Monday, March 30, 2020

Making the best of it

It was that day again, yesterday.

The day I celebrate, usually with a small group of friends and family, n many laps around the sun. Yesterday was memorable in a slightly strange way - there were three of us, M, her daughter, and myself.

We weren't allowed to go out, except for take-away food, provided by the Woolpack. I had Chicken Tikka Massala. And a load of presents, including some lovely shirts and some new tennis shoes. And a book on the Lotus Elise. 

The day felt... memorable, but not for entirely good reasons.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Staying in - Pride and Prejudice

M and I have been staying in rather a lot recently...

Like everyone else in the country, we have no choice in the matter.

Last night M suggested we re-watch the classic 1990s BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. It's bloody marvellous, and completely addictive as only great television can be. We have it on DVD and no doubt will be watching it again in a few years time. 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Trump: Day 1162

There's an excellent article in the Guardian today about Donald Trump's 'leadership' of the United States during the Corona virus epidemic.

Jonathan Freedland describes Trumps various lunatic twists and turns over the past month or so and concludes with one of the most truthful paragraphs I've ever read:

But these are small consolations for America and indeed for the world, which needed the leadership only a US president has the clout to provide. Instead, the world’s peoples now look at the US and comfort themselves with the small solace that they, at least, face only a lethal disease, and not the malignancy that is Donald Trump.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Record Death Toll

Today the United Kingdom posted its worst death toll so far from the Corona Virus.

115 people died of the disease today, bringing the total death toll to 578.

But the experts on Radio 2 today were cautiously optimistic. One believed that we might get through this thing with less than 5,000 deaths. Tonight at eight pm we all went out on our doorsteps and clapped and cheered for the N.H.S. Silly but heartfelt and surprisingly touching.

We found our favourite Chinese takeaway is still open for another two days, so I went down and got some just as the clapping was ending. The roads were strangely quiet and the drive home has never been less stressful. 

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Struggle Continues

It's Day 2 of the Total Lockdown.

Although I worked from home the whole of last week as well (work had very sensibly told everyone who can work from home to do so).

It's quite hard to work from home without things going wrong. Today I inadvertently found myself working on a local file that was also shared through a service called Citrix. By accident, I managed to save the wrong file, and so lost most of the morning's work. It didn't matter too much, but it's an example of how productivity suffers when you're working from home...


The graph shows the number of total confirmed cases of the Corona virus (COVID-19), courtesy of The Guardian. Hopefully by this time next week we'll see the curve flatten out a bit.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Another Bad Day

Another bad day at work.
It was partially due to me working from home, partially due to my own incompetence and partially due to a well meaning colleague, who wasn't quite as expert as he thought he was.

Once again, I'm feeling miserable and hate the idea of working from home for the next few months.


Just over an hour ago, Boris Johnson announced a complete 'lock down' of the country. From midnight tonight the people of Britain can only leave the house once a day for exercise, or to go to work, or to shop for food and medicines. "M" has just closed down her business. My friend "R" is rather worried about running out of food. The measures will be reviewed after three weeks.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Club Tennis

For over ten years (!) I've been attending group tennis lessons, originally organised by the LTA under the Parks Tennis scheme.

Today, Ben our instructor wanted to spend some time with his Mum. A not unreasonable request on Mother's Day. So instead, a group of us went to the club anyway and played tennis for a couple of hours. 

It was rather odd. The clubhouse was locked, and the balls were kept in a shed used for maintaining the courts and surrounding hedges and gardens. We all washed our hands before we started (20 seconds of scrubbing, minimum) and there were no handshakes or physical contact between us during the whole time. At the end, we all washed our hands again. I should have mentioned everyone had their own towel and own soap.

It is this ordinary strangeness that is the essence of the Corona virus epidemic so far.

Back home, the BBC announced that the number of deaths in Italy today was 651. It means that 5,476 Italians have died from the disease. From a selfishly British point of view, the fear is that we're behind Italy by two to three weeks, although I feel there are important cultural differences that make the stand-offish UK a little different to Italy. 

We shall see. 

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Missing Lunch

"M" and I went into town today as we invariably do late on a Saturday morning.

Our routine is pleasant and predictable. A quick visit to several shops for basic supplies like toothpaste, moisturiser and antiperspirant. Lunch at a very nice little cafe with a fantastic selection of  cakes afterwards if we have room. And... a meander through some nicer shops. "M" likes clothes, I like window shopping for watches and browsing books.

This Saturday was a bad imitation. We set off at the usual time and found the traffic moderate, but the roads weren't deserted. The car park was a surprise though - acres of empty spaces. Once in town it felt like late on a Sunday - some shops looked empty and sure enough the cafes and restaurants were empty, by government decree.

The supermarket had lots of empty shelves. This was unexpected, but still disconcerting. I read in today's Guardian that food retailers were experiencing pre-Christmas levels of demand. At the Sainsbury's we visited, many shelves were empty or close to empty, despite there being a two-item limit on everything you could buy. 

And worst of all. No lunch. Yesterday was the last day you could visit a restaurant or cafe in Britain. We speculated that the day the pubs, restaurants and cafes reopen will be a great day, possibly a public holiday, people may call it "Corona Day" or "Virus Day."

Back home M and I worked on the garden and things felt normal.  I cut the grass for the first time this year, and next weekend the clocks go forward. Lets hope we have a good summer, although just typing that seems delusional. At least the experts agree that sunlight, specifically ultra violet light, kills the virus.

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Friday, March 20, 2020


A much better day today.

I had some brilliant and competent help from a colleague - we screen shared, the technology isn't too bad on a one to one basis. Before that we had our silly team meeting, deliberately light hearted and chatty.

Then I finally got some work done and went on a dog walk with "M."

Last night there were rumours swirling around that London would go into total lock-down. This evening, an announcement was made that all pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms, leisure centres, cafes and restaurants will be closed from this evening. But it applies to the entire country. The government is offering to pay 80% of the wages of those affected by this extraordinary action in peacetime.

The scope and ambition of the action is impressive, and the cost is terrifying. We didn't pay off the debts of World War II to our allies until Friday December 29th 2006. That was about 60 years. I do hope the debts incurred by the government this time around aren't going to burden the country that long. It's just terrifying to think of the cost of this bloody epidemic and we're still in the foothills - nowhere near the peak yet.

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Thursday, March 19, 2020


I had a really bad day "at work" (actually in the dining room, working remotely) today.

It was a typically lousy day in my industry - bad software, bad communications, and some lose words I regretted as soon as they were spoken. The day finished with me feeling guilty, incompetent and miserable.

No doubt those feelings will pass, and we've all had the odd lousy day at work, but I wonder if the larger crisis had something to do with it.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020



That's the main emotion I feel at the moment. This crisis seems to have come from nowhere, and yet in a month it's completely up-ended the national and international economy. It's also changed the way of life in this country completely.

I'm working from home today, I hate working from home, and it looks like I'll have to work from home for the next few months. Other countries are in complete lockdown. It's just so utterly strange. Since 2016 everything seems to have been upended and shaken up. 

I'm so lucky to have M and a decent job that (hopefully) will continue for the foreseeable future.

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Monday, March 16, 2020


The chicken section of our local Lidl this evening.

The Covid-19 virus which originated in a strange animal market in China and has now spread all over the world might be the most important event of my life.

M and I have been to our local supermarket this evening - there were clear signs of panic buying - the only time we've ever seen anything like it is Christmas Eve.

It is quite extraordinary how in the space of a few weeks the virus has caused so much anxiety and fear. What's even more serious is the way it's trashed the economy. For example, the multinational that employs me had a peak share price of 157.29 on the 19th of February. Today the shares were trading at 112 exactly, a drop of nearly 29% in under a month.

People's investment portfolios and pension funds have been hit hard; the ever-rubbish FTSE 100 is down to levels last seen in 2009, just after the financial crisis.

There's also been a worrying degree of scepticism in the government and its scientific advisers. Personally I'm happy with Britain's strategy of 'flattening the curve' and sticking rigidly to the plan. Just because other countries have pressed the CLOSE EVERYTHING button, doesn't mean we have to follow suit.

Nor am I surprised that Italy, a lovely beautiful chaotic disorganised country, had a massive outbreak of the disease that seemed to go undetected for several weeks. 

As a chronic asthmatic I have to be careful myself, but age is on my side, and the modern steroids are brilliant at reducing inflammation in the lungs. More of a worry are my ageing parents, both well over 80 years old. Boris Johnson has just been on the telly asking anyone with the symptoms to isolate themselves for 14 days. Healthy people have to stop non-essential travel and work from home when necessary.

This is dreary as I hate working from home, but at least I have the choice. 

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