Ranch:

I feel so grateful to live on the edge of a big park, with a wonderful Elizabethan Hall and museum at its centre. I often walk through, as a circuitous route to the ranch. It’s definitely a lot busier during the pandemic. The cafe is still open as a takeaway and dog walkers go in swarms. There’s a tree stump on the top path where people put food for the squirrels – it’s my land mark for cutting leftwards, Narnia-like, onto the more secretive pitch and putt course. I used to take the dog on there a lot.

On Monday morning, we shifted 5000 litres of compost up the hill – 2500 for us and 2500 for Andy.

It was wet wet wet. The ranch and track were extremely muddy. Esme, Sam and I painstakingly shovelled it into bags from the big square 1 tonne sacks, then drove it up the hill and emptied it back into the sacks so that we could use the bags again.

We did it a lot quicker than I anticipated and now we have enough compost for next season.

I’m getting a regular supply of spicy salad leaves from the greenhouse and I’ve made a wider, safer less steep ladder.

We talked seriously about starting a proper market gardening business. I’ve been mumbling about it for yonks. The time is ripe. I’ve measured up for a 4 x 14 metre polytunnel.

Dave and Lisa came on Friday and I taught them hedge-laying in about 5 minutes. Dave confided that he’s buying a matching cagoule, cardigan and slippers set for Lisa for Christmas – I don’t think he realises the potential danger of a frying pan to the back of the head.

In a sea of wet winter grey, there’s an apple tree flowering.

Compost

 

Last week, I reported my first bread-making attempt – disastrous from start to finish.

This week, I had another cooking attempt – again disastrous. I love hash browns and fried up left over mashed potato, so I decided to make a type of hybrid, using stuff that I’d grown myself (apart from flax seeds and salt).

One of the realities of growing your own potatoes is that you end up with loads of piddly tiny ones – Louise hates them, because they’re a nuisance to scrub and certainly aren’t worth peeling.

I ground a bit of rye into flour in the coffee grinder then added chopped piddlers, onion, salt, poppy seeds and ground flax seeds. I blitzed it in a blender, ending up with a grey slop resembling dog sick. I thought the flax seeds might help to firm it up, but they didn’t. I fried a bit and it tasted like …… dog sick. 

I must persevere. The notion of living off my own clean home-grown food becomes ever more appealing as things go tits up elsewhere.

Dog sick?

 

Trippy Tuesday

I never got round to taking acid. I just didn’t fancy it. My suspicion-is-my-middle-name self just didn’t trust it. I know lots of people who have taken it though and I know a couple of so-called Acid casualties too. I’ve heard loads of accounts of ‘bad trips’. It’s sad that Peter Green’s and Syd Barrett’s career’s were cut short by it.

I did take mushrooms a couple of times many years ago in my late teens. The first time was at a party at Trafalgar flats. I remember Helen was in fancy dress as a cat. As the shrooms took effect, she become more lovely and jolly and cat-like. It’s as if I got a deeper glimpse into people’s true nature. Conversely, there was a dodgy character who I didn’t like. I swear that I became almost telepathic and he sensed me looking at him. The second time, I was just sick.

On trippy Tuesday, I see  Matt Handcock blubbering on Breakfast at the sight of William Shakespeare – that stalwart of English rapier wit – getting the first of the Pfizer vaccines. You couldn’t make it up. It was like a badly made North Korean propaganda film. Handcock – what a vile vile fatuous facile patronising prince of pricks. Some of his contracts awarded to his dodgy Tory mates beggar belief. There are lots of stories in the press. Check out this Chumocracy one here.

New ladder for greenhouse

 

I’m in the resusc room, when a couple of Laurel and Hardyesque characters march in. Stan is looking nervous and Ollie is in high heels.

There’s a door leading to another place.

‘How come the door to the psychedelic hot zone is open?’

‘How come those two computers aren’t two light years apart?’

I’m in charge, but my answers are coming out all wrong against my will.

‘Fuck off and make an appointment with my secretary rude ****.’

All of a sudden the resusc room expands to twice its usual size, like Alice in Wonderland. All the computers become exactly two metres apart. A girl with pigtails is measuring the gap with a DVT tape measure.

I wake up drenched in sweat – it was all a dream. I drift off again and I’m back in wonderland.

 

Christmas tree

 

This time, a bunch of bedraggled, battle-weary troops wearing scrubs, are handed a golden parchment by the Chief of Menschen. They’re 9 months into an arduous, relentless campaign and are exhausted and demoralised.

There are seven commandments etched into the parchment, saying that if the troops dance twice round the Maypole, holding hands, without their gas masks on, they will achieve freedom and emancipation and will be sent home (without pay).

They aren’t bothered about the pay. They cavort with joy and are immediately whisked away.

The front line is left abandoned and the enemy creeps in like an invisible disease. Richard E Grant is there, saying my favourite line from W&I, over and over again.

The astonishing pinnacles of tactless patronising condescension by people who know fuck all about the front line are sometimes more surreal than any trippy dream.

Tree stump

 

The reality and the paradox of emergency departments, is that despite taking meticulous care to protect patients, social distancing between staff is nigh on impossible. This means that since the beginning of the pandemic, we have probably had more constant exposure to the virus than any other group of people. Quite a lot of us have had Covid, but a lot of us haven’t and I’m wondering why.

This brings me onto the vaccine. Clean water aside, vaccination is probably the greatest miracle of modern medicine, saving countless millions of lives. Just about everyone knows now that vaccine comes from the Latin for cow, after Edward Jenner noted that the milder cowpox gave protection against smallpox. On 14th May 1796, he inoculated a boy with fluid from cowpox blisters and subsequently inoculated him with smallpox. No disease developed. Jenner went on to spend his life eradicating smallpox.

There aren’t many people around now who remember kids at school wearing leg calipers. What do Ian Dury and vaccination (or lack of it) have in common? I love his tribute to Vincent Eugene Craddock.

Skinny white sailor, the chances were slender
The beauties were brief
Shall I mourn you decline with some thunderbird wine
And a black handkerchief?
I miss your sad Virginia whisper
I miss the voice that called my heart
Sweet Gene Vincent
Young and old and gone
Sweet Gene Vincent
Who, who, who slapped John?
 
Dury had polio, a particularly horrible life-fucking disease caused by a virus which is now eradicated in most of the world (except for parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan) by a vaccine.
 
The term anti-vaxxer is now widely bandied about. To be clear, in my opinion, anyone who actually denies the value and efficacy of vaccination is a knob. Most medical people have no time for anti-vaxxers. For a start, testing and vaccination for Hep B is mandatory for all medical staff. However, sensibly trying to evaluate the science and scrutinising the profiteering motives of governments is NOT the same as being an anti-vaxxer.

 

Apple tree flowering in Decemeber

 

Covid is the most contagious disease that I’ve ever had the experience of dealing with – far more infectious than flu.

In A&E, despite our best efforts, a lot of us have had sustained exposure to it. How come we don’t all get it? The only plausible answer that I can think of, is that some of us have innate immunity to it. Those who have had it also must have some immunity. Could this be similar to any other immunity generated by our immune systems – i.e. lasting ten to fifteen years or lifelong?

Vaccine trials typically take around ten years and one of the main reasons that the Covid one has come about so quickly is that a lot of the usual red tape and bureaucracy has been bypassed. This means that there has been no long term observation, so certain questions can’t be answered yet. Is it safe for pregnant women and their babies? (It’s not currently recommended for pregnant women.) Is it safe to breast feed? Could it affect fertility? Is it safe for those who have already mounted their own successful immune response to it? The simple answer is that no-one knows. There’s no evidence yet.

The notion of informed consent is central to everything that we do in medicine. We are duty-bound to inform patients of the potential risks and side effects of any intervention and I personally don’t think we’re doing that as well as we might. To not inform patients of potential risks is criminal. There’s no doubt that the vaccine is a magical thing and I think that it should be given to the vulnerable as soon as possible. I also think that it’s imperative that enough people continue to impartially evaluate the science. Also, we have to remember that drug companies are profit driven and a lot of them, including Pfizer have been fined for serious corruption – check out this Reuters article.

I’m still stunned with quiet incredulity that people just sit and watch as England sinks, at the hands of corrupt politicians. It feels like a house of cards is about to come tumbling down in January. Bad trip man. Christmas tree butt plugs have all sold out, after the Tories and their mates bought them all up.

 

Van

 

Wheels

Our beautiful old van sits rusting outside the house. I haven’t started it for weeks. I’m sad that it has to go, but it’s just not practical to keep. On Saturday, I suggested to Louise that we have a quick spin up the park and the next thing, we’re in Hebden Bridge. Over the top roads, with effortless ease, like a mountain goat, running like a dream. We called on Ticker, then went in the Co-Op and looked round the town.

It was heaving – lots of caf├ęs selling takeaways. A Christmas market and street food. A giant Christmas tree in the square and a girl busking. She was outstanding – playing a Tele in an unusual finger style, singing Christmas songs with an exquisite voice.

Poor old Burnley doesn’t quite have the same feel.

 

Undertones - Teenage Kicks
Undertones - Teenage Kicks back

Rock & Roll

Erin and I were having a deep sensible conversation about the vaccine. (Might there be unknown risks to women of child-bearing age? Might she not be able to go back to Ireland to see her mummy and daddy without it?) There’s something enormously valuable in these difficult times, in being able to converse face to face with someone with such a positive outlook, who’s on the same wavelength, even if we are wearing masks.

I completely forgot to tell her this week’s Irish punk anecdote.

I know a bloke called Gary Fahey from Belfast who is mega into punk and has released lots of Irish punk singles. He does a radio show and Gaz, Eamonn and I recorded a session for him a couple of years ago.

He rang me last Friday, kindly asking me to go on his radio show. He’s also interested in releasing the first version of Notsensibles Instant Classic.

We got to talking about our respective experiences of The Undertones Teenage Kicks single. I bought it when it came out and the sleeve is pretty tatty now. There’s the famous John Peel story. He was moved to tears when he first heard it on his car radio and had to pull over to listen to it.

When I made the recruitment film, I included a clip of my 60s record player and a pile of singles, as a metaphor for work, life balance. It was particularly important to include Teenage Kicks, as a reference to The Derry Girls. Eimhear, Hornshaw and Erin are kind of our equivalent to The Derry Girls, then there’s the simpering gormless English boy twit. 

It appeared at the end of the clip, and it never occurred to me that it had rude words on it. Someone spotted it and I had to edit it out. There’ll still just a glimpse of the edge of it without the writing.

Gary’s story is that he used to sell his dinner tickets at school to save up and buy singles. He too bought Teenage Kicks. One day, he went up to his bedroom to find that the back of his single sleeve had been torn off by his dad. 

We also talked about the Irish punk scene – Good Vibrations and bands like Rudi

 

Old drum kit

 

Family counts for everything. My heart aches for those trapped in loneliness. Our Christmas tree looks sweet. A little oasis of prettyness in the grey winter.

We’ve done more drum kit juggling and my old faithful small black one is back here. Two drum kits are important in an extended family of musos – three if you include Tyler’s.

We’re just ticking over with our Friday night music nights mainly jamming about. 

Sam had me in fits of laughter over his piss-taking of my songs.

‘Do you remember George’s Brother from playing it at the punk gig?’

‘Remember it?! I’ve still got PTSD from playing it.’

He then proceeds to do hilarious Mongolian throat-singing and Les Dawson style guitar twiddling over the top of it.

I’m noticing that I’m getting censored on social media. Maybe I’m triggering their weird algorithms? There’s a subscribe button right at the bottom of the page on mobiles and on the right hand side on computers, for anyone who wants to get the blogs regularly, before I share them on social media. 

I’m feeling that the Notsensibleness is all washed out of me in these difficult times. I have succumbed to cagoules, cardigans and slippers. I have of late wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth. Facile childishness has lost its appeal.

I wish I could say the same for M C Saga, our inadvertent lodger.