One reader agreed and said that living in the country for more than 25 years he  had never been affected by the smell of wood or any other smoke, well that’s alright then,  maybe they should both take a look at the proximity of properties being built not only in the countryside but in urban areas. The resulting   population density is now around 430 people per sq. kilometre in England which is one of the highest densities in Europe.

And also notice how close together houses are built these days (how many have cellars?) and ask if residents don’t notice the smell and pollution of wood burning stoves from the ‘home’ next door (often less than three metres away) they may reflect that the loss of the sense of smell is very debilitating and ought really to get it checked out by their G.P.

Not at the moment though as many have recorded announcements on phone lines or have texted patients telling them not to visit unless it’s really necessary and certainly not if you are unwell with ‘flu’. Apparently people make unnecessary visits to the doctor when they feel ill – is that something to do with the fact that it’s near impossible to get a GP to make a home visit these days, or is that just more media hype?

Then some people as we have seen recently, and will see again during the virus epidemic, only notice something when it affects them personally, which it certainly will if this epidemic gets half as bad as the media keeps telling is.

Presently the virus seems to be either presented as a battle or a war, complete with score sheets. Presumably a league table is being kept somewhere by someone.  Then there is all the often conflicting advice, warnings and counter warnings, ‘project fear on steroids’ as one member of the public described the media circus, along with all the advice given by experts of whom most of us have never heard,  but obviously being set up to be media stars in their own right. (Although I did note that one such expert beginning interviewed on a rolling news program was sitting the regulation two meters away from the other expert, the presenter.)

Most people seem to think that so far Boris is doing a good job, along with chief medical officer Chris Whitty who has been praised on social media, apparently for his no-nonsense presentation.  Not good enough for some keyboard warriors though, who have made disparaging remarks about his personal appearance, and, as we all know these days appearance and emotion are more important than facts.  Not that any of this rubbish is new, as readers old enough to remember the Falklands war and the redoubtable Ian McDonald, (who died recently aged 82) who was the unlikely television star of that conflict. A career civil servant who delivered the Ministry of Defence’s press briefings in the same no-nonsense calm manner, at a time when our civil service was still respected, he was also criticised  by some for his lack of style and boring deadpan delivery. All that of course was set to change during the Blair years, some it seems have just not learnt the lesson of that particular ‘trust me.  I’m a regular sort of guy’ delivery and would like more of it.

All of this though distracts from the fact that this virus has been taken over by the media in what may well be their collective last chance to force a particular agenda and to control public opinion.   I’ve got news for them it appears not to be working very well, I’ve not heard one person say anything positive about coverage, mostly people it seems have the opposite view,

One 73-year-old is reported as saying: “I hope I don’t get it, but if I do, we will just have to deal with it. The way things are going, I would say lots of people will catch it. It is just one of those things.” One 35-year-old mum said: “I am a healthy young woman, so for myself I am not concerned – if I get ill, I get ill. But I am a little more worried about my elderly mother and of course my children. We are definitely not stockpiling and don’t believe there is much point in blowing this out of proportion.”

Another retired man recalled how, when the Asian flu hit his home town in the Black Country in June and August 1957 and he was at school, there was none of this panic.  Dad stayed at work the whole time and the school stayed open, there were so many kids away they just doubled up the classes, people just carried on and got on with it.

They had to indeed.  Estimates at the time gave a figure of 9 million cases by early 1958. 5.5 million had been seen by their doctor and estimates seem to show around 6000 deaths. Not much fuss then even in the press of the time. Probably because the adult population was used to death having lived through the nightmare of the second world war.

What is interesting is this sudden preoccupation with hygiene.  From the rush to buy hand wipes, medi-wipes, detergent and such like, one would almost believe that the UK was one of the cleanest places on the planet, which as we all know is far from the truth. Many of our public places are, not to put a finer point on it, filthy. Our pavements often covered in gum, dog mess and vomit with people spitting and urinating in doorways as a matter of right it seems.

Many cafes and restaurants leave a lot to be desired, with cakes and sandwiches – particularly scones for some reason – often placed uncovered on counters for all and sundry to cough over as they wait to be served.  People seem unable to use handling implements to pick up items, and for some reason knives, forks and spoons are placed in containers, either on tables or in baskets on counters, subject to everyone’s dirty hands and coughs and sneezes. In the last couple of months, I’ve seen staff clean a baby seat, chairs and tables, with the same damp cloth, handle cups with fingers inside the cup, blow noses and then handle food, but first prize should go to the shop assistant who finding it difficult to open a plastic bag for a customer blew several times on it.  As far as public conveniences are concerned, the non-hand washing of many and poor personal hygiene of others, comes as no surprise.

Picking up the car from the garage after a service this week, the mechanic was wearing a pair of protective gloves under the usual black gloves worn these days. “Crikey,” I said.  “You are taking the warnings seriously then?”  “Too right,” he said.  “If you worked all day on the vehicles the great unwashed bring in here and saw the filthy state that people leave them in you would too. We deal with mostly newish three-year-old cars, some of them so-called premium cars, and to be honest I’ve seen the inside of skips that have been cleaner.”

Not that any of this came a surprise.  If you have been inside the number of dwellings, private and commercial, as I have over many years, nothing would surprise you, and as one business consultant told me: “If you want to gauge how a company is run, first take a look at the staff lavatories and rest rooms,” and the professional care and health professionals are often some of the worst.

Anyway, as Shaw Taylor used to say about crime all those years ago: “Don’t have nightmares.   Take care and keep washing those hands,” properly that is.

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