THURSDAY: A message on voiceofthenorth.net (VoTN) from an old friend reassures me that VoTN performs at least a basic service for the local community.
“I did not know [local farmer] Bobby Moore and [retired doctor and church organist] Alan Holmes had died,” writes the woman I still know as ‘Sister’ Elliot. “So very sad but I am glad I have heard. Thank you, David.”
A retired (too young, surely?) senior nurse from my GP’s practice, she and husband Bill farm at Hethpool far up in the beautiful but remote College Valley. As a result, they would have known both men well but seen them seldom.
As I say, I call her ‘Sister Elliot’ though she’s known hereabouts as Fanny and her passport will tell you she is Fiona. Funny thing, the way we use names: when my doctor phones later that morning I address her using her Christian name. In her late twenties/early 30s, Gladys is barely half my age and, good doctor that she is, she has made this follow-up call to check on a prescription provided during an earlier telephoned ‘house call’. My use of her forename rather than her title is meant to show my trust and gratitude
“Before you ask about your place in the queue for a Covid vaccination…” she begins.
I wasn’t going to ask, I tell her, adding that she must be run off her feet without being pestered by ‘im-patients’. The pun falls flat so I hurriedly add that I’m sure I’ll get my turn when the practice gets past the over-80s and into the ‘vulnerable over-70s’.
“You will,” she promises, adding more bleakly: “The practice has 400 over-80s yet we have been sent only a hundred doses of vaccine so far.”
FRIDAY: News that midwives in Brighton have been told not to use the term ‘breastfeeding’ recalls the yarn about John Bly, once of Antiques Roadshow, who was called by his agent while on a train and asked if he could speak to a conference on the subject of “breastfeeding in Africa”. Knowing little of the subject but keen on the fee, Bly did his research and prepared a talk. He was surprised, therefore, to arrive at the hotel and see that he was down to speak about “press freedom in Africa”.
SATURDAY: My birthday today recalls my Friday the Thirteenth arrival on this earth, albeit on a wintry February day 73 years earlier. Our quarantined twosome celebration, while jolly, is somewhat dampened by a tweet from my friend and fellow columnist Keith Hann, who writes: “Remembering my Dad, who died suddenly OTD, the morning of Saturday 13 February 1982, aged 73.
“The motorbike [see the photograph above]had no bearing on his demise, though the fags doubtless made a contribution.”
This is not the sort of thing one wishes to read, Keith; ESPECIALLY NOT WHEN ONE’s 73rd BIRTHDAY FALLS ON FEBRUARY 13th!
SUNDAY: The weekend papers are full of politicians saying stupid things about those twin delights, Brexit and Coronavirus. For instance, will someone please tell Boris Johnson that hardly anyone uses a roadmap any more and that it would be far better to say he is going to ‘satnav’ us out of lockdown, then we might know what he means.
Even a simple ‘plan’ would suffice.
Meanwhile, I wish Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would realise that old farts like me are unimpressed by his shrugging-off of Brexit problems with the glib argument that we should ‘take a ten-year view’.
In my case that means not casting off the EU shackles and arriving in the Tories’ promised sunny uplands until I am 83, by which time, please God, we will be into the second term of a Labour government.
Monday: All sorts of weird and wonderful places are being pressed into service as vaccination centres and in our neck of the woods it was a toss-up between Coldstream’s community centre or the NHS dental surgery. I’m pleased to say both Gemma and I got the call but I couldn’t understand the masked mirth that erupted from my neighbour the Undertaker when l told him she and I had both had our first COVID jabs, but in different places.
“What?” croaked the laughing-fit-to-bust funeral director. “Hers in her arm and yours in your bum?”
TUESDAY: Ever since the BBC dismissed the accusation that political editor Laura Kuenssberg was guilty of racism in her use of the phrase “nitty-gritty” – rightly, in my view – I have been scratching my head to recall schooldays references to the phrase commonly used by my junior school ‘nit nurse’. And at last a letter in The Times confirms it.
“It is more likely to be referenced closer to home than to have been used on slave ships,” writes one Karen Hegarty from Oxford. “‘Nitty’ referred to the eggs of head lice and ‘gritty’ to the general debris of dead insects, egg sacs and other related deposits.
“Only regular close examination and persistent fine combing could get to the roots of the problem.”
Another victory for common sense over political correctness!