On-hold


It’s another crisp, blue-skied morning. Today is my rostered day off, and without meetings to attend, I was out the door by 9.30 for my morning walk. On the way, I stopped for a takeaway coffee and a loaf of sourdough. I continued on for my walk, over the railway line, and this time walking down towards the beach at Sandringham before turning around to head back towards home. That’s when I bumped into Mrs Cheese out walking the dog.

We stopped to talk for 6-7 minutes. I hadn’t seen her since the lockdown began, and I was surprised to find how much I welcomed the chance to have a meaningful conversation again with someone face to face. Thinking about it there has been bugger all I’ve done that with over the last few months – her hubby, on our weekly walks, and a couple of times when I’ve run into acquaintances around the shops. She invited me over for dinner tomorrow night, so even better.

Being Friday, I’m left to do my own thing, and it means I try and achieve something on the day. One by one, I’ve been going through the rooms of my house, sorting them out – cleaning, tidying, sorting, and throwing things out. I’ve done the kitchen and bedroom, the lounge and bathroom. The study was the first room I started on but, like a lot of homes I reckon, the study is my junk room and has twice as much to work on. I’ve done about half – the other half comes today.

Otherwise, I aim to do some writing this afternoon. And right now I’m trying to chase up the rent relief that hadn’t come through yet – probably a futile quest as I was disconnected when I got down to fourth in queue, and now can’t even get onto the queue (the phone rings out).

I was thinking the other day that while I’m enjoying working from home, there’s a sense of not really going anywhere. That’s true in a literal sense, and it makes it real in a metaphorical sense also because there are no reference points to suggest movement. I can decry the soulless experience of the commuter catching the same train to and from work every day, but at least there is a sense of something happening because you transition from one location to another. Add to that the people you come into contact with and the chance encounters along the way, and you tend to overlook that nothing’s really happening. You’re so busy doing that it’s not a thing – not until you stop to think about it.

Right now, all I’m doing is working at my desk at home, going for my walks, shopping, cooking, etc., and catching up with Cheeseboy each week. That’ll change soon when the restaurants and cafes open proper, but that’s how it’s been for the last few months. I quite enjoy the base elements, but I miss the social aspects we’ve been denied. It’s a phony, slightly unreal period (did I say slightly?), and there’s a sense of being between things. Life is on hold.

I’ve experienced this before, and I hated it. Looking back, I still feel bitter at the wasted years when I was either unemployed or homeless and all the things that were denied to me then. It was worse then because I experienced it alone. Everyone else was living their life, but all I could do was look on. That was 5-6 years of my life, and it came at a time when I was set to change things up – so the narrative I tell myself goes. I was ready to settle down, fall in love, etc., but that’s probably a tale I understand in retrospect. Regardless, once I hit the iceberg, none of that was an option, not even ordinary life. I don’t think I’ve returned yet to anything like normal as I knew it, and probably won’t now.

It’s easier now, but while we’ll soon come out of lockdown a lot of things will have changed. It’s going to be a while until international travel is in full swing again. Back in the day, back ‘before’, an overseas trip every year was one way of convincing myself that there were movement and progression in my life. I was lucky like that, and the absence of that has bit hard in recent years. I haven’t been away since 2013. Except for a few days down Wye River, I haven’t had a holiday since then.

I can cop things being on hold if I know it’ll pass. I’ve endured it before. And this will pass, and there’ll probably come a time we look back with bemusement. It just reminds me though, that it’s high time I got back to living more fully. Time passes, and the trick is to make it meaningful. That’s the challenge.

 

Seasons passing


We’ve had some wintry blasts and the rainfall so far this year is at near-record levels (more than all of last year), but right now the weather is near perfect. The nights are clear and cold, and the chill persists into mid-morning. By then the sun is brightly shining in a sky almost bereft of cloud. It warms up slowly but becomes very pleasant. It’s a pleasure to go out in such serene weather. I’d happily settle for this 300 days of the year.

It’s funny to think that winter is less than two weeks away – though the weekend before last was cold and wet and I was so uninspired, so lethargic, that all I did was lay on the couch and watch Netflix.

I was more productive the weekend just gone. Friday was my designated day off, and its quickly becoming my favourite day of the week. Come Thursday night I feel released, though work is hardly a trial at the moment. I sleep in Friday morning and read. When I get up finally I set myself to do things – cook, clean, do some sorting out. Basically, achieve something. Every Friday I’ve ticked something more off the list, generally listening to Spotify or one of my audiobooks.

Though weekends are theoretically different now, they feel pretty much the same for me, and I’m generally doing the same as I would if I was in the office Monday to Friday. The only difference is that most Saturday’s I go for a long walk with Cheeseboy and the dogs down by the beach. Otherwise, I do the normal stuff – a bit of grocery shopping, a kitchen clean, maybe some cooking, and in the afternoon I’ll write. On Sunday I’ll cook myself breakfast, though avoiding the programs I used to watch about politics and sport. Once more, I’ll end up writing. Late afternoon I’ll put my virtual pen down and run a hot bath and shampoo my hair.

Like many others, I’ve left my hair go in lockdown. My last hair cut was in February. My hair is undoubtedly thick now, and growing to a bohemian length. I’m just passing through the awkward, in-between stage, and it should soon look a lot better. I don’t plan to get it cut until I have to, and then maybe not even then. I like having long hair, and I’m figuring I might adopt a summer-short hair/winter-long hair cycle.

I’ve been shaving every 8-10 days throughout this period, but am considering letting that grow out too. What counts against it is the itchy stage, and the fact it looks so fucking grey. Maybe I’ll get it coloured?

Regardless, I have time to make my mind up. Though restrictions are easing, it was confirmed this morning that we won’t be going back to work until July at the soonest. Even then, it won’t be all back.

I’m in no hurry to get back into the office, but I’m hanging out for a social beer.

 

My way


In lieu of all the overtime I did in preparation for lockdown, I’ve taken off today and tomorrow. I’m probably due a day or two on top of that, but this’ll likely do it.

It’s another cool day slowly weeping rain. We went for our walk before, Rigby and me. It was colder than I thought. The streets were quiet and damp. I came across a mother with her son walking their dog and exchanged a good morning. We did the loop, the chill setting in despite the activity, before making it home to a warm house.

I’ve fired up Spotify and made a cup of tea. I caught up on my emails and the news. I’ve mapped out this week’s menu – less meat this week than last: jollof rice, a roasted carrot and tomato spaghetti recipe, a Balinese curry, and maybe a French recipe come the weekend cooking chicken in milk. Lunch today is leftover soup (roasted carrot and parsnip) and dinner the leftover chicken dish from last night, which was delicious – a spicy, Indian inspired tomato and coriander chicken dish.

(For those interested in these things – few, I admit, though I’m one of them – I keep a database of recipes I’m constantly adding to. I cook, and I rate them, adding notes about how I might it improve it next time. Most of the recipes I make are new recipes because I like to try things. Anything with a rating 4 or above is a keeper. It’s a tough kitchen).

What I don’t miss this morning are the online meetings. I chafe at routine at the best of times, especially meaningless routine, but it’s gone to a new level in lockdown. I understand, there’s an inclination to make up for working apart by creating an artificial structure, which includes these meetings. And I understand that some will welcome it because they need it. I don’t. I would handle it better if the meetings were more spontaneous, but these are locked in and repetitive, same time every day. There’s a lot of earnest try-hard in the inspiration and conduct of these meetings, and I tune out 80% of the time. I just want to get back to doing the work.

But today and tomorrow I don’t need to deal with that. What I’ll do is return to my writing. It’s a good antidote to work because it drives everything else out of your head when you’re doing it. It can be exhausting, but it cleanses your mind of things that might otherwise longer.

I’ll stay in the warmth and perhaps later I’ll spend an hour reading. I’ll treat the mind. At some point, I’ll have to treat other parts of me, but that’ll have to wait.

For the record, despite a recent spate of infections, I expect we’ll be back in the office, more or less, by this time next month.

Restoration


Except to pick up the newspaper from the driveway, I didn’t walk out the front door yesterday. It was a quiet, indulgent day, and exactly what I needed. I put the heating on and lay on the couch and watched TV.

It blew outside, and sometimes it rained and throughout it was cool. There comes a time every year when the seasons change. That’s usually around Easter, but Easter is later this year, and the change has come regardless, I think. There’ll still be warm days, just as there were chilly days before, but the balance has tilted the other way. I don’t mind. It’s fine to be cooped up inside when it’s wintry without.

It did have a cosy feel yesterday. I watched an old footy match and most of a couple of movies before, mid-afternoon, I got into bed, fully clothed. I read for a while with an eclectic soundtrack streaming in the background. I grew tired and set my book aside. I closed my eyes and to the sounds of the Four Seasons, as vibrantly re-composed by Max Richter, I fell into a nap.

All of this was just what I needed. I was so weary, but with it, I felt a little off, as sometimes you will when you’re so tired. Out of sorts, I guess, my physic uncalibrated. My strength replenished itself as the day went on. By late afternoon I felt notably better than I did on waking up. Today, much restored, I am better again.

I finished the day watching a rerun of Se7en and later in bed reading again, before plunging into sleep.

I plan to take it quietly again today, but I’ve already been out to give Rigby the walk he missed out on yesterday. The wind is high in the trees. It reminds of the way surf sounds. The sky is low with clouds, and there’s no-one about.

I want to consolidate the gains I made yesterday, but I also plan to be a little more active today. I’ll cook a moussaka later. I need to bottle the tomato sauce I made. I’ll clear out my study a little more and, if I can manage it by myself, will move the filing cabinet to the garage and bring in my bike. I have a kit to turn it into a stationary bike, handy in times like these. And I expect the delivery of a new office chair later.

There’s work again tomorrow, but I hope and think the peak has passed for me. I sense around me in the meetings I have and what I read on social media that people are working, but mixing it with other things. I think that’s natural, but while I’ve set myself tasks every day, I complete them in my own time pretty much. I’ve been diligent, and have been working 9 hour days through this. Maybe I can begin to ease back. Once BAU returns, it’ll be a lot simpler – and Easter, not that it means much, is less than a week away.

In control


It’s just after 5pm, and I’ve knocked off after what feels like another busy, but productive, day working from home.

As it has been the last few, it’s a pretty day. The sky is blue, the temperature mild. Streets are quiet too, but then that’s the new normal.

It’s too early to say if I’ve formed a new set of routines, but it feels quite comfortable and seamless. Much of the routine is set for me. Every morning I have scheduled team meetings at 9.30 and 10.15 via Teams to catch-up on what’s going on. Today there was a much broader online catch-up at 10.30 for the whole department. I was on mute throughout as I didn’t need or want to say anything. It came as a distraction to me, and as I listened, I continued to work.

What becomes clear in times like these are the different ways people operate. It’s been said that extroverts will struggle in this current environment, and I can hear it in the too enthusiastic contributions to these meetings. I get nothing out of that. In fact, to be honest, I find it mildly irritating. There’s a lot of frivolity and mucking up, much more so than normal. These are abnormal times though, so it’s permitted and I turn a blind ear to it.

There was a clamour at the end of the meeting to make it a weekly thing. If today is anything to go by, there’s not much meat on the bone, but it’s not about that. It’s about contact and connection, and probably a lot of things I wrote about yesterday. The everyday routines are slipping away, and in times like this – for many – a meeting such as this is like clinging to a bit of wreckage in the sea after the ship has sunk beneath them.

I’m self-motivated, self-directed, self-sufficient. I draw from the inside, not externally, which paints me as a typical introvert. I prefer to be independent and do my own thing. Working from home presents no great challenge to me as I don’t need to be led or told (and prefer not to be). It works well for me now, and probably will continue to, but it’s something I need to be wary of.

My instinctive reaction today was typical. I get nothing out of what seems to be an artificial frisson, but then I’m the man who’ll do go it alone even against the best advice. I don’t like being needful or dependent or entangled, but it’s meant that when I should have asked for help in the past, I never did. That was a mistake, and something I need to be better at in general.

Today I got plenty of exercise, and perhaps I have those routines in place. This morning I went for a walk up to and behind the shopping centre, and to Hampton station. I climbed the stairs of the overpass and returned the way I came, just to make it a bit more strenuous. This afternoon I took Rigby for a walk in the sunshine. As it stands, I’ve completed a bit over 7,000 steps today.

I’ve also made a big pot of tomato sauce, and dinner is in the oven. Tomorrow I plan to make myself an omelette for breakfast before my first meeting. I feel in control.

 

Day two


Now that I’m working from home for God knows how long I’m facing the same challenges as thousands of others having to suddenly adapt to it.

I’ve done it before, and once FT when I had my own business, so not a huge stretch – though all the stuff around it is very different.

I’ve often found it much more productive working from home. There are not the distractions or interruptions of the office. You won’t waste time going up and down in the office (I race between floors), nor the general pointlessness of meetings. You work to your own natural rhythm. I generally start early-ish, then might drift off to have a shower or breakfast. Often times, I find myself to caught up in work that I look up and find hours have gone by. I’m always having lunch late. And sometimes I’ll work in the evening also, dipping in and out.

I’ve got my home office sorted after taking delivery of another monitor yesterday. I’ve got a Surface Pro, which is nice and portable, but not ideal for heavy-duty working – I’ve got it hooked up to two monitors in the office. Here I’ve got the one.

I think it’s important to create a routine in situations like this and to make an effort to remain active. I wake at the same time as I would if I was going to work. Instead of showering and getting dressed I make myself a coffee and check the important email from overnight, and respond as needed – I’m working if an offshore team. I’ll head back to bed for about an hour then catching up on news and social media, and maybe a chapter of the book I’m reading (currently, James: Varieties of Religious Experience).

I have online meetings first thing, but after that, I make an effort to go up the road to get a take-away coffee, while I still can. I’ve set myself goals in terms of activity, and won’t walk out the front door until I’ve had at least a thousand paces under my belt. I’ve got a bunch of exercise rituals I’ll tick off through the day, and I’ve committed to a minimum of 6,000 paces daily – at work, it’s nearer to 10,000, and around 13,000 more recently.

Here there are no stairs to climb, no place to roam come lunch, nobody to see – I’m not allowed. I go for my morning walk, and I walk Rigby in the afternoon or evening.

I plan to take a break around 4pm to do some cooking – a rice pudding, today. Tomorrow I’m making zucchini and feta fritters. For dinner tonight I’m having a homemade pizza. I also have a bunch of ironing to do around 5.30.

I’ll do a bit of work after that, have my dinner, and maybe I’ll have a hot tub after that. I was severely fatigued up to this morning, but some good rest has had a restorative effect. I still fancy in a bathful of radox tonight.

I’m umming and ahhing over my appearance. I dress casually through the day, naturally. But the haircut I had booked for Saturday has been cancelled, and it might be a while until I get my next one. I might go long then.

I’ve carried a beard since Christmas, but I thought I might shave it off in lockdown, which sounds counter-intuitive. It’s a close-cut beard that makes me look rugged – very much like a Viking. It also makes me look about ten years older because it’s predominantly grey, with pale sandy blonde bits. I like the beard, but I like seeming younger, too.

This is day two. I reckon there’s probably another month of this at least, and possibly much more. Whatever I do now will evolve into something more, as will the situation itself. I have a job now, am busy, but as the situation deteriorates – as we all know it will – what will come?

The old cliche, one day at a time.

Easing the weary


One of my aims this holiday period is to recharge my batteries. There have been times this year I’ve felt very weary, both in mind and body. It’s no real surprise I feel fatigued. I haven’t had a real break for years. The best I’ve done is a week here or there when I don’t stray from home. And, besides everything else, there’s been the ongoing struggle, which is wearing in itself.

I’ve had a pretty lazy time since Christmas. I had to do things leading into it – people to see, things to do, a book to write. For the last few days, I’ve taken it down a notch. Yesterday I watched the cricket all day sitting on the couch. I managed to scan a whole heap of old photos to my Google albums while doing that. I’ve been reading in-between times, and going to bed early, and eating more sensibly. It’s all good, except I feel crap.

The fact is I’m sleeping poorly. The quality of my sleep is down, and I seem incapable of sleeping in – no matter that I have all the time in the world. To make things worse, I’m waking up aching and sore. My right shoulder is a knot of tender muscle, and my hip is so twisted that I can barely walk straight. I think the verdict is I need a new bed. One day. In the meantime, maybe a massage.

It’s pretty normal at this time of year to reflect on where you’ve been and to look ahead to where you want to get to. That’s me, too. I’ve got a bunch of headline aspirations, but it’s all subject to my state of mind.

The thing is, it’s hard to get too adventurous when you’re feeling crap, and it’s time I did something about it. Time isn’t an issue – I’ve got about seven weeks of annual leave clocked up – but money is. The reason I’ve got so much leave is that I didn’t want to waste it doing nothing, so I never took it. One day, I would think, when I have money again, I can take a proper holiday.

There’s merit in the idea, except I may never get to go on holiday again at this rate. At the same time, there’s a serious discount on the benefit when all you do on your time off is lounge around the house. Particularly when it’s this house.

This is the conundrum. I’ve soldiered on and got a lot done just by hanging in there, but I don’t think I can take it much further until body and mind are refreshed. But how?

I still have another week off and it may be I ease into to it better than I’ve done thus far. Otherwise, I’m actually thinking about going back to work early, just so I don’t waste the days.

I’ll worry about all the other things I want to get done when I feel better. All I have right now to make myself better are good habits and attitude. To that extent, I’m further refining my diet – more veggies – and cutting down on the booze. And get some regular exercise in the mix. These are things I can do – and so it’s salad for the next few days (once the Christmas leftovers are gone!).