Since February 2003, for one month each year, I've kept myself busy counting ten different things.
Previously The Count has always taken place in February but this year I thought I'd have another go in April, counting exactly the same things for 28 days to try to get a quantitative handle on how life under lockdown has changed.
Below are my ten counts for April 2020, each compared to the corresponding count for February.
(and the average for Februaries over the previous five years)
Count 1 (Blog visitors): It's been another good month for people turning up to read what I've written, averaging two and a half thousand visitors a day. That's slightly better than February 2020, indeed better than every February since I started counting, indeed one of the busiest months on the blog ever. I might have expected fewer readers this month given that I haven't ventured more than two miles from home so don't have anywhere new to tell you about. Perhaps posting additional shorter posts this month has encouraged people to come back more than once a day, bumping numbers up, or more likely the increase is because a lot more people are sat around at home in search of content. Total number of visits to this webpage in February 2020: 66682 Total number of visits to this webpage in April 2020: 70463 (↑6%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 64000
Count 2 (Blog comments): This is the big surprise - comments this month are massively up on normal. Generally I can expect about 25 a day but this April it's been 35, which means I've burst through the 1000 threshold for the very first time. I should point out that I'm not including the 284 responses to this week's mask survey, because that was purely data entry, otherwise I'd have smashed all previous records out of the park. I've tried to think of a reason for this boost and have come up with several possibilities. Firstly people might be missing human communication, so an opportunity to broadcast their thoughts is increasingly welcome. Secondly I've been a bit more interactive than usual, including five quizzes and a special request for your favourite royal anecdote. But most likely, I think, is that I've been writing more about things you can actually relate to. A lot of my posts are normally about places you've never been, but because I can't travel I've been forced to write about more general topics so you now have something to say. Pleasingly the increase isn't just the same few commenters droning on and on, because well over 300 different people have commented this month. Thanks everyone, because it's you that help to bring this page to life. Total number of comments on this webpage in February 2020: 702 Total number of comments on this webpage in April 2020: 1019 (↑45%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 600
Count 3 (Blog content): Of course I'm writing less. I'm not going anywhere, and usually my longest posts are lengthy screeds offering an in-depth look at somewhere I've just visited. But I'm not writing much less. On average I've cut back by just 70 words a day, the equivalent of half a paragraph, so you've probably not noticed. I have in fact written more posts this month - nine extra compared to February - so the content's still churning out, just in slightly shorter bursts. But what's really kept the word level high is that I've not been interrupted by having any kind of social life, leaving me nothing else to do of an evening but type. Let's see if I can find anything left to write about in May. Total number of words in diamond geezer in February 2020: 29099 Total number of words in diamond geezer in April 2020: 27316 (↓6%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 31700
Count 4 (Sleep): I'm sleeping less. Perhaps you are too. It's odd because I have nothing urgent to wake up for so I'm not setting my alarm, but I'm still not managing to stay asleep for as long as I did before. I was sleeping worse in March, when it wasn't quite clear how lockdown might proceed and whether food supplies might run out, so my brain kept waking me up in the early hours to churn over some fresh nightmare scenario. April's been much better, I'm pleased to report. And seven hours a night isn't a bad average under the circumstances. Total number of hours spent sleeping in February 2020: 199 Total number of hours spent sleeping in April 2020: 190 (↓5%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 185
Count 5 (Nights out): I'm not an especially social person of an evening, indeed this count has only once surged into double figures, but never before has it been rock bottom zero. Normally I can expect a weekly trip to BestMate's sofa, but lockdown has killed off that small pleasure... and indeed all expectation of social interaction whatsoever. Checking back I see my last night out was in the first week of March, all of eight weeks ago, and it could be some time yet before I get to enjoy another. The number of nights in February 2020 I went out and was vaguely sociable: 4 The number of nights in April 2020 I went out and was vaguely sociable: 0 (↓100%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 6
Count 5a (Days out): Days out might be a more useful lockdown barometer than nights out. Back in February I left the house every single day, even on the really grim days beset by heavy storms. This month I've spent two days a week indoors, forgoing 'daily exercise' to stay safe and for the greater good. Given it's been the sunniest April on record, what a miserable waste. The number of days in February 2020 I left the house: 28 The number of days in April 2020 I left the house: 20 (↓29%)
Count 6 (Alcohol intake): For the purposes of this long-term count, my definition of alcohol has always been a specific gassy bottle of German lager. It's become increasingly hard to source in pubs in recent years, hence February's big fat zero. But I do keep a few bottles in my fridge, and one of those got opened after dinner three weeks ago and that is the entirety of my alcohol consumption this month. You may be doing a lot better than that, or arguably worse. Total number of bottles of Becks I drank in February 2020: 0 Total number of bottles of Becks I drank in April 2020: 1 (↑1) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 3
Count 7 (Tea intake): My tea consumption has always been impressively consistent, and strangely lockdown hasn't altered that. I might have expected to be drinking more given that my days are now spent adjacent to my kettle, but somehow I've remained within my normal 120-135 window. One cuppa with breakfast, one late morning, one early afternoon, one late afternoon and maybe another in the early evening helps to bring a bit of structure to one's day. And so I remain a four-and-a-half cups-a-day man. Total number of cups of tea I drank in February 2020: 122 Total number of cups of tea I drank in April 2020: 128 (↑5%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 126
Count 8 (Trains used): As anticipated, total collapse. What's normally a monthly total of over 100 individual train journeys has dwindled to zero, for obvious reasons, and will likely remain at zero for some time yet. On the bright side I haven't heard the 'See It Say It Sorted' announcement for over six weeks, and that has been a blessed relief. Total number of trains I travelled on in February 2020: 136 Total number of trains I travelled on in April 2020: 0 (↓100%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 122
Count 9 (Steps walked): In February I was averaging seven miles of walking a day, but this month that's slumped to four. I'm amazed the total's still that high. I've spent at least 22 hours of every day in April indoors, venturing out for no more than two, and spent eight full days entirely confined. Thankfully my regular walk up the Olympic Park and back always contributes at least ten thousand steps, and mooching around the flat manages to add a few more. I remain grateful that we've been allowed outdoors to exercise, and that I have somewhere safe and extensive to roam. Total number of steps I walked in February 2020: 405000 Total number of steps I walked in April 2020: 245000 (↓39%) Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 340000
Count 10 (Mystery count): This will surprise absolutely nobody, under the circumstances, but the legendary diamond geezer Mystery Count continues to be nil. I knew on day one of lockdown that it wouldn't be edging higher. Total number of times that the mystery event happened in February 2020: 0 Total number of times that the mystery event happened in April 2020: 0 Average for February 2015 - February 2019: 0
Here's hoping February 2021 will see a return to normal, or nearly normal, rather the oddities of this most anomalous April.