Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

How Old?

I went to bed last night thinking about age. Not my own age, but the age of other people. Those who were stars in my youth, and are still alive today.

I know how old I am, and when I was a teenager, I knew those film stars and singers were older that me. But as I have grown older, they started to get old. Very old. They did this seemingly without me being aware that there was still the age gap that existed when I was watching them on screen or stage. Of course, many have died too, but it is the living ones who are in my thoughts today.

Twitter has many users who habitually congratulate celebrities on their birthdays. There are others who mark the birthdays of famous people who have been dead for perhaps fifty years. Occasionally, the great age of some living stars that I expected to not be much older than me comes over as startling.

Olivia De Havilland, famous for her roles in films as diverse as ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘The Snake Pit’ was 104 years old this week. Yes, 104! In my youth, I was greatly attracted to the stunning actress Gina Lollobrigida. Today, she was 93 years old. 93? How is that possible? Do you remember Eva Marie Saint, the American actress? She was 96 today and was born one week before my own mother!

Genvieve Bujold is an actress I used to watch in films like ‘Anne of The Thousand days’, and Coma. She was 78 today. 78! And the delightful Leslie Caron, star of ‘Gigi’, ‘Father Goose’, and ‘Chocolat’. Wait for it, she was 89 years old on the first of this month. 89!

There is something very wrong about all this, and has it dawned on me what it is.

I am a lot older than I ever imagined.

Ollie’s Skin: The Saga Continues

So many times I have written on this blog about the skin conditions afflicting my poor dog, Ollie. After the last bout cleared up, the fur grew back slowly. But by the end of March, he was looking pretty good. Good enough for other dog-walkers to remark on how well he was looking, and how shiny his coat was.

Then the weather warmed up in May, and he started to moult. Nothing excessive, and to be expected. Just a lot more of his shed fur collected in the vacuum claner. Two weeks ago, he started to smell rather ‘doggy’, and I thought about booking him in for a bath at the groomer’s by the end of June. But while the tiling was being done, I wanted to stay around the house.

Then last week, we got the real mini-heatwave I have mentioned. Ollie started to scratch a lot, and I noticed the fur that had grown back had fallen out again, leaving bald patches of inflamed skin. So today, he had to go back to the Vet yet again.

They have a new procedure for Covid-19 safety, whereby no customers are allowed inside the large building. You telephone on arrival, and let them know you are there. Then a Vet comes to inspect the dog in your car, or outside it, before deciding whether or not he has to take your dog (or cat, or whatever) back inside for treatment. In Ollie’s case, the regular Vet knows him well, and carried out a car-park examination while Ollie stayed on his bed at the back of the car.

Allergies and skin infection was diagnosed, as it has been so many times before. He returned with steroid tablets, antibiotic tablets, and the suggestion that we give Ollie a cheap antihistamine tablet every day of the summer months. I had to come home and pay over the telephone, as he wasn’t letting anyone use the card machine, for fear of infection.

Ollie now has two weeks of tablets, twice a day. We already know they make him extra thirsty, and increase his appetite too. So I will give him slightly bigger dinners while he is on them, and make sure to keep his fresh water filled up.

I phoned as requested, to make a card payment over the phone. £160. Pretty hefty, for ten minutes in a car park.

But he is worth it of course.

A Change In The Weather

Can it be only last week that I was writing about hot summer days and uncomfortable sultry nights, sleeping with a fan whirring in the room?

The wind changed on Saturday, and the weather with it. In the course of one day, it went from 32 C to 18 C in Beetley, and the sunshine was replaced by looming clouds and blustery winds. By two in the afternoon, it was dark enough in the house to have to use lights in some rooms, and by eight at night cold enough to require wearing something warm on top.

That has continued since, with rare breaks in the clouds giving some idea of the summer they are concealing from us. Of course, June temperatures of 18-20 C are normal here. It’s just that after the three-day heatwave, they seem rather cold now, and the skies are looking bleak.

It taught me once again just how soon we can become used to something, and just as rapidly miss it when it has gone.

The Beetley Heatwave

Six years ago this week, we were in the middle of an unusual spell of very hot weather, much like we have seen over the last few days. I wrote this about it at the time, and it is remarkable how nothing has changed since.


As Irving Berlin once wrote, “We’re having a heat wave, Tropical heat wave”. The last couple of weeks have seen temperatures rising in Beetley, and every day has been sunny and hot. Even though it makes it hard to sleep at night, I’m not complaining. For too long, we have had damp and cold, followed by rain and damp. This sight of summer is long overdue, and most welcome. Ollie has been feeling the heat though. His coat may be short, but it is thick, and he is listless and uncomfortable. His only relief is to get into the river, something he does frequently on his walks.

I have had to limit the scope of our usual dog walks for now. The other places we go do not have access to any water, and Ollie would get far too hot. I probably would too. There is shade and breeze available…

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Beetley and Covid-19: A Saturday Report

This week the focus has been more about the short heatwave, than anything else. In London, police tried to break up a street party in Brixton, sparking off a small riot during which twelve officers were injured. On the beaches of the south coast, hundreds of thousands of people congregated to enjoy the weather, with little regard to the continuing death rate, the possibility of spreading infection, or respect for social distancing.

One town (Bournemouth) declared a ‘state of emergency’ after almost 500,000 people swamped the beaches in just one day. Equally as ignorant was the unspeakable mountain of rubbish they left behind when they went home.

The hot weather brought crowds to the river bend in Beetley Meadows too. Mums and children playing in the cool water, picnics at the tables provided, and dogs enjoying splashing in the river. Well, when I say ‘crowds’, there must have been at least 25 people there one day.
But this is Beetley we are talking about.

Because my wife works at a Doctor’s Surgery, she had to have a Covid-19 antibodies blood test. This provides a fast result as to whether or not you have already had the virus, and now have evidence of that in your blood. Hers was negative, and it’s hard to say if that is good news, or not so good news. It just is what it is, she hasn’t caught the virus yet.

Shopping in town was remarkably quiet this week, as presumably everyone had made for the coast to enjoy the beaches. Boris made his announcements about reducing the 2-metre rule to 1-metre, and the reopening of pubs, restaurants, and hotels, from the 4th of July.

Some of us might think this is all still too much, too soon. Including me. Others might think us to be grumps and killjoys, or blind to the needs of the ecnonomy, especially the hospitality sector and holiday providers.

Perhaps they should ask the opinion of the families of the 1,114 people who died of the virus last week?

Covid-19 and Beetley: A Saturday Update

So the UK government has officially downgraded the alert level for the Coronavirus, from 4 to 3. All the schools are set to go back in September, hotels are opening in July, and non-essential shops opened earlier this week. The two-metre social distancing is set to be reduced to one metre soon, and all public transport is running, with the requirement to wear a face-covering of some kind inside trains and buses.

Sounds positive, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t think so.

Too many people are still dying, and too many people are still carrying the virus without any idea that they have it.

The track and trace app has been abandoned in favour of something else provided by Google and Apple. No doubt a company somewhere made a mint out of the failed experiment, and some officials pocketed a nice payoff too. The fall in the numbers of deaths is hailed as a great success. Try telling that to the people who died this week, and their bereaved relatives and friends.

Speaking from his luxury home in Florida, where he travelled to by private jet, the odious Lord Sugar, he of ‘The Apprentice’ fame, denied the very existence of the virus, for the simple reason that he doesn’t personally know anyone who has died of it. That man has a vote in The House of Lords, let’s not forget that.

I had to drive into the nearby town of Dereham yesterday, to go to the bank. It was a Friday as normal, as far as I could tell. Car parks almost full, crowds of eager shoppers everywhere, and few bothering about social distancing. You could have assumed it was still 2019, and nothing had happened. There were measures in place at the bank, and around half the shops and all the cafes and pubs were still closed until July.

But it was otherwise very ‘normal’. OId normal, that is.

Far too normal for me, I assure you.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

The Forgotten.

Remember before all we talked about was the Coronavirus? Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

I woke up thinking about a news report I watched on our local news. It featured a lady who had been due to have a life-saving cancer operation, back in March. They had predicted a very good outcome, one that might well give her another ten years of life. Ten more years with her family and friends, ten more years of doing whatever she could; reading, pursuing her hobbies, and enjoying her garden.

But the operation was cancelled, because of the pandemic and the demand for beds in hospitals. The lady understood. A worldwide-pandemic was something new, something huge, and she was just one woman in an obscure English vilage. If her operation had to be delayed, then so be it. Let them deal with the shocking number of cases of Covid-19, and she could have her operation a little bit later on.

Except she didn’t get that operation. And by the time she was eventually called back to see her hospital doctor last week, six months had passed since she had first been told an urgent operation woud save her life. The tumour she has is now inoperable. It has spread too far, and cannot be removed. They have offered her debilitating treatment to shrink the growth, but that will only give her a few more weeks, not those ten years.

Interviewed in her garden, she was upset, but not bitter. She had accepted her raw deal, in the knowledge that people might recover from Covid-19 and go on to live longer, fuller lives. Though she couldn’t help but comment on the fact that she was one of the ‘forgotten’. Cancer patients, heart patients, those crippled and immobilised by hips and knees requiring surgery. First delayed, then cancelled, eventually forgotten.

Nobody reads out their statistics at the government briefing.

Beetley Update: Yet Another Covid-19 Saturday

As this situation drags on, it even seems to be geting to the local dogs. I was awakened early by dogs barking in nearby gardens, and that set off some ‘yappy dogs’ on the street outside. Very soon, there was some kind of ‘Canine Concerto’ happening, and getting back to sleep was impossible.

During the current lockdown, even allowing for the recent ‘easing of restrictions’, waking up early is not advised. With nowhere much to go, it makes a long day feel a whole lot longer. We can of course drive to the coast if we wish, but there are still no cafes or public toilets open, so maybe not a good idea. Not much point going into town to look around the shops, as only the food shops and chemists are open at the moment.

Uncertain weather doesn’t help either. Depending which forecast you look at, we are due to have either a dry humid day up to 24 C, or a 60% chance of thundery showers in the same temperatures. The obvious conclusion is that it is going to feel uncomfortably humid, whatever happens.

Next week, ‘non-essential’ shops are allowed to open. I predict there will be a rush on for hairdressers and barbers, as well as people browsing in gift shops, charity shops, and card shops, just because they can. Not because they actually want to buy anything. The local supermarkets are retaining the same distancing measures and queueing system, and I think that’s a good idea. When Macdonalds reopened last week, the queue for the drive-through brought local traffic to a standstill. Imagine if the restaurant had opened too.

People are craving what they were used to, and will not hesitate to have it once they can. All this talk of the world ‘changing’ becuase of the Coronavirus is just fantasy, I’m afraid. They will jump in their cars, head to the shoppping malls, book holidays abroad on jet planes, pack out any public venues that actually open, and get back to ‘normal’ in a heartbeat, as if nothing had happened.

Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

Hay Fever

When I was fifteen years old, I started to get Hay Fever. It came out of nowhere, and hit me very hard. Eyes streaming and itchy, constant sneezing and a runny nose, easily able to get through a couple of boxes of Kleenex in one day. It was relentless, stopping me sleeping properly, ruining concentration at school, and making the commute to and from that school unbearable, as I sneezed and spluttered all through the journey.

I soon consulted the family doctor, and received a prescription for Piriton. That tablet helped immdediately, drying me up and reducing the symptoms considerably. But it had the side effect of making me very drowsy, and that didn’t help at school either. So I stopped taking it, and just suffered in silence.

There were some places I could get relief. The coast and seaside helped, as it never seemed so bad there. And later on, once I was married, I could enjoy foreign holidays as I seemed to get no symptoms in any country outside of Britain. Something specific was causing it, and whatever it was definitely existed only at home.

Then one year, it stopped. That year was a supposedly bad Hay Fever season, but I got nothing. Not a sneeze nor sniffle.

Moving to Norfolk in 2012, I expected to get Hay Fever again, after being free of it for more than twenty-five years. Surrounded by countryside and fields, out for hours every day with Ollie, it semed likely to return.
But it didn’t.

Then today, after eight years when Hay Fever was only a bad memory, wham! I had to cut Ollie’s walk short, after constant sneezing and raging itchy eyes made me wonder what was happening. I didn’t wonder for long. Some perfect combination of weather conditions had been the cause of something happening that I had avoided for years.

It’s back, and I am not happy!

Ollie And The Water Vole

Out on Hoe Rough this afternoon, Ollie and I were dodging between some heavy downpours. After a welcome sunny break burst through, I was walking back to the gate when I spotted something at the edge of the path, on the side leading down to the river.

No bigger than a cotton reel, and rolled in a ball, it looked to me to be a vole, possibly a very young one too. A closer inspection revealed a thick tail, indicative of a water vole. They are becoming rare now, and are classed as endangered. I have seen adult ones occasionally though, normally swimming quickly to the security of the reed beds at the edges of the small river.

I felt sad, sure it must be dead, and reached down to touch it to make sure. The damp fur felt like velvet, and its body remained motionless. Ollie ran up behind me and sniffed the tiny animal, showing little interest. Suddenly, it moved. That made me step back, but Ollie lunged forward and grabbed it in his mouth as easily as if it was a furry gobstopper. I shouted at him to leave it, and he dropped it back onto the path, giving me a sheepish glance.

The vole scampered off unhurt, hiding in some long grass nearby. Other than a few seconds in a dog’s mouth, he had escaped being a very small snack.