The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th January 2020

As I was clearing up after breakfast I was thinking that this year I really should sell first the boat then the car. The car at least seems to be on the same page, though determined to cause me unplanned expense first. As for the boat, I have a feeling that however great my resolve is ona cold wet day in January, one lovely weekend in May will soften it.

I had booked a slot at the local recycling place to leave my defunct towel rail and some other bits and pieces including a ex-toaster of Celia’s. Off I went. All well until I was half a mile from home and there was a sudden bumpy feeling, a funny noise and I recognised the sign of a severely flat tyre. A puncture as it turned out. I don’t have home start as the garage is just across the road, but I should have read the small print, as home start means within a mile from home. It’s a long and tedious story, but it looks more than likely I shall need a new wheel. Ho hum.

I have been following the live updates re Trump’s impeachment fairly obsessively. On the news tonight several Republican senators answered the reporter’s polite enquiries with almost identical words along the lines of this is a stunt by the Democrats at a time when we need unity. My guess is it was a format of words they were advised to say, but some were clearly angry. It sounds reasonable until you think about what it means, which is that somehow by drawing a veil over those people who attacked the capitol, encouraged, urged by Trump, and over the President‘s words too will heal wounds. No it won’t. It would send a message to all those other people who have demonstrated peacefully that Trump and his supporters are given leeway and not held to account. As indeed they are. Remember Black Lives Matter? That’s all about how black people do not enjoy the same freedoms, the same respect, the same treatment by the police and the law as white people.

Uncomfortable truths have to be faced. Not just in the US, everywhere. We have our own deniers here. People who cannot see that white privilege exists. People who say we shouldn’t worry about who got rich due to the slave trade and whose descendants still grow fat on the exploitation of human beings. It’s long ago, they say, as though that had anything to do with it when the effects are still felt today. Try saying that to a Scot who hates you for being English because of Culloden, never mind that your family hadn’t even arrived here when that battle happened. It’s an inherited guilt.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th January 2021

Monday. It’s traditionally a day to do the washing and so it was chez IsobeletChat. It was dry, much milder than the last few days and, best of all, windy. I actually woke in the night because I was too warm. Chris called me just after breakfast, and it was only later in the day I realised I hadn’t read the paper, realised too that without being aware my morning routine is now to get stuck into The Guardian (online edition) while I drink my coffee.

There was nothing exciting about my day. It was one of domestic chores and waiting for the ONS person to turn up so I could take swabs which will go to the Covid study. The news regarding the pandemic is fairly unrelenting in its grimness. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, numbers of people infected are still dying, the young as well as the old are dying, there are temporary mortuaries in Surrey and NW London. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long tunnel.

We are told to stay local. Boris Johnson was seen cycling seven miles from his home in Downing Street. OK it’s not that far, and a bike ride of seven miles is not great, but it does make you remember Dominic Cummings and his interpretation of stay home involving a very long car ride followed by another car ride to a famous beauty spot in order, he claimed, to check his eyesight. Johnson’s cycling suggests a tin ear at the very least. Government has to be seen to be practising what it preaches. Most of us interpret stay local as staying in an area less than seven miles from our homes. The Cummings fiasco did untold damage. The Prime Minister telling reporters that more vaccinations have been given here in the UK than in any other country as though we are in some strange international vaccination race (and it’s GB going for Gooooooold) is as bizarre as it is irrelevant. Yes we want the vaccines, and we want them as fast we can have them, but I am really not going to be dismayed if another country administers them more quickly than we do. This is a global pandemic. We want everyone, everywhere to be vaccinated.

postscript 12th January. I just read this piece in today’s paper on the subject of bending the lockdown rules. Food for thought.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd October 2020

I turned the page on the MasterB calendar yesterday morning. I have been trying to get the 2021 calendar ready to send to the printer. It’s not happening. Apple has removed the feature from Photos that allowed me to use one of its templates and save the result to a PDF. Apple no longer offers a print service, a service I never used, and has instead linked Photos to various apps. who will let you use templates so long as you also use their prohibitively expensive print service. Two lengthy conversations with Apple support got me nowhere but annoyed.

This is my first post with the new block editor. I didn’t choose it, it just popped up. I can’t say I’m warming to it. But that may be fallout from my fruitless Apple chats which left me more than a little Eyeoreish. It’s probably not fair to blame apple entirely for my dip in humour. I have also spent more time than I care to remember with TalkTalk customer services having circular conversations about an intermittent problem with my landline. But I think the Apple scenario has got me down the most. I haven’t entirely given up hope of getting the calendar done, but don’t hold your breath.

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Better and Bigger than Trump

Lor’ love a duck, I have just read that Theresa May has again invited Donald Trump to these shores. I thought we were hard up, how on earth are we going to afford the security costs? It would be nice if he’d do the decent thing and stay at home, then maybe that money could be given to the NHS. Or maybe she’s planning to sell him the NHS and we’ll have Trump hospitals everywhere. Given Trump’s gung-ho attitude towards facts and knowledge that would probably mean anyone could get their hands on a scalpel and see if they could retire us when we need it. Lots of gold plating and no doctors, no nurses, no paramedics, but a director who claims he has the best wards, is the most medical person ever.

When I read that many people who voted for Trump still support him, call him one of them, cite economic growth pushing back ISIS as evidence of the effectiveness of his presidency. I went to see Darkest Hour yesterday, and it got me thinking about Hitler and how his rise to power was due largely to his promise to make Germany great again, how he appealed to people who had lost everything in the depression, who felt ground down and humiliated after the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler, like Trump, promised much, he had scapegoats, he painted a picture of a glorious Reich free from those who dragged it down – Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists. Women belonged in the home, cooking, bearing children who would fight for this Reich.

And let’s face it, at first he seemed to many in Germany to be delivering the goods. Here in the UK he had his admirers too. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express gave him their approval. The abdicated Edward VIII visited the fuhrer.
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A Not Uneventful Day

The trouble with not posting on a blog for while is that I have too much to say, too much to record, and sometimes, make that often, it's easier to draw a line under the passed days and start from wherever I am now.

I have always failed at keeping a paper diary for the same reason. Somehow a blog feels more forgiving. If this survives beyond me, and future family historians try to understand what great-to-the-power-of n Aunt Isobel's life was like, they may well suspect that the silent days were ones where I had nothing more to say than that I got up, had breakfast, fed the cat and frittered away the hours. If so, they will be wrong. In my head, walking along, on the bus, queuing in shops, I compose posts that are never written; posts where I muse on life's beauties and inequities, posts where I opine that the NHS could probably save a small fortune in anti depression medication if only IDS and Michael Gove were barred from speaking in public, or preferably at all, posts where I rail against cruelty to all animals, human and otherwise, posts when I realise that true happiness lies in the perfect poached egg.

Also posts about the Daily Mail, a paper I would go a long way not to read, but whose outrages are often reported elsewhere. A paper from which one might catch something nasty ending in ism. Does it have a purpose in the grand scheme of thing? Perhaps just to remind us of what hell might be like. I suppose Paul Dacre must have his uses, but so far I have not devined what they are. Apparently his staff have suggested his shoes never wear out as he goes from carpeted office to chauffeured car to home with barely any contact with the pavement, or reality. I'd like to think he pays enormous taxes that go towards funding the NHS, but I have a hunch he will have his money stashed in some offshore enterprise that means the exchequer sees little of what he is paid.

The Tory party has not learned from the Strong and Stable backlash, and is still in love with repeating alliterative phrases. The current fave seems to be stability and certainty, though for variety they are happy to use the words singly, then join them like cymbals for effect. I don't know how this goes down with other listeners, but I find I cannot remember a single word of what they have said other than the alliterative pairings, and those I translate as blah blah blah, a cover up for not really knowing what they are talking about. If they can't be bothered to make proper arguments why on earth should the electorate be bothered to listen to them, far less take them seriously?

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DT to meet ER, Oh Help!

I am feeling quite protective towards the Queen. I mean, she’s 90, a very healthy 90 I admit, but all the same. The news tonight showed Theresa May and Donald Trump at a press conference during which TM said she was happy to be able to extend an invitation from Her Maj to DT to make a state visit to the UK this summer.

I’m not much of a royalist, though I admit to a sneaking admiration for ERII. And this seems to me a trial too far for any monarch of any age. Can she pull a sickie? Get one of those people who make a living by looking like her to stand in for a stay that sounds painful beyond imagining? How far up her back did TM have her arm when she proffered this invitation, or has she become so inured down the nearly 70 years of her reign to be polite to bores and power junkies that she reckons this will wash over her?

I’m just going to insert a totally unrelated picture of MasterB here to help us all breathe properly and keep our collective blood pressure steady.Snoozing Continue reading

First Anniversary

This Saturday will be the 14th January. I understand that on the other side of the pond the floss-haired one will be inaugurated as President of the United States, something that strikes me as a being a joke too far, as well as being a jolly disrespectful thing to do on the first anniversary of Aunt’s death.

Or so I thought, but Lyn has just emailed me to say it’s the 20th, not 14th, so goodness knows where I got that idea from.

 

Auntie Mary october 2015

Auntie Mary October 2015

I meet quite a few Americans through my work. I have yet to meet one who says (confesses?) s/he voted for Trump, which may be significant in itself as I am meeting those who travel away from their home country, and I know a large number of US citizens never acquire or use passports.

A woman today, I’ll call her Jane, told me she is returning on Saturday, and marching on Sunday as a Nasty Woman who is not going to be quiet. She won’t be alone; just her party comprises two busloads of similarly nasty women. She cheered my heart. Continue reading

Lessons From History: Tourism and Trump

I woke early this morning and remembered Trump had won the Presidential election. Further sleep was impossible. The television has been turned on in the room on other side of the wall behind my head, so I guess I am not the only one feeling a horrified fascination with the result.

We got an intimation of how it was going yesterday lunchtime at Federation Square where Vcki and I had headed via a boat that looked remarkably like das Boot, only quite a bit bigger.

 

There was a screen at the square, and the subtitles were reporting gains for Trump. We watched, appalled, for a few minutes, hoped it was wrong, and headed off on Trail 7, Victorian Melbourne. We moved swiftly from the big riverside buildings to homes that have been through cycles of varying status.

It maybe an evolutionary safety device to help us hold onto our sanity in the face of the unthinkable that allows us to inhabit several planes of thought at once.

I love the lace decorations on the older houses in Melbourne, and yesterday’s walk was full of them.

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Melbourne by Day

I finally got my tourist trousers on and made it into Central Melbourne on the train and got out at Flinders Street station.

First stop, the tourist info centre at Federation Square, where I loaded up with leaflets including a few self-guided walks.

I’m booked on a guided walk on Friday which I am hoping will fill me in on history and culture in an informative and entertaining way, help me to understand what I am looking at, how to ‘read’ Melbourne.

So today has been more of a wander with frequent stops to take photographs and to sit and watch the world go by. I chose to follow Melbourne Walks #3 On the Waterfront to give my wandering some structure. I had looked at the waterfront from the train and thought I should like to see more, so it was a good choice. All settlements are built by water, so looking at the Yarra was the obvious place to start. Fortunately both Marlon Brando clones and living statues were notably absent.

Art, evidence of prosperity, and homelessness all featured; people lying on the grass in the spring sunshine, other visitors like myself, locals, tents and blankets, people keeping fit.

I broke my walk to visit the Immigration Museum. Racial screening made for sober reading, and the presence of several school parties meant some galleries were more or less inaccessible. I’m not complaining – it’s a good excuse to go back, and I hope the short film about why people leave their homes and their countries will sow seeds in the minds of the children who watched it, so they reject the current anti-refugee narrative flourishing in the West.

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Of Trains, Boats, Brexit, Bombing and Neanderthal Attitudes

My short ride to the mainline station turned into a slow crawl across the capital. In theory, taking a train should have meant a fourteen minute journey that circumvented the clogged roads at rush hour. The driver kept as informed with a practised and resigned calm; red lights delaying our arrival at Blackfriars; a train ahead with technical problems preventing us from reaching Farringdon. I had expected to have time to kill at King’s Cross, maybe buy a coffee, admire the roof for the nth time. Instead I raced over the road from St Pancras International, found my train on the departure board, wove through the crowds and made it with just two minutes to spare.

Older Nephew is meeting me I hope at Cambridge station. We’re off to winterise das Boot, which means going to the pump out at Ely and probably lunching in a pub there, returning to the marina, emptying the water tank and adding anti-freeze to the engine. I’m hoping it’s more relaxing than the first part of the journey.

We shall doubtless talk Brexit and Trump. Now, most of you will be aware that there was a referendum in June over whether to stay in or leave the EU. I, like 48% of those who voted, wanted to remain. The question was a simple stay or leave. But somehow the government led by the redoubtable Theresa May, has decided that parliament should have no say in the niceties of how we leave the EU, what our leavetaking should be. No, she says, there will not be a discussion along the way, The Country Has Spoken and we must respect that decision. OK, fair enough, it was a slender majority, but it was a majority and much as I should prefer to remain an EU citizen to the end of my days, I reluctantly accept that is not to be. But people did not vote on immigration. Or if they did, they were answering a different question to the one asked. They did not vote on remaining in or out if the single market; on freedom of movement or pan-European health care. Some people will have voted so the 350 million pounds claimed by the leave campaign could go to our beleaguered and beloved NHS. Funny how that money does not seem to play any part in the post Brexit world. Instead leading Conservatives are talking about stopping foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs. The proposal by Amber Rudd that businesses should report on how many foreign passport holders work for them was roundly denounced and dropped amid assurances that we had misunderstood. The fact that this was background to my reading of The Hare With Amber Eyes made it all the more sinister for me. If you don’t know the book I urge you to read it. Aunt Nessa, who died nearly two years ago, sent it to me and it has sat on my shelves until now, a little bit of unsuspected golden treasure. It’s a memoir by Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist based in London. He is descended from a banking family. A Jewish banking family. The hare in the title is a netsuke, one of a collection made by his ancestor Charles Ephrussi in the nineteenth century. Continue reading