Weeknotes 42 (Nov ’20): The ‘she what?!’ factor

  • I’ve attended a couple of group meditations online. An odd experience, but good. Don’t rule it out.
  • Managed to run 3 times this week, out the door at 7am. I never imagined I would be someone who would do that. I am intrigued to see how long it will last. A long time, I hope. It feels great so far.
  • Watched Selma on Netflix. I knew nothing about that part of US history and found it fascinating and alarming. Sarah told me that Obama walked over the bridge on the anniversary of the protest, and that is an astonishing thought.
  • We’re also dipping into the Crown. Thatcher ironing her husband’s shirts is obviously included for the ‘she what?!’ factor, and it works. There is something so insane about the cultural idea of women looking after the home, as if men are incapable of taking care of their own space and clothing and so forth. This is such a surrender of the home, by the men who allow it. They pay a price for that service. (Don’t misunderstand me – obviously I am not suggesting men have the worse end of this deal.) And this insane idea still prevails in many households today. Just mind boggling.

Weeknotes 41 (Nov ’20): Alternating between engaging and astonishingly dull

  • I took advantage of lockdown to have some minor surgery that stops me from exercising for a week. I’ve been wanting to have it down for about a year, but it hasn’t warranted missing teaching class. Trying to look on the bright side.
  • I sorted through all our paper files, shredded several bags of paper, and recycled the same amount. It’s cleansing to get rid of stuff, even if the shelves look pretty much the same as they did before I started. I’m trying to maintain momentum and keep with the sorting. Lighter is better.
  • I’m learning JavaScript, so spent a lot of this week doing practice exercises. They alternate between engaging and astonishingly dull. Which is quite representative of life as a programmer, I think, so good training. The trick is to drive through the astonishingly dull, and not get sloppy. Sloppy just leads to more and more astonishingly dull. Get it right first time and move on, if you possibly can.
  • I helped my yoga teacher find the Zoom spotlight button this week. Far better class! Next week, I might try to help the other students find their mute buttons. These experiences are great, because it’s so easy to imagine that everyone using this stuff means everyone knows how to use it. It’s just not true. In just the same way that everyone who uses Word or Excel or web browser is not using it as I might.

Weeknotes 40 (Oct / Nov ’20): Smiling, proud faces

  • Eventful week. We managed to hold a taekwondo grading, recorded it and sent it to our Grandmaster to grade. At the moment, this feels like a massive achievement both for the club and for the students who graded. And the smiling, proud faces afterwards made it all more than worthwhile.
  • Risk assessments have been a large part of our return to training. The struggle has been in working out what guidance is required vs optional, and what the reasoning is for it. While everyone needs to have a risk assessment in order to return to play, or open certain businesses, I was unable to find a clear definition anywhere of the risks we’re trying to manage. Of course, distancing and not touching the same things as each other are a given, and for training we have rules about not breathing heavily, but it’s hard to find anything in official documentation that spells out why.
  • Another lockdown. This time, we know to wait a couple of days before making any decisions about anything. Announcements get made. Then goal posts moved. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting, no?
  • Running continues. Just getting out of the door early in the day several times a week has been massively beneficial.

Weeknotes 39 (Oct 20): An awful lot and nothing at all

  • I’ve reduced my digital input for October, so no Facebook, no Instagram and no RSS feeds. I also made it harder to check my email on my phone and muted WhatsApp group chat alerts. I wouldn’t say it’s taught me an awful lot I didn’t already know, but it’s been fairly pleasant. I suspect at the end of this experiment I’ll introduce a routine of checking my currently banned accounts once a week, and reduce the number of people I ‘follow’. I miss the RSS the most.
  • As a result of my reduced digital diet, I found myself a bit ambivalent about these weeknotes. On the one hand I like looking back over them and seeing what I was thinking or feeling at a certain time. On the other hand, why do that in public? Who am I sharing with and why? I have had different answers to this over time, so we’ll see where I land this time.
  • It’s a long and tedious story, but it’s possibly my biggest personal achievement in taekwondo will involve sensible risk assessments during the pandemic. I don’t want to downplay that, but I didn’t see that one coming.
  • We went to Whitstable with my mother for a day trip. We got a puncture on the motorway and the eventfulness of changing the tyre at the service station was maybe the highlight of the trip. The restaurant meal and walk along the seafront were good, too.

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.