Saturday, 4 April 2020

Fighting the Coronavirus Down Mexico Way

As the rest of the world dedicates time, money and resources to finding a cure for the Coronavirus, Mexico has put its faith in the supernatural, by producing these candles that come with their very own spell to ward off the Chinese Pox.

These veladoras, as they are called down Mexico way, retail for between £2.50 and £5.00 in sterling for the Coronavirus version, but you can get them with the promise that they will deal with all sorts of infirmities and problems. You light the candle, recite the conjuration as instructed on the product, and then pass the veladora over the bodies of everyone in the house so that its mystic fumes will protect them as they go about their daily business. The candle is then placed on the family altar and left to burn out of its own accord, something which will take up to a week or so. During that time, the Coronavirus is kept at bay.

El Universal has the story in Spanish and also in an English translation, which is not quite the same as the Spanish original. In the original version, the woman stallholder interviewed claimed that she had bought 40 of these veladoras and had sold 38 of them, leading her to buy another 60. The English version gives different quantities, for some reason. Both versions say that a made at home hand sanitiser which is 90% alcohol is also on offer, but only the English story has it that the sale of the veladoras comes with advice on western-style "hygienic measures" such as showering, albeit with a magic lotion.

My guess is that whoever created the English version of the story added those extras because they were embarrassed that people put their faith on the supernatural. The English readers are led to believe that actually, the venders are trying to help their peasant clientele by jollying them along into adopting modern cleanliness responses to this virus and that the magic element is just to get them interested.

However, before anyone starts to feel too superior, we should remember that here in the UK there are any number of utter fuckwits who blame the Coronavirus on the new 5G telephone masts that are being installed, and some of them are reported to have been burned down.

Frankly, I prefer Mexican mysticism to British bollocks.

People Ignore the Lockdown

I am less than convinced of the utility of this lockdown thingie. Shopping with one of my sons last Sunday we both noticed that the amount of traffic on the roads looked pretty much like the amount of traffic that you get on any given Sunday. The local community green which consists of a children's play area that is surrounded by benches for the adults to sit on was full of people taking the air and enjoying the bright spring day. It was true that fewer people were walking around along the main roads, but the side streets that cover my estate had the usual numbers of footsloggers on them.

That son of mine works as a security man and he was hired to do a shift at the Chinese consulate. Give the diplomats credit, as they fitted him out with a mask, goggles and latex gloves, which is a good thing as his job was to check the temperature of anyone who wanted to access the building and he was given strict instructions that anyone who was running a temperature was to be knocked back.

One fellow arrived and registered a temperature of over 100F degrees, which is pretty eye-watering. He claimed that he had felt a bit chilly that morning so had used the heater in his car, but the lad knocked him back and he went off, muttering in Chinese, about the unfairness of it all.

Last weekend the supermarkets introduced a policy of restricting the number of people who they let in at any one time, with the result that massive queues formed outside. At that time, getting a slot for a click and collect purchase was fairly easy, but then people began to order their groceries online and by midweek you couldn't get a slot to pick them up to save your life. At the time of writing, Tesco in this area has no slots available until next month. Looking on the bright side, last night I breezed into Tesco, bought what I needed and then paid at an otherwise empty checkout with no trouble. The checkout girl was so bored that we ended up chewing the fat for five minutes or so.

We will have to see what happens if the death rate does climb to around a thousand a day, as it is expected to do this coming week. However, as things stand, the people seem to have decided that the cure is worse than the complaint.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Coming To Terms With Coronavirus Life

As the lockdown continues I see that a herd of wild Kashmiri goats that normally live on a Welsh mountain have decided to visit Llandudno and seem to be enjoying themselves as well as providing free entertainment for the people watching their antics from inside their houses.

I went shopping on Sunday and noticed that although the main roads are bereft of pedestrians, the side streets are full of them, with a small green that has benches and children's swings being full of people taking in the early spring sunshine.

The main road to the supermarket seemed to have more than its usual amount of traffic for a Sunday, with entrance to the Tesco that was my destination being strictly controlled to keep the numbers shopping manageable. My son had ordered his food online, so all we had to do was collect it from the area reserved for online orders. Getting a slot was easy, so it looks as if the panic is over.

Scottish humour is up and running with this video doing the rounds and providing laughs for all who see it.

That said, not everyone finds it easy to work from home, as this doorman discovered to his cost:

Other people have given up bothering and are slowly but surely trying to get back to normal, especially the self-employed. My gardener texted me two weeks ago to say that he was going into hibernation until the crisis was over, but he has now decided to start mowing lawns again as of this week, so my grass will be cut the week after next.

Life goes on as it has to do.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

The Light Nights Are Back: Today Is Feast Day!

Every December I buy two turkey breast joints from Old Mother Tesco. One is eaten at Christmas and the other goes in my freezer for the last day of GMT, which just happens to be today.

So as I write I have that turkey in the oven, the gravy that was bought with it has defrosted overnight and is ready to be heated up and all I need to do is slap the goose-fat covered spuds in the oven when the time is right. They are also in the freezer, naturally.

I have enough decent port for afters that can be enjoyed with the Christmas pud that was bought in January when they went on sale. The custard is out of a can that was kept in the cupboard with all my other supplies.

The light nights are back and we are gonna get through this Chinese Fever thing.

Why You Should Make a Will

The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary and the government's Senior Medical Officer have all come down with the Coronavirus. God knows where it will end, but the death toll is still climbing, so we must assume that we are nowhere near the worst of it yet. So, have you made out your will? I made mine out about three years ago and put the bulk of my savings into one account just to make life easier for my executors. If I can do it so can you, especially now that shit really is hitting the fan. If you don't, then you run the risk of leaving chaos in your wake and I don't believe that any of you want that.

The previous tenant of my housing association flat died in mid-2018. He was only in his late twenties, but it was not unexpected and his health had been poor for many years. I don't know how his estate was managed, but this story is important so that people understand that the Grim Reaper doesn't just visit the elderly: he can tap the shoulder of anyone and at any time. So even if you are a young 'un that is no excuse not to have your affairs in order, especially with this wonderful Chinese import that is going the rounds.

In June of last year, a very good friend of mine died at the relatively early age of 59. His estate should have been simple to manage, being little more than his house, his car, a good collection of books and the household furniture and some limited savings. He also had a good pension and the right to specify to whom he wished it to be paid. Had he bothered to make out a will it would all have been very simple to manage, but he didn't.

I have no idea why, so I take it that he reasoned that he had plenty of time to do everything he wanted in the final years of his life and in his own good time. He wasn't granted that good time, so his widow, from whom he was separated, has probably got it all. The woman he cared for and who he often spoke of bequeathing his pension to will probably have nothing. That is what happens when you put off things until tomorrow and then put them off forever.

Normally, people go to a solicitor to make out a will, but there is a website called Your Will Be Done which I used to create my will, and I reckon that it is ideal especially for simple wills. I paid £25.00 and I can now make whatever changes I want to the will whenever I want.  Luckily, my estate is a very simple one, so I doubt if I will ever want to make changes to the will, copies of which have been given to my two executors. Why did I choose two? Probably because I reckon that executors are like tits and they come better in pairs. Besides, if one of them snuffs it before me then the other should still be upright and mobile to handle my affairs if the need arises before I can appoint a replacement.

At the moment, anyone over 60 can use the Your Will Be Done service free until the Coronavirus crisis had ended. So, you have no excuse, do you?

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The Coronavirus Hits the Postal Service

A parcel arrived for me this morning about an hour before the mail is usually delivered. Chatting to the postman, he told me that the reason was that his depot is sixteen men down owing to dry coughs, high temperatures or both together. The virus has not been confirmed, but the fellows have been told to stay at home, or have made the decision for themselves. So my postie is doing two deliveries a day, hence his early arrival. It seems that we will only get mail on three days a week since the men are just not available to handle the deliveries.

In the afternoon I went to my local post office that is located inside a shop. Only one woman was working with all the other staff either being in their homes or working in other post offices that otherwise would have no staff at all.

The postal workers really are in the front line when it comes to infection risks and if this carries on it is likely that this vitally important service will be reduced to a skeleton operation or even suspended altogether.

Shit is getting real as the Americans say.

How to Prepare for a Future Crisis

Just two years ago, in March 2018, I published A Sensible Prepping Guide. I was inspired to write it in the aftermath of the Beast From The East, the big freeze that left roads blocked with snow and railway lines frozen solid. During those few days, the just in time distribution system broke down completely and the only reason why the shops did not run out of food altogether was that most people could not get out of their houses to panic buy groceries. That said, there were shortages and had the arctic winter lasted longer than a week they would have become as critical as they are right now.

In A Sensible Prepping Guide, I argued that we can no longer rely on the distribution system working in the event of an emergency in the way that it did in the past. I used the example of the Berlin city authorities in April 1945 who distributed froward rations to the people that were to be consumed when their local distribution points were overrun by the Soviet army. They also continued to distribute rations form those points to the shops that then sold them to the people right up until the fighting reached the area concerned. By the end of April the city had more or less fallen, and by the end of May, just one month later, the new Soviet rulers distributed their own ration cards to people and food began to be issued via them.

In Britain, during the terrible winter of 1962/63, the country was pretty much frozen solid from late December to mid-March. Yet, supplies got through because councils employed an army of workmen who could be sent out with shovels to clear just enough of the roads to allow supplies that reached the railway stations to be shipped to the wholesalers and from there to the shops.

What kept Berlin and Britain alive during those terrible times was the redundancy that was built into the respective systems. If one part of the system collapsed, people could be shifted to another part to ensure that supplies got through and we do not have that these days. What we have is a super-sophisticated, computer run distribution system that works perfectly until it doesn't, and when it doesn't people who have not thought ahead start to go hungry.

Funnily enough, the people who may be coming through this crisis better than anyone are the residents of the council estates, that are called council schemes in Scotland. Many of them still do their weekly shopping in the parade of shops that are on their schemes. Just today I saw a family walking home with their shopping. Dad had a massive bag of potatoes over his right shoulder and a shopping bag in his left paw. Mum walked just behind him pushing her wheeled shopping trolley and one of the sons brought up the rear carrying a massive multipack of toilet rolls.

Today is a Wednesday and for many people it is payday. It also a benefits' payout day so shops such as Farmfoods are well stocked in anticipation of the windfall that will come their way on this and every other Wednesday and Thursday. The middle classes who shop online using their credit cards are only dimly aware of the council schemes and are terrified of the schemies who live in them so there is no competition for local groceries in local shops.

The way that the schemies live is the way that everybody used to live and will probably have to start living again. We have now had two near disasters in 2018 and again in 2020 when the distribution system has broken down. The theme that ran through A Sensible Prepping Guide was that we cannot rely on the system to always work and we have to be prepared for life's little vicissitudes.

It makes perfect sense to keep a goodly stock on hand of tinned and dried goods that can be used as part of day to day living and then restocked on a one for one basis as they are used. That way, when the next crisis hits us we will not see people desperately stocking up on anything and everything.

It is not about preparing for the end of days: it is about accepting that the system that we live under is just prone to failure and getting ready to ride out the next failure when it arrives.

Which it will.
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