Day 4 – Saturday 21st March 2020

Today was our first non work day of self isolation. Even only a few days in it’s a hard gear shift. There’s not the usual work/life delineation. Both my wife and I work from home now and again, but the bulk of our work is in the office (or on a hospital ward in my wife’s case). Either way today didn’t seem that different from the last few days.

In the morning we had a slower start than normal, no alarms were set, and we resisted the urge to go downstairs when we finally woke. I did get drawn into fixing the mail server though. It turned out that ufw had blocked the mail server. So I turned it back off after I’d checked the logs to make sure that it hadn’t been switched on before I’d tried to install jitsi meet.


A big chunk of the morning was spent in the garden. Or more accurately for me in the hut. I pulled some of the things we’d piled up inside in the autumn out. Then I cleared and swept the work bench, throwing away a load of old fragmented plastic and some other rubbish that had accumulated. Once I’d done that I sorted out the seed trays, some potting compost and got it all ready so that we can start some seedlings. I ought to have remembered to take a photo of that, but my phone didn’t charge overnight so I’d left it in the house.

While I was sorting out the potting shed my wife took the hedge clippers to the left hand border and chopped down the overgrowth that we never quite manage to get rid of. I’m not sure what is growing there, but I do know from last year’s effort that the reason it always comes back is a network of roots about four inches down. The patch that I dug before planting the olive tree was relatively clear. So tomorrow we’ll be doing a lot of digging in that border. We also have some more digging to do in the front to keep the borders clear enough that the things we want in there aren’t overwhelmed by the weeds.


Laptop with Roll20 on it next to a D&D Monster Manual
Moving from pencil and paper to online roleplaying (photo: James Kemp)

Before things all went they way they have we’d arranged for Alexander and his friends from school to play some more Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Originally this was going to be the usual face to face session. However we converted it into an online game.

We used discord for a mixture of voice and text chat. It mostly worked OK, but there were some feedback issues with the kit people had. It was also difficult to follow when the boys got excited and all tried to speak at once.

We also had Roll20 for the maps and dice rolls. This is where we got stuck the most, but that was because we’d not really used it properly before. It took us about an hour to get everyone logged in and to level up their characters to the right level. It needs more prep than I usually do for a tabletop game. It’s a lot harder to spontaneously generate an encounter. Often I hand draw the map while describing it and throw some enemies down. My prep is usually about knowing the rough size and capabilities of the adversary and what their objectives are. With Roll20 I’m going to need to plan the locations in detail as well. I also need to generate some tokens to replace the assorted miniatures and markers I have.

Mother’s Day prep

Earlier in the week Lucy did a plan for how she wanted Mother’s Day to go. We did it together and I ordered the things she wanted to get her mum for Mother’s Day. Thankfully the box arrived this afternoon. So when I’d finished with the gaming we went upstairs and annoyed Alexander, who was playing the newly released Doom Eternal.

The kids had an animated discussion on the plan, which resolved in Lucy’s favour. So they had a bit of a competitive card construction, and made their mum a card each. After what seemed like an age, they finally wrapped the presents and tidied up a bit. Just in time for dinner, which spent some time on hold in the oven while they did it.

After Dinner

Alexander disappeared upstairs to carry on with Doom Eternal on his Xbox. So no family games tonight.

Lucy spent the afternoon and evening in a cat costume that was passed to her by the older girls. She pretended to be a cat, including a saucer of milk, while watching Puss In Boots on E4.

While that was on I was in a WhatsApp chat with some of the other cub scout leaders at 5th Reigate Scouts about what we could do as an alternative if camp is cancelled. We threw some options around and came up with a back garden camp. We need a bit more work on it, but in concept we’d do a programme for cubs to camp in their own garden. We could loan tents to some, and provide some online content for activities, and maybe even a campfire.

Day 3 – Friday 20 March

My family have been self isolating since my daughter woke up with a cough on Wednesday morning. I’m pretty sure she’s just got a cold and not Covid-19, but the advice is that she needs to stay away from other people for seven days and the rest of us for 14. So that’s what we’re doing.

Going for a walk round the green in front of the house. (NB this is ironic dressing up, not a serious attempt at protection) (photo: Tracy Kemp)

So far we’ve established a routine to help us focus on school and work as well as get some exercise. The drill is making sure we have regular breaks, and on some of them consciously get some exercise. We’ve been for a walk around the green in front of our house, which is deserted, each morning so far. It’s only about 200m or so all the way round, so we’ve done a few laps. It’s not quite the level of exercise I’m used to, but better than staying in the house. We’ve also been in the back garden, it’s fortunate that the weather is improving.

As well as exercise we’ve also got a family game programmed in for after dinner, and we’ve decided to take turns making dinner. Although that isn’t without controversy. Ander is included in the schedule, and he’s a pretty good cook, he produces some outstanding food. Better than I usually do. However, at 14, he hasn’t quite got the planning/timing part of it down. So dinner was a bit late, and there weren’t enough of some aspects, which if flagged earlier could have been rectified. We also had a rather acrid smoke in the kitchen at one point when he burnt some spices. That said it was a very nice dinner when I got to eat it. By the end of the pandemic I’m pretty sure he’ll be an awesome cook!

I spent some time last night trying to install jitsi so that I could do some video calls from my own server. Seemed like an interesting project. I’ve got it on the server, but it disconnects immediately when I try to start a new video room. So it needs more looking into. I also switched on ufw when following the install instructions, but I hadn’t had that on before and it broke my mail server. So I’ve switched it back off this morning. My suspicion is that jitsi isn’t working because my routing isn’t letting it use the ports it wants. All I need to do is remember how I configured it when I set the server up and update it!