New Normal Random Thoughts #9

Two weeks since I came back to the UK, three weeks to when I go back to Italy. I’m not counting the hours, but I wonder how much worse the situation is going to get in these three weeks.

Yesterday I installed the brand new UK contact tracing app. It has a couple of features more than the Italian one: it tells you the risk level in your area and allows to scan QR codes that are supposedly installed in all venues. Tried it yesterday at the local Vietnamese restaurant. It works, and it takes away the annoyance of having to fill name and contact information by hand on a notepad, which might help make it a bit more popular.

But this app arrived almost four months later than the Italian one, gotta wonder how many cases could have been tracked in this period if the local authorities had not tried to develop their own approach against Google and Apple’s one, only to end up having to give up and implementing what everybody else already had.

Alongside the new app, a new set of social distancing rules have been introduced, as confusing as ever. Now you can only have 15 guests at a wedding, but you can have 30 at a funeral. I’m not saying that there isn’t a logic in this, but it makes the whole effort feel less serious.

View of the Thames, last Sunday at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Meanwhile it’s Autumn, temperature and leaves are falling, and it turns out that in London’s chilly mornings wearing the mask keeps your face warm, making it almost comfortable. Soon we will feel naked without.

Be safe, keep warm, and wherever you are, install that tracing app.

New Normal Random Thoughts #8

I’ve been back for a week, and it mostly feels like lockdown again.

But somebody in government did spend time to come up with new slogan: “wash hands, cover face, make space”, brilliantly shortened to “hands, face, space”. FFS.

We have met in the office a couple of times, it was nice but there clearly is no appetite for going more than a day a week from anyone on the team. So I’m just doing zoom call after zoom call sitting in my flat, going out occasionally for a walk around the block or to get some groceries. Just like April.

I have booked my flight back to Italy in mid October. I would have booked earlier but I needed to renew my driving licence and I’m waiting to get it back. Besides the obvious comforts I have in Italy, the situation seems to be much more under control there than here. Who would have thought I would have ever said this?

Guess where I would rather be…

It feels like the open society where all ideas are considered and discussed ceases being an advantage when you need most of the population to follow some rules. And here it just seems impossible to get clear simple rules. There are always “buts” and exceptions and discussions and changes and opinions, and everything becomes messy and confused.

For example, while most people wear masks in public buildings, for some mysterious reason employees in supermarkets don’t. Why? No idea. But it just contributes to the madness.

Meanwhile numbers keep climbing, local lockdowns are ordered across the country and a national lockdown is quite a possibility. I’m not even sure I will be allowed to travel in a month time.

Walk in the park.

Be safe. Be kind. Hands, face, space. 🤦🏻‍♂️

New Normal Random Thoughts #7

I’m back in London!

The new normal of travel appears to include a lot of forms:

  • There was the form to travel in Italy, which was easily filled while checking-in on the Alitalia app (except that the app prevents pasting stuff, which makes everything cumbersome)
  • There was the form to fill to leave Italy, which was requested when boarding the plane in Rome and literally nobody knew about. So every passenger had to leave the line, find a pen, and fill up a badly photocopied form on paper
  • And then there was the form to enter the UK on the site, which was advertised at the airports in Rome and Heathrow, with designated areas to stop and fill it before getting to passport control, with PA announcements saying that you would not be allowed to enter the country without… but then nobody actually checked if I had it. Maybe it was just one of those behavioral science experiments…

I spent a day in Rome, going to an actual business meeting. In person. In an office. Everybody around the table was wearing masks, but nobody even notices anymore.

The eternal city was as beautiful as usual, social distancing was mostly observed wherever I went, except for a pretty crowded piazza in Trastervere full of youngsters being very close, exchanging fluids and mostly not wearing any protection. Gotta admit that I felt slightly uncomfortable crossing the square.

London still feels half empty.

I wonder how long this can continue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of empty public transport and having more room in general, but all this infrastructure is not build to work at half capacity, at some point governments will stop subsidising it and either prices will go significantly up or some systems will collapse.

I also spent a day in our office with a couple of colleagues. It felt good to be able to communicate without the constraints of zoom. I might do it again sometime.

It’s a little like when I can speak Italian after a long period speaking English. It’s not that I cannot express myself in English, but there’s definitely less brain post-processing power necessary when I can use my own language.

This is it. Be kind, stay safe, bring a pen in case you might need to fill a form.

New Normal Random Thoughts #6

I’m flying back to London this week, after a quick trip to Rome for a meeting on Wednesday. So there’s going to be bit of travelling for me with all the excitement that comes with it.

I’m not really sure about this decision: I want to see if there’s any advantage being close to the office, perhaps meeting colleagues every once in a while, maybe even meeting somebody in person.

I’ve just checked and a Ryanair flight back next week it’s just £12,99, so if I don’t like the feeling I can get back very quickly. But most likely I will stay for a while and see how it goes.

It doesn’t make much sense to work on detailed plans, living with uncertainty is the defining trait of these days. I suppose that the truth is that we have never had much control on our destinies, but I gotta admit that it felt good to think we had.

Meanwhile we have spent the last couple of weeks visiting Ikea multiple times buying bits and bobs and revamping our studio at home. We are quite happy with the result.

Each drawers unit takes half the time to build then the previous one.

Numbers of cases in Italy have been increasing, but not as quick as other European countries. Numbers in the UK appear to be increasing faster. Numbers in London seem to be relatively low. Overall I have been trying to ignore the news and I feel just fine.

It’s going to be exciting.

That’s it for today. Be kind, wash your hands, see you in London.