‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Estate Cars, A Lost Art ? by Wiggia

A short piece on A K Haart’s blog about a SAAB 96 estate car gave enough food for thought for me to reply.

It set me thinking. I had some time ago mentioned in another piece about the Citroen DS that I had spent some time in a Safari version of that car, and which led me on to think (I will have to ration all this thinking, not good for me) how those great estate cars of yesteryear have largely disappeared and been replaced by either estate cars that are so well upholstered that they will never have a wet dog in the back, or the modern equivalent - the MPV or SPV or any other V that can take on board more than five people and luggage.

The Americans had capacious ‘station wagons’ long before we had this side of the pond. Many had ingenious items like rear doors that could open in various directions so giving flexible load areas and even providing a floor extension.

For me, the Citroen DS Safari is still the best of the European estates. It never sold in the quantities of its opposite number at Volvo the 240GL as there was an inbuilt fear (totally unwarranted) about the complicated suspension: it wasn’t it was just different, and it became the reason that the DS was the only estate car you could load up at the time while the car remained level and retained its superb ride.

The Volvo for good reason resembled a hearse and was the favoured vehicle of antique collectors. The Citroen also came in many altered states from ambulances various and camper conversions, all taking advantage again of the suspension.

During the same period Peugeot had another then utilitarian load carrier, the 404: this also had a long travel suspension that was as tough as old boots and many versions survived the treatment meted out to them in Africa and survived way past their sell by date. Simple to maintain and reliable, that is what is wanted in countries and continents like Africa in all things mechanical.








Again, the ride in the DS provided a wonderful example of its versatility, with the BBC camera car that was at the races for years.





And of course the famous ambulance known as the Break !

The Volvo had this rear extension that was as near a cube as you could get, hence its ability to swallow large loads like grandfather clocks and settees. Never the prettiest of vehicles, it nonetheless clocked up a lot of reliable miles as a load lugger. It also had a reputation for being safe, being built like a tank. I went along with that until one day I saw one on the old Southend Road that had been hit in the back by an Austin A60: the Volvo had been bent in the middle. The A60 is much prized these days for banger racing and I know why.






The Peugeot in its new found habitat !



And now the little estate that started this piece off. I had a family link to one of these: my brother owned one and at the time he was friendly with the late Brian Glover, famous for his part in the film 'Kes' among other roles. He was fascinated with the rear facing seat and would sit in the back facing the traffic on his own as though filming the traffic behind him. The car originally came came with a two stroke engine and the saloon version had a stellar rally career with Erik Carlson who was married to another rather good driver and horse woman Pat Moss, sister of Stirling.

My brother's car had the Ford V4 engine that suited the little estate, though not the greatest of engines.




The American station wagon can be traced back to the early thirties but the ‘woodie’ is probably the one most people associate with from that period. The wood structure and side panels were replicated over here in the later Morris Minor Traveller; the woodie was also much sought after as a surfing accessory.



The one above is a Plymouth Westchester Suburban of ‘38 vintage.

Later 50s and sixties station wagons from over the pond were large, some very large, and had all the trappings of the saloons of the times plus cavernous rear space for cargo or extra seats.



This one shows the space the seats and the multi opening rear door. The one below was rather a rare beast, a Studebaker Wagonaire from ‘65 that managed all the above plus an opening rear roof that turned it into a truck if you so wished. It never sold in big numbers as Studebaker never really solved the leaking roof.



I personally only owned one estate that fitted into this category, a Citroen CX. This was the successor to the DS, another cavernous estate car with the Citroen hydraulic suspension, wonderful for long drives but hard work in town being a manual and having a brute of a clutch. I travelled the length and breadth of the country in mine attending dog shows, not the breed variety but for trained dogs.

It had an added advantage of entertaining children in other cars if you were stuck in traffic jams as you could raise and lower the suspension, always to great amazement from those looking. A downside to the car was that the suspension hydraulics were pumped up by the engine when running, so every morning or when starting the whole car would raise up. If you had a breakdown with engine failure of any sort the car remained on the floor, so the RAC had a special trailer for this as the car could not be winched onto a normal trailer because of lack of ground clearance.



Again, the Citroen had many variants. Here's the  Loadrunner...



That period was probably the last for what could be termed real estate cars/station wagons. The upmarket versions put out after that by the likes of Mercedes and copied by others were complete with leather-lined rear areas and plush carpeting; to fit in a wet dog, a liner was required, where in a real estate car that would not be necessary. The designs changed as well: a sleek profile was now de rigeur rather than having headroom and space. It was the end of the estate car and the SUV /Range Rover lookalikes killed it off.

Will they return? Most things in life go full circle, perhaps people will get tired of the sameness of the SUV - and having to climb into Range Rovers: you get a good driving view with them but getting in the seat is like climbing into a lorry. Perhaps drivers will return to the more  normal estate car, who knows ?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Coronascape – a look around

First, the cheerful news: according to Dr John Campbell’s exposition https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=-60EvBSLulo , 85% of the over-80s in China who contracted Covid-19 pulled through; in Italy, over 80%, for the same age group; so the prognosis for sufferers is good for the old, rising to excellent for the young. Accordingly, ‘as of 19 March 2020, COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID) in the UK.’ https://www.gov.uk/guidance/high-consequence-infectious-diseases-hcid

Some say that the curfew should stop because the pandemic model has been revised optimistically; it hasn’t, it remains the same. The new forecast of 20,000 fatalities (or fewer) is because public policy and behaviour have changed; without that, says Professor Ferguson, the original prediction of half a million dead would still stand. If anything, the potential danger is worse than originally assumed: the estimated ‘reproduction rate’ (for onward transmission of the sickness) has risen from 2.5 to 3. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2238578-uk-has-enough-intensive-care-units-for-coronavirus-expert-predicts/
Another meme is that it’s all a fuss about nothing, since the oldies who died had other things wrong with them, so they were doomed anyway. Not so: most old people have some health condition or other, but we should remember that they are, by definition, survivors – the average 80-year-old man has a 35% chance of living ten more years, and even at a hundred has a 65% probability of seeing out another twelve months. https://www.finder.com/life-insurance/odds-of-dying We got a note last week from an old drama pal who is well into his nineties, saying he’s moved to a care home and hopes we are well!
However, reassuring statistics aren’t personal guarantees. Only 10% of British soldiers on the Western Front in WWI were killed, https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/some-british-army-statistics-of-the-great-war/ but any squaddie who stood up in the trench waving his arms and shouting ‘Oi, over here, Fritz!’ would have found his own odds shortened; which brings us to (for example) the morons who recently took up the toilet-bowl-licking challenge https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8150945/Influencer-hospital-coronavirus-just-days-posting-video-licking-toilet.html . We are in (sort of) lockdown because many people can’t tell the difference between ‘unlikely’ and ‘impossible’ consequences and keep taking risks, including gathering in large groups (£ ) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/curfew-threat-to-stop-virus-bwnst6nrq . As one Twitter user has said, https://twitter.com/_TheMasochist/status/1240547895725654016 ‘I absolutely hate that my chances of survival during this period are inextricably linked to other people having common sense.’
Stupidity alone hardly explains the teenagers who smashed up Kidderminster Hospital a few days ago https://emergency-services.news/?p=14825 , or the gang (including adults) who, claiming to be carrying the coronavirus, coughed at NHS staff. https://dailydits.com/2020/03/youths-and-their-parents-to-be-prosecuted-after-gang-corona-cough-in-the-faces-of-nhs-staff/ I assume they had no inkling that very sadly, though it rarely happens, even young people can contract viral pneumonia. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/this-can-kill-anybody-warns-mother-after-28-year-old-son-dies-from-coronavirus Besides, there could be many other reasons why youngsters might need emergency treatment, which could be unavailable to them if the hospitals were already fully employed tackling a pandemic: ‘tough luck, kid, your motorcycle can be fixed but you’ve had your chips, shame the ventilator was vandalised.’
Not that ventilators are necessarily the answer. It’s good for many other cases that production of these machines is increasing, but writing in the Spectator magazine https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/herd-immunity-might-still-be-key-in-the-fight-against-coronavirus , Canadian critical care physician Matt Strauss says ‘up to 90 per cent of Covid-19 patients who go on life support will die.’ In any case, inundated with medical emergencies, Italy has stopped intubating patients aged over 60. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8138581/Coronavirus-frontline-NHS-doctor-reveals-patients-dying-agony-just-start.html A review just published in the Lancet of Wuhan’s coronavirus patients https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736(20)30566-3 also suggested respirators were of little use, concluding that old age and indications of vulnerability to sepsis were significant factors in predicting a failure to survive. Aeration was of far less use than antibiotics and antiviral drugs.
That last highlights another vulnerability that the West has allowed to develop. In December 2019, during trade negotiations shortly before the coronavirus crisis arose, the US was beginning to worry about its dependence on China for the production of around 80% of America’s supplies of antibiotics. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/20/policymakers-worry-china-drug-exports-088126 This month, according to Fox News, Chinese media agency Xinhua hinted dangerously at restricting its exports of drugs to the US, plunging the latter into "the mighty sea of coronavirus."
Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned of viral pandemic in a TED talk in 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Af6b_wyiwI , a year after Ebola had broken out in West Africa https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28755033 . He said how air travel could spread a sickness across the world in a short time, and how we should be making plans to coordinate medical and military resources to tackle pandemics fast. Within months, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped to set up and fund the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_for_Epidemic_Preparedness_Innovations , in partnership with others including the pharmaceutical research giant Wellcome Trust. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellcome_Trust The business potential for a vaccine needed to combat an illness that is destined to become a permanent feature, like seasonal influenza, is huge; but if it is found, it will take a long time yet to come to market, and there are those who say that mass vaccination has never been proved to be safe and effective.
Again, many contrast Covid-19 with influenza, saying that the latter claims many more victims. Oddly, that number varies very widely from one year to another. In 2014/15 28,330 are estimated to have died from flu (such figures are always educated guesses because of the variety of factors in a death) in the season [see Table 7, p. 51 here https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/839350/Surveillance_of_influenza_and_other_respiratory_viruses_in_the_UK_2018_to_2019-FINAL.pdf ], defined as week 40 of one calendar year (October) to week 20 of the following (May); yet with only five weeks before end-season 2018/19, flu had taken a mere 1,692 lives – so say 2,000 by week 20? If that is so, within less than one month https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51759602 , Covid-19 is already half-way https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/28/uk-records-largest-single-day-increase-in-covid-19-deaths-to-1019 to matching the toll of the whole of last year’s flu season.
While we wait in hope of a ‘magic bullet’ for coronavirus, Doctor Strauss argues for allowing those who are at very little risk of death to catch and overcome the illness while secluding the most vulnerable, so that when the latter come out into society they will be surrounded by people who have been through it and are no longer infectious. The difficulty with this idea – attractive though it is for us enforced homebodies and for all of us who want the economy to recover – is that absent mass testing, we don’t know how many people have had Covid-19. This is crucial because the more easily a virus spreads, the higher a percentage of the population that must be vaccinated or otherwise immune to establish that ‘herd immunity.’ In the case of measles, which has a reproduction rate 4 – 6 times higher than Covid-19 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_reproduction_number , Strauss says we need around 95% to be immune; for a ‘firewall’ against coronavirus, he estimates two-thirds. How will we know when that target has been reached? Some days ago, President Trump was talking of sending people back to work by Easter, https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-pandemic-trump-should-not-tell-americans-back-to-work-2020-3?r=US&IR=T because the pain of economic standstill was worse than the disease, but has since started to row back as advisers warned of a fresh escalation of cases. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-coronavirus-easter-back-to-work-lockdown-us-latest-a9426531.html
Western leaders are between a rock and a hard place. In the UK, even as we are mostly confined to our houses, the planes are still coming in from Italy and China. We are so globally connected that we don’t know how to stop without blowing up the machine. We at the start of a time for building resilience rather than maximising profits.
Even when we think society is safe, surprises can happen: the last naturally-occurring case of smallpox was in 1977, in Somalia https://web.archive.org/web/20070921235036/http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/smallpox/en/ , yet in 1978 a 40-year-old medical photographer in Birmingham, England, vaccinated against it twelve years before, contracted the disease and died. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_smallpox_outbreak_in_the_United_Kingdom#Parker%E2%80%99s_illness_and_death It turned out that she had been working above a laboratory that was researching the virus.
This leads us to the blame phase of the current disaster. Some say the outbreak started with infected animal meat in Wuhan’s market – though a British teacher working in Wuhan, who caught the disease, denies seeing exotic meats there https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8075633/First-British-victim-25-describes-coronavirus.html ; some hint darkly at a viral escape from the Grade 4 (highest security) bio-research lab in the city (the earliest tip I have seen was from a military spook in a Near Eastern country who contacted the Washington Times https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/jan/26/coronavirus-link-to-china-biowarfare-program-possi/ .) Already there are calls for China to pay damages for the consequences; but, says veteran blogger John Ward https://hat4uk.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/covid19-crash2-china-hits-back-at-us-propaganda-panics-pompeo-as-dow-jones-makes-miracle-recovery/ , China has responded by pointing the finger at a large US military sports team that stayed near Wuhan’s fish market, had come into contact with what turned out to be the first seven Chinese victims, and had previously trained at Maryland’s Fort Detrick, a germ research lab shut down in August 2019 over safety concerns. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/05/health/germs-fort-detrick-biohazard.html Ward goes on to say:
‘The Beijing Government’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on releasing this information, formally asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for an explanation.
‘Immediately afterwards Pompeo went over Wang’s head and phoned Yang Jiechi, Chinese state councillor in charge of foreign affairs. Pompeo “begged” Yang not to release the details shown above. They have since been leaked. Pompeo has yet to respond.’
American lawyers must be fainting with greed at the distant prospect of the world’s largest compensation case ever.
Meanwhile, what do we do? Accept the precautionary principle. Our government may be mistaken, but they’re certainly not doing this for a joke, even though April the First is near.

Friday, March 27, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Arthur Lee and Love, by JD

Music for oldies who remember when the world made more sense...

We are all familiar with the famous musical names from the sixties. Some of them are still playing 50 years on! But there are/were other lesser known but very good musicians during that decade and some were better, much better than many of those who are still played on 'oldie' radio stations.
One such is Arthur Lee (1945-2006) who along with fellow songwriter Bryan McLean (1946-1998) and guitarist John Echols fronted the Los Angeles based band called Love.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_(band)

Commercially they were not successful but musically they were unique in combining rock and roll with light orchestral and Mexican styles into their sound. Their influence is still felt today and in particular their 1967 album Forever Changes (I bought that in 67 or 68 and I still have it and still play it.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forever_Changes

The other thing which was unique about their style was the contrast between the bright and upbeat music with often bleak lyrics. In fact 'The Red Telephone' could have been written this year with its dark warning about the future. The music was "melancholy iconoclasm and tasteful romanticism." (cf. Gene Youngblood of LA Free Express)

















Monday, March 23, 2020

Kill The Old


One day in the 1980s, I climbed to the upper deck of the bus, where smokers and schoolchildren gravitated, and saw a simple graffito on the back of the seat in front: ‘kill the old.’ I didn’t know then that it would become government policy.
For example, there is (or was) the Liverpool Care Pathway, developed in the late 1990s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_Care_Pathway_for_the_Dying_Patient The word ‘care’ in this context is a sick perversion of the normal usage: even the worst felon in any British prison would not be made to die of hunger and thirst. Allegedly the LCP was to be phased out seven years ago, though the Daily Telegraph then commented (£) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10487109/Liverpool-Care-Pathway-being-rebranded-not-axed.html that it was merely being ‘rebranded’, replaced by ‘individual end-of-life care plans,’ another mealy-mouthed verbal formula that smells of rat.
A couple of years later (2015), the NHS was adopting the United Nations’ ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG), under the terms of which the death from ‘non-communicable diseases’ of patients aged 70 or over would not be counted as ‘premature’, with obvious implications for health service targets and strategies. (£) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/elder/11637179/Elderly-face-NHS-discrimination-under-new-UN-death-targets.html This ageism was challenged by Professor Lloyd-Sherlock https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/uea-professor-and-his-mother-take-on-un-over-ageism-1-4149130 , seeking to change the word ‘premature’ to ‘preventable’, because: https://ageing-equal.org/trying-to-make-sense-of-ageism-in-health/
‘The problem lies in how the UN (and World Health Organisation) define ‘premature mortality’. This is specified as deaths occurring between the ages of 30 and 69. In other words, deaths occurring beyond age 70 should not be considered to be ‘premature’ and should not be included in the UN target.’
To date, he has been unsuccessful, as the deadly word remains in place (target 3.4) https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/health/ .
Please don’t imagine it will stop there. Already the ageist attitude is seeping down in the NHS to apply to patients below this cut-off point and to cases that are eminently treatable. My wife, who is under the Biblical ‘three score and ten’, healthy and active - received a telephone consultation on Saturday regarding a condition that is painful but correctable by surgery, and in the course of the discussion the consultant twice came back to her age, which felt to her as though he was implying that for that reason, she should seriously consider not bothering.
As Dr Vernon Coleman says ('Coronavirus – Why and How the Government and the Media Are Wrong,' Health, 16th March) http://www.vernoncoleman.com/main.htm
'The young who seem to welcome the idea of the elderly being deprived of medical care might like to reflect on two thoughts. First, they may one day be old themselves. Second, the age for cutting off medical services will get younger and younger – as the pension age gets older and older. Today’s 20-year-olds may well find that they are ineligible for medical care when they hit 50.'
 (I am also indebted to Dr Coleman for his reference to the UN’s SDG, among other valuable points in the same piece.)
In the current crisis, it’s not true that the PM advocated a ‘take it on the chin’ approach to the coronavirus https://fullfact.org/health/boris-johnson-coronavirus-this-morning/ , which might potentially result in hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths – but in the US, CNBC’s Rick Santelli did https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/06/your-brain-capitalism-cnbc-market-analyst-rick-santelli-calls-infecting-global .
Yet is it really a choice between the money men’s ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ approach and the blanket curfew here that threatens to crash the economy? The cost of the latter surely dwarfs that of a more focused alternative plan (as others have argued here on TCW): testing, tracking and isolating cases of infection (numbered even now in the thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands); and putting in place protective measures for the elderly and others who are particularly vulnerable – organising systems of supplies, checking the health of their carers etc.
While we are on this subject, why is it taken for granted that thousands in this country should die every year from influenza? Those who want to downplay the coronavirus contrast the low (for now) toll with that of flu – which spreads less easily and is less often fatal. Unlike Covid-19, flu sufferers are most contagious after symptoms appear, a smaller proportion of the population is affected than is predicted for WuFlu, and a smaller proportion of flu sufferers need hospitalisation and intensive care. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/03/20/815408287/how-the-novel-coronavirus-and-the-flu-are-alike-and-different?t=1584948495372&t=1584973645869 However, as with coronavirus, the risk of death rises significantly with age and with comorbidities. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163445313003733
So why is there not a national plan for annual flu, more than just the hit-and-hope vaccination against the strain that is guessed to become the commonest that year? Not all of us can escape the British winter and fly to the south of France as the upper crust used to before the War, but we could all consider our behaviour – and our plans for care - towards those who are immunocompromised by age and health conditions; we can wash hands more often and remember the wartime slogan ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’. Why should flu-riddled employees be praised for taking tablets to suppress symptoms, struggling into work and infecting colleagues (and indirectly, many others), rather than be ordered to self-confine for public safety? Is it merely coincidence that since we started to think about these things, deaths from respiratory diseases in February have dropped by hundreds per week, even when compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019? https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales Are the old being murdered wholesale by indifference and negligence?
In the shadow cast by this pandemic, rough beasts are slouching towards us to be born: the abrogation of civil liberties by the Executive (see Peter Hitchens on this) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8138675/PETER-HITCHENS-shutting-Britain-REALLY-right-answer.html ; and the death culture that is moving from abortion on a scale that was never envisaged in 1967, past the implications of the way courts have sometimes tackled cases of alleged ‘mercy killings’, towards an ugly scrutiny of the expensive and troublesome aged. Perhaps we are in a battle for values that we thought we were defending in the last World War.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Mad Covid Disease: a heretic writes, by JD

A heretical post based on my own observations and conversations from my daily round:

The way the Government has now reacted to the coronavirus is causing concern about changing official attitudes to the old, in medical treatment and social care. Also, if a vaccine is successfully developed, we may see compulsory vaccination for the whole populace. We seem to be in a voluntary, self imposed totalitarianism which is alarming and this has been caused by the ignorance and stupidity of the politicians and the press.

Nothing changes. We are still Lions led by donkeys! https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/greatwar/g4/

I found this story on Spiked from Alex Cameron who is under 'house arrest' in Madrid:
https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/03/20/from-a-flat-in-lock

From the comments there were links to a couple of other stories; this from The Spectator -
"Coronavirus is less contagious than stupidity."
https://spectator.org/coronavirus-is-healthier-than-fascism/

And this from the Jerusalem Post referring to the 'lockdown' of the Diamond Princess cruise ship:

"The Diamond Princess cruise ship represented the worst-case scenario in terms of disease spread, as the close confines of the ship offered optimal conditions for the virus to be passed among those aboard. The population density aboard the ship was the equivalent of trying to cram the whole Israeli population into an area 30 kilometers square. In addition, the ship had a central air conditioning and heating system, and communal dining rooms."

“Those are extremely comfortable conditions for the virus and still, only 20% were infected. It is a lot, but pretty similar to the infection rate of the common flu,” Levitt said. Based on those figures, his conclusion was that most people are simply naturally immune."
https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Israeli-nobel-laureate-Coronavirus-spread-is-slowing-621145

Over the past week or so I have not met a single person who takes this current 'deadly' threat seriously. Probably because most people I meet are, like me, ancient and we have seen it all before. Mad cow disease, AIDS, salmonella in eggs, nuclear winter, the coming new ice-age etc. All of it false and all of it subject to wild speculation about the end of the world as we know it, the flames of fear fanned by a hysterical press.

The greatest threat to our way of life is, as always, the stupidity of our 'leaders' who really ought to stop exercising the larynx and start to exercise the brain (if they have one), after which they might have something worth saying.

Friday, March 20, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Hot Club Du Nax, by JD

I have no idea who they are but they play some wonderful 'Gypsy jazz' and they began in a bar called Nax in Innsbruck which presumably is why their web pages are in German.

To my ears the singer Isobel Cope and the violinist Tomas Novak are excellent. https://www.hotclubdunax.com/bio














Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Eastenders Goes North, UK Goes West


So, because of Covid-19, filming of Eastenders has been cancelled. https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/11197887/eastenders-cancels-coronavirus-pandemic/
Of course, Eastenders themselves were cancelled long ago, thanks to the financialised economy that made homeowning there a bigger fantasy than the TV series, now regularly shot in Hertfordshire. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walford
To be a Cockney, traditionally you had to have been born within sound of the church bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside. Our Dad was – it was in the borough of Lambeth, but the noise carried over the water; as did the 1917 munitions factory explosion in Silvertown, which his mother still remembered in the 1970s.
Mind you, it’s getting harder to find a Brummie, too. In the 1980s, Gas Street Basin was full of old narrowboats. The area was dirty and dark, the canal surface a bloom of rubbish. Warehouses rotted slowly by the water’s edge. Then the gentrification started, but even at the turn of the ‘90s I met an old woman in a house off Broad Street, still making widgets and dropping them into a bucket inside her front door. Where are the metal-bashers now?
The nation has become a museum of itself; a place where people used to manufacture, used to family-farm and make a living at it, rather than take up shepherding as a middle-class rural pastime. Our cities have been rebuilt with borrowed money, our youngsters have (mostly) been excluded from property ownership, mortgaged for their college education, denied access to final salary pension schemes, entertained with vicious TV and cinema, distracted with officially enabled alcohol abuse, (but warned ‘drink responsibly’), tacitly encouraged in substance abuse (‘don’t prosecute, help them’), given the false hope of escape via a big win in gambling (but ‘when the fun stops, stop.’)
We are governed by moneymakers who keep us subdued with sentimental reminiscences, cultural illusions and snarling drama serials vicariously acting out the confusion and desperation of a people unloved, left to their fate like the passengers in ‘Lord Jim.’
Yet the biggest fantasy is that of the captains who imagine they will escape the consequences of the socio-economic damage they have caused, fleeing to boltholes like New Zealand or some imaginary island like The Man With The Golden Gun.
In a globalised world, the crisis is universal and there will be nowhere to hide. Already the stock markets have lost a third of their value, and that is before the mass redundancies and bankruptcies have started. Shares halved in the three years post-9/11, and recovered with monetary boosting; halved again in 2008-2009, and were rescued by enormous subsidies to the sector that had caused the problem; now we are going down for the third time, and already the Masters of the Universe are hinting that perhaps the old are expendable.
The 2004 Civil Contingencies Act https://www.gov.uk/guidance/preparation-and-planning-for-emergencies-responsibilities-of-responder-agencies-and-others required the setting up of ‘local resilience forums’ to plan for emergencies; we are now finding out that the current emergency is merely a spotlight on the vast systemic vulnerability that successive governments have allowed, helped to develop, and the implications of which they have almost completely failed to address. Like the faux Cockneys of Walford, we don’t know who we are, or where we are.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Towards Wiggia's Challenge - Some "ZeroCarbon" Truths

Yesterday, 'Wiggia' outlined some of the problems with 'zero carbon' energy
Here is energy market expert Nick Drew's response:

Our good host invited me to pick up on Wiggia's post, which I'm pleased to do.  It'll be piecemeal, I'm afraid.  I believe things are (a) not quite as bad as Wiggia suggests  -  in fact, (b) rather different to what he suggests, certainly at the macro level.   And as you'll see, we are in full agreement on a couple of important points.

Scenarios whereby the world is going to end:   Shorthand acknowledged, but let's also note that the wiser commentators have always said: the world will be just fine - it's mankind that's at risk.

"We must give up meat":  Actually this is a very recent and tentative new entrant into the list of admonishments.  Thus far, politico-greens (and the NGOs behind them) have mostly avoided recommending anything that might get people's backs up, preferring to stick it to the Man.  It's only very recently that meat and, whisper it softly, over-population have crept into the discourse.  (I am on record as saying that mention of - *gasps* - geo-engineering might be the next hitherto unspeakable suggestion to be voiced.)

Why is so little challenged?  Well of course for many years there was plenty of challenge, but of a spectacularly dumb-sophist nature (Monckton, this means you).  If any of you read my stuff on Capitalists@Work, you'll know I identify 2019 as the year when the whole game changed fundamentally (and XR / Greta are only partly to do with it).  Prior to 2019, "green" investment was a niche, if growing global sector, mostly dependent upon subsidy.  Most people sort-of got it, in a passive sort of way: OK yeah, global warming, probably, but not any time soon, not sure I care ...

The suddenly, two things happened, probably two sides of the same coin.  Various climate-related (or, let's say, extreme-weather-related) disasters struck, and people en masse jumped from Ok-yeah-sort-of, to Well Yes Obviously.  In fact, their position completely overshot the classic Green position, which goes on to say "... so we must de-industrialise and live in caves" - and moved swiftly to "... so we must rebuild those crumbling dams, build new sea-walls and flood defences etc etc" - i.e. Get Stuck In to what is known as Adaptation.

Meanwhile, led by Teresa desperate-for-a-distraction May legislated for "net-zero-2050" with narry a dissenting voice, and every other government in the world (bar a handful of really big'uns) jumped right in behind.

Most significantly, in all of this, the definition of Green (for investment purposes) changed from Prevention (building windfarms to "replace" coal) to Prevention + Mitigation + Adaptation.  This, to cut to the chase, means the governments of the world are gearing up to underwrite quite humungous investments (ironically, many of them into traditional steel-&-concrete projects); and this newly-expanded Green becomes the only game in town for banks and businesses everywhere.  This offers the prospect of a WW2 American war-economy boost to much of the world, Keynsianism on a vast scale (of redoubled significance post-virus), with 'war-profiteering' potential of a once-in-a-generation nature.

UPDATE:  Oh, and of course Swampy-style Hairshirt Greens just hate these developments.  They'd hoped we would understand you can't Adapt (and broadly maintain your lifestyle unchanged), it's not possible: so you must de-industrialise, in line with their happy cave-dwelling instincts.  They don't know how to seize the world's pension-funds and make hay with them (unlike the NGOs who use them as cannon fodder) - and are being left behind in the crush. ND

Not challenged??  There's no challenging something as big as that.   And every big global faction is seeking to lay hands on it:  honest capitalists & businesses;  leftists (who hope to use it as a smokescreen for their workerist agenda, see Green New Deal / Green Industrial Revolution passim); the developing world, which wants "reparations"; 'Green' NGOs (using it as a smokescreen for their "world governance" dreams); charlatans, kleptocrats and organised crime everywhere ...  they all want control of the world's pension funds to pay for all this - and leave them with a healthy cut.

Those that got in early stand to make a fortune: Funnily enough, no.   There were many who identified the potential for this around the time of the 2007-08-09 financial crisis, as being the Next Big Bubble to get into on the ground floor.  They were too early, by a decade.  Many of them lost the lot.

We still need conventional power stations  ... never included in the price equation:  Used to be true, but both aspects are changing fast.  New means of grid-balancing are coming on apace; and the costs of doing so are (a) falling and (b) very definitely being recognised where it matters.  Sure enough there are lavish legacy subsidies still being paid out from the era where the full-system costs were not being (explicitly) acknowledged.  But not going forward.

Still a daydream:  Yes, there are several unicorns featuring in many a "Roadmap" to 2050 - CCS, Hydrogen, etc etc.  We may not be able to tell the unicorns from the thoroughbreds - yet.  But, seriously folks, many engineers are really good, and a lot of money and determination is being put behind them.  Some of these big ideas are going to work.  Don't bet against it.

Lack of extra electricity to charge these vehicles  ...  needs to find three times the current capacity ... up to five times according to some:   EVs are, IMHO, a good example of something that can and will be made to work.  Some really good, intelligent plans are being hatched to manage this complex transition.  Don't bet against it.  But, yes, there really is something out there that could seem to require infeasible expansion of the electricity system, and it's not EVs: it's electrification of residential space heating (currently mostly natural gas).  It's infeasible.  It won't happen.  Best guess is that we'll convert to hydrogen burning instead.

Throw away our (nuclear) technical lead:  forget it.  Nuclear costs just get bigger and bigger, while Moore's Law rules elsewhere.  Back offshore wind, solar, smart-grid, demand-side response ...  all things we are really good at, and which have genuine potential for what's needed.  Leave nuclear to the French: it is going to bankrupt them.

Drax, stupid:  Yup - outrageously stupid.  Criminally stupid.

Germany, stupid:   Yup!  them, too.

Nick Drew

Monday, March 16, 2020

Carbon-zero energy: who’s telling the truth? by Wiggia



Apart from the coronavirus pandemic it is still the climate scam that leads on all other news fronts. The endless, almost propaganda-like programs come at us on a conveyor belt of editions, depicting scenarios whereby the world is going to end by (fill in any suitable date) - preferably very soon.
The same goes for celebrity environmentalists and the omnipresent Greta. giving their version of what should be done to any anyone that lends an ear. It is now a full-time industry in itself.

It is very difficult to find any variance to the mantra put out by all the involved bodies, be it government NGOs or individuals who want to appear caring: the planet will not survive, we must give up meat, or anything else vaguely connected to their view of the reasons climate is changing. Why is so little challenged? Even when the odd person does challenge, endless experts (?) are wheeled out to condemn the denier - notice that ‘denier’ is used as a label to pre-judge anyone who has a contrary point of view, thereby skewing the debate before it starts. 

Looking at all this from the outside, it is easy to take the stance that all is orchestrated in favour of big business, the justifiably termed ‘climate scam’; but all of it? Probably not. Many in the public and government domains also have much to gain: governments are always looking for an ‘edge’ to help them foist their progressive plans onto the public, and if it coincides with the thinking of some pressure group then it is a double whammy for the government: they will be perceived as doing the right thing, and the vociferous group will get itself noticed by backing them (though naturally the proposals will never go far enough to satisfy the group.)

It may sound simplistic to characterise the push for climate change in this way, yet the fact that billions of pounds of company money have been funnelled in this direction has also had an effect, with (as the entrepreneurs hope) the phasing out of fossil fuels: those that have got in early and grabbed a large chunk of the renewables market stand to make a fortune, knowing they are sure to get subsidies from public money.

Much of the propaganda surrounding wind farms and solar power represents them as cheap power when they are anything but. We still need conventional power stations (fossil fuelled or nuclear) permanently on standby for when the wind doesn’t blow, or blow correctly, or the sun doesn’t shine. This is never going to be cheap, and it is never included in the price equation. They tell us that by the time the transition is complete we will have developed enough backup power storage; this would indeed be an answer, but adequate storage in whatever form is still a daydream and will almost certainly remain so for decades or maybe forever. ‘We don't have the large scale storage capability in place [for wind] and indeed the technologies which would get us there are nascent technologies – they've not being [sic] demonstrated [on] that scale,’ says Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Energy Institute.

Which brings us to batteries. Switching automobiles to battery power is in principle an admirable concept and it will come to pass; there is nothing wrong with that, so far as it goes. However, I have written before about the lack of extra electricity needed to charge these vehicles when their numbers increase: it simply isn’t there, and many of the rare minerals needed for batteries are not readily available on the scale needed in the future.

Battery-powered items are on the rise big-time in other areas besides transport. It may be easy to ignore the power required to charge a mobile phone or a home power drill, but the scale of the supply problem starts to emerge when you consider the demand just for the electric power tools used by professionals, plus the rise of the cordless home vacuum cleaner, and the growing market for outdoor garden equipment. Yet again, nothing is ever said about this: as long as a new product is electric, it is immune from criticism. 

From a few years ago till now, the rise of the battery-powered device or piece of equipment has been enormous, small beer at first in the scheme of things, but no longer: the total of millions of these items takes a sizeable chunk from the total electricity supply and the demand is increasing.
An interesting article or report in the Times the other day gave a clue to the scale of the problem. It was not from a ‘denier’ about climate change, but from a green think tank group. It declared ‘problems’ with meeting the 2050 target: the UK needs to find three times the current capacity by then to reach the carbon neutral target.

But despite much trumpeting of a first, having had two fossil-fuel-less months last year (May and June, note the months, and of course this includes nuclear), fossil fuel provides the basis for reliable energy at this time. The closing of the remaining nuclear plants with only one new (Hinkley) in the pipe line and the scrapping of the building of three others leaves a very large hole in future energy production that wind power could never fill. Our requirements for carbon-free energy and transport will need up to five times our current output according to some experts and a whole fleet of new nuclear plants; not likely, as getting one built has taken or will take a couple of decades.

There are currently 15 nuclear reactors at nine sites. The first of these to be shut down will be expected in 2023 and the last in 2035, so there is not long to get started on building any new ones.
We also import energy with a high voltage connection to France plus Holland and Belgium, and a new connection to Norway is in the offing; this is a cop-out on getting our act together with home production, and does anyone want to be reliant on imports of that kind to stop the lights going out? For a nation that was at the forefront of producing nuclear power to come to the state we are in now it is a sorry tale. It beggars belief we could throw away our technical know-how and lead in that area and be reduced to importing energy from nuclear-led France.

The same incompetence led to the conversion of the Drax power plants to biomass. Not only does the electricity cost double that of a gas plant but each plant uses four million tons of wood pellets annually, imported from Canada. It must be one of the most stupid decisions any government has made regarding energy production or anything else for that matter.

The seasonal variation of wind power without nuclear could scupper any carbon neutral plans, as in Germany, where they stupidly listened to the green lobby and closed all their nuclear plants. They then had to reopen and build coal- and gas-powered power plants to meet demand. Not very forward-thinking, yet we are taking the same road.

And again, all we are told is that we have a shrinking deadline for being carbon neutral with nobody questioning in public the feasibility of it all, or rather total lack of feasibility. One can only assume that an awful lot of people have a lot of monetary gain included in their plans and that government to some extent is in cahoots with this. Once again big numbers are thrown around with the knowledge if it all goes wrong or exceeds current pricing estimates - as it inevitably will - the tax payer will pick up the bill. Nothing new there, then.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

In The Surgery


Good morning, Doctor.
Good morning. What can I do for you today?
It’s not me, Doctor, it’s my daughter. I think she‘s on the autism spectrum. We were wondering about a diagnosis.
I see. How old is she?
Fifteen.
And what are the symptoms?
She gets these obsessions. Once she’s decided she wants something, she just won’t let up until she gets it.
And?
She’s incredibly bossy. Wants to tell other people what to do all the time.
And if they don’t oblige?
Either she tells them off, throws a tantrum or gives them the silent treatment, big-time.
What if they don’t give in?
Then they’re an enemy. She’s got a list and they’re not coming off. She’s determined to settle the score, one way or another. And the looks she gives them!
How is she at school?
She bunks off, mostly. Says it’s a waste of time. She thinks the world is going to end. She reads a lot about that sort of thing. She’s becoming quite an expert. Lectures us, when she’s talking that is.
Anything else?
Yes, she’s massively picky about her food. Sometime refuses to eat at all. It drives her mother crazy.
H’m. You realise it’s a very long process getting an official diagnosis? Six months or more to get the first appointment, then follow-ups. Maybe a year from start. Even if she gets it, it can take three months just for the confirmation letter to get typed up and sent.
Golly.
And then there’s getting the EHC Plan. Another long process, with the Local Authority fighting you every step of the way. Could take another year, with appeals – unless you get a lawyer involved early on.
I didn’t realise.
And if your daughter has a record of non-attendance at school they’ll say there’s not enough evidence from education.
We were hoping for a special school.
The LA is hardly going to make that recommendation if she seems unwilling to attend consistently.
Oh my gosh. What can we do?
Take this prescription. You’ll need to go to several places to get it filled, but it’s worth it.
‘One garden shed, two armchairs, alcoholic spirits as needed.’ A home unit? And she’s too young to drink!
Not for her, for you and her mother. I’ve had teenage girls too. And it’ll save the State a fortune on medical processes, EHC costs, Disability Living Allowance and what not.
That’s an outrage!
I can throw in a luxury holiday for two, if you like.
No! I demand a second opinion!
No pleasing some people. Here’s a list of private educational psychologists. The LA won’t want to accept their opinion, but with a lawyer you may be able to force it through. With luck, you can get the diagnosis before the world ends. Next!

Friday, March 13, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Finbar Furey (and St Patrick)

Yes I know it is Friday the thirteenth but this is close enough to St Patrick's Day and time for the annual celebration of Irishness!

You may not have heard of Finbar Furey but he is something of a 'national treasure' in Ireland; singer, songwriter and one of the very best uillean pipers being winner of national piping medals while still in his teens. If you read the comments beneath these videos you will see that his singing touches so many people's hearts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finbar_Furey















‘Finbar is the jewel of Ireland. A rough cut, perfectly polished, precious, invaluable treasure of ours. He lives and breathes every word of every song he writes and performs. It feels like he sings every one just for me. Watch him, he mesmerises. With each gesture, each movement, each expression, he draws you in with his unmistakable, deep, dulcet, husky and yet sweetly soft, intimate, often delicately vulnerable, voice. With every song he sings I am convinced he can see inside my heart and I into his. He is the master. This is an icon at his best... so far’.
- Imelda May

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Covid-19: don't panic! says JD



Don't panic!

In 1968 Hong Kong flu killed 80,000 people in the UK
In 1957/58 Asian Flu killed 33,000 people in the UK
In 1918/19 the Spanish Flu killed 200,000 people in the UK.
https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/uk/history-of-major-virus-outbreaks-in-the-uk-in-recent-times/

Here is Michael Mosley, writing in 2013, explaining how the flu virus is constantly mutating and "Once our body has learned to recognise the virus surface proteins, it remembers them - which means our immune system is much better prepared the next time we encounter a similar virus."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21125713

In the USA - "CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths from flu. Maybe up to ~20,000 by now. In the USA alone. A crude, don’t-believe-it, useless almost-certainly wrong worldwide estimate is ~300,000 for the year (extrapolating from our population to the world). Anyway, the real number will be higher than 20,000. Coronavirus after a couple of months is 3,000 in the entire world."
https://wmbriggs.com/post/29566/

So why is there such a panic now over another, possibly less virulent strain, of flu?
Dr Bruce Charlton knows why - "We are So Extremely Far Away - a thousand fold? - from anything significant in terms of global deaths over this many weeks, that the international health crisis is revealed as fake. However, a fake crisis is better - from an Establishment perspective - than a real one; as it can be controlled. Indeed, from the mass media attitude; the decision to make the most of Corvid-19 seems only to have been made in the past couple of weeks, when it became clear that it was not a major global danger."
https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2020/03/how-dangerous-are-ravens.html

Anecdote:

November last year I had what might have been a severe cold or flu which had me laid low for maybe two weeks. That is unusual for me because I rarely catch cold but if I do it will be gone in three or four days. This time it was different. I used more than the usual ration of kleenex and felt extremely weary. And then it passed. The immune system is still working obviously. Unfortunately I passed on this cold/flu to the receptionist in the chiropractor's office. She told me she took more than a month to recover for which I was 'rewarded' with a slap on the wrist.
That is one of the reasons I'm not living in constant fear of this new plague. Unfortunately the press love to spread dis-ease. It sells papers and mankind seems to be addicted to fear. Some people are only happy when they are miserable!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Covid-19: be unprepared - and take the consequences


If you are still reassuring yourself that we just need to be British about it all, please read these two accounts by hospital doctors in Italy, which spell out what happens when medical services are overwhelmed:
Note from the above that other life-threatening emergencies remain untreated, even unassessed. It’s not just Covid-19 victims that will suffer. These medics tell us we must take great care with old and vulnerable family and acquaintances, to reduce the chance that they may have to come calling on a system that can do nothing for them.
Once again, please read the above accounts.
Veteran Conservative commentator Iain Dale reminds us https://www.iaindale.com/articles/its-time-to-reverse-the-decline-in-nhs-bed-numbers-updated of the long-term decline in the UK’s hospital bed provision, something he warned us about two years ago. According to this ranking on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_OECD_countries_by_hospital_beds , our beds per capita are fewer than Italy’s, and one-third of Germany’s (which could help to explain the latter’s lower Covid-19 fatality rate.)
Meanwhile, over in Moneyland, we have the insane, Shkreli-like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Shkreli unempathic suggestion from CNBC financial commentator Rick Santelli: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/06/your-brain-capitalism-cnbc-market-analyst-rick-santelli-calls-infecting-global
‘I'm not saying this is the generic-type flu—but maybe we'd be just better off if we gave it to everybody. And then in a month, it would be over, because the mortality rate of this probably isn't going to be any different if we did it that way than the long-term picture, but the difference is we're wreaking havoc on global and domestic economies.’
As wise owl Richard North observes http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=87542 , ‘adoption of the "take it on the chin" option would lead directly to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths.’
North also points out that the UK has long neglected to prepare for an epidemic, and links to this study  https://ccforum.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13054-019-2616-1 that was published just before WuFlu hit and said presciently, ‘A serious influenza pandemic is very likely to overwhelm the health care system.’
We failed to Contain – perhaps that was not possible, in a free-living democratic society – but it is absolutely vital to Delay the progress of the disease, to give our NHS a chance to cope.
Further, when all this (or the worst of it) is over, we need to reassess Britain’s general preparedness for emergencies of all kinds. Waving COBRA at us like a magic wand when crisis is upon us, will not do.
It is time for our political class to professionalise.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Panic buying: and so it begins... by Wiggia



“Even if there are no food panics requiring police or army at supermarket checkouts for rationing, emergency services are already planning to triage what they can provide with tough restrictions on their services. “

A short paragraph from Polly Toynbee’s latest Grauniad article attacking the current government and spreading more fear about the coronavirus outbreak.

Attacking the government for ‘not doing enough’ is standard practice for those of another political persuasion regardless of the gravity of the subject, but governments don’t exactly cover themselves in glory about the same events. Matt Hancock the Health Minister has assured the nation that food supplies will not suffer from any shortages and measures are in place; not that the food industry has heard anything about these measures, in fact several of the senior figures in the food industry have denied any contact with the government has taken place ! They will just do all they can to maintain supplies as normal.

The press as always are guilty of ramping up the doomsday scenario with figures of likely deaths way off the radar and no proof to back them up. The Express had the likelihood of millions catching the virus and the NHS has proclaimed measures are in place to contain the spread, extra facilities are being made available with the government's help... Of course, if the Express doomsday scenario comes to pass the NHS will have something like 6 million extra patients to deal with. The NHS has difficulty accommodating an extra six hundred in the winter. Nurses and doctors are coming out of retirement to help in the crisis; perhaps getting those who are on a three-day week to do more would be more fruitful, or is that a step too far?

The threat of millions being infected is at this stage totally unfounded, yet news(?)papers like the Express headline this as a probability. Why they should want to provoke the inevitable panic buying is a mystery yet they do it every time. Those of us who remember the fuel  crisis will also remember the cars being filled after waiting hours in a queue, with 1 gallon of petrol, and when the crisis was over it was estimated that most cars had full tanks even if they were going nowhere .

We are what we are, or at least a fair number fit the profile. I am old enough to remember when chocolate came off rationing after the war and people cleared out local shops of the stuff and could be seen carrying bags of chocolates home. This is a ifferent situation for sure, but the same mentality.

Today there is also the problem, should a cordon sanitaire be imposed on people who really believe it has nothing to do with them? Human rights has a lot to answer for as many actually say (as a couple in a hotel did when spied outside their room by the pool) that they were on holiday and nothing was going to stop them getting a tan, or words to that effect. The population today is not of the Blitz mentality, more's the shame, and any closed-off areas are going to be hard to police - shooting chancers is not an option these days, where human rights come into play.

The limiting by numbers of public gatherings is also subject already to breaches. In Italy a mosque which ignored the ruling was raided, emptied and the imam arrested; I can’t see that happening here somehow. The containment used in China comes from a regime and a people who are used to that style of imposition, not so in the West.

So what will happen? Nobody really knows; all the guesses are educated and otherwises, though speculation so far is not exactly tempered, hence back to the panic buying.

I had a small taste of the rush for ‘staples’ and, with another trip and anecdotal stories from others, a small but useless compilation of the state of play in the local supermarkets. For reasons unknown, Sainsbury's came bottom of the list of the big supermarkets, with no loo rolls and no cheap pasta - cheap seems to be sold out everywhere but the more expensive remains untouched, for now. Asda only had Plenty toilet rolls (geddit?), the Co-op had dregs of everything, Morrissinghs had sold out of all bumper packs of toilet rolls, Waitrose don’t do bumper packs at all stores but still had stocks in some and Tesco locally at least seemed to have an endless supply, which is just as well as the buyers of all this paper must be planning for at least a fortnight of self-isolating on the old porcelain trombone.


Aldi, I was told, only had loose toilet rolls for sale and they were mainly on the floor: not unusual for our local Aldi as there is always plenty of stock being kicked down the aisles so toilet rolls just add to the mix. Terrible store, this one at least, why anyone goes there is a mystery.

My own trip to Waitrose showed, upon getting out of the car, a lot of people exiting with bumper (or any at all) loo roll packs, all looking suitably grim: a sort of Last Supper but with loo rolls. Inside, the pasta section, true to form, had been hollowed out of the ‘essential’ range and all else remained intact; cans of beans various were spied in quantity in many baskets and cut bread in wrappers was in abundance. The canned fish seemed normal so far, as did the packet and pot noodles - sold out everywhere in China, I’m told!

At the check-out the lady in front with the same glum face of impending national wipe-out imminent, had no loo rolls I could see, but twelve cut loaves, a large pile of cans various (at least thirty in total and , yes I did count them), and twenty packs of blueberries - is there something in that I have not been told about, or is it or just a strange taste?

It has been suggested that should loo rolls completely vanish, cutting a paper towel roll in half will suffice, or failing that the Guardian cut into squares with a piece of string through one corner is a neat alternative; and should that option fail B&Q have at the moment plenty of Vimura wallpaper. All are preferable to the awful Izal of old which I believe is still made, for who I can only guess.

Personally if the worst comes to the worst my cellar is overflowing, I shall in desperate times self isolate down there with some glasses and a corkscrew and see it all out; if there is anyone left after the allotted time please ring a bell to let me know.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Covid-19, the magic microbe


Let’s look at WuFlu in computing terms. China has (belatedly) chosen to be like my laptop (Windows 10/Chrome): clogging the system with compulsory protection, spying on every move and constantly interrupting with tailored messages. However, the annoying interference has resulted in a slowing of the rate of new Covid-19 cases to below the UK’s when you adjust for the size of their population, which is 21 times greater than ours.
Now let’s look at the West. Our idea of panic is amassing unfeasible quantities of bog roll and stealing hand sanitisers from hospitals, where if the staff can’t ensure their hygiene we are all in deep doo-doo; hence no doubt the obsession with toilet tissue. (Though behind us at the Lidl checkout a family was stocking up on pasta, handwash – and a stone weight of white sugar. Priorities!)
In contrast to such pathetic prepping, get this: a relation who works in the NHS tells us that a theatre nurse who had just returned from Thailand was asked for a throat swab to check she wasn’t infected – and she refused, forcing the administration to send her home. Operating theatre – patients with open wounds - sterile environment ultra-important – highly trained nurse fully cognizant of implications – my mind is on Planet Boggle.
Or how about Italy’s possible ‘Patient Zero’, who had come from abroad and tested positive for the coronavirus? He was told to self-isolate but ignoring the instruction, continued his work delivering food from a Chinese restaurant until the carabinieri sent him home and closed the business. https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=https://www.adnkronos.com/fatti/cronaca/2020/02/29/coronavirus-positivo-test-viola-quarantena-consegna-cibo-domicilio_JSYcH3sUwZ5TatMYxiUgWM.html&prev=search
Then there’s VICE News’ reporter Julia Lindau, who came back to the USA from northern Italy and tweeted her amazement at walking through JFK’s customs barrier without being asked any health-screening questions. https://twitter.com/julialindau/status/1235714275752267776?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet
Is it that viruses aren’t perceived as real? After all, we can’t see them, not even with an optical microscope. We have to take their existence on trust from scientists and medics, like the crazy stuff physicists give out about ‘hexaquarks’ and ‘dark matter’ https://www.space.com/hexaquarks-big-bang-form-universe-dark-matter.html ; and precautions against infection can resemble magic gestures to ward off demons, as e.g. the disinfectant-spraying in this Chinese training exercise (why the outside of the car?) https://observers.france24.com/en/20200228-china-video-police-fishing-net-arrest-coronavirus-covid-fake-news . Perhaps singing Happy Birthday twice while washing one’s hands is a form of incantation.
So, many Americans must have been reassured when the White House told them (or more importantly, the stock markets) that the US had it all under control https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-coronavirus-control-us-problem/story?id=69198905 , only later having to admit to a national shortage of testing kits https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51761435 so that the apparent concentration of cases in Washington State was likely a dangerously comforting illusion. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/us/coronavirus-in-washington-state.html
In the UK, England’s Chief Medical Officer tells us there is now a “very slim to zero” chance of avoiding a worldwide pandemic; accordingly, we are moving from mostly attempting to contain the virus to a “mainly delay” response to slow its spread. https://inews.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-uk-death-elderly-patient-hospital-spread-2106832 Although fatalities are much more likely among the old and/or those with certain underlying health conditions, the real challenge for the NHS is the possibility of being overwhelmed with critical cases. As an intensive care unit (ICU) doctor explained in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/03/icu-doctor-nhs-coronavirus-pandemic-hospitals , thirty (but it could be up to sixty) per cent of the population could become infected, with perhaps one in thirty-five of those needing an ICU bed. The maths of that means over half a million acute cases – when the country has only some 4,000 ICU beds and those are already 90% committed to other needs. Even if the danger has been overestimated by a factor of one thousand, the NHS faces a potentially impossible challenge. Charles Hugh Smith points out that this lack could contribute to a higher death rate among severe cases.  http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-gathering-storm-could-covid-19.html In preparation, our NHS relative tells us, BOC are producing more oxygen bottles, and Army Medical Corps personnel are receiving training in ICU nursing, so somebody up there is still trying to plan responsibly.
Ironically, where at first we feared the spread of Covid-19 from China, now, thanks to major efforts at containment that have not been abandoned as hopeless, the Chinese are worrying instead about the possibility of reimporting the disease from abroad. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/china-worries-coronavirus-surge-infected-arrivals-200304062507995.html There will be no casual strolling through airport customs there.
Among the rest of us, the reactions vary from sanguine (‘M.D.’ in Private Eye says ‘We’re all going to die, some much sooner than others’) to the sanguinary ‘Darwinian thinning out of the herd’ (forgetting that the most vulnerable demographic will have bred at least one succeeding generation already.)
Covid-19 has raised a key debating point: who gives a stuff about the old, anyway?