21/02/2021

Cotswold Perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

We have a very special lady living within our midst, someone whom we hardly knew before this wretched Pandemic, but she has been a beacon of light to us both and also to several of our neighbours. From time to time she has popped up our driveway and given us a delicious homemade treat, but on Valentine's Day she arrived bearing two large packages.

The first held homemade savouries and some assorted finger sandwiches. The second had miniature cream sponge cakes, some scones together with strawberry conserve and clotted cream, and last but not least chocolate dipped strawberries. It was a delicious old fashioned 'high tea' treat which was hugely appreciated and enjoyed as we sat in front of a roaring fire later that day.

On the same day our special grandson contacted us (no favouritism implied, we only have one grandson). We had a lovely chat and caught up with his news, and then he showed us around his new apartment on the computer. It is in the East End of London, and from the windows he can see the Olympic Park. 

I know that many of you also have good neighbours and friends that have helped you during the Pandemic too. One outcome of this year long situation has revealed the many thoughtful kindnesses and lovely gestures that so many people have made towards one another. 

In the garden, plenty of colour is appearing daily. Our heather beds are now in full flower.  

The Covid numbers are reducing daily. We have two more hours of daylight now, and I am feeling far more hopeful for all of our futures.

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21/02/2021

Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands

Trading with Europe in a post-Brexit world isn’t getting any easier. Additional unexpected obstacles are being thrown up at every stage of the way, the latest being a delivery into Finland being impounded, whilst a sample of the products are tested in a laboratory. These are the products we have been effortlessly importing in to Finland for nearly 20 years. It is almost as though the EU was a protectionist and mercantilist cartel, not a flag-bearer of liberal values. The UK is not yet reciprocating with this kind of heavy handed approach, but I fear that unless the EU adopts a more pragmatic approach, relations are likely to get worse before they get better.

 

There has been a surge in Covid cases in and around the town of Corby, and we have experienced an increase in positive cases at work, from 2 to 8 within a week. So far they all appear unconnected, (different teams, different buildings, different shifts) so the sources of the infections are external to the workplace, rather than them being instances of transmission at work. Employees are being encouraged to make use of the local rapid testing centre. We are keeping in regular touch with Public Health England and our local Public Health Team, and follow their guidance closely. But having done all that we can do to make the workplace “Covid-secure”, we can only reinforce the safety messages and hygiene procedures and keep our fingers crossed that we don’t have to impose a temporary closure of the factory.

 

Sarah was vaccinated last weekend. I am hoping for a jab in the next month or so, being under 60 years of age (just). And on Saturday I will be helping my son build a stud wall in the house they are renovating. I am definitely not an expert in DIY, but we have both been watching videos on YouTube. What can possibly go wrong?

21/02/2021

Strange times

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

The vaccine side effects I wrote about last week was not from a bad batch, but just regular side effects according to the authorities. My second week in Bollnäs have been very intensive. I have been quite happy to be involved in the care of a patient with undetectable zinc levels, something I have never seen before. Zinc deficiancy usually causes skin problems and wounds that do not heal, and sometimes it causes aneugusia, which means that food does not taste well. My patient, a diabetic denied aneugusia but had worse problems to say the least, so lack of zinc is only a part of his current illness. He is 50 years old and has diabetes, and the zinc deficiency was probably from a year of diarrhea that he had tried to get help with. Now he came to hospital after having been encountered unconscious in his home with severe hypoglycemia and hypothermia. After arrival to hospital he suffered several cardiac arrests. He had heart failure, respiratory failure and dilated, not functioning bowels. Now, after zinc supplementation and other treatments he is awake, off the ventilator and starting to eat again and soon to leave the intensive care unit. I have his permission to to write to a medical journal about the case, so I feel very enthusiastic about that.

Yesterday was eventful with sending a patient from my ward with brain haemorrhage to Neurosurgery in Uppsala. In the late afternoon I was called to the Emergency room to help with a patient with ventricular tachycardia, since the on call physician was occupied with a young man with drug addiction who had had a cardiac arrest and who regained circulation only after more than one hour of resuscitation and displayed no cerebral function at all.

 

In the ICU I was briefed about the newly admitted young woman with glycol intoxication. She apparently has bad habit of sometimes as often as several times a week getting intoxicated with glycol or other dangerous substances. She has just moved to Bollnäs so that is some bad news for this hospital.

 

Today I will take the train back to Uppsala and look forward to be with my husband Georg again.

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21/02/2021

View from a Town Formerly Known As Crazy

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Crazy Takes a Holiday

 

While it is certainly lamentable that this is now a mere Town Formerly Known as Crazy, Your Intrepid Reporter is pleased to announce that there is a growing body of evidence that Loony Tunes are alive and well elsewhere in the Land. In fact, the latest outbreak of Crazy has been so wonderfully successful that it's even moved COVID out of the headlines as the focus of our gnawing anxieties.

 

Atypical winter weather systems have pushed Arctic cold down into the Deep South, producing snow, ice, and misery of the kind normally only enjoyed by the hardy folks of the Upper Midwest. (That this unusual weather is a result of global warming is the kind of counterintuitive fact that can only be understood by reference to science, a field of human endeavor now largely out of favor among Republicans). Nowhere were the effects worse than in Texas - a state which claims hardiness for its own, but where in fact Crazy has been a much more common commodity for several decades.

 

Please bear with us a moment, Gentle Reader, while we set the scene to explain what the kerfuffle is all about. America's electricity supply is divided into three major grids - the East, the West, and... Texas.  All are interconnected so that they can swap supplies as needed, for example in the teeth of an unexpected cold snap. All except Texas that is. The Lone Star state insists on going it alone in this, as in so much else, because that allows them to escape Federal regulation of their grid (the dread Feds can only control inter-state activity, not what goes on solely within the borders of the fifty sovereign entities; it's complicated).  This in turn means the Texas power utilities only answer to local politicians. Who, in turn, consist largely of Crazies more interested in political theater, grievance mongering, and "owning the Libs," than in governing. And thus, Crazy thrives in Texas. (Yes, yes, this is indeed rather reminiscent of the late occupant of the White House. You didn't think He'd made it all up by Himself, did you?).  The resulting de-regulated energy market in Texas has created a power system focused on low-cost energy, and low cost means low investment in things like redundancy, weather-proofing, spare generation capacity for emergencies, and other forms of money-wasting Lib Symp misappropriation of the utilities’ rightful profits. Despite several previous "weather events" that warned of the potential consequences, the upstanding capitalists down there in God's country decided that profit mattered more than customers, and so when the Big Freeze hit, poof. Down went the grid and up went the outrage. Oh, and the deaths. Collateral damage, one fears. The inevitable result of Freedom, Independence and Capitalism! Don’t you mess with Texas, buddy boy. Yee haw!

 

But the chilly temps also produced a healthful burst of unexpected Crazy just when we needed it most. First came the governor, a worthy representative of the Crazy if ever there were, named Greg Abbott, who claimed that the “windmills” were to blame (the sharp-eyed among you will not miss the echoes of one of Formerly Dear Leader’s favorite obsessions), and warming to his theme - at least someone was warming down there - he expounded as how "AOC" was really at fault. AOC being the young, progressive congresswoman from New York, whose involvement in energy regulation in Texas had been previously unreported. What the Guv' meant, as the Formerly Faithful instinctively grasped, was that AOC is the author of the Green New Deal, which touts the virtues of renewable energy, and as such Texas's current dilemma was a warning of the kind of Radical Socialist Democrat Hellhole AOC wishes for us all. Too bad that Texans don't seem to pay attention to warnings (see above), and worse, that most were rather more focused at present on surviving the current Radical Reactionary Populist Freezing Hellhole that Republican politics had brought them. Too badder still that the evil “windmills” only provide about ten percent of Texas's energy and those Big, Beautiful Gas and Coal plants (as a Formerly Dear Leader might have said) which supply the other 90% also froze and failed. Too baddest of all that within moments of the Guvner's pronouncements videos appeared showing "windmills" merrily whirring away in such balmy locales as Alaska and North Dakota, blissfully unaware that by not failing in the cold they posed a continuing threat to ‘Murica, the Republican Party, and the Crazy.

 

But once the lid had been lifted, there was no holding back on Crazy, which flew out of Pandora's box with undisguised glee. One west Texas mayor told his city that he was danged sick n'tired of folks expectin' the guvmint to help; neither guvmint nor the power utilities owned 'em a damned thang. More, only the strong would or should survive. Yes, siree bob. Normally we’d be saddened to report that the (now ex-) mayor’s political career crashed and burned spectacularly in the wake of this genius demonstration of Crazy, but at this point we gladly take any warmth we can find, so thanks, Mr. Mayor.

 

Not to be outdone in the Crazy sweeps, however, the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, none other than Rafael "Ted" Cruz himself, entered the lists. Fresh from his exhausting efforts to incite an attack on the U.S. Capitol, overthrow the Constitution in the name of giving our Formerly Dear Leader another term, and generally make himself the most hated man in Congress, Ted decided a record setting freeze was just the moment to take a well-deserved break and warm his bones on the sands of Cancun. To the surprise of absolutely no one, in this age of ubiquitous smart phones Ted was immediately discovered upon de-planing at the Cancun airport. The outrage quotient shot skyward, proving that even a frozen Texan has limits. Caught in flagrante delicto, as it were, Ted scurried back home, trailing the world's largest carry-on bag and a gaggle of intrepid reporters. And then, in a breath-taking stroke of sheer Crazy genius that left his admirers (both of them; really) glowing with pride, Ted realized his best, maybe his only, defense was to throw his daughters under the bus - he only went to Mexico (that much reviled Land Beyond Formerly Dear Leader’s Wall) because his spoiled brats were bored at home and he wanted to be a good dad and escort them to their holiday paradise. It had always been his plan to come right back home and do some serious public performances of worrying about Texas immediately upon delivering the girls into the tender care of the local pool boys. Yeah, sure, Dad.

 

But, Gentle Reader, the denouement of this story is proof positive that there is a God and that He has a Devilish sense of humor. Before Ted’s return the social media was flooded with photos of a sad little white poodle looking plaintively out the front door of the freezing, abandoned Cruz homestead. Said abandoned canine bears the moniker "Snowflake," neatly tying up all the threads of this little morality play.  

One thing you can say for social media. It loves to kick a bad man when he’s down. The Ted Cruz memes have been wonderful. Even the NASA spaceship Perseverance has joined in, tweeting the news of its landing on Mars (much to the reported rage of the silenced Formerly Dear Leader, whose formerly formidable twitter account now has fewer followers than a bunch of oddly-shaped bits of metal and tinfoil on Mars) and sending us the accompanying photo caught on one of its newly activated cameras.

 

On a less serious note, Your Intrepid Reporter is pleased to relate that he received his second COVID vaccination today, joining 42.6 million of his fellow countrypersons who have acquired some degree of protection. That rascal, The President Formerly Known as He Who Shall Not Be Named, continues to demonstrate worrying signs of competence and focus, edging us towards 2 million jabs a day. Even his town hall this week on CNN was notable for its warmth, empathy, and scarily relentless focus on policy and results. This can’t be allowed to continue or Crazy might seriously be at risk of extinction. Everywhere that is, beyond the proudly go-it-alone borders of the Lone Star State, where Greg and Ted promise to fight the Crazy good fight until the end.

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21/02/2021

Tropical thoughts Part 2

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

Rooks and Crows

Crows and Rooks

 

Corvus corone the crow alone

Ponders his raven Genus 

And Grecian tag; a bird

With attitude, the Don Corleone

Of the passerines it demands 

Respect. From thrones of oak

It observes, black-suited visitant 

Brutal beaked, murderous,

Cloaked in deception it croaks.

Corvus frugilegus fed up with 

Confusion, cackling at

The solitary cousin

Presents grey as a statement,

Beaked, faced, drawn as if old

From the nest. The grandparental

Stare belies the collective force,

The speaker of its parliament; 

cunning, wheeling, circling, taunting, jabbing. 

A confusion of feathers awhirl in the treetops

Or blurring the furrows. 

But in the half light twilight

Filtered shades of day 

Easy enough to shrug and say 

They all look the same to me.

21/02/2021

Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

I'm keeping track of what brings joy into my days. Perhaps joy is a bit of an exaggeration, but we did manage to dump the compost. We collect food scraps in a big bucket I won as a door prize at a tree festival last year. It was very satisfying to win it, though I did get to choose the prize so it wasn’t unexpected. The bucket was just what we needed because using the neighbor’s compost pile is always a little fraught. Did I put the wrong thing in? Bones or no bones? Egg shells or no egg shells? And then in winter (which is most of the year) traipsing across a field of deep snow in deep cold is not inviting. The bucket means we can haul our food scraps further afield instead of putting them in the rubbish. To stop people putting food scraps in their rubbish the VT state legislature wrote a new law that everyone has to compost their food scraps so it is illegal to include our brussel sprout leaves in the rubbish. The local place where we drop off our rubbish started collecting food scraps, but they charge $5 a gallon and we have several gallons a week. Finally we found the Vermont Compost Company, which accepts household scraps and doesn’t charge. Instead they are grateful for our scraps. Mind you, in the spring, I do buy bags of their compost to put in our raised beds so I’m essentially buying our scraps back, but in the meantime I don’t have to deal with rats and skunks. They do. Or rotting food scraps. Except of course our food scraps rot in our prized green compost bucket before I organize myself to drive it the twenty minutes to drop it off. So a few days ago I had tied the bucket into the car, figuring it would freeze. It did freeze. Solid. Five gallons of rotting food scraps. It certainly wasn’t going to tip out of the bucket into Vermont Compost’s bin unless I thawed it out first so back inside the bucket came, then, when it started to smell, I figured it had thawed out enough so off I went driving the food scraps to the compost company. Barbara and Gillie came along for the ride. And when I dumped it the smell wasn’t too bad, and I found that while the edges of our compost had thawed enough for it to drop out of our bucket the huge core dropped down, one significant bucket shaped vegetable scraps lump. Very satisfying.

21/02/2021

Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Friday 19th February 2021

Total Covid Deaths 119,920

R number 0.6 - 0.9

12027 new cases in the last 24 hour period

 

Harry and Megan are in the news today as the Queen has confirmed that they will not be continuing with their Royal Duties and have been stripped of their Royal Patronages. You are in or out. A certain amount of polite pique in a reply from them saying “we can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”  He must be heart broken and furious over there in California. 

There was a ridiculously staged photograph of them in the paper the other day announcing that Megan is pregnant, based on a still at the end of the film Notting Hill with a pregnant Julia Roberts lying on her back with her head in Hugh Grants lap. 

 

I think it is all very sad. I’m sure Harry is desperate to put on his Barbour and wellies and go shooting in the muddy fields of Norfolk. I just can’t see it lasting for ever and with so much pressure on that marriage. He must be miserable but it is probably masked by his anger and hatred for the press, and fury for his family so obviously the solution is to go and discuss it with Oprah on the telly. Why wouldn’t you?

 

Meanwhile Prince Phillip has been in hospital for a few days as he was feeling unwell. Not Covid related but very worrying. I’ve always had a soft spot for him and I have/had worried for ages about losing him and also Nigel, Monty Don's golden retriever who died last year.

 

Captain Tom's daughter Hannah was on the news discussing the loss of her father. She was very dignified though desperately sad. She said he was being horribly trolled in the weeks before his death and it would have broken his heart had he known. Asked what was the highlight of his last year, she said there was only one thing which was being knighted by the Queen and chatting with her in the garden at Windsor Castle. She said she thought they would have gone off and had a cup of tea together if it hadn’t been for Covid.

I turned the telly on last night minutes before the incredible landing of Nasa’s Perseverance rover. Huge tension in the room from all the masked engineers as it was so unknown whether it would even survive the landing and not crash into the surface of Mars and whether the parachute and then crane that lowered it down would actually work. So complicated and then there was an announcement that it had landed safely. An enormous cheer of joy and relief erupted and punching of the air and probably lots of tears. No one could hug anybody else though but so exciting.

Peter Hill from Heathcote fabrics, a textile company in Tiverton, Devon was on the news earlier talking about their special fabric for the parachute that slowed the rover down. The lightest strongest most heat resistant fabric which had to survive hypersonic speeds. Can you imagine watching your product and hoping to God it doesn’t rip! Their hearts must have been in their mouths but they must be so proud now.

The person who leads the the engineering team of the robotic dust hoovering arm is 41 year old Columbian Diana Trujillo who arrived in America with 300 dollars in her pocket. I get my news from @goodnews movement on Instagram. She is the first Hispanic immigrant woman to be accepted into NASA academy.

 

Here covid death rates are still high but coming down. They are doing incredibly well with the vaccine roll out though there are many groups of people who are suspicious. Half the people are desperate to get jabbed and the other half aren't.

 

In other news in my life? There isn’t any. I can’t think what I have done since last Friday. Thankfully the snow has thawed here and it’s not so cold. It has all gone to Texas where they are having a terrible time in a very cold winter storm, snow everywhere.

 

In Guatemala three volcanos are erupting as I write this. Must be so terrifying for all the thousands of people who live below them. I spent two months there in the 80’s and fell in love with Guatemala and its people and their textiles. Antigua Guatemala is a beautiful historic city surrounded by volcanos so I think it might be those kicking off.

Oh yes I have remembered something. I had a mammogram yesterday (just a regular one) and was in a room and close up with real life people. Admittedly masked and PPP’d to within an inch of their lives but right next to someone! So last year. The receptionist said that nearly all the staff there had had their jabs.

So while I was out I popped into Lidl’s and bought some bulbs as they always have bargains around this time of year and I stocked up on nuts for my inner squirrel.

I nipped to Holt and swept the shop and flicked the duster about a bit and moved a few things around. I saw Nigel the butcher and the lady in the fish shop and Paul the other butcher so filled the freezer up a bit and had a few chats then went home to not do my accounts. Don’t ask.

I don’t know where the days go.

One more thing, Trump was acquitted of inciting the mob at his Impeachment trial. God help us. 

 

All for now

Love Annabel xxx

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21/02/2021

From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

The snow has melted, the temperature has risen, and there are daffodils opening by the pond.

A much more cheerful week as the vaccinations roll out steadily, and infections and the R number fall. Please keep falling, and please, Boris, don’t be pushed and panicked into easing everything too quickly. But one does look forward, fingers crossed, to Spring and seeing friends outside and going out for a meal(?) and getting a haircut and new specs, and even going to the dentist. 

Our car (which we have only filled up three times since last March) has been serviced and tested, so is ready for some jaunts and explorations. It’s Peter’s birthday this Wednesday and it’s supposed to be warm and sunny, so perhaps we’ll take a picnic and go and look at the sea... last year we went out for a meal. But that was last year, pre-Covid. Perhaps next year...

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But a good week here. My sweet peas have germinated, tulips are pushing up, and it’s warm. I received a mobile phone upgrade, which worked really well, until I tried to upgrade Peter to my old phone (he only uses it for emergencies) and all the phones and iPads suddenly took on his details and phone number. Help! A very nice EE man working from home in Wales rescued me, and all is well.

Three good things to illustrate the week with: Peter’s Valentine card (I’m the one looking like a snowman), my tidied dresser (it won’t stay like that), - and the return of flowers to the kitchen table again.

Thank you Annabel and Earnie for those!

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