Thursday, 9 April 2020

Bees. Inequality. How to occupy your lockdown.

It’s another fine day, not quite sunbathing weather but bright and breezy. Phil was up earlier than usual. He was woken by a loud buzzing - had a bumble bee bumbled in through the open window? Whatever it was, he was out of bed in record time, opening curtains and windows all over the place, hoping that whatever it was would make its way out. We never saw it. We know that bees stray indoors at times as we had to rescue one from the bathroom window ledge just the other day. Judging by the speed of his awakening, I think we should adjust the alarm clock to sound like a bee, or maybe a wasp, or even a mosquito whine!

We didn’t see the start of BBC 2’s Newsnight last night but apparently Emily Maitlis began like this:

“They tell us coronavirus is a great leveller. It’s not. It’s much, much harder if you’re poor. How do we stop it making social inequality even greater?”

Quite so! In the poorer countries of the world social distancing is all but impossible. And in the richer countries, it’s the poor - and, like it or not, poor people there are - who will suffer most.

We did see a report about children at risk. School teachers who are aware of which of their pupils are the most likely to suffer from abuse of one kind or another are at their wits’ end trying to help these children. Schools remain open for the children of key workers and for children at risk. The problem is that many of the at risk children are simply not showing up. Maybe they choose not to show and their parents won’t enforce it. Maybe an abusive parent won’t let them leave the house. Maybe a frightened parent, scared stiff after being told of the dangers of leaving the house, won’t allow them to leave the house. And social workers and health visitors are not visiting because of the virus. It’s a horrible situation!

Emily Maitlis also commented on something that has struck me. Much has been made by Mr Johnson’s colleagues of his being a strong character, a “fighter”, the implication being that this will speed his recovery. Even I, a strong believer in the power of mind over matter in many health-related things, have had to accept that such an attitude is not really very helpful against this virus.

“You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Minister’s colleagues will tell us,” Emily Maitlis said.

There you go!

Here is a link to an article about the spread of the disease through social gatherings. It points out a correlation between coronavirus hotspots in various countries and social gatherings that have taken place, whether a carnival celebration in a German town or mardi gras in New Orleans or a religious gathering as at the Porte Ouverte Christian church annual two week prayer get-together in Mulhouse in France.

Frightening stuff!

The Manchester Evening News reported a fire that broke out on Saddleworth Moor - our moor, peat-based, in our neck of the woods - at 4.40 pm yesterday afternoon. Four fire engines and two wildfire units were scrambled to the scene. Fire crews remained at the scene tackling the blaze for two and a half hours, a Manchester Fire service spokesman said. Dave Swallow, station manager at Stalybridge and Mossley, said the fire meant crews were unable to attend 'life threatening incidents' elsewhere. I have not read anything about the cause of the fire but I remember that years ago it used to be the practice for farmers to burn off last year’s stubble at this time of year. Maybe this is still going on in some cases but it has always seemed a rather dangerous thing to do, especially after a couple of weeks of dry weather.

Here’s an interesting headline about New Zealand: “Sex toy sales triple during New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown”.

“They were warned by the officials against stockpiling toilet paper or flour. But that’s not all New Zealanders have been hoarding, according to the nation’s largest retailer of sex toys, which said sales of its products tripled after Jacinda Ardern announced a month-long lockdown of the country. New Zealanders are permitted to leave their homes only to access essential services or take walks during the national shutdown, which began a fortnight ago and will remain in place for at least a further two weeks.”

I suppose that not everyone will be satisfied with sitting down and reading a book or listening to music.

In the Guardian or the Observer at the weekend Tim Dowling asked various “experts” for advice on stuff you can do around the home while under lockdown. I’m not sure who the “experts” were or how “expert” in the areas mentioned. One of them was Siân Berry, co-leader of the Green party, a member of the London Assembly and a candidate in the now-postponedLondon mayoral election. It seems she is also the author of a book called “Mend it! 400 Easy Repairs for Everyday Items”.

She recommends sewing.

“I totally recommend sewing,” she says. “Replace those buttons, get those hems exactly the right length.” But what if you can’t sew? “Hemming is surprisingly easy,” she insists. “There’s a special stitch for hemming where you’re basically hanging the fabric off very tiny stitches which don’t go through to the outside. It’s a really good skill because you can get all your clothes to fit you perfectly.”

Well, as a person who has always sewn a lot, I find that advice rather odd. Some people are going to mess up their hemlines!”

And then there is this from an unidentified source ... oh, no, it’s still Siân Berry:-

Makeshift shelves can be produced with no tools, from scrap wood. “You can probably still find random bits of wood on your state-sanctioned walk,” says Berry. “Bits of wood and bricks make a lovely, sort-of-temporary bookshelf. At a pinch, you could use books for the uprights.”

I wonder where she walks. We live close to countryside and find no pieces of wood suitable for making bookshelves. We built our own bookshelves thirty-odd years ago. We carefully measured the alcoves and bought wood, recycled planks, I hasten to add, cut to exact sizes. The shelves are still there thirty-odd years down the line.

My daughter-in-law, in the southern branch of the family, has been involved in DIY, clearing a space in the garden to make an al fresco craft area for her daughter. Today she plans to paint the fence in rainbow colours, with the help of said small daughter.

Lots of people are baking.

Within the family group we share photos of cakes and pies. On the menu today we have left-over sweet potato tart, with more green beans and some salad. Lemon yogurt cake and fruit for dessert. 

Hanging washing out in our respective gardens, a neighbour and I have set the world to rights ... at a distance, of course. We sang the praises of cordless vacuum cleaners and laughed at our use of vacuuming as away of getting some exercise. In my case, this has been delayed by writing this as now by the One O’Clock News.

Life goes on. Stay safe everyone.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Some coronavirus consequences.

People are buying fewer clothes. All those cancelled or postponed special occasions mean that fancy outfits are not needed at present. Some people are barely getting out of their pyjamas, or maybe they are changing from night-time pyjamas to day-time pyjamas, called lounge-wear by the fashionistas. Others are getting themselves dressed up for home-based date-nights. After all, part of the fun of going out on a date is the whole business of choosing an outfit, doing your hair, painting your face. On a home-based date I suppose you end up with a fancily-set table, candles and all, and then a specially selected movie on Netflix or similar. Personally I favour getting up and dressed, date-night or not. I can think of nothing more boring than staying in your jim-jams all day, not to mention how disgusting it must be to go to bed in the stuff you have been wearing all day.

Anyway, people are buying fewer clothes. This is not just not going to the shops but they are not ordering as much online either. Consequently small haulage companies, who probably deliver for the likes of Gap, Next, Fatface and others, are struggling to keep going. Vans are going out half empty and half their fleets are remaining in the carpark. One of the unforeseen consequences!

Here’s another: the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has re-registered as a medical practitioner and will work one shift a week to help out during the coronavirus crisis. Mr Varadkar worked as a doctor for seven years before leaving the profession to become a politician and was removed from the medical register in 2013. He rejoined the medical register in March, and offered his services to the HSE for one session a week, in areas that are within his scope of practice, a spokesperson for his office confirmed. "Many of his family and friends are working in the health service. He wanted to help out even in a small way," the spokesperson added.

Good for him!

And Cuba has been reaching out and helping again.

“Britain has thanked Cuban rescue workers for a “great gesture of solidarity” in helping the stranded passengers of a cruise ship struck by coronavirus. In a glowing letter, the UK ambassador in Havana said he wanted to express his “immense gratitude and that of my country” for Cubans’ role in the operation.

Cuba allowed the cruise ship MS Braemar to dock in Havana and allow its 682 mainly UK passengers to fly home, after other countries such as the Bahamas and Barbados refused permission because of Covid-19 infections onboard. But 43 Cuban workers, including a pilot, dock workers, police, and transport staff all had to go into quarantine for two weeks because of their close contact with the passengers. All have now been released and reunited with their families.

“During Operation Braemar, I witnessed the many qualities of the Cuban people, their humanitarian principles, kindness and hard-working attitude; facets of the Cuban character that I have come to know and love since I came to the country,” British ambassador Antony Stokes said in the letter dated 2 April, the day quarantine for the workers ended.”

Good for Cuba! 

And here is a story of romance rekindled. A couple of pandas in a Hong Kong theme park had been rather shy of mating, almost certainly because of the crowd of people watching out for them doing just that. Now that they have had a some privacy because of the virus-forced lack of visitors, they have been showing signs of amorous behaviour. Keepers are hopeful!

Thoughts about clouds and silver linings come to mind.

And then, to take our minds off our problems, along comes a supermoon. A pink supermoon at that! (I swear there were no supermoons when I was growing up!) Amazingly, we were able to see the moon for once. As a rule when something interesting is going to be seen in the heavens the clouds move in around here and nothing at all is visible. But we have had clear skies and so the moon, which I have watched moving towards the full, has been there for all to see most nights recently.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect here. All the reports said that the colour, more orange than pink, is best seen when the moon is low in the sky, at moonrise or moonset. Well, we have some large hills which get in the way of seeing the moon low in the sky at either end if its cycle. By the time it was visible from our windows it was just a fairly normal moon colour - but quite large and very bright!

There you go!

On the menu yesterday was a spicy sweet potato tart, made with mashed sweet potatoes, spiced up with harissa paste, and puff pastry, accompanied by scrambled eggs with ham (un revuelto de jamón) and a bit of salad.

On the menu today is left over “purple chicken” and some spicy potatoes. There is harissa paste to use up and I have just the recipe.

 Stay safe everyone!

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Tuesday morning virus thoughts.

Early this morning ... well, not that early ... about 9.30 .... I saw an aeroplane fly over our house. An unusual sight these days. Briefly I felt as if I was in one of those science-fiction films where the sight of a plane in the sky is the first sign that all will be well and that help is at hand. If only life were like the stories.

We have today received our letter from Mr Johnson. Not that it tells us anything that we have not heard already in the media.

Michael Gove assures us that Boris Johnson has not had to be put on a ventilator. The next thing we hear is that Gove himself is self-isolating. Surely all of those politicians and advisors who have had anything to do with Mr Johnson in the last few weeks, weeks in which we saw them all standing too close together, should have been self-isolating for at least a week now. Leading by example, following their own advice and working from home via modern technology.

And on the radio news, right now as I type, people are waxing sentimental about how wonderfully our prime minister has coped with things - first he had to deal with Brexit and now he has the virus!!

These words were posted by my daughter this morning:-

“I wish Boris Johnson a swift recovery.

I wish this horrible illness had not appeared. I wish so many were not struggling and dying alone. I wish this was not our reality. I wish our children were not having to live through this. I wish people were not having to face this in their work every day, and fight it on the front line.

I wish this government had acted quicker when they knew the path the disease was taking. I wish they had got the equipment our NHS needed in advance when they knew it was coming. I wish they hadn’t spent ten years cutting essential services. I wish they had learnt from the way other countries handled this crisis.

I wish they had told the truth. I wish they had been honest about why we haven’t got enough tests, enough PPE and enough ventilators. I wish they had sought to be part of every available method to get this vital equipment.

I wish ways to discourage the spread had been enforced sooner. I wish our prime minister had not encouraged people to shake hands and visit people known to have the disease, only three weeks ago.

I wish they had brought in measures to support people who are falling into poverty due to this virus sooner, and broadened them to incorporate all who need help.

I wish for everyone who is not following guidelines to take this on board and help us to control this virus.

I wish more people would question why our government have waited, lied and erred, instead of praising this massive mishandling of a life and death matter.

I wish the government had been brave enough to admit just how ill Mr Johnson actually was. I wish they hadn’t made it seem that there was some shame in it. This virus is so strong it takes the strongest, it is not the disease of the vulnerable we were led to believe. I wish Mr Johnson’s representatives had stood and told us how gravely ill he was without it having to be leaked to the press. I wish this message had been relayed, that even our prime minister could be taken in its grasp and have to seek help to fight it.

I wish Boris Johnson, and everyone else fighting this disease, a swift recovery.”

And I think that’s all I feel like saying this morning!

Monday, 6 April 2020

Things to look out for on your exercise walks. Virus odds and ends. And food!

The sun is shining again. The weather seems to have sorted itself conveniently so that it rains in the night but then is fine and dry in the morning. How considerate!

Around here suddenly we have lambs: it’s that time of year again.

There is also a rash of painted stones along the edge of bridle paths, perched on top of gate posts, wedged into nooks and crannies, balancing on the lower branches of trees. Some are just painted with splodges of colour but others are very carefully executed. Some time last year my six year old granddaughter had me looking for “fairy stones” in the park near her home in Chesham. Now they are appearing around here. Clearly parents have found another way to keep their offspring busy. And it’s another thing for those offspring to look out for on walks, along with rainbow paintings, teddy bears and other kinds of messages in windows and gardens.

Now that we can no longer even get near enough to kiss people in greeting, here is a very corny joke: 

Q: Can you name a nationality that kisses five times?
A: A Corsican! (Of course I can).

And here is a reminder to keep your distance.

Perhaps a timely one, as our prime minister, who only weeks ago boasted of shaking hands with coronavirus patients, has now been hospitalised.

If you want more of the same sort of cartoon, follow this link All the cartoons are based on children’s stories. Primary school teachers, parents of small offspring, and grandparents who read to their grandchildren will recognise them.

I have come across two stories about Barbados. One says that the USA has done a bit of piracy and seized ventilators en rout for Barbados. The other says that Cuba is sending 100 specialist nurses to Barbados to aid in the fight against Covid-19. If they are true is says quite a lot about a difference in life philosophy.

In a news programme the other day they were talking about food production in this country. There are odd discrepancies such as the farms that rear speciality breeds of beef cattle to provide fancy steaks for top class restaurants, now closed of course. What we need now is not fancy cuts of meat but standard minced beef for people to make spag bol at home - but not me, a no-red-meat person. So what will they do with their specialist beef? We may also need to produce a lot more of our own fruit and veg as transport difficulties arise.

And then there’s the soft fruit, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and the like, which have been picked for years by seasonal workers coming in from places like Bulgaria and Romania. Here’s a link to report of Scottish fruit farmers who are recruiting students and restaurant bar workers laid off because of coronavirus. They will need training as it’s more of a specialist skill than most of us imagine.

The religious nuts who don’t want to comply with social distancing are still around. Ron DeSantis, Republican Governor of Florida, designated religious services as “essential activities”. Then he swept away the right of cities and counties to ban them. “I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church. I’m certainly not going to do that,” DeSantis said. “In Easter season, people are going to want to have access to religious services.”

And in Israel they are having problems convincing ultra-orthodox Jewish communities that social distancing is necessary. They are meeting together in synagogues to pray. Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemite who used to take part in anti-government demonstrations, said some rabbis took a “long time to internalise the severity of the situation … and they truly believe that studying Torah is more important than anything else.”

Then there the more secular stories like this one about a young man who got lost trying to walk across the Pyrenees from France to Spain to buy cigarettes.  Clearly he has never heard the tales of Republican refugees from Spain during the Spanish Civil War or the French refugees fleeing the Nazis in World War II. There was a reason why those people needed a guide to help them get across the mountains, for goodness sake!

While I have been writing the sun has disappeared and the clouds have moved in. So much for considerate weather!

  On the menu today is Purple Chicken (a chicken casserole dish so named by my eldest granddaughter: the addition of red wine colours the chicken and makes the sauce taste good), the aubergine and tomato bake I invented the other day and whatever other veg is in my store cupboard. There might be blueberries for dessert.

 That’s all. Stay safe everyone!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Exercise under threat of one kind or another. Words. Small successes.

People in the south of the country were sunbathing in parks yesterday. As a result Matt Hancock is threatening to take away our exercising privileges. Mr Hancock said: "If you don't want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you've got to follow the rules." The health secretary said the vast majority were sticking to the guidelines, adding: "Let's not have a minority spoil it for everybody." Rather like punishing the whole class for the actions of a group of naughty kids. We in the north did not sunbathe!

It must be hard, however, if you have been confined to a small flat to resist the temptation to go out to the park and sunbathe. It is, after all, something of a British obsession. Possibly because we cannot guarantee a sunny summer we have a tendency to rush out when conditions seem right and take off as much clothing as we decently can and stretch ourselves out on the first available bit of grass. It doesn’t really matter that it’s only the beginning of April, when even Mediterranean folk are not rushing to the beach.

And I recognise that I am fortunate enough to live in a place where I can step out of my front door, walk a short distance along the road and be in the middle of a country walk. What’s more, if it comes to an exercise ban, there is always the exercise bike and the rowing machine. Or I could run round the back garden, although whether I could manage to run for thirty minutes round and round and round the garden is debatable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

One disincentive to heading for seaside places might be the seagulls. The East Riding of Yorkshire council has told residents: “Due to a lack of food sources, seagulls may be more hungry than normal and may behave aggressively.” Usually they scavenge fish and chip leftovers or even mob people eating fish and chips on the seafront but now nobody is out and about doing this and the birds are going hungry. Bridlington council, in line with Mr Hancock, is warning visitors to stay away. “Our message is please don’t go to the coast this weekend.” Local residents can do their daily exercise on the seafront, he added, but if they do, don’t have fish and chips in your hand. Are fish and chip shops still open in Bridlington? There might be a plus-side to this: “Herring gulls are creatures of habit and they pass their local knowledge on to their young. So, if we can adopt this behaviour now, and have a generation of young gulls who haven’t relied on human food, then theoretically it could be possible to break the cycle, and in future people would be more able to eat on the seafront without being mugged. That is a positive to come out of this.”

One of the latest bits of nonsense mythology I’ve heard is that there could be a link between 5G and the coronavirus. Phone masts have been attacked!! Just what we need when so many of us rely on modern technology to keep in touch with friends and family, with our loved ones. Not forgetting how important mobile technology is for the emergency services. The world is crazy!

Some good news: some of the supermarkets are offering their staff - shelf stackers, drivers, cashiers, etc - a bonus to say thank you for keeping us all fed during the crisis.

Now for something not at all crisis-related but connected with my interest in, nay, love of, languages. From the website Babbel, which offers to teach umpteen languages online, I have gleaned some delightful words which are almost certainly untranslatable into English. Here we go:

schnapsidee - a German word for ideas and plans so ludicrous that only a drunk person could have concocted them. 

meriggiare - an Italian word for the very specific act of resting in the shade at noon.

hyggelig - a Danish word for a comfy, cozy, intimate feeling.

gjensynsglede - a Norwegian word for the joy of meeting up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time - this is something we should all look forward to.

gattara - an Italian word for a woman who devotes herself to stray cats - I wonder if the stray cats, like the seagulls, are feeling neglected at the moment.

Yesterday I successfully produced a couple of usable face-makes. Wearable, at any rate. If the rest of the family want me to start a production line for them, I can offer plain white, two shades of blue, striped or flowery, but I will need supplies of elastic!

Also successful was my experimental aubergine dish, perhaps because you could not taste an awful lot of aubergine. Onions, garlic, tomato passata and aubergine slices. I still have half an aubergine and half the packet of passata that went onto the dish. I shall have to repeat the dish, maybe tomorrow before the aubergine is past its best.

Today’s menu is leftovers, mostly the noodles with peppers and tomatoes from Friday. My eldest granddaughter and I have often fantasised about a restaurant called either “Soup and a Sandwich” (an excellent lunch option by the way) or “Gourmet Leftovers”.

And finally, fingers crossed for singer Marianne Faithfull, now in hospital with the virus. It goes on and on!

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Communication. Clapping. Masks. Curious remedies. And food.

My Spanish sister sent me a video, taken I think from her balcony, a video of a stream of vehicles going along pipping their horns non-stop. This was the commentary she put on to accompany it:

“This is the show they put on for us yesterday just before clapping time: police, fire brigade, bin-men, taxi drivers and more, greeting the people in lockdown.”

I can’t say that I personally would appreciate a noisy cavalcade of motors going past my house but I understand the sentiment behind it. It’s a very Spanish thing pipping your horn and it can demonstrate both anger and delight. Wedding parties often do a kind of drive-by with klaxons at full pelt sharing the joy with all and sundry.

My sister also sent me photos of her smallest grandchild, born in February. I only hope she got the photos from her daughter and did not do a sneaky trip round to see him in person - also a very Spanish thing!

Here in the UK, I am reading increasing numbers of articles about the advisability of wearing a face mask when you go out and about. Even POTUS has spoken about it, although mostly he says that scientists and health experts advise it but he personally doesn’t like the idea. ‬Pressed about this reluctance to set an example, he said, “I just don’t want to wear one myself. They say ‘recommendation’, they recommend it. I’m feeling good,” – a remark that ignored evidence that many virus carriers do not show symptoms.

He went on: “I just don’t want to be doing – somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but this will pass, and hopefully it will pass very quickly.”

So it’s all about venerating the furniture, is it?

Even FLOTUS, aka Melania, has tweeted in favour of masks: on Friday evening, first lady Melania Trump tweeted: “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously.”

But then, the USA is still a little crazy about the whole business. The president won’t call for a nationwide stay-at-home policy; every state governor should make up his own mind. Useful!

And then there are the religious nuts. Last Sunday a Pentecostal pastor in Tampa, Florida, reportedly held two services to full houses in his River church. In his sermon he claimed the public health response to the virus was part of a plot involving the Rockefeller Foundation and World Health Organization, whose goals were forced vaccinations and mass murder. His congregations have been encouraged to hug each other and to shake hands as they are “revivalists, not pansies”.

On Monday, he was finally arrested for violating Florida’s rules on social distancing.

But he is not alone. And even those who acknowledge the reality of the virus suggest odd causes for it. In a blogpost last week, Ralph Drollinger, who has led Bible study for Trump cabinet members, suggested the virus was an instrument of divine judgment, and appeared to blame LGBTQ people. Drollinger later claimed that this was a misinterpretation.

There is also a bishop in Ghana selling an Anointing Oil that is said to safeguard Ghana from the Coronavirus.

And numerous sites on the internet give information about possible natural remedies, although most of them do have the rider that none of these remedies have actually been proven to work.

As for me, one of my tasks today is to rummage in my fabric collection and produce a couple of face masks for us to wear on our daily exercise sorties. According to my daughter, there are patterns for sewing your own on the internet. When you google face-masks, by the way, it also sends you to information about cosmetic face-masks to improve your complexion. Schrodinger’s net is both aware and not aware if the coronavirus crisis.

And on the menu today is a ham and mushroom omelette, with braised carrots and green beans and an experimental concoction of aubergine and tomatoes. Most of the recipes I have found for using aubergines involves ingredients which I do not have in my store cupboard and, indeed, would have difficulty obtaining at the nearest supermarket to here. A little improvising is called for.

Stay safe and eat well, everyone!

Friday, 3 April 2020

Life goes on - babies are being born - praise is given - meals are being planned!

Twelve years ago, in fact almost thirteen years ago now, I taught my very last ever A-Level class. My students already had my email address so that they could send me pieces of ongoing work as we went through the final year. Phil and I went off to spend a couple of years in Spain and my daughter got me onto Facebook so that she could easily send me photos of the grandchildren. Suddenly, one after another, my former students discovered me on Facebook and became friends. Some maintain intermittent contact and over the years I have watched them graduate from university, go off and work around the world, get married and, in more recent years, have babies.

At least one has had a baby since the lockdown started and another is about to do so. It must be quite terrifying to have planned and conceived a child in all innocence in less contagious times and now to realise that the very place where you thought delivery of that child would take place in safety, the hospital, has become one of the most dangerous places there is. Here is an article suggesting that hotels should be turned into birth centres for the duration. After all, they are standing empty. If it’s possible to transfer the necessary equipment that sounds like an excellent solution to me.

Yesterday evening loads of people stood on their doorsteps, their balconies, next to their open windows and applauded the NHS and emergency/essential services. It’s one way to see your neighbours, at a distance. We see the neighbours on our aide of the street across the back gardens but the across-the-street neighbours are a different kettle of fish. Our next-door-but-one neighbour stepped across the road to say something to the across-the-street neighbours, people she sees quite often as a rule, and almost forgot the social distancing rule. The cry of “keep your distance” went up, to much amusement.

Some people I know, well, myself included I must say, have been quick to remind everyone that the applause is for the key-workers, not for the government. However, I hear that a survey has found that at present 52 per cent of British people said they approve of Boris Johnson’s government’s record, compared to 26 per cent who disapprove. Really?!?! There must be a name for the syndrome that makes people take comfort from loving their leaders in time of crisis, However, research also found that 67 per cent of people think the government has handled the coronavirus test badly, compared to a quarter who believe they have handled it well. No further comment!

Easter is almost here and I read that tens of thousands of extra police and gendarmes are being posted across France to ensure people respect the lockdown and to stop the traditional “Grand Départ” for the Easter holidays on Friday. Patrols will set up checkpoints on all major roads and motorways out of towns and cities with orders to turn back those attempting to break the rules. Officials in areas popular with holidaymakers and where there is a high proportion of second homes have also been ordered to carry out checks to ensure there is no sudden influx of visitors.

Surely even the French, individualistic and a bit anarchic in some respects but very conformist in others, especially holidays, cannot be silly enough to insist on setting off on holiday at the moment.

It is to be hoped that restrictions might have eased by the time August comes along. Big cities in France traditionally empty at that point and routes to the seaside, especially heading south, fill up with laden cars and caravans. It has already crossed my mind that the Spanish will find it hard to give up a quick dip in the pool after work and a walk along the tideline up and down the beaches on high days and holidays, or just every weekend. Fingers crossed that the situation has improved as the temperatures rise! But we have to remember, as the French prime minister reminded his people, “The virus is not on holiday”.

When we organise a video chat with my daughter and family, at some point somebody at her end will find some way of embellishing their screen faces with crowns, flowers, hats, moustaches and odd contortions. I have no real idea how this is done. I simply do not have the app. Their faces are also converted into slices of pizza, animals or, very oddly, the sole of a foot! An article about how people are cheering each other up during the lockdown  ended like this: “Enjoy the shame of this American worker who somehow turned her face into a potato during a staff video conference. She couldn’t work out how to change it back and had to sit like a spud during the entire meeting.”

We are not alone in our silliness.

The food writer/ restaurant critic, Grace Dent, writes here about her cooking habits during the shutdown. So it’s not just me going on about food. On the menu today is a nameless dish made up of noodles and stir-fried onions, tomatoes and peppers with a good dose of soy sauce.

My daughter organised a delivery yesterday of  mixed fruit and veg. Now I have to find recipes for aubergine, never my favourite vegetable. So it goes!