Pandemic news from Britain: the good, the bad, and the bizarre

At the end of March, someone named Sarah Buck tweeted, “Just had a knock on the door and sat on the doorstep was 2 bottles of milk and a loaf of bread. The man who put them there was stood back on the footpath and told me that the items were gifts from Banbury Mosque! They went to every house on our street delivering these!!”

There are many stories like this, all over the country–people stepping in to help as best they can where they’re needed. We’ll let this one stand in for them all.


Someone put together an impressive dalek costume and rolled through Robin Hood Bay, near Whitby, announcing, “By order of the Daleks, all humans must stay indoors, all humans must self-isolate.” 

And if you don’t know what a dalek is, you’re making better use of your time than I am. It’s a bad guy from Dr. Who. With a toilet plunger for a nose.  Or maybe it’s an antenna, not a nose. It’s definitely a toilet plunger, though.

You can find the video here.

(That was important enough that it got two links. I hope you’re impressed.) 


Startlingly relevant photo, but you’ll need to read to the end to understand why

The prime minister is now in intensive care with Covid-19. Ever since he came down sick, his government has been reciting a soothing drone that consisted mostly of the phrase mild case

Then he went into the hospital. For–we were assured–routine tests. On a Sunday night. But he was still running the country.

How dumb do they think we are?


Now he’s in intensive care and not running the country. So who’s is? Dominic Raab. [Update: True, but it turns out he has no power. He can’t make decisions without the cabinet’s okay.] But Larry the Cat has been edged out. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry. 

Government ministers, by the way, have taken to blaming top civil servants for the mess they–that’s the government, not the civil service–have made in responding to the crisis. 


In the interest of fixing this mess, the government has bought 17.5 million home testing kits (or possibly an option on them–I’ve seen it explained both ways) that would allow people to find out whether they’ve had Covid-19. This would allow people who already had it and are immune to go back out into the world.

Unfortunately, they don’t work well enough to be much use. The milder a person’s symptoms were, the less likely the tests are to detect antibodies. On top of that, no one knows for sure if people who’ve had it actually are immune and if so how long their immunity lasts.

Other than that, they’re great and we’re well on our way to solving our little problem.


Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, warned the public not to go anywhere unless it was essential. It put people’s lives at risk. So listen up, people, we can’t fool around with this.

Then she went to her second home. Twice. And got caught. 

And resigned.

It’s funny how much more essential a trip looks when it’s yours.


In response to the local humans going into hiding, goats have wandered into Llandudno, in Wales, and are looking very picturesque, thank you. These are Kashmiri goats, originally from India, and they’ve been in the area since the nineteenth century–long enough to acquire the local accent. In normal times, they only come into town in bad weather. Or when they’ve saved up enough money for ice cream.

The photos are worth a click.


I was going to report on what NHS staff are having to use to protect themselves from infection in the absence of genuine protective equipment, but it’ll either make you depressed or homicidal. Ditto the reports of them being warned not to speak out about the lack of equipment and how it’s putting their lives at risk. Both are happening. Read the real news, not just the stuff I post. I can’t make this stuff funny and if I could it’d be immoral. 

After a decade of underfunding the National Health Service, chopping it to pieces, disorganizing it, privatizing it, re-disorganizing it, understaffing it, and blaming the problems on the people who work for it and the previous government, suddenly the Conservatives love the NHS and everyone who works for it. Without proper protective equipment. 

And when this is all over, they’ll privatize more of it. In the name of making it more resilient. You heard it here first.

Me? I lean more heavily toward the homicidal. 


Let’s cheer ourselves up. Something called Brewgooder has worked out a way for people to buy four-packs of beer for NHS staff. 

“It’s not much,” it said, “but with beer nationally recognised as a currency of gratitude, it’s a small gesture to show your appreciation to a tireless NHS worked that you don’t know and may never meet.”


Postman Jon Matson, in South Tyneside, is doing his bit to lift people’s spirits. He’s delivered mail dressed as Cleopatra, Little Po Beep, a cheerleader, and a soldier. 

Did I mention that he’s got a full beard? You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Little Bo Peep with a beard.

The response was good enough that he’s promised to dress up as someone new every day. And yeah, that’s worth a click as well.


In Stockport, someone goes out for an hour a day dressed as Spiderman to cheer up kids. Parents can request a visit to their street as long as the kids promise to stay in and wave from the window. 


And finally–and irrelevantly–I put a note on my village Facebook page that I’d lost one of my favorite earrings and if anyone found it I’d love to have it back. I didn’t think I stood a chance of seeing it again, but I had to try. The earring’s small and kind of pavement colored, but in less than an hour a neighbor was at my door with it in his palm.

About thirty seconds before that happened, another neighbor offered a box of chocolates to anyone who found it. She’s now in debt to the tune of one box of chocolates.

Thank you, Paul.

92 thoughts on “Pandemic news from Britain: the good, the bad, and the bizarre

  1. Now that’s perfect. You get your earring back and someone else pays the reward.

    Catherine Calderwood sounds like such a great name for the villain in a novel. Do you think she’d mind?

    I’m glad to see the goats are ahead of schedule. I think, in the series Life After People, it was supposed to take months before the animals took back the streets. I hope they can figure out how to open the pubs.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Goats being goats, I’m sure they’ll find a way. This is just the advance party, scoping it all out. And yes, I have a hunch Ms Calderwood’s the kind of person who would mind. Not that I know her, mind you. It’s just a hunch (and therefore not actionable).

      I did spend some time thinking about whether I had to match the reward or go one better, but I provided enough entertainment that I think I’m off the hook.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Do you think she’d notice a male villain named Calder Cathwood? I mean, she doesn’t seem all that quick on the uptake.

        Matching the reward would diminish the nice-ness of the original gesture. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No, far it from me to steal anyone’s glory. Gee, I feel positively saintly now.

          And no, I’m sure she wouldn’t notice. Just let me know in time and we’ll delete all references to the plot we’re hatching here.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. “I was going to report on what NHS staff are having to use to protect themselves from infection in the absence of genuine protective equipment”

    Here in the US a doctor who did just this was fired (!!) by the hospital.

    Stay healthy,

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Over here the news played a snippet of your PM saying he’s in the hospital just in case he needs to be put on a respirator. I’m assuming he’s sitting in the lobby so he doesn’t use medical supplies, rooms, or personnel that could be used for someone actually sick.

    NYC claims the number of new cases are starting to decline. After demanding government respirators and a hospital ship be sent to them, the mayor now claims they really don’t need the ship, but, since it’s there, can they use it for non-COVID patients? One of the crew has now been diagnosed with COVID.

    I have a problem with the home COVID tests, and allowing people who are immune to return to work. Does Typhoid Mary ring a bell at all?

    Locally, our mega-hospital system has developed a vaccine against COVID that sounds almost too good to be true. It’s stable at room temp, easily mass-produced (their small lab can make 100/day with current resources), and it’s administered by a small bandage-type device that is slapped onto the back of the hand then removed. Cost is also supposed to be very low (around $100/unit).

    Stay healthy, glad you got your earrings back. Box of chocolates is a good price, even if it’s just gas-station chocolate.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I work for the NHS too, and back in 2003 was warned by Personnel not to say anything unfavourable about the NHS on social media ever again, after I’d added a comment to a derogatory thread on Facebook that a colleague had written. However, a doctor I worked for a few years later put photographs of rusting beds on Facebook that were sitting in one of the hospital’s courtyards and nothing was ever said about it. Doctors can get away with it, but secretaries I suppose are two a penny and can be dispensed with. I deleted my Facebook accounts some time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I must admit that when I saw the headline “‘PM not on ventilator’ says Gove,” I assumed the PM was now on a ventilator. This is how well we trust anything out of the UK Government now, they’ve been doublespeaking for so long it’s easier to assume everything is the opposite of what they say. Latest is “He’s stable”. Poor chap.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The NHS may have been neglected by the Tories, but at least it IS an NHS! I assume that one of the things you like about the UK is not having to put up with what we are told is a costly service mostly only available to the better off back in the USA.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. In Georgia people are going stir crazy sheltering in place, using facebook and social media to keep sane. Updates on which grocery has some TP. Stocks sell out completely in a few hours. There is an apt that shows when a delivery is made to a store. Silly games on facebook, jokes and tips on things to do at home with the kids to keep occupied.

    TV cable news shows talk about what the government did /is doing wrong and what they should gave done all day.

    I am hoping this will be over by July.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I should have signed my name. Your post only showed up on my email and not on word press. Email will only show me as anonymous as for as I can figure out. I thought mentioning Georgia might be a clue.

        As far as getting out if it, the worst case is that when everyone has had it it will stop. That is pretty extreme. We think social distancing will not let it go that far. New cases in NewYork are starting to decline. Hot weather and more sunshine and humidity this summer I believe will help, and a lot of people who have spent their careers studying these types of viruses agree.

        Ernest Harben

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sunshine and heat may help, but I just looked up recent temperatures in Brazil, where reported cases are rising. It was 70 degrees. Australia? 75 degrees somewhere or other, and since this is their fall I’d guess that they’re coming out of warmer weather. Like so many things about this virus, we don’t know if summer will help, but working with only the beginning of the southern hemisphere’s alphabet doesn’t make me optimistic.

          Sorry about what’s happening with Word Press. If I knew a way to fix it, I would, but it’s way outside of my competence. It may be a problem on your end. It also may not be. Anyway, I’m glad to know who the comment was from.


  8. I have taken to binge watching the PBS Mystery Series from the BBC: Unforgotten. I have watched this entire series at least two other times but never been more thankful for murders and Brtitish accents than this week.
    Stay inside, stay sane and carry on. We will do the same over here in SC where I just saw we now have 2,417 confirmed cases of Covid-19. See, this is why I need the BBC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love some of the BBC mysteries, but ironically, we just started re-watching Deadwood. The central character shares Ida’s last name, which is an unusual one and since he’s based on a historical character was probably a relative. Which–have you seen the series?–is nothing to brag about.

      I’d getting really tired of saying “Stay well,” but stay well all the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, Larry should still stand by and be ready! I am sure it is not lost on our Dear Leader and his Sucking Up Minions that, after the president and the vice president, the next in line is the Speaker of the House.

    At least Calderwood resigned. Here she would have been promoted. Probably to Secretary of the Navy – or at least an Inspector General !

    In re: your NHS – over here they are not only looking for ways to wipe out “Obama”Care altogethre but to blame his administration for this s**tstorm.

    Your PM is “stable” ? Since when ? Wish we could say the same. (And anyone familiar with stables knows they are full of horse manure.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s stable–this morning’s headlines say he spent his second night in intensive care. And that 14 London transport workers died of the virus. Whether they found space for them in intensive care I don’t know.

      In the other meaning of stable, yes, I will give him that. He’s a self-promoter, a liar, and all-around useless, but all of that stays stable. Give me Larry the Cat any day.

      Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The answer to your question “how dumb do they think we are?”. The answer is we are actually daft. Very. We have allowed those people (here and there) in power, and they are enjoying it. They will likely never leave it…
    Can I join the homicidal faction? Pretty please please? 🙏🏻
    I hope you and yours are as well as can be. 😷
    Take care (in the Brit sense: be careful)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know (that’s in response to the we-are-actually-daft part of the comment). People vote, I swear, on the basis of whether they like the character politicians project–characters that are often as true to life and the ones wrestlers choose. [insert the sound of me tearing my hair]

      You take care too. It’s not easy when you’re dodging invisible beings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t tear my hair off any mnore I’m afraid. Not enough left. 😉
        I insist: let us all take this as a lesson: we cannot let the democratic process bring morons to power. Maybe a simple litteracy test prior to taking office could do the trick. And basic math. All four operations. They can’t count either. (Of course, it’s not their money)
        Be good Ellen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You know the history of literacy tests in the US? They were used to keep blacks from voting. No matter how educated you were, you flunked. As if by magic. And let’s face it, some well educated people are making some really, really stupid political decisions and casting some stupid votes. (I expect they’d say my opinions and votes are stupid, to be fair.) I could bundle up some examples of people I know. It’s easy to blame it on a lack of education, but I don’t think it works that way. People are swayed by motives I find baffling, including how well they like the character a candidate presents to the public and the desire for a strong leader–you know, someone like Vladimir Putin–in troubled times.

          I don’t have a lot of choice but to be good these days, sadly. You take care yourself.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah I knew about those tests. Went to Grad School in “Alabamer”. Even learned me some Sudern…
            I know a few PhD’s who are total idiots. Motives are indeed baffling. I don’t know what the solution is. I have an idea that some items are missing from the curriculum. In Business school I would add a strong business ethics credit load. And going back to Grad school, I did learn about MIlgram’s Submission to authority, Cognitive dissonance to name a few. That really changed my outlook on many things.
            I’m sure you will compensate your current goodness once we all go out… 😉
            And a final note: the morons who rule us, from Johnson to Macron et al. are only paving the way for “strong” leaders. Savini and Le Pen are going to have a field day in the next election… Sigh.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. I just happened to have a couple N95 masks leftover from a project a few years back, wearing it warrants a few gaping mouths at the local supermarket — you know they gape because I’m am nearly the only shopper wearing a mask of any kind.
    We live in a Trump state, a state of existence that threatens our mental health daily. I won’t say what state it is, but an obscure senator by the name of Mitch McConnell is up for election this very year — barring a far-from-unlikely coup by a never-think-lose current POTUS.
    I’m not a fan of interesting times.
    Fare thee healthy!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I did see the letter and since I’d watched the video I thought maybe the dalek rolled down the only navigable bit of Robin Hood’s Bay. What I really want to know is whether it’s on wheels or if some very short person is inside there, running madly. And if it’s on wheels, what powers them? So many unanswered questions.


  12. How wonderful that you got your favorite earring back! And your neighbor was so nice to offer a reward to get it back for you. These are the kinds of stories I need to read to balance out the dire news on the TV.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The part where you (don’t) talk about how NHS staff haven’t got enough PPE and that they can’t speak about it has finally made me understand how similar your (adopted) country and mine are. And that realization makes me very very sad. I always believed you were doing it all so much better than we were, and that I’d have somewhere to go when I finally couldn’t take it here any more. Now what am I going to do?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think Britain’s as far down the road to fucked-uppedness. For one thing, they haven’t been able to completely wreck the NHS yet, although god knows they’ve tried. There’s a greater spirit of solidarity, I think, although it’s hard to compare since I’ve been here long enough that memory begins to construct itself and I don’t entirely trust it.

      On the other hand, hostility to immigrants means that it’s harder and harder to find a category that allows anyone in. They’ve managed to construct a system that excludes even badly needed medical people. Idiots. Idiots, idiots, idiots. Ida and I were lucky enough to get in before the new system came into place, in a category that wouldn’t let us settle now. So to answer your question, I wish I knew.


      • Well, to be fair, nobody could be as far down the road to fucked-uppedness as we are because there is and can only ever be one Donald Trump. Even I didn’t think we were that far down the road until I woke up one day about 3 years ago and yelled “oh my god, we are really far down this road! Who knew!?”

        I’m somewhat encouraged by your words. I need an escape plan. If he wins again in November I’ve really got to get out of here.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. People can be awesome. Businesses on the other hand. Four nurses at a local ER refused to come back from break until the hospital promised they’d hire more nurses. Not only did the hospital refuse to promise, they told those nurses to go home. The next day, they hired 2 agency nurses

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Why have people started writing/saying “ sat” instead of “ sitting “ or “ seated “ . Same with “ stood”. It makes sense to write/ say “ I was sat … “ if you are a toddler in a high chair or a person who has to be placed in a wheelchair etc, but otherwise it’s grammatically incorrect and makes me cringe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pretty sure that’s a Britishism, and being American raised and educated, I not only can’t explain it, I can’t really understand it. All I can do is flag it in my mind as one more oddity in this bafflingly lovely language of ours.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. So sorry to hear how COVID has affected your country. I have always wanted to visit London and the rest of England. Maybe someday after all this has passed…

    I am delighted, however, with all the people who are chipping in and being good neighbors like that guy who left you bread.
    Thanks for sharing this post.
    Stay safe and keep on keeping on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the local level, some moving and wonderful stuff is going on–people helping out the people they know, and some organizing themselves to help out people they don’t know. I’m not good at being the recipient of help and some part of me still wants to say, “This is silly, of course I can do this myself.” And I can, but the danger’s greater for my age group, so I don’t. I’m grateful for what people have done for us.

      May the world once again be a place where you can visit Britain. It’s a fascinating place.

      Liked by 1 person

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