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. 

Wed 20th Jan

Cases still falling and deaths still high, so nothing unexpected. The gov. is pulling out all the stops to make the vaccine program a success, they can't afford yet another cock-up. I had my jab yesterday. Pfeizer, which is unfortunate as there is no data on the effect of delaying the second dose. In Whitty we trust.

Had our U3A science zoom today in which I gave and introduction to digital imaging and an introduction to genealogy. Very well received. I've actually finished my family tree for now. If cousin Ken  provides the info on his immediate family I'll do an update. So I've sent out the data files to my family. Whether they look at them is up to them, maybe they look when I'm long gone.

And early today, Trump left the White House for his Florida retreat. Later in the day Biden & VP Harris were sworn in and Biden gave a wonderfully warming speech on the theme of unity. He has a huge list of problems but I think he's the right man for the US at this point in time. Feeling very optimistic for a change.  And snowdrops are coming out!

And here are a few real ones from a local walk.

Sat 23rd Jan

Another cold spell, with snow overnight. Out in the mid-morning sun to take a few photos.

Covid cases still falling but nowhere near fast enough, and deaths still creeping up. We are bringing in more stringent border controls in fear of new variants. And the general feeling is that the lockdown will go on for some time.  So we stay away from everything and everyone.

Monday 25th Jan

Down to -8C last night and a new snowfall. A sunny morning so togged up and we went out into the winterwonderland.

Cases still falling, deaths about at the peak now I think, next few days will tell. This curve from Saturday. Deaths/cases labelled wrong way round on LHS I now notice!

And for once a painting I'm really pleased with!

Thursday 4th Feb

Cases still coming down, but very slowly. Deaths coming down a bit faster now, possibly the vaccine is now having an effect. It's not helping the NHS though. Just over 4 weeks into lockdown III and I would not expect us to come out before March. The number of cases at around 20,000 per day is the level we had going INTO the tird lockdown. The right wing press is acting like it's all over for some reason. In spite of worrying mutations in the virus that could knock ouput the current vaccines. Already a consortium of big pharma companies is working on a vaccine with wider efficacy - there's going to be a lot more money to made here if any of the the mutations is anywhere near as bad as is suggested.

Have spent a lot of time this last week developing a Covid Simulator - using Javascript so it can be activated by anyone with a single click. So I put it out to several groups that I'm associated with and as far as I can tell only one person has run it. I'm beginning to think I'm really weird - I design something that's hugely interesting and absorbing (and clever to boot but we'll pass over that) yet everyone else just ignores it.  And it's the topic that's been top of everyone's agenda for a year now. They could at least run it out of politeness!

Their loss - as they say. 

Perhaps someone reading this blog could click this link to run it and tell me why it's so nerdish/boring/difficult/whatever

Went to the health centre today for a blood pressure test and to have blood taken for a range of checks. Blood pressure was bang in centre of good! Other test results next week.

Thurs11 Feb 

Figures continue to drop - ever so slowly. I did a projection today (dotted line below) and it looks like early March before the cases get really low. Which will make it a 2 month lockdown, just like the first one. Concerns over the SA variant are fading, they've not found too many cases so far and we are at long last (12 months late) introducing proper border controls. The SA variant has everyone spookes as it seems to significantly reduce vaccine efficacy. I heard a theory that the highly transmittable Kent variant is keeping the SA variant at bay. Can't say I understand that. 

Had the rest of my blood test results today, PSA, cholesterol, liver - and something else, can't remember. Anyway they were all normal.

Paintings keeping me occupied, just as well given the cold weather.

Mon 15th Feb

A sunny day and not cold so we had our first bike ride of the year. A loop to Rushock church and back. Seems like we've emerged from a cave, the weather has been so miserable these last few weeks. 

Covid cases are still dropping but seem to be flattening at about 10,000 per day which is really high. Deaths dropping more quickly, possibly the effect of the vaccinations is showing. But it doesn't look like the lockdown will end anytime soon. Johnson is due to make an announcement next Monday.

Wed 24th Feb

The government anouncment was a bit of a damp squib really. Schools back early March and a slight expansion on family mixing but otherwise no change. Which is accounted for by the fact that cases are stck at 10,000 a day. Deaths are falling still but with cases so high there is a risk of the virus taking off again. We seem to be stuck. How to get the cases down is the big problem and sending all the kids back isn't going to help. Vaccinations are proceeding well - now up to 18 million. But if vaccinations don't stop the spread (an unknown ) they are not our salvation.

Wed 10 Mar

I've been heavily immersed in writing software for a virtual art exhibition these last few weeks so no time for blogging. However I might just have finished it all (unless someone comes up with a problem) Anyway the site is at and the demo exhibition is at  A site with real data will be activated in October.

So, getting back to normal as the saying goes. Normal being not at all normal of course. Another 4 weeks of lockdown ahead unfortunately. Deaths are falling nicely, no doubt thanks to a 35% vaccination level, but cases are stuck at around 5000 a day and with schools back this week we can expect cases to rise again.  The question is whether it's something we can live with. A few weeks will have to elapse before we see what is happening. 

15th Mar

Spent several hours today cleaning the caravan. The roof was covered in green slime and had to leave the central bit as I couldn't reach. Anyway it's now looking really fine. Only problem is that we can't use it for at least another month because of the bloody virus. Weather warming up slowly and blossom out in the orchard - covered in bees.

Covid cases stuck at just under 6000 a day although deaths still dropping nicely.

It seems my wonderful virtual exhibition software is not so wonderful after all - it won't run on iPhones. I've always hated Apple and now I have an extra reason to hate them. Trying to home in on the problem, I've been trying to get iPhone owners in the A4PE group to do some simple tests but it's such hard work. Like we don't speak the same language. 

Painting continues although being squeezed a bit by my software. Here are a few from the last week or so.

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 (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

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.