I was recently asked to write about self-isolation for our village newsletter Menston News. I chose to expand a little on what I had written on this blog around Easter time. Here’s what I wrote for the village newsletter.

Twelve weeks isolation, or more?

When I’m asked about the 12 weeks confinement to our small flat, due to end mid-June but quite likely to be extended, I have to say that it’s not so bad. Both my wife Petronela and I have been put in the extra vulnerable class. For the first couple of weeks we had to keep 2 metres between us because, as a teacher, Petronela could well have brought the coronavirus home. That was the hardest part. Another difficulty for her is missing her students at Allerton High School.

Front cover of Menston News showing Menston park

Front cover of Menston News, showing in general the view in Spring from our sitting room window. It is now largely obscured by the multiple greens of trees in full leaf, equally beautiful.

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

The fine weather means we can have the windows open night and day. The dawn chorus, usually spoiled by passing motor vehicles or planes from the airport, can be enjoyed and the air coming through open windows is noticeably cleaner. We are in no hurry to go back to things as they were.

We do miss our walks, close to home through the park, around High Royds, down Bleachmill Lane, on the Chevin, and further afield on the moors. Fifty times back and forth across our sitting room, just about 1km, is not quite the same!

The problem with the current war is that the enemy is silent, hidden until it strikes you, but in other respects the problem has similarities to what many people endured in WWll.

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, the sight of 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, remains clearly in my memory. As does the sound of the air raid siren, which unusually sounded like a baby crying. I was then about 3 years old!

We’re also lucky to have wonderful neighbours; the young couple in the upstairs flat, Grace and Phil, knocked on our door well before the call went out generally for volunteers, asking if they could help. Since then they have done our shopping. We had other offers too.

We’re lucky in other ways. So-called social media means we’re not so cut off as we might have been. Petronela works on lesson plans and keeps up regularly with her teacher colleagues and her parents in Romania with video chats. I have more time to write, as a keen blogger (https://grumpytyke.com) with ‘friends’ in many other countries (over a dozen), as a member of our Menston based writers’ club – Writing on the Wharfe – which continues to ‘meet’ through video chats on Messenger, or just for enjoyment.

We are not complaining. We know many are in a worse situation than us, for many reasons.


Final word

If I ever had faith in our present Government, not only for tackling the covid-19 pandemic but in general, that’s completely gone now. The continued support by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Dominic Cummings is ridiculous and, as implied in my question in a recent post, if this ‘adviser’ is essential for this Government to govern then who is actually governing?

It seems to me that we are being ‘governed’ by an unelected person whose main attribute seems to be an ability to win elections (and lie). As a former communications consultant I say he has no idea about truly communicating, certainly not the truth; I could do a better job even now, in my dotage!

The PM says he want to move on; the quickest way to have done that would have been to get rid of this dubious ‘adviser’. It still is.

This is not my final word; my final word will be a letter to my local MP Philip Davies.

As I feared. Not worth writing a post. Someone forwarded the following to me: perfect summary!


As I feared, people were flouting the lock down ‘rules’ in Leeds parks yesterday and, according the BBC, also in east London. I haven’t yet found out whether this was true in the Yorkshire Dales, places like Malham Cove being overrun at Easter.


It doesn’t take a behavioural scientist to say that substitution of ‘stay alert’ for ‘stay home’ would confuse the message, though at least one advising the Government has said it.


I will be extremely disappointed if Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirms this in this evening’s broadcast. It is even more stupid than the multiple hints that something might change after this weekend, magnified by the media.


We do not need a Prime Minister or Government which can be bullied by the media and opposition Parliamentary benches into changing the previously absolutely clear message.

I have little sympathy with the people using the lame excuse ‘the message is confusing’ for their errant behaviour. It was absolutely clear to anyone speaking English.

I commented last weekend about the increase of traffic on the road on the other side of our village park. After that I read about increasing traffic in the Yorkshire Dales and about the abuse one policewoman had to suffer from some drivers when she pointed out the error of their ways.

Fines, way too low

I think the fine, the level of a parking ticket, is far too lenient. In my closest city, Bradford, probably the city with the highest incidence of uninsured drivers in the UK and with the worst driving anywhere in the world from my experience, would not deter many in their go faster Subarus or enhanced Range Rovers.

Human rights, etc

I am fed up of people prattling on about ‘liberty’ and ‘human rights’ in this situation. What about my ‘human right’ simply to live, which they are endangering?

Realistic ‘punishments’

I’d like to see the fines replaced with at least 6 penalty points on a first offence, and removal of their driving licence on the second. As far as ignoring the instructions, or bending them, the fine should be enough to hurt, £1,000 minimum.

A better idea would be to ram wide tubes down their throats and force them to breath through that for a few weeks, as many of those in intensive care have to do, but without anaesthetic or induced sleep.

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?