Panic, it’s a cosmic crisis!!!

Screenshot_2020-04-22 ftse 250 - Google Search

Or is it? There is no doubt that the impact of COVID-19 on peoples’ health and the hard working members of health care teams is extremely significant and something to be viewed with compassion and regret. However I’ve been thinking about the impact on businesses and economic indicators (Jan ‘20 to today)

  • FTSE 100 – down by 24%
  • FTSE 250 – down by 28%
  • Brent Crude – down by 74%
  • Unemployment up by millions in the `UK
  • People accessing foodbanks up by 80%
  • Business insolvencies accelerating

And this is after just over four weeks of “lock down” measures in the UK. I’d love to be corrected by someone more experienced in business and economics but the above speaks to me. It suggests to me one of two underlying issues.

1. That businesses in the UK (and with similar figures in the US and Japan, by extension much of the capitalist world) have been on a very weak footing. That the financial sustainability of very many businesses has been recklessly weak. You’ve not been able to sell your product or service for four weeks, just 20 working days and now your business is only worth 70-80% of what it was before. Really? Is the business model for so many firms so ‘hand to mouth’ that a disruption of four weeks is enough to cause this.

2. That market indicators are led by hype, but that this exaggerated negativity then leads to real failure. That the attitudes of those who drive the markets are like that of a manic depressive but worse than this. The negativity which starts as only an idea then morphs into reality and becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, but a prophesy based on weakly justified sentiment and not fact.

I see many articles from the hand-wringing journalists of the Guardian saying that ‘This should be the trigger for real social change, better wages and welfare.’ In my view this is a worthy aim, but unrealistic. More critical surely is the above. If our economic activity is to generate the wealth from which taxes can be drawn then shouldn’t we be looking instead to build rather better foundations upon which to build such a future. Aspirations are great, no I’d say essential, but you need to be able to fund them.

Rocket Science

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This weeks home-school topic is ‘Space’.  What better way to explain Newtons Third Law and understand how a rocket goes up than with a bottle rocket.  Just wish I had a foot pump rather than a compact bike pump,  I got a little wet!  On the bright side, at least it was water rather than a mixture of hydrazine and liquid oxygen.

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 3 & 4)

Here in rural Lancashire we are still a couple of weeks (decades?) behind London & Birmingham so we’ve not seen the direct impact of COVID-19 as yet, but the indirect impact on day-to-day life is now with us just the same as the rest of the UK.  Without doubt it is strange, but after two weeks under house arrest the ‘new normal’ is getting to be fairly well bedded in.

How to light a campfire

How to light a campfire, a great way to also teach the fire triangle and an introduction to combustion chemistry.

Home Schooling turns out to be a much better experience than I expected. With Junior being six I guess I have it easy.  He doesn’t have exams ahead of him and is missing his friends more than it matters that he missing his formal education.  I am finding that a project based approach, akin to the  Montessori  approach is working well for both of us.  Each week we have a project, or two, which acts as the framework for discovery and learning the skills needed to carry it out (maths, science, dexterity) and record it (maths, English).

We have been blessed with great weather thus far meaning that bike rides (twin solo, or with the tag-along) have been possible and have been a little longer than most folks 20 minute walks.  However around here it’s easy to self isolate on the back roads.

I am delighted that I was able to restock my (mini) alpine garden before house arrest too, and am starting to see the results of old and new.

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Church life has changed again.  My ‘live streamed’ drumming to an empty church  was not only the first but probably the last time this will happen.  Since then church buildings have themselves been closed and now our church, amongst many others, is streaming sections of each service from different members homes.  All credit to the people organising this at St James who are doing a grand job.  Canned music didn’t work as well as it might last week, the difference between performance (what you can get from YouTube et al) and leading a congregation, albeit virtually, is actually very significant.  For Easter we had a multitrack of keys, guitar and vocal, complete with video, from two different homes.  Much better. Next week there should be drums as well.  This afternoon I laid down four drumming tracks for someone to mix into next weeks multitrack song recordings.  I’m feeling the benefit of having an electronic kit.  Whilst it’s perfectly technically feasible to mike-up every drum and cymbal, it’s neither easy nor cheap to achieve this.  I can mix my drums within the Roland ‘brain’ and output the drumming track straight to a .wav file on a memory stick.  In theory this is a perfect recording. I can even choose my ambience!

Home Multitrack Recording setup

I’ve found some voluntary work on the day I’m not home schooling and it’s good both to be busy and to be ‘doing my bit’ for the community.  Finally, the wheat malt I ordered has arrived and I have been able to set up my home office and do some informal development work.  I cannot sell the results as I am on furlough, and then there is also the small issue of being unlicensed.  However, it’ll keep my tasting panel happy and keep my brain and taste buds ticking over.

Isolation Pale Ale

Brewing an IPA – Isolation Pale Ale!

Cheers!

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 1 & 2)

We are certainty living in “interesting times” and when writing in a newspaper in 1936, Sir Austin Chamberlain first coined the phrase, this was meant as a curse rather than a blessing. The world has seen pandemics before, but the last one was over 100 years ago and thus not part of my experience or that of my family for three generations. So, so as not to forget and to have something to pass onto Junior other than memes, I thought I’d keep a COVID-Diary.

Andrex Rear Gunner pic

Here is rural Lancashire COVID-19 had no obvious influence on life until the w/c 9th March (week one) when we all started washing our hands more often and with more care. (about the same care in my case because I work in a food factory) Apart from that, everything was running as normal at work, socially and at church. By the start of week two beer sales started to drop because of the uncertainty of whether pubs would be open by the end of the week, with our Boris asking that we stop going out to social venues. Work life as a vet for Mrs W remained as normal. Then in four days we went from normal to ‘all change’ with all the acceleration of a Bugatti Veyron. On Wednesday it was announced that schools would be closing, thus limiting my ability to work to two days per week (the days Mrs W doesn’t work – yes, I know we are very fortunate). This turned out to be OK with my workplace who wanted to reduce all of us to a three day week anyway. My two day week was agreed as I went home at 4pm on the Friday. Then an hour later, Boris announces that all pubs, restaurants and cafe’s are to close that evening until further notice. Over 80% of what Bowland Brewery makes goes into cask, so that put the tin lid on the business. We’ll be back, but no-one knows when.

Saturday left me feeling rather shell-shocked and melancholy. I tackled this by going out for a long walk in an unpopular part of the Yorkshire Dales to see plenty of hills and sunshine and very few people. I am reminded at times like this of the verse from Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help

Perhaps many would consider this a quote taken out of context, but given that I believe that God made and gave us a bounteous supply and variety of mountain-scapes, the hills speak to be of the creative generosity of the divine. I returned from my walk, without a post walk pint, but feeling a good deal better adjusted to the coming week.

All churches were closed for public worship, but again I was blessed. I was on the rota to drum in the band and had the privilege to be part of the first Live Streamed Service from our church.  It’s things such as this which I want to record.  It was very strange to be in a church with just a band, the Rector and a sound / video engineer. Mrs W and Junior watched from home and church started to prove itself to be a body of people, not (just) a building. At its peak Mrs W noted viewing figures of 120 (accounts) which given each viewing was probably from a group of at least two people suggests that the whole congregation was ‘virtually there’ along with a number of extra ethereal visitors as well.

So as I write this we are entering week three and I’ve been put on furlough (a term previously little used outside of missionary circles) and 80% pay. This is good news for us as a family, at least in the short term and for the business. It also means that rather than going to work to mark time I can look for opportunities to volunteer within the community for two days a week. It will be good to be continuing to directly enhance our community, albeit in a different way to making peoples Friday evening treat. Now also I can relax into the role of home teacher, even if this is not something I ever saw as my vocation.

I wonder what the rest of week three will hold for us…   …watch this space…