World Of Winfield

Three Good Things

I’m doing a thought experiment to write down three good things at the end of every day, that occurred during the day, for a week.

I thought that I might as well make it pubic. This was from a fair few weeks ago.

Sunday:

  1. My sister visited for our 3rd socially distanced Sunday gathering. I am limited in my ability to get anywhere so I am exceptionally grateful for efforts in visiting me in Harrow.
  2. We cooked Pizza In The Post. Granted, I burnt mine so I was eating burnt pizza, but it was fun and the start of my replacement blog for Roast Dinners In London – Deliverwoo.
  3. I watched a Pedro Almodovar movie to give me a glimpse into life in Spain, and I especially enjoyed the really hot Spanish prostitute. Perhaps didn’t need the acceptable paedophilia part of the story, but it was made in 1984.

Monday:

  1. My “using things up” lunch went pretty well. Layers of aubergine, tomato, pepperoni and thin slices of potato, baked in the oven. Getting a veg box does mean that I have to use things up that I normally wouldn’t buy – like aubergine.
  2. A good day on the stock market. Drax Group +14%, Kier Group +8%, Asos up 5.5%. Some others fell, but overall up £100 on the day. Still £300 off recent peaks, but all about the long run.
  3. Made some good progress on a tricky and irritating ticket at work. I spent Thursday and Friday making zero progress (well I found out what didn’t work), and today I tackled it from a different – and correct direction.
    Basically we have different sections (ie quantity dropdown, find in store function, etc), some of which appear on some products, and not others. Some of these sections have spacing and borders and this has led to a situation where some products show two borders (like below) or no borders where there should be one border – and some products have too much space, like below the “Add to bag” button on the image below.

Tuesday:

  1. I went to the local fishmongers at lunch. Yes this is getting more difficult to think of ideas of positive moments, but I do enjoy going down and looking at all the different fish, even if I always buy the same – seabass and smoked haddock this time. It does remind of Hull.
  2. Published my first post on DeliverWoo. Reviewing the Pizza In The Post that I had on Sunday. And I have a whole 4 followers on Twitter…hoping my Roast Dinners In London followers twig about my new persona without having to be obvious, because Lord Gravy is in a gulag and obviously doesn’t have internet access.
  3. My Bad Brownie box arrived. Which is in the fridge, ready to take home for the family this weekend.

Wednesday:

  1. Healthiest day for a little while, 1,760 calories, no cake, no chocolate, no bread and a reasonable amount of exercise – for my standards!
  2. Had a phone call with one of my friends, Silvia, which was nice to speak to someone outside of my core group.
  3. Struggling to think of a 3rd good thing, though I do feel a new spirit of focus now I’ve concluded that my next 12 months is all about self-improvement – fun can wait until next summer.

Thursday:

  1. Was nice to get a shout-out in our quarterly retrospective at work today, for helping someone with CSS (styling). Granted he helps me more than the other way around, but I appreciate the gratitude and feelings of pride in how far I have come as a software engineer.
  2. Last minute winner! First time Hull City AFC have won a league game since New Year’s Day – remember the hope of the 1st January? Nah, me neither. This was the worst game of football that I’ve watched in a decade or so, and I said the same the last time I watched Hull City AFC – but we won! And now might not get relegated.
  3. Beetroot. I may change my mind once I’ve eaten it, and considering that I’ve just put it in the oven to roast 2 minutes ago, I should probably wait to comment. No to forget that my kitchen is now purple. But it is emblematic of my veg box excitement every Thursday morning when I open my door. Thanks to Oddbox – £11.49 for this is such a bargain.

Friday:

  1. I had the thrill of using a toilet other than my own for the first time since lockdown. A petrol station toilet on the A1. The more salient point being that I had finally escaped Harrow!
  2. Visited my mum and dad. What is not to like about that? Granted we broke two lockdown rules, but all I can say to you is Dominic Cummings. Was a little emosh to see them for the first time since lockdown.
  3. First time since lockdown that I had a day off work

I got bored of doing it so didn’t make it to the last day. What did I learn? Food and people make me happy. Not that I really needed to learn that.

I have been taking a course in happiness (I was fucking miserable for a few weeks in May/June) and this was one of the tasks…I feel like it has helped bring me more contentment.

James Went To Stratford. Upon Avon.

I don’t count my blessings every day, but I do count them at times. One such blessing could be that Covid-19 hasn’t affected my health or the health of those close to me.

It has, however, affected my social life, my roast dinners, my holidays – in May I was due to visit Japan and were life normal I’m sure I would have had a weekend away in some random European country that only Eurovision Song Contest viewers have heard of.

I was also due to go watch the cricket last weekend, England vs Pakistan at Lords. And actually had 4 tickets – I’ve been successful with the ballot at Lords more often than not but the normal maximum is for 2 tickets, and I went through this weird process to apply for group tickets, for the family.

Alas, you know the score. Bowled out for 0 by Covid-19.

Staycation Upon Avon

So we discussed as a family whether my parents should still visit London, or we should go somewhere else. As I am not keen on wearing suffocation devices on public transport, we decided London wasn’t the best idea – so my parents re-booked their Travelodge for Stratford. Upon Avon. Whenever I told anyone in London that we were going on a staycation to Stratford I got some confused looks. UPON AVON.

Yeah, Travelodge. I did suggest that there might be a heatwave at the end of July (forecasted 4 weeks in advance, check me out) and I wasn’t convinced that the Travelodge would have air conditioning. We checked out the price of the Crown Plaza – three times as expensive. Travelodge it was. And no, it didn’t have air conditioning. I did have a view though. And it was hot and noisy.

Pretty sure you are supposed to go away to get a good night’s sleep, but hey.

We didn’t do anything amazing and the culture extended only to having a boat trip through the lock, 15 minutes down the River Avon and back. Oh and lamppost spotting.

It was nice simple family times. We did things like feed the swans. We went for walks along the canal. We pottered. We had some drinks. We sat in the sun.

And we had some good meals out also. The best was the tuna steak that I had at the Italian. Lamb kleftiko at the Greek restaurant was nice but not a patch on the one from that Greek restaurant that used to be in Reading…Kyrenia I think? And even the breakfast in the retail park opposite the Travelodge was pretty banging.

Looking For Somewhere To Go?

I have to say that I really liked Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was peaceful, it had a few good restaurants (albeit unimaginative cuisine), some history, it looked pretty, it had a Christmas shop despite it being July and a proper ale house run by a northerner. Not too many tourists, though I’m sure it had plenty pre-Covid.

I could imagine retiring somewhere like this. A pleasant, green land next to the river and canal.

And we finished off with a game of word association.

Anyone know a museum looking for lockdown artefacts?

Oh my god I nearly forgot about the roast dinner. I mean, who writes about roast dinners anyway? It was excellent, the rib of beef seemed like it would last forever and the gravy was proper thick, glorious northern gravy. Yeah, I could live in Stratford-Upon-Avon when I’m older. Much older.

Coronamoaner – Masks

I always get worried when I find myself on the same side of the argument as Donald Trump, so I was relieved recently when I saw him wear a mask – as I am against the imposition of masks.

But why can I be against saving lives, I hear the moral crusaders amongst you ask?

Firstly, I don’t believe that wearing a mask does save lives.

There is much evidence against – albeit there is also some that suggests there might be a tiny benefit to others but nobody is sure.

If mask-wearing was really helpful, then how come it hasn’t stopped cases increasing in countries where it has been mandated for a while like Spain? Was around 300 new cases a day a few weeks back – you have to wear masks even outdoors there (except on the beach because the sand stops the spread of covid-19 obviously) – now it is 2,500 a day.

Austria – mandated masks in April yet cases are now much higher than recent months. Even Japan where masks seem to be mandatory even in bed, they have more new cases every day now than in the UK.

It seems to me that there is as good a public safety argument for not wearing masks than for wearing masks, perhaps even better.

Though I stress I totally understand why people make the argument. This pandemic is truly shitty, and people want an end to it and are willing to argue whatever they feel will end it. I have no feelings of ill will towards anyone who proposes the argument and totally understand why they would do so.

I cannot prove that forcing people to suffer the imposition of being masked will not save lives. You cannot prove that it will either. There is evidence from research which will back up whichever argument you prefer.

So I will simply not go anywhere where it is mandated that I wear a suffocation device. It seems to me that if going to the supermarket without a mask has suddenly become so dangerous, that I am better off not going to the supermarket. I don’t need to ever go to a shop – I mostly buy unhealthy things from unplanned shopping visits anyway, and obesity is a big risk factor so it can only be good for me not to go to Sainsburys.

Apart from health…

Further to the health arguments, masks are exceptionally uncomfortable, they do make breathing difficult for many people, myself included – someone I know well told me that she has nearly fainted 3 times from having to wear one.

And symbolism.

Oh my god how dare I consider symbolism in a pandemic? As masks are not only tools of criminals (I do worry also about crimes being easier to hide now), they are also symbols of repression. To me – masks represent telling people to shut up, telling them they don’t have a voice, that they are under control of whomever or whatever it may be.

Yes, being forced to wear a mask is also going against your freedom – though I also respect that those who believe masks will cure covid-19 could also make the freedom argument – in terms of them feeling like they now have the freedom to go to the shop without risk of catching covid-19. Except that people who work in shops don’t have to wear masks yet they could surely spread it to every customer that visits during their shift – if you buy that I can apparently spread it in the 2 minutes that I am buying a bottle of shit red wine.

And once you are forced to wear masks in shops, they will come for offices, restaurants and pubs too. Eventually you will have to wear a mask in your house. I was laughed at on Facebook for being a drama queen when I suggested this a couple of weeks back – but now this is becoming reality in Madrid where you are advised to wear one in your home. Yes, in your own home. Though, yes, I am still a drama queen.

Although I completely reject the idea that mask wearing is beneficial to other’s health (at least nobody is pretending that it is to the wearer), and I insist that it is unpleasant symbolism and a castration of further freedoms – there is one argument in favour of masks:

CAPITALISM (yeah in capitals…as if you haven’t rolled your eyes already to this point).

There are clearly people out there who are too scared to go out and participate in the economy and masks may reassure them to go out and spend lots of money.

As a proud capitalist, I can see this argument and accept the validity – if the best way to increase GDP is to mandate masks, then whilst I remain against the imposition from the perspective of liberalism (and personal health) but at least there is an argument.

And who knows, I could be wrong about the validity of masks. Maybe everyone wearing a mask in a shop will cure covid-19. I am not an expert on public health – look at my belly if you need any further clarification. I have been wrong before. I will be wrong again.

Which is why that I am willing to stop going to places where it is now suddenly apparently too dangerous for me to visit without a mask. I shall make that sacrifice.

So a life of not going to the shop?

All the above said, my life is littered with me making evidence-based principled stances and eventually cracking. Hell I’ve even been inside a Wetherspoons since the Brexit vote…albeit only to have a piss. Maybe let’s forget that I stayed in a Wetherspoons hotel two years ago but that was a sacrifice that I was willing to make for a wedding.

You and I both know that it is inevitable that at some point an emergency might come where I have no option but to wear a face mask – perhaps I get to the point where I cannot put off going to the dentist, for example.

Also I am not one for intentionally upsetting people, so if I do reluctantly have to get the Met line at some point, I may end up carrying one in case someone insists on it – I have found my asthma inhaler that I’ve had for 20 years and is still nearly full so I can hopefully wave that around and reduce the level of evil glances from the mask stasi.

And I may have found the perfect solution for when I do crack:

You want me to wear a mask, right?

Coronamoaner: Location, Location…no location

A few weeks ago, well a bit over a month ago, I was really struggling psychologically with the whole lockdown shiznit.

One of the main factors was just how much my world had shrunk, how limited my options were and how I was trapped in Harrow. Then the enforcement of facemasks came on public transport and I realised that it would be months, or even a year or two before I could go anywhere on my own volition.

Why Harrow?

Originally I moved to Harrow because my first developer job was in Amersham, and I wanted to be somewhere halfway between there and central London, so I wouldn’t have that long a commute and it would be relatively easy to get into London itself (I didn’t know much about the Met line back then) on a weekend.

That job lasted 3 months until I was disposed (thankfully), then I had 5 months of being unemployed where I was on study lockdown, then I started working at Lovespace in central London. Still on a low salary, I didn’t trust myself to do well enough to keep my job so I didn’t want to move closer – and I couldn’t afford it anyway. Though I was working from home twice a week by the end, so moving became less of a necessity – and I knew that I’d be looking for another job at some point.

Roll on two years and I got the role at M&S. Now I didn’t have the excuse of not enough money to rent somewhere closer to central London, yet my commute was easier (well…except for the Met line going totally tits up).

I did start thinking about moving house but I was comfortable – shorter commutes, shorter working day, nice housemate, sound landlady – everything was easy, and moving house very much is not easy as two previous moving fuck-ups prove.

And then lockdown happened.

Lockdown in Harrow

At first everything was cool. Well, obviously not cool – Harrow was one of the most impacted areas of the UK with Covid-19. But I could work from home every day and, apart from buying food, everything was pretty easy.

However, as time went on I realised how little affinity I have for Harrow, how few businesses speak to me, how there are no cute cafes, no restaurants that appeal and barely any pubs at all, let alone ones that I’d have a beer in. I have no friends in the area, and no real desire to make any – it isn’t my kind of crowd around here and boy do I stick out with my mullet. Granted, I stick out in Hackney with my mullet.

And the facemask insistence came in and fuck I was depressed. I was miserable for a week or so before, and for a week or two after. Like – seriously miserable. And being stuck in Harrow was right at the centre of this. Yes, I used to live in Bracknell – but I could escape.

Now

I’m in a much better place now – I’m probably as happy as normal, albeit with the knowledge that I cannot reach the highs of before, but that is cool. I’m settled and I have new focus.

I’ve moved away from desiring what I cannot have – roast dinners in Peckham or holidays in Albania.

Now I am concentrating on trying to lose weight (yeah I know I say this all the fucking time, but I’m currently my lowest weight since October 2018), improve my JavaScript and possibly start to learn GraphQL (will stand me in good stead for future projects), and also I have started my new blog, DeliverWoo, which is reviews of restaurant kits. Please follow me on Twitter. Or Instagrim if you have to. PLEASE FOLLOW ME I AM A DESPERATE BLOGGER.

Oh. I’m still stuck in Harrow.

Next

I have this fear that at some point I’m going to get the call to go back to the office – and I simply cannot wear a face mask, especially not for the random amount of hours that the Met line want to delay me for. Cannot, and yeah, will not. Sue me. FREEDOM. Yeah I’ve had a couple of beers. Not that half the people wear them anyway.

Stasi.

However the call to the office is not certain, I have heard a rumour that engineering teams will be granted permission to work from home permanently.

Yet Harrow is still dull as fuck. And I want to live my life again at some point, despite the mask stasi. So maybe, maybe I might actually finally get off my backside and move home.

Where?

Where could I move to? Well, even Reading has sounded appealing recently – I would rather be there than Harrow, for sure. I have three schools of thought.

If work do want me back in the office, even once a week, then I need to be able to walk to work. So that means places like Paddington, Maida Vale, St John’s Wood, Queensway, Bayswater, Notting Hill, Mayfair (yeah spit your beer over your screen). I was joking about Mayfair.

All within walking distance of central London – all with neighbourhood pubs, restaurants and cafes, and just about easy enough to meet with my sister.

Another school of thought is Kentish Town where my sister lives. It is pretty cool there, and would have some friends.

Or somewhere uber trendy 10 years ago like Hackney, Dalston or Peckham. Let’s face it, my mullet belongs there.

I think the first option makes most sense – it does cover all the bases except probably not having anyone else with a mullet living there.

When?

Well, I’ve predicted a falling house market a couple of times in the past and not exactly been on the money, yet I’m assuming that when furlough ends in October and unemployment spikes, there will be a drop in rental prices – there already seems to have been.

And I want to get rid of some of my stuff. I’d rather not throw it all in landfill and charity shops are no longer an option, so I’m trying to sell things on Ebay. And if you are not aware of how much stuff I have – let me tell you that I have 2000 CDs and about 15 years of Mixmag magazines. Believe it or not, the magazines actually sell. Granted I’ve sold two for a total of £9 but I’ve only listed 15 since Wednesday. So that is my project – minimising my life. Not too much, but I want to own less stuff than I did before I moved here.

These go 3 rows deep by the way…it isn’t just what you can see!

So, kind of October is what I have in mind.

I have a plan. I think I’m even settled on an area. Not sure on whether to go for a studio flat or just another house share – my housemate is away and damn it is wonderful being alone! And just on cue, my neighbour’s new baby has started crying.

It feels kinda good to have a plan.

Corona Moaner: Re-Imagining Life

Lockdown life has become a bit of a struggle at times. I’m now back to my usual cheerful, jokey self and have been for 10 days or so, but I had a good couple of weeks before that where I was consistently really fucking miserable.

I didn’t understand at first why I’d become so unhappy the last few weeks. It would have made sense at the start of lockdown, but why late May/early June when freedoms were slowly being granted?

Normally in life I am happy most days, at least in the last few years since discovering purpose to life – London and coding. I may have a moan and an occasional rant but mostly life was enjoyable and I was happy. Maybe I’d have a couple of down days every couple of months, and a few meh days, but most days I was at least relatively happy.

Come lockdown initiation, I was certainly anxious and worried yet I was still able to crack jokes and find the bright side. Sure, I didn’t have many days where I’d be especially happy, but I was only unhappy for very brief periods – like the 30 minutes of being outside. The beginning of lockdown was probably the world’s greatest meme period.

Then by late May/early June I was mostly feeling unhappy most days. I had a few happy days mixed in, but I just wasn’t enjoying life any more. My smile had gone. My upbeat joviality had gone. The drudgery of doing the same thing every fucking single day and the monotony of life – the excluding of all hope – it had ground me down and I was defeated.

But why?

Has it just been grinding me down all this time? Was there an initial sense of “all in it togetherness” that was eroded by Dominic Cummings? The timeline matches! Maybe I am envious of those that have loved ones around them? Is the novelty of sitting in my pants at my desk 7 days a week wearing off?

Why was I so unhappy?

My conclusion was part loneliness but more pertinently was that my enjoyment of life was out of bounds.

Everything that I want to do for enjoyment was and mostly still is out of reach, probably for many more months to come. Holidays, visiting family, eating at restaurants, drinking at pubs, going out with friends, random drunken nights after work with colleagues, visits to art galleries, pretending that I’m going to the theatre, going to the cricket, hugs, randomly popping into the city I love for a wander around…everything.

My roast dinner blog which is a big part of my life is pointless. I’ve tried to keep it going but I’ve lost enthusiasm – every time I write I just feel heartbreak about not being able to go to a pub, walk around London a bit, visit new areas, see cute waitresses – eat food someone else has cooked and be able to share and recommend the experience (or not).

This unhappy period also coincided with a spell of loathing work, and was mutually reinforcing! Normally I enjoy coding, really enjoy it to the extent that it is something I choose to do on a weekend for fun, but I had ended up with a really difficult ticket to tackle – rewiring server side user authentication to client side, and I was massively struggling, which made me feel worse – and feeling worse probably made it more difficult to work out how to achieve this task.

It may well have been easier to tackle in an office with colleagues around me.

Also I think part of the reason why I emotionally struggled a few weeks ago was that I had hoped that we’d have this lockdown for 10-12 weeks then everything would just snap back to normal. Over the last month or so it had slowly dawned on me that this really isn’t going to be the case – the imposition of face masks in public transport was a big psychological punch in the mouth.

Re-imagining Life

So, where there are problems there must be solutions, and I have been working on re-imagining how to maximise my enjoyment of life over the next 6-12 months of not being able to do what I want to do.

I have come to accept that I simply won’t be going on holiday this year. I love going away, adventuring, creating memories, experiencing other cultures and foods – yet I can handle not going on holiday for a year, possibly two. It certainly won’t happen in 2020, and it may well not happen in 2021.

I probably won’t get on a tube train this year, which means I won’t be going to central London, and won’t have any roast dinners in pubs – except in Harrow or Pinner. Quite possibly very few meals out at all. I won’t be travelling to anywhere else in the UK, unless I can find someone to drive me. Thankfully my absolute sparkling diamond of a sister will always accept a petrol contribution to go to Hull.

I also won’t see other areas of London, go to theatre, art gallery, music events – I won’t experience any culture offline.

I have accepted all of this…well I think I have. There will definitely be times where this fucks me off, but mostly, I’ve resolved myself to this. And if my current expectations are wrong, then that would be wonderful news.

My thoughts now are on what I can do to put myself in a better position to maximise my enjoyment of life post-covid, whilst enjoying something different in the meantime.

Firstly I could write some bollocks about getting less unfit, but you’ve heard it before. I do have less excuses now though, I have more time, my bike might be returning in a month from its holiday in Luton and I have other ideas too which I might actually enjoy…but I won’t say because I don’t want it to be another thing that I said I would do that I don’t. There might even be more detoxes – I’m certainly eating much healthier since lockdown, though not quite fully there.

I’m also spending part of my weekends coding, or studying, to try to ensure that I learn more and it is easier for me to get a promotion in the future, internally next year I hope – or externally in a couple of years if not.

I am investing in the stock market – which may well not turn out to not look so wise in 6-12 months, but hopefully in 5-10 years it will have been a genius move. I am saving lots of money by not being able to do what I want to do so I may as well put it to good use. And I enjoy it…it gives me an interest to look into companies and try to work out where to invest a few hundred pounds every month.

And most excitedly I have a new blog in the works, which is about enjoying life indoors. Not too dissimilar to what I do with roast dinners, but something that will excite me and hopefully get an audience – and it has a new character too – I cannot wait to introduce you. I don’t want to say much until I have finished creating it, hopefully will be finished this weekend.

Lord Gravy has been retired – well, detained. The ability to go into London isn’t coming back any time soon so the blog is pointless, and just breaks my heart too much. I hope he survives his time in the gulag.

Finally I have about two dozen ideas for new websites, including the next Instagram, that I will never get around to doing…but maybe I might just get time, or at least I can learn how to do them in theory. If I ever bother taking any holiday this year, this is probably what I’ll do!

Roll on 2021…or maybe 2022

The theory being that come summer 2021, this virus shite will have gone, herd immunity will have finally been embraced, we can get on a tube train and go on an aeroplane without being suffocated.

Oh, and I will be fitter, less obese, richer, have a brand new popular blog, be even more employable than I am now, and ready to take on all the new opportunities of a post-Covid world.

That’s the theory. I see your eyes rolling. At least I have a plan. I’m quite excited anyway.

Corona Moaner – The Monotony

So what happened this week? Well the same as every week for the last forgettable amount of forgettable weeks with absolutely zero chance of doing anything different.

I just had to apologise to 3 of my dearest on a video call for thanking them for the highlight of my week – which was a beer-fueled Zoom call and the best Zoom call so far.

Yet the rest of the week was monotony.

Wake up. Before 6am. It won’t be long before 5am is a lie in…damn you sunniest spring ever.

Go for a walk. I walk through this little nature reserve with no nature inside bar an occasional cat – despite the local’s efforts in trying to attract rats but there are larger piles of litter elsewhere in the neighbourhood – and I do mean piles. It’s pleasant but nothing special. Here’s some photographs from my morning walk:

Then I end up at Sainsburys, buy some bread or some Red Bull to wake me up seeing as I’ve normally had about 5-6 hours sleep. Occasionally buy some vegetables but they normally block off the vegetable aisle in the morning.

Followed by work. 9am to 5pm. Less meetings at the moment, possibly thanks to my complaining in a meeting about too many meetings. I used to sit at my desk all day and look at women in lingerie, or sequin dresses – we don’t sell sequin dresses any more, though I guess not many women wear sequin dresses to go buy a baton. Strange as I wear my best pants every day. Except when they really need washing.

Anyway, now I’m sat at my desk all day, looking at desks. As we are applying the pretty website revamp to the furniture section. I guess it matches these dull times. And I don’t even see any hot women now – I moved to London partly for all the attractive women, yet it is about 10 weeks since I’ve tried not to stare at someone’s breasts.

Sometimes after work I go for a walk. Other times I do my weather forecast or just catch up on reading 12 different articles on Motley Fool arguing whether to invest in BT shares or not to invest in them. Always I look at weather models every evening. Keep your expectations low for July – you know, the month when we might actually be allowed to go to a beer garden. Currently looks wet.

Though I’d quite happily swap doing the same thing every day for the opportunity to get soaking wet in a beer garden drinking warm beer. I really am fed up of lockdown. I’m fucking over it. Let us out – there are virtually no new cases in London and there are 9 million people.

I’ve been pretty cheerful throughout lockdown, bar the odd day – though definitely overall less happy than normal. Yet this week I’ve noted just a general downness – not like stabbing myself kinda down, but no longer talking to empty rooms, no longer having a little dance in my room – it was even picked up by a few people on my weather forecast, before I had actually realised! I’m definitely more chirpy now – yet there is no glow about me, bar a red wine glow.

I think I’m mostly frustrated by the imposed limits. It’s not really acceptable to go on a tube train anywhere and I don’t have a car. I feel constrained by my walking limit, which is dictated by my bladder – a 2 hour walk would risk a bush visit. I did walk to Pinner today which has a nice M&S, about 40 minutes walk away and very civilised – I bought a £10 ribeye steak – a whole 380g.

But I want to be in London. I moved to be in London – not stuck in fucking Harrow every day which is perfectly fine but utterly dull, even out of lockdown.

All the things I look forward to – being with friends, visiting my family, watching sport, pretending that I’m going to go to the theatre, having a roast dinner in a pub, being in a pub, being in a pub garden, walking through London, going on holiday – this is all out of bounds. All taken away from me. And you. I don’t blame the government for enforcing lockdown – but it really does need to be eased now it seems safe to do so, at least in London. I need a bit of hope – this is too much now.

Especially being single. My housemate is very nice, but I’m still alone. I imagine this is far easier if you have family…though maybe it is also more of a nightmare too. But at least you have loved ones around you.

Lockdown is definitely getting to me. It has slowly ground me down – or at least the things, and especially the people, are no longer there to lift me up.

Still I’ll live to fight another day. I’ll wake up tomorrow, probably around 5am, probably not go for a walk because I’ll have a hangover. I have promised myself a hangover-free day this weekend so I can code – I have been working on a revamp for this blog, it won’t need much to finish it and release it. I have a massive steak in the fridge to make up for having two vegetarian dinners this week.

It might even rain tomorrow – albeit only in shower format. That would be rather exciting.

And then I might watch a movie, hopefully less shit than what I watched last week – Shaun Of The Dead. Zombie movies are beneath my level of wannabe intellect.

Though I feel like a zombie now. I am a lockdown zombie. We are all lockdown zombies. Hope you are doing absolutely the same as every day too.

Roll on Christmas. That’s going to be stuck at home too, isn’t it?

Corona Moaner

Ahhh I should be sat in a beer garden right now, sun-kissed, slightly drunk, wondering if the Met line will develop a signal failure and a tinge of annoyance from yet another average roast dinner.

Yet my complaints are trivial. People have lost their lives. People have lost love ones. People have lost jobs. People will lose their jobs once furlough expires. And we will all have a host of problems from the upcoming economic crisis.

I could say that I am lucky – I am in some respects though with respects to my job, I chose my career change wisely and worked bloody hard. My current economic resilience was planned.

So I think the title of this post will be rather misleading. I like the name “Corona Moaner”, yet I don’t think moaning will be the main theme of this post – though I don’t especially have a plan…I just need to type. I also spent far too long deciding whether it should be “Corona Moaner” or “Coronamoaner”. Did I choose correctly?

Without doubt I’m enjoying life less than I was. I record my happiness score on a daily basis (I have waaaaaay too many spreadsheets) – my current average is around 4.5, whereas April/May last year it was close to 6. A score of 5 is absolutely fine, by the way – so anything above is good. This week last year averaged a 7 – though I guess that was when I got offered my new job…one of those days I was in Luton too…ahhh being able to visit Luton, those were the days.

Mostly I am just getting on with things – I was really quite anxious and perhaps a bit stressed at first, but that has all subsided. I’m often quite chirpy, I do a lot more talking to empty rooms than normal, and it is a pleasure to have my housemate around.

Yet I do have occasional moments of gloom – like the other day when I was working, and I realised that I was probably going to be stuck in Harrow for at least a couple more months without being able to go anywhere. It’s OK around here – I used to live in Bracknell so I’m always feeling blessed whenever I recall that year of my life. Yet I want to be in London. I miss the streets of central London and the warm concrete and glass hug that it gave me.

I feel rather wistful when I view even the most dismal and damp scenes of the city I love.

It’s also annoying timing. I’d just done my quiet months – weekends of staying in, defrosting the freezer, cleaning cupboards, tidying up my websites – I was ready to get out and enjoy my life once more. Though I’m thankful that I managed to see my parents in Hull on the last normal weekend. That really was quite good timing – often I would have waited until Easter to visit.

Yet despite the pause on my social life – and I did allow an early end to my detox to compensate, the situation isn’t too bad for me. Some things are actually better – namely work, and being able to work from home every day. Yeah, no signal failures.

I can wake up naturally. I eat much healthier, at least during the week – no recourse to bacon sandwiches having suffering from a painful commute. No chocolate bars after lunch to try to perk myself up from a post-lunch slumber in a stuffy office. I feel that I am more productive, and able to concentrate better – though that is no surprise to me. I haven’t lost weight since lockdown – but normally I lose weight during my detox then quickly put it back on. I haven’t put any back on – though I still need to get back to being more active to restart losing weight.

I’ve also taken the time to start investing in the stock market. The crash was the signal that I needed to invest, and so far I’m up around 10% – though I take nothing for granted and am not risking anything I cannot afford to.

So this whole situation looks like it will benefit my career, my finances and my health – assuming I don’t catch the damn virus, as I am obese and obese people seem to be more at risk.

I am also trying to do a bit of good in my own way. I’m not a clapper – you wouldn’t really imagine me joining in a mass-participation event would you? But I do try to put a smile on people’s faces where I can on social media, I try to check in with friends occasionally. I am trying to keep spending money, with small businesses where possible – I have had way too many veg boxes delivered. And I am trying to give more to charity – my goal is to give away 50% of my usual travel expenses, preferably to smaller charities whenever I hear about them.

End lockdown…ish

I am now at the stage where I am over lockdown. I feel the risk is now minimal for transmitting the virus, at least in London, and we should be allowed to go back to pubs and restaurants, for example, albeit booked in advance and with social distancing, plastic screens, no sharing toilet cubicles, etc.

I’m not Piers Corbyn level, but I am starting to get a bit agitated about how long this lockdown is going on for…I do feel from reading the available evidence that things can be relaxed more than they currently are. From walking around my local area in exactly the same route as I do every fucking day, I am clearly not the only one ready to relax.

Would be funny if Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister right now, enacting the lockdown, and his brother was campaigning against, wouldn’t it? Except for the bit about Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister.

Finally I do wonder whether I am taking full advantage of this period. I should be using this time better to study and improve my JavaScript – and also to get fit. Yet I am drinking too much on a weekend and not doing either. I do have a warm glow though.

That wasn’t too Corona Moany was it? I am certainly blessed to be in my position – yet I can and do still miss my old life, and being able to walk the streets of London, visit a pub for a beer and have a shoddy roast dinner.

And I miss humans. Friends, family and randoms.

Stockmarket Investing. Again.

You may remember that a couple of years I stuck my £5,000 savings into shares. They went up. Then shot down. I panicked and sold with a loss of £1,460.58.

I concluded that my biggest mistake was to ignore a good friend who told me to have a diversified portfolio. I had 80% of my money in one company, 20% in another.

My other mistake was investing at the top of a stock market rally – investing when they were overpriced as opposed to underpriced.

And perhaps another mistake was investing money I couldn’t afford to lose – this was my only savings.

Two Years Later…

That was in 2018. When I started at M&S in July 2019, I was finally in a position where I could save money on a regular basis. Yet I remained hesitant about investing – I was convinced that we were at the peak of the stock-market boom.

I dabbled a bit, mostly in M&S shares but also a handful of others, more or less broke even when I sold everything in January – around the time of Coronavirus. I am not going to claim this is why I sold my minimal holdings, however I was convinced that a fall in share prices was coming one way or another. And unlike in 2008, this time I had savings. This time I was ready.

My strategy

Only invest what I can afford to lose. I figured that my money for being on call is almost like free money – perfect example being this week where I had one call out on Sunday afternoon, and that was a false alarm. So I decided to invest this plus £100-200 a month. I save cash also, unless I spend a lot of money.

Don’t invest all at once. I calculated a sum of money to invest from when I started at M&S, yet I didn’t invest it all when the stock-market started falling. I invested a little when it dropped to 6,200. More at 5,500. More at 5,000. More now it is back up to 5,700.

I’ve invested less than half my original intended pot – my feeling was that the stock-market would fall further than 5,000, and even though it has rallied somewhat in the last 2-3 weeks, I remain concerned that it may fall further. If it falls further, then I have greater opportunities, if it stays around 5,700 or rises further, then I will hopefully still be investing in good companies.

Invest in a wide range of companies. One of my mistakes the first time was just to invest in technology-related companies. Especially given that I invested on a hunch having read about them in The Economist, thinking I was some kind of genius. I am not.

This time I have invested in a mixture, including retailers, oil companies, banks, pharmaceutical companies. I will go into more detail later.

Invest in different levels of risk. I’m not going to pretend that I fully understand the balance sheets of the companies I invest in, but I do know that airlines are high risk right now – and companies like pharmaceuticals and electricity providers are low risk.

I am investing in a mixture of both – the hope that the high risk ones will not go bankrupt and in years to come bring me huge profits, and also the expectation that more stable and necessary companies will maybe rise steadily, and also pay annual dividends. Again I go into more detail later.

Keep a watchlist. I have created a watchlist on Yahoo Finance – yes I have actually found a reason to use Yahoo – of companies that I would like to invest in and the price that I am willing to do so.

Importantly, I have also set a price at which I’d sell at, to remove myself from greed. As Warren Buffet said, we should be “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.

My Investments

So starting with the riskiest ones. Cineworld and Carnival. Nobody is going to either a cinema or boarding a cruise any time soon. Highly risky and neither company is certain to exist at the end of this current crisis. But they have solid brands and if they do make it through, I should at a minimum double my money – given that I have bought at circa 20% of their value one year ago.

Then there are the somewhat risky ones, namely banks. My judgement is that this crisis will not sink any of the major banks as they are far more capitalised than they once were and the fear of a 2008-repeat has driven their prices down further than they should have. I’ve bought shares in Lloyds – down 21% since, and Barclays, up 2% since.

Oil. The major oil companies have taken a hammering as has the oil price. Yet companies like Shell and BP have their hands in much of the chain, BP also has a sizeable renewable energy component to it. They also pay dividends, and according to Yahoo Finance, this is slated to be around 10%. Like it or not, oil isn’t going anywhere yet and I want to have the money to buy a house before I retire. The BP share price hasn’t been this low since 1995.

Stable companies which are required – crisis or no crisis, such as Sage for accounting software, Unilever for things like cleaning products, Reckitt Benckiser so people can buy Dettol to inject, Hikma Pharmaceuticals and GSK – people still need drugs to keep them alive, Aviva for insurance. I’m not expecting to make huge sums out of these, but I am expecting them to be stable companies and hopefully pay dividends, though maybe not all will in 2020. So far, all up since I bought, some in the 20% range.

Then some vastly oversold companies which I really don’t understand why. Drax’s share price fell by around 70% at one point, yet people need electricity. ASOS similarly. Both up by 64% and 91% respectively since I bought them, and ASOS still seems way under-priced. Though I’m hedging my bets for now.

Finally, M&S. Yeah an emotional purchase and down 45% since I bought them.

Next?

I have plenty on my watchlist and am trying to research a few companies every week – not all I fancy, for example house builders I am just not interested in right now.

The super risky one I am considering is Capita. WH Smith and Halfords look very underpriced to me, but could also fall further – so I’m still considering them.

I’m considering more stable companies such as National Grid and Prudential, more for dividend potential than anything else.

I feel that I should also have some tech companies in my portfolio, especially given that we are now quickly moving to doing much more online – but haven’t worked out what yet.

If you are interested in investing, you can join up with Freetrade – they don’t take a commission so there is no cost other than the tiny amount of stamp duty you’ll need to pay on each investment – so no harm in buying just £10 of shares in a company. FYI I am an investor in Freetrade.

And if you are a friend of mine reading, a good friend (possibly your friend too) has started up a Facebook group to discuss investing – get in touch and I’ll invite you.

Complaint – TFL. Again.

Oh back in the good old days when the worst of my problems was attempting to get to work and home from work.

Might be a while before I have cause to complain again. And maybe I will just be happy every time there is a signal failure in future because I am actually allowed to get a tube.

For old time’s sake…though it isn’t even funny so I don’t know why I’m posting it.

******

Dear Sir/Madam

I hope that you are getting as bored of my complaints as I am getting bored of Metropolitan line delays.

Every month there is a battle to get my due refunds due to the delays.

This e-mail is with regards to 6 delays where I applied for a refund using the online system, then on 14/11/2019 received 6 separate e-mails confirming, “Your refund request has been successful”.

However, I have not received any of these repayments into my bank account.

Please can you investigate and confirm.

Kind regards
James

******

Dear Mr Winfield

Thanks for your email of 1 December about several service delay refunds.

I apologise for you not receiving your service delay refunds. I’ve reviewed your journey and payment history and can confirm that you are yet to receive a refund for the six service delay refund requests.

I’ve looked into your journeys and the service reports for the corresponding dates, but do not find record of incidents relating to all of the delays.

So that I can refund all journeys at once, may I ask you to please reply with the confirmation emails attached. I am unable to trace the system processed refunds, but can refund you manually. In order to do so, I am required to link the refunds to these emails.

Thanks again for contacting us. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you can call us on 0343 222 1234 and we’ll be happy to help you.

Kind regards


Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services

Updated: Goals 2020

Shit happened. I need to amend my goals for the year slightly:

Health

Two Detoxes Don’t drink every night. A 3-week detox prior to my 40th birthday and a 3-month detox after my birthday. Should be easy, right? Try not to drink every night.

Stop unnecessary drinking. This is the bottle of wine at home on a Friday night after work, or the can of beer at my desk on a Friday afternoon, or drinking prosecco on a Tuesday afternoon at work…that kind of thing. If I didn’t need to lose weight, I wouldn’t be so bothered…but I really do. Only drink at home.

Lose Weight. Yes, I say this every year and every year I fail. So it feels like I am just going through the motions yet I really have to become non-obese if I want to avoid shit like diabetes. So maybe I actually will lose weight this year – and my goal is 10kg for the year. I am setting monthly goals too – January I have passed, February I will almost certainly pass. If I fail my monthly goals than I will punish myself with a vegetarian roast dinner…so if that isn’t a reason to lose weight, I don’t know what is. Update: 5kg lost…easier to lose weight when working from home.

Work & Websites

Work towards promotion Hope M&S survive. I’m not sure I could achieve a promotion as a higher grade engineer this calendar year, but I want to ensure that I have a plethora of experience and evidence behind me to go for it in 2021. This means learning JavaScript in a more technical fashion (I have quite the reading list), improving technical presentation skills, improving my test-writing ability – as well as shipping some damn fine code. There will be no promotions!

Met Line Bingo. I’ve started work on a website called Met Line Bingo – which will be a fun, simple game for passengers to play when they are delayed AGAIN. Would be nice to have another site in my portfolio – I have a list of projects I want to do that I just never get around to starting. Update – I’ve almost finished it. Yet nobody will want to use it.

Improve websites. I do want to do a complete re-brand of my roast dinners blog, and at some point my iwillbeawebdeveloper page. Which, I probably have to rebrand – I wonder whether I should change my jameswinfield.co.uk website from being a DJ site (not updated in years) to my portfolio site? I do have designs in my head for them…though design isn’t exactly my strong point. Update – I do have more time to do this now!

Explore

Monthly culture Monthly porn. I want to do a different cultural activity every month this year (granted January I didn’t and February I probably won’t). Burlesque, ballet, bingo, comedy, cinema, theatre, musical, drag brunch, 20/20 cricket…that kind of thing. Want to join me? Let me know! Check out a different porn website each month.

Japan Zone 4. Well, the flights are booked, the first hotel is booked. Research is ongoing. I am going to Japan. Try to make it all the way to fare zone 4 one day.

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

3 New Countries 3 New tube stations. I normally aim for 4 but fail, and with half my holiday allowance being taken by my trip to Japan I’m making this more achievable. One will be Japan and there are plenty of European countries that I’ve never been to. Iceland, Luxembourg, Turkey? Want to join me? Try to visit 3 new tube stations without being lynched, obviously in my local area and by walking only.

Random Country Random Street in Harrow. I really want to play random country holiday with someone this year. Or maybe I’ll just do it by myself…if nobody wants to do random by July, then I’ll just do it on my own.

Upgrade My Life

Replace stuff Buy an air conditioning unit. Now I have a reasonable salary, it is time to upgrade my belongings – my battered office chair, my ugly over-sized (but free) office desk, my slow Surface, tired towels, suitcases with broken wheels, computer monitor with weird wavy lines, computer speakers that are far too bass-heavy. Lots of stuff is long overdue an upgrade. Given that my bedroom gets to 30’C in the summer, I don’t fancy working in that kind of heat.

New socks. I need to finally get rid of all my old, tired socks too. Sock upgrades are required. Update: I have done this.

Double my savings Triple my savings unless M&S go bankrupt. I’m not telling you how much I have, but I do want to double the amount of saving that I have by the end of the year, and ideally have a fair amount in shares. Well, I don’t have anything to spend my income on.

Move house? Stay in my fucking house. I don’t want to do this, even though I know the pain would probably be worth it. My house is easy to live in, my housemate is sound – both could be worse if I move, and it isn’t exactly as if every house move I have made has been a good move. But I’m going to look into what is out there. Yeah.

Be Kinder

Donate to charity more. Last year I gave a total of £76 to charity, which was up from £46 the year before. Piddling amounts but in the right direction. One problem I have is that I’m not massively enthused by any one cause, so I just rely on other people doing fundraisers and donating to what they believe in. Update: Am trying to give half my usual commute to charity now.

Waste less food Store more food. Not exactly something I can measure…unless I start yet another spreadsheet, keeping a track of rough amounts of food I waste. But I do buy too much food that I don’t finish – cheese for example I rarely eat a block before it goes off. Perils of single life. My Brexit stockpile hasn’t half come in handy.

Plant a tree Look at the same trees outside my window. Bit out there this one, but it is something good I can do for the planet and local area.