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[17:15] Last day or work before Christmas, and nothing particularly interesting happened. I used the time to clear down a few outstanding issues, slim down my inboxes, and finally publish my Kenya/Tanzania/Zanzibar photos. I should give you a link at some point, but I'll do that another time.

At lunchtime today I went out to do my 40 second hill reps and was very grateful for there only being 6 this week. I'm sure there'll be more next week. Other than that I can't really think of anything else I need to tell you about today.

Between now and the new year (probably the Tuesday after New Year's Day) I'll be having Rachel visiting for a little while, then she's off to her parents and my family (parents, brother, nephew) arrive, we have Christmas, they head off, Rachel comes back, we run a 10K on New Year's Eve (hopefully getting transport there and back, otherwise it's a train, with a cycle at each end) and plan on having a lovely time otherwise (I don't imagine the run will be entirely lovely). Have a smashing festive period yourself, and I'll see you in 2018.

[17:20] Welcome to the last two working days (for me) before Christmas. Thankfully today at least has been nice and quiet. I just need to get through tomorrow and I'm sorted. Given I don't read work email outside of work any more (since they moved me to Exchange, and then to Exchange Online/Office365) there's every chance that if something goes horribly wrong over the next week and a bit I just won't know about it until the new year. As it is, the new server hardware which was delivered on Friday looks like it won't be in place before the end of the day tomorrow, so I won't be setting it up until the new year... at which point I think it'll need to be done in something of a rush, which is a bit annoying, but not something I need to worry about for now.

Anyway, about the last few days. On Saturday I did the whole parkrun thing, probably as I was supposed to according to my training plan. I don't think I quite slowed down enough between the full-on bits, but I tried my best. I left straight afterwards, got home, showered, and was ready for the plumber to come around and talk to me about things, and then an EWI person who sort of, but didn't, fill me with confidence. His quote'll be coming after Christmas, along with (I hope) another quote from the people who did the council houses on my road. After that I just sort of stayed in and didn't do much. I'm told that there was a curry evening at someone's house, but it seems like most people but me were invited, which was a bit disappointing. I think it's down to the person hosting the evening thinking (rightly) that I haven't been all that sociable for the last few years and I'm just not so much in the group any more, despite how much I think I am. Anyway, that was Saturday. On Sunday I got up and got my run done while it was still pretty cold outside. It wasn't all that hard so I felt fairly good afterwards. Shower, worry about the condensation in the shower room, lunch, Tesco, then waiting for Rachel to arrive. I again put my wants ahead of Rachel's humungous amount of traveling in the previous week or so, and was unreasonably disappointed when she reminded me that she needed a bit of time to get herself sorted out before getting on the road again to come and see me. There're going to be some changes in the new year, with me upping the amount of travel to her that happens at weekends, to give her a bit of a break from being on the move all of the time. She arrived a little later than both of us wanted in the end due to missing a train, but we had a nice evening nevertheless. We both had Monday off, so started the day slowly, before getting out and doing my sprints session together on the tow path. I'm putting the fact that I kept up with her for all but one of the six 800m sprints down to her having been sitting at a desk for the previous week and then traveling a lot. I don't think I'm all that much fitter, yet. I'm hoping to become so in the next few months, though. As soon as we were done we jogged back to the house, Rachel showered whilest I fixed her bike's brakes a bit and then she was off to see friends and then go caroling and I had some lunch and then went to see the new Star Wars film. My impressions are mainly that the humour felt way off sometimes, even if it did make me snort now and then. There were a few too many plots trying to be resolved, and a lot of things went unexplained, which was disappointing to someone like me who likes to know backstory and explanations of things.

I asked the previous owners of my house if the shower room part of the house was cavity wall or single skin, as it's built in the cavity wall fashion (and I want, desperately, to get the cavity filled if there is one), but he says it's single skin, which is both disappointing and very confusing.

Oh, important news: Rachel and I put up the tree and trimmed it somewhat with new lights and new decorations. It's looking a little sparse at the moment, but I'm happy for Rachel to bring more decorations on Thursday evening when she comes for the last time before Christmas. Other than that, I think it's time to go home, get home safely, and eat some more food out of the freezer so there's room for everything my parents want me to get, and that they and my brother are apparently bringing. Either way, it's probably as good a time as ever to get food in there out and eaten.

[17:25] Hopefully I had two different visits by people to the house today while I was at work. One should have been an EWI installation person who measured up the house with the hopes that they'll send me a quote to have it done like all the other still-council houses on the road. The other should have been the shed roof and guttering people, to make another attempt to stop a drip at the point where the guttering has a join. I don't know if either have been, despite cycling half way home and running the rest of the way and then back to the bike and cycling back to work. I did this because my OCDish nature wondered if I'd locked the door when I left this morning (I had) but my coach said I was only supposed to do a 30 minute recovery run. Suffice it to say that while it was only 30min 28sec long, it was substantially faster than it should have been as I parked the bike a little further away from home than I should have. Although that was mainly so it was in a good part of town where no-one was going to attempt to steal it.

Workwise we were sent an email last night asking for a lot of VM changes, which I read when I got in this morning. It was a little confusingly-written so we had the author come and explain things in person. Once we'd filled him in on the limitations of the current VMware farm we had we all agreed on what needed doing and I got down to destroying old VMs and building four new ones. Once the farm had chewed through four copies of the RHEL7 template, the Ansible run took less than five minutes and I was able to hand them over. Cue plaudits from the DBA team, which was nice. Other than that there hasn't been much going on today, which is good as I'm not in on Monday, and then only in on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then it's the Christmas break, thank goodness. Between now and Tuesday I intend to go to a social thing this evening to wave Cormac and Steph off as they're going to Steph's mum's for Christmas in Spain (alright for some), then on Saturday it's parkrun and the shower room fitter coming around to discuss things, a Polish-sounding salesman is coming around to talk about EWI from his firm, Tesco shopping, and keeping warm. On Sunday it's a long-but-gentle run, lunch, and then making sure the house is all ready for Rachel's arrival once she's landed from Tanzania, gone home, got herself sorted and then jumped back on two trains to see me. She's really wonderful for the amount of travel she does to come and see me. I just hope I'm worth it. On Monday we'll have a gentleish start to the day, then get her on a train back down to London and points south and I'll see if I can get in on a middle-of-the-day showing of the new Star Wars film. See you on Tuesday.

[16:20] I forgot to mention yesterday that the night before I got collected by Cormac so we could drive to his dad's old house and see how the rennovations have been getting on, and then he could drop me at home, which was nice. Additionally I did a hill intervals session at lunch time with company and my coach and rather than the nine I had on my plan, and the ten he told me to do when we arrived post-warmup, I ended up doing twelve, because he was counting and I ceeded all counting responsibilities to him. Not that it mattered as the going underfoot was even softer than last week and I faded quite a lot more than I did then, too. Anyway, it was a good session, even if I didn't do as well as I might have liked.

This morning I was supposed to have someone from an EWI company come and give me a quote on cladding the house, but after twenty minutes of waiting I called to find out that he'd had car trouble and wouldn't be coming. He didn't have my number (I was sure I gave it, but I'm not 100% on that) so couldn't call. Apparently he's going to call back in a day or so to rearrange. In the meantime I've finally had a call back from a company I've been leaving messages with for over two months, and they say they're coming out some time tomorrow (while I'm at work) to take a look, do some measuring up, and organise a quote for me (which won't arrive this side of Christmas, I'm told). Also, some time tomorrow the people who came to reroof my shed and clear my guttering are going to come back and have a second go at fixing the guttering which is still dripping somewhat at a join. So I need to leave the side gate open tomorrow when I leave in the morning.

Cormac's just leaving his workplace now to drop off a camp bed for me so I'll be a smidgen more comfy over the festive period when I'm ousted from both my house's beds and also into the box room. Here's hoping it's as comfortable as he says... Although anything should be an improvement over a Thermarest on a hard floor.

Workwise today has been a little too quiet for my liking. I've had plenty of people come and tell me that work's coming, but none has as of writing this. Chances are they'll email me after I leave today, or during tomorrow, and some of them are aware that I've only got tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday in work this side of the end of the year.

[17:15] A little movement on the external wall insulation front; I've got a guy coming round tomorrow morning to give me a quote/estimate. Now obviously I'm not going to get anything done before the warmer parts of 2018 (if not much later), but it'll be good to get an idea of just how eye-wateringly expensive it would be, if I can scrape together the money to pay for it. I've spent most of the afternoon in between necessary work reading web pages, reports, reviews, and scientific papers on external wall insulation. The common consensus seems to be "it's worth it, but it's going to cost you a lot, and you might not make savings for 10-plus years even though you'll enjoy a nicer house in both winter and summer". So, if I can afford it, I think I'll get it done. Shower room first, though. Potentially with getting the walls of that done internally while I wait for the external work. Given how cold the room is I don't imagine getting both done would be a waste of money. Anyway, I have the fitter coming around on Saturday morning to discuss stuff like insulation (walls and floor), getting the towel-warmer replaced with an actual radiator, and what flooring to go for.

I just wish I had more money. Not masses more. Just enough to cover everything that needs doing to the house to make it a more pleasant place to live. But wishes don't pay for things. I just have to save and decide what's important to buy and what isn't, without denying myself a pleasant standard of living/life. I've probably wasted thousands of pounds over the years on various things (like paying half of shipping everything to and from the US, but also too many delivery pizzas). Like my parents did for a year to help pay to come to Kenya with Rachel and I, maybe 2018 is the year I cut back on all but the essentials... and a few things here and there to make life worth living.

[17:00] The house is cold. Not downstairs, upstairs and in the shower room. I won't get it done in time for this winter, but I've spent much of the afternoon between bits of work reaching out to a good few external wall insulation companies to ask for someone to come round and give me a quote. Only one or two bites so far, and no firm dates as yet. I'll make some calls tomorrow and see how things go. With luck I'll be able to find someone who can fit it in the warmer months of 2018 to be ready for next winter. Of course, good insulation will also keep the house cooler in summer, too. Anyway, that's going to cost somewhere between £9K and £11K I imagine, so I better start saving even more. That plus the shower room redoings is going to make 2018 a rather expensive year. There are a few things I'm probably not going to be able to do because of them. However, both are singularly one-off expenses, which is good, and should serve me well for the next however long I stay in the house. They might also mean Rachel's happier too, not to mention my family, if they come for another Christmas after this one.

I did a quick and gentle 30 minute recovery run at lunch time, which was very pleasant given the sub-zero temperatures. I'm even looking forward to tomorrow's hill reps. session. Possibly because it'll be in company, and with my coach watching for analysis and feedback.

Right now I'm off to see Cormac's house that he's having done up, then me and my bike will be getting a lift home, which will be marvellous given it's -1.2degC outside right now.

[17:40] Getting to Croydon on Thursday evening went quite well. The trains to her parents in the morning only just worked out owing to delays and things, but we still got there in good time. We had a rather lovely evening with everyone, including Rachel's brother and his wife and son. Sadly, no-one managed to have a good night's sleep for various reasons, but we still felt rested and refreshed. Which was good as we hadn't been able to book seats on the first train and ended up in the carriage with no heating at all. Once we got home to Croydon and put the heating on we then had time for Rachel to get to hockey and I had time to go to the local park and do some 1km sprintervals. The remaining part of the day was spent relaxing and preparing for the following day. For both of us it meant an early rise and a taxi to the train station as the weather was atrocious. Then we took trains within a minute of each other, me north to Kings Cross (via London Bridge) and her south to Gatwick to get planes to Tanzania. By the time I got home I'd taken two trains, an Underground train, and cycled through some extremely hairy ice and snow. The house turned out to be even colder than Rachel's (at 5degC) so I put the heating on and got on with Tesco shopping, a 70 minute run which left my feet soaked and freezing, and worrying about how much it's going to cost to heat my house during the colder months. I won't go on about it here, but suffice it to say I'm concerned about how much it takes to heat the house, while still leaving the upstairs cold and the shower room even colder. In the end I went to bed and worried about how cold the bedroom was, even though the heating had been on for most of the afternoon and evening, and the door closed.

This morning it turned out that most of the snow and ice I'd worried would make the cycle to work suicidal had melted, so I got in in good time. After a weekend and a Friday away there was surprisingly little to clean up, so I got on with my usual Monday morning stuff and sorted out a few things. My coach had me running on a Monday lunchtime for the first time, so I headed out to the running track to see if it was clear enough to run on. It was, so I did my session, felt good about myself and hitting a good weather window, and ran back to work for a nice hot shower. Hopefully the weather is still safe enough for me to cycle home and get there in once piece so that's where I'm going now.

[16:00] By the time I got home last night it was fully dark outside, so I couldn't see the roof of the shed very well, let alone the gutters. That didn't stop me tramping around the garden with a bike light trying to see what I could as it started to rain. In the end I went inside and waited for a friend to turn up to take away my old television which I had to give away due to a random fault it'd developed. In the morning I had a better look at the shed and, as far as an unprofessional eye can tell, it's a good job. Obviously, other than the guttering around the shower room I can't tell if they did the rest of the house, but those, at least, look clear. Of course, I can't remember how unclear they were beforehand. I'll have to pay the bill at some point, but I'll wait for the invoice to arrive, I guess. At work it has been a bit of a bitty day in terms of things to do. The highlight (thus far, I'm going to see Rachel this evening) was running to the bottom of a better hill than last Thursday and doing 9x30sec sprints up it, and then jogging down again. I'd like to think that even with the slightly uneven and very soft going underfoot I did pretty well. We'll have to see what my coach says. So yes, a hopefully shorter afternoon than normal as I aim to get down to the train station in time to catch an early train to London and thence to Croydon. We're out with her downstairs neighbours for dinner this evening, then taking the train to her parents tomorrow morning. An evening celebrating her mother's birthday, then we're home again (Croydon) on Saturday in time for Rachel to play hockey and me to do my Saturday run, somewhere. On Sunday morning (very very early, like, stupidly early) Rachel heads to Heathrow to go to Tanzania for a week or so and I, eventually, will head home for a Sunday of a long slow run, and Tesco. Then a Rachel-less week, which is upsetting.

[16:35] While I was out on my 30min recovery run this morning I got a phone message from the people I asked to quote me for redoing the shed roof and clearing and fixing my guttering saying they could do today if I wanted. They weren't cheap, but I'm fed up of getting quotes for things, so said yes. Hopefully when I get home this evening they'll have done both jobs. I haven't heard anything from them as yet, and it's already dark, so I won't really be able to see what they've done until tomorrow morning, probably (I will check the shed tonight by bike light). Not cheap by any means, but it means two things I don't have to worry about for at least a year, and longer in the case of the shed roof, I hope. Not money I wanted to spend on either though, if I'm honest.

At work I had a morning of fixing various things which seemed to go wrong over night, but started with getting 3.2TB of data in sync using Unison, and then handing it over to cron to keep that going once I was done doing it by hand. That all seems to be working quite well, which is good. Then it was lunch time and I headed out with Selina to our session with my coach, Doug. Aware of my recovery run this morning he had me pace Selina at various speeds around a 1km loop around the grounds of the running track. It was a good learning experience for me to keep to a set pace and try not to deviate, while upping my cadence. Once back in the office post run and shower I settled into an afternoon of getting small, fiddly things done and, for the most part, managed it. I've also just about managed not to get too annoyed by one of my office mates who had to click a pen or drum his fingers when he's concentrating. When it gets too loud I say his name and he apologises, but he also doesn't seem to be able not to do it.

I'll be heading home shortly to see what I can see of my shed's new roof, and then wait for the first rains to see if my guttering leaks. Tomorrow I've got hill reps at lunch time on a much harder hill than last time (although hopefully the weather will be a little less bitter and raw than last Thursday). I must remember to pack for the weekend (or at least the first half) tonight as I'm not in on Friday as I'll be heading to Croydon on Thursday after work and then up to Rachel's parents' for her mother's birthday meal on Friday evening. With luck and a following wind I'll be back on Sunday morning after being left at Rachel's house when she departs for Heathrow and Tanzania at silly o'clock on Sunday morning. Runs on both days, if I can find the time and energy. Anyway, see you tomorrow.

[17:40] A productive day today, all told. I didn't have the best night's sleep, but couldn't tell you why. However, I made myself get up in time to do a full set of morning exercises, have a shower, and eat a proper breakfast. The weather wasn't too cold this morning, so the cycle in was a bit sweatier than I would have liked. It didn't matter so much as I had plenty of time to cool off over the course of the morning as I dealt with easy tasks which didn't get me riled up or otherwise hot under the collar, as it were. Over lunch time I went out and ran my training plan's 4x800m sprintervals on the track close to the office. In an attempt to be clever I tried using my lap button, but ended up messing things up so much I had to run an extra 400m (one lap) to make things right. No great loss, really. Back at the office I spent a little too long in the shower and was three minutes late for a meeting... although it turned out I didn't miss anything. Back at my desk with things to do off the back of the meeting I got most everything of what I had been allocated to do done, except one thing which is going to take all night and I'll need to deal with in the morning. In the middle of that someone came in to ask for a VM to be torn down and a replacement built in its place. Happily, with templates and Ansible this didn't take too long at all. I'm off home now for a quiet night in, hopefully. I've a gentle 30min run tomorrow morning, and the some running cadence work at lunch time. Between that there'll be some actual systems administration work, I imagine.

[17:10] A nice but far too short weekend. It started on Saturday morning with my coach-manadated warmup, parkrun at high speed, and warmdown. I didn't quite manage the pace that was asked for at parkrun, but I'm putting that down to 20% poor conditions, and 80% just not being fast enough at the moment. It was a nice way to start the day anyway. Once I got back it was full-on getting the house ready time. Cleaning, tidying, putting as much away as I could (I even made a start on putting things into the under-bed boxes my parents brought from Ikea for me. Then a quick pop out to Tesco to get party food supplies. I settled down for a little bit of lunch and then waited. I was starting to worry a little that no-one was coming... until a few people did, then a few more, then eventually I had a good house-full (at one point I think there were 9-10 people at the same time). I actually had a good few people not turn up that I really wish had, but they didn't even RSVP to say they wouldn't be coming. I'd be more disappointed, but I haven't been the most sociable person in the last six years or so for various reasons, so I can understand why they couldn't be bothered to come to something I was organising. In any event Rachel's baking went down a storm, although I could have done a bit better at putting things out in open containers/dishes for people to snack on. I'm not very good at being a party host. Rachel was playing hockey at an away match, plus had to get back home and get clean/have something to eat, so didn't manage to make it to my place until well after everyone had gone home. But that was OK as we were both in odd moods by then. Mine mostly down to being a socialised-out introvert. By Sunday morning we were both feeling better and were able to had a lovely day together, including a nice slow run which I did as an out and back and Rachel used to go and get her bike from the train station after getting a taxi to my house the night before. I made it home, showered, shaved, and even went to Tesco before she got back. This left me feeling a little worried as to where she was, but it was all OK in the end. Lunch, an afternoon of relaxing and catching up with a few personal admin things then followed. I'd completely forgotten to get us anything for dinner at Tesco, so we headed out and braved the overly-talkative guy at the local Indian takeaway (who's not so bad, he just doesn't stop talking). After dinner we both realised it was a school night, so reluctantly headed to bed. This morning neither of us wanted to get up, but did eventually. Rachel to get her train, me to cycle to work. At work today I've done all the usual Monday morning technical things that need doing, fixed a few issues with various bits and bobs about the place, and kept things running as smoothly as I can. I'm going to head home now and hope to survive the experience. Since I moved house I do feel that my new cycle to work is a little more exposed to high-volume traffic than the old one.

[16:30] December, and it snowed last night, a little. Enough that the pavements were crusted with ice and slush rather than snow this morning. The roads were, for the most part, clear. It wasn't particularly cold, but it was rather chilly nevertheless. I'm having a little trouble with the temperatures at home, if I'm honest. The shower room continues to be the coldest room in the house, mainly because all but one wall is an external one. The roof is flat and felt, too. The remainder of downstairs, other than the hall is nice and warm. The hall and stairs are pretty chilly, despite having a large radiator there, and the upstairs doesn't get all that hot. Maybe I need to keep more doors closed upstairs, or even find out how much it would be to get the exterior walls cladded like the council houses on my street have had done. I've left a message with the company that did those to get them to give me a quote (my life seems to consist of getting quotes for house things these days) for how much it would cost. I would imagine it'll be somewhere between £8 and £10K which I really can't afford any time soon. Especially not if I'm getting the shower room redone at the end of January. In any event, the house has definite thermal zones. I just hope the family don't mind it being cold in the bedrooms, and having to wear slippers in the shower room over Christmas. I'll probably be in the coldest bedroom on a camp bed or futon mattress anyway, seeing as I'll be the only one without a partner or child. Amusing, considering it's actually my house for once. It'll all be fine, though. And wonderful to have everyone in my new house.

Speaking of my new house, as I have been for months now, it's my low-key housewarming afternoon tomorrow. I'm not entirely sure what I need to do other than tidy the place and spend a few hours filling the under-bed boxes my parents brought from Ikea with stuff in the spare room. Maybe go to Tesco and get some soft drinks and some cakes and snacks to supplement what Rachel kindly baked. I'm still not entirely sure how many people are going to come, so I don't want to be left with too much stuff I didn't need to have bought. Anyway, that's Saturday, after I've run as fast a parkrun as I can (given the pace I've been set by my coach), limped home, and had a shower. Rachel won't arrive until late in the evening owing to having a life of her own to live, so I'll have to try and survive and socialise on my own until then. On Sunday I have the world's slowest 1 hour run planned. Hopefully future ones will be either faster or longer, or both. Rachel just won't want to hang around with me, and will almost certainly head off to do her own thing for longer, and faster. Then it's Monday again.