10 Photos of Ghost London with Social Distancing [Before and After]

When a man is tired of London,
He is tired of life.

Samuel Johnson

London can be as tiring as life is sometimes. Everything used to happen here – concerts, shows, events of all kind, hordes of tourists sweeping the streets, startups creating and reinventing in Shoreditch, bankers juggling with the world’s economy. All in the same place at the same time – it’s impossible to get everything; because we can only physically be in one place at a time, and also because for any good weekend plan there’s a limited capacity and millions more thinking about that great idea. Hustle and bustle is an essential part of some places in London and so, its absence these days is a symptom that something is happening. The photos below show clearly how coronavirus COVID-19 isolation has changed how we live our lives.

If that makes you anxious, I would like to offer you the chance to give it a twist. Think of it as a breathing exercise. Look at one crowded photo, picture yourself in the middle of the crowd. Imagine the selfie sticks, the chitchat in multiple languages; or the silent but relentless army-like procession of people in station rush hours. Feel the stress and yourself moving along with it in the direction you’d be heading. Breathe in for a few seconds in this feeling. Then hold your breath for a couple seconds while you move to the next (empty) photo. Feel the peace and quiet while you breath out slowly. It seems silly, but I’m sure you’ll feel better after it.

  1. Buckingham Palace
©PA Media/BBC
©PA Media/BBC

2. Trafalgar Square

© Evening Standard
© Andy Parsons

3. Leicester Square

©Paul Chambers
©Twitter

4. Piccadilly Circus

© Stephanographie
© Andy Parsons

5. London Eye

© E.Kaspersky
© Twitter

6. Liverpool Street Station

© David Peters
©Twitter

4. Chinatown

© Oast House Archive

5. King’s Cross station

© Unknown
© Twitter

3. Oxford Street

© Giulio Jiang
© Andy Parsons

3. The Underground

©Evening Standard
©MyLondon

Hope you enjoyed the photos. Please feel free to share and comment =)

Stay home, stay safe, stay sane!

10 Tips for Isolation From Cloistered Nuns

Hello, survivors!

I’ve come across a great article with invaluable advice from cloistered nuns in Cádiz, south of Spain – some of the most experienced people in staying isolated from the world. Their experience can be very helpful in the difficult times of coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic, for our lockdown in isolation. For you Spanish speakers, you can find it here. For the rest of you I’ll translate it below.

*In my non-native English, I’ve tried to keep it as loyal to the original text as possible, while trying to avoid things that would sound weird. Hope it’s good enough. Enjoy!*

Columbario. Alberto Campo Baeza, 1998. Image from Carmelitas Descalzas Cádiz

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1. ATTITUDE OF FREEDOM.
The most fundamental thing is the attitude with which you live, the interpretation that you make of the situation, the awareness that this is not a defeat. Paradoxically, this can be an opportunity to discover the most genuine and greatest freedom: the inner freedom that no one can take from you, the one that comes from yourself. Eventually, the authorities enforce us to be at home; your freedom consists of adhering voluntarily, knowing that it is for a higher good. Free is the one who has the capacity to assume the situation because they want to do the right thing. You are not locked up at home, you have chosen to stay there freely.

2.PEACE WHERE THE SOUL EXPANDS.

Look within yourself, the widest space to expand and be happy is in your heart; you do not need external spaces, but to walk comfortably in your inner world. Give room for creativity, listen to your own inspirations and find the beauty of which you are capable. Perhaps you have not yet discovered that in the peace of the soul, life blossoms… life is the creation of more life, communication of joy and love. When you get used to living in yourself, you don’t want to go out anymore.

3. DON’T NEGLECT, PEACE HAS TO BE WORKED.

Exercise virtues that require concentration and self-knowledge, those that we normally neglect because we are busy with a thousand ‘external’ tasks. Whether you live in heaven or hell depends on how you deal with your own emotions and thoughts, the management of your senses and passions. Observe yourself and dominate yourself; because if you let yourself be carried away by fear, sadness or apathy, you will hardly cut the thread, since there are not many evasions. Discipline your heart: when some thought does you no good, throw it away. Try to lean towards everything you notice that gives you peace and joy… harmony needs hard work.

4. LOVE

The trending topic for these days will be coexistence. In the face of the pandemic crisis, we are more susceptible and even irritable. Quite often you’ll have to be very patient and use common sense. We are diverse, each one has a different sensitivity due to thousands of circumstances. Accept and respect the opinions and feelings of others. It is very common, when we are at home, that we aim to control everything … Try not to, it would be the cause of many confrontations and frustrations. Downplay differences, empower things that unify. The only terrain that really belongs to you is yourself: your thoughts, words and emotions; don’t control others, control yourself. From love you will get understanding and empathy, the desire to give and thanks when receiving. Respect, embrace fragility, don’t dramatise, live and let live.

5. DON’T KILL TIME

Nothing can create such a feeling of emptiness and boredom as spending time uselessly. It is a very serious enemy that can steal your peace, and even get you depressed. Make a plan for these days and try to live it with discipline. Rest and occupation are not antagonistic, take the opportunity to rest doing activities that relax you or stimulate a good mood. Take your time in the simple things: that the onion is poached, the meat is tender, the stew is slow cooked… We have time! Even if a stew takes you 2 hours, enjoy making it; but try that the things you do, as simple as they might be, have value and a purpose – not to waste meaningless time. Killing time is killing life.

6. BROADEN YOUR OWN BORDERS

How many times have we complained about everything we didn’t due because of a lack of time? Well, now we have it! That book that they gave you three Christmases ago and you haven’t read, that one that you haven’t yet returned because you left it in half. If you like music, look for new artists, discover new genres. Do you fancy a trip? Think of some exotic country and learn about its culture, league, traditions… we have the internet for that. If you are a person of faith and prayer, perhaps you don’t know what to pray because you have already exhausted everything you knew. Try looking for liturgy; search in the writings of some saint, surely you will find many things that will fill your soul with new lights. Do not settle for what you already know and know… now that there is an opportunity, open yourself to news that brings you wisdom and fills you with joy.

7. FOR THE MOST SENSITIVE

Realistically, not all of us dominate emotions the same. There will be people who, because of their psychology, will find this confinement much more difficult. Emotions not only come from within us, but what we see, hear, touch, etc. influences us. Therefore, we must be selective with what we receive from outside to avoid entering vicious circles that trap us in despair or make us lose control. Avoid as much as possible: pessimistic conversations, arguments, dirty looks, excess information, horror movies or intrigue, home quarrels. As there aren’t many evasions that make us change our “chip”, everything that enters our brain will stay there for longer than usual, so we must be careful not to obsess or allow a negative emotion to nest within us. The excess of screens is also bad, because it over-stimulates the brain and makes us more nervous. You have to sleep well, but too much can cause a feeling of failure or defeat. A great remedy to channel energy and relax is dancing. Put on good music and laugh a long time dancing. Nothing like laughing to restart our inner system.

8. YOU ARE NOT ISOLATED

It is important to understand that you don’t have to feel alone, because you aren’t. The love and affection of your people is still there, although the physical contact has distanced itself. This is an opportunity to experience communication on a deeper, more intimate level. Talk to those you have at home with ease, without rushing, listen to them until they are done, let the dialogue build trust and confidences build complicity. Say what you never have time to say, tell what you have always wanted to tell, talk about everything and nothing but with affection, which is what reaches the soul and makes a nest. Answer that Christmas postcard that you did not thank, the letter that moved you and to which you were postponing an answer, that e-mail of an old friend. Look for words with beauty, try to give expression to your noblest feelings … Speak from the heart and create deeper ties with your people. You will discover that distance is not absence.

9. DAY OF REFLECTION

In order not to get overwhelmed, it is also convenient to look for moments of silence and solitude. In the time management for these days, you should also have slots for individual oxygenation. I have heard tons of people say: I wish I could retire some days to a monastery! Well the occasion is here, at home. Ordinarily we get tired of the fast paced lives we live, as if we were out of control from the daily routine without time to assimilate our lives. We expect substantial changes in society – this cannot continue like this, we also hear a lot. Well, we have this opportunity to get into a cocoon like the little worm that turns into a butterfly. Reflect, think, meditate… What can I change in myself to be better after these days? The distance to the things that we ordinarily have in our hands will help to see if we are really putting the accent on those that matter; which others things we can let go, which are irreplaceable, etc. A good evaluation to improve will make these days very useful. We’ll be a new person after this crisis.

10. PRAY.

Only prayer (which is the bond of friendship with God) can sustain life in all situations, especially adverse ones. Prayer, as St. Teresa would say, last but actually the first one. Praying is opening up to that Other who can sustain me when I need help; but also when I am well, to pray is to support others who need it. It is the most universal experience of Love. Pray, talk to God, the hours will pass without you realising it: talk to him about everything, he never tires of listening to you, vent with Him when you need it – and why not? … let him vent with you as well, he is your Father, your Brother, your Friend. Exercise your faith and your confidence. If you left the relationship with God in the sailor suit of your first communion or in that beautiful white dress (note for non-catholics: 10 years old), try again, now there is time and serenity to talk with Him. Maybe you do not believe because you have not tried. What if you try?

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The good thing is that the keys are there and then, you can mould it to your own experience. For example, you may prefer meditation or yoga instead of prayer. Or perhaps you’ll enjoy better painting or reading a book rather than making a 2 hours stew. It’s up to you 🙂

Stay safe, stay sane!

Lockdown Resolutions: Things To Do At Home

Hello, survivor! Missed the 2020 New Year Resolutions? No worries, you get a second chance now. We have some serious home time coming – which may sound like desperately boring to some, but it can actually be a great opportunity. If you’re wondering what to do at home all this time, keep reading to get some ideas:

1. Save money!

Yes, it’s a perfect time to save in travel, commute, eating out… If you live in places like London or New York, you know that even breathing outside your house is expensive. Take advantage of staying home and save some money – just remember to keep your sanity and not screw it by panic buying, ordering too much take away, getting too many new subscriptions, etc. See here an example list of what you need and what you don’t for groceries. Try to use Amazon ‘Add to Wishlist’ rather than ‘Buy now’ so you can see all your potential spending together and sort out what you really need – a.k.a. the Marie Kondo shopping; but be careful with the ‘spark of joy’, everything sparks when you don’t have it yet.

Keep track of your new expenses and ensure they make sense with the recommended couple week supply and with your savings – remember that it’s not the end of civilisation, and most services will still be running. It might be a good time to educate yourself in personal finance or to set a home accounting system.

Furthermore, we’re not expecting all banks to collapse anytime soon, so no need to rush to get cash out of your account and put it under your mattress. With the right systems in place, bank staff and clients can operate from home; also, electronic payments are free of physical contact, and therefore, free of virus transmission risk 🙂

2. Get Ripped

Yes, I know the sofa is tempting (I believe they have their own gravity field, but that’s a theory for another day), but there’s a lot you can do at home to stay fit. Starting with eating properly – which may help you with #1, Save Money) and then to yoga, crossfit, etc. There are tons of free resources online with routines that you can make at home. Just get a yoga/exercise mat, adjust the furniture to leave some exercise space a couple times a week. My experience: I manage with a space of around 2 m by 1.5 m and I’m 1.76 m tall, though if you have more you’ll be more comfortable – in nonsensical imperial units that should be about 6ft 6″ x 5ft for a 5ft 9″ person.

Youtube, Vimeo etc are full of free videos that you can follow. Cast the video to your TV, or place your laptop/phone where you can see it in different positions (sitting, standing, laying down – or at least that you can hear it from every position). I recommend picking some videos that you like, up to five, and repeating them along your sessions e.g. two or three a week. When you’re more familiar with a video, you won’t need to look at the screen so often and you’ll be able to focus better on exercising properly. If you don’t have equipment at home (dumbbells, yoga straps, bricks etc) don’t worry it’s not essential – you’d be surprised how much you can get knackered with just your own weight. Don’t make it an excuse!

Also, if you’re not a youngster anymore and you’re not in great shape, there are still some light exercises you can do – and for you it is especially important to stay active. This kind of routine – Exercise for Older Adults – will help you stay healthy.

Yoga

If you have never done it before, give it a go. It’s a very complete exercise that builds strength, flexibility and also improves your mental health. Don’t expect to match the moves of the instructor in your first try – feeling useless at the beginning is part of the process. Just do what you can and at the end, enjoy the relaxing shavasana pose (a.k.a. lay on your back doing nothing)

As an example, I do some routines from Cat Meffan – many options and different levels available, also, she explains how to make an easier or more challenging version of most exercises, so you can repeat the same video and take new challenges as you see yourself improving. If you have any other videos that you like, don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments!

Crossfit

If you want something with more cardio, this is for you: a combination of strenght, speed and stamina exercises that if you do properly, it will leave you knackered. A couple warnings – you may need to jump, so watch the hours and neighbours underneath; also, ensure you have space around, as you may need to run a couple steps to the sides/front.

If you’re serious about getting ripped, there are some high intensity workout programs such as Insanity. Warning: not quite a walk in the park! Otherwise you may take it easy and find some free online video routines (for example) to do at home and get in shape little by little.

Any other ideas? Let me know in the comments.

3. Productive Hobby #1: Cooking

Cooking is a win-win in this kind of situation. This activity can save you money, keep you healthy, and strengthen bonds with family, kids and those at your home, if you do it together (and you don’t argue too much about it). Find what kind of food you like and balance it with your cooking level and kitchen tools (e.g. you may love wood-fired pizza, but if you don’t have that kind of oven, you’ll have to find alternatives). You could start by searching for easy at home recipes.

Also, it is a great way to keep a lively social network feed – your instagram will be happy! Just try to go more towards colourful salads that sparkly bakery – a batch of cupcakes won’t do much good to your health if you can’t take the spare ones to the office and have to eat them all yourself.

4. Productive Hobby #2: Arts and Crafts

Did you always have some craft learning in your bucket list? It’s the moment to do it! Drawing, painting, origami, calligraphy… The list is endless. Obviously, different crafts have different requirements: Oil painting or sculpture, for example, will probably require a space for it and specialised material, especially if you work with larger format – and it will get messy; drawing, however, can be done with a pen and a notebook. Origami can be done with spare paper – some even with that toilet paper you’ve been hoarding. Take a look at Pinterest/Instagram for some inspiration and find what kind of material you need. With a bit of love, you may be able to make your own gifts, cards, etc – having fun and saving some money on the way 🙂

Origami

Origami is a very satisfying hobby if you have patience and spare paper around. If you’re a beginner, avoid diagrams – they can be difficult to understand. Go for videos instead, where you can see the folding process and repeat some step if you need. I recommend you to try modular origami – which is, folding paper to make repetitive components (modules) that you can group in many different ways. Sonobe module, for example, is great for that – you learn to make a 1 minute piece, repeat it many times (you can get your family/housemates to participate) and assemble, disassemble and reassemble as you get more modules. There are many different modules around – for example, with enough patience you can do beautiful things like this swan.

Drawing

Why do we stop drawing when we grow up? To be honest, I don’t know. But this may be a chance to get back to that. Charcoal is very good for quick expressive sketches. You can also get some brown/coloured paper (my favourite!) and make very expressive drawings with chalk and charcoal. If you can’t get any of this, don’t worry – you only need paper and something that leaves a trace on it – pencil, pen, anything. It is not so much about learning to draw as about learning to see – avoid your preconceptions and seeing only what you have in front of you, light and proportion – or just unleash your creativity and do something different!

5. Meditation

Meditation is a very undervalued exercise that you can do anywhere, especially at home. Some people say… ‘I can’t meditate! My thoughts are constantly bothering me – it would just make me worse to be alone with them!’ Well, meditation is just the opposite – taking your mind away from that. You just think about breathing, and release everything else – it helps develop focus and control of your thoughts and emotions in your day to day life. Try short exercises and see how it feels. The Headspace app, for example, is great for that – and no, you don’t need the yoga pose to do it.

6. Reach your loved ones

Yes, it’s a pandemic, but it’s not the Black Death. Apart from being 20 times less deadly, these Coronavirus times are not medieval anymore – we all have phone, Whatsapp, Skype, and social networks to reach all our loved ones regardless of which part of the globe they’re sitting in.

So… Use them! Stay in touch, ask how their day was, and take advantage of the moment to recover contact with those you haven’t talked in a while to ask how they are. This is especially important if you or them live alone – you will really help them stay happy and take care of themselves.

{This post is under construction and open to any ideas – share your own in the comments below!}

Stay safe, stay sane!