Gentleman Cyclist

April 18, 2020

After lockdown

Filed under: politics — admin @ 10:27 pm

When the coronavirus started rearing its ugly, warty head, we as a family decided it would be a good idea to go into lockdown long before the government had advised on this. We have good reason to: my son had a kidney transplant in 2006 and is therefore classified as very high risk. Furthermore, I’ve been on the immunosuppressant methotrexate for the past 12 years for rheumatoid arthritis.

As luck would have it, my arthritis has been giving me very little trouble for quite some years so I weighed up the pros and cons and decided that, on balance, I would rather have a fully-functioning immune system should I contract this particularly nasty virus, and risk a certain amount of pain. At the time of writing, some 6 weeks have passed since I last took methotrexate and in that time I have suffered some mild pain in my hands on something like three of those days.

In the intervening period, we have been pretty close to tragedy. A good friend and her husband both contracted the disease and whereas she seems to have had relatively light symptoms, her husband died a few days ago. He was in his 50s, had never smoked, didn’t drink and had no previously identified problems that indicated a heightened risk. Such tragedies concentrate the mind rather.

My son received his government-inspired letter telling him he is at high risk and that he shouldn’t leave the house for 12 weeks. It was a week or two later that I received mine, but I contacted the rheumatology department at Southend Hospital and discussed my case with a medical specialist there and their assessment was that because I’m on only the one immunosuppressant, I’m not at particularly high risk, and since I haven’t been taking my tablets anyway, I’m still not at high risk.

We have been taking steps to try to ensure that the virus doesn’t enter the house, or, if it does, we kill it as soon as possible by washing our shopping with a detergent solution. No-one has visited us for well over a month. Since 13th March I have been doing my best to avoid shops. I have completely avoided the supermarket, which I identify as being one of the most likely places to pick up an infection. We have had friends and family going into shops for us, and we are very grateful to them, we’ve had a supermarket delivery, and I have managed a click and collect for Monday. We have also discovered a superb greengrocer in the form of Kirby & Lewis. This firm is normally a wholesale greengrocer, supplying schools and restaurants, but of course they are now selling direct to the public. We have had one large delivery from them, and today I visited and one of their staff put a big box of fruit and veg into my car for me. I had ordered by email and have set up a direct payment from my bank account to theirs. This is a convenient and pretty much risk-free way of buying provisions.

We are now looking towards the future and what happens when lockdown ends. The virus won’t magically disappear and vulnerable people will continue to die. The point of lockdown is to try to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and it looks very much, due to very irresponsible advice from Boris Johnson and other ministers in the early days, that it has been a complete failure as this country is heading towards the highest number of deaths in the whole of Europe, and in a year’s time probably only the USA and Brazil will be ahead of us. It’s no coincidence, of course, that these three countries are saddled with the most callous, uncaring leaders that any of them has had in more than 100 years. My son won’t suddenly lose his high-risk status and the more I’ve read about the nature of the victims of this virus, it seems that ICUs are predominantly occupied by overweight blokes over 60, which describes me to a T. Women seem, generally speaking, to be less badly affected. I’ve also seen some suggestions from China that people with blood group O seem to be less at risk than others. I’m A rhesus positive. Getting this disease, then, seems to be a very bad idea, even when the ICUs are not overwhelmed, medical professionals have enough PPE to protect themselves to an acceptable level and the disease is no longer occupying the front pages.

All of this means, of course, that we will still have to take measures to protect ourselves. I can’t see supermarkets, who are, after all, profit-driven, maintaining their social distancing policies that they have introduced in the past month or so, any longer than they have to. That could mean that after the restrictions are lifted, going shopping could be even more risky than it is at the moment. I’ll continue to scour the supermarkets’ websites looking for delivery slots.

What about socialising? We are still going to have to keep ourselves to ourselves, with all the implications that that entails. My wife likes to go out and socialise with her craft groups. We have good friends who fairly regularly visit us, and we visit them. We have other family members to visit – brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandchildren. Will we be able to hug people again without risk? At this stage, no-one has any idea whether catching this horrible disease will provide any long-term immunity. Will there be a vaccine? Will it mutate into something else? And of course, if it does mutate, the original strain will still be doing the rounds, creating mayhem and randomly picking off victims. Shops, pubs and restaurants are all likely to be sources of infection, so you simply cannot get away from the fact that since the transfer of this virus from wild animals to humans, normal socialising will become a game of Russian roulette for vulnerable people. And as has been starkly demonstrated by the case of our friend’s husband, not everyone who is vulnerable can be identified in advance.

We are going to have to get used to a “new normal” – one in which contracting a potentially deadly disease is a very real risk. In that sense, this actually removes some of the cocooning to which late 20th and early 21st century Europeans have become accustomed. That is a most uncomfortable thought. Hopefully as the next few months unfold we will be in a better position to judge.

July 17, 2018

Monk and Trump

Filed under: Essex,politics — admin @ 10:16 pm

Posted on 17 July 2018

There are numerous pointers that show the dire times in which we live, and how the march to fascism is progressing. One of these pointers is media compliance: when the mainstream media uncritically, slavishly even, follows the line of the fascists and makes their job easier.

The BBC comes in for a great deal of criticism for giving the right-wing an easy ride, whether it is the frequency of Nigel Farage appearing on Question Time, or Laura Kuenssberg orchestrating shadow-cabinet members’ resignations on air. There have been a few examples of leading interviewers and presenters doing their jobs objectively and fairly: Eddie Mair’s demolition of Boris Johnson a few years ago was a splendid example, and more recently, Andrew Neill’s attack on a Tory vice-chairman for claiming that Corbyn had been instrumental in passing secrets to this country’s enemies.

However, these are the exceptions and more often than not the extreme right are given a very easy passage. I’m going to dwell on one particular example from BBC Essex which happened on Friday 13th July, and that was Dave Monk’s totally one-sided handling of the anti-Trump demonstrations.

Monk’s approach was with the question “So does protesting work?” which can be answered quite simply by pointing out that any change for the better in people’s living conditions was achieved through protest. Votes for women, abolition of slavery, people’s improved working conditions have all come about because of protest. It’s what our democracy is based on. Yet he took a call from an “Alex” in Burnham who spouted hard-right rhetoric which Monk, an educated man (King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, Degree in Law) failed to challenge in any way. It was such a cosy chat that I suspected that this “Alex” was actually a plant he was given such a free ride for his odious views. His use of the far-right expression “snowflake” to describe anyone with reasonable, compassionate views, was repeated by Monk without question. The view was that Trump is president of the USA, and “Leader of the Free World”, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Monk that the Leader of the Free World does not pass legislation which allows his henchmen to rip babies from their mothers’ arms and lock them in cages, like a scene from the film “Schindler’s List”.

Then the programme cut to BBC Essex reporter Charlotte Rose in Southend who began by setting the scene, describing the small demonstration that was going on, and then added “It’s been quite an eventful 24 hours already, Dave. Clearly we saw in the Sun newspaper this morning the president saying the Brexit deal that Theresa May wants to negotiate was hopeless and we wouldn’t be able to do a trade deal with the US if we went ahead; he then rowed back on that this afternoon, saying the Sun story was “fake news”, he would love to do a deal with the UK so there’s been a bit of a reversal there already”. Sherry Fuller, one of the organisers of the protest, was introduced by Rose but was then rounded on by Monk, who clearly didn’t want any of this “snowflake” talk from his junior reporter, in one of the most unpleasant pieces of patronising on-air bullying I think I have ever heard. Sherry did especially well to withstand his line of questioning, and scored some excellent points. Sherry quite rightly pointed out that Trump was encouraging racists and homophobes and that his policies were very damaging. “Sounds great, Sherry, sounds great!” was Monk’s response, “but isn’t the reality in 2018 we’ve got to do a deal with the Americans in a post-Brexit world? We cannot afford to antagonise this man, we need him too much. He’s the President of the United States of America, we don’t have a lot of choice really.” It is curious, given those statements by Monk, that he didn’t challenge “Alex”. If it wasn’t for the stupidity of Brexit we wouldn’t be in the position that we had to rely upon a president who lies outrageously from day to day and who cannot be trusted on any issue.

When Sherry, quite reasonably, pointed out that Trump is closely following the path taken by Hitler in 1930s Germany, he was totally dismissive. “Don’t tell me you are equating Trump with Adolf Hitler, purleez tell me that!” follow by “No, no, no, no, no, that is going just too far. You may not agree with his views but you cannot say things like this. You are going completely over the top.” Sherry isn’t the first to make this comparison – serious historians say exactly the same thing, and Monk must know this.

When Sherry pointed out that Trump had rubbished May as a PM and that he had no respect for her, Monk said “He said that was fake news, that didn’t happen.”

This facility for a very experienced broadcaster like Monk to adopt the rhetoric of a serial liar, sexual molester, mocker of the disabled, one who allies himself with the KKK and Britain First, whose antics embolden the extreme right-wing thugs who are marching the streets in increasing numbers speaks volumes about where the BBC is politically. It is our licence fee that pays for the likes of Monk to appease fascists like Trump and his broadcast on Friday afternoon showed absolutely no balance. He should be utterly ashamed of himself and should be taken off the air.

Of course, the fact that Monk’s interview with Sherry Fuller took place on Friday afternoon means that Monk would not have been aware that Trump was about to show appalling disrespect to the queen; that a Trade Union leader was about to get beaten up in a pub by fascist supporters of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or that Trump was about to conduct a press conference with Putin that even Trump’s republican supporters were describing as “treasonous”. Of course, he wouldn’t have known these things, but none of them surprise anyone who has spent a few minutes watching Trump’s modus operandi and those of his supporters. They are all very strong signs that we are following a very similar path to that which Europe followed in the 1930s and are eminently predictable.

However, Dave Monk of BBC Essex clearly seems to think that such things are OK with his laid-back appeasement of a fascist president.

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