Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #5

You may remember a while ago, when only takeaways were allowed to open, I wrote a post on my local restaurants and whether they were still open and doing takeaways during lockdown.

Well this week, the lockdown restrictions have lifted and it’s now possible to eat inside restaurants again. In fact, if you’re reading this on the Wednesday evening this post was published, I’m possibly out for a meal right now (but it’s slightly outside the catchment area for this list).

I thought I’d have another review of my local restaurants to see what’s changed. Here’s what I found:

  1. I said this in my previous post, but there are a lot of restaurants near me. Every time I thought I had been everywhere, I remembered another one that I yet to visit. And when writing this list out again I found even more I still hadn’t been to. I should probably have broken the list down into subcategories or a more logical order, but it is what it is. And some of them are more takeaways/cafes than restaurants, but I’m not being too picky.
  2. Only a small number of places have closed down. In fact, only one place has definitely closed down, and there’s another few that may have closed down but could potentially just still be dormant. There’s even been a new sushi takeaway open since lockdown so maybe things haven’t been as bad as they could have been (here at least anyway).
  3. There’s a few places I didn’t previously include in my list because I thought they were more “cafes” than “restaurants”. However, a lot of them have now re-stylised themselves as more “cafe/bars” and are open later in the evening for food and drink. There’s still a few pure “cafes” in the area which I’ve not included as I’m only listing places which open in the evening.
  4. I’ve also added a few extra pubs to my list. My original list only included places that served food, but I missed off a couple of pubs that did food that I hadn’t realised. I’ve just included all pubs now, even if they only do drinks.
  5. A lot of places have been refurbished. Mainly the cafes that have shifted into the cafe/bar niche, but also some of the takeaways and the restaurants too. Whether they intended to do this anyway, or whether they just took advantage of reduced customers numbers during lockdown to do it, I don’t know.
Have I been there? (April 2020)Have I been there since lockdown?Status?
The Chinese (the only Chinese now since the other one closed)YesYesOpen
The dodgy IndianYes (but not since the new management)Yes. It’s fine with new management, but it’ll still be the “dodgy Indian”Open
The classic Indian (it doesn’t look like it’s been refurbished since the 90s)YesYesOpen
The posh Indian (used to be across the road but is now where the posh Chinese was)YesYesOpen
The expensive fish and chip shopYesYesOpen
The fish and chip shop restaurantYesYesOpen
The station kebab shopYesYes. This one has now also been refurbished, but they still do a proper kebabOpen
The posh kebab shop (formerly the normal kebab shop)Yes (but not since it was refurbished)Yes (you can read about it here)Open. Not previously an eat-in place, but now has a few posh tables.
The fried chicken takeawayYesNot since lockdownOpen
The Mediterranean restaurantYesYes, and it was strangely emptyOpen
The Thai restaurantNoYes, and this has turned in to one of my favourite surprise restaurants (takeaway anyway)Open
The noodle barNoYes. They even delivered despite me only living two minutes walk awayOpen
The Indian at the other end of the high streetNoNot since lockdown, but I think I may have actually been there beforeOpen
The restaurant around the corner that possibly specialises in burgers NoYes. It wasn’t bad but they were surprised when I walked in, rather than ordering via an online delivery serviceOpen but at the moment still only for takeaway/delivery (or it was yesterday when I walked past).
The steak restaurantNoYes. Although somehow I felt like I wasn’t their target clientele when I just walked in for a takeaway mealOpen
The Italian place on the hillNoYesOpen
The pizza place up the hillNoYes, twice. The pasta was good, but the pizza had an incredibly soggy bottomOpen
The other Italian place on the hillYesNoOpen
The greek place on the hill [Missed this one off the list first time.]YesNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurantYesNoIt didn’t open during lockdown and has now closed for good. The one place that has definitely closed
The Italian chain restaurantYesNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurantNoNoOpen
The spicy chicken restaurantYesNoOpen
The large pub on the cornerYesNoOpen
The old heritage pubYesNoOpen
The tiny pub near the large pub on the corner [I didn’t include this one first time as it doesn’t serve food. But that’s no longer a requirement of lockdown rules so it is now fully reopened]NoNoOpen
The old pub behind the high street [I didn’t include this one first time as I thought it didn’t serve food. It was much bigger than I expected, including a large garden at the back.]NoYes (for drinks)Open
The cheap chain pubYesNoThis was closed for most of lockdown (even before Christmas and when outdoors has been allowed). I’m not sure if it’s reopened yet as I forgot to look when I walked past, but I can’t imagine it’ll be closed for long
The pub at the far end of the high streetNoNoOpen. I don’t think it does food, but I’ve never been here
The Mediterranean restaurant that also likes to think it’s a bar/night clubYesI went for drinks here with a friend when that was allowed last yearOpen
The hipster place on the corner YesNoAfter being closed for all of lockdown and not reopening for outside only, I thought this place might have closed for good. But it did belatedly reopen last week for outside and I’m sure inside will be open too now.
The Spanish tapas place (I thought it was more of a cafe, but it is open until late evening)NoYes. This is on my list of places worth trying again.Open
The place up the steps that used to be a police stationNoNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoNo. I had a look at the menu, but I just wasn’t interested in itOpen
The restaurant that I can’t remember next to the Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoNoI think this one might have shut down permanently, there’s no signs it may reopen but it could surprise.
The place that used to be the French restaurantNoNoFully reopened, but it still feels like somewhere I don’t want to go.
The American dinerNoYesThere’s a notice on the door that it won’t be opening for Christmas/New Year. I fear it may not be reopening at all (but again, I could be surprised)
The chain bar that does for 2-for-1 cocktails at all timesNoNoOpen
The Irish pub opposite the stationNoNoOpen
The other Irish pub opposite the stationNoNoThe shutters are still down so it might have closed down
The burger place upstairs from the night clubNoNoI think this has probably shut down for good. The night club downstairs has been refurbished/rebranded and I’m expecting the upstairs place to be too
The seafood place on the wrong side of the tracksNoNoI’ve never been able to work out whether it was open for takeaway during lockdown. It looks like it’s open again now, but it has absolutely no signs outside so I have no idea
The dessert placeNoNoOpen as normal
The dessert place across the road from the dessert placeNoNoOpen as normal
The vegetarian placeNoYesI hadn’t realised this place opened late in the evening (I think they did it before lockdown). I think they do some chicken dishes too, so not purely vegetarian. The vegan burger was alright, would eat again.
The place that used to be the cheap cafeYes, but when it was still the cheap cafeNoThis used to be a cheap cafe, but they refurbished and now open late into the evening too.
The deli cafe NoYes, I grabbed a coffee here when I met up with a friendThis is another one that’s also extended it’s opening hours into the evening since lockdown
The “pick your own sandwich” chainNoNoWouldn’t have been on the list before, but had a brief renovation and is also open late so needs to be added
Lessons from the lockdown Money

Returning to normal?

I did three things this week that I haven’t done for a long time.

Firstly, I went to the pub for the first time since 15th October. Secondly, I went to the barbers for the first time since 13th October (a 183-day wait for a haircut compared to the 166-day wait between January and July last year). And thirdly I had to get cash out from a cash machine.

This is the first time I’ve had to get any cash out since December. I’ve not had much reason to spend cash though as the only thing I’ve had to buy with cash recently has been the occasional takeaway place that doesn’t take card. However the barber only takes cash and it’s easier to split a group beers bill with cash.

I’ve found all the times I’ve taken out cash over the last couple of years and plotted it into a graph:

The orange dots show each date I’ve taken out cash, whilst the blue line shows the amount averaged by the number of days until I next took out money (I don’t always take out the same amount each time but averaging it should make it comparable). The massive spike in December 2019 is for Christmas meals, because as I said, it’s always easier to sort group events with cash. And that was the last time I had any great need for cash.

Since then, my cash usage has dropped off massively and has been practically non-existent over the last few months. Maybe the cash usage will pick up again as things start to open up again and we can be more social, but maybe the days of using cash are over (other than for occasional beers and haircuts).

Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #4

The lockdown seems to be coming to an end (at least in England) and I’m now back at work full-time, but I still have a few more “Lessons from the lockdown” posts to post.

Today I’m looking at my utility (gas, electricity, water) usage and how it’s changed (or not) since the lockdown came in. I’ll stick the disclaimer up front: my meter readings are irregular and the data isn’t discrete enough to do a specific analysis by day/week, but it should show the general trends.


The most obvious thing in my gas usage over the last couple of years are the massive peaks over the winter period as I have a gas heating system. The lower usage last winter is either because I’ve had my flat much colder, or because the new double glazing actually does help to bring down heating costs.

The lockdown has coincided with a period of reasonably warm weather so I’ve had the heating turned off for a while. The only other use for gas is for cooking food on the hob. I have had to do more cooking whilst I’ve been at home, which may account for the slight recent rise and drop as I’ve gone back to work, but this is all within the realm of statistical anomalies. My current gas usage is almost at the lowest point it’s ever been (at this property anyway).


My electricity usage on the other hand has never been higher. Electricity usage is fairly non-seasonal, despite the longer winter evenings needing more lighting.

Generally just being at home and running more electrical devices has probably caused this massive spike. The massive ramp up in electricity usage recently coincides with both buying a new computer and being at home more to use it. The good news is that it appears to be dropping which could be linked to being back in the office more often, but only time will tell.


Water usage has fluctuated the most over the last couple of years. There is a definitive spike in usage during February/March this year, but then a massive drop before increasing again. It’s possible that some of these seemingly anomalous readings are caused by rounding errors when the meter is read. The actual usage is probably somewhere between the two peaks and the average trend is shown by the dotted line.

Either way there does seem to be an upward trend in water usage. With being at home more, there’s much more water being used than normal. From washing hands more often due to coronavirus, to the things I would normally do in the office (filling my water bottle, using the toilet etc), it’s not surprising that water use is higher than previously. Again, the good news is that the water usage seems to be on a downward trajectory too as I return to work.

Lessons from the lockdown Technology

Lessons from the lockdown #3

For a long time I’d been thinking of getting a new computer. My 6-year old laptop is still pretty powerful and does everything I need it to (I massively overspec’d it when I bought it), but it is laptop and the case is starting to fall apart. Regular readers may remember that it previously had an issue where the battery died and needed replacing. Three years on, and the replacement battery is also no longer able to hold a charge and requires permanently being attached to the wall. However, until my laptop died outright I was unwilling to replace it.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve kept and updated a list of components I would buy if I was to build my own computer. By late 2019, I had decided that late April/early May 2020 would be when I put my plan into action.

And then the lockdowns started to come in. With the factories in Asia shut down, the internet was predicting that computer parts would drop in availability and increase in price over the next few months. This would be exactly when I was planning to buy my new computer. So, in mid-March, I decided to accelerate my purchasing plans and spent a couple of days finding the cheapest places to buy each of the components I wanted.

A week or so later (and several trips to various parcel depots around London), and I had a new computer built and working:

Since the initial build I’ve also added the additional RGB fan at the back and the two vertical RGB strips (mainly to look better). The light strips could be a bit tidier, but that would involve a lot more effort. The only other planned change I would like to do is to move the graphics card to a vertical orientation, but the parts I want to do that aren’t available at the moment.

Speaking of availability, remember how I mentioned that it was thought that availability would go down and prices would go up as the lockdown went on? Well, I’ve kept track of the prices since then (whilst hoping to avoid buyer’s remorse). Here’s my findings normalised to 100% at the price I paid:

(Note: It’s not entirely scientific, because this is just the prices for each item at the retailer I bought each item from. When doing my initial price checking, I compared all 9 items across about 20 retailers, but I wasn’t going to do that each time. I also only recorded the prices every week or two so it may miss some fluctuations. It’s also not possible to compare with prices before I started recording – prices may already have been trending upwards, or I may have just bought when everything was on sale.)

It may not be entirely clear from that graph, but here’s the key points:

  1. The total price (highlighted in yellow) has gradually increased over the last two months
  2. The second SSD (yes, I have two), the power supply and the memory all went out of stock about two weeks ago. It would be possible to use different components with similar specifications, but then it wouldn’t be the computer I’ve built
  3. The motherboard and graphics card both dropped in price the week after I bought them. However, everything else went up the week after I bought them, and the overall cost would still have been more expensive
  4. Apart from a couple of items, costs have generally stabilised over the last couple of weeks and may even be starting to drop back down again. This is possibly due to increased availability again, or it could just be retailers trying to clear stocks in anticipation of the next generation of components. I may keep recording prices over the next couple of months for comparison

So did I buy at the right time? From the (incomplete) data I have, yes.

Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #2

Several years ago, I started doing something called “Takeaway Thursday”. It’s a simple enough premise – get a different takeaway meal every Thursday evening from the local area. Several years and several houses (and one lockdown) later, I decided I should reinstate this tradition in order to bring some regularity to my week (and so that I didn’t have to cook).

While I intended to write about my Takeaway Thursday experience from last week (which I may or may not use in next week’s post), I started to make a list of all the places within a 10 minute walk which do food (either restaurant or takeaway):

Have I ever been there?Restaurant status?Takeaway/Delivery status?
The Chinese (the only Chinese now since the other one closed)YesClosed
The dodgy Indian (it’s got new management now so it may have improved)Yes (but not since the new management)Closed
The classic Indian (it doesn’t look like it’s been refurbished since the 90s)YesClosedYes
The posh Indian (used to be across the road but is now where the posh Chinese was)YesClosedYes
The expensive fish and chip shopYesClosed
The fish and chip shop restaurantYesClosedYes
The station kebab shopYesYes
The normal kebab shop (only reopened recently after it’s recent four month refurbishment – I was starting to worry, even though their poster clearly said “we will be back, do not worry, we will feed you”)Yes (but not since it was refurbished)Yes
The fried chicken takeawayYesYes
The Mediterranean restaurant (I always forget this has always done takeaway)YesClosedYes
The Thai restaurantNoClosedYes
The noodle barNoClosedYes
The Indian at the other end of the high streetNoClosedNo (I think it was doing before though)
The restaurant around the corner that possibly specialises in burgers NoClosedYes
The steak restaurantNoClosedYes
The Italian place on the hillNoClosedNot yet, but starting at the weekend
The pizza place up the hillNoClosedYes
The other Italian place on the hillYesClosedNo
The Italian chain restaurantYesClosedNo
The Italian chain restaurantYesClosedNo
The Italian chain restaurantNoClosedNo
The spicy chicken restaurantYesClosedNo
The large pub on the cornerYesClosedNo
The old heritage pubYesClosedNo
The cheap chain pubYesClosedNo
The Mediterranean restaurant that also likes to think it’s a bar/night clubYesClosedNo
The hipster place on the corner YesClosedNo
The Spanish tapas place (I thought it was more of a cafe, but it is open until late evening)NoClosedNo
The place up the steps that used to be a police stationNoClosedNo
The Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoClosedNo
The restaurant that I can’t remember next to the Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoClosedNo
The place that used to be the French restaurantNoClosedNo
The American dinerNoClosedNo
The chain bar that does for 2-for-1 cocktails at all timesNoClosedNo
The Irish pub opposite the stationNoClosedNo
The other Irish pub opposite the stationNoClosedNo
The burger place upstairs from the night clubNoClosedNo
The seafood place on the wrong side of the tracksNoClosedPossibly
The dessert placeNoClosedYes
The dessert place across the road from the dessert placeNoClosedYes

I’ve almost certainly missed somewhere off the list, and I’ve not included any cafes that might still do takeaway during the day. I’ve also not included the three pubs that I’ve never been to, but also don’t do food.

So what did I learn from this:

  1. There’s a lot of places to get food from within a very short distance from my house.
  2. There’s a lot more places that are still doing takeaway/delivery than I expected.
  3. I’ve got plenty of new places to try out during the lockdown.
  4. I’ve got plenty of new places to go to when things are open again.
Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #1

During this lockdown, they say that routine and regular social contact are the most important things to keep people going. So what could be better than resurrecting a blog that hasn’t been updated in around four years to get us through these troubling times.

Since my most (relatively) popular blog posts have been about my food shopping habits and meals I’ve cooked, I thought I’d make that the topic of this post.

Like most people I’ve been trying to reduce the number of times I’m going outside to reduce the risk of picking up the virus or transmitting it to anyone else. I decided that instead of shopping (approximately) weekly, I would instead try to shop for a whole fortnight. Here’s the list of things I ran out of, and why I won’t be shopping for more than a week.

  1. Milk – My diet is high in breakfast cereal and I normally go through 6 pints of milk in 7 days. Milk doesn’t normally last two weeks. If I bought 2x 6-pint bottles, the second one would almost certainly be going bad by the time I was through it. I’m not doing UHT.
  2. Bananas – My 11am mid-morning banana is a key part of my routine. Even if I had bought a sufficient quantity of bananas, they would still be well past their past by the start of the second week.
  3. Lettuce – I didn’t really run out of this, this one ran out on me. This was the only item I bought that went bad. I think it must have been close to its “best by” when I bought it and then I forgot about it for a couple of days. Unfortunately I had to throw about half of it away. I don’t often get lettuce so I could do without this one.
  4. Chicken – I thought I had 2 or 3 chicken breasts in the freezer, turns out I only had 1. Fajitas made with sausages still work though. This was bad planning on my part really.
  5. Onion – I bought a “seasonal vegetable pack” which contained an onion that went mouldy. Fortunately I had also stocked up on onions separately so it didn’t matter. The seasonal vegetables (carrot, turnip, swede) worked out well though, I made it into a soup with some leftover potatoes. I even made enough to put two portions in the freezer.

So there it is. Milk and bananas are the two reasons why I will be going shopping every week.

*Side note: It actually worked out at 12 days between large shops, with an intermediate milk purchase on day 8.