Wednesday, 6 January 2021

A Winter Lockdown

Wednesday 6th January 2021

Lockdown III started two days ago so I've decided to do yet another chapter in the Covid Pandemic blog. I don't anticipate daily entries this time, I think they would be too boring.  

The lockdown followed on from announcements a few days ago when most of the country saw their tier level bumped up a notch. But as most people aren't sure what each tier means it was never going to be a game changer. At least a lockdown is clear in its intentions. It was anticipated really after the combination of a Christmas spending and mixing spree and the advance of a new, highly infectious strain. The results have been showing a rapid rise in infections for some two weeks now. Up until Monday the government had been urging schools to restart, and many went back for a day before closing again with the lockdown.  So the government is being criticised for not acting soon enough - again.  Daily cases yesterday were  60,000 and deaths over 800. Deaths will follow the cases curve so we expect well over a thousand in the coming weeks. The curves below are 7 day rolling averages so tend to be sluggishly behind the real situation. The cases curve. to reflect the 60,000, would end up just where this text appears.



Thurs 7th Jan

Over 1000 covid deaths yesterday which has grabbed the headlines, understandably. After the initial euphoria over suddenly having two vaccines there is the realism that it will take months to get a significant number inoculated, and months to see the benefit. This lockdown will probably last into March. To make matters worse, we are having a long spell of really cold weather, which helps the virus as it forces people to stay indoors, often in close proximity. 

Over in the USA, Trump really blew it yesterday by inciting a mob take-over of congress. It has shocked the US and the world. There are calls for impeachment - not sure if it could happen fast enough to remove him before the 20th Jan handover but it would be good to start it anyway as a clear message. He is obviously unfit ( as in deranged) to hold that hugely responsible office. We just need to get through the next two weeks without him doing anything really crazy.  The really good news is that the Democrats gained two seats in Georgia giving them control of the Senate so Biden will be able to get his much needed legislation through. 

Spending a lot of time getting my old Sony laptop cleaned up for Paige. With schools closed she needs to log in to the on-line learning and she has a tablet that won't display the class material and a laptop (Jodie's) that won't let her log in. She is of course just the tip of a national crisis in remote education. So many kids won't have laptops, wifi, broadband, or a heated quiet space. As usual the most impoverished will be suffering badly. Corbyn's pre-election promise of free broadband suddenly seems an opportunity lost.

And the watercolour painting continues. I am still following Karen Rice, who puts out a new tutorial almost every day. Here's my effort on a recent one. Not brilliant, but passable I guess. 


Sat 9th Jan

New Covid cases yesterday still very high at 68,000 and deaths rocketing, 1300 yesterday and expected to go higher. Hospitals cancelling serious surgery to cope. In London 1 in 50 of the population has the virus. All very serious indeed. So we hunker down, take our Sainsburys delivery and wait it out.

Meanwhile in the US Vice president Pence is being pressured to remove Trump from office as he's incapable of rational thought. Failing this the Democrats will move for impeachment. And the virus is an even bigger problem for the US. Made much worse by a year of denial by Trump. In a way he has caused the  deaths of many thousands of Americans. Surely there is some legal action that could be taken for such criminal negligence?


Wed 13th Jan


The trend continues, case falling - we seem to be over the xmas period peak. Hospitals are overloaded however and some are using hotels to get extra beds. The deaths, being 2/3 week behind the cases are still rising, up to 1,500 today - far higher than for the April peak. We are world leader in Covid deaths it seems (apart from Czecknia !). Just ahead of the US too. Interesting that Trump/Johnson led countries lead the pack. Just coincidence?

And Trump has been impeached - a Senate trial now follows but could be weeks/months away. Sadly some 30% of Americans thing storming capitol hill was a good idea.

And I'm spending a lot of time generating a family tree using Ancestris genealogy software, I hay do a blog on this. 

Painting continues courtesy of Karen Rice, producing about four a week.. What would I have done without my new watercolour activity. Certainly not glassmaking in a freezing cold shack.



Sun 17th Jan


As the curves above show, we are past the peak of new cases, but whether due to lockdown or not is debateable. General opinion is that the lockdown benefits will kick in about now so hopefully case will continue to drop. If deaths are 3/4 behind the cases then we have a lot more deaths to come. 


Sunday, 1 November 2020

An Autumn Lockdown

 Sunday 1 November 2020

Last night our PM announced a second lockdown for England, weeks after Wales, Scotland, NI announced their own. Three weeks ago his scientific advisors said that  a two week circuit breaker was needed but he decided not to follow the science and introduced a 3 tier localised system instead. Part of his resistance to the circuit breaker was probably that Keir Starmer had championed the idea. Anyway, here we are again, back indoors. It actually starts on Thursday so the country has four days in which to go mad. The next four days will not be a good time to go shopping/pubbing/etc.

We now all know how it all works but this time round it feels like a damp squib. Several reasons for this. Firstly the weather is now miserable whereas back in the spring it was unusually glorious. Also, we were just getting back into social activities and now the diary has to be cleared again. And there's a marked reluctance to get behind a PM who has blown all his credibility over the last 6 months in a string of Covid cock-ups.

At the start of the lockdown it's worth recording where we are with infections and deaths and the curves below are for October, as of yesterday. France and Germany are shown for comparison, all Europe seems to have a similar second wave. However both those countries went into lockdown  a few weeks ago.



Looking at the curves it's not obvious why we are getting so worked up as the infections are levelling out and the deaths while rising are not roaring away and should ease as the infections plateau. But there other factors not so easily visible or quantified, notably the effect on hospitals - which are apparantly getting close to capacity. And maybe there are factors we are just not being told. We can only accept that there are very good reasons for a lockdown as the economic and social fallout will be dire.

Two Zoom meetings today with the Scientists Warning organisation. They have organised a series of talks and discussions every day this week on the climate crisis,  in lieu of the cancelled COP25 in Glasgow. The first talk today was to an international audience and given by Prof. William Laurance, and Ed Gemmell, MD of SWEurope. Highly professional and knowledgeable people. The second was by Paula MacHahon, a civil engineer, and was concerned with 'engineering the future'. Again very impressive. So good to be amongst such highly skilled people. Tomorrow's focus is food issues.

One fallout from the lockdown is that  we have just had to cancel a mid month week away in Suffolk. Compared to the hardships that so many will have to endure, this hardly merits comment. An annoyance at most. I still do my watercolour painting and think I'll be getting in to this with a vengeance over the coming weeks. I still do the on-line tutorials from Karen Rice, below is one I finished last night. She is really prolific, putting out about three a week. I also intend going back to re-do some of her earlier ones to see if I can make a better job of them six months down the line. And I'm trawling through Flickr watercolour artists for ideas/challenges. And I've started putting my own paintings on Flickr, at

Another wet day so not much time in the garden. Did manage to chain-saw several branches though, taken from a very overgrown damson tree in the orchard. Retrieved a mound of tree ivy too, makes really good shredder feed. With lockdown upon us the orchard provides an endless opportunity for exercise.

Put my glass fusing equipment up for sale yesterday and today I have had four enquiries. One of them is calling on Tuesday evening to check it out. He's a glassmaker so knows all about what's on offer. I expect him to buy it but we'll have to see. The glass work has been falling off for a few years now, time to move on.  On a wide range of points, as a pastime watercolours win hands down.

Also embedded a variety of fallen leaves in beeswax - a leftover from my beekeeping days, yet another pastime that I decided I'd had enough of. Nothing is for ever.

Did another painting - not very good so I'll do it a second time tomorrow. I have the time! And I watched the stunning last episode of series 3 Line of Duty. What an amazing production. In the first lockdown I had Breaking Bad for 'light relief' and this lockdown I'll be going through LOD. Second viewing but it's so good that doesn't matter. 

A busy day, even forgot to download the Observer. Will have to catch up tomorrow.

Monday 2nd Nov

A fine day, sunny & blowy so off for a walk with Helen. Our standard 5 mile Churchill loop which we did several times under the last lockdown. Plenty of leaves still on the trees so some nice photos.

Had lunch at The Swan pub afterwards, against all my principles opted for the chicken and bacon baguette, very nice! Last opportunity for a pub lunch until December so we took it while it was still on offer. Surprisingly few people at the pub, I'd expected loads there in the last days before lockdown.

Another painting, a still life of oak and vine leaves. All very seasonal! Collected some acorns on today's walk so may do another with an oak theme soon.

Evenings are very quiet here.  Helen and I have our own laptops which replace the TV that dominates most homes. If we watch TV programmes it's on catchup on the laptops. I use mine for many things but also for painting ideas and tutorials. Helen's laptop is for many different things too and occasionally for listening to an opera stream. She has some really good quality headphones as of a few weeks back - good timing for lockdown.

Tues 3rd Nov

Up very early today as I had to inflate various balloons and get them installed before Helen woke up. Her birthday surprise. Two of the balloons have internal LEDs with a microcontroller to give variable lighting effects. The battery, once activated, only last about 12 hours so I had to do it all this morning. I inflated them with my Helium canister which means they can easily escape - but only as far as the ceiling! And then they are only good for a day or so because the helium diffuses through the balloon skin.


Out for a walk with Morris friend Mark & wife Jean then a lunch at the Barley Mow near Sedgley. Outdoors of course.  Very conveniently doubles as Helen's birthday meal! Mark & Jean very generously insisted on paying as a birthday present to Helen, so I'll have to find another opportunity to take Helen out - probably December now. A very nice social event and good to chat to real people for a change rather than on Zoom.

At 4pm the prospective buyer of my glass equipment  arrived and we went through all that was on offer. He was happy with everything so I'm now in receipt of £450. Cash from the past, everything is card now. His own glass work is really impressive, blown not fused. The fusing equipment is for his wife. And so ends an important phase of my life as a glass artist. But it has to be said I was only ever an amateur. I have dozens of pieces of glass to remind me of what I did. A small part of selling up is related to future planning. At 76 I need to get rid of stuff. Nothing is forever and I like to be ahead of the game! In the last two years since my bowel trouble I've off loaded quite a lot. Bees, glass and jointly with Helen we've off loaded two caravans. We have also bought a nice new one of course!

On the Covid front Tuesday is usually a large peak but that didn't happen. The curves below are 7 day rolling averages so are very good for detecting trends and ironing out the weekend disparities. Daily cases are dropping and deaths only rising slowly. So why the lockdown? Possibly to stop the hospitals being overwhelmed, they are pushed to the limit anyway in the winter months so a small Covid load has a huge effect. So with the second lockdown we are possibly paying the price for 10 years of under-investment in the NHS. A very high price. The Tories really need to be made to own that.


Wed 4th Nov

We were hoping to wake up to the news that Trump had lost the US election but were disappointed.  It's far too close to tell who will win and it could take days to get all the votes counted. Meanwhile Trump says he's won and is trying to suppress the count. It's such a blatant power grab that it beggars belief. So we wait and see.

Went to Bewdley at 11am for a walk around the Jubilee Gardens and museum and then on to the Meeting House gardens to meet up with Lindsay & Dave to play some folk music together. I'd originally booked us an indoor session but then realised that two of the players that could turn up played whistle so indoors didn't seem like a good idea all of a sudden and we decided to play in the garden instead. The first I've played with others since March. And as the lockdown starts tonight it will be the time for who knows how long. The weather was fine and we started at 12pm using the garden benches. Shortly after we started Sally also joined us - I'd emailed her as an afterthought this morning. We had just under 3 hours than the rain started so we called it a day. Great to be playing again.  


Covid deaths and infections have a big jump today, but the 7day rolling averages are showing the same trend so won't post any new curves today.

Thurs 5th Nov

Sadly, no sign of an early result in the US elections. Trump's using all the tricks in the book to swing it his way. I'm somewhat encouraged that he's doing all this as is shows he's really worried about the way things are going. If Biden wins he'll be a weak president without a senate majority. And if Trump wins heaven help us all. Thanks to him, yesterday the US formally withdrew from the Paris Climate accord.  A lot of analysis on the state of the US in various online magazines. None of it good.

A heavy day in the orchard. I cut down a damson tree branch but it was tangled up in the tree top and just hung there. Couldn't leave it that way so used my Bosch chainsaw to take down the tree leaving a 6' high trunk that I hope will re-sprout. So a lot more work than planned, will take me a few days. Made more difficult by the fact that the chain came off and was badly blunted so I've now ordered a new chain. I'm sure I have a spare chain in the garage but I just can't find it. So a lockdown job will be sorting out the garage! As it happens I have a second chain-saw so using that for now.  It has its problems though, which is why I bought the Bosch. 

Just as well I have plenty of time.😀

Here's a combined infection rate and deaths chart. Daily rates, 7 day rolling average. If we assume the deaths are a month behind cases (?) it's clear we could be in for a large increase in deaths, we are just seeing the start of it perhaps. The scale is for cases no scale included for deaths, it's just the shape that matters but for the record the latest deaths were around 500. 


Fri 6th Nov

And the US election is still not resolved. It's looking increasingly like a Biden win but with recounts and legal challenges it's still anyone's guess. Trump is not giving in easily, but then nobody thought he would.

Big news of the day is Shannon's birth of my great grandson.  Mother & child doing well and staying in hospital for a few days, possibly because it was a C-section birth. Here's a photo taken hours after the birth. So now I'm a great-grandfather. Who'd have thought it?

A brilliant sunny day and Helen went off distributing batches of Labour Party newsletters to members  - all part of her exercise! Meanwhile I carried on working in the orchard. Took about 3 hours to extract all the fallen branches and a massive mound of ivy - which has now been shredded and added to my enormous compost heap. Will get the chain-saw on the branches tomorrow. Tided up the shack now that the glass fusing equipment and materials have gone.  Looking good but I wish I could think of a use for it. It is a very warm winter refuge though - when the sun is out.  The roof overhang works very well at blocking summer sun and allowing winter sun. Also started work on the garage. Half an hour a day will work wonders.

Above is last night's painting. Copied from a painting I found on Flickr and I liked the snowy mountains. I haven't got it quite right sadly - all good experience though, will try another soon.

The government has admitted that the data used to justify a lockdown was too pessimistic. However they say, or Gove says, that the underlying trend would not have been affected. They also emphasise the risk to NHS, which is what they were really concerned about. It increasingly looks like we were bounced into this lockdown. The daily cases are levelling (not attributable to lockdown which won't affect things for a week or more) and deaths are only increasing slowly, an increase built in to the last 3/4 weeks of infection rise. 

 Sat 7th Nov

Mid afternoon Biden got his 270 seats and so has declared himself president elect. But Trump says the election is not over. Maybe he has an ace up his sleeve. I wouldn't put it past him to have arranged for malpractice that could get a result thrown out. He's a desperate man. Biden seems to be just what the US needs at this point in time. 

Another fine day so another day sorting out orchard wood. The new chain arrived so I could saw it up and stack it - next winter's fuel.  As it happens I received my winter fuel allowance today. I'll give it to the food bank. Next door neighbour Jackie came down the garden for a chat. It was her damson tree I've been pollarding but she seems happy to let me get on with it thankfully. Two weeks ago her daughter had very early twins and is still in hospital. Jackie is stuck with living at her daughter's house simply to look after her daughter's two dogs. She was making a rare visit to her own home!

Attended two Scientists Warning Zooms today. One was about G5 radiation concerns (which I'm highly sceptical about) and the other about economic implications of climate change. The latter was attended by about 75 from around the world. I can thank Covid that I can attend international conferences - and totally without cost! Last two sessions tomorrow, all in all there are 28 sessions in this COP26 programme.

Covid figures are following the established pattern, infections levelling with deaths increasing, as they must, following the steep infection rise of 4 weeks ago. If the 2% death rate is valid then we should see 500 deaths per day before it flattens. We are currently at 413. Government stats show hospital admissions up 20% in the last week and I don't have any feel for how much more the system can take. Birmingham hospitals are now cancelling non-urgent ops.

And here's last night's painting. Another Karen Rice tutorial. Quite pleased with it but it's not as loose as it should have been so may do another shortly.


Sun 8th Nov

A dismal day but managed to spend an hour or so clearing the garage and putting protective caps on the open cuts on the damson trees. Then a relaxing day reading the news, mainly about the US election, and painting. I did a Karen Rice tutorial last night but was not happy with the splattered snowflakes (too small) so will do another, using spattered masking fluid. I'm hoping it will become this year's Christmas card, which is why I want it to be good.

Covid cases down a bit today as are deaths, but they usually are down at the weekend. 

One nice thing about the winter months is having a fire. I have a mound of what I call gash wood to be burned. Basically small offcuts, halfway between a twig and a log. I need to burn last year's in order to make space for the even greater mound I've harvested this year!  All from my own garden and the orchard.


Mon 9th Nov

Mild and dull - a good day to carry on sorting the garage. After two hours I'd had enough. The bin is almost full anyway, may have to beg space in a neighbour's bin. This task is long overdue, I'm finding stuff  i haven't used since it was stashed away 30 years ago! As I won't be here in 30 years from now I think I can safely assume I won't be needing it. 

Another photo of great-grandson Rhys, as they've decided to call him. A fine name I think.  Both at home now and doing fine. Will have to organise a family Zoom.

The glow of Trump's defeat lingers nicely - lots of good article in the press. It will be a few months though before we can rest assured he's dead and buried. He has 60m supporters, many with guns.

Completed a second sheep painting last night and today I used PaintShopPro to make it into  a xmas card - I'm certainly ahead of the game this year!


Wales ends its two week circuit breaker today and the health minister says there are now, after two weeks, 'tentative signs' of the infection rate slowing. It's down by only 10%, not much to show for two weeks of lockdown but maybe it takes longer for the effects to show. 

England has only been in lockdown 4 days, feels like longer somehow. The daily cases curve is still indicating the they've levelled out already.


And hospital admissions have levelled out too. Curve below to 5th Nov.

Tues 10th Nov

It seems that a Covid vaccine could be rolled out within a few months, and given my age I'll be near the front of the queue! It is reputedly 90% effective, but will I change my risk assessments once I have had it? No, not until the majority of the population has been inoculated and the infection rate has plummeted. Interestingly Trump claims the vaccine was deliberately delayed to thwart his election chances. It's all about him as always.  He's pressing on with legal challenges to the voting. He'll have to get very lucky indeed to get the result overturned.

A mild day so more work outside while I can. Getting a bit boring it has to be said but at least I can get out. Cut back the plum tree in the orchard and did loads of shredding as a result. Then a local walk up to Barnett Hill. Very muddy but I had wellies fortunately. Met Andrea and Norman en-route and had a long chat. When I returned I rebuilt the glass topped workbench in the shack as I can't get rid of it. Maybe I have to pay someone to take it!

Did a painting from a photo that Barbara took a few week ago, but I messed it up by overdoing the sponge dabbing. Can't win them all.

Wed 11th Nov

The days blend as one, same range of activities - a bit of gardening (mainly making firewood!), sorting out the shack and garage, some painting, and internet for contact with the outside world.

Decided to transfer reels of std 8 cine to digital. Tried to get the projector to work but the lamp pins have corroded away over the many years it's been there in the shack. So need a new lamp - will have to wait until I find one or get out to the pound shop.  

And also in the shack, a box of old cameras, what do I do with these? Can't bring myself to dump them. At the time - some 40 years ago - they would have been a major purchase. Today with the advent of modern technology they are useless. 

Much comment in the press about the likely Covid vaccine. An unexpected angle is that it will take about 80% of the population to be injected in order to make the virus die off. With the advent of anti-vaxxers this is no way guaranteed. The world is full of Covid deniers and people who believe the many conspiracy theories. Partly a legacy of Trump and other idiots, especially in the US of course where denial is really strong. It seems Facebook is a major vector in spreading the antivirus viral thoughts.

Another evening painting, another Karen Rice tutorial. Made a reasonable stab at it but as often happens, having finished it I can see many areas that could be better so will do another tomorrow.

Thurs 12th Nov

Not a bad day. Helen out delivering newsletters while I did things in the garden. Our take on domesticity. 

In today's Guardian there was a really scary article about what Trump is up to. Essentially offering huge sums for evidence of vote tampering. With the amount on offer there will be no shortage of 'informants'. How to buy an election US style. And he's replaced loads of security heads with his own men. In the limit will the army obey the orders from the executive?  A second American civil war? Very scary.

Today we are one week into lockdown. Up until today there was no sign that it's making any difference to anything. But today a huge swing - but up rather than down! Infections up from 23,000 yesterday to 33,500 today. That is a huge jump in the wrong direction. The reason almost certainly is that for 5 days before lockdown everyone was going out while they could, for shopping, pubs, eateries, everything. Some people even got together in the Bewdley Meeting House garden to play music - really, some people! 


The big mistake was that the lockdown was leaked on 30th October and not actioned until 5th November.  Five days to make merry. Hey-ho.

On the experience of the March 23rd lockdown we can expect to see some effect in about 10 days. Below is the curve of hospital cases from the first lockdown, the solid line is lockdown, the dashed is the first effects. So it may be early next week before we see some effect from lockdown.


Fri 13th Nov

A sense of Deja Vu today. Last April in lockdown we discovered the lovely churchyard at Elmbridge, a nice sunny spot for sandwiches on a bike ride. And today here we are again eating our lockdown sandwiches at Elmbridge. First time round it was spring, no traffic, all a bit of a novelty. Now it's all just a bind and the cool autumn weather is nowhere near as inviting.  But the churchyard is just as nice and today the sun was shining, albeit weakly. Good to be out for a change. In the first lockdown we were out most days, this time it's a rare event.



Sat 14th Nov

A rainy windy day so no outdoor activity. Have been watching a few Scientists Warning videos from last week. One on G5 a bit suspect but another by Dave Goulson was brilliant, which made up for it.

Also working on my Arduino based Buggy. Firstly changing the controller from a SweetPea to a standard Uno as there was a conflict of pins. That went surprisingly easily. Then I added an ultrasonic sensor to the front, also a doddle. Now I want to write some software so it wanders around avoiding obstacles. A bit like I did for Vector a month or so ago. But the buggy has a second Arduino controlling a circular LED array and producing loudspeaker sound. All in all a lot more fun, even if it doesn't look too pretty. For now it's controlled via Bluetooth from an app on my phone. It's quite a pointless exercise but having put so much effort into it I may as well carry on.


And a lot of work these last few days on a Karen Rice watercolour technique using masking fluid to create background effects. On my 3rd painting now - starting to get on top of it.


Covid cases staying high but gradually easing. I expect a sharp fall soon as we leave behind the effects of the pre-lockdown mass outings and the lockdown itself starts to take effect. Deaths staying high but again, easing. 

Sun 15th Nov

A bit of work in the orchard in the morning while the sun is out. Preparing the gash wood pile for a bonfire when the wind is in the right direction. 
Finished off a watercolour which used the same background technique that I've been trying to consolidate. Not too bad but I have difficulty deciding on the borderline between realism and impressionism.

Yesterday I was reading an article in the Guardian about chess and got the idea of a Zoom chess group. I've joined Chess.com (for free but with ads) which seems to be the most popular (there are others) and played a few games against a computer. I put a post on the U3A WhatsApp inviting others to join up but I've had no response. So I'll carry on playing chess against a computer! In a way it's better because I can play in whatever manner I wish without worrying what my opponent is thinking about me. Had two games against a computer bot tonight and won them. However I did not choose experienced bots!

Mon 16th Nov

A typical  lockdown day. A bit of gardening, some watercolour painting, household chores, a bit of computer software, and over the last few days, the odd game of chess. And lots of mugs of coffee - weak instant in my case.  During the first lockdown we were out most days, this time going out is a rare treat. The weather just isn't conducive. A bit cold for cycling and very muddy for walking. Thankfully I have many activities I can switch between. But I think it's going to be a long winter. I have a strong feeling of 'is this all there is?' What's left of my life is simply slipping away. Everything is so tame. I don't feel particularly depressed about it, it's just the way it is. Getting old was never going to be exciting.  Tame, with the bonus of good health, will have to do.

Covid follows the same trajectory as we've seem for a week now. There should be a lockdown effect by now but thanks to the pre-lockdown surge in cases this is not apparent.


Tues 17th Nov
Being in lockdown makes us very dependent on the internet and this morning it's either non existent or very slow. A half hour wait on the phone to talk to our internet provider produced little in the way of firm progress. He claimed to have adjusted the line (which I am sceptical about) and it did appear to be better. Then 10 minutes after hanging up it was bad again.  Left it a few hours then phoned up again - another 30min wait - and went round the loop again. After two router resets (this time with a paper clip) things suddenly speeded up.  So we left it there. I am very concerned that we are so dependent on the web but there it is. It's almost as essential as electricity. Is this progress I wonder?

Here is yesterday's painting effort, a pretty simple KR tutorial intended for the basis of a xmas card. So that's two cards I've got already! Previous years I've produced cards based on local photographs, I didn't anticipate this time last year that I'd be sending out cards based on my watercolours, so I'm quite pleased with progress. 


As of yesterday we now have not one but two vaccines almost ready to go. One from  the US, Moderna, and the Pfizer from the US/Germany company. Both due by end of this year.  There will be 5m from Modena, I wonder if I'll be in that 5m ? Some might see it as a waste to allocate to the elderly. Certainly the front line medics deserve first shot so to speak. And we really have to sort out the anti-vaxxers who threaten to jeopardise the whole operation. The anti-science lobby seems to be gaining strength. Led by that menace Trump of course. Who, incidentally has still not conceded defeat, is blocking Biden from getting organised, and is quite capable, still, of inflicting serious damage on the US and indeed the world. He's like a cornered rat - unpredictable and dangerous.

Wed 18th Nov 

After yesterday's internet issues it now seems to have settled down. Upload speed of 5Bbps isn't blisteringly fast but very useable. Just as well because today I have a U3A science group zoom - so some preparation in the morning, last minute updates to graphs etc and then Zoom meetings from 2pm. Ended up having  3 meetings, two at 40 mins plus a sneaky tag on of half an hour by terminating two minutes early and then re-joining the same meeting!

Two main topics were Population and Covid. Basically loads of stats in a Powerpoint presentation. There was a third topic (carbon) but I felt we'd done enough and it's 'in the can' for a future meeting. It all went well apart from constant off-topic  interruptions from one of our members . Normally I'd use the global mute but today I couldn't find the 'mute all' button so had to deal with it as best I could. Not a big issue really. After the session I went on line and discovered where I should have looked for the mute button. I'll be better armed next time.

Did another KR tutorial last night, a snowy beach scene. Not very pleased with it, sea doesn't work and the snowy beach doesn't look very snowy.  Nice sky though! Spent some time today practising painting waves out at sea. Not at all easy.

After 13 days of lockdown we are finally seeing a turndown in the daily cases.  Delayed by the pre-lockdown surge. It will be interesting to see how far we reduce the cases by 2nd Dec, the stated end of lockdown. 

Thurs 19th Nov
Two weeks into lockdown. 
A fine sunny day plus a NW wind so today is bonfire day! Eventually got it lit, with the help of some old paint thinner and was soon piling on the wood. There was a big stack of cuttings from one of the flat owners whose father has been clearing up her bit of garden. So that all went on too. It's amazing how much a decent fire can consume once it's up to temperature. Couldn't help thinking of the horrific fires this year in Australia and the US. It saddens me deeply. Anyway I had it all finished within an hour, just in time for lunch.

A local walk with Helen after lunch then a read and a doze in the gloriously warm shack. Now well cleaned out after getting rid of the mountain of bee equipment and the glassmaking stuff.  It really is a  very pleasant retreat. 

Tonight was our Morris AGM - on Zoom of course. Good to see everyone again, zany as ever. Not much to report as we haven't done anything (!), but we are all eager to get back next year. I've also suggested a pre xmas meet-up at the Swan pub - subject to weather being dry and mild as it would be outside so not much chance really.



Fri 20th Nov

A morning Zoom session with Night Stop. Billed as a training session. Last night someone delivered us a box of paperwork plus odd items like a cheap mobile phone (why?) a box of cakes (why?) two face masks (why?).  The Zoom was pretty low key, nothing we didn't already know and nothing that common sense would not have told us.  A pretty long and boring session and I was running out of things to read. Got through the Guardian and social media!

I was wrong to be scathing about the phone, seems it was so we can use it for contact with clients without giving our real phone number. A burner phone! Think I'll keep it in case I want to turn to a life of crime. Probably a bit late at my age.  

A dismal day so no gardening, Spent a lot of time doing maintenance on my laptop - deleting stuff, cleaning out directories, installing MoviePlus which I thought I'd lost. Found it on my Archive disk under Serif - just where it ought to be. Also changed security passwords on several cash related internet accounts. Also hung on the phone for almost an hour to get through to Triodos to sort out why I couldn't log on - wrong password! What a complex security web we weave for ourselves.

Having spent a few hours practising painting waves on the shore I finally came up with something acceptable. So did another version of ma beach painting of a few days ago. Better sea but still not happy with the right hand vegetation.




Sat 21st Nov

I've been spending time on programming my robot buggy of late. Quite an interesting pastime is programming. Progress is slow as the project is plagued by timing issues. Having three outside world communications channels to deal with as well as the buggy motors is a bit of a challenge for a tiny Arduino computer.

I discovered a chess site called Lichess which is Chinese, which it may well be, and have played a few games on it. It's all free but has a few operational drawbacks so not sure I'll stick with it. May buy a subscription for Chess.org.

Back into the orchard this morning to (hand) saw off another branch. Then got the chain-saw to saw up some logs. I limit my chainsaw use to ground work for safety reasons. A load of ivy generated too, for shredding.  And another pile of brash for the next bonfire! All very quick, I'm certainly getting the hang of this tree pruning.

I've moved the Lenova integrated computer/screen from the cabin to the shack and set up the WiFi dish so it's now online. Not sure what I'll use it for but using the shack as an electronics work base is in my mind. Perhaps nothing will come of it. It has Windows 7 as it's too slow for Windows 10. Unfortunately it won't accept the activation key that I have so complains regularly about it being a pirate copy. Get over yourself - I tell it but it still complains. So I've been trying ways to fool the activation. Best so far is a bit of code I run to keep it from complaining for 30 days. I can stand that.

Sun 22nd Nov

A cold but sunny day so we went out on the bikes. The usual loop to Bewdley and back along the Severn and Stourport/Wilden. Had lunch at the Bewdley garden café and I decided on a pork bap. It was awful. A small bap with fatty pork and gravy so I needed a fork to eat it. Won't be back there in a hurry.

Had a family zoom in the evening, all my offspring in one zoom, never had that before Covid. So this is where my genes have ended up! 



Mon 23rd Nov

Nothing planned at all this week so will have to mix and match from my various activities and pastimes. A frosty start - possibly the first (?) but the sun is about so some work in the garden/orchard.  Cutting down long stems at the bottom - they used to be a hedge but have not been cut for 30 years at a guess. So more wood for the bonfire, more wood for my fire and more ivy for shredding for the compost heap. 

Did some programming on a LED circle clock that I intend to build. Now that I am sleeping in the back room I don't have a night-time clock so this will hopefully fill the gap. It would be cheaper to buy a clock but this is a bit more satisfying!

Did another KR tutorial last night, another winter theme. I put too much salt on the background but it's produced an interesting effect. It was supposed to produce fuzzy snow!  All part of the never-ending learning process.


Today I take over the kitchen so started by doing a batch of bean rolls. That's 3 meals sorted already! 

And the Covid curves are looking good. Looks like we'll be going to Suffolk! The following is a composite of cases & deaths, no scale on the deaths, what's important is the trend. It will be another 3/4 weeks before death rate plummets. The lockdown effects are two weeks late and a lot less marked than they would have been without that pre-lockdown spurge.




Tues 24th Nov

Helen & I went out this morning delivering food for the Franche Food Bank. A slick organisation that does deliveries only, as against collection only from Kidderminster's other food bank. We collected three lots and an address list and off we went. It felt very strange to be delivering survival food in this age of plenty. A terrible reflection on the state of our country and the gross inequalities that exist.  This year has seen billions of tax-payers' money handed out for Covid contracts, and an alarming percentage has been siphoned off to provide huge profits for friends of friends of the government. The next three months are going to be really tough for so many. 

A mild day so more work in the garden,  cutting and shredding yesterday's harvest from the orchard.

On the Covid front, infection falling steadily while deaths increase, being 4 weeks behind or course. the government is leaking its post-lockdown strategy already but the announcement will be in a few days. All geared to Christmas! Today was full of news of a third vaccine, from Oxford. About a tenth the price of the US vaccines and easier to transport/store. World-beating as Johnson would say, for once that may be right. Looks like there'll be a mega operation early next year administering millions of jabs. 

 Wed 25th Nov

It struck me this morning that my last two novels have had chimpanzee research as a core theme. And I'd not anticipated that in either case. Quiet a remarkable coincidence. The two books are 
On Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
We are completely beside ourselves by Karen Fowler
Both very good indeed.
I'm reading a lot this lockdown, but partly because I don't sleep through the night and often have an early hours read. And I have two new ones for Kindle that I downloaded yesterday and another awaiting collection from Hagley library - together with maps for our Suffolk trip which is looking very likely. The government has published the new Covid tier system data and we can't see anything that would stop us going.

More hedge felling in the orchard in the afternoon. Was intending making a bonfire but there was no wind. It will wait.

Big cooking today, my month in the kitchen started a few days ago. Two dishes of moussaka plus a blackberry & apple crumble. Moussaka is about as difficult as it gets for me, I'll do something simpler tomorrow.

Deaths up to near 700 today, and daily infection rate has jumped up. What was I saying about Suffolk?

Thur 26th Nov

A bright frosty start to the day. Temperatures projected to rise to a heady 6C.  Spent the morning building my Arduino LED-strip clock. Next step is to get the software running, an evening job.

A lunch of tomato soup - memories of our bumper crop of tomatoes. Then down the garden to hack & saw. Now working in no-man's-land - a 6' strip of land between the orchard fence and the farmer's fence. Almost certainly belongs to the farmer. I'll send him my bill.

Government has announced who is in which tier and we are tier two so no real restrictions other than pubs & restaurants.

Here's last night's watercolour effort. Yet another Karen Rice tutorial. What would I do without her? The foreground effects were produced with cling film. I may do another now I've got the idea.


Infections down as too are deaths. Maybe we've passed the pre lockdown peak, it was just over 3 weeks ago so maybe. We are hearing of several people we know getting the virus, and not really knowing how. It brings home how virulent this virus is. We have decided to be a lot more careful.

Fri 27th Nov

Early morning visit to Sainsbury's, not too crowded. My outing for the week.
More orchard hacking in the afternoon when it warmed up a bit. 
Then working on software for my Arduino clock. Took a lot of effort to get the hour/min setup using just one button but it's all done now and works really well. Uploaded to Git hub with a video. Here it is in all its glory.



Sat 28th Nov

A miserable day. Tried a KR tutorial on a surreal  landscape but it didn't work out too well. So did another but less adventurous. I think you need to be very good to be adventurous! 

Installed Windows 7 on Helen's old machine and it runs about 4 times faster than under Win10. All good apart from the fact that I can't get the wifi to work. Spent 2/3 hours then gave up. Without wifi it's no use to anyone.

The Covid situation improves, as we expect under lockdown. But Johnson is getting a lot of flak from certain areas which find themselves in tier 3 - for no obvious reason. Here's a composite cases/deaths graph. Deaths could be at their peak now.



Sun 29th Nov

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my operation for piles. An operation preceded by an enema that went badly wrong and resulted in three months of misery. All just a bad memory now. I'm in remarkably good health now - long may it last. Just back indoors after sawing down more growth in the orchard. Yet more material to shred, or saw for firewood, or put on the pile that is hopefully going to be a bonfire in a few days when the wind is favourable.  

I finally got round to ringing Quaker Friend Miriam today. Not heard from her since I took her on a walk round Mount Segg few months ago - a walk that left her legless so I thought she was maybe avoiding any more invitations! Anyway she is not in good health. Losing weight and not eating much - she's consulted with her doctor and the possibility of bowel cancer has been mentioned. But she's getting out each day at the moment, just waiting for a hospital appointment for a colonoscopy. Amazing that two years ago I'd just had one done on me, pre-op. Will have to keep in touch and see what I can do to help if and when needed.

I've spent several hours trying to get the WiFi adaptor to work on Helen's old computer and have given up again. I've loaded the driver that came with it, plus various others off the internet and nothing works. However an old Sweetex WiFi adaptor works a treat. So I'll leave it at that and try to get a good home for it. 

Here's yesterday's painting, not as intended, it should have been a bit atmospheric and bordering on the surreal but my first effort was a disaster so I did a second that was less adventurous - here it is below.  The building was painted using a cut-down credit card - one of KR's tricks.  She has a way of putting in seemingly casual strokes of colour and when I try to do that it ends up badly. Her strokes are not casual at all of course but founded on over 30 years of painting. I don't think she realises just how good she is. 



Mon 30th Nov
I'm so pleased with my LED clock that I've just extended the 'chimes' function so it displays every quarter hour for full minute. One pattern for 0/30 minutes and another for 15/45 minutes. If I wake in the night and it's near a quarter hour I lie there watching it so as not to miss the pretty patterns. Senility manifests itself in many ways.

And last night I put up our xmas decorations - another LED strip! This one is hanging in the front window.  There are now four LED strips in the sitting room. They take a miniscule amount of power so can be left on all the time.

A visit from a solar energy company today to carry out an assessment of our solar panel system. Normally when I get a phone call about the solar system (about one a week) I just hang up but this time I thought I'd go along with it - the reason being that our invertor is coming to the end of its expected life and it would be useful to have a quote on hand in case it dies. Not that I accept the 10 year life prediction, electronics doesn't wear out in my experience. But it's not costing me anything so what the hell.

Finally decided to hang on to Helen's old desktop, especially as I now realise I can use my TV monitor as a screen for it. Checking Facebook Marketplace it seems I would have a hard time selling it anyway. Have now gone back to Win10, but off an SSD drive to speed things up. I'll use this machine as a stealth machine, not using any of my own settings so that I can check out sites I've set up - seen as an outsider would see them. Have set up an anonymous email with Protonmail under the name ggdaddy!

Tues 1st Dec
One more day until the end of lockdown.  At which point I'll put this blog to bed - until there's something alarming to report! As things stand we are due for a 5 day xmas relaxation of rules which will almost certainly result in another surge in cases in early January possibly followed by another lockdown. The vaccines look to be coming on-line early next year but it will take months to inoculate a significant proportion of the population. There is talk of having some sort of system whereby people need to show proof of  having been vaccinated before being allowed into certain events or establishments. An excellent way of getting to the anti-vaxxers. The hype over xmas is crazy this year. Encouraged by the retail industry, desperate for a sales boost, and a government desperate for popularity boost. It may even have got to Helen who was muttering about a xmas tree but I think I've doused her enthusiasm! She's making a xmas cake instead, something that's never happened before. How many people will die as a result of this year's childish xmas fixation?

This morning Helen went on what is now the regular foodbank drop. Same 3 people as last week. Apparently 25% of the UK now lives in poverty, Covid being a significant factor of course.

We went on our 5 mile loop to Churchill as the weather was fine for a change. And we passed the Churchill flamingos on guard duty beside their pond. 


Then after a snack lunch I lit the orchard bonfire.  I've been waiting for a  NW wind for a few weeks now and today it's arrived. Not as strong as I'd have liked, in fact hardly any wind at all.



Wed 2nd Dec

So today we come out of lockdown and go into our respective tiers. Amongst cries of 'not fair' from the many MPs whose constituencies have been raised to tier 3. Johnson got the vote covering this through parliament but only because Labour abstained. One of the vaccines has now been fully approved and will be used within a week or two. The government has published the priority list and I was a little taken aback to see how high up I am, 3rd in line. It's making me question the wisdom of going to the repair café this Saturday. I'm trying to find out how many repairers they have and how many repairs need to be done. As we are off to Suffolk on Saturday it would also make loading up a lot easier.


Having seen the cases dwindle each day they are now on the rise again. I suspect people have been demob happy anticipating the end of lockdown and we'll see a steeper rise in the coming week, especially with pubs opening.  News of an imminent vaccine will possibly cause people to be less cautious too. Then there's the rise that will be caused by the 5 day xmas relaxation. We are now more than ever dependent on the vaccine to avert what could be a real disaster this winter.

The following curves incorporate data up to and including 2nd Dec. As can be seen the cases seem to be levelling out and the deaths seem to have peaked - about 10 days after the infection peak which is surprising, normally 3/4 weeks.


I'm ending this lockdown blog now but may add cases/deaths curves in the coming weeks if anything interesting transpires.

==============================================================

20th Dec 2020
Just over two weeks after the end of lockdown and things have taken a nasty turn. It seems we have a more virulent strain of Covid rampaging the country. The 5 day xmas easing has been replaced by a one day version without overnights and limited to two families. That was yesterday's news. Today much of Europe is closing its doors to UK travel. Flights cancelled, Eurotunnel closed. Ferries stopped. Initially for 48hrs giving time to assess situation. 

The cases 7 day curve shows the upward swing, even excluding today's figure of 36,000. Deeply worrying.



2nd Jan 2021

 One week after xmas and we are seeing the effects in a big way. Daily cases are hitting over 60,000 now - almost double what it was a week before xmas.  Deaths will follow the curve in 3/4 weeks time. Tier 3 have generally now been moved up to Tier 4 and Tier 4 to a new Tier 5. Hospitals are not coping in London and are highly stressed elsewhere. A national crises like none I've seen in my lifetime. Schools are not going back this week and it's not certain when they will.  We now have a second, UK developed, vaccine which is being rolled out from tomorrow. All we can do is hope the UK and US vaccines between them will eventually bring relief. Several weeks away probably. For the first time in this pandemic Helen & I are really concerned and not going out shopping. We are currently putting together our Sainsburys delivery list. It's not just the risk of getting the virus it's the risk of falling on the ice, say, and needing hospital treatment. We owe it to others as well as ourselves to stay safe.




Saturday, 26 September 2020

A Coronavirus Summer

 As soon as lockdown ended we made plans for our first caravan trip since last September. Last April we bought a brand new Sprite Alpine caravan which had a large bathroom. As it turns out it was ideal for dealing with the various constraints of living through a coronavirus pandemic. We were allowed into Wales from 4th July and we were cycling there on the 6th! A caravan is the ideal way to self isolate.

As a fist trip we stayed fairly local and just 4 nights. Then, confidence in towing a caravan restored, we went on five more trips. We soon hit on a pattern of generally having two stops each of four nights, then return home for a week or so before venturing out again. The emphasis was heavily on cycling - with our wonderful KTM electric bikes. As the camping site map below shows, trips were generally within 100 miles and out towards Wales. 


Each trip has a set of photos and cycle routes, photo links for the sites are as follows:

1 -     http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/110

2./3 - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/112

4/5  - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/115

6     - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/117

7     - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/118

8     - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/119

9     - http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/120

We have been very fortunate with all sites (all were sites having an upper limit of 5 vans) and also with the weather. If it turned wet we returned home to wait for the next good spell!

And as summer ends the UK is seeing a second rise in coronavirus cases. Much earlier than expected. If it lasts into winter when the virus will be supplemented by cold and flu viruses a lot of people are going to die. On that happy note I'll close this blog for a few months to see how things develop.


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Daily Log from 23rd March to 25th June

Not sure what use this blog may be but it gives me yet another activity. And it will be interesting to look back on one day, assuming the Corona Bugger doesn't get me. Apparently loads of people are taking to writing books. This is far less ambitious. A sort of photo journal of the times.

Maps of bike rides can be found at
  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uq7eczi18xfvapt/AAAK58UIrg95k1HB_Wd_-qWZa?dl=0
Maps of walks can be found at
  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/j8p8hyj9zzjux1u/AADr_2hsrefUiyfnITla4a5Ha?dl=0

March Lockdown photogallery is at http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/109
April Lockdown photogallery is at http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/111
May Lockdown photogallery is at http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/113
June Lockdown photogallery is at http://www.mecol.co.uk/gallery/piwigo/index.php?/category/114

======================================================================

Monday 23rd March
This is the day Johnson announced far stricter controls on shops and personal movement. A lockdown.  For myself it imposes little I can't easily cope with. I can still exercise once a day (walk or bike) seemingly without distance limits, and go food shopping and attend medical needs. An Act is going through giving the police enforcement powers. Not that I think they will be needed around here. Financial help for employed - in or out of work. But nothing other than sick pay for self employed. For many, life will be very hard indeed.

Today was the usual mix of gardening, painting, software, and simply keeping up with events and social media. I set up a U3A Whatsapp group a week ago and this is taking off nicely. Only about 10% take-up sadly as many of the 'old folk'in the U3A have either been scared off using social media by press horror stories, or are simply incapable. Then there's a Morris Whattsapp and a local support Whatsapp, plus about a dozen Facebook pages. Far too much to keep tabs on.

The gardening includes recovering next door's orchard from nettles and bramble. I've been working on this since January and have cleared an area of some 20ft by 30ft of deep bramble. About half as much again left to do. I have developed a technique using loppers and a hefty mattock. I'm amazed how much I've grubbed out and have a mountainous bonfire pile waiting a good north wind  to ensure the smoke doesn't get to neighbours. A few months ago the orchard had a new 'owner' in the form of Jackie. The orchard comes with the flat she rents so she's effectively the owner, albeit temporarily. Anyway she's more than happy with what I'm doing. Given the lockdown it's become a useful activity. My aim is simply to have a wildlife garden not over-run with brambles and nettles. There are gooseberries, damson, plum, and half a dozen apple trees - so it's not as if I'm not going to get anything for my labours. Having said that I'm disturbed by the lack of flying insects, the early plum blossom just isn't being pollinated I suspect. Insect numbers are plummeting nationwide, are we seeing that here? Two years ago I had my bees to help out with the pollination. If insect numbers are really falling off a cliff I may even reconsider beekeeping.

Tuesday 24th March
I've been concerned about a soreness in my right breast tissue for about a month now and a week ago I detected a lump. Breast cancer is not at all uncommon in men so I requested a telephone call from my GP. After a chat about it she asked me to come in to the surgery and gave me a hands-on. She decided there was an issue and said she'd request an examination by a breast consultant. A letter came two days later and today, only 5 days from deciding to see my GP, I was examined by a consultant at Royal Worcester Hospital. I didn't know whether to be amazed at the efficiency, especially given the coronavirus pressures, or more worried by the rapid response. Anyway he examined me and very rapidly homed in on the problem. Statins - which I've taken for about 5 years for a marginally high cholesterol level. It seems they cause the balance between testosterone and oestrogen to change, in favour of oestrogen, which can cause just the problem I have. He predicted they would soon lead to a problem in my left breast too. He was quite scathing about statins and highlighted the dementia risk. So I've had my last statin today.  I've noticed my breasts developing over recent years but put it down to age related sagging flesh. Not so it seems.

As a bonus, I arrived at the hospital about 30 minutes early and was seen after only a 5 minute wait.  No time to read the Guardian that I'd downloaded! And as a double bonus, I'd decided to park in the privately run, exorbitant hospital car park rather than try to find somewhere to walk in from. When I presented my ticket at the machine it displayed 'Clear to exit' !  I'd checked the website and there's no free period. These private car park operators don't do free. My lucky day indeed. 

Called at the farm shop for a cauliflower (locally grown)  on the way back. That's  two meals sorted, our demands on the food system are light.

After an early lunch went on a shortish bike ride with Helen to the Clent hills. Lovely scenery, clear blue skies,  warm, lots of flowers & blossom, very little traffic. Pure magic. We were discussing how nice it is not to have the pressures of planning holidays, especially with what we have on our doorstep. And how we should be more content with a low key, and low stress,  life. Whether we'll think this in another three months I don't know.

 Outskirts of Belbroughton

Near Belbroughton


Wednesday 25th March
Very frustrating not being allowed to use our nice new caravan, especially now that, after a long miserable winter, we have such fine weather. Decided to at least experience sleeping in the van so organised bedding etc and went out at 10pm to 'camp out' on our drive. For some reason I couldn't get comfortable and was aware of the low temperature, even with an electric underblanket. A long sleepless night beckoned so at midnight I gave it up as a bad job and came in to my comfortable bed!

I was up at 7am so that I could phone our broadband supplier about all the drop-outs and low speed problems we've had of late. I'd put it down to extra load from school children but eventually decided the pattern didn't fit.. Got through after 20 minutes and they ran some tests and declared a line fault.  Estimated repair time two days in view of CV staff shortages.. Fair enough. However at mid-day an engineer called to say he was on the case and suspected a short between our line and another. Which would explain the sporadic ringing we've had on the phone. At 2pm he called to say he'd fixed it. I ran a speed test and it's up at 20Mb download speed. Wonderful. Helen has been driven mad by the dropouts as she's been trying to organise refunds for the choir festival that had to be cancelled.

Late afternoon we went for a local walk, just 2-3 miles but with the low light everything looked really fresh and sharp. Lots of lambs about and Helen reckons she saw a badger. Only briefly of course, they are so shy I'm amazed it was about.



Work on the orchard progresses. Spent an hour or two in the morning cutting back the brambles then late afternoon, when it had cooled down (it's really that warm), I attacked the roots with my trusty mattock. It works by ripping up the roots by virtue of its momentum when I swing it.. A spade wouldn't do the job at all. Have decided I need a NW wind for the fire, and there's none forecast currently so that may have to wait a while.

Latest projection for CV is that the NHS will cope and that deaths will be around 20,000 and the peak will be in 6 weeks - IF people obey the stay at home edict. This is a much more optimistic picture than a few days ago. Looks like the acute shortage of hospital protection is being rapidly addressed too. So cautious optimism today. It's always possible of course that we are being manipulated, but I'll be positive and think no such thing. The big worry is possible backlash against oldies. Some younger people will be really suffering and mainly to prolong the life of old people. Being cooped up as well as being impoverished could fuel a lot of unrest and anger. We will see.

Downloaded a painting instruction video today from Karen Harmen who runs the local Painting Society. Looks really good, looking forward to having a go.

Thursday 26th March
Each day is a mix of exercise (bike or walk), gardening (while the fine weather lasts), painting and a range of computer/internet activities. In a way it's nice to wake up and not have to plan the day. I'm up fairly early normally so the first few hours are catching up with computer stuff. Lots of groups plus email  etc. Then today it was an hour grubbing up brambles in the orchard, an hour at a time is enough of that. I now have three mini-bonfires ready to light when the wind co-operates. Then an early lunch (no more eating out - much simpler) and out on the bikes. This time a loop to Emley Lovett, about 20 miles.



The CV has left us a bit low on bread flour but we had a lot of SR flour. So now I make scones! My second batch today, getting better all the time. They are so much better than shop bought, probably because they have butter rather than some cheaper fat.

Blakedown went into meltdown at 8pm. Hundreds out clapping the NHS staff. Over 60 posts on our local Whatsapp from all over village - some quite emotional.
CV bringing out the best in people - certainly bring the community together.
It's an ill wind ..........

Latest CV cases showing exponential rise. Or is it that we are now testing more cases? Easy to be misled by stats. A curve of deaths would be a more solid indication.



And there is concern that the UK has moved to lockdown far too late. The following curve compares different countries.



Friday 27th March
With no meetings/meetups etc the days tend to get the same. I have to think hard to remember which day of the week it is.  Had a software blitz this morning, trying to get my Vector robot to follow lines on the ground. It's been a problem for weeks now and I've now homed in on the precise problem area. Although as it's an external library there's nothing I can do about it! At 11am I broke off to do some bramble grubbing. And I've put a request for help on the StackOverflow web site - someone might just have an answer to my software dead end.
Decided to plant out some spuds as the weather is so amazing.

Helen went to Sainsbury's and came back with a jumbo pack of bog rolls (among other things of course.) As it happens we don't need them now that we have discovered how to make one roll last for months! But it's difficult not to buy as they've been unavailable for so long. We now put things we don't need immediately into quarantine in the garage. The theory is that any virus on the products will die in 2/3 days. Every little helps. Helen is really worried about catching it and is nagging a lot about washing hands, and not for the obvious things.

The price we are all paying for saving the lives of (so far) a relatively small number is a topic that fascinates me and others, Mark esp. Just what value do we put on each life. Too much possibly. We have a lot of religious baggage here. In the UK just under 2000 normally die each day. So the virus helps a few on their way!

Big coronavirus news of the day is that our PM plus some senior officials have CV. They have not been following their own guidelines! Just watched toady Govey fending off criticism, quite funny in a way.  And deaths are increasing exponentially as expected. I'll start a curve on this as there aren't any on line - at least none I can find.

More grubbing in the afternoon, in T shirt and shorts! I can't believe how I'm getting through the job. If I'm not careful I'll run out of work. Then an afternoon walk round the block with Helen.

I've discovered a new on-line painter to follow, Karen Rice,  so will do one of her tutorials tonight.

Saturday 28th March
Had a breakthrough with the Vector line recognition software last night. Need to write a program to optimise parameters for lighting conditions etc. Just as well I have time. Not unlimited however as there are serious jobs to be done and there's the watercolour painting. And I must allow time for music practice too. The Karen Rice tutorial went well, very like the one from Karen Harmen from KAS. The paintings take about half an hour. Unlike the Geoff Kernsey tutorials which can take days.

The first part of my days are taken up by emails, reading the Guardian, currently a day behind, and being sucked into various CV related stuff on the internet. There really aren't enough hours in the day. How did we manage before being kept indoors!!!

However today is a lot colder so no bike ride or local walk. Helen busy on choir festival refunds and me on grubbing up more brambles. Nearly finished!

Started another Karen Rice tutorial, a wildflower painting. All wet in wet so very fast and furious - first phase over in 10 minutes, then it has to dry overnight and gets finished tomorrow.

The aircraft industry is suffering badly, Virgin asking for hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money. Sod off Richard. Time to re-assess why we need this polluting industry.  Could we manage with a much reduced industry? Of course we could - if people stop holidaying as much and we reduce imported food.

The CV has shown how many can work from home and how we can manage without face to face meetings. Time to start really using the technology.


Had another thought on CV.
Estimated UK annual deaths caused by air pollution is 40,000. Much lower air pollution from the lock-in might well save more lives than coronavirus takes!

Sunday 29th March
Quaker meeting at 10:30 today - by Zoom! About 20 people sitting in silence in front of their laptops seems a  bit daft really. Only John made a verbal input and there was no chat afterwards. Don't think I'll do that again! Went out afterwards to grub up more brambles - now almost cleared. I have two enormous stacks of bramble & roots for bonfire, hopefully this Wed. Can't believe I did this.

Out for a local walk, only 3 miles, very cold today.

Coronavirus death figure today very much less than I'd expected. Probably just a glitch, tomorrow will tell. Government warning it may be 6 months before normality returns.  US looking like a disaster waiting to happen. Although Trump is aiming at Easter to resume economic life. He probably sees his re-election plans being undermined.

Monday 30th March
No walk or bike ride today, too cold & a bit damp. There will be better days. Now finished off the brambles so waiting for a suitable bonfire day. The big question is what to do with the land. Answer, as it's not mine, nothing!

Posted a few time lapse videos, bean and daffodil growth. Not bad, now set up in greenhouse for capturing Mare's tail. Could be a good subject as it grows very rapidly.

Coronavirus figures look interesting, the exponential rise in deaths has gone into reverse. Have we turned a corner?


Tuesday 31st March
After the usual couple of hours reading the Guardian, checking emails etc I made a start on fixing a leak in the conservatory gully. Can't put it off any longer and we are in a dry patch so hey ho away we go. I'd forgotten how hard it is to deal with this roof. Access is difficult and you need to be a contortionist. It took from 10am to 4pm to take out the panels, reline the gully and put the panels back. Not helped by slithering down the ladder at one stage so I now have a badly bruised arm. Not quite finished as it needs a few more fixings but it can wait for another day.

Helen had a bad day too as her heart problem came back with a vengeance, very disappointing after 3 weeks without any problem.

Yesterday's optimism on CV deaths was sadly unfounded, today there is a big jump. Deaths in hospitals are sometimes delayed it seems so can give a  false picture short term.
Seems there is no reason at all to limit outings to one a day. Good. Made little sense anyway.
Boris and Dom have now both got it, so not all bad news.


Wednesday 1st April
Had a call-back from Dr Evans about my breast development issue. Much as anticipated  "come off statins if you want".Well, I already have. I got the feeling she didn't think it all that important either way. So that's the end of my daily statin ritual.

Didn't go on the roof again to finish off, I was too sore from yesterday's exertions and from the slide down the ladder. I have a serious issue with my right arm - a pulled muscle I think. Need some days rest. So a day indoors, not even a walk. Completing my Corona Special TK newsletter which has ended up being a stunner. And a bit of programming, Vector is now (occasionally) toeing the line! Very dependent on lighting.

Had a video call with Stuart of Scientists Warning. All the way from Honalulu! As expected, a conversation with Stuart is very one way. He is so full of his own brilliance, doesn't do listening. Anyway I'll give it a go - I can always resign! He's sending me my first project via Google cloud.

Completed a painting based on KAS Karen's tutorial. Safe harbour. I didn't put enough effort into the boats and it shows. May do another with better boats.



Today's CV deaths were really high, shows we are on the steep part of the curve. An exponential grown in deaths is not good, although just what was anticipated. Big question is when it will level off, and at what value. CV proving to be quite unpredictable in term of who it takes out. Nobody is safe.

Thursday 2nd April
The long awaited westerly has arrived so at 11am I started the bonfire. Two mounds of brambles plus old wood that's been lying around. Just about finished after two hours of hard work, I'd had enough, can clear up another time. Need to start pacing myself more. Jackie appeared at one stage and told me her partner was in intensive care. She was really cut up. Brings it home that there's more to CV than a set of graphs.

Sent out the TK newsletter. Also received Scientists Warning video to work on but it's corrupted. Have to wait an updated version. A quiet afternoon reading the Guardian. The CV has thrown up so many opportunities to change things for the better. But will we?

Daily increase in deaths not as great as anticipated, but may not be significant. The graph shows increases since the first death on March 7th to a total of almost 3000. What a lot has happened in under a month.


Neighbours (and us) out in the street at 8pm clapping and making a noise for the NHS. All quite pointless but very nice.

Friday 3rd April
A morning of low key activity. Tidying stuff, moving stuff, potting seeds & plants. Not sleeping brilliantly, partly my arm which is still very sore. A pulled muscle for sure. And partly waking up early now that the lighter mornings are here. Helen went in to Kidderminster for shopping as she doesn't trust me not to pick up the virus (!). She is really very worried about it. Shopping these days means a long wait in a spaced out queue outside. Thankfully there hasn't been any rain about these last few weeks. People's good humour would soon evaporate.

Internet playing up again so was on the phone dead on 8am to stand a chance of getting through. Anyway got through and test show earth leakage. Estimated time to repair 5 days. However 4 hours later the engineer called to say he'd fixed it! Hope it stays fixed longer than last time. Also managed to get the co-op bank at 9pm to cancel a few Quaker payments. So a double win.

Government now floating the idea of an Immunity Passport to get back to work. Nice idea but there are lot of ways it could go wrong so we just wait and see. At our age we won't need one. No work to go back too! I can see that whole of April being lockdown for most. Maybe they'll start letting the younger ones out. Never thought I'd end my days under house arrest!

A sunny afternoon, pottering in the garden. Put some tomato plants out, hope it's not too early. Then an hour's local walk and that's the day gone. In the evening did another painting from a Karen Rice tutorial. A wet in wet painting which I like but I'm not quick enough, the paper dries too quickly. Anyway not a bad effort.



Saturday 4th April
A cold and cloudy morning. Usual time absorbing email/social media/Guardian. Helen involved in a virtual Choir Festival on Facebook in lieu of the real thing that had to be cancelled of course. Sun out after lunch so planted more tomato plants and did some tidying in the orchard. The bonfire of two days ago was still glowing beneath the ash and burst into flames again when I raked it - amazing how much heat must have been there. Jackie who is the next door tenant, and who has charge of this orchard, posted on the local Whatsapp support group that her and daughter are self isolating. Must email to find out why. Helen disturbed that I might have come into contact with something in the orchard but I can't see it. But who knows. And the high death toll marches on especially in the US where it has potential to cause greatest financial harm. Italy and Spain seem to have stabilised at heavy death figures. And the UK is not now exponential either so may be peaking.


Watched yet another episode of Breaking Bad. This is such a good production. I have another 4 series to watch. Which is about 50 episodes. Plus hours of support material. The characters are so well crafted I feel I know each of them personally.

Sunday 5th April
Against my better judgment I joined the Quakers for an hour's MFW on Zoom. I spent the time reading the Guardian off-camera. Beginning to think my Quaker involvement might be coming to an end. I suggested to Helen that I invite Vector robot to the meeting but she was not amused. Would liven things up a bit. I may do a vector hosted Zoom for the U3A science group.
We were going to have a bike ride but decided on a walk instead. A bad choice as it got really warm and Helen turned back although partly driven by a need to 'like' the substitute choir festival on Facebook. The second time consuming internet related event of the day. Anyway I had a great walk to Mount Segg. Passed one of my favourite local trees, a Mulberry.

Keith Budden dropped off a dozen globe artichoke plants as promised yesterday, they are now installed in the orchard. It will be an impressive forest if they take.

Coronavirus marches on. Spain and Italy seem to be flattening on daily deaths. US & UK still on an upward curve. The 3rd world has not taken off yet. If it does the effects will be horrendous as social distancing and lockdowns just aren't options.


Monday 6th April
A cool day. A bit of gardening, tidying greenhouse and putting out the last tomato plants. Noticed a young toad in the greenhouse so made him a nice nest in the compost heap. Tempting to keep him but they never eat well in captivity.



Bike ride after lunch, a loop up to Clent Hills. Surprisingly cold - I was glad to get back home to a warm conservatory. I've started recording the rides in a folder called CoronaRides and walks in a folder called CoronaWalks. Links at the end.


Here's my second Safe Harbour painting for the KAS group.


Johnson in hospital for second night - seen as being non-trivial. Serves him right for not taking it seriously. Italy and Spain continue on downward curve for daily deaths. UK down today also. A few weeks will see a very different picture but the difficult one is how to end lockdown without starting a secondary peak. The following graphic says it all about why we need lockdown for the first phase. Maybe the secondary peak is the price we pay, esp. if the peak stays below green line.



Tuesday 7th April
Helen walked in to Hagley and back to get her prescription while I had a day in the garden. Tidying, planting seeds, pruning. I've ordered a batch of alpines and now have a few low profile pots ready for them when they arrive at the weekend. Getting back into plants with all the extra time.

My association with Scientists Warning was short-lived. I emailed today saying I thought spending time on padding out a video of a poem was a waste of time given the opportunities for radical change being thrown up by the CV crisis. I was a bit more polite than that though! I'm reading all the time about 'we can't let things return to business as usual' but how to grasp the initiative? New Labour Party well placed to do that. Looking very professional and electable and so far without any baggage. Be interesting to see how the right wing press will go for them. As it surely will.

Had an Zoom chat with XR people in Bham at lunch time. People I'd met before, just friendly chatter about lots of XR related things, I introduced Vector to the group which floored them a bit! They must think I'm a loon.

The UK death figures continue their inexorable rise after a promising drop yesterday. It's almost a linear increase after two weeks of lockdown, but it takes 3/4 weeks to show benefits. Still, linear is better than exponential. Some experts are predicting UK to be highest death rate in Europe. We'll just have to wait and see.

And in lighter vein here's my latest puzzle for the various Whatsapp groups. Identify the crapper. I'm in 3 groups and it certainly takes the time. No time to do Facebook any more!


Back into programming Vector after a week off. Trying to get them chatting via a chatbot. All new to me so not easy, but interesting!

8th April
Yet another fine day. Looks like Easter will be fine weather, for a change! I did some gardening, mine + orchard before lunch then we did a brilliant cycle loop in the afternoon on what has become our home patch. We keep discovering new gems along the way. We are so fortunate to have the gentle Worcestershire countryside to go at.

Dodford Church

CV hit a record daily deaths figure of 800 today. Predictions are for this to hit a peak on 17th April. Probably at  around 1000 a day. That's a lot of bodies. Looks like our PM is recovering as he's not on a ventilator.

9th April
Out fairly early for a walk round Mount Segg. I did this two days a go and can't find my bifocals since. So hoping against hope to find them. A brilliant walk, too warm though even at 11am. I didn't find my glasses but had an idea. When I got back I looked in the car and there they were! I'd obviously put them in without thinking at the end of the previous walk. The weather is incredibly warm and sunny. I'm really enjoying the low stress home-stay. A good few weeks of it yet I think.



A bunch of Rhubarb from neighbour Paul was on the doorstep when I returned. I picked an equal amount from my own patch and have made a batch of rhubarb and ginger jam using both stem ginger and bottled ginger. A dozen jars - pretty good for an afternoon's work. Plus a rhubarb crumble for tonight. Which will follow on from a pub take-away. Italian chicken for me and scampi for Helen. A non-veggie day. There was also a bag of flour on the doorstep - Paul again. He spotted some in a local garden shop and knew we were after some. The neighbourhood has really benefited from the lockdown. Lots of help and exchange of goods  on the local Whattsapp. I've given away bean plants and two types of tomato. Tonight is 'clap for the NHS' night. At which I played a Morris tune on the melodeon - well received I think! As neighbour Paul commented, 'what do we do next week?' - now that I've raised the bar.

Finished another tutorial from Karen Rice. Not as good as her painting but it'll do!


Friday 10th April
A day of gentle pottering around the orchard, the garden and house, and of course keeping abreast of social media and the Guardian. Enough to fill a day! Weather too hot to do a great deal so best to retreat indoors. Besides I'm limiting my time in the sun after last year's skin issues. CV health recommendation is to build up vitamin D from the sunshine so it's a trade-off. CV or skin cancer - not an easy one!
Helen did an early morning shop (a first for her!) and came back pretty well loaded so we have more than enough to keep us going for 2/3 weeks now.

CV continues along expected trajectory. Case reducing but there's a delay to show benefits.


Sorting out old issues of National Geographic I came across an article on viruses from 25 years ago. It predicted the next pandemic would likely come out of southern China. The whole article could have been written yesterday. Amazing how much we have known for so long, even the risks of the wild meat trade.
A local walk after evening meal then rhubarb crumble & custard. Met Nic Hyde & wife on the walk, a somewhat disjointed conversation but nice to see him again. He was once our GP so joins a select group who have had a finger up my bum.

Saturday 11th April
Mornings are mainly a time to read, think and write. So much to take in. Such an opportunity for change.

Easter Saturday, when the country normally hits the roads for a mass exodus. Not this year. And we can all breathe cleaner air as a result. After lunch we were out on the bikes again in really hot weather. Shorts and T-shirt - plus suncream! Yet another great ride, a 25 mile loop to Doverdale via the lovely Elmbridge church.

Emlbridge

I'm beginning to wonder why we go on holiday. Conditions here could not be better - glorious weather and hardly any traffic on the roads. It will probably seem different of course when traffic returns as it certainly will, and the weather breaks, as it also certainly will! But, not wanting to tempt the gods,  we've had a good lockdown so far. Hardly any decisions to make and plenty of time to do what we want to do. A low stress lifestyle which can only be good.

Sunday 12th April
Usual morning mix of catching up with the world, plus repotting various succulents that I've neglected over the years. Decided against the Zoomed Quaker meeting. Helen joined in. A slightly cooler day but warm enough to be a naturist in certain parts of the garden. Need to be a bit careful with neighbours in the adjacent gardens. Late afternoon local walk. Amazing how quickly everything changes this time of year.


Ladies Pool

Monday 13th April
First rain in 3 weeks last night, and now another sunny day. Very cool so got stuck in to cleaning/clearing the conservatory. Most of the morning spent on this. Like many things this job got pushed to the back of the queue as we've previously been too busy going away somewhere. We have to assume a lot more time will be spent at home this year so may as well make the best of the various resources we have here. Even if the lockdown is lifted for holidaying we are not sure how we will feel about going - what sort of reception would we get? Would we be seen as potential carriers?

The orchard is almost ready for some wildflower seeds I have left over. They were destined for the Quaker meeting house garden as part of a rewilding project. That's on hold so they can help rewild the orchard. The apple trees are now in blossom and looking wonderful.
Last night I completed a watercolour of a church near Tenbury. Not a style I'm trying to progress with but it's in response to a KAS tutorial by Karen.And yes the gates were bent!


Today's CV death increase is down again for a second day. Tomorrow will be decisive I think. Odd that the gov. is saying the peak is yet to come. Is it possible that they know more than I do? Surely not!

Tuesday 14th April
Another day working on the conservatory. The reorganisation is looking really good.


Yet another hot sunny day but no time for biking. An early evening local walk instead.


And the CV rolls on, looks like we are passed the peak deaths per day but no rapid fall-off so lockdown will be with us for some time yet.


Wed 15th April
Reading personal accounts in the Guardian from front line medical staff very sobering. Especially as they have inadequate supplies of protective clothing/masks. So many young people risking their lives to treat virus victims, most of whom are old and would possibly die soon anyway. Really raises profound issues that we just aren't able to deal with. So we battle on, head down..

 Another few hours working on the conservatory, major task being fitting a sun screen. If the last three weeks are anything to go by we are in for a scorching summer so need to block out the heat.
After lunch we did the Clent loop on our bikes. Loads of bluebells out now since our last trip - not many days ago.



Today should be U3A science group meeting. Obviously we are not holding one, so instead I set up a Zoom meeting. About a dozen, more than I expected. Really nice to see everyone after 2 months. Seemed to go very well. On the back of this I've set up another Zoom, this time for the Morris.

Thursday 16th April
Most of the day spent on rubbing and painting the outside of the conservatory. I bought the Sadolin last spring but never got round to doing it. No excuse now. A few hours tomorrow should see an end to it thankfully. Helen went off for a solo bike ride while I collapsed for sleep!

Another pub take-away, Italian Chicken plus fish & chips. No beer on offer yet unfortunately. I held the Zoom session for the Morris for 8.30pm. Don't know why nobody thought of it before as they meet up on Whatsapp every Thursday and type everything. I expected to get only 40 mins of Zoom time as I'm a freebie user but it just went on and on. After an hour I'd had enough and terminated the meeting. I think I prefer Whatsapp, with Zoom it's too difficult to get a word in. Especially with the Morris crowd.

Orchard trees coming in to full blossom now, and plenty of insects so should be a good crop. Frosts now very unlikely indeed.

The Orchard

CV rolls on, daily deaths staying high at around 800 a day. But these are only hospital deaths. Care homes could add some 50% more.  Plus some at home. Everyone out at 8pm again to clap the NHS staff. Feeling a bit silly third time round.

Friday 17th April
Another hard day on the conservatory, racing against forecast rains - that never arrived! Anyway painting outside now more or less done. I need a few days rest to let my hand recover, not to mention my sore arm. A cool damp weekend is forecast which suits me well. Took another photo of the conservatory. I now find it amazing that I built all this, on my own, from scratch. Foundations, brickwork, plastering, roofing. No plastic, cedarwood frame, reclaimed bricks and ceramic tiles. Just over 20 years ago - couldn't do it now that's for sure. 22' long by 12' wide - it's big!


CV shows no sign of slowing - or speeding up for that matter. Another three weeks of lockdown announced yesterday. We are going to be using the conservatory a lot this year!


Saturday 18th April
A rainy day at last - can have a rest from 'jobs' !
Made a video of Vector doing his line following using the software I finished a week or so ago. Posted the video and software on a Vector fan Facebook site and on Github for fellow programmers. It might not look much but it took me 3 weeks off and on to get this to work!


Completed another Karen Rice watercolour project. Not too happy with the sky it so will do another while it's in my mind. Anyway here it is.


And here's the second one, not much better sadly! I stick to my own skies next time. They say you learn from your mistakes so I must be getting good! Must say, I can't see it.


CV continues unabated. Trump is now inciting his fellow Americans to rebel against the various state lockdowns. Half the US lap it up of course. Our own wonderful leader is no fount of wisdom but at least he's keeping his gob shut at the moment. Weather picking up tomorrow then fine all week. Thank goodness we have the garden, conservatory, shack, cabin, orchard to play in! And we have wonderful walks and great bike rides. Makes me feel very guilty. But then the CoronaVirus wasn't my idea.

Really worrying curve today is new cases - not coming down after 3 weeks of lockdown!

Started another Karen Rice tutorial. Daffodils this time. A bit easier I think but we'll see. All her stuff is free on Youtube. She has such a  large following that she can put paid-for adverts on her videos. A neat way of making money out of it all. So I download the videos on Torch for future use.

Sunday 19th April
Watched yet another episode of Breaking Bad last night. It is such an incredibly well produced series. The script and acting are faultless. It manages to be many things. Funny, deep, despairing of America. Now about halfway through the box set. Hope it outlasts the lockdown.

A day in the garden in the wall to wall sunshine. A chat to Mark in the morning about CV issues. A kindred spirit. Gave the Bewdley Quaker Zoom a miss for second week, can't see me getting back into it. Helen attended. Apparently it came to an abrupt end as there was a gatecrasher who started posting offensive images - so Martin pulled the plug on it.

Conservatory now has a second sheet up, this week could get a bit hot. Helen did a solo bike ride and left me potting geraniums etc etc.

Big drop in daily deaths but as always we have to see what tomorrow brings. I produced a set of data to get things into proportion. So in the UK, 0.02% of population dead so far this year - and of those 90% had pre-existing conditions - whatever that means. On average 0.5% of the population die each year.


Monday 20th April
And so begins another week. A bit more conservatory tidying, a job that could outlast the lockdown. Then mowed the grass. Enough excitement for one day so had a rest.

Late afternoon, when the sun's intensty had declined, we went out for a walk. I did the Mt Segg loop but Helen turned back after 15 minutes. Really is a splendid walk, footpaths all the way and very varied. Lots of bluebells locally. Normally we'd miss them as we'd be away somewhere. WSF previous years - now just a memory. It's all locked up anyway.



Finished my Daffodil painting, not as good as it might be, bit disappointing.



Tuesday 21st April
Another splendid day. A morning in the garden & orchard then a bike ride after lunch to Elmbridge area. A lovely ride as ever. So much blossom everywhere.


CV marches on, after two days of reduced deaths we get the Tuesday blip that returns the rate to its high level. And the government is having a hard time over its handling of things and Johnson's cavalier attitude. Missing 5 Cobra meetings says it all.

Late afternoon, neighbour Paul passed round some soup he'd made. It's a bit of a milestone, like when someone offered me a seat on a bus. Giving us soup is a nice gesture but do we really look that needy? Anyway had some before our balti. Not bad with a bit of chilli sauce!

Wed 22nd April
Another morning in the garden before the heat builds up. The early morning is very Mediterranean, incredibly clear blue skies. Is it down to reduced pollution?

FT published its estimated death total of 41,000, the government figure is 17,000. Using the FT figure we are way out in front with deaths per capita. Nice to know we are good at something - government incompetence.


More of Paul's soup for lunch. There's an awful lot of it.

Thur 23rd April
Yet another glorious day. Just checked the long term forecast and there's some rain coming in seven days time! Jackie next door emailed me about access to the orchard as the nettles were getting her so went and cut back some bushes and created a pathway. I was somewhat influenced by the fact that she was intending using weedkiller on the nettles - just when I'm going to be picking some to make soup. So managed to scupper that idea. Her bloke Dudley still on a ventilator but seems to be holding his own. He's in the high risk BAME group - needs to get some sunshine to boost his immune system perhaps, which is what I do most sunny days by going naturist.

Our for a bike ride to Clent after lunch - lunch being the ever-lasting soup from next door. A new circular route which included a mile of stony bridleway, not a route to repeat.


Usual pub meal of Italian Chicken and scampi for Helen.Then an evening painting, following a Karen Harmen tutorial. Flower colour too dark, couldn't get the mix right as I didn't have the recommended rose mader colour to mix in.


Friday 24th April
A day in the hot sunny garden. Some early work grubbing up last of the brambles in the orchard during which I unearthed 3 medium sized toads - which are now in my toad home on top of last year's compost heap. Would really like to have a year-round toadery where they can hibernate and breed. Not sure of best way - must give it some thought.

Have now given it some thought! An hour later and  I'm demolishing my central water feature in the centre of the top pond. Hasn't been used for 10 years anyway. Converting it into a split des-res for toads and newts. Half will be a wormery and the the other half a dry(ish) retreat for the winter - open structure of rocks with autumn leaves on top when that time of year comes round. They can go between the two via holes in the dividing brick wall.  While clearing out the old water feature came across two more small toads! They are now in the compost heap toad house with all the others. Problem is it's drying out fast in the hot weather and the worms are retreating. Hope they like wood lice.

Had a phone call to Paige this morning. She seems to be coping and has plenty of school work - which she does in the caravan, an excellent retreat for her.

No bike ride or walk today, had enough exercise in the garden. Nothing new CV-wise, figures coming down but ever so slowly. Lots of talk about letting the young out first which could mean people my age being on lockdown til next year. Maybe that's the plan, let us all die off at home, save the NHS a fortune.

Saturday 25th April
It's like living in a mediterranean country of late. Every morning clear blue skies. Breakfast in the warm conservatory.  Then doing some worm hunting, not easy with everything drying out. Ordered a batch of worms on eBay. Anyway fed a few of my captive newts. Released the toad as he was plainly not going to eat in captivity. He guilt-tripped me by going on hunger-strike. Clever.




Trump excelled himself yesterday, claiming drinking or injecting disinfectant could kill the virus. A childlike extrapolation from killing it on surfaces to killing it in the body. It has given rise to a wide range of postings on social media ridiculing him. One good thing is that it makes it more difficult for the government to cosy up to him over a trade deal.

CV death rate refuses to come down. Does not bode well for ending the lockdown any time soon.
Daily deaths
Sunday 26th April
Joined the Bewdley Quakers for an hour from at 10:30 but my camera wasn't working so I was not visible - just as well as I was doing emails & reading the Guardian! Large attendance - could replace in-the-flesh meetings! No interloper this week. Had a video call with Jodie earlier which was good. New hairstyle looks good - same style Lindsay once had, the long frizz.

After lunch we did the Dodford loop. Surprisingly it clouded over so we elected to make it a shorter ride than planned, still 16 miles though and extremley lovely with all the bluebells out in the Chaddesley woods. I noticed Pepper Wood had lots of cars parked so the Woodland trust has not closed its sites, unlike the Wildlife Trust.



Made a banana loaf based on various internet recipes for breadmaker machines. Not at all bad!
And today the CV deaths took a dive, half yesterday's value. Johnson back at work tomorrow. I've long suspected he was keeping out the way until things got better. After his cabinet have taken the crap at the daily conferences this last month, he comes back as things improve. Coincidence or what?

Monday 27th April
Helen out at 8am to catch the oldies slot at Sainsbury's. No queueing apparently and they had most of what we needed. Also did some shopping for June next door. She's about 90, that's what I call old!
A cloudy and cool morning so got stuck in to the TK newsletter for May. So many news items to choose between. Anyway after 3 hours I have a text version. Now need to copy/paste into Weebly with photos. That will wait for a rainy day.
Had some of my nettle soup for lunch - really good. I've given samples to the neighbours, Paul and Jackie. I can supply them with nettles by the bucket if needed. An afternoon of pottering in the garden in the intermittent sunshine. Pleasant enough. Thought about doing some glassware but couldn't get up enough enthusiasm to get started. I wonder if I've finished with glass? Painting is so much more convenient with endless scope.

CV deaths low again at around 400, tomorrow will almost certainly see a much higher figure. But encouraging. Not enough to be allowed out though!

 Zoom meeting with SW group. A bit late in the day to be starting a new group I think. Anyway watched a film on Youtube that was recommended - Planet of the Humans. Then went to bed utterly depressed.

Tuesday 28th April
A rainy day so a day indoors. Decided to pursue the film I watched last night and found a Guardian review, seemed to sum up my own thoughts nicely - we are stuffed.

So with that sorted, I spent two hours on the Transition newsletter for May, coming together fine, should be out early May! Then started a new painting, a landscape tutorial from Karen Rice. It was finished by late afternoon and I'm quite pleased with it.


Cooked a stir-fry in the conservatory, should be outdoors because of the fumes but it's still raining so sod that for a game of soldiers. Anyway it was very good. For this evening I have a few TV series I've downloaded or I've got Breaking Bad. Spoilt for choice really.


Wed 29th April
Rain due at mid-day so we did an early walk through local bluebell areas. Very fresh after yesterday's rain. Back for lunch, made some scones, settled in for an afternoon at the computer. Made progress getting the two Vector robots chatting via a chatbot.

U3A science group late afternoon - a Zoom meeting that I set up last week. Theme was 'what has the coronavirus ever done for us?" - everyone has to offer something positive that's come out of the pandemic. I have a list of 20. And only one negative - it can kill you! Sort of outweighs the 20 positives. Anyway the Zoom went ok, a bit chaotic of course but only to be expected first time round.



CV death rate very slowly coming down after jumping up to 600 or so, don't know what level will dictate significant easing of the lockdown but our ferry trip is looking increasingly unlikely.


Thur 30th April
A rainy day so a day of reading - mainly. This usually starts with downloading the Guardian. Reading this leads to following through with internet searches, more reading, more searching and before I know where I am hours have passed. What an endlessly fascinating world we live in. No time to read novels these days. Also made progress with the Transition newsletter, just transcribing the text document version into an attractive web site page, which then gets copied into an email. I've got the process off to a fine art but it does take time.

Had a nasty thought in the middle of the night - what if restrictions on holidays are lifted? We would have to think about getting organised for our 10th May ferry crossing to NI. A year ago it would have been something to get excited about and look forward to. In today's climate it doesn't seem so appealing. After discussing this with Helen we decided we wouldn't want to go even in the (most unlikely) event of being able to. Will holidays ever be the same again I wonder.

Rain over by 2pm so out in the greenhouse pottering. Vegetation will rocket after two days of rain.
Had a Zoom meeting at 7pm with the SW group. They are a highly professional group but I'm holding my own!  Limited to 40 mins so only a few items discussed.
Then did a bit more programming of the Vectors, trying to get them to converse via a chatbot. Limited success.

The daily government briefing was given by Johnson for a change. No more informative than usual, basically wait another week and see how it looks. Figures continue to improve, but slowly.

Friday 1st May
Normally on 1st May I am up at 4:30am to play for the Morris on Sedgley Beacon. Not today, I was in my nice warm bed. So yet another good thing that's come out of the CoronaBugger. Another cool cloudy day, good for getting jobs done - all I need now is the enthusiasm.
Anyway made a bit more progress getting Vector to chat more. Then more on the newsletter, which has taken so long to do for some reason.
Some gardening after lunch, then a walk after evening meal in strong late sunshine.
Then some painting, then yet another episode of the wonderful Breaking Bad DVD set.
Oh what an exciting life we lead.

Now in week seven of lockdown and the gov. is stringing us along for another week before releasing their exit plan. Which could be anything so not assuming life is going to open up anytime soon.

Sat 2nd May
Only after downloading and reading the Guardian did I realise it was Saturday. All days are the same apart from Sunday when the Guardian changes its name to the Observer! As always got sucked into the internet and ended up watching YouTube videos on economics. That's how the time passes, but I'm not complaining, it's giving time to really think about what really matters in life.
Anyway, added a few more pieces to the newsletter and put it to bed as they say. Until tomorrow that is when no doubt I'll find more pieces to add. As soon as Helen has proof-read it I'll send it out then I won't be able to add anything more.

My internet order for worms arrived today, never seen such minute worms, just hatched out of their eggs presumably. Thousands of them, just how do they get so many eggs! Anyway timing was brilliant as I had just finished putting material in a plastic box for a wormery. So I put half in the box, almost half on the compost heap and a few in my baby newt jars. I don't think the newts are quite big enough for even these miniscule worms but who knows. They look more like nematode worms than earth worms. [After a month, they were no bigger - certainly not earth worms!]

Out for a bike ride after lunch, the standard Elmbridge loop, really nice as always and amazing how much has changed since we were last there about two weeks ago. Then it was over 20C, today about half that but at least it was dry.


And the reduction in CV deaths is depressingly slow. After so many weeks of lockdown it's a bit surprising. Three weeks past the peak and now about half the peak value - a slow decline.

Finished my Hellebore painting. Not good enough to display! Must try harder.



Sunday 3rd May
A very odd day. Cloudy and very still and quiet. Following on from comments on Planet of the Humans film, I watched a few YouTube videos on nuclear power and think I'm becoming a convert. Must seek out a video offering the anti-nuclear viewpoint. Helen did the MFW Zoom slot but as it often has overt god stuff I can't take it. Only a few are god-botherers but that's enough to get my hackles rising. (What are hackles anyway?) Then an afternoon of gentle gardening and then reading in the cabin. It's a long while since I did that, I used to read in there a lot. All down to habit I think.
Meanwhile Helen Zoomed in to the Quaker 'Time for Talk' afternoon session. Basically about mental health, good or bad.

Oh yes, and after a 6 month gap I put a piece of glassware in the kiln today. It's based on the watercolour 'wet-in-wet' technique of flowing colours, though I'd try to get colour bands flowing in glass. It is based on filling a volume with the correct amount of glass so I did some of the glass assembly using kitchen scales. It could be the start of something new and exciting or it could be my swan song. Tomorrow will tell.

Discovered today that Range and Wilkinson's have been open through lockdown which amazes me in that it encourages people to go out and mix. Talk about confusing messages. No wonder the figures are slow to improve. It could of course be that the government is boxing clever and allowing more oldies to be taken out than under a proper lockdown.

Local walk of just 2miles. Enough for today.

Monday 4th May
Yesterday's glass experiment didn't work well at all so I think I've decided to abandon glassmaking. Will take a set of photos with a view to selling on eBay. End of yet another saga. At least I have loads of glass around the house to remind me! I may then think of a new use for the 'Glass Shack'.

Watercolour painting has so much more appeal with endless routes forward. It's portable. It's sociable. Materials are cheap. It's virtually zero energy. I can do it all year, in the comfort of the lounge. It's zero health risk. The other problem with the glass is that I've run out of ideas and unless I'm doing new stuff I lose interest.

A warm day with a bit of haze, temperatures going up again. Did some garden shredding. Then a bike ride into Hagley to pick up my prescription. Made a few detours around Hagley but basically a short ride.

Daily hospital deaths continue to drop so we can expect some lockdown relief shortly. Italy & Spain have eased their far more strict lockdowns now. Noticeably more traffic around the last few days, an end of term feeling.

Tuesday 5th May
A warm sunny day.  Spent an hour or more reading about Better Call Saul, a TV series that's a spin-off from Breaking Bad and has had huge critical acclaim. The last of the series is being shown this year. Another DVD set for sure, when it comes out. And there's a feature film too, based on the series called El Camino. The amount of detail on these programs is amazing, not doubt there are books and Facebook site etc. Not to mention the numerous T-shirts etc.  Breaking Bad has entered the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time. I'm certainly a big fan.
 
Late morning in the garden and orchard. Lopped off some branches from a plum tree that's getting straggly then dragged the branches to my own garden for processing - cutting useful sizes for firewood and shredding the rest for compost. Chatting to Jackie who doesn't seem to have any opinion on what happens there. She's somewhat pre-occupied with her partner Dudley who is still in hospital after being touch and go over a coronavirus infection.
Lunch was soup, from Paul next door (other side) - still not sure why we merit soup but I'm not complaining. Retreated from the heat after lunch then we did the standard 5mile walk to Churchill. Except that after doing it several times each year for 20 odd years we managed to get lost! Ended up doing an extra few miles and discovering a footpath we didn't know about so no loss. 
Jackie bought some celery for us on her shopping trip so I'll do nettle soup tomorrow. Will do extra for the neighbours!



 CV deaths up by 436 after yesterday's encouraging figure of 229.

Wed 6th May
Glorious morning - went out to collect nettles for a 2 litres of soup. Extra portions required to feed the neighbours - Jackie in repayment for the celery, and Paul in return for his carrot soup. Making 2 litres is 3 time more difficult than making 1 litre I discovered. Pans, mixer, storage all work great with 1 litre then it gets messy! Anyway job done.


Then back to the orchard to cut off a few damson tree branches. Hauled it back for the usual processing, a good quantity of firewood and shreddings, some of which I put on the garden as it's drying out again - and fast.

Nettle soup for lunch, then a bike ride to Clent. Usual loop but with a visit to Hagley Hall added in at the beginning, the country estate is looking very impressive.



Thursday 7th May
Completed another masterpiece (!) from Karen Rice's Youtube channel.

 
Another fine day. So hot at mid-day that we decided to have a day off - this one exercise every day routine can be a bit much. Dread to think how we'll cope when we up it to multiple exercise outings a day as is being rumoured from next week! Anyway I had lots of exercise in the garden, mowing, sawing wood, pratting about. Also did the monthly accounts for the Quakers, the easiest it's ever been. Yet another CoronaBonus! No invoices to send out either as we are not hiring the hall out.

Also made a batch of honey flapjack, not made any for a few months. Problem now is not eating it all - really is very good. 

Nettle soup for lunch - I feel like Popeye getting his daily spinach.

Went out at 8pm for the usual community clapping charade. Really feels silly. Anyway had a chat to Vince, opposite, about bees and gave him a slab of my flapjack. In return he gave me a jar of honey which was generous. I'll now have to give him more flapjack. Finished another hellebore painting, put more time into the pencil sketch this time which has paid off. A much better bud. Just.



CV deaths have in interesting weekly cycle. Trend still ok.


Friday 8th May
Yet another fine day and a day to venture a bit further afield on the bikes. To Heightington and then down to Bewdley Meeting House to check the garden.
It's also VE Day so we are hiding from the street party, waving at each other from garden chairs at ends of drives, and no doubt a sing-a-long to We'll Meet Again. Not really our scene and we are both unhappy at being part of nationalistic sentiments. To a small extent it's letting the government off the hook over its incompetent handling of the CV pandemic. Stifling criticism by replacing it with feel-good in anticipation of Sunday's announcement on lockdown relaxations. At least we don't have BJ using VE Day sentiments to bolster Brexit, his other mega cock-up.

Bike ride to Heightington worked well but a bit strenuous. Stopped to have a look at our local caravan site - notice at entrance advising closed until end June - at least I suspect. This is where our caravan could be!

an empty Heightington Caravan Site

Heightington Church

 Had a coffee at the Bewdley Quaker Meeting House as I have a key, but decided against cutting the grass as it looked so nice. There's hardly a queue of people wanting to use the lawn.



Saturday 9th May
Today is going to be even hotter, but then cooling a lot tomorrow and becoming cloudy so a day in the garden is called for. After yesterday's ride of 30 miles I slept right through from 11 until 7am. Not often that happens. Wonderfully warm early morning, did a bit of mattock work in the orchard. Then some work getting my glass CoronaVirus pieces ready for the furnace. I could clean up on this, offering them as souvenier pieces! Assuming I survive it all of course. By 11am I had 3 pieces in the kiln, partly driven off the strong sunlight on my solar panels.  Doing some glass after 6 months I was reminded that I have actually acquired a significant amount of skill over the 8 years that I've been doing it. Maybe I won't sell up after all ! Seems such a waste of everything I've learned. No real advantage in clearing the shack as I have no other plan for its use. Working in the shack stimulated me to get it cleaned up at last, gave it a good vacuum.

More nettle soup for lunch, this time cold with a blob of yoghurt. Works well.

CV hospital deaths curve continues to fall. No idea on total deaths because figures are so inaccurate and erratic in their release. The government has announced that incoming flight passengers must quarantine for two weeks. This should have happened 8 weeks ago.


Provisional evaluation of April's weather by the Met Office, released today, show what we all knew anyway that April had stunning weather. The Midlands had about 50% more sunshine than average and 50% less rainfall. For the UK it was the hottest April on record.  And May is turning out pretty good too so far although the coming week will be a lot cooler. Slowly but surely the next major global problem is building.

Sunday 10th May
The glass coronavirus worked well. Retrieved them from the kiln after breakfast.


Joined in with the Quaker Zoom after not joining for some weeks. Not sure why, bit of a waste of time as far as I'm concerned. Although I did offer my thoughts on what religion means to me - awe of nature! The god squad have been overly vociferous of late so I thought I'd redress the balance a bit.
Then made another dish of honey flapjacks. An evolving recipe!
Cool weather very good for gardening, more ivy cutting and shredding. And planting out some broccoli seedlings.

A shortish local walk after lunch, everywhere's looking a bit past its peak suddenly. Spring doesn't last long. 

I put my glass coronas on WhatsApp and Facebook and they have caused much humorous comment. Particularly the Morris group of course. 

Big event of the day is BJ's announecment on where we are going after seven weeks of lockdown. This was mainly leaked so no big surprises. Big shift is people are now encouraged to get back to work, and there is unlimited exercise including unlimited driving to places. More details are promised for tomorrow. I'm hoping this means bikes on the back of the car!
No mention of caravan sites opening And, incidentally, today we should have boarded the ferry to Ireland for a 2/3 week caravan holiday. As it happens it's suddenly not that appealing as the weather is now very cloudy and  cool, a remarkable change in the space of 24 hours.

Monday 11th May
BJ's announcement was roundly slated in today's Guardian. But only the guardianistas will read it of course. As it happened I had my first car drive in 7 weeks this morning. Helen's car broke down in Sainsbury's car park and I had to drive to the rescue. Actually all I did was rescue the shopping and left Helen to wait for the repairman. He jump-started the car, Helen drove it home, then I drove it to a local repair depot to get a new battery fitted. My second outing in one morning - how lucky am I? Anyway all sorted by 11am and we have injected £75 into the system. First non-food spend in almost two months.  It was noticeable how much traffic there is now. After yesterday's announcement I think a lot of people will see the lockdown as over apart from keeping some distance apart.

A sunny day but very windy and cold so not inclined to do much outdoors, just some more pruning - difficult to keep up with the growth rate this time of year. A new book by William Boyd, one of my favourite writers, beckons.

Late afternoon in parliament, BJ put more details to yesterday's announcement on easing the lockdown.  Except that there was very little added above yesterday's statement - and a few things changed. But I think we can safely assume we can put bikes on the car. Which will have to wait a few days for the weather to warm up. 


Unfortunately the number of new infections (and that's only those that are detected in hospitals) is stuck at around 3000 per day so we are a long way off claiming success.  This and the resultant death rate a month down the road will now rise after the lockdown easing. The question is by how much. It's a matter of balancing deaths against all the many other factors. I suspect the government has decided we can tolerate a rise in the death rate as the price to pay for some movement in the economy. I would be interesting to know how big is the pool of highly vulnerables and what that pool looks like. I'm sure they know.

Tuesday 12th May
Only yesterday I was admiring my potato plants - so advanced and vigorous. A different picture this morning - pulped by a frost here in Blakedown. Doubly annoying as I checked the forecast last night and it was 3C min. Oh well. I expect they'll recover in a few weeks. So a sunny but cold morning. And a good opportunity to do some more pruning and shredding. However the shredder was getting clogged up so put a new cutter blade in, like new again. Down on replacements so got set up to sharpen two old ones. I have this off to a fine art now. Run them though my electric grinder then heat them in a gas flame for two minutes, then squelch in  bucket of water to case harden. It took me a few years to cotton on to the need for squelching, they only used to last a day or so in regular use. Now they last many weeks.

Did a simple landscape last night, using a credit card to form rocks. Seems to work well. A bit of a boring landscape though. Needs something on the left to balance it..


Cut up some glass for 4 more coronavirus, a slight variation on the first batch - they are evolving!
Talking of which, here's a curve of the infection rate - not very encouraging. And it will almost certainly take off again with the relaxations in lockdown. Of course the government will know this. I'd love to be a fly on the cabinet office wall.


Wed 13th May
Today is the day we are allowed to drive as far as we wish to exercise as much as we wish. As long as we 'Stay Alert' - whatever that means. Anyway it's dull and cold so not at all tempting at the moment.

Did another Karen Rice tutorial last night which was very different, painting with a cut down credit card. Basically wet-in-wet and a lot of pushing paint pigment around. The first attempt was rubbish - predictably. Then I started to get the hang of it and my second attempt is not so bad.


I'll do another tonight. It takes less than half an hour to do one of these so it's no great investment if it goes wrong.

And I've put more glass coronaviruses in the kiln, will slump a few to give them form.

More cutting and shredding, endless task but I'm not doing a lot less. A late afternoon walk, very pleasant in the cool weather.

It seems impossible to get hospital deaths now, the government lumps in care home deaths but as these are declared sporadically it's not so meaningful. So I'll not include daily death rate charts any more. London tubes are pretty full it seems, after the return to work. Not everyone wearing masks. It will be interesting to see the curves in a few weeks time. Personally it all seems a bit of an anti-climax now that the strict lockdown has been eased. We still can't use our caravan so nothing has changed really and there's no end in sight. If things continue to improve then end June may bring an opening of caravan sites but we'll only be travelling to fairly local ones. If we can get in! There will be a huge demand I imagine. BJ is getting a lot of flak over the change in tack. His PMQ performances are pretty bad too, he's no match for a professional like Starmer. Without his support team baying behind him he looks like the incompetent he is.

So feeling a bit down today, like - is this it? What would I do without the garden, the glass, and the watercolours, my books (3 on the go)? Not to mention local walks and bike rides.

Thursday 14th May
This is last night's painting. No better than the previous one really. Need to start thinking about composition now that I've got the basic idea. 


And hot out of the kiln, these are a new strain of coronavirus (with domed bodies). Everything evolves!


After lunch we went on a bike ride to Elmbridge, one of our favourite spots. A cold but very sunny day so warm in the shelter of the Elmbridge church walls. Lots of buttercups out now. And I even managed to get a shot of the elusive ostriches.


Local ostrich

Had a Zoom session with my U3A Science group at 4pm. Everyone brought a mask and also a question for our quiz - theme was the human body. Everybody brought a mask - some very inventive indeed. And the quiz ended just within the 40 minute Zoom slot. It all went well and was much enjoyed I think. Need to think of something for our next meet-up. It's unlikely we'll get together physically until September - even with a fair wind.

Was reminded of the ritual of 8pm Thursday clapping for the NHS by the noise of --- the clapping! Went out to join in, mainly to see how it was being supported after so many weeks. To my amazement there were even more people out there tonight than ever. Only point as far I'm concerned is that it builds community. Sadly, today saw a leaked government set of proposals to pay the lockdown bill and it included an option of a public sector pay freeze. So while the country claps the government considers not giving the NHS workers a pay rise but effectively giving them a pay cut. Meanwhile there are photos of the bottom end of the pile crowding on to trains and buses. The term canon fodder springs to mind. All the talk about a new society and not returning to normal will come to nothing while we have Tory government. Deeply depressing.

Friday 15th May
A lot of emails this morning from the U3A group saying how much they enjoyed the Zoom yesterday and how well I ran things! All very gratifying especially as we have a member who obsesses about the coronavirus so I have to mute him occasionally to block him. He wants the U3A to make representation to the government (!) but I politely told him it was not a U3A matter. 

A cool day so more pruning and shredding. I'm producing a lot of compost material for next year! I've cut back at the front of the house and around the shack. After lunch I went into the orchard and cut off a few branches and dragged them back over my side. A bit of firewood and a lot more shreddings - tomorrow's job. I emailed Jackie to see if she wanted to discuss what I'd intended doing but she just says carry on. So I do.
Helen went for a quick walk round the block late afternoon while I had a doze to recover from my exertions!

Today's Guardian seems full of dire forecasts of the economic prospects for the UK. It does not make reassuring reading. We really are in uncharted waters. Infection rates about static and death rates slowly falling still. I've discovered a new web site for corona stats, just in time as I've given up on them. The chart of total deaths below has a step where the government started including care home deaths. Gives a nice overview, showing 34,041 for today. An incredibly steady rise. We are still a long way off the Spanish Flu death total of around 200,000. But that was 2018, over a hundred years ago in an undernourished country ravaged by 4 years of war. This is hi-tech 2020, the information age. Surely we should be doing better.


Helen has yet another zoom tonight. I think I'll do yet another watercolour. 

Saturday 16th May
Weather warming up again after a cold week. More time in the garden shredding and made a start on the Shack at last. Covered in ivy after years of neglect. This job will takes some days of effort, especially as I get fed up after a few hours and move on to something else.
Another credit card watercolour last night, a mix of wet-in-wet brush work plus credit card. Problem is, it's all done in about 15 minutes - can't let it dry out too much, so easy to overlook things. A good discipline though.


A late afternoon walk, our standard 5 mile loop via Churchill. We did this two weeks ago and took a wrong turn. After taking due note today we now know why. There is a path that used to be inconspicuous that now looks like the main route - because it now forms a biking loop for people from Stourbridge. We used to do this walk hardly ever meeting anyone, now it's a main exercise route. So that's what threw us last time. Strangely, the loop was thick with cyclists and a few walkers today, difficult to maintain two metres, not that I always remember. I think we'll leave this walk for a while till things calm down. The swan is still on her nest, no change since last time. Maybe on our next visit she'll have her young swimming around her.


Watched the big climax ending episode of Breaking Bad (series 4). Poor Gus gets blown up, pity that, I liked Gus. It's so well produced that  although part of me knows it isn't real, part of me thinks it is!. Only two more series left, about 20 episodes, so I'll have to pace myself, don't want to run out before lockdown ends.

Another plot below showing how the daily death rate seems stuck at around 450. This is a logarithmic plot and shows what a long time it's likely to take to get below a hundred. Today's count is 468.


Sunday 17th May
A calm partly sunny day. Started by putting together some glass circles I cut out yesterday for a kiln firing. Have an idea for a new design so will finish that tomorrow. Unlike watercolour painting that can sometimes be done in 15 minutes glass work can take several days!

Helen did the Bewdley Zoom but I decided to do some more gardening. Ever more pruning and then shredding. I'm producing a lot of compost material and the compost heat is so hot it almost burns to touch it. So it should kill off weed roots and seeds. There's enough cutting and shredding to keep me going for weeks. And if I run out, I can always start shredding the orchard!

Reading emails, the Guardian/Observer and following links on the internet takes up a lot of time but can be interspersed with the 'jobs'. And I've got William Boyd's novel to dip in to for a bit more variety.

Decided to do a bit of melodeon & concertina playing so took the instruments down to the cabin, out of earshot of the neighbours. After about 10 minutes I'd had enough. There's not a lot of motivation at the moment as I don't know if any of the music outlets I've enjoyed over the years will ever take off again. Within my ever-shortening playing life span anyway.

In the evening was a Zoom with the Transition people. This was arranged by Simon who wanted us to discuss his emails of last week seeking a way forward after lockdown is fully ended. Notably, nobody responded to his emails - so he called a Zoom which was a bit more difficult to ignore.Anyway after 30 mins of intro from Simon there emerged a sort of plan to move towards virtual presentations using Zoom. Keith is keen to repeat his climate change presentation that he did for the local Labour Party last week. Others are asked to put forward ideas. I must say that in my present mood I'm reluctant to get involved.

Monday 18th May
Up at 6am as I needed a crap! My bowels are pretty good of late - in case anyone should be interested. Just over a year now since my recovery from fecal incontinence.- the worst experience of my life. How over the moon  I was to get my life back. Being in lockdown is a breeze by comparison but there is nonetheless the feeling that, again, I want my life back. Although it won't be the same life I feel. Attitudes to travel are changing - staying more local, and I'll probably never fly again. But on the other side of the coin there are many areas of hope. Today's Guardian is brimming with articles about the opportunities that the virus has handed us. Will we look back and say 'thank you corona' ? I feel optimistic for a change. My next Transition newsletter is suddenly going to be a cry of hope not doom as the last one was.Only had two requests to unsubscribe so maybe not too heavy on the doom after all. I can do better than that!

Big event of the day (and probably the week) was a bike ride into Kidderminster to collect two bacon sandwiches from AJ's - which opened for take-aways today. Came to £4.80 and they take cash so I gave them a fiver, my first cash spend in two months. I was feeling generous so I told them to keep the change - my generosity knows no bounds today! Back home, I took out the bacon and reheated it in a pan then split it on to two more slices of bread. They put so much bacon on it's not true. And we didn't touch the second sandwich - that's now in the freezer. Very nice indeed.

Mid afternoon we went for a ride to Clent, some back lanes that Helen has discovered on her solo outings. Still some bluebells out but this is probably the end of them for this year. They have been really splendid on so many of our bike trips.



While we were having a rest a couple with four Dougal dogs appeared and obliged with a photo. Owners are always pleased if someone asks if they can take their dog's picture. They really were splendid animals but look like being a full time job.


Watched a bit of the daily coronvirus briefing. One question was about whether it was ok to go camping (away from others of course) and the scientific advisor's response was that they had looked int this complex issue and ... wait for it ... were ready to offer advice 'when the government asks for it'. So no answer. I immediately switched off in disgust - what a farce.

Did a sunflower painting based on a tutorial by local artist Karen. Not really sure if I like it or not so I'll not include an small image! May do another.
 
I was examining data on my newly discovered corona web site - at https://corona.help/ - and came up with a bit of a mystery. The USA and Brazil mortality rates (blue & green curves below) are less than half those of typical European countries. How can that be ? Maybe there are a lot of US/Brazil deaths not showing up. People just dying outside the system perhaps. Which is what will happen if the system doesn't provide for those who don't have the money, as in the US. But Brazil has a state health system - so maybe it can't cope?

https://corona.help/

Tuesday 19th May
Discovered last night that ace melodeon John Spiers has been doing on-line music sessions for the last nine weeks! So, I've downloaded all nine videos, and extracted the audio - which is all I need. I'll be taking the tracks down to the cabin today to get some playing down. Just the sort of stimulus I was badly in need of to get me playing again. I went on a workshop run by John many years ago (15?)  He's put on a bit of weight since then. Still a friendly nice guy though for all his Bellowhead fame. He was born into Morris dancing so to speak and he's still firmly with the tradition. The session is from what he calls his shed, just like him to call it that. Nothing pretentious about John. Link to the video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eex9qSs5Wzs

John Spiers

Took a new glass piece out of the kiln this morning after an overnight slump on to a plate mold. Not brilliant - always difficult to know if the colours work until it's all done. I don't think the orange bits in the green work - a bit twee. Unlike watercolours there's no way of fixing things with glassware. The only fix is to bin it and it doesn't really warrant that.


A hot sunny day. Generally a very good week weatherwise which will bring out lots of people. The coming bank holiday weekend will be interesting, I suspect people will largely ignore the virus threat.
Had a bit of a rain shower last night - the green blip on the right, below. This chart is for the last month showing how little rain we've had. Only about 0.8 inches over the whole four weeks. The whole of the lockdown period has seen a similar overall picture. We could be in for a hard summer. At least I'll be around to water the plants! Chart taken from my 24/7 on-line weatherstation.   http://www.mecol.co.uk/weather/index.htm


Too hot to do much in the afternoon but went on a local loop walk at about 8pm when it cooled. Very nice evening sun on local horses in the fields at the back of us.



Wed 20th May
Big day out today. As we are allowed to drive to walk we think we can drive to bike. So we put the bikes on the car bike carrier and went out for a ride in the Clee Hills. A 26 mile loop, some of it very strenuous, but worth it. Great view of the Shropshire hills and a very remote feel to the area. Good car park at Clee Hill on the A456 so very convenient, less than an hour from home. Lunch was a sandwich in a churchyard at Ditton Priors, a halfway point. Then a hard ride back on a different route ending up with a killer climb up Angle Bank. If we do it again I think going the other way round would be worth trying, Angle Bank is just too hard! Back by 4pm for a shower and a rest. Temperatures today are probably some sort of record. Still 26C at 7pm!

Aston Botterell
Clee St Margaret
Towards Brown Clee
Went down to the Cabin for a half hour folk session - John Spiers was waiting patiently.

Watched first episode of Series 5 Breaking Bad. Very funny in places, continues to be inventive & engaging. Then to bed with a good book - William Boyd's Love is Blind.

Thursday 21st May
A few degrees cooler today but still wall to wall sun. A good morning in the garden, amongst other things painting another wall of the shack. Then clearing weeds etc from the surrounds. Starting to look really good. I'm getting close to deciding to sell my glass workshop. The shack would make quite a nice painting studio. Then the cabin can be the music room. Then there's the caravan! So why do I need the house I wonder?

Following on from the government's decision yesterday not to give immigrant care workers any relief from the £400 NHS surcharge, as they have for immigrant doctors and nurses, I spent a few hours concocting a letter to our MP Garnier plus a meme (below) to go with it for Facebook.  The 'hostile environment' is alive and kicking. Even more tragic given the fact that these predominantly BAME workers are twice as likely to die from the virus. Anyway I won't be out clapping tonight. Not prepared to give any support to this pointless self indulgence.



Amazing - at 5pm the government announced a complete U turn, they are now going to scrap the surcharge for all. Not that they admit a change of heart, they just announced it as if they had come up with this really generous idea! I'd like to think I caused Boris Johnson's change of heart. But I'll admit there could possibly have been other reasons! Like today's court ruling that if someone can't afford to pay these exorbitant fees then they don't have to.Yes, that could do it.

So I then had no excuse for not clapping and went out briefly at 8pm to show community spirit.

CV deaths continue to fall, down to about 300 today (hospital + care homes) and the new infections are slowly coming down, now about 2000 per day. No sign of an increase after the lockdown relaxations but its early days yet. C&C club talking about opening caravan sites on 4th July so we could think about booking somewhere.
.
Spent the afternoon replacing an inner tube on my bike. For some reason it all got complicated, locked gears etc and it took hours. A difficult job at the best of times with arthritic hands. But I changed a tube on Helen's bike last week in 5 minutes however that was the front wheel - no chain.

We tried the Old House At Home again for a few pub meals plus a couple of bottles of Enville Ale. Chicken and bacon for me and scampi for Helen. All very good. Last time I think they deep fried the chicken and it was really not very good.

Then a bit of watercolour work, interspersed with session playing with the John Spiers audio tracks. Odd the way his on-line sessions have got me back into playing, after over two months.

Friday 22nd May
We had planned a bike ride in the Teme valley today but it's very windy so decided it will wait for a better day. Loads more cutting and shredding plus painting the shack - which is now thankfully finished. Found a nice toad in the new compost heap so as I'm forever putting stuff on the heap I moved him to a safer place.



Last night's painting look ok, quite pleased with it especially as it wasn't following a tutorial but following techniques I've learnt. I framed it within PaintshopPro software to make it look a bit more professional!


 A late afternoon local walk to Churchill pool. Just an hour, managed a photo of the local donkeys who are usually out of camera shot.


Bought a John Spiers CD - a download - as appreciation for his sessions. It features Peter Knight on fiddle, a brilliant combination. Have now concatenated all the tracks and converted it to a single mp3 file so I can play it everywhere and anywhere. Will revisit his online shop to see what else I can buy.

Not much happening on the CV front. A bank holiday weekend will be interesting test of public adherence to the 2m distancing.

Saturday 23rd May
Another cool windy day so no biking. Must keep it as safe as possible - last thing I want is to end up in hospital! So another day in the garden, I could spend the rest of my days hacking the garden. Shouldn't have said that.

Big CV news is of  Dominic Cumming's trip to his parents in the NE, with his wife when they both had CV and should have been self isolating.  Totally against all advice of course and there are lots of calls from all sides for him to be sacked/resign but the Tories have circled the wagons and look like toughing it out. BJ's keeping out of it for now.

A short local walk at 4pm. Encountered Jackie & daughter Mackenzie, apparently Dudley is due out Monday but going to his own house. Not sure why as he will need 3 carer visits a day.

Sunday 24th May
A cool cloudy day so a day at home. More gardening - I'm producing a prodigious amount of shreddings for the compost heap. I'm quite enjoying it really especially in the cool conditions. Mid afternoon it turned hot and sunny again and Helen decided to take her non-electric bike out. She didn't get very far, gone soft with the electric bike. Just like me!

Last night's painting is based on an example on reflection techniques in The Artist magazine. As usual not bad, but not brilliant. Hey ho. Nice border though!



The annual 'stinky plant' emerged in the greenhouse, puts out a foul smell which the flies seem to like. But I can't fathom the purpose as there are never any seeds produced and the plant only lasts a few weeks. Anyway there are three of them.



The day's CV briefing was led by Johnson, a rare happening. He was there to defend Cummings' drive to Durham under lockdown. A clever defence painting DC as a caring father. Completley side-stepping the real issues of course. Whether it's enough to quell demands for a resignation remains to be seen. The deaths and infections continue downwards - daily deaths just above 100 now. No sign of infections taking off again following VE day two weeks ago which surprises me. Tomorrow is the day for seeding a second peak if there is going to be one. Hot weather and a bank holiday - plus the Cummings factor!

Daily death rate - on a  Log scale

Monday 25th May
Another day out with the bikes on the back of the car. This time for a loop from Stanford Bridge to Tenbury and back. A glorious day in glorious countryside. And hardly a soul about. This is a loop we did last September when they were harvesting the hops - the Teme Valley is a famous hop area.  But last time there were eateries open in Tenbury, today everything shut. Just as they were recovering from serious floods in February the Coronavirus hit them. Tragic. However we didn't expect to be able to buy anything and had sandwiches with us which we ate in the park. En route we called to see Margaret, a friend of ours in Neen Sollars. We weren't sure about calling during lockdown, however it was fine and we had coffee in her garden - at a safe distance! I'm sure she was very pleased to have company as she's now on her own.

One of many charming properties in Bayton

coffee at Margaret's house - the Old Smithy in Neen Sollars
We did an extra loop from Tenbury to check out a caravan site we are thinking about for July. Looks fine so all we need now is for caravan sites to open up. Today's CV deaths were down to double figures for the first time in two months so it's all looking promising. It's also looking promising for Dominic Cummings who did a press conference today explaining his actions up in Durham. Sounds like a pack of lies to me but he'll probably get away with it.

Tuesday 26th May
A cloudy and calm day so having a day at home. We are after all supposed to be at home if we don't have a job. I think. It's not so clear anymore. A bit of gardening and then trying different auto-watering schemes for when/if we go away in July. Best bet seems an osmosis feed.

New tunes from the John Spiers sessions coming on well. He's rescued my melodeon!

An afternoon paint session for a change, another boat scene. I like the light in this, lends itself well to watercolour techniques.


 A very sultry afternoon so we did a local hour long walk after eating.

The UK is now second in the world for deaths per million.Not sure why Belgium is top (?)

per capita deaths

Wed 27th May
A really hot day, another day out on the bikes. Out by 9:30 for a loop from home through Heightington and Bewdley. Our campsite on the Heightington ridge is still not open (which we knew really) except for day fishing. Looking very appealing.

Five van site - empty!
Heightington view towards Abberley Hills
Had a stop at the Bewdley Meeting House where I did a bit of weeding and mowing. Just enough to create a picnic area. Not that I expect anyone to use it but it was suggested a few back.  Encountered Colin there who was getting stuff out of the freezer for his daughter's Bewdley Museum cafe.

Bewdley Quaker Meeting House garden/cemetary
After sorting the garden we moved on to the cafe for take-away sandwiches. Egg and bacon for me and humus and beetroot for Helen. After lunch Helen decided to go on a lemon hunt so I left her in Bewdley and arrived back home to blistering heat at 2pm. Just settled down in the nice cool shack with a coffee and cake when my mobile rang - Helen has a puncture just outside Bewdley! So put all my clothes back on and drove back to Bewdley to put the bike on the back of the car. Why are women incapable of simple things like repairing punctures?
Back in time for my U3A science group Zoom at 4pm. Another quiz, this time based on science riddles. All went very well, 14 of us. We agreed on another in two weeks time. Another Breaking Bad late on.

The Cummings saga doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. Johnson backed the wrong horse in supporting Cummings. His ratings have plummeted and he's going to have a hard job getting any credibility back. Maybe he should resign along with Cummings.

Thursday 28th May
The heat continues, and it's becoming a bit of a problem. Tomato plants need watering every day. Lawns are going brown. Vegetation is wilting. And the 10 day forecast shows little respite. Is this the start of our next ordeal?

We should be up in Scotland at this time but CV put a stop to that. So we have days out instead. Not today though. A day in the garden, mainly around the shack which is now looking really good. This is the view from within.

Shack with a view.

Also put in a few hours early morning cleaning of the caravan and car. Helen cycled to Bewdley in the afternoon heat to deliver some bank details for the volunteer group she's in - plus a two metre garden chat with plenty of gin! 

The UK CV daily death rate slowly drifts down, with 380 deaths today. But with about 2000 deaths a day under normal circumstances an extra 20% seems not so bad, especially when some of that 20% would be in the 2000. I'm sure the government sees it as an acceptable price to pay to get the economy moving.  So how long can the virus carry on for? As only about 0.5% of the population is confirmed infected that leaves a lot of potential hosts, about 60 million even if we double the infection rate to accommodate undertesting. And as there are about 3 million high risk over 75 years olds (oh dear, I'm one of them!) that's a lot of potential deaths. Without a vaccine we are in for a long haul. The only thing that would really upset things is a second peak. And we won't see that for a month or so - if it happens.

Daily deaths - Log scale y-axis
And it looks like Cummings is off the hook. The police have decided not to take action as it was only a 'minor infringement'. Smells.

Friday 29th May
Another really hot day and another Big Day Out. Bikes on the car and off we went to Much Wenlock to park at an NT car park on Wenlock Edge. Took back lanes to Church Stretton, amazing views towards the Clee Hills where we cycled a few days ago. It's like pieces of a jigsaw slotting into place.
Shropshire really is a beautiful county. And largely devoid of tourists.

Clee Hills in distance
The deli in CS that we had hoped would be doing sandwiches was closed - deliveries only. The Co-op was a fallback but their queues were too long. Then we chanced on a baker's that was also making up sandwiches. Only 4 in the queue so that was our salvation. However there was only one girl serving and by the time she'd made up our sandwiches the queue was about 10 people so I felt really guilty - locals after bread being inconvenienced by tourists. Anyway the sandwiches (and cakes!) were very good so is it my fault there's a virus about!? A different route back and passed some really nice traditional houses. Then a long climb back to the car park. Five hours to cover 34 miles - might seem a long time given the fact that we have electric bikes but we did stop a lot to admire the views and to rest. And it certainly was hilly!


Country house near Gretton

Passed several basic 5 van sites en-route, all of which could be open as they pose as near to zero a contagion threat as it's possible to get. The only facilities required are a water tap, electric point and waste disposal.  Caravanners tend to keep themselves to themselves even without the CoronaVirus..

Saturday 30th May
A day at home after yesterday's exertions. The UK still swelters and we've had the hottest spring on record.
Keeping plants alive is now a serious issue.  I installed an automatic watering system for the greenhouse tomato plants but after an initial success, the controller has stopped working!
Decided a good survival plan is bigger pots so that they can hold more water, so repotted half a dozen plants. 
Too hot to sit in the garden after lunch so retreated to the cabin to play some concertina music to John Spiers' session tracks. Then a bit of watercolour painting & reading. So passeth the afternoon.

A hot garden in Blakedown
Tried another sunflower watercolour painting but it didn't turn out too well. They really are surprisingly difficult.

Sunday 31st May
A local bike ride today. Our standard loop to Elmbridge but backwards (the route not the bike). As always a delightful ride, loads of flowers everywhere and fields full of buttercups. Cheese and chutney sandwiches in the beautiful Elmbridge churchyard. No queueing and no 2m issue when you take your own! We were both extremely tired when we arrived back, only 25 miles so maybe it was the heat - another scorching day. Had some of Helen's elderflower cordial when we returned - very good. A Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

Buttercups everywhere

After I'd recovered went down the garden to pick gooseberries for gooseberry and elderflower jam. Another HFW recipe. It requires green unripe fruit which means you need an awful lot to make up a 1Kg batch. Ripe berries must weigh 5 times as much. Ended up using 60% last year's berries from the freezer otherwise I'd have stripped the bushes bare. The point is that elderflowers are out now, several weeks before gooseberries are ripe. Another time I'll put a batch of elderflowers in the freezer to wait for the gooseberries to ripen.

I've also now extended the greenhouse irrigation system to all the tomato plants, about 14. I can water them all by turning the outside tap. Next step is a timed valve. There may be a few showers mid-week but not much else on the horizon.

Took part in a Transition Zoom at 7:30pm. Quite productive, looks like we are going to prepare 4 or more on-line presentations. And I've offered to convert them all to video for Youtube. I need a bit more to do so this will do the trick.

Monday 1st June
Big adventure! A trip to Sainsbury's - my first for almost 3 months. Helen has not been happy for me to go as she doesn't trust me to take adequate precautions.  Not sure what's changed but I'm now allowed to go. Partly because she has gradually come to realise that the risks are not perhaps as great as she thought. After all we are both still here after 3 months. Anyway my month in charge of the kitchen starts today so that's another factor. For my previous month Helen went shopping for me. So I was there for 8am to hit the oldies'  slot. No queues and not many people, things have calmed a lot. Even the shelves were full. As we are now only going shopping every 2/3 weeks it takes a long time to decide what to get, an hour and a half - perhaps not so bad. We are keeping stocks fairly high at home so I ended up with an awful lot of bags. And spent a disproportionate amount of money, about three times what I would spend on a weekly shop. Prices have risen a bit but not that much. No that it matters.

Also bought some new alkaline batteries for the water controller - which is now working. It seems it doesn't like rechargeable NiCads which are a slightly lower voltage.

The newts' eggs that I collected in February (?) have come on, as usual only a few survive. I have three efts now, which are now growing fast on a diet of nematode worms. They are very slow to develop initially, just eating whatever micro-organisms may be in the water. But when they are big enough to take small worms they really come on.

About 2cm long
Another day in the intense heat doing odd jobs and the ongoing shredding. I noticed there are no cherries this year - just not swelling.  A few months ago I was expecting a bumper year for fruit, after such a wet February and a dry March it was looking good. Two months of very low rainfall have changed all that. There is speculation that the hot weather will help kill off the CV - a not insignificant benefit.And it would save the government's bacon as a second wave would be avoided.

We decided to have a bike ride early evening for a change. A lot cooler for one thing. Went to Springfield Park, via Hurcott, as Helen was hoping for some baby ducks but none to be seen, I guess we're are too late for that. Picked up the canal and cycled through Wolverley to Cookley then back via Churchill. A 12 mile loop via a very nice section of canal.

Our local Hurcott Pool
Cookley Tunnel

Today on the CV front, deaths falling still and various further relaxations to the lockdown - relaxations that are attracting a lot of criticism from various experts. They claim that the infection levels are too high still and we risk provoking a second peak. Time will tell. Anyway from today up to 6 people can meet up, in an open space, Primary schools can re-open, although there has only been a 40% uptake, and more retail can open up.  IKEA apparently had long queues - not my idea of a day out. And many beauty spots are now over-run with visitors. People are generally complying with the 2m requirement but many aren't - many offering the Cummings excuse. And the government poll ratings are plummeting. They seem to get everything wrong lately.  

Tues 2nd June
Another hot day and another day out. This time from Highley where we parked the car. The 28 mile route had a slight overlap with the Clee Hills route we did a few weeks back, the point of contact being Ditton Priors. And again today our lunch was in the Ditton Priors churchyard.  We covered an area we'd never explored before, SW of Bridgnorth. Very quiet and agricultural, not astounding but well worth doing. Very hard work too, especially in the hot weather. Roads are a particular problem in that area, they are still badly damaged from the winter rains and potholes can be really dangerous on a bike. It only needs one mistake....  We've noticed this a lot the last few months.

Ditton Priors
Even intrepid explorers need a rest

Retrieved a piece of glassware from the kiln, a simple dish using a piece of streaky glass I want to use before selling up - about which I'm pretty much decided, unless of course I change my mind again!



CV infection rate and deaths continue to fall slowly. A lot of concern about a second wave following on from the lockdown easing but so far little sign of it.

Wed 3rd June
The hot weather ended yesterday and today we have a more sensible temperature of 14C. Plus a little much needed rain. Sadly only 0.08" when the average monthly rainfall is around 3" so really nothing at all so far. A day indoors means, amongst other things, catching up with preparing a Transition presentation on fossil fuel issues. Good not to have the pressure to be outside that I always feel when the sun is shining.

Downloaded John Spiers' latest session music video - now week 11 of lockdown - how soon it becomes normalised.  Then went for a half hour play in the cabin joining in with earlier session music I've downloaded

And completed a watercolour that I started last night. Another Karen Rice tutorial and a typical methodology - wet in wet painting, salt it and dry overnight, then add details at phase two. Plus the usual paint spatter that she so favours. Again, I've added a border with PaintShopPro, I quite like the ability to choose a suitable colour for the surround.


And after several failures today I managed to make a decent banana cake. Based on a recipe off Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's site, but with some simplifications ! Another recipe for my 'cookbook'.

CV deaths and infections not coming down much, in spite of Johnson's claims to the contrary during a particularly tetchy PMQs today.  Parliament today was ludicrous with long queues of MPs lining up to vote thanks to Rees-Mogg's parliamentary return. For voting, some countries have buttons to press, we British queue up for 45 minutes. Work at home if you can - unless you are an MP it seems. It's beyond farce.

Deaths are 350 today. And infection rate could be going up again but it really needs a week more of data to be sure. No wonder BJ's tetchy. The following curve shows how badly the UK is doing in comparison to France & Spain. Our total death rate is just not flattening.


Thurs 4th June
A cool cloudy day. Only 11C - a big change from two days ago.  Drove to Wilden Marsh early morning to see how it was looking and it's certainly growing! All the water in February followed by months of fine weather. Sadly most of it is gated off as it's nesting time. Opens up end of August. Will be back before then for the blackberries which will be amazing there. Never a water shortage.


The government has now confirmed its new quarantine policy for anyone entering the UK. Better late than never they say, but not this time. No scientific support for it and it will only serve to further damage the holiday industry. The government certainly seems to have lost the plot.

And today they've announced that wearing a face mask (anything!) will be compulsory on public transport. Why now? After 2 months.

Friday 5th June
Another wet and cool day.The weather has rapidly settled in to a rut. So a day on the computer plus some painting, this time a landscape from a Karen Harmon tutorial. I really like the hillside colours on this.

Just a few showers after mid-day so off we went for a local loop, about 2/3 miles. Lots of buttercups out with a few poppies too.



CV deaths seem stuck at around 300 per day, not coming down much if at all. And daily infections stuck at about 1600. Could go either way. Likewise any chance of a summer holiday! Daily briefing today highlighted need to avoid demos - the George Floyd killing has generated lots of these, notably in Birmingham. The police don't try to enforce the 2m rule - wisely.

Saturday 6th June
Weather continues cool, windy, rainy (just a bit) and cloudy so a morning on the internet. Mainly pursuing environmental issues. Thinking of joining the XR march to London on 20th June in protest to HS2. Will be a focus for my anger about what's wrong in this country. Which is just about everything really.

Reading an article about how New Zealand has now eradicated the virus completely brings home what a criminally neglectful government we have. Criminal in the sense that their actions have made them responsible for most of the UK's 40,000 CV deaths. I very much doubt there will even be an inquiry, they'll find a way to avoid one for sure with all that blood on their hands.

I went into the orchard and demolished a few branches which I brought back for shredding and fire-sticks. A useful resource. Other than that not much activity today. But after our meal decided on a quick round the block. Ominous clouds provided a dramatic shot of the tree in the field opposite, but it didn't rain after all. All the vegetation is looking like it hasn't rained at all the last few days, which to all intents and purposes it hasn't. And I'm watering the garden just as before.


Sunday 7th June
Weather still unsettled, light showers and cool. Anyway, went for a local walk, up the hill & down behind Hurrans. Plenty of foxgloves everywhere suddenly. And I couldn't resist collecting a batch of elderflowers - for the freezer. Not sure what for, maybe a batch of elderberry & gooseberry jam when they ripen in a few weeks time.


Spent an hour in the cabin watching a Cat Power video recording from 2006. Stunning performance by my second favourite singer - after Dylan of course. I actually went down to play along on my concertina with John Spiers' on-line folk sessions but tired of it after 15 minutes. Cat Power was far more interesting. Helen doing three Zooms today which ties her up but at least she's talking to people.

Big drop in CV deaths today, down to 77, lowest for months. It is Sunday so it's usually low but not this good. Infections also down.  Yesterday saw really big Black Lives Matter demos in half a dozen UK cities. Thousands in close proximity. Mainly young people who probably see themselves as immortal anyway but they are a low risk category. It will be interesting to see if these demos impact on the infection rate. The VE celebrations of three weeks ago didn't (as far as I can tell) which surprises me.

Monday 8th June
My Monday trip into Sainsbury's, catching the oldie 8-9am slot. Then a phone call to AJ's from as I'm leaving to order two bacon sandwiches for pickup 5 minutes later. They are still very warm when I get them home and we put half the bacon in the freezer and split the remainder. Even then it's quite a generous bacon sandwich! With a mug of coffee it's a good start to the day.

Yet another episode of Breaking Bad last night. Read in Wiki that In 2013, Breaking Bad entered the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time. 
I'm torn between wanting to see how it ends up and not wanting to run out of episodes.

Breaking Bad meth cooks

And I've started reading The Salt Road which makes me realise, yet again, how lucky I am having a roof over my head. A roof that I (we) own as well. Helen told me today that it was a true story. Quite horrific that our social system is so broken.

A day of pottering, gardening, reading, and baking as it's my month in the kitchen. And another painting. Will do another one, the same, now I can see the problem areas. Not a tutorial, but inspired by a watercolour painting Helen bought for me a few years ago as a birthday present. Now if I can emulate a painting we spent money on I'll feel I'm getting somewhere. 

CV deaths and infections down again, tomorrow will be the test as Tuesdays always show a big rise after artificially low week end data.

Tues 9th June
Bikes on the back of the car again for a new adventure! This time a loop west from Bransford, just west of Worcester, towards Bromyard.  Virtually all of the route was on quiet rural backroads. The area's agricultural heritage was apparent in many attractive buildings, now renovated as private residences.
Hops are still an important crop and the old hop kilns are still around, albeit gentrified.

One of many hop kilns

Suckley church for a lunch-stop
.CV deaths up to 285 today after two days below 100. The standard pattern showing a Tuesday increase. Infections up again too. But the trend is in the right direction, just painfully slow. In a sense a UK trend isn't that meaningful. There are local hot spots with R values above unity that distort the figures. There really isn't a UK R value, it's a figment of the imagination, a statistical convenience. A map of R values would be of use, maybe there is one. I'll have to do some searching. Anyway the following curve is for daily infections and deaths, up to date to today.

Infections and Deaths with log scale y-axis



Two Zoom meeting tonight, first is a Bewdley Quaker business meeting, second with XR to discuss a march from Birmingham to London to protest against HS2. I was reading about whether protests were legal given the CV restrictions. The answer seems to be no if there are more than 6. Not much of a protest. Could always have groups of 6 I suppose. Given the massive scale of the Black Lives Matter demos going on in so many cities I can't see us getting much attention really. I think XR is last year's news sadly. And BLM has not run its course yet, who knows how that will end. Anyway there were about 20 on the Zoom, mainly young, earnest, informed and full of enthusiasm. The organiser spoke very movingly and eloquently about the horror of watching his local woodland being felled and shredded. All to shave 14 minutes off a journey that will only be affordable as a business expense. They accept that the march won't make any difference but they just feel the need to do something. Anything. There's a old saying 'action is the antidote to hopelessness' - or something like that.

Wed 10th June
A cool, calm, dull day and we have things to do so won't be going out holidaying today. However we are getting geared up for a week away in the caravan early in July, on the assumption that sites re-open by then. Somewhere fairly local I think.

Rehoused my baby newts (efts) in a clean container with fresh water. Only three survived but they are growing well now that they are taking the nematode worms. They still have external lungs as can be seen in the photo. When they lose these it means they can survive out of water and I'll have to take measures to stop them climbing out - or release them to take their chances in the big wide world. They'd be well advised to stick with me.


At 4pm there was the fortnightly U3A zoom for the science group. Only problem was that I forgot all about it and was woken from my slumbers at ten past by Andrea who was wondering what was going on! I was on line within minutes and let everyone in from the waiting room then apologised profusely. Anyway they all understand these things being of a similar age with similar problems with forgetfulness. My problem is that I'd been online for an hour or more searching out trains and buses and maps in connection with the XR march against HS2 and once I get involved in one particular thing everything else goes. I should of course have set an alarm, I have plenty of ways to do that. In the event I've had a volunteer to act as Zoom Monitor, Carolyn will ring me ten minutes before the meetings to ensure I don't forget. I could of course set an alarm but this is a bit more amusing for everyone. 

Thur 11th June
Another day inside on the internet. Catching up with email, social media and promoting a forthcoming Transition Zoom presentation by one of our members. Surprising how much time and how tiring it is. I also have  a Transition presentation to give but haven't produced it yet, gets pushed back by more pressing things. I have 5 zooms next week with various organisations. I may not do them all of course as I'm not really needed for some of them.

Did another watercolour last night. When I'd finished I looked at it and decided it was rubbish. Oddly this morning I looked at it and decided it wasn't quite that bad, could be the natural light, Anyway here it is. There are a few things I don't like so will do another one. Some things you only see when it's finished by which time it's too late.


The tomatoes are coming on well now that I've got a working automatic watering system. Only a few weeks to our first fruits - the fruits of my labours. About 20 plants in all, half Alicate and half cherry.

One side of the tomato plantation

CV rates continue slowly downwards and the overall death total gets ever greater. In round figures 40,000 deaths, 60,000 excess deaths - so the true coronavirus figure is somewhere between the two. We are second only to the USA (But then it's about 5 times the population). Brazil looks like it might overtake us before long. Interesting that the three top death counts are in countries with right wing governments, all of which delayed action for fear of the economic consequences. Money over people.

Fri 12th June
Cloudy but dry and not too cold, a good day for a walk. Which I'd arranged with Friend Miriam for 10am. Helen is having a day out at Slimbridge with her friend Barbara. We walked from home around Mt Segg which is a varied and stunning walk, no roads and not many people. Although pre-CV there were never any people at all, now it's been discovered a little. All in all just over 3 hours, about 7 miles I would think. Miriam quite tired at the end, but she has 4 years on me so she's doing well. I was not so tired, but had a kip later on anyway!

Local residents

Did another 'horse rider on the beach' painting last night which I think is slightly better than yesterday's effort.


Ordered some watercolour pencils on eBay after spending hours comparing the makes, a more convenient way of doing watercolour painting away from home? We will see. Having just booked 5 nights away in the caravan they could be very useful. We are assuming that caravan sites open up early in July and have booked a site at Kimbolton, west of Tenbury. About an hour away. Don't want to overdo it.

Saturday 13th June
A sunny day forecast so a day on the bikes was planned. However the sun was little late arriving so we downgraded the ride from a loop from Trysull to a more local spin.. Actually ended up visiting Rosie & Brian in Droitwich. Cake and a cool drink in their garden was very nice and it made a welcome change to be seeing people again. They have also booked holidays assuming restriction will end in July, in their motorhome. And they are a bit more adventurous, down to mid-France for them!

Droitwich


I have two large (2-3ft tall) cereus cactus plants and they are about to flower, a big event. Amazingly they are about to flower on precisely the same day, I find that synchronism remakable. They obviously have built in to their DNA, algorithms to determine the best day of the year for flowering (and best chance of passing on genes of course) and both algorithms produce the same answer!  I would love to know what that algorithm is. I set up a time lapse camera (using an old mobile phone and an app off the internet) to try to capture the opening of the flowers.



CV infection & deaths staying high. There have been BLM demos for a week or more now with lots happening this weekend. If infection rates don't increase as a result I'll be very surprised. And remaining shops open next Monday, another opportunity for spreading infection. Again, we will have to wait and see.

Frog spotted amongst the lily leaves in my dried out pond.
Sunday 14th June
Had a heavy shower last night, sadly it only lasted about 15 seconds so the ground is still parched. Spent the morning pottering round the garden and reading the Observer - in short doses so I can cope.
Out for a local walk after an early evening meal. Very warm and sunny.

Interesting cumulus formation




Then back home for a Zoom with Transition people to set up a Country Market account, looks like I'm now treasurer for a third organisation! Don't know when we'll start the market, linked to the Repair Café which is very much an unknown with regards starting again.

CV deaths down to 36 today, by far the best yet. However infections are creeping up looking at the curve. Never too sure how meaningful the infection figure is but this curve needs to be going down not up.

NB. y-axis is log scale

Monday 15th June
A fine day so we did the cycle route from Seisdon to Badger. A stunning ride through rich (in every sense) farmland. Fairly flat, lots of pretty cottages and also large estates. About 22 miles round trip. Helen not feeling too good after taking hay-fever tablets but managed. Passed out in the conservatory as soon as we arrived back.

Badger village
Yet another closed pub

Claveley village


The church at Badger had a remarkable deep blue lake full of large fish. Just had to take a video - the first video of the blog!

Tues 16th July
A calm cloudy day so a mix of indoor/outdoor activities.
Main job was clearing our the middle pond, really overgrown with a thick mat of roots that had to be sawn into pieces & dragged out. After creating an empty pond I put the water lilies back in. No newts in there that I could find - mature ones would have all left some time ago, but I was surprised not to find any of this year's young. Covered in black water and sweat - definitely needed a shower afterwards. And a nap!

Some brilliant poppies coming out where I sowed wild flower seeds.


And the cacti in the conservatory are about to open, hope I can capture the moment on my lapsed time camera set-up. Which is an old smart phone and a free app!




CV improves, but ever so slowly. an improvement that in part fuels the jostling and queuing around the newly re-opened shops, there may of course be repercussions from this easing in a few weeks.What is very noticeable is how slow we are to get the figures down compared to other EU countries, for example France as shown in the following curves from yesterday, where we start from the time in early April when we both had about 1000 deaths a day. The reason would seem to be the half-baked and shambolic approach that we've shown compared to others.


Wed 17th June
An early morning shop at Sainsburys, catching the oldies' slot. Plain sailing.
My task of the day was clearing all the overgrown vegetation from the bottom pond. Eventually got rid of it - just three lily plants in the pond now. I rescued a female newt from the water, didn't see any more. I put her in my indoor nursery and fed her a small garden worm. She devoured that readily enough. Running out of nemetode worms for the efts, so giving them mosquito larvae instead.

Much being made by the government of a "remarkable British scientific achievement" - a drug that will save the lives of 12% of the very worse affected. Basically the result of clinical trials into the use of an existing drug. At best it may have brought down yesterday's 233 figure by about 20. Hancock claims it will save thousands of lives. Just how long does he expect us to have these high death figures! Shows how desperate the government is for any good news that they over-hype things. I'm getting very tired of this government's steady stream of bullshit.

The much anticipated cereus cacti flowers opened overnight. I'll hopefully to get a decent lapsed time video out of the big event but here are a few stills. I find it amazing that two separate plants (shown below) opened in perfect synchronism.


 

Two zoom sessions tonight.
First up with the Green Party on Green economics. Great presentation, 600 or so attended. Great policies however the GP stands not a cat in hell's chance of being in power. Nice to dream!
Then our local Transition zoom with a presentation by member Keith Budden on Transport & Air Pollution issues surrounding the coronavirus. An audience of 22, not brilliant in terms of outreach.

Thursday 18th June
A rainy start to the day so after reading some Guardian, emails, etc got started on the July newsletter for Transition.

Also made a banner for Saturday's XR walk to London. A protest march against HS2 from Brum to London, which I shall only do the first day of. Don't feel like doing 20 miles a day with a backpack and then tenting it at night. Playing the age card gets me out of all sorts! Not a bad banner except when I'd finished I realised that for some reason I had the number of hospitals wrong, should say 195  - I can amend it easily enough. Anyway that's £540 million a hospital - 195 big ones like QE Brum. It all beggars belief. The banner has holes in the top corners for string so I can wear it round my neck - just like Paddington bear. Maybe I should put my address on the reverse side.


It's a protest march but with a 4m space between participants so it's not really an organised protest, just a day out for a walk that happens to be with a lot of like minded people. The reason for this arrangement is that the government has just introduced legislation against gatherings of more than 6, ostensibly for CV reasons but I think it's really it's to dampen the BLM protests and the right-wing trouble makers.

Also finished off a watercolour painting from last night, a bluebell wood - in a sort of pointillist style.




CV infection rates per day seem stuck at just above a thousand - yellow curve below. It wouldn't take much to make them rise again and the government is being decidedly non-committal about what else will open up and when. It will be a last minute decision. They must be wetting themselves.



Friday 19th June
Making up for the lack of rain, almost an inch in the last two days, not far off our monthly average. A dry spell from today, back to normal!

Finalised my 4 day elapsed time video of the cereus cactus coming into glorious flower. It opens at night so used an LED lamp, so clarity not so good. Also, the day after they opened the phone I was recording on, powered down and I lost a day's worth of video. Anyway the final edited video isn't too bad considering.



Spent quite a chunk of time getting organised for tomorrow's Rebel Trail walk with XR. Briefly joined a Zoom in the morning but mainly to say hello. Chat mainly for the campers. Looks like being a great week. Beginning to regret being a wuss over camping and walking the whole week. Easily said from the comfort of an armchair of course. It's certainly very heartening to see the way everyone is chipping in with the workload, food, support. Never any pressure or expectation or judgement. I feel very proud to be a small part of it. The communications channel is Telegram and there is a constant stream of chat pinging away on my computer. Basically all I have to do is be there for 9am. Helen is insisting on driving me there and will collect me afterwards, she is right of course - the train is a bit of a risk. And I am an old man!

My book on drawing came today (all of £1.95 - including postage!) so I've set up an easel in the cabin and made a start following the course. Helen bout the easel for me about 30 years ago when I was last doing art and it's simply gathered dust since. I knew it would come in useful! Most impressed with this drawing book. Not sure where it's leading but learning to draw will be no bad thing. Should help with real life watercolour work eventually.

Had a pub meal tonight, plus a couple of bottles of Enville beer - a wonderful local brew. Collected from the OHAH pub at the bottom of the road, usual selection - a Scampi and a Hunter's Chicken - £10 for both, we know how to push the boat out.

Used the watercolour pencils for the first time, a simple moonscape. I actually used traditional watercolour for the dark sections and pencil for the rest, so a mixed media effort. I am beginning to see how they will have uses in future painting, another set of tools.



Saturday 20th June
Up early for a day walking with XR in protest over HS2. Helen gave me a lift into Brum where there were 80 or so XR supporters assembling. Unfortunately shortly after I arrived I had an urgent need of a crap. Luckily I had packed my 'shit kit' - a trowel and some bog paper so there was nothing for it, I had a crap in the centre of Birmingham - just opposite Millenium Point where they'd planted some shrubs. Very sandy soil thankfully and I don't think anyone noticed although I may be on a surveillance video camera somewhere! Anyway, after the usual photo opportunities and press photos and interview we set off at 10am on what was a planned 19 mile walk to the first camp site. We organised ourselves into groups of 6 to comply with regulations on CV and tried to observe 2m spacing within groups. In the event the police ignored us, XR is obviously not seen as a threat any more. However we were tailed throughout by two H2S security vehicles - presumably they were concerned that we might try to damage something on one of the HS2 construction sites that we passed. Plenty of interesting chat along the way, people I spoke to had come from London, Ipswich, Oxford. And of course the Midlands. I sensed that that nobody expected the march to make much difference, but there was a deep frustration with the way just about everything is going and a feeling of powerlessness. The march was a way of preserving sanity and self respect. A way of countering the deep sense of hopelessness and impending doom. Just doing something. Anything.

Ready for the off
The oldest person on the march - by a good 10 years I suspect !
The route was NE through very run down industrial areas then we headed East, passed under the M6 and headed south for the NEC area. We passed though many suburbs that I was totally unfamiliar with, some very affluent indeed some very, very depressing. A snapshot of today's Britain. Interestingly I never saw a soul in the affluent areas. No doubt they had plenty of rear space to live in, leaving the front areas as expensive parking places for their Audis and BMWs . In the 'other' areas there were lots of people spilling out on to the pavement, doing stuff, asking us questions - and always supportive.

Socially distanced lunch stop at Castle Bromwich Hall

At about 5pm six marchers who weren't camping (which included me) split off and walked to the NEC train station, where Helen collected me. I was pretty well worn out, I estimated we had walked 14 miles. There's no way I could walk the 20 miles a day for the week, especially as the temperature is forecast to zoom up.

Sunday 21st June
A quiet morning after a much needed long sleep. A few hours spent knocking the Transition newsletter into shape. It's almost there, although with new environmental items coming in all the time it's difficult to draw a line on it. Anyway it should go out early in July.

A cloudy and cool day, the lull before the hot weather returns. I'm so glad we get periods of both in this country. Spent a few hours in what is becoming the art cabin doing drawing exercises. All adds to the day's variety and keeps boredom at bay.

I've been a bit concerned about my 3 baby newts as I could only see two  a few days ago. And today I can only see one. I can only conclude that the big newt I rescued from the pond earlier in the week has eaten them! I've been giving it a worm every day too so it was hardly starving. Really annoying as I've taken a lot of trouble bringing those three on from eggs. Three months' careful work. Not to mention the nematode worms I bought for them on eBay. Anyway I've now removed the lone survivor to a different container, safe from the cannibal.  This explains why there are no baby newts in the ponds this year, the mature ones have eaten them all. All part of the fight for survival I guess.

So nothing else to report today. Letting my legs recover after yesterday's walk!

Monday 22nd June
The week ahead is forecast to be hot and sunny. So out in the garden early while it's cool. A lot of weeding after the rains, trimming, a bit of shredding etc etc. Lower pond looking good after removing the overgrown water plants. Plenty of lilies coming out, plenty of damsel flies too. And a few common newts still in the water.


I seem to have decided to sell the glass fusing equipment, I say this because I've started clearing out the shack. A subconscious decision appears to have been made, presumably by the inner me. A long overdue clear-out anyway - come what may.

CV deaths today are a low 15, Monday is always low but even so. And tomorrow there are to be announcements on lockdown easing. Looks like the government is getting more confident that there won't be a second wave. Not now anyway.

Y-axis shown as log scale
So this Lockdown Blog, like lockdown itself, feels like it's coming to an end. I give it a few more days. The really big change will be when we hit the road with the caravan in tow.

Tuesday 23rd Jun
A hot day today so up early to get the bikes on the car and zoom off to a location just east of Hereford. There is a lovely area around Marcle Hill and that was today's route. Very quiet, apart from the Red Kites and Buzzards! Very hilly so not a long ride this time, about 20 miles.



The second reason for choosing this location was that I had a printer to collect from Currys in Hereford. I ordered it last night and Hereford is the nearest drive & collect store. For some reason they don't offer delivery. In theory you arrive on the car park, click a button on the app,  and the product is brought out and placed in the car boot. In practice the app is so complicated that I gave up and went in the store where I negotiated a standard collection. Currys have gone to a lot of trouble over this but for me at least it just didn't work. Anyway I now have a new laser printer to replace the one I've had for about 10 years which is giving lots of problems with print quality. I'll try to give it away, someone may be able to sort it.

Today there were announcements on lockdown easing on many fronts. Restaurants, pubs, holiday venues opening plus the 2 metre rule is now 1 metre.  Essentially lockdown is over. It's a gamble by the government as the deaths are up to 280 today and daily infections are staying high. A trade off between acceptable deaths and acceptable economic damage.  Time will tell if the gamble pays off.


Wed 24th June
Last night's water lily painting, using watercolour pencils for the first time. Based on a photo from a few days ago.


A really hot day today, up to 33C at 4pm. So glad not to be walking. Dave of WFXR sent a message at 2am this morning saying that he couldn't sleep because of aching legs - yesterday he walked 26 miles in high temperatures with a big back-pack. I'm full of admiration for all those wonderful people doing the walk. They are getting rapturous receptions at locations affected by HS2. Must be amazing.

We cycled over to Bewdley today so I could do a bit of gardening at the meeting house. Amazingly it hadn't grown all that much in the two months (?) since I was there last. We shared a tuna mayo sandwich and a scone at the Garden Cafe. Back by 2pm to try to find somewhere to escape the heat.



 A U3A Zoom at 4pm went well, then tea and an evening drawing in the cabin while listening to Cat Power. Bliss. Helen doing a Labour Party Zoom.

Thursday 26th June
Another hot day, up at 6am to get three hours in on the computer before going into Kidderminster to support XR and take photos of today's protest for press releases. Today is the publication of PCCC report on how useless the government has been [my words] on climate change, so XR are delivering a letter to MP Mark Garnier suggesting the government gets its finger out [again, my words but that's the gist of it]. This is part of a national XR letter drop campaign to all MPs.

The long PCCC report has been analysed by one of the UK Scientists Warning experts who says:

Throughout the tables of recommendations to the various government targets, one phrase is repeated:
“......planning for a minimum 2°C and consideration of a 4°C global temperature rise (by 2100 from pre-industrial levels).”
This is very telling and deeply concerning too. Many say 4 degrees will likely be the end of our civilisation...

With the potential thawing of the Tundra after the recent soaring temperatures and the subsequent methane release, it all feels like the long predicted climate disaster will be coming sooner rather than later. Do I expect the government to listen? Nope. Why do I bother? No idea.

Band of CV safe XR protesters

Putting our letter on Mark Garnier's office door


The simple and stark message for the government
Temperatures over 30C in the afternoon so went to bed for an hour. Helen off at 4pm to eat fish & chips in Hilary's garden with the usual choir gang. Just the weather for fish & chips - I don't think !

And today the country seems to be suffering from lockdown and heat stress. Violence at an illegal street party in London, horrendous crowding on Bournemouth's beaches. It seems lockdown has now ended for many people, even though the relaxed measures announced a few days ago don't come in for more than another week. If the government has to impose a second lockdown I dread to think what will happen. With daily infections and deaths not coming down very fast, and the Test & Trace system only tracking half those infected, a second wave is very possible.

================================

So phase one of the pandemic is coming to an end and now seems a suitable time to bring this log to an close. It started on 23rd March and today is 25th June, so just over three calendar months of lockdown. It's certainly not been boring!

If we get a second lockdown, I'll be back blogging!