This postcard was prompted by a conversation with an acquaintance, one who had changed his Christian name late in life and then, intriguingly, admitted he would be happy to be called No 16!! It brought back memories of a cult television series from 1967 called The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan plays a secret service agent incarcerated in a village in Wales. The village administrator, No 2 and representing ‘collectivism’, assigns the individualistic McGoohan the title No 6. Any attempt to escape is prevented by an enormous white balloon called Rover. The image of McGoohan lying on the beach, having been chased by Rover in and out of the surf, has stayed embedded in my memory!
The current pandemic has produced a deluge of figures as bad as a Rio tropical rainstorm; statistics and projections, seeking to explain, seeking to reassure, seeking to give us all hope there will be light at the end of the tunnel and that the new world into which we emerge might be better. Notwithstanding the very serious nature of our situation, it’s worth remembering that in the UK about 500,000 people of all shapes and sizes, of all ages, from every background, die every year (about 9600 each week); of those, 170,000 die of cancer and 10% of that figure of winter influenza. This graph explains!
Currently almost 13,000 have died of Covid 19 in the UK, although many of these had underlying health problems; men and the elderly feature most (that’s me!!) Balancing those exiting this life are those entering our world, for example 731,213 babies were born in 2018 here in the UK. (Note 1)
There has been much comment here in the press about people not respecting the government’s guidance about daily exercising. The population of Brighton & Hove is about 290,000; normally there are an additional 180,000 students and tourists but they can be ignored because they are not here! If only 50% of us want to exercise once a day, that’s 145,000 spread, say, over 10 hours, spread over the city of 88 square kilometres that’s a density of 165 people per sqkm per hour. But then you realise the majority of that 88 sqkms is covered by housing and roads, that there will be more popular times to be out running, walking or cycling and most people will be drawn to the flat seaside promenade than the hills behind Tesco. You do the maths …… it’ll be busy! Just a thought for all those people scaremongering and moaning.
When there is not a great deal to smile about, it’s good to read of stories that make one laugh, such as the President of Belarus saying working on a tractor, having more Vodka than normal and a daily sauna will protect you from the virus, or the Russian doctor who claimed, as she walked into a Moscow church, that she felt safe as you couldn’t get the virus in a holy place. For a period here in the UK there was panic buying of loo paper but some weeks on there is now plenty in the shops, not to mention stacked in Mrs Smug’s fourth bedroom. According to Caitlin Moran, a Times Journalist, Americans use TWICE as much loo paper as other Western Nations, about 50lb per person per year. We know that in the US food & beverage portion sizes are enormous but I hadn’t realised that the average American arse needed twice as much paper to clean it than anywhere else! Our chum in Michigan posted that she’d been able to find a 48 roll pack – now I wonder how long that will last her?
Our health is often reduced to a series of numbers and of course we start with a NHS Number; mine is 6124727978 if you’re interested? Height and weight obviously …….
An extract from my PE School Report card circa 1964
……. and now that gets configured into a measure called Body Mass Index (Weight in kilograms divided by height in metres (squared)). To be healthy your BMI should be 18.5 to 25; 25 to 30 is overweight and 30 to 40 Obese. Sixty-four per cent of adults in the UK have a BMI of over 25 giving us the unflattering accolade of being the most obese country in Western Europe. The fattest nation in Europe can’t afford to get any fatter – otherwise the NHS will be inundated with other health issues that being overweight brings – so use the lockdown to stay fit/get fitter.
An optimal blood pressure level is 120/80 mmHg whilst 139/89 mmHg would put you in the higher range. In 2013 I attended a NHS Well Man clinic – and was assessed as having an 83% chance of not having a heart attack. Great I thought …… and then six weeks later had a triple heart bypass ……. so much for statistics and chance …. but someone has to be in that 17%!! Did you ever wonder about the claim that “99.9% of bacteria will be destroyed by this product”? So it’s the 0.1% not killed by it that will get you!
You may be beginning to wonder why I have added ‘24067711’ to the postcard title? Just as those who have fallen foul of the law are often portrayed with a number across their chest in the police mugshot, so I was given a number when I signed up for service in the British Army, at the Brighton Army Careers Office in Queens Street, in early September 1965 – ‘24067711’. Strange to finds myself living here 55 years later – well, in Hove, actually.
The flyleaf of my little pocket-book sized New Testament
Later during officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst we had to endure, among other stuff, the Respirator Confidence test – wearing full NBC kit (trousers, jacket and respirator), standing in a gas chamber full of CS gas (Note 2), you had to remove your respirator and state your number (24067711), rank (Officer Cadet) and name (YATES) …… and then head for the door to spew up your breakfast in the fresh air outside. It’s worth remembering that the use of chemical or biological weapons by the Warsaw Pact in any conflict was considered likely and NATO had to be prepared.
Part 2 of this postcard on numbers will follow shortly.
Richard 16th April 2020
Note 1. Just to keep a perspective on these numbers, some 3 million people died from Typhus in World War 1 on Germany’s Eastern Front. My own grandfather died aged 49 in the 1936 TB epidemic in England; my mother was 16.
Note 2.The compound 2- chlorobenzalmalononitrile, a cyanocarbon, is the defining component of tear gas, commonly referred to as CS gas, used as a riot-control agent. NBC stands for Nuclear Biological Chemical.