Day 14 – 31 March 2020

Officially our self-isolation is over, although we’re under the same general restrictions as everyone else. Tracy celebrated this not quite freedom with a trip to Tesco. So we had a celebration lunch of brown food!


With Tracy having Tuesday off I spent most of the day working. I started a bit later than yesterday, logged in about 0715 and read the sitrep with my breakfast. A day of meetings followed, most video but a few straight phone calls. Outlook only worked when I use it live, which eats bandwidth like a teenager. So mostly I was in the web browser version, which lacks functionality but at least it works reliably. Things are starting to make more sense, as a team we’re almost adapted to working from home. Our role is taking shape, and in the absence of direction we’re radiating intent and doing things that help. Or at least I hope so.In between meetings I managed to go to the pharmacy to collect my prescription and then take it to another pharmacy that had the inhaler in stock. This was mostly down to Tracy, she used her knowledge of community pharmacies and rang round while I worked. Thanks to the miracle of work smartphones I also managed to keep working while I queued (distantly). So I’m good for another four months with my inhaler.

School at home

Alexander spent most of his day on art homework. He got to grips with gimp, and also a stylus for the touch screen on his laptop. So mostly what he did was teach himself to paint on a computer. He also built a Lego version of the BFG from Doom and posted it on r/doom and got over 2000 upvotes, which he was pretty chuffed about.Lucy got a large box of crafting supplies from the Tesco trip. This fed into her art lesson where she made ‘Spoonie’ to go with the Forkie she made at school after seeing Toy Story 4. Other lessons included reading, a maths worksheet and learning about the body with Tracy.


Thanks to Tracy’s monthly shop we have plenty of everything. We should only need bread, milk, eggs, cheese and fruit over the next few weeks. This is pretty much our normal state. The only thing we don’t have is strong white flour. I usually make bread, usually for pizza dough, every other week or so. This is one of our more common Saturday evening treats. So I guess I need to find a method that uses plain flour, which we do have.Today’s food was a buffet of ‘brown food’ for lunch and Tracy’s home made shepherds pie for dinner. ‘Brown Food’ is a term we’ve picked up as a family for the sort of frozen oven food that you get for parties. It’s nearly all shades of brown. Our smorgasbord included chicken wontons, breaded mozzarella bites, jalapeno poppers, chicken fillets, prawn toast, spring rolls and tortilla chips. It was very nice.


Lucy managed to join in an online martial arts class. We hooked her laptop up to the TV and got zoom working to join the class. I was working in the background while she did her exercise. It was pretty interesting, the instructor muted all the lines and she was able to see who was doing what. It was just like the sessions I’ve watched in the dojo where the kids were called out either to praise or speed up in s friendly way. They all got involved positively.Later on, after dinner, Alexander and I went for a walk round Merstham. We took a circular route through the back streets avoiding other people. We went over the railway bridge, saw the pizza project was still doing takeaway, and came back down under the railway and through the rec to keep us moving the whole time. We had a pretty good chat while we walked. Mostly about how to make daleks scarier and more intelligent as an adversary for Doctor Who. For the first time in a while I’ve comfortably got in over 10,000 steps.I’ve got the Tiger King in the background while I’m writing this. It’s a pretty messed up story, if it was presented as fiction it would be seen as too far fetched.

Day 13 – Monday 30th March 2020

I try not to see 13 as an unlucky number. Today made that a bit hard. Our internet connection ground almost to a halt, we’ve been working from home with multiple connections for over a week, but today I could practically see the mail server loading the emails one character at a time. I dialled into the video conferences because I couldn’t get a fast enough connection for video.

That however wasn’t the unlucky part of my day. Oh no. That was merely the preparation to ensure that I was in the right frame if mind for the unlucky part.

Out for a Walk

We were all feeling fine today, and although I started counting on the first day that we didn’t send Lucy to school, day 1 was actually the day before. So Tracy, our resident medical professional, thought it would be okay for us to walk to the local shop for some exercise, and to replenish the milk that we’ve almost run out of again. (We got eight litres delivered on Friday morning, as of Monday evening it’s all gone).

The weather has been pretty awful today, so we all put on our waterproofs and got ready for the walk to the co-op, which is about a mile as a round trip. Lucy decided that her ‘baby’ needed to come too, and she put her in the pram.

It was dry, if cold and overcast, when we left. There was hardly another person out along our route. It was a nice change of scenery, and when we got to the row of shops there was no queue. So I went into the pharmacy to collect my repeat prescription. Alexander went into the co-op first to buy a snack while Tracy waited outside with Lucy.

Inside the pharmacy they’d done an interesting job to protect people. The floor had some two metre lines marked in brown parcel on the floor. The cashier position also had a clear perspex screen and the card reader was on the front of the counter. I was second in the queue.

When my turn came I gave the pharmacy assistant the usual spiel. I’m here for my repeat prescription, told her my name and she went off to look for it.

A moment later she came back to ask what it was that I’d ordered. I needed a Symbicort turbohaler, it’s a repeat prescription, ordered on 17th March. She spent a moment looking at the computer.

‘We can’t get the inhaler for you. There’s a manufacturing problem and there are none in stock.’

It took me a moment to take this in. I was given a choice of either looking for another pharmacy or going to see my GP for an alternative.

When we got home Tracy called a couple of other pharmacies, and neither of them had it in stock, nor did they know when it would be back in stock. So tomorrow I need to talk to my GP again.

Day 12 – Sunday 29th March 2020

Today is the first day of British Summertime, so of course it snowed, hailed and rained for most of the day!

Hail and Snow

When it wasn’t doing one of those it was noticeably colder than yesterday with a biting wind. We did manage to paint the shed though before the first hailstones started coming down. I also cleared away the rest of the stuff we’d cut down, and was just spraying some weedkiller before covering it in black fabric when it started. There will be other days, and it’s not like we have anything else planned for the next couple of months.

We’ve started gardening most years, and what usually derails our attempts to keep it under control is an active social life and weekend trips away. That doesn’t look like it’s going to be an issue this year. Sadly.


I’m starting to get used to staying in, this is my third consecutive weekend out of what might be described as my normal routine. Usually Saturdays involve taking Alexander and Lucy to martial arts lessons in Redhill. They go consecutively, so Tracy and I take Alexander for breakfast in West Central while Lucy has her lesson. Alexander then has an hour and a half of jiu-jitsu and we do some shopping in the market with Lucy and then go for a drink and a snack before collecting Alexander. Sundays are more varied, but if the weather is good gardening happens, and if not sometimes we go to the cinema. Either way we usually go out for some reason.

On 10th March I came down with cellulitis and sepsis. So my routine was disturbed, mainly because I had a couple of days in hospital and then daily IV antibiotics and a couple of follow up trips to hospital as an out patient. That was just when we were all starting to worry about the Covid-19 virus, but before it was properly declared a pandemic.

Just as I was getting better Lucy developed a cough and a temperature. So we went into sled isolation, following the government advice at the time. It’s been a pretty odd couple of weeks. I doubt anyone hasn’t felt that way, and there’s been way more than the usual mental strain. I’ve certainly been fractious at times, and I know my family have been too, although thankfully not all of us all at the same time. What seems to be helpful is realising that we don’t need to do everything all the time.


I think this is going to be a standard heading!

We used up the last of the sliced ham for sandwiches, and finished the fresh orange too. I also finished off the lettuce in the salad I made to go with the pulled pork at lunchtime. That said there’s loads of fruit and vegetables, and also rather a lot of sausages.

Tracy made shepherds pie and a pork stew. Both of them are for other days. The shepherds pie is going in the freezer for later in the week. I’m going to do some dumplings in the pork stew for tomorrow night. It seemed a bit pork heavy to have it this evening, after bacon sandwiches for breakfast, and pulled pork for lunch. The kids and I did have sausages and chips for dinner though. I also had more apple crumble for dessert, although I had it with ice cream this evening. Alexander and Lucy had cupcakes that Lucy made this morning.

The Mandalorian

The TV has yet to move channel from the Amazon Fire Cube that arrived yesterday. As well as a bunch of random TED talks and Jeff Goldblum, we started to watch The Mandalorian this evening. Disney have only released three episodes so far in the UK, which is slightly disappointing. However I really enjoyed both the episodes we watched this evening. It’s pretty awesome, and a great expansion to the Star Wars universe.

Map Making

Apart from the dozen blog posts, which are all easy reportage, I’ve not written any fiction for almost three weeks. It’s was too hard to concentrate on creating things when I was unwell, and since I’ve recovered there hasn’t been enough peace to get into the headspace I need to be properly creative.

When it was alternately hailing and snowing this afternoon I had an attempt to digitise some of my hand drawn maps into inkscape. It sort of worked, but I got bored before I finished. It would be really nice to be able to have digital copies of the sort of thing I can happily draw freehand. It just seems to take so much longer digitising them than it takes me to draw them. I suspect that the answer is to find a way to draw them on a computer.

Day 11 – Saturday 28 March 2020

No work today!

We spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon in the garden. Mainly clearing the area just outside and behind the potting shed. Like lots of the garden it had become more than a bit overgrown.


While Tracy got started with the hedge trimmers, Lucy and I prepared some pots to plant some seeds. We did four trays, with small stones in the bottom and compost on top. One tray was a 50/50 split of flowers. Another got tomatoes, peppers and some chillies. In the third there are spring onions, lettuce and more tomatoes. We also planted some sunflower seeds and some beans. We ought to start seeing some shoots in a week or so.

Outside Tracy cleared the back of the hut, which had Bamboo growing in the space between the hut and the fence. She trimmed up the canes and we’ve kept them for supporting the plants when they finally get planted out.

In front of the hut, out to where one of our plum trees is, we took several passes to chop everything down. About a decade ago this space was a couple of vegetable beds, but some of the large grasses took hold over the winter and they’re pretty hard to get rid of. So the area had lots of brick edging, some wooden boards and also paving slabs hiding under the growth. When we got down far enough I lifted all of them and stacked them out of the way. I also tried to very roughly level it off.

If the weather stays good then tomorrow we’ll put some fabric down and then weigh it down with the paving slabs.

Over on the patio Alexander had the pressure washer out. He moved all the furniture off it and cleaned about half of it. We also managed to clean our very muddy boots too!


Normal breakfast all round. Although we carried on the pattern that’s developed of substantial lunches. Today we had sausage pie and beans. It was our last tin of Heinz baked beans, something else we’ve run out of.

The pulled pork was fab, but we ended up having pasta for dinner with ape crumble and custard for dessert.

Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV Cube arrived this afternoon. After a short amount of faffing about to find an ethernet cable, and pulling the TV out so that I could get to the sockets, it was working. The first thing I did was turn the microphone off. With just the remote it’s a really fast and responsive box. It has all the streaming services we use on it and a load more besides.

The reason we got it though was Disney+ on the TV. So within about twenty minutes of it arriving Lucy was on the sofa with me and Tracy watching Pixar in Real Life. Lucy then decided that she wanted to watch Descendants. That’s when I went off to make dinner and prep the crumble for dessert.

Day 10 – Friday 27th March 2020

Milk, bread and orange juice in a box
Key supplies from Fresh Connect, a local wholesaler, about four days worth of milk, and a week of bread. (Photo: James Kemp)
Two boxes of really great quality fresh fruit and vegetables from Fresh Connect (also butter and cheese). (Photo: James Kemp)

First thing in the morning, about 7am, we got a good delivery from Fresh Connect, a local food wholesaler. It was a real boost to morale, we now have bread, milk and cucumber, all of which we’d run out of. We also have some really fab quality fresh fruit and vegetables. It was a pretty awesome start to the day.

Alexander making a cake, and cleaning up some of the mess he’s making! (Photo: James Kemp)

We all had some fresh orange and toast with butter for breakfast. It’s comfort food. Alexander also got on with making a layered chocolate cake with the flour that arrived in the degusta box the other day. The pulled pork turned out okay, but has gone into the fridge for Saturday. Tonight we’re having fish cakes, freshly made.


Alexander completed all the assigned homework, and Lucy was really good at doing her work too. For most of the afternoon they went upstairs together and built a Lego rock concert. Pictures to follow when they’ve finished making it.

So Tracy and I were able to get through quite a bit unmolested. I managed to write some weeknotes as well as deal with all of the days emails and write notes from the meetings I dialled into. I also checked my DWP laptop and forwarded over the essays that I need to write as part of the Project Leadership Programme. If next week is the same as this week then I might just manage to finish them both.

Ending the working week

What I did do was tell my team to make sure that they put all the work laptops and phones away for the weekend. It’s important that we have a break and a clear separation between work and home. Usually we manage that through our commute, but when working at home, especially for the prolonged period that is likely we need to act deliberately to get that separation.

At half past five, after sending a message to the team that I hoped they were already logged off Nf enjoying the weekend, I put all my work stuff away. I closed the laptop lid and out it in my work bag, along with my headset, charger and notebook. I switched the work phone off, and zipped up my bag with it all inside. Then I hid the bag under the table where I wouldn’t see it.

After doing that I put my shoes and coat on and took a short walk round the green in front of my house. I walked round it for ten minutes taking care to stay well away from the few other people that I saw. Then I came in and started my weekend.

I recommend it to you all. Put some space between work and home.

Have a great weekend!

Day 9 – Thursday 26th March 2020

Routine is gradually emerging from chaos. I set my alarm this morning, admittedly for about twenty minutes later than when I go to work. I got up about 0645, had a shower, got dressed and was working by 0720. Over the course of the day I wrangled my inbox down from over 300 unread emails to just two. I also reorganised my folders to account for the pivot from political change to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. All that effort came at the cost of not doing any significant exercise today. As of bedtime I’ve only managed about 3,500 steps today, which must be an all time low for a day I wasn’t ill.

Technology or Environment?

Elsewhere in the household Lucy learnt how to use email and Google hangouts with her friends. At one point there were four of them on video on Tracy’s phone and Lucy was typing and email (very slowly) to one of her friends while they chatted and played games. In fact they only stopped when devices ran out of battery. It seems normal to them to play by video call.

There’s a school of thought that stuff you grow up with isn’t technology, but just the way the world works. That’s certainly the impression that I got listening to a bunch of Y3 girls play with each other from their own homes. At one point Lucy went out into the garden to show things to her friends.

Lucy playing with her friends on google hangouts, like she’s always done it that way! (photo: James Kemp)

The other thing I did today with technology was sort out zoom on the laptop that Lucy is using and also connecting it to the TV. We’ve only got two HDMI ports on the TV and both are in use, one for the virgin TV box and the other for the PS3 that provides us with DVD/Blu-ray playing and also access to smart TV features. This latter is a problem because it’s no longer supported for new stuff, and we want to be able to watch Disney+ on the TV. So this afternoon I ordered an Amazon Fire Cube, which will plug into the TV and play a range of streaming services, including Disney+, prime video and Netflix.


Lunch was pretty hearty. We have a large box of Indian snacks from Iceland. So there were mini bhajis, pakoras and samosas with oven chips. More than I’d usually eat for dinner, but I can’t complain because all I did was turn up to eat it.

It being Tracy’s payday we had dinner delivered from a local takeaway. Partly doing a bit to help local businesses, and partly a treat. Tracy had a kebab washed down with Pimms and I had pizza with a Ruby Leffe. Both the kids had pizza too, although they had an Irn Bru and a Vimto. Tomorrow is the end of another week and I’ve started some pulled pork with another third of the massive pork joint I made yesterday’s pork wellington with. Still not sure what to do with the last third.

The start of some pulled pork, coated in barbecue sauce in the slow cooker. (photo: James Kemp)

With luck we’ve got a delivery of groceries coming tomorrow, but news from friends and colleagues suggests that there may well be gaps in the delivery.

NHS Clap

Bearing in mind that Tracy is a matron in the local hospital, we went outside at 8pm to see if anyone was participating. So we were pleasantly surprised by not only a lot of clapping up and down the street but also bells, pots and pans, and even fireworks let off nearby. It was a pretty positive expression of support for the NHS. Let’s hope people remember this next time we have an election.

Day 8 – Wednesday 25th March 2020

I didn’t do any work today, instead I tried to make sure the children did some school work and that everyone was fed. I’m not convinced that I was terribly successful, although we did have a pretty good dinner. Or at least Tracy and I did. I don’t think the kids appreciated the vegetables.

Also, we ran out of milk.

School at Home

It’s just as well that I’m not a teacher. Although I expect that if I’d done the PGCE then I’d have some relevant skills and practices to help.

As always Alex was pretty good at getting his homework done, although he did slope off to play Doom Eternal at one point mid afternoon.

Lucy was a lot less up for doing school work and stopped every time I wasn’t watching her. Our start point was getting her to practice writing. So I suggested that she write a short story. It was one of the suggestions that were sent home from school. Also Lucy really likes making up stories with her dolls, so I thought it would go down well. She started with a good plan, identified some characters and a problem for them to solve. We also got half a page of intro for the story, as well as acting some of it with a collection of her toys in the main parts…

Most of the rest of the day was a write off, apart from reading the first twenty pages of one of the books that school sent home for her to read. We also watched an hour of Steve Backshall doing Q&A, which I’m putting down as a science lesson!

The Wrong Wellington

Tracy got a large joint of meat out of the freezer yesterday and left it to defrost overnight. So I decided that as we had mushrooms to use up and some puff pastry that I would make beef wellington. I found a recipe, collected all the stuff I needed and switched on the oven to roast the beef.

When I was ready to get started I took the joint out of the bag that it was in so that I could cut it into three pieces. It wasn’t quite the red colour I was expecting. Closer inspection and a bit of a sniff, suggested that rather than being beef it was pork. This threw me at first, until I checked and saw that there were also recipes for pork wellington, and they were almost identical.

It turned out really nice, and the puff pastry expanded well in the oven with a tray of potatoes roasting underneath it. As accompaniment I stir fried a mix of sliced carrots, broccoli and baby sweetcorn with soy sauce. The portion size was pretty big, and we still have a generous slice of pork wellington left for tomorrow.

There’s also two other similarly sized pork joints in the fridge. One of them is going to become pulled pork for Friday. Not sure about the other one.

Degusta Box

Most of the contents of the degusta box that we received today, although the alcohol free pink gin had already been sampled before I took the picture. (Photo: James Kemp)

We took delivery of a degusta box today. It was the first food to enter the house since we realised that we needed to self isolate just over a week ago.

It’s been a while since we had one of these boxes. They’re a bit of a gamble, but we usually enjoy what we get sent. The basic idea is that you get a bunch of random food in a box. Usually it’s new products, or promo versions of things. It’s pretty rare to get something that we normally buy, which is why we like getting them every now and then.

Gin O'clock - sampling pink gin
Alexander declares that it is Gin O’Clock in our house, sampling the (alcohol free) pink gin from the degusta box. (Photo: James Kemp)

Today’s box had some alcohol free gin, two varieties – one already premixed and the other a miniature. Alexander had a taste of the AF pink gin and tonic and declared that it was disgusting. I actually thought that it was quite nice, but then I do actually like a G&T every once in a while.

There were also some new flavours of wotsits, a Yorkie with apple and things in it, some flour optimised for light sponges, chocolate flavoured oat milk, and a few other random things. These will serve as treats over the next week or so.


Two mature oak trees against the sunset
Two mature oak trees against the sunset, as seen from our drive. (Photo: James Kemp)

It took me two attempts to get some exercise in today. I started a walk round the square about 3pm, but it was really busy with people washing cars, moving lawns and going for walks. So I abandoned it after only one circuit.

Silver birch tree on the green outside our house
Silver birch tree on the green outside our house. (Photo: James Kemp)

Later, just after six, I pretty much had the place to myself and spent about 25 minutes walking round the square, pausing once or twice to take pictures of the still bare trees against the sunset. I thought they silhouetted nicely against the sky.

Day 7 – Tuesday 24th March 2020

For the first day of general lockdown the street outside my window was pretty busy. I saw several people make multiple journeys, and quite a lot of others taking their exercise on the green. More than I usually see when I’m working at home (I tend to look out the window when I’m on conference calls).

We decided last night not to sweat the schedule and to set staying sane and happy as our primary priority as a family. Tracy had today as her normal non-working day, and we all managed a lie in until about 8am. I got straight on with work while Tracy looked for Lucy’s tablet, which was last seen on Sunday. In the meantime I gave Lucy my tablet, and she and Alexander got stuck into the newly released Disney plus.

With Tracy off I was able to get quite a lot done, mostly reading in the morning, and several chats in the early to mid afternoon. This despite some IT issues with the worm laptop. Some of which were user error, and others bandwidth problems. I also got three texts from the government, two identical ones that I think every phone in the UK got telling me to stay at home. I also got one from DWP informing me that I’m a key worker and an essential part of the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Search for the Lost Tablet

Tracy was determined that she was going to find Lucy’s tablet. The last time that anyone remembered seeing it was Sunday morning. Lucy was certain that she’d had it in our bedroom. Yesterday we’d already looked in and under the bed, and on the bedside surfaces. We’d also looked on and under the sofas in the living room.

While I was firing up the work laptop Tracy had another look around our bed. It wasn’t visible, and we thought maybe it had been taken elsewhere. So Tracy went downstairs and moved the sofas and cleaned underneath them. All sorts of interesting things were found, but no tablet.

Shortly after that Tracy came upstairs and pulled everything out from under our bed and swept all the rubbish and dust that had accumulated between all the suitcases that live under there. At one point I came back into the bedroom with some coffee, where I was working in the corner, and all I could see were Tracy’s flip flops sticking out from under the bed. She was completely under the bed! Tracy found £1.35 in coins, but no tablet.

Freezer Diving

Frustrated by the inability to find the tablet Tracy went into the garage to see what we actually had in the freezer. We’ve run out of bread, and the next food delivery isn’t until Friday.

The results of the freezer Diving was an eclectic lunch. When I was called down to eat Tracy was eating some crab sticks. On the kitchen worktop was a pile of small wholemeal wraps, carrot and cucumber batons, hummus, salsa and a baking tray with a selection of Swedish meatballs, fish fingers, vegetarian sausages and a small pizza.

It was a case of last to arrive doesn’t get to choose. I was third in. So I had quarter of the pizza, some meatballs and salsa in a wrap, and a couple of fish fingers along with hummus and carrot. It was a pretty good lunch.

Technology Wrangling

While I ate lunch I plugged an external hard disk into Tracy’s Lenovo Yoga 300. It hasn’t been happy with Windows 10. So I copied all the music, photos and documents off it.

Later on, after dinner, I formatted the hard disk and installed Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS on it. Then I set it up with user accounts for Tracy and Lucy. It was a really smooth install and it was noticeably more responsive with Linux than it had been under Windows. The only functionality glitch was the right click on the trackpad didn’t seem to work. However a minute in Google revealed that it just needed a two finger click.

On my way back to work after lunch I had a very quick look for Lucy’s tablet. I thought about the behaviour of putting it down. Usually I try to plug it in, and I hate leaving it on the floor because there’s a high chance someone will stand on it. So I looked around. Tracy has a movable table with her sewing machine on it, so I looked there. On the lower shelf, under the box with the nail varnish, was Lucy’s tablet.


I’m going to try and preserve my non-working day tomorrow so that Tracy can get more done. It worked pretty well for me today. I worked pretty solidly from half eight until six, and barely stopped for lunch.

I’ve got to make sure the kids get some school work in, but no more than they would normally do if they were at school. It’s pretty noticeable that Alexander’s teachers are pretty optimistic about what can be done in a given time. Messages on the mum network, and the teenager channels, show that everyone is on the same page. So there’s been some gentle pushing back on the school.

Day 6 – Monday 23rd March 2020

My space for working at home, definitely not adhering to the clear desk policy! (photo: James Kemp)

Today was my first day back at work after almost a fortnight off sick. One of the things I read this morning was the NwSpk guide to remote working. Someone had suggested that we run a virtual workshop. While I’ve lost count of the number of workshops I’ve run over the decades I’ve always shied away from online workshops. They’re much harder to get engagement from people and need a lot more preparation than face to face ones. As a result of that guide, and a medium article, I’m more confident that I could probably pull it off.

School at Home

The other feature of the day was helping Lucy do some schoolwork from home. Alexander has already been at it for almost a week, but he’s in Y9 and is used to just getting on with it. Lucy is only in Y3 and isn’t really used to homework. The first hurdle was that her tablet seems to have disappeared, she used it yesterday morning but it was nowhere to be seen this morning. It has to be somewhere in the house, we haven’t been anywhere because of the self isolation we’ve been following.

So after we’d looked on and under both sofas, in and under the beds and on all the likely surfaces I gave up and set up reading eggs on my personal laptop. A big chunk of this was done while I was in hold to the department IT help desk, because my password change hadn’t properly synced and I couldn’t login initially.

Lucy spent a couple of hours happily doing Reading Eggs and made it to level 120, although I’m not sure what level she started at. After lunch (packet pasta, which she complained about sharing it with Tracy) Lucy switched to Mathletics. When I checked in with her she was competing in live arithmetic with kids from around the world (mostly UK, but also Canadian, UAE and Irish kids). Her class had a scoreboard on the home page, and she was on 1,138 points, a mere 8 points ahead of the second ranked kid. So I guess she’ll need to do some tomorrow!

At twenty past three Lucy called me down from where I’d been hiding so that I could work. When I got there she asked me if I knew what time it was. When I told her that it was twenty past three she then informed me that she thought school hours were over.


The basic concept of Celestia is moving your pawn in a cardboard airship between the cities, and surviving the hazards to get to the end. (photo: James Kemp)

After a very lovely dinner of Chicken Parmigiana courtesy of the Pinch of Nom cookbook we played Celestia. It’s a 2-6 player game we got for Christmas in 2018. It works really nicely as a collective push your luck mechanism with individual scoring. The aim is to get as far along the path as possible without going down with the airship. If you land it as the last player inside you get treasure. All the treasure cards are slightly different values, and the average value goes up the further along the track you get.


The various updates must have broken something in my Apache web server configuration. Most of my websites were showing an internal server error (500). I needed to edit the site config files to make them work, despite them working fine until a couple of days ago without any changes.

The edit I made was in the Directory section, where instead of the full file path on the server I replaced it with the relative path from the domain root. No idea why that was necessary, but it seems to have fixed the problems.

The other technology fix I was at was trying to work out why my wife’s Lenovo Yoga 300 is so glacially slow. It’s been disappointing since we got it. So this evening I made a live USB for Ubuntu 18.04.4 and fired it up. Not surprisingly it was pretty responsive and the touch screen also worked fine. So I think the machine might be getting reformated shortly from Windows 10 to Ubuntu.

The next fix is to get Alexander’s laptop to open PDF and PowerPoint files from his school OneDrive. At the moment if he tries to open one it spawns hundreds of tabs in his browser.

Cancelling Holidays

The most depressing thing this evening though was not Boris Johnson announcing that we’re all on lockdown, everything is closed and we can only go out in dire need, or to exercise once a day. It was cancelling our planned family holiday to Denmark and Sweden in May. I cancelled the Airbnb I’d booked and Tracy moved the easyJet flights to October in the hope that we will still be able to go then. We also cancelled the hotel. Hopefully we’ll get a refund on it all, but we won’t know for sure for a few days. It was all booked a few months back, before Christmas for most of it. So we should be okay.

Day 5 – Sunday 22nd March 2020 Mother’s Day

Lucy (in cat costume) going to read poetry to her mum (photo: James Kemp)

Today is Mother’s Day, so we started with Lucy getting upset that Alexander wasn’t doing exactly what she wanted to follow her Mother’s Day plan. While she complained loudly about it Alexander got on with making his mum a cup of tea in the biggest cup he could find. It was a two tea bag job and he proudly delivered it to his mum.

Breakfast in bed was the next order of the day, along with making some vouchers. Everything had to pause while Lucy cut some card up to make the vouchers. Once that was done cards were given to Tracy along with the presents, and an order for breakfast was taken. The presents were Jack Monroe’s Vegan-ish cookbook, two Lily O’Brien dessert chocolates, and the bottle of syrup that I’d ordered to meet the minimum price on Amazon pantry when I’d ordered the chocolates. The syrup wasn’t supposed to be a present, but the kids just wrapped everything in the box!

Alex made everyone breakfast, bacon sandwiches for most of us, and cereal for Lucy. It was very civilised.

Tidying Up

What we spent most time doing during the day was tidying up. We started in the bathroom with a general clean and sorting out the basket of bath toys that has been there for about a decade. A number of older ones for thrown away, some that weren’t properly bath toys got washed and put in the right place. The rest got a decent soak in the bottom of the bath for a few hours before being scrubbed and rinsed and returned to the newly cleaned basket.

This is the ‘after’ picture of our garage, if I’d remembered to take a before picture you wouldn’t have seen the chairs at the back! (photo: James Kemp)

I spent a couple of hours before lunch in the garage. I moved a lot of stuff onto the driveway where Tracy and Lucy sorted the toys into ones to pass on to others, some to bring inside and things that were beyond playing with to be recycled. While they did this I moved the bikes round the back, pumped up all the tyres and then put things on the shelves in the garage. Lots of stuff had been randomly brought in, and we had so much stuff that it was hard to get to the shelves. So I used the space I’d created to restack a bit and put things together, and make better use of the space. In the end it felt like we could get to everything, which is a good result.



Alexander used the pressure washer to clean the driveway, and when he was done I had a sneaky shot of it on the car. It was dirtier than I’d expected.

While I was finishing off Tracy and Lucy came back out and painted some of the blocks on the drive. Lucy had painted a rainbow for the window a bit earlier, so this was a way to avoid wasting paint, and to brighten up the drive.

School Prep

A new thing tonight was prepping for Lucy’s lessons. We’ve not had to do this for Alexander because the school assign him work and at 14 he’s pretty good at just doing it. Lucy is only 7, so we need to work out how we’re going to keep her busy learning. She’s bright, and good at learning, but we can’t just tell her to get on with some maths.

Luckily we’ve got her logins for Mathletics and Reading Eggs. We’ve also got some material for her topic this term, which is the Romans. I’ve dug out three books she can read, and a couple of more advanced ones with lots of pictures that I can read with her to get in more depth if she’s interested in any particular topic. I also thought I’d get her to read some Asterix.

Overall I think today has been pretty good, although I’ve done way more than any other day this week. I even managed to hit 10,000 steps, probably down to a bit of dancing with Tracy and Lucy to some loud music after dinner.