Winter Morning Car Ritual

January 5, 2022

A few degrees below freezing and there is a crisp layer of frost on my car, parked outside. I went out to the car and used my key-press to unlock the doors. I heard the sound of the locks moving, yet when I reached for the driver’s door, I could not pull it open. I tried getting my finger round the top edge to give it a little pull, but that did not do the trick.

I therefore resorted to a technique sometimes used by one of my previous neighbours; I boiled a kettle of water and began to pour this over the outside of the door frames (see below). Hey presto! One by one, I was able to open them. I also sloshed a bit over the front windscreen and that worked, too.

Perhaps I should share a secret with you that will help you understand what is going on in the picture. I happen to be able to transmogrify myself into a giant, at a moment’s notice. Here you see my giant-sized hand pouring a giant’s kettle of water over the car doors.

Anyway, once inside the car, I was faced with loads of condensation on the inside of the windscreen. I fetched a roll of kitchen towel from the boot which I began to apply and mopped it off as best I could. I had the car engine running and aimed the blower to the screen. Usually it takes a good 10 minutes to dry out completely and to get a good clear screen through which to peer, once on the road.

Sometimes, I sit in my hat and coat and read a book. I recently bought a dehumidifier bag that can be placed on the dash board. To dry it out, when it has stopped working, you put it in the microwave for 3 minutes and that is supposed to revitalise it. I have to say that mine doesn’t seem to be coping with the huge amount of condensation that my car generates. So far, it is rather disappointing.

I think I have to think of a way to construe the kettle ritual as not being a hassle. I suppose reading the current novel or listening to music on the car radio does help. In future I could make a cup of coffee and take that out to the car with me. Why not munch my way through a slice of toast & marmalade, too? Turn the whole thing into a little breakfast.

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

The Joy of Mask-Wearing

December 31, 2021

I recently bought a bog-standard supply of masks to use when out of the house, mainly on the occasional trip to the supermarket. Indeed, a few months ago I had started to venture onto the metro for visits to a nearby city (it has a half-decent bookshop) but omicron has pushed me firmly back into my shell on that score. Still, I wondered whether the addition of a piece of artwork might make the masks less bland. The above pic is my first attempt. It is possible that the red lips has rendered it to be a tad androgynous. I suppose I could counter that by imagining myself as one of the Three Masketeers!

Sorry for not posting on this blog since October 2020. My friends Aliumaura gave me for Christmas a delightful little book by the wonderful J.B. Priestley (illustrated by his great-granddaughter, Tabby Wykeham). I love her style of illustration and the book has inspired me to take up blogging, once more. Hopefully my illustrations will improve as time goes by.

Speaking of time, I realise that today is New Year’s Eve. May I wish y’all a Happy Hogmanay. I usually make a point of retiring to bed early with a good book (nothing too serious or literary in nature). The idea of going into the City of Drunken Revelry makes my flesh crawl! And I regret that I am no longer even tempted by ‘Jools Annual Hootenanny’ on English BBC TV Channel 2 (the thought of which, not to put too fine a point on it, has me wanting to barf up my cookies, as my dear, deceased friend Gerry from Toronto used to put it).

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles!

Week #32 of Shielding from Covid-19

October 20, 2020

I understand that the English government now requires me to think of myself as ‘shielding‘. The term ”Self-Isolation’ is to be deployed only in cases where symptoms of Covid-19 exist. I don’t like the term ‘shielding‘. It conjures up the image of knights in shining armour. Incidentally, when I first heard the hit song ‘Nights in White Satin‘ by The Moody Blues (circa 1967), the image of ‘knights’ in white satin came to mind. Having made this step I was irrevocably drawn to the conclusion that, at a deep level, the song was somehow about contraception. From that moment on, I couldn’t help laughing whenever I heard it or, even worse, heard it playing in my head. Thus folk would stare at me quizzically when, in social situations, my face betrayed amusement; this was especially the case where things were otherwise serious and demanded a certain measure of gravitas.

Be that as it may [and what a handy literarary gobbet that is for bloggers manqué], I shall retain the TLA (Three Letter Acronym) of VSI for what I call Voluntary Self-Isolation. VSI is laden with meaning and has every right to be regarded as a phrase of the highest rank within the pale of the Covid-19 language game (thank you, Mr. Wittgenstein).

I am pissed off with the October update Microsoft recently imposed on Windows 10 users. I am now unable to use my Wacom tablet for my digital graphics drawing either on my desktop PC or on my laptop. Furthermore, I think it is more than a coincidence that my PC now seldom completes its start-up procedure. Sometimes it takes me around 15-20 minutes dancing on the starter button. Occasionally it almost starts, only to freeze at the last moment. I have devined no logical rule to the start presses that will guarantee success.

I am pissed off with Steinberg, the company that makes the CUBASE digital audio workstation software. They did an update about 6 months ago and my program has stopped working properly. I can no longer use the music notation part of the package to compose my song tunes and arrangements. I put in a ticket and all I have got back from them is an email telling me that they have been inundated with queries.

One way or another I have been feeling very fed-up lately. However, it seems to me that being fed up is something that is best kept to oneself in these times of VSI. Other people really do not want to know about it, especially if they are higher in the entitlement to fed-upness rank order. Perhaps one should self apply the hackneyed addage: ‘suck it up, buttercup’. By the way, I believe ‘buttercup’ does bugger-all here, other than to provide a rhyme to the preceding phrase; it is an example of lyrical laziness.

Fed-upness should perhaps be recast as ‘feduppity’. Perhaps one has to possess the right to express feelings of fed-upness. So, this particular emotion should not only be distinguished from that of depression but also admitted to the domain of ethics. Let me proclaim:
Feelings of fed-upness may only be expressed by those possessing the right to such expression, within the given time and place of the situation.

Alone and out of earshot anything can be said, howled or shouted in whatever manner gives satisfaction. Examples of ideal locations abound: alone on a beach (with an off-shore wind prevailing); alone while driving one’s car (with windows shut) on an empty highway; to oneself within the privacy of one’s own mind ~ anywhere you like. Lest the latter example provide the reader with an ideal get out, one must remember that in such situations the individual may become so caught up in the process that his or her caterwauling might inadvertently slip out into public domain. Anyway, my point is that a person in solitude has the right to express fed-upness.

Within small social groups (such as the conventional family or, perhaps, a small platoon in the army), there may be a pecking order in terms of the right to express fed-upness. Particular individuals may collar this right for their own exclusive use. If they do this without good reason they risk the chance that they will be automatically defined as the local moaner in situ. In other words, there is a correlation between one’s rank in the pecking order to express fed-upness and the likelihood of being crowned the King/Queen Moaner in situ. It may be noted that the person occupying Rank #1 in Feduppityness cannot avoid the Moaner crown; it comes with the territory.

Of course, where the members of the small group are dispersed separately across a variety of other groups on a day-to-day basis, the impact of any one of these groups will be diluted in proportion to its general importance. The implications of this for the Covid-19 situation hardly need to be spelled out. Under VSI/Shielding virtually all face-to-face social interaction takes place within the household bubble. My analysis is therefore highly pertinent to those inhabiting bubbles of this nature.

I now move on to say a few words about individuals who might habitually fall to the bottom of the Feduppity rank order. Indeed, they may even collar that position as others may collar Rank #1. Such individuals will automatically be crowned as the bubble’s Saint. One will seldom hear a negative word pass the Saint’s lips. The Saint will arise early and, in a dish-washer-less kitchen, sort out the clumsily stacked mound of dirty dishes precariously balanced atop the washing-up bowl, in unstable equilibrium. Once washed, dried and put away, cups of tea will be brewed on demand and sandwiches made, if requested. The Saint, as domestic servant will serve without complaint. An everlasting smile lies beneath his or her skin to be switched on in a trice. And upon his or her gravestone will be inscribed the epitaph: ‘Never Knowingly Complained‘.

Finally, I should say a little about myself in regard to all this. Although I do have a side that aspires to Sainthood, I have to acknowledge that I can sometimes be moody; some might even say that I am a Grumpy Old Man (as epitomised by the character of Victor Meldrew in the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave, played by the actor Richard Wilson). I would say that I yo-yo up and down the scale in bipolar fashion, falling short of Sainthood by quite some distance.

On this note, I will sign off. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

Week 30 of Self-Isolation in Covid-19

October 7, 2020

Blogging Through Covid-19

For one reason or another I have been in Voluntary Self-Isolation (VSI) since the start of the pandemic. In part this is due to my age; I am over 75. Members of my household are also self-isolating (either we all do it or nobody does). I have recently had the feeling that somehow I am becoming different to what I think of as my usual self, although I have found it difficult to articulate precisely how so. Today I recalled some of the books I read, back in the 1970s/80s, I think, written by the Oxford philosopher Rom Harré. Perhaps I should say that I retired from academic life back in 2006 and have not read much psychology or philosophy since then. I may have misremembered this material or otherwise have gotten it wrong, but I shall let my mind wander back to that time to see if that helps me understand what is happening to me now, in my 30th week of VSI.

At one time I think Harré defined the concept of person as the sum total of his or her speech acts. A speech act is something that occurs in the here and now of the present moment and, generally speaking, will have been directed to other persons present. I would roll with that and introduce the notion of Quasi-Speech-Acts (QSA) to include things said on the phone, words written in letters (and latterly emails), and so forth. If the consumption of fictional material is included and if I, the viewer or reader of said material, manage to achieve the suspension of disbelief, it is possible that these speech acts may even count as Wobbly QSAs (if you will forgive my using ‘Wobbly‘ as a highly technical term in this context). In other words, when reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, shades of Sherlock Holmes might glue themselves into my persona, notwithstanding that they do so with the fragility of a gossamer thread. I had better quit before this flight of fancy gets totally out of hand. Let me return to a consideration of my VSI during the past 30 weeks.

The first thing to say is that the range and frequency of person-to-person interactions has been greatly reduced. Actually, the same was true when I retired from university teaching in 2006. Another way of putting this is to say that my world has shrunk. Apart from a few pedestrian interactions, such as paying the milkman when he calls (yes, we still have a milkman to deliver our milk), I have conversations with the two members of my self-isolating household. Many of these conversational moments are mundane: ‘Have you put the recycling bin out for tomorrow’s collection?‘; ‘Can you take your stuff out of the washing machine? I need to do some laundry‘. Occasionally, like ships that pass in the kitchen, there will be a short flurry of deeply meaningful conversation sparkling in the splendour that members of the liberal elite are able to bestow with such eloquent ease.

To pass the time, I have watched a lot of Crap Cable Movies (CCMs). I like stuff that requires the minimum of thought and is well endowed with a pleasant variety of televisual eye-candy, including the scenery as well as the male and female actors. I am not particularly proud of this; in fact I feel too embarrassed to watch this fare if the family are present. I try to record a good supply of worthy political discussion programmes for when others are in the room. Anyway, turning to my persona, if any of this material leaches into my persona as Wobbly QSAs, if feel that the effect will be a dumbing-down. As an antidote to that, I have been reading a stack of Highly Worthy Tomes (HWTs) to fill out my knowledge of relatively recent world history and economics covering the decline of the British Empire and occasionally going back to the 18th century. Regrettably, the effectiveness of the HWTs to stick stuff onto my persona is less, if anything, than that of the Wobbly QSAs from the CCMs.

Let me turn now to Meaningful Telephone Conversations (MTCs). I have endeavoured to maintain three MTCs per week and have regarded this as being important, given that I am no longer having a social life in the real world. One of these is with my brother, and the other two are with too good friends who I have know for many years since moving to the city where I currently live, in the mid-1970s. I would say that these telephone conversations have become increasingly important to me over the weeks of VSI. I have managed to space them through my week: Sunday – Brother; Tuesday – One Friend; Friday – T’other Friend. Sometimes one or other of this trio is unable to do the weekly phone call and I do feel a tad adrift on those weeks.

I come now to another aspect of my persona: I sing, accompanying myself on guitar and piano. I stream one-hour concerts to the Internet and do this in the guise of my Avatar (Fyrm Fouroux), mainly in the virtual community known as Second Life and also in that known as the 3rd Rock Grid. I have streamed just over 1800 one-hour gigs since 2008. Currently, I play two per week (one on Monday and the other on Thursday). So, I have events to look forward to on Monday (gig), Tuesday (phone call), Thursday (gig), Friday (phone call), and Sunday (phone call). In this way I have built a weekly scaffold into the temporal sea that constitutes my Covid-19 VSI.

So, I am experiencing the gradual shrinking of the social space that consitutes the world in which my speech acts take place. My mother (who lived to be 103) told me that she felt alone when she realised that all her friends and relatives (of her generation) had passed on. I am starting to get a glimpse of how that might be. A very old school friend of mine died last summer and a cousin with whom I had a lot of fun when I was younger passed on very recently.

Of course, people do manage in conditions of voluntary or contractual isolation; one only has to think of hermits, monks, nuns and submariners (I set aside the inmates of prisons, who are hardly there out of personal choice). Perhaps I should read about hermits.

With regard to my own situation, I could regard my persona as shifting like a pendulum swinging from the extravert pole in the direction of the introvert pole of the conventional personality dimension of Extroversion-Introversion. Such a journey is not something I signed up for. Rather, it has been imposed upon me partly through the occurrence of the Covid-19 virus and partly through my own progress along the stepping stones of the life span. Whilst I have little control over this I do, however, have some control over how I experience the days, within these existing micro-constraints of what is practically possible. Within these imposed boundaries I believe that there is still enough room for the imagination to leap and bound in moments of extraordinary delight. Glimpsing such moments, from time to time, should not be beyond my ken. Note to self: must try harder!

Triadic Autodidactic Polymorphism

July 19, 2020

Recently I have been pondering the nature of my existential creativity during the English lock-down. I am coming into my 19th week of voluntary self-isolation and as my external world shrinks, my in-house creative activity appears to be expanding in an exponential fashion. I have come up with a home-made syndrome that seems to cover my plight: Triadic Autodidactic Polymorphism (TAP, for short). I have attempted to provide a diagrammatic definition of this state of affairs. I started to do this with a pencil on the back of an envelope, as one does, but soon gravitated to a sheet of an A3  layout pad that I had lying around. I thought I would share the final outcome with y’all…

Triadic Creativity

If feels good to have got this out of my system but was it really just a displacement activity instead of getting on with the novel, the new songs, the artwork, bla, bla, bla! Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles!

Autocue for Vlogging

July 3, 2020

My friend Tony watched the first Vlog I made in the persona of Percival Bright. He gave me the feedback that his wife, Alison, has been making a conscious attempt to look directly into the webcam when speaking, as opposed to constantly glancing down at her notes. I can see, on reviewing my relatively newbie status as a vlogger that I have much to learn in that regard.

I therefore searched around online and discovered that this is a widespread problem for many vloggers. Professional autocue systems are expensive. As might be expected, many people have found inexpensive work-arounds. I tried using one which involved writing notes on a laptop, converting the text to white and the background page to black and then scrolling with the laptop’s mouse. It worked fine, except for the fact that I got an image reflection exactly where my eyes were on my spectacles. 

I have moved on to construct what might be regarded as a Heath Robinson frame from which to hang a sheet of pen on paper notes behind the webcam. It took some while messing about with rubber bands and scraps of wood I had laying about my little workshop. In the end I have built something which acts as an extension rising perpendicular to my desktop. I think it epitomises the meaning of the term ‘unstable equilibrium‘.

Boiling Potatoes

June 5, 2020

Have you ever been fed up with the way the steam condenses onto the stove around the place where you have opened up the lid to let out the steam when boiling a pan of potatoes? I have and I decided to think of a way to avoid it. What I needed was a widget that would cause the steam condensate to fall back down into the pan. Well, folks, I think I found it: a long-handled wooden spoon, no less! The spoon supports the arc of the pan lid and the weight of the pan lid keeps the spoon steady. I give you the photographic evidence, below.

Steam to Extractor

So, I feel moderately pleased with myself!

Wooden Spoon Technique

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles 🙂

Current State of Stuff in the Lock-Down

May 16, 2020

I address you today, my dear blogophiles, as one of the many in Lock-Down and Social-Isolation. I have fallen victim to LBS (as in Low Battery Syndrome). This was literally true of my little car (an old Vauxhall Corsa). I have not been using it at all during Lock-Down and it barely croaked last week when I turned the ignition key. In the end, I bought a jump starter kit on Amazon and this solved the problem. I will say that it involved a learning curve approaching the exponential. There’s a word with horrid connotations, thanks to Covid-19. Actually, I frequently travel on segments of the A19 in the UK; I anticipate feelings of gloomy despair next time I take it. Perhaps it should be renamed the A(non-Covid)19.

My computer has been acting up. It has lured me into the depths of its BIOS where I have attempted to give it a drop of linctus. BIOS, to a computer nerd manqué, sounds almost as frightening as Covid. Once the acronym is unpacked it feels a lot more cuddly: Basic Input/Output System. My PC originally came ‘over-clocked’ but the overclocking no longer seems to be working. One has to take care because it would be possible to totally screw up the whole system. At the moment, when I fire up the beast (that is how I fondly refer to my huge old-fashioned tower system that resides under my purpose built desk [thank you B&Q for the excellent plank of contiboard]) it usually takes me straight into the BIOS screen nowadays. I then have to faff* (should that be spelled (or even spelt?) phaff or phaphf or phaphph – I rather like the latter) about choosing a boot-up option that gets a windows screen on the monitor where I can log in. That is a palaver (another brilliant word, don’t you think?)

*I looked up faff in the Oxford Concise English dictionary and discovered that faff is, indeed, the correct spelling. As for spelling, the past tense can be spelled spelt, if you wish, but might then be confused with a kind of wheat. I’m not sure whether or not it would be correct to refer to the person who has spelt something as the spelter since she or he might then be confused as being made of crude smelted zinc. Of course, this might be taken as a compliment were the speller to be besotted by The Wizard of Oz, identifying with Tin Man. I am getting into something of a tangle here. The only way out is to launch into another paragraph, preferably with no attempt to segue.

Some days I spend hours wondering which I like best: dictionary or thesaurus. Anyway (good word for introducing a non-sequitur), my computer is not the only bit of kit that has been giving problems. My head-set voice mic has been spewing out badly clipped audio signals. I have spent hours checking the sound levels (with Vu-Meter traffic light indicators on my mixing desk and my microphone receiver module) and the sound has sounded great in my IEMs (In-Ear Monitors – buds to the man on the Clapham omnibus [law students geddit?]). I feel so sorry for providing my audiences with sub-optimal auditory experiences. I think I have sorted things out now. My next show on the Internet will be in Second Life on Monday at 8 pm British Summer Time.

I have been attending quite a few webinars relating to various aspects of the music business. I think this might deserve a separate blog entry all to itself. People in the music biz would think of me as a creative/artist. I feel that in order to understand the business side of music, one needs to learn and operate in what might be regarded as a totally different Wittgensteinian language game. I have been trying to learn the rudiments. It is easily as difficult as learning to read sheet music.

Somebody in one of the webinars said that they thought that it was a good idea for the musician to do podcasts about their music, perhaps playing some of the tracks within the talk. They were mainly thinking of how they might relate to their fan base (and these folks think of a fan base as comprising 1000s of fans). My fan base is almost certainly under 100, could be less than 50. So, I’m not sure how I would fit into this world. The short answer is that I do not, and probably never will. I did once do a podcast and also a vlog (video equivalent of the audio podcast). In the end I stopped because I felt I was repeating myself. I can see that one way to get around the constant repetition is to bring content in from an external source, such as the daily news in the newspapers or on TV news channels. I can relate some of my song material to current affairs but that is not going to cover all the music.

I did put a podcast episode up on my website a few weeks ago and I am thinking that maybe I should try another one. I’m not sure if it is worth doing one on a podcast hosting site. I am already paying quite a lot of money to rent both my website and my audio stream. You know, I play solidly for one hour on Internet shows in Second Life (30 minutes with guitar and 30 minutes with piano – mixture of a few old covers and my original compositions). The idea is that Avatars within Second Life can come to the shows and listen. I get rewarded through the tipping system. Admittedly the currency in Second Life (L$ or Linden dollars) is a bit like Monopoly money, but there is an exchange rate with US$ (they can be bought or sold on the Internet). Sometimes people attend my shows and they get an hour of relatively unusual entertainment for free – they leave at the end without tipping me a cent. Meanwhile, I am paying for the stream that enables them to hear me! On the other hand, many other avatars (people) are very generous to me. My good (virtual) friend Ferdy (from whom I rent the virtual land upon which I built my virtual venue) has been coming to almost all my shows since 2006 and never fails to give me a serious tip. I really appreciate that level of support.

I once hoped that my music would pay for itself, as it were. When I retired from my day job, I thought that it might give me a little extra money to cover the computing equipment and the costs of keeping guitars in good condition, getting the digital piano reconditioned when necessary, upgrading mixers and microphones, and so forth. That has not happened. Of course, a purist might say that a ‘creative’ should be satisfied and content with the intrinsic level of satisfaction that flows from the creative act; that this should be more than enough for them. Creativity (and the related artistic performance of the material) is not all fun, fun, fun. There are often difficult problems to overcome; the act of creating can sometimes be painful.

Anyway (that word again), I am thinking about making another one-off podcast for my website. I shall take the existing one down. I can’t keep the podcasts up on the site because it is very easy for me to exceed the amount of stuff I have online in my account with my Internet hosting company. I rather fancy the title of ‘Living Life in Unmatched Socks‘ for the forthcoming podcast. God knows what that means but hopefully I shall come up with something before recording it!

I hope you will excuse the fact that this blog entry has turned out to be something of a rant. Maybe it is Lock-Down that it getting to me. Be that as it may, I hope to speak to you again, soon. Goodbye for now, my dear blogophiles.

Smart-Phone Desk Support

April 3, 2020

Today is Friday and, were it not for Self-Isolation and lock-down, I would be meeting my friend Tom for a good chin-wag over a full English breakfast, in a cafe of pleasing ambience somewhere nearby in the city. As things stand we made do by each making a cup of coffee in our own homes and having a lengthy phone conversation. Although we could not completely avoid the topic of Covid-19 we tried, with some success, to prevent it dominating our agenda.

I decided to take the conversation at my studio desk.  I had recently come across advertisements for smart phone holders on the Internet and I wondered whether I might sort something out for myself, as opposed to laying the phone flat on the desk or holding it to my ear as if it were a dinosaur phone. I think I did pretty well, given a few bits and pieces that I happened to have close at hand. Let me tell you all about it!

The first thing I decided was to raise the phone up, so that the microphone would have a better chance of catching my voice, hands-free. Luckily I had The Concise Oxford English dictionary and Roget’s thesaurus on my bookshelf and these two volumes gave me the height I was seeking…

As you can see, I also placed a rather nice wooden box on top of the thesaurus. On opening the box, I found that I had a few old plectra (I prefer the Latin plural to the English ‘plectrums’) inside. Here they are…

I removed the plectra and bodged a support using a small wooden cube together with an old retractable table measure (red) that I found in my bureau draw…

I put my phone into the holder and turned on the camera. It seems to avoid the whole ‘up nostrils’ thing that many laptop cameras appear to go for.

So, that was a very satisfying way to spend some Self-Isolation time.

Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles

Week 3 of Self-Isolation

March 31, 2020
    I have just started my third week of Self-Isolation; the last time I left the house was on 16th March, 2020. As a 75 year-old git, I am taking it all fairly seriously. Part of me feels that I am living in an existential no-man’s land. The logical thing for me to do is stay at home, in the house, until such time as I can be vaccinated. However, the development of a vaccine could take a year or more, so I can see that a modicum of deep readjustment may be required in order to navigate the unlimited flow of quotidian events with no discernible end in sight. The problem is knowing how to pass time in a satisfactory fashion.
    I have pottered in the garden. Summer is around the corner so there could be more to do on that score. Bedding plants might be a problem. I normally buy in some plugs from a local garden centre (about a 5-10 mile drive away) but I can’t do that in Self-Isolation. I have used a nursery near Manchester in the past for various bits and pieces, and I might see if I can order something remotely from their catalogue (assuming they still have staff working for them). Last year I planted some cabbage plants and put in a few potatoes. Unfortunately, all the leaves got eaten. Perhaps I should have fixed up some netting. I think that will be too complicated for me to sort out for this year.
    In general, I find my mood and motivation swinging up and down in a mildly bi-polar fashion during all this. For example, the other day I needed to do a small amount of D.I.Y stuff. Ordinarily this would involve multiple trips down to the B&Q store to get the  bits and pieces that are needed (perhaps  replenishing an empty pot of screws or something like that). In a way, that is normally an enjoyable part of the project – one can pick up all sorts of ideas whilst idly wandering up and down the aisles of  the  store. Yet this is something I must now forego.
    Turning to another area, I am used to taking the Metro to a nearby city, about once a week, for a good browse in the book shops and the library ( these are much better than those where I live). All that has gone.
    With regard to the  daily TV briefings on the crisis (in England) I feel glad that I had some training in statistics. This means that I can more or less understand the  graphs and have some idea as to how to read them, while being aware of some of their limitations. I had no idea, back then, how paying attention in double-maths classes at school/university might pay dividends as I trundle through my 70s. I hasten to add that in no way am I a trained statistician, I am merely numerically literate.  I feel sorry for some of the politicians who have had no training in science and yet are having to talk about this in an apparently convincing fashion.
    I think this is enough to be getting on with today. Time for a spot of  lunch. I think I shall make a sandwich and have a banana for desert. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.