It’s been a week since I restarted this diary so I figure it is time to write another entry. Not that I have much to report apart from near-terminal boredom.
I’ve found a new way to pass the time by watching live webcams on YouTube from around the world, flicking between them randomly. It’s like setting off on a journey without a map or destination.
As I write I am also keeping an eye on a webcam at a bison watering hole in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. I have yet to see bison but yesterday a lone coyote decided to have a nap right in front of the camera.
But mostly I click through urban ones, some in places I have lived, some in places I have visited, some in places I would love to see, and some I know I will never set foot in.
Yet even this virtual form of escapism offers no escape from the Covid-19 pandemic. I see so many places where streets that would normally be bustling with people are all but empty: outside the Central Station in Amsterdam, the Las Vegas Strip and even Times Square. It can get quite depressing so I quickly return to places with beautiful scenery, like a view of the Tetons, or along the Mississippi River.
It’s also a good way to take your mind off the idiot who lives here.
When I quit writing my Lockdown Diary five months ago I didn’t think I would be starting it up again. But here we are a week into the UK’s second lockdown, and we have recorded the highest number positive cases in a single day, 33,470, since the start of the pandemic. Yesterday there were 595 deaths, and that number is expected to rise and rise.
So what’s new, or what’s changed since my last entry on 11 June? Not a whole hell of a lot. I finally got a haircut a few months ago along with the rest of the country. I still haven’t worked since 31 March and have just been furloughed again so won’t work again before the end of the year, and it is quite possible I will go an entire year without working.
Charlie came home for a few days just before this lockdown was announced so now he is staying here probably through Christmas. All of his seminars and lectures were already online anyway. But it’s just like in March when he came hime for a weekend and ended up being home for six months.
Fortuantely, he seems to be handling this situation better than me. I feel numb, bored, fed up and yet somehow hopeful that there is a tiny light flickering at the end of the tunnel. Progress on a vaccine is encouraging, but it is going to take a long time to roll out. The government said it was planning to start vaccinating 5,000 people a day. At that rate the entire population of the UK won’t be vaccinated until June 2058.
But it’s not all bad news. Joe Biden is going to be the next US president whether Donald Trump likes it or not. I fully expect to see the entire Trump crime family escorted out of the White House at gunpoint by federal marshals. I can dream, can’t I?
So welcome back to anyone who might stumble back across this diary. I am going to aim to write as often as I can find something worthwhile to write about, which is to say, don’t hold your breath.
Wasn’t going to bother writing an entry today but what the hell. Here goes. After two months of perfect weather June is turning out to be the anti-summer. Those clear blue skies of April and May have been replaced by gloomy grey skies, rain and lots and lots of wind. Yesterday was a complete washout. Stayed inside all day apart from a quick trip to M&S (in the car) and only logged 2,000 steps all day. That’s the least I have moved since my epic 621 steps on 1 May, a record that may well last for years to come.
I did manage to accomplish a few things today. Got a run in before the rains arrived, well almost before, as I did get rained on walking back home from the park. Another decent time, though.
Then I spent more time on the phone (on hold, mostly) to the IRS trying to find out about my stimulus payment and then on another call to the Social Security Administration to find out if they had my correct address etc. They do, and I will just have to hope my payment shows up at some point. Also found out that my application to start collecting Social Security was on their system marked pending, so I should start getting that by this time next month, they said. So progress on several fronts.
Charlie and I have decided to go up to Birmingham on Sunday and get the rest of his stuff and officially move out of the house from hell rather than wait until the end of the month. He got very stressed out yesterday just trying to get things sorted with his housemates and that witch of a landlady. The sooner we get him out of this situation the better. It will be interesting to see what shape the place is in as nobody has been living there for nearly three months.
When queueing in your car for over an hour to take three bags full of grass cuttings and other garden waste to the dump is the high point of your day, you know things can only get better. I spent another afternoon in a Kafkaesque nightmare trying to figure out why I can’t file my US taxes online because the IRS thinks I have already filed. Since the problem involves my Social Security number, and since I have not seen my Social Security card in decades, I decided to try to get them to send me a duplicate one.
This involved an hour on hold being told I could do this online, except I can’t because you can’t set up an online account without a US address. I could try printing out and mailing in a form to get a new card, but that would require me to provide proof of identity. The only document I have to meet this requirement is my US passport, which has of course expired. So I can’t get a new Social Security card until I get a new US passport. And I can’t get a new passport until the US Embassy in London starts processing applications again. No sign of that happening any time soon.
Meanwhile, I tried to call the IRS to find out about my stimulus payment. More time on hold, then listening to a recording telling me to press this button for that and that button for this. I finally got through to a human being who eventually transferred me to someone else but I was then cut off and numerous attempts to redial got me nowhere.
And I still have not heard anything about my Social Security payments starting a month after having had a phone interview with someone from the US Embassy.
So that’s how my day has gone. I need a drink.
Missed another day so playing catch-up a day late. It was a frustrating day and I felt too exhausted by the end of it to write anything. I managed to get a good run in around midday, my times are getting back down where they should be so I guess the new shoes just needed breaking in.
Then I spent a mind-numbing afternoon trying to file my US taxes. We have two printers in the house and both were out of ink, despite the fact that we never use them. Don’t get me started on the great printer ink scam! So rather than fork out £36 I decided to file my taxes online for the first time.
I used the tool the IRS provides to help you decide which of the several e-filing options to use and started with one but soon gave up when it did not have a way to enter a foreign address, despite my putting this requirement in to the IRS tool. So I tried another and it seemed to work, so I slowly went through all the various stages and eventually filed it. About 10 minutes later I got an email saying it had been rejected by the IRS and saying I could log back on to correct the problem. But when I did log back on there was no sign of my just-completed forms so I ended up having to start all over again!
Got to the end, filed it and once more got a message saying the IRS had rejected it again. This time I was able to log on and see the reason it was rejected. Apparently the IRS says a tax form with my SSN had already been filed. By who? Not me! I think the problem might be from my having used the non-filers tool to check on my stimulus payment. I am hoping it is not some kind of identity theft scam and someone else has got my payment. I will wait a few days to see if a cheque arrives or money lands in my US account. If not I will have to call the IRS and find out what the hell is going on.
In the meantime, I have ordered new printer ink so I can file my taxes the old-fashioned way. Grrrrrr!
There are times when it feels like things are getting back to normal. A favourite place to eat opens for takeaway orders, neighbour children having birthday parties, little things like that. But then you realise despite some loosening we are still locked down and will be for who knows how much longer?
I long ago grew tired of all the emails from every business I ever had to give my address to, all offering their wise words about the situation and vowing they will return, maybe providing recipes you won’t ever try. Now as things begin to ease they are getting even more annoying. I got one today from Cineworld telling me that a gift card is the perfect Father’s Day gift. Perhaps they are right, but this is one father who won’t be going to the movies if and when the cinemas reopen. There have been numerous times these past few months when I really wished I could go to the movies with Charlie and sit there in the dark for a few hours with a large popcorn and a gallon of Pepsi Max. But the reality is I can’t see that happening for a long, long time.
So I think what I am trying to say is I might be entering another tunnel. I get really frustrated by things I can’t change. I get upset that Charlie spends most of his time playing games online with his friends from uni and doesn’t spend near enough time doing things I consider to be more important, like working on his music. If he spent the time on his music that he does playing games he’d have three albums recorded by now. But he has to want it, and I worry that he doesn’t. I vented about it to Alice, who reminded me that he is locked down too and has finished all his university coursework and is doing things he likes doing. She is right as usual. And it’s not like I am overachieving during the lockdown.
Enough moaning. We went to a walk in Bletchingley, one we used to do when we lived there more than 20 years ago. It was really nice. This is an old red phone box along the way. It no longer has a phone but it is nice that they haven’t ripped it out.
Have tried to avoid the news for the most part today, but I do know that the #BlackLivesMatter protests are continuing and in London a huge crowd protested outside the US Embassy. I only hope this doesn’t lead to more people getting Covid-19.
OK, so I have missed a couple of days, but that’s likely to be a more regular occurrence going forward. I have unshackled myself from the need to post something every day just to say I did it. Now I will only write something when I have something worth saying, with no guarantee that it will be of any interest to anyone but myself, or something important happens that I want to note down here.
So here we go again. It is a gloomy, chilly Saturday. Suddenly that two-month spell of perfect weather and clear blue skies seems a distant memory. I managed to get my run in, making it four straight three-run weeks. My time was better too. It was my fourth run in my new shoes but only the first with a half-decent time, two minutes faster than Wednesday and over three minutes faster than Monday. I was starting to think I might return the shoes but guess I will keep them a while longer. I have 60 days to return them to Nike for any reason. So if my times remain crap I might ship them back.
Hey, wait I remembered something a bit noteworthy happened since the last diary entry. I got a letter from Donald J Trump telling me he’s such a great president that he is sending me my $1,200 stimulus payment! No sign of the money, of course, and the letter was dated 1 May but didn’t arrive until 5 June, so I expect the money will be in my account by Christmas.
The weather has now turned to a typical June in England, meaning it has been bucketing down all evening and more of the same in the forecast tomorrow.
See, I told you it wouldn’t be of interest to anyone but me.
A while back I had a thought about my mental state during this lockdown but never wrote it down, so now seems a good time. I was thinking about the times we have driven to Italy and back. There is a stretch along the E80 autostrada either side of Genoa where there are lots of tunnels, some long, some short. These past two and a half months have been like driving that road. There are bright, sunny stretches where you feel good and even get glimpses of the sea, and then there are dark tunnels where you feel down, depressed, anxious, unsettled. Fortunately most of these mental tunnels are short, but some can take days to get through.
I have been traveling through one of the longer tunnels the past few days. The lockdown, not having worked for over two months now, missing friends and family and all the trouble back home have combined to make it hard to see a way forward. But tunnels don’t go on forever and so this afternoon I suddenly exited back into the bright sunshine. Now I am hoping that the next tunnel will be many miles down the road, and only 50 metres in length.
On more mundane matters, rain was forecast all day but we hardly got a drop. I had intended to run but my weather apps kept saying it was about to start raining so I waited and waited and it finally got too late (that’s my excuse, anyway). Also, I attempted to take three bags of garden waste to the dump but the queue was so long I turned right back around and came home. Just could not believe it was still so busy on a Wednesday morning. At least I can say I tried to accomplish something today.
Still no sign of my stimulus payment, but I did get an email from the US Embassy alerting me to the fact that demonstrations were taking place across the UK and helpfully listing where and what time they were starting. No mention about what they were to be demonstrating against. Just urging us good Americans to avoid these areas. I can’t even …
So after 68 consecutive entries, I took the day off yesterday. So there will be no 69. I just needed a break and had nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. And the events back home have left me angry and emotionally drained. I felt like shit all day yesterday and was extremely irritable, which made me a pain to be around.
Today hasn’t been a whole lot better. I didn’t sleep well again last night and felt pretty rotten all day. So just slumped around the house or out in the garden. I finally got my act together enough to go into town to Boots, as my hay fever medication had run out and the big philadelphus was finally starting to bloom, and it is my hay fever’s nemesis. But I am almost ashamed to say I drove rather than walk 10 minutes.
On the bright side, Charlie did the cooking and made us an amazingly good prawn curry. Alice and I sat outside in the garden in the evening, where the golden sunlight was working its magic on the smaller philadelphus.
I hope I can get a good sleep tonight but it looks like it is shaping up to be another bad night in America. Even bigger crowds outside the White House and troops massing at Andrews AFB, reportedly equipped with bayonets. Tonight might be the start of the second civil war. I hope I am wrong.
I am wondering of I should change the name of this diary to something else. Meltdown Diary? End Times Diary? Because the lockdown seems well and truly over for now anyway. Until the second wave of Covid-19 hits in a few months. Until then it’s just a question of how much worse the situation can possibly get in the US.
I woke up early but managed to get back to sleep for maybe another hour, rolling out of bed at about 7am. As soon as I saw what had been going on back home while I slept I felt like crawling back into bed but didn’t. Instead I started watching the nightmare unfold via videos on Twitter. The more I watched and the more I read, the angrier I became.
Now as I write this at 11pm here in the UK, it all seems to be kicking off again. Another night of this and I just don’t know where it will end. But rest assured Donald Trump will do nothing but sit and watch it on TV, and maybe play golf. His work here is done. He has put the country on the brink of civil war, which is just what Putin got him elected to do.
My US passport expired a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to get a new one because the US embassy in London is not processing applications. Recent events have made me question if I should even bother getting a new one when they start issuing them again.
There were protests here today. I would liked to have taken part but still not ready to travel to London in the current circumstances. Just not worth the risk.