Say what?

I’ve been saying, because I thought it was the case, that the phrase ‘May you live in interesting times’ was a Chinese curse.

Well guess what?

It isn’t.

I mentioned the curse thing to one of the braniacs at work (Tony) and in the space of a heartbeat he’d looked it up, rubbished my assumption, provided at least 18 sources, and then (best of all) he gave me a much better Chinese saying.

OK, so some of that may have been very sligtly exaggerated, but the gist of it is true.

And the much better Chinese saying?


You have to admit that’s deeply wise, eh?

Or in English, if you prefer:

Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.

Is everybody happy?

Are we all thoroughly enjoying Lockdown Life?

In a number of ways I don’t actually want it to go back to the old normal.

I’m enjoying WFHing, although I’m massively busier than when I was WFOing.

There are a few aspects to WFHing that are enjoyable:

  • The relaxed dress code (he said, in his shorts, and tie/dye t-shirt)
  • Seeing the puppers whenever I look down
  • Being able to roam around the garden with the dogs whenever I get a rare break
  • Being able to turn away from the laptop and the near back-to-back calls to play guitar for just five minutes (I’ve just added a new chord to my repertoire and as a result I’m now practising Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty)
  • The fairly regular deliveries of drinks and food to my side (at work I’d have to go and make my own drinks! I know! How will I ever get used to that?)
  • The sound of childish laughter from downstairs (oddly, there was never much childish laughter in either my building specifically, or from across the campus generally).

I realise that WFHing isn’t an option for a great many people. I also realise that there are a number of people for whom WFH isn’t their cup of tea.

But for me? I think it’s very good. And I’d like this to be the new normal.

Or, at the very least, my new normal.

Lockdown observations

  • The driver of a convertible, on a sunny day, with his roof down, but wearing a mask
  • Our neighbours opposite moving house yesterday, also
  • No removal men had PPE (except for safety boots)
  • A staggering amount of people not understanding that it’s 2m *in every direction*
  • An awesome amount of kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity, both in the village, and on social media
  • How you will never see President Donald Trump and Mrs Brown in the room at the same time
  • The number of people *who have no control over their dogs*
  • The amount of dogshite that I’m picking up on a daily basis, that doesn’t belong to our dogs
  • I needed a haircut and beard trim before lockdown, so now I’m getting used to looking like this:

The WFH routine

This is an interesting study in the evolution of the working day.

When I WFHed before, I’d catch up on overnight work stuff from the comfort of bed. I’d get up, shower, dress (I’d already walked the dogs at 5.30am) and would then assume my position at the laptop downstairs by 8.30am.

There would follow a normal working day which I’d wind up around 5.30pm.

That’s how the lockdown WFHing started out too, but things have gradually morphed.

Nowadays I still walk the dogs at 5.30am, I still go back to bed about 6.30am with tea and breakfast, and do the News and Twitter. And then I still catch up on overnight work stuff from the comfort of bed.

But in a change to published programmes, I go downstairs around 8.30am, boot up the laptop, take it back to bed and get stuck in to the usual routine of back-to-back conference calls meetings, project plans, finances and normal BAU.

Around 12.30/1pm I go downstairs, plug the power pack in and carry on working. The dogs are pleased to see me and so are the humans (usually), but I don’t get much time to socialise with any of them.

Round about 5.30pm I take a break, go up for a shower, change, come downstairs and eat tea with the family. Then I might pick up the baton again and work until 7pm-ish (unless I have network changes, in which case I could finish anywhere between 10pm and 2am).

The afternoon dog-exercising is done by the family; I’m usually on a daily critical call at walkies time.

The change in my routine, from getting showered and dressed in the morning to getting showered and dressed late in the afternoon has been gradual, but not exclusive.

Ian Dunt remarked the other day on his gradual slide to a less fastidious lifestyle.

So what changes have you been seeing in your world?

Motor insurance v2.0

At the beginning of last month I wrote about changing insurers for the Ninja, and moving away from Hastings Premier because expensive, and going to Kawasaki Insurance because cheaper.

Well there’s been an interesting development.

This morning I got a letter from Kawasaki Insurance to say ‘You haven’t sent us your proof of no claims. If we don’t get that in the next 14 days we’re going to cancel your policy’ (and probably keep the full year’s premium that I’ve paid – although they didn’t actually say that bit).

So I got on the phone to Hastings Premier because even though the Covid-19 lockdown is in full effect and I can’t go out on the Ninja, I want to have continuous insurance. It keeps my pristine NCB healthy and intact.

Unfortunately my call to Hastings Premier was pointless and fruitless in equal measures.

Their IVR actually said ‘We’re not taking any calls from you because you don’t tick the right boxes’.

So the place I’m in right now is either get the NCB proof out of Hastings Premier (not possible) or forfeit my new policy with Kawasaki Insurance, probably lose my annual premium, and definitely lose the four years NCB.

So that’s nice.

And the winner of Today’s Idle Thought is…

Fourfoot Said, over on the twitter, the other day, that to relieve the lockdown boredom he was composing a Top Ten list of pubs in Cardigan in the 1990s (he put it much more eloquently than I).

And I thought to myself, that’s a wonderfully fruitless pursuit. I’ll have some of that.

Except mine would be a different flavour of ‘that’, obviously, having been to Cardigan no more than ten times.

So here, on a complete whimsy and composed during some of my more random moments when I’m not working, and presented for the half-dozen or so of my former schoolfriends who pop by occasionally is, in reverse order…

My Top Ten Pubs In Abergavenny, (Just Before I Left)*

10. Hen & Chickens, Flannel Street
The Hen & Chicks was a friendly pub, and Flannel Street is bang in the centre of town. On the downside the pub always seemed smoky, poorly ventilated, a bit gloomy and the windows never seemed to let in much light. A smokers pub. Relatively easy to get served provided you weren’t wearing school uniform – probably due to all the gloom

9. The Black Lion (opposite the market)
Another smokers pub, where you could cut the air with a not very sharp thing, and that was entirely down to the regular gang of heavy smokers who seemed to live in there, and not the atmosphere. Usually full of early-20s hardened drinkers you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Not easy to get a drink here unless they knew you

8. The Sugar Loaf (formerly The Golden Lion), Frogmore Street
I used to love the Golden Lion. It was a fantastically friendly, proper, small town pub. Never full to the brim, never empty. The kind of place where you could go with a friend for a quiet drink and a chat and a gossip. And they kept a fairly decent cellar. So why doesn’t The Golden Lion figure at the top of the list? In the last year I lived down there the pub got taken over by a new landlord. It was extensively refurbed and it became a plastic watering-hole with piped music of very dubious taste. And I got banned on my first visit, by the new landlord who, unfortunately, had recently received a sense of humour bypass. The last laugh is on him though. He got thrown out and the pub was closed. For good

7. The Bridge Inn (on the river, opposite the actual castle)
I wasn’t a regular ‘regular’ at The Bridge Inn. but the few dozen times I visited, it was a really nice pub to go to. A really nice pub to visit

6. Kings Arms (Cross Street, near the town hall)
Very convenient for a swift half. Not a huge pub, but comfortable. Prone to fairly frequent visits from the rozzers

5. King’s Head Hotel (opposite the post office)
At this time in my history The King’s Head was the best pub in Abergavenny. A really nice lounge, occupants of a bar who didn’t make you feel like you were a visiting alien. Great staff. Relaxing and relaxed. And a tidy cellar

4. The Clytha Arms
Tucked away on what was then the A40 and is now a very minor, rural road, The Clytha did decent food, very nice ales and ciders, had a tidy garden, and was just a lovely place to go

3. The Skirrid Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney
Perhaps getting a higher rating than it should, but The Skirrid Inn was another way-out-of-town rural pub worth visiting. Quiet, good ambience, well looked-after and comfortable, good for a couple of friends or a small group. And historical. If you go to the staircase you can see the rope burns from where Judge Jeffreys (the Hanging Judge) would send the unlucky defendants after he found them guilty in his totally fair ‘trials’, which he used to hold in the Inn

2 The Foxhunter Inn, Nant-y-derry
People, old school friends like him, like her, like her, and like him and him, who I used to hang around with a lot, would think The Foxhunter is an odd inclusion on this list, considering the quality of the other pubs. But The Foxhunter had one very special quality none of the other pubs had. And no, that quality isn’t that the pub was named after the most famous horse belonging to Aberdare’s most famous son, Colonel Sir Harry Llewellyn (though it was, obv). The special quality is that I could walk up the lane from the house, climb down onto the railway line, and walk the 3/4ths of a mile to the pub. And after an evening in the pub, the close proximity and straight-line of the railway track made getting home again very straightforward. Never had to worry about the traffic. The trains didn’t run by hourly timetable on that little line, they barely ran by calendar

1. Goose & Cuckoo (in the middle of absolutely nowhere)
I shall forever associate The Goose with its long departed landlord, Uncle Alf. Alf used to serve me cider from the bar and, when nobody was looking, cider from the special corner of his cellar. The location of The Goose can redefine ‘isolated’. Uncle Alf used to laugh at people who said he should put signs up to guide customers in. He didn’t actually want too many people coming in. Alf liked the pub how it was: so quiet that he rarely opened the lounge, just the bar would do. No food, no music. Just conversation and a decent pint of the very best home-made brewery supplied beers and ciders. This is a worthy winner

*I told you it was whimsy, right?

Dreaming dreams

I’ve been noticing a rising theme on the Twitters over the last 2-3 weeks.

As lockdown/self-isolation has bitten, increasing numbers of people are reporting a rise of sharply remembered, vivid dreams.

Perhaps the actual incidence hasn’t changed, but people are being more open about things in their lives.

Or perhaps being put under what is effectively a form of house arrest is having a subtle effect on our subconscious.

Either way, I find it interesting.

I’m still keeping a dream diary, where I quickly scribble a few basic details into my phone, before they evaporate.

But I have no intention of sharing anything from the last three weeks. No way.

But there are a couple of Twitter hashtags where people are starting to document their bizarro recollections.

Losing track of time?

I’m three weeks into WFH; it is proving an interesting experience.

Bits of my routine are the same, bits of it are very different.

As far as hours go, before the C-19 virus I was, averaging a spread of 95% to 105% of my working week.

But now I’m working on C-19 projects and my average spread of working hours/week is 125% to 140%.

I spend on average 40% of my day on Teams VCs/calls.

I haven’t committed any major visual errors yet, but did inadvertently give a few people a brief flash of my bathrobe this afternoon.

The dogs come and go, crashing through the dog flap at huge speed, so I tend to spend much of the day upstairs.

My reflexes get tested when one of the dogs jumps onto the bed and tries to walk across the keyboard, especially if I’m on a call.

Today is a Bank Holiday in India; yet I’ve been on calls with a number of offshore colleagues.

This week and next are supposed to be four-day weeks; Good Friday followed by Easter Monday; there is a possibility I might put in a couple of hours on both Bank Holidays.

What will be interesting, in the longer term, is whether employers embrace a post-virus shift away from working in those big, expensive offices, and allow a distributed workforce to carry on working from home.

It will also be worth keeping an eye on employers who recognise that if their staff can work from home, then those jobs could be done in India.

I’m looking at almost all of the Head Office functions of my former employer.

There’s nothing common about common sense

At the time of writing we are in the relatively early stages of a global pandemic.

I use the phrase ‘relatively early stages’ because globally, what we are experiencing is going to take *at least* an entire year (if not considerably longer) to run its course across the world.

Even our lacklustre Government, who are so far behind the intellectual curve that this country has become even more of an international laughing stock than it was during all that Brexit stuff, has been telling people *for weeks* that the country needs to change its way of life, and needs to stop congregating, and needs to adopt social distancing.

So, needless to say, over the past week, as this national crisis has begun to show an indication of just how severe things are going to get, and the UK death toll has begun to dramatically rise, and front-line NHS staff have, in many cases, run out of PPE, many people – bereft of common sense – have, unbelievably, been going on holiday.

Let’s look at that.

International boundaries around the globe are closing down. Neighbouring countries are, in some cases, restricting the flow of people across borders. And other countries are actually stopping the flow of people into and out of their states.

So while that’s going on, Mr and Mrs Average feel that it’s perfectly reasonable to go on holiday to Cornwall, or to Scotland, or to Wales.


How do these people function?

How do they (I don’t want to put too fine a point on it) manage to operate as human beings?

These people, who decide that it’s perfectly OK to pack up their family and trog off on holiday (to one of these places, for sure, but anywhere is as bad) for however long it is (but let’s say three days, though it is undoubtedly longer) are allowed to vote?

Allowed out alone?

These people are weaponised virus-carrying morons.

How do we educate the hard of learning?

Cornwall has one major general hospital. One.

Wales has the lowest general healthcare capability in the UK.

Scotland’s dispersed general healthcare struggles to meet its own geographical challenges.

But people think that it’s OK to leave their towns, their cities, their counties, and interact with strangers in these other places?


How incredibly stupid.

Here are two pieces of information from Wales:

The one thing we can guarantee about common sense is, it appears, that it isn’t very common at all.