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.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Hereafter referred to as HPHB, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck building game in which up to four players take the roles of Hogwarts students, Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville to fight villains and protect locations. This game turned up in our household at Christmas and it has proved remarkably popular.

The game is divided into seven games — one for each book — although all of these are essentially the same. Each player starts with a deck of ten cards, from which they draw five. These cards are then played to gain influence, health or attacks (or zaps, as we have taken to calling them). You use influence to acquire more cards and zaps to zap the villains. There are also dark arts cards that harm the players and villains have negative effects while in play and yield a reward once defeated.

A couple of features are introduced in later games, but the core remains the same, which makes it a very easy game to pick up. In fact, the first couple of games are pretty to win — grab cards, blast villains, win. By the time you get to games three and four, though, you do need to be thinking about the construction of your deck and how well it fits with the abilities of your character.

Obviously, the initial appeal of this game is the Harry Potter theming, but it has turned out to be a really well designed game. HPHB leads you gently through the game’s concepts with each episode adding an additional layer of complexity and depth.

It’s a superb cooperative game, especially if you have a few Harry Potter fans in your family, and, while each game can take up to a couple of hours, it moves quickly enough that no-one has time to get bored.

While writing this post, I discovered that there are a couple of expansions available. Once we (finally) beat Game 7 (two attempts so far — this could take a while) I can certainly see us separating out all of the cards and starting again.

This could get expensive.

Quote of the day: Stupidity as strategy

The person at the top of this government doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions, is cavalier about detail and bored by complexity, prefers the quick hit of a snappy populist slogan to the steady slog of competent administration. All this was known about him long before the Tory party made him its leader. His flaws as a prime minister are a revelation only to those who wilfully ignored his biography and his record.

Andrew Rawnsley on why Boris Johnson is constantly surprised when his government fails

Quote of the day: A country that cheats at cards

But either way, setting ourselves up as the country you really can’t trust seems an eccentric way to launch a new era of global dealmaking. I know some on the UK government’s side have long sought to characterise these negotiations as the righteous Jedi (them) versus the nefarious Trade Federation (the EU). But this has long indicated that the Star Wars franchise is just one more thing they don’t understand.

Marina Hyde on the UK Government’s utterly bizarre plan to break international law because they didn’t understand the Withdrawal agreement that they negotiated.

Quote of the day: Anticlimactic

Revolutions unleash euphoria because they create tangible images of change and inaugurate, at least in the fevered minds of their supporters, a new epoch. Brexit can’t do either of these things. The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you end up with imaginary freedom. How do you actually show that the yoke of Brussels has been lifted? You can’t bring prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps back into the shops, or release stout British fishermen from the humiliation of having to wear hair nets at work on the high seas, or unban donkey rides on beaches, or right any of the other great wrongs that fuelled anti-EU sentiment – because all of it was make-believe.

Fintan O’Toole