This weekend there were queues of traffic at the Brynglas tunnels and Tesco had scrapped the oneway system. This week I can get a haircut and next week the pubs open.
Soon all this will hopefully be a distant memory – actually I hope certain parts remain.
I feel this has been an enforced brake being applied to our lifestyle and in that sudden stop there have been many good things I’ve rediscovered. When you stop – you have the opportunity to notice and appreciate the things around you.
It’s probably been the hardest three weeks of my life, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I’m not at the stage where I can really talk about what has gone on – even here. Maybe I never will and to be honest I’d happily let it all fade into distant memory.
But what I can talk about is how I’ve surprised myself in dealing with it all.
I’ve always had a vindictive side to my character, when things aren’t going my way I can argue my way around most objections – I’ve always considered it a skill but often it’s actually been a hindrance. And that side of my character has dominated a lot of personal interactions over the years, combined with a need to be right and be acknowledged as being right.
So chuck into that mix hurt,pain and betrayal… and it all could have been a combustive mix.
Instead I’ve viewed events with a strange rational calm and focus on putting things right. Yes there have been days of melancholy and sadness but these have been outweighed by a recapturing of fun and happiness in the house.
I don’t know where this all leads but it’s made me realise how far I’ve come in my journey with him. It’s been a long path changing those bits about myself I’ve never been happy about. A long path shifting my focus from my needs and wants to those who I care about, less material more meaningful. A long path getting closer to the one who has always been there in my life.
2020 was meant to be the year I completed the first part of my Christian journey – and I never dreamed that so much would be thrown my way, so many challenges and tests of faith.
Yet here I am.
…and through this I have had a kindred soul a guide and friend keeping me on the path.
Again I’m not sure how to talk about all that or it’s meaning in my life at this stage. Maybe I’m scared of committing to writing half formed thoughts and feelings – maybe confusion still clouds my forward view.
Still here I am…
The song was shared with me the day after the second big shock…shared on the prompting of the holy spirit by someone who had no idea what had just gone on in my life…
My fave photo of the last 3 weeks – Isaac’s birthday with his cousins
This weeks seems to be one of bumping into people while out walking. Yesterday it was Rhian and Mike, today my aunt Hillary and my cousin Gavin’s family. It was nice to catch-up.
So today’s walk took us to Beechwood park to meet up with my sister. Her girls wanted to see the stone snake that has been growing over lock down. Isaac had a bad day yesterday so it was nice for him to play with the girls and get some sunshine at the same time. He’s been struggling with being on his own when I’m on calls – which isn’t often but to him it feels significant. But we’ve talked about it and chatted through what he can do when he feels like that – the best thing being to come and talk about it.
It’s tricky… lock down parenting…
Hopefully he’ll go back to school for a few days before the summer holidays.
Covid Symptom Check…
Isaac still has a stinking cold but no temperature
Although things are starting to open up I think it’s still a long way to go…
Today the news was full of people queuing for the newly open shops… massive long queues for Primark of all places!
The thing that I’m curious about it how, despite all the easing of restrictions and mass gatherings, the R rate hasn’t rocketed. I wonder if there is a milder version also in circulation. But there seems to be early signs of another spike happening in China – much that you can’t trust the figures too much, and South America is ramping up.
With all the differences in how numbers are recorded it”l be interesting to look back in a few years and see the real impact – and which types of government fared better than others.
Africa is still a big worry.
Anyway today we walked up to 14 Locks and back… a nice long jaunt…
I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to the way queues look at the moment.
You drive past a shop and see a trailing queue outside and something just triggers not to bother trying to get in. In reality the que is probably 10 mins long…but the sight always makes me think I can’t be arsed waiting for an hour.
So today was a hectic one in work. That’s the problem with having time off, it all needs to be caught up on. And having to stop halfway through the day just makes it hard to get everything done – especially when people naturally arrange meetings for the afternoon.
First world problems.
Highlight of the day was my parents joining us for a ‘legal’ socially distant walk. It was good and we ended up walking up on the Ridgeway, which I thought would be too much for them – but it was fine 🙂
It comes to something where I have a day off work and do nothing other than clean the house…. that’s how bad this lockdown is getting.
That’s a slight exaggeration – my new found domesticatedness started just before lockdown but it has certainly been cemented as a habit. I tend to now sort things when I spot they need doing instead of leaving them to another time. It has helped massively on the domestic front and has helped keep all those petty housework arguments to a minimum.
So today has been a day of tiding the kitchen and giving it a good deep clean. In between that my parents dropped some shopping off from Cristyn and we arranged to go for a socially responsible, regulation distance, walk over Beechwood park later in the week. I’m hoping that on Friday the Welsh government start relaxing the rules slightly – certainly I’m hoping to be able to drive somewhere else for a walk.
There are many things keeping us going over the long lock down – not just debating the actions of politicians and their special advisers. Films and box-sets have been great….some new finds, some old classics.
So for today’s post here are the top ones for the past 10 weeks.
Another Friday, one week after the street party and so far no symptoms…not that I thought we’d taken that much of a risk.
My parents came over for another socially distant walk… which never keeps to a 2m distance, especially when my Mum wants to show pictures she’s taken. Still it was good to see them and catchup.
My Mum was talking about the effects of lockdown on them and the fact that for them a slower pace of life has just made them feel older. There might be something to this… normally they’re very busy and always off visiting, having meals out, coffees, seeing sights… but now a lot of that is curtailed and certainly my Mum is finding it quite boring. There’s bound to be an impact of that on the older generation – and I wonder if this will contribute to a drop in the average mortality age.
The walk we normally go on takes us along the canal by the M4 and there is definitely more traffic – more lorries, more cars. I can’t see them sticking to the strict lockdown in Wales for long but I suppose it depends on the level of infection. One report has estimated that 19m people in the UK have had it, while another puts the current level of infection in the general populous at only 1 in 400 (0.25). If both of these are right then a lot of people will have some immunity and the chances of you meeting someone with it is very low. So there may be a case to lift the restrictions….time as always will tell.
Covid-19 Symptom Check
I’m now more worried about my weight than the virus 🙂
Today has been all about shopping – which has now turned into a three hour round trip and a huge alcohol bill. On the bright side however, we’re not spending anything on socialising, meals out or takeaways. I know a lot of the guys are regularly hitting up the local Indians and Chineses but we’ve stuck to just home cooked food. You’d think we would have also lost a bit of weight with the healthy eating – but there has been very little healthy about what we’ve been cooking.
Part of the shopping run was dropping a few bits over to my sister and instead of jumping in the car I decided to take the opportunity to walk over as it was a nice day. I was surprised on how many people were up at the ridgeway – numbers on our normal walk have been creeping up but the cafe at the ridgeway was doing a roaring trade… It all contributes to that sense of it all easing and people eager to get back to normality.
Anyway one of the treats for Isaac on arriving at Auntie Cristyn’s was freshly hatched little chicks (Polish Bantams)….he was very excited
So the four nations of the UK are each seemingly taking different approaches to the continuation of lockdown. Or the Celtic nations are taking a more cautious approach to all this than Boris.
Here in Wales the message is still stay at home, the only big changes being that you can go out and exercise locally more than once a day. Which is similar to Scotland and Northern Ireland which extended the stay at home message a few days ago.
Where as for England – it’s a whole heap of confusing things. Go outside as much as you like – and if you want to drive somewhere new for a bit of a change…off you go. Picnic on a beach or in a park – go for it! Can’t work from home – well then really you should be trying to get into work! Just don’t use public transport…
So if the R value wasn’t already on the rise due to the bank holiday fun…then it absolutely will now.
So I predict that towards the end of next week there is going to be a spike in cases…
Encouraging everyone to have a drink in their front gardens or on drives was a great idea in theory. The reality was a load of people, starved of social interaction, all getting drunk together. And when people get drunk all those inhibitions go, along with sensible judgement.
We ended up having a BBQ with the neighbours opposite while having various people from the street wander up to join us. It was great and I met a good number of people from the street that I never would under normal circumstances.
But was the 2m exclusion maintained….hell no!
Not as bad as Sam though who had a full blown party on the green outside his house – which ended up getting broken up by the police at 10pm. He even had to carry one of his neighbours home…social distancing lol
So the prediction is that cases will start creeping up in about a week…the R value was just under 1 so it won’t take much for the rate of infection to start increasing again.
Anyway it was a well needed break from the drudgery of lockdown – just hope we didn’t pick anything up.
In earlier news….we met this pair while out walking….what are the chances 🙂
So the laptop finally arrived – 3 week from a plant in China.
I vaguely debated leaving it for a few day but then realised the mammoth trip from China would kill off any virus on it. So new toy to play with, lots to install and work out.
It’s very shinny…. and cool…
Anyway the big debate in the press is whether restrictions will start to be lifted. There’s an announcement on Sunday and all the speculation is that people will be allowed to go out more and stay home less.
I’ve mixed feelings on it. On one hand, although I’ve quite liked the pace of life in lockdown it is starting to get a bit boring… or more accurately I need to see something other than the same 4 walls and the same walk in the woods. But the risks are still there… people are still dying and there are no effective vaccines on the horizon. I can’t remember who said it but I thought it was apt… lifting restrictions is nothing other than the government saying – we’ve got room for you in ICU.
We’ll see what happens – certainly there’s no need for us to head back to work anytime soon and schools are still going to be shut at the start of June….so for the time being nothing much will change. On the bright side I’m spending hardly anything at the moment.
The media is just full of talk about how lockdown can be lifted…article after article about how other countries are lifting restrictions… it’s probably one of the most dangerous times.
On our daily walk today we saw probably 25-30 people out and about. Normally that is less than 10….we even had to walk slower up the steep slope home.
Everyone is desperate to get back a little bit of normality.
…and yet in China they’ve just imposed news restrictions in Beijing and the US is talking about 100k deaths.
I’ve said to a few people that I think this will be a sombrero curve of a pandemic. There will be a second wave , people are getting complacent and the problem with this virus is that we don’t know the impact of lifting restrictions until 5 days after. We could change something that’s critical and then not know the impact until it’s too late. And the other compounding issue for al of this is that no one is measuring this stuff in the same way – so modelling different approaches is harder (or there is more guess work).
But there is good news…. the NHS is coping (or hasn’t critically failed or been over run). The new Nightingale Hospitals have been miraculously under used. The emergency production of ventilators – not needed. Capacity was ramped up quickly – just in case…and hasn’t been needed. That is unless the 2nd peak is worse than the 1st – which I don’t think it will be given how cautious people will be.
However, life is still going to be very strange until they get a vaccine…
The other activity we did today on our walk was to try and spot as many different types of animal/insect as possible….here’s the list:-
So today was a lesson in parenting traps and how it’s so easy to fall headlong into one.
Isaac is obsessed with superhero’s – unsurprisingly given he’s 7 and they’re everywhere…..everywhere…
So for a long time he’s watching youtube clips about Avengers, playing Avenger lego games, watching lego shorts based on the avengers. And today had been particularly slow (as we both had meetings and calls) so at the end of the day I’m sat down with him and he asks if he can watch Avengers.
Now he had seen Captain America while in Saundersfoot with his Thad-cu – and I thought what would the harm be if I’m watching it with him.
So I agree – he trots off, gets the film, excitedly works out how to use the XBox to play Blu-rays….and we settle in for the film.
All goes well…the Avengers meet, bicker, fight, assemble, bicker…and then finally capture Loki…
Lots of bantery exposition followed by more bickering and then it all goes to hell (we’ve all seen it)…Big Green goes crazy, explosions, crisis, engines blow up and Loki escapes…
And then Coulson pulls a gun on Loki…. and suddenly Loki is behind him delivering a seemingly fatal stab…
Isaac goes quiet…
The film continues….Thor is ejected…
Isaac is still quiet….then pipes up “There’s too much blood, I want to play minecraft!”
I try and chat to him about….but I’m confronted with a few tears and him saying he didn’t realise this was a horror.
….and at the moment I was completely floored. Yes he’s a 7 year old who’s favourite minecraft activity is slaughtering everything in sight, who loves play fighting and nerf guns. But in all of that I’d missed that he was just a 7 year old boy not prepared for the pivotal shock moment of the film…not ready to see a good guy fail and die.
Bad Dad moment…
We talked about it afterwards and he knows its all pretend….but still…lesson learnt… keep to the ratings…
I learnt that a little bit of rain stops 95% of people venturing outside
I got offered a Data Scientist role in work
So all in all a good day.
The data science role is one I’ve been cheering for and promoting for a while and when the opportunity came up I went all in. It’s definitely my area of interest so it’s great to get some alignment between work and play interests.
One of the key things that nailed it (probably) was my summary diagram:-
This focused not just on the crunching of data but importantly on how that data is then conveyed.
I like it and so did they…
As for the wet weather – it didn’t stop me and Isaac having our normal ramble…
I actually came close to thinking I might have contracted the virus….close.
I was aching yesterday morning from the Chest and Triceps workout the day before but then about lunchtime I just got hit with a wave of tiredness…accompanied by a killer headache. It was to the point where I had to go to bed – and pretty much just passed out for a few hours. Even after that I didn’t feel right – slightly light headed and ‘spacey’. However, temperature remained ok and after a good night’s sleep I felt a whole load better.
I’m putting down to over working and not getting enough sleep – but I really did think it might be Covid at one stage.
So today was back to the normal weekly routine, which Isaac has been getting used to (last week he was great all week), but today he had a wobble. Not sure why it started with school work and him essentially trying to get us to do his work for him – but it quickly spiralled into a full on meltdown. Now this isn’t the first time and given the current situation isn’t surprising – we’re all feeling the frustration, but it’s almost as if his frustrations build up to a point where it has to hit a crisis point before it can get better. After his melt-down he was back to being his normal wonderful self for the rest of the day.
I need to start working our the warning signs and start trying to defuse them ahead of a meltdown – easier said than done.
But we did have a great walk in the woods and across the ridgeway…
For the first time in a very long time I can’t sleep.
Often when I’ve had a few drinks (or more accurately more than a few) I wake up early – so maybe this is linked to too much alcohol and too early a night. Or maybe it’s more things on my mind…
This virus is taking its toll on people and getting ever closer in terms of people we know – i just pray that they find an effective treatment or vaccine soon.
Prayer is a funny thing that I never quite believed the power of, and it’s easy to pass things off a co-incidence. But more co-incidences happen when I pray for them than when I’d just have a desire for something to happen.
I suppose part of the power of prayer is taking the time to reflect on what hasn’t gone right in the day, saying sorry and accepting that it’s ok not to get things right 100% of the time. That forgiveness is good for your mental health. The next part for me is linked to reflecting on the day and saying thank you for the good things in it. Those are easy things to take for granted and again its good for your mental health to reflect on what’s good in your life. Then finally it’s about looking forward and asking for help with things – which helps focus your mind on the important things in the future.
So my reflections tonight are more on that last part of prayer…asking
…and in that I ask that in this time of change and isolation I hope that people can reflect on the modern routine of life and take time to pause and in pausing feel the closeness of the holly spirit that is there for all of us. And for those battling the virus and battling for their lives I hope that they lift the cynicism of the modern view of God and reach out… and in reaching out find comfort and peace.
I’m not sure if it’s related to the lock-down but there seems to be far more seagulls around.
Living in a city you tend to get more pigeons than gulls…and certainly I can’t recall ever really noticing the sound of gulls of a morning. After-all it is very distinctive and reminiscent of holidays. But the last few days have started with the streaks of gulls. Maybe it’s them moving further in-land due to fewer people heading to the coast. Certainly there have been stories of rats migrating away from closed fast food outlets and even goats reclaiming deserted streets.
So today has been another quiet one.
I decided to take a few days off work before it gets crazy busy next week. Not that we can do anything – but I just feel my Monday to Friday has very little me time. This is mainly due to how we’re having to split up the day and look after Isaac:-
I get up early and try and get logged onto work for 7 to 7.30
Then I work through until 12:30…
Lunch and then I take over looking after Isaac
Take turns to have a shower and get dressed
2 mile walk down to the nature reserve and along the canal, while doing maths (maths on the move)
20 mins of reading and copying out a page of the book to practice his hand-writing
This normally takes us up until 3pm – so it’s free time for him (xbox/youtube) and back to work and a few emails for me
Around 5 I log off and we normally play a little minecraft
Then it’s dinner and the bedtime routine…getting him down around 8
Then we eat dinner normally watching some series (Ozarks or Better Call Saul at the moment)….which takes us up till around 10
….and by that time I want to head to bed….
So not a lot of time just to pick up the usual projects.
But then I’m in a better situation than most….so I’m not complaining.
Other acheivement of today (before I forget) I helped Isaac build an Airfix Spitfire – took me right back to my childhood. Although I did most of the work – it was damned hard and fiddly.
It’s been an odd Easter – odd times….same refrain.
Nothing much is happening in terms of the virus – the rate of increase looks to be flattening – so the peak is within sight. Or at least that’s the propaganda at the moment. The issue I don’t get is how we get out of this lock-down scenario without a vaccine being in place. It’s understandable that as the death rate lowers people will naturally think they’ve made it through – but the infection/death rate has will drop due to the lock-down impact. Relax that and the virus can spike again – similar to what the WHO is warning about. I suppose the country to watch would be China but their reporting seems a little too good on the numbers. The next one would be Italy – so we’ll see what this next few weeks holds in store.
The other complication in all this is the recent reports of re-infection in South Korea. Hopefully this is just down to some false test results as this could get very very bad if having the virus doesn’t give you some form of immunity to future inflections.
So in other news Easter came and went yesterday. It was a bit of a reflective day filled with too much food and chocolate (as to be expected). We’ve got into watching a film from our youth every Friday and extended it to Easter Sunday. Surprisingly the Easter film doesn’t seem to attract the same kudos as the Christmas film – so on this we had ‘Knocked Up’ which was just as funny as I remember.
Apart from lashings of chocolate Isaac had a few little gifts from the family – the current favourite being a cheap Meccano set. He was really good at it in fairness.
It’s been an odd one today – more meh than anything…boredom is setting in.
But then I always find the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday a little…meh… It’s kind of not one thing or the other – a day of waiting more than anything. And given the current situation, there’s more focus on the waiting.
It was definitely a day of low motivation levels. The most I achieved being some exercise and getting my work-out routines changed around a bit.
I did play a good solid 3 hours of minecraft with Isaac – which he loved…but nothing productive.
The highlight of the day was probably Isaac beating both of us in Monopoly in just over an hour….he was so happy…
Covid-19 Symptom Check
Apart from a slight tight chest – all is still well…
Well today seems the bleakest Good Friday I think I’ve experienced.
Growing up and through most of my adult life this has been the start of a great weekend (usually) – no work, drinking, dancing, partying…life lived to the full spending the fruits of hard work on having a good time.
But over the years the meaning and significance of Good Friday has crept up on me.
I don’t normally talk about my faith but it seems apt today in the midst of this weird period we find ourselves in.
For me there has never been a crisis point that led me to faith – I’ve never hit rock bottom, never messed things up on such a scale that I had no where else to turn, or a plan to get things back on track. I didn’t come to believe out of desperation or losing everything. For me it’s always kind of been there and as I’ve gotten older I see His hand more and more in life around me.
I have a comfortable life, one of contentment, close family, good friends and all my needs fulfilled. I can’t say I’ve always worked hard, the truth is that in the past I’ve always been able to do just enough to get by. That being said when needed I have worked hard to get things done and I’m especially good in a crisis – where a stoic practicality keeps me calm and focused. I often see solutions quicker than others.
There are many things that have shaped that – the whole nurture/nature debate. But as I get older I see more coincidences that join up and light a path to Jesus. People I’ve met, situations, opportunities – that could be passed off as simply that coincidence but when those coincidences stack up it makes it harder and harder to ignore.
This seems the start of a longer post about the events and people that have brought me to faith – which wasn’t my intention for this post…
Today it struck me that isolation is insulating us all from the harsh realities of how things are out there. We all watch the news and hear the statistics and talk of flattening peaks. But the reality is that for thousands of people across the country (millions across the world) this is the blackest/bleakest of a Friday with no goodness. They have lost love ones, or are maybe separated from friends and family, unable to reach out and offer comfort. Or maybe they are in hospital, worried, fearful unable to breath and scared about what happens next.
In those moments I pray they feel the presence of the Holly Spirit and take comfort in the knowledge that this is all temporary, there is a better place and entry is simply through belief.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
How things get presented…
The reality for many across the world…
This picture was taken in New York – 40 people buried in a mass grave in the leading Nation of the World.
It’s been another quiet day – hardly any surprise there.
And rather than the usual Palm Sunday routine it’s been a day of chilling and catching up on a few internet projects.
Finally finally finally I worked out the issue with the front page of this site. When ever I was changing the ‘page’ it stubbornly remained exactly the same. I spent ages looking at caching issues and even thought it might be an ISP issue to help lower internet traffic…. but Occam’s razor – it was me not remembering how I’d configured the template. That took a good few hours running through all the possibilities – and to help my memory in the future I’ve added it as a note to the home page in the edit suite. I’m bound to forget again.
The other success of the weekend has been setting up Skype on the TV – now we don’t have to all huddle around a phone or laptop.
So Palm Sunday always feels a strange start to holly week – Jesus riding into Jerusalem with rejoicing crowds celebrating his triumphal arrival. From the Old Testament, Zechariah described how the King of the Jews would come onto the scene as the triumphant, victorious leader.
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The crowds didn’t get the Messiah and Saviour they were expecting – he had bigger plans than just delivering his people from the Romans.
In Roman athletic competitions, the winners were awarded palm branches as a symbol of strength. And maybe the crowds were looking for him to be a strong warrior King – not the King of Peace. Certainly now Palm branches typically symbolise in Christianity the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul.
I remember a sermon last year where the Pastor explained that one theory on the waiving of Palm branches was more to do with an early Israelite Victory when they crossed the river Jordan into the promised land, rather than it being around the time of Sukkoth.
The sun is shining, birds singing over the faint hum of far off lawn mowers – it really feels like the start of spring today. But everyone is stuck in-doors unable to do all the normal social activities.
So today’s surprise has been reports of a number of 5G masts getting attacked and set on fire:-
This has been driven by 2 nonsense theories that either 5G suppresses the immune system or that it is being used by the virus to target people!
It’s amazing, almost astounding, what people will believe… and believe so strongly that they would go out and take direct action. However, if you did believe in conspiracy over cock-up this virus is perfect cover to implement some draconian controls on wider society. If you needed everyone off the streets to be able to do something clandestine then what better cover than a pandemic. Which could even extend to us all having to have a Covid-19 app on our phones to track who we’re interacting with – to trace any future outbreak. The tin-foil had brigade would have a field day with that I’m sure.
Anyway – as it’s so nice we’re all off out for a longish walk – you never know when it might rain.
Today was the first day where people we know have started to lose loved ones… getting ever closer. The preparations ramp up…millennium stadium converted to a hospital…2000 beds! That’s not planning for a few hundred deaths. We’re getting to the really difficult part… as we all knew it would.
But I think the hardest bit will be when the infection rate and fatality rate starts to tail off. This has always struck me as the kind of infection that will have a double peak. People’s behaviour and desire to get out of lockdown will mean they take chances too soon. The hope is that by then we have some effective tests for carrying the antibodies.
But but but… it stuck me earlier today that this is the third Corona virus epidemic – SARS, MERS, SARS-2 (Covid-19). And the fatality rate has stepped up each time. So the real scary part is what’s next?
Statistically we have been overdue a pandemic for sometime – but it seems odd that the same family of viruses seem to be causing increasingly ferocious diseases. Is this a factor of the modern world or just nature as nature is…
There are more and more events getting cancelled further and further ahead – today’s latest casualty being the Edinburgh Fringe in August. It’s one of those events I’ve always fancied going to but never have gotten around to. I’m loathed to write a list of things I want to see when reality returns – but it’s tempting. For me lists like that either speak to dissatisfaction in your own life or they make a slave of your future self. I kind of started one with Isaac when he was very young – and stopped fairly soon as it just seemed I was trying to find cool things to do for the list – instead of focusing on him having a ‘cool’ life more generally.
Anyway if they’re now cancelling events in August it looks like the Greenman festival won’t be far behind it. Which along with Glastonbury and the now annual trip to CentreParcs means all my holiday plans are no more… Which again (a frequent phase in these times) is all a bit surreal. I can’t remember ever not having some trip on the horizon to look forward to…and it’s hard to make definite plans with an indefinite lock down. We’re all assuming that after a few months of this it’ll be back to normal… but will it?
The government are already floating 6 months for how long disruption to life might last. Vaccines probably won’t be available for the general population until 2021. These are short term measures.
And what impact does that have on us, out culture, our ways of doing things?
On a call in work today they were discussing the mass mobilisation of home working – 1300+ people now distributed across the country all logging in remotely. And it struck me – what happens after 6 months of home working, why would you pull people back into offices. Could businesses realise considerable savings by having the majority of their staff home based and having fewer far smaller offices. How will that change the corporate culture, how will that change the social role that work plays for a lot of people – does it exacerbate the creeping disease of loneliness?
Interesting times and whatever happens I think the world we step out into after all this will be very different.
Covid-19 Symptom Check
So far so good – all fully fit…well apart from a couple of hangovers
During the day there are still cars around and people going for walks but at night it gets eerily quiet – no one out driving to those social events or running errands.
One thing I’ve noticed today is far more sirens – generally far off. Maybe it’s just because there’s less traffic generally so less of the normal city sounds but 3-4 times today I noticed sirens of ambulances or police cars… I pray who ever is in need to the sirens is ok – which again might be a factor in me noticing more.
So the new routine continues…the new norm… Get-up, Tea, sometimes breakfast, log on, work, calls, work, more calls, make tea, lunch, catch-up, hand over, shower (I know late), walk, maths, reading, science, snack, log back on, more calls, emails, apologies, tea, work-out, bed time, dinner, TV, bed…rinse repeat.
Its harder on Isaac I think. The initial joy at not having to go to school is slowly giving way to boredom, which isn’t helped by him being an only child. But we’re trying to keep him occupied and the school have been great at setting him things to do – he’s even started a diary.
It also struck me today how I’m slowly losing track of what day it is…without those typical, familiar queues it all just becomes another day… We’re not even through week 1 and I’m sure life will get more and more surreal…
In other events, I saw my mum today when she dropped off some cardboard for Isaac to build a castle from. Oh and some random flapjacks that she made to free up space in her kitchen. Think we’ll tackle the model building on the weekend (the flapjacks didn’t last a day). I’m trying to get him to build a model of Caldicot Castle but he has his heart set on Castle Coch – because red is his fave colour.
Covid-19 Symptom Check
Apart from the tail end of Isaac’s cold we’re all ok 🙂
There’s only been a few times when I felt I was living through history – Berlin Wall coming down, 911, 711… And the difference with all of those big events was I was always an observer, not caught up in them directly.
This one is very different as it’s touching everyone with no part of the world not being impacted in some way shape or form.
So we’ve been in lock-down for about a week, with my boy (Isaac) being off school from Thursday, and so far it’s all been ok. It’s taken a bit of getting used to with replicating the school routine and it’s odd having to consciously put thought into shopping and food. It’s also struck me as slightly strange how people react and get into panic buying, which as a behaviour pattern always strikes me at Christmas (when the shops are only closed for 2 days).
Anyway I’ve kind of promised to myself to keep some notes through this period on how we’re coping – to document our part of it all.
To say work has been busy would be an understatement.
It seems every week brings an opportunity to go and visit a different element of the country to help with something.
This has meant I’ve got far more familiar with trains and public transport than ever before – almost intimately!
But travelling is a great place to observe crowd behaviour and how people tend to follow what everyone else is doing.
Two examples struck me…
Part of the journey involved the new train station at Birmingham New Street.
Now I’ always one for leaving things behind normally coats in pubs) – but on this occasion it was on the train.
Actually this whole trip had a colleague basically collecting things I’d forgotten like a mother following a three year old.
We’d arrived at New Street and had to change…it was around rush hour and we had about 7 minutes to make the connection.
Things were rushed and my coat was the lat thing on my mind – and really not on my mind until half way down the plat form.
So dilemma – run back onto the train and hope I can fight my way to my old seat? Or just give up and buy a new coat.
I chose to try – and if I got trapped on the train it would at least make an interesting story (plus my colleague would have to get my luggage back to south wales).
SO the train is now jammed packed with passengers getting on with no chance of me getting to my seat to rescue the coat.
The solution – just shout down the train and ask people to pass it back…and without hesitation that is what everyone did. No questions or no second thoughts.
I was relieved.
The other example involved the layout of the new station.
With everyone a little unsure there tended to be some herd mentality going on. As the crowd rushed into the new station from the arriving trains most people simply followed the people they were with – normally resulting in hitting various bottle necks and dead ends. There were clearly signs directing people but these weren’t glanced at in preference to the assumption that the people in front knew where to go.
Partly the lack of beautiful blue ocean from my bedroom window
Partly not enjoying firepits with good friends
Partly the ecstasy and agony of a go-live in work
Partly…or maybe mostly going through Emily’s laptop
It’s a tough job – tougher than I ever thought it would be and something that has made me realise that we all should be responsible for curating our digital lives.
Also there was a complete mixup with the renewal of remission possible – something that again would be helped by thinking about the digital foot print we leave behind. Not that I’d want or expect Emily to have done anything differently – more that I should sort out my crap.
Next in my quest to move my website design to a more professional workflow is using version control more thoroughly.
For me this means getting to grips with a little app that I’ve been avoiding for a few years – GIT!
So what’s my goal….
Basically I want a local development server that links to a remote ‘live’ server – giving me the ability to test content and develop apps, whilst being able to go back a few steps and branch my development.
This post will track my first attempt – so I’ll probably tidy up things in a guide later…
Export and download the current site – files and DB
Prepare the new platform
Upload and Import the content and DB
Alter domain details to point to the correct nameservers
First up Satiricalblog.com – which on first look at the admin section reminds me how infrequently I use this blog, kill the spam from the comments section (243 waiting approval) or update things (20 updates pending).
So pre-step 1 is getting it all updated so everything it going across clean.
Export and download the current site
Grab a WordPress export of the site
Export the MySQL Database
Download all WordPress files via SFTP
Grab a WordPress export of the site
Time to grab an export of the site which will contain the posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags
Log into the admin section -> Tools -> Export
Select ‘All content’
Click ‘Download Export File
Doing this just highlights my frustration with my current hosting package as several times I ran into ‘502 bad gateway’ error messages. However I still ended up with a fairly hefty xml file.
The above phase isn’t 100% necessary as I’m going to take an extract of the database but I like the ‘belt and braces’ approach.
Export the MySQL Database
So onto the database extract and for this I need to log into cPanel.
From the home screen > Database section > phpMyAdmin
This step again highlighted an important lesson I need to bear in mind on the new platform – keeping database naming conventions in mind and relevant to the site/project. Fortunately I had named this sites DB something relevant – more by luck than judgement.
In phpMyAdmin select the database from the left-hand panel
Then in the right-hand panel click ‘export’
Select the option ‘Quick – display only the minimal options’
Select the ‘SQL format’
This downloads an sql file with all the DB content.
Download all WordPress files via SFTP
Now it’s time to grab the files from my current host via good old ftp.
For this I chose to use WinSCP, having not used ftp clients in many years it seemed to have the best reviews and least malware.
One thing to note here, I grabbed everything rather than getting picky over which files I might need.
So while that transfers I’m going to get some sleep.
The time has arrived where the old EUK hosting package I’m on is no longer big enough for all the work/interest/plans ahead.
Their upgrade plans just didn’t give me what I needed going forward, namely:-
unlimited space and websites
ruby on rails
So having looked around 1&1 seemed on balance the best choice… and now just the headache of moving everything over.
Luckily there are plenty of support guides around and more than a few low priority blogs that aren’t critical if things go wrong…
Updates becoming sparse again so I need to up my output and get the discipline back…not that I’ve been idle.
I’ve been working on satiricalblog.com and coming up with a new layout that is just about ready – the next step looking at freshening up the content and then advertising it more widely.
The idea being that it’ll be a good test case for some of the social media work and ideas to increase traffic.
But there are a few things eating into my time and motivation:-
Preparing for Glastonbury
Applying for my job
Also, a point raised by David B, how much do I want to associate my public profile (twitter/Reddit/pintrest) with my cartoons?
Is there a risk of a twitter storm… does it matter?
One of my biggest frustrations with WordPress has been the amount of times that, at seemingly random times, I would get a completely blank screen.
Now a little research, and enabling debug messages, turned up that this was typically due to various plugins overloading the php memory limit.
The mighty google thre up a few solutions, none of which seemed to work:-
increase the limit in php.ini – as I’m on a shared hosting platform this wasn’t editable (is that even a word?)
override the limit per directory via .htaccess – which just resulted in the whole site throwing an internal server error (500)
override the limit at run time via by adding [define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘128M’);] to wp-config.php – which seemed to make no difference
override the limit per script by adding [ini_set(‘memory_limit’, ‘128M’);] to the relavent functions that are causing issues – again no dice
So I was almost at the point of raising a ticket with my hosting provider in the depressing anticipation of being told that increasing memory limits wasn’t an option on my bargin basement proce plan.
Then I had a though
Then I checked my research and spotted a tiny flaw….
All the articles I’d read were between 3 and 5 years – PHP had moved on quite a bit.
More research – some sleep – planting some sunflowers – and I found the answer
Since PHP 5.3 “.user.ini” can be used to override php.ini on a per directory basis – so in effect is the new .htaccess
Very simple – very straightforward and very workable….
well as weeks go it’s been fairly good…
I’m back into blogging – back drawing – back working towards hitting a few goals.
However, the highlight has to be Isaac picking his first strawberry from the garden:-
So all good!
I think the aim for the coming week is to sort out the lights in the front room and the sink in the downstairs toilet. Both simple and straight forward jobs, but both needing some application and fitting it around everything else.
On the blogging front it seems I’m continually hitting memory issues which are causing the dreaded ‘White screen of WordPress death’.
Although there is a work around that invovles turning off certain pluggins to edit or post anything new I don’t think this is sustainable in the long term.
I need to be able to edit php.ini but this is only a read only file in the current hosting environment – so….it looks like I might have to raise a ticket.
I’ve finally hit on a perfect theme for satiricalblog.com and so have made the move to port it over to wordpress.
So hopefully soon I can get back to drawing – certainly there is enough going on in the world.
Oh and I started a few ‘1 second everyday’ films 🙂
Anyway DJSam has been hard at work with a new mix…
It seems today has been brought to me by the number 1.
From the events of 11.11 this morning to stumbling across 1second-everyday.
So 1SE got me thinking (again) about how I need to get back into blogging (again) and it might be a nice quick way to track things in this my 40th year.
But then I thought the realms of this blog probably give me a little more scope…or maybe both.
Anyway back to daily blogging – I will get my Mojo back.
And the song of the day…
Jackson Sisters – I Believe in Miracles – 1973 (which played at 11.11 today)
Before getting into the nitty gritty of applying CSS it’s worth taking some time to understand the HTML structure of the page in _s.
Conceptually I always think of an HTML page as a series of boxes each nested inside one another – each having a unique name with different types of boxes sharing characteristics.
In HTML terms there are three important ways of identifying and categorising these boxes:-
ID – a unique name used to identify a specific element on a page/document
Class – used to assign general properties to one or many elements on a page/document
Role – ARIA “role” attribute helps make it easier for those using assisitive technology devices to navigate through the page
So for _s and most WP themes
Page container <div id=”page” class=”hfeed site”>
Site header <header id=”masthead” class=”site-header” role=”banner”>
navigation <nav class=”site-navigation main navigation” role=”navigation”>
Main content <div id=”main” class=”site-main”>
main area – primary <div id=”primary” class=”content-area”>
site content <div id=”content” class=”site-content” role=”main”>
widget area – secondary <div id=”secondary” class=”widget-area” role=”complimentary”>
widget are – tertiary <div id=”tertiary” class=”widget-area” role=”supplementary”>
Site footer <footer id=”colophon” class=”site-footer” role=”contentinfo”>
So as discussed previously I’ve decided to build a new WordPress theme and instead of pulling the normal trick of simply creating a child theme I thought I’d take the plunge and develop my own from (almost) scratch using ‘_s’. To recap underscores (_s) is a popular starter theme maintained by Automattic (yeah the WordPress.com people) which keeps itself upto date with all the HTML5 standards and best practice.
This first article simply peers under the hood and looks at what you get with the zip file from underscores.me
archive.php – like index.php but displays content based on a set of criteria, e.g. date range, specific author, category, tag etc
page.php – for content out of chronological order, or put simply for pages that do not need all that blog metadata
content-single.php – for where single posts will be displayed away from the normal index.php – allowing them to be carry a different design
header.php – modular component that includes the header information for the templates
footer.php – modular component that includes the footer information for the templates
sidebar.php – modular component that includes the sidebar information for the templates
404.php – the ever useful 404 page for when things don’t go to plan.
There are other files included but the above form the core of the theme in terms of crafting the layout.
_s does make use of a modular approach with a corresponding hierarchy which defines which templates get included.
There are a few diagrams available to summarise this hierarchy and show what gets included, two of the better ones being:-
The other key file to note is functions.php which unsurprisingly contain functions for the theme. Broadly this file proivides:-
support for WordPress features e.g. custom backgrounds, headers, post formats, etc
“containers” for code to be reused throughout the theme
The style.css file contains all the key style info for the template. IT’s well organised and structured into 12 sections:-
Normalize – formally reset
Posts and pages
This both makes it easy to follow and make updates as well as helping if SASS is the end goal.
The other great thing about _s is that it’s fully and clearly commented through out the various files which makes understanding where things go and how they relate a lot more straightforward.
Anyway there we have the key bits of the theme..next article, some key plugins for development.
So part of rekindling of my blogging love is the firm commitment to learn how to create my own themes.
Partly this is due to the frustration at the current crop of themes not quite nailing it, and seemingly growing number that seem to charge for anything above the basics. This of course is a sweeping generalisation that has little basis in any fact other than my irritation that I can’t do out of the box the cool things I want. Also wedded to this frustration is a deep down belief that I probably could do better – the hubris flight leaves soon.
Where to start…
Well a quick tour around google turned up a number of starter themes each based on a variety of different frameworks and approaches. The flexibility of WP as a platform leads to a bewildering number of options to achieve the desired end result. So based on three main factors I picked Underscores (_S), the three factors being:-
It came recommended from a number of the top hits in google
It was the basis of the WordPress 2015 theme – if they like it it must be good
Its designed to just be hacked and pulled around – as opposed to being the parent of a child theme
It comes with it’s own config utility on hhtp://underscores.me that allows it to be branded appropriately before download
Ok this is factor number 5 – It has one or two great tutorials to follow
(just to note – I’m anything except a reliable narrator of my own blog)
Having picked a suitably unoriginal theme name I filled out the details on Underscores.me and downloaded my nice new theme.
Installing it was simple and straightforward (as you would expect from WP) and similarly enabling it was straight forward…
Then came the shock of realising just how bare a starter theme can be…
Yep it looked like it was designed in the 80’s – which if I had engaged my brain wouldn’t of been such a shock.
But this led to a little complication. Although I wanted to learn the zen of theme building I didn’t want my site to look like amateur hour while I crafted my skills.
Luckily there were, again, lots of options on the font of all modern wisdom (google)… the one I picked was installing a nifty little plugin called ‘Theme Test Drive‘. This enables you to run a separate theme as administrator while the general public see a different one. This gave me the flexibility to craft out a new them behind the scenes – learning my craft as I go, while keeping the external view of the site untouched. Also it had a very cool option of allowing a url option to point to the admin theme – allowing a sneak peak.
Anyway its a start and as develop the new theme I’ll be posting here to track what I’ve done, and how it’s worked out.
What I’ve learnt from getting back into blogging has been how very different Word Press and Blogger are as platforms. Probably for all the right reasons – it just feels a lot more grown-up and serious.
Anyway I digress (marginally) from the point of this post – which is there are so so many options around design/widgets/forms/formats/categories/tags…almost too much!
It’s similar to the reason I sometimes avoid Subway – a bewildering range of choice.
‘You can have everything!’
…yeah but what if I don’t know what I want?
So I got to reading Jeff Bullas’ blog and a post about the 15 most common mistakes…and the section on contact forms caught my attention. This site is very much a work in progress but I hadn’t thought of really using a contact form – but actually after reading Jeff’s take on it I thought I’d look at putting a simple form together.
Which brings me to choice – there are hundreds of options for plugins that handle forms from a simple html form to cloud based filtered services that will integrate with your CRM. Where’s good old safe and easy blogger when you need it.
This led me into the ‘review minefield’ – multiply the number of plugin options by the number of reviews and suddenly a simple choice is somewhere in the middle of an ocean of information. Which at the speed I read devoured a good few hours.
After looking at all those reviews and ratings what did I decide to do?
Well I listened to Jeff’s advice and installed one of his recommendations.
Moral of the story?
Sometimes choice is good, flexibility and scale-ability is always nice – but sometimes a good recommendation is far better than hours lost in research on a new subject.