Covid Comes Knocking

Julie went to see her grandchildren last week. Her grandson had just had to start back at school, and sure enough, he had a cold.

By Friday evening, Julie didn’t feel so good, and thought she might be geting a cold. Children are very infectious, in more ways than one.

But the pubs had to open, and the schools had to go back. Whatever the outcome.

On Saturday, she had a dry cough, runny nose, streaming eyes, and a headache.

She spent most of Sunday in bed, sleeping for almost sixteen hours after a disturbed night on Saturday.

This morning, she had to ring in to the doctor’s surgery where she works, and book a call with the Practice Nurse. It is a requirement of course, although she has no real symptoms of Covid-19 that are any more serious than the Common Cold.

After a brief discussion, she has been told that she must now self-isolate, and book a government-controlled Covid-19 test online. Self-isolation is not considered to be the same as sickness absence from work, so she may not get paid. She has to tell everyone she has been in close contact with, and I am supposed to self-isolate too. Even though I don’t have the slightest symptom.

So who is going to walk Ollie? He won’t go to the toilet in our garden, and will hold himself until he is ill if he doesn’t go out. And what about grocery shopping? I only buy for each week, and there is very little left in the house to eat. I could try to book an online shop, but what are we supposed to eat and drink meanwhile? How am I supposed to manage everyday lfe in a small rural village if I cannot venture out for fourteen days? Luckily, I can avoid local people, neighbours, and any family members living in Norfolk. But pets have to be cared for, and we have to eat, even if we can’t go anywhere, or do anything else.

Suddenly, it is at our door, and there are decisions to be made.

I will be taking Ollie out. I can wear a mask, make the walk short, and keep well-away from any other dog-walkers I might encounter.
And I will be going to the supermarket too, as wearing a mask there is compulsory anyway, and I don’t have to come into contact with anyone if I am careful.

One phone call can change so much, in 2020.

By the end of next month, the Flu season will be upon us, and hundreds of thousands of people will have symptoms identical to some of those associated with Covid-19.

There is almost certainly going to have to be another nationwide lockdown before Christmas.

The Last Gasp Of Summer

On my short holiday, it didn’t rain at all. And there was only one dull and chilly day. I came home last weekend to an Indian Summer of high temperatures and blue skies. I haven’t seen any rain now since the night of the 6th, and that makes me very happy.

Today it is also bright and sunny, with some heat in the sunshine. Ollie is sleeping in a shaft of sunlight next to my desk, and I can hear soft music coming from a garden across the road. Nobody is cutting grass, drilling, or hammering. Traffic is light on the road outside, and peace dwells in Beetley so far this morning.

The weather people on TV tell us that this is all soon to change by Wednesday. Rain will arrive from the north-west, and the 24 C we are enjoying today will be down to a more seasonal 15 C.

Unusually, I am not complaining about that. We had a summer, and it was suitably hot. Then I had a holiday, with no rain. Then I came home to great weather as a bonus.

With all that has gone wrong in 2020, at least the weather finally worked.

Suddenly Struggling

2020 has been a strange year for everyone, no doubt about that. But whether it is the pandemic, my age, or some psychological change inside me, I am definitely struggling this year. As it went on, I found myself discombobulated, and everything started to suddenly become a struggle, even simple everyday things that most people get on with without a second thought.

I have already stated that I am going to be blogging less. That’s because I am really struggling to keep up with domestic chores and household tasks, and need to allow more time for those.

I am also reading less; nothing at all, to be completely honest. After loading up my Kindle and reading around forty books in two years, (not that many, but a lot for me) I haven’t finished a book so far this year. I find it hard to concentrate, and keep reading the same page over again, or looking back when I have forgotten something in the plot.

I am struggling with films too. I have notebook pages filled with Netflix recommendations, as well as almost 100 unwatched films on DVD, sitting on a shelf behind me. I flick through them intending to watch something, then decide I can’t be bothered and put them back.

I have hardly taken a photo either. Despite owning five digital cameras, I rarely even take one out. On my recent holiday, it occurred to me that I had already published photos of the places I was visiting, so took less than thirty shots in that week. Then I am struggling with the new version of Photoshop Elements, which seems to have changed the way I used to resize and save my images. I cannot be bothered to fight with any more technology, so just posted some photos in full-size files instead. I stopped caring about the space used.

Of course, you all know I have been struggling with the concept of the Block Editor. But I have decided to stop going on about that, as it just makes me angry and solves nothing.

Many of my dearest blogging friends are dealing with things that are much worse. Bereavement, illness, medical treatments, and disease. It makes me feel guilty to keep moaning about WordPress, so I am going to stop that now.

When I look back on 2020 in years to come, if I get the chance to do that, I will remember it as the year that I appeared to struggle with almost every aspect of my life.

Mobile Merry-Go-Round

One downside of my recent holiday was that my mobile phone decided to act strangely. It would no longer accept my PIN code, to unlock the screen. I knew it was the correct numbers, as they are the dates of Julie’s birthday. After three tries, it locked.

Julie contacted the service provider on her phone. They accepted no reponsibility, and said I had to contact the manufacturer of the phone. When Julie eventually got through to them, they said it was my fault, and I would have to take it somewhere to get it unlocked and reset. As I was a very long way from any town or city of any size that might have such a place, I was stuck.

A second call to the manufacturer finally got them to admit that many other users were experiencing the same problem, and that the phone would have to be sent back to them for repair. The location was still the problem, as I had no chance of packaging the phone and sending it back to them. Meanwhile, I had no access to my contact numbers, and a phone that was just a useless lump of metal, through no fault of my own.

The service provider refused to suspend my contract, saying they are still providing a service that I am contracted to pay for, and the fault is not theirs. So I am paying £19 a month for the privilege of having a phone I cannot use, and they will not upgrade the handset or supply me with an alternative until my contract expires next year.

I am on that roundabout of technology, caught between two opposing sides both failing to provide genuine customer service, and unable to get off.

On top of everything else going on with the floor-laying this week, I now have to find the time to drive into Norwich to argue my case with the service provider in their shop.

I can already feel my blood pressure rising!

Testing…One…Two

Long-term followers of my blog will know that I am part of the testing group for products supplied by Amazon UK. Members are known as ‘Vine Voices’, and are allowed to choose from a variety of free stuff which they get to keep, in exchange for a fair review.

Over the years, I have had my share of books and DVD films. Also electrical items like kettles, power tools, vacuum claners, lawn mowers, and various kitchen implements. Useful things like backpacks and holdalls, as well as numerous toys that have benefited my grandson when he visits. Ollie has received various different varieties of dog food, and some dog-related accessories too, like chew toys.

Some items are quite large and expensive, like a multi-function child car seat, and a modern buggy-style pram that converts into a carry-cot. Then there were hair driers and straighteners for Julie, and a plethora of make-up and cosmetic items. The only proviso is that you must review them within a certain time period, and that they cannot be sold or given away as gifts. After six months, they are mine to keep, and should they become faulty or defective this is dealt with by updating the review, as they are not eligible for return.

I have a profile as a member, and that includes a list of preferences. One item on my list is ‘photography’, but so far I had never been offered any photographic equipment.
Until recently.

I was delighted to see the new Sony ZV-1 appear on my offers, and requested it immediately. This small camera is dedicated to the ‘Vlogging’ market (video blogging) but also takes stills. I was even more pleased when it arrived complete with the expensive accessory handle/grip/tripod too.

Then imagine my delight when following my review of that camera, another was offered. A full-frame, mirrorless digital SLR, a new model launched by Nikon. The Z5 is an enthusiast’s camera offering a great deal of options in a small package. Mine came complete with the standard zoom lens, which is rather limited at 24-50 MM and only f/4.
But still, it was completely free!

I charged it up today, and ordered a memory card. Hopefully soon, I will be shooting full-frame 24 megapixel stills from a camera with a great pedigree. Sadly, if I put them on the blog, I will have to reduce them down in size to save space.

I get nothing from Amazon, Nikon, or Sony for mentioning this on a blog post, just so you know.

This will only be of interest to camera enthusiasts and photographers out there, I appreciate that.

Something About Stones…

I watched a lady throw a stone into the river this morning. It was to make her dog swim for it, but of course the small dog had no idea it was a stone that had sunk to the bottom before it had got there.

I have often wondered about stones. How long have they been there? Had that stone she threw always been there? Waiting for someone to pick it up and throw it, or put it to some other use. Stones were there before humans of course, and without scientific testing, their age remains a mystery.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them)

These are flint pebbles, collected and shaped by hand to be used in the buiding of a barn on a nearby deserted farm. Flint was one of the earliest stones used by humans to make tools. Everything from a scraper to use on animal skins, to weapons of warfare in ancient times. They also used it to strike sparks to make fire. I stood wondering if any of those flints had been used at a time before history was written down, imagining a cave-man trying to crack one open to create a sharp edge.

Here are some stones used in the construction of a Norman chapel in the village of North Elmham. I took this photo wondering if they had been quarried for the purpose, or just picked up from the ground and fashioned into the right shape required. How long had they been there before the stonemasons used them?

A pebble beach at Pevensey Bay, on the south coast of England. This is the actual spot where William The Conqueror landed with his Norman Army, in 1066. I stood on that beach imagining the feet of Norman soldiers touching the same pebbles centuries before, and wondering if they could indeed be the same stones that have endured through time.

This is the sort of thing I think about when I am alone with my camera.

September Thoughts

Two days into the official autumn season, and I am feeling rather autumnal in mood. It has been a very strange year for everyone, almost as if it didn’t exist, and were living in some kind of limbo between last Christmas and the start of 2021.

Now it seems that this new way of living will have to continue well into the new year, and will probably be the way we all have to live for the foreseeable future. Like it or not, life has changed for all of us, and will almost certainly never be the same again. And we have yet to face the inevitable economic backlash of the lost jobs, closed-down businesses, and repaying the astronomical government debts incurred.

Not wishing to sound too gloomy, I feel the worst is yet to come.

I haven’t been anywhere further than thirty miles away since the second week of March. Living in a small village like Beetley may have been instrumental in saving me from contracting the virus, but I have gone a little stir-crazy stuck in the village, with an occasional trip to the nearby town. A change of scene is required, and with that in mind, I will not be around next week.

Ollie goes to the groomer tomorrow. He will have his moulting fur dealt with, a nice bath, and his nails clipped. That should make him feel better after all he endured during the hot spell of weather.

The mornings are cold now, and I have put the duvet back on the bed to cope with chillier nights.

People are already talking about Christmas, and how different the usual celebrations will have to be.

I doubt there is anyone who will be sorry to say goodbye to 2020.

August Bank Holiday

Today has been a public holiday in England. The shops have been open of course, albeit with reduced trading hours.

This is the last of the big holidays until Christmas, and is traditionally very warm, often humid. But we have seen a very different August in England. Wet, chilly, and nothing at all like we have come to expect. Today struggled to get to 16 C in the daytime, and now that the sun has set, it is decidedly cold for the time of year.

This is a significant, and notable, change. It wasn’t more than a few years ago when we had temperatures exceeding 30 C, on the same day.

Usually, we smell barbecues, and hear music coming from the surrounding houses. Children are out late, still playing, the week before they have to go back to school.

But not this year, when it feels almost like the start of winter. It is like we have missed a season completely. We have gone from a briefly too hot summer, straight into an unusual start to winter.

If anyone was ever wondering about climate change, and that included me, I admit.

Wonder no longer.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Rain in Summer.

After a hotter than usual summer, it started to get colder during last week. That was unexpected for the end of August, when it is normally hot and humid.

Then almost thirty-six hours ago, it started to rain.

It went from an annoying drizzle to a full-blown downpour, and then it didn’t stop. The rest of that day, all that night, and all day yesterday it kept pouring down. The noise of the rain was increased by a strong wind lashing it against the house, and against me and Ollie when we were out on his dog-walk too.

Any idea that it was still the end of the summer was banished by the dark skies and constant hammering of the rain.

By late last night, I really had reached the end of my tether with it, and my mood was very low. Weather like that makes me feel trapped in the house, almost claustrophobic, and following the freedom of that earlier warm and dry weather, it was even more depressing.

By the time I went to bed, I lay there listening to the rain hitting the window for the second night, and even before I got off to sleep, I was dreading getting up to another day of it today.

I write a lot about rain on this blog, mainly because having to go out for a long time every day with Ollie has focused my attention on extremes of weather like never before in my life. Some people like rain. Others say things like ‘it’s good for the garden’. People who live in hot dry countries welcome rain with excitement, even festivals.

But I actually hate rain now. I never want to see it, hear it, or feel wet from it one more day in my life. If it never rained again here I wouldn’t mind. I would be very happy in fact. The past eight years of my life have been dominated by rain. Flooding in outbuildings, problems with guttering, and the constant daily soakings every time I went out with Ollie. Dealing with mud, trying to get a saturated dog dry enough to go back into the house, and stripping off clothes that got wet despite investment in expensive ‘waterproof’ outer clothing.

If you only ever experience rain by looking at it through the windows of your house and car, try to imagine being out walking around in it every day, seven days a week.

But it has finally stopped.

At least for now.

Another Job Jobbed

When I was young, my parents would always say that anytime they finished doing something around the house. As young as I was, I always thought it was a rather silly expression.

Now I am older, I still avoid using it. However, I have come to appreciate the sense of relief, if not satisfaction, when those routine jobs are over.

After ten days with a broken heating/hot water boiler, and trying to remember to keep switching on (and off) the electric back up, the boiler has been fixed. My son-in-law arrived earlier, and has been working for three hours to replace faulty parts, and get it going. The amount of dirt and soot inside the relatively small boiler cabinet had to be seen to be believed, and I was once again glad that it is situated in the garage, rather than the house.

It didn’t help that it has been raining torrentially all day, and walking in and out has left the floors of the garage and connecting shed covered in a wet sooty sludge that cannot be walked on until it has had time to dry out. Unfortunately, the freezer and large second fridge both live in the shed, so I have had to dump old towels onto the floor to be able to walk back and forth to the house without treading in sooty footprints.

After a week when the kitchen cupboards were painted, and the flooring measured ready to order and have fitted, I am relieved that the boiler has been fixed too, allowing the possibility of actually having a ‘day off’ of household disruptions on Sunday.

And I found myself thinking, “That’s another job jobbed”.