Mobi in Corona-land – Thursday 2nd April 2020

 

Thursday, 2nd April 2020

Test!…Test!…Test!…but alas not in the UK…

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.

All set for the daily run

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.

 

Mobi’s CV Blog – Sunday, 29th March 2020

Sunday,29th March 2020

It’s Cold and Lonely in Them There Hills

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.

Mobi’s CV Blog – Wednesday, 25th March 2020

 

Wednesday, 25th March 2020

Its Lockdown time folks!

As mentioned in my last blog, we are now all officially in lockdown… no ifs… no buts…

We are only permitted to leave our humble homes for:

  1. Essential shopping
  2. Those working in key industries, such as hospitals, the care industry, supermarkets, pharmacies, police, firefighters, contractors building new hospitals and other ‘safety’ constructions, and any other construction worker who can work at least 2 meters from other construction workers.
  3. Medical reasons. (But not if we have VC symptoms, as then we must stay in lock-up… or lockdown?? For at least 2 weeks)
  4. Taking a daily walk, run or cycle, but note, only members from the same family home can exercise together.

There is also a rule than not more than 2 people may congregate – not sure how that fits in, bearing in mind all the other rules.

As you can imagine, there has been any amount of hot air and controversy surrounding point 2 above. What exactly qualifies as a critical industry, and how the hell can builders on a construction site keep 2 meters away from each other? These matters – and others – are far from settled at the time of writing.

The official list of Essential retailers that are permitted to remain open are:

  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Pharmacies
  • Petrol stations
  • Newsagents
  • Bicycle shops
  • Home and hardware stores
  • Launderettes and dry cleaners
  • Garages
  • Pet shops
  • Post offices
  • Banks

Then today, the government added another one:

Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries.

Considering that all the pubs have been shut down for the duration, this is probably the most important retailer on the list of essential places to stay open. I wonder who lobbied Bojo to include sellers of booze on the list of ‘must-have’ shops?

It’s a wonder someone didn’t demand that brothels should also be included in the ‘must-haves’ for all the aging, fat cats that run our country.

In all, it seems that the above list will cover a huge number of workers, but the fact remains that there are millions of folks working in other sectors, particularly the tourism, hospitality and service sectors who will have to sit it out at home.

Boris has promised all businesses that the government will cover 80% of employees’ salaries up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, but that does little for the self-employed, (gig) economy where it is estimated that over 5 million people will have to live on 94 quid a week – assuming they can ever get their claims approved by the social services, where there are horrendous backlogs. More is promised for these folks, but as yet, no specific announcements.

So the rules and regs are pretty much a moving feast, (or drink…) and every day brings new announcements and yet more confusion and frustration.

Is the government doing a good job? Who the f…k knows? They say they are being transparent with us the proletariat, but if you believe that you believe that the USA will be free of the virus by Easter.

(Easter 2021, possibly…)

The only way we will know if they are making the correct decisions, is by reviewing the infections and death rates over the coming weeks.

History will certainly relate what is really going on behind the shuttered doors of Whitehall and  Downing Street, but for now, we can only hope and pray they are getting it right.

I certainly hope that the so-called leaked story about Dominic Cummings planning to let all us pensioners die so that the rest may survive is simply a wicked piece of fake news. I don’t fancy being sacrificial lamb to save the rest of humanity. What say you?

I am pleased to note that so far there are no recorded cases of CV in my delightful little county of Rutland. But there again, there are only some 78,000 of us rural folk living here so it doesn’t mean much. Neighbouring Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Lincolnshire all have a few reported cases, but nowhere in the East Midlands has it risen above double figures. I guess we are a few weeks behind London and the southeast, so we must wait our turn with bated breath.

But the thing is, they are only testing people who go to hospital with CV symptoms, so nobody really knows what the true numbers of infections may really be. Even if someone has the symptoms, they are not tested unless they become really ill, (or die).

I note that his Royal Bigness, the tree-talking mumbling Prince Charlie has now succumbed to CV. Given that he has been mixing with the whole royal family over the past few days, we might be looking at a wipeout of the entire Windsor/ Mountbatten/Wales/ Hapsburg clan in one fell swoop?

We should be so lucky…

My family’s lockdown situation continues to be relatively uneventful. I am still taking my daily walk with Olly the dog, and doing my best to keep 2 meters away from other dog walkers I encounter en route. I must admit I do feel a bit silly whenever I have to move to the edge of the grass verge, while the other walker moves to the opposite side of the pavement. It’s just as well that dogs are not likely to catch CV, as invariably they meet each other in the middle of the 2-meter space that separates us and enjoy a good old sniff.

Lek was supposed to work the first three days of this week, but yesterday she was sent home halfway through her shift as the school was concerned about not adhering to Boris’s new lock-down rules.

It was a sudden decision to set the cleaners free from their ‘essential work’ and there was a lot of stuff in fridges and elsewhere that had to be cleared out. So Lek and two of her colleagues cycled along Oakham High Street with bags bulging with discarded produce, and a bunch of unwanted, helium-filled balloons tied to their handlebars. It’s a wonder they weren’t arrested… oh, wait… there’s no cops in Oakham.

The balloons are now sitting (standing) in our lounge.

So she’s now home for the duration, or at least until after Easter. We are hoping that she will remain on the payroll throughout the shutdown, but we simply don’t know, as her employer remains silent on this point. If she does lose her job, it will create a few problems as there is no way we can live just on my pension.

Yesterday afternoon she cut all the grass and washed the car – the first time either chore had been undertaken since back before winter. Although we had an overnight temperature of below freezing, the afternoons are getting quite warm with temperatures in the mid-teens

Song is slowly settling into a routine of doing her school work between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Her work is still creating many problems for me,  her self-appointed teacher. Some of the work is beyond my feeble comprehension and much of it is too complicated for her to grasp with her limited English.

So there has been much anguish and gnashing of teeth as we work through her daily tasks of up to 8 subjects! I try to keep a balance between her just writing down what I tell her, and pushing her to attempt to do the work by herself. Talk about the blind leading the blind, but it certainly keeps us out of mischief.

Well, that’ll do for now – more in a day or two.

Take care, folks.

Mobi’s CV Blog

Monday, 23 March 2020.

What on earth is Mobi’s CV Blog?  Well, CV certainly doesn’t stand for Curriculum Vitae – I gave up on those about 30 odd years ago…

It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that CV is, in fact… CORONA VIRUS

Bats out of Hell!

Who would have thought it? Barely a few weeks ago, a bunch of virus-ridden bats injected their blood into some rare but friendly Pangolins, who then somehow managed to cough onto a few unsuspecting Chinese gentlemen. This all occurred in an infamous seafood market, (which also sells illegal wildlife), in Wuhan – truly a city of the dammed – located in the Chinese Province of Hubei.

Is it plausible? Maybe… after all, wasn’t Ebola traced to Monkeys?

What isn’t so widely known is that although the virus almost certainly originated in the vicinity of Wuhan seafood market, there just happens to be a nearby laboratory where scientists had been carrying out research on unnamed viruses, and that lab just happened to be adjacent to Wuhan’s Union Hospital where several doctors were amongst the first to become infected.

So who was responsible? Bats and pangolins, or a careless lab assistant who forgot to close the fridge door?  Maybe both.

We will probably never know. But to think that something as simple as a bat, a pangolin, or a lab assistant could literally devastate the planet and change our lives and the world forever is pretty mind-blowing.

We humans are not so high and mighty as we thought we were.

The younger generation has been getting themselves all in a tizzy on the prospect of climate change destroying the planet when a curse comes out of left field and silences their eco crusades overnight.

Paradoxically, the advent of CV has a weird and wonderful effect on the amount of pollution in the air. Oil consumption is way down, factories shops and offices are closing across the world, and a huge percentage of the world’s air fleets are grounded – nobody’s going anywhere. Within days, pollution levels are dropping to absurdly low levels – unheard of just a few weeks ago.

It seems that Greta Thunberg can finally give up scolding the world’s leaders and go back to school – oh wait a minute, all the schools are closed….

So there’s no doubt about it – we are on the cusp of a brave new world. A world where hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – will die. Until this crisis is over, the world will be in lockdown, and we will stay trembling in our homes, hoping and praying that we won’t be the ones who will have to ‘bring out our dead’ as in the days of plague-infested yore.

I hope to write this blog as often as possible as I want to keep a record of how the days, weeks, and months ahead pan out and whether or not we will weather the virus storm. Will my family stay safe? Will I stay safe? – Or will these blogs become my valedictory jottings?

*

At the time of writing, my wife, Lek, my step-daughter, Song, my two adult daughters, and their families and my brother and his wife are all well. They are all more or less stuck at home and are joining the big wait, as are many of our fellow humans throughout Europe and beyond.

Lek is still working at Oakham School as a cleaner, although the school was closed last Friday and the boarders were all sent home a couple of weeks ago. She rarely comes into contact with anyone at work, and even when she does they maintain the obligatory 2 meters between them. In any case, she finishes on Wednesday and will be home until after Easter – probably much longer.

Song is also homebound since last Friday afternoon when the school shut its gates permanently – or at least until the pestilence abates.

The government has stated that they will be contacting 1.5 million people who they believe are particularly at risk and will strongly advise them to go into lockdown – not to go out in any circumstances and they will arrange for shopping, etc. to be done for them if needed.

I am not sure if I am included in this ‘at seriously risk’ category, but at 73years of age, with my COPD, diabetes, ongoing urology problems, IBS, a metal heart valve, warfarin-thinned blood, and high blood pressure, I can only assume I must be somewhat vulnerable to a very nasty case of CV, should I become infected.

It is only two weeks ago that I went down with a very nasty urinary tract infection (UTI). I had an extremely high temperature and ended up being driven by Lek to Melton Mowbray hospital where I collapsed in front of a waiting paramedic. He pumped me full of antibiotics and sent me home. Although I made a much slower recovery than usual, (UTIs are a regular occurrence with us poor mutts who have to self-catheterise…), I now feel as well as I’ve felt in some time – so fingers crossed I stay that way.

This morning I wake as usual at around 8 a.m. crawl downstairs and grind some coffee beans for my daily cup of freshly brewed delicious coffee before breakfasting on my daily dose of mixed cereals and almond milk.

Then it’s out for my daily walk with Olly the dog. Bright sunshine, but a viciously cold wind keeps things pretty wintry; so with both of us dressed like Arctic explorers, we set off for a very quiet walk down a few side roads and thence to a large area of open grassland. There are a few hardy souls out and about, also with dogs in tow – an obligatory accessory if you are not to be arrested by the lockdown cops.

Back home, Song confronts me with all her homework tasks. Her teachers have been busy, inundating her online with school work  Today, she has no less than 8 subjects (tasks) to complete by 4 p.m. this afternoon.

That’s great – homework definitely calculated to keep her quiet and occupied all day. The only problem is, with her elementary knowledge of English, it now befalls me to become her translator and tutor. I try my best to comprehend the online PDFs, PPs, Videos, and God knows what else. I  attempt to guide her through the myriad school subjects; history, science, French(OMG!), maths, drama, geography, etc. which conspire to befuddle my aged brain.

I’m learning more about King John and The Magna Carta, to say nothing of the behavioral characteristics of a worm than I ever need to know at my time of life. But what the hell!

It seems I’m destined to become a teacher for the duration. Roll on Easter holidays…

*

Tonight, our beloved leader Bojo himself comes on TV to make yet another grave announcement to the nation. It seems that his previous advice to not gather in hordes and to stay indoors has fallen on stony ground. Certainly, the papers and TV today and are full of pictures of crowded parks, packed beaches, and tourists gathering in holiday areas. Even in the Welsh Mountains, where record numbers of potential virus victims parked up to join the climbing rush and infect each other.

So this time Herr Bojo means business. No gatherings of more than two people – by order of parliament.

We are only allowed out to go food shopping, buy our meds, or to go for a once a day walk, run or bike ride, providing always that we keep over two meters away from anyone else who are also exercising their once a day time in the open air. Not quite sure how that works in Tesco where we have to fight each other over the bog rolls.

Anyway, Bojo tells us that if we fail to comply, our favourite Boys In Blue will be on hand to persuade us that we are wronguns and we’d better mend our ways – or else! Or else what?

More jottings tomorrow – CV permitting.

Take care, all of you.

 

 

 

 

I’m still alive and kicking!

 

Mobi-Babble 

So what have me and mine been up to since I wrote my last blog back in August of last year?

Our life in Blighty

You may recall that at the time of my previous blog my family was back in Thailand after spending some 18 months away. Well, they had a pretty good time, and got around quite a bit, but by the time they had been there for 3 weeks, they surprised me by saying that they were getting bored and wished they were back in Oakham.

This was music to my ears. I have always lived in dread of the day when my wife and daughter will announce that they’ve had enough of England and demand one-way tickets back to the Land of Smiles.

I think one of the key factors that have led to a thumbs up to living in England has been the fact that they are able to cook almost any kind of Thai food here – even Issan food (especially som tum). The ingredients come from a multitude of diverse sources, including foraging along the roadside, specialist shops in Leicester and Peterborough and  Thai friends who are always coming and going to and from Thailand. There is one supermarket in Leicester that stocks an amazing array of fresh Asian vegetables, and there is another stall in a Peterborough market that stocks similar produce.

Lek has become a fanatic mushroom gatherer, and at one time she was out nearly every day foraging for edible fungus in the surrounding woods and countryside. She only stopped because there is no room left in the freezer to store them.

So within all these outlets close to hand, and even our local Tesco’s, Lek manages to cook up a wide variety of Thai dishes on a daily basis.

The inclement weather doesn’t seem to bother them one iota and they will just as happily go out in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of winter gale as in the occasional bright days during our lovely but brief summers.

Song, my stepdaughter, started at her new secondary school back in September, and seems to have settled in very well. The school has state of the art facilities, and while it’s just a standard, non-selective secondary school, it has an enviable reputation and is quite hard to get into if you live outside the catchment area.

She is well looked after there and has around 4 hours a week of one-to-one specialist teaching which undoubtedly helping to speed up her spoken and written English, which is improving almost daily.

The school is extremely hi-tech and just about everything is computerised, and through the use of school apps I can monitor all her homework tasks and which ones are overdue.

She has already been on a number of school trips including a camping weekend in the forest and a trip to London to see Lion King.

The school is also very strong on discipline which is very gratifying after seeing all those dreadful documentaries about the state of English education in some of the struggling urban schools in places like Essex and Yorkshire.

The three of us had a quiet-ish Christmas at home and Song enjoyed a proper English Christmas with traditional lunch and loads of presents.

Olly, our little Yorkie-poo, is as mischievous as ever and there is never a quiet moment with him around demanding attention and wanting to play. I take him out every day for a 40-50 minute walk, in and around Oakham, and that gives us the necessary exercise that we both need. I invariably arrive back home covered in sweat and totally knackered and it takes me an hour or two to recover.

More Visa Blues

With Lek’sand Song’s visas up in November, once again I have to turn my mind to submit fresh applications to the Home Office for Further Leave to Remain. This will involve almost the same level of documentation and requirements that we needed for the initial application, so it will be a worrying time.

At least we have conquered the first hurdle when Lek passed her new English test with distinction, a couple of weeks ago. Well done Lek.

Medical Matters

My COPD (lung disease) is slowly getting worse, and a year ago I thought I would soon be destined to use a wheelchair as I could barely walk more than a few yards without being overcome with coughing, wheezing and extreme shortness of breath. Thankfully the Doc came up with a new inhaler that has worked miracles.  Yet another inhaler was recently added to the two I already use and I’m now feeling better than I have for quite a while, although the 50-minute daily walk is just about as much exercise as I can manage. Long may it continue.

As for my other co-morbidities, (as the docs call them), my diabetes continues to be more or less under control, my blood pressure is okay-ish, and my stomach is sort of behaving itself since I was prescribed meds for my bile acid malabsorption (BAM for short).

But my prostate problems are getting worse, and in spite of daily self- catheterisation and meds, I am emptying my bowels all too frequently and I’m due another cystoscopy, (camera up my urethra). This will probably be followed by an operation to clear the blockage.

I’m also waiting for a CT scan of my head and nose to see what is causing the polyps which are growing in my nose. I haven’t had any sense of smell for over a year now, and my taste buds are fast disappearing. Yet another operation may be on the cards to remove the polyps, once they know more about them.

So all in all, things could be a lot worse. How much worse would my ongoing medical problems feel, if I was living all alone? There’s not too many sickly 74-year-olds who are taken care of by a wonderful 39-year-old Thai lady who is devoted to my well-being.

And what could be finer than to be part of an 11-year old’s journey into teenage-hood; helping with her homework and reading is worth a million dollars worth of anti-de[pressants. To say nothing of Olly…

Ah… happy days! Here’s a few more family pics.

*

Brave New Britain

It seems almost impossible to believe that we’ve finally entered Boris’s brave big ben bong bong bongo Brexited Britain.

At exactly 2300 hours GMT on January 31st, the UK finally became free of the European yoke.

Millions of True Blue Britishers rose at dawn on 1st February, to breathe the new air of freedom. It was almost like Armistice Day.

They no longer have to suffer night sweats over the shapes of bananas or cucumbers, they can eat their own pet horses without being arrested, let their kids blow up balloons without fear of being arrested for child abuse, throw their used tea bags into the compost bin without being suspected of spreading infectious diseases, dust off their EU-banned high powered vacuum cleaners, toasters, kettles and hairdryers; and our dear Cornish brethren can refer to their swedes as turnips without raising the ire of Brussels bureaucrats, along with a million more petty, illogical and maddening rules passed by unelected officials with no reason other than to put us little Britishers firmly in our places.

A Brave New Britain indeed – except that nothing much will change before the end of the year, although many of us wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the so-called transition period extended by a few months…

And after that? Nobody knows…

It all depends on what sort of trade deals Boris can do with the EU, the USA, and other important trading partners. If I were a betting man I wouldn’t be too optimistic.

The EU has already stated publicly that they believe they have got us by the ‘goolies’, and unless we continue to align ourselves with EU rules and regulations, we can expect a touch of the old heave-ho’s when it comes to flogging our post Brexit wares and services across the Channel.

But the whole point of Brexiting was to escape this Euro-straightjacket, so good luck on that one… Boris.

I have never had any love for the EU, as my long term readers will know very well. I have written many an article over the past decade decrying the crass stupidity, waste and downright undemocratic rules imposed on us from across the ENGLISH channel.

I even called it correctly back in the late nineties when I maintained it would be unbelievable folly for the UK to join the Euro – and this at a time when almost the whole country – especially all those financial experts in the city’s square mile – were totally convinced that the Euro would be the best thing since sliced bread.

We all know how that one turned out.

As for the USA, well I believe we just made a faux pas extraordinaire when we ignored their advice (instructions) on involving the wonderful world of Huawei’s cheap Chinese technology in our brand spanking new 5G communications network. By all accounts, Trump was so enraged that he slammed down the phone when Boris was still mid-way between an um… and an err…

Doesn’t bode well for a lucrative UK-USA trade deal, does it?

But I never advocated leaving the EU – I just wanted us to do our level our best to change it from within. I always felt – and still do – that we had to make our best of a bad job as to Brexit would leave us very isolated when it came to world trade. As much as I excoriated our EU membership, I always felt it was too late and too complicated to undo our European relationships.

We shall see what we shall see. Let’s hope and pray I’m wrong.

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Climate carnage

At the time of writing, we are experiencing severe storms in all parts of the British Isles.  Only a few days after Storm Ciara left our shores Storm Dennis is due to wreak its havoc across Britain’s green and pleasant land. While they fall short of full-blown hurricanes, we still have winds of in excess of 60 miles an hour here in Oakham, and in other more exposed locations, especially along the coast, winds of up 90 miles an hour have been, and will be blowing up a storm.

The weather forecasters tell us we’re having the worst storm conditions for seven years and some widespread damage and severe transport interruptions have been the order of the day.  Major storms are predicted to last well into next week. Several people have been killed by falling trees, and in many areas of the North, people have been having to clear up from floods for the fourth or fifth time in as many years. Newly built flood defences have proved woefully inadequate 

So after all the floods and mayhem of 2019 along with the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK, there seems little doubt that something pretty serious is happening to our climate.

To be honest, these worrying changes are unlikely to have much effect on my life, given that I’m 73, going on 74 and unlikely to reach 80, but I do feel for my family, and indeed all the generations who will have to bear the brunt of these cataclysmic happenings. If it wasn’t so scary, the next few years would be morbidly fascinating.

The European Environment Agency has predicted that an average one-meter rise in sea levels would mean 90% of the surface of Hull would be underwater, and other English cities such as Norwich, Margate, Southend-on-Sea, Runcorn, and Blackpool could also experience flooding covering more than 40% of the urban area.

Across the North Sea, Dutch cities including The Hague, Rotterdam, and Leiden are predicted to face severe floods from an average rise in the sea-level of one meter.

Large areas of Spain, Portugal and France would be grappling with desertification, with the worst-affected zones experiencing a two and half-fold increase in droughts.

Hotter summers increase the risk of forest fires, which hit record levels in Sweden in 2018. If emissions exceed 4C, France, southern Germany, the Balkans and the Arctic Circle will experience a greatly increased fire risk. However, fire danger would remain highest in southern European countries, which are already prone to blazes.

Further north, winters are becoming wetter. Failure to limit global heating below 2C could mean a swath of Central and Eastern Europe – from Bratislava in the west to Yaroslavl in the east- will suffer from a sharp increase in heavy thunderstorms during autumn and winter.

In some areas of Central and Eastern Europe, there is predicted to be a 35% increase in such rainstorms, meaning torrential downpours would be more frequent.

And all these dire predictions are just for Europe!

While I remain pretty pessimistic on the ability of this world to haul itself back from the brink, (especially with a climate-denying maniac in the Whitehouse), as with Brexit, I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

 

 

Back by popular demand!

 

Mobi-Babble

 

Back by Popular Demand!

I must admit that I went through a lot of soul-searching before I finally put my metaphorical pen to paper to start writing this blog.

So, partly due to the deafening “clamour” from my old internet friends in Thailand, and also partly due to my concerns that I was experiencing the onset of writer’s block, I have pushed myself to undertake my first stab at any kind of writing for quite a while.

At the time of writing, my beloved family, Lek and Song, are in the third week of a four-week trip back to Thailand to visit relatives and friends. This is their first trip back home since arriving in England back in March 2018, so I guess they deserved a short break from their challenging lives in the UK.

Man’s best friend?

I am writing this in my home in Oakham, Rutland, on a bright sunny August day with the temperatures at a pleasant 22C, with only my mischievous little dog, Olly, for company.

I am fast coming round to the widespread belief that a dog is indeed a man’s best friend. Olly has certainly played a great part in warding off the loneliness that would have otherwise engulfed me – having already been totally alone for three long weeks.

I really don’t do ‘solitude’ very well – I never have done – (hence six wives) – but Olly’s constant pestering for attention, and the need to take him for walks, feed him and generally take care of him, has somehow made the days go past without me sinking into a deep depression that would have certainly descended by now.

Olly is a “Yorkie-poo” – a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a Toy Poodle, but by some weird intermingling of genes, he is a little larger than either breed. He weighs around 5.5 kilos, is incredibly active and agile, and just full of fun. His size and shape belie his athletic prowess and I don’t believe I have ever seen a dog move so fast. Needless to say, he is a bit of a handful as he never sleeps for very long and always wants to play a new game.

He is similar to Shih Tzus that I had in Thailand, inasmuch as his coat is hypoallergenic and he doesn’t shed any hair at all. His lovely, soft coat just grows and grows.

Medical Matters

So what have I been up to since my last blog in December last year?

Looking back, it seems as though the family has been dealing with one medical issue after another.

Song, my daughter, has been diagnosed with bad astigmatism and we have taken her on numerous visits to eye specialists at Leicester hospital. Every time we go, they prescribe increasingly strong prescriptions for her eyes, and to date, we have gone through eight sets of spectacles, and we still aren’t finished. Thankfully, the spectacles and medical care are all free.

Then Lek my wife gave us a big scare recently when she developed a lump on her neck which refused to go. The GP was so concerned that she arranged an immediate appointment with a cancer specialist, and after several visits, it was finally established that the lump was not cancerous, and was probably caused by a bacterial infection in her blood which had weakened her immune system. She has to go back for further checks in October, but in the meantime, the lump has reduced in size and she is feeling quite well.

As if that wasn’t enough, back in Thailand, Lek was bitten by a semi-wild cat and has had to have a series of rabies injections. Her last shot will not be due until she returns to England, so I’m not quite sure how we will handle that. Rabies has been wiped out here, so I can’t believe every doctor or hospital here carries vaccines for something that is rarely needed.

As for me – well I guess I am a walking (just) medical marvel. I too have made numerous trips to Leicester hospital for various treatments and follow-ups on many of my chronic conditions, including prostate problems, bowel problems, lung problems, and my poor old ticker.

After I had a cystectomy (a camera up my jimmy), I now have to self-catheterise several times a day to empty my bladder. It’s a bit of a bummer, but the only alternative is a ‘turps- like’ procedure, which in the scheme of things is quite a major operation and not to be taken lightly by people of my age (73). So we’ll put a hold on that one for now.

I have also had more colonoscopies (cameras down my gullet) to try and ascertain what is causing all my bowel problems, and recently I undertook a ‘nuclear’ test which involved swallowing a radioactive capsule. I was scanned before, and one week after I took the isotope. The result of this is that I have been diagnosed as suffering from Bile Acid Malabsorption (BAM) and I have to take a powder mixture every day to try and fix it. It’s too early to say if it is going to work.

And even more recently… I went to my GP to report I had completely lost my sense of smell for over six months and I also had a long-standing cough at the back of my throat and permanent hoarseness when I talk. He was quite concerned and has referred me urgently for a brain scan and an examination by an ENT specialist. I am still awaiting these appointments, so if you don’t hear from me again, you can assume the worst. However, I am reasonably optimistic that whatever the cause(s) are, I’ll still be here for a few years yet.

 “Enough of medical problems!” I hear you all say.

What else has been happening in the weird and wonderful world of  Mobi and his brood?

Let’s talk about the weather.

Firstly the weather – for as you know, the only thing we Brits always talk about is the weather.

The weather over the past eight months has been somewhat variable. We had some bitterly cold days during the early months of the year, but thankfully, not much snow. Then Easter produced some summer-like temperatures but it turned cold again for the main part of spring. June saw a mix of torrential rain and sunny days, and in July we saw some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK, (31.7 C in Cambridge). But this was short-lived and was followed by more, very changeable weather.

Here in Oakham the weather for the early part of August the weather was quite pleasant, with dry sunny spells being mainly the order of the day, but in other parts of England – mainly in the north, and east – they weren’t so lucky. A year’s worth of rain fell in a few hours in parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and caused widespread flood damage.

Then over the past few days, all hell has been let loose with storm force winds and yet more torrential rain occurring all over the country. A huge dam in Derbyshire’s peak district started to break up and all the villagers below the dam were evacuated for over a week while the water levels were reduced and temporary repairs made. And in my own back garden, a largish tree was blown down, and there it still lies, across the lawn, pending the return of Lek to clear it, as I’m just not up to it. What a summer we’re having!

As if all that wasn’t enough – on Friday we had a power cut – right across the UK which played havoc with the transport systems – especially train services.

Sometimes it feels like I’m back in Thailand…

Settling in

Song completed her primary school education in July, and in September she will be starting at the local secondary school. This impressive school is a twenty-minute walk (or ten-minute bike ride) and educates about 1,000 pupils from Oakham and surrounding areas. We have visited the school several times and the buildings and facilities are state of the art and we have met with teachers there who all seem very dedicated. I am sure she will fit in very well.

Her English has been coming on in leaps and bounds and I am confident that within the next two years it will be pretty much up to scratch. She is a lovely, outgoing girl with a very sunny disposition, has made loads of friends and is very popular.  I am sure this will hold her in good stead for the next stage of her education.

Lek has also settled in extremely well. She has made many friends at work and is part of the Thai community who live in around this small market town in the middle of England.

During my daily video chats with her in the wilds of Nong Khai, she is increasingly expressing her desire to get back to her home in the UK. I can’t tell you how gratifying this is. As I write, there is only one more week to go before we are reunited once more.

Brexit – What else?

Of course, along with the rest of the population, I am totally obsessed with the political situation and the vexed subject of Brexit. Of itself, it is quite fascinating and this is undoubtedly one of the most tumultuous periods in politics since the Second World War – or maybe earlier. At least in the nineteen-thirties, the politicians were sensible enough to form a government of National Unity, but this time around there is little chance of that happening.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Brexit will play such important part in our future lives, I could sit back and enjoy the crazy, roller-coaster ride; but as it is, I find it frustrating, stressful and very worrying – along with everyone else, on both sides of the Brexit divide. I wish I could say that come Halloween, it will all be resolved, with the new Boris government finding the right way forward. But that seems unlikely at best. All us poor minions can do is sit back and watch the politicians screw up our beloved country.

*

Meanwhile, life in Blighty goes on and everything seems as rosy as can be expected with Brexit hanging over us. Yes, I have my ongoing medical problems, but I am determined to try and see the positive side of things and place my faith in the wonderful National Health Service to keep me alive and reasonably mobile.

I do hope this sort of brings you all up to date with the life and times of Mobi, and I sincerely hope it will not be too long before I put pen to blog paper yet again.

All the best folks!

A few pics….

Life with Family and Grandkids over the Past 8 Months

Freshly Picked Mushrooms

Song’s New School Uniform
Picking bamboo in Sunny Oakham

Collecting vegetables for a Thai Meal

A sprinkling of Snow in Oakham

Song in Her School Show

Proms in the Park – Oakham Style

Running for Cancer

  

A day at the Farm in Oakham

 

 

A walk in the woods

 

Olly, the Wonder-Dog

Lek and Song Back In Thailand

Durian Crazy!

 

*

Neung – Song’s Elder Brother

Mum

Step-Dad

House Blessing at Lek’s home in Nong Khai

*

 

 

That’s all folks…..

Whither 2019?

 

 

 

 

Mobi-Babble

A Year in Review

With Christmas and New Year almost upon us, it behooves me to look back over 2018 and determine what manner of year it has been for me and mine.

The year commenced with me being worried out of my mind that the UK visas for my wife and step-daughter were going to be rejected. I had been back in England since April 2017 and living with my daughter in Oakham. The visa applications were finally summited to immigration in early October of that year, and according to their own guidelines, I should have had a result within 60 days – i.e. in December.

It was an extremely traumatic time for me as if the visas were refused, I had no clear idea where I would go from there, with me stuck in England and my family stuck some 6,000 miles away. We would become one of those dreaded “Skype Families”

But in late February the news I had been hoping for finally arrived, and on 6th March I made a perilous journey through snow drifts from Rutland to Heathrow to meet my delighted family. I initially thought they were delighted to see me, but no, it was the snow they wanted to see, and they deserted their bags (and me) at the car park ticket machine and rushed out of the terminal in search of real snow.

The rest of the year could hardly have gone better.

I started off the year with one grandson and ended the year with three grandchildren- one new granddaughter born in January and a second grandson born in June.

We were only in my daughter’s house for a few weeks and on 15th April we moved into a nice, snug little end of terrace house, just five minutes walk away from my daughter’s place. The rent was substantial, but a lot less than I would have to pay in the southeast of England. I used my little nest egg to buy new white goods and found some good leads on second-hand furniture and within days we were fully kitted out for a long stay in the home country.

Over the next few weeks my step-daughter, Song,  was placed in a local primary school and I helped my wife, Lek to obtain a full-time job as a domestic assistant in Oakham Public school. As a result, we are now on a firm financial footing – with her salary and my state pension and benefits we are just about able to make ends meet.

Both have settled in remarkably well, with Song already speaking and reading basic English and Lek well settled at work where she has made numerous friends. She has also made a few Thai friends who live in the area and we have found out where to buy Thai food ingredients and she is well satisfied.

The only fly in the ointment has been my continual bad health, but at least I am in the right country to have all this taken care of properly. At the time of writing, I feel as well as I have been in a while -although my state of health often changes day by day. I still can’t walk very far without becoming exhausted and breathless, but I am now managing a daily, very slow walk of around 25 minutes with our little dog, Olly, and I feel I am gradually getting a little stronger. I hope and pray this continues in 2019.

Being stuck at home for most of the time, I have been doing a lot of reading and admit that as of late I have been watching too much Daytime TV. I no longer write book reviews on Goodreads, but following my decision to read more contemporary fiction,  there are a couple of novels I have read recently which I would thoroughly recommend.

They are: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by American author Delia Owens, and “Killing Commendatore” by Japanese author Haruki Murakami (translated to English). Both are best sellers and are cracking reads. Needless to say, I have also read a lot of rubbish – which never happened when  I stuck to the classics.

Whither 2019?

Not since the Cuban missile crisis back in 1962 can I personally recall a time when the world was in such upheaval and the future of our planet so uncertain.

You would have to be a true clairvoyant to even attempt to predict what will happen in 2019. The leaders of two of the most powerful countries in the world, Trump and Putin, are showing increasing signs of being narcissistic sociopaths.

Both care little for international norms; both are happy to lie through their teeth whenever it suits them; both are extremely callous and never show any empathy or remorse for their actions; both will not tolerate anyone who doesn’t show absolute loyalty, devotion, and admiration; and both have a grandiose sense of their self-importance, and are convinced they are unique and special.

And China’s Mr Xi Jinping doesn’t exactly shine in the international glow of good citizenship – with his ruthless crackdown on anyone who shows even the slightest signs of dissent, to say nothing of his recent rule changes which will allow him to remain president for life.

So three of the world’s top nuclear powers are under the control of what can only be described as ruthless megalomaniacs. And they aren’t the only ones. From Turkey’s Erdogan, to Philippines’ Duterte, to Venezuela’s Maduro, to Iran’s Rouhani, to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to Syria’s Assad, to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman. Even in EU’s Hungary we see dissent and the rule of law being repressed by a right-wing government, to say nothing of Thailand with its 4 years of authoritarian military government.

We have the never-ending violence in the Middle East, with Syria ruthlessly suppressing and murdering all opposition. Isis is still a lingering threat and Yemen has become a bloodbath. Wannabe nuclear power Iran is still sowing the seeds of insurrection everywhere, and that’s before even mentioning the little local problem in the heart of the Middle East – Israel, which simmers with violence on a daily basis.

Even in western Europe, the lack of good leadership is palpable. Macron is facing violent riots, Merkle is on the way out and the far right are flexing their muscles, Spain is still reeling from the Catalan independence movement, and Greece is still lurching on the edge of financial disaster.

In the UK  we have Teresa May.  Even her closest admirers couldn’t claim she is an inspirational, decisive leader. And who could replace her? That idiot Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? Or, horror upon horror, would a general election sweep Jeremy Corbin to power, whose party is, if anything, more split than the Tories – and that’s saying something.

And there seems to be no end in sight to the mass illegal immigration from Africa, and elsewhere. This has become a huge moral dilemma for the rich western nations who are trying to protect their comfortable way of life from the countless millions of have-nots from the third world.

Then we have climate change – how scary is that? – Especially with leaders like Trump in total denial.

And I still haven’t mentioned the dreaded BREXIT.

Can anyone predict where we will be in three months’ time? I seriously doubt it. In 2016 I was a convinced ‘remainer’ and was quite upset when the Brexiteers won the day. But I accepted the majority decision and put my faith in the government to obtain the best Brexit deal possible.

30 months later, like so many of my fellow Brits, I just want it to be over – for better or worse, for richer or poorer. The current situation is stressing out the whole country and I think most of will utter a huge sigh of relief when and if this godforsaken matter is finally put to rest – whatever the final deal may be.

Somewhat selfishly I am glad I am in my seventies and that my life is nearly done, but I do worry about my family and how they will survive if things take a turn for the worse.

*

On a personal front, as the year draws to a close I confess that I have been neglecting my creative writing quite badly, and to be honest, I am unsure how much longer I will continue with this blog. Maybe it has run its course? I’m not sure… something to ponder.

Some of you may recall that a few months ago I wrote that I was going to write a series of short stories based in Thailand, under the general heading (“Tales from a Barfly”). I wrote and published the first one on my blog, back in February entitled: “Fearless Freddie and the Pink Pussy Club”, (SEE HERE), but I confess I have had little enthusiasm to continue the series.

In many ways, the subject has been done to death (well, in Thailand anyway) and I don’t really feel I can add anything particularly original to this specialist genre. I also feel I have probably written quite enough about Thailand, with two long novels more or less devoted to the country (“Madju-Raj; Messenger of Death”, and “Lust for Life”) and a collection of short stories (“From Thailand with Love”).

The only writing I have completed this year is the aforementioned “Fearless Freddie”, and a mere 8 blogs (including this one).  So is my writing output slowly reaching its natural conclusion?  To be honest I have been seriously considering putting an end to my writing career.

On the other hand, my health problems are going to severely restrict my choice of activities in the coming months and years; so if I’m to avoid spending the rest of my life watching dreaded daytime TV then I had better try to give the writing one more go before I go gaga.

With this in mind, I have made a start on my fourth novel. It is set in England and covers the period 1983 to 2002 as this was the period that I was living in England before moving back to Thailand. As I say, I have made a start and it remains to be seen whether I can make meaningful progress over the next few months. 

If nothing else, it might help to take my mind off the world collapsing around me…

*

I will wrap up this blog with my very best wishes to all my readers for Christmas and I sincerely hope that my pessimistic view of our future proves unfounded.

May 2019 bring us some positive resolutions to this mad world we live in.

Here are a few recent pics of my family in Oakham. 

Lek and Olly
Thomas, my third grandchild
Mum & Thomas
Song with a special school award for working hard

Mum & Benji

 

No. 2 Joani, and No. 3 Thomas
Chestnuts, straight from a tree in Oakham park.

Lek with some work colleagues

Oakham Castle with Remembrance Day Poppies

Kow Palo from the hands of Lek – Master Thai chef

Lek all dolled up for her work Christmas party

Song, Christmas presents, and Som Tum
Looking after her weight