Back to traffic jams & full trains

Yesterday was the first time in two years that I actually got on a train! For the past few weeks when I went in to work (two days a week), I parked my car at a park & ride and then took the metro in (about a 10 minute ride). That tends to be quicker for me by about 15-20 minutes rather than taking the train, especially as traffic jams, even in rush hour traffic, aren’t so bad now due to a partially working from home recommendation still being in effect. Yesterday Mr Esther needed the car more than I did, so I biked to the train station and actually boarded a train and then a metro. I was lucky. The train that left before mine to another city was so packed, people had to get off and catch another train. My train wasn’t too bad…

…and on the way home (I was able to travel back again before rush hour) it was even quiet…

I am no fan of rush hour train traffic. I hate the bustle and shuffle of getting on and standing in a crowded place and if you can’t get on, needing to wait for a next train that may be just as crowded and delays your trip by 15 minutes, making you late for wherever you need to be. I’d rather be on the metro where it can also get crowded but it’s never quite as crowded as on the train and there are more options to get to your destination as they depart more frequently. If a metro is too crowded, it’s easy to let it go and just take the next one 2 or 3 minutes later. I do like off peak train travel, though, just like yesterday on my way home.

The news today is that almost all remaining Coronavirus rules will be scrapped as of mid next week. No more mandatory face masks on public transport (although wearing one would still be appreciated), no more partial lockdown recommendation to work from home for half the week, no more testing restrictions to get into big events. Yes, the case numbers still appear to be quite high but pressure on the health system seems to not be so bad, which is why the rules will now be relaxed and we will have to learn to live with the virus. Here the elderly and those at higher risk are getting their fourth shots now. My mother and aunt just had theirs last week. The basic rules around testing with symptoms, isolation and quarantine will still remain in force for the time being.

I suspect that with the working from home restriction lifted, rush hour traffic jams on the highways will get longer again and trains will get busier too. Not sure how I feel about the relaxing of virtually all measures. On the one hand, these restrictions can’t go on forever, on the other hand the Coronavirus is still causing a lot of mayhem. For me, I think I will continue wearing a face mask in public transport when it is crowded… It feels a little weird getting back to life how it used to be again.

MTA – On rethinking this, I realize I lied! I was on a train again a month ago for the first time, while going to meet some friends for dinner in another city… The rest of this post still is true, though.

Covid, vaccines & Dunbar

We’re back to working from home full time again. Partial lockdown is in effect here as new Corona cases soar to an unprecedented high and deaths are rising too, although thankfully those numbers are not as high (yet?) as they were last year…

People are desensitizing to it and becoming complacent. I understand that no one wants to hear the same news anymore, over and over again, or yet again more cases and hospitals getting crowded and deaths. Being tired of that news doesn’t mean it’s all gone yet. Covid 19 is still here, whether people choose to ignore it or not. And something can be done about it too, to get rid of it all: vaccination!

Junior has a cold now, nothing bad, just a stuffed nose, he feels fit otherwise. He did an at home test yesterday which was negative and, just to be safe, he won’t be going in to work today and has just gone out to have an official test done. Hopefully it all stays negative. I’m really proud of him for being so responsible about it all (and he’s double vaccinated too) but can 15% of the grown up population that is not vaccinated really continue to hold the 85% hostage who have been vaccinated? I want this thing to be over! Vaccines have already killed off diseases, why can’t Covid be one of them?

This week the news came that Rockmond Dunbar, whom I love on 9-1-1 and have loved on The Mentalist as well, has been written off 9-1-1 because he refused to be vaccinated. Warning: spoilers about his final episode can be found in this breaking article about the situation. I know very little about Dunbar but I am so disappointed that someone who can play such a lovely, warm, empathetic character on the show should refuse to be vaccinated like this in real life. In the show during season 4 he is glad to finally get a Covid vaccination while the already vaccinated first responders Bobby and Athena look on, and yet in real life he won’t have it.

Apparently he is “not an anti-vaxxer” but the religious and medical exemptions he asked for were reviewed and declined, which says to me that his reasons for not vaccinating are just not good enough. Sigh. It’ll be a long time before this Covid nightmare will end, I fear.

So, for me, it’s back to working from home full time again. I’m actually glad to not have to go into the office all the time but a little travel (I went to the office once a week these past few weeks) does break the monotony somewhat and I welcomed that. No more of that now. All that sitting at a table at home and typing often makes my hands feel cold so I invested in these…

… and hope that this partial lockdown will indeed help reduce the further spread of Covid while I type away on my work laptop. I’m already vaccinated, all I can do now to stop further spread is be careful and stick to regulations. And also say: please, get that damn vaccine!

New lockdown looming

This evening there will be a new press conference from our prime minister and our health minister. A new 3 week partial lockdown is looming due to ever rising new Covid cases and Covid deaths…

85% of the Dutch have been vaccinated and the cases that go to hospital or intensive care are mostly from unvaccinated people. 4 in 5 people was the last I had heard. Our indoor mask mandate was let go after the summer but returned a week ago and working at the office was only allowed for 50% max but it looks like the lockdown will get stricter again.

Our Corona crisis press conferences are always also covered by a sign language interpreter. Last year in March, when the first lockdown was announced, it was the first time a sign language interpreter had ever been present at a huge press conference like that. Irma Sluis, the interpreter, became really famous and very popular because of the sign she made for the word ”hamsteren” (which means hoarding supplies like a hamster)…

Since then there have also been other interpreters but Irma remains the most famous. So, when my sister forwarded this to our family chat this morning, it completely cracked me up. The written text translates to: “Leaked! This is what Irma Sluis is going to say [at the press conference] this evening!”:

We really need to try to retain a sense of humour during this whole Corona crisis mess, it felt good to actually laugh about it instead of dreading it, like I really do. I know vaccination is a personal choice but, come on, is it really so very difficult to decide to get vaccinated so we can beat this thing once and for all? As much as I love seeing Irma Sluis and her colleagues in action, I so wish for all of this to be over.

Yannick Bissoning it

I’ve been a bit of a downer of late and by of late, I mean that it’s been going on for a few months. The vertigo I had (thankfully all gone now) didn’t help, depressing weather and shorter days in wintertime didn’t help (I always have a bit of the winter blues), job dissatisfaction didn’t help, a year in lockdown didn’t help and not moving enough probably didn’t help either. Now with the days thankfully getting longer again, I try to get out more, like during the walk I posted about earlier this week. I’m getting tired of walking, though, and so today I Yannick Bissoned it (yep, I invented a new verb)!

Yannick (him with the dreamy brown eyes) is a mountain biker. He bikes on The Murdoch Mysteries

… but most of all he’s a biking nut in real life…

On his social media he posts little biking movies…

… and, inspired by Yannick, I found myself thinking that with the weather improving a bit, I should really go biking again as well. It’s something different than taking all the same old walks all the time. I don’t do the adventurous mountain biking that Yannick does but The Netherlands isn’t anything if not a biking country and it’s easy to step on your bike and just go. So, Yannick Bissoning it (biking and filming along the way) seemed the way to go.

Lockdown measures have been prolongued here to mid April at least (Corona cases are on the rise again and vaccinations are not moving quick enough), which means we are all still limited in our movements. Biking is not limited, though, and so at the end of the afternoon I stepped on my bike again for the first time in many months and biked into town. I have no leg muscles left to speak of, so I decided on a leisurely pace. I have also not been into our town centre for months, so it was nice to just bike to and around there for a bit. I made some gifs from the few short videos I made (had to hold it in my hand, don’t have a camera fixed on me like Yannick does).

I plan on Yannick Bissoning it way more often now as the weather improves. It will be good to build up a little stamina again as well and, as I do so, maybe I can take some longer bike rides by the time the weather really gets warmer. Time will tell…

It’s been a year

A year ago today I went to the office building I work in for the last time before going into lockdown. On Thursday afternoon, March 12th, we were all glued to a TV screen at work, watching breaking news announcing that the country had to go into lockdown. Even then I don’t think we were completely aware of how serious all of this was for all of us but we very soon learned. I went in to the office on Friday morning (Friday the 13th!) for an hour or two because I had an appointment to explain to two colleagues how to work in Microsoft Teams, already learning to do so by keeping a little distance between them and me (how important that software would become, starting on the Monday after lockdown started!). The office was already virtually deserted that day. I went home again for lunch and haven’t been back there since.

At the time I couldn’t imagine that being in lockdown would last a year! I was going to write a whole retrospective on observations and lessons learned but I had a bit of a difficult day yesterday and I find I can’t bring myself to do more looking back today. All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t know then that this would last so long because I don’t know how I would have survived such a prospect. I do know that now with vaccines rolling out all over the world I have hope that we can hug people again in the forseeable future, that we can go out to restaurants, cinemas, theatres, concerts and museums again, that we can travel again and live life instead of just making do and existing. I hope that by March 13th 2022 this period in time will all be a memory, that we will never lose anyone due to this horrible virus again, that we can recalibrate and change the things we now realize we need to change and protect the things we missed most during this lockdown year (and a half?). The end is in sight, I hope.