Human-centred decisions

Lockdown projects — Month 3

As lockdown eased, small craft projects made way for some much larger home improvement projects. But I’m going to start with some unfinished business from last month.

Half marathon

Throughout the lockdown, running has been a core activity keeping me out of trouble. In last month’s update, I wrote that I was less than two weeks away from running my first ever half marathon. So did I do it?

By late May, I was becoming accustomed to running longer distances once a week. I’d run 18.5k by my previous update.

The following week I achieved 20k in just over 2 hours. I made myself an informal target of running the half marathon distance under 2 hours.

Once again, Lauren Tormey acted as my virtual running buddy. She has run a few half marathons before, and she mapped out a route that zig-zagged around Edinburgh’s southside. Just like the Virtual 10k, this enabled us to run the same route at the same time, but from different starting points — enabling us to remain socially distant.

In the event, I ran it in 2:02:14. That was just over my 2 hour target. But generally speaking I felt good during the run. I was pleased to have achieved half marathon distance at all — something I never would have imagined even at the start of this year.

The most eventful thing that happened was that during kilometre 18 someone stopped me to ask for directions! I had no idea where the place they were looking for was. I felt like saying: “Can’t you see I’m running a half marathon?” I guess it wasn’t necessarily obvious.

Make your own music box

Mini music box with hole punch and card

A couple of years ago my brother Gordon and his wife Laura got me this make your own music box kit. I remember thinking at the time: “I mustn’t let this be one of those things that gathers dust for ages”. The fact that I did made me feel rather guilty, and is part of the reason why I started doing all these little projects when lockdown began.

And yet, it still ended up being one of the last things I got round to. Why was that? I never thought about it, but perhaps my subconscious was scared of the music. I used to be a relatively proficient musician, reaching grade 6 level on the piano. But I never enjoyed practising, and I eventually gave it up altogether. The talent did not remain.

This kit comes with long strips of card with a musical stave on it, and with half-beats marked vertically. It looks like a long sheet of graph paper. You mark out the melody. Then you use a hole punch to create the holes, in a process very much like the one I imagine led to George W Bush becoming US President.

But what melody would I punch? Inspiration wasn’t striking. I have a Radiohead songbook, but it only contains the guitar chords, not actual melodies. Plus, the music box only has the capability to play melodies in the key of C, meaning that any tunes written in any other key would have to be transposed.

Me transcribing music

I got my seldom-used Omnichord out to try and work things out and see if playing about with it could give me any inspiration. I don’t have any other keyboard instruments, so I found a web-based keyboard that I could play with… my keyboard. But frankly, I couldn’t really be bothered with all the working out.

So I had to think of a great tune that was already written in the key of C. And preferably that I already owned the sheet music to.

See if you can guess what it is.

I ran into more problems as soon as I started punching holes. Early on I discovered that the music box can’t handle the same note being played on two consecutive half-beats, rendering many of my first hole punches useless, and giving this pop song with a motorik beat a rather more weedy feel than the real thing.

I began embellishing it with a few trills here and there for a bit of that magical music box touch.

I also miscalculated a whole section towards the end by a whole beat. On further inspection, I discovered that it was the original sheet music that was wrong! Luckily, you can use tape to cover up the mistakes and re-punch the holes.

There are still two sheets for me to punch holes in. So let me know if you have any requests.

Jesmonite chips

Jesmonite of various colours smeared onto a plastic sheet

Me making the jesmonite chips

We have decided to make more of the terrazzo coasters from last month. But this time we’re taking more of a division of labour approach than a craft one.

We spent an afternoon just making chips of various colours. They are now in storage. There are still some colours missing — there are no purples for instance. We’ll make the coasters themselves later in the year.

Terrazzo coaster chips in various colours laid out like a colour picker

Living room redecoration

The old living room, with test patches on the wall

Alex and I both had a week off work in May. We were originally meant to visit our friends Richard and Lucy in Norwich, but coronavirus had other ideas.

Test patches of various shades of grey paint

We decided instead to spend the week redecorating our living room.

It’s something we’ve wanted to do ever since we moved in four years ago. The old living room wasn’t particularly offensive. But the pale purpley-brown wasn’t entirely to our taste. We sought a shade of grey with a similar brightness. We chose the one furthest on the right.

Two dark blue test patches on the wall

Alex wanted to paint one of the walls a dark blue, although I was concerned it wouldn’t work. For the paint geeks(of which I am not, but Alex is), we tested with a Farrow & Ball sample of a colour called railings (right), but used a Dulux equivalent (left) to paint the wall. You can see the difference there, but with the whole wall painted it actually looks fantastic.

It was my job to climb the ladder and reach the high bits. The cornice was an absolute nightmare to paint, and left me in a fair bit of pain from constantly reaching up and craning my neck. This was also the week I ran my half marathon (with long runs on the Tuesday and the Sunday), so not ideal!

The newly redecorated living room with its dark blue wall

In the end though, we’re delighted to have finally freshened up the room.

The next big home improvement

A floor without the floorboards, with deafening and pipes visible

Work on our new kitchen has finally started. This is something else that’s been in our heads since we moved in. The idea to do it has existed for years. The plans came into place last year. It was finally due to start in April. Then lockdown began.

As lockdown eases, work on the kitchen has now begun again. But that’s for a future post…

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