… and three quarters (40.2020)

The last quarter of the year! Working in the financial industry does mean I tend to divide my year up into quarters. That’s how we organise our reporting and the first few weeks of each new quarter usually have a higher stress level. To add to that, the last quarter of the year is when everyone wants to sign a deal (especially anyone who didn’t sign anything earlier in the year), so from here until Christmas work is going to be a little crazy.

This week’s disappointment: We kind of knew our planned trip to Switzerland was on shaky ground, as we would have to quarantine when we get back, but this week Switzerland announced that people from the UK entering Switzerland would have to quarantine on arrival for 10 days. We were only planning to go for 5 days, and if we have to spend the whole time locked in our bedrooms at my friend’s house, staying away from him so we don’t contaminate him before our quarantine is up, it’s not going to be a worthwhile trip. However I have a week booked off work that I don’t want to waste so we will have to come up with an alternate plan, however planning anything right now is difficult with local lockdowns being announced on a daily basis as infection rates spike in certain areas. We’re looking at several options but can’t book anything until a few days before we go.

This week’s lie: This week I found myself looking at the Instagram hashtag working from home (#workingfromhome), and found it contains a series of impossible images of perfectly colour-coordinated desks and homes, and some very glossy people posing. This is not the working from home that I and others I know are experiencing. This hashtag is not showing much reality – people wearing trackys and slippers with a good shirt on their top half to be visible for video calls, people hoping the shut door is enough to keep the kids / dog / cat out while they have that one hour video call, people with the laptop balanced precariously on a corner of the kitchen table because it’s the only flat space in their apartment, people hoping they have angled the camera correctly so that when they’re on another video call, people can’t see the unicorn/Ben-10/whatever poster that gives away their home office as also being their child’s bedroom. There’s no one with backache from sitting too long on the wrong sort of chair. There’s no one still working at 10pm because they couldn’t get much done during the day because the baby wouldn’t go down to sleep. Hashtags lie! Don’t believe them!

This week’s question: Am I scared of getting this virus? I asked myself. I felt a strange squirming sensation in my gut. I thought about it, and realised, yes I am. I am afraid of catching this virus. I am afraid of getting sick, of getting a cough so bad I can’t breathe, of having something attack my lungs and weaken them to the point I need to be on a ventilator. I’m afraid of having months of recovery, my whole body weakened by this strange virus we still don’t know the long-term effects of. I was sick with whooping cough last year, I know how debilitating a severe cough can be. I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to lose months of my life to a slow recovery. The strange squirming in my gut seemed to fade, as though I’d scratched an itch I didn’t know I had, or let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I am afraid of this virus. I won’t let this fear stop me living my life but it felt like a relief to acknowledge that fear.

This week’s run: I run for longer this week – 39 minutes instead of 30. For some reason, now I’m not monitoring myself against the Couch to 5K timings, I let myself run over more of the park, and don’t limit myself to the 1k running circle I have been following for the past few months. This means I can run up past the duck pond, and up to the Museum at the front of the park with its flower beds, now mostly gone but there is still a good display from the Japanese Anemone (so much easier to write than to say), and then down by the tennis courts before looping past the basketball courts and the corridor of fruit trees before getting back to the gate where I come in. I’m running slower, but I’m running for longer, and I have a new target to aim for. I’ve signed up for some corporate challenge running event. This year it’s all virtual. I don’t have to show up to a park on a certain afternoon with lots of fit, super-competitive corporate types. I can run my 3.5 miles / 5.6327 km wherever I want – so probably around this park. I don’t know what I get out of this apart from the free t-shirt and a sense of running in a race – even if I’m only competing against myself. The best part is they give you two weeks to complete your run, and I can do it several times if I want, but they only count my best time. Which, based on this morning, will be around 47 minutes.

This week’s peaceful moment: A walk in the park in the morning on my own. It’s a blue sky morning, sunny but cool, cool enough to need a coat, but not cold enough to do it up. A gorgeous autumn morning. I’ve come out in peak school drop off time again but somehow this morning it’s OK. They are all heading to the school, I’m heading to the park, not the running park, the other park, the park closer to where I live. And today it’s the green that I notice. I know we’re heading into autumn but most of the trees is the park are still green. And there are even flowers coming out on some of the bushes. It’s just a nice morning to be out and about even for 20 minutes. A chance to say hello to the day. To let my thoughts unfurl slowly. To smell the fresh air. To see people – even if they’re people I don’t know. And also to be by myself for a little while. And to just breathe in the day.

This week’s What is that? moment: It’s raining. Heavy and fat flat clouds block out much of the light. I’m at my desk and working but also looking out of the window which is spattered with raindrops while listening to a random song playlist and I hear the words, “Someone left the cake out in the rain.” This lyric is very familiar but I don’t know this song at all. The song is MacArthur Park. How do I know this song? Why did I remember that lyric in particular? Did I only pay attention at this particular moment because I was looking out at the rain? “Someone left the cake out in the rain / And I don’t think that I can take it / because it took so long to bake it / And I’ll never have that recipe again.”

(BTW this is often how I feel when I find good recipes from the internet. I never think to bookmark anything, and I can never find that recipe again.)

This week’s sofa moment: After the excitement of grocery shopping (executed expertly between heavy downpours of rain), I spent the rest of the afternoon on the sofa reading. I realised I hadn’t read much in September (apart from while on holiday) and I am now one book behind on my Goodreads reading challenge. (36 books for the year – I should have read 27 by end of September but I am only at 26. Too much darned writing eating into my reading time!) Having started My Past is a Foreign Country two weeks ago and not picked it up since, I picked it up again and stayed with my butt in that chair until I finished it. It was one of those books where you really feel the tempo change in different phases of the book. When Zeba went to university and was suddenly exposed to so much of the world, I really felt the pace of the book pick up, as if you were sharing this excitement of learning and seeing and doing along with her.

This week’s disgruntlement: Anyone fed up with reading my James Bond blogs, let me assure you, I am getting fed up with watching the film. Yes, I know it’s all fiction and I shouldn’t take it to heart, but watching this man do the same thing again and again – he smacks a woman about, but she still willingly tumbles into his bed, mostly to end up dead. The double entendres, the witticisms. it’s all getting a bit much. I’ve watched 10 or 11 so far; there are 26 in total. Five more to go before I get to the Timothy Dalton films and things get a bit better.

This week’s bright spark: I watched the Netflix movie Enola Holmes, about the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. After watching so much Bond, it was great to watch a film with a strong female protagonist. And not just a strong character, physically strong too. (“I know ju-jitsu.”) Having been raised to believe she could be whatever she wanted to be, only to come up against a societal structure that tells her the opposite (“What do you mean you can’t do embroidery?”), Enola has to use her wits and resourcefulness (she has plenty of both) to unpick the clues, solve a crime, and outsmart her brothers, who would have her confined to Miss Harrison’s Finishing School for Young Ladies. A joy to watch!

This week’s trip out into the big wide world: We took a bus to the big supermarket, the one that has clothing and electrical goods and a garden section with plants, the one we don’t go to often because it’s a bit of a faff getting there by bus, because the bus is not the good bus that stops near our house, but the ‘bad’ bus that stops a further walk away, and it’s a worse faff getting home again by bus laden down with groceries and then having to walk uphill. It’s a funny thing that a trip to the supermarket can feel like a major achievement, and it was difficult to focus on the task at hand (buying food) when at the same time it was almost exciting to be somewhere new and see different things (even if it was just food). This was our one big trip out for the week and I still find it strange that small things (like shopping for food) have now become treasured outings and an opportunity to go somewhere “new” and “different”.

This week’s reflection: This weekend marks 30 years since the reunification of Germany. Those readers of a certain vintage will remember a time of East and West Germany, not the single entity of Germany that we know today. The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and less than a year later, the two parts of Germany were united. It’s quite incredible to think how quickly the geography of Europe changed at that time.

This week’s bit of good news science: Do you like watching cat videos? You are not wasting time, a study has proved there are actually health benefits to looking at cute animals. Reduced stress, reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure – these are the benefits to watching cute animals doing their thing. And as a gift, for anyone feeling a bit stressed today, here’s a link to a video of Quokkas, an Australian native animal that live on the islands off the Western coast. *Warning* Quokkas are super cute. Can you handle the cuteness?

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