Pressure

Yes it’s the Bob Willis Trophy Final, between Essex and Somerset at Lord’s, in front of a crowd consisting of nobody. And on and off, I am watching it at the BBC website, as well as tracking the score on Cricinfo.

Somerset have just resumed after lunch on Day One, the interval having been prolonged by rain, and have gone from a precarious 90-3 to a precarious 94-3, at which point, just as the weather had, the runs dried up. Batsmen like to score runs. When they don’t, they feel the pressure, especially if they are in the habit of playing limited overs cricket (where you just have to get on with it), which they all are these days.

So, reporting this passage of play from right to left, Cricinfo tells me this:

Bartlett caught Cook (Sir Alastair of that clan (still playing for Essex)) bowled Porter 12. Somerset 94-4. There were about another dozen dots that I couldn’t include because Cricinfo doesn’t go back that far to the right.

All the people who hate county cricket hate it because of all the dots. Nothing is happening! And all of us who love county cricket know, just from the dots, that a hell of a lot is happening. Because of all the dots.

It’s now raining again. Somerset 107-4. Never mind. They have five whole days to settle this thing.

Tom Harwood on the party politics of Covid

Tom Harwood, tweeting in response to a Guido tweet reporting that Starmer will support all government Covid restrictions:

On the areas it might be useful to have an opposition, we have no opposition.

I agree.

Where are the voices asking at what point do lockdown measures cost more than Covid?

No, that’s rather wrong. Lockdown is not only harming everything else; it is also doing no good on the Covid front at all. The only good thing you can say about these measures is that they are failing to accomplish their purpose. They are not stopping the spread of Covid, which is good, because the sooner Covid has done its spreading, the sooner this nonsense will be over with.

The cost of Covid itself will be what it will be. Whether the frenetic failure to control Covid will cost more than Covid itself is a way to dramatise the costs of this failure, so good in that way, but not the basic point. Which is that these restrictions are doing no good whatsoever, and costing us all a fortune, and should accordingly end. Whether Covid is nasty (I think it is quite nasty and very nasty indeed for those clobbered by it), or in particular is nasty compared to the cost of the restrictions, is only being vehemently argued about by people who don’t understand the essence of this argument.

But the essence of Harwood’s argument is that there ought to be some political opposition happening, and that’s right.

Harwood’s tweet then adds, and ends with, another potent party political point:

You’d think if there ever were a niche for the Lib Dems this would be it but they dropped liberalism long ago.

Just what I had not been thinking. When did I stop despising the LibDems and start ignoring them?

I think I just fisked a tweet.

I just googled “casedemic”

A significant slice of my most recent traffic has been coming to these two postings, both of them involving that word. Casedemic. So, I’m giving the public what it wants and doing another such posting. You cannot now switch on a news channel without being told about a surge in “cases” of The Plague, but you are liable to wait in vain to learn how many people are actually dying of it, or even if any great number of people are even seriously ill. I don’t doubt that both numbers are now somewhat more than zero, but there’s a lot of difference between not zero and a lot. I am not the only one to have been noticing this. I’m not the only one who can interrogate the Internet about such matters.

Today, I did what I have been doing each morning for a while now. I googled “casedemic”. And there seems to have been surge in that statistic as well. It has suddenly jumped from around 30,000 to around 170,000. I know extremely little about what a search result statistic like that means in any detail, just as I know very little about what it really means to “test positive” for The Plague itself. But it feels like this could mean something.

Bottom line: When this Plague first became a public Thing, everyone I know was genuinely scared and genuinely anxious to do all the right things, both to protect themselves and to avoid making things worse for others. Now, people are more scared of being set upon by officials, and by people who enjoy tormenting strangers, for failing to go through the correct motions – not muzzling themselves or not staying apart from each other. They aren’t scared of the actual Plague any more.

When I got my hair cut recently, I realised, after the guy had finished, that I hadn’t muzzled myself. I said I hoped this had not been a worry. Oh no, do as you please, was the answer. I cannot even remember if the guy himself was muzzled or not.

Perhaps equally tellingly, I am now suffering in a very mild form a few of what could conceivably be symptoms of The Plague, as one does from time to time. Cough, mild headache, slight aversion to morning coffee, that kind of thing. But, if I were to get tested for The Plague, and if I “tested positive”, then I would perhaps be interrogated about all my social contacts during the last fortnight and obliged to cause trouble for all of my closest friends, friends who have lives they are already struggling to keep on track or to get back on track. Also, I might be put under house arrest. Probably none of that would happen, because the people whose job it might or might not be to inflict such processes don’t have their hearts in this stuff either, not any more. But why take the risk? So, I’m just waiting to get better.

It’s not – repeat not – that people are merely “tired”, as in tired of the actual Plague. Most of Britain’s civilian population were tired of World War II by 1941 at the latest. But, horrible and dispiriting though it was, that was a war that made sense to almost all of the Brits, all the way through, from the day it started in 1939 until the day it ended in 1945, and for that matter ever since. It is – repeat is – that nobody any longer believes that this Plague has been what they first said it might be, and we are tired of being mucked about by people who seem more concerned to retro-justify their earlier panic than to be doing the appropriate thing now. Which would be to say, okay everyone panic over.

By the way, I do think they panicked. I don’t think there’s been much in the way of conspiracy, and certainly not to begin with. Sean Gabb has done a good piece about his, which I noticed because it was Quotulated. Read, as we bloggers say, the whole thing.

LATER: Now (1pm in Britain) the number has gone down from 170,000 to 48,000. So maybe what I caught was what had piled up in one day. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a big uptick, from 30,000 to 48,000.

Today I had my hair cut

Indeed. My Lockdown locks, to coin a phrase that I bet others have coined too (yes), were today lopped off.

Here is a pair of selfies, taken before and after the haircut I had this afternoon:

In haircut shops they often, as in my local one, have mirrors that enable you to see the back of your hair as well as the front. So, clickety click. I don’t think this was vanity. I just wanted a souvenir of this weird little moment in this weirdest of weird years. I am one of many men, men especially, with a weird hair story to tell now-abouts.

For the last few weeks, my hair had never been as long since my teens or twenties, and this time around, it turned washing into a dreary ordeal of slight but never ceasing hair loss, handful after handful. I say hand full; what I really mean is: never quite empty. If I were a stand-up comic I’d turn this into a gag about how, as I have got older, my hands have become stronger. And I suppose you could say that I am, among other things, a sit-down comedian and I just did this gag. If I did, it was little consolation for the hair-related annoyances of the last few weeks. The only cure for my condition was today’s shearing.

I left a bigger tip than usual. Cutting long hair is no harder and takes no longer than cutting shorter hair, and I just wanted most of my hair gone. Nothing fancy. Just get rid of it please, as per usual. But from where I was sitting I was paying by the yard and I got many more yards than usual of value.

Nico Metten describes the “casedemic”

Facebook friend and actual friend Nico Metten, on Facebook, puts the case against “cases”:

One very simple thing for everyone to understand. Cases mean nothing. Deaths is what counts. There is no uptick in deaths. There isn’t even an uptick in cases. They are simply testing more. If I sample 1000 random people and count how many are female I might get something like 502. Now I sample 2000 people and I get something like 998. Headline reading “NUMBER OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY DOUBLED ON MONDAY”. No it did not. And that is what is going on with COVID cases. They have increased the number of tests. It is not rocket science, so why are so many people missing this? NUMBER OF CASES ARE MEANINGLESS.

Nico wrote that only for his Facebook friends. Hope he doesn’t mind me copying and pasting it here.

I am not hearing the British government answering this sort of objection, and the longer they seem to be ignoring it, the more I will suspect that they can’t answer it. If they have responded, good, and please tell me about it.

A rearrangement

Around three days ago, GodDaughter2 and I fixed to meet up, face to face, for the first time since Lockdown began, and before she disappears to the South of France for a month. We agreed on: Royal College of Music, 2pm. I would have preferred somewhere different, like somewhere nearer to where she’s been living over the summer (Acton), because I like having reasons to journey to and photo new places, and because the College is a bit of a walk from South Kensington tube and a walk I’ve now done many times. Also, a couple of hours later would be better, because I’m a lazy old bastard. Plus, I don’t mind long train journeys because I can sit and read a book, undistracted by the Internet, which I don’t do nearly enough of. But what the hell, RCM 2pm it is.

But, this morning, an email from GD2 arrives. She’s running a bit behind, and could we possibly (grovel grovel xxx) make it Acton Central Overground Station, 4pm?

Yes. I can do that. No problem. It’ll be fine.

Whatever I say in such circumstances will sound like a polite lie and a big old sacrifice, even though it’s nothing of the kind. Sometimes, when your Jewish Mother says to you: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine”, what she really means is: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

A couple of recommendations for understanding The Plague

I am no doubt biased, by my libertarian politics to start with, and by the guesses I have already expressed in (what passes for me as) public. Nevertheless, for whatever it may be worth, I found this article, and, unusually, also its quite numerous comments, about why the world became so bent out of shape by this Plague, to be very intelligent. It’s more a panic than a conspiracy, he says. Which fits what I’ve been thinking.

And now I am listening to a man whose nickname is the Vaccine Pope, speaking with Ivor Cummins, whom I have been following on Twitter.

Actual people attending a cricket match!

Yes, there’s an actual crowd at the Oval this evening. Well, a socially distanced crowd:

Note the presence of the Wheel, behind one of the gasholders. You can see a lot of Big Things from the Oval, if you know your way around.

It looks like a well attended four day game. Actually it’s a badly attended T20. I’m watching it here. Live. On almost-television.

Interestingly, they’re using the whole ground, and trying to hit sixes is rather difficult. They have to go a long way or you get caught in the deep. Makes a nice change.

Going by their form this year, Surrey, now well placed as I write this, will find a way to not win. If you care, see how it’s going, or more probably how it ended, here.

Getting old but also getting better

About a fortnight ago now, I suddenly started feeling pains in my lower back and stomach. They kind of meandered around, but centred on a spot just above my right buttock. After a few days of this not getting any better, I rang my GP – well, my “Medical Centre” – and described my symptoms to a receptionist. She promised that a doctor would ring back around midday, and when a doctor duly rang back and I again described my symptoms, he said, can you come in and see me in half a hour? Bending down to pick things up was very painful, but standing upright and merely walking I could do. So, I walked over to the Medical Centre, and within a few hours of my first call, I got the verdict. (There are lots of complaints doing the rounds now about how the NHS has been bent out of shape by the Plague, but for me, when it came to the NHS at least paying attention to me and my discomforts rather than just telling me to come back in a couple of months time, it seemed to be working pretty well. Maybe it was the hint of a possible emergency about my symptoms that got their interest.)

So anyway, yes, the doctor duly examined me and bent my legs around and checked how it felt. Doctor stuff. And his verdict was: Nothing serious. Just a strained muscle. Me: How soon will it stop hurting? A week? Doctor: A bit more than that I’m afraid.

Basically what he was saying was: It’s nothing serious. You’ll get better soon. Not as soon as you would like, but soon.

For the next few days, the pain continued, and I put up with it as best I could and as I had to, learning new skills for moving myself up and down by the use of my still fully functioning arms. Getting out of bed and into an upright position when I got up in the morning was the trickiest and most painful manoeuvre. Anything which required my stomach to exert itself, like putting on trousers or shoes, was hurtful. Getting up out of a chair meant pushing myself up with my hands and arms. I adapted.

But then, right on time and as if hypnotised by the doctor, my body checked the calendar, noted that the ordained time of somewhat more than a week had now elapsed, and I started getting better. Yesterday was painful. Today, it was just a dull and diminishing ache. This afternoon, I went out shopping in Tottenham Court Road. I did things like sit down in a tube train, get up out of a seat in the tube train, walk briskly along Tottenham Court Road. No problems. The worst thing was that it was raining, and the few photos I took were rather gloomy and blurry. Also, the tube train back was too hot, which doesn’t go well with being a bit damp when you get into it.

The relief I felt at this moderate but definite improvement in my bodily circumstances was considerable. When you are young and you get an illness or injury, the only question is: When will it stop? That it will stop and that you’ll soon be back and firing on all cylinders is not in doubt. But when I started recovering today, I realised that I had been semi-fearing that … this was it. This, the pain I had gone to see the doctor about, was what living inside my body was going to feel like from now on. The only thing that would change this would be when things took another turn for the even worse. That is what, in a dull, getting old sort of way, I had been fearing. I wasn’t caste down into utter gloom. After all, you expect this sort of thing as you age, and so far in my life I’ve been very lucky with such things. But, I had feared that this episode would go far worse than it now seems to be going, that is, that having gone rather bad it would stay rather bad from then on, until such time as it got even worse. What if the doctor had been sparing me the worst about how it could all go? What if he was simply wrong? But it now seems that not only was his speed in seeing me very speedy; he also judged my condition accurately.

And the relief I’ve been feeling today, also in a dull, getting old sort of way, has been, as I say, considerable.