What did you do in lockdown?
I wish I had a pound for every time someone asked me “how have you been affected by COVID-19” or even “have you been affected by COVID-19?” I am not an avid news reader but even I have been keeping up with events, although I have also heard many people referring to a phenomenon called “box sets” and another called “streaming” but I haven’t witnessed either myself to confirm they exist. I remarked to someone earlier this week, that I don’t know how I found time to travel up to London to the Information Technologists’ Livery Hall, or to spend time catching up with friends for a beer or two. Back to the point, the following is a brief account of my lockdown experience.
Just keep walking, walking, walking…
When lockdown started I thought it might be an opportunity to catch up on a backlog but as a primary carer for my daughter, care duties come first. This included getting out for a walk every day – rain or shine (fortunately, mostly shine). What started as a short walk around the local park developed rapidly into a daily five to eight mile walk up and down hills around local parks and woods and an opportunity to gain a positive outcome while engulfed in negatively charged world.
Last week I crossed the milestone of walking a million steps since 26 March 2020 pushing my daughter Karen in her wheelchair. To put that in perspective, that is a distance of just under 500 miles and, according to my Pacer app, 47,352 Calories and I’ve dropped two stone. One of my less than kind friends said the only reason I achieved this is because the pubs are closed. Some people can be so cruel!
One Volunteer is Worth Ten Pressed Men
We launched the Positive Transformation Initiative in April. PTI supports social mobility, diversity and accelerated opportunity creation to facilitate better futures for returning citizens, young people from tough realities and veterans. PTI is a vehicle for impact through collaboration by enabling access to funding, resources & connections to create opportunities for all, including the business members of PTI and their supply chain. I have been actively involved throughout lockdown in developing the network and engaging with charities in need of strategic support. This is a very exciting initiative, more so because no money passes through PTI, it is run entirely by volunteers and the world needs PTI now more than ever before.
It has also been a very busy time for the IT Livery Company too. The charities and causes we work with need all the help they get. Charities I work with are supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society where local authority services are no longer available. The majority of our population will go back to whatever the near normal is in the future while many of the service users of the charities I work with live extremely tough lives regardless of the pandemic, some of the service users of the homelessness charities we support are living better lives since being moved into hotels. We will do what we can to maintain and enhance the positives that have come out of COVID-19 while learning from the negatives.
While on the subject of volunteering, I have heard several people comment that when the COVID-19 crisis is over we will be judged by our actions during the pandemic. I appreciate the sentiment behind this but I know many people who volunteer a great deal of their time to help others. Many regular volunteers have been unable to get involved in the “headline” volunteering throughout the pandemic due to their personal situations. Volunteers provide incredibly valuable services and always have done, mostly under the radar. No one has the right to judge anyone else, but especially in times such as these.
Technology is Best When it Brings People Together
My favourite technology quote by Matt Mullenweg, developer of WordPress. Much of my days are being taken up on Zoom/Team/Google Meet calls – three or four a day. It is great to see how our industry has enabled many organisations to advance their digital strategies by years – including many charities and the armed services. The public network appears to have coped reasonably well with the majority of network traffic shifting from corporate services over to domestic broadband. My Livery colleagues and I have been making full use of Teams and Zoom to maintain the fellowship aspect of our Livery Company organising a number of virtual events, including: virtual pubs, virtual wine tasting, virtual gin tasting, virtual quizzes, virtual dinners, a talk on mental health at work and even a talk entitled “The Black Death in London 1348-1349”.
Many peoples lives and mental health have depended on video calls throughout lockdown, and with NHS hospitals being off limits to visitors, many sadly, had their last contact with their family members on video calls. Our industry and the government still have much to do to deliver good quality broadband across the UK. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely secured the case for high-speed, reliable broadband to every residential property and for broadband to officially become the fourth utility.
A Little Light Music Relief
With everything going on, especially dropping back into seven days a week care duties I did manage to spend a bit more time than usual on my favourite hobby, songwriting. With the exception of one song I co-wrote in 2018 I hadn’t spent any time songwriting since 2004. For some reason that escapes me now, I got involved in a debate about what we call the batter bits that are left over from frying fish in a fish and chip shop. The latter conversation was with our own Jo Hage and that last conversation resulted in us co-writing the anthem for National Fish & Chip Day, which was due on 5 June and is now on 4 September.
Jo and I have since co-written three more songs and I managed to finish writing, recording and producing two others, one of them I started 20 years ago and was never happy with it until I was asked to provide a demo video for a Livery Lockdown Video Competition my Livery are running. That led to the completion of The Simple Things.
The songwriting has certainly maintained my sense of perspective throughout the COVID-19 crisis so getting back into it was perfect timing.
On May 4, Barry Burton, an old friend of mine and Rob’s lost his fight to COVID-19 after five weeks in intensive care. Barry and I were Post Office Telecoms apprentices starting out in this industry in 1973. Barry was the kindest and most generous person and the best engineer I ever new. He would help anyone and he would turn his hand to anything. In the early days of Astro, before the standards that we enjoy today were developed, the systems we installed were bespoke and typically needed patch panels, service boxes and custom electronics built for each project. Barry designed and built the systems for us in his workshop, enabling us to take on some projects that would otherwise have not been accessible to us. RIP Barry, you will be missed but never forgotten.
Bespoke hardware designed and built by Barry Burton in 1985