Quarantine random thoughts #18

We are getting to the end of the 11th week, 75 days in self-isolation, the weather is beautiful, it’s getting warm and frankly there’s not much else to be reported. I have been a bit more social lately, having conversation in person with three different people in two separate occasions. Other than that, it’s all zoom.

Did you notice how this pandemic has sent everybody down memory lane?

Maybe because we cannot visualise the future, we turn back to the past, which now feels safe and stable. I find myself having odd feeling of nostalgia for the 80s or even the 70s every time a friend posts an old picture.

Or maybe it’s just that we have more time to organise our photo archive. I love how Photos on all Apple devices is keeping my 25K photos all nicely tagged, organised and synchronised. In the last few years I have also scanned a decent amount of printed pictures, trying to date and tag them appropriately and merge them seamless in my archive. This makes falling in nostalgic time-space wormholes incredibly easy.

We all look better or cuter (or both) in old photos, and sometimes on social media they are a good excuse for a bit of name dropping, bragging and back dating: you know, those who “were on the web” well before Sir Tim invented the thing. It’s fine, we all have history.

My, writing my first blog post, 1972.

I got a new pair of AirPods this week. I went for the Pro version, with noise cancellation. Quite expensive, but I have used my old pair almost every day for 3 years until battery life got too short to be usable, they are one of my favourite Apple products. These new ones are good, noise cancelling is very effective but transparency mode is what makes them amazing. We’ll see how well they will work with my daily dose of zoom calls.

Maybe I’m doing this wrong, but I find all these calls draining. After a full day of speaking with a slightly louder tone of voice, without being able to move much, struggling to understand people who could not be bothered to use a headset, having to constantly decode another language and a ton of different accents, my brain hurts. When work is over I might like to have a chat with friends and family, but I really struggle to convince myself to start yet another zoom call.

Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch (but don’t call).

Quarantine random thoughts #17

43 days until my flight home. 44 days until my haircut.

I’m preparing for my trip. I have procured face masks (thanks to those who helped), and it looks like there won’t be the need to self quarantine once on the other side. I’m conscious that taking the Central Line, then a train, then an airplane is significantly riskier than never leaving my flat, but at this point I feel like risking a bit. Maybe I will self quarantine anyway for a few days, just to be on the safe side.

Yesterday I went out for the weekly groceries run to Waitrose, it was a beautiful and warm day and the park was full of people. Things are starting to feel normal.

I don’t mean “normal” as “back to normal” but in the sense of “not exceptional”.

I suppose that many are just growing tired of the exceptionality of the last few months. I have mostly given up following the daily updates or frantically checking the stats every day.

Last weekend I went for a relatively long walk to Richmond, but the most exciting thing is that I actually met a friend. Like in person! We bought lunch at Whole Foods Market and then ate by the river. The best day in quite a while!

Richmond upon Thames

Being outside my flat for six hours felt nice, but it’s curious like many of my friends and people I interact with regularly are not finding this new lifestyle all that distressing at all (and in some cases are dreading the idea of going back). This is a good time for us introverts who can cook.

Stay safe, be nice, and keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #16

Finished another t-roll this morning. The third since the beginning of the quarantine. For some reason I take a picture every time, here’s the complete collection: April 12, April 27, May 14. This is history.

Even if I never had any problem (I didn’t even try to buy any toilet paper, and it was only missing from shops for the first couple of weeks), I don’t think I will take it for granted for a while. Who knew that it would have been the first sign of the end.

The rules are changing in the UK, “Stay Alert” is the new “Stay Home”. Day after day we are learning what this actually means, on Monday I heard a prominent politicians explain that: “People should assume they should go to work rather than presume they should not.” Unless they can work from home. And you can meet one person. Outside. Not closer than 2m.

On Tuesday another member of the government said “The number of people who died has come down”. Basically, it’s the zombie apocalypse.

I found this interesting site displaying the curves of daily new cases using an arbitrary unit for the vertical axis, which makes them easy to compare. Here’s the two countries I’m most interested to follow:

So I have booked a flight home. I visited the Ryanair site and they were offering seats to Trieste starting on the 2 of July. I’m booked on that flight. Still not sure if it will happen, but at least it’s a date on the calendar.

There will probably be voluntary quarantine on the other side, and then again coming back, but it’s not a problem, I’m planning to spend the summer in Italy.

Most likely I will have to wear a mask on the flight. I don’t have one and need to figure out where to find it. I wonder why Ryanair didn’t offer me a mask, instead of the Samsonite trolley which I have been refusing to buy from them for the last 18 years.

Since a lot of friends were recommending it, I have been watching Money Heist. It’s a good show. Since I cannot stand dubbing anymore, I’m watching it in Spanish with English subtitles. So it often happens that I have whole dreams in Spanish, which is odd given that I don’t really speak Spanish.

And here’s a new episode of our podcast:

That’s all folks. Stay safe, be nice, and keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #15

It’s a weekend again, I wrote the first post of this series on the 14th of March, that’s 9 Saturdays ago.

As I was meditating this morning an idea I had before came back, about the concept of the two minds: there’s the “thinking mind”, which keep sweeping us away all the time, and there’s the “observing mind”, through which can see the thinking mind and which we develop with our meditation practice.

Well, here’s my idea: I think of the “observing mind” as running a top command in a terminal window (or the Activity Monitor utility), when I can focus on my observing mind I can see my thoughts starting and stopping, taking more or less resources, and when necessary I can kill them (or “let them go”, in meditation parlance). Next time any of my nerdy friends will try meditating, you can use this visualisation.

I had two deliveries this week. I ordered some pipe tobacco from the Black Swan Shoppe somewhere up in Yorkshire, and it arrived via Royal Mail in 24 hours. Fantastic.

Then on Wednesday I ordered a Pizza from Santa Maria (a local restaurant which happens to make one of the best pizza in London). Since it’s local I had never had it delivered. Between the moment I hit “order” button on the Deliveroo app and the photo below only 9 minutes passed. Amazing!

This week I finished watching Ricky Gervais’ After Life (excellent). I also watched Jerry Seinfeld’s latest special on Netflix (good, perhaps not his best).

At this point I had to go back and watch again Talking Funny, an old HBO show which is just Gervais, Seinfeld, Louis CK and Chris Rock talking shop for 50 minutes. If you like standup comedy and haven’t seen this, add it to your playlist.

Speaking of comedians, I caught a few bits of the Prime Minister Question Time this week, it was the first time for the recovered Boris Johnson in front of the new leader of the opposition Kier Starmer. I don’t have a dog in this fight (I’m in a situation of “taxation without representation), but I did find interesting to see Boris in an empty chamber struggling in front of what looked for the first time as an adult asking questions that needed to be asked.

Yesterday it was VE Day, the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany surrender at the end of WWII. Oddly this one is not celebrated very much in Italy (of course it isn’t… we lost), it was interesting to see how the celebration of a victory looks like. Spitfires flew, the Queen spoke again, and then everybody singed “We’ll meet again”.

That’s all for now. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #14

We are sailing through the 8th week of self-isolation. I had to count the weeks in the calendar, time has a whole new dimension. I realised that until last week I was waiting for my birthday, now there’s no “next date” to be looking forward to. Of course, eventually stuff will happen, but we don’t know when.

As of today the UK has the highest death toll in Europe, surpassing Italy. Not that this means much, these numbers are mostly meaningless when used to compare situations.

On Saturday I went for a walk in the park for the first time. It’s allowed here, but for some reason I never really felt like just going. The weather was nice, the park was full of dogs and yoga pants running free. Everybody very careful about avoiding each other, often walking off-path to guarantee enough distance.

Found the Covid-19 settings in the latest update of iOS. It was on by default. In theory my phone is now pinging other phones, keeping track of who is getting close. But this information will not be used in the UK, as the government has decided not to use Google/Apple decentralised approach, favouring instead a centralised (and potentially more privacy invasive) system. Still… it feels like a waste of valuable data.

I heard somebody on the radio suggesting that the UK approach is influenced by researchers in Oxford consulting the government. Phew! At least it’s not Cambridge: a city name now synonym with privacy!

My driving licence has expired. I meant to renew it here, but for a bunch of reasons I ended up deciding not to go to a post office in the middle of the pandemic. Not that I need it, but no idea how this will be resolved. There’s also some other bureaucratic problems that I need to solve in Italy, and it doesn’t look like it will be easy to solve them remotely or by catching a quick flight home. I hope these won’t become real problems.

In the good news department, credit cards bills are significantly down from last month and the month before. No restaurants, no online shopping, no public transport, no nothing. The interesting fact is that I could order stuff online or buy takeaway food, but between not having a working doorbell and being very lazy, I just don’t. And the truth is that I don’t really miss any of that stuff. Eventually it will creep back, but I’m going to try to keep this rhythm for as long as possible.

Meanwhile make sure you stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #13

I accidentally bumped into someone yesterday.

At Marks & Sparks, I was reaching for a bottle of fresh orange juice, she stepped back from the pub-lunch ready-meals section, our shoulders touched for an instant. “Sorry”, “sorry”. Six weeks to the day since I had any physical contact with another human. I can reset the counter now.

Wednesday was my birthday. Last month attending an online birthday celebration with a whole bunch of people was interesting. Now it seems we have all had enough of online group celebrations. Or at least I have.

But I still want to implement the “Negroni fountain” plan, in my garden, sometime this summer. Ryanair says they will start flying in July. Planning to be on the first flight out of here.

Speaking of Negroni: I have concluded that Italian red vermouth gives me weird dreams. And I mean seriously weird. Must be the wormwood. I also confirmed that Antica Formula is worse than Cocchi (I still have a third of a bottle of Antica Formula, I think I will introduce lunch-time Negronis to finish it away from sleep time).

Everything else is continuing just as before: zoom call after zoom call after zoom call. I was reading this article about bookshelves of celebrities spotted on ‘house calls’ and realised that I miss my bookshelves in Italy. They would be a much better background than my kitchen/living room. I considered other angles in my room, but nothing really works: here it’s back-light, there is booze, the dark door… I’l stick with the “oven angle”.

My room, May 1st 2020.

I hear that things are slowly restarting in Italy, among all sorts of complains (if there ever was a loose-loose situation for a politician, this is it). Things are slower in the UK, and the numbers are still dreadful. I also have the feeling that we are mostly hearing the worse possible predictions, while in fact “no one has any idea of what the fuck is happening or what we should do about it“.

Oh, and we recorded another episode of the podcast. This is a good one.

This is it. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.