The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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8:50am on Friday, 3rd April, 2020:

Substitute Goods


One thing about not being able to procure your usual brands of products in these straitened times is that you get to try out substitute brands instead.

From this, I can confidently state that what the French describe as "spreadable" butter uses a somewhat broader definition of the word "spreadable" than that adopted by manufacturers from Denmark, New Zealand and Britain. In contrast, when they say their butter is "slightly" salted, they may as well just say "salted".

Fortunately, it doesn't make a lot of difference when you put it on toast and slather it in raspberry jam.


7:39am on Thursday, 2nd April, 2020:



I received a letter from my travel insurance company this week, telling me my insurance expires on 23 April and offering to renew it.

It's great to see such optimism in these difficult times.

Maybe if you ask again in a couple of months.


9:06am on Wednesday, 1st April, 2020:



For my morning exercise walk, I've been investigating some of the roads five minutes from our house that I've never been to in the 26 years we've lived here. I passed this house on my route this morning.

My guess is that the extension on the left was built just before modern planning regulations were tightened up.


9:07am on Tuesday, 31st March, 2020:



My CE217 students were granted a week-long extension to their assignment, in common with all other students who had assignments with a deadline in the last week of term. This meant that those who had already submitted their work had time to submit updated, superior versions.

As a result, when I download assignments to mark I often see not one but several files, from which I have to choose the latest version. They have names along the lines of:
Assignment FINAL
Assignment FINAL REAL
Assignment FINAL mark this one please
Assignment FINAL mark this one please (1)
Assignment (RECOVERED)

This is how game artists tend to name their files, so clearly these students have a future in the industry.


9:21am on Monday, 30th March, 2020:



The UK is now eighth in the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 league table. All the countries above us report more people recovered from the illness than dead from it.

What's with that, then?


9:15am on Monday, 30th March, 2020:



Yesterday's weather included rain, sleet, hail and a little snow.

What happened to "in like a lion, out like a lamb", March?

This had better not be caused by a lowering of air pollution, now that everyone except BMW and Audi drivers are keeping off the roads.


12:33pm on Sunday, 29th March, 2020:

We're Okay


We got a leaflet through our door yesterday. The idea is that you put it in your window with the green, "we're okay" side showing if you're OK, and the red, "need assistance" side showing if you need assistance. The words are there because colourblind people probably deserve to live, too.

Would-be thieves might now believe that they won't catch anything if they break into our house, but ha! I still haven't shaken off this cough a student gave me in early January, so the joke's on you, would-be thieves!


9:08am on Saturday, 28th March, 2020:

Doesn't Care


Among the vital informational material being brought to us last week by our virus-braving posties was an advert for a care home. This image is the one they chose to illustrate their services.

No matter how much she's trying to persuade him that she thinks it's great there, you can tell in her eyes that she just wants him out of her hair.


9:03am on Friday, 27th March, 2020:

Not Out, Not About


There were far fewer people around this morning when I did my 35-minute circuit of the village:
2 buses (no passengers)
3 lorries, two of which were carrying skips
3 vans, two unmarked, one Post Office
15 non-BMW/Audi cars
8 BMW/Audi cars
2 cyclists
4 pedestrians, next-door neighbour, a jogger and a couple waking their dog for a talk

The drop in pedestrians is a big one. The drop in cars may be because the police were stopping vehicles yesterday asking drivers why they were on the road.

There was only one inconsiderate person: a cyclist. I was on a narrow part of the footpath and she sailed by within a foot of the kerb, puffing and panting. She could have gone out into the middle of the road, but no. I held my breath for 10 seconds after she'd gone past. She did say "good morning", though.

I'll try a different route tomorrow, so you will be spared further updates on this riveting research until I get bored of that one and come back.


9:09am on Thursday, 26th March, 2020:

2 11 37 9


On this morning's constitutional I passed 2 lorries, 11 vans, 37 cars and 9 people (plus 3 people in the shop, where I intended to buy milk but they had none).

The SUVs weren't in evidence today, but BMS, Audis and Mercedes were out in force — 12 of them from when I started taking note of cars' make, which was about 10 cars into my journey (and I started taking note because I'd realised there seemed to be more of them than yesterday).

Two of the people I passed were inconsiderate. One was a man with a dog, who was standing on a piece of grass between the pavement and the road while speaking on the phone. There was no pavement on the other side of the road. A few steps away from him was a side road where he could have waited out of everyone's way, but no, he pretty well forced anyone getting close either to pass within 2 metres of him or to walk out into the middle of the road and hope a car didn't come. I did walk out into the middle of the road. A truck came. I had to retreat, whereupon he noticed my existence, snapped out of his phone-enamoured reverie, and started to walk towards me. It was only when I started walking backwards that something tickled his memory about social distancing and he stopped. I walked into the middle of the road again and got past.

The other inconsiderate person was a builder (he could have been one of the ones I saw yesterday), who was also on the phone. He wandered onto the pavement as I and another man were approaching, then proceeded to wander around in a random, unpredictable fashion such that his coronavirus collision box was much larger than two metres in radius. He was oblivious to anything but his phone. I walked out into the middle of the road and passed both the builder and the other man (who was older, slower and had a dog). After that, the other man walked out and overtook the builder. Fortunately, no vehicles came. The builder remained unaware of his surroundings and continued to pace around in an uncertain fashion reminiscent of Brownian motion.

More research is necessary.


12:01pm on Wednesday, 25th March, 2020:



When I read the BBC headline 'Avoid using microwave to get faster internet', I thought it meant that some people were using the microwave to get faster Internet.

What you mean, BBC, is 'To get faster Internet, avoid using microwave'.


9:13am on Wednesday, 25th March, 2020:



On Monday, I started a new regime by which I go on a walk in the morning before work. My hope is that this may delay the atrophying of my lower limbs without causing them lasting damage. Because exercise was explicitly allowed by the Prime Minister in his "stay at home or you'll kill us all" speech on Monday evening, I have continued to do it.

It's interesting to see who's out and about. Yesterday, I counted the cars that went past: there were 36, or roughly one a minute. I did this because I had a suspicion that drivers of certain makes of car (BMW, Audi, Mercedes) might think that the Covid-19 instructions from the government were as optional as they believe the Highway Code to be; this was not in evidence, however, with only three of the cars that went past falling into the category of vehicle makes I was counting separately. I didn't categorise the other vehicles, but noticed that there were three minis among the 36. It would also seem that more drivers of SUVs have a legitimate need to be driving around in the morning than one might expect from the number of SUVs normally observed. Further research is necessary.

Today, though, I didn't count cars (although the impression I got was that the breakdown was pretty much the same as yesterday). Instead, I counted people I passed by. There were fewer around than yesterday, but that may be because I set off 20 minutes earlier. In total, I encountered 14 individuals walking (plus two cyclists):
3 joggers
2 dog-walkers
2 people looking at their mobile phones and not where they were going
3 people together (a parent taking his kids to school)
2 people walking with purpose
2 construction workers

The construction workers were moaning that they were having to go to work rather than stay indoors and wait for the Covid-19 storm to pass. Given that their critical infrastructure maintenance involved laying a driveway in someone's garden, I can see their point.

Tomorrow, I'll count vans. I may give the sandwiches-and-buffet van I saw today the benefit of the doubt, but I'm unpersuaded that the signwriter or TV aerial repairer are vital cogs in the machinery of the nation who are selflessly risking their lives to stave off the worst of the virus.

Yes, I do keep 2 metres away from everyone — more, if possible. That said, it's a little unnerving to walk past a woman whose perfume lingers in the air for the next 20 metres. If this new coronavirus can live in perfume, I'm a goner.


8:10am on Tuesday, 24th March, 2020:



On the plus side, if I can't leave the house then my shirts don't need ironing.


5:55pm on Monday, 23rd March, 2020:



I spent most of the weekend marking (when I wasn't mowing the lawn or risking death in Sainsbury's). As a result, I managed to finish off CE317. Next up is CE817, which takes a little longer to mark (it's for Masters students) but there are only six of them. After that, I'll see if I can figure out what I'm supposed to be looking at for CE902, or CE901, or whatever it's calling itself at the moment. Then, it'll be the big one: CE217, with 75 students taking me an hour each to mark (well, 20 minutes to mark, and hour to mark and give feedback).

Add to this a book chapter I have to proof-read and whatever random "do this right now" emails I receive from Departmental Central Command and I don't expect to be free until the end of April.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that holding meetings over Zoom means more meetings to attend rather than fewer meetings to attend.


9:00am on Sunday, 22nd March, 2020:

Not going Viral


I've just posted this on Facebook.

Let's play Viral Safety!
If you're immune, ignore this message.
Otherwise, do one of three things:
a) Copy and paste this on your wall. This makes you immune.
b) Post nothing on Facebook for 24 hours through self-isolation. This makes you immune.
c) Stop reading Facebook right now for 24 hours - you were socially distancing. This does NOT make you immune.

I don't expect it to go viral. That's rather the point.


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Copyright © 2020 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).