Well, damn. As the only one in my immediate family never to have had it, I really thought I was going to get away with it.

A lateral flow test for COVID-19,showing  positive result.
Positive

Boosted

Just got my booster vaccination. I now have a dose of Moderna sloshing around my veins. So we’ll see how that interacts with the previous two Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.

Yes, we should be sending all this extra vaccine to poorer countries, because that would be the right thing to do, the moral thing. But even for self-preservation, we should be doing that. Every infected person is a mutation factory, so the fewer infected people there are in the world, the less chance there is of a mutation that’s vaccine-resistant or worse.

That’s self-preservation on a societal scale. But that same sense, at a personal level, lets me say, if they’re offering it here, I’m going to take it.


Not So Quiet

Just over a year ago I was posting, in passing, about ‘the quiet of early lockdown.’ Actually that particular phrase was a quote, but I was definitely aware of how quiet things were outside.

Including – particularly, in fact – in our back gardern. We live in a terrace, which means there are other people’s back gardens in all directions around us, and quite close. A year ago it was quiet, not just from the lack of cars in the distance, of planes overhead, but also because no one much was in their gardens.

Today, it’s a cacophony: music playing, dishes clattering, children shouting… I guess it’s part of our return to ‘normal’ – or toward ‘normal,’ at least. But it’s strange. It suggests that, last year in spring and early summer, people were scared to go out, not just into the streets, into shops, but into their own gardens.

No one caught Covid over a garden fence. Or so I imagine. At the same time, it didn’t hurt to be cautious.


Two Weeks

They say the vaccines give maximum resistance ‘two to three weeks’ after the second dose. I hit the two-week mark yesterday, and now consider myself ‘maxinated,’ more or less.

So I’m going swimming later today. It has been approximately fifteen and a half months since I last swam. Back in February 2020 and the preceding months, I was going two or three times a week, most weeks. So I’ve missed it.

I had hoped to go to London Fields Lido: start outdoors, to keep things maximally safe. But it’s all booked up till Monday, so I’m going to the much closer, but less busy, King’s Hall, my local pool.

Both, predictably, require bookings, so there’s little chance of them being crowded.

In other covidian matters, remember back in March last year, when I shared a video of someone showing how to clean your shopping? And then I quickly walked it back, on better advice? Well, at that point we were already wiping down all items arriving in the house, much as the guy in the video was doing. And we continued to do it. I’ve used more antiseptic wipes this last year than I’ve owned in any previous year.

Yes, we soon learned that Covid was almost entirely transferred by air, and hardly by surfaces at all (though we also learned the word ‘fomite'). But the idea that anything crossing the threshold was a potential infection vector burned deep, and remained.

Now, post vaccination, post maxination, will we keep on doing that? Probably not. It’d be nice to get the time back when bringing the shopping home or receiving a delivery. But I don’t know, it could take a while to stop feeling suspicious of things that have come in from out there.

Covid has made germophobes of us all.


Vax 2

Got my second dose of the vaccine today, just about an hour and a half ago. Down to a local pharmacy, fifteen minutes early for my appointment, and home before my actual appointment time. It was empty! Worryingly so. Why aren’t people queuing up to get their jags?

Me with the pharmacy in the background
Me, after vaccination, with the pharmacy in the background

Saw a guy in a shop just now and his ‘face covering’ was a bandana. That was me a year ago! Get up to date, jimmy!


Astral Zen

Phase one complete, for me. I’m not long back from the vaccination centre (a vacant unit at the Westfield shopping centre, slightly weirdly) where I got my first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. I can feel my immune system surging, boosted with superpowers, and a strange, unearthly calm descend upon me.

I exaggerate. But it feels pretty damn good to have taken this step. I don’t get the next one until June, and it’s not like we’ll be out of the woods even then; not even personally, and certainly not the country or the world. Especially given the panic over a statistically meaningless set of blood clots, and the news today that the UK’s supply is going to be temporarily constrained.

But considering that it’s only just over year since we learned about this virus and the terrible disease it brings, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate the scientists and doctors who were able to develop the vaccines so quickly. Not to mention all the NHS staff who are getting it to people.


Corona Vu

This article was in yesterday’s Independent. I felt like I had travelled back in time to last May:

Crucially, the report, which was written by independent experts, concludes that NHS guidelines failed to consider airborne infection, a key way the virus is transmitted.

– Sean Russel in the Independent, NHS Covid guidelines ‘fundamentally flawed’ and need replacing, says nursing union

It further says:

But research now suggests that airborne transmission – where tiny droplets of saliva from people talking, calling out or coughing can remain suspended in the air – can be a particular problem in poorly-ventilated rooms.

– As above, Independent article

‘Now’? Research now suggests that it’s airborne? We’ve known that since at least June of last year. In fact, I first posted about masks, and about going out with a rudimentary one, in early April!

How can NHS guidelines be so ludicrously far from what we understand? It would be comically far if it wasn’t so serious.


A Year Passes Like Nothing

It’s exactly a year since I last went out to an event.1

I referred to ‘being out on a cold, virus-infested night’ to see Glen Matlock in Leytonstone, and it seems really weird now that I did it.

What were we thinking? Gathering together in a small hall, where people were singing and shouting. And not a mask to be seen! Masks? who had masks? How would we have drunk our beer while wearing a mask? You probably wouldn’t have been let in if you had turned up wearing a mask.

Although I had good social distancing at the start, when I was almost the only one there.

Memory, eh?


  1. I actually thought it was on the last day of February 2020, which was the 29th, not the 28th, making it hard to hit the exact anniversary, but my blog and calendar both tell me I was wrong. ↩︎


These days I double-mask
These days I double-mask -- as well as using tape

Yesterday I tried removing my taped-on mask slowly, and it was actually much better. So I rescind my advice from the day before about removing it quickly.


Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up by Sticking the Top of Your Mask to Your Face Using Micropore Tape

The problem

If, like all sensible people, you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you go out these days; and if, like me and millions of others, you wear glasses; then you will have experienced your breath causing your glasses to steam up.

The cause is a fundamental flaw in mask design: the mask fabric makes a straight line from our cheeks to the bridge of our noses, leaving a gap between face and mask seam. Most of our out-breaths are directed that way, just by taking the path of least resistance.

Some masks have a wire insert that lets you mould the top section around your nose. I find that improves things, but is still imperfect. There are always gaps.

The Bigger Problem

This means that the masks are not as effective as they should be for their primary purpose. All that warm, damp air that’s condensing on our glasses is also the air that might be carrying virus particles.

So while this solution helps with the steamed-up glasses problem, it also helps to make masks more effective, by ensuring that more of our potentially-poisonous breath goes through the fabric.

The Solution

It’s quite simple: apply a strip of micropore tape to the section of the mask that goes over the bridge of your nose, and seal it down well.

A COVID-19-type facemask lying on a surface alongside a roll of micropore tape.
Mask and Micropore

Micropore tape is normally used for fixing dressings on wounds, so it’s designed to stick to skin and come off with minimal fuss (though see below).

The roll we had when I thought of this is quite wide, so I’ve been folding a piece over and attaching it to the inside of the mask (at @FranChats’s suggestion).

A COVID-19-type facemask with a piece of micropore tape attached.
Mask With Micropore

As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.

A balding man (the author) wearing a COVID-19-type facemask and glasses.
Martin With Mask With Micropore

And it’s not actually visible when the mask is on.

The New Problems: Removal, and Sensitivity

Taking the taped mask off is the worst part, in my experience. I’ve been doing it quickly: take off my glasses (otherwise they might go flying across the room); unhook the ear loops and take a firm grip of them; close my eyes; then tug sharply forward.1

It can make your eyes water, but honestly, for clear vision outside on these cold days, it’s worth it.

Removing it slowly might be better for some people. And the whole thing will not be for some. If you have very sensitive skin, or get a reaction to the adhesive, then this won’t be for you. But if you can take it, I highly recommend it.

Lastly, my pictures show a reusable mask, but it works for disposables too.


  1. Though see my later post. I think I’ll be doing it slowly from now on. ↩︎


Covid Track

This is one of our local parks. Look at that desire-line track, fading into the distance (click or tap on the picture to see it bigger).

A footpath worn in grass across a park.
A path made by many people, avoiding each other

The paved footpath is off to the right. That track – a simple, direct route, that avoids the footpath – wasn’t there a year ago. The novel coronavirus changes the landscape.


The Monster (Wear a Mask!)

Dr Sayed Tabatabai writes beautifully about the horror of working in an ICU at the moment.

Sometimes when people sound quieter and calmer during a respiratory issue it’s a sign of impending doom.

You can’t make noise if you can’t breathe.

– Dr Sayed Tabatabai, The Monster

Go read. It’s a Twitter thread. Only 22 tweets. ThreadReaderApp doesn’t seem to be working.

And please: start wearing a face covering if you ever go out.


Lying Sack

Nice to see the gentle description of Mary Wakefield in Wikipedia this morning:

The start of Mary Wakefield's Wikipedia entry, this morning

In case you don’t know, Wakefield is married to Dominic Cummings. She works for The Spectator, and wrote the now-famous piece about her and Cummings’s experience suffering from Covid-19. All without mentioning their drive across the country.

Hence the delightful opening – now removed, predictably – in Wikipedia, describing her as “a lying sack of potatoes”.


Good piece by Margaret Atwood about… what everything’s about, these days.

Any child growing up in Canada in the 1940s, at a time before there were vaccines for a horde of deadly diseases, was familiar with quarantine signs. They were yellow and they appeared on the front doors of houses. They said things such as DIPHTHERIA and SCARLET FEVER and WHOOPING COUGH. Milkmen – there were still milkmen in those years, sometimes with horse-drawn wagons – and bread men, ditto, and even icemen, and certainly postmen (and yes, they were all men), had to leave things on the front doorsteps. We kids would stand outside in the snow – for me, it was always winter in cities, as the rest of the time my family was up in the woods – gazing at the mysterious signs and wondering what gruesome things were going on inside the houses. Children were especially susceptible to these diseases, especially diptheria – I had four little cousins who died of it – so once in a while a classmate would disappear, sometimes to return, sometimes not.


I wish I hadn’t shared that video earlier. Seems like much of the advice is not so good. Thirty-three tweets from a food microbiologist starting here, or unrolled by the ThreadReader app here.


This video on how to deal with your food shopping is good. I’m alarmed to hear that some coronaviruses can live frozen for — two years, I think he said? So buying open bread from the bakers and freezing it is probably not as safe as I had thought.


I just got a text from the government about the new regime. I assume everyone did. I didn’t know they could do that. It just has this link.


Venturing Out: A Status Report from Hackney

I had cause to go to Westfield in Stratford the other day. It looked like this at about noon:

IMG 3608

The Levis shop was open. I was picking up some jeans that had been in for repair. That’s a good note for when this is all over, incidentally. If your Levis wear into holes or get torn, most of their shops offer a repair service now. They may have done for years; I only learned about it a month or so back. But it means that for significantly less than a new pair of jeans, I have two good-as-new pairs, including the ones which were already my favourites. One antidote to fast fashion.

There was almost no-one around, and no-one was getting very close to anyone. In Lakeland I was able to get a refill (really, replacement) for one of our SodaStream CO2 cylinders. But they didn’t have any new ones. It seems unlikely that those have been panic-bought, but I was thinking of getting an extra one in case it becomes hard to get replacements, so others might have been ahead of me.

In and out within half an hour, and the parking was the least I’ve ever paid at Westfield: £3. I wouldn’t normally drive if I wasn’t buying much, but getting on the Overground would have been the opposite of social distancing.

Or maybe not, if it had been as empty as the mall.

But just yesterday I gave my daughter a lift to a friend’s house — same idea, avoid the bus — and up in Stamford Hill at around 4:30pm it was really busy with pedestrians. A lot of cars on the road, too. Maybe that was normal or less than, for that time on a Tuesday, though.

Dropped into the wee Sainsbury’s on the way back. No fresh fruit or veg at all. Most tinned goods and bread gone — no toilet rolls, obviously — plenty of snacks and crisps, surprisingly. Either panic-buyers prefer healthy options, or Sainsbury’s are quicker at getting unhealthy supplies back.

I have to confess to feeling a small amount of smugness at having stocked up over the last year or so. Brexit was the initial trigger, but I soon realised that having a supply of non-perishable items is actually pretty useful. If you can afford to buy a bit extra from time to time, and you’ve got the space to store it all, of course.

On the other hand, meals are going to get dull really fast without a regular supply of fresh things.

But if that’s the most we have to worry about, we’re doing better than many. I hope you are coping OK, dear reader.