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.
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 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:
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?”
Clearly this idea that I might write daily is not helping a lot. But I want to mention two blogging pals that go back a long time who have picked up that I am writing again, so hello to Donncha and Mark. Maybe RSS’s time is coming back.
Anyway, the unbelievable stuff out of the way first: yesterday it as 16 degrees, this morning it snowed. It hasn’t stuck but still, seems crazy. I spent this morning trying and failing to figure out why the network adapter on my work computer is not working, it is not working, it is not working, it is not working. Small things like that are usually small, and annoying. Currently I have no idea how long it will take to get it fixed given the current circumstances.
The Current Circumstances. Where everyone who can is working from home, and getting anything fixed at all is a challenge that just didn’t exist 3 weeks ago. I need to replace the fluorescent bulb in my bathroom but not sure anywhere left open that sells them. I have not yet succumbed to Showers By Candle Light but if the lights in the hall go, at least the supermarket is still selling them.
Facebook and Twitter are full of “how to telework” type links and advice about “you’ve got the time, here are 10,000 worthy things you can do”. Another link to a “learn how to code website” and I will go crazy. I am very definitely privileged; in theory, network adapter issues aside, I can work and I have my job. But what I don’t have, just because I am staying at home. is 8 extra hours a day to practice the piano. sew, learn to code, read all of wikipedia and virtually visit 50 museums. I do still have to work, and this issue of having to cook for myself has led to interesting things like generating more waste, using more electricity and having to spend more time washing ware. It’s not a life of leisure that I can fill up with cleaning all the things I never had time to clean. I cannot imagine how people who have children are coping, not least with the constant dumping of resources in their direction to help with the home schooling that every parent in the world suddenly has to try and manage with the grand total of no preparation at a time when they are either a) teleworking themselves or b) worrying about their economic health because they have lost their jobs or their business has shut down.
The pressure to be perfect in a time of crisis is fairly high. We really need to be kinder to ourselves, stop work on time, for example and put effective separation between home life and worklife in place, and remind ourselves that there is no need for forgiveness for the sins we did not commit. We’re all trying to do the best we can.
Apart from the ones who stockpiled toilet paper last week. They probably are trying to do the best they can, to the detriment of the rest of us.
I find myself dancing a lot in the kitchen lately; not sure why. Maybe it’s because my horizon has limited itself so much; to the four walls of my apartment and, the supermarket, of course. Maybe it’s just coincidence that there happens to be danceable music there at the time. But I think it’s a good thing; not to be constantly weighed down by the reality of one key question. How long will this go on? I don’t know and I don’t know that anyone does. How long is a piece of string. I mean, we cannot go on like this forever. The thing is, for some people, it will be forever, the ones who don’t make it through. The photographs out of Italy continue to hurt; the coffins in a morgue somewhere in Bergamo cut very sharply this morning.
Today is a Saturday; normally I would be sitting in Oberweis or Exki having lunch, having just spent money on books and fabric. Those books and fabric will stand to me in the next few months, probably. Even when the extreme restrictions are lifted, I think we will initially still be staying home more than we used to. For a while, anyway.
I have a friend who wondered if this would herald a slowing down of society. He saw this as a good thing and I see his point. The story of many people’s lives lately have been optimisation, productivity. Get as much done as you can. We could slow down and it would even be good for society. But we’ve also learned the price of not being able to do much of anything as well and things may go the other way. We will reach out to hold life more tightly, experience life more fully, explore and push our horizons further.
But it’s not clear what sort of world will wait for us on the other side. Whether there will be any businesses left to sell us clothes, any trains or aeroplanes to take us places. Every experience changes us; and mass experiences have a profound impact on societies. We’re so much more interconnected too; we know that other people have different experiences, and will respond differently to their local conditions. It’s been interesting to see the comparison of different leader styles in terms of dealing with the crisis of a virus spreading rapidly across the world.
For a long time, history of the world was the political history of the world. Who conquered who when and where. It was typically written by the victors. I’ve never been so interested in that side of history although I read quite a bit of it. I’m more interested in how people lived, what their experiences were. It’s one of the reasons why small local museums tend to be fascinating, and why the digitisation of old newsreel and film is fascinating me. I wonder how differently we are reacting to people who experienced previous pandemics. I suspect, in certain respects, not so differently.
I’m also interested in how people coped with the aftermath. When the threat is gone, our lives have changed and we don’t go back to what used to be normal. I’ve been fortunate, I guess, to live in an era where broadly, for people at least, things have been stable. Not all Europeans can say that – there have been civil wars and wars of independence within living memory, along with significant political systemic change. My parents used to talk about the day John F Kennedy was shot being a time locator; one of those events that were a before/after event in your life. For the last 18 years, I assumed that indicator for my generation would be 9/11. I don’t think that’s true any more. It will be before the virus, and after the virus.
I missed yesterday. In fact, I was lazy having done broadband battle and really, I had just Had Enough. But I now have a decent data cap on my broadband which should hopefully support the whole homeworking lark. I just had to queue for half an hour to get into one of the shopping centres to go to one of the three Orange phone shops left open in Luxembourg. The country, not the city. We are truly living in weird times and now my laptop refuses to play audio. This is a pity because I’m inclined to play more stuff from youtube courtesy of more data.
Anyway, today, apparently, was Thursday. I have to confess that it’s only taken this many days for me to realise the days of the week almost have no meaning for me at all. At some point, I suppose, it will be Saturday but I may have to get up anyway because I am managing the whole grocery shopping thing. I went at 7.10 this morning. Mistake. I need to go at 7.05 to try and avoid the queue. There were already ten people ahead of me so I had to wait. But it wasn’t for long. You fly through the shopping when the place is empty and there are no queues at the cash desk.
Then you find out the bread is no longer at the bakery, but somewhere inside the grocery store so off you go in again, this time looking for bread. There’s an added dollop of feeling stupid. Of course they are limiting queuing at the bakery by simply closing it.
Today has been an odd day for many reasons but not least the fact that as of Monday, there will be no passenger flights in and out of Luxembourg; and also, the TGV link to Paris is being canceled. CFL’s train service is being drastically cut back as well. People just aren’t moving all that much. The city bus service will be down to a Sunday service if they chop it much more. There are a few cars, but still not that many. Today, more people were out walking. It’s as if they realised, we need to do this while we can; before they tell us we cannot leave at all.
Today it was the smell of daffodils I noticed. The weather has been beautiful; gorgeous sunny during the day. I hung out washing at some point. I’d love to say it’s the first sign of summer except I looked at the five day weather forecast and it’s going to start freezing again. Properly. Like, minus five level of freezing. Of course that is five days away and we might be lucky. It might be so cold. But the queuing, if it is, will be hard.
I’m finding teleworking hard. I’m not sure I am temperamentally suited to it and I really don’t like the isolation. I feel sorry for the cash assistants; they’ll be the only people that people like me even see on a regular basis. They’ll be engaged in so much chat at a time when they just want people to move on, at least 2 metres away please.
There was one beautiful shine on the day. Jennifer Ehle, a British actress best known for playing Elizabeth Bennett in a 1995 BBC television series, started reading Pride and Prejudice live on her instagram account today. It truly was a thing of beauty.
The thing about knowing you’d be cancelling a trip back to Ireland is the minor detail of the tea. The amount of tea in the teabox started deteriorating awfully quickly when I a) started teleworking and b) stopped drinking Coke Zero and coffee. It was already looking tight that I’d make it to the trip home to April anyway, but when April was swimming in a sea of cancellations and lockdown risks, it became necessary to act quickly. So 160 teabags were ordered and this morning arrived in between two conference calls. How beautiful. I don’t need to panic again now until I’ve drunk at least 100 cups of tea. That gives me time to order some more and not quite run out.
Anyway, day 2 teleworking was half and half; the morning spent at home, the afternoon back to the office for what may the last time for some time. All the conference calls were this morning which was badly planned on my part; I have a data cap. The plus side is that it was nice to be back in the office. Bigger desk. Two screens. Proper keyboard. Very quiet which is usually a bonus.
Walked home. You now have to queue to get into the supermarket, at least at 6pm anyway. I don’t know how this is all going to work. Social distancing means you have to stay away from people; I don’t know how many people the grocery store allowed in but there were about 10 queueing outside. I hope it’s quieter at 7am. I hope I am up at 7am.
ON the other hand I want a life where I don’t have to be up at 7am to go queue at the grocery store. There’s something all wrong with that. It reminds me of those spy books set in the 1970s and 1980s, talking about the queues in Soviet Russia.
Someone asked me what was it like there. “So, What’s it like there, Treas?”
Well, you have to queue to get into buy toilet roll at the moment but anyway. No what strikes me most is the quietness. Coincidentally, as I write this, 2 cars pass the front of the apartment. This is a lot. My street, which is usually jammed non-moving at 8am has been deserted these last few days.
There don’t seem to be so many aircraft floating around either although I don’t always hear them so the data is incomplete.
I talked to three people at the office today, maintaining the required gap of 2 metres, and then, when I came home, I realised the only people I will actually exchange words with in real life for the next few months will be the people on the cash desk at the grocery store. It’s a sobering thought. At least one of the cash attendants today was wearing a mask. I could see him through the window while I considered whether to queue or not.
The strange part is talking to Ireland. They are … getting there. Not quite up to the level of queuing to get into the grocery shops, and they haven’t banned people from going out yet. Hope that does not change any time soon. It’s not that I actually want to go out and run ten kilometres – I don’t – but a 2km walk is near mandatory or I am completely screwed. I have a 70 sqm apartment. I’d be hard pushed to walk between the living room and the kitchen enough times to make 2km.
On the group chat at work, we’ve been exchanging recommendations of YouTube videos for getting exercise when stuck at home. All of these recommendations have been matched with fables of the injuries people got when they were doing those exercises. I am somewhat skeptical.
So, there’s a growing list of things I regret not doing since Christmas. Nothing earth shattering. I should have bought a printer. I could do with a second desk. I need a million more shelves. The rapid reorg of my life to facilitate home working has led to any number of Luxembourgish eco-bags containing art materials, fabric and general stuff swished off my desk. It’s really strange to be thinking along those lines.
Today was Saint Patrick’s Day, well, it still is. I don’t think they reattributed it to Saint Andrew just yet. The first track that came on is a recently favourited track from a Zoe Conway album that she did with Julie Fowlis. It’s a setting of a Mairtín O Direáin poem called Faoiseamh a Gheobhadse. You can find it on YouTube.
Mairtín O Direáin is my favourite Irish language poet. In fact, I think this is a reflection of my tastes in poetry which tend to the very accessible, very simple but also, very deep. Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with this but the general thrust of this is that he finds peace, walking on the shores of his homeland, amongst his people.
I feel that quite a lot these days mostly because I’m not entirely sure how to get the peace that comes from walking by the sea. I fake it by using the sound of waves on someone’s Soundcloud. It helps. Currently the most exciting thing in my life is that the number 30 bus goes by every 20 minutes. That’s a side track by the way. I was going to talk about the similarities to some random extent I see between O Direain in Irish, and my favourite Irish English language poet who is Patrick Kavanagh. Some account on twitter has been pushing a photograph of Maud Gonne lately and I have been taking the view that as well as not being totally lost on his Nobel winning poetry, William Butler Yeates doesn’t strike me as having fantastic taste in women.
This is very judgmental of me of course. Maud Gonne was probably a perfectly lovely woman. And I didn’t like WB anyway.
Moving swiftly onwards, I have yet to develop a Home Working Listicle. I still haven’t worked out how not to go completely mad but there are two reasons for that a) I don’t have time because I have to cook and therefore I have to wash the ware and b) I’m learning Lord Franklin in DAGDAD on the new guitar so help me god why did you make Luka Bloom so talented. I’m not learning his version of course. I’m making up a perfectly good one of my own
But mostly, I’m not gone mad because of the screen. Three days in with the screen and Oh I am in love.
I’m in Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the world. I’m working from home for the foreseeable and glad for the right to be able to do so. The Luxembourg government ordered that all the restaurants and cafés and pretty much any non-essential businesses apart from groceries, pharmacies and banks should close. A lot of people cannot work from home and a lot of them today aren’t working at all. Not sure whether post offices are affected but I’ll try to find out. I have a Seanad vote sitting here when I find someone to sign the identity paper that came with it. It would be pretty annoying if my first time to exercise a right to vote in the Seanad got stymied by a virus.
I went out for a walk after work this evening, and after I had been to my local grocery store to get food – they were clean out of pretty much everything but they did have a reasonable selection of pizza. Hopefully tomorrow they will have some meat and a few more vegetables. They had installed their response to social distancing. They painted a yellow line on the floor, a bit like at passport control, and confused the hell out of many of their customers who did not know where they were supposed to stand. The queuing set up will take a while to get used to, I think, and I’m going to struggle because they make you stand right with the display with a whole pile of chocolate miniEggs for Easter. The temptation to just get some chocolate is Almost Too Much To Bear. The supermarket was curiously full of parents with children too. It was like being at Mass on Christmas morning with a lot of excited children’s voices.
The walk though, that was strange. There was no traffic; the odd jogger giving me 2 metres and practising their social distancing. Every ten minutes, a bus went by, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so few cars. And you could smell things. You could smell the pile of woodchip that they’ve spread somewhere near one of the schools not too far from where I live, and the wood that some workmen had thrown in a skip near the supermarket. Normally I would not notice these things, but in the quiet…it’s seems like every sense is a bit more intense.
We’re really right at the start of this experience I think. I hesitate to call it an adventure; and anyway elements of it I hate. But it’s going to have the oddest impact on the most mundane parts of my life. My electricity bill is going to completely sky rocket. I’m here all the time, and computers which were switched on maybe two or three times a month are now on at least 5 days a week. And there’s a screen. And I use so much more of my internet data allowance. And I’ll drink so much more water. All because I am here.
All day long. Mostly listening to Icelandic soft piano music in the background, except for the inevitable conference calls. Why am I using so much data again? It’s lonely. My weekend reading list filled up with “how not to go crazy while teleworking” but to be honest, the biggest issue for me was how to stop working. The odd thing reminds you. The need for bread and the fact that if you don’t get there in time they are out of bread. There might be a few rolls left if you’re lucky. If you don’t need bread, it’s possible you miss normal knock off time.
We have the tools to stay in contact; I keep a chat window open with my team and they are great. It’s not really the same as dropping down the corridor to them, but hey, we do it. And I stay in contact with a few other people who work elsewhere. We swap stories. One of my friends said that one of his joys was that he could work on a Windows machine again (heh). The world has discovered – once more – when something must happen, it will happen.
I saw a comment on twitter during the week that people should, if possible, journal what this time was like; historians in the future would value it. And to try and handwrite it as handwritten papers tend to last longer than digital records. This stunned some techbros on the thread actually. This, I don’t really see as journaling the experience of what might turn into much more of a lockdown, more a mind clearing exercise for me.
It’s hard to say what normal will be when all of this is ended. I don’t think we’re going back to how life was 3 weeks’ ago. In some ways, that might be attractive. Walkers could very easily take over the streets given how few people will be driving. It’s hard to say how many airlines will survive the complete and utter standstill in travel that is coming. It’s hard to imagine how long this is going to take. You try to predict it based on experience elsewhere but it’s not getting normal in Italy any time soon.
I like to think that maybe, there will be some recognition of the need for all of us to work together and that the ability to do this, the will to do it, will stand to us later on. That the need to refocus ourselves will cause us to take that step back and smell the sweetness in the air, from two metres away, of course.
It is Easter Monday and I am engaged in a normal enough tradition for me; listening to the Hall of Fame Countdown on Classic FM.
I missed it last year, when, apparently, the 1812 Overture swooped in from nowhere to claim the Number 1 spot. It made a change from the dirge that is Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. Don’t get me wrong – VW has a couple of pieces that I really like. The Lark Ascending, however, is a classical B side for a record that didn’t make the top 100 singles chart. I question the taste of Classic FM listeners some times. They’ve put both Bruch’s first violin concerto and Elgar’s cello concerto outside the top ten. You can find the chart here.
Interestingly, I’d love to see a chart of the recordings they chose to play. I’ve heard Daniel Barenboim’s name a lot today.
Anyway, apart from that, Easter in Luxembourg in 2019 has been absolutely gorgeous. It’s hard to believe that one week ago we had snow and it made a valient attempt to stick, freeze and generally cause confusion. This weekend has been absolutely stunning. I had planned to spend the weekend sewing but so far, I have spent it washing fabric, looking at the weather and thinking, you know what I have that new camera
So yesterday I did a 6km walk around Luxembourg. It’s the walk I inflict on visitors, more or less, with a few bits left out. Out of the 126 photographs I took only 26 made the cut.
This is Fondation Pescatore, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, residential care home for elderly people in the world. It opened in 1855. Near it is a memorial to all the soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. The building is a mish mash of styles, but the main entrance is neogothic. The place also has an outdoor gym and a lot of lovely places for residents to sit and take their ease.
Near Fondation Pescatore is the Pfaffenthal lift, which is a glass elevator, but not quite in the mode of Willie Wonka. This is the view from the top.
This is the old jail. It’s been renovated lately and it’s connected to the old court house buildings which are in the possession of the Luxembourg government now. I believe the court house houses the Department of Foreign Affairs. A key piece of information is that this place had a mobile guillotine for dealing with justice swiftly, as it were.
If you go to the City of Luxembourg Museum, in one of the galleries there are a set of drawings of Luxembourg when it was a fort. There are very few representations of Luxembourg as a fort as drafting any imagery of it was concerned an act of treason which could put the fort at risk. I wonder sometimes how many wannabe artists bit the dust on this one.
This is the building now housing the Department of Foreign Affairs. It was recently renovated and on Open House Day (which was in the height of summer last year), you could do tours of it. If I remember rightly though, we could not take photographs. That being said, it’s a stunning building and I love the front of it.
Nearby is the Palais Grand Ducal, which you can usually tour on Saturdays in July and August. Worth doing, mainly because it is a stunning building, but also, because it’s got a great map room. The building was not originally built as a palace but as an administrative building, and it was occupied by the Nazi soldiers during World War II. They painted over some seriously old wall art with white wall paint – you can see remnants of it here and there. But it was wanton destruction all the same. I loathe war.
A two minute walk away you’ll find the double spired Notre Dame Cathedral which has some distinctions in my experience – one, it is the only cathedral which is not fully detached (it has buildings attached either side) and it has the most beautiful pillars which are beautifully and abstractly decorated. The organ is not too shabby either. Plus the sun was shining in the stained glass windows. I could not resist them.
This is looking towards Pfaffenthal from the viewing spots near the legal district. There’s another elevator here to get you down to the lower level but this one is drilled into the rock so no glass elevator.
Finally, this is the current Town Hall in Luxembourg (there’s actually another one which I didn’t include in yesterday’s gallery. You’ll find this building on Knuedlerplatz.
I love Luxembourg.
Today then was Easter Monday and clearly I have not been here on Easter Monday before as I was not familiar with the ceramic fair. Especially, they sell a lot of bird shaped ocarinas. The city was full of children playing their ocarinas which means the place echoed to the sound of whistling birdies.
It. Was. Packed. And overwhelming. There were stalls every where. There were a few buskers around including a very decent slide guitarist. And the queue outside the ice cream shop was unending.
I’m going to spare you an ode to the iron I bought; I haven’t yet unpacked it.
But I bought a handblender yet. You don’t need to know any details about it except it has a metal blade attachment, came with a cutter tool that resembles a baby food processor, and it also came with a jug type thing. That jug type thing, and the metal blade attachment were my selection criteria, that and not costing 120E while not being a supermarket own brand that I have never heard of.
I wanted to make my own smoothies. I wanted to do this because most smoothies I buy seem to have added sugar in them. I don’t want or need this. I have a basic recipe and it goes like this.
You will need the following stuff
a hand blender
something to blend the stuff in
a citrus squeezer of some description.
a dessert spoon
a banana or some papaya
strawberries or blueberries or mango
some no-sugar added natural yogurt. I use a set yogurt with very low sugar content
some orange juice
some ground ginger,
Here is how you do it:
Chop some (say, four) strawberries/some mango, some blueberries) into your something to blend the stuff into.
Chop the banana/papaya into that something
Add the juice of one lime, or half a lime if you are a wimp
Add “some” ground ginger. Err on the side of caution (I like a lot, but that should be no reflection on you.
Add two dessert spoonfuls of yogurt
Top up with orange juice. I generally advise against the stuff with pulp as cleaning that out is a hassle, particularly by hand.
Use the blender to liquidise everything.
Remove and rinse the blender attachment immediately. Dried on smoothie is a bitch to clean off.