Virtual Friday / 24th April 2020

I always like to spend a block of time on Shetland at this time of year - the weather is often very good and it's also the time when the puffins return from their winter at sea to reclaim their burrows and their mates.

And I'm not going to let a pandemic get between me and my puffins, so some pictures from my archive - April Puffins. Virtually.
The prime place for puffin spotting at the south end Shetland is around the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head.  It's a fabulous place to visit, with a great visitor centre, splendid cakes and the lure of puffins.

1st April 2019

And by the middle of April it's a pretty safe bet that the puffins will be back, and once they are it's very difficult to resist just one more visit to Sumburgh Head.

10th April 2013
10th April 2018
10th April 2018
13th April 2013
13th April 2013
14th April 2018
14th April 2018
14th April 2018
19th April 2018
21st April 2018
21st April 2018
23rd April 2015
24th April 2018

If you haven't yet had enough puffins, I'll be continuing my ongoing virtual visit to Shetland (and occasionally to other parts of the world) - via a daily post #FromTheArchive each morning on my twitter feed (@rossmackenzie)

And if you need a spot of real time puffin spotting, live from Shetland - there's always the PuffinCam

And back in the real (or at least more local) world - today's meander (sorry, exercise walk) took me back up to the C S Lewis Nature Reserve - on a misty/atmospheric morning.  No puffins were spotted.

24th April 2020, C S Lewis Reserve Oxford

Refresh Friday / 17th April 2020

This is blog number 25 in the FridayBlog collection - and it's also (perhaps more critically) the 5th LockDownFridayBlog post - so well done if you've made it through all 25 (or 5).

When this shenanigans started I was always (at some level) expecting it to run for three months, but somehow the official line that we're now into this for at least another three weeks has come as a bit of the dose of reality.  I think I was be sort of expecting (or hoping or dreading) that it would 'all be over by Easter', so the return the desk at the end of the Easter break has been a bit of a struggle.

The fact that the government (in the UK at least) clearly have absolutely no idea how we might 'unlock' is both unsurprising and worrying.  I can't see a return to 'normal' (as in life before March) happening, but I'm really worried about the frantic 'catching up' that I can picture happening once the doors are unlocked - but I really doesn't think 'we' are really ready for a new normal just yet.

Having already talked about the challenge of getting back to the desk this week - it seemed that today needed to about refreshing the day-to-day activities (albeit without breaking the lockdown rules).

Refresh #1. The day started with a new early morning walk (or at least a variation on one of the regular walks)  - walking down to the Lye Valley and then following Boundary Brook - which at one point marked the  city boundary - past the Churchill Hospital.

Lye Valley
Boundary Brook-Side
Hospital Boundary

Refresh #2. Over the last few months the elderly (in tech terms; 6 years old) desktop Apple Mac has been really limping along, so I was delighted that its successor was dropped off at the house today.  The Post Office locally may be struggling, but the courier folks seem to be around somewhere on the street pretty much every day.  This is the last (planned) bit of technology refresh, well, for a while at least.

Technology Refresh

Refresh #3. It's been really good to get a morning walk in the sunshine pretty much every lockdown day so far  - and to be able to sit in the garden before and after my online meetings. But the dry weather (around OX3 - can't comment on what's been happening anywhere else, obviously) really is starting to take a toll on the garden, so an afternoon of rain to refresh the greenery and to refill the water butts was certainly needed.

April Shower

I'm not sure that I'm yet really set up for the next three weeks of lockdown, but at least (thanks to #2) the typing and picture finding for this post has been a bit less sluggish that it was for last week's edition.

28 Days

On my calendar we've just completed 28 days of 'LockDown'.  I know the official government lock down started a bit later - but it was on Monday 16th March that I decided that mingling with lots of other folks was not a good idea. On that Monday I relocated the stuff on my work desk to my home desk, and cleared just about enough space to let things carry on - and dusted off a webcam so that I could still enjoy the thrill of meetings.

I have managed to spend time outside on each of the first 28 days - mostly wandering the lanes, footpaths and green spaces around Headington - and have clocked up just under 120 miles.  My hopes of reaching 2000 miles for the year are looking increasingly dubious - unless I do an awful lot more laps of Bury Knowle Park.

I've put together an album of images taken around Headington over the last month - lots of pictures taken in the local park plus lots of spring blossom.

Good Friday / 10th April 2020

As life descends into a blur of identical days - or at least in my case a weekly cycle where there are usually four or five 'Wednesdays' followed by two or three 'Sundays' - it becomes increasingly difficult to notice how the time passes.  I haven't resorted to making scratches on the wall of my cell study just yet, but I am doing something of the digital equivalent.

Each morning I'm posting (on twitter) a picture from my photo archive - and it has felt increasing important to dip in to my collection of Shetland images for this, I may not have full-blown cabin fever but I'm definitely pining for the fjords sea.

4th April 2015: Quendale Bay
5th April 2014: Scat Ness
6th April 2014: Gloup Ness, Yell
7th April 2014: Symbister, Whalsay
8th April 2014: Sumburgh Head 
9th April 2018: West Voe of Sumburgh
10th April 2018: Sumburgh Head

The Oxford house may not have easy access to the sea (this is clearly understatement of the first order) but it does have some things going for it - proximity of shops, hospitals (not yet needed by us, thankfully) and green spaces all with walking distance.

Every day (well, almost everyday) I've got out for the house for 'exercise hour' which is my case winds up being 5 or 6 kilometres (and a selection of photographs).  So far have found a different picture each day..

4th April 2020: Stoke Place
5th April 2020: In the Garden 
6th April 2020: Headington Hill Hall Gardens
7th April 2020: C S Lewis Nature Reserve
8th April 2020: Bury Knowle Park 
9th April 2020:  Rock Edge Local Nature Reserve
10th April 2020: C S Lewis Nature Reserve

One day I'll be able to take some more pictures in ZE3 rather than in OX3, and I understand there are are other postcodes available too.

In the meantime I'm going to carry on trying to make each day a little bit different - and to try and have lunchtime outside on at least some of the Sundays.

10th April 2020: I think it's Friday

Normal Friday / 3rd April 2020

I’ve heard it said a few times recently, that the longer we spend in lockdown, the more likely it is that that we’ll collectively emerge into a 'new normal' rather than switching back to what was ‘normal’ just a few weeks ago.

Old normal stopped, for me at least, three weeks ago - on 16th March I headed into the office (as normal) looked at my diary and realised that none of the meetings for that week needed us all to gather in the same physical space and headed for the office door muttering something that might or might not have been interpreted as “I’m going now, I may be some time”.  And sure enough management directive followed soon after, starting with “if you can work at home do” before being escalated to “you really should work at home” then to “work at home”.

So this is currently the normal - at times I can’t picture reverting - an early morning walk (it’s lower stress if there’s no one else around), online meetings, phone calls and email, then a proper lunch away from the keyboard, more online meetings, more phone calls and more email, finally turning off the work computer (and work phone) and sorting through the pictures taken on the morning walk.

In the good old days Fridays might have involved doing some writing or trip planning in a local coffee shop (rather than email and meetings) - there’s limited (OK, no) scope for the trips at the moment, and it's hard visualising when, and how, that might change.

Or it might have involved a longer walk (limited scope for that either) - today the walk was 6 km through and around the Lye Valley.

But there are still lockdown options - if I want a change of scenery, there’s always the garage office - but I might need a better chair.

And the 'new normal'? Not sure that'll be any clearer by next Friday.