On speaking too soon

While rambling yesterday about the Coronavirus, I suggested (not as directly as I thought I had) that the availability of vaccines provided a way out of this pandemic. They do, but there are still delays.

The biggest coronavirus vaccination centre in Belgium, Heysel, did not open its doors on Monday after the delay in deliveries of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines resulted in hundreds of appointments being cancelled.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it would only be able to deliver 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Belgium, 200,000 fewer than promised, and Moderna said it would be delivering just 94,800 doses this week, leaving centres with reduced supply.

Then again, this is why any plans we make are very provisional.

365 Days Later

It was on Monday 16th March 2020 that I turned up to work to find a company-wide email telling me that I should start working from home. The mail had been sent on the Sunday which is why I hadn’t seen it before I reached the office. It was surprising, though, just how many people had been looking at their email over the weekend and, consequently, had known to stay at home. The following day, Belgium formed a temporary government which promptly placed the country in lockdown.

That Monday was, for me, the moment that the Coronavirus became real. Obviously, I had been aware of it and had been following the news but, until this point, the crisis had not had any direct impact on me or those around me so it had all felt a bit abstract.

I have been intending to post something to mark the date for a few days, but when I came to write this I found that I really didn’t have much to say. There are several reasons for this, but a major one is that being stuck at home hasn’t really been too hard on me.

It helps of course that I am something of an introvert and am quite happy to see no-one but my immediate family for, well, for a year. Living in the middle of nowhere has also been surprisingly helpful as I have been able, throughout the pandemic, to find some very pleasant places to walk all of which are very close to home. This has extended to the kids as well and, even with various activities cancelled, local clubs and groups have managed to both organise online activities and provide relevant resources and suggestions.

Financially, we are among the 71% of Belgians that are doing fine. Luxuries are largely reduced to pizza and DVDs and, while I do miss meals out and trips to the cinema, the absence of these is not much of a hardship. And this sums up much of the lockdown period for me; there have been plenty of minor irritations, but nothing devastating.

I realise that we have been lucky, and that many people have had a far harder time of this pandemic than we have, and I am certainly looking forward to receiving the vaccine and finally seeing an end to the crisis. It’s going to be a while yet, though, with the Flemish Health Minister promising 11th July as the date by which everyone in Flanders having received their first jab. As long as the ordered vaccines all turn up on time. Being neither a front-line worker or in any risk group I imagine I will be close to the back of that particular queue so we’re not making any summer holiday commitments just yet.

I haven’t renewed my rail pass either. I don’t need it if I’m working from home and have seen no indication from my employer that they have any plan to reopen the office any time soon. I can’t say I’m at all unhappy about this; working from home has freed up a huge amount of time for me and it has become very apparent to all just how unnecessary a physical office actually is. Ideally, I would go into work for one or two days a week and stay at home for the rest. We shall have to see how things go.

It’s not over yet, but the end is in sight and we can start looking forward again to a post-pandemic world. Hang in there, wherever you are, and here’s looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unflooded

At the start of this month, I mentioned that the daily walk I usually take was a bit flooded. Things got worse after that and, shortly after I had decided I should look for a different route, the footpath was closed. So, for the past couple of weeks I have been taking my walks around the town. It’s not the same.

Now that the snow has melted and the sun is out (it almost feels like Spring), I thought I would take another look.

The river water is still a bit high, but not too high, and the bridge is accessible again.

It’s also been warm enough for me to spend some time chopping wood for the next cold snap.

Things are looking up.

Winter is here

We actually have a decent layer of snow at last. It started snowing on Saturday evening and continued pretty much all the way through Sunday. It’s eased off now, but we are still seeing the occasional flurries.

It’s days like this that I light the fire and appreciate the fact that I am still working from home.

Flooded

Up until the end of last year I was doing quite well when it came to going for a daily walk and was managing to spend at least an hour a day walking. Things, however, have slacked off a bit since the New Year, though. When it’s a good time, it’s often too dark or too wet or too cold, or I’m just feeling too lazy. Consequently, I’ve only been managing three or four times a week during January.

So, even though it was a bit wet yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk anyway. What’s more, the twins decided they would like to join me.

It turned out to have rained a bit more than I had realised and, after trudging through some pond-sized puddles (and avoiding the lake-size ones) we came to the small bridge I usually cross on the way to a nearby forest.

We took a detour.

Digital Nostalgia

While clearing up a bit, I recently discovered a whole stack of 3.5 inch diskettes. Many of these were blank and had never been used — with my usual sense of great timing I bought a stack of 20 of the things, and a large case to hold them, just as they started to go out of fashion.

Of the ones that weren’t blank, most contain files and documents that I last looked at in the 1990s.

And then there were all the freebies that I had accumulated. Disks that had been mounted on magazine covers, stuffed with free and demonstration utilities for DOS or even Windows 3.1. Some of these I even remember. Most, however have been completely forgotten and none of them has been looked at since 2004 (or earlier).

One thing I do remember is OS/2. Not the disk so much as the actual operating system, which I used at work somewhere around the mid-1990s. We had a development tool that couldn’t run on Windows because… well, Windows wasn’t very good and this meant that the development team (me and one other person) had to dual boot between OS/2 and Windows 3.1.

I really liked OS/2 back in the day. It was stable, reliable and worked really well — which was quite a revelation when compared to Windows. And while the operating system never took off, it did manage to build a community of users which survived well into this century.

Time has, of course, moved on and I suspect that I doubt that it would stand any comparison with the operating systems of today, but when I was using OS/2 I did appreciate it.

As for the disks, I don’t have anything that could actually read them and doubt that any of them contain anything of more than passing interest, so into the bin they all went.

Almost a Winter Wonderland

I’ve complained often enough about the lack of snow in January, so I really should acknowledge that we actually did see some yesterday. What’s more, it has survived the night and is still visible today.

Apparently, between 2 and 8cm of snow fell across the country yesterday. While we’re very much at the 2cm end of that range, any snow is better than no snow.

It’s a toasty 5°C as I type this, so the snow isn’t going to last long. But it was glistening quite nicely when I went for a walk.

January

The weather forecast keeps promising snow, and the snow keeps on refusing to turn up. So, this morning, I took the photo at the top of this post with the intention of saying that it almost felt like spring.

And then it started to hail.

Lightly Seared in 2020

It’s nearly the end of the year, so now seems to be as good a time as any to take a look back at 2020. Looking back at the most popular posts that were actually written in 2020, and then excluding all of the ones that were just a link (or collection of links), I have come up with the following arbitrary selection of the best of the blog.

First up, and the most popular post written this year is Life’s too short for bad books in which I face the realisation that acquiring freebies gets in the way of buying books I actually want to read.

It appears that there are a fair few coffee drinkers looking at this site. The second most popular post is the one about my (not so new anymore) Aeropress. I’m still using it — a lot — and am probably now drinking even more coffee than I used to.

It being 2020, the Coronavirus can’t be ignored and nor can some of the absurdities that cropped up as various rules and restrictions conflicted with each other. Like this Spanish edition which revolves around working and cycling.

Surprisingly, since it was only written four weeks ago, my experience with Scratch comes in at number four.

Belgium held federal elections in 2019 and the coalition negotiations continued into 2020. Long into 2020. And in August, the country broke the record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government.

The sixth most popular post on this site this year was Dead animal disposal. And I was slightly surprised that The sound of solitude, which wasn’t really about anything (I was trying to maintain a streak at the time), was the seventh most popular post on the site.

Oops is the amusing tale of backfiring public-spiritedness and number six in on-site popularity terms.

2020 was the year in which I started taking a camera with me when going for a walk. The photo I took of a Speckled Wood butterfly comes in at number nine.

All the way back in February, I talked about The Prisoner episode Hammer Into Anvil. In April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. In November I went Back to work. In October, we had a laptop disaster and an emergency upgrade.

I have been ranting about Brexit — on and off — for most of the year, but it wasn’t until December and the post Brexit Hell that anyone started reading any of these posts. That said, A classic of the genre, which was about Brexiters, was only slightly less popular.

And finally, Not a dragonfly was about a damselfly.