The hive

I’m sitting in the green plastic chair, capturing a transient moment of March sunshine. A bee lands close by on a blade of grass. She is practically motionless apart from gentle prayer-like movements of her front legs. Her back is striped-brown but her belly is bright dappled yellow. It takes more observation to realise why.

Her pollen sacks are full and her yellow undercoat is a dusting of pollen. She has been waggle-danced to an early-flowering rich bush of yellow flowers. I realise she is one of mine. Like me, she is resting. A long grey damp winter, huddling in a cocoon with her comrades has left her without reserve. I know, that like the rest of nature, at this particular moment, no interference or engineering from me is necessary.

The valuable engineering of nature by humans is a gentle observational and intuitive affair. At the right time, it requires massive bursts of clever creation then it requires nothing (although quiet observation is allowed).

For the bee, the work is already done. It was observation and intuition that chose the best place for the elegantly functional raised platform that Sam, James, Bryn and I built. It has the best view of the hills to the east and enjoys the best of the rising sun through to mid afternoon, before the hot sun, should it come, is shaded by an elder.

She knows where the hive is – smack-bang in the centre of that elegant platform. Two minutes becomes ten minutes and we both remain largely motionless. Like her, I too am exhausted. Nobody really understands the waggle-dance or how it works. Mine leads me time and time to this raw rugged plot on this raw rugged hillside with its raw rugged secret beauty.

The seedlings are germinating. The frog spawn is hatching. There is hope in this wonderful place, despite chaos elsewhere. I feel supremely privileged to have it. Now that everything has changed, there are opportunities to reset for the better.

I knew all along that growing food, dove-tailed into a busy life, was a best-kept secret, hid by ultra-obviousness in the midst of ordinariness. Heaven in the ordinary. Now everyone will discover it – ornamental borders will become veg patches world-wide.

People are stockpiling – why wouldn’t they? Even the ultra-thickos know that there will be less opportunity to get out and about soon. Some people are buying for isolated friends and family. But seriously, people buying to sell on, at inflated prices for the sake of profit and greed? Fuck you. Who will look after you when you’re sick? The bankers? The Etonion pricks? The hedge-fund managers? You’re stopping front-line healthcare workers being able to sustain themselves dicktards. As for the cunt who stole the last toilet roll from my sister in law’s shopping trolley – welcome to the register.

We don’t know exactly what the trilli-billi-millionaires are doing, but without a doubt, they will be taking advantage of relaxed governance to protect their own interests and profit from the pandemic. When this shitshow is over, we (the front-liners) will piss on their chips. Take it on the chin Bozo?

As ever on the ranch, there’s the daily short-term stuff: plant; plant; plant, and the longer term infrastructure stuff – finish the greenhouse ffs! I spotted the family of crows on the roof the other day. I was up there yesterday watering the seedlings and I noticed several holes in the poly-tunnel plastic. F’ing arseholes – the crows have done it! I can see their pin-prick talon holes next to 2 or 3cm punched holes. The roof has survived the winter gales and now the crows have fucked it! Are they malicious? I’ve read too many Castaneda books to think of harming them. Corvus Corone – how apt. There’s a subliminal lesson there somewhere.

I’m doing precisely what I’ve always done – i.e. building a system not dependent on the gripping vice-greed of the ultra-rich. I’m just a bit more focused on mitigating for the imminent lock-down and economic collapse. I’ve been stocking up on building materials and so on. In the sleepless harrowing nights of the last couple of weeks, my anxiety has been presciently purposeful. I have been planning and planning then acting on those plans.

As above, so below has become more achingly poignant than ever. Lessons from the ranch are lessons from life. Will I get it? Of course I will. The only question is when and how bad.

Holes pecked in greenhouse roof by pesky crows
View from buffoon's gallery

Here are some facts that I understand to be correct with a focus on the science. I became a scientist by accident. Like Withnall, I have stumbled in a haze, swaying so difficultly for so long, but I’m here now – two science degrees and inside and outside information from the front line.

  1. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 has been studied in great detail and provides a retrospective blueprint and a great source of information for epidemiologists and virologists. The first case was in Kansas – it got the name Spanish because Spain was neutral during the first world war and was the only country with a free independent press to report the pandemic. America is great again, so they’re not to going tell us that bit.
  2. Several other pandemics have been equally studied by ‘proper’ experts. The ability to create computer modelling of pandemics was available before coronavirus. Check out the latest from Imperial College here.
  3. There is excellent recent scientific evidence regarding the characteristics of coronavirus, made available to us initially by brave Chinese doctors. The Chinese have abandoned the secrecy surrounding previous epidemics in their country. The evidence was published in the UK’s most prestigious medical journal on 15th Feb (first published elsewhere 24th Jan) – it’s here and here’s another from the 11th March.
  4. In the above study the commonest co-morbidity in cases resulting in death was hypertension. The second was diabetes.
  5. The severity of the illness correlates with the virility and volume of the infecting dose – a bigger dose results in more severe illness. The virus is thought to have an asymptomatic incubation period of between two and fourteen days. It IS transmissible during this phase – hence the exponential deaths in places like Italy. COMPLETE isolation is the ONLY way to slow the spread. That doesn’t necessarily mean not going out into the fresh air, so long as you stay away from other people and don’t touch anything that could have been touched by other people. Going to the pub for the last time for a big blow-out before the pubs shut for good? People WILL die as a result. I can understand the reasoning, but how short-sighted. Why can’t people look at the facts and see the enormity of what’s coming?
  6. Health workers treating the illness are in one of the highest risk groups for catching and transmitting the virus (currently 10% of cases in Italy, 25% in Ireland).
  7. The science has NOT changed. Along with the accounts and detailed advice from Chinese and Italian doctors and the WHO, the best information has been available for some time.
  8. The government has NOT fully followed the advice of the experts.
  9. The government are now starting to heed expert advice and are working very hard but why no widespread testing of healthcare workers when there are UK firms ready and able to manufacture testing kits? I know it’s complicated – sensitivity and specificity and all that, but testing is at the forefront of success in other countries.
  10. The government’s advice (it’s here on page 24/49) is negligent (criminally so in my opinion) in not classing emergency departments as high risk units along with ICUs, ITUs and HDUs. Patients who are sick with coronavirus are brought in (before definitive diagnosis) wearing a flimsy surgical mask. Their coughing is just as risky as any aerosol generating procedure meaning that in the designated Hot zone ALL staff should be wearing full PPE at ALL times like in China and Italy.
  11. Take vitamin D supplements. Whiteys, in the cold dark North are white for a good evolutionary reason – learn more here. Eat well – fresh fruit & veg etc. Stop smoking.
Imperial college report

I’m struggling to see the screen. My specs and visor are steaming up. This patient is sick. Really sick. Her chest x-ray later shows bilateral infiltrative pneumonia. She’s peripherally shut down so I’m having to use the ultrasound machine to find a vein. It’s extremely difficult. My gloves are covered in ultrasound gel and I’m struggling to grip the venflon. I’m wearing full PPE. I insisted on doing so. At the time, other staff are wearing plastic aprons, surgical masks and gloves.

Outside, I take off the gowns and gloves (directed by a lovely sister who guides me in doing it correctly). My scrubs are soaking wet. In the shower, I’m a bit shell-shocked.

Back home, the crushing aloneness hits when I walk into the empty house. I’m self-isolating as much as possible. So much of the last couple of weeks has been about difficult decision making. Forcing Louise and Rachel to move up the road to Lesley’s has been the hardest. They don’t see what I see. I know it’s for the best (of the worst). There’s some comfort in the quiet frugality.

It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. I never guessed how prescient documenting the year prospectively would be. I’ve never wanted to be a writer. It just happens. It flows out and I can’t stop until I’ve finished. One of the inspirations for doing it this way was hearing how Dickens serialised some of his novels in a newspaper before publishing them.

The situation is bringing out the best and the worst in people. My best isn’t good enough and my worst haunts me in a night’s sleeplessness when I muse with brutal precision over the cunt who stole the toilet roll.

Tadpoles hatched in the well, and a view over my town.