Two weeks in lockdown . . . and counting!
One thing I’ve already discovered is that to keep me sane, I must limit my news intake. Why?
First, much of the news about this global pandemic is just too depressing, despite the tales of heroism about those on the frontline: the doctors and nurses, those keeping us supplied with food, or maintaining vital services when almost everything else is closed down.
Second, I just can’t listen to all the cant that spews from the mouths of politicians who I never trusted in the first place. In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson and his Cabinet colleagues spouting their fancy Brexit-like slogans that say nothing, making commitments they will probably be unable to meet, and the Prime Minister displaying his usual bluster and lack of command of detail (until he went down with the virus himself). He and his government appear to have no clear strategy to combat the epidemic in this country (well, England at least).
And when I look across the Atlantic to see what is going on in the USA under the leadership of Donald Trump, it’s appalling. I use the term ‘leadership’ very lightly indeed. It is disgraceful how he has behaved and continues to do so.
I think that when the crisis has passed, there will be a political reckoning, and I hope and expect these incompetent individuals will be consigned to the cesspit of history.
I’m sure for many families working from home, the lockdown is a real challenge, especially if there are children in the house, and young ones at that who often find it harder to keep themselves amused.
I guess, in one respect, Steph and I have an advantage. We’ve been retired now for a few weeks short of ten years. So we’ve already had to find things to keep us amused and occupied.
For Steph, it means spending time each day on her beading projects. She’s been doing this for a couple of decades, and first started when we lived in the Philippines. One of the downsides of the lockdown for her is being unable to make her bi-weekly trip to the shops. She has sourced many of her beads from charity shops, purchasing pieces of jewelry (bracelets, necklaces and the like) at knockdown prices, then deconstructing them into new pieces that she has designed.
She also has the garden to keep her busy. I only mow the lawns. We had started the year thinking we’d be moving to Newcastle upon Tyne by mid-summer or thereabouts, and hadn’t expected to spend too much time working in the garden (apart from the usual tidying up). It looks like the garden will need much more attention for many months to come. Our house move is on hold—almost indefinitely—until the housing market reopens and it’s safe to even contemplate reviving viewings and the like.
As for myself, I have this blog to keep me busy.
If you read my blog on a regular basis you will appreciate that it allows me to bring together two of my main hobbies: writing and photography. As well as the pleasure of designing each blog post, deciding what topics to focus on, what extra resources I might need (Wikipedia is a great source), and choosing the photos I want to include. And I have thousands of images to choose from.
So, with fewer opportunities to get out and about, I’m finding more time to work through stories that I had put to one side. Certainly it has been an opportunity to catch up on my posts about the many National Trust and English Heritage properties we have visited since 2011 (and some from even before then, when we joined both organizations).
I guess we are more fortunate than many countries. Provided we keep the recommended 2m physical/social distancing, we are permitted one period of exercise outside every day.
Since I retired in April 2010 I have tried to get out most days, in any case. I regularly walked three or four miles or more. But since I broke my leg in January 2016, I find that more than three miles is not very comfortable, and my leg swells up, aching for the rest of the day. So I limit myself to around two miles, about 45 minutes, and I have a regular set of routes that I follow. This has been useful since I’m able to navigate those that are reasonably quiet, as you can see from the images below. I mainly encounter folks walking their dogs. Steph has joined me on occasion.
However, shopping for food is quite the most stressful thing I have to do right now. Apart from the infection risk of having to mix with others (even though reasonably strict physical distancing is in place), but also because I’m a member of the over-70 ‘vulnerable’ demographic, we always wonder just what will be available on the shelves. At the start of the lockdown, many unreasonable (and irresponsible) people did panic buy, and stripped the shelves of many of the essentials.
The Morrisons supermarket we frequent is over a mile away, so we have to drive there. Since last week, the supermarket permits just one family member inside at a time (one per trolley), so the shopping trip has fallen to me alone, rather than together which has been the norm until now. I had to queue the first time to get inside; yesterday at 8:30 am there was no queue at all, and I was able to source almost everything that was on Steph’s list. Just a few minutes ago, our next door neighbor (who is a theater sister in the NHS, and who has special hours access to the supermarket) has just brought round the one item we needed but I couldn’t buy yesterday: plain flour! Simple pleasures.
So as far as food is concerned, we are managing fine for the time-being. I can feel my anxiety levels decreasing once I have left the supermarket with a full trolley. There really is no shortage of food – yet.
I also have music playing throughout the day. That’s a great comfort. It has to be Radio Paradise in the morning and early afternoon. Followed by Classic FM late afternoon and over dinner.
We’ve been catching up on the first four series of the excellent BBC crime drama Line of Duty (we hadn’t seen the first three series when they were first broadcast). Last night we watched the first episode of Series 5.
I find myself often going to bed earlier than normal, and enjoying an hour or so of Radio 4 before listening to the news headlines at 10 pm, and then settling to sleep.
Both Steph and I are avid readers. Her genre is crime fiction (I hope she doesn’t have anything planned). I read what takes my fancy, usually less fiction, even though I did read mostly fiction during 2018 and 2019.
My Kindle is great; I wouldn’t be without it. I’m currently well into Howard Goodall’s The Story of Music published in 2013. It’s an excellent read, but certainly technically difficult in places for someone like me with zero background in music theory or composition. Nevertheless it’s fascinating, and I look forward to viewing the BBC TV series of the same name that someone has kindly uploaded to YouTube. Here’s Episode 2.
We’ll manage . . . And life is still good.
I found your blog post on crop diversity while seeking images of the Clausen, Keck and Hiesey experiments on Achillea and Potentilla. I’ve borrowed your images for my Ecological Genetics course at UC Berkeley and stayed to enjoy your quotes from the Duke of Wellington’s soldiers about the Belgian grainfields. Thank you for the images. I hope you and Steph stay safe and healthy through this difficult time.
Dear Ellen, I’m glad you have found those images useful. You might also find some others if you look through my various blog posts on genetic resources and the like. Please feel free to use them. It’s interesting that the work of Clausen et al. has a place in the curriculum today. As it rightly should have. Their work of more than 80 years ago is as relevant today as it was pioneering then. And perhaps more relevant with the added application of molecular analysis of diversity. I’ve always argued that even the best molecular analyses are ‘diminished’ without an appreciation/understanding of diversity in nature. I was first introduced to their work when, as a final year/senior undergraduate, I had to research and submit an extended essay on a topic of my choosing. It was for an ecology course, taught by Joyce Lambert – of Association Analysis reputation. She was not best pleased with my choice of ecotypic differentiation, which was guided by my other mentor Joe Smartt (I wrote an obituary for him on my blog: https://mikejackson1948.blog/2013/06/14/dr-joe-smartt/