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Some tips for surviving quarantine

With thanks to Cindy and Michele of the Clapton Pool and Bar. (Recipe not provided)

Sense of humour is essential, so is exercise. Don’t drink too much booze, or snack from morning till night. For the moment the parks and the beaches are still open. Get out! Get out! Get out! Breathe the air, walk, run, swim but stay away from other people, sanitize before and after everything.

Keep containers of sanitizer in the car and near the front door at home. I have offered a spray to everyone, from petrol station attendants to grocery delivery guys. Everyone is grateful. We really are in this together.

As video chat becomes the new normal, here are some tips from my friend, the well-known Capetonian socialite Edward van Kuik. He and his partner in crime, Nicholas Spagnoletti, are stuck in Andalucía in Spain for the foreseeable future, but managing to run their business and an absolutely jam-packed social life via Zoom, all with perfect, high definition visuals, crystal clear sound and without making their noses look too big.

Edward says:

Use your computer and not your phone. Phones are handheld which means continuously changing background using up bandwidth which can otherwise be used for improved sound and picture quality. Also phones have a fairly narrow angle lens making your face huge, especially your nose.

If you use external speakers or microphone, try wired ones. Bluetooth is a little slower which can fuddle with the wizardry of echo-cancellation. That’s when you force your visitors to listen to themselves speak. How rude. Wearing earphones/a headset is even better if you’re a singleton participant.

I find Zoom to be the best multi-party party tool. Zoom also has good screen sharing and remote control, like if you want to look at something together, like mass hysteria C19 websites. Zoom also works on Ubuntu nicely.

Avoid using mobile data. Mobile data networks can introduce delays.

Don’t stick around if you don’t want to. Just say: “Bye I must go”. You can’t hide a bored look.

As well as just video mingling with each other over drinks, one can also share your desktop. In that way one can share experiences such as watching live performances over YouTube Live, or just an old episode of Fawlty Towers.

Tip: Zoom is designed for people who share things like spreadsheets, which need to be clear and sharp, and not things like video. It can do both, but you need to enable the ‘Optimize for Video Sharing’ option, or your video sharing will be jerky and horrible and you won’t hear or see Basil Fawlty clearly.

Oh and maybe give some more thought to lighting…

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A quarantine reading list

I was interested to find a short review of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel on a list of ‘must read books for a scary new era’in a newsletter from John Authers

And thought it worth sharing some of it here:

With handmade bookmark by #supportlocal

Guns, Germs, and Steel: This multi-disciplinary epic by Jared Diamond attempts to explain why some societies develop and grow wealthy while others do not, combining geography, history, biology and many other branches of knowledge. Of particular interest today, Diamond examines how epidemics came to shape society as well as looking at their biological causes.

He makes clear how Europeans came to supplant the native populations of North America so completely: “That might not have happened without Europe’s sinister gift to other continents — the germs evolving from Eurasians’ long intimacy with domestic animals.”

This is the time to read or re-read. (I agree!)

Authers also recommends Alexander Hamilton, which he describes as a huge and rewarding biography by Ron Chernow of a founding father born into poverty in the Caribbean who lost his life in a dual. The man at the centre of this book was a true genius, and a man of action. Chernow also reveals him to be tragically flawed as a driven man who never lost the need to prove himself. The story of his life is the perfect vehicle for explaining how the United States came into being.

Third on his list is Lords of Finance, the classic tale by Liaquat Ahamed of how policy mistakes and bad international co-ordination allowed the Great Depression to happen … It arrived just as the last global financial crisis was breaking out, and many still regard it as the most relevant book written about that crisis even though it covers events that took place almost eight decades earlier.”

Fourth on his list is When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein, “still by far the best narrative book of a financial crisis yet written … [and] a really entertaining book”.

His fifth choice, Factfulness by Hans Rosling, sounds like just the right sort of medicine for this time. According to Authers: “It suggests the world is a far better place than we realise, and proves it by laying out our advances in public health, none of which would have been possible if much of the developing world were not now ready to take a big economic step forward.”

He adds that the author, a public health expert, died of pancreatic cancer before the book was published. “The book comes with a fantastic website,, which is packed with remarkable information that will make all of us feel a bit better about the world … His son and daughter-in-law and continue to keep the website as a great place to explore”.

Hans Rosling TED talk: How not to be ignorant about the world:

More of John Authers’ list here:

“And what are you reading,” my muse asks. The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett, an interesting tale, set in 1959, about an Irishman who goes to the Congo in pursuit of his beautiful Italian lover. A little bit of romance, some adventure and a lot about Patrice Lumumba and the struggle for independence from Belgium. “Is it in any way relevant to the Covid-109 crisis,” she asks. “I mean, is it connected?”

Of course it is, everything is, as we are starting to find out.

The Evil Eye book mark (in the book) is another one from my collection of handmade glass bookmarks from Dragon Fire Beads. Great inexpensive locally manufactured gifts. Order online from a huge selection

I would be delighted to hear tips from others, please leave a comment below

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