Randomness

In theory, what I am doing now is getting out a bunch of broadnibbed Pilot pens designed specifically for lettering and calligraphy. I have a lot of them. They come in 4 sizes and at some stage I discovered you could, if you had one of those fantastic tool things that cost a fortune, hack them. I don’t have one of those tools but I am hoping my brother in law does. So I have quite a few of them with a view to getting some of them hacked to draw parallel lines.

Also you can do cool things mixing colours (probably not with black but I will try that later on tonight). The thing is, I’m currently useless at lettering, but I have one calligraphy book with me (there are probably 2 or 3 in Ireland – this is not a new thing with me) and I am now putting some time into practising (admitting this may be the kiss of death for the skill actually). I’m learning to do Foundational Script and I am struggling with the letter S. I’m also interested in learning how to do illuminated initials (think Book of Kells for a ball park idea of my current aspirations). So instead of mooching around on the internet, I really should be practising the lettering so that soon, I can do exciting renditions of everyone’s names.

First though, some updates. I’m leaving Luxembourg. Job transfer, moving to Brussels. There are worst places to go than Brussels (Dublin is on that list for example) and I’ved lived there before. But Luxembourg has been an unexpected joy. It’s a stunning city, and it is a great country. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make most of my hobbies work here apart from going to the seaside. Here is the first place I had a piano in the apartment, I’ve safely lived on my own for almost 4 years, and it’s been easy to go to France, Germany and Belgium. Of course, this is absolutely not the greatest time to be trying to arrange an international housemove and my hope that things would be reasonably okay until I had at least got the furniture moved is looking somewhat faint at the moment.

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But this isn’t (yet) about the practicalities of moving. I was walking around the city this afternoon doing things I won’t be able to do many more times – this consists wandering around what is an exceptionally gorgeous city full of banks, admittedly, but lots of gorgeous buildings, often hidden around corners. I found shops to support most of my hobbies (and thus, take money off me, including today with another couple of parallel pens so that I can ink two or three the same size in different colours). I hired a piano for the last few years; it’s going back, and I’ve been very happy with my friends at Kleber who also allowed me to play any of their display pianos, including the most beautiful Steinway Model D which made my heart sing. Thanks for everything. I have also spent quite a bit of money in Ernster, Hoffman and Buropolis mostly on pens and mechanical pencils. My Caran d’Ache collection has grown as has my Pelikan. When I arrived here, there was also a bookshop called Libo where I did stationery damage too. Bookshop wise, the aforementioned Libo, every branch of Ernster, the Librairie Francaise and Alinea got quite a bit of money out of me. FNAC did not for some reason, not sure why. These are the kinds of places I browse.

Food wise, I had some regular places like Siegfried near Glacis, Ambrosia, Kin Khao and Oberweis on the Grande Rue which I will really really miss. A big shout out to the staff in all these places.

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It’s hard to pick out a favourite place in Luxembourg. I just liked walking around the city; there are some stunning buildings there, like the the Ministry for Culture, the Palais Ducal, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Chambre des Deput├ęs but frankly, it’s much better to walk around the city and be overwhelmed by the numbers of turrets and crenelations. The former HQ of Ar Bed is also a stunning building in the Gare district and of course, there is the Adolphe Bridge.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

That Bridge was being restored/reinforced when I arrived and it was rather beautifully covered in a wrap which looked like a sticking plaster. Heal the Adolph Bridge. They built a temporary bridge next to it to take the traffic. I could not imagine them doing anything like that in Ireland.

Dismantling the temporary bridge

When I arrived in Luxembourg in November 2016, the Christmas markets had just started. I’d left a cold miserable Dublin behind where I’d had troubles with the car, issues with the skip country, and other minor stresses. Arriving into what looked look a total winter wonderland in Luxembourg was magical. It was extraordinary and I loved it.

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During the last few years, I was privileged enough to meet Xavier Bettel and attend a talk by Leo Varadkar. I got to explore extraordinary Roman ruins in Trier. I explored all the evidence of dragons in Metz. I went to Nancy. I don’t feel I have come anywhere close to seeing enough of the country or the region around it. I’ve had the luxury of public transport direct to work, or walking when the weather was helpful (most evenings). In terms of life quality, it is the best I have every known. The best street parties I have known are the National Feierdag in June – a much more sensible time to have a national holiday than March. Sure the fireworks are late but hey…

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I leave it in highly unusual times, however. The newspapers in Luxembourg are talking now of the second wave. March to June 2020 were tough; I live on my own and during the lockdown, that was really, really hard. We did not have National Feierdag parties this year; SChouberfouer has been cancelled although the city of Luxembourg has put effort into scaled down summer activities at the moment. It really is a great place to live. I’m sorry to be going now; not sorry to be washing up in Brussels, another stunning city, but all the same.

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I used, when I lived in Dublin, say that once you’d been travelling anywhere at all it was hard to settle down anywhere else; you left pieces of yourself all over the place. I’m leaving a good chunk of my heart in Luxembourg, with its people, the colleagues I have known through work who have become good friends, the businesses I dealt with, the cash assistants in my local supermarket who were the only humans I met for 3 months this year, the way it’s just such a cool city to live in. I’d like to think I’ll be back but who knows. But the sun will always be shining in my memories of this wonderful country and its capital city.

20170102_111806 Luxembourg in Winter


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Masks oh masks

As of Monday, in Luxembourg it will be mandatory to wear masks. I already have some of course.

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I have many fabric scraps.

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My sister has pointed out that this was the fabric I used for her table napkins. I had one scrap left, as it were. I’ve a few others, and now beside me is the pile of fat quarters I’ve randomly bought because Oohh, pretty, and they will be cannibalised to make some more masks. I’m erring on the side of “goes in the dark wash” but instead of walking around with music, or also, lightning bolts, there may be flowers and cartoon cats as well.

It’s still like Sunday here. I had to go to the pharmacy and the blood clinic this morning (top clue: Sat morning is a good time to get blood drawn) and the place is like a Sunday morning. But curiously, not dead. Maybe it’s because the sun is shining; a few more people are going for a walk. There is a queue in the butcher on the Grande Rue, and a few people with grocery bags. I owe myself a treat for a personal goal achievement during the week so I have a look in the window of Eugen Hoffman, the pen shop that I often find something to interest (my Caran d’Ache Ecridor collection is near complete). Apart from two trips to the office in the last month, it’s the first time I’ve been outside my own suburb. It’s enlightening.

And slowly opening up. On Monday you can go to the DIY shops. This does not, I believe, include Fabric Fully of Joy craft shops. But such is life. This too shall come.

At some point this year I will be moving to Brussels. Walking around the dead city this morning (and it’s really unnerving to see things like the brand new Galeries Lafayette shuttered), it is really, really clear to me that I will miss Luxembourg a lot. It’s a marvellous place to live. It took me into its heart when I arrived here around 3 and a half years ago and now it’s going to be really hard to leave.

Despite being a small place, it’s pretty much had everything I ever wanted.

The week was a short one workwise; Monday off, and assorted bits and pieces that were not part of normal life. The main outcome of that was there wasn’t much in the way of lunchtime sketching and most of the drawings from the last week come from a mad fit of Art some one of the Easter days off.

Here’s yesterday’s:

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Today's lunchtime sketch.

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I like puffins and I am getting better at them.

That was from some day during the break. I like that one too. I am going to take a half an hour out of my life (ie, not cut fabric for more masks just yet) and reproduce the puffin on a postcard and frame it. That will be fun.

In not-virus related news of the week, this is possibly the story to end all stories. I am glad the guy was okay. I’m also glad to start seeing stories which are not virus and not American politics related.

Eating

Sitting in storage in Ireland is my cookbook collection. I own about 100. I used to cook and bake a lot and then about 5 years a lot of changes in my life meant that I had time to eat, but not necessarily to cook/wash up. Washing and cleaning is the untold story of cooking.

But the thing about Staying At Home FFS is that I don’t especially want to starve either. I still don’t really want to prioritise the spending ages cleaning the kitchen but it’s a prereq to cooking so needs must. This week has had some good meals, much to my surprise.

Until about a month ago, if you came to dinner at Chateau Treasa, the single most exclusive cooking joint in the neighbourhood, only one main dish was on the menu, basically GIANT prawns with couscous and peppers. Lately the peppers have been yellow narrow sweet peppers but it’s often their red brethren. Function of what is in the local supermarket, my relationship with their opening hours and stocking cycle.

I have expanded the repertoire since then and this week there was a delectable Irish lamb accompanied by gnocchi and cucumber. It was an absolute delight. In fact, I was thrilled to see cucumber back in the supermarket as it’s one of my go to salad choices for “ensuring I get enough green stuff”. Like water melon, it’s mostly water but it’s nice all the same.

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Irish Lamb with gnocci and cucumber.

The other big winner lately has been Chicken with Old El Paso BBQ spices, pepper, mushroom and onion in cup shaped wrap things. I didn’t intend to buy them but the supermarket was clean out of the flat ones so I decided to wing it. This has been a good idea. I will probably never by the flat ones again unless I move somewhere uncivilised that doesn’t sell them.

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Smoky BBQ Chicken in cup shaped wrap things with yellow peppers and caramelized onion

Of course, there has been fairly standard pasta as well and apart from using dry pasta I fake my way through a sauce.

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Mushroom pasta

The latest big hit – when I have time – is a scaled up breakfast. Normally I have a bowl of cereal but today there was poached eggs.

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Poached eggs on toasted Bauerbrot with 5 peppers.

All in all, I could have been living off prepped pasta and ready meals so all told, not bad.

I’m into about the 4th week of this. I could count I suppose but I’m a woman and I’m fairly certain about this to be honest. It’s still weird, it’s still like living in a rather odd fairy tale. More people are out getting exercise in the evenings now and Google is trying to convince me the last walk was shorter than the previous one which by the laws of physics it could not possibly have been. Mostly I am terrified of the runners. I fully understand why they don’t wear masks but I’d like it if they gave me a wider berth. L’Essentiel, one of the smaller newspapers here (they do the daily freesheet, or at least they did, not sure if it has survived), tells me that Luxair are hoping to restart flight operations around 4th May. That’s just under 4 weeks away and since I assume it will take that long to get ready, they must be reasonably optimistic about that. I imagine the flights are heavily booked out already by the hopeful optimistic.

I’ve been listening to RTE Gold lately, mostly because I like Rick O’Shea from the early days of the Irish Blog Awards, and also because they are playing fantastic music these days. Apart from Saturday when they simulcast with Radio 1 there aren’t ads (that I have noticed). I think it might be one of the best music radio stations in the world.

One of the odd things I’ve noticed in the last 4 weeks is that my head of hair seems to have thickened up. It’s also darkened in colour last night. I’m assuming it’s something to do with the change in diet and by process of elimination, the things I eat significantly more of lately are peppers and onions. I found at least one dodgy site listing peppers as good for hair growth so maybe there is something in that. Where onions are concerned, you’r supposed to run onion juice on your scalp (who comes up with these ideas) which I definitely am not doing, mostly because I use swank shampoo which I bought in Iceland in January and have not yet run out of (thought I’d be panic ordering bu now) and it smells a lot nicer than onions. Not that I am trying to attract anyone (social distancing and all that) but it makes me feel good.

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Gratuitous photo of Iceland – Geysir

On the working from home front. I’m fairly certain I want to go back to my work office. I’ve blown a nuclear bomb through my eco-credentials – okay I walk everywhere but between the cooking, the running of a computer, big screen and new router and having to charge small electrical devices far more often, my electricity and water consumption must have gone up. More of the food I buy is coming in plastic wrapping too. Most evenings at around knocking off time (or as near to it as I can manage it because it’s often a bit later), I leave work, walk out my front door, and when I come back, I come home. The only evidence of the home office which I cannot hide at present is my screen which I can barely complain about as it made working from home possible for a long term. Lap top screens are grand for an hour tops.

Back in the early 1990s I was in the folk group in DCU, and we did some pop stuff, and in the background. I hear one of them, Moving On Up, which I think was by Primal Scream. Must check. Yes it was. A guy called Declan did the guitar solo bit if I remember rightly. [EDIT: oh there’s another one. Joe Cocker’s version of A little help from my friends]

It struck me yesterday, with the mental equivalent of a baseball bat, that I started university (for the first time) nearly 30 years ago.

I can’t quite believe that.

Anyway the weather is not as stunning today as I was expecting so I am not feeling particularly heartbroken about not being able to go anywhere. In the meantime. I’m being REALLY good about the chocolate. Until Sunday at least.

And to close: a picture of my beloved Atlantic coast of Clare.

IMG_6923 Waves, Doolin, Clare Ireland
Waves, Doolin

Icelandic chocolate

I was supposed to fly to Ireland on Sunday with some Icelandic chocolate and pretty napkins. The Icelandic chocolate is in trouble as I have no idea when I can next get to Ireland and we are living in a crisis. I’m sorry, Irish family; the Icelandic chocolate is MINE.

With that public service message out of the way, today is Friday. I didn’t get to write yesterday evening as the evenings have turned out to be rather rough from an organisational point of view and for some reason, possibly the mix of cooking and extra housework driven by cooking (ware, and swearwords about washing up liquid) I don’t seem to have a whole pile of free time lately. This evening I completely crashed out and I probably needed it.

Did not sleep though and the lunchtime sketches have been of middling quality the last two days so I’ll not be posting all of them. This was yesterday’s:

And while I can see a lot of things I want to do differently in the future, the thing is, I like it. Still nowhere near the sea though and that’s hard.

I did grocery shopping somewhat later than usual and there was a lack of the right bread so I’ll have to venture towards the shop again sometime during tomorrow or Sunday. The grocery store is still out of 5mm elastic so I can only assume somewhere, in some dark atelier, someone is turning out an absolute heap of cotton masks. I made one last week and I have fabric cut to make another one. However, while I think I have 5mm elastic somewhere, I may have to hack the pattern to use 10mm instead as I’ve been able to find nothing very easily since work arrived on my sewing table.

I assume Cactus, the grocery store, has to restock the sewing section on average once a year and they are out of 5mm elastic, almost out of 10mm elastic and the fabric clips set up isn’t great either. Plenty of needles though. I need to make a few more masks

So the other plan for this weekend is to make the sewing machine cover. I had grandiose plans of doing something not unlike a VW campervan. There are several examples online. You could also do a caravan but I used that idea for a teacosy the week before last. I did at least measure the sewing machine last week but the notebook that I use for sewing engineering is MIA since last Saturday. It’s probably with the 5mm elastic I can’t find.

And so now, it’s Saturday because I got distracted writing this yesterday and we can move on to Saturday’s events which so far amount to having breakfast and lounging around the place reading twitter. THis will change because the oven is for lunch and in other WAY EXCITING NEWS (not) I have an additional socket board so that I can do something about sorting out a phone charging station that is not the ironing board (it used to be the sewing desk which had spare sockets, currently occupied by a router, a screen and two computers as opposed to a sewing machine and three charging cables. I’d like to free up the ironing board, not out of any great love of ironing but the plan was to do SOME sewing today.

By way of news the Labour parties in Ireland and the UK have acquired new leaders over the last 24 hours, Alan Kelly in Ireland and Keir Starmer in the UK. Ireland still has a caretaker government but that might change sometime soon, hopefully. Apart from that, the rest of the news is Covid related, and some of it even hopeful.

But nothing to give me any hope I can stop teleworking any time in the next five or six weeks to be honest. When it’s over I am going to go to Bastelkiste and buy a load of fabric, that I probably still won’t need as I have plenty here.

Washing up liquid victory

Monoprix had my nice eco non-handburning washing up liquid so hopefully I can reduce the amount of handcream I am using. It wasn’t cheap and the shop that sells it is kind of closed at the moment courtesy of lockdown.

Another day in paradise. I used to work in a small town called Dassel about lots of years ago, and the tagline that one of my workmates came up with was Arbeiten wo andere Urlaub machen. We lived in a Kurort, apparently.

I don’t remember that much about it although interestingly enough, a lot of the paper I paint on in sketchbooks comes from there. Life is interestingly circular sometimes. Anyway, today’s major victory included the acquisition of washing up liquid that doesn’t burn my hands, so I feel quite happy about it.

Today was a Zen kind of a day. I bought some art online too. I had missed an art sale from a painter I like but he’s done another one and I was lucky enough to find out. Buying art is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but mostly prints, and I think I’ve mentioned that. I don’t know when this painting will arrive and I’m looking forward to it. It’s of Paris. For personal reasons I am also looking for paintings of Luxembourg as well, although there’s a book of watercolours that is attractive.

I’ve just learned that the schools in Luxembourg will stay closed until 4 May. If I am honest, I was expecting this. France had already made that decision. I don’t have school kids and it must be increasingly difficult for families with fulltime working parents trying to homeschool the kids as well. It’s almost inhumane pressure particularly when you’re not really allowed out much either. I don’t know; I think we need to think a bit more about how we alleviate the pressure on people. Parental leave and part time isn’t really an option for all families.

That being said, more of them are going walking in the evenings around 6pm. Certainly, we have the extra hour now but that hasn’t made much of a difference to the daylight at 6pm. But I am meeting more walkers which makes my attempt to avoid other Human Beings a bit harder.

Lunch time sketch. Targetting more puffins and possibly surfing today. Dreaming.

Singing in the silence

My days have a rather predictable structure now. Two days a week I go to the supermarket first thing, otherwise, up, shower, breakfast, work, lunch, 20 minutes painting or drawing, work, 35 minute walk, home, dinner, cleaning, phone call to family. It’s the same pattern every day, only variation being the time I escape for the walk. So far, the weather has been largely cooperative and the days are incredibly bright. It makes being stuck inside, with a little piece of work taking up residence in my living room, harder than I could have imagined.

Rick O’Shea mentioned on twitter today that he was finding it hard to read. I know where he is coming from. I do too, and also, I’m finding it hard to write which is somewhat more worrying. It’s not that there is not much happening in my life, although frankly, I stay at home, and work, and stay at home. I have many thoughts, thoughts about this weird experience that we are enjoying, for want of a better word.

When I came in from today’s walk, I flaked out on my bed, in theory hoping to see the figures for Ireland or Luxembourg, but instead, what I heard was one of my neighbours singing. I think, possibly Greek? Not sure. It put me in mind of that style of singing anyway. I could only barely hear it. I have not been dancing for the past few days which is indicative of a change in mood, and today, my own sound track was the Scots Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis, especially this.

I hope the link works because the soundcard on this machine is a bit unreliable and won’t play anything for me.

It’s a long time since I listened to a lot of Scots Gaelic songs and I love the rhythm of some of them. It’s soothing to have in the background, between the inevitable conference calls.

I don’t know what other people’s experience is like; I love my job for the most part, and have done since I started where I am working somewhat over three years ago. But I find the days very long. Mostly, it’s small things like, oh look you need to do that bit of laundry, or, there’s my sewing machine, my guitar, piano….things I do here, at home. Normally, at home I don’t review spreadsheets, processes, calendars, reschedule things because this meeting can’t take place on that date any more because we are locking down longer than we thought we would 3 weeks ago. I don’t get distracted as such, I get wistful. The music helps a lot. It acts as a base for my heart which is a bit disturbed by the need for my home life to be as regimented as it has become. My hands are in bits because I cook more and therefore wash ware much more often and oh look, I’m sensitive to that brand of washing up liquid, who’d have thought it, just at the time when I am also washing my hands more frequently just because…just because.

Most days at around 12.30 or 1 – just after I finish eating my lunch – I go and hide in my bedroom and I draw. I won’t have the work computer in my bedroom – enough that it lords it over my otherwise usually technology limited living room – so that’s some form of escape. I mentioned in an earlier entry that I miss the sea, and that’s true. There is a slightly tendency for me to pick on sea scenes to draw, paint, be inspired by (be very inspired by on some days). Today though I drew a couple of owls, living in isolation.

One owl doing yoga, one owl looking on in disdain.

Most of my friends in Ireland are now in some form of lockdown now too, many working from home. We were, I suppose, a week ahead of them but now we’re all planning supermarket trips, although at least the toilet paper calamity has ended.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how people deal with this situation differently. In my heart and soul, I know I am not badly off. Certainly, I have my job for now, I can work from home, I’m not overly exposed to risk apart from at the supermarket and that’s only two days a week. I have friends to contact via assorted electronic devices.

I’ve seen people online talk about how easy people living alone must have it. In particular, I saw a family therapist on twitter talk about how much time childless people have. I didn’t find it constructive. People have different challenges with this current situation. Sure, I don’t have a 4 year old wanting to sing her heart out during a morning conference call. But I don’t have a 4 year old to hug and kiss when I put her to bed either. There may be practical benefits to living alone, certainly, but there are major emotional challenges. And I tend to feel very guilty about the days I find it hard and that’s reinforced by a lot of things (people telling me I have loads of time to do loads of stuff). I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that realistically, this affects me, and everyone else in lots of different ways and a little self forgiveness goes a long way. And keep painting.

I also think about the future. Not the Grand Future Full of Meaning, but how we move out of the current lifestyle. It occurred to me yesterday that in one way, we live a modern fairy tale, and that fairy tale is most similar to the Sleeping Beauty. All I need really is for a huge forest to spring to live around Luxembourg; the place is fairytale like in its own right. And the kiss of life will come not from some prince or other, but from a person bearing a needle and a vaccine.

But until that happens, do we stay asleep, do we gradually reawaken our society as the number of infections slowly recedes?

I don’t know. I always thought my life would be defined by 9-11, but now, at least, it will be defined by Covid-19. I think the two events have certain similarities for the fact that they have and will continue to have huge impacts on how we operate, the processes which underpin many aspects of our life. In the meantime, I’m looking for the ways to travel within these four walls and gradually, beyond them again, in some weeks or some months.

If a picture…

The weather continues Fine in Luxembourg. I am listening to Snow Patrol by Alpinestars, something I found buried in the music collection a few weeks ago. Currently it is sitting in the thumbs up play list which is a rather random mix of music.

Today’s little lunchtime sketch which took about 10 minutes while I wasn’t having coffee with my colleagues because we were all teleworking.

Mostly, it was on my mind yesterday but I did not have time to paint, so it escaped out of my head today.

Today was not a bad day. The video conferencing worked mostly, there weren’t many calls and I managed to punch through items on my to do list without other people driving a large truck through my to do list. Days like that are always good.

Additionally, there was not a queue at Monoprix so I nipped in and bought some salted butter. And crisps. They were out of green Pringles but I can live with the disappointment there. Butter is slightly more pressing.

On the plus side – it’s the most trivial things that make a difference – my USB splitter arrived today which will hopefully make my working from home life a lot easier. I will find out in the morning. Maybe.

I’ve mixed feelings. Conversations are now moving to people estimating how long things will be like this, and they aren’t saying Easter any more, but talking in terms of months. I’m starting to think about how we plan for trying to gradually get back to normal. I read somewhere yesterday or the day before that one of the lockdowns in China was around 7 weeks but right now, we’re thinking 12 or 13. I don’t know. Most people are speculating. We don’t know and we cannot really estimate.

I don’t know how I feel about that. Currently everyone I have an actual conversation with is behind a phone, ipad or computer screen. I exchange a few words with the cashiers at the grocery store when I go in there. I’m not sure how long that continue.

In the meantime, I continue to watch Emma trailers on youtube, continue to want to see the film, started re-reading the book and have remembered she really was insufferable at times. I’m back reading Sapiens over breakfast because Twitter is almost impossible to read lately and I’m not entirely sure how.

Beyond

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Google tells me the walk I got in this evening “after” work was 3.2km which isn’t a bad walk; is more than I usually manage when I am coming home from work back in the recent past when going to work meant more than stepping into the living room. I need that walk and I hope, for the time being, we retain the freedom to walk.

The soundtrack to my walk was a new podcast release from Above & Beyond. I like their Group Therapy podcast and I always used to listen to it when I used to go running. It’s quite the change since I spent the day listening to Brahms piano concertos and Sibelius symphonies in between conference calls.

The photo above is from the last trip which was Iceland in January. I wanted to go back in September but I suspect it might be September 2021 at this point. There is so much uncertain in this world at the moment.

Apart from going for a walk, nothing really all that exciting happened. There was almost no traffic, and no delivery of a USB splitter happened (oh please, let that come soon). I didn’t notice any ambulances today, which is 2 less than yesterday, and the buses went by less than every half an hour. Every day is Sunday. Every day is Sunday.

Except it isn’t. Mostly because 5 out of every 7 days, my living room is also my office so I have not yet taken the opportunity to set up a container garden on my terrace and my plans to take over the world are set aside. There is work to be done. I do a spot of stargazing each evening – maybe I should order a telescope online since pondering the night sky is one of the few freedoms I have. But this too shall pass, as there is rain, and even a little snow, forecast for the weekend. This will block the beautiful evening and night skies that I have enjoyed the last few days. And there’s the space station, of course.

I’m going to point at this by Annie West. She told me the other day that yes, she would sell prints of it and I am definitely in the market for one. I’ve also been looking at other prints by artists I like – Iraville for example, and tubidu. Apart from the stuff I paint/draw myself, there is something uplifting about art. So yes, I am thinking about ordering some art for myself. We need things of beauty in our lives now.

A little light music

I am currently listening to the Sibelius symphonies. Very different to yesterday’s U2. And I want to post one thing before I lose it – the very wonderful Gautier Capucon playing Einaudi on piano and cello. You will have encountered this if you follow me on either Twitter or Facebook.

Today did not bring good news on the Covid-19 front which I do not want to discuss. I’m two weeks into mostly remote working and it’s not getting that easy. I find it very lonely for the most part although to be fair, the tools alleviate some of that. I had to traipse in for IT support this morning. I arrived to sign in at the same time as a colleague who on hearing I worked in the IT team was at pains to tell me that he truly appreciated everything my department was doing to enable as many people not to have to come to work as possible. It shines up your day a little and sometimes I think things like that get lost in the pure operational to do list. And we’re not superheroes.

Upstairs appears to be doing DIY. I’m sort of wishing they’d just watch constant Netflix instead.

Anyway, by way of things of beauty to occupy yourself at various times, the skies [in Luxembourg at least] are generally very clear at the moment. This means the night skies are more interesting to look at, and you can see much more. Especially, you can see the ISS flying overhead. It goes very quickly. I saw it at around half past nine last night and it may well be around an hour earlier tonight. I’ll take a look out in 25 minutes and hopefully see it. For more information, try here: it gives the UK times (I cannot find a definitive guide for Luxembourg and the NASA page is unhelpful on that front). This is a useful twitter feed as well. There is something extremely pleasing about looking at the night sky, a sense that there is something bigger than ourselves.

The whole sense of living in a rather bad novel has already waned. Work is busy. I’m inundated with people telling what to do with all the time I don’t have now that I am working from home. And outside the world seems to have vanished. The buses are down to every half an hour; the sound of an ambulance passing is altogether more piercing. The weather has been beautiful – the clear nights being accompanied by clear days. It feels rather vicious that strictly speaking, we should not go out unless absolutely necessary. I did not have time to go walking after work today because work finished a bit later than I would like and I still need to eat. I’ve not cooked so often in the last 3 years as I have in the last 2 weeks.

But I cannot complain. The feelings I have are mixed in with some guilt that I feel I have anything to find hard. I have a roof over my head, and currently, at least, dependable access to a supermarket. I have music. I have instruments and I can still go out without needing a permission slip. My face is not destroyed by surgical masks, and I am not exhausted making life or death decisions. I don’t have to manage small children. When all of this is over, I’m not entirely sure what I will feel and of course, when all of this is over, the world will be a very different place.

Luxembourg is in the process of putting temporary COVID-19 care centres in place. One will be in the biggest pop venue in the country; another in the main exhibition centre. I know there will be drive through testing in Croke Park and Pairc Ui Chaoimh and still my brain cannot get over actually needing these things. We are told they expect the peak number of cases to hit in the next 2 weeks and that the medical supplies are coming. You cannot leave Luxembourg very easily at the moment, if, like me, you are a public transport eco-rat, and anyway, the airport is closed. All of this is weird. I didn’t plan for it and frankly, my disaster prep involved a battery operated radio and some cash. I didn’t bank on having to stay home not waiting for the zombies to arrive, but hiding from a virus which I cannot even see.

In many ways, scary, in many more ways truly unreal. Something which I hear very often lately is that “this too shall pass” and of course it will; they always do, eventually.

I’m very heartened by some of the things happening to give some solace to what is a plainly unnatural existence. Things like Gautier Capucon and Igor Levitt posting daily pieces. I think Renaud Gautier does as well. I cannot keep up with everything. Access to fantastic concerts on YouTube and Digital Concert Hall. It’s impossible to keep up. I’ve always felt that in general, people are mostly good (although my trust is sorely tried by the recent toilet paper craze). I think to some extent, we still have a lot of hope left; and a lot of trust in the passage of time to heal the wounds we suffer, either mentally or physically.

I still don’t get my head around the reality I am living now. I sometimes wonder if I ever will. But if you want a piece of music to remind you that whatever about the weirdness, we are capable of true beauty, I recommend you look for a recording of Sibelius’s second symphony. All of them are worth a listen, but that is particularly beautiful.

The Unforgettable Fire

The sun is shining outside and although I really am not much of a fan of U2 at all, the Unforgettable Fire is on in the background. It is one of the best tracks any Irish band have done, although that’s because I think it’s a beautifully layered piece of work.

So, this morning I discovered the supermarket would open half an hour later than it used to on a Sunday morning, the hard way, by being there at the time it used to open. The one growth job lately is crowd management security in supermarkets. They have several in my supermarket, one for access to the place at all and then, someone keeps an eye on the lottery machine and the queue for the tobacco stand. The bakery is still closed but you can get most of what they have on the inside. It did not take long at all for the stocks of baguettes to go down. And the toilet paper was all gone again. I’m kind of glad I got some on Wednesday during my previous ninja raid. The food side of things was more normal; still out of a lot of cured meats, but better on the vegetable side this time. For a Sunday morning, it wasn’t bad at all. I really only went because I needed milk but I sorted out stuff so that I wouldn’t have to go again until I got to Wednesday. It’s extraordinary how we are adapting to these forced changes.

A few years ago, the Green Party in Ireland were talking about banning freezers. I thought of them this morning. I live without a freezer; I have a fridge and an ice box, and that’s it.

I’m not in the business of hoarding, but until last week, I did not cook that often. Now I don’t have a choice because canteens, sandwich bars and restaurants, they are all closed. I live on my own and I made certain decisions around the whole lifestyle thing, things like not owning a car, reducing my electricity consumption; public transport being the way to go, and reducing waste. I wasn’t doing that great on the plastic bottle and can front plus I had residual guilt about coffee capsules. The whole self-isolation/lockdown process has made a complete mess of this. Some of the food which previously came in paper bags is now coming in single use plastic. Because I’m working from home, my electricity usage is going through the roof. And because I live on my own, I have to manage the whole food thing alone while trying desperately not to waste food or water. This is hard when you’re not spreading the environmental cost across a bunch of people. Trying not to hoard. Trying to arrange things so you don’t have to go to the shops too often, and trying to live healthily in what are unhealthy conditions.

Here is where a freezer would actually help. Things can be frozen. Vegetables can be frozen. Our supply chains, toilet paper aside, are generally fine at the moment. I hope that continues; I hope the supermarkets continue to stay open. A freezer would also help reduce food wastage and it would allow someone like to me to cook for 4 people and freeze for 3 and not need to go to the supermarket quite so often.

I have personal considerations about housemoving sometime in the next 6-9 months if life gets back to some sort of normal so I’m reluctant to do stuff like buy a freezer – another reaction to Covid-19 dancing around the population – right now. But I think used correctly, a freezer is borderline essential for managing certain environmental concerns and I note that a lot of the energy wastage in the world at the moment is bitcoin mining related, and for this reason, I think the Green Party probably was wrong to suggest that freezers be banned.

No one agreed with them anyway.

One of the things that is frustrating about social media in a time of, well anything really, is how polarised people get. Leo Varadkar received a video message via twitter yesterday from a child who was asking about risks relating to the tooth fairy. I’m interested to see that his response was measured, and age appropriate for the child, and also factored in some of what the world needs – ie, that we are searching for a vaccine.

The thing is, there are a lot of people who don’t like Leo Varadkar because he is Fine Gael, he is not their tribe. Instead of seeing the humanity of that answer, there are cynical whatabouteries. I’ve never been a great fan of his party’s general right leaning towards the interests of the well off but I think at some point, we’re in the middle of the emergency; he may not be the leader you want, but he’s the leader you have, and compared to other leaders you could name, the parties in Ireland are shutting up about most of the party political nitpicking and dealing with the emergency. I mean, I am as cynical as the the next person, but sometimes, it is just not appropriate. He’s doing pretty much okay. And while you may complain about the lack of testing; you also need to bear in mind that in general, Ireland is doing better on testing than a lot of other countries, including that one where the leader refused to accept this was a serious problem until sometime lately.

And you see this played out across a lot of debates on the social media platforms. It’s not what someone does that matters, but what tribe they belong to. The world is no longer quite that simple.

For myself, yesterday I packed up all the work related electronics – I need to unpack it again shortly to photograph some screen messages – and cleared my desk so that I could make a mess of it using sewing stuff. I’ve been fascinated on pinterest by sewing machine covers. There are some stunning ones and I’ve a bundle of fat quarters here to make one for myself. As a training run though, I decided to have a go at making a tea cosy. I actually went out and bought the supplies (so more fat quarters of fabric and a pile of cotton batting, also needed for the sewing machine cover) a couple of weeks ago so I was good to go, whenever I could find the time. As I wasn’t out browsing the stationery shops, swank tea shops, the craft shop, or having coffee or lunch somewhere nice, I took the time to do it yesterday. It’s not perfect but:

Treasa’s Caravan Teacosy

This is for my parents. It’s supposed to be a caravan. The colours were chosen so that they would not get too dirty, too quickly. As always, there are good things and bad things. The door is done really nicely; the window less so. I like the colours and I’m reasonably pleased with how the bottom band fitted around the edge. Do not look at the stitching there though; it’s desperate. But a) I did better top stitching for the most part, and I learned how to do new stuff. Still afraid to try and make my own clothes. This will go to Ireland as soon as I can go with it. In the background you can see my new Samsung screen, one of my many. many pairs of scissors and a bit of my sewing machine. And I have lots of scraps left for my scraps quilt project. All told, start to finish, it took 3.5 hours. I believe this counts as “very bloody slow, how useless are you” in quilting terms.

I had notions of doing a sewing machine cover in the shape of a VW campervan (there are a few on pinterest) but I have something similar in mind. I still have a bunch of bags to finish out too, so not short of stuff to do.

If I am honest, being told to stay at home isn’t a big deal for me. I am generally somewhat solitary but use modern tools to maintain contact with the outside world. The part I struggle with, and what I find incredibly hard is the lack of distance between work and home life. If I always worked from home and had configured a home office to do that, maybe it would be easier. But work has taken over that corner of my living room that is my creative space; where I sew, where I paint, where I write and it feels all wrong. One of the reasons I find it hard as well is not just this encroachment on my life – it’s the straight up collision between finding this hard and knowing that I am lucky. I think I saw a report the other day that said 14,000 people had lost their jobs in Luxembourg when the hospitality sector was shut down last week. We deal with the immediate needs; I think when all this is over, people can go out and live differently again, we will still have problems as people adjust to this sudden huge change and back. I do a lot to try and manage the mental health side of things as well. It’s okay not to feel okay. It’s okay to be angry. Just don’t trash the place in frustration. I think that even when people are no longer dying in huge numbers daily, we will still have trauma to deal with as people come to terms with one giant “WTF was that that just happened to the world?”