Week 26: Pebble beaches

6th July 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. At the weekend we went down to Deal to spend the day sitting on the beach in the sunshine. It was glorious, there was sun, sea and really uncomfortable pebbles to sit on. I’m still not entirely sure why some beaches get nice soft sand and others only get hard pebbles. Pebble beaches are so painful! Still, Deal itself was lovely, sufficiently off the beaten path that the beach was very quiet, but populated enough there was a toilet and ice cream shop we could visit. Having not really made it out of London since lockdown stared (apart from seeing country lanes on bike rides) it was nice to sit and look out to sea and get lost in the thought that we were anywhere.
  2. I took a couple of days annual leave towards the end of the week so my weekend kept on feeling like Sunday. It was nice to have more time to potter around the flat and switch off from work. I really can see the appeal of those friends who do 4 day weeks normally. I think I’d prefer a 4 day week over a remote only job.
  3. We watched Pump up the volume: A history of House music. It was originally aired in 2001, though apart from some of the outfits of interviewers (I love how you can age most things by peoples wardrobes) it holds up really well. The description of Acid House being invented because they didn’t know how to use a TB-303 and just twisted the nobs a bit, then had to play the first track three times in one night until people worked out they liked it was great. I love the balls of seeing a track not work on the dance floor, but just playing it again and again until people start dancing.
  4. We also watch Disclosure, a documentary looking at how media has trained people to mock, fear, and distrust the trans community. My favourite part had to be clip they show us of a dad describing his trans child as a unicorn, someone special, unique, and precious who should be nurtured and cared for, not shamed or resented. Imagine if that was the message that more media carried, imagine how exciting the world could be. I hope one day the world is accepting of trans people. Fuck the haters.

Week 25: Ginger Nuts

29th June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. On Monday I spent the evening chasing sunsets on my bike. A combination of the extraordinarily long days we’ve got at the moment (thanks Solstice) and everyone being inside at night (thanks Covid), makes for some really enjoyable late evening riding. The roads are mostly deserted, the temperature is mild, and you can easily loose yourself to the gentle noise of nature and your chain running over your gears. I wish evenings like these stuck around for the rest of the year.
  2. The end of the week was officially too hot. It made me long for the air conditioned offices that I usually get to hide in during the summer months.
  3. On Thursday Virgin Media killed my internet connection for most of the day. A very real reminder that I am still working from home and not a real office. The plus sides being I was able to move some flowers from a basket to a bed in the garden while I waited for it to come back up. If we were still in offices we would have almost certainly just used the time for some planing meetings or some other “real work”.
  4. This weekend we were supposed to be at Glastonbury. Instead we went round to a friends house and sat (appropriately spaced) in their garden watching past performances projected onto a wall. It was one of the most normal feeling things we’ve done since the beginning of Lockdown. It also gave us a glimpse into what socialising might look like in the future, which is a poor imitation of the before. No more screaming Wonderwall into each others faces while spilling half your beer over the floor.
  5. Due to an administrative error there are currently two packets of ginger nut biscuits open. Management would like to apologise for this oversight.

Week 24: Park days

22nd June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. We watched Staged which had me laughing out loud, it doesn’t take much I know but this was good. The premise is two actors being forced to rehearse for a play during lockdown. It perfectly captures the challenges of video conferencing and the mundanity of living through lockdown trying to function. As a bonus the episodes are only 15 - 20 minutes long so you’ve watched the whole season before you realise it’s started.
  2. This weekend we met up with some friends in a park and managed to have a long conversation without just being able to see their head and shoulders. It was nice to pretend for a short bit that life might get back to some kind of normal. It’s also nice to discover new green spaces that I’d not visited before. One of the things that I’m really hopeful for is that people continue to use all the green spaces when this is all over. It’s really nice to see people out and enjoying their neighbourhoods. Though I imagine in reality people will quickly head back to the cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars as soon as they open and the parks will go back to how they were in the before.
  3. Having rediscovered medium length bike rides, and doing a couple a week for the past month, I now feel like my fitness is also now starting to return. I feel able to go out for a couple of hard hours on the bike and come home not feeling like I need to pass out in the corner and not move for a week. Which is making the riding more enjoyable and more appealing. Thankfully the weather also around to facilitate the rides.
  4. We continue to watch Black-ish, this week we watched the episode called “Hope”, the premise being the verdict in a police brutality case is announced and the family discuss what it means for them, and Black people in general. The episode was frighteningly relevant to current affairs. It’s free on Prime video, I’d recommend watching it. It also touches on at what age should you explain to children that racism exists. I don’t think there is one answer for that, but I was also reminded of that question when reading a letter from Lonnie Chavis, a 12 year old holywood star where he talks about his experiences of racism.

    Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism? I can.

    The privilege of being able to grow up and live without understanding the implications of living in a white supremacist society is huge.

Week 23: Cycling

15th June 2020

Some good things from this week:

  1. I went on my longest bike ride since March 2016. I’ve been building my distance up again over the past couple of weeks and it feels really good to be back on the bike for multi hour rides. It’s also mind boggling the number of other cyclists out cycling at the moment. The last 10 years have really seen cycling come from a niche sport on the fringes into something immensely popular. I was always hopeful that the number of cyclists in Central London would ensure car drivers would have to look for us, I didn’t expect the same to happen in the countryside.
  2. I shipped my first big feature at work. I’ve only been in my job for 4 weeks but I’m already shipping big features by myself. Elixir is strangely familiar for a language I’ve never used before. Other than it’s immutability throwing me off a couple of times has been a really easy transition to writing. I’m still not sure I’d pick it over Rails for writing a CRUD app myself, but I can definitely see some of it’s perks.
  3. Food shopping in lockdown has mostly gone completely back to normal. In the Sainsburys I go to they even had 16kg of plain and self raising flour out for people to buy this week. Other than the short queue to get into the store it’s as stocked as it was before lockdown. We’ve managed to get our shopping routine to only needing to go to the store once a fortnight. We get a veg box delivered weekly which helps with that. This really limits our interactions with other people.
  4. We continue to watch Black-ish which we’ve been watching for many weeks now. With 141 episodes, I imagine we will continue to be watching this for a long while yet. It’s funny, well written and a nice antidote to the world.

The world seems otherwise still pretty messed up. We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and try and move forward.

Week 22: Black Lives Matter

8th June 2020

I’m not going to deny it, this week has been tough.

I hope this is the beginning of something big. I hope we’re at a tipping point. I hope that there will be real change and we can begin to tear down some of the white supremacist systems which are holding us collectively back. I hope it will be different this time.

I know at least within my network more people seem to be opening their eyes, wanting to engage, and actually learning and talking about racism. Which is good, I’m here for those conversations.

At the same time though, the Met still refuse to acknowledge their racism, that they disproportionally target black men, that they treat black people different from their white counterparts. A member of the cabinet can’t even bring themselves to say that there are no black people on the cabinet for fear of…?

I hope this gets to big to ignore though. So we need to continue the discourse and not let this just die… again. We, as white people, need to have the uncomfortable conversations and start to heal some of the hurt that we’ve inflicted. We need to normalise saying out loud that black lives matter. That the current state of things isn’t ok. That we see black people, that we appreciate black people, that we are there for black people. Because black lives matter.

Week 21: Distraction

1st June 2020

This week had quite a few good things:

  1. Went on a lovely long bike ride and did some good social distance with a friend. The weather was amazing, the wind keeping it feeling not to hot while the sun was being very hot. It was also really nice to see so many people enjoying outdoor spaces. Spaces I’ve never seen be busy were covered in mostly appropriately spaced bodies. I’d love for a legacy of this to be people remembering that outdoor spaces exist.
  2. The blog post Alice, Keran and I wrote about our radio show got published. We drafted it while I was still working at the FT. It was a lot of fun to produce, and I’ve been contemplating bunking off work for an afternoon to go back and help them do it again (you didn’t see this Tom ;).
  3. I built a new garden planter out of an old pallet I found abandoned at the side of the road. The challenge was to try and built it without having to go to the shops to buy any new bits, which I managed to achieve. It means that some of the screws weren’t quite the right length, and some bit’s don’t have as much structural integrity as I would have liked. But in some ways that just adds to its reclaimed rustic charm. The next job is to get some compost to fill it.

Two of those good things also helped me avoid the internet for most of the weekend. Which is good because the current state of the world, and in particular the state of racism both in America and locally is getting me seriously down.

Someone left this quote on a comment on an FT article really stuck with me:

…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. Martin Luther King, 1967

That was from 1967, has nothing changed.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading (well, mostly listening to audio books) around racism over the past couple of years. If anyone’s looking to help understand modern racism more I’d recommend any of these books:

I’ve put White Fragility last, because it’s the only one written by a white person. It’s a great book, and covers an area none of the others touch, but does mean id recommend supporting any of the other authors before reading it.

Black lives matter.

Week 20: Shoe size

25th May 2020

This week had a number of good things:

  1. I started my new job, all of my colleagues are lovely, so nice I let them all come round to hang out on my sofa for a drink on Friday afternoon.
  2. I shipped to production 8 times this week, and only one of them broke the site. I’m glad I’ve got breaking production achieved in my first week, it will take the pressure off later.
  3. I got up early on Thursday and went for a bike ride. The roads were empty, the sun was shining and I saw lots of little lambs. I’m going to try and do this more regularly. It made my heart happy and allowed me to escape the lockdown reality for a short bit.
  4. We managed to BBQ twice after work. I’m super fortunate to have a garden at the moment, so being able to make use of it is great.
  5. I managed to see some family, while keeping a safe distance. I wish everyone was able to do this, again I’m super fortunate.
  6. It turns out Alice knows my shoe size and this makes me inordinately happy.

There is also great sadness around though. Not being able to give people support and company is rough. The number of people I know who have now lost someone during lockdown is increasing. I have a lot of hugs I want to give out when we’re allowed again, and I know I’m not alone with that. The emotional toll of physical distancing should never be underrated.

The current government is making me increasingly sad and angry. They don’t seem to want to be on the same team as the rest of the general public. I have no other words to say about that at the moment.

Week 19: Keeping busy

17th May 2020

This was the week between jobs. I’d had my last day at the FT last week, and on Monday I start my new job with Breakroom. So without work, and with lockdown still in force (though turning more into ‘lockdown lite’ for the end of the week) I had a week to entertain myself without really leaving the flat.

Last week I mentioned the number of birds that live in and around our garden. This week the baby sparrows who live above the back door were obviously growing up up as their lungs were getting VERY loud. Like keeping us awake loud. Though as I found out on Friday, that’s because they were big enough to be kicked out of the nest. One of them upon leaving the nest wasn’t quite able to fly though, and spent the next number of hours desperately trying to get enough height to make it over our garden fence. I’m assuming it finally worked it out because it’s gone now. With those chicks gone though, the noises have significantly reduced… Presumably until the next eggs hatch and we start all over again.

Something I wanted to get done during my time between jobs was fixing up my bikes. Both of them had things wrong with them that made me not want to ride them, so the aim of the week was to have two functioning bikes again. One of the things that needed doing was changing a headset, something I’d never done before. It turns out though, at least on the bike that I needed to do, it was relatively straightforward. Unscrewing the stem bolts, taking all of the other bits that were just held with friction out, cleaning everything and putting it back together with the new headset instead of the old one. Why is it some jobs that you put off for ages as they are scary turn out to be super straightforward when you actually start them?

This week I did a another job I’d been contemplating for a while, deleting all my old tweets. But I already posted about that so I won’t cover that again.

I really enjoyed this post by Tekin, about how long is too long for a PR. It’s nice that someone tried to put some science behind it.

This weekend in preparation for using a new machine, and due to the default shell on macOS changed in Catalina from bash to zsh, I rewrote some helper scripts I keep around. The zsh auto completion docs it turns out though, are somewhat impenetrable and left me with more questions than solutions. Not quite the confidence boost I’d have wanted the day before I start a new job. I do know how to computer honest.

Deleting my tweets

14th May 2020

Over the past couple of years I’ve slowly stopped using twitter. Initially I was just tweeting less, while still reading lots of it. Then as they slowly broke Tweetbot by removing APIs I slowly just stopped using the service.

I tried to start using it a bit more when the global pandemic kicked off to try and recreate the old water cooler usage that made it big years ago. But rather than making me feel more connected it just made me feel more anxious. So I stopped again, I’m still not sure if it’s the right service for me anymore.

When Phil recently mentioned about deleting tweets that triggered an itch that I’d long had. This isn’t a new thing, Mark has been deleting his tweets for years, I remember when he first started and I didn’t understand it. But now I’m not even using the service myself, I’m totally on board.

So I’ve deleted my twitter history of anything older than a month (after downloading a copy for myself first). Except for this tweet, my very first tweet, it still seems appropriate to keep around.

…read the rest of this entry.

Week 18: Doing nothing

11th May 2020

  • I had my last day at the Financial Times this week. Doing a remote last day / last week was weird. Usually when I leave a job I get to spend much of the last week walking around chatting to people reminisce about stuff that’s happened, and generally shoot the shit. It’s slightly weirder to schedule that kind of chat in a calendar to ensure everyone’s on the video call.
  • I have a very small garden, but it’s home to so many birds. Two robins have a nest with some babies next to my kitchen window. A family of sparrows have a nest above my back door, and three or four more families of sparrows have nests in the cracks around my roof. There are also more sparrows nesting in my neighbours properties. This means that at any given point if you’re in the garden you’re probably sharing it with a number of little birds. They mostly dive bomb around the place looking for food and ignore humans getting in the way. When I first moved in I was really rather scared of the robin who used to come and do the gardening with me, now I think I’d miss it if it wasn’t around.
  • We’ve watched some good TV this week. We started with Hollywood, a story of marginalized young people trying to make a movie in 1947. It was really nice to see a potential alternative reality, though reading more afterwards it wasn’t until 2017 a black American finally won Best Writing at the Oscars, and there still hasn’t been a black director who’s won Best Director.
  • We watched Becoming which is a documentary filled while Michelle Obama did her book tour. There wasn’t much in it that wasn’t covered in the book, but it was nice easy watching and a glimpse behind the scenes at an extraordinary woman.
  • This bank holiday weekend we watched the new Lion King (2019), Christopher Robin (2018) and The many adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977). If I’m honest I probably enjoyed The many adventures of Winnie the Pooh the most, the animation really stands the test of time very well. Setting the film in a book where we can leave characters on pages, and they can almost jump out of the book still makes me smile. The live action films were very impressive to watch though, at the beginning of the Lion King it was hard to work out what was real and what wasn’t.
  • The quotes from the opening of Christopher Robin probably made me smile the most:

    Pooh: Where are we going, Christopher Robin?

    Christopher Robin: Nowhere.

    Pooh: Oh. One of my favourite places.

    Pooh: Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.

    Which seems apt as before I start a week of doing nothing.

More posts can be found in the archives.