May 10th. Day 55.
Looking for things to fix in this lockdown. Well first Fiona has headed out to the back garden for a bit of therapeutic ditch digging. No really. She likes ditch digging and there’s more than 100 metres of it at the back of the property. The cats even go and help, or get involved at least. The long dry spell means it is easier work. That’s easier not easy. I know, I helped a couple of times and it does tend to go for your back and shoulders.
Meantime I’ve been doing some light construction. Our local charity WATIF is providing food banks and we need some storage that is outdoors, accessible, waterproof, and hopefully still useful after the lockdown. I assembled them reasonably easily, they took about an hour for the first one and 1/2 for the last. I went for benches rather than simple boxes having decided that they would be played on by children and so needed to be tougher. They are also fixed down to prevent the wind or the light fingered from removing them too easily, both can get a bit lively here. They were a bit of a shot in the dark, because you can never tell what stuff from China will be like when it arrives. I’m glad to say these were undamaged, reasonably robust when constructed and will be useful for those wanting a rest while walking dogs, admiring the now clear skies, and generally getting out of the house. Scotland Ireland and Wales are a bit more definite about staying indoors and social distancing while England seems to be going for the ambiguous message for reasons best known to the old boy's club, so the more challenged will be needing more support for longer.
Custard, as in 'shark infested custard', and her daughter Button like to explore, ideally at the full run. This is often done late at night when the humans are (or were) asleep, giving the effect of a herd of stampeding wildebeests on the stairs. In the daytime however the garages and sheds now being open for some hours combined with the warm sunlight allow investigative opportunities for a curious cat.
Most cats, are able to levitate onto work surfaces effortlessly and here Custard seemed unconcerned with the clutter. Strange how it builds up, I had tidied this work-bench only a couple of days ago. Ah well, Einstein asked ‘if a cluttered desk indicates a cluttered mind, what does an empty desk mean?’ She enjoyed the bench building but completely ignored the boxes they came in. Odd, I was expecting her to climb in as soon as they were empty.
I never actually thought about it, but cats and most other animals are naturally crouched most of the time, so they can leap at a moment's notice, only humans as far as I know stand on fully extended legs.
I think Custard is a bit odd though she probably feels the same way about me. In terms of exploration and curiosity she's quite happy to jump up into an unknown space full of complicated and sometimes sharp objects, but she won't jump onto the laundry basket to look out of the window. Perhaps she has seen it eating trousers and shirts with a wickerwork 'snap'. Maybe the bench looks more interesting. For reasons as yet unexplained she is considerably bolder out of the house than in, but weaves in and out of our legs when needing reassurance. A complicated cat.
More out-door work and I see it’s been a good year for dandelions. I don’t mind them as they are regular early food for bees and other insects, but their seeds are probably the most efficient distribution method I know of. They find the monoblocking ideal for settling down, and once the roots are in they don't come out easily. I try not to tidy too much. It’s actually laziness but there are upsides, here's a butterfly for one. Every year has a few species that do better or worse than usual. Dandelions and the Orange Tipped butterflies are doing well this year, as are insects generally. Less human activity and less pollution during the lockdown I guess. The aircraft traffic is so reduced the skies have lost the fine misting that old contrails leave. I always thought it was natural, Scotland does tend to be cloudy, but it is undoubtably clearer now. I wonder if the subsidy on air companies was transferred to a (nationalised) rail network would we be prepared to put up with the slower movement? The air companies have a very effective lobby group which probably explains how an air journey can cost much less than rail. Trans-oceanic travel without jets would be difficult, but not impossible if we just slowed down. I think electrically driven Zeppelins (dirigibles) would be ideal, but we need about twice the power to weight ratio in batteries. I wonder if you could use some of the hydrogen to produce the electricity? Either way it should be feasible, if not immediately practical. Maybe in about five years. Just imagine, silent (almost), prop driven and slow. No contrails, no oil, more room and very cheap. Now all we need is to use the 5 years to develop solar panels into a gas-tight cloth.
The lock-down should provide a huge amount of information about the effects of human activity, and for individuals about their wants and needs. Clues to our health problems should indicate just where the damage comes from and what to do. I doubt the inhabitants of Winchester and Beijing will appreciate the return of the diesel and its invisible nanoparticles. Who’d have thought that bad as the black smoke is, it is nothing by comparison with the stuff you can’t feel, smell or see? I hope everybody with children will vote green next time. They won’t get in as a majority but the current political spectrum needs shifting away from money and endless 'growth'.
The virus has, despite its problems, allowed an analysis of much of our world in ‘normal’ compared with lock-down conditions. Commuting, trade, the oil industry, pollution, local shops, dairy, key (essential but low paid) workers, the NHS, employment, distant relations, hobbies. Pretty much everything really. The interregnum gives us the opportunity to avoid going back to ‘normal’ where it is patently counter productive to what we actually want. I hope we remember that the self interested forces, by which I mean most governments and 'big money' will have been thinking in the same way. They and other ‘control’ types will want to take advantage in changing things while nobody’s looking. Many changes will be put down to necessity when they are actually opportunism. We could do the same.
Meanwhile go for a walk, reconnect with your granny by phone if she can't manage the computer, grow vegetables, use modern media to talk to people, clear out your attic, or at least tidy it up a bit. Those who are depressed or lonely will find it harder, so if possible we should try to connect with them, TV and food aren’t good substitutes for activity. There will be many single parents in small flats with small fractious children. I cannot imagine what it is like for them.
I imagine there will be a distinct rise in the number of divorces and relationship re-appraisals. There’s nothing like cabin fever to highlight personality clashes, or indeed compatibility. Sadly we'll probably need more single bedroom homes.
On the up are communication using computers which used to be called video-calls. Being an innovative sort of chap I've started looking at several and some have found their way onto my computer. Skype doesn’t really cut the mustard so I've had to upgrade. There’s one called Zoom which seems to work well for conferences and business meetings and a light-weight one called houseparty which my mother can use. I would put links to them in this, but it depends what you want to use them on. There are many others like face-time, Skype and watts-app, The app for an iPhone is not the same as for a windows computer. A quick google should find what suits you.
Nature has been doing well around here as there has been less human activity and more time for the humans to observe the wild-life from windows and gardens. We are lucky enough to have a large moorland next to us so for exercise Fiona has been photographing wild flowers (with 2 kilometres of social distancing) Pansies I think, and just now a small bird bounced off my garret window reminding me of spring which we get sometimes a little later than down south. Unharmed I’m glad to say. It sat for a while just outside the window, a bit stunned and obviously just fledged. I had long enough for a photo before it flew off so I guess it was ok.
The interregnum has happened just as our rental house tenant moved on, so no income there for a bit. Every cloud has a silver lining, so I've started organising a replacement heating system. It’s an Air Source Heat Pump (seen on the left,) like an air conditioner but it brings heat in rather than taking it out. Obviously it costs a bit in electricity to run it, but the old oil boiler just isn’t reliable and the kerosene keeps going up in price. Even when crude oil is now a negative equity. Odd that isn’t it? Rather like banks being able to charge 30% interest and return 0% while closing branches and laying off staff.
Anyway the cash in the bank isn’t doing me any good so it might as well work for me. The rent probably won’t go up much but the house will be more eco-friendly and cheaper to run, which should make it more attractive.
The next project (on the house we are living in) is to expand the solar panel area and put in a few more batteries. There’s almost no incentive (feed-in tariff) nowadays but the ability to store sunlight means I buy less from the electricity company. Eventually I hope to be able to buy cheap surplus electricity, keep it in the car or house, and sell it back when it is worth more. That’s going to take some clever electronics and software. I think if everybody covered their roofs in solar panels and added a battery or two or an EV, then we wouldn’t need most of the big nuclear and gas, each of which has its downside. Not surprisingly the established power companies and the oil, gas and nuke industries don’t see it that way. As more people go for electric vehicles so there will be more opportunity for storing electricity and selling it to the grid, which will definitely upset their apple cart.
Time for lunch, stay safe.