Keeping Things Moving

I was just having a post D&D session chat with myr s and Lady B via the wonders of Discord and the topic turned to ways of dealing with the grey blur of days in lockdown.

As I rambled through the sorts of things I’ve been doing, I had a bit of a realisation: that most of the small things I do in the house involve moving little bits around to present vistas. I’ve been rearranging the placement of groups of funko pops, or rearranging books in their shelves, or moving minor pieces of furniture. At first I thought it was just lazy tidying, but there’s something more interesting going on.

One of the things I’ve learned while managing libraries is that displays and notices need to be varied in placement and composition quite regularly. This is because people very quickly get used to them and overlook them. Why? Well apparently its related back to our prehistoric roots where pattern recognition evolved as survival hinged on spotting things out of place that might be a predator.

When we see something new, our attention catches to assess if it is a threat or opportunity, before being relegated to known background while we search for the next anomaly.

During more normal times, going out keeps the brain fed with new stimuli to process and assess, but at home we start to climb the walls because we’ve assessed the normal surroundings as safe and yet that primitive part keeps screaming that we just haven’t spotted the tiger yet.

So, I’m in a process of keeping my living space and activities in flux to satisfy my brain’s inherent paranoia. It seems to work, and probably explains why I find data cleansing both easy and a high stress activity.

There’s probably a good debate to be had there that its not so much a matter of a low boredom threshold as ongoing hypervigilance on my part, because reasons.

But thats a whole other story for another time.

Data Cleansing and Inner Calm

We’ve been able to enable access to some work systems using Citrix recently, so now have a useful tool for calming the mind and feeling that I’m doing something useful at the same time: data cleansing.

Specifically we’re going through records to find where a remark has been left on an account and not removed in a timely manner. For the most part this is an oversight and is actually relatively rare, so I’m either removing the outdated remark or marking an entry on the shared report as checked and moving on.

Not only am I currently averaging a library a day at the moment, but I’m finding it a good way to occupy the spider-monkeys in my brain as they look for breaks in patterns and flag what needs further investigation – and as there’s no real deadline to work to I can move at a steady pace and coordinate with my peers who are also involved in doing it.

So that’s today’s path to inner calm: repetitive data work. Later I shall be doing something creative to let the spider-monkeys off the leash.

Sunday? Again?

Happy Easter everyone – I won’t get into the whole debate about origins or alternative names or anything like that, I’m just going with the name that the dominant culture knows it by and looking across the room at the small pile of chocolate eggs that we’ve either bought or had gifted by neighbours in our block of flats.

There’s a definite sense of inertia today, so Lady M and I have made a point of going for a walk around our estate to get some laps in on our step counts and look at something other than the proverbial four walls. As much as I love my flat (and I’m still getting used to calling it that), I do miss having the option of a garden. As we live on a private estate however there’s far less worry about traffic cutting through so a good half-hour or so amble has been a welcome change of scene.

Along the way we’ve seen some neighbours we know, and others we don’t but in each case there’s been pleasantries and checking in on each other as we swap stories and jokes. You could be forgiven for thinking it an average Sunday if not for the occasional facemask on dog walkers. We’ve decided that we do need to make a walk a part of our regular routine now, before we start working on our assassination plans.

The decluttering continues apace – how is it that we have so much stuff? Well some of it is still stuff left over from clearing out Lady M’s father’s place, and other bits are paperwork from earlier in both our careers, and others are just the detritus that builds up. I’ve even been throwing out old tabletop gaming notes and characters on the basis that if we’ve not played a given game in the best part of twenty years its not very likely that I’ll need it again. One thing I do need to start doing is taking photos of some of the older rulebooks that I have that I want to sell on because there’s a frightening amount of space being taken up by these older systems. I may hand the documentation then to Lady M to take charge of as doyenne of all things Ebay in our house, but we’ll see how the lockdown goes.

So, here we are. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and we’ve survived another week.

Retail Support Therapy

We’ve all been looking in the DDC for ways to brighten each other up during the lockdown. I mean, we’ve been looking at ways of making life easier as much as possible for as many people as possible too, but in particular we’ve been rallying round to help each other. I think it was brewing anyway, but as Lady B had her birthday recently it prompted a move to send presents that has since expanded across the whole group.

For the most part its sporadic – little things like postcards or small gifts made on a whimsy – but it is a wonderful little spike of pleasure when there’s something unexpected in the mailbox. While this is a thing that could happen at any time, I think the enforced isolation has made the effort more appreciated and more meaningful for both sender and receiver. If so, then I take it as an example of people rising to support each other in adversity – through a series of acts that you could be forgiven for thinking had been a thing long in the past. Now all our various communications channels are sprinkled with little remarks like “Oh I showed x what I’ve made for you”, or “Oh, reminds me I must get to the post office” – and each time I get a little glow in my chest that is almost certainly not heartburn.

It doesn’t make us any better or worse than anyone else just because we’re choosing to reach out to support our friends and partners at this time rather than engaging in some grand gesture to help the world at large. Instead, I hope that it is a trend of rediscovering contact that has been denatured by the immediacy of social media. There is no immediate gratification of a notification on a phone or laptop – its merely something that appears at some point in the letterbox, and is all the more precious for it. I hope its something that catches on among friend and family circles as a rediscovery of a slower way of showing you care. Its less ephemeral that social media, and goes alongside the other ways of showing we care that we already use on a daily basis. I feel incredibly lucky.

Silver linings and all that

Spoons Management

Yesterday wasn’t a fantastic day – one of being low in energy and mood, and it wasn’t helped by diabetes starting my day with an upset stomach that led to copious vomiting mid-morning. Still, at least when that was done I wasn’t as bloated and queasy and merely had a headache, lethargy, and a general feeling of worthlessness – so a reasonable trade-off I guess.

Part of the low energy and dip in self-esteem came from the enforced distancing and general ill health between us all. A big part of my love language is physical touch with those I’m close with – not necessarily intimately, but just the brush of hands or quick hugs or joking pokes in the ribs that cross the gaps between us and at least in my head remind and reassure of acceptance and comfort. So with Lady M having a bad fibromyalgia day and physical distance from myr s, it was a bad day to be having my brain throw a tantrum on that front.

Then there was just the part where I was physically tired as well as emotionally exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot between preparation for the D&D game, cleaning the house/decluttering, and generally being a supportive and positive person for everyone – and I just needed to collapse for a bit. Being typically introverted however, I’m generally not fantastic at communicating this coherently, which can lead to a bit of a spiral of my own making.

But that was yesterday – and today the sun is out, and we’ve spoken at appropriate distances with neighbours. They’ve all asked how we are doing now from when we’ve posted on local facebook groups about going into isolation. There’s been the affirmation that our experiences are not so different, and that generally people are choosing the positive view of how to deal with these weird times.

I have the game tonight, so I’me doing some minor tweaks and preparation for that, and I’ve started recording some odds and ends for a channel on our discord, telling stories. I’ve even written an experimental new beginning for the book and recorded that:

I think what I may start doing as I transcribe more of my short stories is also do recordings of them too as an ongoing process – partly to get practice in, but also to offer another form of accessibility to people who can’t read easily for whatever reason. It’s another creative form, and one that I hope people enjoy.

Attempts to Shop

There must be a memo I missed because I’ve tried twice so far to pop down the road to get a couple of supplies in, and each time the queues have been longer and more fraught – to the point where I’ve given up each time.

The first time was early in the day and I hadn’t realised that the elderly and infirm were having their early hour today. Well I didn’t realise until I saw their queue snake round the carpark and felt the weight of some hundred-plus pensioners giving me the evil eye.

When I tried again a few hours later, they had finished that queue but then the main queue was somehow four times longer. I couldn’t face that either. I’m now weighing up if I can face another attempt. At least its not holding to Sunday Trading hours, or I’d have run out of time today.

On the other hand it does mean that I have managed to have my threatened tshirt cull and have items I can offer round the polycule before donating anything unclaimed. Lady M has already nabbed several plain tops that she has declared suitable for workwear.

Out of Isolation

Yay! Its officially been two weeks of self-isolation and it’s over as of today – I can go out and – oh, wait… Well then everyone, um…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty much a hermit at the best of times, but today has been an exercise in trying to post out some supplies and eBay sales to people so I’ve had the fun experience of turning up to a couple of post offices that claim to be open on their websites, but actually aren’t.

In the end I resorted to putting out a plea on the local Facebook group and someone was able to identify somewhere in Lower Sunbury that wasn’t lying – mission accomplished!

It does mean that I’ve finally been able to pass on a couple of things for myr s and the cub – an antlered headband I commissioned for them for the delayed Red Dragon 6 Convention, and a 3D-printed Disney-style nameplate for the cub – and some paperwork – so that’s a relief to be able to get those out at least. So now I’m back home, watching a Barry Lewis livestream and sipping a fresh coffee. There are worse ways to spend a lunchtime.

Cough and Splutter

Well the good news is that Lady M seems to be recovering, but I can’t stop coughing and the rattling in my chest is worse. I guess it’s my turn to be a bit pathetic when the cuppas need making.

Hopefully this is something that’ll blow over quickly. I’m already tired of the cough just today, and generally feeling very fatigued. Given I started asking staff how they’re doing as we’ve all been sent home, it feels odd to be doing it while stopping my lungs from detonating.

Texted by the Government

Although they started making noises about it a few years ago, the UK government never actually got round to making any kind of formal emergency messaging system work. The cynical among us might think that because no one was lined up to get rich out of it that it never got the real push it needed – rather than being concerned that it would be a really sensible thing for a government to do to disseminate important information.

Compare this with South Korea, The United States, or the Netherlands for example. South Korea has been so aggressive in its development and adoption of it that they have reportedly been able to communicate the movements of infected people on their way to get tested or quarantined to minimise potential harm to others.

But no, here in the UK the govt had to ask the four major phone providers to send a text on their behalf to tell me to stay at home, just in case I hadn’t noticed the news in any way, shape, or form.

If it helps focus minds, then good, it’s better than nothing, but I’m already hearing from people whose phones flagged it as spam or suspected phishing attempts. That does not bode well.

Lockdown

We’ve been such hermits with being in isolation that the announcement of some form of lockdown in the UK has been largely met in our household with a bemused snort and a glance out the window at the children playing on the estate. Our own health has been reasonable until today, but Lady M has worsened noticeably in the last twenty-four hours and has spent most of the day on the sofa dozing in front of Disney+ and a Toy Story marathon. Her temperature is noticeably up, and she is having difficulty breathing – but we’re reminding ourselves that her underlying asthma means that whatever germs are doing the rounds normally hit her chest hard anyway so there’s a lot of intentional grounding thoughts taking place at the moment.

My own health seems to be stalled at the rattling in my chest and brain fog with added muscle aches, but I can hold my breath for ten seconds without noticeable affect, and am only occasionally dry coughing. Assuming I don’t develop anything else with Lady M declining I should be okay. Hygiene and general distance isolation continue to be the routine.

Have some random cosplay body positivity

I’ve mostly been in the office doing preparation for our new D&D group which looks like it will be a feature of our Sunday evenings for the forseeable future. We originally set up a Discord just to chat and arrange Cards Against Humanity games online, but once I’d mentioned it as an option I practically had my ears bitten off in enthusiasm.

So at least I have a side project to engage me for the time being. It is another trip to Eberron, this time under Fifth Edition rules, which is a new experience for me and indeed most of the people taking part. Lady M and Lady B, Lord S, myr s, and Mre B are so far signed up, and I will indeed chronicle some of their adventures here too. Its been a good three years or so since I’ve done any tabletop gaming so I’m looking forward to it.

It does seem somewhat paradoxical then that at a time of enforced isolation and lockdown that I’ve never been more social in my interactions. I’ve always been an active text communicator, and between the Discord, Messenger, and various voice call interactions with family and friends I seem to be positively overflowing with people to talk to.

Which is nice – even if my brain has gone into information sponge mode.

What has been a lovely surprise is how well everyone has gelled together and how much roleplay is taking place outside of session. We had a session zero this weekend to check all characters were made up, decide on bonds and links between them, and to also agree the style and boundaries of the type of game people wanted to play. A couple of people have messaged me about a couple of topics that they really would not enjoy, and by and large we’ve come to an understanding of who the characters are and why they are choosing to embrace the adventuring life together. Within the game itself they have an employer, and resources and obligations that come with that – if nothing else the process and session zero has given me plenty of potential story hooks and beats to play with.

I’m selfishly hoping this will also help my creative writing side wake up. Like any skill it needs exercise, and running roleplay games has always helped. The in-character Discord chats that have been running since Sunday are already sparking ideas, and are a complete delight to read in any case.