Covid Track

    This is one of our local parks. Look at that desire-line track, fading into the distance (click or tap on the picture to see it bigger).

    A footpath worn in grass across a park.
    A path made by many people, avoiding each other

    The paved footpath is off to the right. That track – a simple, direct route, that avoids the footpath – wasn’t there a year ago. The novel coronavirus changes the landscape.

    Last night’s pizza: the wee tables in the box were triangular! I’ve never seen the like.

    Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'
    Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'

    This is the least rustic-looking bread I’ve ever baked.

    Two loaves of surprisingly-professional-looking homemade bread on a wire cooling rack
    Some surprisingly-professional-looking homemade bread

    This street sign in Hackney today represents the times we live in.

    Electronic street sign showing question marks
    Electronic street sign showing question marks

    How I prepare to go out on days like these.

    Masked, Hatted, Shaded

    Lying Sack

    Nice to see the gentle description of Mary Wakefield in Wikipedia this morning:

    The start of Mary Wakefield's Wikipedia entry, this morning

    In case you don’t know, Wakefield is married to Dominic Cummings. She works for The Spectator, and wrote the now-famous piece about her and Cummings’s experience suffering from Covid-19. All without mentioning their drive across the country.

    Hence the delightful opening – now removed, predictably – in Wikipedia, describing her as “a lying sack of potatoes”.

    Homemade Rolls

    Not to blow my own trumpet, but I made these rolls today. They are the closest thing I’ve ever had this side of Scotland to the rolls I grew up with.

    My New Rolls

    I used this recipe that was published in The Scotsman. It involves overnight fermentation in the fridge, and the trick to getting the crispy outside is coating them with a mixture of plain flour and rice flour before baking.

    Main problem is 500g of flour makes only eight rolls! And it’s kinda hard to get bread flour at the moment.

    Just been for a bike ride. I think I’ve forgotten how my legs work.

    Lots of people out, mostly keeping their distance.

    Down to the Olympic Park. Nice view of the Orbit.

    Venturing Out: A Status Report from Hackney

    I had cause to go to Westfield in Stratford the other day. It looked like this at about noon:

    IMG 3608

    The Levis shop was open. I was picking up some jeans that had been in for repair. That’s a good note for when this is all over, incidentally. If your Levis wear into holes or get torn, most of their shops offer a repair service now. They may have done for years; I only learned about it a month or so back. But it means that for significantly less than a new pair of jeans, I have two good-as-new pairs, including the ones which were already my favourites. One antidote to fast fashion.

    There was almost no-one around, and no-one was getting very close to anyone. In Lakeland I was able to get a refill (really, replacement) for one of our SodaStream CO2 cylinders. But they didn’t have any new ones. It seems unlikely that those have been panic-bought, but I was thinking of getting an extra one in case it becomes hard to get replacements, so others might have been ahead of me.

    In and out within half an hour, and the parking was the least I’ve ever paid at Westfield: £3. I wouldn’t normally drive if I wasn’t buying much, but getting on the Overground would have been the opposite of social distancing.

    Or maybe not, if it had been as empty as the mall.

    But just yesterday I gave my daughter a lift to a friend’s house — same idea, avoid the bus — and up in Stamford Hill at around 4:30pm it was really busy with pedestrians. A lot of cars on the road, too. Maybe that was normal or less than, for that time on a Tuesday, though.

    Dropped into the wee Sainsbury’s on the way back. No fresh fruit or veg at all. Most tinned goods and bread gone — no toilet rolls, obviously — plenty of snacks and crisps, surprisingly. Either panic-buyers prefer healthy options, or Sainsbury’s are quicker at getting unhealthy supplies back.

    I have to confess to feeling a small amount of smugness at having stocked up over the last year or so. Brexit was the initial trigger, but I soon realised that having a supply of non-perishable items is actually pretty useful. If you can afford to buy a bit extra from time to time, and you’ve got the space to store it all, of course.

    On the other hand, meals are going to get dull really fast without a regular supply of fresh things.

    But if that’s the most we have to worry about, we’re doing better than many. I hope you are coping OK, dear reader.

    The Clash On Display

    Paul Simenon’s Smashed Bas
    Paul Simenon’s Smashed Bass

    My favourite band have become a museum piece.

    Or at least, some of their instruments, clothing, lyrics, and memorabilia are in an exhibition which the Museum of London1 has been running since the fortieth anniversary of London Calling in December. I popped along today.

    Clash Shirts and Guitars
    Clash Shirts and Guitars

    It’s small, but pretty good. The centrepiece is Paul Simenon’s smashed bass from the famous cover photo. It lies under glass on a red velvet cushion, like a fallen warrior lying in state (see above).

    It’s actually kind of gruesome. “That’s no way to treat an expensive musical instrument,” as someone once said.

    Joe Strummer’s White Telecaster
    Joe Strummer’s White Telecaster

    I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, I don’t think. Except maybe that Joe had a backup white Telecaster, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him use, either live, in video, or in photos. His iconic black one is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, I believe. Or another museum.

    Oh, and see the poster in that shot? “Two for a fiver”? When I bought London Calling it was only £3.99. Both times, as I’ve written about before.

    Anyway, worth checking out, especially since it’s free. My main complaint: there are a lot of songs that could have been playing, even if they kept it to the relevant album. Instead they had a loop of just three (“London Calling,” “Train in Vain,” and “Clampdown,” the latter two live versions).

    Big Display of the London Calling cover
    Big Display of the London Calling cover

    1. Which I had never before visited, in thirty-two years living here. 

    Glen Matlock Remembers How to Rock, but Nearly Forgets the Songs That Put Him Where He Is

    Glen Matlock doesn’t seem to have much time for the past, except the past as he sees it. Cover versions of the New York Dolls, or one or other size of The Faces, are fine. But the songs that he co-wrote? The songs that are responsible for what fame he has — for 200 people being out on a cold, virus-infested night, to see him?

    Those songs — that single song, in fact 1 — is relegated to the encore.

    Glen Matlock and his band at the Red Lion Ballroom in Leytonstone
    Glen Matlock and his band at the Red Lion Ballroom in Leytonstone

    There’s nothing wrong with keeping your best-known songs for the encore, of course. But when the ticket site said “Curfew: 10:30,” and it’s 10:27 and there hasn’t been a single Pistols song, you can start to get a bit twitchy.

    On the plus side, he did introduce “Pretty Vacant” by saying, “This is ‘SOS’,” referring to his borrowing of the intro riff from the Abba song.

    It was a good night, though. His originals and the covers were all fine. It’s just that, if you heard a no-name pub band playing those songs — well, you wouldn’t bother going out specially for it.

    The night was billed as “Glen Matlock + Earl Slick.” I’m embarrassed to admit I had to look up who Slick was. Turns out he only replaced Mick Ronson in Bowie’s band, and worked with John & Yoko! And now he’s playing lead guitar in Glen Matlock’s band. Oh well.

    1. There’s no point in asking what that is. You’ll get no reply. 

    At the Red Lion in Leytonstone, where Glen Matlock is playing tonight. It’s… not busy.

    FotoFebruary, as some on are calling the February Photoblogging Challenge. Day 1 theme: Open.

    Why not join and take part?

    JetBrains Mono: Equal or Not

    I just installed the JetBrains Mono font. We programmers need monospaced fonts, and this is a very nice one. It comes installed with recent versions of JetBrains’s IDEs. My copy of IntelliJ was not recent, it turned out.

    Anyway, the most interesting thing is ligatures for programmers. Take a look at this:

    Screenshot 2020 01 19 at 23 25 11

    You see that “not equals” sign? The crossed-out equals that we were taught to write back in secondary school? That’s not a character in any normal ASCII typeface. Plus, this is Java: even if it were a character (there is a Unicode character for that symbol), it’s not part of the language. The compiler wouldn’t recognise it.

    What that actually is is the standard not-equals of C-based languages: !=. But the font has detected it and replaced it with the more attractive and traditional symbol.

    It’s a setting you can disable, and I’m not sure I’ll keep it that way, but it’s impressive and unusual.


    Hi Five

    Christmas Day by the Lea (or Lee)

    It’s our family custom on Christmas Day to go for a walk down by the River Lea (usually shown on maps with the addition “or Lee”, as both spellings have been used historically). Often it’s been cold and dreich and we’ve seen almost no-one. Two days ago it was a gorgeous sunny day, and there were hundreds of people out.

    And some boats were moving:

    Boat on the Lea 1 Christmas 2019

    While others were just parked:

    Boat on the Lea 2 Christmas 2019

    And this is us; Frances, me, and our two young adults, who don’t normally like to be photographed, and who have never appeared here before:

    Family Christmas 2019

    Why is it two different temperatures at the same time in London?

    Where, and in what direction, am I meant to slide? Because I can’t get past this screen in the iPhone camera app “Manual.”

    Dan Baird & Crimes Against Typography.

    I’ve been in Parliament Square more times in the last few months than previously in my life. Back again tonight.

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