Thursday 31 December 2020

Cumulative map of all Stoke-on-Trent virus deaths

Map of all Stoke virus deaths since the virus began. Latest from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) interactive map, which shows the total of all "Deaths involving COVID-19":
And, for comparison, the map as it stood at 15th August 2020:

Saturday 17 October 2020

Open and shut - a new series of Stoke-on-Trent alley gatings

It appears that Stoke-on-Trent City Council is quietly using the lockdown to lock up a wide range of alleys and footpaths, with new residents-only 'gated path' arragements. Regrettably their set of final draft orders all lack maps.

'Location 53' is Palmers Green. They don't appear to have closed the Palmers Green gated footpath known as "Palmers Way", which is absolutely vital to a key public walking-route between Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke. But the 'back-alley' path leading around the back of the houses up to reach this vital footpath does appear to have been closed to the public. Access to Palmers Way still seems to be possible by walking up the quiet green cul-de-sac of Palmers Green, which would anyway have been the preferrable walking route. But obviously walkers need to keep a close eye on the continued accessibility of "Palmers Way".

The other regrettable loss is at the very end of the document. The very long alley that runs behind the Leek Road, and that enabled relatively pleasant and quiet walking from Hanley Park / Cauldon Canal down to the Royal Mail sorting office. While usefully avoiding student grot and huge pavement-hogging bins on one side, and the fumes and noise of the main road traffic on the other.

Most of these "residents only" alley gatings appear to being put in place to deter druggies and flytippers. Yet another example of how we all suffer because of measures needed to deal with a tiny minority.

Friday 16 October 2020

Off Hanley, duck

In the Sentinel today, Three-day police crackdown on loutish behaviour turning Hanley into 'land of the living dead'.

Well, I had the misfortune to go into Hanley today and all I can say, is that this report is bollocks in terms of both a "crackdown" and also "loutish". It's far worse than "loutish", and I saw no evidence of a "crackdown" in terms of effective action when needed.

The so-called "mobile unit" mentioned in the report just sat in their warm car and watched from a distance while a madman screamed abuse at passers-by for 15 minutes, many of them elderly and coming from the bus-station. A more cast-iron case of "a breach of the peace" and "distress and alarm" you'd struggle to find. Possibly it had been going on far longer than I was there for. I went into Wilkos on the corner, and by the time I got out the nutter had just that moment got bored of his perch on one of the big stone 'seats' and had started to wander off, still shouting at people. Unfortunately he was going in my direction. I lingered in the Wilko entrance and then kept a safe distance as he raved away down Stafford Street, then he dodged in a shop, smirking with a knowing "got away with it" smirk and he had gone a bit quiet... probably planning to cause more trouble inside.

And that's just one example. Plenty of people could give you many more examples, years and years of them. And not just in Hanley either, but in Forest Park, Hanley Park, Hanley Cemetery, the list goes on. It's nothing to do with the lockdowns, it's been going on for years now and seemingly tolerated. Do you wonder why half the shops in that part of Hanley have closed down? People used to rather idly say Hanley looked like a bomb had hit it. But they were always exaggerating a bit, in that jokey Stokie way. But now it really does look like a bomb has hit it, and it also has the zombies to go with it.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

"All aboard, for the Cobridge Traffic Lights...!"

"Multi-million pound plans unveiled for tram network in Stoke-on-Trent". With the proposed line going from Tunstall - Burslem - Waterloo Road / Cobridge Traffic Lights - Hanley - then splitting into a Stoke Station spur and a Longton line. I assume it would be an on-road system, rather than using the city's Greenways which are now dedicated to walkers and cyclists.

Great idea, and now's the right time to start getting the government to offer the cash to fund all the planning and feasibility studies. But, judging by my experience of the unpleasant West Bromwich tram line, I'd suggest some baseline requirements. When I was last on it the West Brom line had uncomfortable seats, and rattling and juddering and generally noisy trams. I'd suggest that Stoke's line should aim to be:

* fitted with comfy seats, not rock-hard bum-chillers and hip-grinders. Yes, I know you have to deter seat-hogging drunks, who would stay on and yob and sleep all day if you let them. But there must be other ways to deter such things.

* have bus-style forward-facing seats, not side-facing, for less travel-sickness when moving.

* be as whisper-quiet and vibration-free as possible, both inside and out.

I presume the technology has moved on since the 1980s/90s style trams, and such requirements should now be within reach of a high-quality high-tech approach for the 2030s. Perhaps the city's push to be an 'advanced materials' hub could feed into this new tram project, by developing the vibration-absorbing and noise-damping materials needed to deliver a far more pleasant tram-travel experience?

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Behind closed doors

Why are Council tenders not public, in Newcastle-under-Lyme? They are in Stoke and elsewhere. I thought it was national policy to ask for openness and transparency from local Councils?

Thursday 3 September 2020

On your bike

Good to hear, this week, as the ground becomes softer and more liable to damage:

"Operation Transom is being launched in the City of Stoke-on-Trent to tackle the issue of nuisance motorbikes".

Presumably it's also easier to nab them, as it'll now be mostly concentrated in the drier evenings and on weekends. Rather than strung out all over the city at different times, as it presumably is during the school holidays.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Map of all Stoke virus deaths to 15th August 2020

Office for National Statistics - All "Deaths involving COVID-19" from the start of the pandemic through to 15th August 2020, for the Stoke-on-Trent city area.

Saturday 8 August 2020

It's the city's clean-up weekend!

This weekend is the launch of the city's clean-up, championed by our champion litter picker Debi Allbutt of Norton. It's just as well to do it now — early on Sunday morning or Monday — because it'll be wet once this fine spell is over. Monday tea-time will see the start of several days of rain and thunder. On the clean-up The Sentinel reports today that: "Community champion encourages Stoke-on-Trent residents to get involved in big clean up".

"It's literally so easy to take part in 'View From Your Door'. We're just asking everyone to head out to their street, pick up litter, pick up weeds, and make things look more presentable. It only needs to take 10 minutes."

Debi is encouraging people to share their before and after pictures on social media in their local community Facebook groups.

Great stuff. If you can take part, according to my research the best place to buy a good litter-picking stick in Stoke is Ableworld in the Leek Road near Hanley. There you want their "Classic Long" picker, which when last seen were re-branded Helping Hand sticks. You can also get a Helping Hand stick from Amazon, though it's long and you won't get it to fit in a pick-up locker. The other thing that's useful are flexible gloves and a firm stick about 12 inches long. Any bit of old tree will do, as long it's not going to snap. Roll the stick into the top of the bin-bag, to give you a "handle" to hold that keeps the bag open for popping the litter in with your stick.

Obviously the city could not have the usual Spring cleanup this year, so there's likely to be a lot to do. A week ago I did a long stretch near me, which needed to be done. But perhaps the city has more than can be done in a few hours on a Sunday morning or Monday lunchtime. The next best time of year for a mass litter-pick would then be just after Bonfire Night. In that still-crisp early November weather when the wind is usually very low, and the ground and its litter is not too moist and soggy yet.

Friday 31 July 2020

Where will they put the West Midlands National Park?

In the news today: "Plans for West Midlands National Park move forward".

So where exactly would they put it, if it was to be something real and big. Not just a patchwork PR exercise that aimed to provoke no NIMBY-ism from voters? If it's indeed to be big and green, then I guess it would have to be near Birmingham, for political reasons. And be positioned so it at least has a chance of an eventual genuine connection with the National Forest, in perhaps 50 years.

Looking at the map, I'd then guess that a starting point would be adding 'wild-belt' hedged strips and that try to link up the natural areas between Sutton Park and Cannock Chase. Such that after 20 years a squirrel could (just about) leap from tree-to-tree from Sutton Coldfield up to Stafford.

Such wide thick-hedged wildife strips would be very-low cost, if they were for nature only, and were not hijacked by local councils to be public paths used by cyclists, dog-walkers, etc. All one would need would be to buy the strips of relatively low-value land, then add some stakes and wire and hedge it either side of the strip. The strip would be wide enough to be easily mown for wild-flower meadow, and would go more or less in a bee-line. After a decade, get in some lads with hedge-laying tools. Maybe also make some ponds at the connector-points, and at a distance around those plant clumps of what will eventually become large mature trees. All just for nature, no public access to the connector strips, only to what they're connecting.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Causing a buzz

"Stoke-on-Trent 'idyllic oasis' left looking this after being 'neglected' during lockdown".

First off, it's a complete journalistic spaff to call it an 'idyllic oasis'. It's a mini-park place in Hanley you avoid totally, or hurry through as quickly as possible, to avoid the drunks, druggies, and those waiting to go into the adjacent law courts to be sentenced for some heinous crime.

Secondly, as I understand it The Sentinel's offices are right next door to this. Did they not peep put of their windows before now, and spot that the grass was getting a bit long? Why have they saved up the 'story' until now?

Thirdly, who cares? The city now has a policy of letting verges grow quite long, for wildlife. It's great that the bees and crane-flies have been able to buzz among it for six weeks, and now we can cut it down when a critical mass of shoppers and revellers are back in the city centre again. Which, given the terrible weather forecast for this end-of-lockdown weekend, looks like being a week or so yet.

The more interesting response from the Sentinel might have been to call in a local ecologist and see what they can find in there with a camera-microscope.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

The revolving shed

In the latest edition of The Idler, a revolving shed. Just for a writer to write in, so not actually a working gardening shed weighted down by potatoes, junk and heavy metal implements. And thus able to turn easily.

The turntable means it is able to turn away from a bitter or gusting wind, or from glaring sunlight, or toward the warming dawn.

Tuesday 30 June 2020

A quick march to Festival Park

I hear that the old Army Reserves (aka 'Territorials') centre fronting onto the Waterloo Road in Cobridge has just been sold off. But if you're suddenly in need a squad of fit lads to sort out the Cobridge traffic lights, it has apparently relocated to a newly-built facility somewhere a little "to the south west of the site". Which would put the new one somewhere at the back edge of Festival Park.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Join the "Chop 'em and Whopp 'em" Army

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has proposed sensible plans to bring work to some of the new unemployed. Under their proposal, 1.3 million volunteers would receive training "to learn how to identify, report and remove invasive species" from the UK environment, and then set about getting the mammoth task done. Thus forming a new Biosecurity Defence Force for the UK. The Government is said to be examining the proposal.

The UK may be looking at around 2 million extra unemployed. So a paid force of some 600,000 fit young people, supported by another 600,000 unpaid older volunteers + managers, would help to give long-term work to many. We had something similar in the 1980s, evolving out of the old YOP schemes for the unemployed, Groundwork — although by the 90s they'd become rather insular and managerial. I'd hope that a Biosecurity Defence Force, or a Biosecurity Improvement Frontline Force (BIFF) or some-such name, would be a little more approachable and responsive. One thing I'd suggest that the Force could do would be to ensure they leave a newly-made wildlife pond behind, at or near each project site. We really could do with another 50,000 ponds across the UK.

Friday 1 May 2020

The Office for National Statistics's new death map

There's now a precise new death map for the UK from the Office for National Statistics, showing deaths involving the virus from 20th March to 17th April. The usual caveats apply about the precision of the recording, especially in care-homes. Of course, it isn't up-to-date to 1st May and the virus is far from fading away just yet. Each dot on the map represents much suffering among families who have lost loved ones. It also silently indicates a greater number who suffered, perhaps quite badly so, and survived. There will be more deaths and suffering to come, but for now here's the sad pattern:

Birmingham and the Black Country, Wolverhampton, all heavily hit and in a fairly uniform way. Shrewsbury and Leek seem to have almost escaped, at least by 17th April.

Zooming in locally: Bradwell and the adjacent Chesterton have both been badly hit, with the spot being much bigger if they had been combined. In Stoke, Burslem/Longport/Middleport and Hanley/Etruria slightly less so.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Back to the land!

The government has announced that furloughed workers are allowed to seek alternative additional work with a third party. Or at least, they can so long as their existing contract allows it, and as long as the worker doesn't work on a project that benefits their main employer.

This relaxation should free up a large body of people to work for pay where they're needed. In areas of the local economy such as farms, market gardens and plant nurseries, where there are said to be some 80,000 vacancies as the new season gets underway. Obviously the job will have to be within easy reach of the home, as travel restrictions are still in place.

Friday 3 April 2020

Stoke council on allotments

News just in from our local council:

"the council has received a 120 per cent increase in demand for allotments since the outbreak, and council teams are working to match people with available pitches. Allotment holders must follow national heath guidance on social distancing, handwashing for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching their face and not holding communal gatherings."

Presumably some applicants are assuming that the crisis will go on well into the summer, and that a possible lack of paid pickers in the fields will affect their fruit and greens supply.

Though if that's all you want it will probably easier to grow a bit of fresh greens indoors in tubs by windows and on patios/balconies, and get a store of fruit in in the form of tins. Though you'd need to convert an entire south facing back-bedroom into a rotating racked garden, if you want really substantial supplies without going outside.

There will also likely be a boom this summer in "pick your own" in the countryside, assuming that travel restrictions are eased in June and that seasonal workers are not allowed to come in from abroad (for fear of triggering a second lockdown).

But good for the allotment applicants, if they really want do want to put in the heavy work that a new allotment is likely to need.

Also (my advice, not the council's) be wary of uncooked fruit and seasonal fresh veg that people may have talked over and picked up / put back. This is especially the case of unwrapped supermarket veg that goes straight into the fridge at home without being washed. The virus lasts far longer on surfaces at general fridge temperatures. It's heat that viruses don't like, not cold.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

On 8.2%

An update on my initial virus post, "Notes on the virus" (6th March 2020, updated 10th March). I had concluded that post by estimating a 3 to 5% chance of a 'severe' reaction for a healthy 50-something male allotment holder, on catching the virus. But now there is new data on this age group.

The seemingly reliable new study is from Imperial College, London and is based on data rather than computer models. The press release states a rate of hospitalisation ['severe'] of 8.2% in 50-59 year-olds known to have the virus. That's a one-in-twelve chance of needing to go to hospital.

However, this is across both non-healthy / healthy people in that age-group. Thus it's not to be imagined that all 50-59 year-olds have a uniform 8.2% chance of being hospitalised, if they catch the virus. They don't. It's far more likely that it's hospitalising mostly those in the 50-59 year-old group who already had underlying health condition (of a type that puts them in the danger category).

Further, on looking at the published paper from Imperial College one finds that their age-group data is actually from "mainland China", rather than from the UK. Thus my initial caveats about heavy drinking and smog-damaged lungs in urban China still apply. Such things would surely increase the risk. There's also the Chinese habit of conjuring with and censoring their statistics to consider. And that's presumably why the Imperial College paper can't state what the % risk is to otherwise healthy 50-59 year-olds. They presumably can't determine that because the Chinese didn't release that bit of the data, in the file on the 3,665 cases being tabulated by the report. Otherwise Imperial College would surely have reported the breakdown within the age group.

Thus "8.2%" sounds like a big juicy bit of new data, re: the risk to 50-somethings of hospitalisation. It will no doubt make for screaming newspaper headlines tomorrow, and scare half of Stoke witless. But it turns out it isn't very useful. It could actually be positive news for the healthy 50-something (i.e. there could be a negligible possibility of being hospitalised if a healthy 50-59 year-old), or it could be gloomy news (perhaps a 3-4% possibility of being hospitalised if a healthy 50-59 year-old). The latter is about the 3-5% chance I'd initially suggested in my initial post.

But, amazingly, it seems we still don't know what the actual % risks are for this age group, when properly split between the healthy/non-healthy, fat/normal, male/female and smokers/non-smokers. It should be relatively easy for such distinctions to be made, so why are we only hearing misleadingly broad statistics on this? I mean, if smokers are 80% more likely to die then we should know that ASAP and not at the end of pandemic.

Some extra background on this, from other sources on China. STAT reported that, across all age groups, having a pre-existing risk condition "increased risk of dying by 2.5 times". But that the "fatality rate in patients who reported no other health conditions was 0.9%".

Saturday 28 March 2020

Dig for victory

A timely new study has called for more allotments in cities, and the local people to make them productive on a sustained basis. The new PhD research, from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, surveyed 10 medium-sized UK cities such as Bristol and Glasgow.

It's behind a paywall at the Landscape And Urban Planning journal, but newspaper reports state the study found that waiting lists for city allotments grew five-fold between 1996 and 2013. Meaning a 6 to 18 month wait to get a good plot, at 2013. Although I'd add that you can usually get on a ratty neglected plot far quicker than that, if no-one else wants it.

The choice of a 1996 - 2013 period looks a bit skewed though, as it covers the decade in which Labour allowed the mass sell-off of allotments (a secret report in 2006 found the loss of "nearly 800 between 1996 and 2006"), and then the 2007-2013 period when there was very high demand during the Great Recession. One has to wonder what the 2013-2020 period would look like, if it could have been reliably added to the study. My feeling would be that the headline figures for urban waiting-lists would have markedly improved between 2013 and 2019, as demand slackened during the jobs boom and new plots were created.

The study goes on to suggest that re-opening former urban allotments would wipe out the waiting-lists, but this risks misleadingly implying that the urban waiting-list levels in 2020 are still at the level they were in 2013. They might be, they might not be, but that the study doesn't appear to consider this gap must raise fears that it could be slanted by omission.

In the press release the Institute for Sustainable Food then further extrapolates that across the UK "there is more than enough space to grow what we need on our doorsteps”, rather than importing veg and greens from abroad. Yes this is true, and we can be self-sufficient if we have to be. I looked into that in detail some years ago, and it seems we just have to cut out the fancified air-blown snacks and prod some youngsters and prisoners into the fields, and then as a nation we'll do fine for food.

The new study comes at time when an army of long-term unemployed is looming. 9m people in the UK are effectively on 'paid gardening leave' with the kids, and because of this many firms and organisations may not be there for them to go back to in June. With some 3m or 4m not getting their jobs back in June, there may be 1.8m left on the long-term dole by September, and thus ministers may have to start to think about big 'work-for-dole' solutions that go far beyond the old YTS schemes of the 1980s. Even if the virus is effectively over by the end of May, the solution to this could look more like the vast Works Progress Administration (WPA) programme that was put in place during the USA during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Full marks to the Express & Star for its virus coverage

Down in Wolverhampton, the level-headed Express & Star newspaper is giving some of the best daily virus coverage, and with a useful Midlands focus. Unlike much of the UK media, they're not either scaremongering-for-clicks, or just parroting what larger news sources say. Nor have I found them, over the last few days, repeating dubious claims or being slipshod in their use of statistics. Just one example: in the Daily Mail today a supposed doctor states he's considering zinc tablets, but the Express & Star slams that down today, and backs it up by quoting one of the world's highest authorities on the matter.

Friday 6 March 2020

Notes on the virus

Here's the best layman's summary I can assemble on the current virus, with the reliable information currently available. This has a focus on the otherwise-healthy over-50s, your typical allotment holder. "???" indicate the unknowns, of which there are still quite a few. With this many unknowns, I doubt very much if we can trust computer-model -based forecasts.

Updated with new information: 10th March

* Fatality rate:

In China the initial fatality rate was 1.3% across all 50-somethings.

But that was the epicenter, where it all started, and there one has to consider that...

1. the provincial Chinese have a worse heathcare system that we do, and that will have had a cumulative effect on the health of the population and especially on older people;

2. many older Chinese may have compromised lungs due to decades of living in their really bad air pollution and smogs;

3. heavy drinking and smoking is also much higher there, especially among older men.

These three factors may, partly, explain why the figures show Chinese men were found to be very slightly more susceptible to the virus.

* Pre-existing conditions:

In China pre-existing serious disease seemed to "increase risk of dying by 2.5 times". These being diabetes, heart disease, cancers, etc.

In China the "fatality rate in patients who reported no other health conditions was 0.9%".

But one UK doctor told the Daily Mail yesterday... "We're probably missing this iceberg of milder cases", thus making the % death rate seem higher than if everyone were counted. This seems like good news, but there is debate among scientists on this point. It partly depends on if you believe the Chinese statistics and think that that they have been able to track it successfully. The World Health Organisation monitors have been there and they think the robust measures taken by the Chinese have been successfully tracking all cases, more or less.

* Mutating:

19 strains of the virus are reported to have been genetically sequenced in China. Apparently it is still mildly mutating and adapting, as is perfectly normal for such a virus. According to WHO worldwide cases are still "spillover" from the epicentre, where it started, rather than new epicenters arising from new mutant strains.

* Transmission:

In the UK the official advice yesterday was "The virus is spread through droplets which come out of people's lungs. These may be coughed into the air and then inhaled, or transferred into the eyes, nose or mouth after getting onto someone's hands." and "The virus can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, but not through the skin."

Scientists think that hand transmission is far more common and far more likely than casual/fleeting air transmission of droplets from a stranger coughing and sneezing near you, hence the strong urging to wash our hands and not touch face, eyes or nose.

Partial airborne transmission via droplets appears to need close and sustained contact? And exposure needs both sustained duration and many droplets, so that you breathe in a sustained infectious dose. This method of transmission looks very probable, but is not confirmed — partly because it would be so difficult to ethically do the controlled studies. Top world experts who visited China, such as Bruce Aylward of WHO, reportedly kept six feet away from anyone who could be a 'contact' for the virus, but he wore no mask. That seems a good distance to keep in mind.

And what the infectious dose is... is also unknown, but it must be quite low given the speed of spread. Does the load of the 'infectious dose' mean 'a heavy dose = a worse case'? Again, unknown?

There is limited evidence we can pass it to dogs by snuffling closely with them, but they can't then pass it back us??? Definitely not confirmed yet.

* Masks and gloves:

The science on previous virus-spread shows that face masks may prevent someone spreading the virus when sneezing or coughing, but not prevent getting the virus from casual contact. Also, masks and scarves slip, and apparently these slips encourage people to adjust the mask straps and thus brush their face with their fingertips and hands.

Gloves are therefore more important than masks. How important, exactly? Would fingerless gloves also help? Unknown???

Good 30 second handwashing, as is being widely advised, reduces the risk of catching the virus. But by what % does it reduce the risk? By 100%, if done properly???

Is it also wise to wash the face and hair, after coming back home and first washing one's hands and wrists thoroughly? Unknown???

* Survives on surfaces:

Yes, according to the UK Chief Medical Officer. The virus can survive in hand-smears on doorknobs, rails etc. Indeed on all "hard metal or plastic surfaces", for "as long as three days". It is "largely gone by 48 hours and almost completely gone by 72 hours on a hard surface". Presumably phones, tablets and touchscreens are all affected.

Should tap surfaces also be well-sluiced with soapy water, after one's hand washing, without touching the taps again? Unknown???

Does all sealed hard-surface food packaging need to be washed in warm soapy water, on getting the shopping home? Unknown??? Presumably one would wear washing-up gloves while doing this, and try to not to splash droplets onto kitchen/bathroom surfaces.

Does Dettol help? It works well against other coronavirii. Not a myth. The company tests such things. It's only good for disinfecting surfaces and fabrics though, and in baths, as it seems there's not yet any way to make it safe for some sort of use inside the human body.


Symptoms can be anywhere from 2-14 days after catching. Outside Wuhan 97.5% are showing symptoms within 11.5 days, which suggests 14 days is a useful but not infallible yardstick for self-isolation after known exposure. The average time to show symptoms, outside Wuhan, is five days. What limits or speeds up the development of personal symptoms? The factors on this seem to be unknown at this stage???

The "typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature)." With the nose probably less runny than in a normal cold/flu. The UK Chief Medical Officer has said that "the vast majority of patients will recover from these without any problems, and many will need no medical help at all."

How long do symptoms last on average, for an otherwise healthy adult over 50? Unknown??? At a guess it probably varies by person, type of self-care, warmth, stuffiness of the air, gender, previous nutrition levels, etc.

Chances of one's symptoms progressing to become a "Severe" case seem to be 7%, outside the world's hot-spots? Note here that "Severe" does not = death, for those who are healthy. As a medical category "Severe" appears to mean you have a nasty flu-like infection and there's cause for concern that it might suddenly turn dangerous, re: shortness of breath and the need for oxygen.

But how does that 7% break down across age groups and healthy/already-ill people? Presumably the already-ill and over 75s have a higher chance of it progressing from a "mild cold" to "Severe"? And the already-healthy have a lesser risk of progressing to "Severe"? Unknown???

It can be as long as five weeks between initial infection and death? More likely three, for most? Unknown overall duration, at present??? Again, this probably varies per person.

How long after recovery is one "safe" to go out and about, and not risk infecting others? What it the % risk of relapse? Unknown???

That's the best summary I can do at the present, with the best information available. For 50-somethings who take suitable and regular precautions and who are mostly at home and not gregariously social or in regular close contact with outside visitors, the risk of catching it seems negligible, perhaps less than 1%. The chances may be even less in some remoter parts of the country, such as rural Staffordshire.

If one does then somehow get it the chance of it becoming in some way "Severe", in an otherwise healthy non-smoking 50-something, might at an educated guess be 3 to 5%. At which point one's life-chances will then all depend on getting speedy medical diagnosis and aid. People are being advised not to do this by going to the doctor's surgery or to hospital, but rather to stay in their homes, and use the phone.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Festival Bargains

Good news for the retail bit of Festival Park in Stoke-on-Trent. The long-disused PC World is to become a £2m Home Bargains, providing some healthy competition to nearby stores. Most important for gardeners will be the effect of setting up a four-way competition with the likes of Morrison's summertime mini-garden-stuff shed, garden bits at the large Poundand, and the long-established B&Q DIY store. No opening date yet for the new store, but a planning application is said to be in and "2020" is the target. It should bring yet another tranche of jobs to the site, too, which is always welcome.

It's already had the effect of closing the "shortcut steps" which went from the green part of Festival park, dropping a walker onto what used to be PC World's back-loading bay. The steps have been dug out and the slope graded to soil, and I imagine that now it'll either be planted by St. Modwen in the spring or left to green up naturally. No great loss, as almost no-one ever used those steps.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Yank your carrots

An American review of the new 'flexibound' 2019 edition of the book The Half-Hour Allotment reveals a difference between the UK and the USA:

as I sat down to read the book — with its beautiful photographs of vegetables and gardens that included flowers for bouquets, and ways to prepare the soil — I realized it had a British publisher and the allotments being talked about were garden spaces away from the house.

When talking to Americans, conveying the idea of allotments needs something like the phrase "vegetable gardens elsewhere in the town" or "the town's vegetable-growing gardens".

Young 'castle

The top 10 UK hotspots for young people, which are seeing the largest relative increases in their population of 18-34-year-olds, are:

8) Newcastle-under-Lyme - 1.74%

Interesting. Though I'd guess a chunk of that could be due to the NHS recruiting more young nurses for the University Hospital, and expansion at Keele. I doubt it's about hipsters downshifting from Stoke Newington to the edge of Stoke.

Friday 17 January 2020

Thursday 2 January 2020

It's a gas...

Wondering what the puzzling "hydrogen" commitment was, in the Conservative manifesto's green policies? Turns out it's happening now, and locally in a major pilot at Keele University in North Staffordshire. Hydrogen is being "blended" into the existing natural-gas supply for the Keele campus. It's blended in at 20%, thus making the gas supply go further and be greener. Here we see an engineer fine-tuning one of the hydrogen-blended boilers: