1 April 2020 (Wednesday) - After the Night Shift

 

 

Yesterday evening I had this naïve idea that when I got petrol I might also get some food from Sainsbury's filling station for the night shift.

Oh dear...

I got to the filling station in Aylesford to find that the door to the kiosk was locked. They were only selling petrol (no food), and all transactions were being conducted via a drawer underneath a window. There were two people inside the kiosk. One was doing a barely adequate job of dealing with the public by taking their money; the other just seemed to be getting in his way. The one who wasn't taking the money was determined that no one in the forecourt should stand within ten yards of anyone else, and several times leaned on top of the one doing the work so that he could rudely bellow out through the serving drawer. It struck me as odd that this fellow was concerned that I should not be within ten yards of someone else whilst queuing to pay for petrol, but he was quite happy to be physically on top of his colleague.

Perhaps they were very good friends?

Seeing there was no food to be had I went up to the Sainbury's supermarket where there were two women guarding the door. One said I had five minutes to get my shopping; the other said I was too late. I walked away leaving them having an argument about the time.

If nothing else their petrol was fifteen pence a litre cheaper than it was a month ago.

 

I went into work and did my night shift. Fortunately I'd brought a sandwich so I wasn't as hungry as I might have been. Bearing in mind that we needed some bits and bobs I went back to Sainsbury’s after work. They were apparently opening half an hour early for NHS staff…

 

I got to the supermarket to find a queue of dozens of people waiting outside. I marched up to the front and asked if this was the queue for the NHS workers. “Oh no” I was told with a smile. “In you go”. Everyone else who was lined up was just waiting for the store to open properly. It was all rather embarrassing really. I apologised to the people in the queue and (rather pathetically) explained that I’d been up all night to which I got smiles and thumbs-up and was told the quicker I got my shopping the quicker I’d be back to work.

So I went into the store and somehow walked through a portal into another dimension.

Outside everyone was happy and smiling. Inside the customers were all in worlds of their own, and the staff all had faces like smacked arses. I asked one assistant where such-and-such was. She turned from the shelf she was filling, told me she didn’t work there and was a shopper like me, and went back to filling her shelf. When I went to the check-out to pay, the sourpuss at the till told me that I would rather use the self-service counter.

 

As I came home I listened to the radio. I did chuckle when one expert put the pundits on the radio in their place. He told them that their trouble was that they kept giving air-time to people who were talking about matters of public health, disease control and epidemiology when they clearly didn’t know anything about it.

I think that fellow had a point.

 

Once home I unloaded the shopping, went to bed and slept right through until Pogo woke me by treading on my goolies. Pogo is a lump, and when he treads on your goolies, you know about it.

I spent a few minutes making a Lego van for Lego world; I’ve got this idea of incorporating a Lego used car lot but until my base plates arrive I can’t really do very much with Lego world. I had a look on eBay to track them. They’ve left China and have an estimated delivery date of any time between Friday 3 April and Thursday 14 May. That’s rather precise, isn’t it.

 

"er indoors TM" took a lunch break and we took the dogs to the park. Why is it that when I go to the park I meet all the “special” and “delightful” people, but when she comes along we never meet any of them?

As luck would have it, "My Boy TM" and Cheryl were at the park taking little Rolo for a walk (Treacle spotted them first). We shouted hellos and walked together in a socially distanced manner. Not for fear of contracting any viruses but just in case any do-gooder might squeal us up for being an unlawful gathering.

We came home via the co-op field where Treacle and Pogo shot through a hedge into someone’s garden where then spent five minutes eating unmentionable stuff from a compost heap.

 

We came home; "er indoors TM" got on with her working from home, there seemed to be quite a kerfuffle with some client who had a problematical dongle. I put “Bottom” on Netflix and spent a couple of hours doing the ironing.

I hope its dinner time soon. I’m feeling rather peckish and I bought strawberries and cream when I went shopping earlier,,,

 

 

2 April 2020 (Thursday) - A Rant, A Remembrance

 

 

You would think that a sensible way to arrange the bed would be for the larger ones (the humans) to lay down and then the smaller ones (the canines) arrange themselves around the larger ones, wouldn’t you?

Pogo came to bed, laid down next to me and started pushing. Once he’d moved me about a foot or so he shifted over making room for Fudge, then kept pushing me until he had enough space for himself.

I did try pushing back several times, but in the end it was easier just to try to sleep on the space I had left.

 

Over brekkie I had a bowl of muesli which I scoffed whilst watching an episode of “The Good Place”, then I had a quick look at the Internet.

Yesterday I’d made a throwaway comment on Facebook suggesting that the current ongoing world-wide crisis is conclusive proof that the anti-vaccination nut-cases are totally wrong. This morning I saw that quite a few people had clicked the “like” button and a few had shared the comment too. That was nice…

I had a look at my emails. I had a connection suggestion on LinkedIn. At first sight I would have nothing at all with an “independent pharmaceutical consultant” but on closer inspection it was someone with whom I was at school. I clicked the “connect” button only to be told that the connection request could not be made. Isn’t Linkedin crap? It suggests endless people with whom you have nothing on common and doesn’t let you connect with the people you want to.

 

As I drove to work I listened to the pundits on the radio who were rather worrying me today.

I rarely blog about work, but today I will make an exception.

About fifteen years ago there was a far-reaching investigation into the provision of diagnostic testing in the UK (blood tests, smear tests, urine tests... all the sort of stuff that I do every day to which everyone else turns up their noses and says "yuk"), After a *lot* of (so-called) fact-finding the chap who ran this investigation announced that the way forward for the UK's diagnostic services was to close many of the laboratories and to centralise much of the testing. No one seemed to think it strange that this was completely at odds with what Lord Darzi was recommending for the rest of the NHS at the same time (i.e. building up local services at a local level) but what did we who actually do the job know?

Bearing in mind that many people involved in doing the jobs that were being centralised weren't high-paid, were (for the most part) bringing in the family's second wage, and weren't prepared to relocate, many highly skilled laboratory workers packed it in and went to work elsewhere. The labs which survived the culls therefore found themselves with massively increased workloads but with no extra staff to help with that workload. Effectively the nation made a deliberate decision to shed skilled staff, close some diagnostic laboratories and massively over-work others.

Today we see the consequences of that decision... So...

Do we see if we can get those qualified and skilled people back into the workforce? Do we try to build up downgraded hospital laboratories?

No.

It would seem that the way forward is to open up diagnostic testing to anyone who wants to have a go. And that's where I get annoyed.

 

For years diagnostic testing has operated under the most stringent regulations to ensure the highest possible quality of results. This isn't protectionist, this is because doing such testing takes an element of skill and expertise, and the consequences of getting it wrong are serious (and potentially deadly). Are those volunteering to "have a go" going to operate to the same standards as the rest of us? I sincerely hope so, but I can see this being the thin end of the wedge. How long will it be before the entire medical diagnostic field is de-skilled and replaced with anyone who fancies wearing a white coat?

And how far will this go? Much of the NHS's transport system has already been replaced by volunteers. When I spent much of the night at the local hospital’s A&E department on 14 December 2019 I met a chap who had been waiting for over six hours for a volunteer to come and drive him home.

When you turn up at an A&E department next year will you see a physician who has been to medical school for years, or will you see a St John's Ambulance volunteer who has done a few evening and weekend courses in her spare time and thinks that "Holby City" is real?

 

(takes a deep breath...)

 

At tea break my phone beeped with a notification. A friend had died.

We first met Hurksy through the noble art of hunting for film pots under rocks. Incredibly dedicated to this pursuit he would not walk away until he'd found what he was looking for. We'd waste hours hunting for geocaches that weren't there any more. Up until he decided he's rather hunt for Tupperware up a tree than on the ground we'd go out every weekend. All over Kent and Essex, with several weekends away in Sussex, and one particularly memorable trip to Cornwall. He was very jealous of my hat ("the world's sexiest hat"); he thought I didn't know that he'd set light to it on a summer barbecue.

He earned the sobriquet "Gordon Tracey" from the time when he failed to completely clear the river he was jumping one New Year's Day.

He'd been ill for some time, and passed away last night.

There's never a good time to die, but what with the ongoing lock-down his funeral will be a rather quiet thing. I hope there's a remembrance event at some point.

 

 

3 April 2020 (Friday) - High Risk

 

 

Although the dogs gave me some space last night, one of them was having a nightmare in the small hours. Not only did they wake me, but their plaintive cries were so unsettling that I didn’t get back to sleep after that.

Over a bowl of muesli I watched an episode of “The Good Place” then peered into the Internet. \With jokes and games and videos being posted it was nowhere near as dull as often it can be.

 

As I drove to work I listened to the pundits on the radio who were interviewing yet another vacuous windbag, They do that a lot. This one was talking about how in the current crisis it has become the normal thing to be working from home and then made wild speculation about how society will change in the future, but with absolutely no evidence to back  up what he was claiming.

I do wish the people who plan these radio shows wouldn't keep wheeling on these idiots who seem to live in cloud cuckoo land where the "might-bes" play with the "ifs". Is there *really* no actual news they might be broadcasting at the moment?

This was followed by the "Thought for the Day" section in which someone or other was dribbling on about how he only went to church to suck up to God, but now that the churches are closed he misses the other people he meets there. He then wittered on about how people like meeting other people at church and wasted a good five minutes of prime-time radio. Whilst there is always a need to pause for thought and reflection, when you consider that only fourteen per cent of the UK population actually go to a church perhaps something that appeals to the majority might be a better use of the TV licence fee that pays for Radio Four?

 

With a few minutes to spare I went to Sainsburys for the early opening for NHS workers. I arrived to see there was already a queue of dozens of normal people which was stretching round the car park waiting for the eight o'clock opening. At half past seven four of us "key workers" walked past them and were let in to get our shopping. EI hadn't given me a list so I got what I thought we needed. Rice, cereals, sugar, biccies, a bottle of plonk and turnips for the dogs (they *love* turnip).

The woman on the checkout watched me with suspicion as though she expected me to attack her at any minute. She was certainly judging what I was buying.

As I walked back to my car I thought I might deploy a cheeky munzee, but the app had gone west. I whinged about this on Facebook; it would seem the app had gone west for a lot of people.  What with much of the nation on lock-down and geocaching officially declared to be marginally more dangerous than poking hungry tigers with a sharp stick (have you seen the geocaching "discussion" groups recently?) there's been an upsurge in Munzee-ing amongst those who are allowed out of the house. You would have to work hard to catch a virus by scanning a bar-code (but I'm sure it could be done if you tried hard enough).

I'm told the app randomly returned to normality at some point during the morning.

 

A *lot* of people are currently locked up at home all day long. I'm very lucky that I can got out of the house to go to work. I did my bit today, but (apart from a Whitby bun in the afternoon) it was rather dull.

Just as I was about to go home my phone beeped. A text from NHS England. They apologised to me that I wasn’t officially labelled as “high risk” last week, but they were asking for clarification before reconsidering my case.

Am I at risk of going down with the virus? There’s no denying that I knowingly come into contact with it many times every day, but that’s my job. I can’t imagine why I’m being considered to be “high risk”. I don’t want to be; I don’t want to be stuck indoors for three months.

 

Once home we took the dogs out for our daily permitted one bit of exercise. For the first time ever both Treacle and Pogo ran off. I think they’d got the scent of a rabbit. Poor Fudge was too slow and was captured before he realised what was going on.

I’m going to make the most of these dog walks whilst I still can…

 

 

4 April 2020 (Saturday) - A Lithuanian Ale Sort Of Day

 

 

"er indoors TM" went to the loo in the small hours and there was a mass exodus as all the dogs followed her. I got up for the loo an hour later. No one followed me, and I came back to find all the dogs had made themselves comfortable in the warm space where I had been.

With the on-going lock-down our usual weekend walk was out the window, and with absolutely nothing on the agenda we didn’t wake up until after nine o’clock.

 

I made myself some toast; rather paranoid about using bread. With "er indoors TM"’s car being in the garage for the foreseeable future and shops having massive queues and keeping 1970s hours I’m rather paranoid about the shopping at the moment. There’s no real need for this; being a “key worker” I am allowed to jump the queues (provided I get there early enough) and we aren’t short of anything really, but still I worry.

 

I had a little look at the Internet. There were posts on Facebook from some rather thick people who (having totally misunderstood scientific papers which are clearly beyond their understanding) were advocating eating very acidic and alkaline foods to defend themselves from corona virus. The idea is that corona virus cannot survive in any pH below five or above eight so taking your own body’s pH above or below these levels would stop the virus from infecting you.

It is a brilliant idea in theory… in practice your lungs and kidneys would thwart any attempt to alter your body’s pH so right up to the point where trying to do so killed you.

 

We took the dogs out for a walk. "er indoors TM" wanted to carry on working on the series of geocaches she started planning last weekend. I wanted to test out using “Hannah” (my GPS unit) to plot where we’d walked onto a map. And the dogs wanted a walk. So we all went out four a four-and-a-half mile wander.

The walk went well; it was a bright day. We saw quite a few other people but managed to keep far enough away to prevent spread of virus (they can only jump so far, you know!). We met several other dogs and Pogo only barked at one.

We came home; after a quick Whitby bun and a cuppa we went out into the garden where I made my video for the “Really Skillful Angling/Toilet Roll Challenge”. It would have been easier with the dogs not in the way, but that’s my world these days…

 

I then popped over the road to the shop. They have a rather impressive international beer selection, and I (possibly) bought far too much beer. "er indoors TM" sat by the pond and had a bottle of Russian lager; I sat half-way up the garden and drank a rather interesting selection of Lithuanian ales whilst reading Alexei Sayle’s autobiography on my Kindle until it was too cold to sit in the garden..

 

"er indoors TM" baked some bread and made some soup. It was rather good; we scoffed it whilst watching “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”; Lord Lloyd-Webber has arranged for some of his musicals to be available free to the public on You-Tube for a limited time during the ongoing coronageddon.

 

There’ no denying that today wasn’t quite the day I was planning; I can’t pretend to like the current lock-down, but I understand the rationale behind it, and if I have to abide by it, I will make the most of it.

 

 

5 April 2020 (Sunday) - Early Shift

 

 

I had a relatively good night; I *think* one of the dogs might have had a growl in the night, but they do that.

I watched an episode of "The Good Place" as I scoffed granola then had a look at the Internet. Silly memes and jokes were in abundance, but unfortunately so was utter misunderstanding (again). One vague acquaintance was posting messages of stark terror having drawn completely the wrong conclusion from the fact that there is more than one strain of the corona virus, and this left me in something of two minds.

On the one hand there is no denying that many people aren't that well educated and really should try to better themselves. On the other hand some people do themselves no favours by reading stuff they really don't understand, confusing themselves, and then showing their ignorance by trying to tell the world something which is factually wrong.

Am I really being that judgmental when I can't help but think that if more people had paid attention at school they would know better than to believe the drivel posted on-line by other people who had paid even less attention at school.

 

There was a surprising amount of traffic about as I drove to work at seven o'clock this morning. More so than most Sunday mornings. Where was everyone going? (bearing in mind it was seven o'clock on a locked-down Sunday morning).

As I drove to work there was something on the radio about how maggots can be used as forensic evidence. I would have liked for the people presenting this information to have explained how, rather than having them continually repeating themselves. But I suspect that this information might have turned the stomachs of the very few people who were listening to the radio at that time in the morning.

The news then came on. There was talk of the new leader of the Labour party having a go at the government's handling of coronageddon. I suppose he has to have a go at them; that's his job. But realistically no government would be able to do much more than the current bunch have done (without declaring martial law). My main concern with the new leader of the Labour party is that we might have yet another one determined to make himself unelectable. The Labour party have a habit of doing that. Jeremy Corbyn, Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot… Sometimes I wonder if the Conservative party gets to pick the Labour leader, or whether the idiotic choice of leader is a clever move on the part of the Labour party in that they get to criticise the government of the day safe in the knowledge that they will *never*  actually have to put their money where their mouth is.

 

I got to the works car park. With a few minutes spare I walked round to Tesco for bread and margarine. I went to pay; the woman on the counter pretended to be busy so I used the self-service thingy. When I went to shove my card in the slot I saw just how grubby the card reader was so (bearing in mind just how hygiene-mental the world is right now) I asked the woman at the tills how often the card reader was cleaned. She (rather contemptuously) replied "I don't know - I just work here".

Well, if she don't know...

I've seen a lot of people posting on social media about how much abuse shop workers are getting at the moment. But from my own experience shop workers aren't helping themselves very much right now.

 

I went in to work and did my thing As I did I found myself whistling all the songs from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat" that were going through my head after last night's TV performance.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the glorious day outside, but I wasn't missing much today. With the world on lock-down none of my friends were doing anything more adventurous than sitting in their own gardens. I sat in mine yesterday; it's not that exciting an activity really.

 

With work done I came home, and we took the dogs round the park for our daily exercise. There were quite a few “normal people” in the park. One rather idiotic child stood on a bench and started some odd fidgety dance whilst making strange noises. Apparently he didn’t like dogs… I considered telling him that if he didn’t like dogs then he shouldn’t try to deliberately attract them, but I thought better of it.

The people who hide painted rocks had been out; we saw a few, but decided against moving them. Not for fear of the virus, but from the public backlash of doing something (supposedly) so reckless.

In a novel break with tradition the dogs were terribly behaved. Fudge wasn’t too bad, but Pogo and Treacle ran off twice.

 

This evening we watched the Queen’s address to the nation. Apart from her annual Christmas speech, the Queen rarely talks to us in this way; coronageddon must be serious for her to do so.

I must admit I was disappointed.

I have no idea what I was expecting, but just to have Her Majesty repeat what we’ve all been told (in an address which was recorded a few days ago) was something of a disappointment. Mind you, on the plus side, the Queen looked well.

 

 

6 April 2020 (Monday) - This n That

 

 

After a better night I watched an episode of “The Good Place” before having my usual peer into the Internet. This morning I had a rather snotty message from the chap who sold me a Lego model Cadillac last September. On the day when I put the thing together I wrote here “To be honest I could have made the car in a fraction of the time had I not needed to keep popping to my Lego store to get spare parts. Am I being unfair in expecting that when I buy a Lego set from eBay, it should be complete?”. I gave the chap neutral feedback about it on eBay, and now (seven months later) he’s got the hump and wanted me to contact Facebook to amend what I wrote.

As the day went on I found myself exchanging emails with this seller. He maintained that what he'd sold me was a complete set. I took the line that bits were missing (because they were).

From his point of view I was in the wrong for not giving him a glowing report.

From my point of view he sold me something that was not as was described and then took seven months to respond to my complaint which he then denied entirely.

In the end I offered to contact the people at eBay and ask them to change my initial neutral feedback of "Item was not complete" to a negative feedback of "Item was not complete. Seller took seven months to respond, then did so with a stream of confrontational messages". I think this has effectively closed the matter.

In over six hundred transactions on eBay I've only had a handful of bad experiences, but I suppose no matter where you shop there will be instances when things don't go smoothly. But doesn’t this sum up all that is wrong with the “feedback” mentality? The accepted etiquette is that you give full marks no matter how crappy the goods or service received. Whenever I buy an e-book on Amazon the thing always comes with a plea from the author to give them a five-star rating. I know of a few authors whose e-books have got such five star ratings from their mates (who haven’t even read the books that they’ve rated). I can’t help but wonder how many people gave my eBay fellow a good review because that is the expected thing to do even though their purchase wasn’t what they were hoping for?

 

I saw my father-in-law was still posting misinformation on Facebook about the dangers of 5G technology. There is a crackpot group in Hastings who are trying to scare the masses about the possible dangers of 5G technology despite their so called “scientific evidence” showing a really fundamental misunderstanding of science. What they are saying is akin to claiming that all insurance is bad because a third-party insurance policy on your motorbike doesn’t cover water damage from a leaking washing machine.

I have a theory that the person leading this campaign doesn’t wasn’t a 5G mast built near her house because it might block her views.

I might be wrong… I wonder how I might find out.

 

As I drove to work this morning the pundits on the radio were talking about the Prime Minister having been admitted to hospital last night. His bout of illness with the corona virus had taken a turn for the worse, and I found myself thinking about the chap today.

Boris Johnson would seem to be making a fair stab at being Prime Minister; better than I thought he would. Several times over the last few years I said that Teresa May had made such a stuff-up of Brexit that whoever took over would be seen as the saviour of the nation, and judging by his election victory last year Boris was certainly seen as that. His recent firm stance about social distancing has shown him to be a decisive leader where others might have dithered. Now he's gone down with the disease himself, self-isolated, been admitted to an NHS hospital, and with reports that he's been given oxygen he really is being seen to be suffering with the rest of us.

Rightly or wrongly, unless he deliberately makes a total tits of things, he will probably go down in history as one of the most popular Prime Ministers ever.

 

With dog food being in short supply at home I went to Sainsburys before work where there was already a queue forming. I joined the queue to find that (yet again) my "idiot magnet" was working at full power. I was directly behind a "rather delightful fellow" who was loudly ranting about how he'd come to get the shopping even though he had no idea what to get. He was not at all happy that Sainsbury's have announced a policy that only one person per family needs to go shopping. Everyone knows (so this chap was telling everyone) that both he and his wife have to come shopping together. Apparently (like most women!) she can't be allowed to drive, and (like most men!) he can't do the shopping because it is "women's work"(!) He explained in great detail and at great volume to everyone within fifty yards how he'd made a decision. Because she would stuff up the driving more than he would stuff up the shopping, he'd left his wife at home whilst he came out. (I would have thought that he could have driven her to the car park and then stayed sitting in the car whilst she shopped, but I wasn't going to get into a conversation with the chap).

After fifteen minutes of this idiot repeating the same old tired misogynistic drivel the supermarket doors opened, and a call went out to NHS workers in the queue who were invited in half an hour before everyone else. It was with something of a sense of relief that I was first one through the door this morning. As I went in I could hear the idiot arguing with the Sainsbury's staff claiming that because he should be regarded as a "key worker" because his wife wasn't with him and it takes him ages to do the shopping.

I got what I needed; dog food and spuds. Heavy stuff. As I passed the bakery counter I saw yet more supermarket staff doing themselves no favours at all. One chap had asked a question of the woman behind the bakery counter. She replied "We don't answer customer's questions any more".

And the supermarket staff wonder why the public get cross with them.

 

I went in to work. It was a colleague's birthday today. We had cake. And with my bit done I came home.

 

"er indoors TM" is out with the dogs. I wonder what’s for dinner…

 

 

7 April 2020 (Tuesday) - Ten Albums?

 

I woke feeling full of energy and raring to go only to find it was a few minutes before two o’clock. I then lay awake for much of the rest of the night. Eventually I gave up trying to sleep and got up to check the news. Had the Prime Minister died overnight?

He hadn’t.

He remained in intensive care. Although the Foreign Secretary has stepped into the breach for the time being, the running of the country is all a bit vague at the moment. There is no “official” chain of command. And there isn’t really any historical precedent. Although seven British Prime Ministers have died whilst in office, the most recent one to go was over a hundred and fifty years ago.

 

I then watched an episode of “The Good Place” whilst scoffing granola, then had a look at the Internet. I took a deep breath when I saw I’d been tagged in a post on one of the geocaching pages. “Here’s a fun project for you to spend your time on” was the caption… Why is it that I get tagged to work on the fun project for the benefit of everyone else on that group whilst many others have been posting on Facebook about how bored they are during the on-going lock-down? In the last three weeks I’ve created a fifty-cache series and written four wherigos. I’m planning more cache series whilst I’m still working full time across two rather busy hospitals. But I still had a look-see to find out what the “fun project” was. It turned out that the Geocaching Association of Great Britain are running a competition. They want stories of geocaching adventures. I immediately thought of an epic trip round the Sussex Downs from two years ago, or the trip to Cornwall, or our European road trip, or two separate weeks in the New Forest.

I might just write a story or two.

 

I walked seemingly miles to my car. Last night I'd had to park it half-way up Bond Road which is (in terms that some of my loyal readers might understand) three geocaches from home.

As I drove in the general direction of Tunbridge Wells the pundits on the radio were talking about coronageddon. They don't talk about much else at the moment really.

A *lot* of concern was expressed for the Prime Minister's health.

There was talk about if and when the lock-down might be eased.

It was suggested that shutting schools might not have achieved much in stopping the spread of the disease.

But what I remembered most about the morning's news was that in the middle of concern and opinion about the worst public health crisis to have hit the country in a hundred years and our Prime Minister in intensive care, they had a ten-minute slot in which Prince Charles presented some pompous and pretentious drivel about the poet Wordsworth. The pundits on the radio said that Prince Charles had recorded what he said some time ago. They should have saved it for another time I *really* think it should not have been played this morning; it made the heir to the throne seem to be utterly out of touch with reality. As an ardent monarchist it bothers me that I listened to the radio this morning thinking of our future king as an irrelevant idiot. The average person in the street is (at best) utterly indifferent to poets from two hundred years ago; someone really should have a word with Charlie.

 

I got to work; I did my bit. As the day went on we followed the Prime Minister's progress via Google News. He seemed to be on the mend. Interestingly with all the excitement of the virus and the lock-down and Mr Johnson being ill, no one seemed to notice that a secret alien base has been discovered six kilometres underneath a volcano in Mexico.

 

I stopped off at the little shop in Sissinghurst on my way home. I had this idea that a country village shop might have some rather good cheese. They did. They also had something of an attitude, but that goes with the territory of a country village shop.

I got home just as "er indoors TM" was taking the dogs out. As they went so I watered trees and shrubs in the garden, gave myself a haircut, and had a ponder. A colleague had nominated me on one of these Facebook things; to choose ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music. I have to post one album per day for ten consecutive days. No explanations no reviews, just album covers. I eventually came up with a list (listed alphabetically by album title and only allowing myself one album from any group); it took some doing… 

 

 

8 April 2020 (Wednesday) - A Day's Leave

 

 

"er indoors TM" had quite a bit of space on the bed last night. I didn’t. Is it so much to ask that dogs sleep parallel to me (so we all have space) rather than perpendicular to me (so that I do not)?

 

I got up later than I would usually get up (but earlier than I had planned), set the washing machine going, and peered into the Internet as I scoffed toast.

The first fruit of my loin has changed his Facebook cover photo to a photo of him and a waxworks dummy of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Yesterday a good friend of mine posted good wishes for Mr Johnson (whilst he is unwell) and said that anyone who disagreed with him could crawl back under their rock. The Prime Minister is clearly loved…

I must admit that when he came to office I had very low expectations of Boris Johnson… look at his track record. We all expect politicians to lie, but he surely takes the biscuit. He has been sacked from three jobs for telling lies. The Brexit campaign he led has been shown to be based on a pack of lies. And since he took office… Don’t take my word for it. Type the phrase “list of Boris Johnson’s lies” into Google, then use Snopes or any other fact-checking website to trawl through what you find.

He finalised his divorce less than two weeks before announcing that his girlfriend was pregnant. Call me old-fashioned but am I the only person who feels that it is questionable (at best) that the Prime Minister’s girlfriend is only six years older than his oldest child?

But still the public love him. And I must admit to a sneaking admiration of him despite the damage he and his government are doing to so many aspects of our national life. History will probably record him as one of the nation’s better Prime Ministers. Boris Johnson is an amazing figure; he puts on a show for the masses, and the masses lap it up. I can’t help but liken him to Zaphod Beeblebrox who was the Galactic President in “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”; a role that involves no power whatsoever, and merely requires the incumbent to draw attention away from those really wielding the power.

 

I also had an email which made me think “what if”. Five years ago I had the opportunity for a secondment to the medical laboratory in the South Atlantic island of St Helena. I turned it down, but this morning I had an email from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asking if I would like to go out to St Helena for three to six months (all expenses paid) to assist with the COVID-19 preparation and response in St Helena.

The simple answer was “Yes!” I *would* like to go out to St Helena. But how practical would it be? Having given the matter some serious thought in 2015 it was a pipe-dream at best then. Now with a global pandemic kicking off is no time to relocate to a rock in the South Atlantic miles from anywhere.

 

I told Facebook about today’s choice of album, popped the leads on to the dogs and we walked into town. Last year I was awarded five geocaching Adventure Lab caches. The idea is that you go to a location, answer a simple question and move on. I found five rather obscure places in Ashford and set it all up. Since then those who like to spoil the game blagged the answers and published them on a spoilers page together with instructions on how to trick your GPS into thinking you are half a world away.

Today I took the dogs to the five locations and worked out new questions that can’t be blagged from Google Street View.

We came home via the park where I had something of a shock. A young lady was doing her exercises on one of the footpaths. Part of her exercise routine involved having some elasticated band around her thighs. However from more than five yards away it really did look as though her knickers had fallen down.

 

One home I had a go at the lawn. As always strimming the lawn’s edges took an age. I really need to get some strimming line that doesn’t keep snapping every twenty to thirty seconds.

With that strimmed I drove "er indoors TM" to the garage where she rummaged in her car for something or other, then I drove her to the co-op so she could do the shopping for a change. For all that I’m having a go at shopping I’m not convinced I’m doing it at all well…

Seeing my new blue marker pen had arrived I took it up to the loft and coloured in the heads of what will be Lego Bill and Lego Ted. The blue statue seems to work. I then spent an hour or so sorting Lego; the sorting would have gone much better had Treacle not jumped into the middle of it all.

 

At six o’clock I sparked up my lap-top. We’d arranged a virtual meet-up for the Kent Association of the Hunters of Tupperware, and used the Zoom software. We had twenty-three people on screen at one stage; it was good to catch up.

I ironed shirts, I watched “Bottom”… not a bad day’s leave really…

 

 

9 April 2020 (Thursday) - More Cake

 

 

I had some Sainsbury’s own-brand muesli for brekkie. I have to wonder whatever possessed me to buy two bags of the stuff; it isn’t that good.

I watched a little telly as I scoffed it, then sparked up my lap-top. I sent out birthday wishes to three friends, and had something of a little existential crisis. My old schoolfriend Dave Thornton was fifty-six today. Fifty-six. Where have the years gone. How can he be that old? Is it really that long since we went fishing, or walked miles to get chips? He was the chap who introduced me to the Electric Light Orchestra, and now he’s old?

And then I realised that I’m two months older than him, and suddenly all was well again. What was that all about?

I told the world about my third album choice. As luck would have it, having decided to list alphabetically by album title meant that of the albums I’ve chosen, the two most mainstream and most remembered ones went out first. The last eight are rather more obscure; particularly now some forty years after most people have forgotten about them. Take today’s choice… do any of my loyal readers remember BA Robertson?

 

Having completely forgotten where I'd left my car yesterday I spent quite a while this morning roaming the streets to find it. It came to light where I'd left it.

As I drove to work the pundits on the radio were talking about the ongoing moves to form a "land army" to harvest the crops of fruit and vegetables that have been planted but have seemingly no one to pick them. This problem was originally brought up four years ago when all the East European fruit pickers went home after the Brexit vote, but no one in the media really wanted to say anything about it then. But now we have coronageddon to blame it all on, it looks like a small army of workers will be mobilised to get the harvest in.

Odd how the public will come together to sort out what is being billed as the aftermath of the corona virus, but no one did anything for the last three years as Brexit was seen as too political.

 

I got some petrol on the way to work, and then went on to Sainsburys where there was some consternation in the queue. The idea was that everyone forms one queue outside the store, and then the NHS workers come forward (when called) when the doors opened at half past seven. What actually happens is that everyone comes forward when the doors open at half past seven and every person who is in the queue has an argument with the staff on the door when they can't show a valid NHS staff ID card. Having seen this happen before, several NHS staff formed their own queue this morning, and when half past seven came, a row kicked off between those in their own queue and those NHS staff in the main queue (like me). In the middle of all of this was some old bat who announced that she was going in anyway as she's an old lady and no one was going to stop her. She got rather irate when she was stopped.

Interestingly for all that the Sainsburys staff (both at the store and the petrol station) are very quick to ensure that the general public maintain social distancing, they certainly don't do it themselves.

It's got so that I don't so much go to Sainsburys before work for the shopping as for the entertainment.

 

I got to work; I did my bit. As we worked the boss was singing the praises of a certain source of continuing professional development. I'm not sure who was the most impressed; her to find that I was the author of that website, or me to see that the boss had a shortcut to my CPD blog on her phone.

At tea break we had cake (again). Some grateful member of the public had sent in a load of "thank you" buns. I scoffed mine as I finished my current e-book... I must make a confession here. the author of these books is a friend of mine. This must affect how I view them... His writing style is very reminiscent of the works of John Wyndham; whilst dealing with rather up-to-date concepts in astrophysics, they do read as if they were written fifty years ago. The books are billed as a series; and realistically that's how they should be considered. It's a shame the last one hasn't been published yet. I thought it had been; I wouldn't have started reading them had I known that. I don't want to be critical, but together each book is rather short (to my mind).

I would say that I would sack the proof-readers... there were more typos, punctuation and grammatical errors in these three e-books than in anything I've read for the last year.

 

I spent quite a bit of today thinking about yesterday’s video-meet-up with over twenty geo-mates. Would it be *that* difficult to organise an on-line quiz night for the weekend? I could come up with some questions easily enough and then have (say) a dozen teams (it would have to be households because of the lock-down) each of which could log in on the Zoom software. We’d have a round of questions; everyone would email me the answers. We’d have another round of questions… The winner would have bragging rights.

I wonder if there would be much interest…

 

The new Red Dwarf special starts in a minute…

 

 

10 April 2020 (Friday) - Good (?) Friday

 

 

Over a bowl of Sainsburys muesli I watched the last episode of “The Good Place” (which as rather good, really) before posting today’s album choice. Today’s choice was “Journeys to Glory” by Spandau Ballet; their first album from back in the days when they were mean and moody and not “disco-crappy”.

There wasn’t much else on Facebook at six o’clock this morning really.

 

As I drove to work the pundits on the radio were talking about coronageddon. They were interviewing some very irate woman who had the hump because her mother has been asked (by her GP) to give some thought to her end-of-life choices. This woman's mother apparently went hysterical at the thought of dying. I can't help but wonder why. Did she think she was going to live forever? Now a lot of people don't like to think about death. A lot of people deliberately ignore the matter and pretend that death is something that happens to other people. When you think about it, that is a really stupid line to take. In this uncertain world, an eventual death is one of the very few things that we all have in common.

This irate woman's mother is in the COVID-19 "high risk" group for several medical reasons. Surely it makes sense to make your end-of-life plans when you have time to do so, rather than waiting until you are extremely ill, hooked up to a ventilator and surrounded by busy ward staff who are rushed off of their feet? With a global pandemic going on, surely anyone with any sense should be thinking about what might happen in a worst-case scenario *before* the worst actually happens?

 

There was then talk of the communities minister who has caused upset by ignoring the stay-put rules and travelled half-way across the country to go visit his mum and dad. Perhaps this lock-down needs to be enforced a bit? I travel a round trip of over fifty miles a day to work and have never once been challenged, or even seen the police out and about.

 

This was followed by an interview with the Prime Minister's father, Stanley Johnson. With the Prime Minister out of intensive care the nation seemed to be breathing a sign of relief.

Mr Johnson (senior) is always an entertaining figure when on the telly; he rather blew it on the radio this morning. As older posher men so often do, he didn't so much speak words as huffed-and-puffed. and one of the very few intelligible things he said was a quote from Shakespeare, which only showed how out of touch he was with the average person in the street (or in their house now we are all locked down).

 

I got to work, I got myself a croissant from the small branch of M&S in the hospital and (once I'd scoffed it) got on with work. I knew that what with lock-down I wasn't missing much, but I couldn't help but think about the what-ifs. In the past Good Friday has been an epic booze-up at the Chambers Bar beer festival. It has been a really good walk out into the countryside with friends. This one was supposed to feature me being picked up by "er indoors TM" after work and driving up to Cambridgeshire for a weekend away, but that was not to be.

 

I came home and we took the dogs round the park on our one allowed outing of the day. We had a good walk; we didn’t upset too many normal people. I was rather impressed with one chap’s having set up a mini-gym of his own in the park, with pull-up rings hanging from a tree. We walked on to the dog beach where the dogs had a rather good splash-about in the river. "er indoors TM" recorded a video.

 

Once home "er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner, and then seeing how it was Good Friday we watched “Jesus Christ Superstar”… or tried to.

Last weekend Lord Lloyd-Webber made the musical “Joseph” free to the public, and this weekend he did the same with “Jesus Christ Superstar”. We settled down in front of the telly and the thing wouldn’t play through the Amazon Firestick. After a *lot* of fighting we eventually got it going through the Youtube app and the ChromeCast. We’d not seen the musical before; it was a shame that it was something of a disappointment, and it was even more of a shame that half-way through the video bit stopped and it was singing (howling) only.

Have you ever seen “Jesus Christ Superstar”? If not, I wouldn’t bother…

Such a shame…

 

 

11 April 2020 (Saturday) - A Locked-Down Quiz Night

 

 

Last night I posted on Facebook asking if anyone fancied doing a quiz on Zoom… there seemed to be quite a bit of interest so I created a Facebook event, and this morning enough people had signed up to make the event plausible. I spent a little while this morning coming up with some questions. Having started off by blagging some ready-made pub quizzes I then tweaked and changed the questions so that I (for one) would have had a hope of getting a few right.

I then posted up today’s album choice. ”More Filth Dirt Cheap” was Ivor Biggun’s second album. Filled with puerile, childish smutty innuendo it still makes me chuckle forty years later.

 

We got the leads on to the dogs, and went for our daily government-sanctioned walk. We went through South Ashford where the first fruit of my loin had put out a bowl of water for the dogs, and we left them some shopping and some Easter eggs. From there we walked round to Singleton Lake and out through to where once there used to be something of an unkempt jungle. Now there is a rather pretty area of woodland with waterfalls (fish ladders?). Ideally we might have picnic-ed there… ideally we wouldn’t be in lock-down.

We came home past Singleton lake where (like everywhere) fishing is now banned.

Isn’t that silly? When you go fishing you sit on your own away from everyone else. Ideal social distancing, but (like pretty much everything in this lock-down) it wasn’t thought through.

As we walked round the lake we saw a couple of rather large pike basking in the shallows. Maybe an afternoon’s pike fishing there once the lock-down is lifted?

 

We came home, and with absolutely nothing else to do we sat in the garden. I read more of Alexei Sayle’s biography on my Kindle whilst drinking Czech dark lager and Dorset plum ale before falling asleep in the glorious sunshine.

 

I eventually woke; "er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner and then I sparked up the lap-top for the “Zoom” quiz. I was rather pleased to see we had nine teams taking part; a manageable number. I thought it went rather well for only the second time I’d used the software. The questions were rather tricky; some of them were rather obscure. But it wasn’t so much about the quiz as it was about getting to see friends. At least I can go to work every day. There are a *lot* of people who’ve not seen anyone outside their household for weeks.

I wonder if this on-line video quiz thingy might become a regular event all the time we are in lock-down. After all, it isn’t as though anyone has anything else to be doing at the moment…

 

 

12 April 2020 (Sunday) - Locked Down Sunday

 

 

I woke at four o’clock feeling rather restless. I got up, had a shave, then went back to bed and slept for five more hours.

Over brekkie I sparked up my lap-top. I had a message from my professional body. The Institute of Biomedical Sciences have recently made their Facebook page public rather than private. They’d made some comment about how the page wouldn’t be regularly monitored, and as you can guess the thing had immediately become a sea of petty squabbling and bickering. I’d messaged them to say that they really needed to monitor it. They messaged back and said they felt that they shouldn’t have to. I agreed that they shouldn’t have to… but told them that they did need to.

It didn’t help that some of their most senior figures were those who needed the most reining in.

 

There was also a squabble kicking off on the “Geocaching in Kent” page. A puzzle had been set for people to solve. I wouldn’t say it was a “difficult” puzzle. Geocaching puzzles aren’t “difficult”. A third-level differential equation is difficult. Geocaching puzzles require ridiculously convoluted and imaginative thinking. One of these might start off with a little story about fishing…so… Jack Hargreaves was a famous fisherman from the seventies… Glam rock was about in the seventies… One of the prominent glam rock band were Slade… so far from being about fishing, the puzzle is actually all about Noddy Holder.

And it doesn’t matter that hardly anyone can solve it… once one person has solved it, the answer soon gets shared.

I still haven’t solved this puzzle.

 

I then told the world about today’s album in my list. My Sparks album of choice - “No 1 in Heaven”. Rather an odd one for sixth place?

Anyone who knows me would have thought that Sparks would have appeared *much* earlier in the listing and more than once. But I did say that my listing will be listed alphabetically by album title, and only I’m only allowing myself one album of any group,

But why choose “No 1 in Heaven”? It’s not really high on anyone’s list of favourite or well-known Sparks albums. To be honest there’s probably half a dozen Sparks albums that I actually prefer. But the challenge is to list albums “that greatly influenced my taste in music”, and “No 1 in Heaven” was the first Sparks album that I ever bought… more than forty years ago in 1979.

 

We took the dogs out for a walk – up through the Memorial Gardens and back through the park. We met Bernie as we walked, and had a socially distanced chat, and sparked up the WhatsApp to speak to Jose in Folkestone too.

I saw that a friend had long-distance deployed a Munzee in the park with me in mind too…

We came through the co-op field and Fudge and Pogo were decidedly un-moral with a passing Jack Russell.

 

I then spent another afternoon reading Alexei Sayle’s biography whilst drinking a variety of eastern Europeans beers until I finally dozed off.

"er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good dinner which we scoffed whilst watching an episode of “The Heist” and being long-distance reiki-ed. I must admit I was rather sceptical about reiki, but my knee has been giving me gyp for a few days. What with the GP on lock-down and A&E having far more than me to worry about, I thought that a dose of long-distance reiki couldn’t hurt.

I don’t think it did any harm…

 

 

13 April 2020 (Monday) - Easter Monday

 

 

I was woken by a loud crash as Treacle jumped off the bed at seven o’clock. I heard her come downstairs, and after a few minutes I could hear her crying. I came downstairs to let her into the garden, but not before she’d had a little accident.

As she “did business” in the garden I cleared up the accident. I was rather surprised she’d tiddled inside – it is very unlike her. We shall have to keep an eye on her.

 

I got the washing machine and dishwasher doing their things, then scoffed a bowl of muesli whist watching an episode of “Bottom” before having my morning rummage round the Internet. I told the world about my seventh album choice. “The Fine Art of Surfacing” by the Boomtown Rats was a firm favourite from the same time when I was particularly religious... I’ve shed the God-bothering, but still kept a love of the Boomtown Rats.

I then rolled my eyes at what others were posting on Facebook. There are half a dozen local groups, the participants of all of which were competing to out-do everyone else in squealing up their neighbours for perceived breaches of lock-down.

 

With a few minutes spare I lifted down a huge box which has sat unopened in the back bedroom for years. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it contained several Lego kits, and a *lot* of loose Lego. I spent a little while looking to see what was in the loose Lego, then I drove "er indoors TM" up to her boss’s house to collect a consignment of dongles (!)

We came back past the Home Bargains shop. I thought that "er indoors TM" might like to do some shopping. For all that I’ve been having a go for the last couple for weeks, it has been a tad haphazard. I’ve been buying what looks interesting and what I think we might need, with no regard for what we actually do need. And so we’ve ended up with six jars of marmalade but no chips. We have turnips and swede for the dogs, but no vegetables for the humans.

Shopping today was dull.

When I go to Sainsburys there is usually at least one “special” one kicking off in the queue, or one memorable idiotic member of staff. Today – no one.

 

With shopping unloaded we walked the dogs round the park. Again we met no idiots; in fact we met hardly anyone at all.

As we walked my right knee got rather tender. Yesterday I might have spoken too soon when I said that the long-distance Reiki hadn’t done any harm.

 

We came home; I ironed for a little while whilst watching more episodes of “Bottom” then had a closer look at the Lego I’d found this morning. I was rather disappointed to find that what looked like sets to make a motorbike and a truck were just boxes of random bits, but random Lego technic bits are good. I’ve long been planning to have either a carousel, Ferris wheel or windmill in my Lego world. So I spent a little while making a first attempt at a sort of carousel. I was quite pleased with what I eventually came up with. It worked find in trial runs. So I put a few minifigures on it, got out the camera, video-ed it and met with utter disaster. You can see the disaster by clicking here.

But “nil desperandum”… the next one just needs a heavier base.

 

As I played Lego so "er indoors TM" tidied the bedroom. She’s chucked out the manky old chair I used to pile my clothes on, and given me a nice box in its place. It is a very nice box. Apparently I’ve got twenty pairs of trousers in that box…

 

"er indoors TM" boiled up dinner, and we watched a couple of episodes of “The Heist”. I didn’t stay awake for all of it.

It’s been a “different” Easter… I worked Friday, the weekend was glorious sunshine, and all I did was to sit in the garden. Today the weather was rubbish and we did loads.

Back to work tomorrow…

 

 

14 April 2020 (Tuesday) - Easter's Over

 

 

As I scoffed my Sainsbury’s muesli I watched the first episode of “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness” on Netflix. You must have seen the memes about “Carol Baskin” all over the Internet?

As I watched it I remembered the politics of animal activism from my snake-keeping days…

When I kept snakes (about twenty years ago) I found it harder and harder to do so because the RSPCA was slowly but surely closing down all the local pet shops so I could not get any dead rats to feed the snakes. You might wonder why the RSPCA would be against pet shops… I won’t say that they were barking mad, but when we moved to Folkestone in 1984 our landlord’s partner was one of the hippy-trippy happy-clappy left-wing extreme-animal-rights crackpots who were rife back then. She would spout all sorts of frankly ridiculous nonsense and seriously believe that because she had said something was enough to make it a self-evident truth. She and a gang of like-minded loonies were involved in all sorts of extreme animal rights groups, and at the time she told me that her groups would never be respected like the RSPCA, so they would infiltrate it and use its good name.

And that is what happened. The extremists took over the RSPCA and other similar mainstream animal welfare organisations. An example of my own experience was that at the turn of the century the National Canine Defence League would have collecting tins in a tattoo studio, but would refuse to allow one in a pet shop.

In the early 2000s the RSPCA had a policy of trying to close down every pet shop that sold animals. To them, a pet shop (subject to all sorts of legal controls) was a bad thing, but an unlicensed individual breeding and selling animals (doing their own thing with no control whatsoever) was perfectly acceptable to them. Go figure!

I’m looking forward to seeing the next episodes of this show.

 

I sparked up my lap-top and told the world about today’s album choice. My eighth album is the soundtrack to the 1980s movie “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” by the Sex Pistols. It has to be said that the Sex Pistol weren’t very good. In fact they were rather crap. But much of the album was by produced by others, most notably Tenpole Tudor and Malcom McLaren. And it evokes a different era… when I used to be someone else.

 

I walked up to Torrington Road to find my car only to realise I'd actually walked past it. I'd left in in Whitfeld Road which runs parallel. I seem to be making hard work of finding where I've been leaving my car lately. I wonder what that's all about?

As I drove to work the pundits on the radio were talking about coronageddon (as if they talk about anything else at all right now). Today they were broadcasting a recent interview with Donald Trump which was rather embarrassing. Far from wanting to talk about the global pandemic, the chap wanted to dribble on about what a great fellow he is, and how mean the media are for daring to insinuate that he's anything less than utter perfection. In many ways he reminds me of the more simple-minded eight-year-olds who we used to have in the cub scouts. Utterly oblivious to the world around them, they would be totally self- obsessed in worlds of their own devising.

You have to ask how this chap every got into a position of power.

 

There was also talk of how the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham went from an exhibition centre to a hospital in only nine days.

It is particularly impressive when you consider how long the NHS traditionally takes to do things. I can remember back in the day when I was a manager I was deliberately slowed down. When building a new department (which took about eighteen months longer than it needed to do), the last thing the management wanted was to actually have the new department. Once it was built there would be no need for endless meetings.

This pandemic has certainly lit a fire under some people...

 

I got to work and made a start on the early shift.  As early shifts go, it wasn't bad. Half-way through the day the hospital's top boss came round dishing out free Easter eggs to all and sundry. I certainly had one!!

 

An early start made for an early finish. I came home, and "er indoors TM" and I took the dogs out to the park and back home via the Memorial Gardens. Apart from nearly tripping "er indoors TM" flat on her face the walk went better than most.

 

I wonder what’s for dinner?

 

 

15 April 2020 (Wednesday) - At Tesco

 

 

Watching “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” over brekkie again had me thinking about my days in the “Ashford & District Exotic Animal Society” all those years ago. The events and people on the TV show were just like how the snake club used to be. Weird, odd and quarrelsome.

I kept snakes twenty-odd years ago; I had quite a few including one which was twelve feet long. Friends at the time kept all sorts of animals. Although I never knew anyone who kept large cats (like those in the TV show), I *think* we could have got hold of one had we wanted to do so. I certainly could have obtained a crocodile (and seriously considered doing so).  It was rumoured that a friend from those days had a rattlesnake as a pet. When he was found dead at his home (for no reason that the coroner could explain) no rattlesnake was ever found, but the door of one of the vivariums was open.

Looking back, the exotic animal scene was madly out of control. I’m glad to have done the “exotic animal thing”, but I’m well out of it, and quite content with dogs and fish now.

 

I sparked up my lap-top and told the Internet about my penultimate album choice. “The Kick Inside” was Kate Bush’s debut album. I originally got it on tape cassette.

I also had some notifications about something I’d posted onto one of the work-related Facebook pages. Yesterday at work we’d been asked to perform a rather obscure test for a rather odd reason. It seemed a very strange request to me and all of my colleagues so I thought I might ask the wider blood-testing community their opinion. The responses came into three broad categories.

There were a lot of rather stupid and irrelevant animated gifs.

There was a lot of opinion from people who clearly didn’t know the first thing about the blood test in question.

And there were a few posts which addressed my question whilst showing some understanding of the matter. But only a few.

 

This morning I managed to find my car right away. But the time I saved in not wandering the roads desperately trying to remember where I'd left my car, I wasted in scraping the ice off of it. Despite what the weather forecast had said, there had been quite the heavy frost.

 

I drove to work listening to nothing but the pundits on the radio scaremongering about coronageddon. In their desperation to wind up the public about the shortages of protective clothing for NHS workers, this morning the shocking revelation was made that NHS laboratory workers are now wearing washable laboratory coats. I can't help but feel that I'm missing something here - as an NHS laboratory worker I've been wearing washable laboratory coats for nearly forty years.

 

Just recently I've been shopping in Sainsburys before work. There is no Sainsburys in Pembury, but there is a Tesco. Unfortunately the protected shopping period for NHS staff is mid-morning just after we'd all started working(!) But there weren't that many people at Tesco at eight o'clock this morning so I didn't have to queue. I went in and got what I needed. I tried not to laugh out loud at the people in ill-fitting face masks and torn rubber gloves, but I did have a laugh with the chap in the check-out. I made a point of going up to the only check-out manned by someone not wearing gloves and a face mask. I loudly suggested that he might like to go get one of his colleagues to serve me; without personal protective equipment he might well be dead before he'd run all my stuff through the till. We both had a chuckle at how obviously ineffective the PPE on pretty much all of the customers was, and I wished him well for the rest of the day.

As I walked out, some managerial-type thanked me for shopping at Tesco. I smiled sweetly, and asked him what the funny smell was. He said he'd been wondering that too. I made the observation that if he could smell it, then that face mask of his wasn't worth having.

I don't think he understood my point.

 

I did my bit at work; I came home. We walked the dogs round the park, and then "er indoors TM" unpacked the shopping I’d got and went through the cupboards…

Oh dear.

Six unopened jars of jam, seven unopened jars of marmalade, more peanut butter than sense (four jars), far too much red wine and dog food, and no brown sauce…

 

I might open a bottle of port in a minute…

 

 

16 April 2020 (Thursday) - Late Shift

 

 

I slept like a log, finally being woken (rather earlier than I would have liked) by "er indoors TM"’s alarm. I got up and had some Tesco muesli for brekkie. It’s a lot more like sawdust than the Sainsbury version of the stuff, and interestingly the packaging says it has no added salt. You have to ask why anyone would add salt to a breakfast cereal.

 

I sparked up my lap-top and told the world about my tenth (and final) album choice. “Time” by the Electric Light Orchestra. It’s that rather rare thing - a concept album. ELO’s second one. It tells the tale of a chap from the year 1981 who is launched over a hundred years into the future.

Whilst I was at it I had a look on-line to see what I’d missed overnight. I hadn’t missed much really.

 

As I do when on a late shift I took the dogs out. We didn’t have time to play in the river yesterday evening, so I thought we might do that this morning. So as we walked I picked up stones and sticks. Treacle and Pogo saw this and got very over-excited; jumping up trying to get the sticks. Pogo managed to yank one stick from my hand. As he pulled the stick so it cut me; there wasn’t *that* much blood really,

We played in the river for a bit. As we walked on we then met a “rather delightful lady” with two massive uncontrolled dogs. We were about to go into the Chinese garden when this woman shouted “my dogs will have your dogs – I’m just saying”. Now there’s no denying that with my hand still dripping blood I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. I waved a foot in the air and replied “my boots will break your dogs’ ribs – I’m just saying”. She clearly wasn’t expecting that, announced “oh, it’s like that is it?”, put her dogs onto leads and dragged them away.

As we headed past the play-park we met OrangeHead. I told her of what had just happened. She said she’d had similar incidents recently. She said something I’ve been saying recently; this lock-down has brought out all the dogs who never normally get walked from one week to the next.

Mind you I would rather have had my morning that OrangeHead’s. She said she’d just walked past a family sitting on a park bench. They had bicycles laying on the ground five yards away and her dog had just peed in Grandma’s cycling helmet. She chuckled as she told me, and I laughed too. I suspect that this is really funny for pretty much everyone except Grandma.

 

Once home I harvested a bumper crop of dog turds from the garden, then fed the pond fish. The pond is *really* clear at the moment; you can see right down to the bottom (over five feet deep) at the moment. Fudge stopped round the pond trying to get the fish food before the fish did. As he does.

Bearing in mind I’d used the last of the milk on my muesli I popped up the road to the shop to get more. The nice lady on the till was wearing her rubber gloves. With Herculean effort I restrained myself from asking if she realised the things had (at least) three large holes in them.

 

Usually I would go off on a little geo-adventure before the late shift, but what with the country in lock-down that wasn’t an option. I spent a rather dull hour writing up CPD, then set off to work.

 

The roads were quiet as I drove off to work. Not as quiet as they have been, but quiet enough that I was only stopping for traffic lights where usually I am stopping and starting all the way to work.

I got to work; where in the past I would have to hunt for a car parking space, today I had a choice of where I might like to park.

 

I showed my pass to be allowed into work. Perhaps I'm over-sensitive; I do realise the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic running riot through wards of critically ill patients, but I can't help but feel that there is something fundamentally wrong about having security guards controlling the entrance to a hospital.

I did my bit, and during a lull in proceedings I tried to log in to this evening's Zoom virtual geo-meet using my phone. It didn't really work as well as a lap-top, and after a couple of half-hearted attempts I gave up. Some things just don’t work on the phone…

 

 

17 April 2020 (Friday) - Stuff

 

 

Over a bowl of Tesco muesli I watched the third episode of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. I watched it with a wry smile. Did Carole Baskin feed her husband to a tiger in 1997? Like so many of these cases, how will we ever know when the event is so long ago?

I sparked up my lap-top and gave Facebook my last posting in the “ten albums” thing. Having put up ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music, today I put up ten more that didn’t quite make the top ten.

I then had a little look round some of the Facebook pages.

Much as I’ve been very active on the “Geocaching in Kent” page, I’m on the point of coming off of it. It is boiling my piss too much. Those who only a few short weeks ago were publicly lambasting me for taking my dogs for a walk and demanding I stay in the house were now showing off how they’ve found software to map the miles of walking they are now doing. Others who having had a pop at "er indoors TM" over the weekend were now trying to shame people for going hunting geocaches because (despite the official guidance) they have decided that people shouldn’t be doing so.

 

The roads were rather busier than they have been as I drove up the motorway at seven o'clock this morning. As I drove the pundits on the radio were talking about the new leader of the Labour party. Sir Kier Starmner is calling for details of how the government is planning to have the nation recover from coronageddon.

The chap is an idiot. With yesterday's announcement of three more weeks of confirmed lock-down, and anyone with any understanding of microbiology expecting serious restrictions on our lifestyles for months to come, why is this twit worrying about something so far into the future? Unless he hopes to be vote-grubbing amongst those so thick as to not understand why we are having to have all the social distancing and lock-down in the first place?

They then wheeled on the mayor of London Siddiq Khan who didn't come over anywhere nearly as badly as sometimes he does.

 

I got some petrol. As I filled my car so another car pulled up at the petrol pumps. The woman in that car sat in her car and waited for me to go pay before she got out of her car, and as I walked back to my car so she went back into her car and shut herself in. She waited until I was driving away before she got out and carried on getting her own petrol.

There is fear of the virus, and there is just plain stupidity.

This was echoed by the woman on the till in Sainsburys when I paid for what I bought today (I remembered the brown sauce!). She told me that she liked the NHS workers half-hour as there was no one coming through wearing ripped plastic gloves or face masks that obviously did not fit.

 

Work was work; despite the lock-down I came home via Margate. "Daddy’s Little Angel TM" doesn’t actually have a letterbox and her new bank card had been delivered to our house yesterday. She rather needed it, and bearing in mind the police had closed off Hastings last weekend I rather suspected Margate might be a no-go area tomorrow.

 

I eventually got home a couple of hours later than usual. Fish and chips went down well whilst we watched “The Heist”. I quite like the show, but as it goes on so the police seem to be making rather amazing decisions and actions with incredibly little reason or evidence to prompt them. And the thieves seem to be making some rather idiotic choices.

Is the show just trying to keep the public in line?

 

 

18 April 2020 (Saturday) - Another Locked-Down Saturday

 

 

I woke shivering at half past six; an alliance of "er indoors TM" and the dogs had again seized mush of the duvet. I managed to wrestle some back and got another hour or so shut-eye.

 

Over brekkie I had a look at Facebook to see what I’d missed.

There was a lot of talk about Captain Tom Moore; a ninety-nine-year-old war veteran who has raised twenty million pounds to help the NHS. Everyone was saying what a wonderful fellow he is. I don’t doubt that he is, but is this sort of fundraising ultimately benefitting the NHS? Bear in mind the UK government voted against a pay rise for nurses in 2017, and also bear in mind that many of the nations’ specialist cancer care nurses aren’t funded via the NHS but are dependent on charity for their wages

It really boils my piss that most people don’t realise this. No government of any political party is going to fund anything that people are already paying for. When the fruits of my loin were at school we were invited to take part in fundraising events to buy their text books…

I’ve heard it said that “charity is the failure of government”… an interesting point of view.

My cousin had raised a rather interesting point… what *does* happen when coronageddon drags on? If no vaccine is forthcoming, do we carry on socially distancing and working for home for years? Given that there’s no vaccine immediately available, it’s not entirely impossible that those who are susceptible to the disease will die whilst those who aren’t will survive… this sort of thing has been happening for millions of years – “natural selection”.

We’ve rather got used to the (wrong) idea that humanity has beaten the concept of infectious disease.

 

There were some fun memes and fun games circulating, which was just as well. It lightened a rather depressing and negative toast and coffee. And I was rather pleased to see that a new Munzee had appeared just down the road – called “For Fudge”.

 

It was raining this morning; "er indoors TM" tuned in to a podcast from the League of Candlemongers whilst I played Lego. Last week’s carousel didn’t quite go to plan, so this morning I built a Ferris wheel. It was more of an experiment than a “proper” build, but I was quite pleased with how it turned out.

 

The rain had stopped by mid-day so we took the dogs round the park for a walk. We met some other dogs and we had no fights whatsoever. Mind you Fudge wasn’t overly pleased at being humped by some other dog; maybe he will now stop doing it to others? Somehow I doubt it. We had a good walk; only marred by Treacle’s paddling in the stagnant mire and eating poo.

 

It wasn’t sunny, but it was warm enough to sit in the garden. I downed a couple of bottles of ale and read more Alexei Sayle on the kindle. As we sat so quite the conversation was taking place on Facebook and via instant messages. A lot of people were discovering (and re-discovering) Munzee. After all (as I described it), it’s a bit like caching but with bar codes. There's a lot more virtuals, a lot more structured game play and FAR less squabbling.

 

Eventually the sun went in, and so did we. I spent a little while ironing shirts whilst watching episodes of “Bottom”, then over a very good bit of dinner we watched another episode of “The Heist”. Admittedly it is a TV show, but bearing in mind that if you can evade detection you stand to win a hundred thousand pounds I for one would lay a lot lower than some of the contestants would seem to be doing.

 

With nothing else to do we logged in to the League of Candlemongers’s lock-down quiz. I got twenty six points out of a possible forty.

I might organise another quiz next weekend…

 

 

19 April 2020 (Sunday) - Early Shift

 

Over brekkie I watched more “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. It’s a rather interesting show; it never fails to amaze me how so many people are determined not to get along with each other.

With absolutely nothing happening on Facebook or in my in-box at six o’clock on a Sunday morning I set off for work.

 

Usually the roads are quiet when I head to an early shift on a Sunday, but this morning I might have seen half a dozen other cars at most.

As I drove the pundits on the radio were talking of some on-line concert that was given last night for NHS staff? Whilst it would probably be a matter of the utmost indifference to me, it would have been nice to have known about it. Mind you, the Dribbling Democraps are now calling for all NHS workers to get a bonus of thirty quid a day.  Apparently this is in line with what the armed forces get "when they are deployed on specific operations in "demanding" conflicts". Whilst I'll quite happily take anything that is going (and at the moment I'm taking quite a lot), I can't help but think that all of this thanking and clapping and praising the NHS is getting just a little bit over the top; after all, that's the job we all signed up for, isn't it?

 

There was also a lot of talk about coronageddon in care homes, and how they are lacking vital necessities.

Should care homes have the same priority for equipment as the NHS? There was quite the discussion on the radio this morning. Care homes are in an odd position. On the one hand they are regarded as an extension of the hospital system. On the other hand, many are not; charging residents a pretty penny for their stay because they are (quite unapologetically) commercial ventures.

I can remember a friend's father mouthing off (in the late 1970s) about how there was money in old people, and when his parents died he opened up a very small care home. This chap now owns quite a few care homes in the South East, and lives in quite the mansion. He has certainly done nothing wrong; he looks after his old people and they all seem to love him. But the nation has let him get rich from the care sector; should we now be subsidising him?

 

I got to work; I did my bit. I spent quite a bit of the day staring out the window at a beautiful Sunday. Usually I sulk when working weekends during beautiful weather, but not so much today. What with the rest of the world being on lock-down I wasn't really missing very much.

As I checked my work-related emails I had a look at the works intranet, and was rather amazed to see that the Trust has published a whole load of downtime dances on its own YouTube channel.

There are other NHS Trusts where just mentioning the name of the place on social media was once a disciplinary offence... how times have changed.

 

With my bit done I came home. "er indoors TM" had already walked the dogs round the park. After five minutes excitement as I came home, they were all soon snoring. I spent a little while getting to grips with the Munzee map. There was quite a bit of everyone helping everyone else going on with Munzee-ing. Meanwhile on the Geocaching UK page there was quite a bit of nastiness being bandied about following the cancellation of the big geo-meet that had been planned to be held near Brighton in the summer.

 

"er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner, then we sparked up the Zoom software and had a five-way gossip. It was good to catch up.

 

And with aliens up to mischief in Antarctica and Siberia, International Dark Sky Week starts today.

Back in the day I would have got rather over-excited about this. I suppose I could get the telescope out. I wonder where it is?

 

 

20 April 2020 (Monday) - Late Shift

 

 

I had a rather restless night. It started with a nightmare in which I was both in an unrehearsed theatrical review starring whoever it was who voiced the Tetley tea folk and also in a pitchfork-wielding mob who had sprung up to close down that theatrical review. It was with something of a sense of relief when I woke. I went to the loo, I came back to bed, tripping over Fudge on the way. I got back to bed and had to fight Pogo and Treacle to get any space on the bed.

I didn’t really get back to sleep after that.

 

Despite ​"er indoors TM" having turned off her alarms, one still went off at half past seven. I got up and made some toast, and scoffed it whilst looking at the Internet.  Not a lot had really happened overnight. There were still arguments on the geocaching Facebook pages, but that seems to be par for the course. There seems to be a self-appointed “in-crowd” on that group who decide what the accepted etiquette is for any given situation and then judge those who go against their opinion. Even though there isn’t any “official” position on whatever bit of pettiness on which they are pontificating this time.

 

I took the dogs round the park. Today’s walk was hard work. The lock-down has brought out all the dogs who never get walked from one month to the next. All named “Zeus” or “Maximus” or “Tyson” or “F…ing-Huge-Death-Hound” or something else equally double-hard, they are all walked by the same sort of person. I don’t want to appear judgemental, but who takes a dog for a walk when wearing fluffy slippers or flip-flops with make-up that has been applied by a trowel? We met a thug and his painted barbie-doll associate who were not at all happy when their humungous Staffie rolled over in terror and submission when Pogo ran up to it.

 

With walk walked I spent an hour or so preparing for Friday’s Zoom quiz. I mentioned about doing one a couple of weeks ago on Facebook and sent out invites to anyone who showed any interest. We had quite the fun evening but looking back the questions were too hard.

I’m going to have another go later in the week. I’ve come up with some easier questions, and I’m going to test the software to its limits by including a picture round. If any of my loyal readers fancy joining in, just drop me a line and I’ll send details.

 

The roads were a lot quieter than usual as I drove cross-country to Pembury. Was it my imagination, or was there really a lot more dead animals on the road as I drove. Is the reduced traffic causing the wildlife to venture onto the dangerous roads more these days? Mind you, in the same way that all the never-before-walked dogs were in Viccie Park, all the never-before-ridden bikes were along the A28, A262 and A21. Wobbling (quite literally) from one side of the road to the other, fat lycra-clad forty-and fifty-somethings were taking their lives in their hands as they sent traffic scattering in all directions in their wake.

But (notwithstanding road-kill and cyclists) it was a rather beautiful day to be driving cross-country.

As I drove I had a phone call. It was Cheryl. What did my daughter-in-law want? Gripped by panic over all sorts of imaginary catastrophes I pulled over. I breathed a sigh of relief when she just wanted me to settle an argument. When a plane takes off, does it leave the Earth? She said yes, the first fruit of my loin said no. They were having quite the squabble. I didn't help matters by not committing to either side, but instead suggested that it all depended on what you actually consider "Earth" to be. Does "Earth" include the atmosphere? I wasn't touching that one with a barge pole.

Half an hour later "er indoors TM" sent a message wanting me to tell her what the expected answer should be.

I got to work and mentioned the "is the plane still on Earth" dilemma to a colleague... he asked if I'd considered boats...

 

I spent a little while thinking about “Gordon Tracey” today. We first met Hurksy about eight years ago; he had got into hunting Tupperware about six months before we did. Over the space of three of four years we had quite a few outings together; out most weekends, some weekends away in Sussex, a rather good stomp around London and a particularly memorable weekend in Cornwall. Eventually we sort of drifted apart; we were more interested in going for a walk. He was into tree climbing.

He developed cancer some time ago, and this afternoon was his funeral. Ideally I would have gone along, but what with the pandemic, space at the funeral was severely restricted.

I’m told there will be a memorial service once lock-down is over…

 

 

21 April 2020 (Tuesday) - This n That

 

 

 

After a rather restless night I watched an episode of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” in which our hero’s husband did himself in, and he failed in his political career.

I then had a quick look at the Internet. I sent out some birthday wishes, then seeing pretty much nothing had changed on Facebook I had a look in my in-box. Someone had been out hunting geocaches on my series round Godinton. I suppose I will get stick for not having disabled those caches, but I can’t really see the harm. People are allowed to go for a walk, and there are far more opportunities to contract the virus than from a film pot I stuck in a hedgerow a year ago.

I also had a message from Munzee HQ. I tried to put a virtual Munzee in the local memorial gardens a couple of weeks ago. They declined it because they could find no mention of Ashford Memorial gardens being a historical site. I gave them some references, and again they’ve declined the listing because they could find no references (!). I replied suggesting they read what I wrote, got myself organised, and set off to find my car.

 

As I walked to my car I saw a jogger. Together with never-walked-dogs and never-cycled-bikes, people are dragging their never-worn jogging costumes out of the wardrobes to give them something to do during lock-down. This particular jogger was a chubby woman clad in skimpy skin-tight lycra and was sitting on someone's garden wall, sweating profusely and desperately gasping for air. When she saw me she pretended not to have noticed me, heaved herself up, and bravely jogged on up the road. She got maybe twenty yards past me before collapsing again.

 

I drove off to work. As I drove the pundits on the radio were talking to one of the country's leading dentists. With English dentists only seeing two per cent of the patients that they were before lock-down (it is apparently twenty-five percent in Scotland and Wales), people are now so desperate as to be using pliers to pull their own teeth out. This was seen as a bad thing (really?!) and there was all sorts of talk about how dentists might start seeing patients again. The obvious answer is to make personal protective equipment available to dentists, but the stuff is in short supply.

There was also concern expressed that if the government recommend people wear protective masks in public, then what little PPE is available to healthcare professions will soon evaporate.

Just recently the pundits on the radio have got rather good at pointing out the blatantly obvious.

 

I went to Sainsbury's before work. Apart from the nutter in the queue behind me who was having a heated argument with the voices in his head, the trip went relatively uneventfully. I must admit I thought I'd been doing a rather good job of getting the shopping recently, but I'd not got any tea bags for a month.  That doesn't bother me - I don't like tea, but "er indoors TM" is rather keen on the stuff.

I got tea bags and one or two other necessities. Fifty quid's worth of other necessities. Perhaps I need to be a bit more judicious about what I am buying; I must admit I have to wonder if I really need to buy two bottles of red wine every time I go shopping, and I am reliably informed we now have more potatoes than sense.

 

With shopping shopped I went in to work and did my bit, and came home again. As I do.

Once home we took the dogs round the block. They all behaved themselves… mostly. Pogo wasn’t happy at not being allowed to run in the field where the gypsies leave their horses. I don’t like him going in that field as he chases the rabbits and gets rather distracted.

 

"er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner which we scoffed whilst watching celebrity Bake-Off. We washed it down with a decent bottle of wine.

The port might have been a mistake…

 

 

22 April 2020 (Wednesday) - Late Shift

 

 

I swapped the up-the-nose CPAP attachment for the full-face-mask last night and didn’t wake with a sore nose. Rather trivial in the ongoing coronageddon pandemic, but rather important to me.

 

As I peered into Facebook this morning I saw that the Rear Admiral has had a little pressie. Having worked for the same firm for ten years he’s had a couple of bottles of rather expensive gin and some rather nice glassware to go with it.

A month or so ago I got a tin badge to celebrate my thirty-five years in the NHS (three years late), and tomorrow night everyone will stand on the doorstep and clap. Admittedly at the moment there’s quite a few freebies flying about for health care workers. Only this week I’ve been given home-made flapjack, a loaf of bread, some hand-milled flour, several cups of coffee and unlimited data for my mobile, but that is all from private individuals and companies. Is all the talk of the nation’s loving the health care workers being left to others, or are the government going to put their money where their mouth is.

 

I then had a look at the local geocaching page and my piss boiled. People are still paranoid about geocaching being a route of transmission for the COVID-19 virus. I’m sorry… I’m getting really angry with all of this. I’m handing samples contaminated with the virus every day and managing not to drop dead.

Meanwhile when I went to Sainsburys yesterday not a single trolley was being cleaned between uses, and no end of people were picking things and putting them back on the shelves despite their wearing contamination-spreading gloves.

In all the years of geocaching does anyone know of any cases at all in which someone caught an infectious disease from a geocache?

 

I took the dogs out for our morning constitutional. As we came through Bowens Field we met another of these never-before-walked dogs that are blighting our outings. This one was a rather large lurcher (about the size of a small bus) which was dragging a small girl behind it. This small girl clearly had no control over the dog at all, and she didn't seem at all bothered by that. She was more interested in hysterically screaming "Go Away - Go Away" at anyone who ventured within fifty yards of her. Fortunately we managed to keep enough of a distance so that she didn't become an issue.

As we walked by the river I saw a a flicker in the water. Six rather large fish. All about the size of my biggest Koi. I phoned "My Boy TM" to tell him. I thought they were carp, but he thought they might be chub, as you wouldn't expect to see carp in that river. But if they were chub, they were BIG chub.

As we came through the park so the council's gardeners were doing some serious pruning of trees in one of the more overgrown bits of the park. I'm really interested to see how that area ends up bearing in mind they've done rather well with other parts of the park which had previously been little more than overgrown jungles. Pogo shouted at them; they ignored him.

 

Just as we were doing "sit" prior to crossing a road, OrangeHead came past with one of her associates. They'd just had a run-in with one of the never-before-walked dogs. I sympathised, and said that I was glad that it wasn't just me who was having issues with them. It seems that pretty much all of the people who regularly walk their dogs round Viccie Park are having problems with never-before-walked dogs.

Though (to be fair), it isn't the dogs, the problem is with those who don't walk the dogs from one month to the next.

 

I came home to be told that "Daddy’s Little Angel TM" was out of her pit and that I could deliver her parcel on my way to work. (Her flat has neither letterbox nor doorbell so deliveries are problematical for her). Now I don't have a PhD in geography; if I had I might have been able to work out how Margate was on the way from Ashford to Maidstone. But when the women of the family give orders, I just salute and say "Yes Ma'am".

It only took an hour to get to the coast. "Daddy’s Little Angel TM" seemed in fine form and was pleased to receive her parcel. She was talking about moving to a new flat. I thought about asking if this one would have a letterbox or a doorbell but thought better of doing so.

Bearing in mind that although I was on the way to work, I was then twenty-five miles further away from the place than when I'd started I didn't hang about in Margate.

I got some petrol, then went into work.

 

The branch of M&S were offering a meal deal. Sandwich, crisps and a drink for four quid. Bargain... or it would have been had anyone told the till about it. To be fair the food was good... just not six quid good.

And, as is so often the way when on the late shift, the day was effectively all over by mid-day…

 

 

23 April 2020 (Thursday) - A Rant

 

 

I slept well; I slept through till six o’clock when I got up and watched another episode of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” in which our hero finally went doolally.

I then made a start on today’s tasks.

What with coronageddon the official policy from work is (quite sensibly) to work from home if at all practical. The boss told me that with my managerial experience I would be the ideal person to review some of the paperwork concerning the departmental procedures and policies. I told the boss that because of my managerial experience I resigned from being a manager. We all chuckled, and I took some paperwork home.

I made a start shortly after half past seven and was utterly bored with it by half past eight.

It was with something of a sense of relief when "er indoors TM" said she was breaking for lunch, and did I want to go out with her and the dogs.

 

We did our usual circuit of the park; apart from one squabble with a huge dog, it all passed off reasonably well. Even if Fudge was rather reluctant to leave the river after he’d had a spuddle.

We came home… I did more work.

 

This evening we had another virtual geo-meet. It was good to catch up. "er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner and then…

I shall allow myself a rant.

 

As I’m typing this so some of the neighbours are outside for the Thursday clap-for-the-NHS ten minutes. I went out to have a look. New-next-door’s dog was cowering and trembling in terror at the fireworks that were being set off.

Again I find myself in a vanishingly small minority in not wanting to go out and clap.

These Thursday evening "support" events have quickly escalated from being a nice thing to do into something that people are *expected* to do – reading Facebook this evening it is very clear that those who don't join in are now being seen as killjoys and haters. Despite the fact that these people might be sleeping off a busy shift actually working in the hospital, or trying to put young kids to bed when everyone is outside banging saucepans waking them up. And (quite frankly) many NHS workers find the whole thing rather embarrassing.

 

I have to wonder if these public celebrations of the NHS help it. They encourage an increasingly prevalent portrayal of NHS staff as smiling, benevolent heroes. NHS staff do heroic things, but they're not enthusiastic amateurs who put on a uniform or white coat much like Batman or Superman dons a cape. They are professionals doing a paid job. You don’t clap the postman or the dustman, do you?

This sentimental portrayal of NHS workers undermines their professionalism and brings them down to the level of the youth club leader or the brownies’ Brown Owl.


Then there’s all the freebies that the NHS staff are getting right now. Over the last week I’ve been given home-made flapjack, a loaf of bread, some hand-milled flour, several cups of coffee and unlimited data for my mobile. This is all very kind, but the NHS is not a charity. It's a national organisation (the clue is very much in the name) which is publicly funded via taxation. Trying to fund it with seasonal/event-driven fundraising efforts undermines the fact that everyone should take their fair share of responsibility for paying for it.

The NHS isn’t something that you sometimes choose to give money to when you're feeling particularly soppy about nurses.


Why does any of this matter?, Where's the harm in a public upsurge of support for a vital, life-saving group of public servants?

It matters because movements of this kind are very transitory. They capture the public mood at a particular moment in time, and then that moment passes, and people move on to something else (Just look at how Prince Harry has fallen out of public favour in the last year). And we are still going to need the NHS once this is all over. (Which it won't be for ages).

There will be a backlash to all of this clapping and cheering. It has already started in some quarters. Those in the haulage industry, those working in the shops, those keeping the water and power flowing are (rightfully) rather resentful for being overlooked. So, once coronageddon starts to fade, and the NHS is crying out for funding, there will be those (and there will be many of them) whose instinctive reaction will be that the NHS has had its day in the spotlight: "What? Them again? I gave £10 to Captain Tom and now you want me to pay more National Insurance?


Most importantly of all, throwing charity and applause at the NHS lets the government (of whatever political party) off the hook. It leaves people thinking that, individually and collectively, we have all "done our bit", because we gave them a few extra quid when we were feeling “totes emosh” and banged a saucepan on a Thursday evening.

Whereas the actual (but much less Facebook-able) truth is that the parlous state of the NHS is entirely down to a succession of governments which has spent the last decades running it into a state of deliberate neglect to the point where its only possible salvation is to be sold off, bit by bit, to the private sector. Nationalise the risk, privatise the profit. As ever. But, because the likes of Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson can publicly associate themselves with a time and a movement in which everyone loved the NHS, they dodge culpability for their ongoing systematic dismantling of it. A dismantling which (it has to be said) they’ve just continued from the Labour government of ten years ago and the Conservative government of ten years before that…


So... Show some socially distanced love on a Thursday evening if you want to. But don’t pressurize people to join in, and remember that you can do far more for the NHS at the ballot box than you ever can from your doorstep or your social media accounts... *if* you can find a party that really will look after the NHS.

 

 

24 April 2020 (Friday) - Rostered Day Off

 

 

With the CPAP face mask I slept well, and my nose wasn’t as sore as once it was in the mornings. I watched more “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness” in which our hero finally had his comeuppance.

Facebook was interesting this morning – there was quite a lot of talk about President Trump. Having realised that disinfectant kills the COVID-19 virus he was wondering why injections of disinfectant aren’t being offered as a cure. There are a lot of people who run him down but I must admit to a sneaking admiration of Donald Trump. He has become incredibly rich and the leader of the free world despite an obvious stupidity which he makes no effort to hide.

 

I got the leads on the dogs and took them out. We went up the road. That’s up the *road*, not pavement. The bin-men had been out and left the pavements impassable again. I wish they wouldn’t; how much effort is it to put the bin out of the way?

We got to Bowens Field where we met another of these never-walked-dogs. The idiot with this dog had her on an extending lead, had pulled out all of the extending lead and was rather angry because the dog had tangled it all around him. He had just started thrashing the dog when he saw me. He stopped and made some embarrassed comment about the dog being over-excited. I made the observation that the dog wasn’t the only one who was over-excited and kept going.

As we came past the river I saw the big fish again.

 

We then saw another idiot with a never-walked-dog in the park. This one had a ball-thrower and threw the ball about fifty yards away. However the dog was on an extending lead, and after about fifteen yards the lead ran out and the dog came to a very abrupt halt.

I watched this whilst chatting with one of the regular dog walkers of Viccie Park. She made the observation that these never-walked-dogs are invariably never allowed off the lead… whilst struggling to get her dog to come out of a thicket into which he’s just chased a squirrel. She also told me that the council’s gardeners are under orders to remove the specific trees in which the squirrels are nesting. Apparently the squirrels are relatively new residents of the park; having been illegally introduced some time over the last few years.

 

I spent a little while gardening. I managed to get the lawn done yesterday, so today I weeded the shingle and moved the shingle to cover the bald bits, buried the electrical cables (again) and straightened out the lawn edgings which had gone squafty over the winter.

It was at this point that "er indoors TM" phoned. She’d gone shopping in Aldi and was ready to be picked up. As I drove to collect her I saw that the traffic going into B&Q was stacked back along the main road. Having opened for the first time in a month they were rather busy. I had planned to get one or two garden things from them today; that can wait.

 

After a Belgian bun and a cuppa I put “Bottom” on the telly and ironed for an hour or so before spending a little while working on the geo-series I’ve got in mind. Eventually I fell asleep.

 

This evening I hosted another on-line quiz. Three rounds including a picture round and nine people taking part; I was rather pleased with how it all went. I shall run another at some point…

 

 

25 April 2020 (Saturday) - Another Day In Lock-Down

 

 

After a relatively good night’s sleep I watched the last episode of “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness” which was a “where are they now” following what has happened to the major protagonists in the story. It was introduced by Joel McHale. I was rather intrigued by this choice of presenter… he obviously felt he should be on camera; I had no idea who he was.

Apparently he is big in American TV?

 

I had a quick look at Facebook to see that not much had happened overnight, and with no emails worth having I drove to B&Q. I thought my monkey puzzle tree could do with planting properly so I thought I might get some new ground membranes, shingle and plant food. I got to B&Q twenty minutes before they were due to open and saw the queue went twice round the car park.

That tree can wait…

 

I thought I might spend a little while working on the web pages for the new geo-series I’ve been working on. Whilst the things can’t go live for months, I can get all the admin and paperwork ready. I had a look-see to check over what I’d done so far and saw that I’d put the wrong hyperlink into fifty web pages.

Oh, how I chuckled as I put that right, and two hours later I was effectively ready to start again. Rather than starting again we took the dogs for a walk.

 

We walked through the park out to the newly-landscaped area behind Singleton Lake. As we walked though the park we saw Cheryl and Rolo. As always Rolo got very over-excited wen he saw our dogs, and picked fights with humungous dogs safe in the knowledge that if anything kicked off, then Pogo would back him up.

We met old family friends Maxine and Beryl at Singleton Lake; it was good to have a little (socially distanced) catch-up.

 

With walk walked we came home, and spent the afternoon in the garden. With the sun shining and Alexei Sayle on my Kindle I poured a selection of beers down my neck. Having spent a small fortune and endless hours on the garden I really don’t spend anywhere near enough time in it.

 

"er indoors TM" boiled up a rather good bit of dinner which we scoffed whilst watching very old episodes of “Blankety- Blank” on Challenge TV. I’d forgotten just how lame that show was…

 

 

26 April 2020 (Sunday) - Locked Down Sunday

 

 

I slept for an amazing ten hours last night. That’s quite unheard of. I must admit that in many ways sleep is just a waste of time, but in these locked down days there is very little else to be doing really.

 

I had a look-see at the Internet and couldn’t believe the row that was kicking off on the Geocaching UK Facebook page. With the hobby effectively banned and all talk of coronageddon forbidden on that page, they were arguing about the BBC’s charity night that took place in the week. Some people just want to squabble.

The local Facebook page was warning of a scam in which some local crook was selling face masks for thirty quid and not delivering, and the local funeral director was touting for trade.

I also saw that a lot of the Munzees I’ve deployed recently have faded. That’s a pain in the glass (as "Stormageddon - Bringer of Destruction TM" would say). The print-my-own Munzees haven’t really worked; I’ve spent out and bought some proper ones. I wonder how long they will take to arrive?

 

As I waited for "er indoors TM" to emerge from her pit I cracked on with sorting out the web pages for my planned geo-series. I’ve finally got all the admin stuff done; I just now need for the lock-down to be lifted so I can go out and hide all the pots.

 

We took the dogs out for a walk. Thinking we might try a different walk we went up towards the civic centre, through the north park and back home along the black alley. (None of which will mean anything to anyone who doesn’t know the back streets of Ashford). But it was a good walk if only for the fact that not one of the dogs kicked off for any reason whatsoever.

 

Once home I had a quick look at the monthly accounts. Bearing in mind I bought most of the shopping last month I could be a whole lot worse off. I could be a lot better off… but I’m not grumbling. If I can afford to shell out on bar codes to stick to lamp posts I can’t be doing that badly.

Then, as the sun was shining, I sat in the garden for a bit. Rather more abstemious than yesterday I only had one beer as I read my Kindle. It was a shame that Treacle had to get so possessive over the tennis ball she’d found this morning. I don’t mind her and Pogo having play-fights, but Fudge isn’t up to it these days.

 

"er indoors TM" cut up some swede for the dogs – you can see the video of it here. There are some rather impressive crunching sounds. And then we had our scoff. It was rather good. As we scoffed it we watched “Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back” on the telly; a modern-day version of the old favourite “That’s Life”. All it needed was a dog saying “Sausages!” and Ester Rantzen brandishing a willy-shaped carrot.

 

At eight o’clock we sparked up the Zoom software and had a seven-way met-up. It was good to catch up…

 

 

27 April 2020 (Monday) - Subordinate Clauses

 

 

Over brekkie I watched the first episode of the second season of “After Life”. Starring Ricky Gervais I thought it was rather good. I suppose it depends on where you stand on Ricky Gervais. I quite like the chap, but I know there are those who don’t.

I had a little look into the depths of the Internet; very little had happened overnight, but I finally heard back from the neighbourhood watch people. They sent me a letter touting for trade back in January but I had no reply from the email address or from the phone number they gave. Yesterday I saw someone was talking about it on the local Facebook group. I asked for details, and my inbox has a few messages about what they are up do.

I *think* Neighbourhood Watch is going to be something of a disappointment. I had visions of being part of a vigilante mob guarding the streets form the forces of lawlessness and evil. But I think the reality is that I get to act as a collection point for all the local whingers, and forward their gripes to a disinterested community-support police assistant.

I shall give it a go before dismissing the thing completely out of hand.

 

As I drove to Pembury on a rather foggy morning the pundits on the radio were talking about how there have been loads of reports of people being poisoned by bleach and disinfectants all over America over the weekend. Last week President Trump mentioned the possibility of using bleaches and disinfectants as a medicine against the COVID-19 virus, and many people took him at his word. Anyone with any sense can tell that the bloke is an idiot, but there are lots with even less sense than him. Which is rather worrying.

There was also talk about easing the lock-down in the UK... or if not easing it, at least making sense of it. For example florists cannot operate from an open market stall in the high street, but can do from inside a supermarket.  People with no gardens are prosecuted for sunbathing on their own in public parks but can work in factories where people are crowded in like sardines.

What's that all about?

 

I must admit to rolling my eyes as I came through the "-dens" and the "-hursts". Where only a few short months ago there was a *huge* "Vote Conservative" placard, today (in exactly the same place) there is an equally enormous "We Love the NHS" poster. Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here? There are those who would question me "bringing politics into everything" - to those people I would suggest they find out what politics is all about.

 

I stopped off at Tesco to get some supplies.  Plant food, washing gel, dishwasher tablets... As I shopped I very nearly pointed and shouted at the silly old bat who was wearing tatty latex gloves and picking up and putting down pretty much every item in the shop.

Most of the checkout staff also had tatty well-worn latex gloves. except one who was wearing woolly ones. I didn't quite point and laugh, but I came close.

 

I went on to work; I did my bit. At tea break I had an Easter Egg. Over the weekend the Nestle corporation had delivered loads of Easter Eggs to the hospital which was kind of them... Part of me cynically wonders if this was some sort of tax loss operation.

We also had home-made cake from a well-wisher who realised both just how important blood-testing is to healthcare and how much blood testers like cake.

I also had an email claiming to be from DWS investments who had "a genuine investment offer for Health Workers and Individuals". They were "offering genuine Investment opportunity to individuals to invest as low as £250 and get a minimum 10-fold profit interest value of £2,500 within 3 working days." If any of my loyal reader know of anyone who is so thick as to be taken in by this scam, please send me their two hundred and fifty quid and I'll invest it for them.

 

As we worked a colleague told us all of the fun she'd had last week home-schooling her locked-down children. The school had instructed her to educate her children in the intricacies of subordinate clauses. Much like my colleague did, I looked it up on Google. A subordinate clause is one which, typically introduced by a conjunction, forms part of and is dependent on a main clause.

One lives and learns...

I must admit I can't work out how I've managed the last fifty years without knowing what a subordinate clause is… 

 

 

28 April 2020 (Tuesday) - Soap Dish, Gin...

 

 

Having spent much of the night laying awake listening to the rain on the window I’d finally nodded off when the alarm went off. Over a bowl of the Tesco granola I’d bought yesterday (not bad) I watched another episode of Ricky Gervais’s “After Life” which was again rather good.

I had a little look at the Internet. There wasn’t much happening on Facebook really. Having joined the “Crap Animal Photography” page yesterday I left it this morning as there are only so many out-of-focus photographs you can look at before losing interest.

Seeing I had no emails at all I put some plant food onto my monkey puzzle tree and set off work-wards.

 

I drove to Pembury through a damp and dismal morning. The roads west-wards can be quite pretty in the morning sunshine, but were rather tedious in this morning's gloom.

As I drove the pundits on the radio were talking about the parlous state of our economy following the impact of coronageddon. I say "our" economy; from this morning's reports it is plain that the economy is clearly the property of an elite. There were reports of the HSBC bank wanting to lay off thousands of workers since their quarterly profits have plummeted to only three billion quid. And closer to home several ministers and MPs weren't interested in bailing out UK ferry and haulage firms who may well go bankrupt following the collapse of their businesses.

Am I the only one who sees something awry here? Years ago the government sold off the nation's assets because they didn't want the aggro of running them and felt that they would be more efficient in private hands. And now when these vital services are about to go belly-up, the government says it is not their problem. Surely the country needs an infrastructure in good times and bad? If nothing else, this pandemic has shown that a system of government which is dependent on greed falls flat on its face when there is no profit to be made.

 

I got to work. I did that which I could not avoid. There were a lot less cakes and Easter eggs than yesterday, which was a shame. But an early start made for an early finish, and I was home in time to go round the park with "er indoors TM" and the dogs.

The walk went well. Pogo didn’t shout *that* much and he played nicely with other dogs. Fudge did his usual trick of straggling and looking pitiful until he met another dog at which point he started a game of “rude-piggy-back” which totally made a mockery of my worrying about his bad back.

 

Once home I was amazed to see that "er indoors TM" had got us a new soap dish. It self-drains – how cool is that?

I then tried to pay for some Lego with PayPal. PayPal is crap. Whenever I use it I just get the “spinning blue wheel of death”. The only way to resolve it is to clear all the cookies and reset all the passwords. Which is something of a pain in the glass (as "Stormageddon - Bringer of Destruction TM" would say)

"er indoors TM" boiled up a particularly good bit of dinner which we washed down with some rather over-priced red wine, port and gin whilst watching yesterday’s “SAS: Who Dares Wins” and today’s “Celebrity Bake-Off”.

I expect I shall have a headache tomorrow…

 

 

29 April 2020 (Wednesday) - Late Shift

 

 

I slept like a log and woke feeling full of energy and raring to go at twenty past three. I then lay awake listening to a medley of snoring from "er indoors TM", Treacle and Pogo. Fudge had gone downstairs to the sofa for some peace and quiet. I should have joined him.

I peered into the Internet to see what had happened overnight. My new soap dish had generated quite a lot of interest. I saw that Cheryl had tagged me into one of those Facebook things: I now have to post (on Facebook) a scene (no title, not a poster) of a film that had an impact on me. Every day a new film and a new nomination for ten days. Today I went for the best film in the history of the universe (I’m trying to get rather obscure piccies - if you want to know what film it is, just ask…)

The last time I did something like this (influential albums) I nominated family members… only one had a go and he gave up after four days. This time I’m nominating people who I’ve known for at least forty years from my days in the Boys Brigade. I don’t suppose or expect any of them will join in, but there is a method in my madness here. It can be difficult to pick people for these Facebook meme-things without giving offence to those who don’t get picked. At least this way I have some defendable criteria.

 

I took the dogs out for a walk. As we went round the park we met the little old lady who goes about on a frame with her blue-eyed dog. (Dog owners don’t know other dog owners by name, we know each other by dog). She had a rant about the young family who use the park so little that they actually had to be told not to play in the flower beds, and she loudly announced that she would be glad when lock-down is over and all these people who have never before used the park all go back indoors. She then told a passing normal person that the face mask they were wearing would have been better used at the hospital by someone who actually needs it and wouldn’t waste it in the park.

I was so glad that it isn’t just me who is getting fed up with the antics of all the locked-down idiots.

We went on; Pogo shouted at the dog of a normal person, then played with new friends “Biscuit” and “Dorothy” before coming home.

 

Once home I saw that the postie had been. He’d delivered the Munzee stickers I’d ordered at the weekend. They’d arrived quickly. 

Usually I would then waste a little time watching telly, but with "er indoors TM" working from home I didn’t want to disturb her. And with the nation in lock-down, a geo-adventure or an hour’s munzing wasn’t really on the cards. So I wrote up a little CPD (which was on the dull side) whilst the dogs snored.

 

As I drove to Pembury the pundits on the radio were talking about how the pandemic has affected the religious. A lot more services are taking place virtually, and the chap being interviewed was rattling on about how "all sorts of possibilities are being considered". It never fails to amaze me how one possibility that never gets considered is that the righteous have got it all wrong, and their god is (at best) utterly disinterested in getting humanity out of  whatever disaster has befallen it this week.

There was also talk about how overworked Muslims in the NHS are struggling with Ramadan this year. There was speculation on relaxing the fasting restrictions, but the favoured option (of those seemingly in the know) was to allow anyone following Ramadan to take the entire month off work.

How is that going to work?

 

I got to work where there was a definite absence of cake. I did my bit (as I do).  Coming home was something of a game as the A21 was closed. Navigating home cross-country in the dark took some doing…

 

 

30 April 2020 (Thursday) - Another Late Shift

 

 

I didn’t have the most restful of nights. I had a nightmare in which I had been drafted back into the scout organisation and given command of a cub pack based near my mother’s house. All the children had various illnesses and maladies, and the parents were all glad that they could dump their kids on me.

I wonder what prompted that?

 

Fudge was particularly clingy as I scoffed my toast and peered into Facebook. A friend had posted a picture of a card he’d received which was enclosed in the packaging of a recent Amazon purchase. He was being offered ten Euros credit to his Amazon account if he wrote a five-star review of what he’d bought…

I follow an author page on Facebook (having had minor literary success in the past). People on that page write good reviews on the e-books of others without ever reading them, as a bad review is the kiss of death for a writer. I recently wrote a less than glowing report on an e-book I read. I said it was not the best and gave it three out of five. Had I been honest I would have written the one word “shite” and given it zero. But I still got a message from the author bleating that bad reviews are bad for business.

This is the world of on-line reviews.

I also saw that I’ve been made admin for the MunzeeCup of Cocoa” clan for May. That’s quite impressive (if sticking bar codes onto lamp posts is your thing)

I used Facebook’s new “care” emoticon on a photo of "Stormageddon - Bringer of Destruction TM", told the world about my second choice of film, and took the dogs out.

 

We took one step outside, turned round and came back in for my coat; it was pouring hard. But the rain stopped in minutes and we had a good walk. There was only one “episode”; a jogger coming toward us stopped and broke out into a rather vigorous workout routine when only ten yards in front of us. Treacle was terrified, Pogo saw it as a threat, and Fudge thought it was a game. Fortunately a jogger coming behind us saw it all happen, and agreed with me that the chap had picked a very silly place to start his thrashing about.

 

We came home and I harvested all the dog dung from the garden. Bearing in mind how much they “do” when we are out on our walks, they “do” an amazing lot in the back garden.

I then spent a little while going through my credit card statement. Being a meanie I always go through it and account for every penny, but what with the lock-down I’ve not withdrawn any cash since a week before my birthday. I’ve done every single transaction on card, and so there was a *lot* to go through. Mind you it was well worth doing. Amazon never took the payment for that rather bad e-book I whinged about earlier, and the hospital in Hastings never took the payment for car parking when I visited my mum.

 

Treacle had "dumped" just as we were coming home. I'd bagged it and left it on the doorstep to dispose of when I left for work. So I picked up the poop, walked up the road to the bin, and eventually found myself going in completely the opposite direction to that in which I should have been walking. It was a shame I didn't realise this earlier; I was in something of a daydream.

But I did get to have an experimental deploy of one of the new Munzees that had arrived yesterday. I replaced one that I'd put out only a couple of weeks ago which had faded to the point of being unreadable. It worked fine, which was a result.

 

As I drove to Pembury the pundits on the radio were droning on about the pandemic. If they had anything worth saying I would have listened. But they were just repeating that which has been repeated endlessly and making wild speculations with no evidence to back up their suppositions, so I turned the radio off, and listened to my (arguably) rather odd choice of music.

The roads seemed rather busy this morning. Nowhere near as busy as usual, but certainly busier than they have been.

 

I got to work, and thought I might see what the works canteen was doing. They were doing a rather good lasagne (with chips) and a very good spotted dick (with custard). I tucked in, and gave myself a belly ache which lasted all afternoon.

 

The late shift was much as late shifts are. I was glad to see the relief arrive, but driving home was something of a game. With the A21 closed I again had to go cross country through Horsmonden to Goudhurst, and then navigate the gamut of road works which was infesting much of the A262. I do like working at Tunbridge Wells, but the journey can be iffy. As it was this evening…