As you might have seen a few weeks ago, at the start of lockdown, I began a daily diary charting my own personal path through this crisis. I got to about day 10 and then I began to let it slip. Although at home, the work continues both in the day job to help prepare for the new normal and my online work has been keeping me as busy as ever. So I’ve not had that much time to keep up to it.

However, a lot has happened since my last diary post, so I thought this might be a good time for an update.

Lockdown extended

We knew it was going to happen, didn’t we? As the rest of the world was extending theirs, it seemed impossible that we wouldn’t extend our own lockdown. Then on Thursday, April 16th Dominic Raab confirmed what we knew was about to be said. That we had to do this for another three weeks at least, then another review would happen by Thursday 7th May.

Although I knew it was coming, to hear it still sent a thud through my chest. This lockdown has been hard. The same limited routine. The same walls. The same garden. Even the regular BBQs are starting to lose their novelty. It’s simply not the same without your friends and family over having it with you. You can drink as much as you want, play your music, but there’s no atmosphere.

I have however been doing regular Friday night Periscope live video chats with my mate Lee Clarke who runs Fenestration Digital. Not sure what prompted me to do them, I hate being on video, even having my picture taken. But these are strange times so I guess anything is possible. I actually quite enjoy doing them. I’m on the video feed and Lee joins in on the audio feed. They were meant to last around 90 minutes, but they have ended up being far longer than that, simply because people stuck around longer than we thought they would! We mix it up between some serious stuff, industry chat, and we have some quizzes thrown in for good measure. We all have a good drink together as well. Consider it a virtual pub. You’re all welcome. Friday’s at 8pm.

It’s been a good thing to break up the week, which is spent mostly in front of my laptop and phone screens. Ironically, my phone has never been busier than it has this past couple of months.

There is still quite a lot of work for me to do. Not normal work of course. But I’m spending time revamping the company website, the NFA website with the changes we’ve made to the 2020 campaign, and I have a ton of ideas for articles and posts on DGB. So although I’m at home, there is still plenty to do. We have had a few customers send in details for quotations as well which is encouraging. We suspect some of these are slow burners.

The next review is due by May 7th. As an industry, a good deal of us, including me, jumped to May 11th as the next viable opening date. I think we might have got a bit excited. I’m not so sure anymore that this is nailed on as a time when restrictions might be lifted. Boris made a statement to the country this morning and he hinted heavily that he will not sacrifice the health of the nation before anything else, and that it was too risky now to start lifting restrictions. We’re only ten days away from that next review. I have a feeling that if anything is lifted, that it will be very small measures and that we’re still going to be told to stay at home as much as we can.

I think we can all see though from our windows that traffic is starting to quickly build back up and there are more and more people outdoors together. I’m pretty sure these aren’t all essential workers or builders on new-build construction sites. We’re already getting impatient and ignoring the restrictions in bigger numbers. I fear that by the time we get to the next review we’ll start to see cases rise again. Also, I read this evening that the track and trace system the Government wants to put in place to help keep the virus under control is way off being live. Active case numbers need to be below 100,000 according to the piece, so that the NHS starts at a number they can cope with. Right now there are over 350,000 live cases. If we get to May 7th and these numbers are still that high and the Government can’t use track and trace then its unlikely lockdown is going to be lifted.

Personally, I think Boris will let us know before then.

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No coming together

At the start of this crisis, there was a feeling of togetherness. Something I had not witnessed in this industry in my 14 years in it. I had not even seen it all that much during the financial crisis and Great Recession. So when I saw the energy at the start I was surprised. I was also sceptical about how long it would last. Even a couple of days after Boris had made the announcement that lockdown would begin, there was massive discussion about whether or not some should stay open or not. The guidance wasn’t great from the Government, and much of it was driven by the moral backbone of the people making the decisions. Which, given the human nature of this crisis, is warranted in my opinion.

The good spirit lasted a few weeks. There was a continued general consensus that we were doing the right thing. We remembered that there was a human cost to all of this, and by the end of the first period of the lockdown the death toll from COVID-19 was really starting to pile up. Writing this now, the toll from UK hospitals alone is near 22,000. Add in care homes and other residential deaths and its far higher. We’re staying home to make sure we don’t let that number grown exponentially higher. To make sure we don’t have to say goodbye to our loved ones sooner than we have to.

The past few weeks though I sense that all of this has broken down very quickly. I am involved in a weekly industry group call. The second of which was last week, and it was generally agreed that it would be of some help to the industry that if we could all settle on a potential reopening date then the supply chain could prepare for that and there was a better chance at reducing disruption. Fast forward a week and the industry has clearly decided that it doesn’t want to wait any longer and plenty are now going back even before the next review date. So some fabricators are going back and some are not. Some installers are going back and some are not. Systems companies, on the whole, are staying shut. Some IGU manufacturers are staying shut some are opening up. What that will do to the supply chain we can only wait and see. But its proved what I thought all along, which this industry is incapable of coordinated thinking.

What it’s going to do is actually make already tense relationships worse. Other companies are going to be forced to go back simply because of the pressure put on them by other companies in the supply chain. When one jumps, the rest tend to follow. It’s unlikely that many will now wait until the next Government review. I’m not against reopening, we obviously all have to go back to work. What I’m against is choosing the riskiest time of the crisis to do it. The peak of it! May 11th allowed a bit more time to move past the really dangerous area. But whatever the motivation was, we’ve put businesses back at the top of the list.

I’ll also challenge the defence being made by many going back that safety measures have been put in place. It takes a long time to put really extensive and accurate safety measures in place and to train all staff to abide by them. The other challenge is to make staff actually follow the new rules. For example, I live on a Redrow development that has been quiet for weeks. Over the road, they are building a new commercial development for our new estates. Although staff levels have reduced up until today, at no point did any of the workers have any PPE, they didn’t stay 2m apart and often gathered in groups. Today there were extra workers on site, all huddled together, no PPE. So while companies can use their safety measures in defence of returning before the next review, the chances are that people won’t actually stick strictly to them.

Petty politics

I thought at first that this might the life-defining moment of change that would make our industry move towards genuine change and adopt a 21st-century mentality. That’s not the case.

I actually think its got worse. The problem is because we have few other places to communicate right now, it’s all been playing out on social media. Its spilt over plenty of times in the past few weeks and it will continue to do so as the sector splits between those who have chosen to go early and return and those who continue to stay close.

For those choosing to remain closed, it’s going to fly in the face of their own efforts and sacrifices. They won’t accept the “new safety measures” explanation of going back to work, or if there are customers banging on the door. We have quickly gone from focusing on the human element of this global emergency back to the pounds and pence. It’s not a good look for the industry. Not that we’ve had that good a look before anyway.

I look at it this way: the biggest companies in the world, such as McDonald’s, Apple, Google etc have all shut stores and cut back everywhere they can. So as it stands today, we cannot go buy a Big Mac, but we can sell windows. Ponder on that for a moment.

Then there is the role social media is playing in all of this. We’re all on it now more than ever. Because of that, every movement any of us makes is under far more scrutiny and eyeballs. I have seen the good side of it. For example, promoting the efforts of companies like VEKA, Liniar, Glazpart and others who have been volunteering their facilities to help the NHS and the wider health care network. Its great work and should absolutely be applauded. Then I have seen the frankly childish and petulant social media communications, in which they are speaking to themselves, in public, but lacking the temerity to address the person/company that it actually refers to. Kind of like kids in a playground, where the one group of kids is talking loud enough in public so the person they’re talking about hears it, but not to them in person. Sums up this industry in a nutshell. Or at least a good part of it.

Over the past few weeks, it has been interesting to see the character of people shine through. Sounds odd that, but in the world of social media it’s hard to get to know someone properly as so much of what they say is filtered and suitable for social media. But there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the real in people. It has reaffirmed in some what I thought. I have changed my mind on others. I have found the mute and unfollow button quite useful. I am sure I have had the same effect on others as well.

Will this industry ever come together in a meaningful and large way? No. There are too many factions. Too many egos. Too many established circles of friends and that will always hold back the prospect of the sector genuinely coming together. There will be groups that form to help each other out, and that’s fine. But there is already a sense that companies are already treading their own path forwards, which makes that sense of pulling together even harder.


This has been a strange period of time personally. A time that has made me both question what I do, and make me more resolute about what I do at the same time. The next few weeks will provide me with a longer period of reflection, and perhaps an opportunity to decide how engaged I want to continue to be in this sector. I have been busy planning new strategies for the family installations business, some of which are quite exciting.

The most positive thing I will take from this lockdown has been the chance for me to appreciate those around me. I’m not sure whether he’ll read this or not, but I want to thank my friend Lee for all his amazing work and effort during our years together. I trust very few in this industry, and I would trust him with almost anything. He’s one of the hardest workers I have ever seen, and he’s gone through a lot of personal pain in the last few years. The way he has handled it, held his head up high, dusted himself down and got on with it is remarkable.

Although I know I already do, but my immediate family I appreciate even more. When you work with your family every day, then to not see them for so long is hard. Those first hugs and meals together when this ends will be very special.

Most importantly, these past few weeks have been a gift. In that, I have been able to spend priceless time with my wife and baby son. I remember how hard it was to go back to work when I had four weeks off work for paternity leave. I hated it. Now, I’ve had nearly 6 weeks at home and he’s developing so fast. We’ve had his first “mummy” and “daddy” which were so special to hear. His movement improves every day. He’s learning every day, eating new things, pointing, making new sounds. Life moments I thought I would miss, but I have been incredibly lucky to be at home to see these. Playing with him, teaching him new things. I know I won’t want to go back to the office! I’ve never known love like it.

This turned out to be a long update. I’ll try and make the next one shorter.

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