Spanish: The triumph of optimism over experience, or a far more modest goal

I’m generally a fast learner, and have picked up a fair number of skills in my life, but language learning has been one area where I appear to have pretty much zero ability to learn.

It’s a somewhat ironic deficit, given how much I’ve gotten to travel over the years (82 countries and counting). But a concerted multi-year attempt at German, with very limited results, persuaded me that languages really weren’t my thing.

However, I’m conducting one final experiment …

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A COVID-19 diary

My record of good fortune on the COVID front finally ran out on 17th December 2021.

Steph had a presumptive diagnosis way back in March 2020 (based on symptoms in those pre-test days), and it was assumed it would be impossible for me to avoid it, but it appears I did. I maintained that record for more than 18 months, and also had zero reaction to any of the three vaccinations.

I’m using this blog to record my experience of the infection. Please don’t expect entertaining writing: my exhaustion is mental as well as physical. Mostly I’m writing it as a warning against complacency on the COVID front …

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Booking an antibody test for COVID-19

COVID-19 blood test

One of the most fundamental things needed in any competent response to the coronavirus crisis is access to testing. We need to know who has the virus now, so they can self-isolate. That’s achieved with a swab test, which only works reliably while someone is infectious – which is typically for around five days.

But we also need to know who has had the virus and since recovered …

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Swapping crap reality for virtual reality

Oculus Go

I’ve tried a few virtual reality (VR) experiences over the years, from headsets to full-motion simulators seating a dozen people. All had struck me as fun, but none had tempted me to invest in my own kit.

But let’s face it, actual reality isn’t much cop at present, so if there ever were a time to dip a toe into the virtual variety, this has got to be it, right … ?

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The lockdown is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent London

Reinvent London.jpg

It feels wrong to begin any upbeat piece about the coronavirus crisis without first acknowledging the terrible tragedy of it. The lives cut short. The family and friends left grieving. The healthcare professionals working long hours in trying conditions without the support they deserve. Those who have lost their jobs or been left struggling financially.

But in any loss, there is also opportunity. An opportunity not to try to return to normal as quickly as possible, but to invent a new normal …

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Not a coronavirus diary …

Not my coronavirus diary.jpg

It feels like there will come a time when future generations will look back on this time and ask ‘What was it like?’. I feel like I should be keeping some kind of diary – and yet, in truth, I have little to say.

A front-line medic would. A doctor, a nurse, a paramedic, a care worker. Other key workers too; those so recently dismissed by the government as earning too little to justify their place in the UK: the shop workers, the delivery staff, the refuse collectors and all the millions of people needed to keep the country running …

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The Whip

The Whip.jpg

I guess you can understand the 2018 British government hopelessly casting around for some good news somewhere, but even by those standards, one particular (now-deleted) tweet seems desperate in the extreme.

Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade

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It’s not yet day one of the campaign to rejoin the EU; not for me

Brexit

We did it. Somehow, an entire nation lost its mind. Or 52% of it. Or 26% of it. But however we do the maths, 100% of the UK left the EU.

I wanted to write an upbeat post, about how this was day one of the campaign to rejoin the EU. That’s who I am. I’ve always been an optimist, and at those times I could view the world in one of two ways, I’ve always aimed to choose the more empowering one.

But I’m not there yet with Brexit …

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The Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited.jpg

This will be a short review, because it’s difficult to say much at all about it without either giving away too much or reducing an incredibly powerful conversation to a mere description.

It’s also impossible to write anything at all about The Sunset Limited without one spoiler. It’s not much of one, because it becomes clear within the opening lines, and is quickly confirmed, but if you don’t want even that much, stop here and just go see it …

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An unlikely piece of laminated card

Those who know my political background will also know how big a deal this is: to align myself with one party.

Historically, I’ve been a big believer in representational democracy: the idea that we elect a representative, not a party. I started out by meeting the candidates, questioning them on the issues that were most important to me each election, and voting for the person I felt would best represent me on those issues …

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The Greatest Play in the History of the World

The Greatest Play

The Trafalgar Studio 2 is an intimate theatre at any time. It seats 100, and is usually not full (though it was tonight). In one of the front-row bench seats, you have your feet on the non-raised stage. The sense of intimacy was heightened by Julie Hesmondhalgh greeting us with a mug of tea in her hand, and chatting with us before the performance like we’d come round to her place for tea …

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London: an illustrated life-long love affair

Home-05

There are lots of cities I love to visit, a few I could happily live in for a year or two but none that, to me, compare to London.

It’s a city that has everything. Amazing archicture, old and new. Eateries at every level, from Michelin-starred restaurants to greasy spoons. An unbelievable array of theatres, with enough fantastic performances to visit every week (or, er, more often <cough>). Shopping has everything to offer from Harrods to market stalls. There are green spaces everywhere. Cinema. Art. It’s all here … 

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The great website migration begins (updated)

I’ve had a blog since long before the term was first coined.

benlovejoy.com began in 1997 as a few hand-coded pages. Yep, in those days you had to use a text editor to create each webpage, and you’d begin something like this:

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″>
<title>Wot I dun in my summer holidays</title>

Over the years, the site has evolved in various ways, but a combination of factors has made it harder work to update – and these days, blogging sites make it super-easy.

I did abandon plans to transfer the whole existing site over to WordPress, so am now using this for my very occasional random posts. Travel blogs will remain here on the main site, and my tango blog can be found here.