Week 632

Sunday, 31st January, 2021

For years we have bought cod and salmon from the wet fish counter at Tesco or Sainsbury‘s. Since the pandemic and wet fish counters have closed, we switched to a local company who we thought only supplied trade with local fish. The result has been quite a revelation. The fish is delivered to our door for ‘free’ in boxes of ice, the price is just as good and the quality is just unbelievably better. Yesterday, we had roast salmon and the difference of quality and taste is so marked that it is hard to believe. Of course, our new suppliers have been formerly supplying high end, London restaurants which are currently closed. Even so, we think they have been shocked by the local, domestic demand and are unlikely to turn away from it when things get back nearer to normal conditions.

Quite a cool night. We got down to 2C/36F and it is only 4C/39F at 8.00 am with grey, monotone sky. Once again, we are not going out. My job today is cleaning the gym before using it for exercise. Pauline is preparing roast chicken for our meal.

We received a letter from the ONS to tell us that our latest Covi-19 test was negative. That is now our 8th negative test result since we began in early October. We have each received £250.00 for this so far. It will continue long after we’ve been vaccinated which is nice.

We have been faithfully completing the Covid Symptom Tracker every day since the end of May. Run by Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London, it has consistently had at least 4.5 million daily contributors and allows the study to track the infectious symptoms across time and across the country. It tells us how our own, small region is doing on a weekly basis. Currently, infection rates are low and stable. Even so, only a vaccination will coax us out into the light of the real world.

Today I begin my 6th week without alcohol. For an addictive personality like mine, this means it will be harder to open a bottle of wine than to not. It will be hard to give up sparkling water and switch to red wine. I’m addicted to the pattern of my life not the substance.

Monday, 1st February, 2021

New month again. New February. I would like to wish you a happy, optimistic one but I’m afraid we all have to remain in the Holding Lounge for quite some time to come. January has been the coldest across UK for 10 years. Let’s hope we have a tropical February. It is as likely as Tories caring for the poor.

Almost a year has disappeared since we knew ‘normal’ life. This time last year, I was more concerned about securing virus software for my computer than worrying about a virus spreading across the globe. Yes, I was aware of it. Yes, I was talking about obtaining and wearing masks even before the Tory government denied their viability but I was also talking about the fact that we had booked 6 flights and 3 holiday stays but the first wasn’t until May so it should be alright. Within a couple of weeks, the doubts were flooding my mind and I was beginning to consider how to retrench and recoup.

Hope over Angmering Community Centre

Fortunately, the Tories knew just how to deal with the spread of virus. Go back to the Office and to the School encouraged the population to congregate in Workplaces and Classrooms having travelled on crowded public transport spreading infection as they went. Eat out to help Out encouraged millions to congregate in restaurants and exchange infection. Have a merry Little Christmas encouraged millions to visit family members to exchange presents and infection. The Tories definitely put their arms around the population and did everything they could to spread the Virus.

As Brexit narrows our options, increases our isolation and decreases our choices, the pandemic’s effect is magnified. Hope is currently in short supply.

Tuesday, 2nd February, 2021

We are a bit tired this morning. We were not in bed until 12.30 am and were up at 6.00 am. By 7.00 am, the Sainsbury’s delivery had been made and we were completing our breakfast drinks. Pauline is making the latest batch of Chicken Stock out in the garden to avoid that strong smell permeating the kitchen and the extraction system.

Our Neighbours are leaving.

We are very disappointed that our neighbours across the road have put their house on the market. As their son has moved on they think their property with 5 bedrooms and a double garage is too big for them. They are both in their 80s and have decided that upkeep will rapidly become too much so are looking to downsize. They are nice people and we will be sorry to see them go.

A shaft of light on Littlehampton Beach.

These are strange days of overcast gloom punctuated by brief periods of light. It is shocking how the weather alters our days. We have been enjoying ‘breaking out’ with walks by the sea but have felt rather confined of late by cold, damp days. We used to live in Woking which is being featured on the media because it is one of the sites of a new, Covid variant originating in South Africa. Mass testing and strict controls are descending on the Woking residents and we are grateful not to be involved in that.

M62 – 7.00 am today

Somewhere else we are glad to have left behind is pictured above. For 40 years, Pauline & I made the journey down the M62 across the Pennines at 7.00 am from Yorkshire to Lancashire and back in the evening. Barely a winter went by without heavy snow problems. On this day in 2009, I was recording heavy snow falling and we were closing the school for 2 days. Fortunately today, most teachers can look out of their windows on to a snowy scene and not have to take their life into their hands as we often had to do. There were times we had to be towed off snow drifts; I almost died of exposure on Standedge Moor trying to dig us out of a drift; we we hit by ‘white outs’ and drifted helplessly on sheet ice. I never want to see those days again.

Currently, I researching 3 month, summer lets on the French/Spanish border around Perpignan and Girona which we might drive to when we are fully vaccinated. You’ve got to live in hope haven’t you?

Wednesday, 3rd February, 2021

Up at 6.30 am and out to Asda for 8.00 am for a Click&Collect. It is not a pleasant morning having rained heavily in the night. It is still gloomy, raining lightly and the roadsides have lots of puddled water. It’s quickly brought out to us when we park outside the store and we are home within 20 mins. The process has been seamless and untroubled other than by the R4 Today programme I am listening to.

Tory after Tory is lining up today – (They have been most reluctant to appear for months.) – to tell us how much they admired Captain Tom Moore who has died. Of course, it would be churlish not to admire an old man struggling to keep purpose in his life, to maintain relevance and, particularly, a centenarian. My Mother-in-Law fought every way to the age of 96 before events overtook her and I found it admirable. What is worrying and why I find it so hard to join in the ‘Captain Marvel’ – ‘Hero of Our Time’ eulogies is the appropriation by the Right of these qualities. The simple ‘Old man shows optimistic spirit.‘ view is absorbed into a Nationalism that speaks to the Right-Wing cause and quickly spills into ugly jingoism.

This is the reason Tories are so keen to pop their heads over the parapet (to borrow a colonial/militaristic metaphor) this morning and to claim this old man and his exploits for themselves. Pictures of Captain Tom wearing his wartime medals are everywhere. The desire to paint him as the embodiment of British, wartime spirit, of stiff upper lip and a never-say-die attitude feeds the frenzy of nationalism engendered by the Tory Right and Brexit.

This morning, Tim Stanley – a Telegraph journalist and Roman Catholic convert – was presenting the Thought for the Day slot on R4 Today. His theme was the wartime and religious fantasy, ‘We’ll meet again’. We won’t and the majority of citizens know it if you question their religious beliefs but it suits the Nationalist, Royalist, British Exceptionalism that has been encouraged through Brexit. It chimes with the Robert Browning lines:

God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!

It also recalls for Tories the All Things Bright and Beautiful description of the world:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

It encourages us to accept our position in life. The Monarchy is not elected but Anointed by God. They rule with Divine Right which is unchallengeable. In the same way, the social structure of rich man/poor man ‘The Lord God made them all.’ is not to be challenged. You must suffer the things your station in life brings upon you but there will, if you show fortitude and courage, be jam tomorrow.

If this was the mantra of some narrow, political sect as it was for many years after Thatcher, then we would have little reason to worry. Now, the Brexit debate has brought the ugly, national exceptionalism out of the shadows and into the mainstream light. The Labour Party have gleaned from their focus groups that working class Labour voters and particularly those in the Northern seats, want to see this simple patriotism embodied in their politicians. The Labour Party wants to increase its market share and will, inevitably, tack to the Right. In doing so, many of us will be left behind and look for another home. Panic Alert: I may have to vote Green! Jane BG will not stop laughing.

Anyway, home made fish cakes for tea. That will make a nice change from spam fritters and tinned pilchards now rationing is coming back!

Thursday, 4th February, 2021

The Daily Telegraph and The Times were the newspapers of my family home. Conservatism was the dominant political leaning. I was a teenager of the rebellious 1960s. I remember wistfully observing to my Mother that the disparity between different classes wasn’t fair. Her immediate response was, Life isn’t fair. My mental note said, We must do something about this! I have followed a left-leaning, Tertiary education particularly in my Master’s research. Here I learnt to apply Dialectical Materialism, a philosophy of Science, History, and Nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Marx and Engels. Marxist dialectics emphasizes the importance of real-world conditions, in terms of class, labour, and socio-economic interactions.

Right-wing populism, the leitmotiv of contemporary politics, has been on the rise over the past decade. Trump in America, Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Kaczyński in Poland and Get-Brexit-Done-Johnson in UK have all been swimming in this populist tide. The election of Biden is a sign that things may be changing but we have a long way to go. Will I see it in my lifetime? I must admit to some doubts.

Church Going

I was brought up in a large, matriarchal, Roman Catholic family. I was forced to attend Sunday Mass and forced to appear to be a Believer. Of course, the former was possible until I left home. The latter was merely superficial compliance. I couldn’t wait to leave home and this was one of the drivers. My wife was never subject to this control and, as she grew up, visited several different religious services just to understand them for herself. She rejected religion from an intelligent response to her own investigation. I rejected it largely as a juvenile rejection of authority. You can tell which is the more adult response.

I have spent the whole of my adult life openly opposed to religions of all faiths but Catholicism in particular. The national and international trend away from formal religion is extremely heartening. The Spectator this morning has a piece by a member of the Church of England bemoaning the pandemic’s effect on the Church in speeding up its decline. For years we have been pleased to read of declines in church attendance. Covid-19 has done more for this cause than any of us could have hoped. In essence, a falling attendance has been reinforced by church closures and the church management predict many not returning after the pandemic is over. They are closing churches, sacking staff and urging On-line Giving just to finance and maintain a reducing structure.

 ...  I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?

Philip Larkin - The Less Deceived (1955)

Philip Larkin prefigured this development 65 years ago in his poem, Church Going where he described the dying away of church communities leaving the structures to the architectural scroungers. After 40 years of persuading kids that religion was fantasy and that their real poverty was not inevitable, Covid-19 may have ridden to my aid.

Friday, 5th February, 2021

Up at 6.00 am on a mild but misty morning. Sainsburys arrived by 6.30 am and the excitement for the day was over. After coffee we decided we needed to get out. Pauline had to take a parcel return down to the Post Office in the village so we just carried on to the Marina after that.

Sun hats were the order of the day.

Of course, we were there about an hour too soon. People were greeting each other in an atmosphere of 1950s London. They used to called it a pea-souper in Estuary English although it wasn’t quite that thick.

Ships in the Night – Littlehampton Marina Meeting
We left before the sun came out.

We didn’t walk for long. We had no one to meet. A quick breeze around the Marina Walk and then back home for coffee. Like magic, almost as we sat down at home the mist lifted, the sky turned the most perfect blue and the sun shone strongly.

Pauline is cleaning the Gym which she says has become very grubby although I’d not noticed it. I have been given the job of photographing and documenting all the manholes around our property in preparation for our 5-Year Warranty ending. We have to seek insurance cover and emergency cover for boilers, central heating, burglar alarm, electrical installations, water pipes including waste water.

The problem is we have about 7 or 8 manholes/drain covers and, looking at the site plan, a number of them are not fed exclusively by us. They are on our property so we need to know who is responsible for their maintenance. I know you will be reading this and finding it hard to control your mounting excitement but these are weighty matters. My documentation will be forwarded to the Developers for their adjudication. We know that the first thing insurance policies want to know is clear ‘liability’. You didn’t know I led such a life on the edge did you?

Saturday, 6th February, 2021

Up late today – 7.30 am. For the rest of the day we went round feeling we had missed a whole chunk of the day. Gorgeous, sunny morning with clear, blue skies. It was great to watch a really good England performance in the Test in India while we started the day.

We thought it would be nice to give our eyes a chance to drink the sun’s rays in so we went for a walk.

We were out for about 90 mins and had time to talk to our favourite robin en route. He was singing away at the top of the same bush we see him in each time we go that way. He’s quite a character and I’m sure he sings louder while we are talking to him. We do have to be careful that walkers around us don’t think we are talking to a bush and send for the men in white coats but we feel old enough to get away with it now.

No jobs to do today so, with a longish walk under my belt, I don’t have to do as much in the gym. I have completed my target in terms of food, wine and exercise every day for 6 weeks now so I am allowing myself a relaxing day watching Cricket, Football and Rugby. Pauline says I’m really going to be fit after all that.

The Honda-E

We were remarking only this morning that our car had only done 7,300 miles since we bought it 20 months ago. This is quite remarkable. In the past, we would have expected to have covered 20,000 and be thinking about a new one at the 2 year mark. On this basis, the current one could be kept at least 4 years which is longer than we’ve ever kept a new car in our 43 years of marriage. The alternative would be to keep this one even longer and buy an all electric for all the day-to-day short trip driving that we do and use the bigger, Hybrid car for longer journeys and European travel. Worth considering!

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