“Sorry I can see you but I can’t hear you.” (pause)…

As I know you have all been waiting for an update we can report a minor triumph in the dishwasher department. It is working and not leaking. My normal routine is to discard white goods as soon as they play up. Forced back to basics we figured out the problem, ordered the part from Ebay and as reported yesterday we fixed it to a wave of boundless satisfaction.

Today I locked down the phone box- it occurred to me that it was an oasis of potential viral nastiness. They always were. I can still remember the smell of tobacco or curry or beer that greeted you as you raised the receiver to your mouth. There were anti-bacterial inserts you could install but I don’t think the GPO cared. Anyway the box is scheduled to open on October 31st – Halloween —–whoooooo!

This morning I was awoken by cramp in my calf – boy doesn’t it hurt. Haven’t had it for ages – is it like childbirth only lower down I ask?

We got a delivery of milk from the previously mocked and ridiculed village do gooders. Now I have to eat the humblest of pies as my cynicism is engulfed by gratitude. Really nice kind people who are a lot lot beter human beings than me, Bugger!

Avani sent me details of a BBC script writing competition for short scripts on the theme of the social distancing and video conferencing. They need them by Monday. I like having a go at this sort of thing but that gives me three days. Not enough time and I am not that inspired by the description https://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities/interconnected. Why such a tight deadline I wonder. The only idea I have is to deliver a piece entirely based on the gaps that occur between the utterances. Very Becketian and not very much fun and  but could be worth a punt. Can’t imagine getting it done by Monday without setting aside everything else but I might have a go or I might not. I know the first line “Sorry I can see you but I can’t hear you.” (pause)…

Hay fever

Hay fever, probably not the virus. Phew!

We are well and much less stressed than two days ago when the whole virtual teaching thing seemed like a mountain to climb or probably to to fall off. Maria taught 7 girls yesterday and more today and it went really well . Everyone is surprised. I predicted disaster but I was completely wrong. It seems Zoom is the answer – if anyone is trying to do similar forget Skype, Google Hangout, Panopto. Unlike Maria’s girls my students logon in dribs and drabs, one today in her pyjamas (with the camera off) I am glad to say.

factual stuff; We have found a local greengrocer who can deliver, a volunteer who will get us milk and bread flour and a butcher (hopefully). We have joined a Facebook community group and our neighbours, 2 doors away very kindly offered to get our medication. We are sorted, save the pussy cats for whom we still are looking for a local cat food supplier, horses and dogs no problem it seems.

We have a red light on when either of us are live broadcasting to avoid indiscretions. Eg trouserless trips from the shower or excessively emotional exclamations against the technology.

We managed to change a pump on the dishwasher to avoid contact with an engineer. Thank you YouTube. Not fun and very bad tempered on my part. Sorry Maria. I use the excuse that my back hurts but really it’s because I hate doing things that are wet, dirty and have sharp edges. Testing it now. If it doesn’t work I will blame someone.

All in all a good couple of days.

How are we all?

I don’t know about you folk but I keep thinking I have a cold coming — oh oh I go — and then it vanishes. I can only conclude that the panic that musters your anti Covid19 troops to readiness, is sufficiently overwhelming that the common cold virus has no chance and it’s just ‘fey knights.’ (Look that one up assuming I spelt it correctly) in south London slang we used it as kids to mean – “I give up” or “get off its hurting” . My dad who grew up in Catford taught it to me – like “quits” only more Chaucerish.

We got our shipment of surgical masks today. Stupid exploitative price but so what. Ain’t capitalism marvellous! I wrote Chris on mine in marker and then got stoned on the fumes when I wore it. My ears are so big and flappy that the elastic just drags them forward into a sort of Jodrell Bank pose and then rather appropriately, the mask flys off into space. I am going to need a dainty bow at the back. They are to give to anyone that attends to Nonna – namely Maria – who now does hair washing, bathing and other critical services and Denise who cleans the house for her.

We are very lucky where we are as self isolation is so easy and really not unpleasant. I feel so sorry for people stuck in tiny flats or having to commute or working in a vital occupation it must be really really awful. Talking of vital occupations I spoke to my cancer nurse Helen this morning just to check I was doing the right things. She is so good humoured, so level headed it was like chatting with a friendly owl. She admitted things were pretty busy in haematology but she clarified that if I get ill I get in touch with them not 111 and they will decide if I need to stay at home and see how things go, or see someone at the hospital. So that’s clear.

I apologise if I keep going on about hospital stuff and whatever. I use the blog to sort out my own thoughts, to expel concerns and to prioritise. I really don’t mind if no one reads it, it’s the act of writing that I find deeply therapeutic in troubled times. It’s my equivalent to a country walk or a hot bath. Knowing that someone someday might read it ( highly unlikely) makes it a very different act to keeping a personal diary where the supposed intention is only for you yourself to read it at some later date.

Highlight of the day was putting up some hangers for coats at the bottom of the stairs. My DIY skills are not terrible but drilling holes has always been a weak spot. They always go a bit wonky and then the holes in the thing to be hung don’t align with thing to be hung on. Not so wrong as to demand a new set of holes but wrong enough that however much wiggling you apply to the screw it just won’t line up. The end result is a hole and screw big enough to support a small ocean liner supporting nowt but a coat hanger and so it came to pass today.

Here everybody seems to stick with the 2 metre rule. It’s great on walks because we don’t have to stop and talk we just glide past each other tossing pleasantries. it reminds me of Pina Bausch (contemporary dance stuff). Our loggia has come into its own as an inside outside space. People talk to us behind the fence it’s a bit like a long distance confessional.

It would be great to hear more about how you are all coping. I like the written form of communication rather than telephone or video in a funny way it’s more revealing. So send me your prose if you feel like it.

Myeloma in the news again

Hey guess what, because of my myeloma (it was on the news again) and whatnot I am on the list of the most vulnerable and so we get a letter from the NHS and our groceries delivered as a priority – whooa!! Party at my place !- (not really) – I have to stay in home or garden for 12 weeks which for most is torture but personally I see it as bliss. It’s a strange situation because when I spoke to my consultant he confirmed that my bloods were normal and therefore my risk (while possibly greater than the average) was not exceptional but the news has made it clear that us myeloma sufferers are in that special super risk category – so home I stay – boo hoo (not).

I feel very sorry for all those cancer patients currently undergoing treatment who are stuck with the dilemma of attending hospital and its associate risk or not attending, not getting the treatment and thus, its associate risk. Luckily (and it really is fortunate) I have been off the treatment for over a year so my immune system should be reasonably robust. I have had a few bouts of this and that since having the disease and have recovered reasonably well so fingers crossed I should be Ok even if I get a nasty dose. I have been crossing my fingers for years now – I think they are permanently crossed.

Today I didn’t work as to be frank the pressure of work has significantly reduced now that I don’t travel. It’s about the first day for a very long time that I haven’t done a bit of work even if just an hour or so at the weekend. It’s not that I am a particularly diligent lecturer it’s just that I have never got into the habit (a bad one in my view) of seeing the weekend as any different from the week. Who cares what the name of the day is. I prefer to get the work done and then it’s not hanging about screaming to be done while I try to ignore its plaintive cry. Any way no work today instead I put a load of old junk up for sale on Ebay – a tortuous activity that involves – photographing, weighing and packing each item then completing a pretty elaborate form. In the end the whole process probably adds up to a commitment of about 30 minutes per item, which if you only get 49p at the end of the auction, is a very poor return. Quite often I get no bids at all and simply hoik the undesired package straight into the bin. On the other hand, even for 98p per hour it is strangely satisfying to purge yourself of ugly, useless or broken junk.

Maria has had an IT day setting up her systems for virtual teaching. This hasn’t been entirely good tempered to say the least. She has to go through quite a procedure with each parent having to grant permission for their daughter to be taught online and they or someone over 18 has to be present in the room when the lesson takes place. Lucky them! Some of the girls have never sung to anyone but Maria so are freaking out at the thought of parental or sibling oversight. Then she has to invite each girl and arrange times across time zones. She is not a happy bunny having missed out on a nice garden day.

Any news for you lot always welcome. I guess I could be using Facebook or some other platform as all this news is really directed exclusively at family and friends but this blog has 6 years worth of stuff in it now – much of it embarrassingly gobby but I guess this virus incident is a very significant chapter and might as well be included. For some reason I have always had a very secret eye on posterity – something I saw my dad do and didn’t like at the time – and here I am recreating his book of family achievements except in this case they are nearly all mine.

Addressing family now – if anyone wants to start some sort of family specific self isolation news network I would happily join in. The progeny of June and Bill POJAB – but maybe everyone is doing quite enough communicating.

Friends are stuck with this ere blog as I don’t do Facebook with any enthusiasm. Why does anyone? I have to ask its just full of shite and people who you don’t know wanting to be mates  Give me TikTok  every time it just full of cats and dogs doing stupid things and as I have come to note recently, flying squirrely things that fly through the air to land on your hand for a snack and that black and white furry animal you get in America with the sharp face – oh yeh a racoon.

Day 4

My last day at work was Friday. I kind of miss it.

Testing my new blogging app.

Anyway as you know I write when I have the need not when I have anything to say. So here goes.

Today is Maria’s last day at School. Henceforth she will be teaching singing by video link. That should be hilarious, can’t wait to be a fly on the wall. I am now an old lag having done a several video sessions. The pattern is as follows – several minutes of mouthing and gesticulating across mute screens, a bunch of software restarts and reconnects, exit to find a microphone, camera, cable, have a wee etc, an abandonment for an alternative platform and a couple of pop up visits from somebody’s cat, dog, mum to liven the proceedings. Actually I think one to one sessions will work pretty well, one to group broadcasts are arguably no better than recordings, small group sessions will work only at the whim of available bandwidth and large group sessions will never ever work and never ever have. Those of you that remember Rick Wakeman and his multiple synths and keyboards can picture the scene. I have 6 screens in my studio, ok so three are for the phone box, that leaves three plus, iPhone and iPad. At any one time there will be a group chat on Slack, Emails from Outlook, discussions on the university VLE (virtual learning environment) conferencing on google hangout, SMS texts, and message from WhatsApp – all coming up on different screens. In addition we have 4 camera feeds watching over Nonna. Frankly it’s like leaving some old slightly drugged up geezer (me) remotely piloting the moon landing – every now and then my brain jams and I feel so confused I really do start to wonder if you can get instant Alzheimer’s a bit like a hiccup. On minute nothing, next hurb….ck

back to work I feel better now.

us – film and midwifery

I have nothing wise to say about the virus.

i have added this paragraph after the announcements today Wednesday that the schools are closing and the world is hunkering down. i have a slight sense of disappointment in myself as a person. now reviewing what i wrote earlier i am worried that i will be appear even more self indulgent than normal and people will go off me. however i have resolved not to pretend to be a more caring person than i am as that’s hypocritical. my worries about the virus are selfishly focused around my family and friends. i should worry about the community but i am ashamed to say that even if i do a bit, i don’t do anything about it, so clearly i don’t. i admit it – but does that make it any better


I am (was) lying on my back on the settee. Vinnie is sinking into his bean bag next to me and snoring. The sun is annoyingly bright making me squint as I type this and  my world feels a bit odd, strangely stretched,  flowy rather than roady. This is my second day self isolating as the university sector fizzles out slowly, inexorably and chaotically.

We are being asked to teach from home but the students have moved on and given we are 2/3 through the trimester, are adopting the perfectly reasonable view that they don’t need any more teaching and can just get on with completing the assignments. In other words, ‘see ya for graduation in July.’ Still its going to be fun trying to figure out the best method of broadcasting by video with a large group of young people scattered all over the planet in different time zones with delays of a minimum of minute and a half to the video audio stream. Still fun – its like having your own TV station.

As George said,  this year, 2020, will be the setting for the next generation of mcewanesque novels framed by natural or man made disasters –  The heatwave in 1977 or was it 78, the twin towers and now corvid19. Apocalyptic novels and films like The Planet of the Apes used to be great entertainment now they are a bit too much like documentaries.

If I wasn’t anxious about the family and friends and sad for those that are going to really struggle I would actually be really enjoying this. I am very used to being stuck at home worrying about getting ill (one more illness doesn’t really make much difference) and trying to work virtually also I have a stack of half completed projects to get on with which i am really looking forward to.

I am naturally selfish so as yet I haven’t offered myself up to the community. Others have offered themselves to us, which is nice but makes us feel old and useless and more vulnerable. Community spirit doesn’t do it for me. Pillars of the community are often the same people who complain when a housing development encroaches on their view of an important copse or deliver the church magazine unapologetic about their justifiably rebellious dogs (tugging on their leads to escape the tedium of their owners) that frighten your cats, or don’t like the ice cream van man because he may be delivering drugs as well as 99’s (apparently he does btw).

Theoretically I am one of the vulnerables cos of my compromised immune system. Actually my consultant didn’t seem that concerned as my bloods are normal at present so I am not worried. If I am vulnerable then Nonna must qualify as whatever is more than vulnerable – sacrificial? Anyway she’s not bothered either. She has informed us that she washes her hands a lot so she’s got it sorted. Thanks to Maria’s heroic effort with the Italian consulate (a story in its own right, sadly we can never ever repeat it) at least she cant be deported as she now has an identity card. Mind you i don’t suppose Italy would want her just at the moment.

I haven’t posted for ages so this tells me that my posting behaviour is driven by the sort of spare time you don’t feel guilty about leaving spare. I am saving three hours of travel a day so my bass guitar has been dusted off to fill 20 minutes of those three hours. Isn’t being self-disciplined hard! I am a natural not doer and definitely not a practicer . Talking of not doing I have to be really careful to remember to walk further than from chair to toaster to tea pot to TV during the course of the day. Maria has me walking around the block about three times a week an activity I am ashamed to reveal as I vowed never to become the sort of old person that does exercise or even worse enjoys exercise or worse of all preaches about bloody exercise or worst of worst of all refers to it as good for their ‘well-being.’ Anyway no worries there I grump and groan all the way round particularly if we meet some tiresome individual who wants to chat – unless they have a dog – they are nearly all ‘something doodles’ round us, in which case I can occupy myself with the interesting fluffy species and ignore the species that actually thinks the weather, the virus, the parish council or recommendations for a really good book is anything other than an unwelcome delay in getting home and warm and fat and stationary.

There are compensations en route. Two Shetland ponies one of which eats your windcheater while the other one looks aghast at the stupidity of its friend, one white owl (barn i think) on the prowl at dusk who does a circuit of the same block as us but for a reason! and one otter – seen only once – who was swimming purposely down a stream that as far as we know is devoid of fish, so it may have got lost in the floods or enjoys a swim – perhaps it’s been told its good for its well being.

I have been quite busy at work up until now. Our subject area is one of the few that are expanding, (us – film and midwifery) – btw have you seen the hyper realistic dolls they use these days ? – strewth the one I saw (the class was clearing as I was setting up – it breathed!) and our staff team is small and  spread over lots of students.  I have been involved in one or two interesting outside projects the best one I am not yet allowed to talk about but if it happens I may be leaving my mark on the British seaside. I collaborated on an article about blogging about death to be given at a conference in Denmark (has to be a Scandy country doesn’t it) cancelled due to risk of death from virus – tee hee. I have designed my ultimate secret-fortune-making app which I may well have time to launch during the next few months if I can figure how to build it. The telephone box moves ahead glacially, not through lack of effort but lack of technical skill but I hope to launch it with performances from October 31st. I wrote two stories for the Mogford Prize but submitted only one. It about a fat granny who eats too many sweets and then mistakes the contents of Lush as sweets and eats them as well – with truly ‘hilarious’ results (not). It will definitely win the ten grand. I have made some fun stuff with the students – an app to make a friend (literally from PlahDoh) and an alternative game interface using plastic flowers and scissors. I am lucky – work is fun a lot of the time.

Other news – I had one counselling session to address some of my absurd anxieties about the risk of my loved one being abducted by aliens. My strongly opinionated doctor recommended it when I went in begging for drugs. The councillor was exactly what I expected. In her 50’s I guess, intelligent, pleasant, reasonably open although I would not have like to push too hard on that door – could have been slammed in my face, took the session seriously all the time, which was probably right but my jokes bombed which was dispiriting. It was great talking uninterrupted about myself for an hour. Bit like this post. I really enjoyed it, but benefit came there none. I didn’t feel anything. Ok I hadn’t soiled myself as can happen when I am allowed free reign to impro but talking is easy for me, too easy some would say, I am lucky, I have loads of willing listeners so I had no big revelation to uncover. No I wasn’t a miserable child, my relationship with my parents, pets, friends, partner, kids is fine. I am not worried about being ill about being dead or any sensible worry even viruses – I am very happy with my life but I fret about ridiculous things, all crazily vivid imagination born but with a strong hint of fable or film – the abduction by aliens thing is actually more or less true – I worry that Maria has vanished into the wood like and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood when ever she goes chogging (getting sticks) – perhaps she just needs to stop doing things that remind me of fairy tales or perhaps she just needs to stay still and safe forever hands resting on thighs like my beloved Gilbert and George – so you see I would like to turn that particular imaginative obsessive stupid switch to sensible.  The councillor pretty much sacked me before I sacked myself. I think she might have been bored. It seems I am totally sane or at least no less sane than the average, which is a slight disappointment. It seems I just need to put up with it – being sane I mean – so I will.

Love to all