Tag Archives: lockdown

John Fleming’s Weekly Diary – No 26 – on Times Radio and pagan fertility rites

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 25

Despite Lockdown slowly lifting, many train carriages into London are still empty due to COVID-19

SUNDAY 12th JULY

In my last Diary blog I mentioned that the government had announced Christian churches can open for private prayer but there can be no singing for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

Yea, Holy Water hath become hand sanitiser (Photo by Peter Stanford)

I expressed some doubt that this was true. But today angel-voiced singer and Henry VIII impersonator Peter Stanford confirmed:


It is quite true about singing in the Church of England. In my church, the lockdown service on Facebook (originally from the vicar’s front room, latterly from the church itself), the service lasts half an hour.
The choir are singing on Zoom but it is not the same. Where the Holy Water was is now a hand sanitiser dispenser.


Also continuing from my last Diary blog, I asked Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation, how my canine twin Rigby was progressing. If you are a new reader, it is complicated but involves calcium and kidney damage.

Andy replied with a mute video, saying: “Your twin is virtually skipping. Vast improvement and doing very nicely. He is one happy dog.”

MONDAY 13th JULY

(Relevant academic name changed below to prevent blushes)

Today I met up with someone I have not seen since the coronavirus started months ago. She suggested we meet in Brompton Cemetery in London, next to Chelsea’s football stadium.

Grade I listed Brompton Cemetery, London, is the resting place of Suffragette Emeline Pankhurst.

She told me that it (the cemetery, not Chelsea’s football pitch) is a well-known pick-up spot for gay men and, sure enough, there were occasional lone men sitting around looking at their mobile phones or enjoying the reasonably warm weather.

“How did you find out this is a gay pick-up spot?” I asked.

In Brompton Cemetery: “Hello, Mr Wallace

“When my son was small and was learning to ride a bicycle,” she told me, “we used to come down so he could practise. And, one day, Mr Wallace his art master and another man came out from behind a bush by a gravestone.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“My son said: Hello, Mr Wallace and Mr Wallace said Hello to my son…”

“Did your son ask you about this afterwards?”

“No. My son didn’t think it was strange that Mr Wallace suddenly came out from behind a bush in a graveyard, but I was surprised.”

TUESDAY 14th JULY

…Interviewing me is always a mistake because I witter…

Today, I was asked to contribute to a Times Radio piece on late lamented Douglas Gray of The Alberts. It was a section of Mariella Frostrup’s show in which journalist Nigel Williamson highlights particularly interesting recent Times obituaries.

I had been asked how I wanted to be introduced and I suggested “comedy blogger” but, presumably because that sounds a bit like the ne-er-do-well I am, they introduced me, harking back to an earlier century, as a “TV producer”.

Interviewing me is always a mistake because I witter and burble, not helped if I hear my own voice coming back at me. Mariella Frostrop and Nigel Williamson know how to do it.

WEDNESDAY 15th JULY

Spellcheck: I am invited to take a swan test

It looks like I’ve been randomly chosen to have another self-administered COVID-19 swab test.

I received a letter today from the Department of Health & Social Care, the NHS, Imperial College London and market research company Ipsos-Mori.

It will be interesting to see if, this time, I can avoid almost choking to death when shoving the swabs down the back of my throat.

Interestingly, Spellcheck is quite insistent it should really be a swan test.

That would not be easier, but it might be more interesting.

Coronavirus designer masks have now started appearing…

THURSDAY 16th JULY

Coronavirus face-masks are becoming such an item of occasional clothing that designer masks have now started appearing.

My local shop in the high street has a fine collection.

There are even masks for children, although people under ten years old are not required to wear them at all.

FRIDAY 17th JULY

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to encourage live performances to re-start from 1st August

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that live performances can re-start from 1st August provided social distancing and other COVID-related precautions are taken.

This will be quite difficult for theatres and I can’t see it really happening with ordinary comedy clubs which largely (perhaps that is not the right word here) take place in small, stuffy rooms above or below pubs. Also, comedy works best if the audience (if you can get one) is packed tightly in.

I hope to be proved wrong, but I can’t see the general comedy ‘circuit’ re-starting until next Spring – if then.

There is also the looming threat of a ‘second wave’ COVID outbreak.

Someone I know reckons she knows a statistical person in Whitehall who is involved in the UK Government’s preparations for worst case scenarios and they are planning fallback positons for a second wave in October lasting to Christmas.

Separately, someone I know who has dealings with Intensive Care nurses in Wales tells me that the NHS there is contracting specialist nurses from September (presumably to anticipate an October resurgence).

With luck, none of this will be necessary though, in his briefing, Boris Johnson mentioned that the Nightingale Hospitals (including the 4,000-bed one at ExCel in London) will be kept available until next March.

SATURDAY 18th JULY

A pagan fertility pole stands ready and waiting for potential human sacrifices in Borehamwood…

In more fantastical news, the tall fertility pole in front of my house has not yet been used for human sacrifices.

But, with each May Day that passes, my hopes increase.

“He and his family dance, naked, on balmy summer nights.”

In addition, as part of (I suspect) the ongoing and rising cult of Wicca witchcraft in suburban Borehamwood, my neighbour has erected a phallic pole behind his house around which he and his family dance, naked, in the balmy summer nights.

There is much wailing and thrashing of arms as the midnight hour approaches.

I feel certain that human sacrifice cannot be far off.

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary – No 25 – COVID in Glasgow, Indians in Moscow

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 24

My natural rhythm was Go to sleep quickly, Wake up slowly…

SUNDAY 5th JULY

All the way through my life I have only very very rarely been able to remember any dreams I had at night – maybe once every six or eight months if I got woken in mid-dream. My natural rhythm was to go to sleep quickly and wake up slowly, so I guess I rarely woke up during the dreamy bit.

Now – I guess because of the kidney/calcium problems which landed me in hospital a few weeks ago – I wake up at least once an hour during the night; sometimes I wake 11 times, my throat parched dry, having to drink water.

And I am aware of my dreams.

I never realised dreams were so visually detailed and, certainly in my case, have an ongoing narrative. Sometimes I have a detailed scenario which picks up one night where it left off the previous night. I know that because I am aware of it happening during the night and realise it is happening.

What the dream/dreams is/was/are about, on the other hand, I can’t remember when I wake up… because I have a shit memory. I am just – now – aware I have them.

Now the boring bit… You may want to skip on to Tuesday, which is more interesting…

MONDAY 6th JULY

I had a telephone appointment with the Kidney Man from my local hospital at 1240. He eventually rang at 1437.

“Sorry,” he said. “IT problems earlier.”

My calcium level when I went into hospital was 3.2 instead of 2.6 which it had been last October. And 2.6 is the high end of ‘normal’ – Normal is 2.2-2.6. It is now 2.4 (as of 22nd June).

My kidney function, which had been an OK 62 last October and a very-much-not-OK 19 when I went into hospital, was 34 when I left hospital.

It is now (as at 22 June when I had a blood test) 44.

Which doesn’t worry the Kidney Man: “The calcium level can affect the kidney function, but the kidney function can’t affect the calcium level.”

The calcium level is now fine and the kidney function should return to normal. Last time, I was told a kidney function of over 60 was OK for a man of my age. So 19… 34… 44 is going in the right direction.

The blood test on 22nd June, like the Petscan before it, was OK.

The parathyroid glands (which create calcium and are tested via the blood test) are normal.

The Kidney Man does not know why I am waking up 8 or 10 or 11 times a night with a dry mouth. But he is not worrying. When I asked him, he said: “I don’t know”.

This genuinely reassured me. No bullshit waffle.

“You are,” he added, “a mystery.”

If only I were a performer, I could use that as a strapline on a poster.

He is going to arrange a face-to-face with me at the start of August which will include another blood test. Doctors love blood tests.

Beautifully-written, word-perfect vignette of current reality

TUESDAY 7th JULY

The UK is slowly, tentatively, opening-up bit-by-bit after the coronavirus lockdown.

Scottish comedian Scott Agnew is, like all other stand-ups in the UK, unable to perform because no venues are open. This morning, on Facebook, he posted a beautifully-written – I think word-perfect – vignette of current reality – in Glasgow, anyway.

With his permission, here it is:


Popped out to pick up a spot of breakfast at the wee roll shop at the end of my street – first time since March…

Wee roll shop wummin: “Oh a fucking stranger returns I see! Where the fuck have you been?”

Me: “Eh, I’ve been in lockdown like everyone else.”

RSW: “I’ve been here four fucking weeks. No’ fucking hide nor hare aff you?”

Me: “Well when I looked along you never looked open.”

RSW: “Well I wouldnae have looked open if I was shut cause you never move yer fat arse oot the hoose in the mornings anyway unless you’re coming tae me. Was it Tesco ye were getting yer sausages? Aye. So where the fuck have you been? First week I was open I’m thinking I’ll see that big fella – nothing – I’m just thinking he’s an ignorant basturt.

“Second week I’m thinking, this cunt must be deid cause I minded you’d been on that flight back fae Australia – and that was the last I seen ye. There’d be all sorts fae all parts with fuck knows whit oan that flight. And I thought, that’s him had that virus and now he’s deid. Then I thought ye cannae be deid cause yer a comedian – ye’d have heard about that in the papers. Then I thought, well he’s no’ a famous comedian so the papers probably wouldn’t bother their fucking arse about ye.

“So I says to my daughter cause she’s got you oan that internet to check if you were deid. So I says – see if that big fat comedian fella is deid. And here ye wurnae deid.

“Do you know I stood in here wan Friday and had wan customer! Six pounds I took – it cost me more to turn the fucking lights oan.

“So here we are four weeks later and ye turn up noo, turns oot ye ur nothing but an ignorant basturt.

“Two roll and square son?”

© copyright Scott Agnew 2020


Keith Martin being very itinerant…

WEDNESDAY 8th JULY

I mentioned to itinerant TV voice-over artist and one-time choirboy Keith Martin that the post-lockdown openings are (understandably) slightly eccentric.

As I understand it, Christian churches can open for private prayer provided you maintain social distancing but synagogues and mosques cannot open yet because they are more sociable in their celebrations. And, although Christian churches can open, there can be no singing for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

“You can’t sing,” Keith told me, “but you can hum the hymns, provided you keep social distancing.”

“You are joking,” I said.

“No,” he replied. “That’s true.”

And, while I haven’t been able to find out definitively, I think he might be right.

THURSDAY 9th JULY

Continuing the musical theme, today I stumbled on a video of the great and much-lamented (certainly by me) 1980s band Indians in Moscow.

I posted this on my Facebook page and the highly-esteemed Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation but a man with wide-ranging knowledge well beyond the aerodynamic properties of farmyard products, pointed out to me that Adele Nozedar – the vocally talented lead singer of Indians in Moscow – was now an author, food writer and forager, whose books include The Hedgerow Handbook, The Garden Forager and her most recent book Foraging with Kids.

She has come a long way since singing about Jack Pelter and His Sex-Change Chicken, a classic track in my vinyl collection.

Readers of previous blogs may recognise Andy Dunlop not just as the esteemed World Egg-Throwing supremo but as the man who has a friend with a dog called Rigby whose calcium problems mirrored my own. I feel my own fate is intertwined with Rigby’s.

“How is the dog?” I asked Andy today.

“He is fine,” Andy replied. “Doing well. Very happy.”

I am reassured, if only temporarily.

A US man unfairly maligned by a UK woman?

FRIDAY 10th JULY

My historic certainties are being undermined week-by-week.

First, there was the fact that Chou En Lai, did NOT say in 1989 that it was too soon to know if the French Revolution of 1789 had been a success. (See a previous blog).

And, today, I discovered that George W Bush did NOT tell Tony Blair that “the trouble with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur”.

It seems that Blair’s spin-doctor Alastair Campbell denies it ever happened and suggests that MP Shirley Williams might have put it in a speech as a joke and the idea snowballed.

“This book will probably save your life. Unfortunately,” says Charlie Brooker

SATURDAY 11th JULY.

My multi-talented chum Ariane Sherine chose today to mention she has not one but two projects coming out soon.

Her new book How to Live to 100 is published on 1st October this year…

And – under the name Ariane X – her first solo music album is being released on 12th February 2021. Why that date? Because it’s a palindrome date:

12.02.2021

… unless you are an American and get your dates back-to-front for no sensible reason – For you it is February 12, 2021.

Duran Duran were an early musical influence

Ariane describes the new album as “pop/electric/dance” with influences “including Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, St Etienne, Massive Attack and loads more.”

There are five early, rough instrumental demo tracks on her new ArianeX website. “Vocals, harmonies, guitar, hooks and fills to be added…”

The songs, she says, “are all about my violent childhood, mental illness, suicidal ideation, but also happiness that my life is so beautiful now…”

An extract from the lyrics show they ain’t gonna be no normal trite Moon-in-June songs:

I believe in Russell’s teapot, I believe in Occam’s Razor
And I believe that vaccines are humanity’s saviour
I always look to science to provide me with my answers
And I don’t believe that prayers can ever cure any cancers

As far as I know, there will be no horns on Ariane’s upcoming album…

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s (half) Weekly Diary No 22 – Coughs, teeth, dead surrealists

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 21

SUNDAY 21st JUNE

One of my front upper teeth has gone out of alignment with the others. Hopefully this is a false tooth.

Staying on things oral, I have a lifelong dry, irritating (to others) cough, which is very useful for clearing queues during the current coronavirus outbreak.

One of the many British comedic highlights of the past which I missed was The Fast Show on BBC2 (1994-1997 + 2011-2014). I never saw an entire episode though I saw occasional excerpts.

One thing I apparently missed was a running gag/character called Bob Fleming, who had a dry irritating cough. Someone drew my attention to it today.

I had zero involvement in The Fast Show, but I did (inevitably, though Malcolm Hardee) peripherally have a nodding acquaintance with a couple of the cast members. It would be nice to think one mentioned in passing about this bloke John Fleming who had a perpetual irritating cough. That would be my 15 seconds of inspirational fame.

Alas, I imagine the thought of phlegming/Fleming is a more likely source.

Today I also chatted with TV chap Simon Kennedy for an upcoming blog. Inexplicably, the subject of long-time Chinese statesman Chou En Lai came up… and his famous quote.

Ever-wise, much quoted Chinese statesman

In the early 1970s, talking to Henry Kissinger, he was asked if he thought the French Revolution had had a successful outcome. The French Revolution happened in 1789.

Chou said: “It is too early to say.”

I have always seen this as the epitome of Chinese long-sightedness.

But Simon correctly told me that Chou was actually referring to the 1968 student riots in Paris.

What a pity.

It is far more Chinese to say that 1968 was too early to say what long-term effects an action in 1789 had.

MONDAY 22nd JUNE

China – and, indeed, similar political paradises – are known for their bureaucracy.

So today I arrived at my local hospital at 0845 (with my three appointment letters) for my 0900 Nephrology appointment at Outpatients and, on presenting myself and my three letters at Main Reception, was told the department was closed and all appointments had been moved to another hospital.

I ignored this – as I had had the three letters and had had a phone call confirming the appointment. I phoned the Kidney Man’s answering machine, found Outpatients and sat in Main Outpatients Reception (open from 0830 but with no receptionist).

About 0900, the Kidney Man’s secretary phoned me back to confirm I would be seen and if no-one turned up, to phone her back. I was due to see a Kidney Woman.

I said if no-one turned up by 0920 I would phone back.

The Kidney Woman arrived at 0917, unlike the receptionist.

She (the Kidney Woman) told me that, during my 7-day hospital stay, they had not treated me – just observed. Fair enough.

During that time, my calcium level had gone back to normal without any treatment (except the saline drip for 7 days). My calcium level had been 3.2. I had been told in hospital it should be 2.6.

The Kidney Woman told me: “2.6 would be an absolute maximum.”

Apparently ‘normal’ would be 2.2 to 2.6.

My kidney function last October had been an OK-for-my-age 62 but, on entering hospital, it was down to 19. Over 7 days in the hospital I had been told it had risen to 28 which was concerning but no longer “dangerous” and the Kidney Woman today told me it had been 34 on discharge from hospital.

“Anything over 60 would be OK for a man of your age,” she told me. “Your calcium level would affect your kidney function, but your kidney function could not affect the calcium level.”

Still, there is no hint of why my calcium level/kidney function went haywire nor why I keep waking up 6 or 7 or 8 times a night with a parched, bone-dry mouth and have to drink water. Next week, I will hear the result of today’s blood test.

During the day I am mostly OK though I sometimes have to have a late afternoon nap for a couple of hours; and I go to bed, tired, around 8.00pm or 9.00pm. My normal bedtime used to be around midnight.

Whether this tiredness is a result of my calcium/kidney problems or just being old or having constantly woken up 6 or 7 or 8 times the previous night… Who knows?

TUESDAY 23rd JUNE

The pandemic has resulted in much more dental bureaucracy

The tooth cap that was out-of-alignment on Sunday has now got decidedly wobbly. It is hanging on in there, but threatening to either fall out during the day or (in my fantasies) drop out and get swallowed by me during the night.

Miraculously (because of the coronavirus lockdown) I was able to get a dental appointment next Tuesday. My dentist re-opened last Monday (eight days ago) for emergencies.

I got an appointment after answering a lot of detailed medical questions and, I think, because the dodgy upper tooth is towards the front and visible.

There will be absolutely no drilling of any kind because of the danger from airborne spray from the mouth. So anything that would normally involve drilling will, instead, be temporarily repaired.

Around lunchtime, I was sitting on a bench with someone (the regulation two metres apart) in the Green Belt area near my home when a stray football from a nearby game headed towards us. I got up, kicked the ball back and nearly overbalanced and (did not) fall over.

I am constantly lightheaded during the day and waking up hourly at night.

Who knows why?

In the afternoon, I was told of the death of Douglas Gray last Thursday. He and brother Tony were The Alberts, a surreal comedy duo which linked The Goons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I met the brothers years ago – in the 1980s, I think, at their home (I think they lived in the same rambling house but I could be wrong) in Norfolk. They were interestingly and gently eccentric and one – I think it was Douglas – appeared to be dressed for playing cricket for no apparent reason.

They should have been British cultural treasures but, alas, mega-fame escaped them, like so many worthy performers. I seem to remember that they used to pretend to work on a national newspaper in London, before Margaret Thatcher destroyed the ‘closed shop’ policies of the trades unions.

They told me, I think, that they would drive down from Norfolk to London each Friday, sign on as print workers (they had union cards), then drive straight back to Norfolk. They got paid well for working at the weekends although they were not even in London, let alone working on the production of the newspaper.

They were surrealists on and off stage.

Today was the last day of the daily government Briefings/updates about the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown restrictions will be partially, but not by any means totally, lifted on the 4th of July – our ‘Trim-dependence Day’ as one BBC News reporter put it, because hairdressers will be allowed to open with safety restrictions.

The total of reported UK coronavirus deaths is now 42,927… up 171 in the previous 24 hours

WEDNESDAY 24th JUNE

I have received the three pages of forms I have to fill in before seeing my dentist next Tuesday.

The accompanying letter details what will happen.

The tooth will out…

– I should rinse my mouth with mouthwash before leaving home, to kill off any bacteria in my mouth.

– I should not arrive early, because the surgery’s street door will be locked and I will only be allowed in when the previous patient has left.

– On entry, my temperature will be taken with an infra-red thermometer.

– I will have to wash my hands with anti-bacterial gel before seeing the dentist.

– The dentist and nurse will be wearing protective clothing: presumably face masks and/or plastic face visors.

As if to celebrate my filling-in of the dental forms…

…my tooth fell out.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller’s tips on preparing to ease out of the lockdown

The UK’s coronavirus restrictions are beginning to lift today. As an 86-year-old American, Lynn Ruth Miller has been trapped in enforced self-isolation in a London apartment since the start of the restrictions. Like most Americans, she has a quaint way of spelling and turn of phrase…


Living indoors can be addictive… So what now… ?

My psychiatrist has confirmed to me that living indoors can be addictive.

The government is easing the lockdown. Now, we can all go outside and shout at each other if we stay six feet apart. What joy!

It was easy to lock us down, but letting us out is far more complicated. You must not rush to freedom all at once. You might trip.

And running outside and hugging everyone in the street without proper planning can destroy your psyche.  

Iron bars do not a prison make but COVID-19 did.

We all need a carefully-considered procedure if we are to abandon the security of our homes, where no-one sees us and we are free to indulge our more primitive impulses, like sleeping until three in the afternoon and forgetting to wear pajamas.  

You cannot do that in the outside world. Other people judge.

Be wise.  

Go slowly.  

Prepare.

Begin your emancipation by wearing clothes.  

Start out with any kind of covering – a pillowcase, a diaphanous scarf.  Gradually, day by day, co-ordinate your outfits so they look planned. 

COVER THOSE LEGS. The way you present yourself sends a message to others.

Up until now, we haven’t HAD any others to send messages to but, very slowly, we are adding them into our lives and, as we do that, we need to hide our bits.

It is the way it is done in a normal world.

Remember?

Ladies! You are going to have to wear your brassieres again. Some of you men should as well. You cannot let those strawberry creams wobble when you are out and about.

Gentlemen! Zip up! Your John Thomas isn’t cute to strangers. Sorry.

And remember your shoes!

People drop unsavory things on the pavement.  

So do dogs.

And take note… People will hear the unexpected sounds your body makes.  

Control your sphincter. Back-end blowouts are not done in mixed company. Unless, of course, you have your dog with you. The trick here is to let it rip; frown at the dog; shake your head. This will not work with a Chihuahua – People are not THAT stupid.

Although we now can sit in a park if we stay 6 feet apart, it is important that your first move out of your home be no farther than your front porch.  The air will have a different smell; there might be a breeze; a bird could shit all over you. Be very careful. Gradually, go down the steps into the front yard; and, in a week or ten days, venture out to the pavement. You can do it. REMEMBER TO WEAR SHOES.

But here is where the real danger lies. You have not seen an automobile for over a month and those things can hurt if you bump into one that is moving.  

In America, it is illegal to run over a pedestrian but here, in Britain, it is every man for himself. Wear helmets. Invest in a suit of armor. Amazon has them for less than a hundred quid.

Acclimating your children to the world outside will be a challenge but, with patience and an open mind, you can do it. Explain to them that those moving objects on the pavement are people and touching them is not done. All that noise coming out of their mouths is called conversation. The rest of the racket in the great outdoors is traffic noise. That screeching does not mean someone is hurt; it indicates an angry driver who has not done proper maintenance on his vehicle.

This is a good time to explain the importance of proper personal maintenance to your child. Never miss an opportunity to teach civilized behavior to your offspring. It does not come naturally. Neither does effective anger management.

Nowadays, we are allowed to create a social bubble. At this point in time, it means you can visit one person, go into his or her home and use his or her toilet. This kind of socialization will soon expand to ten people (but not always ten toilets). 

It is wise to have a good supply of TENA, ladies. Be sure to wear one when you go to the park. All public toilets are closed. Do not ignore your personal needs. The visible result of doing so offends others. And do not fool yourself. It is always visible

If you live alone and have no family to create a bubble, just go out on the street singing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and you will get plenty of offers.

Once you and your family have mastered emerging into the outside, you need to re-learn your dining habits. No more eating with your fingers or licking the plate clean. YOU MUST USE CUTLERY.

It is fine to grab a quick gin and tonic BEFORE you leave the house, but people will frown if you are seen tippling before sundown.  

Sadly, the pubs do not offer a carry-out service but you can get away with a lot if you bring your Smirnoff with you in a Costa Cup.

Remember, easing out of this lockdown demands proper preparation. But it is nothing to fear.

The only danger to letting your family go out your front door is convincing them to return.

As my grandmother used to say once they gave her false teeth: “How can you keep them in the kitchen after they’ve seen Paree?”

….or something like that.

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John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 12 – A Rollercoaster ride in Intensive Care

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 10

(Photograph by Amin Moshrefi via UnSplash)

SUNDAY 3rd MAY

In the last few blogs, I have been posting messages from my friend in Central London whose friend has been seriously ill with coronavirus in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit since April 4th. Her latest update is:


A bit of encouraging news for Sunday lunch. 

My friend’s breathing has thankfully stabilised again so they are trying him off the vent for an hour to breathe with just an oxygen mask. Not for long because his breathing muscles tire quickly, but it means he has regained a bit of ground. 

Kidneys still needing machine. BP needing slightly less help. 

I just had a video call with him. They had raised his head in bed and he looked sleepy but comfortable. When I said his name a few times he briefly opened his eyes. I chatted to him for about 3 minutes about his daughter and the garden and the choir. At the end I said, “We are going to beat this and we are all waiting for you to come home,” and then the nurse told him to smile and his lips moved very slightly!

I felt that he is definitely in there, wanting to communicate. It took so much effort, but he did it.


UK reported deaths in the last 24 hours are up 315 to a total in hospitals, care homes and elsewhere to 28,131.

At 1730 instead of going out, I had a nap and woke up at 1930. So bang goes my daily walk and even changing out of my pyjamas. This will be the first time in lockdown that I have not gone out for a daily exercise.

It seems a short, slippery slope from this to living in a tent in my bedroom, shitting in the bedside table and eating spiders and occasional unlucky mice.

Meanwhile, Romanian showbiz star Dragos Mostenescu has posted another in his series of videos about being in lockdown in London with his family.

MONDAY 4th MAY

In the last 24 hours an additional rise of 288 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, making the total 28,743.

Today’s message from my friend in Central London was:


On Friday, the consultant told me he didn’t expect my friend to last the weekend.

This morning, he said that he was surprised to see my sick friend has gained some ground. His breathing has stabilised again and he managed some hours off the ventilator with only the help of a mask. Oxygen requirement about 30%. 

And more positives… After my video call with my friend yesterday, the nurse said today he is more alert! This morning he squeezed her hand on command and also tracked her finger with his eyes. She thinks he even managed a slight nod in answer to a question. 

After all that, he was exhausted and went into a heavy sleep, so I probably won’t get to speak to him today. Apparently he didn’t sleep at all last night, so, rather than give him sedatives, they will try to regulate his rhythms with melatonin. 

The nurse asked me to send photos of friends and loved ones. The staff will print them out and put them round his bed so he’ll have something familiar to look at when he’s awake. I’ll also send a photo of his beloved garden. 

Slowly slowly slowly, with our love and prayers…


(Photo by James Heilman, MD, via Wikipedia)

TUESDAY 5th MAY

My friend in Central London messaged me:


He developed an infection today so that is another new bump on the road. 

In the early evening they phoned me about the fungal infection and said that, if it became invasive, it was very serious because invasive Candida is a big killer in ICUs.


WEDNESDAY 6th MAY

My friend in Central London sent me two messages today:


I didn’t sleep a wink. Then this morning spoke to the consultant.

They are still treating the fungal infection.

He had a body CT scan yesterday. Unsurprisingly, it shows extensive changes in his lungs and abnormal changes in the kidneys – both expected results as the virus affected both. They also found signs of colitis/inflammation in the bowel – again not surprising with the amount of meds he’s on. 

Now the good stuff. Christina who is looking after him, last saw him when she ceased his sedation some weeks ago. Today she was crying tears of happiness to see his progress. The other staff thought she was being too emotional! 

But he squeezed her hand this morning and is slightly nodding and shaking his head to questions. She asked him whether he’s in pain. He shook his head. 

The physios have been in and sat him on the end of the bed for a few minutes, with support. He can lift one hand, but still has no feeling in his feet so they didn’t stand him. He can’t yet keep his head upright without help but he did try. He has accumulated quite a lot of fluid from being immobile, so the physios keep him moving, even when lying down. This was the first time the physios felt he was ready to sit. 

Christina said that he is trying to mouth words and she explained to him not to try to actually speak yet because of his tracheostomy. 

She also said that, now he’s more awake, they are constantly telling him where he is, what time and what day and how long he’s been there, what the weather is like and bits from the news. 

Yesterday I had a short FaceTime with him but he was really sleepy. Christina will try again today but, after his considerable exertions this morning, he may sleep the rest of the day. 

Lastly, this was our final chat with the consultant (not Christina) as we are “past the peak” – ICU admissions have stabilised – so the consultant can now return to non-COVID-19 patients in another ICU. He wished my friend well for a continued recovery although, in his typical fashion, he warned it will be a long road. 

He said he was sorry that, in these terrible times, he could not deliver his reports to us in a more personal way rather than by phone. He added that he was grateful to be able to leave us on a day when my friend looked more stable.

(LATER)

Yay! Had a lovely FaceTime with my friend! For about 5 minutes!! He was awake the whole time. He smiled! I told him about all the messages from his friends, family and workmates. He mouthed a couple of words too. 

The speech therapist will see him to assess whether he is ready to have a speech valve fitted – maybe this week. 

And the sun is shining. A pretty darn good day!


THURSDAY 7th MAY

In the last 24 hours, UK coronavirus deaths rose by 539 to a total of 30,615 

A couple of weeks ago, “somewhere in Southern England”, my friend Lynn shot a video of what happened in her street during the weekly ‘Thursday night clap’ for the NHS.

Tonight, her husband Frank shot a second video reminding us how Brits react in total lockdown… Lynn is glimpsed at the very end (definitely not at the very start)…

FRIDAY 8th MAY

Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Big celebrations had been planned country-wide but of course, with self-isolation and distancing, it was mostly a stay-at-home-and-watch-the-TV day. 

I was in bed most of the day with a swirly head and my deadened brain feeling like it was wrapped in a thick towel inside my skull. When I stood up or walked, my legs ached.

I felt a tiny bit vomity – at the bottom of my throat – but I knew I would not vomit.

I had a slight difficulty breathing in bed.

But it ain’t coronavirus; I think just an effect of inactivity, stuck at home.

South London neo-punk group The Outbursts posted a song online which gives a further insight into the effects of a (now) seven-week lockdown.

 

But, in fact, Outbursts member Ian Breslin tells me it is nothing to do with lockdown. He says:

“It’s dedicated to a chap I was fishing with in the Amazon for a month. He didn’t wash for 9 days, smelt of puke. He confessed that the longest he has gone without washing was 6 weeks. He had fungus on his balls. He rubbed banana skin all over his face in the mornings, as he was worried about cancer from suncream etc. After 3 days, his face was full of blisters…”

Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, coronavirus deaths in the UK rose by 626 to a total of 31,241.

SATURDAY 9th MAY

In the last 24 hours, coronavirus deaths rose by 346 to a total of 31,587.

I am feeling perfectly fine again today. Of course.

I am reminded of a philosophical example of false logic.

“There is heavy snow on the tracks, so the train arrived late at the station.”

“The train arrived late at the station, therefore there must have been heavy snow on the tracks.”

(Photograph by Casey Tucker via UnSplash)

… TO BE CONTINUED …

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John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 11 – 86-year-old’s Lockdown Survival Guide

“Life is a bitch these days for everyone…”

Lynn Ruth Miller is 86, a US comic currently self-isolating in North London.

She has some valuable lockdown advice to share…


Life is a bitch these days for everyone. But I have lived through so much worse. I lived through the polio epidemic, the sinking of the Titanic, the Dust Bowl… But enough about my sex life.  

Let me give you some tips I have learned through the years to help each and every one of you get through this crisis, even though we are all beginning to look like our hirsute four-legged ancestors, walking around with holes in our soles.

The first rule is TOUCH NOTHING. The trick here is to learn to use your elbows and your nose instead of your hands. Fortunately for me, I am Jewish and my nose has a great deal of dexterity. I have trained it to open the mail, turn a door knob and sniff out infections. If you are not Jewish, you will have to wear gloves and be forced to use your hands. Elbows cannot turn on lamps or open a gate. Sorry.

“Now is the time to read a hardcover book…”

Now is the time to read a hardcover book. You don’t have to tuck reading material into your backpack to read on the tube; you can now do your reading at home. So haul out those hardcovers, especially the ones with titles you don’t want others to see, like Dirty Girls Come Clean or Talk Dirty to Me. The latter is a guide to effective bedroom talk so, if you are having a bit of trouble getting the children to go to sleep, this might be just the advice you are looking for.

We all need exercise and we have been told not to leave our homes. What to do? Well, we could all learn a lesson in perseverance from Captain Tom Moore, who raised over £31 million for the NHS, toddling around his garden in his Zimmer frame. He not only got the exercise he needed, but he managed to stay fit for his 100th birthday.

Of course, the captain HAD a garden and many of us live in flats several floors above ground. It is very important that you move your arms and legs and keep your muscles working. Try running up and down the stairs in your building, waving your arms shouting “Fire!” That will get everyone else up and moving as well.

Laundry can be a bit of a challenge when you are stuck at home. It is not healthy to wear the same clothes day in and day out but, if you do not have a washer in your home, what to do? The best solution is not to wear any clothes at all. No-one is going to see you anyway. The Naturists among us will tell you that staying naked improves your sleep, strengthens your skin and bones and enhances your self-image. The idea is that everyone else looks a lot worse than you do, so why worry?  

“Living in the buff…” (Photo by Peter Klashorst)

Living in the buff does set up an extra challenge for parents stuck at home with the kids. You will need to explain why your body has a few things on it that your little ones do not have. Try hard not to frighten them when you tell them that all that hair and those funny things that stick out will happen to them one day.

If you are stuck at home, you have to create three meals a day for yourself and your family. Options to order out are very limited – Too expensive and besides who wants to open the door to a masked, cloaked stranger with gloves on after dark? Way too risky.

The answer is to make soup. You do not need a recipe for soup. You just open the fridge and grab whatever is in there, boil it up with a bay leaf and pulverize it. If you wait long enough between meals, your family won’t care what it tastes like.  

Hunger can be very non-discriminating. I once made a soup of rotten lettuce, a decaying peach, two sprouting onions and a worn-out sponge. The dog loved it.

All of us like to look our best, but – Hey! – you are at home and you can’t go out. Who is looking? Let your hair grow; wear a towel if it’s chilly; forget underwear – it just catches in crevices anyway – and (this is the trick that makes it all worthwhile) COVER ALL THE MIRRORS. You will feel beautiful. If your partner makes a smart remark, whip out a hand mirror to show that bastard what HE looks like (it is always a He). Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Many of us are all alone in our homes with no-one to talk to, no-one to cook for, not even a pet to worry about. That means no hugs, no kisses, no sex until the lockdown is over.

(Photograph by Daniele Levis Pelusi via UnSplash)

This need not be a problem. For soft, furry cuddles, hug a teddy bear. And be sure to give yourself lots of hot nights out. All you need is a bottle of wine, a bit of imagination and your hand. That talk about losing your eyesight is a lot of poppycock (which is exactly what you will be having anyway).

Boredom can be a real challenge when you are stuck at home. Try to spice up each day with a different activity.

One day, skip around the living room. Another, hide under the bed. Try eating with your back to the plate. Just be sure you put the dog in the other room. Do not worry about the cat. She is far too fastidious to eat from someone else’s dish.

If you are working from home, you can keep your mind occupied for at least 8 hours a day if you ignore the children throwing silverware at the wall or pooping on the rug.

It is the weekends that are the real challenge. 

My advice is to make each weekend a novelty. Wear something unusual; eat an ethnic meal; dance to music you have never heard;  whip up a soufflé; whip each other. There is nothing like a bondage mitt or an anal hook to add a bit of variety to your Saturday night.

The most important advice is to enjoy this lovely time to get to know who you really are. At last, you will understand why you weren’t invited to that posh diner party. Live with it.

And now is the time to accept that your children are real people with distinct personalities. It is useless to murder them. What would you do with the bodies? Garbage collection has been reduced to almost nothing.

Remember, it is those very children who will decide when to pull the plug when you are ill. If you chain them to the bed or tape their mouths shut, they will make you pay.

Above all else, do not share your toilet paper.

Now that the market shelves are empty, toilet paper has become the new currency. Treasure it. When I was young, diamonds were a girl’s best friend. In the early 21st century, it was Botox. Today it is a roll of Andrex.

As my mother used to say: “One good wipe is worth a thousand drips.”

… DIARY CONTINUED HERE

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John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 6 – 86-year-old Lynn Ruth Miller is angry

Globetrotting American comedian, author and occasional burlesque dancer Lynn Ruth Miller is very pissed-off at being forced into a total lockdown in London. She has written about her recent trips in this blog (Search for her name). And she was due to perform in Europe, Scandinavia, the Far East, Australia and North America in upcoming months, but has had to cancel. Now she is VERY annoyed. She explains why in this open-letter plea to Westminster… which she rounds-off with a 90-second song…


In 2020, there are more people over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 5 – a ratio that has never occurred before, according to Deutsche Bank (and they should know; they are German).

And now the UK government has kept all of us over 70 confined to our homes in a lockdown.

That is blatant ageism at its worst.

Why? Because the powers that control us are looking at everyone through the wrong lens. 

They are evaluating each of us on the basis of their own preconceptions about age instead of accessing the quality of our immune systems.  

It turns out that the older you are the more resilient you are to illness.  

The current coronavirus pandemic has actually affected men aged 40-60 disproportionately along with people who have compromised immune systems.

But that isn’t me.

And I am stuck in the house.

Let’s face it. I am old…very old.  

When Google tells me it will take me ten minutes to walk someplace it always takes me twenty.  If I would dare to drive a car, I would never go over 20mph. In a car, I would keep the turn signal – the indicator signal – on just in case I have to make a right turn. I can’t say Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers any more. I look like an un-pressed rag and I have more hair on my chin than my foo foo.

But I am healthy, filled with energy and I have an exciting life… or I did until I was told that – just because I am old – I need to get someone else to do my shopping and I damn well better not get on a bus.

For some people over 70, this is not a hardship. They live in homes with other people. But I am alone… no partner, no children, no pet to care for… just me. The government now allows me one solitary walk a day and no-one to hug. And that is endangering my psychological well-being.

Now, I respect rules. I do not want to infect anyone and I do not want to be infected. I stand 2 meters away from people when I walk and I cover my mouth when I cough. But, when I see some 69 year-old guy in a Zimmer frame sailing off to Sainsbury’s, I can’t help but think: Why can’t I go there too?… and not at 7am when not even the birds are awake.

Psychology today says that without the boost of oxytocin that comes with physical touch, elderly individuals may end up feeling more stressed and their physical health may suffer. In fact, people who are affection-deprived are less happy, more lonely, more likely to experience depression and stress and, in general, in worse health. They have less social support and lower relationship satisfaction.

I’ll bet you legislators never thought of that when you told us to stay home, did you?

So for the sake of my well-being and my desperate need for a cuddle, I suggest everyone over 70 should be awarded a puppy and a loving visitor.  

In my case I would prefer a toy boy – You know: someone in his 70s that can still think at best.  

At the very least, I want him to have a couple of teeth left.

Think about that, all you legislators, while you are giving away money to small businesses and independent workers.  

Money helps but, when you cannot leave the house to spend it, a hug can be worth ten visits to a psychiatrist.

You just might save even more lives that way than you are now by locking us in our living rooms.

I have written a song about it:

… CONTINUED HERE

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