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The Pandumbic is spreading.

As if Covid 19 isn’t dangerous enough, it seems there is another pandemic threatening to kill us all. It’s a deadly strain of ‘stupidity’.

In America it has become known as the ‘Pandumbic’, after the ‘The Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah mocked President Trump’s inaction on the Coronavirus in a fake trailer for a terrifying movie called PANDUMBIC. It is described in the ‘Urban Dictionary’ as a condition contracted by:

“An idiot, not necessarily, but typically of a younger age, who refuses to believe that COVID-19 is real and thereby exposes themselves and others to great harm. A paragon of Darwinian failure. A fucktard by any other name.”

And I reckon it has infected over half the population of England and that the R rate is out of control.

The scientific evidence is there for all to see in the News: the antisocial behaviour found in mass gatherings on Bournemouth beaches, the Yobbishness and mass demonstrations on city streets, football fans partying in Liverpool and the late night parties and raves being held across the country etc.. There is no excuse for any of these – even the ‘Black Lives Matter’ gatherings. I saw a woman on TV saying you can’t compare these demonstrations with the pleasure led selfishness of those swamping Bournemouth beach because the protests were ‘necessary’. Later in the interview she said that black, Asian and some other ethnic groups were more likely to contract Covid 19 than white people. Was this to demonstrate how brave the protestors were or how stupid they were? Now I watched the tv coverage and whilst demonstrators were for the most part peaceful and orderly, except of course the far right scum attacking them and the Police, social distancing and mass mask wearing was not happening. That makes them irresponsible as far as I am concerned and her – another victim of the pandumbic.

Every day we see covid stupidity. The Government’s watchwords are ‘Stay Alert’ but for many people with the pandumbic, this translates to ‘Stay Oblivious’. I am talking about the numpties who don’t even try to follow the arrows in the supermarket, who handle very item in the chiller cabinets, who stand or stagger about with a mobile phone stuck to their ear obstructing aisles in the shop, who think taking the entire family of kids and grandparents into the supermarket is a good idea, and who have no concept of social distancing or common courtesy.

Last week we saw our grandkids in the garden for the first time since lockdown and it was wonderful despite not being able to hug them. We long to do that before lockdown is reinstated and for the opportunity to go to the pub or the seaside and visit those attractions which are prepared covid-safe and (critical for a man of my advancing years) which have functioing toilets. But I fear that no matter how well businesses prepare and take  precautions, Johnny Stupid will completely abuse them and thereby keep me away.

And what happens when everybody who has still got a job goes back to work? Hygiene is not a strong British attribute in my view and frequent wiping down and handwashing will soon be forgotten.

So spikes and further lockdowns seem inevitable as the Pandumbic combines with Covid 19.  Re my last Blog, I think it’s only a matter of time before we get Netflix. Also, we are considering an upgrade to Zoom Premium, because I think we’re going to be talking in those little boxes for a while longer.

Netflix v YouTube

Now we have more time to watch TV, the quality and variety of terrestrial offerings and most cable channels seems to have gone right down the pan.  So much so that people seem to be falling over themselves to sign up for subscription streaming services, like Netflix and Britbox. 
We (my wife and I) haven’t yet gone down that road.  This is because as an alternative to our telly package we are not convinced it will be enough, and as an extra, it is really quite expensive.
I know, many people enjoy rewatching tv shows and drama series but I am not one of them. I am in my 60s and have forgotten many of them or (at least the plots) so if I did watch them again, it would be like watching them for the first time.  But the thing is, I know I have watched it and it just seems wrong to go back.  I want new stuff but frankly, some stuff I have seen advertised on Netflix is not floating my boat.
So while we ponder and pontificate, I have been delving more and more into the endless pit of video information and frivolity that is – YouTube.  And I think I’m addicted. 

The other night, I set off looking for a tutorial video on my Canon Camera and ended up 2 hours later watching conspiracy theories about aliens, and how The Simpsons tv cartoon predicted the future including the Presidency of Donald Trump, Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox and 9/11.  I knew I had a real problem when I actually watched a vlogger describing (with great enthusiasm) the entire contents of her fridge. And this was not a video on safe food storage or healthy eating; it was a beauty and lifestyle vlogger from the Philipines describing her favourite brand of orange juice and chicken nuggets.  The really sad part was that the video had received 438,000 views and there are many more ‘whats in my fridge’ videos to choose from!
I wondered what normal people were currently into on Youtube so I clicked on ‘Trending’.  This brought up a mighty list of celebrities showing me how they are getting though lockdown.  Now as a retired man in lockdown, I don’t have many demands on my time but I do feel I am wasting my remaining life by watching celebrities dancing around the home, playing with their pets, devising stupid games, showing me their living room fitness regimes, personal grooming tips, and baking a Victoria cake.  It’s just not quite the entertainment I am looking for, nor the inspiration I need to keep sane in lockdown.
Finding good stuff inevitably means wading through the dross and of course being fairly specific about what you are looking for.  In browsing through my favourite topics, I did find these gems….
If you are musical, check out Rick Beato’s ‘All things Music’ site.  My favourite videos are those in which this experienced musician, teacher, music producer and engineer explains his top songs, intros, guitar and drum solos.
This is the web site of Scotty Kilmer, an auto mechanic with over 50 years experience. Honest and funny, and with no sponsored content he tells the brutal truth about cars.  His philosophy seems to be – all cars will break and cost you money except a Toyota, Honda or Lexus.
This site – ‘Joolz Guides’ is that of award-winning tourism film maker Julian McDonnell.  He is famous for his bite sized video guide to London using short selfie-type films of those interesting places that are not always in the guide books.  Videos usually end with a pint in an interesting London pub.

A Good Day at Tandle Hill

 Tandle Hill, Oldham

Today was a good day!  For the first time since lockdown started, my wife and I were able to see our daughter who lives 28 miles away.  (It would have been a perfect day if we could have also seen our grandchildren and son-in-law but hopefully we will be allowed to do that soon.)  She came to meet up with us for a walk to Tandle Hill Country Park – one of her and our favourite local haunts. The park is a 48 hectare expanse of mixed woodland and grassland in Royton, Lancashire – just 5 minutes walk from our house away along a very pleasant country track.
The weather was glorious: ultra bright sunshine and deep blue skies which only served to make the greenery even greener.    At the summit of Tandle Hill we gazed out over the Pennines uplands at towards the Yorkshire boundary, and over Rochdale, Oldham and the Manchester plain.  In the distance we could see Jordrell Bank radio telescope in 25 miles away to the south in Cheshire and the Welsh mountains to the west.  On the summit is a war memorial – a Portland stone obelisk commemorating the men of Royton who died during the First World War.  In fact, the woodlands and grounds were gifted to the people of Royton as a thanks offering for peace after the Great European War 1914–1919. Earlier in the 19th Century, the area was used as a meeting place for radicals and for practising marching and drilling in the period leading up to the Peterloo massacre in Manchester in 1819. Next to the war memorial is a memorial stone erected by the Council in 2019 to honour those who marched from Oldham and Saddleworth. The inscription on the stone points out that they drilled, “Not with the loaded muskets and steel” as the Authorities then claimed.  It commemorates the radical movement leading up to Peterloo as “an important milestone in the struggle for democracy”.
So, the beech woodland – planted to prevent the gathering of radicals after Peterloo – is now a well loved public park and designated site of biological importance and, fittingly, the recent focus of demonstrations into the proposed release of adjacent green belt for development.  Looking out from the Summit and reflecting on the years as a family we enjoyed pottering around the park, I tried not to think of the prospect that extensive areas of adjacent rolling green belt countryside could disappear under thousands of houses and industrial buildings.
As we walked back, walkers, runners and cyclists smiled and bid us ‘hello’ and ‘how do?’, always keeping their distance and their dogs under control.
In the afternoon after our daughter left, we planted up some hanging baskets, chatted to neighbours over the fence and enjoyed the garden and the sun.  At 4pm we excitedly retired indoors for some right ripping entertainment in the form of the Dominic Cummings v the Press showdown in the Downing Street garden. In the evening, we relaxed with a glass of wine and enjoyed some mindless telly – ‘The Real Housewives of Cheshire’ – rounding off a very good day indeed.
Did you know Tandle Hill is mentioned in the lyrics of ‘Mill Boys’ on the album Everyone Is Everybody Else by Barclay James Harvest.  Also on the album cover ‘Script of the Bridge’ by The Chameleons, there is a sketch by the band’s guitarist Reg Smithies, of Tandle Hill, and the song ‘View From a Hill’ relates to an event singer/songwriter Mark Burgess experienced on Tandle Hill.  Also, Alan Partridge creator Steve Coogan ran many a cross country run up to the monument.

Tighter lockdown on celebrity drivel needed.

 I choose not to be on Facebook or Instagram, but I am nevertheless inundated on my phone, computer, and TV with images and videos posted by celebrities or people who think they are celebrities.  In this Coronavirus era we are all looking for good news and support wherever we can find it on social media, but the efforts of some celebrities’ to inform and entertain us are certainly wasted on me.
It irritates me when celebrities give me scientific advice, based on a clear misunderstanding or generalisation of the facts.  Some feel they have to remind us to stay indoors and some feel they are so special they can swan off to their second homes in Cornwall or wherever.   
I heard about fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who flew 11,000 miles from New Zealand to London, via Los Angeles, then borrowed a friend’s car and drove 500 miles north to the Hebrides. And guess why…. to “give his wife (musician Amanda Palmer) some space”.
I see models and film stars posing in face masks, or just posing (e.g. Madonna bathing in a rose petal-strewn bath). A controversial American YouTuber Logan Paul shared a photo of himself surrounded by a throng of models wearing gas masks alongside the caption: “F**k the corona virus.” So cool, not!
 I see videos of celebrities looking smug in their huge gardens or singing very badly.  I was unfortunate to come across Gal Gadot’s famous crowd-sourced famous person cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  She and most of the celebrities on it cannot sing and I can’t for the life of me see what its purpose is.  Perhaps they think their star power alone can overcome the virus.
I read that Instagram celebrities and users are using the hashtag #coronavirus to increase likes and followers on posts with little or no relation to the outbreak. How insensitive and desperate!
In social media terms it is said that a picture or vlog is worth a thousand words.  From what I’ve seen most posted pictures and videos say very few words. They say ‘Look at me’, ‘Do I look good?’, ‘Aren’t I clever’, ‘Aren’t I a hoot’, ‘Can I influence you, because I get paid for it?’   

I understand it’s a hard time for celebrities too and that they need to keep up their profile.  And I respect their right to have an opinion on things.  But sometimes we don’t need celebrities to tell us the bleedin’ obvious, and to show such empty headed arrogance.  If they are going to force-feed us their posts, pictures and videos, they should get a second opinion on whether their contributions are not just appropriate but truly entertaining and that there is just a chance it will distract us from the spectre of death and economic ruin.
Am I having a bad day?  Possibly!

Garden Pests thrive in Lockdown

Whilst relaxing in our garden the other day, enjoying the fine spring weather, Lesley commented that how clean the air was, how blue the sky and how the quiet it was other than the sounds of the many varieties of birds that were visiting to taunt us with their freedom.  We also noticed how many bees there seemed to be buzzing around all parts of the garden.  At first this seems encouraging because in February, I read an article headed “Bumblebees’ decline points to mass extinction”.  The study it referred to stated that in Europe, bees are 17 percent less plentiful than they were in the early 20th century – this being due to global warming, over-farming, over-maintenance and the use of insecticides.  But thanks to the local Council not maintaining our local parks and road verges, our garden is bee central.

I didn’t know but there are 24 species of bumblebees in the UK, the most common of which are the tree bumblebee, the red tailed bumblebee, the white tailed bumblebee, the common carder bee, the Mason bee and the Mining bee.  Have you, like me, spotted a hole in your lawn surrounded by a volcano of excavated earth? Yes? Well this is probably the work of a mining bee, a solitary species which nests in the ground.  I have only just patched my lawn with grass seed to cover such holes so Miner Bee better watch out.  Whilst watching out for miner bee, Lesley noticed a steady stream of bees hovering around our gable wall.  We then noticed them nonchalantly buzzing in an out of our airbricks.  This apparently is the Mason Bee, another solitary species that nests in walls and cavities.

You see my dilemma.  Clearly I don’t want my lawn ruined or bees in my wall cavities.  (I once had rats in my cavities and that was a bad experience, let me tell you.) So how do I dissuade them and get them to buzz off without killing them? Because it’s clear to me they need to be made an example of; otherwise where will it end?  Our squirrels have already taken over the bird feeder and are helping the bees dig holes in the lawn.  And they’ve turned my borders into a horse chestnut plantation.   I now read that moles are now getting braver and venturing further into grass verges and gardens, herds of marauding goats are taking over Welsh seaside towns, deer are roaming the roads in Japanese cities in search of food, similarly wild boars in Spain,  pumas in Santiago, Chile, and bears in Canadian towns.   Lockdown is making wildlife a bit too cocky for my liking. Am I getting paranoid?

Maybe things are not too bad after all – I think I’ve just seen the Lesser Spotted Bin Man and the Great Crested Postman.

Quizzing in the Covid Arms

“Which country has the longest coastline?”
“Which television characters are associated with Wimbledon?”
Sniffled Rotten is an anagram of which famous cartoon character?”

Oh no, you say, not another Quiz!  But be honest – you can’t resist having a guess
You want to be right and you would like to discuss these questions in the pub, preferably with friends and with a drink in hand.   As the playwright James Graham said, “pub quizzes combine our two great loves: drinking and being right”.

But, for the foreseeable, the pub quiz is out of bounds. Trapped at home by the plague, able to communicate only by a videoconferencing app, it seems the British public has quizzes on the brain. In fact I read it is now a global phenomenon and it’s easy to see why in the current covid lockdown era. It encourages us to talk to relatives and friends and interact over a bit of competitive fun without discussing that bloody virus and turning each other suicidal.  Also we usually find a charity to give to at the same time.

Oldies like me, missing family, friends, and the regular Halfway House pub quiz, have learned to use Zoom and Houseparty although this has not been without its problems.  The on- line meet up initially started with “Hi. Are you there? Can you hear me?  Can you see me?” “No, turn your camera on…. and now your microphone”.  It’s the button on the bottom left of your screen….” etc.   Now I can actually host a quiz, manage my participants, change the view and share media. 

However, I have noticed that whether you are hosting or just taking part, it seems to be getting more competitive.  More competitive in thinking up the best questions, being right or giving the most amusing wrong answer, and even coming up with the best team names.  (I love these team names I found on the Interweb: Prince Philip’s Driving Instructor, Kim Jong Not-Ill-At-All,  Livin’ La Vida Lockdown, I get locked down but I get up again, Lockdown Funk You Up, Buena Vista Social Distancing Club, and Lockdown Your Daughters.) 

But we must remember, as my pub landlord says, “It’s just a bit of fun, no googling or you’re only cheating yourself”.  Which reminds me, I still can’t understand how the winning score of the Staythehellin Quiz was 73 when I thought we’d done well with 51?

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