Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Coronavirus diaries: day 10

A closed playground

We are still well. This morning I could hear my wife coughing, and it occurred to me that she could have the virus (I'd always assumed that I would get it first, as I have asthma, and am susceptible to the flu generally). She was fine, and just needed a drink of water.

This is one of the problems I'm finding with the virus: every time you have a cough, or feel unaccountably tired, you wonder 'am I sick?'. Oddly, it seems worse when I am in the house all day. Towards the end of the day, my throat feels dry (could it be the exposure to all the cleaning chemicals we use?), and I'm sometimes fatigued. Usually, this dissipates once I'm outside exercising.


On a video call with work seven work colleagues, it emerged that two of them had isolated with symptoms that could have been the virus. They were o.k. now.

A third colleague indicated that his wife had had the virus. She had a fever and cough, the hallmarks of the infection in the evening. She'd ask my colleague to make sure that he loaded the bread maker the night before to make a loaf for the morning. In the morning, she complained to him that he'd forgotten to make the bread, as she could not smell it. However, he had not forgotten, and the whole house smelled of freshly baked bread.

Obviously, seven is a small sample, but it does suggest that the virus is widespread. They are only able to test hospitalised patients at the moment, and front-line medical staff (and not even many of these), so the official numbers are vast underestimates of the true spread. To their credit, the authorities have acknowledged this.


I've developed a habit of tuning into the daily coronavirus briefings by the government, if I'm available. Today there was a jump in deaths - 538 new fatalities.


In the evening I felt myself coughing a bit. I felt well, and went out for my daily run. This usually reveals if anything is truly wrong. Admittedly, I did feel tired at the start of the run, but after a handful of miles, as usual, I felt fine.

It hasn't rained for almost two weeks, so the ground is finally drying out, and the trails are good for running. A side benefit of our smaller world is that there's the chance to pay more attention to one's local surroundings. This evening, for example, I noticed that the trees along my path had an orange lichen (which I know know is called alga Trentopohlia).

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Coronavirus diaries: day 7

The motorway was really quiet this morning.

The latest news is that the infection is expected to peak here in Scotland in two to three weeks, and that we should expect that the stay-at-home restrictions will continue for 13 weeks.

Like a marathon, I'm not thinking about the whole duration. I'm just focusing on each week as it comes.

And as this week has come to a finish, it is striking how long it seems. It seems like a long time ago when the restrictions on movement were made, though it was only Monday. Life seems to have slowed down, and this in some ways in pleasant.

I also have this sense that as long as I stay home I will not get sick. So, it's not quite as tedious as might be imagined.

Also, of course, we have access to a lot in our online world. Imagine if the pandemic had struck in the pre-internet world.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Coronavirus diaries: days 3-6

A little low on wine today at my local grocery store

Day 3

The restriction to one exercise outing a day has focussed my running. I know I can only get out once, and this will be the majority of my outside time for the day, so I want to make it count. Thus, I've been trying to do about 10 miles a day. This also will help me to achieve one of my pre-coronavirus goals: running 100 miles in a week.

Day 4

Taught my first class on-line today. There were a few technical hitches - one of my videos didn't work - but overall it went well. Actually, with students asking questions on the chat function at the same time I was live-streaming, it felt interactive.


Late in the day, the University cancelled exams for the students. I suspect my on-line classes going forward will now only be attended by the keenest students.

Day 5

I reasoned that the grocery store would be less busy today (Friday) than on the weekend, so my son and I headed out there. There were several changes since my last visit. First, the controlled the number of people in the store by having people line up outside, spaced apart. They then only let a few people in at a time.

Waiting to enter the grocery store

Inside the store, people were keeping their distance from one another. One woman was wearing a mask. The shop was reasonably well-stocked, and my son and I picked up food for the week. The wine aisle, however, was depleted.

To check out, we again were required to get in a single-file line. This wrapped around the perimeter of the aisles. My son and I took turns waiting in line while we added our final items to the cart.

The check out line


My runs are starting to feel less effortful. As I do much the same loop, it is starting to become automatic, so that the time passes relatively quickly. I passed 26 people on the run.


The Prime Minister has the coronavirus, it has emerged.

Day 6

I want to start doing my runs in the morning, and this has been a little difficult because I've been running in the evening, and I'm thus tired the next day. To break out of this I ran this morning (after dropping my daughter off to work at the bakery). My legs were tired initially, but the sun was warming and I used the outing to try a different route. I still passed 38 people, many of whom were dog walkers nearer my town.

I've been running on quiet farm roads

Friday, 27 March 2020

Coronavirus diaries: Day 2

I was up early, and headed out for a run before 7 a.m. My route takes me along isolated farm roads, and then along a canal towpath back into town. I didn't pass anyone for the first hour of the run, and then passed 12 people - individual dog walkers or runners - along the towpath and nearer my neighborhood.

And that was it. I was inside, working via my computer, for the rest of the day.


After lunch I received a text message from the government, reinforcing Boris Johnson's statement that we are to stay at home.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Coronavirus diaries: day 1

At a nearby grocery store

The purpose of these diaries is to document the every day changes that occur during the coronavirus pandemic. I'm motivated by Victor Klemperer's Diaries in which he documented the day to day changes occurring in Nazi Germany. I'm not equating the two, of course, but I think it's important to notice the small details in the way our lives are changing, as cumulatively, they will lead us to a different place.


Today was essentially the first day, of the first full week, of limits on non-essential travel. My two teenagers are off of school, and I tried to introduce a structure with a 9 a.m. family meeting - essentially just to get everyone up, dressed and active. I'm thinking that we are in for the long haul, so having a daily structure is important.

At this point, we are all healthy. I do know of two work colleagues who indicated that they were currently or had been down with a fever, and feared coronavirus. But to this point, the virus has not affected us directly.

I worked at my computer this morning, and in the afternoon I dropped off the lawn mower at the repair shop. As I was out, I went to the grocery store in a nearby town. It's a superstore, but there were only a few people shopping. On the P.A. system, they announced the shopping limits: shoppers were allowed no more than three of any one item, and two of restricted items.

The store had some items that our local grocery store did not have - and I was able to get three tins of tomato soup (which we are going through quickly, as we are now all home for lunch every day). I was also able to buy beer, which had recently become almost sold out locally when they'd announced that pubs were to close. There was one battered 12 pack of McKewans Export remaining, so I took this, and some bottles of craft ales.

Walking past the toilet roll aisle, I noticed that the shelves were largely bare.

At the checkout, I was only permitted to buy two bottles of the same beer, and thus had to put my third bottle back. I was able to buy any number of different beers, however.

On the drive home I listened to a press briefing in which they again discussed the coronavirus outbreak.


At 8:30 in the evening, we sat in the living room and watched Boris Johnson's special announcement. I feared that we'd be restricted from getting out to exercise at all, but fortunately he announced that individuals could go out once a day to walk, run or cycle. All non-essential businesses are to close.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

November camping: 15 hours inside a tent

A wet camp

My son and I were in the Ochils, not far from where we live, for our November camp. We were going for his camp-once-a-month-for-a-year challenge. This was his 11th month.

But life is busy. He had a rugby match in the morning, I did Parkrun, and by the time we'd had lunch and packed up, it was early afternoon.

We headed up past Stirling, and stopped at the Dunblane Marks and Spencer for pastries and snacks. We then headed up into the Ochils, parked at the side of the Sheriffmuir road, and walked in to an informal camp in the trees. There's a little sign there indicating that the camp is called 'Camp Runamuck', and a picnic table and fire ring.

At 4:30, we got in the the tent to escape from the rain. I'd brought in some kindling for a camp fire, and put it under the picnic table. Unfortunately, it wasn't a night for a fire.

The weather forecast, at least as far as I could recall it, had indicated that it would be partly sunny with a low chance of rain.

However, shortly after we'd set up the tent, the first rain drops started to fall. It strengthened, and rained for hours. Even in the middle of the night when I awoke, I could hear heavy drops on the tent fly. In the morning, the rain was intermittent, and finally paused.

It was a little chilly with the wind, so we ended up in our bags. We continued a book that I'd been reading to my son - Natural Born Heroes - which describes a WWII mission to kidnap a German general on Crete. The story is compelling, and the author includes quite a number of digressions, so we've been reading on and off now for about a year.

Later, still in the rain, I warmed some bacon in the tent vestibule (with the vestibule door open, of course). The warmed bacon butties were welcome, and somehow tasted better than at home.

We played Risk on my kindle. We were both a little tired, and after 8 p.m. turned in.

The rain continued all night.

In the morning, finally, the rain eased a bit. There was a little water on the tent floor where the fly didn't quite cover the tent, but otherwise my old tent held up well again. With our inflatable Therma-rests, our sleeping bags escaped the moisture.

There was an inversion, and the valley below was still in cloud.

Mist in the morning, after a rainy night

We bundled up and headed into the hills. We ticked off another Ochil (we're trying to do them all). The hill was a broad peat bog, and the route was cross country, but it was good to get out. We headed back to camp and packed up.

And that was it. We'd been tent-bound from 4:30 p.m. until about 8 in the morning, except for pee breaks. One forgets how long the nights are at this time of year, but it's also a time for relaxing and enjoying being tent-bound in the rain.

Monday, 5 November 2018

The Great Outdoors Challenge: Shiel Bridge to Montrose (part 5)

Glen Muick

Day 9

I was awoken by the footsteps of two hillwalkers, passing near my tent at 6 a.m. They'd must have had an early start, as I was a few miles from the nearest road.

I packed, brewed my coffee, ate and headed down the track towards Glen Muick. The track led through a pleasant forest and past a large house. Glen Muick was flat, and featured many deer. I headed past the car park at the Spittal of Glenmuick, and its useful facilities, and then along a stream into the hills. Near the Glen, there appeared to be a number of ruins, presumably from a previous village. It was warm, again, and I started to sweat a bit with my trousers on.

At the head of the stream the path faded, and I navigated by compass. I was aiming for the Shielin of Mark bothy, and emerged from the peat haggs about 200 meters to the left of structure. There was smoke coming from the fireplace there, and I could see people outside, so I headed over.

A mother and her adult daughter had spent the night in the bothy, along with a male work colleague. The latter two worked at the same outdoors shop, and asked me about what I was carrying. They were friendly, and made me a cup of real coffee, and shared a few granola bars. The man had gone with a pretty light sleeping bag, and had been cold in the night.

Eventually, I headed off up to the ridge of Muckle Cairn. From there I headed downhill and cross-country to a track.

I descended down into Glen Lee, and followed the track along the river. My left leg, sore since the big day into Braemar, continued to be an annoyance. The wind was gusty here, but I eventually emerged near Loch Lee. In a hill nearby there was smoke from a fire. It seemed unlikely to be deliberate, as it was on a steep portion of of this mountain.

A fire in the hills (Craig Nann) near Loch Lee

I listened to a backpacking podcast as I followed the track along Loch Lee. Beyond it I followed a road past the ruins of a 16th-17th century castle, and along the water of Lee. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, and a lot of day walkers were out.

Invermark Castle, near Loch Lee

I left the road and headed along a farm track that goes over a hill and directly to Tarfside. I'd taken this route before, as it cuts off a stretch of road, but coming at the end of a long day it felt tiring (as it had when I did it previously).

I arrived at Tarfside, and checked in to St. Drostans, where I was to spend the night.

Pack explosion in my dorm room at St. Drostans

I showered and then joined the volunteers and a few Challengers in the kitchen for a welcome home-cooked dinner (fish pie!) and a beer or two. Over the walk, I'd been accustomed to eating a bit lighter, typically ramen noodles or equivalent for dinner, so the dinner felt like a vast amount of food. It was great to meet and chat with the legendary Roger Smith, involved in the Challenge since its inception, and the first editor of The Great Outdoors magazine.

Day 10

I had a bacon butty and some coffee early, settled up, and then head up the road. I listened to a history podcast - The Memory Palace - as I crossed the river and followed farm tracks through the Glen.

12 miles to Edzell, and then another 12 to the finish in Montrose

There was, again, a headwind, but the walking was otherwise easy.

On the track through Glen Esk

My lower leg was now an issue. It was particularly painful on any downhills, where I almost had to hobble. I did my usual 55 minute walk/ 5 minute rest, but I was concerned. It would have been gutting to come this far and not finish.

In Edzell, I stopped at The Tuck Inn for lunch. Afterwards, I found a elastic type wrap for my leg, and wrapped it up tightly. This, and some ibuprofen, seemed to help.

Looking back at Edzell

I pressed on, hobbling across the A90 and up along the minor roads.

Almost there!

It was a full day of walking, but in the late afternoon I eventually reached the Montrose basin.

The finish!

I made my way through town, and to the Park Inn to Challenge Control. There I was presented with my finishing certificate and a welcome cup of tea.

And that was it. I hobbled to the train station, and boarded a train home.

Did I learn anything this year? See:

Five lessons learned from the TGO Challenge