Saturday, 6 June 2020

A bit of cynicism. That's what Covod-19 does to you.

As the government makes another statement about the wearing of face masks in hospitals, without consulting the NHS beforehand, leading to further comments about making decisions on the hoof, I find myself feeling a bit cynical. So here is an article from the New European, which gives a rather damning account of Britain’s handling of the crisis so far:-

“They are playing us for fools.

They said we were prepared for the coronavirus. That we had “fantastic, world-beating” testing; that the NHS was fully equipped and ready. Then the bug arrived. And it turned out that we’d sold all the fantastic equipment abroad or run it down in austerity.

They told us not to worry. We must wash our hands while singing Happy Birthday, but apart from that, it should be “business as usual”. Shaking hands – even with people in hospitals treating virus patients – was just fine.

But, just in case, they appealed for ventilators (having ‘missed the email’ about joining a European procurement programme. Maybe, post-Brexit, anything from the EU goes to spam). Ventilator manufacturers and suppliers put up their hands, but they didn’t return the calls. Maybe a ‘patriotic’ vacuum cleaner tycoon with a Singapore HQ could help?

The World Health Organisation urged every country to “test, test, test”. So at that very moment, we stopped. Because “the science” said so. Except it didn’t; we simply didn’t have the capacity to carry out the tests. Because they had ignored offers from university research labs and instead relied on friends in private industry.

It didn’t matter, though, because there was a “game-changer” antibody test round the corner that would check whether healthy people had ever been ill. That, they said, would be far more effective in this “battle/war” against our invisible “invader/enemy/foe” than a system to check whether ill people had Covid and, if so, who else they might have infected.

They were still making the same promises two months later. They toyed with the idea that it would be a good thing if more than half the country became ill because that might stop them becoming ill later. Then denied ever thinking such a thing.

People started dying. But they had “underlying health conditions” or were very elderly and probably would have died soon anyway. Most people would get only “very mild” symptoms.

While China, South Korea and New Zealand limited movement – and their death tolls – the British way was to keep calm and carry on. Perhaps they thought we valued “liberty” and “freedom” over life. The liberty to watch football in Liverpool in the company of fans from Covid-riven Spain; the freedom to travel across the country to watch horses jump fences in Cheltenham.

People started dying in larger numbers. Including younger, healthier people. So they told us to make only essential journeys and not to visit – or even isolate – in our holiday homes (an instruction guaranteed to irritate millions of families that don’t have a second bedroom, let alone a second home). So we went to the seaside instead. And created essential traffic jams all the way to Cornwall, the Lakes and the Peak District.

Tougher measures had to follow. Schools were to close. Pubs could stay open until midnight, but customers were urged, pleeeeease, to forgo the “Englishman’s inalienable right” to enter them one last time. Funnily enough, the advice was again disregarded.

Finally, they told us all to stay indoors, full stop. The Queen was enlisted to tell us we were all in it together and – in keeping with the favoured wartime motif – to echo Vera Lynn’s promise that we would meet again. A week later, a cabinet minister was caught jaunting to his second home. Was he sacked? Did he resign? No. He was wheeled out to speak for the government at the Downing Street briefing that very day.

There were mumblings about a lack of hospital equipment, and Michael Gove promised on national television that “thousands” of ventilators would start arriving the following week. A few duly appeared. Have the rest ever surfaced? Who knows?

Soldiers built pop-up hospitals in exhibition centres, stadiums, airports. Anything Wuhan can do, we can do too. Except protect lives. But there were no extra nurses or doctors to work in the new hospitals, so they couldn’t take many patients and were mothballed.

And still people died. But the only ones they were counting were those who had gone to hospital and had been tested – while alive – to see if they really had the virus. And they still weren’t doing that many tests. So the numbers weren’t too frightening.

Anyway, everyone was too busy praying for the prime minister, who was in intensive care “fighting for his life”. Even when the death toll hit 1,000 deaths a day, they found reasons to rejoice: Boris was safely back at Chequers with Carrie and an old man called Captain Tom had raised a million pounds for the NHS by walking round his garden, the last lap witnessed and saluted by a military guard of honour.

Doctors and nurses begged to be tested because they couldn’t work if they had a sniffle, even if it wasn’t the dreaded Covid. Who was to know? They promised that testing would be “ramped up”. It wasn’t. But they clapped for carers on Thursdays.

Doctors and nurses begged for protective equipment so that they could do their jobs safely. They said they’d bought billions of “items” (a single glove counting as an “item”). There was plenty to go round – “if used properly”. And they clapped on Thursdays.

Doctors and nurses died. They paused for a minute’s silence, then carried on telling us how wonderful the country and its heroes were. Especially Captain Tom, whose reward for a walk that had by now raised £30 million, was to ‘virtually’ open one of the ghost Nightingale hospitals.

They promised again and again that testing would be ramped up to 100,000 day by the end of April. This time they “smashed” the target – by sending 40,000 in the post (who knows if they arrived, were conducted properly or ever processed) and thousands more to university labs for research purposes.

Hidden away from all of this, old people were dying by the dozen in care homes all over the country. But they weren’t counted. Was that because they didn’t count? Hadn’t that genius pulling the strings of government expressed the sentiment that if a few old people died, so be it?

There was, however, one old person to be venerated above all others. Captain Tom, now the proud owner of an England Test cricket cap, was promoted to colonel for his 100th birthday.

Carers pleaded for protective equipment, but there was none to be had, because the rest of the world had gone to market in January while they were worrying about bongs for Brexit, and the limited supplies were needed for the NHS heroes. Never let it be said that they weren’t imaginative in seeking to make up the shortfall: they bought some gowns from a Turkish T-shirt salesman – but they weren’t up to standard. So the Daily Mail helped out by flying in a few bits and pieces amid great fanfare.

At last they started counting everyone whose death certificate included the word Covid. But even then, there were 10,000 more deaths this spring than last that they couldn’t explain. But no one should think that they didn’t care about the aged dying. They’d issued a blanket order for over-70s to stay indoors and see no one for 12 weeks. They’d thrown a “protective ring” around care homes “from the outset”. By block-booking 160,000 places to free up hospital beds? Great idea, if only they’d tested the patients before discharging them. Yes, they “isolated” residents, but the staff caring for them had to go back and forth in the community like anyone else who had to get to work.

Never mind. We were soon rejoicing again because Carrie had had a baby. Yet the natives were still restless, stuck indoors, home-schooling their kids and Zooming.

So they let us visit garden centres. The Queen was rolled out again for VE Day. And they knighted Captain Tom. He ended up raising £39m, against an original target of £1,000. Amazing. Would he have been honoured for the £1,000? The actual walking would have taken no less effort, his personal achievement no smaller. Of course not. The difference was a PR-savvy daughter and a government/country desperate for something joyous.

We needed it. We now have the highest death toll in bald numbers in Europe and, last week, the highest daily toll per capita in the world. But, having spent seven weeks proclaiming our “success” in combating the virus, they suddenly declared international comparisons “unhelpful” once we’d claimed the European championship.

The scientist whose research prompted the lockdown was caught having a visit from his lover in breach of the rules. They got rid of him pronto.

The man who effectively runs the country – and probably wrote the rules – was caught driving his sick wife and their son 260 miles to his parents’ country farm because he thought he was about to get Covid. They clung to him like ivy to a willow tree. For he was all they had. Without him, they’d be even more clueless. These were, they said, exceptional circumstances. Because who would care for the boy if both parents were ill? As though no one else had faced such a dilemma. He was, they said, right to follow his instincts as a father. As though no one had set aside their paternal instincts in order to obey the rules as most of us understood them. It was reasonable, they said, for their man to drive to a beauty spot to test his vision when his eyes were “wonky”. On Easter Sunday, his wife’s birthday, or “Day 15”, as he pointedly called it, knowing infected households are supposed to isolate for 14 days.

So reasonable that Michael Gove asserted on LBC that he, too, “on occasion” had driven to check his eyesight. So reasonable that cabinet ministers dutifully and desperately tweeted in unison that we should “move on” – unaware or untroubled that their jarring corvid tone offended the nation’s Covid ear.

People are dying. The economy is wrecked. We’re heading for a no-deal Brexit precipice. And still they use words like “fantastic” and “world-beating”.

This isn’t a competition; we don’t want to beat the world. We just want our families kept safe and to be able to hold our mum’s hand as she dies. Instead we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia ‘led’ by an absentee prime minister of Churchillian delusion who signed up for the glory, not the gory. A man devoid of integrity, insight and ideas; a man totally lacking the appetite, application or ability to perform the job attached to the title he craved.

A world where three-word slogans masquerade as policy. A world where clapping on Thursdays and seeing the NHS as a charity case have become a substitute for paying and equipping health staff properly. A world where they fly the Union Flag, publish photos of babies, dogs and princesses, and get the Queen to talk to the nation from time to time. In the hope that we won’t notice the rest.

They are playing us for fools.”

Still, it could be worse! We could be the USA, which appears to be taking steps deeper into dystopia as the police attack newsmen and newswomen reporting on the riots.

 Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 5 June 2020

When the virus got personal. Becoming virus free. Being late.

So today my little girl (yes, I know she’s 40 but she’ll always be my little girl!) gets to take her little boy (really a little boy, only 9 months old!) home from hospital. I’ve had an almost superstitious reluctance to write about it until we knew that the worst was over. Two weeks ago our cheerful, smiley little grandson turned into a miserable, crying little bundle who was only happy being carried around, who would only really sleep on his mother’s shoulder, who lost his recently developed interest in food other than breastmilk. Over the weekend this got worse and by the Sunday he was developing a rash and ended up in the nearby hospital, where his older siblings could walk his three and half year old sister round to wave to mummy and baby brother through the window.

Diagnosis was initially unsure but within a couple of days he was transferred to the Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital with the confirmation that this was Post Covid inflammation, related to Kawasaki disease and affecting mostly the under-fives. Tests revealed he had the antibodies that showed that he had indeed had Coronavirus at some point, probably some time back when all the family had coughs and colds. Should the whole family be tested for antibodies now?

The NHS staff have been wonderful, trying to find the balance of treatments to stabilise his little body. Our daughter, in typical fashion, has done masses of online research, in snatched moments when the tiny boy did not need to be carried round and round the hospital room, and has become something of an expert on Kawasaki disease. And now, after almost two weeks in hospital the tiny boy has become an outpatient and the family can be reunited. But it will still be a while before we get to see them, except from a safe distance.

But good news is still good news!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world New Zealand has reached the point where they are almost ready to declare themselves Coronavirus-free. One sufferer remains to be declared cured and they are beginning to count the days with NO NEW CASES! 22 people have died from the virus in the country - yes, that’s TWENTY-TWO! - and fewer that 1,500 people have been confirmed infected. Many New Zealanders still don’t know anyone who is known to have had it. In Wellington, the capital, the last person confirmed to have survived the coronavirus was recorded as recovered more than three weeks ago. They must have done something right!

Of course New Zealand is in a different situation from most European countries. It was almost certainly easier to close off the country and prevent the entry of possibly contagious people than it was for the countries of Europe. But still, they dealt with the virus quickly and efficiently and, barring very bad luck, they seem to be doing well.

And now I imagine New Zealand in a science fiction story situation, strictly controlling travel in and out of the country, maybe evolving into a slightly different form of healthy human. Come to that, unless my memory does me a disservice, I am pretty sure that at the end of John Wyndham’s “The Chrysalids” New Zealand was the country where the escaping “mutants” were headed.

Here in the UK we still have a way to go. Our leaders tell us happily that they rate of infection is going down but in the North of the country it feels as though we are still in the middle of it all. It seems that as a country we have got used to being a bit late in making decisions about how to deal with everything. Late to close schools, late to lock down, late to test, late to introduce track and trace (and it still might not be working until the autumn), late to demand quarantine for arrivals to the UK, late to insist on masks in public transport and still not in shops. It will be no surprise to be late in getting back to any kind of normality!

Even the insistence on mask-wearing on public transport has an air of decision-making on the hoof. Here’s something from a newspaper report:

“Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Shapps said passengers would also be encouraged to cover their face when entering bus and train stations with the help of volunteer “journey makers”.

“We are going to have thousands of people from the British Transport Police, Network Rail, Transport for London and actually a whole army of volunteers from a volunteer organisation who are going to be called journey makers, who will help to remind people. They’ll be wearing purple tabards and they will remind you to put your face covering on,” he said, stressing that the legal requirement applied only when actually on a bus, train or tram.”

And the rail unions have apparently not been consulted about any of this and are rather concerned at “volunteers” being put in the potentially difficult, even dangerous, role of reminding/challenging travellers about wearing their mask!!

I have been reading The Forsyte Saga - we need a BIG read right now - volume 2, and I came across this, as the character Michael Mont reflects on the state of things in 1924 - yes, that’s 1924!! -

“Nowhere could he catch the echo of uneasiness in the hearts of all. the Tories - as Fleur had predicted - would come in now. The country would catch at the anodyne of ‘strong stable government’. But could strong stable government remove the inherent canker, the lack of balance in the top-heavy realm? Could it still the gnawing ache which everybody felt, and nobody would express?”

That sounds familiar, does it not?

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Weather. Fires. Shutdown problems. Weather (warnings) again. And queues.

It’s raining again now but I managed to go for a run first thing while it was still dry. We hope that the rainfall has been long-lasting and heavy enough to put out the fires on Saddleworth Moor close to Dovestone Reservoir. Fires on peat moors are strange because the fire can smoulder and spread underground, apparently extinguished, only to burst out into the open in a new place quite distant from the original fire. Sometimes even nature can be a bit malicious.

We’ve all got used to fine and sunny weather but climate experts are being pessimistic about it:-

“The public is being lulled into a false sense of security about the UK’s increasingly extreme weather patterns by news and weather reports that present long, hot, dry spells as good news, according to scientists and campaigners. Experts say unusually dry and sunny conditions like those experienced in the UK over the past two months are too often framed as something to celebrate, with newspaper and TV reports featuring pictures of people sunbathing, playing in fountains or eating ice creams.
Instead, the experts say, people should be made aware of the risks associated with increasingly hot summers, especially for vulnerable groups, and they should be helped to “join the dots” to see heatwaves and flooding in the context of the wider climate crisis.”

Here are some pictures from our mammoth cycle ride the day before yesterday, while the sun was still shining.

And here is a link to our current favourite weatherman, Owain Wyn Evans, famous for his drumming! The problem with watching his weather forecast after the BBC North West News is that he is so entertaining in his flamboyant delivery that we sometimes forget to concentrate on the weather news!

As businesses suffer and even go under as a consequence of the Covid-19 lockdown, I read about one that saddens me. Ever since I was a child Chester Zoo has been one of my favourite places for days out. As a young teacher I even took my year 7 class there for their end of year celebration day trip. And over the years I have been back many times with our grandchildren. Their baby elephants have charmed us all but now, unless some drastic solution is found, the zoo will have to close as they are losing millions of pounds. The irony is that their entrance is already set up in such a way that socially-distanced entry could be easily managed and the zoo itself is so spacious that it would be possible keep up that social distancing inside the zoo. It just needs the government to decide that zoos can open again, with rules and regulations in place of course. Other businesses are getting the go ahead.

In most countries cafes and restaurants are tentatively opening for some kind of business, unsure of how to survive properly. They will want the sunshine to return. It’s a lot pleasanter to eat outdoors if the weather is good. And the prospect of meeting friends outdoors is more appealing if the sun shines onus.

According to the fashion writer Jess Cartner-Morley, there is a trend for wearing your best summer gear for picnics in the park, with comfortable flowing gowns making a bit of a comeback. All this fashion advice will be of no use while the cooler weather continues. Some of this is teach us not to take stuff for granted; my brother-in-law had organised a couple of days off work, today and tomorrow, so that we could go for a socially-distanced walk and then have a socially-distanced cup of tea in the garden.

There you go! It’s his fault the weather has changed!

Of course, a bit of cool, damp weather now gives us a chance to get used to queueing to go into shops and supermarkets in inclement conditions In plenty of time, before autumn and then winter come along with the prospect of this being a colder and wetter island. Shops and supermarkets can do some shelter-planning as well.

On the subject of queues, a MacDonald’s in a retail park not too far from here had to close yesterday because queues were growing so long that they were causing major traffic hold-ups. Imagine being so desperate for a Big Mac that you would spend hours in your car!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Taking (back) control. Stuck on a cruise liner. Quarantine fatigue.

So Mr Johnson has said he is taking direct control of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, has he? Here is a comment from Angela Raynor, deputy leader of the Labour party:

“PM to take "direct control" of the Govt handling #coronavirus crisis? Well who on earth has been in charge the last three months then? Meanwhile the NZ PM Jacinda Ardern has said she could lift all social distancing measures to return the country to normal life, bar the international border closure, as early as next week? We are way behind! 馃槨”

I don’t need to say anything more.

As we all continue to suffer from quarantine-fatigue, spare a thought for the crew of holiday cruise liners. It seems that dozens of cruise ships have been stranded in Manila Bay because ports all over the world are denying them access. If it were just the boats, it might not be too bad, but most of the crew are still on board, being fed, sleeping in luxury cabins, able to use the facilities (apart from Filipino crew members who are often required to isolate in their cabins for some reason, even though they are close to home!) but not allowed to disembark and try to organise flights home. Even the appeal of luxury swimming pools and fancy gyms palls after a while.

Here in the UK we have the problem of too many people rushing to the beach and to beauty spots, apparently using the excuse that if Dominic Cummings can disregard crisis advice then so can they. Well, Dominic Cummings’s antics surely have no impact on Spanish behaviour. So what about “botell贸n”, the habit of getting together in a huge group outdoors and drinking yourselves silly. (I hesitate to call it a tradition as it only dates back the last 20 years or so. Starting as a youth thing, a way of having a drink and playing music without paying bar and club prices, it spread rapidly.)

The mayor of the town of Tomelloso, in Ciudad Real, has been having difficulty dealing with a “botell贸n” of about 500 people, drinking and listening to music and socialising with precious little social distancing and no facemasks. She said there were just too many people for the local police to deal with and disperse. She blames the 24 hour shops where the “botell贸n”-goers bought their alcohol. She plans to ban “botell贸n” (again?) and to ban the sale of alcohol in the 24-hour shops after 10.00 at night.

It’s the sunshine that does it. And the long, warm evenings. And, of course, quarantine-fatigue! Are other countries having similar problems? Will we see a second wave as a result?

Here in Saddleworth, probably in most of the UK, the sunshine has withdrawn for the time being. We had lots of rain overnight. I just hope there was enough of it to extinguish the wildfires in our local beauty spot, Dovestone reservoir and the surrounding peat moors. We were out and about on our bikes in the late afternoon yesterday and thought we saw smoke on the horizon, although it was hard to say for certain it was smoke as there was cloud on the horizon as well. It was only later that we heard about the wildfires.

Our modest plan was to cycle up the road to the nearby Castleshaw reservoir, ride round the reservoir and return home. Somewhere along the way we missed a left turn and found ourselves heading relentlessly up hill to Heights, the aptly-named hamlet with a beautiful little church and a pub, now closed I believe. That was rather more of a detour than we needed. Oh, boy! My admiration for the Tour de France riders has been renewed - if it really needed renewing! We need rather more training before we tackle even the gentlest of slopes around here! It was a good ride though!

I doubt if there will be much cycling today.

 Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Out on my bike. The North-South coronavirus divide. Political posturing by POTUS!

So yesterday afternoon, as planned, I got on my bike and rode over to my eldest granddaughter’s house. My route was carefully chosen so that it was mainly along bridle paths, with minimum time possible spent on actual roads with real traffic. My bike is equipped with an excellent old fashioned bell that gives a really good ting-a-ling, far superior to more modern versions which just give a feeble ping. So most people were made aware of my presence and happily got out of the way, apart from a young teenager on a bike zigzagging all over the path while he talked to his friends. His friends politely stood aside while he maintained his zigzagging course, almost a collision course, leading to some rude language on my part!

The only other untoward incident involved another kid on a bike, a boy of about the same age as the first one. This was on a main road into which I had just made a left turn. He had clearly been riding on the pavement, as so many cyclists do these days, and when the pavement ran out he continued on the roadway, but on the wrong side of the road! He looked bemused when I told him he should be riding on the left, not heading directly towards me!

There seem to be a lot of youngsters out and about on bikes who have had no training on roads and so have no road sense. This is probably a consequence of parental encouragement to ride on the pavement, a fairly understandable thing given the amount of traffic there is nowadays. However, while people ride on the pavement (and many adults also ride on the pavement) drivers have no incentive to be more considerate towards cyclists. But when I was a kid I remember there being a clear demarcation between bikes for little kids - pavement bikes - and more grown-up bikes - road bikes - and mostly we looked forward to making the transition from the first to the second. The clue, of course, is in the name:- ROAD bikes! One last point: what happened to the Cycling Proficiency Test, which used to take place during the summer term in many primary schools?

Okay! Rant over! And, to be fair, I am seeing a good number of families out riding together with parents explaining riding etiquette. There is hope!

Anyway, I rode to my granddaughters, she showed me her collection of odd pets - giant African snails, land crabs, a bearded dragon, a small snake of some kind, and a tiny tortoise, oh and a cat! - and I persuaded her and her housemate to go for a walk with me, part of my campaign to help my granddaughter overcome her anxiety attacks. Then I rode home without incident.

I am still being cautious in my various excursions as statistics still show that the North of England is a very different place from the area around London. Cases of the virus may well be dropping in the capital but new data from the Covid Symptom Study shows that in the North we have nearly twice as many new infections as London. So maybe we need to vary levels of relaxation from one part of the country to another.

Related to this is the fact that thousands of people in and around Blackpool have signed an online petition asking for the town and its beaches to be closed to visitors. The sunshine has led to loads of people heading for the Golden Mile. Who would have thought that Blackpool would ever want to turn them away?!

Here’s another odd relaxation of lockdown fact:

“Spatial analysis by Esri UK has found that most pavements around the country are less than 3 metres wide, making it difficult for pedestrians to remain 2 metres apart and follow government guidelines for social distancing. Using measurements from Ordnance Survey, Esri UK has created a map of all pavement widths, discovering that only 30% of Great Britain’s pavements are at least 3 metres wide, 36% are between 2 and 3 metres and 34% are less than 2 metres wide.” Oops!

In the midst of all the stuff going on in the USA, POTUS was hustled away to the White House bunker. We’ve seen this happen in various films and TV series about presidents so we know that this is standard procedure if there is any possible threat to the White House. So we are ignoring any suggestions of discriminatory protection or, heaven forbid, cowardice! But firing tear gas at peaceful protesters in order to clear a way for POTUS to walk across to a nearby church and pose with a bible is a different matter altogether.

The news report tells us that Trump’s short speech in golden evening light was intended to cast him as a military strongman determined to bring a restive nation to heel as it suffered spasms of unrest after the killing of Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis. “I am your president of law and order,” Trump said. “I am mobilising all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your second amendment rights.”

But the church establishment seems less that impressed by the posturing:-

 “The Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, told the Washington Post: “I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop.”

Trump’s message is at odds with the values of love and tolerance espoused by the church, Budde said, before describing the president’s visit as an opportunity to use the church, and a Bible, as a “backdrop”.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, tweeted: “Peaceful protesters were gassed and shot with rubber bullets to clear away a space near a church to give Trump a photo-op waving a bible flanked by AG Barr and Sec Def Esper. Monstrous. Anticonstitutional.””

It’s all politics and electioneering after all!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 1 June 2020

Back to school? Protests! Relaxing lockdown!

Some children have gone back to primary school today but not all and not even all of those who were told they could go back. Some parents have kept their children at home in boroughs that have agreed to open schools and some boroughs have opted not to take in any more pupils than the children of key workers and those vulnerable children already there.

And the scientists, some of the scientists, rather a lot of the scientists are still saying that the lockdown is being relaxed too quickly.

The warnings did not stop large numbers of people from turning out to demonstrate in support of the Americans protesting about the death of George Floyd. It’s hard to tell from the photos in the news to what extent social distancing was maintained. A friend of mine who has been shielding expressed her regret at not being able to be at the demonstration in London. Considering that she is still very vary of leaving her house, despite the declaration that the shielding people can now go out, I am not sure whether she has gone a little crazy or if this is an indication of how deeply she feels about the racism question.

Some famous people have come out and expressed their views about the George Floyd case. This from singer / songwriter Carole King:-

“I stand in solidarity with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and inequality.”

And this, rather longer, from her friend and fellow singer / songwriter James Taylor.

“A time has come in our country where a significant amount of the people demand a change. We have been here before, at a time when the people spontaneously take to the streets out of a common sense of outrage. In my opinion, we have forced our societal problems into this confrontation between the police, who are tasked with keeping the peace, and a segment of our population, subjected to perpetual, institutionalized suffering. We have seen their road to freedom and equality blocked, their great struggle thwarted and stalled. We have let our leaders drop the baton. They have encouraged a backlash against what we know to be right: the inclusion of African Americans in the rights and privileges guaranteed by our constitution. In denying those constitutional rights, we have forced this failure upon our police. But the hammer sees only the nail. Of course we must rigorously police our police, that is given. But seeing this only, or even primarily, as a police failure: a problem to be fixed where the rubber meets the road, is tragically myopic. What we face is nothing less than The Great American Mission: a national commitment to ending the injustice of Slavery and a national rejection of racism...”

And their country seems to be in complete meltdown, with their president having to take refuge in the White House bunker. It’s hard for us to imagine that level of total outrage and chaos across a whole country.

And here we have our own sort of craziness, albeit of a more mundane kind. Apparently Ikea has opened 19 of its stores today and people were in traffic jams before six this morning or standing in queues in the store carparks from seven. Like this one at Warrington, where each dot is a person!!

Now, I like a wander round Ikea with the best of them but the idea of standing in queues for hours and hours on a sunny Monday is really beyond the pale. I can just about understand the people who rush to the beach or parks on a sunny day but I fail to understand the appeal of queueing in the sunshine.

I came across this as well today:-

“Swimming pools in the UK could be allowed to reopen as early as July, but with drastic changes in place to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. Children will be banned outside of lessons and swimmers may have to arrive and leave in their costumes under new guidelines set to be published on 15 June.”

Going to the swimming pool in your swimsuit is one thing but the prospect of returning home in your soggy suit under your outdoor clothes is a different thing altogether, especially if this were to continue into the wintertime!

Strange times.

For the moment, the sun keeps shining. I note that the next-door neighbours seem to have a garden visit from another friend of their daughter, equipped with a large bag of doughnuts. That will help their waistlines!

As for me, my plan is to cycle over to see my eldest granddaughter, from a distance, standing in her garden, because she is going through a bit of an anxiety crisis just now.

And we are trying to sort out the washing machine which decided this morning that it did not want to spin the washload. So far we have mostly managed to get a lot of water on the kitchen floor. Such fun! We do have a repair contract but we are not happy at the idea of a workman coming into the house at moment.

Interesting times.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 31 May 2020

A bit of nostalgia. Quarantine fatigue behaviour. A bit more nostalgia.

Yesterday we went for a long nostalgic walk in the late afternoon sunshine, involving going through Slackcote, past the first house we bought together, where we lived for a decade, where our daughter was born in the main bedroom, and which we only moved out of because with two children the family was just growing out of it. It’s in a little hamlet between the two villages of Delph and Denshaw, always leading to discussion as to which village it belongs to. We once famously went to bed one warm summer night leaving the front door wide open, although the inner was closed, and only discovered it when we came downstairs next morning and wondered why the main room was so light. Oops! I don’t think we could do such a thing in the house we now inhabit. I’m not sure that you could do it now at Slackcote, which has grown a little, with the old mill building now converted into flats and rather more people around.

On our way home we went through Delph’s park and children’s playground. By the river (the River Tame, as it Tameside, runs through the village) a huge bunch of youths were congregating, messing around in the sunshine the way young people do and possibly jumping into the water. Others were arriving by bike and on foot, some of them with small rucksacks - was an English “botell贸n” outdoor drinking and carousing session about to begin? What was clear was that this lot were definitely not all from one household and not a lot of social distancing was taking place.

As we walked on, a couple of community police officers were heading towards the group. I rather suspect they might have needed to send for reinforcements. Has those young people decided to follow Dominic Cummings’s example and ignore the advice? Do they even follow the news? Maybe they were just fed up of being in their separate back gardens on such a fine sunny day. The numbers of people who made their way to beaches and beauty spots are perhaps indicative of some of that same quarantine fatigue.

The family next door to us have erected one of those do-it-yourself pergola things in the garden so that they can sit out in the shade, which they duly did for most of yesterday - burgers and barbecues in the shade. One garden further over, the sunbathers continued to work on their tan, with another socially-distanced visit from their grandchildren at the same time. To be fair, the paterfamilias (grand-paterfamilias?) had been busy earlier mowing the lawn. Mostly in our row we seem to have been quite law-abiding (apart from maybe the visiting grandchildren) and stayed home this weekend. But then we are lucky enough to have the garden space to do that.

Discussion still goes on about reopening schools. The proposed June 1st partial reopening looks as if it’s going to be very partial indeed and this article suggests that a September reopening will also be problematical. A full-blown reform of our education system might be needed.

This article has pictures of places where some famous names in the pop music business made their career starts. Small venues like pubs and small clubs have long been the proving ground for would be music stars. And budding musicians have become largely unacknowledged victims of the crisis. With pubs and small venues closed these young musicians have no way of making themselves heard and known and, of course, no source of income. You can’t claim government support for something so tenuous as an incipient career in music. There is always Youtube but I guess it works better if you have already got a foot on the lower rungs of the ladder.

We spent a good part of yesterday evening moving furniture around into an arrangement that made access to our collection of music on vinyl more accessible, while still allowing us to watch TV unimpeded. It’s something we have planned for a while and finally we got around to it. It won’t help the plight of young up and coming musicians but it means we are more likely to play the old vinyl records once more. Another bit of nostalgia!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! Oh, and be sensible, please!