This is Francis's diary, most recent entry first, written while under coronavirus restrictions. It is a rudimentary blog, but if you want to comment on anything you can't do it here; send me an email.
Day 399 21/4/21
It seems that countries with right wing libertarian-leaning governments tend to be worse at tackling the virus; witness India, Brazil, France and pre-Biden America. Libertarianism and effective virus tackling make poor partners. But Britain, despite our own right wing "G", seems to be doing quite well. The reason, of course, is staring me in the face. In the midst of all the right-wingery stands that beacon of Socialism, the NHS. Thank you, Clement Atlee.
Day 398 20/4/21
Today I found myself watching a Conservative party political broadcast for the London Mayoral elections, whilst waiting for the snooker to start. There were the expected misleadingly presented "facts"; you get those from most politicians. But his main plank was cutting the various charges that vehicles have to pay to get into the centre of london. "Pro business, pro low income", etc. And not once did he mention cutting air pollution, probably London's most serious issue, and the main reason for all the charges.
Day 397 19/4/21
I went out for my daily constutional in the sunlight, and as was passing a house on Woodford Green, a voice called: "It's Mr. Roads!" It was a former pupil from my days teaching music at the local Junior school, from 1971-81. There were a few other people there who turned out to be parents of other people that I had taught. They were united in appreciating the way in which I had interested their youngsters in music. Real music, that is, not the thump-thump-thump variety. It was gratifying to be remembered so positively, and after so many years.
Day 396 18/4/21
Why have we found having decorators in our house so stressful? They have made a first class job of redecorating our hall, staircase and landing, and were freindly and co-operative. It has taken three weeks, with various intermissions, which were were quite glad of at the time. But it has taken us the whole weekend to recover from the stress. I wonder what a psychologist would have to say.
Day 395 17/4/21
Northern Ireland is chafing under the Brexit consequences, and similarly Scottish independence is gaining support. Until recently we Londoners have been slow to protest at being dragged out of the EU against our will. But now there is standing in the forthcoming London elections a new Rejoin the EU party. I intend to suspend my support of the Green Party and vote for them. I hope that many disgruntled Londoners will do the same, and remind the Brexiters that we Remainers have not gone away.
Day 394 16/4/21
I had no idea what a pleasant town Hertford is. Judith and I betook ourselves there for a morning trip in the sun. The pedestrianised centre has some old buildings from the 16th century onwards. There is a pleasant riverside walk (the Lea), some remains of the days when it was an inland port, and a perhaps rather disappointing castle, which is just mound of earth now. It was one of those erected in a hurry by William I to consolidate his invasion. We shall definitely revisit it when the weather is warmer.
Day 393 15/4/21
Today I went for the longest bus ride yet since lockdown; to Tottenham, for a walk around the Wetlands Centre. After having communed with the geese (Canada, Greylag and Barnacle), and seen a distant cormorant, I ended walking a familiar path along the Lea. And as I did so, I suddenly had the feeling, doing one of my old favourite walks, that my life really was beginning to get back to normal.
Day 392 14/4/21
According to an article in today's Guardian, written by some expert psychologists, "brain-fog", as it is called, is often a result of the conditions that we have all been living in for over a year. The lack of variety in our day-to-day experience, the inability to meet socially face-to-face, the need for new scenes and challenges, all contribute to a loss of cognitive awareness and ability. I have found that reassuring. My forgetfulness and lack of concentration and clear thought is to be expected, and should not be permanent. Let us hope so.
Day 391 13/4/21
I have now done pretty well all I can to my Knapp edition. I have been through all 91 pieces, checking them note by note with my facsimile editions as published in the 18th century. Now I am merging all the pdfs into manageable units, prior to a fourth, and I hope final, printout. Will I still find small previously unnoticed errors? Don't bet on it!
Day 390 12/4/21
Calloo callay! To day I had my first haircut for five months. And noticed that face masks are no longer in fashion amongst barbers or their customers. Indeed, I was asked to remove mine so that the barber could reach the side of my head. Having had both jabs, I wasn't too bothered. But once again, it showed how the populace is easing lockdown in its own way, and at its own speed. And there's not much that the "G" can do about it.
Day 389 11/4/21
99 year old man dies is not usually headline news. I suppose the reaction was inevitable, and I'd give the BBC's coverage 10/10 for quality and about 3/10 for quantity. Elbowing so many regular programmes out for the wall-to-wall coverage probably did something to strengthen republican feeling. I am a royalist myself, though. Whenever I ask a British republican to name six people who would do as well as Liz as head of state, they tend to mumble a bit.
Day 388 10/4/21
I learn from Sky News that Brexit is the ultimate cause of the Northern Irish discontent. Republicans won't accept a hard land border, and Loyalists won't accept an Irish Sea border. Sensibly, the province voted Remain. Which points to the fact that the only way to solve this matter, as was predictable in 2016, is for the UK to bring forward the date of the inevitable application to rejoin the EU. Or do you have a better idea?
Day 387 9/4/21
Judging by what I saw at Highams Park today, there are plenty of people making their own minds up about what is safe. According to Prof. Spector of the ZOE Covid study, the chance of someone you meet having Covid is 1 in 1400. If you are immunised with a safety of 90%, or whatever the latest figure is, your chance of contracting the disease, even in an unsafe environment, is 1 in 14,000. It's hardly surprising that people are ignoring the "G's" guidance.
Day 386 8/4/21
Today I took a visiting friend for a walk around Woodford Green. Although Judith and I have lived in Woodford for over half a century, it did me good to remind myself what a special place Woodford is. The green is enormous, and includes an 18th century cricket ground. There are many handsome Georgian buildings. Within walking distance are Highams Park and bits of Epping Forest. And by Underground you can be in central London in less than an hour.
Day 385 7/4/21
TodayI had two cheering experiences, and we can all do with those at present. I went for my daily walk down to the River Ching (which gave its name to Chingford) and saw two swallows. I hope they are surviving the cold weather. Later I met with members of my quire for a Zoom sing. It is quite amazing how singing can raise your spirits. If you don't sing, you are missing something great!
Day 384 6/4/21
Steve, our decorator, started work on our staircase today, his colleague having been taken ill. Out came the inevitable radio, but to our surprise and delight it was tuned to Radio 3. A fellow music lover. Usually it is some light mush that gets on your nerves. There's plenty of work for such a person here!
Day 383 5/4/21
Having given up on the Brueghel jigsaw, we have started work on Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte, by Seurat. We have learnt much about pointillism in a short time. Those dots are unbelievably small, and keeping his colours pure he can produce an amazing gradation of one colour into the next, by just increasing the dots of one colour and decreasing the other. Amazingly skilful, but not much help to the poor jigsaw puzzle solver. This is going to be as hard as the Breughel.
Day 382 4/4/21
I played some online go today, and I am appalled at how badly out of practice I am. Playing against the computer I tend to play much too fast. I have forgotten how to think! Still, it's good to be with friends online.
Day 381 3/4/21
I am ashamed to say this, but we have given up on the Brueghel 1000 piece jigsaw. We had done all of it except an area of sky, but there were several places where none of the remaining pieces could possibly fit. We has already found two holes in the picture where it was clear that no piece remaining could fit, and came to the conclusion that we have been sold an impossible jigsaw. However, we have enjoyed more than a month working on it, and learnt much about the artist's technique.
Day 380 2/3/21
I really don't understand all the fuss in Parliament about "Covid passports" being divisive and discriminatory. Of course they are; they are meant to be. Some of the heat might be taken out of the debate if they were delayed until everyone has been given the chance to have the vaccination jabs. But after that, unless there were a good medical excuse, those without a passport would have discriminated against themselves.
Day 379 1/4/21
Today I played my first face-to-face game of go for over a year. We played outside for most of it, and then moved indoors, illegally, to finish. I don't know why I have not been able to come to terms with online go over the lockdown period. Anyway, it is good to reassure myself that I have still more or less remembered how to play, even though I still suffer from my usual lack of concentration towards the end.
Day 378 31/3/21
Today we took a trip in the warm sunshine to Nazeing. It is supposed to be the largest village in England, but when we got there there was nothing but dwellings and a fine parish church dating from the 11th century, and dedicated to All Saints. It was worth going just to see that. There are some beautiful flowers in the extensive churchyard, including red pansies, and some fine views of the Esssex countryside. Then we went on to Broxbourne for a walk around the large green, through which flows flows the New River. On the way home we saw a buzzard. A cheering trip!
Day 377 30/3/21
We are now two days into the PM's irreversible easing of lockdown. I have not noticed any difference in the behaviour of people out and about. People had already been meeting each other out of doors regardless of the restrictions, as far as I could see. I hope that the virus has been informed of the new conditions.
Day 376 29/3/21
Today I visited Moorfields Hospital yet again, for another injection (see Day 340). I went by Underground this time, and although the carriage got a bit crowded between Stratford and Bank, I didn't feel in any particular danger. The news from Moorfields is reassuring, and they don't want to see me again for ten weeks. But as last time, I came home feeling zonked.The way they make you half blind by putting drops in your eyes doesn't help, but you know that that will pass in a few hours. I can't work out why I find these visits so stressful.
Day 375 28/3/21
I dread the day when the clocks go on. It always upsets my sleep pattern, as if it isn't upset enough already at present. I have never fully understood why we all obediently do it, and what would happen if people made a collective decision not to. I thought it was a temporary wartime measure, which never got repealed. Like school dinners, though I bet you didn't know that. I struggled through today.
Day 374 27/3/21
Rant alert. It is reported that the PM is popular, and that membership of his party is increasing. The man who lied about Brexit ("oven ready deal"). Who belittled the anxiety of female MPs who received rape and death threats from Brexiters. Who probably has a British PM's record for U-turns. Who failed to lockdown at the right time. Who failed to sack Cummings and Patel. The list goes on. I have lived through 15 premierships in my lifetime, starting with wartime Churchill. There is no doubt in my mind that the present PM is the worst. And he is popular? As was Trump? I fear for my nation.
Day 373 26/3/21
My prediction of day 369 has come to pass. I seem to have edited some of the pieces in William Knapp's A Set of New Psalm Tunes and Anthems from the second edition, and not the eighth. Which is pretty much the same for most of the pieces, but I still have to go through looking for the odd note here and there which Knapp has altered. What a silly boy!
Day 372 25/3/21
I am wondering what is the exact meaning of the verb "socialise". We have a decorator in our house at present, currently stripping wallpaper. He can come here, and if necessary talk to us, as this is temporarily his place of work. But if I ask him how he's feeling, and what his plans for the weekend are, I suppose that would be socialising, and that a policeperson might jump out of the cupboard under the stairs and fine me.
Day 371 24/3/21
You couldn't invent it. Following yesterday's nonsense, the Ministry of Truth has announced that the new licences granted for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea are part of a careful transition to non-fossil fuels. Black is white. The battle for production has been won.
Day 370 23/3/21
"Cautious but irreversible" is how the PM has described the easing of lockdown. But he warns, by the way, that there may be another Covid wave in Autumn, brought in from overseas. Irreversible? And the EU is blocking exports of vaccines to the UK. Funny how quiet the Brexiters have gone.
Day 369 22/3/21
I have reached another milestone in my edition of William Knapp's music. I have transcribed, edited, annotated and checked the presentation of each of his 91 published pieces. I have written the introductory material, and checked that. I have checked all my internal cross references. What next? Turn the 234 pages into pdf files, and do the third, and I hope final, printout. And I know exactly what will happen then. "Can't I improve that score a little? Surely that must be a typo! Did Knapp really write that?" And so it will go on. I hope not. But I'm not laying any bets.
Day 368 21/3/21
Feeling no ill effects from yesterday's jab, I set off by bus for my favourite park, Valentines in Ilford. Where I had a spirit-lifting hour or two, but also saw another example of Covid nonsense. All the chairs and tables outside the now takeaway cafe were taped off. Don't sit here, you might give each other the virus. Nearby were several ordinary park benches, where folks were sitting, chatting, drinking their coffee and enjoying the sun. I suppose if your companion(s) were to be amongst the one in 800 with the virus, and if the breeze had dropped for a full 15 minutes and stopped blowing away any viruses, somebody might have transmitted the virus. Really?
Day 367 20/3/21
Last Tuesday I was invited by telephone to book second Covid injections for Judith and myself. "4 o'clock on Saturday OK?" We presented at the Hawkey Hall on Woodford Green; to find that they were expecting Judith, but not me. After a while they decided that I did in fact exist, and I think may have been pleased to have another for the lists, as by the time we left there seemed many empty seats, and I don't think they like being left with spare injections. I have heard of people being called at very short notice for that reason.
Anyway, we are as protected as we can be now. For the time being.
Day 366 19/3/21
Today the sun defied the forecast and shone all day. We took an outing (probably illegally) to the Lea Valley Country Park at Cheshunt, for a splendid walk along the towpath. The car park was fairly full, and it looked as if the journeys that had been made were no more essential than ours. And there were plenty of small groups walking about; were they really all the same "bubble"? As expected, people are easing lockdown in their own way.
Day 365 18/3/21
So here we are on Day 365! Is it really a year since I started this diary? Well, actually rather more. I missed a few days at the start, and over a fortnight's worth in hospital. And I certainly didn't expect to be at it still for this long. The PM said it would all be over in 12 weeks. I wonder how long it will actually be, with gloomy scientists saying that there may be another wave in Autumn.
Day 364 17/3/21
I still find it amazing that what looks OK on screen can have all sorts of errors when you printout. I have more or less finished the donkey work on my Knapp edition; scores of 91 pieces transcribed, edited and checked against the original; editorial notes written; introduction, contents and indexes all done. Time for a final printout? I glance though all the scores again. And spot a missing comma here, misaligned text there ... need I go on? So, back to the computerface. Another day or so's checking and we should be ready for the final printout. Unless ...
Day 363 16/3/21
Here's a nice way to say "sorry". Toyota recalled our Yaris car to have something done to the airbag. Judith made an appointment and took it to the local Toyota people to have it done. Comes home. On foot. Phone call: "Sorry, we shan't have the part until April. You can come and get your car any time." A rather cross Judith takes the bus this time, and goes to collect the car ... and finds that it has been cleaned inside and out. Not so bad after all.
Day 362 15/23/21
Buried deep in the news is the fact that the PM has finally admitted that he was wrong to delay the first lockdown. He has chosen so say this on a day when the news bulletins are full of the high-handed policing of the demonstration against violence to women on Clapham Common, (providing an example of it rather than showing sympathy.) But some people at least must have noticed that the PM can U-turn even over his own errors. Can we expect some more of these? Please?
Day 361 14/3/21
On my walk today, I was amazed that some people still expect you to keep distance as you pass. And some even keep their masks on in the open air. Even more astounding is that I know of people who are still reluctant to to go out of their homes at all. According to Prof. Spector, there is one chance in 620 that the person that you are passing is a Covid transmitter. To give you the virus, they need to persuade you to go inside with them somewhere poorly ventilated for quarter of an hour or so. Don't these people read the science?
Day 360 13/2/21
This is the first day for some time that I have not been out for my exercise. I could not face all that wind and rain. Indoors, we are still struggling with that pesky jigsaw. It is over three weeks since we started, and we haven't done half of it yet. It's the sky and the pattern of the tree branches which is holding us up. Come back, Van Gogh, all is forgiven!
Day 359 12/3/21
Today I took my longest bus ride of this third lockdown, and went to Clayhall Park for a long walk. Daffodils were out, so was the sun, and despite the wind everything felt spring-like. I really felt that I could see the end of the tunnel. What a change from Day 356!
Day 358 11/3/21
I have been overdue for a blood test, but doctor says OK to go ahead now that I have had my first jab. I had a bad experience on Day 126, but a website tells me that commonsense has prevailed, and the local centre now gives appointments. As this was a fasting test, I booked the first one at 8 am, so that I could have breakfast a.s.a.p. My heart sinks as I arrive. There is a long queue. Have I got this wrong? No, apparently walk-ins can fill any unbooked slots. I got some envious looks as I went to the front of the queue.
Day 357 10/3/21
The advantage of the news about the royals is that is has pushed Covid off top place. I tend to feel over-supplied with Covid information. I get all I need from Prof. Spector's ZOE website. And as for the royals, without expressing a view about the present matter, I do still regard myself as a royalist. You don't need to look far to see how awful an elected president can be. And who would we elect? We could end up with some TV personality, or maybe a footballer, just because they were well known. Could they really do the job as well as Her Maj.?
Day 356 9/3/21
Sometimes this lockdown seems to be getting on top of me. I try not to feel miserable, but I get into a frame of mind where I just feel too tired to do anything much. Such was today. I did manage some shopping in the morning at Waitrose, but since then it has just been jigsaw and bad television. I hadn't watched an unbelievable SF film in years. Better things tomorrow, maybe. These moods usually last only a day or two.
Day 355 8/2/21
This afternoon I saw the children coming out of the school where I used to teach in the 70s. How awful to be their music teacher now! I don't suppose singing is allowed yet. How would I keep thir attention with just listening for a whole school period? "Put your mask back on." "Who was that talking out of turn?" I can imagine the problems. The golden years of my career were when I was teaching at Churchfields Junior School, but phew! I'm well out of it now.
Day 354 7/2/21
Today I went by bus to Lloyd Park in Walthamstow for my daily walk. There were plenty of people standing in unmasked groups chatting, and not much social distancing going on. Of which I strongly approve; there is minimal danger of transmitting the virus in the open air with a light wind. These people are using their common sense, rather than obeying the illogical and unscientific rules promoted by the "G". The people will lift lockdown in their own way.
Day 353 6/3/21
I am fuming mad about this derisory 1% offered to the heroines and heros. No, Chancellor, we are not short of funds for them. There's that £360m per week for the NHS that we were promised if we voted for Brexit. Remember, Mr. Sunak?
Day 352 5/3/21
Today Judith and I betook ourselves to Chipping Ongar, for a morning out. No doubt we were breaking the law, but we are now relying on common sense rather than anything that the "G" tells us. I used to have my office there before early retirement 28 years ago. It has changed little; the High Street still has all its old buildings, some dating back to Tudor times; its Norman castle, eleventh century church, and heritage railway station. Working there I was hardly conscious of these attractions; now it is quite an interesting place to visit.
Day 351 4/3/21
I have just filled in the online census return on behalf of Judith and myself. At her instigation we refused to describe ourselves either as British or English. Under "other", we put "European". It won't affect anything, but it's good to have even a small opportunity to protest about Brexit.
Day 350 3/3/21
Today, an echo of day 126. I turned up at Heronwood Medical centre for a routine blood test. There was a queue of about 20 people in a more or less immobile line waiting for admission. The temperature was just above freezing. I turned tail and came home. I'll try again on a warmer day, and take my portable seat. I really think the NHS should not need to keep elderly people standing for long periods in such conditions.
Day 349 2/3/21
I went shopping in Waitrose today. I went straight in, but when I came out there was a queue of bemasked, obediently socially distanced shoppers awaiting entry. How little we have learnt since last year! The chances of any of those people giving each ther the virus, by standing close together, and even chatting briefly, are minimal. That's not how the virus likes to travel. You need to be indoors, in an enclosed space without ventilation (such as a classroom) for 15 minutes or so to have a good chance of passing it on. At least we don't have the heavy handed blocking of car parks and taping off of park benches this time round. The trouble is that the authorities don't move with the science. They wait for a nudge from the "G", and what do they know?
Day 348 1/3/21
For the first time since starting this diary, I really have nothing much to say. So, here is what I did today; a typical lockdown day. Answered emails/analysed a go game for a friend/put out the rubbish and recycling/cleaned the kitchen window/put in some pieces in the jigsaw/went for a walk/lunch/snooze/worked on Knapp edition/drink break with more jigsaw/more Knapp/dinner/TV/this. That's my lockdown day.
Day 347 28/2/21
Today I had to take myself in hand. I always take Sunday off from my editing work, partly for a rest, and partly to ensure that other jobs get done. Half way through the morning, I found myself thinking, "Come on Francis, what's next? Get on with something. Don't waste all this valuable time." No, Francis, take a real rest. I sat down at our jigsaw, filled in about half a dozen pieces of this exceptionally difficult one, and could feel myself relaxing. And deepening my respect for the brush work of Pieter Breughel. I guess we have done about 200 of the 1000 pieces. That is over a fortnight's work. It really is that difficult.
Day 346 27/2/21
How's this for confidence? Today we booked our summer holiday. We wanted self-catering, and had various other requirements, and thought that places might be booking up, following recent announcements by the "G". And so many of them were, so we chose Lincolnshire, not the most obvious holiday destination for many people, and a county which neither of us know at all. We have found a nice little cottage in a nice little village; well away from the bucket-and-spade brigade on the seaside. Nothing like booking a holiday to brighten the day.
Day 345 26/3/21
I don't usually describe dreams, but last night's was rather special. As you know, my main daytime activity is editing music. And for "relaxation" Judith and I are struggling with our 1000 piece jigsaw of Pieter Brueghel's "Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap". And I dreamt that the computer file of one of my edited scores had corrupted into a pile of jigsaw pieces, and could only be recovered by doing the jigsaw.
Day 344 25/2/21
Gender equality has made great strides in my lifetime, and I'm all for it. Some way to go yet, but I can remember a time when a single woman couldn't get a mortgage without a male guarantor. But there is an aspect to equality which I am sorry to say gets rather swept under the carpet. I have looked carefully at the people currently replacing lead water pipes in our street; operating pneumatic drills, excavators, etc, and descending into mucky water-filled holes to do the necessary. And I noticed how under-represented women were in the workforce. Not a single one.
Day 343 24/2/21
Today Judith and I took a trip to Old Harlow. We actually got slightly lost on the way, not recognising all the new building that has taken place since we both used to have teaching commitments in the area decades ago. Walking up a grassy path we had occasion to ask two ladies, even older than us, the way to the mediaeval chapel. I thought afterwards; was that socialising, asking the way? The four of us almost certainly had had our first jabs. I really do not care whether we broke the law or not. We have decided to be governed by common sense, and not anything that the "G" tells us.
Day 342 23/2/21
It dawned on me today that this present lockdown is going on for months. I keep thinking that it will soon be over. But it won't. For that reason, I am slowing down my work on my Knapp edition, tidying up a few other scraps of music left lying around on my C drive, and generally taking things easier. There's snooker galore on the telly at present!
Day 341 22/2/21
So from March 8th children may socialise in the playground, but parents doing so at the school gates will be breaking the law. In dealing with adults, the "G" is showing caution, perhaps excessive caution. It is almost as if the PM is showing intelligence and learning from his past mistakes, though he still hasn't understood how relatively safe out-of-doors is. And then he fails to realise that by far the worst age group at social distancing is likely to be ... work it out.
Day 340 21/2/21
I don't usually write about sport, but Jordan Brown's victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Welsh Open Snooker Championship has inspired and uplifted me. World #81 beats world #3, having beaten several other heavyweights along the way. I have more or less withdrawn from tournament go. I have slipped down the rankings, and find concentration on three games a day beyond me. But perhaps if he can slay a few giants, maybe I still can.
Day 359 20/2/21
I woke up today to find that there was no water pressure in the tap. A worker was doing something important in the hole outside our house which had been created on Day 357. We were given no warning, but the pressure soon returned. An hour later, no worker was in sight in any of the holes spread along our section of the road. Nor do we have any idea what he was doing early on a Saturday morning.
Day 358 19/2/21
Going down George Lane today to do some shopping, I was struck by the fact that there are still people who wear masks walking on their own and well distanced from anyone else. A year ago, we were all told how important social distancing was, even when outside. Some of that nonsense still survives in the "G's" advice. The message has still not got through that the way to catch Covid is not by standing less than six feet from a maskless person outside, but to crowd together indoors in an unventilated room. If you want to catch Covid, go to a party, until the police get there.
Day 357 18/2/21
Today a large vehicle the size of a pantechnicon pulled up outside our house. The company advertised on its side offerred "Moling services". At the back, a large extendable gantry bore a wide flexible hose. The workers of Thames Water, for it was they that were responsible, lowered the hose into a hole in the pavement which had been prepared the previous day. The piece of equipment was apparently a "Suction excavator", and with this the workers were able noisily to suck soil from beneath the pavement. This was to enable a water pipe to be replaced in due course. I had no idea that such things existed. The soil is pretty damp at present; I wonder how well it works in a heat wave. Anyway, today my knowledge of engineering has advanced. We have been moled.
Day 356 17/2/21
The scientists are telling us that there are no recorded cases in the world of mass transmission of the virus by people gathering on beaches. After all the fuss last year about the masses on Bournmouth beach, I hope that the "G" has learnt its lesson. Out of doors, with a sea breeze blowing, the virus doesn't have much of a chance. I hope that when they start easing lockdown, they start with out of doors meetings, where there isn't and never has been much danger.
Day 355 16/2/21
Today we went for a probably illegal trip to the River Lea Park. There or the first time I saw flyposted notices informing people that Covid 19 does not exist. It is fake news, intended as a means of keeping us all under control, and recommending us to break the restrictions. There really are people that think that way. You don't know whether to be angry or sorry for them. Likewise the anti-vaccination brigade, who are actually doing more harm than the loony Covid deniers.
Day 354 15/2/21
Brueghel's Winter Landscape (See day 352) is proving quite a pain. I thought I had made a breakthrough with mathematics. If it has 1000 pieces, the sides have to be 25x40 pieces, and we started to build the edges on that assumption. But apparently in jigsawese, 1000 means "at least 1000". The bottom edge turned out to be 38 pieces long, so the sides have to be 27. Which multiplies to 1026. It's still proving difficult. But at least the edges are beginning to look like edges.
Day 353 14/2/21
Having watched American undemocracy in action yesterday, today I was apprised of a spot of a similar phenomenon in our great country. (Did I really write that?) I am informed by the Green Party that door-to-door leafletting is not to be allowed for the forthcoming mayoral election in London. I have done a fair bit of this in the past. It is a cheap and effective way of distributing our message. What will be allowed is mailshots, which are expensive. And which party will benefit most from that restriction? Certainly not us.
Day 352 13/2/21
"Winter Landscape with Bird Trap" by Brueghel has arrived, as the next 1000 piece jigsaw. Van Gogh's Sunflowers was ceremoniously broken up and restored to its box. We were ripped off by Media Storehouse (see Day 345), and this is the replacement. And there are two more waiting, a Seurat, and a Hiroshige still in the post. That should keep us out of mischief for a bit.
Day 351 12/2/21
I like the story of the police not knowing how to break up a meeting of people on a Yorkshire moor enjoying the snow. No one had organised it, so there was no one that they could fine £10,000. This is how lockdown will end; there will be too many people just fed up with it who take the law into their own hands. What makes it so silly is that it is doubtful if anyone caught the virus by being out in the windy open air. I wish the police would concentrate on the indoor violators; employers and party organisers mainly. They could start with the DVLA in Swansea.
Day 350 11/2/21
1984 is with us. Today on BBC Breakfast I heard Grant Shapps, the transport bloke, say that we should not try to book holidays, and Matt Hancock, the health man, said that we were going to be able to. And when Charley Stayt, in in his best BBC deferential manner, asked if these two messages might confuse people, Hancock said that both were true. With an absolutely straight face. The Ministry of Truth has spoken. Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
Day 349 10/2/21
Today I had a close encounter with a rat. They say you are never more than 10 metres from one. But when I took our kitchen waste to our composting bin, I wasn't expecting to see a rat helping to compost the material. It disappeared when I shoved in the latest bucket of waste. But how did it get in? The lid fits pretty tightly, and a sliding panel covers the opening at ground level where you get the compost out. They say rats are intelligent, but it did well to find a way round that. Anyway, it has found the warmest place in the garden, so I don't really blame it for being there. I just hope it doen't invite too many of its friends and relations.
Day 348 9/2/21
Surprise surprise. "Brexit is considerably worse than I expected", says the head of J D Sports. Scottish fish exporters struggle to complete 71 pages of bumf before the fish starts to go off. Exports to Europe are down 68%. A high proportion of lorries return to France unladen. Come on, Brexiters, can't you find someone to stand up and say how well they are doing post Brexit? Sunny uplands my ...
Day 347 8/2/21
I hate snow.
The snow which started to fall yesterday has settled a bit; enough to stop me wanting to go out. Partly because of the cold, but mainly because snow is slippery, and I have taken a few tumbles in recent years, which is why I walk with a stick nowadays. This is just the sort of day when it is difficult to keep my resolution to remain cheerful during lockdown. So, back to the music editing, and getting lost in that. At least there is cheerful news from Chennai.
I hate snow.
Day 346 7/2/21
During lockdown, I have been "keeping myself busy" and generally "getting on with it". Whatever "it" was at the time. Well today I had a complete day off. I didn't even go out for my usual walk. Who would in this weather? In the morning I watched the Test Match, courtesy of Channel 4. In the afternoon I played bridge online. And in the evening I watched telly. I did cook the dinner, but I enjoy doing that. And that was my thoroughly lazy day.
Day 345 6/2/21
I have been ripped off in the most extraordinary manner. I ordered a 1000 piece jigsaw to replace the one which we finished. I ordered van Eyck's Ghent altarpiece, which I went and saw when I was in Belgium in 2019. Would you believe they have sent a black and white reproduction, even though the advertisement on the internet was in colour? What a rip-off!
Day 344 5/2/21
Today we broke the law once again, and took a spirit-raising trip in the sun to the village of Matching Green, for a country walk. Then we chatted to a friend who lives locally, in her garden. We were illegal on two counts; firstly there were three of us, (socially distanced, but that wouldn't make any difference in a court of law), and secondly the garden was private, and not public. These viruses are highly intelligent; they know whether a garden is public or private, and infect accordingly.
Day 343 4/2/21
The PM says that he couldn't have done any better in coping with the Covid crisis, despite an opinion poll showing that 50% of us consider that he has done badly, and only 22% well. But for once I find myself agreeing with the PM. Indeed, Boris, you couldn't have done any better. A competent person might have done, but not you.
Day 342 3/2/21
So the UK is to apply to join a Pacific Ocean trading area. Either I wasn't paying enough attention in Geography, or that's rather a long way to be sending and receiving exports. Wouldn't it be better, and more environmentally friendly, if we could think of a closer trading bloc to join? There must be one closer than that. Somewhere ... ?
Day 341 2/2/21
Today is a Golden Jubilee day for us. We moved into our house here in South Woodford on 2nd February 1971. I had just started teaching music at Churchfields Junior School, about five minutes walk away, which was the start of the ten golden years of my career. The house had stood empty for several months, and had not yet been converted to natural gas from the old coal gas supply. So we could not use our gas cooker, had no hot water, and had only electric fires for heating. Not much fun, with a toddler to care for. It took a letter to our MP to get the gas fixed.
Day 340 1/2/21
Today I had to visit Moorfields Hospital again, as I thought just for a checkup, but as it turned out, for another round of treatment, the one where they stick a needle into your eyeball. I'd had it four times before, so I knew what to expect, and it's not nearly as unpleasant as you might think. What has amazed me is how drained the visit has left me feeling. I did the journey by taxi; the hospital was doing all that it could to keep us safe; and the whole visit was over in 75 minutes. But I have been more or less under house arrest for the eight weeks since my last visit, and I suppose I am becoming domestically institutionalised. Whatever the reason, I feel zonked.
Day 339 31/1/21
Headline news today is that we have finished the 1000 piece jigsaw of Van Gogh's sunflowers. Well, 997 actually, as three were missing. We knew that two were going to be when we bought it from a charity shop. But that made it all the more exciting, not knowing whether the piece that you were looking for was one of the missing ones. The picture will be on Facebook soon. But to end on a sour note, looking for another jigsaw to keep us busy during lockdown, we found some attractive ones available in Germany. But they can't now send them to Britain because of you know what.
Day 338 30/1/21
Until recently, I thought that the priority given to us over-70s for vaccination was primarily because we are the most likely people to block NHS beds if we get the virus. Apparently that is no longer the case, as it is people from deprived backgrounds, especially BAME people, who are now tending to occupy the beds. Should they now be prioritised? Apparently some such people are refusing the vaccine. And one reason why we oldies are no longer such a problem is because we tend to obey the lockdown rules more readily than some younger people. I can't sort out the moral dimension of all this in my mind. Are there any ethics philosophers out there?
Day 337 29/1/21
... and another boost to my spirits from Mother Nature today. (And they need a spot of boosting; don't yours?) For the first time a parakeet landed on our bird feeder. She didn't stay long; obviously dissatisfied with the quality of my provender. Chris Packham was telling us on BBC Winterwatch last night how there is scientific evidence now that connecting with nature does help to stave off depression. The trouble is that Epping Forest is so muddy ...
Day 336 28/1/21
Today we drove to Baldwins Hill in Loughton for our daily walk. Was this journey essential? Well, the answer to that is that if the Prime Minister can go seven miles from his home in Downing Street to do a bicycle ride, we can drive a good deal less than that for our walk. Anyway, there didn't seem many police about. We broke the law by chatting (at a distance) to a gas pipe worker, whose holes in the road were full of water. We felt quite sorry for him. But the highlight of the trip, which made my day for me, was hearing a woodpecker at work in the trees.
Day 335 27/1/21
Did you see Prime Minister's questions today, or the Starmer show, as we call it? As usual, the PM wouldn't answer straight questions. Starmer asked him several times why the UK has the worst Covid death rate in Europe. The PM answered each time by telling us how well the "G" was doing at tackling the virus, and that Starmer should not be knocking their efforts. I wonder if he is as delusional as Trump. I think the difference is that Trump actually believes all his own nonsense, while our PM knows perfectly well that he doesn't.
Day 334 26/1/21
I have been re-paginating my Knapp edition today, as I decided some pieces were occupying more space than they deserved. In the course of doing which I lost track of two files altogether, having saved two other files wih the same new numbers on top of them. No, they were not in the recycle bin. Panic. And then I remembered that a day or two ago I had backed up the lot onto a memory stick, and there were the two files, awaiting rescue. Moral: Always back up your files. Every day.
Day 333 25/1/21
THe Van Gogh Jigsaw (see day 311) is proving tough. We have done the surroundings, the table and the vase, and are working inwards into those complex sunflowers. As we go we learn much about the artist's brush strokes and use of colour. And it's a real team effort. One of us will finally find an essential piece, and the other will come in and say, Ah, now you've done that I can see where those pieces go, and we get another half dozen pieces in by joint effort. The jigsaw is in our front room, and is turning into a place of refuge from whatever else we've had enough of.
Day 332 24/1/21
There are some interesting opinion polls from Panelbase in the news today. The SNP are likely to win by a landslide in the elections in May, and a majority of Scots now favour independence. Furthermore, opinion in Northern Ireland is begining to veer toward union with the Republic, would you believe? More Brexit chickens coming home. And if an independent Scotland were re-admitted to the EU, what then? Customs posts along Hadrian's wall?
Day 331 23/1/21
In the '60s an unintelligent man known as Dr. Beeching closed many of our rail lines. Many of his decisions were wrong, for three reasons: his data was flawed, he did not understand the nature of a network, and he failed to provide for future needs. Today we read that two old lines are to be reinstated, but that there is the usual problem in re-acquiring land that had been sold off. Unfortunately our Parliamentary system encourages governments (yes, we used to have them) to think no further than five years ahead.
Day 330 22/1/21
It is reported that some people intend to refuse a vaccine. How selfish and anti-social. But there is a strategy which might reduce this tendency. Compulsory vaccination is hardly appropriate in a liberal democracy. But if all who had had both jabs were issued with a certificate, pubs, restaurants and places where people gather could require the production of one before allowing entry. Yes, there would need to be some online means of checking for forgeries. But I think it could be an answer.
Day 329 21/1/21
So the Brexit chickens are coming home to roost. Exports to Europe down, trouble at the ports, with reports of five days to do paperwork, supermarkets warning of reduced supplies and higher prices, musicians unable to tour because of visa restrictions; the list goes on, this is just the beginning. And the Scottish fishermen unable to get their exports through before they go off will fuel independence support. As soon as lockdown is eased I shall wear my badge: "Don't blame me, I voted Remain".
Day 328 20/1/21
The whole world can heave a sigh of relief. Trump has gone. But today, for the first time, I have heard him say something gracious towards his opponents. Getting onto his plane, his speech actually wished the new administration well. It feels good to be able to say something positive about the man. But what those deluded rednecks who believed his lies will do next is anybody's guess.
Day 327 19/1/21
The media just love bad news, don't they? "XXX more people have contracted Covid. XXX more people have sadly died of the disease." I am sorry. But what about "The reinfection rate is below 1.0 in most areas." (Source: the ZOE Covid-19 study.) That is good news. So it doesn't get much of a mention. A little praise for those of us who are helping the rate to go down by obeying the lockdown rules would not go amiss.
Day 326 18/1/21
My MP is one Iain Duncan Smith, a right wing Conservative, and enthusistic Brexiter. So his political views are as far from mine as East is from West. It is good to record that today I was able to warm to his views about not concluding a trade deal with China, in view of that country's appalling human rights violations with their Uighur population. This places him at odds with the Conservative party's leadership, and I am in favour of that on general grounds, regardless of the reason for it, which in this case is sound.
Day 325 17/1/21
The manner in which an item of news was presented today focussed my mind on how bias can creep in unnoticed. Economic crisis in the aviation industry was presented as bad news. For those who profit from polluting the skies with aircraft fumes it is indeed bad. But the good side of this news was totally ignored.
Day 324 16/1/21
Following Wednesday's brief outage in our water supply, today we had a letter from our unfortunately named supplier Thames Water, telling us that more serious works are imminent, which may result in a longer outage, and that they will replace our century old lead supply pipe with a plastic one. And that that may affect the earthing of our electricity supply. In which case we have to pay for an electrician to come and fix it. I don't like the sound of this. Apart from making us pay for their alteration, how do I know that any electrician is Covid secure?
Day 323 14/1/21
Judith and I set off on foot in light rain the the Hawkey Hall in Woodford. We were required to socially ditance while we waited for admission, but twenty minutes later we were out again, having both had our Covid jabs. Without pain, or any side effects. So far. What was disappointing is that is was the Pfizer jab, and were told about the twelve week wait for the booster. A number of senior medics have deemed such a delay inadvisable, but Joan Bakewell has taken it upon herself to mount a legal challenge to this decision, and is crowdfunding the legal expenses. I shall certainly put some money in the pot.
To day we had a brief reminder of the fragility of civilisation. Without warning, there was no water pressure. We weren't surprised, as there had been a substantial leak at the other end of our road the day before, and hardy guys with hi-viz jackets were working on it. Always looking to be on the safe side, bemasked, I beetled down to our convenience store for bottled water, and went on for my daily stroll. Needless to say, on my return the pressure was back. But I fell to thinking, perhaps somewhat pessimistically, how a total loss of water supply, whatever the cause, would end our civilisation. Ditto electricity. Still, should disaster strike, at least our supplies will hold out for a bit!
Day 321 12/1/21
A most unexpected text arrived today. I was invited to register for my shot of Covid vaccine. I thought there were about a million people ahead of us in the queue, but apparently not. I send my details by email, and the same day comes back an appointment for this Thursday. Then Judith decides to try it on, even though she had had no text. She sends her details to the same address, and, lo and behold, we both have appointments! And it's local, with the Oxford vaccine. Couldn't be better. Roll on Thursday!
Day 320 11/1/21
Today I spent 35 minutes listening to Prof. John Campbell's report on the Covid situation in other countries.
It's available from the ZOE Covid-19 website, and follows on from Prof. Tim Spector's weekly report on the state of the virus in the UK. Amongst other things, I learnt that a country which is doing much better than most of Europe is Cuba. It is a Socialist country with a well funded state health service. We too have a state health service, but until those weekly £360M payments promised by the Brexiters start to be made, well funded it is not.
Day 319 10/1/21
I am intrigued by developments in the USA, where it appears that even some Republicans now admit that the President is an unsatisfactory individual. And despite being near the end of his term of office, they are prepared to do something about it. The situation is mirrored in Britain, where although our Prime Minister is perhaps not quite as bad as the US President, Conservative MPs are beginning to express dissatisfaction with him. But will they do anything about it? They are the only ones who can.
Day 318 9/1/21
An aspect of the incident in which police fined two women for travelling five miles to take their excercise, and worse still, being in possession of illegal cups of hot coffee, is this. The purpose of the lockdown is to stop the tranmission of the virus. The likeliest way in which transmission might have taken place is during the conversations with the police. If they had left well alone, there would have been little danger to anyone. I have not seen this aspect mentioned in the media reports.
Day 317 8/1/21
It appears that I am now part of a major incident; that is how the mayor describes the Covid situation in London. It seems to me that the answer to this problem is to throw everything available into the vaccination programme. It should be going on 24/7. No excuses about distribution problems; this should all have been planned well in advance. But with this lot in charge ... ?
Day 316 7/1/21
I see two parallels betwen what is going on in the USA and recent British history. In the '30s the British police tolerated and protected gatherings by Oswald Moseley's Fascists, while cracking down hard on Communist and other left wing groups. Once we were at war with Fascism and allied with the Russians, the mood changed. The other was the situation in Northern Ireland before the Good Friday agreement, where both Unionist and Nationalist groups thought that they could get what they wanted if only they were sufficiently violent. In view of the Brexit fudge, it may be that NI sentiment will now move towards a warmer relationsip with the Republic.
Day 315 6/1/21
I am really impressed with the post-operative care that I am receiving. Today I needed some advice, and was able to telephone my nurse, and get the advice that I needed. No need to join the 8am telephone scramble to get a doctor's appointment. And such a friendly and helpful nurse, able to give me time when the NHS is up to its eyes in stuff. Thank you NHS.
Day 314 5/1/21
I was impressed with Kier Starmer's interview on Sky TV news today. In measured tones he made little attempt to make political capital out the "g's" mistakes, and acknowledged that any government, including one led by himself, might have made mistakes in such an unfamiliar situation. His remarks were constructive, and led one to long for a general election. Polls are showing that the "g" would lose most if not all of its 80 strong majority. They also show that support for Brexit is well down in the lower 40% region. But ...
Day 313 4/1/21
So back to square 1. Exactly where we were last March, when we were promised that it would all be over in 12 weeks. Back to asking neighbours to shop for us. Back to walking those local streets that I now know so well, the Forest being out of commission through mud. And nine months' worth of helpless anger at this appalling "G" to try to dissipate. I suppose that the internet, music and booze will keep us sane. Just about.
Day 312 3/1/21
Today two friends of ours, in the same age range as us, told us that at virtually no notice they'd be called to the local jab centre and had their first Covid jab. So, how far away is ours? This focussed my mind on priorities. Shouldn't health workers, care home workers and teachers be ahead of us in the queue? One right wing voice has even called for us to go to the bottom of the queue, as we are not economically productive, and haven't many years to live anyway. Fascism is alive and well in Britain.
Day 311 2/1/21
We thought that we had been rather smart, thinking of a jigsaw as something a bit out of the ordinary that we could do together during the holiday lockdown. Apparently not; people all over the place are doing it. And Van Gogh's sunflowers in 1000 pieces are quite a challenge. So far we've sorted the pieces roughly into edge/light yellow (the vase)/darker yellow (the table)/blue (the background)/various shades of darker yellow and light brown (the flowers)/other clours (who knows?). Watch this space.
Day 310 1/1/21
Well, as people are saying, a Happier New Year to all my readers. We have left the EU, sadly in my view, so it is up to the Brexiters to show us what the sunny uplands are going to be like. I can't wait. On the positive side, they are vaccinating 450 over-80s per day at our local centre. We are 77 and 75, so we shouldn't be waiting too long. I just hope it's the Oxford vaccine and not the Pfizer one, the "G" having made yet another whoopsie in thinking that the Pfizer booster jab can be delayed just because the Oxford one can.
Day 309 31/12/20
So we oldies are to have our second jab postponed until ... when? This latest U-turn by the "G" will cause yet more confusion; to what extent will it be safe for us to start mixing with people after only one jab? If the answer is, not very, than we are in for several more months of lockdown. There is an excellent military principle which says:"Order, counter-order, disorder."
Day 308 30/12/20
Today we finished our 500-piece jigsaw, a photo-montage of Wanstead scenes; our Christmas project. You can see it on Facebook. Except we didn't, as, annoyingly, there was one piece in this brand new jigsaw missing, and two extra pieces which don't fit anywhere. When we have finished admiring our work, we shall start on the next puzzle. Van Gogh's sunflowers; 1000 pieces.
Day 307 29/12/20
Today I have taken delivery of a dozen bottles of home-made cider, and eight apples. These are a generous gift from a go-playing friend, whom I am trying to lift up to shodan grade. He resists, by refusing to consider the whole board before moving, and making too many knee-jerk moves. But I shall persevere. And his gift will prevent me from becoming too sober during the dark days.
Day 306 28/12/20
So, back to square 1. Judith and I feel that we are now in the same situation that we were in last March. If anything, it is more dangerous for us to go out now, so it is lockdown again for us 70+ year olds. Both our neighbours on each side have independently offerred to do our shopping. We are old folk being looked after,
which is actually rather heart-warming.
Day 305 27/12/20
According to Prof. Spector's data on his ZOE Covid-19 website, much of the virus transmission is done by people in the 20-30 age group, and a fair bit by the 30-40s. We over 60s are hardly transmitting at all. So, what do we make of that? Should we be locking down by age, rather than by the area where we live?
Day 304 26/12/20
Is this Boxing Day or not? Anyway, for part of our Christmas entertainment we are doing a 500-piece jigsaw. And it's bloomin' difficult. It's a montage of about 100 photos of scenes in and around Wanstead. It was brand new, from a charity shop, so all the pieces should be there. What alarmed us a bit was that one piece was duplicated ... ?
Day 303 25/12/20
Today we went for a cold muddy morning walk in Epping Forest. Many other people had the same idea, but we found a quiet part. The nearest we could get to a family Christmas was a Zoom meeting with son and daughter-in-law Sam and El. Then in the evening Christmas dinner: egg, tomato and anchovy canapés for starter; lobster with roast vegetables and mushrooms; and a date and yogurt based dessert. All with a nice bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Judith has given me a book of language puzzles, so no way I am going to be at a loose end any time soon.
I have sent greetings to various people who know are on their own. I feel sorry for all the ones that I don't know, and also for those lorry drivers stuck at Dover through no fault of their own. I'm not surprised that they're a bit cross, and I hope that they are being looked after.
Day 302 24/12/20
Well well well. They've negotiated the red herring quotas just in time for Christmas. What a coincidence! That won't please the people who actually wanted no deal, including my MP, IDS; freedom from the shackles of Europe, as the right-wing press puts it. But the intelligent majority of us can breathe a sigh of relief, and look forward to the details of the oven-ready deal that would be easy to negotiate, as we were promised in the 2016 referendum.
Day 301 23/12/20
Those appalling scenes at Dover, apart from reminding Brexiters of one of the likely consequences of no deal, could foreshadow social unrest elsewhere. No one can blame the "G" for the existence of Covid, but the consistent failure to deal with it adequately over nine months must surely be breeding resentment everywhere. How long before it erupts on to the streets? I wouldn't bet against its happening.
Day 300 22/12/20
The panic-buyers are at it again, just as when the first lockdown came last March. Some of this may be owing to the fact that people had run their stocks down, expecting to be away. And some may be the sight of that queue of lorries in Kent, disregarding the fact that most of our imports come in by sea, via Immingham etc.
But I exect most of it is just an emotional reaction to having Christmas cancelled. We're lucky; Judith stocked us up well last week, before the panic started.
Day 299 21/12/20
I have spent most of today sending off Christmas greetings. For me these consist of a brief email message, followed by an invitation to read my Christmas Newsletter, which is here, in case I missed you. It takes a fair time, but I will not stoop to writing just one message and then bcc-ing it to all and sundry. This Christmas above all is one where I hope that personal messages, however brief, will be appreciated.
Day 298 20/12/20
So Christmas has been cancelled. Unlike the "G", I saw this coming, as no doubt did many others. It never was a good idea to unlock for as long as five days. And of course by leaving it so late, there will be more disappointment than there would have been if the five days had never been offered in the first place. The one good thing that has come out of this development is that for once the idiot has done what the scientists have told him, rather than following his gut feelings.
Oh, and by the way, the NHS informs me that I do not have Covid-19.
Day 297 19/12/20
I have just solved a computer problem. All by myself. With a pencil sharpener. No, I haven't gone crazy; just pay attention. My extenal qwerty keyboard stopped working. So, first things first, restart the computer. No joy. Hard restart, waiting 30 seconds. NJ. Clicked around the control panel. NJ. Tried putting the USB plug into a different port. NJ. Tried putting it directly into the computer, instead of via the hub. Aha; shows signs of working intermittently. Eventually I find that the plug makes good contact only with gentle pressure from below. Which is now supplied by a judiciously positioned pencil sharpener.
Day 296 18/12/20
"We'll send the test result tomorrow, by text or email". And as I rather expected, nothing has come. I'll just have to assume that no news is good news. If I'd got the virus, they'd be after me to self-isolate.
Which is very close to what I am doing anyway, though I did visit the shops today for some booze. We may need a fair bit of that, if the news continues to be bad. We have yet to find out how disastrous the idiot's Brexit deal is going to be.
Day 295 17/12/20
And yet, when I tried later to book a test, there was no problem. So there is something wrong with that website that told me none were available. At 10.30 this morning, I turned up at the local testing centre; a large tent in a car park. There were many testing bays. You were sat in one, and an instructor took you through the procedure. You had to test yourself. She said I should be emailed or texted tomorrow to tell me if I have Covid. I rather doubt it, but if so, Judith and I are supposed to self-isolate for 10 days, which lasts nicely over Christmas. Actually it would make surprisingly little difference to the way we have been living anyway. Watch this space.
Day 294 17/12/20
I have been off duty for a few days owing to a minor infection; catching up on my diary today. I report to the ZOE Covid-19 study every day, as I hope that all my readers do, and because I described some very minor symptoms they advised me to get a Covid test "as soon as possible". So, I fill in all my details on the necessary website, and try to book one at my nearest centre. None available today. Try tomorrow. None available. And so it goes on. "As soon as possible". Phooey.
Day 293 15/12/20
So, this time a welcome U-turn from the idiot. It looks as if we may get a Brexit deal. Do you remember all that talk during the 2016 campaign about an oven-ready deal, which would be easy to make? What we need now is a U-turn over these five days of non-lockdown over Christmas, which the scientists are shouting at us will cause a massive Covid spike. The Germans seem to have got it about right, with slight relief just on Christmas day itself. But they have what I am pleased to call a government. Wish we had.
Day 292 14/12/20
Today we gave in to the inevitable. Having inspected the Radio Times's Christmas fare, we hauled ourselves kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and joined Netflix. Amidst all the dross we were able to find some entertainment that may carry us through the Christmas not-holiday.
Day 291 13/12/20
Professor Spector of the ZOE Covid-19 study, has pointed out the disadvantages of the tier system. The trouble with such a blunt instrument is that when the tier ends, that's an opportunity for people to make whoopee, and start a new wave. A nuanced approach would always have been better.
Day 290 12/12/20
I have now revised all the anthems in the eighth and last edition of William Knapp's A Sett of New Psalm Tunes. I am amazed at the nature of the changes which had been made relative to earlier editions. Many of the changes are simplifications, and alterations in the harmony. What particularly strikes me is that there are many more alterations in the alto part than in the other three. Why? Maybe further research will reveal his reasons.
Day 289 11/12/20
A wave of despair swept over me today. Johnson seems determined to wreck the British economy by his no-deal straegy. And doctors are, understandably, jibbing at taking on delivering the vaccine, so that that strategy is also hitting rocks. And I have had just about enough of lockdown. I suppose I am in good company. Britain is led by these idiotic right-wing Conservatives, and I can't demonstrate, and writing to my MP (IDS) will have no effect. I feel so powerless to change anything. Judith and my music are just about keeping me sane.
Day 288 10/12/20
It has been reported that professional rugby players are considering suing their employers, i.e. their clubs, because blows to the head have caused them to suffer brain injury. Surprise surprise. No one forced them to play such a dangerous sport, as I was forced to at Brentwood School in the '50s. Some of the most miserable hours of my life were spent on the school playing fields. And to this day the rules of rugby remain an arcane mystery to me.
Day 277 9/12/20
Today I received my fourth treatment for wet ARMD at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Every time I go there I am impressed, not only with the thoroughness and effectiveness of their treatment, but also with the friendliness of the staff. Today the doctor who saw me on my first two visits, but was dealing with other patients today, made time to come and see me in the waiting room to ask how I was and wish me well. I like that.
Day 276 8/12/20
"If some of you don't learn to behave, I shall punish the whole class". Such are the words of a weak teacher. London is threatened with Tier 3, because a small minority of us are not obeying the rules. The trouble with this approach, as any strong teacher will tell you, is that it breeds resentment, and a tendency for formerly obedient pupils to become rebellious, and it can in the long run prove counter-productive.
Day 275 7/12/20
We are already beginning to receive Christmas cards. This has motivated me to upload my own Christmas greetings. I don't send cards, but make a donation to charity; this year it will be to the Trussell Trust, as I feel so deeply ashamed that there should be hungry people in a prosperous country like Britain. So my greetings are electronic. If you want to see them, click on, or load into your browser
Day 274 6/12/20
I feel that I belong to an unrecognised group of people. The Covid experts often refer to "older people in care homes", or "older people with underlying health issues", as if we are all in those groups. I am an older person in good health, despite being in recovery from a hospital operation. I am not obese, I don't smoke, I drink in moderation, I eat sensibly, and I take exercise. I feel that my general health is better than many people ten or twenty years younger. We people in our seventies don't all have one foot in the grave.
Day 273 5/12/20
I notice with a pang that this is St Nicholas Eve, and it's about this time of year that London Gallery Quire would be giving it's most enjoyable and best attended concert of the year, at St George's German Chapel in Aldgate East. We sing some of our wonderful West Gallery carols, ending always with a German carol, in which the audience are encouraged to join, and then enjoy Stollen and Glühwein. But not this year. Very sad.
Day 272 4/12/20
Clicking around the internet today, I came across the definition of a "vexatious litigant". These are defined in English and Welsh law as "Individuals who persistently take legal action against others in cases without any merit, who are forbidden from starting civil cases in courts without permission." And there is a publicly available list of such people. Which led me to wonder whether there is a similar law in the United States, and if so, whether the list of names is being kept up to date.
Day 271 3/12/20
I have now printed out the 243 music pages of my Knapp edition. It's amazing how easy it is to print on the wrong side of the paper, so that you get, for example, page 99 followed by 101. But the job is done. Now I can start the far more interesting task of checking my editions against the facsimiles of the originals for errors, and see what comments I want to add.
Day 270 2/12/20
I went out for my usual stroll today, passed my usual barber, and noticed that it was open! I suppose that's to do with London being in Tier 2 now, whatever that means. And there was no one else waiting, so I had a much needed haircut. I am intrigued by the idea that, apparently I can only order a drink in a pub with a "substantial meal". What is substantial? Sandwich with salad and crisps? Poached egg on toast? Two poached eggs? Three? Typical vagueness from the "G".
Day 269 1/12/20
I am sick of passwords. Today, watching the snooker on BBC2, I wanted to change to the other table; two were available. And the BBC wanted a password! When you buy things on line, they want your email (understandable, so that they can send you ads) and a password; not so understandable. I have over 100 passwords, and yes, I do write some of them down. I can't remember all those! When I was about ten, my gang had a password. For what purpose? Passwords are childish and annoying. Only a few websites, such as banking, really need them.
Day 268 30/11/20
Today I have passed a milestone in my editing work. I have, more or less, paginated the music pages of my Knapp edition. It's not so easy as you might think, as musicians don't like awkward page turns in the middle of a piece. Anyway, I've done the best I can. There are 243 music pages, plus another dozen or so yet to be written introductory pages with Roman numerals. But the next job is printing out and checking for errors. It's always easier to spot them on the page than on screen, for some reason.
Day 267 29/11/20
It is nearly five weeks now since my operation, which in itself was successful. And I have had great support from a visiting nurse during my somewhat protracted recovery. What wasn't so good were conditions in the recovery ward. Nighttime noise, and the apparent need to measure my blood pressure in the middle of every night, disrupted my sleep pattern so greatly that I have still not recovered normal sleep. Heigh ho!
Day 266 28/11/20
So the latest bit of nonsense from the "G" is that we should not play board games at Christmas. Quizzes instead, apparently. Presumably bridge and other card games are OK as they don't use a board. If ever an instruction was crying out to be ignored, this is it.
Day 265 27/11/20
Ever since we elected this appalling "G", I have suspected that its downfall might come from within. Churchill used to say that he didn't like to have a large majority, as it tempted people to dissent and rebel. There are supposed to be 70 conservative MPs willing to vote against the latest lockdown provisions. Unfortunately, if they succeed, it may well worsen the Covid situation. But I suppose that anything that weakens the "G" is to be welcomed.
Day 264 26/11/20
Today we went on another trip, to visit our sister-in-law, who lives in a patch of open country near Leighton Buzzard. Checking to see that no police were watching, we went into her house for morning coffee. We are both living carefully; so is she, on her own. I felt safer there than shopping in Waitrose. But we were breaking the law.
Day 253 25/11/20
Today we watched two very different question and answer sessions. On the Parliament channel at noon we watched the Starmer show. It's getting predicatable; Starmer asks a clearly framed question, and Johnson answers a different one. Then later we watched the ZOE Covid study webinar (how I hate that word!) with Professors Spector and Openshaw, about the vaccines and their likely effects. Straightforward questions with straightforward, honest, fact-based answers. Do watch it if you can. It is to be uploaded to YouTube soon.
Day 252 24/11/20
Today Judith and I went to Stansted (the village, not the airport) to meet a friend for a socially distanced chat. There were motorway signs on the way reading "Stay home; avoid unnecessary journeys". Well, our journey was not "necessary". But J and I have been sufficiently careful to be pretty sure that neither of us was carrying the virus, and our friend was of a similar disposition. We judged that we were doing nothing unsafe. And that is what many people seem to be doing. After so many U-turns, unclear and unscientific instructions, and downright lies from the "G", compliance with whatever they decide is not likely to be high, I suspect.
Day 251 23/11/20
Today, for the first time since I went into hospital, I have mustered enough brain power to return to my music editing. I am wrestling with the problem of paginating these 90 pieces of William Knapp's music. I am quite definitely on the mend. Huzzah!
Day 250 22/11/20
St. Cecilia's Day seems a good moment to mention that under the current lockdown rules London Gallery Quire may not meet, but that if we were a professional choir, we could have a socially distanced rehearsal, as it would be at our place of work. The rules get sillier and sillier.
Day 249 21/11/20
Today my external keyboard went on strike. Tried different USB ports. Nothing. Restart. Nothing. Hard restart. Nothing. Downloaded software that was supposed to fix it. Ran it. Not till it had finished finding out all that it thought was wrong with my computer did it suddenly demand money. Uninstalled. Rearranged my workstation so that the laptop keyboard was under the external monitor. All well. Just to see what would happen, I pressed a key on the still connected external keyboard. Worked perfectly. Do computers do things just to tease us?
Day 248 20/11/20
On Sky News this morning the presenter, Kay Burley, was interviewing one of their tame scientists. She asked him what results could be seen from the various lockdown tiers. After answering in detail, he summarised by saying that the different regions were in different places, thus confirming what I had always thought to be a fundamental principle of geography.
Day 247 19/11/20
Today I had a long conversation with a friend I'd not seen for months. He is an active member of the Labour Party, so I asked him about the allegations of anti-semitism. What a lot of it seems to boil down to is that if you show sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, you must be anti-semitic. Words fail one. We don't get this sort of nonsense in the Green Party.
Day 246 18/11/20
Johnson's ill-considered remark about Scottish devolution has given me the following fantasy. Scotland becomes independent, rejoins the EU, adopts the Euro, and prospers. Some arrangement about the Irish border is stitched up. Even dedicated Brexiters realise that Brexit has been a disaster. Britain re-applies for EU membership, and is granted it on worse terms than it had before, but better than remaining outside. Yes, I remain a Remainer!
Day 245 17/11/20
After some humdrum days at home, today brought an adventure. I had one of a series of appointments at Moorfields Eye hospital. Owing to my fragile condition I was given transport in an NHS Medicab in both directions. All went well, but the trip tired me so much that on my return mid-afternoon I slept for two hours; very unusual for a poor sleeper like me. The fact that such a journey tired me so much is a warning; there's a long way to go before I reach full strength, whatever that may have been. Easy does it, Francis.
Day 244 16/11/20
Slowly gaining strength. I am actually making small contributions towards the housework. Heigh ho. This is going to be a long haul.
Day 243 15/11/20
Well well well! Just when Johnson has a cabinet crisis to sort out, Brexit negotiations stuck, and Covid still needing attention, he has to self-isolate for a fortmight! No live interviews or PMQ! How disappointed he must be feeling.
Day 242 14/11/20
I find it unbelievable that tens of millions of US citizens can be in mass denial over the result of their election. I can't imagine this happening in any European democracy. We grumble a bit when our party doesn't win, and then get on with life.
Day 241 13/11/20
The news we have been waiting for! Cummings has gone! Ever since we elected this appalling government, I have been waiting for it to crumble internally. Let us hope that there are enough intelligent Conservative MPs to rebuild something sustainable.
Day 240 12/11/20
Today the district nurse came (did you know we still had those?), removed 40 staples from my belly, and told me that I must try to put on weight. Now there's something you don't often hear from a medic!
Day 239 11/11/20
Today the quire had another evening Zoom sing. Nothing cheers me more that West Gallery music, and I do need a spot of cheering at the moment. Apparently it's the after effects of the anaesthetic that make you so liable to bouts of sleepiness and lethargy.
Day 238 10/11/20
Did you see that news item reported in American media, to the effect that when the result of the election was announced on November 5th, "In Britain, people lit fireworks to celebrate the end of the Trump era"? Made my day!
Day 237 9/11/20
It's occurred me today that I shan't need my demo placard any more, which reads: Bridge players of Britain say "No Trump".
Day 236 8/11/20
Slowly slowly recovering. I am cheered not only by the fact that things should get back to normal now for my friends across the Atlantic, but also by this amazing scientific discovery that you can store energy by freezing air. There's two items of good news for the planet.
Day 235 7/11/20
If you're wondering where I have been since Day 214, the answer is, mostly in hospital, for major abdominal surgery. The condition was painful but not life-threatening. It will take me about six weeks to recover. I shall try to resume this dairy regularly. I am bouyed up by the good news which seems to be coming from the United States.
Day 214 17/10/20
Getting better gradually.
Day 213 /16/20
No entry today; I am feeling unwell. It's not C.
Day 212 15/10/20
So Sadiq Khan seems to be able to do what the "G" can't, and move London up into the second tier of lockdown from Saturday. It probably needed doing, but it takes our mayor to somehow bypass the dithering of the "G". If only we could have a General Election and put Kier Starmer in charge! But it ain't gonna happen.
Day 211 14/10/20
Two jabs in two days! Today's excitement was a visit to Moorfieds Eye Hospital, to have my second injection for wet ARMD. What I like about that place is the friendliness of all the staff, from doorkeepers to doctors. It bespeaks good management. And it was all through in two hours. I do recommend that hospital, if you ever have an eye problem.
Day 210 13/10/20
Today's excitement was going to the GP's surgery to get a 'flu jab. Usually during lockdown you talk to a receptionist through a window. (You speak to doctor on the phone). I wondered if today we might actually be allowed inside. No, you sat on a chair in the vestibule, with doors open all round, and got your jab there. I suppose doctors of all people are entitled to be extra careful.
Day 209 12/10/20
So, the "G's" carefully thought out anti-Covid plan for London is, carry on as before. I wonder how the poor folks in Liverpool are going to react to Stage 3. Will they conform? How will it be enforced? As far as I can see the virus will continue to win the struggle until we have a readily available test with rapid turn round, and/or a vaccine. Preferably both. This locking down can never be more than a temporary measure. If the Chinese can test 11m people in Wuhan, why do we find it so difficult?
Day 208 11/10/20
I took advantage of this morning's sunshine to visit one of my favourite haunts; Victoria Park in Hackney. The usual Sunday array of street food was on offer; a geography lesson's worth of food from Afghanistan, Mauritania, Nigeria, Thailand; you name it. Orderly socially distanced British queues formed to place orders, and then to collect. Until an official in a hi-viz jacket came and pointed out the coloured plastic markers showing where we were supposed to queue; along the sides of the vans extending backwards. My queue obediently moved. But ten minutes later all the queues were back where you'd expect. How on earth does changing a queue's orientation by 180 degrees make it safer? Another bit of nonsense fron the "G"?
Day 207 10/10/20
Have you tried the National Careers Service, offered by the "G"? You have to answer multiple choice questions about yourself. I tried this, as honestly as I could, and was offered a bewildering array of career options. These included boxer, judge, and astronaut. I am not making this up. I think someone is being a tiny bit naughty. Anyway, do try it. Hours of innocent fun for all the family!
Day 206 9/10/20
Today the goldfinches have returned to our bird feeder! We haven't seen them for many weeks, but today a five-strong charm came and had a hearty breakfast of seeds. Some of them tried the suet ball, but that didn't seem so popular. So where have they been? Has another superior source of food suddenly become unavailable? Are there any ornothologists out there who understand goldfinch behaviour?
Day 205 8/10/20
From being one of the safest boroughs in London, Redbridge has suddenly become the one with the highest infection rate. And the "G" is telling us that any lockdown increases will be borough wide. And yet we who actually live here know that the spike is happening in South Ilford. Here is Woodford it is no worse than anywhere else. If w get locked down because of carelessness over in Ilford, it will be rather like a weak teacher punishing a whole class for the misdemeanours of a few.
Day 204 7/10/20
A sunny day, amid all the rain which we have had, and which is to come. A chance to get out, which we rather missed in Malvern. Those kind people at Dell House (where we stayed) have sent the charger.
Day 203 6/10/20
We are both exhausted after our holiday! But we are glad we went. We needed to get out of what is beginning to feel like a prison. Judith has left her charger behind, and is forced to spend a day away from the computer. Which does non of us any harm.
Day 202 5/10/20
We decided to come home from our short holiday in Malvern Wells a day early, because we had run out of things to do in pouring rain. Which is what we were getting. Ironically enough, we found we were driving into bright sunshine, but even that has gone now. Coming through Epping Forest, we noticed that all the roads now have double red lines; you are not even allowed to stop on those narrow country lanes. This is somthing to do with the Covid rules, but it seems a bit excessive. Is that really going to keep the virus at bay?
Day 201 4/10/20
We found our way to the Malvern Quaker Meeting for Worship, for a suitably socially distanced meeting; indoors for once, which is just as well, as the rainy weather persists. An unfamiliar light appeared on our car's dashboard. Tyre pressure, apparently. A very kind assistant at the local filling station, which didn't have a regular DIY pump, came out and pumped up our tyres for us, with proper equipment. No payment. You meet kind people like that out in the country.
Day 200 3/10/20
This morning we grabbed a bit of rain-free time to walk up a footpath which probably led eventually to the top of our local Malvern hill. After giving our hearts a good work out we could see the rain closing in, and scuttled for our billet. In the afternoon we visited a friend who lives on the other side of our hill. We are getting a bit fed up with all this rain.
Day 199 2/10/20
At our last vacation in Suffolk (see day 143) we were rather confined during the mid-day hours by the heat. It's rain and cold weather which is confining us here in Malvern Wells. We ventured forth in the morning to Great Malvern for a spot of shopping and lunch, and then visited the vast church described as a Priory, and established in 1086. We then holed up in our billet, venturing forth once again briefly for a take away meal. And more rain is forecast tomorrow. And the next day...
Day 198 1/10/20
Headline news is that a great tit has visited our bird feeder. The goldfinches are long gone, and there haven't been so many birds about recently, so she or he was a welcome visitor. This afternoon we travelled to Malvern, for a few days break. The weather was fine on the way down, but rain is forecast. Fingers crossed.
Day 197 30/9/20
How singing raises your spirits! I have just finished another Zoom sing with London Gallery Quire. We meet for a bit of a chat, then sing along to tracks that we have previously recorded at previous services and concerts. "I suppose I want to do this", I thought, as I got Zoom going. Now I feel quite chipper. As William Byrd wrote, "Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing." I think he would have included women if he had thought of it.
Day 196 29/9/20
I woke up this morning feeling a bit grotty, and with some cold-like symptoms. Was this the dreaded C-19? I took my temperature, and found that it was actaully down a couple of degrees. And I could still taste and smell. There are still other viruses around, and apparently many people are panicking when they get symptoms, and ask for a test that they don't really need. Which is blocking up the testing system. Don't panic, Francis!
Day 195 28/9/20
I have a Roads family heirloom which I want to send to my cousin in Tokyo. In today's sun I walked up to the post office at Woodford Green to enquire whether this can be done safely. "How much is it worth?" "Not much, but it is of great sentimental value". Apparently it is crucial to know how much money your parcel is to be insured for. You can't insure sentiment. We ended up with a system called Track and Trace. Now, where have I heard that before?
Day 194 27/9/20
When all the lockdowns started six months ago, we were told that we could go out for an hour each day for exercise. We tended to do so simply because it was allowed. And it was a good habit, as any doctor will agree. Today it was so windy that I stayed in all day, feeling vaguely naughty. As mentioned yesterday, I think that the naughtiness will increase as the weather becomes colder.
Day 193 26/9/20
Today I went for an unpleasant walk in the wind to visit a friend for a game of go. I did not enjoy the walk one little bit. And this is a foretaste of winter. We have been managing during the warmer weather with holding many of our meetings with people outside, where it is pretty safe. Those interactions are gradually going to move indoors, whatever the "G" says. And the virus prefers colder weather ...
Day 192 25/9/20
Today I reached a milestone in my music editing work. I have now transcribed all 90 pieces included in William Knapp's three publications. There is much more work to do yet; checking, dealing with the doubtful passages, paginating, writing an index, contents, introduction and some commentary, but the donkeywork of transcription is now done. I would never have got all this done by now without the lockdown.
Day 191 24/9/20
What a splendid trip out we had theis morning! Judith drove us to Hatfield Forest, an NT property, to meet two friends from Cambridge. The sun shone, and we had a goodly walk in attractive surroundings. Spirits well and truly lifted. And to cap it, a TV programme actually worth watching; David Lean's film Doctor Zhivago.
Day 190 23/9/20
Today I was due for a second blood test. After my first bad experience (Day 126) I was full of trepidation,
fearing another impossibly long queue. I took a portable seat, book to read and my iPad. When I arrived there were about six ahead of me in the queue, and I had to wait, indoors, for about 5 minutes. This was my local centre, which had reopened after a long closure. And there were four phlebotomists on duty; at the Forest Centre there had been but two. "If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars," as the poet said.
Day 189 22/9/20
I went back to Elmhurst Gardens today, for the first time since day 29. The ineffective tapes over benches were gone, and it was a joy to see the children's playground and the tennis courts in use. Did closing them really help stop the spread? The scientists tell us that there is little danger in the open air. Which makes the "rule of 6" seem all the sillier, as it makes no distinction between outdoor and indoor gatherings. But we mustn't expect common sense from the "G".
Day 188 21/9/20
No entry today.
Day 187 20/9/20
So, the second equinox of Covid is upon us. We were told that the initial lockdown would be for twelve weeks, but ... It seems that the "G" is trying to keep two balls in the air; on the one hand, we must get the economy going, on the other, we must suppress the second wave. The result is this ludicrous situation in which not more than six of us may meet, even in the open air, where it is pretty safe, unless we do so at the pub. This morning Judith and I broke the law! We attended open air Meeting for Worship with Harlow Quakers. There were, wait for it, seven of us there!
Day 186 19/9/20
Professor Spector of the ZOE Covid study tells us that 98% of Covid tests prove negative. Apparently people with cold-like symptoms are asking for tests, when suffering no actual Covid symptom. It is understandable that that will tend to swamp the system. Hesitant though one is to suggest it, there may even be some truth behind Rees-Mogg's discourteous remark, nasty right-wing Tory though he is.
Day 185 18/9/20
So the North-South Divide has found expression in the infection rate. People in the North were instrumental in swinging the referendum in favour of Brexit, and then compounded the error by voting in so many Tory MPs. If things had been different, we might still have had a moderate Cameron government, with ministers chosen for intelligence and ability, rather than for commitment to Brexit and personal loyalty to the PM. Such a team would not have created the present Covid chaos. Be careful what you wish for.
Day 183 17/9/20
Following the previous entry, I see that Moorfields is in the news today. I noticed as I went past yesterday that they have opened their usually closed front entrance, with a notice saying "Cataracts only". Apparently local hospitals, such as the one which let me down so badly, have such long waiting lists that Moorfields is stepping into the breach and aiming to do 1000 cataract oprations per week. What a splendid hospital! I have nothing but praise for them.
Day 182 16/9/20
I don't usually publish medical problems here. But I have had such a good experience today that I feel the need to share it. A week ago I was diagnosed with wet ARMD, and eye condition which requires prompt treatment. I went to A&E at the local hopital, who tested my eyes and promised to send a letter within a fortnight, giving the date of an appointment at some unspecified future time. Unhappy about the apparent lack of urgency, I contacted my GP. After some exchanges with the hospital, she advised me to attend A&E at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Their friendly staff tested me and gave me immediate treatment. If you ever have an eye problem, go to Moorfields.
Day 181 15/9/20
The "G" has embarked upon a bill in Parliament which would allow it to break international law. I have not felt so ashamed to be British since the time of the Brexit vote. I foresaw then, in 2016, that the Irish border would be the sticking point, and so it has proved. In effect, this situation is what the Brexiters voted for.
Day 180 14/9/20
So the eminently predictable second spike is upon us. Amid the gloom, there is one statistic which is rarely mentioned. If you look at the "G's" own statistics, for what ever they are worth, it appears that we over 70's have a lower infection rate than any other adult group. We are doing well at containing the virus, but do we get any credit for it, or even a mention?
Day 179 13/9/20
This evening, there being nothing on TV, I listened to music on my iPad. Several times the music, in this case a mass by Haydn, was interrupted in the middle of a movement by a brief raucous advertisement, accompanied by equally raucous "music". What is the mind set of such advertisers? I realise that YouTube needs to advertise to make money, but surely any such advertisement is counter-productive. Needless to say, I have no idea what was being sold.
Day 178 11/9/20
Today I received an unexpected nice fat cheque in the post. This is for royalties for my music book, self-published two years ago, entitled The Divine Companion, an edition of Henry Playford's book of West Gallery music first published in 1701. I thought that this is such a niche market that sales would soon tail off. But they haven't, and that has cheered me greatly. There is a well publicised novel by James Allen with the same title. I wonder, I just wonder, if anyone has ordered my book by mistake.
Day 177 10/9/20
Does anyone understand the new covid regulations? Six people can meet "socially". What exactly does that word mean? "No officer, we weren't being social. This was a business meeting of the Ballymucky darts club. Not social at all." What happens when a seventh person arrives? Are all seven breaking the law, or only the gatecrasher? And I dread to think who these marshalls are going to be, what training they will have, and what their powers will be.
Day 176 9/9/20
Did you see the Starmer show today? (PMQ at mid-day). It's still available on Youtube. All six of Starmer's qustions were about the failure of the "G's" test and trace system. As usual Johnson failed to answer any of the questions directly, and at #6 excelled even himself at irrelevance. Apparently his inability to provide a plan for alleviating the shortage of testing facilities is attributable to Starmer's lack of enthusiam for Brexit. This man runs our country. I wouldn't put him in charge of a whelk stall.
Day 175 8/9/20
So Covid is on the up again, and we are waiting to see what, if anything, the "G" is going to do about it. Apparently it is mostly younger people who are causing the increase, and when I first heard about this I had been going to have a rant about discos, parties and raves, where I thought that much of the transmission was taking place. But apparently it's mostly in people's homes that it happens. That won't stop me from thinking that the world would be a better place if rock music had never been invented.
Day 174 7/9/20
Today we had a visit from a locksmith. No, we hadn't locked ourselves out, but two of our fairly new PVC doors were not closing properly. He diagnosed thermal expansion in the hot weather, did what was necessary to make them function correctly, and bade us throw ice-cold water over them if the problem recurred in any more hot weather. And he told us that although in general locksmiths have a steady stream of work, during the first two months of lockdown they had to close the firm. Deduce what you can from that.
Day 173 6/9/20
Today, for the first time in five months, I visited one of my favourite haunts, Valentines Park in Ilford. It was glorious in the warm sunlight, and I could hardly bear to leave. And I fell to thinking that in none of the thirty plus countries that I have visited, have I found any which does public parks and gardens better than Britain. I feel grateful to cash-strapped local authorities for maitaining them and keeping them open.
Day 172 5/9/20
A friend of mine who is a doctor told me today that she has had the Oxford vaccine, subsequently had her antibodies tested, and found that it had been successful. Good news, no doubt. The medics will want to do all sorts of preliminary testing, but if it really does work, all the "G" needs to do is order 60 million shots, and vaccinate the population. Now, how can they mess that up?
Day 171 4/9/20
I noticed from Professor Spector's map that Redbridge's colour has gone from white (too little data to register) to light pink (37 cases). This means, according to the most recent population figures, that anyone I meet in the street has about one chance in 8,200 of having the virus. And to actually catch the virus from them, you need to be close to them when they cough, sneeze or shout, or to be sitting near them for about 15 minutes. I just wonder if all the social distancing in shops etc. is overkill.
Day 170 3/9/20
On several occasions we have been asked, at restaurants and pubs, for our names and telephone numbers. All well and good, but it struck me today that, apart from the fact that tracking and tracing in England appears to be somewhst ineffectively carried out, what is stop anyone from giving a false number? Who's checking? Anyone who feels that they don't want to self isolate for 14 days even if they have been in contact with a carrier could do this. And it's the sort of practice which can spread, like the virus itself.
Day 169 2/9/20
This evening London Gallery Quire had a singing session, for the first time since March. This was not a rehearsal; we simply sang through about 15 old favourites. There were 14 of us there, attendance having been clearly made totally voluntary. Fortunately we were well balanced vocally, but a bit short in the band department. Loud singing was banned, as apparently the viruses like that. We sang in a socially distanced manner, and it was surprisingly successful all round. Certainly there was much talk of "next time".
Day 168 1/9/20
Shopping in Waitrose today, I saw little of the 2 metre style social distancing which we are supposed to observe, either by shoppers or staff. And I didn't feel in any danger. The scientists, rather than the "G", tell us that just passing someone closely but briefly, even indoors, gives little chance for infection. What does do so is sitting near an infected person indoors for a long period of time. Which is probably why many people, having worked this out, are not choosing to heed the "G's" exhortation to go back to work.
Day 167 31/8/20
Today I reach a milestone in my task of transcribing and editing all the published music of William Knapp. I have transcribed all except one of his 52 strophic pieces; one requires a visit to the British Library. Still to do are his 29 anthems, 10 of which I have done previously. That may sound like not so much, but anthems are much longer than strophic tunes. And having done that, there will be checking, revision, indexing, commentary etc. Still, I feel that the project is well under way now.
Day 166 30/8/20
It appears that playing wind instruments is not so dangerous as was thought. Without taking a breath, a wind player can sustain a musical phrase for far longer than a speaker can speak; therefore wind playing is actually worse at projecting any viruses than speaking. This thought occurred to me while watching on TV a socially distanced LSO performing the First Night of the Proms under Rattle in the RAH. Did they really need to be sitting so far apart, separated by perspex screens? It certainly did nothing for their ensemble, though odd lapses could also be explained by lack of practice. And where was the socially distanced audience?
Day 165 29/8/20
Today for the first time since March we turned on our heating. An unusually cold Bank Holiday had been forecast, following a summer with record temperatures. The southern USA has suffered one of the worst tempests on record. And still there are climate deniers. Likewise, in Trafalgar Square there is a demonstration of people who deny the existence of Covid-19. It shakes ones faith in democracy to think that such people vote.
Day 164 28/8/20
Rant coming up. The "G" has yet to realise that even if and when their amateurish efforts get the virus under control, life will not return to how it was before. Having had a taste of working without the expense, stress and time of the daily commute, are people really going to want to return to working in town and city centres, in order to keep coffee shops in business? And when social distancing becomes no longer necessary, employers will be able to save rent, with smaller working spaces. Win-win, as far as I can see. Except for the coffee shops. Tough.
Day 163 27/8/20
"Unfortunately" is a word which we hear often in restaurants and pubs, when we go for a meal, and ask what they have on their menu for a vegetarian who is also coeliac, and allergic to gluten. "We're on a reduced menu, because of Covid." And although food outlets are supposed to cater for those with allergies, gluten free food seems to come off the menu first. So our visit to North Weald as a trip out for a pub lunch was only partially successful. The menu on their website offered suitable food for us, but when we got there ... Heigh ho.
Day 162 26/8/20
I was kept awake by Francis last night, storm Francis that is, and woke up rather down in the dumps. But what has cheered me is that I have at last found a suitable company to deal with my second self-published book, John Bishop's Parish Church Music. They thought they couldn't do music to begin with, but seem to have changed their minds. (I wonder if business is a bit slack at present.) Anyway, I am making slow but steady progress with book #3, a complete edition of William Knapp's published music, some 89 pieces. I would never have got all this done without the Covid hiatus.
Day 161 25/8/20
Shops and pubs in Scotland are whinging because background music is banned, as it causes people to shout to be heard, and the virus likes shouting. Good for Scotland, say I, ahead of England, as in so much. Some of us loath background music, especially people who are hard of hearing, who get forgotten. In theory the music is supposed to be lower in England, but this requirement is being widely ignored. Wetherspoons are spot on on the background music issue; they cater for customers like me, who hate it.
Day 160 24/8/20
We read in the news that some Tory MPs are gunning for the Education Secretary, suggesting that his resignation might be appropriate. Does this give us hope that this might be the opening shot in a battle to gradually replace the present "G" with sensible Conservative MPs? There are such people. Fingers crossed.
Day 159 23/8/20
I'm feeling recovered now, and took a walk down to Wanstead to do some shopping. Then into a café for a coffee. It was fairly full of customers, sitting close together at the tables. Few masks were visible on them, ditto the staff. I had mixed feelings about this. Either they had all decided to ignore advice from the "G", having taken into account that there are just 17 recorded cases of Covid in our 300,000 strong borough. Or they hadn't thought at all. I decided to sit outside.
Day 158 22/8/20
I am recovering, but still don't feel like doing much. Once again, I am most grateful to the BBC for the cricket, which seems to be going in England's favour. Huzzah!
Day 157 21/8/20
I'm feeling under the weather today, with some bug (not the Covid one, I think; other viruses are available).
I have spent most of the day listening to the cricket commentary.
Day 156 20/8/20
We took advantage of the single sunny day this week for a trip to a pub in Stock, an Essex village, for lunch. After that we went to look at the local windmill, which is well preserved. Which led me to wonder, why do some people complain about the appearance of modern windmills generating electricity? Four sails good; three sails bad? No doubt in another two centuries these three-sailers will be lovingly preserved as "part of our heritage".
Day 155 19/8/20
Today I worked on the project I described on day 153. There are 89 pieces that I shall need to edit. Today I did four, and half way through a fifth. So it's a longish project. And they were short easy ones. In the evening I had an online sing with members of my choir. Although we were each singing just our own part, unheard by everyone else, it is a spirit-lifting experience to do any singing at all with familiar faces.
Day 154 18/8/20
What a surprise! Today for the first time I heard the S-word from a "G" minister. It was in the spirit of "Sorry for any inconvenience" rather than "Sorry I've made such an appalling blunder". Still, a small step in the right direction. Let us hope for more, maybe even from - no, I can't bring myself to name him. Perhaps they are learning how to do it from that most competent of political leaders, Nicola Sturgeon.
Day 153 17/8/20
I am tempted to have another rant about the "G". As a teacher I can understand only too well what unhappiness they will have caused. Instead I'll tell you that today I started my next big project; a complete edition of the 89 published works of William Knapp. I have scores of 29 of them made on previous occasions, some of which will need tidying up. The other 60 will have to be newly edited. I reckon this will keep me off the streets for the rest of this year, at least.
Day 152 16/8/20
Today I am having one of those annoying computer battles. I have been loyally reporting daily to Professor Spector's ZOE Covid-19 app, and I hope that anyone reading this does the same. But today it would not recognise me. "We can't identify you". Well, you've been identifying me for the last couple of months; why stop now? Tried changing password; no joy. Tried uninstalling and reinstalling; still no joy. I really want to help these scientists at Kings College and MIT, so why are they making it difficult for me? Anyway, an evening's singing on Zoom with The Madding Crowd has lifted my spirits, so who cares about errant computers?
Day 151 15/8/20
A guiding principle of my life has been: "Who's checking?" By that I mean that if I am told to do something, or not to, that is the first question I ask. For example, when I taught for the LB Redbridge, I was supposed to keep record cards for my instrumental pupils. I never did, and no one ever asked to see them. So when I read of the quarantine requirements on returnees from France, I wonder who is going to check that they do not leave their homes, even for exercise, for 14 days. Before the "G" lost credibility, there might have been good compliance. But now?
Day 150 14/8/20
Phew! And end to the hot weather which has rather marred our six days in Metfield. We both find that after a holiday we both need another day to recover from it, and thanks to the BBC I have had the perfect means of recovering; listening to the test match versus Pakistan, and watching the semi-finals of thw world snooker championship. And apart from a brief shopping trip this morning, today I have done nothing, with great success.
Day 149 13/8/20
On Monday (Day 146) we had tried to have a look round Metfield's St. John the Baptist church, which opened weekly on Mondays from 10-12. Only it didn't; it was locked against us. So when this morning we arrived at St Mary Magdalene church in the neighbouring village we, were pleased to find it open all day. Like St Michaels, Bungay, no more fussing about Covid than just a bottle of sanitiser. Same group of churches; same vicar. After siesta time we packed up and came home. In theory we could have stayed another night, but would have had to be out by 9 am so that our cottage could be "deep cleaned". Some people take Covid more seriously than others.
Day 148 12/8/20
My computer had a fit last night. It seems to me working again now, but if these entries stop for a day or so, it will be because it's had another. Today we visited Harleston and Bungay before our siesta, and went to Warbleswick, on the coast in the evening. Although a bit touristy, it was good to see the sea, and breath some cooler air. It's worth mentioning that Bungay church, which was open to all, simply had a bottle of sanitiser and a notice saying that it was your own responsibility to stay safe. No fussy yellow and black lines, etc., just relying on visitors to use their common sense. Well done, Bungay church.
Day 147 11/8/20
Today we visited other friends in Woodbridge. We decided to rely on Google maps to get us there. But to start with there was no mobile signal; then when "the lady in the car", as we call her, finally came to life, she seemed to be recommending a route that was manifestly circuitous. After a 180 degree turn, we relied on old technology, a paper map. As the Psalmist says, " The Lord ... maketh the devices of the people to be of none effect (Psalm 33 verse 10). We got there OK, and had a really pleasant visit in a beautiful garden.
Day 146 10/8/20
The golden years of my teaching career were 1971-81, when I taught music at a Junior school in South Woodford, where I still live. It is characteristic of the happy atmosphere in that school that today, after 39 years, three of us colleagues from that era got together at the home of one of us at Wytherstone, about half an hour from Metfield. There are three more that we are jointly in touch with, though of course many former colleagues have passed through into that great staff room in the sky.
Day 145 9/8/20
We parked at the nrarby village of Mendham and started a walk from a book of Suffolk walks. The Constable-like views of the Mendham marshes, towards the River Waveney, were impressive. But when this "walk" turned along a busy main road with no footway, and when the lane which led off it turned out to be non-existent, we aborted the walk, and repaired back to Mendham, which unlike Metfield has a functioning pub. In the evening I had a major intellectual achievement, in mastering the controls of the electric cooker. "Press this, then press that ..."'; you know the sort of thing. I got there in the end.
You had better be fond of wood pigeons if you come here. I awoke to their incessant song; quite musical in its way, but can pall after the first few hundred. We knew that we were in for another uncomfortably hot day, so we decided on the siesta principle. In the morning, we explored a few footpaths around Metfield, then holed up. In the evening we went to the nearby village of Mendham for a pub meal (not available in Metfield) and another short walk. All very relaxing.
Day 143 7/8/20
I am writing this in a 15th century cottage in Metfield, in north Sussex. Judith and I are here for a week's holiday, after a rather hot journey from South Woodford. So what is there in Metfield? There's a mighty church, serving the needs of a tiny village, and open for two hours a week in present circumstances, a closed pub, and community shop. And not a lot else. We have come here for a peaceful relaxing holidy, and I think we shall get it here.
Day 142 6/8/20
Some of today I have been searching or the right firm to deal with my second self-published book of West Gallery music, entitled The Parish Church Music of John Bishop. The first one was easy enough to get done, but now I am meeting problems. For example, one firm wants copy submitted as Word files; a bit tricky for music! Another seemed ideal until I found that they didn't do spiral bound; essential for music to lie flat on a stand. And asking Google for "Music self-publishing" found firms wanting me to submit my music as MP3 files, or similar. I am left with the impression that nowadays nobody is expected to be able to read that simplest of all languages, the language of music.
Day 141 5/8/20
Today is a significant birthday for Judith, and we celebrated with a visit to the Henry Moore Sculpture Park at Perry Green. It is a lovely park in itself, and the sculptures are well set out, all the better with today's sunlight. I fell to wondering why it is that I can enjoy modern abstract sculpture, and indeed modern art in general, but that despite being a musician I am unmoved by much modern music. The atonal school of Schönberg and his contemporaries leaves me cold. Yes, I know that that is a century old now, but I choose to regard it as modern. I cannot remember ever enjoying an atonal composition, and I have heard plenty.
Day 140 4/8/20
Walking in Epping Forest today, in a field I saw a group of a dozen or more people sitting in a tight group, presumably picknicking. I have no idea whether they were "legal", but they clearly had no cognisance of any "G" restrictions. "Good for them", thought I. They are using their common sense, rather than trying to make sense of the "G's" rules. The scientists tell us that it is quite difficult to transmit the virus out of doors. Let us all use our common sense, as there is such a serious common sense famine in Whitehall.
Day 139 3/8/20
Oxfam has reopened, and I took round a shedload (well, it has been in my shed) of donations. Bric-a-brac, pictures, books, CDs, yes please. Old video tapes, no thanks. But have you any vinyls? They have become collectable. No, I hadn't, they went long ago. But should I wait till video tapes become collectable, or send them to landfill?
Day 138 2/8/20
Today for the first time in my life I have played two games of go on line, using a mysterious programme called OGS. During lockdown the Arundel Go Club meets every Sunday, and finding myself free I logged on to them. You have both OGS and Zoom running at the same time. It was convivial, as far as that is possible on line, but without the other members to guide me, I would never have found my way through all the caves of OGS. It works perfectly well once you have got going, but it strikes me as one of those programmes with too many bells and whistles, which in the end make life harder rather than easier.
Day 137 1/8/20
Back to grumpy old man mode. I use Freecycle frequently, and the number of items that I have been able to give away runs into dozens now. But I do feel it is bad manners for someone to express interest in an item, make arrangements to collect it, and then simply not turn up. What is the pyschology of these people? All they have to do is open the outer, unlocked, door of our porch and take the item.
Day 136 31/7/20
It would be so easy to have another rant about the "G" following today's news, but I fell to thinking about the benefits, such as they are, that Covid-19 has brought. The environment has had a respite from the human onslaught; for how long remains to be seen. Employers and employees have learnt the value of working from home; some of that should continue. (And I have learn to use Zoom). The national declutter must be advantageous, especially if people use charity shops and organisations such as Freecycle. And "I haven't had time to do it" rings rather hollow now for many of us, though not our loyal key workers.
Day 135 30/7/20
A member of my choir intends to organise a singing session in the open air for a few of us. This has sharply divided opinion. Some are all for it; others say we should strictly observe "government" guidelines. I have the impression that this type of division obtains in the country as a whole. Some still feel bound by instructions from the "G". Others, including myself, have so little respect for the "G", following all the dithering, U-turns and downright lies, that we choose to make our own decisions. Which means that the "G" is losing control, as so many of its requirements cannot be policed.
Day 134 29/7/20
If you tried to look at this dairy yesterday or this morning, you may have had the dreaded Error 404 message. (What happened to Errors 400-403? It is not for us mortals to know.) I feared a hack of my website, but it didn't seem likely. Heart Internet, who host this site, are pretty secure and reliable, and in any case, why should anyone want to hack me? I found that the entire folder of 800+ files that comprise my personal website had vanished into cyberspace. I re-uploaded them, and all was well. I decided that an evil cyberwitch (see Day 118) had cast a spell.
Day 133 28/7/20
Today I received a letter from an MP, Dr. Julian Lewis. He was the one who lost the Concervative whip through refusing to to obey a wholly illegal and unconstitutional instruction from the Prime Minister to vote for Failing Grayling as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I felt that any evidence of independent thought by a Conservative was to be cherished, and wrote and told him so. His friendly reply, as well as thanking me (a non-Conservative) for my support, told me that his postbag is 100-1 in support of his decision.
Day 132 27/7/20
A few days ago I attached a third feeder to my bird supply centre. This one had a natty little cover to keep off rain, and make it awkward for large birds to land. And I filled it up with dried meal worms. To start with, no avian interest. But this morning a murmuration of seven teenaged starlings found it and polished off the lot within minutes. I thought those goldfinches were greedy enough (see Day 127), but that gang of starlings made the goldfinches seem quite restrained. Didn't hear them doing much murmuring.
Day 131 26/7/20
I feel really sorry for holidaymakes in Spain suddenly finding that a 14 day quarantine period faces them on their return. I wonder how many will actually observe it. But once again, heavy-handed muddle from HMG. A blanket rule, as always, when there are large areas of Spain where the infection rate is no worse than in Britain. And perhaps travellers should at least have been warned of the possibility of this happening. But that would have entailed forethought ...
Day 130 25/7/20
Today was another decluttering day, this time looking at cassettes. I had over 100, of which I play no more than half a dozen regularly. There are recordings I made during my years as an advisory music teacher. Why on earth have I hung on to recordings of school concerts made over 30 years ago? And similar stuff. I shall keep a few recordings of my own concerts (see day 90) as I feel quite attached to my own school cantatas. But more than half of these cassettes are, sadly, bound for the dump. Why do we hang on to stuff that we haven't used for years and are never likely to?
Day 129 24/7/20
Today brought political news that I never expected to hear. The Prime Minister has admitted that he might have been wrong about something! Up to now I have rated him on a 10 point scale at about minus 5. Maybe he moves up to zero now. We still await the apology to the loved ones of those who died unnecessarily, especially the health workers who were denied proper equipment. Still, it's a move in the right direction. For once.
Day 128 23/7/20
Today, for the first time in how ever many months, Judith and I had dinner in an Indian restaurant. We were celebrating our 54th Anniversary. We had booked an outdoor table. The waiters dutifully wore masks, and took contact details in a book. We of course were unmasked; it's tricky eating with a mask on; but felt in no particular danger. The population of the Borough of Redbridge, where we live is about 300,000, and about 20 inhabitants are known to have the virus. There may be some more as yet unregistered, but the chances of meeting one in a South Woodford restaurant are tiny. Our risk assessment was that there was nothing at all to worry about.
Day 127 22/7/20
For our first 48 years here, we saw no goldfinches in our garden, but the ones we've got now are making up for lost time. They have nearly gobbled up my entire supply of sunflower seeds, forcing me to order more from RSPB. House sparrows have abetted, but it is mainly greedy goldfinches. This morning a marauding cat made a four foot leap from standing and got a paw on one feeding. The bird got away, minus some feathers, and we soon heard a cat warning being broadcast to the local goldfinch population. Will this experience reduce demand at my feeder? I doubt it.
Day 126 21/7/20
Today I attended a medical centre, three stops away on the Underground, for a blood test. Last time I went, in lockdown, you went in, sat it a chair for a short while till it was your turn. This time there was a 30-40 strong socially distancing queue down the street, which was barely moving. I find it difficult to stand for long periods, so I turned tail and went home. I phoned them later, and found that a receptionist would have come out, handed out queueing tickets, and that if I had told her that I needed to sit down she would have let me wait inside. You just have to know these things. No one tells you beforehand. And I wonder what their plans are in the case of a sudden thunderstorm.
Day 125 20/7/20
I have spent the entire day decluttering. I have much stuff that could be given to a charity shop. But when you try, they are not too keen, as so many other people have the same idea. Not wanting to have this stuff piled up inside, it has ended up in the garden shed. I hope the roof won't leak too much when it rains. Clearly a little-by-little approach will be needed.
Day 124 19/7/20
Today I had a most unusual experience. We were getting a weak wifi signal in our back room downstairs, the router being upstairs in my office. I consulted Which?, and found that we needed a wifi extender, which I ordered and arrived yesterday. Today I plugged it in to a mains socket on the landing, pressed a button on the router and another on the extender, and it worked! First time! No need to download an app, or feed in a password, or tell it my mother's maiden name. I am just not used to bits of hardware working first time. Now we have a good strong signal downstairs. Chalk it up!
Day 123 18/7/20
Today I have been thinking about risk assessment. No one can be 100% certain that they won't get the virus, as the Argentinian fishermen have recently discovered (look it up!) So when going out anywhere, I have to decide whether to wear both mask and visor, visor alone, neither, or not to go there at all. I ignore all advice from the "G", but take into account whether I am going inside, what sort of precautions will have been taken there, whom and how many I shall meet, and whether those people are likely to have been taking precautions. This enables me to live as close to a normal life as is possible. The unnuanced instructions from the "G" are a blunt instrument which I feel disinclined to follow.
Day 122 17/7/20
Today I received my new credit card. It needed validating. It the good old days, like ten years ago, you made a brief phone call, answered a few security questions, and it was valid. No longer. I had to download an unwanted app onto my smartphone (what happens to people without smartphones?) and answer a catechism of questions, includung name, address, date of birth, you name it, most of which the bank had already. This was done by poking at the tiny querty keyboard on my phone. My fat fingers were scoring about 60% success. The whole process took about 20 minutes. And then there was decommissioning the old card; that wasn't simple, either. Modern technology should make things easier, not harder.
Day 121 16/7/20
Today brings the best political news since the crisis began. The election of Julian Lewis to the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, in defiance of instructions from No. 10, is an indication of independent thought by a backbench Conservative MP. Is there a chance that others will follow his example, leading eventually to a replacement of the present cabinet by Conservatives who have the ability to run a country? There is no immediate prospect of a General Election; the only way that the urgently needed change can come is from within the ruling party.
Day 120 15/7/20
Today I ventured forth wearing one of my newly acquired visors. They are readily and cheaply available on the internet. It feels a good deal more comfortable than a mask, though probably both together give even greater safety. It certainly makes communication easier, especially if one of the parties has reduced hearing, and is used to partial lip-reading; a point which I have yet to see mentioned in the press. I am wondering whether wearing one of these, which directs your breath downwards rather than straight ahead, will have any use in either singing or across-the-board go.
Day 119 14/7/20
I don't usually report dreams. But last night's was so special that I feel I must share it. I was watching Michael Gove being interviewed on TV. My overseas followers may not know that he is probably the worst of the right wing / libertarian / Brexiter / generally nasty group of politicians who try to give the impression of governing Britain. Several times he put his tongue out, straight to camera, and obviously towards the viewers. And lo and behold, this morning we get the news that, despite Gove denying it just two days ago, it is to become compulsory to wear face masks in shops. Not until Friday week, of course; any sooner would contravene the "G's" TLTL policy (see day 116).
Day 118 13/7/20
As reported, yesterday my internet went down. Looked at Downtracker. Virgin Media all OK. Rang VM. "The fault is in your router. Check cables; turn it off for 10 minutes; blah blah blah." Did all that. No joy. Gave up. Turned it on today. Worked perfectly, same router. Also yesterday, my external keyboard stopped responding. Did all the usual stuff; gave up. This morning, powered up, prepared for one of those computer battles; websites, forums etc. Keyboard worked perfectly. These experiences convince me that computers are not the logical entities which they are supposed to be. They work by magic, and from time to time evil spirits cast spells on them.
Day 117 12/7/20
My internet has been playing up (thank you, Virgin Media) which is why today and yesterday's entries have been delayed. What a boon the internet has been during lockdown! And how bereft we feel when it is suddenly removed! Do we depend on it too much? How would we be managing without it? Phones? Letters? It doesn't bear thinking about.
Day 116 11/7/20
Well. I am really sorry for all those people in Belgium who had been planning to visit Leicester, and have now been banned from doing so by the Belgian government. Here in Britain we have had the predictable slight rise in infection, owing to the easing of the lockdown a week ago. Will the "G" anticipate the spikes expected in other northern cities, and prepare for them in advance? Or will they apply the usual TLTL principle (too little too late)?
Day 115 10/7/20
Many food outlets have realised that there is a business opportunity in offering delivery. For example, we get good service from Osolocal2u, horrible though that name is. Today we tried Cookfood.net. They have a glossy printed catalogue of over 100 dishes, catering for vegetarian and gluten free, both of which we need. And the prices are low; I ordered on line our dinner for two for £10.50. And then at the credit card stage:"Minimum order for delivery £40; please a further £29.50 to your order." Sneaky! That was not apparent on the glossy catalogue or earlier on the website. Think before you click!
Day 114 9/7/20
I watched the Test Match summary on TV. The ground at Southampton had a tiny handful of spectators. I cannot see why some hundreds of spectators could not have been safely admitted. There would have been plenty of room for distancing. The problem seems to be a lack of nuancing in the official instructions. (I cannot bring myself to use the G word.) Another example is in the use of the age 70 as a sort of cut-off point; do you instantly become more at risk on your 70th birthday? More common sense is needed, and some less rigid rules, if rules we must have.
Day 113 8/7/20
Today I pushed the boat out a little further, if that is the metaphor that I want, by making two trips on the Underground. Just one stop, to Woodford, but I felt perfectly safe, bemasked, in a carriage with just two fellow passengers, one at each end of the carriage while I occupied the centre. Coming back I had a carriage to myself. This is where we have to use common sense. The "government" tell us to avoid public transport, and obviously a crowded carriage presents a danger. But I felt that my journey was no more dangerous than walking down the street.
Day 112 7/7/20
In 1981 I wrote a beginners' recorder tutor for the London Borough of Redbridge, which was widely used. It was based on certain ideas which I had about what children find easy and what difficult, and was intended as a means of learning to read music. This morning I heard distantly a child practising one of my tunes. So the book is still in use 39 years later! I have composed throughout my life, including an orchestral overture, a string quartet, much music for choir, and much for small wind ensembles. But it seems that the most frequently played of my legacy of compositions is to be those simple recorder tunes.
Day 111 6/7/20
Today we drove through Epping Forest, on our way to a garden centre. Those heavy logs are still in place (see day 45) as I predicted they would be for a long time. At least the concrete blocks have gone. People are allowed to go to the Forest if they want to now, but I suppose it is just too much effort to collect up those logs. I wonder where they keep them all? News from the bird feeder: we now have starlings and a chaffinch.
Day 110 5/7/20
I had no idea of the voraciousness of goldfinches. We never saw them in our first 49 years here, but since I have installed the bird feeder two of them have gorged themselves on sunflower seeds, such that they will need replenishing after less than a fortnight. Our other main visitors have been house sparrows, who seem to come behind the goldfinches in pecking order, and blue tits, though we're not seeing so much of them now. Wood pigeons try to crash in on the feast, but because of their size and weight they fall off the feeder, and have to feed ingominiously on the crumbs left on the ground by the other birds.
Day 109 4/7/20
Profressor Spector now thinks that, from the ZOE Covid-19 data that we are all sending him, he can predict where the next Leicester-style spike will be. He has specified three Midland towns. It will be interesting to see, firstly, if he is right, and secondly, if he is, how dilatory the "government" will be in taking action. I went out for a walk this evening and glanced into a few restaurants and a pub. There were few customers, but those that I saw were not generally observing the two metre rule. If London is about to lose its status as one of the safest areas, the Professor will probably be first to know.
Day 108 3/7/20
Today I received another letter about jury service (see day 93). It informed me that since I am not eligible for jury service, I shall not have to do jury service. I find it reassuring that those responsible for administering the justice system are capable of making such a logical deduction. On a more important topic, my newly installed bird feeder was visited today by a goldfinch. And I have had an illicit haircut; see my facebook page for a picture.
Day 107 2/7/20
One often hears expressed the hope that certain changes resulting from the lockdown might continue when it comes to an end. Such as working from home, reduced pollution, etc. I see today that when pubs reopen, loud music will be forbidden, so that people don't need to shout to make themselves heard, thereby projecting viruses. Hooray! Let's hope that one becomes permanent!
Day 106 1/7/20
Each Wednesday midday sees the Starmer show;
We watch the PM squirm.
Can MPs find no better CEO
To lead the Tory firm?
Day 105 30/6/20
Well well. The "government" has taken up the suggestion I made on Day 97, and realised that control of the lockdown has to be applied on a regional basis. Too little too late, as we have some to expect, but let us hope that they learn some lessons from the Leicester experience. Did you know that Kings College's C-19 scientifically collated data, (Day 97 again) has been rejected by the "g" as being "too confusing"? And by the way, apparently the practice of using quotes for the G word is spreading.
Day 104 29/6/20
Today decluttering has turned to old papers. Amongst these I have a boxful of family history sheets, tracing my mother's ancestry back to 1575. The research was carried out by a second cousin resident in Iowa City, (now deceased), who travelled to the UK many times in search of data. This was in the '90's, before the days of www.ancestry.co.uk. It would be many hours' worth of data entry to produce a family tree with modern software. But is it worth it? My son has no interest, and is childless; my one maternal cousin may be, but is also childless. So would it not end its life in recycling?
Day 103 28/6/20
Today we were invited out for breakfast; the first time for me since 1962. That was when the Master of my college regularly invited us students, so that he could have a look it us and see how we were getting along, and for which purpose we had to miss a lecture. Today it was just to meet friends, and the reason for the early trip was to avoid London traffic, which is already building up again. It was a bit windswept outside, and the local robin seemed to think that we had invaded his territory.
Day 102 27/6/20
As last Saturday, four of us assemble in a garden for bridge, as last week. But it is windy and chilly, so, bemasked, we play inside. That may well have been illegal, but we felt safe enough, and kept an eye out for any passing police. Probably not as illegal as the noisy party nearby neighbours held in the evening, and no one seemed to send for the police then. As many of the population seem to, we are easing the lockdown in our own way, and at our own speed.
Day 101 26/6/20
At last we hear something from the government about re-opening theatres. As usual, the arts come bottom of the list. And nothing about concert halls. Still, it's a start. On the BBC red button this is described as a "five-stage approach." I rather like the idea of five-stage theatres; we've had multi-screen cinemas for decades. I wonder how that will work ...
Day 100 25/6/20
And here we are on day 100! People's activities as reported today seem to be ensuring that my prediction about the second wave will be correct. And of course all this news about C-19 conveniently smothers the fact that we continue to hurtle unnoticed towards the government's goal of achieving a no-deal Brexit. And more serious that either of these is climate change; what happened to that? Which is the best one to worry about? Since there is nothing any of us can do about any of them, just pour another beer and enjoy life!
Day 99 24/6/20
So, it appears that it is government policy to have a second wave of the virus. Nothing surprises any longer from that Comedy of Asses. All we can do is to make the most of the temporary respite in lockdown. Once again, there is no specific guidance for us over-70s who are fit and have no "underlying health conditions". Except, of course, that it is OK to "follow your instinct". I wonder where mine will take me!
Day 98 23/6/20
A member of London Gallery Quire has been getting us all to send in recordings of ourselves singing our part in a well-known item in our repertoire. We have a guide track to keep us more or less in time. He then edits these into a single choral performance. The results are rough and ready, (we can do a lot better than that when we're all together) but it all helps to keep our spirits up, deprived of our regular fixes of choir practice and the occasional performance. And it was only when I listened to the recording of my own voice that I realised how dreadfully out of practice my voice has become.
Day 97 22/6/20
Each day I report my state of health on the ZOE Covid app, and I hope that anyone reading this does the same. Nearly 4m people provide data daily to Kings College, London, who analyse it scientifically and make their findings readily available. And from the data it appears that any easing of the lockdown needs to be done by regional authorities, rather than the national government, as conditions vary. This would have the further advantage that there might be more compliance, as trust in the Westminster government dwindles.
Day 96 21/6/20
Today, as we approach our century, I looked back at the resolutions I made on Day 2. Two I have carried out fully; I have been for a walk every day, and I have revised all my music files; yes, all 1135 of them. While I was at it I updated my website, prepared a catalogue of my own compositions, and did some more work on my forthcoming self-published edition of John Bishop's music. (Thats the 18th century one). I have done much decluttering, but that is never-ending. I have not done so well with the Japanese. I have found it hard to motivate myself without a class. And I have yet to play go on line, though I have two regular contract bridge online dates. Not too bad, could do better. It looks as if there is plenty of time yet!
Day 95 20/6/20
I once had a boss who said to me in a private meeting, "You must agree with me." Well I didn't, but kept quiet at the time. But that seems to be the basis on which the PM has dismissed experienced ministers from his cabinet and replaced them with ... what we've got. So now at last even some Conservative MPs are beginning to realise what an ineffective government we have. But will they realise that the only way to slay this dragon is to cut off its head?
Day 94 19/6/20
Today we visited a friend in Docklands by car. She took us for a pleasant stroll in Mudchute Park and along the Thames Path. I realised how narrow and confined my exercise excursions had become; "Which of the dozen or so local walks shall I do today?" Even Epping Forest and Woodford Green can begin to pall. It is time to become a little more bold in using public transport out of rush hour. The threat level has gone down from 4 to 3, we are told. I expect that means it's OK to do that.
Day 93 18/6/20
There are not many advantages to being in your late 70s, but one has just been brought to my attention. I have been summoned for jury service. Someone's data is inaccurate or out of date, because you can't do it if you are over 75. I have done it before, for a case which lasted a fortnight, and which in my opinion could have been over in about three days if everything had not been so ridiculously spread out. A whole day for one expert witness, whose testimony could be summed up as "I think he dunnit". So I'm glad to be out of that malarkey.
Day 92 17/6/20
This week we have some welcome rain forecast, which the garden needs. It occurred to me just how unhelpful it is to be told that there is a (say) a 60% chance of rain. That could mean the chance of getting a two minute shower, or several hours of the heavy stuff. We've had both, with the heavy stuff during the night, fortunately. But "60%" tells me nothing about whether it is wise to go out for a longish walk.
Day 91 16/6/20
I learnt a sharp lesson about modern life today. I was expecting a consultation phone call from my GP; those are what you get during lockdown; and it didn't come. So I rang the surgery, and was told that the GP had tried to phone me, but I hadn't answered. It transpired that she had rung my mobile, whereas the previous two calls had been to my trusted landline. So, I shall have to do what everyone else does; keep my mobile switched on; keep it near me; and tell it to ring instead of just vibrate. Get up to date, Francis!
Day 90 15/6/20
Today, with many a backward nostalgic glance, I chucked out for recycling the full scores of the five cantatas that I composed for my Junior School choir and orchestra in the 70s and 80s. I put a tremendous amount of effort into those. And all the parts had to be copied by hand. But no one will want them now. Junior Schools don't have big orchestras nowadays. And if they did, they'd want modern rum-ti-tum music, which I refused to stoop to. Heigh ho!
Day 89 14/6/20
People seem to be deciding for themselves how to ease the lockdown. And four of us got together in a rather attractive back garden belonging to two of us, and played contract bridge across a table for about three hours. Was that against the rules? Do you know, we neither knew nor cared. The only downside was, when the scores were totalled, my partner and I came second.
Day 88 13/6/20
"Black Lives Matter". Yes, of course they do, and so do white ones. I wonder how many of either colour will be lost through today's non-socially distanced demos. It is understandable that some people relish the chance to be out in a crowd, doing what they are used to being able to do. But will it be worth it? The Black Lives Matter movement doesn't need Covid martyrs.
Day 87 12/6/20
Today I received a phone call from my doctor. She wanted to tell me the results of a recent test, and what had to happen next. It lasted about 15 minutes. There was no sense of hurry, and I was able to ask her about a couple of other matters. During lockdown, the surgery is doing as much as possible by phone and email. No telephone scramble at 8 am for a hurried appointment at the surgery. How civilised! Can one hope that this kind of service will continue if and when lockdown ends?
Day 86 11/6/20
At last, political news that isn't about you-know-what. The government is relaxing some of its import requirements following Brexit! Yes, what a good time to have all the Brexit news swept under the carpet, so that all the problems that Brexit will cause can be forgotten and ignored until it is too late. Hello, Brexiters! We Remainers are still here, watching your every move.
Day 85 10/6/20
As predicted, ill-thought-out. "No, really officer, I do live on my own. That woman you saw in my house was ... er ... an emergency plumber". And what about someone living alone who has a disability, making travel difficult? Would it be so unreasonable for the people living in the other household to visit her/him?
Day 84 9/6/20
7x12=84. So today we end our 12 week lock down. At least, we were told that it was to be for 12 weeks. So, I await the government's new advice avidly. No I don't, it'll be the usual ill-thought-out nonsense. By the way, it was only when I applied my knowledge of the seven times table that I realised that I had missed a couple of days: 2nd April and 6th June. You have heard of senior moments; these must have been senior days.
Day 83 8/6/20
So New Zealand is Covid free. So is the Isle of Man. And in most European countries, the virus apears to be under control. Except ... How can the government possibly claim that they did the right thing at the right time, when we have the worst record in Europe for death rates? All right, I am a grumpy old man. And I shall continue to be grumpy until these asses in Westminster get a grip.
Day 82 7/6/20
How's this for confidence in the future? Today we booked our summer holiday, a week in a cottage in Suffolk. The organisation which manages these holiday lets is taking a sensible approach, in that if what we have booked turns out to be illegal when the date comes, we get most of our money back. Not all; there is a non-refundable booking fee, but that's sensible to deter non-serious bookings. They have to keep the right side of the law; as for us, we would follow Rasputin's example and trust our instinct!
Day 81 6/6/20
No entry for today.
Day 80 5/6/20
How much at risk am I? Pluses: I eat and drink as medics advise; I don't smoke; I am not obese; I have no "underlying medical condition", I exercise; and live in a low risk area. Minuses: I am male and over 70. I find it difficult to assess just how much risk I am taking on my occasinal foray into shops. And I am getting up courage to make a bemasked bus journey. I wish that HMG would not lump all us 70s together.
Day 79 4/6/20
I have composed music since I was teenaged. Today, as part of the decluttering process, I looked through a pile of old compositions. I find it really hard to just put them in the recycling; they are my babies. But will any of them ever be performed, or in some cases performed again? I have an overture for full orchestra which I have shown to three conductors. Who were all polite, but ... And many other bits and pieces. Heigh ho!
Day 78 3/6/20
I never thought I'd live to see this day.
For sheer ineptness, Johnson comes in first.
Of premiers, I'd thought that you were worst,
But now I wish: "Come back, Theresa May!"
Day 77 2/6/20
I have realised today how tense, in both body and mind, I have let myself become. No, it is not fear of the disease, it is partly not knowing when this situation will end, and partly helpless fury at the spectacular incompetence of our government. So, I have resolved to relax, consciously. And I kicked off today with a lengthy walk in the morning, and an afternoon being a couch potato, no computer work, no domestic tasks, just watching the snooker, and in the evening (unusually) there was some interesting science and history on the telly.
Day 76 1/6/20
Today we ventured forth to Waitrose, to pick up a click-and-collect order. Which took 25 minutes to arrive. We could have shopped for it in less time. And the shop seems to have things well organised. We are feeling that bemasked we could actually shop there without too much risk.
Day 75 31/5/20
My 77th birthday. And today we have decided to be a little more bold in venturing out, bemasked. I have entered a convenience store and made a purchase! And collected a takeaway meal, my birthday treat. The government's advice "Recognises that some over 70s are fit and active", but doesn't say what difference that makes. But the corollary of the Rasputin incident is that we may all be governed by instinct rather than law. So off I went.
Day 74 30/5/20
When Johnson knows his case is weak
Just presses mute; won't let them speak,
And tells police, "Don't mind the law.
It's one of us, so please ignore".
Challenge Rasputin's rule, who dares?
Free speech, the rule of law? Who cares?
Day 73 29/5/20
Oak Apple Day. And we had a nice walk in Epping Forest, but now I have a nagging worry. Not that I might get the disease; the infection rate in London is below 1%. But to see the government blatantly manipulating the news media is worrying. And it looks as if the Durham police have been "leant on". We no longer trust the BBC. Sky News seems better, but the online Guardian seems the most reliable source of news now.
Day 72 28/5/20
Today I wrote to my MP, The Right Honorable Sir Iain Duncan Smith. You can guess the contents. It won't do any good, but at least it slightly relieves my feeling of powerlessness. And I finished the latest project, a booklet catalogue of my 56 West Gallery compositions. When the West Gallery fraternity and sorority (siblinghood?) starts meeting again, I'll see if anyone wants one.
Day 71 27/5/20
I was late uploading yesterday's diary entry. Today I was contacted by a friend in Germany to ask if I was OK. I am fine, folks, and I had no idea that anyone was following my diary day by day. If at all. I am writing it as much for my own sanity as anything else. I'm OK, but the country that I live in is far from OK. I wonder if the Germans could be persuaded to swap Angela Merkel for our idiot. No, they don't deserve that!
Day 70 26/5/20
Will there be enough Tories with consciences to bring this man down? It's possble that if they do oust him that Johnson will go with him. Then what? An improvement? Or out of the frying pan? What is clear is that the new Rasputin is undermining democracy itself.
Day 69 25/5/20
It appears that thousands have signed up for a virtual visit to Durham on 31st May. I wasn't expecting quite so much fuss over my birthday, but I'll be there!
Day 68 24/5/20
Can history itself repeat?
Yes, spirits from the past can be
Amongst us yet; as we may see,
Rasputin lives in Downing Street!
Day 67 23/5/20
Today, proudly wearing my new fashion accessory (see day 65), I ventured forth to a pharmacy. There was an array of notices on the window. One asked for only two customers at a time. Another, bearing the NHS logo, recommended social distancing and handwashing, and then said "Do not enter this building". Which left me wondering if mixed messaging is now official government policy.
Day 66 22/5/20
Today, as a result of taking a wrong turning, we discovered that the Conservators of Epping Forest have unlocked the gates of the many small car parks. These were locked just before the last public holiday. And have been unlocked just before the next one! The logs preventing roadside parking are still in place, and I daresay will remain there. But once again, mixed messages and muddle.
Day 65 21/5/20
Today we welcomed our first visitor of the lockdown. And she kindly brought a hostess gift. No, not wine, chocolates or flowers. She is a brilliant sempstress and embroiderer, and she had made us some pleated face masks, the sort you can put a piece of kitchen paper into for extra protection. And of course they had attractive floral designs. I shall feel quite stylish wearing one of those!
Day 64 20/5/20
Today we watched Prime Minister's Questions on the BBC Parliament Channel, or the Keir Starmer Show, as we prefer to call it. A friend of ours, who is a retired consultant neurologist, thinks it possible that Johnson may have suffered slight brain damage as a result of his severe illness with Covid. But how would you tell?
Day 63 19/5/20
Today I finished another project; updating and tidying up my website. What next? Tidying up my toolshed. Mmm, perhaps when it's not quite so hot outside. I'm going to make a list of all my West Gallery compositions, 55 at the last count, and make a booklet out of it, together with a few samples. That'll keep me busy for a bit.
Day 62 18/5/20
I am gradually getting bolder. We have been observing the lockdown pretty strictly, as we are both in our 70s. But the scientists are telling us (not the government ones) that actually it is quite difficult to contract the virus in the open air. Yesterday I bought some fruit in a shop, the sort that has all its fresh stuff ouside. And on Sunday I sat in their garden with not one but two friends for a chat and a cuppa. If I go down with this virus, I really doubt if it will be because of either of those contacts.
Day 61 17/5/20
Today Zoom went down on a national scale. As well as closing a meeting that we were attending somewhat early, it also affected the government's daily excuses statements. By relying on Zoom, the government is effectively contracting out its communication. Should they be so reliant on a private organisation? The present custom of contracting out as much as possible means that when things go wrong, it's usually somebody else's fault.
Day 60 16/5/20
A newspaper report tells me that approval of the government is actually rising! We currently have the least competent goverment, of left or right, that I can remember in my 76 years. Brexit, the last election, and now this. My confidence in British democracy is at an all time low. If that makes me a grumpy old man, so be it.
Day 59 15/5/20
Today we went to Sewardstone, for a walk in Lea Valley Park, which is quite extensive. No sign there of closed car parks, or any other restriction. It does make all those huge concrete blocks and logs in the Epping Forest car parks seem officious and heavy handed. Later we went on a garden centre, and I spent my first cash for two months. Their card machine was kaputt.
Day 58 14/5/20
I wonder how we would have coped with lockdown during the pre-computer age, in which I grew up. I think the "I don't need a computer" brigade (yes, there are still some around) are currently learning their lesson. Since we are so computer-dependent, I spent some of today rehabilitating an old laptop, just in case my lovely Asus ZenBook were to go on strike. It swore at me for not downloading updates, but now it's functioning. As Milton wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait." And it has a CD drive!
Day 57 13/5/20
As we begin week 9, I notice that during the lockdown I am not getting as tired as I did in "normal" life. I suppose it is the feeling that there is plenty of time, and no deadlines; nobody depending upon what I am doing being done by a certain time. There is a lesson here which I hope I can carry forward into post-lockdown. If it ever comes.
Day 56 12/5/20
I feel really sorry for English workers if they are pressurised to return to possibly unsafe workplaces. Of course I am missing the choir and the go club and talking to friends face to face. So I decided to count my own blessings. I am not alone; I am in good health; I have a generous pension; I have plenty to do; kind neighbours do our shopping; and Epping Forest is in nearby walking distance. I have much to be thankful for.
Day 55 11/5/20
To start with it was loo rolls and pasta that were unobtainable. Now you can find most things that you need, but there are national shortages of, wait for it, flour and elastic, which tells you something about what people are up to. We have made our own supply of face masks, which apparently protect others rather than the wearer. If only we all had the posh ones which let the virus neither in nor out, the epidemic could surely be controlled. But once again, there is a shortage ...
Day 54 10/5/20
So now we have seen the Prime Minister trying to look statesmanlike. This is not the place to pick holes in his speech; plenty of other better qualified people are doing that; but what intrigues me is that he has indirectly made a case for an English Parliament, as we see the UK government making rules which apply only to England. At the moment I wish I were living in Scotland!
Day 53 9/5/20
I watched a play by Fletcher on Youtube this evning; Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare is supposed to have had a hand in it, but that wasn't apparent. Good acting from The Globe company, but I don't warm to a play with a ridiculous plot. Two bosom friends come to blows over a woman. She's gay and doesn't really want either.
Day 52 8/5/20
I went for a long walk around streets today. In most the idea of socially distanced street parties seems to have been something of a damp squib, with just the occasional group sitting outside and having cups of tea etc. In just one street, where some organiser must have lived, the majority of residents seemed to be outside, still observing the rules, more or less, but chatting with neighbours over boundaries. It looked harmless and sociable, though I could have done without There'll always be an England blaring out from a loudspeaker.
Day 51 7/5/20
Surprise surprise! Mixed messages! Tomorrow is VE day, a public holiday, and with sunny weather forecast. "No, I didn't say anything about easing the restrictions. Or if I did, I didn't really mean it". What a shower we have in the government, with all the experienced ministers replaced by inexperienced right wing liberterian leavers.
Day 50 6/5/20
As Michael Heseltine so wisely remarked, Johnson waits to see which way people are going, goes to the front and says he's leader; witness Brexit. The lockdown rules are fraying, so he talks of some relaxation. Tails don't wag dogs.
Day 49 5/5/20
It depends what you want, of course, but I have the impression that there is actually an improvement in the fare available on TV. Far less football and sport generally, except the snooker repeats which I have been watching avidly. Fewer unreality shows and similar rubbish, and Question Time without a studio audience can be quite civilised.
Day 48 4/5/20
So the government has at last given a vague idea about easing lockdown. And as expected, it is all about restarting the economy, i.e. making money. I wonder when the social consequences of lockdown will receive attention. I think there could become a point where mental health problems (I will not misuse that term "issues") overtake physical ones.
Day 47 3/5/20
We are told that German churches are reopening, but not allowing singing, which tends to project the virus. This bodes ill for an early return to rehearsing for the choir that I conduct. Unless of course I tell them to just hum? Then I wouldn't be able to bitch at them for poor diction. Hmm.
Day 46 2/5/20
At first it looks as if I have to eat my words of 30th April. The government claims to have reached its 100,000 tests a day target. Until you note that 40,000 of them are in the post, and may or may not have arrived and been applied. And then what happens to the results? All contacts traced? "The target has been reached" reminds me of "The battle for production has been won", in Orwell's 1984.
Day 45 1/5/20
Heavy handed or what! In Epping Forest there are heavy concrete blocks and large logs blocking off most possible parking places. I suppose this is in anticipation of the bank holiday this weekend. But it would have needed a crane to put all those blocks in place, and I wonder how long it will be before they are removed.
Day 44 30/4/20
I suppose we should have known that the "government's" target for testing would be missed. The trouble is that after so many broken promises and downright lies, from Brexit onwards, I am disinclined to trust anything that they say.
Day 43 29/4/20
I have now more or less finished a task I set myself on Day 2; revising all my West Gallery music files. And I have been for a walk each day. The other tasks haven't fared so well, but the one thing that we're not short of at present is time. I am finding a life without deadlines has taken a bit of getting used to. Next major task: updating my website.
Day 42 28/4/20
Most people indicate whether they are going left or right as you pass in the street or in Epping Forest. Often you get a smile, a "Good morning" or a thumbs up. Some are not so considerate, just walking, or often running, straight ahead. But there was no problem yesterday, now that the weather has turned cold. I met only two people on my 40-minute walk.
Day 41 27/4/20
Would you believe it; this evening the internet goes down (Virgin Media)! At a time like this! And it concentrates the mind on how much we need it. If this lockdown had happened in the pre-internet age, which we oldies remember so well, no Zoom, no working from home, no online communities, I wonder if the telephone network could have coped.
Day 40 26/4/20
The lockdown rules are getting sillier by the week. A notice outside Highfields Gardens, a small local park, forbade football and cricket. So hockey or rounders would be OK? An encouraging sign was another person sitting alone on a taped off park bench. Cometh the revolution!
Day 39 25/4/20
The press reports an increase in speeding, and that I have noticed, especially on the Woodford High Road. I have seen cars speeding at 40 or 50 mph past a very visible speedcam. I suppose the boy racers are taking advantage of the sparse traffic, but also, I suspect, because they think the police won't have time to follow up the offences. As they probably won't.
Day 38 24/4/20
So the government is coming under pressure from its own backbenchers to reveal its doubtless carefully planned exit strategy. From what I see on my daily walks many people are gradually relaxing the restrictions anyway. How sensible it would be for the government to oversee this in an orderly manner. But ...
Day 37 23/4/20
Since the local authority stopped collecting recyclables, it has brought it home to me how much reusable stuff we used to chuck. Paper and glassware, tins, etc. are piling up in our shed, and larger items in the front room. At least we have the wormery for kitchen waste. There will be have to be several car trips to the dump when it reopens.
Day 36 22/4/20
While the Asses self-distance in Commons and Lords,
The Lions risk daily their lives on the wards.
When this World War is won, and the death rate is zero
Our queen should bemedal each NHS hero.
For the Asses, who gave them too little, too late?
Ignominious discharge, their only just fate!
Day 35 21/4/20
That psychiatrist (Day 7) warned us to expect "wobbles". Well I think I've had one. I strive to keep my resolution to keep cheerful, but the wobble made its presence felt with a couple of sleepless nights. In normal circumstances we could at least show our anger with the government on a demo, but ...
Day 34 20/4/20
Some of my recent entries look like the rants of a grumpy old man. OK, I am a GOM. But I have decided to count the good things that are happening; the fantastic NHS; the kindness of neighbours; people learning use the internet in new ways; uncrowded and unpolluted London roads. Let's hope that some of these positives will continue when this situation finally ends.
Day 33 19/4/20
I have taken my weekly day off from computer work, but this has left space in my mind for me to feel inexpressibly angry at the way that the government is treating our NHS staff. And there's not a thing I can do about it. I can only hope that this gross incompetence will be remembered by the electorate, and that the next election will give this "government" the kicking that it deserves.
Day 32 18/4/20
It's very strange, this business of the authorities not wanting you to sit alone on a park bench. Walking around Wanstead Flats (part of Epping Forest) I saw plenty of people sitting alone on the ground. Some were family groups, one even committing the mortal sin of having a picnic! What harm were they doing? And anyway, the police wouldn't have the staff to prevent such activities. Yet in a park it's naughty. Very strange.
Day 31 17/4/20
It is heartening to see new delivery services springing up to fill a need. Marrfish were formerly a wholesale firm, but since the restaurants have closed they have kept their staff employed by delivering to individual customers, and a good service it is too. Likewise Osolocal2u have sprung up out of nowhere; they are just four weeks old, but deliver good value and good quality produce. Above all, they are reliable, and come when they promise. It is good to see enterprise and initiative when our news bulletins are full of incompetence and stupidity.
Day 30 16/4/20
So Captain Moore's fundraising effort for the NHS has reached £17,000,000. Well done Captain Moore. That is about 3/4 of a day's contribution from HM Government, if they had not forgotten about the £160,000,000 of new money per week for the NHS that the Brexiters were promising if the vote went their way. Well it did. So where's the cash, Brexiters?
Day 29 15/4/20
I walked through Elmhurst Gardens today, a local park, and saw that some jobsworth has officiously tied red tape round all the benches since yesterday. Presumably someone doesn't want us to sit down, though you still can do so quite easily, as I discovered. Why does a person sitting down on a bench represent more of a danger than someone standing up? Is that the London Borough of Redbridge's best idea for stopping the virus spreading? And there are plenty of other benches elsewhere where you can sit, take a rest, and enjoy the sun.
Day 28 14/4/20
Today I have assembled a folder entitled legacy. In it are copies of all my West Gallery Sibelius files, together with a spreadsheet giving details of each one, and a hyperlink to each file. I hope that it will not be needed for many a year. But to put off making it is about as sensible as putting off making a will. There is a link to it on the desktop of my laptop, and it is also on a memory stick. I hope that no one reading this will need to know it!
Day 27 13/4/20
Today I finished the first part of one of the tasks I have set myself. I have examined all 1136 of my West Gallery files, found some misplaced and some missing, made minor repairs to others, hyperlinked all of them to my database, and noted those that need major revision. In the evening J. and I watched a memorable slow TV programme about a shepherd gathering sheep from Scafell for shearing. Very scenic, relaxing, and totally free from background music! Wonderful!
Day 26 12/4/20
We are trying to give both each day and each week some structure. As last Sunday, after doing emails I turned off this computer for the rest of the day, and did domestic tasks, just for a change. And we have our weekly takeaway meal on Sunday evening. Not much, but it makes the day just that little bit different.
Day 25 11/4/20
Today we took delivery of four plastic buckets from, I regret to say, Amazon. We needed one for garden use. But you could only order them in fours; only £2 each, which means that slave labour is going on somewhere. And would you believe that although these four stack neatly inside each other, they came in four separate half-metre cube sized cardboard parcels, with much needless paper packing inside. At least all this packaging is recyclable. Oh Amazon!
Day 24 10/4/20
It seems to me that there is a chain of cause and effect between David Cameron's running scared of UKIP in 2016 and our election of this spectacularly incompetent government. A wave of anger sweeps over me each time that I contemplate those dedicated health workers without proper protective equipment. And what happened to the £1,600,000 per week for the NHS that the Brexiters promised us?
Day 23 09/4/20
Today Judith and I walked through the forest down to Highams Park lake. We sat on a bench, enjoyed the sun, watched the waterfowl (I've never seen so many coots together), had our thermos of coffee, and walked back home. According to some police, we shouldn't have sat on that bench. We should have kept moving. Why? "All right then, officer. Arrest me. Charge me with sitting on a park bench, and see what the magistrate says." Fortunately police were conspicuous by their absence from Highams Park.
Day 22 08/4/20
Today we enter week 4 of our self-isolation. I am heartened by the way we have both found plenty to do. Time is not hanging heavy; indeed I am delighted to have had time to catch up on so much which has been on the back burner. But I do feel frustrated by my inability to influence events. Write to my MP? Iain Duncan Smith; don't make me laugh. I can send money to some charities, and join the national hand-clap at 8 this evening. Drops in the ocean, but at least I feel I've done something.
Day 21 07/4/20
The Prime Minister's letter, received today, tells me that I may go out once a day for exercise. Only once? Some dogs will take a dim view. And how will it be policed? "Hello, hello, hello! Didn't I see you taking your exercise walk this morning, sir?" "Oh, this one isn't for exercise, officer, I'm on my way to the supermarket to buy ... erm ... a box of matches".
Day 20 6/4/20
So farmers and market gardeners are concerned about finding labour to gather harvest. Let us hope that Britons willing to work for the minimum wage will come forward. But might the eventual outcome be to concentrate some minds on the thought that maybe Brexit wasn't such a bright idea?
Day 19 5/4/20
Today I attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship on line. This worked well, as most of the meeting is silent, with only the occasional brief spoken ministry. Then this afternoon I played bridge on line for the first time in my life. I suppose we are all learning to use the internet in unfamiliar ways, and will probably carry on doing so after the crisis passes.
Day 18 4/4/20
There has been a scary lack of leadership talent in all our political parties. In recent years, the only leader for whom I felt any personal respect was Sturgeon, though I am not particulaly an SNP supporter. But now we have Starmer. I have met him and heard him speak. He seemed to me to possess that quality so spectacularly lacking in Corbyn, Johnson, May and Swinson: common sense.
Day 17 3/4/20
Government "thinking" in February:
"We don't need investment in breathing machines,
Nor in test kits, in masks, in research for vaccines.
This problem's Chinese, and it won't travel west,
So let's just cross our fingers and hope for the best."
Day 16 2/4/20
No entry for this date.
Day 15 1/4/20
As we enter week three of our isolation, I am still not clear just how vulnerable we are. We are well into our 70s, but have no lung-affecting "underlying health conditions". All our shopping is done by kind friends and neighbours, and we do go out for a walk once a day. We give people a wide berth when we pass in the street. Are we being over- or under-cautious? Government advice continues to be unclear, and who trusts the government? At least the police have made it clear that as far as they are concerned it's OK to drive to where you want to take your walk.
Day 14 31/3/20
I have been wondering what the upshot of this crisis will be. Things certainly won’t be the same. After WW II public sentiment swung to the left. Could this happen again, now that the disastrous results of the chronic underfunding of the NHS and other public services have been brought into such sharp focus?
Day 13 30/3/20
Yeaterday we ordered a consignment of frozen fish from Marrfish. It came today! I recommend them. If you want a lot of fish, that is. On the other hand, the local dairy that claimed to be delivering milk and many other products, has run out of, er, milk. But we can get that from the local filling station. So, be inventive, if you can't find what you want.
Day 12 29/3/20
Another Sunday, when I rested from computer work. In any case, the clock-jump always hits my body-rhythms hard. Waitrose emailed to offer us, as over-70 regular customers, one of their 400 newly released delivery slots. Four minutes later we found we were too late; all gone. But what we have found are some lesser known food outlets who are responding to the new situation by introducing deliveries, and we actually booked one, even though we have to wait a week!
Day 11 28/3/20
Today I saw a 100-yard queue of self-distancers waiting their turn to enter Waitrose, in the chilly wind. And yet within short walking distance we have half a dozen well stocked convenience stores with no queues. OK, not so strong on the fresh meat, fish or bread, but you could get most of what you need to keep alive.
Day 10 27/3/20
A correspondent suggested that we should not have made our car trip yesterday, on the way to our exercise walk. Government instructions are silent as to whether this is permissible. A police spokesman has condemned such trips as an unnecessary journey, but one from a different force pointed out that in a car you are less likely to be a danger to yourself and others than walking along the street. Mixed messages, as we have come to expect from this irresolute government.
Day 9 26/3/20
We are apparently allowed one exercise excursion per day. Today we drove to Theydon Garnon church for a short walk and rest in the sun. It was deserted and peaceful, apart from the distant M11 traffic. So in theory I shouldn't now go out again for a second walk, but who's checking?
Day 8 25/3/20
The second of our twelve weeks starts, and we are doing pretty well. The sunny weather helps me to keep my resolution to remain cheerful. I walked down to Highams Park for my daily exercise, and saw a woman with two dogs, that had been taught to pick up litter and put it in a nearby bin. It took one of them five attempts to get a discarded bag into the fairly narrow slot. I gave them a round of applause.
Day 7 24/3/20
A psychiatrist on Sky TV gave advice on keeping sane while self-isolating.
We think we had already worked all that out for ourselves! Gratifying.
- Create daily and weekly routines;
- Give yourself goals;
- Get out when you can;
- Expect wobbles;
- Be kind.
Day 6 23/3/20
The PM has advised people like us to have our supplies delivered. We discovered today that our three local stores, Waitrose, Sainsburys and M & S, are all refusing to accept new delivery customers, as is Ocado. What a nincompoop that man is! At present we are dependent on friends and neighbours for supplies.
Day 5 22/3/20
We have decided to keep Sunday as different from other days as possible, just to give our lives some structure. I didn't turn on my computer; Judith attended an online Quaker meeting; we both went out for lengthy excursions, and we had a celebratory Indian takeaway.
Day 4 21/3/20
Judith drove to part of Epping Forest today, and said she had never seen so many parked cars and so many people of all ages in all the years (49) that we have lived here. Why? Where else is there to go now, on a sunny day?
Day 3 20/3/20
I've seen both selfish- and selflessness in S. Woodford today. Selfish are the shelf strippers; selfless are the volunteers of "Triangle support" (we live in the Church End triangle.) They are folks who have organised themselves into a support team for people like us who are heeding the request for over 70s to stay at home. Shopping, advice, and companionship are available on WhatsApp. I hope we all know how to use that. And fortunately we have other friends lining up to do shopping for us as well.
Day 2 19/3/20
The 12 week house arrest period hasn't officially begun yet, but Judith and I are taking no chances. I am relieved to find that we may go out for exercise, so long as we don't interact with anyone. I intend to spend my 12 weeks as follows:
- Go for a walk each day.
- Study Japanese for an hour; as much as my brain can take.
- Learn to use KGS, and play some go on line for the first time in my life.
- Declutter the house.
- Check and revise where necessary all my music files. There are thousands of them.
I've started on three of these.
Day 1 18/3/20
Home from the go tournament in Portree, which looks like being the last for some time. Came home pretty tired, and with a slight cold; no, not CV, but other viruses are available. I caught up with emails in the morning, then watched bad TV programmes for the rest of the day.