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.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

So, 2020. It’s been quite a year and it’s still not (quite) over. And, with this being the first year for a long time that we will be spending at home, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no last-minute packing to do, no long journeys to worry about and all of the presents are already under the tree.

So all that remains is for me to open a bottle, pour myself a drink and wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.

Eased and extended

Since Belgium went into second lockdown at the end of October, I have been saying that I don’t expect the country to emerge this time around until 2021. Looking at what is being said, it’s quite clear that the government is very wary of a repeat of the summer where the country started to ease the restrictions and was hit by a massive spike in infections.

There was a review of the current measures on Friday, utterly unsurprisingly, the current lockdown measures have been extended until mid-January.

There is, however, some easing of the current measures with non-essential shops being allowed to open from Tuesday. Restrictions still apply and shoppers are expected to quickly pick up their non-essential essentials and leave. For us, this means that broken bootlaces can finally be replaced. Museums will also be allowed to re-open, and swimming pools, oddly enough. But not cinemas.

Hairdressers also remain closed. I have threatened to cut my own hair already, and am coming close to going through with it.

And, with Christmas fast approaching, the number of social contacts remains the same and absolutely will not change, according to Federal Health Minister, Frank Vandenbroucke:

The decision for Christmas period is final. We want to offer people clarity even if this isn’t pleasant. It is better to be certain where you are heading, and we absolutely wish to avoid giving people false promises.

We’ve already reconciled ourselves that we won’t be visiting elderly grandparents in either France or the UK this year, and I do see the sense of this. Disappointing as it is, you can’t negotiate with a virus and a seasonal lifting of restrictions is a bit silly, to say the least.

All of this does, of course, mean no Christmas film and no Wonder Woman this year.

And we’ll be having a quiet Christmas at home.

And I really need a haircut.

Back to work

Those of you who have been following this blog for the past few months may remember that, back in April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. As of this week, I am now back to working five days a week.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, the additional income will be nice — especially in the aftermath of Christmas. We’re not going anywhere or seeing anyone, but presents still need to be bought and shipped.

On the other hand, I have become quite used to having my Fridays free. One day a week, on my own, has given me plenty of opportunity to actually get get quite a few things done.

On the third hand, I’m not the first to go back to full time working, and not opening my laptop on Monday to discover I am a(nother) day behind on a whole bunch of requests will reduce some of the pressure I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks.

I don’t have a fourth hand.

On balance, it’s probably a good thing although I can’t help feeling that, if everyone went down to working four days a week, we would all be a lot happier.

And I’m still working from home, so all is not lost.

Gamification

WordPress informed me yesterday that I have managed to post for 183 consecutive days. That’s half a year, and quite a streak — for me, at least.

I would like to claim that this is just a lucky coincidence but I have, for the past couple of weeks, been deliberately trying to maintain the streak in order to hit the half year mark. You may have noticed that some of my recent posts have been a bit short.

It’s weird, though. Normally, I post as and when I feel like but when I reached 170 posts (or thereabouts) and realised I was close to six months, I started trying to reach this utterly arbitary target. If nothing else, it goes to show how easily manipulated I can be by a target such as this, and I doubt that I’m alone in this.

Also, interestingly, looking back at my stats for the past year (I can pick a year or a quarter, not half a year) my most popular posts are technical posts that are much older than this.

Of the posts I wrote in the last six months, the most popular (in terms of page views) was Life’s too short for bad books, in which I complained about my habit of aquiring free eBooks and then not reading the books I actually want to read. I’m getting better and am currently reading C.J. Cherryh’s Inheritor, which really is a most excellent novel.

My second most popular post was Aeropress, in which I raved about my new Aeropress.

And when Belgium became Record Breakers back in August, a lot of people read that.

Also in August, my photo of a Speckled Wood butterfly attracted a fair bit of attention.

And finally, we can’t avoid the Coronavirus, and in July I mentioned that Belgium’s emergence from lockdown was starting to go a bit wrong and discussed the government’s attempts to dodge the second wave.

I doubt that any of this proves anything and will, therefore, conclude that I should drink more coffee.

October Sunrise

Today is one of those days where I simply don’t have the bandwidth to deal with the rest of the world. I’ve been watching the headlines and have plenty of half-formed and probably ignorant opinions about all sorts of things, but no desire to to start wading into any of it. So here’s a sunrise for you all to enjoy instead.

The post that isn’t

I was intending to write a lengthy post today about the fact that Belgium is now, for all intents and purposes, back in lockdown as of today. It was announced on Friday and went into effect today.

The measures remain in effect until 13th December but, speaking selfishly, the impact on us is quite minimal. I am already working from home and we’re not doing a lot of non-essential shopping right now. For the boys, the Autumn break is extended from one to two weeks but they will all be going back to school on the 16th. The main impact is going to be that sport and youth activities have all been cancelled — but with schools being open, they won’t be as isolated as they were in the Spring.

I was all set to go on at some length about the details, and then Monday happened. I have spent six hours dealing with one work-related crisis after another. Truth be told, crisis is too big a word, it’s more a case of too many people wanting too much stuff right now. Either way, though I now have neither the energy nor the motivation to start parsing exactly where we are now. So this is all you are going to get from me today.

Belgium is in lockdown, Christmas is cancelled, the medical community are broadly happy and the biggest impact on me is that I am going to really need a haircut in a month’s time.

Autumn Walks

For most of the lockdown period I have been trying to make sure that I go for at least one decent walk a day. Initially, and throughout the summer, I adopted the habit of going out after work which gave me quite a nice break between working and not working.

With the start of the school term, I swapped this around and started taking a walk first thing in the morning. This meant that I was out of the way while the kids were getting up and ready for school. You may have noticed the occasional sunrise photo that resulted from this.

Now, with the days becoming shorter, it’s getting a little too dark to be trudging around a forest at 7:00 in the morning and, as of last week, I have started switching things around again.

Everything is a lot more colourful just before lunchtime.