Day 7356474

Yep, it is day 7356474 of our sojourn with covid-19, at least it feels like it has been 7356474 days. There have been a number of interesting developments since I last rambled about this so let us get it done with. From what I read at the Beeb many shops and businesses will be re-opening after the 15th of June and some schools may be re-opening on the 1st. However, it all depends on whether or not the criteria for re-opening is met or not. Unfortunately this is all uncharted territory and businesses will have to comply with a whole lot of rules before they can get back to work. The school issue is more complex though, but I cannot understand why they don’t keep them closed and then reopen them once the long summer holidays happen. It doesn’t affect me though so I am not overly concerned.

The numbers game:
Today Worldometer numbers are as follows: There are 5 601 521 cases worldwide, with 348 132 deaths.  The USA leads the log, with 1 706 226 cases and 99 805 deaths. The UK is still in top 5 with 261 184 cases and 36 914 deaths. South Africa currently sits at number 31 with 23 615 cases and 481 deaths. 

South Africa has moved to level 3 now although the Western Cape numbers may lead to it being reset to level 4. The big alcohol/cigarette ban is very contentious, and people are seemingly more worried about their smokes than they are about the people who do not have food on their tables. I read yesterday that the unemployment rate could rise to as much as 50% as a result of the pandemic. Unfortunately there are many strange rumblings afoot in the country, and the conspiracists are  having a  field day looking for ulterior motives. 

Talk about conspiracies; the whole Dominic Cummings lockdown break in the UK has been causing waves, with people questioning whether there was a set of rules for them and another for politicians. It is a valid point, and that is true not only in the UK but in the rest of the world  Personally I feel he should fall on his sword, you cannot tell people to do something and then do the exact opposite and expect them to listen to you ever again.   

On a personal note I was called up for a regular blood test by my local surgery, and frankly I was not in the mood to go there at this point in time and managed to get it postponed for 3 months. The fact is that it is really an unnecessary procedure given the situation we are in. Apart from that it is almost impossible to get an appointment that does not take me away from work. I would have take a days leave to have it done and frankly that is a bit of a waste too. Our department has been very busy for quite some time and getting time off is difficult. 

I did have a few other things to mutter about but naturally I have forgotten what they are so will end here and continue a bit later. However, be rest assured that I have all my ducks in a row.

On a side note.. today is my birthday so happy birthday to me!

DRW © 2020. Created 27/05/2020

Baby it’s cold outside.

Last weekend (23 and 24 June), Johannesburg had its first spell of really cold weather. The past few years our winters have been reasonably mild, so really cold is quite a rare event (worthy of a blog post at any rate). My benchmarks for cold date back to 1980, 1981 and 1984 when I spent time in Lohathla as a national serviceman. The military always seems to choose the worst conceivable places to use for training. The first place we were at during “2nd phase” was at a dump called “Duncan” which is close to Jan Kemp Dorp. We were there in mid winter and totally inadequately prepared for the extreme cold. I recall being at the shooting range where our water Bedford froze, and our water bottles were really ice packs that only started thawing in the afternoons.  
 
Lohathla was in a league of its own though. We did a battlegroup there in June 1981, and  having just spent 5 months on the border were really shocked by the cold. Fortunately the powers that be were reasonable lax about our uniforms so we were allowed civvy jackets to keep out the cold. It is however one of the coldest 3 weeks I have spent in years. In 1984, as part of “Ops Thunder Chariot” we froze once again. August and Lohathla are freezing, and trying to muster the courage to get out of the sleeping bag was very difficult. .
 
Oddly enough though, snow always evaded me until 2000 when I was in the USA on an extended trip. And that was when I wrote this piece: 
My First Snow.
“In Johannesburg snow is the exception rather than the rule, as long as I have known it has only snowed twice… in the early 60’s (I was only about 2 or 3 years old) and again in 1981 and I was in South West Africa at the time. My trip to the USA would occur in Fall and chances are snow would happen at least once when I got there. The day I landed it was supposed to snow but nothing happened. In fact, we had many snow warnings between October and the day I started this page and they never produced. The closest we got were light flurries which never left any sort of coating at all.
However, if you want to know what the weather is going to be like in Ohio, the locals advise you to wait 5 minutes. A complex weather system developed this week and on the 13th of December it finally snowed. 
 
I Usually I stick my nose through the blinds to see what shade of grey it is outside, and on this particular morning it was rapidly turning white outside. Small flakes were falling steadily, blanketing everything in a carpet of cotton wool. The pure whiteness was undisturbed by footprints or tyre treads. The grass was buried and everything achieved a kind of uniform smoothness. The silence was awesome, there was no pitter-patter which you get with rain, and when I looked upwards all I could see were small puffs of white fluttering haphazardly downwards. A few fell on my coat and I examined them in fascination, tiny fragile crystalline shapes which quickly turned to small specks of water as I watched. The cars gained new shapes, slowly disappearing into vague white car like shapes. It was not really cold, in fact I remembered those debates back home in winter about whether it was too cold for snow or did snow need warmth. It was irrelevant to me because I was awestruck
I scooped some up in my hand, disturbing the pristine carpet of snow on the sidewalk. It was chilly but compressed into a small ball of ice, very similar to the compressed hail I often collected and stuck in the fridge back home. I was aching to build some sort of snowperson, but I guess it is not quite the sort of thing somebody my age does without having a  small child helping. I took tentative steps into the snow, curious as to how it feels to walk on. It crunched under my boots but was not really slippery, flakes stuck to them but these shook off easily. I went indoors shortly after, my footprints marring the pristine surfaces.
 
Every now and then I was looking through the window, watching to see if my disturbances had disappeared, they were slowly being buried even as I watched. 
 
It was expected that rain would create havoc later that night but it only drizzled so not much happened and when I woke up the next day the snow was over. However, the remnants remained behind. A coating of ice lay over everything, the soft covering had frozen into sheets of ice. Cars were still buried, but instead of being able to brush the ice off, it would have to be chipped, melted, and broken off. Every edge had icicles hanging from them and our car doors were difficult to open because of the ice. I expected that the roads would be easy to walk on, but I was wrong, they were treacherous, slippery with ice and slush. The safest place seemed to be to walk along the grass which was covered in frozen snow which broke under my weight. I gingerly walked along, testing to see if I was likely to slip and land in an undignified tangle of legs and arms. As I grew in confidence so I was able to venture further away, crunching along as I went. Every now and then a suspicious patch of ice would hide a hole or puddle of slush. I needed to be very careful out here, just now I would end up on my rear end. When I got home later that evening, the trees glistened in the twinkling lights which dotted the homes when I live. It was stunning, my first snow had come and gone and no matter how bad the after effects were I still enjoyed what I had seen. Now, if only it will stay away till Christmas… because I am also dreaming of a white Christmas.”

I seems to recall it did not snow on Christmas, but the snow that we had didn’t melt either, so I did have some modicum of a “White Christmas”. 

snow4

A few weeks later I was in New York and again that is another of my benchmarks for cold. I recall a large puddle of water that was outside the place where we were, it was roughly 8 inches deep and did not thaw in all the time that I spent there. It was also frozen enough so that it could support the weight of a U-Haul truck!  On my last jaunt to Milwaukee I was in time to see the snow starting to melt, but there were still piles of it all over the place, and the river was still frozen solid. 

My verdict? Snow is really nice to see or experience, but heaven help us if it snows in Johannesburg. 
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016

Photo Essay: Atlanta 2004

In 2004 I visited Atlanta in the United States. It was a hectic 3 week trip and I saw quite a lot, we were based in a small town called Woodstock, as opposed to Atlanta itself. Unfortunately I also had the digital camera from hell and the images I returned with are nowhere near the quality (or quantity) that I take in the United Kingdom. Still, I do not want to loose some of these memories, so am reproducing some here. To be frank I do not always remember the context of an image so they are without any labels. The original size of these images was 640×480, but I have sized them up to 800×600. Generally though the quality is poor. 

DRW © 2004-2020. Retrospectively created 06/07/2016