31 October 2020

Bad and Good

This week has shown me the best of people and the worst. Locally there has been news of thieves stealing catalytic converters like it is going out of fashion, break-ins, ransackings, bitchy comments to people's harmless posts on Facebook, and stabbings.  Also, a friend of ours in the Midlands had a visit from her carpenter son who was on his way from Newcastle to a very prestigious job in London and called in to see her for an hour or so en route. In the time it took him to ring her doorbell and go inside for a while, someone broke into his van and stole all his tools and clothes, which of course meant the prestigious job was scuppered. It's enough to make you ashamed of the human race.

On the flip side, I have personally experienced various kind acts this week, which has restored my faith in human nature. The first was that I had amongst other things ordered online a candle in a glass jar. It was so poorly wrapped and loose inside a box that the jar was in a hundred pieces when it arrived. The candle was worth less than the postage, so I did not necessarily want to order another on its own, but I emailed the company - more to pass on the information to their packing department for future reference. They have since sent me a replacement candle free of charge.

The second thing was that my hairdryer decided last week to throw a hissy fit. Instead of blowing out hot air, it blew freezing cold air on any setting at any speed. Kay had bought me the hairdryer (at some expense) just under two years ago for Christmas. For some reason and quite unnatural for me, I had not kept the guarantee or instructions or the box, so had no idea if it had a guarantee or not. All I knew was that I had had it less than two years and used it modestly about once a week, so it should have had a longer life than that. I emailed the company for their advice. After sending pictures of proof of payment, the dryer itself and its model number plate, they advised me that it had a three-year guarantee but as they sadly could not repair that model anymore, they were sending me a completely new replacement.  It came yesterday. 

Finally, I had ventured out six weeks ago to have my eyes tested and had been wearing the new glasses ever since, but they did not seem right. I kept trying to justify that my eyes (and brain) were just not used to them, but in the end I admitted defeat this week and went back to the optician for a retest. Instead of maintaining they were right, they conceded that one eye was different on the retest to what they had thought it was weeks ago. Also the pupils were not in the right position they should be on the lens, so to cut a long story short they are remaking them for me.

That's three things inside a week that has cheered me up no end. There are some good people out there after all.

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!