Friday Flash Fiction – 700 – Solo

Ellie sipped her tea as she watched breakfast television. Women doing amazing things, how come she hadn’t thought of these ideas in this year of living strangely? Swimming in the Thames every day, wild swimming… cold water was the latest way to keep healthy. If everyone went in the river every day the whole country would be healthy, probably immune to Covid as well. Ellie tried to imagine herself going down to the local river early every morning; alone, bit risky but who on earth would want to join her. Where would she get in, not that swampy reed bed by the bridge, the slipway at the rowing club…

Perhaps it was better to stay in a boat like that English yachtswoman; Vendee Globe non-stop round the world. Ellie didn’t even know the race was on, let alone who was in it, but Pip Hare was and here she was back again and talking to Breakfast Television. She hadn’t actually won, but it was still pretty good. She looked about Ellie’s age and totally normal. A good way to avoid lockdown, or rather it would be like lockdown only with the scenery changing, mainly sea, but Ellie could cope by herself, she had learned that much since Dave had announced his departure this time last year. Turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. In lockdown with Dave, Dave working from home, 24 hours of Dave… what a nightmare. If Ellie could cope by herself in this little flat, she could cope by herself in a state of the art yacht. She had only been on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, but she loved the sea, looking at it, swimming in the summer. The open seas, independence, learning about yourself; she had looked into her inner self, but hadn’t found anything yet; well that on line course ‘Unlocking the True You’ had been rubbish anyway. She should probably start by crossing the Atlantic; it couldn’t be too hard to learn how to sail, it was all satnav and computers on board and everything was made of tungsten. Ellie would have to give up her job… she would love to give up her job. Working from home she had realised that it wasn’t just the people at work she didn’t like, she hated the job as well. Money could be a problem, but she could get some charities to sponsor her…

Her reverie was interrupted by her phone buzzing, message from Ruth.

Do you mind if we give it a miss this morning, it’s bloody freezing out there, I had to melt the bird bath and that east wind will be unbearable on the prom, you’d best stay in.

Ruth was chickening out of their daily walk, their daily exercise with one person from another household? The daily exercise and gossip was all that was keeping Ellie sane. It was alright for Ruth with her garden and birdie friends. Ellie would have to go out all by herself.  Well a bit of a breeze wouldn’t put her off, she could do it. If she wasn’t meeting Ruth at their usual spot she would go on  a different circuit.

Half an hour later Ellie realised her first mistake, she should have walked the other way round, heading east along the promenade the wind took her breath away, the sand stung her cheeks, her eyes were watering, her scarf came unwrapped, her hood would not stay up. The next zig zag path up the cliff looked so far away, who would even notice if she didn’t make it home. Despite hardly being able to see, she could not fail to notice a familiar bright pink hat in the distance. The pink hat was heading towards her, it could only be Ruth and she was walking with someone else. It was galling that they had chosen the right direction to walk, setting a fast pace with the wind behind them. Did Ruth assume Ellie would have stayed at home or on their regular circuit? Ellie was Ruth’s one person from another household, so what was Ruth doing walking with someone else?

Poole sailor Pip Hare delighted with Vendee Globe finish | Swanage and Wareham Voice

Wednesday Wonderings

Have you had the jab yet – whoops sorry, those who have a phobia about needles do not like to hear that word and certainly do not like seeing the constant images on the news of smiling pensioners being vaccinated against Covid. But this is the biggest programme of vaccination in The World ever, so there is plenty to talk about; have you had it, why hasn’t my ninety year old aunt had it yet, which one did you have, should I have it…

I had the phone call on Friday to turn up at 4.30pm on Sunday for AstraZeneca; all weekend  the news was about the effectiveness of AstraZenica, would it resist the South African variant etc.   Who do you trust? There is a sizeable group of people, in every country, who do not trust any Covid vaccination, ranging from those who have a genuine medical reason and have been told not to have it, those worrying if animal products or alcohol are used to make it, through to CIA involvement. I don’t know if those with a needle phobia will also be avoiding vaccination.

This is another issue to divide people, as if we hadn’t enough already. It’s not compulsory in the United Kingdom, but the big picture is to get as many people as quickly as possible vaccinated for any chance of life returning to normal and to save as many lives as possible. Anthony Fauci is one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases and now chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, who no doubt listens to him more carefully than his predecessor. I heard him on the radio saying if people ask which vaccine they should have he tells them to have whatever is offered as soon as possible, because we can get vaccinated again. Other experts say similar things; my lay reading of all this information flooding into our brains is This is just the Start. Most of us have absolutely no idea what goes on in laboratories, except it involves microscopes and tiny glass droppers. Viruses mutate and in the same way that different flu vaccines are offered each winter, Covid vaccination could need to be updated and offered every year.

Meanwhile back in Southbourne-on-Sea, the fact I was called so soon, when I am not vulnerable, is nothing to do with my age, but the rattling rate at which the NHS are getting the vaccines done! Procuring vaccines in the first place involved a huge operation and cooperation between government and private concerns. This was followed by a great deal of organisation and commandeering of buildings from leisure centres to fire stations.  Regular NHS staff have been joined by retired doctors and nurses and army medics, plus an army of volunteers to herd people safely.

But I did not have to go anywhere adventurous or blogworthy, our local GP surgery was doing jabs with seven rooms open. We all lined up safely spaced and after a couple of minutes outside, it was only ten minutes from going in the front door to going out the back door. As there was a bitter easterly wind, the ten minutes included divesting several layers of clothes and scarves to have an arm ready and putting it all back on again. We filed to desks to get a sticky label with name, date of birth and a mystery number, which was stuck to our information sheet. The advantage of having the NHS is we’re all on the computer; all that has to be done is print out millions upon millions of sticky labels… When I arrived at the needle point there was a doctor to jab and a person tapping into the computer. We get a tiny card to bring back for the second jab, no date, but in 10 to 12 weeks. Of course I am bound to forget where I put the card, so remind me it’s in the top drawer left hand side…

Silly Saturday – Censored Scenes

Films, television and the media are to come under strict scrutiny and indecent images are to be banned. People dealing with lockdowns, social distancing and Pandemic Pandemonium ae finding it very stressful when they turn their television on for escapism and relaxation only to be confronted with scenes of people shaking hands, hugging and even kissing. Seeing a crowd scene is liable to cause a total breakdown.

Here is your handy guide to what pictures you must NOT put on Facebook, Instagram or blogs.

Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Gone

Gone, what do you mean, Gone?

As in lost.

As in Can’t Be Found?

As in Not Found Yet.

Considering you were not to let him out of your sight, let us clarify how long you think he has been missing.

I’m not exactly sure.

And are you sure he is definitely missing, hasn’t just wandered into the garden or gone after the cat?

I… we’ve checked everywhere, not in the flat or the offices.

Not popped next door?

No they have not seen him, we have double checked everywhere.

What about the dog?

He’s not missing, he’s gone with her and the baby to her mother’s.

I’m not worried about that mongrel; so we know he hasn’t gone out with the dog… Bicycle still there?

Where?

Where he keeps it locked up of course, I know it’s your first day on the job, but you did do the induction and familiarisation, Sergeant?

Of course Sir and now you come to mention it, his bike has gone …and his rucksack and the keys to the cabinet…

WHAT! We now have only thirty minutes till the press briefing and we don’t want to call a major security alert.

I don’t think the press conference is our main worry Sir, they can delay it, won’t be the first time, or get that expert chap or one of the ministers? Not really our problem is it Sir, we’re just pro..

Precisely… remind me why you wanted to be a protection officer?

I wanted to do Royal protection duties, but they wouldn’t have me.

This is a most important press briefing, have you seen how many are outside? All we can do now is make sure this doesn’t get out, so before I suspend you from your duties as second in command of the Prime Minister’s protection team, could you contrive to leak some kind of cover up story to Laura Kuenssberg and the BBC.

Covid?

No, we’ve already done that story, think of something else credible that she wont see through…

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday 3rd February 2021 – #Greece Eat Dessert First, Mairzy Doats by Elizabeth Gauffreau, #FlashFiction Janet Gogerty

Today I was a guest at Sally’s Smorgasbord Blogger Daily. Pop over to read about other bloggers and enjoy some desserts.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

The first post today will require you sit with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy some history and some recipes from the fantastic team at Eat Dessert First in Greece.

To Ioannina, Arta, Preveza and Thesprotia with pies and histories

Epirus … the northwestern tip of our country, with ancient history and rich cultural tradition, from the areas that first cultivated the idea of the Modern Greek Enlightenment. The contribution of Epirus to the Greek Revolution of 1821 was enormous. Two of the three founding members of the Filiki Etairia (a secret organization aiming to overthrow the Ottoman rule) came from there, Nikolaos Skoufas from Arta and Athanasios Tsakalov from Ioannina. The people of Epirus actively participated in the liberation struggle. However, Epirus was not included inn the newly formed Greek state in 1830. The Arta region was annexed by the Treaty of Berlin in…

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Wednesday When, Why, What???

…and Which, Wonder, Winter, Widowhood, Worries, Will???

In French the Questions will be  Quand, Quoi, pourQuoi…

Most of the world is asking when the pandemic will end and a further multitude of questions about variants and mutations, with no straightforward answers. Ironically, while England is still deciding whether to quarantine people in hotels, Perth, Western Australia detected its first case of coronavirus in almost 10 months; a quarantine hotel security guard. Nearly two million residents were placed into a five day lockdown on Sunday.

One thing most of us in lockdown don’t have to worry about is summer bushfires. Thousands were told yesterday and today to ignore the Covid stay-home order and evacuate their homes, as a bushfire in the hills on Perth’s outskirts gained pace. But the most chilling warning is  It’s now too late to leave, you must stay in your home. The blaze, which is the largest the Western Australian city has seen in years, has already burnt through more than 9,000 hectares, destroying at least 71 homes.

Perth spotted one little weak spot in its robust Covid protection status, while many of us see great gaping holes in our countries’ defences. Hindsight is a great thing, but I think medical experts and even ordinary folk had enough foresight to see more should have been done earlier. There are people who have isolated completely for nearly a year, but most of us, every time government advice eased off, have had visitors or been on a little outing; some people have been jetting all round the world.

 If you listen to the news too often you will drown in numbers and go round in circles. But one positive thing is the vaccination programme in the United Kingdom, which is rattling along at a great pace. With little new to talk about in lockdown, the gossip is who has been immunised lately.

What is everyday life like now after months of Tier systems, November Lockdown 2 and a month in Lockdown 3? Grandparents have been unable to see new grandchildren; weddings, moving home and plans to have babies have been put on hold all round the country.  I have been widowed for five months now and half of me is still happy for normal life to be suspended, but the other half is missing family and friends and being able to visit and get out and about. Then there are the not so regular events that can’t take place; luckily Cyberspouse said he didn’t care what we did with his ashes, so he wouldn’t mind that they are still in the cupboard with all his camera equipment…  

Going for walks is now the national occupation. I don’t drive, so I am used to walking to get places. Then there is the traditional going for a walk with your partner, family, friends or by yourself to recover from a stressful week at work. Whether locally or on a day out, The Walk used to involve stopping for coffee at a beach front café, lunch in ‘The Stables’ at a National Trust property or popping into interesting shops in that nice town by the river…

In lockdown you may get a takeaway coffee when you meet up with the one person from another household for exercise if you are living on your own. I am too dyspraxic to walk, talk, avoid tripping over dogs and drink out of a hot cardboard cup at the same time. But it is good to be out seeing  people. The cliff tops and promenades are full of folk and plenty of those are also taking brisk walks by themselves, though I am the only one in a bright pink coat. Most of us are managing to adhere to social distancing and I think it is safe out in the fresh air or gale force winds.

A walk around residential streets as it’s getting dark is also quite fun; lights are on but curtains and blinds are still open. I have always enjoyed looking in people’s windows, all the different decors and cosy interiors and life going on. Some people still have Christmas lights in the front garden or Christmas trees indoors, it all helps brighten up this strange winter.

When we are not out, many of us are on line. Those of you working from home or trying to teach home schooled pupils are probably heartily sick of Zoom, but it’s still a novelty for me. We could all be in space ships or in a space colony. Is this the future?  At the weekly Saturday evening quiz I see people I would never meet in real life. I have started going to our camera club Zoom meetings and members can put their pictures on the screen  – not me obviously, my technical skills only stretch as far as typing in the meeting code – but it is nice to chat and see both familiar and new faces. Lounging on the sofa with my ipad instead of sitting on a plastic chair in the church hall, what’s not to like? Will people want to go out on dark winter evenings when they could just stay home? Those who are not on the internet or are nervous of technology could miss out, but the disabled, those who can’t leave children and those without easy transport would all be on an equal footing in Zoomland. Will this be what we wish for?

Silly Saturday – Missing News

Bringing you the news you may have missed… today we report on a statement by the Woodland Trust.

‘The Woodland Trust has been the victim of a sophisticated, high level cyber-incident and it is feared confidential information about many of our trees has been accessed. As soon as we became aware of the situation, we took immediate action to mitigate the impact on the trees and notified the relevant woods. We have been working hard alongside experts, including forensic timber specialists, to determine the nature of the attack and assess if any branches may have been compromised. We are sorry for the concern this incident will cause. It is affecting our ability to support certain services for our trees and our woods. We are working hard to resume normal services as soon as possible.’

When asked about the effect on trees a spokeshuman said

 ‘When human beings ‘buy’ a tree or trees to dedicate to a loved one, or as an environmentally friendly birthday present, that tree or trees remain anonymous. Supporters may visit the wood where it is planted, but they must sign an agreement not to contact the tree in any manner.’ 

‘So they cannot carve their initials into the bark?’

‘Certainly not, no contact at all, no photographs may be taken and no hugging.’

‘What will happen now?’

‘This is a terrible situation for which we can only apologise to all trees and their saplings. Their identities could be revealed and lead to great stress, resulting in the postponement or even cancellation of spring.’

Friday Flash Fiction – 460 – Earthrise

Susan switched on her ageing ipad, checked the time, pressed the Facetime link and the familiar face appeared.

‘Hello Mother, how are you, what have you been up to this week?’

His greeting never varied and each week she would rehearse fascinating snippets of news and intelligent comments on world events. But when it came to the moment her mind went blank; there was not a lot to tell and even less that Guy and his family would be interested in.

Three little faces popped in and out of the screen, mostly upside down. Her son adjusted the camera so she could see her three grandsons tackling their new assault course; the latest ploy by their mother to direct some of their cooped up energy. Bouncing off the walls took on a new meaning in their confined home, it was so hard for parents not to be able to take them out.

The assault course was such a success they could not be prised away to come and talk to her; after nearly a year it was only natural that little ones would not be interested, they had their own lives now. It was a marvel that she could see and hear them so easily, across so many miles, but she found herself envying instead of pitying her sister with the daughter from hell. The girl had turned up back home a year ago, with three children from different fathers and no money and had not left until it was too late to leave.

Susan was proud of her son and all he had achieved and admiring of her daughter-in-law who had adapted so well to their strange new life, but the two further years until his posting was up seemed interminable.

Who would have thought when Guy was so young, devouring books about space and science in preference to children’s stories… perhaps it was not such a surprise, but obsession was not enough, he had the brains and ambition to achieve his dreams. Still she could not quite believe that her son was leader of the first Moon colony, IMC, International Moon Colony. Seeing the boys now, totally adapted to zero gravity, screeching with delight as they crawled along the curved ceiling of their living quarters, belied the cold fear she felt that this was a remote risky venture that only grown men should be attempting.

‘Grandma, Grandma, we can see you now.’

The camera panned round to the large porthole, through which she could see the Earth beginning to rise. It was a beautiful sight that she was privileged to see and as her grandsons floated and jostled around the porthole it was some comfort that they knew where they had come from, where they belonged.

How Long is the Night?

How long is the night? Anyone who has done shift work will know the night is very long when you are night duty and very short when you have to get up for early shift. Depending on your circumstances, late shift may provide a blissful interlude. In a previous incarnation, when we lived by Heathrow Airport, I would wake up after a late shift when Concorde took off at 11 am. I did not always get a lie in; in a house of several shift workers a shrill alarm would go off at the other end of the house, waking us up, but not our son. Cyberspouse would say ‘Just leave him, it’s up to him to get up.’ He never did, the alarm would penetrate our brains and one of us would always end up going to rouse him, perhaps a common scene in lots of homes. One morning my friend wondered why she couldn’t wake her son up, until her daughter reported that he had only arrived home ten minutes before.

Whether you have a clock radio that wakes you up for work with Farming Today or you are an insomniac trying to get back to sleep by listening to Farming Today at 5.45am, the radio is there to see many of us through the night. I have never had a television in the bedroom, but as television is renowned for sending people to sleep, I can understand why insomniacs find themselves keeping up with the adventures of an Australian vet in the middle of the night. Or perhaps you prefer Escape to the Chateau or Britain’s Fattest People when you can’t get back to sleep.

But it’s radio that does its best to soothe us to sleep. On BBC Radio 3 you can listen to Night Tracks, usually relaxing, followed by Through the Night, basically back to back concerts till 6.30 am when a new day starts. Let’s tune in to another station. BBC Radio 4 knows exactly how long the night is – four and a half hours. Today in Parliament at 11.30pm should surely send you to sleep. Midnight, more news, perhaps not, but at 12.30 am it’s Book of the Week, a nice bedtime story. In my recent blog ‘On The Radio’, Ellen commented that she would like to know the fascination with the shipping forecast.

Whitby

At 12.48am the shipping forecast comes on, preceded by the soothing / dreary tune Sailing By, which is not to send those of us tucked up in bed to sleep, but to alert mariners to be tuned in. The shipping forecast is produced by the Met Office and broadcast four times a day on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The waters around the British Isles are divided into 31 sea areas. Of interest to writers – the forecast has a limit of 350 words, except for the 0048 broadcast, which has a 380 word limit. The unique style attracts many who have no intention of putting even a foot in the sea. It is just fascinating to listen to, even though, or perhaps because we have no idea what most of it means. We like to imagine far flung mysterious islands and wave swept rocky headlands.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, BBC’s Zeb Soames was asked to read the shipping forecast to a worldwide audience of over a billion. Soanes says: “To the non-nautical, it is a nightly litany of the sea… It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past. Whilst the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, they can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall.”

There are warnings of gales in Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, and Fair Isle …   Humber, Thames. Southeast veering southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

There are weather reports from automatic weather logging stations, such as “Channel Light Vessel Automatic”; these are the coastal weather stations. More familiar sounding to those on land is the inshore waters forecast that rounds off the broadcast. The inshore coastal areas of the United Kingdom are 15 fixed stretches of coastline used in weather forecasting especially for wind-powered or small coastal craft. Each area is mentioned in the same order, clockwise round the mainland starting and finishing in the north west of Britain. You can follow places you have been on holiday or that lighthouse you visited.   North Foreland to Selsey Bill, Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis. When you hear  Adnamurchan Point to Cape Wrath including the Outer Hebrides, you know you’re back  to the beginning,  with a quick trip further north to the Shetland Isles…

If you are still awake the National Anthem is now played and BBC Radio 4 closes down for the night, but you will not be left alone, BBC World Service takes over, with all sorts of interesting programmes until 5.20 am when it’s the shipping forecast again. At 5.30 am Radio 4 is back with News Briefing and Prayer for the Day.

Many radio stations all over the world broadcast through the night; if you tune in what are your favourite stations?

Silly Saturday – Covid Community Caring Characters – Interview no. 3

Yes I’m proud to be serving my country, proud of the uniform I wear; keeping everyone safe.

Last week, but already it feels like this is what I was destined to do.

No, we always work in pairs for safety, it can be tough out there and I know I can trust Nat with my life. We also need to show our presence.

The most important aspect of our work is to gather intelligence; does something look not quite right? Is that person a local? What is that chap carrying? Why does that woman keep glancing around nervously.

No I don’t think we’re turning into a police state, most people know why we are doing this.

What do we actually do? Every hour, every day is different, we never know what we’re going to face. But that doesn’t stop us taking risks, talking to strangers…

You have yesterday’s recording from my headcam? No, that’s not allowed. Oh, it’s already gone out on the lunchtime news… No, I have nothing to hide, it will be good for the public to see what we face.

Are you out for exercise… and you ran all that way… well there isn’t going to be an Olympics so you don’t need to run twenty six miles every day.

Is this your car Madame, how far have you driven? Yes we do know where you live – ANPR. Did you drive down the spur road? So your details are already on the PNC. I am using plain language – Automatic Number Plate Recognition, Police National Computer. Well we would all like a walk by the sea, but it’s hardly local. Yes it is actually against the law to go to the seaside.

Is this outing for the purpose of essential shopping. No I don’t think you are carrying four heavy bags just for fun. May I look inside the bags. No you don’t know your rights and you’re wrong. Do you consider chocolate and three bottles of wine to be essential? Home schooling does not make them essential.

I would believe you were out for daily exercise if you were walking a little faster. If you have knee trouble why don’t you stay home?

Sitting on a bench does not constitute exercise Sir. CPD? Why does being obsessive mean you have to sit down? Ah, yes of course that’s OCD, so what made up condition is CPD? We didn’t do that on our one day first aid course. Oh, my colleague here says yes we did, but I was asleep. Anyway, please don’t drop dead on my watch ha ha, we’re not allowed to administer mouth to mouth resuscitation because of Covid.

Isn’t it time for our lunch break Nat, let’s just clobber one more.  Good morning Madame, is this your vehicle. Yes I can see you have a disabled badge, but you don’t look very disabled… so is that your ninety nine year old mother in the passenger seat? Shouldn’t she be at home? A last look at the sea before she dies, we’ve heard that excuse before….

What do I love about my job? Working with people, I’m good with people and I love being a Covid Warden.