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!



Covid for the credulous? Take your pick: Tory daily media briefing or Johnson speaking at the Select Committee on the Impact and Science of Coronavirus


This handsome fellow wanders about in the fields behind our cottage, in nearby gardens and recently into the road, luckily depleted of traffic. He’s very self composed, curious and doesn’t alarm easily. You can come across him anywhere. I’m thinking of dressing up as a pea hen so he fans his tail feathers.

And so to running. I’ve managed to consistently run 8.3k every other day for five weeks. My dodgy knee has held up (just). It remains swollen and stiff and unfortunately this really hasn’t changed much in the last year. I had an video assessment by the musculo-skeletal clinic and the physiotherapist took me through my knee x-ray. He showed me areas of mild to moderate age related arthritic changes which would account for the problems I’m experiencing. He suggested strengthening exercises, rest, cross training, cycling and perhaps a steroid injection in the future. I’m still hopeful the swelling and weakness will subside and I will try to expand my excercise regime as suggested. Update: I’ve had a rest from running and did a bit of cycling instead, one 18k and one 31k. I could still feel my knee but less so. I went for an 8.4k run this morning and it felt much better. Who could possibly have guessed that a rest and some cross training might be helpful?

Due to the covid lockdown the roads are relatively traffic free and a lot more people are running and, particularly, cycling and walking. Being required to essentially stay at home except to exercise and forgo work and a social and cultural life forces a change of perspective. The sudden  drop in pace has given an opportunity to think about how we conduct our lives and prompts us to think more critically. It can help us to appreciate what we hitherto took for granted or take up activities to express our creative potential. That’s on the positive side, of course.

Unfortunately the pandemic has shown  how precarious our lives and livelihoods can be, how quickly we can fall into a financial crisis and how dependent we are on economic stability and on strong government to plan for and manage in a time of crisis.

This Tory government, brought to us by Brexit supporters, is truly the government they deserve. Inept, short sighted, mean spirited, intoxicated by spin and slick presentation. The daily Covid updates are a masterclass in political embroidery, designed to give a confident presentation of the government response to the crisis followed by an equally confident question and answer session wherein the right questions are posed only to receive answers to a soft questions the politician wish they had been asked.

These briefings are clearly intended to convince the credulous and the critically unthinking, that is, the Brexit demographic. The litany of statistics is not particularly enlightening to most people and the emphasis on so many millions of personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by government, in the face of so many reports of shortages, in the early weeks, was shocking.

The government clearly left the care homes to their own devices. They received little assistance with PPE and hospitals discharged care home residents back without testing for covid infection or didn’t admit them in the first place. For weeks the daily number of covid deaths did not include those from care homes or outside hospitals.

The government was recently shamed into dropping the National Health Immigration Health Care surcharge, currently at £400 per person annually, rising to £624 in October. Boris Johnson defended this surcharge at Prime Minister’s Question Time, despite the thousands of frontline health workers working in the NHS and dying in their work.

The goverment dropped testing and tracking in March. They failed to heed the findings of the Operation Cygnus simulation exercise carried out in October 2016 which showed a pandemic would cause the health system to collapse from lack of resources.

They delayed a comprehensive lockdown.

Their emphasis on “following the scientific advice” has more resonance if we read it as “following the political science”.

As for Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, and  high profile breaker of lockdown rules, I can’t really get too incensed. What else would you expect from this amoral, self serving government.

Johnson at the Select Committee. More waffle, more bromides.

And to top it all, my good crop of gooseberries have got powdery mildew.


Aliveandrunning Janathon January 13

Day 13. A short run of 2 miles a day should be achievable for most Janathon runners, if they are sufficiently motivated. It doesn’t take long and you have the option of before or after work. I might add that a run after you reach home in the evening is an excellent way to wind down and begin to relax your body. Of course, when I was in paid employment, I seldom managed to go running in the evening but it’s a nice standard to apply to others.

An uneventful 2 mile run just before dusk. It was a cold and sunny day. I should have run sooner but I was busy fixing old clay pantiles to my garage roof. I did this successfully and also fixed some guttering so I had a small but perfect sense of achievement when I set out. Tomorrow I’ll be road running in Cambridge, in the evening, with the club.

I’m very confused concerning the reports I’ve read about the amount of running undertaken and the effect on the heart. In the Observer Tech Monthly yesterday, part of an article by Catherine de Lange entitled What Science Says About The benefits Of Running (not available for sharing) discussed running and repeated the same evidence I have heard on other occasions. A study of 20,000 people in Denmark over years found that those who ran lived on average for 6 years longer than those who did not. The biggest benefits came from running between on hour and two and a half hours a week, over two or three sessions, at a comfortable pace. There is speculation that long periods of vigorous physical activity, over an hour or two, puts too much strain on heart muscle, causing it to stretch and tear, which – over years – can lead to stiffening and scarring. One 2011 study found higher levels of fibrosis, or scarring, in the heart muscle of competitive endurance athletes aged 50 or over, compared to others of the same age. It  suggests moderate intensity running in small doses – of about 30 to 50 minutes at a time. Some argue that excessive running  can cause increased calcium plaque build up in the heart, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

I had my heart attack 4 months after running the London Marathon, aged 58. I don’t believe that my running regime, before marathon training, contributed to heart disease. I’m well aware of factors that almost certainly did and over many years. I think my level of fitness helped me to recover quickly and allowed me to return to my prior running ability. I could physically do a marathon again and I would enjoy the challenge but I do think it would be asking too much of my heart, given I have established heart disease. OK, no more marathons then. I can live with that (no pun intended) but what about half marathons which would still exceed recommended running levels? I currently run about 3 hours a week. If I do a half marathon, the training will increase for a period of time? Is this OK for me or risky? I don’t know. How about asking a cardiologist? Well, apart from an out patient appointment after discharge from hospital, you never see a cardiologist again. You are prescribed NICE  guideline cardiac medication and are monitored by your GP. There’s not deemed to be a problem if you don’t experience troublesome symptoms. I may give the cardiac rehab nurses  or sports scientist a ring.They provided an excellent 12 week rehab programme after my heart attack and work closely with the cardiologists. It would be good to speak to other runners who have heart problems and hear what advice they have been given concerning mileage and duration.


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.

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.



Aliveandrunning2013 October 24

OMG ! I went for a 2 mile run today and my right calf gave no indication that it was less than 100% fully recovered. I felt fit, rested and ready to run regularly again. If I was prone to exaggeration, I might reveal that I have a reservoir of pent up energy such that only a series of Ironman races could assuage. But that would be silly. Instead, after a few weeks of virtually not running, I merely feel like the proverbial coiled spring or maybe a Maserati forced to poodle along in heavy traffic. Perhaps, on Saturday, I will start at the front of Cambridge parkrun alongside the rest of the elite runners. They will herald the return of the Cambridge gazelle and genuflect. They are forced to eat my dust. I succeed in achieving a parkrun national record and trend heavily on Twitter. Alternatively, I run without further injury and enjoy myself. I then decide to do the Bonfire Burn 10K on November 3 and run this comfortably.

I listened to the Chair of NHS England, Sir Malcolm Grant, discuss the appointment of Simon Stevens as chief executive of the NHS on Today, Radio 4 this morning. Sir Malcolm had a very educated voice. Beautiful diction, nicely modulated, articulate , confident, assured. To doubt him would surely reflect badly on the doubter. His voice was very persuasive and its tone suggested you were either stupid or ignorant or churlish not to agree. Yet he spoke in well rehearsed platitudes and invited us to believe that the world had been scoured to find the right appointee who had the vision, commitment to quality and the degree of integrity to put the patients’ interests first, blah, blah,blah. Their British appointee has spent 9 years in America in the health insurance business and is known to favour an increased role for the private sector in the NHS. Sir Malcolm’s voice is a good example of a class weapon, designed to intimidate and convince and hide the true nature of things. So, Bobs  your uncle, Fannys your aunt and everything is A1 at Lloyds. Wot a North and South ! (mouth -Cockney rhyming slang).