Wednesday, 25th March, 2020 [Day 9]

Today started with a maximum degree of frustration. To order some groceries online, I am using Ocado which seems very good but is almost completely overwhelmed by the demand for online shopping – it is not unheard to join a queue of 50,000 whilst shopping. In order to maximise my chances of getting onto the system, I logged in about 1.00 am in the morning and was pleasantly surprised to get after only a 5-minute wait (eight hours is threatened if you try during the day). Having already saved a trolley load of groceries, I took on the remaining three delivery slots. However, the way the system works one has to order £40.00 worth of goods. As so many items were unavailable my ‘shopping basket’ dropped to about £20.00 so I was forced by the system to abandon my delivery slot in order to top my groceries to a volume which after allowances would not drop below £40.00.  So I topped up with various items but by the time I came to checkout, all of the delivery slots had gone so I was left, as at the beginning of the night with a basket of groceries (a bigger basket in this case) but no delivery slot. On the assumption that slots are released each day in the wee small hours of the morning, I shall try again tonight and see how I get on. To be honest, as we have about two weeks of food, we have sufficient to cover our needs but I am trying to be organised for what is to come a fortnight down the track, as it were. As it happens, our daughter-in-law managed to pop into M&S and had topped up with a few things for both herself and for Meg and me.

Today on our daily walk, we found people both friendly but also responsible as tended to swerve ‘outwards’ as it were to give each other a wide berth as it were. I am sure we are quite fortunate, having a large park to walk around only about 1.5km away but I can only imagine how people are feeling if they have been cooped up in a small flat for days on end.

This afternoon, I waited for a telephone call from my doctor to give me the results of my recent gastroscopy (some small polyps were removed but they were benign) and to update blood pressure medication so I spent some of the afternoon trying to get into a really relaxed state listening to ClassicFM before I took some blood pressure readings. As it happens, I am listening to ClassicFM as I type and they are trying to encourage the British public to do what the Italians, Spanish and French are already doing. At 8.00 every evening, people get onto their balconies (in flat-centred societies) where everyone gives a huge round of applause as a mark of appreciation to the NHS personnel who are struggling to preserve our lives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We had previously arranged to FaceTime our closest friends in Spain and to get news from them. The ‘lock-down’ had been imposed much more rigorously there rather than here – for example, one was allowed to venture out about 200 metres with one’s pet to allow it to relieve itself and then back home. We joked that if they ran out of toilet paper (there had been a panic on this in Spain as well) it would be not only the pets that were relieving themselves on the side of the road. The military (‘Guardia Civile’) seemed to have played a much bigger role in maintaining the new social norms but after some terrible scenes in supermarkets, the access to food seems to have settled down. But Spain has many more smaller shops as well as supermarket chains so I suppose that helps. The view from Spain as the deaths in Spain exceed those in China was that the Chinese could be lying about their figures – but in any case, in a non-democratic regime people could be dragged from their houses and made to conform if it was evident that they were not doing so.

The Ocado website is down until 11.0opm so I wonder if I get any more success tonight – I will report tomorrow. Watch this space!

 

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Tuesday, March 24th 2020 [Day 8]

This has been the first full day of ‘lock-down’ but it hasn’t seemed so very different from the days preceding it.  The roads were certainly quieter but from our bedroom we can still see (a long way off) lorries making their way up and down the M42/M5. It was a beautiful spring day and one in which felt good to be alive with the birds singing and the trees starting to burst into bloom. On our way down to our normal pitch in the park, we passed a couple of neighbours who we have got to know better over the years – they attend the same church and were keenly gardening whilst they could. We chatted for perhaps half an hour exchanging horror stories and thoughts about the current crisis. The behaviour of fellow walkers was quite interesting. When we started to get within range of any other walkers, we engaged in a mutual swerve in plenty of time making sure that there were at least three metres between us rather than the recommended two. It seemed a reversal of normal patterns of behaviour – one exhibited on’s concern for other people by taking steps to avoid them rather than greet them. We observed just one example of antisocial behaviour in which a couple of parents and their two children and a dog were romping down the path without seemingly a care in the world – we turned abruptly on our heels and took off in the opposite direction so that we would come nowhere near them.

Our son, Martin, spent an hour and three quarters queuing to get into the local pharmacy picking up a couple of prescriptions for us (in a queue of about two dozen) for which we were very grateful. Lunch consisted of one of our own home-made fish pies and I reminded myself that I had all of the ingredients to male another one which lasts for 4-5 meals altogether. When everyone is safely in the house we engage on a deep clean of kitchen surfaces and the like – I am taking over the duties of the light switches monitor, disinfecting each of the light switches in the house (of which there seemed to be a lot – I must do a count of them tomorrow)

Quite a lot of the day I  have had my Ocado app running on the computer running down from about 40,000 in the queue only to find there are no delivery slots yet allocated. We are stocked up with enough food for about the next two weeks but I am trying to put in a sensible order for delivery in about a fortnight’s time although this may be a vain hope. Our daughter-in-law is going to try and buy a few essentials from M&S when she comes home from school tomorrow so we shall have to live in hope.

As I was watching the news bulletin at end of the day we learned that the NHS are concerting the Excel exhibition centre in London into a 4,000 bedded temporary hospital whilst Donald Trump is arguing that he intends to ‘open up’ the rest of America to the world by Easter which is now three weeks away, whilst the mayor of New York is pleading desperately for medical supplied as the virus is whipping through the city like wildfire!

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Monday March 23rd, 2020 [Day 7]

Well, we knew in our hearts that this day was eventually going to arrive and so it has. Of course, if you have already been self-isolating and keeping at least two metres from individuals you pass on a walk then nothing much will actually change. But, inevitably, the most dramatic impact is upon food distribution. Did all of the people who ‘panicked’ and collectively put £1 billion worth of food in their store cupboards act sensibly and rationally: if you tried not to panic and hoard then were you denying yourself essential supplies in the future? About 10 days I signed up for Ocado and actually got a delivery last Sunday. I now have a ‘normal’ week shopping of some £40.00 worth of goods in the Ocado system but no delivery slots are available so what to do? The official government advice is to use online delivery services ‘when you can’ (which are incredibly weasel words from a government which must or should have known/modelled these consequences) As of 8.30 this evening, the entire food distribution system is suspect. I’m not sure I particularly want to be starved into standing in a queue to be let in three at a time into a supermarket with basically no stock, but when the point of starvation arrives I suppose I will.

Today didn’t start off particularly well as our friendly assistant in our local Waitrose with whom I had set up an arrangement to collect my pre-paid newspapers had reported in sick and was self-isolating. However, she had fully briefed one of her colleagues and we handed in our bag and vouchers and got our newspapers for the first (and probably the last) time. We had some nice chats at a distance with friends and acquaintances in the course of the morning. The afternoon was spent composing a little note to send round the rest of the residents who share the BioDisk (mini sewage treatment system for our six houses) reminding them to only flush conventional toilet tissue down the loos in case desperation forces them to use cut-up newspaper or other improvised solutions which could well clog the system. We FaceTimed some more friends at the end of the afternoon and swopped notes about access to food, recipes and the like. Then a nice long chat with our new next-door neighbours that I hadn’t managed to see in quite a long while.

Martin sent me a very interesting article from Roy Lilley, a very well informed commentator on the Health Service. The article ‘Some thinking to do..‘ was essentially trying to predict what new models of economic and social organisation we would develop ‘when this is all over’ as the government’s response to the crisis in paying 80% of the wages of people working in the private sector is  ‘pure socialism’ It is surely the case that nothing will ever be quite the same again. In particular, there is. a strong argument that our NHS must always start off from a position where it can respond well to new situations of pandemics which will surely arise again (three in the last century?)

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Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 [Day 6]

To say that the highlight of one’s day has been the delivery of a week’s groceries would, in normal times, seem the height of triviality. However, I was delighted, not to say relieved, to take delivery of my very first Ocado order between 8.00 and 9.00 this morning. I eeem to have a superfluity of green vegetables and potatoes (but, apparently, the veg sections of the supermarkets have remained somewhat unscathed whereas the milk, chese, eggs, pasta sections seem to have been stripped).  I am going to try my second Ocado order at about 1.30 in the morning as the rest of the time the web access times are incredibly long.

The four us (Mike. Meg, son and daughter-in-law) are settling into a new routine but some things are proving a little difficult. Ou son will be working from home from now on but is going on a toilet roll hunt tomorrow (we are down to our last 4). Of the four of us, our daughter-in-law is most likely to be the bearer (vector?) of any virus so we are all being especially careful to keep at least three metres from her. In addition, we are regularly wiping down surfaces, light switches, door handles (including the front door) and the like and our hands get a wash in good old-fashioned soap whenever we are within range of a soapdish.

Our son and daughter-in-law used my pre-paid vouchers to acquire our copy of the Sunday Times and Observer and it has been fascinating to have a deep and informed read. In particular, the Observer reproduced Imperial College’s report COVID-19 which completely dismayed the government and forced the abrupt changes in policy. The report indicated that the death toll would rise to 250,000 unless draconian measures were adopted. This evidence and the fact that we are only 2-3 weeks behind Italy where the death toll is already about 5,000, coupled with the harrowing Sky News reports from inside the Bergamo (Northern Italy) critical care units which are being overwhelmed made a government re-think inevitable.

Meg and I had our normal walk in the park keeping at least three metres from anybody. But we did meet an interesting lady whose husband had recently died of pancreatic cancer (and we all thought that this might have been a blessing given the present state of the hospitals) and another father-son couple making the best of Mother’s Day (which seems a complete irrelevance). We will still have to see what the week ahead brings where we have some routine GP and hospital appointments which will now be conducted by phone.

A final thought for the day – if there had been any church services in Anglican or Catholic churches where normally part of the Epistle would be a reading from the Old Testament, would we have two readings ‘The Apocalypse‘ followed by ‘Apocalypse Now‘? (Not really the Old Testament I know but you get my drift)

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Saturday, March 21st,2020 [Day 5]

Today was a brighter day than yesterday and our spirits were raised by meeting a couple of friends on our walk down to the park – to whom we chatted from a safe distance of 2-3 metres but as the news seems to get more dire by the hour, it is an interesting question for how much longer this can be maintained. In northern Italy, for example, (the UK is reckoned to be about 3 weeks behind) it used to be possible for one person at a time to have a walk with a dog but it seems that even this is now being adjudged as unsafe.

Our son and daughter-in-law managed to secure us our daily newspapers (which we have had to forego since last weekend) and this was a welcome treat. After some messaging with a friendly colleague from Waitrose we are setting up a system whereby we leave a bag containing pre-paid tokens for the newspapers hanging up outside Waitrose and, we are hopeful, that within a few minutes the tokens will have been taken as payment and the bag filled with newspapers ready for us to collect. Our son daughter-in-law tried to go the pharmacy to pick up some routine prescriptions for Meg and myself but the pharmacy as a whole was shut (whilst they are processing enormous backlogs?) and a neigbouring pharmacy across the road had a queue outside and people were only being admitted three at a time. From what we can tell the local supermarkets have been emptied of certain items that we would normally buy week by week (eggs, cheese, milk) so we shall have wait and see if any of these can be supplied by Ocado.

I want to pass on a seemingly bizarre tip but it seems to work very well. After Meg and I had consumed our coffee in the local park, we treated ourselves to a banana each. I was just about to dispose of the skin in a nearby rubbish bin when I stared down at my scuffed walking boots and suddenly remembered an old tip. I rubbed the (inside) of the banana skin over my boots and they did a marvellous job in cleaning and renovating them. I seem to remember somewhere that the same tip works exceptionally well for rubber (not plastic) car mats – I think that the natural oils in a banana skin are very akin to the natural oils to be found in both rubber and leather and hence they do a good job in cleaning and renovating them. I am constantly reminded of what things were like in 1950 when I first started primary school when absolutely everything was in short supply. At schools, our crayons were cut into two so that we could have half a crayon each. If you needed to go the outside toilet to do a ‘N0. 2′ job, the teacher would assess your size and need and then from a roll of Izal toilet paper which she kept in her desk grant you either one or two pieces of paper. Those days may well return in the current crisis!

Digesting the news from yesterday when the whole of the private sector was subsidised by having 80% of wages to be paid for by the government, it almost seems as though we are living in an Alice-in-Wonderland type world for measures like this were not even dreamed of by Jeremy Corbin and, of course. nothing like this was attempted in the Second World War. One does get the feeling that once a business has been closed down, how many will ever re-open? Even having 80% of staff wages paid for by the government is pretty meaningless if there are no customers or footfall of any kind.

In the late afternoon we had an hour’s FaceTime chat with two of our Waitrose friends which was absolutely wonderful. We may meet in the local park at a very safe distance if the weather is fine next week.

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Friday, March 20th, 2020 [Day 4]

Each day has its own particular ‘timbre’ and today is no exception. Our morning was considerably lightened up by two events. Firstly, one of the very friendly staff in Waitrose has offered me whatever assistance I might need in the weeks ahead. Accordingly, I/we are going to devise a system whereby I can leave a bag complete with my newspaper tokens and she can deliver ‘The Times‘ and ‘The Guardian‘ into the bag without my needing to enter the store – this will be brilliant if we can get it to work. It shows how some people are full of the spirit of altruism of which more later. The second thing that brightened up our morning was meeting one of our ‘Waitrose’ friends in the park – we were able to sit on adjacent park benches at least a metre apart and exchange gossip over how we were coping with the crisis. I think we were both incredibly pleased to see each other as it broke up the social isolation for us mutually On the way home, we called by one of our immediate neighbours and had a brief conversation through a partially opened window. She was telling us a horrendous story of local groups of people who were going into Asda and engaging in all sorts of panic buying before disgorging the contents of their trolleys into their cars, putting on a new set of other clothes and headgear so they would not be recognised and then entering the store again for a second sortie.

In the afternoon, I managed to successfully make a PDF file of my claim to the insurance company complete with accompanying documentation. I managed to successfully edit the PDF file of a page copied twice in error and then used an online pdf compression program to reduce its size from 11Mb to 1.6 Mb before I submitted it. Whether or not, I will get any of our money back from the planned trip to Portugal in May I do not know but at least I have tried one line of attack before I take issue with the credit card company, which will be the last resort.

On a more reflective note, the crisis seems to be revealing a polarisation in our society between a group of largely uneducated, individualistic and essentially selfish individuals on the one hand and a more responsible, altruistic and community-minded set of people on the other. Perhaps ‘thus was it ever so’ but certainly the crisis is bringing it into sharp relief.

The Sky News video of conditions in the Bergamo hospital in Northern Italy which is already completely overwhelmed gave pause for thought, to put it mildly. They are saying that this might only be a foretaste of that is to come in the UK as we seem to be some three weeks behind Italy and the rate of increase in the UK seems worse than other comparable societies such as China, Italy etc. Without being melodramatic, I think I would die peacefully at home rather than eventually in the insulated, chaotic and impersonal settings that we see in the Italian critical care hospitals (which, by all accounts, are better equipped than ours)

Some photos to cheer us up

Forsythia FF

Forsythia (in bloom at last) and a flowering cherry tree  in our garden -signs of Spring (but they both seem out of focus to me!)

 

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Friday, March 20th, 2020 [Day 4]

Each day has its own particular ‘timbre’ and today is no exception. Our morning was considerably lightened up by two events. Firstly, one of the very friendly staff in Waitrose has offered me whatever assistance I might need in the weeks ahead. Accordingly, I/we are going to devise a system whereby I can leave a bag complete with my newspaper tokens and she can deliver ‘The Times‘ and ‘The Guardian‘ into the bag without my needing to enter the store – this will be brilliant if we can get it to work. It shows how some people are full of the spirit of altruism of which more later. The second thing that brightened up our morning was meeting one of our ‘Waitrose’ friends in the park – we were able to sit on adjacent park benches at least a metre apart and exchange gossip over how we were coping with the crisis. I think we were both incredibly pleased to see each other as it broke up the social isolation for us mutually On the way home, we called by one of our immediate neighbours and had a brief conversation through a partially opened window. She was telling us a horrendous story of local groups of people who were going into Asda and engaging in all sorts of panic buying before disgorging the contents of their trolleys into their cars, putting on a new set of other clothes and headgear so they would not be recognised and then entering the store again for a second sortie.

In the afternoon, I managed to successfully make a PDF file of my claim to the insurance company complete with accompanying documentation. I managed to successfully edit the PDF file of a page copied twice in error and then used an online pdf compression program to reduce its size from 11Mb to 1.6 Mb before I submitted it. Whether or not, I will get any of our money back from the planned trip to Portugal in May I do not know but at least I have tried one line of attack before I take issue with the credit card company, which will be the last resort.

On a more reflective note, the crisis seems to be revealing a polarisation in our society between a group of largely uneducated, individualistic and essentially selfish individuals on the one hand and a more responsible, altruistic and community-minded set of people on the other. Perhaps ‘thus was it ever so’ but certainly the crisis is bringing it into sharp relief.

The Sky News video of conditions in the Bergamo hospital in Northern Italy which is already completely overwhelmed gave pause for thought, to put it mildly. They are saying that this might only be a foretaste of that is to come in the UK as we seem to be some three weeks behind Italy and the rate of increase in the UK seems worse than other comparable societies such as China, Italy etc. Without being melodramatic, I think I would die peacefully at home rather than eventually in the insulated, chaotic and impersonal settings that we see in the Italian critical care hospitals (which, by all accounts, are better equipped than ours)

 

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Thursday, March 19th, 2020 [Day3]

For a reason that will become evident shortly, the date of March 19th is always burned upon my memory. As it happens, on this date exactly 47 years ago, I was involved in a bizarre accident at my place of work, Leicester Polytechnic. I was with a couple of my students and I had just given a lecture on ‘Science and Magic as alternative forms of explanation’ (to Combined Science students). I explained that in some western cultures, a belief in magic was an alternative form of explanation (if malaria was caused by being bitten by mosquitos, then why should that one particular mosquito bite me? Answer – because someone was directing magical forces against me, whereas in the West we would tend to rely upon statistical probabilities). I ought to have known something was amiss because the handout that I typically gave to the students was peppered with strange black marks!  To make matters worse I had just said ‘Look – if I walk out into the street and get knocked down by a car then in the West we would explain this not as magic but just as a statistical probability‘) A quarter of an hour later, a Hillman Imp approached a T-junction at speed (as the driver had apparently ‘fainted’) although he had been to all all night party the night before. I was sent flying as the car hit me first, severely severing all of the muscles in my right leg and damaging the joint in my left knee. As it was a hospital ancillaries dispute at the time, there was no bed for me in hospital but I was sent home and told to take a couple of aspirins for the pain -ditto the following day until I was finally admitted for surgery some 2-3 days later. And when I woke up from the surgery, my penis was covered in rapidly hardening plaster-of-paris which had to be removed (by a male nurse – sex is the last thing on your mind when in severe pain) Talking of which, I endured three hours of intense pain after the operation and eventually when a nurse asked me how I was, I admitted that I was in pain. The nurse consulted my medicines chart as then said ‘O dear, we’ve forgotten to give you any pain relief!’ [I was angry at that point] So that was our NHS in 1973 – things have improvd since.

So what about today? I walked down to the park with my rucsack and a flask of coffee which was a bit difficult to manipulate with the rucksack in one hand whilst I poured the coffee and rummaged around for biscuits with the other. There was only one other dog walker in the park and it was raining and gloomy.

In the afternoon, I spent several hours attempting to claim a refund for a holiday to Portugal in May for which I had paid in January. After several fruitless quaters-of-an-hour hanging onto the end of a phone with recorded messages saying ‘all of our staff are attending to other clients in this exceptionally busy period’) I eventually found a website where you had to fill in all of the details of a claim on a form on the web, which you then had to ‘submit’ – although the form refused to submit. But I did find a telephone number and explained my dilemma to a friendly human at the other end who sighed and said ‘Yes, sir, all of our Expedia clients are experiencing the same problem’ Anyway, I got sent a 6 page form on a PDF for me to fill in, scan and send back so I am sort of making progress.

I have composed a little website with just three items on it that people may find interesting. One is a definitive document on everything you needed to know about COVID-19 (a 33 page document) well written and up-to-date from Harvard medical school. The second item is an article how to keep your immune system well-functioning. The third item is from an email which an ex-Winchester University colleague has sent to me which, as she had been a purser on a cruise liner which was afflicted by Norovirus,is full of practical hints and strategies. Here is the URL

http://covid.kesland.info

Hasta la vista!

 

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Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 [Day 2]

I spent some time this morning going through contacts on my iphone reminding them of my email address and this blog reference so that we have an easy way of keeping touch with each. Also, one of my ‘Winchester’ friends had been a purser on a cruise liner in a past life and gave us lots of practical advice how to protect yourself against rampant virus – rather than reproduce her email here, I will forward it to anyone reading this blog if you drop an email note.

My good friend, Professor Dan Remenyi, has written a letter/article which he has submitted to his local newspaper and it is very stimulating to read. With his permission, I reproduce it here, together with a few thoughts that I had on the matter as well.

Where do we go from here? [by Professor Dan Remenyi]

We are indeed in a right mess. The government’s response to Covid 19 will destroy tens of thousands of small businesses and will cause millions of people to be laid off. The rescue package announced by the government which consists of, inter alia, a bundle of financial relief including a third of £1 trillion of loans will push the UK further into a financial chasm. Many small businesses struggle on a month-to-month basis and if they have to take out loans from the government in order to continue in the immediate term, their prospects of longer term survival may not be good at all. Providing loans may not be the answer to the problem.

All of this government action seems to be based on a computer model which has told our leaders that by requiring everyone to self-isolate and thus stay away from pub, restaurants and theatres, the potential death toll will drop from 250,000 to 20,000. Even without examining the detail of this model there seems to be a number of loopholes in the apparent logic behind the assumptions. I sincerely hope that the severe economic and social hardship so many of us are about to endure will really save so many lives and reduce the physical misery that is being caused to the nation’s health by this disease.

But this faith in computer models is to say the least surprising. It was a computer model that initiated the reckless financial behaviour which cause the crash of 2008. It was at least computer model thinking if not a particular model itself which led to the Boeing Company designing the 737 Max with its dodgy aerodynamics. In general modelling society to project what will happen in the future is a very or highly dodgy business. I am extremely sceptical of computer models and especially those which have such enormous impact on our society.

There is another issue behind our current situation which deserve some thought. In former times there must’ve been many strange diseases which struck society such as the Black Death or smallpox, the occasional outbreaks of cholera or the Great Spanish Flu of the earlier part of the 20th century. When these catastrophes really got out of hand they caused mayhem on a large-scale. But they were slow to develop and our understanding of disease was very limited. The situation we are facing is quite different and we have a much greater understanding of what we are really facing and how we find ourselves in this situation. There is little doubt that one of the drivers of the current crisis is globalisation. Our ease of access whereby we can travel to almost anywhere on the planet within 24 hours must surely be something which we should now re-evaluate. The great potential we have to spread disease all over the world, surely, should now be considered as a real downside to worldwide travel.

I have no idea as to how we can even begin to think about controlling our appetite for global travel. I think that the genie may be out of the bottle. Freedom to roam the world, if you have the resources to so do, is now so deeply embedded in our culture. But as one commentator recently said on television, “This may not be the last time we will see a pandemic like this sweeps the world”. And if we were to convince the world that travelling far and wide was not ideal what would we do about the tens of thousands of aircraft (which would have cost hundreds of billions of pounds) and the jobs of the millions of people employed by the travel industry? 

We are indeed in a right mess!

[End of Dan’s article] – my response

Excellent analysis, Dan – do let me know if the local newspaper publishes your contribution.
Looking at the Prime Questions Questions today, I have the feeling that we may not be very far off a Universal Basic Social Income as an ‘experiment’ which like Income Tax (Napoleonic wars expedient?) may become permanent.
I feel that society may at a crossroads between
(a) a more decentralized, more localized political economy with new lines of cleavage (not social class but a metropolitan elite vs. a more uneducated, localised and more unskilled populace
(b)  Calls for a ‘strong man’ who with the aid/behest of the military presides over an authoritarian regime prepared to shoot rioters (food stores, hospitals) when it occurs.
Whatever – I have a strong suspicion that whatever measures we introduce in society as a strictly ‘temporary’ response will quickly become permanent. I am always keen to know your thoughts.
Incidentally, whilst I share some of your doubts about modeling (or any other algorithm in which you do not know the underlying assumptions), are there any alternatives worth considering (lessons from history?)
Keep in touch!
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Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 [Day 1]

How do I feel at the start of this period of 4 months(?) of self-imposed isolation?  Well, I suppose it is not unlike the emotions that people felt in the 1950’s when they were diagnosed with TB and had to spend 12 months in a sanitorium or eve as prisoners might feel at the start of a custodial sentence! I rather think it might have been like this is the world had been involved in a nuclear war and, after an explosion on the other side of the globe, you knew that something unseen but invidious was coming your way…

I started the day by texting my Pilates teacher, Helen, informing her and my fellow classmates that I would not be around for a bit and wishing them all well. Then I sent a message to one of my wonderfully friendly staff in Waitrose down the road to inform other staff members and some of the regulars of my contact details (mobile, email, blog) in case any of them wanted to keep in touch with us. I received a telephone chat call from my good friend Professor Dan Remenyi and we exchanged views on the state of the world we were in. Meg and I then set off for a pre-planned walk in a local park which is about 1km and a half away and we sat on a park bench drinking from our flask of coffee and ensuring that we were at least 10m away from any other park visitors (mainly dog walkers) Then we watched the Politics Today program starting at 12.15 on BBC2 before having lunch of our previously made Fish Pie.

The highlight of our afternoon was a good FaceTime video chat with our good friends Dave and Denise before we had our own tea. We have adopted a policy of keeping to strict meal times so that we minimise social contact with our son and daughter-in-law in case any of us are the unwitting bearer of virus. I had ensured that throughout the day each bathroom as ell supplied with a bar of soap (supposedly much more efficient at removing viruses than liquid soap

I had promised? threatened? a couple of Spanish stories – apologies to my friends in Bromsgrove who have heard them both before and repeated ‘ad nauseam’  The first relates to our last holiday in La Coruña. Northern Spain when I realised that we were short of a comb. So I walked into a pharmacy and announced ‘Buenos dias, señora – quisiera comprar un nuevo pene por favor‘ The assistant looked quite astonished until I realised that I had said ‘Good morning, madam – I would like to purchase a new willy, please’ To make matters worse, I went on to explain that I needed something that was just of the right size that was not too large but would just fit conveniently into my right hand. Too late, I discovered that I had mixed up the word for a combe which ‘peine’ with the slang word for a willy which is ‘pene‘ – well, it is easily done.

The second story relates to one of the local hospitals who phoned up about two days beforehand saying, ‘Good morning, Mr.Hart – what are you doing first thing on Sunday morning? Would you like to come in and have a gastroscopy (tube down the throat into the duodenum to check for nasties) I knew it was about two years since the last check-up so I thought I had better get it over and done with. I was ‘prepared’ for the procedure by a little nurse who announced me ‘Good morning Mr. Hart – I am Amparo and I am looking after you today’ Having established that she was, in fact, Spanish we continued chatting in Spanish but I was not at my best at 8.0am on a Sunday morning. The conversation took the following turn:

‘I know what I would be rather be doing at 8.30 on a Sunday morning’

‘Yes – me too’

‘What would you rather be doing by doing on a Sunday morning?’

‘I would like to be snuggled up in bed next to my husband!’

[Then it started to go horribly wrong]  – I replied ‘Yes. so I would I  – I mean not YOUR husband but I meant somebody else’s husband. No – I didn’t mean that – I meant to say ‘Somebody else’s wife’ No – I didn’t mean that either – I meant ‘Next to next t0 my own wife’

‘Are you sure?’ she said. ‘Well’, I said hesitantly thinking about what I had just said (in Spanish) – ‘I think so’

“You don’t sound very sure to me!’ she said. ‘Yes, I said (weakly) ‘I am sure’

‘We wouldn’t want you getting mixed up between my husband, someone else’s husband, someone else’s wife and your own wife, now would we?’

‘No’ – I said. ‘So that’ got that little confusion out of the way then!  We giggled together…

 

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