Unfolding the Roadmap

Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…

I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.

The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.

Not an accurate representation of Costa.

I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.

Silly Saturday- Out and About

Monday is England’s next step on the ‘roadmap’ to normality. Wherever you are you may be closing down or opening up or more likely your leaders are doing another u-turn. Normality is a long way off and though you might read messages on line from your favourite places – ‘Welcome Back’ – do they really mean it? Here are some nice places you probably won’t be able to go to…

London

Bridges open, but one way only, bad luck if you’re on the wrong side of the river.

Dreamland.

Dreaming about eating out? Stick to dreamland, everywhere else is fully booked.

Bournemouth

Must have beach app on phone to check if you are allowed to visit.

Portland Bill

Lighthouses – good for social distancing, but only one visitor at a time.

The Moon

Someone else got their first, closed until further notice.

Cruise Ships

Cruises currently limited to passengers who have been vaccinated and are good at rowing.

Portmeirion

Wales, different rules to England, you may not be allowed to cross the border.

Salisbury Cathedral

Cathedrals are always interesting to visit, but this may be as near as you can get. Enter only if you are fully masked and have had a negative Covid test.

Air museums

Museums are popular outings, especially if it’s raining, but book in advance for your thirty minute slot, book separately in advance for a cafe fifteen minute slot.

Iona

Scottish holy island – ferry only goes once a day. Scotland has different rules to England and Wales so you may not be allowed across the border… what a shame, you would really have loved Iona…

Kingston Lacey

National Trust houses always popular for an outing; they are opening up again – of course you have to book in advance and once inside will have to walk round in single file, one way only, no stopping or turning back…

A Big Country House

Chances of getting inside here for a look round? Very unlikely…. unless you live there.


Where will you go for your next outing?

Friday Flash Fiction – Therapups

I had never heard of the charity Therapups, nor had Google, but one of my late aunt’s dog loving friends sent me the postal address. Aunty had requested no flowers for her funeral, just a donation to her favourite charity. I sent a small cheque and a brief letter with my address included, requesting the next copy of their newsletter, which was apparently going to feature a tribute to my aunt.

A week later I received a hefty envelope, almost a parcel, with a gushing letter thanking me for my generosity. The newsletter was to follow shortly, but in the meantime they were pleased to send me a Therapups key ring with dog whistle attached and one hundred biodegradable poop bags in a designer carry case; all in the distinctive charity colours puce pink and sunflower yellow. I don’t own a dog, but they weren’t to know that. Also included was a colourful booklet explaining the charity’s work; it seems they provided therapy and assistance dogs not covered by other better known charities.


I was quite impressed, Therapups gave every dog an opportunity to make a contribution whether they were a St. Bernard with shopping panniers or a handbag sized ball of fluff you cuddled to calm your nerves. The newsletter duly arrived and gave more enlightenment as to my aunt’s contribution; who would have guessed her knitting skills would have been put to such good use or her Aloe Vera plant stand at the annual fete so popular? It was even more of a surprise to learn that her bad tempered terrier mix, who drove the neighbours mad with his constant yapping, had been a ‘wonderful therapy dog whose sad passing at the age of nineteen left an unfillable gap in Thelma’s life, undoubtably leading to her untimely demise weeks later at the age of ninety nine.’

Enclosed with the dozen copies of the newsletter was a puce pink and sunflower yellow picture frame with an unflattering photo of Aunt Thelma surrounded by half a dozen very ugly puppies. I wrote once more to thank them and promised to pass the newsletters to the rest of the family, though what I would do with the remaining seven copies I had no idea.

A week later another parcel arrived with a dozen Therapup calendars and an apologetic note… ‘I know it’s May already, but hopefully we all need calendars now we’re on the roadmap to Covid Recovery.’ I did not get around to replying or hanging a calendar up; I got the impression from the pictures on the calendar that they took the dogs no other charity wanted.



I was surprised the next week to receive yet another parcel from Therapups, a strange pink and yellow object which turned out to be a folding water bowl. I gave it to a dog owning friend. It was barely a week later when another package arrived; a paperback biography of the founder of Therapups. By now the charity had spent more on postage alone than I had given them in the first place, but it wasn’t hard to guess that they were expecting more from me. Enclosed were direct debit forms for regular contributors and leaflets on their free will writing service. I put them all in the recycling bin; I had little prospect of much money, now or after my death. Friends had expected Aunt Thelma to leave me her run down, but valuable house. She left her house and possessions and £57.37 all to Therapups.
They were not put off by my lack of response and further gifts left me wondering if they thought I was in need of a therapy dog. I received a yellow and pink rug for my wheelchair and dachshund shaped herbal wheat bag for chronic pain. My latest gift is a cuddly sunflower yellow toy puppy, far more handsome than their real dogs and I have to confess he is rather a comfort and I even sneak him into work.

Idle Notes from an iPad

A strange place to put a gate? Rather like the internet, many of us don’t know which gate to go through, if we should go through it or what to do when we get to the other side. At present I am still using igate -I mean iPad orMePad…. and I don’t trust it with too many words….

So let’s go underwater for a change. I know there are bloggers who actually go underwater, but I just listened to BBC Radio 4. Book of the Week in five parts and I only needed to listen to the first part to learn something about an amazing creature…

Picture may not be accurate representation of the ocean floor.

Philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith explores what is known about octopus intelligence in ‘Other Minds: the Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life’. The first part concluded with the words ‘Your best chance of meeting Alien Intelligence is to meet an octopus.’

To protect its identity octopus is played by an actor.

The gist of what I have heard so far is this. Octopus seem to be very intelligent, even when assessed by our limited land based human perspective. Our common ancestor was a very basic tape worm living at the bottom of the sea many trillions of years ago. Since then humans and octopus have evolved along totally different lines. So intelligent life has evolved in more that one totally different species; all life on earth has not been totally about aiming towards a human pinnacle of excellence. If any of you have met an octopus or perhaps just eaten one please add your enlightened comments. If any reader is actually an octopus it will be very interesting to read your comments.

What’s in the Envelope?

My sister in Australia received this important piece of parchment.

What mysterious parcel was this? I had sent her a package; a few of my ‘business cards’. Being mean I did not send them with a gift or greetings card, but in the smallest envelope I could find to save on postage. To be fair to the Border Force it could have contained microchips or whatever spies use these days. My only worry had been that the tiny package would be lost in the post – not exactly a worry as I had another few thousand at home. Now I know the Australian Border Force could be on to me and shall have to be careful what I write.

Silly Saturday – May Mayhem

Happy May Day
The day when anything can happen.

Or maybe you will just go shopping.

Or eat out…. which for most of us means eat outside…

Cross a few bridges and see where you end up…
At the end of the line?
Or down a deep hole?
May Day bank holiday is sure to bring sunny weather.
holiday resorts will be expecting large numbers of day trippers or maybe Large Daytrippers.
So however you get there take care on your journey.
This is Frightened Freddy – don’t be like Frightened Freddy – take care on the road.

Trials and Tribulations

What do you do when things go wrong? Scream and breathe fire. Not actually go wrong in real life, just on WordPress; hang on, that is real life…

Happiness engineer says try a different browser,or at least that was the only part of the prompt email reply I understood, so here I am on the iPad missing my huge screen desktop where my real blog is stuck in a word document…. But I must remember my own mantra, widowed and in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, what’s the worst that could happen having problems with WordPress…. I’ll just keep doing test posts and try not to panic!

A calming picture.

Silly Saturday – Line of Shopping

Many of us enjoy watching high tension police thriller series, such as Line of Duty, which we’re following at the moment. To keep up with impossible to follow plots, who to trust and to understand police lingo and initials, you can follow social media groups obsessed with interested in your favourite programmes. But would you like your own boring everyday life to be like that?

Okay boss, CHIS leaving the house now.

Stand by everyone, moving on foot, approaching OSS, passing OSS… masking up, at the HGS now. Exiting GG, can you confirm UHW?

Armed response unit stand down, I repeat stand down. CHIS is unarmed.

CHIS reaching into back pack, could be a burner phone, can we get a trace…

Approaching ROG, can we get a check on a white van ABC 123D…

CHIS has crossed road, heading north, repeat heading north, has made contact with masked person, can’t identify.

Entering building S.  unit 7 follow …

Can’t follow, security guard on door, don’t want to draw attention…

How long have they been in there now?

Fifteen, exiting now with UHW, looks like the real thing this time, heading south, ARU hold back, too many PONIs around.

Following CHIS south west, confirm unarmed, no further contacts made… approaching HB…

Line of Shopping Facebook chat room – guide to police terms

CHIS  – Covert Human Independent Shopper

OSS  – One Stop Shop

HGS  – Hand Gel Station

GG  – GreenGrocers

UHW  – Unidentified Hand Weapon

ROG  – redorangegreen – traffic lights

Building S  – Sainsbury

ARU  – Armed Response Unit

PONI  – Persons of no Interest

HB  – Home Base

Recorded phone conversation of CHIS suspect

I’m off to the shops.

( Muffled ) Yes wrapped please, they’re for my neighbour, she loves a nice bouquet.

Oh I thought we had spaghetti… and a bottle of wine? I’ll have to carry it, not much room in my back pack.

I’m baaack, whew, very busy at the shops and strange,  lots of police around, I couldn’t see anything happening.

Friday Fantasy Fiction – Meeting The Dragon

Today I woke up excited as it is Saint George’s Day; Saint George is the patron Saint of England. Then I remembered nobody is quite sure why he is our saint, or what we are meant to do to celebrate. Fortunately it is also William Shakespeare’s birthday and we can all celebrate that. In honour of our great poet and playwright here is a not very good ballad I wrote years ago, still relevant…

From the molten depths of the Iceland peak

Many gathered to hear their lord speak.

‘Centuries under the mountain we’ve lain,

centuries passed since my brother was slain.

Now is the time to return to the isles;

my son must fly across the miles.

Now is the time to forgive and forget;

the wingless, cold creatures may need us yet.’

Now with the day longer than night,

the prince bade farewell to all at first light.

With heavy heart he heard them roar,

as up into the sky he soared;

sun glinting on scales, colours unreal;

emerald, indigo, turquoise and teal.

Below, icy peaks turned to ripples of green;

Many miles he flew before land was seen.

Crowds cheered to hear the outsider had won;

George Saint now the new mayor of London.

The whole of London he wanted to reach,

Embrace the millions in his speech.

‘Tomorrow we celebrate the greatest city on Earth,

Tomorrow we remember Shakespeare’s birth;

On the South Bank on St. Georges Day

We’ll celebrate London in a wonderful way.

George worked late that night in City Hall,

Plans for tomorrow, he reviewed them all;

At the Globe, a prize winning play

Written by young Annie Hathaway,

How the dragon rescued the beautiful maid

From forced marriage, kept her safe in his cave.

At Tate Modern, in the great turbine hall

Meeting the Dragon installation art for all.

From City Hall’s glass walls George looked out

As he left the building, descending round about.

Saw the shining city, Thames at low tide,

Alone by the river his heart filled with pride.

Beneath Tower Bridge saw a fiery glow,

Strange shape moving down below

On the river bank, heard a sighing,

Amazed, George saw a dragon lying.

No one in sight, down the narrow steps he trod,

Heart pounding, saw the giant head nod

In greeting, snorted flames and then it spoke

I have come to visit the wingless folk,

Whom do I have the honour to address?

His father had told him politeness will impress.

On hearing George’s name the dragon trembled,

But no fierce knight did this puny being resemble.

Misunderstandings soon swept away,

George and Dragon talked, soon it would be day.

Many thoughts tumbled inside George’s head,

The magnificent dragon must be sheltered and fed.

As dawn came at Tate Modern, the young artist paced,

His new creation could not fill this vast space.

Suddenly a long shadow fell upon the hall,

He heard the Mayor’s voice urgently call.

Turning he gazed up and up with awe,

Was the most wondrous creature he ever saw;

Though he trembled with fright he just had to gaze

As rainbow scales shone in the Sun’s first rays.

Together they planned how to care for their guest,

Vegetarian food was what he liked best;

That’s lucky quipped the artist, for my art installation

Is made entirely of fruit and vegetation.

As people swarmed to the South Bank that day,

From the Wheel to Tower Bridge, all the way;

Musicians, magicians, jugglers, living statues,

At the Festival Hall free concerts to choose.

On T.V. the Mayor promised finale at Tate Modern,

Broadcast to the nation, Londoners surged in.

Crowds made the Dragon nervous but he bravely stood his ground,

The Mayor stood beside him and spoke to all around.

‘Today London welcomes a visitor unique,

no city ever will enjoy such a week;

but first pray silence from everyone I ask

for I must perform a very solemn task.

On behalf of all England, new bonds let us forge,

Pray forgive us for your uncle’s slaying by the wicked knight Saint George.’

The Dragon’s voice enchanted all, with his speech urbane and witty,

The Mayor of London thanked him with the freedom of the city.

Each morning Londoners thrilled at the sight

Of the Dragon soaring gracefully in flight.

But not just for fun, he was on a mission

Reporting to George on the City’s condition.

Spotted Battersea power station derelict and sad

Had an idea to make George glad.

No fossil fuel needed at a dragon power station,

At Battersea restored, his flames could heat the nation.

At City Hall George held his press morning,

TV and papers full of dire warnings.

The Mayor refuted the wicked claims

That the Dragon’s father had issued the flames

That started the Great Fire of London.

‘I trust completely this fine dragon,

he wants to help us of his own free will

and his carbon footprint will be nill.’

Elections for Mayor of London take place on 6th May; as one of the candidates is Lord Binface, a self-proclaimed interplanetary space warrior, who has challenged both Boris Johnson and Theresa May in general elections, George Saint probably stands a good chance.

London mayoral race 2021: The candidates standing in this year’s election – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55748037

Sunday Short Story – Quarantine

When Lynne arrived at her bubble friend’s house for their morning coffee she was surprised to find Eleanor in a state of agitation.

Are you okay, the effects of the second jab?’

‘Yes, no… let me get the coffee and I’ll tell you my news.’

Lynne could not imagine what the news could be, not much happened in Covid times and certainly nothing to put her friend in such a state, but there was something different about the house. The usual vase of cut flowers on the hall stand had disappeared and so had the orchid on the window sill. As she followed Eleanor into the kitchen she was puzzled to see the cupboard door handles tied together with stout string.

‘Go and sit down Lynne, I’m just trying to remember where I put the coffee.’

Okay, I brought that jigsaw, I’ll put it on the dining room table.’

There was a strange crackling underfoot as Lynne walked into the dining room and she realised she was walking on plastic sheeting that covered the carpet. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that she was going to have decorators in. The exquisite mahogany dining table, recently inherited from an aunt, was covered in a heavy duty plastic tablecloth, perhaps her friend was planning to do some messy crafts.

When Lynne moved into the usually elegant front room her confusion increased; it now seemed most likely her friend had been burgled. The fireplace looked bare, gone was the antique urn with its arrangement of dried flowers and the crystal vase Lynne had given her for Christmas was no longer on the windowsill. She glanced around the room and took in a bizarre scene. The glass cabinet had a heavy quilt secured round it and the occasional tables all had wodges of foam taped to their corners. The three piece suite was covered in throws that looked like they had come from Wilkos rather than John Lewis and there was no sign of the embroidered cushions.

Eleanor walked in with two scruffy looking mugs.

‘Sorry about the mugs, they’re the ones Anthony used to keep down at the allotment. I’ve packed all the bone china away. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to make a cake… well I have been baking, but not for us…’

Before any explanation was forthcoming there was the sound of frantic yapping and Eleanor went to open the back door for Covina, the little dog she had acquired from the dachshund rescue centre. The dog rushed into the room to greet Lynne.

‘You’re surely not moving house, Michael hasn’t persuaded you to go over there?’

‘Goodness no, I wouldn’t even go to that dreadful country on holiday; they’re coming back to England, out of the blue, arriving at Heathrow early afternoon. It seems they are allowed to quarantine with relatives, me.’

‘Oh that’s wonderful news, at last you’ll get to see the babies.’

‘Hardly babies, three and four now and if they are like Michael was at that age… my head spins just seeing them on Facetime. So I have taken a few precautions, I don’t want to be responsible for them ending up in A&E. Forty four years old and Michael still has that scar on his forehead from the fireplace at our first house.  I was going to ask, you know you said you would love to have Covina to stay if I ever managed to go on holiday, do you think you could possibly have her now?’

‘Yes of course, though I’m sure the children would be gentle with her.’

‘I’m worried she might bite them; the charity did say she was best suited to a quiet home with an older person. I remember that time with my brother’s dog when Michael was three; it was his fault of course, shoving his hand in the dog’s mouth.’

‘Covina’s hardly a pit bull, but I suppose tiny fingers could be a worry. I shall enjoy having her.’

Eleanor kept looking nervously at the clock, she had the hands free house phone and her mobile by her side.

 ‘Relax you’re all organised, except… perhaps now the charity shops are open again you could get a few toys for them…’ she looked at the expression on Eleanor’s face ‘or maybe order on line.’

As if in answer to that suggestion they heard the door bell being rung frantically.

‘Ah that will be the Amazon parcels; Michael asked me to get some Lego sets for them.’

‘Aren’t they a bit young for Lego, choking hazards?’

‘Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Ten minutes later Eleanor had located the scissors she had hidden away and they manged to get the boxes open to reveal several brightly coloured Lego sets.

Eleanor examined the writing and pictures on the boxes.

‘Strange people and vehicles, but it seems only under threes choke, so that’s a relief. But really Lynne I’m getting too old for all this; you wait years to get some grandchildren, then they go abroad and then there’s a world wide pandemic and nobody gets to see their grandchildren…’

Two days later Lynne turned into Eleanor’s road on her way to the post office and was alarmed to see an ambulance outside Eleanor’s house. After all the precautions she wondered what mishap had befallen the precious grandchildren. She wasn’t being nosy, she had to walk that way anyway. As she got closer there was a further shock when she saw Eleanor on a stretcher being wheeled down the front path.

‘Oh Lynne, isn’t this embarrassing, Michael will tell you what happened.’

As her friend was loaded into the ambulance a frazzled looking man emerged from the front door with a wriggling, screeching child in his arms.

‘Nee Nah, Nee Nah, I want to go in the hambliance.’

The man’s voice was muffled through the child’s hair.  ‘Nice to meet you Lynne, I hear you have been a great support, but we’re here now; just as well now this has happened.’

What did happen?’

‘I’m not exactly sure; Mother was tidying up all the mess in the dining room after breakfast and she stood on some Lego and slipped on the plastic sheeting.’