Weeknotes: XII

Well, it’s all getting a bit scary, isn’t it?

In the beginning, it didn’t feel significant. It was important in the vague way a lot of things in the news are, but it was a long way away and the chances of it affecting me seemed slim. The vagueness resolved itself rather quickly. I was told to work from home, the phrase ‘social distancing’ became normalised, the schools closed, groceries became scarce, restaurants & pubs closed their doors. Many things now seem less certain than they did a couple of weeks ago.

Am I worried about the virus? A little, but not overly so. I’m young and fairly healthy. My family is healthy too, thankfully. We’ve got stable jobs and employers that allow us to work flexibly. By any measure, we are incredibly fortunate. We’ll follow the government advice because that’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that the NHS can treat those affected by the virus along with all of the other people it needs to treat each day.

Yesterday, my eldest daughter remarked that we’re living through a time that the children of future generations will learn of in school. She’s having a bad week. It’s her eighteenth birthday on Friday and everywhere is shut. On top of that her exams, which she’s been working towards for two years, have been cancelled and her employer has cut her hours to zero.

We adapt to this new way of life. There’s no choice. It seems more of an inconvenience than an emergency, but we treat it with the seriousness it deserves. There is little grumbling, though there is rising anger at the cretins stockpiling pasta and toilet-roll. ‘What a surprise. Selfish bastards’ said a woman in Asda when she saw the rows of empty pasta shelves. What on earth are people doing with all that pasta?

I’m working from home, so have left the house rarely this week. That’s not a big change from normal, except that everyone else is home with me. We like each other though, and I’m sure we’ll be fine once we’ve worked out the logistics of it all. If push comes to shove, they can evict me to my office in town.

I’ve been making an effort to reach out to people I haven’t spoken to a while (by phone of course), just to say hi. For some people, this will all be quite scary, and knowing that someone else is thinking about you might be enough to take the edge off a really shitty day.

Be kind to each other, and wash your hands.

Weeknotes: XI

Most of my work week was spent wondering what we should or shouldn’t be doing about COVID-19. I don’t want to over-react, but it would undoubtedly be worse to under-react. I’m sure there is a nice safe space in the middle to be found somewhere. I’ll let you know if I find it. 

I joined Twitter to keep an eye on all the virus goodness. Holy crap, it’s such an awful shit show. It really does bring out the worst in people. Thank goodness it’s not an accurate reflection of real life. If it was, we’d be fucked.

On Friday, E and I headed away for the weekend. A rare treat. We left the flat plains of the Humber and headed north; the Pennines on one side of us and the Yorkshire Dales on the other. We spent Friday in Durham and Saturday in Newcastle. Two very different places, but each beautiful in their own way.  We ate a lot, shopped a lot and walked a lot, so it all balanced out.

I don’t want to start a bridge war, but the Tyne Bridge is far inferior to the Humber Bridge.

Week Notes IX – X

Our baby guppies are seven weeks old now. After the ill-fated release of a single fry a couple of weeks ago, we released them into the main tank today and they seem fine. A couple of them are in hiding. Assume this is because they observed the previous sacrifice.

People panic buy the weirdest things. Aspirin, paracetamol & ibuprofen I can understand. Toilet roll a little less so since you rarely get the runs with this type of illness. Bread flour? I have no idea why people would stockpile that, but I couldn’t find any in Asda, Tesco or Morrisons. Are people planning to spend their quarantine time baking? Anyway, while I’m not particularly worried about Covid-19, I’m starting to have some doubts about how we’ll manage if this thing blows up.

A bit hard to tell how this is all going to play out at the moment. Three years ago my family laughed when I installed a bidet, but when you suckers are fighting over toilet paper at Asda, I’ll be laughing all the way to the toilet.

We’ve been watching back to back episodes of Gavin & Stacey. I’ve never seen it before, probably because of my irrational hatred of James Cordon. He is a knob, but this is actually really good.

I’m elbow-deep in the 1200 pages of Edge of Eternity, so haven’t finished a single book over the past fortnight. Ken Follett’s books are a bit of a commitment – but usually worth it. I’ve also started a re-read of Walter Isaacson’s autobiography of Steve Jobs.

A friend sent me the photo below, posted on Facebook by someone I went to school with, of my final year class of primary school. Surprising that so many of the names came right back to me, even though I haven’t thought of them for decades.

I’m on the top row, second from the left.

Have a good week. Wash your hands, and leave some toilet roll for me.


Another week, another storm. We’re up to E on the naming scale already. What does the Met Office do if they run out of letters?

I always wanted to be in a gang, now I find out that I’ve been a member of the ‘RSS Massive’ all along.

Speaking of RSS, I’ve switched back to Newsblur after a brief affair with Feedbin. Feedbin is great, but Newsblur’s advanced filtering is hard to beat when you’re tracking a lot of feeds.

Newsblur’s web interface is very capable but a bit busy for my taste, so I use Readkit on macOS and Fiery Feeds on iOS to fetch my feeds.

Various UK officials are wetting themselves about the arrival of a different coloured passport:

“By returning to the iconic blue and gold design, the British passport will once again be entwined with our national identity and I cannot wait to travel on one. Leaving the European Union gave us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path in the world.”

Iconic? That’s over-egging it a bit. Genuinely surprised that they didn’t emboss it with a picture of Winston Churchill, preferably driving a Rover 800 while carrying the World Cup.

I don’t think my local paper understands what nostalgia means.

Literally nothing has happened this week. Nothing.


I’ve been travelling around vast swathes of northern England this week: Rotherham, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Hartlepool, Darlington – all the best places. Around a five hundred miles all in. Doesn’t sound a lot but by the end of the week I’d had seen enough of the M62.

On Tuesday I stood looking at the deserted Huddersfield train for twenty minutes before accepting that no one was going to turn up to drive it and jumped on a train to Leeds instead, figuring it was at least in the right direction.

On my travels I saw the after effects of storm Ciara. Fields are waterlogged, rivers flow close to their banks and broken branches litter the pavements. Meanwhile storm Dennis – the remains of a furious North Atlantic cyclone – heads towards us. This winter is turning out to be much more exciting than usual.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about this week how I can cultivate a more active life outside of work. It’s said that your thirties are the decade that friends disappear, and I’ve certainly felt that. While I’m fairly happy in my own company, I have started to consider that my social introversion might not be healthy in the long-term. Perhaps it’s because the eldest will be going away to university soon and I have a glimpse of a life without them in the house to keep me entertained.

Basically, I need some hobbies.


Another week down. Here’s my notes from the week that was.

I spent much of my childhood and adolescence rambling around fields and talking shit with my mates, easily the most care-free times of my life. There’s something about The Detectorists – a BBC4 comedy series about the lives of two metal detectorists – that reminds me of that time. I first watched it a couple of years ago but rewatched the first two series this week. It is beautifully written and directed, completely uncynical, and pure joy to watch.

I bought a bum bag. Hang on, let me explain. I don’t like carrying a rucksack unless I’m taking a packed lunch or something, and I hate having stuff rattling around in my pockets. Amazon described it as a ‘Tactical Waist Pack’ (I imagine to make people like me feel better about buying it) – and it wasn’t until it arrived that it dawned on me what I’d bought. Am I old enough to wear a bum bag and not care? I think I probably am.

Sunday saw storm Ciara bear down upon us, making the weather somewhat inclement. It was pretty ferocious for a couple of hours but we escaped the worst of it.

TomTom have released their 2019 Traffic Index, showing the extent of traffic congestion around the world. My own city ranked as the 5th most congested in the UK and 73rd most congested in the world. I can confirm that driving here at peak time, or any time, is an infuriating experience – one that could be made much better with investment in decent cycling infrastructure.

After cautiously waiting a couple of months to allow the initial bugs to iron themselves out, I finally upgraded my Hackintosh to Catalina. It took an hour or so and went reasonably smoothly, the only hiccup being that Microsoft Office 2016 no longer works.


Finished: Platform, by Michel Houllebecq


Brexit happened. Well, the first bit of it happened but we’re passed the point of no return now. I switched the TV on and watched the Brexit faithful celebrate in Parliament Square, watched over by the statues of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi – who I imagine would have wondered what the hell was going on. But forget them. The stars of the hour are Nigel Farage, Michelle Dewberry, Anne Widdicombe and Tim Martin. Nigel, Michelle, Anne & Tim – names that make the heart race faster. I watched for a while, rapt, and then realised that I would rather rub ground glass into my eyeballs and then bathe them in meths.

At three minutes to eleven, as I lay in bed, a handful of fireworks briefly lit the night sky before petering out into silence. I’m deeply angry about it. They couldn’t even get the timing right.

January slowly ticked over into February, and the beginning of an uncertain future.

I read this week that the latest conspiracy theory on the internet is that Paris has been overcome with civil war and that the EU, France and the UK Government are conspiring to keep it out of the news. I struggled to believe that this could actually be a thing – but of course, it really is. The mind boggles. I can understand why people might say this stuff, but not why anyone would believe it. And it’s an easy one to prove, right? Paris is closer to London than Middlesbrough. Just get on a train and go look.

We drove out to the local country park today to clear our heads of the dystopian madness around us. It was flooded. So that was.. great?

It's wet, Jim
It’s wet, Jim

On a positive note, a rogue magpie has decided that it’s fun to dig out all of the muck from the gutters and fling it on to the conservatory roof, which means that I don’t need to get the ladders out now.

I redesigned the website again. This time I made use of CSS variables and grids. I’ve seen these in use but never understood how they worked – they actually make things a whole lot easier.

From the net:

  • Google Maps gets its traffic data by tracking the movement of users handsets as they travel. It’s cool, but a bit creepy. Simon Weckert fooled it by walking along with a cart full of cheap android handsets, making Google Maps report the streets as gridlocked. — Google Maps Hacks
  • Back in the 90s we would buy dry goods by weight from the ’Scoop’ shop, then at home store it all in a vast selection of orange Tupperware containers. It was cheaper and less wasteful than prepackaged food. Similarly, a few years ago supermarkets trialled selling milk in bags, the idea being that you fill a reusable jug at home instead of throwing away empty bottles. Seemed like a sound idea to me but it never took off. Anyway, this is a long way of saying that it’s really cool that in some shops in the Czech Republic you can refill your shampoo bottles .
  • This map will show you how far you can travel in a set period of time. Pretty handy you want to know how far you can walk in your lunch break. — TraveltimeMaps, via Paul Capewell