Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

The Corona Diaries: Chapter 8 – Robot Wars

We are beginning to find inventive ways of replacing physical social interaction – both remotely (with friends, family and colleagues) and around the house (with new found friends).

Saturday is as always our most social day when it comes to interacting with people. Saturdays are sacrosanct and we are making a point of devoting them to football. At half past two, the Blackpool Association of Supporters in London have a group chat on Zoom. Whilst I am not an official BASIL member, the group contains many of my most cherished Seasider friends. When I was living in the Midlands I would often meet up with the BASIL boys and girls, travelling part of the journey with them. Games down south are made all the more special for having more of my dear friends around me. Now they come to my living room (from all over the world, not just London) every week and it’s lovely to see them regularly. Hopefully these Zoom gatherings will continue in the ‘new world’ on the other side of this pandemic. Lockdown is forcing us even deeper into tech and it’s really rather good. Yay for Zoom et al.

Saturdays at 3pm Lee and I host a livestream football chat, engaging with a wide spectrum of football fans. We have regular visitors from Ipswich Town and Fleetwood Town as well as Seasiders based all over the world. It’s great to have this regular interaction, immersing ourselves in football every Saturday at 3pm. You can watch our latest stream below.

Do pop in and join us this Saturday. You can find us at Lee Charles TV on YouTube. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe to the channel and receive a notification every time we go live or upload a video.

Online social connections notwithstanding, Lee and I find ourselves interacting more and more with household items as they begin to increasingly display anthropomorphic characteristics. Before we lived together, Lee had Alexa for company and I had Siri – and both forms of Artificial Intelligence have a place in our home today. They’re often useful (providing weather forecasts, for example) and occasionally hilarious (Siri recently developed a stammer when trying to describe a h-h-h-humidifier to me). But now things seem to be stepping up on the inanimate object front here at LCTV Towers…

Of course we have the Haunted Scales, which are screaming STEP OFF STEP OFF every time we look at them from the other side of the bathroom.

It is getting progressively more difficult to obtain a weight reading from them in between their incessant screaming. I’m not sure I even want them in the house any more, quite frankly. Stepping on the scales is stressful enough in these times of high-volume snackage without all this extra drama. It’s not as if we can even have invite an exorcist round to help. Hmm but you can teach yourself how to do pretty much anything online, right…


Whilst clearing out the conservatory on Sunday I happened across a bag of stuff I hadn’t unpacked from my recent move – including a couple of automatic air fresheners.

These are great because you can go to bed with the house smelling of curry but wake up to the delightful aroma of Sweet Berry Joy, the little machines having worked hard throughout the night.

However. On Tuesday morning we were alarmed to find a puddle in the living room – just inches away from a power socket. One of the machines was frantically spitting out air freshener. Just what WAS going on with these machines at the moment? Were they actively trying to kill us now? I am beginning to wonder if they all come alive when we’re out of the house (a bit like Andy’s toys in Toy Story) and are crumbling under the pressure of pretending to be inanimate now we’re in lockdown. Lee resolved this particular issue (we think…) by changing the battery in the machine (this hasn’t worked with the scales, we’ve tried).

Now despite these recent battles with rogue machines, we decided that this week would be a good time to unbox our first ever ACTUAL ROBOT. Having witnessed Lee mowing the lawn (with a patched up cord that he had previously run over and almost electrocuted himself), my ‘protective tiger’ mode kicked in and I resolved that Lee was never again going to put himself at risk mowing the lawn. Obvs I had no intention of mowing it myself (I had the lawns at my old house replaced with something lower maintenance). We started looking into robot lawnmowers and, well, how could we resist, having read these reviews:

Well, dear reader, here he is – the new addition to the family: Morty the Mow-bot.

And here’s little Morty finding his own way home after finishing work:

He seems harmless enough but I confess I am a little concerned that he might turn on us. After all, more ‘accidents’ happen in the home than anywhere else. I am now beginning to wonder what percentage of these are, in fact, accidents. I have been reading that DIY and home improvements are being discouraged at the moment, with household injuries putting further pressure on the NHS. Murderous machines notwithstanding, so far in four weeks of lockdown, Lee and I have each had wood splinters in our eye from replacing a fence panel as well as leg and back injuries from attempting to move a concrete block…

I won a competition last week! The prize was an indoor herb garden. I’ve tried and failed to grow plants from seeds before (as I’m always out), but figure I have a better chance at keeping these alive now I’m locked down. And, besides, there are enough things in this house that are seemingly alive that ought not to be, surely these herbs stand a good chance? Well so far the basil is coming through nicely but there is no sign of the chives and I did find a few dead parsley shoots earlier today (underwatered). Frankly I’m not too keen on parsley anyway (parsley sauce, eugh). But I’m looking forward to enjoying the basil in pasta sauces and the chives in the soft cheese that I’m not really allowed to eat (for migraine reasons) but am anyway.

At night (as the scales weigh ghosts, the air freshener tries to kill us for making it work nights and Morty silently mows the lawn) my dreams seem to be getting more dramatic. Online research reveals this is a common thing amongst the population. We are getting more REM sleep and also our subconscious anxieties about the virus can manifest themselves in nightmares. On Tuesday night I dreamt that I was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with four other people and social distancing was proving challenging. One of my flatmates was sleeping above the bath and fled the room in terror when I went in to use the shower. I complained to the landlord about the lack of space and when I returned home from work the following evening the building was boarded up. It had been occupied by Russians who were opening fire on passers-by (I blame Killing Eve and Money Heist for that part). As I fled the scene, making sure Lee was safe behind me, apparently I shouted out in my sleep: ‘COME ON!!!’ Never before have I been (made) aware of talking in my sleep. Lee said that night he had dreamt of taking Morty the Mow-bot on holiday to Australia. Bless.

Of course for now we can only dream of being outdoors and overseas. We can’t even plan any outings or holidays because the future is somewhat of a mystery at the moment. And yet, despite our night terrors, we are enjoying this new chilled pace of life, having the time to cook, potter around the house and garden, go for walks and work through our ‘to do’ lists with no time pressure, no trains to catch and no deadlines to meet. We have settled into our new relaxed pace of life. We can’t afford to live like this for too much longer but we fully intend to enjoy it while we can. For none of us know how long we have left. And yet we do know that, one day, this too shall pass. Keep fighting and keep smiling, dear reader.

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