Sunday, 27 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Tier 2 diary, day 17 to 26

 DAY 17 to 26

Started on the 8th December here is an update on progress minionwise. No puzzle has ever taken us more than 7 days, our new target is to complete this before 2021.


I have not actually been at all inclined to do anything but sleep a lot since my last report. I thought the suspected Covid was more or less done with but no, it got worse, much worse. All the unpleasant details are not too interesting but let me just record that I have an ECG test booked for 30th December and blood tests to check for underlying cardiac issues. It has not been a good few days. My GP assured me that there there was no immediate danger of me pegging out any time soon, but just please avoid this disease at all costs and more importantly treat other people with respect. Behave as though you are carrying the virus  at all times. We have both, my wife and I, been extremely cautious and have worn our masks conscientiously. It is a little sobering to think that my wife has been more or less without symptoms and I seem to have had a false negative test. It would have been so easy to unknowingly infect someone else, someone close. When I described my symptoms to my GP she said that she would have come to the same conclusion. I have had Covid - 19 and its a bugger!

Talking of buggers, that unkempt, mendacious, 14 year old, racist clown that holds the top office in the land has made a big public deal out of agreeing a trade agreement with the EU. I have read it and it is a disaster. The EU seem to have agreed to a deal more a less the same as Teresa May’s plan (that the lying charlatan resigned over) by introducing monitoring arrangements equivalent to what the European Court would have adjudicated on but in new bodies with other names. 

This must be the first trade agreement in the history of the world where one side has sought to force trade sanctions upon itself, caused itself a loss in GDP of an estimated 6% and in which the paperwork to export goods to our largest market imposed by this agreement (which was zero) will be prodigious. Services and the financial sector (by far and away our most important exports) have not been addressed. 

Perhaps the most damning part of the whole thing is that academic qualifications are no longer mutually recognised. In the middle of a worsening pandemic when there is already a shortage of qualified doctors and nursing staff that is surely nothing short of suicidal. As with our withdrawal from the Erasmus scheme it is an act of disgraceful pandering to those who want to isolate Britain from the rest of the world for purely ideological reasons. It’s purpose is to prevent UK professionals seeking work in the EU. It is, like Brexit itself, a deliberate act of imprisonment placed on UK nationals.

Brexit is not yet done, the after effects will be massive, waves of disruption and the fallout will go on for years. But Vive La Resistance! The fight to Rejoin has already begun.

Handing over now to ‘Back In The Covid, Lockdown diary Tier 3’. Yes, we have been promoted to the third division. Almost no difference for us to a full national lockdown which I am sure will be announced soon thanks to a rampant new variant which has become known as the English Mutation by Europeans. I suspect that this is deliberate payback started by the Spanish to get back at us for calling the 1918 pandemic the ‘Spanish’ flu. A name invented by the British Government to avoid getting the blame for returning it to the UK from the trenches of WWI. 

This time it genuinely is the English Mutant a name which would be equally as fitting for our neo-fascist prime minister.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Tier 2 diary, day 10 to 16

DAY 10 to 16

MY GP surgery has texted me, and all of its patients, urging us not call to enquire when the vaccine is coming because they are unable to handle the call volume. I take this as a good sign. They are planning for it. They are getting it. We are indeed on our way to a normalisation process but herd immunity remains a mythical ideal touted by mostly right whinge zealots who would rather have a strong revenue stream into their bank account than save their grannies. Expert opinion however, i.e. epidemiologists, assures us we are not to suppose that normality will come any time soon or indeed that ‘normalisation’ is in fact secure. There remains a massive amount of science and research to be undertaken in order to be sure about such factors as: how long does the vaccine protect? : how is the vaccine evolving? : virus’s mutate and tend to became more contagious but less dangerous, so what is this one going to do? : what is the efficacy and what are the side effects of vaccination over a wider section of the community?: what will be the percentage take-up? I suspect that at the very least there will be an annual vaccination program as there is with the flu. I very recently read that the Oxford research group are investigating the possibility of combining a Covid jab with the flu jab, now that would be a most welcome development. 

Longer term however the most important area to study and change going forward is how another virus like this can be avoided altogether. It seems to me that humankind must wake up to its role and responsibilities to look after our planet. This is our home in the Cosmos and our living environment and this debate is not just about climate change but more directly about interfering and damaging Earth’s processes, all of Earth’s living things and Earth’s ability to remain stable.  A worldwide ban on the abhorrent sale of wild animals for consumption, the harvesting of parts of animals for medicines, traditional or commercial, their use in the cosmetics industry and the wholesale destruction of the natural environment of all of our animal cousins is to me as important as the reduction of fossil fuel burning. We do, as a species, have a long way to go, a very long way to go, and we must get on with it before planet Earth reacts in the only way it can to survive which is to dispose us. In that sense WE are a virus on the body of Mother Earth. It is up to us to evolve. Mother Earth will survive. The species of Hominid, Homo notsosapiens might not.

The stock market has not yet shown its opinion on whether or not there will be a deal. Some cyclical stocks and house builders have recovered their dramatic losses of last week but no more. It is decidedly undecided. I expect massive changes when a deal is in the offing even if it is only insiders unwinding their short positions. There is no evidence of that as yet.

Today is finally the #DumpTrump day when the US Electoral College meets to ratify the election results. At least in the US the racists and neo-fascists will then have been defeated and a dictatorship avoided. That at least gives me hope that the johnson and his similar, if not the same as Trumps, UK racist, neo-fascist sponsors now also have a limited lifespan and that the rule of law and Parliamentary Sovereignty can be restored.

Finally for this update I am now convinced that in spite of a negative test I have had, and am recovering from, Covid 19. 

I have been pretty unwell but not in any way that I have experienced before. It started with a couple of days of headaches (an entirely, to me, new form of headache) dizziness and disorientation to be followed at day 4 by a persistent cough which slowly developed until it was bad enough to make me grip my torso to relieve the shear violence and pain of it. I have not had a fever or a sore throat. Just this violent coughing with bronchitis like quantities of what I shall euphemistically refer to as ‘stuff’, tons of it, with quite a runny nose. After 8 days it began to subside but has continued at a lower level as my lungs cleared. At that point extreme fatigue and sleepiness kicked in along with dry, sore and light sensitive eyes. Ocular symptoms occur in, according to one report, in 19% of Covid 19 cases and are mostly the same as mine. I have, even for me, been noticeably more confused.com and certainly finding concentration difficult. There are also other things that smack of an extreme event involving my auto-immune system. Specifically some random muscle aches and pains and random itchiness all over my personal person as well as my public person. In my mind these all add up to only one thing. 

Apart from which it has been substantially different to anything I have caught before. 

Today I am much better and I do feel as though nothing will get worse. Research has shown that PCR Covid tests are only on average 70% effective. In other words 3 out of 10 positive cases get a false negative result from the PCR test. It is too late now for another test but I will check to see if I can have an antibody test. Without that there is no proof that I have had the dreaded Covid 19 and survived (so far) but I at least am convinced that I did. 

It is now day 16, I am not eligible for an antibody test. Also the signs suggest that financial markets are beginning to price in a deal, no big changes though, short positions are still in place. As they say, well as I say, a shitty deal is better than no-deal and to catch up on other news the Electoral College in the USA ratified Biden’s win. The very creepy but very powerful top Republican, Mitch McConnell has endorsed Biden’s win to the absolute fury of Trumpty Dumpty. 

PS. If you would like to read about Shakespeare’s Works you will find it here

Connections

 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Tier 2 diary, day 8 & 9

DAY 8 & 9

Nothing to say about day 8. A backwards step I would say and …… let us move on.

Somewhat more alert today, day 9 into tier 2, it is Thursday and you know what day that is! But after a few cups of tea it was necessary to administer a stern word with myself along with the “you lazy fat arse” epithet by way of a metaphorical finger wagging at self. I was forced to admit that having my usual Thursday bacon sandwich whilst still in my slippers and dressing gown at 11:00 am was a step to far in the direction of indolence.

Our nation has entered limbo land. We despatched a recalcitrant, lying, bloviating, mumbling, scruffy 12 year old who could not be trusted to consume a bowl of soup on his own without making a mess on himself to represent us in a negotiation where all outcomes are severely painful, to eat his dinner with the counterparty, a lady of great accomplishments, statesmanship, dignity and gravitas. Said lady no doubt gently and discretely wiping his drooling mouth for him, metaphorically speaking, by arranging that the meal would be exclusively fish. 

We are in limbo land because nothing seems to have come of it but a reconfirmation that neither side agrees with the other and neither side will compromise. All they could agree on was that the ball should be left in the long grass for the rest of the week and a search party would look for it again on Sunday.

For myself I am certain that a no deal outcome (Euphemistically termed ‘Australian terms’ by the government) is not only likely but planned for. Planned for all along to force as much from the EU as possible by making them think we are prepared and ready for it. It is a massive bluff. A massive bluff that will backfire spectacularly at our expense. Why? Because we are a long, long way from ready for it, and because EU unity is at an all time high and continued membership is popular amongst all 27 nations. They are united and they are fully able to weather the outcome of a no-deal UK exit. They know this. They will not blink. We, however can look forward to an apocalyptic start to the new year on January 1st 2021 when all ports to Europe will effectively be shut to European goods and, thanks to the Covid, UK citizens.

Port problems which forced a halt in production at Honda in Swindon are a taster of what is to come. The problem at the moment is excess traffic due to PPE equipment imports and protective Brexit over stocking. A minor problem compared to the imposition of customs checks on all goods in and out of the EU when at the moment there are none. 

I monitor the stock market on a daily basis. The stock market always knows first, always. The bigger players in financial markets are much closer than most to inside knowledge, indeed the more unscrupulous seek to profit from it by shorting the pound and certain stocks they know will fall heavily. They take their private actions which together accumulate enough to start a trend. Today the pound has plummeted against the Euro, cyclicals are 5% or more down and infrastructure stocks are steady. In other words the current trend indicates that a no-deal outcome is being priced in. That might reverse or might not. If a trend sets in over today and tomorrow then we will know by late Friday what the market expects to happen on Monday. It’s going to be a rough ride.

Something new for tomorrow. Hopefully I will continue improving health wise. But here is a flavour. I put much importance on the stories of things, objects, utensils, decorative things, furniture, any thing in fact that I live with. I have made it my way of life to accumulate things that add to the stories I live with everyday, especially of people I have been close to or have known. By so doing the objects themselves take on a life and importance of their own rendering them something other than objects. The people they are associated with live on in them. They live on with us and become an undying part of our lives and so I write, when I do so by hand, with my father-in-laws fountain pen. I drink, daily from my Dad’s Grandad mug, I use my cousins little wooden box to store my bling in at night and wear, everyday, my Aunt’s pendant celtic cross necklace and I wear one my Uncle’s old woollen jumper over my shirt in the winter garden. These are just a few of the 100’s of everyday items, some small, some large that we live with, all deliberately accumulated and in some cases rescued to enrich our home and our lives with connections or stories.

Most of these connections are small, a salvaged picture frame, a mug or two and so on (ad infinitum actually) but some quite interesting and worth recording.

From tomorrow I plan to begin a series of articles taking the more interesting objects one at a time and recording their history. Not finally decided on the format yet but I am now able to prepare a blog post on my smart phone so that, I suspect, is the most likely route I shall take.

Here is a preview of the first object in line.


The collected works of William Shakespeare.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Tier 2 diary, day 7.

After an excellent night's sleep (Fitbit gave me a green star!) I woke without the headache that had plagued me for the previous six days. My enfeebled brain had enough power to cogitate for a few minutes on the interesting, if troubling, idea that if my extremely cautious and strict self isolation from The Covid had let through a common or garden cold-virus followed by a touch of bronchitis then Covid 19 might sneak in the same way. These thoughts were quickly supplanted by the recognition that my brain could now actually focus again and positivity took over. I'm still weak, coughing and sneezing but much improved and on the way back. 
Boris has a date with Ursula tomorrow, 9pm, and no doubt he intends to charm his way through dinner helped along with some incredibly expensive (but French) wine and get his wicked way. Ursula unlikely to be impressed I think. That these occasions are largely stage managed is usually apparent and such an event in normal times would signify that a deal has in principle been agreed and the johnson will return from Brussels in Chamberlainesque fashion waving a peace of paper and proclaiming "EU trade deal in our time". Otherwise this meeting would have been more formal and a little less sociable but this time there are many unknowns.

What we do now for definite, whatever the outcome, deal or no-deal, both are hard exits from the EU and both will be extremely damaging. 

Ask any Brexiteer and you will find that there are no tangible benefits to Brexit. Usually in fact they resort to flag waving generalisms like, sovereignty, unelected bureaucrats, fish, borders etc but when pressed cannot be specific. Ask them questions like "So what EU laws or regulations are you against?" there is no answer, because there are none, (yes the johnson did lie about straight banana rules!). There are none because we voted for them in our Parliament (the EU Parliament remember, we had MEPs, it is called democracy). Point out to them that Britain is also run by unelected bureaucrats (The Scumbag, prime example, all of the Civil Service, Governer of the Bank of England, Head of the NHS, PHE etc,. not to mention failed MPs like Zac Goldsmith, that are made Lords so that they can be ministers by executive choice though not elected).

Fish is an interesting topic. We do not have "fish" by the way, we have waters. Fish do not have borders. Ask a Brexiteer "who owns rights to fish our waters" and he/she may not know that more than half of all rights have already been sold to the French. He/she might not know also that 90% of the cod in British cod and chips is imported, from Norway I believe. He may not know that 70% of our catch is exported. To where? the EU, and unless shipping times from catch to consumer outlet can be kept to under 12 hrs the market for fresh fish and hence the entire fishing industry is dead under Brexit.

Borders we already have control of. Leaving the EU reduces our control, it does not improve it. Why? Because in the EU the so called Dublin Agreement obliges any EU country to take back illegal immigrants that left their territory to come to Britain. Out of the EU it's our problem. Shortage of EU staff (because most of the EU doctors and nurses have gone home and left a 60,000 nurse vacancy problem and 40,000 doctors) which has obliged the UK to effectively open our borders to non EU staff and greater language problems. The impact on National security will be huge once our connections to EU policing are removed and data sharing is restricted. 

There are winners from Brexit, billionaires who unscrupulously plan to take advantage of the economic chaos, but none of us ordinary folks. Our car industry has collapsed and what is viable has moved with most other Japanese manufactures to elsewhere in Europe, the latest being INEOS who are opening a factory in France and not Bridgend as expected or Swindon. Hundreds of businesses have moved operations to Germany, businesses like to operate directly into their market. Put a paperwork barrier or tariff in the way and they will move to avoid it. The EU has already benefited from significant investment from British Companies which will compensate for a loss in Britain as customers. Above all the EU is now politically more united than ever, is significantly likely to succeed without us and has been able to almost guarantee that no other EU member would ever seek to follow our own example into national ruination and a laughing stock. Brexit has done a fantastic job in unifying the EU. The only country in history to impose economic sanctions on itself without any tangible benefit to its citizens.

So today will be a big day for Europe either way. It will be a significant day for us because whatever is agreed at least uncertainty might at last be removed. But also, whatever is agreed, it will be a significant loss to every UK citizen with the exception of a small group of disaster capitalists poised to strike on any opportunity for exploitation.  

The same group of people that either live in Europe already, have second homes there or who have paid for their own private citizen ship in Cyprus. The same group of elite people who dominate the modern Tory party and who lied and cheated their way into power in order to inflict Brexit upon us.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Tier 2 diary, Days 1 to 6

 DAYS 1 to 6

We have been in Tier 2 for 6 days so far. Not much has changed, wave 2 seems to have gathered pace and although rates of infection are now receding the size of the onslaught is so great that daily death rates remain at an appallingly high level (today it was 397). This reflects how little has actually been achieved to protect the most vulnerable. As other European countries have discovered, short of locking the old codgers up for their own good and nailing up the doors and windows of care homes there are still many routes for the virus to get at them. We are our own worst enemies too. I have myself noted that too few older people have genuinely sought to understand both the virus and the rules, many are too blaz√© or dismissive and in any case who cannot completely understand that natural human desire and need to be with family, making the most of their affections, at the closing chapters of one’s story, true even more so in times of crisis and at traditional times of festivity.

Our family have decided to all stay within our own very tight bubbles this xmas. We want to ensure that next xmas no one is missing.

I have a feeling that we might be offered a vaccine before the end of the year which we will jump at. I have a special reserve of disdain and loathing for people who are gullible enough to believe so called ‘conspiracy theories’  and claim they will refuse. They put the rest of society at risk and in particularly their own elderly relatives by their objections and in my experience they are mostly taking the opportunity to garner attention for themselves. 

We should acknowledge that medical science has eradicated polio, smallpox, bubonic plague, typhoid, typhus, cholera, ebola and has protected many of us from once common conditions like diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, tetanus and genital cancers amongst many other dreadful, often fatal diseases. The scientists and other professionals that have achieved this I respect and honour and I will happily take on trust whatever they offer me this time too.

How many anti-vaxxers, I would like to know, refuse to holiday abroad if a protective inoculation is required! You can be sure also that their views would rapidly change if it were a matter of life or death administered by a roadside paramedic at an RTA!

I am ranting off again which must be a positive sign.

Life goes on then as it was before, I am still verbally gesticulating and imprecating the evil one’s urgent attention on naysayers, attention seekers and wrong doers generally but especially on this corrupt government of ours. It turns out that Sir Alex Allan, the johnson’s own ethics adviser did not resign exclusively at his failure to deal with Pritti Shitti properly.  He had issues with a ‘number’ of the johnson’s failures to deal with ministerial wrongdoing especially the Jenrick corruption affair which had no consequences for him even though he had admitted the illegality of his actions. 

Our resident wildlife continues to entertain us. The day before yesterday Cyril was racing around the now denuded ash tree at the top of the neighbour’s garden on our right side chasing away the pigeons roosting there one by one. Now Cyril is not the brightest of squirrels on the block but I am pretty sure that he was not after lunch so he must have been just having fun. The Woodpigeons however have decamped. Today they are, all five of them, distributed about a sycamore two doors up on our left. Cyril is responsible for all the hazel trees which pop up in our garden including a walnut tree now potted up and thriving. Small reward for the damage he wrecks on the beds and plant pots when hiding these nuts. It is now known that squirrels do not remember where they buried their nuts, they dig essentially at random in likely areas hoping to find one of the tens of thousands of nuts they buried previously. But we would not like to lose our Cyril. He comes down to the french doors sometimes, sits up on his back legs and peers at us for several minutes through the window from a few feet away. We wave back. 


Sadly this is Cyril 2. Cyril 1 died an unnatural and violent death by motorcar on the main road. He had a distinctive tail which waved from one end of his squashed little corpse due to the back draft from passing cars for some few days after his accident until the crows or fox had him for their lunch.

Another morning this week a tiny young field mouse, all ears and no body, scooted round at some incredibly nervous high speed in three complete laps of our bottom patio, disappeared through a hole to next door, came rocketing back, completed another lap and then gallantly clambered up 5 steps one by one and vanished. They live under and around the shedio and this one must have strayed down the steps and panicked. They visit in the shed sometimes whilst I paint and scoot under my feet. I say hello but they never stop. 

I took a Covid test yesterday having developed a nagging and continuous cough after three previous days of headaches, dizziness and feeling generally Moby Dick. 

Now I thought it would be straightforward. We have seen it on the TV news, a white stick poked up your nose and down your throat after giving your details and that’s it. I can report that it is hard work. To start with you must show your QR code. What? “QR code in the email we sent you” oh! Finds email, waves phone out of window. Then you get a kit to do it all yourself and quick fire instructions none of which you remember except the last injunction to NOT seal the last bag. NOT! You and your vehicle then pass on to the next ‘operative’ who directs you to a parking place where you begin to rip open the parcel. There are 7 items in there one of which is an 8 page A5 size instruction book with an exhortation to read the whole thing before proceeding. We did, and you need to. You get the white pokey stick, which  you stick down your throat first and then push the same stick up your nose. The stick you break in half and insert in a vial with a pinkish liquid in the bottom, replace the its screw cap and enclose in a clear plastic zip bag with some absorbent padding. You write your name on a receipt card which carries your bar code reference to take home. The bagged up sample then goes in the last ‘bio hazard’ container. We waved at the parking operative to signal our completion, she checked that we had put the right things in the right bag from 2 metres away and then, after explaining how we were to then seal it down ourselves after all, directed us on to the next station where we dropped my ‘bio-hazard’ in a very large grey box on its own. Bizarre!

So glad though to have gone through this surreal process at least once, an essential part of the experience forever to play its part in the future when we are reminiscing about life ‘Back In The Covid’.

And reminiscing might still be possible one day. The test came back negative.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 25 to 26

 DAY 25 to 27

As avid and observant readers of this gripping journal have probably noticed they have not lately been regaled daily with my outpourings, not consistently anyway. There is a reason for this: not bothered. It is all getting rather tedious. 

Admittedly we consciously chose to be as cautious as we were the first lockdown. Many people did not follow our example and judging by the vast numbers of vulnerable and elderly folks now dead or seriously ill we made the best choice. It was pretty obvious that there would be a second wave and that both the late start to lockdown and its premature termination with sufficient infected people out there, many of whom were asymptomatic, to make conditions for the duration of this last lockdown much more dangerous than the first. 

The government have spent £12billion with a private company to implement a test and trace system, a vital defence against a second wave, but this has turned out to be unfit for purpose. (Apart from a disgraceful waste of tax-payer money). 

My theory was simple. The first wave started with just a few cases brought in no doubt by travellers. Ending Lockdown 1 prematurely kick started the second wave with literally thousands of infectious people out there. Then, by allowing social drinking and other establishments to open, created just the right circumstances for vigorously infecting thousands more with this by now overjoyed little virus particle. A second wave was a given because of the way the first was handled.

So we stayed indoors and out of the way aided by and very thankful to our local Tesco for deliveries to the door.

As a general summary I think we have been a little desultory and underwhelmed by this second period of confinement. For the first, we were “up for it” as they say, and “on it”. Now it seems to be all eating, sleeping, doing the shopping on-line, putting the shopping away, Tweeting, blogging and Facebooking. 

Part of the problem is winter of course and early nights. The garden is getting its winter tidy up, bulbs are mostly planted, but other than that not much is happening while it takes it’s seasonal rest. We are not able to stay out there all day and long into the evening as we could in the summer months.

Jigsaw puzzles have lost their charm. We started one on the 3rd day and it has proved to be a bit of a bugger to say the least. I took a late walk up the top to check the greenhouses and here is my indefatigable other half slaving away on the most difficult puzzle we have ever attempted.


And this is the sum total of progress so far in 21 days.


Variety is what we are missing. Variety and that most illusive of all human needs, freedom. It is a strange feeling indeed but even when we are out we can feel it in others as much as in ourselves. Rules are fine when there is a fully understood purpose and it is for our own good but this only works for so long. After a while it feels like a hollow, empty and soulless repression. I imagine the same feelings are apparent in populations under a repressive dictatorship and that maybe explains the joyless atmosphere I experienced directly travelling in East Germany and Russia in the 1970’s.

I have two writing projects and two painting projects in progress which are getting scant attention. It seems that once you slip into a desultory mood motivation drops off equally for even the activities you most enjoy and this combined with another concern regarding physical inactivity is a double whammy. The less you do the less you want to do. Or at least that is how it has affected me, I say that because my wife seems to be coping a great deal better.

News of the first vaccine approval therefore as extremely welcome news!  

Lockdown 2 has now officially ended this 2nd December and we have transitioned into a tiered restriction regimen which is just a continuation of Lockdown in all but name. In the Swindon area we have been allocated to tier 2. We feel the same more or less. We had a late breakfast out this morning and coffees simply to break the spell.

As I have now set the pattern for mostly ad hoc blog posts I shall continue with occasional blog posts but with the title Back In The Covid - Tier 2. This feels like a low point. I hope it is an inflection and that future posts reflect a more upbeat attitude. 

In the meantime, gives self a determined and meaningful kick up the arse.

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.

DAY 9

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!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 7

DAY 7

It is the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
I am not a poppy wearer or indeed a supporter of the poppy idea. I do not need to advertise the fact that on this day and all others but especially this day I honour and remember those who fought on our behalf the evil that would have destroyed us had it not been for their brave sacrifice.



This man, my father, SAS 2 Regiment, lived to the end with indelible memories of apocalyptic piles of emaciated and naked dead humanity having been despatched in support of the Liberation of the Belsen death camp. Later he was to return after the war traumatised by working behind enemy lines so much that he kept a loaded Italian Luger pistol hanging over the bannister at home believing that he was watched and in terror of being captured for years after the war ended. 

He escaped with his life along with many others who escaped with their lives to suffer from their experiences and unrelenting memories but also to work for the repair of their country and the well being of everyone.

I remember them too. Bill and Jack who served in the Army but also Mum who served in the Women’s Land Army and Percy who was conscripted for work down the mines as a Bevan Boy.

I shall be remembering them with thanks honour and gratitude today and tomorrow and on every other tomorrow too. 

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 6

DAY 6

These days in The Covid I hesitate to think ahead with thoughts such as when will it end, when will it be safe, will we survive or plan ahead. I believe this is the all pervasive influence of that contempt engendered by familiarity. It might also be influenced by the fact that we, my wife and I, now both 72, are a little reluctant to contemplate that this might be it and all there is until we both hobble off with our arthritic joints creaking, bickering as usual into  oblivion. I feel very sorry for our even more elderly citizens and especially for those younger folk tragically fighting terminal illnesses and for whom The Covid has potentially blighted and restricted what might be the final few months or years of their lives.


This is todays glorious autumnal anti-depressant but at the same time a stark reminder that in a few months time The Covid will have lasted for a year so far. Already, and even if vaccines are released before the end of 2020, we can anticipate a 6 months wait for a vaccine and another 12 months until life can return to unfettered normality with a more realistic expectation of 6 months beyond that. We shall be 74 perhaps. 

It is now 6 days into this new lockdown. We have altered in our approach, familiarity again, I suppose, we are not quarantining our shopping delivery for example nor are we washing  refrigerated products such as cheese, milk and frozen food with washing up detergent (yes we were!). We will shop if necessary, we are trusting our families instead of avoiding contact and accepting house visitors such as window cleaners, postmen etc as long as they keep their distance and wear masks. In fact in most regards nothing much has changed for us in the last 6 days except that we are more aware of breaking the law when we do. 

And this is not very clever! We are at least at 10 times greater risk than we were at the height of the first peak. The national death rate is nearly as high (getting towards the 500s a day) and cynically understated by a government that has changed it’s reporting rules to create a more favourable picture.

We are not alone. A Covid weary public is now following their own instincts and are now much less afraid when they should really be very, very afraid. A vaccine cannot come soon enough.

Off up the garden now for some more anti-depressant. 

Monday, 9 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 4 & 5

DAY 4

So never mind the Covid. Today is a day for history to record that humanity recovered its optimism. The future for our planet and our great grandchildren might be better than it seemed just a short while ago. 

Biden and Harris are now President and Vice-President elect of the USA. Trumpty Dumpty fell off the wall!

An interesting defeat too. It will not be lost on Trump that since the Republican party has kept the Senate so far and gained a few seats back in the House of Representatives. This election was not so much a rejection of Republicans but a rejection of Trumpty Dumpty himself, personally.

The Senate might still go to the Democrats but this will not be known until January when a run off for two seats takes place in Georgia. 

Bigotry, racism, nationalism, continual and blatant lies, illegality, fraud, media suppression, corruption, cronyism, division and hatred are no way to govern a country and the citizens of America have rejected them emphatically. 

To our modern sensitivities and attitudes it is remarkable that Trump was ever elected in 2016 but then again we did elect an identically unqualified and mendacious charlatan in the UK too. I think I might be in a minority in my now elderly baby boomer peer group but I am sufficiently well informed, detached and particularly more liberal minded to look beyond the narrow confines of generation politics which in my view is behind these events. My explanation for this aberration in human progress lies in the opportunistic capitalisation of events by what I tend to call the “old guard” to defend its domination, power and wealth in one concerted, last ditch attempt to retain all that power.

The constituency to which these forces and their client wannabe despots appeal is my own older, largely conservative (with a small c) generation which idealises tradition, exceptionalism and nationhood and which is so resentful of change. Such voters are easily roused to defend a past they see slipping away against cultural dilution, racial diversity and an instinctive, ingrained horror of behaviours that would have been deplored or even illegal in their own lifetime and are now “in their face” as it were.

These same voters would more likely than not deplore the behaviours of Trump and Johnson. Their erosion of law and order, vilification of the judiciary, their constitutional outrages, incompetence, pathological mendacity, media suppression, a lack of transparency, unfairness, nepotism and rampant corruption in normal times. But they are now under threat and willing to overlook blatant immorality, law breaking, corruption and undemocratic rule because they are under threat. Their world is dying out and this is fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of fear and hate of immigrants, foreigners, progress, science, gender equality, the demise of religious belief systems and above all change.

The “old guard” have sown their seeds of discontent. This “old guard” is the last remnant of a feudal, aristocratic or pseudo-noble, asset owning elite that is making its last stand. History records that prising power from this elite is a tough, slow and still incomplete political process. Whether that be in voter enfranchisement, education, taxation, land ownership, education, employment rights, health provision, any area we can think of the status quo has been fought over tooth and nail by this privileged elite in defence of their vested interest and almost total power over us. 

The slave trade is a good example. Moral objections were by-and-large circumnavigated with tacit acquiescence by a right wing, authoritarian Church whose very canon condones slavery. Even when it was eventually abolished provisions were made to compensate slave owners for their “losses” and slavery did not in fact immediately end. Today slavery still exists.  If you are employed on a wage too low to support your family or pay sky high rents and are forced to work long, unsafe hours for cruel bosses, to moonlight or do extra work in the gig economy or resort to criminality you are to all intents and purposes enslaved by a regulatory and tax framework formulated to benefit the “old guard. From this impoverished unhealthy servitude there is no escape other than into homelessness and it is still the fate of millions to be languishing there under mountains of debt yet working all the hours they can.

Maintaining this ancient feudal power is the motive behind the sponsors of populist figures like Trump and Johnson. There are dark, shadowy forces behind Trump, Johnson and others which are exerting real power over our lives through these two hapless figures who are merely dancing puppets. It is also no small thing that 80% of the British Press is owned by 5 billionaires and many, if not most of the UK’s cabinet are highly religious.

And if anyone is inclined to believe we live in a democracy, we do not. The last thing the “old guard” want is democracy, parliamentary sovereignty, scrutiny, accountability or checks and balances. They pay lip service to it but they hate it. Ask yourself why welfare payments are inadequate, why no-one can survive on the minimum wage, why taxation is anathema. 

We are at a ‘Y’ in the road to a civilised future. The forces of the “old guard” intent on containing democratic institutions, controlling the legal system, destroying checks and balances, maintaining a low paid workforce in captive servitude, controlling the media and minimising individual rights have met, and are ranged against, a liberal, educated moral, humanistic generation which dreams of a society in which their government legislates in the interests of society as a whole and for each citizen equally. A government that cares for and protects it’s citizens and their nation as equal individuals, with equal rights, opportunity and freedoms not as productive slaves maintaining a privileged elite.

These times then are existential for both sides, there is only one road forward. Trumps demise and his exposure as a mendacious, bullying charlatan fronting a right wing coup just might be the turning point into a new age. It happened on 7th November 2020 when the world slept through a night with apprehensive uncertainty and woke to a dawn of hope. 


As I wrote this little rant the sky outside modulated to a weird, ominous colour and an image sprang to mind of a huge incandescent orange freak exploding in an uncontrolled angry display of petulance which was bathing the whole world in a pervasive, distasteful afterglow.

Almost immediately it brightened up out there and the garden passed into a better mood.

DAY 5

Successful trials of at least one Covid 19 vaccine were announced today adding substantially more optimism to the global frame of mind. A 90% effectiveness is claimed which, to put it into perspective, compares favourably with the 67% effectiveness claimed for the flu jab. 

Speculation regarding the impact of Trump’s demise on Brexit negotiations has been rife today. We shall probably know more as early as this week. Interesting times indeed. 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 2 & 3

 DAY 2

This will not go out today. Today I am too engrossed by events taking place thousands of miles and almost another world away. Except that it is no longer another world, their presidential election is taking place in the US, an event with such profound importance, it should command the undivided attention of all peoples of all nations. At present it is much too close to commit to unalloyed joyfulness without the fear that things might still go titties to take-off position. Restraint is required.

Little else however is able to exercise knackered neurons right now and in any case a level of weariness remains after recent busy matters nearer home. Lockdown 1 came to a close on June 28th. 130 days ago, an intervening period of ups, downs and sideways. We had a holiday here at Higher Rixdale Farm buried in the countryside near Teignmouth.


After Lockdown 1 we also had our birthdays, health issues, another great-grandchild and life carried on but it was all strange and strained, unrelaxed and abnormal. Around my birthday in September we courageously ate out for the first time since early March, an occasion which, apart from an appalling meal, served to teach us how government measures are so inadequate and which reinforced the perception that it really is everyman for himself. We quickly disappeared back indoors and did not venture a meal out again until October 3rd in Devon. Here in fact.


This is the view from our table in a restaurant in Shaldon looking across the Teign estuary towards Teignmouth taken at that crepuscular time of day when seaside life underwater, unseen and unheard, takes over from the now sleepy seagulls. The time when, in  my opinion, all harbours are at their most romantic.

And for our first day and our first holiday in fact for a couple of years it felt wonderful. Apart from our romantic perspective beyond the window we felt secure. The staff and their service were ostentatiously safe and doing all the right things.  I can report that my steak was exceptionally well cooked as I like it. 

An auspicious start to a relaxing two weeks away on a holiday deferred from March because of Lockdown 1 and just sneaked in before Lockdown 2. Of course beyond a Covid secure romantic table for two by the water much weirdness remained, people walking around each other in the street, strange coffee shop protocols, businesses each with their own interpretation of distancing rules and as usual far too much evidence of pure ignorance and confusion. Sometimes this could be humorous in a quirky way. Study this image. This is a seafront public convenience.


In the gents, according to the sign inside the gents, men and women must keep two metres apart! Similarly men must keep two metres away from women when using the ladies side. I excused this odd signage because in the gents you are warned that the attendant is female but then noticed that this attendant is male when cleaning the Ladies side. As you can see from the office window Martin was away so I could not confirm the logical reasoning behind these signs and the direction in which ‘Martin’ must have been transitioning.

Okay, I admit it. I get a little bored while waiting for my wife.

DAY 3

Matters in Trumpland seem to be coming to a conclusion. Most opinion seems to be positive for Biden. I remain restrained and it is fascinating that this is the prevailing attitude out there. So many people passionately hope that this nationalist, alt-right, racist, dystopian nightmare is about to end but everyone is afraid of the dejection that would result from a Trump win and are hedging their bets to save their feelings from the worst.

We are however, today, a little more willing to acknowledge that good news is on its way.

Friday, 6 November 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown 2 Diary, Day 1

 BACK IN THE COVID

The Lockdown Diary 2

Off we go again then. Entirely predictable, predicted but denied by many including our mendacious, incompetent, corrupt and manipulative government until they were forced to act by events.  There have been more than 70,000 excess deaths many of which could have been avoided by more timely action and which are therefore on the johnson’s hands and his odious arse licker of a Minister of Health,  Twat Wankcock together with the governments ideological decisions to bypass our NHS with contracts for billions handed to mates, relatives and party donors in the private sector which have spectacularly failed at all levels.

The UK is not in a great place and worse, it is becoming increasingly obvious that, at the expense of human life and lives, the governments Covid 19 responses are calibrated and timed to cover up the disaster about to befall the UK when the Brexit transition period ends at Xmas and the proverbial excrement hits the rotating wind and distribution machine.

I am going to say right now, at the very start of Lockdown 2, that there will be a third wave of Covid and possibly therefore a Lockdown 3. 

DAY 1

November 5th 2020. Presumably their jacuzzi next door has reached temperature because the mildly intrusive 50Hz hum has just this moment switched off. The garden reverts instantly to a serene kind of ambiance that only arrives on these chilly but sunny wind free days in mid to late Autumn. A coal tit pops in and is joined joined by a party of blue and great tits with two opportunistic goldfinches. They are all twittering around me amongst the part-clad, part-bare shrubs and trees as I stand statue still, camera cocked, observing the alchemy happening in the leaves as they turn. I reflect on how still and quiet their world is normally and that I can only experience myself how that  is when I am motionless in bothe space and time. The world that the birds enjoy is a special place and at this time fantastic fungi emerge, overnight magic to me but at nature’s thoughtful pace real and normal and fitted to their work. here is today’s fungal manifestation. A bracket fungus, Polypore type, not sure of the exact species but white and glistening like rivers of unglazed porcelain encircling and slowly strangulating the remains of an Acer platenoides.


Today, slightly more than 6 months since our first national lockdown, our second national lockdown has begun and it feels pretty odd largely because today my attention is occupied mainly with events over the atlantic. Today is turning into a day to remember for another reason. The US election is in progress. As I write, late at night, there remains no official result to what is a very tight race but the indications are that Trump will lose. Should this end in a Biden win it would be momentous, dangerous, unpredictable and political dynamite both for the US and for the whole world. It might even one day in the future be regarded as an epoch defining event in human history and of massive significance. I will expand on this subject as time goes on but first we must nervously wait for the hoped for and official event to have happened. 

On a more down to earth note, one of our young family members has developed a fever and sore throat and since we were with her only yesterday our first day in lockdown 2 has turned into a squeeky bum day while we wait the results of her Covid test. We might just have caught the damned thing the day before we entered our safe zone to avoid the damned thing. Life is such blast! But at least this Lockdown 2 commentary might just acquire some added interest beyond my impassioned tub-thumping.

We shall see no doubt, in the foulness of time.

Monday, 27 July 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, Conclusion

We had our first family dinner at home for 126 days last night. This is our son and his two beautiful youngsters, our littlest grandchildren, relaxing after dinner and planning to play ‘Happy Families’.


We are intending to stay safe, take precautions and live a little while we can before the second wave starts again.

This postscript was written on Day 46. I planned to either post it unchanged, or post it unchanged with a PPS to follow it if my thoughts later proved to have been wide of the mark. Unfortunately and as I concluded at the time our government has not lead us through this crisis well and have lied continuously to present a better picture of events than was the case. They have been charged with confusing messages, delays, no specific policy aim, lies, data misrepresentation, mismanagement and corruption. Even this old cynic could not have predicted the extent to which this conclusion would be proved right. 

I could see that the truth was being literally mangled to the point of irrelevance just as it was in the arguments that won the Brexit referendum and so The Covid may not turn out to be the only or even the most important generational event after all. The Covid is happening at a turning point in global politics in an existential battle between the forces of a neo-feudal, nationalistic and authoritarian class of the rich, powerful and dictatorial on one side and the forces of progressive values, human rights, international cooperation and social justice on the other. I have not found it necessary to alter my original postscript or add to it.

POSTSCRIPT

Today’s is the final entry and I am writing this in advance on day 46. There is more of The Covid to come but this diary must eventually finished and be allowed to lapse with the ending of lockdown. My record of these strange times, written in forced confinement, beset by uncontrolled change and experienced in the later stages of my life will have run its course as surely as I am running mine but at this stage, again like mine, I have as yet no real feeling for how long that will be. Yesterday was another day in history and tomorrow will be another and the day this diary ends will be of tiny import and significance in the great and mysterious overall  scheme of things. 

It seems to me that the biggest casualty of modern times, grossly and obscenely mangled by the Covid into a monstrous, injured, blotched and bloody corpse, is the truth. The way to wealth and power is now seen to be the denial of truth and rule through lies, disinformation and the avoidance of scrutiny. Not just to promote untruth but to disguise truth, enhance confusion, discredit expertise, engender distrust and to divide the peoples of our shared humanity from each other. Our privileged, feudal and religious classes have always sought to keep knowledge, communication, education and therefore truth as their own in order to contain the threat that truth presents to power. I believe we are witnessing an existential moment, the last stand of the remaining shreds of feudal power and the rise of a more civilised and progressive society. Optimism being the partisan of truth flourishes underground and in the minds and hearts of our young people. We live in an age of unprecedented and global communications freedom. The printing press, photography, radio, television and now the Internet and social media when freed from their bottles have caused revolutions in learning, knowledge and truth. In a time when an out of control executive is attacking the three other pillars of state the press has become largely the government’s microphone but Social media and the internet is becoming our new Fourth Estate. This is a genie that will not be re-corked. Our challenge for the next few decades at least is to ensure that it too is not corrupted or controlled.

Others will come after me. Their history too will be written or they might write it themselves. I encourage them to do so but their contribution to history will only be as rich and rewarding as their willingness to be sceptical and their reverence for the truth allows. I encourage people to be passionate about truth; evidence, science, data, fairness and analysis; truth in all its manifestations. Truth matters but there are too few truth tellers and too many lazy, superstitious sheep out there ready to be herded and farmed; there are too many bigots willing to believe whatever confirms their bias as long as they are not denied the basics of an existence and access to mindless pleasure and hedonistic pursuits; there are too many unscrupulous, power hungry rich elites who believe they were born to rule and are always ready to exploit them.

I encourage younger people to work for truth, seek the truth, worship the truth and speak the truth. I do so in the hope that a similar crisis is not allowed to happen to them or their children, sentiments that might have been expressed by our parents at the end of World War 2 and theirs after World War 1 fighting an enemy with frightening similarity to today’s. People my age went into the Covid with little time left. Many will not emerge at the end having died from the Covid unprotected by their own government and needless casualties of an amoral and disinterested ruling class who have pursued their personal ambitions, power and greed at the expense of the lives of our most loved and most precious grannies and granddads. 

As I write there have been, in excess of normal levels, 75000+ deaths in The Covid so far. I sincerely hope that at some future time and not too far away, the perpetrators of this monstrous and needless loss of life will be called to account for their actions.

I have taken the liberty to include as my final reflection on The Covid in lockdown, a quotation which I make on behalf of my children, their children and their children’s children. These words are spoken by Edgar, the son of the Duke of Gloucester at the conclusion of Shakespeare’s greatest work, King Lear.

“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”

You that are young should take this on board, some of us might not survive to advise you. You have lived to see so much, possibly lost so much and you have seen the truth under threat like never before. It is up to you to put that right before the defining event of your generation occurs or you will lose the fight. Teach them to trust science, revere the truth and to never, ever believe either priests or politicians.

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 126

Lockdown, our lockdown that is, ends today at 2pm on 24th July. I took a mugshot for the record and you are indeed perfectly correct, I am exceedingly tatty.


By way of a reiteration I have been turning over in my mind what has happened in the last 126 days.

What has not happened is easily summarised. We have not been out except for exercise and a change of scenery and then only half a dozen times. We have not been to any shops for any thing. My wife had a relapse and nipped into the Coop when she once escaped out on her own but otherwise none. I have not eaten any beefsteak. We have not hugged anyone (apart from each other). I confess that we both had a relapse on our grandsons birthday earlier this week but until then total abstinence. We have not eaten out or ordered a takeaway. We have not driven anywhere by car apart from one visit to the GPs and our ride to the grandson's birthday event mention earlier. We have not been in a confined space with any other person apart from the same trip to the birthday meet up. Apart from the lack of hugs we have not been bovvered. Not a bit.

What has happened? Well this for a start.


For four years I have invested time and hard cash into the cultivation of one of my favourite perennials but each year the gastropods have beaten me to it and scoffed all the new shoots in one overnight binge leaving nothing behind. In The Covid, eyes were peeled, tactics were improved and here we are, Helenium autumnale - Moerheim Beauty in all its glory.

The pond project was cancelled and in its place we have created a productive garden. Spinach has been moderately successful but due to dry weather it bolted early. Peas were very tasty, all 24 pods of them, light problems with those possibly and the lettuce did not work at all, again too dry but also in the wrong place. Chard is still going strong, rhubard is proliferating, climbing French beans are yet to produce but we have a very promising and attractive row of runner beans. We have perpetual spinach, Mizuma and a few other ideas for winter veggies but in the meantime cabbages, kale and cauliflower are all growing so there is much to anticipate with a good crop of chives and parsley coming along vigorously behind. I sent in an army of nematodes after the slugs and today it looks like this


We created a rose garden at the front of the house. We have three different yellow floribunda roses that in our dry, calcareous, impoverished soil have spent a few precarious years struggling against the odds. I dug out a massive trench at least 400mm deep and back filled it with a mixture of our soil, garden compost, John Innes No. 3 and added additional organic and slow release fertiliser. The plants breathed a long sigh of relief, I swear I could hear them, and they appear to have settled down, two have flowered once and a third late flowerer has at last begun to bud up. The prospects of a proper rose display next year are promising.


Before my dear wife fell over backwards wildly gesticulating with a loaded paintbrush, speckling the yard and putting herself out of action for a few days she had made an absolutely magnificent job of repainting nearly all the fencework and my workshed. Our woodwork has never looked so good.


An enormous nest of yellow ants appeared in our small greenhouse. I sent an army of nematodes in after those too and I can confirm that said busy pests have buggered off I know not where. They must have packed up, shouldered their eggs, pupae and household belongings and trailed off in the middle of the night, a long line of, I would say roughly 123,435, dejected, homeless ants who could not tolerate my alien host of foreign invaders. I am much in favour of hard working immigrants.

We are 11 to 8 down on the Friday night cribbage! Our game has proved to be a weekly treat that we have come to anticipate with great pleasure, an evening of catching up with the young folks and checking the progress of our next great grandson. Getting beaten fair and square is a small price to pay. Interestingly we have achieved such fluency with our invented rules for remote working that the real thing is bound to be confusing when we next play face to face.

We have discovered a new relationship with our garden and home. Re-learning how to appreciate the little details and feeling extremely thankful for the space we have to breathe in, work, do our separate things and relax together. Perhaps most importantly we have rekindled our love for this home with a new understanding of its worth as a home and the focal point of our lives. The memories, history and personalities contained in the things we hold dear, the places we have enjoyed and the loved ones we have lost have taken on a new significance. They have been the stable, familiar backdrop of our lockdown, secure, grounded and unchanging.

My wife has completed at least a quarter of a book of Telegraph cryptic crosswords and although it took me all of 126 days I managed a whole little book of 250 Sudoku puzzles ranging from moderately difficulty to your ‘aving a giraffe! Our conclusion is that Altzheimer’s has not crept up on us in The Covid so far.

Our diet has improved, probably more in my case than my wife’s, for a range of reasons not the least being that we have been less active outside of the house which has given us more time for cooking at home. Being highly gluten sensitive, (though tested negative I am as sensitive as any ceoliac disease sufferer), my go-to meals when eating out are either large lumps of meat and chips or all day fried breakfasts and we did eat out a great deal. Our digestive systems are now thoroughly re-acquainted with regular vegetables and as a consequence are behaving much better. I have lost 3kg in weight.

Online grocery shopping happened. At least it did after Tesco finally achieved capacity to meet demand. Unfortunately this took them most of our lockdown but it works pretty well now and especially so since they started to prioritise slot bookings for the over 70’s. Online shopping is now our thing and will be continued.

There was an unwelcome re-occurrence of PTSD symptoms, nothing I can blame on The Covid because it had been building up for some months ahead of the lockdown. I should say effective yet again, because this was the third time. After recovering from a second breakdown I tried to avoid a longer term of treatment being acutely aware that it affected those creative processes which my life and my way of life depends upon. Continuous mental war with panic attacks, palpitations, tremors and racing thoughts eventually wears you down not to mention the regular traumatic dreams reliving the stuff that caused PTSD in the first place and also the constant pressure to maintain a pretence of normality. I gave in, I surrendered to treatment and am now much improved.

We had a rest. A long unhurried step back from a frenetic world that no matter how “retired” you might be sweeps you along in a society that works more like a machine operating 24 hours a day, delivering an unending supply of hedonistic temptations, diversions and entertainment  and consuming all the life it can digest in its one soulless objective of wealth creation. We have experienced both the effect of that devilish enginery and then a life affirming relief when the world took an unscheduled break in The Covid. We have been in respite. Taking a break, reflecting on our world, our society and our nearest and dearest. This has been the most profoundly rewarding aspect of the forced privations of this lockdown experience. Our lives have breathed a long sigh of relief just as our dear planet has with this sudden drop in environmental toxicity.

As a family we have grown together. We have always been close and supportive which is due mostly to my Mum and Dad’s example, a legacy to be remembered and honoured for its importance to us all, but now I feel we are closer, tighter and much deeper in terms of our shared experiences. We have been unselfishly supported by them all which has not been easy for them with two stubbornly  independent, self sufficient people like us. We have learnt a little humility and to be dependent on them, our children and our grandchildren which has been a good thing and a thing to cling on to. We are naturally relieved that the virus has not settled on any of them so far and so, so grateful to them all that it is impossible to convincingly express that in words.

My wife and I have become much closer during our lockdown, much more integrated and settled after what seems to have been a lifetime, for each of us, fulfilling our caring responsibilities which took us in other directions and left little time over for each other. Here we are locked down together in The Covid with only each other for entertainment, friendship, conversation, reassurance, love and human contact at what surely was the perfect time in our lives to remember and celebrate our marriage while looking after each other. Here we are looking out for each other as usual in our first skirmish with that invisible enemy out there beyond our front door


Of course we are fortunate enough to be independent of the need to work and the pressure of paying bills although our pension savings have taken a serious hammering. We know that, but we worked hard for that too and in so doing prepared for an unknown future disaster which turned out to be The Covid. Little did we know though that a future voracious disaster would target mainly us, the over 70’s, as it’s preferred victims.

Sharon wears a mask, 
Sharon cares for other people like she cares for me. 
Don’t be a selfish dick head,
Be like Sharon,
Wear a mask. 

The virus is still out there folks and at the time of writing new cases are heading back up again. The Covid is not over yet so wear a mask, stay safe, take no risks and watch this space, lockdown might return before The Covid is done with us.