What have we learnt over the last year?

 

It’s a very broad question and, of course, we all learn differently. So what have I learnt? {Yes, it’s all about me. me, me}. I have been deeply impressed by the kindness, forebearance and bravery of others, particularly in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic. The suffering and loss has prompted deep compassion and continuing, everyday examples of innate humanity, despite the backdrop of an incompetent and complacent government. But, then again, that’s what I would expect because most people, under the most trying circumstances, would endeavour to act responsibly and sensibly and follow rules designed to alleviate the current crisis. The severe restrictions may have brought financial hardship, increased poverty, unemployment, loss of movement, prevented social interaction with family and friends and  stopped activities we took for granted but life, although curtailed, carries on. Nevertheless, the cost to many is huge.

So far, so positive. I don’t find the above remarkable. It’s what I expect. It’s not an eye opener. But some of the responses to the Covid pandemic and the American presidential election and its aftermath do turn a spotlight on a number of disturbing beliefs and an apparent willingness to act upon them.

Covid and Trump’s America have exposed and highlighted the existence of a willingness to embrace fantasy as fact and condemn unacceptable facts as fake. Both Trump and Boris Johnson trade in arousing negative sentiments and heightening emotions to influence people. Trump in particular is skilled at exploiting resentment and amplifying feelings of loss, unfairness, anger and hatred. He points the finger and creates targets for the aroused masses to focus their attention. In America, Trump has been able to sidestep reality and construct his own elaborate conspiracy theory to explain his defeat. He blithely faces down any kind of fact based argument, rubbishes anyone who disagrees and tramples democratic norms. In the Uk Boris Johnson doesn’t have to go to such lengths because the levels of anger and seething bitterness in the UK are much less virulent. We tend to fall for wealthy right wing stand up comedians to pull the wool over our eyes instead.

Why do so many people fall for politicians like Trump and Johnson? Why are they able to marshal such negative passions in so many of us? Their supporters are not psychologically minded. They are primed to react, to be aroused, to release their anger, aggression and sense of losing out, of being tricked. Their focus isn’t on community or fairness but on loss and identifying  who has taken it from them. They don’t think, they feel. That’s the nature of right wingers. Even if you feel I have presented an exagerrated caricature the evidence in both America and the UK is that the middle of the road conservatives will hold their noses and still support a fascist narcissist or someone who makes them laugh. Theses politicians are able to stir the deep well of aggression and negative emotions a lot of us obviously possess.

Phew! Back to something less controversial. Despite my dodgy right knee I’ve managed to run around 32k each week. That’s three 9ks and one timed 5k. My knee is still weak and stiff but running isn’t problematic. Part of my run is along an old Roman Road called Mere Way (currently threatened by the construction of a waste water treatment plant}. It’s exceedingly muddy for most of its length. We’ve had a lot of rain and the ground is saturated. It won’t be drying up any time soon. We are still in partial covid lockdown and there are no races on the horizon yet apart from Cambridge half marathon scheduled for October. Entry is by competitive ballot this year. I’ll do it if I can, Covid allowing.

I’ve just had a phone call from my GP surgery offering me a Pfizer vaccine. It’s the only advantage to having heart disease. Yippee!

 

Last gasp of summer as second covid wave arrives

The little sunflower is still intact but summer in the UK came to an end today with plummeting temperatures and rain in the south. It’s coinciding with an upsurge in positive corona virus infections, a growing increase in hospital admissions, more severe restrictions on social interaction, limiting pub and restaurant opening times and government advice to work from home (again) wherever possible.

It’s pointless to speculate how a Labour government might have managed the impact of covid 19 on society and the economy. We only know and experience how the present Tory incumbents are handling the unprecedented challenges. We know, for example, that substantial lockdown measures were introduced far too late in March, that the Tory government abandoned test and trace measures around the same time and care homes, along with their vulnerable residents, were disasterously left to fend for themselves. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, famously asserted that he had thrown a “protective ring” around the care home sector, a claim that was competely hollow and a willful, cynical misrepresentation.

The government mantra is they are led by the science but the measures they announce to combat the virus are political and with an eye to their popularity.

Governments worldwide are having to manage unprecedented circumstances and formulate contingency plans. In essence, it’s a balance between saving lives and saving the economy. At present, without an effective vaccination available, in any given population, there are loud voices giving  emphasis to personal and family risk while many oppose severe measures because of the resultant loss of economic demand and consequential unemployment.

This UK government has a history of spin, bluster, slick presentation and dependence on feel-good bromides and platitudes. They are massaging the covid statistics and their “NHS”test and trace programme is not fit for purpose. Boris Johnson has the temerity to give it give it the prefix NHS but in reality it should be termed Serco test and trace. Led by Dido Harding, it’s a good example of Tory nepotism as is her appointment.

Currently, the running has come to a dead halt. Until recently I was running 9k every other day and my weak, stiff knee was coping well. Unfortunately I pushed it bit further by adding a 5k session in without sufficient recovery. Result? A painful unrunnable knee. Now having at least a week’s rest. Oh dear! But I can walk. Phew!

 

 

Aliveandrunning January 9 2015 Janathon Day 9

DSC_0319 Wimpole Hall, a National Trust property, in all its glory. They keep the front aspect of the house clear of plebs, poor people, lower middle class, New Age travellers and children not attending fee paying schools. Luckily, the grounds are extensive and us parkrunners don’t have to encroach on the upper class gravel. We are allowed to run freely over the undulating park land, however, and visit the lavatories when necessary.

But tomorrow’s dream parkrun at Wimpole is now a shattered aspiration. It’s been cancelled because of the expected gales. No run, no visit to the second hand bookshop, no National Trust rock cake , jam and coffee in their cafe. At the moment Cambridge parkrun at Milton Country Park hasn’t been cancelled and a decision will probably be made tomorrow morning around 8 am.

Another 2 mile run in the dark tonight but unlike the previous couple of runs, I didn’t set out on a full stomach. It was windy, although not excessively, and very mild. I think those Scottish winds will increase during the night so the fate of Cambridge will be in the hands of the Gods.

The NHS spending on children’s mental health has fallen by more than 6% in real terms since 2010, according to official figures. This equates to nearly £50m and was disclosed by NHS England in a parliamentary question. These cuts have been made against a background of decades of chronic underfunding. Who says we live in a civilised society? Who cares, anyway. It’s not a high profile service, there’s probably not enough money in it to attract private interest and most parents will be grateful for any level of help. Let the children suffer.

Aliveandrunning June 4 2014 Juneathon Day 4

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1. The sensible, go-through-immediately door (requiring the slightest degree of stooping) after it’s radical, no-nonsense haircut.

2. I am snapped assertively addressing a group of local residents and employing demonstrative body language to convey  I am in charge of the village. I am informing them that everyone is obliged to run 5k each day and eating chocolate products is forbidden.

3.This black hole spontaneously formed in the woods where I take Rupert the dalmatian for a walk. Spooky or what! What?

Juneathon Day 4. I took the risk of drawing the attention of the increasing number of zombies roaming around on the outskirts of our village and went for a lonely run down the course of an old Roman road called Akerman Street, now a wide grass track bounded by trees and bushes with cultivated fields behind them. The Roman gods were quiet today and I’ll attempt to commune with them on another occasion. It’s odd to consider this would have been a busy bye-way of transport, travel and commerce 1600 years ago. And now I run along it dressed like a banana. That’s progress for you!

Society in today’s Guardian has an article titled “Psychiatric support teams can save hospitals millions.” It describes how on-site psychiatric care in acute hospitals can greatly reduce, or much better manage, resources taken up by the estimated 25% of patients who have a mental illness in addition to their physical illness. Apparently, most acute hospitals are not equipped to deal with mental health disorders that come through their doors, according to a consultant psychiatrist. It was ever the same. Everyone working in general hospitals and psychiatric teams has practical experience of such problems and such a scenario will have been recognised for decades. This article seems to focus on the elderly but the same situation pertains to all ages. These well funded pilots and projects simply underline what can be achieved with appropriately applied services. No funding, no service country-wide but every so often a pilot gets some cash allocated and reinvents the wheel.   bit.ly/1ovTDiL

Aliveandrunning March 17 2014

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Following last weekend’s Cambridge half marathon when I ran a good time and then made it memorable by becoming dehydrated and requiring medical assistance (see blog dated March 10), I am now back to form. I ran with the club during the week and parkrun on the weekend. The Cambridge parkrun run director and her partner, who have bright red hair and a Mohican respectively, were stepping aside after four years. Dozens of regulars wore convincing wigs in celebration (see pic above). I think I should have spent more time finessing my coiffure. My lush Mohican came rather low and I had difficulty seeing my way around the course. I was also carrying a placard so my time was slow. Still, we had a lot of cake afterwards and everyone was very appreciative of the hard work they have put in since parkrun began in Cambridge.

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Here I am modelling my tattoo sleeves after the race. Generally I am anti tattoo but these sleeves are hardly distinguishable from the real thing (as long as they are viewed 20 metres away with sun glasses). I am now scouring the internet to acquire a whole body lycra  tattoo stocking! How cool would that be in Cambridge Central Library or a Tesco super store.

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It’s curious how many runners revere cake! Very few of them seem to worry about the sugar or fat or calorie content. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable, OTT morning.

I attended a funeral last week and had yet further proof that, all to frequently, there’s nothing less Christian than a practicing Christian. I’ve heard examples from family before and also seen it with my own eyes. The genteel, comfortable middle classes Church goers don’t seem to be able to welcome anyone who doesn’t conform to their particular norms. This is very clear when their services are attended by individuals whose behaviour may be loud or inappropriate or if they look different. They simply get ignored or sidelined or frozen out. I witnessed the good church folks in action against a women who probably has a borderline personality disorder in the reception after the funeral service. They really should have been able to accommodate her and make the effort to respond and make her feel comfortable. But they didn’t. And haven’t done on other occasions. I don’t like being around such hypocritical people. I don’t like to see such displays of prejudice and unkindness. They don’t take their own moral teachings seriously. They are self righteous nitwits!

Hot news! Scientists have found evidence of the signal left by the super-rapid expansion of space that occurred fractions of a second following the Big Bang, leading immediately to the creation of the Universe. That fraction is estimated to be a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Wow!! That’s even faster than the Tories took to start dismantling the NHS by letting the for profit companies take over services. That’s why we need health union leaders of the calibre of Bob Crow who very sadly died suddenly last week, aged 52.

Aliveandrunning2013 November 20

Out running with Cambridge and Coleridge  last night. As usual I took the road rather than track option. We did two 1.7 mile loops followed by a mile then a warm down jog back to the club. Slightly disappointed we didn’t do 3 loops as suggested initially but it was an enjoyable run in the dark along the mean streets of outer Cambridge. It goes without saying that I felt like a young demi-god effortlessly negotiating irritating obstacles like pedestrians, street furniture, cyclists and cold weather. A chum fell by the wayside, metaphorically speaking, by” pulling” his calf muscle. Not sure what this means exactly. I think it’s one step up from tweaking your calf. I guess it’s a calf strain again partially caused by insufficient rest following a previous strain. Runners,eh ! They just don’t know when to stop running.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, lives up to the mispronunciation  of his name by a Radio 4 news presenter some time ago. He calls for a “duty of candour” concerning medical care mistakes in hospital. the need to prevent cover ups and demonstrate much greater accountability and is requiring hospitals to reveal ward staffing levels. The  Tories are adept at demonizing or condemning practices and conduct which most people would agree is not acceptable but they are not willing to follow through and ask how these circumstances are created. The NHS is being not so gradually dismembered and given to for profit providers while cuts and unrealistic targets force managers to take shortcuts and massage figures. There are many sharp practices which don’t come to light but most of them will have arisen because budget holders are placed in impossible positions. Ever higher standards are sought with less money available and in the context of the NHS judged and evaluated as a for profit organisation.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2013/nov/19/jeremy-hunt-nhs-hospitals-steve-bell

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/19/nhs-hospitals-penalties-mistakes-midstaffs-scandal-hunt

Interestingly, past and present police officers currently testifying before a parliamentary committee of MPs are revealing that crime statistics have been been altered to boost favourable performance for years. In practice this means some categories of serious crime such as rape, sexual abuse of children and domestic violence are not being investigated and therefore do not swell crime figures adversely. It’s a win-win situation for the police and the government who are able to report that crimes are down on their watch. The police, as well as the Government are a law unto themselves.

Inhttp://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/19/police-failures-rape-child-abuse-official-statistics