For the Benefit of Mrs Llama

And…unlock.  Some of my regular reader(s)* might have been wondering why this blog post was locked.  Well it was locked so that only Mrs Llama could read it while she was far away from me, and so I could avoid the worst excesses of moaning about being on my own to the wide, wide world (which I rather feared it might turn into).  As it was, in the end there’s nothing shockingly revelatory below, but at least now she’s back on this side of the world I can finally reveal the shockingly mundane truth of the past 9 days.

*Not sure if there’s more than 1…

Saturday 11th

The show Gotham and SHIELD wish they were
The show Gotham and SHIELD wish they were

While Mrs Llama is away I’m keeping a blog of what I’ve been up to, to save bending her ear too much when she gets back.  Not that I expect much to happen, but it’ll be a nice break from going on about marking and research.  Having dropped Mrs Llama off at Birmingham International (and suffered their extortionate parking costs – even National Rail charges less for parking) I drove home and spent the afternoon spodding playing Elite Dangerous and watching the first couple of episodes of Daredevil (spoiler alert: it’s brilliant).  Had a light snack and then forced myself to go to an old friend’s 50th birthday party…but found my social anxiety left me unable to cross the threshold of the venue.  So came home and sulked for a bit.  Then made a snack and watched some South Park and went to bed.  Exchanged a few emails around 10pm with Mrs Llama who was waiting in Paris for her connecting flight to Santiago.

Sunday 12th

Woke up around 7.15am after an ok night’s sleep, interrupted only a few times to worry about Mrs Llama’s flight.  She wouldn’t be landing until some time after noon UK time, so there wasn’t much I could do.  So went off for a walk, after feeding the chickens.  As I’ve had (still have) flu I took it easy and only did 9miles.  Came home, bathed and then made some roast leek soup for lunch.  Spent a few minutes contemplating if I dropped dead when anyone would notice…concluded they wouldn’t until around this time next week.  Bah.

Suspect the Wife's got better weather
Suspect the Wife’s got better weather

Soup was okay, if not stunning.  At least it used up the end of the old bread.  Afternoon spent snoozing, painting the kitchen and the radiator, doing a bit of marking preparation work and an hour of so on Elite.   Weather this afternoon/evening for the record was vile – heavy rain – but at least this saved me having to water the crops in the garden.  Did water the greenhouses though.  Leftover chili for dinner with some new Simpsons and Daily Show.  Don’t think either of them are on Mrs Llama’s list of shows I need to keep.  Went to bed fairly early as I’ve a lot of work to do tomorrow.

Monday 13th

Up around 7am as my phone buzzes to tell me an Amazon parcel is on its way for delivery.  I’d be more excited by it’s just decorating supplies – wonder if I’ll manage more than 3 words with the delivery person?  Exchanged literally three words with a dog walker yesterday – any more than that will count as my first conversation since Mrs Llama left.  The tension is palpable.  Frost outside – car windows frozen and grass very crunchy as I went out to clean and feed the chickens.  Who had helpfully laid one warm egg already – good hens!  At the PC before 8am to spend the rest of the day marking.  Planning not to stop today until I’m finished, so it’s going to be a bit of a hard slog I suspect.

In bed with Mrs Llama

Mid-morning Fb video call from Mrs Llama (for whom it’s not even 7am yet).  Human conversation  Huzzah, although I’ve forgotten how to talk to people already.  Not brilliant framerate or audio, but nice to catch up with her all the same – and her misadventures with local wine tasting.  I really hope her room isn’t quite so yellow as the lighting on the call made out.  We would have Skyped, but the damned system wouldn’t let either of us log in.

Highlight of the day the delivery of an Amazon parcel where a stunning 8 words were exchanged with the delivery man.  Most of them were asking me to confirm my name and sign but…  Okay, they were all confirming my name and asking for a signature.  Not the chattiest of blokes, but at least it raises the number of words spoken in real world interaction this week to 14 – that’s almost 10 each.  Gosh, I’ll be into double figures by Thursday at this rate.

Worked through until just before 7pm, but still didn’t quite get through all the essays.  Exchanged a few emails with course leaders about marking – looks like I’m ahead of them, although we’re deadlined for this week to finish.  Also had my supervisor pop up and ask if I was still okay to lecture next week.  Did wonder if this was still on as he’s been continuing his regular radio silence.  But it’ll be nice to do a spot more lecturing anyway, since it’s on open access it’s hardly going to be a major strain.

While the chickens enjoyed a late afternoon romp around the garden I went off and watered the greenhouses; after yesterday’s rain it didn’t seem worth doing the rest of the crops though.  Harvested the first lettuce of the year and then went off to make some griddled pork and chips for tea.  Finished that in time to sit down and enjoy the main event of the week.

After the thrill of witnessing Charles Dance’s finest acting – ever – I called it a night and went upstairs to read Wikipedia – Casino Royale – until I fell asleep.

Tuesday 14th

Woken around 5.30am by the song birds outside and daylight.  Skies overcast but no frost today.  Managed to stay in bed until just after 6am, but sleep eluded me.  So spodded for a while, and then had a long bath and a shave.  Mind you the desire to give up washing and shaving are there, given the lack of human contact until Thursday.  But probably best not to drop too much into a troglodyte or I’ll terrify the students on Thursday.  That is assuming I have any turn up after the end of last term’s shambolic numbers!

The day was spent finishing those perishing essays, and then after lunch catching up with my admin from before Easter.  So the thrills of updating registers, reading and responding emails from students and more importantly sorting out my desk in the conservatory.  Normally I get a few months working in there, but with the warm April I think I may missed the brief window.  Never mind, at least the mornings are cool enough to work out there.

Sometime after 5pm though the lure of the fine weather called me out for a brief hike…okay 13 miles.  Came back after dark, a bit shattered but glad of it.  Ordered a take-away as a reward and then had a great chat with my best mate on the phone (poor fella may have had me on full gabble mode, but he bore it well!)

Amused that misshelved on twitter has been the only person to quiz why this is a locked entry at the moment.  Ha, nice to see my blog readership is as high as I thought it was!

Wednesday 15th

Legs suffering a little from the yomp of yesterday, but all the same spent the morning in a combination of planning the next few weeks of work.  And chatting to Mrs Llama over Skype who looked totally wasted.  Think I’ve solved the problem of where to park while I wait for her (I anticipate) late flight back on Sunday.  BMI parking is mondo expensive, so I think I’ll go hang out at The Fort shopping area for a bit…possibly a long bit depending on French air traffic controllers and connections from South America.  Weather’s glorious again, but I won’t be heading out anywhere – bar perhaps the shops for a loaf of bread later on.

Had a mild panic that I’d made an error in some feedback to a student so found myself searching though all the essays to make a correction.  Thought I’d misunderstood a word.  Turns out though I needn’t have worried – on review my comments are fine.

Spent the rest of the working day trying to craft the guest lecture I’m giving to the 2nd years on open access next week.  Trying to regard it as an opportunity, rather than muttering into my beard that I’m not going to get paid for it.  Wonder if my supervisor (who normally teaches this session) will be handing back his pay for the 2hrs I’m covering.  My uncanny llama-senses say, probably not.  It was more of a struggle than I anticipated, especially since I’m trying not to make it too baffling at the same time as making it sufficently rich enough to engage them.  Of course no one may turn up to the session (going on attendance on other modules I’ve sat in this year) so perhaps my efforts will be for nothing!

Evening was spent with decorating, chicken cleaning and gardening chores.  Leek soup for dinner left over from the weekend.  As it was a bit bland, I cooked and puréed a couple of sweet potatoes and added them with some more stock.  And some more crushed garlic and ginger.  Resultant meal was much improved!  Remembered just before 9pm that I’d planned to havea chat with mum.  Sounds like she has a variant of the cold I’ve had – not quite sure she’s taking as easy as she should with it though!  Tomorrow I’ll tackle more washing and do some more house cleaning.  Perhaps even a spot more DIY, but it’ll depend on how much energy I wake up with.  Bonus second chat with Mrs Llama who seemed to have a more trying day today – what with technology failing her and near diplomatic incidents at the British Embassy.  At this rate if she manages not to start a war with Chile I’ll count her trip a success!

Thursday 16th

I did not want to get up today.  Back to lecturing so the alarm rings early, and woke to a grey morning with a body that was crying out for more sleep.  No chance for that as I had to quickly sort the chickens out, get dressed and hit the road just after 7am.  Just as well I left early – the traffic around Clifton campus was horrific – possibly the worst it’s been for a year or more.  The last half a mile took well over 20 minutes to get through – and there were more than one example of people flagrantly giving up on the law of the road (let alone the spirit of common driving courtesy) and darting through gaps in traffic that…well weren’t really gaps.  Surprised there weren’t any traffic incidents – or perhaps there will be given a bit more time.  To be honest not 100% sure why I’ve come in for the lecture though – given that I’ve not got any real seminars left to teach on this module I don’t actually need to be on the same page as the students any more.  There’s no exams on the topics, so I guess I’m here for my own interest.  Also as I’m teaching at 10am, I may as well be on campus early to get ready for that.

Lecture was on propaganda and ethics and since it was given by one of the better lecturers was especially enjoyable; even if only a fragment of the course’s students were there.  My seminar on nation branding also went quite well – good turn out especially compared to the previous session before Easter and a fair bit of engagement from the students.  I quite like the concepts behind it as I think they’re readily applicable to a career in advertising or tourism; so should come in handy for some of the student’s careers.  After that I had my usual few hours to kill, in this case doing a bit of background work for my lecture next week.  Then it was my tutorial with my PR campaign students.  Wasn’t sure if anyone would turn up, or indeed if the groups would all be at daggers drawn by now.  As it turned out a couple of groups appeared, both of whom seem to be getting on very well with the work.  Hopefully I’ve managed to give them a few pointers in the right direction.  We’ll see next week when I started the assessed presentations!

Ran into my second supervisor as I was heading across campus.  He was somewhat horrified I’d not managed to get my supervisor into a meeting to talk chapters, and that the aforementioned supervisor was still on spring break.  We both agreed to press for a swift meeting next week, but I can see it’ll be the usual uphill struggle.  Honestly, I wonder how his less self-starting students cope at times.

Pretty wasted by the time I headed home, but did a bit more work on the presentation.  Plan tomorrow morning to do most of the rest of the heavy lifting and then polish it off in the afternoon.  That should leave me Monday to make any last minute changes.  Also to do a bit more more background reading, since I’ve bought myself a copy of Martin Eve’s OA book.  While it is available on CUP’s OA site I have to say the format it’s presented in is shockingly shonky beyond words – so there’s little choice if you want to read the whole thing – go buy a copy.

Chickens enjoyed a late afternoon adventure around the whole garden, although despite having 1/3 acre to explore they decided the flowerbed nearest to the house was in dire need of being totally dug up.  Not sure Mrs Llama will be that impressed when she spots the devastation.  We have very different chicken supervisory skills – I let them get on with it, she supervises them closely.  Log and frog methodology as normally.  Soup again for dinner (tragically the end of it, as it was very tasty) – which means I’ll have to think about cooking again tomorrow.  Cooking for one is deathly dull, I really can’t be bothered.  I think if Mrs Llama was away more than 10 days I’d end up back eating sandwiches for dinner most nights.

Elected (ho ho) not to watch the Cameron-free leaders’ debate on BBC and instead caught up with Bates Motel’s last couple of episodes.  Not sure if the pictures I saw on twitter of Ed Miliband were him channelling Norman’s thousand-yard stare…

Friday 17th

Due to the horrific traffic of yesterday I planned to get up 5 minutes earlier to try and beat a bit more of it.  As it was I was awake not long after 6am, so plenty of time to get ready, feed the hens and head out to campus long before 7am.  Traffic wasn’t a doddle, but I did manage to get onto campus around 7.20am, so plenty of time for work on my presentation.  Or so I thought as I discovered I’d failed to copy the file to either my online filestore or my USB stick.  Gah!  Made the best use of the time by printing out some more reports to read and starting to read through my Glyndwr external examiners information.  I see I’m due an induction day at some point soon.  Huzzah, trip to Wales to look forward to.  Also sorted out a marking sheet for next week’s PR assignments – something to allow me to scribble notes on when the students are presenting that should help me mark.  Well I hope it will anyway!

Totally real ok Totally real okMorning sessions with the students went surprisingly well and were fairly interactive.  Was quite pleased by the numbers – they’re not like the start of the year but they’ve recovered a bit from the pre-Easter levels.  Also today no one asked me if Robin Hood was real (not sure if they realised I might have been a little sarcastic cited his appearance in Doctor Who as proof).  Came home breakfast/lunched and then worked fairly solidly on my lecture.  Well in-between sorting out meetings with supervisors (we almost have a date – a whole month since I requested a meeting) and problems from students to do with coursework and exams.  Since next week’s Facebook module lectures are centred all around assessment feedback and revision advice, hopefully that might take care of a lot of the issues.  Well for 99% of the students anyway.

Fairly relaxing evening catching up on tv, watering the garden, cleaning the chickens etc.  Realised I’ve been eating 50-60% vegetarian this week.  I suspect the longer Mrs Llama’s away the more I slip into vegetarian habits.  When she’s back though she just has to have her meat.  Sigh.

Oh and yes I’ve now watched the Star Wars:TFA and Batman vs Superangst trailers.  The former continues to look really promising…the later.  Oh just make the grimdark stuff stop DC…see how great The Flash tv show is for embracing the light!

Saturday 18th

Another terrible night’s sleep, but that doesn’t matter as the day is bright and sunny and I have plans.  Plans to go walking right around Rutland Water – again.  This time I did the Upper Hambleton peninsula loop that I skipped before.  It adds about another 7mi onto the trip, but I felt it was worth having a go at.  The weather was so gorgeous – sunny but cool, and the wild life loud and entertaining – that it was totally worth it.  Really interesting how the friendliness of the passerbys drops as the day progresses.  In the morning (I started just before 9.30am) everyone you meet on foot or bike pretty much says “Hello” (with the odd group of surly teenagers backpacking their way around a pointless Duke of Edinburgh award).  By the time you hit noon and the families appear (those with sprogs, or adult children towing elders around) everyone gets so much more insular.  Not to say I didn’t exchange to the odd pleasenty or two, but it became the rarity.

Did get a compliment for my t-shirt (minions!) though.

A screw! A screw! My kingdom for a screw!
A screw! A screw! My kingdom for a screw!

The last couple of miles was quite eventful as I approached Normanton Church (it’s out on the lake on a little prometry) – ended up walking behind one bridal party heading there for wedding photos and almost collided with another bridge and groom et al emerging from the church, having just gotten married.   Once I managed to slip past these (and with nasty blisters on at least three toes) I passed a young family – where one daughter was in floods of tears as dad looking mornfully around the path holding her pink scooter, with a look of abject failure on his face.  Which is why it made my day moments later when I spotted a shiny machine screw.  Tunring I uttered probably the (in retrospect, at the time it just made sense) most innuendo laden expression to him of “Excuse me, are you looking for a screw?“.  Turned out he was, and I was able to finish the last mile in high spirits, even as my feet started metaphorically smoking.

I had planned to drive the 45 minutes home, get changed and then pop out and do the weekly shop – I didn’t do much of one last week since it was only going to be me, but with the imminent return of Mrs Llama I decided I better get some more food in.  As I drove home though I concluded, in between cursing the multiple learner drivers I got stuck behind, that if I went home I’d just collapse and stop.  So I forced myself to go to Asda and just suck it in…having a trolly to lean on took some of the weight off my cursing tootsies.  Glad I did though as it let me come home, sort out the house, eat lunch (erm, around 5pm) and then just slowly recover for the rest of the day.

2015-04-19 11.07.26
Hot and damned tasty

Made the most incredible Buffalo wings for my dinner – although thanks to my timings today, ended up eating at 9.30pm.  Somewhat more European than I planned on there.  I shall have to reuse the recipe I came up with though as the wings were simply incredible – spicy, tangy and meltingly sweet off the bone.  The only shame was my exercise had so fatigued me that I had virtually no appetite.  Given I’d burned close to 3000kCal walking, and only eaten a bowl of cereal and a pastie all day I forced myself to eat.  Suspect I’ll enjoy the leftovers tomorrow when I expect to be ravenous!

Sunday 19th

Awful night’s sleep – not due to late dining but my legs aching.  Feet tender, but if I wasn’t waiting to go and pick Mrs Llama up from the airport today I’d probably go for a stroll.  Maybe she’ll fancy a little walk later – I suspect my blisters will slow me down enough to walk at her pace!  Spent the morning cleaning and tidying.  Also baking her a cake to welcome her home.  Cleaned out the chickens too, as they are due it again and I know Mrs Llama will not really be up for much once I pick her up.  Just hoping I can stay awake long enough to fetch her from Brum.

On a side note – I am getting sick of flipping our new mattress every week – I nearly destroyed the entire bedroom doing it this morning!

Hens still learning how to pipe icing
Hens still learning how to pipe icing

And she’s home.  For which reasons the chickens were so pleased, they baked a cake.



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