Some Polaroids

Thursday 22 July 2021 – London.

I went to the office today, the second to last day of work before I start my six-month career break. I didn’t need to go in, one of the positive things I can say about the government department I work for is that there has been no compulsion for us plebs to return to the office, and current thinking suggests there won’t be until at least September. Ironically, that’s what they said about this time last year and we know how that turned out. I had to return my laptop, clear a couple of personal items from my locker, and most importantly, see some workmates I’ve rarely seen in the flesh for quite some time.

To be honest, I am also sick of being at home, especially as it’s been 29/30 degrees most days and I’m working in the dark in the bedroom as I don’t want to let the morning sun in. I think Eleanor would say (if she was being polite) that I have been tetchy these last couple of days. Boredom, heat, electing to not go out because we don’t want to test positive before we have fly, have all made Phil a grumpy old man.

So yeah, getting out of the house was a good thing.

Work was fine, the journey in on the tube was as expected; a lot more people not wearing masks as they don’t have to, and they are selfish arseholes who couldn’t care less for anyone other than themselves

I packed the Polaroid in my bag before I left this morning. I don’t use it enough and have decided not to take it to New Zealand. I had an eight pack of film left so thought I would walk from Westminster to Liverpool St Station and take the overground train home, avoiding the Tube, and take some photos on the way.

Covid Memorial wall

I didn’t have much of a plan; walk Thames side to St Paul’s, take a photo of the cathedral and one of Tate Modern on the opposite side of the river, then see whatever happens.

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After walking up the stairs from the Thames to take the photo of St Pauls I was inspired to cross the river and walk to London Bridge and pay my respects to ‘Fairy Towers’m – my late friend Kev’s flat in London Bridge, where I lived from February 2013 to July 2014.

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Wow, this place has changed in the last seven years. Where there were some garages in the estate where the flat was, there is now another small block. Kev told me they were building something here but it has all been finished and people are living there now. I think it is all much needed social housing, least I hope so.

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Kev’s flat was on the 12th floor and had such a great view, I very much appreciated living there for so long.

Fairy Towers

I walked past Guys Hospital and took a photo from the foot of the Shard.

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Then crossed over London Bridge, stopping to take a photo of Tower Bridge and the Thames.

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There are a lot more people around now, I was quite hot from walking in the sun and was going to stop for a last pub pint but everywhere was too busy. So I carried on going and bought a can at the beer shop near home. I drank it on my own in the garden, it was nice.

There is one week until we leave, so we have decided to not go anywhere unnecessary, except Tuesday when we have to go back into central London to get our pre-flight PCR Covid test.

Addendum….

We walked locally and I used the last of the Polaroid film up. Eleanor’s house in Walthamstow.

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The old mill house, now a cafe and gift shop for Walthamstow Wetlands.

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Postman’s Park. Eleanor showed me this lovely little park after we had our PCR tests. It has a small memorial wall to people who died saving others, sadly the final plaque is from 1903. It has some lovely tributes to a range of people, young and old who were killed saving family members or strangers. There were a lot of drownings and fires in 19th century London.

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To return the favour I took Eleanor to St Dunstan-in-the-East as she hadn’t visited before and it is one of my new favourite old places in London. I took one final Polaroid.

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That is it for London and England for a while. We fly tomorrow (29 July), our PCR results came back negative this morning, so nothing left to do but wait for one more day.

Future London past

Sunday 11 July 2021 – London.

Tapping Lido on the shoulder, I raised my fist in the air, signalling to those behind to stop and be silent. We drop to a crouch, eyes searching all around. What instinct made me do this? There is no sound, no unfamiliar noise, nothing to signal apparent and immediate danger. I am the clan tracker and the silence is what worries me; the complete absence of sound. We are in dense undergrowth, deep in a massive forest and not far from a large river, yet there is no bird call. Nothing. I count down 60 seconds in my head. I signal and we rise as one and carefully resume our journey along this narrow, deeply overgrown path, Lido is slashing our way through the tangle of vine and bramble as quietly as possible. Our hunt for food is too critical, we can’t return with nothing.

I hear a bird call, I raise my fist again and we stop, silent once more. The call is repeated, this time it is closely followed by a response. My experienced ears tell me these are not natural and confirm my previous instinct, we are being tracked. The time for slow careful progress is over, those behind me draw bows and, unsheathing my own machete, I move forward to join Lido and we both start to hack our way forward. There’s a ruin ahead, not far I think, if we can make it we will be better able to fight off any challenges with the stone at our backs. We may get to see the day out.

We are way out of our tribal zone of Walthamstow, I pray those following are from Camden where we have occasional and friendly trade, yet fear they are Pimlicans, bitter enemies. Since the great levelling in the 2030s when the Thames flooded and the city reverted to primal swamp and dense jungle, the tribal zones have been at war, fighting for food and drinkable water in this miserable poisonous swamp.

We hear more calling from behind and to one side; they must know we’re heading for the relative safety of the ruin and are trying to get ahead of us. We slash faster, those with bows have them raised with arrows loaded and strings tightened. The top of the collapsed dome of St Paul’s Cathedral appears through the forest, not far. A few more minutes and we will have a fighting chance….

This is future London. Welcome.

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We have been doing quite a bit of packing and tidying over the past couple of days, so after discovering my big camera was actually still working I thought I would take it for a walk around the finance part of the City, then visit one of my favourite hidden spots; the ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East. Modern architecture of London’s scale doesn’t exist in Auckland, and neither do old and ruined churches.

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Today is the final of Euro 2020, postponed from last year due to the pandemic. The final of this European wide football tournament is here in London, at Wembley Stadium, tonight. England are playing Italy, but it’s a pandemic so surely there won’t be loads of pissed-up England fans in the City at 10:30am, 9 half hours before kick-off?

Wrong. They were already standing on the tables at the pub outside Liverpool St Station flailing their plastic pint glasses in the air. The cry of ‘INGER……LAND’ being spat out of frothy lipped red faces. Mask on, I hurried past.

I crossed the road, away from the station and the building crowd, and dived down one of the many side streets and into the financial district. It’s Sunday, it should be quieter here. Other than the short walk to St Dunstans, I had no plan and just let the flow of the buildings guide me, avoiding people where possible, stopping to take photos where appropriate.  I took a few.

The City has changed in the few short years since I was regularly walking past, a number of the towers that were being built have been completed. I guess it has been easier to block roads or to get permission to make noise over extended hours when they are less people around to raise a complaint.

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I liked these chairs and table, particularly that three were tucked in and one was left out; a lone smoker or bored security guard taking a rest?  There were plenty of them about on this Sunday morning.

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I did a fair bit of looking up on my walk, always intrigued by the compressed view as the towers lean in on each other, distorted by the wide-angle lens.

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I took a lot more photos looking up than I did looking along. Today, ground level was less interesting.

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I was trying to find some good examples of age contrast in the buildings and this was the best I could find that didn’t have people blocking the view. St Olave’s Church tower from 1450, through some post war low rise blocks to the least loved building in London, 20 Fenchurch St; ‘The Walkie Talkie’ completed in 2014, built 564 years after the church. I won’t see this in Auckland and I will miss it. I must try and make use of the architecture that is there though, less moaning, more pro-activiity.

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After wandering randomly through a collection of small streets and narrow alleys, I found my destination –  the ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East. Its overgrown and moss stained walls the inspiration for that short piece of fiction above.

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I came here in January 2018 (it seems like yesterday) and very much wanted to get back before we leave for New Zealand in 18 days. I was hoping I would have it to myself. That was a rather desperate hope and wasn’t to be, though it was quiet enough for me to take photos without anyone sticking themselves in them.

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Its not a big site, but is fantastic and I love it,  a little oasis of peace, at least at the weekend. It’s a lot more overgrown that it was when I was here in winter; it had the feel I was after and I am reasonably pleased with the photos I managed to get in the short time I was there.

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Leaving St Dunstans, I walked down towards the Thames and upon arriving found a lot of people wandering about, heading towards the various bars for the game. It was a lot busier than I wanted it to be so I moved back up into the quieter streets of the city to take a few more images before heading back to the station. Some final (or almost final, who knows I may get out again!) images before we leave. There is something quite special about the City of London on a Sunday.

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The station was rammed, loads of drunk idiots singing and shouting, a train load arrived from Essex as I was walking through. I hurried off onto a quiet platform away from them, mask firmly on. I want to stay clear of potential Covid spreaders. 18 days of Covidiot avoidance to go. I took a home test a couple of days later just in case. Negative, thankfully.

Apart from the really drunk football ‘fans’, that was fun. I am so pleased my camera isn’t dead (this time). Much as it is heavy and the lenses are scratched and the sensor needs cleaning, I love its bulk and feel, the way it works and the quality of the images I can get.

The day before, Saturday, Eleanor and I went for a walk around Walthamstow, up to a strangely almost deserted Hollow Pond. On the way we discovered Phlegm painting a piece on a wall in St Peters-in-the-Forest churchyard as part of the E17 Art Trail. I was very happy with that, a final Phlegm before we go.

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I also took a photo of this small warehouse converted into a house, just because.

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I am going to write another short story soon, and hopefully the two weeks in isolation will give me the time and space to do it.  Lido and future London will definitely be in it.

 

Not forgotten (nor forgiven)

Thursday 08 July 2021 – London.

Time seems to be disappearing at pace at the moment, but it also seems to be dragging unbelievably slowly, the days seemingly taking longer than the weeks. I am struggling with motivation, especially at work. It is difficult, though in real world terms I am of course lucky to have so little to contend with.

This week saw the UK government announce that, even though it is projected there could be up to/at least 100,000 covid-19 infections a day later in the month, it is time to remove all restrictions and let life return to ‘normal’ on 19 July. This in turn caused the NZ government to announce they may ban all flights from the UK to protect the country. We are due to fly on 29 July so you can imagine how this has made me feel. Fingers crossed that neither of these things come to pass, but infections have now passed 30,000 a day and are growing. We are both double vaccinated so theoretically and statistically we should be fine, but I don’t want a positive test to scupper the trip we have been looking forward to for months, nor do we want to get ill.

Now we are back in London I was planning on going to the office two or three days a week. My workspace here is so much smaller than that in the flat and the office is big and air-conditioned and more comfortable than working from home. I have been in a few times and there are very few people on my floor, but with infections rising and mask wearing getting less prevalent on the Tube I am going to wind that back and only go in when needed. Today was one of those days. I had arranged to meet Steve for an after work photo-walk followed by some food and a couple of pints.

In preparation for this, last night I got my big camera out of the camera bag and after charging the battery discovered it was completely dead. No response at all when I turned it on, bugger, this is not what I want just when I am about to finish work, have no job lined up and am three weeks off from embarking on our 6 month minimum trip back to New Zealand. I tried a bunch of things but just could not get it to go, so charged the battery in the little camera and packed that instead. At least it is light.

I was meeting Steve at Embankment station and I took a few photos on the way. Making the most of the opportunity of working in a fairly old part of London; there is no history this historical in Auckland.

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Neither Steve or I were really feeling the photo-walk idea, we have both done this part of London too many times and work has been sucking the life out of both of us lately, interest was low.  We crossed the Thames and agreed to take a slow walk towards the pub he had booked a table at. It was a bit of aimless amble, the graffiti walls of Leake Street Tunnel was the first stop. I was pleased to see that there are now more bars and cafes opened up in the main tunnel offshoots. I always felt these were wasted opportunities.

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We walked round the side of Waterloo Station and found some classic English 60s tower block action.

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Back to the embankment. I had completely forgotten about the Covid Memorial wall, and it is long and frightening and wonderful and immensely sad. There are thousands and thousands of names and memories to those who have succumbed to this hideous virus. Walking past it, looking at the names and reading the messages very much puts into perspective my complaints about my desk at home being too small.

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If only the bastards in this place on the Thames bank directly opposite showed some real humility and came over here and read these all too human stories, then took stock of what their negligence has done, hung their heads in shame and resigned.

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There were not may photos on or by the wall which made this one so poignant. 18 years old, so sad.

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Crossing the river via Vauxhall Bridge took us past Tate Britain and through the grounds of UAL, a space I really like, it is always peaceful here when I pass through and the buildings are lovely, and just a little faded.

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We arrived exactly on time for our table booking at The Cask, a beer pub in Pimlico we have been to before; though memories of that evening are vague as they have some very strong beer. We didn’t make the same ‘mistake’ this time, eating a very good burger and chips as well as drinking substantially less. They have the best pub toilets I have ever seen and I am actually very jealous of those tiles.

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4 days later…. Using the mystic powers of the internet I have fixed my big camera. This has made me very happy.

A short walk by the Lea.

Friday 11 June 2021 – London.

As I walked the tar-sealed path between the River Lea and the football fields of Hackney Marshes, shaded by oak and ash and poplar and willow, the most English of trees, my mind wandered off to the time I clambered down a rock and boulder strewn path in the Borneo jungle. On my own. The benefit of hindsight suggests it was not the smartest thing I have done, there was real potential for something to go terribly wrong. Obviously my walk this morning from Walthamstow to Stratford was not remotely the same, though it was the first time I have walked this particular path and it was the closest I have been to a walk in the forest for a long time. I am missing even the mildest of adventure.

I came up to London on the train after work yesterday and can’t believe how much hotter than St Leonards London is, it must be two or three degrees warmer, and with no cooling breeze. It was not a pleasant night and I had little sleep.

My second Covid-19 vaccination was this morning, and it was a process that went very smoothly. As I am sure I said after the last one, but well done to the NHS for making this easy and stress free. In three weeks I will be safer than I am now. Not that I feel particularly unsafe, we take care when we go out and will continue to do so, vaccination or not. England is a long way from being Covid free and we don’t want to even think about what would happen if we got sick before we leave for New Zealand.

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There was four hours until the train back home. As I needed to return some trousers I bought from the mall last time I was here I decided to walk to Stratford and get some exercise in. From the pharmacy where I was vaccinated the walk is almost entirely though parkland which made the decision an easy one.

There is a fantastic Roa mural just by the pharmacy on St James Street.

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I pass Walthamstow Wetlands on the way to the marshes (and the overbuilding of flats on Blackhorse Rd on the far side of the wetlands).

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We have walked the Wetlands and the marshes on numerous occasions over the past few years, and I’ve never seen the marshes so overgrown. I think the council is letting the grasses and wild flowers run rampant which I am mostly in favour of; there were a lot of bees and other insects buzzing about today.

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There has been some changes where the path passes under the railway line and a lot of scrub has been cleared, perhaps some of the scrubby trees were interfering with the trains? I am guessing the bike ran out of electricity and has been dumped here, it adds to the edgeland feel of marshes; even though they are not on the edge of anything at all.

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The River Lea splits into two near Lea Bridge Rd, into the natural River Lea and the man-made, Lea Navigation. We normally walk the Navigation, so today I chose to walk the river instead, it was slightly longer and I am guessing less busy than the main tow path. Soon after passing under Lea Bridge Road I came across a Phlegm painting I haven’t seen before, something which very much vindicated the path chosen.

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Crossing a short bridge the path follows the river for a couple of miles, thankfully mostly in the shade as it was warm and sunny and I had not thought to put sun screen on.

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It was a nice walk, quiet, but not deserted. I imagine tomorrow it will be busy, the Lea has become a destination for younger folk to party and dip in the cooling water on a hot day, like tomorrow will be. Polluted or not.

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IMG_0722I like the Lea, it is shallow, but wide, not fast flowing; it looks nice, like a proper small river. The tree lined banks place it anywhere in England, so it was easy to take myself out of the city. Looking at the pictures I took as sit here writing I can almost see myself in a jungle somewhere wild; but maybe not those trees can only be English!

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Past the marshes the path crosses under the A21 before entering (or not in my immediate vicinity) the Olympic Park area; a great legacy of the 2012 games.

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Eventually I found a way into the park near the velodrome, which just happens to be my favourite building in the park.

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The walk through the park to the big shopping mall is really pretty, lots of long grass and wild flowers everywhere, lovely. I really like how wildflowers have become a thing again in the past few years and local authorities are letting them flourish rather than mowing them lawn flat.

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I had intended to look for a shirt and some walking shoes while I was at the shops, but I was too hot and sticky to be trying on clothes, and I am sure the shop staff were appreciative of that decision. Once the trousers were returned (too small) I walked out the other end of the mall and caught the Jubilee Line to Southwark. Too many people.

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With 90 minutes to kill before the train back to St Leonards I decided to drop the pace I had set earlier and take a slow walk towards the station. The streets around the Thames were far busier than last time I was here and there are significantly more tourists. With road-work constricted footpaths it was a bit uncomfortable at times. I ducked into Temple to walk in peace.

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I love the Temple area, I often came here on a Sunday as it is virtually deserted with the office workers at home and there are few bars and cafes inside to attract the casual visitor. There were people about not many, and lots of scaffold which was a shame. Temple is the home of the London legal profession and most (all?) of the offices here are filled with legal chambers, some of them very old. It is a beautiful and under-rated section of old London.

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Back on The Strand I popped into Somerset House, another favourite London spot. Eleanor and I love the Herndandez and Wells cafe here; it made the best egg dishes in London and the coffee was always good. However, its gone and has been replaced by the Watch House, fortunately the coffee was equally as good and the sandwich I had for lunch was very nice. I didn’t notice eggs on the menu though, maybe when we get back?

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Lunch filled enough time that I only needed a gentle stroll to Charing Cross Station to get me there a few minutes before the train departed. I had planned on doing some writing on the train, but the journey was so bouncy I gave up and just enjoyed listening to music and reading a novel. A couple of weeks ago I dug out the Kobo ereader I bought ten years ago for my travels, I haven’t used it for a good five years, possibly more, and was surprised that after a quick charge it still worked as it had before. The genius of simplicity. This book reader does one thing, and it does it very well. For the book nerds I am reading Adam Hall’s 1968 novel ‘The Striker Portfolio’, the third in his very successful Quiller series, and I am enjoying it.

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Eleanor had been in Brighton meeting her son Joe for lunch, so I met her back at the station after I going home for a shower and a brief lie down. We popped into a pub for a glass of wine before grabbing some fish and chips and walking back up the hill to eat in front of the first game of the much delayed Euro 2020 football tournament. I was hoping for Turkey to beat Italy, but it was not too be.

I enjoyed my walk and am very keen to see as much as I can of old London as I can before we go to much newer New Zealand in 7 weeks time.

7 WEEKS!!! Where did the time go?

A walk through Covid deserted London

Friday 29 March 2021 – That London.

I went for a walk in the centre of lockdown London today. It was rather surreal, not quite 28 Days Later, as construction work continues, but at times it felt not far from it. There were so few people to be seen and even fewer cars on the roads.

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Big news first though. We have secured a place in managed isolation in New Zealand!

This is a prerequisite to book a flight to NZ, airlines will not allow a booking without a space and it is remarkably difficult to get one as there is a lot of competition from other Kiwis as they return home from all over the world. It’s like trying to get a ticket to a rare concert by your, and thousands of others, favourite band. There are few places, and there is high demand. As soon as vacancies are available there is a website pile-on and the web server almost grinds to a halt. It was a frustrating process and bad words were said, frequently.

I got there eventually and managed to book flights the following day without too much trouble. We fly Emirates, via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and leave the UK on 29 July, then start our 14 days in a managed isolation hotel somewhere in NZ on 31 July. So, yay.

This was my second visit to London during March, Eleanor and I had spent most of a week there earlier in the month. On that visit I had a doctor and dentist appointment and Eleanor had a doctor visit as well, reasonable reasons for travel outside of our local area. This trip was an overnighter as I had my first Covid vaccination today.

I came up on the train after work on yesterday, my first train journey longer than six minutes duration in over a year. It was weird, but very enjoyable, a mostly empty carriage and everyone was wearing a mask. Train is my favorite mode of travel, and something I will miss when we are in NZ. I arrived at London Bridge just after 7pm, the weather was nice and I chose to walk to Liverpool St to take the overground to Walthamstow rather than take the tube.

After crossing London Bridge I walked down to the north side of the Thames to take a couple of photos of the Shard and the surrounding buildings. There were very few people about, it really did not feel like 7pm on a Thursday. Obviously all the bars and restaurants were closed, but still. It was eerily quiet; and it was only going to get quieter. These are hand held photos, so not the crispest.

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Crossing over Upper (or Lower) Thames I was surprised to see almost no cars, and I didn’t have to wait long to get a photo of an almost deserted street.

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Leadenhall Market was no better. This place would usually be absolutely rammed with city drinkers at 7:30 on a Thursday evening, all year round. It was deserted.

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I meant to get some food at London Bridge but decided to wait until I arrived at Liverpool St, though on arriving I found a train leaving for Walthamstow almost immediately, and with a 30 minute wait until the following I chose to take the one in front of me. They have upgraded the trains on the Chingford line since I last used it; these are much nicer than the old clunkers that travelled the line previosuly. I had a carriage to myself. I grabbed a take-away burger from the Collab in Walthamstow. As with the city, the streets of the ‘Stow were empty of everyone but uber eats and deliveroo riders, and what looked like some drug dealers on a corner.

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My vaccination appointment was at 9:30 am but I arrived early and was vaccinated early too. I was on the platform waiting for a train back to the city before the official appointment time. A highly efficient, friendly and pain free service. Well done the NHS! (and fuck the Tories!)

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I had a few hours until my train back to St Leonards from Victoria Station so I elected to get off the train from Walthamstow at Bethnal Green and walk from there; checking out Shoreditch street art and brutalist architecture on the way.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of street art left in Shoreditch, gentrication and a lack of funds is more likely the cause than Covid, I am guessing a lot of the folk who drove the explosion of street art a few years back have moved on as well. There’s a lot of tagging, this was prevalent throughout the city which surprised me, councils had to cut budgets somewhere I guess. I didn’t take many photos of the street art, a lot of the old stuff has gone and the much of the newer stuff isn’t as good.

A very old Stik, and one of my favourite pieces ever.

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A new(ish) Dan Kitchener.

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I don’t know who these two are by, but I liked them.

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The ever prolific Alo – of whom I am a fan.

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I walked over to the Barbican Centre to take some photos of the fabulous brutalist buildings. Brutalism, of the building variety, isnot something I will see much of in NZ, particularly in Auckland. I love the Barbican, a place I could wander around for ages. It is huge and there is a lot to see, and it has a pretty good vibe. It is well visited by tourists and I imagine those who live here get a bit sick of people like me,  pointing their camera lenses at everything. Not that there were many tourists around today, anywhere.

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I walked over towards St Paul’s and took some photos of the very empty streets. I was genuinely shocked at how empty the city is as I thought a number of people had gone back to Covid safe offices. I heard tales of packed tube trains so I have no idea where those people go to, I don’t believe they are all construction workers or cafe staff. These photos were taken just before mid-day and there should have been some people heading out to buy lunch.

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Some of the food places were open, nowhere as many as normal, but enough. I grabbed a coffee and sat on the steps opposite a deserted St Pauls to drink it and pondered how London can be so quiet.

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I don’t think I have seen the Millennium Bridge almost empty, ever. I took a photo of the Tate Modern, one of the places in the UK I will miss the most when I am in Auckland.

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I came across a Jimmy C. painting outside Blackfriars Stattion, street art on the South Bank. Wow, things have changed in the last couple of years.

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Continuing on with my brutalist architecture theme I grabbed a photo of the block of flats on the riverside. I used to deliver here when I was a van driver for DHL in the 80s, I can’t imagine what a flat costs here now, it was a little run down here back then.

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I then spent 30 minutes walking around the National Theatre and Festival Hall; two of my favourite London buildings. I may come back here before we leave and take some more photos, though by that time we will have seen some Covid restrictions relaxed, so I suspect it will be busier.

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I could only walk aroud the outside as all the stairwells were closed.

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With my train departure drawing closer I started the walk towards Victoria Station. Walking along the South Bank where I stopped for lunch; it was almost as empty as the streets in the city, before crossing Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament. There was more police than citizens here. I elected to take a slight detour to take a photo of the office, which I sent to my workmates to show them it was still there.

As I was walking back towards Victoria St it started to drizzle a little and then the sky just opened and dumped one of the heaviest downpours of rain I have experienced in the UK, luckily I managed to find shelter almost immediately and avoided getting drenched. it didn’t last more than a few short minutes.

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I arrived at the station mostly dry and with enough time to by a snack and a drink before getting on another mostly empty train back home. The station was very quiet too. Victoria Bus Station is nearby and a lot of the international buses terminate there, discharging their passengers into the train station for onward journeys, but not today. No or limited travels meant no tourists hanging about the station looking lost.

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I took a few photos out of the train window as we moved through the city and the countryside, with the aim of continuing the series of slightly blurry and monochrome photos I was working on before Covid derailed transport. It was a bit of a listless affair. When I was home I was surprised to find I had taken 135 photos over the course of the last 24 hours, Wow, that is a heck of a lot for me.

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I arrived back in St Leonards, and the sea, just as more rain arrived, though it continued eastward with the train and the walk up the hill to the flat was not too wet, just enough.

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I love London, but it was nice to get home.

Back to the office. (Once, hopefully not again)

September Monday/Tuesday 28/29 2020 – London.

After a very long period of procrastination I finally got around to calling my doctor about an unevenly growing mole on my leg. I was surprised that even though Covid is gaining ground in the UK again I was very quickly offered an appointment at the dermatology clinic in Whipps Cross Hospital; a 30 minute walk from our place in Walthamstow. As an aside; it seems we are now both referring to St Leonards as home, and Walthamstow is now the place we visit, a complete reversal from five months ago.

As we were going to be in London for a couple of days I elected to spend a day in the office. I am working on a procurement project and have five response documents to read, totalling almost 100 pages. With so much to process my preference is to read and annotate paper. However, I was not wanting to use my own printer; plus my printer is slow enough that I suspect they would still be printing as I write this 10 days later. I also wanted to see how many colleagues had responded to the offer to go back to the office. I was also interested to see how quiet it is in the Westminster and Regents St areas.

Eleanor and I have been very good at maintaining some work disciplines throughout this Covid event, and the alarm still goes off at 6:35. Admittedly rather than leaping (stumbling) out of bed, we do have a coffee in bed before showers, breakfast and commuting to our workspaces in different rooms of the flat. As I was going to do a proper commute we were up early and I was on the Victoria Line at 7:15, a bit earlier than I would have been in normal times. This was my third journey on the tube since March, and the first in any form of rush hour. It was OK, 95% of passengers had masks on, and most of those had the mask on properly; except of course the person next to me. When we left Walthamstow Central the carriage was only this full, by the time we had got Kings Cross all seats were taken and people were standing, though nothing like ‘normal’. There were not a lot of white collar workers, and only two others left the station with me at Pimlico.

The roads around Marsham St where my office is located were very quiet, though the queue in the Pret by the office was too long to want to go in, so I went to Leon and picked up coffee and breakfast; doing my bit for the local economy. Most of the cafes here are part of large chains and I care little for them, though they do provide jobs and I was pleased to see the young woman who made coffee in Leon before lockdown was back making coffee again. I bought lunch from a small independent Italian cafe, their coffee is not too my taste. Much as I like independents, I like coffee more and I could not be bothered to walk to the very good NZ owned coffee shop up the road.

The office was really quiet, in our area of perhaps 100 desks, four people attended during the day, including me. Our director was there and I saw some of the senior civil servants and the permanent secretary, but very few of the junior staff were in. The earlier exhortation to get staff back in the office seems to be failing; though the message that week was only come in if you really want to. To be fair to my department, they have very much pushed the message that no-one should feel compelled to attend the office.

Nothing physically has been done to make the office Covid safe, the desk layout is the same and there are no screens; however lots of process changes have been made, signs everywhere, you have to book a desk, one person per pod, two people in the bathrooms and one in the kitchenette etc; there are a lot of cleaning staff present. There were minor frustrations; signs on the lift doors asking to use hand sanitizer before entering the lift, but no sanitizer by the lifts and wipe the printers before and after use; but no wipes nearby. Naturally I did not point these out, just moaned about them. I am British after all.

I was in to print documents, so naturally the aging printer fleet that was there when I left had been replaced, so I need to install new printer drivers, register with the new service and faff, faff, faff. An hour after arriving I finally had five documents printed. It was worth it though. The printers are nice, so much better than the old ones.

I spent about six hours in the office, it was quiet and I got stuff done but it was strange being there without workmates and the office bantz.

I chose to take the tube home from Oxford Circus so I get a bit of a walk through some of the key London tourist spots. I walked past Westminster Abbey,

Horse Guards Parade,

Trafalgar Square,

Piccadilly Circus,

and up Regent Street to Oxford Street and the tube station.

There were very few people about, less than I expected, though there were  a small number tourists shopping on Regent St, which was the busiest place I walked. If I wasn’t still in the work day I would have walked through Soho as well to check that out. The mid-afternoon ride home on the tube was a lot quieter than the rush hour journey in and if felt a lot more comfortable with less people. I had bought a couple of new masks specifically for today, with adjustable straps; what a difference it made. My old elastic strapped masks hurt my ears after a few minutes, these new ones are fabulous. I guess I will buy more. Shop, shop, shop. Save the economy.

I am glad I went in to the city, it was good to see what it was like and it was good to see how I felt about it. I was not comfortable at all and I am reasonably cavalier in my attitude towards our new way of living; compared to some anyway. I won’t be rushing back in, but at least I can say I tried for myself.

My appointment at the dermatology clinic was for 9:15 and naturally it was drizzling when I left, I chose to walk as I need the exercise and it is always a nightmare parking at hospitals; though there was loads of empty spaces when I arrived. The drizzle didn’t last long and I had a mostly dry walk; though it hammered it down when I was 100 metres from the clinic.

The good news is that my weirdly growing mole looks to be fine, and its behaviour was not anything the specialist was worried, they didn’t ask for a biopsy. So Yay.

Large parts of Whipps Cross Hospital are in a terrible state, fortunately not outpatients were I had just bee. Victorian buildings, like this closed nursing quarters, and abandoned workshops with asbestos warning signs and weeds growing through cracks in the walls and roof. Our glorious government (who have been in power for 10 years and have done diddly for the NHS) have announced that 40 new hospitals will be built, though one of those ‘new’ hospitals will be a complete renovation of Whipps. It needs it.

I drove us back to St Leonards-on-Sea after work. It was good to visit London, but even better to drive back home.

Back on the Tube.

Monday 10 August 2020 – London.

It has finally happened. The inevitability we were going to face one day; the dreaded journey into the belly of the beast, into the hell heat depths of London; AKA the Tube, the underground. We have not been on the Tube or any other public transport in London since early March, and I cannot believe that that was five months ago. Naturally it is over 30 degrees today and the Tube is even more terrible than normal in this heat. However we are not living in normal times and we did not have to travel during, what makes up, the rush hour in these early post lockdown days. That was at least one small mercy.

Eleanor has to complete a medical as part of the New Zealand partner visa application process and the only place in London that the embassy recognises is in Knightsbridge. Naturally.

I have taken three days off work so we could come up to London, and then we could go to the medical together. Tomorrow we will be attending an online funeral service to farewell a good friend of ours. Sadly this is not a holiday trip. I will drive back down on Wednesday and Eleanor will follow later in the week.  It is brutally hot at the moment, day three of a heat wave, that have temperatures in the mid 30s, it was much nicer by the sea than in London. Even the flat was pretty warm on Friday night, last night in London was awful, and tonight is going to be even hotter.

It is now mandatory to wear a mask on public transport and in stations, so we made sure we had those packed before we left to take the underground from Walthamstow to Knightsbridge. As is the norm we left far too early, or were cautious, depending on your point of view. Walthamstow Central was pretty quiet, a good start.

Not everyone was wearing a face covering on the train, as expected I guess, and we did move seats when someone sat down opposite us with no mask on. These are not normal times. Changing trains at Finsbury Park we got on the Piccadilly Line which was a lot quieter.

With so few tourists around the big stations like Leicester Square and Hyde Park were almost deserted, it is quite eerie, though less people around is not unpleasant in this heat.

We stopped for lunch in a small cafe near the doctors rooms in Knightsbridge, a small Italian, and I am guessing, family run for a long time type of place. I really liked it and the coffee and meatball sandwich I had were great. It is my type of cafe.

The doctors rooms in Knightsbridge was slightly different to the doctors room in Walthamstow.

I left Eleanor to her appointment and went out for a walk, I was advised to give it an hour, though Eleanor called me after thirty minutes to say it was done, and all good so far. I am glad it was not the whole hour as it was so hot outside and naturally I had not used sun block and my hats were at the flat, I could feel the skin on my face shriveling under the intense gaze of the sun.

Even the hoardings around the building sites are of a different class to what I am used to…

I crossed the road outside Harvey Nichols and was surprised/not surprised at the lack of people, and particularly the lack of traffic. It is always hideously busy through here and the pollution is awful. But not today, long may this remain!

I was very close to Hyde Park so decided to take my walk there, I have not visited much since that period at the end of 2012 and start of 2013 when I was house sitting Phil’s flat in She Bu and frequently walked the royal parks. I don’t recall seeing it this dry, or empty. I kind of liked it like this, even I was better prepared for the sun I think it would have been more enjoyable.

I stopped to take some photos of the one flower bed I found, though it was very much in need of some water, me too, though I had had the foresight to bring some.

I walked around the Serpentine and was just enjoying a very refreshing ice cream when Eleanor rang to advise her appointment was done. The ice cream started melting, running over my fingers as we spoke, though we only talked for a few short seconds.

We met back in the Tube station and had a very hot, but uneventful journey back to Walthamstow. Hopefully that will be the last Tube ride for a while…

When we back up in Walthamstow ten days ago we had drinks for Eleanor’s birthday at Orford Road Social Club, which we had joined in February. A number of our friends are members and it is a cheap place to go for a drink, they also have a bowling club which seems to be the new thing for our social group. Some of us a had a bowl while we were there, which I very much enjoyed, and surprisingly I was not too bad.

As we were having one for the road back inside the building we heard the terrible news that Doug, one of our group, had succumbed to a virulent cancer he had been fighting for a few short months. Doug was our age and leaves a wife and two university aged children. He was a lovely man, with a great sense of humour and great taste in music and will be missed very much.

His funeral is tomorrow and because of covid related restrictions we are all going to be watching a live stream of the funeral at a friends house, followed by a drink or two in Doug’s honour. It is terribly sad.

Rest in Rock n Roll Dave ‘Doug’ Douglas.  (Kingsdown Beach 2019)

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 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.