve had a few

Clearly it wasn’t a very good idea to go out drinking last night, although curiously off a five-gin hangover I performed better than on Saturday morning, when I hadn’t been drinking at all. At one point, unable to sleep I’d got up and, enraged by the amount of junk I’ve accumulated, tidied up the top of the sideboard. Or at least, put away in a cupboard the horrendous trophies I’d won during internal company competitions.
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