DAY 11: Tues 24 Mar

A silly scare and some serious planning

Up and out the garden early today, but then I came over all peculiar, with a bit of a cough and very dry lips. Freak out time. Where is that thermometer?

My smart little digital thermometer was tucked away in the back of a bedside drawer. It had not been used in eons so, unsurprisingly, it did not seem to work. An infinitesimal screw secures the battery, but could I find a Phillips screwdriver to fit? I tried my three smallest without success. My temperature was definitely rising, along with my blood pressure as I tried to release it.

My cool, calm house guest came to my rescue, and not only managed to open it but in doing so depressed a tiny button which activated the thermometer readings. The battery was not dead (we had no replacements anyway) and my temperature turned out to be normal, so multiple panics over.

This time I had shut the greenhouse door, so the chickens had to make do messing the beds I had raked into conformity. There is a fascinating power play going on between the Mother Hen (a Partridge Leghorn) and her young rival a rather pretty white Light Sussex. The latter is showing herself to be curious, adventurous and not afraid of facing up to ‘Mother’ – who rewards her with a sharp peck and an irritated squawk.

‘Mother’ (not her real name) is the greediest, and fastest chicken I know. Toss a morsel of bread (or anything) across the lawn and she will get there first; but if you toss another one in a different direction immediately afterwards she will motor over and grab it before the others have had a chance. Remarkable. I imagine it’s her athleticism that keeps her slim, its certainly not her appetite. She is also rather too forward for her own good. When I decide to eat in the garden. She will stand right in front of me and stare, and make as if to leap up and tear the food from my hand. When I ignore her she is wont to fly up onto the table and stare indignantly from there. She gets short shrift from me.

When I put them away later in the day ‘Mother’ took charge of the feeder and chased away any hen that dared to try and share. The young contender was the most persistent, but got nowhere, while ‘Mother’ stuffed her crop as if there were no tomorrow. I had to use fat balls from the bird table to distract her so the others could get some supper.

My lunchtime was spent in a Skype conference with colleagues from the Bristol Branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) discussing how best to assist local journalists at this difficult time.

We need to make sure the police appreciate that reporters and photographers have every right to be out and about covering stories, even embarrassing matters like the ‘mini-riot’ last night in Bristol’s Southmead, when youths set fire to two Iceland vans and chucked things at the police.

A Branch WhatsApp group is to be set up so that working journalists in the city can keep in touch and get advice if they run into any difficulties.

Then there is the vexed question of how freelancers are going to survive during the corona crisis since a government that promotes the gig economy seems to have conveniently forgotten that the self-employed need food and shelter like even else. We shall make representations to the powers that be, and note that as we spoke Bristol MP Thangam Debonnaire was raising the very issue in the House.

I remind colleagues of two telephone numbers (0300 456 3565 and 0800 159 559) announced on TV by the Department of Work and Pensions as the sources for advice on benefits for the self-employed losing work and earnings at this time. Later a branch member rings me to say that the 0800 number is not working, and the other has a long waiting time and is really for small businesses. I demand an explanation fron the relevant Minister via Twitter but have heard nothing from them yet. What a surprise.

My daughter looks in at a safe distance with fruit and toilet cleaner (not quite sure of the connection there), then it’s back out in the garden to plant two rows of beetroots, one of coriander and another of purple peppers, and end with a bit of a tidy up.

At teatime hapless Matt Hancock puts out a call for 250,000 volunteers to back up the NHS, but makes no mention of providing them with tests or protective clothing. He also calls for more public transport and announces that the Excel Centre in East London is being converted – into a temporary hospital. For some reason all this feels as if we are back in the days of the London Olympics.

Meanwhile on the news it is clear that protective clothing is still not available in all hospitals, and a nurse is talking about SHARING FACE MASKS! We are assured that there have been plenty of kits in storage and the real problem is one of transportation. God help us. Britain is a small enough country with plenty of roads.

A lovely chat with grandchildren 3 and 4 cheers me up, but story time with Nos.1 and 2 is cut short by the collapse of Skype mid-sentence.

Supper is a heated curry supplemented with some tasty spinach.

And then comes message from a friend who lives down the road. She is In New Zealand visiting family and now cannot return home. The transport hubs are closed so the airlines can’t fly. They say contact the British consulate; the consulate say contact the airline. Luckily she has family and access to money, but her annual travel insurance will run out soon and the insurance company is refusing to extend it! Life is always so full of surprises.

Suddenly I see references to Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year everywhere – glad I got mine in first, on Day 5 in case you’d forgotten. Sleep well.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Mike,
    Very nice, I enjoyed reading your diary. If you carry on, you will become an expert in chickens’ characteristics 🙂 I started mine in Kurdish; a kind of round up of events and talk more about the public perception & reaction in France and how I understand them…Take care and keep safe.

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