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.

One of those days

Today was one of those days where everything got away from me. I’m still catching up somewhat and, consequently, don’t really have anything of interest to say.

So here’s a sunrise, instead.

I actually took this photo earlier this month, but this is as good a time to post it as any.

52 Orbits

Today, I have managed to make it around the Sun 52 times, but we’ve celebrated already. We went out on Sunday for a socially distanced all you can eat breakfast, followed by two hours of mask compliant bowling. And it’s all in the same location.

The breakfast is something we have done before. You book a table tor two hours (other options are probably available), and while there you can help yourself to as much food as you want. Except, because of the Coronavirus, you can’t help yourself anymore — you have to wait by the counter until the rather harassed looking waiter can come and put some food on your plate.

We were still allowed to help ourselves to coffee, however. I drank a lot of coffee.

The food is great, though, and they have adjusted to the Covid requirements well. Once our trips for more food became a bit more spread, things worked remarkably smoothly. So we ate and, once we were too stuffed to move, we went downstairs for the bowling.

It was 2002, I think, when I last went bowling and I was pretty rubbish then as well. But the twins have expressed an interest a couple of times which is why we decided to go on Sunday. And they did really well — in fact everyone did well, except me.

This is why the scoreboard is obscured in the photo at the top of this post 😉

All in all, it was a fun, and surprisingly cheap, way to spend most of Sunday. We will certainly be doing this again — especially as winter draws in and outdoor activities become less feasible.

That said, the next trip probably won’t be anytime soon given that more Covid restrictions are going into effect today.