Lockdown 2 – Day One

Lucy happy that she got to go to school today! (Photo: James Kemp)

As of midnight we’re back in Lockdown. I think it’s our third time, but seeing as the brief spell in November was both short and the schools stayed open we’re not counting that one.

Lockdown 2 School

Schools are closed, just like in Lockdown 1. However this time round things are a bit more organised. With Tracy working for the NHS we have the option to send the children to school. We didn’t need to ask Lucy. She watched the announcement with us and noticed that key workers’ children were allowed to go to school. So she decided that meant she would go to school today.

Lucy didn’t enjoy school from home, even though she got really good with Lego and read lots. So Tracy took her in this morning. When I picked her up she was pretty excited about her self-described ‘best school day ever’. She had seven class mates today, and they talked a bit about Covid-19, did a worksheet, and then played and watched a video. She’s keen to go back tomorrow.

Planning Lockdown 2

As it happened neither Tracy nor I were at work today. We’d previously planned our day to pick up things we needed for later. Those plans got cancelled, and instead we did the shopping at Priory Farm.

We also spent some time thinking about how we help us all get through the lockdown. The key was something to look forward to. So after a bit of back and forth we decided that the plan is for themed days every fortnight. Starting on 16 January we will do a movie themed day with food, clothes, and viewing related to the movie or show in question. In the intervening weekends we’ll do a local takeaway.

This way helps sort some of the stress we had from the country themed meals we did last time round. Although we’re taking turns picking the theme we can all help with preparation. We’re also only doing it every other week, so there’s more time to get ready. As themes we’ve got

  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Simpsons
  • Stranger Things
  • Marvel superheroes
  • Harry Potter

I’m sure we’ll add more as time goes on.

Since last Lockdown

If you’ve read the earlier blog posts from March 2020 to May 2020https://www.themself.org/2020/12/on-resolutions-2020-and-2021/ you’ll know there’s a significant gap until now.

Some of what happened is summarised (unreliably) on my roundup of 2020 on Themself.

Day 54 – Baby Yoda and a Sunday Walk

Even though it was Sunday we still got a delivery this morning. A plush toy Baby Yoda arrived for Alexander. He ordered this using the CBG reward money he’s been earning by helping out.

baby Yoda

We lived watching season 1 of the Mandalorian on Disney+. One of the cutest things in the Star Wars universe is the baby Yoda, no-one who’s telling know his real name, so everyone just calls him baby Yoda.

We all love baby Yoda, and there was a bit of a fight over him when he was unpacked. When Alexander went off to do something Lucy appropriated baby Yoda to have some fun.

Sunday Walk

For our daily exercise, and combining with some shopping, Alexander and I walked into Redhill. Tracy and Lucy drove the car and went round the park while waiting for us.

We took the national cycle route 21 for some of the way. It goes through a little bit of a nature reserve. Some of the low lying land has been allowed to flood, creating a pond that has some wild birds in it, including some nesting swans and some mallard ducks.

Day 42 – Rainy Tuesday

For the first time in weeks it rained all day. It also felt noticeably colder, although that night just have been psychological because the sun wasn’t out.

A slighty soggy garden at about 7 this morning (Photo: James Kemp)

The first thing Lucy said to me his morning was the number of days it was to her birthday. I spent a big chunk of the day working while hiding away from everyone else. Tracy had the day off and went out shopping with Lucy after her schooling was done.


Lucy adding extensions onto Mia’s house (Photo: James Kemp)

Lucy has been ‘renovating’ Mia’s Lego house. It now has a two floor extension on the side and at the back of the the main part. If only real builders worked this fast!


Tracy took the opportunity of not being able to do things outside to do things inside. One of these was to paint (or rather stain) the spindles at the top of the stairs. Now the three that I replaced a couple of weeks ago don’t stand out against the rest.

She also made some scones and we had an excellent cream tea when she came back from shopping.


Sketch plan for the back end of our garden where the vegetables get grown (sometimes). (Image: James Kemp)

After work I did a sketch of my plan for the back end of the garden. We’ve got most of the stuff already, although the one thing I need is a replacement for the hut we took down a couple of years ago. So we spent some time finding a new shed and a supplier that can deliver it. Not sure if we’ll actually get one before the lockdown ends.

I also need some timber and glass (or a substitute) to fix up the potting shed. A couple of the window supports have rotted and the glass fell out during the high winds.

The potting shed with a jury-rigged replacement for the lost windows. (Photo: James Kemp)

Day 39 – Sleepy Saturday

Lucy rocking a fabric head band. (Photo: James Kemp)

I didn’t get out of bed until 11am this morning! So for me it was a very sleep Saturday. Tracy went into work to catch up on some of the paperwork that she was just too busy to do when she’s working. Lucy played with her lego and watched episodes of Gravity Falls, which is a really cool carton. I’d say it’s one of the best things that we’ve been watching with Lucy on TV recently.

When Tracy got back in one of the packets that had arrived was a set of headbands for her to wear under her PPE. Lucy tried one of them on and looked good in it. I think Lucy liked that it kept her hair off her face.


Oh no! Something has gone wrong. – an unusual screen on an ubuntu machine, but one I saw this morning. (Photo: James Kemp)

While trying to work out what was wrong with my computer I spotted a link about Ubuntu 02.04 having been released. So I decided that the path of least resistance might be an upgrade. This worked quite well, and my laptop is now running Focal Fossa. All I need to do now is work out when is the right time to migrate the cloud server to 20.04 LTS and how to do that over SSH.


A leggy tomato plant re-potted in a tub outside, along with a jalapeno and a rosemary plant. (Photo: James Kemp)

I’ve had a couple of pots with chilli plants growing in them since about Christmas. One of the seeds was a rogue tomato, so the pot in the spare room has had a four foot tomato plant over-shadowing a couple of jalapeno plants. Now that the weather seems to be past heavy frosts I decided that today would be a good day to re-pot the plants and put the tomato outside where it should get more light.

I put the smallest of the two jalapeno plants back into the pot they’d all come out. It is staying in the spare room on the windowsill. It will be warmer there and in a few weeks it should be big enough to go outside in a bed.

Temporary greenhouse on the patio with seed potatoes and trays of seedlings. (Photo: James Kemp)

Once I’d done the re-potting Lucy and I moved the seedlings she’d planted into a portable greenhouse that Tracy had built. We’ve put some seed potatoes in the top shelf, and we got the four trays of seedlings on the next two shelves. We’ve got room for some more, and I expect that we’ll plant some more seeds tomorrow.

After that I spent an hour or so out the front with a pick axe trying to dig out the roots of the ash tree we’ve cut down. The whole area though is a mass of roots and runners just under the surface of the soil. It’s criss-crossed with ivy, and there are bramble and ash tree roots too. So while I worked hard enough to sweat it didn’t look like I’d made a whole lot of progress.


The queuing system at Tesco Gatwick. We were near the front when I took this. (Photo: James Kemp)

Tracy has just been paid, and the car needed petrol, so we went to the Gatwick Tesco about four. We thought that it would be a relatively quiet time. There was a well organised queuing system in place, and we were in the store about fifteen minutes after we arrived. Alexander and I had a trolley for shopping for a neighbour that couldn’t get out because he has covid-19, and Tracy and Lucy had a trolley for our shopping.

The Tesco was pretty well stocked, including a more impressive array of types of pasta than I recall seeing before. I was focussed on our neighbour’s list, so didn’t spend too much time wondering about other things, although I did get a few extra bits for us.

After Dinner

Rather than go for a walk for exercise I went down the back of the garden after dinner with a pair of loppers, a shovel and the wheelbarrow. I spent a fair amount the time cutting brambles and stacking them in a pile to burn at some point. I cut my way into the corner of the compost heap, so I should be able to start taking some of the compost and putting it in the beds when we’re ready to put the seedlings into them in a week or three.

I also moved a load of soil from a couple of the raised beds into the one at the back. This is a temporay move. The raised bed nearest the house had a load of clay soil dumped in it last year when we had the fence re-done. It’s pretty heavy soil and hard to dig. It also sets hard on the surface when it’s sunny. So my plan is to take a couple of wheelbarrows off the top and put it in the bottom of a couple of the other beds. Then I can cover it with the soil in the one at the back, and some of the compost from the compost heap.

Day 30 – 16 April 2020

Today it was my turn to work and Tracy was off with the children. I spent most of the day on my work computer or on video and phone calls. Some of them were quite interesting, but I can’t tell you about them.


Tracy went out on a big shop today with Lucy. We’ve decided that Sainsbury’s in Redhill is clearly awful. Tracy went to Morrisons and it had plenty of everything that we wanted. There weren’t significant gaps in stock like the Sainsbury’s has, and it was much cheaper because Morrisons give NHS staff a 10% discount.


The other feature of today were a number of deliveries. Over the course of the day we had several parcels delivered

  • A load of meat from a local butchers
  • Lego for Alexander and Lucy
  • Garden stakes so we can continue to fabric bits of the garden we’re taking back control of
  • A degusta box (with cider, broccoli crisps and other interesting things)
  • A replacement laptop battery


After dinner Alexander and I went on a long walk to burn off all the calories we’d eaten. We covered 4.5 miles and walked most of the way he went to school to the bottom of Frenches Road, and then back up along the A23 to Merstham station. When we were at the station a 12 carriage train pulled in. None of the doors opened, and when it pulled away we saw only three people in the whole train.

When we got in Tracy suggested Alexander try on his PPE.

Day 28 – Back to Work Tuesday

The four day weekend is over, although the kids are still off school. Tracy was back on the ward, and I rolled out of bed and logged into my work laptop to catch up on what happened over the weekend before Lucy woke up.

Last night Lucy had decided to sleep under her bed, which I only realised this morning when she told me. She wanted a change and built herself a nest in the area under the bed. If you look closely you can see her bedtime reading, Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls. She’s gone to sleep in there again this evening.


My work was in three distinct phases. From 0700 until just after ten, and then from 11 until after half two, and then three until just before five. Lucy had a martial arts grading by zoom and a birthday party. In between those I read a lot of emails, and spent some time on the phone and video. Over the weekend I found an attachment to hold a mobile phone on a camera tripod. I fitted that to my mini gorilla tripod and am now using that for video conferencing.

Birthday party

Lucy’s friend Amalie, who lives round the corner, turned 8 today. Because of the lockdown she couldn’t have a proper party, so her mum organised one on houseparty. Lucy wrote the card out, and wrapped the present (Lego dots – a flexible wrist band with Lego studs on it that you can decorate with Lego pieces). Then we decided to go and deliver it in person just before the party.

We met another of Lucy’s friends on the way out. Lola and her mum had the same idea as us, and their car was parked in front of our house. So we waved and said hello for a minute. Then Lucy and I went round to Amalie’s house and left the present and card by the door. We waited at the end of the drive and had a chat with Amalie and her mum for a few minutes before going back home.

Once I’d got Lucy logged into the houseparty app on Tracy’s phone I hid in my bedroom so that I could carry on working. From the excited shouting coming from downstairs I’m pretty certain Lucy enjoyed the party. I only had to intervene once!


It’s Lucy’s birthday in a few weeks, and I needed to go to the Argos at the back of Sainsbury’s in Redhill to collect the present I’d ordered. We also needed a few things, including cheese, diet cola, pasta, flour, cotton buds and any cheap Easter Eggs that might be left over. Immediately after dinner I took Alexander with me to help carry it all.

We did OK on the Easter egg front, scoring four medium and one large egg for £5. I also found the pasta aisle had been restocked, although only with penne and fusilli. There still wasn’t any flour, but I found the paprika that we hadn’t been able to get last time, and everything else that was on our list, plus half price grass seed for outside my hut. We also got a video that Tracy said she wanted to watch and some sweets as small treats.

With the shopping done we collected Lucy’s present. It was rather larger than I’d expected!


Having spent most of the day behind my work laptop I needed some exercise. So I took the kids on four laps of the green in front of the house, and we had some fun with a ‘magic’ stick. Alexander pretended to be Boblin the Goblin and did a character voice and walk. Lucy turned herself into Vikki the Fighter from Carmena. I was Dad the Bad, and we each took a turn wielding the stick to chase the other two round the green. There was an extended roleplay story going on as we raced round at a fast walk.

Once Lucy had done four laps I took Alexander on a longer walk over the railway and back down through the rec to home. We got in about three miles. That gave Lucy enough time to be in bed so that we could stash her present in the garage.


The last thing I did, before writing this and going to bed, was to try to fix a couple of issues Alexander has been having with his laptop. His school uses Microsoft office 365 for the schoolwork, and go4schools to allocate homework. Alexander hasn’t been able to print to our printer and couldn’t open PDF files or PowerPoints from the browser. Each time he tries to open one (from a link in Firefox) it causes a cascade of new tabs. You need to kill Firefox to make it stop.

I installed a PDF reader to solve that issue and it was straightforward. I tried the same with a PowerPoint viewer but that didn’t work. It garbled the presentation. But I did discover that saving the file locally and then uploading to open in the PowerPoint web all worked fine.

Alexander’s printing issue from Office 365 is a feature, not a bug. The web versions are not as good at layout as the native apps. So they produce a pdf instead. You are then supposed to print the PDF from your preferred PDF viewer app.

Day 24 – 10th April 2020

Seeing as it is Good Friday we all had the day off. Breakfast was hot cross buns, toasted. We had a relaxed start to the day before going out to do some gardening.


Today we all went out the front. Tracy and I dug weeds out of the borders round the drive. Alexander painted the fence that we replaced earlier in the year, after the storms knocked it flat. Lucy did some painting and she also did some weeding.

I took the pick axe to the part of the border nearest the front. We cut down some thorn bushes last Autumn. There were still a few sets if roots still in the ground as well as some ivy, brambles and a large grass that gets everywhere. It was pretty hard going, and I cleared a couple if metres of the border.

Tracy was doing something similar at the other end, and we pulled a lot of roots and woody parts out of the ground.

Afternoon Walk

After lunch Lucy lost the love for gardening, so I took her for a walk. We had to collect some leaflets about Covid-19 volunteering for our street. We also needed to stop by the Co-op for dishwasher tablets, bread, milk and a few other things for dinner.

Our destination was down Nutfield Road, just over a mile from the house. So Lucy and I set off at a fairly leisurely pace and we played twenty questions until we got as far as the Merstham rec. Then we switched to the alphabet game, with the theme of Spring. This took us all the way onto Nutfield Road. Lucy was a bit despondent about then, it was a hot day (22°C according to the weather underground app).

We couldn’t find the envelope with the leaflets in, so I phoned Tracy for more detailed instructions. However she didn’t answer and I tried Alexander. In relaying the message I didn’t get that the house we were after was located behind another one. So we didn’t find it. Lucy was a bit upset as we walked back to the Co-op, but I managed to reassure her that it was okay.


There was a pretty big queue for the Co-op, eight people in front of us when we arrived. It moved quickly though. We were only about five minutes outside. One thing I did notice was that the automatic doors were on exit only. So it was only possible to enter if someone left. I thought that was a pretty neat solution. Inside only the self-service tills were working, so staff contact was minimised.

Some of the shelves were better stocked than the last time I was in, although still no pasta, dried rice, or flour. The sweet aisle was pretty thin, and half the beer fridge was empty, notably no cider. We got most of what we wanted, including the dishwasher tablets (24 for £3), bread (lots of choice), milk (ditto), chorizo, crisps, and the very last bottle of Irn Bru in the shop.

With the mission complete Lucy insisted that we call Tracy for a lift. So we crossed the road and put some space between us and the still massive queue. Lucy opened the Freddo treasure chest that I’d bought her as a treat for walking with me.


Alexander finished painting the fence when I was out with Lucy. He did a pretty good job, although he’d focused on the parts that Lucy couldn’t reach when she’d been helping him. I noticed when I went out to tidy up after dinner that there were some bare patches near the bottom. So I decided to touch them up. It went pretty well until I stepped back to check for more and trod on a nail. It went straight into the middle of my left foot. A few hours later it still hurts.

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.