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My blogger friend Gray is a staff nurse in Wales. Here is his latest post, unedited.

via Corona. Was once a soft drink. Now? 🖕🏻

Today is Easter Sunday for us and the majority of Romanians.

To all of you, but especially those of you who are working in our NHS, care and nursing homes, and many other vital roles, I send you all thanks and the traditional greeting for today:

Hristos a înviat!


During the current ‘lockdown’ we are being reminded many times a day of the possible effects on mental health. It will no doubt be a big problem for many, but … …

I have thought for a long time that the concentration in the past few years on treatment and support (clearly necessary) to the exclusion of looking at the underlying causes is wrong. I  believe that my mother’s generation (she would have been 100 in June this year had she lived), subjected to appalling stress and strain as a result of WWII, did not suffer from mental health problems to anything like the same extent as the generations following mine.

Why has mental health become a scourge on today’s and recent generations? I firmly believe that the cause is the sick society in which we now live, a society ruled by money in which the acquisition of the latest gadget has become paramount, illustrated very well by the words and actions of the current President of the USA (and the gun touting crowds now protesting in some states of his country).

Perhaps the current pandemic will bring about a rethink. Sadly, I doubt it in the long term.

Perhaps some people will claim that mental health problems were just as rife in my mother’s generation as in today’s, that it was just not recognised. I’m certain that is not true.

My mother’s generation

Why do I say ‘my mother’s generation’ rather than ‘my father’s generation’? Simple. My father, as a Royal Navy sailor, was almost never there. So my mother brought up me and my two younger brothers as, effectively, a single mother. At the end of the war my father died so she became a single mother in reality.

Studio photo of me and my younger brother

My younger brother and I, always smartly dressed, not just for this studio photo, clothes made my mother (trip to the studio probably paid by my grandmother).

Many times my mother did not know where the next meal was coming from. But it was always there. I still have wonderful memories of stew steaming in an enamelled bowl on the hearth in front of the shiny ‘black leaded’ range, dumplings floating on top, greeting us when we arrived from school (a little under a mile away) in winter, having climbed the steep hill home through deep snow; on foot of course, not picked up in a Range Rover.

She did not bemoan the fact that she could not afford to buy clothes to dress her three sons smartly; she made all our clothes.

Christmas was made special not by piles of presents from Amazon, but by sitting together making Christmas decorations and a chicken for Christmas dinner; it was too expensive for any other meal.

As one of my birthday (fifth birthday?) ‘treats’: when I was safely in bed and asleep she took up the ‘flags’ (for non Yorkshire folk, large heavy paving stones) in our small yard so the ‘fairies’ could plant many plants in flower to greet me in the morning. Of course I still remember it!

There are many other similar examples. The point I’m making is that, in general, my mother’s generation did not sink into depression when faced with difficulties. Why do you think that was? 


How easy it is to ‘catch’ the coronavirus; a reminder

While most people are abiding by the ‘lockdown’ instructions in the UK, there are still some people flouting them, if not to the letter then in spirit. So here’s a sobering reminder.

A friend of ours’ next door neighbour was fit and going for a 20 minute run in the park every day, observing distance rules. Following his most recent run he began to feel unwell, went to bed with a elevated temperature and developed a cough.

He had been infected by the virus!

I was waiting impatiently for the BBC to release its series ‘Spooks’ on iPlayer and they did that just in time for it to become one of my principal entertainments during the time my wife and myself are confined to our flat for 12 weeks, at least.

I have seen isolated episodes in the past but now I’ve been enjoying ‘binge watching’ the series, particularly as my favourite actor, Nicola Walker, features in so many episodes (I’ve mentioned her in the past for her roles in ‘Split’ and ‘Last Tango in Halifax’).

I saw a report that the creator of the Spooks series, David Wolstencroft, is suggesting some new episodes. If that happens I hope that although the series so far is of course fantasy, the number of love affairs – ‘adulterous’, ‘illicit’, etc, – is reduced considerably; they are indeed ‘fantastic’ (in its true meaning) to the point of being boring.

Leaves of Grass

Prompted by the most recent blog from my blogger friend Gray, who is an NHS staff nurse in Wales, I’ve downloaded Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ from the Gutenberg Project. It’s years since I read it and even then I doubt I read it all.

Gray is of course fighting on the front line in the current war – it’s certainly that – against coronavirus.

I guess I’ll buy the next in the series of Jack Reacher novels as some light relief.

Twelve weeks isolation

When I’m asked if the 12 weeks confinement to our small flat (3 weeks completed this coming weekend) I have to say that it’s not so bad. I’m old enough to remember the whole family sleeping in a cage (Morrison shelter?). I think this was close to the Fleet Air Arm base at Sandbanks, Dorset, where my grandfather was some high-ranking officer. The shelter was in the cellar (my maternal grandmother refused to sleep in it, remaining outside of it).  Also, seeing rows of houses without their front walls, revealing the lives of the former residents like dolls’ houses with their fronts open except the baths were hanging down on the lead drainage pipes. That was somewhere nearby. I remember few details but those images have remained clearly in my memory. I was probably about 3 years old!

Wharfe Valley

Mind you, we are lucky. Our sitting room window overlooks a park. Our kitchen and bedroom windows look over Yorkshire’s Wharfe Valley to the hills beyond.

The dawn chorus is now unspoiled by passing motor vehicles or planes from the nearby airport, and the air coming through the open widows is noticeably cleaner.

Writing

Of course I’m continuing to write, for the fortnightly virtual meeting of our writers’ club, for no reason at all other than I enjoy it, blog posts and attempting to get nearer to finishing my ‘novella‘.

So, what are you watching, reading or writing?

 

 

 

Second video chat meeting via Messenger of our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, 11 April 2020. The theme set was ‘messages’. This was my contribution, a short story.

Eight club members on Messenger video chat this morning

Top row, l to r: Sussi, John, James, me.
Bottom row, l to r: Ruxandra, Luc, Jo, Martin


Messages

Did you say something?” Robert looked up from his book towards his wife about two and a half metres away. They had stretched the measuring roll between them several times to be sure, he feeding it out slowly till she could reach it and pull it in. Two metres sixty seven centimetres precisely.

I didn’t say anything,” Simona replied. “But I was just thinking how much I love you.”

Are you sure you didn’t say it?” Robert asked. “I heard it clearly.”

I’m sure. But we know, don’t we, that we often don’t need to speak? Just think about it, how many times we either begin to answer a question before it is said, certainly before the voiced question is completed.”

I suppose it’s love,” Robert said thoughtfully.

Simona paused a moment, thinking, before replying, “Not only that. Don’t you find it sometimes happens with friends, even those thousands of miles away.”

“That’s true,” Robert replied, “that happens too, but more rarely. But it’s strange how many times I begin to think about a distant friend and almost immediately there’s a ping from my iPad announcing the arrival of a message. It’s not always from the friend I’ve just been thinking about but often it is.”

So does that mean you’re beginning to believe in telepathy? You always denied it before.” Simona sounded surprised.

I’m not sure, but it now seems to me more likely than not.”

Didn’t the Smithsonian Institute say in it’s magazine about five years ago that telepathy was ‘within reach’?”

Robert was dismissive. “That was a disappointing story, especially as it was from a renowned scientific institution. My view is that it was rubbish, the experiment supposedly ‘proving’ telepathy was possible involved computers, morse code and heaven knows what other physical technology. What we are talking about involves no such technology at all, just thoughts, or parts of thoughts, passing from one person to another with no physical intervention.”

Simona looked searchingly at Robert: “That’s interesting. So you really think it’s got something to do with love?”

Robert thought for a while before answering. “It depends what you mean by love. I’d say I love some of my friends, even some of the friends who I’ve met only through blog posts, but it’s not the same as when I say I love you. It has some of the same characteristics but not all. So I’d say it has something to do with love, in both senses, but not entirely.”

Didn’t you tell me once that when you were at university studying physics you did some experiments on telepathy, the results showing it existed being statistically out of the range of chance?”

I did, but I was young then and was impressed by a lot of so-called paranormal happenings, fired up by Dennis Wheatley’s books. I later saw all the flaws in the methodology and came to the conclusion that it meant nothing.”

But now you say that the existence of telepathy is more likely than not?”

I do. I’m much older, hopefully wiser, so now I have personal experiences which I can’t ignore.”

Do you think it’s something we’ve mostly lost,” Simona asked, “or something we’re just beginning to learn?”

Oh, I think it’s an ability we have largely lost. Animals seem to have it more than we do, which suggests to me that it’s something we mostly lost as we evolved to become more human.”

Both Simona and Robert fell silent, thinking.

The silence was broken by Simona: “Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. What did you say?”

Robert looked up surprised. “Nothing,” he said, “I didn’t say a word.”


Fake news

I am pretty disgusted with the British Press and tv, even the BBC. Even Laura Kuenssberg, usually so good and with a salary of around £ quarter of a million, seems to have descended to the level of the BBC presenters, even to that of the Daily Mail. And I’m surprised that The Guardian, usually so reliable, seems to have been unable to prevent a lowering of standards.

I now know even more surely why I buy no newspapers.

I listen carefully each day to the UK Government’s daily Press conference; at best some of the journalists do not seem to be listening, at worst just seeking sensation rather than truth. Some of the questions are idiotic.

Or is it a technique pioneered by David Frost? Ask the same question to which they know there is no satisfactory answer, over and over again, and the person questioned will begin to look incompetent. I remember well him trying that ruse in an interview with Tony Benn (who at one time I was interviewing from time to time in his role as Minister responsible for Technology) and Enoch Powell, from opposite ends of the political spectrum and both with ‘extreme views’ but both super intelligent. Frost ended up looking the idiot.

So sadly it’s not only the ‘fake news’ on social media spreading misunderstanding.

At the weekend Petronela and I had a shock: we were told we should stay in our flat for 12 weeks!

We had already been observing a 2 metre distance between us for a week because, as a teacher, my wife brings home any bug circulating and had another week to go to be reasonably sure she hadn’t brought home the coronavirus. Maybe she did and we both had really mild symptoms but we have no way of knowing that.

Oddly enough the 12 weeks ‘order’ was not because of my health condition but because my wife has medication (a self-administered injection every two weeks) which evidently lowers her immunity even more than the steroids I take to boost the effectiveness of my cytotoxic ‘wonder pills’.

So lucky to have the NHS and ‘wonder pills’

I’ve commented here before, long before the present pandemic, how lucky we are to have our NHS and everyone who works within it.

My ‘wonder pills’ cost, I understand, about £2,000 a month if picked up from a pharmacy, even the hospital pharmacy, less VAT if delivered (how crazy is that?). Petronela’s recently introduced medication – something like a ball-point pen which, rested on a thigh and pushing the button, inserts a small needle to administer the medication – cannot be cheap.

Both are delivered to us by another great organisation; super reliable on both delivery and reminders when a delivery is due, it is called HealthCare Services Pharmacy, based in Featherstone, West Yorkshire. So far we have picked up our more ‘normal’ medication from our village pharmacy but now they will deliver it.

First hospital internment

Having never been in hospital before my first visit (to A&E then a recovery ward) some six years ago, I was of course apprehensive. In fact apart from the usual childhood illnesses I had hardly seen a doctor since 1957 (?), when I had so-called ‘Asian ‘flu’, which made me really ill for a couple of weeks.

Following the visit to A&E I had three visits for surgery, an experience  which made me appreciate particularly the over-worked, underpaid, nurses,  the healthcare assistants and all the backup staff and volunteers.

I’ve blogged about these experiences, and a more recent visit for surgery, in the past, likening my stays in a six bed men’s ward at Airedale Hospital to a ‘holiday camp’ despite the inevitable pain.

Returning NHS staff and volunteers

The thousands of retired NHS health care people offering to return to work was no surprise to me. Nor were the hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help support people confined to home.

Our wonderful young neighbours

Before the call for volunteers was made our wonderful ‘upstairs’ neighbours, a young couple relatively recently moved in, had knocked on our door offering help and had already done some shopping for us. When I rang them yesterday to tell them we had been told to stay in the flat for 12 weeks and perhaps that was too much they said “no problem”!

Phil is working from home; Grace is furloughed from the dentists where she usual works and has already signed up to the ‘volunteering army’.

The good

So, we must remember the good which has come from the current tragedy.

  • A firm reminder of the good in the human race

  • A firm reminder that money and the acquisition of it is of relatively little importance once your basic needs are covered

  • How good it is to have clean air (many have never experienced it before) and so how important it is to get rid of polluting activities which destroy our planet

We must remember them

I’m afraid the lessons will not be learned:

  • Nurses and other health care professionals will continue to be underpaid and overworked

  • Money, “the root of all evil”, will rapidly assume its place governing us all

  • We will rapidly return to our polluting ways

There are others but this post is perhaps already too long, but I think for me it had to be said!

Members of our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, were disappointed when it became clear that we could not meet for the next scheduled meeting in the village library on 28 February.

Screen shot of the six club members in the video chat

Our first video chat. Trying to do a screen shot I obscured most of the picture of me but it’s a matter of learning on the job!

Our founder and leader, Ruxandra, who gives up nothing without a fight, suggested we try using a video chat group meeting on Messenger. We did and after a few small hiccups it worked perfectly. Six members took part, reading their contribution on the set theme of Addiction. Apart from the nonsense poem I posted here earlier (already circulated to club members) I wrote a kind of blog post.

It’s tongue in cheek, but not entirely!


Addiction

My village has an addiction: dogs.

I don’t understand this addiction.

It is certainly an addiction; the more ugly the dogs are the more of them there seem to be.

I’m not sure whether the owners come to look like their dogs or the dogs come to look like their owners. Some biological chemistry seems to be working to ensure that the more ugly the dog, or the owner, the more this is true.

For myself, not only do I not have this addiction but I dislike most dogs. I dislike their stupidity, their slavish adherence to what their human master dictates.

Distorted, expensive results of the pedigree system have become the penis symbols of today.

Do the owners, particularly men, realise how ridiculous they look strutting with their expensive acquisition or behaving like a sergeant major on the parade ground barking orders at their poor, distorted (sometimes abused, by cutting tail, ears and heaven knows what else) purchase.

The distortions of nature are either indulged by their human owners so they behave badly most, if not all, of the time. If well behaved they are either so anxious to please, rewarded perhaps by a tidbit, they do precisely as they are told, or cowed by the instant displeasure of their owner.

Cats

Let’s compare with cats.

Totally self-sufficient, if fed they will eat but never lose their hunting instinct. If not fed they will find a mouse, bird, anything small which moves and will eat it. If fed, they will do the same to hone their hunting skills.

Of course the felines also suffer from human intervention, pedigree breeding, to produce ridiculous examples of their kind but even they, if not imprisoned and cosseted, will revert to the wild.

Cats will be affectionate if they feel like it, ignore you if they do not.

Some dogs are excepted

I do have some exceptions to my dislike of dogs.

First are the guide dogs for the blind, mostly labradors and, as an extension of that I quite like most labradors and other soft-mouthed types, like spaniels.

Other exceptions to my dislike are wild dogs – foxes, wolves, dingos and the like – for similar reasons that I like cats.

But my dislike of domesticated dogs reaches its summit with small, pretty examples which insist on disturbing an otherwise pleasant audio environment with frequent, if not constant, yapping.

I yearn for a rifle to pick them off one by one until tranquility is restored.


I know some of the ugly distorted dogs are ‘rescue dogs’; of course I approve of this. Having brought them into the world as living creatures, we should certainly look after them.

Petronela (my wife for those who don’t know) and I have confined ourselves to our flat for at least two weeks, until we know whether she, as a teacher, picked up the virus at school.

Our writers’ club has become virtual but the theme given for the next  meeting on 28 March is ‘addiction’. Here’s what I sent to club members.


Here’s something ridiculous to amuse you, I hope, while I think of a more sensible response to Ruxandra’s theme of ‘addiction’ for the now virtual meeting on 28 March.

It seems some people still don’t accept as fiction
That anything less than total restriction
Will wave a welcome valediction
To the current widespread affliction.

It’s also a widely believed nonfiction
That any eventual bronchoconstriction
Will be banished by a benediction,
Having resulted from some malediction.

I also have a firm conviction
Even something of a little prediction
That even if my throat condition is no longer in my jurisdiction,
It will not, in future, affect my diction.

I say that because my throat already has a little constriction,
Caused some months ago by the eviction
Of a giant tube not shortened by magnetostriction,
Not by any kind of vasoconstriction.

Even so, there was no interdiction
Nor any kind of dereliction.
(So far I couldn’t fit in depiction,
Not even a bit of crucifiction.)

It’s just some nonsense, even a contradiction,
But I can end up with a bit of metafiction:

You guessed it, words and true rhymes are my addiction!

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