Week 12: Lockdown

30th March 2020

  • Lockdown.
  • This week I left the house 5 times. Three times to go for a short jog around the block. Twice to go to the shops.
  • I’ve still been getting up, showered and dressed ready for work every day. It starts me off right. At the weekend I was slightly more relaxed and didn’t bother getting out of my pyjamas. Knowing that I don’t need to / can’t leave the house, and no one is going to surprise drop round, there didn’t seem any point. Though I’ve been reflecting on this article about “Inside Clothes” Mark shared and realising I’m underprepared with my indoor clothes selection.
  • I finished listening to Safe - On Black British Men Reclaiming Space this week. It was a fairly natural follow on from The Good Immigrant however just focusing on black men. Like The Good Immigrant the short story per chapter makes it very digestible and an easy way to listen to peoples experiences. I came away still feeling depressed at the racism in this country, knowing we’ve still got a long way to go.
  • Food shopping is weird at the moment. Everyone walking around quietly avoiding each other all looking at aisles which are half empty. We’ve not struggled with getting fresh fruit and veg, either going to the larger supermarkets which get regular deliveries and through our Able & Cole subscription. Getting eggs and strong white bread flour though has proved impossible. It seems the whole country has suddenly taken up baking.

Weeks 10 & 11: Scotland

23rd March 2020

  • I didn’t post anything last week as I was living out of a campervan whilst driving around Scotland. However, if I was going to post something it would most likely have just been a single “we’re living in unprecedented times” quote. Trying to comprehend the slow march of the country inevitably shutting down was excruciating, and stealing much of my conciousness.
  • So let’s skip last week and move on to Scotland!
  • We’d been planning a campervan trip to Scotland for a number of months, and while I was half expecting to have to cancel we decided to plough on. I’m very glad we did as it was an amazing week away and also because it looks like it will be our last chance to get away from our flat for the foreseeable future.
  • We picked up the van just south of the Lake District, so stopped on the side of The Old Man of Coniston for the first night and woke up to extreme mist and beautiful views. From there we then headed north stopping at a mixture of campsites and secluded car parks making it all the way to the Isle of Skye.
  • All of our non-campsite stops were found using the Park4Night app, which other campervan owners have marked good spots that people don’t mind you parking in for a night. Though the leave no trace, be quiet and respectable, and move on if asked rules apply. I’d really recommend it as a way of finding nice places to hide.
  • Many days the only human interaction we had was thanking car drivers while passing them on single track roads. In terms of social distancing I definitely came into contact with fewer people than I would popping to the local shop at home.
  • Being in one of more remote parts of the country while the Covid-19 situation was rapidly developing was also very strange. Even up on Skye the supermarket shelves were slightly empty (though mostly just toilet paper, tinned tomatoes, beans and the entire whisky section, the Scottish essentials). Everyone was taking it reassuringly seriously though, with hand sanitiser or hand wash stations popping up everywhere.
  • While we were away I decided to not take a razor with me and see what kind of beard grows if I stop shaving for a couple of weeks (I’d also not shaved for four days before we left either). Turns out it’s still super patchy and not a strong look. Back to regular shaving for me then.
  • Being able to go “off grid” for a number of days, parking up where the views were good, cooking dinner, washing up, sleeping and moving on again before anyone noticed was magical.
  • I’m glad I’m back home now though. As remote as we were, as few people we interacted with, the precautions we were taking, and the hand washing we were doing, the guilt over being out of the house when the news was full of social distancing restrictions was getting a lot to deal with.
  • I’m also glad I got my last hair cut in just before we went away as it looks like that will be the last cut for a while.
  • Ohh, did I mention, Scotland is beautiful? This is the view of our van just after we’d woken up one morning:

Campervan next to a Loch

Week 9: Dave

9th March 2020

  • A couple of weeks ago I’d seen the headlines in the papers that Dave (the rapper, not former Prime Minister) had called Boris (the current Prime Minister) a “real racist”. I’d shrugged it off given it seemed like a non-controversial statement. This week however, I was told that I really should watch the video of Dave performing at the Brits, where he called Boris a racist. I did, and it was probably the best thing I saw all week.
  • Being unfamiliar with the original song I went and cross referenced it. It turns out the original has more swears but doesn’t get the extended social commentary at the end.
  • I assume it’s due to record deals and artists not wanting to rock the apple cart, but I’m always disappointed that musician don’t make political statements more often. It often seems such a waste of a soapbox from which they can command.
  • Given that Dave has a number of much more popular tracks, I’m glad that he picked this track to perform.
  • That also reminded me of a documentary I watched which was talking about how music towards the end of the Apartheid was often secretly political. Overtly political music in South Africa was at the time censored, so musicians instead had to sneak politics in through metaphors. I couldn’t find the exact documentary again, but this one on The Role of South African dance music during apartheid summarises it nicely.
  • This weekend I was again reminded of how many muscles I have that I don’t regularly use as I moved a carried a large amount of soil through the flat to fill up our new raised beds in the garden. They are all aching now. Still, the beds are now mostly full ready to plant things for the spring.

Week 8: Aching

2nd March 2020

  • This week I’ve spent a lot of time in the garden working on the raised beds that we had put in.
  • When we had someone come redo our garden we didn’t ask them to also fill the raised sleeper beds that we asked them to build as we were going to do that ourselves. This apparently led them to believe they didn’t need to put backs on the raised beds. So this week I took delivery of some long planks and build some backs to the beds myself to stop the soil pushing against the fence (which would undoubtedly buckle).
  • We also had a builders sack full of soil delivered which I had to carry through the house in buckets as there is no other access to the garden. It wasn’t quite enough so we’ve got another one on order due to come this week.
  • Lifting heavy planks, operating a hand saw, and carrying buckets of soil are outside of my usual exercise and my body is definitely feeling that now.
  • We watched the new Mary Poppins at the weekend. It was lovely, my only real takeaway was my mind boggling at having to employ people to go and manually light every street lamp back before electric bulbs or igniters.

Week 7: Sail We Must

24th February 2020

  • Andrew Weatherall died this week. It was somewhat unexpected and sudden to the point I was supposed to see him on playing on Friday as part of A Love From Outer Space. Sean played without him, it was a touching evening with most of the crowd wanting to pay their respects to a legend.
  • Of the quotes and stories about Andrew this is one of my favourites:

    Following his rave-era glory days, it’s interesting that Weatherall never attained the “superstar DJ” status of, say, Fatboy Slim or Calvin Harris; that, he says, is entirely by design.

    “That sort of carry-on was never for me,” he reflects. “It’s a lot of work, once you go up that slippery showbiz pole, and it would keep me away from what I like which is making things. I mean, I had a little look in the early Nineties. I stood at the bottom of that pole and looked up and thought to myself ‘The view’s pretty good. But it’s very greasy and there are a lot of bottoms up there that I might have to brush my lips against. So, maybe I’ll give it a miss’.”

    Andrew Weatherall interview - Independent

  • As the legend goes, Andrew Weatherall once asked a fisherman “Are there times when you get up in the morning and you can’t be arsed?”. His response was “Fail we may, sail we must”. Andrew had that tattoo on his arms.
  • We watched Sorry to Bother You at the weekend which I really enjoyed. It was a story of how a black man became a telemarketer and had to learn to use his white voice in order to succeed. There are a number of parts of the script which I’d have loved to been a fly on the wall when it was pitched.

  • Over the weekend we also watched the two seasons of Man Like Mobeen. It had us both laughing at many points as it very directly tackled topics of racism and islamophobia. Well worth a watch.

    Do you remember what he used to call me?

    Africa

    That’s fully racist init. You can’t call someone a whole continent because of their skin colour, init man.

  • Fail we may, sail we must!

Week 6: 90

17th February 2020

  • This week we’ve been watching Hip Hop Evolution. We’d only watched the first series and it turns out there are now four of them. It’s been really interesting watching it with someone who grew up in America and hearing about what made it big there that I’d never heard. It’s been really compelling watching even not knowing most of the music, artists or impact of the tracks at the time.

  • Watching Hip Hop Evolution has also been working towards a goal that I’ve got to consciously watch more things staring people of colour or other minority groups on TV. It was reassuring last year during Black History Month when checking Sky Cinema’s “films staring black people” playlist that I’d already watched most of the titles.

  • This weekend I went to a 90th birthday meal. The thought of living until I’m 90 is completely wild to me. It would mean I’ve got almost two thirds of my life left. Think of all the things I’ve still got time to achieve, all the things I can do, the places I can go. Thinking about that along with the social expectation to always be getting promoted, to always be growing, is equally exhausting.

Week 5: Oat Milk

10th February 2020

  • This week I’ve listened to most of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. It was recommended to me and I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. Turns out it was much heavier than I was expecting and I’ll probably need to give it another listen to really absorb what was covered. Audiobooks are, to me at least, far more suited to lighter books where you’re able to drift in and out as you carry out other jobs (like commuting, or driving).

  • Two of my favourite quotes from the book were:

    When we shame and label our children, we take away their opportunity to grow and try on new behaviours. If a child tells a lie, she can change that behaviour. If she’s a liar, where’s the potential for change in that?

    and

    Charlie [the authors son] also gets the distinction between shame and guilt. When I found our dog pulling food out the trash can I scalded her saying “bad dog”. Charlie came sliding around the corner shouting “Daisy is a good girl who made a bad choice, we love her we just don’t love her choices.

  • Lots of good takeaways from the book though, and I’m looking forward to the second reading.

  • This week we watched The Trial of Christine Keeler. By far my favourite character had to be Profumo’s wife. In episode 6 she puts Jack Profumo right in his place pointing out the inherent sexisim in his opinions. Unfortunately then he pulls a “but I fought in the war” line to try and excuse himself. Ugh.

    Being a teenage girl is like being invited to a glorious picnic. Then you discover you’re one of the sandwiches. Poor girl never had a chance.

  • After musing the other week about the environmental impact of buying cartons of milk alternatives I realised this week that it’s actually incredibly easy to make oat milk. It requires soaking some oats, blending them, then straining the bits out, which all sound like steps I can do. So I’ve made my first batch of homemade oat milk.

Week 4: On mat

3rd February 2020

  • I finished reading listening to The Good Immigrant this week. It’s a great set of short stories, my favourites being: Darren Chetty talking about teaching children creative writing, and talking about how many children didn’t feel allowed to write about people of colour; and Bim Adewumni giving us the three steps for writing a good character of colour for TV (which seems beyond the reach of most TV shows)

    1. Write a stonkingly good, well rounded character
    2. Make the effort to cast a person of colour
    3. That’s it.

    I could have picked any chapter to quote though, they were all great and everyone should read it.

  • This week we finished watching Cheer. Many parts of the series had me having to turn away from the TV in fear of broken body parts, the limits that athletes push themselves to always amazes me. Though I worry about the lengths a multibillion dollar industry will go to hide that truth, the same way we know the NFL treat concussions.
  • I was saddened by the news of Nicholas Parsons passing this week. I have fond memories of catching Just A Minute when my parents had Radio 4 on when I was young. I also once got the chance to be in a Tech Just a Minute game when I spoke at EpicFEL, which was incredibly fun.
  • At the weekend I was booked in with a couple of hours with a personal stylist as a present, this was more a nudge to buy some clothes that aren’t falling apart rather than a slight on my current wardrobe. It involved me trying on more clothes in a short time than I’ve ever done in my life, and then being asked for an objective opinion on them. It was really fun to see the process of someone else picking out clothes and then working them into outfits that work together. I was also surprised when some things I initially disregarded while still on the hanger did actually look quite good when I had them on. As someone who isn’t usually a very adventurous clothes shopper (and regularly finds the experience anxiety inducing) it was definitely an eye opening experience through which I was made to feel mostly at ease.
  • During the week we also went to a London Terrariums workshop where we made our own Terrariums. It was lot’s of fun and now I’ve got my own miniture rainforrest.

Week 3: Living in the future

27th January 2020

  • A couple of years ago I tweeted:

    Musing over if I could ditch my phone day to day and move to just an Apple Watch with cellular.

    @edds - 7:04 AM - 22 Mar 2018

    I now quite happily leave the house without my wallet or phone. Being able to pay and message people from my watch is revolutionary. Not being able to read WhatsApp messages is the only feature I really miss, thankfully most of my best friends use iMessage.

  • On the days I’ve been jogging to and from work I’ve been able to run with just my house keys. It’s fantastic.
  • I pushed myself too far jogging and have hurt my knee and and achilles so will need to back off to let them recover.
  • We’re currently hiring lots of engineers at the FT, it means I’m spending increasing numbers of hours a week interviewing. If you know anyone who wants a new job feel free to get in touch.
  • The new Apple Pay Express Mode makes it feel like we’re living in the future. It’s like using a wand to get through the barriers.

Week 2

19th January 2020

  • I’ve been thinking about my milk consumption recently and if it would be better to switch to a milk alternative like oat “milk”. Most milk alternatives are sold in Tetra Pak cartons though, and it sounds like they aren’t as recyclable as their plastic dairy carrying alternatives:

    Several supermarkets, for instance, are selling more drinks in coated cartons under the assumption that they can be recycled.

    In fact, the Green Alliance says, the UK only has the facilities to recycle a third of the coated containers in circulation.

    BBC News - Plastic packaging ban ‘could harm environment’

    So I’m not sure what to do about that. It was much simpler when the electric milk float used to drive glass bottles around that could just be refilled.

  • Over the past few years the volume buttons on my phone have slowly filled up with lint making them unable to be pressed. This wasn’t an issue most of the time, but was mildly irritating. I’d unsuccessfully tried to use a pin to clear it until I remembered that my phone is waterproof. Sure enough after washing it under a tap for a couple of minutes I was able to wash all the lint out making the buttons just like new again. The ability to wash my technology still messes with my head.

  • Last week when I managed to jog home, I failed at jogging back into work. This week I managed to both jog home, and then make it back into work the next morning… well there might have been quite a bit of walking, but I got in under my own steam so I’m taking that as a success.

  • It might have been a success at getting back into work, but I managed to hurt my knee and ankle so it probably was a net failure. One of the worries of taking up a new sport (jogging) when I’ve already got fitness from another sport (cycling) is the risk of injuring myself is increased as my cardio system can handle workload my joints can’t.

  • Goal for next week: do some more jogging, but don’t hurt myself.

More posts can be found in the archives.