The Ranch:

High gardening season has crept up quietly. Now, with a few exceptions (beans and squashes) it’s time to plant, plant, plant.

I have at least one gardening delusion of grandeur a year, and this year it was buying seeds. Lot’s of them. far more than I can grow myself.

There is some method behind the buffoonery. Firstly, I intuited that organic and open-pollinated seeds would become extremely popular and sell out quickly. This has come to pass and now Real Seeds are opening briefly once a week and not taking on any new customers. Their seeds are particularly interesting, because they’re bred specifically for small gardeners, unlike the overseas mass-produced seeds sold in supermarkets and garden centres. There’s a big increase in seed-saving and swapping.

I have a notion to distribute them to other (sometimes reluctant) gardeners, to help grow the increasing network of small local food growers. It’s sort of working out. Mog is starting off a load of tomatoes, broad beans and chillis on her warm windowsill, and she’ll get all the seeds and plants that she needs for her garden. I’ve sent some to Fenny’s son Alex and given a load to my neighbour Chris. I’ve given Bruce a bag of Centurion onion sets that can just be plonked in the ground.



I’ve always been able to keep my weight at bay by balancing heavy exercise on the ranch, but I’ve lost the equilibrium and no matter what I do, it’s creeping up.

I’ve therefore re-introduced the spectacularly stupid pass-time of mixing large quantities of concrete by hand. (I have mixers.)

In celebration of the schools re-re-opening (and twats in twatmobiles using our potholey front street as a shortcut), I’ve given myself a hundred lines: I must not start another project, before finishing the hundred other unfinished ones.

It’s no use. I just can’t help myself. I’ve started building a road. That’s right. A road.

Here’s how my slippery mind plays its tricks: ‘There’s no point increasing productivity if I can’t get a vehicle onto the field due to the mud.’ ‘What’s the point of putting up a polytunnel if I can’t get a vehicle to it.’ 

I’ve started with 2 side-strips requiring four mixes, and I still haven’t lost any weight.

Building a road


I’ve improved my bricklaying immensely by doing what I should have done right at the beginning and building a a vertical guide-frame around the latest in the long legacy of unfinished sheds.

I’ve also finished my triple compost suite that I started a lifetime ago. I’m hoping to start making compost instead of just putting on a layer of fresh woodchip manure, which is what I’ve been doing successfully for years.

The new greenhouse is a thrill. The 12v irrigation system that I’ve designed works. A small Lithium battery powers a pump via a timer which fills the 100l tank in the roof. I was apprehensive whether it would pump 4m high, but it’s fine. I can recharge the battery via the solar system. Once I’ve finished the off-grid substation in the field, the greenhouse will have its own power supply.

Despite the fleeting delusions of gardening grandeur, I realise that I’m a little and often person and that will never change. If I double my production, then I’ll have to double my watering and maintenance which I can’t do. It’s interesting trying to improve efficiency and trade produce for labour.

Yet another unfinished shed


I rarely go down town these days. I’ve lost all interest and it’s dead anyway. I needed to go last week to buy some big gravel trays – my gardening method is based on growing several big healthy plants in trays before planting out. I use very few plant pots.

Louise asked me to get some bread at Oddies. When I got there, there was a BFQ. I don’t do queues, so I returned breadless. What better incentive for baking attempt no. 4 to mitigate the bollocking? (‘I don’t like your bread – it’s shit. I want Oddies bread.’)

Number three was almost successful. The dough rose beautifully in front of the stove, but then it sank again when I transferred it from the plastic bowl to the oven. This time around, I put the dough in a cast-iron casserole dish and put the whole lot into the warmed oven. I added a bit of my own rye flower and poppy seeds to the mix and it turned out very well.

I’m a great believer in little coincidences, omens, threads of serendipity – call them what you will. At the precise moment that I started making the bread, a programme came on radio 4 called Slow Rise all about making bread. It started by talking about Jewish unleavened bread then went on to describe the commercial method of making bread quickly by using various improvers first perfected in Chorley. Even more of an incentive to DIY. We have lots of flour from that time when I incorrectly predicted a food shortage apocalypse at the beginning of lockdown 1.

I’ve also perfected a way of mixing it without getting gunk all over my hands and flour all over my feet – I start by mixing it with a wooden spoon, then I sprinkle flour on my hands to knead it. I can do the whole lot in 15 minutes.

A few other people at work are getting into it and we’ve been going micro-viral on Twitter.

Bread attempt No4


The other ranch and story by proxy:

The other ranch is sweet.

We’re the lucky one’s. Burgo and I were talking about it at handover the other day. We have a good secure income. A great camaraderie and relative protection from the virus and maybe even a scrap of pandemic cudos. There have been sightings of colleagues hugging each other – don’t tell the rozzers.

I feel sorry for my lovely Irish colleagues – they’re desperate to see their families – I’ve no idea why so many of them chose to work in The Dirty Old Town, but I’m glad that they did. I used to wish that I was Scottish (because they gave me a chance when no-one else would, and they were so kind to us when we were in St Andrews). At least my mum was half Scottish, but I have no chance with the Irish genes (although Louise’s maiden name is Downes which she thinks might be of Irish origin).

Tony reckons that a lot of Irish medics will go home when they can. He explained that those who choose to work in the UK (as opposed to Australia or New Zealand), do so because they can get home quickly.

I heard that it’s perfectly legal to start an ‘essential’ company for a small fee, then be able to travel and stay in hotels legitimately. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult for a bunch of Irish medics to start an essential company.

Triple compost bins


When I wrote the book, I borrowed from George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying which is about the struggle between doing what you love vs doing a shit job in order to be able to survive. My song Good Job, Proper Job is inspired by it. I hasten to add that my job is a great job, but a choice based on 20 yrs of hard grind. 

Karl Eden gave me a copy, but I never read it, because I felt that it would spoil my impression of the central theme. That’s what I mean by a story by proxy.

A lot of people at work have been talking about It’s a Sin which deals with the AIDS pandemic. Louise has watched it, but for the same reason, I haven’t. They describe particularly harrowing scenes of young men dying alone and their families barred from seeing them.

During a conversation with Erin about it, she asks whether we will look back at the way we have done the same during the pandemic and realise that we got it wrong.

Since the beginning, personally, I’ve never has a shred of doubt that we’ve got it wrong on so many different levels. Things have largely been dictated by the government’s (utterly corrupt) agenda, but we all have individual moral responsibility.

I’ve been searching for a historical comparison and I honestly can’t think of one since Europe in the second world war. What mind-boggling societal cruelty have we endorsed?

I just consider myself lucky and at least I work at a place where, as senior medical staff, we can still use common sense in the name of compassion.

If one of my close family was sick with COVID, I would do ANYTHING to be by their side if needed – I’d smash doors down with an axe and raise an army if need be. Again I hasten to add that it’s now much better and families are allowed in with their loved ones, but that certainly wasn’t the case at the beginning.



Innate immunity:

As ever, I keep trying to make sense of the science and as ever, it’s a mind-boggling morass.

The scientific gold standard is a double-blind randomised control trial, but these take a long time. Driven by necessity, COVID science is rapidly conducted and some of the safeguards such as stringent peer review, simply aren’t happening.

Social media is a minefield made much worse by SMWs who have no experience whatsoever of healthcare and the relevant medical sciences.

I’ve mitigated this by adopting a ’20 year rule’ when looking for factual information. I filter out everyone who hasn’t had at least 20 years front-line experiences in their field of expertise. I then pick a handful of sources which I hope are reliable (such as the reputable journals and the ONS). Right from the beginning, I’ve said that PCR testing is a total waste of time in asymptomatic people and I’ve previously explained why. Now the science is agreeing and the astronomical crime of the Test and Trace shambles is being more widely exposed. This is public money and people have the right to know the truth. The money that they’ve stolen and aquandered would cover a massive pay rise for all key workers. The most reliable info is that which comes directly from medical staff, so I think hospital and ITU admissions and deaths are reasonably accurate proxy markers.

Imperial College are doing a study, inoculating up to 90 healthy volunteers with COVID, then mapping their immune response, viral shedding and so on. After the initial phase, vaccines will be given to some of the candidates.

It’s a shame that the experiment of inoculating 30 000 plus with the virus, aged 18 to 67 wasn’t better anticipated and planned. (it’s called working in an Emergency Department). Sadly, over a 1000 of them have died so far. It could have revealed a vast amount of information – mapping age, gender, BMI, ethnicity and so on against initial immune response, and subsequently against vaccine response.

I’m utterly convinced that during the last 12 months, we (emergency department workers) have all been exposed to high viral loads – I certainly have. A lot of us have had COVID – thankfully mildly, but a lot haven’t. I can only conclude from that, that some of us have innate immunity.

It’s well known that all respiratory pathogens gain access through the nasopharyngeal mucosa, and that IgA plays a crucial role, There’s much less research available on the role of IgA in COVID, compared to IgG and IgM.

I’ve very interested in how vaccination might modify innate immunity – particularly in those who have had COVID. There’s lots of talk about Antibody Dependent Enhancement and Immune Evasion. The Catch 22 is that it’s just too early to know how this might pan out – there just isn’t any evidence yet.

Innate immunity is strengthened through good diet, exercise and above all, mixing with other humans – that’s one of the big lockdown paradoxes.

There certainly is a lot of decent research on Ivermectin, to the extent that around 22% of the world’s population are using it, with the endorsement of several governments. It’s being used successfully both for prevention and treatment. I wonder why our govt & their MSM aren’t talking about it? It was originally manufactured by Merck  but it’s now off patent and cheap as chips to make – a couple of pence a dose. Merck have entered into partnership with Johnson and Johnson to manufacture a new COVID vaccine, which is already widely available in America.

It’s interesting to observe that 9 countries have suspended the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, pending investigation of thrombotic events. Common things are common, so it’s very difficult to tease out causality and coincidence. I personally think that side affects, particular 2 weeks + post-vaccine, are much more common than being reported, but that’s just my opinion.

Starry night in New York


Starry Night:

The picture wasn’t as big as I’d anticipated, but magical nonetheless. A lady security guard was telling its story. I’d come to America by accident and I was on my own in the museum. I should have come earlier, but we’d postponed it because my dad died. I was inspired by the magical weekend where all those cool Americans came. I came to see Khany. I would have visited Emma too, but she was in England.

The picture is in the collective consciousness, due in a large part to Don McLean’s song.

Starry starry night 
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that see the darkness in my soul

Louise and I go to Aldi for some of those compacted log things. As usual I sit in the car – I’m not good with supermarkets.

I have the radio on and a man and lady are talking with great love about their sons. It takes a while for it to dawn that both have lost theirs to suicide as young men in their 20s. With great dignity and harrowing detail they talk about the funerals. The man mentions choosing Don McLean’s song. The lady says that she always thinks of the line: This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

Louise returns with the logs. ‘Are you going to help me or what? These things are f’ing heavy.’ Burnley boys don’t cry.

I listen to the song again when we get home. Oh what a masterpiece of exquisite beauty.

I have to zap a SMW who I’ve known a long time, for trying to argue that there isn’t a mental health crisis related to the pandemic.

Our attendances have hugely increased. Our mental health service is overwhelmed. Suicide attempts are up. Suicides are up. The collateral damage from lockdowns must surely be immense.

Frida and I


Rock and Roll:

… quietly potters on. We’re slowly finishing the Strange album. We did the first mix of the first 8 tracks (there are 16 in total from two different days of recording). It takes several listens to realise that one track stands out head and shoulders above the others. The recording and mixing are identical, but for some reason it sounds louder and better than the others. I’m making a video of it to promote the album. That’s one of the joys of recording. You can hear a recording hundreds of times before realising that there’s something special about a particular track. There’s also a track on the second session that stands out – it’s a one minute thirty-five second pop song that they never played live. 

I’m doing a spot at The Continental in Preston in August, all being well. It’s already sold out. The Strange are doing it too. There’ll be more gigs – certainly a word of mouth one on the ranch.

My Australian friend Paula and Mike have very kindly included me in their March edition of The Sonny Michael’s show which goes out next week.


Preston pop festival