COVID diaries – Month 5.

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First day of term selfie

It occurred to me last week that it’s August and that we’ve been under the cloud of COVID for five months . It feels like the thick end of a year has passed and I’ve missed it. For us, a few significant steps have been taken towards regular life again in past few weeks. I was called off of furlough in week 21.

Two weeks after that Mrs W’s work rota returned to it’s pre-lockdown pattern again, meaning she is back on call for the first time in five months. She says she prefers working the odd all-nighter to extra time in the day. I fully understand her point of view, but it wouldn’t work so well for me.

The purpose of this diary is to ensure that I don’t forget how this period has been and so that in years to come I can look back to what happened and how I felt about it at the time. As I said, I’ve now been back at work for just over three weeks after four months away. It’s the longest intra-job hiatus I’ve ever experienced and whilst initially it was odd to be back in the brewery, the big thing that has hit me is tiredness. Sometime in the four months I’ve been away, someone seems to have worked out how to get more that 9 gallons of beer in a firkin! Surely that must be why they are a lot harder to lift now that they were in March? Jesting aside, brewing is a very physical job and whilst I’ve been lucky to be able to do lots of good hill walking and keep fit, my ability to heft 50 kg casks about has clearly rather reduced due to lack of practice.

Another shock to the system this week was to find that the brewery is cutting back of staffing and four of my colleagues will very sadly be leaving us. I’ve been spared, so it looks like hard work and enthusiasm has carried me through again. In a small close-knit team whoever doesn’t make it through the process will be missed. In this role it’s the quality of the company of my colleagues rather that the technical challenge which is a key pleasures of the role.

At home all the DIY jobs, even those I’ve been putting off for 10 years have been completed and I’ve even added a new alpine crevice garden to the front of the house to hide an ugly manhole cover out front.

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Childcare is another oddity. Clearly it is more difficult, but it looks like Junior’s school are using this opportunity to work reduced hours for reasons which are impossible to link back to COVID itself. So whilst I’m back at work, I’m on short hours. This does help me easy back in however, so there is a silver lining. How the new term, in three weeks, turns out is something we are watching with interest. The gap between the best and poorest performing children will only have widened, with committed parents having covered all of the planned syllabus and more, with those at the other end of the spectrum having done nothing at all. We wait and see if those at the top are left to get bored whilst the focus goes on those who need to catch up, the reverse or a healthy balance.

Roughing it…

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Welcome to Rough Hill, the summit-ette at the Western end of Pendle. At 315 metres it stands some 242 metres short of The Big End but it still has much going for it: a trig point; views down into both the Ribble and Calder Valley’s; it’s far enough, yet not too far from the Nick of Pendle; there is a nice flat grassy area to take a tent and finally it’s somewhere I’d never yet been despite over 75 ascents of Pendle.

DSC_2688Mrs W and Junior joined me on the walk out to see what the excitement was all about and to enjoy the trig point.  I wanted to regain my connection to nature, have some peace and quiet with a beer and a book and chance to enjoy my relatively new ultralight tent and sleeping bag combo. Being able to get all my overnight gear easily into a 35 L day-pack was rather fine.

Once again I found that despite a night time low of 9 C and a good douse of rain that I had no condensation issues in the Enan thanks to just a light breeze. I can also report that a can of Siren-Craft Yulu nicely complimented the view. I think I must try their peachy (pentyl-propanoate producing) yeast with an Earl Grey infusion but swap out the lemon zest for grapefruit. A project for the brew shed.

Moon rising over the Calder valley

Moon rising over the Calder valley

Whilst I woke to a white out, patches of sunshine started to appear in the valleys as I was striking camp giving some lovely highlighted views.  It was a great 12 hours and not really roughing it at all.

Monkey Business

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Whilst I was on my long walk across Cumbria, Junior we enjoying himself at Go Ape.  Whilst clearly he gets his good looks from me [ 😉 ], his lack of fear of heights must stem from his mother.  I could not have done what he did!

 

Mini Man’s Micro Adventure

It was coming to the end of our weeks holiday and Junior seemed envious of my solo unsupported walk along a four day section of the Coast to Coast path through Cumbria. A sunny evening was forecast so I suggested he might like to go for a wild camp with his Dad. His eyes lit up, so we packed up his rucksack and repacked mine. His with the light voluminous items to make it look good and full and mine with the rest. I’d had a walk planned and plotted for this opportunity and Mrs W dropped us off around 1630 on the far side of our closest fell.

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I had arranged in advance to camp in on the fell-side field of a farming friend of mine which I knew had a glorious view across our valley. The walk in proved just the right length to be fun and adventurous but not a massive undertaking / effort for Junior. This needed to feel like an adventure which was fun, not difficult. We soon had dinner reheated which was followed up by hot chocolate and ‘emergency biscuits’ – I forget what the spoof emergency was this time. How many six year-olds get use of a Thermorest and a Mountain Hardware sleeping bag I wonder? It should certainly have been a more comfortable experience than my first few years of camping. Not that this was his first time, but it was the first walk where he carried most of his own kit. I remain very impressed by his Deuter Fox 30 rucksack, very comfortable, adjustable and well equipped for a child’s sack.

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We were both asleep shortly after 2100 and work just before 0700. The bliss of camping out. The early hours brought heavy rain, but we were all but packed up ready for when this stopped by 0900. We killed time reading a couple of chapters of Roald Dahl, his author of the moment. Then we just had to drop the tent and walk down to the base of the valley to the village shop in our neighbouring community and await a lift home from Mrs W. A really good end to a week of week of outdoor adventures.

Covid Diaries – Weeks 8-12

It seems that at this time people are finding themselves in one of two categories.   Mown out (uber-busy) or bored.  For those of you wishing there was a 25th hour in the day, perhaps you could delegate something to me, for I now find myself in the latter category.  Lancashire have back peddled on allowing primary age children back to school.  This prompted Mrs W and I to investigate the status of key workers wrt schooling a little more closely.  We knew that as an (emergency) vet that she had been upgraded to key worker status, but closer inspection showed that only one parent needed to be a key worker for a child to be allowed school provision.

I really enjoyed the home schooling, but I reckon I had covered more than all his syllabus for Year 1 and that what he was needed more now was social interactions with his peers.  Further I could feel the dark fingers of depression starting to claw and my ankles.  It was time to be proactive for both our sakes.  He is now coming to the end of his first week back at school which he is loving.  I have applied for temporary work in the brewing sector with breweries I expect to be busy brewing for the bottle and can market.  So far two great conversations with brewers who didn’t need another pair of hands and no further replies.  Next week I’ll spread my net a little wider if I need to.

With important household repairs and upgrades behind me I was still in need of a project.  So I set about ridding the lawn of moss and dandelions.  And that sound you can hear…   …that’s the sound of the bottle of a barrel being scraped!  Anyway, we have a lush, almost weed free lawn as a result.  However, for those who would seek to criticise my reduction in biodiversity I would point them to our herb garden which seems a veritable Mecca to local honey bees.

In week 9 Mrs W had a dry cough for 24 hours so went to the local COVID drive through centre for a test.  Thankfully this came back negative.

I’ve stepped up my brewing at home in the last two weeks which has been good.  On Saturday my second Bx 23 Grapefruit & Hibiscusattempt at Hibiscus and Grapefruit Ale will have conditioned enough to try.  This is an exciting project because whilst version one did not hit my ‘design spec.’ both myself, my tasting panel and the neighbours all liked it very much.  And the colour was to die for, or should that be ‘to dye for?’

Right now some session “Isolation Pale Ale” is just finishing its primary fermentation.

More interesting still has been a commission from a friend / former colleague to brew a beer for their wedding.  They liked my idea of combining aspects of their character, background and tastes to produce something which should reflect something of both of them. It could be fruitful if I could think of a way of making such projects commercially viable rather than just fun because then I could make some income from something very creatively enjoyable.  For now, in this season of house arrest I am delighted to have a fun challenge to work on.  Design one is ready on paper, awaiting some speciality malt to arrive in the next couple of days, then ready to brew next week.  I hope it does not seek combine too many flavours and become confused.  If it does I know the first thing I’d drop, so I have a plan B.  This is what I always enjoyed about developing chemical processes, that ideas beget ideas.

So as we wait for the pubs to open, and with it the opportunity for me to return to my missed routine of work and banter with the other brewers / dray-men if you have a beer design commission in mind, drop me a line and I can give you a quote.

Recording memories

This time of house arrest gives one a lot of time, and sometimes I’ve been able to put it to good use doing things I should have got around to many weeks / months or even years ago.  One of these way to make good my lack of photographs of our wonderful moggie and faithful companion, Henry.  And what did Time Berners-Lee invent the internet for if it was not for the sharing of cat photo’s?

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COVID diary – week 7

dsc_1134Everyone on the Weston Front has remained well so far, we are blessed by the sunshine and home school seems to be going well.  I did spend the whole years school resources budget on one topic though.  An introduction to coding, by way of Bob the (Lego) robot.

The whole concept is very well thought out and seems ideal for 6-9 year olds.  We’ve learned about variables, triggers, flags and sub-routines in a really fun way.  To get a better insight into what’s possible take a look at the video’s of Bob’s antics on my Flickr Feed.

I would not want to do a ‘Facebook Front‘ post and suggest that everything is rosy.  I am finding motivation hard when I’m not home schooling and it is frustrating to remain in limbo as to whether we will get away on holiday this year.  It’s true we have not got a foreign trip planned where we will lose deposits etc, but we really did (and still do) hope to go to Shetland at some point during the sunnier part of the year.  Nathan is missing interacting with his friends too.  Video calls are good, but no still no substitute for the real thing.

What I want to leave you with this week is the best advise I’ve yet seen on surviving ‘house arrest’ which comes in the form of a allegorical video from James Veitch. But note that really it should come with a ’16’ certificate!

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.