If I am honest

If I am honest, I had this idea aqround Christmas that I would start a five minute a day blogging habit. How hard could it be?

Well I didn’t manage to do it so make of that what you will.

Anyway, we are into the second half of the year, we have also passed the Point of No Return and the days are getting shorter again. It will be a while before we notice, but yes, it is coming. We have turned the year.

I still haven’t made it to Ireland. I have a flight in a couple of weeks’ time, and you know, I am slightly more optimistic that I will be on a plane that day. My parents are hopeful too. This ticket is with Ryanair, it’s a bit ironic because I have an Aer Lingus ticket that has been rescheduled about 7 times. Currently it is scheduled for August.

I just wish Ireland had been able to sort out the vaccination regulations a bit earlier than 19 July. It’s been over a year and a half and all I see coming out of the political parties at the moment is how great the canvas in South Dublin is. Dudes, some of us working on your behalf in foreign climes could have come home 2 months ago if you accepted any sort of proof of vaccination and did not insist on quarantine even for vaccinated people. I’ll travel in July but I gotto say, looking at how things are going in Britain I am nervous it might be my last chance for a while. Ireland is horrifically vulnerable to stupidity in Westminster and today, it does not sound particularly bright there.

So yeah.

The other thing that I have come to realise is that I absolutely hate – with a passion unequalled – home working. The whole lockdown thing, staying at home, not really a problem. I must have 100 books to read, I definitely have a shit load of tapestry canvases, I paint and in March, I bought a piano and have a tonne of sheet music (I am learning Libertango and Una Mattina at the moment). Staying at home, not a problem.

Working at home, a problem. And I am lucky. I had a table, a spare screen and a separate room to put it into. At least I had 12 months ago anyway, prior to that I didn’t. But Work takes over. There’s no real border between work and home life. The end of work becomes blurred. If you work in an operational job, there is always something to do. I’ll Just Do This and then I’ll go to bed and 3 hours later you have cleared down some stuff, you’re exhausted and you have to get up. You could say I need more discipline. Possibly. But more people around me need it too and that is all I will comment on that matter.

Being able to work from home comfortably is a privilege. A lot of people worked at their kitchen table. I’m happy if it made them happen but it’s not a long term solution for anyway. I want to be back in my office where also, hopefully, the number of video conferences will drop. I want people to stop thinking their priorities for me are higher than my own. People should consider whether their needs are so critical it is worth causing undue stress to one of their colleagues.

I hope this period is almost over. I have been flu jabbing most years for the last 15 or 20. I don’t care if I have to get a booster every year against this godforsaken virus just so I can leave home and go to work like a normal person. Ahem.

As to what I achieved since all this: mini diploma in crisis management. I moved house internationally. I bought a load of books and art supplies, I obtained 120 box sets of Pablo and Supracolor coloured pencils – a big objective. I bought a piano. I bought a load of notebooks. I started writing memoirs. I completed two crochet doilies and at least one tapestry. I made one loaf of bread but it was not sourdough. I survived and to be honest, I think that’s the most I can say.

It is now I am finding it hard. LIke, we are so close, so close to normality. This is when all the saved up stress will start leaking out. It’s like, when you go on holiday and immediately get sick.

A lot changed in my life. Some of those changes were not good changes. The other destruction of my work life balance, the fact that now, plans I have for out of hours education are absolutely in trouble because balancing my time will take months to fix, along with the expectation management that has to go with it.

But against that. I’m lucky. Family is waiting for me and for the first time in over a year, we are optimistic. The other changes will come, because I will make it happen./

Christmas lights

The traffic has started flowing again after the expiry of the overnight curfew. I shall miss the curfew to be honest; it has made the nights lovely and quiet. But I shall not miss the reason for the curfew and show me someone who will.

It’s 23 December; in the background, Michael McDonald is singing the Wexford Carol, and later, it will segue to some one of Michael Bublé’s Christmas numbers. For this year, that album has been quite the discovery.

Under normal circumstances, I would not by typing this; no, I would be chasing around, tidying stuff up so the place wasn’t a complete mess when I got back in January and in an hour’s time I’d be making my way to the airport to get a flight back to Dublin. But that’s not happening. Sorry Aer Lingus but I guess you are not totally surprised. I’ve rescheduled for March. For the first time in my life I will not be spending Christmas in Ireland.

I am philosophical about this. I knew as far back as September, when I originally booked the Christmas flight home, that there was a great risk I would not be home for Christmas. I gambled but since I could reschedule the flight, I have not yet lost out financially anyway. Although…

One of the things that makes this harder are discussions about how terrible this is, and what a pity that is. You know, it’s hard but I have a choice to make here which is basically to get on with things and make a fabulous Christmas within the limits of the possible, or mourn it. It’s one year, hopefully. I chose to buy Christmas decorations and plan a Christmas menu. Who knows how it will turn out, but still…

If you know people who have decided not to travel for Christmas, given the times that are in it, don’t go on about how awful it is. It is a mark of overwhelming privilege that you can think this. It doesn’t have to be awful or great but you – or I – can make of it what we will and if you go down the “it’ll be awful” route or the “pity” route, well that reflects on you.

I’m writing this mostly because I need to get the message out that it can be okay, at the very least. I’m listening to stoic people talking about being stoic, and I am reading the words of miserable people talking about working all the time because what is the point.

I am sorry for these people. I understand it is hard. But on a scale of hardness, it doesn’t come close to being the hardest thing I have had to do this year. Again, if it is the hardest thing you have to do all year, trust me, you have not done badly. Some people did not get to go to family funerals and those are one shot opportunities. I live not far from Porte de Namur metro station and a lot of people sleep in that station. If there is anyone left in the western world who does not know someone who got Covid 19 and the fear that must go with that at the moment, then, god are you lucky.

2020 has been, to all intents and purposes, a traincrash of a year on many levels and while there is light at the end of the tunnel on some fronts, it is likely that 2021 brings the hope of better rather than the delivery of better in the short term. I don’t want to wallow in the traincrashiness of it. I want to sit in my living room, take pleasure in my Christmas tree which, today, was lit before the Christmas lights on Avenue de la Toison d’Or. I might sign up for Disney Plus and watch Fantasia, several times. I was reminded of it last night because no one recognised The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on University Challenge and I feel like seeing it again. I shall listen to Leontyne Price singing O Holy Night. I shall not listen to the Pogues singing Fairytale of New York.

This year is different, and I am building the Christmas I can rather than the Christmas that would be if I just abdicated and said how awful it is. There will be next year.

2020, being as it is, has also brought interesting things. I watched Newgrange’s sunrise on Sunday last; the weather was helpfully clear and yes, we saw the dagger of light. The way that passageway lit up was glorious. I don’t know how much you’d really see that of a normal year since normally, there are people in there. I think this year offered a very unique opportunity to experience Newgrange, sitting in Brussels, and the weather cooperated. I tend to see 20 December as my personal New Year’s Eve rather than 31 December. It’s the day the northern hemisphere starts to tilt back towards the daylight and we can look forward to a few seconds more each day. Of course, the downside of that is Twitter fills up with “grand stretch” memes but fine. Let people have their smiles.

I learned, mostly courtesy of Brexit and recent history in the US that there is very little so bad that someone cannot possibly make it worse for other people in some way. At the moment, I am thinking of the army of truckers stuck in South East England where a combination of preChristmas, Covid19 being apparently out of control in the UK and preBrexit has led to thousands of mostly men being stuck broadly in the middle of nowhere. Some people might cynically point at it in an abstract manner and talk about how Brexit will be. But that misses the very human impact on these worker’s lives. You might like the finer things from your local good supermarket, or your amazon orders but they don’t get to you without goods traffic moving and right now it is not.

Somewhat apocryphally, Michael Bublé is singing I’ll be Home for Christmas, which, although written for another time and event, is appropriate for a lot of people, but I, at least, am not in a lorry cab in Kent.

It’s ten past 7 on Christmas Eve Eve. It’s now fairly clear I won’t get my other wish, namely a white Christmas; even the few snowflakes promised for New Year’s Eve aren’t looking good this year. But there is a 1000 piece jigsaw, a sewing machine and if they aren’t sold out, possibly an overlocker to make new clothes for 2021. I will be in regular contact with friends and family. All told, I have a lot to be thankful, and maybe one of the biggest one is that I can take a step back, and say, this Christmas will be different but it will still be a day of hope for the future.

just a day of rain

Courtesy of an assortment of events, mainly the one that was “moving from Luxembourg to Brussels”, I have only just gotten around to taking summer holidays. As a result, it is entirely in keeping with 2020 as a year that

  • It has started raining, quite a lot, and
  • there is a public transport strike
  • I cannot go anywhere because covid-19 has limited the number of places that would allow me to a) have a holiday and b) not quarantine at both ends of the holiday. So I am in Brussels.

Such is life. I have, after a month of no satisfaction with one network provider, finally been equipped with home broadband and television service. I think there is phone too but the handset was complaining about a lack of base and that’s not super urgent for the time being. Anyway.

So I’ve spent the first day of my holidays in FNAC and CoolBlue looking at stuff to buy. And scaring Mr Visa Card. I will have a television tomorrow with, apparently, BBC1 and BBC2. Good times.

I’ve been in Brussels a month now and it is the first time I’ve “moved back” to a place rather than Dublin. I left Brussels (the last time) 21 years ago, and there’s a part of me finds it hard to believe that. The place has, understandably changed a lot in the meantime. ING now occupy what used to be the HQ of General de Banque. For some odd reason that was one of my favourite buildings in Brussels. Not sure why; but then I liked the old Central Bank in Dublin and apparently I was the only one who did. Anyway, the metro line numbers have changed and the Virgin Megastore has closed. Maybe it closed before I moved; I cannot remember. Marks and Spencers has closed, opened and closed again in that time so basically, no Marks and Spencers.

I’ve changed too and so it matters to me that around the corner from where I live are 2 sewing machine shops and 3 fabric shops. I’m also not too far from Filigranes and a decent enough FNAC. Both of them have gotten money off me for jigsaws. FNAC also helpfully told me to day that all the concerts in 2020 have been canceled so if I want to see Florent Pagny in concert, the current scheduled date is November 2021.

Seems a long way off.

All that’s really urgently left on my shopping list is a printer of some description. I’ll sort that out later or tomorrow after the television has arrived.

It’s a really exciting start to the holidays. I hope it stops raining and then I will go to Antwerp. According to Reddit it has a gorgeous train station. And according to the wedding board on boards.ie, really cheap diamonds. I’m not getting engaged any time soon but in the words of a singer I cannot stand, namely Beyoncé, if I want a diamond ring I’ll buy my own one.

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 Deputés 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.

Lockdown Food
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.

Lockdown Food
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.

Lockdown Food
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.

Lockdown Food
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.