Monthly Archives: March 2020

Power Without Responsibility

Power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages

A quote with an interesting history.

I haven’t turned the news on this morning. For one thing, I didn’t need to, as it’s all there on my screen when I switched the computer on. For another, it’s dull, repetitive, negative, depressing, and it’s often not news.

If I turn on this morning the news will be much the same as it was last night. In one case recently, the coverage from South Africa was exactly the same as it had been the night before, apart from the fact that several things had become inaccurate. References to “tonight”, for instance, should have been “last night” by the time it was shown for the second time.

Optimism has been shown to be beneficial to health. This isn’t just some New Age mindfulness wishful thinking – it’s endorsed by years of medical research. Readers Digest tells us that Laughter Is the Best Medicine and, again, this is backed up by medical research. This article probably isn’t the most scientific, but it is the most comprehensive list of the benefits of laughter.

After much thought I actually stopped watching the news as much as possible a few years ago, and have felt much better since. I may be slightly worse informed, but I’m a lot happier.

Let’s look at journalists next. Who are they? It seems to me that they are people who talk about the things other people do. Often, they talk about this with the benefit of hindsight, which we all know is the best way to be right. The opening quote, which I now find to be by Kipling, sums the situation up as well today as it did in 1931. Unfortunately I can’t blame journalists for the bad news bias. They are merely reporting events in a way that attracts the mist interest. It always seems that bad news attracts the most attention, and misery, as they say, loves company. 

It is traditional , in the UK, to run ourselves down. When the Chinese started with coronavirus they built a hospital in two weeks. As someone told me, this is a clear sign of Chinese superiority, as it would take us years to build a hospital.

I pointed out that it’s a clear sign that the Chinese Government shoots people who stand in its way. You tend to have fewer stages to go through in China. In the UK you have planning, public enquiries, NIMBYs, and Health & Safety.

In general I’m sure that China has just as many problems as we do with big building projects, but when it comes to swift and decisive action the Chinese Government model has no equal.

On the other hand, we just converted a conference centre to a hospital in two weeks and the story deserves more prominence. We also have tons of equipment being delivered and Formula 1 racing teams and various engineering companies are gearing up to produce machines to assist with breathing.

It’s looking good to me.

But the main stories are about how we supposedly mishandled the ordering of ventilators, are leaving staff without proper equipment and aren’t testing enough people.

Something I’ve noticed is that they seem to favour interviews with doctors and nurses coming off shift – that’s definitely not going to produce optimistic views.

I’m not going to say that the government is brilliant (I think you may have noticed a few criticisms in recent weeks) or that we should have bad news kept from us. However, the Government does deserve some credit and it wouldn’t hurt to be more positive.

Finally, I just saw a segment about the Medway Queen on Flog It. One of the people who appeared on the TV was a WW2 veteran who had been saved from Dunkirk by the Medway Queen. Compared to Dunkirk, a few weeks locked down hardly counts as an inconvenience.


This is the Coronia, another Dunkirk ship, based in Scarborough.

Notes for Posterity

After yesterday, with its snow flurry and snow storm, this week is set to be significantly colder than a week ago. The day started with a miserable grey light, partly because of the weather and partly because we put the clocks forward at the weekend. So far, at 5.30, the day has remained grey and cold, though it has not yet rained. That is a good example of damning with faint praise.

“How was your day?”

“It didn’t rain.”

See what I mean?

The only other notable feature of the day is that it is now six days before we go shopping again. This counts as a significant milestone in a wasteland of tedium.

Today’s food intake, for people reading this in 100 years time, started with a breakfast of 2 Weetabix, milk and two slices of brown toast with strawberry jam. It was actually TESCO own brand, and the bread, being a bit dry, made very dry toast, which disintegrated as I ate it. That’s a bit of detail for future readers.

For lunch we had gala pie with the last of the coleslaw and some spinach leaves and tiny tomatoes. I’d better explain a gala pie for my future readers, as it’s likely to have been declared illegal by 2120. They are not very good for you. They are pork pies with eggs in the middle. With my customary hindsight, I really should have photographed it before eating.

To save you time, the health-related link includes the words “it’s a heart attack in a packet”.

We had a cup of tea in the afternoon with a few biscuits.

There are currently four monster potatoes baking in the oven. I bought “Wonky Veg” on Sunday and it seems to mean “Extra Large” in the case of these potatoes. It will be two for tonight and two for tomorrow, and probably some leftover bits for later.

I’m thinking of Kensington Rarebit for tomorrow.  I found the website The 1940’s Experiment yesterday when I was looking for Woolton Pie recipes. I’m thinking that it may be a useful source of recipes for lockdown.

This, of course, is an example of First World Problems – the food I have on hand would appear like a banquet to most people during the war. Here’s an interesting article on rationing in two World Wars – plus a view of what happens when the government prepares properly.




Yes, I finally cracked. After checking our food supplies yesterday, and seeing we were deficient in fresh vegetables, we decided to go out and look for the things we needed.

Did we actually need to do it? Probably not. Is it panic-buying? I don’t know.

However, we haven’t exactly been out stripping shelves in the last few weeks and, as Julia exercises indoors, we have been taking isolation seriously. I, of course, take my exercise by walking from TV to kettle, and back. I think we can allow ourselves a shopping trip.

We drove past ALDI on the way to the vegetable shop and noted that they had a security man on the door but no queue. We parked there and, while Julia went round the corner, clutching a list of vegetables, I went into ALDI. I felt like a child at Christmas.

There was just so much stuff in display, including bread, milk, long-life milk and eggs. What a difference two weeks makes. A fortnight ago it wouldn’t have meant anything. It would merely have been what you expected. Today, I could feel tears at the back of my eyes. Briefly. I’m not normally an emotional man, but the sight of all that sliced bread had a powerful effect on me.

If that happens after a couple of weeks, I wonder what I’d have done after six years of wartime rationing. I’d probably have made a proposal of marriage to a sliced wholemeal loaf.

I did the shopping for a whole week, seeing as it was there. I also bought a few extra bits, including an extra bag of potatoes, two litres of long-life milk, and a bag of pasta as a bit extra. I can rationalise it as protecting us from other people and their panic buying, though it’s also, to be honest, panic buying in its own right.

I’m not sure whether to feel happy or guilty. This feeling was reinforced when a flurry of snow hit us in the car park.

Meanwhile, on the TV news I saw this report.

I’ll give you a quote from it: ‘To all the people in this great city of ours in Derby, if you have gone out and panic bought like a lot of you have and stacked up your houses with unnecessary items you don’t normally buy or you have bought in more food than you need, then you need to take a good look at yourself.’

I can, with my hand on my heart, tell you that haven’t thrown a single scrap of food away in the last three weeks.

In a week or two I will be making Woolton Pie. If I can get flour it will have a crust. If not, it will have to have a mashed potato top.


Clivia – a family heirloom

The end photograph is our clivia. I’ve always called it a Natal Lily, but it might not be, as it looks like a different cultivar. We have had it for about 30 years, since my mother passed it on to Julia. Two days ago we managed to knock it over, so it’s looking a bit worse for wear.

In the 30 years we have passed several on, having grown them from root division. It needs to be under cover, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely plant, and would look good in the garden. You can grow agapanthusred hot pokers and mesambryanthemums outside in the UK – it’s a shame we can’t grow clivia. The garden next door used to have a fine show of agapanthus, but the last owner buried them under their new drive.

The Back of the Cupboard

It is five days since I last went shopping, and we are planning a new expedition. I’m not looking forwards to it – I don’t really want to queue around the outside of the shop as they allow us to enter one at a time for a tour of the empty shelves. We have tried ordering home delivery, but can’t find a delivery slot – they are all booked up for weeks to come.

I won’t carry on with this complaint as I’ve said it all before, but I am confused as to why the shelves are still empty despite the restrictions on buying.

I feel a bit guilty about buying more food while we still have plenty, but it’s a question of quality rather than quantity. We have food, in the sense of having things to eat, but in terms of having a proper balanced diet we are nearly out of a number of staples.

To manage our food more efficiently I have been checking the backs of the cupboards. I didn’t find Narnia but I did find some mango chutney to go with my previous discoveries. I even found a tin of rice pudding whilst I was shuffling packets and counting tins.

We have, I think, enough food for three weeks, if I really push it. Unfortunately, this is only one week of balanced meals, as we are running out of fresh vegetables. It won’t include bread, as we are about to run out. Nor, soon, will it include milk, eggs, or salad. Our vegetable stew will be served without dumplings due to a lack of flour.


Happier Days…

Week Two will see us running out of fresh fruit and relying on tinned vegetables – beans, mushy peas and sweetcorn. Sadly, the fish fingers and tinned mushy peas will be served without potatoes, which are in short supply. The cheese will have gone by the end of the week. On a brighter note, we will have plenty of marmalade, though without toast to put it on this is a mixed blessing. If we have any surplus cheese biscuits I will try them with marmalade.

Week Three will see some real culinary horrors as the tinned haggis comes into play, teamed up with chick peas and lentils. I bought two tins of haggis when I was worried about Brexit but haven’t been able to face actually eating them.

Julia told me that there is a spoof email doing the rounds, and taking advantage of the fear of food shortages. It promises tins of pork, but people are advised not to open it as it’s just spam.

Sorry about that – when Julia told me I couldn’t stop laughing. We have a tin of spam on the shelf next to the haggis. We will have to see if I’m still laughing when we are reduced to eating it.

Haggis and root vegetables

Haggis and root vegetables




What Next?

The Prime Minister, the Health Minister and the Government’s Chief Medical Officer have all self-isolated after experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or testing positive. I have just been reading an article noting all the times that they were seen in public without the required public distancing.

You may have noticed that a certain eagle-eyed blogger had already mentioned that. That is proof to me, if to nobody else, that I am the victim of a cosmic conspiracy to prevent me getting the recognition I deserve. I really should be rich and famous for my successful column in a national paper. Instead, I am not rich and only famous to my dozen regular readers. I’m happy with that, though maybe not quite as happy as if I were rich.

I tend to think of my regular readers as a selected elite – a sort of Crown Jewels of bloggers. When you have the Koh-i-Noor in your crown you don’t need a slew of lesser stones.

Diamonds are fascinating things, though the fascination is slightly dimmed by the barbarous nature of their history. I’m fascinated by the fact that the largest uncut diamond ever found, the Sergio, was broken up for use in industrial drills, whilst the second largest, the Cullinan, was cut into nine stones and two of them ended up in the Crown Jewels.

It’s a bit like my story.Two writers, both writing about the same subject. One is well-paid and successful. The other is me. I can only hope that Sergio had a rich inner life and a good wife, though having a wife with a price above rubies probably doesn’t mean quite as much to a diamond.

All this is just a sort of preamble to admitting I have nothing new to say. There is only so much to be said about panic-buying, lockdown and boredom. Not that I’m actually bored. I’m being paid to stay at home chatting to Julia, writing and texting friends and family. There will, if I live through it, be a good chance that I look back on this time with nostalgia.


Twenty Minutes in a Car Park

While Julia queued to buy her blood pressure machine, I had twenty minutes to amuse myself in a car park. It is on Mansfield Street, in case you couldn’t guess. It is actually known as Hall St car park because that is where the entrance is. If I’d thought, I would have taken a shot of the Hall St sign instead.

Hall St, Sherwood, Nottingham

Hall St, Sherwood, Nottingham

The purple shop on the left of the shot sells New Age stuff. I’m not quite clear on what it actually does as it’s not the sort of place I’d be tempted to enter. I’m not criticising anyone, or their beliefs, but like sky-diving and colonic irrigation I just know it’s not for me.

The flats at the back are built on the site of the old Sherwood Station, part of the Nottingham Suburban Railway. It was not a successful railway, being expensive to build and never really getting into its stride.

It’s a nicely presented building with a great painting of a cat on it. Several other local buildings are also decorated, I really should make an effort to photograph them.


Closed Gym

The Gym, now closed for the duration of the virus outbreak, used to be a supermarket. It was redeveloped about ten years ago. Before that it had been a supermarket but it was still housed in a building that had definitely been a cinema. Despite the Kwik-Save signs it was definitely a cinema.


Sign showing that the space is reserved for 1950’s motor-cycles


Sign to ban fly-tipping. Modern psychological theory is that the eye makes you think people are looking at you. and this makes you obey the law.

There used to be a lot of fly-tipping next to the recycling bins because people are too lazy to take stuff away if there isn’t a bin for it, or if the bin is full. The signs were not terribly successful, but all tipping has stopped since they removed the recycling bins. Another depressing look at modern life.

There were no interesting flowers to photograph and no insect life. Not even any interesting litter.

Then Julia came back.

Queuing – A Fine Old Tradition

And here, as promised in the last post, is the less happy post.

I had a telephone conversation with a rheumatology consultant this morning, as they don’t want people going to hospital. I’m happy with that as I didn’t want to go either, even before the rise of Covid 19.

The outcome was that as I now have three more fingers swelling up I qualify for treatment. If I had only two affected joints, despite the difficulty and pain, I would not qualify for more than a quick-fix injection. I now have to wait for a nurse to ring me and arrange the prescription.

The fingers are now going down again, so with any luck I will get the prescription before another flare up.

After a week or more of conflicting government advice about risk and isolation the consultant said I am considered medium risk and should go out for exercise but avoid going into shops. That should be interesting when we return to work…

Then Julia got as telephone call from the doctor. Her blood test appointment was cancelled again. Then, when she objected, the doctor read her notes and reinstated it. I suspect they were just trying to cancel as much as possible.

The new arrangement is that we have to go down to the surgery at 1.45 pm, where they will take blood. This has to be done before 2.00pm to get it to the lab.


Woman on a Mission

They will not be taking her blood pressure – she has been told to go and buy her own machine and telephone the surgery with the results.

No, I’m not making it up.

Her risk category is high, but she is, according to the doctor, still allowed to go shopping. This is handy, as we need to buy a blood pressure machine. We tried online but there was a virtual queue at Boots of over 20,000 just to get online. There was no queue at Amazon but they wanted £4.49 for postage and packing and another £4.49 for express delivery which was 3 days. Three days is not “express”, and £8.98 is taking the mickey.

So there we are – a week into lockdown and Julia is high risk. However, unlike medium-risk me, she is allowed to go into shops, and most likely, to go back to work next week.

Again, I am not making this up.

Here are some pictures from our trip out for medical advice and a blood pressure machine.

Most of the people queuing outside the surgery were waiting for the pharmacy to open, as it has restricted hours. The pharmacy we went to in Sherwood was only letting in two customers at a time. Julia managed to get both the blood pressure machine and a packet of paracetamol. This is ironic. The pain-killing gel has not been working on my fingers and I’ve been leaving out last packet of paracetamol in case we become ill. Now that my fingers are no longer painful we have managed to get more pills.

Pharmacy Queue

Pharmacy Queue – with hindsight we should have joined this one

All the shops seem to have queuing systems now. We are going out to join one shortly, because, when we got home, we found that the blood pressure machine only has two batteries packed with it and needs four. They are AAA. If they were AA we would have plenty because I use them in my camera.

No wonder Julia’s blood pressure is high.

Don't believe the packet - batteries were definitely not included!

Don’t believe the packet – batteries were definitely not included!

A Happy Selection

Things that make me happy - Number One - Julia at a tearoom

Things that make me happy – Number One – Julia at a tearoom

Just a few photographs of happier times when I could actually get out into nature. I’m still allowed out, but as I’m not allowed to drive anywhere to exercise all I can see is tarmac, concrete and gardens. Unfortunately I can’t see myself being welcome if I start poking my lens into people’s gardens. Looks like photography might be severely restricted.

I’m having a bit of trouble searching for photos, and some of the ones I’ve uploaded don’t seem to be loading properly so I’m just going to press the button and see what happens.

I will be writing another post soon but that probably won’t be as cheery as birds and flowers.


Julia with enigmatic smile

A Cupboard Full of Treasure

I have just been rooting through a kitchen cupboard. It’s one I don’t often use as it’s awkward for me to reach. It’s awkward for Julia to reach too, but about a year ago she stood on a chair and rearranged it. She does this sometimes. Usually when I am out.

Tonight, whilst waiting for pasta to boil, I decided to have a quick look through the cupboard. It contains mainly pulses and such stuff and I thought it would be good to have a look through with a view to using some up.


Pasta Bake

Imagine my surprise on moving the first few packets, to find that we had an unopened pack of spaghetti in there. Treasure indeed, in these times of shortage. And behind the cous cous and quinoa, I unearthed a pack of organic oats. Again, in these days of porridge shortages, this was like finding a bag of gold. Well, not quite. If I found 500 grams of gold instead of the oats. I’d probably have reacted in a slightly more enthusiastic manner.

Yes, I admit, I did say cous cous and quinoa. I bought them a few months ago to make healthy lunchtime salads but haven’t quite weaned myself off cheese and pickle sandwiches.

I also found two tins of chopped tomatoes and two more of chick peas plus a bag of pudding rice. This is all stuff you can no longer find on supermarket shelves. I never thought I’d be glad that I have a wife with squirrel DNA but her habit of hiding things seems to have paid off this time.

So, all is right with the world. We have bonus food for several meals and there is a pasta bake in the oven. I will take a picture when I take it out.

After that we will be having apple crumble. I’ll take a picture of that too.


Apple crumble with cream – delicious

All in all, things could be a lot worse.

Lockdown Ratatouille

Yes, I’ve reverted to writing recipes again. Well, I needed some new photos and this was one way to get them.

It’s a handy recipe which provides two meals for two people. Or one meal for four. As a bonus, it’s all vegetables you can’t really poison anybody with it.

It’s particularly useful for my diet as I don’t really enjoy it so I don’t eat too much. Too many vegetables, too much virtue and not enough chips. I suppose you could serve it with chips but it doesn’t seem natural.

Warning – this isn’t quite the classic ratatouille recipe and if you are a serious cook it probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you aren’t too fussy and have better things to do than cook, it might just suit you.

All anecdotes and suggestions for improvement gratefully received.

Take some onions and start to soften them in a pan with a good splash of oil. I use ready chopped onions because too much preparation makes my back hurt and my fingers start to ache. Use about half a packet. The other half can be used for vegetable curry. I usually cook them on the same night and store the other in the fridge.

The Recipe:

Chop a couple of courgettes. Throw them in the pan. Cut up some peppers. I only had one red pepper and it was going a bit soft at one end so this recipe is for three quarters of a red pepper. I like the the colour of red or orange or yellow peppers. I rarely use green because I’m not keen on indigestion. That’s zucchini and bell pepper if you are American. I believe it’s zucchini and capsicum if you are in Australia and courgette and capsicum if you are in New Zealand.

It’s a good thing we all speak English or this could be quite confusing.

And now we have an aubergine. Chop it and chuck it in. It’s an egg plant in America, Australia, New Zealand and most of Canada. It’s an aubergine in Quebec and the UK.

Perhaps people could confirm that this is correct, it will give us something to talk about while we are in lockdown.


It’s approximately ratatouille

I used one tin of tomatoes, some puree and some water because I’m trying to conserve tinned tomatoes – they are in short supply round here. Add dried herbs. I just use mixed herbs. Sometimes I use Italian Mixed Herbs. I suppose I ought to be using the Provencal mixed herbs, but you don’t always see them around. To be honest, they are all exotic and foreign to me, and my palate is not sophisticated.

I should use garlic but I’m out of the bottled stuff at the moment and couldn’t be bothered to slice any of the fresh stuff.

After that you simmer it a bit. If you are lucky it comes out rich and gloopy. If you aren’t lucky you just have to say “it’s supposed to be crunchy” or “in some parts of France it’s traditional to serve it as a soup” or “If you’re so clever, you can do the cooking.”

Divide it into two lots, reserving the cooking liquid, if any, for the second lot.

Serve the first with sausages, veggie burgers or baked potatoes. Or pretty much anything you fancy – those are just my three main choices. As you will see, I served it with garlic bread and broccoli last night – we had some left-over garlic bread slices and the broccoli was looking a bit the worse for wear at the back of the fridge so it all went on the plate.


That broccoli looks really bad when photographed…

The second lot should be mixed with cooked pasta. If possible have this portion a bit more liquid than the first lot so it coats the pasta. When you are ready to eat, sprinkle cheese on top and reheat it in the oven. Now it’s pasta bake and you can’t be accused of serving the same thing twice in two days.

Preparation time – about 20 minutes for the ratatouille, about 15 for the pasta bake (mostly boiling pasta). Cooking time – about twenty minutes I suppose, I never really check.

Ingredients – onions, courgettes aubergines, peppers, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, mixed herbs, garlic, possibly water. You can get by without aubergines and peppers if necessary and you can put mushrooms in, though I’m not sure you are meant to.

And that, dear reader, is another part of the mystery. It’s not my money or my cheerful disposition, and as you can see from the recipe, it’s not my cooking. What does Julia see in me?