Coronavirus – Day #426

It has been a while since I did one of these, but I had my second vaccination today and I figured that was worth marking. For the record, I’m fine, other than being very tired, which may be a result of it being warm and muggy today rather than the virus.

Other than that, life on Plague Island is pretty much as usual. Not content with trying to be responsible for more deaths than Winston Churchill, Bozo is also trying to have more wives than Henry VIII. Here in the South West we are currently in a mostly COVID free phase, but elsewhere the new Delta Variant is running amok with the result that national infection rates have been rising for several days now. Those with long memories will remember that Bozo delayed imposing travel restrictions from India for many days because he was planning a visit to that country, and that’s the main reason why we are heading into a new wave of infections.

The big difference this time is that our vaccination rate is pretty good. As of today, almost 75% of the country has had one dose, and almost 50% has had both. It will be interesting to see what difference that makes to the spread of infection.

Anyway, we have sunshine, which is good. Also I still have plenty of work and don’t need to go anywhere. And if I have got through 400+ days of this I’m sure I can do a few hundred more if need be.

Target Achieved #My125Miles

Well that’s a relief. My fundraiser for One25 hit the target today. Thanks so much to all of the lovely people who pledged. Of course I still have to finish the distance. I have 25.77 miles to go, and 7 days in which to do it. If it would just stop bloody raining…

By the way, you can still pledge. There are no stretch goals, but there’s nothing wrong with raising more money than I’d hoped. I’m sure that One25 can find uses for the money.

Half Way #My125Miles

Well, this is proving challenging. Every morning I wake up wondering if I will have got fit enough that my calves won’t ache, and every morning I am disappointed.

That’s not the hard bit, though. It is the bloody rain that is the problem. Cats hate getting their fur wet, but finding time to go for a walk when it isn’t raining is proving challenging. That’s the main reason why I am barely up with the required rate of 4 miles per day. But up with it I am. I’m at 55% of the distance, in 55% of the time. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t get any worse for the rest of May.

The fundraising is going a little better, being at 65% of target, but it is going very much in fits and starts. There’s a lot happening right now, and if you are deciding to spend your money on helping people in India, or Palestine, or Colombia, or any one of many other deserving causes, that’s entirely understandable. But if you can spare a few quid/bucks/whatever for One25 I would be very grateful, and so would the unfortunate women that they exist to help.

I’m told that the team has raised a total of £2,243, which is great news. I have been stuck on £226 for a while. I’m hoping to get to £350, so that’s only £124 more. If 25 of you could give just £5 each I’d be there. Here’s the link to donate.

One25 Walk Update #My125Miles

As Twitter followers will know, I am well into my charity walk for One25 now. With 10 days gone that’s more or less a third of the month, and I am bang on target as far as miles walked goes. The money is looking good, but that’s in no small part thanks to a very generous donation from Kevin. I don’t expect other people to give anywhere near that much, so hitting that target won’t be as easy as it looks right now.

I’m not hugely confident about the distance either. I like to be ahead of the rate. Unfortunately Saturday was very wet here, and on Sunday I was unaccountably woozy for most of the day. The forecast for this week is not good, so I may find it hard to get keep up. We shall see. But I need to have walked those 125 miles by the end of the month. A commitment is a commitment.

If you’d like to give me a bit more icentive by sponsoring me, you can do so here.

Coronavirus – Day #398

Slowly but surely, infection and death rates continue to fall, at least they do in this country. Are we getting back to normal? How would we tell?

Well, one of the potential signs is people feeling confident enough to hold coventions. Not here, just now, I hasten to add, but this year’s Eurocon, to be held in Fiuggi, Italy, has announced that they have permssion to go ahead. Their dates are July 15-18.

Data point: infection rates in Italy are currently four times what they are in the UK. That’s not huge. The USA and France are much higher, and India is off the scale, but it is still an interesting level of confidence from their government.

Currently us Brits are forbidden from going on foreign holidays (unless we are very rich or related to a Cabinet minister). We are due an announcement on the 17th about possible loosening of those restrictions. Whether Italy will be on the list of permitted destinations is another matter.

Am I going? I don’t have a clue. It would be lovely, but I haven’t had my second vaccination yet and I would not put it past our disaster of a government to suddenly stop second injections for anyone they deem expendable so that can save a bit of money. Ordinarily wild horses couldn’t stop me from taking a trip to Rome, but these days going anywhere still seems potentially unwise. FantasyCon in Birmingham in September seems like a more realstic goal.

Walkies Time

Regular readers will remember that in May I do something mad to help raise funds for One25. They are a wonderful charity from Bristol who understand that to get women out of the sex trade there is no point in punishing them, or their clients. What you need to do is a) make sure that the women are safe and healthy until they can get out; and b) help them find alternative sources of income so that they no longer need to sell themselves.

This year I will once again be attempting to walk 125 miles during the month of May. That’s an average of 4 miles a day. When I did this two years ago it didn’t seem too hard, because I was regularly going into Bristol for meetings and walking at least 4 miles a day in the process. But for the past year I have been cooped up at home getting steadily less fit and when I started testing myself early in April I found I was struggling to make 2 miles. I’m a bit fitter now, but I’m going to need all the incentive I can get to meet the target. You can help by pledging money here.

And if you can’t afford to donate anything yourself, please at least signal boost the campaign. You know it is going to be a firehose on Twitter, right?

Hugo Follow-Up

No, not an analysis of the ballot. Patience, dear reader. Just a few things I didn’t know yesterday.

First up I posted on Twitter this morning that there are 9 trans people on the ballot in 8 different categories. I speculated that there might be more, and I’ve since found another one so we are up to 10 in 8. I’m not going to name them, because frankly these days it isn’t safe being openly trans. But you may know some of them, and hopefully one or two will actually win.

Second, I have done a book list of the finalists (including the initial volume in Series finalists) on Bookshop.org. I wasn’t able to include all of them, because they aren’t all available, but if you are, in the UK, are interested in buying, and would like to help both independent bookstores and Wizard’s Tower, you can find the list here.

And finally, there is a useful list of where to find various of the finalists online over on File 770. The link to CoNZealand Fringe is to our YouTube Channel rather than our website. Apparently Mike is having a sulk and refusing to link to our actual site because one of our people has blocked him on Twitter. This is making me feel quite nostalgic for the days when I was allegedly the most hated person in fandom.

Hugo Finalist (Again)


Somewhat to my surprise, I find my name on the Hugo Award ballot again this year. I am one of the team that is a finalist in Best Related Work for the ConZealand Fringe programme of events.

I’d like to thank and congratulate the rest of the team: Claire, Adri, C, Alasdair, Marguerite and Cassie. I note that Claire, Adri, Alasdair and Marguerite are all on the ballot in other categories as well, so they are very much worth checking out. Also Iori Kusano, who was on the panel that I curated and chaired for CZ Fringe, is on the Related Work ballot for her work running a similar Fringe programme for FIYAHCON. Having all of this virtual convention work on the ballot makes me very happy.

I should also thank Kelly Buehler, co-chair of CoNZealand, for her support of our work. It would have been great to integrate more closely with the main convention, but as with so many things to do with CoNZealand, time was against us.

Finally I should thank Mike Glyer, because there’s nothing quite like being denounced on File 770 to bring you to the attention of fandom at large.

Update: Duh! I should also thank everyone who nominated us. You can tell that it is 10 years since I’ve had to do this, can’t you. One the plus side, no one has yet come into my social media to complain about how I am the Wrong Sort of Fan, possibly because this is not a fan category.

The rest of the ballot for Related Work is very strong. I don’t expect us to win. There are lots of other interesting things on the ballot that I’d like to talk about, but that will have to wait for the next Salon Futura. Here’s the full list of finalists for Related Work.

And yes, I did notice that DisCon 3 has decided not to use the official Hugo Award logo. Thumbing their noses at WSFS seems to have become a habit for them. And they did manage to mis-spell Beowulf, though it is correct on the press release.

Coronavirus – Day #376

Today there has been great celebration in England, because non-essential shops, restaurants and pubs have re-opened, sort of. Pubs and restaurants can only serve people sitting outside, and it snowed in many parts of the country today, but at least they are open. My hairdresser sent me a text this morning saying that they could take bookings again. I phoned after lunch and the earliest appointment they had was in early May.

So has Bozo “saved summer”? Well maybe. There were over 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 registered today. Thirteen people died from it in the last 24 hours. That is by no means zero COVID. The government is banking on the fact that a sigificant proportion of the population has now had at least a first vaccine jab. The assumption is that this will slow the rate of infection, and reduce the serverity of cases for people who do catch the virus. If that doesn’t work, we could be back in full Lockdown fairly quickly.

Thankfully I don’t need to go out much. Once a week to Tesco is still mostly all that I need. It does, however, make me more confident about just popping out for a walk. I’ve signed up to do the sponsored walk for One25 again in May, which means that for a month I will have to average 4 miles a day. Right now I am so unfit from a year of hardly leaving home that I’m struggling to manage two, so it is just as well that I have a few weeks to get in training.

Coronavirus – Day #370

Oh look, a year has gone by. Are we still deep in the shit? Why yes, so we are.

The good news is that all of the major COVID in the UK are still falling. Trowbridge is officially “suppressed”, but this does no mean zero COVID. There could be at least 10 cases in town.

More worryingly, the UK is still registering over 2000 new cases a day, and the media is talking about how the virus has been beaten and everything is going “back to normal”. Bozo is talking breezily about people being able to go on summer holidays abroad. We don’t really know how the vaccine will change things, but some sort of third wave seems inevitable.

Of course the likelihood of anyone from the UK being able to travel internationally in the near future is not very high. Bozo will doubtless blame this on the EU. The people who voted for Brexit still don’t understand that “taking back control” of our borders does not mean taking control of everyone else’s borders as well, and the freedom of movement whose ending they cheered so loudly included their freedom of movement as well.

Vaccinated (Part 1)

Today I had my first COVID-19 shot. There wasn’t anything on offer locally, and I elected to drive to Bath Racecourse as that is mostly a simple driving route that I’m used to. It was a good place for a vaccination centre as there was plenty of room to set up the facility, and for people to park.

Before getting the jab you get a brief quiz on your medical history. The only things likely to rule you out is if you have had any other vaccinations recently, if you’ve had COVID recently, or if you are seriously allergic to some medications.

The jab itself was quick and painless.

I had the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, so I will need to go back for a second dose. That’s not until June.

As I had driven to the centre, I was asked to sit and rest for 15 minutes after the jab just in case I had an adverse reaction. I felt fine after that and was able to drive home. I’m still feeling OK 6 hours in, though people who have had the same vaccine tell me that the side effects kick in after about 8 hours. We shall see.

Coronavirus – Day #337

Wow, it is a long time since I did one of these. Of course I was crazy busy during February, but to a large extent nothing much has changed. We are still in Lockdown and will be until April. Infection rates have been falling steadily for a couple of months, but are still scarily high. And locally they are not going down. Having had rates well below the national average over the winter, we are now well above the national average. If nothing else that shows that the Track & Trace system is not worth a dime, let alone the £22bn that the government spaffed away on it.

Meanwhile Bozo has ordered schools to re-open, and I’m already seeing claims that the infection rate is surging amongst young children.

We had a budget, apparently. It seems like no one is happy about it. And yet the supposed opposition party is doing such a bad job that the Tories now have a much bigger lead in the polls than they did when they won an 80 seat majority back in late 2019. It is almost as if refusing to challenge the government on any of its policies isn’t a vote winner. Who would have thought it?

In much less good news today I learned that the Loyalist Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland have denounced the Good Friday Agreement. That is, they are blaming the Catholics, and the South, for Bozo’s complete disaster of a Brexit agreement which saw a border created in the Irish Sea, something he had promised would never happen. It seems entirely in keeping with modern Britain that someone else is getting blamed for a government screw-up. But the outcome is likely to be renewed sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which will please no one except a few die-hard survivors of The Troubles, and the Tory right wing who have always hated the fact that peace was declared.

Ah well, at least I still have work, which is getting me to talk to people, even if it is seriously interfering with my book-reading habit.

Coronavirus – Day #306

Greetings once more from Plague Island. I am pleased to report that Lockdown is definitely having an effect now. All of the major indicators are dropping. The national case rate is only 273/100k, and locally we are down to 137. Parts of Bath are being marked clear.

Of course this is normally the point at which Bozo announces that, thanks to his super-manly chromosomes (XYYY or something, I guess), he has personally defeated the virus and we must all go back to school, work, restaurants, pubs and so on. He’s never learned from any of his failures in life before, so I don’t suppose he will have learned from the “Saving Christmas” disaster.

Coronavirus – Day #301

Here in Plague Island we have passed the milestone of 100,000 deaths. Bozo says that he is terribly sorry, but he’s done everything he can so it can’t be his fault. His loyal newspapers are saying that it is entirely our own fault that we are dying because we are too fat.

In other news, a new anti-trans organisation has been founded here. It’s stated objectives are to obtain the repeal of the Gender Recognition Act and to “eliminate transgenderism”. They have immediately received enthusiastic support from all of the usual suspects. I’m looking forward to seeing film of one of their rallies. I will be very disappointed if they don’t all chant, “ELIMINATE! ELIMINATE!!!” in silly voices. At least that will give them a good excuse to be on the BBC.

Coronavirus – Day #295

Dearest readers, a terrible tragedy has occurred. Late yesterday, President Biden signed a number of executive orders. One of those was an anti-discrimination order that gave LGBT+ people in the US some protections. They are similar to, though not as wide-ranging as, those we have here under the Equality Act.

This morning it was revealed that this action by the incoming President had erased every single woman in America. (Well, the cisgender ones, I assume.) Just like that. Over 150 million people vanished, Thanos-like, from the face of the Earth. I know that it sounds unlikley, but just about every female member of the chattering classes here in the UK is repeating the same story, so it must be true, mustn’t it?

Anyway, our Thoughts and Prayers are with the American people. I understand that President Biden is planning a number of sweeping immigration reforms, which will be necessary if there is to be any hope of there being little Americans in the future. I can only hope that the effects of this executive order don’t linger, and that newly arrived women are not vanished as well.

In other news, Downing Street has denied reports that the Prime Minister wishes to rename our country Little Trumplandia in the East. Apparently there is already an existing town name of Trumpton that he feels would be appropriate for the country as a whole, and doesn’t include the word “little” which may cause offence in certain quarters.

Coronavirus – Day #294

And lo, Britain became a World Beater! There was much rejoicing in Westminster.

Yes folks, the word is that the UK now has more deaths per million of the population than any other country in the world. Bozo must be so proud of himself.

This achievement came courtesy of a couple of days of very high death counts. We are fast closing in on the 2000 a day mark. However, sad though this is, the long-term prognosis should be better as the death curve always lags a week or two behind the infections curve, and the latter has been dropping steadily for several days now.

Unfortunately the local situation is not good. Infections here are continuing to rise. There’s obviously some sort of local outbreak happening, and I’m planning on hunkering down for the duration. Even if that means having to do without a haggis for Burns Night.

Meanwhile, over the Atlantic, President Biden has been sworn in, as has Vice President Harris. Little Donny The Loser has thrown a massive sulk, and we are all waiting for him to finally be brought to justice for the significant number of crimes he appears to have committed. They got Al Capone for tax evasion. I’m sure something similar will work on Loser.

The word is that Biden will reverse many of Loser’s awful policies in his first week in office. Hopefully that means doing something about those poor kids in concentration camps. Both major UK parties have done the traditional thing of sucking up to the new US leader, but Bozo is doubtless distraught that his best buddy is no longer in power. Meanwhile Labour has accused Biden of being “woke”. Given that they are trying to reinvent themselves as the party of bigoted white men, this does not surprise me. We may have finally reached the point where both main UK parties are to the right of the Democrats, which is quite an achievement.

And finally, if anyone out there is a GP, or knows one who might be willing to take an elderly trans woman as a patient, please let me know because apparently I need a new doctor again. I’m willing to move home if necessary, but note that I can’t afford to live in Bristol, let alone London.

Coronavirus – Day #292

A piece of good news for once. I now have a new stock of hormone patches sufficient to last me another 3 months. Hopefully by that time the current surge of infections will have died away.

The not so good news is that I had to walk to Boots because, despite having been to Bath and back on Friday, my car would not start today. A battery should not drain from being fine to having zero charge in just 2.5 days. So there’s probably an electrical fault somewhere. The nice man from the garage is going to pick her up on Thursday and take a look.

The COVID data suggests that Lockdown is definitely biting at last. Trowbridge is still well below the national average, but the infection rate is still rising here so I’m in no hurry to go out unless I have to.

Politics is much of the same. I am looking forward to Andrew Lloyd Webber penning Brexit: The Musical, in which all of the cast are British fish suffering under the tyrannical rule of the evil giant squid, Cthul-EU, but are liberated by Brave Sir Boris and his Merry Men. It will, of course, end with a rousing rendition of Rule Britannia. Sadly the production will become embroiled in a massive lawsuit when it is discovered that all of the songs written for Rees-Smug have been filched from the catalogue of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society.

Farewell, Storm

News broke last night that Storm Constantine has departed this plane of existence for pastures new. Lots of people have been posting about how lovely she was, including many of my collegues at BristolCon where she was a Guest of Honour in 2013. I didn’t see much of her then because that was also the year that Mary Robinette Kowal and Kevin attended, but the day all went very well.

My memories of Storm, however, go back a lot further. Back in 1996 I was in the middle of gender transition and trying to settle into Australian fandom. I went to the NatCon in Perth with some trepidation as Neil Gaiman was the headline Guest of Honour and we’d known each other for a long time; far longer than I had been me, so to speak. Neil had already assured me that he was cool about things by email, but the other writer GoH was Storm. She was a really big name at the time, and also fiercely feminist. I was a bit worried.

I needn’t have been. Storm turned out to be absolutely lovely, and considerably less Goth in real life than in her public persona. She insisted on having her photo taken with as many Aussie fans as she could find so as to have some pleasant souvenirs of the trip.

Despite having a lot of interests in common, we didn’t see each other much. I spent a lot of time in the USA, and Storm had her own group of friends that was somewhat tangential to UK fandom. But I did review more books by Storm in Emerald City than any other author than Kim Newman and Gene Wolfe (they are all tied on 12). She’s written some great books, and I know that the Wraeththu are very much loved by some sections of the trans community.

Storm was a year older than me, which means also a year older than Liz Hand and Ann VanderMeer. I guess that makes her the first of my cohort to wink out. But I’m sure she’s shining brightly in some other universe.

Coronavirus – Day #289

Well this has been a week. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I was expecting to drive to Bristol today to get a new hormone prescription. It turns out that I hadn’t had a blood pressure test in a while, and the doctor wanted to make sure I was OK, even if that meant me risking a long trip in the middle of a pandemic. So yesterday I look the car for a run, so as to give the battery a bit of a boost to make sure it would start this morning. Also I needed fuel. And when I got home the oil and engine service warning lights came on.

Fortunately I have a very good garage. The boys took a look yesterday afternoon and pronouced the car probably OK to drive. I came up with a new plan which was to drive to Bath and get the train from there. That way I would only be 10 minutes each way on a train rather than 45. It worked, and I note that the trains were practically empty. They may be busier in peak hours, but I very nearly had a carriage to myself both ways.

I don’t quite have the hormones yet. Boots didn’t have any in stock, but they put in an order and it went through, so presumably there are supplies in the country.

Meanwhile the FT, which is much more reliable than the government when it comes to COVID data, says that the number of cases in the UK is coming down at last. Where I live is still fairly safe. Our last reported number was 283 cases per 100,000 people, which is a lot less than the national average of 555, but well up from just over 100 at the turn of the year. Many parts of London are over 1,100.

Of course I still have to go out to get the prescription when it arrives, and to drop off the car for a service, but at least I don’t need to go to Tesco again for a couple of weeks at least.

Also in the FT is news that the government plans to rip up all of the UK’s employment protection laws. This, like the move to allow bee-killing pesticides, is definitely in breach of the withdrawl agreement that Bozo signed with the EU just before Christmas. Interesting times, eh?

Coronavirus – Day #289

Rejoice, fellow inmates of Plague Island. We are once again World Leaders! Today we achieved a new record for the daily death count due to COVID-19. We are now running at over one death per minute. Our government is so proud of us.

Yes folks, things here are steadily going from bad to worse. We are in Lockdown, but there are so many exemptions, and so little financial support, that loads of people are having to go to work anyway. Which means that they are having to send their kids to school. So Lockdown is kind of not a thing. But never fear. The government has come up wit a brillant idea. They are going to test people entering the country to make sure that they are COVID-free. I’m sure no one ever thought of that before.

(I remember well arriving in Melbourne when the SARS epidemic was just starting. The immigration process was terrifying. Australia knows how to do biosecurity.)

Just in case you were wondering, the Home Secretary says that this is all the fault of people being badly behaved, and that we all need more Discipline!

The nation’s fishermen are up in arms because it turns out the the great deal that Bozo made such a fuss of negotiating on their behalf is complete crap and they are all going bankrupt.

The nation’s musicians and performing artists are up in arms. Apparently the EU offered us a reciprocal deal whereby our people could go and perform over there without needing a work visa, provided that their people could do the same here. Bozo turned them down. Presumably he was worried about ABBA or Mozart doing a comeback tour or something. Surely crippling the British pop music industry is a small sacrifice to pay in return for keeping foreign musos from our shores.

It was Prime Minister’s Question Time today. Bozo, you will remember, did a spectacular u-turn on the issue of free school meals for kiddies during Lockdown. Poor families were going to get £30 a week. Then some smartarse suggested that if you gave money to poor people they would spend it on drugs and porn, and the kiddies would get nothing. So Bozo arranged for some of his mates to take the money, buy food and distribute it. The resulting food packages appear to contain about £5 worth of food. Everyone is wondering what happened to the other £25.

But not Bozo. No sir, he is concerned about the failings of the Leader of the Opposition. It has been pointed out to Bozo that a young footballer from Manchester United has been making our beloved PM look an idiot. Why can’t Mr Starmer do that, eh? Perhaps the Labour Party would be better off making young Marcus Rashford their leader. Then everyone will know what a fool the PM is.

It is, I think, the first time ever that a Prime Minister has attacked the Leader of the Opposition for failing to make clear what an idiot the Prime Minister is.

Closer to home, I braved Tesco today. I think I have enough food for 3 weeks. I’d like to say that I can now stay at home, but I’m almost out of hormones and for reasons I don’t want to bore you with I have to drive to Bristol on Friday to get a repeat prescription because the surgery is unwilling to do a video consultation. And then when I have the prescription I will have to go to Boots twice: once to leave it with them, and once to collect the medication. So much for Lockdown.