Behind the Scenes with Bob Books

Marianne Stenger
29th April 2020

Over a third of the world’s population is now on some form of lockdown. For many of us, this means finding new and creative ways to balance work and family responsibilities, keep active and fill our spare time. The good news is that creativity is often born out of times of hardship, and even boredom can be conducive to creative thinking.

Since the Bob Books team is working from home along with the rest of London, we thought it would be fun to share a bit about what we’ve all been doing to stay inspired and creative during these unusual times.


Top tip for staying centred: I start my day, slightly reluctantly, by doing the Joe Wicks half-hour workout.  It's not something I ever thought I would do, but it gets me out of bed and I feel better for it.  I follow that by a longer than usual walk with the dog at a time when I would normally be at the office.  I then do my work, to the extent that I can and want to, in the late morning and early afternoon. 

Best lockdown entertainment: I'm reading A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Phillips.  It’s quite a weighty tome but fascinating and this is the perfect time to tackle it.  As for TV we have managed to segway from finishing the latest series of Ozark into the start of the new Killing Eve series. 

Personal projects that keep me inspired: My great nephew is compiling a family history for a school project, so I have been writing him short biographies of the more interesting members of our family. 


Top tip for staying centred: I get up for and do a workout with Annie Deadman who ran the group classes I did before lockdown. She now does live workouts on YouTube.  If I'm not doing a class, I come downstairs to have a cuddle with my cat and read my book before starting work. We have a Zoom supper with my friend Dawn every Saturday night. I deliver a meal to her door and drive back home and we eat it 'together'. We also have a film night where we press play at the same time. 

Best lockdown entertainment: Against all my principals we signed up to Netflix and I've been watching The Crown. I'm currently reading Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop about the Greek occupation in WW2, which I had earmarked for my holiday in Corfu. I've also subscribed to Audible, which is a good company.  

Personal projects that keep me inspired: My garden is getting more attention than normal and I'm loving the time I have after work to mill about it, water it and admire it.  I'm on a seed sowing frenzy at the moment.


Top tip for staying centred: Get up as you would do in normal circumstances and make sure you get dressed and make your bed. If you have children, make sure they do the same. Having breakfast with my family is really important. We do that normally, so we make sure we are sticking to it.

For me, work begins at 8:30 AM, and the children start their schoolwork at 8:00 AM, so this has been a great routine for us. I don't stop until lunch time. After lunch, my husband and I go back to work and the children carry on with their schoolwork. We try to get out at least once a day for family exercise, either a walk or cycle around our local neighbourhood. My husband and I also try to go for an early morning run to Wormwood Scrubs a few times a week.

Staying in touch with family and friends has become a central part of our daily and weekly routines. On Fridays we have a Zoom call with my husband's family, which means there can be over 20 people involved. We’re actually seeing a lot more of them now than we ever did, certainly a lot more than we would ever speak to them on the phone.

I call my parents in Hungary more than ever and this has become an even greater priority for me since they are not in this country and don’t have Internet access or a smartphone. I also check in regularly with friends, particularly those who live on their own.

Recently I’ve started taking part in my good friend Samira's online meditation classes, which gives me some grounding and much needed time away from the children. 

Best lockdown entertainment: To be honest, we’ve been so busy with work and home schooling that it's hard to add too much extra. I do my usual book reading in the evenings, as it's a precious break from screen time, which is even more all-consuming now that we’re also monitoring the children’s online schoolwork.

The best book I’ve read recently is The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es, which really helped me put the current situation into perspective for me. It’s about a young girl’s struggle for survival during WW2, and it made me feel I haven’t very much to complain about in these remarkable times.

I do like to join Idler discussions on Thursdays on Zoom. It's something I look forward to and recommend very much. We also loved watching the BBC's Race Across the World. It's great family TV and wonderful escapism. I used to do a lot of backpacking, so it's also very nostalgic and makes me yearn to backpack and go exploring with the family just as soon as this is all over.

Personal projects that keep me inspired: I’ve been keeping a diary as part of my personal routine since the first day of the lockdown. I’ve always tried to maintain a sporadic written diary since my children were born, but I felt compelled to do it daily now so I can document these strange and unusual times as a written record for the family.

I’m also working on a family history photo book. I recently connected with many new family members after taking an ancestry DNA test, and I now have a huge volume of historic family photos to scan and upload.

During the past few weeks I’ve also developed hitherto unknown talents and skills. I’d have never imagined before all this that I could single-handedly fix an oven, become an adept family hairstylist, and expert bread maker. I’m excited to see what other new gifts are waiting to emerge over the coming weeks.


Top tip for staying centred: I like to start the day with a healthy breakfast, a smoothie or porridge, and a nice cup of herbal tea. Morning exercise is also very helpful for a calm mind. I try my best, depending on my time and energy level, to do a quick yoga session in the morning. My work also creates a daily routine to keep me centred and occupied, and encourages me to use my mind strategically. 

Communication with my family on a daily basis is very important to me, also to make sure they are coping well. I also try to keep regular communication with my friends with the occasional Zoom pub quiz or games.

Best lockdown entertainment: 

Podcast: Deliciously Ella

Book: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Series: Killing Eve and Friends

Personal projects that keep me inspired: I’ve been enjoying painting and sketching various subjects such as flowers and landscapes to update to my personal website and create a book with my artwork.  


Top tip for staying centred: I’ve been having regular chats with friends and family, including weekly quizzes on Zoom. I always try to start my day early and get some exercise done. In the evenings we’ve been experimenting with new meals.

Best lockdown entertainment: I have recently been reading the James Bond novels by Ian Flemming. They’re great action stories, and most are different from the films so it's all very new to me. They can be found very reasonably on eBay as vintage 007s.

Personal projects that keep me inspired: I find that focussing creatively on my photography has been very helpful. I’ve also been updating my photography website, thinking of new indoor shoots I could try, and researching my favourite photographers. I’ve even invested in some photocards by Bob Books with my favourite photography images as the covers. My family loves them.


Top tip for staying centred: For me, it really works to have a routine with a few different things to look forward to each week. I have a baby, so my routine is based around his day, which hasn’t changed dramatically since lockdown. At 6:30 AM he’s ready to start his day and we go from there.

My partner and I have an agreed schedule for the week so we know who’s in charge of cooking, cleaning, and baby duties. Things don’t always go exactly to plan, but hopefully, this way we can get everything done that needs to be and also each have a bit of time for our own pursuits.

Best lockdown entertainment: Before baby, I enjoyed a lot of true crime podcasts, such as West Cork and Bear Brook, but at the moment the podcast I follow most is Unruffled by Janet Lansbury. Janet offers advice on various parenting issues and I really like her philosophy. My partner is a documentary filmmaker, so we also spend a lot of our evenings watching documentaries. Netflix has so many to choose from. We recently watched Don’t F**k With Cats, The Pharmacist, and, of course, Tiger King.

Personal projects that keep me inspired: While the weather is so nice, I’ve been enjoying a bit of gardening and found some expired seeds, which seem to be sprouting. Fingers crossed we’ll be enjoying home grown veg in a few months. I’m also keen to get stuck in with my new pottery wheel.

My most important project at the moment, however, is my son’s photobook. He turns one next week, and I’ve been rubbish about writing in a book throughout the year, so I really want to make a book that we can look at together for years to come. I’ll order one copy for me and his dad, plus one for my son, and one for each of his Grandmas. They’re really missing him right now.


Top tip for staying centred: Like lots of people, I've found that keeping a routine during the week is essential. I like to have a visual calendar so I can plan ahead and look forward to things throughout the week, even if it's just trying a new recipe for supper. Walking after work is the highlight of my day, whether it’s exploring new areas or enjoying a walk without a destination. 

Taking time over small rituals has also become a lifeline. Making coffee, watering plants or laying the table– while these activities are usually rushed, I now take more care over them. Slowing down has its benefits and I’m learning to take more pleasure in the domesticity of the everyday. 

Best lockdown entertainment: Netflix documentary series The Staircase. Without giving away any spoilers, it’s totally compelling and unlike a lot of true crime, it's not at all voyeuristic or sensationalist. I also loved Race Across the World and watched both series in quick succession. I listen to Podcasts while I cook, including Armchair expert, and I’ve enjoyed Esther Perel speaking to couples in lockdown in Where Should We Begin.

Personal projects that keep me inspired: I am the sole reason for the current UK flour shortage. I’m looking after a sourdough starter as if caring for a newborn, and have been making cakes to feed my boyfriend and deliver to the occasional friend.


Top tip for staying centred: Staying physically active has been super important for me. Normally when I’m not working I’m training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Thai boxing, so sitting indoors has been a big challenge. Many personal trainers and gyms have been offering live workouts on Instagram and Zoom which has been really nice, as you get to work out with a familiar face. I’ve also started getting up earlier to go for a run along the Thames before the day begins. I find it sets the tone for a productive day.

Best lockdown entertainment: I was recently gifted Strange Planet which is a comic book by cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle. I love it because it’s relatable and makes me laugh. I’m also rereading The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum, which is the book that first inspired me to try photography.

What personal projects are keeping you inspired: One activity I’ve been enjoying recently is letter writing. Putting my thoughts down on a physical piece of paper and communicating in such a different way has been very therapeutic and also reignited my love for creative writing.

What personal projects or routines have been keeping you inspired while staying indoors? We’d love to hear from you. If you’re in need of some inspiration for your next photography project, be sure to check out our 50 creative ideas for personalised photo books or visit our products page to start designing one of your own.