Day 22 – 8th April 2020

Today is Wednesday, my usual non-working day. So I’m not working and Tracy is. We had a fairly relaxed morning. Lucy found the camera tripod I used to take pictures of the moon last night and we played with attaching it to the banister upstairs and took some selfies.

One of the better selfies.


After we’d done that we spent a brief period in the back garden doing some more hoeing and prepping the raised beds to receive the seedlings we’ve planted. So far one bed (of five) is completely ready to have things planted in it. Another has been turned over but needs the lumps of turf shaken out and thrown into the compost heap. We could probably do with digging over the compost heap and sticking some of it in the raised beds too.

Making Bread

After a very brief stint in the garden we went back indoors to make sure Alexander was making his bread.

He needed some help recovering the sourdough. It had sat out for too long and it collapsed. It smelt pretty alcoholic, and it was runnier than it ought to have been. We ran out of plain flour, so it got a wee bit of the spelt I picked up yesterday, and also some self-raising flour. We also added a tiny bit of the starter to it. Alexander mixed it all up and split it into three batches.

One batch became pitta bread.

The other two batches became rolls, we were aiming for paninis for lunch tomorrow, and a loaf.

Lego Houses

During the afternoon Lucy decided to build a Lego house. She spent quite a time combing through the boxes of Lego and finding all the pieces she needed.

There are two levels. The lower level has a garage and some garden. The upper levels have a bedroom, complete with a very fancy bed with a hinged cover so that the Lego person can go inside. There’s also a closet with spare clothes and a robot from a TV show. Although one of the best bits is the built in zip wire for going out.

Hot Chocolate contest

After dinner (teriyaki chicken, noodles and stir fry vegetables) the children had a hot chocolate competition. They each made two cups worth of hot chocolate, one for them and the other split between two espresso cups for me and Tracy to taste.

Alexander made the Flanders Hot Chocolate from the Simpsons which was in the Binging with Babish book he got for Christmas. It was a very rich recipe and it produced a very dark chocolate.

Lucy made the cardamom hot chocolate from Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story book. Hers was a bit lighter and definitely had fewer calories.


After two hot chocolates, even small ones, I needed to go for a walk. So I took Lucy round the green four times and we chatted about building Lego Houses and I reminded her about the modular rooms on the house she got for her 6th birthday. After that Alexander and I went on a longer walk to make up the balance of my 10,000 steps. We also talked about the sort of houses we’d have if money wasn’t an object.

Day 21 – 7th April 2020

Today was a work day for me because Tracy was off. We’re covering the school holidays between us, so I’m working Tuesdays and Thursdays both weeks. So I spent most of the day hiding in our bedroom with my work laptop and phone.

I also discovered a new (to me) feature on Android phones from a futures report on AR/MR. It is the ability to have a 3D animal in your space via your phone camera. We’ve been watching the Tiger King recently (they’re all deranged), so I found this tiger in our bedroom.

Home Cinema

While I was working upstairs Tracy decided to turn the living room into a home cinema. She made some signs to advertise the now showing and also the concessions stall. The curtains were closed and some extra blanket added to make it a bit darker. The photos don’t do it justice because my phone camera is awesome in low light shots (see the full moon below).

We often go to the cinema, and we’d have done that at least once in the school holidays. So Tracy shelled out for Trolls World Tour via our Virgin media box. Lucy has managed to watch it twice (so far) in the 48 hour rental period.

As well as the movie Tracy made hotdogs, fries, popcorn and an impromptu pick and mix for the kids to have as lunch. It went down really well, although I took my share back upstairs to carry on working.


After dinner (home made spaghetti carbonara) it was my turn to go do some shopping. We had a small list of things that Tracy couldn’t get on Sunday or that we’d run out of. I took both children to Sainsbury’s in Redhill. There was only a brief wait outside the shop. Inside they’d marked the floor in 2m segments with tape, but none of the other shoppers seemed to be taking any notice of this.

We managed to get most of what we wanted, although some sections of the shop were clearly empty. In the pasta aisle we got excited because amidst the empty shelves there was a section with orange penne and green fusili. On closer inspection it was red lentil penne and green pea fusili. Over in the home baking aisle I found some spelt flour, which I’d struggled to find a couple of months ago when I’d wanted it. There was no other flour of any kind.

Apart from the flour and the pasta the only thing on our list that we didn’t get was paprika. That was just the usual shortage as there were plenty of herbs and spices, and I got some smoked paprika as a substitute. The one noticeable thing was that there were absolutely no special offers. We often keep an eye out for those, but on a small trolley of shopping that cost just over £50 we didn’t get a single special offer. I guess that’s supply and demand in action.

Super Moon

Last night was the super moon, it should be back again tonight. So I thought I’d have a go at taking some photos. I couldn’t find my proper camera with the optical zoom lens. So I put my phone (a Pixel 3A) in the tripod and had a go on the night sight setting. It turns out that it had an automatic astrophotography mode. So the pictures look almost like daylight!

When I was taking these the moon was visible through the clouds. To the naked eye you could see the shadows of the craters. But the camera just kept the shutter open for too long for the details to show up.

Day 20 – 6th April 2020

Even though I wasn’t at work today I left the alarm on. I spent an hour lying in bed listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4. When it shut off I got up and made coffee. Tracy was working on the ward today, so I was at home with Alexander and Lucy. Breakfast was pastries and doughnuts that Tracy brought home yesterday. So a pretty decadent start to two weeks of school holidays. Not that it felt hugely different.


Lucy and I both spent the morning reading. She finished a Dork Diaries book, I’m not sure of the exact title. I think it was Drama Queen.I finished off Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings. It was the last of those books that I’d not read, and I chose it as a sort of comfort read. The first fantasy novel that I read and enjoyed was Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings, it was actually the second in the series, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought all ten books in that series, the later ones as they were released. So it was a little nostalgic, and also filling in some of the gaps in the story.


I’ve already mentioned the pastries for breakfast. After lunch Lucy made some chocolate chip cookies. It was her choice of activity, and she chose the recipe from Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story. I let Lucy do as much as she could and mostly kept her company/supervised. She got all the ingredients out of the cupboard. She decided she didn’t want the hazelnuts in it, and that she could use margarine instead of unsalted butter. We had a short discussion about swapping the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder for Self-raising flour. She didn’t quite believe me that it was okay. But she did the swap when it came to measuring out.I helped a bit with getting a couple of things that were up high, but she knew what she needed. I also chopped the bar of dark chocolate up for her, but only after she’d had a go and realised she didn’t quite have the strength for it. I also took the baked cookies out of the oven. Everything else she did herself, including halving the measures, weighing them, and cracking the eggs without getting any shell into the mixture. The only thing we didn’t do was the marshmallow filling, and that was only because we didn’t have any marshmallows.After we’d done that I put a small ham in the oven to bake. I covered it in honey, brown sugar and powdered mustard. Then it went in the oven for a couple of hours. To accompany it I cooked some red cabbage with apple and also did some roasted potato slices. It was a pretty good dinner.


When I got up this morning it had been raining and it looked pretty grey. So I didn’t think I’d get any more gardening done. That’s why we had a relaxed start and did some reading (except Alexander who was building things in Minecraft).Once we’d baked the cookies it was a nice afternoon. So Lucy and I went outside and did some things together in the garden. To start with we pulled up some grass and weeds growing over the paving under the washing line. There’s a lot of compost and container soil that’s been spilled there that we need to relocate to our raised beds at the back of the garden.So the next step was to clear a couple of the raised beds (there are five in total). We need to do this because there are some seeds that we ought to plant about now that ought to go straight into the ground and not start off in pots. So we took some trowels, a rake, a spade and the pickaxe to the back of the garden. It took about an hour but we cleared one bed completely and started on the next. We had to be more careful in the second one because there are some strawberry plants we want to keep in it. We also found half a dozen carrots in the bed while we were pulling out weeds by hand.

Day 19 – 5th April 2020

I had a lie-in this morning, I didn’t get out of bed until after half past eight. Tracy had gone to work, Lucy was playing quietly downstairs and Alex was on his explorer scout Minecraft server. It was a relaxed morning, I read and drank coffee between ensuring Alex and Lucy had breakfast, emptying the dishwasher, putting clothes away and getting dressed.

After lunch Tracy came home. Alex spent the afternoon in the kitchen making sourdough and bao buns. Tracy did some errands, and Lucy spent some time with me in the garden, and some with Tracy.

In the Garden

When Tracy came back after her half day on the ward I went outside with Lucy and we did some garden things. Initially I tried to flatten the area outside the hut while Lucy bounced in the trampoline. While I hit the lumpier bits of ground with a pickaxe Lucy realised that her friend was just over the fence. So the pair of them started shouting to each other and fetching things. Their game also involved throwing things into the air to see if the other one could see it.

It certainly made sure Lucy got some exercise, and it gave me some space to swing the pick axe. It took quite a while to dig up the larger roots and make the area less lumpy. Then I started to cover it in black fabric to hold back the weeds. Lucy tired of her game and came to help. So we had a look at the sunflower seeds we’d planted last weekend and watered the pots. With luck there will be some shoots next week.

Lucy then went off with Tracy to help her deliver flowers to a colleague. I got back to more digging. I decided to make a border round the edge of the area and line it with old bricks. So I dug a channel along the edge of an ancient concrete path for the bricks. At some point this might become a step/retaining wall for whatever we end up doing properly in this space.

Tidying up

Lucy has a great habit of slowly spreading out over the house. Lately she’s brought a couple of bags of toys and books in from the garage. These have all started to take up most of the dining space in our open plan living room. So while I was finishing off moving paving stones Tracy started a tidy up of the back of the room.

There were some complaints, but Lucy and I joined in while Alexander got his Bao Buns made. It looked a lot better when we were done.


As mentioned above, Alexander spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen. He took the sourdough starter and made some bao bun mixture. He also started some bread, although he hasn’t baked it yet. The bao buns were really delicious, but he ended up having to do them in the oven because we don’t have an effective steamer. This made them take a little longer too. He made a lovely pork concoction to go inside them.

After dinner I managed to sneak off and have a bath. It felt very relaxing, and I feel much cleaner.

Day 18 – 4th April 2020

Today is a Saturday, none of us are working. Despite this a young lady, who shall remain nameless, decided that we needed to get up early. So we’ve been at it just as long as the weekdays. I’m knackered and ready for bed, and it’s only nine o’clock.

Creative writing

I wrote a short story this morning, it’s not brilliant, and life writing rather than fiction. I’ve been meaning to write it for a few weeks, since the first Write Club meeting in the Merstham library at the beginning of March. I couldn’t make the meeting, Saturday mornings are when the kids do martial arts and we do our shopping. Or at least that used to be what we did. Lucy did her martial arts lesson over zoom, but we didn’t go shopping until later.

Anyway the challenge was to write 1,000 words on a place where you’d lost something. I struggled with that because I haven’t really lost anything. In the end I decided to write about a loss of innocence that I experienced, although it wasn’t my innocence that was lost. You can read Lost Luggage on my main blog.

Extreme Close Ups

We had a lot of fun taking photos of things this morning. It’s my turn to set a team quiz this week. We did a picture round of TV shows last week. So we had a chat and thought that extreme close ups of everyday items might be a really interesting idea.

This snowballed and we’ve taken pictures of about thirty things and challenged each other to identify them. So I’m definitely doing this with my team on Thursday. Here’s one for you to guess.


Lots of cooking went on today. This morning Alexander made French toast for his breakfast. I had a little bit and it tasted fab, although I’m not a fan of the texture of French toast.

When he’d done Tracy moved in and made a large pot of chilli con carne. She also started the prep for dinner, which was an experiment. We had a mixed feast of quesadillas for dinner, there were at least four flavours, chicken, sausage, chorizo and peppers. It was a very good meal.


We all went for a walk after lunch. It was supposed to be a rough circular walk round our house. I’d had a quick look at the map and decided that because there were public footpaths marked that we could walk round our house. The chosen route was to go up to Furzefield Wood, get onto the embankment and then follow it round until we got back onto Bletchingley Road. From there we’d go over the road and follow it back to our house.

It didn’t quite work though. When we got to the motorway junction the path became quite overgrown with brambles. Alexander was in the lead and he’d chosen to wear shorts. So we turned back and had an attempt to follow the embankment in the woods. However that brought us to a similar dead end. We turned round and went back to the other marked footpath and followed that instead. Total distance was 2km, and we were out of the house for an hour.

After that Tracy and I sat outside the house and enjoyed the sun. I read some of my current book, Polgara the Sorceress, and we just chilled for a bit.


After dinner Lucy and I walked to the co-op. Lucy navigated us by her special route. We went up the hill towards her school, past the childminder and a couple of her friends houses before arriving at the co-op. She talked the whole way there about what way we were going next and whose houses we were going past. It was a good walk.

When we got there it was just over half an hour before closing time and it was quite busy. There were four people ahead of us waiting to go in. While we were waiting a couple of NHS staff appeared and we encouraged them to jump the queue.

We were there for milk, bread and ice cream. We got some sweeties too. The shelves were pretty sparse, I’ve never seen them so empty. We managed to get some skimmed milk and a nice loaf. There was plenty of bread and milk. There were almost no crisps and half the sweet aisle was empty. Fizzy drinks were likewise depleted, just coke and some Schweppes lemonade. Pretty much just the more expensive stuff was left.

When we came out, with twenty minutes before closing, there were about eight people waiting to go in. All standing their two metres apart.

Day 17 – 3rd April 2020

It’s Friday, and the school term is finished. That means that today is the last day for a fortnight that I have to make my kids do schoolwork while I try to work.

I am way too tired to write anything tonight. We’ve had a good day, although Tracy was very late home from work.

Only took one picture. Lucy made a hospital for her toys. She was very proud of it, and so she should be.

Day 16 – 2nd April 2020

I started work when I got out of bed, and caught up on a lot of emails from my day off yesterday before Lucy appeared. Tracy went off to work at the hospital, so it was just me, Alexander and Lucy in the house for most of the day.

School at Home

Alexander spent his day mostly doing his art homework on the computer. He’s been learning to use gimp and painting a face. He picked a black and white photo of Joe Exotic, of Tiger King fame, and painted half the face in colour, and the other half as a tiger. It’s pretty impressive, although painstakingly slow compared to how long it would have taken with pens or a brush.

Lucy has had a productive day. She read an entire Captain Underpants novel, and then did the Logic and Data workbook for a computing lesson. We spent some time talking about that too. There were two bouts of dancing, including dancing with Ote where she was singing along in the background of an SLT video call I was on.

Between a couple of calls I spent half an hour with Lucy talking about what she thought might happen with the science experiment we started yesterday. We then drained the cups and weighed and measured each of the fruit pastilles. Lucy touched each of them and was delighted by how they’d changed texture and gone slushy. She also managed to write a long paragraph in her book about it afterwards.


Lunch today was bratwurst and bread. Alexander made his into currywurst with copious ketchup and curry powder. I just ate mine.

For dinner I did something I’ve never done before. I spatchcocked a chicken. It was both simpler and harder than I thought. I found some instructions with a quick internet search. That was the easy bit. The harder bit was cutting out the spine with a pair of kitchen scissors. It took a bit more effort than I expected, but once I’d got the first cut in it became a lot more straightforward because I could see where I needed to cut.

Evening Exercise

After dinner Alexander and I went for a walk, this time we decided to go a little further and planned our route to walk down to Wiggie Lane, then come back up the A23 towards home. When we left the house, about half seven, we spotted a police helicopter hovering in the direction we were walking about a mile or so away. As we got to the Merstham rec the helicopter banked and flew off towards Redhill aerodrome.

By the time we got to the bottom of Nutfield Road we saw an ambulance and a police car. As we carried on, there were more police, clearly conducting a search. We carried on through the Watercolour towards the railway. As we got to the Tesco people started appearing for the 8pm big clap. We paused briefly to join in. As we continued we saw some of the police cars moving on. It turned out they’d caught someone who had attempted a mugging in the area.

We did the route we’d planned, and we saw Molly and her family when we went down Frenches Road and said hello from across the road. We covered 4.6 miles in 1 hour 25 minutes. The walk on its own was 9,500 steps. So today is the most exercise I’ve had since I was unwell.

Day 15 – 1st April 2020

Lucy launched herself onto me while I was still in bed this morning. Pinch, punch, first of the month. No returns! Alexander was next on the list, and we all piled into his room and got him while he was still groggy with sleep. He was not amused. He started this weird tradition in our house and Lucy is now determined to best him every month, I think this was the first time she’d done it.

Change of Routine

For the first time since Lucy’s cough started we’ve had a change of routine. Tracy was back at work on the ward today. So she left just after eight for the hospital. Before she went we rehearsed the preparations she’d made for minimising the chance of bringing any infection home. She’s identified work shoes that stay there. There’s a change of clothes every day just for coming home, and a washable bag to put her uniform in. When her shift ended she got changed and washed her hands. On getting back to the house she used an antibacterial wipe to clean the steering wheel, gearstick and door handles in the car. Then she came in, had a shower and put the uniform and change of clothes on a very hot wash.Meanwhile we had a pretty relaxed day at home. I’ve maintained Wednesday as my non-working day. I didn’t really do any of the things I’d hoped to. I did have a go, but my computer wasn’t behaving. In the end I had to reboot it, which is pretty unusual for a Linux machine.


We ate too much today. Breakfast was normal, bit lunch was home made sausage rolls. They were really nice, and it was hard to resist the temptation to eat more of them. Then in the afternoon I did some science with Lucy, and we needed four jelly sweets. The best we had was a large packet of fruit pastilles, so we ate a lot of the spare ones…Earlier in the month I’d promised to buy everyone takeaway on payday. Tracy forgot this yesterday and made us a lovely dinner. So I did it today instead. I checked before lunch what the kids wanted and then asked Tracy by text. She had a mixed kebab from the local kebab house. The rest of us has pizza from the pizza project. So we supported a couple of local businesses.

School at Home

Lucy and I did a fair few things today. We started with some reading, both of us read, and then Lucy picked one of the activities off her list from school. She acted out a scene from the book for me. After that it was time for writing, and she wrote a book review for The Bolts. It was accompanied by a drawing of the cover in her book. That took us up to break time. After break we did some maths, involving finding some coins and doing sums with them. At 1130 Lucy did dancing with Ote via the YouTube live stream. Today it was a Greatest Showman dance, which she just loved. So much so that she watched it a second time when it stopped.We double handed lunch with topic, by watching Horrible Histories Rotten Romans. We also had a bit of a chat about the Romans too. After that we did some checking on the seeds we planted at the weekend, the pansies had sprouted, but the rest of them hadn’t. I don’t expect that we’ll see many shoots for another few days, but I wanted to check that they hadn’t dried out. Then it was time for science.

Science in Progress

In the pack from school was a set of science experiments from the Glasgow Science Festival. So we picked one to do, which was measuring what happens when you put gummy bears in liquid. We didn’t have gummy bears so we substituted with fruit pastilles. The first step was to measure them and weigh them. Mostly they were 10mm high and 20mm in diameter and weighed 4g. Then we put 50ml of water in three cups. In one we added 4g salt and 4g baking soda in another. The fourth cup got 50ml of white wine vinegar.Tomorrow we need to drain the cups and measure and weigh the fruit pastilles. Before that we need to have a think about what we think might happen, and why. Then we need to compare that with what we measure.

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.