Jabbed: Part One

I had my first Pfizer jab yesterday and it all went remarkably smoothly — from turning up at the vaccination centre to sitting down in the post-jab waiting room, the whole process only took about ten minutes.

And, after the compulsory 15 minute wait, I went out for a drink, because of course I did.

And in five week’s time I have to do it all over again for the second jab.

Crisis averted

Long term readers of this blog may remember The Haggis Crisis of 2021 and the news that the British Store online had been forced to suspend taking orders due to Brexit related supply issues.

I have, of course, been watching the site ever since and am inappropriately happy to report that, when I returned home on Wednesday, I found that they had re-opened. Of course, I immediately ordered as much as I could and it all turned up today.

I now intend on spending the rest of the day overdosing on Treacle and Lemon Curd.

Hypertension

I’ve been a bit quiet over the past week or so, both online and off, and there’s a reason for this. On Sunday 9th May — Mother’s Day in Belgium — I discovered, quite spectacularly, that I suffer from hypertension and have just spent the last week and a half in hospital.

This proved to be quite a surprise to me because I never get ill. Over the course of my career I have take a grand total of one day off ill, so I was slightly shocked to be told that I have been suffering from this for the past ten years. The doctors were surprised, too, and I have found myself having to answer several slightly incredulous questions.

The main challenge for the hospital has been finding a combination of drugs that can safely keep my blood pressure withing reasonable levels. Having concluded that the best combination for me is all of them, they have finally let me go.

Not surprisingly, I’ve done very little — well, nothing — while in hospital and have a bit of catching up to do. So if you suddenly see me popping up on week-old blog posts, now you know why.

Take care of yourselves, folks, and make sure you see a doctor more regularly than I do (did). You never know what might be lurking.

On speaking too soon

While rambling yesterday about the Coronavirus, I suggested (not as directly as I thought I had) that the availability of vaccines provided a way out of this pandemic. They do, but there are still delays.

The biggest coronavirus vaccination centre in Belgium, Heysel, did not open its doors on Monday after the delay in deliveries of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines resulted in hundreds of appointments being cancelled.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it would only be able to deliver 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Belgium, 200,000 fewer than promised, and Moderna said it would be delivering just 94,800 doses this week, leaving centres with reduced supply.

Then again, this is why any plans we make are very provisional.

365 Days Later

It was on Monday 16th March 2020 that I turned up to work to find a company-wide email telling me that I should start working from home. The mail had been sent on the Sunday which is why I hadn’t seen it before I reached the office. It was surprising, though, just how many people had been looking at their email over the weekend and, consequently, had known to stay at home. The following day, Belgium formed a temporary government which promptly placed the country in lockdown.

That Monday was, for me, the moment that the Coronavirus became real. Obviously, I had been aware of it and had been following the news but, until this point, the crisis had not had any direct impact on me or those around me so it had all felt a bit abstract.

I have been intending to post something to mark the date for a few days, but when I came to write this I found that I really didn’t have much to say. There are several reasons for this, but a major one is that being stuck at home hasn’t really been too hard on me.

It helps of course that I am something of an introvert and am quite happy to see no-one but my immediate family for, well, for a year. Living in the middle of nowhere has also been surprisingly helpful as I have been able, throughout the pandemic, to find some very pleasant places to walk all of which are very close to home. This has extended to the kids as well and, even with various activities cancelled, local clubs and groups have managed to both organise online activities and provide relevant resources and suggestions.

Financially, we are among the 71% of Belgians that are doing fine. Luxuries are largely reduced to pizza and DVDs and, while I do miss meals out and trips to the cinema, the absence of these is not much of a hardship. And this sums up much of the lockdown period for me; there have been plenty of minor irritations, but nothing devastating.

I realise that we have been lucky, and that many people have had a far harder time of this pandemic than we have, and I am certainly looking forward to receiving the vaccine and finally seeing an end to the crisis. It’s going to be a while yet, though, with the Flemish Health Minister promising 11th July as the date by which everyone in Flanders having received their first jab. As long as the ordered vaccines all turn up on time. Being neither a front-line worker or in any risk group I imagine I will be close to the back of that particular queue so we’re not making any summer holiday commitments just yet.

I haven’t renewed my rail pass either. I don’t need it if I’m working from home and have seen no indication from my employer that they have any plan to reopen the office any time soon. I can’t say I’m at all unhappy about this; working from home has freed up a huge amount of time for me and it has become very apparent to all just how unnecessary a physical office actually is. Ideally, I would go into work for one or two days a week and stay at home for the rest. We shall have to see how things go.

It’s not over yet, but the end is in sight and we can start looking forward again to a post-pandemic world. Hang in there, wherever you are, and here’s looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unflooded

At the start of this month, I mentioned that the daily walk I usually take was a bit flooded. Things got worse after that and, shortly after I had decided I should look for a different route, the footpath was closed. So, for the past couple of weeks I have been taking my walks around the town. It’s not the same.

Now that the snow has melted and the sun is out (it almost feels like Spring), I thought I would take another look.

The river water is still a bit high, but not too high, and the bridge is accessible again.

It’s also been warm enough for me to spend some time chopping wood for the next cold snap.

Things are looking up.

Winter is here

We actually have a decent layer of snow at last. It started snowing on Saturday evening and continued pretty much all the way through Sunday. It’s eased off now, but we are still seeing the occasional flurries.

It’s days like this that I light the fire and appreciate the fact that I am still working from home.

Flooded

Up until the end of last year I was doing quite well when it came to going for a daily walk and was managing to spend at least an hour a day walking. Things, however, have slacked off a bit since the New Year, though. When it’s a good time, it’s often too dark or too wet or too cold, or I’m just feeling too lazy. Consequently, I’ve only been managing three or four times a week during January.

So, even though it was a bit wet yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk anyway. What’s more, the twins decided they would like to join me.

It turned out to have rained a bit more than I had realised and, after trudging through some pond-sized puddles (and avoiding the lake-size ones) we came to the small bridge I usually cross on the way to a nearby forest.

We took a detour.

Digital Nostalgia

While clearing up a bit, I recently discovered a whole stack of 3.5 inch diskettes. Many of these were blank and had never been used — with my usual sense of great timing I bought a stack of 20 of the things, and a large case to hold them, just as they started to go out of fashion.

Of the ones that weren’t blank, most contain files and documents that I last looked at in the 1990s.

And then there were all the freebies that I had accumulated. Disks that had been mounted on magazine covers, stuffed with free and demonstration utilities for DOS or even Windows 3.1. Some of these I even remember. Most, however have been completely forgotten and none of them has been looked at since 2004 (or earlier).

One thing I do remember is OS/2. Not the disk so much as the actual operating system, which I used at work somewhere around the mid-1990s. We had a development tool that couldn’t run on Windows because… well, Windows wasn’t very good and this meant that the development team (me and one other person) had to dual boot between OS/2 and Windows 3.1.

I really liked OS/2 back in the day. It was stable, reliable and worked really well — which was quite a revelation when compared to Windows. And while the operating system never took off, it did manage to build a community of users which survived well into this century.

Time has, of course, moved on and I suspect that I doubt that it would stand any comparison with the operating systems of today, but when I was using OS/2 I did appreciate it.

As for the disks, I don’t have anything that could actually read them and doubt that any of them contain anything of more than passing interest, so into the bin they all went.