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w/e 2020-03-22

Hello out there.

§ When we moved here, to a sparsely-populated rural area, we assumed it would be difficult to meet people, but we didn’t expect it to suddenly become physically impossible. Despite our chances of ever “fitting in” having rapidly diminished we’re still very fortunate and grateful to be here – it’s about as comfortable a place to socially isolate as we could hope for. Given we were already both working from home, and have no children to look after, little has changed aside from canceling a few trips and going out even less often.

Consequently we feel very distanced from what’s happening in busier places. This feeling reminds me of when Princess Diana died and I was at Burning Man and then in San Francisco: Oh dear, that’s terrible, she died, well, let’s get on with the holiday. I had no idea that Britain was collectively reacting very differently, and would feel very different when I returned. Obviously the parallels aren’t exact but I still have a similar feeling of dislocation from what I still think of as life “back home” in London.

Photo of a field with long shadows, and some sheep in the foreground

Before getting here I wondered how to keep in touch with people back in London, or even meet new people there, and I thought about using Hangouts, or Zoom, or whatever, to have regular or ad-hoc chats – not meetings – with friends and strangers. It sounded like a good idea but it seemed like a weird thing to mention, and would no doubt be awkward in practice, and I couldn’t bring myself to try it.

Now, within the space of a week or two, holding random video chats with people is standard. So, despite everyone hunkering down at home, this week has, in a way, been the most sociable for me since we arrived here. Now that we’re all apart from each other, the weird is normal. I’ve had video chats with friends and watched a gig on Instagram, with the artists playing from their own homes. I know this is a difficult time, and we have it very lucky here, and I expect our situation to get worse before it gets better, but this has been a lovely and sociable isolation.

§ I have spent too much money on Bandcamp this week, under the guise of supporting artists who have had tours cancelled. This includes a bunch of EPs by ME REX who I saw perform last year and never got round to following up on, despite liking the music. Here’s their most recent single:

And then I’d just bought a 2016 album by Randolph’s Leap when they released You Can’t Put the Brakes on Love which Adam Ross recorded over four days in self-isolation, and includes some songs on that theme.

I also bought a tea towel.

§ Having dismissed all those “how to work from home” tips last week here is a brilliant one:

Molly Tolsky @mollytolsky
Pro-tip for couples suddenly working from home together: Get yourselves an imaginary coworker to blame things on. In our apartment, Cheryl keeps leaving her dirty water cups all over the place and we really don’t know what to do about her.

An image with instructions for washing hands, each step featuring a few lyrics from the song

§ I generated one of those Wash Your Lyrics hand-washing-to-songs-guides based on The Spook School’s Bad Year and, despite the song’s supportive tone, the initial lyrics in this context were so depressing I couldn’t bear to share the image on Twitter.

§ I assume that us introverts are going to be coping better with [waves hands] all this than extroverts. Imagine, if you can cope with the horror, a killer virus that can only be kept at bay by constantly making conversation with strangers. Shudder.

§ Via the invaluable FaveJet I found this tweet by Sarah Pavis about walking tour YouTube channels, which I’d never come across before and which are excellent, calming background viewing. First-person views of walking around different places, mostly cities. It’s a bit like putting a stress-free, first-person video game into a mode where it can wander around, or like the San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam (minus the deer).

Here are her recommendations, with comments, in case the tweets vanish:

  • Rambalac
    “my fav walking tour youtuber. no music, narration, vlogging, or sharp cuts. he’s a russian guy living in tokyo & he walks around both japanese cities and the countryside and posts long vids (30min-3hr)”

  • ActionKid
    “a great walking youtuber who gives a lot of info about his routes. he does medium length vids (mostly ~30min, some longer or shorter). i think he lives in nyc and has family in taiwan so he does vids for both places.”

  • Wind Walk Travel Videos
    “med-long vids (30-60min) usually in daytime in nice weather from popular locations all over the world. i’m not sure if it’s one person who travels a lot or multiple ppl filming vids.”

  • Watched Walker
    “does mostly videos in london where he lives. most of his videos are pure walking videos with the only audio being city noises, but sometimes he does narrated videos which is nice if you want to learn more about the city.”

  • 4K Urban Life
    “has some of the most high quality videos but i don’t love their style (they often have music and quick cuts) but they have some amazing long vids (>60min) that are more of pure walking videos. this vid is from tuscany italy”

  • Lazy Tourist
    “mostly videos from thailand, mostly medium length vids (20-40min) from street food markets (which i love)”

  • Bangkok69
    “has interesting walking tour videos of bangkok but they all have background music (which i’m sure many ppl like or don’t mind, i’m not a fan of bgm)”

  • Nomadic Ambience
    “has both city and nature vids & lots of vids with interesting weather/soundscapes.”

That is a lot of reappropriating of content, but these days I’m assuming Twitter is a transient thing and this list seems worth capturing.

I guess these videos, full of streets busy with people, suddenly seem a bit like “artifacts from Before”…

§ That’s all. I’ll see you at the end of the next month-long week. Take care.

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