Wed 8 Jul 2020: return to pub!

I’ve been getting takeaway beer and cider from the Crown & Anchor for a few weeks now, and they re-opened at the weekend for on-sales. I didn’t go, because they weren’t going to take table bookings and it’s a long way to go only to be told “nah mate, yer can’t come in”. So my first pub trip for lo these many moons was yesterday evening at Craft Beer Brixton. Just being in a pub for a few hours talking bollocks and playing Go was wonderful! As much as online video chats and virtual pubs have been keeping the nation going, getting the pubs open will have made a lot of people very happy. Not just all those who can now work again (vitally important, employment is the best vaccine against poverty, which is a huge killer) but also people like me who have desperately missed having a real face-to-face social life.

When getting takeaways from the pub in recent times I’ve driven there myself, but yesterday I was obviously going to get into a state where I couldn’t drive, so I had to use public transport. There’s supposed to be regulations about wearing face masks on buses, and indeed there are plenty of vinyl decals both inside and out telling people this. I estimate that only half of passengers were using them. Bus drivers weren’t doing anything about it.

Tue 16 Jun 2020: family at last

In deepest darkest rural Sussex it seems that panic-buying and hoarding razor blades is the latest fashion, and so when he was down to his last blade my father couldn’t buy any more. Rather than have him embrace his inner yeti I bought him some off the internet a coupla days ago, and delivered them today. We are also now allowed to visit other households (I think), so I didn’t just ring the door bell and stand back for a shouted conversation out in the street, I stayed for lunch, and then took Dad out for a short walk. It was the first time I’d seen the Agèd Ps since February.

Spot the village

We drove to the Star at Norman’s Bay and then walked to the site of the abandoned mediæval village of Northeye. If I hadn’t taken note of the co-ordinates before we left and checked using a GPS when we got there you’d be hard-pressed to tell that there was a village. There is some terracing which may be the remains of the evaporation ponds used when the village was (officially) in the salt trade, and some depressions in the ground which might be all that’s left of cellars – but without knowing where we were the terracing could just be agricultural, or raised beaches, and the depressions could be dew ponds. Of course, being a remote coastal location the village would also have unofficially been in the wine trade, as was common for hundreds of years all along the coast.

After taking the old codger back home and having a well-deserved cup of tea I headed off to Brighton to see my little sister and her partner for the first time since March. We got ice creams and sat in the park across the road from their gaff, nattering about everything and nothing for an hour.

I honestly don’t really know precisely what the current regulations are on visits so for all I know I could have doomed humanity by recklessly and selfishly seeing my family. If I have and you, dear reader, are one of the hyper-intelligent insect-people who took over the planet after our demise … you’re welcome.

Finally … did you spot the village in the photo? It’s the very slightly higher land behind and just to the right of the tree.

Mon 15 Jun 2020: virtual tourism

Gosh, two posts in two days after a two week gap! It’s not because I’d forgotten about you all, my darling readers, it’s because nothing of any interest whatsoever happened.

I’ve written before about online cultural events, and I’m still “attending” plenty of them. Last night I attended a new one, an online lecture on the history of menswear. I intend to also do his one on Scandalous Mayfair next week.

Sun 14 Jun 2020: Devil’s Dyke

As I don’t have any regularly scheduled work or other appointments my sleep schedule has been all over the place. Some days I’ll stay up until the wee small hours and then sleep til noon, others I’ll go to bed early and be up with the lark. Today was a Lark Day, and as it looked, unlike the last few days of rain and thunder, bright and sunny I decided to go for a walk in the country. So at five o’clock I left home, there was no traffic and by half past six I was parked at Devil’s Dyke just outside Brighton.

I had my little walk, and then just sat on the grass watching the birds and getting crawled over by insects, finally leaving when all the morning joggers turned up.

Back home now at 10:30 for a healthy breakfast of coffee and jaffa cakes.

Fri 29 May 2020: good news and localism

A while back I wrote about how busy the food bank I was working at was, and how this was a measure of poverty and should alarm us all. Well, in the month since there has been some very good news.

The last week or two have been quite a bit quieter, to the extent that after next week we’re cutting back our service from six days a week to three. At the peak we were helping around 210 households, up from around 40 in normal times. We’re now down to 120-ish. That will be made up of (approximately):

  • Those we were helping in normal times;
  • A few who are ill or are isolating because they think they might be ill;
  • People in the most vulnerable demographic who are still isolating in case they become ill;
  • The newly unemployed and under-employed.

We’re also no longer delivering all our food parcels, instead asking those who can to come and pick them up in person. That’s partly because it’s now safer for them to do that, but also because some of our volunteers are no longer blessed with copious free time – they’re going back to work – so we have a labour shortage.

Infection rates in London are now very low, far lower than in the rest of the country, so the group of people who are ill (or think they might be) is obviously going to be quite small. The group of vulnerable people still isolated will be relatively large, consisting mostly of elderly people, and will be fairly static or may be shrinking slightly as their family and friends are more able to help them. But the biggest change will be the number of people who are going back to work and so no longer have to suffer the indignity of asking for help. Another measure of that is the higher traffic levels on the streets. It’s no longer eerily quiet, and when I’m out and about doing food bank deliveries there are actually a few traffic jams! I never thought I’d be glad to be stuck in a traffic jam!

The infection rate being so low in London – half that of England as a whole – means that we need to start having regional variations in the various disease-related restrictions. London and the Midlands (the best two areas) can liberalise more than Yorkshire (which is now the filthiest plague-pit) while still keeping on top of things and so, importantly, can get back to generating wealth and paying taxes.

Mon 25 May 2020: postal indigestion

For approaching two years I’ve been a member of Postcrossing, an online community that exchanges postcards with random strangers. I normally sent one or two a month, but while I’ve been stuck at home with no theatres and cinemas to go to I’ve been sending one a week or sometimes more. For a while they appeared to be disappearing into a void, taking weeks to arrive at their destinations, but suddenly this month things seem to have got unstuck and the post is flowing. I’ve so far had six get to their recipients and received 10 myself. To me this indicates that after some postal indigestion (air freight routes were buggered, and some countries are still not exchanging post even now) things are getting back to normal, and the post offices are working through the backlog.

On Postcrossing’s online forums some people are saying that they’re cutting back on their postcards because they’re not sure whether they’ll arrive. I’ve always been of the opposite persuasion. Whenever I receive a postcard from one of my random strangers it’s a little moment of joy to hear about someone else’s life, and right now we need as many moments of joy as we can get. So I’ve been busy posting away. I just wrote one that’s going to go on its way to Canada tomorrow, joining six others that are en route.

Here are some of my favourites from the last two years.

Novosibirsk, Russia
Germany
Taiwan

Fri 22 May 2020: pub beer is best beer

None of my local pubs are doing take-aways, but one of my favourite pubs is. This afternoon I drove to the Crown and Anchor to get more cider. I also got some Camden Hell lager, because it’s a nice hot day and nice hot days poke my monkey brain into doing things like that. I got home an hour ago, and have drunk most of the lager already. This high consumption rate is clear evidence that beer bought in a pub tastes better than beer bought online.

Unfortunately a belly full of lager has made me forget what cider it was that I bought.

Tue 19 May 2020: bad news for the market, good news for me

Following up from my previous post about the congestion charge making Borough Market less of a practical place to shop, I have good news! My normal food n cider pusher, Middle Farm down in Sussex, has re-opened! Fuel for the hundred mile round trip costs about the same as the congestion charge would, and the produce is cheaper.

So congratulations to the government and Sadiq Khan, you kept me off the central London roads, but I drove ten times as far, burned twice as many dead dinosaurs, and didn’t spend a single penny at any London businesses.

Normally at this point I’d point out that it’s only cheaper if your time is worthless, like I do every time some cretin tries to be clever and show how cheaply you can fly from Manchester to Liverpool via Zanzibar instead of going by train. But right now, I really do have little else to do with my time.

Sat 16 May 2020: joined-up thinking

Transport for London have announced that the Congestion Charge is to come back into effect starting on Monday. On the one hand they’re trying to price people out of cars and onto public transport because it makes better use of limited road space (well, out of some cars, apparently electric cars don’t take up space or cause congestion) and on the other we’re being encouraged to drive and not use public transport because public transport is currently a plague pit. Brilliant joined up thinking there. The reintroduction of the congestion charge without an effective public transport system makes shopping at Borough Market a lot less practical as it effectively increases all their prices – which were already high – to me by about 15%.