Shakshuka Alfresco

For the first time in many months we sat and ate a meal at our local cafe.

The sun was shining and, despite the mild morning chill, Dawnise decided she was game to see if Mola had a table available. There was one other patron when we arrived, sitting facing the sun at one the eight or so small tables setup outside the cafe. He was a regular and we’d bumped into him fairly frequently on previous weekend visits. We exchanged small talk, ordered breakfast, and sat in the cool morning sun and ate. The tables around us filled up as we did.

As we finished, Dawnise left me to settle the bill and meet up with her at the grocery store – where we did a bit of food shopping before returning home.

The afternoon continued to be sunny and temperate – and I let the cats out with me on the deck to enjoy the weather and occasional pigeon fly-over.

It turns out WiFi coverage on the deck is basically non existent. The router is only around 15 feet from the door, but the coating on the plate glass – great for privacy and keeping the sun’s heat out – seems great at stopping radio signal. I tried a few experiments – including using one of my small travel routers as an extender, pressed up against the glass – but nothing really worked. At the moment I’m out of ideas about how to get enough network coverage out there to “work from deck,” short of leaving the doors open – which lets both the cats and the flies be places I’d rather they weren’t.

Yesterday had nice weather, too – and with some trepidation Dawnise agreed to take a walk – ostensibly with the goal of getting a bubble tea from a local shop she likes. We ended up taking the long way ’round – and stumbled upon a rather nice art supply store that enticed Dawnise to mask up and step inside. Nearly two hours after we set out for a short walk we returned, bubble tea in hand.

The last two days have undoubtedly been the most fresh air and sun we’ve had in months.

In other news, lock down measures eased again on Monday as planned. Non-essential shops have re-opened, and restaurants and pubs can serve outdoors, space permitting. More people are out and about. I got a hair cut one morning before my first meeting, and signed up for my first vaccination as soon as the NHS opened slots to my age group. (Dawnise had been invited for her first dose a few weeks ago by her GP.)

The day after the jab I felt like someone punched me in the arm, was tired all day, and retired to bed really early.

The UK vaccination strategy of “first-doses-first” means I’ll get my second course in around ten weeks. From a personal perspective the delay is mildly frustrating, but the data supports the strategy, and the results have been cause for guarded optimism.

As of today, around thirty three million people in the UK have had at least one vaccination, and ten million people have had both doses.

I look forward to when Dawnise and I are counted in that group.

We’re All in This Together Alone

Sometimes you don’t notice what’s missing until it comes back.

I hadn’t really noticed how odd it was to not see children outside until the UK largely returned to face-to-face schooling a couple weeks ago. I was on a cool down walk at the end of my run when – for the first time in a long time – I saw parents walking their kids to school.

It felt like the city had taken a deep breath. The first since late December, when the UK went back into lock-down, despite the government just days prior saying “canceling Christmas” would be inhumane and wasn’t an option on the table.

Last week – just over a year since the initial lock-down order – outdoor gatherings of six people (or two households) became permitted again. As the widely circulating meme cast it – now you and five friends could get drunk in a park.

We had a couple over and sat chatting on the chilly but sunny patio, drinking rosé and willing it to be warmer than it actually was. It was great to see other people again, and Dawnise and I were both pretty exhausted when they left, only a few hours later.

We might have forgotten how to socialize.

This coming Monday non-essential retail can reopen, and restaurants and pubs can serve customers outdoors (still subject to the so-called “rule of six”). When the weather cooperates we’ll consider venturing out to eat something we didn’t cook and wasn’t delivered by a dude (and it’s nearly always a dude) on a scooter.

Barring a spike in acute disease, that will be the regime until mid May.

Things otherwise are largely unchanged. We’ve marked six months in our “new” apartment – no leaks or other major issues to speak of.

Dawnise was invited for her first vaccination a few weeks back – just before the UK shifted to mostly administering second doses. I look forward to getting mine “soon.”

My phone tells me that in the year since I geared up to run in the cold I’ve run 770km – about 480 miles in old money. I’ve replaced my shoes once, and when the temperature got down near freezing I supplemented the wool base layer with a windbreaker, hat and gloves. I only skipped a handful of days, when it was icy, or driving rain. I still can’t say I like running, but the routine has become part of how I mark the passing of time. Like ordering more coffee, or coffee filters.

My practical driving exam, scheduled for December, was canceled due to the Christmas lock-down, and rescheduled to early May – which seemed impossibly far off. I got email the other day saying that testing has been set to resume, and that my test is expected to proceed as scheduled. If it does, and assuming I pass, it will be 10 months since I applied for my provisional license.

Fingers crossed.