The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

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We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

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J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

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The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

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“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

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Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

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Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

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Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

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At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

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Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

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Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

Silly Saturday – Not Going Out

Whether you are stuck in your twenty bedroom mansion with many acres of private grounds or alone in a tiny flat, there are some advantages to being in the majority of the population not allowed to go out. Remember that feeling when your mother believed it when you said you felt ill and you didn’t have to go to school? Recreate that inner freedom of spirit for yourself every morning.

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You don’t have to decide what to wear each day, even if you are still in your dressing gown when you put the bins out no one will be around to see you.
If you are a schoolchild you are taking part in the biggest social experiment ever; if your exasperated parents call you a rat they just mean it affectionately, you are a laboratory rat. Perhaps the experiment will prove that actually nobody needs to go to school. If you had no friends at school you are a winner, nobody has any friends at school now.

 

Parents, if you are one of those families that appeared in that documentary, Twenty Two Children and Another on the Way, you are laughing, now is your time, with a ready made school and team sports. As you could never afford to go out anyway with all those children, life goes on much the same.
Adults, you don’t have to go to work, or if you have to work from home you can do it in your pyjamas.
You don’t have to go out, you don’t have to go to that boring party, your in-laws’ wedding, that tedious conference, parents’ evening, to the cinema to see that ghastly film your partner wanted to see and you don’t have to go to the dentist.
You can watch television all day long, especially twenty four hour corona coverage.

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Tired of decision making? Remember waking up to sunny Saturdays and discussing how to make the most of a nice weekend? We must go somewhere, but where, a favourite place or somewhere new? A local walk or major expedition? Take a picnic or eat out? Shall we call Barbara and John and see if they want to meet up?

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Ironically you will get to know your neighbours better, even if you do have to yell from your balcony, over the fence or across the road. They are home all the time and the ones that tried to avoid you are pitifully grateful when you wave to them.
Your dog is happy, very happy, never lonely and five walks a day with each member of the family going on their allotted outing.
If you are an introvert this is your time. No one is going to tell you that getting out more would be good for you.

You will have plenty of time to catch up with all those ( my ) books you wanted to read.

 

What advantages have you found in your confinement to home?

Friday Flash Fiction 626 – Working From Home

Today’s tale follows on from Sunday’s short story.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/sunday-short-story-720-the-queue/

Working from home was not quite how Cassie had imagined. Working on her own was fine, no interruptions, but conference calls with colleagues, from work or overseas, took much longer than expected. She had reckoned without the domestic factors.

They’re sharing a table with home schooling children, they have to be joking, haven’t they got grandparents to dump them with?
‘Sorry Cassie, isn’t it a nightmare, can’t leave them with Mum, she’s just had chemo.’
Cassie looked at the squabbling pair who kept looming into view; surely these were not the two adorable angels that they heard so much about from Gabbie in the office. At least she couldn’t get out of work now; Gabbie was usually more out of the office than in, taking time off every time one of the little darlings had a sniffle.
‘Did you email Singapore Gabbie?’
‘Singapore, oh my god, I was just about to when Felicity fell down the stairs.’

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It was quite entertaining though, who would have imagined Gavin would choose such décor? What room was he actually working in, would it be rude to ask?
A huge black hairy face filled the computer screen.
‘Down Hugo. Sorry Cassie, he’s usually out with the dog walker at this time of the day, he thinks it’s Christmas. Yes I’ll take you out in a moment, Hugo that is, not you Cassie… Did Gabbie email Singapore? It’s chaos at her place.’

‘Good morning Cassie, meet Mr. Snuggles.’
A bundle of fur with an evil face sat on John’s lap.
‘If we get cut off, blame the cat.’
They got cut off.

She did not even recognise the woman on the three way conference call and what on earth was that top she was wearing or was it a …
‘Good morning, is Singapore sorted yet, did that email go, hope you don’t mind the baby… isn’t this working from home great, no pumping and expressing.’

Cassie needed a coffee, but she ought to touch base with the boss first.
‘Yes Mr. Fenton, no, I’m going to email Singapore right now, it’s not easy getting everyone into this working from home routine.’
A slender brown arm appeared at the side of her screen and placed a bone china cup and saucer on Mr. Fenton’s mahogany desk, followed by a delicate tea plate with two chocolate biscuits. Who was that woman? Unlikely to be the insipid plump wife he had brought to the Christmas dinner and dance.

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The one person she had not linked up with, had any contact with, was the chap from the queue at the chemist. She had looked him up as soon as she got home; a completely different department, which was good from a professional versus socialising point of view. Would he contact her, what were the rules of dating for the over forties, not that they were dating… had he thought better of it, wrongly assuming she could be desperately seeking a responsible man to impregnate her before it was too late. This morning’s glimpses into the home life of others had confirmed she had no desire for a baby, dog, or cat… but supposing he had children of his own, they knew nothing about each other…
Her computer pinged, a new email, from him.
‘Coffee break time, do you want to Zoom or Facetime?’
Five minutes later Cassie was laughing; the blue eyes were just as penetrating on the screen with crinkle lines evidence that he laughed a lot and could make her laugh as he described his morning.
‘Mummy, Mummy, Felix has done a poo on the carpetI didn’t know if Felix was a cat or a brat…. Oh Cassie, sorry, do you have children or pets…’
‘No way, well only a vivarium…’

 

The NHS

I was going to write about The NHS weeks ago, but events kept overtaking me and the subject.

‘The National Health Service is the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom. It is made up of four separate systems that serve each part of the UK: The National Health Service in England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. They were established together in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following the Second World War. The founding principles were that services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. Each service provides a comprehensive range of health services, free at the point of use for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, apart from dental treatment and optical care. The English NHS also requires patients to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions from these charges.’

https://www.nhs.uk/

Often the NHS is only in our thoughts when we are having our own personal dramas. Sometimes it is in the news for the wrong reasons, when things go drastically wrong. At present it is in the news all the time, it IS The News. The system that has cared for most of us from before we were born until we take our last breath is now responsible for steering the UK through the world wide pandemic. Whilst many people have been told not to go to work and stay at home, NHS staff are hardly seeing their homes. Government quickly forgets all the cut backs, poor pay for some, meddling, outsourcing and attempts to sell bits off that put the NHS at risk and expect all the staff to rise to the challenge… and they have. Perhaps when or if this is over those in power will do the right thing, instead of the public having to continually sign petitions pleading for our national treasure to be protected.
I recently finished reading Adam Kay’s Book This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor and reviewed it on Goodreads.

‘When my planned caesarean for our first baby ( breech ) turned into a 1am Sunday morning dash to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital a week early, one of the staff said ‘You’re in luck, the registrar’s on tonight’ I wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t been on. They may also have said I was lucky it was a quiet night. Anyway, everything proceeded quickly. When the same early imminent arrival happened with my third caesarean the same hospital was busy with a worrying lack of progress; the surgeon told me he had another emergency caesarean to perform and he had rung the consultant – for advice, not actually to come in; consultants don’t come in during the night as you will find out when you read this book! The anaesthetist said he had been on for 24 hours, I was shocked, but this was no doubt the norm, then and now. Adam Kay’s book is very funny, but there are dark moments and to an outsider it seems a realistic portrayal of a medical career, the dedication of those who work for the NHS and the cavalier attitude of management and government to our most important and treasured institution. Many readers will find anecdotes that relate to their family’s experiences and people who enjoy medical things are bound to relish this book.’

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35235302-this-is-going-to-hurt

Adam Kay is now a writer and comedian, no longer a doctor. Is the NHS perfect? Of course not, it’s staffed by human beings, some not as caring as they should be, some arrogant and others too scared to be whistle blowers. Tales of what went wrong and what went right are for another time.
One of the sad aspects of the virus tragedy is that the seriously ill are in isolation, they are not able to see any loved ones. Nor do they have the comfort of seeing the compassionate faces of the medical staff, who in all their protective gear must look like aliens or spacemen to their patients. Those of us who have had treatment in normal times know staff come from all over the world, international cooperation at its best.

Sunday Short Story 720 – The Queue

The ringing startled Cassie, nobody ever called her on the landline, few people called her mobile either. She was tempted to ignore it, but the sound penetrated the calm of her little house.
‘Hello Dear, it’s Doris.’
Cassie was slow to react.
‘Doris next door.’
‘Oh, of course…’
In a rare moment of neighbourliness, when Cassie moved in a year ago, she had given the old lady next door her number, just in case…
‘You said to call if there was an emergency.’
Had she really said that? Cassie pictured Doris lying on the floor with a broken hip. That would be the end of her pleasant Day One working from home.
‘Yes, yes of course, what happened?’
‘Nothing yet, but I can’t get out to collect my prescriptions. Boris said I had to stay indoors with my lungs.’
‘Well we all do…’
‘Yes, but you’re not vulnerable dear, you could cycle down to the chemist.’
Relief that she would not have to apply first aid lifted Cassie’s spirits, she brightened her voice to what she hoped was a caring tone.
‘Of course, I’m going out anyway for my one permitted exercise of the day.’

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Self isolation was what Cassie practised most of the time, why she had moved to that quiet road, but neither did she want to be stuck indoors all the time. As she turned her bike into the high street, what looked like a new Antony Gormley art installation filled the pavement outside several shops. Suddenly every figure moved two paces, perhaps it was a flash mob; she waited for them to break into song and dance. She wheeled her bike a few inches towards a woman now rooted firmly to the spot. The woman backed away a few inches.
‘Excuse me, what’s going on?’
‘Queue for the chemist, one out, one in.’
‘Oh god, how long have you been here?’
‘Thirty minutes, you’d better get to the end of the queue.’
Cassie padlocked her bike and took up position outside the closed card and gift shop. The woman six feet in front of her turned and smiled. Cassie groaned inwardly, not one of those who liked to chat…
‘Nice day for it, I was here yesterday, but I don’t mind standing out in the sunshine; it’s for my dad, didn’t have all his meds yesterday. He’s got OCD, or is it COPD and diabetes, you wouldn’t believe how many different tablets he takes… he had a funny turn yesterday and I was worried it was the Coronavirus, but he didn’t have a temperature, at least I don’t think he did, we couldn’t find a thermometer…’
‘Oh well it must be…’
Cassie glanced up ahead, four more shops before she was even near the chemist. She glanced behind and noted three more people hovering. One chap looked vaguely familiar.
‘Is this the queue for…
‘The chemist.’
‘Ahh, not how I planned to spend my first day working from home.’
‘Me neither, it’s not for me, the old lady next door.’

‘Same here, shoot me if I ever end up collecting a bag of medicines every week.’
Cassie laughed, someone with the same sense of humour. ‘Let’s hope we have nice neighbours if we get like that.’
‘Well the old lady isn’t exactly a neighbour, it’s my mother, I live with her.’
Oh no, a chap in his forties who still lived with his mother, not what she needed. Well standing two yards away from a bloke hardly rated as being chatted up, though even at that distance she had noted his piercing blue eyes. She realised he was still talking.
‘I know, sounds a bit sad, you get divorced and instead of freedom your sister expects you to take your turn at responsibility, it didn’t help getting transferred here… speaking of which, I’m sure you look familiar, you don’t work for MPJ as well do you?’
She could say no, but then if she bumped into him at work… if they ever went back to work, how long was this virus thing going to last, would her job even survive. He was still talking.
‘So we can hardly go out for a drink with everything closed, but it might get lonely working at home, perhaps we could link up on line.’
‘Okay, I’m Cassie…

Silly Saturday – Caring for Criminals in Corona Crisis

Whether you are a mugger, pick pocket or burglar this current pandemic is bad news. With crowds a thing of the past the pick pocket stands no chance of earning a living, while the mugger fairs little better with the streets nearly empty. As shoppers are being requested to use their cards instead of cash, those few people out will probably not be carrying cash. But spare a thought for the burglar; everyone is confined to home, not an empty house to be found. The chancellor has offered no help at all to career criminals, who through no fault of their own find themselves without an income.

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There is a ray of hope with an increase in cyber crime; you can make phone calls and send emails claiming to be from Inland Revenue or Social Security, but once you have persuaded some naïve person to part with all their personal details you need to know what to do with them. Most criminals are not clever enough to hack into their own bank accounts, let alone anyone else’s.

So for those who prefer the hands on approach here is how to keep yourself safe. Maintain a low profile, you don’t want to be arrested just for being outside before you have even had a chance to steal. If you are going to mug or pick pocket you must wear gloves and a suitable mask, your usual robber mask will not offer the correct protection. If your victim coughs move away quickly and abandon the attempt. Once you have spotted a suitable victim there is no time to waste, with everyone else keeping six feet away from each other your movements are bound to attract attention. This could be the right time to take on an apprentice, your young nimble son or daughter; if you don’t want to risk the health of you own child you could borrow the offspring of your partner or neighbour. With schools closed, anybody would be glad for someone to take their child out for the permitted exercise period.

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If your modus operandi is armed hold ups, observe the professional code and do not cough or spit at your target; you must adhere to the new social rules and not risk the health of an honest shopkeeper, stick to using your gun or knife. Patience will also be required. Most shops now expect shoppers to queue up outside, six feet apart from each other; to push in will draw attention to yourself and it need hardly be emphasised that you should keep your weapon hidden while you are in the queue. However, looking on the bright side, your getaway will be easy. No one is going to come within two yards of you, let alone try to be a hero and tackle you.

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Burglars should take with them cleansing sprays and gloves. If you manage to sneak in an unlocked door or open window, while householders are absorbed watching television or on the internet, well done. Once inside, avoid touching any surfaces; if you can’t find money and valuables easily do not reveal your presence to the residents; it will be hard to keep a safe distance while demanding overenthusiastically where they keep their jewellery.

 

Good luck everybody, we do not know how long this is going to last, but the golden rule is the same as ever; avoid getting caught, you will not be safe from the coronavirus in gaol.

Apocadystolypsian Nightmare Now

Many of us, readers and writers alike, feel as if we are in a novel. All this can’t really be happening.

Caught up in minor and major medical dramas, our whole family’s normal life had already been put on hold last month, now it seems the whole world, or at least the human race, has been put on hold by The Virus. It is mainly good news for the planet and other species, except mountain gorillas, who have been told to self isolate as they could be vulnerable.

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In my new role ( less than a fortnight ) as full time carer, the first week was spent with family still around and friends dropping in for coffee – though some were beginning to stay at home. Week Two of my confinement and everybody has to stay at home. We shouldn’t complain, there are people in war torn and flattened cities who have been confined for years, with no home, little food and bombs dropping on them.
But it is still the biggest national drama that has happened to most of us. The rules keep changing and depend on which country you live in. Those of you living in the USA will be fine as Donald Trump says it will blow over by Easter.

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Less than a month ago, on our various hospital visits, everyone was using hand gel and I’m sure the rates of norovirus have gone down, but hardly anyone wore masks. The main entrance of the largest hospital was more like an airport, buzzing with life; 24 hour Costa, shops, Marks and Spencer café and shop. On the floor below was a large restaurant packed with staff and visitors on weekdays. I was mixing with far more people than I usually do. That week we were dealing with torrential downpours and high winds; one afternoon I insisted there was no need for anyone to come out to pick me up, what could be simpler than getting on one of the frequent buses from the hospital to the railway station? On arrival at the station it turned out there were no trains to Bournemouth due to a tree down on the line at Basingstoke. Fortunately a replacement bus was soon announced and I joined the surge of commuters boarding a comfortable double decker. Every seat was taken and in the dark and rain with the windows steamed up we had no idea where we were going. We did arrive at Bournemouth railway station in less than an hour, but had been in perfect virus catching conditions.

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Now this week in Britain we are all being told to avoid public transport and keep two metres apart. Schools, restaurants and pubs are closed. We should only leave the house for certain reasons, though we don’t have to carry a permission slip yet. The rules are getting clearer, or are they? The children of key workers would still be allowed to go to school, but the list of key workers is long and which schools had enough teachers who weren’t self isolating?

But I think we understand the underlying reasoning now, it is not that the government particularly cares about your granny or the people of any age with the glibly recited underlying health conditions, it’s because the National Health Service could not cope with vast numbers of patients needing ventilators and beds in Intensive Care Units.
Statistics can never tell the whole story, most people staying home with symptoms are not being tested for the virus, so will we ever know how many? The good news is most people don’t suffer serious symptoms, the bad news is some do and when it’s bad it’s very very bad. The idea of letting nature take its course and humanity build up herd immunity to this brand new virus is certainly not being considered by the World Health Organisation, but a vaccine can’t be magically produced.

Avoidance and drastic measures are all we have, but will our societies survive the shut down of civilisation and the resultant loss of jobs? What will happen in the last chapter of the novel we all find ourselves in?
If you want some comfort reading during your confinement at home find out what may happen to humanity in the future in Three Ages of Man.

Silly Saturday In Isolation

Are you self isolating, or worse, are you stuck at home with your family for two weeks?
Here are handy hints for making the most of your time and discovering more about yourself … and your home.

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1. Sort out your drawers, find the leaflets for those shows and concerts you wanted to see – in 2011. And if you have any 2020 leaflets you can throw them out as well – those great events you wanted to go to will all be cancelled.

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2. Catch up with the five years’ worth of that magazine you subscribed to.
3. Turn out your cupboards and sell everything on ebay.
4. Following on from Three, you now have plenty of space and some spare money. Go on line for some shopping therapy and buy lots more things you don’t need.
5. Making cup cakes seems to be popular with parents forced to look after their own children. Alas, you can’t invite anyone round to eat them.
6. Get out your old sewing machine and make yourself a Corona proof suit.
7. Do some gardening, at least the birds are still visiting you.

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8. Dust and rearrange your ornaments if you haven’t already sold them on ebay.
9. Have a teddy bears’ picnic in your front room; they are your only real friends now.

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10. If you are still bored, call out the fire brigade; at least you will have something to see in the empty street outside when you look out the window.
11. Follow on line Pilates and every motivational exercise programme you can find.
12. Catch up with the ironing or teach yourself how to iron.
13. Take up knitting or crochet and make face masks.
14. Go in the garage or shed and gather up all the old paint tins. Create a mural in the room of your choice.

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15. Make your own youtube videos on fourteen ways to occupy yourself in isolation.

Friday Flash Fiction – Health Crisis

I looked at the list of unpronounceable names on the drugs list. They actually trusted people to administer these to their loved ones? Trusted wives, sons, nieces, the next door neighbour to hand out the right tablets in the right number at the right time? The hospital expected me to ‘do the meds’ without a key or a trolley?

Four tonight, next two days four twice a day, the following day three twice a day… take one three times a day… what a collection, what a selection of pretty sweets for Brian’s ghastly grandchildren; pity they won’t be visiting. This corona virus; good excuse for his daughter to get out of helping and Young Brian away in Spain, couldn’t get a flight back. Not so resentful of me now they have a free carer for their father. I certainly didn’t sign up for this.

Better get organised. Take with food… must be taken one hour before eating… swallow with one glass of water… box of 32 paracetamol, that’s handy, in great demand at the moment, I’m sure Brian doesn’t need those with all the other stuff. A quarter tablet, how the hell am I meant to cut up that microscopic tablet. See leaflet for possible side effects, take me all night to read this… must seek medical help immediately if you accidentally take more than the prescribed dose. Wouldn’t that be a shame, could happen easily, especially with the size of the writing on those little brown bottles… oh, I thought it said 12 not 2 tablets. Ah… ONE 3 times a day, not 3, 3 times a day? No wonder, that explains it…

sunshine-blogger

The Game of Life Goes Global

The Game of Life is being played on the biggest scale ever with the worldwide virus scare. A game of chance with good odds for most of us, but with the rules being made up as we go along and every team making up their own rules, or so we might think… But it is viruses that make the rules, mutating at will; do they have an agenda? It is not hard to believe that Gaia has her hand in this, as travelling and normal life grind to a halt it must be good for the environment and non human creatures.

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Meanwhile, if we zoom in like Google Maps to my family, even without the virus there has been drama. Our daughter has clocked up five different hospitals visited, with her younger son and father in hospital at the same time. Luckily the little one is fine. After a year and more of being well, Cyberspouse’s condition went off at an unexpected tangent and he has been in three different hospitals. Now I am officially a carer, having persuaded the discharge nurse and social care team I would manage – not mentioning that once I was back on my computer writing I would probably forget all about him! Luckily our daughter is a physiotherapist and has been organising us, her brothers and the NHS. Our aim was to get him out of hospital before it went into virus lockdown!

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Blogging and writing was put on hold and once my scheduled blogs ran out it was quite liberating to know there was no chance of writing anything or catching up with fellow bloggers. But what a fund of material I have acquired in my head; a blog about the NHS and patients and visitors…

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Latest virus update… Cyberson 1 now back in the USA has to stay home as he has been to the UK within the last 14 days. Team H are now self quarantining as our son-in-law came home from work with a sore throat and cough. Cyberson 2 can’t come down as his boss’s wife has symptoms. We are lucky all the family got together before the virus kicked in. How have you and yours been affected by the virus?

Silly Saturday Short Story – Jolly Jumper

I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday when the doorbell rang. I only half opened the door, hoping to keep out the torrential rain and wind. On the doorstep stood a complete stranger, or at least it was hard to recognise who she might be with her head bowed and face concealed by the hood of her sodden coat. When she looked up, her expression was one of confusion.
‘Oh, er sorry, is your daughter in?’
I relaxed, pushing the door back another inch. ‘I think you must have the wrong house, I don’t have a daughter.’
‘Oh erm… is this The Lighthouse? Only I was a bit confused because it doesn’t look like the pictures and it isn’t very near the sea.’
Who was this stranger and what pictures?
‘It is only ten minutes walk from the cliff top’ I retorted.
And what business of hers what I called my house? It was a bit of a joke, my fantasy of living in a lighthouse on a rocky outcrop hadn’t quite materialised. The little featureless home in a row of similar houses could have been in any suburb anywhere, but I could walk to the sea; if my knee wasn’t playing up or the weather wasn’t too dreadful.
‘I don’t suppose mine is the only house called The Lighthouse, did you use SatNav?’
‘I came on the train.’
That explained her drowned rat appearance, a cliché, but she did actually look like a drowned rat; it was a good walk from the station. What was I supposed to do with her? She had an accent I couldn’t place.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you, is it a friend or relative you’re looking for?’
‘I was sure this was the right place, Sandbourne, Wessex, I’m over in England for a writers’ convention in London next week.’
I felt a touch of sympathy for a fellow writer and a niggle of guilt that I had not invited her to put even a toe inside the door.
‘What a shame you have such awful weather for your day at the seaside, it might brighten up later. I hope you manage to find your friend.’
‘She’s a fellow blogger, I’ve never actually met her.’
A disquieting bell began to ring inside my head. I am a blogger, but who on earth would want to meet me in real life. Perhaps Sandbourne was full of bloggers who would welcome a visit, but I had no desire to meet fellow bloggers in real life. The whole point of blogging was surely to avoid people.
The woman blinked away large drops of water splashing down from my gutter. ‘She’s called Scribbletide, her blog’s called ‘To The Lighthouse’ … you know, after the Virginia Woolf novel.’
‘Yes, yes, I have read it, they never actually get to the lighthouse.’
Hmm, just like me, that’s why I called my blog that… I never get to the lighthouse. But how on earth had this bedraggled refugee from abroad found out where I lived and how long before she cottoned on that I no longer looked like that picture of me taken thirty years ago, nor do I live on Portland Bill. I could carry on feigning ignorance and hope she cleared off, but what if she told the rest of the blogging world the truth? No more Likes and ‘hugs’, no more followers. And I was intrigued, which of my thirteen followers was she?

17
‘You had better come in, as long as you promise not to write a blog about me.’
With her dripping coat hanging over the kitchen chair and a mug of tea in her hands she looked a bit more presentable, but with no resemblance to any blogger I could think of.
‘So are you Scribbletide?’ she stared at me suspiciously.
‘Well it’s a long story… why don’t you tell me what your blog is called.’
‘Leaping into the Unknown, it’s my day today, my sixth birthday.’
It took me a few moments to cotton on. ‘Leap Year, 29th February today, your birthday, not a very exciting way to spend it. I don’t Do birthdays, but if you only have one every four years I guess it should be special. Do I follow your blog?’
‘Yes, all the time, I’m Jolly Jumper, you love my daredevil adventures.’
Now I knew why she did not look familiar, her blog persona was a cartoon superwoman who wore a colourful Scandiknit jumper. Her real self looked like she would get vertigo climbing a step ladder.

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I took her to the cliff top café for tea and a big slice of cake. She wouldn’t go near the edge of the cliff as she was scared of heights, but with the dreadful weather, we were happy to sit inside and chat. After seeing her off on the train back to London I went home to start my new blog post.
P1070246What a thrill today to meet a fellow blogger from over the ocean. My special visitor, Jolly Jumper, was dropped off by the Sandbourne Lifeboat and scrambled up the craggy rocks to knock on the door of my lighthouse. It was so windy I could hardly open the heavy wooden door…