27 April 2021
In your latest flyer you have stated that the Conservative County Councillor has “secured the funds and resources to resurface the town centre in 2012”.
This would, of course, be amazing. Please could you provide more details of deliverables such as:
3 May 2021
I contacted you with a question last week via your preferred channel, i.e. your Tory email address. I had been hoping for some clarification of your statement that the Conservatives had secured the wherewithal to resurface the town centre this year. In the absence of a reply, I managed to view the plans provided by Skanska. It appears, from what I saw, that this amounts to little more than routine maintenance? If you believe differently, I would be grateful for your views?
While we're on the subject, I am told there is likely to be some resurfacing work on Park Road, too. If this is not to be another piece of routine maintenance, it would be helpful to understand how this major artery will be brought up to LTN 1/20 standards in the process. The crossing places could certainly be brought into alignment if this is to be a proper capital project, don't you think?
Good luck on Thursday
Just got another piece of paper through the letterbox supposedly from David Leigh-Pemberton(DL-P). It seems "he" has deemed it time to take the gloves off in the contest with Bethia Thomas. Funny, he seemed a sort of decent cove, so I suspect the Tory spin-doctors are baring their Rottweiler fangs.
I wonder how many of the claims being made on this leaflet will be fulfilled? I wonder how many of them will be specific to our beloved Faringdon? Would I be being naïve to expect there is a detailed plan behind the assertions that we can hold their feet to the fire with during the next term. Apparently DL-P is "The Only Candidate Standing up for Faringdon & the Villages (their caps)". How on earth will he substantiate that?
Certainly not by referring to the previous incumbent's performance.
Show us the plans with a few penalty clauses for failure to deliver and you may have a bit more credibility. I Have a few examples of why I am sceptical. I'll roll these out in the next few days ...
We frequently hear exclamations such as "What is the Council doing about this?" It is more complicated than that. There are three councils and a central government that serve Faringdon.
Broadly the councils' services are split between the Town Council, the District Council and the County Council. If you live in one of the villages you can probably substitute a parish council for the town council. In our case we have the Faringdon Town Council and then various services allocated between the Vale of the White Horse District Council (ain't that a mouthful and a bit of local colour at the same time) and the OCC.
We, the burghers of Faringdon, pay Council Tax that is distributed between the three. OCC councillors received remuneration of between £10,719.00 and £41,805.00 in 2019-2020. That is before they are paid for extraneous expenses, which in some cases go into thousands of pounds in a "normal" (non Covid) year.
The difference between the basic and the top rate are accounted for an added "responsibility" allowance allocated to roles such as "cabinet ministers". With one exception, the top 20 allowances in 2019-2020 were paid to Conservatives.
This would be for senior roles in the management of: Roads and transport; Leisure and culture; Social and health care; Fire and public safety; Environment; Community and living; Children, education and families; Residents. A more detailed description of these categories is shown below, together with a breakdown of the OCC councillor remunerations obtained from the OCC website
No they bloody well won't. Only radical reduction in consumption will.
There is a myth being created that, if only we could convert everything to electricity, we'd be off the hook for global warming. Give us a break. Why aren't we paying more attention to reducing consumption? Doesn't serve the capitalist ethic, does it.
"Where will we squeeze out our next billion," you hear the crafty cronies cry.
"We need more margin on vehicles, grandiose construction projects, speedboats, outdoor heaters, long range transport," they whisper.
Take the last of those, moving produce around the world. Who gains from transporting food from Ms Truss' new favourite trading partner, a distance of around 10,000 miles?
Think about it while we contemplate buying local. What a quaint idea?
Before you think I'm getting all Brexit on you. Stop. Let's do a few comparisons. Within the distance it would take a lorry to travel from London to Carlisle, it could also get to Paris, Brussels and even Amsterdam, passing through rich agricultural regions of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
So, when I say local I'm talking about within a few miles. Preferably somewhere one can walk or pedal to and from. Or at least that the producer can deliver to consumers at low cost to the environment. With a bit of luck town centres will be revitalised. A new economy could be generated around digital homeworkers deploying Active Travel for their foraging and socialising activities. Living Streets in action?
But, before we get all dewy-eyed about a new rural idyll, buffed up by sustainable new technology, how on earth did we get here?
Mostly through ignorance and then burying our heads in the sand once we knew what we were doing was wrong.
I'll turn my focus to the motor industry for the remainder of this blog. By no means because it is the only (or even the worst) culprit but it does provide a perfect platform for grandstanding politicians. Particularly those clambering for the next smokescreen to feed to the British public.
First, I must confess.
Look, I'm just as guilty as the next baby-boomer for making hay while the sun shone but, just because I was a petrol-head arsehole at one stage in my life doesn't give me a perpetual licence to continue a life of ad nauseam consumption. Even though, as a one-time motoring editor who extolled the virtues sub 6-second 0-60 mph acceleration times, I have helped pave the way for the lust accorded to increasingly indulgent supercars and superbikes.
Attempts to recant and atone have, to date, been confused. Maybe they will still continue while I sort myself out as a predominantly active traveller.
In the meantime what prompted this current rant?
The electric car myth
It was a Facebook ad for an electric Lexus.
Have you noticed how many of the Facebook, Twitter, et al ads for electric cars are for luxury brands: Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar, Volvo and, of course, Tesla to name a clutch. Even Ford has taken to touting the Mustang as its electric offering. The Mustang was a '60s muscle car. Over the years it has become bloated but a major selling point for the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT remains its ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph in an extraordinary 3.5 seconds. Imagine that silently sneaking up from behind while you're on your e-bike, pedalling along and governed to < 16 mph by (UK) law.
The entry level price for the Mustang in the UK is (currently) in the region of £40,000, BTW.
Granted, it may improve the air quality a little for the affluent neighbours of its owner.
However, it will achieve this at the expense of anyone living near a current or proposed power-generating facility. I include proposed facilities because an awful amount of energy will be expended on building even the cleanest sources of power.
The current UK government seems to include nuclear power in this. Really? Fukushima Daiichi is all too recent in global memory. Why, oh why, do we need it?
Back to Bloated
Electric vehicles do have obvious advantages but surely these should be focussed on reducing energy consumption and other environmental concerns rather than on propelling even bigger and faster bloated beasts. It's no coincidence that a big drive for this excess comes from global financiers' manipulation of capital to preserve profits that were previously earned by gas guzzlers.
"Who says they are bloated?" you may ask.
To answer that we need a Mars bar comparison. A car that has been around for a long time (in this case more than 60 years) while fulfilling much the same function.
The Fiat 500 (a.k.a. Cinquecento) first appeared on European roads in 1957. It was cute, economical and took up so little space it could squeeze through tiny Piemontese mountain villages for the daily shopping run. If it looked like running out of fuel, there'd always be a bowser on a street corner near you.
Back in the 70s Diana used hers to show Carmela and me around the Apennines before, exiting stage right, it made way for a new "replica".
Now we have the 2020 500e. Granted, it remains cute and the cheapest model in the range will accomplish a few shopping trips in style. But why does it have to be 22% longer, 30% wider, 18% taller and a whopping 180% heavier?
Another point to note: the entry level 2020 500e comes with a substantial government grant to sneak the price the obligatory £5 under the magical £20K mark.
Or you could have a Porsche Taycan for £83K-£138K depending upon whether you want 616 bhp and 0-60 in 4 sec or 751 bhp and 0-60 in 2.8 sec. Don't worry, the British taxpayer will subsidise you to buy one of these, too.
While we're on the Taycan, I read an article by a couple who recently bought one and decided to take it on a run from London to the South Coast. They were running short of charge to make the round trip and had the Devil's own job finding a charging station. They used the Porsche app, stopped at fuel stations and cruised through supermarket car parks as the nightmare expanded. But don't worry, the UK taxpayer will cough up to subsidise upgrading the network while households across the land will absorb the cost of cheap leccy for your car.
Why does bloated matter?
Physics 101: the greater the mass, the more energy required to shift it. What is more, even a Cinquecento needs 30% more road space.
And that extra weight wears tyres out more quickly, generating more rubber particles to kill more salmon in our rivers (and that's just the thin end of a wedge).
We haven't even discussed battery disposal. They do not last forever. We used to dump them in Chinese rivers but they've got a bit wise to that recently.
What do we do about it?
For this blog let's focus on travel. We can return to other forms of consumption in a later episode.
Before you take your next steps, sit down and think about what you really require from your modes of travel.
Do they have to be bigger and faster? Can you get away with downsizing? How many journeys actually even require a vehicle that relies solely on manufactured energy? Can it be motor-assisted for those moments when you really need it? Consider your health and how much exercise you should be getting and whether your chosen mode of travel could double as your daily exercise? Are you really saving time by using motorised transport? Does the exhilaration of speed equate to the wind-in-the-hair experience?
Write your own use case.
Maybe you can even paddle your own canoe, literally and/or metaphorically. After all, the UK is criss-crossed with canals that were designed to move people and goods about. Whatever. How many of your journeys' requirements could be satisfied by self-propelled or self-assisted travel? How much money would you save by doing this? How much fitter would you be. Weigh it up.
Active travel is a viable alternative to a huge number of journeys made by the 21st century global population. Do you really need bigger and faster? Did you know more than 70% of days in the UK are completely dry.
For a while some of us have started to eat our own dog food. I am not a super fit cycling fanatic. I often walk if it is more appropriate than cycling. I do like the freedom to roam, though. The first picture is of my long distance tourer at the top of an Alpine climb. The remaining three are alternatives for those who wish for a bit of panache and Italian style a la the Cinquecento, the last of them affording a bit of the wind in the hair performance lust, too.
Guess what? That taxpayer subsidy for a leccy car would buy any two of the four (but not including Shan).
Returning to the original message: Reducing consumption is so much more efficient and enjoyable in so many ways than finding vastly expensive ways to manufacture more fuel.
Coming soon: Other means of reducing energy consumption and flagrant wastage.
Came across some random slides that were used in the Daily News and then returned to me ... I have some idea of where ... a little bit of when ... no idea of who
So here's a bit of fun for those who like to guess ... only I don't know the answers. Hoping between a few ageing mates there will be some consensus.
Go on ... have a go. Answers either on comments here or, maybe easier on the Facebook post
While the incumbent government continues its attempt to fly deprivation and misery under the radar of the Covid pandemic, comparisons with WW1 and WW2 have been bandied about. What a load of lazy flannel.
Let me tell you what happened during the dying embers of the dystopian end of WW2. Bretton Woods happened, that's what. All 44 of the "Allied" nations got together to plan to avoid the devastating financial collapses that had occurred during the 1918-39 interregnum.
They signed an agreement on the 22nd of July 1944, i.e. almost a year before the end of the war. The participants did not want the misery to continue and were prepared to do something about it. The guiding light was macroeconomist John Maynard Keynes, a particularly influential human being who sadly died less than 8 months after the war ended. He was thereby denied the pleasure of witnessing his vision in action.
And for those rich kids running the UK today who would label anyone to the left of Enoch Powell and Nigel Farage as Marxists or communists I'll remind you of this:
"His (JM Keynes's) radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism," according to Time magazine, which, in 1999, included Keynes among its "Most Important People of the Century". Time could hardly be accused of being an organ of socialism.
As far as the recovery plan is concerned, the 44 nations got together in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire before the end of the war. They co-signed an agreement to ensure that its aftermath could be ameliorated as soon as possible. Like all systems, Bretton Woods ran its course after 28 years but its legacy should not be ignored.
Especially when the alternative is that our economy is steered into penury for the less privileged by a gang of people so protected by enormous wealth that will cushion them from any of the draconian measures being proposed and implemented.
Reducing foreign aid in 2021 will only mean that resultant misery in recipient nations will increase the desperation to emigrate from the worst hit areas. Ironically, many of these people will perceive that the UK and USA have streets paved with gold, thereby increasing the "First World" desperation to repel boarders with abominations like the US/Mexico wall.
With tens of millions in one's back pocket, it is easy to weather a storm like the one our chancellor is forecasting. However, the majority of the British population will not be so lucky in a corrupt environment that is robbing the poor to pay the rich.
There is another way ...
The UK Government has tinkered around the edges of spending a teensy bit of extra money to keep the economy staggering along. It is clearly not enough if we are to mitigate the nightmare of the worst recession in 300 years. The money supply needs to be radically adjusted upwards and delivered appropriately to those who most need to spend it to jump start the economy. If you give a billionaire another billion, it will only end up boosting that person's personal wealth portfolio (with one or two philanthropic exceptions).
In the words of Mr Keynes, "Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking."
If we are to follow this logic, Mr Chancellor, please just stop trying to pin your incompetence on Covid-19. You need to follow Mr Keynes's advice that "the social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future."
It is time to take the helm to ensure the transfer of today's hoardings to the building of tomorrow's sustainable future. If you are unable to assume this responsibility you must stand aside for someone who will accept the baton and do something with it.
And, if you think Bretton Woods died more than 40 years ago and JM Keynes more than 70, I'll leave you with some advice from Kristalina Geogieva, current MD of the International Monetary Fund:
"[we need to embrace] the values of cooperation and solidarity on which a sisterhood and brotherhood of humanity is built.
"Today we face a new Bretton Woods moment ... untold human desperation in the face of huge disruption and rising poverty for the first time in decades.
"Once again, we face two massive tasks: to fight the crisis today— and build a better tomorrow."
Her conclusion: "The best memorial we can build to those who have lost their lives in this crisis is, in the words of Keynes, “that bigger thing”— building a more sustainable and equitable world,"
Perhaps more to the point, who wants your personal data and what are they going to do with it? Are you sick of having to deal with the ACCEPT ALL COOKIES button every time you enter a web page?
You may ask what has precipitated this question? A few things, actually:
Brexit and GDPR
All Brexiteers love to blame the EU for everything they can pin on the Union. True, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area. True, it can lead to irritation from time to time. Question, would you entrust your medical records to a data system run from Texas? If Trump wins this week? Will a trusted GDPR equivalent be put in place in time? Does the NHS Test and Trace system fill you with confidence that that will happen?
To be honest, if the UK National Health Service (NHS) retains its autonomy post-Brexit, I would be perfectly happy for my medical records to be available to trusted medical practitioners and accredited systems that have my health and wellbeing foremost. When seconds count and it's a matter of life and death why not have my records instantly to hand. If there be skeletons so be it. My life is more important. Anyway, surely legal protection is afforded against medics using my skeleton with gay abandon?
A few days ago, I received this text message from the NHS:
"Dear Mark Harrison,
"UK Blood Services are collecting plasma from people who have had a positive test for COVID-19. 28 days after recovery from COVID-19, you could save lives by donating plasma. For further information and to see if you can help others with COVID-19, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus and click the take part in research section."
OK, I was up for this. What's not to like about saving lives? They clearly "knew" I had tested positive.
I took the plunge. It was a deeper plunge than I expected.
Ten, YES 10, poorly worded screens later I received this message. This was information that was in my medical records. Why did they invite me to "save lives" if they already knew this?
The subject of a central record spine was up for debate about a decade ago and, at the time, split the medical profession.
Please suspend your disbelief, but data security is way more sophisticated than the proffered alternative, i.e. a filing cabinet in an office. If that, indeed even still exists? Just about every GP in the land is connected to the internet these days so the electronic way in is already installed but not uniformly controlled ... one might argue especially from #CronyVirus.
Why is ACCEPT ALL COOKIES the default? It needn't be
It is a particularly aggressive message and immediately arouses suspicion that cookies will be following your every move, mostly so that your personal data can be sold to the highest bidder.
At best this highest bidder will want to use the data to sell you stuff, which can be positive or negative, depending on one's own view. But let those individuals who wish to be told what to buy make that decision for themselves and leave the rest of us in peace.
At worst, there are way more sinister reasons people would want to pay good money for your data ranging from the dark web to subliminal political messages (Brexit raises its ugly head again, here.)
When I encounter this ACCEPT ALL COOKIES button I do one of two things. If I'm not that interested in the site content, I veer away, which is self defeating for the site. If I am interested, I then have to trawl through a whole process that is time wasting and makes me irritated.
Of course it is very easy for the #CronyVirus pedlars to pass the monkey to the EU for the button and its messaging but that is so disingenuous. It is up to the individual site as to the content of the message accompanying the button.
Here is an alternative (a few sites actually do this!): "We value your privacy and use only essential cookies, which we delete when you exit our site. If you would prefer a richer experience, please click on CHOOSE EXTRA COOKIES to make your choice."
Believe it or not, I would choose this option for preferred sites. The NHS for one.
In our case, "Post" Covid means that Shan and I both had it and were released from quarantine yesterday. Does this signal a huge sigh of relief?
Well, maybe, but, before I go into a short catalog of what "maybe" means, I'd like to make my first observation:
There are some fabulously lovely people out there. They range from long standing friends and family to quite recently acquired neighbours. In other words, we have had support, both moral and practical from points around the globe and from people living right there, just next-door. When it is sane and responsible to properly thank the neighbours it will be easy. We will have a monster bash, a post-Covid-19 party to remember.
We sincerely wish we could do the same for our remote benefactors, too. Indeed, when we travel again, we will do so with renewing hugs and acquaintances as a primary objective.
Why do I think that a huge sigh of relief may not yet be due?
From our perspective, we have not seen one shred of incontrovertible proof that anyone knows where all this will be heading. Even those who think they know where it is going are unable to furnish solid evidence that leads to that conclusion.
Here are a few headlines to ponder:
1. Antibodies - It does not appear that there is any clear evidence yet to indicate that, having tested positive for Covid-19, everyone is left with residual antibodies. Also, there is some speculation that, if there are antibodies in one's system, they may not last more than a few months.
2. Can you get it again? - Well, can you?
3. Vaccine - There have been some optimistic headlines but nothing yet as to whether it is sufficiently reliable and when it will be available for worldwide use
4. Herd immunity - That old chestnut. Can someone please explain to me how it will be successful without positive answers to 1, 2 and 3 above.
5. Foundation statistics - In the UK, NHS Test and Trace has been singularly unsuccessful in gathering these. How widespread is the pandemic, actually? We hear stories of minuscule probabilities of contracting it. Well, in anecdotis extremis, here's a personal example. In our spouse and sibling group spread over three continents, there are 8 adults and 7 direct progeny, i.e. 15 people in all. Of those, 5 tested positive for Covid-19, there was one highly probable false negative and one who almost definitely had it but was quarantined by association so didn't need a test. Just short of 50%. Accepting a huge "bad luck" factor, that is hardly a minuscule probability!
6. Failure to follow success to the end - When we seem to be getting somewhere, governments relax, potentially too early. Exponents of the "R" number reckon it being good news when it drops below one. Forgive me if I'm being naïve but doesn't that just mean the pandemic will continue at the same rate. Above that we see a growing number of people contracting the virus. Below that, the number should gradually drop off. How long would that take before everyone is safe? It's been below one before and now it's racing along above the magic threshold.
7. Circuit breaker (a.k.a. fire break) - Could have legs but would require incredible discipline across the populace who fear that the damage to businesses would be catastrophic and irreversible.
But what if we put a circuit breaker on cash flow at the same time. A forced vacation on EVERYTHING. Businesses shut their doors for a given period and all rent, mortgages, council tax etc. stops until they open again. There have been mortgage or insurance premium "holidays" but these come with a day of reckoning.
The only exception would need to be where actual goods change hands but, in the days of electronic payments, these are stats that can be paused, too.
8. Duration of a bout - Everything from an ephemeral day or so to several months if the anecdotal evidence (what else have we got) is to be believed.
9. A positive side-effect - I am told that in South Africa where they had one of the strictest lockdowns it was accompanied by not only qualified Covid-19 success but also a dramatic drop on the annual seasonal flu cases.
Conclusion: We're in this together, guys. It needs universal discipline to reverse the worldwide growth of the pandemic. If we can't do this ourselves, some body is going to have to do it for us by diktat.
Let's hope the virus won't be that body.
I finally feel qualified to write about my personal brushes with Covid-19. No opinions. Just my observations from the beginning of 2020 in which I offer no judgement.
It is now official. I have Covid-19. I’m a little better today but the last 7 days have been my weirdest and scariest experience since I was waiting to be trepanned to relieve a dual subdural haematoma in a French hospital 5 years ago.
Apart from our commitment to the wellbeing of our community, Shan and I had a few personal reasons to embrace any efforts that might ensure the virus could be brought under control as speedily as possible.
With this in mind we put ourselves forward as "guinea pigs" where it made sense and we were early adopters of physical barriers to the spread of Covid-19. We never thought we'd actually get the sickness but we hoped to mitigate the small risk for ourselves and the population of the UK at large. We downloaded the ZOE app and have been 2 of the more than 4M contributors reporting symptoms daily (well, almost; we do forget occasionally) for the duration of the epidemic.
When we were exhorted to download the latest Test and Trace app (unrelated to ZOE), I did so almost immediately. I am not a person who generally does this sort of thing without questioning it but it seemed a sensible measure to help contain the spread.
I am assuming the name, Test and Trace, describes what it sets out to do. It probably starts with the Trace component, in which businesses display a bar code to be scanned into the app, much like paying a bill with one's phone. From then on the resultant information can track positive cases and warn members of the public at large if they may have come into contact with Covid-19. I had been using it for more than 3 weeks before I tested positive. I was fairly diligent about checking in during those weeks. The last time I did it was 3 days before the symptoms started.
It was actual ZOE that invited me to go for a test but both systems end up sending you to the same GOV.UK site to book.
I was able to get a test almost immediately, although I was informed that tests were in high demand and I needed to get to my appointment on time to avoid missing out!
I live in Oxfordshire. There were more than 400 drive-in slots remaining at my closest test facility that day.
I arrived about half an hour early, expecting to sit in a queue. Instead, a succession of most pleasant people ushered me through to Lane 8. Lanes 1 to 7 were closed. There was not another car in sight. At the end of Lane 8 was a tent and I was told to keep my windows closed, pull up and wait for further instructions. I was wearing a mask, as requested.
A person emerged from a side tent, motioning for me to open the car window. She was friendly and sympathetic. I was given a tissue and instructed to blow my nose. She showed me the swab, which resembled an elongated earbud and explained that she needed to access the back of my throat.
"Please open wide and stick your tongue out," she said, "I need to see the dangly bit (my uvula).
"Nope, can't get there
"Can you put your finger on your tongue?"
I tried but there is a lot of saliva involved and the tongue doesn't behave that easily.
"Sorry, I can't get a sample," she concluded.
"But I've come all this way," I protested, trying to look appealing through the window.
She relented and went to ask another person. He went through the same process, equally unsuccessfully.
"We can't get a sample," he announced, "Sorry."
"What does that mean?" I inquired querulously.
"We can't do a test on you today."
That seemed to be it. The only alternative would have been to go home and try to get a test posted to me.
"This happens often," the two testers nodded.
"Is there no-one else here that could have one last go?" I pleaded. "If it hurts a bit, It hurts."
They called another person. They conferred and she relented. More commands to put my slimy finger on my slimy tongue. Eventually she pulled the swab out and eyed it doubtfully.
"I'll need to swab your nose for 10 seconds," she said. That was the easy bit. I managed to hold back the sneeze for 10.5 seconds.
"We'll send this sample to the testing centre," they agreed, "but it'll probably come back inconclusive.
"You'll be texted the result, whatever it is."
At this stage I noticed one more car in the facility.
I left feeling a bit woozy.
As I was driving out of the huge car park it occurred to me that at no time had they used a tongue depressor. I remembered the wooden sticks from my youth.
When I arrived home I related my experiences to Shan. She was feeling upset because her nephew, Andrew, had just tested positive. I asked her about the tongue depressors. It seems they are still in use and, indeed issued by some UK counties in the test packs.
I received my result after 2 and a half days.
I had tested positive for Covid-19.
By that stage it was almost a relief. I had begun to feel seriously peculiar. Apart from the persistent cough that had kicked the whole process into motion, I had been having every other symptom apart from the telltale loss of taste and smell. The temperature came and went. Muscles ached. I had serious hallucinations and was continually exhausted. Still feel tired but am fairly confident I'm on the mend.
In the mean time I've had two lengthy phone calls from NHS Test And Trace asking me for all the information that I had thought the app collected automatically. The individuals making the calls were charming and sympathetic and I didn't have the heart to challenge them personally, even when asked for details of my ethnicity, which GOV.UK seemed to define differently and more pointedly than the generally accepted definition of the words I had been used to: "state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition" and nothing to do with where you were born. We'd already covered race.
Yesterday I was surprised to see this tweet from my county council.
I promised no opinions but, if there is an irony to this, it has to be that while I was told to self-isolate for ten days from the first apparent symptoms, my wife Shan has to do so for 14 days.
I'm pretty sure she has it and only time will tell which of us will have suffered the most. We're both agreed on one thing though: there is very little point in her going for a test.
I'm not sure how many people would make the similar decision, nor whether the significant number of "false negatives" being talked about is real.
Coming soon: My "normal" flow of blogs has been interrupted through this period. Some of you may have felt relief but I will shortly be resuming Scottish Serendipity and Unreliable Tasting Notes.
England is overcrowded and the overcrowding is spread across the country almost perfectly. This is because tourists (local and otherwise) are almost perfectly informed by the media. This means there are no hidden gems, whatever it is you're seeking.
It used to be that one had a choice ... a trade off between warmer weather with jam-packed coastal towns on the one hand and riskier weather with a little more breathing space, on the other. Actually, families with progeny didn't really have a choice for approximately 15-20 years - school terms take care of that. The parents may have looked wistfully at relaxed out of season getaways but reality always won out when the summer holidays loomed. Depending on the age and spread of the progeny it could be one of three options: get out the bucket and spade and head to the beach; head to the beach with leaflets on contraception and the evils of wacky-backy carefully secreted in the luggage; both.
Cynical youths might suggest that parents had finally been hoisted by their own petard. School holidays were timed for harvest time so that help was at hand to bring in the crops. Cynical parents would counter that the days of Cider with Rosie had a) their compensations and b) disappeared before the Spanish Civil War when Laurie Lee went off to participate in the Iberian peninsula, leaving the Woolpack in Slad to become a gastropub.
My friend, Richard, and I had a premonition of things to come. This was a few years ago when we were walking along the Cotswold Way in preparation for an expedition he was about to undertake in the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa. Our training trek had to be gruelling and involve him lugging half a motorhome up and down some VERY STEEP TERRAIN. Not unlike the places Shan and I have recently traversed in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The registration on the car behind Richard, depicted above, was a polite version of our exclamation when we had trudged up hill and down dale from Painswick to the seemingly empty Woolpack.
"Have you got a booking?" the person on the door at the Woolpack demanded.
"Afraid not," we admitted shamefacedly, "but you appear empty at the moment? Just a sandwich?"
The outdoor terrace was deserted.
"We pride ourselves on our food and serving our clientele who've booked," he countered, rather more aggressively than was necessary. We suspected that our walking gear was the problem rather than the lack of a slice of ham or a few of bread. The Chelsea tractors were beginning to arrive and this unfriendly chap was becoming increasingly edgy.
"R**ATS" we exclaimed as we turned and commenced the hungry trek into Stroud, where we ended up in a Wetherspoons. Happily neither of us had heard of Tim Martin at that stage, so we gorged on chips and beer and telephoned for an airlift. Shan and Kate to the rescue. My next expedition with Richard was in a desert.
That's enough of Laurie Lee! Get on with it, Ed.
Apologies if the chain gets a bit confusing with the intervening tangent, humanely interrupted by Ed. What I was leading up to was this. Covid-19 changed all that in 2020. If the state interventions into Covid-19 haven't been confusing the Hell out of you, you're a much more together person than I am.
OK so school holidays dominate the summer, which often means that those who can holiday at a quieter time of the year go for that option, taking the weather risk on the chin. Besides, this year Shan and I were on the fringe of the Coronavirus risk group so the breathing space would be appreciated and we had Campy's girth to satisfy.
We should have been alerted by the difficulty in obtaining campy space in advance. It is never wise to make impromptu trips in a motorhome in England. There's an oxymoron in there somewhere, I suppose? It needn't be that way. But even if it has to be, why are we so marginalised when we get there, all booked and paid for? Stuck several miles from any attraction or source of fun, food and/or drink. If it's the traffic that's the problem, why is every seaside town choked with white vans and fawbeefaws? Answer me that. There is an alternative.
Padstow could be so beautiful. Instead, it was choked with motor vehicles, many of them travelling too fast, and people who would generally have gone back to learning by that time. Covid-19 was merely the catalyst for overcrowding that was waiting to happen.
Sure, the two of us are fit enough to walk or cycle a couple of miles into town. But the journey could be made so much more inviting. There's plenty of room away from cheating death on the busy A389 to create an attractive path.
As soon as we got into the town it was obvious that most visitors and a number of shops and hostelries didn't give a flying fig (I'm being polite) about social distancing. I lost it when three large male 20-somethings were coming at me walking abreast on the pavement. Normal people in that situation would form a temporary single file, intuitively on the left. Shan and I did that. They didn't and I was deliberately shouldered out of the way. Where did that contempt come from?
"Rick Stein's ruined this place," I spluttered to Shan.
"Do you think so," she countered sagely.
"Some people would welcome the economic activity he's generated," my wife pointed out, not unreasonably. "Think about Faz (our name for our home town, Faringdon, in Oxfordshire). We could do with this kind of regeneration."
Of course she was completely on the button but allowed me recognition that there could be some checks and balances to mitigate the impact if it were properly thought out. She knows I like that kind of intellectual conundrum.
"Get rid of all unnecessary motorised traffic for a start," I murmured after a few minutes reflection.
I'm not proposing to go into long and boring detail of how this might be achieved but Padstow lends itself to a number of options including a funicular (Linton/Lynmouth has one) from the Pay and Display on the A389 and perhaps something like the solution below to gather visitors from their accommodations and deposit them at their chosen attractions:
After all this is what seaside trams used to to do in places like Swanage. Maybe a little less twee? A modernised electric version without some of the ultra-touristic trappings. Perhaps lose the choo-choo in favour of Porsche, Lambo. and MacLaren replicas?
Actually, Shan got a bit enthusiastic at this point and introduced Tom Kerridge and his input to revitalising Marlow. As an aside to Mike BinTwo, the Hand and Flowers does a fine line in Orange wine but not quite up to your standard, Mike. I reckon the Pet Nat could be something his sommeliers there, and in the Coach, could/should be interested in exploring. I WISH I'd had a chance to share that bottle of El Bandito that was in Campy all throughout our western adventure.
The other missed opportunity for us in the Camel Valley was a self-propelled Camel Wine Trail. Lovely and flat for cyclists but HTF do you get there. Sure you can hire a bike, which is what we did on a previous visit. Hire a bike in Wadebridge and Bob's your Auntie. We had our own bikes but were told that the only alternatives for accessing the Camel Trail from the Padstow Touring Park were either a death-defying stint on the precipitous A389 to Padstow (and back again) or drive to Wadebridge. It could be so much more inviting.
What could Faz do better than Marlow and Padstow. OK, I need more practice with Photoshop but this cartoon created a a bit of excitement in our community. Only thing, we need Tom or Rick ... maybe even Heston could be persuaded? Or a coalition? There are a few adventurous landlords but it takes mega self-belief to embark on a Brayston Padstein, Bring it on. The "tram" could feed our attractive Georgian Market Place, three major supermarket chains, a Travelodge and LOADS of parking. The rest would follow ...
Coming some time: a list of annoying items ... there are some but I'm having too much fun for prolonged curmudgeonliness
 Editor ... allegedly a typical interjection when an editor decides the author is waffling beyond the readership's will to live. Immortalised in Private Eye
 Not to be confused with Branston Pickle. We did note that England does love a double-barreled name for its towns and villages and, perhaps especially, hamlets. Sadly, I think someone's already written that book.