This will be the last page I will write from Tauranga in New Zealand as I will finally leave this house full of sad memories at the end of April and return to the UK.
I will have to get a COVID-19 negative test within 72 hours prior to boarding my flight at Auckland on May 4th costing NZ$250, book and pay for two further tests in the UK costing £210, all this extra expenditure in addition to the air fare.
On my Heathrow arrival I must then quarantine with my friends the Hockey's for 10 days after which I hope to get an early vaccine jab which will eventually allow me to lead a more normal life after being stranded here in Tauranga due to the CORONA-19 virus pandemic and my chemotherapy treatment for Myeloma cancer. According to Boris's master plan the UK should also be back to a more normal lifestyle by then.
My longer term plans are to find a property to rent in South Petherton, Somerset and I have booked a removals company to export pack all my belongings and ship them to the UK but I will try to sell all the furniture and the car before leaving. I also hope to tour around the UK to catch up with many friends not seen for some years and to begin planning the 102 mile charity walk along the Macmillan Way West in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and in memory of my late wife Sue to be held in the summer of 2022.
It will be good to see my daughter Rebecca again plus husband Tom and all the grandchildren. They are mostly living in Somerset although may move to the North East of Scotland if Tom gets his new job teaching avionics. I have yet to meet my great grandchildren who live in Exeter but they will all have to wait until I am jabbed and reasonably safe from any viral infection. My imune system will still be compromised from the recent chemotherapy. My son Steven is also resident in Exeter so within easy reach.
I hope the Brewers Arms in South Petherton will be open by the time I am freed from quarantine and two further weeks after having been jabbed I should be fairly safe for the communal rite of a quiet pint of Otter followed by several noisy ones!
English Premiership and Six Nations Rugby Union.
Round 12 of the 2020/21 season was held over the first weekend in March. You can expand this page to see the English Premiership Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
May 5th 2021 - 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonapart's death.
In addition to the day I will arrive back in England it is also the day 200 years ago when Napoleon died aged 51 as a captive of us Brits on the island of Saint Helena.
France will of course commemorate him, especially as their current president has been likened to Napoleon and I have often written of his likeness both in his facial features and the dictatorial way he acts.
It would seem I am not alone in seeing the similarities between the two presidents as if you google 'Napoleon Macron' you will discover that many in France have a similar opinion.
Napoleon was a Corsican of diminutive stature who re-introduced slavery and was known to discriminate against women, all of which does not apply to Macron, however, Napoleon did resent Britain's power and called us a 'nation of shopkeepers'. I suspect Macron has a similar resentment judging from the way he has reacted to Brexit and claimed the Oxford vaccine is 'quasi-ineffective'.
Changes to UK red list.
The UK government decided to add a few more countries including Qatar to their red list of those who, if you visit or even transit through, you are obliged to quarantine on arrival in the UK for 10 days in an hotel for the princely sum of £1,750. I therefore cancelled my Qatar Airways flight and booked a flight on the same day with Singapore Airlines and hope they don't put Singers on their red list!
The Singapore flight cost me NZ$500 more than Qatar and is the last remaining option to get back to the UK from NZ in a reasonable cost effective transit time. The only other alternatives at present involve Chinese airlines or long multi stop transits using several different airlines.
English Premiership and Six Nations Rugby Union.
Round 14 of the 2020/21 season began on the 19th March and the 5th round of the Six Nations on the same day. You can expand this page to see the both competition's Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
COVID-19 Vaccine news
Germany, France and Canada have now suspended use of the Oxford/Astrazenica vaccine for their under 60's due to a number of cases in younger vaccinated women with blood clots. This is despite the incidence of blood clotting in the population being no different to normal, the millions of doses already administered throughout the world and the obvious reductions in illnesses and deaths in the UK and EU as a result of over 20 million doses and a further 27 million in India.
It may be that a definite link will eventually be scientifically established and that those susceptible to blood clotting may be vulnerable but for the time being the vaccine has been demonstrably shown to save lives rather that take them so suspending the Oxford vaccine just further increases the general population's resistance to accepting all vaccines. Having publically highlighted perhaps valid concerns without scientific proof of a connection with the vaccine before substitutes can be manufactured, it further extends the epidemic in those countries.
The Oxford vaccine was developed by the Jenner Institute formally called the Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research.
Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was a Gloucestershire doctor who was born and practiced in Berkeley and subsequently in Cheltenham and London.
He was responsible for proving a well known fact that people who caught cowpox, usually from milking cows and not a serious disease, became immune from smallpox and to research and develop an immunisation proceedure which became known as vaccination after the Latin vacca meaning cow.
Prior to this children were routinely innoculated with smallpox which was often unsuccessful resulting in disfigurement and even death.
Jenner was subjected to attacks and ridicule for his efforts but fortunately the British Government of the day believed in his reseach and funded much of his work.
One can see many similarities in the political and commercial reaction to his pioneering work and the development of the current Oxford vaccine.
One exception is the negative reaction of the current French leader to the Oxford vaccine whereas M. Macron's hero, Napoleon, was so impressed at the time that he had a special medal minted for Jenner!
The smallpox vaccine remains the only one that has totally eliminated a disease from the world and Edward Jenner can therefore be credited with singularly saving more lives than anyone else in world history.
It really gets my goat when people spout off about Britain being a racist country. I do not deny that racism exists but where it does it is as much in the black community as in the white and then among a small minority. It also annoys me when activists influence sporting and commercial organisations to bang the drum for their cause, in particular my sport of rugby where players are forced to take sides with some 'taking the knee' and others standing. In America that might have meant something but here we call it 'kneeling'. It means nothing and demonstations against racism in the US may be justified but not here.
Boris set up the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities under the chaimanship of Dr Tony Sewell who runs the educational charity Generating Genius to investgate if Britain really was racist who have just reported. Their conclusion is that we are not a racial country so I hope all those who think we are will take note, read their report and examine their own actions and conscience.
Scottish Election Campaign.
Scottish politics, difficult for us English to understand at the best of times have become even more fractious in recent months. The fishy lady (Nicola Sturgeon) and the fishy man (Alex Salmond) have fallen out and nobody really knows who is guilty of what!
The fishy man was accused of getting up to something sexually fishy by a couple of female civil servants. The fishy lady's Scottish Government ended up paying the fishy man £500,000 in damages over the fishy way it handled the enquiry into his alleged misdemeanors.
The fishy man was later cleared in court of all the sexually fishy business with the civil servants, meanwhile a parliamentary committee was convened to investigate the shenanigans and concluded that the fishy lady had mislead parliament. Another independent inquiry by an eminent QC decided that the fishy lady had not mislead parliament. It all seems to hinge on which fishy person you believe, your political persuasion and what sort of fish you like!
The fishy man has now started his own political party called Alba which is Scottish gaelic for Scotland. In English it is a shrub rose of a variety with grey-green leaves and pinkish-white, sweet-scented flowers. Alba, which is far from being sweet scented, will contest the forthcoming Scottish election in May.
The Scottish parliament is elected in a fishy sort of way. 73 MSP's are elected on a first past the post system in geographical consituencies similar to Westminster and a further 56 from eight different regions called "list" candidates. Alba will only contest these list seats and says it is using this fishy system to try and get a huge majority for independence.
You vote for your constituency MSP and then a second vote for the political party you want in the "list". The total votes cast for each party is then divided by one plus the number of seats that party obtained in that region, including the constituancy seats and the highest result gets the first "list" seat. Each party has a list of up to 4 members to be elected in each region and the process is repeated until 7 members from each region are elected.
This fishy system means that if Alba only contests the "list" their votes for the first member will only be divided by one and so on until they get a seat so provided they get a reasonable vote they are likely to get at least one member for each region elected and possibly more. It is a very fishy way of electing people dreamt up by Thomas Jefferson in 1792 to try and prevent an absolute majority and give minority parties a say. I call it a way to prevent strong government and we all know how fishy the Americal political system is! A Weak government forced to compromise caused a failure to govern that resulted in the eventual collapse of Theresa May's government and the landslide election victory of Boris Johnson
The fishy lady's SNP may get an absolute majority in the election in which case I think Boris should give them another referendum on independance on the condition there is not another one for say 50 years. It is the only way prevent a series of divisive neverendums! Unlike elections to the Westminster parliament, citizens of EU member states who are resident in Scotland are also entitled to vote of which there were 209,000 in 2016. As most Scots voted to remain in the EU and Brexit is the excuse for another referendum those EU citizens votes should come in handy.
I have always been anti social media although I set up Facebook for Sue when she was alive who used it for comunication with her friends and relations far and wide. I used Facebook and Twitter to promote my Provender Delicatessen web site and when we were trying to sell the barge but have never been one of the twitterati. As for Facebook I began to get spam when one spammer said they had hacked my computer and knew my password. The password was one that Sue used for Facebook and never used elsewhere which proved to me that Facebook data had been compromised.
When Sue died I thought of deleting Facebook and unsubscribing but the problem with that was for example Bath Rugby uses it for live reporting of games which I found useful if I was unable to watch the game on TV and some lazy businesses like restaurants use it for their web sites so you have to continue to subscribe if you want to use these facebook sites.
Another reason was to use the Facebook Marketplace section to try and sell my car and the furniture prior to moving back to the UK which has been moderately successful.
I have now cleared out most of Sue's stuff from her facebook pages and it now mostly consists of my material. I have kept Sue's "friends" where they were mutual but have deleted those I didn't know who were exclusively hers. I have put a Facebook link on the index page of this web site for those of you who would like to communicate with me in that fashion as I have found that due to many being addicted to social media on their mobiles it is a quick way to communicate whereas it might take several days before they bother to reply to emails let alone read my blog.
The Facebook Messenger Lite App is now installed on my mobile but this web site will remain the place where I will continue to comment on and resolve the problems of the world!
Oxford/Astra vaccine and blood clots
After administering over 20 million Astra jabs in the UK there have been 79 cases of a rare blood clotting disorder and 19 of these have been fatal. It is estimated that about 6,500 deaths from the covid virus have been saved so far due to the vaccinations despite Boris claiming "it was the lockdown 'wot did it"!!
As yet there is no scientific evidence that the blood clotting is linked to the vaccine and the incidence of it is below the average prior to the vaccine being given but even if there is a link, the incidence of getting a blood clot is 4 in a million and of death 1 in a million. Compare that to a woman taking the contraceptive pill and the incidence of getting a blood clot is 500 in a million or 125 times greater risk than taking the vaccine and most women seem to accept this.
As I mentioned previously, several EU countries who have been slow to vaccinate due to supply shortages including Germany and France, have ceased to give it to those under 60 as the side effect has only occurred so far in younger age groups, mostly female. They continue to complain that Astrazenica has failed to supply them while at the same time their existing stocks are unused. The two actions are contrary while they are actively refusing to export vaccines to Britain and elsewhere manufactured in the EU. "We don't want it but you can't have it, so there"!
The risk should surely be put to vaccine recipients but also emphasising that it is miniscule compared to the risks of other well accepted medications. There is a huge risk of illness and death and the risk of blood clots rises tenfold if you get infected with the virus. UK reports say that the uptake of the vaccine in Britain has not diminished since the scare but it would seem EU politics are putting EU lives at risk unnecessarily.
Both the UK and EU regulators have now said they believe there is a causal link between the vaccine and the rare clotting with the UK now advising that the Astra vaccine is not given to under 30 year olds as the current low risk to life of the side effect outweighs the current risk to life of catching the virus. Should the risk of catching the virus increase then that advice may be reversed but younger people also have better resistance and less chance of dying if infected.
Although this advice only applies so far to the Astra vaccine, it is the one most widely used and the same side effect has now shown itself in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still awaiting approval in the UK, as more people are vaccinated around the world. The UK has 457 million doses on order of the eight most promising vaccine candidates, of which just 100 million are AstraZeneca and this was a deliberate strategy to spread the risks of poor efficacy and side effects.
Pub Quiz Night
Norfolk-n-chance, our pub quiz team managed 2nd place and only two points behind the winners. The highlight of the evening was Dave Cooke eating a pizza!
The next week saw us at a different venue where there was a team members limit of six so we split into two teams of four, the second team being named Norfolk-n-Way who manged to finish just behind Norfolk-n-Chance on points 'cos they didn't have Dave on their side for the music round!
A few of the team will not be at the following weeks quiz night so it will be the last time I will see them all together although Lynda was missing that night so the photo above is of the two of us. I thought I had better take a photo of the rest of the team for posterity:
At my last quiz night the team presented me with a framed photo of the team including me but without Lynda who did turn up later straight off the plane from Wellington but left at round six when we were leading the quiz. She left early and we then went downhill to finish seventh.
The team gave me a huge goodbye card together with a cheque for $175 to be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support which I have done. I will continue to answer the cryptic clues for them every week so they haven't lost me entirely.
UK Self testing for Covid.
Preparing to fly home on May 4th I visited the UK government web site to book a home test kit to be sent to my UK quarantine address. You are obliged to do this and pay for it prior to filling out the passenger locator form online 48 hours prior to your flight and are given a unique code by the test kit suppliers which you must enter on the locator form before completion.
Ater completing the passenger location form you are sent a QR code which you can save on your mobile phone to present to immigration when you arrive in the UK in addition to certification that you tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of your flight departure.
There are dozens of suppliers of these home test kits approved by the UK government and listed on their web site. I tried several where after keying in all my details the web site crashed. Another one let me complete the form before telling me they were out of stock! I read today that 001doctor.uk which was one of the cheapest at £170 and at the top of the government list had failed to deliver the kits to some people who were at the end of their quarantine period.
You have to return the test swabs on days 2 and 8 of your quarantine and if you don't you must remain a prisoner! I have used an outfit called dnaworkplace.com who also charged £170 including VAT and shipping costs. They sound American and everything seemed to work fine as far as the ordering and confirmation. I just hope the kits arrive in good time and the test results are returned by the end of the prison term.
Having read of 6 hour queues at Heathrow immigration and with the help of my friend Sally, I have since managed to get mobility assistance with a buggy to take me through immigration and customs. Although I do have some tolerable pain when walking, if I stand for long periods the pain becomes severe and I did not relish a possible UK press headline; "Cancer sufferer collapses in Heathrow immigration queue. Questions in the House"!!
Fund raising for Macmillan Cancer Support by walking the Macmillan Way West.
Recently I have updated the page describing the Macmillan Way West with revised stages. Although it is still over a year away, as there is the prospect of walk participants coming from as far away as New Zealand and Panama, I decided to set provisional dates for the walk of from Friday 28th July 2022 at the Castle Cary start until Sunday 7th August 2022 for the Barnstaple finish.
A poster to advertise the walk demonstrating my desktop publishing skills is shown here!
Participants will average about 10 miles a day and do not have to do the whole 102 mile walk. There will always be the option of bailing out of each stage of the walk early if you get tired.
Those who have registered an interest in participating in the walk will receive further details by email later this year.
During the first week in April 2021 an average of 36 people died per day from the coronavirus in the UK. By comparison cancer claimed 450 lives per day over the same period.
English Premiership Rugby.
Round 16 & 17 of the Gallagher Premiership 2020/21 season resumed after the European knockout rounds which saw Bath Rugby make it into the semi-final of the Challenge cup. You can expand this page to see the Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
Fund raising for Macmillan Cancer Support 4 different ways:
On my return to the UK I will be organising a sponsored walk to raise funds for the Macmillan charity along the Macmillan Way West in memory of my late wife Susan. I am also a cancer victim and undergoing treatment in New Zealand but in the meantime, depending on your location, you can donate with this widget below directly to the Macmillan charity by subscribing to my JustGiving web site:
|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.