Weeknotes 38 (Oct ’20): Plenty of room for improvement

  • We took a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover this week. We decided on our destination on a whim, and only realised it was a National Trust property when we were on the road. We had lunch (baked potato!) in the cafe at the car park, trying not to overhear the young woman giving her elderly recently bereaved companion a pep talk. We then walked along the cliffs in the wind, had cream tea at the lighthouse, sheltering from the wind, and walked back. We could see France, and EE sent me a “welcome to France” text message. Trolls. I woke up the following day feeling really refreshed by the healing power of a long view and a walk. Southwark isn’t great for views.
  • We tried to drop some (quality) stuff at the local Mind charity shop. As we approached, a woman in the doorway started shouting at us “We’re full! We’re full! We’re not accepting donations! We’re full!”. We ended up donating to a charity across the road, which I hadn’t heard of, and now suspect is a religious cult preying on homeless drug users. I hope they do more good than harm, and I hope they’re not homophobic bigots.
  • The timer on our boiler exploded, which I discovered just before I got in the cold shower – win! The electrician came and bypassed the timer and told us we needed the boiler engineer. The boiler engineer replaced the timer and the heating part that had also broken, and complained about the electrician’s fix. Both of them came within 24 hours of being called. And the bills seemed alarming until we realised we were paying for their congestion charge as well as their time. I’m very grateful to be able to afford that, and am acutely aware of neighbours for whom that would be a real problem.
  • I went for a running coaching session with a chi running specialist. I want to try to run without pain. He said I was running pretty much as badly as it was possible to run, but that was good because lots of room for improvement. I like this approach!

Weeknotes 37 (Sept’ 20): Normal human reactions

  • Sarah heard an item on the radio interviewing an expert in crisis planning and management. Apparently he calmly went through all the things you’re meant to do when there’s a major crisis like a pandemic, and explained all the things that Boris Johnson has got wrong. You should tell the truth. Don’t be optimistic about timescales or outcomes. Be fair and have the same rules for everyone… If you don’t do these things, as Johnson hasn’t, then people stop trusting you and feel destabilised. It helped, actually, to know that how I’m feeling is a known human reaction to the situation I am in.
  • Another known human reaction I found reassuring was the information from Dr Aisha Ahmad about the 6 month wall.
  • I have been buying plants. Patch plants are good – lovely plants, lovely pots, safely distanced delivery to the doorstep (in SE1).
  • We have a balcony and decided to put some fake grass on it. (Are you judging? Fine.) In fact, we decided to put some fake grass and some decking on it, using Ikea’s clip together tiling system. The grass has been out of stock for ages, so when it became available again we ordered it, but the decking was out of stock. Then we realised the decking may be out of stock until next year. So we drove 1 hour (which became 1.5 hours) to an Ikea that claimed to have it in stock. It lied. We reserved a table for the restaurant and experienced Ikea table service. We bought a sub-standard plant. We drove home for 1.5 hours. And we have now thrown ourselves upon the mercy of a friend who’s visiting Bristol to get us some Ikea decking for Ikea Bristol. It will probably be back in stock for online delivery tomorrow. I did not ever imagine adulthood, or navigating international crises would have any of these elements in them.
  • We went on a first aid course last week. It was excellent. The trainer used to be purser with BA before she was made redundant. She is now telling a lot of compelling stories about mid-air medical emergencies to get the attention of her trainees. She also had the most incredible soft skills I have ever seen and got the whole room of very varied people fully engaged. As you’d expect, I guess.

Weeknotes 36 (Sept ’20): Making stuff happen

  • We’re teaching three taekwondo classes back to back these days, with 15 minutes between each one to allow for social distancing. On Saturday I found myself jumping side to side over an obstacle in all three sessions. Me and a series of 10-year-olds. Me and a series of 7-year-olds. Me and the rest of the adults. Bit tired.
  • Taekwondo is utterly at the mercy of venue availability. This is true at the best of times, of course, but particularly now. We’ve personally been very lucky with a couple of spaces, but it’s a grim landscape for a lot of clubs at the moment.
  • We went to Borough Market to get something nice for Sunday lunch with my mother. We ended up with 100 day chicken from Ginger Pig. Very expensive, but cheaper than eating out, right?! It was interesting because it’s more fatty than your average chicken. Mum and S liked it, but I wasn’t fussed.
  • Successfully visited the doctor. The system requires phoning at exactly 8am for a call back. I called at 7:59 and got the answerphone. Redialed immediately and was 4th in the queue. And then stayed near my phone for the whole morning for the call back. You need to really want it. And not have anything else on your agenda.
  • We watched chunks of the US Open on Prime. The finals were fantastic, even without the crowds. It was incredible they made it happen.

Weeknotes 35 (Sept ’20): Broken systems

  • I tried to get an appointment with my GP this week. I went to their website and navigated past the Covid-19 messages, and through the variety of opaque options to finally find the bit about making an appointment. I was first encouraged to check my symptoms, which I did, and was told to make an appointment. I was then encouraged to make an appointment online, which needed me to download and register with the NHS app, which I did. Then I discovered appointments are not bookable with my GP through the app. I’m not sure my GP knows this. Then I was told I could contact them digitally and get a call back. I filled in all the medical details, but was told it was too urgent and I needed to call for an appointment. I called and was 14th in the queue. After 35 minutes I spoke to the receptionist who told me to call back after 1pm as all the appointments for the morning had gone. This system isn’t working, is it?
  • I went for brunch on Wednesday. I went to the exact same place a month ago and it was packed. This Wednesday, not so much. Eat Out to Help Out certainly had some impact, it seems.
  • We returned to indoor training, with full social distancing. Very nice to be back in the room. Incredibly hard to work out the financial and practical viability of it all. Indeed, some days it’s very hard to find the motivation to keep navigating everything, and then we teach, and remember what we do it for.
  • Somehow, it is not illegal in the US for the police to hand out ‘courtesy cards‘ to help their friends get away with minor infractions. What possible need would there be for these cards that is not about letting some people get away with breaking the law?
  • We got a smart meter installed. I am now a bit obsessed with my moment by moment electricity usage.
  • WordPress has a headline analyser that tells me my weeknote headlines are too short to be good for click bait. I’m cool with that.

Weeknotes 34 (Aug ’20): Video of a naked man on the wall

  • Yesterday marked our last Zoom taekwondo class. We hope! From this week we’re back in the dojang, or training outdoors. We honestly don’t know what we’ll do if there’s another lockdown that prevents these activities, but the mood is different now, so I’m not convinced twice weekly Zoom sessions will seem the answer. Twice a week we have been moving our furniture and setting up the laptop, and when the session finished yesterday and we put everything back, we were able to put back some art that had felt too fragile to move repeatedly, and adjust the sofa to reduce the space we’d been using, etc. Basically, it felt like we got our flat back. I hadn’t realised the extent to which having people view that space had stopped it being just a safe home environment. It’s good to have it back.
  • We managed to get to Tate Modern this week for the Andy Warhol exhibition. He and his work were far more interesting to me than I expected. Especially his film work, which I hadn’t come across before. I think I could genuinely live with a work of art on my wall that is a video of a sleeping man, with very small movements in it. Even if it is ever so slightly male homoerotic.
  • The Tate Members room was open and we had a cup of tea and a scone on the terrace overlooking the Thames. Just because we could, really. Two guys had set up with their laptops on adjacent tables in a prime spot. As I poured my tea, one of them left his table, but left his laptop and bag protecting the spot. By the time we were leaving, he still wasn’t back, and multiple people had turned away from the terrace because all the tables were ‘taken’. This stuff drives me mad. Someone could have used that table and gone again in the time he was gone. I challenged his buddy about it as we left, but wished I’d just moved the laptop and bag. Next time.
  • I’ve been doing two online classes that have moved from the physical world. Qi gong this week was broadcast from the west coast of Ireland. I wanted my instructor to just show us the view. And my yoga teacher changed his link, but nobody communicated that to the students. So Friday lunchtime consisted of me, my mat, and a ‘your host is in another meeting’ message.

Weeknotes 33 (Aug ’20): Cultural pause

  • I had a migraine for a couple of days this week, around which I managed the absolute bare minimum of work activity. Followed by two days of work work work. Did anything else even happen?
  • I did try to take a bit of time off and go to see an exhibition at Tate Modern. Tickets were not to be had. Living in central London is obviously not what it was.
  • We had tickets for Hamlet at the Young Vic last night. Nope.
  • At work recently I’ve worked on a few membership websites. I always think there will be a technical solution to these as the specifications never seem that odd. But then I realised that each of my projects had totally different requirements, so clearly not such as easy nut to crack.
  • Onwards.

Weeknotes 32 (Aug ’20): Women and ideas

  • I read Sensuous Knowledge by Minna Salami. I loved it and it has made me think. I may have to read it again to fully get all the points, and it would be worth my time to do that.
  • I subscribe to the newsletter of a young woman who regularly sends thoughtful, informed ideas about work and life. This week I was prompted to look at her Instagram profile, which is full of photos of her looking perfect on the beach, etc. This seemed so at odds with the content of her emails, which talk about how fake these things are, and I’m still trying to reconcile these two impressions. It has forced me to address some prejudices I hold about those Instagram accounts. But I now, too, read her emails through a different lens. I also feel quite old.
  • I read this short guide to the Toyota Production System. Interesting to go to the source for some of these ideas.
  • We watched Giri/Haji. The first four episodes were great, and then I couldn’t cope with constant flirting with Rodney’s self-destruction. I also got intrigued about how easy it is to bring firearms into the country, as all the Japanese police and gangsters seemed to arrive at Heathrow with a handgun. I’m not sure they all had the relevant Home Office permission for handguns.
  • The kimchi has made the flat smell atrocious. The Lakeland fermentation jar has a special anti-explode feature to let the pressure out, but this also lets the smell out. I need to buy a better jar.

Weeknotes 31 (Aug ’20): Return to the gym

  • My gym has reopened. I went up and did 20 minutes on a rowing machine with no-one else in the room. It felt great to exercise out of the house. My gym is a small independent and woefully ill-equipped in terms of staff to navigate through Covid-19. In that context, they’ve done brilliantly. I will just need to keep assessing to see how safe it is all feeling. In the meantime, S and I were also able to get a bit of space in an empty room there to kick some taekwondo paddles. Probably the highlight of the week.
  • Today I made some kimchi. Who have I become?
  • On Wednesday we took advantage of eat out to help out. We sat outside – Tower Bridge Road is not the most glamorous of locations – and it was very nice.

Weeknotes 30 (July – Aug ’20): Socially distanced kids

  • We had a limited return to in person taekwondo training this week, and taught outdoors on a 5-a-side football pitch. Keeping kids socially distant from each other is a bit of a nightmare. In Scotland and Wales the rules seem to be different, and more sensible, for children, and they aren’t expected to maintain distance. I obviously don’t know enough about the science of it, but it would be great if we could manage that in England. In any case, 3 hours of taekwondo outdoors is significantly easier than 2 hours of taekwondo over Zoom.
  • I don’t know how fact-based my anxieties are, but I have found myself cautious around people not wearing masks correctly when they should be wearing masks. In restaurants, a waiter seeming a bit casual with a mask feels like reason to not return. But also on the tube, where all sorts of people seem to be ignoring the mask requirement. On the basis that ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’, it makes me pretty annoyed. And far more reluctant to travel on public transport in London.
  • Been feeling pretty low all week. The pandemic. Ug.

Weeknotes 29 (July ’20): Holiday

  • I’ve been having a holiday. It’s been really good to restore my reserves a bit, and I realise I’ve also been feeling quite guilty about how incredibly lucky I am. I have been able to earn money during the pandemic, I have been able to (relatively) safely travel and holiday. I can watch the Government choices with anger and horror, but the fear I feel about it is as nothing to the fear others must be feeling. Guilt doesn’t help, but I guess it does at least confirm to me some humanity, and it helps me keep going when I have my harder days.
  • When we take a break from work we tell our clients. Some of them expect us to work when we’re away. We don’t.
  • My holiday has been mostly focussed around moving my body as much and as healthily as possible, and having as much nature as possible. Living in central London makes both of these things far less easy and pleasurable than I would like. I can understand why so many people seem to be trying to get out of town. I don’t yet have a strategy for getting more of this when I am home again, but I think this needs to be a priority.
  • The “return to play” guidance for taekwondo requires social distancing, which makes sense, but thinking it through has been one of the low points of the last week. e..g how to keep children 2 metres from each other in a context in which we normally encourage physical engagement. And that’s felt like the easy bit.
  • It’s not a surprise, but the gendering of face coverings has been Yet Another Thing to drive home how insane our world is. It makes me happy when I see people who haven’t succumbed.
  • I made a list of all the things I’ve been trying to fit into my week and established there are literally not enough hours in the day. This was a useful discovery and I have re-prioritised accordingly. Learning French has moved way down the list.