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  • Let's Pretend...

    ... this is New Zealand!

    As the first week of my holiday draws to a close, and Glasgow remains in Level 3 (no surprise there) I am in pretend New Zealand, with a view across Auckland harbour behind me.

    Hard to believe though it is, it's over seven years since I went there, and a heck of a lot of water has flown under assorted bridges along the way.

    Next week I will have to choose some more pretend venues to visit, but for the weekend, it's back home to wash the real clothes, do the actual housework and rest after this pretend globe-trotting! 

  • Holiday at Home (A Virtual European Tour and More)

    Earlier this year, I booked my 'holiday' blocks of annual leave, with no idea if travel might or might not be possible.  So, I booked a two-week block straddling the end of May and start of June, hoping that, if the 'road maps' were anything like right, I'd at least get some day trips.  Ah well, it wasn't to be, at least not in week one.

    As I began to ponder how to spend my time, I recalled something that had been hugely popular in churches in Leicestershire, which was effectively a holiday Bible club for older adults called 'Holiday at Home'.  Low key evangelism coupled with honest companionship, the premise was simple - you went on holiday for a week without having to travel.  Each day, guests would arrive for morning coffee and optional themed activities before enjoying a two course themed lunch.   In the afternoon there would entertainment (a singer, a conjurer, a tea dance, whatever people could offer), tea and cake and then a short epilogue/songs of praise/talk.  Often there would a coach trip to a local place of interest. As evangelism, I suspect it wasn't hugely effective, but as pastoral care and broader community engagement, it was priceless, and much valued by those who visited 'pretend France' or took a 'virtual cruise'; one group even went on a 'virtual safari!'

    So, this week, I am emulating that for myself.  On Monday I stocked up with ingredients to cook dishes from the places I planned to 'visit' and set out my itinerary.

    Yesterday I was in 'pretend Rome' and met my online prayer cell at the 'pretend Colosseum' before taking a walk along the 'pretend Tiber' (Clyde) and joining a friend for a Zoom coffee alongside the 'pretend Trevi fountain'.  It was fun hunting out photos to use as a virtual background on Zoom, and I enjoyed cooking Italian food for the day.

    Today I am on 'pretend Malta' and typing this as the filling I made for 'pastizzi' (pea cakes) cools.  I have an idea where today's walk will take me as I call to mind visits to the walled city of Mdina and the, sadly no longer there, Azure Window of Gozo.

    Tomorrow is pretend Crete (with a bit of real world Glasgow Zoom thrown in) before Friday's Zoom to Australia means a pretend day trip to Auckland, NZ.

    In between leafing through old photos and cooking national foods, I have a jigsaw and a couple of 'feel good' books to read as I relax in my 'pretend villa' which comes complete with cats!

    Maybe one day, it will be possible to do a 'Holiday at Home' with and for others, but for now, it's keeping me entertained in what might otherwise be just one more week of the same old streets.

  • When Negative is Postive!

    Recently, it became popssible for anyone at all to obtain, free of charge, lateral flow testing kits for Covid.  This is not mandatory or compulsory, though in areas of higher prevalence it is encouraged.

    It's certainly true that I can go for days on end without seeing another human being 'in the flesh', and mostly when I do it's for a few seconds, to pay for something with contactless payment.  Even so, there remains a small, and finite, risk.

    Although Glasgow remains in Level 3 for a week or more, things have opeend up quite a lot, and I have begun to meet up with people in cafes.  Whilst I limit this to no more than one 'group' per day, it means I increase the risk.  So, I took a conscious decision to start doing twice a week, lateral flow tests at home.  So far, four tests/two weeks later, so negative - which is good!  The photo is today's (with identifiying marks blanked out).

    The bottom line is, I would hate to take the risk, however small, of  passing on the virus to someone who is vulnerable, unwell, immunocompromised, unvaccinated or EoL, when a quick test could have prevented that.  It's worth a few moments of my time, and a little bit of discomfort to know that, no more than three days ago, I was 'negative'.  For sure, the tests aren't perfect, but an imperfect test is better then no test at all.

    Doing the swab takes a matter of seconds.  I have a strong gag reflex it seems, and touching my tonsils makes me gag, but I have learned to breath deeply, do the four swipes on one side, then take a moment before swabbing the other side.  Swabbing my nose is a bit uncomfortable (if it hurts you have probably gone too far up) but way less so than the so-called 'discomfort' of a smear test (sorry men) and no worse than the MRSA swabs were a few years ago.  It's worth a few seconds of unpleasantness for the measure of reassurance I get get thirty minutes later when a single red line next to the C is a 'negative'  result, and I am 'good to go' for a few days.

    On Thursday of this week I will get my second dose of vaccine, and two to three weeks after that will be as 'covered' as I can be, at least until/unless boosters are needed. For now, and unless/until someone declares there no longer to be a need, I will keep on testing and keep on reporting, as, together, we do our best to negotiate the complex journey to the 'Beyond' of which we dream.

  • Out Out!

    As the relaxation of Covid restrictions continues, I have begun to gather small groups of church folk (who wish to) to meet up for coffee and a chat out of doors - we are permitted up to six people from six households outside.

    On Sunday, the first group met - it was cold, and I took a blanket with me to keep my legs warm!  But it was really good to see actual flesh and blood people rather than boxes on a screen.

    Like around 30% of people int he UK,. I live alone, and having no-one with whom to form an 'extended household' the past fourteen months are so have been such that most days I don't speak to anyone face-to-face.  Indeed, at one point I sat down and reflected that the only indoor conversations I had, the lasted more than a minute to pay at a supermarket till, were with the medical professionals who checked my teeth or eyesight, took blood or injected vaccines into my arm.  What's sobering is that that is the 'normal' and unchosen experience of so many older people.

    Last Friday, I met with two ministers in a garden to plan a joint 'blended' service; Sunday, as illustrated with three folk from church; and yesterday, I took a train to meet one person in an indoor cafe setting.

    At one level, I smile at the absurdity of considering these as being 'out out', at another, I simply delight in the possibilties that are becoming possible because most people have kept most of the rules most of the time.

    For food, and friends and fellowship, God's holy name be praised!