On 4th May 2021 I boarded a A350-900 aircraft of Singapore Airlines from Auckland en route to London Heathrow via Singapore, arriving at the ungodly hour of 6am to a largely deserted airport.
I had read of six hour queues at immigration but our flight seemed to be the only one at that time in the morning.
Because of the press reports of six hour queues at Heathrow I had taken the precaution of arranging to be transported by buggy from the aircraft to immigration as my Myeloma bones would have been hurting due to standing for such a long period. The buggy took me right up to the immigration desk and I did not even need to get out of the buggy as the immigration officer inspected my documents.
My good friends Kelly and Dave had motored me from Tauranga to Auckland where we all stayed with more friends, Terri and Byron who ferried me around to get my covid-19 pre-flight test done. I also joined Byron and Terri's brother to watch the Auckland Blues beat a 2nd XV Chiefs side at Eden Park.
I had to complete a UK Home Office contact form on-line less than 48 hours before my flight stating what countries I had visited prior to my flight on pain of a £10,000 fine if you were found to have lied and Terri dropped me off at the airport where I relaxed in Air New Zealand's lounge.
The Singapore Airlines Business class was a bit of a disappointment. The lie flat seat was quite cramped. You have to get out of the seat and fold down the back to lie flat then you have to lie diagonally across it, poking your feet down a recess in one corner which restricted movement. The food was pretty awful too and I have had better airline food in economy let alone premium economy.
The Airbus A350-900 is an aircraft that competes with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I am no expert but on both aircraft I have experienced lots of vibration during clear air turbulence and this meant sleep was impossible for much of both flights back.
After landing at Heathrow I phoned Chris Hockey who was just leaving to drive to London so as there were no queues at immigration I had a long wait in the arrivals hall but we were sittng down to breakfast of butcher's sausages, dry cured bacon and eggs by 10-30am, something I had missed during my sojourn in New Zealand.
I now had to remain indoors for 10 days and am not permitted any contact with the outside world. On days 2 and 8 I must take a swab for a covid-19 test and live stream a video of me doing it to prove it is my snot and not someone elses!!
You must first go on line and watch a training video which explains how to take the sample swab from the throat and nostrils. Then you connect with a web site to record the process which is reviewed by the testing company to ensure you have done it correctly. The swab is then placed in a sealed pack and sent for testing by pre-paid priority post. You get the result back by email in 48 hours which if positive condemns you to another 10 days quarantine, including the other members of the household so you hope for a negative result.
COVID-19 Vaccinations in the UK
I pre-registered with the local GP prior to leaving NZ and emailed them asking how to book a covid jab but my website groupie, Ann Clifford, visited me (at a distance in the garden) bearing gifts of bottles of Otter Bitter. She suggested I phone 119 which is the NHS vaccination line which I did.
As you would expect from an efficient organisation that has now vaccinated over half the UK population, the system worked like clockwork. I confirmed I was registered with a GP, gave my NHS number and date of birth and was given firm appointments for a vaccination in Yeovil for my first and second jabs.
I have my first jab on 26th May and my second on 11th August so should have some protection by the second week of June.
Here on South Somerset the current infection rate is 21 in the last 7 days out of a population of 167,861 and no deaths. In the whole of Somerset which has a population of 560,631 there have been a total of 314 deaths since the start of the epidemic and 36 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The stats record the deaths of those who die who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the 28 days before their death but they may not have died from the virus.
I received a call on my NZ mobile number from someone from a UK government department checking that I was aware of the quarantine rules and that I had taken the first covid test so it would seem that big brother is watching! I have since received a second call from Test and Trace UK asking the same questions so either the big brother's don't talk to each other or I will continue to get phone calls to my NZ number until I am out of quarantine.
English Premiership Rugby.
Round 18 of the 2020/21 season was held over the first weekend in May. You can expand this page to see the English Premiership Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
Liza makes it legal!:
My eldest granddaughter Eliza has announced her engagement to her boyfriend Ian who popped the question during a few days off in Cornwall.
They both work in the medical profession in Bristol.
Yes it is good to be back but it is bloody cold! It is depressing looking at the next 10 day forecast. Temperatures are forecast a maximum 15°C and a minimum 8°C and it will rain every day. England is on target for the coldest May since records began in 1659!
Meanwhile I complete my 10 days quarantine on 16th May having had two negative COVID-19 tests, however, I am staying with the Hockey's and Carol has an eye operation scheduled for the 19th May so Chris and I must quarantine with her until then.
I abandoned purchasing a car after the salesman got right up my nose trying to sell me additional warranty, insurance and the kitchen sink. I kept telling him to stop and I just wanted to buy the car, nothing else, but he kept saying it was his job and he would get into trouble if something happened that he hadn't told me about. I said that I absolved him of all responsibility but he still wouldn't stop talking. How not to sell something in one easy lesson!
The car I almost bought bought before that salesman pissed me off was a Suzuki 2017 Ignis, a 1.2 litre petrol engined small SUV with a combined petrol consumption of 50.4mpg which had only done 13,000 miles.
I found the Jag XF 2.2 litre diesel which was a bit more expensive at a dealer just North of Bristol and Chris and Carol drove me up to look at it. It was a 2012 SE business model with a combined fuel consumption of 52.3 mpg so as cheap to run as the Suzuki but much older with 39,000 miles on the clock and one owner. I drove the car which handled like a new one and looked immaculate with 4 good tyres, full service record, 12 months MOT and 3 months warranty delivered free to South Petherton with zero hassle from the salesman!
So I am now the proud owner and thinking of taking a degree course on how to get my head round all the bells and whistles that come with a car of this class. The last Jags I drove were XJ6's in the 1980's and things have moved on since then. This car does not even have a gear lever but instead a circular gear selector dial rises from between the front seats after you press the red light pulsing engine start button and the climate control vents slowly rotate out of the front facia.
The 8 speed automatic gearbox has 3 modes; Standard, Winter and Sports, for you to vary the car's behavior according to the driving conditions or if you are feeling sporty and aggressive, while if you prefer you can select each gear yourself using paddle switches under the steering wheel.
Touch screen and steering wheel controls are also provided for the DAB radio, CD player (with 10 speakers), speech recognition, bluetooth, mobile telephone, navigation system with live traffic reporting recommending change of routes if necessary, cruise control and external sensors for parking front and rear.
The front seats are electrically adjustable with all leather upholstery and the split rear seats fold down for extra boot space but even my little Mazda Demio in NZ had proximity door locking which the Jag doesn't and am bitterly disappointed the car will not cook me a full English breakfast!
I drove in to Yeovil today and stood in a long queue at a church hall observing the mandatory masking up and social distancing. I was ushered before two ladies, one of whom was a nurse who asked me a few questions then told me that the Pfizer vaccine was on the menu today and jabbed me. I then had to sit down for 15 minutes in case there were any after effects. It all went like clockwork and with the minimum of fuss!
I was looked on with some surprise as I think someone my age who had not been jabbed was something of a rarity in these parts. I get a second jab in August.
English Premiership Rugby Final rounds.
The final three rounds of the 2020/21 season began on the last weekend in of May. You can expand this page to see the individuaal match reports and current standings by clicking here.
Renegade Monk Cheese
I am cat sitting my daughter's cat Pumpkin and she left me some cheese to try while they are away on holiday.
Renegade Monk it's called and is described on the front label as a soft blue organic cows cheese but on the back it says it generally has no blue veining??
However it is a washed rind cheese reminiscent of Epoisse but this one is washed not in Marc but in an organic ale and made with vegetarian rennet at Felthams Farm, Horsington Marsh, Templecombe in Somerset.
It tastes nothing like Epoisse and has a sharp peppery taste with a bite not unlike a good Camembert. It was the supreme champion out of 300 entries in the 2020 Virtual Cheese Awards. Drop of good stuff I do declare and I washed it down with a nice glass of Rosé I found in the booze cupboard!
Walking in the Quantocks
While I am here in Stogursey I will be setting out on a few walks in one of my favourite places in the world; the Quantock Hills in Somerset. You can expand this page to see the route of my walk by clicking here.
England v New Zealand Cricket Test Series
Lords, the home of cricket, was the venue for the first test match between the 2nd and 3rd placed test teams in the world and you can read my report by expanding this page here
Update on my health
I developed a severe pain in my neck on returning to the UK. Now I know many of you regard me as a pain in the neck but this was no laughing matter and I could hardly turn my head. I called the surgery and they told me to increase the amount of codeine I had been subscribed in NZ and to take it with paracetamol which I did and the pain was controlled. The heamatology department at Musgrove said they would investigate further at my next appointment to see if the pain was connected to the myeloma.
I am now housebound so the walking has stopped for a time. I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection which involves pissing quite frequently with some discomfort. I am on antibiotics to clear it up which were prescribed by the local GP. I called the surgery and they told me to go straight in where they took a urine sample and tested it straight away. They even delivered the medication to my door which was above and beyond the call of duty and much improved on the service from South Petherton Surgery.
I attended the Beacon Centre at Musgrove Hospital in Taunton which holds outpatient clinics for Haematology and Oncology patients. It has a very good local reputation which I confirmed on my first visit. The haematologist was spot on time for my appointment and could not have been more helpful in arranging my further treatment and fast tracking me for my second covid jab. I also have an appointment for an MRI scan of my neck to try and explain the cause of the pain and they arranged an x-ray at the clinic there and then. A certain improvement to my treatment in NZ.
Brexit, Astrazenica, the Irish Protocol and all that stuff.
Regular readers will be well aware of my opinion of the EU so be forewarned, I am biased, but since the UK left that organisation, their diplomats aided by certain Frogs, have done their best to make us regret the decision to leave. If you have no interest in the subject then do not click this link to expand the page to reveal my latest opinions.
Walking in the Quantocks
Stogursey, while not actually in the Quantock AONB is considered to be a Quantock village and the first walk is from the village which has a surprisingly picturesque castle. The second walk is up in the hills on the slopes of Dowsborough, an iron age fort. You can expand this page to see the route of my walk by clicking here.
The Great British Sausage
"It is wrong that anyone should be threatening the British sausage. We will stand up for the British sausage and no one will ever be able to destroy it," said trade minister Ranil Jayawardena.
As a connoisseur of sausages I applaud those sentiments and to me a gourmet meal is British sausages, egg, chips and baked beans infused with HP sauce covered with layers of streaky bacon cooked in the oven! I have spent the last two and a half years searching for a decent Porker in NZ which seems to be devoid of a good sausage which must have some rusk in it to make it more succulent and never all meat!
|Cutting off nose...|
"Government figures revealed that about £51.4m worth of UK chilled meats, fish and crustaceans, including sausages, were exported to the EU. £586.4m worth of the produce was imported into the UK from the EU."
...to spite face?
This is all down to the Irish protocol included in the Brexit withdrawal agreement effectively preventing sausages produced on the mainland of Britain being sold in Northern Ireland as under EU law, chilled meats cannot be imported by a non-EU country unless there is an animal health and food safety agreement.
Northern Ireland although part of the UK is being treated as part of the EU under the protocol so anything produced on mainland Britain and sent there must comply with EU law, sausages included. In any case it is all a storm in a teacup because most of the major supermarkets in Ulster source their Bangers in the province and don't "import" from the mainland. Also, sensible locals will always prefer to buy their sausages from their own butcher's shop which is as much of an Ulster tradition as anywhere else in the UK or Ireland.
From my considerable experience of eating British Snags all my life, sausages produced in other countries do not hold a candle to the British Snarler. You can keep your Toulouse, Merguez, Bratwurst, Chorizo and Boudin Blanc. As for Andouilette that is the most revolting sausage I have ever tasted.
Italian sausages will sometimes give us a run for our money and Irish Clonakilty black pudding is to die for as is some Froggie Boudin Noir but both need the flavour of a Cumberland or a plain pork British Banger to go with them.
The South Petherton butcher produces a prime example but if buying supermarket sausages you should select the premium brands like those from the Black Farmer.
UK mobile phone
I have now resolved the problems I had receiving a signal on my mobile phone by changing my mobile provider who uses a different network. My UK mobile number is still +44 (0)794 232 2092 as I have transferred it to the new sim card.
Australia and UK sign new free trade deal
This is the first post-Brexit free trade deal to be negotiated from scratch since the UK left the EU and as such sets a standard for other such deals especially with countries like New Zealand who it is rumoured is close to a similar deal. For me one of the most important things included is that three year visas can be issued for people under 35 years old. These new visas will mean it would be nearly as easy for Aussies to travel and work in the UK as it is for them to work in New Zealand and vice versa.
This comparatively free movement of young people is going to stimulate both countries economies and unlike the EU free movement we would not be flooded with immigrants as it is controlled by visa applications coming from relatively small populations.
UK farmers are reported to be concerned at the eventual elimination of tariffs on agricultural products, especially if NZ agrees a similar deal. The quotas agreed with Oz are insignificant but the concern is that this deal is the template for other countries. IMHO it is countries like the Netherlands and Eire who have by far the biggest share of this market that should be worried they are going to have some stiff competition. Our own farmers should concentrate on quality and niche products rather than try and compete with intensively farmed cheaper alternatives or the economies of scale in other countries.
It should be remembered that trade with Australia today is a fraction of what it was in the 1950's when it was at its peak and our membership of the EEC in 1973 really put the kaibosh on an already declining trade when tariffs were imposed. The Ozzies, just like the Kiwi's, now have China as their biggest trading partner who have a political agenda which Oz has fallen foul of in recent times. Increased trade with the Poms and less with China is a politically wise move and also helps us with our application to join the Pacific Free Trade Area called the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership).
I am not a regular follower of the round ball game but the current Euro 2020 finals series demands my attention to be able to join in the main sporting discussions which usually take precedence.
The first game was at Ibrox Park in Glasgow where Scotland suffered a two nil defeat to the Czech Republic much to the disgust of the Scots fans who have waited 25 years since their team last reached the finals only to fail at the first hurdle hence the adjacent song sent to me by Uncle Murdo!
Scotland then met England at Wembley which ended in a goalless draw much to the disgust of England but relief to the Scots as a loss would have put them out of the competition.
To the Scots, beating England is possibly more important than getting to the Euro final so a draw was not what they wanted either as they now had to beat Croatia to have any chance of progressing. England also had to beat the Czech Republic to ensure progression.
Fund raising for Macmillan Cancer Support
I will soon be organising a sponsored walk to be held next year from 29th July to 7th August 2022 to raise funds for the Macmillan charity along the Macmillan Way West in memory of my late wife Susan who died in New Zealand from a secondary bone cancer. This link will take you to a page describing the walk.
"According to Macmillan Cancer Support, up to 50,000 people are walking around today with cancer which has not been diagnosed during lockdown."
|Douglas Macmillan 1884 - 1969:|
"Born in Castle Cary, Somerset, Macmillan was educated in Somerset prior to university in London becoming a civil servant in London. After his father died of cancer in 1911 he started a charity to help those suffering from the disease which was eventually named after him. He died of cancer himself in Castle Cary at the age of 85. "
The Covid epidemic has hit charities like Macmillan very hard as most fund raising has been forced to rely on internet pages such as this one. Macmillan has lost a third of its fundraised income due to the pandemic. It is very difficult to get people to part with their hard earned cash on-line rather than appealing to their better nature's face to face. Macmillan would appreciate whatever you can afford because you might need them some day. Remember that 40% of the world population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and nearly 10 million a year will die which pales Covid into insignificance.