The Rona

And so the PM has just extended our 'intelligent lockdown' till April 28, with the proviso that it may be necessary to push that date out further into May. Basically, 2020 is already a write-off.

So, what does an 'intelligent lockdown' look like? Well, the measures taken are slightly less draconian than the ones my Italian or Spanish friends have to deal with. We are allowed to go out, for the essential food or medicine shop. We can even go out for a walk, but we are not to do so with more than 3 people (and keeping 6 ft distance all the time) or crowd parks and public spaces. We can't go out otherwise, as for the last 2 weeks all no bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, markets, malls, hairdressers, nailbars, sun lounges have been closed. Gigs have been banned till further notice, but at least till June 1st. Which is a bummer as I was looking forward to going to see Queen again on May 28 and 29.

I'm in my third week working from home. Feels like three years. I don't mind, really, though I do miss 1) people 2) faster network connection 3) big monitor. Also, as off tomorrow, I'm conveying into GSK, who have bought Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. They've just couriered my new laptop over to me, so joy of joys, tomorrow, I can begin the day by figuring out how to set it up for GSK systems. 30 Days later, Pfizer will kick me off what systems of theirs I will still have access to, that are crucial to my work; and then the transition ought to be completed by July 31st.

They're calling it a Joint Venture, but really, it's just a takeover. And I don't know what it means for my prospects. My line manager has assured me my job is safe until at least September (when my contract expires -- Pfizer were going to offer me a permanent position after that, but GSK may have other ideas), and now, with the economy taking a hit because of the Rona, I may very well be looking for another job by the end of the year. Actually, she did say she'd understand if I started exploring job opportunities elsewhere immediately...but unfortunately, I like my job and so I'm still focused on doing it to the best of my abilities.

Corona madness

So, how about this coronavirus, eh?

We currently have 959 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Netherlands. 12 People so far have died, all elderly, with underlying health conditions. We have a total of 1,150 beds in ICU, 70% of which are usually taken.

At first, the government advised us to wash our hands, then to stop shaking hands. Halfway through last week, that changed to a recommendation to work from home as much as possible and to avoid large gatherings, until all venues with a crowd capacity larger than 100 were closed on Friday. Football matches and other sporting events, markets, theatre shows and gigs have been cancelled, and even big weddings and funerals have been banned. We'll have to wait and see if any of these measures will have the desired effect -- we are about 14 days behind on Italy so it's possible it'll turn out to have been too little, too late.

Meanwhile, I've been working from home since last Thursday, and will be doing so next week as well. I had tickets to go see a theatre show today, to which I had been looking forward since August last year, but alas!...and I've yet to find out whether these tickets will remain valid for another date, or whether I will be reimbursed. I also had a couple of gigs coming up in the next few weeks, all of which have been postponed 6 months or more. It's going to be a busy autumn! It's fine, though, I fully understand why it has to be this way for now.

What I can't understand though, is my countrymen stockpiling supplies. I was in the supermarket just now and there were no bananas or any kind of citrus fruit; no tinned and hardly any fresh vegetables, the dairy section had been raided; and don't even get me started on the toilet paper! I even saw a man make off with the bakery section's entire stash of baguettes -- he had to pay for 53 of these at the checkout! This despite government and branch officials coming on the telly almost every hour telling people there is no need for all this panic-buying, that the supply chains haven't been affected and there's plenty of everything to go around.

Old age is no place for sissies

"I think I want to go into a care home."

These are the words Mum spoke this morning. She had locked herself out for the umpteenth time this month, prompting a neighbour to call me at work, and me to call everyone else on the very short list of people who have a key to Mum's, which solved the problem in the short term, but...

In recent months, I have had several calls from the police, informing me that they have encountered my mother in the streets, half-dressed, cold, and very confused; unable to tell them where she lived; and that they're making her comfortable at the station, or in a day centre, or have released her into the care of a neighbour who happened to be passing.

I have had calls from her carers, telling me she has gone AWOL, and nobody's seen her or has any idea where she might be, and can I call the police?

I have had calls from neighbours, telling me she's locked herself out AGAIN, and this really can't go on like this for much longer.

But up until now, Mum has resisted the idea of moving into residential care. Even though she can barely walk, can't read the clock, can't work out how to use the telephone, can't take care of herself, and complains of being lonely, the idea of going into a home was anathema to her.

Although it's entirely possible that by tomorrow she'll have forgotten what she's said, I'm going to start to set the wheels in motion on my mother's final house move.

Drive-by post

The other day, LJ sent me a message, telling me it missed me. And so I resolved to show my face here again -- just as soon as I had something worth saying. I thought I had, earlier today, and spent hours writing a really long and somewhat rambling post, but LJ ate it. I guess it didn't really miss me, after all.

A few things have happened since last time we spoke; the most glaringly obvious one being that I'm back in work, and have been for about 6 months. I have just had my first evaluation, and it's all good -- excellent, even. They said they were particularly impressed by my leadership qualities, which I didn't know had been on show, but there you have it, and it's nice feedback to be given. Especially since I came to this job and this industry as a complete novice, and have been on a steep learning curve. I'm currently employed as the PCH Customer Engagement Program Coordinator for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and acting in the same role for Asia-Pacific including Hong Kong and Taiwan, but excluding China for a big pharmaceutical company. The position is in pharmaco-vigilance, or safety; and basically means that I am tasked with keeping tabs on all primary market research or branded promotional programs that offer the possibility of two-way communication to our customers (i.e., patients, healthcare professionals, and consumers), and (are intended to) run in those regions; making sure all regulations are met and the proper processes and procedures followed and that all monitoring is carried out according to the highest standards and according to the national and supranational requirements. That's quite a broad sweep, but the PCH in my job title narrows it down somewhat to Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, which is the entity I work with: over-the-counter medicine and nutritional supplements. I know it sounds quite dry, but I like it!

My own health has steadily improved over the last year; but alas! Mum's has declined. She is now virtually immobile and her Alzheimer's has fully extended its grip on her brain. Most days, she mistakes me for one of her sisters, and gets upset when I don't 'remember' certain events that happened in her and her siblings' childhood; old petty jealousies coming to the fore, like "Daddy gave you a bicycle while he fobbed me off with a scooter -- well, I showed him, I took that bloody bicycle apart!"

As to the kitties: Manasse finally stopped over-grooming himself after I put him in the Cone of Shame for a month (I should have thought of it before; it would have saved me a fortune in vet's bills), and is back to being a beautiful, somewhat rotund, tom. But Clio passed away on the 1st of February, after somehow suffering a very bad fracture to her tail. She was 2 months shy of her 19th birthday.

Now, fingers crossed this'll post this time!


Every year since 1981, there's been a festival in my hometown called Parkpop (because it takes place in one of the municipal parks). At first, and up until 2014, all bands performed on the Sunday and the entrance was free. That's how I came to see INXS, Blondie, Marillion, Sinéad O'Connor, Robert Plant, Kula Shaker and Robbie Williams; as well as the very first time I ever saw Paul Weller live on stage. From 5 years ago, the festival which by now had begun to attract half a million visitors, was spread over 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, and was no longer free: you had to pay for access to the park on Saturday when all the main acts play :-( Headliners have been Golden Earring, DJ Tiësto, Madness, and OMD. In 2017, they added the Friday night to the program as well, mainly for small local bands to be heard playing in a venue in the town centre. Entrance to the venues on Fridays and Sundays is still free.

This year, theheadline acts for me were:
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I met a couple from Las Vegas, who had travelled to The Hague specifically to catch Tears for Fear's gig. They were on a European holiday, and were staying in Budapest when they heard about their favourite band coming to perform a mere 1,416.5km from their hotel. That's fandom for you!

Skunk Anansie were the closing act, but after having spent 6 hours on my feet in a huddle in front of the stage in what is basically just an open field in 35C heat, I decided enough was enough and retreated to a wooded area where I could still hear the music but not see very much.

Two days later, I went to see Stray Cats on their 40th anniversary tour Amsterdam stop.
in the corner of your eyes

"I'm an instant star. Just add water and stir"

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It's as strange to see oneself on television as it is to hear oneself on tape.

Last night, I was in the audience for a Dutch live early evening talk show. One that I'd only begun watching 10 or 12 days ago. And that, completely out of the blue, a friend of mine then invited me to.

The experience of going into a tv studio was actually quite a pleasant one. The crew and host were chatty and super friendly -- prior to entering, we had been asked to switch off our phones and put our belongings in a locker, so the picture was actually taken by one of the cameramen on his phone and sent straight through. I was surprised by how small the studio was, in seemed so much roomier on the box! Saxophonist Candy Dulfer (of Lily Was Here-fame) and her band took care of the musical interludes, which was something of an unexpected treat; while discussions on the night ranged from what it meant to be Dutch (boring!) to the upcoming Democratic debates (less so). Afterwards, we were fed and watered; that is to say, we were treated to a lovely steak dinner, wine and coffees included...If the opportunity presents itself, I'll definitely do this again ;-)
guitar man

Rod Stewart, May 12th in Amsterdam

Some things never change, and gigging remains one of my favourite pastimes. In recent years, I've had the opportunity to see many bands and artists -- some domestic, some foreign; some well-known, some not so; and earlier this month, accompanied by my sister, I went to see Sir Roderick Stewart in concert.

Back in the 70s, we were fans, but somehow, always managed to miss him. That was never going to happen this time. He didn't disappoint: he sang all our old-time favourites, interspersed with light-hearted banter, and we came away buzzing.

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The present will not long endure

March 1st...not only does this date mark Manasse's 15th birthday, but also the beginning of my 6th month of unemployment. I had hoped to have found work by now, but must conclude I have not done enough to achieve or secure it. Of course, the whole double lung embolism-thing hasn't helped...

As to the birthday boy, his health has also been cause for concern lately, in that he has been losing weight steadily since Christmas, and over-grooming to such an extent that his abdomen, back legs and 'armpits' show raw, red, bald patches. I took him into the vets' on Monday who, going on the assumption that he's developed an allergy to house dust, has given him a long-lasting steroids injection. I must admit, I was sceptical at first; but I have noticed that since then, he's left his poor belly alone for most of the day.

Anyway, enough of this! I'm feeling a lot better now than I did 7 weeks ago, and so I will redouble my efforts as from today!

Back again!

I seem to remember that back in the day, I used to get notifications when someone commented on my entries...I wonder if they're going to the correct email address...I'll have to have a look.

The weather today looks to be glorious, and I'm stuck indoors :-(. I'm awaiting a delivery -- the hoover gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago, and I've only gotten around to ordering a new one when the dust build-up got too much even for me to ignore. I need the place ship-shape before too long, because I have plans: to rip out the kitchen and replace it with a brand new one. I want it to be beautiful. I've been living with the kitchen that was in my property when I bought it, and come July, I will have lived here 21 years. That means it must have been in here for 30 at least; and it is dire! No really, it is the worst kitchen you ever saw. The doors to the units are all uneven. The fronts of the drawers have come off in places. So have he handles. The units used to be white, but...well, I'm not a housewife, am I? To cut a long story short: I need a new kitchen. But I can't have workmen over until the rest of the flat looks remotely presentable. Hence the stuck-indoors-waiting-for-the-new-hoover-to-be-delivered-thing. I do hope they deliver soon...First ray of sunshine in bloody ages and I can't go out and take advantage of it!

Obviously, today's Valentine's Day. That date in itself doesn't mean anything to me as a dyed-in-the-wool singleton, except that this year, it marks a month since my diagnosis. I still don't know how I feel about having blood clots, or blood that has a tendency to clot, and that has to be treated with anti-coagulants. I know that I'm a very bad, impatient patient -- this is nothing new. The doctors told me to take it easy, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to. It's a stressful enough situation I find myself in even without being ill: I have a mother who's lost her mobility and is slowly losing her marbles to boot. I'm unemployed and need to find a job. I can't be ill! I just can't be! But then I keep running around, after my mum; pushing myself to go to interviews where I end up wheezing my way through them (no wonder I can't get hired); and it's enough to sap most of my strength and almost all of my enjoyment out of life. I say 'almost' because there's plenty of enjoyment still around, if I'm honest. Take this weekend: my friend David Berkeley is playing in Rotterdam this Sunday, as one half of the Son of Town Hall project with his mate Ben Parker; and I think it's been 3 years since I last saw them.

Actually, speaking of gigs: I've been going to quite a few in recent years. The usual suspects: Paul Weller, Depeche well as my childhood heroes Queen, and Sweet. But also quite a few I only saw the once (so far): Paul Simon, Santana, The Decemberists, Rick Astley, OMD, Bryan Ferry...the list goes on. Next up: Tears for Fears, Chic, and Stray Cats :-).

Common Rotation are on hiatus; have been for a number of years. I don't know if they'll ever get together again. And my cat Leila died 2 1/2 years ago.

Well, this is awkward...

...seems my last entry dates from 2 years ago (or almost).

Facebook reminded me that it had been 10 years since I'd set up my account. I know that for a time, I didn't use it; but for years now, it's been my primary social media outlet -- even though I fully recognise it leaves quite a bit to be desired. The thing is, the vast majority of my friends and family (both online and real-life) are there, so it's simply the easiest way to stay in touch with everyone (or almost everyone).

So, what's been going on with me, then?

I'm unemployed again, my 6th such period since my being made redundant from hp coincided with the global recession which is now, we are told, coming to its end. At the same time, I might add, as being told that the next one is just around the corner. The last 10 years have not been easy; holidays and travel have come to a standstill, but I still have a roof over my head and food in the larder, so it's all relative.

Mum has just celebrated her 85th birthday, though she doesn't believe she has much to celebrate there. She's been diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia, hates the fog of confusion that descends on her at irregular intervals, and has difficulty walking and keeping her balance, so spends most of her days sat on the couch watching television. I take care of her the best I can, dropping in 3 or 4 times a week, doing the groceries, looking after her financial affairs, and trying to keep her entertained; but she misses her sisters and her friends who have all died, leaving her alone and lonely.

My own health has taken a turn for the worse as well: three weeks ago, I was told the coughing, shortness of breath and pain in the side was caused not by a persistent cold as I thought myself, but by lung embolisms in both lungs. Which I and my doctors still don't know how I could have gotten: I have not been on a long-haul flight, nor have I had any abdominal surgery in recent weeks. I don't suffer from varicose veins, or thrombosis in either legs or arms. I don't engage in sports or work out, but neither am I completely sedentary: I cycle and walk long distances. Finally, I do not appear to have breast or intestinal cancer. Anyway, I'm on blood thinners now, likely to be for the rest of my life; and slowly but surely, I'm getting my strength back.