2020 weeknotes 27-28

The world continues to spin unrelentingly, and we carry on.

Working from home continues to… work? And I have popped into the office for a few hours once a week. It is a little eerie still, but the office has a had a deep clean, and the idea that we can start to trickle back in is a reassuring one as the human / in-person element of our workplace has been lacking a little.

We are realising that, despite being good at communicating through various channels, it is so helpful to just occupy the same space and overhear things, as well as to just quickly pop and ask someone an informal question, rather than having write an email, or time a phonecall.

One lovely and unexpected thing I found waiting for me at work was an invitation back to Germany for the launch of an exhibition that we have been helping with. It’s in September which simultaneously feels too soon to consider travelling, and yet also just far enough away to seem entirely doable. I’d be delighted to go back. I’ll need to organise myself fairly soon if I do intend to go.


The weather has been a bit more mixed, but I have tried to continue with my running.

A few weeks ago I saw that my watch battery had died. As usual, I hadn’t bought a particularly expeensive watch, and so when it came to sourcing a replacement battery, the watch – which I quite liked – was a bit worn out, and not built to last, and the strap was quite worn, so I decided to just replace it outright.

My thoughts turned to other analogue watches, and I remembered the Withings Move watch which has an analogue face, along with an ‘activity’ dial which shows how close you are to your daily step goal.

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It also serves as an always-on activity tracker, including sleep. One other neat touch is that, although it has no GPS built-in, you can start GPS-tracked acitivities on the watch by pressing the crown, which sends a command to your phone to start tracking, meaning you can leave it in your bag/pocket/running belt.

It’s a neat product and the minimalist design appealed to me, as did the fact that although it is basically an activity tracker, it has no way of charging it – the standard watch battery is meant to last 18 months or so.

A few weeks later and I realised that although I liked it as a watch, and the connected GPS tracking worked well (the watch hands return to 12 o’clock when you start an activity and begin a timer so you can check the time of your run, if not your distance), the Withings Move was ultimately not for me.

Primarily, although I love the simplicity of the activity dial it actually doesn’t help me do much. Cleverly, your daily step goal can be set in the app, so the dial is always a percentage rather than fixed at say 10,000 steps. But… meeting a daily step goal is – currently – not something I am struggling with. For someone who might need a visual nudge to get them there – particularly if sat at a desk all day – this is a great little addition to your lifestyle as it gives a subtle hint to crack your daily steps.

Next, although I prefer an analogue watch, I do also like it to have the date displayed, which the Withings Move does not. It would be great if it could (and I think there is a more expensive model with a small display built in which could do this? But I prefer the simplicity of an analogue-only face with no displays – or a full display).

Overall, the Withings app and the device itself are great and I love that they exist – they just didn’t quite fulfil what I was hoping they would. But I’m very glad to have been able to give it a go and return it so easily. I’d been aware of the Withings analogue style watches for years, and the Move is now about sixty quid and briefly went down to forty quid, which is when I snapped this up. That’s a bargain. It’s just not quite the product I need right now.

What did I replace it with? Well, and this contradicts much of what I said above, I’ve gone with a Garmin Forerunner 35 instead. More on that in future when I’ve had a good few weeks with it. But so far things are looking good.

 


I shot and developed a new roll of film in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s recently too. I’ve been really impressed with the results, and I want to continue in the swing of using this camera. It’s a little on the large side, but it’s a delight to use, and the results I get from it – particularly using black and white film – are always really compelling.

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I’ll put up another post here shortly with some more detail on the camera, the film, and the whole process, but the images themsevles are already online at the new photography section of this website. I spoke a little about why I’ve (re) added a photography page to the site in this post.


The garden continues to flourish. Our sunflowers are mostly growing thick and strong, but the brief high winds and heavy rain we’ve had have made them droop a little, so a little TLC has been necessary.

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The robin still returns frequently to the window-mounted feeder. I have had to remove other sources of food as we spotted an adult mouse recently, and then a baby, on the floor looking around for food.

The baby looked ridiculously cute. All huge ears and bright eyes and tiny body. But… a mouse is a mouse, and we don’t want to encourage mice to move in. The areas they explored are perilously close to the door/window which in summer we need to have open quite a lot.

I don’t think the mice will last. One evening when looking out of the window just before bedtime, I spotted a new visitor to the garden: a black and white cat. It had positioned itself in a hunting pose, tucked into a hidden corner, overlooking the exact space I had seen the mouse earlier that day. So I expect the circle of life will continue to spin and – hopefully – the mice will either move on to other pastures, or they will be ruthlessly dispatched by forces more primal and direct.

As I write, it has been three days since I last saw the mouse, so maybe they have already moved on…


We went to the pub on Saturday night for the first time since… well, at least March.

We met M’s friends Jess and Robbie in the park for some drinks and a catch up as the sun set. Spent a nice time there as the chaos of the park on a Saturday evening happened all around us.

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As it got cooler, Jess suggested we try the pub just next to the park. I was initially reticent, and as a group we decided to just see how it felt. But when we got there it seemed pretty empty so we went in. It was, on the face of it, a nice experience: a drink, a chat and catch-up with friends, and plenty of space. But in the world of Covid – and a pub in Brent – the pub exhibited next to none of the guidelines we had expected to see.

The only real concession to such guidelines was some markings on the floor, a few hand sanitiser stations, and some perspex screens at the bar. But you still ordered your drinks at the bar (though we sat in the dining room and were given table service later), and none of our details were taken.

I had thought the logging of visitors’ details was a crucial part of this whole reopening, but the guidelines actually seem to say this is only a suggested activity. There seems very little that places actually have to do. It is mostly left up to the individual organisations, and ultimately up to the customers themselves. Which is lovely and liberal, but also kind of horrifying.

It is now so difficult to know what one can do – what it is right for one to do – and what should be avoided. One topic of conversation was having these decisions being made by each individual, as well as the selective reading and listening one can do when it comes to which rules or habits one wishes to continue to follow. I keep finding myself surprised that shops and galleries are open. And yet I have yet to wear a mask in a public place, partly because – thus far – no one has said I have to. That may change soon, and we have picked up a stock of them, just in case.

The dining tables had disposable paper mats, but also slightly less disposable plastic ones. Possibly they will be disposed of between meals – but we sat and had drinks there so I don’t imagine the table would have been cleared in the same way. None of the staff wore masks.

It was a weird experience for so many reasons. I had glimmers of “Cor, I am drinking a Pint! In a Pub!” But these were shortlived and mostly I was slightly preoccupied with other concerns.

It will take a while – a long, long while – to get back to feelings of normality around any activities like this. And to get comfortable with booking trips and so on. As mentioned above, I would really like to get to Germany in September. I will go by train if I do go – flying is such a bore, even in the before times – and I think train travel will be alright even if it does mean masking up for most of a day. It really is a very enjoyable way to to get into and around Europe.

Speaking of travel, we have booked a little tour of Cornwall for August which will involve bikes and trains and camping. This, again, feels about as early as such a trip would be possible and/or enjoyable. It will inevitably push the boundaries of what feels normal, but we felt it better to bite the bullet and give such a trip a go, and aside from sharing some campsite facilities and using the train, it is mostly a very self-sufficient means of travel and accomodation.

We will see in four weeks’ time what ‘the world’ looks like, and if our trip can go ahead. I feel cautiously optimistic at this stage.