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 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



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 blazé 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.