Monday, 27 April 2020


I’m sitting in the garden for a change; it’s another beautiful clear, blue sky day, a warm spring day with not a single cloud.  When I first sat down I could hear a dog barking but that has stopped now, there’s just the road noise which is rarely far way, even in a lockdown.  The Co-op over the road is honey pot for this drone.  And a bee is buzzing somewhere close; the wind is making the gate knock in the lock, rustling the dead leaves and whispering through the fresh ones.

Somewhere in a nearby garden someone hits something metallic with a hammer, once, twice, three times…  The insect buzzing comes and goes; I still haven’t located its source.  What a way to spend a spring day, I’ll be confined so for a few weeks yet.

From across the road comes the rattling of shop trollies.  At the moment there are no birds in the sky and there seems to be very little birdsong but when I manage to retune my ears it’s there in the background.  When the human racket recedes it comes to the fore.  Away in the distance an emergency vehicle uses its siren and what must be a motorcycle goes through the gears as it heads east and fades to a murmur. 

A Dove flies over and another sits on an aerial a few houses away, two Gulls drift across the blue as well.  I walk to the far end of the little garden and back but don’t see any more birds in flight; the sound of their songs is becoming easier to pick out now though.  From somewhere comes the call of a startled Blackbird but I can’t see the culprit, I hear a duck quack and there it is, flying quickly towards the river valley.  Then a Wagtail passes over with its dipping flight never making it close enough to really see.

There’s been a buzzing since I sat down and I haven’t been unable to locate the culprit, then the penny dropped.  It was coming from the box that houses the gas meter.  I opened the door and let a confused Bumblebee have some fresh air; I wonder how long it had been locked down?

The Hammer sound has started up again, rhythmical and persistent, and from another direction comes the grind of some kind of garden or DIY power tool.  I suppose I am concentrating on the sounds because the vista is so small and familiar.  All I’m really doing is sitting on a garden bench which threatens to give me arse ache and writing the things that come to mind although my pen is a long way behind my brain.

So let me concentrate on what I can see for a minute or two.  To my left is a mini greenhouse that has surprisingly stood up to the winter storms but it doesn’t look like there’s anything growing inside that came with an invitation.  Beside it is a brick shed with a large wasp like creature paying close inspection.  It doesn’t want to be looking for a home as it will find itself most unwelcome.  I can’t prevent myself from unlocking the shed to investigate; a wasp nest is the last thing any home needs.  I open the door warily, the creature has found its way inside but is not part of a gang, it buzzes through the open door and past me, it sounded pissed off.  What lies inside the open door reminds me I want to go fishing.

Back on the bench, opposite me across the square of paving slabs sits a big black plastic chest and a small, green upright shed type thing, both of these house garden tools and stuff.  Beside the shed is an old plastic table which is covered in flowerpots which contain mostly dead things and weeds but they are splashed with wild sown flowers, mostly small Pansies I think? There’s a smudge of grey on one of the slabs because yesterday I made a fire…  Interrupted by a Goldfinch on the wire but it didn’t stay long enough for a photo…  Anyway I have a pile of Beech branches from this year’s scalping to dispose of.  In the space I have, building a bonfire and getting rid of it all in one go isn’t really an option, as tempting as that might be.  Instead I kept things small; the base was made from two foil dishes that brought quiche into the house.  These were surrounded by three pieces of broken concrete slab which provided shelter and containment.  I know how to build a fire because I was a Scout as a youngster and I know how to keep things safe because I’m not a fucking idiot.  Once it was burning I fed it with small amounts, little and often.  To be honest it will probably take about four more fires of a similar scale before the pile is disposed of, but hell I’ve got the time at the moment.

Now to my right there is Ivy growing up the fence.  It is looking a bit bedraggled as I’ve had a couple of bouts of hacking at it over the last few months.  It was starting to get too big for its boots and was taking the piss, threatening harm to the fence.  I expect we’ll be going toe to toe again before very much longer.  Then Shelley’s bike leans against the fence, shrouded in a dark waterproof cover.

Further round, the Beech hedge is starting to form the barrier it was planted for.  Most of the ten trees have leaves now to some extent, the foliage gets thicker every day.  A couple of the trees are well set now and all the leaves are the light, bright, fresh green shades of spring.  They will get darker as the weeks go by.  I have a good understanding with the hedge, as I mentioned, I scalp it every year in late march and bar the occasional trim I pretty much let it do its thing.  It has turned out an odd shape for a beech hedge but it does the trick and for most of the year it provides the privacy we are entitled to.

The lawn is not fit to be called such.  It is a small patch of green grass, beds of clover and dotted with dandelions.  It’s all pretty green so passes as a lawn in a way but it’s pretty patchy towards the fence and hedge.  Here most plants died because I could never be arsed with sweeping up the leaves but this year I made an effort.  I also supplemented the grass with the unwanted tufts that grew easily between the slabs, cleverly transplanting them to the bare patches where they would be welcome.  I’m keeping half the grass mown as normal but allowing the sparser areas to grow higher and carefully strimming when necessary.

Just as I’m about to go looking for more bird life two Pigeons fly over, will I see anything else at the other end of the yard?  No, just another Pigeon but there are still the teasing songs of birds unseen.  I pay close attention to the hedge and see that seven of the ten Beech trees have leaves now, just the fifth from the left, the eighth and the ninth are still to open buds.  The sixth from the left opened up first, followed by the fourth, seventh, first, second, tenth and third.  The ninth one (aka the lazy tree) is always last but I can’t guess which out of five and eight will be next.

Another pigeon flies over, its shadow crosses my page and a small white butterfly flits in and then up and away.  Now more persistent buzzing and up to my left a bumblebee appears to be courting with the flat roof, maybe the one I released earlier?  I like to think so.

How long have I been out here?  It could be five minutes, it could be half an hour and when I next look at a clock I’ll be none the wiser.  And still the sky as brilliant blue, still the east wind rattles the leaves and gate and the somewhere birds still sing.

Then something small and shrill lands on next door’s aerial, I’m pretty sure it’s a Goldfinch, yes it’s mate flies down into the garden while the first still sings and stands sentry.  A few seconds later the second Finch is back, it perches on the feeder for a second or two but I make it nervous so it hops atop the fence.  We both sit and eye each other; I am still and silent, he/she is fidgety and noisy.  Then it leaves and joins its mate, they fly away in unison but come back across the garden a minute or two later.  The Goldfinches have started to visit the garden regularly since the first leaves appeared which was eleven days ago now, for the first couple of lockdown weeks I never saw them.

The longer I sit here quiet and still the more things happen.  A Blackbird lands on the grass and skips around a bit, never getting within a couple of metres but my presence doesn’t spook him.  When he leaves I sneak to the corner and peer round; the Goldfinches are back, using the hedge as cover while they mount raids on the other feeder.  There are Sparrows here two but they are more interested in the splitting buds on the branches and are much braver than the Finches.  I suppose they should be as we pretty much cohabit, the last few years have seen then nesting both in the hedge and under the eaves of the house.  As neighbours go they are pretty good but they are noisy buggers first thing in the morning.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Lockdown insanity part 4

BoJo the clown isn't fucking funny.  Time for a rant.

It's all OK, BoJo is out of hospital and getting better every day and he'll make everything great again!  We'll it's the least he should do after allowing this momentous fuck up to happen in the first place.  That's right, our Prime minister BoJo the Clown, allowed this virus to get a foothold in the country, quoted on 1st March;  “A recession, that’s what I fear most” he deliberately put the interests of business before the lives of people.

At the beginning of the pandemic the UK government ignored the advice of WHO and scientists.  On 26th february Scientists urged for "an urgent lockdown to save lives..."
In January the UK government (Hancock) lied about the country’s readiness for a potential pandemic.
In late February the Sunday times reported Dominic Cummings saying the government policy was "... Herd Immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad"

The UK government saw what was happening in Italy and Spain yet chose to follow exactly the same course of action.  
An earlier lockdown would have nipped the pandemic in the bud.

Professor Helen Ward – “It’s very sad that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill because politicians refused to listen to advice.  We said lockdown earlier, we said test, trace, isolate.  But they decided they knew better…”

Why were Athletico Madrid fans allowed to come to Liverpool when they weren’t allowed to watch matches in their own country?

05/03/20   A statement from WHO   "We are concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment do not match the level of the threat we all face. 
This is not a drill. 
This is not the time to give up. 
This is not a time for excuses. 
This is a time for pulling out all the stops.
Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans."

Both Germany and South Korea dealt with the pandemic in a different and more effective way. Until 12/03 UK government followed the same course of action as Germany but on that date had a deliberate policy change that differed from Germany in moving away from testing and isolation.  As time has gone on Germany's death rate is 3% while in the UK its 13%

When the clown finally put the country into lockdown Facebook proles were rapturous, describing it as his Churchill moment.  (I'm not making this up.)  If anyone dared suggest it was too little too late they were obviously unpatriotic Marxists, me?  Really?

The NHS are heroes but they went into this fight under funded and without adequate equipment. On 18/04/20 the RCN said ‘thousands of nursing professionals from across the UK are being asked to work without the right PPE…’

Staff and residents in UK care homes have been thrown to the wolves.  These people have been forgotten and ignored and we will probably never know the true death toll.

Testing in the UK has been pathetic.  The government promised 100000 tests per day by the end of April but three weeks in we haven't reached a fifth of that.

On the days where UK deaths hovered just below(?) 1000 the media told us to be happy because the clown is feeling better.

11/04/20  The BMA has warned that doctors’ lives are at risk due to inadequate PPE.  Hancock says NHS staff are using too much.  Another 917 deaths announced in the UK, the 10000 mark will be passed tomorrow.  The loathsome Priti Patel took the government briefing today and came across with her natural lack of empathy and no apology for the lack of PPE.  I doubt they’ll let her do it again.

In the interwebworld there are  FaceBook fuckwitts that believe this virus is an act of war by China, really?  To what advantage?  This is after years of the subliminal rhetoric we’re exposed to which means people make the automatic assumption; China = Bad, USA = Good, of course!  In reality it should be China = Bad, USA = Worse.  This same subtle mind control means these same people wouldn’t possibly believe the UK government could make a mistake, let alone knowingly trade lives for cash.

And the yanks are up in arms because ‘lockdown’ is getting in the way of their freedom’s FFS And that Trump creature is still inciting them.  Of course the Trump supporters should be allowed their freedom to spread the disease, just like they demand the right to sell guns to lunatics and both should be considered natural selection.

The other evening there was some kind of online concert where loads of ‘stars’ beamed themselves into our homes, playing a few tunes.  I didn’t watch it.  The Strolling Bones and that cunt MaCartney pratting about isn’t my idea of entertainment.  I’m not sure if there was any fundraising aspect to this or if we were just supposed to feel happy and grateful that these attention seeking bastards have given us some of their precious time.  If so, fuck off.

It’s quite a clever little ‘trick’ the Establishment is trying to pull off here.  Recreate the WW2 spirit, get everybody behind our army, in this case the NHS obviously, yup get behind the troops, cheering and clapping.  Everyone big up the NHS, pull together solidarity!  Then hopeful while everyone is busy flapping their limbs, perhaps most won’t notice what a total fucking cock up the government had made of things.

20/04/20  The British press is finally starting to get stuck into the government.  The Sunday Times highlights BoJo missing five COBRA meetings (really dramatic name for what is basically a bunch of Etonian wankers having breakfast but...)
   The Irish Times puts it nicely;
“Only a dysfunctional political culture could conclude that a showman, a proven liar, a fraudster with such limited ability, with such disqualifying flaws and such meagre track record is the one to lead any government at such a dangerous time”  449 more hospital deaths today.  Toll appears to be dropping.  BBC reports “Infection rates ‘flattening out’…”

Germany has started to ease restrictions, but they have handled the outbreak a lot better than us.

21/04/20  Social media shows than Piers Morgan (of all people) is continuing to get stuck into the government, more effectively than the new Labour leader thus far.  Reports that fake twitter accounts being set up in names of NHS staff, government propaganda.  And apparently the government is knowingly using flawed test kits.

Tory MPS Philip Davies, Caroline Nokes  Accepted free tickets to the Cheltenham festival in early march from a gambling firm (Ladbrokes/Coral) desperate to keep the festival (attended by 200000) open.  Cheltenham hospital is the worst affected in the whole west country.

I realised today that I'm becoming immune to the death toll, a month ago when it topped 100 in a day I was horrified, now it nudges a thousand (all added up...) and I'm barely moved.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

A walk in the park

I’m out of the house around 0800, straight away the birdsong strikes me, a Blackbird on the crest of a roof proclaims its presence to the world.  I cross the road and walk down to meet the high street, here the buildings are tall, old and in some cases oak beamed, Needham Market is a lovely little town.  Just round the corner is a zebra crossing, here I cross and carry on past the bus stop with sparrows bringing the bushes to life then I turn right at the Rampant Horse (the Swan is behind me, we’re spoilt for pubs here, not that I use them) and through Station yard towards the railway.  At the far end the original red brick Victorian station building dominates the yard but it hasn’t been used for this purpose for many years.  To the left is a tunnel beneath the tracks, (a throwback to a bygone age when it was used for moving cattle) this takes me out of the town and into the countryside, of sorts.  ‘Needham Lake’ is basically a park with the aforementioned lake (really an old landscaped gravel pit) as the centrepiece.  We’re lucky to have this in the town, not just the lake but acres of meadow and woodland, an oasis in this semi urban setting.  The air feels fresh on my face and I can almost taste the morning chill.

I turn right alongside the railway line and walk through a gap in the hedge towards the tree lined lake.  It’s a sunny morning and the air is filled with birdsong; The Collard Doves and Wood Pigeons are unmistakable, I recognise the songs of Blackbirds and Robins but there is an orchestra of squeaks and whistles from species unseen and therefore unknown.  I walk on across a little meadow and up a slight slope then I can see the lake; the trees, reeds and foliage is turning green, leaves breaking from their buds, regenerating after the bleakness of winter.   There’s another walker going the other way and he nods a greeting but the regular old boy doing laps always looks straight ahead.  The sun is low in the eastern sky so I have to shade my eyes, the lake is mostly calm and the ripples of small fish can be seen breaking the surface every now and then.  More obvious is the aquatic birdlife cruising through the water surface; Mallards, Moorhens, Canada and Grey lag Geese.  I carry on along the tarmacked path, my attention now more drawn to the water than the flora, it’s the angler in me, I can’t help it.

At the far end is a paved carpark and brick toilet block, all nicely tree shaded.  There are platforms here for fishing, duck feeding and one used by a model boat club.  At this end I usually find feeding Carp and yes they are here again, mopping up the leftovers from the duck feeders.  There are at least two fish here, muddying the water and sending clouds of bubbles to the surface.  They would be easy to catch but I’m not allowed in these surreal times.

After watching the Carp for a few minutes I carry on, curving back on myself and turning back towards home.  There are more geese here, paired up as its breeding time now, they sit warily on the bank but they’re not afraid, humans here are usually a source of food but I will leave them disappointed.  To my right the river Gipping trickles slowly seaward, it’s just a weed choked stream come summer, a poor shadow of the waterway I knew as a child but if I could be bothered I’d be sure to see Chub in the pool above the mill, grouping together ahead of spawning in a few weeks time.  I’m approaching the end of the lake again now, here there are many tree lined islands set aside as a nature reserve.  This end of the lake is all trees, a little wood if seen from above and once again I’m surrounded by twittering birds.  I notice tits, both blue and great varieties.  To my right now is open meadow and across the other side another wood butts onto the river.  Here I often see rabbits but today just Magpies, Rooks and Jackdaw.  I cross the meadow, through another gap in another hedge and onto what is known as the ‘Camping ground’.  In a normal summer  we sometimes use this as a cricket pitch and the site of picnics for friends and our families.

I enter the tunnel again and leave the green hues and woodland settings behind.  I re-emerge into the urban setting again, houses, restaurants and small businesses, all concrete and brick.  Back through station yard again, back onto the high street for a short stretch then turn right into Barking road and a couple of hundred yards later I’m back home.

At the moment this is more than just a walk in the park, it’s more than just my daily exercise.  It’s an hour out of my comfortable cell; it’s my fix of fresh air and countryside, it stops my body from seizing up and maybe my mind too?  At times it’s almost an injection of sanity, or is it?  As I am not able to fish at the moment I’ve had to indulge myself in another form of collecting animals.  So far since the lockdown (God that sounds melodramatic) I’ve identified thirty four different species of bird either in/from my garden or on my daily walks.  The best specimen is probably the Little Egret I saw fishing in the river last week but today I saw a Buzzard from my garden soaring high over the Town, heading west towards miles and miles of open farmland.

But these walks are almost a source of contention or controversy, I actually feel kind of guilty when I leave my home and garden.  If I pass other people I give them a wide berth, as they do me.  Most people smile and acknowledge each other; this virus has actually made our town an even friendlier place.  Should I be confined within the Beech edged perimeter?  I know I’m entitled to that ‘hour’ out every day but you know what?  Some days I go out twice, there I said it, I confessed, I’m breaking the rules, I will be vilified by the moralistic Thursday hand slappers. 

It’s not like I’m mingling with people, I’m not risking spreading or picking anything up, I simply would not do that.  But I have been sneaking an extra hour walking through woods and fields where I rarely if ever see another soul.  Except my son who comes with me, but this is something we have done for the last year or so.  I’m assured that’s allowed, even though he is temporarily living at his mother’s house.  We don’t get too close; I’m not allowed to hug my son at the moment.

There are rules and there are rules.  If we are talking a game or sport then I will uphold the rules strictly and rigorously even when it’s to my own detriment (maybe why I’ve fallen out of love with football?) and I’ll be pissed right off if someone cheats.  But when it’s rules that a government has handed down then that’s a whole different issue, life has taught me that their rules just aren’t fair.  Government rules are like those of a casino, the house always wins.  And our government isn’t too keen on rules either, especially if they’ve been advised by the World Health Organisation.  I better stop now.

On the subject of walking it is not possible to be unmoved by the WW2 veteran captain Tom Moore who is walking laps of his garden to mark his one hundredth birthday and raise money for the NHS.  Last I heard he’d raised over £20 million which is fantastic.  But what nobody seems to question is why he or anyone else has to raise money for the NHS in the first place.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

The Lemmy Effect

Lemmy died on 28th December 2015.  For the uneducated, Lemmy was a musician who played bass for Hawkwind in the early seventies (and actually voiced their best known song “Silver Machine”) before forming Motorhead in 1975.  Motorhead played hard, loud, heavy metal and forged a successful career for forty years.  They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but were certainly a taste I acquired in small measures.  Lemmy (born Ian Fraser Kilmister in 1945) was renowned for his hedonistic lifestyle; he abused drugs and alcohol for over fifty years, he reportedly drank a bottle of Jack Daniels every day for over thirty years he also had a taste for Speed and LSD.  Because Lemmy had lived this way for so long it seemed he was invincible, nothing would ever kill him.  When he died it shouldn’t have been a shock but it was.

The death of Lemmy opened the pearly flood gates as in the year that followed celebrities started dropping like flies.  It was as if the death of Lemmy made their own mortality real and 2016 saw the deaths of; Glen Frey, David Bowie FFS!, Terry Wogan, Paul Daniels, Harper Lee, Jimmy Greaves, George Martin, Peter Vaughan, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Ronnie Corbett, Howard Marks (another indestructible), Carla Lane, Frank Kelly, Victoria Wood,  Caroline Ahearn, Prince FFS!, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Prince Buster, Andrew Sachs, Rick Parfitt, Liz Smith, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and the one and only G.O.A.T. Muhammad Ali.

But the Lemmy effect went further than giving famous people permission to die.  Something changed, as if the earth’s axis slipped fractionally and we’ve been spinning out of control ever since.  In 2016 the British people voted to leave the EU, which was the first step on BoJo the clown’s long plotted path to 10 Downing Street and yes that’s where he is now, after a couple of minor detours.  In the US that bag of bullshit Trump somehow found himself elected and we now live in a world where two of the biggest alleged democracies are governed by racist, sexist, homophobic bastards with an air of bullying violence and a background of almost royal privilege.  Has the world become a better, safer, healthier place since the death of Lemmy?  No, absolutely not.  Facts and intelligence have been replaced by soundbites, stupidity and outright lies.  Society is crumbling.

In just over three months 2020 has seen floods in the UK and wild fires in Australia, the environment is dying but the rich convince the stupid it’s all okay. The US clenched it’s muscles and threatened war with Iran.  Now a quarter of the world’s population can’t leave their homes, imprisoned by a disease that in itself is a symptom of a dying planet that has been allowed to spread by capitalist philosophy.

It’s all down to Lemmy, if he can die then anyone or anything can die too.  My theory continues; there is one more linchpin holding the earth on its axis and all my evidence suggests that this is Keith Richards.  If this is so even the most optimistic person will give the human race less than a decade.