An Age of Miracles

I have recently walked the mile-or-so to and from a branch of Boots located in a retail park next to a dual carriageway. In some ways, a more banal and unexciting excursion can scarcely be imagined: though I guess were I to have previously travelled from even the slightly distant past I would have seen apparent marvels even on this mundane journey.

However, the purpose of this excursion was to receive something quite extraordinary, in some ways little short or miraculous: a vaccine to a novel virus which burst onto the world stage little more than a year ago. Universities and Big Pharma, quite rightly, come in for a lot of flack but they are capable of truly astounding scientific feats working together. It felt oddly pleasing that the development of my particular dose of vaccine took place at my alma mater, though I suspect not by the maths department: then again, mathematics is embedding itself ever more deeply in biology and so perhaps it did have a finger in the pi. It is also rather appealing that the vaccine name is abbreviated to AZ, which gives it a vibe of completeness in the protection that it offers.

I can’t help feeling that this model of profiting from the provision of drugs that serve a global need is a rather better one for a pharmaceutical industry to pursue than its current focus of much of its efforts on making marginal changes to existing drugs to extend or bypass patents or in the creation drugs of frankly questionable benefit to anyone. Clearly, the main burden of any profits should fall on rich countries who can afford it to encourage future risk-taking to find drugs of genuine importance to humanity. This would seem a much better use of taxpayers money than most of the COVID “efforts” of the current UK government who would be in for the godmother of all bollockings, shortly prior to being handed their P45 with extreme prejudice, if they worked in any purchasing department that my long and not especially illustrious career has exposed me to.

With a modified and weakened adenovirus sloshing round my body, there is a glimmer of hope of spending time with friends in both the flesh and a pub or, whisper it who dares, at a gig! Prior to March 2020, I had never imagined that I would miss close proximity to the sweaty bodies of other humans but apparently I do: longing for the sweet scent of someone else’s BO…

Having achieved hit my half-century (in the currently unfashionable base 11) a few scant days ago, my jabbing represents one of the first advantages of antiquity (well, if we ignore the fact that the past is a foreign country where they have much lower house prices). Roll on my bus pass and wearing purple!

As part of the process, I received a set of “notes” on my ChAdOx1-S. I found reading the “contents” of my dose somewhat awe inspiring. I understand many of the words and concepts given and so have some idea of the understanding of some of the complex, biochemical processes of life (and viruses) that it implies in the creation of the 50,000,000,000 viral particles that are now my house guests. Apparently, it also includes 0.002mg of alcohol and so I have decided that it is not safe for me to work this afternoon. There is also a fascinating list of potential side-effects for me to anticipate. However, as I had a fairly serious personal training session this morning it is going to prove quite tricky whether to blame the vaccine or my strange ambition to join the circus for many of these.

Many of my contemporaries report feeling quite emotional upon receiving their injection but, despite being more than willing to cry at the opening of an envelope, I have (so far) been curiously unemotional. Still, I am jolly impressed (not to say astonished) that we have reached this point and doff my cap to the many, many underpaid people who have made it happen. It felt only right and proper upon my return home to bung a few quid at COVAX so that more people can enjoy a similar experience and the same future benefits.

This afternoon’s events have been by far the most earth shattering in the last 48 hours of my humdrum existence: for the second time in a month, I was indoors with other people and not expected to buy anything! On both occasions a needle was involved, one for a withdrawal and today’s for a deposit. However, such is the state of my brain (or its remnants) that I remain more excited – for now – about two far more mundane recent achievements. Yesterday, having stood stationary relative to the street for a good two months, I decided my car needed to move before its new super-battery died. It may not have a cloak or any tight-fitting lycra but the new battery started my car without even a moment’s hesitation. To reward it, and the car, I give it a little run up to Chilworth Asda and bough it a slap up tank of petrol.

Today, I finally managed to organise a regular cleaning schedule for the windows of my flat (or their outer faces) by a chap who does it properly, i.e. with a ladder, bucket and sponge-and-squeegee combo. I have no truck with the modern vogue for some sort of brush on a long stiff hose waggled about from the ground (though clearly do approve of the prospects for double entendre this offers). I like my windows cleaned with an element of life-threatening risk for the artisan involved. I will admit that I am slightly squeamish about actually watching a man face death by the sudden conversion of gravitational potential energy into blunt force trauma but I do like to know it has happened (the cleansing not the BFT). As a result of his derring-do, I can know both see out more clearly and how much of the filth falls to my account to remove. For this first session, I resisted giving the poor chap my quite creditable rendition of When I’m Cleaning Windows by the rather splendid George Formby on my ukulele. He cannot expect to escape this form of serenade indefinitely…

After this incredible catalogue of achievement, I feel I may take the rest of the week (month?) off. If a justification is required, I shall roll a 1d20 and select a random side-effect from the table of outcomes provided. I see no reason why my dungeon mastery should not extend from Generic Fantasy Landia into the soi-disant real world!

Slow learner

GofaDM is often used as a platform to berate the author for his idiocy.  A few readers, those who are almost suicidally charitable by nature, may still doubt whether this degree of censure is fully justified.  I think with just a couple of examples from the last few days, I can place the general contention beyond any reasonable doubt.

We will start with my fridge.  For the last few weeks, I have noticed that my single and pouring cream seemed to be going off with more than usual frequency.  The same entropic decay then started to affect strawberries.  I idly mused that perhaps the supermarkets of Southampton were employing a just-in-time system so that my purchases were already perilously near their expiration dates at the time of purchase.  This half-baked conspiracy theory managed to forestall any action on my part for some weeks, but eventually the thought struck me that perhaps my fridge might, in some part, be culpable.  More days passed whilst this arrant thought struggled to gain any serious attention from the higher powers that hold court between my ears.  Finally, I glanced at the temperature control in the fridge and observed that it had been accidentally knocked (or been subject to deliberate sabotage) and was at its lowest possible setting.  Since correcting this, the amount of fridge-based spoilage has returned to its historic, and very low, level.

I have noted before my very low usage of my car and despite promises to do better, little has changed.  These long periods of standing are not good for the battery, and I have worked out that my car last moved relative to the Earth on Boxing Day (2014).  It will shortly have to move in order to gain a fresh MOT certificate (in commemoration of the long dead Ministry of Transport) and so I wandered to its distant nesting place with only a few dregs of hope cluttering my stony heart.  As expected, the battery had less charge left in it than the Light Brigade after the Battle of Balaclava.  Last time this happened I carried the battery the mile(ish) to my home to be re-charged – and coincidentally fixed some minor back pain I had been suffering.  At the present moment (and tempting Fate), my vertebral region is pain-free – and I worry that further portage of a lead-acid pile may restore the original issue.  So, I have invested in a folding trolley so that my battery can be commuted to and from its distant charger in comfort (mine rather than its).

I comfort myself with the idea that this trolley can also be used to transfer books from their expensive languishing in storage to my garret if I ever arrange to have some shelves fitted to hold the returning exiles.  At least, so far, my stupidity has only affected one person (viz myself) – nevertheless, I really must try and do better.