2020 Week 12 Review

Phew. Quite the week, right?

Ok, if you’re joining late, I decided to journal my working week – I vowed to try and approach work differently so I didn’t suffer burn out or guilt over not producing enough work (while at the same time producing enough to feel like I’ve done enough work).

We’re in the Corona Virus World now though, so that’s all out the window.

Let’s cover work first:

My scheduled plans were a fun 2000ad strip for the 2000AD regened issues. Hard to get my head into that place. I also ended up doing some TV preproduction stuff that I can’t talk about.

Kids at home last week, and my wife started working from home. It feels like a vice is starting to surround us all, mind you.

I managed to get all the stuff done I wanted to do, but it was a struggle, and really largely in the past couple of days in a frenetic burst of pencilling.

Next week I’ve a different gig, WWII short story, 8 pages. Intend to get it all pencilled in the week (8 pages of pencils is very doable, 2 pages per day though there’s a fair amount of research to do for it).

I’ve put any creator owned stuff on hold, right now there’s no telling how long paid work will last, so I’ve got to grab as much of that that comes my way as I can.

Personal stuff: Mother’s day today. I managed to get out get some chocs, a present and some flower for Annette. I generally don’t visit my mum’s grave – it’s just too sad (to be honest, it’s unusual she has ashes there, so not really a grave, but it’s also where my brother is buried and I used to drive mum up there all the time for her to care for his grave and anyway, the memory is too strong for me to face sometimes). Today I really wanted to visit the grave. And I can’t.

I don’t know how bad things are going to get here. I hope we can get through it, I hope you can get through, but the horrible thing is there’s an absolute inevitability about how awful it’s going to be.

And I hope when we’re through it we take a look at the world we’d built and its many many failings and decide to do better.

Socially Distant Diary Day 5

(oops, you know, I’m gonna stop numbering these diary days, five days in and I’ve already confused myself)

Didn’t go out – well, not true, nipped to the shops for Mother’s day. Felt odd, realised it’s because I’m not buying for my mum (who passed nearly 16 years ago now, I suppose) but buying for my wife. Nathan and Thomas have such different personalities it’s kind of fun picking cards for them to give to Annette (how different? Well, Thomas would happily pick or even draw his own card, Nathan will just about sign a card and give it to Annette and not really think about it).

I haven’t had a stomach ache in a couple of weeks, but it feels like there’s one bubbling under right now. I’ve been trying to keep a food diary, but the further it gets from the last attack the less reliable I am at keeping it.

I think if there’s a culprit – based on my notes – it’s either the stack of buns and chocolate I ate, the burger (which had barley in it, which contains gluten though I’ve been told it’s more likely IBS with a wheat trigger than a gluten trigger) or it’s just something my stomach does every so often and there’s almost nothing I can do to prevent it.

That’s why I’ve been keeping the food diary, what did I do today that I’ve done before, what did I do today that I didn’t do last week.

Maybe I’ll be lucky, but if not, I’ll be curling up around a hot water bottle (which is about the only thing that seems to make any sort of difference, pain killers don’t help)

Normally I feel pretty lucky if I’ve been left alone to work all day, but it usually comes with the price of either knowing I could’ve been out with the family somewhere or I’ve accidentally ignored them all as they wanted to go out and I didn’t.

Today, and I think the next who-knows-how-many days, it’ll be knowing everyone wants to go out and feeling like I should too.

One thousand people diagnosed in the UK over the last 24 hours. I set up my spreadsheet 10 days ago, when there was 83. Simply multiplcation (previous days numbers * 1.23) would tell you right now to expect 1k. The fact it’s tracked so closely shows you why the government are trying to put this genii back in the bottle. At this rate, in another 10 days you could see 9-10k Diagnosed PER day but that figure would rise daily, and 10 days after that you could be looking at closer to 100k per day.

Unless we do something. And the measures of shutting everything down is one of only tools we’ve got, right now, but we’ll not see results from that for at least a week (possibly longer).

No legal obligation to lockdown in the UK yet. But it’s pretty clear there’s a very large amount of the population see the governments “social distancing” advice as notional. Kids out congregating together, a clump of 8 people walking from the park (packed tightly, chatting away).

Lockdown is coming. I can’t see how we can do this without enforcement. But Northern Ireland, famously, tends to react badly to police enforcement.

Socially Distant Day 4

What to say…?

Spent all day on twitter fielding robot drawings for Will Sliney as part of his #weWillDraw initiative. Will’s very good at this stuff, coming up with something and having it go viral.

Anyway, I got 2000AD involved (because – as you know, I’m a 2000ad droid now – that’s a message for myself in my twenties, in case I somehow invent reverse time capsules – and, while I’m there, buy apple stock.)

It basically took my mind of the whole end-of-the-world show.

Then today, the four o’clock press conference with Boris Johnson – who’s face now looks like it really wants to escape his head – announced that all pubs, gyms, cinemas and restaurants are closing. Forthwith. No messing around.

This was coming.

Now we sit and try not to infect our neighbours and try and keep ourselves from becoming infected.

As a unit, there’s four of us – me, Annette, Thomas and Nathan. Thomas has asthma and may be susceptible (though from what I’ve been told he may be lower risk than I first imagined).

Nathan at 15 has a tight group of friends, and while the internet can allow him to keep connected to this small social group, I can’t imagine what he’s missing.

I think there’s an optimistic hope in the air this is a two to three month deal. I don’t think so. I think this is until we find a quick acting test – at which point some strictures can be relaxed. But we may find things like international travel requiring you to have your movements monitoried for a fortnight before and after (so they can backtrace whoever you’ve been in contact with) and testing as you get on and off planes – possibly even three or four days of testing before the flight.

Then, 18 months later a hoped for vaccine. Which, I think, assumes the virus will behave itself and not start wildly mutating. In the event of that happening… well, the worlds a different place then.

I don’t think it’s easy to describe to people how different travel was before 9/11 – certainly in Northern Ireland the changes post 9/11 weren’t too great for us (we’d already had enhanced security at airports) but I remember the culture shock of going to London in the early 90s (pre 9/11) and seeing police walk around – without guns. At the airport, no guns. In the streets, no guns. It was amazing to me, having come from Belfast where armed police was the norm, and police cars looked like small tanks.

It will be a profoundly different place and we won’t really notice the difference. Until we watch old tv and it’ll seem weird, something not right – like rewatching friends and thinking “what’s missing?” “Oh yes. Mobile phones and the internet”.

I went to Dunnes today – it’s an Irish supermarket with a decent presence in the North of Ireland. There’s a distribution warehouse / store around the corner from where I live (as a matter of fact, before Dunnes bought it, it was derelict building of some sort where I used to play as a kid).

I’ve been nipping into Dunnes every day over the past week. A behaviour I’m not normally prone to, but I suppose – rather than hoarding as many people seem to have done – I’ve been just making sure … my cupboards don’t fall below … let’s call it “big shop level” (you know, you do one big shop, the place is heaving with food? that)

Today at the door one member of staff was there with spray, proferred (optional) gloves while I shopped, and asked me to wash my hands.

Inside the store tills had lines marked on the floor in two metre increments for you to keep a distance in the line and the exit was a one way system. Dotted around signage like you’d see in a disaster movie that was being heavy handed about fighting a pandemic.

At some point this will be the normal, and I’ll find it weird to get to close to someone in the queue. Which, in the end, may be no bad thing.

Social Distant Diaries Day 3

Look, you have your own worries, and problems and wotnot, so honestly feel free to give these posts a large swerve.

I suppose I should clarify – I started calling these posts Self Isolation Diaries, but, honestly I’m not self isolating, I’m just keeping a tabs on my sanity during this, the 21st Century plague. We’re all fine, though I’ve a sore throat – because of course, but it’s really mild. And absolutely nothing to worry about. Except everyone is worrying about everything.

In today’s new normal:

Tescos and other stores have limited any single item purchase to three per customer. Which sounds fine, but they’ve basically hacked their tills to set this limit, so they can’t ring up more than 3 of any one thing, and that includes bags. So if you end up buying five bags worth of stuff, good luck with three bags! (My wife overheard someone attempting to buy four black puddings, only to be refused – I presume it’s a meal for four. To be honest, it’s small mercy to the fourth person who now, at least, doesn’t have to eat a black pudding.)

Day 2 of Home schooling, and so far, Thomas has shown real promise in the Wii classes, and Nathan has really excelled at Chatting-to-his-mates-on-discord 101.

I’ve managed to get bugger all done. Partly that’s the non-stop run of news. Man, I thought news had been fairly hectic on the run up to brexit, but now, I reckon we’re getting a solid 30-40 hours every 24 hours.

One of the things I did on the run up to the current corona-caused chaos, is start being very generous to myself with amazon tat. It felt like a good way to know how bad things were gonna get it amazon stopped delivering and so I thought I’d test that. Every day I’d order new tat. But now I have some cool stuff. Got myself a blue snowball microphone, and a mic stand and a new iphone 11. (On credit, so, if the world ends at least I won’t have to pay it, right?)

I will be honest, I’m more hopeful now than when this whole thing started (and it started for me a few weeks ago when my brother got caught up on the first appearance of it in China, it felt both inevitable we’d experience it here and at the same time impossible – not dissimilar to thinking of a parent dying, you know it’s going to happen but you just can’t process it until it does)

The light at the end of the tunnel, as I see it, at least is: we lockdown. This slows the transmission of growth rate of the virus. Life can’t ever be the same. We start developing a vaccine concurrent with various tests. The test will broadly fall into two categories – the test to check if you’ve already had the virus, but don’t currently (and are likely to be immune to it and can return to work) and the test to see if you currently have it. That test will make a huge difference. Especially if it can be fast, self administered and tell without any symptoms showing. We can start finding a new normal then. And, eventually, we’ll get a vaccine.

But it seems likely, even with a vaccine the world has changed and it just isn’t going back.

See you tomorrow!

Self Isolation Day 2

Have already eaten one of the children, and am convinced the moon is speaking to me.

Look, it’s not so bad here. Life’s pretty much normal, except the kids are home and my wife is home. I’d forgotten how much of a racket they make. I’ve a surprisingly decent schedule of work on, so there’s obviously some wheels still turning (or, at least, those wheels have yet to grind to a halt).

Kids ended up doing a bit of school work, but it was a fairly light – just a bit of home work. “It’s not fair, the whole point of homework is to reinforce what you learn at school, there’s no point in doing homework if you’re doing school work at home” – a reasonable point, somewhat destroyed by the fact it’s literally half an hour of work.

As anticipated the schools are closing. God, Boris looks out of his depth, the only thing I think we’ve got going for us the scientific advisors seem to be doing the heavy lifting. We’re now at a point were Universal Basic Income is brought up in the house of commons (today by the SNP) and not just instantly dismissed (makes you wonder if we can do it now in this time of crises, shouldn’t we have been doing some of this stuff years ago?)

Anway, officially schools are closing on Friday, but largely in NI the schools have closed for a couple of days (or at least are getting by on minimal staff as everyone who has the least bit of the sniffles takes the precautionary step of self isolating). We, me, Nathan and Annette have all had a bit of a sore throat and an occasional cough which is just enough for you to think “well, I’ve got this thermometer here, no harm in checking” about twelve times a day. (Pretty sure it’s the regular old whatever that goes around normally)

Our flat has a shared common space, and that’s less than ideal, and we don’t have a garden the kids can roam around in, which, again, less than ideal, BUT we do have four rooms. The kids bedroom, and my studio room, our bedroom and the living room (plus a balcony, kitchen and bathroom). We evolved a dance now, through the years of the kids growing up. Like we all seem to prize our alone time (Nathan, especially – as a baby we’d marvel at how he’d stop crying AFTER WE STOP HUGGING HIM and just put him on the ground – never seen the like).

So now, I usually take up my studio room (of course), my wife works in the living room up until dinner when we all share that space, then in the evening I might go in there with her, and our youngest, Nathan will slip off to his room to the playstation. Then, when Tom goes to bed, Annette’s in bed, Nathan will come to the living room, curtly ask “can I have the living room?” and I’ll get up and mooch off to my room.

The boys can enjoy being in the same room, but sometimes they need to go to different rooms and you might find Nath sitting on the chair in our bedroom, Tom playing the playstation in their room. OR Nathan playing the playstation and Tom in our room playing the Wii U (good idea to open up all your old games consoles and liberally dot them round the house connected to every TV you can find).

Yesterday I showed you my studio, today I’ll show you some of the original art I have hanging up in it:

I love all of them, the Cully Hamner, Jesus Redondo and Chris Sprouse page were from my mate Johnny (who I hope is ok, I haven’t seen him in years!)

The Jerry Paris piece was a commission for my 50th birthday. Jerry was my guiding light when I was a teen and was adrift in teenage hormones and anxiety over loving comics but ashamed to be reading them, I’d pick up copies of Computer and Video Games (C&VG) with Jerry’s art in it just to keep looking at comics. I live off ink.

The John McCrea piece is special to me to, John’s an absolute hero of mine, and we’ve known each other for over 30 years. The page features Justice-1 and when I was a kid, my Uncle Paul and I built that ship out of computer punchcard. Now, in memory it was pretty much an exact scale model. But come on, it was computer punch card.

Anyway, stay well everyone. It’s easy to let the whole thing overwhelm you. You can still go out and go for a walk, and enjoy a sunset. Those things haven’t changed.

Self Isolation Day 1


Look, we’re not entirely self isolated here. Taking reasonable precautions, things aren’t maniac yet – though they will be soon.

So I’m comfort blogging.

Our kids are due back to school tomorrow (we’re in Northern Ireland, today was St Paddy’s day, normally there’s a parade, in previous years we’d take ourselves off somewhere but not this year.)

My Own Personal Bunker

When I was a kid, in the 80s (yes, Virginia, I am that old) I dreamt of being confined to a nuclear bunker (you can tell how much I enjoyed school like that this was my dream) stuck in bunk beds with rooms connected via tunnels to my parents room and a small living room and I fancied we’d have some sort of video setup with a large video library (stored in another part of this bunker, which, weirdly, was – I fancied – directly below our actual house).

Anyway, that was the place I put my imagination while the world seemed to be ticking towards nuclear war. And I know, you’ve probably read Watchmen and the stuff about the nuclear war doesn’t seem any where near as urgent now, but by god it did then.

So, we’re all at home. Kids not going to school (my youngest is in the at-risk group) and if he’s at-risk it seems like idiocy to send my older son to school. Both schools are being cagy, not telling you to keep your kids home but certainly not encouraging you – to quote the youngest son’s school :

“Please keep your child at home tomorrow if…

they are in the at risk group OR they have any symptoms OR neither of the above but you are anxious about them attending school.”

Which, I think, given government guidance, that’s a fair enough shake.

Other news: it was claimed amazon were stopping shipping anything but medical or nonessential home goods to warehouses. But, it turns out that’s not true (although some small tiny vestigial grain of truth is in there)

To be honest, I’ve been wondering what would happen with amazon deliveries.

On Wed 11 I opened up a spreadsheet and threw in some numbers of where we might be headed, based on the idea that we were likely to see this thing have an exponential increase – the numbers I used where taking the previous days cases (54) and the then current days cases (83) work out the ratio 1.53 and just multipled that by each days numbers and man it gets scary quick.

Today they announced 413 6 days later. My spreadsheet had 413 at 5 days later (the official numbers took a weird dip yesterday, going from 332 down to 152 then back up to 413. I think the dip was a change or confusion over how many people were being tested – as the Govt decided to not test everyone, I think that had enough backlash they changed their minds)

The Government Daily Confirmed Cases up to the 16th of March.
The Government Dashboard – where you can see these figures updated daily is here.

Assuming my spreadsheet is a day out, and going at that continuing rate you’re looking at 1,500 in one day a week later, and 9k per day two weeks from now.

And that’s why we’re all in lockdown. So far as I can tell every country that’s really locked down has seen a corresponding drop in infection rate. Which is good.

What’s not so good is it’s likely without a vaccine that rate will leap right up there again.

That’s the thing, in the 80s I was scared we’d be at war, and now… now we’re at war.