Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Damp squib

 Well... the long awaited lockdown-exit "road map" was unveiled yesterday. No great surprises: most of it had been leaked with a fair degree of accuracy in the couple of weeks leading up to it.

 "Buccaneer Boris" he isn't: I can understand his decision to tread carefully, the last thing we want at this stage is yet another panic-reversal of easements, caused by not knowing which of them has caused another spread of infections.  On the other hand, the lives of every man, woman and child in the country have been disrupted - in some cases tragically - for almost a whole year now and Doctors Doom and Gloom need to understand that people will only put up with so much for so long before the proverbial worm starts turning.  

At the present rate of progress it won't be long before half the adult population has been vaccinated and while I'm not suggesting we throw the other half to the wolves and let them take their chances, making everyone wait until 21st June for a complete return to normality is beginning to look increasingly unsustainable as a policy. 

Rumours are emerging, too, of dissent among Sage members who have been apparently publicising to the media their own predictions and conclusions, often conflicting with the official "scientific data" being touted around as the basis for decision making.  Who was it who coined the phrase "Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad" ?

Tuesday, 19 January 2021


I suspect I'm not the only person who saw a delicious irony in today's news story about our esteemed Health Secretary Matt Hancock being required to self-isolate after apparently coming into close contact with an infected Covid-19 person.  No-one knows who he or she is, nor when or where it happened, but there's been no suggestion as far as I'm aware that the 'alert message' he was sent is a hoax or malicious.  So it rather begs the question as to how he, who passes up no opportunity to drive home the message about social distancing and avoiding close contact with anyone, has apparently come a cropper by letting someone get close enough to him to perhaps pass it on.

Don't get me wrong, I don't wish him any physical harm, but I hope I may be forgiven for making the observation that for him to have gone footballing in a crowded public park at the weekend, thereby possibly passing it on if it turns out he is infected, was hardly setting the shining example to the rest of us.  But then again, since when have politicians bothered particularly about what the rest of us think of them?  (/end cynicism).

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Ups and downs

Today has been eerily quiet: I haven't seen a soul all day.  I didn't go out because I didn't need to, but usually I can look out of the window and see the neighbours pottering about, or somebody delivering something, but today... nothing.  Maybe they're all taking the Government's advice or perhaps that latest TV ad has got them all scared s***less.  Talking of which, whose bright idea was that, I wonder.  I haven't bothered with it.  Poor old Chris Whitty earning his nickname of Doctor Doom: he may be a brilliant scientist but a charismatic persuasive presenter he isn't.  I suppose I shouldn't judge too harshly, given the material they gave him to work with, but did it not occur to anyone that if you want to sell a proposition of some sort to millions of people, you've got to make them want to "buy" it?  Evidently not. 

I also contacted the Macmillan Cancer Support people to tell them about Carol's death.  I'd registered with them two years ago when Carol first got the diagnosis and they'd been a veritable treasure trove of information and help.  However to the best of my knowledge I shan't be needing their services any longer - although I don't know what lies ahead for me, of course.  But if I do, then I'll know where to find them. 

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Picking up pieces

Prompted today by getting in my inbox an email newsletter from Carers' Trust, I realized that following Carol's death I was no longer going to need their services: I have no surviving relatives apart from distant cousins and have no intention of acting as carer for anyone else.  I never needed or wanted the 'therapy groups' or courses they offered, but during the course of the sixteen years since Carol's stroke in 2005, I'd come to rely on the availability of unbiased help and support in navigating through the bureaucratic maze which being a full-time (unpaid) carer involves, and occasional battling against officialdom.  I don't know what I'd have done without having the occasional drop-in session to call on whenever I needed advice (or even just a friendly ear to bend).  So I sent them an email saying I was 'de-registering' but thanking them for their services, and got a lovely email in return.

I had no inkling, of course, of what lay ahead on that fateful night in February 2005 when Carol had the fall from which she realized she couldn't get up and got whisked off to hospital. We later found out that the first few hours after a stroke has occurred are crucial, and in that respect Carol was lucky.  Ten days in hospital followed by a month in a place called Youell Court (in those days an 'Intermediate Care Centre' - I'd no idea such places even existed).  I remember us sitting waiting eagerly for the transport which was going to be bringing her home, and then full of optimism for the future, as she walked up the stairs with the aid of a pair of crutches.

Fate, however, had other ideas.  The first six months were enough to convince me that to carry on working full-time was not a viable option, and in the September of that year the County Council agreed to let me take early retirement to look after her.  I carried on just doing Sundays for a further three years, but by that time what I suspect was a weakened immune system was resulting in gastric and other infections entailing hospital treatment, and each time she was coming home just a little bit less mobile than when she'd gone in. One particularly bad spell in 2009 ended with a fortnight spent over at Rugby and I remember one Friday coming home on the bus after visiting her, in tears looking through the window as the scenery passed by and I thought back, triggering memories of all the things I imagined she'd never see again.  The following week she decided she'd been there long enough, so I hired a car and brought her home.

It was some time after that, as I remember, that I succumbed to the idea of having care visits to help me look after her.  I'd resisted at first: she was my responsibility and it was my role as her husband to look after her - the good old 'for better and for worse' and all that.  She told me once that she thought I'd got a pretty raw deal out of that contract: we both laughed.  But practicality intervened and I realized she'd fare better if I had some help. In the summer of 2014 we agreed to have daily morning visits - from an agency who turned out to be unreliable to the point of being virtually useless, but we fared much better when I had to have someone to look after Carol while I had my hip replacements done, and those visits continued right up to the morning she died.  Props to Yo, my regular "assistant" for doing everything that was needed with a cheerful can-do which lifted Carol's spirits up more than she'll ever know.

So what now?  An eerie sensation of being at a loose end.  After spending most of the last ten years, certainly all of the last five, looking after Carol as a full-time job it's odd not having that to do anymore.  Don't get me wrong - I never for one second minded doing it, and I'm proud I can look back and boast that I made a good job of it, too.  Just another facet of losing someone close to you, I guess: they're suddenly not there anymore and a number of things - tasks and routines - associated with them are suddenly not there, either.


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Twelfth Night

I've just been busying myself taking the decorations down (well, putting the little tree back in its box for another year) and taking the cards down.  I shed a tear or two re-reading the kind messages people had sent me: I did reply to the emails people had sent, but I haven't to what people had written in the cards.  I don't really think people really expect it: or at least we never used to when the positions were reversed.

Carol, who was an Anglo-Catholic, used to want to everything left up until Candlemas. This wasn't something I'd ever come across anyone else doing, and whatever the theology of it, this year I reverted back to the way I'd always been brought up to do it (with the exception of that one year when I was dead lazy and left them all kicking around until Easter!). 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Plus ça change... plus c'est la même chose!

Five days into the new year and we're already in lockdown... again!  The mix is as before: don't leave home, and protect the NHS.  And there's me naïvely thinking the NHS was supposed to be protecting us!  Hollow promises from our illustrious PM, just as before: when was it? ... last March, if I remember right.  And as before, he doesn't know how long it's going to last for.  So over the course of the last nine months, he's learned precious little, attempting to combat a virus seemingly intent on outsmarting him at every turn.  Pinning your hopes on a vaccination programme as the panacea cure for this is all very well, but if you don't know and can't say how long it's actually going to take to vaccinate everybody it's hardly either reassuring or convincing.

And yet again, the schools have been ordered to close.  Despite the heavy fines levied in the past by councils against parents daring to take their children out on holiday during term-time without permission, on the grounds of the lasting harm the disruption causes to their education?  And that's only, in most cases, ten days max.  Some poor kids have had next to no proper schooling for the thick end of a whole year now.

And don't get me started on the lies, damned lies and statistics theme!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Un peu de tristesse

Some sad news to start 2021 with: I came across a message posted online just a couple of days ago, saying that Mr Marshall, my old form master and French teacher had died "recently".  The details are a bit sparse and I've only been able to find out so far that his death wasn't Covid-related, and neither was it protracted.  My best guess at working out how old he would have been is around 90.

French was far and away my best subject at school: I got a Grade 1 O-level and a Grade A A-level as well as a Distinction in one of the long-since defunct S-levels.  The fact that I can still write, speak and understand French with a tolerable degree of accuracy is in no small measure down to the quality of the teaching I received, in particular the encouragement to aim for perfection.  I'd have liked to have re-established some sort of contact with him, as I'd wondered periodically, on and off over the years, about what might have become of him, but I never succeeded in finding out anything and now it's too late, of course.