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f/e 2021-07-19

OK, it’s a fortnight-plus-one-day since the last notes. We’ve been away for the past ten days or so in Essex, staying in Wivenhoe on the very edge of the River Colne, with trips to Witham, Walton-on-the-Naze and Kelvedon.

In the past our holidays were about going somewhere quiet and doing as little as possible. I was expecting similar this time but now that we live somewhere quiet, and I’m not exactly rushed off my feet, and this holiday had a busy schedule of friends and family visiting and to-be-visited, it seemed the other way around. There were only a few occasions I felt relaxed, which I used to think of as the point of going away. To be fair, Covid, and being closer than usual to more strangers, didn’t help. But it was very great to see people we haven’t seen in person for months or years!

Wivenhoe was lovely. Despite going through the village on the train from London or Witham to the seaside at Walton for my entire life, I’d never stopped at the village. The old town (including lots of newer building) between the railway and the river is great, with narrow streets, few cars, nice pubs, a few little shops, and a nice riverfront.

Photo of a river at low tide and sunset, with a wooden jetty stretching out over the mud, and small yachts moored on the other side
A few more holiday pics on Flickr

The second hand bookshop was great – it’s been so long since I was in a good one – but it was a shame we weren’t in town when the Norwegian or vegan Bolivian bakeries were open.

One morning, when going out for a run on the riverside footpaths, I passed a guy in a MetaFilter t-shirt, which isn’t something I see often. Obviously, and probably thankfully, I didn’t think quickly enough to clumsily say something like, “Hey, I read the same old-school website, we should totally be best friends!”

§ One unexpected and very un-holiday task was moving my family’s email hosting. I heard from a friend that Tuffmail, which I’ve been using for years, was closing at the end of the year (I’ve only this minute received notice from them). Given that this week was the first time in I-can’t-remember-how-long that I’d be in the same location as my mum, my sister, and most of their devices, it seemed like a good opportunity to switch our email over to Fastmail.

Whenever I started using Tuffmail it seemed smaller than Fastmail but they both felt like plucky underdogs, and a few friends used the former, so I chose that, the most under of the underdogs. Over the intervening years Fastmail has, I suspect, grown hugely – it seems much more professional and well-done – while Tuffmail has barely changed at all.

I still like the idea that one person, or a tiny number, can run a good internet service but hosting email can’t be much fun. There’s something to be said for having more resources.

Importing our IMAP email into Fastmail was easy, and their webmail interface is also very nice. The recommended set-up for iOS and Mac devices used Profiles, which I’d never encountered before but they seemed to Just Work. I’m wondering what terrible experience I’ve let us all in for now because the whole process seemed too easy.

I should probably have switched years ago so, although spending hours worrying over this during a holiday wasn’t ideal, I’m glad this forced my hand.

§ Busuu update: I have now discovered two further bugs, one of which is preventing me revising some topics. That’s four bugs found so far. Really, no one there is using (or testing) their own software?

§ I finished reading Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding over the holiday, which was good. I do like some of her turns of phrase. Here’s the opening:

It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world. Frankie had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid. In June the trees were bright dizzy green, but later the leaves darkened, and the town turned black and shrunken under the glare of the sun.

Brilliant, and ideal for the current hot weather. I now see on Wikipedia that Jarvis Cocker used some of that for a song, which seems pretty on-brand. And, of course, it looks like there has been a lot written about the kids in the book wishing people could “change back and forth from boys to girls” or all be “half boy and half girl”, which did stand out in this 1946 novel.

Here’s a bit I wrote after reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

§ Just before we went on holiday we finished watching the third season of Ozark. It continued to be excellent, probably better than the second season, and Laura Linney and Julia Garner continue to be brilliant. I have no deeper critique to make, but it’s recommended if you want to see a nice family exploring the many shades of grey between normal life and working for a murderous drug cartel.

§ We are now back home – it still feels slightly odd to call this inconvenient rural location “home” – after a hot and sticky drive across the country (our old car’s air conditioning is not all that). We stopped to do some shopping and, thankfully, nearly everyone was still wearing masks, despite our clown car of a government being the usual awful, criminal, shambles. We’re glad to be home, away from most people, now that things are “0pening up”. Inconvenient but safe.

We’ve now hoovered up the dead flies in the conservatory, and the annual festival of flying ants in the lounge, and picked up the bird feeder that – we assume – a squirrel broke and knocked to the ground, and watered the thirsty plants, and opened the post, and put away the shopping, and breathed relaxed sighs at the quiet.

I hope you’re doing OK.

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