The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Day 40 in the corona house: Don’t clap for me, I’m a cleaner.


Earlier in this series of quarantine posts, I mentioned that I have a tendency to question accepted wisdom. Some see this as being naturally contrarian, others as being a desire to tilt at windmills.

I hope it’s not default contrarianism and I don’t intentionally tilt at windmills, though I accept it may appear as such to others. There are two fundamental ‘triggers’ for me. The first is a disbelief in holy cows. I can’t think of any body or organisation that is above question or challenge. Secondly, it’s all too easy to accept a universal truth that is so widely held that it must be true (mustn’t it?). After all there’s no need to actually think about or question something that people have always thought was true is there? Down that road leads lazy thinking, herd mentality and action without thought – just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

I prefer to remain open minded about what I’m told, to form my own opinion about what I believe and think. That doesn’t make me right, nor does it mean I won’t land in the same place as everyone else, but it does mean I’ll have thought about how I landed there.
If that all sounds just too weird to you and that degree of questioning seems abnormally and unnecessarily independent then I suggest moving to the next blog or post because it’s going to be a rocky road from this point.

Declaring a starting point

I did say that I don’t believe in sacred cows. However, this cow is so sacred at least in the UK that I have to start by declaring my starting position.

You’ll forgive the shorthand I hope, but for clarity, I believe in the National Health Service as a means of providing very good health care free at the point of use. I don’t support an insurance based system such as is found in the United States equally, I don’t have a problem with those who wish to insure themselves privately. I believe the service provides (on the whole) a good to very good level of medical care and is exceptional in some areas. I believe it is underfunded and staff are undervalued. I also believe it’s overly beurocratic, hasn’t adopted technology well in terms of the experience for many patients and its governance is broken resulting in post-code variations in the use or treatment of various conditions. As to privatisation, I wouldn’t want to see that, but it depends as always on what you mean by privatisation. I would be strongly against front line services or patient facing services being routinely delivered under a different model. I’m more relaxed about some of the ancilliary and administrative functions.

That done, I can now ask the impossible question. Am I the only person who find the scheduled clapping for the NHS a bit naff?

I took place in the first week without giving it too much pause for thought. Some of the events of the following week then started to give me some reservations though I did still join in on week two. Yesterday, I didn’t partake in the mass clapping as it had started to feel rather contrived and in my view risks being counter productive.

That doesn’t mean others shouldn’t partake, nor does it mean that I’m not supportive of or thankful to those working in the NHS. I recognise significant confusion and deficiencies over the provision of adequate personal protective equipment in sufficient numbers. Similar issues exist for maintaining their supply once initial supplied had been provided. I share the view that doctors and nurses should have appropriate equipment and supplies when dealing with patients who may present an immediate and significant risk to their safety and ultimately their life. However, the NHS isn’t alone in this regard. Some of this is language and I’ll return to that shortly, but some of my concern is also the fact the whole idea is feeding a different need to that publicised in the setup.

In the poster above I was struck by the words ‘during these unprecedented times, they need to know we are grateful’. I always twitch slightly with a setup assertion – or put another way, who are ‘they’ and who say’s they need to to know we are grateful. A friend of a friend put it even more directly with the question ‘when did the NHS get so needy?’

An early clap for the NHS poster

To answer his question, I don’t think it ever has been needy in this way. I don’t believe there has ever been any doubt that the public are grateful. I do also have a slight problem with the qualification that it’s important at this time – why is that there ?
In answering that question we hit the core difficulty I have. I can’t believe the poster means it’s important now but not before or once the crisis is over, although that’s what it says. My suggestion is that this has less to do with the needs of the NHS staff and more to do with the needs of the poster producer(s) and us the wider public. We are broadly powerless in the face of the virus, could it be that these communal rounds of applause are more to do with assuaging that concern than in providing needed reassurance to those in the NHS. If so, that’s fine but it does rather change the nature of the event.

Now to the language concerns I mentioned a little earlier. Looking at three posters all for the same events but sending very different and mixed messages.

The first poster refers to our NHS carers. As stated earlier I recognise the service and risks being taken by medical staff in our accident and emergency and hospital wards. They are doing a marvellous job, but a job they chose and presumably knew that this may involve some risk. Those working in infectious disease units know there is an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease. I don’t mean to imply the current risk profile comes with the territory, it is clearly disfunctional and poorly supplied, but we do risk overstating the nurses as angels line. They have chosen a vocation with risk just as a police officer, prison officer or soldier does.
So the first poster wishes to thank those in the NHS, this excludes the entirity of the social care providers, those providing the same services in nursing and care homes, home workers and local authority or private care givers, hospice and many charity workers, none of whom are NHS staff. That hardly seems fair given that these people with equal compassion and commitment are taking similar or exactly the same risks.

The second poster is even less inclusive just focused on those within the NHS who work in hospitals – forget the GP’s, district nurses, health workers and visitors etc. The last is arguably even less inclusive focused on NHS front-line workers (admin, finance, porters, technicians are apparently not to be included).
I’m not being totally serious with these distinctions as I’m sure all three posters mean well – but my point still stand. Actions taken in haste may be taken in good faith but can still cause some to feel excluded and undervalued which I don’t think is helpful in the current circumstances.

Finally, did anyone think through the messaging before going to press – clap for the NHS ? As a wag of my acquaintance said ‘I think they’ve got enough on their plates haven’t they?’ Also, look at the splendid social distancing apparent in the second of the three posters above. Is that a poorly chosed picture, do the staff think it doesn’t apply to them or did the producer just not spot that it wasn’t reinforcing the social distancing theme?

For the last two weeks, on Thursdays at 8pm we have had a series of non socially-distanced gatherings that would in any other circumstance be broken up and potentially tickets issued to those taking part.

The three photographs above from three different areas of the country show the new weekly meeting outside hospitals of the local emergency services. If you blow up the photos you’ll see none are maintaining 2m distance, very few have masks on and all have and will be engaging with the public including the most vulnerable in their communities. These gathering lasted between 5 and 15 minutes on average, some longer. More than enough time for the further transmission of the virus.

It’s fairly reasonable to assume NHS staff have been in contact with active cases, similarly for paramedics and police officers. Let’s assume there are 2-3 infected people in these groups. The risk is the emergency services become the means by which this spreads further.

In many cases we see all three emergency services meeting up to mark the 8pm event. I wonder why?
If the purpose of the 8pm event is for the public to thank those on whom they depend that’s one thing, but it need not turn into a mutual appreciation event however well intentioned. This strikes me as being indicative of people seeing themselves as outside of the active bubble. Police are policing those in the bubble, paramedics assist those in the bubble etc. All need to understand they are in the same bubble and are not external to it. This behaviour is not helpful.

Today, I was listening to the Health and Social Care Sectretary giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee. In that hearing, we heard a call for something similar to the clapping for NHS worksers but to include local authority workers, environmental health and trading standards officers. This event is achieving (or risks achieveing) exactly the opposite of its stated aims. It is building division, reinforcing a special and reserved space for the NHS based as much as anything on political dogma at the expense of those doing broadly similar work elsewhere.

I’m not usually a fan of reductio ad absurdum, but in this case it’s potentially helpful.

As I mentioned, I respect and will defend medical professionals and those who choose to nurse, but that doesn’t automatically confer angelic status. If it did, where would this chain of righteousness end?

Jane (for the purposes of debate) is a nurse and therefore automatically an angel for working at risk. Does Ian the Uber driver who ferried her from home to the hospital gain any angelic quality for enabling her to undertake her duties? Is the food delivery driver from a local farm shop angelic for keeping some of the medical staff in food and household goods? Is the Amazon driver who delivered the 3D printed mask angelic or a hero for making this delivery? If he is a hero, would he or she have been equally heroic if he or she had delivered something purely frivolous to Jane’s address. Is the local community pharmacist to be praised for dealing with two customers preventing them from otherwise ending up in Jane’s A and E unit.

The more we think of it, the more interdependant we are. To single one sector out is logically inconsistent and although it may assist with morale it comes with costs both in terms of inclusivity, mutual respect and further virus transmission. Of course everyone remains entirely free to join in if it helps them cope with the situation – but for me it’s started to feel more like those Chrsitmas party games that must be participated in or you’re not enjoying yourself (as defined by the host).
I thank all those making life more bearable, putting themselves at risk, undertaking their jobs in extremely challenging circumstances and working to keep people safe, well and enjoying a good quality of life. That applies to all those within the NHS and those outside of this important and amazing organisation from delivery drivers to retailers, care workers and those caring for others at home.

Today’s post takes its name from a mangled version of Don’t cry for me Argentina. For those who like to hear the tracks, it may be heard on the player below

Don’t cry for me Argentina – Julie Covington (from Evita)

Day 39 in the corona house: Working 9 till 5


Day 39 in the corona house

The past couple of days has been dominated by work one way or another.

Due to a combination of events, self-isolation, preceeded by holiday and time in lieu, it was the end of February when I last went into an office to work. The small matter of being made redundant during that time didn’t help things (that was just prior to the quarantine kicking-in). Then the challenge of looking for work when half of the country was shut and the other half was being furlowed made the timing less than optimal to put it politely.

Then at the beginning of this month, I was approached to see if I would be interested in a role in a similar space. That led to a job offer and the last couple of days I’ve been doing the associated admin and prep for that which has taken a fair bit of time.

I’ve found this week pretty solitary which is an odd thing to say given I’ve been isolating for nearly 40 days. However, Vaughan works remotely in his home office most of the day and though I find things to do – such a blog, sort group admin out it’s mostly just me and Taz.

Solitude isn’t something I’m unused to but this week I’ve just noticed it more. It is making doing stuff – such as blogging more difficult. At the moment it doesn’t seem to serve much point, other than take up some of the time.
Whether it’s a manifestation of isolation fever, boredom or something else I’m uncertain, but let’s hope it passes.

Day 36 in the corona house: You’ve got to be carefully taught.


Three dozen days in quarantine

Good morning from the heart of Peckerwell, that small unrecorded parish in south east London that has at least a split personality, possibly multiple personalities and the associated disorders that go with them.

The name describes that nebulous zone in which Peckham blends with Camberwell and vice versa. Of course there is no such zone, you are either in Peckham in the borough of Southwark or you are in Camberwell, also in the borough of Southwark. There is no demilitarised zone, no neutral zone or no man’s land but despite this Peckerwell most certainly exists.

Rather like Liverpool and Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow or Cheltenham and Gloucester, these places share or at least co-exist in adjoining grids on a map. However whether through friendly or less friendly rivalry, they have an interesting relationhip. It’s not close enough to be a love-hate relationship or distant enough to be animosity. To me it’s they are places that really deserve to be twinned with the other but would never elect to do so voluntarily.

To understand the parish of Peckerwell you need only consider the welcome signs to the two neighbouring districts. Peckham’s sign is loud neon, probably backed with some very funky reggae track and has either the confidence or irony to include the word fabulous. In contrast, Camberwell Green – note the addition of the Green even in areas of Camberwell that are not the green and you get a glimpse of their individual characters. Camberwell’s sign is ‘classy’ – well they will tell you that, though it’s classy in the sense a tombstone or a sign saying ‘public toilets’ are classy. It’s gravitas is marked by its funerial dullness.

There is also something of a we look up to the them and we look down on them history between the neighbourhoods. There is a reasonably well known comment about Camberwell that says:


Half the residents of Camberwell are either Lawyers or Psychiatrists. The other half are either their clients or their patients.

In Victorian times, a much more pointed version was commonplace which said The residents of Camberwell are either Lawyers, Psychiatrists or Jailors, the residents of Peckham and Brixton are their clients, patients or prisoners.

The unofficial symbol of Peckham

Historically, Camberwell grew as a village around the church of saint Giles which still stands albeit now on Peckham Road. The local village and later market green known as goose green became the heart of the village. (Strage how goose green doesn’t have the same ring about it isn’t it?). The goose became the unofficial symbol of Camberwell.

As nearly every village had it’s own market space, Camberwell engaged in some early marketing and drew in the crowds with exotic wildlife – a mix of circus and tourist attraction. These included Chinese teal. fighting mallards and even Pelicans. Obvjously the smell and noise wasn’t going to be something Camberwell wanted, so they were hatched, raised and ‘farmed’ in nearby Peckham.

I can’t help but raise a wry smile when walking through Camberwell. There is no mention or sign of a goose to be seen there today. That part of their early trading days is seemingly erased from the district. In contrast walking just a little way beyong St Giles church into Peckham, I pass a cafe called the Peckham pelican next to the Pelican estate. Local addresses include Teal house, Kingfisher House and Heron house all on the sites that raised those birds for display in Camberwell. Irony indeed.

When you’ve finished buying your rustic bread and having your shoes resoled at the Peckham cobbler in SE15 you could walk a few streets to Camberwell in SE5. You might notice that the same bread is no longer a rustic loaf but is artisan bread from an artisan bakery. Similarly the cobblers is a traditional craftsman shoe repair. Additionally, you’ll have noticed your post code as increased by 10 and your house price dropped by between thirty and fifty thousand pounds for similar properties. So you can see for some, it’s very important which side of the Peckerwell expanse you land. I’m pleased to say most people rub along pretty well most of the time though that wasn’t the case this morning.

Decorated tree in Peckham

As I was walking Taz this morning (I’m convinced if you asked Taz he might tell you he was walking me) we came across that ever popular street activity – casual racism.

A lady was decorating one of the large trees outside her house with lanterns, streamers and the like. She looked south Asian in origin but I later found through a socially distanced check that she was adopted and had lived in the house for over forty years. She was a student of the green man and celebrated the old traditional seasonal festivals rather than take part in structured religion. The tree decorations were to celebrate the pagan festival of Ēosturmōnaþ (I had to look it up).

This celebration was clearly offfending a couple in the street (think Wayne and Waynetta or Shazza and Bazza) who were complaining at the rather festive decorations. I hung around in the adjacent shrubbery while Taz sniffed thinking she may need some support. I was wrong. At first, the complaining couple assumed the decorations were something to do with Eid until the woman hanging the decorations pointed out she wasn’t Muslim nor was it late May. (15-love).
Wayne and Waynetta complained that she was too bloody late for Easter. The woman unphased pointed out that Orthadox Easter was in fact next week were she celebrating it, which she wasn’t but it she were, she would be a bit bloody early (30-love).

Taz on a mission

Wayne and Waynetta then changed tack somewhat asking in terms whether this was something they did where she came from? Without much more than a momentary hesitation she replied “Haringey you mean? I’m not really sure dear” (30-love).

At this point I was at full leads length away and shouted over asking if everything was ok. “Fine thank you just discussing theology” came the reply. (Game – thank you linesmen, thank you ball boys).

At this point, Taz who was being entirely inoffensive shoved his head through the bushy grass which seemingly alarmed Waynetta sufficiently that both she and Wayne made their excuses and left.

I then had an entirely unexpected discussion (from about 12 feet) about pagan celebrations and their role in the early Christian Church and the influence the Anglo Saxon culture had on it. Hardly something I had expected for Easter Bank Holiday Monday, though stragely appropriate.

Now, I don’t know much about early Anglo Saxon pagan celebrations but I was able to dazzle with some insights into the morphing of Saturnalia into Christmas. I think I may have disappointed somewhat when I explained this didn’t come from a doctorate of theology but rather series three of the big bang theory.

Sheldon explains Saturnalia – The Big Bang Theory

During the following five minutes I learned a few things. Firstly, we’re about the only country that celebrate Easter using that word. Most celebrate an event stemmed from the latin Pascha referring to the aramaic and Hebrew word ‘pashac’ describing Jewish passover a few cases in point being:

  • Latin — Pascha or Festa Paschalia
  • Greek — Paskha
  • Bulgarian — Paskha
  • Danish — Paaske
  • Dutch — Pasen
  • Finnish — Pääsiäinen
  • French — Pâques
  • Indonesian — Paskah
  • Irish — Cáisc
  • Italian — Pasqua
  • Lower Rhine German — Paisken
  • Norwegian — Påske
  • Portuguese — Páscoa
  • Romanian — Pasti
  • Russian — Paskha
  • Scottish Gaelic — Càisg
  • Spanish — Pascua
  • Swedish — Påsk
  • Welsh — Pasgh
The Pagan Godess Ēostre

However, in England and Germany early Christianity had a tough time shifting the engrained pagan deities including one godess of fertility and renewal – her name being Eostre.

Many theological scholars point out that many pagan festivals were incorportated or borrowed into the Christian calendar and Easter (or at least the name Easter) may be another such example.

Symbols associated with her were the hare (March hares etc), garlands of spring flowers and eggs all signs of a renewed spring in Anglo Saxon northern Europe. As Vaughan has just broken open (and now I look more closely mostly eaten) the second Easter egg I’m glad that bit of pagan celebration was carried forward.

Strange to think it might be the Easter hare rather than the Easter bunny isn’t it? In any event whether you are celebrating the period for religious or non religious reasons, may you have a safe peaceful and joyful day.

The title of todays post comes from a number of the same name from the musical South Pacific. For those who like to hear the tracks, it can be heard here sung by Mandi Patinkin in the control below.

Day 35 in the corona house: I will go the distance.


Day 35 and counting

Where to start with today? I’m tempted to say at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. However, it isn’t the beginning or the end of the day (of the typical day under this regime), it’s the bits in the middle that are causing some of the issues at present.

Fatigue in the sense of a motivation dip is of course a recognised phenomenon. There is a rough equivalence recognised in those experiencing kidnap or confinement. The day typically starts and ends with a degree of routine that form signposts for the progress of the day. However, between those is a temporal unknown a state in which the speed at which time passes is no longer a constant. I’ve certainly noticed that today. I walked the dog, watched a film with our group and bibbady, bobbady boo .. it’s 7pm. I’m apparently less impacted than some who are finding days and even the week as a whole runnning into itself making the days fairly arbitrary.

Cabin fever risk period.

Of course, natural cycles, peaks and troughs are something we all recognise. The government knew this at the start of the special measures. At that time, they were concerned that natural apathy would be likely to set in after 14 days or so. The increase in the number and severity of the channels telling people to stay inside indicates we’re just in the high risk of apathy period at present.

Today’s figures in the UK should help explain why, although tough and frutrating, we need to continue the social distancing for a while longer yet. We’re seeing the deaths now for those who became infected perhaps four to five weeks ago so that long at least after turning the corner will probably be needed to see off this wave.

It’s also worth noting that we’re already around a quarter of the way through the year. I was sent an interesting presentation during the week which seems somehow relevant given that milestone. New Years Resolutions aren’t something I really do – mainly because they never make it beyond March.
However, with this much time to consider what to do with my time and with the added impetus of change following redundancy, this gave a new slant on ways to improve or tackle personal growth. For others in similar stages either for similar reasons or just through boredom, here is the idea.

I’ve decided to take up the challenge of a seasonal theme – themes like a good idea to me, though I’m yet to decide on that theme. We will see what the rest of the week brings.

Shortish and sweetish today. I thought as we all need a bit of a pick-me-up and I can’t hear the words ‘social distance’ without hearing the Randy Rainbow version, you may as well share my pain. I may have more to say tomorrow … who can say?

I can no longer hear the words ‘social distance’ without hearing this

Today’s blog title takes its name from the soundtrack to Hercules. For those who like to hear these tracks it can be heard on the control below.

The original ‘I can go the distance’ – Hercules

Day 33 in the corona house: The windmills of your mind.


Thirty three days in Corona Towers

As well as words, I like symmetry and somehow today seems quite a symmetrical day.

I don’t mean the fact that 33 is one of the few horizontally symmetrical numbers, though it is. However, it’s a day on which a number of related thoughts and themes came together to bring a certain symmetry to the day.

As I think of it maybe it’s not the exactness of symmetry that I like but rather the serendipity of the patterns and depths that can be found in things, if you bother to take the time to look. If being inside and with limited interactions has shown me anything is that there is complexity and depth to anything if you give it the time to reveal itself.

A former work colleague and manager used to refer to me as ‘the last surviving member of the flat earth society’. It turns out it was somthing of a compliment, at least I took it as one. He spotted a tendency I have to question the accepted wisdom far more often than not. I should qualify that, it doesn’t apply to everything, I am happy to accept (much to his disappointment) that the world is round and orbits the sun. I don’t challenge everything, but I question far more than most so I’m told.

However, I do question some pretty fundamental truths accepted by just about everyone else. For example, I give far less weight to qualifications (academic) than is typical. Of course they are an indication of how well someone does under a particular testing and learning regime, but I find them less than tertiary in terms of usefulness for the majority of roles or professions.
I recall sharing a Saturday job with a masters degree placement student who went out to replenish kitchen stocks, specifically half a pound of tea. The task rotated around the team and most people took 10-15 minutes. However out masters graduate returned four hours later highly stressed but sans tea complaining it was only sold in quarter pound boxes. The thought of buying two had literally not occurred.

It may confirm your view of my bias that neither do I believe in arbitrary figures for the percentage of a population that ‘should’ attend university. Nor on balance do I believe devolved governments in the UK have been either helpful or added to the greater good of the State of Denmark. Both are pretty universally accepted wisdom and ‘good things’ as defined by most other people.

I am, however, luckily not alone. A school friend is nearly as subversive. You will probably have seen the multiple triangles puzzle doing the Easter rounds this week. Most people see 7 or 12 at first glance, many then up that to 18. My sister in law can see twenty though I think not all are of the same nature (avoiding spoiler alerts).

However, Mike’s answer of just one gave me pause for thought as well as a theme for today’s blog post. The triangular puzzle has been interpreted as a metaphor for integrating minority communities or groups others say it shows our willingness (or not) to shift perspectives. Mike’s more stoic and almost Rabbi Bluesque view of take it for what it is and don’t over think it was a refreshing alternative. Ironic as in stating this and giving us the reasons why we should take that route he demonstrates greater thought as to its parallels than have been demonstrated by the majority.

Accepted wisdom is a well paved road. It is comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow – Vincent van Gogh

To doubt is the beginning of wisdom – Saint Augustine (of Hipo)

Then in perfect serendipity I heard a piece of music that I know both Mike and I consider a personal favourite. Either deeply cerebral or total nonesense depending on your point of view.

Released in 1968 in a hurry (some would say it shows, but I wouldn’t be one of them), Les moulins de mon couer was mashed into a song with music for the 1969 Thomas Crowne affair. The original Beatles strawberry fields option having been felt not to have cut the proverbial mustard by the producers.
Quickly settling on a slight re-translation the resulting song focused on the mind rather than the heart. Windmills of my heart became windmills of my mind sung by the late Noel Harrison in the film.

A circle in a spiral

I’ve always enjoyed the inherent ironies in the song. The French consider it a song about unrequited love, the Anglosphere see it more as a stream of consciousness or the description of a sleepless night. Both may of course be correct.

Secondly for a song and film that is so strongly American, just listen to the clipped vowels, the diction on the words snowball, mountain and windmill Plus I can’t think of any other song of the era that might have contained the line ‘but to whom do they belong?’ – Professor Higgins himself would have been proud.

Speaking of which, Noel, the son of Rex Harrison whose relationship with his more famous father was always littered with urgings to gain more focus provides a further layer. How ironic he should find that focus in such an unstructured song, in so doing he equalled the Oscar win of his father three years earlier (best original song and Best Leading Actor for My fair lady respectively).

You can keep your knights in white satin, for me this was always the go to song for enigmas. Now, I must admit its tied with Nik Kershaw’s The Riddle on that front. However, somehow circles within circles and an ever spinning wheel seemed entirely appropriate today.


Today’s post takes its title from the 1968 film The Thomas Crowne affair. – For those who like to hear these tracks, it may be heard below sung by Noel Harrison who sang the version used in the film.

The Windmills of your mind – Noel Harrison (The Thomas Crowne affair 1968)

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