Marketing Weekends

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Weekend Angst

I get a bit upset when I have what I consider a “zero productivity” weekend. This is one of those weekends, so now I’ll try and band-aid the mental wound with these inadequate words.

On the topic of productivity, first in line to qualify is having written some code, something I spend some time doing on many weekends. Usually this ends up being something related to work, which doesn’t bother me at all. In a way it is my attempt to ease the feeling of “behindness” that almost all software developers seem to suffer from. (AFAIC if your work and your lifestyle don’t fit together “synergisticly” you’re probably in the wrong game.) Not having done any such work this weekend hurts more than usual since I ended up taking unscheduled leave on Friday, by the time I’d lost more than half the day to unforeseen complications there was little hope of rescuing it. I could, maybe I should, be doing something about that now, I’m already feeling bad about it.

Next most common, after work-code, is code related to an entry on this site. I usually have 3 “in development” entries sitting around waiting for some time, typically only 1 of these will see the light of day though as the time it takes to write such entries often wears out the original inspiration. That’s one of the problems of course, to really achieve something takes time. Technical writing more so than other things as it is in my nature to try and be as complete as possible, if there’s code I’ll have usually ensured it compiles and runs at every stage, if it’s more general I’ll get lost chasing things into every nook and cranny — but I’ll get things wrong despite all this.

A third sort of code is “random project” code, but I’m less good at getting into these as I just never have a long enough run of time available to really get stuck in and achieve something… there’s a whole list of Django playing I want/need to do. That’s the advantage of playing at a little technical writing, it may take hours … but it doesn’t usually take days. I’ve downloaded the Android SDK three times now and have all kinds of ideas bubbling around for that, but where’s the time?

After code and related technical writing on my “productivity check-list” is any other writing. These here words count, and it’s my last-ditch effort to have done something this weekend that I can consider productive. Admittedly it isn’t a very good effort, but it’ll have to do. It always strikes me as unusual that I do spend so much time writing (OK, typing) since transforming thoughts into words and those words into sentences really isn’t one of my skills. When it comes to writing I’m generally inadequate and slow (there goes more time!) At times it really pains me, maybe this is why I do it, a form of psychological masochism. People who write well garner my greatest respect, and there’s no guilty pleasure quite like reading their words. So here I am, aping their efforts, much like an orang-utan who’s grown up to think itself human.

The final things I consider properly productive are cooking, especially experimentally, and exploring. However both of these don’t really blossom into flowers of accomplishment until I’ve written about them. They can be considered guilty pleasures for which a certain atonement can be gained through the act of documentation. (Much like code in a certain respect: there’s a lot of fun to be had in the quick hacks that get things working but then comes the “cleanup”, which is rarely much fun.) When it comes to cooking the atonement will often take twice as long as the sin, this, I guess, is only proper.

I introduced this entry saying that this weekend has not been a productive one, in fact last weekend was rather abysmal as well. I did get the roast hare entry out at least, but I didn’t get much else done (my backlog is depressingly huge and may be in need of a purgative dose of rm.) I’m not at all comfortable with these “documentary of my life” types of entries, it is truly bloggy laden with all the derogatory connotations of pulp. But there you go I guess, now that I’ve offloaded this small chip of angst in far too many words I’ll continue with some true bloggishness. I’ll try to keep the rest short at least.

Last Weekend: Chicken, Markets, and Minis…

We kicked off our weekend by picking up a little free-range organic chicken from our favourite local butcher, Hamblings. Mr (or, maybe, Miss) Chicken went into the fridge and we wandered up to the only real farmers’ market that seems to happen in these parts. The market takes place at the Rose & Crown, Ricky’s best, but unfortunately distant (30 minute walk), pub. The market tends to be on the smaller side, but it’s better than nothing. As an added bonus the Rose serves good food and has good beer.

Market Produce
Market Produce

At the market we picked up a small selection of veggies to go with the dinner, some onions, beetroot, white carrots, and a swede. All but the latter were roasted, the beetroot first peeled, rubbed with olive oil, wrapped in foil and in the oven at 170°C for 90 minutes then left in while the chicken roasted – truly the best way to do a beetroot I believe. The swede turned out to be quite a revelation! Not something I’ve ever bought in fact, very foolish of me. Anyway, chopped it up and boiled it in loads of water (along with 3 little new potatoes I had lying around) to which I’d added a tablespoon of balsamic, a tablespoon of sugar, and a chicken stock cube. When the swede and potatoes were soft I passed them through the medium disc on the food mill. I stirred though a good knob of butter and half a tablespoon of balsamic. A most excellent substitute for dreary old mashed potato!

The chicken was rubbed down in plenty (100g) of butter that’d been mixed with loads of finely chopped lemon thyme and oregano. Blasted in a 210° oven for 20 minutes, wined (into the pan, not over the chicken), turned down to 180°C and left for a further 30 minutes, then rested in the open oven for another 20 minutes. Divine! One roast dinner, chicken for an omelette the next morning, more carcass pickings for a roll each later in the day, and the carcass into the freezer for a future stock. (Despite all this I still consider the weekend to be a failure for productivity, I’m insane? Probably.)

Roast Chicken
Roast Chicken

Most of the rest of the weekend was spent in a state of near-catatonic worry and stress over moving, transport, and the future. I don’t think I achieved much at all on any of these fronts, except maybe that I kind of like the convertible Mini Cooper model. We may give in an get a car you see, especially if we move somewhere less connected than Ricky (heh, that’d almost be difficult.) There’s so much difficulty in the whole car thing though, first of all: they cost so much; secondly: fuel, insurance, and maintenance mean they just keep on costing. One debate: to get an older and cheaper but less efficient car; or a new, expensive, and sub-100gm/km car (no Mini quite makes this grade though, but they’re close enough AFAIC.)

It’ll probably never happen, I’m just too adverse to spending money. Another of my insanities.

Almost forgot something. At the market we tried and enjoyed several delicacies from Fat Man Chilli and had a chat with the men themselves about growing chillies in the UK (versus Australia). We came away with a bottle of green chilli sauce (coriander, ginger) and a jar of chilli, apple, and calvaos jelly. We also picked up two bottles of scrumpy windfall-apple cider from Millwhites Cider, we later wished we’d picked up a few more bottles!

This Weekend: Real Ale, Bags, and These Very Words…

The current weekend breaks down to two significant occurrences. On Saturday we finally made our way to the Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty. It is truly a sin that we haven’t been there before! It takes a little longer to get to than the Rose & Crown and is much closer to Chorleywood than Ricky so I’m calling it the area’s best pub (and the Rose & Crown can retain its title of “Ricky’s Best Pub”.) You don’t have to take my word for this though, they were a finalist for the CAMRA pub of the year, and are the Watford branch pub of the year (for the third year running.) Six real ales on tap, I managed to squeeze three in (including a very good stout that wasn’t on tap yet). Kat had just one, but that’s because she tried the Perry and a half of a cloudy Scrumpy (both very good.)

I want to write much more about this, but time runs short. It’s a great pub and goes on the “reasons to stay in this area” list that’s causing me much stress at the moment. We also planned to drop out to Wendover to visit their farmers market, but the 30 minute train ride, horrible weather, and £16 train fare were a total turn-off. A pity, since we could have grabbed some more of that cider there. There’s something wrong with the economics of paying that much to travel somewhere by train when it costs a fraction of that for someone with a car and in the end you’re probably going to come back with less than 16 quid’s worth of goods!

The second significant occurrence for this weekend was today’s trip into London. We popped along to Spitalfield market. This market really didn’t excite me much, the best thing about it I guess is that it runs on Sunday when most other things aren’t open. That said, we did achieve the goal that prompted us to make the trip: bags! Given my continual resistance to spending money I live with things beyond even the point that they fall apart, I’ll go ages without something once it has died. I’ve needed a decent satchel for a long while, I’ve been using a black enviro-bag with Supré branding for the last year (it’s a good thing the brand isn’t recognised here of I’d probably have been mobbed and beaten to death by skin heads (if you pay attention to UK news it appears that getting beaten to death by skinheads|gangs|chavs|whathaveyou isn’t uncommon here.)) Meanwhile Kat’s preferred bags have all fallen apart (and Kat has much the same problem I have when it comes to buying things.) Some catalyst was required to push us over our spending hang-ups.

The catalyst, most geeky, was BoingBoing. A short while ago they posted a link to Stabo because they were making some funky trousers made from old army tents. While the trousers were interesting I found the bags on their site more alluring, fairly rough but robust looking items. In the flesh the bags are as good as they looked, they certainly seem tough and have a rough sort of charm that appeals to me. So I now have a bag, it happens to fit my largish laptop quite well too. Stabo make these (and other goods) themselves, here in the UK (up in Cambridgeshire) and try to source materials sustainably and locally. Kat wasn’t as keen on the Stabo bags (a little heavy, and maybe a little too uncomplicated;) and the other stall with leather bags that interested us had unfortunately used rather smelly leather (cheap leather I assume, it smelt a little like a tannery – if you’ve never smelt a tannery be thankful.) Kat did find herself something she liked though, a roomy canvas job that seems quite sturdy.


Next Weekend: Life, the M25, and everything…

There’s a saying about Londoners, it’s: The Universe doesn’t end at the M25. The M25 is a motorway around the whole of greater London, it probably takes 2 hours to do the full ring (in the unlikely case that the traffic is flowing fairly well the whole way around.) We’re inside the M25, barely, and funnily enough when it comes to moving this bituminous border seems a force-field of almost impregnable strength.

I may be breaking the barrier down however. On and off I’ve been researching non-Ricky living alternatives, and my latest “find” is Stevenage. This is well outside the aforementioned edge-of-the-world but is, in a way, closer to London city than we are. The train from Stevenage to Kings Cross takes nearly 25 or 30 minutes, so Kat could probably get to work from there faster than she does at the moment (40 minutes to Kings Cross, then onward a few stations.)

What else has Stevenage got going got it? It’s on the Cambridge line, 45 minutes to Cambridge. Even though it’s overground rather than the tube the travel cost will only be a little more than getting from Ricky to the City. It has a pub that has won the CAMRA “North Herts pub of the year” award two years running, Our Mutual Friend (can’t find a website.) They have a farmers market, I don’t know if it is more often than monthly but monthly is the best we get here anyway. It looks like there’s a lot of green-space around the place.

There’s possible negatives too. Though the train trip is fast it doesn’t look like we’d be able to live anywhere near the station (it isn’t in a residential area.) It could be even more of a late-night-drunken-chav town than Ricky (possible?) While it all looks very green it doesn’t look particularly forested.

Too many questions, so we resolved to take a more direct approach. We’ll be spending next weekend (the whole long weekend) in Cambridge. To add to the “tasting things” aspect I’ve arranged to hire a Mini Cooper D(iesel) for the whole weekend too. So we’ll be exploring Stevenage, Cambridge, and surrounds for four (or more) days. It’ll be fun! Though I’ll be stressing the whole time about the lack of productivity, se la vie. It’d be nice if the weather wasn’t so horrible next weekend, but I expect it’ll suck.

I’ll be trying to relax a bit over the long weekend, but I expect it won’t help much. We’ve given our notice for May 5th, a date that’ll be upon us like a speeding Kenworth. That’s life for you though… incessantly being run down by semi-trailers.

(I’ve spent more than two hours writing these silly notes… I knew I’d feel bad about it in the end and I do. sigh)


It is perhaps somewhat disingenuous to suggest I’ve had an idle weekend. We’ve been up around 09:00 both days, explored and enjoyed a highly rated local pub with excellent real ales, done our shopping, taken a trip into London, explored a previously unvisited market, bought ourselves entirely utilitarian goods, done a little cleaning, organised a “weekend break” in Cambridge, and I’ve read half a book of collected and annotated H.P. Lovecraft stories, and cooked three meals including 14 serves of cauliflower soup that’ll last us a couple of weeks. breath Still, I feel a deep sense of failure, in my mind the weekend has been one devoid of desirable achievement.

(Yet I continue to waste my time on these words! It’s a curious and nostalgic dilemma, the feeling is much like that of University-era procrastination — doing things other than the things we know we should be doing.)