PC 206 Chewing The Fat

I caught up with Celina’s cousin Toni in Estoril, Portugal on Saturday and spent some time just ‘chewing the fat’ (Note 1). In Brazilian or Portuguese I am told the equivalent is ‘passar o tempo’ but that sounds like ‘passing the time’ and I sense our saying has greater depth. There was an old-fashioned phrase ‘chewing the rag’ where the word ‘chew’ meant simply ‘to say’ and ‘rag’ was slang for tongue. ‘Chewing the fat’ I can understand, maybe getting my teeth into some delicious pork scratchings; no good if you are vegetarian or vegan!! My mother used to ‘chew the cud’ when she was concentrating on some sewing job; exactly like a cow seems to chew the inside of its cheek, although this is actually ruminating. (Note 2)

I digress. We had called Toni on WhapsApp as it was his birthday. I brought him up to date about life here in the UK and mentioned that I had just read the obituary of Eric Mark (Jun 1922 – Nov 2020), a German-born Jew who had worked as a ‘listener’ at high-ranking German Officer POW camps in England during WWII. It was Mark who, through listening to bugged conversations of the inmates, identified the existence of a secret rocket programme, the Nazi ‘vergeltungswaffen’, that became known to us as the V1, colloquially the doodlebug, and V2. Completely coincidently the British author Robert Harris’s new thriller is called V2.

En passant, Toni asked whether I would have an anti-Covid vaccine when it became available. “Of course!” I answered immediately and went on to extoll the professionalism and standards of our regulatory system, the ‘checks and balances’ and the confidence I had in it. I imagined that any trials would fit all the required parameters ie the majority of people would show no adverse reaction (Doomsayers would jump on this and say but they are risking people’s lives and bleat about the Draconian State and …….) but common sense prevails. If it works for the majority, I’ll have it! Don’t forget I spent the first three decades of my life institutionalised – first at boarding school then in the military – and survived, not as an automaton, but someone who works within some boundaries, within some framework of values and rules. I have an inbuilt ‘acceptance’ switch; I trust the system.

We have had a hideous year by any measure; reminds me of our Queen’s annus horribilis of 1992: “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.” That year three royal marriages collapsed, a fire destroyed more than a hundred rooms in Windsor Castle and a toe-sucking scandal involving Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, rocked Britain and the monarchy. Last year could have been another bad year for her but I leave that for you to research!

Celina and I have ducked and weaved and somehow remain physically and mentally in good shape. We left Singapore in early December last year (phew!), had our lovely time on South Island and our three weeks in Rio in January were just wet but free of Covid. We obviously got caught up in the first lockdown, had a glorious if constrained six weeks in Portugal in the summer and slipped back to Hove before we were required to self-isolate. We have adapted to yoga online and now with a room heater and humidifier practise our daily 26/2 sequence in a warm and cosy atmosphere. We have been lucky. Some people we know have not made it or are still suffering from Long Covid; being vulnerable I take care when out and about and have shunned the local buses!

There is always an upside to any crisis and it’s worth just thinking about some of the positives! The other evening I happened to look up into the night sky and saw some moving lights. Ah! Yes! I thought: an aeroplane; so unusual. (London Gatwick flights are down from over 900 to about 77 per day). Less pollution in the skies and around our major roads has cleaned our air and water, both fresh and sea. 

Some of us have been reacquainted with more simple pleasures like jigsaw puzzles, like Marvel’s Super Heroes, and Lego. My daughter has had world-wide quizzes with far flung cousins over Zoom.

After twenty years of argument, NHS’s patient records suddenly became available to doctors online in a few weeks. And instead of going to the surgery and sitting in the waiting area with people who were ill, we now have online consultations, saving time and efforts for patients and doctors alike. Granted it’s not for everyone but it’s working.

We should also now have a greater awareness of what makes one vulnerable to this virus. We have known for years that the UK population is getting fatter and that makes us susceptible to all sorts of things, but most of us ignore the signals – “it’ll happen to someone else!” But Covid is indiscriminate and slowly that fact is sinking in, through the subcutaneous layers. Initially we had the old, bold and overweight men ending up in ICU and heading to an early grave. Then we saw individuals in the forties and fifties suffering and the penny began to drop – “It could be me”. So hopefully all of us are using this period for a real sensible self-assessment of our physical being; this is your life and you can live it and live it well – or not – but it’s never too late to change.

You may have heard that those who caught the virus lacked Vitamin D or were of a BAME origin? An investigation on TV’s Channel 4 the other night aimed to determine whether Covid is racist and was presented by a medic described as a ‘gay, black, androgynous intersectional’ feminist – whatever ‘intersectional’ means. So not biased then? But there is a serious element here, as BAME (Note 3) groups have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic.

The pandemic has flushed out the vaccine deniers, those who try to link Covid with 5G, voting illegalities, worries about ‘the army on the streets’ and the mindless people who stand up and spout drivel. Poor misguided souls. Whenever the vaccine is available, if you’ve nailed your colours to the mast and said you will not have it ….. go and self-isolate for a year or two, please. (Note 4)  The shenanigans by President Trump over the US election results remind me of President Lukashenko’s continuing attempt to insist that Belarus’ August 2020 election was fair and that he won – again! In the west I suspect we all believe it was rigged – different country, same reluctance to accept they’ve lost.

Finally, above all, let’s not forget what we see as disgusting scenes in the Wuhan wet markets that beggar belief – and I then read they are going to ignore the connection! (I tried to post another photograph here but was prevented for ‘security reasons’???)

Just chewing the fat ……..

Richard 27th November 2020

Note 1 To talk to someone in an informal and friendly way

Note 2 Ruminating actually is the process of bringing back half-digested food into the mouth for further chewing (yuk!)

Note 3 BAME – Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. About two thirds of NHS key workers are from BAME groups.

Note 4 Another suggestion from a chum is to use the unused cruise ships to accommodate them – somewhere – anywhere – far away!

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