Tuesday 30 June 2020

Day 99...

Dartford Warbler - RSPB Minsmere

Another of those “haven’t done much of note” sort of days. On the bright side though, a positive conversation with one of my bosses this morning - she seems fairly positive that they will be in a position to take me back on properly in a few months which was good to hear - fingers very much crossed!

Aside from that I’m tying to step up my exercise again - for the last couple of weeks I have tried to make sure I do a couple of runs, A couple of strength sessions, plenty of walking and lots of stretching. This week the target I  have set myself is 2 runs, 3 Strength sessions, 2 HIIT cardio sessions and 5 lots of stretching plus the usual plenty of walking. The strength work is vital I know - with not having been able to use the gym since March my upper body strength has suffered rather so I am working on getting that back as a starting point - crunches, push-ups, and some weights and resistance band work. It will also serve me well to help me avoid injury when I’m running. Today was a decent walk at a good pace this morning, then a HIIT session followed by a strength session this evening once MrEH had finished work. Once this post is written and posted there will also be some stretching.

Aside from that today was mostly life admin - general household tasks, checking the banking and writing our new financial plan for the next few months, although MrEH is now back to 5 days a week working, there is still a financial impact to be dealt with for a while longer, although for a time at least this will be at least partly dealt with by having zero travel costs as he will continue to work from home for the time being. Planning some time with a friend next week once we are actually allowed to spend time in other people’s homes again. Catching up on some podcasts. (Run Selfie Repeat with the excellent Kelly Roberts).  Tomorrow will likely be more of the same...life is certainly straightforward, right now!


Monday 29 June 2020

Day 98...

An utterly glorious run this morning! I’m still struggling a little with actually getting out of the door to run - and I’m still not entirely sure why, but for now the thing that is working is to get my running kit on first thing, then head out straight after we get back from our start-the-day walk - otherwise known as “before I talk myself out of it” and today was no exception. I followed the route we took for yesterday’s walk to start with - heading for the Common. Thankfully no downpour requiring shelter to be taken today although it had clouded over by the time I reached the top - typical! FAR nicer temperature wise than it has been of late though.

Then, over the M11 motorway- far busier now than it would have been a few weeks ago of course, but still I think not quite as much traffic as would have been normal for that time on a Monday morning,  an appreciable amount more traffic noise though! My route then took me a short way along a quiet road before turning left along a footpath which runs through a short section of woodland before turning right and running along the field edge parallel with the M11 and bringing me to a bridge allowing me to cross back over again...

From this point I had a lovely long downhill stretch - firstly through some paths, then quiet residential streets, and then back onto the town’s wonderful network of old roads - now cycle and pedestrian tracks. We’re incredibly fortunately to have these - it’s possible to get all round the town using them and barely needing to touch the main roads at all - today I used only a few short stretches of pretty quiet roads, plus having to cross over one slightly more major one (And the motorway, but that didn’t bother me much at all!) - far more pleasant than constant pavement pounding! 

I’m not one to take regular selfies when I run but today I was enjoying it so much, and the cooler temperatures meant I wasn’t quite so closely resembling a tomato as sometimes occurs when I run - so I made an exception - as you can see from today’s “sweaty selfie” above. It felt great to get this route run - when we walked it a few weeks back I started thinking it would be a great one for a run and I really wasn’t wrong. In spite of the rain over the past few days road shoes coped fine with it too although I imagine at some times of the year the section round the field in particular and perhaps over the Common too might benefit from the added grip of trail shoes. Today though 5 miles, no mud, and a lovely cooling breeze! Bliss! 


Sunday 28 June 2020

Day 97...

The last of the gooseberries picked this morning - this is the third lot we’ve picked, and they came to best part of 2kg in weight which we were delighted with! Cooked down this evening, we’ll divide into batches for freezing once cool and that will make the fruit component of several crumbles. We’ve already had some delicious compote, and several jars of jam from the earlier pickings too, so we’re calling this year a success on the gooseberry front! 

A walk this afternoon as usual, although not quite so far as in previous weeks due to the uncertain weather. Getting a close up view of this beautiful Red Admiral on the path on the way out was a nice treat though - generally speaking they fly off before I can get close enough to get a photo with the iPhone! 

We walked up over the common - breaking part way across to take shelter in the little thicket of trees you see in the picture below just in time before the heavens opened! Thank goodness for decent cover from broadleaved trees - we managed to stay almost entirely dry for the 20 minutes or so that it hammered down! The photo shows the clouds heading off away from us once it had stopped. 

Just 5.5 miles today then - which was plenty as I was wearing my walking boots for the first time in a VERY long while, even that short distance and my feet are telling me now that they know about it! 

And rounding today off - another dramatic sky, this time from the kitchen window while the gooseberries were cooking down...


Saturday 27 June 2020

Day 96...

Some things to be grateful for today:
- our mini tomato plantation, above, growing well!
- over an hour this morning of conscious movement - cardio, strength and yoga.
- Home made scones - delicious, and cheap as chips!
- Good friends, lots of laughs, and some planning for future fun!

A very different day here to yesterday - even though the threatened thunderstorm never arrived, the temperature dropped sharply overnight and today was far more cloudy with quite frequent heavy cloudbursts. MrEH had rugby fitness training this morning and got drenched walking there. I meanwhile decided to stay here rather than going for a walk and do some exercise inside. The interval timer on the FitBit is great for this - 14 x 30-second bursts with 10 seconds rest between each gives a pretty good HIIT workout for cardio, or a decent short strength  session - body weight exercises or those using resistance bands or the 10kg dumb-bell we have. Trying to keep up some weights work at the moment will, I’m pretty sure, benefit me when it’s time to return to the gym. This morning saw 2 cardio sessions and 2 strength, followed by half an hour of yoga for a good stretch.

The plants are all thoroughly appreciative of the rain - beans, broad and runner, have shot up in the last few days - the runners are now starting to try to grab onto the structure they will climb up. The kale is growing well, and the tomatoes - well, you can see above quite how happy THEY are looking!  This has been the first time for several years we’ve managed to grown anything much aside from gooseberries and redcurrants, and some potatoes last year, and it feels good to have some of our own food on the way!


Friday 26 June 2020

Day 95...

So ironically, while we were enjoying beautiful empty beaches in a Suffolk yesterday, it seems that an estimated half a million people descended on Bournemouth’s beaches, sparking a major incident. For perspective - during the 4 days of the airshow, the town sees an estimated 2 million visitors total - this is their busiest weekend of the year, and one which they are geared up for. Those people will also be spread across the beaches, through the town and it’s various pubs and restaurants, and there are many additional facilities brought in - food providers, toilets etc. At the moment most of the toilets, and many of the food providers, are closed. The behaviour of some of those visiting yesterday was truly disgraceful - they should quite simply be ashamed. When they arrived - some from as far afield as London & Birmingham - and discovered the car parks were full, many just left their cars wherever they found a space - in excess of 500 parking tickets were issued in one day.

While I disagree with locals in coastal areas trying to say that nobody from further afield should visit,  I also feel strongly that at the moment, if you plan a visit somewhere, arrive and it is clearly already ludicrously busy, then common sense should dictate that you leave again, and go somewhere else. Doing otherwise puts you and anyone you subsequently come into contact with at risk. Yes, you have the right to visit, but only if you can do it safely - your lack of regard for yourself does not give you the right to impose that lack of regard on others also. I’m afraid I don’t buy the ludicrous argument that all those who packed into Bournemouth yesterday were in desperate need of an escape from 93 days of having been cooped up with the kids in a small flat - some, perhaps, although why they would then put those children at risk by taking them into that environment is anyone’s guess - the majority though either didn’t think, or simply didn’t care. Some almost certainly said “nobody’s telling ME where I can and can’t go!” or used fake justification like “well if Dominic Cummings can do it” or “the government isn’t being clear”. The 2m social distancing rule has been in place for WEEKS - if you haven’t grasped it yet, that’s not the government being unclear, that is you being so slow on the uptake it’s questionable whether you should be allowed out alone.

So yes, we visited a beach yesterday. We planned in advance, researched how busy it was likely to be, aimed to arrive early, and agreed that if we got there and it was busier than expected we would indeed change plans - that was the risk we took. We checked that there were toilet facilities available, and took our own food and drink. We parked correctly, in a car park, with double the usual amount of space around our vehicle, and we washed our hands on arrival and again before leaving. We had a day out without increasing our own risk, or anyone else’s.

And today - we returned to staying local. A walk from home, exploring yet more of Harlow’s lovely leafy paths and shady old roads. And yes, even after 13 weeks of local walking, we are STILL finding new places to go!


Thursday 25 June 2020

Day 94...

What a glorious day! With beautiful weather forecast, we decided to head up to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere on the Suffolk coast. I was beginning to feel quite desperate to get to a beach, and that stretch of coast guarantees fairly quiet ones even on days like today - not for us the great crowds seen in the south coast today!

We walked the loop up to the beach, along the coast and back to the entrance in the morning - loads of birds including our first sighting of a Dartford Warbler which was a bit of a bonus. Of course all the hides are closed at the moment, but there is a viewpoint looking over the scrape where the gulls and terns are breeding currently and that is open to the air so remains open. Then a picnic for lunch - pretty much just what we would have in a standard Thursday but of course eaten outside SO much tastier! Then headed off to cover the other side of the reserve - out through the woods, then up over the heath. Back once more at the car we decided we weren’t quite ready to leave, so back to the beach and this time along to Dunwich - somewhere I’d not been for years but as you can see from the photo above fabulous views from the cliff top viewpoint!

Then, as is traditional we headed for Aldeburgh for another - shorter - walk and the obligatory chippy tea! As anyone who has been knows the Aldeburgh fish & chip shop does some of the best you will find anywhere, and today was no exception. Wonderfully fresh haddock and chips - plenty of salt & vinegar - and SO sizzlingly hot from the fryer that all you can do for the first few minutes is pick up chips and drop them again with an “ouch!” - torture with the amazing aroma wafting you at you from the bag!

We were delighted to spot that “Snooks” has been given some fitting decoration too - quite the sign of the times, we thought! He usually watches over the busy boating lake - but at the moment that is drained to prevent people gathering there - I think he looks rather perplexed about this, don’t you?


Wednesday 24 June 2020

Day 93...

It feels like I’m adrift at the moment. Lists, structure and good habits are helping, but...I’m not sure ai can even put the feeling into words. Uncertainty around my job isn’t helping. It’s inevitable, but I’m struggling with a sense of lack of purpose, I guess, at the moment. In times when I have been not working in the past I have been looking for employment, applying for jobs that look promising, or at the very least even if not actively looking, that has been closed ended, giving myself a little time to regroup before getting back into the fray. All I can do in this current situation is hope that the housing market picks up and cross my fingers it will happen soon enough, it’s frustrating, and leaves you feeling quite helpless.

Time for sleep...


Tuesday 23 June 2020

Day 92...

These little cuties are getting increasingly bold and happy to use the feeders while we are in full view now. We think there were 5 in the first brood, and we hope that Mum & Dad have now gone off for brood number 2. The juniors are outside from morning until evening hopping around in the bush, to and from the tree, and loudly demanding further supplies of fastballs when those in the feeders run out!

Many changes announced on the lockdown easing front today, although not kicking in until July 4th. The biggie is that although “ideal” social distancing will remain at 2m where possible, in certain circumstances it will be reduced to what is being known as “1m+”. This will enable the reopening of pubs and restaurants, although with certain conditions attached, including taking contact details for those attending so they can be traced if an infection is confirmed. Hairdressers and barbers will also be allowed to open, much to the relief of many who are sporting a fine “lockdown mop” by now! Other announcements include that two households will be able to meet indoors, with social distancing in place, and outdoor gyms are going to be allowed to reopen also, although still no news on indoor ones, or swimming pools.

The pub reopening news is a fairly big one for us - for a start we hope it may mean the bar at the rugby club may be able to reopen - even if possibly just serving outside for the moment. We will probably be in no rush to head for a pub straight away though - not least as that first weekend is, let’s face it, going to be silly season! I for one will be keen to see how things pan out and what reports emerge from those that do reopen on the 4th in terms of customers respecting personal space etc.

The other change announced in today’s lunchtime briefing was that the Government briefings will no longer be daily, presumably because the feeling is that there is less to say now to justify it. The general feeling seems to be that it’s about the right time to cut down the regularity on that, we stopped watching them live just a short time into lockdown, but still tended to check online shortly after briefing time each day to see if anything significant had been announced.


A new language... *updated 25/6/20*

I thought it might be interesting to write out some of the words, phrases and behaviours that have become our new normal during the pandemic. Also some of the people and organisations who have become household names, and some of the other things that have arisen as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown, as I think of them.

Lockdown - began on 23rd March 2020 with the instructions to stay at home other than for a limited set of reasons. Shops and many service industries were told to close. Unnecessary travel was banned. We were not allowed to visit friends or family or meet with anyone outside of our households.

Shielding - for some, the basic Lockdown restrictions were not enough to ensure their safety, and they were advised to stay within their own home. This included those considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable.

Social distancing - the act of keeping a minimum of 2m distance between yourself and anyone not in your household at all times, unless absolutely not possible. Moving to the far edge of a pavement or path, or stepping into the road to let someone else pass “safely” - behaviour that would have been considered downright rude prior to the  Coronavirus outbreak rapidly became the polite thing to do.

Daily exercise - one of the reasons we were allowed to leave home in the early stages of lockdown - “for one form of exercise per day” until 13th May, at which point this was relaxed. This spawned social media hashtags such as “Boris Walk” and “Government approved walk/run”.

Furlough - the Government’s scheme to support those workers whose companies would otherwise have had no option but to make them redundant, on the basis that the company has no income with which to pay them. The scheme, formally called the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” paid employees 80% of their usual pay. There was a similar scheme for the self-employed also, although a fair number fell through the net on that one.

Daily briefing - each day a senior member of the Cabinet plus a couple of relevant expert advisors carried out a press conference. Initially this was done face to face - subsequently via video conferencing. In the early days of these briefings the majority of the population were glued to them, however this faded for many to just reading or watching the highlights once we all got a bit “newsed out”

Zoom - a video calling platform which went from zero to hero within a few days of the start of lockdown, enabling both business meetings and groups of friends to “meet” and chat online, almost as normal. See also Teams, Skype, messenger chat and others.

KeyWorkers - prior to the COVID-19 crisis this was usually used to mean members of the emergency and medical services, however it rapidly became apparent during lockdown that our keyworkers also included (but weren’t limited to) shop workers,  care home staff and those caring for the ill or elderly in their homes, bus and train drivers, taxi drivers, postmen, bin men, street cleaners, those employed in food production, distribution workers, teachers (many continued to work as children of other key workers continued to attend school, allowing their parents to carry on working while no other childcare was available to them). Thanking these workers became commonplace. Let’s hope we all continue to appreciate their part in our lives in the future.

The Thursday Applause / Clap for carers - at 8pm each Thursday many people gathered on doorsteps, balconies and in gardens to applaud. Initially this was for keyworkers generally, but in subsequent weeks it became mainly about the NHS. People, clapped, cheered, whistled, banged pots and pans with wooden spoons - anything to make some noise. His continued for 10 weeks after which the originator requested that it stopped before it became habitual, and less meaningful.

Working From Home - something which we were all aware of prior to March 23rd, but from then it became the normal for most people. Will it continue to be accepted by companies as a regular part of life into the future now it has been proved that it can work? We’ll see.

SAGE - formerly business accounting software, we now know it also stands for Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Supermarket one-way systems - organised by a series of arrows on the floor, we were all asked in larger supermarkets to proceed up one aisle and down the next throughout the store to reduce incidences of people breaching social distancing protocols. Likened by some to a giant game of real-life PacMan, it mostly worked well when people wanted it to. Dirty looks and passive-aggressive muttering addressed as those who insisted on flouting the directional arrows became the norm.As Lockdown was eased, and non essential shops were allowed to reopen, this also became the normal way of managing things in town centres, shopping malls etc.

R-Number - this is the reproduction rate of the virus, in other works how fast it will spread. An R number of above 1 is a significant problem, indeed it was not until ours went below 1 that Lockdown was able to be relaxed. This number fluctuates a lot however, making managing it tricky - for this reason we were warned that a lockdown restrictions may need to be tightened again.

CovIdiots - a word used to describe those who behaved stupidly and potentially out others at risk of the virus. Those refusing to acknowledge the social distancing guidelines, and gathering on beaches in their thousands, for example!

Professor Christopher Whitty CB FRCP FFPH FMedSci is an English physician and epidemiologist. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and Head of the National Institute for Health Research (source: Wikipedia) He became a regular face on our TV screens and printed press in the early part of the lockdown, along with...

Sir Patrick Vallance FRS FMedSci FRCP - A British physician, scientist, and clinical pharmacologist. He has since March 2018 been the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of the United Kingdom.

Monday 22 June 2020

Day 91...

Another day where I haven’t taken any photos - so having had some appreciative comments about the one above elsewhere on socials I thought I’d share it here also. Scott’s Sufference Wharf on the right, Shuters & St George’s Wharves on the left, taken as we were heading back to the car on Thursday. The name of the wharf on the right grabbed attention to start with and we went for a better look and saw this view - the view down to the river caught my eye, then the texture of the mud...I grabbed a shot with the iPhone because I suspected mutiny from MrEH had I decided to get the DSLR out again...when I remembered the shot and looked at it again yesterday I instantly knew it had to be a black & white (or technically monochrome as it’s not *quite* black) conversion, the timeless quality of the photograph just demanded it.

Today has been a day of first, movement - our usual walk first thing, then I ran afterwards, and followed up with LOTS of stretching. Some planning - mapping out my week ahead in my journal, including a meal plan. A chat on the phone with a friend, general pottering and enjoying having the time to devote to jobs which might in other circumstances have been rushed through. Some cooking later on this afternoon - cottage pie mix made, the mince bulked out with red lentils and mushrooms to give an additional portion for the freezer - the first half will get eaten tomorrow evening.

I’m beginning to hopefully see a proper return of my running mojo I think. At the moment I am sticking with 2-phase runs - the first half being prompted by the commands from the Couch to 5k programme, and the second half running intervals of 0.1 mile, followed with 0.05 of a mile walking. It’s giving a relatively slow overall pace but that will improve as time moves on and I can first alter the C25K prompts to mean more running, less walking, and then increase the distance on my intervals afterwards. Already today that second half felt more comfortable, several times I either ran on past the distance or chose to run further - a good feeling. My 5k time is still slower than I know I am capable of at the moment - a bit over 33 minutes today - but I know that if I put the work in, the pace will come back. So for now it’s a couple of runs a week following that structure, some sessions of strength work, and plenty of stretching, water and sleep - all the good stuff.

And now - enjoying the last of the day outside on the balcony. The point in the year has come where we often quite happily sit out well into the evening, enjoying the warmer temperatures and the increased daylight. A lovely, relaxing way to end a day...


Sunday 21 June 2020

Day 90...

Another a Sunday and another walk out exploring the local area. MrEH’s turn to choose the direction today, and he opted for out over Harlow Common towards the motorway, then south towards its junction with the main road back into town. Paused for a while on the Common to have a chat with the resident ponies...

..then on along the footpath, with some unexpectedly good views through the trees. 

...OK, occasionally slightly marred views, but still... ;-) 

Our trusty OS Map has started to look a bit battered now - and we’ve talked about possibly buying a more up to date one and then marking up the paths we’ve walked on the current one. Realistically, if it hadn’t been for the restrictions put in place by Covid-19 and the lockdown we probably wouldn’t have explored half the areas we have over the past few weeks, but it’s been such good fun, it’s definitely one of the good things to have come out of this crazy situation. 

People have a habit of saying that our local area is dull, boring, featureless - and I guess even living here you have a habit of  comparing it with other areas of the country, and finding it wanting, but on a day like today, it really is quite beautiful. A lot of today’s walk was close to the motorway - and yes, slightly marred by the traffic noise which is now back to approaching normal levels - but still some stunning views.

Also stunning wildlife - wildflowers, butterflies, and birds. We’re gradually learning more about the flowers and the butterflies - today’s highlights include seeing absolutely MASSES of Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell and Gatekeeper butterflies, some beautiful wild roses and also these rather wonderful orchids...

...which we’re struggling to identify at the moment. Bizarrely these seem to mainly be clustered around the motorway - we’ve not seen them anywhere else locally! We also saw a Yellowhammer again today - you might remember that we only saw our first of those a few weeks ago, so it was a definite treat to see another!


Saturday 20 June 2020

Day 89...

Not much to say today - and no photos taken so using another shot of the flypast from Thursday.

Been feeling a bit meh today - it only occurred to me a little while ago that it’s partly because I have nothing specific upcoming to look forward to right now - with the flypast over and done with and not caring to really hope that our holiday will actually come off either. We had our usual Saturday afternoon get together with the gang this afternoon, but the decision had been taken to switch to Google Meet from Zoom - the functionality on the iPad turned out to be horrible - surprising as usually google technology works well on here (this blog, after all, is Google!)  - meaning that we had no option for a grid view of everyone, but had to put up with the screen constantly flashing from one screen to another. Add in the fact that the sound quality was also nowhere near as good as zoom - GM seems to pick up background noise and transmit that at the same volume as the person speaking - and ai rapidly found myself suffering from a complete sensory overload and unable to cope. I dipped in and out for a while but eventually had to admit defeat and leave MrEH to it.

Meh. That’s all. Let’s see what light appears on the horizon tomorrow.


Friday 19 June 2020

Day 88...

Another stretch of the river walked today - up to Sawbridgeworth, the next town up from us. After 10 miles yesterday, and 3 already done this morning going to and from the supermarket, my legs were feeling it a bit by the time we got back from this one! On the other hand it feels really good to be able to happily go out and walk this far now - the “time on feet” will undoubtedly benefit my running as well.

Handily my new bread proving basket arrived yesterday so I was able to use it for proving this week’s sourdough loaf ve right. Less handily I need more practise getting the right amount of flour in the basket - as the dough stuck, and then the loaf “pancaked” when I finally managed to tip it out. Next time MORE flour! Definitely looks more the part though with the characteristic sourdough ridges from the basket, and more importantly still it tastes bloody amazing! If I get nothing else from the lockdown experience, finally getting a sourdough starter going and learning to make wonderful tasting loaves of undoubtedly my favourite bread definitely counts as a win!

On the Covid-19 front, non essential shops have now reopened in England - with the entirely expected massive queues at places like Primark. In England single people living alone can now link up with another household in a social “bubble” as the toll on mental health that having so little company for the last three months has wreaked on so many has been recognised. Scotland have now followed suit on this one too. In England we are still generally limited to meeting in maximum groups of 6, and only outside - in Scotland this is up to a maximum of 8, but they may only be from two households. We are still unsure whether things will have been relaxed sufficiently to allow us to travel to the Hebrides in a couple of months - if things happen on time it looks likely that in theory at least we would be OK to go - in practise though we will have to wait and see if the Islands are comfortable with visitors by that stage.


Thursday 18 June 2020

Day 87...

So, it rained ALL through last night. At one point it sounded as though the worlds biggest bucket was being emptied right outside the windows. It carried on raining for most of this morning as well - sometimes deluging, sometimes just a drizzle. We popped to get MrEH’s newspaper and got home mildly damp. Rumours abounded that the counterpart flypast in Paris in the late morning was being cancelled because of weather - not true, in fact Paris had glorious blue skies!

We left home to drive into London just after lunch - it was still spitting but - a literal glimmer of hope - the sun had started peeking through... by 3pm we were walking along the Embankment from a Tower Bridge with some incredible cloud formations above - some clearly still threatening some rain but importantly all nice and high, so unlikely to disrupt the actual route of the flypast. The 2 teams had made it across to RAF Brize Norton to refuel but reports were that the weather there was still pretty dreadful, it wouldn’t be the first time that a Flypast was scuppered by weather either at the operating base, or between that base and the target, frustrating for all concerned but can’t be helped.

By 4.15pm we had recced all possible locations and I had decided on plan A - Waterloo Bridge - giving a view which could - depending on the precise line taken by the jets - include the London Eye and the Thames in one direction, and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the city skyline in the other - just so long as a bus didn’t draw up at the wrong moment! Better still though, those superb cloud formations were hanging around, particularly in the St Paul’s direction. 4.40pm - takeoff time and we started picking up snippets of radio transmissions on the scanner confirming that 18 jets were in the air and heading our way...

At bang on 5pm the coloured smoke appeared over the roof of the Ministry of Defence building - I fired off a couple of shots with my 10 - 18mm lens on the Canon 80D, then hastily switched to the 7DMk2 hanging over the other shoulder ready to shoot the remainder with the 24 - 105mm as it became apparent the wider angle wasn’t going to give quite the composition I was hoping for. As the jets roared over I dashed across the pavement, hopped onto the barrier and framed up ready to get the departing shots with the Cathedral - massive thanks to the lovely van driver who held back as long as he could from blocking my view! The whole thing was over in around 45 seconds - which actually feels like quite a long time photographically, although people watching always feel it is over in a flash!

As always looking around and seeing the reactions of the people around was a definite highlight - a flypast puts smiles on faces, all the more so for those who didn’t know about - and weren’t expecting - it. People continue to stand and watch for a few moments more as the lingering red, white & blue smoke drifts across the sky - before carrying on with their day. You can imagine the conversations around dinner tables that evening “Wow - guess what I saw on the way home!”


(To reiterate from yesterday - in London it is still being requested that public transport use is for essential travel only, and had I needed to use the tube, or buses I would not have made the trip in. As it was we drove as far as Bermondsey, just under an hour, parked there and walked the rest.)

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Day 86...

A chunk of today has looked a little like this. Tomorrow, the Red Arrows will be performing a Flypast with the French national aerobatic team thr Patrouille de France over central London, and MrEH and I will be heading in to watch/photograph it. I like to plan stuff like this in advance to give myself the best possible chance at getting a shot I’ll be pleased with and frankly a good old fashioned map and ruler are about the best way of doing this when it is a straight-line route as tomorrow is. I combine that with Google streetview to confirm the view from the various locations I am considering, although to be honest local knowledge helps a lot on this one too. I know the route, and know the landmarks I would ideally like to get in the shot. I have two possible locations in mind and will size up both when we get into London tomorrow to see which will suit best. After that, everything else is out of my control, but at least I have given it my best shot!

A friend asked me earlier if I was excited about tomorrow - I am, but as I said to her, I get nervous for flypasts too. Displays are different - there will be another one, very possibly in the same location, another year, and often if a particular shot or shots I want don’t come off at one show, I can try again the following week, or month, or season, and hopefully nail it that time. Flypasts are different though - they are unique, for a start. Quite often a Flypast is for a never-to-be-repeated event, and sometimes they take a never-to-be-repeated format as well - when the Reds flew with the Vulcan at Southport in 2015 for example, we knew that was the last time we would ever see those aircraft together again. Tomorrow is a good example - it’s not unusual for the Reds and PdF to fly together - indeed they did so at Air Tattoo last summer, but add in some of London’s best known landmarks, AND that London rarely sees two national teams combining like this, and this is a pretty unique event. Then throw in variables like weather - rain is forecast for tomorrow, and sometimes you can get wind affecting things too - it blows the coloured smoke around and can even blow the formation slightly off course and it can all impact on getting the perfect shot.

Check back tomorrow to see how things turned out...or not!


Tuesday 16 June 2020

Day 85...

Remembering the coping mechanisms when things get a bit stressy and anxious. There’s really are strange times we’re living through.

Routine, structure.
Good food, drinking plenty of water.
Time outside - walking, running, or just sitting.
Something to look forward to.
Time to breathe.

Back to basics this week. A properly planned week - meals, things I want to get done. Getting back to good habits. Making sure I keep well hydrated - something which ALWAYS acts as a warning sign for me is when I start forgetting to drink my water - that tells me that some self care is needed.  A return to planned running - this week will be at least two runs. Strength work, and lots of stretching too. I have a little photographic trip planned for Thursday and have been spending a bit of time deciding on a location for that. (A bridge, I think, since you ask!). Trying to get some consistency back into bedtimes as well - a small thing that can make a lot of difference. Getting things done removes the guilt that I felt last week about drifting aimlessly. Why guilt? That I’m not sure about - habit perhaps?

The biggest difference this week though has definitely been the plan. Just having a page marked out in my journal, a list of things to work through, items to be ticked off, has given me a structure which I almost hadn’t realised how much I had been struggling without. And having that structure also frees up time for me to stop, and sit, and think - to watch the birds on our feeders, to sit and read and enjoy the sunshine in the balcony.

Sleep, move, think, plan, breathe.


Monday 15 June 2020

Day 84...

I popped out for a run this morning - a 5k with the first couple of miles being prompted by the Couch 2 5K programme again in order to work back to longer running intervals. As I got home, news was just breaking about a rumoured USAF jet down in the North Sea. As is always the way with this sort of thing, news trickled in slowly but it rapidly became apparent it was more than just a rumour, and a short while later RAF Lakenheath confirmed that it was one of the 48th Fighter Wing F-15 Eagles that had crashed, and that a search was underway for the pilot.

Throughout the day the search went on and finally early in the evening the news was released first that the wreckage had been located, and then announcing that the Pilot was confirmed dead. Incredibly sad news, and a reminder of the dangers of military aviation.

Blue Skies.


Sunday 14 June 2020

Day 83...

So the tradition of Sunday as “long walk day” continues. Just under 11 miles this afternoon  on an “out and back” route along the River Stort. The Stort is our local river, running through the bottom edge of the town. It’s the river I love to run along, we often walk the town section of it,and just a few weeks ago we passed by its joining point to the Lee Navigation when we walked a stretch of the Lee Walk. 

It was a stunning day for a walk - warm but not uncomfortably so, and with some gorgeous clouds in the sky breaking up the blue. Dragonflies and Damselflies were everywhere - brilliant little flashes of bright blue catching the eye. Butterflies too - mostly Small Tortoiseshell. On the bird front the highlights were Red Kites - beginning to get more common locally - and a lovely grey wagtail. Also. A Grey Heron sitting in the middle of a field - no idea why he wanted to be there as he was quite some way away from the water! 

We walked along to the junction with the Lee - consciously crossing over to where we passed on the other towpath so we had “joined up” the two walks. Feildes Weir (below) is quite dramatic - a bridge runs along above the rushing water - where I took the photo from - and you can see the foam left on the water.

Where the drama on the Lee Walk was a fire in an old outbuilding, needing a visit from the local Fire Service, this time round it was one of a rather more watery nature. Passing by a set of sluice gates we were surprised to realise that they were seemingly fully open - not least as neither of us could remember them being so as we had passed the other way. Shortly after we noticed that the water level in the canal appeared to be dropping (although the Stort is referred to as a river it is in fact a canal at this point) and a little while after that a chap walked briskly past us carrying what was quite clearly a key for the sluice gates...then we started noticing narrow boats beginning to heel over sideways... it turned out that a couple of kids had got access to the gates and had opened them in mischief - oh dear! Thankfully the problem was spotted - and addressed - swiftly, but thank goodness what had happened came to light quickly before any real damage was done.


Saturday 13 June 2020

Day 82... A lockdown Saturday...

Ok - this will rely on me remembering to update though the day...yeah yeah, I know, likelihood slim, huh? Let’s see though. I thought it might be fun to post through the day today - we have no particular plans aside from our zoom meet with the gang this afternoon, so how the day will pan out I have no idea. It won’t be an hourly thing, just as I feel like posting something to update the day.

Aside from the zoom we have rarely had any plans for our Saturdays throughout lockdown - that in itself is very different to “real life” - usually there would be rugby matches or training for MrEH, in the summer I might be at an airshow, otherwise there are beer festival meetings or other trips away with friends...Saturdays are rarely a no-plans day. One thing that isn’t that uncommon, in the summer at least though, is that they might start like this...

...on a warm sunny day here is no better way to start my day!

And possibly NO better breakfast to start the day either! My sourdough starter is still producing the goods once a week - the aesthetics of the loaves aren’t great as I have been proving them in my big mixing bowl, lined with a tea towel, meaning a wider, flatter loaf than is ideal, but I have just ordered a proving basket which, when it arrives, will hopefully give a more rounded result. Either way, sourdough toast with butter, marmite, peanut butter...yum!

Planning. I’ve not been using my journal much of late - with no real “diary” to consider, it hasn’t seemed worth it somehow. I have had a long list of “things we’d like to do” online, and I have been ticking things off that - and adding more to it - as time has unfolded, but the last week I have really felt as though I have been drifting rather, and that has now reached the point of feeling uncomfortable, so time to give my coming week some more structure, I think.

Lunch! Yum!

Our weekly Zoom meet with friends has become a key part of our week. This is the gang we often holiday with on Lundy and elsewhere - normally at least a few of us get together somewhere along the line every couple of months. Our virtual get together at the moment fits to very much the same pattern as meetings in real life might - we have a few beers, chat about all sorts, the banter is relentless but ultimately we all also look out for one another and make sure we’re ok. We talk about anything and everything - pretty much nothing is off limits, and as someone said earlier “we’re one big family” - worries and triumphs are shared equally. one of the things I am most looking forward to once normality begins to return is getting together with these guys again!

Saturdays generally finish with cheese & crackers in front of the TV, plus a piece of whatever baking has been done - this week it’s not “baking” as such as we have gone for Rocky Road - made delightfully budget friendly using Aldi ingredients! As well as the traditional chocolate, golden syrup, biscuit, marshmallow and butter, mine also contains some chopped dried apricots and hazelnuts to add a couple of different textures - and it tastes delicious!

So there you go - that was our Saturday. Not wildly exciting, but a routine in the “new normal” nonetheless, and right now at least a little routine to underpin our week seems quite important.


Friday 12 June 2020

Day 81...

The above photo is called “things you didn’t expect to see on your morning walk...”! We were just walking round the edge of one of our local ponds, and there was this chap sitting on the bank. Initially we assumed it was a plastic model placed there by the nearby fisherman to try to fool passers by....then it moved! As we watched, he slid back into the water and disappeared - seemingly happy enough with his surroundings!

The other excitement today was finding some yeast for sale in the supermarket. We are about to use the last of our current pack, and although we have the new pack ready to start, we always have another lined up behind it as well. This allows for something silly like a pack coming unclippped and losing its contents, or getting dropped. I’ve been keeping an eye out for the last month or so but seen none, Although I wasn’t too concerned, and certainly not enough to buy a different brand to our usual. Today the persistance paid off as there it was - in its usual place on a shelf rather a long way away from where you might expect...!


Thursday 11 June 2020

Day 80...

A walk on the common and a chat with these cuties this morning - “mum”  came over to see us first, then the two babies followed!

I’m struggling a bit with motivation over the last few days. It’s feeling a bit like there is nothing to do, and little to really look forward to again. I’m trying to stop myself feeling too hopeful about our replanned holiday even, although there is now a glimmer of hope on the likelihood of that actually happening again now as Scotland has apparently announced a date for phase 3 of the relaxing of lockdown to kick in if all goes well with the earlier bits. If it happens on time it’s unlikely that travel to the Hebrides will be OK’d initially, but we’re hopeful that it might be OK by the time we would need it to be.

So we had a decent walk this morning, but the weather remained grey and a bit drizzly for the rest of the day which didn’t make it feel terribly tempting to go anywhere much else. We popped to Aldi for some shopping, then pottered around here for the rest of the day. I’m trying to cut myself a bit of slack really - ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if we have a few lazy days, or if we feel a bit like - in spite of not really feeling as though we are “doing anything” much at the moment, we still need time to recharge the batteries a bit. I suspect it’s the cumulative effect of 11 weeks of things being very far from normal, with a lot of stressful news, missing friends and family, having to deal with the cancellations if so many things....and yes, when you put it that way, it’s probably not surprising that from time to time, it all gets on top of us a bit. Time to just take a step back, remember that things are very far from normal at the moment, and that there really are no rules for dealing with this situation!

Slack very definitely being cut, then!


Wednesday 10 June 2020

Day 79...

Someone should have told these cows they needed to lie down! Yes - rain. It started this morning while we were out for a walk, and pretty much continued all day. It might even still be doing it - I feel little inclination to go and look!

On the plus side, the veg we have planted is growing like the clappers - the broad beans have masses of flowers, the kale is coming along nicely, and the runner beans are starting to reach their way towards the frame they will climb up. On the fruit side, the gooseberries are swelling beautifully - we’ll be picking some at the weekend, and the redcurrants are starting to colour now too. Three of the tomato plants look like probably giving us some fruit - the others have some catching up to do! Not a bad little collection for people without an actual garden, eh - three of those items are in a patch about 6’ x 3’ outside one window, two of the others are in a smaller area  outside another, and the tomatoes are in pots on the balcony. There are some herbs too, Rosemary, savoury, sage, some parsley and coriander although those are mostly going to seed now, and a bay tree.

I’m looking forward to being able to eat more home grown stuff this year - and yes, it will be as a direct result of lockdown as usually we have too little time to give to managing to get much growing. Time, let’s face it, is not somehing we are short of, right now!


Tuesday 9 June 2020

Day 78...

A “bitty” sort of day, today. For a start, the weather got itself all in a twist again - in contrast to yesterday’s grey, cold cloudiness, this morning dawned bright and sunny, and I left my coat at home when we walked first thing and was plenty warm enough. Apparently tomorrow will be another day of grey and raininess, but that is just what is forecast so let’s see, shall we?!

I needed a particular item from a larger supermarket than we have in town so popped out in the car to get that this morning - just 20 minutes away, and in spite of a queue outside the store when I arrived I was home in only a little over an hour. I was surprised while I was there to note that M&S were open not just for food, but seemingly for clothing as well.

On the subject of shops, non essential stores in England are allowed to reopen from Monday. It feels quite strange to be thinking of being able to go out and buy things other than food and garden or DIY type items now. I would guess that places like shopping centres will be ludicrously busy for the first week or so while people get used to the novelty of it again. I will be in little hurry to go and join the fray I think - one of the things about having lived so frugally for such a long while while we were paying off the mortgage is that we are quite good at managing on what we have, and right now, we have “enough” of everything that we need I think generally speaking. The exception to this, from my point of view, is that I quite desperately need new glasses - my distance vision is crystal clear so thankfully driving is fine, but my near vision is a struggle now - I either need new glasses or longer arms! The optician told me last time I had a new prescription that next time round I would need either reading glasses or varifocals, and I think the time has probably now come. I can manage for the time being though - the thought of being at close quarters in an optician’s consulting room really doesn’t appeal much at the moment!

The news from the government briefing today was that pubs will not be allowed to reopen for at least another month. Although unsurprising, this is a blow to the industry, and I think there has to be some doubt whether even a months time is going to prove over-optimistic. Goodness knows when we will be allowed to hold beer festivals again, or indeed when it will be practical to do so. At the moment there is no news on when larger gatherings are likely to be acceptable again even. Another “wait and see” I suspect.


Monday 8 June 2020

Day 77...

The weather has turned positively chilly again - I needed a coat on when out and about both yesterday and this morning, and even indoors today it has been noticeably less warm. As a result I decided that tonight’s dinner needed to be something warming, while still using up a few odds and ends that needed eating. I’d been browsing through a free supermarket magazine (yes, ThaT one, in case you were wondering) and two different recipes caught my eye - one for smoky spicy baked beans, and another for butter beans in a tomato sauce. The butter bean aspect appealed immediately, and anything with a warming, slightly sweet, slightly spicy tomato sauce always hits the spot, no? So I set to in a bid to come up with a variation on two themes.

Needing used up were some sweet potatoes, so job 1 was to cut those into chunks, skins left on, then they were drizzled with garlic oil, salt & pepper and fresh sage leaves and popped into a fairly hot oven and left to get on with it for a while. Both the recipes I was basing the bean dish on were vegetarian, and while we do sometimes eat meat-free that didn’t appeal for today, so a rummage in the freezer turned up some leftovers from a Sunday lunch of roast pork a few weeks ago - perfect! I sliced a large onion from the larder and fried that off until soft with some garlic and more finely sliced fresh sage, then added the chunks of pork, some smoked paprika, a sprinkled of smoked chilli flakes, and a splash of white wine vinegar, once everything was mixed together I poured in a tin of chopped tomatoes, just enough cold water to rinse round the empty can, half a teaspoon of sugar to offset the bitterness in the tomato, and brought to the simmer. Finally the beans were popped in and the whole lot simmered for another 10 - 15 minutes to thoroughly heat through. A little seasoning - just salt and pepper, and that was that, ready to serve up with the roast sweet potatoes.

Incredibly simple, just a faint warmth from the chilli, (you could add more if you wanted it more fiery) a slight sweet/sour hint from the vinegar, smokiness from the paprika, a great use of leftovers and precisely what the Doctor ordered on this rather unseasonably chilly June evening! One to be repeated, for sure.


Sunday 7 June 2020

Day 76...

LONDON BABY! 😁 Following a conversation with a good friend last week about how they had driven into London for a walk, and how odd and quiet it was, but how nice it was to walk somewhere different, we decided to do similar this weekend. Our usual method of going into the city is of  course  to drive to Epping, then get the tube, but at the moment public transport in London is still essential travel only, so we needed an alternative. I was also looking for somewhere that I would be able to park midweek too - because I may need to pop back up there in a couple of weeks for what we shall just refer to right now as “a thing” - so we did a bit of research on google maps and settled on the area just south of the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Now I HATE the Rotherhithe with a passion. It’s nasty and narrow, and as a passenger it triggers my claustrophobia quite horribly - I don’t like tunnels much at all, but that one I REALLY don’t like. Gulp.

First mistake was deciding to believe the SatNav might really know a better route than I had planned - thankfully we picked up in time on the fact that it was planning to take us across Tower Bridge. Scenic it might be, but I rarely want to drive across it! anyway, I ignored it for a while, made a few turns of my own back onto my planned route, and got back on track. Surprised myself with the tunnel too - felt very apprehensive driving towards it, but once I got to the half way point I realised I was concentrating to hard on driving in the crazy narrow lanes that I wasn’t much thinking about anything else. I wouldn’t much want to go through on my own, and definitely still wouldn’t want to do it as a passenger, but driving, I can handle it just fine.

Parking was a doddle - plenty of free on street parking in the street I had earmarked, although perhaps not for much longer as it appears it is being converted to residents parking at some stage before too long. For now though, and at weekends even after that, it should do nicely. We walked through to Tower Bridge, then along the embankment to the Tate Modern. Crossed over and back along the opposite side. Fabulous to be back in my home city, and to be walking along the river too! Initial feeling was that it was quite busy, but actually I think that was just that it had been so long since I’d been anywhere with that many others. The city itself was unsurprisingly very quiet indeed - and because of the protests currently going on up towards Vauxhall we decided against going any further along. It was so nice to walk somewhere so completely different though - and the perfect plan for a rainy Sunday afternoon too!


Saturday 6 June 2020

Day 75...

Another picture taken at Lakenheath on Monday. 

Saturdays have become quiet days here - we tend to take longer walks on Thursdays or Fridays and Sundays, and Saturday afternoons see our regular weekly Zoom get together with friends, so the rest of the day is mostly about chilling out, baking some form of cake, a short walk and not much else.

An increasing number of people are incensed about the protests taking place across the county in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Indeed, looking at the news coverage the gatherings of protesters in London certainly look incredibly ill advised allowing for the current virus situation. A point to consider is that we know that those from BAME communities seem to have a higher vulnerability to the virus - and a high percentage of those attending the protests are of course from those communities. It will remain to be seen what effect his has - I understand wholeheartedly as I said earlier in the week why they feel strongly that they need to protest, but I desperately hope that they aren’t putting themselves at risk to do so.


Friday 5 June 2020

Day 74...

Today... A socially distanced walk with my parents and the dog, and an apparently entirely abandoned underground train drive unit, in a field...

We have no idea of the backstory that lead it to be there - as far as we can tell it’s about 80-odd years old though - late 1930’s “P” stock we think. It would have run on the District line, which makes it ironic that where it has ended up is not a million miles from where, until, the mid 90’s, the Central line terminated.

Yes - that’s the dog, looking as though butter simply wouldn’t melt. Best not to be fooled by that expression... She’s not a Poodle although looking a little like one after a “short back and sides” at the groomers earlier in the week. She was clearly delighted to have a couple more people to pay her attention today anyway!

This was today’s other triumph - my latest sourdough attempt. A little flatter than I would ideally like as it stuck to the cloth lining the bowl I proved it in, which pulled out some of the rise as I detached it. The texture however is the best I’ve achieved so far - lots of lovely air holes and a far more open crumb. The taste has been good on all the loaves so far, but it’s definitely getting even better week by week as the starter improves too.


Thursday 4 June 2020

Day 73...

Today has been a cutting ourselves some slack day. Putting the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” to one side, and taking some time to do stuff that felt like what we needed. A walk this morning - the final section of sculpture trail (yes, really, this time!) along the river, so mirroring my running route yesterday as far as the zig-zag bridge, then continuing on to tick off the remaining sculptures before heading back home. 8 and a quarter miles - we seem to be taking this sort of distance more and more for granted now!

A late lunch, then an afternoon of mainly just pottering about - meal planning for the next week, a quick audit of the freezer, a bit of houseworky stuff, a bit of jigsawing. Macaroni cheese for tea (the “chef’s special” version with cauliflower and chunks of ham thrown in) because IS there even a better comfort food out there?

The reason for all this being kind to ourselves? A chat with a friend last night - who confessed that she had been struggling - and hearing her made me realise that the anxiety had been creeping back here, too. So taking my own advice, a step back from feeling the need to achieve things all the time - if all I get from the next few days are three meals a day, a bit of fresh air, and a freshly baked sourdough loaf tomorrow (well, of course!) then that’s fine. We’re also trying to focus on things to look forward to at the moment - starting with a (weather permitting) socially distanced dog walk with my parents tomorrow. We’re also musing on the possibility of a drive into London at the weekend - the opportunity to walk somewhere different is very appealing!