A slightly delayed weekly blog this week thanks to some internet issues at home. I don’t think anyone noticed me missing my self-inflicted deadline, so never mind!
How has your week been? It was a normal working week for me, which these days involves two days in the office and three days at home. It’s kind of nice going to work on a semi-regular basis; I’m more than happy working from home, but it’s also good to get up and actually go to work. I would say it feels a bit more normal, but it really doesn’t, my workday morning routine is very much off and the office is pretty much empty still – on Friday there were three of us in total, which is just weird when the office will seat 50+ people. Working in the office also means my lunchtime walks can be a bit more varied, which can only be a good thing.
Apart from the day job I also did my bit for my fellow humans by giving blood, had date night burger and ice cream, went to Lincolnshire to visit family, bought a new motorcycle helmet, and finished another audio book. Continue reading this episode of my weekly blog to find out more…
Giving Blood in a Pandemic
Early in the week I had a call from NHS Give Blood to say that they’d had lots of cancellations for donations at the location I normally donate at, asking if I would be able to fill one of them. I’d actually been unable to get an appointment when I tried after my last one, and so I very happily took one of the empty slots.
Giving Blood is always done in a way that minimises risk of any kind of infection, of course it is. But this time was even more so, 2020 really is not a normal year. A happy gentleman asked me a list of virus-related questions to answer on the way in, the waiting area had been changed so it was a set of individual seats rather than a line of benches, all staff and visitors wore face masks at all times, and post-donation snacks and drinks were brought to the donation chair rather than being self-service in a communal area. It was all very well organised, and I felt perfectly safe and well looked after. Personally speaking, the worst part for me was that a face covering had to be worn from start to finish, which of course I understand and am happy to oblige, but my skin was so itchy and my face so sweaty by the end. Thankfully, my blood flows fast and I wasn’t in there too long!
Giving blood in a pandemic was absolutely fine, if you normally donate regularly but haven’t in these times due to concerns about infection, please let me put your mind at ease. Of course, nothing is risk free at the moment, but I would suggest you are far less likely to catch Covid-19 from a blood donation session than you are from going to the supermarket or a fast food restaurant. If you can Give Blood, please look to see if there is an appointment near you soon.
Choosing a New Lid
The general rule of thumb when it comes to motorcycle helmets is that you should change it every five years or so, even if you have never dropped it or not worn it every day. The glues, resins and other materials used in the making of the helmet can lose their effectiveness and also deteriorate the fabric and foam lining over time, which means it is no longer as safe as when you first got it. Having worn my current lid, an Arai Axces-2, since before we did our big Zartusacan adventure over in North America (which you can read about here), it is time for an upgrade.
Helmet technology is changing all the time and my current entry level Arai has been superseded with the new Debut, which I would happily have. I’ve had Arai lids for the last ten years or so, they just fit my head well and feel right when I ride, so I’m not about to deviate from that. But the question in my mind for a while has been whether I needed to spend a bit more and upgrade to the more adventure-style Tour X4, considering we now ride a lot more gravel than before, and especially with next year’s Iceland trip in mind.
The choice was always between these two, but with all lids being slightly different shapes and sizes, it’s important to try them on before buying. We headed to Lincolnshire at the weekend to visit family, which also meant that I could go to Sports Bike Shop – the best place to buy motorcycle gear in my opinion – to try on the lids and make a final decision.
The Arai Debut, as I expected, felt like putting on any other Arai helmet I’ve had. This would be the third Arai entry level lid I’ve had in a row, and it was immediately comfortable, everything was where I expected it to be, and it was a perfect fit. It would be the default choice, a helmet I am already used to. If I bought the Debut I could also afford to go for a coloured version rather than plain, which I do prefer.
Arai Tour X4
Onto the Tour X4. Although apparently 50g heavier than the Debut, the Tour X4 felt lighter on my head, almost certainly down to it being a much more spacious helmet with extra space in front of my chin, and a slightly larger visor area. It certainly fitted well, slightly less tight than the Debut, certainly, but no less secure. There are some other differences in the construction of the helmet which make the Tour X4 a £200-ish upgrade on the Debut (based on the plain versions), including an emergency release for the cheek pads to make removing the helmet in an accident a bit easier (please don’t do this unless I’m actually dying), and is a very popular choice amongst adventure riders. It felt good on my head, and that is what I had hoped.
I came home with the extra-small Arai Tour X4 in diamond white. I couldn’t warrant the extra money for a pretty version (but apparently companies make vinyl sticks for these lids…). Assuming we actually get to go on our road trip next week (and we’ve found time to swap my intercom into the new helmet), you should see it in a photo or two soon, and you can let me know if you think I made the right choice. I’m hoping it doesn’t make my head look too big!!!
Bill Bryson, The Body: A Guide for Occupants
I’ve done a fair bit of driving recently and so have been getting through my audio books. This week I finished listening to Bill Bryson’s The Body: A Guide for Occupants (affiliate link), read by Bryson himself, which is a super interesting introduction to the science of how our bodies work. I chose this one because I thoroughly enjoyed his other scientific title, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and I am glad I did. With chapters on all our body’s systems, Bryson describes each in terms of anatomy and physiology, and provides historical information, interviews from experts, and biographical details on the pioneers of medical discovery. Aimed at normal rather than medical professionals, this book was published last year, which means it is as up to date as a book on our body could be prior to the current pandemic. Bryson keeps his usual slightly comedic and irreverent tone, which is probably the reason I keep choosing his books for my lunchtime walks and long drives. I mean, this might sound like a textbook, and it is in some ways, but it’s presented and delivered as a novel which makes it very easy to listen to and digest. And, I have to say, I’ve never chucked to myself reading a textbook before! Would recommend.
Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native
Next up, I’ve started to listen to Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. I feel this needs a bit of explanation based on my normal choice of audiobook… consider this a bit of a rematch with a book I have struggled with since it was chosen as my primary A Level text more than 20 years ago (I much preferred plays and poems). I saw it was available and wondered if my older-and-wiser-self might finally get all the way though the book. Based on Egdon Heath, a fictional moor in Wessex, this is a book about the love affairs and marriages of a small group of people, with nature’s beauty and indifference to mankind running through the background. This is a tragedy of textbook definition; the plans and dreams of the lovers fall apart thanks to deception and, well, rotten luck. It’s basically a book full of unhappy stories, all describing Hardy’s bleak philosophy of life, his belief in man’s helplessness before the power of the universe. I mean, wonderful, huh?! I admit four chapters in I’m already struggling, but that is further than I got the first time around… maybe I should have chosen the Alan Rickman version?!
On YouTube: Kara and Nate
I’ve been watching Kata and Nate’s YouTube videos for a good while, and the fact that they’ve taken to vanlife through this pandemic fits very nicely with my own dreams and future hopes. I have to say, the way they do things doesn’t always fit with my desire to preserve life (they haven’t always made the right distinction between what’s fun and adventurous and what’s just a bit reckless), but they’re attitude to life and ability to share their travels in a wanderlust-filled way is addictive to someone like me who doesn’t have that lifestyle within reach. The reason I wanted to include them in my That’s Entertainment feature this week is because I’ve really enjoyed their last couple of videos, featuring Nate’s attempt at mountain biking the Colorado Trail. Maybe it’s because I fell in love with Colorado when we did our big road trip back in 2016 (here’s a post to read about that) and would dearly love to go back to see more of it, maybe it’s because I reckon I could definitely hike or bike that trail given the opportunity, or maybe it’s because it’s fun watching someone suffer through a tough adventure, I don’t know. There’s a third video in the series to come (this is the first), and I’m looking forward to that one next week.
Have you got audio book or YouTube channel suggestions for me? I like travel, adventure, the simple life, and people who aren’t arrogant! Drop your ideas in the comments below.
I’d love to know how your week has been. Let me know what your favourite thing about this week has been in the comments below…
If you enjoyed reading this episode of my weekly blog, and if you think my weekly blog series is a fun thing to read regularly, and especially if you got to the end of this one(!), I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Come on by next Sunday evening for the next in the series.
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