Saturday, 28 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 24

DAY 23

Planning for the festive season has begun. There is no doubt that however it works out it will be unlike any other before or after although the latter sentiment is more in hope than in reality because we can no longer be sure of anything ahead. Not withstanding any government instructions which are confusing, self-contradictory and I suspect unenforceable, as a family we know how we intend to approach the whole thing. In fact throughout this pandemic we have, as a whole, behaved with intelligence and awareness. We have various vulnerabilities, clinical or age related, risks and attitude differences but overall we have tended to be wary of the virus rather than following the rules and looking out for each other. 

So far we have had near misses but no direct hits and with a viable vaccine about to be deployed we must not let down our guard for the sake of a little seasonal sociability which can be so painlessly deferred. Our intention is to behave so that when the next festive season comes along we are there to enjoy it and not be one of those to be remembered in the annual toast to the dear departed.

An added complication this year is shopping. We have been arranging weekly home deliveries but our last booking is the 14th December, there are no more slots available. This suggests that we will need to face the horrific idea of shopping in the week before the holiday at Tesco. This is going to be interesting. In the past I have taken a novel to read whilst waiting in the checkout queue. How it will work this year with distanced queues snaking all over the store is dreadful to contemplate. A novel, a portable seat and a light lunch might be called for this time.

In other news #diaperdonny is trending on Twitter in both the US and the UK and it surely is a national US humiliation in progress. A recount demanded in democrat heavy Winsconsin and paid for by the Trump Campaign ($3M!) has increased Biden’s lead! The dark neo- fascist forces that have chosen to sponsored popular but mendacious leaders, amoral showmen with distorted, elitist, domineering attitudes to the world and a total absorption with self advancement have made a strategic mistake with #diaperdonny and the johnson. These two have, it seems to me, caused their two parties (the GOP and the Tories now changed beyond recognition) to be so discredited that they will cease to exist in their new form. In both cases their undoing, perhaps their main undoing is that Covid-19 demands leadership with compassion, competence and confident reliance on scientific expertise to minimise its total impact in both health and economic terms. Neither the US or the GOP have such a leader. Even their cabinets, composed as they are of power hungry sycophants chosen for their loyalty rather than their suitability for office display nothing but laughable ineptitude.

History will record that the citizens of both nations were saved from the destruction of their democracy, an authoritarian dictatorship and a future in economic slavery by a virus. 

Back In The Covid - Lockdown Diary 2, days 18 to 22

Day 18 was a grey weather day calmer inside than out but that did not wholly prevent attending to seasonal work in the garden. As these last few days have progressed so the outlook has improved to frosty nights but gloriously peaceful sunshiny days. There is much beauty in the garden even now. This view through our recently flowered Fatsia japonica against bare branches of ash trees burnished by an evening sun thrills me every year.

But there is a beauty here of another kind altogether more precious to me than mere eye candy, a beauty that is freely available to all who would open their senses to it. It is close to impossible to put it into words. You either feel it or you don't. At this time of year, sitting out there for a few minutes peace and spiritual nourishment, it is like you have tucked up your own beloved, tangle haired child for her innocent sleep and are totally absorbed as you watch her drift off. 

I have been packing the greenhouses, clearing the plants and sweeping the patios. My Fuchsias have been inside for a few weeks already but there are a good few pots of tree seedlings and cuttings parked around the garden to prepare for repotting and a substantial Hydrangea anomola subsp. Petiolaris to cut back. This must be done before winter winds whipping across my neighbour's outbuilding roof do it for me. Once that thing becomes unstuck from the wall it will never go back and I prune it back to below roof height slowly and methodically to just under the eaves at this time every year.

It is  long repetitive task but restful and mindful. 

Tonight I worked right at the top and well after dusk into near total darkness, busy but intent, light peeping around an almost shut door, watching my child sleeping by me, random bits of clothing untidily discarded about her room and with her tousled, golden hair spread over the pillows, dreaming no doubt of spring. 

Sunday, 22 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 17

 DAY 17

For an actual Sunday today feels unusually Sundayish. With our quiet morning coffee I thought about why this should be the predominant feeling, today in particular, and I write this listening to the music of Eric Coates deliberately to enhance the mood. I have two excellent Coates CD’s on the Chandos label recorded by John Wilson.

The obvious starting point then is the question, “why Eric Coates in particular?”. Coates is not well   known generally and amongst those of us more seriously interested in music is placed under the “Light Music” heading and largely ignored. Notwithstanding this unfair (in my opinion) treatment of Coates he is however very important in the psyche of persons of a certain age, my age in fact and the generation before me.

Why? Well if I tell you that the introductory music to Desert Island Discs is a tune called ‘By the Sleepy Lagoon’ it might give you a clue. He also wrote another well known tune called ‘Calling All Workers’ which was used as the opening theme to the radio programme Music While You Work from mid 1940 up until 1967, a program of popular music played twice daily mid morning and afternoon on the BBC Home Service.

With very little other entertainment the radio featured in most households in the 1940’s and 50’s, my family for example acquired its first television in about 1951. The internet was a very long way off and X Boxes not even dreamt of. So on Sundays, to the odorous delights of roasting beef and spuds and already in a state of satisfaction brought on by early sandwiches made with Mr. Nicholl’s thick cut Wiltshire bacon from a pig farm just north of Devizes we would play card games or do jigsaw puzzles or simply read. These leisure activities were not regarded as fill-ins or time wasters or cures for boredom. There was intent behind them, they were purposeful, as purposeful as any other common household activity and an integral part of surviving the still quite difficult post war years.

And we were family. Dad would be at rest from his 50 plus hours working week and Mum would be similarly relaxed and away from sewing heavy forces uniforms at Comptons. There would be no rushing about, maybe a walk out in the sunshine, rarely a walk to a local pub and a bag of Smiths Crisps outside. Rest was taken seriously as it should be but was taken with significantly less background anxiety. Work for most people was secure and long term, ambitions and desires existed but did not drive most lives with great force and importance because second by second access to our lives through advertising and sales promotions did not then exist. Sunday professional sport was banned.

Although we were a mainly non-religious family our parents sent us to early morning Sunday School after we were grown enough to ask questions just to get some private time together. This no doubt worked in our favour to improve the atmosphere at home by the time we arrived there for bacon sandwiches after chapel invigorated by terrorising our teachers with ‘alternative’ views.

I suppose you would call this nostalgia. Often this word is used in a pejorative sense comparable to maudlin but I embrace it whole heartedly. 

I think of it as opening a door. A portal accessed by a key consisting of trigger events that in the right combination invoke feelings or memories of feelings which can sometimes lead to maudlin but at other times warm and comfortable like old slippers. I embrace both. Living in the present moment is all very well and fashionable but no-one can prevent their best (or indeed their worst) experiences that happened in the past from framing every present moment with whatever feelings those memories engender without descending into the purely hedonistic.

This morning was quiet and calm. Calm and without undue cares or difficulties or deadlines or plans. An autumn mist lingered over the playing field opposite and amongst the trees and shrubs around the garden. A promising sunlight peeped over the top and small birds were about everywhere. We had both, my wife and I, a better night’s sleep after a poor week in that department. Possibly this was due to a busy but satisfying day yesterday on the garden’s winter clear up and a couple of strong pain killers each to retire on later. For some reason neither of us felt any need, pressure or urgency to do anything and even locked down in The Covid (and therefore more or less continuously restricted) this is a rare state of affairs to allow ourselves to luxuriate in. 

I had descended the stairs whistling ‘By the Sleepy Lagoon’  to the smell of fresh coffee. Silent levers must have tumbled into place to unlock this Sundayish feeling which we have indeed been luxuriating in all day and we have so enjoyed it.

Friday, 20 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Days 13 to 16

 DAYS 13 to 16

Absent without giving a **** is no longer a capital offence as it was in feudal times and in exercise of  my inalienable rights I took a few days out. It is necessary to stand back a little on occasion, taking the time to refocus the telescope through which we tend to look at events around us, more than just necessary, sometimes this is vital especially when so much confusion abounds. I believe my ‘telescope’ was not only out of focus but the wrong way round and it was right to put it down.  

I can now confirm however that I do give a ****! I do care about a great deal. It matters to me passionately that so much in terms of values, standards, respect for the rule of law, freedoms and democratic government especially in public life are being eroded to the considerable detriment of my descendants.

Today we are subjected to another unedifying example of this  government riding rough shod through the standards we were once rightly proud of and respected for globally.

This is where we are today. Government has been run by unelected advisors, both notable bullies one of whom was successfully sued by a mistreated employee who had a key role in election wrongdoing and was in any case already found in contempt of Parliament. They are gone now but their attitude prevails in whoever is left behind to make decisions for the inept and unkempt 10 year old brat of a haystack that currently occupies the top office in the land.

A minister, already responsible for a number of expensive mistakes, spent £3M on an emergency ferry company that had no ferries.

An advisor who broke the governments own lockdown rules and lied about the circumstances was not sanctioned in any way.

The government attempted to illegally stymie Parliament by proroguing it which was only stopped by taking it to the supreme court.

We have a government which rushed through the Withdrawal Bill, denying scrutiny, which they then claimed was not fully understood because they never read the small print.

We have a government that is not only prepared to break international  law but introduces domestic legislation (still in progress) which would allow it to break international law without domestic sanction.

We have a government that hails the ending of Freedom of Movement in 27 European countries for 60 Million UK citizens thereby depriving them of their rights and identity as a great thing.

A government that builds huge lorry parks for delayed ferry traffic on a flood plain.

A government that can spend £16 billion on war machinery but not £3 Million to directly feed hungry kids.

A housing minister who rewards party donors with preferential planning permissions, is forced to admit it and allowed to keep his job although proven corrupt.

A government that has so mishandled Covid that 70,000 excess tragic deaths were incurred (with more to come) and who destroyed the economy by ignoring its own experts and by being indecisive and late with every action.

A government that has handed out £billions to private companies for a Track and Trace system which is not working and PPE equipment which was not fit for purpose, over priced and made using Korean Slave labour in China.

A government that overrides lawful processes and appoints mates and donors to high office and that demeans the House of Lords by appointing policy specific supporters including a Russian Oligarch.

A government that has exploited, legitimised and fostered racism and division for political gain.

And today a bully, The Home Office minister, identified as having broken ministerial guidelines by the governments own officer responsible for policing those rules, who becomes the first minister (ever as far as I know) to escape not losing her job because she bullied people but “didn’t mean to”. A minister who, by the way, had already been fired once for breaking Ministerial guidelines and they did all this in National Bullying Awareness week!

We are subjected to headline grabbing but unachievable promises such as bridges to Ireland, world beating track and trace, no second lockdown, mass Covid testing, it will all be over by the summer and lied their way through a Brexit referendum by promising sunny uplands ahead and telling voters we “hold all the cards”, “no-deal is not an option”, trade will carry on as now, red tape will be reduced, no border in Ireland, no effect on jobs, Britain will prosper! There is such a long list of outlandish claims that it is impossible to recount them all concisely. The government must be aware, every time, that they are making outrageous and deceptive claims some of which are all out straight and deliberate lies.

Cronyism is rife, tax revenues are being filched and squandered, corruption abounds, mendacity and secrecy are the norm. No-one loses their job however badly they have behaved. Journalists are marginalised unless they avoid the hard facts and lawyers not in agreement with the governments law-breaking are openly vilified.

All of this covered up with continuous shape shifting, lying, dissembling and deliberate distraction to confuse and cover up.

So yes! I most certainly do give a fuck. I do not hold any particular political allegiance, I have voted for all parties at some time in my life but I do care about democracy, stability, the rule of law, honour in public life, human rights and freedoms. Above all I worship the truth like some people worship their gods. Without respect for the truth our civilisation will decline and the world for my great grandchildren in say 40 or 50 years time, will be an actual  dystopian nightmare and not just a smoking, shattered and lifeless film set with the bad guys in power exploiting a population of broken and demoralised slaves. That I do care about intensely.

Telescope adjusted.

Monday, 16 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 11 & 12

 DAY 11 and 12

There has been a Covid exposure in the family. Friday 13th might not have been as entirely lucky as it usually is for me. Unfortunately at this stage in The Covid, and I am sure that this is a common experience, war-weariness is setting in, guards are being dropped everywhere. We are at our most vulnerable with a considerable portion of society now getting infected, more vulnerable now in fact than at any time in the first lockdown. Back then conscientious concern dominated and ignorance reigned yet the spread and case numbers for this nasty contagion were considerably lower compared to today. Today our greatest threat is complacency.

On a brighter note the brussels sprouts season proper has begun with UK produce now in the shops the size of mini-cabbages. Some plants in the garden are enjoying an extended season thanks to weather atypically warm for November. This shone out today, our Golden Wedding rose, now looking much happier in its new home and just fabulous up close. Ours is not the garden for roses or indeed any plants except the very hardiest being stony, dry and generally impoverished but especially for roses. This is a new deep dug bed at the front of the house in good sunlight, back-filled with garden compost, feed and leaf mould especially made for our three favourite yellows.

Today was windy and sporadically wet which always feels colder than it is so that when we took a walk out with family and one of their dogs I for one was glad to be getting off home to the warm. I must record here that today and for the first time in The Covid there was a distinct feeling of relief rounding the corner into our street, relief and comfort that the safety of our home had been reached. I take this to be a sign that a little fearfulness is creeping in which is an altogether unwelcome feeling.

Golden Wedding was still pristine when I drew the blind and I could not help wondering if there is a rose name Diamond Wedding. I hope we get to find out.

Day 12 came and went. The johnson found a convenient way to hole up in the Downing Street flat for 14 days by having been in the proximity of an MP testing positive for Covid. It is pretty obvious he cannot handle Prime Minister’s Questions on a Wednesday in the House so this is suspicious news at the least. Facing Sir Keir after the soap opera carry on in No. 10 must have been just too scary to handle and scandals associated with PPE procurement seem to all be hitting the fans at once. 

The Clementine Clown that lives in the now barricaded Whitehouse until January is making a massive success of ensuring that the GOP gets as much bad press as possible. 

Brexit looms large on every news channel except the BBC and in another bizarre twist the massive  lorry park built to buffer up waiting freight trucks at the channel crossing has flooded. They built it on a flood plain. Yes, I kid you not, on a flood plain. This government’s incompetence is of truly staggering and historic proportions.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 10

 DAY 10

Daily confirmed cases are still high, today 26,860. Todays tragic death number of 462 brings the total UK death figure to nearly 52000. 

It is particularly grotty weather out there, to quote Ronnie Barker. The wind wapps up the side of our house at the best of times but today it is horizontal and carrying a continuous soaking of heavy rain which also pounds our windows at the front rather noisily.

It is wonderful, I love it. I am warm and cosy and already feeling the benefits of Thursdays Vitamin B12 jab. I have relished rainy days since boyhood camping weekends under canvas. It made others feel trapped and bored, I felt thoughtful and reflective and, though inside and protected, more connected with the woods and plants about me. 

So today was a nostalgic day, a cooked breakfast, light English music by Eric Coates and Earnest Tomlinson (*see below), a little reading, a little writing and regular supplies of my favourite tea, Ceylon, favourite because it brings me the heady odours of freshly cut meadow grass drying under the late summer sun of our courting days. Strictly Come Dancing is on the TV shortly and then another attempt at a starting strategy with this diabolical monstrosity of a jigsaw puzzle which for the record we started yesterday on day 9, lockdown 2, at 8:30pm.

For our TV dinner with SCD we had cold roast chicken with a warm lentil curry accessory together with a salad of mizuma, pak choi, spring onions and a topping of chopped pecans enhanced with a little balsamic drizzle and graced by a modest knob of organic cheddar.

Lockdown 2 day 10 has been a great day to be indoors so far but the invisible barrier at the edge of our property holding us captive is an ever present and menacing distraction that will just not go away however pleasant the day is.

*Tomlinson is almost unknown but worth investigating. He is responsible for a substantial body of mostly light music but other more serious works and some innovative symphonic Jazz compositions.

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 8 & 9

 DAY 8

The tangerine tosser has finally arrived at the same conclusion as everyone else and as his denial and anger subside to be replaced with the misery of his reality he becomes one of the losers he loves to despise. The majority of Americans did not vote for more of the same divisive politics of hatred, racial discrimination and violence enabled by corruption and law breaking. His hair turning grey suggests that he has also been dumped by his stylist and it is rumoured that Melania might be intending to dump the charlatan too. Karma it seems is making the most of its moment.

Trumpty Dumpty is letting it be known that he intends to run for office again in 2024 on the grounds that two terms in office is permitted even if they are not served concurrently. Given the scale of his defeat I doubt whether the GOP will allow this to happen unless the party splits but demographic changes are much more likely to rally behind a less extreme candidate. Demographics is a wonderful and sobering force in politics, simple in operation but long term in effect. In 4 years time the older community who voted for Trump will have been replaced by the now 14 to 18 year olds who will not vote for him and who are also unlikely in sufficient numbers to vote for any GOP candidate remotely as divisive or contentious as Trump.

We also, in the UK, thanks in part to the bumbling ineptitude of a Prime Minister obviously out of depth, will benefit from the same forces. Interestingly both elections happen in the same year and probably at roughly the same time.

There is a definite inevitability about this moment in history. Our feudal past controlled by monarchies or religions (or both working together) has been whittled down over the years in spite of this elite establishment trying to keep feudalism in play. This power has been gradually diminished by better and wider education, communications and science through trench by trench warfare over centuries starting with our emergence from the so-called dark ages when religions dominated life and law. Ever wider admission into electoral franchises and the growth of alternative power bases necessitated these old establishment forces morphing into Conservative political parties condemned forever to maintain their support by appeals for stability and tradition but condemned to dissemble the fact that their very existence depends on a political system which allows an asset owning class to maintain and control a poor, indebted working class. I.e. feudalism in all but name or as I see it, economic serfdom or slavery.

But there seems to be (perhaps Iris Murdoch was right!) a dominating underlying force towards the good and away from evil which is, over time, weakening Conservative forces, religions and aristocracies, eroding their power and ensuring that at some point the battle would be obliged to move to open ground. 

Open ground is where we are today. The vestiges of feudalism are out of their final trench and it is hand to hand fighting now. Expertise is publicly vilified, corruption amongst the powerful is rife, governments are exploiting, confusing, spreading lies and diversions, flouting the law and testing the confinements of national legal constitutions and norms in a last trench attempt to avoid defeat and relinquish forever their power into the hands of the people. I believe that their defeat was always inevitable. I believe that time will record their defeat as coming earlier than it might otherwise have done thanks to The Covid.

The people of this nation needed the care and protection of those governing them but care and protection has not been forthcoming from those governments nearest in spirit to our feudal past. They have been visibly, sometimes corruptly, protecting and adding to their assets at the expense of the nation’s health, keeping workers at the rock faces of our economy whilst they hole up safely in their sequestered estates organising carts to collect the dead.


Friday the 13th. So this is the unlucky day that just keeps on giving. Trump is gone, the Corbyn faction loses its grip on the NEC, Cain is gone and the scumbag, Grima Wormtongue, the shitweazel in No. 10 has gone too. Something major happened and as usual we have nothing official so the speculation rife on social media is to be treated as a joke. The scrawny Gollumalike boldly left by the front door with a rather small box, retaining his security pass on a lanyard round his neck in a much too contrived theatrical fashion to be believed and even returned later for a photo opportunity, lonely and dejected at a wintry kerbside waiting for a cab, so I intend to restrain my joy until I see the next move. I personally believe that these events are all about Gove undermining the johnson with the aid of the scumbag and Cain (his boys from way back) and scumbags removal is a sign that Gove (and Murdoch) have lost this round. Next will be the removal of Gove from the Cabinet Office and the announcement of an extension to the transition period for leaving the EU. One or the other or both. 

You heard it here first.

On the whole it has been a very lucky day for us all.

We took a walk out today, four generations of us, to a local spot quite near to us with both historical and scenic interest but one we do not often visit. Luck is about how much of a fair share you win in this random lottery of an existence of ours but nature in all the chance events that characterise natural evolution and the world about us managed to do this at the Badbury Rings.

Surely, on the whole, it is a lucky day every day!