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Panic-Buyer!

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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

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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.

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Julia with enigmatic smile

A Journal of the Plague Year – Revenge of the Pangolin

This shutting up of houses was at first counted a very cruel and unchristian method, and the poor people so confined made bitter lamentations.

Daniel Defoe “A Journal of the Plague Year” (1722)

Of course, Defoe didn’t know as much science as we do, and probably knew nothing of pangolins, but he did know about people. It seems from the line quoted above, that people don’t change that much. It also appears, despite generations of scientific discovery, that we don’t know much more about controlling pandemics than we did in 1665 (the Plague Year of the title).

According to the link above, pangolins have been ruled out as the source of the Covid 9 outbreak, which is a shame, as it would be a good example of cosmic justice. It might also have taught us a lesson about how to treat nature.

As an aside, I have a thought about pangolins. Why not develop a pangolin which, with the help of genetic engineering, is either poisonous when eaten by humans or explodes when stressed? The latter suggestion is probably the more messy of the two, but would help to stamp out poaching.

Can you imagine the look on a poacher’s face as his head flies through the air after he attempts to capture a stressed pangolin?

Our day has mainly been about the medical profession. Julia rang the surgery this morning to check arrangements for her latest round of tests and was told that she had cancelled the appointment by text. She hadn’t. I know this because she’s been worrying about this test since she had the previous tests in hospital. I suspect that someone in the surgery has been messing about.

We have to go down on Friday now, ring the surgery from the car park and meet someone with a blood pressure machine at the door of the surgery. That result, I’m fairly sure, is going to be high.

Julia is still struggling to sign up on the NHS app and I’m still struggling to actually download it. I suspect the system is buckling under the strain. The NHS is not known for its up to date computer systems. If you remember, it’s only a few years since the whole system collapsed and revealed quite how bad things were. At that time their IT system was worse than mine.

All that took several hours, though it’s not like we’re short of time.

The featured image is books – I like books. They calm me down.

 

 

 

Disappointment, Disillusionment and Despair

I started the day trying to improve my grasp of technology. It seems my phone can be used to download something called an “app” and i can use this to access the local surgery and order prescriptions. In practice, I can’t recall how to work my phone for anything that isn’t making a call or sending  a text. Julia tried on her phone and it is refusing to allow her to register. This, it seems from the feedback, is quite common and the NHS just gives you another link to follow.

Giving people links is quite common these days and solves nothing, though it does move the problem to someone else.

I ordered KFC last night, to augment our dwindling food stores, and was presented with a meal tat had been in a car for 50 minutes. I could have warmed it up and been forgiving, as they are very busy at the moment.

However, they missed out the coleslaw, corn and dipping sauces. That meant that instead of a meal, which Julia had requested as a treat to break the tedium of life in lockdown, we ended up with warm chicken and baked beans.

It took me twenty minutes to obtain a refund for the missing bits, even though I actually wanted the rest of the meal. Just Eat refused to contact the KFC branch, and said “I don’t understand where you’re coming from.” when I explained I didn’t want a paltry refund, I wanted the rest of the meal.

They advised me to leave a review for the restaurant so they would try to improve.

I wanted to ring the restaurant, but couldn’t find a phone number, so I emailed KFC. They told me to contact Just Eat for a refund, despite me telling them that I had done that. They ended “I hope this won’t put you off ordering from us again.”

I replied that it most definitely would put me off ordering again.

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No eggs

We also tried to order a food delivery. ASDA and TESCO both had problems with their sites when we ordered and when it was sorted we found they don’t have any delivery slots. We never did get to the bottom of the ASDA order, but TESCO can’t deliver until mid-April.

So I went shopping.

The government tells us there is plenty of food. There is, as long as you don’t want eggs, milk, dried pasta, paracetamol, sliced bread, oatmeal, tinned tomatoes or other staples.

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No sliced bread

The shelves are empty, the staff are lacklustre and the situation is clearly out of control.

I made some substitutions, bought cheese, and a supervisor was consulted about whether I could buy more than 2 carrots and 2 parsnips (there’s a two item rule now – too late) but they saw this was stupid so allowed me to buy six carrots and four parsnips. It’s hardly hoarding.

All the dried beans, pulses, grains and legumes are gone. Only five bags of buckwheat remained on that shelving section and I’d rather eat floor sweepings. We used to use buckwheat husk to line automatic nestboxes and the smell always reminds me of poultry sheds. It’s not an appetising association.

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Buckwheat – no lentils, beans or peas

The cheap pestos and cooking sauces are all gone, and, as with so many things, only the expensive and the low fat versions remain.

And that, for posterity, are my observations on the day.

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Expensive pesto

Where is all the bread? Where are all the eggs? The bakeries are still working and you can’t just shut a chicken off so there must be plenty about.

A Confederacy of Dunces

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”  – Jonathan Swift

The second shoe fell today – I am laid off until further notice. It wasn’t unexpected, and in some ways it’s a bit of a relief as I now know what is going to happen regarding work. I didn’t want to let anybody down, but I didn’t want to bring any germs home to Julia either.

This isn’t as selfless as it seems. Without Julia I couldn’t cope in a world of technology, political correctness and compassion. It isn’t in my nature and I need someone to guide me through it. I would be lost without her and would just have to fade away, which I don’t want to do that just yet. They call it the widowhood effect.

Having done badly in a round of Pointless which demanded knowledge of US State capitals I will be starting a course of increasing my general knowledge from tomorrow.

I’m also planning on measuring and cataloguing my collection of Peace Medallions.

After that I may rearrange my sock drawer. The question is whether to sort them by colour, length or type.

After that I may run down the street screaming and waving an axe.

I’ve been amusing myself with watching news reports of the coronavirus, or even news reports not about the coronavirus. Listen to the advice then watch what happens.

There were pictures on TV of Italian policemen stopping people for breaking curfew. Some police were wearing masks pulled away from their mouths and noses and others were wearing them over moustaches.

Our government advice is that healthy people should not wear masks, and that masks without eye protection are not useful. Advice for many years has been that masks don’t seal properly if you have facial hair. I have been told that many times by Health & Safety men, but I was working with chemicals, not pathogens. And finally, they only work when you wear them – seems obvious but several of the Italian Police hadn’t thought of that.

Then there were pictures of Alex Salmond. I’ll leave it to you if you read the article but look at how close they all are. That’s not two yards apart. To be honest, even if there was no coronavirus I’d be wary of standing too close to Alex Salmond after some of the things that were said at the trial.

How about the daily press conferences? They seem to have changed now but until yesterday the journalists all seemed rather tightly packed. Have a look at this picture– how far apart are they?

Do as I say and not as I do seems to be the watchword.

Tonight a news crew stopped a man in London and asked what he was doing. He was filming for his YouTube channel.

“Should you really be doing that?” they asked.

Am I the only one detecting the irony of the question? I’ve been saying for days that we’d be better off without all these news reporters roaming the streets to complain about people roaming the streets.

So there you are – the inside of my head during a day in the life of a crisis.

I will look for a picture, but I’m not sure I have any that are appropriate. Instead, here are some ducks on the duckpond at the Mencap garden. Julia took them on Friday when we popped by to water and check seedlings.

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Ducks on a Pond

If you want a good book to read whilst self-isolating try this.