A few months ago, I reached the dubious milestone of owning 2,000 CDs.
Which made me think, why the fuck do I own 2,000 CDs?
I do listen to them all once. Before broadband, CDs were my main format to listen to music – and even discover music, and I would listen to each CD dozens of times. Now I listen once, perhaps twice.
I still buy them. Not as many as I used to, but I still buy one or two a month. It is my way of being able to justify downloading individual tracks via Soulseek or similar methods – I still cannot quite justify paying £1.99 for a track online, when I can get a physical album/compilation for £10. An actual product in my hand. Buying CDs is my way of giving something back to the artists so I’m loathe to stop.
Yet I don’t need 2,000 of them. I really don’t need Wonderwall by Oasis when I guitar music pains my ears. I don’t need Strictly Ayia Napa. I don’t need Jeremy Healy’s Clockwork Orange Mix or any of the other free CDs from Ministry magazine – a magazine that expired around 2002. I don’t need Hed Kandi’s Summer Sampler from 2001. I don’t need a CD of TV Theme Tunes…honestly, I really don’t.
I’ve always justified keeping them because they are part of my musical history. Yet they are also clutter. I feel that a field on the spreadsheet where I list all the CDs I own, bought in chronological order, is sufficient. Knowing I owned it at some point, now seems sufficient. By the way, that is why I know that I own 2,000 CDs. 2,020 to be exact.
I am decluttering
During the summer I started thinking about moving house – I was worried about being recalled to the office and hated the idea of commuting in a mask. The Met line is bad enough when you can breathe, so I was going to move closer to work – and somewhere big enough for all my stuff.
And when I started thinking about moving house, I then started to think about packing my stuff. And subsequently I started thinking about just how much stuff I have, that I never, ever use. Just there for decoration – like the 2,000 CDs. And 20 years of Mixmag magazines. Not to mention various t-shirts that are a medium size. Yes, I used to be a medium. About 10 years ago.
I’m not very good at throwing things away. I kind of think that I might have a use for it at some point in my future life – or I just don’t want to add things to landfill.
So I made a deal with myself – every time I buy something, I have to throw at least two things away. And mostly I’ve been managing to sell things on Ebay – even my Mixmag magazines sell, and I’ve made around £50 from selling them…well…less postage, packing, Ebay fees, Paypal fees…so probably £5 in net profit!
But at least I have a bit less clutter. And I am over my hoarding hill – I actively want to get rid of shit for my upcoming house move which will happen in 2021, honest.
Maybe one day I will be as minimal as my preferred music.
Been a great year so far, hasn’t it? Well, I’m trying to make the best of the situation that we’ve been granted and take what opportunities are available to me.
And things are changing in my life. Firstly – work.
We had an announcement a few weeks back that the team I work on, the product details page, was being disbanded. Project complete, and completed very successfully – one of the quickest loading product pages in retail (I think the quickest, but not entirely sure so don’t want to claim too much), much cleaner and more responsive than the old page and has directly led to higher revenue.
Of course, I did say a while back that my job was safe unless they disbanded my team, or the company went bankrupt. Well, it is thankfully still safe (though there are plenty of other jobs out there for software engineers) and I am being moved to the new “mission” team which is going to focus on recommendations.
I don’t know a lot about the mission – not much has been decided on yet. But basically we are going to be doing some hopefully rather clever data-focused stuff on the recommendations, which you see at the bottom of the product page. I probably couldn’t tell you even if I knew.
So this is quite exciting that I’ll have something new to contribute to and another string to my bow. I’ve set myself a target of being on a salary of at least 50% more in 2022, which I’d much prefer to achieve at M&S, but with their financial situation, who knows. I could probably already earn that elsewhere, let alone in another 18 months – the progress I’ve made at M&S as a software engineer is quite ridiculous. But so much more to learn.
I’ve decided against moving house for now. I still haven’t decided where in London to move, there is no longer any urgency as there is no threat of being forced back to the office until next year, and most importantly – there isn’t really any point now.
With 10pm curfews and Tier 2 restrictions, there isn’t much point in moving house for the purposes of improving my social life. My rent would go up at least £200 by moving to a more socially interesting area than Harrow, and with socialising on the backfoot, I might as well save that £200+ a month into my stocks and shares ISA.
Next year I’ll move. Honest.
My investments are my new drug at the moment (though I really need a couple of weeks off my main drug – booze), and I enjoy trying to challenge myself to invest in the best companies. I do make mistakes and it is frustrating at times – like nearly selling my shares in ASOS and then the next day they drop 15% after announcing much better profits than expected. Yeah, I don’t always get it. But I am outperforming the FTSE with my decisions.
I am still having some social fun too, despite the restrictions. I reckon I have one rule break allowed per senior politician’s rule break, though I’m not going to push it. I have my support bubble and maybe every couple of weeks I’ll meet one other person. From what I’ve seen, I doubt people will be following the rules to the letter, though it will certainly be a significant pullback of socialism (ahhh if only…socialising was what I meant to write), as I shall be doing also. The beat of the lockdown drum does seem to have slowed over the last week, though maybe that is because I was on holiday.
Oh yeah, I had a great time in Cornwall. You know there will be a blog about this coming up, to go on my travel page. It wasn’t quite an adventure through Japan. But Cornwall is super gorgeous and we had a great time – exactly what I needed.
In the context of April and May, the last couple of months have been rather fun. Nowhere near as much fun as late summer should be, and of course no autumn holiday like I usually have – trying to scrape the last of the sunshine and warmth from some semi-random location in Europe.
The fun started with a relaunch of my life at Blacklock. I mean, where else would you celebrate the end of pandemic? This was when I was totally refusing to go anywhere requiring a mask, so my sister even picked me up and dropped me home.
Next I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a family holiday – well, weekend away. First time back in pubs and it all felt strange, yet almost normal and definitely safe.
Roast dinners then came back – and they’ve all been at least pretty good, some very good. An afternoon and evening with my good friend, Martin, then my sister’s birthday weekend where I even braved the idea of hugs. I was almost starting to get back into life as normal.
Yet the drumbeat of lockdown has been approaching for a couple of weeks. There is no more evidence that pubs and restaurants have caused the recent spike than there is evidence that masks work, yet both a curfew and masks in pubs have been enforced to placate the “something must be done” crowd.
Sometimes I feel that the crisis has brought out the worst in people (I’m sure some think the same of me) – there is a real stasi mentality in many, so many people seem to get off by telling people what to do, telling people that they are to blame. There are thousands of geniuses out there suggesting that pubs are the reason for the spike, young people are evil, whatever…they know best and you are scum.
Too many people want to close pubs and restaurants, too many people even seem to want another lockdown. Fully 45% of people polled the other day thought that the restrictions didn’t go far enough. What do you want? Everyone to be as fucking miserable as you?
I think the restrictions already go too far. I know covid-19 is a nasty disease if you are very old or have significant existing health issues. Yet for most it is very mild, if noticeable at all, and we are sacrificing not only the livelihoods of millions across the country, the small businesses, the independent restaurants – plus the mental health and real physical health of so many. Just how many stories of people not going for cancer scans compared to normal years do we need until we realise?
It sounds harsh to say it, and maybe I am being a total arsehole here, but it is like we are destroying the economy to allow some 80 year olds to live a bit longer. That does sound very Toby Young, doesn’t it? But that is what it feels like.
Why can we not put greater efforts into shielding those most at risk and allow those almost definitely not at risk to carry on with their lives?
And it is always old people who figure highly in surveys of limiting young people’s lives – more old people wanted the curfew, more old people wanted to close pubs, more old people also wanted office workers to go back to the office when we were living through the “everything is fine now” period.
Don’t even start me on the (normally) old people who block housing applications so they don’t lose their view of the church spire 5 miles away, whilst hundreds of thousands are homeless because we don’t build enough homes.
We could even then get onto how the hell we are going to pay for all this. Unsurprisingly we are still in a period of everyone demanding that the government subsidise their life.
I have huge sympathy for those who are not able to do their job or those who cannot run their business. Yet if there was an event that destroyed all computers for 12 months, so I couldn’t do my job, I wouldn’t be expecting the government (ie taxpayers) to subsidise my lifestyle. Unemployment benefits, yes, help with rent, yes, but paying me not to work? No. I would go work in a warehouse or whatever, if I really had no choice. Or ideally take the opportunity to start a business up, and be a future employer.
We are all going to have to pay for this for decades from both reduced government spending and increased tax. And the closure of many good, independent restaurants, theatres, etc. Oh and listen to so much moaning from lefties about austerity for the next decades. Well hello – you wanted the lockdown. Granted I am moaning about said future moaning.
Obviously don’t even think of suggesting removing the pensioner’s triple lock where they get 2.5% increase in pension when inflation is only 0.2%. Our debt is currently £2.4tr. Your share, assuming you are a taxpayer is £66,507.
Are you cool with that debt hanging over you? Of course, interest rates are around 0% so it isn’t so scary right now. In fact, 5 year government bonds currently pay the government 0.1% to borrow from them. Yeah, weird. But that won’t last forever. Debt is still debt, it needs to be paid back (or refinanced), whatever the interest rate.
I don’t know. I think the frustration of the whole thing has just got to me. I didn’t support lockdown yet I didn’t blame the government for doing it – the pressure of the media and general hysteria meant they really had no choice. They were pretty miserable months, weren’t they?
And just after getting a semblance of fun and enjoyment back in my life, it is being taken away from me, bit by bit. I’m still going to go for a roast this Sunday, but I don’t feel like I want to go out any more.
It is roast dinner 150 so I’m hoping it will be special. I should be really looking forward to it. Yet I feel like I should really just be staying in for the next 6 months…I’m back to how I was in June when I simply didn’t want to go out any more. On the one hand I’m told that I’m evil if I don’t go out to support local businesses. On the other hand I’m told that I’m evil for going out.
Yet this week has been a bit fucking miserable and doomladen – many people seem to saying similar.
This is going to be one long winter, isn’t it?
There will be a spring though. Nothing lasts forever.
Those of you that have read my ramblings over the years will appreciate that my one major frustration, even more so than trying to get laid more than once a decade, is an inability to lose weight.
Previously, I had discovered two proven ways of losing weight:
Being on detox
I had settled into a groove of losing weight during the January to March period, and then putting on around twice as much over the next 9 months.
Not only was this not improving my sex life, but also it was having a negative impact on my health. And my levels of happiness.
I knew that I needed to reverse it, but I normally couldn’t make it through a Monday in the office without reaching 4,000 calories, and by Friday I was often consuming 5,000 calories or more – especially once beer was imbibed.
Yet last week, I recorded a weight under 100kg for the first time in 2 years.
How now brown cow that you are actually losing weight?
Last year I came to realise that I could only lose weight if I had at least two of time, energy and motivation. Commuting was the factor driving this – being forced to work from home full-time gave me the time and motivation to drive changes to my lifestyle.
No longer was I standing up for 45 minutes on the Metropolitan line, delayed, tired and frustrated – and going from a healthy eating mindset straight to the bacon sandwich shop. And then some chocolate.
No longer was I tired on a Friday, and consuming too much chocolate, cake and various other foods to keep me awake as my energy drains away from me.
Working from home means I can make good choices.
What are these choices?
So I’m pretty religiously having two walks a day, both first thing in the morning and straight after work. I’m doing around 8,000 steps a day. Maybe that will change when it starts pissing down with rain, but also I like rain so maybe it won’t.
Next, my breakfast consists normally of fruit and nuts. My veg box from Oddbox is flooding my kitchen with damn apples and I cannot eat enough of them.
Said veg box also provides me with lots of vegetables, believe it or not, and my lunchtime challenge is to work out what the hell I am going to do with an aubergine, cabbage or whatever needs using up. Invariably my lunch is actually vegan, but please don’t let that ruin your opinion of my carnivorous self.
I have also been eating more fish instead of meat, as fish is much lower in calories and often equally as delicious.
Finally a surprising entry and that is the Mask Stasi.
During lockdown when it was still safe to go to the supermarket, I often ended up buying baguette from Sainsburys in the morning, or chocolate/cake after work. As it is now too dangerous to go to the shop, and therefore I haven’t been to one since July, this is greatly helping me as normally I only have healthy food in the house – so I cannot easily eat unhealthy food on demand.
A thin and sexy future?
Well, I’m not sure I’ll become sexy any time soon.
I am only very slowly losing weight – I am enjoying alcohol at the weekend too much which is tempering my potential weight loss. I’m sure that if I could manage just one weekend without then I’d probably lose 1kg in a week – at the moment it is about 0.2kg a week.
Alas, I spend all week pretending that I’m not going to drink and then around 5pm on a Friday I change my mind. Hmmm. Well, there will be a 3 month detox come January as per normal.
I know that covid-19 has been shit for many people, and more superficially it has led me to lose my social life, have less fun and no holidays – in particular paying £572 for a flight to not to go to Japan. But inadvertently it has allowed me to make good decisions for the future.
Yes, I’m actually losing weight and I am confident that this will continue.
As long as I don’t get forced back into the office, anyway.
I’d like to thank my mum, the mask stasi, those people celebrating VE Day in May that are causing the second wave, Oddbox, my fridge, Lola, my employer for not being morons, Black Lives Matter, Piers Corbyn, Rishi Sunak, Romanian minimal techno producers and Prince Andrew. I couldn’t do it without you all. Mwah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My Bad Brownie box arrived. Which is in the fridge, ready to take home for the family this weekend.
Healthiest day for a little while, 1,760 calories, no cake, no chocolate, no bread and a reasonable amount of exercise – for my standards!
Had a phone call with one of my friends, Silvia, which was nice to speak to someone outside of my core group.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Oh. I’m still stuck in Harrow.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?