Thursday, 30th April, 2020 [Day 45]

The month of April seems to have absolutely flown by – to think it is May Day tomorrow (although hardly celebrated in the UK as it is in the rest of Europe) Today was a little chilly in the park as we have come to expect but we did bump into (not literally) the friend of a friend with whom we exchanged some pleasant thoughts. It turned out that the wife of the couple was brought up in Sheffield which was the university in which our son did his degree all those years ago (33 to be exact). To the regulars who come to see if any of the little ducklings have survived we tell them the same story i.e. that they were delicious!

Our son had bought us a copy of the Times today and in it, there was a very full and well-researched article on COVID-19. One thing that I had not fully appreciated was that a third (actually between 35%-40%) of the NHS patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 had died, a rate that was comparable to Ebola wards in Africa. The data sample was huge (17,000 patients admitted to 166 UK hospitals between 6th-18th April 2020). As the Professor of Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool  (Calum Semple) indicated ‘people need to get it into their heads the reason the government is keen to keep people at home is that this is an incredibly dangerous disease‘ At 8.00 pm this evening, as has now become the new tradition, we joined with all of the neighbours in a 2-3 minute round of applause/saucepan banging/instrument playing display of thanks to the NHS and allied workers. We wonder when the immediate crisis is over, whether people will be willing to grant them a hefty pay rise and also pay the necessary taxes to pay for it?

This afternoon, I played around with a little bit of Javascript (which all browsers utilise) because I wished to put a ‘Date Website Updated‘ caption at the end of my composite blog. There is a ‘quick and dirty’ way of doing this but the trouble is that the default is in the (American style) format of mm:dd:yyyy which to a British readership is very confusing (is 05/10/2020 October 5th or the 10th of May?) So, I learnt how to do this according to GMT and UK conventions and have got this working OK. As I have explained before (so I won’t repeat myself) when I find out how something works, I write the details down in a ‘What have I learnt/re-learnt TODAY’ hard back book so I can easily find out how to do it the next time I need to utilise the technique without re-inventing the wheel the whole time.

Having just dozed through this week’s edition of Question Time on BBC1, I reflect that a new style of (non-confrontational) politics seems to be emerging. The national crisis we are living through has led, I believe, to a quasi-coalition government (or at least a willingness to cooperate more closely with constructive opposition viewpoints). There is a return to more evidence-based politics, although I am not completely convinced that ‘the science’ as the politicians like to call it is quite as clear-cut or unequivocal on a range of issues as might be imagined. After all, why was ‘Test, Test and Test again‘ never taken very seriously as an over-riding policy option? At the end of all of this, it may well be that we have a reformed set of political institutions (e.g. some form of proportional representation may well be on the cards) and a realisation that certain core parts of our national infrastructure (the NHS, social care) cannot be left to the market and must certainly not be allowed to return to a stripped down version under the mantra ‘it is all the nation can afford’.  I think there will be a realisation that the political dogma of the decades since Thatcherism which divides the world into those who provide the wealth of the country (entrepreneurs) and those who consume it (NHS again, education) is just too simplistic. There is a very strong argument that good education, welfare and health services provide long-term capital formation without which a modern economy cannot operate and some of the fripperies of the merchandise that floods our stores on occasions can easily be dispensed with and do not really add to the nation’s wealth (e.g. outfits for children around Hallow’een is my particular bugbear.)



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Wednesday, 29th April, 2020 [Day 44]

Today was the predicted wet day and so it proved. We had a chat with one of our friends on the way down to the park but the rest of our trip was a pretty soggy and miserable affair. As we had no real desire to sit on a wet park bench, we took refuge in the bandstand to consumer our coffee and provisions. I am given to understand that in WWII, all members of the armed forces, the Home Guard and perhaps the civilian population as well were trained in ‘aircraft recognition’ The present-day analogue of this is when we scan the horizon to see if there is anyone we know that we can recognise by their general shape and gait (there wasn’t!) – this enables one to spot friends and acquaintances long before you can see their actual faces. Thus it was today as we scanned the horizon in vain.

Once a week, we consume our by now traditional fish pie which has been made a fortnight or so ago and saved as several portions. The one downside of this fish meal, although it is easy to heat up in the microwave, is that it does tend to smell the kitchen out so that we have to counteract this by flinging a window wide open and keeping the hob extractor fan on at full blast. The afternoon was filled with nothing more exciting than a routine dusting and hoovering but so it is for most of the population. We did receive a text from our chiropodist with whom we have not had contact for several weeks offering us an appointment slot. This we accepted until after consultation with our son and daughter-in-law we realised that this might be a somewhat risky venture as we did not know how many other older clients might have been seen recently harbouring perhaps asymptomatic virus, so we decided to cancel this and try and arrange something in the future when the panic had died down a bit. Our daughter-in-law had done our weekly shopping for us and this is always very welcome but we do feel a bit guilty about accepting it. We have decided to be loyal Waitrose customers in the future using their ‘Click and Collect‘ service and we thought we would activate this again in a week or so when it becomes more apparent whether our daughter-in-law will be attending her school on a regular daily rather than a sporadic basis. Accordingly, I made a dummy order at Waitrose and saw that we were on their priority list and there were a few slots available  to us in a few days’ time – so we think we will get this system going in earnest in an about a fortnight’s time.

The media have been full of the news that Boris Johnson has fathered another child, but the interesting aspect of this affair is that Boris will not admit to how many children he already has. I think the answer is four legitimate and one illegitimate but in his election campaign, Boris refused to answer questions as to how many children he actually has. So it was some surprise that in the House of Commons, Wliiam Rees-Meg congratulated Boris  ‘as one father of six children to another ‘. I am a little reminded of the story of the Irish bishop (was he called Eamonn Casey?) who was forced to resign and flee to America when the story of his illegitimate children emerged in Ireland. It was the time of one of the football World Cups and when the bishop entered the stadium and was looking for his seat, he was spotted and recognised by two Irish wags who shouted ” Dad! Dad! Over here!



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Tuesday, 28th April, 2020 [Day 43]

The long-anticipated rains arrived overnight at last- this is always a pleasant sight, particularly when one is well ‘gardened-up’ and it has been one of the driest Aprils on record. Meg was still suffering a little from what we think is a stomach upset so I made the journey to the park on my own. I did pass by the house of our friend who has not many days left to live on this earth. I spoke with his son who informed me that his father, having not slept not particularly well last night, was now asleep. I bid my adieus and said I would call back in about another three days’ time. When I got to the park, it was practically deserted. I cut a solitary figure, standing alone in the bandstand and drinking the coffee from my flask (even harder to manipulate standing up in my desire to avoid touching any hard surfaces.)

This afternoon, I thought I would try my hand at making a facemask out of a discarded pair of socks. The first method involves making slits and cutting pieces out so that two ‘lugs’ are formed to stretch around your ears. I could not quite see how this would work with the open end, so I adopted Method 2 which seems a lot more successful. Basically, I put an elastic band over each end of the sock and then secured it in position by folding and securing with a safety pin. This initiated a house-wide search for safety pins which hardly anyone uses these days. Eventually, I improvised (as always) by securing each folded over portion with a large paper clip, unfolded and then used as a giant staple before being secured into position – I finished it off with a brief bit of masking tape to avoid scratching myself. The next task is to see how to sanitise /disinfect such a mask. As with hands, it is difficult to better hot water and a fair dolloping of soap although normal washing in the washing machine should also do the trick. I thought we try these out tomorrow ( I have made three pairs already) and resolve to wash them every day as part of my new routine.

In the late afternoon, we FaceTimed our old friends who have been feeling the pressure a bit recently. We were speculating whether we could risk an accidental ‘meeting’ in the park in about 13 days’ time. The point is that Mondays are always very quiet and therefore we were very unlikely to encounter many other souls  – Monday, May 11th is my 75th birthday so we may be able to celebrate at a distance!

I read a letter in yesterday’s Times which indicated that three countries (France, Denmark and Poland) had intimated that state aid would not be made available to companies in their respective countries who had funnelled their profits off into tax-havens. This seems like an excellent suggestion – if you had deprived the state of so much revenue over the years, why hold out your hand for state hand-outs now? It the type of suggestion that would (a) never occur to the British political elite and (b) certainly never be implemented. A second letter was from a professor of dentistry who pointed out that whilst hand-washing was a central part of the strategy to guard against the transmission of the Covid-19, perhaps the same consideration should be given to teeth-brushing. He argued that as droplets of saliva could well act as a vector of the Covid-19 virus, then sanitising the mouth with toothpaste (and mouth-wash, I ask myself?) would seem to be equally as sensible as hand-washing. Food for thought?


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Monday, 27th April, 2020 [Day 42]

Today, I have reaped the reward of successful compost making by going to my trusted compost bin and using compost that was at least two years if not three years old. My daughter-in-law and I had collaborated in preparing our dahlia bed this year. I had weeded and cleared the ground a few days earlier, As soon as all the perennial weeds had been removed, the bed was dug over- I then added three large garden-tub loads of manure and raked it in. [Incidentally, the contrast between the fairly pale-looking soil and the dark, rich-looking compost could have been taken out of a text-book) My daughter-in-law then carefully planted her dahlia tubers, making sure that each one was protected by a plastic ‘slug’ collar which prevents the slugs from munching up the tasty green shoots and negating all one’s efforts. The rewards will come later on in the year, we trust!

Incidentally, there is a bit of an art as well as good science that lies behind good compost making. In order to provide the best environment in which the microbes can convert decaying vegetation into rich compost, you require a ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) of about 30:1  In practical terms, this means that there should be one part of ‘brown’ materials (dry leaves, cardboard, soil itself) to two parts of greens (recently pulled weeds, grass clippings), Too much green material and the compost heap will be slimy and may start to smell (solution: add more brown) and too little greens (solution: compost accelerator, human urine!) will make the compost heap slow to warm up. Finally, one needs a certain amount of water (judicious watering can every now and again) and aeration (turning it over with a fork occasionally). I attach some advice I found on a compost-making website, of which there are hundreds!

Principle #2:      2 Parts Green to 1 Part Brown
(The best strategy to mix your compostable materials)

Generally speaking, you can get C:N ratios of 30:1 to 50:1 by adding two parts of a GREEN material to one part of a BROWN material to your bin. A “part” can be defined as a certain quantity of the material, such as two 5-gallon buckets of GREEN and 1 packed bucket of BROWN.

All of this is not rocket science – but I include it as I think the principle of ‘browns to greens’ is not widely known and many people just throw garden weeds and clippings into their compost bin without much thought.

Being, Monday our local park was quite sparsely populated, but we did manage to meet one of our good friends, Julie, who is there almost every day (if we happen to coincide) We observed our local heron (he/she with a strangely deformed left foot that looks as though it is pointing the wrong way) being mobbed by a couple of black-headed gulls and even having to duck when one bold one made a kamikaze style bombing approach.

After lunch, whilst the dahlias were being planted, I made myself busy edging the border to our communal green area (technically it called a drainage field for the BiuoDisk  but we have nicknamed it ‘Meg’s Meadow’) All of this frantic gardening is being done because of the fact that the rains are coming – certainly a smattering tomorrow and a really sustained downpour on Wednesday, according to the weather forecast. I have decided to name the lower part of the gully bordering our fence ‘Mog’s underpass’ (Mog is the name to which I answer in the Hart household – named after the Judith Kerr children’s author character as in ‘Meg and Mog’ but more likely because the initials spell out ‘Miserable Old Git’ ) That really is enough gardening chatter for several days (if not weeks) from now on!


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Sunday, 26th April, 2020 [Day 41]

The weather is somewhat ‘on the turn’ today and I know that there is a certain amount of gardening to be done before some showers occur tomorrow and the probability of more prolonged rain on Tuesday. Meg had a slight stomach upset this morning so did not accompany me as is normal on the trip to the park so I enjoyed a solitary sojourn on our normal park bench.  The park was fairly busy as parents were dragging their children around the park. I heard more than one 3-4 year old complaining that walking around the park was ‘boring’ and they would prefer to be at home. I won’t tell you how I feel about this as I might be blamed for being an old reactionary! On the way home, some of our oldest friends greeted me and we exchanged news and commiserations about my other friend who is approaching the end of his life.

This morning, I was sort of passively listening to the “Sunday’ programme which is broadcast between 7am8am on BBC Radio 4. Towards the end of this, I heard one of the most powerful and moving pieces of audio I have heard for decades. A consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, Dr. Mark Tan, was explaining in his ‘Telephone Lament for Coronavirus‘ how he often had to communicate with relatives by phone to discuss the progress made by their loved one in hospital. As his conversations often started with ‘I just called today..’ this reminded one of the famous Stevie Wonder song ‘I just called to say I love you‘ which was played gently in the background to accompany his commentary. Dr. Tan indicated the fragments of conversations that he would have with relatives, explaining the procedures of the hospital and the progress  that the patient had been making. The whole piece was incredibly moving and I must confess I was moved to tears by it. If you would like to hear it for yourself, then this is the relevant link:

and if you can you need to position the progress meter at about 37.18 on the progress meter. I actually listened to it again immediately after it had been broadcast on BBC iPlayer but it should now be more available and accessible through Google and other search engines. I would urge all the readers of this blog to try to listen to this if you can.

After lunch, it was time to re-commence and try to finish off the big gardening ‘push’ before the weather breaks and I was very pleased to be able to achieve this with about 2 hours hard work (although I feel a little ‘gardening stiff’ after it). It was a very much a ‘hands and knees on a kneeling mat’ job and I was pleased that I managed to reduce the tangle of foliage to something more presentable, having one or two little beech saplings which I re-planted and cursing some of the overgrown holly, ivy and brambles. When I am gardening like this, I am always impressed by the dexterity of the human hand (there is really no substitute) and I always try to ensure that I wear a pair of gardening gloves that have a kind of tacky facing so that I can grip words to extract them more easily. Needless to say, when I had finished one particular section and came up for air to throw some of the weeded material on the compost heap, I observed that my faithful adopted cat, Miggles, was waiting for me patiently along the top. She then accompanied me to the compost heap to make sure everything was correctly thrown away and then had the breakfast that she should have had this morning. Afterwards, my work was duly inspected and Miggles pretended to watch a little hole at the base of a small pile of stones hoping that a mouse would emerge (it didn’t!) Tomorrow, I need to retrieve some two-year compost from my compost bin, rake it in and then leave my daughter-in-law to plant her dahlias for the season (all before the rains come)

The political agenda is now changing before our eyes. I hear that the phrase ‘the new normal’ is being used more and more and I must say that in my numerous little chats with people, everyone seems to know that things will never be the same again and we shall all have to get used to a certain of social distancing perhaps for a year or so to come.


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Saturday, 25th April, 2020 [Day 40]

This morning on the way to the park, we called in at the house of our dear friend who is on an ‘end-of-life’ pathway as we were informed by his grand-daughters yesterday. We were fortunate enough to see his son who is staying with him at all times and we managed to give our friend a (farewell?) wave through the window. We will call around every few days whilst he can still recognise us. We felt a mixture of emotions, evidently feeling sad at the thought that we would soon be without him but also comforted by that fact that he was receiving excellent medical care, was dying with his friends around him and was spared what is happening to perhaps hundreds of people who are dying daily of the COVID-19 virus with no family members present and the prospect of no funeral to speak of. The tragic thing here is the last that some relatives see of the patient admitted to hospital under the COVID-19 regime is that all they can do is to wave at the rear doors of a departing ambulance.

Now for some cheerful news. We met our good friend, Julie, in the park and exchanged notes about mutual friends. Then an elderly lady who we know by sight stopped by and she told us it was going to be her birthday on Tuesday so we have to see if we can get a little cake organised. As we were leaving our customary park bench, she said to us that she was so glad we occupied that particular bench as she had donated it to the local authority after her husband had died – it happened to be located in such a place that she could actually see the bench from her house near the park and she was always delighted that other people could sit down and admire the park that her husband helped to look after for the last fifteen years of his life. On our way out of the park, we encountered the same gentleman that we had met yesterday and he informed us that he had personally organised one of the flower beds in the park to be a permanent reminder of the holocaust – accordingly, he had supervised this whilst he was the leader of District Council. Finally, we met an old Italian friend who was working at home on her incredibly well-tended garden and remembering the fact that her husband had died at this time of year about three years ago. As you might imagine, it was full of emotions of one sort or another – we never know what we are to encounter when we start our journey to the park.

In the afternoon, I devoted about an hour to the (part) clearance of a gully where the land slopes away from the grassed communal area to the boundary fence. This is itself on two levels – a top level which is easy to get at and to keep cultivated and a wilder lower area, the boundary between the two being a fallen tree that forms a sort of natural division between the two areas. I have a sneaking suspicion I forget to ‘do’ the lower area last year – this involves throwing away a lot of brambles and associated debris but replanting the occasional tree sapling I come across (these may be beech or hazelnut (Avellana) – I need a ‘proper’ gardener to give me a definitive answer) This ‘heavy’ bit of gardening only needs doing once a season and, after that, a quick rake should keep it in good condition before I move onto the next job.

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Friday, 274th April, 2020 [Day 39]

As we walked down into Bromsgrove this morning, we met with two of the grand-daughters of one of our best friends and received the news that we had been half expecting but was nonetheless distressing for us to hear. Our friend who is 88 had survived bouts of colon cancer and liver cancer and had been receiving regular chemotherapy for leukemia which was at least keeping the illness at bay. However,  he is now on an end-of-life pathway and is only expected to live for about two more weeks. We hope to be able to go to his house (his nurses will not allow us inside) and perhaps we say a few words of goodbye to him through a downstairs window. We used to pass our friend nearly every other as he as taking the family Jack Russell dogs for their daily walk and we would always exchange jokes and the like with him. Our friend had been brought up in a Salvation Army household and although he had rejected this in his youth, he and his brother were encouraged to play a musical instrument and indeed played the trumpet for more than 75 years. One particular and very fond memory that we have was when he attended our local 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, he played the  Bach chorale ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s desiring‘ using a variety of different mutes. Fortunately, we have this on video to remind ourselves of better times. As it happened, an opera singer friend of ours had sung this chorale at our wedding in 1967, so it was rather fitting that another close friend should help us celebrate fifty years later. We shall miss him tremendously – the only thing we can say is that it does not appear to be the COVID-19 virus which is hastening his end and so he at home surrounded by good medical care and surrounded by his family and friends who all love him. Here is the URL for any readers of this blog who remember Clive and would like to hear his rendition, performed when he himself was 85 years old:  Of course, what is distressing for all of us, his family and friends, is that Clive will not be able to have a proper ‘send-off’ as the funeral arrangements generally restrict the numbers to six close relatives only. We may be able to have a memorial service and ‘celebration of his life’ a bit later.

In the park, we had an interesting chat with a gentleman who, as it happens, was a past Chairman of Bromsgrove District Council (although he himself originally came from Kent) We exchanged views of what life was like in Bromsgrove and were thankful for the legacy of the 19th-century industrialist, Joseph Sanders, whose sisters had bequeathed the whole of the park to the town. After lunch, I cut the communal lawns, and then we spent a very pleasant couple of hours with our new-ish next-door neighbours in our back garden, being careful to observe a strict two-metre distance as we sat around a garden table but with the chairs well pulled back. It must have looked a funny sight but as both households had been busy of late, we had never managed to have a good ‘getting to know you’ conversation with them since they moved in. We were both taken aback by the news that President Trump had actually suggested that people should inject themselves with disinfectant as a way of overcoming the COVID-19 virus.

I experimented with an old tee-shirt to provide myself with a home-made face mask I looked at an online video to complement the diagram found in yesterday’s Times. This sort of worked but as the tags to tie it around your head need extending with spare strips of linen, the result looks a bit weird when viewed from the rear if not the front. I am reminded of a Kenny Everitt sketch of the world’s most incompetent do-it-yourselfer where there was a proliferation of bandages and the end result did look a little like this. I would rely on this home-made mask to escape a blazing conflagration but I not sure it makes an ideal fashion statement! But perhaps practice makes perfect, although a better solution might be just to wear my recently re-discovered neckerchieves.



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Thursday, 23rd April, 2020 [Day 38]

The spell of fine weather continues and the absence of wind made the morning feel even warmer.  We met our friend, Julie in the park (as we do most days) and also struck up another conversation with a gentleman of about the same age as ourselves who was concerned that the police might try to move us on from our sojourn on the park bench. We assured him that we had a piece of paper in our rucksack which indicates what the current rules seem to be – and then reminisced about what could be remembered of the Second World war and its sequelae (I find this is always a good conversation opener as everybody has members of family who were affected in one way or another by WWII).

After lunch, the gardening continued apace whilst the weather was fine. Our daughter-in-law grows superb dahlias – the only trouble is that last season’s display had died back and there was now a tangle of last year’s dahlias, this year’s daffodils and the inevitable encroachment of bracken, dandelions, a weed known as ‘Lords and Ladies’ and so on. We decided that I would meticulously clear the entire patch and then we would do a careful dig over to extract the dahlia tubers.  I am then going to give the whole a good composting (hopefully, with my own 2-year old compost) and we thought we would abandon the daffodils which rather get in the way of everything and confine the daffodils next year to a few strategically placed pots. Miggles, our adopted cat, came along late in the day to give my work a supervisory nod of approval and then to sprawl in the newly cleared patch, which she is wont to do. There was a source of much merriment later in the afternoon as I was doing a bit of strategic watering and the cat followed me around the garden to make sure I did it correctly, Then she decided to make her way through one of the plastic tunnel cloches that we had taken off the dahlias so I thought it might be a good idea to train her (like a dog!) to navigate tunnel cloches as though she was in a display. This effort failed miserably – after all, can you herd cats? As it is a Thursday, we started to make our customary ‘clap for the NHS’ applause at 8.0 in the evening, my own contribution being a metal spoon on an aluminium cooking pot which makes a suitably ringing sound. This so startled all of the local cats in the area that they all fled for the safety of their own houses as soon as the cacophony started.

My daughter in law had obtained a copy of ‘The Times’ for today and the top people’s newspapers were actually instructing you how to make your own face masks (out of linen cloth, old tee shirts and kitchen paper respectively) It is evident that there is going to be a change in policy but Amazon is already selling face masks at massively inflated prices so we intend to make our own. I managed to locate some old cotton tee shirts that I will never wear again and also a couple of neckerchiefs that we used to protect our necks in the hot summers of the 1970s. One crucial resource is going to be elastic to hold the whole contraption around the ears. Accordingly, I went on the web and managed to buy twenty metres  (the postage cost more than the elastic). In former times (I am thinking if the 1950s) this was always known as ‘knicker’ elastic as its principal use seemed to be to provide a means of support for critical undergarments worn by the fair sex in the days before elasticated fabrics hit tour clothing stores. Every self-respecting and provident woman would always carry a yard of rolled up knicker elastic in her handbag as when the inevitable ‘snap’ occurred, she could step daintily out of her undergarments and then effect some emergency repairs with the said elastic. My last encounter with ‘ribbon’ elastic (the correct term) was in 1969 when Meg needed a small amount to effect some kind of emergency repair. We found a little stall staffed by a friendly Asian lady who had knicker elastic on sale for 1½d a yard. We explained that we only needed a foot but the stallholder was very obliging and said she would sell us a foot if that is all we wanted. I watched her carefully measure out a foot which she rolled up and put in a little brown bag for us. I handed over a 1 (old) penny piece and received a ½d in change. I remember feeling embarrassed at the time – after all, a ½d is worth only about a fifth of the modern 1p coin. Little incidents like that stick in your memory, for some reason!

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Wednesday, 22nd April 2020 [Day 37]

This was quite a liberating day for us today for reasons that I will explain. We had our customary walk in the park on a beautiful spring day and held chats with some of our friends, both in the park itself and on the way back from the park along Kidderminster Rd. As it has been over seven weeks since we had occasion to go out in the car, we realised that we had better go out and give the car a spin, not least to ensure that the battery doesn’t go flat. Bromsgrove is connected to the neighbouring town of Redditch via a fairly fast and uncluttered dual carriageway so we progressed as far as we could until we met the roundabout outside Redditch town and came back at quite a speed – solely for the health of the battery, you understand. On the outskirts of Bromsgrove, we decided to come back a slightly different way and on the spur of the moment decided to call in on of our closest friends, whom we generally see once per week. Although we interrupted her exercise routine, we were delighted to see each other and had a good old natter, exchanging information about relatives and friends. This was so enjoyable that we think we will repeat this once a week, for now on. Incidentally, the Chief Medical Officer intimated today in the press conference from No. 10 something that he could say but no politician dare say- that it that the lockdown is likely to last until the end of this calendar year (a further eight months) and could even last for a whole calendar year which would be twelve months. The reasoning appeared to be that we would have wait until a vaccine had proved its effectiveness and could be manufactured at scale. Some interesting news emanating from the World Health Organisation is that the proportion of people displaying antibodies post-COVID is actually pretty low. I quote:

There is no evidence that people who have recovered from coronavirus have immunity to the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said…The UK government has bought 3.5 million serology tests – which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma….But senior WHO epidemiologists have warned that there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 cannot be infected again

So bang goes the theory of herd immunity which at least was the initial stance of the government, which they quickly had to abandon.

After lunch, I got to work clearing a triangular plant bed that had been colonised by comfrey. Some people quite enjoy this plant whilst others regard it as a weed. It is said that once you have it in a plot, you never get rid of it, largely because the roots go so deep and it took a spade to remove them. Actually, some people make this plant into a tea or a tisane whilst some old-fashioned gardeners insist it is excellent manure, not least because the deep roots bring so many minerals into play from the deepest regions of the plant bed. The medieval herbalists used to call this plant ‘knitbone‘ and used it in a sort of poultice to treat fractures and similar broken limbs. After consultation with the daughter-in-law, we have decided to try out a selection of dahlias that we had in stock. We also have a seed tray full of theoretically out of date annuals seeds so we thought we would get some going tomorrow and see what comes up. I remember that the author of a gardening book I used to have (Frances Stevenson) always used to say that you could sow any seed in May and it would be guaranteed to jump out of the ground. In the meanwhile, our fruit trees (plum, apple) seem to have the requisite amount of blossom for a good harvest later on in the year but we will have to wait and see.

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Tuesday, 21st April, 2020 [Day 36]

Another fine day, I am pleased to report. Meg and I had an extended walk around the park today, discovering new bits of it that we must explore later such as a small patch of woodland we did not know anything about. We encountered one of our acquaintances who walks a little Jack Russell terrier dog and enquired after a mutual friend who we have not seen for about 4 weeks. The news was not particularly good as our mutual friend had not been very well recently. We suspect that he may not be getting some of his regular courses of chemotherapy he has been receiving recently, so we trust that he is having a temporary setback.

I am a little intrigued by the various sets of figures that are being bandied about by the government, concerning the supply of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which seems to be in critically short supply at the front line. The government strategy seems to be to quote a very large figure and hope that we will all be so impressed that we give the government the benefit of the doubt that any shortages of equipment are not their fault. These figures seem to be plucked out of the air. For example, according to some of my Google searches, some 240 million pieces of PPE had been despatched by 30th March. On 3rd April, this figure had magically increased to 397 million – had an extra 157 million extra pieces of PPE suddenly materialised, representing an increase of 65% in just 4 days? And to extend this wonderful way of pulling big figures out of the air, the government claimed that two weeks later (by the 18th-19th April to be exact) the figure of 240 million had become 1 billion (1000 million) In other words, the supply had magically increased four-fold in a fortnight which is a remarkable feat by any standards!

I am reminded of the fact that during America’s conflict with Vietnam, it was very important that the American public who were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the war effort, be fed a constant trickle of any enemy combatants that had been killed in order to convince them that the conflict was worth fighting and the USA was actually winning the war. But how many people had actually been killed when you were estimating it from a B-52 bomber? The military hit upon the following strategy. We are going to bomb this village which, according to the 1954 (French conducted) census contained 450 inhabitants. Let us now assume that with little access to contraception, the population would increase at 5% a year. Compounded up, this would make a figure of 848. Now after the bombing raid, we caught sight of 8 people fleeing the village – by definition, we must have killed 840. So that will be our kill ratio for that particular day. Two assiduous journalists trawled through all of the figures supplied day-by-day by the American military over the years and published in the press daily and concluded that the entire population of Vietnam had been killed four times over! I perceive something of the same process going on with PPE. However, if you are a doctor or a nurse on the front line who doesn’t have a sufficient supply of PPE before treating a patient and you are putting your life and members of your family at risk, you know that the government cannot possibly be blamed if they supplied 1 billion? (1 trillion?) worth of gear

In the afternoon, I finished off a particularly difficult section of weeding in the front garden that had to be wrested back inch by inch and foot by foot (I think creeping buttercup was the principal culprit) Then we enjoyed another good FaceTime chat with our good friends – the audio was clear but as the connection was poor, we only had fleeting looks at each other’s faces. We discussed cooking, supermarket access and the proximity of COVOD-19 in the neighbourhood to cheer ourselves up.


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