9th April 2020

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Bit of an odd day. I’d meant to get up early again, but could not manage to wake up when my alarm went off and ended up getting up closer to 8am than 6 as I’d intended. I woke with a headache and a complete lack of energy.

I went to the supermarket in the morning, and despite a long queue outside the shelves inside were better stocked, and with more choice, than the last time I went just over a week ago. Sainsbury’s had definitely tightened their protocols to ensure people kept a good distance apart but although it was still an odd experience it wasn’t as stressful as when I went last time. I even managed to get some linguine which I hope will make a suitable substitute for spaghetti in Freya’s requested birthday meal of spaghetti bolognese on Saturday.

When I got back from the supermarket, despite a restorative hot cross bun, I still felt completely shattered. I took my temperature just in case but it was normal, and then slept on the sofa for an hour before lunch. That definitely helped me recover a bit and I managed to work through the afternoon, but I wasn’t really my usual self.

C from choir dropped round some games and gifts this afternoon which was so nice & thoughtful – can’t wait to try the fig jam and D & the kids have already been having fun doing some “querkles” and playing giant Jenga.

Querkles

While I was working my mum had messaged D about a poem about libraries written by Ian Macmillan (who went to Wath Grammar school at the time Mum taught there). This inspired the kids to write their own poems about libraries – and record themselves reading them to share with Mum.

D cooked cauliflower cheese & sausages for tea (my favourite comfort meal) and after tea B and D watched “The Great British Menu” while F showed me a computer game she’s been playing called “Tower of destiny” and even let me play a little 🙂

I was playing around with some more looping this evening, but not at all happy with the results – I think I might need to look at a different song. In the meantime D was working on carving a woodblock for printing and being a lot more successful than me.

The day has ended with some TV and chocolate, slouched on the sofa with D. I’m still not really feeling myself, and slightly stressed about work that I’ve not done, but also happy it’s now the long Easter weekend.

Stay safe, stay strong.

8th April 2020

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  • Feeling: Glad to (virtually) see friends
  • Listening to: Nothing today
  • Watching: Nothing today

I slept better last night, and slept a bit later this morning. D was already up so I came down and joined her and we had a bit of quiet time before the kids came down. I mainly bombarded her with a load of work issues that had been running round my head since yesterday and I needed to get out to work through them and reduce my stress – it really helped me (D is pretty used to me doing this and puts up with it very patiently).

Also managed to bake some sourdough that I’d started the day before and had been in the fridge overnight.

I had no meetings scheduled this morning so after yesterday I decided I should take the morning off and spend some time with the kids. I did do a bit of work before the kids got up, but then stepped away until I had to be on a call at 1pm.

I tried (and failed) to help B get his 3D printer working as it stopped working a while back and we never got to the bottom of why. We didn’t make any progress today, so emailed the company that makes it to see if they could help (but not response yet).

We spent a bit of time in the garden, trying to clear a bit of garden that is a bit of a weed & gravel wasteland right now. I didn’t make a huge amount of progress but it was good to make a start.

Later in the day the kids and I started to try to use some of the branches I’ve removed from an out-of-control hedge to make a bivouac style den – we managed to get the basic frame up, but it was quite hot out in the sun and the kids decided they needed a sit down inside before we got any further.

It was good to spend some time with the kids and B and I worked on his book review website although we didn’t manage to finish what he wanted to do.

The day ended with a really nice virtual choir session – I was more relaxed and less stressed out (probably because I’d had the morning off) than I’ve been the last couple of weeks and enjoyed it a lot more because of that. For the virtual choir we’ve hit a pattern of having a main session lead by the musical director which streams on Youtube where we warm-up, sing (to ourselves but with a track played over the live stream) and look at performances and specific pieces in detail. This session (around 1hr) is sandwiched between two social Zoom sessions where people can see each other and chat (about 30 minutes before, and for however long people want after the Youtube session). This seems to work really well – at least it works well for me – I hope others get enjoyment out of it as well.

Going to try to make more time for the kids during the day tomorrow again and then it’s into the long Easter weekend.

Stay safe, stay strong.

7th April 2020

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  • Feeling: Tired and a little grumpy
  • Listening to: Hamilton soundtrack
  • Watching: Kim’s Convenience

I didn’t sleep well, and after struggling to get to sleep last night I woke at 5am. I dozed a bit after that, but got up a 7am, which was about when D and B both woke as well.

Tuesday is usually a good day – I don’t usually have too many work calls, and it tends to be relaxed. But today I’ve been tired and grumpy and work was a slog. I also had some bad news from a friend and felt pretty down about not being able to do anything to help, especially in the current situation.

Originally I was meant to have this week off, but because of being stuck at home I decided I may as well work – I’m regretting that a bit now. I might try to carve some time out next week instead.

I did have some nice breaks in the day, and we were all able to go for a walk in the sunshine at lunch, and I played with the kids in the garden in the afternoon which was great fun.

This evening I decided to try to record the other looping song I’d been working on a while back. It’s a bit scrappy in places, and there are some bits in there that I’d rather re-record, but this is it as I recorded it, and it’s late so I’m going to post it rather than leave it for another day.

Stay safe, stay strong.

April 6th 2020

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  • Feeling: OK
  • Listening to: Something inside so strong – the tenor line!
  • Watching: Nothing today

Last night I was was pondering on where we were in the Covid-19/Coronavirus crisis, and realising we were probably not even half way through a realistic ‘best case’ lock down period – that’s pretty sobering to be honest.

I’ve been trying to keep this blog about how the current situation is affecting us as a family, and to record something of daily life at the moment but it doesn’t seem right to pass without mention that this evening that the Prime Minister was moved into intensive care as a result of Covid-19. While the PM is just one more person affected by this virus (and so many have already died as a result of it), it seems inevitable that his condition will have an impact on how people, in the UK at least, regard the situation we are currently in and how we react as a society to it.

Back to more personal stuff …

I set an early alarm (6am) in order to get up and do some work before the start of the day proper. I didn’t exactly leap out of bed but I was at my desk by 7:10 and even managed to spot our milk man doing a delivery for the first time.

The Easter Holiday starts for the kids today, which means the schools haven’t set any work. I’ve been dreading it a little – originally I was due to take this week off, but there doesn’t seem a huge amount of point at the moment. D has decided to work half days for 2 weeks instead of taking one full week off as originally planned.

B already had lots of plans for his holidays (mostly about some computing projects he wants to work on) but F not so much – but she seems glad to not be worrying about school work at all. Despite the holidays the kids had Art class today and an hour of Maths & English tutoring each.

Once D was finished working for the day she took the kids out into the garden, and they started work on digging a space for us to bury an old baby bath to start a pond. Over lunch I helped with this and we got the bath into the ground.

I’m hoping we can build up an area around it and have a little water fall – but for now we’ve sunk the bath and ordered some plants to go in it.

The rest of the day was mainly work for me. I cooked sticky ribs for tea which F loved and B thought were my best attempt at them so far (meaning he was just about willing to eat it) – which I was pleased with considering the recipe was basically:

  • Some left over passata
  • A slug of soy sauce
  • Roughly 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • A good squeeze of ketchup

Everything mixed up and thrown over the ribs, which were then cooked at 160℃ for an hour or so.

For the “virtual choir” project my choir is doing we are a bit short of tenor voices, so I offered to try to record the tenor (although I usually sing bass in the choir, I can sing in the tenor range especially for this piece which doesn’t go particularly high) – so I’d been listening to the guide track all day to learn the tenor line and recorded it this evening after the kids were in bed.

Doing the recording at home makes me feel I want to do a few more looping based songs which I started doing after my singing teacher introduced me to looping last year. Here’s one of my old ones, but I have another one I was working on a few months ago which I’d like to resurrect – if I manage it I’ll post the results here.

Stay safe, stay strong.

April 5th 2020

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  • Feeling: Tired out
  • Listening to: Nothing today
  • WatchingBatwoman

Had a proper lie in this morning for the first time in weeks. I didn’t wake until after 10am! The kids both slept in as well so D had a couple of hours to herself in the morning.

After we got up, F claimed I’d said I’d make pancakes for breakfast, and although I didn’t remember saying that it seemed like a good idea, so I went ahead and made them.

Then F really surprised us by suggesting we all went for a walk – lockdown must be really getting to her. She wanted to ride her bike, so we walked towards Warwick as far as the ponds on the edge of St Nicholas park and back again. D took some nice pictures of flowers while we were out.

It was a lovely day and really nice to stretch our legs. Unfortunately F had a bit of a meltdown when we said she couldn’t watch TV when we got back. It was quite a tantrum, but eventually passed and then we had lunch.

After lunch I went out into the garden to work on the leylandii hedge again and made some good progress, but by the time I was done I was absolutely exhausted.

B spent the afternoon doing a tutorial on building computer games using a game engine called Unity, and F asked if he would write her a computer game for her birthday – very sweet.

D spoke to her sister & family by zoom, and then a couple of old Uni friends and their kids (with B and F as well) – I joined in a bit, but started to make tea at the same time.

After tea (potato dauphinoise as a treat) the kids watched some TV then I read to them (Wings by Terry Pratchett is our current bedtime story) and said goodnight.

I made some bolognese to go in the freezer, and then collapsed on the sofa with a glass of red. D and I watched TV for a bit, but by 9:45 I was already falling asleep – so thought I’d write this and call it a night.

Stay safe, stay strong.

April 4th 2020

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I was rudely awakened by the postman knocking the door this morning – it brought me out of a lie in (8 o’clock!) with a start. A package for the kids from their grandma (my Mum) with some lovely keepsakes to remember their grandpa who died in January this year.

I managed to drag myself out of bed but after breakfast, coffee and some jam making I collapsed again and went back to sleep on the sofa. As a result I didn’t get half the things done today I wanted to. I did manage to get our old baby bath out from the loft which I’m hoping we can turn into a wildlife pond. I also started to tackle the Leylandii hedge issue (they are several feet too tall) but after two hours I felt I hadn’t made much progress (although I think I now have a method which should make the remaining work slightly easier (which is good as I have three or four times as much to do as I’ve already done).

The kids found out about Google Arts and Culture and other virtual tours online, and spent some time in the morning browsing round various museums and the Taj Mahal. Predictably, if slightly disappointingly, the virtual tour of the the Legoland Hotel seemed to spark more interest than the Taj Mahal 😀

Having not really got going in the morning the afternoon seemed to race away from me, but I did manage to record my part for a virtual choir project I’m taking part in.

We’d all been looking forward to the Saturday evening quiz run by C from choir, and since this week was a David Bowie theme fancy dress F, D and B had been working at making Bowie masks and Bowie themed cupcakes with blue/red icing and lightning bolts.

We thought the quiz was harder this week and were then amazed when our lucky guesses all came good making us winners for the week – to much excitement from the kids (and the adults).

The day was rounded out with the second part of the Gilmore & Roberts online gig including a request we’d made and a namecheck for B & F which they loved. Then D and I watched “Have I got News for You” – as with “The Mash Report” which we watched yesterday – it was very strange to see these topical news comedies/satires having to film in people’s houses and especially in the former the lack of an audience to react to jokes and comments really showed and made the result a bit strange to watch (for me anyway). We then watched the final episode in Sky Arts “Portrait Artist of the Year” (where the winner is commissioned to do a portrait of a famous figure – in this case Nile Rodgers) which was weird in the other way of being a reflection of a time where people would just meet and get together and do stuff! It’s strange how quickly we’ve started to see this kind of scene slightly jarring. Antiques Roadshow was another programme where we were watching and it felt strange to have all these people just crowding around each other!

Last achievement of the day – I finally managed to finish baking the focaccia I’d originally intended to have ready for lunch today – so that will be a nice treat for tomorrow.

Sitting with D this evening I realised that we really haven’t had much proper time together for weeks. During the day we’re both working and trying to accommodate the kids, in the evening we’re both tired. I think the best “quality time” we’ve had in the last three weeks is when we were both up early one morning and the kids were still asleep (or at least still in bed). Something to try and fix next week I think (love you D xxx).

Stay safe, stay strong.

3rd April 2020

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After getting an early night last night, I then woke early – first at 5am, then again at 6:30 when I got up. However I feel better today so maybe it did me some good to get to bed earlier, even though I didn’t actually get more sleep!

Its felt like a busy week work-wise – lots of calls to get through, lots of work to do, and I’ve still failed to do some long overdue business admin – I must try to get that done over the weekend.

The original plan was that we’d be with my Mum in a lovely holiday cottage in Wales this evening, with a weeks holiday with E and family stretching before us. Sadly, of course, we are at home instead. So we celebrated by having a lovely fish pie (cooked by D) and then sticky toffee pudding (shop bought I’m afraid) & custard (which I made … from Bird’s Custard Powder of course!) – which was sweet, sickly and delicious.

After tea we had another treat – an online gig by my favourite folk duo, Gilmore and Roberts. I was meant to be seeing them live for my birthday in a couple of weeks, but with gigs for the foreseeable future cancelled they decided to setup a Patreon page and committed to doing an online gig once they had 50 patreons – which they managed in a week.

I was so glad we were able to support them, and then enjoy a great hour or so of entertainment this evening. Also really appreciating have a projector, big screen and decent sound system at home – it made it feel like they were in our living room. F spent the concert drawing illustrations for each of the songs (when she wasn’t dancing), while B spent it doing origami, and D and I sang along to the songs (which apparently isn’t polite at a real gig)

Tomorrow I’ve promised the kids we’ll try to make a wildlife pond out of an old baby bath (which I’m hoping is still in the loft, otherwise that project is going to hit the buffers pretty quickly), and I need to try to finish my hedge taming in the garden. I’ve also got to record my part for a “virtual choir” we are doing, and hoping to get some band practice in with the kids, and finally wishing my youngest nephew happy birthday – so it should be a pretty busy day.

Stay safe, stay strong.

2nd April 2020

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Moving towards the end of another week, and I’ll be glad of the weekend. Today started with an exercise routine devised by F, although thankfully (for me) she isn’t as hard a task master as Joe Wicks!

D has been helping B get on top of his school work, and plan his time more effectively. B’s cough has almost subsided although he still seems to have a bit of a cold.

F seemed to have a good day with only a few upsets and nothing that lasted too long. She also announced she had another request for her birthday – that I write a new book in the Chronicles of Claudette series (a series of graphic novels which feature a young girl called Claudette who definitely reminds me of F). I feel this particular birthday wish maybe beyond me (although she did tell me that B could help me if I wanted).

Another shopping delivery meant we were fully stocked up (including bread flour) and I made another spelt loaf – although due to me forgetting to half the liquid along with the rest of the recipe the dough was quite a bit wetter than intended – but as George (of Haddie and Trilby) advises “the wetter the better” – and it all turned out fine in the end.

Very satisfying to have made this – makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile today! Next up on the bread baking front, I’m planning to make some focaccia at the weekend as a treat for us all.

At the end of the day I did the third lesson on “arranging for choir” by Seb, our choir musical director. It was definitely interesting to watch him at work, but it felt like quite a big step up in difficulty from the previous lesson. I think I need to go back to basics with chords and structure before I’m ready to try this again. D snapped me focussing hard on one of his previous YouTube broadcasts (or, as B suggests they should be called, “sebinars”!).

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That @ostephens72 being fully engrossed in a ‘seb-inar’

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I made a successful chicken stir fry for tea and started reading “Wings” by Terry Pratchett to the kids this evening (the last in his “Nomes” trilogy). Once again a bit of upset from F for some reason, but eventually she calmed down and enjoyed the first chapter (she’s enjoyed the others in the series so not really sure why she decided she didn’t want this one).

Pitch Perfect is now on TV, but having been late to bed several nights in a row I’m going to drag myself away and get some sleep instead.

Stay safe, stay strong, sleep well.

1st April 2020

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  • Feeling: OK
  • Listening to: Bach’s Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould
  • Watching: Performance videos with the choir

Mum’s birthday today, the first of a run of April birthdays in my immediate family (including mine). We video called her in the morning so the kids could talk and then later E had arranged for the three of us children (E, M and me) to talk to her together this evening. It was lovely to see her and chat together, but no substitute for being there.

Another busy work day although not too stressful, and it was really nice to do a regular call with a large group today which has been cancelled for the last two weeks because of the current situation – it felt like a return to “normal”! Hearing of other peoples schedules and work situations today has reinforced to me how lucky I am.

We didn’t get out today which was a shame – mainly down to me having a run of calls all afternoon without a proper time for a break, although the lack of sunshine didn’t encourage us to make time.

We had virtual choir this evening, and I think it worked well. Really nice social sessions before and after where people can do a bit of chatting and see each others faces (in Zoom) with a YouTube streamed session in between led by Seb with some singing and watching some performances and looking at one of our songs in some detail – the wonderful “For Good” from the musical Wicked.

Really enjoyed both choir and talking to Mum, M and E and feeling happy this evening, although somehow it is gone midnight again and I’m still awake… maybe I’ve not adjusted to the clock change yet 🙂

Tomorrow by some black magic D has managed to get a shopping delivery slot again, and I’ve just put some “poolish” (a flour, yeast and water mixture) in the fridge ready to make some more spelt bread tomorrow (I think today was the first day for 2 weeks we’ve not had bread in the house ready to eat)

31st March 2020

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I’m going to keep this short because I’m tired and it’s past midnight (again). Today was much better than yesterday, with a more even keel all round. No tantrums, no tears, and even a nice walk out in the sunshine this afternoon.

F enjoyed doing some creative writing this morning and the plot she had devised (involving a prophecy about a young photographer & inventor who is in trouble for breaking rules) obviously had really grabbed her, because she spent quite a bit of the day furnishing us with more details.

B managed to get through all the work he was meant to do, including an animated film for French. He still won’t stop stressing about work but I think getting himself organised has helped. We also encouraged him to work downstairs with the rest of us today because its too easy for him to start getting stressed when he’s sitting upstairs by himself.

I finally ventured out to the supermarket today which was a strange experience – I’m not sure I can stand the stress of shopping while trying to avoid everyone and not touching anything – I may have to dial down my paranoia a bit. Mostly everything we needed was there – the only real exception being flour and noodles – where the shelves were completely empty. But that aside the main issue was that there was a lack of choice where we’ve been used to having huge amounts of choice.

Together with our regular fruit/veg + meat/fish boxes we get delivered on a Tuesday each week I think we should have enough to get us through the week now. I also picked up some lego sets for the kids as a treat – I thought they deserved one.

Thinking ahead to the so-called “Easter holiday” and wondering how we are actually going to manage that. F is keen to be on holiday, but I’m not sure trying to “holiday” when you can’t leave the house is a great idea – I suspect after a couple of days frustration would set in (although possibly F would be happy if we let her watch back-to-back Boss Baby and Avatar cartoons the whole week.)

I spent the evening starting a jigsaw, and then trying to arrange 8 bars of “Everything is awesome” into a SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choral arrangement based on a webinar by the MD of our choir, Seb Farrall. That took much longer than I expected, so now it’s time for bed.