The C-19 Diaries. More Back Garden Shenanigans.

Day 12

On waking up, my abs felt like they’d been tenderised by one of those spiky-ended hammers you use to soften up steak, in the hands of a muscle-bound maniac like Disco Dave.

Nipped out to Morrison’s in the morning. The queue stretched for miles. However, if we had all been scrunched up instead of 2 metres apart, it wouldn’t have been a very long queue at all. And it kept moving.

Inside, I found myself involuntarily holding my breath as I walked past people. Is this normal behaviour? Is anyone else doing this?! I suspect not.

The flatmate and I attacked the Back Garden again in the afternoon. I say “again” – it was “again” for him. I was dipping my toe in horticultural waters for the first time in… a while.

In one corner of the Back Garden lies half of the back door, flat on the ground. We decided to leave it where it was, as it’s covering over the weeds in that area quite nicely. Also, who knows – were we to lift it we might find it was covering a doorway to another dimension. And leaving one’s own dimension would be liable to attract a fine right now, I imagine.

So we left it untouched. And let all of our pent-up aggression, which has been building nicely for two weeks, out on the undergrowth in the remainder of the garden.

After much clipping, snipping, weeding and digging, there was a pile of garden detritus almost as tall as the house, and nowhere to put it. We have no brown bin, and even if we did it would be at the front of the house, meaning we would need to cart all the briars, moss and weeds through the house. 

I suggested a bonfire. Neither of us were entirely confident that this would be good idea. Are the Fire Brigade working from home?

Elsewhere, I think hysteria is beginning to set in. A friend has been taking videos of herself having conversations with virtual penguins in her house. She assures us she’s grand. 

“Having a ball with Wilson!” she assures us, as if naming one’s imaginary penguin-friend makes it ok. 

My concerns are not assuaged.

My sister has almost run out of Baileys (only “a dribble” left in the Christmas bottle, she says) although she has ordered more to arrive tomorrow. But she has concerns that there might not be enough room in the cellar for the Bailey’s as she’s currently keeping the children down there. She brings them out for Zoom calls.

Tonight I embarked upon watching the West Wing. My flatmate has the box set – this is an actual literal box set of actual DVDs, which will please Nicola. I am getting round to this, as is my fashion, twenty years after everyone else did. It’s very good. I sort of hope Lockdown lasts long enough for me to complete all seven seasons.

Day 13

Woke up with scratches all over my arms from yesterday’s fight with the Back Garden brambles. Abs still hurt. After our church service I took a walk to my new favourite spot in Holyrood Pk – sheltered from the wind by gorse bushes, and elevated enough that I can look out over the Forth to the coastlines of Fife and East Lothian. I can see all the way to Longniddry and Aberlady and Lundin Links and lots of other places I can’t go right now.

In England there is great concern that the sunny weather this weekend will cause a mass disregard for the lockdown rules. In Scotland (or at least in Edinburgh) we have no such worries. Perhaps the First Minister kindly arranged for an impenetrable cloud cover to be provided.  

Actually, the sun came out later, and it felt pleasantly warm as I took a late-afternoon stroll along the street, carrying with me an orange Sainsbury’s bag full of empty Domino’s boxes. I was taking these to the large recycling bin on a nearby street, having noticed that it had some space in it. Our flat’s recycling bin is jammed to the top, and it’s another three days before it gets emptied.

This was probably an illegal excursion on multiple counts, not least because it was my second exercise of the day. Nobody tell Boris, now.

Felt a little despondent today. I remember feeling a little despondent last Sunday as well. On both of these occasions I have taken a proper walk. I can only deduce that exercising outside is bad for my spirits. 

Hair Update: What comes after voluminous?
Limoncello Update: Topped up! Almost full!

The C-19 Diaries. Exercise and putting one’s feet up.

Day 11

Morrison’s was shut. Closes at 8pm now. So still no limoncello.

Missed another Big Clap last night, apparently. Not doing very well with the community spirit.

I exercised this morning, in the Dining Room-Gym. Managed 35 press-ups, and 100 sit-ups (not all at once, obviously, I was taking on sustenance throughout in the form of First and Second Breakfast).

Immediately afterwards I felt quite faint and considered taking the rest of the day off to recover. I opened the Dining Room-Gym window in case my flatmate found the combination of the Overnight Fragrance and the Indoor Exercise Aroma overwhelming. The feelings of faintness subsided.

Just before my shower I hopped on the bathroom scales. Not good. In the space of 48hrs I’ve gone from 90.5 to 199.2. 

I then realised my flatmate had switched us back to Imperial units. Turns out that 199.2 lb is 90.4 kg. So that’s a win. A whole 100g lighter! 

I contemplate putting my feet up for a bit and celebrating with a Caramel Wafer. Although that’s actually my working posture now – lounging in an armchair, feet up on a stool, laptop on my lap keeping me warm, eating Caramel Wafers.

I settled in the Multipurpose Facility, ready to do some work. I could murder an Empire Biscuit right now.

Later, my flatmate comes through from the Dining Room-Office, where he has been working. He is breathlessly excited.

“I’ve been given permission to go into the office to get some keys!”

“No way”

“Yes!”

He’s quite beside himself. Minutes later he runs out the front door.

Minutes later, he comes back through the front door. I fear that he has been thwarted by a new Police Anti-Movement barricade or something. But it turns out he has just forgotten his phone.

Hair Update: voluminous
Limoncello Update: no change

The C-19 Diaries. Video-editing and Cheese.

Day 9

Today was a quiet day, spent submerged in headphones, engrossed in a dual-screen world of video-editing.  I realised that my practice of working with my laptop on top of my actual lap is saving a lot of heating bills here in the bunker. One of the silver linings that come with the current arrangement’s cloud.

Decided to have a lighter lunch today. No boiled eggs. No eggs at all in fact. 

This proved to be a false economy. Was starving by 3:30pm. Snacked on raw carrot and nuts. That’s right. Read that bit again, mum. 

On discovering La Favorita has closed (non-silver lining), the flatmate and I ordered Dominos online and watched the first Jack Reacher.

Hair status: bushy
Limoncello status: dry

Day 10

Woke up in a cold sweat from a dream that I had began the much-anticipated haircut and the clippers’ battery ran out of charge halfway through the process. 

More video-editing. Got very hungry at 10:53. Looked around at what was within easy reach, and found myself momentarily considering dipping a Vitamin C tablet in the left-over BBQ sauce from last night’s Dominos. But I came to my senses and made the trip all the way through to the kitchen for a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer. It was worth it.

Had a Zoom chat with Disco Dave. He is doing ok. He enquired after my haircut status, and I explained that things were getting bushier up there. It turns out Disco is an experienced home-hair-cutter. He has moved on from an all-over number 2 headshave to a GRADED cut, what you might call a 4-3-2. I am in awe at his skills. He gives me some tips on what to watch out for.

“The crown’s really tricky – make sure you go over that a few times.”
“That’s not going to be a problem, mate.”
“Ah.”

Recently I discovered the most amazing cheese in our fridge. West Country Farmhouse Mature Cheddar. This cheese is so good that I have almost singlehandedly eaten two whole blocks of it. Regrettably it belonged to my flatmate. And so I must make reparation for my theft.

It’s only available from Sainsbury’s. There are two problems with this: Sainsbury’s is fractionally further away than Morrisons, and so can it be considered an essential journey to drive there? And secondly, the Sainsbury’s DJ just isn’t in the same league.

But it’s probably wise to give the car a bit of a run, after days of inactivity, even though that will inevitably mean losing a coveted parking spot on the street. As I’m fastening my seatbelt, I imagine myself getting pulled over by the police.

“Is this an essential journey, sir?”
“I mean… this cheese is unbelievable, officer”

I made it to Sainsbury’s without incident. Seemed like the Sainsbury’s DJ was working from home.  There were no tunes at all, not even bad ones.

The other thing on my list of “essentials” (there really were only two things) was Lurpak. But all the Lurpak had been panic-bought apart from the Lurpak-with-added-garlic. I didn’t feel that this would work all that well sitting between my toast and marmalade of a morning, so I passed and picked up Another Brand.

Completely forgot to get some more Limoncello. And I lost the parking spot.

Hair status: slightly bushier
Limoncello status: hold the phone. The flatmate’s gone to Morrison’s.

The C-19 Diaries. Early morning Morrison’s.

Day 8

Day off today – circumstances have aligned in my favour such that – at least for this week – a return to my normal Tuesday-off schedule has been possible. 

Lying in bed, I resolved to have a shower and shave. On getting up, I decided to skip that and go straight to breakfast.

Nicola calls, on the downhill section of a power-walk. We chat about various things including High School Musical, the misogyny in my early blog entries (she has resolved to start at its beginning, in 2006, and read a year’s worth of entries per day. Please pray for her), Zac Efron and the Backstreet Boys. It may be apparent who was driving the conversational content in this chat.

I think about having a shower, but am determined to experience Morrison’s in the morning, rather than at my usual about-to-cook-dinner-and-realise-I-have-nothing-to-cook slot. So I head there in my jogging bottoms and the t-shirt I slept in, accompanied by a cloud of undefined overnight fragrance.

It proves straightforward to maintain the 2m social-distancing bubble today.

Morrison’s at 11am is a revelation. The shelves full of things, mostly. Chicken is still a little thin on the ground. Are the NHS workers and the elderly scooping up all the chicken early doors? It feels churlish to call them out on this, but I may have just done that.

The Morrison’s DJ, confirming his status as the Best UK Supermarket DJ, throws on some ABBA. I try to listen for the chorus effect masking the overdubbing phase discrepancies, but it makes my head hurt and so I sashay out the doors into a mostly-deserted car park and the spring sunshine.

Back home I make coffee, and sit on the back steps, enjoying the view of a partially-cleared “garden area” complete with half a door lying flat on the ground.

Throughout the morning, the argument for taking a shower has become gradually more compelling. I finally cave in just before lunch.

Lunch includes boiled eggs again – which are excellent again, although I cracked one just trying to get it out of the carton, thus maintaining my average eat-2-use-3 egg consumption. Folks, if there’s a national shortage of eggs anytime soon, you know where to point the finger.

Today I should have had a haircut. Whether I pluck up the courage to don the full black-gospel-choir gown and shave my head today remains to be seen. But it’s been four weeks, and four weeks is a long time in the world of my hair. The time is coming.

The C-19 Diaries. Online church, Jack Daniels, and Haribo.

I apologise for the fallow spell, dear reader. I ran out of inspiration. But hey! Here’s a bumper edition with two days’ “activity”!

Day 6

Online church went well again this morning. We put together a worship set (non-churchgoers: think ‘music video’) which entailed me playing keys in my living room, and Neil playing guitar and singing in his spare room, on the same songs.

The feedback from the church congregation represented the diversity of technical knowledge in any group of people that size, from:

“I literally have no idea how you did that!”

to

“I like how you used a chorus effect to mask phase discrepancies across the overdubbing.”

Apparently ABBA were the first to use this technique to great effect.

I would like to make it clear that any employment of advanced dubbing-masking techniques in our recording process is entirely accidental…

Day 7

Meetings Monday. 

Becoming something of a Zoom Master. Something I really want to nail, though, is to somehow broadcast a looped video of me moving slightly, showing an interested face, while I am in fact in the kitchen making coffee. If anyone has the skills to make this happen, I will pay handsomely.

Today my new gooseneck iPhone-holder arrived. Means that I can ditch the car-airvent-phone-mount-attached-to-drying-rack-arrangement that I’ve been using thus far to record video for our worship music production.

A proper iPhone holder attached to a stepladder is slightly less Heath Robinson than the previous arrangement, and I can now hang my clothes up to dry again. The lack of drying apparatus was causing a blockage in the personal hygiene chain, and the dirty laundry has been backing up. So resolving this situation is a bonus for the whole household.

Tonight I celebrated a friend’s 50th birthday via a Facebook group. I toasted the occasion with Jack Daniels, and some Haribo. I would like you all to think that that’s a combination forced upon me by Lockdown and not one that I would ordinarily sanction.

My sister has been coaching me on the art of the boiled egg. Today’s were probably the best yet. I had no idea it was such a complicated thing. So many opinions to navigate.

Late in the evening, I realise that Monday is the traditional day of the week for having my world turned upside down by Boris.

I check in on the latest Government updates. Nothing big. It’s a relief. For the first time in what feels like several months (but is actually only two weeks), I think this week will look a lot like last week.

The C-19 Diaries. Limoncello and The Back Garden Offensive.

Day 5

Day 5 of Lockdown, people. That’s almost a week. 

Here in the OHFTC bunker, nestled on the northeastern slopes of Arthur’s Seat, we press on. We aren’t wiping down door handles and the like – we find it’s easier to just use The Force to open doors. No contact required. Job done.

I had a spot of video-editing to do today to pull together tomorrow’s online church service. There’s a risk that there might not be quite enough limoncello left in the bottle to fuel the video-editing. So, St Mungo’s church viewers, if the service kind of grinds to a halt halfway though, you’ll know what’s happened.

On the subject of limoncello, one lunchtime last week, a friend – who may or may not hold an important position at a prestigious university – sent me a photo of the bottle of limoncello he was proposing to sample, to – as he put it – “help this afternoon’s meetings.”

I think Limoncello-makers could make this into a great advertising slogan.

Lunchtime Limoncello. Helps your afternoon’s meetings.

I haven’t heard anything from him since. I do hope he’s ok, and still employed.

My flatmate is not working today. Not that he’s not employed, it’s just a Saturday, when normal people don’t work. He has not yet appeared in the shared Multipurpose Facility we used to call the living room. I can only deduce that his buttocks are more accommodating to hard chairs than mine.

However, later on I spot him scraping moss off our back steps. The back steps lead down to our Back Garden, which is a euphemistic description at best. My flatmate and I decided, quite recently, that this Spring we would attack the undergrowth, and indeed the overgrowth, of which there is quite a lot, in the Back Garden.

This is not as straightforward as it might seem, because in order to access the back steps leading to the Back Garden one must open the back door. And after a particularly vigorous appearance by one of the Storms (it may have been Dennis) earlier in the year, we got a kind note posted through our door from our neighbour, explaining that half our back door had blown off and landed in his garden.

It’s quite fortunate that it was his garden it landed in. His garden is of an award-winningly immaculate nature, and thus a blown-off half-door is quite an obvious addition. If it had landed in our Back Garden it’s fair to say it might never have been found – in the undergrowth, or possibly the overgrowth.

In case you’re wondering how we didn’t notice, without a note being posted to us, that half our back door was missing, I should point out that it was the outer layer of the door. So from the interior, which is where we were, everything looked completely normal.

However, it now became very difficult to open the door. Even though there’s only half of it left. Even using The Force – both of us concentrating madly for some time. I would defy your average Jedi to open this door using only The Force. And so my flatmate deserves a lot of credit for getting out there at all, never mind beginning the Back Garden Offensive. I believe he used the Force in conjunction with the Shoulder Charge.

A word about this blog.

Am conscious that I am – in my usual manner – writing in a whimsical tone. I am not the only one, of course – funny videos and memes abound poking fun at social distancing, and Coronavirus, and lockdown, and all the rest.

It’s a strange thing. I am conscious that Coronavirus is having a very serious impact on some people. People are actually dying from this, and although it still seems somewhat distant to me, it’s becoming closer as I learn of people I know who have been hospitalised with it. I hope nothing of what I write comes across as blasé about the stark realities of this for some people.

I can only write from my experience, and my experience currently involves nothing more serious than being confined to barracks for the foreseeable. I will continue to try to find humour in the mundane, but want you to understand that I am not blind to the more serious side of all this.

So… after yesterday’s 10-press-up workout, I spent most of today recovering from my exertions. But I did venture out to Morrison’s to pick up some important provisions. Just as I left the house, a hailstorm started, which was pretty great. Walking through a hailstorm isn’t an experience you can have inside, now is it.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Stay safe and well folks. ❤️

The C-19 Diaries. Day Off.

Day 4

I had a day off today. I sashayed all the way through to the dining room for a bit, but the seats were too hard, so I returned to the comfort of the office-studio-living room.

Did a light workout in the morning. I say light, it was pathetic really. But ten press-ups is better than no press-ups, surely.

Daily exercise duly accomplished, I set about replacing all those burnt calories. Having failed to master the Eat-10-Traybakes-in-a-Day Challenge yesterday, I set about it with renewed vigour today, but still failed. 

And with that, it was time for lunch. 

Yesterday, I boiled the first egg of my egg-boiling career. It didn’t go all that well, but the second one was better.

Today I thought I had nailed both of them, until some tell-tale egg-white leakage betrayed the fact that I had cracked the first one with a slightly over-enthusiastic egg-drop. 

Given that boiling an egg was one of the culinary feats my dad claimed to have been able to manage (I think heating up a can of baked beans was the other, although I am not sure I ever saw either happen in practice), I am confident that I can master it. I shall press on.

Last night there was a clapping tribute to NHS workers, and people came to their doorways and clapped solidly for a minute or something. 

I had no idea this was happening! Did I miss a memo? Can we do it again? NHS legends – forgive me for not taking part – thank you for being amazing (all the time) and incredible just now. We love you.

This afternoon I read the instructions for my new hair clippers and put it on charge in preparation for the Big Hair Event. My next scheduled haircut would have been this coming Tuesday. Not sure I will hold out until then, it’s getting bushy up there.

Under the Guide Comb Function section of the instructions, I read this:

  1. Determine the hair length of your pet that needs to be shaved.

My sister has bought me dog-hair clippers. Splendid. I’ll keep you posted on how this works out.

The C-19 Diaries. Traybakes and Queuing Protocol.

Day 3

Slept great last night. Clearly limoncello just before bed is the way forward.

Woke up to a message from a friend, linking to a series of Tweets from Nick Heath, who – as a sports commentator – has taken to commentating on scenes in everyday life, and recording them in a series of short videos.

If you need your day brightened up… check them out here.

Mum included traybakes in yesterday’s mercy package. Chocolate-covered fudge squares. Disappointingly, my flat mate is off chocolate for Lent, so I am having to power through them myself. Two down, eight to go. I am confident of hitting the target by lunchtime.

It feels like everybody is online, all the time, right now. I am usually someone who keeps on top of their notifications, emails, etc. But for the last week or so it feels like everybody I know has been emailing me, tagging me on Facebook and WhatsApping me all at the same time.

So if you’ve sent me a message via one of these platforms (or any other platform) recently and I seem to be ignoring it, please accept my apologies, I might not even have read it yet.

Didn’t manage to leave the house today. Didn’t so much as open the front door to a startled delivery person.

My flatmate did, though, and brought news of the Great Outdoors.

Morrisons, he reports, have brought in the queuing-with-enforced-2m-separation just to get in to the store. I witnessed this phenomenon yesterday, as I drove into Tesco. It’s what inspired me to drive straight back out again. People standing 2m apart down the side of the building. It’s a queue-jumper’s DREAM. 

I discovered this at my next port of call – Margiotta – when an old dear sailed straight up to the checkout at an oblique angle, before the kind checkout operator gently pointed out that I – the mildly disgruntled man standing against the far wall of the shop – was next in the queue.

But I’ve forgiven her. She probably had zero peripheral vision due to the vast array of apparel she had wrapped around her head, to ward off viruses, one assumes. She might even have been foreign, and unaware of how seriously we take queuing in this country.

The London Branch of the family have had a disturbing development. My sister-in-law accidentally drank some Turmeric-infused tea and has turned yellow. Or so says my sister, who can’t always be relied upon to relay turmeric-related information with a great deal of accuracy.

Sleep tight y’all.

The C-19 Diaries. Birthday in Lockdown.

Day 2

First thing this morning, Disco Dave sent me a video birthday message on WhatsApp. Disco, being the father of 3 young girls, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of videos that YouTube would never consider adding to my “Up Next” list. This one involves a silly song (they always involve a silly song) about a cat licking my birthday cake.

He goes on to assert that Baileys (of which he has been known to partake) is widely-known to improve video-editing skills by 13%.

I myself am fairly sure that one’s video-editing skills improve by a percentage roughly equal to the ABV of the drink you’re currently having. So I went straight to the limoncello this morning.

Shortly afterwards I remembered that I wasn’t going to be doing any video-editing today. 

Managed to leave the house today. I made a trip to the supermarket (two supermarkets, a local grocery store and a corner shop, actually) and got some shopping for mum. Which therefore entitled me to legitimate house-leaving on two distinct grounds: “shopping for essentials” and “providing care to the elderly” (no offence mum).

Technically I got some exercise too, since my car was parked at the top of the hill.

So, the only cakes I got today were cake-emojis. Although in a furtive doorstep-shopping-bag-exchange with my mum I got a couple of birthday cards and a beef roast. She got a couple of cans of condensed milk and some small-headed broccoli. I am still unsure as to what recipe requires this combination. 

I’m only joking about the limoncello, dear reader. I didn’t start on it until after dinner.

Stay healthy everyone!

The C-19 Diaries. Lockdown.

Day 1

Approximately two hours after I write a blog post entitled “Not in Lockdown yet…” the PM – wilfully ignoring my blog activity – broadcasts to the nation that we’re now Locked Down. 

Of course he doesn’t use that phrase. But we’re not allowed to leave the house, mostly. There is no definite time given as to when the new restrictions come into force, apart from a vague “from tonight”, so I drive through eerily-deserted streets to make an emergency visit to the office, where I forage for some equipment that will make video-production from home more achievable. 

Along with some decent headphones, I find coffee beans, pasta, and PINE NUTS. Glory be, as my granny would have said under similar circumstances. I also rescue a half-full packet of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers. All of the above are known ways to improve video production.

Then, as an afterthought, I retrieve my Nerf Gun from my desk. You just don’t know when you’re going to need a personal firearm at times like these. Disco Dave has been self-isolating for days, and we are fearing a rampage sometime soon.

Today, I spend the morning reorganising my “office” space, aka the living room, which I will now be sharing with my flatmate. I spend so much time on the reorganising and tidying that I don’t get any actual work done before it’s time to stop for lunch. It’s a nostalgic throwback to the days when I would find any manner of domestic tasks to do rather than sit down and revise for exams.

Myself and the ops team work on a new plan for how to produce an online church service, without access to our church building, and working remotely from home. The main problem we foresee is that some of our content-providers – who will record themselves on video – reside in the Sticks, where the broadband is so slow it would make you crave the good ol’ days of dial-up.

We speculate on ways that we could more efficiently receive the video files from them. Suggestions include training up a carrier pigeon. Or taking the SD card containing the video recording, strapping it to a nearby sheep and hope that it wanders into one of our gardens sometime soon.

We’re a resourceful team.

Yesterday I ordered a few things from Amazon. This morning I get a text message:

Your driver will deliver your parcel today between 17:18-18:18, you do have options if you’re not going to be in.

Oh, it’s ok. I think I’ll be in.

I have another delivery earlier in the day. On opening the front door, the driver jumps back, sort of like a startled rabbit, so as to maintain the 2m distancing. I think she overdid it and it was more like 3m. I am trying not to take that personally. 

My delivery included a birthday present from my sister. I had originally requested a new pair of ski poles, having snapped one in an unfortunate chair-lift incident during this year’s ski trip.

However, on account of the PM’s announcement last night, and the sudden-dawning realisation that my hairdresser would now be closing, I felt that hair clippers would make a more pragmatic gift. So I am now quite excited to try these out. I am also nervous about the results.

No photos will be posted here, don’t even ask. But anyone with a Zoom meeting lined up with me anytime soon (there are a few) is in for a real treat.