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w/e 2022-12-12

An eight-day week because we’ve been in London and Essex until today. I’ve slept in five different beds over the past week and it’s nice to be home.

In London we stayed for two nights at a swanky (for us) hotel courtesy of Mary’s employer, the “Canopy by Hilton London City”. You can hear the brainstorming session for the new sub-brand: “‘lodging’?” “how about ‘haven’?” “ooh… ‘canopy’?!”

Stepping into the hotel room I had a surprise because I felt a hard floor under my shoe. Then I was surprised that this was surprising, but it hadn’t occurred to me that even though wooden floors are common in homes these days, every hotel I’ve ever stayed in had a carpet.

A photo of a corner of a hotel room. Light wooden floor. A spare wooden desk with a chair made of wood and light fabric. A round pink, wooden-legged armchair. A small brass side table. Two brass lamps. A dark wooden wall fixture containing the TV and various small objects in cubby holes.

In fact this was the first hotel I’ve stayed in that had been all mid-century-moderned, 2020s style. The herringbone pattern wood floor, the “Scandinavian” wooden furniture, the brass-colour metal lamps and fittings, the Ladderax-like shelf/rail/drawer unit, the wooden unit on the wall with “art and curios” displayed in compartments around the TV. This continued in the lobby, only with more green house plants in white pots.

I like it! I just feel uneasy that a taste I’ve grown up with is now in a new trendy(?) hotel, as well as the lobbies of various new City office buildings I’ve walked past.

Despite that fanciness, the in-room TV still only had the basic Freeview channels. While you could, in theory, use Chromecast to watch something more bespoke on it, their Chromecast configuration page only displayed an internal server error. Some things just can’t be improved.

While Mary was working I had a nice couple of days walking and busing around London. So good. I love it. The bustle, the interesting people, so much happening.

I’d thought about going to some exhibitions but, well, couldn’t be bothered, apart from the Bill Brandt exhibition at Tate Britain, which was small but good. I’d have liked to see more examples of how he altered his photos during development.

I wandered round Battersea Power Station and was surprised how many shop units were still empty after the grand opening. I quite liked the inside – big, bare, simple, like the Tate Modern’s turbine hall with added shops.

Between those two I realised I was close by Churchill Gardens, one of the most successful post-war council housing estates, which I’ve often read about but never seen, so I had a quick wander round. The open spaces between buildings were smaller than I expected, making it much denser, which isn’t worse, just different from tower blocks separated by large wind-swept expanses.

I also felt I should have arranged to see more friends but I rarely manage much of that, slightly reluctant to inflict myself on too many people. But I saw some friends for breakfast (many laughs), another for coffee, and happened to bump in to one as I left 40 Maltby Street after an early solo dinner (very tasty). I also toured various second-hand bookshops, one of the best ways to pass the time.

From there it was a couple of days at my parents’ in Essex as the days became frostier, and then a meal with the in-law family and another, more traditionally-styled, hotel.

And now we’re back home in the quiet of chilly, but not yet particularly snowy, Herefordshire.

Touch wood I didn’t catch covid. I just don’t know any more what I should be doing, because mask-wearing has dropped even further. I feel like I’m one of the few hold-outs in a mass social conformity experiment. “It’s fascinating, even though we’ve made everyone else remove their masks, this subject continues to wear his, totally resisting the urge to conform!”

Well, not totally – I’m wearing it less often. On public transport and in small shops or public toilets. Usually I’m the only person. Like, I’d estimate 2% of people on the London Underground wear a mask. In other, bigger, spaces – supermarkets, or today’s motorway service station – I guess I now conform and usually don’t bother? Yet at those times I feel a dread stalking the place. If not actually Death himself these days, then one of his lesser minions. I don’t fear the few days of flu-like symptoms but I do fear the random chance of potentially life-changing long covid effects. But, no, it’s all fine! Conform!

Right, that’s all for now. Lots to do before Christmas.

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  1. You and me both on the masks, and feeling like some strange rebel, attracting stares. I'm staying masked in indoor places unless it's a v brief visit to a v well ventilated setting, although it's my 'no indoor restaurants' that seems the weirdest line to draw these days. But I know too many folks in my demographic with long Covid (even from recent post-vaccine infections) and given, waves arms, the current state of the world and health and social care, it seems worth a little effort to try avoiding that.

  2. I sympathize on the masking front. One interesting part has been seeing mask-ambivalent people put theirs on after seeing me wearing mine, as if they just needed a tiny bit of encouragement to withstand the peer pressure to go maskless.

    Early 2022 was when many family members and friends started getting sick for the first time, and some of the remaining holdouts have tested positive in the last few weeks, so we're more motivated than ever to continue masking indoors. Dining remains the biggest challenge, but we've managed to resist the temptation so far by either finding outdoor options or taking food to-go.