Do I have to take all these tablets doc?

Just before lockdown, I visited the gp. A nearly empty waiting room and no queue at reception. I entered myself into a wall-mounted machine and sat. A TV on silent, adverts for helpful services, announcements crossing a display. A bald dapper guy in a waistcoat and open-necked shirt popped in intermittently, inviting one of the sitters to join him. A trickle of people came and went. There was hush, apart from the telephone, because no one was there. And this a busy village surgery. So different to my childhood experiences of an urban fifties practice. A single doctor working out of his front room. A full-to-bursting waiting room where, like a barber, everyone knows their place in the queue. A beep from the ether announcing invitations to join him. It was nearly always a him.
  My visit was intended as a routine event to review medication. For those who are interested, I take stuff for gout and viral keratitis (herpes in my optic nerve). Also one for blood pressure and one for cholesterol which I have now stopped as it was making me ill (anyway an Irish study suggested no benefit if you haven't yet had a stroke or a cardiac event - and no jokes about the Irish please). Finally one to counteract any stomach side effects and a vitamin pill for macular degeneration.
  Phew - whilst I was there I mentioned my shoulder pain which he thought was 'impingement' and recommended an ultrasound to which I replied 'what will that tell you that will change anything?' So he put me on the waiting list for a joint injection.
  Finally finally I told him about my unsteadiness and vertigo, particularly turning over in bed and during pilates. He nodded as I suggested a middle ear benign condition of older people. No suggestions for treatment though. Could he also take my blood pressure? Yes he could and it was elevated. What next? Medication was mentioned, but the look on my face must have put him off. So I'm measuring it at home again.
  Finally finally finally, I couldn't help notice a scruffy medical student frantically writing stuff down in a notebook. I'd signed the appropriate consent form in the waiting room. 'What have you learned today?' I asked. To which he replied in a mangled accent 'I'm not good at remembering stuff', which is a distinct disadvantage as a student. 
  I think the gp was somewhat battered and confused by all these exchanges. He's a good lad. And a snappy dresser. My last visit had been more of a battle, a lady who doesn't take no for an answer. Hence taking a cholesterol-buster which I didn't want, just because of my age and some probability I might have a stroke in the next 10 years. She is well aware of my grumpiness as I am of her spikiness. It's mutual admiration.
  My blood pressure varies from highish to I should be fainting right now. Because I'm recording the results, next to the jumble of numbers is an ordered list, so I do know the date and day of the week. I have not had my joint injection. I'm not taking pain-killers thankfully. The vertigo is gradually settling though I need to be careful bending my neck backwards, needed when the childbride puts in my eyedrops. Eyesight is good - one thing is at least.
  So there it is, a geriatric masterclass.

Oldies get into the garden in lockdown week 1

 The meerkat gets everywhere

The bug hotel is underway

Week 1 of the lockdown was a great opportunity to get the garden in some short of shape. Not that we are gardeners. Controlled neglect is our style

There is a bee on the heather

Apologies to all those with a weak stomach, but we have been following our frogspawn

Oldies are now in lockdown

Events squeezed in before the crisis. Oldies keeping active.

We were fortunate to have limited celebrations.
The idiot and Jenson will have a video event next week when our new Brio piece will be unveiled. He will be 7. I will have caught up with the childbride.
Another way to scan the blog is clic here.

The older persons' hotel - full of celebs who are not past their sell-by date

the garden is a great help
'There's nothing I respect more than someone planting trees under whose shade they may never sit.'
'No present like the time.'

Two quotes from an unashamed 'feel-good' film about family and ageing with some great Bollywood dance sequences. It's about making the most of it. (The Second Best Marigold Hotel)

Something that is close to our hearts just now.


I know the media and Her Majesties' Opposition have roles in scrutinising our masters, but they can be really miserable and tiresome. Surely no one in the government is trying to mess up.


My older brother and I were great SF fans back in the day. I feel as though I am now a participant in one of those stories.
Grant Brooke passed on the following fact sheet - 
Good read from an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University
Not really feeling sick and do not want to be..but if you are feeling confused as to why Coronavirus is a bigger deal than Seasonal flu? Here it is in a nutshell. I hope this helps. Feel free to share this to others who don’t understand...
It has to do with RNA sequencing.... I.e. genetics.
Seasonal flu is an “all human virus”. The DNA/RNA chains that make up the virus are recognized by the human immune system. This means that your body has some immunity to it before it comes around each year... you get immunity two ways...through exposure to a virus, or by getting a flu shot.
Novel viruses, come from animals.... the WHO tracks novel viruses in animals, (sometimes for years watching for mutations). Usually these viruses only transfer from animal to animal (pigs in the case of H1N1) (birds in the case of the Spanish flu). But once, one of these animal viruses mutates, and starts to transfer from animals to humans... then it’s a problem, Why? Because we have no natural or acquired immunity.. the RNA sequencing of the genes inside the virus isn’t human, and the human immune system doesn’t recognize it so, we can’t fight it off.
Now.... sometimes, the mutation only allows transfer from animal to human, for years it’s only transmission is from an infected animal to a human before it finally mutates so that it can now transfer human to human... once that happens..we have a new contagion phase. And depending on the fashion of this new mutation, thats what decides how contagious, or how deadly it’s gonna be..
H1N1 was deadly....but it did not mutate in a way that was as deadly as the Spanish flu. It’s RNA was slower to mutate and it attacked its host differently, too.
Fast forward.
Now, here comes this Coronavirus... it existed in animals only, for nobody knows how long...but one day, at an animal market, in Wuhan China, in December 2019, it mutated and made the jump from animal to people. At first, only animals could give it to a person... But here is the scary part.... in just TWO WEEKS it mutated again and gained the ability to jump from human to human. Scientists call this quick ability, “slippery”
This Coronavirus, not being in any form a “human” virus (whereas we would all have some natural or acquired immunity). Took off like a rocket. And this was because, Humans have no known immunity...doctors have no known medicines for it.
And it just so happens that this particular mutated animal virus, changed itself in such a way the way that it causes great damage to human lungs..
That’s why Coronavirus is different from seasonal flu, or H1N1 or any other type of influenza.... this one is slippery AF. And it’s a lung eater...And, it’s already mutated AGAIN, so that we now have two strains to deal with, strain s, and strain L....which makes it twice as hard to develop a vaccine.
We really have no tools in our shed, with this. History has shown that fast and immediate closings of public places has helped in the past pandemics. Philadelphia and Baltimore were reluctant to close events in 1918 and they were the hardest hit in the US during the Spanish Flu.
Factoid: Henry VIII stayed in his room and allowed no one near him, till the Black Plague passed...(honestly...I understand him so much better now). Just like us, he had no tools in his shed, except social isolation...
And let me end by saying....right now it’s hitting older folks harder... but this genome is so slippery...if it mutates again (and it will). Who is to say, what it will do next.
Be smart folks... acting like you’re unafraid is so not needed right now.

#flattenthecurve. Stay home folks... and share this to those that just are not catching on. To copy and paste, hold your hand on the text till copy appears, then go to your page and hold you finger down again till paste appears.


Who is ignoring it now?

Taken before his time.

Jason died in his thirties, whilst asleep - what a waste

We went to Jason's funeral last week - me, the childbride and Andrew. Lots of devoted family and friends.

Jason died in his sleep. 30-odd with most of his life left. We can only assume a 'heart issue.'

Andrew, Jason and Luke were computer gaming pals. They met most Thursdays in Andrew's Longwood flat. All three had some form of disability, presumably somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Andrew and Jason became close when they travelled with Jason's parents to Blackpool and Wales. There were plans for later this year - Scarborough with us and more Blackpool.

Jason was buried at the Birkby natural site. It is beautifully turned out on sloping ground. Some lovely things said by his uncle. Andrew was given a rose to throw on the coffin. A poignant moment which he managed well.

Grief is a difficult thing, especially if life doesn't make a lot of sense at the best of times. Death must seem pretty pointless.

We must have frogs somewhere because we are having their babies

We can just make out the spawn on the surface and below. The advice is leave it and cover to protect from predators - dragon fly larvae, water boatmen and snakes. Then it's a bit of pot luck really.

Survivors will aim for a wood pile and some long grass.

Anybody got any tips?

Coffee (3)

The story so far thanks to Melvin  16th century discovery of coffee in Ethiopia. Spread to Europe in the 17th century where coffee houses begin and then, in the 18th century they flourish as cultural, political and business meeting places. Dutch East India company promotes Java as the main coffee producer, taking over from Yemen and the port of Mocha.

Reading on  As coffee became more popular in Europe, so the production of coffee centred on the colonies. The French were the largest. In the 1770s, Martinique and San Domingue (Haiti) produced over half world's coffee supply, using slave labour. The French Revolution and the enlightenment lead to the emancipation of slaves resulting in the first black republic in Haiti. Coffee production fell drastically - 1000 plantations were destroyed. The industry couldn't get going again as the rest of the world refused to do business.

There were many criticisms of coffee drinking. People should be working and not talking (apprentices and law students). Hard currency was being wasted on a luxury which had no nutritional value. It caused intoxication, bowel obstruction and impotence.

Coffee drinking declined during the19th century. Tea became more refined as the Royal Family began to drink it. Tea could be drunk at home, presided over by women. Dutch East India company was doing well with coffee so the British East India company put more effort into tea. Coffee houses had become elitist. Exclusive coffee houses began to fail as merchants moved out of city. Coffee became a working class drink, bought from shacks and carts on the streets. The Temporance movement promoted coffee to try and reduce working class alcohol consumption. So a major cultural shift.

America was the first mass market for coffee. During the Civil war, the confederates especially drank coffee all day. The generals were happy to keep their soldiers alert. A daily ration was anything up to 10 cups. On demobilisation this demand continued and it was also the time of expansion out west - cowboys and so on who created further demand. This was met by the technological development of coffee roasting. In 1873, industrial roasting began at Arbuckles in Philadelphia. By 1913 over 80% of coffee drinking was of brands.

It's Lent again for the old man to ponder

The time for renewal and a rethink

We don't do pancakes. Difficult to believe it's two years since my failure to be pleasant. Both relate to Lent which I first read about in Roderick Strange's, great name for a vicar, Times article Credo. I did help an old lady out of her passenger seat on Victoria Street in Holmfirth. She didn't thank me and walked tall and straight-backed toward the bridge.
  Lent is about renewal which I associate with the garden and the lambs up on Cartworth Moor. We've also come to link it with an annual visit from two gardeners, John and Irish Liam. They spring clean our Montana, Wisteria, Laurel and Leylandii. We've planted ten trees since moving in (2004), so doing our bit whilst not affiliating with the Westminster green elite who want to make our lives miserable. The Laurel is 12 feet high and 20 feet long. It sings; not just a haven for birds though, but a major hazard for a middle-aged gardener who doesn't do ladders any more. "I have to confess, it's a great relief when you've come and done the garden." "It's a great relief when I've done that hedge," replied John. Mind you he does it well enough with a long extension to his power trimmer.
  Despite the wet and the chill, the early flowers, buds and shoots are out, along with a few weeds. Even daffodils we didn't know we had have appeared in the wild patch.
  This year we are also emerging from a modest dark winter moment. The knee is less painful and I can stand from sitting without lurching across the room. The doc says I have to take pills for some thing I don't know I have - blood pressure. There's more to the list, but it doesn't improve on being recited.
  No need to be somebody I am not. Faithful to a spiky past but trying not to dwell on it - it is simply there. Then there is Lent and we've made it through another winter. No point in contemplating a world without me and the childbride in it.
  Driving through Honley on my way to the doc this morning, I noticed a chimney sweep's white van with a banner headline which suited all my feelings for that post-winter pre-medical moment, 'Up Yours'.

Some literary thoughts from an oldie

Holmfirth Civic beer festival

Beer festival at Holmfirth Civic. Proud sponsor.
Radiators not helpful, guitars ascendent, could have done with more drinkers.


Anyone hear Simon Armitage on Radio 4 this week? Apparently, along with fellow budding poets in his class at school, he submitted a verse or two. The teacher adjudicated and posted his choices on the wall. Simon's was not amongst them. He thinks he may have been on a revenge mission ever since. He made Poet Laureate anyway.
  He says all writers and poets relate to and have conversations with 6 or so previous authors - who would be yours? It depends on the era for me. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Orwell and Greene when I was a lad. The Liverpool poets when I lived there. A black hole climbing the greasy pole. Seamus Heaney and Ian McEwan during a second period at university in the 1990s. Michael Parkinson's short intimate family and cricket pieces. Now, crime writing that takes you to different places and times. Rebus, Bosch, The Crookback Lawyer, Morse, Duffy and so on.

What is the 'jizz'. Writing about about birds in Nature Notes, Times Feb 22nd, Miriam Darlington describes it as the 'particular flitting moves that makes each species recognisable'. Simon Barnes, in his book 'How to be a bad birdwatcher' goes quite a bit further, comparing it with his other, sports, journalistic prowess. Recognising by familiarity, taking in distinctive detail in a moment, and unconsciously knowing that it's Beckham. It comes with watching a lot of football and a lot of birds. It's the music of pattern, the deep knowledge of what is normal. Medical diagnosis is just here, spotting the discordant notes. And, all the senses are in play together along with memory. We continuously collect data, analyse and act. Amazing, but it took billions of years of evolution.
  Simon suggests that once you have the jizz, you are on the way to losing the boundaries between us and the rest of the animal kingdom. It's all going on everywhere around us, successfully or otherwise, without our interference. Yes, I get that.


'Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights', by Helen Lewis (Johnathan Cape) is reviewed by Melanie Reid, Times 15th Feb. Case studies of successful women who display a range of disruptive behaviour 'fighting the tyranny of niceness'. It's not about being deliberately unpleasant, more harnessing the energy from the dark side, producing the goods and leaving casualties in your wake. Ring any bells? Can you be nice and successful? Not just work, but family and leisure as well.