ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN … IN CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS COVID?

You know all those boring graphs Boris and Co show on TV when we get our Covid briefings?

OH (other half) and I have been contributing to those numbers for the past four months.

Last November we received a letter inviting us to take part in the Covid-19 infection survey, run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is used to inform the government and the British public.

It involved someone coming to our home (they stay on the doorstep and are well masked), getting us to do a swab test for Covid-19 and asking us questions.  We felt it was our civic duty to take part and of course said yes.

It was the first time we had ever done a swab test.  To our surprise the swab was miniscule and we had no difficulty sticking it down our throats and up our noses.  But the questions took forever. Who had we been in contact with?  No one. Who had been in our house? No one. Had we been abroad. No.  Did we go shopping? No.  How much time did we spend in each other’s company? 24/7!  Had we had a vaccine? No – there was no vaccine!

The first visits were once a week for a month. Now they are once a month.  We see a different person every time. The questions and answers have more or less remained the same, except now we can answer ‘yes’ to the vaccine question. Way back last November the idea of there ever being a vaccine was just wishful thinking.

The questioners are different people each time.  The last one we met was on furlough from her career in finance.

The swabs change each time.  I don’t think it’s deliberate policy – more a change in suppliers – but with each visit they have got bigger and bigger!  It’s amazing what you can get used to over time! We look forward to the visits as it’s rare contact with another human being.

What’s more – and this really surprised us – we get paid for taking part!

£50 each for the first visit and £25 each time after that.  It’s quite a clever system because one gets paid in vouchers which can be spent in shops or online.  The  choice of where we can spend them ranges widely from Amazon to a large number of well known supermarkets and retailers. It’s clever because it means that the money we receive goes back into the system.  We sometimes have used it to donate to the various charities we support. We have also bought food and then donated it to a food bank.  Occasionally we “treat” ourselves to books.

I guess the payment was made to encourage people to take part. There are thousands of people cooperating in this survey. Think of all the money that is going back into the system. Helping to keep the economy going.

A few days after we have been tested we receive a letter through the post telling us the result.   So far It has always been negative – thank goodness.  And a few days later we receive an email offering us our voucher.

The information ONS receives goes to inform the numbers that are reported every day. So we feel – with or without getting paid for it – that we are doing our bit.

We have signed up for a year so I imagine we will continue to be tested until the autumn. It’s one way of finding out –  not only who has/hasn’t had the virus – but also how effective the vaccination programme has been. For more information, please see the government links below.

Stay safe and keep well.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/surveys/informationforhouseholdsandindividuals/householdandindividualsurveys/covid19infectionsurveycis

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/26february2021

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

MY 179TH BLOG SINCE THE START OF LOCKDOWN!

In my writers’ group last week we were asked to write 450-500 words on the topic of  “on the brink”.

I wrote this poem.  Hope it makes you smile!

Nearly

I nearly wasn’t born at all

That’s what my mother said

I was coming out the wrong way round

By the feet and not the head

She was on the brink of having a Caesar

But pushed me out instead.

 

I studied hard at uni

It didn’t come easy to me

I was sure I’d get a distinction

Or at least an A or B

But when I finally got the result

I found I’d got a C

I was on the brink of such success

But they had it in for me.

 

She was the loveliest girl

I’d ever met

Will you marry me, I said

But then at the church

She left me in the lurch

And married the best man instead.

 

I was crossing the road as usual

On my way into town

A lorry appeared out of nowhere

And nearly ran me down

I suppose I should have been looking up

Instead of on my phone

Better be late than “the late”

Said my dad when I got home.

 

I made a mess of my driving test

It was only a small mistake

I went the wrong way

on a roundabout

So the examiner used the brake.

 

I have a mate who’s done so well

He’s making loads of money

He offered me a job with him

I laughed, said don’t be funny

It turns out he wasn’t joking

And asked another mate instead

Now they’re raking it all in

Have second homes on the Med

I could have been a contender

That’s what my in-laws said

Nothing good ever happens to me

I might as well stay in bed.

 

We’d saved up for a holiday

It was the first for years

My wife had begged to go away

She ended up in tears

So we booked a flight to Ibiza

And were waiting in the hall

When I had to pop out to take a pee

And so we missed the call

My wife has never forgiven me

And won’t talk to me at all.

 

I do the lottery now and then

My numbers never win

And then last Saturday

I came close

The closest I’ve ever been

My wife came downstairs running

I gave out such a shout

I was on the brink of winning

But just one number out.

 

I was at the doctor’s getting my vaccine shot

The receptionist called my name

I wasn’t sure if I’d heard her or not

It didn’t sound the same

And now I’ve lost my place in the queue

And will have to go again!

 

My computer keeps playing up

It crashes out of the blue

I’ve lost a dozen manuscripts

And now this poem —

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

“O FRABJOUS DAY! CALLOOH! CALLAY!” (Jaberwocky, Lewis Carroll)

Everyday was groundhog day. Until yesterday.  Last night OH (other half) and I received our Pfizer vaccine!

We’d had a phone call the night before from someone at our medical practice asking us if we wanted to be vaccinated. In all honesty I thought it might be a hoax as we weren’t expecting to get a call so soon. We know a number of people older than us who still haven’t had the vaccine so we were somewhat sceptical.

We were fortunate because, as it was being done at our local practice, we were able to walk there. We were glad we did because there was a long line up of cars waiting to get in. Our appointment was for 6.20pm and we arrived about half an hour early.  Just as well because there was a long queue.

We joined a long socially distanced line up of masked people. Someone came along, took one’s details and handed out a form to be completed. Not easy in semi darkness but we managed.  When I attempted to return the pen I was told to keep it. Our temperatures were taken before we went inside the building.

The large reception area inside had been divided up into cubicles where people were being given the vaccine.  OH was ushered into one of these while I was told to enter one of the practice rooms. I rolled up my sleeve and the volunteer sang out – “one, two, three” – before giving me the jab.

There was almost a party atmosphere. Everyone was smiling, kindly and friendly. All these OAPs, or seniors as we prefer to be called, were sitting in the corridor, all masked and distanced from one another.  Volunteers wandered up and down checking that we were OK and spraying vacated seats with antiseptic.  OH came over with one of our favourite GPs who had long retired but had returned to give jabs. He told us he had done over 100 that day.  We reckoned that there were at least ten people there giving innoculations so that would be 1000 over 70s getting their vaccine that day.

We were also given a little card. It had no stars or smiley faces but it named the vaccine we had been given – Pfizer – and the date. Something to stick on our passports for the future.

That was over 24 hours ago. We have had no side effects, other than our arms feeling a little tender at the site of the jab. The only downside is that we shouldn’t drink alcohol for two weeks as that would reduce our immunity.  A small price to pay.

One can criticise this government for many things but at least they had the foresight to order ample quantities of vaccine. We are well ahead of our European neighbours and most other countries of the world in rolling out the vaccination programme. So, in one thing at least, Britain has got something right.

We all need to be patient and play by the rules. But there is light – and real hope – at the end of the tunnel.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

POST 175 – GROUNDHOG DAY

Way back in April 2020 at the start of all of this, most of us thought that by now life would have gone back to normal.

The Hour of Exercise

On Sunday, nine months later, OH (other half) and I were taking a walk around the block and the same line of Shakespeare popped into my head.  It was only after I wrote the poem below that I remembered I had used the same device of parodying Shakespeare last April.  If you compare the two poems, you will see that there is a real contrast between my thoughts and feelings at the start of lockdown and how I – and many others I am sure – feel now.  Do comment below and let me know what you think! 

Once More!

Once more around the block dear friends once more

Or close the hospitals with our Covid dead

This virus does not care about us man

It thrives on selfishness and stupidity

And when the joggers breath blows in our faces

Then cover up your nose and mouth

Hold hard the breath until they have passed by

And you good politicians

Who serve for us in England

Show us here the mettle of your thinking

Why we should ever vote for you again

Let us know that you are worthy of the job

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That would let the British people down

Follow your instincts

Be proactive, don’t react

With science at the forefront

Swear we will beat this virus!

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

CHRISTMAS WOULDN’T BE CHRISTMAS WITHOUT A PANTO.

Oh no it wouldn’t!

Oh yes it would!

Here’s my take on the panto. Hope you like it!

BORIS AND THE BAD VIRUS

CAST: Boris Johnson as himself – always behind a lectern.

FAIRY VACCINE. She is all sparkly and carries a fairy wand.

VIRUS – THE VILLIAN. Looks like Boris Trump but has spikes sticking out all over its body. He has an orange face, orange spikey hair and orange hands.

SCENE OPENS ON BORIS STANDING BEHIND HIS LECTERN.

BORIS (INCANTING):

Bubble bubble tier and trouble

Help me – I’m in such a muddle!

A PUFF OF SMOKE AND FAIRY VACCINE APPEARS WAVING HER SPARKLY WAND.

FAIRY V: Did you call for your fairy queen?

My name dear Boris is fairy vaccine!

I’m as pretty as Carly Cyrus

I’ll rid you of this deadly virus!

AN EXPLOSION BEHIND BORIS AND THE TRUMP LOOKING VIRUS VILLAIN APPEARS.

VIRUS:  Oh no you won’t!

FAIRY: Oh yes I will!

VIRUS: Oh no you won’t!

FAIRY: Oh yes I will!

BORIS: Oh yes she will!

VIRUS (THREATENINGLY):

 I’m Biden my time, just wait and see

You haven’t seen the last of me!

ANOTHER EXPLOSION AND VIRUS DISAPPEARS.

BORIS (TALKING TO AUDIENCE)

I wish that virus would go for good.

I’m really sad and misunderstood.

I must be the unluckiest person in the kingdom.

First I had to negotiate Brexit – which I am – er er um – still working on of course.

FAIRY – Calm down Boris and have a beer

            It’s not Corona – never fear!

BORIS CONTINUES IGNORING HER.

HE THUMPS LECTERN AS HE SPEAKS

Then I had to sort out my divorce so I could get engaged.

THEN we had this rotten, stinking, disgusting virus which I then caught. Such bad luck. Then I had to experience the NHS for the first time and I have to say they were pretty good. They saved my life. Then my fiancé Carrie what does she do? She goes and has a baby!  Since then I have barely slept!

FAIRY VACCINE:  Poor Boris. (TURNS TO AUDIENCE)

Boris has managed to pack into a few months what most of us don’t get done in a lifetime! No wonder he didn’t have time for all those Cobra meetings!

BORIS: Oh yes I did! (TURNS TO AUDIENCE)

Didn’t I boys and girls?

FAIRY VACCINE: Oh no, you didn’t!

BORIS:      Fairy vaccine I thought you were on my side.

Are we going to get rid of this deadly virus or not?

FAIRY VACCINE:  You have to trust me Boris.

BORIS: That’s what Dominic Cummings said and look what happened!  Everyone knows you only need to drive for 50 miles to test your eyesight – not 500!

EXPLOSION BEHIND BORIS AND THE VIRUS APPEARS

FAIRY:  Look out Boris – it’s behind you!

BORIS (NOT LOOKING) I wish my cabinet was behind me. I wish the country was behind me!

FAIRY: No, the virus, it’s right behind you.

BORIS (LOOKING – BUT THE VIRUS HIDES BEHIND THE HIM) 

Oh no it isn’t!

VIRUS REAPPEARS AND FAIRY SPOTS IT.

FAIRY: Oh yes it is!

VIRUS HIDES AGAIN

BORIS: Oh no it isn’t!

EXPLOSION RIGHT IN FRONT OF BORIS AND VIRUS REAPPEARS

VIRUS: Oh yes it is! You don’t get rid of me that easily!

BORIS:  (BEGGING, PLEADING) Oh Fairy vaccine, help me!

Help me get rid of this evil virus.

VIRUS:  He didn’t say please, did he boys and girls?

Fairy Vaccine: (REPROVINGLY, IN THE MANNER OF A NANNY)

Boris say please!

BORIS: (QUIETLY) Please.

FAIRY: Say it as if you mean it.

BORIS: (A LITTLE LOUDER) Please.

VIRUS: We can’t hear you, can we boys and girls.

BORIS: (YELLING) PLEASE!

VIRUS AND FAIRY IN UNISON: That’s better!

FAIRY VACCINE: 

Boris if only you were wiser

You’d know the help will come from Pfizer!

VIRUS: (STAMMERING IN A SCARED VOICE)

Ppppffffizer?

FAIRY VACCINE:  Yes my dear your time is due

The world will soon be rid of you!

VIRUS:  (SHOUTING) Oh yeh?

FAIRY: (IN UNISON)  Yes!

BORIS:

VIRUS (ALMOST CRYING)             

You’re all ganging up on me …

        (THREATENING VOICE)

 … But I’ll be back – just wait and see!

DISAPPEARS AGAIN IN AN EXPLOSION

BORIS: (to fairy) Do you think we’ve seen the last of him?

Fairy: Oh come on, Boris don’t be dim!

(TO BORIS AND TO AUDIENCE)

Viruses will come and go

As they have done for years you know

We’ll fight them off with all our might

And one day they’ll be gone alright.

But just for now it’s hands, face, space

If we’re to save the human race!

CURTAIN

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

50 SHADES OF GREY

I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever had my nails done or had any kind of beauty treatment. No Botox for me.

I didn’t dye my hair for the first time until I was in my 50s and going grey.  And I only did that when people started offering me seats and opening doors for me!

I began by dyeing my hair myself – that is to say with the help of my daughter at the start.  Then I got up the courage to do it myself.  Eventually, I ventured into a hair salon and I have never looked back. Until now.

I was the kind of person who could not bear to have any grey whatsoever showing in my very short hair. At five foot one and a half inches tall I was always aware that people would look down on me (as in from a great height not I hope for any other reason!) and see the grey tips showing.  So I went regularly to the salon for a cut and to have the roots recoloured.

Those of you who think of me as blonde (or with yellow hair according to my daughter’s children) will imagine I have the whole of my head dyed.  Not at all.  Just the root regrowth to cover up the grey.

Now here I am four months later with hair so long that I can whisk it up into a pony tail – albeit a short one.  And with long grey streaks which, amazingly, I am beginning to quite like.

My hairdresser texted me a while back to say that I could now return if I wished. But I am in no hurry. Even if there were no virus to worry about I am now interested to see what hair colour is emerging.  I am curious to let the yellow grow out and see how I look with 50 shades of grey. When we finally emerge from lockdown will I look like Miss Haversham but without the wedding dress?

OH (other half) says it suits me.  But he would say I looked good even if I had a bag over my head!  It’s not that he doesn’t look at me but I think that after nearly fifty years of marriage (Covid permitting) he continues to see me as if I am still the woman he married – which is very touching. And, to be fair, he often compliments me on how I look even when he is not being asked for an opinion.

A few years ago we were on holiday in Cannes and going out for dinner. I had put on an elegant black linen sundress for the occasion.  How do I look? I asked him before we left.  Fine was his answer.  It is his usual answer.  How was the dinner? Fine. How’s my hair? Fine. How do I look? Fine.  I think the only time he would not answer fine would be if I asked him, how’s my driving?

There we were walking hand in hand along the Croisette in Cannes where all the beautiful people go to see and be seen.  It was a pleasant warm summer evening. Everyone was out strolling before dinner. I felt wonderful. All was right with the world. Then someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. It was a young woman walking with her friend. “Excuse me, she said in loud Australian English, “but I think you might like know that you have your dress on inside out”.

So ladies, unless you are still on your honeymoon, take my advice and beware when your other half says you look fine.

Find a complete stranger and ask them instead.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems