Pandemic diary 90: I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of Stirchley

Last night's solstice tour of Stirchley was momentous, not only for the various mapped oddities observed in lockdown and now pinned on a community map, and not only for the epic skyscapes that greeted us, but for the sense of returning to the world of people and celebrating together.

After all, this was a planned Saturday night event, with a group of friends, meeting in real life, with drinking and banter that was kind of like going to the pub again. It felt wonderful. At one scenic viewpoint, looking over the rooftops of Little London (Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets), I sounded my barbaric yawp at the last scud of the day, as per Walt Whitman's poem, which we later read.

The full walk report over on Walkspace – A tour of Stirchley's delights for the Summer Solstice – but in short this is what happened…

Five of us toured various points of interest, from natural phenomena (inosculated tree trunks, gingko biloba trees, a rogue poplar, a curtain of bindweed in bloom) to human infrastructure (hall of mirrors, a caged garden, a BMX track). At 9.30ish, we gathered on high ground to toast the sun's disappearance with weird beers and frivolous prosecco. We stopped to mark the precise moment of the Solstice at 10.43pm and then talked and laughed some more.

It was bloody great. Some kind of rejuvenation of the soul after weeks of semi-isolation.

I woke at 4am with some kind of hay fever attack so I also saw the Solstice 'sunrise' – a miserable, drizzly, grey affair.

This afternoon I joined Sustainable Life for an hour-long online foraging course around Ten Acres in Stirchley. They also run bushcraft and tree ident courses. I harvested some hogweed seeds, thanks to the course. They smell of oranges!

In the early evening I planted some lettuces, black tomatoes, dill and coriander at the allotment, before bumping into a few more friends, some of whom I haven't seen for months.

It's been a good weekend. I'm tired in a good way and ready for another full week.


It's Father's Day today in the UK. There have been some lovely photos and tributes being shared by friends and family. I can't believe I haven't seen my Dad for 24 years since he passed away. But he's always there and I'll never forget his face, which is often reflected in the mirror when I pin my hair back. It's also in my sense of humour, and in my love of literature and music, and in the moments of staring out the window at the sky.

Here he is smiling and dancing with my Mum. I'm thankful for both of them even if they are no longer here.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 89: Happy Summer Solstice

Sunset/sky pano at the allotment.

Today is the day when the sun reaches its highest point and when daylight is longest. I celebrated the winter solstice with other women who walk. Now midsummer is here and I'll be out tonight with another small crew of five or six fellow travellers.

We're walking based on a select tour of nominated oddities from the Stirchley mapping project. Maybe we'll end up at the 'entrance to hell' pin. Maybe not. But as the sun sets there shall be rituals – the popping of a Prosecco cork, maybe a live-stream of the Solstice at Stonehenge, a poetic prompt perhaps or the gathering of herbs, but certainly midsummer merriments.

Originally the plan was to get on a train to Milton Keynes – where the streets align with the sunrise on the summer solstice – and walk from sunset to sunrise. Coronavirus killed that plan. But I hear my neighbour is cycling through the night. And we shall try to find our own alignment of Stirchley streets with the sun.

Happy Summer Solstice to all those who celebrate it.

Here is my 100 sunrises and sunsets post for more chunky reading tonight – written back in February when Covid-19 was a distant nightmare. And here is the slideshow:

Today I am thankful for doing absolutely nothing and having a much-needed lie-in and also an afternoon nap.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 88: UK alert level lowered

Home gym shot: have even used it occasionally. You only gym twice…

Lowering the alert level from 4 to 3 means the virus is in the general population and that restrictions can therefore ease further, though it's not a given.

Here is a variety of opinions nicked from BBC comments:

This is Outrageous! Relaxing the lockdown like this is Totally Irresponsible!

Good news, but the damage has already been done.

Free the under 45s. Get rid of social distancing. Support and protect the over 45s, at home. Why penalise those not at significant risk?

Maybe now all the germphobes and hypochondriacs might want to reduce their hysteria level accordingly. It's a glorified cold virus and is likely here to stay. Time to get a grip and get on with things again. 

Very handy that the announcement confirming the reduction in the alert level came out just after the announcement that the world beating and very expensive track and trace app is not fit for purpose.

The government are in a great hurry to ease the lockdown for political rather than medical reasons.

Completely forgot about these alert levels 

Everyone's opinion on this is going to be different according to their own perceptions and attitude to risk. Personally, I'd be more confident with this lowering of the threat level if I trusted that the decision was made first and foremost on the basis of risk to health rather than political/economic drivers. And if 'stay alert' worked as a message – it plainly doesn't. And if contact tracing was, well, better. Yesterday the government's contact tracing app was jettisoned in favour of one based on Apple and Google technology. Not that the apps seem to work that well anyway due to the wonky nature of Bluetooth and not every individual having a smartphone. I'm sure contact tracing will improve in time. But that takes… time. Local hotspots need to be spotted and shut down quickly. I'm not sure we're there yet. And until we are, I remain mostly risk-averse.

Jenny , who wrote a guest diary this week, tested positive for the Covid-19 antibodies. So she is now on the other side of the virus, thankfully. But she was very ill at the start of lockdown. This is a nasty virus and not to be under-estimated because we want to go to the shops, cafés and pubs again.

I haven't focused on the numbers too much in this diary but I think it's about time for a numbers check again.

  • 42k UK deaths directly from Covid-19, up 135 from the previous day
  • 52k deaths, ie, where Covid is mentioned on death cert (includes undiagnosed or related deaths)
  • 65k deaths over and above the usual at this time of year
  • 300.5k confirmed cases, up 1,218 from previous day
  • Birmingham : 1,131 coronavirus-related deaths to 5 June; 3,327 confirmed cases out of a local population of 1,141,816
  • Birmingham had the sixth highest mortality rate outside London at 139.9 coronavirus-related deaths per 100,000 people (March-May) according to the ONS
  • New stats for local areas: in my area of Kings Heath Park & Stirchley East there have been 7 deaths
  • The UK currently has the highest official death toll in Europe and the third highest in the world, after the US and Brazil
  • Daily deaths are on a downward trend but new cases seem to levelling off in the 1000-1500 range
  • The UK 'R' number (the average number of people an infected person will pass the disease on to and a key measure for easing restrictions) is 0.7-0.9. If R is below one, then the number of people contracting the disease will fall; if it is above one, the number will grow.


Today I am thankful for a lovely distance walk with my great nephew around the block and to the park. He seems to be over his running off randomly phase.

We walked in all sort of ways (sideways, backwards, forwards, fast, slow) and said hello to everything as we went:

Hello lavender! Hello sunflower! Hello gate! Hello number 23, 25, 27… Hello great big bush! Hello bins! Hello birds! Hello everyone! Hello whole world!

Actually that's quite a nice message as we come further out of lockdown.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 87: Socially distanced job interview

A relaxing OM from my Hazelwell walk yesterday – I seem to be collecting and editing road typography.

It feels like I applied for a proper job today but really it's freelance, part-time, remote WFH work on top of my current workload. (Not like that time I applied for a full-time job with an NGO in Berlin and was going to potentially uproot my whole life – would have been fun, though).

So what does a socially distanced job interview look like?

Well, it was going to be outdoors rather than on Zoom, maybe under a gazebo in case of sudden showers. It was 'bring your own chair' and water. I wondered if chair choice might be part of the test.

Unfortunately, today was a classic British summer drenchfest. So the interview was held in a garage instead. The four-person interview panel was spread around the edges and deep into the storage depths to try to maintain distance. Eye contact was hard although it was probably less intimidating than facing a panel across a desk.

I brought a folding garden armchair in '90s pattern orange. It was alarming but I hoped it would brighten up my grey/white interview outfit. Not that they could see my interview outfit since it was also quite cold and we were all wearing Gore-Tex waterproofs or similar.

There were no handshakes, obviously. I did a sort of weird salute at the end as a thank you but I guess people are now used to the informal dissipations of online meetings as we log off one by one so it wasn't needed.

Being freelance, I haven't had an interview nearly 20 years, although I've been on the other side of it as an interviewer. I'm not sure how it went. I'll find out next week I guess.

I wonder how other recruiters and hirers are managing this?

PS. We had two young lads working our street today, knocking on doors wearing big plastic visors, selling something, or as they put it "we're not selling anything, we're saving you money". The 'new normal' wears a mask but I'm still not buying at the door. Does anyone?


Today I spotted that the new Morrisons in Stirchley was putting up its signage on the old Coop building. The store is now due to open next month – a two-month delay due to lockdown and so I (and everyone else I suspect) is looking forward to it more than we normally would a shop. The Coop closed for good in January to prescient post-apocalyptic scenes of empty shelves, long before the Toilet Roll Panic Buying era. Doing without a larger supermarket in the area during lockdown has been challenging.

I'm very thankful for a day off tomorrow – it's been a long week of work and interview preparation.

Yesterday on my walk, I visited a near-ish neighbour and long-time family friend. Mary is someone in 'young old age' without infirmity and still doing loads of community help stuff, picking up the societal pieces that fall between the cracks. It was great to see her for the first time in months. And I'm thankful that she is now able to bubble with her family.

Less than two more weeks of this diary by the way: 100 days of lockdown so only 13 more entries to go. Will you miss me, those who read to the bitter end?

Morri & Sons – a quirky new Stirchley independent (joke borrowed from Tom Cullen of I Choose Birmingham)

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 86: Hindsight is 20-20 on safe working conditions (guest post)

Luscious lettuces at the allotment – sadly not from my plot. Do slugs not like little gems?

As the shops reopen this week, some health and safety set-ups will be better than others. We are highly reliant on people following the rules and, ahem, 'staying alert' to the endless signs and instructions if we are to avoid a second wave.

I'm dubious how compliant people will be. Years of in-your-face adverts have trained us to switch off from the endless signage, while the sense of a lower threat level and inability to maintain an ongoing high threat level is making many blasé and forgetful.

Enforcement of the safeguards will be key. That's why I asked a local friend who works in mental health for the NHS if I could publish her response to the death of hundreds of construction workers when the issue was raised on my Facebook. She and I were due to do a walk together but then she got ill pre-lockdown and it was cancelled. This week she took an antibodies test to see if it was coronavirus.

Heeeere's Jenny!


This emphasis on safe working conditions can't be emphasised enough. 

I have an NHS worker antibody test booked for just over a week's time to I hope confirm that Nick and I and maybe our child C had Covid-19.

In the five days before I got ill, I was asymptomatic and I sat in the quietest corner I could find of our crammed hot desking office (imagine three people sitting in single desk space and you're close to how little back office space there is despite being in a new building). There are shared landline phones – one between four people – and just one multifunctional device. 

There are also only three loos, pretty much in a cupboard, for 70+ women staff, which we have to share with children and families with often multiple and complex health needs. Loo roll typically runs out before 4pm most days 🙁

I went to university on Tuesday 10th of that week to take a clinical exam based around a role play. One of my marker comments was that I could've sat closer to the student actor in my role play assessment even though pre-exam conversation was mostly about Covid. Handryers weren't working in the loos nearest my exam room and there were no handtowels. 

Thankfully I didn't see any families for face-to-face appointments that week because of a university requirement that I shouldn't see any of my caseload until I'd passed my exam.

But I was gearing up to see families the following week in a separate therapeutic space (a summerhouse-style wooden shed) on a school site. I managed to persuade the office infection control lead to give me a packet of wipes and a bottle of hand sanitiser from her limited stash for basic infection control there.

I washed my hands more than I've ever washed them before. I wiped phones, my limited desk space, keyboard, etc, with antiseptic wipes. Meanwhile a couple of colleagues insisted Covid-19 was a conspiracy theory.

On the Thursday I winced as a colleague insisted on hugging me while merrily telling me throughout she didn't feel well.

On the Thursday and Friday we were being told we should still expect to have to go in to the office the following week, even if we weren't seeing families. Another colleague was told to continue a face-to-face session when a family coughed and spluttered repeatedly throughout it because "they were acting out". Two school nurses, postgrad-qualified in public health, told me it was wrong to look to close schools because Cobra hadn't said they should – apparently unaware that, locally, all secondary schools are academies so can do pretty much whatever their academy trust says to do. 

And then from the evening of Sat 14th I was very ill.

The following week (w/c 16th) colleagues were only advised they *could* work from home after a workmate got a union rep to contact a senior manager to query why staff were still being forced to go in. Face-to-face interviews with external candidates were being held in a tiny office.

And, as much as that might read as a dull version of 'Contagion', what I've recounted is all in one part of a highly regulated Trust service that had been gearing up for CQC inspection. Of course we'd all been briefed we'd be asked about infection control 🤷🏻‍♀️.

I can only imagine what it's been like for labourers with no sick pay, etc.

Jenny received her antibodies test results today. It was Covid-19. Antibodies are no guarantee of immunity so she still has to follow the health and safety guidance but she says she still feels relieved.


It's been a busy week, full of work and research and thunder and lightning. I'm thankful to my guest poster Jenny for giving me a rest tonight and for her insights. I'm meeting four people tomorrow for an interview – outdoors if the weather allows – so I'll be spritzing on the old disinfectant perfume willy nilly.

Stay safe!

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 85: To bun or not to bun? That is the question

Bunminster and Clem – and our previous bunny pack can be found on

When we lost our long time bunny overlord, Bunminster, just after Easter, we decided to have a break from getting another rabbit straight away. The animal sanctuaries were closed for adoptions during lockdown, anyway.

We knew our remaining bun, Clem Bundango, would need company at some point but it's been a difficult decision whether to hand her back to Fat Fluffs to find a new home – or to get more rabbits for us.

The reason is, I really needed a break from the endless routine of meds and older bunny care, and maybe from the general rabbit cleaning daily grind in general. It's been seven years. I was also pondering getting a dog, despite my allergies.

Finally the decision has been made…

And it's more rabbits.

Pete took over rabbit care so I could have a break and, though we still both want a dog, I need to test whether I'd be allergic to them in the house first. (I may be open to dog-sitting as a tester… if anyone is prepared to let their dog stay with us?) Or at some point I hope to have a more outdoors lifestyle where we wouldn't be shut in with dog dander and smells for most of the year. That's quite a few years away I'm sure unless I win the Lottery.

So Pete is back weekly volunteering at Fat Fluffs and keeping an eye out for potential husbuns for Clem, or maybe a pair to make a pack. My one condition is that they are friendly and can be handled. (Clem isn't – it's the lot of prey animals and rescue bunnies that haven't perhaps been handled or treated well.)

Today we sent our photos in to evidence our rabbit-friendly set-up. Fat Fluffs make sure their rescue buns go to homes with suitable environments for their welfare.

Next step is finding some friendly rabbits and starting the bonding process so they don't kill each other, Bigwig-Woundwort style, over Clem's home territory.

Pete took the panos, with me working away in the garden… Spot his lockdown response of a 2.5m high square window turned into a sunscreen.

So, yay, new lagomorphs soon!


To the family member who sent a Neal's Yard gift card in the email this morning. Very unexpected and much appreciated! Lemon and coriander deo, here I come.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 84: The shops reopen

The Clem zone – her social distancing is measured in 'just out of arm's reach'.

The shops reopened today. I couldn't care less but the media seemed to be in a frenzy about it. I do need some sun cream but I think I sated my retail thirst by buying a bushcraft knife, folding saw and survival fire starter last week. I am a survival capitalist.

Going to cut today's diary short because it's been a strange day overall. Just let it be known that if you're going through hard times, and I can help in any way, please get in touch. (Don't worry, I'm fine.)

Today I am thankful for… hmm, tough one. Being a woman maybe? Let's just say I appreciate the female culture of gathering people to talk to and share problems with when they come. We all need a release valve at some point in our lives. And this has been an extra crazy time for everyone.

Thanks also to Nick B for lending an ear to me when I needed advice today.

It's good to talk, as Bob Hoskins said 25 years ago.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 83: Covid-19 – our teensy tiny part in its hopeful downfall

Bunnies by day, big data by night.

Tonight I thought I'd rope Pete in and jointly write about two technology-based efforts to help with coronavirus study and research that we've been involved with.

We each sat on our sofas and typed… to music by a band called Felt (an indie pop band, formed in 1979 in Water Orton, Warwickshire). In case you wanted to picture the scene.

Pete – scientific protein modelling via Folding@Home

About three years ago, when I was exploring the artistic potential of AI systems, I bought a computer with a fairly powerful graphics processor, or GPU. These are designed to render those detailed 3D games the kids play these days, and they do this by doing lots and lots of simple maths at an incredible speed. So if you need to do lots and lots of simple maths for some other reason they can be repurposed for that, too. I no longer do anything with AI systems, because the artistic potential never really emerged for me, but I still have this computer with its fairly powerful GPU, just sitting there. 

Mid-April, and while doomscrolling through the coronavirus news, something catches my eye. It's a project called Folding@Home where people run calculations on their home or business computers during idle periods (like when you go for lunch or are just typing text and all that processing potential is just sitting there) on behalf of scientific researchers attempting to cure diseases. They do this by building models of the the proteins that make up viruses and the like so they can test potential cures. Specifically they need to model how the proteins "fold", hence Folding@Home. 

Maths is FUN!

To get involved you download some lightweight software which in turn downloads a job to process. This can take a few hours or a couple of days and when it's done the results are uploaded for the scientists to play with and you get some points! Other than putting you on a leader board the points mean nothing, but what the hell! Points! On its own your contribution is tiny, but when you combine hundreds or thousands of tiny contributions you get an incredibly powerful computer that would impossible for any one institution to build. 

Folding@Home has been running since 2007 so is pretty vintage and the interfaces can be somewhat dated, but the urgent need to understand how this novel coronavirus works has seen take-up soar to the point where, for a short while, they ran out of jobs, which is a nice problem to have. After reading the article I downloaded it to my MacBook and ran a couple of jobs.

Then I remembered I had this computer with a fairly powerful GPU, just sitting there. I wondered if it would run these jobs any faster, and by golly it could. In fact there were plenty of jobs specifically designed for GPUs and the points you were rewarded with… Let's just say that out of 2,717,135 contributors I'm number 192,903. In other words, in the top 7% with a score of 1,229,401. And if you're reading this in the future you can check my progress on this page

I take no pride in this. All I do is switch the computer on and leave it running all night. It's burning electricity, of course, but my expenses are way down thanks to lockdown and we use an eco supplier. Have I made a difference? I have no bloody idea. But does the humble ant, carrying his piece of leaf, know what difference he makes to the nest? What I do know is the ant doesn't get a gnarley certificate. Sucka! 

Fiona – daily self-reporting via Zoe C-19 app

Every day I get a loud ping from my Zoe C-19 daily reporting app on my phone. I answer two questions: Have you had a Covid-19 test? (yes/no) and How do you feel physically right now? (normal/not quite right). It takes a few seconds and I've been self-reporting since it launched back in March. The aim is to study the symptoms and also track the spread of the virus.

Over 3.8 million others have downloaded the app and are also reporting regularly. It is currently the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world, with the data being analysed in collaboration with King's College London researchers.

As someone with a data privacy interest, especially where health data is concerned, I was particularly impressed with their data policy transparency and upfront ease of deleting your data. And it has medical pedigree.

It is endorsed by the Welsh Government, NHS Wales, the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. And it is led by Prof Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London and director of Twins UK, a registry of 12,000 twins with one of the richest collections of genotypic and phenotypic information on twins worldwide, apparently.

Data is also published daily to its website: You can zoom and pan around a map to see how different regions are affected. Birmingham, for example, has 8,400 contributors with an estimated 0.9% of people with Covid symptoms.

It also gathers other data, which shows 4,900 daily new cases of Covid (from the app + swab tests) across the UK – new daily Covid infections fell by almost a half in a week, although this does exclude care homes.

Following the mass protests in the past fortnight, I wrote about feeling conflicted on the risks so it was interesting when researchers tried to use app data to answer the question: "Should I quarantine after protesting?"

Based on their data they estimate that one in 200 people are affected with Covid in the UK population at this point. Of these, one in 400 people you meet are potentially infectious and with mild or no symptoms. Based on mitigated risks, it does further maths and concludes: protestors have a one in 800 chance of themselves becoming infected with Covid-19, although this is likely to be higher in the north (one in 400) and lower in the south (one in 1600) due to the regional differences in number of cases. Ultimately it concludes it is best to err on the side of caution and ideally stay home for a week and avoid meeting others to help slow any potential spread of the virus.

In summary, I do take some pride in keeping this up. It feels as if it is directly useful and providing near real-time data. I think there is great potential for data gathering, done safely, to provide a way out of ongoing lockdowns and a second wave of this virus.

I'm afraid there is no certificate, though. Helping is its own reward, suckas.

>> You can download the app via the App Store or Google Play. Or via the homepage.

Zoe C-19 symptom study app –


I'm grateful today for a visit from my elderly friend and his son. As the sun set, we sat in the garden and sipped tea and reminisced about how my brother blew up his school toilets. But that's another story of scientific exploration and research.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 82: When melancholia hits…

Gonna need a poignant Bunminster rabbit pic for this post…


When your three-year-old great nephew says the phrase 'social distancing' as the reason you can't get close…

When you overhear an older lady talking about the speech she never gave because of lockdown and how she would rather wait to give it in person to a real audience…

When the neighbour's six-year-old kid runs down the garden and shouts your name in joy because he's so excited to see a different human…

When someone asks to be in someone else's bubble and they say no…

When you offer a visiting friend a drink and have to explain how you've washed your hands, and only touched their glass with a fresh tea towel…

When – post-George Floyd – you see people speaking up against racism and getting trashed for it while the racists become ever more entrenched in their position…

When you know someone is going through a really tough time and you can do f-all to change it for them…

When you hear that a gang of teenage bullyboy/chickens has been pushing women cyclists in the canal…

When you receive your Hillside Animal Sanctuary newsletter and see how someone left a group of horses to starve and die…

When there are other things you can't even say but are going on behind the scenes – not for me, but someone I care about.

… I can't even begin. I'm making myself cry. I just started with the first line and then all the other horrible stuff that's happened in the past few days came out. Sometimes, it's all a bit crap.


How do you feel thankful after that? How do you deal with a fan full of shit? How about now 10 nice things to rebalance the world just a little bit?

I bought some plants from my favourite shop York Road Supplies this morning. One, a plum red heuchera, I planted over Bunminster's grave this evening, along with a load of herbs he would have loved to munch on.

I made a tasty Green Roasting Tin dinner of spring greens, garlic and halloumi hash served on top of oven chips. Delicious and healthy. And, bonus, when you break it into two portions, it's like serving up plates of boobs.

Boob hash.

A Stirchley friend stopped by today to pick something up and stopped for a drink and chat in the garden. Normally we'd only ever bump into each other briefly in Artefact. I gave him a lady frog teapot, he offered me some spinach and strawberries.

I've been making new analogue collages after a bit of a block. I've gone back to basics of tearing up stuff. It's very satisfying. Here is a lone surfer entering turbulent blue-sky waves – probably because my current reading book is 'Barbarian Days' by William Finnegan (a Pulitzer prize-winning surf autobiography).

You should have been here yesterday…

After a beautifully warm summer day, thunder rolled, the sky turned purple and a triple rainbow appeared. Then the rain fed the new plants. I love thunder.

I indulged myself by drawing two fluorescent/neon bunnies. Drawing psychedelic bunnies is one of my favourite things, even if Zoom callers think a child lives here. As usual I took it too far.

The return of the psychedelic bunnies, which first appeared at a Felt Tip Bender night.

I told someone I like that I missed them. It's too easy not to say it. Yes, I miss you too. x

After the map project yesterday, a few more pins came in, including the 'entrance to hell', 'graffiti or a Virgin Mary sighting' and a 'mystery black box' that isn't the Stirchley Camera Obscura. I love the random adds.

I entered this diary to this Time Capsule of Collaborative and Integrative Practices in an Unprecedented Time. It will now be an official part of a historic record of this crazy time.

And number 10, today I found this video from Pete of my hair in slo-mo action last summer down in Devon. It's quite hypnotic. Sometimes it actually goes vertical. Meanwhile all around seem totally unaffected by this wind vortex! I think it needs a soundtrack though but what song? [Vimeo link]

Big hair day.

I hope all your worlds come back into balance soon.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Pandemic diary 81: Lockdown walks lead to a new map

Just before lockdown, three of us launched Walkspace as a Midlands collective based on the strange and often academic arts of creative walking. We ran a few events, mostly night walks, before the global pandemic smothered all our plans. 

Restricted to solo walking our suburb of Stirchley we started noticing… everything. And then we started mapping all these things, inviting others to help, and creating a local taxonomy of the weird and usually ignored.

From these lockdown observations, new walks shall be created! And maybe we shall even walk them together.

Today was the day we hit 100 pins on the map. A landmark in its own right. And we've barely scratched the surface.

The survey has highlighted peculiarities including:

  • temporary landmarks, such as the Rubble Hills, Secret Garden or the location of a song thrush at sunset
  • bizarre curiosities, such as the stone-carved moustachioed cat lintel and the (occasionally) ticking house
  • alluring infrastructure, from alleyways and tunnels, to a hall of mirrors doorway, to a concrete cricket pitch
  • digital notes, such as Google's centre of Stirchley
  • amusing or creative markers, such as the world's most uncomfortable hammock to 'the world's smallest post office' or favourite tree trunks.

It is the antithesis of the 'Viva Stirchley' slogan/hashtag which celebrates everything new and shiny and independent, and all those things that have swept Stirchley to being featured in Conde Nast Traveller.

No, this survey is driven more by a 'Keep Stirchley Weird' stance, celebrating the oddities, curios, marvels and wonders of our neighbourhood; the beloved markers of those who frequently tread its streets; a freak show of small and large landmarks for other local walkers and the visiting tourist hoards (no doubt) of the future.

Details of the Stirchley Mapping Project and how to add your own lockdown walk observations/photos are on Walkspace.

Or you can go direct to the Survey of Stirchley map and peruse the strange landmarks at your leisure.


To Doctors. Not only doctors in general but the BBC TV show Doctors, which is based in a fictional Birmingham called Letherbridge. Today was the day that lockdown hit – both in their filming schedule and in the wrap-up content. 'Can You Hear Me?' was an extended show with the characters all dealing with lockdown from week one to week five or six.

And it was all there, everything we've all been through: the awkward technophobic Zoom calls; the working from home online meeting; the online exercise classes; the anxiety, panic, tiredness, insomnia and depression; the assumption that every symptom is the virus; helping vulnerable friends and family; the experiences of doctors and nurses on the frontline; the frustration on not being with loved ones in maternity wards or indeed at the end of their life; and, of course, one of the key characters, a nurse working 13 hours shifts, contracting Covid-19, and the will she/won't she make it storyline.

It was awkward in places but also so well done. It made me laugh and cry. I'm a longtime Doctors fans and I loved it. It's on iPlayer here if you want to give it a go.

Well done Doctors. Even acting Doctors!

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]