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Mask madness

I went to Châteaubriant on Thursday. It wasn't exactly planned, I just went to post a letter and discovered that the little local post office is now closed on Thursdays, so I then headed down to Big Town. I figured I'd go one last time whilst I still could with, hopefully, fewer people around (unlike Saturday). Yup, this is the end of my partial time working. It's back to normal activity as of Tuesday (Monday is a public holiday).

Anyway, there are more and more provisions around. The chemist in little town sold me a bottle of 95° ethanol-based handwash solution, and there were plenty on sale. At the Leclerc in Châteaubriant, many face masks, piled high. You could buy a box of ten for a fiver, or a box of fifty for €25.

It's a rather shocking price for a disposable mask, but demand pushes prices up. At least there are enough around now that people can actually go and buy them if they wanted to.

I'm sure, in the months to come, many people in many governments will be asking questions about the shortage of protective equipment. Everybody will be looking for a scapegoat, but there isn't one single person to blame. It's more a situation that has been growing in time for a long time.
Essentially, this equipment is intended to be single use and disposable. It's like at work (we work with food, so it's a similar idea). Plastic aprons and sleeves that get changed between production lines, and face masks that must be changed at break time and after having used the toilet. There's a hundred and forty people (more or less). One break time. Now assume half use the toilet at some point. So, 140 + 140 + 70 makes 350 (I think, did it in my head). About three hundred and fifty face masks per day.
Clearly an employer is not going to want to pay premium prices for such masks if it is possible to source something equivalent more cheaply. And this is how it has been, not just for my company, but for pretty much everybody. Because of this, there wasn't much point in having production facilities for these sorts of things locally (in France, in the UK...) when companies were sourcing them from China for a price that was far below what a local producer could hope to match.
By and large the system worked. Stuff was made in China, shipped all over, and everybody had their equipment to do their jobs.

Where it fell apart was thanks to the rapid spread of a new strain of a nasty virus, which meant that suddenly demand for such things as masks and aprons increased to the point where there was no reasonable hope of meeting supply. Indeed, there have had to be many changes in order to meet the current demands. For example, something that I use at work is a Diversey product called "Divesan Etha Plus". It is an ethanol-based spray disinfectant. The current batch that I'm using have a revolting smell that is like ethanol (think surgical spirit) mixed with sherry. I rather imagine that distilleries that used to produce alcoholic drinks have switched to distilling ethanol for meeting the supply of all the sprays and handwashes that everybody wants right now.

To that end, given that large swathes of Europe shut down in a couple of weeks, I think suppliers have actually done a good job given that demand went from "normal" to "everybody on the frigging planet" in the same couple of weeks. Sure, they couldn't meet initial demands, and there were - shall we say - anomalies in numerous shipments; not to mention various countries employing their militaries to transport equipment around.

This is the first mass pandemic in the modern world, and I feel that France didn't do that badly. Sure, things could have been done better, but it's easy to say that in hindsight. France has taken some extraordinary measures to try to keep the country functioning. The restrictions mostly finish as of Tuesday, where it is hoped that much of the workforce will go back to work (but, of course, working from home is preferred where it is possible; we're far from being back to "normal", we're just putting the pieces back together). That's not to say there haven't been casualties - I rather doubt that travel companies and air carriers are going to be in a good shape for years to come, and the same mostly applies to bars, hotels, cafés, and restaurants. Even when they reopen, they have to provide a degree of distancing and sanitary measures that will restrict how many people they can cater for at any given time (which will affect turnover), plus there may be many people who feel it is currently safer for them to just not.

So like the issues with the supply of face masks, there will be questions asked. But what sorts of answers are even useful? Any "lessons learned" may not be applied for another hundred years, in which case life may be quite different to what it is now, just like now is different to how things were back when the last big pandemic swept the world. Plus, we live in an era of fake news where the two primary leaders of the anglophone world manage to generate plenty of their own lies while decrying truth and legitimate criticism as fake.
I think what I'm trying to say is... it perhaps could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. As long as we all (and that includes you Cummings!) do our parts to try to keep ourselves and each other safe... we're not doing that badly given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic. Just remember, we're not out of this yet. It's still far too early to go hug a nurse...



I've had it with these snakes on this uh.... step?

There are some things in life that one never really thinks about. Like how do snakes get it on? Put on some Barry White and hiss at each other? I didn''t know. And I've made it to my current age without really having any requirement to know.

But thanks to the randy wildlife, I now know...

Basically they curl themselves around each other and wiggle a lot, in a way that only snakes could manage.

A lot of torturous looking gyrating. The whole thing took about five minutes and one of them slithered away. So not so different to humans then...


Keeping busy

One of the benefits of having land is that there are loads of things to do.
The thing that sucks about having land is that there are loads of things to do.

At the moment, since the weather is good and I have Marte, I'm leaning towards benefit rather than suck. If it was cold and rainy, it might be a different story.

I haven't been watching much of Netflix recently. It's such nice weather that it feels wrong to not be out enjoying it. Even as I write these words, it's at the little blue picnic table out front. But there's only so much I can write stuff. I also keep an idea of "doing little bits frequently" to the land. So today's job was to clear some more of the potager.

Here's a before:

And an after:

Actually, that's not a great angle. It looks more impressive from the other side, but I was more interested in getting started than getting a good shot.
I've not gone all the way to the back as you might be able to see planters and such back there. Mom used to grow things there, and it was in pretty good shape until just a couple of years ago. After having the lymph nodes removed from her leg, mom was told that she could no longer potter around in the garden. To be honest, I think that may have hurt her more than the operations ever did. Mom used to spend a huge amount of time outside. She'd pick me up from work complaining about how much her arms and back hurt. Why, I'd ask. She'd tell me she did some mowing. Upon getting home, it'd be clear that she probably did four or five hours of it. At the age of 69.
But come 70, it all immediately ceased. Because an insect bite on her left leg would be a case of "YOU - AMBULANCE - NOW". She even had a special little card to give the people at the emergency room to explain why being bitten by a mere grasshopper was a big deal.

That was two and a half years ago. The potager has been mostly neglected since then. I've been working on the main grassy area. Last summer while mom was in hospital I mowed it with Pig (and it took about half of my three weeks). But the potager... I wasn't sure what the hell I was going to do with it.

Well, now it's up to me alone. And so I've decided that instead of annoying myself trying to do something big and difficult, I'll simply do little bits to expand the area that Marte can keep under control.
Two weeks ago I did the front part. Last week I did a chunk of the east (field) side. Today I did a chunk of the west (wood shed) side. There's always something else to be done, certainly, but it is more and more looking like a garden rather than a disaster.

The part where the chair is has a plastic sheet held down by a line of rocks. You can see why I'm being careful where I take the mowers. It was where the plastic greenhouse used to live until the winter storm rolled it across the garden.
There's a part of me that would like to replace it with a wooden shed. I guess this must be some of my latent masculinity leaking out. Mind you, it's a rather daft idea given there's a milking parlour, a row of cow barns, a big piggery/barn opposite the house, and a barn out in the field. It's not as if I need a shed. If I wanted to make myself a work area, I just need to clean up some of the crap in any of the barns, tidy away the cobwebs, and generally clean up.
So, yeah, I'll probably put the greenhouse back... not that I ever used it (it was supposed to be a birthday present for mom).


I've also planted some things. The planters came over from England, and probably haven't been used since 2005 or so. I've cleaned them off and filled them with dirt (well, it looks like smashed up bits of pine tree if you ask me). In the middle will be a selection of bee friendly flowers. Around the edges, flowers that smell nice (that's what the pack said, but notes that they'll flower abundantly next year).
In the long white pot, a random mixture of both.


Flight school

As I sit here, by head is being buzzed by small Swallows. This is the time when the parents take all the children out for their first experiences with flying outside. They usually do circles around the building and attempts to land on the roof for a day or two until the young ones get it. I'm not going to take a photo, I don't want to upset them. They seem to accept my presence as long as they know that I know they're there and they know that I am pretending to not notice them.
I am happy that there are swallows that come here every year (flying back from South Africa!). They nest along the support beams of the ceiling of the milking parlour (so my work space won't be there!) and every year I look forward for their arrival in the Spring, and feel sad to see them leave in the Autumn.

Mom used to have a penfriend in South Africa who would report when she saw them arrive or leave. It seems as if the journey takes about six weeks. It's about 9,000km across a desert and a near rain forest, covering around 215km per day. That sounds gruelling in a way that our species will likely be unable to fully comprehend. Just because the weather here is rubbish in the winter, so they relocate to the other side of the planet in order to stick with a semi-perpetual summer.



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David Pilling, 31st May 2020, 01:37
...and the next problem "Hand Sanitizer Fires Are Invisible" 
With the crisis, everyone would like it to be over and forget about it. We'll be lucky if that happens. 
There will be lasting change, UK will stockpile PPE and it will have a track and trace system (two likely conclusions to come out of the enquiry, which will report just after the next election) - things which could easily be a waste of money. 

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