Monday, 30 March 2020


The north eastern wind had died down considerably.  The light was filling the space between the ragged curtains.  I was awake and not sleepy enough to go back to sleep, sadly.  There was nothing for it but to rise early and head for Tesco.
Tesco has become the centre of life these days.  With the chill in the air and the police limits of walking I rarely venture out.  With no reason to use a scarce bus I have nowhere to go but the town around me, that I know only too well.  Tesco, or Sainsburys visits now mean adventure and human contact.  Whether it means adventure to the Sainsburys staff I cannot really say.
So, dressed for an Arctic trip, coat on, shoes on feet, cap on head I open the door on the day.  A car passes, a second one travels the other way then silence falls.  Just before 8 am and silence?  The rush hour ought to be beginning but few are about.  I cross the street and deposit another ‘return to sender’ in the pillar box.  These come with the leaving of tenants.  This one returns for the last time, from now on they can send the Debt Collectors in.  These are easy to spot, almost all the same, offering nice words and easy ways to pay, knowing the culprit has flown.  I wonder why they bother?  I wonder also about people who so easily avoid paying bills.  Some have clearly obtained a credit card not too long before they flee, continue using said card for a while and are not available to pay the bill.  Easy credit costs credit companies, no matter how much they make from the card.  It is difficult to feel sympathy for credit cards that get cheated however, they rip us off quite happily.

I wander passed the gates of the police station expecting a man in Stasi uniform to appear and question my motives.  None appears, I continue noting the Spring like garden that looks great in the sun but somewhat weary when that sun hides behind the clouds as he does this morning.  Nothing moves.  Even the birds are quiet in this street.  At the main road I see three people, well apart, at the temporary bus stops.  This has been required as the town council, or at least some of them, are constructing a ‘white elephant’ beside this road.  A hotel, doctors’ surgery and restaurants!  Wonderful!  Except that apart from the doctors we do not require this monstrosity.  For over 20 years they, or at least the Leader, has been desperate to fill this space, why we ask and how much will he make out of it cynics wish to know?  Funnily enough the planning people did not oppose this plan.
I was not surprised to see an early queue outside Tesco.  A wee bit miffed that the barriers erected for the crowds meant a long walk to the rear to join the queue.  The queue was all male, each six feet or so from the man in front, each also carrying that vague smile that wondered whether all this was really necessary but accepted it all the same.  No-one spoke, though we did exchange glances that spoke.  Individuals joined us, also all male, each revealing his own thoughts with a glance.  One man wore a face mask, and stood out.  He was young, most of us are no longer young.  We slowly moved, one customer at a time, bringing to mind soup kitchen lines from the 1930’s or Prisoners of war awaiting feeding time as we neared the door.  Once the woman in charge allowed us in, we were instructed to sanitise our hands before we could continue.  Informed that we left by the other door, and I, like the rest, smiled submission and hastened in before more orders arrived.
Extra sour faced security were on patrol, each trying to look tough, each in danger of provoking mirth.  However, I suspect they will get work during the day from the towns less beloved characters.  

Being organised it did not take me long to get round, avoid most people, easy when dealing with a shop full of males of course, and quickly get to the checkout, once I had worked out how to get there past the blocked aisles, so that then as I paid I recalled the things not on the shopping list that I ought to have remembered.    
Enough bought for a week.  Two heavy bags and a bill to pay.  How I miss buying when I need it and not for a week!  I crawled home passing shops bearing notices informing the regulars that the they are closed because of the virus.  I look longingly in at the barbers, I need him now, not in the unknown future.  My Hippy style may return, but slightly greyer this time.
Back home I forget to spend the day tidying and watch old films made during the war to inform us how ‘Bomber Command’ and ‘Coastal Command’ did their jobs.  These, with somewhat still scripts, made use of the men, including senior officers, to inform the nation how they went about their business.  All a bit stiff but informed the nation in a time of stress.  Indeed, the war had a long way to go while such films were being made and the intention was to ‘gee up’ the people and allow them to see what all sides of the services were going through.  I wonder if such a film could be made today to show what is happening in the nation regarding this virus war?   I fear our cynicism may render that impossible.

This afternoon I ventured out once again, the excitement might be killing for some, following two part time joggers and a couple of kids on bikes.  Exercise time for us all.  I wandered around, enjoying the freedom, avoiding any who came near, women tending to think 15 feet is still not sufficient space, and climbed back up the hill and across the park considering myself to have walked a marathon.  It was half a mile if anything.  Few were around, some traffic on the main road, fewer than normal and none on the small roads.  
Such is my life now.

The routine has changed with no football and lock down.  Silence reigns at night with little traffic or passing footsteps.  Only the noise from my phone as people I ought not to have given my number to call for no good reason!  It is slightly boring now.  What will it be like in the weeks and months to come? 
If you think this post boring, wait until August!  

Sunday, 29 March 2020

'Source to Sea,' a Walk

Isolated as we are, banned from walking the earth as we wish, and quite simply unable to hike 215 miles alongside a river this book is a good way to get ourselves outside, in comfort.  
The author, a Londoner who lives and works close by the river, decided one day to leave the travel desk at the 'Times' and travel along the river, from 'source to sea,' thus providing himself with a title and some blisters.  Walking from pub to pub, with occasional hotels, for rest spaces he completed the task covering 368 miles in 21 days.  His detours, not always deliberate, added to the length of the journey.
What can be said about a walk by a river?
The early stages cover paths blessed by a wide variety of flowers and wildlife, cattle, horses or sheep appear in fields around, swans and sucks paddle past often silently.  The stopping places and foodstuffs get good coverage, some would say too much but if you follow the trail you will see this as wise advice or warnings.  Old pubs often go back several hundred years, all have their tales of famous or infamous deeds and people, some of them true.  Occasional houses, usually for the very rich, are passed all along the line of the river.  Near the beginning gardens from aged cottages costing a million reach down to the waterline, often with boats at the ready.  Near the ending London apartments cost double that with views of the river front and former warehouses turned into just as expensive flats.  Neither indicate prices we can afford.
From the bird covered countryside London appears, as do industrial estates, lower priced housing and dereliction.  You will note I miss out Reading!  "One does not linger in the neighbourhood of Reading," wrote Jerome K. Jerome, out Tom considers this good advice!
I'm torn with wanting more descriptions of the house, churches and past sights throughout the book while being somewhat bored with the repetitious nature of much of the writing.  It must be difficult taking notes on such a walk and even more difficult to find new ways of describing similar daily experiences.  The fact that so many historical or interesting places, events, situations arise on such a walk along a river that has seen two thousand years of history, more than that we cannot discover much about, means there are several books to be made from such a walk, possibly half a dozen at least all the way along the river.  
I could be being greedy of course.
Eventually, having wandered through London itself, again the contrast between the rich and the poor appears, he snakes his way to the finish a black stone that marks the official end of the river authority and the beginning of the North Sea.  Two stones, one at either end mark the course, one at the sea the first in a dry field!  Later in the year it is wet they say!  From this trickle that cannot be found to the far end the book holds out attention, not least for his honest descriptions of those he meets.  Several bars are to be avoided, some to be looked out for.  
This is the type of book I wish I had written, although it must be said the grammar is better in this book.  However I have not made such a journey in recent years, I am unlikely to make one soon, unless a description of walking early to Tesco will do?  I recommend this book a s worth a look for those who are trapped indoors, like rivers and pub food and have 'spare time' to read...

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lock Down Continues...

The tea is going down.  The number of cups drunk is increasing to habit forming numbers.  The kettle may not survive this constant boiling!  What else is there to do?
Watch TV?
50 channels of total pigswill on offer when I looked earlier, only one programme attracted me and my little aerial could not receive it!  Those who enjoy mind sapping pap may be happy enough to continue watching this stuff, however these are the people who only ever watch two channels anyway, no quality to be found on either! 
I attempt to insert an aged video, the machine spits it back out.  I try another and it merely switches the thing off.  I insert a DVD and find it is not recognised!  It strikes me I must do something about this machine.  Using all my technical ability I am sure I can soon get it to catch fire and burn the house down.  Maybe later...
Radio, nowadays my favourite.  However it is Saturday and little new of interest is to be had.  Who arranges these programmes?  Is Radio 4 getting worse or is it my tastes are getting better?  Even Radio 4 Extra has little to offer today.  Bah!
Drink tea instead and stare out the window.  
This is difficult as the curtains are half drawn across, the usual situation when a North, or as today a north east wind blows.  The air comes either through the gaps or straight through the glass ensuring I know that what the weatherman says is a 'mild' day is in fact a 'mild day with chilly wind.'  This air thus ensues my tea quickly chills and I am once again filling the kettle.  In an effort to save tea bags I may have to start making use of that aged small teapot and reusing the old bags again.

Desperation to remain focused may mean digging out the coffee.  This is a strange one however as after drinking I do not feel any wider awake, yet while trying to sleep later my eyes will not shut!  Is there delayed action coffee?  
I hear from some that after a few days they have a sparkling clean house.  You can rest assured that is not the case here.  The women have been cleaning, cupboards, behind furniture, kitchens, while the men have found work to do in the garden if they have one.  
Less fortunate people are trapped with children!
Now there's a funny thing.  Imagine being trapped by your own child with no escape.  With some people and their kids it makes me laugh.  Others are trapped with a dog, dogs want out and it is clear the man from the club is getting much more exercise than he requires, I note the wife was out with the dog today.  
You would think there was an abundance of blogs to read at such a time, it appears not.  There again so many people no longer pour out blogs.  So many I once knew are dead, married, moved away, got fed up, lost interest or took up social media in a big way and no longer find blogs worth while.  This is a shame as there are still some worth reading, if you can find them.
Those not getting out might not have much to say of course...


Thursday, 26 March 2020

Tuesday Toddle

Not long after 7:30 I ambled out into the bright morning sun.  The wind was blowing lightly from the north east leaving a white film of frost upon the scene.  Having a big car did not stop Jack Frost alighting on you.

I passed Sainsburys, fooled at first into thinking it was not open, realising later they were just controlling the numbers entering, for safety's sake.  This mattered not to me as I was heading for Tesco.   At first the lack of people fooled me here also, was it open?  In fact few people were around, and inside a similar control system was in operation.  The staff directing customers to keep apart and use certain doors.  All good and proper I thought.  I was less happy as they then chose to close the aisles I was heading for.  Stock was low, a consignment had just arrived and they closed the aisles to fill the shelves quickly.  Why not keep them open and fill shelves slowly thinks I?  That way I can get what I wish and you make money!  Reason was not around this morning.  

However , I managed to obtain sufficient to keep me going for a few days and discussed with the excellent checkout lass the world and its problems and put them to right.  Well, we thought so.  No crush at this checkout, the crowds not yet arriving.  I suspect they too made them wait outside later in the day.

It is a strange world in which we live.  Police patrol the park ensuring folk do not lie around in the sun.  Supermarkets employ security guards to quell the potential squabbles over goods.  A cough while walking ensures those closest to you become the furthest away.  Business is boarded up, shops closed, football ceased, economic woes abound at all levels, and Michael Gove still thinks he ought to be in charge.

I wandered about making use of the mobile camera, when I could understand how to use it.  The sun shone and the sky was blue, people passing kept more than six feet away from me, fear is greater than reality!  I expected empty streets at this time but as there is no morning rush, at least not the usual rush it was quiet.  Occasional souls remained freezing at bus stops, trying not to breathe.  The Crows continued to empty dustbins of what food scraps they could find, a lack of takeaways affecting their feeding habits I note, and life continues but at the moment nobody really knows what to do.  How do we react to a virus attack?  This is not a Hollywood movie, praise the Lord, this is serious.  The brute is out there, determined to get us, political leaders handle it in various ways, some blaming others for the mess, some diligently trying the best system they can find, the UK bumbles along claiming to have the best NHS in the world yet failing to provide proper equipment for the staff!  10 years of abject failure to prepare may have a hand in this.  Of course the 3 years old in the White House is handling the emergency with his eyes closed and his wallet wide open, no matter how many suffer.

The idea of the Tories saying 'Save the NHS' is quite ironic considering what they have done to the NHS since Thatcher was king!  Saving money has cost a great deal and the Labour Party failed to do anything about it, bar PFI scandals of course.

A second attempt to obtain goods, this time from Sainsburys, was postponed when I saw the queue. It was not worth the wait, I could 'make do and mend' if required.  So I wandered and came back via the park, hoping no police were about or I would have to pretend I was exercising. 

Tonight the Chancellor offers cash to the self employed to help them survive.  Generous say some, where does the money come from say others?  He appears to talk in 3 month cycles, I hope he plans in 6 month cycles.  I doubt this beast will finish within 18 months.  Here's hoping.  
So it is on with our new life, not that mine changes much, but around me much changes and will continue to change.  A new depression may be in the offing, good times are not around the corner.
And walking in the chilly air has brought back my cough and throat problem!

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Past Trips...

One of the grubby papers was intent the other day to gather information regarding your past holidays.  Where did you go?  What was the best?  Those deeply intellectual questions being asked.  It surprised me as I could not think of having had a holiday for years.  Last year, while others visited Costa Rica, Portugal, Holland and Spain I had a day out in Great Bardfield churchyard.  I am not sure this counts as a holiday.
When did I last go on proper holidays?  Rare to have had the cash let alone somewhere worth visiting.  As children visits to aunts, as adolescents no money was available and few were rich enough for the early Spanish holidays.  A day out to Whitley Bay was forced on me at 15 by my dad.  Why there?  No idea.  I was intrigued I recall by policemen wearing those tall helmets, gone from Scotland in 1956.  Then later a trip or two to London with my mates, nothing intellectual occurring on these trips though a few hostelries were found.   
Once, only once, living in London, 1976 I reckon, I took a trip to Cardiff for reasons unremembered.  An overnight stay, nothing to recall but a friendly B&B in a backwater, and wondering why the rail tunnel was so long before remembering we went under the River!  

In November 1990, just before the first Gulf War, I went to Israel.  This of course was a great trip, even if the intifada and stupidity stopped me seeing all I wished to see.  A trip to Hebron? I enquired, NO! came the response, suicide!  Indeed the worst of the two sides abide there and bus trips do not go there these days.  I did see Jerusalem, mostly, finding much of what I wished to see, getting into the Holy Sepulchre with no difficulty, the American tourists stayed away from fear of Saddam, and sat in the most Holy place by myself, bar one nun.  

This shoddy picture shows Mount Tabor rising in the middle of a historical landscape.  I stand in Megiddo, corrupted into 'Armageddon' and before us lie the vast plain in which all the armies of the world will meet on the last days.  A huge plain lies before us.  To our right out of the picture is Mount Gilboa where Saul and Jonathan died, In the foothills near Tabor Barak defeated Sisera, and many a battle occurred where we stand.  In 1918 General Allenby's Cavalry swept across the plain of Megiddo more or less bring the end of the fighting in Palestine during the Great War.  
Sadly I saw no battles, though I can understand why people battle Israeli Border Police, they are a tough force.  Most Israelis were friendly enough, though many wished to sell something to tourists, and all Arab guides should be locked up!  

Not  much of a travelogue to be sure, nowadays I wish to see the Battlefields in France and little else.  The desire to tramp around in hot sun or freezing cold does not call me out.  There again both Brexit and the Virus has killed of foreign and indeed inland trips for us all.  
I can see that the use of digital cameras has improved photography greatly.  Most Israel pictures are on slides, so hidden away for now, the film ones are all pretty poor.  From now on all the pictures will concern Sainsburys and Tesco as far as I can see...

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Boris Spoke...

Boris spoke and the world listened, well, most of it...
There is traffic hurtling about, there are shoppers, singly mostly, wandering up town, there are people with kids passing by.  Otherwise as we can see the place is indeed very quiet. 
In spite of closed shops and workplaces many remain open, most are 'Key Workers,' even if they do not work for 'Sports Direct,' and life must go on at a skeleton level. 

It is noticeable that the skatepark is empty!  Not one rebellious child to be found.  Mum is clearly taking control.  Few apart from dogwalkers can be seen in the park, and the local facebook page full of women desperate for dog owners to keep their pets from coming near them, in case the owner does also!  There is a thin line between caution and fear.  However individual walkers/joggers are leaving ten feet between one another.  The message appears to have hit home.
Excuse me while I go for a cough...

The rush hour has been quiet.  People move about but very little traffic today.  The Park was visited by two burly female police, those sitting legally on benches, in two's as they ought, soon left.  The occasional kid with a dad, the occasional mum with a shopping bag, the occasional youth with a phone, but very quiet for Tuesday.
Edinburgh streets were empty also, city and town hiding from a virus.  The nation has taken this to heart.  How long will this last?  No vaccine for months, possibly years.  I may as well go back to bed for a year...

Monday, 23 March 2020

A Day in the LIfe...

Boris Johnson, in a well scripted (written by someone else) address to the nation described my life to the full!
Do not go out, unless you are shopping for food.
Do not go out, unless you are taking exercise by walking across the park.
Do not go with anyone else.  Who?
Stay at home!

There you have it, my lifestyle justified by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Top that!

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Sunday Sainsburys

Having come close to zero on the basics I had to run up to Sainsburys this morning.  I chose to go just as they opened at 10 am in an effort to avoid crowds and ensure there would be something on the shelves.  How wrong I was!  The place was teeming!  Teeming, not with the ‘usual early morning crowd’ I see but with the ‘desperate to ensure I find it crowd’ that now fills the shops. 

The shelves were half empty, many totally bereft, a deliberate policy by the store itself.  What was left was being rummaged through by several at once, none giving way to their neighbour.  I confess that as I speeded along, I also fell into the barging way off life.  It was the only way to get past their trolleys.

Neighbourliness was noticed among men of certain age, we accommodated one another, offering looks that spoke towards the panic-stricken trolley pushers.  I obtained quickly most of what I wanted, plenty of actual ‘food’ to be found though I had to make do with overpriced ‘Nurofen’ as paracetamol, considerably cheaper and more reliable, was unavailable.  In fact, I got what I wanted mostly, few limitations for me, I suggest few for others also, but the nation is in panic mode.

I was reared during a time of rationing, though I did not understand this at the time.  I never did without, though we did not have much, and the society approach contained much of a ‘Just accept it and get one with it’ attitude.  They realised the position and made the best of it.

Today, after 75 years of peace and huge prosperity few can manage without the luxuries they have come to take for granted.  In fact, having to ’do without’ anything is now a crime, someone must be held to account!  Wealth does not make you happy, it makes you dependent on wealth! 

We now enter a period of ‘war like’ stress.  Not because our intellectually limited Prime Minister says so but because this virus will change our way off life, possibly for the next two years.  It may take that long to find a vaccine.

Two years of self-imposed isolation, two years of deaths all around (however Dominic Cummings is content this will only be among pensioners), two years with no sport, no pubs or cafes, no gatherings even in churches.  Only those who have seen war in the flesh can understand what this means.  How will our people cope?

The Christian church must now repent, put itself right before God and do things his way.  Those who weaken the faith must be opposed and if necessary, removed.  The church must proclaim the Good News loudly and often, it cannot do this while it is wounded by self-acquired injury. 

There must be an open display in this broken world in spite of self-isolation and wise precautions.  Depending on whom you believe, and there are far too many voices offering their opinion on how to deal with the virus, we may have indeed half a million deaths, possibly many more, and that will affect all of us!  The church must proclaim Christ crucified, the reason for this and Gods love, in spite of this plague.  Jesus has seen many more plagues than this, worse have been and will be again. 

The Christian needs to commit to his God, put his life right, and proclaim Good News, whatever happens round about.     

From the window I watched many people self-isolating together.  A man with his child kicking a ball, quite understandable, several primary school types on the skatepark, and many walking about in groups of four or five, possibly families other youths, all keeping close to one another.  
Sainsburys have this new rule, which I walked into.  A black mark one metre (3 ft 6 in the real world) from the cash desk is where the next customer must stand.  I ignored this until the lass in front pointed out the queue behind.  The leading woman smiled and I moved on.  I joined three men in a line, "I'll join the men, they will be quicker than the women,"  said I.  The men, of similar age to myself, nodded agreement with almost a smile.  Then we waited, and waited, a women was at the cashier failing to make her point. 
While the first man in the queue stood on the black line I was intrigued to note that we stood in the usual line, behind one another, not a metre apart, just a couple of inches.  I turned around once or twice and coughed, nest time I looked the women behind with a trolley had been replaced by a man with a basket.  Fear makes cowards of us all.  I possibly could have indicated the cold virus is not the same as the Chinese one but that may have been too much.  
Anyway, we men got through in due time, considering one another carefully, I almost said 'closely' and a few inches apart was close.  The cheerful young lady at the cash desk did her bit happily, she is not a week day staff, and I gathered my precious possessions and limped home in the freezing sunshine.   
Throughout the Empire, which since Brexit involves the Home Countries and Tristan de Cuna, people are gathering in crowds.  One pub in Greenock refuses to close, people go there, along with a dozen police officers trying to shut the place, Portobello Beach throngs with crowds, parks, gardens, and other open places are busy with people isolating together.  All the while the Mothers, this is Mothers Day after all, are left at home ignored!  For their own safety!
I must admit had I lived closer and mum had been alive I would still go round there.  She might not want me, I may disturb the soap operas she watched, but I think one of us would go.  

Clearly we are indeed living in a dangerous situation.  Made worse by an incompetent government happy to let pensioners die (allegedly).  At first I thought the fuss was exaggerated, I admit I was wrong there.  The more I look at it the more I begin to think this could take more than a year, possibly more than two years to clear.  The economic effect will continue long afterwords.  All we have trusted in is being taken from us, the strained looks on the faces in Sainsburys revealed that.  People do not know what to do, most have no emotional position from which to survey the situation.  I am not sure I have.  This is strange and new.  I can put my trust in Jesus, but that does not mean all will be well in every way, many of my friends are not as young or healthy than they were.  I am tempted to say 'The lights are going out all over Europe' but they will remain on...