They wouldn’t let me use the first title I had in mind for this


Obviously I’m an expert epidemiologist, I’ve read three facebook posts on the topic. To be fair I did farm through foot and mouth so I’ve learned one thing. Matters go better when the politicians shut up, back off, and let the epidemiologists run it. One of the big problems back in 2001 was that the Prime Minister wasn’t listening to his epidemiologists, he wanted his general election and was trying to say the outbreak was beaten so he could hold it on his preferred date.

But one thing I learned, unfortunately the hard way, was that back in 2001 social media was full of people who knew infinitely more about virology and similar sciences than those who’d merely spent their entire careers in these fields. Every political nutcase and every single issue pressure group was sure that everything was a conspiracy and that it could all be sorted in an afternoon if we adopted their policies.
One thing I will never forget is the 9p vaccine. Apparently farmers were too evil, stupid, wilful, and mean to protect their livestock, even though there was a perfectly good vaccine and it only cost 9p. I was phoned by our vet who was working for MAFF at the sharp end. Word had come down from the Cabinet Office, the PM had been told about this vaccine and why wasn’t it being used. The obvious answer was ‘what vaccine.’
But for the next week or so the message boards of usenet as well as other parts of nascent social media as well as some of the papers were going on and on about this vaccine that farmers were too stupid and stuck in their ways to use.
I finally found the vaccine. It was produced in India, was a live vaccine (so couldn’t be used in Europe) and was to cope with a strain of FMD endemic in India but which had never been seen in Europe. It would have been less use than a chocolate fireguard. But the ‘well-meaning’ muppets had caused all sorts of chaos and upset and genuinely screwed peoples’ lives with their silly advocacy of an utterly inappropriate vaccine. I know farmers who contacted me, desperate to know if the vaccine existed and how they could get it.

And now the muppets are at it again. Just to give an example, our great army of arm chair experts is demanding that the schools be closed. Now I’m involved with our local foodbank. We had a query from a school, “If they had to close, could we feed the pupils they have who are entitled to free school meals. They would give us the money that the government gets to pay for them.” I suspect this is a conversation going on all over the country.
Now it struck me that this is an entirely sensible question. Somebody at the school is taking their duties seriously. After all they have over two hundred children who have to be fed. Whilst armchair epidemiologists are happy for them to go hungry, we see here a teacher taking their responsibilities seriously.

We have a problem. There is no way we can just add them to our normal foodbank clients. The assumption is we’re going to get more clients anyway because we’ll have people who find themselves with no income. Not only that but there is a fear we’ll see a drop in the amount of food donated. (I know one person who discovered that the collection point they have set up for us had been pillaged).

Even if we got enough money to buy the food, we don’t have the volunteers to cope with the extra work, especially as virtually all our volunteers are in the at risk age group and if those over seventy are told to self-isolate we’ll lose an awful lot of people.
Another problem is that for some children this is the only hot meal they get a day. There is no way we can provide hot food. Not only that but how would we physically feed them? The obvious way would be to use the school kitchens and feed them at the school which rather undermines the reason for shutting the school.

Then there is the problem of who looks after the children when we send them home. Even if there are grandparents available, by definition they are the most vulnerable group and the children are the ones who spread it fastest! So parents have to stay at home. Wonderful, the NHS suspects it might lose between a quarter and a third of its staff off sick at the height of the outbreak. It doesn’t want to lose another ten or so percent even before things kick off properly, because they’re off providing childcare.

And then somebody complained that they weren’t testing for coronavirus any more. But why would you divert trained medical personnel to testing? I mean, what are you going to do with the information? By the time you’ve got the data it’s out of date. Also the vast majority of the people you test are going to have a week of flu-like symptoms before they’re well again. Wouldn’t it be better to use trained people to look after those who’re really ill and who need help?
But what really hacked me off is a group called Reignite, who are emailing people to ask, “Will you be a Coronavirus strategy advisor?”

And what do you need to be a Reignite advisor? Why you have to answer five questions. Are you worried about the outbreak, do you think schools should shut, do you think the NHS is ready, are you happy with Boris’s handling of the situation. And the fifth is an open request to share your wisdom further.

Then after a page of blurb and pictures telling you how bad it is, you are asked
How can I protect my family?

Basics such as washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze apply to Coronavirus.


However, keeping surfaces clean is the most crucial part of protecting yourself and your family. Whether you’re at home or out in public, Coronavirus particles may stay active on surfaces for several days. But how do we ensure that surfaces remain sanitised?


The answer comes in the form of a revolutionary new product called Mobile Klean.


Lucky you, you get a chance to buy this wonderful product for £43.94 including postage and packaging.


Has anybody got a sick bucket handy please.


In case you’re completely out of toilet paper, purchase the following in paperback. Never run short of paper again, buy as many copies as you want.

As a reviewer commented, “Yet another quiet, but highly entertaining, amble through Jim Webster’s farming life, accompanied by Sal, his collie extraordinarie.
Sheep, cattle, government eccentricities and wry observations are all included.”

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32 thoughts on “They wouldn’t let me use the first title I had in mind for this

  1. […] via They wouldn’t let me use the first title I had in mind for this — Jim Webster […]

  2. M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 3:21 pm Reply

    Yep, yep and yep. I actually trust the experts on this one. Both left and right wing newspapers seem to have confidence in Professor Witty. Here’s hoping.

    Meanwhile, McOther went to get some crisps for McMini’s snacks … couldn’t get any for love nor money. People are panic buying crisps, pasta, soap and loo paper, but not kitchen roll or dried pulses and beans. And since, here, the supermarket will still deliver it all seems moot, anyway.



    • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 3:41 pm Reply

      I’m afraid I’m rapidly losing patience with the muppets. Those who’re panic buying and those who’re frantically trying to stir things up and make it all political 😦

      • M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 4:09 pm

        There’s a lot of selfishness which I find disappointing.

      • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 4:12 pm

        Yes, our society has gone backwards in the last fifty years 😦

      • M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 4:14 pm

        Yeh. It’s like we’re cherry picking ask the worse bits of America, without the good parts, and uploading them. 🙄

      • M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 4:15 pm

        Or even adopting them. 🤣🤣🤣

      • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 4:24 pm

        We blame America for so many things, but I suspect in much of the US, places like the ‘fly over state’ and those unfashionable places, they may still have the sense of community much of this country seems to have abandoned 😦

      • M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 6:12 pm

        Yeh. That’s why I said ‘bad bits’. It’s like we’re supplanting the bits that work well for us with the bits that work badly for them. And the result is some extra special hybrid of pants! 😲

      • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 7:53 pm

        One day Tallis Steelyard is going to use the term ‘Hybrid pants’ 🙂
        But yes I agree

      • M T McGuire March 15, 2020 at 8:51 pm


  3. robbinsg March 15, 2020 at 4:29 pm Reply

    Excellent comparative insight. I think that currently the advice of experts appears to be being followed, but is that just because we are on the rear end of an election?

    • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 4:42 pm Reply

      Interesting point. I think Boris has the advantage that he has a relatively secure position. He has time for the experts advice to work and be shown to work. After all, it could be a year before we know they are right. I suspect there will be a point during October/November where other countries who clamped down hard have new major outbreaks and we shouldn’t have one.
      But then in 2001 Blair was secure with a majority of over 160. He obviously wanted a general election for his own reasons, He had to have one within the next year and obviously his advisers spotted the window. As it was he got another landslide, only losing five seats. In 2005 Blair won his last election, his majority cut to 66 seats and it was, to date, the last general election victory for the Labour Party
      Because I agree with you that Boris is trusting the experts because of his mandate, I wonder why Blair felt the need to prioritise the political?

  4. robbinsg March 15, 2020 at 5:14 pm Reply

    From what I’ve read of Blair, and that is a reasonable amount (but perhaps not enough, you decide) he was always a micro manager and employed similar. for this reason, his personality would prevent him from doing anything but tinker. By comparison, and looking at his record as London Mayor, Johnson appears to be more of a situational manager. As an admirer of Churchill, this probably comes as no surprise. However, he does appear to trust advice and follow it, for good and ill.

    • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 5:27 pm Reply

      Somebody once described Blair to me as the classic barrister (which he actually was) in that he could take a brief, grasp it, work to it, but it was a case of another day, another brief, and he’d forgotten the previous one. If this was true you can see how he’d end up micromanaging because he’d never be able to hold the ‘big picture’ in mind long enough to work in any other way

  5. Doug Jacquier March 15, 2020 at 5:43 pm Reply

    You win the interweb today, Jim, for the most sane and articulate discussion of the knock-on effects I’ve read. And, of course funny, but that’s a given in your case.

    • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 5:53 pm Reply

      Glad you liked it Doug. Sane is a novelty in our mad world 🙂

  6. Margaret Mair March 15, 2020 at 8:22 pm Reply

    Well, the schools are closed for three weeks here (Ontario, Canada). I have mixed feelings – normally there is a lot of movement, a lot of people who travel, and they may bring the virus back with them and share them with their families and through their children with the school and so on and out exponentially. Which leads pretty quickly to those vulnerable grandparents and others who are more susceptible. This happened after a few children in different schools tested positive, and was based on advice from Public Health after our experience with the SARS epidemic.

    On the other hand the ripples through the economy and many people’s lives are huge and potentially devastating. Those who can work from home will fare better, but as usual it’s those who are already struggling who are hardest hit.

    I’m hoping it’s short term pain for less long term pain. And that people will pull together to get through it.

    My new motto: Be calm and stay well (or something along those lines).

    • jwebster2 March 15, 2020 at 8:44 pm Reply

      Oh I can see both sides of it. And I’m not going to say that the Canadian Authorities are wrong. Demography and age profiles are different, as is geography. I’m not getting emails from furious people over the age of 70 who are furious at being threatened with being locked up for their own safety. Given they have no ‘underlying health conditions’ and are fitter and more active than a lot of people in their 50s and 60s I can rather see their point. Not only that but they make up the trained core of volunteers that keep things going.
      I’m glad I’m not in charge 🙂

  7. Margaret Mair March 16, 2020 at 1:44 am Reply

    I’m glad I’m not in charge too. I was just reading about responses around the world and saw the suggestion that those over seventy should consider self-isolating for up to four months. Say what!?

    • jwebster2 March 16, 2020 at 6:46 am Reply

      Given that it includes a lot of very competent people it could be a remarkable revolution that they’re provoking 🙂

  8. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt March 16, 2020 at 2:17 am Reply

    Wait for it… wait for it… wait for it – there it is, a request for money. Scam!

    Husband and I are 1) over 70, and 2) being isolated by the people who run this place for us. Staying home. Actually got writing done today!

    I’m absolutely useless as a volunteer, so it’s best to keep me out of the way.

  9. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt March 16, 2020 at 2:20 am Reply

    Oh, and the flyover states? They are some of the deepest red (Trump) states around. If you fit the profile, they support you. If you are a little different, good luck. I’ll take my chances with the liberals on the coasts. At least they believe in science (except for the anti-vax whack jobs).

    • jwebster2 March 16, 2020 at 6:45 am Reply

      The question to ask is why they are some of the deepest red
      It has been commented in this country that by calling them ‘the fly over states’ somebody just wrote them off

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt March 17, 2020 at 3:01 am

        Red means ‘Republican.’ They are our brothers and sisters, even if they support his majesty. He has served them very badly – and told them up until VERY recently the coronavirus was a hoax!

        It irks – he’ll take credit for everything being done against his EXPRESS directives – if it works.

        Flyover means most airplane traffic goes to major cities. And most of those are on the coasts. It can mean more rural, few job opportunities for the kids (so they leave), but rural America is a complicated thing – and there are many good people there (if you don’t stress their color boundaries, etc.). I hope they’re safe, but it’s going to be a perfect storm.

      • jwebster2 March 17, 2020 at 6:32 am

        He’s a politician, they all do that.
        I suspect in the UK our history has led us to have a lot less faith in politicians and in government

  10. rugby843 March 16, 2020 at 10:34 pm Reply

    That’s what the Sears catalog was for when I was a youngster!😄

    Sent from my iPad


  11. Jack Eason March 28, 2020 at 5:30 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from our Jim…

    • jwebster2 March 28, 2020 at 6:09 am Reply

      nothing like a good rant is there! 🙂

  12. Jack Eason March 28, 2020 at 6:08 am Reply

    It’s stirrers like REIGNITE who should be put up against a wall and shot Jim…

    • jwebster2 March 28, 2020 at 6:16 am Reply

      I’m afraid then I found they were using it to sell their ‘revolutionary new product’ I would cheerfully have nailed them upside down to a church door as a warning to others!

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