The Week in Restrospect

It’s strange, looking back, that the posts I’ve written don’t necessarily reflect the week as I remember it. You could be forgiven, after reading the posts, for thinking that I’ve had a week of isolation, food shortages and queues. I suppose I have, but it hasn’t seemed like that.

Despite everything, it’s not been a bad week. Having stocked up on Sunday, I have not had to worry about running short of food.

Whilst waiting for the pharmacy queue to go down we had a ride round and checked out some other queues for reference. I don’t actually remember the queues that well, what I remember is the flowers.

We have a dazzling display of dandelions in the local verges and a few wood celandines, clinging on under trees by the roadside. They seem to be Lesser Celandines when I check them up on the internet, a flower mentioned in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have read the book many times but I’d never noticed that before. It is, I’m told, also known as pilewort as it can be used medically to treat haemorrhoids. The leaves are edible in spring and poisonous later in the year. This does not motivate me to sample its culinary uses.

The blossom is coming out too, and spring is well advanced. This is a double-edged sword – I like spring, but it seems to pass so quickly.

We now have a plan for work. I had a letter through the post this morning (I’d had it by email yesterday) detailing the way forward. I am now on official leave of absence and will be fully paid until further notice. At some point I may have to drop to 80% but even so, it’s a lot better than being jobless.

As a result I am still able to treat the lockdown as a bonus holiday, though I do feel a bit guilty about not going in to work.

The new edition of Medal News came out this week, with my article in it. As usual, I read it and thought “could do better”. I often do that with the blog when I look back on past posts, particularly when I see the typos I allow to slip through. Now that I have a few weeks of free time I must get down to planning some more articles. I’d like to think that it entertains and adds to the sum of human knowledge but really it’s just an ego trip.

It won’t make me rich or famous, but it’s nice to be able to tell people about it.

This is in contrast to the results of the National Poetry Competition. I don’t mind not winning, because it’s an unrealistic hope, but I do mind that the winning entry and several others are dreary, unpleasant things. They even have a content warning about them on the Poetry Society website.

To me, that’s wrong. If you honestly believe a poem is good and powerful, and worth the prize, you just print it. No apologies, no link to Samaritans, just print it.

If, on the other hand it’s simply miserable and fashionable, don’t print it. I suppose that makes me sound like a bit of a dinosaur, even a bit of a bitter dinosaur, and totally out of touch with modern poetry. Well, if that’s the case I won’t deny it.

And that is the real story of the week. Even a natural disaster can have a silver lining.

 

The Queue

Sorry, I had to repeat the header picture again. I was going to take more photos today, but didn’t do any in the end.

We went to the pharmacy this afternoon. Julia needed more medication and we had ordered mine at the same time to cut down on the number of times we risked contact, both for us and the pharmacy staff.

They open at 2am. We went down at 2.15 and found a queue of approximately 18 people. We decided to have a drive round and come back later when the rush was over. At 2.50 we returned and found the queue had reduced to 17, though most of them were different people. Several of the people who had been at the back of the original queue had still not reached the shop.

Reluctantly, we joined the queue. As I said to Julia, it was a good thing she had arranged to pick her prescription up in advance, or we’d have ended up in a massive slow queue.

She told me to shut up. Apparently sarcasm does not make queues go faster. An hour later, I found myself agreeing with her. I nearly said: “At least it isn’t raining.”

If I’d said that, I’m sure it would have done. So I restrained myself.

The woman in front of us had her son with her. He was about 12 or 14 and about the same size as her. He had learning difficulties, which originally took the form of engaging in a game of pointing at me and laughing whilst saying “man” and “giant”. He also said “hello” a lot, asked our names and named our hair colours – in my case this was “blonde” so I can forgive him a lot. As they queued, and he became bored, he started wrestling with his mother. She was impressively strong, and very patient. I’m guessing that the lockdown is harder for her than it is for many of us.

As we got to the door of the shop, the woman in front let them take her place, which was pretty good considering it had taken us an hour by that time.

Julia went in before me. I went in a couple of minutes later. She got hers in five minutes, as it was already organised. It was to take me another half hour. I gave them the barcode the surgery had texted me. It didn’t work.

So much for technology.

I had to go across to the surgery. Biosecurity was not as tight as last week, and I was able to walk straight in. Strange, I thought. What was even stranger was the way they had piled up furniture and tape as a barrier. And the fact there was nobody there.

I double checked the notices – there were many prohibitions (this situation is heaven-sent for people who like giving orders) including telling me not to enter if I had an appointment, but there was nothing telling me not to just drift in from the street. Strange…

Eventually someone found me, issued a paper prescription and, after checking my identity on my driving license, gave me a password for the website, which should mean I can just order online in future. In theory. I’ll believe it when I see it.

And that was…

No, that wasn’t quite it.

They were short of Warfarin and had no pain-killing gel. The gel will be in on Monday and the Warfarin on Tuesday. I am, it seems, welcome to queue for an hour any time next week to pick the extras up. I can even queue twice, once on Monday and once on Tuesday, if I want.

This, as I pointed out, rather works against the whole point of self-isolation.

 

 

Just a Year Ago

The rain photo in the header was taken exactly a year ago, on 3rd April 2019 as I tried to pull away from the kerb after visiting a local shop. That is currently shut. I can’t say that I’ve been pleased at the way my life has developed, and wasn’t exactly on a high when I took that photo, but I can’t say things have improved over the last year.

On the other hand, it’s not raining today.

The flower photos are all from the Mencap Garden in Wilford. The garden is currently shut, and so is Mencap. The clients are all well, and getting bored being at home. I can tell that from the number of calls Julia gets from people complaining they are bored. They can’t all understand why they are being kept at home, and one actually thinks it’s because of a fault at the garden. He is unable to grasp the concept that the country, possibly the world, has closed down. To be honest, so do I.

 

Unfortunately they don’t all have a good grasp of time or the social niceties of telephone calls, tending to ring when they think about it, regardless of it being 7 am or midnight.

One of the saddest sights I’ve seen in recent weeks was a young man crying in TESCO. He was in his 20s, had learning difficulties and was accompanied by a career (or possibly his mother – I only saw them for a moment). He couldn’t understand where all the food had gone and why he couldn’t buy the things he wanted.

Just over two percent of the UK population have learning difficulties. The world is a frightening place for many of them at the best of times, but I’d hate to think what it is like for them at the moment.

Some, who have family support (and money) will be fine. Others, lacking family and financial stability, will not be doing so well.

I’m going to post some flower pictures from 4th April last year and then I’m going to count my blessings.

Caller Number Two

I am currently Caller Number Two in the surgery system. I have been Caller Number Two for the last ten minutes. I know this, because they keep telling me, and thanking me for my patience. It’s very irritating. The only good thing about it is that it cuts off the twangy music.

They tell me my place in the queue several times a minute and tell me they are currently experiencing a high volume of calls every minute. At least they are grateful for my patience.

I’ve now been waiting about 12 minutes. The music has changed several times. but my position in the queue has not altered.

My patience is, I admit, being tried.

I’m beginning to worry that I’m stuck in electronic limbo. Or that Covid 19 has ripped through the nation and that Julia and I are the last two survivors of the human race. It could happen. Assuming that the TV stations are on automatic it could be several days before we noticed they were repeating all the programmes (let’s face it, most of the stuff is repeated ad infinitum at the best of times) and we wouldn’t know until we went shopping.

I’ve been in the house for the best part of 96 hours now and I’m relying on my computer calendar to tell me what day it is. I could actually be the last man on Earth. If I am, the apes are welcome to it. I don’t have the energy to fight them for it.

Ah! Number One. I’m Number One!

I don’t remember being as excited as this for a long time.

And suddenly, I am connected. There is no human voice, just crackling. Am I through to a disease-ravaged room of death, where skeletal hands clutch crackling, endlessly unanswered telephones?

No, there is now a human voice. Ninety seconds later my business is concluded and I am happy. All is right with the world and I have a texted barcode to enable me to pick up my prescription.

It took 21 minutes according to my phone timer. As I sprang from being 2nd to 1st very quickly I can only assume that the original two callers spent ages on the phone. There is, as I recall, an Edgar Wallace story about a murderer who killed someone by sending an electric shock down a telephone (my memory is dim, but I know a telephone was involved). Maybe the NHS should look at that as a way of cutting down on telephone waiting times.

Anyway, I can now go and pick up the prescriptions.

If I could only get rid of the twanging music in my ears…

 

The Story So Far

I think all the positivity of my last few posts has exhausted me. It’s not easy being cheerful when the whole world seems set on misery. Earlier tonight I was listening to a negative, whining politician tonight as he made a selection of party-political points and offered nothing useful. This, of course, is merely reverting to type. They behaved like a basket of weasels through the whole Brexit debate, briefly grew up at the start of the Covid outbreak and are now reverting to type.

The country is led by a man who has made all his political decisions based on how it would help his career, so you can’t blame any of his verminous fellows who are trying to further their careers in the current climate. It may be a tragedy for the us, but it’s a career opportunity for them.

Today, after reading more of the 1700 book, I have mainly been watching TV, reading blog sites and searching newspaper archives. There are worse ways of spending a day.

Julia’s day started at 6.55 when someone rang her. It was a wrong number. It finished at 20.15 when some of the clients decided to conference call her. They get bored and ring at all times, having no concept of working hours. It’s very wearing.

Tomorrow will be similar, but may feature a trip to the pharmacy. I really must start measuring medallions too. It’s time to start making lists so that I do actually accomplish something. I can then bore people with stories of what I did in the Great Lockdown of 2020.

Good news from earlier in the week is that pollution levels are falling because we aren’t using cars as much.

10 Things to Do During Lockdown

I’ve been looking at several lists of ways to pass the time during lockdown and I decided mine was better, so here it is.

(1) Moan about the Government – despite what I have said recently about being positive, it’s important to vent your frustration so feel free to shout at politicians on TV and to mentally compose letters you intend sending after the lockdown. Feel free to include the WP spellcheckers and KFC in your ranting – even if you don’t have anything against them I do.

(2) Write something – blog, diary, poem, book. They all have their charms. Diaries never get seen so you can write what you like and write as badly as you like – it doesn’t matter and it might come in useful later. Blogs aren’t particularly taxing – look at me, I’ve been getting away with writing this tat for years. Poems are easy enough, I write hundreds every year. Sometimes I write a good one. Once in a blue moon an editor agrees. Books are trickier, but you might end up rich and famous

(3) Laze the day away – it’s a bonus holiday. According to what I read on other sites it’s important to have a structure in your day, so I timetable the time 9-10 for breakfast, 10-11 for coffee and biscuits, 12-1 for lunch, 1-2 for digestion, 2-3 for snoozing, 4-7 for quizzes and the rest of the evening for cookery and TV. That leaves an hour in the morning and the same in the afternoon for blogging and poetry. It’s not easy but I’m getting through it.

(4) Cook something new. I did Kensington Rarebit tonight. It was very good, though it isn’t, as Julia pointed out, really rarebit, just potatoes with grated cheese on top. I didn’t take pictures tonight but I will next time we have it.

(5) Read some improving literature. I have a copy of Mrs Dalloway around somewhere. I bought it as part of my attempt to read a selection of the 100 best novels. I looked at various lists, selected a number of books and started reading. My plan lasted about a dozen books. After struggling through Moby Dick, I made the mistake of starting Don Quixote. I wrote about that, several times, a few years ago. 

(6) Make inroads into your pile of unread books (not necessarily the same thing as Number 5). I just finished a couple of whodunnits –  Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer, which is a middling sort of detective novel given to me by a neighbour. I thought she only wrote regency romances. It was OK, but I am not rushing to buy another. The other was Death of an Honest Man. It was dreadful, and is the last one of the series I will bother with. It’s like a mish-mash of all the Hamish Macbeth cliches thrown into a book and badly edited, if it was edited at all. It’s a sad end to a series, and an author, that I have enjoyed over the years.

I’m now on 1700, a book about London in the year 1700. I’m enjoying it, and it’s full of interesting detail.

(7) Work from home. Julia is doing this. I am definitely not. That is why she has high blood pressure and I don’t. Having said that, her blood pressure is going down as her workload goes up. I can only suggest that the doctor puts her blood pressure up. Last week (while we were theoretically on holiday) she was taking half a dozen calls a day and did three online courses. This week she has taken calls and written an online guide to making flowers from plastic bottles.

(8) Garden. Always a good thing to do. Sadly, we have had quite a lot of cold winds recently, which makes our northward-facing garden an unattractive proposition. You can’t do much apart from weeding anyway, as all the Garden Centres are shut.

(9) Talk to people (or text and email people). I am emailing and texting various people to keep in touch. I’m not very sociable, but it’s good to know that people are keeping well. You never know, I might even become a more sociable person at the end of all this.

(10) I’m leaving this one for you to fill in. What ideas do you have?