This post is written for Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC), amount.

My mum and dad both died in 2012 (separately). My dad has a sister, who is now in her early/mid seventies. She emigrated to Australia back in 1970, when I was just a toddler. She got married out there and remains there to this day. I have three cousins who I’ve never met. I do, at least, keep in touch with the aunt via a weekly email exchange.

My mum was the middle one of three. She had an elder sister, and a younger brother. I haven’t seen the brother since I was a teenager – actually he is an interesting guy because he was a lowly market trader, who one day had an epiphany moment (think St. Paul!) and then became a church minister! I’ll tell you more about him one day, but this post isn’t about him.

My auntie – my mum’s elder sister – is somebody with whom I have been in regular contact, especially since my mum died. She was born three years before my mum, and is 79 now. She lives up in Greater Manchester – halfway up the country from me, about a five-hour drive.

Since the stroke, my own mobility has of course been restricted – I posted about this all the time, especially a couple of years ago – and I have not been able to visit her. We make do with a phone call every couple of weeks. When I last spoke to her she hadn’t been feeling well. Her eyes had been hurting, her head was aching, etc. I made sure I called her daily for a few days, as things eventually wore off. She has a daughter (my cousin) who still lives nearby, so I’m not really the primary contact anyway.

A week ago, the cousin contacted me, to say that my auntie had been taken into hospital. Where I’d laid off calling her for a couple of days because I thought she was getting better, she’d actually become bad enough to be admitted to hospital. All I could really do was to call her daily. When I spoke to her, there was a noticeable difference – she had become very anxious about things. She was convinced that she had done something, and that this was her punishment. She was convinced that her cellphone had been tapped, so she would not speak for long. Imagine the secuity services analysing those phone taps – what juicy material our conversations must have been πŸ™‚. She apologised for even knowing me, in case it had somehow jinxed me. But, to her this was all real, and nothing anybody said could convince her otherwise. I mean, it sounded very stroke-like to me, almost a switch flicking in her brain. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, though, and in my years volunteering with stroke survivors, I never came across anything like that. She did have an MRI scan which didn’t reveal anything – but I took that with a pinch of salt because mine was negative too, and now look at me!

Anyway, Fandango issued the prompt of amount, and I’m getting there. It won’t have escaped your notice that there is a little health scare going on at the moment. In the UK, the peak is expected in the next 2 weeks, and the NHS is preparing for it by kicking as many people out of the hospitals as they can.

This can mean things like cancer patients not receiving urgent treatment. Some hospices, too, have been closed. In my auntie’s case, she was discharged on Tuesday, complete with 7 days of anti-psychosis meds and an urgent outpatrient appointment booked for tomorrow. When I spoke to her Tuesday night, she was convinced that she had not been discharged properly (although she wouldn’t know the difference), that she had effectively run away, and that my cousin was about to be arrested for kidnapping her. So, judge for yourselves how cured she was!

Amount, okay. I heard on the tv tonight that this is very much a deliberate strategy by the NHS, and that some hospitals had brought their occupancy rates down to 80%, in preparation for the onslaught. I don’t particularly blame the NHS – this seems like a no-win situation. People without COVID-19 are not being treated, or not being treated properly, and they are the collateral damage. I wonder whether these people will appear in the final Corona data? I suspect not.

Our media is expressing shock, horror, that our medics might have to choose who to treat and who to ignore, as they have done in Italy. It sounds to me like that choice is already being made!

As a postscript, I spoke to my auntie a few hours ago. So far, so good. Actually she sounded better tonight at home than she had all week in hospital, but I guess that’s not surprising.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (25 March 2020)

It is Wedgesday, and time for Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’m gonna take care to answer his question meticulously, to fulfil his FOWC prompt too! Today he asks:

What activities have you cut from your life since this pandemic started that you DON’T really miss?

Just as a general thing, I have to say I am fortunate in this pandemic. A lot of my elderly clients are fortunate. I guess a lot of you are fortunate, too. All of us, just because this isolation malarkey has not changed habits much, because we were all pretty isolated anyway!

I’m glad in some respects, because my weekly voluntary session takes place with clients over the phone, which can happen anyway. So, I spent yesterday afternoon calling my clients as normal. In fact, during the pandemic, the task takes longer than usual. Clients normally ask to be called because they feel isolated, lonely, but actually, you’d be surprised how many are normally out when I call! Last week, for the first time in my eighteen months doing the work, everybody answered. This week, all except one. The result is that the session takes longer.

On top of that, the charity have asked me to call another seven people, on top of my normal ten. I did that this morning. With my regular clients, we can chat about anything – often what the cats have been up to, or what the kids have been up to. With these new people, it was specifically corona – are you getting groceries/meds okay? While my normal calls take three or four hours, I dashed these extra ones off in under an hour.

Normally, I get the bus into Age UK’s office in Salisbury, on a Tuesday afternoon. I leave the house at just before 12pm, and get home about 5pm. Five hours. Of which three are normally spent on the phone to clients. So, that’s two hours just lost in the commute. I wouldn’t mind but when I had my car, Salisbury was just a fifteen minute drive away! The bus journey itself goes through the villages and takes 30 minutes each way, the rest of the time is spent walking between home and the bus stop, or just waiting around.

Because of the virus, we agreed I would work from home. I fire up the browser, then ten seconds later I have accessed their network and can start making calls. Then, when I am finished, it is as simply as closing the tab, maybe firing off a quick email, before I can start doing personal things once again.

So, working from home versus a two hour commute? There’s something I don’t miss.

Male or Female?

Whether this video is humourous or not will be dependent on my ability to post the correct Youtube link below!

This post is written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), dependent.

Intellect in Isolation #1

A bit of trivia fun for you. Today, written for Fandango’e One-word Challenge (FOWC), suspense. If people like this idea, I’ll post some more.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are so called because from a distance, they have a bluish-coloured haze about them. Why is this?

Answers either on a postcard, in a comment, or if you really want you can email me. If you comment, you’d better be 100% sure that you’re right, because everybody else is going to see it!

I’ll post the answer, in a comment, at (or just after) 8am GMT tomorrow. I shall keep you in suspense until then.

You can look this answer up if you like, but I’ll be impressed if you don’t need to! And if anybody can figure out a better title, I’m all ears. Points awarded for inventive answers too πŸ™‚.

Stocked Up

This post is written for Fandango’s One-Word Challenge, contemplate.

Tesco’s is the market-leading British supermarket. Actually, there are four or five other biggies, but Tesco has grown to be about the biggest. After that, there are maybe twice as many again smaller chains.

Sunday retail laws (which have not been suspended, but which now seem crazy) stipulate that big shops (such as most Tesco branches) may only open for six hours on a Sunday. The exact hours are flexible, but most retailers (including Tesco) open between 10am and 4pm.

As a result of the virus outbreak and the subsequent wave of panic buying, Tesco announced that they would reserve a special interval exclusively for NHS workers. They set it to Sundays at 9am-10am. They would still observe Sunday Trading laws and open the tills at 10am, but would allow people to browse (i.e. put groceries into their trolley, but not to check out) from 9am.

Because we thought that this time slot represented the best combination of (a) least competition whilst shopping and (b) most groceries being available on the shelves of the supermarket, my wife (who works for the NHS) and I contemplated doing our grocery shopping during this hour. When we arrived, this was the scene that greeted us:


The queue into the shop was 30 minutes, but once in the shop we were able to get what was basically a full week’s grocery shop, including bread and milk. We did not even bother looking for toilet roll. We’re still only buying a week at a time, because that’s the most responsible approach. The exception is cat food, which is also in short supply. And, I don’t dare tell the cats that their breakfast has been cancelled! Even that, we have accumulated maybe a month’s supply, which is not particularly abnormal for us. Lots of humans have died from this virus, but cats will come out of it fatter than ever – provided they learn how to open the packets πŸ˜†.

By the time we left the shop, the queue had died down, but equally, the essential goods had mostly been purchased.

The one thing which was pleasant about doing the shopping was that there was a lot less traffic than usual.

If anybody is interested, I will not be posting my usual Who Won the Week post this evening. What’s the point when there is just one thing on the News? So I’m thinking I will suspend that until life gets a little more normal. Equally, it seems dumb to write a post just to say I won’t be writing a post, hence my tagging it onto this post.

Crunch Time

Writing this post for today’s FOWC prompt, “pass”.

It’s funny, here I am mostly-isolated in my house, and the weird thing is that I have more time to amuse myself on WordPress. I did manage to get out yesterday, just for a half-mile walk to get some air into my lungs – I’ve been out twice in the last ten days. On the way home I passed a neighbour’s and knocked – we are going to try shopping tomorrow, and did they need anything? We have to step up at the moment – we can’t just think nice things, we need to follow them through with deeds. In fact they are stocked better than us. They are in their Seventies and the husband has MS, so they must be terribly worried.

It was a nice change of scenery therefore this morning when Fandango’s prompt transported me back to another time.

In the mid Nineties I worked for a company which was developing a purchasing solution. Think Amazon, but with tweaks. It didn’t focus on the whole customer experience. It assumed that the customers already knew what they wanted, so made the purchasing process slicker. It was aimed at one business requiring supplies from another.

Look again at the date. This was before even Microsoft had Internet Explorer. So companies were interested. Rumour had it that Microsoft themselves were interested. Banks were interested, because any purchase could go through that bank’s existing payment systems – ka-ching! In the end we hooked Barclays, a big UK bank.

Not satisfied, though, there were rumours that Chase Manhattan were interested in the USA, so the company immediately dispatched people out to work semi-permanently in the USA. At the time, I was leading the Development team, so had to go across regularly to take part in meetings to try to seal the deal.

Plans progressed with Chase such that our joint venture (the agreed structure) would be based in Tampa, Fl. Chase already had a big campus there. I liked Tampa, it had just enough Spanish history to be interesting, so I told the directors that I wouldn’t mind being part of the permanent setup myself. Music to their ears, visas were obtained, a package was offered and agreed and I was all set to move.

At the time, Fl had a very low cost of living. I calculated that the salary offered would allow me a very nice car and apartment.

The hook-up with Chase took forever. Eventually, the deal was sealed, but with one last catch. They wanted the operation to be based in Manhattan. I was quite open to this. I had no ties in the USA anyway, so as long as I liked the place…

In fact as soon as I got there, I loved NYC. Initially, Chase allowed us the use of some of their managed apartments in Battery Park City, while we worked from some Chase offices in Lower Manhattan. Every day, my walk to work involved passing through the World Trade Center, crossing Broadway, and walking along Wall Street. I felt I had arrived!

But crunch time had not quite arrived – I hadn’t quite made the jump to work as a permanent employee for the US company. When that chat came, I waited to hear their revised offer. Tampa and NYC were very different places, in terms of cost of living. In fact, it was estimated 3x higher in one than the other. But I was to be disappointed. Same deal, just NYC not Tampa, the director said.

Over the next few weeks I weighed this up. A car and apartment in Tampa amounted to a shared house, in one of the outer boroughs, in New York City. Plus, I was conscious that I had been lucky to get a break to work in the US, but the foundation here was my own ability to run a Development team, which I’d have wherever I was. The company had gambled that I would be so desparate to work in the USA, I would agree to anything. But as far as I was concerned, I had the world at my feet.

I’ll pass, I said.

The Big Chill

Christmas Day has not become special yet, although the rest of the house has just started moving so I shall have to write this quickly. I got up at my normal time, performed my normal startup routine, and even checked for any overnight activity on WordPress.

I turned on the tv and caught the weather forecast. It was quite clear last night – I wonder if the Santa-spotters had any joy? – so it was quite chilly overnight and it looks bright out this morning. Usual weather, at this time of the year, is grey. Dreary. Possibly some rain. We have days where it doesn’t seem to get light.

The UK is a small country, but it does have high-lands. We call them mountains. By world-standards, they are modest but they can be deadly if you get caught out. These areas get snow, so might, I suppose, have a White Christmas. For the rest of the UK, our general temperature rises over the years mean that it is a long time since there has been a White Christmas. My personal memory of snow was once, as a child in Liverpool. Sixties or seventies.

This year, for example, because the night was clear, the weatherman says that the closest we would have got is a touch of frost in various parts, as we awoke this morning.

My image shows one of London’s Frost Fairs, which were held at various times until the nineteenth century, when the River Thames in central London froze solid, the painting is by Thomas Wyke and this post was written in response to Fandango’s One-word Challenge (FOWC) – frost.

FOWC with Fandango

I just read a post and it led me to this article, which I’m reposting.

I’ve never looked at Christine’s work before, but this is a very heartfelt post written in response to yet another school shooting in the USA. I’m kinda done with heartfelt – people keep expressing heartfelt condolences, but there aren’t even attempts by senior politicians to improve the situation, and the shootings just continue to happen on a regular basis. I’d like to hone in, though, on just one sentence in Christine’s post. Can we find a way to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people?

I’d like to take a step back and ask, How do we know who are the right people, and who are the wrong people?

Sure, we can get an idea. Probably. We can do background checks. But the trouble is, these are checks on a person’s past, not their future. Put simply, I don’t think we can know right and wrong people. Not 100%. Who knows? I could be a wrong person, it’s just that nothing ever happened yet to tip me over the edge. So, I’d argue that you can’t tell the difference between right people and wrong people.

And this is where I differ from many of my American friends – you need to remove the guns from all people, period.

Okay, doing that will not be easy. If you ask me, it has to start with steps to reform your politics – probably legal steps, not just political willpower, but nothing at all to do with guns. But if your end-game is to get rid of guns altogether, you need to think back four or five moves.

One problem I never managed to think through was how you get existing guns away from people. I’m not convinced a buyback would work. People who own guns often have them for ideological reasons – because they have the god-given right to own a gun – so I’m not sure a few dollars would make any difference. On that one, I’m afraid, the USA is on its own, but should probably prepare for more bloodshed.

Stine Writing



Can you believe that there was another shooting? Can you believe there have been 44 school shootings just this year? Can you even try to find a reason as to why this continues to happen? Can you imagine what these people are going through? Can you feel the pain they feel? Can you feel how scared they are? Can you think of a way to stop this? Can you make any sense of this? Can you find a way to keep others safe? Can our kids go to school and be safe? Can we go to work and be safe? Can we find a way to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people? Can we work together to find a solution? Can we try to help the people who are so sick? Can we just stop this violence? Can I do something? Can you do…

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