Tag Archives: pandemic

Having Covid now in the US – Day 19

(Photograph by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay)

A couple of days ago, on New Year’s  Eve, Mick Deacon appeared in this blog – He is an Englishman temporarily living in the US.

I am currently self-isolating in the UK because I tested positive for Covid on the morning of Christmas Day. Currently in England the rules are that, if that happens, you have to isolate for up to 10 days, though you can re-emerge if you test negative- 24 hours apart – on two consecutive days from Day 6 onwards.

I am currently on Day 8, still testing positive, though I have no apparent symptoms.

In the US, Mick is currently on Day 19 of being infected.

He has symptoms.

I thought it would be interesting to extract his progression from the various emails he has sent me.

He is over in the US temporarily to see his girlfriend. 

His first e-mail references him returning to the UK at some point… He had his first two vaccine jabs in the UK but his third jab – the booster – in the US.


DECEMBER 13th 2021

I hope I won’t have problems on the way back as I’ve had the booster here. I told my UK GP’s surgery the day after and they said just bring the card in and we will add the details. 

DECEMBER 16th

I got Covid a couple of days ago. I’m going with the notion of I might as well get it over with now and hopefully get more immunity.

It is like being hit by a truck while someone sticks needles into you whilst barely having the energy to stand up. Not an attractive cocktail. 

I have now had the two AstraZeneca jabs and the Pfizer booster but it was just over a week after having the booster when I got Covid. So maybe it had no time to kick in.

I’ve got health insurance but am trying to not see a doctor. Being ill in a foreign country, even with insurance, makes you feel very vulnerable. 

I am isolating and better than I was yesterday thankfully. 

My girlfriend hasn’t got it but it’s weird isn’t it? My handyman in the UK got it the eve he had been working at my place and everyone else apart from me got it, I felt kinda smug and healthy at that point. 

Over here, people on the whole aren’t careful at all. Bloody Americans.

DECEMBER 19th

It’s quite strange… Mornings are the worst – very weak and dizzy but, with the help of painkillers, the day begins to get better. 

The fatigue is horrendous but I’m improving and I can string a sentence together now in the morning which at first I couldn’t. 

I don’t like being ill and abroad, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. 

It is bloody awful.

DECEMBER 23rd

Still testing positive for Covid. Just waiting for the results of today’s test. 

DECEMBER 25th

Merry Xmas 

I kinda looked at it like, by the law of averages, I was going to get it, so thought it was better to get it over with – to look on the bright side! 

DECEMBER 27th

Just got a cough now that doesn’t want to go.

I get tired quite quickly, but improving. 

DECEMBER 29th

I had one good day when I thought it was all done with. Then I started coughing again and I feel shattered again. Not as bad as before though. 

DECEMBER 30th

Weirdly, the last 4 days, I keep getting bouts of nausea and coughing fits and fatigue. 

I don’t think my booster had time to kick in before I got this. I was only on day 7. 

Numbers are raging here, but they are just carrying on with everything. 

JANUARY 1st, 2022

I was really ill yesterday. I keep having attacks of nausea, headache and stomach ache. Feel very weak again today. I was already worn out when I first got this, so it’s slightly my own fault. 

I just fell asleep for 2 hours. Not like me at all. 

JANUARY 2nd

I keep waking up with a bad but peculiar-feeling headache and I keep getting bouts of really bad stomach ache and nausea…

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Filed under COVID, Medical

An Englishman in the US with Covid reflects on some cultural differences…

(Photograph: Alexandra Koch via Pixabay)

Back in November 2018, I wrote a blog about a man I know called Mick Deacon, an Englishman visiting the US; he has a girlfriend there – possibly an ex-girlfriend. 

Back in 2018, he was talking to me about the US mid-term elections. At the time, he was living in the working class heartland of Donald Trump’s America. 

Recently, he went back to the US to re-visit his girlfriend – possibly ex-girlfriend – in the same city.

Donald Trump is no longer President and, replacing him, the Covid-19 pandemic has been getting all the headlines worldwide.

Mick currently has the relatively new Omicron variant of Covid.

We chatted via FaceTime.


TUESDAY 21st DECEMBER

JOHN: You look very healthy.

MICK: I certainly don’t feel it. I feel absolutely awful. It came on really fast. The first day I just thought Oh! I’ve got a cold! That’s weird! because I had not encountered anyone with a cold, I had been wearing my mask and I just thought: Oh, that’s a bit odd! That first day, I just went to bed.

Then it came on at a rate of knots.

The following day I thought: I REALLY don’t feel well! It was like total exhaustion. My legs could barely lift me up. It was like flu times three. My head was pounding; like someone sticking little needles into your head. So I took a lateral flow test – I had brought a box with me from the UK – and it was positive. I had never had a positive test before.

JOHN: Had you had the ‘booster’ jab?

MICK: Yes, but I don’t think my booster had had time to kick in before I got this. It was on day 7 after the booster. 

I got the booster vaccination here in the US which was relatively easy, possibly because my girlfriend had had a chat with a bloke at the clinic and had explained the situation. 

Even so, they started off with the attitude: Ugh! This is gonna be really complicated because you’re English! 

They asked me: “What’s your Insurance Number?’

“I haven’t got an Insurance Number, because I’m English.”

“Oh… uh…”

I thought they weren’t going to give me the injection, but then the guy who my girlfriend had spoken to went: “Right. It’s fine. We’ll just do it.” And there was no charge. I mean, they sometimes pay people to have it here; sometimes they pay you $100 to have the jab. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to us Brits in the US.

Anything you think you have to do like a PCR test, if you go to the testing place as a British person, it’s like: “Can I see your, erm, your card, your ID… Well, that doesn’t look like a…”

“Well, no, I’m English…”

“I’ve never seen one of these before…”

“That’s because I’m English. I’m a tourist. A visitor. You allow visitors now. From across the sea.”

You just don’t want to have that administrative headache unless you have to.

My girlfriend said to me this morning: “I’m going to take you to hospital.”

I told her: “I don’t want to go to the hospital. I am managing it.”

If I suddenly got worse, I would have to. But, as an English person with insurance, you know that, even though you’ve got insurance, it isn’t going to be easy because… I had an accident before where I burnt myself on a kettle in the US… The insurance company took two years to pay out.

You really really really don’t want to have to go to the insurance company because it’s never simple. You have to jump through so many hoops.

People moan about the NHS back in the UK, but it’s always there. It’s horrible being ill abroad because that safety blanket of the NHS is not there. 

JOHN: The medical side of the NHS is wonderful, but the bureaucracy is horrendously incompetent. Like all bureaucracies.

MIKE: I really don’t want to end up in hospital in America.

JOHN: You told me Lateral Flow Tests, which are free in the UK, were $20 for two in the US.

MIKE: Yes. Thank God President Biden is now saying we can have the Lateral Flow home tests for free from today. But, as a British person, I probably can’t get them. 

JOHN: When did you first test positive?

MIKE: It started on Tuesday last week, so it’s a week today.

JOHN: You’re still testing positive…

MIKE: Yeah. As of this morning. I don’t have a very good immune system, which is why I’ve been so careful in the past.

JOHN: I know you reacted badly to the second jab…

MIKE: First and second. I’ve had pneumonia in the past and other stuff and it takes me a while to get better.

JOHN: I’ve always been pretty healthy. Just this calcium/kidney problem for the last two years. At least your mind seems clear.

MIKE: Ha!

JOHN: Someone else I know in the UK has it: Jane Hicks. You know her?

MICK: No.

JOHN: She got it last week. She says she has no energy; she feels like a rag. She also had it early last year – around March 2020 – and her sense of taste and smell hasn’t really recovered from that even now. She’s got it again despite the fact she was triple-jabbed.

MICK: She’s got Omicron this time?

JOHN: Apparently when they do the PCR test, they just say you have the Coronavirus; they don’t tell you which variation.

Also a friend’s 10-year-old daughter had it about a couple of weeks ago. She got over it but, as of about an hour ago, her stepmother has it. But her mother hasn’t got it – and the kid slept with her mother for all of her 10 days of isolation. 

MICK: Her mother was triple-jabbed with the vaccine?

JOHN: Yes but so was Jane Hicks and the 10-year-old’s stepmother.

MICK: My girlfriend refuses to take a lateral flow test. She says: “I’m OK because I’ve had three jabs.” But, then, so have I. And I got it. 

I took two tests this morning. My girlfriend says she has no symptoms so doesn’t need to take the test.

JOHN: But there are asymptomatic people roaming about possibly infecting people.

MICK: Absolutely. I’ve told her she could be carrying it. But she says: “No, I’ve got loads to do. I’ll just get on with it.”

She doesn’t take any tests. She thinks she’s invincible because she’s jabbed.

She’s just going round doing what she wants to do as normal. She’s going to the Capitol today because she’s buying a plot of land to build a house on. She wanted me to go with her. 

I said: “It’s not fair is it, if I go and somebody catches it off me, because I definitely have it.”

There are hardly any precautions here. A blissful sense of Oh! It’s not happening here!… and then it is and then it isn’t… It depends who you listen to. You listen to the News and it’s Omicron is coming! Omicron is coming! It’s like…

JOHN: …a Coca-Cola commercial.

MICK: Everything that happens in Britain happens here but a bit later… when you realise it. But they don’t seem to realise it until way after the horse has bolted.

JOHN: The British News yesterday was saying that, in America, the sudden announcement had been made that Omicron was all over America, as if from nowhere.

MICK: Yeah, that’s what it was like. They said: “Oh, we’ve found one Omicron case” and then…

JOHN: So what’s your downmarket neighbourhood like? Are they anti-vaxxers?

MICK: Errr… It’s kinda like… It’s kinda kept like a bit of a secret, I think, as to whether you are or you aren’t.

I am 100% certain I caught this from the bar that me and my girlfriend go to every Sunday. She insisted I go. I said to her: “It’s terrifying in here, because there’s at least 70 people here and only six of us with masks on and people are sweating all over me, dancing behind me. The sweat was flying past me. People came up and just grabbed and hugged her – and me.” 

JOHN: Very un-British.

MICK: I remember thinking last Sunday: Right! Which one of these is going to give me Covid? When I came down with it on the Tuesday, my girlfriend said to me: “It’s when you’re out on your bike, cycling to the park. That’s when you’ve caught it. The virus is airborne.”

I said: “I didn’t catch it outdoors when there’s just me cycling along alone.”

JOHN: She thinks out in the fresh air you’re going to catch it but in a crowded bar you’re not?

MICK: Yes. In a crowded bar with sweat flying through the air. She thinks that’s fine. You won’t catch it if you’re vaccinated. People of all ages… no masks on. In Britain, at least we step back a bit from other people. I always just air-hug friends in Britain. I mean, they’re still gonna have Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

JOHN: When’s that?

MICK: This coming March. They were talking about it on the TV this morning and I thought: Is everyone here mad? Because Omicron is well-and-truly on its way. Last year there were really high numbers after Mardi Gras. People come from all over and from different countries. It spread like wildfire last year. New Orleans was one of the worst places.

JOHN: Scotland has just cancelled Hogmanay in Edinburgh. The Scottish government didn’t like the thought of 20,000 people hugging each other.

MICK: Well, all that hugging – it’s very un-Scottish.


That conversation took place on 21st December.

It is now New Year’s Eve, 31st December.

I got in touch with Mick again last night to see how he currently is. It is now 17 days since he first tested positive. 

He told me: “The last four days, I keep getting bouts of nausea and coughing fits and lots of fatigue.”

In the ten days since we had the blog conversation above, the 10-year-old’s father has tested positive for Covid; the 10-year-old’s mother has tested positive; and, on the morning of Christmas Day, I tested positive for Covid. All three of us had been triple-jabbed. I am currently in self-isolation, as required under the current rules.

… CONTUNUED HERE

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Nathan Lang: The Covid pandemic, a wolf daughter and three Big Wowies…

Happy family: Nathan, Shelley and Chilli Bobcat Lang (Photograph by Phil Zachariah)

The last time I talked to Nathan Lang for a blog – “Comic Nathan Lang: ‘Self-loathing is not normal unless you are a comedian’” was in December 2019, just before the pandemic hit. It was also shortly after the birth of his first daughter, named Chilli Bobcat.

I asked him why she was named Chilli Bobcat. 

“I was going to call her Strawberry,” he told me, “until a friend said: Remember she’ll go to school one day.

Chilli Bobcat is now 2½. And he has a second daughter, now aged 2 months. She has been named Wolf.

Now read on.


“I thought we were just having a chat….”

JOHN: Why Wolf? Surely that is a boy’s name. What is a female wolf called anyway? Just a wolf, I suppose…

NATHAN: Possibly a bitch, because it’s a type of dog…

JOHN: So you were right: better to call her Wolf. What are you plugging?

NATHAN: I thought we were just having a chat.

JOHN: I thought you were plugging something.

NATHAN: Well, I’m doing a series of three monthly comedy cabaret shows, raising money for Hackney Night Shelter. I’ve done Christmas cabaret fundraisers for them the last three years at the same venue – Grow in Hackney.

The Hackney Night Shelter used to be called the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, but they’ve now gone year-round because of the demand for their services. It’s a critical time for them, because they’ve just moved into two permanent shelter venues, serving all the year round, so they need more money to do it but, for the last almost two years, because of the pandemic…

JOHN: This is one of your Big Wowie shows?

NATHAN: Yes. We were about two start a regular live cabaret – Big Wowie Cabaret – in March 2020 but, of course, lockdown kicked in and we had to cancel that. So we went online with an interactive character show. We did it every month for eight months on Zoom. It had to be on Zoom because it was interactive. It was two hours; loads of fun; and we started to ‘find’ our audience – people who were really into it.

But our last online show was in June and it got – what do you call it? – ‘bombed’?… Sabotaged by a bunch of kids who got the Zoom link and just jumped in, went absolutely mental and, with Zoom, whoever speaks the loudest gets the spotlight. 

They were playing very loud YouTube clips and making rude gestures. Basically interrupting the show so, for the first hour, we couldn’t really start but we out-crazied them and got rid of them. It was still a debacle, though.

But now we are live again.

JOHN: People have to wear masks?

“It’s by the canal, the stage is a floating pontoon…”

NATHAN: No. The venue takes a lot of Covid precautions and there’s a healthy distance between the performers and the audience. The venue – Grow, by the River Lea – has made a stage which is a floating pontoon and the audience sits outside – there are heaters and stuff. So it’s by the canal, the stage is a floating pontoon and, if you don’t like one of the acts, you pull a lever and the stage flips over and the next act steps on. They’re just comedians. If they drown, no matter.

JOHN: (SILENCE)

NATHAN: Alright, I’m joking, but the stage IS a floating pontoon. It maintains a healthy distance and makes the audience feel safe.

JOHN: Why the name Big Wowie?

NATHAN: I always fantasied about the worst chocolate bar in the world. That’s why the logo is a chocolate bar wrapper. And the worst chocolate bar in the world is a thin tube of flavourless wafer with a little bit of chocolate drizzled on the top and it’s just a hollow wafer tube wrapped up in this glamorous chocolate bar wrapping. When you bite into it the whole thing just crumbles and you go: “Oh! Big Wowie!”

“I always fantasied about the worst chocolate bar in the world”

JOHN: This is a good image for the show? Hollow, tasteless and crumbling?

NATHAN: Maybe when I explain it like that it doesn’t sound so good… I think maybe I was trying to be ironic… I think most people would think BIG WOWIE!!!! 

But, to me, it’s…

JOHN: …an empty chocolate bar.

NATHAN: Maybe it’s just a hollow dream… (LAUGHS)

My actual dream for Big Wowie was always to connect the local community and the Hackney community is really special to me because, when I stepped off the boat 15 years ago as an immigrant from Australia…

JOHN: You love Hackney.

NATHAN: Yeah.

Future parents – Nathan and then-pregnant wife Shelley

JOHN: Yet you just moved to Margate in April this year. Why?

NATHAN: I’m a conformist. I follow the trends. When you live in Hackney for 15 years, then have a family, you move to Margate. And we can pick up French radio here.

JOHN: So… the Big Wowie show is raising money for the Hackney Night Shelter.

NATHAN: Three shows… October 12th, November 9th, December 14th. And we have a sponsor – a local business INTUNE that makes CBD drinks.

JOHN: The active ingredient in marijuana?

NATHAN: Yes, but they have distilled the good stuff without the intoxicant. So it’s made from natural ingredients and it’s mood-enhancing, but you don’t get high. You are not macrodosing marijuana when you drink them.

JOHN: So during the 18 months or so of pandemic mayhem, what did you do?

NATHAN: I was doing Big Wowie’s online and I was making comedy videos.

Nathan remembers his Australian heritage…

We went up to Scotland for Christmas 2020 (my wife is Scots) and, about two days later, there was a national lockdown and we couldn’t leave Scotland. Well you couldn’t leave your shire; you couldn’t even leave your town. Fortunately because we had family up there, we had a place to stay and it turned out OK because there was more space and we were right by a forest and Chilli was happy.

JOHN: Your wife is a…

NATHAN: …a psychotherapist. She took a year off.

JOHN: The pandemic must have…

NATHAN: You would think so. Yeah, lockdown was hard. It certainly tightened the screws on my mental health. I started therapy again. My therapist is in Australia – online therapy via Zoom.

JOHN: Presumably you are not allowed to get therapy from your wife…

NATHAN: I get that from her constantly. (LAUGHS) She says very insightful, wonderful things but you’re not allowed to have any clients you know. My wife knows, as a therapist, that I need to talk about her to my therapist. Though, in fairness, I talk to her about my therapist, because she’s fascinated in the process. I struck gold with my therapist and my wife is fascinated to know why she’s so good.

JOHN: In the new year, you have new projects…?

“I haven’t really got time for much in my life right now…”

NATHAN: I haven’t really got time for much in my life right now. I’m running Big Wowie every month, I’ve got two children and I’m the primary carer… My wife’s going to go back to full-time work.

It’s very fulfilling being a present father, because my own father was an absent father and then he left us when I was four.

JOHN: Are you going up to the Edinburgh Fringe next year?

NATHAN: No. Because my child’s birthday is August 5th. Basically my second daughter has ruined my live comedy career. 

JOHN: Well, she IS called Wolf, so I guess it’s best not to annoy her too much.

NATHAN: I tried to have her cut out early so it wouldn’t interrupt my future Edinburgh Fringe plans, but… Well, if the Fringe starts after August 5th one year, I might go up.

JOHN: A lesson to all performers there. They should control their base urges nine months before August.

NATHAN: Also I’ve got to have something to say in a Fringe show which is not “Being a father…”.

JOHN: You are tied-down.

NATHAN: I’m a happy house husband.

JOHN: And that’s great. You’ll get psychological insight into the human condition and can write novels about it.

NATHAN: Mmmmm…

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Filed under Cabaret, Charity, Comedy

ECCENTRIVIA – hairy-nosed wombats, almost dead parrots, Scots and tossers

My last blog ended with the mention of comedian and author Janey Godley’s meal of mince on toast being the subject of a prominent news article in Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper.

The next day, England’s/the UK’s Daily Star newspaper picked up the Daily Record story and it also turned out that, according to Google, ‘Janey Godley’ was the most-searched name for and by Scots in 2020.

Forget toast; she is on a roll.

********

Fame though, like the hairy-nosed wombat, can be a fickle thing.

Hairy-nosed wombat (Photo by Eva Hejda, via Wikipedia)

Creative hyphenate Ariane Sherine’s 9-year old daughter decided that, for her upcoming birthday in April, she wanted to adopt (online) a hairy-nosed wombat. They are an endangered species and she reckons they look sweet.

I am not altogether sure I agree and I felt obliged to point out to her that there are only reckoned to be either 206 or 147 of the even-more-endangered kākāpō left in the world.

These are quirky, large, flightless, nocturnal parrots.

Ralph (Photo: New Zealand Department of Conservation)

As a result, for her still upcoming birthday, she has now persuaded her long-suffering mother to fork out an extra £55 for the adoption of a near-extinct non-Monty Python kākāpō parrot called Ralph.

I suggested that, as the Rule of Three is immutable (she is an expert Scrabble player) Ariane’s daughter should also adopt the two squirrels who live in my back garden and, as I cannot tell them apart, we should call both of them Cyril. 

So she has now informally and additionally adopted Cyrils the Squirrels.

We will skate over the fact that four creatures are now involved. 

********

Andy Dunlop in happier days

On a more serious note, I received this sad missive from Andy Dunlop – President of the World Egg Throwing Federation:

“The World Egg Throwing Championships, hosted by Swaton Show, was looking forward to its return this year following last year’s lock down but the Committee fears our June 27th date may be unachievable due to the global pandemic. Movement to another date this year is impractical for wholly understandable reasons.”

I suggested that, when tennis becomes allowed, surely egg throwing must be allowed and that, if Scotch Eggs could be classified as a full meal to get round pub restrictions, maybe they are the future of egg-throwing too – though a bit dangerous for Russian Egg Roulette, which involves smashing an egg into your own forehead.

Andy Dunlop’s disappointing reply was: “Probably not.”

The moment the World Gravy Wrestling Champion failed in his World Russian Egg Roulette title bid in 2012

He added: “Our family continue to be fine as are now both vaccinated and it’s pretty much OK to be locked down when I can work from my conservatory, over-looking a couple of acres of garden and field disturbed only by bird song and the occasional baa from the sheep looking through my fence. 

“The ten girls in there since yesterday, placed by farmer Steven (son of Steve, father of Steven John) arrived after a scan revealed they are not in lamb and, unbeknown to them, are being fattened before their final trip. They will be replaced shortly by a clutch of successful mothers and their new joyous off spring.”

It took me a moment to realise all this referred to sheep.

********

Shortly after that message arrived from the barren outlands north of Watford, I received this photo from comedy uber-fan Sandra Smith on England’s south coast:

I had always assumed the locals in Brighton were fairly sophisticated men and women of the world (other genders are available). But I am prepared to reconsider this opinion…

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Filed under Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

Reaction to the incompetence of the UK’s National Health Service…

Yesterday’s blog was me bitching about the inefficient, mindless bureaucracy of the NHS. In particular, about how they sent me three self-contradictory letters about changing my meeting with a Consultant in June (in four months’ time) from an in-the-flesh meeting to a telephone call (because of the infection risk during the current COVID outbreak).

Inevitably, about ten minutes after posting that blog, I got a phone call from the NHS about changing from flesh-to-telephone a different appointment I have tomorrow with a different Consultant at the same hospital.

Something of a pity that I am not seeing him in the flesh because last week I had a recurrance of the vertigo I suddenly had without warning three weeks ago… and the neck/shoulder/arm pain which has recently got worse since it started back in November… and, of course, the fact I have not had a proper night’s sleep since I was in hospital in May last year – I wake up at least once every hour during the night, dehydrated, with my throat and mouth parched and having to drink water.

This means – because of the water – having to go to the toilet a lot during the night, which is not helped by falling-over vertigo or a painful and restrictive neck/shoulder/arm problem which is easier to describe visually rather than over the phone.

It also means I will not be given a blood test to see how my calcium level/kidney function is progressing or not. Those were involved in my problem last May, the cause of which is still a “mystery” (technical term).

Anyway, I got a fair number of comments about yesterday’s blog. These are a few…


Andy’s response was:


You should raise this with The Minister at The Department of Administrative Affairs. The response will be that to change a standard NHS letter issued by a single key stroke that generates three different but essential standard letters to the same person whilst informing several departments of the change is essential in effective running of the appointments system. 

Whilst admitting that this does appear to be wasteful and confusing, particularly if the three letters received by the patient are opened in the wrong order, to alter the system requires the employment of a number of consultants and support staff over a period. It’s estimated, that may extend over several years because there is no central office for administration within the NHS. 

You’ll recall the failure of the government proposed computer system to link all the the NHS computer systems into one seamless system. It’s considered that to fix this issue, which is considered mostly harmless, would take in the area of £736,000,000 and is therefore not worth doing.

In addition, all of the Ministers’ friends are all currently overstretched in other government projects they’ve been awarded so won’t be able to start work in this until at least 2037.


‘King1394’ observed:


Yes it is the efficient work of computerised automation. Once there would have been a thinking clerical worker managing your appointments. But computers are cheap to employ even if they produce three contradictory letters where one would suffice.


Alan commented:


This is the same bureaucracy that, when medics were crying out for Personal Protective Equipment, refused to deal with many suppliers who had stockpiles of exactly the right equipment, in date, authorised for medical use… They refused to purchase it because that particular supplier couldn’t be added to the procurement system due to a lack of past dealings.

Every once in a while there’s a cry-out for everyone in the NHS to receive a pay rise or bonus due to the hard work they’ve done in fighting the pandemic.

While I wholeheartedly agree that every single person in the NHS who has been right there in the hospital, facing danger, risking their own health as well as that of their families should get something, I’m still very reticent to make it a blanket award as I don’t want to reward those who made it more difficult or who simply did their job from home at no additional risk to themselves or others.


…and Sandra said:


The NHS? I have been lucky in my treatment from them in the main.

Apart from the time when I was sent for physio, when in fact my hip was on the point of fracturing.

Plus one other doctor whom everyone avoided.

As it turned out, he mis-diagnosed my condition, complained about the price of the meds he was about to prescribe, then ran after me begging forgiveness because he had given me the wrong prescription. Bastard. 

And I told him so, leaving out the word bastard…


Obviously, I realise my alleged problems are only relatively minor inconveniences, but – hey! – look – it’s my blog. It needs writing and where else can I selfishly whinge up my own arse if not in my blog?

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Filed under Bureaucracy, Medical

Lockdown London looks like a scene in a 1950s post-Apocalyptic SciFi movie

The UK is in lockdown because of the COVID pandemic but, yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I (in our bubble) had to go into Central London. Here are some photos of the current West End, mid-afternoon, on a Friday…

Oxford Street, London – 5th February 2021

Oxford Street, London – 5th February 2021

Berwick Street, Soho, London – 5th February 2021

Bond Street, London (Fenwick’s store on left) – 5th February 2021 (Photo by MEUNF)

Piccadilly, London (Fortnum & Mason’s store on right) – 5th February 2021 (Photo by MEUNF)

 

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Filed under London, Photographs

More blood has to flow during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK…

(Image by kropekk_pl via Pixabay)

Yesterday, I got a phone call from the NHS Blood Transfusion Service asking if I would like to give blood.

Normally, I am a blood donor but, I was in hospital for a week in May with a high calcium level and a very low kidney function.

I am still not quite back to normal levels and the doctors still do not know the cause of the problem despite endless X-rays, scans, blood tests et al. 

So, last time I was due to give blood, I checked and was turned down and told I could not safely donate until I had finished being an out-patient at my local hospital. 

My blood is Group O+ which is, I think, the most common type.

I asked the Blood Donation person on the phone: “I’ve got dead common blood. Why are you phoning me – because people aren’t giving as much blood during the pandemic?”

And this, indeed, turned out to be the reason.

I was told there were fewer donors than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic and – also because of the pandemic – some of the smaller donor centres (hired for the day) have either closed-down permanently or are currently shut because of the ongoing lockdown provisions.

Blood donations have lowered to the extent that they are now phoning up existing donors to encourage them to give blood soon.

More blood has to flow.

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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 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 10 – What it’s really like in COVID-19 wards

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 9

(Image by Tumisu, via Pixabay)

SUNDAY 26th APRIL

UK hospital deaths in last 24 hours 413 – Total deaths in hospital 20,732

I thought if you got coronavirus you were supposed to self-isolate (which means you don’t get included in any statistics) for 7 days because that was how long it lasted and it peaked on the 4th or 5th day. But my friend who lives in Central London and who – pretty certainly – had the virus a few weeks ago tells me:


I think there is a difference between being symptomatic, being infectious and being post-viral but still feeling ill. I don’t know for how long people are infectious. I am just saying that some people, including me, feel ill for several weeks. That is different from NHS guidelines about isolation and work.

One friend has had fever for over 2 weeks. Another couldn’t get out of bed for 3 weeks. Another – an obstetrician – couldn’t stand up for 10 days and is still signed off work, A fourth was in bed for a week and, in week 3, still can’t push a Hoover round a room.

As for loss of taste and smell… Does having no sense of smell mean the virus is still active in me or is it just a post-viral leftover? I don’t know.

With me, the fever stopped over 2 weeks ago. I am now mildly able to taste my casserole. I would say I’ve got 25% back. Can get very strong tastes. A spoonful of mustard just about gets through!! Have to hold things against my nose to smell them. I would say this week has been the first proper better week. Energy back. Still got a cough but it is abating.

The rules state that you should self isolate for 7 days or longer if you still have symptoms. But one friend’s partner who’s a nurse got symptoms and was told to report for work 7 days later. I know a lot of people who have been pretty ill. But ill at home.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to return to work tomorrow. The Financial Times had quoted May 7th as a likely return date but an expert (currently, it seems, the world is full of experts) told The Times that he would need one week’s rest for each day spent in the Intensive Care Unit. He was in the ICU for three days and is, indeed, roughly coming back after three weeks’ recuperation.

My friend in Central London (as detailed in previous Diary Blogs) has a friend seriously ill with coronavirus in an ICU since 4th April.

MONDAY 27th APRIL

A rare collection of items, not seen by me locally for four days

I bought some eggs today… they have been unseen for the last four days…

My friend in Central London, whose friend is in an ICU with coronavirus, messaged me:


I am exhausted.

My friend had a tracheostomy today.

I may stay in bed tomorrow with my phone on silent.

Running on empty.

Me. Not the iPhone.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson is, indeed, back.

UK hospital deaths in the last 24 hours were 360.

Total deaths in hospital now stand at 21,092.

“The procedure went well…” (Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels)

TUESDAY 28th APRIL

My friend in Central London messaged me:


Don’t feel brilliant today. My friend had the tracheostomy yesterday. The procedure went well. Is stable.


Hospital deaths in the last 24 hours: 586.

Total UK deaths in hospital: 21,678.

WEDNESDAY 29th APRIL

I went to donate blood today. They test your blood for coronavirus antibodies, but not for the coronavirus itself. You used to get tea or coffee and biscuits after donating blood. The last time I went, in February, you could not have hot tea or coffee – only cold drinks… something to do with the caffeine.

“You used to get tea or coffee with biscuits…”

This time there was a different reason given for not drinking tea or coffee after donating – Because of social distancing. They don’t want people to linger too long at the biscuit table afterwards. Apparently, people linger less long if the drinks are cold instead of hot. 

Instead of having nine people on nine beds donating blood at the same time, today they had six people donating blood in plastic recliner chairs which were wiped-down after each person. 

In the queue going in, I got talking to another donor (keeping the regulation two metres apart). I normally clench and unclench my fist to help the blood flow out faster. He said the medical advice was also to clench and unclench your buttocks. It has the same effect.

I am not sure this comes naturally to me in practice; only symbolically.

Latest from my friend in Central London on her friend who is in hospital:


Yesterday was a good day but it is very up and down.  

His slight rally is due to our wonderful NHS. They are so compassionate. I feel they are really taking care of him. Today his nurse decided that my friend’s bed was too near the door so might be interfering with his rest – he feels moving him somewhere quieter today in ICU might help him rally more. Details, but they are fighting his corner every moment. 

On the other hand, the call from the consultant is always more sobering. He said they still don’t give my friend more than a 15-20% chance because of multiple organ failure (his liver function is now also impaired). However, they are not giving up on him. They have brought him this far (since 4th April). 

If only his daughter and I could go and talk to him and hold his hand.

What people are not realising, I think, is that it’s not just old and infirm people dying. And it’s not just Oh we’ll pop somebody on a ventilator for 3 days and then they’re fine. 

The consultant told me that 80% of ventilated patients who are in a similar position to my friend don’t make it. Those with a chance – like my friend – who are under 60 and have no pre-existing medical problems, are often on ventilators for weeks. Over 50% in my friend’s ICU are aged 45-65. He is 58. 

He has settled well with the tracheostomy. This morning I spoke to his consultant and his ICU nurse. The tracheostomy means they can easily take him off the ventilator and back on again. He did well off the ventilator for a few hours yesterday, with just a supplemental oxygen mask. They put him back on the ventilator overnight because, even though he is now managing to breathe on his own, his breathing muscles are weak and easily tired. They will try him off the ventilator again today. 

Both the consultant and the nurse said he’s “a bit more awake” – sometimes opening his eyes when they say his name. He doesn’t yet respond to any other commands like squeezing a hand or sticking out his tongue. The nurse thinks my friend’s eyes maybe look like they are actually looking back at him for a second, but he can’t be sure yet. 

The consultant said they are still giving kidney filtration and, as he is young, they hope his kidneys can eventually recover much of their function. 

He is a bit jaundiced at the moment and they know his liver isn’t working 100% but the consultant said this is common in ICU patients. 

So some hopeful signs.


Meanwhile, UK hospital deaths in the last 24 hours rose by 765. That means total coronavirus deaths in hospitals has reached 21,857. Total all-in deaths (including hospitals, care homes and in ‘the general community’) have now reached 26.097.

THURSDAY 30th APRIL

Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds had a son yesterday.

Inspirational war veteran Captain Tom Moore has been appointed an honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to mark his 100th birthday. He has now raised over £31 million for the NHS.

He has also been awarded a Defence Medal, “after experts realised he was owed one decades ago”. It will be added to the 1939-1945 Star, Burma Star and War Medal he wore on his walk, which also earned him a Pride of Britain Award. The newspapers report he will also be made an honorary England cricketer by former captain Michael Vaughan. I have no idea how that works.

Latest news from my friend in Central London is:


I have just had an update from the ICU. My friend needed a lot of kidney filtration today, as well as a unit of blood and blood pressure support. With all that going on, his oxygen requirements went up again so they’re leaving him on the ventilator at the moment. His oxygen saturation (SATs) is good though. So it’s a bit up and down today. 

He is still responding to pain stimuli. When they suctioned the chest secretions earlier, they thought he was trying to bite the tube – so this could be a further little sign of improvement in awareness, although he still hasn’t come round from sedation, which was discontinued 2 weeks ago. 

They invited me to ring the ICU mobile today and they held the phone to his ear so I could talk to him. I told him how his family and friends are constantly sending messages of support and love. He will be overwhelmed at all the good wishes coming his way. I also told him about what’s happening in his beloved garden and I didn’t forget to add that many of us are missing his cooking – especially the curries!


“Increased ventilation overnight… increased support…”

FRIDAY 1st MAY

My friend in Central London tells me:


News just in from the consultant. The trend is downwards.

Increased ventilation overnight, increased BP and cardiovascular support, inflammatory markers up, kidney support up.

He said the longer they support multiple organs the slimmer the chances are becoming and he said it’s not looking great at the moment.


UK coronavirus deaths up 739 in the last 24 hours to an overall total of 27,510.

Carrie Symonds with son Wilfred on Twitter

SATURDAY 2nd MAY

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds named their son Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson. The Nicholas bit is in tribute to Dr Nick Price and Dr Nick Hart, whom Boris credits with saving his life when he was in hospital with coronavirus.

Wilfred was Boris’ grandfather and Lawrie was Carrie’s grandfather.

I myself was named after my grandfathers – the rather unfortunately named John and Thomas.

I also heard from my friend in Central London:


I had a call from the consultant today. 

My friend’s inflammatory markers have come down a little bit – The lab found no new infections yesterday, so they’re continuing with the antibiotics as before. They will also try to lower his blood pressure support by a small amount. 

Other than this, the news is much the same as yesterday. He confirmed that my friend’s breathing has lost some ground since a week ago.

It is some 6 weeks since he first became ill, so the medical opinion is that they are no longer dealing with the virus itself but rather the very considerable and widespread damage that it has done to his body/vital organs. They think that, at this point, ICU patients are no longer infected (or infective) with coronavirus, so they are now no longer treating the virus but instead supporting my friend’s body to heal, which includes treating any infections that crop up and supporting his lungs, kidneys and cardiovascular system. 

This is disappointing to hear, of course, but the hope is that new treatments will soon be able to help newly infected people.


I also found out that someone else I know was taken into hospital with coronavirus earlier in the week. He has always seemed to be strong, sturdy and healthy. He came out of hospital yesterday and is now resting, alone, at home. He tells me:


What an experience going into those COVID-19 ‘hot wards’ as they call them. You can really see how stretched the NHS really is. I only found one sanitiser dispenser that had any in it in the two different wards I was on and the porter was telling me that, when there’s a delivery, it’s a bit of a free-for-all to try to grab gloves and masks to last until the next lot arrive.

Strange experience being in a locked-down hospital with security on every door, I had to have an argument with a security man to let me out after I’d been discharged even though my son’s van was about 15 feet away waiting to take me home. I threatened the security man with a cough and he let me through in the end. LOL.

… CONTINUED HERE

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