Friday, September 24, 2021

Reflections of the picture box

 Somebody once wrote in a song

"I've travelled every country

I've travelled in my mind

It seems we are on a journey,

A trip through space and time."


Ok so it's not Dylan but English wasn't their first language and I've always kind of liked it. Especially at times like this, confined to four walls ( missing Bloody Scotland!!) and yearning for the freedom of lockdown.

It's all a matter of perspective.

I went for a wander through the picture box file on my laptop and came up with this series of photographs. Between selecting them and uploading them to the blog, they appeared in reverse order.

I'm  not going to tell you where it is, I think that will become evident very quickly, and if you don't recognise it, that might be because it wasn't your kind of town.

This was our last stop before we went off to live the high life  and ate a baked potato.

I think at this point we had walked 17 miles around this beautiful city.


The main hall of the Natural History Museum. I like the way Terry Dactile on the left is photobombing.


Many of the stuffed exhibits  had painted backgrounds. I had seen these before of course but there was something about the artist/designer of these that I found intriguing. 

 I think this might be up the road from me.  Obviously simplified so the eye is attracted to the beasties. But how alluring is it?  Right now, I could stick on my walking boots and climb into that picture.

Does Africa look like this?  

The left hand side of the previous picture.  It seems a busy corner, this part of Africa.


This was the walk to the museum.
It was bitter cold,  with a wind that could cut glass.
But look at that sky.

The big city scape.

It looks like Bouchercon time of year.




We spent a long time watching something a bit weird.
The tops of these buildings were blowing hot air (or something) out into the atmosphere that turned into shaped clouds, empheral beings that drifted on the wind to fade and die.

Stunning colours.


"Sweet home, Chicago"

started with a song lyric so I may as well finish with one!

Caro Ramsay



Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ivory

 Stanley - Thursday

Elephants are my favourite animal. I love their sense of family and community, their sensitivity, and their sense of humour. So, the word 'ivory' evokes myriad reactions in me: anger, disappointment, longing, awe.



Anger

Although the threat of extinction of elephants is not as great as of rhinos, as depicted in Michael and my thriller, Shoot the Bastards (Dead of Night outside North America), there is growing concern about the future of these magnificent animals. I have found it difficult to nail down reliable statistics, but it seems as though anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks. With a total African population of about 350,000, experts fear the current rate of poaching exceeds reproduction, resulting in population decline and eventually extinction.

[With international bans in place on the sale of ivory and declining source and street values of ivory, it appears that elephant poaching has declined from its peak of about 10% in 2011 to around 4%. A year of COVID lockdown has also helped.]

I am also angry at the corruption that exists in some countries and organisations allowing the whole enterprise to continue.

Disappointment

I am disappointed by two things with respect to the illegal trade in ivory. First is that people feel the need to continue to buy ivory products, thus driving the need for poaching. Second, I am disappointed that there are so many people in poverty that some are easily tempted by traders to kill the elephants. Alleviating the poverty will reduce the incentive to get involved in the illegal trade.

Longing

Whenever I see ivory, I long to be in the bush. I am fortunate to share a bungalow in a private game reserve abutting the great Kruger National Park in South Africa. The is nothing that can compare to sitting in an open game vehicle surrounded by a hundred or more elephants. Scary? Yes, because of their immense size. It does make one's heart rate rise to have 5 tonnes of elephant a metre or two from the car. Exhilarating? Yes, because they are so magnificent. They can be amazingly sensitive - I have seen one gently move a little terrapin out of the way of other elephants coming to drink at a water hole. And they can be dangerous, easily capable of flipping a vehicle over if roused. 

I am longing now because I haven't been in the bush for over a year.

Awe

When I started thinking about today's blog, I wanted to talk about a piece of carved ivory that I have that was probably carved at the end of the nineteenth century. I love it just as much for a beauty of the ivory as the remarkable beauty of the ivory itself. As I thought about it, all these emotions flooded into me. I couldn't isolate the piece from the rest. And, of course, I am fully aware of the irony of owning and loving something made from a substance I want to prevent others from owning. I salve my conscience with the hope that the tusk from which my piece was carved came from an elephant that died of natural causes. 

The piece is a bowl from the Ekiti area (Owo kingdom) of the Yoruba in what is now Nigeria. It lies between the two famous centres of art, Ife and Benin. The bowl probably belonged to a person of high status and was used for keeping personal adornments. The carvings include flute players, a prisoner on a rope, crocodiles, hand-held fans, and probably a portrait of the owner.





My plan is to give it to the Museums Commission of Nigeria when I die. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Feeling Bloody wonderful in Scotland

Welcome back! Five continents of crime writing on show in a hybrid event before a live in-person and online audience: Sergei Lebedev, Claudia Pineiro, Femi Kayode, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden beamed in, and I was onstage solo in the Albert Halls. 

Craig every second Tuesday.

"Kia ora and gidday everyone."

Those five words are how I've opened my fortnightly Murder is Everywhere posts this year, but long before that they were how I'd often open book festival author panels I'd had had the pleasure and privilege of being asked to chair over my years based in the UK. A wee nod to my antipodean heritage, wherever I was onstage in various towns or cities in England, Canada, or Scotland (and even occasionally back in New Zealand, pre-pandemic). 

On Saturday afternoon I got to say those words onstage for the first time in two years, and it felt bloody great. And a little surreal. That was all thanks to the marvellous team behind Bloody Scotland, a festival that is deeply entwined with my British life - I attended for the first time mere days after arriving at Heathrow, and every year since. Even last year I chaired a panel, on my birthday from my living room, as part of the online Bloody Scotland. 

Preparations for the return of real-life Bloody Scotland were a little different; books aplenty and also COVID testing (along with vaccination requirements)

Stealing the words of my six-year-old daughter, I was 'nerva-cited' about hopping on the train to Stirling for this year's Bloody Scotland. It had been exactly two years since my last book festival (I usually attend several each year), and 18 months since my last real-life event of any kind, a book launch in London a few weeks before the first lockdown. 

I was looking forward to seeing everyone who'd be there, and being part of the festival, while being a wee bit hesitant about the few hours cooped up with strangers on the train to get up there, the COVID test I needed to take beforehand (an author or two had to pull out in the lead-up to the festival, having tested positive), and how I'd feel being back somewhere I love so much, but would in curtailed form compared to many great 2014-2019 memories. 

Masks inside, social distancing, limited crowds in big venues, a few key events not happening etc. How would it feel? Oh, and it would also be my first festival appearance since my own first book was published during the pandemic. 

Nerva-cited indeed. 

Within a few minutes of checking into my own hotel, I ran into editor
Ben Willis outside the festival hotel, the start of a weekend full of
wonderful catch-ups with friends old and new. 

Within moments of arriving in Stirling, any nervousness had evaporated. It felt like coming home. I ran into editor extraordinaire Ben Willis outside the festival hotel, The Golden Lion, and while we were catching up, several other people we knew wandered past, including crime writer Sarah Hilary. The two years apart evaporated. It felt good to be back. Later on that evening for the McIlvanney Prize announcement then the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers we were masked and audience numbers limited inside the Albert Halls, but those differences were quickly tuned out and it just felt like another fantastic Bloody Scotland festival. So good to see everyone, to be together again. 

Craig Russell makes history, becoming the first two-time winner of the McIlvanney Prize, for HYDE, his gothic tale inspired by Stevenson's classic. 

The Bloody Scotland organisers had created a really wonderful line-up of events for this year's festival, a mix of in-person onstage sessions, and having authors beaming in from other parts of the world. Bloody Scotland had gone fully hybrid, with digital passes to individual sessions or the entire weekend meaning anyone around the world with an internet connection could access some amazing panels. That's something I think many festivals will (hopefully) do in future, allowing them to be more inclusive for authors and readers/audience alike. 

Of course there's a huge cost to doing this in a high-quality manner, which many who've enjoyed free Zoom panels throughout the pandemic - I've participated in several myself - may not grasp. Bloody Scotland had a highly skilled team of professionals involved, creating videos, mixing sound, and managing the livestreams. Kudos to them all. 

My 'return' to in-real-life chairing was suitably hybrid too, after 18 months of online events and chairing Zoom panels. I was stoked to be asked to chair what was effectively a 'five continents of crime writing' panel, with Russian author Sergei Lebedev (UNTRACEABLE), Argentinean crime queen Claudia Pineiro (ELENA KNOWS), Nigerian author Femi Kayode (LIGHTSEEKERS) and Lakota Sicangu author David Heska Wanbli Weiden (WINTER COUNTS). What a line-up! It was momentarily a little strange being onstage alone (see photo at the top of this post) but boy did it feel fantastic to be back in front of an audience, and feel the enthusiasm from everyone there. 

My book Southern Cross Crime among some very fine company following
the Around the World in 80 Deaths panel at the Albert Halls

Pre-festival, I'd been curious/concerned about how book sales would be affected, with restricted audience numbers and the festival bookseller not having full pop-up bookshops with everyone's books all there at each venue, all the time for regular browsing and buying, like in years past. Instead, a table of the particular panelists books would be there after each event. I was particularly concerned about my own first panel, given none of the authors would be there to sign their books. But I needn't have worried - Sergei, Femi, David, and Claudia were so wonderful and created such a buzz with our conversation, that loads of their books were bought - sold out in a couple of cases! 

I even got to sign a few copies of my own book, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, for readers for the first time - some who bought it at the festival, and some who'd brought copies they already had to Stirling for me to sign. Thanks to everyone who stopped me and said nice things. It meant a lot, after a strange old year of everything being online. 

My first-ever reader signing: stopped on the street even before I'd done any panels. Kia ora!

As those of us who've been blessed to attend some great crime writing festivals in the past know, the panels and programmed events can be awesome, but its the things that happen in between that really make festivals special too. The random moments, the meals and conversations and spontaneous hang-outs with various people who are all gathered there together in one place due to a shared love of creativity and storytelling. That's what we haven't had during the pandemic, despite some really terrific online events that are oh-so-valuable too. 

As I was doing my first-ever book signing on the street, a few other authors and booklovers I knew walked past. More catch-ups and great conversation. It turned out Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was going to wander up to Stirling Castle, since it was his first time here (I'd met Antti at several other festivals). I had a couple of hours before my panel, so I offered to show him around historic Stirling - so for the next couple of hours a Finn and a Kiwi explored Scottish history during a crime festival, before heading onstage for our respective panels that afternoon. 

Finnish crime writer Antti Tuomainen enjoying the view over Stirling Castle

That's the thing I've maybe missed the most about crime festivals, the unplanned moments that happen when you're surrounded by interesting, creative people. There's a buzz at a festival that lingers after you leave. I always love interviewing people who are passionate about what they do - whether authors or sportspeople or lawyers or charity workers etc - because I find it inspires me to delve even more into my own passions and the things I care about.

So I've missed that festival buzz the past couple of years, despite some terrific online events. Looking ahead I hope we can have the best of both worlds: real-life moments on the ground along with lots of amazing onstage panels and events that are made even more accessible to many who can't be there, via streaming and digital passes etc.  

I think Bloody Scotland had a pretty great mix this year, and that's down to the organising team and board -  including the likes of Bob McDevitt, Fiona Brownlee, Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Abir Mukherjee, Craig Robertson, Alex Gray, and others - plus the tech staff and dozens of wonderful volunteers. 

They made magic. 

Since we couldn't have our usual 'Crime at the Coo' singalong event on Saturday night, the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers graced us with an acoustic set following the quiz in the Albert Halls, with a video screen nod to friend-of-the-festival Mandy Silver, owner of the Curly Coo

For those who missed it over the weekend, you can still nab a digital pass and watch the likes of Stephen King chatting with Linwood Barclay, Karin Slaughter's superb interview with Louise Welsh which closed the festival on Sunday evening, the Red Hot Chilli Writers fun-filled live podcast event, and so much more (including my Around the World in 80 Deaths panel on Saturday afternoon, and our hilarious Sunday morning event with 'masters of monstrous characters' Liz Nugent and Stuart MacBride) until the end of the month. 

It was a wonderful weekend. Kia ora rawa atu (thanks heaps) to everyone involved. Can't wait for 2022. 

What are some of your favourite book event memories? What festivals would you love to attend one day?

Until next time. Ka kite anō.

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 
Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi
(With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive, ie everybody has something to offer, and by working together we can all flourish.)

A hangi is a traditional Māori feast where people come together to share food that has been cooked on hot stones underground. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fashions for Fictional People

 Annamaria on Monday


Perhaps because I am in Italy where it is so important fare la bella figura--that is "to make a good impression,"--I have been thinking a lot about what the characters in a work of fiction wear.  I am editing my own work in progress and critiquing a draft for a friend. Out of doors, I walk around looking at Florentines dressed with style and flair and tourists some of whom look like they are headed for the beach rather than for the Uffizi,  All the while my head is also spinning with the people in those two stories, living in the deep and distant past. They are wearing period clothing, in one case in a very exotic location.

Ordinarily, I think about a couple of things when working when drafting a story.  One is, of course  what the characters are wearing, and also I have to make choices about the best way to describe the clothing. I'll take these subjects in that order.

Who was that masked man?




Dressing a character is one way an author reveals what kind of person the reader is meeting.  And also what activity she may be headed for. To be extreme about it, for instance, a man in a tuxedo is not going out to wash the car.  Well, maybe, if the man is James Bond, and the car is an Aston Martin! The clothes may be fashionable or drab, attractive and fit well or undersized for the protagonist's body. They may hang off the person's emaciated frame or be the best tailored clothing ever seen in a remote place.  

All these things can tell the reader about the characters' physical capabilities, economic status, etc. They can help to inform the reader, to say whether or not the writer wants the reader to trust the character, or worry about her. They can speak of what the character's lot in life is, her personal habits, and also, of course, what the writer wants the reader to think about the wearer of the Rolex watch, what judgments the writer wants the reader to make about the child in rags holding a shotgun.

Along with other clues in the subtext, a reader may conclude that the man whose suit is too tight is overindulgent or too out of shape to be helpful when danger comes.



For historical novelists, clothing gives the reader information about what age the story is set in. Every epoch has its own special style. Many of us of the historical persuasion try to keep readers in the long-ago by embroidering into the text little reminders that the reader is not being taken to a contemporary experience. A woman wearing a cloche hat and a knee-length frock with a fringed hem is going to dance to Charleston, not a quadrille.




And nun wearing a wimple is most likely living in a medieval convent, not riding to Washington for a demonstration with the other Nuns on the Bus.



Sometimes, we writers go looking for clothing to put on our characters. This, like a lot of research became easier with the Internet. These days you can find examples of all kinds of clothing from all places on the earth from any century with the click of a button.  When I was composing City of Silver, I read a chronicle that spoke of what the ladies wore in Potosi in 1650, but I had to rummage through several other books and take trips to the Frick and Metropolitan museums to see paintings of the era to give me an idea of what those wealthy ladies living at 13,500 feet on the Altiplano of Perú might have been wearing.


What intrigues me and challenges me most about dressing characters is how to deftly insert this information in the text. I don't like to do with gratuitous sentences informing the reader of what the person has on. It is tempting to take the other common expedient, and have my character look in the mirror. But when I do that, the words seem clunky to me, and I scold myself that I'm not trying hard enough.


My difficulties here are ameliorated because I write third person, multiple points of view. The most likely way you will find out what my characters are wearing is when another character takes notice of or remarks about the clothing.


Another technique that I find useful in blending in these sorts of details is to have the clothing itself have an effect on the person who is wearing it or to have the environment have an effect on the clothing.  Clothing that binds or itches for instance can be a metaphor for something troubling the protagonist or the villain's wool shirt may irritate him.   Or vice versa. A breeze can lift lift a scarf or a skirt can drag on the stairs is the heroine descends.  Wearing the wrong clothing by mistake can have an effect on the characters confidence, or conversely being perfectly turned out for an event that comes with a threat help the hero blend in and disappear to the crowd.


The options, of course, our endless. And I confess that I know full well that writers who insert paragraphs of fashion descriptions in their work can often be giving the readers exactly what they want. And I understand that my difficulties with finding subtle ways to create those pictures in the readers minds maybe overly precious in the extreme.


I am hoping that my fellow authors here will weigh in on this subject. Not only for the edification of our readers, but also for mine.

Why is Violence Against Women Still Not Being Taken Seriously?


Zoë Sharp

 

Last week, a report was published that used the word ‘epidemic’—but not in relation to Covid-19.

 

Instead, the comments came from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). This government-run agency’s task is to independently assess the effectiveness and efficiency of both the police and fire & rescue services, in the public interest.

 

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Zoë Billingham, said there was “a once in a generation opportunity to permanently uproot violence against women and girls, which is now epidemic in this country.”

 

This year’s report is not the first time the police in England and Wales have been found wanting in this area. In 2014, another report by the HMICFRS concluded that: ‘The overall police response to victims of domestic abuse is not good enough. Unacceptable failings in core policing activities, investigating crime, preventing crime, bringing offenders to justice and keeping victims safe are the principal reasons for this.’ 

 

The latest report, commissioned by the Home Secretary, looked at all local forces in England and Wales, and opened by saying ‘Fundamental cross-system change is urgently needed to tackle … violence against women and girls (VAWG).’  VAWG offences are classified as acts of violence or abuse that disproportionately affect women and girls (in this report, girls are seventeen or younger). This includes rape, domestic abuse, stalking, and many other crimes.

 

Although the report allowed that ‘the police had made vast improvements in the response to VAWG over the last decade, including better identification of repeat victims and improved safeguarding measures,’ it followed this by saying that it had also found ‘several areas where the police need to improve, including grave concerns about the numbers of VAWG cases closed without charge, and major gaps in the data recorded on VAWG offences,’ and suggested that the police could not tackle the problem alone. ‘The whole system—including policing, health and education—must take a fundamentally new approach.’

 

It is hard to believe we have entered the third decade of the twenty-first century, and this level of VAWG is not only still going on, but seems to be getting worse.

 

And, if not getting worse, then certainly it seems to be taken less seriously.

 

Police forces across England and Wales were listing priorities such as counter-terrorism, organised crime, so-called county lines gangs (which operate across different force areas), and some forms of child abuse. Ms Billingham said: “Violence against girls is not highlighted specifically as a priority within strategic policing requirement, the only real signal the government has to state what its priorities are.”

 

The report underlined data showing that ‘huge’ discrepancies were found in how different forces used the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), which was designed to supply confidential information about a person’s past criminal activity to someone who is believed to be at risk of future abuse by that person. It is intended to reduce intimate partner violence.


Clare Wood
 

Clare’s Law

 

The DVDS is also known Clare’s Law. It is named for Clare Wood, who was murdered in her home in Salford in 2009 by a former partner with a severe record of serious abuse against women. He had been imprisoned three times—six months for breaching a restraining order; two years for harassment; and six years for holding a woman at knifepoint for twelve hours.

 

Unaware of this frightening history, Clare met George Appleton on a dating website in April 2007. They began a relationship, which was ended by Clare several months later. At that point, Appleton turned nasty and began a campaign of intimidation towards Clare.

 

Although she was interviewed several times—and Greater Manchester Police were aware of Appleton’s criminal background—in February 2009 Clare was raped and strangled by Appleton, who then set fire to her body. Days later, he was found hanged in a derelict building. Clare’s father, together with various politicians and journalists, mounted a campaign to give sufferers the right to know if their partners had previous history of domestic violence.

 

Clare’s Law was first implemented in England and Wales in 2014, although it is not, in fact, a law, but takes the form of guidance issued to police forces. It has since been extended to other police services in some areas of Australia and Canada.

 

Perhaps because divulging information about a person by the police raises issues over privacy, less than thirty-nine percent of DVDS applications by partners of potential suspects, or other concerned members of the public, end in disclosure.

 

And only fifty-two percent of proactive DVDS applications by police forces resulted in that information being passed on to a potential victim.

 

Three out of four domestic abuse cases reported to the police are closed early without any charges being brought. The HMCIFRS found that police forces were closing such cases either because of lack of support from the victim, or lack of evidence despite the victim wanting to proceed.

 

Ms Billingham said: “It is the police’s job to build the case for the victim. In many cases, it isn’t clear that forces are taking all the opportunities to undertake an effective initial investigation, or that they desisted from pushing back the decision onto the victim… When was the last time any of us heard of the police asking a burglary victim if they wanted the police to take action? It doesn’t happen but it happens repeatedly in crimes of domestic abuse.”

 

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all this is that the data informing the report was collected in the year to March 2020—before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with the resultant rise in domestic violence.

 

When I first came up with the character of Charlie Fox, more than twenty years ago, she started out teaching self-defence classes to women in a northern English city. Over the course of the series, she moved on from that into professional close-protection work. It is sad to realise that the need for those lessons she taught back then—how to avoid being strangled; to escape from a wrist lock; even to deal with an attacker armed with a knife or broken bottle—has not decreased. If anything, that need has grown…

 

This week’s Word of the Week is hüzün, a Turkish word for the gloomy feeling that, bad as things are at the moment, they are probably going to get worse. One can take comfort from the fact that this state of affairs happens so universally, there is a word in another language for it.

 

 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Reluctant--But Necessary--Parody

 


Jeff–Saturday

 

I enjoy doing parodies of great poems. The exercise detaches my thoughts from reality, no matter how thorny the subject matter may be–a process some might argue, in my case, has proven irreversible.  Here’s my reworking of Reluctance a particular favorite of mine by Robert Frost. Its putative metaphor relates to the change of seasons, something soon to be upon us. My version addresses something already upon us.

 

Here’s my version of Reluctance:


Out through the streets and the hoods,

Past folk living where I have traveled,

I’ve witnessed the passing of those

Among both the rich and the bedraggled,

Left to face their fate all alone,

As each life unraveled.

 

Many are gone now from the earth,

Even more struggle to survive,

Cursing as they battle

An enemy well equipped to thrive

On souls not believing that

Jabs will keep them alive.

 

As the not-yet-dead lie lost and still,

Their minds drifting to what might have been

Had they listened to science–

Not trusted the cursed false prophets’ din;

Now in their fervent prayers to live,

We join in as next-of-kin.

 

For let us never forget,

That in this battle we’re related,

By a single urgent truth:

End Reluctance, be elated,

True salvation lies for all

In getting vaccinated.

 

 

And here’s the other guy’s original version.


 


Reluctance

 

Out through the fields and the woods

And over the walls I have wended;

I have climbed the hills of view

And looked at the world, and descended;

I have come by the highway home,

And lo, it is ended.

 

The leaves are all dead on the ground,

Save those that the oak is keeping

To ravel them one by one

And let them go scraping and creeping

Out over the crusted snow,

When others are sleeping.

 

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,

No longer blown hither and thither;

The last lone aster is gone;

The flowers of the witch hazel wither;

The heart is still aching to seek,

But the feet question "Whither?"

 

Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than a treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

 

–Robert Frost

 

--Jeff

PS.  Just a subtle reminder that this month my tenth Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novel, THE MYKONOS MOB, is available across all e-book formats for $1.99 via this link.



Friday, September 17, 2021

Bloody Scotland Weekend

Happy Days at Bloody Scotland 2? 3? Years ago?


Today is the first day of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival. The festival this year, after much thought and deliberation, - and trying to cover any and every eventuality-  is hybrid. They decided to do some live events, some events online and generally have the bar open as long as possible which was the most important thing. 

I contributed in a minor way by providing some covid guidelines. These were the recommendations  sent to my business by a very sensible human being in the council re what to do in events of such size re covid, masks, distancing, sanitisation etc. The language of it was encouraging and more 'do this and this and this', rather than 'Don’t do that!'

A little social distancing, popular events being online as well as live, masks when moving around the venue were recommended. No masks outside, lots of sanitiser amongst the other forms of alcohol that are available.

I had already made up my mind not to go. Just felt it was too risky with the day job, too much cross contamination possible from both sides and to be honest, the rules are now so complex that even well intentioned people are getting it wrong esp "the isolation of a double vaccinated person who has spent fifteen minutes or more  within two metres of a person who has tested positive,  has to isolate themselves for ten days unless  there's an R in the month and Jupiter is aligned with Pluto."

In the next two weeks, we should be getting the booster jab for the Pfizer- the third one. The studies are showing the drop in immunity and the rise in the delta variant are going to have a perfect storm over a cold but wet winter, so we are bracing ourselves.

But the Bloody Scotland event was like a beacon of normality on the horizon. Then a rather weird but familiar thing started to happen; a  strange tingling in my legs, a sense of weakness and, knowing these symptoms, I suspect that my little fracture has fractured again. No trauma, no nothing, just a disconnect between my brain and my legs. 

There was lots of swearing.

I'm now lying flat on my back typing this on a laptop. I’m waiting for notification of an MRI scan, and there’s the problem.

Our GPs are not seeing anybody face to face. It's all  phone call consultations. So many people, in pain, unwell, concerned about something, are waiting until out of hours and calling the 111 system in an attempt to jump the queue or get the attention they deserve depending on the patient. At 111 you speak to a nonmedical person who types the patient's answers to a questionnaire into a computer, that document is then looked at by a nurse. Somebody calls the patient back  within 4-6 hours and tells you what to do. 

Urgent cases are heading right up to A and E. This has resulted in a bagatelle of patients being bing bonged  around the system, often getting no where. Because we do have a truly marvellous system of free health care, underfunded for many years, we have very few private hospitals. The outpatients department at those private hospitals are now fulling up with those too worried or in to much pain to  wait on the NHS- bearing in mind that these patients will not have had a face to face consultation with any health care professional.

To put it in perspective.  Healthcare is free, a scan takes about 6-8 weeks on the NHS – obviously urgent things are put higher on the list- they will scan during the night etc if needed.

Precovid there was a wait of 2 years for  a hip replacement, it's now up to four years in some areas of Scotland. 

My research this week has shown that an MRI privately, normally occurs within a day or two, now has a five-week waiting list. The cost of this will be about £350. One surgeon was telling me that privately, his hip replacement surgery was now at two years due to lack of operation theatres and staff.

And as I can’t really get up and walk around until we see what’s going on with my strange spine, it's a bit of a waiting game to see what happens first where.

 So, its going to be interesting. 

                                               

                                                              some Scottish crime writers- best avoided!

    Caro Ramsay