Semi-lockdown, trying to make sense of it

Mon 12 – Sun 18 Oct 2020

So the week when we basically went backwards into semi-lockdown. And it feels worse than earlier in the year with the colder, wetter, greyer weather and longer nights. Plus there are variations around the country so the sense of ‘togetherness’ has gone making it feel more ‘unfair’ and ‘lonelier’.

I always said things would get bleaker as the seasons changed. We are now aware that we do not live in the South of France or the Costa Del Sol so we can’t have their outdoor lifestyle. And finally it is totally clear with semi-lockdown that things are being managed by a government that couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery (to quote old English). 🙁

Personal Development

Identifying what I do next

I am lucky that I am not desperate to work again straight away after redundancy. There is the ability for me to take some time out and think what I really want to do next. To this end, I have been doing the exercise I identified in last week’s blog (here) to identify what I love, what my strengths are, and my values.

Our period on this Earth is actually very limited. You become aware of this as time passes. And so the key thing is to enjoy yourself without damaging the planet or other people. I am realising that the important thing is to live your life as you want and do things that constantly push the boundaries – to live an honest life.

Quotation by Einstein about value

Calling out what is wrong

There is part of me that wonders if I will work again. But it is almost certainly bullshit and a feeling all unemployed people go through.

However, when you are unemployed you get an insight to aspects of your old working life that were nonsense (how many meetings?) and also some of the posturing that goes on which is ultimately just about self-perpetuation. So many things are done simply because they have always been done or to ensure continuity.

I realise how saddened I am by the way so many charities / NGOs conduct themselves. Charities and NGOs should be beacons for change and difference not just copies of private businesses.

I’ve called this out on social media including LinkedIn. In so many ways, LinkedIn is a dreadful place where people flaunt their success, stake claims for popularity, or simply advertise themselves as available for work. I am doing all those things. But it should also be about changing culture.

The importance of cultural change

There’s a German word ‘kulturkampf’ – culture struggle. It was related to the state-church battle in Germany between unification in 1870 and WW1 in 1914. But we are always in a kulturkampf trying to shape the society we live in and the ways people think.

Yes I may be making it harder for myself to get a new job; do you want somebody who is not scared to make a noise? But as the old saying goes: what does it profit someone to gain the world if they lose their soul in doing so.

Languages

Another key aspect of my personal development particularly during lockdown and now semi-lockdown is learning languages – something I’ve realised I really enjoy. 🙂 Interesting that I wasn’t good at it at school but now languages make so much sense to me.

Duolingo and Drops

I have continued with my 100 Day Challenge to use the DuoLingo app. Up to 78 consecutive days of use and I love switching between different languages. The most challenging are the ones with their own alphabet like Russian and Greek. I’m also supplementing with the Drops app but just focusing on using that for improving my German.

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston Churchill

Books and Reading

‘Underworld’ by Robert Macfarlane

I indicated in last week’s blog that I found this quite an inspirational read. Finishing the book didn’t change that at all. It’s a great study of when man meets the natural underground world in its different forms. So there are catacombs, caverns, prehistoric cave art, mines, and sinkholes to name some of the settings explored. But ‘Underland’ also takes us to the arctic to look at the impact of climate change particularly the dying glaciers and the rising oceans.

Clearly in the book there is the ever-present claustrophobia and agoraphobia these places cause. But there’s also putting in context the insignificance of man in terms of the age and power of these spaces. This then leads onto the way man is destroying the environment and perhaps will be destroyed by it. Overall, a powerful story of the ability of nature and the ephemeral nature of humanity.

‘Ghost Wall’ by Sarah Moss

Also indicated in last week’s blog that for my next read I might go for two books simultaneously rather than just focus on one. And that is what I did. Does take twice as long to read than just doing one at a time but it’s fun to compare and contrast the two reads. 🙂

Spirit

First book finished was this one. Written in 2018, it’s basically a novella. It’s beautifully written and could be thought of a modern ghost story. Comparing ancient sacrifice to modern brutality against women. Clever, dark, and sinister – recommended.

‘Pilgrims’ by Matthew Kneale

Second book finished was this one written very recently in 2020. It’s a really pleasurable read. The story of a ragtag group of pilgrims in the 13th century heading from England to Rome with each chapter told from the perspective of one of the group. A great eye-opener to medieval society and the dire problems of living in a theocracy i.e. everything is based on personal sin. I’ve been advised it’s like The Pilgrims Progress but I not read that (yet). Definitely recommended.

Health and Efficiency

Jog-run and injury

The big problem I am facing now is my old knee injury. 🙁 My right knee has always given me problems on and off. Currently it is on. It’s strange because it feels OK when I do my jog-runs but is aggravated afterwards if I have over-pushed it. As with so many things in life, it’s finding the right balance between moving and recuperating.

Did a little jog-run on Monday mid-morning once my body had ‘warmed up’. Only 3.5 km but a decent enough pace. Then reluctantly gave myself the week off to see if my knee would heal. I had thought about a jog-run on Sunday evening but it only works for me in the morning. Do other people have that – certain activities only ‘work’ at certain times?

Walks and weight

“It is health that is the real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Into semi-lockdown but my plan is to keep my exercise routine going. So lots of walking still despite my knee problem. Many walks last week and measured the steps and calories on my watch.

Bad news on the weight front. Despite some cutbacks in food intake I have still drifted up to be a bit more heavier at 13 stone, 10 pounds. And on some nights I thought I was being so good cutting snacks. I was trying to follow the 80 / 20 rule – removing smaller amounts of food that have the biggest impact on weight. Looks like I’ve not chosen the right food or I need to cut more out. 🙁

Art and Culture

“Art doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be meaningful.”

Duane Hanson (American artist)

One of the ways that semi-lockdown is different to the first lockdown is that museums and art galleries will stay open. Though they can only be visited internally with the people in your support bubble.

Earth without art is just eh

Tate Britain

Last week’s cultural visit was to one of mine and Dave’s favourites, Tate Britain. You have to choose your route in advance and we did the British art from 1930 to the present. Not very busy and the art selected was quite inspirational. I was especially hit by that from the 1930s.

Bleak 1930s, bleak now

It struck me how similar times then were to times now. Even without coronavirus and going back into lockdown, we are living through an era of growing neo-fascism and authoritarianism as people then were – Trump, Putin, Xi, etc. Several of the paintings like the ones below show how people felt then and I can totally relate.

British art from the 1930s
British art from the 1930s

Family and Friends

Mum

Into our social bubble

Mum continues to stay well and is not looking forward to the regulations that mean we are going into semi-lockdown. Things are better in that me, her and Dave have formed a social bubble so I can spend time with both of them and Dave can also visit mum. I am encouraging her to have as little contact with people externally as possible. But, of course, she finds it dull and bleak not having wider social contact as the rest of us do.

Friends

Back to online

Kept in contact with several friends on social media. In this way semi-lockdown will be like the first lockdown especially with the increasingly bad weather. 🙁 Good to have a check-in with my playwright friend Jamie who has moved out of London. You do have to query the value of being in urban areas during this time.

A cancelled meal

Sadly, a meal between me and Dave with some old friends of mine was set-up for next Monday night. Semi-lockdown regulations have put paid to that. 5 of us so we were OK on the rule of 6 but the meal is cancelled as we can’t eat outside. The shape of things to come. 🙁

Sustainability

Still trying to consume and spend less – keeping a daily note of what I spend. Did a visit to the charity shop last week taking along a load of clothes I wasn’t wearing and picked up 2 £1 books.

Also still nurturing my plants. I’m realising the delicate balance between over and under-watering particularly as autumn / winter sets in when they need less water generally. The growing season is spring / summer. It’s like cultivating and developing people – when to manage and when to allow freedom to make mistakes. 🙂

Words explaining the link between design and waste

The Week Ahead

  • Dealing with semi-lockdown based on my social bubble
  • I’ll be continuing the exercise to help identify what next in my career
  • Carry on with my language learning which I love
  • The excitement of new reading books 🙂
  • Gonna have to balance out my injury, exercise, and (hopefully) weight loss. Be great if the legacy of going into semi-lockdown is losing weight rather than putting it on like in the first lockdown.
  • Will be an art visit next week but where to I’m not sure yet
  • Keep an eye on my consumption and expenditure. Plus carry on looking after the plants and visit the charity shop(s).

And Finally…

If Trump had captained the Titanic

2 thoughts on “Semi-lockdown, trying to make sense of it

  1. Interesting read Billy. I liked the bit about living an honest life, but for me it’s more about living a life in the way you want the world to be. Clearly not revolution but perhaps still a way to create change. Regarding books I just finished Home Going by Yaa Gyasi which shows how slavery is still impacting on Black lives even now. A hard read but redemptive at the end. Would recommend. Keep well.

    1. Hi Peter, It’s great to hear from you. How to make change happen is a fascinating subject and clearly there is not just one way to do it. I suppose my worry with so many institutions now is that they seem to want to perpetuate themselves rather than make things different; they think the only way difference can happen is by their own perpetuation (what a fabulous word!). Thanks for the book recommendation. I will definitely try to read it. Though one day I’m going to have to accept that I probably won’t read all the books I want to before I die…

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