Tag Archives: covid-19

lockdown tv

After a couple of false starts with any luck this will finally be my last week in lockdown. Phase 1 of the government’s roadmap appears to be going according to plan and we should be going back to work on Phase 2 starting on Monday 8th June.

It will be a full 3 months since I’ve been at work as my last day was 5th March, just before I went to Switzerland.

Looking back it’s been a pretty productive time. We did a lot about the house with a lot of work completed outside and some changes made inside. We’ve had a lot of family time and I think that we’re all the better for it. I’ve also had a lot of spare time and while I’ve filled it with a lot of cycling, running and walking I’ve also had lots of time for reading, films and TV.

I’ve already written about the books and films so now inspired by A Dude Abikes I’ve listed below the main TV shows I’ve enjoyed watching over lockdown.

Click on the show name for the IMDb link

Better Call Saul ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Created by the same people behind the very popular Breaking Bad this takes the shady and corrupt lawyer, Saul Goodman, and goes way back to 2002 to explain who he really was and how he became the character he is in Breaking Bad.

As well as detailing the life of Jimmy McGill and his conversion to Saul Goodman it also acts as a prequel to Breaking Bad. There are a lot of the same characters and their back stories are also detailed explaining some of the untold stories. If you are thinking of watching this I’d recommend Breaking Bad first. Otherwise you will miss the significance of a lot of the characters and events.

In my opinion Better Call Saul is a much superior show to Breaking Bad. The characters are better defined and more likeable (I never liked Walt!) and the story lines better written. I liked Breaking Bad but I loved Better Call Saul.

Bosch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Loosely based on the excellent series of detective books by Michael Connelly the series is based around an LAPD detective called Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch played by Titus Welliver. Harry is a cop with a very clear moral code but skates very close to the edge and enjoys the grey zone.

One of the best shows I’ve watched for a long time. Takes a little while to reconcile the Harry from the books with the one from the show as Welliver looks very different and brings his own style to the character. Also the books are set in the early 90s while the show is set in present time. An example of this is that Harry is a Vietnam veteran in the books but a Gulf War/Afghanistan veteran in the show. Once you get over some of the character differences the show is equally as good as the books.

Gangs of London ⭐⭐⭐

I can’t make my mind up about this show. It’s based on an organised crime gang family that controls all the other criminal gangs in London. The head of the family is murdered and his son inherits the family and the task of finding out who killed his father while holding the empire together.

The production quality is excellent and it’s obvious that Sky have spent a lot of money on this with the filming and the very recognisable cast. However, I’m struggling with it a bit. The storyline is quite disjointed and I’m struggling to keep track of the many different gangs and characters. In fact one entire episode simply stepped away from the main story entirely and although it was still linked I struggled to work out the reason behind it. It’s also a very graphically violent show that could put many off. In fact the episode I mentioned above was particularly violent and bloody although very well filmed.

I’m still watching Season 1 so possibly may change my rating and review once I get to the end.

Homeland ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in Season 8 and after 9 years this immensely popular and highly acclaimed show has drawn to a very appropriate finish. I’m glad about this as it has been through so many different story variations that it was beginning to look difficult how it could keep reinventing itself.

Throughout all the different storylines the central plot follows CIA operative Carrie Matthews and her struggles with both her mental health (bipolar disorder) and her inability to persuade the CIA that she sees more than they do. Her friendship with Saul, CIA Director and eventually National Security Advisor, and his role as both advocate and handler doesn’t always work in her favour but provides the backbone of the entire series.

I struggled with this show at times and almost gave up in the middle of one season as it seemed to have lost itself. However, it is definitely worth sticking with as it finishes in style.

House of Cards ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We came late to this show, only starting to watch it recently, as it started in 2013 and ran until 2018 when it was brought to a close following the sex scandal involving Kevin Spacey.

It follows the rise to ultimate power engineered by the highly ambitious and completely ruthless Frank and Claire Underwood. It’s a fascinating view of American politics and how politics in general can be manipulated for personal gain.

Despite being a completely despicable and downright nasty individual the show is filmed and produced in such a way that you begin to like Frank (especially his trademark addresses to the camera) and even want to see him succeed. Frank and Claire are perfectly suited to each other and every bit as nasty and it’s riveting to see how they scheme together.

We’re approaching the end of the penultimate Season 5 and while the show was brought to an unplanned halt I do feel that it may have been a hidden benefit. With the rise to power accomplished I feel the story was beginning to run out of steam and this was better in the long run.

Killing Eve ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now in its third season this show follows MI5 security operative Eve Pollard and her search for Villanelle the elusive Russian assassin. As they get closer the two of them develop a morbid and repelling attraction for each other that neither want but can’t let go.

This show is like nothing else I’ve seen on TV. Brilliantly written it is full of fantastic characters but all of them are overshadowed by Eve and even more so by the comically insane and completely unstable Villanelle. Her innovative and off the wall assassinations and her character in general makes this show the 5⭐ performance it is.

Marvel’s The Punisher ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m not really into superhero type films and TV shows but really enjoyed this one. It’s a spinoff from Marvel’s Daredevil where The Punisher first appears.

The Punisher is Frank Castle, a US Army veteran and vigilante. His back story isn’t covered in this show, the expectation is that you have watched Daredevil already. It left me feeling I’d missed something for quite a bit and I may have given a higher rating otherwise.

The two main characters of Frank and Micro are really well cast and played well. They work well together and suit the characters. I’ve seen Joe Bernthal (Frank) as Shane in The Walking Dead and didn’t like him in that role. This time he’s perfect.

The rest of the cast is also very good with Madani and Curtis being particularly noticeable. In fact Billy Russo was the only performance I didn’t particularly rate throughout the first season.

So far only two seasons have been released with no expectation of a third. I’ve only watched Season 1 which makes me wonder if the second is as good.

Picard ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A must for any Star Trek fan this is the first venture into the Next Generation story since Star Trek: Nemesis and is set 18 years later. Captain Jean Luc Picard is now retired and living on his family estate in France. He’s tormented by the loss of Data and the destruction of Romulus and pretty much secluded from the world.

His seclusion is interrupted by his appearance in a media interview and the arrival of a strange young woman who turns out to be a synthetic and somehow connected to Data. This begins a new chapter in the life of Picard as he is forced to confront his past to secure a future for the synthetics.

This is a great show. It’s fantastic to see the Star Trek universe brought back to the TV screen with such polish and enthusiasm. Some of the acting is a bit wooden at times and I wouldn’t have missed some of the characters but highly enjoyable overall and I look forward to seeing what a second season will bring.

Ozark ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marty Byrde is a Chicago based financial planner that is working to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner attempts to cheat the cartel of $8 million and when the scheme falls apart Marty makes a deal to save his family and relocates them to the Ozarks in Missouri.

The story then is all about how Marty and his wife Wendy try to first of all save themselves from the cartel and then make themselves indispensable.

This show is chock full of brilliant storylines and great characters. It has one numerous awards and all well deserved.

At times it can be difficult to watch and it is filmed in a distinctive low light quality that creates tension but it’s all worth it.

Sons of Anarchy ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another show that was long finished by the time I got around to watching it. It ran from 2008-2014 and follows the lives of an outlaw motorcycle gang in the fictional town of Charming, Southern California.

The show ran for a total of seven seasons and to be honest it was probably two too many. It’s definitely a show of its time with many storylines that have aged badly and some that have been badly actioned.

The main focus of the story is Jax Teller, father of the founder of SAMCRO and his family. Jax constantly struggles with his loyalty to the Club, his desire to see them become more legitimate than outlaw and how this conflicts with his need to protect his family. Jax tries to live in both worlds and is doomed to failure as he gives in to the violence in his nature.

Seasons 1 and 2 were a real eye opener for me. I haven’t watched anything similar before and the storylines were really exciting and novel. Season 3 and 4 were very poor. The whole Irish connection was terrible, bad storylines, terrible research for authenticity, shocking accents and in general actors that looked very uncomfortable in their roles. I have a feeling that if it wasn’t for lockdown I may have given up at that stage! Season 5 picks up with a shift in storyline and by the time Season 6 comes around you have to see it through to the end and it does have a definitive end. It’s not a fairytale ending but it suits the show and fits well.

There is an ongoing spinoff series called Mayans MC that I haven’t yet watched and rumours of a reboot focusing on Jax’s sons.

The Mandalorian ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A space Western loosely based on the bounty hunter character from the original Star Wars films. Fully reviewed already in an earlier blog post: this is the way

Vikings ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An historical drama that is inspired by the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok, an ancient Norse hero. It portrays Ragnar’s rise to power, the Norse invasion of Britain and after his death the story of his sons.

Officially it’s six seasons but with Seasons 4-6 split into 2 sets of 10 episodes it’s effectively nine and probably too many.

When it started it was something completely different and novel and really grabbed everyone’s imagination. I can’t remember if it sparked a Viking trend or came close to the beginning but it’s definitely part of it now. The massive success of the show has forced it to keep running but the storyline changed so completely with the death of Ragnar in Season 4 that I feel it lost itself at that stage. Season 5 was still good but nowhere like the previous four. Season 6 is definitely the weakest of all and I’m pretty much watching it now just to see how it ends. The core Ragnar story would definitely be 5⭐

Everything I’ve read about Viking/Norse culture suggests that women played a vital role in the community as landowners, rulers and warriors as well as mothers. This is definitely portrayed in the show with Lagertha being the obvious character but many other strong female characters. Refreshing to see in modern TV.

Header image by Andre Moura from Pexels

new boundary

On Tuesday last week our restrictions were relaxed to allow us to exercise up to 5km from home as opposed to the original 2km. Apart from an aborted MTB spin it took me a full week to yesterday to get motivated to get out on my road bike.

I had identified what looked like a pretty decent route that used some familiar roads but also threw in a few completely unknown sections to give a distance of 35-45km that could easily be stretched to 60km with a little bit of repetition.

I had planned to go out shortly after lunch but my motivation was still low and with the weather looking poorer than the last few days, it took until 3pm before I forcibly pealed myself off the sofa.

There was a noticeably sharp edge to the wind that created a dither about clothes and I eventually settled on jersey and gillet with arm warmers based on the fact it allowed me to remove layers if needed. Turned out I needed them all, especially on the descents and the only change was opening zips on the longer climbs. Definite change to my last few spins.

For a route that was chosen from a map based simply on the 5km radius it turned out pretty good. There are a good mix of climbs and descents, some short, some long and apart from a couple of short sections good surfaces. Turned out to be way more climbing than I expected though and with tired and achy legs and a reasonably strong Northerly breeze I really struggled and it felt much harder than it should have and despite it being my first proper cycle since 26th March I didn’t really enjoy it. I ended up taking the shorter option of 35km instead of the 45ish I had originally planned.

Despite all this moaning and complaining it is a good route, one I will be repeating over the next few weeks of continued restrictions and possibly beyond when I want a short but challenging spin.

One stretch is really enjoyable. Although it’s uphill it’s lined with fairly mature conifers on both sides and almost up to the edge of the road. It creates a great tunnel effect and a reasonably unusual sight around here as a lot of the mature forestry has been harvested over the last few years and the new plantings are still very young. Worth stopping for a photo

just trees

Strava link for the header image.

re-establishing a routine

If all goes according to the government’s “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business” announced on Friday 1st May then Phase 1 is due to start on Monday 18th May which is exactly one week today. In a nutshell I could be back at work in 7 days!

I’ve pretty much been in lockdown for 8 weeks today as I was self-isolating for 2 weeks after returning from Switzerland on March 15th and this ran into the official lockdown. Lots of good stuff has been done during lockdown but I’ve definitely slipped into the habit of going to bed late and getting up late. That needs to stop or a 6:50am alarm could come as a nasty shock on Monday morning!

Starting this morning the alarm was set for 7:50am and I was out of bed by 8:05. The plan is to dial this back by 5min each morning and go to bed a little earlier each night until I’m close to being back in the old routine. I hope it is as easy as it sounds!

Photo by Mat Brown from Pexels

we’re on the one road….

We’re on the one road
Sharing the one load
We’re on the road to God knows where
We’re on the one road
It may be the wrong road
But we’re together now who cares
North men, South men, comrades all
Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal
We’re on the one road swinging along
Singing a soldier’s song

We’re on the One Road

The Wolfe Tones

On Friday evening the Taoiseach made another rare/now regular statement to the country live on TV. This statement was expected as the current lockdown restrictions are due to expire tomorrow Monday 4th of May and we’ve been promised both an update regarding restrictions and a roadmap for lifting them. We got both.

Following this statement we have also been provided with the detailed government document outlining the full “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business“. It’s a fairly hefty document that can be downloaded and read in full here (pdf). Thankfully RTE News have provided a decent summary.

Essentially lockdown will continue for approximately 2 more weeks before Phase 1 of the roadmap begins on Monday May 18th.

As people have been getting restless with the restrictions of lockdown we’ve been given two small relaxations as a combined reward and motivation to keep going. These start on Tuesday 5th of May.

  • Over 70s and those particularly vulnerable to Covid19 who have been cocooning are now permitted to leave their house for brief exercise so long as they don’t come in contact with others.
  • Instead of being limited to exercising within 2km of our home we are now permitted to go to 5km.

It’s the second point that will have the most effect on me. It doesn’t seem like a big distance but as with the original 2km limit it covers a surprisingly large area. It allows me to take in both sides of the River Finn and takes me over the border into Northern Ireland. Technically this gives me unlimited mileage as there are no distance restrictions in Northern Ireland, as they are operating under UK restrictions, but I don’t think I’ll be going too far from home. Castlederg is a possibility but no further as I’m wary of getting into difficulties and taking up important medical/emergency resources that are needed elsewhere.

image from 5kmfromhome

The other major impact on our household is my potential return to work. The televised statement suggested this would be Phase 2 (8th June) as the Taoiseach announced outdoor retail and activities only for Phase 1 (18th May). However, the detailed document and summary state the following:

My work would fall under the category of “homeware” but another section of the document outlines the return to work strategy as follows:

While the lockdown has been creating a financial strain and has been difficult to live with, returning to work on the 18th of May feels very quick. I’m concerned that an awful lot of retail businesses will be reopening for what is supposed to be Phase 1 of recovery. This will result in a lot of people back on the move for work and bringing shoppers back out. I’d expect this to be quite a rush as people are given their first taste of freedom. It makes me uncomfortable and despite the positives of a return to work I’m hoping it gets delayed until Phase 2.

So far I’ve heard nothing from work so I’d say they may be unsure also. In addition two weeks is a long time in the current climate and lots could change if the medical improvements slow down or take a turn for the worse. In the meantime I need to stop prevaricating with the remaining DIY jobs I’ve agreed to do, I no longer have unlimited time to complete them!

cycling in lockdown

For the last three weeks Ireland has been in pretty much complete lockdown and it’s going to last for at least another two. The majority of businesses and services are closed, unless they are deemed essential, all journeys are prohibited unless they are for a selected list of essential travel reasons and although exercise is permitted we must remain within 2km of our home.

2km seems excessively restrictive at first glance but, depending where you live, this gives decent scope for walking and running. I have two 6km walking routes that stay within the 2km radius and I’ve restarted the None2Run program last week so I’ve been able to get out pretty much every day and vary my exercise to make some attempt to keep it fresh.

the obligatory n2r selfie for the facebook group

I really do miss cycling though! Within the 2km radius I have a number of road options and I have been able to put together an 11km route that I have ridden for a 50km spin and modified for a 100km spin. I didn’t really enjoy them though. The roads are a bad mix of steep hills and rough surfaces and the constant repetition gets boring very quickly. I really do miss the 2-3 hour spins with constantly changing scenery and views that these loops simply don’t provide.

I’ve also dipped my toe in the virtual indoor training world of Zwift. I’ve borrowed a trainer from a friend and have had a couple of short plays as well as completing an FTP fitness test. That was horrible! I’ve done one before based on heart rate so knew what to expect but was curious to find out what my power based training zones were. As the borrowed trainer was a smart trainer it registers power and allowed me to put myself through this form of torture. At the end of the test my FTP was 178 which equates to 2.1w/kg which is definitely towards the lower end of performance. It was a disappointing but not entirely unexpected result based on my declining levels of cycling over the last couple of years. I’ve signed up for Zwift for a month so I’ll give it a few more goes before I make up my mind on how much I like/dislike it.

indoor cycling – outdoors!

I was going to give Zwift another go this morning but really wanted to feel the breeze and that I was out of the house. I didn’t fancy the previous loops as I didn’t want either the hills or the rough surface so I decided to try repeats of the better stretch of road between Crossroads village and Meenlougher which are the two furthest points of this road within the 2km circle and 3km apart. While far from ideal it gave me a short interval route with the breeze against me one way and with me the other. There are a couple of small climbs that can be made more challenging by over-gearing and the surface is OK. I figured that 50km would have led to a repeat of the boredom of my first lockdown route so I kept it to just over the hour and 32.5km in total.

click the image to view on strava

It was about as enjoyable as I could make it but more importantly the sun was shining, I was able to get out in short sleeves and shorts for the first time this year and I was riding my bike 😊

round and round and round they go

In January I did my metric century almost by mistake. In February I squeezed it in before going to Switzerland. This month we’re in lockdown so March was going to be a bit difficult.

On Saturday I managed a 51km cycle without leaving the 2km distance from home that we’re now limited to under the latest Irish government lockdown restrictions.

Tempocyclist suggested in a comment that I should ride that loop as a “keep it local” 100km. It was already at the back of my mind but a couple of things were putting me off:

  • My motivation took a nosedive at the weekend. After two weeks the confinement was finally getting to me.
  • I was supposed to be back at work on Monday and the lack of social contact and money concerns sent me into a bit of a funk.
  • I was concerned that I would be in breach of the spirit of the restrictions by doing way more than “brief exercise, no more than 2km from your home”

Monday evening I read on the Audax Ireland WhatsApp group where one of the members was stopped by the Gardai while doing local loops, was challenged for being out cycling and given the all clear when he explained where he lived and what he was doing. I thought fuck it and fuck feeling sorry for myself. I lubed up my chain, charged my Garmin, filled my water bottle and left my kit ready for the morning.

I set an alarm for Tuesday to give me a kick start. I figured if I lay on I’d get lazy and talk myself out of it again. A hearty breakfast and a shower to waken me and I was on the road by 10am (I know, it hardly qualifies as early!). I rode a slightly modified version of Saturday’s loop. It involved riding shorter 5km mini loops with a more gradual 60m elevation increase in the middle of the larger loop. I didn’t fancy riding that big hill 9 times in the one day.

Even with this modification it was tough! It was almost 1300m total elevation which is probably the most climbing I’ve done on that distance. The roads are partly secondary R roads but mostly rural L roads with poor surfaces, almost constant bumps and rattles and two short sections with large portholes and gravel on lots of corners.

With all the physical challenges this was also a big mental challenge. The reason I cycle is at least partly to enjoy the scenery and I love riding new routes and roads. This was the complete opposite, riding a remarkably uninteresting and difficult route over and over with no opportunity to relax concentration and being close enough to home to throw the head and pack it all in at any time.

The one advantage of riding so close to home is the ability to ride “light“. No rain gear, no extra clothes, no food, no tools, spare tubes, CO2 or pump and only one water bottle. Everything was <2km away if the weather changed or I got a puncture and the plan was to break about halfway at home for food and a water refill.

In the end I didn’t break until just over 72km. My breakfast carried me farther than I thought and I became concerned that stopping too early would make it difficult to restart. I was aiming for 75km as that would bring out my stubborn streak to finish and would involve only one final climb of the big hill.

I had no problem restarting after a short break but the last 28km was really hard. I was tired, my lower back was starting to spasm, my ass and shoulders were feeling the near constant road vibration and I was finding concentration difficult to maintain. I made two mistakes on the spin, one almost going into the ditch when I looked away from the road to check my speed on a fast narrow descent at about 60km and the second in the last 15km when I went wide to take a corner without checking over my shoulder when an unexpected van was overtaking me. Both were lack of concentration due to tiredness.

I eventually finished after 4.5hrs with 1287m in 101km and an average speed of 22.6km/h. I would love to say I finished with a sense of achievement but it was more like relief. I don’t think I enjoyed a single minute of the full ride and I really hope I have another option when it comes to April. I am glad I did it though and managed to keep my metric streak running.

click the image to view on strava

new restrictions

New measures were introduced yesterday evening that, despite government reluctance to use the term, are effectively a full lockdown for the country. We are only allowed to leave home for essential tasks (food shopping/collection, caring for the elderly or vulnerable, collection of medicines, travel to essential work) and are only allowed to exercise within 2km of our homes.

This last bit sounds very restrictive but it’s amazing how much space is within a 2km radius. A software developer in Wexford was quick off the mark and has a handy online tool to show you what this looks like.

my 2km radius

A member of a cycling WhatsApp group pointed out that a 2km radius is equal to a circumference of 12.5km and armed with both bits of information I was able to create an 11km loop on Strava that stays within the new guidelines.

the maths

A few cycling friends have used hill repeats for training but despite considering it I’ve never bothered. This loop is effectively hill repeats as there is one big climb in the middle with an average of 5.4% over 2km with three sections of 10%+ giving an elevation change of 145m. It’s a tough old climb and despite tiredness setting in I was surprised how consistent I was on the four repeats I did today on a total distance of 51km including the descent from home and climb back up.

elevation profile
click the image to view on strava

On my first loop I was hailed by John, one of my fellow Club mates, outside his house as he was out cutting the grass. It was a very pleasant and novel experience to be talking to someone (maintaining a 2m social distance) other than family and shop assistants for the first time in 2 weeks, even if our conversation was unsurprisingly dominated by the virus.