Monday, 22 June 2020

2020 unsorted

Right now we should be relaxing under the Cretan sun, but instead we are at home in Cheshire where the last few days have been particularly wet and we have been watching it rain stair rods. I know where we would prefer to be. How about you?

So instead of looking out at this view from our hotel towards the harbour at Agios Nikolaos

we have been looking at this view from our French windows.

I am sure that we are not alone in having our plans that we had made for this year, shredded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last 18 months several of our family and friends have been ill and some sadly have died. This has made us realise that we could be next. So at the end of last year we decided that maybe we should have a few more holidays in an attempt to get through our bucket list. We had booked holidays for May, June and August/September, and would have probably booked something last minute for October. We thought that we had 2020 sorted. All of our booked holidays have been cancelled. All of that planning gone to waste.

For the June holiday in Crete we have had a refund and the August/September holiday has been rescheduled for next August. The May holiday, which was to Corfu, we have re-arranged for late September. But will we be going? Right now it is not possible to travel from the UK to Greece for the purpose of a holiday. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all non-essential international travel in March and that is still their advice. As a result of this advice our travel insurance has been suspended - meaning that we cannot book a holiday or travel until the FCO change their advice. Well if we do, we won't be covered by our insurance. Then there is the matter of Greece not allowing visitors from the UK to enter their country or if we are allowed in, we will be tested for coronavirus then be expected to be in quarantine for 14 days whether or not we test positive for coronavirus. And when we get back to the UK there will be another 14 days of quarantine.

Essentials on the holiday packing list in addition to sunscreen and a swim suit will be copious amounts of hand sanitising gel and a supply of face masks. From what I have read, and I know that much of it is speculation, I am wondering how enjoyable the whole experience will be. It will be an experience and maybe the experience of a life time, but will it be something to remember and repeat or forget and never do again?

Until things change this maybe as close as we are going to get to Corfu.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Somewhere under the rainbow

Here in the UK we are now in our seventh week of lockdown. I have watched the progress of the current coronavirus pandemic with the slightly detached view of a retired scientist. Yes, mistakes have been made and it is easy for me to say so, as I sit here in the semi-isolation of rural Cheshire, 200 miles from London. Whatever we might think, we have to live and cope with the situation as it stands. Hindsight is wonderful, but the decisions, made at the time in general, seemed to be the most appropriate for the circumstances and were made to protect our NHS. Initially husband and I watched the daily press briefing from Downing Street, but after a time it started to feel like a summons to the headmaster's office. The announcements were at times grim and every day the journalists, who are not scientists, seemed to ask the same questions.  Not surprisingly the answers were pretty much the same. What has surprised me has been the patience with which the politicians and scientists have answered these questions on a daily basis.

As someone who started their working life in the NHS I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like had there been a pandemic when I was working in hospital pharmacy. It was forty years ago and I was a new qualified pharmacist in my early twenties. I know that a lot has changed in that time. Then we did not have mobile phones, computers or the internet and people did not travel anything like as much as they do today. So maybe a virus would not have spread as fast as coronavirus has. The intensive care unit (ITU), at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford where I worked, probably had no more than than ten beds. Everything in the unit was far less automated than today and what machines there were, were fairly basic. Occasionally I would visit ITU to check their drugs and I have to say that I found it intimidating.  Medicines would have been important, but of the drugs regularly used today, only a handful would have been available forty years ago. Yes, nearly all of the drugs in common use today had not been discovered or developed then. It would have been very much survival of the fittest. Never the less we thought that we were at the cutting edge. The practice of medicine had moved on in leaps and bounds since the NHS had been set up in 1948. I enjoyed the years that I spent working in hospital pharmacy. The atmosphere in the hospitals that I worked in was aways good. You felt that you were part of a team, although sometimes there appeared to be more than one team. And you just would not be working there if you were not prepared for hard work and some sacrifices. At times it was an eye opener as I experienced and saw things that were disturbing and upsetting. Events that doctors and nurses were trained for, but which pharmacists of my generation were not. But I have to say that it was also very rewarding.

Part of me would still like to be working. It is what I was trained to do. Pharmacists who had retired in the last three years were asked to return to work in preparation for coronavirus arriving here. It is eight years since I retired, which counts me out and it is not as if I had not worked through some difficult times. In the Winter of Discontent I was working at St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner - now the Lanesborough Hotel. Without going into detail I can tell you that it was grim. During the swine flu epidemic of 2009/10 I was working in retail pharmacy. There was no PPE in those days. Admittedly swine flu was not as virulent as coronavirus. You just had to hope that you did not get it.

Here in the UK, thanks to the planning of the politicians, scientists and doctors, our NHS has not been overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic in the way that hospitals in some countries have been. There has always been spare capacity. Every patient has had a bed and a ventilator, if needed. It may no longer be the envy of the world, as it once was, but it is doing a pretty good job right now.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Easter Eggs

What a find! And on Easter Sunday of all days. But not the chocolate variety.

Two years ago we ventured out into the garden on Easter Sunday after a very wet period of weather. Our garden was sodden from all of the rain, so we could only work on the beds closest to the cottage. I was trying to tidy up this raised bed, working to the left of the nest, which was well hidden. Suddenly there was a great commotion and just imagine my surprise when a duck emerged from the back of the bed. Then we found the nest with the eggs in it. How on earth had we not noticed a duck in this raised bed?  I see it all of the time from the kitchen window. Well she really blended in very well. So well that it was difficult to see her even when we knew she was there. I did remember coming down into the kitchen one exceedingly wet Saturday morning and finding a large male duck on the patio. There is a pond in the farmer's field at the end of our garden. Often there are ducks and moor hens on the pond, but they never come so close to the cottage. Now we knew what he had been up to!

For the next few weeks we watched the nest like a hawk, in the expectation of seeing the duckings emerge. At the same time we were careful not to disturb the duck who was sitting on the eggs for most of the day. To our disappointment we saw not one single duckling. One morning we found an empty nest. The duck and her ducklings had vanished overnight. We left things untouched for a time, in case she returned, but she didn't. I tidied up the raised bed that she had called home and made sure that she would not return by rearranging some of the plants, so that it would not be so comfortable to  make a nest there again. And it has not happened again, despite the incredibly wet winter that we have just had.

Eggs this year will have to be chocolate. Happy Easter!