The Loneliness of the long-distance worker

5 tips for surviving lockdown homeworking

“… with a countrywide lockdown imminent we have decided that all field sales visits will end, the office will close and all team members will be home based until further notice”

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And breathe! 

For a busy field sales engineer, this announcement is a blessing in disguise.  I have the chance now to make CRM a shining example of self-discipline.  My company car will be restored to showroom glory and I can step up my weekly run to a daily challenge and turn myself into a healthy Adonis.

I don’t know about you, but the announcement of lockdown really felt like a chance to reset my work life balance?

There was something therapeutic about clearing all appointments from my Outlook calendar, removing tasks from the ToDo app which were now irrelevant since I was to work from my home office and no longer feel the pressure of filling my day with meetings.  And so this is how lockdown started, full of determination and self-motivation.

Skip forward a couple of months though, and now that early optimism was fading.  The occasional chat with a colleague on Teams was starting to be reminiscent of the depressed and clueless vultures in Disney’s Jungle Book.

After that initial phase of planning and tidying, the days started to drag out.  The weather was nice but being neither furloughed nor on holiday meant that being away from the mobile phone or laptop was not an option.  Very soon my Laptop and monitor had in fact come to feel like a wall between me and the sunny world outside, a world apparently filled with (socially distanced) happy families, joggers and car washers!

What to do?

I now had a clear choice, wallow in self-pity or find a way to break up the days whilst still achieving what my employer expected of me.  The first step was to ‘Get Out’.  Each day I would either run, walk or both, before work or often in place of the grazing that had become the norm at lunchtime.  I initially used this as a time to catch up on my favourite podcasts but in the end, I realised that the best therapy was to enjoy natures playlist.

With so few cars around, not only could you hear the birdsong and the breeze, but they were made perfect by the sweet-smelling air that had replaced the smell of diesel in the morning.

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Next job was to tackle the loneliness of the long days, and Microsoft Teams provided the answer. 

It turned out that we were all feeling this isolation and the singletons amongst us felt this even more acutely.  At least I had my long-suffering wife to grumble to of an evening (she is a key worker so still had a life outside the house) whilst they had no one to share with.

So we setup a scheduled meeting on MS Teams twice a day that the whole team would attend. Work talk was forbidden, this was to be a sanctuary of idle chit chat, quizzes, and the occasional moment of inspiration.  And now it involved the whole team, so the bored silences ended and a real feeling of being in this together developed.

The final action that made the team rediscover its mojo was to stop hiding behind email.  This had become a bad habit that we had all slipped into.  We started calling our customers.  Actually talking to them! MS Teams meetings with these customers became a regular event and these developed into what one of my colleagues describes as ‘Deminars’ a combined webinar and product demonstration.  But the key thing though, was the human contact.

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5 Tips for surviving lockdown homeworking.

Here then are my 5 tips:

  1. Exercise – Make it a ‘must do’ and enjoy natures playlist
  2. Talk to colleagues daily – Not about work, about them & how they are
  3. Talk to customers – They are often at home too and glad of the human contact
  4. Don’t hide behind email – This can just make your isolation worse
  5. Routine – Keep a routine, it helps to avoid drifting into slob mode

So, how’s it going for me?

Well, I have stuck to my exercise routine (mostly), running most days, so I am slightly less moon faced than at the start.  I now see my Laptop as a useful tool again and not a barrier to the world, in fact it’s where my friends are to be found.  My car is only slightly less grimy than it was and the less said about CRM the better… one’s perfect!

Insanity Rules The UK

The COVID19 pandemic has cost thousands of lives and £billions. What are the UK governments priorities?

Apparently our clueless leaders have so far come up with two majors ideas to help the poor British….

1. We should spend £millions on a new Royal Yacht Brittania, to provide the queen with a splendid new way to travel the world as she ‘sells Britain’ and all the things Brexit Britain has to offer. Jacob Reece-Mogg apparently believes that this will make the little people of Britain very happy and we will undoubtedly line the docks in our thousands to cheer our betters on as they sail off in splendid luxury.

2. Boris now wants to emulate his Bezzie mate , The Donald, by having the RAF jet that is used for official trips, re-painted. At the staggering cost of £900,000, he wants ‘Boris Force One’ painted in the Union Jack flag!

As the country struggles to keep its economy afloat, as people head to food banks in their thousands, can there be a more offensive and irresponsible plan than (to use the PM’s words) “spaff” millions of pounds in hopeless vanity projects?

On the plus side, Boris’s plane will be a lot easier for terrorists to spot so at least someone will see an upside to all this.

Quarantine Unmasked

Lets face it, Johnson et al have introduced the 14 day quarantine in order to look tough and decisive but the experts are of course saying that this should have happened at the point of ‘lock down’, it’s too late now!

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The effect of quarantine will be to damage the already ailing travel industry by ensuring that no one wants to come to the UK and the exceptions like key workers make a mockery of the plan.

The great irony of all of this is that it is in fact the British who are unable to travel. It is us who are barred from travelling due to the high COVID19 death numbers and infection rate caused by the UK government’s hopelessly disjointed and politically motivated policies. Policies driven by political need rather than scientists.

Why is the west blaming China for creating COVID:19?

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Over the last couple of weeks, it seems that politicians such as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have decided that their best hope of avoiding being held responsible for the poor handling of the global pandemic, is to try and blame China for causing the outbreak.

It seems certain that the virus originated in China, however to suggest that this was a deliberate release of a deadly disease is to suggest a malicious intent for which there is no evidence and is frankly in the realms of fantasy.  It requires the Chinese government to think that its population can be sacrificed in order to cover the deliberate release of a virus intended to kill large numbers of citizens of other nations.

In what way would China, the factory of the world, benefit by the mass killing of it’s customers for the thousands of different types of products that it manufactures and exports to the rest of the world?  Why would a nation who’s citizens live, work and educate in so many countries around the globe want to inflict such suffering on the  innocent citizens of those countries?

Trump claims to have seen evidence that the virus was created and released from a laboratory in Wuhan, yet his own secret service say that this evidence does not exist!

What seems clear is that China needs to end the practice of these so called ‘wet markets’ where people and a wide range of live animals live in close proximity and which seems to have been the cause of a virus jumping species (and not for the first time) and China’s system of government allows them to make changes like the banning of such markets, quickly and effectively.

Western governments need to work with China to ensure that these outbreaks are not repeated, but alienating the people and government of China through playing a blame game is pointless and unnecessary and achieves nothing, however the poor quality politicians that western democracy has produced over recent years care only about themselves.

It is not China’s fault that Trump was in denial about COVID:19, even calling it a hoax, nor can China be blamed for Johnsons indecisive and ill advised decision making about how to handle the crisis.  Unlike Boris Johnson, the Chinese government did not experiment with ‘Herd Immunity’ and risk the lives of thousands, they locked down, quickly and hard, and have been far more successful in fighting COVID:19 than either the USA or the UK.

As we remember those who gave their lives for the freedom of Europe. Why are we embracing division.


I find it incredibly sad that as we remember the end of the war in Europe, we are witnessing the kind of disunity that lead to war in the first place.

As the world wages war on COVID:19, in the UK, our Prime Minister insists that Britain’s future remains outside of the EU.  Using the pandemic as an excuse, Hungary has now become a de facto dictatorship and we see the increasing popularity of right wing political and populist groups.

We will always remember those that fought and often gave their all for our freedom but we also seem to have forgotten how we ended up at war.  A populist right wing politician, rising to power by promising to strengthen a nations power, claiming racial superiority and blaming minority groups for holding the nation back.  Unity in Europe has kept peace for 75 years after a long period of almost constant war somewhere on the continent of Europe.

During the BREXIT campaign, we were told that Britain needed to be independent, that somehow, we were in conflict or competition with our EU allies, this kind of talk is to betray the enduring peace that so many Nations fought side by side to achieve.

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The flag waving triumphalism seen this week would be fine were it not for the fact that many people seem to think that the UK won the war alone and conveniently forget that the nations that they now blame for our own shortcomings, sacrificed thousands of lives to help us defeat the kind of philosophy that is now on the rise.

We must not forget our ‘Key Workers’ when COVID:19 is gone

Thoughtful Stu“We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them”

Since the UK was put into lockdown, the profile of NHS workers, care workers and those people who work in the food supply chain has rightfully been raised.  The weekly ‘clap for NHS heroes’ has expanded to be a celebration of everyone who must risk catching the COVID:19 virus in order to keep the rest of fed and in the case of the NHS, keep us alive.

One thing that really concerns me is that when normality returns, and we go about our normal lives, we will forget these ‘key workers’ and go back to worshipping vacuous celebrities on Love Islands, overpaid footballers and wealthy movie stars.

In the midst of the COVID:19 crisis, with most of the population confined to their homes for the larger part of the day, we have all had the time to take a look at the world through different filter and with the noise of normal life gone, and a very clear and present danger outside our homes, we have begun to see what really matters to us.  Separated from loved ones, we can see that it is time with them that we need and miss.

It is an unescapable truth that over recent decades we have worshipped the rich and famous.  Many  kids began to believe the lie that ‘wining the X-Factor’ or some other generic talent show was a career choice, and it was not about the music, it was about the fame.

Football players have been able to earn obscene amounts of money ‘because winning is what matters’, and actors earn more money pretending to be surgeons and doctors saving lives than real surgeons and doctors could ever dream of earning for ACTUALLY saving lives.  This is a world gone mad.

We have the opportunity to change our nation for the better as a result of this health disaster by making our kids realise that they can genuinely make their mark in the world, not by some vague dream of fame but by working in the key worker careers right in front of them.

Whatever the education level of an individual, they can find their place in the health sector.  Not everyone can become a doctor, surgeon, radiographer, nurse or any of the medical careers that require qualifications, but everyone has a chance to become a care worker and although the doctors and nurses get most of the coverage, it is often care home workers or home support workers who can make the biggest change to the quality of life for the elderly or those with special care needs.

Care workers can make a real difference and be real heroes, every day, to someone.

Surely it is time to look at the world differently and reset things.  It has not been film stars, footballers, city financiers, Youtube influencers or reality stars who have been making a difference during the pandemic.

We need our young people to stop feeling that the only measure of a successful life and contribution to society is fame and money.

We have seen ordinary people do special things, from medical workers putting their lives at great risk for others, shop and food warehouse workers pulling long shifts to get food delivered, through to individuals like the now famous Captain Tom and his charitable efforts in aid of the NHS and Care Workers.  Let’s keep that better side of humanity alive after COVID:19, lets make sure our kids see the value in working in health and care sectors and we must push our politicians to keep their word and protect our amazing NHS.  Oh yes, they could also make sure that NHS workers and Care Sector workers get paid properly for the care that they give and the real difference that they make….we will be watching Boris.

Why I shall not be donating to the Boris Johnson Cufflink fund.

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WTF StuI am fascinated by the recent spate of Facebook posts that always start with something like “I don’t care what your political beliefs are, there is no way that you can say that Boris Johnson is not doing a good job of handling COVID:19, etc. etc.” and suggesting things like a ‘National Boris Day’ or everyone contributing to a fund to buy the PM some cufflinks as a thank you.

Well, whoever you are I’m sorry but I for one will NOT be celebrating Boris day.

I can understand that at a terrible time like the current pandemic, some will want to try and be really positive, to desperately want to put their faith in our political leaders in order to feel that events are not spiralling out of control, but you cannot escape the truth of the matter which is that the UK’s NHS was ill prepared for an outbreak of any kind. The truth that years of underfunding and waste had left the NHS undervalued and without the resources that it needs, and the demonisation of immigrant workers during the Brexit farce, has seen the NHS under staffed due to thousands of migrant workers leaving the UK because they were made to feel unwelcome.

NHS workers continue to fight the virus, whilst struggling with either poor PPE or in some cases NO PPE, whilst at the same time politicians cover their own backsides by suggesting that the problem lays with NHS staff ‘over using’ PPE.  How can you ‘over use’ PPE when you are in a genuinely life-threatening situation?

We had early warning that this pandemic was coming, and whilst other countries enacted rapid lock down, the UK government hesitated, toying with ideas like ‘herd immunity’ (which would have sacrificed the lives of thousands unnecessarily) and failing to enforce safe behaviour on a population that consistently displays a selfish disrespect of the rules intended to keep up safe.

Before his hospitalisation, Boris stood at the podium each day with the look of a man who was struggling to cope with events that each day brought. He was supposed to be having a jolly old time, revelling in his Brexit victory. Without COVID:19 he would still have had a tough time at the end of the year trying to square the circle of Brexit, and would undoubtable have done what Boris always does, which is to resolve a difficult problem, by selling out his partners and friends (anyone remember who the DUP were) and we will still likely end up with Brexit light, however Brexit itself will likely be delayed by the economic damage that the pandemic is causing.

So, I don’t envy the responsibility that Boris has and I hope that he is up to it. I am glad he is recovering, no one should have to go through the trauma of being so unwell that they end up on ICU and the country most certainly needs it’s government to function and with such a low quality cabinet as we have now, it needs the one person that has some experience of leadership, even if it was only as Mayor of London.

I will not be coughing up to buy the millionaire Boris Johnson some cufflinks and I will certainly not be applauding a Prime Minister who dithered and put our amazing NHS staff a great personal risk. He wanted the job his whole life so ‘Get Well Soon Boris’ then get your damn finger out and get the NHS the protection and support it needs, clever political statements will not help the country.


NHS Breast Screening continues during the COVID-19 Outbreak but with no PPE, its staff are at high risk #COVID-19

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Hmmm Stu

While the country is being told to ‘social Distance’ and hundreds of people are dying each day around the world, my wife and her fellow Mammographers are still being made to screen hundreds of women each, every week.

While Tesco protects its staff by making shoppers stand behind taped lines, Each Mammographer is working inches from the face of 25 women, every day with NO PPE!

It’s a disgrace and surely a breach of ‘duty of care’ to NHS staff and their families AND the women being screened? In a weekend where Italy lost 700 in a day, how can it be right that screening is still not cancelled or if it must continue because of its diagnotic value, then at the very least it should be halted until PPE is available.


20200320_090714601_iOSThe government today announced that the country is suffering from a major shortage. The chief scientific officer has confirmed that after careful analysis, he can announce that it is getting increasingly difficult to find any common sense. This shortage is leading to unnecessary panic buying, leaving the elderly unable to buy basic food and supplies because large numbers of ill informed and ignorant people have decided that they need 40 toilet rolls, 8 bags of pasta and a freezer full of meat in order to survive a possible 14 days of isolation.

Many people say that they read on Facebook that most toilet paper comes from China so it will run out and that is why they bought so much. If you rely on Facebook for your news and information you are of course an utter idiot!

There is No shortage of food and supplies except for the one caused by selfish imbeciles. Even in China at the peak of its crisis, you could get food and toilet paper. In Italy, the shops are open. Not bloody TopShop, but food and supplies are readily available, so stop being so selfish.

It is a sign of our collective ignorance that until forced to close, many pubs were still full of stupid people who just do not grasp that being jolly old Brit’s will not mean that we will not suffer the catastrophic devastation that Italy is suffering.

The saddest example of suffering caused by the utter selfishness of panic buyers was the story of a little old man in our village. He cannot travel far, so relies on our local supermarket. On one of his daily trips he arrived to find that all the toilet paper had gone and he had only one roll left at home. The staff could see how upset and stressed he was. He had no one to shop for him and no means to travel around shop after shop to find loo paper. The staff gave him one from their supplies to help him.

These same kind people are having to put up with idiots accusing them of stock piling toilet paper for themselves and the delivery driver found himself surrounded by a intimidating crowd as he tried to offload a cage of toilet paper.

Is this all it takes to reduce us to a selfish, angry mob? No sign of that Blitz spirit as far as I can see.

The comfort that I take is in those little acts of kindness like the supermarket story and the people offering help to those old people trapped in their house. They show that not everyone is the same as the mobs that have swept through the shops like locusts.

Post Brexit Britain – Why Boris cannot heal the rift between leavers and remainers

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It’s fair to say that I have been avoiding the news a little more than normal since the election.  Watching the opposition unnecessarily hand victory to a lame duck prime minister, transforming him into an unstoppably powerful twerp has been almost too much to bear. 

Now Brexit day is almost upon us and we are being dragged out of the EU by a decision of only 38% of the voting population and by a government handed an unassailable majority by our outdated voting system, with only 28% of the vote in the election, yes, that’s democracy at work!   

As if this indignity were not enough, we had to watch the gormless oddities of the Brexit party, embarrass us further by making a rather childish ‘victory’ speech whilst waving tiny plastic Union Jack (which were upside down by the way) as they left the EU parliament chamber.  The EU parliament by contrast were dignified and wished us well, telling us that they would keep a place for us if we wanted to come back (I assume that didn’t include the ridiculous Brexit Party Ltd employees). 

I have seen several interviews with Boris recently, where he keeps trying to push a kind of ‘happy clappy’ message of “let’s all get together, and get on with Brexit, and heal the divisions in our country and our families”.   In fact he plans to make one of these speeches on the evening that we leave. Admirable sentiment but as unrealistic as all of his pre-brexit promises. 

The simple fact is that Remainers will never forgive him and his Brexit loving buddies for the misinformation that was peddled either by them or by the right wing press.  They will never forget that family members and friends went along with the nonsense that was easily discredited with only the slightest effort, and in doing so, voted to make Britain an isolated and inward-looking little island nation. 

They will also not forget the abuse suffered by many at the hands of ‘victorious’ leavers which accused remainers of being ‘traitors’.  They will not forgive the abuse of friends born in mainland European at the hand of racists, using them as an excuse for their own failings in life. 

Boris has the problem that he was part of the whole Brexit mess, so he has no credibility when it comes to healing the country.  Those that wanted to remain see no sunny uplands, and other than the same staid old platitudes, we are yet to hear any specific benefit that individual British citizens will get from Brexit, whereas remainers can give a large list of benefits that we will lose on Brexit day which of course is not the 31st of January, that is transition day, the beginning of negotiations to try and get back a small portion of the many benefits that we already had. 

The future of the UK will without doubt be back in the EU, the young generation in survey after survey say that they wanted to remain and as they gain more power and influence (as my generation and the baby boomers with all their rose tinted memories of what they think Britain was, die off), they will take us back in.  The country cannot be healed, those that wanted Brexit will just die off and the younger generations will have to repair the damage caused over the next few years.