The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Day 29 in the Corona house: And another hundred people just got off of the train..

06/04/2020

Day 29 in the corona house

Today’s musical track seems strangely appropriate for a number of reasons. It’s taken from the musical Company by Stephen Sondheim, a lyricist and musician who you’ll find towards the top of my personal list of favourites.

As a choice, it’s relevant as well as being strangely ironic. It relates to the constant churn of people in cities such as New York with it’s daily new arrivals and those who ‘go away’ as the lyrics mention. It’s unclear whether that’s merely a reference to leaving New York or something more fundamental, but it does emphasise the transient nature of a city as well as those who live within it.

In terms of the corona virus, the thought of a lively, bustling city with residents and workers jostling through it now seems strange. It’s like watching a film in which people were smoking in a restaurant – it’s something you know happened but it seems like a lifetime ago. How strange it now seems to see television programmes with liberal hand shaking, contact and interaction. I’m sure we will return to it, but those scenes seem almost mildly threatening when seen through the lens of the current emergency.

Vaughan suggested an alternative title – and another hundred people just got Covid in Spain but that needed too much explanation to avoid appearing crass which was certainly not his intention.

Analogy v. Metaphor

I admit to thinking twice about going with the choice myself. What was I suggesting the train is? A literal means of transport? Am I cheapening someone’s death by saying they just got off the train ? A potential minefield of how to offend anyone having lost someone or reading with a particular sensitivity to the words chosen. I could also hear a former English teacher, Mr Hector suggesting it may not be wise to confuse a reader with analogy or metaphor.

In the end, I’ve decided my readers (in as much as there are any) are bright enough to recognise either and open minded enough to go with the flow. It did start me thinking though – so the first train, the literal.

London overground, tube and bus travel are massively reduced

Despite the reports of thousands of Londoners flouting the regulations and undertaking all forms of extreme sunbathing, this isn’t the experience I’ve been living. Nor, in terms of transport is it supported by the statistics. The available figures are from the end of last week but show the overwhelming majority of people are correctly staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel.

Transport for London are reporting tube use down by 90 to 95% based on the equivalent day/week the previous 2 or 3 years. In London that’s millions of journeys per day that haven’t been taken over the past two to three weeks. That significant reduction in terms of percentage reductions is also similar to figures from the RAC and AA both showing reductions of around 80% in routine vehicle traffic over the same period.

The Waggy finger of judgement.

Even with those good figures, I have heard professional level tutting and the wagging finger of judgement saying this is still not enough. I should say I fully support the stay in, don’t take unnecessary journeys message and enforcement where that is necessary, proportionate and not doing so would damage public trust or safety.

The current complaints are some people on the train or tube don’t look like key workers. Also, there has been a spike (a slight increase of around 5%) in vehicle traffic over the past week. Just before rushing to judgement could I make a couple of points to encourage a less sanctimoneous default position.

Not all people on the tube or train look like key workers: I haven’t been on the train, tube, bus (or in the car) for over 29 days, nor do I intend to. I’m also not supporting or apologising for those who think the rules don’t apply to them – we should all stay in, in line with the regulation.
However, those regulations permit me to travel for medical purposes, to travel to work (if that can’t be done remotely), to travel to provide care and assistance for someone who is vulnerable or to carry out certain legal obligations). Those doing so quite lawfully may well not look like a key worker – whatever they look like.

Dorothy “Dot” Brennan (formerly Cotton)

A former work colleague told me how she was on her way to deliver prescriptions (contactless) to relatives and felt most uncomfortable and as if she had to justify why she was on the overground.

I’m in favour of those kicking the behind out of things being dealt with. For others who don’t appear to look like they should to us, I would refer you to Ms Dorothy Cotton

Judge not lest ye be judged

Vehicle use has nudged up in the last week. As to the blip in vehicle use, it may indicate some breaches, though personally, I doubt that is happening on anything other than the edges. It may also be explained by the increasing amount of small businesses now offering delivery. The two week lag may well have given time for many to find ways to stay in business within the governmental restrictions. Let’s be driven by the data trend rather than any one or two days without knowing what may have caused or contributed to them.

In any event, if the train is taken literally we can say far far more than the hundred mentioned have got off it in recent weeks. But what of the metaphorical trains. I think and hope it might be a bit clumsy for me to refer to those dying of the virus as getting off the train. It might equally refer to those getting off the viral train by recovering from it’s effects.

For the purpose of this discussion, I have removed the US track from the chart as it is so dramatic in its exponential curve, that it squashes the European countries into the noise. However, if you look at the graphs tracking new cases, it does give some hope that the impacts of social distancing are starting to show in the data.

Italy has transitioned from exponential to linear in it’s increase and may even be starting to level out (in the sense that the daily increase is reducing its rate). It’s too early to be sure but the inclines for all European states mapped apart from Spain look as though improvements are starting to show up. For this reason, it looks unlikely that those social distancing and wider restrictions are likely to be relaxed any time in April. The current emergency regulations end on 16th April. That’s just after Easter, though my money would be on them being extended in at least their current form until the end of the month, probably until after the May day Bank Holiday weekend.
How we then scale back or transition into a state that is less restrictive is the big question, but thankfully not one for me today. Given the apparent slowdown in infections which in turn has slowed the intensive demand on the NHS to a less devastating level, I for one am happy to abide with the continued social distancing and sheilding however difficult and frustrating that is at times.
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The title for today’s post took comes from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company. For those who like to hear the associated track, it may be heard on the control below.

Day 18 in the corona house: All I ask of you.

26/03/2020

Day 18 in the Corona houseDay

Day eighteen and Vaughan and I have realised that we’ve fallen into a Borg transwarp conduit. It’s the only rational explanation.

Time seems to be travelling at a different rate to normal, we’re unsure if it’s quicker or slower, it’s become a bit of a blur. Of course it could be the fuzzy duck cider but all things considered it’s looking like Borg territory to me.

I noticed an emerging trend among friends yesterday. Many of them noted an increase in their levels of non-specific anxiety. Some people expressed this as a wish to see something positive on Facebook, others just said they were feeling stressed or taking a break from all the doom and gloom.

Last night, Vaughan mentioned the current circumstances are making him feel a bit edgy and he asked me how I was coping. I explained I was the child of war parents, I had lived through flares, space hoppers, deedly-boppers, tamagochi, the Bay City Rollers, seaside special and three seasons of Tenko. I’m pretty much bomb proof.

However, I did suggest that having the humerously named news channel on as constant background might be a contributory factor and maybe we should try something else. Vaughan took me up on my suggestion today and I have to say so far I’ve had better ideas. A little news this morning then cold turkey with a range of customs programmes, the point of which seems to be how much food you can smuggle into Australia, it was fascinating.

The collision of man made fabrics that is ‘Doctors’

A short interlude at one o’clock wbere we caught up with the news headlines and swiftly onwards and downwards to something called Doctors. I have to say this was sixty minutes of back to back disasters, nothing medical as you might expect given the name, these were all wardrobe malfunctions of the highest order. Do the BBC not employ costume designers anymore? I for one thought Sirdar went out of business years ago, but it appears they are alive and well and shipping to Sandwell. If this is the future post redundancy, tomorrows episode will be brought to you by Morrisey and a bottle of voddy.

Could we suspend party politics (by the neck)

I did notice a style of commentary yesterday and again into this morning that I can understand but which is probably entirely unhelpful.

I get that lots of people don’t like Boris and didn’t want him in office. But could we put the sterile party politics to one side for just long enough to get through this shit storm? Some politicians from Conservative, Labour and SNP (Lib Dems have been silent it appears) are working across party boundaries and working in good faith. They are trying to hold the government to account for some areas where in my view, they rightly deserve criticism. Some however still can’t see beyond the tired blue, red debate. I for one think we can do better than that and intend to try.

I’ve been impressed with Jess Phillips as a powerfully motivated constituency MP though I disagree with many of her views. I’m even forming a view that I may have been wrong about Jeremy Hunt – but again that’s probably either the fuzzy duck or the transwarp conduits playing havoc with my reasoning.

We can all judge the government by our own criteria but is it too unrealistic to ask that party aliegence shouldn’t be one of them at this time. Three things I will judge this government and its response by follow – though I realise other people will have their own priorities. These are the three immediate things I would ask of Government.

  1. Personal Protective Equipment for front line medical personnel.
    This is the type of protection an A&E doctor in South Korea is issued with and uses when dealing with Coronavirus cases.
    Protective splash undersuit, paper suit sealed over that, double gloved a viral protection mask (higher filtering capabilities), face and eye screen protection in the form of a headguard. In contrast, most of our doctors have a plastic gown some gloves and a far inferior face mask.

If we are to make it though this crisis without significant losses among those seeking to look after us we have to ensure all front line staff are properly protected. MP’s on all sides have pressed NHS managers to guarantee PPE has been delievered by the end of this week. Of course supply isn’t enough, it needs to maintain replenishment supply lines.

I would also move to provide police with much stronger protective gear. They deal with a high volume of interactions with the public each day. They run the risk of being high profile super spreaders if they are not protected from the public and we are not protected from them and by extension their last dozen contacts. If PPE cannot be provided then I believe we should be looking for a different type of interaction with routine policing during this time.

Priority testing for NHS personnel: The Government has been promising to ramp up testing from roughly five thousand per week to approaching 20,000 per week.

It is fair to say we’re one of the better examples of countries testing (around sixth in the list) but are still dramatically behind those states that have mass testing. The UK had carried out around 64,000 tests by 20th of this month. In contrast, South Korea had exceeeded 317,000

Most importantly, linked to PPE, we don’t know how many of those treating us on the front line are already infected but asymptomatic. Promises to ramp up are fine but they are only that – we need to be testing much more than we are, even now.

The third and last element is food delivery. I and many others have been told we should consider ourselves in at risk groups and remain inside. We should order our food online and take home delivery.

I would love to as I know would others. Sainsbury (as a case in point) doesn’t know I’m at risk but offers to allow me to register as a vulnerable customer, let joy be unconstrained. Though don’t bother trying to register. In a catch 22 style roundabout the website sends you to the help centre, which in turn sends you to the call centre.

After over 60 calls to the call centre, each with 3 minutes of guff before telling you they are too busy to help you, it refers you where? You’ve got it back to the start of the spin cycle by referring you to the website.

I do appreciate the pressure businesses are under but a simple self reporting webform with an auto-responder to confirm receipt would have stopped 59+ of my calls and presumably the same for the other thousands trying to get through. If you can’t support a process you’re better off not offering it at all. A constructive note to the CEO of Sainsbury has been acknowledged but no substantive reply has been received.

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Today’s post title comes from Phantom of the Opera (at last). For those wishing to hear the track in question, it can be played by using the control below.

All I ask of you – Michael Ball (From Phantom of the Opera)

Day 12 in the Corona House: There's got to be something better than this.

20/03/2020

Day 12 in the Corona house

In an attempt to fend off the criticism that this title isn’t a song from a musical I find myself calling on pantomime in saying “Oh yes it is”.

I have to say though that among my friends which has more than its share of theatrical lovies and musical theatre fans, only Bill Meehan in the States is likely to know which without falling back on Dr. Google. We’ve been fairly busy at Gumnut working out how to do new things remotely. I’m trying to manage recruitment processes when communication is impersonal and interviews though possibly remotely seem to be on hold at present. Things are still progressing albeit in fits, starts and with considerable uncertainty.

Those who know the speed of change active in the criminal justice system will recognise that Vaughan had a more significant work challenge today. In normal times, he would have been attending the High Court for an insolvency hearing. That would require a judge, interested parties, a quarrel of lawyers and enough paper to wrap the court to be present for the hearing. As of Wednesday, that was still the Court’s position.
They did move into the 20th century yesterday with the promise of an electronic hearing via Skype. However, neither the Court nor the parties concerned had done this before so it was a promise of a voyage into the unknown. What could possibly go wrong?

I returned from walking Taz to find Vaughan online at his desk infront of a neutral wall. The Skype meeting was underway. Vaughan was listening but had to be ready to activate video had, for example, the judge or counsel asked a question of him.

All I can say is although that didn’t happen, had it been necessary, I would suggest you thinks less of Legal Eagles and more of Will Ferrel in Anchorman. More than this I cannot say. However, the important point was that the hearing although not perfect took place electronically and ‘in person’ to the extent that Skype is in person. Further an order was made that service of papers usually necessary in person, could in the current climate be undertaken via email.
Having a professional interest in dragging the Courts into the 20th century, I was keen to hear how Vaughan felt the process went. His view (as an involved party rather than a casual observer) was that it might need polishing but it could be something that would be viable in the future.

Being alone isn’t nice shock

What surprised me this morning were comments within the wall to wall coverage from people in self-isolation.

All of them mentioned how 2-3 days of reduced contact had been increadibly isolating and how it has given them an insight into what is normal for so many people, especially the elderly in the UK. How they might feel if that reduced contact came with reduced mobility or independence, no Netflix/Amazon and lasted for years I’m not certain. However, I do hope some of them might reflect on the question. If anything positive could come out of this crisis it might be reducing the isolation and exclusion of the elderly or those without extended families. Hopefully some insight might influence future actions and priorities.

There are certainly some things that may come out of this situation that have the impact to make lasting social change. Some political theorists believe meaningful change doesn’t occur incrementally but is the result of revolution or crisis. If they are correct, this may be one of those times.

I’m suddenly able to work remotely and corporate finances can be found to enhance networks, upgrade servers or buy additional bandwidth. It’s disappointing (though not particularly surprising) that business can respond in these ways quickly and effectively to support an external crisis of this kind. These are, in many cases the same businesses that have been resisting such change on the basis of an improved work/life balance for their staff. Those who care to observe the difference in response may well question how genuine claims of social or corporate responsibility are and what their claims of valuing staff have been worth to date.

Other initiatives I would welcome lasting beyond the current crisis would include things such as the silver shopping hour, reducing the 24 hour shopping hours, moving the mindset further towards work being what you do not where you do it and digitisation of the criminal justice system.

If the insolvency hearing was good enough today in digital form and if service of documents was permitted by email why should this no longer be acceptable post Covid19. Of course some adjustments are likely to be necessary but it’s all too easy to think we’ll just slip back to the former status quo once this all ends.

The Che Guevara in me would urge us all to move some of these changes from being seen as an emergency solution towards it becoming part of the new normal. Some of the current crisis is pretty lousy, but in the mix are also some pretty positive changes if we elect to maintain and develop them – something to think about maybe.

In time honoured fashion, at least time honoured over the last 12 days, something to end that I hope prompts at least a smile. I couldn’t help but wonder how Sheldon Cooper might handle the current situation. Maybe this gives us a clue. (For those, if any, who don’t know Big Bang Theory – here is 1.30 to sample. Sheldon is in the blue, Leonard in the red. That’s all you need to know. Bazinga !

If you could imagine how Sheldon might be coping in the current climate.

In the last week, Vaughan and I have moved from being the only people our friends knew in self-isolation to just one of a growing number of people sharing the experience. Sue, Pete, Steph, Jules, Leon and the Phillips minors, James, Martin, Graham D. builder all have followed us into their individual quarantine. You may …

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A relatively short post from me today as like everyone else I find myself (even in quarantine) pulled in many directions at present which make demands both of time and available energy as well as time. I mentioned to Vaughan how it felt like sometime last month we were in Milan whereas, in reality, it …

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It’s day eight in the Corona house and both Vaughan and I remain well, or at least asymptomatic. With the vast majority of the time being spent inside it’s odd where you find mental stimulation. I found some in the naming of these Corona updates and theming each update. I have to give special mention …

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The seventh day, so just under one week in self-imposed isolation where isolation means social distancing. While you ponder on what that means (has he been out of the house or hasn’t he), I hope you will forgive a slightly less content-rich edition of the blog. It’s Sunday and I’m taking it as a bit …

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I’m reliably informed that travel broadens the mind. I’m happy to accept this as an axiom but see no reason why self-isolation shouldn’t attempt to do the same. So in that spirit, may I introduce you to George Santayana philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist. Born in the 1850s in Madrid you might be forgiven for …

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This spring we (Vaughan and I) had intended to retrace the footsteps of Passepartout at least as far as Greece. We had the leave booked and made our way to St Pancras station to join the Eurostar for Paris. So far, so good. The subsequent plan had us overnight in Paris before enjoying lunch at …

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Happy Christmas from the Streets of London.

24/12/2017


Blogging has taken rather a back seat this year as other, sometimes less important but more present things took priority. A situation I hope to resolve in the coming year. Today, in very different ways, I was spurred on to return by an old school friend and a new Australian friend.

There are many great, varied and beautiful cities around the world. I have been fortunate to visit many of them and hope to visit more in the coming years. There are perhaps fewer truly global cities, that somehow feel connected to or part of our humanity. For me, one of those cities is London. Perhaps, one of three or four similar world cities we aspire to visit, imagine living in and at some level feel we have a shared history and connection.

In the past year, I have spent roughly half my time in south London (in what some might suggest is the wrong side of the river) and have seen the place often with new eyes. Much of the time, this happens while walking Taz in the local parks. Today was similar, as I took that time to catch up on social media posts. The first confirmed I had missed out on some prestigious local blogging award (the Morties) – mainly due to the fact my posts had dried up in the middle of last year. The second was from a facebook friend in Australia (Paul) who posted about the potential loneliness many experience at this time.

Whilst it isn’t news that many people find Christmas challenging and as artificial as many Christmas trees, his specific examples gave me pause for thought. I have often wondered if there isn’t a darker side to some Christmas celebrations. Do some people need to know others are enjoying less or are simply excluded in order to enjoy their time more or at all?

Christmas for me has always been a bittersweet occasion. I remember the excitement of being given the bike that replaced one I had outgrown and the magic of my first true white Christmas. Then just prior to Christmas in 1973, my father died and the feel of Christmas from that point on had changed. Some things, no matter how hard a child wishes, cannot be replaced.

One of the few things I can remember from that year was a news programme showing an office block being used by the homeless over Christmas. I’m sure I didn’t understand the importance of this development at the time. This was the birth of Crisis at Christmas and the charity is, regrettably, still going strong forty years later. What so few people appreciate is just how easily we could swap places with any number of those seeking shelter in the Crisis centers.

The video above marries Ralf McTell’s 1960’s original with the Crisis choir (also featuring Annie Lennox) of 2017. Such a beautiful sound and an entirely unremarkable group forming the choir – all homeless and each could very easily replace their photograph with ours.

Returning to Paul’s comments from Australia, I found myself thinking of those who become invisible to others and society in general. Perhaps none more so than those we write off as probably drunk, high, mentally ill or too challenged to cope with the real world.

This year as for the last four, I haven’t sent Christmas cards but have made a donation – to a charity that can make a difference to lives. Although it isn’t my usual charity, this year will I will be supporting the Crisis at Christmas team. May the need for their work be short lived and I for one will try to see the person not their situation just a little more often.
From a warm, dry, happy and safe home, I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas. For those who for whatever reason, cannot enjoy this Christmas as they would like, I hope 2018 brings you what you would wish yourself.

 

 

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