So, Have I Got Coronavirus, Or Not?

It’s time to recognise that there might be more Covid-19 symptoms than we think

When Matt Hancock returned to work after recovering from Covid-19, he told the BBC about the “Incredibly painful throat” that had been one of his main symptoms.

“It was like having glass in (there),” said the Health Secretary.

But when I got a sore throat just over a week ago, I didn’t immediately think: Coronavirus.

I thought it was just a passing thing, possibly hay fever. It was fine the next day, but then came back much worse – accompanied now by an aching in my limbs that reached to my fingertips.

I tried to watch telly with the family, but I was grumpy, and my wife ended up sending me to bed.

And, just in case, she told me to sleep in the top room on my own.

Continue reading “So, Have I Got Coronavirus, Or Not?”

How Coronavirus Can Lead To A Better World

Things can change – and yes, walls can come tumbling down!

The coronavirus as a wrecking ball
Original images: Sylvain Acher/Pixabay; Pete Linforth/Pixabay

THERE IS, literally, something in the air at the moment.

It may just be coincidence but, when I switched on the radio this morning, they were playing Walls Come Tumbling Down.

Remember that? Paul Weller’s rabble rouser from 1985, the zenith of Thatcherism, when he tried bravely to convince us that things didn’t have to be this way.

“You don’t have to take this crap,” Weller sang, adding: “Are you gonna try and make this work, or spend your days down in the dirt?

Well, we all know how that went…. two years later, Maggie got voted in again, and then John Major succeeded her. It wasn’t until 1997 that we got another progressive government.

Today, of course, there’s yet another Tory just been installed at Number 10, and still no end in sight to their dominance of UK politics.

And yet… the sense that things can change is perhaps more tangible these days than at any time since the 1940s.

What’s made the difference is, in a word: Coronavirus.

Continue reading “How Coronavirus Can Lead To A Better World”

I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ll be honest: I’ve had it up to here with this m************ lockdown

Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in a scene from Pulp Fiction

“ARE YOU OK? Are you all well?”

Have you noticed that, since the start of lockdown, people are asking questions like that and sounding as if they actually mean them, for once?

It’s one of the nicer aspects of being in the middle of a global pandemic – a sense that the person asking actually cares how you are, and isn’t just doing it out of politeness.

I reckon this comes from a tacit acceptance that we’re all vulnerable at the moment – so it’s all right to admit to a certain weakness.

Which is not the worst way to be in Mental Health Awareness Week.

But even now, when someone asks if I’m OK, I’m not laying my entire soul on the line.

I might say something guardedly revealing of certain susceptibilities – and then slap back on the stiff upper lip and add: “Of course we’re coping better than expected.”

So it’s not exactly full disclosure – but this is: today I feel pretty fucking far from OK.

Continue reading “I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK”

How Putting On Weight In Lockdown Made Me More Humble

Coronavirus has helped me accept that it’s fine to be like everyone else

Man measuring his waist
Image: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

I’ve been thinking a lot about over-indulging while we’ve been in lockdown – and I know I’m not the only one.

The other day, a friend sent a list of Coronavirus phrases trending on What’sApp, including “Covid-10” – meaning the extra 10lbs some of us have put on through comfort eating and drinking since March 23.

In the UK, alcohol sales jumped by 22 per cent in March, while the tendency to binge and put on weight – also known as “fattening the curve” – was likewise observed in countries that went into lockdown before us. 

When the UK followed Italy indoors, the novelist Francesca Melandri wrote from Rome to warn us of the changes that would take place in our lives, many of them involving food.

“First of all, you’ll eat,” Melandri warned. “Not just because it will be one of the few last things that you can still do… You’ll eat again. You will not sleep well… You will put on weight. You’ll look for online fitness training…You will eat again.”

Continue reading “How Putting On Weight In Lockdown Made Me More Humble”

Who’s Up For Homes Fit For Heroes II?

It’s all very well clapping them every Thursday night, but why not thank key workers properly when the Coronavirus storm blows over?

AT THE END of World War One, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George promised to build 500,000 new homes as a reward for the sacrifices ordinary people had made.

Only 200,000 of them were completed, but for many of those lucky enough to move into a new home, it was their first experience of electricity, running water, bathrooms, indoor toilets and gardens.

By 1939, more than a million council houses had been built across the UK, and in 1948 – three years after victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two – the Government again thanked people for their fortitude with the creation of the National Health Service (applause!).

The Coronavirus pandemic is perhaps the greatest challenge to face this country – and the world – since the 1940s, with ordinary people likes nurses, care home workers and bus drivers again at the forefront of the fight.

When all of this has blown over – and we look at ways of saying ‘Thank You’ to our key workers – we could do worse than building them somewhere decent to live again.

Continue reading “Who’s Up For Homes Fit For Heroes II?”

Hurrah for the Tories! No, really!

I thought I’d never say this – but the Government is being quite cool…

I’M NOT A FAN of the Conservative Party. Never have been. Never will be.

I couldn’t stand Maggie and her ‘No such thing as society’ nonsense.

I hated austerity, and I’d be deliriously happy if we never, ever, ever Got Brexit Done.

The way the Johnson administration has handled the Coronavirus crisis has also been lacking in many ways (although, to be honest, I doubt that I’d do any better if I were leading the nation).

There was the early, misguided, flirtation with herd immunity before social distancing was imposed. There are still big problems with testing, and now there’s the Prime Minister’s distressing failure to heed his own advice about social distancing.

But I’m proud of one thing that the Government has done: at least they’ve tried to treat us all like adults.  

Continue reading “Hurrah for the Tories! No, really!”

Running Round In Squares

The famously rude people of London have re-discovered politeness – via slightly manic social distancing

A meandering Strava feed

WE GOT TOLD OFF by Housemaster Johnson on Monday, so now we’re on our best behaviour.

Initially, Londoners treated the whole Coronavirus thing as a jittery sort of half-holiday and went thronging the city’s parks and open spaces, despite official advice to keep well apart.

Next thing we knew, most of us were being told to stay in our dorms and threatened with Sir cancelling PE – the same as in Spain and Italy – if we couldn’t be trusted.

Not many of us want to be cooped up 24/7, and so London’s green spaces have been chocka with people stretching their legs again this week.

Except this time, we’re thronging responsibly.  

Continue reading “Running Round In Squares”

Don’t Be A Stranger, Andrew Yang!

A brilliant, transformative politician has dropped out of the race to be US President… I hope to God he’s back in 2024!

US presidential candidate Andrew Yang
Image: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

D’OH! THOSE BOZOS in America!

I’ve got used to seeing the people I vote for not win in the UK, ever since my first ballot failed to unseat Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher, back in 1987.

And today, I’m fucked off because my favourite candidate from Across The Pond didn’t make it either….

Andrew Yang – whose idealistic bid to be the Democrat taking on Donald Trump in November’s US Election got me excited about politics again – has thrown in the towel after a disappointing performance in the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday.

But Yang can be proud of a run that saw him outlast 18 more established candidates for the Top Job – and for becoming a “thought leader” in the US, with his well-received policies for a “human centred capitalism” to soften the effects of future job automation.  

Continue reading “Don’t Be A Stranger, Andrew Yang!”

I Want To Ride My Bicycle; I Want To Ride It Where I Like

The Government is eyeing up my beloved cycling as the cure to London’s traffic gridlock – let’s hope they don’t suck all the joy out of riding a bike.  

Hundreds of city cyclists
Will we still able to have fun on a bike when everybody is on two wheels?

ALL OF A SUDDEN, it seems we can’t get enough of cycling…

Yesterday, for example, The Government announced a £5 billion fund to improve UK bus and bike infrastructure over the next five years.

The day before, our local council released a plan to improve the hairy A-road passing through our bit of London – including high quality segregated cycle lanes and prioritised signals for bikes.

The Guardian also wrote about London grinding to a halt despite a big drop in car journeys since the Congestion Charge – and wondered whether bikes could be the answer.

As someone who’s been cycling for years, it’s nice to be on the right side of change, for a change.

But, at the same time, I’m a bit worried that the powers-that-be might bugger cycling up – or at least spoil it for those of us who’ve been doing it for years.

Continue reading “I Want To Ride My Bicycle; I Want To Ride It Where I Like”

Deadly Delusions And The Tragedy Of Sudesh Amman

Streatham attacker Sudesh Amman died because he couldn’t let go of an insane delusion – but he wasn’t the only tragic victim of mental illness in the news this week.

The Streatham attack scene
Armed police shot Streatham attack jihadist Sudesh Amman from where I took this picture recently. Amman died in front of the pharmacy in the background after being shot three times.

THREE POLICE CARS screamed past me down Streatham High Road. That was the first sign.

And a couple of minutes later, I saw the ‘Copper Chopper’ in the air half a mile away, hovering over the dead body of failed jihadi Sudesh Amman.

Unlike some people I know, I wasn’t close enough to hear the deadly shots.

But, almost every day, I shop where Amman unleashed his mayhem. I go to the little store he stole the knife from.

And only recently, I’d shot photographs from the exact spot where the armed police had shot him.

On Sunday, my first thoughts were for my family but – once I knew they were all safe – I started worrying about the innocent people Amman had stabbed.

All I thought about him was that I was glad he was dead – and it was only later that I started to see the 20-year-old’s demise as a tragedy, of sorts.   

Continue reading “Deadly Delusions And The Tragedy Of Sudesh Amman”