The Bells Palsy saga

The Royal Sussex County Hospital

Before I tell the story of my Bells Palsy saga I just wanted to speak about the health professionals (and amateurs) I have encountered all of course part of the NHS. All of the staff and volunteers (yes there are volunteers helping to keep the NHS going) have without exception been wonderful. In incredibly pressured environments with peoples lives at stake they have smiled and calmly worked to resolve my and other peoples issues. I salute them all!

First symptom

For me the first symptom was a very slightly numb tongue (in retrospect half a numb tongue). It was so slight I was aware of it for a couple of days and thought nothing of it, in fact I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining it.

More symptoms

I woke to discover that I couldn’t whistle (I’m not sure why I tried to whistle, something on the radio I guess). This made me wonder because I realised that I couldn’t make the mouth shape required to whistle and that didn’t seem right. Slowly during the day I noticed a few smaller things like the fact that I couldn’t seem to smile correctly in front of the mirror. A smarter person might have thought at this point, time to go to the hospital, because (In retrospect) the symptoms were starting to take the shape of a stroke. Perhaps unwisely I slept on it.

Time to go to A&E

I woke up the next day, took a look in the bathroom mirror and realised things weren’t getting any better, indeed they seemed to be worse. Time to call the doctors surgery, the receptionist listened to my symptoms but stopped the call and told me to ring 999 for an ambulance. It sounded like I was having a stroke. I seemed to be ok on my feet and so I decided instead to walk over to the taxi rank and jumped in a cab. Casually chatting to the driver about the weather and how business was doing felt rather like fiddling while Rome burns as this cab ride could represent a significant life change for me if I was having a stroke.

The Royal Sussex County Hospital A&E was pretty full already but the St. Johns Ambulance volunteer who does the first level of processing fast tracked me to reception who fast tracked me to the first assessment stage. The nurse agreed it sounded like a stroke but also suggested it could be Bells Palsy (first I’d heard of it). Good spot from her. I was taken straight through to the next level of treatment where I waited for a short while. I was essentially being monitored to see if anything developed. After a few minutes the doctor said he believed it was Bells Palsy and threw me back into the regular accident and emergency pool. The waiting starts.

You see the world in A&E and if you wait long enough you’ll see a lot of the world. Several elderly patients came in after what looked like falls. Very poignant as it turned out because my elderly mum has been down this route very recently. Perhaps the most distressing was an elderly person who clearly had Alzheimer’s. Being in A&E is stressful enough but with Alzheimer’s no sooner had someone explained why he was there than it was necessary to explain it again. He became distressed and his relatives were clearly embarrased by some of the things he would say and do as well as being in distress themselves from looking after him. Everybody felt for them and a very kind volunteer tried to care for him while the relatives went for a break and coffee. Suggest A&E prioritize cases such as this.

I guess I waited about five hours before the next intervention, a nurse gave me another assessment and agreed with the Bells Palsy diagnosis. Back in to the A&E pool though, so that I could wait to see a doctor for a proper assessment. Eventually my name was called and I was properly assessed by a doctor who made sure there were no physical stroke symptoms by testing all my arms and legs to ensure I was able to resist pressure against them. I was. Back in the pool again this time to wait to see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) person but they were busy and so it was decided that I could come back to the hospital in a couple of days. Appointment made and nine hours later I was able to leave A&E. I’m fairly sure I was kept there so long to ensure I was in the right place if a full stroke had struck so for me the nine hours were well spent.

Little Jack Fullers Fish & Chips

I’d spent all day in A&E and decided to walk home (half an hour). This proved a good move as walking down St. James street in Kemptown (Brighton) is always amusing. Half way down I stopped to buy some battered sausages and chips (Little Jack Fullers fish and chips) and walked along feeling relieved . It felt like I had dodged a bullet. By the time I reached my local pub (POW) I was still eating so ate the rest outside with a pint. The end of a very long and stressful day.

The next day I had to buy eye drops and Microporous tape to tape my eye up apparently (I didn’t get around to this until recently (I’m not a perfect patient)). Bells Palsy is pretty strange, for a start no one really knows much about it or why it happens. Seemingly I could have been treated if I’d reported earlier but after that initial window there’s not much to do except put eye drops in to ensure the eye doesn’t dry out and to tape your eye shut at night for the same reason.

Ear, Nose and Throat

St. James Street

My ENT appointment came round and so I walked over to the hospital (might as well get some exercise from the experience), nice to see St James Street in the morning, all the coffee shops opening up for business and deliveries being dropped off. I get to the hospital and after a bit of wandering around discover ENT reception. A short wait and I’m in front of a doctor. He assesses me again and confirms Bells Palsy. After a check he advised me it was level 5 which is fairly severe. Wrote me a prescription for drops to be used at night and said I should attend the Eye Hospital in a few days. Time to walk home and more St. James Street. As I get close to The Royal Pavilion I realise I could use a cup of tea and a sit down to plan my next steps for the day so wander into the gardens and visit the little tea shop there. This should have been a nice moment but an anti vaxxer decided to bother us all playing loud anti vax discussions on some sort of music player in his pocket. He tried to engage with me and I told him to walk away (what I actually wanted to do was punch him in the face). I moved away from him and managed to have my tea and plan the rest of my day. On the way home nipped into Boots and handed over my prescription, unfortunately this didn’t work out as the Doctor hadn’t written my name on it (take note Doctors) and so they couldn’t fulfill it. On the upside I had just chatted to the doctor about my ears and he advised I put olive oil in them, while waiting for the prescription I discovered some olive oil drops! I know, exciting huh!

The Eye Hospital

The Sussex Eye HospitalA few more days pass, eye drops in eyes, olive oil in ears and its time to visit The Sussex Eye Hospital (my third department in the hospital infrastructure). More form filling and waiting room waiting and then I’m in front of a nurse. More questions recorded in the database about me. My history of being involved in cycle, motorbike and car crashes (I had several when I was young) suitably noted. Then she gave me a basic eye test and threw me back into the waiting pool. Not too long passed before I was fished out again and this time it’s a Doctor. Now for a full eye test, having had a few of these in recent years he was VERY thorough. Seemed to think things were ok but decided I needed to have blood tests and so was escorted away by a nice nurse who sat me down ready for blood draining. We had a nice chat and she set about trying to find a vein (had a little trouble), needle in and the blood letting begins, three vials full!

Back to ENT

A few days pass and its back to ENT, this time it’s for a hearing test. I settle down in the waiting room and an hour passes but eventually I’m ushered into a small room and then into a sort of sound proofed cupboard. What followed was one of the more weird experiences I’ve encountered during this saga. Listening for faint sounds and pressing a button whenever I get lucky and hear one! Test over, sit in the corridor and wait (I’m getting very good at this by now). Eventually I’m tracked down and before I know it I’m in another consultation with a nurse and doctor. Just a bit more questioning and the results of the hearing test (not really sure how that went except to say I don’t have the hearing of a young person apparently). I’m set free with the promise there will be a follow up appointment in a few weeks.

A pleasant walk home through St. James Street once again and another chance to visit The Royal Pavilion gardens and have a cup of tea at the tea shop. No interruptions this time so a pleasant few minutes before returning to my day.

The Royal Pavilion tea shop

A trip to the X-ray Department (that’s another one ticked off)

I decided to set out early for my MRI scan at the X-ray department of the hospital. Its an important appointment and I didn’t want to be late. As I’ve seen first hand in recent weeks they work hard and the least I can do is show some respect and be early. But before I could go I had to go to the bank (shock, horror). I had a twenty pound note in my pocket two years ago, I still have ten of it left! I needed to break it because I needed a pound coin and the bank was the only place I could think of to do it. They obliged. The reason why will become apparent.

A nice pleasant walk up St. James street followed. The colourful bohemian part of Brighton opening its eyes and blinking the new day in.

Arriving at the hospital I suddenly realised I had forgotten my mask. Having checked in at the main reception I picked one up and set off down the winding corridors looking for the X-ray department. By the time I found it I had my mask on and thought I was all set, nope. First thing the receptionist said is take your mask off and put another one on, I had to ask why as it seemed a bit wasteful. He informed me the usual mask has a metal strip running through it and I needed a special version that doesn’t (thinking of keeping it as a collectors piece). Mask duly replaced. Well, I say that but actually I had just sat down and was about to fit the new mask when a nurse called my name! Blimey I was expecting at least a half hour wait as I was that early. Mask on quick sharp and we’re off to the next room (I later worked out that because I arrived so early they decided to slot me in quick and try to get ahead of the schedule, poor guy behind me had to wait forty minutes while they did me, feel bad about that (only a little :-)).

Remember that pound coin? Well you need it to lock your locker because you need to put all objects on your person in it including your belt etc. That done, guess what’s next? Yep another injection (feel like a pin cushion at this point, everyone I know thinks I’m a junky because of the bruising). In this case they fit a line because they’re gonna inject you with something during the scan.

Before I know it I’m laying on the machine bed, the doc gives me some headphones to block out the noise and some radio to listen to (its gonna take forty minutes). Head is held tight by some contraption so that I’m going nowhere. If you are at all claustrophobic you needed to have run away screaming before this point because I’m now trapped and going to experience the full ride whether I like it or not. They fit a mirror above your eyes that works like those mirrors they had in the trenches during the first world war to see over the top. It enables you to see in the little office where the staff hang out. This is a little bit of reassurance after the machine closes over the top of you and you suddenly realise you’re in a tunnel, can’t move and being forced to listen to terrible local radio against your will.

The doc speaks to me from the little room but he has no idea its completely illegible. If the fire alarm goes and he forgets me I’m a dead man. Now for the scanning. There is an awful lot of juddering, buzzing, whirring, grinding, crunching and all the other words like that in the dictionary. The machine is clearly going up and down my head and scanning away. If you want to know what its like listen to a Laurie Anderson or Yoko Ono album backwards. Every once in a while the tone would change, occasionally the doc would say four minutes or six minutes (That was all I could work out). I think he was telling me the duration of each test.

Not a pleasant experience, I closed my eyes mostly and just listened to the utter nonsense that local radio mixed with MRI scanner makes. Occasionally I opened my eyes to look in the mirror and reassure myself there was indeed a reality outside of this experience. This is perhaps a little taste of what tortured prisoners experience when denied control and forced to endure.

Eventually the scanner moved from over my head, the doc took the pillow from under my legs and asked me to lift my head so that he could remove the headphones. At this point he started explaining things to me without realising I hadn’t got a clue what he was saying, my ears were now blocked and my mind was a thousand miles away. I mustered the power of speech and explained I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He raised his voice a little and got closer and I came back to reality. I picked up my shoes from the floor and stepped outside the room. Sat down again and started pulling myself together. Doc said I’d find out the results later, the nurse removed the line from my arm, I reclaimed my worldly possessions from the locker, had a little chat with the unlucky guy behind me (I didn’t tell him I’d pinched his spot) and pressed the green button that let me out of the room and back into the hospital corridor, suitably dazed and confused.

Back outside I head for St. James street and begin the walk home. More fun watching the locals do their day. One tiny café seems very popular and people queue on the street outside just to get their coffee as there’s no room inside.

Eventually I cross into the Pavilion district of the city and so head for the pavilion gardens for my now traditional reward for being a good boy and doing what I am told. As I didn’t have breakfast first thing (no time) and it was now lunch I splashed out on a bacon sandwich to go with my mug of tea! I take my seat with all the other old boyz, each takes a table around the edge of the café space and so can observe without being disturbed. Most bring a newspaper, not me, I’m not a permanent fixture and so am an alien observer in this scenario. The women also attend but they take seats in the middle because they meet other women and chat, the men almost never meet anyone they know except the owner of the café (who likes to talk football, or perhaps he just does it for them). Then a rather wonderful thing happens, the pied piper of Brighton arrives. He has a rucksack and carrier bags with him and the pigeons all swarm all over him as he walks onto the grass. He throws them food and they peck away. After they’ve eaten they form a murmuration in the sky and fly all around my head and across the grounds around me. The Pied Piper sits down and then the squirrels come down from the trees and start wandering around. He begins throwing them nuts, which they grab and disappear with. A squirrel comes over to me and looks at me like where’s my nut mate? I didn’t know how to explain that I didn’t have any in squirrel. They keep us amused for a few more minutes before quietly blending back into the landscape.

Having looked up into the sky at the birds I noticed the beautiful pattern the trees made against the sky. They reminded me of an art teacher from Ipswich Art School (Mark Miller) who used to tell us all that we should look at the space between things not just the things (If you follow his link you will see excellent examples of this. Instead of painting a sky and then painting a tree over it he paints the spaces between the branches). So I ignored the branches and looked at the wonderful pattern their presence created in the sky. A more extreme contrast you could not draw from the MRI scan to this beautiful, peaceful café in the centre of Brighton. I urge all my Brighton friends to stop for a mug of tea one day and sit round the edge with the old boyz.

I finished my sandwich and mug of tea and reluctantly walked back into my life.

The Eye Hospital again

Early start today, straight out of bed and on the road to the Eye Hospital (early appointment). Pleasant enough start to the day and always nice to walk up St. James street as everyone opens their eyes for the first time in the day. I managed to over shoot the turn for the Eye Hospital and so ended up walking around it before finding the entrance. Only just sat down when I got called by a nurse and he carried out a basic eye test and seemed happy. Sat me down in a corridor to wait for the doc. Must have been a half hour wait before he showed up and its time for him to check how my right eye is doing. He’s happy there is no damage and we chat about my progress and he agrees that the worst of it seems to be behind me. He asks about my brain scan and I tell him I’ve not heard so he brings up the scans on the computer and I get to see my brain in all its glory. He can’t see any issues and seems happy with them, all very normal. We chat a little about Bells Palsy and I ask him if there is a connection between the brain and Bells Palsy and this makes him sit up a little and ask if I’m medical (not even slightly), I’m happy my question hit the mark 🙂 He’s happy with how things have gone, says the fact that I have recovered proves it was Bells Palsy and says I can be dismissed from the hospital, so that looks like it for the Eye Hospital at least and maybe the rest of the hospital too, we’ll see.

Before I know it I’m wandering down corridors until I find the main entrance at which point I pause because its raining outside. Coat on I venture out in to the rain and start the journey across Brighton. The sky seems brighter on the horizon so I’m hoping that comes towards me quickly so that I can have my now traditional mug of tea at my new favourite café. Even in the rain there is a queue at the café I mentioned earlier on St. James Street, must be good coffee! When I get to the pavilion and walk across the gardens to my café there are no tables out and the rain is still falling but the blue sky is almost in place over head and so I go up to the counter and ask if a table can be put out as I believe the sun is about to arrive. The staff are nice and oblige my whim so I order a tea and a bacon sandwich to make it worth their while. As I sit down the rain is still falling but actually the sky over head is blue so I persist on the basis its about to stop which after a short while it does. What unfolds before me is a wonderful view of the pavilion bathed in sunshine and (as it turned out) a rainbow over head. I didn’t see the rainbow but have seen pictures since. Eventually I’m joined by a fellow customer and a few more tables are put out. In the meantime the birds are busy flying around whilst on the ground the squirrels are very busy wandering around. One came over for a chat but I don’t speak squirrel. Next came a couple of ladies who sat together for a chat (see above, the men sit alone the women socialise). Its a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquillity and once again I struggle to leave but its time to go home and maybe just maybe that’s the end of my Bells Palsy saga!

Out of the darkness into the light

It’s the last day of April 2021, I came out of the darkness a couple of weeks back and met a client for coffee and had a couple of beers at my local The Prince of Wales (outside of course) but then slipped back in for a couple of weeks letting the pandemic fade a little further. Because it was a bank holiday weekend I decided to arrange to meet someone on Friday morning and add an extra day to the holiday.

My friend David had challenged me to a game of table tennis in St. Annes Wells park and was surprised when I accepted the offer. I played a lot of table tennis in my youth and became pretty good at it so it seemed like a fun idea to see if I could still hit a ball (40 years have passed).

On the way to the park I spotted a couple of beautiful cherry blossom trees and these trees became a bit of a theme for the day.







Once I reached the park we met up and had a nice coffee and chatted away. Then it was time to see how those table tennis skills were. Suffice to say I’m not going to be playing for England anytime soon but every once in a while I hit one like the old days and some of the muscle memory seemed to be there so more practice might see an improvement. We managed to play for a good hour before the fatigue started to appear (I’ve been shut in a flat for more than a year!).









Time for more coffee. A couple of drops of rain appeared and this suddenly turned into a downpour, fortunately there was a nice big tree near by and so we all sheltered under it until the rain left.







I needed to go to Seven Dials to pick up a prescription from my Pharmacy but took the long way round the park to photograph more trees and this proved useful as I discovered The Sussex Peasant guys and so was able to purchase a couple of sausage rolls for later and some nice fresh bread.









There was a final tree photograph to be taken before we got to Seven Dials and the Pharmacy.









We then walked down towards the sea to the Mad Hatters Cafe where we like to sit and chat and watch the world go by, nice to see it open a little (can’t go inside yet).







Nice cup of red berry tea and it was time to go home! Thanks David lets have a rematch on the table tennis.

What a wonderful day!

Picture of the sky

What a wonderful day! The sun is shining brightly and the first person in the UK has had the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccination for COVID-19. It’s not the end of the struggle of course, it will take months for everyone to get the jab, but it is the beginning of the end and the death count will start to fall from here on. All we need to do now is make sure more than sixty percent of the population take the jab, so come on everyone step up when your time comes!

There is no doubt that twenty twenty has been a tough year. For me personally it’s felt like spending a year on one of those cartoon islands with just one tree. I didn’t go as far as Tom Hanks and create my own Wilson but now I think about it perhaps I should have 🙂

Seems certain now that things are going to steadily improve from here and there is the prospect of meeting up with my family in a few months time. Looking forward to that first beer in my brothers back garden pub (mo mo’s) and meeting up with my mum soon after and the rest of the family soon after that. Will also be good to start meeting up with friends once again (hasn’t been practical or even possible for most of this year).

In years to come when I or others read this, this was the moment the pandemic broke and although there are still a few months to go before we have it under significant control life should get easier from here.

Many thanks to all those people who have had the chance to help with this pandemic. Fantastic efforts from the NHS, doctors, nurses, scientists and many others to get us to this point.

My neighbour asked, how are you?

My neighbour asked how are you? A seemingly innocent question, but in 2020 something entirely different. When I saw the words on the screen it rather took my breathe away. I’ve spent a year away from my family (apart from a couple of small meetups) and most of the year away from my friends, my clients and even my neighbours so a seemingly innocent question became elevated to much greater heights than might have been the case in any other year.

My neighbour was of course being kind and it was the kindness that took my breathe away and the awareness shown to notice that I had been a little quieter than usual. I’ve lived most of my life alone, at times (some time ago) closed off from other people as a monk would do. If anyone is geared to handle this pandemic we’re living through its me and indeed I’ve faired pretty well. I’ve not struggled that hard with the isolation, I’ve noticed I drift slightly more than I used to, its harder to concentrate on the things you need to do. But in general I’m not suffering and am confident I’ll make it through if I can avoid the dreaded virus and make it to the vaccines that it’s now clear are coming.

The pandemic is probably (hopefully) the most significant thing our generation will live through. It’s our equivalent of the second world war (or the first come to that). The similarities from that time are obvious and the comparison of our nurses and doctors with fighter pilots from the battle of Britain is I’m afraid very apt though some may not like the analogy. I had a flu jab today and it felt like a military operation. Wear your mask, have your temperature taken, sit there, jab, walk that way, pause and then out of the door. It seemed a little inhuman but don’t misunderstand me, thats the way it has to be and I’m grateful to all the nurses and doctors involved and relieved I live in the UK and not Trumpland.

I come from the generation after the war and indeed part of my diet is still affected by the remnants of war rations we were still living under when I was a child. Spam was a staple of the diet then and I’ve got the blood pressure to prove it! If I could buy it (supermarkets stopped selling it a few years back) I’d still be eating luncheon meat! I didn’t get to do anything in the second world war, I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mothers eye. As a result I’ve spent my life looking at it from afar, being affected by it but never able to see what it was like to live through. The pandemic is my equivalent and the irony that all I’m asked to do is sit on my sofa and wait is heavy to bear. I can’t now train to be a nurse or a doctor or a scientist to help and so I must just be, time will pass (as all things do) and suddenly (we hope) the virus will fall under our spell because of the new religion, science.

How are you? Words that took my breathe away and sent me on a journey into the past and through my entire life and brought me back to the present. Sit on the sofa and watch the snooker, the modern equivalent to marching to war.

Thank you neighbour for caring enough to ask the question, despite going on a slight nutty after reading your question I’m fine thank you. How are you?

Despite the pandemic

Despite the pandemic some relatives came to visit me this weekend. My flat is far too small to house them and in any case that wouldn’t be wise in these times and so they decided to stay in a hotel in Worthing (cheaper than Brighton). Being car drivers this wasn’t as inconvenient as it sounds but did mean that the car would dictate what we could do (it needs parking). This was good and bad. The bad was that I couldn’t really show off Brighton itself too much (anyone who knows Brighton knows that parking is a pain). The good was that it provided a chance for us to go a little further afield, something I don’t usually get to do (not being a car driver). We had rather a wonderful time and the veil of the pandemic that permeates everything at present was lifted for a couple of days.

Jason and Reece drove in from Worthing early Saturday morning and parked in the Regency Square car park where we met up. Smiles all round. I had a plan for this part of the day and suggested we go to The Meeting Place Cafe. The cafe is always busy and its not the best service in town but it has a major advantage in that it is on the seafront and so you can sit down and look out to sea while drinking your coffee (its also COVID-19 friendly being outside). Coffee and chatter ensued until the food was ready the highlight of which was my piece of cake that more closely resembled a doorstop (tasted good though)! This moment gave me a chance to reward my visitors with a couple of paintings I had prepared in advance. A friend of mine had set me a brief to produce a painting earlier in the year and despite the brief being tough the painting was more successful than we thought it might be and it had the additional advantage of providing a template for these two paintings.

Photograph - Jason and Reece

The story of the paintings: After Easter I noticed while shopping in my local Marks and Spencers that they had a large number of Star Wars related Easter eggs left over and when they were still there a couple of weeks later and the price had been reduced to shift them I decided to treat myself to one (we were still in lockdown so a treat seemed reasonable). After it had been eaten I couldn’t bring myself to just throw the packaging away. It had some nice Star Wars related images on it. So I cut them out before throwing the boxes away. Over the course of lockdown the eggs failed to sell and so each week I bought one as a treat and before I knew it I had enough storm troopers to consider producing a couple of paintings!

Photograph - Cuckmere HavenAfter our meeting at The Meeting Place Cafe I suggested we go to Cuckmere Haven as it was a nice sunny day and the location would afford ease of parking and provide us with a pleasant walk. It didn’t let us down and before we knew it we had logged 15,000 steps improving our health all the while chatting and enjoying the wonderful scenery. Watching the swimmers wade out and then let the incoming tide sweep them back in land was the highlight for me. I’ve been to Cuckmere Haven and climbed the hills to get the beautiful view from above but have not actually walked through the flood plain and experienced it first hand so this was a treat. After sitting in the sun watching the tide come in laughing and joking around I suddenly became thirsty and so it was time to walk back to the car. We had thought of having a drink at that point but it was a bit crowded and it seemed prudent to drive on somewhere else for a drink.

Photograph - Jason and Reece Lewes Castle

We decided to visit Lewes on the way back to Brighton as my guests had not been there. We had a very pleasant walk through town and visited the The Castle, Baltica Pottery Shop and the Fifteenth Century Bookshop before meandering back through town visiting The Sussex Guild shop on the way where we made a couple of small purchases for fun. Finally we halted at Fuego Lounge for coffee and a catch up on the footy results. A very pleasant coffee made to taste better by our football team (Ipswich) winning and going top of the table! We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!

Photograph - Fish and Chip shopTime to head back to Brighton. We had planned to have fish and chips in Brighton but parking was a bit of an issue and so we ended up driving through and on to Shoreham where I knew of a good fish and chip shop. Blundens Fish & Chip shop didn’t let us down (even having mushy peas, essential for Vegan customers) and so we had fish (ok none of us had fish but you get the point) and chips beside the River Adur.

Back home to Brighton for some well earned rest.

The next day we met up again and decided to do breakfast at Brighton Marina. Slightly sad to say the marina is starting to look rather tired these days and the service wasn’t that great. We decided to duck out early and go somewhere else.

Photograph - larking about on the golf courseA short drive along the coast we were pleased to see that Roedean Cafe and pitch and putt course was open and decided to stop and have a go. My compadres were sceptical but after they got into the swing of it (see what I did there) we had a good laugh and accidentally added to our fitness count with another 15,000 steps. Judging by the photo I’m not sure we had the technical aspects of the game down pat but we gave it a good go and each of use had a good shot and a bad shot in us. Very pleasant to finish up on the terrace outside the cafe with drinks in hand.

And suddenly its time for us all to go home. Many thanks to Jason and Reece for coming down. Was a great time and I look forward to the next time 🙂

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part three

Graphic - Government messageAbout a week had passed with me holing up in the flat slowly burning through my supplies and the time finally came to step outside again and look for new supplies.

My first trip to Marks and Spencers since this crisis really kicked in and it wasn’t very well organised. No markings on the floor and no protection for staff at the tills. Shopping was as a consequence tricky as people tried to avoid each other stepping this way and that while trying to get out of there as soon as possible. I was surprised at how successful I was and indeed felt rather smug as I had picked up some cheap food that had obviously been over ordered and they were trying to clear. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had accidentally missed out a whole row whilst going around trying to avoid people (Its at times like this you realise you have a fixed way of going round a supermarket and when something disturbs that mistakes occur!). Having failed to get some milk and yogurts I realised I was going to have to go out again. That would have to wait for tomorrow.

Since I still hadn’t found any loo paper and was down to my last roll I decided to see if I could get some at the same time as milk and yogurts. Marks and Spencers are my usual food shop but they hadn’t had any loo paper since the crisis started and I didn’t have any expectation they would now so I decided to try shopping at Waitrose instead (despite the likely queue).

When I got to Waitrose there was indeed a queue, one that stretched around the corner and started up the hill to Seven Dials. I tagged on the end and waited. Everyone was obeying social distancing and it was a sunny day so no real stress just patience needed. The queue soon moved and after only fifteen minutes I had reached the door and was next in. The floor had been divided into small areas to ensure social distancing (this was the first time I encountered this). The few days since my last shop had had an affect and Waitrose was much further along the organisation trail than Marks and Spencers had been. Before looking for milk and yogurts I decided to see if there was toilet paper and low and behold there it was, I could have sworn it had a glow all of its own! Not only that but I was able to snag some Kitchen towel and finally some hand soap (can’t get enough of that in a pandemic!). Having snagged some milk and yogurts (ok, I bought some Cadbury cream eggs as well) to go with the loo paper etc I was out of there . Emerging into the light with shopping in hand felt like a relief. As Sartre says ‘Hell is other people’ and in a pandemic this is never more true! Having dragged the shopping home I immediately unpacked it all and having done that a serious hand washing was needed. We’ve all become skilled at washing our hands like surgeons do these days.

Unlike a lot of people at this time there is nothing stopping me from working. I work from home anyway as a web designer and social media manager. However these are not normal times and I find the process of shopping for food somewhat draining so that when I return home I find it hard to concentrate on work for the rest of that day. I’m guessing there’s a degree of adrenalin that goes on while shopping which then drops as you return home. I tinkered with work related things for the rest of the day until I finally gave up.

Around this time the governments propaganda machine began to function and we began to get daily updates on the figures (deaths, infection rates etc). Along with the daily updates adverts began to appear on the TV and across social media. Messages like ‘Act like you’ve got it, anyone can spread it’ began to appear on my Facebook timeline. Its around this time that comparisons with the war began and I start contemplating whether there will be rationing.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part two

Following my last trip to the pub I awoke and indeed the world had changed. Social isolation began. Since I already worked from home and largely live in social isolation this initially didn’t have much effect on me. I had a few days worth of food and so hunkered down for a while. However, time came when I needed more food (and loo paper, I hadn’t stockpiled like others) and also I needed to pick up a repeat prescription, time to find out how the world outside my flat had changed.

Walking up to Seven Dials in Brighton (my old area) the streets were quiet and people shuffled to the left or right to try and maintain social distancing on the pavement. Reaching the doctors surgery the first change became apparent. The front door was locked and we were instructed to speak to reception through the intercom on the door. I requested my prescription and this was placed in a basket just inside the door and I was buzzed in to enable me to pick it up. Never even saw the receptionist!

Prescription in hand I walked the short walk to Seven Dials itself and my pharmacy. This is where the second change occurred. There was a queue down the street to access the pharmacist. Part of the reason it was down the street was because everyone was observing the social distancing rules and leaving a gap between each other in the queue. I went to the back of the queue and began to wait. Everyone in the queue was quiet and seemingly nervous, everybody obeyed the social distancing rules except for one old lady who didn’t seem to understand how to do it. I resisted the temptation to act as the worlds police and ask her to step back from the woman behind me. Buses passed by us with not a soul on board until eventually one passed with a single passenger, the only bus passenger I saw that day. Police cars patrolled by us, presumably checking out how the queuing was doing (at that time they had no special orders to enforce social distancing). It wasn’t a very fast moving queue and so I had to wait for an hour before reaching the pharmacy door. Once I made it into the pharmacy the reason the queue was slow moving became apparent. The pharmacists is small and social distancing meant that only two staff could work at one time (they would normally have five or six). Only two customers were allowed in at a time, one waiting at the reception the other at the back of the shop. Getting served was relatively quick and suddenly I was outside with tablets in hand. I offered some encouragement to those still queuing and set off for Waitrose to get supplies.

I walked down to Waitrose and was half expecting a large queue to be waiting but as I came down the hill there was no sign of one (might be getting loo paper after all). I turned the corner and there was the queue going the other way along Western Road. After queuing for an hour at the pharmacy I didn’t fancy another long queue and so decided to carry on to Sainsbury’s further along. No queue and I got basic supplies and was in and out in fifteen minutes. No loo paper, kitchen towel or hand sanitiser though.

In to the flat with tablets and food. Instantly double wash hands and settle down on the sofa for a moment. I start to think about my old friend Anne Frank and how I have gained a little more insight into what things were like for her. Nothing like the fear of being hunted down of course, but a little touch of the isolation. I’m not the first to think of Anne in these times and I won’t be the last, her writing very apt for our current circumstance. Thanks for your thoughts Anne.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part one

The year started as they normally do, New year was over and suddenly its January. Traditionally I’m VERY busy at the start of the year and Twenty Twenty was no exception. January was washed away trying to prepare accounts and get the tax man off my back. February became a desperate race to invoice my clients for their annual maintenance contracts on their websites. All the time of course trying to update peoples sites and get on top of the to do list. Soon February was gone the invoicing had been done and I was settling in to the task of reducing the to do list and then March came.

From the beginning of the year we had heard about the epidemic in China. The Chinese government had effectively shut down an entire City and everyone speculated about how heavy handed this seemed and how it would be impossible to do such a thing in the West. At one point they even built a new hospital in a matter of days which seemed very impressive at the time.

Slowly but steadily the noise about this epidemic grew louder until the first documented case appeared in the UK and quickly afterwards someone in Brighton had it and all of a sudden something that was just a news story about China became a reality in my own City. It was at this point I had to make a call as to whether I should visit my mum over Easter. I needed to make the call early because the train tickets would need to be made in advance. Things didn’t look good and I concluded it would not be wise to risk taking this virus to my mums house and so I called her to let her know I wouldn’t be coming.

Things started to move quickly now. More cases appeared in the UK and suddenly the government began to show signs of activity. Sporting events were the first to come under scrutiny and although scientific advise was to let them continue conversations were beginning to be had about how long this could go on. It was a matter of days before it became obvious that they would all have to stop and a steady stream of announcements was made as each sport cancelled their particular tournament or event. This would finally conclude with the announcement that the Olympics would be delayed for a year.

In the meantime I went to my weekly snooker match with Aron as usual. This level of activity was as yet unaffected and so we played what proved to be our last game and I had what proved to be my last after match Greggs sausage roll for a very long time (I’m assuming at this point see future posts).

Almost a week passed when a friend (Russell) contacted me suggesting we get together for a coffee. It still seemed relatively ok at that point and so we decided to meet. However, in the time it took to arrange the meeting all Cafes were ordered to shut and so we switched the venue to my local pub The Prince of Wales. We met in The Prince of Wales and both of us had taken the opportunity to do some shopping before hand (seemed wise at the time and proved to be so). Having had previous experience catching flu in a pub I advised we drink only beers from bottles (This also proved wise). We had a nice chat and a laugh with the landlord Trace and all elbow shaked for what we thought would be the first time but actually it proved to be the only time (as it turned out). Then it was time to go home and when I woke up the next day the world had changed..

An accidental tourist in Brighton

It all started with a routine trip to see the nurse at my doctors practice (nothing exciting just an annual check up). She greeted me with her shocking pink hair and it was immediately a very Brighton moment, pride is approaching so I expect she’d had it done for that (its not normally pink). She gave me a good report and suddenly I was out in the sunshine and had a couple of hours to spare. I had an event to attend nearby and so it was not worth returning home, time to visit one or two old haunts.

2019-07-03 16.27.332019-07-03 16.27.44First stop was coffee at Small Batch Coffee on Seven Dials. Haven’t been there for quite some time and so this was a chance to update my mental database about locations in Brighton a little. It was too hot to sit inside and although it was too hot for me outside also there was at least some air so outside it was. As soon as I sat down with my white Americano and took a look around me I had the feeling of being an accidental tourist. I cross Seven dials on a regular basis, indeed Seven Dials used to be my base in Brighton when I first moved here and so I’m not used to sitting down there and looking around I’m usually busy doing something or passing through on the way to doing something. It is of course full of memories for me and staring me right in the face was a big one. The large tree on Seven Dials was almost lost a few years ago because of an arbitrary decision by the Green Council (shocking) at the time. A friend of mine Millie Ferguson fought to save it and with the help of many others did just that. Ever since I’ve thought of it as her tree and what a beauty it is. A nice coffee and people watch and it felt like time to move on, I’m thinking chips at this point.

2019-07-03 17.21.492019-07-03 17.07.592019-07-03 17.05.32I walked down the hill to London road trying to think of a suitable place to eat, nothing suitable by the time I reached Preston Circus and so I turned right and started walking into town. Suddenly I recall the solution to my problem, one of the best fish and chip shops in town. But, is it still there? I haven’t been to Bardsley’s for many years (used to go regularly at one time). I walk up Baker Street with trepidation hoping my fears are wrong and that it is still there. Phew, very much still there and that makes me happy. I decide to sit down and spend a little time to see how things are with Bardsley’s. First thing to note is that they have a wine list! Shock horror. The times they are indeed a changin. I’m very happy to report that despite a recent change of ownership the food was excellent and the service too, don’t change anything guys its a winning formula, nice to see you still there.

2019-07-03 18.24.072019-07-03 17.37.58Time now to step across London Road and walk up to New England House. I worked in this building for many years and amusingly I find myself visiting my old office space when I attend Fusebox events these days. However before reaching New England House I encounter some interesting graffiti and so take a shot whilst trying to dodge a woman trying to park her car in a tight space.

I’m attending a Fusebox VR/XR event discussing the use of XR in marketing and a free beer at this point is a welcome follow up to my meal. I’ll not review this event here as you can find a full review on the Two Patch Pirates website. A couple of interesting speakers and a bit of networking before setting off for home.

2019-07-03 22.02.432019-07-03 21.56.382019-07-03 21.10.542019-07-03 20.05.22On the way back home I pass The Prince Albert and admire the mural but no beer this time. As I walk across Churchill Square I sense I’m going to get drawn into my local for a beer and sure enough before I know it I’m sitting at the bar of The Prince of Wales (POW to its friends) with Trace and Aron (the landlords). Its strangely quiet (there’s usually more noise) until I realise it’s quiz night, a new innovation for POW but nice to see it working. If you have a team pop along. Quiz master David (sorry David picture came out all arty) runs a good quiz and has done for years. I settle at the bar and get shanghaied into helping the bar team (not smart on their part as I’m poor at pub quiz’s, poor memory). A good craic with the guys as usual and their superior music knowledge earned them some gold stars! Not winners but respectable performance.

I start to tire and so its time to go home and get some sleep. A good day.

Roy Harper at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (not Hastings Roy!) 2019

royharperOff to see Roy Harper at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill. I jumped on the train at Brighton and I’m happy to report it set off on time. Just an hour to go until I’ll be at Bexhill.

Had one of those encounters that happens on trains sometimes. Usually I have it with a woman, sometimes kids, but this time it was a young man. He needed me to unfold my legs to take his seat and we had a little fun while I tried to do that (not an easy task any more). I was reading a newspaper which eventually I finished and after a little while he asked if he could read it and we had a little joke about the fact I had taken a page out of it (can’t say why its a secret!). All of this minor stuff is leading up to the fact that as he got up to get off the train he turned and smiled and said have a good day. I wished him a good day also and couldn’t help thinking what a nice young man. The reason this interaction registered with me was that I felt a shiver down my spine as two generations crossed paths and politely exchanged the time of day. I wish him well with the rest of his life!

Arriving at Bexhill I couldn’t get hold of my companion who was meeting me there and so decided to cross the road and have a beer in the Royal Sovereign. This all seemed remarkably familiar until I realised it was a Shepherd Neame pub just like my local The Prince of Wales in Brighton. I’m happy to report I spent a couple of beers worth of time there and the nice young lady behind the bar was pleasant and happily chatted first with me and then also my companion who found me there. After two pints they were starting to taste too good and so it was time to leave before we couldn’t and miss the gig!

A pleasant walk down to the seafront and then along the front to the De La Warr Pavilion and we were in position. But before the gig we decided to have something to eat and so walked around the corner to Marino’s fish and chip shop/restaurant. Very much enjoyed eating in here, a small but pleasant restaurant and the staff were very attentive. We enjoyed our food and can highly recommend this location if visiting the De La Warr Pavilion.

And so back to the De La Warr Pavilion for the Roy Harper gig we had come to see. The first thing to say is that the De La Warr Pavilion makes an excellent location for a gig, we were immediately content to be there. Happily seated we awaited the man himself.

Roy Harper is seventy eight now and each time he tours he threatens it will be his last and sure enough one of these years he’ll be right. For now though he’s not looking near to it. His voice is still strong and its astounding that a man his age can perform to this standard still. A mixture of old and new the first half of the gig was electrifying, particularly with the elephant in the room (his relatively recent court cases). I for one was awaiting a response from him and sure enough he had written a song for just such a moment. Fierce and yes angry, he gave his side of the issue in the best way he knows how. I stood to applaud because I understand what he must have gone through and the song told that story. Its impossible for me to know the rights and wrongs of the case but if I’ve learnt anything about the law it is that you must trust the jury in every case. He was found innocent and had all other charges dropped and that must be good enough for us all.

The second half of the gig was a little looser, clearly Roy was tiring a little. That said the standard was still high and in this half he managed to do something only Beth Orton has previously done. His sound drawing me down as though under water and transporting me elsewhere before slowly raising me up to the surface and back to reality.

On a couple of occasions lately I have found myself at the end of the rainbow and this gig was one of them so thanks Roy and thanks also to Jason for being there with me!