A minor, yet uncomfortable experience

Sunday 31 May 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea (ish)

After completing the tenth lockdown post last Sunday I decided to make it the final one. Ten is a good solid number, and it seemed to be the right time to end. To be truthful, I was bored with them myself. A week later and I am not just bored with the blog, I am just bored. Period.

We are entering a new and more relaxed lockdown this coming week. Groups of up to six can meet outdoors, and they can meet in a garden, not just in a public place. I am utterly convinced this is too early to be relaxing any rules, the weather has been too good so there has been much relaxing of rules already, and the infection rate is still too high. But, what do I know? I am an IT guy, not an epidemic specialist. I won’t mention the Cummings thing and what message this sends, it made me too angry.

While it is good things are relaxing and some form of normality; this supposed new normality, is returning, I am not convinced that this covid event is winding down so I see any longer term plans as being foolish and not really worth making. Hence the bored. I am seeing the current way will be normality and it is not as good as the old normality, and I am one of the lucky ones. I have a good job, a great partner, I live in a good house with a garden and am lacking for nothing. Apart from being able to plan for travel and doing the things I want to do without any real or imaginary constraints. I want to go and see a band!

Anyway…

I had an online flat resident’s association board meeting on Tuesday so used my common sense and drove down to the flat on Monday afternoon, walking down to the beach soon after arriving. I could just as easily done this from London, but it was easier to be closer to the issues if I was there. That was my reasoning anyway. The beach was busy, I am fairly sure there were more people on the beach than I saw on any day last summer. Lockdown rules. A number of people were swimming, however I just had a couple of cans of lager, listened to music and read. It was nice and I felt better for it.

I took a few photos from the flat in the afternoon, I have not taken one from bedroom looking back towards Hastings and over the Marina Court building before, it is a great view. One of the things I am trying to deal with as part of my board membership is getting the neighbours to trim their leylandii trees. This window is on the fourth floor of my building.

The sunset was pretty good too.

On Tuesday I took the opportunity of actually having a lunch break to go for a swim, it was high tide early afternoon, and yes it was cold. I did not stay in long, but at least I got in. I intended to repeat this on other days but didn’t.

For my morning walk on Wednesday I walked around the Burton part of St Leonards and took photos of some of the old buildings. Starting in 1827 James Burton, and his son Decimus, designed and built St Leonards as a seaside retreat for wealthy Londoners. My novel is set in this period and I wanted some printed photos of the place to help me visualise the area.

In the evening I walked down to the shops to buy some fruit and biscuits. On the way home I had one of those uncomfortable ‘do I or do I not’ help situations, exacerbated by social distancing and worry about either getting sick or making some else sick. A couple were walking up the hill ahead of me when the woman starting having what looked like a minor fit or seizure, her partner grabbed her and was trying to hold her up and walk her to a nearby bench. I ran up and asked if they were OK and he assured me they were fine, and she just needed to sit down. As we were speaking her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she just started to slump toward the ground. He was struggling to not drop her and I momentarily wondered whether I should help. Only a for a split second, though my immediate thought was ‘is this safe?, if I touch them could I get sick?’ you know, those sort of things. Of course I helped, grabbing her from behind and helping to gently lower her to the ground where we stood. Someone pulled up in a car from the nearby care home, and another passer-by was calling an ambulance. As we tried to place her in the recovery position, she snapped out of it and appeared to be instantly fine. Once she was sat up and speaking I carried on home. Washing my hands more thoroughly than normal.

The following day, Thursday, I was back in London. With Eleanor’s son now coming back to London and starting teaching again in a couple of weeks we have decided to move down to St Leonards for the duration, or at least for a few week. I am looking forward to this.

The new way, Week ten.

Saturday 23 May 2020 – Walthamstow.

Lousy sleep on Sunday night. Most nights these days I drop off quickly and sleep until soon after sunrise. I go to bed early, yet still do not get quite enough sleep. I try to grab those missing few hours in fitful bursts of dozing on weekend mornings. Sunday was one of those rare returns to the insomnia days of old. I don’t want those to return. I should have just gotten up and read my book, but I don’t do that, I lie there and let my brain race.

I was thinking about SE Asia travel, the places I did not get to, and the places I want to revisit. As it is me and the middle of the night I spent more time thinking on the things that didn’t go as well as I would have liked rather than the awesome bits.

These last couple of weeks I have been struck quite hard by the thing that impacts my life the most. I am sure there is a name for it, though I don’t immediately have one to hand. I am not alone in suffering from this malaise. I have lots of plans, ideas and desires, I mean to do things. I just don’t. There is a mix of miss placed guilt, laziness, tiredness, lack of motivation and lack of drive; a missing will power. Though I am not that lazy, I do have some motivation and some desire. Just not enough. I am not driven and I lack self-confidence.

These things manifest themselves in different ways. I have been meaning to ring my aunt and uncle, neither who are well, to see how they have fared through the covid pandemic. I have not. I mean to email mum more often, I don’t. I mean to do more exercise and take more photos, I don’t; my photo book of Africa is a pile of prints in a drawer. This has long been the way, and I don’t know how to resolve this; or know if I truly want to.

These things impacted on my SE travels in a variety of ways, I spent way too much time on my own in guesthouse and hostel rooms, and didn’t do some things due to lack of belief in myself. Having said that, I packed a hell of a lot in during those five months and did significantly more than I thought possible. Next time will be better….

Sunday
I am really enjoying Sundays. I had a video call with my sister firstish thing which was a good start to the day. The rest of the morning was spent blogging and doing not much, Eleanor I walked when she finished work in the early afternoon. It was a bit of a directionless and vaguely listless walk, though being outside was good enough. We are both a bit bored of walking around Walthamstow.

I like noise, it is most of the music I listen to.

I read a bit in the afternoon, continuing the book of short stories I recently started as well as starting to reread Stephen King’s book on writing. I have so many books on the go at the moment, yet still ordered two more novels this afternoon, second hand and cheap. I must spend less time on this computer and more time reading the books I buy. Another commitment I will fail to achieve I suspect.

In a burst of enthusiasm, driven by Eleanor, I finally hung a print from my photo exhibition 15 months ago in the front room. I have now moved another into the hall, ready to hang in a few months time.

Late in the afternoon I grabbed a can of IPA and moved to being in front of the telly, I started watching a programme on Asian rail journeys and then watched three episodes, drinking the can of beer. followed by two gin and tonics. This started me on looking at posts from 8 years ago when I was travelling. I now have decided to do a ten year anniversary trip to SE Asia to visit the places I missed last time. I would love to think I could and would take another five month journey, though suspect this will be more of a three week quick hop. I have 20 months to come up with a plan and save for it. Hopefully we will be able to travel again by then. I miss travelling.

I spent some time over the week looking at old posts and reminiscing, mostly fondly, on my travels. The travel lust is still there.

Monday
Bad night, the first night in ages when I just could not get to sleep; brain race. I was thinking about holidays; what to do this summer, as well as thinking about this 10 year anniversary trip. I also thought about Kevin and Phil, who I met in Vietnam at Dan and Van’s wedding and who are both sadly no longer with us. They loved travel and let nothing stop them, I was envious of their ambition. I still woke early, not long after the sun made its unstoppable journey around the edges and join of the curtains.

I did get up for a walk this morning, I wasn’t going to, but I felt bad as I also spent some time last night thinking about my laziness and general lack of ‘get up go’. So I got up and went. I started listening to a new punk rock podcast while I walked, two blokes talking about music. I enjoyed it, and have a bunch of bands I don’t know to listen to and add to an ever growing punk rock playlist. The YMCA gym in Walthamstow that Eleanor I both went to for a while some years back.

The book I ordered about The Luddites arrived today, with possibly the smallest print I have ever seen in a book. This is the last book I need for background for the novel, I think. I started writing a (very) short story, my aim is to write at least something each day, hopefully something useful; though anything is better than nothing.

Tuesday
Walked again and listened to another podcast punk rock episode, this time about the band Fugazi. I listened to them while I worked.

It is hot (UK hot, not hot place hot) today; shorts and t-shirt all day and no socks except for both times I walked. I have gotten very used to not having to iron any clothes and wearing a shirt with a collar is but a distant, and unhappy, memory. I am not looking forward to going back to the office, when ever that will be.

This Baptist church on my morning walk reminded me of the Christian churches I saw in SE Asia, or is that just me projecting?

I nipped out at lunch time to see if I could find a new notebook for work. There were a lot of people out in Walthamstow High St; not many wearing masks, or even vaguely interested in social distancing. As suspected none of the book/stationary shops were open and the queue at Wilco was massive. I went home and ordered two online. I still like to write notes, and pencils arrived yesterday. I have used pencils for writing since early school days. It will be easier to erase errors, or bad ideas.

Wednesday
Awake early, coffee at 6:00, walking before 7:00, Eleanor joined me this morning. It was nice out, apart from the pollen which was really bad. My eyes felt like they were full of grit before we got to the end of the road and I spent the morning streaming, sneezing and blowing.

Work was OK, busy again, though I finished dead on five and cracked a can of APA and did some flat related stuff, there is an online residents association board meeting on Tuesday evening. I am contemplating going to the flat on Monday for a few days, we have had some great weather and I want to be by the sea and enjoy walking somewhere different.

Happy Birthday mum!

Thursday
I woke this morning to news that New Zealand band Bailter Space had released three new tracks, their first new material in ages. I was very excited by this.

I didn’t go for a walk, but I did listen to music and then had seven meetings. Thankfully I have tomorrow off. Monday is a bank holiday, so no meetings for four days. Hell yeah!

I heard from my mum today that my late dad’s sister Barbara passed away yesterday. She lived in a care home in Canterbury. I don’t know if it was covid related, assuming and hoping not. Care homes, their staff and residents have been scandalously treated by this government throughout this event. I doubt I will get to say a final goodbye. I loved Aunty Barbara, she was the one responsible for my love of Arsenal Football Club, she had a fabulous sense of humour and was a wonderful warm and caring person. I regret my slackness in not seeing her, or the rest of my UK family as often as I should. Oddly, I wrote the opening of this post well before receiving this news. 

Friday
Awake far too early for a day off. I started scribbling a new short story, the ideas come to me in those early hours, just opening sentences, no story and no substance. The hard part, the part that requires effort does not come in those early hours, or seemingly later in the day. I have a number of opening ideas.

I have the day off work and Eleanor does not work Friday. Now the guidance says we can drive as far as we like for exercise, we drove to Epping Forest for a walk in the trees. All the parking spots near High Beech Church were blocked, but we lucked onto the last space in the park over the road from Butlers Retreat and did a short loop walk in Warren Wood. It is very green at the moment, there is almost no other colour.

I also took the Polaroid for its first outing in a while.

In the evening we had an online dinner party with friends, both cooking the same meal, drinking the same style of wine, all finished off with cheese and crackers. It was good fun, not as good as being in the same space, but nice to share food with friends.

Saturday
Surprised to not be hungover, the benefits of drinking wine of a higher quality than usual. Admittedly I still did very little with the day. One short walk was about it. I did read a lot though, almost finishing two of the books I have on the go, so maybe things will change. There is always hope!

This will likely be the last of the weekly posts, 10 weeks of writing about not doing much is enough and I am boring myself with the content, I cannot imagine what is is like for those who read this.  However, it is good writing practice and I am using some of the techniques I have been reading about; for instance this post is much shorter than the draft and I have tried to remove surplus words, I think with some success.

The new way, Week nine.

Saturday 16 May 2020 – Walthamstow.
I came back from St Leonards feeling quite relaxed; time out from normality was a very good thing and I hope to do this again in the not too distant future. Having time out from work was wise and I didn’t really think about it while I was off, unusual, but healthy.

These last few weeks has seen good days and not so good days. This is quite normal, but has intensified during lockdown as my usual escape routes are less accessible. I am not motivated to do much, I should be bike riding this morning as I sit here at my work desk typing. There is a lot running round my head, not bad things; songs and music, story ideas I never write down, emails I don’t send. I am not in a negative place; more in a constant state of introspection.

At the start of lockdown I thought this would be a great opportunity to do stuff I do not get time to do, with writing being the main thing I thought of. I feel like I have wasted this opportunity somewhat as I have done very little of that or much else. Though to be fair to myself, I have been busy with work, I write these posts, and we still cook, we still shop, there are things that need to be done. It’s not as if a huge chunk of time was added to the day, and we have had a serious and deadly disease to contend with.

I very much know I am not the only one thinking like this.

Sunday
I didn’t get out of bed till quite late, after 10 I think, though I didn’t sleep particularly well and was quite dozy until the two coffees kicked in; both taken in bed while reading. I finished the Salgado photography book and started an anthology of weird Britain/folk horror stories which arrived at the very start of lockdown. I have been reading too much non-fiction lately due to struggling to find fiction authors who resonate with my ever changing taste.

The weather turned today; yesterday was the end of the golden weather, it is cooler, windier and overcast. Eleanor was back in the garden so I got on the bike and rode down to, and then round, the Olympic Park. I was looking for the start of the Greenway, a walking and cycling path from Stratford to Beckton, almost to the Thames. The Olympic Park is not a bad place to cycle around, there is a lot of space, wide boulevards, paths everywhere and plenty of room for walkers and cyclists to share. Its major issue is a confused layout with so many dead ends, closed roads and fenced off paths. I did many a loop trying to find my way out.

I rode down the Lea towpath, which was not too busy until I get to Hackney Wick, where I ducked on to the streets as it was way too busy for my riding style (impatient).

I love the Wick Woodland, a tiny section of woodland just next to the path, and one that I rarely see anyone in.

It was also a good excuse to explore some of the area as I have rarely cycled here. I found some Real Dill street art.

I crossed over the Lea and had a quick look at Hackney Wick, and could not believe the devastation that has happened in the last five or six years. So many old buildings demolished and so many new flats that no one can afford being built. Hideous. I know the old warehouses are rundown and warehousing is no longer a core function for Hackney Wick now the Lea is no longer transporting goods, but these places were host to artist studios and band rehearsal spaces and were cheap and used and now there are fewer places for people to make art and noise. That makes me sad.

I got stuck trying to find my way out of the maze of Olympic Park, I wanted to ride home via the un-delightful streets of Leyton, which would be less crowded. I came across so many closed roads, it was a bit frustrating. I also saw a train, which was almost exciting.

I was riding for about 90 minutes and was knackered in the afternoon, not good. Fitness is slowly coming back though.

We had a Zoom online games evening with Eleanor’s boys and their partners which was a lot of fun, I even won a round which was highly unexpected.

Monday
Up early enough for a pre-work walk to the park with Eleanor, followed by breakfast and I still started work before 8:30. Sunny out but cold, the temperature has dropped 12 degrees since Saturday, and I was cold for most of the day. Damn spring and its unreliable weather.

The work day was OK, started at the start and ended at the end. I was very tired by the end and looking forward to an early night. Which I had.

The government announced the way out of lockdown today, which seems to be more of the same, just more confusing and more responsibility on individuals to use good old ‘British common sense’, whatever that is. My common sense is totally different to Eleanor’s, maybe she is more British than me?

Tuesday
Almost a repeat of yesterday morning, though I walked random streets alone for 30 minutes before breakfast and work starting. There are more people out this morning, and a lot more wearing masks as they head to the station, I would not travel without one, or travel at all unless I had to!

Work was similar to yesterday, the day started, it finished and was OK in between, I knocked a few things off the list, not a bad day to be fair to it.

For the first time in a few weeks I made a cake, a very basic banana cake, that was quite nice, it looked and tasted good and we ate it in less than 2 hours. Our oven is definitely under cooking things, hopefully not a sign we need to replace another appliance.

Wednesday
Eleanor joined me for the pre-breakfast walk this morning and we walked past the art shop on Hoe St so Eleanor could look at a painting she is interested in. I took a photo of the pub. Wistful. Some days I just feel like getting up, going to the kitchen for a bottle of wine and returning to be with a book, no glass required.

The work day passed and I don’t really recall much of any interest happening, though it was an OK day.

In the evening two directors of the residents association for the block my flat in St Leonards is in and I had a brief board meeting, I am acting chair. We were supposed to have a full board meeting just as the covid outbreak started and this is the first catch up we have had since January. We agreed to have a full board meeting at the end of the month. There is a lot to be done and I am keen to get things under way as soon as we can now that contractors are back working. It was good chatting with some people I haven’t spoken to in a while, and making some plans for the near future. It does mean I have more work to do…

Thursday
I was lazy and tired and didn’t walk, but I did 10 hours of work which was stupid.

In the evening I started cancelling the accommodation I had booked for our holiday in three weeks. We were going to fly to Oslo in Norway and then train back to London, overnighting in Gothenberg, Copenhagen, Lubeck and Hannover, before meeting a group of friends in Amsterdam for a birthday weekend. We were really looking forward to it and I was very disappointed to have to cancel. Luckily I had not booked the trains and most of the accommodation had free cancellation, so there was not a huge financial loss, but there was an emotional cost. When will our (my) next holiday be? Can I fly to NZ for Christmas? No-one knows.

This may partially explain my less than positive outlook this week as I have been gearing up to the task.

Friday
I was awake stupidly early again, though feeling pretty good, not as groggy as previous days, and I had a couple of wines last night. Maybe more wine is the secret? I didn’t have the motivation to walk again, but it was a nice morning, no wind for a change so I took a couple of photos in the garden before work.

I had plans for the work day, though barely managed one of them, still it wasn’t a bad day, and good to finish a five day week on high. There were some issues in the evening, not mine to resolve, but I was on the Teams thread, and knew that I would be online in the morning to see what I could do to prevent them happening again.

We watched the final three episodes of Devs. Best TV programme in a long time, cannot believe that some critics disliked it, I thought it was fabulous.

Saturday
No work meant a proper lie in. I still woke at stupid o’clock but dozed till 9:00 then had coffee in bed with the socials till close to 10 when I did some work for a couple of hours.

I have realised, and it has taken most of the last 57 years to work this out, that I do most of my thinking when I wake. That dreamy state half way between full sleep and full awake is when I process the stuff in my head. Dream thought and reality blur, mostly in a good way, this is where ideas come from. It is not an instant process, some things mull for days before disappearing completely or a conclusion is reached. Often I am very uncommunicative first thing; my brain needs to switch from consulting with itself to consulting with other people. By other people I mean Eleanor as it is so rare I see other people first thing, she must think I am quite rude some mornings.

I went for a walk for an hour late in the afternoon, buying some beer, fruit and bread, I found an anarchy sign on my walk, I have not seen a fresh one of these for ages.

When I got home I found Eleanor talking to her sister in New York while simultaneously watching football on the telly. I cracked a beer and joined in the TV watching after her call. Football, wow, what a thing to have back, admittedly it was German football, not UK football, but it was great having a sniff of Saturday afternoon normality. The German Bundesliga started today, with games being played in empty stadiums. It was weird, but it was football!

After I cooked, and we ate, a pretty good tofu, chickpea and spinach curry we had another Skype enabled chat with friends while watching more Fear the Walking Dead, the first three episodes of series four, I like the new characters more than the original…

As I write this on Sunday morning I discovered I have achieved something. Almost 18 months after the exhibition I held we have finally hung a print in the front room. I have been meaning to do this for months. Well done me!

The new way, Week eight.

Saturday 09 May 2020 – Walthamstow and St Leonards-on-Sea

Ho hum, another week done. It was a good week, it started and ended well, though the middle bit was frustrated by work; not the act of working, working is far better than the alternative. This week would have been as frustrating if life was normal and I was in the office, with the commute as a sort of additional negative bonus.

New Zealand continues to relax its rules and next week they will be taken down another level, I am a little (lot) envious. Here in the UK we continue to receive a stream of mixed messages as talk of relaxing some of the restrictions is being socialised in the media. A large portion of the population is against relaxing anything while the infection rate and number of deaths are so high. A poll this week showed 81% were against relaxing rules, I have never seen such strong opinion on anything in this country. Obviously things will be relaxed a bit, hopefully not by too much.

This started Eleanor and I thinking about maybe moving to the flat if her teacher son comes back to London to work and to live with us. This, in turn made me want to go down for a couple of days. So I did and it was welcome. Spending some time on my own, and allowing Eleanor the same, was something I needed; sun, sea air and records by artists beginning with an ‘S’ also helped.

Some positives from the lock down;

  • Cleaner air, though this is slowly receding as more vehicles are on the road.
  • More cyclists, everywhere, this is very heartening and now there is talk of improving infrastructure to encourage people to continue to cycle and walk once some form of normality returns.
  • I am listening to loads more music, even occasionally moving out of my music bubble.
  • Working from home is much more of a thing. I have done a day a week for quite a while now, but working from home all the time is the new normal and I hope to be able to do more days each week if returning to regular office hours ever happens. 
  • Eleanor and I are alone together, there are no foils in the house, and we are  constantly together every single day, we even share work day tea breaks and lunch. This has yet to be troubling and is a very good sign that our relationship works extremely well and I am extremely grateful and happy about this, as is Eleanor.
  • The best thing has been family group video calls, something we have never done before and something I very much look forward to.

Sunday
Best sleep in ages, which was slightly unfortunate as I was late for a family video call, which was lovely, warm and funny and really appreciated. We sang happy birthday to my eldest son who is 30 tomorrow and my nephew who celebrated his 18th last week. My mum and sisters, who can sing, must have cringed at the awfulness of it all. It was joyous in its terribleness. I should never sing where people can hear me.

I finished last week’s post in the morning and then walked to Walthamstow Wetlands in the afternoon while El worked. It was a great walk and I wrote about it here.

I made proper meat burgers with sweet potato fries for dinner, I miss burgers and may have to order a delivery burger sometime soon. The burgers at Half Man Half Burger in St Leonards are just the business and now I am drooling thinking about them. Next time I am down they are on the menu.

In the evening we co-watched more episodes of ‘Fear the walking dead’ with friends over Skype.

It was the best day in ages.

Monday
We were up early and I took a morning walk over to Walthamstow village for fruit and vege, stopping to take some photos in St Mary’s Church on the way.

As I type this on Friday I have no recollection of what happened at work, though I know Monday and Tuesday were just full of meetings, so perhaps I have blanked them both from my memory. It is a four day week and I am having a day off, so something to look forward to.

Dave Greenfield the keyboard player from original UK punk/new wave band The Stranglers was taken by the virus yesterday. He is just one in a vast number of unnecessary deaths, but the first that has impacted me in any way. I created a Stranglers playlist not that long ago, and will listen to it tomorrow.

In the evening we had a Zoom chat with Eleanor’s sons both of whom are in different towns to us. Eleanor’s youngest is a teacher and may have to come back to stay later this month if the schools re-open. This means we may go and stay at the flat to reduce any risk of infections coming home from school. It was a good catch up.

Tuesday
I took a walk around the park and then visited the local Tescos for bread and crisps, before another day of meetings, seven in total today.

I made these spinach and feta pastry things for dinner and they were good.

Wednesday
It was a funny old day. I started work really early, before 7:30 as I could not be bothered going for a walk. I had stuff to do as I have taken tomorrow off ahead of the long weekend. It was a really busy day, at times frustrating, at times liberating. There is a lot going on in my area at the moment and I do not know what to make of it all, anyway the work day ended satisfactorily enough.

El and I went for a short walk around the park before slumping in front of the TV, watching another couple of episodes of Devs which I love and am dragging out to make it last as long as possible. We started a movie that was truly awful and got turned off, finishing the evening with a really good documentary on the ground breaking photographer Lee Miller. Though I am not sure photographer sums up Lee Miller, she was that and so much more, an extraordinary, complex women.

Thursday
Last weekend I decided to take a leave day from work. I have a bunch of flat related admin to complete and don’t get the chance to do this during the week. I could make the chance, but I try not to sit on the laptop too much in the evening. Friday is a bank holiday, one I won’t be celebrating, other than by not going to work.

It made sense to use a normal work day for this flat work, take a day of annual leave I will otherwise not get to use and go to the flat. I know, some people will say I am breaking the rules; but, the flat is my home, the only home I own, I am not going to be staying with other people, and to be frank those people can go f*ck themselves. I need some time on my own, and anyway the big headlines this morning said the rules will be changed on Monday; though the government is now denying this, possibly due to the negative public reaction.

The drive down was uneventful and reasonably quick, the motorway was quiet for rush hour, but the road into Hastings was as it normally is. Soon after arriving I was out the door for a walk along the sea front.

It was lovely. Fresh sea air, warm but not hot, not too many people, the promenade was really clean there were people swimming in a way too cool sea. To counter this there was the normal number of cars on the road, the usual speeding on the side roads and of course the ubiquitous St Leonards double yellow line parking. No one does double yellow parking like Hastings and St Leonards.

It was a short walk to Hastings old town and back, but it was so nice to not be walking in Walthamstow, variety, spice of life, etc.

After taking this photo on my phone and walking on I noticed a woman glaring at me from behind the dark of the closed window…

Apart from one work conference call, important enough to dial in on my day off, I played records all afternoon and did little else.

The highlight was the sunset, it was glorious. I miss St Leonards sunsets and the mostly uninterrupted view I get of them.

It was a good day.

Friday
VE Day, Victory in Europe, celebrating victory in Europe, a victory over fascism, or at least the Nazis. Fascism never really went away; Franco’s Spain and Tito’s Yugoslavia for example, it is now making an unwelcome return in too many places. I do not celebrate the day, especially now it has been taken over by the flag waving, braying brexity mob. I had a lie in, then did all the flat admin stuff that was my main excuse for coming to the flat. I didn’t do much else with the day; chilled, read, listened to records.

I went for a walk late in the afternoon, it was warm out, much warmer than the flat suggested it would be; like yesterday, I wished I had worn shorts, not jeans.

There were fewer people out than I expected for a warm bank holiday. Hastings has not been badly impacted by covid19, which is remarkable given how high it places on the chart of relative deprivation, and the link between deprived areas and high covid mortality. The lack of folk out maybe shows that they take the messages of distancing seriously.

Saturday
I was wide awake by 5, had coffee and read the news and the socials by 6 so I got up, tidied, packed and drove back to Walthamstow, arriving there before Eleanor started work at 9. Best drive time ever, and I stuck pretty much to the speed limit. I loved my small break away, and would like to spend more time in my own home. This is not practical yet, and I would rather be with Eleanor than on my own for a few weeks.

After a couple of weeks of procrastination I finally made it out the front and trimmed the privet. I had to wear my covid mask as the pollen was killing me, one of the reasons for pruning it back, the other was to provide another foot of footpath width. Contributing to making social distant walking just a tiny tiny bit safer. I acknowledge that the hedge is not exactly straight…

We got this through the letter box, a zine from one of the local coffee shops, with a Phlegm picture on the front. This one is going into a frame, I love a bit of Phlegm!

In the evening we had another Fear the walking dead TV watching session with Skype friends, this time we both ordered takeaway from one of the local Turkish places. We finally managed to finish series three, which I actually enjoyed.  We will start the next series next week hopefully.  It was a fun evening, though I was exhausted from being up at 5;30 and by 11:30 I was ready for sleep.

As i said at the beginning, it was (mostly) a pretty good week.

This coming week will be interesting, new official guidelines come out this afternoon (Sunday). What changes will they bring ? and how will the nation react? 

Walthamstow Wetlands

Sunday 03 May 2020 – Walthamstow Wetlands.

In a break from the ‘new way’ tradition I have lobbed an extra post in this week.

For my mandatory morning meandering I decided to walk to Walthamstow Wetlands, a loop walk from home that takes about 90 minutes. I ended up taking a few more photos than expected so chose to post them separately in some faint hope that the weekly post will not be so long. This is a variation on what really happened, I walked in the afternoon; mandatory afternoon meandering does not have the same ring to it.

Eleanor had to work this afternoon and I wanted to get for a walk for a couple of hours so packed the little camera, the Polaroid and a bottle of water and left the house under a warm mild grey sky. The walk along Forest Rd to the Wetlands is not the most pleasant, though today it was the best it has ever been due to significantly fewer cars on the road; lots of cyclists and pedestrians, yay. I even had the opportunity to stand in the road at the Blackhorse Road intersection and take a photo on the Polaroid. There is so much residential construction going on, too much for the facilities in the area. The council has to get its revenue from somewhere.

The walk from Blackhorse Rd to the entrance of the Wetlands is not so bad, with a view through the railing to the reservoirs that form one side of the Wetlands area and a local fishing spot.

The Wetlands are Europe’s largest urban wetland and opened to the public in 2017, they are still key reservoirs for the London’s water systems.

There are a number of trails through the area, but I stuck to walking down the broad central path as it is the most open and easiest to maintain some form of social distancing. I was surprised at how many people were there, the most I have ever seen. I can only imagine how busy it must be on a sunny day. I suspect a number of people went there as it is in theory a large and open site, however we are all funnelled down paths between the waterways.

I have processed the camera images to look a bit like the Polaroids. This level of processing is highly unusual for me, and the effect is a lot more prominent here than when I edited in Lightroom.

The cafe in the engine house was, as expected closed, I would have been tempted by cake if it was open as I had not had lunch before leaving, and the cake is always tempting.

Half way along the path fat and heavy rain drops started to fall, fortunately not heavily as I would have got soaked. It was a weird warm, almost summerish shower, verging on, but not quite pleasant. I am glad I had a light jacket on.

The walk back home is a bit of a drag, though there are a couple of older pieces of street art to brighten the otherwise dull suburban streets, like this piece from ATM.

It was nice getting out again, and getting the Polaroid out, though going further than my e17 neighbourhood would be quite nice.

The new way, Week seven.

Saturday 02 May 2020 – Yep, London.

I started the week off feeling very lack lustre and a bit over it all. I am bored, the lockdown is starting to get to me. After reading the blog I posted yesterday Eleanor asked me if I was OK as the tone of the post felt slightly negative to her. I said I was perfectly fine, which I was when I posted on Sunday. Monday was not so fine, though things improved during the week, and I think by week end I was back to my mostly normal and perky self.

Our illustrious leader is now back at work, and his heroic return speech was full of the rhetoric of war; ‘battle’, ‘fight’, ‘wrestle’ ‘victory’ etc. Sub-par, sub-Churchillian bollocks. So much blather, so little leadership. This is part of what brings me down.

One of the few, and it is a very small benefit of this event is that I have finally started working on a novel I have been pondering for ages. By start I mean I have some a basic plot outline and characters, and have started buying second hand books to provide some of the background. I may take a couple of days out and go to the flat and actually start writing. Its not like I am going to be using my annual leave up on anything exciting this year.

Sunday
We took an early morning walk up to and then along Hale End Rd, along the River Ching Passage, passing a house Eleanor lived in as a child, then alongside a mostly deserted North Circular, past the Arsenal Youth Academy ground and back home via Chingford Rd. It was not a usual route for walking, nor the most attractive, but it was somewhere different, so I took some photos on my phone. A very quiet A406, North Circular.

The Ching Path.


In the afternoon we had another supermarket shop to collect, driving over to Finsbury Park. It was mid-afternoon and there were more cars than the last time, but nothing near normal. There were a lot of people out on bikes, I have never seen so many cyclists outside an event, and they were everywhere. It was great seeing families with children making use of the mostly quieter roads. My one hope from covid is that we change the way we move about our cities and towns.

In the evening we watched Fear the Walking Dead at the same time as some friends and used Skype to discuss as we watched. It worked well, and I very much enjoyed the chat and extended company.

Monday
Lousy sleep so no pre-work morning walk. This was regrettable as I had a pretty crap day and so did Eleanor. Talking to some friends who do similar things to me, a good week last week and a terrible day today was a common trend. I felt that we were less alone, sad for everyone else, but pleasing nonetheless.

I did take a lunch time walk, it is much cooler today and rain came in the afternoon, settling for a few days I think. I am glad I got out for a loop of the park. I cannot believe the queue for the small post office near the end of our road. I have never seen a queue go round the corner before.

The prime minister came back to work today. This must mean there will be some good, or at least, less terrible, news is to come.

The one positive from the day was starting to thrash out some of the characters and timeline ideas for a novel I vowed I would start writing this year. I have had the general idea for a while and have been buying books that detail some of the historical background, but they are down at the flat. I did buy another book today, about smuggling in the 19th century in Sussex, and ordered another record…

New Zealand has done remarkably well so far in its handling of covid, excellent, trusted and empathetic leadership makes a difference. They have relaxed the strict lockdown a bit and my daughter was able to go to the beach. I was not jealous in anyway, oh no, not at all.

Tuesday
Up early and went out for a walk with Eleanor in light rain, it was nice for a change, the constant sun was getting me down. The sun wasn’t the problem, the not being able to properly enjoy it was.

The rain is good for the garden, and the reservoirs; Eleanor has been doing a bit of garden work over the past couple of weeks, starting to grow a few vegetables, partly as a just in case and partly as something to do. The garden is nice, we are lucky to have access to one.

When we were out I missed a package delivery. Typical. Waiting for days for something exciting to come through the mail (records) and we were out when it was delivered. I love getting things in the mail, even if it is just something I have ordered myself. The old ways are sometimes the best ways. Sod all this electronic communications.

I had a much better work day than yesterday, thankfully. Seems Monday blues were the cause rather than some endemic system issue. Whew. I made fishcakes for lunch again as I had leftover mashed spud, they were nice and I regret not taking a picture. Not that food porn is my thing. I have taken a temporary respite from cake making, due to waistline expansion.

I watched last night’s BBC Panorama programme on PPE. I will say no more.

Wednesday
Up early again, and out for a walk to pick up some biscuits that formed part of what turned out to be a long conversation on Twitter. It was good to have a reason to go for a walk, I was otherwise tempted to  just stay in bed.

It was a really busy, and partly frustrating day at work, though it was good have a lot to do. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I stopped.

I need to read more books, and less social media. One of the reason I stopped Twitter last year was to read more paper based product. Failed miserably, though. My unread book stack is growing weekly, I mostly view this as a good thing.

The postman delivered the first of the The Stupids LPs I ordered online. I have been bad these past couple of weeks. My bank statement is no longer a stream of daily coffee and lunch purchases, it is now a stream discogs records and ebay books. I like that much more.

Thursday
No walk in the morning, though it was briefly warm and sunny. I stayed in bed till 7:30 then started work soon after getting up, the clouds rolled back over as we ate breakfast and the temperature plummeted.

I started the day listening to a slow electric blues playlist on Spotify. Another really busy day at work, got a fair bit done and had a few interesting work related conversations with people, which made the day pass pretty quickly. It was also frustrating at times, I am not used to being out of the loop with things technical and I feel there are decisions being made that I should be influencing and I am not able to.

The highlight of the working day was a new instrumental track from Mogwai being played on the radio, a very rare outing to radioland for me, and I thank Twitter for alerting me to it, the very reason I rejoined.

In an effort to try and be as normal as possible I had an after work beer with ex-work colleague Joe, one of the few people I have worked with in the UK I like and miss seeing. I enjoyed catching up, moaning about work and drinking a couple of beers. Doing what we normally do when we meet, just over the internet rather than in one of the many boozers around Westminster.

I seemed to have not taken any photos today. Disappointed to have broken the run.

Friday
01 May; a new month. We have spent over a month in our version of lockdown, it is more obvious when defined periods are ticked over. The last month has equally been the longest and shortest month ever. Time blurs and almost seems irrelevant now. I am writing this on Saturday morning, sitting at the same desk I sit at Monday to Friday, listening to close enough the same music, drinking the same instant coffee and drinking from the same water bottle. Do days really matter anymore, does anyone really care?

Eleanor and I went for a pre-work walk, up earlier than usual. My pre-work mandatory morning meanderings have taken on a bit of a ‘must do this for the sake of routine’ feel this week. Hopefully we will be at the flat soon and we can walk somewhere less dull.

The postie delivered this book today, more background reading for the novel I (probably fantasising) am going to start writing. At least I have undertaken to start the research and have most of the materials now, one more book to come, though I am now not entirely sure I ordered it, forgetting things.

It rained a lot today, quite heavily at times and there was hail in the early evening.

Eleanor had an online catch up with friends in the evening so I watched an average, though entertaining movie on Netflix, something I have not done for ages.

Saturday
Amazing, actually had a pretty good sleep, the first one in ages. When I was fully awake I rolled over to look at the time and was utterly amazed to read it was 9:30. The latest I have slept in weeks. Turning the clock back up the right way I found it was actually 7:15, a more believable yet somewhat disheartening and disappointing time. The key thing was I felt refreshed.

We went to the co-op on Wood St to restock on fruit and vege and other basics; red wine and cheese. I took a couple of photos on my phone as we walked, trying to keep up some sort of photo taking routine over lock down, though I find it hard to take photos around here.

Most of the rest of the day I did stuff all, I bought second-hand records on line, mainly old punk bands. I must stop, and this will be the end of it. I hope. I cannot keep buying things, even if they are cheap. I finished one of the five books I tell myself I am reading; Jolts by Fernando Sdrigotti. Most of those books have been languishing in the half read pile for a while. I restarted reading ‘From my land to the planet’, a Sebastio Salgado book on photography that was my daily commute read, it has been buried in my work bag as I am longer commuting. I will finish it next. It made me want to go and take photos, which got me out in the garden where Eleanor was working, though it was a little breezy to be taken photos of plants.

In the evening we watched three episodes of Devs which I am really enjoying, and then a film on the political group ‘Rock against Racism’ and the big RAR gig in Victoria Park in 1978 with The Clash. I enjoyed that too, though the footage of 1970s London was a bit grim. Those Brexiteers who hearken back to the mythical glory days of the 70s need to have their heads checked for severe memory loss; or stupidity.

Week 8 tomorrow. What delights will it bring. There is going to be an announcement on Thursday on the plan for the UK to start exiting lockdown, though word is I will unlikely be able to return to the office for at least a month. I do not necessarily view this as a bad thing.

The new way, Week six.

Saturday 25 April 2020 – same as always (London).

So, week six of lockdown has passed. While incredibly unexciting it was a pretty good week, the best working week so far. I was in a work zone, and while I did not contribute hugely, nor directly, to the effort to get us through covid19, my work does allow others to do just that.

Outside of work we didn’t do too much; no group quizzes, nor family video-conference sessions, though there was a bit of exercise. I have listened to a lot of punk rock this week, I don’t think this was in response to anything emotional. An article in The Guardian about the band Discharge started it off.

The sunshine has been off, but mostly, on since lockdown commenced, though it has been quite cool outside. Not this week. Friday was very warm and as we walked back towards home I started thinking about shorts. We had lunch most days in the garden. Vitamin D levels must be improving over the last week, though I take a tablet each day just on case. I have been doing this for quite a while and it is the only supplement I think I need.

Vitamin D is on the list of things that you should consume to boost natural immunity, and a healthy immune system is critical at this time. There are boundless stories, rumours and recommendations of things to consume to protect yourself or reduce the risk of getting sick, or improve chances if you do. Many are debunked almost immediately, particularly the latest mad utterings of the US president. Sunshine on the inside and getting disinfectant into your blood. WTAF! Madness!

I cannot believe people believe or support this man, though I guess we are not much better here. The latest debate is whether we will be forced to wear some form of mask when we leave the house. I suspect we will and it will not be far off, the government message on the benefits of masks seemingly changes  daily. In my mind it is part of their signalling strategy, warming the population up to the idea so it is less of a shock when it comes.

I have been pondering the flat a lot this week, I might have to make a run down and stay for a few days in the near future, especially if the weather continues to be so lovely.

Sunday
Eleanor had to work from 9:00 to 13:00. I had thought about going for a bike ride but am still tired and would rather have the energy to ride in the mornings before work. I spent most of the morning writing, editing and posting last weeks epicly long post. I had  planned to keep it shorter this week, though I have utterly failed.

I made fish cakes with a SE Asian flavoured salad for lunch using left over mashed potato from last night. I must remember to do excess potato more often, and then not hoover it all down as seconds or thirds.

In an effort to give myself more space to work I have taken over one of Eleanor’s sons bedrooms. Moving his bed out of the way and his desk in front of the window I now how have a lot more room to work in. This will hopefully improve my sleep as good sleep hygiene is to only use the bedroom for bedroom activities. Working is not considered a bedroom activity, at least not in my profession.

We went for a late afternoon walk to the shops, passing through St Mary’s Churchyard where the bluebells are popping some colour between the monochromatic gravestones.

We have started wearing masks when we go into the shops, I am not wearing mine on the street as I walk, though some people do. At least we are prepared for the inevitable day that they will become mandatory.

Monday
Another sunny but cold day, we were out early for the pre-work commute walk. We walked through Walthamstow Village as I am getting sick of the park. I took a photo suggesting that we were not in NE London but somewhere more genteel.

I started working from my new position in Eleanor’s son’s room, then realised it just didn’t work. There was less desk space than I thought and even with the sun not shining directly in the window like it will later on it was still too bright for working. I moved myself back to my corner desk in our room and will have to think of plan B.

Work was OK, did stuff, and the day passed quickly enough. No reason to complain and I am definitely in the work from home groove now.

I made vege burgers for tea, and then unsuccessfully made a chocolate cake. The cake tasted OK, and was mostly cake-like in appearance. It would not make it far in Bake Off, so no photo was taken. I have vowed to buy two cake tins that are the same size before the next cake gets made. Though that was not the reason the cake didn’t really work.

Tuesday
Even though we went to bed at 11:00 last night, outrageously late for us (morons down the road playing music loudly) I was still awake about 5:00. I will never shake off the tiredness. I have been having really weird dreams lately. This morning I managed to half note the dream and will create a short weird/horror story from it. Possibly, maybe, one day. Writing stories are always on my one day list.

The thinking on weirdness and horror put me off the route I had planned for this morning’s bike ride. I ended up riding to nearby Wanstead and Chalet Wood to see the bluebell display, even though I said last week I wasn’t going to. FOMO got the better of me in the end. I am glad I did, the bluebells are glorious this year.

I got lost on the way. This is the first time I have cycled there, we usually get the train and walk back, going in the opposite direction was not quite as simple as envisaged, nor had I fully remembered the way.

I found Chalet Wood, and was very glad I did.

Work was OK, another pretty good day, and I knocked a couple of tasks off the list, one of which has been weighing me down for ages. It was a relief to get it done.

The keys I sent to my flat neighbour arrived today and he checked my place out, nothing to report and nothing going off in the fridge. This news, A) lifted my massively spirits as I have nothing to worry about, and B) lowered my spirits as I missing my flat.

Wednesday
I think I just need to get used to waking at stupid o’clock. I might change my routine and just get up at 6:00. Get out for some exercise, then read the news and social media over coffee. Start and finish work a bit earlier.

El and I went for a walk to some of the small supermarkets to pick up groceries before work. Our diet is primarily vegetarian, though we aren’t vegetarians. I was craving meat, so bought some beef mince.

Work was pretty good again, maybe listing to loads of punk rock this week has made me more productive. I watched a short documentary that featured the 90s English hardcore band The Stupids. I loved them at the time, but did not own any records. I amended that this afternoon and ordered two on Discogs. They were cheaper than I expected, a lot of old punk rock on vinyl is ludicrously expensive.

I had intended on getting my haircut, and then lockdown happened. The mop is getting unruly and I am torn between letting it grow or shanking it all off with the beard trimmer and some blunt scissors.

I made meatballs in a spicy paprika tomato sauce with orzo for dinner. It was excellent.

Thursday
I was up early again for a pre-work walk. I took a different route and walked along Hoe St and then up Lea Bridge Rd. It is not the nicest route, and does not look like I was walking through a village. There was an article on thrash metal band Slayer in the paper this morning, so I listened to them while I walked. They seem appropriate for this sort of inner-city suburban walk. There has been an increase in the amount of traffic on the roads, but it is not apparent this early in the day.

Even though I ended up getting bogged down in some ultra-tedious and ridiculously last minute budget spreadsheeting, it was not a bad day. It had to be done, someone had to do it, and it was good to get it out of the way. I listened to Superchunk all day. They were one of my favourite bands around 1990, they came to Auckland twice, which was unusual for an American band. They have an affinity for NZ and have recorded covers of songs by both The Chills and The Verlaines, this made me love them even more. They are still going and released an LP in 2018 and it is pretty good. I made a playlist for that future day when Superchunk is the musical answer to the what do I want to listen to question.

We had on-line drinks again after work which was a bit of fun, I enjoyed socialising with colleagues, something else I miss, though I did not do it often when we were in the office. Sometimes it is the small and unexpected things we miss the most.

Friday
Woke early and could not get motivated to go for a walk, even though it is really nice outside. I was up and working before 8:00. There did not seem be much point in staying in bed any longer and it was good to get the work day done. It was OK, I did not achieve a heck of a lot, but I did a bunch of work admin and am well set up for next week being productive too. This was the most positive work week I have had since lock down. I have cracked it I think. Fingers crossed!

Eleanor and I went for a walk at lunch time, it was warm, verging on hot. I was in t-shirt and jeans and by the time I got home I wished I was wearing shorts. Friends had tofu for us from a supermarket delivery so we collected this, and enjoyed a safely distant conversation with them in the sun. Actually talking to people face to face was a joy, doing so under a warm sun was doubly good.

I got sidetracked in the afternoon when someone posted on twitter that they were listening to Rise Against. I have not listened to them properly for quite a time, I have a couple of tracks on a punk play list, but that is about it. I made another playlist, but it just seemed to be entirely made up of the first four albums, the ones I travelled with. They were my go-to band while I was travelling, particularly in moments of loneliness or when I was feeling down. I listen to them differently now, I think. I am never quite 100% sure where my head is at and in these uncertain times I am sure there is more stress and anxiety going on than I will admit to.

I used the mince I did not use in Wednesday’s meatballs and made a very small meatloaf, with mashed spuds and vege. It was good, I am really enjoying cooking at the moment, and am glad we share the task. I made sure there was left over mash for fishcakes another day. A lesson was learned.

Saturday
The asshats at the end of our road had a party again and played bloody awful loud music to 2:30am. I was fuming, but the council no longer have an anti-social behaviour team, apart from the police there is no-one to call. I had a terrible night, even though I attempted to sleep in a back bedroom. Grrrrrrrrr.

Due to tiredness we did chores in the morning instead of a taking the planned long walk. I made soup for lunch as we had an ancient squash and a couple of old spuds that just needed to be eaten. It was good soup, though the squash had lost some of its flavour. It was four months past its best-by date!

Eleanor had to work in the afternoon so after editing some photos and writing most of this (now novella length) post I rode the commuter bike down to Shoreditch to see if any street art had happened in the past couple of years. The answer was not a lot, but here are some ropey photos of some of what I found;

Shepard Fairey, with a Ben Eine ‘R’.

Mr Cenz and someone I have forgotten, I am pretty sure I have posted this before.

Alo. I am so glad Alo is still adding to London’s walls.

Crano and the balloon is by Fanakapan.

Random paste-up artists. I love it that Jacinda Ardern can share a paste-up with Drumpf.

I should know this artist, but cannot pin a name to it. I will update if it comes to me!

This space used to be dominated by street art, now it has a garage, but the entrance is still covered in paste-ups, stickers and scrawling.

It was great to see that Thierry Noir still has a few pieces left, I am a fan and have a print in the flat.

I stopped to take this photo of the gravestones that have been relocated in one of the churchyards in Hackney as I cycled home. I may have to come back to this spot for a better look.

The roads were pretty quiet, not many cars and no trucks, making for a much improved road riding experience. There were a lot of people out on the street and in the parks, mostly sticking to social distancing guidelines, though Broadway Market was not open it was really busy in the street it is held on. I avoided it.

It was good getting out on the bike, for what was my longest ride in quite a while. I am getting a little fitter. Though this was ruined a bit in the evening as we ate take-away pizza and drank wine in front of the TV.

The new way. Week five.

Saturday 18 April 2020 – London (Again).

It is the small things, the simple pleasures that I am missing the most as I enter week five of lock down.

From August to May weekends in our house are dominated by football. Eleanor is a Spurs season ticket holder and I support bitter rivals Arsenal. Before you ask, yes, we do make it work, though we never watch the North London Derby together. We miss football a lot, it dominates our weekends; our viewing, our conversations and our reading. Over a long weekend like Easter we would watch the games our teams play as well as any other tasty clash, if it is raining then probably other games would get watched as well. Having no football on the tellybox for such a long time is a strange and not enjoyable experience.

I am also missing the pub, we don’t go a lot, our London local at the weekend is always full of families, but I miss not being able to go if I want to. I particularly miss the places we/I visit when we are at the flat in St Leonards. I miss tap beer, even though I often drink wine in the pub.

I miss the flat, obviously. I miss walking down to and along the seafront, I miss walking into Hastings, I miss the galleries and cafes and the bars. I miss being in a less crowded place, I miss the fresh sea air and the constant wind, the sea rattling the pebble beach and how the shape of the beach changes daily. I miss being in my flat, playing records, cooking, reading, hanging out in my own space; with Eleanor or on my own.

Most of all I miss being with friends, sharing the same space at the same time. I look forward to that more than anything else.

Sunday
Sunday started with a Zoom call with family in New Zealand, with the bonus of my son in Australia joining in. This week we had seven participants, including all three of my children. I cannot remember the last time I was on a call with all three at the same time, as well as mum, both sisters and some nephews. It was a treat and I felt so much better for it. Admittedly if felt like half the call was one of us going ‘I cannot hear you’ or ‘it looks like so-and-so has hung’. Symptoms of modern communication, in this family scenario it was verging on amusing.

Late in the afternoon I made cinnamon swirls and a sweet potato and squash tagine for dinner. I listened to Metallica and drank beer while I cooked. It was a bit bogan in the kitchen for a while and Eleanor quite rightly stayed in another room.

Monday
Easter Monday, yet Eleanor and I were up and out the door by 8:00 for a walk around the park. No lie-in, this is not the real me. Yesterday there was a high of 25 degrees in London, today a maximum of 11 was forecast, it was quite cold out and there were significantly less people in the park than there would have been if it was warmer. Yay for that. We also stopped in Tescos which was pretty much back to full stock now, they also had Quorn mince which was great. I took some photos of the amazing spring blossoms in the park.

I spent some time doing some work related things, the guys are still working on covid19 statistics reporting and have been for most of the weekend. The rest of the day I basically wasted, though I ordered a new toilet seat for the downstairs loo. Exciting I know, welcome to lockdown life.

Tuesday
Back to work and a change of scene. Sat in the bedroom at my desk looking out the front window. So different to being downstairs looking out the back.

El had a hospital appointment to review the scan from last week. We already knew nothing was found, but it was good to get expert confirmation. Like last week I dropped her at the hospital and then drove to Hollow Pond for a walk in the sun. I took the Polaroid with me, it has been a while since it was last out. I took four images, the first couple were really faded, not sure why. I am wondering if there is a small light leak? I also took some photos using my phone. It was peaceful and I had a happier stroll than last week.

Work was OK, it took a while to get into the day. Tuesday and Wednesdays are meeting days, always have been, so it is rare to get any meaningful work done. At least it leaves fewer, hopefully no, meetings on the other days.

I exchanged messages with Rich, one of my flat neighbours, I am going to send him my keys and he will check all is well with the flat. The news seems to be that this thing will go on for months so no idea when I will get back there. It is a bit depressing really. He can toss the couple of manky carrots in the fridge out Smile

Smile

I cooked a pasta bake thing made with Quorn mince for dinner and loads of paprika. It was great and I made enough for a lunch later in the week. It is good having fake mince back in the freezer again.

My son asked if I had any old photos as he had lost a lot when he deleted his BookFace, so I uploaded a whole load of family shots from the past 15 years to a Google Drive and shared them with the kids. It was quite a walk down memory lane. I realised that though I have been blogging for nine years now, I doubt my kids have ever looked, so they probably have no idea of what photos I had. It was good to share them. Mind you if all posts were as long as this one I don’t blame them for not reading. I seem to have too much time on my hands these days.

Tim Burgess, who was/is the singer in 90s band The Charlatans has organised a load of ‘listening parties’ on Twitter. We get to play a selected album in our own home, and he and a member of the group tweet about the record as it is played. Tonight was Mogwai’s ‘ Come On Die Young’, one of my favourite bands. I listened to half before falling asleep, though the caught up with the Twitter chat the following morning.

Today was a good day.

Wednesday
Last night I pumped up the tires on the mountain bike and this morning I went for my first ride in months, in possibly over a year. I rode for 40 minutes before work and was pretty broken by the time I got home. I did not realise how unfit I am. It is bad. It was lovely out, I rode up to Highams Park Lake, and visited my favourite, gnarly old tree and looked for bluebells in a patch Eleanor and I walked past a few years ago.

I read today that this event could go on until 2022. Not full time, but with periodic lockdowns as the virus moves through the population, at least until a vaccination is trialled and enough people are immune or vaccinated to allow life to return more fully to normal. It is obvious that with the infection and death rate still rising, albeit more slowly due to the lockdown, that we are not going anywhere soon. We talked about the inevitiableness of having to cancel our 10 day trip from Oslo in Norway back to London in early June. Luckily we have not spent too much, and hopefully travel insurance will cover what has been spent. Who knows, too early to cancel, but I cannot image us going.

I started watching the X-Files from series one, as it is on one of the streaming channels. I am a bit bored with telly, not that I was ever overly reliant on it as form of entertainment. I am very fussy about what I watch, who would have known.

Thursday
Up early this morning, awake well before the alarm; yet again. Feeling less dazed than the rest of the week which is good. I was out the door before 7:30 and on the commuter bike for a ride down to, and around Walthamstow Marshes. It was really nice out again, apart from being knackered and my legs and bum were sore by the end of the 40 minute ride.

I chose to do this ride rather than take the mountain bike back to Epping Forest as I thought I would get to Sainsburys for opening at 8 and grab a few bits and pieces. I arrived just before opening and the queue was already out of sight round the corner. I didn’t wait, we have enough food.

It was another good work day, I am fully in the groove now and working has become easier. I am more self motivated and am doing more interesting things and managing my work better. I also started playing with Power Shell scripts today to script a task our support company fail to do reliably. My end game is to get rid of them, automate them out.

It was announced today that we will have another three weeks of lockdown, to at least 11 May. The only thing that surprised me with the announcement is that it was for only three weeks, though the government had been signalling this since the weekend. We are still missing a prime minister, he is out of hospital now but recovering at his (second) home. Something we are not allowed to do, one rule for them, one for us. We are barely being governed at all, just seem to be rolling on through, and I can continue to be glad that we are (so far) lucky.

Friday
I walked with Eleanor this morning after another lousy sleep and I am just too tired to contemplate getting back on the bike. We walked around the park again, it was really busy, lots of stupid runners, we left by a side exit and walked back up the mostly deserted street, passing some nice fly-tipping on the way.

There is a lot more traffic about this week, seemingly some people are relaxing their social isolation. The government are sending mixed messages, official line is stay home, though there are side messages about relaxing the rules and getting the economy going. This seems to be lulling some folk back to working. I don’t blame them of course, we all need money to live. Being at home 24/7 is hardly a bunch of laughs either.

Work was good and I achieved a lot for the third day this week, hopefully this will roll into next. One of the few pleasures of lock down is artists live streaming ‘gigs’. This weekend in Christchurch, New Zealand there was supposed to the ‘Better Living, Everyone!’ festival. This was cancelled and the artists performed short sets live from home via the internet. Being on the other side of the world, meant I could attend some of the gig and I really enjoyed Jim Nothing live from their garage in Auckland as I worked in the morning.

I had some records I ordered arrive today. I am doing my bit to keep the music industry alive and well.

Last night Eleanor had managed to book a ‘click and collect’ slot for tonight at a Sainsbury’s near Finsbury Park, about 15 minutes away by car. We were both surprised by this, getting an order from any of the big supermarkets is almost impossible. I drove there after work and was surprised to find we did not have to wait, unsurprised at the huge, though socially distant, queue to get in to the supermarket itself.

In the evening we joined friends for another online quiz, Eleanor and I did a lot better this time, coming second. I drank slightly less, though I am not sure if that made a huge difference. It was very good fun though, and it was great seeing friends.

Saturday
Up late, dozed till 9 or so, though I first woke before 6, with a mild red wine hangover. I am drinking more than normal, not every day, and rarely excessively, but definitely more than I usually do. I am surprised I am not putting on weight, though I am eating much less processed food and doing some form of exercise each day. Hopefully this will continue.

Eleanor I walked to Highams Park Lake, as the bluebells are out now. We normally go to a big display on the other side of Epping Forest in Wanstead, but decided to walk to this smaller patch I found when riding. It was really nice walk for a couple of hours, though there were quite a few people out, to be expected I guess. I am wondering if these smaller pockets of forest are attracting more visitors than normal?

I took the Polaroid again and had a happier experience than on Tuesday.

We spent the first half of the afternoon watching the Black Panther movie on the TV. I am still tired so had a lie down before cooking some proper comfort food for dinner; vege sausages, beans and mash. It was very nice.

Another week in lockdown done. How many more?

The new way, Week four.

Saturday 11 April 2020 – London.

The start of a fourth week of working from home, I think, time is starting to blur. One of the reasons for doing a weekly post is to not forget what happened and when. I don’t think I will ever cover the why things happen, nor why I write what I do.

The country is in a weird state, the stay home guidance is working as well as expected; those who obey rules are obeying and those who do not are not. There is the usual noise on social media from the self righteous telling people off for going to the park, given how crowded some of those parks were yesterday I sort of don’t blame them. We do have the right to go outside though and like most others I need my daily walk, though this week I have been slacking and have not been out every day.

I knew that this whole idea of people staying in for weeks on end was not going to be sustainable. People get bored, some people think they are invincible, and some just don’t care if they or others get sick or die. The reported hospital death rate is climbing, we are at high hundreds a day, yet some don’t seem to care. I don’t believe that the message is not getting through, it is. This is about personal responsibility, a failing of too many. Seemingly more so here than in other countries.

Sunday

The day started really well, one of my sisters organised a family video-conferencing call for 9:00am and both sisters, their children, mum and one of my sons were there. Six different rooms or household attended, it was really nice seeing my NZ family all at once. It was the first time in well over a decade when we would have had that many family members together. Hopefully the next one will include my other son and my daughter, who is now safely in NZ after her flight from Sri Lanka.

After the call Eleanor and I went for walk around the extended block, surprisingly picking up all the groceries we wanted from the small Tesco at the end of the road, which was almost empty. It was a nice walk, very few people out, even at 10:00am. There are so few cars on the roads at the moment, which is great for walking and cycling and wonderful for reducing air pollution.

The rest of the day was spent doing chores around the house, later in the day I made some chocolate chip biscuits, hopefully they will last longer than the cakes do.

Monday

We woke to the news that the prime minister has been hospitalised due to covid19. He had been ill and ‘running the country’ from his sick bed, but took a turn for the worse on Sunday afternoon. While I think he is hopeless, narcissistic, incompetent, a liar and not fit to be the leader of this country, or any other, I do not wish him ill, unlike some on social media. Hopefully after a few days in a public hospital he may get a dose of reality, though I am sure all his medical team will have the full PPE protection and none of them will be checking on him after already doing 12 hour shifts for the 10th day in a row. Speaking of hospitals….

Eleanor had a scan this morning at our local hospital, after suffering from some discomfort over the past few weeks. Surprisingly she got an appointment really quickly, and more surprisingly it was not cancelled. I drove her to the hospital just after 8:00am and then drove over the road to Hollow Pond, a small section of Epping Forest, to park and wait for the appointment to be over. I took the camera and had a rather listless walk for a bit, before picking Eleanor up much earlier than expected. Good news it was so quick and the scan did not show anything untoward either.

The crows and gorse are taking over already, pre-post-apocalypse.

Work was OK, a lot of online meetings, so I didn’t get much done, they didn’t help with my general work related malaise though. Wednesday and Thursday are reasonably meeting free so hopefully I will get stuck in to something more interesting.

We went for a walk through the village after work to see this magnificent spring blossom.

I have just realised that this week is a short week with the Easter bank holiday on Friday. As I said above, time has blurred somewhat lately. A four day weekend right now is a good thing as I was contemplating having a couple of days off of work. I am not working hard, my life is very easy compared to those on the front line, and am not sure what I will do with that time. I feel it is due as I just seem to be tired all the time, and am not shaking this head cold that has been with me for what seems like months.

Tuesday

Over the weekend I decided I would try and take a random photo each work day. I will probably use my phone and probably take one while I am on my government sanctioned daily exercise. This morning I took a photo of Hoe St, the main drag through Walthamstow. I took it, not because there were so few vehicles, but because I have never seen the street so clean. Few pedestrians, few vehicles and far fewer shops open seems to equal far less rubbish. It sad seeing so many shut shops, I hope they survive lock down.

Today was a much better work day than yesterday, and I didn’t end up with a stonking headache at the end of it. I also finished one of the tedious tasks and did a couple of more enjoyable things. My team is quite involved in some interesting covid19 work, though I do the less fun admin stuff. Someone has to, but I feel a bit of interesting project envy at the moment. I want to know that the work I am doing has relevance and is actually helping people. This is one of the reasons I joined the civil service. Knowing my colleagues are doing critical work that saves lives lessens the feelings of helplessness, but only marginally.

Wednesday

I didn’t get out for a walk before work today, I slept poorly again and woke tired. Last night I received a message from the pub I worked in a few years ago saying they had a few kegs of beer to get rid of, and to bring a container and come and collect some. This made choosing to at walk mid day much simpler.

Someone has been spray painting on the Aubrey Rd walk way. It is a good question! I picked up a couple of containers from a friend on the way to the pub and got those filled as well. It was nice to chat face to face with someone, at a safe distance of course. It is the simple things I miss the most.

I had a good work day, with admin tasks half completed yesterday I had decided to use some of the skills I picked up on a recently completed SQL Server admin course. It was fun, and I completed a scripting task I had been meaning to do for ages. It was the best work day in a while.

I made a fairly basic curry for tea, using up a lot of the vegetables we had in the fridge as some were getting to the end of their useful life. I drank a pint Landlord, the beer from the pub as I cooked. It was good, free made it even better.

Thursday

I had another good work day, lots to do, and I am now starting to contribute in a small way to the covid19 work. My department had an online wine and cheese evening after work for a couple of hours which was nice, though I did drink way too fast, and finished most of a bottle of red before the end. I could not find any nice cheese in the local shops which was bitterly disappointing. Though eating a block of manchego before dinner would not have been wise, and I am fairly sure I would have eaten the whole thing. Cheese and restraint are not two words that go together.

The big news of today was we had a new dishwasher delivered. It was dumped on the footpath outside the house. Luckily Eleanor had had the foresight a few weeks back to buy a small hand truck and we used this to get the machine into the house. It would have been really difficult for the two of us get it in otherwise. Installing will be a task for the weekend.

Friday

Today is Good Friday. Not being religious and under these strange new circumstances, it just felt like another day. It is another glorious day, and I fervently hope that people don’t take to the streets and parks as much as last weekend. Stick to the guidance, one walk and a trip to the shops if needed. Help keep the death toll and infection rate down.

In the UK we are seeing almost a thousand ‘official’ covid19 deaths a day at the moment. The official figures only include deaths in NHS hospitals; there are surely significantly more in care homes and in people homes. Helping with the reporting of these statistics is something we are working on. It is significantly more complex than it sounds.

I took my walk in the morning, they are significantly less people out at 9:00am than later in the day. I also wanted to pick up some grocery items as well, visiting a couple of the small supermarkets, getting most of what we needed. We have elected to not drive to the big supermarket, the queues are too long and we are happy to get what we need on a daily basis. We have time and shopping local is a good thing to do. As I have said before we are lucky in that there are just the two of us so shopping is not too difficult.

I walked past Walthamstow’s ancient house on the way. It was really nice being out in the sun, and I was in a t-shirt by the time I got home, getting my vitamin D.

The afternoon was spent cleaning out the conservatory, a job we had been planning on doing for ages, and cleaning the fridge as I had used most of the veg the other night. This took up most of the rest of the afternoon. Another day in lock down was over, and we actually achieved things. It is great that the council are still emptying bins here, I know it is not happening everywhere, hopefully this will continue as we put a lot of stuff in the bin today, from both the fridge and the conservatory. I must get on those bikes again!

I made a spinach based veg Wellington for dinner, it was not what I was planning on, but we had the wrong sort of pastry to make feta and spinach triangles. It was good though, served with parsnip mash potato, and accompanied with the last of the free beer I got on Wednesday.

I discovered a new band via a weekly email from Fuzz Club, a record label I follow. Sei Still are from Mexico and have released a debut LP of droney/psychedelic krautrock and it is just my sort of thing. I ordered a copy on vinyl, my plan to not buy records has well gone out the window.

Saturday

Saturday started poorly with Eleanor finding the kitchen drain was blocked when she was doing some washing and we ended up with a minor flood in the (thankfully freshly tidied) conservatory. Luckily we were able to clear it, the thought of trying to find a plumber to come out now was not something we wanted to contemplate. I then installed the new dishwasher, so hopefully when we use it we do not end up with another flood.

One of the things that attracted me to St Leonards-on-Sea is that there is photography gallery there, Lucy Bell Gallery. It is great, the exhibitions are really good, and it is a nice place to visit. I bought my first photograph print there the last day I was at the flat before lock down. Lucy runs a gallery Instagram account and due to the gallery being closed for the duration is posting three images from submitting photographers to the page. Today three of my ‘Journeys’ series of photos were put on the gallery Instagram, which I very much appreciated. I think they have all been posted here in the past. These were the three I sent, though only two made it to the Instagram, and one of them twice 🙂

I am looking forward to the day that I can continue the series.

The new way, Week three.

Saturday 04 April 2020 – London.

Another Sunday, another week completed and another week closer to this ‘event’ being over and what was deemed as normal returning.

What do we call this thing? I don’t like the word ‘crisis’ though it surely is one. ‘Pandemic’ is too scientific and probably means different things to different people. This government’s use of the words ‘war’ and ‘battle’ scare the hell out of me, this is certainly neither of those things. ‘Event’ seems a bit too casual, not serious enough, but events can be life changing and until I come up with something better, ‘event’ it is going to be.

My one wish from this covid19 event is that society, particularly the UK, has used this time to take a good long look at itself and reflect on how things were before. Society, what did you learn from all the chaos? The broken lives, broken families, broken jobs and workplaces, broken economy, broken environment and totally broken political system that has left us where we are now; scrabbling for test kits and appropriate protective gear for those working in hospitals, care homes, supermarkets. Those deemed as unskilled and unwanted just two months ago.

Can we fix it? Of course. Will we? I doubt it. The selfish will rise to the top as always and we will enter another long period of enforced austerity to fix the damage, though this time the state has gifted itself significantly more power than it had before.

Sunday

Cold and grey out, though El and I still went for a walk for an hour, there were significantly fewer people out than yesterday which was good. There are a lot less cars as well which means being able to walk in the road to social distance, and I like walking in the road.

Now that spring is coming I am getting hay fever. This is disconcerting as I am now huffing and puffing, sneezing, blowing my nose and occasionally coughing. People look at me sideways. I look at me sideways.

We didn’t do much in the afternoon, I am using Sunday afternoons to edit photos and prepare these posts. Day light saving started today. Not that it makes any real difference, time has some irrelevancy now, and there seems to be a lot more of it. Thankfully I have work, and hobbies, and a pile of books to go through.

Monday

Now that it is spring the weather has taken a turn and it has gotten colder. There were far fewer walkers in the park when I went for my pre-work ‘commute’ walk. Work was OK, feeling a little uninspired still. I feed off other people when I work, and as El and I are working on different floors in the house I am feeding off my own lack of enthusiasm.

There was a fox on the roof of the shed for most of the morning, this is not uncommon and he/she has been there before. There are plenty of stories of wildlife returning to cities now there is less motor and human traffic about. This is not one of them.

I made a pasta bake thing with vegan chorizo, beans, and paprika for dinner. This is one of my favourite comfort meals and I am really enjoying cooking again, not that I ever didn’t enjoy it. Not having to commute means more time to think, prepare and cook each day and that is one thing I am grateful for. The shops are getting back to some form of normal supply, while there are restrictions on how many people can be in a shop, which is no bad thing, most things are back on the shelf. This means I can nip down to pick up something if it is missing from the cupboard and I have yearning to cook with it. Flour still seems to be in short supply though. Just when I have an interest in baking again, along with everyone else I guess.

Tuesday

There were a lot more walkers and runners out this morning, it was a bit later (8:00) and sunny again. Most people kept their distance, but I now understand why people are getting pissed off with runners. One ran at me and she was not going to change direction; that was up to me. and I was on the ‘right’ side of the path, she just didn’t care. Runners are now public enemy number one, taking the place of cyclists. Luckily I am neither at the moment, though at the start of lock down I was thinking I could start running again. Maybe now is not  good time!

I talked to mum in New Zealand while I walked, she has now been locked down in the retirement village, which she is not happy about. Sadly I cannot be there to provide physical support, like shopping etc. Though my sister, son and niece and nephew are helping out, and waving at mum though the fence. My mum was able to take my grandson to the park once a week, but now restrictions are in place this cannot happen, such a shame for both of them as they both enjoyed their time together. 

Wednesday

Today I started a three day ‘Administering ArcGis Enterprise’ for work. It was supposed to be classroom based, but obviously the world has moved on from those days. This is my first online course. I don’t like the idea of them, but it was Ok, and I coped, once I disciplined myself to not look at social media it was fine. I would still rather be in the classroom, interacting with real people though.

I have not been sleeping well and was very tired when I got up, then was a lot worse late in the afternoon, I should have gone for a walk before or after work, but was too lazy. This was stupid. I had a bad headache in the afternoon and had a bit of a temperature, though it didn’t last long. I do worry sometimes that I am going to get properly sick, and then it goes away, I feel fine and then stop worrying. I suspect I am not the only one thinking like this.

A couple of weeks ago I joined Twitter again after deleting it in a huff after the last election. I did pretty well to last this long as I was a bit of an addict. I rejoined to keep up with news from overseas, from people I respect in New Zealand, and to get back in touch with what was happening with music. It was a way to reduce the isolation, and so far so good. One of the things I am enjoying is picking up music recommendations and binge listening to artists now I can play music out loud all day. I listened to The Feelies today, their debut LP is 40 years old. I haven’t listened to them in ages, and really enjoyed the relatively sunnyness of their music.

I cooked a Thai noodle soup for dinner, another regular go-to meal, though this one was not as punchy as normal. At least I can still taste and smell.

Thursday

I slept better, thankfully. I probably have sinusitis and will start doing something about it, the symptoms have been around for months and I do little to remedy them. My ears were hurting this morning, and I had a bad headache. Sinutab worked. Putting a name to what I was feeling made it all go away and I have felt find since. The pollen is not helping either I suspect.

I am now thinking about the coming weekend, and all the things I won’t be doing or feel I would be restricted from doing, like walking and stopping for a pint in a pub. I decided that I would get up early on Saturday and go to the forest and take some photos. Photography, the forest and walking are some of my go-to things when I need a break from the world. Taking the camera and the tripod and just thinking about a scene is extremely relaxing, and I have not done it for ages.

This led me to take some photos of dead leaves, a project I started ages ago and let lapse. While El made dinner I took photos in the bedroom, editing them after work on Friday. I have had these leaves for a while, slowly shriveling in a shoe box.

I am still experimenting with camera movement.

One of my sisters has managed to get mum up and running on Zoom, and has now arranged a video call for Sunday morning with the family, which is very cool and I am looking forward to it very much.

Friday

Ah, Friday. Yay, the working week is over, let the weekend and all its activities commence. 

I woke up to a huge thread on the Family WhatsApp group, with my daughter now wanting to get out of Sri Lanka and return to NZ. Naturally she has limited access to the internet and my son and ex were trying to book tickets via Australia at some exorbitant price. I logged on and found a flight to Auckland this Sunday, via Qatar, that was not significantly more than the normal price, albeit with a 20 hour layover in Doha. I booked it. I have noticed before that booking flights from the UK is significantly cheaper than booking them from NZ or Australia. 

We have talked about her leaving Sri Lanka off and on over the past couple of weeks, but with more countries closing borders, and fewer airlines flying each day it seemed the sensible thing to do. There was not a lot of choice of flights, getting to the UK would have been easier, but she has lots of friends in NZ and would not be so isolated. I was fine with Meliesha being in Sri Lanka, it is a safe country and she was in a fairly remote place but with good facilities and people, so I was not overly worried, but once she is back in New Zealand I will be even less so.

I am just glad to be here in London with El.

Saturday

I was out of the door at 8:30, driving up to the forest for a photo walk. I took a lot of photos, had a nice walk and returned home refreshed. I will do a separate post about it during the week once I have edited the photos; though first look suggests that not too many will survive the cull. This is not my favourite time of year for photography. Today was less about output and more about taking some time out from life. It was pretty successful in that regard and I feel much better about the coming week.

The rest of the day seemed to just pass, even though as I write this it is only the next day I am trying to think what else we did. We finished watching Picard and Altered Carbon on TV and that was about it. I made SE Asian influenced stuffed bell peppers and rice for dinner, and thought they were pretty good. I used the last of the Quorn mince from the freezer. This fake meat product used to be in plentiful supply and we have eaten it for years. Since Veganuary it has been impossible to get as so many people have jumped on the vegan/vegetarian bandwagon, It is good for the planet I guess.

Another week, done and xx more to go.