A COVID-19 Diary

OK, so this is going to be rather different – it’s not my words, but the words of a friend of mine, the lovely Corma Holmes, who has quite fantastically kept her Covid diary through her illness. It’ll be very familiar to some, and hopefully enlightening to others. Corma, thank you for letting me publish your story.

7 January: Tested positive for Covid today 😦

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8 January:

COVID Day #1 :

As part of my work as a carer I have a Covid test every week. This week’s test was done on Tuesday and my results came back ‘inconclusive’ on Wednesday morning. Since I was unable to return to work without a negative test result, I had to book another test at a ‘drive in’ centre. I managed to get an appointment 20 miles away at the Oxford parkway park and ride.

The evening was dark and there were hundreds of cones and signs up at the testing centre. It was confusing to drive around. White tents and men & women with high viz jackets were all over the place, holding up little signs. Bless them it was freezing cold!!

It was all pretty efficient with a QR code on my phone which they were able to scan through my closed window. Boom, I was on to the next white tent where they posted the test through the passenger window. Staff shouted directions at me through closed windows. Testing was easy – 10 seconds swabbing my throat and 10 seconds twirling the stick up my nose – done. It always gives me such a weird feeling, like I have been sneezing hard.

On to the next white tent where my barcode was scanned and the QR code & test were linked together. I then had to post my tests in a box and that was the end of it.

The next morning I woke up with a runny nose and a tight chest, as well as a headache, plus the occasional cough. Thankfully I did not have to wait long for my results. And yes, I tested positive. With your test results, you also receive an immediate order to isolate for 10 days; so that is us all locked up in the house until the 17th now.

Throughout the day, my symptoms continued to be mild, but as the evening closed in I just could not get warm. Here is me sitting in front of my fire wrapped in 2 blankets. I felt freezing cold, but strangely did not register a fever. I dosed up on my vitamins and some paracetamol and slept well. Here ends part 1 of my Club Covid experience.

Remember: Stay home – Protect the NHS – Save lives

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9 January

COVID Day #2 : Covid is like a Trojan Horse.

It sneaks past your defence system and your body hasn’t a clue what to make of it. Before you know it, under cover of darkness, its vile little soldiers are racing around your body, killing its inhabitants and turning them into more of their own. It is like a zombie film on a minuscule scale. I wonder how far those little zombies have already infected me? How many more of their little mates are marching through my organs right now wreaking havoc with my cells? Not a clue. 🤷🏻‍♀️

I can’t decide of my body is doing a good job, or a bad job of dealing with them spiky little critters?? 🦠 Is the fact that I don’t have a fever a good thing, or does it mean that the trojans are continuing their work undetected. Unlike most people, I guess I have the advantage of catching the infection early and so it is interesting to me to see what happens next.

Talking about symptoms, day 2 started out much the same as before, some chills, a headache, a runny nose, a tight chest and the occasional cough, but still NO high fever or continuous cough as advertised. In the evening I developed 2 new symptoms: > Burning and watery eyes> Sinus pain right to the top of my head, Thankfully I DO still have my sense of taste and smell and celebrated this fact with a lovely takeaway from Chilly & Pepper.

As well as the symptoms, I also wanted to talk briefly about the NHS track and trace system. When you test positive a number of things happen. First of all, you receive your positive notification via text and email. After this, you will be asked to complete a track and trace questionnaire. It takes quite a bit of time to fill it all in. They want to know who you live with, who else you spent time with, where you have worked, shopped etc. As well as that, you also receive separate emails offering help with isolation and contact information for NHS volunteers who can go shopping for you if you have no local friends or family. Lastly, they send you an email with a link that allows you to create an ‘isolation notice’ which you can send to your employer as proof. All very efficient I thought.

The trickiest thing so far has been the sudden 10 day isolation. Not that we were able to go many places during lockdown, but still… We normally shop at the weekend and our cupboards were bare. No delivery slots were available for 3 weeks. Thankfully our friends have been wonderful and are keeping us supplied with everything we need and we have secured a click & collect slot for next week. Yay!! So that is the end of yesterdays adventures at Club Covid.

Remember: Stay home – Protect the NHS – Save lives

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10 January

COVID Day #3 : Happy hypoxia

Back in May 2020, I read a very interesting article in the Guardian online. It described a phenomenon doctors call ‘happy hypoxia’. From what I understand, it means that the oxygen percentage in your blood can go way below the ‘safe limit’ without you noticing it, because you can breathe in an out with ease.

I remember being fascinated by this at the time and when I tested positive, I thought it would be helpful for me and my family to get one of those oximeter thingies. An oximeter is a little gadget that you put on your finger and it measures the percentage of oxygen in your blood. Turns out you can pick one up for less than £20 and that is not a big price to pay for some added peace of mind.

So having picked up one of these babies at Amazon, I had a pleasure of playing with it all evening. Popping it on and off and taking MANY a measurement. Like some home science experiment. According to the NHS website, a normal pulse ox is between 95 – 100% and I know that when I have used these before at work, mine is approx 98 – 99%.

I was therefore quite surprised that all evening the number hovered around 92 – 93%. My trusted oracle: Dr Google told me that is on the low side, but interestingly I did not feel breathless or uncomfortable breathing in any way. I did have an odd feeling in my chest on breathing in. It reminded me of when we used to go skiing. That feeling you get when the crips mountain air hits your lungs. That is what it felt like (and still does now). Apart from that, I still have my taste and smell and still NO fever or persistent cough. The headache still lingers though.

Thus ends Day 3 of my experience at Club Covid.

Remember: Stay home – Protect the NHS – Save lives

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11 January

COVID Day #4 : A new day, a new symptom.

Day 4 brought an interesting mix of new and some distressing symptoms. First of all I had a low grade fever throughout the day and felt very sleepy. I was also back to being very cold and so spent most of the day wrapped in several blankets. The evening however brought some less welcome symptoms such as a drop in O2 saturation, which left me feeling somewhat breathless and light headed. It was an unpleasant sensation. However I did discover that sitting up and leaning forward brought some relief and allowed me to breathe more deeply and increase my O2 by a few percentage points. The breathlessness is odd, because it is not hard to breathe. The lungs are moving perfectly fine and there is NO congestion, crackling, pain or discomfort on breathing in or out. Yet the oxygen is not getting through to the blood as it should.

Having the oximeter really helped me stay calm and in control and I made a plan to ring 111 if the % went too far down. Thankfully I did not have to resort to that. Sleep came quickly and I only woke up once to get some paracetamol as the fever had returned during the night.

So ends another day in Club Covid.

Remember: Stay home – Protect the NHS – Save lives.

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12 January

COVID Day #5 : Casa de Covid

Let me start today’s update by saying that: Covid is VERY catchy. The tricky thing is that you are already shedding the virus before you are showing symptoms. Once you get a positive test you are then instantly stuck at home, isolating with your family for the next 10 days. Let me tell you that protecting your family whilst isolating in your home is virtually impossible. We live in a small home, we have one bathroom and no spare rooms to use for isolation. Even if we can keep some distance, we are breathing the same air and using the same facilities.

Given those facts, it was no great surprise that yesterday my hubby woke up with his very own Covid symptoms. He went and had a test and got his results back today: Positive.

Thankfully his symptoms are reasonably mild and he seems to be doing okay. My youngest son also had a test today and I am expecting that he will also come back positive.

The good news is that my breathing and O2 saturation has improved significantly, which is a BIG relief. The other symptoms are still ongoing, including the low grade fever, a headache and a runny nose.

I also have sprung another very unexpected new symptom which is hyper sensitive skin. I can literally feel the touch of my clothing on my back and the glasses perched on my nose. When I touch my hair it is like every hair follicle shouts a tiny little ‘ouch’. This virus does some very strange things with your body.

Before I sign off, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all my friends and family far and wide for their lovely comments and messages. It is very comforting to know that you are all there a virtual click away. Please keep commenting, it is very nice to hear from you all. Much appreciating all the love and sending virtual hugs back to you all ❤

Stay home – Protect the NHS – Save lives.

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13 January

COVID Day #6 : The importance of numbers

A friend asked me an interesting question yesterday. She asked why members of my family needed their own Covid test to prove they were positive. She wondered if really they could just be sick at home and continue to isolate until they were better. It was an excellent question and one that deserves some attention.

In the first wave of the pandemic, back in March & April of 2020, testing was not really available to the general public. The only time when you were likely to get a test, is if you ended up in hospital with severe symptoms. The testing capacity just wasn’t there and the country was scrambling to get some kind of a system in place. I remember that there was some estimation, or should I say guess-timation going on to try and figure out how many people had actually had been ill with the virus at home. Without knowing exact numbers, it was virtually impossible for the R number to be accurately calculated. Equally, it was difficult to anticipate the percentage of people that would end up in the hospital.

The more accurate information we have, the better we as a country can respond to the pandemic. Infection rates serve as an early warning system for our NHS and for government to know what restrictions need to be put in place to slow down the spread of the virus. It is therefore very important for as many cases as possible to be identified so that our invisible enemy is exposed and not allowed to quietly continue its destructive path.

In terms of my family, we have now 3 confirmed positive cases and one inconclusive result. My hubby seems to have made a very swift recovery from it all. I have stopped being feverish, but am now plagued by an annoying cough, a tight chest and dizziness. I still don’t feel my old self and my tummy is also upset. Grrr, I am getting fed up with all these stupid symptoms and am ready to feel better again! Come on Covid… CLEAR OFF ALREADY!!

At least my O2 sats are good, so I won’t worry too much about the other weird symptoms.Thus ends another day in Club Covid.

Stay safe everyone! xxx

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14 January

COVID Day #7 : Is this the new strain?

I spoke with a representative from NHS test and trace today. They have rung several times now to check up on us all and to make sure we are still okay isolating at home. Maureen and I got talking about the many weird symptoms of Covid and how none of us here, have experienced the classic symptoms of a high fever, continuous cough or loss of taste and smell. She told me that as of recently, more and more people had been reporting a whole host of random symptoms, including the skin sensitivity and chills. We wondered if maybe the new strain of the virus might have something to do with the changing landscape of symptoms. Here are some the main symptoms we have experienced in the last week:

> Low O2 saturation (90%) & breathlessness > Chills (low grade fever) > Headache> Sore throat > Dizziness > Fatigue > Feeling nausea / diarrhoea > Skin sensitivity > Sinus pain & runny nose > Occasional cough

Though the chills were back last night, I feel that I am turning the corner. I do still have a mild headache, with accompanying dizziness, plus I feel weak and flimsy. My O2 sats are fine in the high 90’s so that is comforting. The fatigue is annoying, though not surprising, as my body has been fighting the good fight. Here is to feeling better today!

Stay safe everyone x

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15 January

COVID Day #8 : Running on empty

Having started yesterday in a cautiously optimistic fashion, I soon found myself tumbling down the Covid rabbit hole again. All evening my O2 sats kept dropping down to 91 – 92% making me feel rubbish all over again.

I took some Aspirin and went to bed and slept reasonably well, waking up once or twice, feeling a little breathless. This morning my sats are creeping back up slowly, but every activity feels like an effort. My chest still feels tight and I have been coughing more. Despite this set back, I feel positive and calm.

I am due to go back to work on Monday when my quarantine period officially ends, but given how I feel right now, I am not sure if I will have the energy for a ‘full on’ shift. On the upside Dave is back to work (from home) today, he appears to have only had a mild case of it, which is a relief.

I wanted to end this update by thanking all my lovely friends and family who are praying for us all. Thank you, we appreciate it 🙏

The Covid 19 virus really is a nasty critter, not to be messed with! Don’t take your chances – prevention is better than cure. Don’t meet with others indoors, wash your hands, wear a mask and follow the rules. Stay safe everyone! xxx

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16 January

COVID Day #9 : Home care for Covid

I am going to start today with a quick update. All day yesterday my O2 Sats were between 93 and 95% and I was feeling very tired. After waking at 8, I went back to bed at 10 and slept till 12:30. I tried to eat some soup for lunch, but had to abandon that half way through, as it was too much effort to eat it all. I just ended up sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands feeling wrung out like a wet dishcloth.

In the afternoon I started feeling a bit better and managed finally to eat something a bit more substantial at dinner. Though at 8:30 I felt exhausted again and slept on the sofa for a good hour or more.

Ben is also still feeling the effects of the Covid and has been off his food (not like him) and feeling dizzy and tired. His O2 sats were up yesterday, which is good.

Though, I was not up to much yesterday I did come across a good article in The Guardian yesterday. It is well worth reading. I could have done with at the beginning of our Covid adventure. Here it is: https://www.theguardian.com/…/how-to-care-for-people…

That is all for now my lovely friends. Stay safe. Love you all xxx

How to care for people with Covid at home

17 January

COVID Day #10 : Asymptomatic, Mild, Moderate, Severe & Critical

In the medical community, the severity of Covid is divided roughly into these 5 ‘levels’ ranging from asymptomatic to critical. To see what each of these levels looks like in reality, hop on over to patient.info which is a very useful site.

How Covid affects you, appears to be much like a lottery. You cannot tell beforehand how good or bad your body is going to deal with the infection.

Throughout my personal Covid experience, by far the most worrying and frustrating symptom I have endured is the low O2 saturation and the constant feeling of breathlessness and tightness on the chest. All the other symptoms have been easily managed with some paracetamol and rest.

I feel a bit like a broken record by repeating myself over and over again, but I am still not back to my old self.

After a chat with NHS track and trace today, they have decided to extend my quarantine period, since I still have some symptoms they are not happy with. So that is me stuck at home for a little while longer. I have found a new series to watch on Netflix, so that is me sorted for today. Silver linings indeed!

Happy Sunday everyone, I hope you are all keeping nice and safe in your own homes. Remember: your best defence is your own front door.

Lots of love xxx Corma

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18 January

COVID Day #11 : Stuck in isolation

Following a call with my GP, I discovered that I can come out of isolations tomorrow. Yay!! I might see if my dog fancies a short walk.

I still feel very weak. My legs are made of jelly. I am eating & drinking because I know that i have to keep my strength up, but I am not feeling the love for food. The only thing I enjoy eating right now is oranges. I might try some yoghurt too, as maybe the sour taste will be pleasant.

Everything is an effort, even holding a conversation requires energy and concentration that I currently do not possess. My whole body has a weird tingling sensation going on that is particularly unpleasant on the soles of my feet. Covid has now also given me regular coughing fits for good measure.

On the upside, my sats are up to 96% and holding steady, so I am optimistic about that. As I have said before, it is the breathlessness that is the scary part of Covid, the rest is annoying but manageable.

Anyway, that is all I have energy for today. Signing off from another fine day in Club Covid.

Yours xxx Corma

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19 January

COVID Day #12 : I wear a mask to protect you

Finally the time has come for me to come out of quarantine. I forgot how nice it is to be outside with my dog. Buster also enjoyed it and ‘read the news’ on the street.

I am improving in leaps and bounds now, feeling stronger and more energetic. Thank God I feel i am finally winning.

Though I am allowed out again, I am not sure if the virus also knows I am not supposed to be catchy anymore. So I wore my mask 😷 and keeping my distance, just in case…because I do not want anyone else to catch it. Especially not my elderly neighbours.

Stay safe everyone xxx

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20 January

COVID Day #13 : We the sheeple

In all my years on FB I have yet to ditch anyone for having different opinions to mine. I love my friends and family and I appreciate that people have a right to their own opinion. That does not mean however that I believe any of the stuff they propagate as gospel. On some days my news feed is inundated with posts telling me to ‘Wake up!’ and stop being a ‘sheeple’ controlled by the state.

The Covid ‘truth seekers’ are everywhere. They are anti lockdown, anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-anything-establishment. On top of that they feel the need to educate the ‘sheeple’ by arguing relentlessly at every opportunity. These brave keyboard warriors spend their afternoons trolling and spouting hateful comments on government updates and anyone who shares the good news of a new vaccine or treatment. They post ridiculous videos of empty hospitals when our NHS is creaking at the seams with desperately sick and dying people!!

No offence, but you should be ashamed of yourself!

Climb down from your conspiracy unicorn and consider the hard facts: 1610 people sadly lost their lives just in the last 24 hours. 46000 health and social care workers are off sick with the virus. Nearly 38000 people are in hospital with Covid today. On top of that here were close to 697,000 deaths in 2020 which is nearly 85,000 MORE than would be expected based on the average in the previous five years. If these are not enough to make you shudder then there is something wrong with you.

I cannot and I will not be silent.

This is NOT the flu, this is NOT radiation poisoning, this is NOT a hoax, this is Covid and it is a public health emergency of unimaginable scale.

Is your government going to make the right choices at every turn, of course not! Could they have done better? Sure. But we all need to play our part to get out of this crisis together.

Your part is simple: 🤲🏻 Wash your hands😷 Wear your mask ↔️ Keep your distance🏠 Isolate if you have symptoms and get a test✅ Follow the lockdown rules AND 💉Consider having the vaccine when you are offered it

That way we can all kick the Covid to curb together.

I will end with a personal update: I still have a cough, a tight chest and last night a nasty headache, though thankfully that is gone today. Dave is also still feeling unwell, as is Ben. Covid is real people. Be careful xxx

Thus ends the rant from Casa de Covid. We the sheeple have spoken!

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21 January

COVID Day #14 : Duty of Care

Working in Social Care, we often talk about our Duty of Care.

It is defined simply as a legal obligation to: always act in the best interest of individuals and others. Not act or fail to act in a way that results in harm. Act within your competence and not take on anything you do not believe you can safely do.

I take my duty of care very seriously and so after careful consideration and following the advice of my doctor and NHS track and trace, I finally went back to work today. I was donned in my PPE and was careful to follow all the procedures and keep my distance. The clients have all had the virus, which meant that I was able to assist them safely and take some of the pressure off my colleagues. It was a good to be back.

I did notice my energy levels were wavering throughout the day, but according to Dr. Google that can take several weeks to fix. Thankfully I have the weekend off and so my return to work is at a pace that is manageable for me. Here’s a little hip hip hooray to a very good day.

Stay safe everyone!

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That’s OK

It’s a strange time

A worrying time

A lonely time

We are told things are getting better

We hear news that the light has been turned on

at the end of the long tunnel

Then the bulb blows

Plans need to change

Normal isn’t normal anymore

And you sit looking at your phone, or your TV screen

Or the front door

Remembering when people used to walk through it

You wonder if everyone else feels the same

As if the air pressure has just increased

And the planet seems to be pushing down on them

Or is it just you?

It’s not just you

We all feel broken

We all feel lonely

We are all struggling

And we all need help.

Just ask

Reach out to people you need

Say when you need to talk

And listen to people that need to see your face, hear your voice

Yell, cry, sleep, live in your pajamas

Eat biscuits till the crumbs cover your clothes

Watch trashy tv shows over and again

Sing the worst songs at the top of your voice

Dance around your kitchen while the kettle boils

Guess what?

That’s OK

That’s OK

That’s OK

The Riserdrummer Christmas Message 2020

OK, Christmas message time, and for this most unique of years…

Sombre barely covers it. I doubt that there’s a single person reading this who has not suffered themselves, or not suffered a tragic loss of someone they knew, as a result of Covid. Certainly, I know several people who are no longer with us, and have had friends and family go through the virus with varying degrees of illness. My lovely cousin is still battling what they now call ‘long-form Covid’ where the symptoms come and go, never leaving completely, a challenge she has faced since March.

We’ve seen other sad times as well, with the loss of my lovely Uncle Ken at the beginning of September. He was a smashing bloke, and he’s very much missed.

Many of our childhood heroes have also left us this year, and three that spring to mind were ones that always made us laugh and feel better whatever. Tim Brooke-Taylor, Eddie Large, and Bobby Ball were all family comedians of the old school – anything to raise a laugh was fair game, but never crude or ill-judged. They made you happy.

And so – in a marked move away from the downbeat opening paragraphs – I’m going to talk about being happy in a year that made that as difficult as possible.

Starting with this little chap, of course:

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My first grandson Finley came into the world in November and lights up my heart every time I see him. Being in that care bubble means that’s still possible, so I tend to spend time whenever I can. He’s such a happy, attentive and very much focused baby – in fact I swear I’ve never seen him blink – is that something babies do? I love him completely, and Ellie and Nick are doing a great job in strange circumstances.

Next: May 8th. Both the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, and also Rebecca’s birthday. And the planned Socially Distanced Street Party served well for both – the first time for a good couple of months that we had seen anyone, a chance to sit, chat, drink, eat, and be… normal, out in the sunshine. It was a properly lovely day.

The other thing I wanted to call out is all of my friends – and you all know who you are – who have helped to keep each other going through the year. Whether on Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other social app of choice, I’ve had some cool chats with loads of people – often right at the time I or others have needed it.

They say a friend will help you move, a true friend will help you move a body.

That’s thankfully not been needed, but in this year, a friend can make you smile, a true friend senses when you need to smile. And I’ve learned this year that I have a lot of true friends out there. I hope I’ve been a true friend to you.

To all of you, wherever you are, however 2020 has been – here’s peace, love, and the very best of wishes for Christmas 2020, a happy end to this unhappy year, and a far better 2021 full of more laughter and – as soon as we can – a few beers and many, many hugs.

It’s gear-grindin’ time…

OK, so I have a number of things rattling my cage right now, so – harking back to the best intentions of one of Peter Griffin’s on-screen rants, here is what’s currently grinding my gears:

Yesterday two adults and two children died whilst trying to cross the channel to seek asylum here. And predictably, my Facebook feed is full of comments from the bottom-dwellers going on about how “it’s the parent’s fault” and “what’s so unsafe about France?” as a way of masking their true feelings, which are of course “I don’t want any more foreigners here”. No compassion at all for the dead, just a xenophobic glee over the fact that four more, almost certainly non-white, poor people from another country now won’t ‘sponge off the state’.

Some things shouldn’t need saying, but here you go – seeking asylum is NOT illegal. Under the UN Convention on Human Rights, refugees are allowed to seek asylum in whatever country they want. They are not forced to cross one border then stop. and yes – this was clearly a massively dangerous risk these people took, so how hard had their lives been before, to make them think taking such a tragic step was worth it?

Oh – and in case it hasn’t yet occurred to you – that vote you cast to leave the EU? Just makes this kind of thing far more likely, as we now get no assistance or cooperation from our former EU friends, thanks to your provocatively raised middle finger to them.

Walk a mile in their shoes before you hit the Fascist button. Or keep it inside your head. It’s like that rubber gimp suit with the ball-gag inside your bedroom closet – as long as nobody knows, you’re good – just don’t bring it out in public.

Another thing that really got me was the report of an NHS worker – no doubt tired after a long day – asking a group of people on the tube why they were not wearing masks, as is the law on the London Underground.
A couple of minutes later he was hurled from the train at the next stop onto the platform at Kensington High Street, unconscious, with a broken jaw and an eye socket broken in three places.

My anger that people would do such a thing when asked a simple question is matched only by the responses online – probably by the same people as above – whose view was that ‘he deserved it for sticking his nose in’ and ‘good – he should shut the f*** up’.

When did we become a country so devoid of the basic levels of compassion? When did someone’s life, someone’s health, someone’s safety become things that matter so little? I have no frame of reference to comprehend where these people are coming from. Presumably they live otherwise normal lives – they will have family, friends, work colleagues, loved ones. and yet they are capable of displaying the most abhorrent lack of humanity and compassion at the drop of a hat.

There’s a disease in Britain far more invidious than Covid, and far more people are falling foul of its effects. Unless we rediscover respect, compassion, and caring, we won’t ever get through these current times.
And yes – I said Britain. In my eyes, we don’t have a society that deserves to be thought of as ‘great’.

Much as there’s no U in USA at the moment. America hasn’t been united for years. With racism, homophobia, wealth inequality, violence and corruption at an all time high, they are probably the only nation on earth more divided than we are. The difference is, they have a chance to reset from the top-down. I hope they take it.

But it will only be effective if there can be a level of reset from the bottom-up as well. People need to see their neighbours as just that – neighbours, not enemies. So they vote red and you vote blue. So they are black and you are white. So they are gay and you are straight. So…. so what? Are they really any different from you? Do they deserve less respect, less love, less success or happiness? Of course not.

Please – hit the reset button.

And then maybe we can do that as well pretty soon.

Because without it, it’s a pretty dark road ahead.

Until Black Lives Matter, No Life Does

I know I am privileged. I don’t ‘think‘ privileged, but I know I am.

Because I will never know what it is like to feel under scrutiny by the powers, the majority, the authorities, simply for being myself. Simply for being in a place, buying food, waiting for service in Starbucks, making a phone call in my own garden, or a million other normal everyday things.

Because I am a white male.

I will never understand how it feels to not have that barrier of privilege around me 24/7. But I can see the effect on those who live that every day.

And when we all see profiling, harassment, ignorance, bigotry, hatred, violence and death being handed out daily from those of privilege to those of colour, what should our reaction be?

Here’s a thought: it should NOT be “isn’t the property damage and looting awful?”. Not when a young man named George Floyd is dead of asphyxiation, murdered by a racist officer kneeling on his neck.

Stand up. Speak out. Call out racism wherever you see it, wherever it raises its ugly head. It’s not enough anymore to be silently passive.

Will it be uncomfortable for you? Probably. But you will never be as uncomfortable as it is for those suffering racist taunts and abuse, you will never be as uncomfortable as those whose rights are somehow valueless.

You will never be as uncomfortable as the last moments of George Floyd.

Until black lives matter, no life will.

They say opposites attract… well we must…

Take a look around you at the world we’ve come to know
Does it seem to be much more than a crazy circus show?
Maybe from the madness something beautiful will grow…

So said the young Artilleryman in Jeff Wayne’s wonderful version of War Of The Worlds. He was talking about a world overrun by Martian invaders.

Our world today, sadly, appears barely less mad, and increasingly overrun by those who would sweep everything else aside for their own purposes.

Our government has seemingly unquestionable power to do whatever it likes. What it likes, however, isn’t being determined by those who were voted in. There are many unelected ‘advisors’ who – it is abundantly clear – are pulling the strings of those elected politicians. People like Dominic Cummings, the man behind Vote Leave. people like Munira Mirza, promoted directly from a deputy role within Arts for London straight into a role as Johnson’s senior policy advisor. people like Lee Cain, Rob Oxley, Oliver Lewis, and many others – all of whom had prominent roles within the Vote Leave organisation and are therefore Cummings’ appointments and not there by any permission of anyone voted into power.

This is the cabal that runs our country. That formulates opinion and policy. That directly impacts all of our lives on pretty much every single level.

That’s where the madness starts. Sadly, that’s not where it ends. Because they are in power and unopposed.

Her Majesty’s official opposition haven’t actually opposed anything for years. Jeremy Corbyn has sat on more fences than the crows in Dumbo, and his party focused on infighting and antisemitism rather than challenging the rampant xenophobia running rife through their opponents across the chamber. They refused to take a position on the EU until it was way too late, refused to align with any of the other parties (such as the Lib Dems, the SNP) to present a solid opposing view to the one being thrown out by the Tory incumbents, and agreed to the General Election rather than the Second Referendum that would have resolved the issues around the EU once and for all.

Now we have a party in power with a majority of 80 seats despite receiving only 43.6% of the vote. Just shy of 14 million voted for them, and even their votes count for nothing now that Cummings and his coven are the ones making the actual decisions.

And all because these voters didn’t want unelected bureaucrats making choices that impacted them.

We are truly at a tipping point in our country’s history. Do we stand up to the situation we are in and challenge those who grabbed power and then abused it? Of do we shrug our shoulders and pretend there’s nothing we can do?

We need to have an effective, representative opposition. That is the only way we have a chance of keeping the government accountable and in check. and that means working together. Labour, Lib Dems, SNP,  Greens, Renew, Independents – all need to come together and agree to oppose. To challenge. To hold the Government to account. To raise every issue, every statement, every cut, every failure, every scandal, every lie, and publicly lay it at the feet of those responsible.

That means resolving their differences, stopping all this pointless and moronic infighting, looking inwards and leaving the differences behind, getting their own houses in order, then moving forward.

Because if we as opposites to the seemingly unstoppable Government do not become that immovable force against them, our future really does look bleak.

2019 – wow, you were… wow…

It’s kinda traditional to post some kind of Christmas / end of year message, where the writer talks about all the things that shaped them during a year, their successes and the difficult times, and their hopes for the coming year.

I don’t really know where to start.

This year has been one of the most difficult I can recall, for so many reasons. On a national level, we’ve seen our politics taken over by the ethos of mistrust, misinformation and dishonesty by an elite who appear to have fooled the working man into believing that their best interests will be served by electing dogmatic, ultra-right wing millionaires. I can only hope that it’s not as bad as I and so many others fear it may be.

On an international level, the picture is repeated, with a pretty much unaccountable administration in the US demonising minorities, abandoning the needy, and enriching themselves with impunity.

So it’s hard to look at the coming year and see any change that would be welcome. So what say we forget all that, and just look at personal stuff?

Well, that’s where it goes from bad, to terrible.

The Queen called 1992 her ‘Annus Horribilis’. 2019 was mine.

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The worst moment was the utterly senseless death of my nephew, Andrew. It will always be a moment where our lives irrevocably changed. We know that our police officers put themselves in harm’s way every time they step out on duty, but you still always believe that they will walk back through the door. Doesn’t always happen, though. The weeks and months since have been so very hard, trying to process his killing, whilst trying to help others do so. There’s no wrong way to grieve, each person has to get through their way. That’s caused some struggles and tension, especially if someone lashes out angrily in frustration and sorrow, as happens all too often. It’s been a time for simply getting through, whilst looking after those who need it when it’s needed. And as the investigation is ongoing, we’re not at the point of closure yet. Hopefully, 2020 will bring that for us all.

Then, a couple of days after the funeral, we had the news that my dear old Nan had passed away at the grand old age of 96. She’d not been her old self for a number of years but had a habit of hanging on whenever we thought her time was coming to an end. We were all beginning to think she’d go on for ever, but sadly that’s not the case for any of us.

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The two funerals were polar opposites: Andrew’s was almost a state affair, with so much organisation, timings to the minute, and thousands of people. Nan’s was around 60 of us, an altogether more informal family event that showed a real sense that Nan was the centre of the day, with anecdotes, Moon River being played, and time to chat, reflect, and reminisce.

A few weeks ago, the third came along, when Rebecca’s Uncle Mick sadly passed away. He was a lovely bloke – an ex-fireman whose smile and twinkling eye will be long remembered.

So yes – not a great year all round. However, that’s not what I want to finish on.

If there’s a message in this post, it’s that I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. It’s hard to go through such a period and not come out changed, but rather than become hardened, I choose the opposite. It’s within us all to handle joy, sadness, bounty and adversity in a manner we decide. Circumstances, even those of the last year, don’t define you – you do.

A wise Piglet once said to a Rabbit “It’s hard to be brave, when you’re only a Very Small Animal”. which is true.

But an even wiser Bear once said to him “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

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Carry the small things in your heart, cherish them, shuffle them around so they never get stale, and the things that appear so huge – like grief, anger, depression, sadness, despair – will find there’s no room to stay for very long. Because there’s too many little pieces of love, hope, joy, laughter, excitement, anticipation and contentment already taking up all of the room.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Make sure that you give all of your loved ones a small piece of your heart, to fit inside their own.

Thoughts on grief and love

Grief is like glitter.

Wish Upon A Star

When if first spills out, it’s everywhere. You can’t open your eyes and not see it.

You can’t ignore it, and you can’t put it back in the bottle again, as if the spillage never happened.

So you handle it by doing what you need to do. You deal with the immediate, so that it doesn’t get walked into every other part of your existence. It’s hard work, and you often don’t think you’ll ever get the job done. It takes time – as much time as it takes, and always longer than you think or dare hope it will. But eventually, you stand back, and on the surface, things look normal again.

Then, a few minutes later, or a few hours, or a few days, you see some you missed, and once more you have a little episode to deal with. So you start again. And then things appear OK.

But every now and then, there will be a little glint, deep in the fibre, that drags you right back.

Thankfully, love is also like glitter.

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When it first spills out, it’s everywhere. You can’t open your eyes and not see it.

You can’t ignore it, and you can’t put it back in the bottle again, as if the spillage never happened.

But you can let it spread. You can get it all over your socks and walk it through every place you go – work, home, leisure. You can shake a little of it on your friends, you can sprinkle a little on your family, and you can throw it at those who need it most.

Don’t be surprised when you see people start throwing their glitter back at you.

Then one day – one day – you look at a piece of glitter you find stuck to your clothing.

Is this grief? Should I feel sad all over again?

Or is this love? Is it something I should embrace, something I should let warm me from the inside out?

Actually, it can be both. and it should be both.

Love brings great joy, and when that love seems ripped from us, the grief can often be overwhelming. But the love is still there.

Grief can seem all consuming, but – like a small candle throwing light into the darkest corners – love cannot be entirely taken from you, no matter what.

Because you love, and you are loved.

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Who will EU be voting for on May 23rd?

This Thursday, the UK will vote in the European Elections.

Given the current state of the nation, and the farce that is our Parliament at present, many might well be wondering why.

Well, here’s why:

  1. It’s your democratic right

We earned this right, by the sacrifices of our family and friends who time and again, across centuries, have stood up to those who say we have no voice. Whether it’s as a nation against the oppression of foes like fascism, as humanity against those who would lock people out through slavery and denial of suffrage, and through confronting everybody who, in ways big and small, tell us that our opinion, our say, our voice, is somehow less than that of someone else.

And it doesn’t matter that Theresa May is trying to push through yet another parliamentary vote on her flawed deal. As it stands, the MEPs will take up their seats in the new Parliamentary session. We need to ensure that – in the overwhelmingly likely event of that happening – we have the right people there looking out for all our interests, not just those whose stated aim is to block, obstruct, and destroy.

  1. It’s maybe the last chance

Certainly, if some get their way, this would be the last chance to exercise you vote and elect people to represent you on the largest political platform in the Western hemisphere. And yes – the MEPs are democratically elected by us; despite what certain parties would have you believe. Messrs Farage. Rees-Mogg, Johnson and the rest keep bleating on about unelected bureaucrats, but that’s rubbish, as the very existence of EU elections demonstrates only too clearly. And don’t forget, if MEPs are unelected dossers on the gravy train, then Farage has been on that expenses junket doing absolutely nothing of any benefit to the nation since 1999 – that’s a full twenty years of living at your expense – along with his German wife and dual-nationality kids, by the way, so don’t think any of this will ever affect him personally…

  1. If not you, then who?

The Leavers and Eurosceptics are certainly mobilising themselves. Farage’s opportunistic re-entry into the fray with his single-issue, zero-policy Brexit Party is making a lot of noise. And if you don’t vote, they will win unopposed. I find myself in complete agreement with Will Self over their ambitions, when he said about the Leave Campaign:

I’m not saying everyone who voted leave is a racist, but everybody who is a racist voted leave”.

The same will be true about those who vote for this Brexit Party thing – you’re not racist if you do, but if you are racist, you will.

The Conservatives are an utterly spent force politically, and avoiding a complete wipe-out has to be the best they can possibly hope for. Labour (for whom victory would be assured were it not for the fact that they cannot coalesce around any sensible position themselves) are hardly – if at all – a better option.

The resurgence of the Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections is a positive, as is the stance of the other national parties who align themselves with either revoking Article 50 or calling for a People’s vote on any deal, with remaining in the EU an option. Renew, Change UK, Green, and others are very clear on their stance – not necessarily pro-EU, but most definitely Anti-Brexit.

So yeah – that’s why voting on Thursday matters. I’ll be there, voting for people and parties who represent my feelings of abject disgust and anger over the way our nation has been damaged by the drive to cut ourselves off from the EU, and to send a massive slap in the face to those who put their own agenda, ambitions, and party loyalties before the good of the nation, both now and for the future.