Sunday, 6 September 2020

Blackberry-Picking


One of my lovely neighbours, Natalie, and I did our almost annual bramble-hunt a couple of weekends ago. Our previous record was two kilos. This time we beat it and collected two-and-a-third kilos of blackberries (image below are the unwashed and unsorted berry-fruits). All gratis, courtesy of Mother Nature. The plants are over-laden this year, with plenty of fruits left for our wildlife friends. There are even blooms of future berries still flowering everywhere.



If you do go blackberry-picking, remember not to pick those at a level they could have been urinated upon by dogs. Also, do not collect from the sides of busy roads as pollutants may have adhered to the fruits. When you return home, cleanse your fruit in cold water with a splash of spirit, wine or cider vinegar - not malt (top image below). The brambles may have been walked over by slugs, snails, insects, spiders, mice or birds, so this helps ensure no bugs are passed on to people!




I used my collection to make fruit crumbles (top two images below), some of which will be shared with shielding friends. I also hoped housemate would go out to purchase some cheap vodka. He did. With it I placeD some of the berries in a container and covered with the alcohol (bottom image). This will be stowed until Christmas when it will be served up as a warming Yuletide liqueur. My neighbour is going to attempt to make crème de mure. Other uses are in jams, fruit wine or added to a Rumtopf. Enjoy!





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Monday, 3 August 2020

Manchester Lockdown Farce!


Well, as many Mancunians know, if one has passed a pub over the past few days there has been NO social-distancing, NO masks being worn whatsoever in many venues (excepting staff), and I very much suspect zero hand-washing (excepting staff).

As I understand the governmental guidelines the responsibility falls upon the proprietor to ensure the health measures are adhered to. But as we know, that is contrary to their pecuniary self-interest (for which some blame falls on the UK Government for insufficient financial support to many businesses).

Furthermore, if the Authorities, in this instance the Greater Manchester Police and the Greater Manchester Local Authorities fail to oversee pubs and eateries, then inebriated folk are going to skip safety-measures. Public alcohol-consumption during a pandemic is risky at best and downright negligent at worst. 



[Image description: person drinking a very generous G&T.]

If the Authorities are unable or incapable of adequately and appropriately supervising establishments where alcohol is being served, then all licences should be temporarily suspended during lock-down periods.

My experience on Saturday evening (1st August) was the vast majority of drinkers were at the younger end of the age spectrum, i.e. under forty. However, one person’s observations cannot be generalised. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see whether there is a rise in infections amongst younger folk.

I sincerely hope that the Mayor of Manchester is able to get a firm grip on the situation; but currently I somehow doubt very much he will do so.

This article was written in response to the following article (q.v.) from the Independent:



Tuesday, 12 May 2020

International M.E. Awareness Day 2020


I have not been well enough at this time of the year since 2017, so this is my first blog-post to mark the international Myalgic Encephalomyelitis awareness day in three years. (Underneath this blog-post is a list of words and terms, click on any of the ones referring to M.E. to find some of my previous outpourings.)

Under the UK’s current N.I.C.E. Guidelines and by my NHS hospital specialist, I am classified as having the severe form of M.E. There are three official categories: mild, moderate, & severe. However, the severe category itself covers a range of folk from those who are mostly bed-bound, like myself, to those who cannot ingest food or water and have to be kept alive via feeds.

In my previous blog-post I wrote:

“M.E. is not about being tired all the time. It is not a psychiatric illness as the UK’s psycho-cabal (along with their colleagues in Holland & Denmark) would have us believe. It is a multi-systemic, neurological disease (recognised for decades as such by the WHO, currently under ICD-10 G93.3). There are 106 conditions on my health spreadsheet; 104 are connected with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Only three are related to sleep. Under the WHO’s ICD-10 I have conditions under sections I, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XVIII & XIX.”

I have mulled over the possible threat to my privacy and so forth, but have decided to publish the full list of my conditions. Obviously I have had to hide certain personal details to prevent identity-theft. I am not publishing this list to garner sympathy. My hope is that the reader will come to realise just how ghastly this disease is in its depth and breadth of conditions and symptoms. Many of these are covered in the broad and all-enveloping rubric of the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, many are classed as co-morbidities; but which is which is very much still debated.

The list below has not been updated since 2016. However, since that time my medications have altered. I have left the original medicines listed so one has a sense of what is or, in most instances, is not available.

The European Parliament recently unanimously voted for more funding for research into the biological causes of M.E., because despite millions suffering across Europe (and indeed the World), very little is invested into medical research. Individuals with the worst form of M.E. have worse quality of life scores than any other measured illness, including cancers and AIDs. Because we are hidden in our homes, we are ignored or dismissed. Please consider donating time or money to a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis charity or research proposal.




Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Visiting My Local Supermarket During Lock-Down

Well, what a morning - totally exhausted!

Breaking my quarantine:

After twenty-two days of self-isolation, my stores of foodstuffs have been depleted. Whilst I have succeeded for the past fortnight to get fresh aliments and some staples home-delivered, I have been unsuccessful in my attempts at obtaining a delivery-slot from local supermarkets, and this week I could only source a small, insignificant basket of goods from a farm. Many disabled folk who rely on home-delivery have been unable to get their usual slots and there are many who are going without food. The national government has been extremely ill-organised in its whole dealings with regards the pandemic, and appears to have had no contingency plans in place/ However, my local authority ,Trafford, is telephoning folk it believes may be vulnerable and need support to check whether they do so. I have been very critical of my local authority in the past few years, but it is good to be able to applaud them for acting so pro-actively in this instance.

Preparations:

I awoke really early so I could be ready to shop at my local supermarket, Waitrose, along with the other vulnerables during the first hour of the opening-hours set aside for us. My housemate, Rico, who often acts as my principle carer, helped me dress as it was way too early for one of my regular carer calls. I decided upon clothing that could be stripped and go straight into the laundry upon my return home. I donned a long-sleeved top over a T-shirt, gloves to keep my hands germ-free and a scarf, in case it was needed to wrap around my face. Rico loaded the wheelchair into the back of the car. I grabbed a load of bags and my wallet, and we set off a little after nine, store opening-time.

At the supermarket:

I was rather pleasantly surprised at how organised everything is. There are markers at two-metre intervals so shoppers queuing can ensure they retain social-distance. For the most part customers kept their distance bar one odd curmudgeonly old git. The queue moved quite briskly and we were less than five minutes outside. Staff were extremely helpful. They were also very polite and apologetic to the three sets of customers who complained (in that time-frame) at them because they were not permitted to enter until ten and were thus turned away. The first hour of shopping has been reserved for the past fortnight at most large shops for the elderly and other vulnerable folk; and this fact has been in the newspapers and on the news programmes. If individuals have missed a trick, then that is their problem and they ought to accept their oversight with good grace rather than taking out their frustrations on hard-working staff. Let’s face it: we are meant to be staying at home and not visiting others, so most would not have good reason to be in a rush to be elsewhere!

A manager taught me how to use self-scan. I don’t recommend it for big sprees when this is all over, but probably good for a quick grab-and-go shop. However, it meant only I was handling the shopping. I wheeled round the whole store, whilst Rico pushed the trolley and packed the bags as we went along the shelves.

All the counters (butchery, fishmongery & deli), the café and the self-serve coffee-maker were shut down; but the bakery is still churning out fresh loaves - ours was still warm when we picked it up. The flour area was devoid of anything other than bread-making flour, but with no yeast available it was standing untouched. I had a kind server hand me down a bread-mix containing its own yeast medium, so if necessary I can make some bread of my own - well, actually, Rico is the resident bread-baker, so it would be over to him.

Normally, at the point where we reach the café, we should have stopped for a cup of coffee and a snack, a short rest and then continue with the task at hand. However, the café has now been turned into an extended holding area for customers awaiting to be allocated a cashier to assist.

The freezer-zone looks as if locusts have passed through. Plenty of frozen spinach to be had though! Toilet-rolls are aplenty, but rationed to two packs per shopper. We have plenty from our BREXIT stores, but did buy another pack of kitchen-roll. There were hardly any tissues, but I succeeded in finding a double-pack of Kleenex on a low-shelf - one advantage to being in the wheelchair. Similarly, there were no general cleaning sprays.

Results:

Thankfully, barring a handful of items, I obtained everything on my extended shopping-list. I am thankful that This Easter I shall be able to have a traditional lamb-roast, even if the friends who may no longer attend are absent. I shall certainly raise a toast to absent friends and say a few prayers for them.

[Image description: kitchen-counter covered in shopping and food preparation.]

Afterwards:

One hour and fifteen minutes from leaving the house, we stepped back over the threshold. I immediately stripped off my outer-layers, gloves & shoes and went to wash my hands. After stowing the shopping and washing the fruit & vegetables, intermittently re-washing my hands after dealing with packaging, I returned to my room and had a hot soapy shower. Hopefully, I shall have managed to bypass the virus. I should not need. To go out again for another three weeks or so. Thus there is time to see whether I do develop any symptoms. Fingers crossed. And my prayers for all.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Coronavirus versus Terrorism



[Image description: two panel cartoon strip; panel1, an elderly chap sitting in front of a television-set watches a scared-looking news-reporter shout, “WHAT CAN WE DO TO LESSEN THE GRIP OF FEAR FROM TERRORISM?”; panel 2, the viewer breaks the fourth wall, looks at us with a sly smile having “CLICK”-ed his remote-controller and turned off the TV. The image is by and © Bruce Beattie and was published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.]

I shared the above cartoon on my facebook account in 2013. Since then the news media have reported endless stories of terrorism. As a resident all my life of England, I grew up with the constant threat of terrorism from the IRA. There were bomb-threats when I worked in the city of Manchester in the 1980s. I thankfully missed the Manchester bombing back in 1996 due to fortuitous circumstances. I and many others became inured to the threats because we lived with them daily. The peace-process ended with a stand-down of the opposing forces starting in 1998. Not long afterwards so-called “Islamic” terrorism (which has nothing to do with this peaceful religion) became the main focus of news media. Despite much of the hysteria around terrorism, statistically one is more likely to die from an injury in the home or a vehicle crash.

I question whether folk have now become jaded to the almost incessant news of fresh “terrorist“ attacks, and hence the current media compulsion to use scare-tactics regarding a virus? The death-rates as currently published, are lower than for ordinary influenza (‘flu). The media are fanning an hysteria. Why? Scared citizens can be controlled much easier than rational, thinking individuals. It is also a convenient cover for powers-that-be to quietly, or otherwise, remove rights and curtail freedoms.

Perhaps terrorism and coronavirus are intrinsically the same, means by which to cower and control populations who otherwise might become aware of other matters which élites wish to hide.

Panicking is totally unhelpful. Pause to think and ponder. Evaluate risk calmly. Postulate what the powerful are actually up to.


[Image description: graph indicating death rates for age deciles gradually increasing from 10 (0.2%) to 80+ (14.8%)]