Life at the moment = stress testing

Mon 28 Feb – Sun 6 March 2022

I wrote in my previous blog about the little lives we lead – you can read it here. And in our little lives at least we have got through the traditional ‘low point’ of Jan and Feb. But let’s be honest, things are bloody awful and it does feel like we are all being stress tested.

What is a stress test? It’s what you do when you put a product through some of the hardest wear and tear it can be expected to face. You see how far it can go without breaking and then strengthen it.

The horror that last week was

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues with an apparent scorched earth policy being followed
  • Bombing of civilian areas and even a nuclear power station
  • People besieged and living in basements
  • Over a million and a half refugees
  • Putin verges on insanity or at least some kind of divine mission no matter what the cost including the use of nuclear weapons
  • Gas and oil prices race higher, recession looms
  • Our own govt pretends to be punishing the oligarchs who fund them but doing far less than other nations
  • Gavin Williamson gets a knighthood
  • Meanwhile the nightmare of climate change grows

Stress test - get knocked down, get up

It is so easy to think let’s do everything we can to have peace at whatever cost. I’m no pacifist and that is what happened in the 30s with Hitler. We’ve constantly looked away as Putin has occupied Georgia, Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. We let him repeatedly send spies to murder people on British soil. And now we must pay the price of constantly doing zero.

“Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Where will it end?

That is what the stress test is about – how much can we take? But we have to take it because the other option is that Ukraine falls and then Russian tanks move onto Moldova, the Baltics, Finland, Poland, etc. And a green light to China to invade Taiwan.

The end result is that Ukraine will be devastated and possibly divided. That is what Russia wants. But we have to stay the course: punish Russia and Belarus as much as we can in every possible way, arm the Ukrainians, and stick with getting through this nightmare. If we don’t then democracy is finished.

“It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein

Family and Friends


One of the best way to deal with a human stress test is to find comfort with family and friends. Didn’t spend as much time with mum last week as I normally do due to the tube strikes (more stress testing) and the need to get into the office – easier for me to stay over at Dave’s.

But mum is generally fine. She’s still recovering from her cold. And I have picked it up. Not Covid symptoms, rather sneezing, sniffles, and mucus with general weariness.


He’s been getting a bit stir-crazy with everything that has happened over the last 2 years (who hasn’t) – classic stress testing. He particularly misses the travel escapes he used to have. Actually the week just gone is when we should have been coming back from Gran Can – our holiday cancelled because we were both busy with work.

So Dave decided to have a weekend away in Antwerp. It is a city we visited together in 2019 doing a nightmare coach journey on the hottest day of the year. His visit this time was less eventful though with some nights out clubbing. We both missed each other but we all need safety valves like this.

Be happy and grateful about nice things

Lunch with Nissa

I did have some good catch-up with friends during the week gone. Focused on Thursday, one of my non-work days. Decided not to got to the gym in the morning as the rest of it was so busy plus I had my little cold.

Lunchtime, I travelled to Herne Hill to catch up with my old job-share buddy Nissa. So lovely to see her and find out how her family is doing. Looks like she might have hit the phase in so many people’s lives where leaving London could give a better quality of life.

Supper with Stuart

Then in the evening, me and Dave went to meet our friend Stuart. He was the last person we met socially before the first lockdown started in March 2020. We had met for dinner then in a deserted restaurant on the 5th floor of Waterstones on Piccadilly.

Thus we thought it would be fitting to go back there again but only to find out it no longer opens in the evening. So much has been lost during the pandemic. Indeed, if we talk about the current moment in time as a stress test then the whole pandemic was. Ended up in a very quiet Pizza Express for a nice meal. Good to catch up though not too late as Dave had to get up early the next day to go to Antwerp.

Velvet page book club

Health and Efficiency


A combination of general busyness and not feeling 100% meant only one gym session last week on Tuesday. The gym is very much one of my ways of coping with being stress tested. But it’s also about knowing when you can’t do everything you want to and accepting that. A good session on Tuesday morning with just little old me there. So 13 gym sessions since I started back in Jan = we are at about £38 per session.

Male body art


One of the personal ways to deal with a stress test is to eat. Regular blog readers will know that I normally over-eat / comfort-eat when I am stressed. Pretty much the situation this week gone. Busyness at work, not feeling 100%, the ongoing invasion – all this didn’t make me want to reduce my food intake nor eat healthily.

So crap food and alcohol intake meant I continue to hover around the dreaded 14 stone mark though, theoretically, there may have been a slight weight drop – details here. Perhaps once I have weathered this time then I can focus properly on losing weight.

Mental health

A stress test for human beings is very much about mental health. Can you deal with what is being shovelled onto you? Obviously the people in Ukraine whether staying put or running for their lives are dealing with stress in a way that we can’t imagine.

But we are all dealing with tension. The sort we lived through in the 80s where nuclear war seemed inevitable. The environment Putin built his career in and that he probably has nostalgia for. Of course I am worried at the moment. But I am more worried for the sort of world where democracy has failed and fascism rules supreme.

Man feels sad

Work Life Balance

Knowing when to take time out

Work is really busy at the moment. But I have coped better last week in combining the ability to give it my attention but also to switch off. Perhaps stress test times like now make us all realise how work is not the be all and end all. The fact I wasn’t feeling 100% also pushed me to ration the effort I could put into things.

I was supposed to go on an LGBTQ history walk around Soho on Mon afternoon starting from the office. But I felt knacked and paced myself so gave my apologies. Apparently it is likely to be repeated in June for Pride so I may get another chance to go.

when only bed and rest can help

I love hybrid working

Had to go into the office on Wednesday for our webinar about the work we are doing with Citizens Advice. I like the option of going into the office but it really does seem to be only useful if there is a reason to do it like this webinar. There is absolutely no point for me in going into the office to join a zoom meeting. Plus you can waste so much time just getting to and from the workplace.

After the two years of pandemic, I am very much supportive of the value of flexibility that the hybrid model offers. Indeed, for me, the choice of where I work is important to get me through my personal stress test.

Tech for Good

  • Published a great case study on the discovery project we did with the excellent charity The Felix Project – read it here All about working with staff and volunteers to investigate how their routing app could be developed.
  • Did our webinar on Wed about the referral product we are building with Citizens Advice. Over 50 people watched it live from within the company and many more will watch it on catch-up. So good to be able to explain to other technologists the value of doing work with social impact.
  • Had catch-ups with colleagues at two different organisations both supporting young people and using tech to do so. First, Lara at Scouts – they are doing great work in using tech to deliver their mission. And Georgie at Apps for Good to find out what they have been doing since I was last in contact with them about 8 years ago.
  • Ongoing work with the internal team doing pro-bono work with nature research non-profit organisation BMMRO – updating the app and digital system we previously built for them


Perhaps one good thing that may come from this stress test is that our dependence on cheap Russian oil and gas is lessened. Full stop we either need to use less energy or use more renewable energy if we are going to escape the worst impacts of climate change. We can all do our bit to reduce our energy consumption.

And this links to my ongoing drive to live a more sustainable lifestyle. So all the usual last week of buying less and getting rid of stuff.

Extinction Rebellion

Personal Development

Important to try to make sure this is in your life as part of your stress test. Because it’s about getting yourself ready for a better time in the future.

I am still doing my daily Spanish on Duolingo. So that once I go into semi-retirement, I can spend productive periods in Spain. And hopefully one day I can go onto learning lots more languages. And I am taking advantage of the mass of free webinars on the internet to try to keep my tech skills up to date.

Handheld video

Books and Reading

‘The Windsor Faction’ by DJ Taylor

Finally finished this book. Despite the great reviews, initially I didn’t find it ‘unputdownable’. Perhaps due to the distraction of doom scrolling to look at news on the invasion of Ukraine – a clear way we are all dealing with the current stress test. But the book really picked up in the last third and I was intrigued to find out what happened to the characters.

The book is set in England where Edward VIII stayed as king because Mrs Simpson died before he could abdicate. It follows several different people, primarily those aligned with the king to negotiate a peace deal in 1939/40 at any cost as well as some of the characters opposing them.

Fascinating because it involves the fictional characterisation of people who really lived at that time and were known to be fascist sympathisers / anti-war. Very evocative of the dreary defeatism that hung around much of London society in those days.

The Week Ahead

  • The stress test will continue. No end in sight to the invasion and war so we just keep our nerve and do all we can to help the Ukrainian people.
  • Should be a pretty ‘normal’ week so my usual 3 days of paid work and 2 opportunities to get to my beloved gym.
  • Hopefully more time with mum than the week gone. And Dave is back on Monday which is good news. 🙂
  • I think my old mate Brian is in the UK from Denmark. Though it’s only for a brief period and on a day I am working so we may not be able to meet up this time. 🙁
  • Having a phone catch-up with Phyllis in Torremolinos on Tues afternoon. Lucky sod is off to Gran Can.
  • It’s Digital Leaders’ Public Sector Insight Week and there are loads of good free presentations to watch – find details here
  • Will start a new book to replace ‘The Windsor Faction’ and carry on with ‘The Passenger’ on my kindle. Plus continue nibbling at ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’.
  • Happy International Women’s Day on Tuesday !

And Finally…

Acceptance or struggle

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