Day 62: A blog of hope with a free cut-out and keep Covid-19 travel mask

Contributor: Mark

CUMMINGS AND GOING?: Your free cut-out and keep Covid-19 travel mask

As a co-founder of this blog it is fair to say I have neglected my commitments to providing updates. I am really pleased others in the group have found the will to carry on and write something. Collectively, those residents on the street helped form a month – 31 days – of unbroken commentary and I think that was quite an achievement. I also wonder if we were exhausted, or had exhausted all aspects of lockdown life. Only in recent days have a wondered if if was time to find space to blog away. I was delighted other writers had added updates the site. Firstly because I always like reading the posts, but secondly that the project was not dead. That people still had things tom say.

My update is one of hope not despair. I am about done with letting negativity cloud my thinking. Watching the easing of lockdown has been tough and stressful. People blatantly flouting rules (or carrying on as they did before in many cases) makes me angry and sad. The government has been increasingly disappointing in its messaging and today the Prime Minister had to explain why special advisor Dominic Cummings should not be fired for his breach of the lockdown rules. I know this has upset a lot of people. Boris knows that Cummings know where the bodies are buried. But let’s not get dragged down by that.

My kids are due back in school on June 1st. I do not intend to send them and entertain the publicity stunt that is schools reopening to a fraction ton of the school, for a handful of weeks until term ends. Because I now feel if we want to get through all this we need to work around the government, not with them.

I’m looking to the positives on Day 62 and my biggest sense of positivity and hope comes from witnessing how people have pulled together (while being apart) helped others and supported local businesses. It’s been good to see Jamal’s taking orders, people buying pints of beer in cartons from West End Brewery and socially-distanced queues at Currant Affairs. I think this support to small businesses by the community might make all the difference when the country rebuilds. Then there’s the army of people making PPE, sewing face masks and collecting for foodbanks, these people are making the best of lockdown and and doing something really positive.

Finally one last positive is the sheer number of humiliating memes and posters being pumped out on social media. Not only do I find them funny, it reminds me that that there are probably millions of us who think and feel the same way about what is happening. So no need to Stay Alert, but stay positive and keep doing the right things. Work around this government, not with with them

Day 50: ‘Over the weekend I saw a few articles, one from Italy and one from Greece – both of which made me embarrassed for our country’

Contributor: Jennifer

I haven’t written on here for a little while, as each time I went to write something I found it to be a rant of disbelief or I dint see it as being noteworthy – i.e. nothing is different. However, I’ve just noticed that in itself is different. We have all become used to the way that things are now – the Teams’ meetings and video chats with family and friends have become a part of our lives for 7 weeks now. Time in lockdown hasn’t been measured in days for a while now, and at the end of this week we can count it in months. On a personal note, I think we are still coping well, there are few days where we need to be in seperate rooms, and there are more then enough pet projects that we can work on individually.  Socially we have been busier than ever, with friends from different friend groups wanting to chat or catch up. After the 4th late night in a row last week, we are feeing as tired as our busiest weekends feel. 

Over the bank holiday, there was a build up an anticipation as to what Boris may announce; some hoping for change and others desperate for things to stay as they are for a bit longer. In my mind it is simple – we have China and Italy as roadmaps of how the virus may progress and the timeline that may follow. Now the UK having the largest death rate in Europe, I feel that we should take the Italian model and apply caution to it – but what do I know? However, it feels like Boris’s vague and conflicting speech has left people more unclear as to what is expected of them, and his all too frequent comments on how we have successfully overcome is leaving the public with an air that this is over. In contrast, the policies and changes that may be coming in the weeks ahead such as closing our borders (!) feel like the virus hasn’t yet hit. 

Over the weekend I saw a few articles, one from Italy and one from Greece – both of which made me embarrassed for our country. The Italian article was a man talking about the lockdown being lifted and how they were just coming out the other side (interesting to note the timing since the Italians were seen as being two weeks ahead of us). He was commenting on how they couldn’t believe the details coming from the UK to do with death rates and PPE issues, and how when they were in the grip of the virus, they saw the relaxed and delayed reaction from the UK government. The next article came from Greece – a country whose financial issues have been widely publicised for some time and yet they have had 150 deaths total – we are still getting more then that daily! They recognised early the impact that the covid virus was having around the word and acted so that their health service wasn’t at risk – knowing that their fragile economy was only just recovering. Both of these articles were a shock – not that long ago we were looking at ‘poor Italy’ dealing with that terrible virus and now that is us to other countries. Hopefully ‘poor Greece’ and their fragile economy won’t be the next thing for us. 

I think this is Boris’s view too – that the economy cannot take much more of a hit, but I fear that will be something we have little control over now. At the point where we had the control, the time where the actions would have made the biggest impact; we as a country delayed and looked on in horror at the wave of illness that was about to hit us. The Boris who got stuck ziplining over London for the 2012 Olympic games was a bit of a joke, but as PM it just isn’t funny anymore. 

Day 34: ‘My attempts to keep fit and stay in shape in lockdown may have backfired’

Me at 22 miles during the London Marathon five years ago pretending it’s no big deal…

Contributor: Mark

My attempts to keep fit and stay in shape in lockdown may have backfired. This morning I was on course to run 100 miles in April. After completing a six-mile jog this morning, the goal is now in tatters. It did occur to me when I set out at 9am that I didn’t run 100 miles in a single month during my London Marathon training. Now it would appear that I’ve overdone it and left myself with a knee injury. I had a sore knee when I set out and jarred in New Walk on the way home. And it feels like a bad one. I had until Thursday to get to 100 miles and that should have been smashed with two morning runs. Now I am going to have to sit it out. Incidentally, it would’ve been London Marathon 2020 today so it was a good day to get injured I suppose.

A bad knee is a little frustrating because one of the few things lockdown has given me is time to balance my working day with making sure I got some exercise. For those who use Strava, the running app, my outputs since Lockdown day one March 23 went up by more than 10 miles a week, just by using my daily allowance of ‘Borisercise’. Now I’m going to have to put my feet up, which is all too easy to do. I’ll definitely try some walking to keep myself active and hope that after a week things will feel different.

The strangest thing is that before lockdown I did not take running seriously. I either went running or I didn’t and I did not care. The lockdown has enabled me to get my act together and get some training momentum (even though I was training for nothing. Hopefully I’ll get back out there soon, but more fundamentally I’m thinking how I can carry on this positive development of finding time to exercise during a demanding weekly work schedule into the post-lockdown era – whenever that may be.

Day 31: ‘It’s always great to see the solitary of the street and is becoming an important marker in the weekly lockdown routine’

Contributor: Mark

Come on feel the noise: Residents thank the NHS

The weekly ritual of celebrating the NHS never fails to draw people onto the street. I took this photograph from the velux window in the loft. I did my best to show all those who came out and make some noise for our brilliant key workers. What the image doesn’t capture is the sound – lots of chatter, cheering, a random firework and the bells of St Ursula’s Chapel in Wyggeston’s Hospital. It’s always great to see the solitary of the street and is becoming an important marker in the weekly lockdown routine.

I went out to the back of my house and saw an amazing red sky:

Red Sky at Night: Limitations of iPhone camera exposed…

Things like this make lockdown life a little easier to get through.

Day 30: ‘Get out when one can, embrace nature and appreciate what we have on our doorstep, don’t wallow, take one day at a time’

Contributor: Jacky:

Holiday means longer walks with the dogs, sunshine and being nearer the countryside

I was on annual leave last week, so when going downstairs I just swerved my work kit on the dining room table and didn’t log on!  Luckily the weather was mostly fine and did some jobs around the house and garden (I now have a mini greenhouse with some seedlings in) and some sitting in the garden with wine and a good book. As I wasn’t at work, I was able to do some longer walks with the dogs and enjoy being in the sunshine and nearer the countryside with the walks taking in the Great Central Way and back along the River Soar. 

I’ve added some pictures of one walk. I also managed extra workouts in the lounge and had my usual video link PT session.  Still losing some weight despite a bit of extra wine and snacks! It’s all about balance really isn’t it?  Have a routine, get out when one can (and within allowed limits), embrace nature and one’s surroundings and appreciate what we have on our doorstep (and excellent neighbours), don’t wallow, take one day at a time, try not to stress over situations out of our control.

Tried Aldi last week as I didn’t fancy an hour’s wait at Asda and I was pleasantly surprised.  Excellent value and quality of food (and wine!) and I will definitely be going back.

Back at work this week, but the sun is still shining and I can get out for lunch break and be thankful that I am still working and still have my health.
Signing off for now; more in a few days.


Jacky

Day 28: ‘The period we are living through does indeed need to be immortalised in art – I want to make my very own small contribution to that’

Contributor: Tony:

Tony is writing monologues to be performed at the next Everybody’s Reading festival

Writing for this project has been a godsend, and well-done Mark and Richard for coming up with the idea. 

But I also need to think about my own writing.

After all, I do title myself since retiring from the last day job (forty-six years is very long day), as a self-employed writer. 

So, I have started work on a series of monologues in the style of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to play Graham in one of Bennett’s pieces, A Chip In The Sugar.  

I enjoyed it greatly and the review from my director was that it was the best role that he had ever seen me in. 

I am working towards my own monologues being performed at the annual Leicester Everybody’s Reading festival this coming October.  

That is, of course, if we are in a position to have a festival, and if not, I suppose they will have to wait until 2021. 

Of course, the material in our street diary is rich futile ground for any writer, but let me assure everyone that I will create from and not pinch your contributions. 

Even Shakespeare needed his stimuli, and the period we are living through does indeed need to be immortalised in art.

I want to make my very own small contribution to that.   

I hope some of you will see the final result to enjoy, but also to draw your own conclusions on whether I have been true to my word. 

Day 27: Me Time: ‘Take some time for yourself, through exercise, meditation or pampering. We all need to find our own ways of coping’

Contributor: Chris:

The new self indulgence?: The bath time clay face mask

As week 4 of shielding draws to a close I wanted to reflect on the time I now dedicate every week for looking after and pampering myself. Prior to the Covid cloud overshadowing the world, life always appeared to be quite frenetic for myself… alarm goes off, go to work, come home, do housework, cook dinner, watch a little TV with the family and then off to bed. This became the standard routine barring the days off whereby I might stay in bed an extra hour and also sneak some time in down at the West End Brewery.

One of the few positives to come out of shielding however, is the time I now get to dedicate to myself for pampering and relaxation. Long soaks in the bath have now become the norm for me at least 3 or 4 times a week and one of these will include a clay face mask (try not to laugh too much at the piccy).  I also take the time to carefully trim and polish my nails on a weekly basis which may appear trivial on the surface but deep down provides a feeling of pride in my appearance even when it matters least. I also try to dress smartly on occasion even when stuck at home… A smart crisp shirt for a beer in the garden with family makes me happy.

My wife and I have started doing yoga sessions this week and this is something that will definitely continue throughout and beyond isolation. Due to the joint issues that I suffer from due to my Crohn’s disease, the first couple of sessions have been really tough but the positive psychological impact far outweighs the physical constraints and I’m sure over time they will improve also. 

The main evolution of my self indulgence has come around my beard, the days of a vigorous scrub of my face with shower gel are now a thing of the past due to some research.

I would like to share a couple of pointers if I may for anyone looking for support with facial hair but with limited access to resources:

  • Your beard should ideally be brushed or combed at least twice daily and especially after being washed.
  • NEVER use shower gel or soap on your beard, these chemically laden products are not good for your follicles. Ideally a specialist beard shampoo should be used but I have found using a good quality hair conditioner works well.
  • Don’t use very hot water to wash your beard in the bath or shower – if the water is too hot it will strip the ‘Sebum’ oil of your face that occurs naturally and prevents dry skin. It can also cause deep skin irritation due to the blood vessels in your face becoming damaged Luke warm water only.
  • Having finished washing and rinsing, don’t scrub your beard with a towel to dry it, only pat it with the towel to remove any excess water. Again this will prevent any of the sebum oil from being removed from under your beard where it is needed most.
  • Following the removal of excess water, use a hairdryer on a cool setting to completely dry your beard  to retain all natural oil and protect your beard for the day ahead. 
  • After your beard is completely dry, a beard oil or balm should be applied (again if you don’t have access to either then a good moisturiser will do) and your beard brushed and shaped.

If you stick to this regime, you will be proud of your beard and also be brimming with self confidence when you look in the mirror.

I can’t recommend enough that you all take some time every week for yourself, whether it be through exercise, meditation or pampering. The Covid storm won’t be moving away soon and we all need to find our own ways of coping with the isolation.

HAPPY BODY = HAPPY MIND

Day 26: ‘Here’s a Top Five of the coronavirus lockdown. If you like bad news, you’ll love this. Consider yourself tagged’

Reminder: The majority believe lying Boris Johnson will sell off NHS services to US

Contributor: Mark:

The lure of social media is killing my lockdown days. I do love Twitter, Instagram and Facebook but I have found I am on my phone all the time seeing what has changed in the world, or whose statuses are providing food for thought. On reflection I have come to realise that 99 per cent of time, nothing has changed and the statuses providing food for thought are turning my brain to pancake batter.

The worst of these social media ‘updates’ are based around asking you for your Top Five and then being tagged in like your opinion some how counts. Top five albums, top five footballers, top five pizza toppings and so on. When I get tagged in, I do the honourable thing. I ignore it. No one is using the Top fives to dish out some home truths. So if you are reading this and fancy doing a Top Five, do a Top Five of the worst things about Coronavirus lockdown. If you like bad news, you’ll love this. Consider yourself tagged.

Here’s my Top Five worst things about Coronavirus Lockdown:

  1. Politicians – predictable but with few exceptions from world leaders to UK party leadership, politicians have been utterly useless. It’s not all bad news -thanks to politicians, the UK and the US are now the best in the world in something – spreading disease.
  2. Voters – yes, I’ve seen you out clapping across the country for the NHS on a Thursday night. You make a racket as if somehow makes up for you voting for the man who tried to sell the NHS to the US just weeks ago, the man who voted against nurses’ pay rises and then promised them £350m a week in return for being Prime Minister only to admit he was lying. Put your pots and pans away you hypocrites, the NHS doesn’t want to hear your support, it needs investment and you blocked it.
  3. News – Are all current journalists hopeless? Or do they work for media organisations that do not want to hold the Government to account?
  4. People – yes, people. People in lockdown sunbathing in parks, heading to the coast, flouting the rules, not moving over on paths to keep the distance – including cyclists who still ride on pavements when the roads are empty.
  5. Brexiteers – Because they still think they are right, even though coronavirus has left us exposed, a tiny island with no friends, apart from the one no one wants right now.

Day 25: ‘In situations like this, a holiday isn’t to explore far flung places, but to be selective over how available you are and break away from being a slave to email’

Contributor: Jennifer:

This is a chance to break away from being a slave to work emails

We have had a couple of days spending the bank holiday for the things that we need – a bit of quiet from the outside worlds event and time to focus on what we need. 

With everyone in a state of lockdown, people are looking to connect in different ways – in WhatsApp, through phone calls, texts; and at points it has felt with all these groups that there is a pressure to be constantly connected to people. This is a pressure echoed by work – as we are all working from home (and not as yet furloughed) there is an element of trust that you are working; and to feel like you have to be shown to be constantly accessible and responding to emails and Teams chatter. As a new starter, there is also that additional pressure of showing who you are as a character and being able to add something to the conversation.  During a group meeting before Easter, we were encouraged to consider using our leave during this time and not to just save it up until we return – an idea which at first, I thought was a daft suggestion but one now I am starting to consider. Maybe the way that holiday is viewed needs to change in situations like this – that the holiday isn’t to go and explore or travel to far flung places, but an opportunity to be selective over how available you are, and to have a break away from the self-discipline of being a slave to the email/Teams. 

Today, I caught up with my friends from school – the ones I had the group chat with a few weeks ago. Growing up we have cooked together as a social event and today was no different, except it was held through Zoom. It was an interesting mix of Wi-Fi dropping out and several 40-minute meetings later we have a ‘group prepared’ meal. The inane chatter of what we had been up to in recent days, what we have been able to find in the shops (or not, as the case may be) and the distractions of trying to follow a new recipe were reminiscent of the teen years and a reminder that not much has changed – we could have almost been in the room together. The hunt is now on for next week’s recipe…

Day 23: Tribute to Sonja – ‘These remain strange times both in which to live, and to die’

Contributor: Tony:

A few weeks before this all began, I went to see the Dissent and Displacement exhibition at New Walk Museum. 

This exhibition was mainly collages detailing the flight of Jews from Nazi Germany; a number who subsequently came to Leicester and made their homes here contributing to our economic, civic and cultural life.

The exhibition also featured (mainly from the museum’s own existing collection) the sculptures of Communist Margarete Klopfleisch, one of those who fled to the UK with her husband, Peter and whose daughter, Sonja, has died (12th April) after a long illness.  

Sonja was born in Maidenhead in 1942, but in 1960 mother and daughter made a trip to Dresden, then part of the Eastern Bloc, for a holiday.

They were not allowed to leave to return back to their UK home, and Sonja did not leave East Germany until 1984. 

I got to know Sonja (now Grossner) and her own daughter, Lorna, in the late-1990’s when both joined the Socialist Party. 

I always found Sonja’s involvement with the party quite puzzling since whilst it seemed she had become a Trotskyist, she always associated it with what she (and indeed many in society) termed the communism of East Germany, which she detested. 

It was no surprise, therefore, when she left the Socialist Party, but it raised many eyebrows that she did so for the equally proclaimed Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. 

Sonja, pictured, like her mother, was a talented artist, but was internationally known as a musician and a composer.

She (and Lorna) played for many years in a local cèilidh band, together with Michael Gerard, who was one of the first local victims of C-19.

Sonja’s death, however, does not appear attributed to the virus. 

Whilst I often found Sonja difficult (we artists often are), I am very saddened by her passing, not least because I had been thinking about contacting her to discuss her mother’s work of which Sonja was very proud and could talk about for hours. 

Her death also reminds me that the exhibition that I hoped to visit again is closed, together with the museum, because of the lockdown. 

These remain strange times both in which to live, and also, it would seem, to die.