New conditions for me, that is. A lot of people who I know were already working from home and had well-established routines. A lot of people weren't working at all. My wife and son are both full-time undergraduates at the local university, and they have shifted to fully online studies. I have colonised the spare room, brought home a box full of papers from the office (which I admit I still haven't looked through) and am managing the inward and outward flow of emails and ideas. We are not getting under each other's feet too much - Anne generally works in the study and the kitchen, and F in the living room, while I lurk upstairs. We have been able to speak to little U in her home via Skype; she clearly enjoys seeing us but doesn't really engage directly. (B would probably be baffled by any attempt to communicate with her that way.)
I do miss my work colleagues. The ordinary camaraderie of office life is actually a great stimulant for me; that you can just walk down the corridor or over to the coffee machine to pick someone's brains, rather than ping them via chat or email, which inevitably feels much more like an intrusion. We've had some great fun online get-togethers, but it is not the same. And I miss being able to pop out for lunch or a drink with professional contacts. I am sure I am not the only person compiling a long list of people to catch up with as soon as possible once this is all over.
We have become a much more interconnected world. On the first full day of working from home, I spoke to friends and colleagues in Japan, India, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA, and in my spare time I have been assisting the process of working out this year's Hugo final ballot, with the Hugo administrator in Michigan and the Worldcon itself in New Zealand, a difference of seventeen time zones. Worldcon made the tough decision to go virtual, in the grim expectation that travel restrictions will not have eased by July. Eastercon of course was cancelled.
I have been getting out for walks (or even once, a bike ride) almost every day. But I have not been reading as much - I have lost the reading time of my lengthy commute. On balance I do prefer being at home with my family, but my brain is still looking for the moments that it can switch to consuming the written word in a leisure environment. At the same time, I'm several books behind my usual habit of bookblogging here - part of that is because last weekend, when I would normally have caught up a bit, was consumed by the Hugos, but part of it also is that I haven't felt like doing it.
What I have been doing is a short series of video blogs about our village. I've done two so far (here and here) and have enough material in hand for several more. It's a work in progress, and I suspect I will come back to them and make Director's Cuts to make them look better. I find it quite difficult to go for pointless unguided walks, but a ramble that ties into a longer-term creative project makes a lot more sense. The videos don't seem to have the same popularity on social media as my more factual posts, but I must say that I am enjoying the creative process for its own sake.
The other source of great joy has been the two Doctor Who worldwide rewatches, of "The Day of the Doctor" last Saturday and "Rose" last night, organised by Emily Cook of Doctor Who Magazine and including in both cases the writers of the episodes, with thousands of people sharing fannish glee on Twitter. These have been wonderful experiences of shared international escapism. We're doing "Vincent and the Doctor" next, on Monday nght.
On the issue of the day: as far as I know, nobody in my family has (yet) been afflicted. Two friends in Belgium, and a colleague in London, have actually had COVID-19 and made full recoveries. The two in Belgium were not even tested, so they are not in the official statistics, but both are pretty clear that it's what they and their partners have had. The Belgian government is muttering about maybe reaching the peak at the start of April, which seems very optimistic indeed, though if you squint at the numbers you can just about see why they might think that is possible. A few other countries seem to be reaching the same point. We can but hope.
On the other hand, I'm desperately sorry to hear that the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, has been diagnosed with it; and we are going to see a significant toll of elderly victims (indeed, some not so elderly; the UK deputy ambassador to Hungary, a friend of several friends, was only 37). It's just appalling to watch the situation in the USA spiralling out of control; the narcissism of the current president is quite simply going to kill a lot of Americans, and in the end a weaker America is not good for the rest of us. Hopefully American voters will be realistic and vote for someone else in November, but I am not getting my hopes up. On top of that, the consequences in developing countries, where there are few tests, few ventilators and not much soap to wash your hands with, look to be truly catastrophic. The world at the end of 2020 will be very a different place. I do hope to see you there.