Tag Archives: BBC News

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 20 – The reality of a drive-through test centre

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 19

SUNDAY 7th JUNE

When I brush my teeth, I have always cleared my mouth by drinking water straight from the tap – and, in the recent hot weather, was drinking a lot of water from the tap. Also, I have been waking up a lot during the night recently, my mouth totally bone-dry – and I was getting up, going to the loo and drinking water straight from the sink’s tap.

I woke up in the middle of last night wondering if the high calcium level in my body could be due to this drinking from the tap. I might have mentioned before that science – and, in particular, chemistry – is a big blind spot I have. The build-up on the end of the tap I always thought was probably built-up spittle and general gunge but, of course, it is really probably calcium from the very very hard water which London has.

Or is it?

Or something.

What do I know? Not chemistry.

But, from now on, I will drink bottled water bought from supermarkets, rather than water straight from the tap. Something I thought I would never do. I mean, I thought, why BUY water when it is on tap for free?

Paranoia? Who knows?

Not me. And certainly not at 3.00am in the morning.

Plus ça change elsewhere. We are still in lockdown. Households are not allowed to mingle with other households and, outside, we have to keep at least 2 metres away from other people unless we live with them in a single household.

“…the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer…”

MONDAY 8th JUNE

I had a tiny problem with the trackpad of my 9-year-old MacBook Pro laptop, so I took it to the excellent MacSmiths repair shop in Cambridge Heath/Hackney.

To get there, I had to take three trains each way – a Thameslink train, an Underground train and an Overground train. On each of the six trains I used, I was the only person in my carriage.

At MacSmiths, I asked if business had been badly affected by the lockdown because people had been too nervous to risk travelling to the shop.

“Not really been affected at all,” was the reply (I paraphrase). “If it’s a choice between the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer, the fear of not having a computer seems to be worse for people.”

Green close (good). Hay fever (bad).

TUESDAY 9th JUNE

My Eternally UnNamed Friend came up to see me in Borehamwood and, keeping 2 metres apart, we walked across Green Belt land close to my house.

This is allowed – You can now visit someone you know provided you don’t go inside their house and provided you keep 2 metres apart outside.

But, inevitably, this unleashed hay fever on me.

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles guaranteed to make nervous people keep socially distant from me,

Although the official UK total of coronavirus-related deaths is now over 40,000, reports say the real death rate is probably over 60,000 if you compare the increase in deaths this year with the number of deaths in the same period last year.

WEDNESDAY 10th JUNE

Yesterday’s hay fever symptoms seem to have been wider-spread than just in Borehamwood. Today I got this message from someone I know in one of the other nations in the UK. (Note to Americans reading this: the UK comprises four nations.)


One of the UK’s drive-through coronavirus test centres…

I wasn’t feeling great yesterday. A sore throat and running nose. Probably just a cold or hay fever but, for safety, this morning I went to one of the drive-through coronavirus testing centres manned by the Army.

I went to the centre because I thought I might end-up doing the swab test wrong if I got a kit to self-administer at home.

It turns out that, at the drive-through testing centres, you have to self-administer the test in your own car…

The Army blokes give you instructions by phone as they stand by your closed window. Then you open your window and they lob in the swab test kit from 2 metres away.

You sit in your car and test yourself by sticking the swab up your nostrils and into the back of your mouth. If you make a mistake, you use the hazard lights on your car to attract their attenton. If you feel unwell, you honk your horn.

I made a mistake with the swab. So I had another conversation by phone with the man despite the fact I could actually hear him talking to me on the phone standing right by my closed window.

The whole thing was surreal.

When you’re finished, they leave a big yellow bin by your window and then leg it away fast it so you can lob the test in the bin.

All rather comical and strange.


The total deaths are now 41,128 – up by 245 in the last 24 hours.

THURSDAY 11th JUNE

I got another email from my friend about her drive-through test:


I think I fucked-up the test after all that. I got this one-size-suits-all email:

The instructions for a self-administered swab test to be taken in your own car…

NHS COVID-19 NOTIFICATION

Your coronavirus test result is unclear. You’ll need to apply for another test.

If you have not had symptoms of coronavirus, you don’t need to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when symptoms started.

You may return to work on day 8 if you’ve not had a high temperature for 48 hours and feel well. Talk to your employer first.

If someone you live with has tested positive, continue to self-isolate. Follow the guidance in the text message they received.

If this result is for a care home resident or someone who is shielding, they may need to be tested again. Follow the specific guidelines.

If this result is for a child or staff member at school/nursery, tell the school or nursery.

Contact 111 if you need medical help. In an emergency dial 999.


FRIDAY 12th JUNE

Cabin fever has kicked-in.

It is five months since I had a haircut. I am not foolish enough to attempt a self-haircut, but I shaved off my 5-week beard and tried to refresh my self-image.

SATURDAY 13th JUNE

My friend had another swab test – this one NOT self-administered. It was negative.

Elsewhere, today was the day on which normally, annually, Trooping The Colour takes place on Horseguards Parade in London. Because of the coronavirus ban on large crowds and social distancing, a smaller-scale event was held inside Windsor Castle.

Leicester Comedy Festival judge Louisette Stodel was listening to the Radio 4 Lunchtime News and says it reported:

The BBC covered the Welsh Guards in their “bare skins”…

“The Welsh Guards have performed a socially distanced tribute to the Queen in their bare skins.”

Obviously, the script read “bearskins” not “bare skins” but on radio this vital nicety was missing.

It is, however, an odd way to phrase a report. So I mused to Louisette that perhaps there had been a bet in the BBC Newsroom to see if they could get away with that phrasing as a laugh.

I thought I was joking but maybe there was, indeed, a bet because Louisette told me that, in the 5.00pm news bulletin, the BBC solemnly reported that, to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday:

“The Welsh Guards in their bare skins performed a special tribute designed for social distancing.”

I do seem to remember there was once a bet in a newsroom where someone reckoned he could include the names of all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs in a serious bulletin without anyone noticing. Which he succeeded in doing.

My memory tells me this truly happened. But maybe it was in a fictional film. Or maybe I just imagined it.

The line between reality, imagined-reality and straight-up fantasy is beginning to blur.

Already no-one knows what day it is.

Every day seems like a Sunday because all days are the same, most shops are shut and the streets are only sparsely dotted with people.

Eventually, as I understand it, our Sun will expand and explode, taking everything with it.

We and everything which exists and which ever existed on Earth will be stardust.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose to an extent.

But Tempus fugit trumps all.

The bits and pieces past and present of the United Kingdom (courtesy of Stephen O’Donnell)

… CONTINUED HERE

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My friend Lynn has just faced death from a falling iguana in Costa Rica

Last week, I was watching the BBC News Channel, like I do.

The BBC weatherman came up on screen, as he does.

He started talking about the unusually low temperatures in Florida and how the National Weather Service there had issued a warning about the dangers to the public from iguanas falling out of the trees.

Specifically, the National Weather Service in Miami warned residents:

“Don’t be surprised if you see iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s.” 

When temperatures drop, apparently iguanas tend to become immobile.

As a result, they lose their grip and fall out of the trees, remaining stunned on the ground until they thaw out.

Male iguanas can be up to five feet long and weigh 20 pounds. You do not want your loved ones to be hit by a falling iguana and there are a lot of them about: female iguanas can lay around 80 eggs per year.

The Associated Press reported that the number of iguanas in South Florida has “increased dramatically in recent years,” so death by iguana is an increasing danger.

The BBC News weatherman last week had done additional research. He said that apparently, in these low temperatures, iguanas have trouble mating. He said (and you have to say it out loud) that this was known as a reptile dysfunction.

This is why I pay my TV Licence in the UK: to be simultaneously and succinctly informed, educated and entertained.

Today, a week later, I received an email from my friend Lynn (not to be confused with comic performer Lynn Ruth Miller), currently in Costa Rica. It reads: 

“Waiting for rain to stop. We had a massive iguana thud from a tree onto a table where we were eating.”

So the danger continues, increases and may spread further.

You have been warned.

This is very reminiscent of a scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 movie Magnolia

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Blow me! – My sex education

There was an item on the BBC News Channel last night in which two teenagers were explaining how the Scout movement had now introduced sex education into the curriculum to join tent erection and tying knots in ropes. For some, there might be no distinction. The newscaster asked if there would be a badge for it. The answer, sadly, was No.

Then, this morning in the bath, I turned on Radio 4 and – blow me – Woman’s Hour was talking about sex education.

What is going on?

In my day, sex education was non-existent but, from peripheral evidence, it seemed to involve stamens on flowers and the human bowel system.

I am old enough to have hit puberty before the Penguin English Dictionary was published. This was the first widely-available UK dictionary which included 4-letter words and defined clearly what other sex-related words actually meant.

As my parents were Scottish, my sex education came largely through reading the News of the World on a Sunday (and looking at the pictures).

Sex for me was a strange world of naughty vicars, women with large lines between their squeezed-tightly-together breasts and evil people of opposite sexes who were “living in sin” together, mostly in flats and bedsits. The News of the World would expose these people in long articles with pictures. They were not celebrities, just seemingly normal people who were, in secret, immoral and evil and had started to live with each other without being married but – ever vigilant – the admirable News of the World and, to a lesser extent, The People hunted them down and exposed their sinful ways in print.

My sex education also involved Carry On films at the cinema – breasts and a lot of running about and screaming seemed much involved in sex.

At home, we had a large pre-Penguin dictionary circa 1935.

This tended to confuse me.

When the News of the World and The People reported sex cases, the key words mostly seemed to be “rape” (as both a verb and a noun) and people having “carnal knowledge” of each other.

When I looked up “rape” in the dictionary, it said it was an agricultural crop grown in fields and further investigation uncovered the fact that seeds and oil were a related outcome. This “rape” was a noun and there appeared to be no verb for the word. So it seemed unlikely it was what was being described in the News of the World; but it was worth my keeping it in mind, just in case.

The alternative definition for “rape” – a verb – was to “carry off by force”. I knew this was a good definition as I had vaguely heard of The Rape of the Sabine Women, in which the Romans carried off female members of some tribe or other – well, it must have been the Sabine tribe, obviously. I was a very good researcher, so I also knew this incident had been turned into the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. So that also obviously involved rape, too. But this didn’t help much. Though I did know the Italians and French made sex films with lots of large naked breasts which were shown at small cinemas in London’s West End.

This whole carrying off by force lark was presumably akin to kidnap though some of the cases reported in the News of the World did not seem to involve any carrying off to other locations. It was a puzzle.

Then there was the problem of what “carnal knowledge” actually meant. The dictionary defined “carnal” as “fleshly”, so “carnal knowledge” meant “fleshly knowledge” so, presumably, these people being exposed in the News of the World had seen other people of the opposite sex without their clothes on and that was what the big hoo-hah was all about.

It was all a great mystery to me and still is.

If anyone can help, I would be very grateful.

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Give me The Daily Mail not the cultural snobbery of The Guardian and The Independent

I was at the Tate Britain art gallery this afternoon, which is obviously replacing the Groucho Club as the in-place to meet media types. On the steps outside, a BBC News crew was interviewing someone. Inside, a film crew was shooting footage for some Channel 4 arts programme. And, when my friend and I were looking at a Damien Hirst painting of spots, we got asked our opinions on modern art in general and Damien Hirst in particular by a reporter for the Mail on Sunday.

He told me that, usually, he had to apologise for being a Mail reporter which doesn’t surprise me as the very name Daily Mail is like a blue rag to a left wing bull.

And why?

Perverse, pseudo-intellectual liberal airheads with superiority complexes, that’s why.

It’s not reverse snobbery.

It’s simple, straight, uncomplicated and very nasty snobbery.

In January this year, the Daily Mail’s average net daily circulation was 2,136,568.

The Guardian’s circulation in the same period was 279,308.

The Independent’s was 185,035.

The Mail on Sunday’s average circulation? – 1,958,083.

The Observer? – 314,164.

The Independent on Sunday? – 152,561

So why deride the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday?

Because ordinary people read them. People who did not go to Oxbridge and do not live in Islington. The sort of ordinary people the Oxbridge Islington wankers look down on. The sort of ordinary people the Oxbridge Islington wankers make increasingly crass TV shows for. They wouldn’t be caught dead watching the TV programmes they make because they think they are better than that.

And the ratings are falling for these entertainment shows.

Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor are made by people who understand popular culture. Increasingly, though, TV entertainment shows are made by people who don’t; they are made by people with superiority complexes and a contempt for their audiences.

They are made by people who look down on Daily Mail readers as mental and cultural inferiors.

But who is out of step with reality? Who is out of step with what the majority of people in this country think?

From the circulation figures, people who write for and read the Guardian and the Independent.

(More on this topic HERE.)

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The Prime Minister, sex, sleaze, prostitutes and Boris Johnson

A friend of mine – an Englishman in Italy – used to work for a large international conglomerate and, in the 1990s, once had to take a briefcase stuffed with cash to Rome Airport and hand it over to a civil servant. Everyone accepted that was how the wheels were greased. That was how the Italian state worked.

I also used to know someone involved with an Italian TV show which had to employ a girlfriend of now-deceased Prime Minister Bettino Craxi on their series. In fact, that underestimates her role: she actually arranged orgies for Prime Minister Craxi. My chum thought, “Ooh, now there’s a big secret I know about!” But then he discovered everyone knew about the supposed ‘scandal’ and it was almost routinely printed in Italian newspapers and magazines; everyone just accepted it. That was how the Italian state worked.

So I am a tad surprised as well as being in moral confusion about the current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s problems.

He is immensely entertaining, which is always a bonus in my eyes. A bit like London’s current mayor Boris Johnson but with dyed hair. My heart takes flight when I hear any news item about either Boris or Silvio. I just know it’s going to be knockabout laugh-a-minute stuff.

But now Silvio is accused of having sex with an under-aged prostitute. This is not good. He faces a court case and a potential 15 years in prison. This is definitely not good.

The age of consent in Italy is generally 14, though 13-year-olds can legally have sex with partners who are less than three years older. This seems much too low to me but, if that is the law in Italy, then that is what good Italians Catholics have decided is morally acceptable. As I understand it, the girl involved in the Berlusconi case was 17 when the alleged sex took place and, while prostitution is legal in Italy – just as it is in the UK – it is illegal in Italy for a man to have sex with a prostitute under 18.

So the girl involved was three years over the general age of consent but one year under the legal age for sexual consent as a prostitute. This seems a very complicated moral quagmire within Italy, though I can see why sex with a prostitute under 18 is proscribed.

However, both Silvio and the girl totally deny sex took place. If they both deny it, then quite how evidence can be presented that it did take place I don’t know. There was a payment of £6,000 but apparently well after the alleged sex allegedly happened and Silvio and the girl both claim the payment was connected to something totally different. He also got her released from police custody in a separate incident, but that is more abuse of power than directly relevant the sex charges. It’s all a bit murky but sounds too circumstantial for a prosecution.

They could be lying through their teeth, of course, though I’m not sure why a young prostitute would not admit sex took place if she is going to become rich on selling the whole story to the media.

There is also the question in my mind of why on earth Silvio Berlsconi would have to pay for sex with a girl. Call me cynical, but the man is a billionaire, he owns a string of high-profile populist TV stations so he can get anyone he wants onto TV and he is the most powerful politician in the country! Any one of those three facts, in my experience, would mean lithe young nymphettes would be throwing themselves at him for free every day! The casting couch stretches beyond the movie business.

Heavens! Nymphettes throw themselves at impoverished comedians in dodgy basement clubs on a nightly basis let alone powerful billionaires who can get them on several national television series.

BBC News reported that Silvio Berlusconi reckons he has been in court over 2,500 times during various cases over the years. He has been accused of tax fraud, corruption, infidelity, Mafia involvement, you name it. I’m surprised he hasn’t been accused of illegally importing birds’ eggs. At least once he was accused of paying bribes on behalf of his companies at a time when no large company in Italy could operate without paying bribes. It struck me as a purely politically-motivated prosecution. That was/is how the Italian state worked/works.

Last year he was accused of being a member of an alleged secret organisation allegedly called P3 – a revival, it was said, of the infamous Masonic lodge P2 – Propaganda Due which existed from 1946 to at least 1981 and of which Silvio really was a member.

I have no idea if he is guilty or innocent of the current charges. He is certainly not an innocent man in general. And Italy – run by P2 and the Mafia from the end of the Second World War to perhaps the mid-70s – is most certainly not an innocent country.

P2 comprised prominent politicians, industrialists, bankers, journalists and military leaders, the heads of all three Italian intelligence services and even the pretender to the Italian throne. In 1977, P2 took over the influential Corriere della Sera newspaper; it was rumoured to be involved in the 1982 killing of ‘God’s banker’ Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London, and it even had rumoured links to the 1980 bombing of Bologna railway station and the 1978 killing of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the heavily-infiltrated Red Brigades (allegedly because he had started to talk about NATO’s secret Gladio network).

It feels to me that Silvio is being stitched-up at the moment. He may very well be a reprehensible, ageing sleazeball, but this is a case where every fact seems to swirl in very muddied waters indeed.

It is not as if Silvio Berlusconi was running a prostitution racket, is it…

Is it?

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World War 3, dead Australians, America’s wars, Randy Newman and God’s plan

Because the world, like the cafe in the famous Monty Python sketch, is full of spam, my preferences on this blog are set up so that I have to approve all comments before they appear.

When I woke up this morning, I was notified of a new comment on my blog of yesterday about Painting a New York fart, Tony Blair and Jo Brand. I would have approved the new comment this morning, but it seems to have been un-submitted. This is very sad. It told me:

“The crazy part is, World War 3 is not the most Earth shaking event to come within the next 4 years, The Pole Shift will cause even more damage and destruction, but in the case of the Pole Shift it will be for a Good cause with Divine purpose and for humankind to experience the 1,000 years of peace it has been promised for decades.”

Now, I watch the BBC News channel, Sky News and Al Jazeera regularly, some might say addictively, but this particular news had passed me by and I’m all for learning about new things and hearing original thought.

The comment came with a link to a webpage and perhaps may not be unconnected to the fact my Twitter account is now being followed by @ProjectJesus, the “Global Christian Community Appeal” which is “seeking one million fellow Christians to join (them) in a 21st century pilgrimage for Jesus.”

I presume @ProjectJesus is the same as www.projectjesus.com unless there are two competing projects – always a possibility as divine multi-tasking is not unknown.

I’m saddened this morning’s new comment was un-submitted not just because I enjoy original thinking, but because the concept of World War 3 is quite interesting. I think we may not know it has started until after it has finished.

The 1914-1918 war was originally called The Great War. (Note to Americans: that’s the 1917-1918 War, as far as you are concerned.)

So at what point did The Great War start being called World War 1?

Was it before or after the 1939-1945 war started? (Note to Americans: that’s the 1941-1945 War, as far as you are concerned.)

Surely you could not have had a so-called World War 1 until you had a World War 2… and it is only journalists, historians or political speechwriters who can declare World War 3 has started or happened.

Perhaps World War 3 started on 11th September 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. Good ol’ George W Bush (never primarily known as a great linguist) decided that this had precipitated what he called The War on Terror. He could just as easily have said it had started World War 3, though the economic effect of that name on stock markets around the world might not have been too good.

The so-called War on Terror and its ramifications and outbursts over the last ten years have definitely been worldwide. We may already be living through the mid-point of World War 3. Perhaps we won’t know until some clever historian or influential TV pundit  decides to re-name The War on Terror as World War 3, just as The Great War was re-named World War 1.

But, getting back to World War 3 Predictions, the web page says – without explanation – that World War 3 “would result in countries like Australia almost getting wiped out from the face of the Earth”.

This seems a little harsh. Even Randy Newman in his wonderful song Political Science in which he wants to nuke all countries which hate America, writes:

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’ too

What has poor Australia done to get wiped off the map in World War 3?

I think we should be told.

I want to hear more.

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