the lockdown log 30


Autumn has come, the leaves are falling heavily on the remnants of various Atlantic storm systems and it is generally wet and cold. Outside jobs are not much fun and neither is walking for exercise, but both are necessary, so how to motivate myself?

There is a serious issue here in trying to sustain the progress that I have made so far over the last year with the garden renovation and, since July, my weight loss. In terms of the former there is an element of burnout, but it is less critical in that I have the Winter to finish things off now. The weight loss program is more urgent and whilst I have lost a lot so far I know that there will be another plateau sometime soon and any slacking off will bring that on and/or make it worse.

At least I can deal with setbacks more often than not and if I do have a bad week with no weight loss, or worse a gain, I am sure that it will just drive me to regain my position over the next week.

The shed has finally arrived and is up. The picture below shows it as built and it has already been painted on the three sides that we can see, plus much of the interior. The back will get painted when I next get a couple of dry days, but before that I will put the shingles on the rear of the roof. The shed can then be pushed back into place against the fence and I can do the front shingles. The capping pieces are on order and will, hopefully, be here next week.

Time is my biggest resource issue at the moment. The days are getting shorter and there is a lot to squeeze in. When it is wet I will not run power out to the shed so am restricted to jobs that I can do with hand or battery tools. That is not too bad as the pressure is off and all I need to do is to make sure that I do a bit every day and weave into those jobs the annual stuff; I have over 100 bulbs to plant in the next three weeks or so for example, have leaves to clear, grass to cut and so on. It all helps to fill my days.

Over the course of writing this the sun has come out and the light makes everything seem more cheerful. I have a chicken roasting in the oven for dinner tonight though and there is the veg to go with it that need preparing and cooking. Any further outdoor activity will have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope that you are all well out there. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 29


Back to work this week after using up the last full week of my 2020 holiday allotment. I still have two air three days to take before the end of November, but my main holidays are done for the year and, with the Law of Sod in full swing, I got home from work on Monday to get a call to say that the long awaited shed will be here on Saturday.

This was the key to completing the back garden project and should have been erected back in July. The furlough period had seen demand for such buildings rocket and had also slowed production so that a simple garden shed could not be had for love nor money. The original delivery date was given as late August and so, allowing for problems, I booked the middle two weeks of September off to paint and build it. Delivery slipped to September 9th, then to October 8th and now October 17th.

I can, at least, now start to plot what happens next and do as much as I can with the loss of the long, light, evenings and the more clement weather that I had three months ago. No matter, others have far more insurmountable problems in their lives.

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the slow progress on my weight loss and the Berkshire Belle suggested that I make myself soup for lunch. We always have vegetables around and I do make us soup quite often when we have a surplus and so I began a soup only lunch programme. After about eight weeks of losing half a kilo a week I have lost 3 kg in a fortnight and am, in old money, 2 stone lighter that I was when I started this diet and exercise regime at the end of June.

I have also, this week, passed 200 miles walked (350 or so Km). My exercise walks also burn off, according to my App, about 2,500 to 3,000 calories a week. This is on top of whatever I burn off at work where I bang in between 5 and 8 miles a day five days a week. Less food in and more burned off; it is working for me. It helps that I am confident in the kitchen and can knock up a couple of day’s worth of soup at a time. It costs less than a quid a go and, so far, they have all been tasty.

I am fortunate in that I can, at times, invoke willpower. It does not always work, but in matters of health it does seem to kick in and help me out. It is not always easy to keep my head in the right place and I do have to distract myself a lot to avoid negative thinking, One of the things that is currently buzzing away in my mind is what do I do when I get down to a weight that is appropriate for my skeleton. Can I risk the odd treat or is it a bit like alcoholism and one Mars bar will ruin all of the good work? All I can hope for is that the willpower will still be there (or bloody mindedness) to stop any excess eating. Time will tell.

Stay safe wherever you are.

perception versus reality revisited


Perception is belief. How you see things is the truth as far as you are concerned and it will stay that way until something comes along that might change your mind. It is a trait that we humans will probably always have.

It is fine as long as we are open to new ideas and are prepared to be proved wrong. If we are not then we are bigots and that is one of the problems with society today; there are too many people who are not willing to have their beliefs challenged.

I grew up through a world of change, not just in what was happening in the post WW2 period, but also because we moved house every couple of years or so. By the time I left school in 1969 it was my fifth school in 12 years. That revolving cast of teachers and other adults that helped form me fell broadly into two groups. One group lectured me in their beliefs whilst the others gave me their opinion, but pushed me to think for myself.

That carried on into my working life where there were many people who were dogmatic about how things were or should be done, the “My way or the highway” type, but there were also the rarer people who would ask “Why” or “What happens if…” and these people were also open to allowing me to challenge their thinking.

I learnt that to be certain was a dangerous thing. Weigh up the available evidence and make your decision, but be prepared to explain why you had come to it and never be afraid to allow others, especially subordinates, to offer their thoughts.

Today in society it seems that informed debate is dead. Social media appears to dominate people’s thinking and if you do not line up with the way others see things you are wrong. In a time when people’s rights are trumpeted everywhere the fundamental right to free speech has been lost. Offence is taken freely, but the way that we react to something that we hear or read is our own choice; we do not have to take offence at anything and personally I don’t, no matter how abhorrent what has been written or said is to my beliefs.

Hatred is everywhere as opinions become more polarised and topics are dealt with at a purely superficial level and, sadly, it is at that slim veneer that people’s perceptions become fixed. What people today seem to believe is not critically thought out, it is based around sound bites on social media which is the last place to be looking for informed debate. Because people gravitate towards sources that support their way of thinking and so shut themselves off from anything that might balance their opinions.

There is no short term fix to this and eventually there will be a swing the other way. It may not be in my lifetime, but it will come. I hope that there is not too much damage done before it happens. There is an old adage that The Truth Will Out and one day we will get back to a place where there is more congruence between perception and reality than there is now.

the lockdown log 28


In all of my Far East working I became used to seeing large numbers of people, in fact the majority, wearing faces masks whilst out and about. That was because of air pollution rather that avoiding infection, but nevertheless I got used to it. I did not adopt a mask myself though.

Now it is something that we have to do here in the UK in many places and I have got used to doing it, so much so that I often forget to take it off when I have left the store and started out for home. At work I currently use a visor as a face protector. I know that these have been shown in studies (I did read a Swiss one) to be less effective than a mask, but I can wear a visor without steaming up my spectacles too much and that is important.

It seems now that the visor is to be banned bye my employer and that I will have to wear a mask at work. I will work it out if that happens; I wear one in certain circumstances at work anyway and have got better at avoiding condensation problems. I will do whatever I am asked to do.

I mentioned my exercise regime last week and how it has helped, but on Saturday I had a fall and have been left with a couple of nasty grazes and some sore places. This happened whilst walking, but at a point in time when I was contemplating starting to try a jog now and again. I was never a fam of jogging; it was either running or walking for me, but then I had problems with my knees and was told to give up running on tarmac.

In recent times running on any surface was out of the question due to my weight, but the newer, slightly slimline, me had thought that it might be worth trying now and again and, whilst full on running might have been not such a good idea; I am still about 25 kg heavier than when I last ran for exercise, seeing others out jogging was tempting me. Having had a fall I am not so sure for whilst my Saturday concrete kissing moment was fairly mild the previous one a couple of years ago left me with nasal injuriess that have, so far, beaten the medics.

The Berkshire Belle has now got a taste for going out and this week we have had a ride out to Devizes, a market town about 20 miles away. This used to be a fortnightly trip for us as there is a very good butcher in the town. Since the Covid-19 crisis began we have been ordering our meat on-line from him and having it delivered, but felt that a ride out to collect our meat supplies would be nice. We didn’t sample any of the other shops there this time, but a run in the cool sunshine across the downs and through the ancient stone circle at Avebury is always a pleasure.

And so another week has passed by. Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 27


It was a good week last week in that the medical reviews came in from my tests of the week before and it was all good news. I have another call due this week to discuss medication with the doctor, but there is apparently nothing to worry about and I just need to keep on doing hat I have been doing for the last three months.

That good news is due, primarily, to my new diet and I have lost over 10kg, or a stone and a half in old money. The secondary cause is having got into an exercise regime. I still walk between 5 and 10 miles a day at work, but that is at no real pace and adding in an exercise walk later on the day has been key to helping the diet. I am burning off anything up to 3000 calories a week from these relatively short walks and it has made a visible difference to add to the test results from assorted bodily fluids.

Good physical health is helping with mental health and I have recalled how mentally sharp I became back around the early eighties when I took top soccer refereeing and trained regularly. It helped me enourmously as I scrabbled up the greasy pole of management back then and whilst I do not need that sharpness now having my head in a better place is useful in these trying times.

The Berkshire Belle is much more relaxed about going out now having had about five trips to the shops over the last couple of weeks. She is still uncomfortable wearing a mask, but is getting used to it. Being able to look around a shop and just buy something that she likes the look of has done a lot for her own mental health even if it is only food shopping at the moment.

My garden projects have been disrupted by the rain and wind over the last week to so as much of what I need to do involves painting or using power tools. I have also been changing priorities as there is no longer any point in trying to get the back garden ready for sitting out in; we will not be doing that now for a few months and so I am shifting my attention to the list of Autumn jobs that need doing.

Sorry that this log is a few days late. As per my “Oops” post the original version of this is stuck in my tablet and will not some out. Never mind; fixing that is a job for a wet afternoon perhaps.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

on projects and slippage


I started a series of projects on home and garden back in January and, when lockdown hit us, these became something of a primary focus for me. I said at that point that I would hit my overall objectives in terms of time and money, but, as so often happens in professional life, things have changed.

Taking my personal goals as a microcosm of business workings I have seen a familiar progression in that now, around seventy percent of the ay through my personal programme, the needs have changed and so what I had planned on in therms of certain specific objectives are no longer necessary.

Part of the problem has been in delays from external suppliers; the new shed is still not here and is now four weeks behind schedule and the new greenhouse is unlikely to arrive before next Spring. Both of these issues are primarily due to Covid-19 firstly because demand for garden products shot up during lockdown and then because the production facilities were not working at capacity having had to deal with the impact of lockdown, social distancing and the like. These things happen.

Then there were the things that were uncovered as work progressed; the bae for the new shed required digging out of some significant root systems and even the had to be raised about 10cm. Clearance of waste was affected by Covid-19 restrictions and instead of a daily trip to the tip I could not go for about a month and then was restricted to two trips a month.

If I were to be sitting with an employer discussing how well I had performed in terms of meeting the objectives set nine months ago I would not be doing too well I suspect, but therein lies another story and one that I have visited here before. The bottom line is that the world changes around us and we need to be able to recognise that.

Looking at where I am now against where I was in January the difference is huge and whilst I have not sone some of what I set out to, because of external forces, we are in a much better place than we were at the start of the year. My main aim of having the deck sorted out so that we could enjoy some of the Summer sitting out has gone because Summer is past. That is a shame, but the bulk of the hard work is done and come next Spring it will al be there for us to enjoy.

In business we often become so focussed on getting to an objective that we miss the fact that we do not need to get to that place any more. Time and money are expended on things that have become obsolete or for which the immediate need has passed. Plans should always be flexible because, to quote the old military adage, no plan survives past first contact with the enemy. Your strategy may still be current, but the tactics have to adapt to what is going on around you.

Hang loose and take advantage of what you can do as long as it helps you prgress

Oops


I have just noticed that I am about three posts short here. For some reason those that I created on my iPad have not some through and, whilst they exist on that device, they show a marked reluctance to leave it for the wider world. Perhaps they are self isolating.

I will see if I can move them by other means than re-typing them, but please accept my apologies for this unexpected, and until now, unnoticed absence. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

the lockdown log 26


Well, here we are on a bright, if cold, Thursday morning six months on from my first Lockdown Log. How time flies, but we could be in for another six months yet if not longer.

I have had my first three month review since being diagnosed as Diabetic type 2 and the first results are OK. I get the rest of the news next week when the blood test data comes through. The only negative for me so far is that my knackered kidneys are showing a fractional potassium deficiency, but I have been there before and will get back on the daily bananas. My feet have been examined and found acceptable and I go for my eye assessment tomorrow, fortunately the centre is a ten minute walk away so I have no transport problems for getting home.

On the project front my new shed is not coming until next month according to the latest estimate. Not great news, but I have plans, F, G and H ready to deploy as necessary. Hopefully the rain will hold off today and I can get a decent day’s work done out there.

Somewhere in the timetable I will try and fit in another exercise walk. Since I restarted doing these at the end of June I have racked up just over 200 km (125 miles) and am going to try and double that by the end of the year. Next year I am going to go for 1000 km in the full year just in exercise walking (I also do over 10 km a day at work five days a week, but that doesn’t count). At the moment I am contemplating trying a 10 km exercise walk. Accepting that I do that easily in four hours whilst getting paid for it and that I have been told to stop power walking on tarmac because of aging joints I reckon that 10 km is going to take me over two hours and my real reluctance is in investing that amount of time. Watch this space…

The Berkshire Belle is over her fears of going out and we have made a couple more shopping trips plus one to the doctor’s for her ‘flu jab (I had mine when I went for my diabetic tests). She loathes wearing a mask like many do, but it is one of the things that we have to put up with. At least she is past that dread of going out and that has to be good.

Autumn seems to be upon us and I am trying to remember that there are various annual jobs that need to be plugged into my assorted projects. The gutters need maintenance, bulbs need planting, leaves need clearing up and the Hawthorn is dropping a large quantity of its fruit all over the front lawn just to list a few. All of this keeps me busy and stops me thinking too much about the bad things going on around in the world. Ignorance is bliss and I am happy to maintain my own degree of oblivion.

I hope that you are all doing as well as you can, so stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 25


This week we have had a red letter day in that the Berkshire Belle steeled herself and let me take her out shopping. Apart from an occasional potter around the front or back yard it was the first time that she had been out of the house since February.

Confidence is important and suddenly she has that back in spades and that, in turn, has done wonders for me. When you care about someone it can drag you down too when they are having problems and so I am really pleased that we have made a step forward.

The new shed is starting to assume mythical properties. It was supposed to arrive at the local supplier last week and then their carrier was going to call me with a date for getting it to me. So far I have not cashed it as it isn’t really that important; I have plenty of other things to do, but it is an irritant and poor customer service in terms of communication.

Another delivery related to the shed has arrived and I thought that I had two problems; one in terms of damaged goods and the other being the wrong size had been supplied. I contacted the supplier using the relevant page on their web site last Friday and got a response yesterday morning (Wednesday) asking for photos. As I stood by the item later in the day ready to photograph it my ‘phone rang; it was the supplier asking why I had not responded to their email. Fact checking showed that I did have the right item, but I had been mislead first by reading mm as cm and then by assuming that the quoted dimension was length as the items is used lengthways. Wrong; the dimension is the width and so I did have the right things, just not enough of them and I need to have another measure and a re-think.

These things are the drawback to on-line shopping in that You can’t see and feel the item before you buy, but in the current environment buying on-line has become our norm for so much. Today we are due six deliveries two of which have arrived; one from the butcher ad one from the greengrocer. The fishmonger’s parcel is about 15 minutes away as I write this and Amazon will be here with the rest anytime up until around 7pm.

Today is a special day in that we have been together for thirty one years. Not bad for what many who knew us assumed would be a six seek wonder. There will be no real celebration of this milestone though, just a Thai style fish curry for dinner tonight and, probably, no booze either. We are trying to stay healthy and squeeze in as many more years together as we can.

My weight still comes off. Half a kilo, half a kilo, half a kilo onwards to paraphrase Tennyson. At this rate it will take me to the end of this year to make the target of 108 kg, which is 17 stone in old money, that I set myself before I could have another bottle of beer. This week has not been a good one in dietary terms, but a lot of physical exercise has presumably helped offset that. Another target passed this week is that my exercise walks have totalled 100 miles since I started back at the end of June. Meanwhile there is a bottle of London Porter by the wine rack awaiting my loosing another six kilos.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 24


News that we can have gatherings of no more than six presents no problem here. Apart from tradespersons no-one has been near us for the duration and we are quite happy with that. The realisation that we are stuck with this plague for the Winter has struck the Berkshire Belle rather hard and she ended her birthday very upset.

I have been accepting that it would be at least next Spring before things might have a chance of getting better for a while now so, for me, not much has changed. Life is different and I have, and will continue to, try and adapt to it. I go to work five days out of seven, do the shopping and try to fill up the rest of my week with things that need doing along with things that don’t need doing other than to take my mind off everything else.

My lady and I have very different outlooks. My glass is always half full, hers half empty so we have a full glass between us and the fact that we recognise that somehow helps. Another key difference is that she has to know and will delve into things with a passion. I prefer the ostrich method and really don’t need to know until I am ready at which point I will do my own research, but I only do that when my head is in the right place to deal with what might be bad news.

One of the hard things at the moment is in dealing with each other and our respective moods that can change in seconds. You do this in any relationship, but in times like this when there is a considerable strain from an external source it gets hard. You are dealing with your own mental health as best as you can, but you cannot fail to be influenced by the people with whom you share your life.

Something that we both learned in trying to cope with our respective Mothers as they slipped into dementia was that you cannot expect logical thinking to work when dealing with people who are not rational. If you do you just exacerbate the problem that you are trying too solve. Things that work one day will not work the next (sometimes not even later the same day) and it can be like walking on eggshells in trying to be supportive.

Yesterday was one of those days when an anticipated threat failed to turn up and, despite assurances, we have been lied to. Today we have to try and resolve the problem and whilst, as experienced managers in the field concerned, we know exactly what should happen and what needs to be done to make that happen we have our doubts as to whether it will be resolved without much stress for us. Such things are of little import to many, but they are to us in the here and now.

Still, the sun is shining, we have food in the house for the weekend, I am another half kilo lighter than last week and I have my first exercise walk of the day logged (2.5k). I am already started on the day’s job list so let’s see how things go. It’s Friday so we can share half a bottle of wine tonight (saving the other half for tomorrow). A simple pleasure that will hopefully end a successful day.

My various project continue to progress. I wrote ion my Monday Musings blog the other day about the principle that the more you learn the less you know and the same thing goes for many DIY activities in that the more you do the more you have left to do. So many jobs that seem simple reveal other problems that need to go onto the list and then you get into trying to sequence these into everything else that you were planning.

Back in January when I started planning my major assault on the back garden I had no idea that were were going to get into a lockdown with all of the consequences that was to bring. I am a long way off on some of my objectives as I am still waiting for my new shed, but I am well ahead on some other things and have many other jobs completed early so overall things are not too bad. As long as I can keep up the ratio of good days to bad it will work out well. I am hoping for some good Autumn weather so that the last big job, sanding and repainting the deck, can by done before Winter sets in. There I am at the hands of Mother Nature.

Around and about my local supermarket has done away with their controlled access to the store and to the tills. There is the usual mix of people who observe social distancing and a few that do not as well as one or two that are not wearing masks correctly, but I do my best. I shop as often as possible at times when the stores are quiet and we order on-line as much as we can (as with the delivery above that failed yesterday). So far we have avoided the plague, but one of my niece’s and her partner were not so lucky. Fortunately they appear to have both recovered.

And so another week passes. Stay safe out there.