Kilburn to Hoxton post Lockdown

The confusion continues

The Loosening of Lockdown has left me conflicted. I’m not sure of the rules. While I understand the R numbers have come down and the risk of me contracting the virus is slim, there’s still no vaccine or cure. We’re not completely out of the woods, not by a long shot although the streets, the shops, the parks tell a different story. 

Yesterday I took an incredibly long bike ride from Kilburn to Hoxton to visit a friend. Yeh, I know. It’s far. I only worked that out on the way back when it felt like someone had taken sandpaper to my coccyx. My friend Tix has been incredibly diligent when it comes to social distancing and keeping himself out of harm’s way. Greeting me in a mask and gloves, we strolled around East London for an hour or so. Hoxton Square had a carnival atmosphere, with restaurants setting up BBQs on the pavement, serving food and drinks. People were milling around in groups, not a mask in sight. Just weeks earlier the same area would have been a ghost town. I felt like an alien. This wasn’t the new normal. This was the old normal. 

Many of the people using Silver Sharers are clearly of the same mindset as I am. It presents our business with additional challenges, particularly around arranging viewings. Most of our older homeowners are maintaining the social distancing rules, wearing masks and gloves. Many of our renters, not so much. On top of the usual issues around what makes people living together compatible - shared views on cleanliness, noise, keeping the toilet seat up or down - now we have to add whether you’re OK on standing 2 metres apart or one. As if starting a business wasn’t hard enough…

My son, who lives in NYC, says that it’s a requirement there to wear a mask if you go outside and police hand them out to those who are seen without one. Here, there’s no clarity around what’s OK. I know masks are mandatory on the tube but who is enforcing this? The lack of guidance has created a polarised society, from what I can see and I get it. We’re all fed up, some more than others. I suspect that until a vaccination is produced that has been thoroughly tested and has been verified as being 100% safe (as much as that’s possible with any vaccination) this deep division in how we behave post lockdown will continue.

Those Instagram Ads

When we look back on this period of time, how many of us will be surveying the stuff we bought during lockdown that took 2 months to arrive from China, purchased via an Instagram ad at the start of the pandemic? 

My partner bought a sculpted memory foam pillow that promised a good night’s sleep back in April. As someone who has struggled with achieving a solid eight hours without waking up for the last 10 years, I empathised with his desire to see if a special pillow would do the trick. 

The pillow was advertised as coming from Denmark and the ad had the look of many Danish products - functional, reliable, and trustworthy. No doubt there were a few testimonials attesting to the fact that this pillow had been transformational in many of its buyer’s lives. We’ve all been there. I once bought a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad that has long ceased to function because it was shown to many so many times that eventually I relented, even though there were clearly better Bluetooth keyboards available. 

My friend Mark bought one of those tabletop laptop holders that extends to allow you to stand up and work. It took over 2 months to arrive and, when it did, was a good 6” bigger than he had anticipated, taking up all the space on his table. I’m grateful for his purchase, as I’ve been tempted by the same product over the lockdown, wondering if it might solve my back problems. Thanks, Mark, that’s one thing I won’t be buying (possibly because Mark maybe donating it to me in the future).

Being a marketeer there’s a part of me that admires the way advertisers and social media giants have so cleverly worked out our individual motivators to make items irresistible to us and there’s another part of me that wants to tell the lot of them to f*** right off and let me make my own decisions. 

Bob’s pillow finally arrived last week. If you’d told me it came from Poundland I wouldn’t have been surprised. It was wrapped in a thin film of plastic, slotted into another thin grey mailing envelope, the Chinese sticker displaying its origin clearly visible. I suspect the Danes had no role to play in its manufacturer. He tried it for one night and, at 3 am, threw it on the floor, with a sore neck, where it has remained ever since. Everything it had promised to be, it was not. He has now resolved to ignore all Instagram ads in future. Let’s face it, when it comes to understanding human behaviour, the internet will always have the advantage over the high street with its immediate gratification and ability to tune into knowing what we want seemingly at the same time as when we are ready to push the ‘Buy Now’ button. I say, Resist the Urge!

Getting Stuff Done

If lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that I’m far more productive when meetings off-site are not an option. Yesterday was the final day of the Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) programme, which started at the beginning of the pandemic and was the first time it has ever been held virtually. It was not without its challenges and it is only within the last week or two that I’ve felt like I ‘know’ the cohort, as we’ve not had the same opportunities to meet around the water cooler that we would have had had the course been face-to-face. 

Despite this, my colleague and I managed to get a huge amount accomplished, aligning our work with the course curriculum and, thanks to the recent investment from BGV, are much better positioned than we were 12 weeks ago to move forward with a business that has a clear commercial model and proposition. 

Lockdown also gave me to the chance to engage some first-class ‘furlonteers’ who have been helping me with Silver Sharers and another project, funded by Transport for London last year, around using a form of hypnosis to build confidence and resilience aligned with walking. 

A volunteer, with a background in IT and project management, came forward to help us build a simple app called ‘Let’s Walk & Talk’ and by the end of the month, it should be ready for me to market to anyone over 50, based in London, who is at a transitional point in their life and could use some support. 

And, finally, Startup School for Seniors, has been grant funded by City Bridge Trust, an online programme that intends to make the Lean Startup methodology digestible for any older person who wants to start a business, taking all my learnings from being in startup land from the past 5 or more years. Our intention is to launch it in October with a new website, videos and lots of useful resources. 

Well, not quite finally, I decided in the absence of being able to visit a singing teacher, I’d give Cheryl Porter Method a try. She has coached singers on The Voice, X-Factor, having been a classically trained opera singer and a jazz singer. Her enthusiasm for teaching is infectious and it’s not a big surprise that the average age of her students appears to be about 9 years old since she was one of the original Disney singers on the soundtrack for the Lion King. It’s a lot of fun. AND VERY DIFFICULT. 

Here’s more stuff I have been reading this week:

A shout-out to one of my fellow classmates from the School of Social Entrepreneurs, Marissa.

Labelled for your Convenience by Marissa McCallam

What you Can Learn from the Longest Study Conducted on Ageing

5 Exercises a Personal Trainer Wishes you Would Skip

Depression taught me what true friendship is by Jacquelyn Guderley, who I follow via her newsletter

Stay safe and well,