The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

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

10/04/2020

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.
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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.

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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)

Day 31 in the Corona house: Tell me on a Sunday.

08/04/2020

Month one in solitary

Those of you who know me well will know my love of language, words and idioms. It’s something that has fascinated me since childhood.

I think the first time I became aware of the curiosity in the space was just after starting school when I was bemused by the idea that a stitch in time might save nine.

I remember having the mental image of somebody applying needle and thread to a clock taking things unusually literally for me. I also remember my sudden introduction to Mrs. Metaphor – that you could describe an idea far bigger than the words used to construct it. Of course, at the time I didn’t understand this had a name ‘metaphor’, but I do remember it being like the shutters being taken off a window and wondering how big the view got.

I can remember asking my teacher save nine what? I also remember struggling with the concept of saved stitches. What did these look like? How did they differ from normal stitches and where did you save them? As for an ill wind blowing no good – let’s not even start.

My favourite metaphor

I soon found I had a particular liking for time related examples. One being once in a blue moon. It could mean occassionally when there is sufficient dust in the local atmosphere to give a blue appearance to the moon. Astronomically, it refers to the second new moon in a month (a not particularly frequent event). In any event it joins the stitch in time and month of Sunday’s turn of phrase.

It’s particularly the month of Sunday’s that I’m focused on today. I do remember once working out that (assuming a 31 day month) a month of Sundays would take you from 1st January to 2nd August. I didn’t claim that as an interesting fact but it does show what my mind turns to in quarantine.

The last thirty one days has been something I had never imagined living through. It may very well be the month of Sunday’s we have heard so much of in the past. It’s certainly felt like those Sunday’s in the 1970’s where everything was shut between Morning worship and Songs of Praise.

Veg-tastic

One advantage in the Shire is the number of small farms, wholesalers and distributors that are based here. One such made their first delivery to us (but I doubt it will be the last). Two boxes of provisions including eggs, tinned tomatoes and a great selection of fruit and vegetables.

Vaughan took a look through the box and we can identify all of the items, though a couple of them chef V-Dub is uncertain about. One in particular – the Chinese radish, also known as the daikon or in the Shire, a moolie.
When asked what it was the temptation was too great. ‘It’s a moolie I replied … and keep your hands off others moolies.’ For those unfamiliar with 1950-70’s musichall and end of the peer humour, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist. It also gives me the perfect excuse to share one of Kenneth Williams party pieces.

More seriously if anyone has any recipes or serving suggestion for daikon/white radish we’d love to hear from you.

Keep your ‘ands off others Moolies

In other news an update on the work front. As most of my regular readers know, my post was made redundant at the end of last month. (27th March to be precise). I can’t say I was sorry to go as the working environment had become pretty toxic and the business had badly lost its way. As if being made redundant in the teeth of the corona crisis were not enough they put the cherry on the icing by withholding the redundancy payment until one month after my last day working there. That’s apparently normal, nothing ti see here move right along the bus please.

We’d like to make an offer

While I think that’s about as convincing as Dick van Dyke’s cockney accent, it isn’t worth the emotional investment at this stage.

I hadn’t turned my mind to aggressively searching although I had put out a couple of feelers.

One of those feelers appears to be showing promise. I had a provisional job offer this morning and an outline agreement on salary (better), working arrangements (more flexible and friendlier) and potential start date. Can’t say any more than that at present or I would have to shoot you but it turns out I’m employable after all – whoda thunk it?
I’m not enumerating my poultry just yet, but it’s a bit of good news to pepper the glum and rather bleak news hitting us from all quarters. Fingers crossed here, let’s see what the next week or so brings.

Slightly curtailed tonight as we’re about to roll up our tent and return to Gumnut towers leaving the bungalow secured and looked after/occupied by the neighbours who welcomed the extra storage and garden space at this time. That is, of course, if all the veg fits in the boot.

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Today’s post takes it’s title from a number in the musical of the same name. For those who like to hear the tracks it may be heard on the control below.

Day 30 in the corona house: Getting out of town.

07/04/2020

.Today I can’t help but reflect on how quickly things change. How what was taken for granted and accepted as a norm years ago is now seen as increadible.

Whether it’s stock footage from the 70’s and 80’s with smoking thick enough to cut in pubs and restaurants or brick-like mobile phones change comes quickly.

A month ago, even three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have felt a need to justify travel, to prove its necessity. However, today, I am aware of the requirement to do so pressing on my social conscience. I merely note how quickly this has been true, I don’t seek to avoid it but my the times they are a changing.

Before I met my husband we each had our own house one in London and one is Wiltshire. For reasons of work and my having a border collie who doesn’t fit with living in London full time that’s an arrangement we’ve continued albeit we split time between the two. When we came back from Milan and self-isolated it was to London and partly due to building work there we have remained until today.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been aware that the lawn hadn’t been cut this year, the weather was getting warmer, the days brighter and that would undoubtedly lead to the grass getting longer.
Although it didn’t count as justification for a trip back to the Shire (it would be pushing it for the necessary management of a household I suspect even if only monthly) I was concerned that at some point I wouldn’t be able to find Taz if he crossed the lawn.

However, a more pressing need for me was the lack of medication easily to hand. My stocks were running low and because I had a plentiful supply in the Shire it was nearly impossible to get more and that assumes I could get the two trusts, my GP and an out of region pharmacist to collaberate. As a result, for the first time in 30 days, we left Gumnut by car and drove to the Shire so my medication could be collected.

While here I also managed to cut the lawns, share a very enjoyable evening with the virtual film club watching Company, replenish our food stocks at a supermarket (Vaughan went). He gave the whole setup at Tesco an Aussie seal of approval stating ‘They’ve got their shit together in the Shire.’ Tomorrow we have a local farm delivery of vegetables, and eggs – so rare in London many of the drug dealers now offer a side of 6 organic free range large ones – so I’m told. Then partly because the Shire is not habitable until the building concludes we’ll be back to continued isolation in Gumnut.

I had my confirmation from the NHS that I should be inside for 12 weeks so look forward to day 100 in the corona house in due course.

Our journey here was uneventful and necessary. You can manage so long on a bag meant for a holiday, but things needed for job applications, bill payments and just getting on with life were needed. We weren’t stopped, checked or questioned by anyone not that I would have any concerns had we been. The motorway was down in terms of traffic by about 90% and the Shire is quiet though the village is pretty much as it always is – we’re hardly the throbbing metropolis.

So tomorrow late afternoon we will return to Gumnut with food, medication, paperwork and fresh Shire air. I look forward to being able to return when the builders can get back on site but until then Taz has had a decent run for an hour or three and all is well with this little part of the world.

The title of today’s post comes from 42nd Street. For those interested in hearing the track, it can be heard using the link below.

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 27 in the corona house: The phantom of the opera.

04/04/2020

Day 27 in the Corona house

The twenty seventh day with our own company chez Gumnut and we found it hard to easily bring to mind the last people we spoke to and when.

I’m not including the socially distanced ‘thanks very much’ as the delivery driver backs down the stairs to our front door rather like the Lord Chacellor used to having delivered the Queens speech successfully to the Monarch. Next time I shall give my best regal RP ‘Thank You’ before retiring back through the portcullis and into the safety of the house.

After some thought we pinned it down to an Indian Sunday lunch with our friends Charlotte and Cyril on 1st March. Since then, we haven’t engaged with anyone other than those four word exchanges with a neighbour or dog walker. For both of us, this has been the longest period (so far) without any form of social interaction.

The Phantom who spent years hidden away

Of course, this time frame is nothing compared to the periods people routinely go without such contact, but for us it’s certainly uncommon ground.

Many elderly and isolated people across the country have little more human contact that this – hopefully this period might give us all a sense of what that might feel like and as a country we might consider how to tackle the isolation and loneliness that so many face in normal situations.

Literature is replete with characters either heroic or otherwise who have been isolated, outcast or in one form or another of solitary existance. These range from the man in the iron mast, Robinson Crusoe and the elusive Phantom of the Opera who avoided contact (if you believe the fiction) for over forty years.

Speaking of believing the fiction, I was amazed to hear what would usually be considered sensible individuals suggesting utter rubbish. The latest that Coronavirus-19 was a fiction to cover the ‘truth’ that the 5G network was making us all ill made me wonder when we lost all capacity for critical analysis?
In recent weeks we heard the UK’s chief scientific officer mention herd immunity (perhaps unwisely). However, this type of contagious belief spread is more like herd stupidity.

In a letter to the UK from Italy (click here), the author touches on such reactions explaining them as a need to explain and blame something, anything and in so doing regain some limited control over the situation. It may be worth considering this as a potential driver by those engaging in such conspiracy theorising.

The second thread of thinking from the corona house also relates to the Phantom which explains the title and chosen music track. As Shakespeare would never have put it, to mask or not to mask, that is the question?

Other than a sense of doing something,
do masks reduce the risk of Covid-19?

In recent days, I’ve noticed the sudden increase in masks being worn routinely. That’s a small sample as it’s based on those I see when walking Taz (under ten) and those I can see from the window. However, the trend is most certainly upwards.

In a sense, it’s the herd behaviour in action. The world health organisation has recently changed it’s advice to those living in areas of highly symptomatic coronavirus that it may be beneficial to wear a face mask. – Stand by for the latest items to be panic bought. I do note the advice assumes areas of highly symptomatic people and the conclusion is conditional – it may assist. Then again, it may not.

I find myself (uncomfortably) landing in the same position as Donald Trump. That is, though I could envisage situations in which I might wear a mask situationally, I don’t see the point in day to day activities such as walking the dog. Where we may differ, is that I believe my position is based on the science not on how it may look to others.

The rationale is simple – but multithreaded. Firstly, the classical cloth surgical mask offers little protection to the wearer from contact with the virus. Certainly, the additional protection it gives above social distancing and hand washing/cleaning is marginal.

A sense of scale

Many studies show that when dry the material forms a minimal barrier protection, however, it doesn’t stay dry long. Ironically, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that when moist they ease the transmission of particles such as the virus – so in those circumstances there can be a positive disadvantage in wearing one.

Most importantly, most masks of that type don’t form a good seal around the mouth and/or face. In that situation, the mask may increase the amount of unnecessary face touching with various attempts to adjust the fit.

To give you a sense of how important that seal is and why without it wearing one is a bit like trying to stop a mosquito with a tennis raquet, consider this.
We can all picture a 1cm space (for those who work in old money just under half an inch). The virus we’re seeking to stop with these gappy masks is small, – if you’ll excuse the expression bigly small. If I were to take the virus and lay them side by side I could fit 100,000 of them in a centimetre length. So you can see how small gaps in poorly fitting masks provide more than enough space to get through .

Lastly, they may provide a false sense of security. I don’t feel particularly unsafe when walking outside briefly each day. Why not? Because I avoid contacts, touching surfaces or my face and practice hand hygiene when I get back inside before doing anything else.
If we make ourselves too comfortable with preventative measures that aren’t really that preventative we may let those other actions slip and that would be significantly worse.

It appears that a mask does provide some protection if the wearer is symptomatic. It may prevent the worse of the droplet splash they present. However, they are being more helpful to others that to the wearer in that situation. Also, if you were highly symptomatic, most people’s experience is that you won’t be out of bed so the point is largely moot.

I’ve accepted a couple made by friends partly because it would be rude not to and there may be instances where it would be reasoanble to have one with me if nothing else. As to them being worn by others, I have no objections and if it helps people feel more at ease then perhaps they are serving a mental health purpose. However, I won’t be adding to the panic buying of this particular product.

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The title of this post was taken from Phantom of the Opera and may be heard on the control below.

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