Flags and rust: It’s the pandemic update from Britain

The government tells us we have a great system of Covid testing. World beating. So let’s check in on it. Again.

If you live someplace that’s not a hotspot and want a test, you’ll be chasing all over the country to get one. Take, as a purely random example, me. The website where you register for a test wanted me to drive 86 point something miles to I’ve forgotten where. And back, although that wasn’t their problem but mine. It didn’t sound like a great idea, so I followed a link that took me to a page that promised I’d have a test in the mail the next day. 

The next day came and went, along with many of its friends, who followed in a line, as days will. I still haven’t had a test in the mail and have stopped expecting one. Fortunately, I’m fine. I had a sore throat–not the most Covid common symptom but not an impossible one–and a fit of paranoia collided with a sense of civic responsibility. It’s possible that I got downgraded because I had the wrong symptom. It’s also possible that they dumped everyone into electronic limbo. I have no way to know.  

What I do know is that the priority is being given to high-risk areas. That makes a kind of sense, but it also leaves clusters to build up, unspotted, in new areas. It also means the people allegedly in charge of the country have once again let us run short of tests–the number of people requesting them has gone up–leading them to set up a kind of triage-by-determination system. If you’re willing to drive 65 point something miles, you can have your test. If you’re too sick to do it, you can’t. 

You can also (or so the radio tells me–and yes, it was on at the time) log back into the website later and you might be offered a perfectly sane location for a test. Or you might not. Nothing is guaranteed.

In calculating the distances between the person using the website and the nearest testing center, they seem to have assumed that they’re dealing with crows rather than drivers. According to a BBC calculation, a 109-mile trip would’ve involved 206 miles of driving. I suspect mine would’ve as well, because I think they wanted to send me to Wales, and I’m not much of a swimmer.

This is happening just as the schools reopen. So will there be testing to make sure the kids don’t all infect each other and bring the bug home? Of course not. It’s not a priority.


The Notting Hill Carnival–usually the largest street party in Europe–went online this year. It’s director, Matthew Phillip, said, “For more than 50 years, carnival has been a statement that black lives matter. That’s normal practice for us, it’s not something that we’re just jumping on now because of the current global climate and what’s going on. Carnival has been making these statements for 50 years.”


The Edinburgh festivals–that includes the International Festival, the Fringe, and the Book Festival–also went online. This was the first time they’d been canceled since 1947, and that was done–touchingly–in honor of my birth, even if they were a few months late. 

As far as I can figure out, its offerings ended in August, but if you want to mess around and see if I’m wrong (it happens), start here.


In another heartwarming sign of unity among the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, England and Northern Ireland are telling travelers from Greece and Portugal that they don’t have to quarantine after they arrive in Britain but Scotland and Wales are (sort of) telling them that they do.

The sort of is because it’s not that simple. It involves parts of Greece, mainland Portugal, and–oh–Gibraltar. Have we mentioned Gibraltar? But that’s only for Wales. Scotland’s list is a little different. It’s complicated.

Complicated enough that a BBC TV show used a graphic with four flags to show who had to do what if they were landing where–or going there after they landed. Only instead of Northern Ireland’s flag, they substituted the Republic of Ireland’s. It’s easy to do. Northern Ireland doesn’t have a flag. All that symbolism and passion that people pour into their flags is too explosive for a divided nation and they’ve (probably wisely) decided to live without one. They’re stuck with the Union Jack.

The BBC made the appropriate straight-faced apology, but I can’t help thinking that someone’s giggling uncontrollably behind a closed door somewhere. 

Or maybe normal people don’t react to embarrassing mistakes that way.


Since schools have opened, this might be a good time to announce that vomiting and diarrhea may be key signs of Covid-19 in kids

I almost reported that as “voting and diarrhoea.” It was a typo, but they might do better than we adults have lately.


Tony Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister, is being considered for the position of UK trade envoy. He’s a man of great compassion, having argued that since Covid meant it cost the Australian government up to $200,000 for an extra year in an elderly person’s life, families should be able to let their eldery relatives die of the virus the natural (not to mention cheaper) way if they want to. 

I’m happy to report that Mr. Abbott is not one of my relatives.


After that, we need something that isn’t about the pandemic: The earth is making the moon rust.

The problem with that is that rust only happens in the presence of oxygen, and the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. It spent it all when it was a kid, buying candy and sugary drinks. 

Ah, but it does have trace amounts of oxygen hidden away, and it’s all due to Earth’s magnetic field. Oxygen molecules, it turns out, can hitch a 385,000 kilometers ride on the magnetic field and land on the moon, needing a shower and a change of clothes but otherwise none the worse for their travels. 

It’s also possible, although less fun, that the oxygen got there when the moon and the Earth were closer together. Or that it’s released when dust particles hit the ice hidden under lunar craters. 

How does dust hit something hidden under a crater? Dunno. There’s a third theory, but I understood even less of that. It has to do with hydrogen and solar winds. You’re on your own. I really should stick to topics I understand, but I couldn’t resist the idea of the moon rusting.


And finally for the heartening spectacle of someone who understands social media less than I do: A Scottish member of parliament, Annie Wells, has two Twitter accounts. One is her own and the other is Women2Win Scotland (“Leading the campaign to elect more Conservative women to Parliament”). 

Using her own account, she tweeted something snotty about a political opponent. Then, thinking she’d changed accounts, she tweeted, “Spot on@AnniewellsMSP,” adding a thumbs up, a Union flag, and a Saltire to make the celebration complete. 

Only she hadn’t switched accounts. She was praising herself from her own account. She deleted it, tweeted it from her other account, and hoped no one had noticed.

They had. Of course they had. They always do.

The Saltire, in case I lost you back there a ways, is Scotland’s flag. It’s not to be confused with Ireland’s. Or Northern Irelands. Or, most especially, England’s. Or Britain’s. You probably won’t confuse it with the Welsh flag, because that has a dragon.


WP in its wisdom dumped me into its glorious new editing experience–which of course I hate. Anyone know how to resize photos or add captions?

67 thoughts on “Flags and rust: It’s the pandemic update from Britain

  1. I am not sure if I should laugh or cry 😁. Here in Norfolk a lady tried six times to get a test until she got one two miles from her home. They wanted her to go anywhere from Scotland to Cornwall before that. 🤭

    I have started to put captions etc on pictures in the media thingy before I put them in the post. There is also an edit button. Maybe that works?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I did try the edit button without finding much that looked useful there. Sooner or later–surely later–it’ll all make sense.

      This morning’s paper ran an article saying that there was a shortage of test materials–something that shouldn’t surprise us.


    • As if they cared. I think you go on the list of people who get promised a test kit at home the next day, then don’t get it. In fairness, they may have blanked me because they only ask if you have the three primary symptoms. I didn’t–I had a less likely one, so they may have dumped me in the Don’t Pay Any Attention to These People, It Only Encourages Them pile. It’d be nice if they’d let you know that they won’t send you a test, then, but I’m probably expecting too much of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Resize your photos once they are in your post by jiggling your mouse near the edge until you see a blue line (or maybe 2) then click and hold right mouse button and it should allow you to make it smaller.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I hate the new editor too! When I start a post I just enter a title then save it. Go into drafts and there are two options: ‘edit’ and ‘classic editor.’ Choose the latter and all is as it was.

    PS talking of typos, that was almost latte, until I noticed 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve had a cold. How I managed to get a cold when everyone is meant to be careful about even breathing in public is a worrying thing in itself but, as far as I know, as long as my peanut butter cookie still tasted of peanuts then I didn’t need to enter the lottery–sorry–‘apply for some form of Covid testing’ when the sore throat and sneezes arrived. It sounds like it is as smooth a process as your commentary has led us to expect.

    If you seriously need some help with the new editor, I can claim some experience with it (I’ve already done wailing, looking aimlessly around the screen for some faint signs of familiarity, stumbling into stuff–that sort of thing) and would be happy to help.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Bear. If I get stuck, I’ll call you before I immolate the computer. A couple of people have given me hints on the photo problems and I may actually be able to manage it. Fortunately, I don’t ask much of my layouts. Someone left me a comment last week asking me why I don’t use more photos. I found myself typing, diplomatically that I couldn’t be arsed. (Note the British usage. Aren’t you impressed? It’s a phrase that has no American equivalent.) I hesitated at least a second before I hit Send. But back to the original topic, all I have to do now is remember what I did to gt my post marginally workable.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Some of the block editor features are style-dependent. You should be able to drag the “handles” on the image to resize it (if you’re in an image block), or in the settings menu (on the right) you may have an option to set the image at some fixed %age (100, 75, etc). In my style I can’t add captions that don’t bunch up on the left of the image, so have taken to putting what I would have put in the caption in a quotation block immediately following the image. Good luck.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I don’t think I’d be applying for the test…it only encourages them and tells the person whose nose has been assaulted sweet fanny adams, given the unreliability of it all.
    Looking at all the hysteria whipped up by the media I am awaiting the imminent appearance of troupes of flagellants wending their way over Europe.

    On Tony Abbott, here is a link to a post by someone both serious and professional who had dealings with him

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out. (It always takes me a while to get around to that.)

      The tests are imperfect, with a fairly high rate of false negatives, but if you get a positive at least you’ve got some certainty. They not useless. And I disagree about the hysteria. So far, I know one person who’s died of Covid, one who’s now disabled, probably permanently, and one who’s running at a bit more than half speed. And that’s drawn from an area with a fairly low infection rate. No one knows, if they get it, what card they’ll draw out of the deck.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Quite so, you don’t…but hysteria does not help, particularly when government bases an ever changing strategy on science they do not appear to understand. Society seems to have abandoned stoicism and scepticism.
        On the tests, as far as I can see if you have a positive it might mean you are starting it, or that you have had it…not a very useful tool when it comes to predicting your outcomes. As Leo’s clinic doctor said…you’ll know if you need treatment, otherwise, just keep your distance and stay out of crowds.

        Liked by 1 person

        • For people who are basically isolating anyway, the doctor’s advice is good. But a lot of people around here are in a middle zone–not isolating, trying to be careful, not sure where the line between careful and careless lies. I find myself in that zone all too often. I really don’t want to catch this thing, but if I do, I’d appreciate knowing so I can stay the hell out of everyone’s way. As far as I know, people do stop testing positive after they recover. It’s not an antibody test, which would continue to give a positive for some–no one’s sure how long “some” is–time.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the info on the test….much appreciated. I’m still not rushing to take it though.
            Leo is not completely isolating, and I cannot do so given that daily life has to go on so I would be in that zone you describe. I keep a distance – people here are good about that in general – observe normal hygiene practices and take the car into the capital where otherwise I would have used the bus. I am happy that I am not potentially contaminating others, which is the most important thing.
            Still, the media hysteria worries me…it is not a sane reaction to a problem.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Re: pics in the new block editor, have you tried to click on the picture after it renders in your post? A single click will “activate” or place you in the block (a block contains content—a paragraph, image, etc.).
    After clicking on the photo, a blue outline around the block will appear. There are two small blue dots that can be used to resize the photo. Place your cursor over one of them and the pointer will change to double arrows (indicating direction). Just below the photo is “Write a caption”. Click on those words to enter the field/area and type the caption. This is how I’ve seen all this function in one of my own posts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. That got me closer. I couldn’t enlarge it to the full width, but it did let me enlarge it a bit. (I only got one blue dot. Maybe I’m using the bargain version. And I can only align it left or right, not center it.) Oddly, though, I didn’t get the “Write a caption” message.


  8. No car? I think you are supposed to find someone who has a car, can spare the time from work (up to 2 weeks if you test positive), petrol money. Or send off for the postal variant, and if it arrives trying to locate your own tonsils, and then a priority post box (mail box) . Which may be beyond walking distance especially out here in the sticks. You are supposed to do this if you feel ill, have a high temperature. If I did not know it was happening I’d think it was an elaborate practical joke.

    Liked by 4 people

    • A priority post box? I’ll never really understand this country. What’s a priority post box and why won’t an ordinary one do? Too slow? (I now have an image of chasing a priority post box. No, never mind.)


  9. Hi, Ellen. The simplest way to resolve the iniquitous new Gutenberg blockhead editor issue and revert to the perfectly fine Classic editor, simply download the Classic Editor plug-in and sanity (or some semblance thereof) will return. Search ‘revert to classic editor’ and you’ll get any number of links and videos to show you how.
    As to Tony Abbott, from a grateful nation here in Australia, the party is yet to end after finding out that you Brits have agreed take him back in (he’s a Brit originally), similar to countries who agree to take back their nuclear waste after processing. I just hope no budgies were harmed in the making of the move.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just found a description and followed a few steps–so far, so good–but to download the plugin it I’d have to upgrade to a business plan, at a mere £20 a month–and I suspect they’re going to stop supporting it soon anyway. Bastards. Thanks. I’ll search further when I have time and see if there’s a back door somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think (and I use the word loosely) that the answer might be something along these lines (and it won’t cost money). When you start a new post, the menu on the right offers the option of either Post or Block. Choose Block. Then click on the + sign in the top left corner and scroll down to Classic Editor and click. You’ll then see the old editing menu at the top and continue as usual. Don’t know if this will help with your photo issue but fingers crossed.

        PS – Still chuckling over this line that deserves a place in your Greatest Hits collection ‘so the radio tells me–and yes, it was on at the time’.


        • (To tell you the truth, I thought it was pretty funny myself. If I can’t laugh at my own jokes, why should I expect anyone else to?)

          I think I have finally found a way back to the classic editor. I’d tell you what I did but I’m not at all sure I understand it. I only hope I can repeat it. Thanks for your help.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh Wow ! Mr Abbott from Australia is as classy as the Lt Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick (not the sportscaster. This is a different Dan Patrick) who said essentially the same thing,adding that who wouldn’t be willing to die to help get the economy back on track ? The response to both these arsewipes is “You first !”

    Annie Wells should have been booked to speak at the recent GOP convention. Or maybe she was.Two fingers up.(Not thumbs)

    The Russians have declared they have a very workable vaccine-ready to go – immediately !. Another way of destroying the western democracies ? If anyone but QAnon is liable to believe them.

    Stay safe and well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m doing my best on the safe and well front, thanks. But like many people I’m finding the middle ground–the one between lockdown and it’s over and we’re safe–hard to navigate. The rules, unfortunately, are geared (not very well, but that’s a different story) toward minimizing spikes, not toward keeping individuals safe. That means each of us has to figure out what risk we’re willing to take given our health, the demands of making a living, the demands of being social creatures who don’t tend to do well in isolation, and the places where we live. Stay well and safe yourself. Don’t take any wooden nickels and don’t take any underbaked vaccines.


  11. I thought Northern Ireland had a flag – “Ulster Banner” the one with a lovely red cross on a white background with the charming red hand of Ulster in the centre. Turns out its not the the offical flag but its the one they usually use (football matches etc). The orange white and green tricolour is definitely the flag of the Irish Republic. It’s wierd how many people don’t realise that most of Ireland has been fully independent from the UK since 1922.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Ulster Banner, if I remember correctly, was retired and the Protestants and Catholics couldn’t come to any agreement on what to replace it with. All that fraught damned symbolism that goes into flags completely stopped them. If they just could’ve agreed to some random colors that meant nothing, they’d have a flag by now. It’s symbolism would be that the flag isn’t taking sides.

      Liked by 1 person

        • For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I’ve always found symbols and symbolism faintly embarrassing. That’s not a deeply thought-through position, just one of those instinctive things, but they’re proving me right. It’s a kind of football-fan mentality.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s just that flags are a manifestation of that invented plague of “nationalism”. Hundreds of years ago people indentified with their family and village, maybe their region. There are plenty of places that still do this. Nationalism always seems to be about exclusion not inclusion. I guess I would say this as I have never felt very English (having a Welsh mother) when I grew up in England, but not Welsh when living in Wales as an adult (with an English accent).

            Liked by 1 person

            • It’s the ugly underside of nationalism–it flips so easily into exclusion and hatred. Not to mention warfare. I wonder if the same wasn’t true of the identification with family/village/region. I’ve been told that way back when in our village the boys would fight with boys form the next village, just because they were form the next village. And there’s still a rivalry between the two side of the village. We’re divided by a valley and a stream and a whole lot of history, although it doesn’t seem to be based on anything more than it’s that way because it is that way.

              Liked by 1 person

  12. Tony Abbott sounds like a jam – cold and hard.
    I had trouble with the new editor when it first came around in late 2018 (wow, it’s been a while), and after a few months of banging my head on every hard surface – my screen being one – I finally managed to go back to the classic editor. But I hear the classic editor is no longer available?
    Interesting piece about the moon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also heard it wasn’t available, but they seem to be offering to sell it to me for a mere $240 a year. Or maybe that’s £240. I got out of there too fast to check whether it was dollars or pounds.


  13. Pingback: Brexit, Covid spikes, and lies: It’s the news from Britain | Notes from the U.K.

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