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 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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Following the Ching.

Good Friday 18 April 2014 – River Ching, Chingford to Highams Park.

Last weekend El and I took a walk up to Highams Park, which is two train stops north of where she lives in Walthamstow. There is a lake (read large pond) in a small woodland extension of the much larger Epping Forest and as it was a nice day it was a good place to walk to, and around. Plus El got to show me where she used to live – in a house long knocked down to allow a part of the North Circular motorway to be built.

When we walked around the lake we saw a track heading off into the distance and decided that we should come back and have bit more of an explore – but armed with a bit of information as to where track was likely to go. Not that you can get too lost in this section of the forest – it is completely surrounded by suburban streets. I have been keen to explore a bit more of Epping Forest and had bought a map of the area a while back, so after a map referral we decided to catch a train to Chingford, head up to Connaught Water and follow the River Ching back down to Highams Park Lake. It was not a long walk, only a few kilometres, but in theory it should all be off road and maybe in the trees – it sounded pretty damn perfect to me.

We arrived in Chingford late morning and found Connaught Water fairly easily, it is only a km or so from the station which is on the southern edge of Epping Forest. It was a reasonably sunny day, but there was quite a cold wind blowing and out on the open areas of the forest park it was quite chilly – so we were looking forward to getting into some shelter from the trees, plus a forest walk really should have trees!


Connaught Water is called a lake but really it is just a large pond, but it has fishing and boating and at twenty five minutes from Liverpool St station on the train – it is pretty damn cool !


It also appears to be the source of the mighty River Ching, and this is the headwaters… It is hard to believe that when this flooded back in 2009 it actually caused damage!


The river flows from here down to the River Lea closer to Walthamstow, though we were only walking the forested section.

The first section of the path was well formed, though there is absolutely no signage at all at any stage and this was a bit frustrating, especially matched with a map last printed in 2010. Things had changed a bit since then.


The path is shared with walkers, runners, bikers and in some sections – horse riders, we saw a few of walkers, runners and riders on the way, though once we were out of the main section of the forest it was very quiet. The path was pretty dry, but you can see where it has been heavily cut up in winter by bikes, horses and loads of runners from the nearby Orion Harriers. Some parts look like they could be quite fun to ride on as well – unlike this open and smooth trail.


After crossing the main road north from Chingford we were off the clearly defined path and followed the river more closely.


The forest was really nice here, though we were really in a small section of parkland in the middle of suburban London it was beautifully quiet and there was an amazing amount of bird song to provide some background.


We crossed another road and the track followed the edge of a golf course for a kilometre or so, crossing the fairway at one stage, which was a bit disconcerting as it was not sign posted, we were not really paying attention and there were people were playing the hole. Fortunately they must be used to walkers as they waved us through without any aggravation.



We got a bit misplaced at the end of the golf course, but with a quick look at the phone we found the entrance to the top end of Highams Park, and a nice little area full of late spring blue bells.


Again the forest here was really nice, some lovely spring foliage on the trees and a nice windy and clean ‘river’ to follow.

P1030535At one point there was even a rope swing, though I am assuming you are not supposed to drop into the river from it !



After an hour and half of walking we popped out on to the ‘lake’ at Highams Park.


We could have continued on for another couple of kilometres of forest through to Hollow Pond** but finished the walk here and headed to the nearby supermarket (they had Picpoul de pinet wine on special) and then caught the bus home…

It was a really nice walk, and hopefully the start of a summer of Epping Forest walks.

** Hollow Ponds is the title of a new track by ex Blur and Gorrilaz vocalist Damon Albarn who was brought up in nearby Leytonstone. I like the song and it is cool that something as small and local as Hollow Pond gets name checked by a fairly big star.