31 March 2020


You may have heard something about a little bug called Coronavirus (or Covid-19, as it is grandly called) that is doing the rounds. It's not as if it has been mentioned much!! To be fair, you can't see it or smell it or taste it, but it can see you, makes a beeline for you, lays you very low and, if you survive, makes you lose your sense of smell and taste. It's incredible that such a tiny little organism can create so much chaos in the world and knows no boundaries. It has a whole Schengen zone of its own, except it covers the entire world. It has caused so much anxiety and panic, as well as changed all our lives in so many different ways. 

My own life has changed beyond recognition. Just at a time when I was beginning to branch out and find a life for myself, joining pilates classes, choir sessions and volunteering at food banks to name a few, these have all gradually come to a stop. Medical appointments and lunches have fallen by the wayside too. My diary is full of crossings out and nothing to do for the weeks and months stretching ahead. I have a new car, but nowhere to go with it, or at least I could try, but might get stopped by the police and asked whether my journey was necessary. It is sitting on my drive, gathering dust. So far I know two people who have caught the virus - my friend in Brighton and Kay's boyfriend. Both have been self-isolating and both have lost their sense of smell.

Kay was invited to four weddings this year - all very close friends of hers. So far three have been cancelled. The fourth is in October and hanging in the balance. The ceremony for Kay to receive her certificate from the Royal College of Physicians (which allows her to put MRCP behind her name) is also cancelled. More crossings out in the diary.

The whole coronavirus business has brought out the best and worst in people. By and large, people have come together in an almost wartime spirit to help one another in their need. Local groups have been emailing me or posting leaflets through my letterbox offering help with shopping, if I need it, or asking me to volunteer to shop, if I am able.  Fitness people have been posting free videos online to keep us fit and stop us going stir-crazy. NHS staff and the elderly are being given special shopping hours to shop at supermarkets before the mob of looters grab the entire stock off the shelves. An army of volunteers have signed up to do any of the much-needed jobs to support the NHS and other key workers required in this crisis. I even found a bouquet of flowers on my doorstep wrapped in newspaper with no card, so I have no idea whom to thank, but somebody obviously intended them for me or Kay.

There are a few people (there's always some) who do their worst. There's the ones that are buying 10 multipacks of toilet roll, no doubt to paper their walls with, as they cannot possibly use all that in a few weeks. I've heard of people snatching the last tin of beans from a frail old lady and even heard of how an old lady locally was mugged on her way home and her bag full of shopping stolen. Kay tells me of an NHS colleague who has a six-month-old baby, went into a supermarket after her shift, near to closing time, to get some tins of powdered formula milk for the baby. She found two tins left on the shelf and was just about to take both, when a man grabbed one out of her hand and said he needed it desperately, as his wife is Vegan and uses it in her coffee. Kay's colleague was so flabbergasted, she handed one of the tins over, but then wished she hadn't, when she thought of the cheek of it. Then there are the scams that are cashing in on people's vulnerability.

I can also report that the Alcoholic Daze household has been badly affected by this snivellin' little sh*t of a virus. Kay is a hospital doctor and working right on the frontline to use the analogy of war, which is so prevalent at the moment. Last week she was on-call, which meant she was going around the entire hospital dealing with emergencies that arose. She saw four patients diagnosed with Covid-19 with just a flimsy paper mask for protection. You don't need to be an expert to know that puts her very much at risk of getting it pretty soon. Because I am almost 70 (well a few months off, but that isn't going to stop a virus having fun beforehand) and have a very minor (but nevertheless) lung complaint called sarcoidosis, I have no idea how I would fare with this virus. I am generally very fit and healthy for my age, but the virus is indiscriminately killing people a quarter of my age. So Kay has decided she cannot risk bringing the virus home. The hospital had offered to provide free accommodation to any staff who live with a vulnerable person, so Kay has been allocated a  free room at a large chain hotel and she moved out from here yesterday morning with two large suitcases, a yoga mat, weights, sewing kits, food and her laptop. She is exhausted, Her colleagues are exhausted. They've had a few major problems at work over the last few months over certain issues with management and are weary of being taken for granted and weary from the long hours they put in. Morale is low. Now they are being used as cannon fodder to deal with this crisis, with no suitable protection and with forthcoming decisions that no human should have to make. Our parting yesterday morning was tearful, as we have no idea when we shall see one another again. It could be many months. If she catches the virus, as catch it she will, she will have to self-isolate in a lonely hotel room. I am really worried for her.

I am holed up in my house on my own, with nowhere to go and afraid to walk far, as joggers round here pay scant attention to social distancing and the 2-metre rule, as I have found to my cost. Instead, I plan to attack overflowing drawers and cupboards, tidy the garden and maybe even do a spot of decorating, if the whim takes me. I'm also taking advantage of free online pilates classes and phoning people I haven't spoken to in months. There is a wealth of memes doing the rounds and some are hilarious. Anything that makes you laugh is surely good. I leave you with one that had me crying with laughter.

20 March 2020


I have been a little more absent in Blogland of late, as you may have noticed.  This has been partly because I have been preoccupied with other stuff, mainly of the technological kind and THAT can cause lesser mortals like me to go into meltdown.

Basically, Life had conspired to bring me to a point at New Year, where I needed a new mobile phone, a new laptop AND a new car simultaneously. I am not a creature who likes change. The fact that I have lived in the same house for 32 years bears witness to that, as well as the fact that my car is now 21 years old. Not being one to cope with change and technological change at that, I had put off, doing anything about them, until the fates conspired and meant I had no choice. Not wanting to make said changes all at once, I decided to go slow and take one at a time, read the manual, get used to it and then move on to the next. It seemed like a good plan.

The mobile phone seemed the easiest to tackle. My three-year-old 8GB smartphone was struggling with updating apps and kept telling me I had not got any room for updating or could not access things. Salesmen laughed in my face and said 8GB was needed just to make the phone perform its basic functions and that nowadays 64GB was the norm. I researched online and chose what I wanted, went into the shop and bought it. Now, some eight weeks on, I am well used to it and so glad I upgraded. My phone is now functioning without telling me to delete stuff and I'm adding on apps like it's going out of fashion.

The next thing to tackle was a new laptop. As many of you will know, Windows 7 ceased to update as of mid-January. Whilst it is still possible to work with Windows 7, lack of updates can cause security issues and my bank had already emailed me and a million others to warn of severe caution using internet banking on Windows 7. My laptop is 10 years old and I had been thinking of replacing it anyway. Many's the time I had felt like flinging it through a window when it would not load up a program and the little wheel went round and round and round and..... You could hear my expletives a mile off.

Replacing said laptop with a brand new Windows 10 model was not to be the easiest thing I have done in my life. I spent a good while researching. A friend helped advise me on RAMs, storage, drives, screens and reliable models. I read up the online reviews of previous customers.  I drew up lists of pros and cons on a lot of models, went to inspect them at two different retailers, several times, although not all models were on display. Round and round the showrooms I went, getting more confused in the process. On many the picture quality was appalling. Screens seemed dull and grainy. They made my eyes go in different directions. They were supposedly anti-glare but were far inferior to the glossy-glass versions, which of course were far more expensive or only available on much smaller screen sizes. I do a lot of photo-editing in my spare time and the screens were not up to that. I thought I had found the perfect one, only to be told it was out of stock and not likely to be available for a good while. The search continued. I eventually bought one that seemed to fit the bill but was not available in the showroom. I had to cross the vast expanse of London to find the last model available. I started to set it up only to discover the salesman had ill-advised me. His assurances that the model had a glass screen and not a matt one were false and the picture quality was awful. I took it back and got a refund.

The laptop search so traumatised me, I decided to shelve further searches for a while and concentrate on a new car. I already knew what I fancied - a small run-around town car. I don't do a lot of long-distance driving and hate motorways with a passion, so a compact Hyundai i10 seemed to fit the bill for what I wanted. I did a test drive (my old car is so old it doesn't even have power steering and central locking, so even that was a learning curve as well as all the gizmos on the dashboard and steering wheel!) I had intended to buy a one-year-old model, as I was not keen on losing £2000 depreciation value the moment I drive a brand new one out of the showroom, but the salesman threw in a curve ball. He had a brand new one, special edition PLAY model. As an ex-civil servant I was entitled to a £1000 reduction and he was offering £250 for my old heap of metal junk in exchange, so for an extra £750 I was getting a brand new car. Plus a year's road tax, 5-year warranty, 5 year breakdown cover with RAC, metallic paint, tinted windows, integral satnav and a full tank of petrol. What was there to think about? It seemed too good a deal to refuse. I picked it up yesterday.  I was sad to see the old workhorse go, so here's a picture of the old one for all posterity....

....but I have swapped it for this.....

....and shall no doubt fill the next few months growing to love that too. Meanwhile the hunt for a laptop continues. I may be gone some time.....

06 March 2020

Ten Years

It's hard to believe, at times, but today is the tenth anniversary of Greg's death. Ten years since I watched him die after a week of Intensive Care in hospital and after six years of even more intensive alcohol addiction. Six years of him drinking to excess, shouting, swaying, slumbering and crisis after crisis. Six years of Kay and me treading on eggshells, fearful to invoke another angry outburst from him, living in fear of the house burning down from one of his fallen cigarettes, hoping in vain a miracle would happen and that he would stop drinking. Ten years have since passed, adjusting to the calm; feeling more relaxed, yet getting angry at what life could have been now but for the alcohol; feeling nostalgic for happier times. So many emotions, so many wishes, so many dashed plans.

I still miss him. Of course, I do. You cannot throw away the thirty-nine years we spent together without feeling something. Thirty-three of those years were happy. It was just those very last six years, but six years that unfortunately hung a huge cloud over the rest.  A huge cloud that enveloped me so much it occluded the previous happier times. I have tried over the ten years to keep busy in various ways to smother the memories, good or bad, but occasionally those memories bubble to the surface.

The last ten years have, however,  seen me mellow. Gradually. Not at first, because the anger and resentment fought to be the prime emotions. Why him?  Why me? Why us? But over the years I have come to understand more about addiction and its companion, depression. My anger has turned to pity, to sadness, to longing and now to acceptance. 

Kay too has been through a whirlpool of emotions over the last ten years, struggling to maintain the equilibrium whilst coping with studies at school and uni, forging new friendships and becoming an adult. I have seen it affect her in so many ways. She has now also more or less come to terms with it, but I notice it still gets to her sometimes, like last week when she asked if I could lay my hands on a certain photo - "the last one I had taken with him" she adds with a wobble in her voice.

Today we are both visiting his home town in the Midlands to mark the occasion at the spot where we scattered his ashes. We shall talk to him, update him on the latest news, reprimand him for being a naughty boy and tell him how much we miss him.

I have often thought about the possibility of having another relationship, but cannot even bring myself to start the very beginnings.  Part of me thinks it would feel like a betrayal. Part of me feels I cannot cope with any more tugs on my emotions, particularly if it all went wrong.  I have learned to be stronger, to be a survivor.  Even if I say it myself, I have coped remarkably well solo. I have been without him for ten years. A quarter of the time we were together. My logic tells me I cannot keep on marking the anniversaries forever. Ten years seems a good enough place to stop.