Unfortunately Mobi passed away in July 2022.
He would have wanted the blog to stay available and it will continue to be online, for anyone who wants to read it, at mobithailand.wordpress.com
Unfortunately Mobi passed away in July 2022.
He would have wanted the blog to stay available and it will continue to be online, for anyone who wants to read it, at mobithailand.wordpress.com
The move to our new little bungalow home couldn’t have fitted the bill much better. I am so fortunate to have Lek and her daughter with me; they both bring much happiness and joy into my life and they minister to my daily needs with good hearts and smiles.
We certainly haven’t had a great summer here in Rutland, with incessant rain characterising the early summer, followed by generally lower than average temperatures and many days of cool, gloomy, sunless skies. We did have a mini-heatwave a couple of months back, and only last week we had three steaming hot days, but it wasn’t long before the familiar cloudy, cool weather returned.
Today is quite warm and sunny, which has probably put me in the mood to write this blog, but it won’t be long before Autumn rears its ugly head, and our cold-weather clothing has to be dusted down and made ready for use.
Snug as a bug in our little bungalow, one day is much like another. I struggle to recall exactly when it was that Lek returned to her job and Song resumed school – early Spring, I think. But we then had 6 weeks with both of them back home for the summer school holidays. Most of the covid restrictions were relaxed in mid-July, and things are slowly but surely getting back to normal.
Lek finally had to concede that her trip to Thailand this summer was a no-go, particularly as the pandemic finally hit Thailand with a vengeance, and the UK government put Thailand on the red-list. We are hoping that she may be able to travel in the New Year but shall have to wait and see how things are at that point.
Both Lek’s and Song’s passports expire in February 2022, and our original plan was for them to renew them in Thailand this summer. Now that plan is off the agenda, we have booked an appointment with the Thai Consulate in November for them to get them renewed. They will have to travel up overnight to be at the consulate by 10.00 a.m. the next morning, so it’s going to be an expensive business.
We did make a few trips during the school summer holidays, firstly to Tonbridge to see my brother and sister-in-law, and on to Worthing to see my cousin. We stayed at my brother’s for three nights and yes – Olly the dog came with us.
While we were at Tonbridge, we paid a return visit to Dungeness, a place we first visited a few years back on Lek’s first trip to England. She asked to go back there, as it brought back happy memories.
Then the following week we drove up to Birmingham for the day to visit with my eldest daughter and family – and yes, Olly came with us.
One of the big family events of the summer was when my youngest daughter, Julie and her family moved to Malaysia. She had been teaching at Oakham public school for several years and secured a teaching job at an English school in Malaysia. They were supposed to go in early July, but after much fuffing around with Covid restrictions and so on, they finally left for new climes at the end of August.
Julie was the reason we came to Oakham in the first place, and now she’s left us here all alone…. Never mind, we love this part of the country and are very happy here. We will certainly miss them, but they will be back next summer on home leave, and the contract is only for two years – but she may extend….
Although it doesn’t seem that much has happened since my last blog back in March, the pics (above and below) tell a slightly different story.
The other day I was thinking that if I don’t update my blog before the end of September, then it’s pretty much on the cards that my sloth would presage the demise of Mobi and his blog.
After all, I turned 75 three months ago, and if anyone had asked me twenty years ago what I would be doing when I was 75, I would probably have replied that it would be a bloody miracle if I even make it to 65, let alone 75.
20 years ago, I was one year into early retirement, having been eased out of my high-stress job with failing health. The medics told me bluntly that if I didn’t start to take things easy, they doubted I would see my 60th birthday.
I took their advice, and as the new millennium erupted, I divorced wife number three and was a free man, with more than enough liquid assets to see me through to well past my theoretical 75th year.
But what a 20 years it has been!
I started blogging on July 7th 2009, so what with 12 years of this blog together with my stories and semi-autobiographical novels, (all of which have been published in draft form at various times in this blog), my most loyal readers will probably know almost as much as I do about my life since the start of the twentieth millennium. For those few of you who have read my novels, you will know my life for many years before I ever dreamed of writing a blog.
Not only reaching the age of 75 is a milestone that I had believed beyond me, but it is also one that now leans quite heavily on this ageing carcass.
When I met my wife Lek, some eleven years ago, I was in my ‘early’ sixties (64) and still believed there was a lot of life in the old bastard yet. I was still patronising the lively bars of Pattaya, still drinking to excess, and still trying to get over my disastrous marriage with wife number 4.
It all changed when I moved into a new home and a few days later met a new partner. Within 2 months of Lek moving in, I had forsworn alcohol, and to this day I haven’t touched another drop.
Meeting Lek changed my life for good, and without her, I probably wouldn’t have survived the trauma of losing all my savings in an investment scam in 2013. If I hadn’t met Lek, I wouldn’t have stopped drinking, and if had still been alone in 2013, that could have well have been the end of me.
So now, in my mid-seventies, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I am old. My health is slowly but surely deteriorating, and every year I live from now on will be a bonus – a bonus I have no right to expect or hope for.
Travelling far from home is something I am no longer able to do, except in special circumstances, and since we moved to Langham village, I have been pretty much housebound except for a morning walk with Olly the dog. Lek has to take Olly out in the afternoon as I use up all my limited energy on the morning walk. The morning walks are becoming increasingly taxing on my fragile constitution, and sooner or later I will probably have to give up.
One morning, I was nearly home from my walk and was suddenly so exhausted that I had to sit down on the side of the road and phone Lek for help getting home.
I am well into my second year of waiting for an operation on my bladder. After several weeks of phoning every day, I finally managed to contact the hospital to check if I was still on the list.
Yes – my name is still on the waiting list – No – we don’t know when – possibly another year or even longer.
I have instituted a formal complaint against the hospital, as the prospect of going to the toilet countless times a day, (and night), including self-catheterisation for years to come is a quite depressing prospect. I’ll probably be dead before I get the call. I’m not expecting anything positive to result from my complaint – but it made me feel better to get it off my chest and… you never know…
I wonder how many people my age or older spend a lot of time thinking about their lives, and whether their life has been worthwhile, happy, productive, notable – something to be proud of? Or are more like me – looking back and thinking what a complete Horlicks I have made of most of it, and filled with regrets that I didn’t make better choices when life’s many crossroads were open to me.
My life has been full of ups and downs – some folk believe that you can’t have big highs without experiencing pretty bad lows. If this is true, then I can say my life has had some merit – but I’m rather dubious.
Certainly, I believe some of the biggest errors I have made in my life were largely self-inflicted. In a forlorn effort to break free of my father’s controlling yoke, I decided to leave school at 16, rather than stay till 18 and then go on to university. If I had gone to university, who knows how my life may have turned out?
The second ‘biggy’ was my choice of going into accountancy. I had no knowledge of, or desire to be an accountant; I did it to please my father, who was always going on about how accountants ruled the world.
I made the best of a bad lot and did all right as an accountant, and rose to pretty high office; and as my father had predicted, I made a heap of money. But I never really enjoyed the work – it was just a means to an end.
To be honest, I feel that I sort of sleepwalked through most of the big decisions in my life, including my first four marriages, and certainly the decision to leave school at 16. I never gave these decisions – and many others – the careful deliberation they deserved – they were just momentary impulses and ill-considered. Why? I guess I’ll never know but can only adduce that I was so brow-beaten and made to feel so worthless and lacking in self-esteem that I didn’t care what would happen in my life. I wasn’t invested in it.
It’s a shame, because ever since I was a wee lad in primary school, I had an urge to write creatively, and in my teens, I wrote three plays that were performed to acclaim in the annals of east London Amateur dramatics. All this was put to one side when I started training as an accountant, and it wasn’t until I took early retirement in 2000, that I finally turned my attention to my first love – writing.
I had plenty of material to write about, but over the past twenty years, I have concluded that I seriously missed the boat by not starting to develop my creative writing craft much earlier in life. And so it has proved, as none of my literary efforts has succeeded in attracting any interest in the publishing world.
My writing is about 40 years behind the times in terms of content and writing style. I have been too influenced by the great novelists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it isn’t a style that appeals to a modern, young readership. Nothing I can do about it – it is what it is.
But looking back – I feel there have been as many as many plusses as minuses. While life as a journalist/ author might have been a better bet than accountancy, which for much of the time bored me to death (and was one of the many things that in later life, drove me to drink) things could have been a lot worse.
After all, I did end up spending much of my adult life strutting across the world, and whether it was the Middle East, West Africa, North Africa, North America, Europe or South East Asia, I always immersed myself in the different cultures where I was living and had many real-life ‘Indiana Jones -type’ adventures. I became caught up in two wars, spent brief periods in jail on several continents, engaged in several life and death situations and, of course – the five marriages.
How can an accountant do all that? I hear you say. Well, being an accountant enabled me to work all over the world. My job always involved other areas of management to some degree or other and I was often the ‘number 2’ in the business I was involved with, and often strayed a long way from accountancy. I actually ended up as Deputy General Manager of a major international insurance company – so the kid didn’t do too bad.
Then, at the grand old age of 64, I belatedly found my soul mate who has taken care of me ever since…and I’m still alive…
It’s a ‘sliding doors’ syndrome – where would I be if I had made different life choices?
Yes folks, once again we have been packing and unpacking – hopefully for the last time. While we were quite happy with our little home at the northern end of Oakham Town, the rent was quite high and in October last year it was increased. We could still afford it, just, but we were on a rolling month by month contract and I have always fretted about our security of tenure – the landlord could chuck us out at any time, by giving two months’ notice.
The other problem was that the only WC in the house was upstairs, and due to my bladder and bowel problems, I was having to go up and downstairs all day long, which was playing havoc with my COPD. Every time I struggled upstairs; I would get severely out of breath and have to lie down for a few minutes.
It was not at all satisfactory on several fronts, so I put my name down on Rutland’s housing waiting list back in 2019, and submitted a doctor’s note stating that I needed a place with a downstairs loo on medical grounds.
Like all local councils, Rutland have a points system for allocating houses, based on number of years of residence, age, disabilities and other medical conditions etc. But knowing how people can be on housing waiting lists for years and years with no positive outcome, no one was more surprised than me when suddenly, last December, they called and offered us a two-bed bungalow in Langham – a nearby village to Oakham.
It transpired that all the social housing in Rutland is actually owned by a housing association, who informed me the same day that I had only a few days to make up my mind or they would offer it to someone else. The situation was so rushed that we only had the opportunity to see inside the house for a few minutes before having to sign up.
To cut a long story short, we moved on 1st February, and I believe we are going to be very happy here. The bungalow is semi-detached, and in front there is a large open lawn (the grass is cut for us), and at the back is a small enclosed garden, mainly covered with concrete slabs, but we can take them up if we wish to extend the flower beds, or lay some lawn.
Newer than most of the housing in the village – certainly no older than the 1960’s as it has no chimney stack – the interior of the property has been well maintained and was ‘done up’ prior to us moving in. It has a decent a sized living room and master bedroom, an adequate kitchen with the bonus of a large utility room at the rear of the kitchen where we have put our fridges, chest freezer and tumble dryer. So, although quite a small bungalow, we have managed to fit all our stuff in quite comfortably. We had to lay carpet on all the floors and also buy a gas cooker as there was nothing at all in the place. Now it’s all finished we are very happy.
The rent is much lower, and we get a “starter lease” for one year, and if all is well, we then then go onto a long-term lease which effectively means we can stay for ever. There was no deposit, and we received the entire deposit back from our old place, so although one way or another we had to shell out quite a bit of cash, we managed the move without going completely broke!
The village is only 5 minutes’ drive from Oakham town, so luckily Song didn’t have to change schools. It’s half an hour’s walk or a ten-minute bike ride to her school, and so far, she has adopted both means – depending on how early she gets up… We have even kept our existing home phone number.
Langham means “Long Village” and has its origins in the midst of time. There is evidence of iron age, bronze age and Roman settlements within the parish, and the Domesday Book records Oakham as having five hamlets of which Langham was one.
Langham’s most noteworthy son is Simon de Langham who was born here in 1310. He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1366 having been both Prior and Abbot of Westminster Abbey and also Chancellor of England. He was also created a Cardinal by Pope Gregory XI. His tomb is the earliest ecclesiastical monument in Westminster Abbey.
During the middle ages the village was within the remit of England’s Kings who, through the centuries, gave the village to various influential families. Most notably in the 16th Century, Henry VIII granted Langham to Thomas Cromwell. Langham remained in Cromwell’s hands until 1600 when it was sold to Sir Andrew Noel, and parts of Langham, including Langham Manor, remained in family Noel’s ownership until 1925.
Our home is literally only five minutes’ walk from the Manor Farm and its Manor, but frustratingly, the hall is hidden from sight by surrounding buildings and trees, and it seems to have been rarely sighted, as the only photograph I have been able to dig out is a black and white photo taken in 1954. One of these days I’ll creep down the private track that leads to the Manor and take a quick snap with my trusty Samsung.
Another large estate in the middle of the village is The Old Hall, on Church Street, opposite the church. The core of this building dates from 1664, and even the stone boundary wall is a listed grade 2 ‘building’. As with the Manor, The Old Hall is quite difficult to photograph, although there is one corner of the surrounding stone wall where I can get a partial view of the building. Maybe one day I will get Lek to give me a leg up and I’ll take a quick snap. Meanwhile, here is something I found on the web.
Langham really is an idyllic, ancient, peaceful village with some exquisite antique buildings – many of which date back centuries. In fact, there are no less than 35 grade 2 listed buildings in Langham, plus the beautiful grade I listed Church of St Peter and St Paul which dates back to the 13th Century and is still fully functional.
As you can see, (above and below), I have managed to take a few pics around the village during my twice daily walks with Olly the dog, and as the weather warms, I will no doubt be taking many more.
The village has no shops – hardly surprising given its proximity to Oakham – but according to Google maps it does boast a post office, just down the road from the village hall. On my second day here, I took a wander down the road to the hall to locate the post office but look as I might, I couldn’t find any trace of it. Back at home I studied Google maps again and on the following day I returned to environs of the village hall and did an even more detailed search – but no post office and I could only assume that it had closed for good during the pandemic. A week later, fortuitously on a Tuesday, I was passing the village hall with Olly, when I noticed some activity inside the hall.
“What’s going on here?” methinks, “we’re still in lockdown so what are they doing?”
Then to my astonishment I looked on the side of the building and saw the red sign for a post office.
“That sign wasn’t there yesterday – or am I going crazy?”
I stopped and read the notices on the hall notice board – and there was my answer. The post office was open every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. I breathed a sigh of relief; I wasn’t going crazy. The following day I strolled passed the hall and the post office sign had disappeared; all that remained was a red bracket, where presumably the sign was inserted every Tuesday morning.
Almost the only people I encounter on my morning walks are fellow villagers also walking their dogs. Ditto in the afternoons. The stark difference between Langham and Oakham is that in Oakham, maybe 50% of the people you encounter when out walking will say “good morning” or “hello” with a friendly smile; whereas in Langham, just about everyone I meet, greets me. So, while Oakham is friendly Langham is even more so.
Such are the joys of village life.
A very ancient Stump
The stump (below) predates the Church and is pre 11th Century. 1.3 meters high, it is part of a much larger churchyard cross which was broken by Cromwell’s forces in the 17th century. Looking a little folorn, it is nevertheless a Grade II listed structure.
The world continues to be rocked by the Covid Pandemic and thank God we, in the UK, can see some light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccination process is rolling out exponentially across the age bands, and very thankfully I received my first jab at the end of January, and am booked for the second on 16th April.
This has been a major milestone for me as I am classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have been shielding for over a year. What with Lek working, going shopping and so on and Song attending school for much of the lockdowns, it has been quite a risky and worrying time for me, as I am pretty sure with all my chronic medical conditions that if I were to become infected, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t make it through. But we rode our luck, and here we are, with infections rapidly decreasing across the country, and on Monday England comes out of lockdown, with a limited social interaction between families and friends outdoors being permitted.
Lek is in the 40 – 50 age band and was expecting to have her first jab sometime in April, but it now seems to have been put back to May due to a shortfall of 5 million vaccines that were expected from India, and threats of vaccine export embargoes from the EU.
I know, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
I’m afraid all this will almost certainly put the kybosh on Lek’s plans to take a 4-week break in Thailand, from early July. She should have her first jab by then, but it is highly unlikely she will get her second jab before the back end of July or even August. It looks like nobody can travel out of England without having both jabs – and right now there’s a total ban on travelling abroad with penalty of a £5,000 fine for anyone who breaks it. Thailand’s rules require a hotel quarantine of at least 7 days and this will remain in force until October.
As for Song – who won’t be vaccinated at all as she is only 13 – I have severe doubts whether she will be allowed to travel, or enter Thailand.
I brought Lek up to date on the current situation a few days ago, and it was a massive disappointment for her, as she hasn’t seen any of her family for two years. She had planned out the whole holiday and made firm arrangements with her family and friends etc. and now it all has to be put on hold.
However, she took the setback with surprisingly good grace, and I have told her that if there is any chance of going later in the year, then she should go. The only problem with that is that she will have to take unpaid time off work and Song can’t go with her as she’s not allowed time off school. We’ll see how things go.
Over the last few months, Lek has been mainly on furlough (receiving 80% of her wages), and Song has been at school throughout the lockdown. Apart from a brief period of work before Christmas, Lek started full-time work two weeks ago, and both her and Song are now doing Covid lateral flow covid tests twice a week. It may be that some kind of negative test results might allow them to travel at some point in the future but right now nobody can leave the country.
Lek and Song just love the snow, and late last December the skies opened with large volumes of the white stuff which settled long enough for the kiddies to have some fun. And then, as if that wasn’t enough for one winter, we had another snow storm the day after we moved to Langham, which allowed the kids to do their thing again in icy, below zero temperatures.
As for me, I had the distressing task of walking Olly the dog along snow-covered paths and roads for his daily walks. The February snow lasted for a week, and the paths became increasingly treacherous as the snow was compressed into slippery ice. I don’t know how I managed to make it through without slipping over. Just as well, because if I did, I doubt I would have been able to get up again, and Olly would have had to drag me home like a human sled! Here are some pics of both periods of snow.
Well, as far as non-covid events are concerned in the wide world beyond Rutland, I guess the shenanigans during Trump’s last days in office will top the poll of the most debated events, with the Megan/Harry saga, running a close second.
I have little to say in the way of comments on the horrific Trump manifestation, only to offer my opinion that as long as long as his health holds, and he is not jailed as a result of his many criminal activities, then I would bet money on Trump running again in 2024. The man is clearly a vainglorious, narcissistic sociopath who has brain-washed half of the population in believing he is their saviour; so, I wouldn’t rule out him running again – and even winning again.
What is so sad, is not the fact that Trump exists – as there are countless of his type who exist throughout the world – but that he is able to dupe so many ordinary citizens, in the same way that Hitler brain-washed almost the entire German population.
Maybe comparing Trump to Hitler is a bit extreme, but in many ways, they are so similar: rousing, nationalistic, off-the-cuff speeches to the multitudes, a pathological belief in their self-importance, incitement to violence against minorities, and so on.
It does seem to be the case that the Americans are very vulnerable to so-called ‘messiahs’ – look at the numbers that are taken in by evangelist preachers, who themselves frequently end up in the courts for defrauding their devoted flocks.
For the sake of the entire globe, let’s hope that America wakes up and finds a way of keeping him permanently out of any kind of public office.
As for Harry and Meghan – well writing as a republican who believes the monarchy should either be abolished completely or be drastically reduced in size and privilege, I don’t have any sympathy for either side in this protracted Royal “It’s a Knock Out.” The way everyone writes about Harry and Megan being badly treated and having their funds cut off and forced to run away and hide in California, you would think that poor, hard done by Harry was a modern-day Oliver Twist.
In some ways he is;
“Please Sir, can you pay for my security?”
“Please Sir can I keep all my Royal patronages so that I can use them to make money?”
“Please Sir, can my son be a Prince? I don’t want him to be part of the hoi paloi.”
Of course, no aspects of racism should be tolerated, but until the agrieved couple come out and say who said what and in what context, it is a little difficult to feel too much sympathy.
I must say I am deeply suspicious of Megan’s motives in all this. It’s almost as if it was part of her life plan to marry a prince before she ever met Harry. All she needed was a young, distinguished prince of royal blood, whose intellect wasn’t exactly out of the top drawer, and was ripe to be emotionally seduced by a calculating Hollywood actress. She reeled in her catch of the century with all the aplomb of a scheming wicked witch of the north.
Apart from her motives, we now find that several of the things that her and Harry stated in the interview are simply not true. They didn’t get married 3 days before the official wedding and all that nonsense about Archie not being made a prince because of his colour is all hogwash. The Archbishop himself has confirmed that there was no wedding before the one the world saw, and Archie wasn’t made a prince because he isn’t entitled to it until the Queen passes on.
As for her assertions that she knew nothing about the Royal family before she met Harry and teh ‘firm’ seizing her passport don’t merit comment. There’s more but I can’t be bothered going into it any more. It does make me think that if this privileged couple are economical (mispoke?) with the truth in some instances, then whose to say what is true, and what isn’t?
The antics of a bunch of highly privileged royal millionaires airing their dirty laundry in public leaves me cold; They are no different to the Kardashians – whose daily utterances I have never read, nor do I ever intend to. This social media phenomenon seems to have taken over the world.
As a person who grew up with snail mail – not even a telephone, as they were just for the wealthy middle and upper classes, and even if you ordered one, it would take 6 months or longer to arrive. Does anyone remember party lines? – where you would share your phone line with somebody down the street, because exclusive lines were so hard to come by?
Then – when I was overseas in the middle of the jungle or desert, mail would be delivered once per week by specially charted air courier. Day to day communication was either via telex, or more commonly, via single side band radio.
Oh, how times have changed in such a short space of time, and are continuing to change at such a rapid rate. It’s sometimes hard for us septuagenarians to keep up. Will this obsession with social media ever run its course? Probably, but not in my lifetime.
Ordinary books – you know, those things you hold in your hands containing pages of printed text that most of us used to read. I wonder how many have since deserted them in favour of the latest Netflix blockbusters. It’s much less effort, isn’t it? But I’ll wager the benefits of watching movies and TV series are so much less than reading a really good book.
From an early age I was a very keen reader, and my ‘back of envelope’ calculation suggests that I have read around two thousand books during my lifetime. I wonder how many people can say the same in this day and age? There used to be a time when I was a bit short of the ready that I would buy a book based on its size, and I would always go for books with the greatest number of pages, as I consumed them so avidly that a ‘thin book’ would barely last me a day.
Books were probably the saviour of me during various times of my life when I was completely alone – either physically or spiritually, and even now there is not a day goes past when I don’t manage to fit in a decent spell of reading somewhere along the line, usually late at night.
I have mentioned above about the incredible advance of technology during my lifetime, and although some aspects of it are to be regretted, there is one invention that has certainly transformed my life. We tend to worry about technology giants such as Amazon who have cornered the online sales markets, but forget that it was through the genius of Amazon that we were introduced to the world of electronic books – or Kindle – as the world now knows it.
I have always been an inveterate traveller, and taking my books along with me has always presented some major logistic problems; not least because they weigh a ton and even a modest collection of books can cost an arm and a leg to transport around the world. This means that while I always had a small collection of ‘must-have’ books with me, most of them were discarded or given away during my sojourns to far flung places.
During my recent fifteen odd years in Thailand, I built up quite a collection of hard back and paperback books, some of which I had shipped out from England back in 2002. I can’t recall exactly when it was, but a good few years ago I discovered the convenience of Kindle books, and my collection of physical books thereafter remained static. What a wonderful invention Kindle was to someone like me. Not only could I carry my entire library around with me in a smartphone, but I had access to the whole world of books, most of which would have been impossible to buy in my place of residence. There’s not too many readers of War and Peace or Jane Austin in Pattaya.
A special bonus of getting books for Kindle is that any book past a certain age is out of copywrite and thus is free to download from Amazon’s enormous library; so I am able to read the classics without paying a single penny.
When I finally relocated back to England in 2017, I gave away my entire physical collection of books in Thaialnd and ‘nere a tear was passed. I have my trusty Kindle, and even if I lose my phone, my collection is still safe out there in the ether and can be accessed by downloading my Kindle account onto a new device.
Here in Langham, there are only two physical books in my home. A book on walks through Rutland, and one of my self-penned novels, which was published by Amazon as a paper-back.
I decided to make a list of my Kindle books the other day, as some of them are still unread, and was surprised to find that I have accumulated some 225 books over the past few years or so. A majority of my reading matter are classics of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, but there also a few modern books – some quite contemporary.
Click below to download the list
The contemporary books in the list are a bit of a mixed bunch, and some are a bit trashy but others really stand out as excellent novels.
You will see that I am a massive fan of Haruki Murakami and I absolutely love everything he has written. I only discovered him quite recently, so just about everything he has written is in my Kindle collection. Some of my other favourite authors, such as le Carré, Tolstoy, Bryson and Hardy have been favourites for many years, so only the ones that I hadn’t previously read are in the Kindle list. The same goes for other classics which I read long before Kindle came along.
You would think that by reading mainly novels, the amount of ‘mind-broadening’ would be minimal – as opposed to reading non-fiction. I actually don’t think this is the case, as I think I can say I am pretty ‘well read’ and my wide-ranging general knowledge extends back through the ages – much of it acquired by reading, although I admit most of it is fairly superficial.
For example, I would never know what Russia was like pre revolution if I hadn’t read Tolstoy and the other great Russian writers of that period. Similarly, I learnt about the revolution and communist Russia by reading the likes of Pasternak, and the post communist era by reading Pomerantsev amongst others. Then Harukumi provides me with great insight into the Japanese mind and culture, and all those great 18th and 19th English classics paint a wonderful picture of life as it was 100- 200 years ago. Le Carre teaches us about the Cold War; and so it goes on and on…
I am also a massive consumer of rolling news, which wouldn’t have been possible without the advent of smart phones. And I always read the news, and never watch the smart phone news videos – as the reading content is always much more detailed than the vids, and is far more likely to stay in my ageing brain.
I seem to have gone on a bit in this blog, so I will call it a day.
As it seems to be around three months since my last blog, I will try to commit to writing a blog at least once every three months, and keep you all updated on what’s been happening in the wide world of Mobi.
meanwhile here are some more pics that have been taken in the past 3 months.
Here’s to next time….
This morning it snowed – albeit briefly, but I can tell you it’s effing cold. When I returned from my morning walk with Olly, my body temperature had dropped 3.5°F. Maybe it’s not a great idea to stay out there too long.
I have been very quiet, blog-wise, for long periods of 2020, and was almost at the point of closing it down entirely. But in the end, I felt I owed it to my friends and acquaintances throughout the world to keep you up to date on what’s been happening back here with the Mobi family in Blighty.
Let’s face it! It has been a very worrying year for all of us. With the Covid Pandemic and a no-deal Brexit hanging over our heads for most of the year, as well as a few personal worries,
The pandemic has left us all fearing for our lives – with nobody knowing who, when and where it will attack next. Yesterday, over 40,000 people were infected in a single day in the UK, and daily averages are spiking in the high 30,000s. Deaths are also rising to several hundred every day and the numbers in hospitals are so high that it won’t be long before the NHS is completely overwhelmed.
We have all read, and/or seen those films of bygone ages when the country was continually ravaged with plagues or black death, and the dreaded cries of “Bring out your dead” echoing across the land. Is it so different now? We like to think so, but for how long? I do hope a dystopian landscape is not just around the corner.
As with all pandemics, the people most at risk are the elderly and the medically compromised. Unfortunately for me, I fall into both of these categories, having been officially been designated as ‘Clinically Highly Vulnerable’ – and I have the letters to prove it!
My situation has been made even more worrying as Lek has been working throughout the year as a key worker at Oakham School, and Song has been attending school, even at times when most kids were in lockdown. Either one of them could drift home one day with the dreaded lurgy on their hands or breath and strike me down.
On the plus side, Rutland has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and we are one of the few counties that so far remain in tier two. So, with just a few days to go, it looks like our luck has held and we have made it through to the end of 2020 without succumbing.
Another reason for optimism is the planned rollout of vaccinations, which will hopefully reach all of us in Oakham by Spring at the latest. Lek is having kittens that her trip to Thailand, scheduled for next August, will be cancelled, but I try to reassure her that with the advent of vaccinations, the second half of 2021 will see some semblance of a return to a normal way of life. False optimism? I hope not.
As for Brexit, well, at long last it is a done deal and we can start to find out what this will mean to us Brits, in our post Brexit, newly EU-free world. Will it be an unmitigated disaster, with the economy taking a huge dive and consumer prices going through the roof as some doom merchants will have us believe? Or will it presage a brave new world for us to conquer, now we have shaken off the shackles of the Euro bureaucrats’ obsessions with the likes of bent bananas and weighing scales with pounds and ounces?
On a more personal note, one of my major worries of 2020 was finally put to bed in early November when we received the wonderful news that Lek and Song have been granted Further Leave to Remain (FLR) for another two and a half years. I spent weeks on the applications and collating an unbelievable number of supporting documents, so I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Next time around we face the final hurdle – “Indefinite Leave to Remain” (ILR)
Yet another bit of good news also came in November when I passed the DVLA eye medical which meant that my driving licence was renewed for another 3 years. So I’m good till November 2023 – if I live that long.
Then, to top it all, we have just found a new home, which is a bungalow in a village close to Oakham, with lower rent, and If all goes well, we’ll probably be moving sometime in late January. At long last, we will have a ground-level loo which will transform my life, as my bowel and bladder problems mean I am in and out of the toilet all day long and half the night. Right now, every time I have to crawl upstairs to go to the loo I become a breathless mess due to my COPD. So, fingers crossed that the move goes through without any hitches.
May I wish all my friends, family, and acquaintances a very Happy New Year, and fingers crossed that 2021 will prove to be much better than the year just gone.
You can see from the few snaps below that Lek, Song and Olly the dog are keeping their spirits up, and here’s hoping they may long continue to be safe and healthy.
What on earth has Lek been doing at work??
It really has been snowing! – But not very much…
Well, I did say that I would return in a few months, and here I am – still alive and kicking, no less. And no, not one of me and mine has so far contracted COVID, including all my family scattered around the UK. At least I assume that is so, as there may be someone somewhere who may be asymptomatic.
Certainly here, in rural Rutland, there have been very few deaths since the start of the pandemic, and it is one of the safest places to live. Mind you, Leicester is only 25 miles away, and its worthy citizens have been subject to special lockdown measures due to the unacceptable rise in confirmed cases.
Indeed, at the time of writing, the whole country is now waiting with bated breath for what could be a second wave of the virus to sweep across our hallowed shores.
On the plus side, the rise in cases has not been matched by the rise in deaths, and the number of daily deaths is but a mere trickle compared to the 1,000 plus of daily deaths at the height of the pandemic.
The reason for this is difficult to explain – probably a combination of much better treatment, (as expertise has improved over the past few months), and those infected belonging to lower age groups. However, there is a feeling that the infection rise amongst younger people is because many have ignored the social distancing rules and have lived their lives as though the pandemic doesn’t exist.
One thing’s for sure. There won’t be any more national lockdowns as the country simply cannot afford it. The economy must be cranked up again if we are not going to drift into third-world status. We may do that anyway, but come what may, people will have to start working again and businesses must re-open. Similarly, schools must stay open wherever possible if we not to have a generation of kids with too few educational skills.
Selected cities, or areas, where the pandemic has taken hold, must go into lockdown for varying periods of time while the rest of us, (I say ‘us’ but I don’t mean me), continue to work.
Whatever happens over the coming months and years, I very much doubt if the UK and the wider world will ever go back to the way we lived pre-pandemic. Sure, if – and when – successful vaccines are rolled out, it will be a massive breakthrough, but the damage will have already been done. Many people will continue to work from home, resulting in many cities and high streets becoming pretty much deserted. Indeed there is little doubt that COVID 19 has speeded-up the death of our High Streets.
There will always be lingering anxiety within the general population that a new pandemic may sweep through our nation. Who knows? Covid19 might mutate into Covid20 and the vaccine scientists will have to start over. Here’s hoping for the best.
Enough of all this doom and gloom. What have I been up to since I last blogged? The simple answer is ‘more of the same’ The main differences to the family’s daily activities since I last wrote, revolve around the easing of the lockdown and the re-opening of country.
Notwithstanding the fact that I was going out every day for my daily walk with Olly the dog throughout the lockdown, I was finally given legal permission back in August. Another positive event was back in mid-July when my responsibility for teaching Song was greatly eased when the school decided that she could attend school daily and receive special tutoring in English and maths.
Then Lek was called into work for one week in August, and she finally returned to full-time employment on 1st September. So, we are pretty much back to normal, although we haven’t done any travelling and still spend a lot of time at home.
Next week the entire country will have to abide by new social distancing rules which means instead of up to 30 people being allowed to meet together, it is now reduced to six people. I don’t think this change in the rules will affect us one iota.
Fortunately, all my ails and pains have pretty much remained under control and I have enjoyed a long period of relatively good health. The only negative has been my diabetes which started to get out of control. I had some consistently high blood sugar readings, and have had to treble my insulin doses to try and get it back in line.
This was quite worrying, but I realised that the main culprit was my increasing weight which increased from around 84 kilos to just under 89 kilos. In the past, my weight has been well over 90 kilos and I never had to increase my insulin doses by this much to gain control. I guess my pancreas has given up the ghost in terms of producing any insulin.
Anyway, I managed to increase my daily walking from 46 minutes to well over an hour by doing it in two sessions, (morning and late afternoon); and I cut out lunch completely – replacing it with a few items of fruit to stop me feeling hungry. It all seems to have worked, as my weight is now dropping and so are my sugar levels, so more of the same, I guess.
My hospital appointment that was scheduled in October to start the prep for an operation on my nose was cancelled back in July. I didn’t hear anything for a month, so I called them and they told me they still had my details on file and would let me know when a new date for my appointment was arranged. I’m still waiting…It’s coming up to a year since I first saw the ENT specialist.
In addition to my usual daily activities, I started a bit of creative writing, along the lines I wrote about in my last blog – a new compilation of short stories. It has been rather a ‘stop-start-steady as you go’ effort, as on many days I was preoccupied with helping Song with her homework, and latterly I have been preparing the application forms and associated documents to renew Lek’s and Song’s visas.
Anyway, I finally completed the revamped short story, although at 25,000 words it is more of a novelette than a short story. The next one hopefully will be somewhat shorter… we’ll see…
As promised, I am providing all my readers with an advanced read of the story before the full collection is eventually published on Amazon.
So here it is. As ever, comments are always appreciated, but please don’t be toooo harsh…
I first met Bobby Solo in New York in the early nineteen seventies. I was living in Montreal and I had taken the overnight Greyhound Bus back to New York to make one last attempt to repair my fractured relationship with the young and gorgeous Mardie. She was the reason I had first immigrated to the USA and subsequently hot-footed to Canada after she dumped me.
I had just walked from Mardie’s apartment block in Queens where her flatmate, had told me in no uncertain terms that Mardie never wanted to see me again. I was on my way to the subway station when I noticed a small cocktail bar, the one I used to go with Mardie – in the days when our relationship was still alive and kicking. I was feeling pretty down, and on impulse, I decided to pop in and have a couple of whiskey sours to cheer me up.
Inside, there was a lone figure at the bar looking very much out of place. He was trying to purchase a beer from the hostile barman, but even to my unprofessional eye, he looked underage.
“Come on kid, show me some ID – you don’t look a day over eighteen”, the barman snarled as I grabbed the stool next to him. I reached into my back pocket for my passport. I was twenty-three but still needed to prove I was over twenty-one on a regular basis in these over-cautious New York bars.
Since my last Corona-Blog on May 2nd, some 9,000 additional souls have tragically lost their lives to Covid-19 which brings the total within these fair isles to almost 37,000 deaths. There is little doubt that the number of deaths will be well north of 40,000 before this pandemic is over. (If it is ever over).
For some unknown reason, the UK ranks very high in the world table of corona-virus deaths. In pure numbers, the UK is second only to the USA, but to put it in proper perspective; on a per capita basis, the UK lies in third place behind Belgium and Spain. The USA is down in 9th place.
The UK’s lofty position in pandemic deaths will no doubt be investigated to the nth degree over the coming years, but there is little doubt it was the government’s failure to order the lock-down early enough that will emerge as the main culprit. Some scientists are saying that if the lockdown had been introduced a week earlier, thousands of lives could have been saved.
Will the historians point to Boris’s decision to delay the lock-down as the defining point of his maladministration? In much the same way as Tony Blair is held to be responsible for the decision for Brittain to go to war in Iraq – and in doing so, lit the flames for the conflagration of the whole Middle East, and ISIS in particular.
We shall see.
Whatever the outcome of any future enquires may be, it is becoming increasingly apparent that any goodwill that remained for Boris’s Tory government is rapidly fading. Obfuscation, muddle-headed thinking, confusing pronouncements, and outright deviousness have become the order of the day.
Since the start of the outbreak, the folks at number ten have held daily press conferences within those hallowed walls. Each day, one of the cabinet ministers accompanied by a representative from either the government’s scientific team or health team (or both) assail us with their words of wisdom and invite questions from the public and press.
These same ministers are forbidden to appear on “Newsnight”, a serious BBC TV news programme which is broadcast every weekday evening. The reason? Because they would be subject to probing questioning and the wily TV journalists would not let them get away with evasive answers.
Yet here they are – every afternoon – inviting questions from the media, on subjects such as: why isn’t there enough personal protective equipment (PPE)?; or why were hospitals sending infected pensioners back to care homes where there was minimal protection for other residents, to say nothing of the staff who had little or no PPE?; or why did the government persistently fail to meet their own targets on testing?…and so much more.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that these press conferences didn’t allow any follow-ups questions from the press in the event that the first answer was unsatisfactory or side-stepped. And then, lo and behold, they must have read my blog as they now permit follow-ups.
So problem solved? No, not at all. Boris and his senior henchmen realised that if they can side-step a tough question once, they can do it again and again. They simply bloviate away until we are all thoroughly bored with what they were saying. Most of what they say makes no sense and totally fails to answer the important questions, no matter how many times they are asked.
Then if a follow-up question is offered, they bloviate yet again before moving swiftly on to the next question. If they were on Newsnight, or Radio 4’s Today Programme, they would never be able to get away with this.
There must be an online course on the art of “how to answer a question without really answering it”. (As the sub-head says…)
The public isn’t stupid. The government’s popularity was at an all-time high when poor Boris was hospitalized, but all that goodwill has been ridiculously wasted ever since. There is hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear about yet another misstep or howler or disingenuous response to a key issue. They don’t seem to understand that the public would have given them a great deal of latitude if they had fessed up and admitted their mistakes.
As it is, we are all totally fed up with the government’s performance. We need a leader who knows what they are doing and will lead from the front. Unfortunately, since Boris went down with the virus, there has been a distinct lack of cohesion in government policies, and even though he has now re-taken the reins, he seems to be a mere shadow of his former self.
He leans heavily on this quixotic maverick – Dominic Cummings; an arrogant, uncaring advisor who breaks the lockdown rules as fast as he invents them. Anyone who seriously believes his account of going to Barnard Castle to test his eyes probably also believes that the earth is flat. There are howls from the corridors of Westminster and the press for Cummings to fall on his sword or otherwise be removed forthwith. At the time of writing, we are still awaiting the final outcome, and the government’s stock dips ever lower.
As for me and mine, well not much has really changed.
I still spend nearly all my time at home, save for a 50-minute daily walk with Olly the Dog along the highways and byways of rural Oakham. The only real difference between now, and pre-COVID life is that I cannot see my family, (although we do have occasional video link-ups), and I don’t go shopping with Lek (which is no bad thing).
Without the COVID rules, we would probably have taken the odd day trip to places near and far, especially as the weather has been so nice. Well, intermittent niceness, as we had 50 mph winds the other day which blew down yet another tree in our back garden.
The only real difference in my daily activities now and before the Pandemic, is the time I spend ‘tutoring’ Song in her daily school work. This can take up to 6 hours a day and really restricts my efforts to do a bit of creative writing and also write my blog.
The school usually sets three or four subjects each weekday, but the most subjects we can normally complete in a day is two. There were a couple of days when we manged three, but there again there have been days where we have only completed one.
This means that we try to catch up a bit on weekends and even on school holidays, such as this coming week. We never manage to do everything, so I just try to concentrate on English, Maths, French, Humanities, Science, and Art and Design, with the odd drama lesson from time to time.
Lek has quite an active day. She wakes up in the middle of the night to let Olly out for his nightly calls of nature, and then she snuggles down on the sofa while she waits for Olly to come in again. She invariably falls asleep and Olly comes back, jumps on the sofa, and sleeps with her. Early morning she has her breakfast and then around 8 p.m. she brings me up a mug of coffee, and climbs back into bed.
Lying in bed, she starts to play with Olly, who jumps up and down from the bed, chasing socks, which has the predictable effect of really shaking me from my slumbers. Then we both watch a bit of TV news before getting up at around 9 a.m.
Lek and Song then go out for their daily exercise. Lek runs and Song follows on her bicycle. They go about 15 kilometers out into the countryside and return about 2 hours later.
On their return, Lek starts cooking lunch, and Song starts her schoolwork. After lunch, if it is dry, Lek goes into the garden to tend to her Thai vegetables which are all growing in pots of various shapes and sizes, and do general garden work, mowing the lawn, etc.
By mid-afternoon she is feeling very sleepy and goes back to bed for a couple of hours, and wakes up in time to prepare the evening meals, including some very odd-looking cooked eggs.
When Song finishes her schoolwork, she has to do her housework (washing up etc.) and is then allowed to play on her phone for about 2 hours.
After dinner Lek and Song watch a bit of TV with me before going upstairs to my bedroom to watch Thai TV programmes on YouTube until it’s time to sleep.
There’s a lot more I’ve missed, such as the Oakham Thai community (including Lek) cooking Thai dishes and dropping them off on each other’s doorsteps in plastic bags.
Not very exciting, is it? But we’re all OK and not getting too bored.
I’m keeping quite well and fit, although my bladder problems have become quite a nuisance, as every time I want to take a leak, I have to climb the stairs which tends to exhaust me.
Only time will tell if I continue to remain free of any serious health downturns.
So a lot has changed in the lives of everyone, and even when the pandemic is over, our lives are unlikely to go 100% back to the way they were before.
But for me and mine, the changes have been fairly minor. Lek isn’t working and Song isn’t going to school, but that’s no different to normal holiday time, so we can just think of this as one, extremely long holiday.
The only other medical problem I have is the nodules that are growing inside my nose. I haven’t had any sense of smell and not much sense of taste for nigh on two years. I irrigate my nose every day, but that is becoming more and more painful to do. I do have the benefit of not smelling some of Lek’s more pungent cooking odours.
Last year the specialist referred me to Nuffield hospital for an operation, but they cancelled due to my underlying medical problems. Back in the NHS, I had a CT scan in February, and in April I received a letter from the ENT specialist telling me I would be referred to a surgeon when the COVID crisis is over. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I actually got an appointment for next October, presumably in the hope that life will be back to normal by then.
Yes, our much-loved little Yorkie-poo pooch is 2 years old, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we couldn’t possibly imagine life without him. He is now a young adult, but I don’t think he will ever really grow up. He likes to play for hours on end and only stops when exhaustion overcomes him. There’s hardly a moment’s peace when he’s awake and he never stops running around the house, leaping into the garden, chasing the birds, and playing with his toys.
Sometimes he plays alone, but most of the time he enlists one or more of us humans to play with him. He is so fast that it takes two to catch him when he is trying to avoid us. In the evenings he plays upstairs with Lek and Song in the bedroom and then leaps down the stairs to rope me in for an hour before racing upstairs again.
Phew! It’s exhausting, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We all love him to bits.
As I spend so much time on Song’s schooling I have decided to devote any spare time that I do have towards working on a little writing project I have started. It involves resurrecting a short story I wrote some years ago which was intended to become one of the many sub-plots in my marathon novel “A Lust for Life.” In the end I decided to cut this character and his back-story from the plot as it was one sub-plot too many and the novel was already very long.
I have been re-working the story so that it becomes a stand-alone novelette. This involves almost a total re-write and will take some time to knock it into its new shape. So I have decided that this current blog will be the last one for a while. There isn’t really a lot to say, as the lock-down doesn’t make very exciting reading, and most people are no doubt fed up to the back teeth with the subject and the endless news reports in the press, TV and social media.
After a few months, I shall see where we are, and whether I feel like writing a new blog. Until that time comes, it is goodbye from me, and farewell from all the Mobi Clan.
Till we meet again.
Five weeks ago…
Three weeks ago…
I know it seems ghoulish, but our death box keeps a daily record of the numbers of people who have died in the UK from the virus. It all started when Lek wanted to know the daily and cumulative total to send to Song’s Grandma in Thailand. I have no idea why she wanted to know this, but she did, and Lek scribbled the numbers on the tissues box, and the following day she did the same and thereafter our chilling death box sprung to life (or death…)
The above pic was taken 2 days ago and at the time of writing, some 28,131 citizens in the UK have tragically died.
To put this in perspective, this number compares to 32,000 souls killed in the London blitz during the second world war, and who can say whether the final numbers of Coronavirus deaths won’t exceed the Blitz’s grizzly total. I would say it almost certainly will, as even though the number of infections is slowing, we are barely past the peak and the daily death toll is still rattling along at well over 500 per day.
As of 29th April, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus stood at 58,671.
When this virus first surfaced back in January, we were told that it will be relatively harmless for a great majority of the population and that most people will simply suffer from very mild symptoms for a few days. This same line was still being peddled by the government up to early in March when it suddenly dawned on them that we were in the midst of something so dangerous that we had not seen it’s like for 100 years. But even then, when our dear leaders knew the worst, they still failed to tell us poor, stupid citizens just how bad the situation was becoming.
If you mention the word Ebola, most of us would shy away in fear. Most of us believe that Ebola is one of the most dangerous and insidious diseases known to man.
Yet the person who first identified Ebola, Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has recently stated:
Covid 19 is worse than Ebola – there – you have it from the mouth of a scientist who knows what he is talking about. Are you scared now? If you’re not, you should be.
However, as far as my dear wife is concerned, despite sending the UK daily death figures to her family in Thailand, I doubt whether she really appreciates the potential danger we are all in. She still goes out shopping 3 or 4 times a week, and when she returns home I have to remind her every time to wash her hands.
As for me, well I always knew that I was particularly at risk, given my age and comorbidities, but it wasn’t until last week when out of the blue, the NHS sent me a text, followed by a letter, confirming the worst. Somewhat belatedly they told me that my condition meant I was at risk of severe illness if I catch Coronavirus and that I should self-isolate at home until the end of June.
They told me I must remain 3 steps away from anyone else in the house, sleep separately, use a separate bathroom, eat separately, use separate cutlery, dishcloths, towels, and so on. Since then I have received texts from the NHS almost every day giving me advice on how to say fit, how to prevent myself from going crazy, and a whole load more of supposedly useful advice.
I want to tell them that we only have two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a small kitchen and a ‘compact’ living room. Most of the advice they have given me is totally impractical and I’m certainly not giving up my daily walks in the countryside with Olly. I hardly see a soul when I’m out, and I never go within 10 meters of anyone that does happen to cross my path. I can’t see the harm.
(can you see anyone?)
It is, nevertheless, a worrying situation, and Lek, in particular, is in a constant state of stress, worrying about what she will do if anything happens to me. I try to reassure her that there’s nothing to worry about, but the truth is that it will indeed present her with a lot of serious problems if I kick the bucket. Fingers crossed.
The main stress for me continues to be the homeschooling of my daughter, Song. She requires constant attention, due to her lack of English, and because she is unable to keep up with her daily lessons, we have to work the weekends as well.
The government’s rules continue to create ridiculous anomalies. We can buy plants and flowers from a supermarket, and not from a garden centre. This is resulting in millions of plants dying, that otherwise would find a safe home. Then there is the rule that we can buy DIY materials to fix a blown down fence in the garden, but we are not allowed to buy paint to put on a wall inside our homes.
At one point the cops were arresting people who had bought “non-essential items” from the supermarkets, but thankfully common sense has now prevailed.
As for Trump – well it’s becoming increasingly clear that the President of the United States is very much non-compos mentis . Surely anyone who advocates injecting patients with disinfectant to kill the virus, or inserting ultraviolet light under their skin, is suffering from a serious mental illness. His behaviour and pronouncements demonstrate an alarming level of mental instability, and one wonders not ‘if’ but ‘when’ he will be removed from office. Do you think anyone is planning the day?
Two weeks ago (see my last blog):
That’s about it for now folks!
Please take care.
We are now entering our fourth week of lockdown and the numbers of people in the UK being infected and dying are not really showing any real signs of slowing down, despite the so-called experts assuring us that the “curve is flattening.”
I’ll believe it when I see it, as nobody knows for sure whether there will be a brief respite followed by another onslaught of the dreaded virus. There are early signs of this happening in China.
It is very frightening; the UK death toll is now over 12,000, and experts are predicting the UK may well end up having one of the highest death tolls in Europe. Indeed, some of the more outspoken experts are warning that this pandemic will not be over until an effective vaccine is launched, which is at least 6 months – or more likely eighteen months – away from becoming generally available.
Despite our government’s assurances to the contrary, we are still a long way from testing all the front line people, (doctors, nurses, care workers, etc.), let alone those who are isolating with symptoms or indeed the population as a whole.
There remains a severe shortage of protective equipment, with staff working in care homes getting the short end of the straw. Even worse, we are still woefully short of respirators (thousands by some estimates) despite the encouraging news some weeks back that a whole range of British industries, (Dyson, British Aerospace, and so on), would soon be rolling respirators off their production lines.
As far as I can gather, these new respirators have not yet been given the green light by the medical experts and we are still waiting for the first ones to arrive in our hospitals. Unfortunately, we now learn that the new respirators are not sophisticated enough to work properly for COVID patients – so much for our much-vaunted British ingenuity.
The issue of respirators is one that particularly affects me. Recently announced government policy states that doctors must carefully control their use.
Coronavirus patients over 65 will be ranked out of 10, based on age and frailty and those with a combined score of more than eight will not be admitted to ICU. Patients aged 71 to 75 will automatically score four points for their age and most will score an extra three points for their frailty.
That puts them at a total of seven points before underlying health conditions are even considered. Dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and lung disease and other serious health conditions will also incur more points. Patients who score more than eight points will be given ‘ward-based care’ and treated with an oxygen mask instead of a ventilator.
So that just about puts me in the “condemned to die” category. I’m 73, (4 points), frail ( I hope not), dementia (not just yet), high blood pressure (yes), diabetes (yes), lung disease ( yes), and how about throwing in a mechanical heart valve, which means I am at risk of blood clotting, so I take warfarin to thin my blood.
Hmm… probably a goner…
Luckily, our little county of Rutland still only has 9 cases and no deaths within our borders. But Rutland only has a population of 39,000 and there are no hospitals currently open within the county boundaries. This means that serious cases go to Leicester, and if any of these subsequently die, I guess their deaths would be included in Leicester’s mortality lists, rather than Rutland’s.
From time to time, our creaking National Health Service has come in for some carping criticism from some who use it, but increasingly from those who don’t use it; principally foreigners – often Americans, even though the USA itself lacks a free health service for countless millions who cannot afford health insurance.
Of course, our NHS is far from perfect, but given the years of austerity we have been through, it’s hardly surprising. While it is undoubtedly the case that more investment will make the system much better, it is a fact that no matter how much money we put into it, it will never be perfect.
No sooner do the powers that be approve funding for one new state of the art treatment for a condition that was previously untreatable, than another dozen appear on the horizon begging for money. The NHS demands a bottomless pit of money to pay for all the new medicines and treatments that are coming on stream every day, but there has to be a limit. Not every procedure new can secure funding and someone has to play ‘God’ in deciding which new procedures or drugs can get the money and which ones will have to wait.
From my own personal perspective, over the past three years, I have received nothing but exemplary care from a whole range of professionals, including my GP, surgery nurses, hospital specialists, doctors, nurses, and care workers. I have a whole gamut of chronic complaints, all of which are treated on a regular basis. OK, sometimes I may have to wait months for a test, or an appointment or follow up, but that is only to be expected considering the massive pressures on the NHS from all directions.
But when my GP suspected I may have cancer, I was examined by an ENT consultant within two weeks. And when a specialist became determined to get to the bottom of some of my gastro problems, which have been bothering me for years, I was given a test which is not even available in the USA – private or public. And what’s more, the test worked and my stomach is in a better place than it has been in a very long time.
So even before Covid 19 made its unwelcome appearance, we, as a country had much to admire in our NHS and we have a debt to them that can never be repaid.
How much higher is that debt now? Doctors and nurses are working their butts off and are literally dying on the front lines. It is traumatic and tragic. So many of them have had to pay the ultimate price when trying to treat and save those of us who are sick from the virus. We should never, ever forget the sacrifices they have made on our behalf. It is simply humbling.
It is also so great to see the whole population come together to show our thanks to these gallant and brave workers. What on earth would we do without them?
Last Thursday, Lek, Song and I stood outside our front door and clapped along with others across the length and breadth of the land. Many, but not all, neighbours were doing the same thing.
We can do better. The Chinese built a 1,000-bed hospital in under two weeks, so we built a 5,000-bed hospital in 9 days, although to be fair, we had a standing building complete with services to start with, whereas China literally had to break new ground.
Even so, it wasn’t a bad effort.
And then there is our beloved leader – Boris the magnificent (‘Bojo’ to you and me). I used to like him when he was just a journalist and wrote those very witty pieces about the excesses of the EU, but since he has become our PM, I had grave reservations about whether he is the right person to lead our nation.
But then came the news that poor Boris wasn’t only in hospital, but had been moved to the ICU. I don’t mind admitting that I was floored – even scared – when I read the breaking news. It’s funny really; when I realised that we might lose him, I felt very worried for the future. Why was this? Well, I suppose it’s because as much as I criticised him as a man and politician, I honestly couldn’t think of another person in front line politics that would come even close to replacing him in these challenging times.
Raab? Gove? Patel? Hancock? – all of them probably competent in their own way, but none of them come close to what we require in our PM at a time of national crisis. Not even Keir Starmer – probably the best that Labour has to offer, would inspire the country.
So we can thank our lucky stars that Bojo is on the way back to fitness, and I for one will breathe a sigh of relief when he is well enough to fully take back the reins of premiership.
One of the many unexpected consequences of Covid 19 has meant that our hard-working local council of Rutland have stopped all work on trimming the county’s grass verges and parks. For the first time in many years, we are able to admire a bit of wild flora when we take our daily social-distanced walks. Enjoy them while they last.
Rutland, along with our neighbours, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Lincolnshire, are all predominantly agricultural counties and the double-whammy of Brexit and Corona virus has led to an acute shortage of farmworkers from Eastern Europe. The Brexiteers have got what they wanted, albeit somewhat quicker than they had imagined.
With no one to pick the crops, the farmers tell us they will need to find at least 30,000 pickers over the next few months, if the crops are not to be left in the ground to rot. Farmers have launched an appeal for temporary workers from those out of work or on home furlough. It strikes me that people on furlough, who will be receiving at least 80% of their salary, could make a nice little pot of money by becoming pickers for a few weeks – or months, in addition to their salaries.
I wonder how many of our native-born Englanders will take up the challenge and return to the soil from whence their ancestors came? If we are to have a sustainable agricultural industry, post-Brexit, we will certainly need quite a number of them to rise to the challenge.
Or have we all forgotten how to do honest manual work? We can all do our work-outs happily in the comfort of fitness centres, but how many of us are willing to become slaves to the idiosyncrasies of the British weather on a windswept farm? I can’t wait to see how much British produce we will have in our stores this summer.
So how are we all doing in sunny Oakham? Well apart from a few scares when Lek developed a persistent dry cough, so far we are in pretty rude health.
Lek goes shopping probably more times than necessary, and she has taken to wearing a face mask when she enters the stores, not realising that she is more likely to protect the people around her rather than herself. I have tried to tell her but old habits die hard. In Thailand, if anyone goes outside without wearing a mask, they are liable to instant arrest, so I guess that influences her thinking.
She is still doing her hour-plus daily run to Rutland Water, with Song following on behind with her scooter.
Lek’s 40th birthday was on 6th April and we had a laid back celebration – well no celebration at all really. Song made her mum a birthday card, but I didn’t even give her a card, as I don’t go into shops anymore.
Her friends from work had been planning a big party for her 40th, but that became yet another victim of Covid 19. They say once the lockdown is over they will resurrect the party plans.
I am continuing my daily walk of approximately 2 miles with Olly the dog.
Here’s a few pics I took en route.
Olly continues to entertain all and sundry, both out on his walks, and back home with his captive audience of three mutt-loving nuts.
Actually, Olly is a very strange mutt. He has a box jammed full of toys – from miniature tennis balls to fluffy toys, to rubber squeaking ducks, to all manner of junk that he has previously shown a passing interest in.
But for 99% of the time, all Olly is interested in is socks. He finds them all around the house – bedroom, bathroom, the laundry basket, and God knows where else. And when he can’t find any socks during his daily hunt, he sits in front of Lek and squeals until she lets him take the socks off her feet. Not content with one sock, once he has extricated one and placed it carefully on the floor, he then returns for the second.
He will play with his stolen socks for hours and hours, and rarely takes a look at any other plaything. Even worse, he insists on involving us in his sock play-time. He places a sock at our feet and squeals until one of us throws it to the other end of the room, whereupon he dashes at breakneck speed to retrieve it and puts it back at our feet. If we try to ignore him, he starts bashing our feet or legs with his paws until we bend down and throw the sock for him. In the end, we have to keep throwing it until he becomes tired and falls asleep.
But we wouldn’t have it any other way; he is such a dear little pooch and he keeps us constantly amused. This at a time when if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t really be in any mood to play.
He’s lucky; no one’s told him that we’re in the middle of a virus lockdown.
Sorry, folks, for the over-verbiage. Hopefully, being in lock-down, you will have more time to read it.
Keep safe and stay well.
Over a week ago Bojo and his minions assured us that within days we would be up to 25,000 tests per day. Yet yesterday, only around 8,000 tests were carried out, and we learn that only 2,000 NHS workers, out of a workforce of over 1/2 million, have been tested to date.
What makes this even worse is the fact that some 25% of our doctors and nurses are self-isolating at home and will need to be tested before they can return to work.
What the sweet f… is going on?
Countless reporters have asked many senior members of the government/scientists/NHS bosses why is it that Germany can carry out over 500,000 tests per week whereas we are struggling to test 70,000.
They have been asked again and again and again, yet all they receive in reply is obfuscation, rhetoric, and vague promises which are never kept. Somebody somewhere knows the reason – probably they all do – but they are absolutely determined not to take us into their confidence and confess their shortcomings.
Sadly it’s a gift all politicians possess with overflowing abundance.
Have you noticed when they hold their press conferences, the small number of select reporters who are allowed to ask questions are invariably fobbed off with very woolly replies? Yet there is no come back allowed from the reporters; they are not allowed to challenge the answers. Often when multiple questions are asked, the politicians conveniently forget to answer the most difficult one. They are simply ignored and hope that nobody notices.
It’s not quite as bad as Trump’s press conferences, where he tells reporters they are terrible, horrible reporters and how dare they ask questions. But we’re not far off it.
Let’s hope to God that they finally get their fingers out and really ramp up the testing, along with providing enough protective clothing for the NHS workers and sufficient respirators for the patients.
As for the lockdown – well it seems to be holding pretty well, with a few notable exceptions.
An Aston Villa footballer preached on You Tube how all the plebs must stay at home and not break the rules, yet on the very morning when he released the video clip, he was en route to a party with his mates. Then guess what? He had an accident in his motor on the way home – one of the prime reasons why we have been asked not to use our cars for unnecessary journeys.
This is to say nothing of the rule about social distancing and visiting friends. Does he think that partying is a necessary activity for a non-active footballer? Should we feel sorry for the poor little millionaire? – After all, he was fined two weeks wages by his club – a mere £150,000…
Then there was Steven Kinnock (Labour MP) and his family visiting his mother and father (the illustrious Neil Kinnock, former leader of the labour party, and erstwhile European Commissioner for plunder). They all had a Mother’s Day meal in Neil’s garden with Steven’s family seated 2 meters away from the Kinnock seniors. I guess they thought that was perfectly acceptable, given that they aren’t part of the proletariat. Well, the poor Kinnocks were right royally castigated by the popular press and deservedly so. What a kerfuffle!
It’s lucky our footballing and socialist friends don’t have a leader like President Duarte of the Philippines. Mr Duarte has a very simple way of dealing with people who don’t obey the lockdown rules – shoot them on sight.
I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs – as a jest – that there were rumours out there that they would let us oldies die and allocate available respirators to younger patients as they were more likely to survive.
Guess what? It’s no joke – this is official government and NHS policy. So if I do succumb and need a respirator to save my life, it looks like I will be pissing in the wind – I should be so lucky -with my bladder issues…
On a lighter note, our favourite royals – Harry and Meghan – seem determined to keep themselves in the limelight, despite nobody giving a royal damn what they are up to. Yes, they succeeded in driving a few front-page column inches despite the wall to wall press coverage of the dreaded lurgy. They started off by making patronising and cringe-worthy pronouncements on their now ex-royal twitter account and showing their venal natures by doing a moonlight flit from Vancouver to Los Angeles to reduce Meghan’s tax bill.
They may have also believed that the US government would provide free security, similar to that provided to diplomats and other notable British dignitaries, but Trump soon squashed that hope.
What did they expect? Meghan, in particular, has made no bones about her revulsion for the Trump administration, and now she expects them to cough up a few million dollars to keep them safe and sound in their Hollywood love nest.
To be honest, I do feel a little sorry for Harry. In the fullness of time, we will see that he has been very much under the control (spell?) of his lovely wife, and once that spell breaks, as it is bound to do sooner or later, he will wonder what the f… happened to his life as a privileged Prince of the realm? I’m not at all sure that he will feel at home with the Hollywood set and at some point, we will find him following his royal elders down the road of separation and divorce. The return of the prodigal son – I can see the headlines now.
Back at the Mobi residence, life is continuing in the same old lockdown groove. We seem to have adopted a regular daily routine, which, we are told, is good for us. Lek gets up at the crack of dawn and takes Olly the dog into the garden for his morning ablutions. Then she has her breakfast of cereal and watches the news on TV. At around 8:15 a.m. she returns to bed with coffees and we continue to watch the news until around 9.00 a.m. Then I get up and wake up Song and Lek goes back to sleep.
Song and I go downstairs for breakfast and send out Olly for his second wee-wee of the day.
At 10.15 a.m. I’m off with Olly for our 45-minute walk, and Song settles down to do her school work. When I return home I start my daily teaching duties. Can you believe it? This week I introduced Song to algebra and she actually ‘gets it’ and is able to answer all the questions on the test papers. I’m just worried that somewhere along the line we will hit a plateau as the algebra becomes more complex. Maybe my daughter can help out with a video lesson, after all, she teaches maths at Oakham School, so she should know an equation or two.
Lek is now up and about and around noon she goes out for her hourly run to Rutland Water and beyond. When she gets back home we all have our lunch and then home school continues to 4 p.m.
After 4 p.m. it’s free time. Song plays with her phone for a couple of hours, Lek and I watch a bit of TV (to check on the latest virus news), and I try to do a bit of writing. I have to say I’m somewhat put out that I can’t get into my writing earlier in the day when I’m feeling fresh and creative, but Song’s schoolwork comes first, so I will just have to fit it in as and when along with my blogging.
It’s ironic that I’m busier now than ever I was before the CV hit mankind. But it could be a lot worse. Fortunately, we three are a very happy threesome and we haven’t had a single argument since the lockdown started. I do feel for families where there are conflicts and tension between the parents. It must be hell, now they are obliged to stay with each other 24/7.
After dinner, Song does her daily exercise to a YouTube work out, Lek gravitates to the bedroom where she puts on Thai music and goes through her Facebook activities. I carry on with a bit of writing and eventually call it a day and watch some documentaries and drama series on TV.
There’s obviously more going on that I’m too lazy to write about (e.g. right now, Lek is busy in the garden), and I know its early days, but so far I don’t think any of us have felt at all bored. We always find something to amuse us. Long may it continue.
Keep well and safe, all of you, out there in corona-land.
Brrr… it’s damn cold this morning! After a week of sunny, almost spring-like weather, we seemed to have slipped back into winter mode. It’s a double whammy really because last night we also lost an hour of sleep due to the overnight change to British Summer Time (BST).
Summer? Where’s the bloody summer? Well the sun is shining OK, and the ground temperature is around 5° C, but the wind chill factor brings it down to 0°C – in other words, its bloody freezing for March 29th.
I still take Olly the dog for our 3km walk but believe me, it was a helluva relief when we finally made it back home today. There must be something about this inhospitable weather that brings out the masochistic side of us Rutlanders, as I came across far more walkers, runners, and cyclists than I usually do. At the time of writing Lek, (running), and Song, (cycling), are out near Rutland Water, foraging for edible vegetation.
Strictly speaking, they should be arrested, as we are only permitted to go out for a walk, run or cycle – nothing in the rules about foraging for lunch.
Well, we are nearing the end of our first week of lockdown, but so far there has been no appreciable slowdown in the number of infections or deaths – in fact, the death toll now exceeds 1,000 and is rising exponentially every day.
The experts tell us that this is all in line with expectations, and it will be a good number weeks yet before we hit the so-called curve and new cases actually start to decline. They also tell us that we will be lucky if the death toll doesn’t exceed 20,000. Well, there’s a sobering thought for you.
At least it is comforting to know that this CV is no respecter of wealth, rank or celebrity status. It is quite a thing when our very own Bonnie Prince Charlie, Bojo 1st, and two of his senior henchmen have all succumbed to the dreaded lurgy within a couple of weeks. Poetic justice?
Here in sunny Rutland, it seems that we have our first two confirmed CV cases, so presumably, we will have more and more cases in the weeks, and months to come. It is particularly worrying for yours truly as I am in the ‘at-risk’ group. I am torn between getting my affairs in order if, God forbid, I should succumb, and just carrying on as normal and assume that I will get through this.
Lek doesn’t want to hear any talk about me dying, so we haven’t really had that conversation. But I am trying to make sure my family is taken care of by getting a few important things together in one place. Such as all our personal documents, my will, and government papers on how Lek, as a widow, can claim instant residence and get access to the widow’s bereaved allowances from the government, and other stuff along those lines.
I am still carrying out my daily tutoring duties. Poor Song has been inundated with school work, all of which must be completed within tight deadlines. On Friday we had no less than 8 subjects to work through, which in the end proved beyond us. Four of them had to be carried over to Saturday when we finally wrapped them all up.
Today is our day off and we start over again tomorrow. Of course, there is a fair amount that she can’t do due to her limited grasp of English, and on top of that there some things that I can’t make head or tail of, so we just have to give up. I’m OK with English, maths (just), history, geography, RE, and other similar subjects, but when it comes to science in particular, some of it is beyond my comprehension, so again we have had to leave it.
A piece of good news arrived yesterday in the form of a letter from Lek’s employers which advised her of a small salary increase from April to fall in line with the rise in the government’s living wage. The amount of the rise itself isn’t particularly significant; but what it does do is bring our combined income, (salary plus pension), up to the minimum income that is required to renew Lek and Song’s visas when they expire towards the end of the year.
Apart from walking, teaching and writing this blog, I have also started work on some fresh short stories to keep me amused. This is my first attempt at completely new fiction in a long while, and I’m hoping that this will become a regular part of my daily activities.
Something strange has been happening with my previous penned novels and short stories. They are still available to buy on Amazon (in Kindle format) and also on Smashwords, another bookseller who sells ebooks from their website and arranges for them to be listed by other online booksellers, such as Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
Through the years I have made the odd sale through Amazon and Smashwords, and a couple of months ago, I was invited by Smashwords to participate in a promotional event whereby I could reduce the price of my book by 50% for a short period of time. I opted in but alas it didn’t result in any sales. Then last week Smashwords contacted me again for yet another promotion and this time I decided to offer all of my books for free for a period of time.
Can you believe it? The sales of my ‘free’ books are going through the roof. I have never had so many ‘sales’ in all my years of writing. The normal full price of my books is $2.99, and 50% is a paltry $1.50, but there were no takers until they became temporary freebies. (You too can get them for free if you go to the Smashwords website – click the link on the left sidebar). The book-buying public certainly loves a bargain. I do hope they enjoy my humble offerings and pass the word along to future potential customers.
I should be so lucky.