Covid-19 Test

Bit of excitement this week—I was asked to take part in some research, which involved taking a Covid-19 test at home and sending it off. I was picked at random, so it was unexpected. My week is not very full of exciting things at the moment so I was happy to take part. I had to reply to the letter online, and answer a couple of questions, and then they would send me the test.

I filled out the online survey, and waited. My children then informed me that this was potentially a scam, and what exactly had I answered, and had I given any passwords or my address or date of birth etc. This worried me, but all the personal data had already been added, and I simply had to confirm details, so I thought it was probably legit. Waited, hoping the test would arrive and not a burglar.

Yesterday, the test arrived. It came through the post in a big padded envelope, and inside were bits of paper and instruction booklets and other stuff. There was a covering letter. This told me to do the test without delay, and I was about to open it and work out what to do, when I decided to read all the instructions first, so turned instead to the instruction booklet. (This I feel, proves that I am female—not saying anything else, just mentioning it.)

The instruction booklet said NOT to take the test immediately, but to first book a courier. The test needs to be analysed within 72 hours, so first I must book a courier to collect it, THEN I do the test on the morning of the collection day. Lucky I read the booklet, feel they should have mentioned this in the covering letter (for all the non-females).

To book a courier, you had to go to a website (this was easy) and type in your ID number (not so easy). The ID code was on the “sheet with the two bar codes”. Well, I had a sheet with several stickers, of which one was a bar code, and a tube with a different bar code. I tried entering the numbers under each of them, both were rejected. The instruction book said “Do not include the GB at the start of the code.” Neither code started with ‘GB’. I searched the pack of stuff, but nothing else had anything remotely like a code. Then I realised that one of the codes started with ‘UK’. Maybe ‘GB’ was actually ‘UK’ and no one had noticed? I tried again, removing the UK from the start, and they accepted the code. Managed to book a courier for today.

This morning I did the test when I woke, because the courier was due between 8am and 8pm. The test was fiddly and uncomfortable, and I just hope I did it correctly. The instructions said I should first watch a Youtube video, but the link they sent didn’t work (rather lost faith in the instruction booklet by this point). I did a Google search, found a video of taking a sample, and tried to copy it. It basically involved sticking a long cotton-bud down your throat and touching your tonsils, then sticking it up your nose, before putting it into a tube and sealing it. Not very pleasant, and made me gag, but there are worse things. I wanted to keep everything clean, and also needed a mirror, so had the brilliant idea of placing a clean tray over the sink, and using this as a shelf. It would have worked better if the tap hadn’t been dripping, but I’m sure soggy labels are something researchers cope with all the time.

The (unreliable) instruction booklet said the courier would arrive and knock on the door, he would then place a box on the doorstep, step back 2 metres, and wait. I should place the test in the box, then shut the door so he would be safe to pick up the box and take it to the lab. In actual fact, the courier arrived, I opened the door, and he held out his hand for the test. I indicated that I would place it on a shelf, and he took it from there, but otherwise he would have taken it directly from my hand. Maybe they forgot to send him a copy of the instruction booklet.

There was also a padded envelope in the kit. No idea what that was for. It is a white, unused, padded envelope. I will keep if for if I need to post anything.

They said they would tell me the test result within a week, but as I have no symptoms, and have not been near anyone at all other than my family, for several weeks, I am fully expecting it to be negative—if I ever hear—not entirely trusting that booklet now. Let’s hope it is useful to the lab, and the clever people who work there manage to help manage Covid-19 so we’re all safe again. Perhaps I’ll apply for a job as their instruction book writer—I feel there is a need there.

Hope you have a nice weekend. Take care, and stay safe.

Love, Anne x


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Into Perspective: A View of Coronavirus

Into Perspective: A View of Coronavirus

(Image: (c) Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library via Getty Images)

I am having trouble getting into perspective—from both a personal angle and globally—the impact of coronavirus. Each evening, I check the latest stats (while Husband mutters in the background about my having a new fixation) and I look to see how many people have died in the UK. Which I realise is somewhat morbid, but it helps me to understand a little about the impact that the virus is having. Or does it? I am not checking rates of death by other causes, so can a daily update on one cause, in one country, really indicate anything? I decided to look a little wider, and was shocked by what I found.

There are many different ways of collecting and presenting stats, but for the sake of comparison, I used one site, and compared several different statistics. I am writing this article a few days before I post it, so all the data will be slightly out of date by the time you read, but it gives you some idea. As I write, there are 2,753,385 coronavirus cases globally, and there have been 192,301 deaths. In the UK, as I write, there have been 19,506 deaths from the virus, which is frankly scary. The deaths were (until lockdown) increasing exponentially, which means the increase each day is more than previously (more on this later). Given these rather scary numbers, what should my reaction be? Should I be taking action to prevent catching the virus, to prevent my family catching the virus? Should I be campaigning for more resources for the NHS? Should I be trying to source a ventilator? And oxygen tank? My overwhelming feeling is that I want to protect my family.

Before I fill my garage with medical supplies and kidnap a nurse, let’s look at some other statistics. How many people die from other things each year? If we look at just this year, there have been 152,707 deaths from seasonal flu; 13,343,461 abortions; 527,656 deaths from HIV/AIDS; 2,577, 889 deaths from cancer; 336,591 suicides; 423,708 deaths from traffic accidents; and a horrible 3,510,459 deaths due to hunger. Hunger. A little shocking, isn’t it?

Now, obviously we are in unknown territory with the coronavirus, and potentially those numbers could rocket in the next few months, overtaking everything else. But when we look at where we are now, and compare them with other factors, it makes me question whether my perceived reaction is correct. (Maybe I shouldn’t kidnap the nurse, after all.) We also need to take into account the effect of the lockdown. The government needed to juggle our mental health, and the economy, with the consequences of letting too many people catch the virus all at once, and overrunning the capabilities of the NHS. We all know this, because ‘Save the NHS’ has become our new catch-phrase. However, there is more to consider than simply whether we have enough beds. As soon as the lockdown was put in place, the exponential curve charting the increase in deaths began to flatten, the increases became less big, and in some cases started to decrease. At the same time, the chart plotting the decline in economy started to increase. As the coronavirus curve dropped, the fall in economy started to rise—except no one was plotting that one in neat little stats, like the deaths of people in hospital, because it’s not so easy to chart.

What are the implications of a drop in economy? Well, obviously some companies will go out of business, leading to unemployment. Even people with jobs are likely to have reduced opportunities for promotions and pay rises. The stock markets will fall, which impacts pensions. People with less money will spend less, so more companies are impacted. Less earnings mean less tax, so investment in things like the NHS will decrease. And so on. All rather depressing, and of course, depression is a big factor too—are we protecting people’s physical health at the expense of their mental health?

So, what can governments do? One possibility is to borrow money to cover the current debt. Where will they borrow it from? The future. This has happened for generations, governments overspend, and save the debt for the next generation—which is why we had ‘austerity’ in the first place. Are we comfortable spending now, so that our grandchildren can pay later?
In some places, such as Sweden, there has been no legal lockdown, and although many people are practising social distancing, schools and pubs etc are all still open. Will the number of deaths in Sweden overtake other countries? Or will they develop a ‘herd immunity’ and their economy survive intact while ours plummets? And is ‘herd immunity’ even a thing? I have read reports from Asia showing that people who have recovered from the virus, and had two negative tests, have then tested positive again. Is coronavirus something you can only catch once? (At the moment, scientists are investigating whether they can extract cultures from these recovered patients, to grow in a lab. At the moment, they can’t, which suggests that the virus has possibly been dormant and flared up again, but not enough to infect someone else; but who knows?)

It all looks very gloomy, and I have asked a lot of questions, and have no real answers to offer. I guess my conclusion is this: Coronavirus is horrible, but so are all the other causes of death that impact the world. And how can so many people be dying of hunger in our modern world? Hunger for goodness sake!

While our scientists are learning about the disease, we need to be cautious, and therefore things like lockdowns are sensible. But they need to be balanced with both the economy and people’s mental health. This takes wisdom—more than I possess. People talk about the NHS as the new religion of England, the one thing that brings the population together, something we all think is good. The NHS is great, and worth protecting, but perhaps it’s time we looked back to something bigger, perhaps it’s time we again considered God, and the possibility that we, as mere humans, need more wisdom than we’re capable of. Perhaps it’s time to admit that we do not have all the answers, and there are some problems too big for us. Perhaps the  most important question you should think about is: when did you last pray?

I hope that you are safe, whatever the problems you face this week. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Another chapter from Invisible Jane will be posted  tomorrow.


Being Positive in a Surreal World

Being Positive

Hello and how has your week been? Things are very odd, aren’t they? I keep reminding myself that this has happened before, with the 1918 Flu epidemic—I just wasn’t around to experience it. We have had epidemics before, and they passed, and one day things will become normal again. ‘Normal’ feels very precious, doesn’t it?

Have you been personally affected by the virus? So far, although I know of friends-of-friends who have had the virus (in various degrees of severity) no one in my immediate circle has caught the virus. Which means it all feels a little surreal, and the main impact on my day to day life is the government directives rather than the actual virus. I have stopped watching the news—other than the headlines, because I find it rather depressing. There are too many discussions about things that are going wrong, the worries that people have. These are very real, and I don’t want to suggest otherwise, but I find I can only cope with so much horrid stuff at once, so I limit what I watch. I certainly ignore any headline with the word ‘could’ in it. Too much dire speculation. In fact, I find the most interesting news are the simple stats, with no commentary at all. I found a good link: worldometers  

Worth bearing in mind when viewing stats, is that normal flu deaths average about 17,000 in the UK each year. So although covid-19 is worse (because everyone needs hospital help at the same time, and hospitals cannot cope) the mere numbers are not as scary as they seem.

However, there is a lot that is rather special. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, everything seemed scary/unreal at first. Gradually, God taught me to live in the present, to notice lovely things about ‘now’ and to leave the future to him. I cannot reassure you about the future, because none of us knows what that will hold, but I can tell you some lovely things about the present. I look outside at the spring flowers, the squirrels bouncing around, the chickens wandering round the garden…

Now, one challenge is shopping. I am shopping for my household (currently 5 people) plus my mother, plus random neighbours of my mother who give her their shopping requests. These requests tend to be very specific: ‘4 conference pears but only if they are ripe’. As they are isolated at home, they have no idea how impossible some of these requests are. I expect they think I am rather tardy/stupid when completely the wrong food arrives. So far, they have been too polite to say anything. I wander round the shop in a complete muddle, trying to juggle different lists and remember what I wanted myself.

One mistake was mentioning to Husband that I was having trouble finding tinned tomatoes. Every time he leaves the house now, he manages to return with tins of tomatoes. I have no idea where he’s finding them—some are very odd varieties. I keep telling him we are fine for tomatoes, but it seems to have become lodged in his brain, it’s like one of those nightmares where you open every cupboard, and each one is full of tomatoes. . . or perhaps you don’t have that nightmare?

I do sort of enjoy shopping now. True, it was disorientating at first, when I popped down for milk and there was none, of any kind, in the shops. But now I go expecting to not find things, and it’s a nice surprise when things are back on the shelves. This is due to the supermarket staff, who are being rather wonderful. Let’s face it, I doubt if any of the cashiers and shelf-stockers previously saw their work as a vocation. And yet there they are, risking all the customer germs, dutifully working so we can eat. When I went down today, there were queues outside, and they were allowing people into the shop gradually: one out, one in. What a hassle for them, yet they were incredibly polite and cheerful, trying to keep us all safe. Inside, I could see them wiping down baskets between each customer, washing their hands, doing their best to be as germ-free as possible.

I could of course list all the other wonderful people: the medics, the bus drivers, the teachers—so many people who are risking their own health to keep the country going. Personally, I think it’s rather marvellous.

Have you found it hard to keep track of the days? With everyone working at home, every day is very similar. I find some of the online conference things help, and some of my normal activities are now continuing in a virtual world. You have to be careful to remember when you are on camera though, I have seen a few mistakes (the worst one being a woman who took her phone to the loo and everyone on the conference call could see her!) Most churches have some sort of virtual service, and we sat round last Sunday and watched our old pastor from New Jersey preaching (I think he was in his basement!) Thankfully, he wasn’t wearing his pyjamas, which most people working from home seem to do (or maybe that’s just in my house). If you want to tune in next Sunday, the link is here

We also watched our UK service online. The link is Here

Both pastors are doing their best not to look like they’re making a hostage video! They are mostly succeeding…

One of the best things for me, is the jokes spinning around the internet. I think some of my isolated relatives spend all day sourcing hilarious memes to send. Here are a few of my favourites:


There is also lots of useful information among the scaremongering—you just have to check the source. My understanding of how viruses work is growing—did you know that there are different degrees of infection? So, if you have very slight exposure (maybe one person coughs near you on the street) then your level of infection, and therefore your likely illness, will be slight. However, if you mix with several people carrying the virus, you will have a higher rate of infection and therefore be more ill. The correct term is ‘viral load.’ This means even if you are all in the same family, it is worth isolating ill people, to limit the infection (don’t think that because you all have the virus, you should all sit round watching telly together — you can add to each other’s infection.) Interesting huh? It also means our medical staff, who will have lots of exposure to the virus from various sources, are very much at risk, and therefore very deserving of our admiration.

I hope you are finding some happy things among all the chaos. Take care—and wash your hands!

Love, Anne x

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Should you ask for a miracle when you’ve been given a brain?

Let me set the scene for you: The church service has finished, and people are shuffling their chairs into small circles, ready to take communion. There are small round tables in strategic positions, and someone is quietly walking around, placing silver dishes of bread and small glass cups of wine on each one. (Actually, to be strictly factual, I believe the small glass cups are cocktail dishes, designed for jellies or ice-cream sundaes. And the ‘wine’ is indefinable fruit juice, because this is a Baptist church and they don’t have alcoholic wine for communion.) The bread is gluten free, so that everyone can share from the same loaf.

I sit, in my circle, and look at the other people. This is a mistake—perhaps my head should be bowed in prayer, and I should be oblivious to the people I am about to share a cup with, but I’m not. I notice that at least four people in my group have colds, one lady is stuffing a tissue up her sleeve while we wait, others have red noses and watery eyes and hoarse coughs. I find this stimulates me to pray, but again, not perhaps the prayer I should be praying. I am not praying for my fellow worshippers, not asking God to heal their illnesses, to give them comfort from the sore noses and uncomfortable throats. Nope, I am asking for a miracle. I am asking that could I please, please, be protected from the germs that are about to be shared along with the indefinable fruit juice in the glass cup/jelly dish. Because I have a really busy week coming up, with a book sale, and three different occasions when we’re having a number of people for dinner and I need to cook, and a rather nice event with my family which I don’t want to miss, so please God, please protect me from the cold germs and the flu virus, and anything else that is about to be consumed in the indefinable fruit juice.

Then, as I prayed (my rather selfish prayer) I realised that God had given me a brain and a dollop of common sense. My brain told me that sharing a cup (of indefinable fruit juice) with a bunch of people who were clearly suffering from one lurgy or another, was plain stupid; especially at the start of a particularly busy week. I did not need a miracle (ie to be protected from the germs which I would certainly consume with the drink) I needed instead to use my brain, and not drink it. Perhaps being given a brain was the miracle (brains are after all rather wonderful, with their grey sludge and electrical currents that control every part of us).

And so, dear reader, I did not share the communion cup. I truly hope that I didn’t offend anyone by passing it along the line, I hope that no one felt I was being aloof, or setting myself apart, because I wasn’t. I simply decided to use my brain and not risk catching a germ that I don’t have time to fight.

What, I wonder, would you have done?

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I wrote this several months ago, before I was even aware of Coronavirus. I didn’t post it at the time, thinking I would save it for later. It now seems so poignant, I decided to share it.

Coronavirus: How Do We Know What to Believe?

Are you feeling muddled about the facts of the Coronavirus? I know that I am. This is partly due to conflicting messages in the media, and let’s face it, it is so very difficult these days to know whether what we read in the media is true. It seems increasingly common to read a ‘shock’ headline, which turns out to have no basis in truth at all. For example, the headline: “Black’s Bank Investigated for Fraud” turns out to be a story about a routine investigation, which all banks undergo routinely every year, and which includes a check for fraud. But what we remember, is the link between the fraud and the bank—even though there never was one.

This is dangerous. This results in the media becoming little more than entertaining gossip, so we stop taking it seriously, and the hugely important function of keeping us informed, of keeping our leaders accountable, of spreading useful information, becomes obsolete. We need a media that we can trust.

Now, back to Coronavirus, how do we know what to believe? We are told that it is similar to seasonal flu, and it can be dangerous for the elderly and vulnerable. We are told how many new cases there are, on a daily basis, and how many people have died from the virus.

But have none of those patients recovered? Why are we not hearing about the thousands of people who have contracted the disease, been mildly ill, and now are well again? Why are we not hearing about the progress of a possible vaccine, and when scientists hope it might be available? Are they even working on a vaccine—I assume they are, but I have heard nothing about it. The news has been full of new hospitals being built, and increased risk, and new laws. Nothing on a vaccine or cure.

We are told it originated in China, and this seems to have provoked a stream of racism against Asian people, which reminds me of the very worst parts of our history, when we refused to learn anything about other cultures and anything different was deemed inferior. Undoubtedly some cultural differences are inferior—but others are incredibly superior. We focus less on those.

For example, the wearing of face masks. All the Asian people who I know (and I know a lot) tell me that people wear face masks to protect other people. If a Chinese person has a nasty cold, when they are shopping, or using public transport, they will wear a face mask to protect others. This seems to be beyond the scope of most English people, who automatically assume that a face mask is to protect the wearer. If you want to buy a face mask on Amazon, the write-up is all about whether the mask will protect the wearer, absolutely nothing about whether it will stop the spread of germs from the wearer to others. This is the sort of point that the media could highlight. But it doesn’t.

I have no idea what to expect from the spread of Coronavirus. I don’t know whether to prepare to catch it, or assume it will have died out this time next week. But I do know that I would like the media to change, and for it to start giving us actual facts and unbiassed information, and less sensational reports; because then we can start to make informed decisions.

Thanks for reading.
Anne x


If you do happen to be ill, confined to bed, and need entertaining, the ideal book to read is:

Sowing Promises
by Anne E. Thompson
Available from an Amazon near you today.

UK link: Here

US link: Here