Month: March 2020

30 Mar

Confined to Barracks: Day 14

Bruce Little / landscape / / 0 Comments

First world problems strike today. With first world solutions.

While working from home I’m drinking many more hot beverages than at work. At work I typically treat myself to one Costa coffee per day. At home I seem to gravitate towards the kettle every time I take a screen break.

Today the kettle caught fire!

My wife spotted it first, picking up on a strange noise from the kitchen. First I was aware of it were her crys of “Oh my God!” and a swift departure into the kitchen to rescue it. Or at least rescue us from it. It was ruined.

This is where Amazon Prime came to the rescue. No sooner was it cooling down, safely outside the back door, than its replacement had been ordered. Search / Buy Now / Confirm. Boom! new kettle ordered. Is it “essential” that we get a new one delivered? In the grand scheme of things if I had to be totally objective, probably not, but going without a hot cuppa for most of the summer seems unthinkable.

That was probably the biggest thing of note today. Other than me being knackered. I really tried to fit too much into the weekend and I feel exhausted now. Usual paranoia struck of course. But no cough, no fever, just me feeling tired.

Despite that, son #2 really wanted his lunchtime cycle ride again so it was up to the top of the village, where we took a short break and I stared wistfully at the dome of Cosdon Hill in the far distance (to the top left of the ivy-covered post in the phone snap), before returning to the house and an afternoon’s work.

Dinner tonight is stir fry chicken. Thanks for asking 🙂

29 Mar

Confined to barracks: Day 13

Bruce Little / landscape / / 0 Comments

I wake up knackered and look at my phone. How can I have slept in until almost 8? Ah yes, the clocks have gone forward. My body is on “almost 7” time. I wish the clocks could go forward to 2021 but that’s in the realms of sci-fi and the deep recesses of my wishful head. Here I am, yet two weeks into government-imposed exile and there’s a long way to go.

To be honest it’s not that bad. Yet. We spend a lot of time at home in LaU (Life as usual) and, when looking for fun at the weekends, only normally go out to wide open spaces, e.g. Dartmoor or the coast path. It’s not like we miss shopping, the cinema, or the nightlife. Yet I do miss social interaction. Work would normally provide that most days, the pub every other Wednesday for quiz night, and the twice weekly “taxi service” taking the boys to swimming and Scouts complete the picture. Perhaps the cheery “hello” and “goodbye” in the local shops of a weekend as well.

I wonder. When the boys have left home and I’ve retired, is this what life is going to be like? Is this what I’ve really longed for when work has got on top of me and I want it to all be over? Perhaps time to rethink.

The Tesco order arrives late morning. Only two more pre-booked ones before there are no more. The cheerful delivery man drops it in the drive, maintaining the requisite 2m distance, and we transport it to the house. Anything non-perishable gets put in the quarantine box in the garage for a few days. Anything perishable gets washed before storage. then we both wash our hands for the requisite 20 seconds.

Despite being tired from yesterday, I do a bit more in the garden and son #2 wants his daily bike ride. We head up to the crossroads at the top of the village – further than yesterday, and then head back. This is great father & son time and I’m really happy that he’s enjoying cycling. It’s also an odd positive side effect of the current situation that there is very little traffic on the roads. This is therefore a great time to get him used to road cycling. He wants to do it again tomorrow, which is good but tricky. Tomorrow is a work day. Perhaps at lunchtime.

Dinner is Lancashire hotpot, made from some frozen roast lamb leftovers I found in the freezer yesterday.

28 Mar

Confined to barracks: Day 12

Bruce Little / family / / 0 Comments

Saturday. I wake up at 5 in the morning feeling hot and can’t get back to sleep. Is this a fever? Is this it? Paranoia strikes. However, it is accompanied by a heavy stomach feeling and is an old “friend” – a consequence of over indulgence of food and drink the night before and the pub’s generosity in portion size. The feeling passes and I doze off, to wake up at about 8.

Normally of course I’m getting up at 5-ish at this time of year and heading out for a spring sunrise. Teignmouth pier is good around about now.

After breakfast I head into the garden. The weather is still nice and there are things to do. A Gardener’s World “Job for the Weekend” is to trim back old fern leaves, so that gets done. The trimmings join other stuff in the green collection bin. No point filling this up really, as the council has paused collections, but I figure that it can dry off in here and one day I’ll have a good old fashioned bonfire to get rid of it.

I dig up my flower border to rid it of weeds and invading grass. I’ve tried to avoid doing this since we moved in as the previous owners left us with a plethora of bulbs and I’ve not wanted to disturb them. However, at this time of year I can see where they are ‘cos the leaves are up – old snowdrops past their best and daffodils in their prime. There is an awful lot of grass to pick out. When I’m finished the borders look much – much – tidier. Several perennials have been split and re-planted as several smaller ones. Plants for free – woohoo!

Before I’m finished I hit concrete. What the..? Turns out to be the mother of all lumps of concrete. Foundations for an old post or something? I don’t know, but out it comes. Bloody heavy. Can’t take it to the tip as it’s closed so it gets thrown in the “wasteland” behind the shed that I’ve been meaning to sort out since we moved in. Next year, hopefully.

Lunch is the remains of the obscenely-sized food from the pub last night. Ragu and tagliatelle with a little bit of hot garlic and chilli olive oil drizzled over to add my own touch, and the remaining fries. Does two of us handsomely for lunch, and that was 1/3 of the original meal! After we finish we put together the Tesco delivery order. 80 item limit is reached and staples such as pasta are in scarce supply. Worried that only two more deliveries are scheduled before we run out and no more are available. This is the biggest looming disruption to our weekly schedule. We’ve had home delivery for the past 3 years or so and it’s great. Now, by necessity, everyone else is in on it too and delivery slots are like hens teeth.

In the afternoon I decide to leave the house for my cycling “exercise”. It’s really son #2’s exercise and a pootle for me. It’s an ideal time to get him on his bike on the road with so little traffic. We go up the hill to the top of the village and turn around. Back down the hill past our house and to the church. Then back up the hill to the house. Plenty of stops but “can we do this again tomorrow Dad?” makes it all worth it.

More gardening. Two rows of spuds planted, and the chillies that turned up in the post are potted on. I ordered 4 plugs and the nice people at chilliworld gave me 2 free. Ironic really as I’d planned on scaling back the chilli production this year to give more space over to other greenhouse crops like peppers etc. But thanks anyway. I’ll be a return customer next year.

Five o’clock and I’m knackered. A bottle of home made cider is opened and I sit down to write this blog entry. Food supplies still good as I rescue a gurnard from the freezer to cook tonight with rosemary roasties, a spicy tomato sauce and a cool white Rioja. A leisurely evening in front of the telly awaits.

31 Mar

Confined to Barracks: Days 8/9

Bruce Little / diary / / 0 Comments


Or as near as damn it. This is the day that the government announces that we should all stay at home; only leave for essential reasons; and take one hour exercise per day withing walking or cycling distance of home. Not surprising really given the scenes the previous weekend. I must admit we had considered a pleasant Sunday afternoon socially distancing ourselves in a distant part of Dartmoor as the weather was great. Then we thought better of it. Not that we’d have headed for the hotspots of Hay or Hound anyway, but apparently the good weather brought the crowds out in droves more typical of snowy days. The internet was also full of pictures of people thronging to similar beauty spots all over the country.

Not really practising “social distancing” and therefore the announcement wasn’t really a surprise. For what it’s worth, our weekend’s walk was a family stroll in the field behind our house after the owners said they didn’t mind.

My first thought after the announcement was irrational. “The lawn!”. I was out of petrol for the lawnmower. The thought of a whole summer’s unchecked grass growth kept me awake for a chunk of the night and, at 07:00 the next morning, I drove the car, jerry can in boot, the mile to the nearest garage to fill up. Yes, a totally irrational thought but, safely back at home 15 minutes later I prepped for a spring (a summer?) hunkering down at home somewhat more relaxed than I was the night before.

My second thought was almost as irrational. “Wine!”. I’d ordered sufficient from our local wine shop to see us through to June (no – not 13 cases. Stop it!) on the basis that we’d not be going out anywhere. I’d yet to pick it up. but the warehouse was en-route to the local supermarket and the pick up procedure was social distancing at its most efficient: Pull up, pop boot, wind window down, state name, order gets loaded, drive off.

So, four waking hours into the first full day of lockdown and I’d left the house twice. My guilt was slightly assuaged by the later announcement that off licences had been listed as “essential” shops.

We’ve been confined to barracks according to the rules ever since. My only forays out of the garden being cycle trips up the hill with my sons for exercise, and a trip to the pub. Yes, the pub. It’s doing food takeaways at weekends. Strict timeslots to pickup. Prepayment only. All within the rules. We have a great village pub and I don’t want to see it close as a result of this crisis.

I haven’t got a clue what I had for dinner on days 8 & 9. Thanks for asking anyway.

(This has been a “fill the gaps” blog entry of events from a week ago. I wanted to write it while things were still fresh in my mind)

29 Mar

Confined to barracks: Day 1

Bruce Little / diary / / 0 Comments

I went to Dartmoor yesterday. As it turns out my last visit for some time. I left after work and headed to Nuns Cross, south of Princetown. My plan was to get out to Fox Tor for sunset and then head back. However, I realised I had left work about 30 minutes too late to achieve that, so I headed to Hingston Hill instead. This is the site of the famous stone row, often called Down Tor stone row despite being some distance from Down Tor.

When I got to the hill, the light had gone. The sun had set behind a cloud bank. But I enjoyed sitting overlooking Sheeps Tor and Burrator reservoir, composing a pleasant little photo that will not set the world alight, but which will always remind me of these times.

At work,my team had been preaparing for a mass “work from home” exercise on the Wednesday. This was in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Providing remote IT capability for over 2000 people was a challenge but a source of quite some pride as well, and I was getting ready to finalise things when the phone rang. It was son #1’s school. He was ill – could I pick him up. “Not coronavirus!” I thought – not that it would necessarily hurt him – young and strong and all that, but the disruption it would cause us all no, just an upset stomach. Phew. I left work early and picked him up. It was weird leaving site for the last time in a long while. I don’t expect to return to the place I’ve been 5 days a week for the last 17 years any time soon.

I’ve decided to blog about these times. Why? Not for the audience but for a good old fashioned historical diary record. What will the tone of these posts be like in three months time? How will life have changed beyond the odd scenario of being stuck at home? Will the recent pasta and toilet roll panic buying spill over into other areas of life? Let’s wait and see and hope that I’m not writing a “Confined to Barracks: Day 365” entry next year.

These are unprecedented times. I though of registering a domain name along those lines to do a daily blog, but then thought I’d just add it to my regular website. Why waste money on a site no-one will read?