Venting

Just as the writing begins (19,135 words), I remember why I moved into cartoons. It’s because I have days like yesterday and today…

My mother has a bad neck. We’ve known about it for years. She has arthritis in it, which occasionally flares. It’s been fine for months but this week she’s had symptoms which we probably should have picked up earlier. Vertigo, nausea, generally feeling unwell. Yesterday it flared pretty badly and I had one of those stressful days bouncing between researching it on the internet (which, genuinely, is one of the great advancements in recent years, often providing better advice than you can get on the NHS) and wondering what number I would dial if I wanted help but not an actual ambulance.

It’s one of the great problems with the NHS, I find, this lack of in-between care. I just needed somebody to say that the symptoms were consistent with cervical spondylosis without subjecting her to an A&E department in the middle of the night during COVID season. “Ring your local doctor,” people say. Our local doctors always sound like they’re confused that I’m ringing them. The whole stereotype of the doctor being woken in the middle of the night, grabbing a bag and running out in their pyjamas is definitely one just for the Ealing Comedies. These days they more likely to ask “What do you expect us to do?” I’ve heard it on more than one occasion.

It’s very rare that I ring but when I have done in the past, they tell me to get an ambulance if I’m concerned. Yet I don’t want an ambulance if it’s just a bad flare-up of arthritis. I just want what we used to have, which was a doctor nipping around, checking her out, and prescribing ibroprufen. These days it’s not that easy. Hell, it’s not so easy getting ibroprufen given the godawful 2-box maximum. In a house where two people need regular pain medication (which the NHS no longer provides), it’s a constant fucking nuisance having to do online shopping across stores just to get 2 boxes a store…

Anyway, some of the symptoms have eased. She had a good night. I’m hoping hold/cold therapy and anti-inflammatories will do the trick alongside plenty of rest. But, hell, I sometimes feel so alone dealing with this crap…

Sorry. Just needed to get that off my chest.

I suppose I’m also a little freaked by the COVID numbers. This town is apparently having a flare up of its own, with our numbers sitting around 147.5 cases per 100k. In some towns, that’s considered extremely high. In this town, people look at it and say “urgh, just 32 cases! Big deal!”

I happen to think it is a big deal because I known how many people will be sick around here and not do a damn thing about it. This is that “northern working-class mentality” that people, usually in government, don’t seem to factor into their plans; that combination of stoicism, stubbornness, macho pride (if they’re men), and lack of education. There’s also a big pinch of selfishness in there too…

That’s what’s makes it so hard trying to make some sense of the numbers. The UK yesterday recorded 3,539 new cases of coronavirus, with six new deaths (within 28 days of a positive test). When then UK locked down, on 23rd March, the UK was recording 331 deaths (but without the 28-day requirement) but just 877 new cases.

The difference, I assume, is largely down to testing (and a bit to do with the government’s massaging of the death figures). We’re testing more people and finding more people carrying the virus. Deaths are probably more indicative of the true numbers, given the WHO’s “absolute” figure of 0.6% for the fatality rate (the percentage of people who catch the virus and then die from it). The problem with this, of course, is that the 28-day requirement does make it harder to track. People can be clear of the infection but still be in intensive care after 28 days and those people sometimes don’t make it. I understand the logic that a young guy who brushes off the virus shouldn’t be counted among the numbers if he later gets hit by a bus but it’s tricky of the government to dismiss anybody who was on a COVID ward and dies of any of the many complications of this awful disease. (And that’s not even taking into account ‘Long COVID’, as it’s now being called, where the damage lasts for months or longer…)

But back to the figures. When there were 331 deaths a day, that’s probably (with a 10-day lag) indicative of 55,166 cases a day. Yesterday’s deaths (just six) probably indicates 1000 cases a day, which, of course, would have to be tracked back by about 10 days. In other words, ten days ago, we were probably on 1000 cases a day nationally. Whatever the true number of cases yesterday or today, we’ll only know in ten or eleven days when we should expect to see deaths increase.

It’s all grim, I know, but it’s pretty clear we’re heading for (if not already inside) a second wave.

I’m not surprised, though I did expect it to come a little sooner or a little later. Sooner because I couldn’t see much material difference between people’s behaviour in early March to how they’ve been acting in late August. Later because I was expecting the rise to happen a couple of weeks after the schools had been back. In the end, it’s happened in-between, and I’m now intrigued to see how schools/universities have an impact in the coming weeks. If we’re at the start of exponential growth, it’s worrying to think how rapid it might go given we’re actually in the process of unlocking…

I also assume that there will come a point where the testing will no longer indicate the true spread… Horrible to think about.

Yet what I find the most shocking – though given the rest of 2020, nothing feels that shocking any more – is how there’s a sense of profound resignation from the government. I fully understand the arguments the lockdown was never going to be sustainable, but I don’t understand how resignation has become almost fatalistic. It feels, at times, like Brexit has become their welcome distraction from the public health emergency.

Do they have too much faith in medical and scientific experts? From what I can see, there has been progress on the much-heralded therapeutics. Doctors seem to have a better handle on how to treat extreme cases. A vaccine is still a way off, but the trials have ramped up. It’s coming. Just not soon.

But are the public any better prepared? The government have got their messaging working but we don’t seem much further along the educational curve. The 50% of people who were taking this seriously in March are still taking it seriously and, perhaps, the numbers have increased slightly. Yet there are still a lot of people who still think this is some kind of hoax perpetuated by the shadowy cabal of mole people. They still read the right-wing columnists claiming we should embrace the herd, follow the example of Sweden which, depending on who you read, is still either a good or terrible example. Too many people don’t understand what masks are for or how to wear them.

But that’s enough waffle for today. I have jobs to do and I hope (really hope) I can catch a break in order to watch the match this afternoon…

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Why Dunciad.com?

It’s a cool domain name and it was available. Yes, I know. Available. Crazy, isn’t it?

Really?

Yes. It also helps that it’s also my favourite satire written by Alexander Pope, one of the most metrically pure English poets who also knew his way around a crude insult or two. If you’ve not read it, you should give it a try.

So this is satire, right?

Can’t deny it. There will be some. But it’s also an experiment in writing and drawing, giving work away for free in order to see how many people are willing to support a writer doing his thing. It’s the weird stuff that I wouldn’t get published elsewhere in this word of diminishing demands and cookie-cutter tastes.