The Last Sunday Musings For September

It has felt like a long week, for no good reason. Perhaps because Monday was a Public Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, the days have been out of synch.

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Unusually, everything closed for the day on Monday. No shops opened, not even for reduced hours. So my usual supermarket shop had to be put off until Tuesday. That made Tuesday feel like Monday, and every day after that just felt in the wrong place. By Thursday, we were both convinced it was Friday, and I was wondering why the TV was showing programmes on the wrong day.

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For Ollie of course, nothing changed. As long as he got his routine in the right order, and his walks at the right time, he didn’t notice any changes. On Friday, I had to drive to the Vet to get his repeat prescription. I had added an extra, a steroid cream that helps heal a sore spot on his chest. It worked exceptionally well in July, but soon ran out. I wanted to have some more just in case, so asked for another tube. That increased the bill to a mammoth £91. I had to remind myself once again that he is always completely worth the expense.

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After the relentless 10-day TV coverage of all things Royal, the normal news returned and I finally found out what had been happening in places other than Balmoral, Windsor castle, Westminster Abbey, and in countries outside Britain. Naturally, Monday was written off, with 24-hour coverage of the funeral on all main TV channels. Once they got back to normal on Tuesday, all the schedules had to be ‘bumped up’ by one day.

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Out on the dog-walks, we caught up with some friends (and their dogs) we had missed for the week we were away in Lincolnshire. It was back to greeting familiar dogs for Ollie, and marking his territory with an intensity that had to be seen.

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Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a peaceful and happy Sunday.

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More Photographic Memories Of My Youth In London

Although we lived in the Borough of Bermondsey in South London, we were within a short walk of other areas. Walworth, where I went to senior school, and Camberwell, where many of my friends lived. The main road from London to the Kent coast ran through the whole area, and is named The Old Kent Road in that section. That is actually one of the places on a British Monopoly game board.

The surplus stores on Walworth Road was where you could buy an ex-army jacket, a rucksack, or in my case, Doctor Martens ‘air-wear’ shoes. It was a regular hangout on Saturdays.
(This is a relatively modern photo. It is still there.)

Not far away was the A1 Stores. They seemed to sell everything at the time, but we went there to buy the latest records. Following the purchase, we usually sat in the nearby Wimpy Bar for ages, drinking ‘frothy coffee’.

But A1 wasn’t always my first choice for record buying. On the corner in this photo is May Smith, a dedicated record shop. I bought my first .45 single in there. It was ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, by The Searchers. That was in 1963, and I was eleven years old.

Many years before that, one of my places to hang out was St James’s Park. Not the famous one in Westminster, the one in St James’s Road, Bermondsey. It had a famous covered slide, the only one I have ever seen like it.

The two main cinemas locally were The Regal, and The Astoria. I went to one or other of them almost every week for years. They were both built in the Art Deso style,and beautifully decorated inside. This is The Astoria.

If you wanted to buy a bicycle, get a bike fixed, buy a saddlebag, a new chain, or tyre pump, Edwardes of Camberwell was the place to go. One of the premier cycle dealerships in the whole of London at the time.

Kennedys had shops all over the three boroughs. Their sausages were once considered to be the best you could buy.

George Carter was a menswear shop on the Old Kent Road. It was in there that I bought my first ever Ben Sherman button-down collar shirt.

Pie and Mash and Jellied Eels were staple diets of many Londoners then. I didn’t like the eels, but I loved pie and mash. Just a short walk from my school was my favourite Pie and Mash shop, Bert’s.
(Next door, you can just make out part of the name of The Popular Book Centre. This was a chain of large shops that sold secondhand books, comics, and magazines. They would also buy any you took in there, or give you credit against those they had for sale. My mum’s cousin Raymond was the manager of that branch, so I never had to pay!)

The World Turned Upside Down was a famous Victorian pub on the Old Kent Road. One of my school friends lived in the tenement flats next door, which were managed by the Guinness Trust as cheap housing for working-class people. If you look at the women pushing the prams you can see that they had filled them with coal, probably bought cheap from a nearby Coal Merchant, and too heavy to carry home.

Right at the other end of The Old Kent Road, almost in New Cross district, was this imposing pub, The Rising Sun. My mum’s older sister and her husband bought this pub the year we moved to the suburbs, 1967. They ran it for many years.

Selling Yourself: Part One

Back in 2013, I wrote a six-part series about my life before I became an EMT. This is the first part. I warn you, it is quite a long read. Not many of you have seen it before ( Except Jude and Vinnie) so it may interest you to know more about my early working life. If you enjoy it let me know, and I will re-post the rest in order.

beetleypete

From the time I left school, until I joined the London Ambulance Service, was a period of less than twelve years. During that time, I had an unusually high number of jobs, all but one of which involved selling, in one form, or another. I have written about some of those jobs before, but I have recently reflected on just how easy it was to get work, to come and go as you pleased, sometimes starting and leaving three jobs in the same year. In today’s world, of high unemployment, no-hours contracts, reduced Trade Union rights, and a return to the Victorian era. with no paid holidays, or sick leave, it makes me realise just how easy it was, to live in the 1960’s and 1970’s, compared to the present day. My own employment history, before settling down in the Ambulance Service, may seem like a poor CV. In those…

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Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Littering.

The warm weather is back, and the crowds are starting to arrive at the river bend over on Beetley Meadows. Promoted by people on Facebook, family groups arrive from all over central Norfolk. Their children play safely in the shallow water, then enjoy picnic lunches on the tables and benches provided. Free of charge, and free parking on nearby streets and roads, it offers the benefits of a day at the seaside without the crowds, cost, or having to sit in traffic. Very few live locally, but that’s fine. It’s a public area for all to enjoy, after all.

Some arrive unaware that there are no toilet facilities, or shops nearby. I am often asked where they can buy drinks or ice creams, or if there any any public toilets to use. They seem shocked to discover that the nearest shop is in a different village over two miles away, and that toilets are not provided by the tiny Beetley Parish Council.

For those of us that use the area every day, in all weathers, the annual influx of people from outside Beetley on sunny days and during school holidays is something we havve become used to. Very often, the people at the river bend will eventually make their way to the small playground and football/basketball pitch, when their kids have tired of geting wet. So we are used to seeing them using those facilities too.

But the downside is the littering. Numerous bins are provided for litter, and emptied weekly by contractors. They are not that big though, so the bins soon become overwhelmed with the debris of ten or twelve families and their all-day picnics. Then the even smaller bins in the playground and ball-court areas are filled within an hour or two, as they have more drinks and snacks.

So what should these people do? Well, take it home with them of course. Use the bags they brought the food and drink in to take home their rubbish so it is not left littering our local Meadows. What they actually do is stack it next to the already overflowing bins, as if expecting someone to arrive immediately to clear up after them. The more inventive among them actually place their garbage carefully on top of the bins, knowing full well it will soon slip down, or be blown off by the slightest breeze.

Moving here from a litter-strewn city like London, I was very impressed by how neat and tidy Beetley is.

Until the weather gets warm, and the outsiders arrive. Then it is just like London in miniature.

Bags For Life Or Bag For The Week?

I found this interesting article online about supermarket shopping bags.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/reusable-plastic-shopping-bags-are-actually-making-the-problem-worse-not-better?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

When compulsory charges for plastic carrier bags were introduced, most large retailers offered the option of the more expensive ‘Bag For Life’. The cost for these can range from 20p, to over £1, depending on the shop, and the size of the bags. The idea was to cut plastic waste, as the shop would replace your ‘Bag for life’ once it had split, or the handles had broken. The replacement was free, and the shop would arrange for proper recycling of the damaged bag.

The bigger, thicker bags use much more plastic in their manufacture, and it seems shoppers are not deterred by having to pay for them after all. Very few are taken back to the shops for replacement, and many shoppers regularly fail to reuse them when buying more groceries on the next shopping trip. They just buy more new ones instead. So most bags for life last little longer than one week, often dumped into the household rubbish where they once again become a problem.

I have a woven basket, and three heavy shopping bags that I have used for almost 10 years. I never forget to take them when I go shopping, and never have to buy any replacements until they literally fall to bits.

It seems we still have a long way to go when it comes to plastic bags in this country.

Lockdown Number Two

On the 5th of November, we begin a second national lockdown in England. Once again, bars, pubs, hotels, and restaurants will close. Only essential shops will remain open, and travel will be restricted to work, food shopping, child care, and some emergencies.

So far, it is planned for a period of at least 28 days, but there is no actual time cap if the current high infection rate continues.

To many, this is frustrating. Small business like hairdressers and beauticians have just got going again after the last time. Some entertainment venues were hoping to open in time for Christmas, but now that probably will not happen. Gift shops, toy shops, card shops, and many others reliant on the huge spending boom before Christmas are likely to go bust, with their biggest trading period of the year cancelled.

Some believe it is necessary, to slow the alarming increase in ITU admissions, and subsequent deaths.

But if so, why are schools and colleges remaining open? You tell people that they cannot visit an 80 year old grandmother, or go and have their hair cut on a one to one basis, but it is okay for your child to attend a school with perhaps a thousand other children every day, possibly bringing home the virus to the rest of the family.

To say that Boris Johnson has handled the pandemic badly is an understatement.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Masks.

Wearing masks in shops, banks, and enclosed public spaces became compulsory here on Friday.

I had a lot of experience with the disposable surgical-style masks when I was an EMT, and I doubt their effectiveness after wearing them for even a few minutes. It should also be remembered that they are worn to protect others, not the wearer.

But that’s not the point.

The government here dragged its heels on ordering the wearing of masks, resulting in many people questioning the point of issuing the instruction now that infection rates are low. This escalated into a smattering of ‘Anti-Mask’ movements springing up here.

And that’s not the point either.

Then some of the largest supermarkets, cafe chains, and retail chains announced that they would not be ‘policing’ the wearing of masks in their establishments. With the real police unlikely to consider it serious enough to intervene, and being too busy anyway, it seems to be a toothless law that is unlikey to ever see any of the £100 fines being imposed or collected.

That’s still not the point.

The point is, why not? Why not just wear one? It doesn’t hurt for the short time you are in a shop, and if nothing else, it reassures the others around you. I just bought a packet of five well-made washable masks from Amazon for not much more than £1 each, so price is not an issue. Some shops are even offering to provide free disposable masks for customers attempting to enter the shop without one.

In one supermarket I visited on Friday afternoon, every single customer was wearing one. Yes, mine made my glasses steam up a bit, but so what? I could still see. I didn’t stand at the bread counter thinking my civil liberties had been abandoned, and I was able to converse with the checkout lady who sat safe behind her perspex screen.

It may solve nothing, and may not even stop me getting the virus. But it might help stop a second wave, or at least reduce the effect of one. It might just work, so has to be worth trying. So if you are still undecided about wearing a mask when you go shopping, then stop overthinking it.

Just wear one.

Another Relaxed Rules Saturday

One of my short reports about living with the pandemic in an English village close to a country market town.

I noticed a few changes since the last time I wrote one of these. A short trip into Dereham to go to the bank brought the surprise that well over half the shoppers there on market day were wearing masks now. They will be mandatory in any shop in England after the 24th of July, so I suspect that a lot of people have decided they might as well start earlier.

The bank still has a system of queuing outside, with entry through a side door, and exit on another street. And it is still only open for four hours each day, for the foreseeable future. Some of the cafes were open, one with extra tables out on the street, another with greatly reduced seating arrangements inside. Compared to a few weeks ago, shoppers appeared to be more responsible, and keeping their distance on the pavements and walkways. I was left wondering why they had waited so long.

The big supermarkets have abandoned the one-way systems and single checkout queues, though the two largest ones still have some form of door policy, letting customers out before allowing more in. I have a little concern that once every shopper is wearing a mask, many of the other safety measures will be abandoned. Whilst masks are good at protecting other people from your breath, so many users don’t wear them correctly, only covering their mouth with them, and not their nose too. Then there is the obvious fact that they are touching things and putting them back on the shelves, something that masks cannot protect us from.

They have also generated a new and more dangerous form of litter. I saw many disposable masks dropped on the street, and the supermarket car park had quite a few dropped next to car parking spaces. There will always be thoughtless and inconsiderate people, sadly.

All schools are set to go back to normal operation in September, and some hotels and guest houses have already opened for the summer tourist trade. Holiday parks are popular, as their lodge-style accommodation or static caravans can be used by a family without having to share any communal area. However, swimming pools are still closed, as are cinemas and play areas like Soft Play centres.

Yesterday, 114 people died in England from Covid-19. People with families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It is far from over.

We must never forget them.

Ghost Town

I am just back from a trip to my nearest large town, Dereham. This market town is the fifth largest in Norfolk, with a poulation of around 14,000. I was heading for the big Tesco Supermarket on the outskirts, to get a weekly shop. With most other town shops closed, the place felt deserted. School closures meant that the late afternoon school run traffic was nonexistent, and with the exception of the few town centre shops selling food, every other shop was closed up, and in some cases, shuttered.

Compared to a normal Monday afternoon, it felt like driving around in a ghost town.

Once at the supermarket, new restrictions are in place. A large section of the car park is closed off by barriers, enforcing a strict one-way queueing system to get into the shop. One customer only at a time, one trolley, and one total transaction. Inside, it feels strange. Not only were there few customers, perhaps a quarter of what I would usually see at this time, but the aisles were closed off at each end, enforcing another one-way system for shoppers.

Most things were available, with the exception of dried pasta. (I buy fresh anyway, and they had that) There was only one type of eggs available, an expensive blue-shell variety. Medicines like Paracetamol and Antihistamine were not in stock, but there was plenty of bread, meat, vegetables, and fresh fruit. There were also toilet rolls, and paper kitchen towels, as well as anti-bacterial sprays, and most cleaning products.

Sadly, I sensed an element of profiteering in the prices. Whether the supermarkets are having to pay more to secure the goods, or they are trying to make up for the lack of sales now panic buying has slowed, I don’t know. But there were almost no ‘special offers’, and a four pack of toilet rolls, costing £2 only two weeks ago was now £3. That’s a huge percentage increase, in a product people are still trying to buy. Fortunately, I didn’t need any, and they were restricted to one pack per customer.

On the way home, during what passes for the ‘rush hour’ around here, there was less traffic than early on a Sunday morning.

Perhaps people are finally ‘getting it’? I hope so.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Sundays.

What better to think about on a Sunday, than Sundays?
When I got up this morning, I had forgotten it was a Sunday.

At one time in my life, Sundays were a big deal. Getting up late, reading comics, my parents relaxed after a long week at work. My Dad would get ready to go to the pub for midday, while Mum started preparing everything for the big meal we would eat around 2:30 when he got back. After eating, they usually went for a ‘lie down’ in the bedroom, leaving me to my books or toys.

It was a long time before I worked out what that Sunday ‘lie down’ was all about.

By 5:30, Mum would have prepared a meal called ‘Sunday tea’. In London, this usually consisted of assorted fresh seafood, bread and butter, and slices of a cake she would have baked earlier. Fortified with this, my Dad would leave again, to get to the pub by seven when it opened. This left Mum and me watching television together, until Dad got home around midnight. It never occurred to me that he was drinking and driving. Back then, everyone did that.

By the time I was married, the Sunday tradition had altered for us, but not much. Reading huge Sunday papers in bed, followed by a bacon sandwich and more coffee downstairs. As there were no shops open in those days, we would usually visit my Mum in the late afternoon. She was on her own by then, and still preparing the big traditional dinner, followed by cake. If we stayed home, we ate later, and had anything we fancied, not always the British Sunday Roast. With work the next morning, there was rarely anything done late at night, so we were usually back in bed by eleven.

To be honest, I found Sundays really boring.

Once I started to work shifts as an EMT, I had to work at least two Sundays a month, sometimes three. That completely shattered any notion of a traditional Sunday in my life, and it soon felt like just another day.

When I retired in 2012, I discovered that Sundays here in Beetley were seemingly frozen in time. People mowed their lawns on Sundays, washed their cars, carried out some DIY tasks, and mostly still ate that traditional Sunday lunch around two in the afternoon. By then, shops were open from ten until four, so younger people might go into Norwich or Dereham to look around the shops, or to buy some food from the supermarket. Traffic here on a Sunday can be worse than during the working week.

In less than a year, Sundays lost their rediscovered novelty for me. When you don’t have to go to work on a Monday, or rush to get home from work on a Friday, the weekend starts to feel like any other day. Ollie has to go out for his walk, and I can prepare anything we want for dinner, eating at around the usual time for us of seven in the evening.

Other people do different things of course. Religious people still attend church, though in fewer numbers than in the past. Those with small children might take them to the park, or drive them to a regular activity, like a football club, or dance class. In better weather, many flock to the coast, enjoying the beaches and activities in the sea. It is only thirty minutes away by car, but you have to get there early to find a space in the car park.

Once winter arrives, few people venture out. They stay in in front of the fire, or the warmth of central heating. The huge choice of entertainment provided by television, phones, and computers these days means they are not bored, as I used to be in my teens. For them, it is school tomorrow, or work. That ‘Monday Morning’ feeling as the day draws to a close.

But for me, Monday is just another day, as is today.

These days, I have to be reminded it is a Sunday.