As a child, I remember arranging my pillows round my head and imagining that I was in an aeroplane cockpit (usually a Spitfire). I used to ‘swim’ under the bedclothes too. I’ve been back there again the last few nights – it’s been so cold, that I’ve had to burrow under the quilt and just leave a little air hole.
That pesky Covidsomnia seems to have settled into a pattern – I go to bed early and I’m out like a light, then three or four hours later I wake up refreshed and wide awake and can’t get back to sleep. Now, if I’m still awake after an hour, I just get up and potter about. There’s something quite comforting and novel about being up in the silence of the night. It’s great for writing. I then snooze mid-morning if I’m not in The Dirty Old Town.
I’m not the only one. Loads of people I talk to are experiencing similar. It’s as if there’s some kind of bizarre collective physiological reset. Maybe I just need less sleep?
Despite a touch of hazy sunshine through the grey pall and a hint of spring in the air, we’re still firmly midwinter. Frozen spells (like now) have alternated with wetterthaneverbefore slutch, mud, rain and overflowing wells, making it difficult to get any building work done on the ranch. Nevertheless, there are early leaves on some of the hawthorns and blackthorns. The drainage system at the bottom of the sloping field beds seems to be holding up.
Ice-baked stony hard ground and biting winds.
The effort to go up there is monumental. I always do though, and I always feel better for it. It’s almost as if I’m scared that if I don’t go, I’ll lose some kind of health protection plus I’m struggling not to put on weight.
I’m hedge-laying at the moment in the snow and ice. I decided early on to plant hedges (rather than just fencing) and I’m glad I did, because it suits permaculture and organic gardening and there’s something satisfying about its annual husbandry. It is however time consuming. It’s akin to dry-stone walling in selecting which branches to cut. All the prunings are woven back in, eventually rotting down to further feed the hedge. I’m also experimenting by interspersing fruit trees and bushes.
I’ve put all my eggs in one basket by planting exclusively winter garlic and onions this year. The reason I haven’t done it before is because of our wet winters and the risk of them rotting, but they seem to be coming through OK.
There are certain things that I could never grow enough of and raspberries are one of them. I’ve planted 60 canes down the edges of the existing field beds – twenty early, twenty summer and twenty autumn varieties (Glen Moy, Tulameen and Autumn Bliss).
My fold-flat brassica cage design has worked a treat.
As mentioned previously I bought vast quantities of open-pollinated organic seed from Real Seeds and The Seed Co-operative.
I looked through them the other night and I thought ‘What on earth am I going to do with all these?’ I kind of got nervous and anxious about it (another weird pandemic thing which seems to be widespread). As usual, I had grandiose delusions of growing vast quantities of plants and selling them (the same afflicts me every year). I pulled myself together and decided to take a leaf out of Erin’s book and get more organised. I’ve dug out the Charles Dowding diary that I bought last year (and never touched) and I’m going to make a plan (honest I am).
Now is the time to start planting loads of seeds under cover in a warmer environment: chillis; peppers; tomatoes; onions; salads.
I’ve set up a tray of pots in the back bedroom and I’ve bought a heated propagator.
It’s still just me and the trees up there, which is to be expected in this weather.
Down the Rabbit Hole
… is where things seem a bit trippy and too weird to be true.
Porky and Slobber are a bit freaked.
‘I say Pfeffer, we’re on the front page of that pinko rag again. They’ve twigged that exports to the EU are down 68% and they’re blaming me – the pezzies might get a bit twitchy.’
Porky is doing a Raquel Welsh jigsaw and saying ‘Er’ over and over again which is never a good sign.
‘Er, I wouldn’t worry about it. Er our plans to sell off the NHS are in the pinko rags and er our own papers too. Er they’ll just mumble on Twitter and FB for a while then carry on watching Netflix,’
‘But won’t they have a revolution and chop our heads off – we have fucked them over somewhat? I’ve formed a secret society and black-listed all the journalists who don’t write what we tell them and now they’re getting all uppity about it.’
‘Er you must be joking – they’re either too thick as pig shit to realise what’s happening in front of their moron faces, or too bourgeois to give up their Lattés until the tanks roll over their lawns.’
‘Yes, but they’ve found out about the mills and bills we’ve given to our mates for our pandemic profit bonanza.’
‘Erm chill ya Boots slob boy and have some more nose powder. We’re in f’ing England. There are no Frenchies round here.’
‘Whey-hey – here comes Chapped Arse-cheeks.’ Says Porky.
‘What hangs Shappy-Chappy?’
‘I’ve just told the pezzies that they can’t go on hols and when we eventually let them, they’ll need a vaccine passport – most of them have just lapped it up, but there are a few snivellers as usual.’
‘Nice work Chapped-arse!’
Stumpy is pissed off. She’s bent over the table and Porky has parked his bike between her arse cheeks and told her she can’t move until he leaves for a meeting with some whingeing eco-hippies.
The Old Fashioned Casualty Consultant has mellowed in his older age and no longer gets worked up when snot-nosed juniors less than half his age refuse his referrals. He just decides what’s best for the patient and gets on with it. He is a bit naughty sometimes and has a bit of sport at their expense.
‘I haven’t accepted that patient – I’ll have to discuss it with my consultant.’
In the politest possible way, his thinly veiled answer effectively says:
‘Discuss it with whoever the fuck you want, it won’t make a squat-shit bit of difference – I’ve made a decision and nothing on this earth will change it.’
On a particularly difficult day for referrals, he quietly thinks to himself:
‘What these waspy fuckers need are a few ales, wines and gins; a couple of fat biffs and a good hard shag.’
He’s learned to never say such a thing out loud. His inscrutable deadpan colleague is next to him. She’s having a similar day. She rolls her eyes and mumble ‘twats’ under her breath. She then looks at him and steals the thoughts out of his head and repeats them word for word in front of the whole department. Telepathy is a thing with Casualty Consultants who’ve worked together for a long time.
The Benign Older Friendly Male Gardener is making potting videos from a semi-squatting position and emphasising the importance of planting chilli seeds somewhere 22 degrees plus.
Vaccines and the pandemic:
A couple of weeks ago, Elias and I were driving through the park to the garden centre when we noticed an elderly bloke sitting on the grass with a couple of people standing next to him. I speculated that he was probably unwell and waiting for an ambulance. Elias, bless him, wanted to stop to see if we could help. I explained that there was probably an ambulance on its way. Half an hour later, when we drove back, the bloke was still there and this time Elias more or less insisted.
I turned the car round and pulled up. We asked if we could help. He said that he’d fallen and hurt his ankle. I had a quick look and in an instant I knew that he had a fracture dislocated ankle. The only other person who stopped was a policeman and we both knew that there might be a long delay in the ambulance coming, due to Covid and winter pressures on the ambulance service. It was cold. We discussed carrying him to one of our cars (both estates) and taking him to the local urgent care centre a mile away where he could at least get pain relief. Fortunately, the ambulance arrived.
In medical science we use terms like sensitivity, specificity and number needed to treat to estimate the likelihood of a particular circumstance. e.g. whether an intervention improves outcome or diagnoses.
In the above example the likelihood of my diagnosis being correct was a neat 100% – it’s an example of a purely clinical diagnoses based on the experience of having seen hundreds of fracture-dislocated ankles before. It’s not something you can measure and it’s rarely taken into consideration in the world of scientific papers, but in real life it counts for an awful lot. Similarly Covid pneumonitis is a clinical diagnosis.
I’m often asked by non-medical friends about ‘the’ vaccine and I find it impossible to answer, because it’s such a minefield of conflicting polarising information out there. Even some of the scientists I trust disagree. I’ve been asked again, so I will try. I have to emphasise that these are purely my opinions and that I come from a different background to a lot of medical people.
My utter mistrust of the rich-privileged-toffboy government is long standing and eternal. The pandemic has amplified this exponentially. At least the fact that I was right all along is now open public knowledge. Their astonishing nepotistic self-serving cronyism and appalling genocidal incompetence are now publicised on the world stage – the New York Times are covering it. The Byline Times has produced many articles on it and here’s a BMJ article on it. Obviously you’ll see less about it in the UK media that they own. I trust NOTHING that they say.
I have an old NHS Personal Data Card in front of me with my name on. The first line of the accompanying info says ‘This card contains your key personal NHS employment data, including contract details, occupational health and immunisation records.’ It’s from 2003. You could call it a vaccination passport if you like. It’s not a big deal. ALL NHS workers have to provide evidence of up to date vaccinations and in addition, they have to be Hep B immunised. I’ve never once heard anyone in the NHS complain about it. I think people who deny the value of vaccination are ignorant of its factual history.
Infectious diseases are as old as humanity. The most effective measures against them are the eradication of poverty and provision of clean water and sanitation. Vaccines are a modern adjunct – a miracle of medical science. There are millions of deaths every year from treatable infectious diseases because of poverty.
In case people hadn’t noticed, England is a country with large areas of appalling poverty – over 2000 foodbanks used by nearly 4 million adults. That’s why a lockdown strategy will always struggle in England. There’s no comparison with civilised countries like Denmark. Paradoxically America is closest to England in terms of extensive pockets of poverty. This graph is interesting.
Drug companies are profit based. A lot of them have histories of corruption and covering up their failures. Guess which company has been fined $4,712,210,359 since 2000? It’s astounding. Check this out if you don’t believe me.
When the Covid vaccine was first mooted I was interested but also slightly surprised, because there’s never been a Coronavirus vaccine before despite 2 previous major outbreaks – SARS CoV in 2003 (fatality ~ 10%) and MERS CoV in 2012 (fatality ~ 35%). The obvious starting point for any enquiring mind is to research how they got on with vaccine development for those 2 outbreaks. There are lots of papers out there – here’s just one
One specific reason for the lack of a previous successful vaccine is Antibody-dependent enhancement (also referred to less scientifically as immune enhancement or disease enhancement.) I’m surprised that it hasn’t been talked about much in the scientific debate. In the simplest terms, it’s when immunity to one strain of a disease, often due to a vaccine, results in much worse disease when exposed to another strain of the disease. It’s not a new thing. It’s been around for ages. It’s complicated. Here’s one explanation and here’s a paper in relation to coronavirus.
Probably the most important concept in medicine is the notion of informed consent. It’s imperative that patients are clearly informed of the risks and benefits of any intervention before consenting to it. I believe that this hasn’t happened properly with the Covid vaccine, largely because it’s brand new and hasn’t had the extensive testing (including on animals) that other vaccines have had. There are several unknowns and people should be aware of this. Is there a risk of ADE? Of course there is. There’s not much evidence yet and hopefully it won’t be a problem, but we don’t know yet. The worst example of ADE that I’m aware of relates to the death of around 600 children in the Philippines after receiving a dengue (not a coronavirus) virus vaccine.
Early on, I concluded that we (in the Emergency Department) were in effect exposed to a COVID aerosol. Distancing is nigh on impossible and anything other than full PPE isn’t that protective – it’s obvious that coughing produces the highest risk of transmission – a recent paper in a Guardian article states the obvious. Some of us caught it (thankfully mildly) but some of us didn’t which makes me think that some people have either innate or acquired immunity. This is unfortunately very difficult to research or quantify, because it’s largely dependent on the IgA antibodies of airway mucus membranes + T-cell response. Those who got the illness certainly developed immunity. I personally think it’s highly unethical to persuade someone who already has immunity to have the vaccine, but again that’s just my opinion.
I’ve always thought that PCR testing is one of the biggest scams ever. It’s been administered by private Tory crony companies, without any standardisation or answerability. The test picks up fragments of RNA which is NOT the same as detecting infection or risk of passing on the infection. Here’s a BMJ article
Does the vaccine reduce the risk of transmission to others? We don’t know yet.
I would never try and persuade anyone one way or another in taking the vaccine, but I would encourage them to be satisfied that they’ve had adequate informed consent.
I’m wondering why the government aren’t encouraging everyone to take vitamin D, despite the substantial evidence for it. There’s a lot of interest in ivermectin and a new study on Tocilizumab is promising.
Rock & Roll:
… has taken off.
I shouldn’t be surprised that my 2 lads got into music. They were bombarded with my record collection as kids, then the Artic Monkeys and the like appeared when Sam was 10 and Elias was 12. They were soon playing music and our house was anarchy central throughout their teenagehood and twenties. They formed The Strange and I was their reluctant roadie and general helper. The Jim Jones review played at the Academy in Manchester in March 2010. Coincidentally, The Strange were playing in the little room upstairs at a student organised gig. That was the moment that I realised they were something special – the hairs on my arms stood on end.
It was spiky at times to say the least. I had my own bands to play in – Notsensibles were still going and Vincent Black Lightning were playing regularly. There was lots of potential – Sam wrote the most perceptive visceral lyrics and the music was blistering. It fizzled out when Matt and Tyler went off to university in London in autumn 2011. Just before they went, I tried to record an album for them on the 8-track setup in this room, which is still going strong. There was a sense of urgency to try and capture Tyler’s spectacular drumming and we recorded 15 songs over 2 days on the 7th & 10th September. We got down the drums and live guitar and bass.
Matt and Tyler left for the foul capital soon after and all the interest and incentive was gone. A couple of years ago, I bounced down the drums onto 3 tracks on the first 10 songs and Matt recorded his guitar and that’s as far as we got.
Meanwhile, I’m busy studying dance and Hip-hop and trying to write something different and dancy – I’ve even bought a synth. I have a couple of ideas – I want to finish the song about the over-medicalisation of the human condition by patients and doctors alike and M C Saga keeps snivelling about recording his In Da Nay Bu Hud album.
Tyler put the drums on Sam’s First Thoughts song and Gaz has mastered it. It has lovely complementary shimmery guitars and the double bass.
I recorded Noble Art and M C Saga has gate-crashed with some of his moves and double-bass playing. It was originally called Questionably Sane as a reference to my propensity for twat-tantrums:
Questionably Sane, throws the toys out of his pram again.
Yet another Temper tantrum.
I wanted to record it because of all current interest in the wellbeing of frontline NHS workers. I’ve got it easy because I work part time, but there are still harrowing moments. I wrote it when I was really struggling as a junior doctor.
Oh Noble Noble Art
Save a body and take my soul
Wrap me up and swallow me whole
Oh solo meo
The chairman verse is a reference to being Chairman of t’Allotment Association:
The Chairman negotiates
To save this sorry state
Pigeon fanciers unite
Off my land. Off my land!
My favourite bit of the video is Louise snuffling in the background – completely disinterested and oblivious to the artistic proceedings.
On Saturday, t’support bubble of me, Elias, Sam and Tyler met up to mess about with music. We tried out the new synth and didn’t get a lot done. Afterwards, fortified by robust wines and ales, we reminisced about The Strange and watched loads of old videos. I got the tapes (they’re MD data discs actually) of the album out and we listened to the lot back to back and it sounded awesome – increasingly fortified as the listening progressed, we were enthused about finishing it.
On Monday, Sam came and banged down the vocals for the first 10 songs – he was singing so loud, that there was natural reverb coming from in here and the kitchen.
The second session (5 songs in total) needs the drums bouncing down, then bass, vocals and second guitar. Hopefully we’ll have it done in a couple of weeks. It’s exciting. It would be great to get a reminder of such a special time out there to a wider audience.
It’s the 12 month anniversary of our special punk gig. None of us imagined that it would be our last for the foreseeable future.
When the time comes, we’ll play out of the back of the van – anywhere and everywhere. No Tory fucker is going to tell us what we can and can’t do.