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COVID COPING CHRONICLE No. 10 May 31, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Ten days since my last scrawl and not much has changed hereabouts virus-wise, although as my original intention was as much to reflect on my personal experience of lockdowned life as well as venting my mounting fury of how our government are handling it, perhaps I should try and do that for once?

In truth, Welsh Marches small-town life hasn’t much changed. I still take long walks and/or cycle rides in the ironically glorious weather, still go to the local shops when I need food, drink or a new bicycle saddle, still sit in the garden and read (just finished Graham Green’s rather ponderous End Of The Affair, now onto Rick Gekoski’s brilliantly funny Darke Matter), still tinker with my cars and ‘bikes, still drink and watch television too much and still have now not-so-sneaky drinks and tea parties in gardens with friends. But there have been some developments.

Evidently no longer a ‘vulnerable’ septuagenarian, I volunteered to help control the number of people visiting some of the eighteen odd businesses in our high street – itself a very civilised even jolly endeavour – which has now permanently lost two hairdressers, an estate agent and although it could now technically re-open, our local fish’n’chip shop. Some of our eateries are doing take-aways or delivering telephone orders, but others show no signs of ever returning and of our three pubs, one landlord told me he never expects to re-open, whereas the two mini-marts are doing a hugely increased trade in bottled beer.

Our nearest bookshop in what has become even more of a ghost town some 16 miles distant (www.rossiterbooks.co.uk) has long been closed and although they’re doing phone orders, it took weeks to get a copy of the aforementioned Darke Matters because the publishers were apparently consigning most copies to Amazon, who I try on principle not to use. All of which suggests to me that the retail sector will never, ever be the same again if and when this is all over. Many will gleefully continue to buy everything from groceries to clothing online, but I bemoan this not just because I love the human contact and sample-the-goods choice of the high street, but also because the national and local exchequers will lose billions of pounds in taxes which Amazon – the ‘Stuff Central’ of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – and their ilk, simply don’t and won’t pay. And with no advertising left to speak of, local and eventually national newspapers, and probably commercial t.v. channels will disappear. But you argue, personalised social media will keep us adequately informed. Oh really? Then welcome to Trumpland. As for the BBC, who’ll want to pay the licence fee now that so many voices are being raised against it… and we’ve all been subscribing to Nextflix and Amazon Prime to keep ourselves entertained during this interminable quarantine? Brave New World order? Well it won’t be fair, democratic or pretty.

I’ve noticed that people, including me, are getting tetchier with each other, grumping at those who do, or conversely don’t, wear face masks and gloves in shops, or when you pass too close to them on pavements, and a warning that I’ll be a social pariah if I return here from doorstep-visiting much missed relatives and friends in London, the Barnard Castle of the South East. IMG-20200525-WA0003 (1)And there’s the general air of ‘this-has-gone-on-for-too-long’, evidenced by the dwindling number of us hitting the street to applaud the NHS and carers on a Thursday evening as lockdown fatigue sets in.

At which point I might again rail against our shoddy, disingenuous and clearly battle-weary servant/masters running the show, in fact a tiny cabal of Bo-Jo arse-lickers who now barely even involve the rest of the cabinet. But others have and continue to do it far better than I, most recently Janice Turner in Saturday’s Times (see below) crisply deriding the iniquities of the so-far-not-working Track & Trace system. I also reproduce below the first para of Roslyn Bylfield’s latest blog and urge you to read the rest of it and indeed subscribe to it. (www.therapistinlockdown.co.uk)

“What a terrible news week it’s been. With COVID deaths moving towards the 40,000 which sounded horrific when first estimated months ago and still does, there’s been the Dominic Cummings debacle and further erosion of confidence in the PM on continuing to back him despite 44 of his own MPs including former ministers calling for Cummings’s resignation; 61 speaking up against his retention; the resignation of Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Douglas Ross; absurd defences of Cummings offered by numerous ministers and others; the removal of Emily Maitlis from BBC2’s Newsnight; Durham Police deciding, contrary to evidence, to take no action against Cummings and the PM insisting the matter is closed; Matt Hancock exhorting the public to do their “civic duty” and stay at home as he launched the new test and trace system despite local authorities lack of appropriate involvement and powers; continuing delays with the contact tracing app; the PM effectively silencing the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer at the daily press briefing; and eased lockdown rules which are riddled with inconsistencies, not least with the lockdown rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

And in a further ten day’s time where will be – reeling from a massive spike after public transport and schools have returned, Track and Trace and testing generally still woefully wobbly, or what? One thing I am sure of is that we will still be the worst European country in terms of infections, deaths and general mismanagement, and that, in itself is beyond shocking.

Janice Turner – May 30th

COVID COPING CHRONICLE No. 9 May 20, 2020

Posted by markswill in Corona Lockdown Lore, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.
4 comments

I’ve put-off scribbling this blog for several days, largely because my anger at the deceit and ineptitude that characterises the government’s handling of the pandemic grows with every passing day’s dismal news, rendering it harder and harder to offer even a vaguely objective commentary on the situation. That hasn’t changed, but when Tory apologists such as Lord Sugar widely disseminate statements like the following on social media I feel moved to offer a counter–invective of my own.

Of course it’s the duty of the media to challenge our elected politicians, and even more so when the stake are so high, and Sugar should be ashamed of himself for suggesting otherwise. But then both Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair – neither of whom I usually have any time for, and Ken Clarke, who I do – have pointed out, and I’m paraphrasing, that the current cabinet are all lightweights chosen for their subservience to bumbling Boris and his Brexit mantra. Raab, Hancock, Patel etc. are strangers the great offices of state or indeed have little wider socio-cultural grounding, the latter essential in understanding the human cost of a country going through a massive crisis, the former essential in managing it. Moreover as the parliamentary Science & Technology Committee now tersely concludes, there is “no transparency” in what is guiding ministers in dealing with the pandemic, and “it will be difficult to corroborate the government’s assertion that it always follows scientific advice.” With minutes of SAGE meetings not published – or even a full list of its members – as the incoming president of the Royal Society, Sir Adrian Smith, noted in yesterday’s Times, there remains an “extraordinary amount of uncertainty” in how decisions are being made. Which is key to our continued support of the government’s confused, often hugely damaging and apparently made-on-the-hoof strategy.

But there is no sign that even easy-going, I-don’t-work-weekends Boris is going to change key members of his inner cabinet even though some of them, Hancock in particular, are clearly exhausted and running out of excuses for their failures. And whilst I’m at it, apart from PMQs (at which Kier Starmer reliably and refreshingly punctures Boris’ bluster), or his twice-recorded speech to the nation ten days ago, our leader has been noticeably absent from press briefings or live media. Is he frit? Or too distracted plotting to blame the scientists or his bum-licking colleagues when the final reckoning comes? Is he too busy goo-gooing with young Wilfred? Or dashing between his various homes and playing much restorative tennis?

That almost shocking dereliction of duty in favour of a bunch of weary second- (or third-) divisioners and images of hitting balls across well-mowed lawns prompts another woeful observation: almost all the lockdown-easing measures thus far announced exclusively favour the well-off: you can play tennis, have your nanny, your estate agent or your cleaner into your house, whilst low-skilled (and paid) workers are allowed to pile onto public transport so that big business can sort-of resume operations, and schools will shortly be re-opened so that parents can return to work. Which is jolly nice for little privately educated Melinda and Dylan where high fees allow small classes and permit costly protective measures, but not much good if you’re a low-paid worker in a council flat obliged to send your kids to a broken-down inner city primary with 35 to a class.

And who is going to pick the fruit and veg our farmers are due to harvest, that is the ones who aren’t having to dump tens of thousands of gallons of milk and flog off at a loss prime beef and lamb due to the closure of commercial catering as we know it?

I could go on and on but you’re probably as sick of the double-standards, weasel words – e.g. ‘ramping up’, ‘straining every sinew’, ‘in the coming weeks’ – and growing public dismay at the rising and shocking death and infection tolls as I am. So I’ll stop now and once again remind you that other, more assiduously forensic critics are on offer if you are as angry, and scared as I am, most notably Roslyn Byfield’s much more frequent outings at:

https://therapistinlockdown.co.uk/

No, it’s not going to go away, but until it does, if it ever does, I shall still try and offer the odd uplift, and here are a couple of decent ones.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/KgoapkOo4vg?rel=0&vq=highres

https://www.facebook.com/allison.pritchettirons/videos/vb.100000065621285/3271538432858312/?type=2&theater

COVID COPING CHRONICLE No 8 May 7, 2020

Posted by markswill in Corona Lockdown Lore, Politics, Schmolitics.
9 comments

It’s been over a fortnight since my last blog which I noted would be my last for quite a while because I had little new to comment on, and broadly speaking that remains so. There’s also the fact that other bloggers are more cogent and better researched on the CV-19 issues, most notably my friend Roslyn Byfield who posts daily and I would heartily recommend that anyone with a serious interest in the pandemic and our government’s management of it (i.e. using the seat of their pants), reads and subscribes to at:

https://therapistinlockdown.co.uk/

However both she and I continue to have infuriating problems in offering a chance to get alerts to future blogs using the WordPress platform, and if anyone reading this can suggest an easy(ish) and most importantly effective way of doing so, please get in touch. Roslyn went to the trouble of contacting WordPress, the eventual result of which was a button on the bottom left of her pages, but having clicked on it myself a couple of days ago – nada.

As for the content of this blog, well I’ll start with the original reasons I launched these missives, namely how CV-19 and the lockdown are affecting me and those close to me. But I think we’ve pretty much all settled into a routine of eating-shopping-exercising-reading-goggleboxing and not much else, which makes for a sort of Groundhog Day tedium that only those with proper and engaging work can rise above – which sadly doesn’t include me. That said, I am trying to write a memoir of what led to my nosedive from grace in the mid/late ‘90s and its consequences, but it’s a slow and sometime painful process which the distractions of emails, texts and phone calls to and from friends hinder, abetted by two newspapers a day and, well, other people’s blogs!

What I have inserted into my mundane routine are 60 – 90 minute bicycle rides a day – and remember we have hills around here – as well as dog-walking and 150+ sit-ups, so I am feeling far fitter than I have for years, and I haven’t even had to go to Joe Wicks which at least two of my friends do regularly, but then they’re women, with iPads, and he’s a hunk. So that’s one upside to this bloody lockdown, the other is that I’m cooking more adventurously and drinking more – so it’s not all bad!

But as for the lockdown itself, well I’ll refer you again to Ms. Byfield’s blog (see above) but will just add two comments, the first concerning arch hypocrite, Prof. Neil Ferguson, whose married lover visited him when he was supposed to be in quarantine. As the architect, late in the day, of the stringent lockdown policy, I’m actually slightly less critical of his sexual peccadillos – although his lover’s family life must now be a misery – but far angrier that this man has such a crap record in advising the UK government. To whit: in 2005 he stated that up to 200million could die from bird flu, but between 2003 and 2009, just 282 did worldwide. And in 2009 Ferguson’s ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ was that swine flu would lead to 65,000 UK deaths, when in fact 457 died. Ferguson also influenced government policy during 2001’s foot and mouth epidemic, namely six million uninfected animals being slaughtered on land adjacent to farms where animals were infected, something that the government admitted was unnecessary and cost the taxpayer tens of millions.

But although Ferguson’s departure from SAGE may well be a good thing, it comes too late and was largely responsible for abandoning CV-19 testing in early March in favour of a national quarantine which, as the govt’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance has now admitted, was a Big Mistake.

So as brash Boris and his cronies bumble towards our third month of lockdown with hints that it may be eased a bit – partly a ploy to avert our gaze from their earlier, error-strewn bumbling – what can we look forward to as the economy faces its worst recession in 300-odd years, massive unemployment and huge mental health problems? Joe Wicks, Celebrity Bake-off and an abundance of toilet paper in supermarkets is perhaps about as good as it’ll get.

Or maybe some of the many funny and/or sobering MP4 vids that have been doing the rounds since this all started, but as mentioned previously WordPress won’t let me do that, although these links and images might be worth a minute or two of your time.

https://twitter.com/mayoroflondon/status/1256287263824195584?s=12

However if you’re (or want to become) a WhatsApp user, you can join Mark’s Covert Covid Clan on my mobile which has a plethora of topor-busting MP4 vids that I’d otherwise be including here. Go to: https://chat.whatsapp.com/GZuqKEjNhtA213oJKsa81f

 

 

CORONA COPING CHRONICLE NO. 7 April 21, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
6 comments

When I began this blog my intentions were two-fold. Firstly, to offer a kind of diary about how the lockdown is affecting me and my small country town and secondly in doing so I might be able to cut down on the number of lengthy emails to friends and family who’d been enquiring after my wellbeing by offering them a blog instead.

But of course the latter was selfish, rude and borderline impersonal and the former, as it turned out, somewhat repetitive and of minimal interest. So I quickly turned to offering my thoughts on how the virus was affecting the country at large, and its consequences were being handled by the government – which as a news junkie one inevitably does – and that, too, has become repetitive and better accomplished by the media.

Solipsistic though I may be – which is apparently one reason I’m now single again – I cannot but deny that I relish emails from friends in the midst of this isolation and if anything am spending more time communicating with them than before I began this blog. And as each foray into the digital ether with my snidey rhetoric reaches fewer and fewer people each time, I’ve decided to give it a rest, at least for a while.

But I have to admit that another reason to desist is the increasingly complex technology involved in such endeavours. When I first began blogging using the WordPress (WP) platform eight years ago it was, like FarceBerk which I also used a fair bit, pretty straightforward, if sometimes rather fiddly. But in the name of commercial appeal (?), WP has added myriad bells and whistles that are thrown up at users, often with purposes that are unclear unless – as I’m not – one’s a ‘digital native’.

Confronted with this after my long hiatus, and after advice from a friend who is, I tried what was apparently a simpler platform, BlogSpot – only to discover that the one additional feature I did need, namely a facility for readers to subscribe and get email alerts whenever I posted more of my twaddle, was almost impossible to orchestrate. But returning to WP I soon discovered that the ‘Subscribe’ box (see RH panel) was linked to a third-party system called Feedburner, in fact owned but long since unsupported by Google, and which was glitchy and wildly inconsistent in doing what it said on the tin. A little, ahem, Googling revealed various other third-party alerts software, all of which claimed to be a breeze to ‘plug-in’ to one’s WP page, but I spent almost 90 mins yesterday failing to do just that, which ultimately also involved several MacBook Pro crashes and re-setting my Apple ID, and in the end I gave up. And as mentioned last week, similar hair-tearing frustration arose when I tried to negotiate a third-party ‘plug-in’ that would allow me to insert MP4 videos into my page. And don’t get me started on Zoom management.

I mention this not just as a reason why I’m giving up bloggery, at least for now, but also to underline the sorry fact that those of us who communicated in our formative years with pens, paper, typewriters, face-to-face chats and landlines – and managed quite nicely thank you – have been to varying extents left behind and frustrated by the technology that later generations embrace naturally. And as this technology become more sophisticated, i.e. complex, our frustration and the implied, if unfounded, sense of shame become worse.

But now we septuagenarians are of course being ‘culled by Corona’ (© Penny C.), the brighter, younger things who live by the smartphone don’t have to listen – if indeed they do – to Luddites like me whining on about digital marginalisation, which brings me sort-of neatly and back to the wretched virus.

I felt oddly smug when the Sunday Times published a long feature on the government’s woeful unpreparedness for the onset of CV19 which in fact reflected much of what I’d written in my previous blog. Since then various ministers have defended their and particularly Boris Johnson’s slow reactions, Michael Gove calling such criticism ‘grotesque’ – which was a bit rich coming from the man who last year said Johnson was ‘unfit to lead a government’.

I am however cheered by mounting media frustration at, and criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic, especially testing, the supply of PPE and its unwillingness to countenance, much less outline any plans to ease the lockdown – all of which I’ve banged on about here. But thanks to Jenny W., the ever acerbic Polly Toynbee does it with far more concision than me in today’s Guardian, so do take a look:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/20/boris-johnson-sunday-times-prime-minister-coronavirus

And if you can handle any more disenchantment, this courtesy of Liz R:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/exclusive-nhs-using-flawed-covid-19-test-missing-25-of-positives/

Finally finally, although I can’t pass on some of the many amusing or inspiring virus vids going the rounds (see above), here’s a link that might help anyone who is feeling increasingly lonely in this lockdown, which I know includes a lot of us.

https://mailchi.mp/theschooloflife.com/61015-61048?e=b4487e8ad6

 

 

COVID COPING CHRONICLES No 6 April 17, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
5 comments

Released yesterday from my self-imposed Covid-19 (CV19) news blackout I can report that living without news broadcasts and newspapers for three days was, erm, interesting… if not life-changing.

On a practical level I found a bit more time for books, magazines and ‘phoning friends, and also thinking more about cooking (and then doing it), housework (then doing some of it) and exercising (and then trying to do it). I also slept better with fewer CV19 issues troubling my slumber. So I can recommend and intend to repeat the process myself soon, and possibly for longer, but in the meantime I’ve been voraciously consuming the news at what seems to be a critical juncture.

Firstly, the lockdown has been officially extended for three more weeks… but Thursday’s announcement was weasel-worded with the usual caveats about ‘following the scientific advice’, not least when Mr Raab was repeatedly pressed about likely duration beyond May 7th and possible exit strategies. It’s worth questioning who this scientific advice is coming from because save for its chair, Sir Patrick Vallance, the members of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) who almost exclusively provide it, are anonymous. We do know that Prof. Neil Ferguson of Imperial College is involved and often airs his views, but this the same Neil Ferguson who got the trajectory of the Ebola virus spectacularly wrong in 2015 and also proposed the scary ‘herd immunity’ strategy initially espoused by Boris Johnson – again on ‘scientific advice’ – but quickly binned in favour of total lockdown. Ferguson always sounds so credible, but why shouldn’t we know who else is delivering this advice?

Other countries have already announced plans, or as with Scotland, dates when they will announce plans for exit strategies but our government claims that to do so now would set unreasonable expectations and possibly lead to further spikes in infections. And meanwhile desperate hospitals and care homes are running out of PPE and lack meaningful testing – both having proven so vital to reducing death rates and heralding the easing of restrictions in, say, Germany and South Korea. Testing, in particular is still woefully inadequate with major UK laboratories reporting that their offers of help have been shunned by the government. But today (Friday), Labour’s Keir Starmer suggested that without Boris Johnson at the helm the Raab-led government is unable or unwilling to push things forward in a positive way, criticism which prompted ‘No comment’ from Downing Street, and which perhaps speaks volumes.

Obviously we hope that Johnson is recuperating well – at his second or is it third home? – and whilst he’s there perhaps he’ll seriously consider cancelling the mad HS2 project on which according to The Times “full construction will start in weeks.” Unsurprisingly, the Institute of Economic Affairs responded that, “the case for (it) was always weak. With the country in (CV19) induced economic lockdown the cost is simply unjustifiable.” And quite apart that the £100billion-plus cost could now be far better used elsewhere, as Bill Gates also said yesterday, with home-working and video-conferencing now the norm, the need for business trips will never be the same, further torpedoing the economic case for HS2. And so if you, too, feel that it’s a shocking waste of money that will further destroy precious rural environments, please sign this petition, and pass it on.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300170

Finally on CV19, Simon B. has sent me a link to screenwriter Dominic Minghella’s latest blog which delivers a far better researched – and withering – critique of the government’s position and I would urge anyone having doubts about our servant/masters’ strategy to read it:

Eleven Days In March

I try and end these bulletins with some light entertainment, most of it forwarded from friends, but as mentioned last time, WordPress won’t allow posting of MP4 videos for ‘security reasons’ (?) and I still haven’t found a work-around, or at least one this shameless technophobe can grasp. Also, Google’s Feedburner system that WordPress uses to send alerts to those who’ve hit the ‘Subscribe’ box (see RH panel) seems to work only sporadically since Google stopped supporting it in 2014 and WordPress haven’t produced anything to replace it, which is very tardy. Perhaps by next time I’ll have solved these probs, if not lost the will to live, but in the meantime here are a few simple images that might amuse.

IMG-20200416-WA0002SUN & MAIL

IMG-20200414-WA0000

CORONA COPING CHRONICLE No 5 April 14, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
2 comments

Well we’re well into the third week of lock-down and I’m over halfway through my second day of news blackout.

The former of course began as our government’s slightly panicky response to an epidemic, now pandemic, that they hadn’t adequately prepared for – remember the first COBRA cabinet meeting was only convened on March 2nd when UK Covid-19 (CV19) cases had already reached several dozen and Italy’s death toll was, to use that time-honoured phrase, ramping up – the latter upon a whim.

My aim was to see that if bereft of any information about the progress of CV19 and the government’s – our own and globally – handling of it might affect my mood which, I have to say, was becoming progressively gloomier regarding its current effects and portents. And for a news junkie who listened to Today, World At One, PM, watched News at 10 and Newsnight and devoured one or two newspapers every day, this cold-turkey has thus far proven remarkably painless. Whether it has lightened my mood it’s too early to say, but it has given me time to do more reading – just finished A. A. Gill’s marvelous if self-eviscerating autobiography and embarked on Tessa Hadley’s latest, beautifully-written novel, Late In The Day… if anyone’s interested – and far too much mindless t.v. entertainment (e.g. Quiz, Twin, Better Call Saul, Killing Eve and lots of rather less undemanding art progs and docs) and films: Who You Think I Am, Elle (for the second time), The Lady Disappears (third), Holy Motors (fourth) and Heat (fifth).

Such solipsism only serves to fill a vacuum left, temporarily I’m sure, by the lack of barely concealed anger at the way CV19 has thus far been handled and my consequent fear for our collective future. But conversely, what has not subsided is the heartening response to the lockdown that’s evident all around us, specifically a neighbourliness that now embraces food shopping, are-you-okay? phone calls and dog-walking. Plus of course contact with friends and loved ones that’s far more frequent and couched in genuine concern than was hitherto evident – although counseling them not to impart CV19 news in my direction has sometimes caused bafflement.

This, we now know, has become the norm right across the country and let’s hope it doesn’t end when CV19 does – whenever that may be. And because of my self-imposed news media embargo when that might be is, for the moment, not actively troubling me … but wait ‘til I fire-up Radio 4 again on Thursday morning!

In the meantime, I had planned to included several MP4 vids that various friends have emailed me, but WordPress won’t allow them to be uploaded unless they’re tagged as YouTube files. I’ve spent 20 mins trying to find a workaround for this but have lost the will to live, so for now I’m afraid the only one I can offer you is this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HL7sCu8Yys

Finally, Sally B., Pete M. and Alison P. have come up with a blog which although firmly based on the considerable talent pool we have in our little border town seeks to lift all our spirits and stimulate the cultural juices away from the gloomy realities of CV19, and which I recommend you subscribe to… as well as this one of course! (See box towards the end of column on the right). So go to https://www.luggblogg.co.uk/

 

 

COVID COPING CHRONICLE No 4 April 11, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
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I count myself extremely lucky not to be quarantined in a fifth floor flat in, say, Tottenham with three small children but even in my small rural town, the fear seems to be rising.

Yesterday the police were called when a woman physically attacked an assistant in our local Spar, and the initially fairly casual social distancing on the High Street has been replaced by public-spirited volunteers managing queues outside shops, tables across doorways across which goods must be ordered, and hazard warning tapes stuck strategically on floors two metres apart. (Which, BTW, Roslyn B. tells me are being ignored in large London supermarkets). Moreover people are increasingly wearing the paper masks long since deemed ineffectual by medical authorities behind which they frown nervously when you pass them out walking the dog on metre-wide footpaths in open country!

Which is, of course, just abiding by government strictures, strictures that are now being policed with wildly variable rigour by, well, the nation’s police. Attracting various degrees of approval, concern and opprobrium, the lockdown which has led us to this, and indeed far worse outcomes – e.g. increased spousal and child abuse, suicides and depression – shows no signs of being lifted anytime soon – and for all the perfectly sensible reasons parroted by our servant/masters.

However the clamour for an ‘exit strategy’ currently much occupies the media, just as the demand for more CV testing and PPE kit did two weeks ago, and I’m worried that although answers are offered, action isn’t readily apparent and the media then moves on to the next gruesome consequence of Covid-19. However I’m guessing that those who read this scrawl will feel similarly concerned about such matters so I’ll move onto a couple of consequences that haven’t been wildly articulated in the UK press.

The first is the decimation of small retail businesses, the majority of which probably won’t survive the pandemic. Friday’s BBC Horizon Special on how society may be changed post-pandemic focused initially on pubs and restaurants which may disappear by the tens of thousands, but – and I’ve only seen this mentioned briefly in Saturday’s Times’ Thunderer column – Amazon has abruptly cancelled its contracts to service 300,000 small online retailers in the UK, and 2.9million globally, so that it might concentrate on delivering a massive increase in ‘basic goods’ to locked-down households.

Understandable though that commercial decision might be, it bodes badly for the future of independent online retailers, vast numbers of whom will be bankrupt by the time Amazon restores its fulfilment service… if indeed it does. My friends will know that I’m something of a online-shopping luddite, savouring as I do, or rather did, the interaction with human beings and the handling of likely purchases before I get the goods, but post-pandemic not only will the high street be unrecognisable, but it seems that we may be one giant step towards the ‘Stuff Central’ solus supply chain of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or pre-glasnost Russia, and prey to the whims of the world’s richest man.

My other dismal concern is that whilst the lockdown has had the comforting effect of us communicating more frequently and with more of our family and friends than ever before – partly because we have more time to do so – will the social equivalent of ‘compassion fatigue’ set in if this quarantine goes on for months? And if it does, will those who we enthusiastically connected with earlier on, then feel ignored and unloved? I ponder this because the closure of youth and social clubs, pubs, sport centres, libraries, cinemas, theatres etc. hitherto funded by buoyant commercial enterprises or conversely by already stretched local councils, will probably become permanent once this is over and we’re in what’s now widely predicted to be a full-on economic depression, and social unrest may then become a massive and frightening reality.

But that’s enough of my personal doomsaying for now, so I’ll leave you with a few hopefully instructive, if not entertaining links.

This first, courtesy of Terry K, came of all things from the otherwise egregious Mail Online, but check it out anyway:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8204255/There-THREE-separate-types-coronavirus.html?ito=rss-flipboard

And if like many of us you miss being able to visit art galleries, then the Arts Society are running online lectures which may increase our appreciation of what we love.

https://www.connected.theartssociety.org/

And Jenny W.  reminded me that both the Tate and the Royal Academy are offering virtual tours of shows that have been cancelled, e.g. Warhol at Tate Modern, so go Google and sign on.

Finally, a couple more vids which are going the rounds, but worthy of a giggle.

www.tiktok/sarahlyons_87

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMTSbSrvcRg

‘Til next time then, and enjoy what you can of the Easter Weekend, thanks to those of you who’ve subscribed (see RH panel) and remember that we’re in the safe hands of the leader of the free world…

COVID COPING CHRONICLE No. 3 April 8, 2020

Posted by markswill in About me, Corona Lockdown Lore, Uncategorized.
2 comments

 

As we roll, or rather begrudgingly slide into week three of lockdown, questions are rightly being asked about an exit strategy and answers from our servant/masters are evasive and ambiguous.

Logical though it is, it’s not enough to say as D. Raab did yesterday, that we, i.e. they, will have to wait until the effects of the lockdown manifest themselves before a strategy can be formulated. And whilst he assured us that the government are working on various scenarios for when that day arrives, I think what an increasingly anxious nation needs to know is what options there might be, especially in the light of the plans already in place or announced in, say, China and Austria.

Indeed it’s the lack of transparency – a clichéd phrase but one bearing much resonance right now – that irritates both the media and the public as the virus tightens its indiscriminate grip. The longer this goes on, the greater the public stress and anxiety, and the further down the toilet the economy will be once its all over. Although the media seems to’ve dropped the baton on this, the shocking lack of testing and confusion over test formulae and execution mean that the government’s possible exit strategies will surely be far more limited than, say, Germany’s or South Korea’s. And now Boris is in an ICU – which of course is of great concern – let us not forget that millions of his subjects are also in a perilous situation and many thousands have already succumbed to this insidious illness and over five thousand of them, died. Surely they – we – deserve some genuine clarity about how and if possible when it all might end, which may thus provide hope and the fortitude to continue our enforced incarceration?

Talking of which, I thank Mark E (again!) for providing this little gem which make’s salutary reading.

And TOW #2, I can’t forget that being over 70 I am evidently in a ‘vulnerable group’ which means that self-isolation is, or should be, especially critical. But like many of my friends, I don’t feel or think like 70-somethings in some cultures and societies seem to behave – at least judging by the assumptions and images dished up by the media and especially their advertisers. You wouldn’t catch me dead (sorry) on a cruise ship, buying beige, elastic waistband  trousers or easy-on loafers and I certainly don’t intend to stop dancing like a fool when the opportunity arises or stop riding and driving as fast as I can as often as I can. Irresponsible? Peter Pan-glossian? Well so be it, but with relatively little time left after this is all over, I intend to live life to the max and if the worst comes to the worst and I do croak from Corona, then at least I had a decent crack at it.

Finally, whilst I’m still astride my high horse, mention of the media reminds me that this lockdown is inevitably hastening the demise of print, especially local newspapers and freesheets. How long can it be, for example, before Metro and London’s Evening Standard go under? Or the local weeklies that do their best to take local politicians and vested interests to task and provide vital glue that keeps communities together? True, we are suddenly all hugely using digital media to communicate during this wretched plague, but in the main it lacks the resources to adequately investigate and challenge what the ruling classes and commercial interests are doing and, conversely, renders us all vulnerable to conspiracy theories, misinformation and entertaining distraction.

But talking of the latter, here are few links to some of the many amusing vids that are currently doing the round – so take a look and enjoy them… whilst you still can!

https://www.captiongenerator.com/1747872/Lockdownfall?fbclid=IwAR1TteTozjU25j7npNdsAwPSXzlkJR5tmHm8rE77p-hjkJj6GbJdjntVODk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUrl3W8GwpE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojrtwXqqc6g

Thanks for reading thus far, do sign up to get more of this stuff if you like it (see panel on the right), and take care.

MW

COVID COPING CHRONICLE No. 2 April 5, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
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Apologies to all and sundry but the Blogspot platform upon which I scribbled my first Corona Coping bulletin proved reluctant to provide a means which you, dear reader, could use if for some reason you wanted to receive further missives. So after tearing much of my remaining hair out following fora and friends’ advice on how to remedy this, and to no avail, I’ve decided to reinstate my long dormant Mark’sSparksWillFly blog using WordPress, but with Covid Coping as a running heading, and here we go. And if you would like to receive alerts to further scrawls, there’s a box in the right panel to enable just that.

Anyroadup, Bulletin No 2 is a cause for some personal celebration but conversely some fear and loathing. Good stuff first then – just call me Dr. Pangloss – for it’s just over a fortnight since I arrived back in rural Wales from Deal, by way of 24 hours in London, and despite spending time in Sainsburys, Aldi (merely for their organic Pino Grigio obviously) and a busy builders’ merchant (I yield to no-one in my ability to roof a woodstore), I appear to be Covid-19 symptom-free.

Moreover the more genuine health-scare I mentioned not in my first blog for fear of hypochondria accusations, has also passed: the worringly low pulse rate which had caused near-fainting, dizziness and occasional sweats this past month was diagnosed as mild Bradycardia (see Dr Google, if arsed), which has been effectively cured by a major change in the blood pressure meds I’d been on for years. I was reluctant to approach our local surgery, much less the dreaded Hereford County Hospital – which, fellow music cryptologists, has elements of Hotel California, but not in a nice way – for fear of weaning resources away from the current pandemic, but two phone calls and a fresh prescription seem to’ve done the trick.

More seriously, I am still appalled at the lack of testing and PPEs available to frontline NHS staff and the weasel words of Messrs. Hancock and Johnson about their reaction to this. The son of one friend, a senior NHS surgeon who might otherwise be deployed to the CV frontline, had been promised a test last Monday but still doesn’t know when he might get one, a disgrace replicated throughout the Service which is putting both staff, staff numbers and patients at risk and it seems unconscionable to me that there has been such a delay in starting to source adequate stocks back in January. The wider issue of running down the NHS – despite what the Tories claimed – over the past decade is equally unforgivable but like so much of industry in Western countries that is also now paying the price, the ‘just-in-time’ management mantra and fiscal short-termism are at least now proving fallacious, and catastrophically so.

For further reading on where and why we are in deep do-do – see, I haven’t lost my talent for erudite metaphor – I’m indebted to Dick Pountain for this link

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/04/coronavirus-models-arent-supposed-be-right/609271/

And I’d also commend you to Dick’s website and blogs which tackle subjects with more research and insight than I could ever muster: http://www.dickpountain.co.uk

For a brief moment of both celebration tinged with concern I must mention Keir Starmer’s election as new Labour leader. One friend questioned whether this was actually a landslide, but his 275k votes vs. Ms Long-Bailey’s 135k looked like that to me, and having seen him perform at an anti-HS2 meeting back in the day, I’m confident he’ll restore desperately-needed faith in the party and present a proper opposition to Johnson, Cummings & Co – but it will require huge energy and a delicate balancing act during this national emergency.

So onto lighter (?) notes with this pic of yrs. trly. wearing a mask made by darling Andi Silvers, wife of the redoubtable drummist. Russell H. from suitably anarchic material – true rock’n’roll protection, eh?

IMG_1934

TOW, she may not be a rocker, but all this enforced social isolation brought to mind the concert I saw with dearest Lizzie R. back in 1988 (at Victoria Palace, she’s just reminded me) where Nanci Griffith performed a haunting version of Julie Gold’s ‘From A Distance’. If you can ignore the somewhat leaden religious overtones – and you can – here’s a later recording of it. Perhaps not as uplifting as ‘The Weight’ featured in my last blog, but a reminder that we must all take heart and rise above this wretchedness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwWQotMnQZk

And finally I’m indebted to Marsha R. for this little vid which you may’ve already come across, but which certainly brought some much needed mirth to my workdesk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrKn-YgKYdE

So until next time – probably Tuesday – thanks for making it this far, let me know your thoughts and comments, and keep those chins skywards.

MW

 

 

Off Again, And To Elsewhere April 2, 2020

Posted by markswill in Uncategorized.
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It’s been literally years since I last scribbled random and arguably irrelevant thoughts in this blog but the  self-isolation enforced on us ancients by the Covid-19 virus has given me, and I suspect your good selves, great gobs of time which we’re filling largely with very welcome on-line and other forms of socialising, and to some extent with pursuits and contemplation we had less time for before all this wretchedness.

I’ve therefore found time, and perhaps a better purpose than wild self-indulgence to start blogging again – although this’ll be entirely related to the new circumstances we find ourselves in – and this time I’m using a new platform, Blogger which seems simpler to use. So if you’re at all interested, take at look at my first effort and sign up (bottom lefthand corner) if you’d like to see more.

https://coronacopingchronicle.blogspot.com/

‘Onwards and sideways, then – Mark