I doubt I will have anything particularly profound to say but I just wanted to send out a post to check on all our loved ones during these very mad times.
A little update on where we, as a family are:
Otto put the whole homeschooling thing quite succinctly when he described it as the worst type of education imaginable. You’ve got all the work to do; the adult supervisors (this would be us, the parents) are even more of a pain in the arse than teachers and you don’t get to see your mates. Even for someone as advanced in years as I am, it is not impossible for me to cast my mind back to my teenage years and imagine the absolute horror that being locked up with my parents and siblings (sorry Toby and Mary) for an extended period would suppose.
The idea of doing educational projects with my parents at the age of fourteen would have been a thing of unimaginable awfulness. Poor Otto had to sit through The Crucible by Arthur Miller with us over two nights as it is his set text for this term. I even made him put his phone away so that we could really discuss the relevance of the play not only to the McCarthyism of the time when it was written but to the fake news of our own age. I probably looked at him deeply at this point.
So, as any self respecting teenager should, he virtually popped his eyeballs out of their sockets by rolling them so excessively at the preposterous idea that there might be something to be learnt from his own parents. And fair enough, really though he does shoot himself in the foot on this front. He refuses to read anything, listen to anything or watch anything that we recommend. He even takes this to the extreme of not listening to the podcast that he and I did together. His history subject this term is the history of medicine and he won’t even relisten to the three episodes of the podcast that we did on the History of Medicine, they are available here is anyone else wants them.
But if we were to put the whole schoolwork thing to one side for a moment, I have to say Otto is doing pretty well. He is the most amazing big brother to Ava-Jane and I do like to record this here, in this blog about out family. I don’t think he reads this but one day he might so I would like him to see me acknowledge, publicly how vital his support was to getting us through all of this. In the same way that I remember holding him as a tiny infant and thanking him for being easy when we were going through a very difficult time with his mum. I used to whisper in his ear “I owe you a pint my friend”, as I put him to bed knowing that even at a very young age he would just go to sleep thereby giving me one less thing to worry about.
Wow, that’s quite a lot about Otto… He doesn’t get much of a look in in some ways and I am not allowed to post any pictures of him on social media but he does deserve a small doff of the cap. As for the rest of us, well again not too bad overall.
AJ is not quite as well as she has has been. Her seizures have returned but so far not too full on. She does quite like having us all here with her all the time… ALL the time!! Being a Baxter, she is quite the worst student imaginable, like her brother, she really couldn’t give a shit about what we try to teach her but while poor Otto is supposed to be the smart kid, thirsting for knowledge, she hides her disdain for learning behind a cute smile and multiple disabilities and special needs.
As for Fo and Me?? We’re OK, as I have said before, we are pretty good in a crisis. I have gone into absolute complete lockdown and haven’t been in a vehicle for six weeks nor been on public land beyond the two hundred-yard stretch between our front gate and the footpath… and I haven’t even ventured that far for a few weeks. Fo had been to the odd farm shop and done one click-and-collect. We do hang out with the neighbours but we know that they are working to the same regime as us. This might be the way we all need to go in future – have smaller, pod communities that can be confident that everyone is following the same measures, there was an interesting piece about this available here.
What is going to break this almost total lockdown that we have managed to create is Ava-Jane’s medical needs. She has got an appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in early May to see if/when she needs her next heart operation. That should probably be (if)/when, i.e. she will, in all likelihood need another heart operation and she will need it sooner rather than later.
And we have had our instructions already: should she need a heart operation under the current circumstances, and I am sure they will put it off unless it is absolutely imperative that it must go ahead right away, only one carer is allowed to go with her. So either Fo or I will go down to London to spend a week alone by her bedside. It might sound somewhat weird to anyone else but it has always been very bonding for Fo and me when we have had to be be by Ava-Jane’s bedside together. More often than not we are not actually together by her bedside – we alternate and see each other but fleetingly. Sometimes though we have had lovely little interludes in a city when we can spend a little time together. The last time Ava-Jane had a heart operation in London, we had a lovely Spanish meal together in the kind of metropolitan restaurant that we do not see round these ‘ere parts.
So the thought of of waving AJ and Fo (and it will probably be Fo) off, for AJ to be opened up and for them to have to recover alone is heart-breaking (quite literally!). It is very, very hard to spend extended time in hospital, caring for a sickly child – we know this and it will be so much harder to have to do that alone, without respite.
I promised in my last blog post to share a video of me getting my hair cut…
Well enough about us, what about the bigger picture? Well… as you might have noticed I haven’t said anything particularly political here on this blog since the 12th of December 2019. This was the date when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and the debate around Brexit was resolved: those of my persuasion lost and the other lot won. The all-consuming battle of our times about the incredibly important point about whether we should or should not be part of a trading block or not was resolved.
If you feel so inclined, you could scroll back through some of my previous posts to see that I had consistently argued that this whole Brexit hoo-ha was a massive waste of time – a distraction from the real problems that we face. Of course I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as being a thing that would require our full attention, I thought it would be Climate Change, y’know, that whole destruction of the planet that we call home that would make us aware of the irrelevance of Brexit but as it turns out there is something else that needs our attention.
I hardly need tell anyone that we are in the midst of something that none of our existing systems knows how to deal with. We are going to have to reorganise the way our economy works, what our culture is and how we socialise as we come out of this. We will need to have a laser-sharp focus on looking for making the best of a world profoundly shaken up by Covid-19. If we don’t make the best of it, we could all be, at a global level in what might be technically termed in deep doo-doo.
But at the same time that we are facing this massive, epoch changing-future, here in the UK, we have also got this triviality of Brexit to resolve. We are nearly, there, so nearly there. As Boris told us ad nauseam, we have got Brexit done. But, actually… not quite.
We left the EU sometime in January (oooh January doesn’t that feel like an age ago?), then 2020 was supposed to be a transition period during which we would be hammering out all sorts of trade deals with the remaining 27 nations of the EU. I don’t know the details but I think that if these negotiations had not been sorted out by about June or July of this year, we would be leaving the EU on December 31st without a deal.
Cast your minds back a few months when this was the obsession of the nation and remember all those terrible predictions of what a no-deal exit would mean by Remoaners like me – massive economic disruption, unemployment, food and medicine shortages. No one really denied that these would be the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, they just assured us that there would not be a no-deal Brexit.
OK, so to avoid a no-deal Brexit, what we needed was the whole machinery of government from the PM down to the lowliest civil servant absolutely focussed on these very tough negotiations. The window for these very tough negotiations was between the end of January 2020 and June/July, I do apologise for not having at my fingertips whether it is June or July but I think that the point is that it is entirely irrelevant whether it is June or July, who the hell thinks that anyone could have been been negotiating anything of importance anywhere, about anything, between January and June/July 2020?
Our monomaniacal, hegemonic, megalithic PM, the only man capable of driving this Brexit nonsense through was nearly killed by the virus and is, quite rightly, laid up convalescing. So if he is in bed, who is doing the negotiating? It’s May next week, so even by my hazy dating, we have only got two months to sort this out.
But the official line is that Brexit is happening and no extension of the transition period shall be requested nor granted. So if a country, such as Spain, where nearly a million Brits live, asked to just plant this whole thing for while because, y’know, we need to work out where to bury all these dead people piled up in an ice hockey stadium, the answer from the UK government would be “No, our need to leave this trading union is the overriding priority of the day.”
So in the depth of winter, on New Year’s Eve 2020, we will be embarking, alone, unloved, into an unknown future, where all goods that come into this country will need to undergo rigorous checks to see whether they comply with some arbitrary rule that did not exist the day before.
This is madness! Let’s look at one example: yeast. I have been baking our own bread for a few years now. Under the lockdown I am also baking bread for our neighbours. All of a sudden, it is impossible to get hold of yeast because everyone if baking bread. My friend Steve is doing a lot of shopping for us and I asked him to get us some yeast, he chuckled at my optimism, but then, in Tescos, in a virtually denuded aisle, Steve espied two packets of yeast, which he got for me. So our neighbours and us can have bread for a couple of weeks.
Now, I have just checked – this yeast is from Dublin. Will we even have those two packets in the denuded aisle in January 2021?
I don’t want to be remotely alarmist now but people have already died because of this government’s obsession with Brexit. They can deny it all they like but it is quite obvious that Britain did not sign up to an EU scheme to obtain ventilators because this government did not want to look like it was still part of the EU.
I am obviously the worst kind of person to be demanding that the government request an extension of the transition period. I have never wanted us to leave the EU in the first place and I would want as long as a transition period as is possible to imagine if it meant that we could functionally be in the EU for that bit longer. But surely, there must be some sensible Tories, Leavers though they might be, who think that now is not the time to be pressing on with this. Let’s not think that we are cancelling Brexit or anything of the sort but surely we should just chill for a sec on this one. Nothing else is happening, no one is going to the office; no sports are happening; all our social venues have closed down, maybe never to reopen; all non-urgent medical procedures are on hold (see above re AJ); films, concerts, the theatre are all frozen; no one is going anywhere or doing anything – are we really going to push through a potentially revolutionary (that’s “revolutionary” but not in a good way) change right now?