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the lockdown log 42


Another week flies by and the Monday Morning Quarterbacks are still at it, claiming too know best. My Dad and I dod not have a great relationship and some of the advice he gave me would have been better ignored, but one of his pearls of wisdom was not to argue with strangers or drunks. Of course fifty years ago we did not have social media and any arguing would be done face to face so the potential for a smack in the mouth was very real (and often deserved).

Here in my corner of North Wilsthire the Berkshire Belle and I await word of a place in the vaccination queue. She has a little age advantage over me being older and will probably get called first, but as she is staying at home and I am a front line worker she is very willing to give up her place in the line to me as it makes more sense, to her, for me to be done first and reduce the risk of me brining it home. Hopefully we can get her done soon and that I will not be too far behind even if it does not mean that we can relax our regime, stop wearing masks or remove any of the other measures that we take to avoid this plague. Just reducing the risk a bit will be a help.

I think that it is the lack of a light at the end of the tunnel that is the hardest thing to deal with. This time last year we had just booked our flights and accommodation for our Autumn holiday and were planning one or two days out each month for the time before we went. Not only did all of that vanish, but the thoughts that we had consoled ourselves with about the possibility of maybe getting away for a week in May this year have also gone for now. We might not get away this year either and, at our age, are considering whether our days of the long haul holiday are passed. The fact that we are lucky to be able to have such a break when others can’t afford to is no consolation.

Our holidays are something that we have enjoyed over the time that we have been together and do us good. We are happier when we are off on these jaunts and they help re-charge our batteries so not getting one last year was a blow and the realisation that we might not get another is depressing. The time of year does not help either and whilst I have plenty off things to occupy my mind and divert the negative thoughts my lady is not so fortunate and tends to dwell on the negative. Hope is at the heart of spiritual wellbeing and she is struggling at the moment.

I have not been able to ruthlessly pursue my diet this last week as we keep finding things that need eating or throwing away. We chose the former course and so my weight is sticking at the moment. Better to stay the same than gain, but it is a little frustrating, I have not walked today, but have about 120 km in the book so far this year so I am getting the exercise. I just need to reduce the calorific intake a bit more and I should start to prune some more weight off, but my planned target of being back down to 104 kg by the end of January seems to be out of reach for now unless I do something drastic.

I have managed some time in the garden just keeping up with general seasonal maintenance. The are quite a few bulbs starting to show through and we should soon have a few in flower so that will cheer me a little. We have also seen a few garden birds about again; a wren has been active outside the window as I write this, clambering through the jasmine looking for insects. Many of our shrubs are showing new buds ready for the coming warmer weather and I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of last year’s work.

Stay safe weever you are.

on well meant hypocrisy


One of my female business acquaintances recently berated me for being the only one of her social media contacts not to forward on something that she posted about the plight of young girls in certain countries around the world. My failure to support her cause had obviously upset her, but I have strong feelings myself about issues like this and, whilst they trouble me, it is not for the same reason as my friend.

The lady concerned is a fervent Remainer and a self-confessed Leftie who has been very vocal about the British Imperial past whereby we, in her view, oppressed those whose countries we colonised by trying to, amongst other things, convert them to our religion and customs. She is also very critical of the way that we treat immigrants to the UK in not wanting them to bring their customs here; we should instead embrace them as what they bring enriches our society.

Both points are all very well, but I feel that there is some hypocrisy here in that her cause for young girls around the world is surely an example of us trying to “civilise” people in another country. Yes taking child brides and FGM are abhorrent to our society, but what right have we to tell someone else that their customs are wrong? To me it is one of the things that we used to do as a colonial power and if you think that we were wrong then how can you agree that it right to do it now?

Effectively the message is that other cultures are to be embraced, but not in their entirety. When I put this to my friend she could not see the conflict in her stance and that saddens me. I am not certain that I am right, but it seems to me to be wrong to go to another country and try to change their way of life. By the same standard here we have laws and standards and people who come to live in this country should abide by them.

For me it is one thing for the United Nations to decide that it is necessary to send in a force to stop, for example, genocide in another country, but it is entirely another thing to have private organisations, no matter how well meaning, trying to convert people in other countries to our way of thinking. It suggests that we hold ourselves better than them and I think that is wrong. In fact I see it as nothing less than one strand of white supremacist thinking.

I have no doubt that my friend and those who think like her have the right motives at heart. They do not mean to be hypocrites, but I think that they are. Maybe I am wrong on this and I leave it to you to make up your own minds. One of my more controversial posts, but It has been nagging at me since my friend brought it up, so there it is.

the lockdown log 41


The thought occurred to me as I tried to get to sleep on New Year’s Eve that Covid-19 might be the millennium bug, just that It was twenty years late. Certainly the levels of stupidity being displayed over the 2020 plague have their parallels in that of the later months of 1999, it’s just that we did not have social media to spread nonsense with back then.

When Last weighed myself I was 105 kg, 1kg up on the previous week, and my plan was to relax the diet over Christmas and New Year then to get back to 104 kg, my lowest weight so far, by the end of January. Last Friday I got the scales out again and weighed in at 106.5 kg which is a bit less than I expected. I have not binged during my time off, but I have not had my regular after lunch and that seems to be an integral part of me losing weight. So I have just 2.5 kg to lose in the next four weeks.

I am going to have to balance the post prandial exercise with getting back into the garden. I have lost all of the momentum from last year and need to start again. Neither the exercise walks nor the outside jobs are any great pleasure at this time of year and I will need to find some motivation instead of, as I am now, sitting on the sofa writing this, and other, blogs or watching TV. Last year, prior to Covid, I had started my projects off by making an effort to clear out the bedroom that I use as an office. Most of that initial clear out has been undone by the need to find room to store various things and so what I might do to kick start myself is to resume work there. It is, any least, in the warm and if I can finally sort that room out it will give me some satisfaction which, in turn, might be a catalyst to get me going again on the outdoor work.

Pepper soup

This time of year is soup weather and I am going to get back to knocking up my own as I was through much of the Autumn. The one pictured was a pepper soup made from white and yellow peppers that cam in my fortnightly veg box. With half an onion, a couple of garlic cloves and the last few cherry tomatoes. The dark swirl is balsamic glaze just to give an extra bite. In today’s box I have a massive cauliflower so there will be half of that going to make soup for early next week, I make about 2 day’s worth of soup in each batch and it is a good way of using up veg that I’m not going to be able to use with main meals. A bowl of soup for lunch when the heating is not on is very welcome.

We have placed our first order of the year for plants. We began to buy these on-line last year when there first lockdown mucked up our normal garden centre explorations and have started early this year. We have a range of herbs and veg coming over the period late February to late May and the earlier arrivals give me an incentive to get the old shed broken down and the new greenhouse put up. Some of the bulbs planted last year are starting to shoot and I always look forward to the start of the bulb season in Spring as portent of better weather to come.

I would like t be all fired up to get the jobs in motion and to get the weight off, but I’m not. So I have a bit of a battle on to both get some jobs done and to lose 2.5 kg, preferably 3 in just over two weeks. If I can get my head into the right place I will do both. Watch this space…

Meanwhile stay dafe wherever you are and I hope that 2021 brings you better times.

on blogging


I know that I am no longer very consistent in blogging here. I would like to get back to the days when I would write exactly 600 words to go out at 0600 every Monday, but my life now is very different to the one that I had back then.

Early in my blogging I was a road warrior and frequent business traveller. There would be time on trains and ‘planes (and waiting for them) to rough out blog posts and time in hotel rooms to polish them. Even whilst driving I could, if nothing else, capture Ideas for I used to have a voice activated digital recorder on a lanyard around my neck. I started using it when I first had a hands free ‘phone kit in my company car and could not always be relied upon to remember exactly what someone had told or asked me. Having the digital recorder was a help later in the day and I soon came to use it for recording ideas. It also captured my occasional thoughts on other motorists…

So I would have all of these ideas, many based on something that had happened that day and could be caught whilst fresh and then developed. Initially I wrote blogs as individual stories that were as long as they took; one might be 450 words and the next over 1000. It was a chance encounter in an airport that changed things for me and developed my approach as a writer.

I will call my mentor Janice for the sake on anonymity. She saw what I was writing one day and struck up a conversation that led to her following my Monday Musings and she contacted me later to suggest that I set a word count and tried to develop my blogs to fit it exactly. She gave me a framework to write to and encouraged me a lot. Through her tutelage I began to write things with a tight focus and the challenge of sharing a sentence here and a word there to get to the 600 word target was one that I began to enjoy. Janice died less than a year after we met, but I tried to keep up her standards for some time.

Later I became a professional writer in that I began to be paid for regular magazine features. I had written a few features and short pieces going back to the late seventies, but had stopped when I was not paid by two publishers, one of whom not only used my words, but also my photos. That soured my interest in writing for publication until I was approached for an article. That commission was used and paid for and led to a series followed by another series and for nearly three years I had an article out every month. Carefully reading what appeared in print against what I had submitted gave me a lot of respect for the skill of a good editor in making small and subtle changes to enhance what appeared on the pages.

The Summer of 2016 marked a turning point for me professionally and changed my lifestyle considerably. No longer did I have the periods on solitude to capture ideas nor the lonely periods in hotel rooms where I could work those ideas up into blog posts, each carefully sculpted to an exact length. The magazine for which I had been writing closed down and that took away one of the disciplines too; there is nothing like writing to a publishing deadline to focus the mind and a personal target is no substitute.

It is rare now for me to be in the position where I have had seven or eight weeks worth of blogs written and scheduled here. I did manage it briefly last Spring, but then personal projects took over my time and I lost impetus again. Can I get it back? I don’t know, but I do like to write and it is something that I want to try and get back into.

Thank you to those who have followed me so far. I hope that I can maintain your interest.

the lockdown log 40


It’s the last day of 2020, but just another day to me as will be tomorrow. The whole New Year’s Eve thing has long been an irrelevance to me and I blame that on my Mother’s obsession with it and its rituals. I shall; be in bed by around 10pm as usual and one of the advantages of being slightly deaf is that I can put my good ear to the pillow and not be disturbed by an revellers. Sadly my cats do not share my disadvantage and will be off to hide under the sofa.

Anyway, most folks will no doubt be glad to see the back of this year and will be hoping for a better one to come. I hope that we get it and am looking forward to the opportunity for the Berkshire Belle and I to get our Covid-19 vaccinations. As she is a little older than me she is a couple of levels ahead in terms of priority, but I am still classed as type 2 diabetic and th]at might advance my cause; I shall wait and see.

My diet will resume next week and so will my exercise programme. I am up to 1066 km so far and may add to that today. It is my regular day off and I have tomorrow off too so run the risk of another two days of couch potato lifestyle. It is cold out and not expected to get above freezing today, but I might try and get at least a couple of km into the books to round out the year. I have been looking for a virtual Lands end to John O’Groats (or vice versa) challenge and did find one yesterday, but it has to be completed by the end of March and that would require about 90 miles a week which is beyond me. I should be able to do it over a year though and am setting my sights on hitting the distance required even if I can’t do it through any recognised way.

I will weigh myself tomorrow morning to see what the damage is from the last two weeks, but will not resume the diet until Monday. I am not exactly going mad with eating because I recognise the health issues, but am not applying the rigid discipline that I have had in force since the end of June. We do eat well to try and stay healthy; most of our dinners are cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients and we try to get a decent amount of fruit and veg into our systems. Tonight I am trying something new in the shape of a Paella. I have not cooked one before and so I am not sure how it will turn out, but seafood, rice and veg are all things that I am familiar with cooking and so I am sure that it will turn out well.

So that’s it for the last lockdown log of 2020. Here in Swindon we have been promoted to Tier 4 so the Berkshire Belle will be staying at home, I will go to work and shop on my way back and we will await our vaccination appointments. In keeping with my “just another day” policy there will be no New Year resolutions and I will just play it a day at a time and home that we get through.

Stay safe wherever you are and I hope that, if you are making New Year wishes or resolutions that they all work out for you.

on leaving the EU


So it looks as though we are finally out of the EU and that pleases me up to a point, but this is not a time for celebration for me. Yes we have finally ended our membership of the EU, but the real work is just beginning. The important thing now is to use the opportunity that freedom from EU regulations gives us.

When people talk about the costs of EU membership they rarely account for the cost of compliance that we all bear as part of what we consume and that affect us all in our daily lives. The effect of complying with the EU’s labyrinthian rule book will take time to undo and whilst we still need compliance in terms of what we want to sell into the EU there are still opportunities for us. A good place to start is in public procurement.

The procurement regulations that we have been subject to are a supplier’s charter. They provide no real benefit to the public purse, often just the opposite and the illusion of driving down price through ensuring competition usually results in a mechanical process followed by rote. Hopefully we can replace the current process with something that allows freedom for buyers to make best use of the market.

There has been a lot of nonsense talked about us losing our biggest market. The EU is not our biggest market for everything, but we have not lost it; we will just be dealing with it on different terms (as will it with us) and I think that various significant commercial interests have lobbied hard to get the politicians to wake up and forget the dogma. Trade with other European Union countries will continue despite a change in customs status, but we can now work with the other markets that we buy and sell through on terms that suit us.

Whether it was right or wrong to leave the EU is no longer relevant. Yes it had some good things, but it also had many that were wrong, the European Council for one, and now we need to grasp the opportunity to move on or the last four years will have been wasted.

the lockdown log 39


It now looks inevotable that this lock will go past 52 weeks now. I had a feeling back at the start that it might take more than a year to get things at least under control and get no satisfaction from probably being right. At least with a vaccination now available we have a chance on moving on.

Boxing Day today and a day off for me, the middle one of three days and I am taking advantage of the break to do as little as possible, especially as I worked oil Thursday when I would normally have been off. My diet has been abandoned for a couple of weeks and I am spending much of this leisure time reading. I still get up at 5 am as my body clock is attuned to it and so get a couple or three hours to myself to spend as I like.

I am also relaxing my exercise regime for a few days as I passed the 1020 km target on Christmas Eve with a 13 km effort. Next year IU should be able to double that and will be starting the year with that target on my mind. I am sure to have gained little weight during this break (I am not weighing myself until the first Friday in January), but a return to the diet and resuming exercise should get me back on track.

Something else that I am taking a break from over the holiday is social media. I try hard not to rise to the bait, but the EU exit agreement brought out the wqorst of the Remain camp with some very puerile comment and I duo not want to block people just because I do not agree with them. Instead I just take a break from their assault on my timelines: The ostrich approach again.

It has not all been slacking off though for on Christmas Eve I did my corporation tax return and annual report and accounts, all on-line through the HMRC web site. This is a relatively easy process now and I applaud the advances that have been made. It is about 15 years since I fired my accountant and started doing these things myself and it has got progressively easier as the systems have been improved. On Thursday it took me less than an hour from start to finish including pulling the required figures together from my Excel spreadsheet into a format that suited the input requirements and sequence.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">I did not get the usual email acknowledgements to my submissions and initially thought that not might be due to the proximity of the holidays plus Covid-19 effects on staffing, but it dawned on me today that I had not had any other emails into my business address for a couple of days. On checking I had been subjected to one of those occasional spam attacks and my mailbox was full so today I have had to do some complex file editing on line to undo the logjam and things are now working again.I did not get the usual email acknowledgements to my submissions and initially thought that not might be due to the proximity of the holidays plus Covid-19 effects on staffing, but it dawned on me today that I had not had any other emails into my business address for a couple of days. On checking I had been subjected to one of those occasional spam attacks and my mailbox was full so today I have had to do some complex file editing on line to undo the logjam and things are now working again.

Out in the garden I have had a walk around to make sure that everything isa secure ready for the high winds that are forecast. The first of the two water butts on the new shed is almost full to the connecting tube with the second butt and so, with the heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, I should be well on the way to having both butts full and available for when the watering season starts.There are some bulbs showing shoots above the ground already and some of the new leaves on shrubs are starting to burst early. I hope that we do not have to severe a Winter now.

I hope that you have all had a successful Christmas, if you celebrate it, and are all safe and sound. See you agin next week.

the lockdown log 38


My usual Thursday scribble here was put off as I had a day out down in Shoreham to visit an airline simulator for a couple of hours playing with a virtual Boeing 737-800. This was a belated birthday present and had to be fitted in around various issues with the lockdown and travel restrictions plus those that apply to the leisure sector.

Nearly three hours driving each way plus an intensive couple of hours concentrating on flying 70 odd tons of aeroplane mostly manually took up my whole day and I was too knackered by the time that I got home to be able to focus on this blog so it has had to be put off until today.

The sun is shining and I had planned to get an exercise walk in this morning, but I am making soda bread and we have number one daughter on the ‘phone from Down Under too so maybe I will get out later. I am well on track to beat the 1020 km target by the end of December, but I would like to get at least a couple of km in today. As it is the holiday season I have given up on the diet for a couple of weeks, relaxed my eating regime a little and am avoiding the scales. Normal service will resume in January.

The news continues to frustrate me, especially the desire to blame the government for all ills. IOt is the people who are causing the problem here by mixing too much and unless the government introduce draconian penalties they will not behave. Perhaps putting troops on the streets with orders to shoot on sight might do the trick…

Similarly Brextit: Why is it our fault that the EU do not understand what out means? We are leaving and that means that they should have no control over us. It is that alone that is at the centre of the problem regardless of how they dress it up. What with that intransigence and the Remain camp trying to put a spoke in at every opportunity it is no wonder that things have dragged on.

In health terms all is well here with us. Possibly the mask wearing whilst out and much hand sanitising has helped in avoiding catching anything else as well. We had out ‘flu jabs a while back now just in case and will welcome the chance of a Covid jab when they become available to us. Vaccination is the only way that we can beat this thing and get back to some semblance of what we used to have. I doubt whether we will ever get back to the way that we were because change is constantly happening. The last ten months have seen much change in, for example, shopping habits and accelerated the death of the High Street.

Christmas is almost upon us and this time next week it will all be over. As usual for us we have no decorations up beyond the rows of cards from friends (there are a couple of Christmas robin ornaments, but they stay out all year because we like them). No-one will visit and we will stay put here. Any contact with the outside world will be by ‘phone or Skype and that suits us. There is food in the ‘fridge, freezer and larder and we have some booze too so we will be happy with just us and the cats.

We know that others would prefer to have larger gatherings. They will do what they think right and we hope that, if they do gather, that no harm will come to them from it. Other than that, as always, stay safe out there wherever you are.

on personal motivation


Last week I was musing on teams, but the question of what motivates the leader is always worth considering, especially when the leader is you. Just like everyone else leaders have bad days, even bad weeks, but have to hide that from the troops as best as they can because the rot will spread. Whatever is going on inside the world needs to see a positive attitude.

One of the hardest things that a leader has to face up to and find a way to conquer is fear. There is no getting away from it; everyone will be afraid at some point and failure is probably the biggest cause of fear. It is important here to look at failure from two perspectives; failures through a mistake, making the wrong call or whatever, is something that you should embrace because you can learn from these things. There may be bad consequences, but you still can look at why you made the wrong decision and do better next time.

The other form of failure comes from where you fail to act, to not do something that you knew needed doing, but just let it slide. The fear then move to the consequences and, let’s be honest, if you pull this one then you deserve what you get. You ought to learn from this too though, the lesson being that, as the leader, you have to face whatever the job throws at you. The old adage of if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen was never more apt.

Motivation for a leader may come from material things; car, money, fringe benefits, power and the like. At the core should always be a desire to do the best that you can though and to improve all the while. Managing fear will come though all of that and one driver will be your ambition.

Looking back I don’t know where my ambition came from and it certainly rarely ever seemed to have any focus. As a small boy I wanted to be a coach driver; it seemed wonderful to me to be able to take people on trips that gave such pleasure whilst also getting to drive what I thought were the most wonderful vehicles. That faded to be replaced by becoming a pilot and that looked, briefly, as though there might have been a chance, but it didn’t work out. By then I had begun to experience the careers advice offered at school and had decided that I wanted to be a manager. I had no idea as to what they did, but going to work in a suit, having a nice car, an office and a secretary all seemed attractive.

Others had the same idea about me as I later came to understand and worked hard on developing me in that direction. I was an organiser in my teens and was given responsibility at school that I did not understand the significance of for many years. It was only when I was into the development of others that I started to understand some of the opportunities that I had wasted, or at least not fully grasped, in my younger days.

Eventually I made it, going all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. The two things that seemed to drive me, and that I thrived on, was having responsibility and influence. They were my motivators even if it did take me time to recognise their influence. But I think that underpinning all motivating factors is that you need to be hungry for success and to do what you need to to earn it.

I did, at times specialise at work. I have four professional qualifications in IT, Purchasing Facilities Management and Logistics each of which was acquired when I was specialising in those areas, but the common thread was that I was a decent organiser, or manager, and got things done. I established a reputation through project delivery, but was equally successful at routine operations and still regard myself as a generalist rather than a specialist.

For me I was fortunate in that I had a lot of training along the way. The opportunities to learn were always grasped with both hands right from my first school days and I still, aged 68, will grab any opportunity to try something new that comes my way. How you motivate yourself is something that you must find. Don’t sweat it too much, but do try and see if you can understand what makes you tick and channel it to you advantage.

the lockdown log 37


Another dank and grey day in Swindon. As much as I like the seasons days like this are not easy. It is my day off as usual and, having done the weekly shop this morning I have elected not to go for an exercise walk this afternoon.

Apart from perishables we are all shopped out for Christmas. There will be a few bits to buy Christmas week, but we are done and dusted. There are only the two of us plus the cats and it isn’t hard to get organised. We have not enjoyed shopping expeditions on the run in to Christmas in the years that we have been together and so lockdown does not make a huge amount of difference in that sense; it will be a quiet few days together and we have some nice things to eat and drink. Although there may be a few things that we want, but can’t have, there is nothing that we need.

We are both encouraged by news of a Covid-19 vaccine and are awaiting the summons from our surgery to call us in. We understand that it will be next year now, but we are ready and waiting. Hopefully vaccination will get us through the current dangers and allow the world to open up to some degree. I cannot understand the violent objections that some are raising to both vaccination and the probability that certificates will be required for travel. In my business travel days there were some countries where a vaccination certificate was a requirement in order too get a visa to travel there so what is the problem with one for Covid?

On the diet front I am experimenting with eating a little more to see what I can get away with without putting too much back on. I want to be able to enjoy a few fruits that I have forbidden myself over the last 6 months and am willing to take around a 1 kg increase for now. Slacking off from an exercise walk this afternoon is also part of seeing what impact that has. I tried on a couple of my sports jackets this morning and both could be re-tailored into double breasted there is so much surplus material now. Earlier this year I got rid of everything that I could find that I could not get into. Into the clothing bank went several suits, jackets and trousers including at least two pairs of pants that still had the tags on. All of those charity donations would fit me now…

We have acquired a Revitive foot machine as recommended by Ian Botham and others. So far it is only me who is using it, but the early results are good and I believe that it is helping me. It feels a bit weird, but half an hour a day has helped my knees feel better and I have not had that slightly leaden feeling from my legs so I am encouraged and will connote to use it. It is working under my feet as I type this blog.

I have been working on the garden some more over the last week. My bulb planting is all done and the basics of the guttering and water butts on the new shed is done and working. I need to tidy up the overflow a little at some point, but I am now harvesting rain water again. I have four water butts in all; two slimlines to take the flow off the shed roof and two full sized ones to collect off the garage roof. My garden priorities have changed again with the arrival of the greenhouse that was not supposed to be here until April or May next year. The kit is in five packages that I need to go through to find the assembly instructions so that I can keep them safe and dry ready for the time when I can start to build it. That will have to wait until the old shed has been dismantled and disposed of and that has now become my main priority.

I still have more to do than I have hours in the day to complete and so I have little time to feel sorry for myself or dwell on news from around the world. That suits me.

Until next week then, and stay safe wherever you are.