Sunday 18 July 2021

The Sunday Ishmael 18th July 2021

 The British Experiment

As we move smoothly (hah) out of lockdown, guided by senior Officers of State -  the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary for Health, who all have Covid,  have had Covid or are under special measures because they have been in close contact with a Covid sufferer, we really should listen to the Prof.
Professor Neil Ferguson, OBE, is an epidemiologist, professor of mathematical biology and former government advisor on the SAGE (Scientific Advisor Group for Emergencies) Committee. He was required to leave SAGE in May 2020, you'll remember, after entertaining a female friend in his home on at least two occasions, contrary to Government Guidance at the time. Matt Hancock, then Secretary of State for Health and Social Distancing, said that he was quite right to resign from his position.
Humiliated Hancock and his friend, Ms. Covid Angelo
Anyway,  when his head is not full of thoughts of wee ladies, Professor Ferguson, OBE,  uses mathematical and statistical models to study the processes that influence the development, evolution and transmission of infectious diseases. These have included SARS, pandemic influenza, BSE/vCJD, foot-and-mouth disease, HIV and smallpox, in addition to bioterrorism
PPE against bioterrorism
(The intentional release or dissemination of biological agents, such as bacteria, viruses, insects, fungi or toxins, in a naturally occurring or a human-modified form). He advises the World Health Organisation.
So it seems sensible to pay attention to what he has to say.
A  bit of a worry.
The Prof told Andrew Marr this morning that it is

almost inevitable that  daily cases of COVID-19 will once again surge to 100,000 - with the potential of daily infections reaching 200,000. He also said that  hospitalisation could reach 2,000 unless appropriate measures are adopted. Furthermore, there will be a concomitant increase in cases of Long Covid, which seems to be affecting up to 25% of people who have contracted even a fairly mild form of covid, in response to an over-firing of the immune system of people exposed to the Covid virus, who then experience Long Covid symptoms that are more debilitating than covid itself.

A Frail, Enfeebled Nation
The NHS tells us that symptoms of Long Covid include:
  • extreme tiredness 
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint pain
  • and University College London (UCL), identified 200 further symptoms affecting 10 organ systems in people with long Covid, including: hallucinations, insomnia, hearing and vision changes, short-term memory loss and speech and language issues. Others have reported gastro-intestinal and bladder problems, changes to periods and skin conditions.


    On the eve of the removal of all those restrictions that were so controversial when introduced, and contrary to scientific evidence and advice,  we are guided by a Government policy driven by economic considerations (tourism, pubs and restaurants) which has bowed to the inevitability of the British public gathering together in large, emotional crowds to watch and celebrate sporting events.

As Stanislav said, in response to bird flu:  "Go in house, lock windows, kill budgie."
Corvid, Not Covid
 Rooks and Crows are highly intelligent, self aware and social. They are tool users. They know about levers and forked twigs to spear grubs. They live in ancestral rookeries, where they court, mate, rear their children and sort out their disputes - hence the term: a Parliament of Rooks. They dispense justice to malfeasors - hence the term: a Murder of Crows. They are also capable of compassion and assistance to other species. The hedgehog's prime defence strategy is to curl up in a prickly ball, which isn't very effective against the motor vehicle. This is a crow helping a hedgehog to cross the road:
Here's some ishmael:

This isn't about the NHS, despite the title.

NIL BY MOUTH 21/5/15

I don't do that much talking, these days.  
I don't see many people, I hate speaking on the telephone and I don't like the sound of my own voice.  I like, well enough, the tones and cadences, my accent and intonation, the sound per se, it's just that I know, come tomorrow, I will bitterly regret much of what I said, today;  best keep schtum. Any time I talk to people all Hell breaks loose, for me, at any rate.  Doesn't matter how I do it, in person or on the phone, I always regret it, could always have done better

In the 'sixties, the telephone was a luxury which my parents couldn't afford;  even people who had 'phones kind of worshipped them, put them on a special telephone table, 

in the hall, for everyone to see and envy,  maybe a table  with an integral leatherette seat and a space for a telephone directory and a notebook and often a nasty wee money box, bearing the instruction: Phone from here whene'er you will, but don't forget who pays the bill, reminding you, the visitor,  to put some copper coins in this nasty little box, in exchange for using the fucking 'phone;  Christ, all that  rubbish about the Swinging Sixties. You wonder, I do, in retrospect, that those fuckers-with-phones didn't charge you for a glass of water or for flushing the loo, or for  sitting on the hideous three-piece.  But it wasn't about money, it was about consumer snobbery - This Is Mine, I Own It, Hyacinth Bucket stuff.
But the 'phone, any phone - and they were all the same, maybe the odd one was green or red but the majority were black bakelite, a ubiquitous, post-war plastic - was a glamorous thing, exciting. 
At about the age of eleven,  I acquired a friend, Mark Westwood,  in whose detached home there was a telephone, on a table, in the hall and I used to love 'phoning him up. 
  I'd go to one of those red GPO phone boxes; I'd put my four  big, dirty pennies in the  slot, dial and wait until I could press Button A, to complete the connection if the ringing was answered or I could press Button B, to refund my four-pence, if the line was engaged. 
Once connected, I would try to slouch, standing up, maybe putting my foot on the little directory shelf and pressing my shoulders against the  wall of tiny glass panels and try to anchor the heavy handset, hands-free,  between my jaw and my shoulder, just like they did in the movies, except that in the movies they were normally cops or private detectives, sitting at a leather desk and I was a kid in a urine-smelly public telephone box, at Alcester Lane's End. 
  It didn't matter, I was on the 'phone, didn't matter what I said or heard, it was speaking on the phone to someone miles away, down mysterious wires and subterranean cables, that's what counted, I would have spoken on the 'phone to complete strangers;  it was the phone, not the speech;  the medium was the message.

 Much of my life has been like that, style over substance, form over content, flash gibbering. When I was twenty, I had a silver Dunhill cigarette lighter, cost a fortune, and I wore a suit with a little inside pocket, low down, into which Mr Sophisticate could slip his lighter.  Most people had Ronson or Colibri lighters, some had Zippos, all of which cost a fraction of the Dunhill.

mrs ishmael often says to me How do you do that? Do what?  That talking thing, you are just so good at it, you can talk to anyone, about anything, how do you do it? It's because I'm shy, terrified. What? You? Harumph and nonsense.

I know what she means.  I used to do it. Engage with people, an engagement fuelled by the terror that they would find-out all the things of which I was guilty. But in, when was it, that the Amstrad 8256 came out, mid-eighties?  Whenever it was,  I bought the first one in our local Dixons and it changed my life, word-processing made speech look like shit.  Sound like shit.

I couldn't type, then,  and  I still can't but that doesn't matter.  The word processor, housed now inside the laptop and the ouija-pad, is the single most important thing in my life, I can no longer think without it, well, obviously I can think without it but I cannot do thinking. I could manage without the Internet but I would go nuts without a word processor.  If I want to know what I think about something, I start writing about it, generally but not always here.
It's not that  I know already what I think and it's just a matter of writing it down because often, when I see what I think I think,  I realise that it's  not what I think but I didn't know that until I saw it written down, as though to persuade another. 

Marshal McLuhan described the frying pan as an external stomach, advance-processing the food;  I feel that my word processor, similarly, is my external brain -  raw, uncooked  thoughts as unpalatable as raw, uncooked liver. 

It's the as-though-to-persuade-another aspect that's important - first of all it has to persuade me, must have an internal consistency, a beginning a middle and an end, maybe an inversion, maybe a chorus, must have a rythm but most importantly, it must make sense, there may well be paradox but things must resolve.  If it doesn't persuade me, how dare I put it before you?

If only talking was like that, if only you could hear it first, not just the broad thrust of it but, you know, every you know; if you could hear every hesitation, every clutching at the air for le mot juste; if you could foresee every arch, verbal device, every blunder, contradiction, solecism,  every insincerity, if you could hear it all in advance you'd give up talking altogether, as I almost have.

Some people seem to have an in-built speech editor and never say the wrong thing.  My late friend, Richard,  was like that but after thirty years of admiring it, admiring that, I dunno, that three wise managerial monkey-speak, I found that I was doing him a favour by prodding and goading him into a more vital, spontaneous response, one less focused, more angrily defensive, less like he was addressing a meeting. 

I don't have that facility, though, of editing my speech before it comes out;  wouldn't want it, I don't suppose and so, more often than  not, conversation is a matter of regret, requiring apology and clarification for which the moment is gone, forever - I know that even if I were to chase after people and say, hang on, I didn't exactly mean what I now realise you may have thought I meant, even if I did that I would, in talking about talking,  only make matters worse.

And the tele-phone - a voice from afar -  is infinitely more dangerous than talking face-to-face; only really for emergencies, I think, the telephone - so-and-so's dead, come quick; send lawyers, guns and money,  that sort of message. The sort of thing which was quite adequately accomplished by the tele-graphic message - writing from afar - or in it's bastard construction, a telegram.

Somehow, though, it has become a huge, indispensible  part of their lives for  many people talk incessantly on the telephone to other  people whose faces they cannot see and with whom, therefore,  they can only communicate  most imperfectly - the visual signals are ninety per cent of human communication and you do not observe them on the telephone.  I know that there's Skype and stuff but it's shit isn't it, like Richard Branson's spacecraft, all bollocks, unreliable, fucked-up, over-ambitious.

I can do business stuff on the telephone, goods and services, can do that as well as the next consumer-initiating-certain-disappointment, what I can't do on the telephone is converse - be with, keep company with - another person.

I haven't had a portable telephone this century,  there is nothing important enough about any aspect of my life to require my permanent contactability.  There is no conceivable emergency which would prompt me to carry such a thing, even were I able to operate one, which I am not.  When travelling with mrs ishmael she always has a phone in case of breakdown; travelling alone, I don't bother.  I simply don't care enough about danger or inconvenience to go through all that business of charging-up bits of junk  and remembering how to do things, remembering numbers, putting numbers in speed dial.  Fuck it, I travelled all over the country for decades without any of that.  And that was in old and unreliable vehicles. All my cars now are new and well-serviced. Am I supposed to worry myself to death that one of them will break-down in the middle of the Highlands? What's the worst that can happen? I might have to walk some distance, I might have to flag a lift.  I got this far, didn't I, from the ocean and the swamp and the caves;  I'm sure I can get along the A9, without the help of Nokia.

Maybe it's seeing so many people walking along talking to thin air, maybe it's being forced, unasked,  to hear - listen to one side of - other's stupid, miserable fucking lives,  detailed in loud voices; maybe it's hearing increasingly bizarre and annoying ring tones, whatever it is, I hate the fucking things, engines of Satan, Ruin's junk-mail.

But I hate them most of all because they don't do what people are led to believe they do. And they do do something else.

mr ishmael's essay today is:
Nil By Mouth                          drafted 21/5/15 

Both anthologies of the work  of mr ishmael and his young Polish friend, Stanislav, Plumb Cheap for You:  Honest Not Invent and Vent Stack - are available to purchase for mere money at Lulu or Amazon. It is cheaper to buy from Lulu. Here's how to buy your own copies: 

Please register an account with them first. This will save you a couple of quid, as going straight into the link provided below seems to make paypal think it's ok to charge in dollars, and apply their own conversion rate, which will put the price up slightly for a UK buyer. Once the new account is set up, follow our link; a pop-up box asks for age confirmation - simply set the date to (say) 1 January 1960, and proceed. (If you type the title, the anthology will not appear as a search result until the "show explicit content" box - found at the bottom left by scrolling down - has been checked.  You may also see the age verification box, as above, at this point.) 
 The full title is "Vent Stack love from stanislav" by ishmael smith, and the cover you'll see is red with white titles and a picture of Buster the Previous Blog Dog having a green thought in a green shade. 

Link for the paperback:


shorter link, which might make it easier if you wish to paste it into an email and tell a friend:

 Honest, Not Invent is available in paperback or hardback.

Link for Hard Back :

Link for Paper Back :

At checkout, try

PROWRITINGAID15, WELCOME15 or TREAT15 in the coupon box, which  takes 15% off the price before postage.  If this code has expired by the time you reach this point, try a google search for " voucher code" and see what comes up.  

With the 15% voucher, the book (including delivery to a UK address) should cost £10.89



Yardarm said...

Ferguson has spent his career overestimating the death rate since the mad cow business twenty years ago. In fact, if he said everything was going to be fine, I`d start to worry.

mrs ishmael said...

I know, mr yardarm - with his projection of a daily variable of 100%, you might say he's just making it up as he goes along. Anything to get in front of a camera. BUT - we see it happening already - cases increasing, hospitals filling up, death rate increasing. Ir's okay to start worrying.