20 October 2020

All in the name of science

Although a linguist, I have always been extremely interested in medicine, devour medical programmes on TV and like to think I am doing my bit for future medical advances, so for the last five months, I have been taking part in Covid research for Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples (usually human) for use in research. Once a month I am sent a kit which involves cleansing and pricking your finger to let blood into a small phial, which is then returned through the post. You are supposed to follow a strict regime of drinking two glasses of water half an hour beforehand to hydrate your system, be quite active to ensure the blood flows well round your body and then prick your finger(s) with the lancets in the kit. You are supposed to fill the phial with blood to the 0.5ml line. It doesn't sound a lot when you think a teaspoon is about 0.5ml, but I have had the devil's job of getting that much out of my finger. I have to press and squeeze, press and squeeze to get as far as 0.25ml.  At the end of the session, my finger is sore and bruised for several days afterwards. It seems in no time at all, the next month's kit is sent to me to repeat the whole process.

Today was this month's collection of my blood and I spent a good hour preparing (drinking three large glasses of water and exercising), before taking the sample. I have just come back from the post box and am now typing this with a throbbing finger. All in the name of science. My one consolation is that in four weeks' time, that will be the last sample of the six-month study.

05 October 2020

Covid rollercoaster

picture courtesy of bbc.com

So,  President Trump has caught Coronavirus. Obviously, the disinfectant didn't work. But then the whole world could have told him that. Still, he knows best. 

The next wave of Coronavirus (aka Covid-19) is raising its ugly head once more and means business. Kay tells me her hospital is getting more and more cases, Ministers on TV look serious again and warn we must adhere to the advice or face the consequences. I feel their (and my) tension rising. Batton down the hatches and prepare for another rocky ride.  This time we do not have the comfort of long barmy light evenings and warm sunshine to distract or buoy us, but endless dark winter evenings, rain and chilly days to push us further into the doldrums. It's going to be a long haul before Spring and the lure of warmth and a vaccine.

Meanwhile my 70th birthday is just within touching distance in November. I am not particularly looking forward to it as it makes me sound ancient. I still feel like 25 inside (and am told I look 50 on the outside), but psychologically, 70 makes me feel old. I've just had to apply for my over-70 driving licence, as if the world thinks I am too decrepit to drive without reapplying and three-yearly checks.  Still, at long last, I now have a credit-card-type driving licence with a photo I can use as ID. Up to now I still had the old paper version minus the photo, so always had to use my passport as photo ID.

Back in the New Year, Kay and I were considering having a grand party and inviting everyone I know to "celebrate" my 70th with me, but by March we had soon shelved that idea. Even if we had booked a venue, there was no guarantee that the venue would still be trading by the end of the year, so I may well have lost money on it, just as many have done over recent months with their cancelled weddings. Also inviting some of my older septuagenarian and octogenarian friends and family to a large party was not advisable as Covid was worse among that generation. Now, of course, the current guidelines prohibit meetings in England of more than six people anyway, so another reason it was prudent to shelve the idea.

It does of course mean that my big birthday will be spent sedately with just Kay and a handful of others. Maybe like the Queen I should have an alternative birthday  - maybe next year when the Covid dust has all settled. If the blimmin virus doesn't get me first.

01 October 2020


My doorstep was looking a bit tired and weather-beaten lately (it faces west so gets the brunt of our common westerly-driven winds and rain), so last weekend I decided to smarten it up a bit. I began by sanding down the cracked and peeling paint of the bottom doorframe. Two fresh coats of white gloss paint were applied. On Monday I painted the doorstep tiles with some striking red tile paint. To finish, I polished up a very grubby brass step protector plate. It was black/brown with tarnish, but I googled how to clean it with things already in the household. I experimented with various methods, but what worked the best was equal quantities of flour, salt and white vinegar. It polished up a treat. The job kept me entertained for the last few days and now I have the smartest doorstep in my little culdesac, all ready to battle with the winter elements.  I tried to take a picture, but the photo doesn't do it justice, so you'll have to imagine it!

23 September 2020


The one clear thing to come out of this covid pandemic is that it is baffling. To be sure I had chosen the right word, I looked up " to baffle". The answer was, as I thought.  

to totally bewilder or perplex.

The virus is indeed perplexing We still don't have a full handle on how it spreads, mutates, damages, stays away and for how long.

It is puzzling because it differs so much from one person to another. Some don't even get symptoms yet have antibodies. Some get a cough, some don't. Some just lose sense of smell. Some die. Some don't.

It is bewildering, because guidelines keep changing and sometimes from one week to the next, so you can never be 100% certain you are following the correct path. If you cross a border from England to Scotland or from Wales to Northern Ireland, the guidelines can change in a second. Why can't we all in the United Kingdom be doing the same thing to avoid confusion, another definition of baffle.

It is certainly bemusing, the way the guidelines change from day to day and week to week. Stay home to avoid people, but go out to exercise. Work from home, but go to work, then try to work from home. Wear a mask, but don't because masks don't really work. Don't meet in groups of more than six, but go to a pub and mix with many more. Frequent pubs but not after 10pm. One thing we have learned is that the virus must like a late night and does damage after 10pm. It lurks behind bushes waiting for a 7th person to join a group of six. It doesn't like soap. It hates the long jump of 2 metres. It doesn't like bubbles or alcohol (note to self - to buy some champagne as a safe deterrent).

In all seriousness, a second full lockdown could do so much damage economically, let alone cause more deaths from other causes and the rise of mental health issues. The cure could be worse than the disease. I know our government has been heavily criticised for the way they have handled things, but I doubt any other government would have got it right either.  Covid-19 is truly baffling and may baffle us for some time to come.

Boris' rousing speech to the nation last night made the same point over and over. It's a delicate balance between stopping the virus spreading out of hand and still allowing us some freedom before we all go bonkers. It's not ideal, it has its flaws, but it is a compromise.  We shouldn't need to go into full lockdown if everyone did their bit, stopped being selfish and not seeing beyond their own noses. The non-believing "there is no virus, it's all a conspiracy to boost the pharmaceutical industry" brigade should also stop knitting yogurt, moon-gazing and hugging trees and get real. So it's noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel and a massive effort to roll that heavy weight of a virus back into touch. I'm in. Are you?

14 September 2020

Parking lot

Before Kay went on holiday recently to Yorkshire, she was very stressed. Apart from having worked over 18 weeks in a hospital Intensive Care ward during the first wave of the Covid pandemic; apart from having lived in a lonely hotel room all that time to protect me (as I mentioned in the last post); apart from the fact she was moving into a flat with her boyfriend (moving is stressful enough, so they say); apart from all that, she was being hounded over parking tickets.

The big chain hotel she was placed in by the NHS for over 3 months had a huge car park, as it is adjacent to an airport and, as a guest, she was entitled to park her car there. It was patrolled by a parking agency, whose wardens randomly tour around big car parks in the region, to make sure it was not being used by non-hotel guests. Back in March, nobody knew how long the pandemic was going to last, so the NHS paid for Kay's room a month at a time, initially for the whole of April. At the very end of April, the room was paid for by the NHS for another month until the end of May, but for some reason the hotel did not inform the parking agency of the renewal for May. Consequently, Kay was issued with two parking tickets for the 4th and 6th of May.  There was no telephone number on the parking fine notice to ring to speak to a human, only an automated number to make your payment. Any appeals had to be made by email.  She inquired at the hotel reception and was told this was always happening to their guests, not to worry, she should ignore the ticket and the hotel would sort it out. Frankly, she was relieved, as she was far too busy and stressed at work to have yet another worry. A couple of weeks went by and she got parking fine reminders. Again she went to the hotel reception and again was told the same thing.... to ignore the fine and the hotel would sort it. After a couple of weeks, a second batch of reminders arrived and, again, Kay was advised to ignore it, as this happened a lot to their hotel guests and the fines were never followed up. I must admit, by this stage, I felt it would have been a lot simpler for Kay to send the parking agency an email explaining that she was a resident at the hotel and that the hotel had failed to inform the agency of this. But Kay was busy at work, under a lot of stress and kept naively relying on the hotel's insistence that it would be sorted by them.

In the middle of July, another letter arrived, however, this time from bailiffs stating that, if she did not pay the two £170 fines within two weeks, she would be taken to court. Just the sort of thing you want when you are up to your eyes on a Covid ward with people dying left right and centre. The hotel insisted they had sent emails to the parking agency, but sent another, this time copied to Kay, and she meanwhile sent her own email appeal to the parking agency. She also rang the bailiffs, but they said their hands were tied and could only act on the parking agency's instructions. A very Kafkaesque situation indeed. It took a further three weeks, well into August, before the fines were eventually cancelled and a check with the bailiffs revealed the threat of court had been cancelled too. She could relax. 

Except, a week later, she received another fine for parking in the hotel car park, this time for 7 May. The saga continued. She emailed a rather strongly-worded reply to the parking agency. At first their response was that they needed proof of her NHS ID. (Do they ask everyone for proof of their profession?) This latest fine has now been cancelled too. However, we await more.........

07 September 2020

Out of the Cage

For the past five and a half months I have been living like a hermit.  At the onset of Covid, I was advised to shield by the NHS, because I have a lung condition called sarcoidosis. It was first diagnosed in me about 25 years ago - a persistent cough over a period of 6 weeks led me to a chest x-ray and a diagnosis. It can be quite serious, but my particular symptoms are quite minor and the most annoying one for me is an inability to control my thermostat, which in basic terms means I permanently overheat and wear T-shirts or throw off bed covers when it is snowing outside! The x-rays and CTs I have had over the years confirm my lungs are granulated, so in theory I am vulnerable to Covid. 

The NHS wrote to me to say I should shield myself, avoid all contact with other people and would be able to get priority home deliveries from the supermarkets for groceries. Because of this, my doctor daughter, Kay, who has been working in a hospital Intensive Care ward and therefore right on the front line, moved out into a hotel at the height of the pandemic to protect me.

A few weeks ago, the NHS wrote to me again and said I could now go out, although I had to be careful and still observe two metre distancing and limit the numbers of people I mix with. To start with, I must confess I was quite wary. Four and a bit months shut up indoors with only the occasional solo walk in deserted streets made me feel quite funny when I was allowed out and almost terrified if another person brushed too close, particularly a jogger puffing and wheezing past. I felt as if I was in an alien world, even though it was a world I had hitherto known very well. 

I had also been living entirely on my own, with no stimuli except for the occasional phone call and wall-to-wall TV. When a friend suggested, as lockdown eased, meeting up for a picnic in the park, my first reaction was to say no. She might as well have suggested we commit communal suicide. It felt very unnatural. 

As the weeks have passed, I have gradually abandoned my terror of being struck down by an alien and have ventured out a little more.  At first to a small supermarket at the end of the day when the footfall was quite low. Then a picnic in the park with friends. Last week I reintroduced my weekly walk with a partially-disabled dog-walking friend, whom I take in my car to the park. Now I have made appointments with a hairdresser and the optician. Slowly but surely I am getting back to some kind of normal, although it still seems a bit unnatural and my hesitation is still the first immediate reaction.  I am however conscious that the next wave of Covid is just around the corner and I shall probably be plunged back soon into total isolation again, possibly till Christmas and beyond into 2021. 

Until that happens, I am glad to be out of my cage, for however short a time that may be. 


27 August 2020

North-South divide

I was recently reminded that there's always been a bit of North-South divide in this country. That's probably an understatement. There's been a massive North-South divide. Probably more so in the past, but old habits die hard and get passed from generation to generation. Those in the North think we have it easy in the South and in London, in particular. They think we are privileged, are rolling in banknotes and Rolls Royces.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Southerners have a traditional  stereo-typed image of Northerners living in back to back housing, working down a mine, wearing cloth caps and keeping homing pigeons. My experience of holidays or business trips around the country are nothing like that. These prejudices are so last century.

If anything, I've long thought that the lucky ones are the ones who live far away from London. The further the better. If both Northerner and Southerner have similar professions, say civil servant or teacher, then the Northerner comes off far better. The salary difference nationally is barely noticeable (the addition of London Weighting is a joke as it by no means accounts for the difference in exorbitant housing or travel costs). Therefore a Southerner's wages will be eaten up by astronomical mortgages, high travel costs to work, leaving little for anything else. Food and heating will obviously consume what's left. So the Southerner will have to save or dig deep for "luxuries" like furnishing the home, holidays, the occasional celebration or a car. A one-bedroom flat can currently set you back a minimum of £350,000 in London, much more if in a swanky area. That money would buy you a lovely house with a garden in the North, probably several houses in some areas, even a small castle in Scotland. If you are rich, property in London is affordable, but for the majority of the population such as hardworking office or shopworkers it is out of reach.  I have observed many a time how relatives or friends living up north have a far better standard of living than down here in London. We scrimp and save to have far less. Kay's friends in the North are buying purpose-built houses with gardens. She can barely afford a one-bedroom flat in a run-down area - on a junior doctor's salary. 

So much is the North-South divide ingrained in some that it spills into hatred. Kay had a terrible time at uni, when she was bullied (and I use that word advisedly) by a flatshare girl from Liverpool who saw it as her life's mission to make Kay's life hell and not only that persuaded others by intimidating them to do the same. Why? Because Kay came from the South and was therefore fair game. There was no let-up in sympathy even when Kay's father died, in fact the bullying seemed to get worse. It nearly broke Kay, but I am pleased to say she eventually rose above it and became the better person, but it took years to get over it.  I've seen this North-South resentment time and time again and it sickens me that in this day and age people are so prejudiced. We are all human beings and can't help where we are born and tend to live. I wonder whether other countries have the same sort of prejudices towards their more affluent capitals or regions or is it just a British thing?

16 August 2020

A satisfying weekend

I've just had one of those weekends where at the end of it I feel I have achieved a lot. I've been attacking my garage and sorting through a lot of things. Now Kay has moved all the furniture we had stored in the garage for her recent house move, I may have lost a daughter but I have gained a garage again. And, in gaining a garage, I have found all sorts of things that I no longer need, including a load of camping equipment. Kay and her boyfriend are taking a well-earned week to go camping in Yorkshire, her old stomping ground. Foreign holidays seem off the list at the moment and she loves camping, so it made sense. Of course, she came to me for a few bits and pieces they still needed, although they had already treated themselves to a new tent. In looking out things for her, it occurred to me that I shall probably never go camping again, although we used to go every year when Greg was compus mentis, we had a dog in tow and Kay was still a teenager. We have three tents in all  - different sizes and different purposes -and they were all cluttering up my garage. I sorted through them, disentangled all the poles and put them into their three piles. This morning I advertised them on a local freecycle group and literally within seconds I had people fighting over them. One is an absolute bargain - it is the size of a small chalet and sleeps 6 or 7. All free. Two of the tents were collected today, the third tomorrow. Meanwhile, I  then dusted shelves and rearranged what was left, sorting through old paint tins and other rubbish, which I then took to the local dump. I finished up by hoovering the garage throughout including catching a hundredweight of sticky gooey cobwebs. By the end of it I looked like a coal miner at the end of his shift, so had a luxuriating shower and the evening is still young! I love satisfying days like that. It also helped to distract me, as today would have been my mother's 97th birthday. I hope she was proud of me.

One little anecdote I must share. Since Kay moved out two weeks ago, I have found myself chatting to the wall, the fridge, the table, any inanimate object that is forced to listen. In the recent tropical heatwave, I was often in the garden for a coffee break and made friends with a pigeon, so naturally found myself talking to him too. He seemed to visit twice a day and seemed very grateful for the bread I threw for him. My mate, Pidge. Last Thursday, Kay visited to collect the aforementioned bits of camping accessories. We sat chatting in the kitchen with the patio door wide open, as it was so unbearably hot and humid. Suddenly Kay exclaimed, "Oh my God, there's a pigeon in the kitchen". You've guessed it, Pidge had decided to join the conversation. However, our startled surprise unnerved him and he began flapping at the windowpane in a vain attempt to get out as fast as he could. He didn't have the brain to go out the way he had come in and any attempt by us to direct him made him flap at the glass even more, so we had to wait until he had calmed down and then gradually found the opening of the patio door. He didn't wait for his bread, but just left his calling card on the floor. I didn't see him for a few days after that. I think he was thoroughly traumatised but he was back again yesterday, on the outside, I hasten to add.

01 August 2020

Flap, flap, flap

Wood Duck Jump Taken Minnesota Under Stock Photo (Edit Now) 1056811352

Forgive me if my post is a little sad today, but today marks the end of an era. The picture above may give you a clue. My one and only chick, Kay,  has left the nest for good. 

It is true I have been used to living on my own for the last 10 years ever since Greg died. Kay was away in her first year of university then, but I always knew she'd be home in the vacations. Then when she qualified as a doctor she was away for two years gaining experience in hospitals far from home, but again, I always knew she'd pop home in her spare time.  For the last two years, I was truly blessed to have her living back home with me again, as she commuted to a hospital an hour's drive from here. It suited her too, as she was saving up money to buy a property of her own some day. Meanwhile I liked having her young company around and someone to fuss over and cook for.

Today she has moved out for good. I am excited for her as she moves in with her boyfriend of over four years. They are happy together and well-suited. I like him very much. She deserves so much happiness after the hand fate dealt her with her father. The last ten years have been an emotional struggle for her, having lost her father to alcoholism, but to her credit, she rode the peaks and troughs of the emotional rollercoaster and came out an exceedingly competent doctor. She could have so easily gone off the rails and I take my hat off to her for doing so well. How then could I deny her the chance to be happy with a dashing young man who adores her? I know I have been so lucky to have had her living on and off with me for 29 years. 

We have known this day would come. Back in March, she and I planned to have the last few months of her being at home to do all sorts of quality mother-and daughter things. We planned outings to special places;  I  would teach her to sew on the sewing machine;  we would clear out long-neglected cupboards together; she would teach me the basics of spotify and satnav. Covid saw fit to ruin that. She temporarily moved out of the house to protect me from catching Covid, as she was working on the front line in Intensive Care. Thirteen weeks later, as the pandemic seemed to subside, she moved back to me again considerably shell-shocked from the things she had witnessed, with only a few weeks left before she finally moved out. We both feel very sad that we shall never get that time back. I know other people have gone through far worse with cancelled weddings or the death of loved ones and we do try to put that into perspective. 

Today, however, is a milestone. End of an era. As she embarks on the next phase of her life, I embark on mine. Alone, in the knowledge she will only now be back as a visiting guest. Normally to get myself out of the doldrums,  I would have immersed myself in visits to friends or any of my hobbies, but with Covid all those outlets are denied me, as either I am on the vulnerable list or things such as choir practice are not open again yet. So life will be a lot quieter for me. I am sure I shall survive. I usually do, but forgive me a tiny bit of wistfulness today of all days.

07 July 2020

Shed a tear

My late husband, Greg, wasn't a carpenter, although I suppose he had it in his genes - his grandfather was a carpenter in Northumberland and, in the Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, headed south looking for work. Greg subsequently inherited all his grandfather's tools and used to like nothing better than to potter around in his spare time, making sideboards, cupboards and bookshelves. I suppose it helped relax him, as his job was very stressful and required a lot of mental input, whereas tinkering around with wood allowed him to empty out. One of his projects was this natty little garden shed-cum-bench for our patio garden. 

Our patio garden is too small for a conventional shed, so this fitted the bill. Small enough to look inconspicuous, large enough to house a few garden tools, some herbicides and sundry garden chemicals with a little bench to sit on as an added bonus. Greg made it a good 20 years ago, long before alcohol became a more attractive hobby for him.

However, over the intervening years,  it has fallen into disrepair, as a closer inspection of the above photo shows. I have tried to get it to limp along with the aid of filler and duct-tape,  every time bits of wood fell off. I have painted it several times to keep it looking dapper. But finally it has given up the ghost and, if it weren't for the fence behind it, it would have keeled over and crashed into a thousand pieces.

Ever keen to keep Greg's little shed with us, I recently hired a carpenter to completely replicate it. Observing lockdown rules, he would access the patio garden via a side alley without coming through my house.  I had taken great pains to watch the weather forecasts and we agreed on a date right in the middle of a very dry spell as we did not want the wood to get wet while it was being made or while it was being painted. Unfortunately, he let me down twice and made lame excuses each time the night before he was due.  It was irritating because he was not doing his normal self-employed work because of lockdown and was home all the time, so his excuses were a bit feeble, particularly as he let me down each time at midnight the night before he was due, on one occasion saying he had to take his son somewhere.  Considering I was giving him some much-needed money and he was going to work outdoors, so no risk of contagion, it was a bit much.  

He finally told me he was coming to do the job on the Sunday before last - the wettest week of the summer so far - and it took all of four hours to make it. For the money he charged I was expecting a whole day's labour or a shed the size of a bungalow!

Anyway, this was how the carpenter left it.

No description available.

No description available.

I had offered to paint it, as I enjoy painting, but because of the delay in getting the shed made, I was then faced with painting it in the worst of the weather. The days following consisted of wall-to wall rain or showers at unexpected times of the day and quite at variance with the forecasts. Trying to nip out between showers and prime it, undercoat it and topcoat it, allowing the required eight hours for each coat to dry, was a nightmare. I had to keep covering the shed with an old shower curtain and polythene to protect it, as I did not want to paint over wet wood or get rain on the paint. There were heavy winds too blowing all sorts of tree seeds and grit all over the wet paint. 

I shed a tear (see what I did there?) to see the old one go, but Greg's shed lives on, albeit a complete reincarnation. After what seemed an eternity in getting it built and painted, the new shed now finally looks like this....

08 June 2020


Supermarket wine aisles to shrink, says Bibendum buyer - Decanter
picture from decanter.com

With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc where it can, our supermarkets are getting into the fine art of making customers social-distance. Well, most of them are - there are still reports that a few have not completely mastered it. As I am classed as "vulnerable", I am getting online supermarket deliveries to avoid any social contact, so I have no personal experience of the new systems,  but I read on a local social media site, that our local supermarket has a system where, when it comes to the checkout, customers are being made to form a single queue down one aisle and only proceed to the cashier(s) when they are at the head of that queue. That allows customers to keep to the advised distance from one another in the queue, not clog up all the aisles with queues and to approach the cashiers, when directed to do so, so there is only one customer alone with a cashier at any one time. That all makes good sense and, maybe, that is what is being adopted generally. However, it seems our local supermarket has picked the alcohol aisle for the queue to wait. 

The person who reported this on social media wrote of a woman in front of them getting very twitchy and on her mobile phone to someone. As the queue slowly moved forward, the woman got more and more panicky and was heard to say they could not cope with being in the alcohol aisle any longer, as the temptation was too much. In the end, they abandoned their trolley and rushed out of the supermarket. The supposition was that the person was a recovering alcoholic and being too close to that temptation in a very slow-moving queue was too much for them. I suppose any aisle chosen for the queue is going to be a problem either in terms of whether it has popular items which would attract a large volume of customers trying to get past those queueing, or where there are temptations for others (my personal nightmare would be queuing in the chocolate aisle), but it seems the alcohol aisle could be the undoing of many a hard recovering addict. Supermarket managers please note.

22 May 2020


I cannot believe that it is twelve years since I wrote my first tentative post on my blog. At the time, my life was so topsy turvy, living with an alcoholic husband, who was in and out of hospital; trying to keep life normal for a growing teenager with important exams on the horizon; walking a dog; helping an aged, partially-disabled mother; and keeping a household going single-handedly. I felt I was slowly sinking. 

I had been drawn to blogland by one or two quite well-known blogs which featured in the daily press at the time and quite quickly dipped into more along the way. To start with I was just a reader, but one blogger, asked why I didn't blog. I remember thinking "what on earth I have I got to blog about that anyone would be interested in?"  Then one day, a particularly awful day, when my mood was in my boots, I suddenly felt the need to write it all down to empty my feelings out and lighten my load. I had shared my problems of living with an alcoholic with nobody. Neither friends, nor wider family, nor neighbours knew a single thing. Those privy to the bare outlines (and I mean bare outlines) of the truth consisted of my mother and my sister-in-law but, as they geographically lived a long way away, I hardly saw them enough to share the minutiae of my troubles with them. I had bottled everything up inside until I was going to blow a gasket. So on that very bad day, I just sat down and typed and typed without stopping. Suddenly the penny dropped. This was not just my story, but there must be others in the same circumstances out there too. Maybe this was the beginnings of my blog. 

So twelve years ago, I wrote this.  I remember tentatively hesitating before I pressed the "Publish" button. I didn't think anyone would actually read it really and, in any case, it was mainly written for me. Did I want to wash my laundry in public? But, hell, nobody would read it anyway. I pressed "Publish". To my utter amazement I received eight comments within a few weeks and so my blogging existence began. I had readers!

Since then, its readership has waxed and waned. At the height of things I maybe got 40 to 70 comments. Now I am lucky to have three. I suppose the tale was quite gripping at the time, as the twists and turns of my marriage changed dramatically and Greg's condition worsened. Obviously, my ramblings since have become less about alcoholism and more about general things and interest has tailed off. I do however take great comfort from the fact that many people living with an alcoholic have found the blog a great help and even alcoholics themselves have thanked me for helping them to steer away from what was on the cards, if they continued drinking, having seen the tragic outcome for my husband.

Sometimes, I think I have run out of steam. Twelve years is a long time to keep a blog going, particularly as its original purpose is long finished.  Yet I also feel it has been a useful tool to look back on the past - a sort of online diary - particularly to sometimes punch myself what that alcoholic past looked like, as the passing years have mellowed the reality somewhat. So I sometimes keep going for that alone. Having said that, I am not sure whether I shall continue or not. Maybe now is the end of the road. Or maybe there is more road ahead. Right now, I cannot make that call. 

25 April 2020

What is this world

by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I've been cooped up indoors for the last two weeks, doing my bit to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, staying at home and protecting myself into the bargain too. I have too much information direct from the front line to know that I don't particularly want to catch this virus any day soon (if at all) and would prefer to wait until my local Intensive Care has the capacity to take me, which, because of my age, it won't at present. Too many people are being cavalier about how they take their exercise and see it as a right to go as often and as far as they damn please. They won't be so smug, when they get to their local hospital and find no room at the inn. The government's advice on exercise is their compromise to stop us all going crazy indoors, but not meant to be an excuse for a day's outing or holiday or whoop-up. We are supposed to be staying at home, where at all possible, and only going out when it is essential.  Short bursts of exercise, short distances. When will people finally get the message? When it's too late?

I have limited my exercise to doing it at home -pilates and yoga both online and from books. I have limited my fresh air to sitting outside my back door and soaking up the sunshine. But yesterday, after two weeks at home, I felt it was high time to stretch my legs just a little bit further from home. Nothing drastic, just a 40 minute walk round the block from my house, taking in the local park. Unfortunately, a lot of people failed to observe the two-metre distancing. One narrowly missed me as he thundered past on his bike. I don't think I'll repeat that in a hurry.

As I walked, the poem above came into my mind and I took advantage of my rare outing to notice those things I normally have little time to notice. Nature is really excelling itself at the moment and the colours are amazing. What is this world, indeed, if we have no time to stand and stare..... Maybe when we get back to normal, we'll take more time to stand and stare and not hurry back to the things that distract us. If Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is to value the simple things in life.

London City skyline from my local park

Local park woodland

Bluebell woods in the park

A witch's stake or the beginnings of a teepee?

A mighty oak

08 April 2020

She is all I have

We are into our third week (or is it more? - it seems forever) of Coronavirus reality in the UK. Each day's television press conference and news seems to get worse and I can feel my anxiety levels rising. We know what it has been like in places like China, Italy and Spain. We know we are only a couple of weeks behind the last two in terms of the pandemic's progress, so we know what is still to come. The statistics roll off the experts' tongues as they stand at their podiums each day. It is difficult to keep those numbers in our heads, yet they seem dire enough whatever they are.

I have been a good girl and stayed inside as best I can.  With modern technology, isolation is not the ghastly thing it once might have been. People I have not spoken to in years are already phoning me, video-calling me and writing to me. I am taking part in online pilates classes, Gareth Malone's online Great British Choir and many more. I have been gardening, tidying cupboards, sorting through the jobs I keep putting off. I am already into my second week alone and it has been no big deal. Worse things happen in a proper war.

Although I am not yet 70, I am only a few months off that milestone and I am pretty sure the virus is not going to be able to tell whether I am 69 or 70 when it strikes. However, I do have an underlying health condition which might make me more vulnerable. I have sarcoidosis - a granulation of the lung tissue - in itself no great problem and I have only minor irritating symptoms for which I do not take any medication, so I must not grumble, but I have no idea how it would react if I caught the nasty coronavirus.  For that reason, I am being cautious and  Kay has given me strict instructions to stay at home at all costs. "You are all I have," she says tearfully, which is true, and she is all I have. For that reason, she moved out 10 days ago into hospital accommodation to protect me, as I explained in my last post, so she is coping with this on her own and so am I. 

She is all I have.  My anxiety is not helped by the fact that at the end of last week she was asked to transfer from her current ward to work in Intensive Care for the foreseeable future. That means she will be even more on the frontline than she ever was before. This wretched virus does not discriminate between old and young any more,  or between healthy and unhealthy. It seems it can strike anyone dead. Its transmission rates are incredible. I wonder if she is more at risk because she is exposed to it more? I wonder? Who really knows? I worry. 

She is all I have. She offered to do my shopping for me to stop me going out and did a massive big shop before she left 10 days ago. I am slowly getting through it, but will need more fresh stuff by the end of this week. She offered to do some more shopping and bring it home for me, dump it on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and drive off. However, I did not want to put her under any more pressure after an exhausting week of very long hours at work, as she is an hour's drive from here, so I tried to get an online delivery from my usual supermarket. I could not get a delivery slot for love nor money at any time over the next three weeks that they publish. On their website they urge you to ring a number if you consider you are in a vulnerable group and have not been contacted, so I tried - a good twenty times over several days - but lines were overloaded and a recorded voice told me to try later. Then the message was changed to one of asking you to register on gov.uk. They would check your eligibility with your GP and get back to you. I was sceptical, but was overjoyed several days ago to get the all-clear and plenty of choice of delivery slots - I now have one organised for Thursday. I feel relieved that I don't have to haul Kay back here to deliver it.

She is all I have.  People are being advised to stay home if at all possible. Except for essential shopping. Except to collect medicines. Except for some minimal exercise a walkable distance from home. Except for work, if they are key workers or cannot work from home. The result is that there have been many people who have abused this. On a local facebook group, there have been idiots who clearly have no intention of heeding the advice and are galavanting about the country visiting the beach, picnicking in parks and clearly not giving a f***.  Idiots, who think they are above the rest of us, maintain they are not doing any harm and can do what the hell they like. One man argued on social media with others in the community,  that he had the right to go out and buy a paintbrush if he considered it essential. He has bragged that he was off to Hastings for the day today and would buy a magnum of champagne if he so wished, as that too could be considered essential. Part of me wondered if he was just trying to rile the rest of the group, but another part of me has seen previous posts from this idiot and I think he was serious. He argues that he is avoiding contact with anyone, but doesn't seem to realise he may already be a carrier and everything he touches, might be touched by someone else following him.  It almost seems like there is a  (thankfully very small) part of the community who thinks this whole thing is a joke and a major irritation in their daily lives. If they could see the deaths my daughter is witnessing on a daily basis, they might think again.   Is it so much to expect people to stay inside for a few months and limit outings to the "essential" if it means they are not the indirect cause of someone else's death? People have given up far worse in wartime, having loved ones on the front, children evacuated, food shortages and living in air-raid shelters to name a few.  Am I to sacrifice the health and maybe even the life of my daughter, so these idiots can do what they damn like?

She is all I have. So please stay at home. We need to isolate ourselves, so that we can isolate the virus and halt its progress. The virus is otherwise having a whale of a time jumping from human to unsuspecting human to repopulate in the next person. If we all get it at once, there is no hope in hell we shall have enough medical capacity to cope with it and more people will die. What if one of those destined to die for lack of vital equipment was your loved one? What if you took an unnecessary car journey, had an accident and the ICU beds were too full to take you? My 28-year-old daughter is having to make decisions who lives and who dies. No human should have to make that decision yet alone one so young and tender. I hear the tension and exhaustion in her voice when I speak to her. If people refuse to observe the advice and courtesies for other human life, what kind of people are they? 

She is all I have. So please stay at home unless you need essentials or some minimal exercise close to home, adhering at all times to the two-metre distance from human contact.  End of.