I’ll be back soon with something more sensible.
I’ll be back soon with something more sensible.
Since Britain can’t get on the sun’s schedule more than once a measly month, going abroad in the summer is a Big Deal here. Preferably to places with sun, pools, and German tourists to be outraged by. So opening the doors and letting the British public go abroad looks like a measure of success to a government overwhelmed by the bad pandemic choices it’s made,
So the government made a list of countries Britons could visit safely, then it opened the doors and it said, “Have fun, kiddies. Don’t get sunburned.”
Of course they got sunburned. They’re British.
So far, so good, but Spain went and had a spike of Covid cases and Britain’s announced that anyone coming home from Spain will have to isolate themselves for fourteen days. That did three things: It made the government look like it was protecting us; it made the tourists already in Spain, along with the travel and aviation industries, furious; and it encouraged people who’d planned to go to Spain to cancel their plans.
Spain was and is (predictably, given how much of its economy depends on tourism) mad enough to spit tacks. The spikes, it said–
Okay, it didn’t say. Countries don’t really talk. The spikes, its spokefolks said, are regional. Travelers who’ve been visiting spikeless parts of Spain shouldn’t be quarantined. Heroically resisting any urge to be catty, Spain’s prime minister pointed out that most of the country has a lower infection rate than the U.K.
“It would be safer to be in [parts of Spain] than in the United Kingdom,” he said.
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, Spain’s also implying that the spike is at least in part a result of increased testing, which catches asymptomatic cases–something the UK would do well to look for.
Except that, stop the press, Britain’s been giving this quarantine business some thought and you know what? We might just cut it from fourteen days to ten. Because we’ve got, you know, testing. And we could use that, couldn’t we, to see if people are carrying the virus?
Why, yes we could.
Could we have thought of this earlier? Possibly, but we didn’t take the time.
We’ll get back to you about this ASAP. As soon as we know what our plans really are.
Figuring out what it means that a country has a certain number of cases is, genuinely, a problem. If you test more–and that’s still the best way to control the virus–you find more cases. If you find more cases, you look like the thing’s gone out of control, although what it may mean is that you’re getting it under control. If, being a headline-based government, you resist the urge to test more, the thing really is likely to get–or stay–out of control, and that doesn’t look good either.
One thing Britain hasn’t bungled is its work on medical responses to the coronavirus. The UK Recovery Trial is conducting randomized tests on a variety of medicines you can’t pronounce– and neither can I in case I made you feel bad for a moment there.
They started work when Wuhan’s lockdown meant that Chinese researchers had so few enough cases to work with that drug trials came to a halt, and with the virus clearly headed for Britain they worked at high speed, taking nine days to do work that would normally take nine months, from drafting protocols to enrolling patients.
Large trials need more patients than any single hospital can supply, and the existence of the National Health Service made it easy for them to enroll patients from multiple hospitals. Even better, the UK’s high death rates meant that at the beginning they had plenty of available cases.
Every cloud has a silver lining, not to mention a cough and a fever. And sometimes a headache.
To date, they’ve shown that neither hydroxychloroquine or a combination of two drugs used for HIV help with the virus but that the steroid dexamethasone does. They’re currently testing an antibiotic called azithromycin; an antibody called tocilizumab, and convalescent plasma–blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from the disease.
I can pronounce convalescent plasma. Forget the rest of them.
The bad news is that because fewer people are being hospitalized in Britain (yes, every silver lining has a cloud as well), they have a smaller group of patients to recruit from, so research is moving more slowly.
The New York Times has been tracking Covid-related medical trials. One that’s been in the news lately is work on monoclonal antibodies, which is satisfyingly easy to type.
These are, more or less, a designer form of convalescent plasma. Instead of taking the whole range of a recovering patient’s antibodies, some of which will be as irrelevant to Covid as my photos are to my posts, they isolate the ones that look most potent, then replicate them synthetically and inject them into a patient.
Safety trials–the earliest stage of testing–have only just started.
The Times also has a vaccine tracker if you want to take a look. Their Covid coverage isn’t behind a paywall.
Can we abandon both the virus and the UK for a minute? A Texas state legislator, Jonathan Stickland, read a report about the Pentagon having an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force and felt the need to tweet, “IF aliens are real, salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way they enter Heaven.”
And you’re telling us this why, Jon? In case they read Twitter? In case their sat-navs (in American, those are their GPSs) aren’t working?
It does raise the question of whether, if Christian beliefs (pick any strand you like) are correct, other planets couldn’t expect to get their own saviours or would have to ride on ours. And whether they’d be prone to different evils, which for the sake of simplicity I’ll agree to call sins.
Interplanetary theology is going to be complicated.
Want your feelgood story of the day? A family made up of parents, kids, and a huge honkin’ St. Bernard dog named (well, of course) Daisy climbed Scafell Pike–England’s highest mountain–and Daisy collapsed and couldn’t walk down.
Daisy weighs 8 stone 9 pounds, or to put that in European, 55 kilos. Or in American, 121.25 pounds. You might be happy to carry that much weight down a mountain if it was neatly bundled into a backpack, but you’d struggle to even pick it up if it was distributed into the shape of a large, floppy dog.
The family called the Mountain Rescue Team, and two hours later a team of sixteen appeared, carrying a stretcher but not the cask of–was it supposed to be rum that St. Bernards carried around their necks when they were the ones doing mountain rescue? Or was that brandy?
It took the team five hours to carry her down.
A long-time rescue team member said, “The team rescues canine casualties around a dozen times every year but this was the first time a St Bernard breed has been rescued by the team.
“Some might ask: ‘why rescue a dog?’ but our mission is to save life and alleviate distress. You can’t leave a dog on a mountain.”
C’mon, admit it, you tough old thing: You feel better, don’t you?
June 26 is Bring Your Dog to Work Day. This seems to be a British event, although the website I found doesn’t say so. The clues are: 1) A picture of a dog named Winston, 2) a reference to rescuing dogs in London (although there’s also a reference to rescuing some in Asia, which discerning readers will notice covers a larger area than London), and 3) a .co.uk URL. Once you get past all that, your guess is confirmed by a British phone number in 3.25-point type at the bottom.
You’re welcome to mark the day wherever you are. Especially if you’re working from home. As Jane Bernal pointed out on Facebook in response to my Bring your Cat to Work Day post, with social distancing and all, shouldn’t we have been celebrating Bring Your Work to Cat Day?
We should have. So even if your dog likes to travel, even if you’ve gone back to work, call in tomorrow. Explain that it’s Bring Your Work to Dog Day. You’re staying in.
Let no one say I hide from the tough topics. I asked what you wanted to hear about and I got questions about budget cuts (destructive), mental health services (needed more than ever given the budget cuts), British television (mixed but I’m not much of a TV watcher these days), and what the British think of Americans (long story). So let’s start with the heavy-duty stuff and talk about the British and their pets. This is justified because Sandy Sue wrote, “I’d love to hear about Brits and their pets. In one post you said they don’t holler for their animals like we do–I loved that. More!”
Dogs played an important part in introducing us to the village. Wild Thing has a gift for starting conversations with pretty much anyone, and if she sees someone with a dog she stops to talk if she can. In any country. In Kate Fox’s book Watching the English, I read that dogs are an accepted conversation starter. A bit like the weather. They’re a nice neutral topic that allows shy people to connect, and Fox writes about the English as a publicly shy people. The national assumption is that each person goes into the public sphere surrounded by an invisible privacy bubble and it would be rude to break in. Commuters who see each other morning after morning may, after a year or so, go all out and nod to each other. Which is why they need pre-programmed topics—the weather, the dog, the whatever—in order to break out and enjoy a bit of human companionship.
Lucky us that Wild Thing’s quirks fit so well with the country’s. Our acquaintances and then friendships in the village grew out of Ida’s habit of talking about dogs. When we first came here as visitors, we met a few dogs, and through them a few people, and through them a few more people, and here we are, all these years later, still pestering them.
One of the first things Wild Thing noticed was that if you asked people about their dogs, a certain number of them would tell you entire tales: She’s a rescue dog and she’s settled in wonderfully but she’s still afraid of people with hats. Oh, he’s had a difficult day—he saw the vet this morning. Last week she was stung by a bee and it’s been very traumatic. These weren’t just dogs we were hearing about. Each one was the central character in a novel.
I don’t know if more people adopt abandoned dogs in the U.K. than in the U.S., but I do know we hear about it more often. Stop to admire a dog and if it’s a rescue dog that’s the first thing you’ll learn. Which leads me to wonder not only if more people adopt rescue dogs here but if more people abandon them. Or is it that more of them find a home? Or do we just hear about it more because people need the outlet of talking about their dogs?
Dogs are welcome in more public places here than in—well, it’s hard to generalize about the U.S., but certainly than in Minnesota. Lots of cafes and pubs welcome them. If we’re not sure and don’t see a sign in the window, we’ve learned to poke our heads through the door and ask. A few even offer dog biscuits. Some set water bowls outside the door, whether or not dogs are welcome inside. At singers night in the nearby pub, dogs are a regular part of the mix. Every so often one will add a well-timed howl and be welcomed with general hysteria. One of the organizers has a small repertoire of dog songs that he’ll sing at times like that. Mostly, though, the dogs are content to listen and hope someone will drop a sandwich.
As a result of being taken more places (or I’m guessing it’s a result), dogs are generally more relaxed in public than a small and unscientific survey leads me to believe they are in the U.S. I do hear and read about aggressive dogs, but so far our experience has been good. A bit of growling now and then, the occasional pup who’s too big and enthusiastic its brain, but mostly they get along peaceably and behave well. Even if one or another of them howls at a song. We’ve all wanted to once in a while, haven’t we?
We’ve usually warned away from snappish ones by their owners.
In Minnesota, state law governed where dogs could and couldn’t be taken. A coffee shop near our old house let dogs in because they couldn’t see a reason not to, and it worked well until they got caught by an inspector from the Minnesota Department of Dog Fur and General Bad Behavior and received a couple of stern warnings. They still couldn’t bear to kick dogs out but we took pity on them and stopped bringing ours in. Other dog-owning regulars did the same. Then the state passed a law that made it illegal to tie a dog outside while you went in for coffee. No, it didn’t specify coffee. It could have been shampoo or a bottle of milk. But it limited what people could do with their dogs. We could walk them and take them back home. We could keep them at home, and we could let them out in the yard if we had a way to keep them inside it. But we couldn’t integrate them into our lives the way we can here.
Because I live in the country, people keep other pets and semi-pets. On the other side of the valley, B. keeps peacocks. Come spring we hear them yelling something that sounds like “Help! Help!” The peahens want nothing more out of their lives than to lead their chicks onto the road and wander up and down it, and I’ve learned to slow down near B.’s house. The peacocks like the road as well. One year I saw the local half-size bus herding a peacock down the road toward me at maybe half a mile per hour. As the bird walked, he threw his feet forward—not quite in a goosestep but it was close enough to make me understand why they named the step after a bird. He had his fan spread and was yelling furiously for help, or for reinforcements. When he got to the house and no reinforcements had come, he stepped aside and let the bus through.
I didn’t have a camera.
Any number of people keep chickens and a few keep geese. Some of these are just chickens and geese and some are pets. One year two of M.’s chickens died, leaving her with just one, which was so lonely she’d follow M. from place to place as she worked in the garden and would sit on the windowsill when M. went in. Eventually M. got another hen or two and the chicken went back to acting like a chicken.
M.’s hens are battery hens that aren’t laying as heavily as they used to and would otherwise be slaughtered. They come to her practically featherless and in terrible shape, hardly knowing what to do with the great outdoors. Then before long they feather out and start pecking.
A few years back, someone not far from the village adopted a lamb with a broken leg that she found on the moor. She located the farmer and told him about it and the farmer offered to shoot it, so she loaded the lamb in the car, got its leg set, and raised it until it became a ram and a bit of a handful, when she found someone with a smallholding who was willing to take it. By that time, it didn’t consider itself a sheep anymore and didn’t settle in well with the other sheep. Eventually it made itself a home with the horses.
And then, of course, there are cats.
When the stray we adopted, Big Guy, disappeared a couple of weeks ago, we put a note on the village Facebook page, which is all you have to do to activate the village network. For a while, the comments were all about I hope you find him and next time try putting butter on his feet the first time you let him out. Then last Saturday night we got a phone call: The Big Guy had showed up outside S.’s house, yelling his head off, and they were feeding him. They’d heard he was ours. The kids wanted to adopt him and the parents were being won over. They said he was shy about coming inside but they’d made him a space on the porch, where the boiler is, so it’s warm. Their house is just downhill from where he was first found. Apparently that’s where he wants to live. It’s got a beautiful view and I guess he likes it. Wild Thing told them that he didn’t seem happy here, so if they were willing to keep him that would be great.
I stopped by on Sunday morning to bring them some cat food left when Moggy died. Fast Eddie still eats kitten food. And dog food. He plans to be a dog when he grows up. Anyway, I stopped by and there was the Big Guy, cuddling with one of the kids. He was happy to see me but not as if he’d been lost and I’d found him. He was indeed a bit shy about coming into the house but when he saw a bowl of cat food he decided he’d take the risk. It’s hard to know whether he’ll stay, but he does seem to like the neighborhood, they’re treating him well, and I think he’s found a home. Even if they do call him Marvin—Starvin’ Marvin.
While I was down there, Wild Thing got a call from S.’s neighbors, who reported that the Big Guy had been trying to get into their house. Then A. called. She thought she’d seen the Big Guy at yet another house in the neighborhood and she’d gone to ask if he was their cat but they don’t have a cat.
Oh, and W. thought he’d seen the Big Guy running across a back road nearby.
It takes a village to find a cat. And in Big Guy’s case, to house one. For the moment, though, he’s housed and fed, which is good because it’s been raining a lot and the wind has been so strong that during some of the gusts I couldn’t walk into it.
How is this any different from the U.S.? People in our old neighborhood people also put themselves out to care for cats. One of ours, the much-loved Big Ol’ Red Cat, was a stray who was taken in initially by our neighbor, D. But she couldn’t keep him because the cat she already had was pounding on him, so she brought him to us and he settled in happily. The underlying feeling about cats was the same. But in a city a cat can fall off the radar without wandering far. Just like a person can. Living in the city, you end up with a series of short stories. In a village, you hear the entire novel.
Cats: Our oldest cat, Moggy, died a couple of weeks back. She was 18 or 19. Or maybe 20. She was a rescue cat, so we never really knew her age and she didn’t much care so we never got a sensible answer out of her on the subject. She’s much missed, but we figured it was time to let Fast Eddie be the only cat.
Ha. M. and J. had a very friendly stray desperate for a home and yelling bloody murder outside their house and since J.’s allergic the cat’s now at our house and settling in nicely, thanks. We call him the Big Guy.
He’s not thrilled that we have a dog, but he’s likes the food bowl and the amount of attention he’s getting. We’re checking around to see if we can find his original owner. He’s a lovely cat and somebody somewhere misses him. The going theory is that he jumped in a delivery van and ended up here.
The dog? All she wants to do is knock him down, stand on him, and clean his ears. Which she considers a friendly gesture. We kept them separate for a few days and she had a hard time with it.
At this point, we can leave them in the same room together as long as we’re there to keep the peace. He and Fast Eddie doing fine. I’ll add some new Fast Eddie photos to the Kitten, cat, and dog page for you cat-picture addicts. So there you have the dog and cat update. It’s totally irrelevant to the blog’s topic.
Questions: Actually, that’s only one question: Do you have a topic you’d like me to address, either about the U.S. or Britain? Let me know what it is and—well, if you’ve been around for a while you know what I’m like. If it grabs me I’ll write about it. I may even be informative—you never know. So give me a push and let’s see what direction we head in. And yes, I’m ending a sentence with a preposition. Because in English it just makes sense.
This has happened to me twice now: I was walking the dog—a lovely cluster of fluff and enthusiasm—when another dog walker stopped some 20 feet away and asked, “Is that a dog?”
I looked at her as if I needed to check. Half of me did it to play along with the gag and the other half did it because the question was so strange that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to check. Yes, she was still a dog. Small, I grant you, but so am I. It doesn’t change what we are.
I looked back up.
“Um, yes,” I said. Even the second time, when I knew better.
The other person, both times, reeled his own dog in, explaining that the dog’s snappish with other males, although he’d be fine if my dog were a bitch.
By this time, I understood what the other dog walker saying—bitch, female; dog, male—but excuse me, you can’t call my dog a bitch, and while we’re at it, you can’t tell me my dog’s not a dog. I mean look at her, she’s down there wagging her tail. My cats don’t do that. You want bitch, buddy, talk to me.
But that little drama plays out in my head. When you live in a village you don’t run around starting wars on a whim. Or, yeah, some people do, but their wars enter to gossip chain and circulate forever. Think of it this way: The village keyboard has no Delete button. And whoever you just started a war with? You’ll run into them for the rest of your life.
I admit, I wouldn’t have started a war over this if I was still living in a city. It’s too silly, and I’m not that quick to fly off the handle. But living in a village colors the way I don’t say it. I kept the vague smile that had landed on my face I was first asked if my dog was a dog and I said, “Oh. That. Female. She’s female.”
At which point, both times, the other person let his dog approach and they gave each other a good sniff. The first time, the dog who would have been fine if my dog had been a bitch turned bitchy himself and snapped at her before being hauled off. Which goes to show you something, although I’m damned if I know what.
I won’t swear that any of this is particularly English. We have dog breeders in the U.S., and they probably talk about dogs and bitches, but no one in the States ever asked me if my dog was a dog. Not once.