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

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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.

 

A different reality now. I’m grateful to be able to run

Under the UK Covid -19 restrictions we are allowed a daily period of exercise, up to an hour, and within a reasonable distance of home as long as the journey does not exceed the period of exercise. I am in the lucky position, living in the countryside, of not having to negotiate my way past people on narrow pavements and maintain social distancing. It’s much easier to run around walkers by running into the road now that there is much less traffic. The density of population is far less so there are fewer people around.

Nevertheless there is a heightened fear and anxiety, in some,  of runners spreading contamination by coughing, spluttering, spitting and heavy breathing when they pass. particularly if they do not give a wide birth. All runners and cyclists have a responsibility to behave with care and consideration, especially at the present time. There is a running etiquette to observe and this includes not alarming people. In previous times it was good manners not to startle pedestians by passing too closely or by coughing to announce your presence if there were few peope about. Coughing, of course, is wholly inappropriate now but all runners need to think ahead and behave sensibly.

My knee injury is coming up to a year old. It’s still stiff, weak and a little swollen. My appointment at the Musculo-skeletal clinic is on hold indefinitely. Nevertheless I am able to run up to 8-9k every other day without experiencing discomfort or pain. So it has improved and unless I ask too much, hopefully it will continue.

We may feel we are hunkering down and waiting for the Covid crisis to pass but there is no justification for suspending our critical faculties. You would hope that your government would act with integrity and in good faith. That they would take timely decisions acccording to need and necessity and the process would be transparent.

The daily government, medical and science press briefing are a wonder to behold. Boris Johnson, before he became seriously ill with Covid-19, was gung ho, up beat and clearly didn’t take matters seriously enought to practise social distancing. The government maintained the fiction that he was only mildly unwell and still fully in charge up to the point he was taken to ITU.

Each  briefing brings an avalanche of numbers concerning items of personal protective equipment suggesting the government is meeting supply needs despite the clamour from hospitals ,nurses, doctors and others anxiously reporting the complete opposite.

The care homes appear to have been abandoned in terms of PPE. Not only do they have an appalling lack of PPE, the government has failed to include their high level of mortality in the numbers dying from Covid-19.

Covid-19 have caused a disproportionate number of deaths among the black, asian and minority ethnic population. The goverment was very slow to acknowledge this fact. They have also substantially under recorded the number of deaths among health care workers and people working in health care. Their preferred focus is on doctors and nurses to whom they readily pay lavish homage. Porters and ancillary staff don’t quite cut it.

The press/media questions after the briefing do not bring any clarity. The minister of the day, flanked by medical and science experts either do not answer the relatively tame questions or resort to generalities, spin, platitudes or just plain praising their own efforts.

I believe the government was very slow to react to the virus threat initially and several weeks were lost. I think a lot of decisions are made which are politically inspired despite the mantra that they have always been led by the science.

Covid 19 has changed everything

The Cambridge half marathon took place on the cusp of more Draconian measures to combat the corona virus, on March 8th. So quickly have we been conditioned to self distance to protect ourselves, it feels unsettling to see these images.


Cambridge and Coleridge come in first and second (middle and right side C and C’er respectively). There should be a law to ensure they are putting in maximum effort and suffering at all times. I know this is the start of the race but they still looked composed at the end of it.

 No family member took part this year. I’ve still got a dodgy knee and my eldest son was unwell and had to forgo his place

In the UK, at present time of writing, we are allowed to exercise once daily, outside our homes, and appropriately observing social distancing requirements. My knee is still problematic, and my referral to the muscular-skeletal clinic has probably fallen into a black hole but I’m able to run short distances each day. The roads are very quiet and lots of people are walking around who wouldn’t normally be on the streets. Plenty of us are running. Personally, I feel the fitter I am, the greater resilience I will have if I contract the virus. I’m in one of the vulnerable categories because of heart disease so I am particularly careful. I feel fit and my lung capacity must be good. I don’t feel at risk but, of course, I risk others’ health if I become ill.

The middle class are about to discover the cruelty of Britain’s benefits system

The coronavirus crisis ignites a bonfire of Conservative party orthodoxies

Coronavirus exposes society’s fragility. Let’s find solutions that endure once it’s over

It takes a whole world to create a new virus, not just China

The above links are to Guardian or Observer articles and offer analysis to these drastically changing times. It’s ironic that the Labour Party’s manifesto, before the last Uk election in December 2019, was roundly criticised for its profligacy on spending plans to transform British society. We are in a crisis now and there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of financial help. This may be vital to maintain confidence in our economic system and prevent societal unrest and civil disorder. But the same Tories have presided over swingeing cuts to the NHS, education, social services, children’s services and local goverment for well over a decade  I had an argument with an idiot in a hospital outpatient clinic who kept on repeating “Where’s the money coming from?” The right wing have done such a good job in subverting the concept of public good and replacing it with fear and condemnation and personal threat, a large number of people can’t see the wood for the trees.

So galling seeing the Tories and their scientific and medical friends, standing at lecterns which proclain” Protect the NHS”, during the daily press briefings. As if they believe that.

I believe there will be a reckoning when this present emergency subsides and hopefully the evil Tories won’t succeed in spinning their own version of events.

Pity the poor Americans. Trump living on another planet and unable to string a coherent sentence together and suffering  wholly inadequate health care and social benefit systems. Where’s the humanity?

The Loneliness of the Long Injured Runner Assuaged Only By House Plants

Running marathons could help you live longer – but how do you start?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2020/jan/07/running-marathons-help-live-longer-how-do-you-start?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

The call of the marathon! Seductive or easily dismissed? There have been lots of articles recently on how running is beneficial to your health. It joggles the brain nicely to ward off dementia, creates new brain cells and neurone pathways, strengthens joints and aids mental health. You don’t have to do marathons or even run. Exercise and activity are the fundamental components. Since my knee injury has stopped me running more than 5k, and at a more relaxed pace, I’ve been walking more and very enjoyable it is, too.

But it’s running I want to get back to. No Cambridge half marathon this year and no 10k race entries (yet). My knee remains weak and puffy but I think there is a slow improvement. My running fitness has appreciably declined, unfortunately. It will return, hopefully, when my knee is stronger.

Hold the front page! I’ve just returned from a five mile run and my knee held up. Not sure what it will be like overnight, but that’s hours away. At the moment it’s okay. New plan: register for 10k races immediately. What can go wrong?


I appear to have become obsessed with house plants (note that I am implying that this has been imposed on me  from above. I am just a helpless plaything manipulated by a higher intelligence to enact their whims). Someone or something has pressured me into setting up nearly forty plants and it’s a real headache trying to provide the right amount of light they require in a cottage that’s on the dark side. These first world problems are really under appreciated. Additionally, it’s very easy to overwater, one of the main causes for plant death or terminal decline, and, conversely, to under water. I’m still feeling my way forward. It’s not too difficult as long as you consider the individual plant’s needs on a DAILY basis. Like having children, really, except they don’t talk back.

Politically, we’ve fallen into the Dark Ages again.  Boris Johnson has a cabinet of poodles and absolute power. Like Trump he is able to sidestep integrity, truthfulness, consistency and any authentic concern for the needs of people outside his own elitist class. Like Trump, he has a large number of angry, prejudiced, uneducated and disillusioned voters who succumb to hard line, nationalistic policies which identify culprits and demonise minorities. Their styles are very different. One is a bullying white supremacist, the other a stand up comedian. But their nasty, viscious,cruel outlook is shared.

 

 

 

UK renamed Mordor by Johnson government as Tory-orcs run rampant

This is a pic from the top of the Tor at Glastonbury, overlooking the Somerset Levels and taken last summer when the evil Tories weren’t so blatantly evil.

The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, Cambridge, taken just before the UK General Election, and prior to the onset of Perpetual Shadow Tory Rule.

With the self destruction of the Labour Party, I should be running frantically and often to contain my fear and anxiety concerning an extreme right goverment. Unfortunately I remain injured, not seriously, but sufficient to impair speed, distance and frequency. I have been doing parkrun consistently but my knee still feels uncomfortable and weak. On New Year’s Day I did two parkruns, ninety minutes apart, 5k each run. On the last kilometre of the second race my right knee felt very odd and my left calf started to hurt. For the rest of the day I could only walk stiffly and gingerly. Nevertheless, I’ll do parkrun again tomorrow and probably walk most of it.

So Brexit, xenophobia, racism and outright stupidity won the day. The Right don’t really think, they feel. They feel anger, resentment, hate contempt, fear, sentimentality and prejudice. They tend not to have any arguments. The emphasis is on keeping what they’ve got, increasing it and making sure there’s minimum sharing or redistribution, particularly to the vulnerable or economically unproductive.

The Left tend to have arguments and explain, often with a historical perspective and with nuance. They employ concepts like inclusiveness, empathy, fairness and a sense of community. They look outwards and are not threatened by all and sundry. I could go on but I’m watching Shrill at the moment.

Hopefully I’ll write a few more blogs before Trump causes a nuclear war.

 

 

 

Would you Adam and Eve It*? UK General Election and I’m still injured (but not quite as much)

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My first attempt at kokedama (moss balls fashioned around a plant and bound to keep the moss and growing medium in place.) I’ve bound it crudely, with thick green garden wire. This will be replaced by less visible finer wire.

My first open top terrarium. My daughter has made a succession of closed terrariums and has give me advice and equipment to make my own. Better get on and do it then!

My relation with house plants has dramatically improved. Like many people I have tended to neglect them and their overall health goes into a slow decline. This is no longer the case. I find I’m much more motivated to care for them properly. I suppose nurture wouldn’t be too strong a word. Why is this? Well, plants enhance the environment. They’re natural, alive and respond to attention, creating a sense of being in control and achievement. Fascinating in themselves and their various forms, they give enjoyment and a feeling that you have a small bit of nature in your own home. Much less demanding than pets but more difficult to take for a walk.

I wasn’t running when I wrote my last blog two months ago. I am running now, tentatively, but my knee is weak and I’ve lost a lot of fitness. The NHS physiotherapy assessment appointment came through eventually, and was thorough. It was established I had a mechanical, not structural, injury and I was given a set of physio exercises. By the time of the assessment, my knee was improving very slowly. Despite being theoretically highly motivated to do physio exercises, in practice I didn’t take them up. I started parkrunning again (5k) but didn’t run during the week. My knee has continued to be problematic. There is continuing slow improvement and I want to run during the week. Strangely I am now motivated to do the prescribed physio exercises. Doh!

Regretfully I’ve missed a number of half marathon and 10k races and I won’t be doing the Cambridge half marathon in March 2020.  I think thirteen miles of hard road won’t be good for my knee. Possibly the following year. I’m pleased my son Dan has got a place so I’ll be able to spectate, cheer him on and hopefully keep my envy in check.

The UK general election is set for December 12th and party electioneering is in full swing. The evil Tories and the Brexit party are in bad tempered alliance, Labour has failed to gain the upper hand ( riven party and too many Brexiteer voters) and the Lib Dems, somewhat in the ascendancy, but probably not enough to make a difference. If Labour and the Lib Dems formed an alliance, there mght be some hope but that is not likely at the moment. Possibly the SNP might help labour keep the Tories out. It’s all up in the air! I don’t feel Jeremy Corbyn has put any effort into being personable and attractive to voters. He’s clearly anti European and the party is dangerously split. A substantial minority of Labour voters are xenophobic, racist and anti semitic. It’s not looking good.

*Cockney rhyming slang. Adam and Eve = believe it.  (American readers might associate the London cockney accent with Dick Van Dyke playing Bertie the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins in the 1964 film. This would be a grave mistake) Of course, Brexit is the modern version of the biblical Adam and Eve creation myth. When the evil Tories agreed to a referendum, the period of debate and day of voting was akin to eating of the Tree of Knowledge. It brought forth all manner of lies, deceit, self advancement, bigotry, xenophobia, nationalism, prejudice and hatred which hitherto had laid dormant. To mix metaphors, the genie was out of the bottle, Pandora’s box was opened. I’m sure you get my drift. On a daily basis we hear ignorance, anger and plain stupidity being voiced by people with the narrowest of interest for society at large but possessing a large range of cliches and jingoism to support their unkind, aggressive views. The Brexit debate has been very revealing and wholly disturbing.

Why do the Europeans seem so much more sensible than us Brits? Probably because they are.

 

 

 

 

Whitby, Cropredy and a persistent running injury. And Brexit?

WHITBY

Four days in Yorkshire. We visited Whitby where Bram Stoker’s Dracula landed on a deserted ship and bounded up the 199 steps, in the form of a large black dog, to the ruined Whitby abbey on the cliff top. Whitby is now a port of call (pun intended) for all Goths, past and present. These two Goth girl were hardly out of place.

 

Very atmospheric. The weather was warm and sunny but on a cold, misty, gloomy day it would be easy to appreciate why Stoker knew Whitby was the appropriate location for Dracula to disembark from his cursed ship.

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Cropredy, Oxfordshire. Fairport Convention hold an annual reunion festival here. They are a folk rock band which originally formed in 1967 and they are still going with original members and old members regularly returning. They have a loyal following which is just as well because the weather conditions were testing for long standing fans. Except we weren’t standing much. Such is our collective advanced age camp chairs is de rigueur even if the weather is good. This time around we endured a chilling wind, low temperatures and bouts of rain. It felt God was attempting to cull us!

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I’m being persecuted by another chicken. She turns up each day waiting to be fed then does giant poo which we duly tread on. She even became violent, pecking Lorna’s unprotected toes. We’re trying to become predominantly vegetarians but she’s trying our patience.

I’m alive but still not running My knee injury is still persisting and I’ve stopped running altogether. Still not sure of the exact nature of the injury. I had assumed it was a tear or bruising to the miniscus but now I’m not so sure. I’ve had a couple of private physiotherapy sessions and still awaiting a NHS referral for physiotherapy for which there is a fourteen week waiting list. This is not a service. Such a timescale for assessment and treatment will ensure that either the average person’s  problem will have resolved over time or will have become chronic. How has the physiotherapy service allowed itself to become so degraded and marginal? My GP, appparently, is not able to refer me for a scan to accurately diagnose my knee injury. That responsibility is now devolved to the physiotherapy servce, who if they feel a diagnostic scan is required, refer me onto another team who then make that decision. This will take forever. It is taking forever. A good example of NHS cuts and resource rationing. or softening up the NHS for private providers. Or simply dropping a treatment option. Is the NHS safe with the evil Tories? If you are credulous, yes, of course.

Brexit! Divisive or what? Remain or leave, your preference strips bare a predictable set of values and beliefs. In general the remainers live in a world with balmy weather and warm breezes where good humour and friendliness, co-operation and fairness are the norms and everyone is accepted without prejudice. The leavers, in general, inhabit a gloomy, sunless world, permanently chilled and inhospitable, where xenophobia, meaness of spirit, absence of empathy, lack of charity and self interest are endemic. Oh dear!

Manchester trip, Cambridge Pride and a proper running injury

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We ran into an Extinction Rebellion children’s march in Manchester a couple of months ago. It was heartening to see young children and teenagers taking to the streets and making themselves heard. I think their parents should br very proud.

We went to the first Cambridge Pride event. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and the attendance should have been higher but we felt it was successful. Very friendly and relaxing. Hopefully it will be bigger next year and they are able to secure sufficient funding.

Did I say in my previous blog my running is going well at present? Unfortunately it went downhill a short while after and became very uphill. So uphill, I’ve stopped running altogether for the past eight weeks. Previous to that I had been having problems to my right knee

and an ill advised hard training run with Cambridge and Coleridge AC in May resulted in a substantial injury. Oh dear! I thought I might have arthritic wear and tear but an x-ray didn’t suggest this. A physio assessment pointed to a minscus injury and I’m awaiting further investigation. In the meanwhile my knee is feeling better but not running better. Tomorrow I’ll do Cambridge parkrun and walk most of it. The above pic is me a month ago walking parkrun although I may have broken into a little trot at this point. I didn’t do myself any favours.

Trump’s attack on the four Democratic congresswomen at a rally in North Carolina branding them as “hate filled extremists” and a follow up to his tweets earlier in the week advising them to “go back” to other countries (based on their skin colour), is a shockingly good example of contemporary fascism. Successful fascists are highly adept at inciting large crowds by employing mockery and humour and outrageous lies. The cruel, unfeeling bigots lapped it up. God save America, pretty please.

Boris Johnson is apparently set to become the UK’s next Prime Minister and his head is all ready up Trump’s large colon. The Eton educated Tory chancer and full time stand up comedian is greatly loved by those who can’t distinguish entertainment from politics and don’t really care anyway.

Note to God : save America first and then help out the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running, races, interesting injuries, recovery and Brexit sadness

Here I am, running to partial victory (I would have won if I had succeeded in getting ahead of the several hundred people in front of me). This is the Cambourne 10k, just outside Cambridge. It was overcast and cold but good running weather for most. I should have worn gloves. More importantly my right knee and hip held up well. At the beginning of March I ran the Cambridge half marathon, a hard road surface and about ten days later my right knee and a right finger became swollen. I self diagnosed osteo arthritis. I was advised not to take ibruprofen because of my cardiac medication but I could take Voltarol (diclofenac diethylammonium,a topical gel, which I did. Result? Both knee and finger swelling quickly reduced. Like a lot of people of a certain age I get occasional arthritic local flareups particularly in my hands and they often disappear. But my swollen knee ACTUALLY STOPPED ME RUNNING!

I’m now back to running fairly normally and regaining lost form. I also took the decision to rejoin Cambridge and Coleridge Athletics Club (C&C) and went training with them this week. I gave up C&C nearly three years ago because I thought I was getting too slow to do the type of training I wanted to do with them, mainly road running. I’m still the slowest in the group but I’ll see how it goes. Some sessions will be more suitable than others and I’ve always got the option of doing track sessions instead.

 

Two running chums. Both beat me in the Cambourne 10k. I eat my banana, place the skin on the edge of the pond, my pal steps on it, skids and falls in. It doesn’t happen.

Brexit. It’s a Pandora’s box. Mostly we gravitate towards people whose views are similar to our own, if we know or suspect them. A lot of the time we don’t know people’s views and they may not know mine but because little clues suggest they might be substantially different, we avoid argument or friction. We get along by not challenging each other we don’t fall out because certain issues are avoided.  Brexit has sidestepped this pragmatic arrangement and frequently lays bare a range of beliefs, attitudes and values which are shocking.

I’d find it more than acceptable if the arguments for staying or leaving the EU revolved around economic or business considerations but I believe the majority of the peope who voted to leave Europe did so for racist and xenophobic reasons, underpinned by their anger at the  bewildering pace and changes of modern life and aided and abetted by the  fascist Daily Mail.

To put it mildly, it’s utterly dismaying to hear people rubbishing Europe, wanting to leave at any cost, desperately fearful of immigration and the loss of “Englishness” and feeling we are helpless under the weight of crazy European laws usurping our British (superior) sovereignty. The Little Britain mentality of most Brexiteers are in extreme contrast with the the humanity and common sense emmanating from the Europeans. Bring on a second referendum