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 29: ‘A degree in pottering’

Contributor: Jo:

During virtual coffee with a good friend last weekend she asked me “what have you achieved today?” As she went on to express her frustration and boredom at life under lockdown, and how she was rapidly running out of things to do, it occurred to me that firstly we were not experiencing lockdown in the same way emotionally, and that in a strange sort of way, my recent life had been preparing me for emotionally coping with ‘lockdown’ conditions long before they were imposed.

So how did I come to this mental place? After working full-time since 1995, about 7 years ago I reduced my hours and began to work part-time. This decision was in part triggered after finding myself in ‘Sainsbury’s’ doing a big food shop at 9.45pm, flying around the store before it shut, on my way home from an evening playing badminton, which I had gone to less than an hour after I arrived home from work. As I stood under the fluorescent lights, stressed and frazzled, wondering at the madness of that situation I decided to take a step back and live some of my life in the ‘slow lane’, to give myself time to actually enjoy it and do some of the things I wanted to do with my life. Now here unexpectedly in lock-down we are all to an extent being forced to do the same.

Sharing a day-time coffee with another friend soon after this, we discussed her new retirement lifestyle and how to achieve ‘the slow life’ on my non-working days, and she made me promise to ‘get a degree in pottering’. In attempting to achieve just that; – continuing to do the housework and DIY, see friends and family regularly, get more exercise, yet build in space to spend an hour or three reading a good book without feeling guilty, taking time to develop new hobbies – finding the balance between feeling like I haven’t wasted the day, but also living my life and taking ‘me’ time – I have found the skills and attitudes that now serve me well in our current situation.

What I initially found hard to deal with was the need to feel ‘productive’. When I first went part-time, people kept asking me what new things I had achieved with my 2 days off, as my friends ask me now ‘what have you achieved in lockdown?  Part of developing ‘a degree in pottering’ is considering ‘what is being productive?’ Who sets the measurement parameters for productivity? How have we all become innately measured by the marketplace, by the terms of business and busy-ness?

The pressure to fill every minute with ‘useful’ tasks as judged by ourselves and society now haunts us in lockdown.  As we are all now suddenly and unexpectedly confined to our homes for an extended period I hear rumours of landfill over-flowing, refuse collectors over-whelmed by the national frenzy of decluttering in order to be productive with our time; there is a national shortage of flour and yeast as the nation collectively bakes enough cakes to feed the five thousand. Certainly, ‘enforced leisure’ is a great time to catch up on those outstanding jobs. Since lockdown began I have achieved some ‘tick ‘em off’ items on both my working and non-working day lists. However, these are largely lifestyle changes for the better, and also things I should have done ages ago – such as sorting out ordering organic meat from a local farm, buying more things direct from local businesses, and holding more phone calls with friends; ‘pottering’ can also disguise a good deal of procrastination… as the pile of junk in the dining room not taken to the tip before they shut also testifies…

So over time I have re-framed what I consider ‘productive’. Is it achieving lots of ‘goals’ or having a good day? I consider the notion of the things ‘to do’. I look it up in the dictionary and see several different interpretations including ‘to take action’, to complete a task’, and ‘to be occupied with something’. I think we get too hung up on the notion of ‘complete a task.’ On an alternative Covid-19 lockdown to-do list,  we could include, I didn’t get ill today, I supported a friend having a hard time, I cooked a delicious (if I say so myself) and nutritious meal without ‘popping to the shop’ for any missing ingredients, or I relaxed and read some of a book (not even a whole one).

I am thus in no danger of running out of things ‘to do’. As we enter lockdown for another 3 weeks, I realised that from the start I have been mentally prepared and ready for 3 MONTHS of lockdown, ever since the first rumours that the elderly and those with health conditions might have to self-isolate for 12 weeks. Way back in early March I made a huge ‘lockdown list of things to do’, including many activities I have been meaning to find time for for a while which keep me busy alongside the usual weekly and daily sourcing and preparing of food, and house-cleaning (which now takes a lot longer than it used to!), and the seasonal gardening tasks. And I am working from home 3 days a week, and that comes with its own comprehensive list of things to do. My virtual coffee friend teased me that I probably still wouldn’t have finished all the jobs on my ‘lockdown list’ by the time the pandemic is over, and to be honest with you she’s probably right!

This is underpinned by my habit of writing more on the list than could possibly be achieved in the given time-frame, even by superwoman! Plus, I don’t feel the pressure to have them all the items done on the allocated day; they will keep for another day, and time is one thing we have a lot of currently. This is the beauty of the ‘pottering’ paradigm. I also have a simple solution to the pressure of completing the ‘things to do list’ – before all this started, another friend and I laughed as we both admitted that we secretly add things on to our lists that we have already done that day, and then immediately cross them off just to satisfy the psychological need to feel like we’ve been useful.

So gaining my ‘degree in pottering’ has involved recalibrating what ‘productive’ means for me It has involved stepping away from the pressure to ‘achieve’ in terms of constantly complete tasks, and gained acceptance of the process of ‘doing’ as equally valuable. I am not bored, I have plenty to do, and time to do it in. I am not ‘filling my time’ for the next 3 weeks, but adapting my life to the on-going situation. This isn’t to say I don’t have bad days too, when the enormity of the global situation, the inability to physically visit friends and family, and the long-term possibly permanent nature of these changes hits me, but on a day to day basis for now, I am pottering along reasonably well.

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 28: A podcast in which we discuss Pink Floyd, the number of cars on the Hinckley Road, and work

Contributor: Richard:

Following on from Day 20’s podcast, in which Mark and I discussed my current obsession with the 1980s and 1990s and whether Mark has been dreaming, we turned our attention to 70’s music (especially The Bee Gees), our views of labour (alienating or purposeful), the number of cars on the Hinckley Road in Leicester as a measure of desire for herd immunity, and the potential for democratic planning rather than competition. Fun, huh?!

You can listen over at Richard’s blog.

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.