Blog Archive

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Lockdown Blues

What a long strange trip we've been on. Normally we try to keep our posts short and upbeat. Sorry if this post is a bit of a downer, but like Blues music, it is meant as an expression of sad times. Sorry for my ranting and rambling or if it's a bit long. It is meant to be a multimedia experience, so be sure to take the time to enjoy the music, the video and external links. 

Let's start with some Blues music written for these times by Van Morrison and performed by Eric Clapton.

It’s been nearly a year since we’ve been on some form of lockdown or another and it's beginning to wear us down.  It began last March when Governor Inslee banned non-essential travel (whatever that is), along with the closing of all indoor dinning effectively closed down our business. Do you remember "Two Weeks to Flatten the Curve"?  Of course the 2-weeks stretched out to 4 weeks, then to six weeks and then months.  Things started to loosen up in Washington by late last summer, but by then the damage had been done and we closed our business at the end of September for good.

Now we’ve also endured the past two national lock-downs while we are in England with a few weeks of regional restrictions that eased a bit in between the lockdowns. We started with a 14 day self-isolation after arrival during a lockdown.  After that for about 3 weeks we had some eased restrictions as our area was only in phase-2, which meant most shops and restaurants were open again with occupancy restrictions. During that time we did manage to see some out-door tourist sites and ate twice in restaurants. Both were with the entire family, once at Ikea while shopping and once at a little dairy farm cafĂ© on the Isle of Wight. Then just after Christmas, the lockdowns returned, but with the most severe restrictions we’ve yet seen.

This latest lockdown has been more serious and intense. Most all shops, restaurants and pubs are closed now as are all hotels, motels, campsites, B&Bs, schools, churches, events, and most anyplace were humans might gather. There are endless reminders across all media to “stay home”. We’re frequently reading news stories about the fines issued to those who dare break the lockdown by eating take-away food in their car, or drinking coffee while on a walk, or just gathering with another family for a birthday party. 

Now the lockdowns have seriously destroyed the economy where ever they have been imposed. The more restrictive the lockdowns, the greater the impact on the economy - this should be obvious.  Of course it is the small businesses that suffer the most, while the big corporate giants gain from the exclusive market. In UK, the economic impact has been the worst in over 300 years, making it worst than the great depression!  (source).  For anyone who has done any digging into the science behind lockdowns, they will quickly see that the lockdowns are not effective in controlling the virus, yet all they do is strengthen political power and control over society while destroying lives and the economy. Here is an article that summarizes thirty peer-reviewed, published scientific papers reaching the same conclusions.  

Deserted streets during lockdown in Cosham, UK

We also see first hand the impact on the children as they suffer from the closure of school and the denial of any ability to see or meet with friends.  We've seen it in our own grandchildren at a park when they saw someone they recognized from school.  The reaction was as if they had been locked in a cave for years and were suddenly released and came across a familiar face. Our grandson spotted a classmate from a distance at the park and just stared at him for some time. Then finally, from across the park he gained enough courage to call out: "Hey, are you Joshua?" Experts recognize this harm being done to school kids of all ages. In England they have a formal position of a children's ombudsman.  He recently said

"My biggest problem is the regression of children across the board. The impact on their self confidence, their ability to trust the system and the adults that run that system.

"There could be a serious backlash in relation to that in the future, it's hard to predict what that will be, but I certainly think the children, the young people of this generation are going to have a real serious look at how we dealt with it as adults, how our systems supported them and provided the support they need. And I think they're going to look into that and say we failed."

Another unintended consequence of the UK lockdown has led to an outbreak of something called "Fly-Tipping". This is because the lockdown orders have placed limits on visiting the public dump to at most once per week, per household. (Fly Tipping is an English term for illegal dumping or gross littering.) During this lockdown, private contractors have been allowed to continue their business. Many of these home re-modelers are required by the council rules to remove rubbish daily from any worksite. Yet, at the same time, they are prohibited from taking it to the dump any more frequently than once per week. So what do you suppose is going to happen? Huge piles of rubbish and construction debris are being dumped along roadways, in parks and nature areas illegally.  We've seen some of this around ant it looks really awful. 

 All this stress and anxiety builds until it becomes Lockdown Fatigue.  This condition has starting gaining attention with the news and psychologists. Here's a short video on the subject that was recently in the news. 

Why is this lockdown so different?

As we walk around in our confined space and routines, we see signs on the few shops that remain open like grocery stores that say only one person per family is allowed in at a time. These rules have lost all sense of reality as they don’t actually limit occupancy.  Everyone who wants to shop with a partner, still finds a way around the rules so the rules simply add to the stress of shoppers.  

So now when we got to the grocery store they only want one shopper per household. They have bouncers at the doors trying to enforce this but it doesn't really work for us. We try and do our grocery shopping once a week. We don't have a car so we walk and we have to carry everything we buy home. It is impossible for one person to carry everything by themselves. So now we enter the store separately, shop at a distance but then pay and bag our stuff together. I mean really, what can they say. We have been rebuked a few times but we try to just smile and look innocent. 

Recently we had to have some notary work done by a solicitor. The solicitor’s office was closed due to the lock-down, but we found one that was willing to do a “drive-through” notary service. Where they asked us to park in their parking lot and wait with masks on for the notary to come to our car. Without getting out of the car, we signed papers and handed them over. The notary goes back inside with the papers and returns them a few minutes later with the required seal.  This process cost us $200, for something that would typically be a free service at the bank back home.

Another way they restrict travel is by the closure of all public toilets and forcing key businesses to keep their customer toilets closed. On one occasion where we were shopping at one of the (essential) big-box hardware stores for some items to refurbish our flat, Becky needed the toilet.  But of course because of COVID, all the public toilets are closed, even those normally available to customers in private businesses.  So we’re half an hour from home and there is no place to use a restroom. We are forced to cut our shopping trip short and go straight home.  I can’t imagine the difficulty that parents with small children must face in that situation.

One day while walking home from the grandkids house, we decided to pick up a burger at the McD’s that we walk past every day.  They have been doing a booming business with the drive through and we haven’t had a burger since we’ve been here. We walked up to the shop and found that the main entrance and lobby were closed and only the drive-through was open.  Restaurants are permitted to be open for take-away food only during this lockdown, so we were quite surprised by the choice that McDonalds had made.  

Instead we walked up a block and went to another little coffee shop/bakery that is selling take-away sandwiches at lunch time. They had a sign out front restricting entrance to one person per family.  So I went in with Becky’s order and found that they were sold-out of the sandwich she wanted.  So there I am, inside the coffee shop, shouting out the door to Becky, who’s waiting on the sidewalk out front: “He they don’t have the chicken-bacon sandwich, what do you want instead?”  B: “What do they have?”  Me:  “Only something they call a Cajun chicken sandwich, or BLT”.   And so because she had to remain outside we  had to adjust the order based on what they had available by shouting back and forth.  It seems comical, thinking back but at the time was quite stressful.

The music industry and all performing artists have also been hurt dramatically by the lockdown. One musician who has been writing a number of songs about this in protest has been Van Morison. You may remember him from some of his hits like Brown Eyed Girl (1967), or Moondance (1970). Yes, he's still busy writing music which he continues to perform along with others. Here's another one of his recent works. The one is called No More Lockdowns, performed by Van Morrison.

To end this post on a more upbeat note, some people have been using creative skills to fight the lockdown-fatigue. This video was posted by a talented family who has made a great parody video about the lockdown.  Have a watch: 

"Totally Fixed Where We Are"


Monday, February 8, 2021

English in England, or how to teach English to a five year old.

Sorry about the long hiatus but we have been in lockdown, (again), and this time the schools are closed so we have spent lots of time helping homeschool our 5 year old grandson. This might seem like an easy job but I have found that as I try to help him with reading and writing, I am having to relearn English. Now let me clarify, I have been speaking English my whole life. Only one language, English! How hard could this be? Well, apparently there is the English I know and the English in England and while lots of words are the same, there is a whole range of words that I have never used and are common place here. 

 I knew I was in for trouble when I sang the ABC song with him. You know the one where you sing the ABCs and end with "next time won't you sing with me". As I was casually singing this song, a song I am well versed, I got to the end and sang, "X Y Z". I pronounced "Z" like zee. My grandson looked at me in confusion, almost like I had said a bad word and said, "zed". Right then I knew we were in trouble. 

 Not only am I confused on certain sounds and words but so is my grandson. He is learning each letter of the alphabet with an accompanying sound and hand gesture. When we got to the letter "y", he said the letter and then said, "like in yogurt" with a spooning motion to his mouth, only he pronounced yogurt like yagurt. I decided to ask a few questions to see if he knew what he was saying so I asked, "do you like yagurt? He replied that he had never had any. I asked him again, do you like yogurt? He replied that he loved yogurt. So somewhere out there, in this mystical land called England, there is this mystery item called yagurt that my grandson is still waiting to eat. 

Children's books have also been an eye opener. I am going to recite a book called, "SID'S NITS". It is a real book that my son brought home from school. Read the words and then you try and figure out what this means. (this does not apply to my friends in England who will obviously know what it means). 

 Sid's Nits 
Sid's nits 
Sam's nits 
Nan's nit 
It nips Nan 
It dips 
It is a mad din 
Nan's pan 

If you didn't guess, it is a book about hair lice. That is right LICE! it has action when a lice gets lose around the room where eventually Nan, (AKA Grandma), hits it with a pan. I know that you all want to read this book so I will provide a link.


The real victim in all this is my grandson. He is going to spend at least 9 weeks being taught reading and phonics by his grandma who speaks like an American. When he does go back to school he is going to have to relearn all the things I taught him but at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade this special time with him for anything even if sometimes our teaching/learning time is a din.