Sunday, 28 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - Diary Image Issues

Dear readers. 

Blogger has a new interface and has issues with images. In my last two diary posts images had an inaccessible URL which made them disappear, at least on Android devices. I have other means to find a way round this but these are inconvenient so until I hear back from Blogger what it is they propose to do about their bug I am leaving my last two broken posts without their images and will not be publishing new entries until I have a way forward. 

Fear not. I am still scribbling away like buggery! You will have a few to catch up on soon. 


Paul, Godfree and Rafe

Saturday, 27 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 100

It is our Alfie’s 5th birthday today and we shall miss out again but video calling had us there for a rousing happy birthday and the blowing of germs over a traditional birthday cake with a Treasure Island theme.  After our first hot days of the year last week today it rains and the garden heaves in a great breath of relief. The wind outside is tremendous, pea plant tendrils clinging tenuously to their supporting sticks are not that keen on a battering but it all looks so green out there and in spite of the stiff breeze the garden has a calm feel to it. Here is a view of the short long border taken in the few minutes of sunshine we had towards evening. I picked a bowl of spinach for our dinner.

Lockdown reaches its 100th day, at least ours does. We started 4 days earlier than government instructions required. After a bizarre and surreal visit to the theatre to see a Wicker Husband, all the time trying not to touch anything or be breathed on and without participating in our usual group dinner or drinks, we hurried off home and headed straight for the bunkers. Since then we have occasionally raised our heads above the battlements but have avoided most risks. Our nearest skirmish with the enemy was a sick son who thankfully tested negative and recovered in two days. We have a friend who caught covid 19 from her son very early in the lockdown and who was extremely poorly but survived. My wife has a second cousin who is known to have had it but other than her neither my wife or myself knows of anyone else either close or distant locally or in fact anywhere else in the world even amongst friends of friends who have had the thing and between us we know, or know of, a very large number of people indeed. I would say that at least a thousand would not be an overestimate. Of course I routinely ask myself, especially since the number of cases locally is low compared to almost anywhere else nationally, why are we being so strict with ourselves?

There are a number of reasons and obviously a fear of the virus is one of the most important amongst them.  A large majority of deaths, and these are tragically always after extreme illness, are in the age range 70 and above. Another factor is that apart from missing family hugs and get togethers we really don’t mind it much. We are lucky to have the support we need to stay safe, fortunate to be retired and not dependent on work and even more fortunate not to have fallen out. Not everyone is so lucky, but for us nothing has really been too onerous.

One consideration is that our government cannot be trusted and has spectacularly failed the nation in their management of the pandemic and in their refusal to act upon scientific advice from the start meaning that every action was delayed. It is estimated that 40000 lives have so far been lost needlessly. A direct result of this mismanagement is that no-one in the country really knows enough to make sound judgements about the risk and speaking for ourselves we have naturally erred on the side of safety.

By far the biggest reason however is that we will always obey the rules. It seems to me that the public fall into basically two camps. Those who responsibly endeavour to understand the virus and the danger it presents, who think about the issues, follow the reports, work out what matters and take the interests of society at large to heart and those who do very little of any of those things, concentrate purely on their own interests and who take the lazy way out. The former camp is fighting the virus, obeys the rules and accepts their strictures. The latter camp is fighting the rules. 

At the risk of being controversial it seems to me that this divide is the great challenge in Britain today and although there are many exceptions I am going to hazard a guess that an opinion poll amongst the crowds on Bournemouth beach in the week would reveal a majority that also voted for Brexit and who do not agree with the removal of certain Victorian statues.

Friday, 26 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 99

Just one day away from the 100 day milestone, still locked down, still keeping ourselves safe, still not bovvered! Here is the light of my life showing how to be world class at social distancing.

Bugger off up an old hill fort (we have a few round here, this one is Barbary Castle, late bronze age) and you can see nutters, idiots, or couldn’t-give-a-shits for miles. In fact we could have seen someone coming towards us from about Swindon 6 miles away. There were a few other people there. A couple of females with a child parked themselves down on the path itself meaning that those old folks like us out for our exercise were encouraged to work harder by disappearing down the side into the defencive ditch  to circumnavigate the human obstruction at two metres distant then clambering back up to the path the other side. I doubt if the builders back in biblical times could have that use in mind but marauders are marauders and they feel like that to us when ever we leave the house. It was a great little excursion though and worth the effort.

It has been announced that those shielding, the clinically vulnerable, and 70+ year olds will be allowed out of lockdown at the end of July. This at the same  time as the number of cases has gone back over a 1000 a day, 1112 yesterday. I think this is just a fob to keep us from taking risks in the interim and guidance will change. Either way we are following the data and we will decide. It seems obvious to me that if cases are rising and are now already at a higher level than for some weeks after lockdown was announced that it would still be unsafe to relax our guard.

By the way the Spinach has bolted. The beans and peas are flowering we have a good crop of chard and the gastropods have allowed some of our cauliflower and kale plants to survive. As ever with growing your own, you win some you lose some. The wildlife must have its share.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 98(and 95, 96, 97)

Hot yesterday (97, 95 and 96 flew by and left little time for writing). Our house is of two-skinned, concrete-block construction below a pretty thick cement and shingle rendering and is wonderfully cool in summer until it all warms up to ambient. This is usually around 12 to 1pm and until this time looking out towards the north from our open patio doors sipping a fresh hot coffee is an absolute joy. By some kind of perverse twist in our dining plans on this extremely hot day I am just about to cook up a batch of Chilli for dinner tomorrow which we prefer to be quite hot and tonight a frozen Lasan Murgh, also pretty hot, should help to clear the pores just nicely.

Today, day 98, is even hotter weather-wise and hotter for the government too by all reports. It is highly disconcerting that we have a prime minister who lies as a matter of habit even to HM the Queen: who uses racially offencive language: who loses a supreme court case for abusing parliamentary procedure: who tires to subvert the constitution: who lies in the House of Commons: who refuses to sack an adviser who broke his own lock down rules sending Covid law breaking through the roof, the same adviser by the way who had already found in contempt of Parliament and is currently being investigated for unfairly dismissing another minister’s adviser: a Home Secretary under investigation for bullying senior civil servants: a health secretary responsible for an absolute tragic and disastrous loss of 65000 lives so far in The Covid: an abandoned Coronavirus tracing App developed by a mate of the scumbag after wasting millions of tax-payers money on it and now a Housing Minister accused of corruptly influencing a previously rejected planning application in  favour of a Tory party donor.

It seems odd to say the least that these people should be running the government. On the face of it they were democratically elected but this is not the case. Less than 30% of voters actually voted for them yet the govern the other 70% and hold an 80 seat majority. We have ended up with a government of corrupt, incompetent, lying charlatans because of our voting system. It is outstandingly obvious that we are in desperate need to change to a proportional representation voting system. First past the post has, not for the first time but this time spectacularly, failed us. As you get older you begin to realise that our much lauded British common sense is actually in rather short supply. Yesterday, in the middle of a pandemic, Bournemouth counsel were forced to declare an emergency event because of the huge numbers of people on the beach. A sea of people all of whom had obviously taken a leaf out of scumbag’s book. Not an ounce of common sense in sight or even, one suspects, a brain cell to find it in.

The progress of this government is an almost direct parallel with political events in economically ravaged Weimar Germany following WWI which brought an extreme populist to power that had whipped up both racial and anti-socialist fears and used his popularity to make himself dictator. It did not end well. We have not yet got to the the ‘dictator phase’ but the Tories continued success in transferring power to the executive, controlling or avoiding the press, avoiding scrutiny, bypassing and neutering Parliament and undermining the rule of law are all steps in that direction. 

But the PM and his nodding-dog cabinet all seem pretty cool to a man/woman amongst all this heat, illegality and wrong-doing, no-one is sacked or resigning. 

We can manage, even relish, the heat from our curries and chillies but it seems to me that more heat is coming our way and it’s unlikely to nowhere near as appetising as my Lasan Murgh.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 94(and 93)

What celebration day was Sunday (Day 93)? Here is a clue.

Not my birthday, not yet, I am Virgo. Your next guess might be father’s day and you’re on the money, hence the socks. My son has bought me these so called ‘Odd Socks’ which is entirely appropriate for such an odd Virgo and I absolutely love them.

Yesterday was in fact a double whammy. It was our 51st wedding anniversary on the same day as father’s day, a conjunction without any ominous implications (so far at least) which has only happened as far as I can remember once before and that was around 1985 or 6 on a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads. We had moored up in Horning and an expedition into town, I can remember to this day exactly where the shop is, resulted in the purchase of a little porcelain love token with a linked two-heart design. Sadly this little pot has long since disappeared following an accident and now only survives in a painting of Sharon where I had deliberately placed it on the window sill behind her. Here it is in the detail below,

Day 93 was our 1st anniversary in lockdown and of course we hope that it will be the only one. The number of deaths are reducing which on the face of it is great news but since at the same time the infection rate is at best stable and predicted to rise after the #scumgate effect, lockdown easing, VE day celebrations, bank holiday, BLM protests and other government mismanagement we remain at risk. It feels as though we have been safely imprisoned, forgotten about and the authorities have now mislaid the keys while they are busy restarting the economy. I get the general idea and I am bound to admit that it is not an unreasonable plan while the economy gets going and the virus is affecting only that part of the population least at risk. Unfortunately our jailers are not even talking to us through the bars. The most vulnerable are getting their sparse survival rations by way of a food parcel and the rest of us get by on the occasional visits of our loved ones behind an ever present glass window called, rather incongruously, a ‘social’ distance. I call it unsociable distancing.

We made an anniversary card for each other and taking my inspiration from the two hearts design on the little pot mentioned above I produced this little effort with my graphics software,

The worse thing right now is that a prediction of when it will be safe for us to venture out to that completely altered new world out there remains illusive. Today a date was given for pubs and restaurants to re-open and no doubt there will be celebrations with much quaffing and laughing, lock ins instead of lockdowns and general inebriation going on throughout the land at which point the masks will be off, people will move to a more ‘social’ distance in drunken recklessness and infection rates will accelerate once again. 

I have kept the file and a backup of my card design. The possibility of a second lockdown anniversary is unlikely but real enough. 

Friday, 19 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 92(and 91)

Rain, which has at last stopped, has been the main feature of our weather for the last two days in a row.  Very welcome rain from the garden’s view point and for the first time so far preventing any outdoor activity although I might complete a few jobs in the greenhouse later on.

In the meantime I return to the story of my desk. Or I should say stories. Things I  collect about me all have stories. I have made it my way of life to retain and live within, as it were, connections with loved ones and my shared experiences with them. I have said ‘live within’ because these are not accumulations of memories opened as the inclination takes like a photograph album. The work shed is a good example. I have, along with my own tools, my father’s, my uncle’s and more recently my best friend’s father’s tools, given to me by his wife. They are all regularly and deliberately used on my own projects, their owner in mind as if they were merely borrowed, in mind and in my life.

Another example is my everyday ‘Bling’ which I assemble about my person daily in a little ritual, always in the same order, each one a lived experience involving a loved one. I am working on this story which I am relating in another form which brings me to my desk and the white lidded aerosol behind the tablet PC.

This aerosol contains spray glue. It sits there awaiting the completion of a piece of writing to accompany an abstract painting destined for an illustrated book, a long term project that I add to from time to time and which requires spray glue for each illustration.

The light reddish brown pebble in the bakelite case on top of the desk, (it can only just be made out), was used in another piece from this book and collected from a cornish beach. To my imagination it contains a monstrous, mythical, swimming beast.

You can see trophy badges from father’s day cards, one from my son another from a granddaughter which at the moment are reminding me that father’s day falls on day 92 in The Covid. 

The dictionary came from my office at my long term employers who were so grateful for my devoted service after 25 years that they made me redundant. I used this dictionary for all of those years and it remains with me along with the ‘traffolyte’ sign announcing the name of its occupant from my old office door. This latter trophy now adorns my work shed and serves the same purpose. I also decamped with a waxed pocket engineers reference, a handful of drill bits, a scientific calculator you can just make out top left, a Brinell microscope, which is behind the calender with the tulips, and traumatic memories of the redundancy process which now adorn many of my worst dreams.

And so to return to the desk itself. The desk is C1930. It belonged to my uncle Dennis and was used by him in a small bedroom upstairs where they lived in Fleetdyke Drive, Lowestoft. When I helped his widow to move to a smaller house she gave me the desk in thanks for a laying a patio. It was my idea, Dennis was a second father to me and the first big loss of my life, he sat once where I am sitting now. His old  desk also holds a hand made token recording their Golden Wedding anniversary, behind the PC, a box of fishing flies, top left under the calculator, and one of his wife’s paperweights on the right by my red notebook. 

But my favourite thing is this :-

In one of the drawers I found an old, complete, packet of 10 Wills Woodbine cigarettes. They have their own story. Dennis was a heavy smoker in his younger days and often relayed this story. He told us that one day he ran for a bus and nearly collapsed in pain and breathlessness. He would have been around 25 to 30 years old. He gave up smoking on that day at that minute (around 1949 I would guess) and carried an unopened packet of Woodbines around with him for many months afterwards without ever touching them. He never smoked again. We knew he had kept the packet and there it was in his desk drawer.

In another connection, I worked at the factory where they were made during the summer school holidays as a casual labourer. There are so many more threads and connections on and in this desk, an old piece of utilitarian furniture but which resonates the lives I’ve known with my own life and I just adore it with all its inmates.

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 90

As I said to ‘er indoors “Something must be done about it”. If I were to let her loose on it I would not expect anything other than an unmitigated disaster to be the end result but in the absence of our regular hairdresser something must be done and probably quite soon. If I tell you that we often have heated discussions about her performance on the pruning shears you might understand my not unreasonable fears, although, to be brutally honest, she would be starting with a problem which is already beginning to look worse than our untidiest shrub.

I have today discovered that the whole of my raised greenhouse tomato bed is, beneath the soil, one massive and busy ants nest. They have destroyed this years plants. Getting rid of these pests permanently is not going to be easy and it needs to be done before the queens fly and repopulate the whole thing with a new brood of the little blighters. Advice has been sought, Professor Google had nothing.

Our hairdresser comes to our home. She has been maintaining my barnet for at least 40 years and has become a friend and familiar visitor that we look forward to seeing again soon. Thinking about the issues involved led us to discuss how we proceed with our shielding. Our conclusion is that it is all about risk. When we ourselves feel that the risk out there is low enough we will, in our masks, venture out. The government is so untrustworthy that it matters not an iota what they say, recommend or instruct. We shall decide and when we do, it will be with the confidence of our own judgement. We are thinking perhaps in two weeks time, subject to any evidence regarding the strength of the second wave, then we will make our decision. In the meantime we continue to actually enjoy the peace and unhurried quiet and for the time being remain


‘Im and ‘er indoors.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 89

I have real difficulties with fools. Not that I am openly rude or ill-mannered towards  them, or at least I hope not, but I am susceptible to an irresistible temptation to put them right. I find it impossible to brood on my frustrations as though they were newly hatched chicks bursting with life and ready for bursting forth on the world but in need of keeping in check. Mostly these are illogicalities which seem to be everywhere and which often arise out of bigotry or confirmation bias, a euphemism which amounts to the same thing. They cause the owners of those unfortunate characteristics to submit to foolish compliance or be prone to ill considered conclusions.

In The Covid I have find myself literally shouting at the television. Outside broadcast teams seem to be permanently set up and filming from stupid land. For example a farming presenter who proudly announce that due to social distancing he was going to be his own sound man thrust a furry microphone at his interlocutor just a few hundred centimetres from the man’s mouth and after the interview was over handled the thing when returning it into the back of his Landrover. 

I remember also a tennis match being conducted within social distancing guidelines in which the two players were gaily and obliviously bashing the same ball to and fro and handling it for each other’s serve without asking themselves if the virus could survive a ride through the air at 50 or 60 Kilometres per hour! (They were not professional players!)

Brexit took irrationality to another level. I know someone with a house on the continent who voted for Brexit and then complained when freedom of movement was stopped. Fisherman want their fishing grounds back from the French so they voted for Brexit for just that reason but fishing rights have actually been legally sold and they also added so much delay to the exporting process that the market for fish they do catch (60% of it) will be wiped out. There is an endless list of people, trades and businesses who simply allowed an emotional bias against immigrants to rob them of their reasoning. 

Some of these might be small issues and many people perhaps would regard my shouting at the television as a little over the top, unjustified and a tad weird but details matter to me and I make absolutely no apologies.

It would appear, and many have made this observation, that the UK government is a whole ship of fools and we are all headed for the rocks with them at the helm. Their open and unremitting mendacity, spouted with impunity is now a daily occurrence. Lying to Parliament, at one time almost the most heinous misdemeanour that an MP could be caught doing is now common place at all levels. Every political mistake that can be made is being made. Every step taken to fight the virus has either been too late, too little or gone wrong. The latest casualty being a ‘world beating’ Tracking App built under a £108 Million contract awarded apparently without tender or competition to a mate of the scumbag. This App did not beat the world and couldn’t even beat the Isle of Wight where it was trialled and where it only detected 4% of Iphones! The UK therefore will not have the very technology successfully used to save lives in other countries until very late in the day. So late in fact that it will be well after the second wave of The Covid which will probably explode everywhere shortly. These are not just fools. These are murderous fools.

What is taking place in the UK today is so reckless, so dangerous, so irreconcilably irrational and lacking in all that I understand as sense that I am tempted to believe in a logic and a plan which we cannot see. What is certain is that the government itself has concluded that we are all fools, that we are easily confused and given sufficient obfuscation, smoke and mirrors we are unlikely to notice before it is far too late to do anything about it exactly what they are up to. I strongly suspect that there is a plan, that it is sinister in intent and that we are not going to like it! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 88 (87)

Here in The Covid all is calm and peaceful. Our french doors are very slightly ajar because heavy rain with thunder has just started and a delicious fragrance, for myself at least, of earthy, garden dampness is wafting by me in one direction while I write as Mendelsohn’s 2nd string quartet wafts by me in the other. From here I can see our new productive area which is now feeding us with a variety of leaves. It needs to get a spurt on though. We have serious competition from gastropods and woodpigeons who have no regard to our needs at all.

Yesterday was not a good day for yours truly but today there is, I am relieved to say, a tangible improvement in my overall health and the old war wound is a little less troublesome. I am not normally coy or secretive about how I am healthwise but now is not the time to go into details. Later maybe. In the meantime I should record here that yesterday a heavy metal tube fell on my head due to a combination of stupidity and clumsiness brought about by the weakness of a body motivated by stubborn determination to get on with something useful. I have a painful lump to remind me to ease back a bit.

The Covid has caused many people to think about stuff they might not otherwise have been bothered with in their normally busy daily lives. Is that a good thing? I think so. My feeling is that there is far less apathy about. How many of us have walked by Colston’s Statue in Bristol (I have, many times) and have not felt any disturbing impulses amongst the synapses and neurons? How many were aware that Churchill’s views on race were little different to today’s white supremacists? How many people would have even known what a SPAD was but are now very aware of the Scumbag in number 10 and are rightly concerned about his influence over the johnson, the extent of Scumbag’s power, who his backers are and what sinister machinations are going on behind the scenes. (Much of which appears to be elitist power grabbing at best and at worst downright corruption). 

Climate change has been brought to the forefront of consciences that would not, in normal times, have troubled many folks, people can now smell and feel the difference that The Covid has made in their own senses. The debate about cash in society has also taken a turn. Paper money (or as it is now, polymer money) has been threatening to disappear from the high street for a while now. Resistance has been strong but now it’s the bad guy for an altogether different reason and for one have not spent a single penny of cash for  the 88 days of lockdown so far.

None of these issues are new. They have been with us for some time but they are gathering new dimensions from different perspectives and many more in society are engaging with the debates surrounding these and many other issues that matter than they ever were before.

Todays news is that the government has made a U turn on its plan to end free school meals for eligible kids during the summer school holiday after the public intervention of a soccer star. Only this government could have exposed itself to such a despicable, heart breaking, callous and inhuman proposal in the first place. I hope beyond anything that society as a whole does not stop engaging with important issues and fall back into the complacent hedonistic way of life that was common before The Covid. It would appear that this government is covertly trying to undermine our entire way of life. We are going to need all of our wits about us.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary, day 86 (80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85).

According to my reckoning today is day 86. We entered lockdown on 18th March,  it is now 14th June and it seems that time is flying by so fast that a few days, 5 to be exact, have been lost in transit. Be that as it may we find ourselves still battling on in this great and cosmic endeavour we call life safe in our lockdown bubble, enjoying our garden and now, more prosaically a little disappointed by a turn in the weather. That is Britain for you, our island weather is never reliable, always transitory  and never likely to hang around when you want it to.

I lay the blame, with some justification, for my loss of six days on the battle for survival. Unfortunately on old war wound has returned to haunt me and I have, as they say, been “out of the game”. But here I am, not fighting fit, but kicking back at life for being so tedious and looking forward to better days.

The news has been dominated by right wing thuggery and mindless vandalism going on in London which the johnson has euphemistically referred to as racist violence attempting, a la Trump, to not offend his extremist, fascist supporters by somehow conflating their thuggery with the BLM protests which were almost without exception much bigger and peaceful. I say euphemistically because this slobbish element are not just racists. They would be thugs, vandals and criminals for any reason they see fit because they must. Racism is just a lightning rod for their anger.

They are also Brexit supporters and for the same reason. The johnson has embraced and emboldened these fascist, nationalist extremists to fulfil his private ambitions and as was widely predicted their view of taking back control has been revealed in all of it’s savagery as the plan it always was, taking over control.

Meanwhile the extremely vulnerable, the elderly, the sick and the pregnant watch from their lockdown in horror at rampaging vandalism, racist taunts, attacks on police and a complete disrespect for both humanity in general and law and order in particular while a spectacularly corrupt and incompetent cabinet, without leadership, flails indecisively at Covid-19 with weapons grade ineptitude. We watch afraid of an invisible, deadly enemy locked in our bubble while the government’s allies bully, boast and brag their way across our TV screens unable to live free and normally in the bosoms of our families and denied our freedoms.

I believe Will Hutton’s statement today that this government has met it’s Waterloo is exactly right.

In the meantime we battle on.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 79

If you search them out, rainbows are everywhere. I found this strange creature peering out at me from out of the television screen like a home grown version of the poltergeist.

All rainbows are special things. To some portentous which is always a status that suggests an awesome phenomena is at work. White light is being split into its constituent parts, a continuum of electromagnetic radiation over a range of frequencies which falls into our visible range. However to actually see one you must also have a certain type of eye structure. We are lucky animals, we have it,  but unfortunately for others, gorillas for example, they are not so lucky, they have the wrong apparatus apparently and for them rainbows do not exist.

I have absolutely zero inclination to believe in signs lucky or otherwise but I love rainbows just the same. They induce an uplifting, heart warming feeling spontaneously, a commonly experienced reaction which alone might be responsible for their mythical symbolism. They remind me, every time I see one, of travelling home from work in Bristol to Swindon at 5pm in the late afternoon, a due east direction, with the sun setting in the west behind me in the rear view mirror. In the right sunny-rainy conditions a full rainbow, often a double and sometimes a triple would appear in my mirror view bridging the motorway and prominent in the reduced, reddened and stormy light. The day behind me ceased to exist at that point and a calm peacefulness was palpable.

Maybe this one should be called a tellybow?

I am bound to report that portentous or not this apparition heralded the good news that Farage has been taken off air unceremoniously by the broadcaster (LBC) where he was contracted for a weekly phone in radio show. His comments made during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations went a step too far. Why a known fascist, racist agitator should ever have been allowed to broadcast over one of the most diverse cities in the world is not something I will ever understand. This highly unsavoury individual who insulted Jewish class mates and sang neo-nazi songs in his school days (facts well documented) will go down as one of the most significant players in the political history of this period. Not because of his prominence as a politician or the size of his party but because he made today’s Tory party the extremist party it has become. In order to defeat the populist threat that Farage represented and retain their core vote they became UKIP in all but name and similarly populist. Led by the near fascist extreme of their party which gained in voice and prominence the Tories were eventually cleansed of moderate politicians like Ken Clark and Dominic Grieve and an extremist right-wing coup was completed with UKIP marginalised. Jeremy Corbyn joined in the anti foreigner sentiment by not dealing with inherent anti Semitic elements and an anti EU stance on Labour’s extremist wing and sealed the fate of the voices of moderation by becoming the handmaiden of Brexit.

The leaking of the BAME section of the Covid report today, the Black Lives Matter protests and above all the huge national debt of gratitude we owe NHS workers who largely emanate from ethnic minority communities add up to a powerful force for change.

Let us hope that Nigel Farage is finally put back in the nasty, vicious category where he belongs, shuffles off the British political scene and is followed by his racist apologists in the New Tory party.

Now that would have been a very lucky tellybow indeed.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 78

In the case of Great Tits I have the measure of them in terms of tune, pitch and loudness but they never give up and after a little exchange I am the one that gives in and retreats from the arena. Not so Mr. Blackbird, Mr. Blackbird has a remarkable collection of tunes all complex, colourful, rhythmical and numerous. I give him a fair fight, mimicking a competitor and whistling my merry way through a dozen or so of his compositions, but always lose. Mr. Blackbird carries singing on in exultation having flown to a high perch to gloat at the sight of his vanquished rival skulking off to his greenhouse defeated. Can you see him up there atop the Cypress laughing at my pathetic version of his joyful notes, happy and secure, free and equal in his natural element.

Blackbirds are charming, very, and not just black either, their feathers have a subtle sheen in the light and their yellow beaks and eye rings are distinctive. I would not want to lose them from my garden which is enriched by their contribution to the varied birdlife we have here in our little urban backyard. I will try again tomorrow. At the very least I keep him on his toes.

Black Lives Matter has dominated the news again today. I have the sense that some real and significant change in society around the globe is taking place. Here and now statues are being removed, covered or pulled down. Street names are being re-written, corporations and big businesses are making a stand for Black Lives Matter and films and television series are being pulled from streaming services for sending doubtful messages that are no longer, over night in fact, acceptable. I have heard such comments as “we should not re-write history” and even one senior black figure, Sir Geoff Palmer, a prominent black activist in the human rights movement, disagreeing with their removal on the basis that their continued presence is a record of black history. I could not agree less. History is written for future generations on a daily basis. Surely the only history that matters to black people throughout the world is that change happened and that a more hopeful moment in black history was written in The Covid.

Black Lives Matter.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Days 76 and 77.

Yesterday, day 76, was a weak, sleepy blur. Today, just as sleepy, not so wobbly and we took ourselves off in our car for the first time in this lockdown for some Barbary Castle air, a change of scenery and revitalisation.

People everywhere! Not in usual numbers but sufficient to warrant considerable caution. I say ‘this’ lockdown because today the government ‘U’ turned on the re-opening of schools and would not even commit to a return in September when they would usually be opening for next school year. That can only mean one thing, that authorities are expecting a second wave big enough to require a second lock down. It seems to me that this is potentially our most vulnerable period in The Covid.

News is dominated by the Black Lives Matter protests. Unsurprisingly those who are most exercised by protesters out  in support not just of George Floyd but of meaningful change generally also voted for Brexit. Many of them no doubt had flocked to the beaches at the weekend and probably supported the retention of Cummings who did more to spread the virus both before and after lockdown than any other UK citizen. Our government could have immediately condemned this racist killing but did not. They did condemn the protesters. They listened to no-one. The johnson has today claimed that this is not a racist country. This is the same johnson who has, seemingly with impunity used racist speech on several well documented occasions and done more to faster racial hatred than any politician I can remember since Enoch Powell.

It is said, quite rightly that not all people who voted for Brexit are racists but certainly true to say that all racists voted for Brexit. This definately is a racist country with a racist history of exploitation, pillage and massacre on an imperial scale and Britain needs to have a serious conversation with itself regarding its inhuman past.

I am glad Colston ended up in the harbour. Ironic that he might have gone in where he loaded and unloaded his ill-gotten cargo. Statues of hateful figures like his should ideally be set up in  museums where they can be seen in a truthful historical context and not appear to be set on high as exemplars from the past. I am not agreeing with wanton destruction but this particular statue should have been removed a long time ago as should others with the same sordid past. The very forces that enabled the slave trade back in the 18th century are still around today with power to prevent change and so change does not happen through peaceful means. The very reason ‘peaceful means’ are promoted is because they can be thwarted by a minority of powerful people who have a vested interest in the status quo.

These people are still conducting their slave trade today. Economic slavery is the Conservative way of running the economy, trapping people in low paid work, with little employee protection and without a social safety net creates a maximally productive and therefore profitable workforce at the lowest cost. Hence zero hours contracts, the gig economy and their urgent desire to free themselves from European employment protection laws. These working men and woman and their dependents are slaves who have freedom in name only.

Good riddance to Edward Colston and judging by the opinion polls for 2024 we are well on our way to good riddance to his Tory apologists.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 75

Our dishwasher puffs as noisily as any steam train on its way through one of those English idylls which John Betjeman might have eulogised. Aided and abetted by double glazing which effectively excludes today’s sharp breeze scurrying amongst the trees beyond the window, my imagination  conjures a weary looking gaggle of anticipatory fellow travellers. We are off to the coast.

I am a little frustrated by Sudoku puzzle number 168 in my little book of Altzheimer's antidotes. It will not yield to my determination to prove something. I am not quite sure what or to whom. It could be me.

A frisson of disappointment lingers from yesterdays revelation that my favourite chocolate bar of all time, Fry’s Chocolate Cream, might have wheat in it. I bought them often in my childhood at the corner sweet shop two doors up with Auntie Pat’s shilling on a Friday night in the 1950’s. How dare they.

After a breakfast of stodgy, cold, homemade, oat-based muesli tummy stability did at last return this morning, the start of a day which has so far not been marred by any untoward events and a day at least when we expect a calm sea with a dream clearly visible, albeit a long way off, and still only just above the horizon.

Coffee on board turns out to be quite palatable, wifi works and our companions are smiling and laughing excitedly amongst themselves spread evenly along the deck like regularly engineered lifeboat installations. They are each of them lifeboats after their own style, watertight and ready, ever ready. They know there are arrivals after departures and ends as surely as there are beginnings: that some waves are easier to bear than others: that we are moving and motion is all that matters. They know there will be waves but perhaps not today, hopefully not today.  Where there is movement there is change and all that need concern us is keeping the propeller turning.

Time in lives stood still is a window of opportunity for renewal and meditative refreshment in an empty silence of uncluttered self but below decks engines thrubb waiting, charts lay marked and gear stands by ready. We sail with more good fortune than many others, we are all in the same boat.

Friday, 5 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 74

Tested negative! Of course we are so used to government systematically lying that no-one can be sure. We will wait and see when Alok Sharma surfaces. The press has not made much of the fact that showing symptoms, in this case a sweating fever, he should be isolating, should have contacted the test and trace service and should definitely not be in the House of Commons voting to improve the infection rate amongst MPs! He broke the lockdown rules.

Chlorinated chicken is coming, there will be a rebellion of sorts, farmers, many of whom voted to abandon European food standards and their monitoring agencies are now worried about cheap US competition. They voted for it and you cannot have both. This cheap source of food will be used to lower the cost of state school meals, meals on wheels and hospital meals. In other words anywhere it can be hidden in a pre-cooked format to raise profit levels in the food industry. You will eat it. You might not know when and where but you will. We will certainly need to #stayalert !

I wonder how many farmers expected that not only would they lose their market in Europe for beef but they would lose their home market to cheap, hormone fed , US beef. Farmers surely are not an overly bright lot.

On the subject of food, our productive garden is producing, the pondament as I am now calling it, has come on really well. Runner beans are running up the sticks, climbing beans are clambering up their poles, rhubarb is spurting its sprouts about, chard is charging up and lettuce is luscious already. Only the spinach is spindly but it is spinning along speedily behind. Here is the housewife out in the kitchen garden chivying the chives and picking a side salad for our chicken dinner last night.

And so to return to the stories on my desk at last, and the fountain pens! Here is a closer view. Both of these pens represent a new and positive phase of our lives and therefore add much to the cache of peace and positiveness about my workplace.

The red pen, a classic Watermans, was purchased in W H Smiths, Cribb’s Causeway in December 1999. As writing pens go it was quite, but not exorbitantly, expensive. It has a matching biro pen which is more or less unused and as momentous as the approaching new millenium was that is not the new phase heralded by this acquisition. I had just resigned from a job in the nick of time. Having been made repugnant by my previous employer of 25 years I took a position just outside of Bristol in 1998, made too much of a success of it, got threatened with promotion and found it necessary to take evasive action. The threat of a more stressful job and the shear hell of my current 54000 miles a year driving being increased to who knows what was enough to convince me that painting and writing for the rest of my days was well worth every ounce of penury it was going to incur. I wrote my resignation letter, drove to Cribb’s Causeway (a shopping mall) to post it and presented myself with this luxurious pen and biro set.

It was a great decision to resign. I worked as a financial consultant for a while then took a retail job selling marine fish and aquatic systems in order to acquire some retail experience (I thought I might sell some art!) and two years later, in 2002, now pretty close to the earliest date I could take my occupational pension, and with an exuberant explosion of expletives directed at my bemused employer who had wanted to promote me beyond my inclination I gave one last definitive F*** you Steve and walked.

The black pen is a vintage 1950’s classic Montblanc Masterpiece 144. Such a joy to write with that I often take a blank sheet of paper and just write for the whole sensual pleasure of the feel of the barrel and its weight and the lively spring of its nib on the surface. I feed it with Diamine majestic blue ink which itself is pretty special.

A whole other lifetime came between 2002 and acquiring this pen which to summarise involved my wife and I between us in new and continuous, often separate, family care responsibilities for sixteen years until December 2019. Sixteen years which did not allow a great amount of time to paint or write or to do the simple stuff that retired couples like to enjoy. Now we are both free to enjoy the rest of lives until the next upheaval comes along but now at least we can be sure that whatever befalls, our responsibilities are just for each other.

The Covid is our first challenge but being in lockdown together has far more upsides than down. Onwards and upwards.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 73

I’m sorry but I laughed. Could not help schadenfreuding. Not a real word but experiencing schadenfreude always carries a little guilt and a reluctance to confess that it was felt. My ‘schadenfreuding’ is an open admission to relishing the misfortune of others because they damned well deserve it and enjoying the relish without an ounce of guilt. I do hope Alok Sharma doesn’t suffer much and recovers quickly from the Coronavirus and I also hope that he has not infected too many other MPs or their families or all the constituents they might have seen or their office staff back in those constituencies but honestly, I laughed! It is rumoured that the dickensian spectral scrawny fingered apparition that is Rees-Mogg was heard to say that this was the last thing they wanted. He is trying to beef up the baying Bassett hounds of the Tory benches behind the johnson because on his own he is about as bad at the dispatch box as it is possible to be. Starmer’s calm analytical and forensic intensity in the face of a bumbling, harrumphing, lying charlatan on the ropes has turned the johnson into the Tory parties weak spot. The johnson is now their soft underbelly and it is getting riddled on the points of their own lies and crushed under the shear weight of their monumental errors not the least of which is steadily building up a substantial body of journalists who, having seen through all the lies and obfuscation, have become a substantial body of power ranged against this wicked government. By progressively shutting them out, hiding from scrutiny, selective vilification, open and unrepentant lying, data manipulation and downright dirty tricks they have built up an army of opposition who are now on the march.

Oh joy, oh rapture, schadenfreuding feels good. But I hope Alok Sharma is okay. I really do.

I started to acquire a little extra optimism yesterday, today I shall go about my gardening tasks cheerfully schadenfreuding.

Fountain pens tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 72

An historic day when MP’s voted to disenfranchise 17.5 million voters by excluding their MP’s from Parliament and vote through a proposal to, quite unnecessarily, return to a medieval method of counting through the division lobbies, instead of implementing an electronic button operated system like most of the underdeveloped nations. It is a sad reflection on and a disturbing parallel to the way we are being forcibly dragged back to ‘olden days’, economic enslavement and domination by a self-appointed rich and privileged elite, feudalism in fact. This cannot and will never succeed. There is no legitimate way such a political system can be sustained. Little Englanders and their English Exceptionalism are dying out in The Covid but more than this, you can own and control members of society who are ignorant, deferential, superstitious and uneducated through power and wealth as they did in feudal times but we are none of those things today. Meanwhile rapid and comprehensive intercommunication tools prevent people from being cut off and enable them to share instantly their instinctive reaction to oppression circumventing any attempt to divide communities one from the other.

I am now beginning to feel that positive change is afoot. Those who would take us to ruin for the sake of reliving the days when Britain ruled the waves, Britain would never be slaves but make damn sure as many other nations would be, could never have won in the longer term but they all appear to be so utterly stupid and incompetent even in the implementation of their own anachronistic ideologies. Governing us in The Covid has proved to be beyond their capabilities and they cannot do their vile work without making mistakes or blatantly demonstrating a paucity of basic humanity. I am optimistic that the fascists who are attempting to take over our nation will destroy themselves and that our obscene undercurrent of racially motivated hatred and nationalism is on the run. I am certain that demographic change alone will marginalise them in time and I further predict that we will return, chastened, to our European homeland in my lifetime. My father’s traumatic wartime experience at the hands of the Nazi regime will not have been in vain and the free and cooperating Europe he fought for, the greatest peace project ever undertaken, will get back on track.

The fountain pens can wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 71

71 is a number which  has often popped up in my life since birth, not quite the very minute of my birth but a few days after, being born when my parents lived at 71 Westcott Place. My father’s works number at the cigarette factory was SM 71 and he used this number to advertise his ownership on tools, pens, rulers and so many other items around the home that the number, subconsciously perhaps, took on a vaguely mystical character so that when it popped up later in life its mythological status immediately earned it the right to be my lucky number for ever.

It is day 71 of the lockdown and it has not been the luckiest day on the face of it but such is the power of this 71 that I am filled with optimism that today marks the start of something wonderful. Credo in LXXI.

The picture shows my work area, the open top of my crowded desk, which is also near the dining room table so please, no pity for my working conditions, I can spread out if needed.

I love it here. Right now I can hear, through the french doors, blackbirds rapping into the night without a trace of self indulgent misery and, turned down quite low, some Franz Lizst which has Ouzels of self-indulgent misery. I could have taken self-indulgence in birdsong down the Messiaen road but we will not go there tonight. Here at my desk there are stories, such wonderful stories, spinning the memory and enlightening the nerves. Not tingly but they set up gentle vibrations of re-assurance. Everything is now calm, crepuscular, quiescent and all will be well in the end. A bonfire has been lit in the garden next door and the smell and the evening are serene.

The screen saver you can see is of the harbour in Porthleven, a much loved Cornish fishing port, now a tourist port where two policemen lost their lives washed from the harbour wall by a freak wave and into a stormy sea. I took this picture on holiday, we rented a little fisherman’s house nearby, and to get free wifi for the two weeks we bought a meal in the harbour side pub, took their wifi code and parked outside the pub most nights to catch up on the internet from the car. We did eat in their restaurant again to be fair. The holiday itself was just perfect. It takes just a quick flash of this one memory, one picture, to recall the whole of our time there and practically relive it.

The brightly radiant picture of tulips on the right was painted by Patricia Bastiaanse. The artist painted this by mouth, she does not have any use of hands. I support only two charities, Land of Hope in Nigeria and the society of hand, foot and mouth artists. These people are inspirational.

The book to the left, Fowler’s The Kings English, a 1951 reprint, I bought on holiday in Ilfracombe, a good many years ago now. I am not that good at English Grammar as you might have noticed but as bad as it is without Fowler’s I can assure you it would be a lot worse (although possibly more up to date than 1951). That holiday saw us riding bikes on the Tarka Trail, smashing an expensive camera by falling off the said bikes, discovering Instow, Barnstaple and sampling what must be the nation’s most prize winning fish and chips at Squires in Braunton.

Fountain pens are definately my thing but more of that tomorrow.

In the meantime I wish my diary goodnight, a night where aside from other issues, the whole world seems to be at war with itself, leaderless, directionless and falling into a quagmire of the most inhuman of behaviours whipped up by those in power who should be leading by their example but who are in reality stoking up, knowingly and deliberately fomenting, the very divisions in society which created it.

George LLoyd’s murder has struck a raw seam of justifiable unrest caused by poverty, degradation, inequality and suppression aggravated by death and disease in The Covid which affects poor, deprived communities more than any others. Let us hope that a new era can begin for the US in November.

ALL lives matter.

Monday, 1 June 2020

BACK IN THE COVID - The Lockdown Diary Day 70

Momentous! This is the tenth week of lockdown and in my view the moment of greatest danger when the virus is running rife thanks to the excesses of VE day celebrations encouraged by both false and mixed messages from the johnson and thanks to the rules being largely made redundant by the action of a senior figure in government to render those rules effectively ‘optional’. Anger seems to be growing and in any situation of grave risk anger is never conducive to correct action, it serves only to increase the risk. The famous British Bulldog Spirit kicked in at the start and to any government should have been our most valuable asset but our ace card has been squandered by the above mentioned ‘senior’ figure who for the sake of argument we shall hereafter refer to as Scumbag. In similar fashion we shall also refer to our so-called PM as ‘the johnson’. Lack of capitalisation should immediately explain my homonymous inference. These two, probably now in violation of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act which came into force on 6th April 2008, must be, one day, held accountable.

This is the moment of greatest risk to We The Shielding and to our littlest kids who are being sent out to round up the virus and bring it back into homes and families before either the virus is under control or an effective track and trace system is in place. This is the system recommended by WHO as far back as January, implemented immediately by many countries who have avoided mass death but started late in UK and then cancelled altogether on the 12th March in favour of an immunisation program whereby everyone would be immediately exposed to it to gain immunity. Or in the widely reported words of Scumbag, “Economy comes first, if some old people die, so be it!”

Consequently, and in pursuance of this policy, We The Shielding are now being unlocked so that we can take our turn to die. We are being culled. It is not a comfortable feeling to be that much under valued by one’s own government.

In lighter mood tomorrow’s diary will be deliberately diverting. I intend to write down the story of my desk. It fascinates me, and this can be seen elsewhere in my work, that photographs can be almost meaningless eye stimulation until the story in their details is told.

This exercise will also mark the arrival of lockdown day 71. 71 is a special number for me. But that is for tomorrow.