And, like that, it’s gone

Today is “Summer Bank Holiday.” I have, basically, no idea what that means – but I can’t help but think that it says something deep about British culture that the country all but shuts down on “bank holidays.”

“We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” [1]

I also can’t help but notice – as the days grow slightly shorter, my morning runs cooler, and the afternoon light more golden – that in a few short weeks another Summer will officially be over.

The Earth made another voyage around the sun and all most of us got was this lousy pandemic.

I’m not sure why it matters to me. Dawnise and I rarely travel in the summer – we have no kids, so we’re not bound by the traditional school year, and Dawnise and hot weather don’t get along particularly well, so we usually do our traveling in the Spring and Fall.

Never-the-less, I feel like I’ve missed something.

Life in London is slowly creeping toward normal. More people on the streets. More people commuting to work. The response to the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme suggests that people are willing to set health concerns aside in return for £10 off their meal bill. The scheme ends today, so soon we’ll see how many of those discount diners remember how much they used to enjoy eating food they didn’t cook, and wasn’t delivered by a guy on a scooter, and keep going out for meals.

Even the theaters have started re-opening, though I’m unsure who’s attending the socially distanced shows. Sitting through a multi-hour performance wearing a mask is somewhere near the opposite of my idea of a good time.

In the midst of all this, and almost certainly because of all this, the case count across the UK is trending up. The hospitalization and mortality rates aren’t following, and while that’s clearly good news, it does raise obvious questions.

In more positive news, thanks to a roughly £1.9 million investment from the UK government, the Cambridge vaccine could be in trials ‘by autumn.’

In mundane news, my BRP is still in the hands of the driver and vehicle licensing agency (DVLA). A polite, but basically pointless, online chat asking when I might have my identity document back ended with “hopefully not too much longer.”

Good thing we’re not planning to go anywhere for a bit.

Craving change, seeking the familiar

I ‘ve been seeing familiar faces around town on my morning runs. Fellow expats from Luxembourg, friends from Seattle, even a friend from California I haven’t seen in decades. None of these people live here, or have any reason to be in London.

Of course, I’m not actually seeing people I know – just people who bear a passing resemblance. My subconscious is seeking the familiar – and when it can’t find it, it creates it. Patterns in the noise.

While part of me is looking for the familiar, mostly we’re drowning in it. We mark time with mundane tasks: the weekly grocery shop – elided this week in favor of delivery to resupply on some things heavier than we wanted to carry home. The alternating biweekly visits from the cleaning service and saturday morning “hoovering” of the apartment. Weekend visits to our neighborhood cafe for breakfast.

I expect Tim Hartford is right – I won’t likely remember many details about what I did during the pandemic.

From that perspective, work has been a welcome distraction. Between the changes brought on by the pandemic, and my moving onto a project predominantly based in Seattle, my work days have shifted to a “makers schedule.” Very different from the last two-and-a-half years. I have something of a habit of fixing foundational things that other people ignore, or work around, and there’s been plenty of opportunity for that of late. It’s not flashy or sexy, but making dozens of my colleagues more efficient and productive is, from my perspective, heavily leveraged.

After successfully feeding ourselves twice a day for just shy of six month, we’ve started occasionally letting someone else cook. We’ve Deliveroo‘ed an occasional meal from local(ish) restaurants. Adding Chinese and Indian to our rotation has been a welcome change, but I quite miss the “out” part of dining out.

In other “non-news,” there’s been no response yet from the DVLA regarding my license application. Despite it feeling like forever in fact it’s only been two weeks since I shipped them off my BRP and paperwork. The messaging on their website respectfully requests I leave them the hell alone until at least three weeks have passed. I email’d them anyway – and got the automated response I expected – “we’ll get to you in due course, now cool your heels and wait your turn.”

I hate waiting.

Papers, please!

I always planned to get my UK driving license. Not because we wanted, or expected, to own a car – but to be able to hire one and reach places transit doesn’t.

On our previous visits to the UK we’ve driven the length and width of the island, but for practice we sorta planned on taking a few car trips in the first year. While we were both permitted to drive on our Seattle licenses. Like nearly everything else, COVID threw a spanner in those works.

So as it turns out, things are starting to re-open in the UK and we’re just past the first anniversary of our arrival and not permitted to drive on our US licenses. So it’s time to take the tests and get licensed.

The initial application for a provisional license was easy – I hand them some basic information, paid the application fee, and at the end was informed that I needed to submit additional information and that “something would arrive by post.”

Said something arrived late last week – a form to sign, and instructions to send them a suitably sized photograph of me and the original – no copies accepted – of either my US Passport or UK Biometric Residence Permit. They’d send it back 2nd class post. Eventually.

The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) – like any self-respecting government bureaucracy – scoffs at the idea of service level agreements, even during normal times.

And these times are not what you’d call normal.

Without both of those documents I can’t exit and re-enter the UK. So I spent a few minutes figuring out which one was easier to replace if needed (conclusion: they’re pretty equally a pain in the arse) and this afternoon posted my completed form and BRP to Swansea, special next day delivery, with an included special delivery return envelope.

And now, I wait.

And hope the universe doesn’t choose to answer the rhetorical question: “what would be so important that I’d risk traveling back to the US in the next couple months?”