30th April 2020


Not feeling so great today – sneezing lots, sore throat and headache, and feeling tired – some kind of infection I think. I had to take some time off work to have a rest this afternoon. I did manage to bake some bread, but not much else.

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My new bread in my new bread bag!

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This evening we treated ourselves to a pizza delivery from NYC Pizza (a new delivery we hadn’t tried before – it was OK but I prefer Basement Browns.)

Kids both had music lessons (keyboard for B, drums for F) which seemed to go well – and the new iPad stand worked really well!

Apart from that just feeling really tired, so going to go to bed now.

Stay safe, stay strong.

29th April 2020

  • Feeling: OK
  • Listening to: Pentatonix
  • Watching: The Great British Sewing Bee

Thought I woke up reasonably early (well – before 8!) this morning, but D had been up long enough for the cup of tea she’d made me to be only luke warm.

The kids did some cooking today – bacon sandwiches for lunch and then B made macaroni cheese for tea (with a little help from me). Wednesday is a busy work day for me so didn’t see as much of everyone else today, especially during the afternoon, but F did some school work (although with less enthusiasm today) and B seems to have settled into a reasonable rhythm with his school work and is getting on with things and keeping on top of everything as far as we can tell.

Both D and I got deliveries today relating to our respective obsessions (I can’t have enough electronic bits and pieces, and she can’t have enough stationery). I also got what I assume will be my last birthday present of the year – a linen bread basket/keeper from M, L, B & Z – I just need to bake some bread to put in it (so I’ve just mixed up some sourdough starter now – I’ll bake tomorrow).

There was also a delivery for the kids today – we ordered a new swing & climbing set for the library garden (as the swing we have is really a bit tired and too small for both of them). I’m know F will love it and I hope it will be big enough for B as well. I think it might have to wait until the weekend to put it up though (although not sure F can wait that long).

In the evening choir for me and D & the kids did a quiz with some of the family on Zoom – although our kids are obviously hard quiz masters since the top score was 16 out of 30! After the quiz finished both the kids got a bit upset (for no real reason as far as we could make out) – I guess just the excitement combined with disappointment when it finished perhaps tinged with sadness at not seeing their cousins, aunts and uncles in real life. F got upset again later when it was time to sleep and worked herself into a real state taking ages to get to sleep 🙁

Polly Faber and Clara Vuillamy’s stories about Mango and Bambang (a little girl and her tapir) have long been a favourite in our house and a few days ago Polly Faber published a special “lockdown” story about the characters on her website. F was inspired to draw some illustrations and Polly added them into the story which is lovely.

Stay safe, stay strong.

28th April 2020

  • Feeling: Tired
  • Listening to: Pentatonix
  • Watching: Hawaii 5-0

Went to sleep around 2am, so very tired this morning. Got up at about 9am, B was stressing that he wasn’t up yet and claimed he absolutely had to be “at school” by 9:15. Happily he did eventually calm down – although not until he was actually working. I’m ashamed to say I was pretty grumpy all round, and perhaps especially with B, in the morning due to tiredness and that having a knock-on effect on my own work.

Both kids seemed to have a pretty good day school work-wise, and B had to watch an Alice in Wonderland adaptation (the Tim Burton film) for Drama, which F was very happy to watch with him. F did some great writing (with a bit of moral support and encouragement from us) for her English, and did some drumming practice very happily (which doesn’t always happen even though she loves drumming).

One of the excitements of lockdown is when we get deliveries – and I seem to be ordering enough things that this is a regular, if not quite daily, occurrence. This morning’s treat was an iPad stand (well, actually a microphone stand with an iPad adapter) which I’m hoping will be the solution to having the iPad in a good position while the kids have drumming/piano lessons.

B and F go to “Explore Learning” which is an English and Maths tutoring company which have centres in various places – including our local Sainabury’s. Since their centres are all closed at the moment they’ve been doing one-to-one online sessions with the kids (1 hour a week) and these have been very successful with the kids. D and I had a “parents consultation” with one of the Explore staff today to have an update on how things were going with B & F. They are both doing really well, and working rapidly through materials – so the tutors want to move them onto more challenging materials which we are happy to see happen. Its always nice to get good feedback on the kids and how they are doing, and also to be reminded how great B & F are (which is too easy to overlook when you are dealing with day-to-day dramas and stress).

Since I cut back the hedge we’ve been able to see the birds perching, mating and collecting nesting materials really clearly from the kitchen window. At the weekend D had a plan to setup her phone to film them, and I managed to get it setup so it was concealed in the hedge. We got 90 minutes of footage, and I went through looking for some good “action shots”, and today edited the video down. The clip here is one of my favourites of a blue-tit just perched in the top right of the picture.

The kids have been watching lots of “comfort” TV over the last few weeks – re-watching (for the third time) the really great “Avatar: Last Airbender” cartoon series, and yesterday evening we watched the last episode in the new BBC Malory Towers adaptation which has been a gentle ride although with genuine emotion and tension in each episode. F is already asking if they are going to make a second series – so definite approval there.

And now time for a Parks and Recreation episode before bed – comfort TV for D and me.

Stay safe, stay strong.

27th April 2020


It’s been a sad day. It was my aunt’s funeral today, and of course I couldn’t be there. Instead I sat and listened to the music that was to be played and remembered her. The music choices were beautiful and fitting, and I found Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 and this rendition of Crossing the Bar by the Longest Johns particularly moving and left me in tears.

I spoke to ____ this evening, but we had difficulty lifting ourselves out of our stress about the general situation, our concern about how long it will last and what our lives will be like over the next weeks, months and years, probably not helped by our respective grief.

The rest of the day was work mainly. I think the day went reasonably well, and feel we are getting a bit better at knowing how to react when F gets fed up or frustrated (and when I say ‘we’ I mean all of us including F).

I baked some soda bread, and tried my latest batch of kiwi & gin jam – which I rather over “jammed” so it’s more like a kiwi caramel than jam!

Singing usually helps me cheer up, so I decided to record the latest song I’ve been working on. I love this song, so I hope I’ve done it justice.

Stay safe, stay strong.

27th April 2020

  • Feeling: More relaxed
  • Listening to: Nothing today
  • Watching: Van der Valk

Going to try to keep this short. A pretty relaxed day as I determined not to stress myself out with a list of things to do. I made bread (focaccia – but far too wet and not my best effort – but tasted fine all the same), jam (kiwi & gin) and broke down a pallet that we had a delivery on in the hope that at some point I might make something out of the wood.

I did some more electronics with B and some programming – we got the light dependent resistor working and connected to the Raspberry Pi – so a step closer to my project to integrate this with my wooden guitar player automaton.

F played in the garden and on the computer and watched Hairspray in the afternoon.

I helped D conceal her phone in the hedge so that she could film the birds (hopefully some footage forthcoming).

I failed to read my book (which was about the one thing I’d wanted to do), but did manage to finish the arrangement for my latest looping project – so hopefully I’ll be able to record that in the next few days.

In the evening B and F FaceTimed with their US cousins, and F got to say thank you for the very smart laptop case she got from them for her birthday.

All in all a successful Sunday, but now its Monday (twenty past midnight) and I need some sleep.

Stay safe, stay strong.

25th April 2020

  • Feeling: Restless and cooped up
  • Listening to: Catatonia
  • Watching: Knives Out

Its been a slightly unsatisfactory day. I’ve been a bit out of sorts all day, and I think others have been have well – F certainly seemed to be (maybe picking up on my mood) and maybe D.

We had a nice laid back start to the day. I woke at the same time as D and so managed to make a cup of tea for her for once (scant repayment for the cup she makes me pretty much every other day). We got up slowly and after we’d had breakfast, and I had coffee, I worked with the kids on a little project with a Raspberry Pi – this is a mini computer (a footprint slightly larger than a credit card) and can be used to control electronics. I’d originally intended to use it to add some fun interactivity to the wooden automaton I got for my birthday, but I’d encountered some problems so I decided to take it back to basics and do a simple project to just turn an LED on and off. The kids were interested in helping, so we worked on it together, wiring up the very simple circuit, connecting it up to the Raspberry Pi and copying a programme to turn it on & off – and then playing around with extending the program to do other things.

F especially enjoyed modifying the program and with help from me and B got it to do a countdown with the light switching on and off more and more rapidly as it reached the zero – and then printing ‘blast off to the moon’ on the screen!

After we’d got this working (which also told me that my earlier problems trying to get the Pi working were not due to defective hardware – so one potential issue ruled out) I wanted to tackle trying to breakdown the branches I removed from the hedge into small, bits that I could stack and so regain the bottom end of the garden. Unfortunately this didn’t go to plan.

I got my big electric mitre saw out thinking I’d go through the wood really quickly, but after only cutting a few branches, I somehow managed to blow the extension cable and, not having a spare, the whole project ground to a halt. This left me in a pretty bad mood – not sure why I let it upset me so much, but sometimes these things do. Later I worked out the problem was the fuse in the extension cable plug – so a simple fix (except I don’t have any 10amp fuses in the house, so have had to order some).

After lunch (throughout which I maintained my bad news), I joined a virtual session from Seb, our choir musical director, about how he records the guide tracks for us to practice from (we were originally meant to have a choir rehearsal today in advance of our now cancelled concert next weekend). I found it really interesting and it me geek out and be a bit jealous of his setup and mastery of various software packages – but it was quite long and I’d been on the ‘seb-inar’ for over 2 hours when F and B fell out and decided I better see if I could help rather than leaving it to D (who was out in the garden drawing).

We decided we should all get out of the house and went for a short walk in the local park. F cheered up a bit, but still wasn’t in the best of moods. She told me she was frustrated with not being able to go anywhere or do anything. I asked her what she where she’d go if we could go anywhere – and she said she’d go to a shop and buy “wires and electronics and metal and stuff to make things”. It turns out she wants to build a robot.

I know F misses being able to play in the park and so I’m wondering if we can do anything in the garden to give her something to play on (we only have a very old and battered swing which really is far too small for both F and B now).

After the walk the kids both did some music practice, and I browsed online and ended up ordering a random selection of electronics and accessories for the Raspberry Pi, a pack of 10amp fuses (for the extension cord) and a billhook (which I’m hoping might offer a manual alternative for breaking down the hedge trimmings). I also looked at (but have so far resisted) more audio kit for my computer (because I was jealous of Seb’s setup – but then he’s a professional musician while I just potter around occasionally with recording myself) and buying a huge playground set for the garden (they are quite expensive!)

As we got tea ready the kids watched some videos of the Mischief Theatre cast (of the “The play that goes wrong”) watching back and commenting on episodes of their recent BBC series (The Goes Wrong Show). We were meant to see their latest show (Magic goes wrong) for Fs birthday and all loved The Goes Wrong Show, so it was nice to see them talking about it (“like Gogglebox but more interesting” said B).

After tea we had the weekly choir quiz organised by C, and then bedtime – which didn’t go completely smoothly with F being alternatively obstinate and sweet, but not going to sleep.

Finally D and I sat down and watched Knives Out on the big screen – which we really enjoyed. I finally opened and sampled the whisky that D got me for my birthday – and very nice it was too. The colour is a deep amber, and its very smooth with a subtle woody/smoky finish.

I don’t feel I made the best use of today – I wanted to make bread, jam, get the wood chopped, and generally “get stuff done” – and I failed at all that. I did enjoy doing the project with the kids in the morning, and didn’t have a terrible day overall – I think maybe I worry about time wasted at the weekend because work dominates the week so much. I need to find a better way of balancing this, and also making sure I enjoy the things that do go well and don’t let the setbacks dominate my mood.

But ending the day safe, with a good film and a nice glass of whisky (or two), with D next to me is a pretty solid win – I’ll take that and try to be in a better headspace tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay strong x

24th April 2020

  • Feeling: TGIF
  • Listening to: Nothing today
  • Watching: Parks and Recreation

I woke even later today, and only managed to get downstairs by ten to nine, by which time everyone else was already up, although the kids hadn’t had breakfast. After I’d had breakfast and two lots of coffee I had the last session in my online course to deliver – although I didn’t get much else done in the morning.

The kids both had good days with F doing a lot of reading, writing a poem about sheep in a play park based on a video of sheep playing on a roundabout, did some school work and watched the Rotten Roman movie for the second time in two days (which happily links into her school work!). B got on with his school work with minimal fuss covering Geography, English and getting a head start on some Art for next week.

D had her 6 month probation meeting for work (which went well), did her Davina exercise video and encouraged B to make a cake – which he did. It was a recipe which used biscuits, milk and baking powder to make the cake – so good if you have no proper ingredients to hand. Then you cover the whole thing in chocolate ganache – so perhaps the base doesn’t matter so much!

I’d mentioned during our virtual choir rehearsal & social on Wednesday that we were finding it hard to keep F occupied with school work. Liz, one of the choir members and a teacher, recently (before the pandemic) set up a business offering online learning for kids (Mrs C Teaches Me), and she offered to do a session with F and they had their first session today and it was a great success. F really enjoyed it and afterwards was all smiles and chat about it – it was really nice to see her enjoying herself. You can find resources from Liz / Mrs C on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook – especially lots of KS1 resources if you have young children.

F finished the day with more reading “Three pickled herrings” by Sally Gardner (reading it well after she was meant to be asleep).

After a trip to the supermarket, and then a glass of wine this evening I’m completely exhausted and glad its Saturday tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay strong.

23rd April 2020


Woke a little earlier this morning, but not much. Found it difficult to get going for work today and hadn’t really achieved much by 10am (D points out that this is normal because Wednesday is such a busy work day for me I tend to find Thursday a struggle).

I did manage to move myself to work at the kitchen/dining table today which F seemed to really appreciate. She did some great work this morning – she is always amazing me with how she uses words in her writing – she just seems to have a natural flair for the poetic both in terms of imagery and in rhetorical devices like repetition and alliteration.

B got on with his work quite happily again and seems to be OK and not overly stressed about work right now which is good. I think the school and teachers are starting to adjust to how they need to set work and how they can do so in such a way that supports the children having a regular timetable of lessons like they would at school.

Both B & F had virtual music lessons as well today – B on piano & F on drums. Bs lesson seemed to go well, although he really needs to practice more – but he knows this and suggested after the lesson that if we feel he needs a break from the screen at any point we should tell him to go and do some piano practice (not sure he’ll actually do this but it shows willing and awareness!)

We’ve been holding back on getting F going with these lessons because she’d seemed to find some of the online lessons & activities difficult to deal with. However, we talked to her earlier in the week to see if she’d be up for these lessons and she was keen. As it turned out – she did find it quite difficult and got quite upset during the lesson – but she kept going with a bit of help, and got through the lesson in the end. She can get very upset with herself when she feels she’s making mistakes but she never lets that get the better of her or show in a face-to-face situation – but with the online lessons somehow her usual coping mechanisms or defences just don’t seem to kick in. Ultimately if she can push through it maybe this will be something that turns into a strength – but it’s hard to see her get so upset when she is doing so well and really doesn’t need to.

Heard from L in Chicago that their lockdown has been extended to at least the end of May now – and I have to admit I can’t see it being any different here – and suspect that’s how it has to be if we are going to keep the situation under some level of control. It’s also very sobering to hear about the need for social distancing to be in place for a long time even after the lockdown measures are relaxed – it’s going to be a very strange world for some time yet.

On a more positive note, another lovely day outside, and a slower work-day meant I got to have lunch outside with everyone – which was very nice. Later in the day F and I played out in the garden with a Star Wars beach-ball – until it got a huge hole in the side. I cooked the kids their favourite spaghetti bolognese for tea and F wanted to eat in the garden, but we haven’t really got anywhere set up for this (I’d originally wanted to put some decking at the back of the house but I never managed to get to it – perhaps it should go on the projects list!)

Cutting the hedge back has either encouraged the birds in the garden or just made it easier to see them, and we’ve all been watching them fly around the garden, collecting material for nests, as well as offer educational opportunities for the kids as they demonstrate the “birds” bit of “the birds and the bees” outside the kitchen window!

I tried to organise the new plants in the pond today – but at the moment it just looks like a really muddy puddle. I hope that the mud will settle and it will look a bit more attractive as the plants establish themselves. D is really the gardener in the house and thanks to her we’ve got some lovely flowers coming now.


Finally got some lovely looking bags of coffee beans from E and family as a late birthday present – can’t wait to try them!

Stay safe, stay caffeinated, stay strong.

22nd April 2020

  • Feeling: OK-to-good
  • Listening to: Smoke on the Water
  • Watching: Nothing today

I woke even later this morning and didn’t get out of bed until around 8:30. B was also up later than the last two mornings, getting up at the same time, and F was up even later and was shattered (having got to sleep only quite late last night). D, on the other hand, was up earlier than us all again and had spoken to her Dad who has been in India since before the global pandemic was declared.

We obviously did quite a bit of online ordering over Easter as this week we’ve had several deliveries of non-essential goodies. Yesterday we got 250 litres of multi-purpose compost which D had needed, and today I got bags of coffee (from Monsoon Estates near Stratford-upon-Avon), some plants for our nascent pond and most importantly of all some new headphones for me (Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT) which I’m already loving.

The pond plants came a bit late in the day and I’ve only just (in the dark) put them in the (not really very full of water) “pond” (baby-bath buried in the garden). No idea how this is going to go, but it will either work or not I guess! If nothing else the birds have already been enjoying it as a birdbath.

I was pretty busy with work today – online course delivering in the morning, then meetings after lunch all the way through to gone 5:30 with minimal breaks. So my plan from yesterday to try and sit and work at the table with D and the kids a bit more went nowhere – but there’s always tomorrow.

Kids seemed OK today, although not sure how much they got done. I spent sometime showing B how to use Git (a tool used by programmers to help manage computer code as it changes and is updated) this evening and he’s published his first project on Github (a website for publishing code).

It was choir this evening which was lots of fun, and now I’m trying to update a Raspberry Pi computer and get it up and running as part of a project I’m planning.

In the meantime D and the kids did a quiz for Ds family and had lots of aunts, uncles & cousins all on Zoom together with B & F asking the questions – it sounds like they had a lot of fun. Both B and F were awake late though – not sure if they’d been asleep then woken, or if they’d been awake the whole time – could have some tired kids tomorrow.

Stay safe, stay strong.

21st April 2020


Woke about 8am by which time D had done an exercise video (Davina) and B was already dressed (shirt, tie & blazer) and back at his school work.

F was a bit more reluctant to get the day started (more like me) and woke about 9am. Continuing with the “take it easy” theme she did an Andy’s Wild Workout (CBeebies) instead of Joe Wicks this morning – definitely a more gentle introduction to the day!

F finds breakfast very difficult – she doesn’t really like cereal, gets bored with toast, and getting her to have something is a struggle most mornings. This morning she rejected every option until I suggested a soft-boiled egg (“dippy egg”) at which point she decided she wanted to go “Full English Breakfast” – but since we didn’t have sausages, and didn’t want to open a tin of beans just for her, we settled on bacon, soft-boiled egg & soldiers – although once she’s done with the runny bit of the egg she’s really not interested in the rest.

A bit like me, B is sometimes a bit too easily distracted and prone to procrastination, but is generally happy to get on with his work – and today he worked through Spanish, French, Maths and English (and possibly some others) with no problems. F wasn’t really keen to get started on school work today, and disappeared upstairs to brush her teeth after breakfast and then didn’t come down again – she was back on her bed reading a comic book (Bunny vs Monkey). She agreed to come down and do some work once she’d finished – which she did. F’s school have started to publish some work sheets on their website (which they weren’t doing before Easter) so F eventually got on with the maths worksheet.

D found the whole process of getting F to start work quite stressful – although once F was doing the maths sheet she was very engaged and happy to work through all the questions. D sits at a table with B & F working, while I’m sitting at a desk on the other side of the room – I suspect this makes it easier for me to ignore whether the kids are actually getting on with anything or not (although I’m really good at blanking out stuff around me when I’m focussed on work). I’ll see if D wants to try moving around some days.

Lunch outside again and the kids played nicely outside quite a bit (not sure there were any proper fallings out today). I got on with work, and baked some sour dough.

Then for tea the slightly odd, but successful, combination of lamb burgers, a sauce made from left over barbecue sauce and bolognese and Yorkshire puddings – it was nicer than it sounds (honest) and I was very pleased with my puddings!

Talked to Mum this evening which was nice, tried (and failed) to work out a problem with some code and then watched a bit of TV. At some point during the evening I developed a bit of a headache so just taken some paracetamol and now going to head to bed.

Stay safe, stay strong.