Life in Pompeii #GiveItUp125

As promised in my last video, here are some pictures from the Last Supper in Pompeii Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In case anyone is worried, that’s not a real dormouse in the pot.

If you want to learn to cook like a Roman, here is a modern edition of Apicius. Or you can get the original for free from Project Gutenberg.

And before I forget again, here is the Delia Smith recipe for zabaglione.

We’re Live! #GiveItUp125

In case you missed the announcement on Twitter, yes, the #GiveItUp125 challenge is now underway. I am in Virtual Italy, and I’ll be posting Italian content on various social media throughout the day. There will be music, tourism, books, and of course food. Here, in best Blue Peter tradition, is one that I prepared earlier.

If you like what I’m doing here, please consider donating to One25 who are doing amazing work in Bristol, putting themselves at risk to help those who have nothing.

And now, time for that Zabaglione…

Coronavirus – Day #62

Today started well. The weather was fine, the pollen count was low, and there were no urgent emails from clients. So I decided to go in search of hormones.

The car was a bit reluctant to start today, so I took a very circuitous route into town to get some charge into the battery. That’s probably contrary to one of the ever-changing Lockdown regulations, so if any of the “Gender Critical” mob are reading this, there’s your smoking gun. You can report me to the Authorities and have me taken away for re-education.

Boots was very quiet and the staff were very helpful. However, as all I had was an email copy of the prescription, they couldn’t fulfill it immediately. They need to phone my doctor and confirm that they are the only people I have approached. When they get that confirmation, they can order the hormones. But in order to find out if they have had confirmation I need to be able to get through to them on the phone, which is easier said than done. If I can’t get through after a few days I will have to go back and see them.

For some unexplained reason there was a massive queue at Tesco when I got there. It took forever to get in. They still didn’t have any flour, but I got a few things I needed for the Canada and France food list. There were a few more people wearing masks this time, including me, but we were still very much in the minority.

When I got back home there was a cement mixer blocking the road. I now have one neighbour and two people immediately across the road all having building work done. Being a builder is clearly a key occupation.

Coronavirus – Day #55

With the government planning on loosening the Lockdown restrictions and me needing a few bits and pieces for cooking for the One25 Fundraiser, I decided to go to Tesco today while it is still comparatively safe to do so. I was quite late getting there as I had to wait in for an Amazon delivery, but I only had to queue for around 20 minutes to get in. Everyone was well behaved, and this time I saw four people wearing masks (out of 100+).

There’s still no flour. Not even rye flour. I’ll cope.

But they did have Welsh Cakes!

Coronavirus – Day #48

Well that was great. Museum from Home was hugely successful. I’m really happy for Dan and Sacha, who have put a lot of effort into this. Who knows, maybe they’ll get their own TV show one day.

In among all the museum and free ebook excitement I found time to sling some chicken curry into the slow cooker, so that’s food sorted for a few more days.

Bozo has apparently announced that the UK is past the peak as far as virus cases goes, and the data is still supporting that. On the other hand, we are still running at well over 500 deaths a day, so if we lift restrictions now things could get a lot worse very quickly. And the government has still not made any significant steps towards managing the exit process.

Coronavirus – Day #47

Today I did the shopping thing. It all went very smoothly and I now have enough food to last me another two or three weeks. Interestingly the food selection in Tesco seems to have reduced somewhat since last time I was there. The cheese selection in particular was very disappointing. This suggests that Lockdown is having an effect on the food economy.

One thing that is plentiful is toilet paper. There was loads of it on the shelves. Some of it was even on sale.

On the other hand, there is still not a spoonful of flour to be had. Why that should be I do not know.

I saw only three people wearing masks. Two of those were Japanese. But everyone was well behaved.

Life continues to be busy. In addtion to the new Salon Futura, I have been working on this year’s fundraiser for One25, the Bristol charity that supports local sex workers. You may remember that last year I walked 125 miles for them. This year I will be giving up something for 125 hours. And no, it won’t be chocolate. There will be more about that next week.

Tomorrow is #MuseumFromHome Day on the BBC. I will be on social media much of the day to support my pals Dan and Sacha. I also have a contribution of my own to launch tomorrow.

And of course tomorrow there will be a new piece of Lockdown Reading.

Phew!

Coronavirus – Day #46

I almost forgot again. Sorry. I’ve been in the middle of an book review that has been very difficult to write.

Last night the cough came back. I have no idea why. Possibly it is something to do with the change in the weather. Anyway, I got rather less sleep than I wanted, and have had a mild headache through the day, but I’ve been fairly productive.

Today also marks two weeks since I last shopped for food. As it was raining heavily I elected not to go to Tesco where I would potentially have had to stand in the rain for 10 minutes. Tomorrow or Thursday may be better. Alternatively I could wait for next week. I’m out of quite a few things, including fresh fruit and veg, but I can certainly survive for several more days. I’m treating this as practice for January, because I am still expecting a hard Brexit and major food shortages. I’m learning a lot about what it is useful to stock up on.

If there’s a break in the rain tomorrow I’ll probably go out. Thursday is Museum from Home day on the BBC and I want to be on social media supporting Dan and Sacha. I’m also a bit worried that the government will relax the lockdown restrictions way too early, and that going out will become dangerous.

Coronavirus – Day #42

42 is the answer to the question, “how many days in 6 weeks?”. So that’s how long I have been in self-isolation. I did go out twice to get food, but other than that haven’t left home. I’m not missing the outside world much, though having a garden I could sit in would be nice.

Today was spent primarily at a conference for women Classicists (and allies). I gave a short talk which seemed to be well received. And I learned a lot, particularly about doing online teaching. I have felt for some time that you can’t simply replace a classroom lecture with an online one, and it was good to have that confirmed, and to get some tips for doing online teaching better.

It was an interesting experience spending the best part of 7 hours in an online conference. I thought it went very well, though getting people into breakout rooms in Zoom continues to be an unnecesarily complex process.

I also recorded another interview for the new Salon Futura, and I’ve put a loaf in the bread machine. I think that will do for the day. I’m pleased to see that I appear to have just enough flour for one more loaf. Hopefully it will be possible to buy it again next time I go to Tesco.

I don’t know much about what happened in the rest of the world today, though I gather that the government opened a website for testing essential workers for the virus, and it collapsed after a few hours. That is entirley typical.

Coronavirus – Day #40

Today was a cooking day. It was a cheap one too. I had some fresh veg that needed eating, so I went for a classic Southern dish that Kevin taught me: red beans and rice. It is also vegetarian and nicely spicy. That will do me for a few more days as well.

Out in the so-called “real” world, journalists at the Financial Times are claiming that the true death toll in the UK from the virus is over 41,000, rather than the 17,000 that the government is reporting. It is quite bizarre to live in a world in which the FT is the main opposition paper to a Conservative government, but here we are.

And talking of the government, Parliament was back in action again today, albeit with minimal physical attendance in Westminister. The government took the opportunity to set out some of its priorities for the coming months, which it turns out will include starting on the roll-back of trans rights in the UK. It looks like trans kids will bear the initial brunt of their planned cruelty, but it won’t stop there.

Coronavirus – Day #36

So, birthday under Lockdown turns out to be much the same as any other birthday, but with a lot more (virtual) company.

I began the day by doing a trans history talk for a local LGBT+ group (adults this time), which was fun.

I have a fair amount of work of various sorts to do, but I decided to goof off for the day and do some baking. I don’t have a usable oven, so for Christmas I bought myself one of these (cheap in a Clark’s Village outlet store). I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to use it before today.

I decided to make scones (for cream tea) as they are fairly easy. They turned out suprisingly well for a first attempt. They were a little over-done, but machines like this are very precise and now I know to reduce the heat setting next time.

I had sport! Formula E has launched a sim series with most of the actual drivers taking part, plus a side race for other folks. It was actually the side race that interested me most as it had a combination of amateurs, profesional esports players, and young drivers hoping to break in to the big time. Charlie Martin has a seat in the Techeetah team. Sadly she didn’t do very well, but everyone is learning right now so I hope she’ll perform better in later races.

And of course there was WiFi SciFi 2. Only one panel this time, and it devolved into discussion of the writing business which is less of interest to me, but probably more what the punters want.

Next up: dinner, wine, cheese, TV or movie.

World, what world?

Coronavirus – Day #34

I needed to cook again today. I made a batch of curry that will do me for a few days, though some of it will go on hold over the weekend due to there being venison steaks in the fridge.

I’ve also put out a new free short story (see below), started on the next radio show, and done some Women’s Equality Party work. I’m mostly keeping up with the email, but I’m sure there’s stuff I need to answer.

This evening I attended Mike Carey’s virtual book launch for The Book of Koli, which is an absolutely wonderful read. I’m afraid I can’t review it, for reasons that Mike explained in the interview, but all of the reviews I have seen thus far have been very positive.

If there is an outside world, I’ve been too busy to notice.

Today on Ujima – Small Businesses in Lockdown, the Hugos

Today’s show mainly features small businesses talking about how they are coping with Lockdown.

I started with Tara from Talk to the Rainbow, a new psychotherapy service catering to members of marginalised communities. Understandably, they are in a lot of demand right now, but are having to learn to do therapy remotely.

Next up were Graham and Esmerelda from My Burrito, who seem to be doing OK on remote ordering, but are having a lot of trouble with Deliveroo. If you can order your food via a different delivery service then they, and many other restaurants, will be very grateful.

Finally I talked to Dan from Storysmith Books, who are finding that people’s interest in reading has not waned, and may even be increasing.

For the final segment of the show I had a chat with Kevin about this year’s Hugo finalists. We didn’t manage to cover all of the categories, but hopefully we will have generated some interest in the Awards. Plus it was a chance for me to point out how female-dominated they Hugos are these days.

You can find the show on the Ujima Listen Again service.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Andy Allo – Superconductor
  • Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
  • Liane La Havas – Unstoppable
  • Janelle Monáe – Tightrope (Mouche & Big Remix)
  • Chic – Good Times
  • Prince – Alphabet Street
  • Jackie Shane – Money
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection

Coronavirus – Day #32

It being two weeks since I last shopped, and with a birthday coming up, I knew I needed to brave Tesco again this week. I had originally planned to go tomorrow because I figured that the first day back after a long weekend might be a bit mad. However, I have two deliveries scheduled to arrive tomorrow, and two phone calls booked on Thursday, so today it had to be.

The car started, which was a relief. She likes the sunshine. It is only in winter that I have to run her every week or the battery goes flat.

As I expected, the store was quite a bit busier than last time I went, but the line moved very quickly. I think I was only queuing for around 15 minutes.

Most food is back in stock. There was pasta and rice. I even found a packet of disposable gloves. But there’s still no flour. Home baking FTW, I guess.

Most people were not wearing masks. I think I only saw 4 all the time I was there. Of course they are difficult to buy here, but it is in stark contrast to what I’m hearing from other countries. However, everyone was very well behaved.

There was a mountain of chocolate. Top end Easter eggs that were selling for £10 or more were on fire sale for £1 or £2 each. I may have bought several. I also have venison steak. Tomorrow I shall order more cheese from Fine Cheese Company.

The big news story here is that the government’s figures for virus deaths may be massively understated. It turns out that other European countries are including deaths in care homes in their fatality figures. The UK figures are for hospital deaths only. In France deaths in care homes make up around a third of the total deaths. So while the official government figures say that we have had around 12,000 deaths, the actual figure may be around 18,000.

Of course this is all speculation, and while the government refuses to embrace testing it is impossible to prove, but deaths in care homes are certainly happening. Also data from the Office of National Statistics is starting to become available, and we are seeing a sharp rise in deaths not attributed to the virus.

The other big story to break today is that Westminister is ordering suppliers of much needed personal protection equipment (PPE) to supply it to customers in England only, and not to accept orders from Scotland or Wales.

So much for the “United Kingdom”, eh?

We won’t forget.

Coronavirus – Day #24

Slowly but surely I am running out of urgent things to do. I might actually be able to enjoy some of that free time at home that everyone else is talking about soon. Of course there are plenty of non-urgent things, or at least slightly less-urgent things, to be doing. I’m not expecting to be bored any time soon.

Today marked the last of my near-future convention cancellations. Finncon 2020 is no more. However, the Finns have taken the decision to roll everything forward to next year. The 2020 convention has become the 2021 convention with the same location, guests and so on. There’s talk of some virtual events this summer, but I don’t suppose it would be very easy to have a virtual sauna.

This does mean that I won’t be visiting Finland at all this year, unless I make a special trip once the panic is all over. Maybe I should go in the winter. There are, after all, things to do.

The next physical trip that I have planned is to an academic convention in Germany in September. I’m keeping my paws crossed for that one.

I made a pot of chili in the slow cooker today. That will keep me fed for several days.

Coronavirus – Day #22

Today was all about Zoom again. I now have three interviews in the can for next week’s radio show, and there was the convention that I have just posted about.

The convention featured some breakout rooms in which we attendees got to chat. It was interesting to hear from people around the world who are being affected by the pandemic in different ways. The two most extreme experieneces were both from the USA. One person had been in strict quarantine for 30 days, the other said hardly anyone locally was taking self-isolation seriously.

Several people bemoaned the lack of physical contact with others, which I am not finding a problem but I totally understand. Some were happy being able to spend more time with their families, but one person reported folks on a parent chat group who just can’t cope with having the kids at home all the time.

Most people seemed to think that communities were coming together during the crisis, which is great to hear. Of course it also bepeaks a certain amount of privilege in that they must be comfortable being part of their local community. People from minority groups are often scared of their neighbours.

We spent quite a lot of time talking about the sort of fiction that might come out of this shared global experience. That too will be very varied, I suspect. Some people will find benefit in writing through the trauma. Some won’t be able to talk about it for a long time. And some will use the techniques of speculative fiction to talk about it obliquely.

Finally one piece of good news that I have noticed thanks to having it pointed out by my Finnish friend, Otto. Telephone spam has pretty much dried up. It used to be that when I worked from home I could expect 2 or 3 spam calls every day. I can’t rememeber when I last had one.

Oh, and I was sent a cake in the post. You know who you are. That was very kind of you. Thanks!

Coronavirus – Day #20

Today has been a bit crazy. Not quite as crazy as the first time The Green Man’s Heir got to be a daily deal on Amazon. You can’t really expect the same results the second time around. Not when over 10,000 of you lovely people already own the book. But very pleasing all the same. That will mean a nice chunk of cash for Juliet.

And frankly I have been so busy that I haven’t worried much about the virus today. I gather that the infection and death rates are still increasing, and that the government is making more worthless promisies to do things that we all know it has no intention of doing. Quite why Bozo wants to go down in history as the man who killed thousands of his own people is a mystery to me, but I guess someone must be paying him well.

Anyway, I cooked today. Actual spag bol. Well, technically linguine bol, but we can’t be fussy these days. It was good, even though I forgot to put any chili in.

Tomorrow I start doing interviews for next week’s radio show.

Coronavirus – Day #18

Today was a day for me to be visible, so I went out.

Well actually that wasn’t the reason. I was starting to run out of fresh food, and today was forecast to be fine weather. If I was going to have to queue to get into a grocery store I didn’t want to have to do so in the rain. So today had to be the day for the expedition.

I decided to try the big Tesco mid-afternoon. I figured it would not be too busy at that time on the Tuesday. Even so there must have been around 100 people in the store. However, it was all very smoothly marshalled. The staff were great, and everyone behaved themselves. This was a great relief after some of the stories I have been seeing on Twitter. And I only had to queue for about 10 minutes to get in.

Also the car started, which was a relief. That meant I was able to buy a lot more that I could carry.

There was plenty of food in the store. Certain things were close to unobtainable: flour, pasta and rice were all in short supply. And there are certain brands that Tesco are not stocking during the emergency. But I came away with almost everything I wanted. I even got some eggs, so there may be some baking experiments in the coming days. There was plenty of toilet paper. Not that I needed any. I don’t go through it that quickly and I have one pack of 9 in store.

Aside from that it has been a very busy day. There was all of the social media fuss over Trans Day of Visibility. There was the Unjust Cause cover reveal. And I’ve just put a new issue of Salon Futura online. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but if you are keen to read it you can find it here.

Oh, and I watched the first episode of Batwoman, which was very promising.

Coronavirus – Day #16

Today was a cooking day. I made a batch of prawn and lobster risotto. That sounds pretty posh, but actually it is a mostly storecupboard meal. It needs an onion, but they keep well. Other than that it is rice, a tin of lobster soup, some frozen prawns, and seasoning. I flung in some sherry as well. Dead easy really, unless you start cooking the risotto before defrosting the prawns, which is a bit silly. You can tell I hadn’t cooked it for a while.

I have spent most of the day recording and editing interviews for Wednesday’s radio show. I have 8 interviews altogether, from different places around the world. While most people have similar experiences of government-mandated shutdowns, attitudes towards the effectiveness of government responses vary wildly. Hopefully it will be an interesting show.

Coronavirus – Day #12

One of the interesting things about the current crisis is how quickly things have changed. Only a couple of weeks ago we were wondering whether travel would be affected. Now conventions as far out as August are being cancelled. And you can get caught out. I’ve been watching a documentary series about British Rivers on Channel 5. It is basically an excuse to do some local history of the back of the region that a major river flows through. The latest episode I watched was on the Warwickshire Avon. (There are lots of rivers called Avon in England because afon is Welsh for river, and the English are stupid.) This is the one that flows through Stratford, but it is also known for Rugby and its sport, Warwick for its castle, Leamington for its spa and several other things. The river is also prone to flooding. At the start of the show the narrator said that 2020 would be remembered as the year of terrible floods on the Avon. Ha, no mate. Nice try.

Keeping up with the pace of change has been hard for some organisations. Today I got email from Tesco to say that they have finally implemented a queuing system (with enforced separation) for getting into stores, and at checkouts, plus a rigorous cleaning regime. They’ve also cut down on the range of products they stock to make sure they have enough basic necessities. I’m not going to risk heading out there for a while though. Goodness only knows how people will be behaving.

What does seem to be working is the Internet. Today I had a long video chat with my friend Otto in Helsinki. That sort of thing is easy. Also Disney+ seems to have got through its UK launch with no capacity issues. But utility systems are complicated. We still have power, water, and connectivity, but what happens if things go wrong? I’ve just had email from my internet provider, Zen, who have been great, but they don’t own vans. If something were to go wrong on the network out in the country somewhere, it is a company called Openreach that would send an engineer to fix it. They have just announced that they can no longer keep to their advertised service level. If your internet goes down, and you are not a priority industry, then you are screwed. In theory I still have the mobile phone, but hopefully I won’t need it.

Without the Internet, of course, I would be completely cut off. I think I would probably still be OK for a while. I’m slightly boggled at the people who are getting cabin fever after a day or two of working from home. Obviously I don’t have kids, which helps a lot, but I’m used to this. I’ve been working for myself, mostly from home, since 2003. What’s more, as a trans person, I’m used to going 2 to 3 weeks over Christmas with no in-person social contact every year. In effect I have been training for this for a long time.