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Indoors for much of this week: working, homeschooling and, most pressingly, looking after a Covid patient (thankfully over the worst and getting better now but – and while I realise this is not especially practical advice – I really, really recommend not catching it if you possibly can).

The pics above and below are from an exploratory go at astrophotography earlier in the week, mostly as an evening distraction once the rest of the family had gone to bed. I’m not sure the conversion to WordPress-friendly jpegs will do the results justice, but I was pleased with what I managed with my Fuji Xt-20 on a tripod, and a somewhat hit-and-hope approach to exposure parameters.

Since the weather’s been dry and the air pollution dropped away dramatically we’ve been able to see the stars in a way I’ve never experienced in semi-suburban south-east London before. The Plough has been particularly prominent so I focused most of my efforts on that. We’re due some wet weather this week; once that’s cleared I might have another go as the constellations move on.

One problem with photographing the sky at night is that, beyond the technical challenges, is that unlike what I usually shoot, where my camera is significantly more than good enough for 95% of situations, a bigger, faster sensor would definitely produce better results in the dark. I’ve probably spent enough money recently, though.

One result of our now-necessary self-isolation is that the horizons seem to have shrunk even further than they had before. Maybe this was a subconscious prompt for looking at the stars… I find that when I’m focused on the day-to-day routine then the upsides of this peculiar moment can seem quite appealing: lunch with the family every day; more time for guitar practise; tidying the garden; the pleasures of regular deliveries to break up the day (this week brought local bread, groceries via friends, a new wireless router, some extension cables, and other domestic items that suddenly seem very important), and so on. When I look beyond the day-to-day, though, I find I’m really badly missing the routine parts of life-before: Parkrun with friends, swimming at the lido, socialising with actual people, popping to the pub and talking about whatever we used to talk about, playing music with other people… Despite some ‘end the lockdown’ noises in the press, I don’t see this ending soon, however. We’ve got to push on and get through it somehow, but I worry that in the necessity of making it happen we underestimate just how strange and unnatural this period of time is, how difficult it is for so many people, and the trade-offs we’re making.

Other news and diversions:

  • Had a first jazz guitar lesson via Skype. Feels like jumping into a new rabbit hole, but there’s probably never been a better time for me to try it.
  • Listening to the Tokyo Jazz Joints podcast and daydreaming about opening a South East London Jazz Micropub. I’m sure it would be very popular (with about 3 other people).
  • Dabbling – like every bloke in my demographic – with a sourdough starter. It smells quite unpleasant and I’m not convinced it’s working, but it’s something to do…
  • Reading Johnny Pitts’ ‘Afropean’ book. An unexpected side-effect of which, no doubt lockdown-related, is a strong desire to holiday in a mundane suburb of a large European city.