Tighter COVID restrictions for Jamaica-August 10, 2021

Media briefing by the PM last night covered a wide range of COVID-related issues:

COVID trends have worsened, as I noted in my post yesterday:

Curfew hours are to be lengthened from August 11 through 31. Gathering restrictions will be tightened, including beaches, rivers, places of worship, and gyms.

No permits will be given for entertainment events.

Schools reopening will depend on what happens in next 3 weeks.

Brexit still bubbling and boiling out of the pot 5 years on-June 26, 2021

How’s Brexit dealing with Britain, which is not so great, at the moment?

Five years on from the referendum, things looks messy:

Puffins and overfishing issues:

Pigeon fanciers’ feathers ruffled:

Computer glitch and jobs for EU women:

British TV not good for EU folks to watch?

Tinned tomatoes and inflation:

Sausages, anyone?

Northern Ireland snaggled:

Steel being stolen:

Touring artistes’ woes:

Holness points to light at end of #COVID19Life tunnel by major easing of curfews-June 23, 2021

PM Holness announced yesterday some major relaxation of Jamaica’s COVID restrictions, notably easing curfew hours to 11pm to 5am for Mondays to Saturdays and 6pm to 5am on Sundays.

The measure will run from July 1 to August 11.

The Opposition were quick to point out that our situation is still highly vulnerable despite improving trends but with a woefully low level of vaccination.

In summary, the other changes from July 1 are:

Churches and Cinemas

* Places of worship – current limit of 50 to move to a capacity-based system. This is where churches can use a measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of their capacity to conduct services.

* Indoor theatres and Cinemas – These places of amusements are to be allowed to open. They can use the measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of seated capacity, whichever is lower.

* For drive-in – vehicles should carry no more than the number it is registered to carry.

Controlled Re-entry

* COVID-19 testing – Persons must continue to present a negative test three days before arriving in Jamaica.

* 14-day quarantine remains in place.

* Fully vaccinated persons – eight-day quarantine remains in place.

* Effective July 1, 2021, persons who are fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test after arriving in Jamaica will be released from quarantine.

Travel restriction

* Travel ban on South American countries as well as the restriction on Trinidad and Tobago and India extended to August 10.

Stay-at-home

* Persons 60 and over must remain at home until August 10. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are exempted.

Funerals and burials

* Services will now be allowed with a maximum of 30 mourners.

* Burials will now be permitted with a maximum of 30 people up from 15.

* Burials may now take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays only.

Markets

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays.

Beaches, Rivers, Zoos and Water attractions

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

* 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Parks, Gyms and Bars

* Must close one hour before the start of the curfew.

Amusement arcades

* These entities are allowed to reopen effective July 1.

Events and entertainment

* Organisers of small outdoor events such as parties, concerts, round robins, festivals, corporate mixers will be allowed to apply for permits to host no more than 100 people (50 for public sector)

* For indoor events, no more than 60 per cent of the capacity of the venue.

* Organisers of large events like stage shows, church conventions, festivals, general and special meetings will need to satisfy an approval process through the Ministry of Culture and the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

* Gov’t will waive rental fees for its venues for large events. Other charges will apply.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Barbados-June 22, 2021

My wife and I are both from islands within Caricom, but never lived on another one besides our homeland. I nearly went to live in Barbados when I was ready to leave the Bank of England in the late-1980s, but the offer to join the Caribbean Development Bank as an economist didn’t make financial sense. The interview visit had been an eye opener because I had assumed all islands were like Jamaica, not least with significant high points. Barbados is relatively flat, and you can see almost all of the island from its high points. But, some good things hit me on that brief weekend visit. Barbados has monkeys: I saw them on the beach. It’s visually appealling, especially seeing pretty sandy coastlines from almost every high point. I was also struck by the Bajan accent. 🙂 It was ironic that my wife’s job took us there, nearly two decades later. What did living there show me better?

Likes

Bus service island-wise: You never really had an excuse for taking a bus in the wrong direction because bus signs were marked ‘Into city’ and ‘Out of city’. Good thing, too, that the island is small enough to make a round trip by mistake no bad thing 🙂

Pudding and souse: I’d never give Bim’s food high marks compared to the rest of Caricom, but pudding and souse is worth the try and has its important place in social activities at weekends, when one could lime happily around eating this cold pickled pork dish, drinking and chatting aimlessly or fulsomely.

History matters: Barbados has a complicated slave history, like all of the Caricom countries, but for me have tried to manage the realities of that by not discarding historic relics. It has many preserved features of slave and plantation life, such as mills and some great houses and enough trappings to let people see how the country once was. You need that to tell the story, properly, in my mind.

Well-run, on the surface: Most things in Barbados appear to work well, and the country’s PR is great at pushing that message. But, it’s got some issues that would make you pull out your hair, in part because despite its progress, it’s still a small island in the Caribbean. It took months to get our new car, which we were told “Is on the water”! Opening a bank account and dealing with public sector agencies is still mired by that Caribbean brand of bureaucracy and redundancy.

Brighton Market: If we were caught in an odd place, it was enjoying going to the farmers’ market at dawn most Saturday mornings. This could have been a trip to an English village field, but it was set in the grounds of a working sugar cane farm. It offered ambience hard to beat and was a safe space for children to roam freely. The best fresh coffee on the island and nice food to go with it, whether fish cutters or occasional yummies of other kinds, and fresh fruit and vegetable to buy, plus some crafts, occasionally. Yes, it was mainly frequented by white Bajans and expats, but it was a great start to any weekend, and we often headed to Lemon Arbor for pudding and souse, after.

Dislikes

‘Little Englanders’: Bajans have a reputation amongst other Caribbean countries for being either ‘Little Englanders’ because of their close historical association with the UK and the constant flow of Brits who decide to take holidays there, bolstered by daily flights provided by British Airways. But, it shows up also in a clear distaste for other black Caricom citizens. We were dissed too many times in favour of British tourists for it not to be noticeable and a chilling ‘welcome’ at the airport was not what we liked.

Bajans love sticking it to Jamaicans how well they’ve done: I think I would have minded less if I had arrived in Barbados at a time when economic signs were pointing in a clearly good direction, in 2007, but I didn’t. Sadly, I pointed out what seemed like a glaring fiscal problem. That came to buck a decade later with (for Bajans, a dreaded IMF program in 2018). But, don’t mention that I told you so. I was not offering popular opinions on the radio call-in programme, ‘Down to brass tacks’. 🙂

Travel: It’s harder to get there than it should from anywhere in the Caribbean. I think that reality might have been worse on another island, but it’s still a major chore to have to duck in and out of a few islands on an air ‘milk bus’.

Polarized politics: I didn’t know it at the time, but living in Barbados was a good primer for life in Jamaica, where many issues are reduced to the colour of the party you’re assumed to support. My points about the economy labelled me as part of the ‘opposition’. What was ridiculous was that my point was valid when Barbados Labour Party (red) were in power and equally valid when they ceded power to the Democratic Labour Party (yellow). So, I was always one of the opposition!

Racial polarization: Black and white people don’t mix that much in Barbados. At a macro level, whites own the economy and blacks own the politics; that’s the ‘devil’s bargain’ that’s been struck. They races sort of co-exists, but the separation is pretty clear, no more so for things like Kadooment, during Crop Over, where there’s a (near) all-white troupe, named ‘Blue Box Cart’, who go out first each year. Nuff said!

Jamaica’s vaccination blitz catches cold and needs to correct a fiasco-June 21

However, you want to look at it, Jamaica’s vaccination programme hit a road block this past week. Depsite recent reassurances that enough doses were in available to give those needing their 2nd doses, we’ve had a week of people being told that was not so, and having scheduled appointments cancelled, pending supply arrivals.

We had chaotic scenes at the National Arena last Saturday, when people crowed outside the venue and it had to be closed early, with further doses only going to those over 50.

Part of the problem was total supply, but some problems were to do with vaccines being not distributed well across the island, with some rural sites nearly empty, according to eyewitness reports. Some wondered if JDF helicopters couldn’t have been used to help redistribute supplies over the weekend.

Unfortunately, much confusion happened as confirmed appointments were cancelled and people were struggling to rearrange their movements and policy decisions were being reversed quickly.

Ir’a not realistic for people to be online all the time and be ready to switch around at a moment’s notice. So, something will have to be done to honour commitments, within a day, at least.

I was called a week ago by RJR to talk about ‘vaccine hesitancy’ amongst Jamaica’s senior citizens. I was adamant that my view was that access was the major problem, not relucance to take vaccines (real hesitancy). I thought this was especially true in rural areas. Minister Tufton reiterated that access point, but now we will have to see the fall out from the weekend’s debacle and if it makes people less trustful of the vaccination processes and generate real hesitancy.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Guinea-June 20, 2021

Likes

Simply, back to Africa: The cultural and sociological significance of making the reverse journey across the Atlantic from the Americas should be clear. Much flows naturally from the Gulf of Guinea westward. Lucky for us to visit slave transhipment points like Ile de Goré in Sénégal to see the horrific departure point for many slaves.

Kind and gentle people: Both Guineans and expatriates living there create a rich network of caring and wonderful friends whom I’m glad to still count on today. A country that’s 90% Muslim but celebrates Easter and Christmas? Says it all, for me. People with little who’d provide you with food for days simply because that’s how visitors should be treated.

Beautiful landscape: Few places beat the simple beauty of the Fouta Djallon and its mountains, or the Nimba Mountain range, of which I can say gladly I got to the top of the mound of iron ore. Wonderful waterfalls and rivers and people who live by them.

Best work set-up: It was nice to have my own office in a separate building within the central bank complex, with my own staff, and being able to choose how it looked and worked. It was the first time to set my stamp on how it should all be, from our work ethos, to how it was decorated and who could come and go-my close contacts at any level always found my door open. Having a sofa was a dream, and as a long-time believer in naps, it got good use. But, working with a new born on the scene was better for being able to start and stop when I wanted, so going home for lunch was more norm than rarity, so was working from home most afternoons The time difference between Conakry and Washington DC really helped.

House by the sea: As accidental outcomes go, we landed on our feet finding a house destined for the proprietor of the housing complex. A lovely villa in the middle of three, with the ocean inlet being at the back fench. A new house with new garden that we could enjoy seeing grow, groomed by a gardener who cared so much. We lived and ate outside a lot and our youngest had the best days being able to run around freely, inside and out.

Dislikes

The curse of riches in plain view: Guinea should not be a poor country, based on its natural resources, water, mineral riches (gold, diamond, bauxite), fertile land, geographical location. But, politics and bad management got it there, added to its neighbours’ willingness to keep fighting within their national borders and seeing citizens flee to Guinea. Guinea should have been a leader in hydroelectric power. Instead, it was plagued by inefficient power generation for most; life couldn’t go on without a diesel generator for back-up.

Hardest country from which to fly: It was often easier to fly to Europe then on to get to a neighbouring country because Guinea has few direct flights, except to Paris and Brussels. I had to do it enough times to reach Sierra Leone to Guinea’s south. Otherwise, it was tough road drives or getting a flight on a UN helicopter.

Corruption in plain view: Wont say too much beyond suggesting some reading about major acts of malfeasance that were untaken in the name of President Conté and his supporters.

Harmattan/Sahara dust: The Harmattan is a season in West Africa, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. Its residue finds its way across the Atlantic, so we still get to ‘enjoy’ it in Jamaica, with the hot air that it also brings.

The rainy season: Guinea is one of the wettest countries in West Africa. The monsoon season with a southwesterly wind lasts from June to November. It’s notable for the dampness that is everywhere, lingering for months, so that mould growing on clothes is more norm than exception. Don’t leave you home unoccipied for a couple of weeks during this time but have someone who can keep it aired. Driving rain, like hurricanes is also part of the season. That moisture, too, finds its way across the Atlantic to form the Caribbean’s annual hurricane season.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? USA-1-June 19, 2021

Likes

The customer is always right: A revelation to the average person coming from the UK is that questions are hardly ever asked when customers have complaints. I got it on my interview visit to the IMF when I ordered a pizza and when it arrived the delivery man apolgized for its being late–I never realised–and had brought a 2nd pizza as compensation! Then, after an early shopping trip during a sale, a friend told me that prices had fallen further and I could go back to the store and get the difference as an extra bonus! What was this sorcery?

The South isn’t all dread for black people: You could have knocked me down with a feather if you thought I’d take a driving tour through the USA’s southern states and end up feeling that I ought to move to South Carolina. But, that’s how it looked after ending up en route from Florida to DC and stopping in Savannah and Charleston.

Football aka soccer: Were my finest hours really being involved with football (soccer) in the USA? Playing, coaching and refereeing, with mainly good memories is what it should be about. Getting licensed to coach and refereeing were never on my radar in England. That I ended up coaching girls was astonishing. That the team won its first ever tournament was dream-like, and those 9-year olds will forever have that trophy-winning moment in 1996.

The West Coast and Pacific North West: Fewer coastal areas are stranger than these, with rugged edges and massive falling trees on beaches.

Buying a car: In the UK, it could easily take weeks to complete a purchase and take away the vehicle. In the USA, it takes hours and you will leave the lot in your car. It’s not a great process, with the faux haggling, but it’s really a sign of totally different outlooks to consumerism.

Dislikes

Urban freeways: It took some getting used to how US roads and urban areas are constructed. I remember looking for a store and being able to see it from the freeway but not being able to figure out how to get to it. I went past and looped back and saw it passing below me, for several tries. Eventually, I discovered the exit and located the store. The other big difference was being told my destination was up the road and 2nd left. When I told the man I was walking, he was stunned. “Up the road” was about 10 miles along the freeway, and “2nd left” was the 2nd exit. Different strokes…

Disenfrachisement: It was fine being a foreigner with a special status, but not having the opportunity to vote isn’t fine, irrespective of what you want to do with your vote.

Absence of extensive public transport: Like many major US cities, the greater Washington area doesn’t have an extensive public transport network. DC and near suburbs are not badly covered by underground trains and buses or and overground lines cover some areas, but it’s really motorized transport that rules. Belatedly, plans to extend the Metro lines into Northern Virginia have gotten underway, but has still not reached a natural major end point at Dulles International Airport. The nearer airport, Reagan National, is easily reached by Metrorail.

Tipping: European attitudes to paying for service are completely at variance with those in the USA. It’s simplest in European countries where a bill is rounded and that’s it, and change that remains goes to the server. None of this decision making over a percentage and better still not attitude about the tip not being big enough. Pay the people the right wages!

Easter and Christmas are not one-day affairs: I’ve never worked during either Lent/Easter or Christmas, both of which are long holiday periods in the Caribbean and UK. So, these not being more than a day’s holiday, at most, was and is shock; we took the full time as holidays every year, including the 12 days of Christmas.

COVID update, Jamaica-June 18, 2021

Minister Tufton’s ‘COVID Conversations’ on June 17 updated on the latest vaccination blitz, which has seen about 11,000 people get their 2nd doses, and just under 1,000 getting first doses. Blitz operations will continue during June 19-20. About 220,000 have had at least first doses (only 6% of total population), with 52,000 having had 2nd doses and 168,000 only had their first doses of AztraZeneca vaccines.

The Minister noted, however, that supply issues may meant curbing the vaccination drive for 2nd doses, limiting them to the most vulnerable:

This warning sits oddly, coming just days after Howard Mitchell, chair of the National Health Fund was saying we should prepare for a large influx of vaccinces imminently:

COVID trends continue to improve, with fewer cases and sharply lower positivity rates, now with a 7-day average under 10 percent:

Taxi! All hail, Uber? Jamaica needs a public transport shake-up-June 18, 2021

In a brewing story, it seems that Uber has started operatiing its ride-sharing business in Jamaica. The brew is that it’s not clear this has begun with full authorization from Jamaica’s transport regulatory body. Still, several people have been excitedly sharing their early experiences with Uber-easy booking, lower fares, apparently safe door-to-door service, on time, etc. Most views are that this is a needed shake-up in the Jamaican public transport environment, which is plagued by an inefficient and debt-ridden public bus operation in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, by a range of mainly crazed and often lawless minibuses and taxis in the same area, plus similar private operators in the rest of the country.

Uber has been a disrupter whereever it has begun operations. I can’t see things being different in Jamaica.

Simply put, in Jamaica, minibuses and taxis are the bane of many people’s lives and despised and distrusted in great measure. Many believe this private sector activity is a cover for much criminal activity and safety issues, especially for females are a major concern. But, the partial sigh of relief heard in Jamaica this week made me think about what taxis and taxi drivers represent in other countries. On a scale of 0 (horrible) to 10 (wonderful), where do some stand?

Jamaica (0): Taxis/minibuses-worst-driven vehicles on the roads; taxi drivers-often referred to a ‘germs’; despised distrusted, though on-demand services can be good. Situation worsened by rampant illegal or not-fully authorized operators, without designated licence plates-commonly called ‘robots’. Too often, we find taxis and minbuses as part of accidents or other infractions, including fights with police or other law enforcers. They are often over crowded and generally are not for single person use. They generally observe few if any rules of the road, stop anywhere to pick up and drop off, and tend to make parking ‘stands’ where they like, especially at/around petrol stations. Things like meters and identification credentials are as rare as a vehicle that is pristine and inviting. No distinguishing features, other than red licence plate for authorized operators-no taxi signs, no standard colours but should carry a chequered stripe (Jamaica used to have yellow cabs and cabs with checkered marking into the 1960s.) Now, most are idenfiable as white Probox cars. Passengers can sit anywhere, including in the trunk/boot. Taxi operations are cut-throat and driver behaviour reflects a common outcome for such situations-survival of the fittest. (We’ll put aside the issues of ownership and whether association with law enforcement or criminals are key factors in how businesses are run.)

England (10): London is renowned for its ‘black’ taxis and to be a driver means passing the toughest street knowledge test (‘The Knowledge’) that requires about 2 years of training to master how to get between any two points in an area of about 25,000 streets, whic requires all cabbies to navigate between any two points in the city entirely from memory. Created in 1865 for horse-drawn carriages, the Knowledge has survived the automobile and London’s explosive growth into a global city. These days, though, technology is presenting the Knowledge with new challenges, with GPS commonly in use by other types of carriers (including Uber). I’ve never know taxis to be driven as if by Kamikazes, or being serial law breakers. Fares are never an issue as all rides are metered. Private for-hire services are also common all over the UK and are generally also of good service quality and safety. No seat is available for passengers in the front, which has space for luggage, and a glass separator is between driver and passengers. Black taxis in London are custom-made for passenger carriage. (Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them.)

Germany (10): My first encounter with German taxis left me stunned as a shiny, clean Mercedes pulled up as I waited at a taxi rank. Courteous drivers, with credentials visibly displayed and meter working. Germany is well-organized and stopping anywhere is not the norm, instead uning designated places, including bus stops or taxi stands are stations, hotels etc.

Turkey (3): I was kidnapped by a taxi driver at Istanbul airport. Enough said. When I visited Ankara, I took taxis to get to meetings and was often stunned that my drivers saw no problem disregarding basic road regulations to get me to my destinations. I’ve been driven at speed the wrong way down one-way streets, and a few trips along sidewalks to make the ‘road’ passable.

Brazil (7): All the good things one wants to see, including single colour for taxis, signs, meters, driver ID. Our drivers were always polite and no issues or apparent risks with how they transported people and luggage. Good at respecting requests for later/another pick-up.

USA (8): New York City and its famous yellow cabs are reliable, safe and generally not problematic. All good features like meters, driver ID, vehicles that are fit-for-purpose. Washington DC has several taxi companies operating within the jurisdiction; generally not allowed to operate outside except for trips to airports outside the jurisdiction. Maryland and Virginia have a couple of reliable large taxi companies that operate with same general geogrpahical rules as DC. Dulles Airport is special, as only certian ‘Dulles Flyer’ taxis can routinely carry from the airport (but cannot routinely take fares back to airport after drop off).

Thailand (6): Tuk-tuks are sole mode of public transport in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand. Tuktuks are the successor to the earlier cycle rickshaws, known in Thai as “Sam Lor” (literally ‘three wheels’). Tuktuks are the successor to the earlier cycle rickshaws, known in Thai as “Sam Lor” (literally ‘three wheels’). Sam Lors were introduced to Thailand in 1933, although shortly they were banned from the main streets due to safety reasons. Fun to ride in. Safe. Multicoloured and easy to see. No AC! 🙂

None of these other places in industrial countries have private minibus operators, like Jamaica. Public bus services are the other form of mass public transport on roads.

I’ve noted before that Jamaica’s current situation replicates a stage often seen in industrial countries. It precedes a massive shake up in road transport operations that often has cut-throat operation, including violence to protect routes.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? England-2-June 17, 2021

Having started this little retrospective, it occurred to me that England merits another visit, because I could look at a second phase based on my choosing to go back there, from Wales. I’ll try to focus on things that were different, after returing in 1980, including being a home owner and worker, not passing through the education system. Before leaving for Wales, we’d lived in a leafy north London inner suburb, Muswell Hill, less accessible for being atop a steep hill and abutting heavy woodland. It has been descried as a ‘genteel urban village’. It’s near Alexandra Park, which has playgrounds, woods, and a boating lake, as well as the hilltop Alexandra Palace, a 19th-century edifice with panoramic city views. It’s also close to walking trails in Highgate Wood. It had great access to the main roads heading north or the circular routes around London. It had no Tube or train station, only buses.

Likes

House renovation: I spent about 7 years working on our first house, in Tottenham, built in 1896. (In constrast to Muswell Hill, which was to the west, Tottenham is hard scrabble north London urban grittiness; a sparwling area.) The house had great structural features, like so many terraced houses built in the 19th and early 20th century, of which London is full. It was a labour of love: rewiring, replumbing, putting in central heating radiators, new bathroom, new roof, resetting sash windows, sanding floors and doors, stripping walls and replastering, new painting and wallpaper establishing a garden from scratch (digging and laying a lawn), and putting up fences. We were doing the yuppie things. Work was evenings and weekends, with friends helping, major construction jobs done by contractors (not without problems). But, life went on, other than a decision to not have a child until the renovations were done.

Living within our means: I came back to London to work at the Bank of England. My job at the central bank gave access to cheap loans but we decided to borrow what could be sustainable if such loans weren’t available. We weren’t tied to the Bank, therefore. We looked at houses in inner suburbs, but the fashionable areas weren’t in our reach. Tottenham offered lots of bonuses, including being close enough to my office to walk during transport strikes. ☹️

End of pub restrictions: Having grown-up with the tighter rules for when pubs could open and who could go into them, it was a sea change to have looser rules: extended permissible opening hours for public houses in 1988, to 11am to 11pm; previously pubs were not generally allowed to open between 3:00pm and 5:30pm. All those days, as a child, when my parents were in a pub and I was seated in the car with a bag of crisps and a soft drink 🙂

Walks in parks and woods: London has some of the world’s best parks in its centre and all over, and is surrounded by woodland in what is now part of its inner suburbs. You usually don’t have to travel far to be able to stroll in one of such areas, all year round. Sanity is ensured with that sort of environment and opportunity.

Liking London more and living through major changes: Most of my friends from university stayed in or around London after graduation, forming a base of friendships that could continue as we developed careers and started families. London was our home and where we spent most time, criss-crossing for meals at homes or socializing in pubs and other eating places. Covent Garden reopened as a shopping area in 1980, and because one of our go-to places as its location and activities appealed more, funny for those of us who’d grown up knowing it as a bustling flower market into the mid-1970s.

Dislikes

Rush-hour on public transport: Though I grew up taking trains, Tube and buses all over London as a student, and took all aspects of it in my stride, once I started working, those means of transport became some of the banes of my life. As you age, hours of standing with jostling people at close-quarters has less and less appeal. Driving to work was never a real option most days, so it was grin and bear it. (Now, when I visit London, I take most public transport journeys with a good spirit, especially as I rarely have to use them during rush hour.)

Traffic: Our road was a cut-through between two main roads and used by heavy lorries, with near-constant heavy and fast flows. It was a real experience in the debiliating impact of traffic noise. We escaped the worst by spending much time in the rear areas of the house, including the garden, and using the front during times when traffic was calmer. But, even at night, the sound of passing traffic rarely ceased. We battled with the council for years to curb this, and by the time we left London (1990), measures such as speed bumps and narrowing were being put in place. Many London residential areas have suffered from traffic as motorized vehicles increased and roads were mostly inadequate for the heavier volumes.

Cross-Channel travel, before the Chunnel was open: I’ve written before about the trials of ferry crossings. With more money in our pockets, more travel was possible, but at the cost of more Channel crossings. Getting there was great, but getting there was often horrible.

Underground closing: The London Underground was infamous for closing down at night, in a city that never went to sleep. It was partly an issue of noise abatement rules. It forced us to drive when we could easily have used public transport, and have to limit drinking to stay the right sight of laws 🙂 We were not lucky enough to live in London when the Night Tube and London Overground Night Service first provided services to travellers through the night on Friday and Saturday nights on the Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines, and a short section of the London Overground’s East London line. The service began on the night of Friday 19 August 2016, providing 24 hour service on these routes from Friday morning to Sunday evening each weekend. It was suspended from Friday 20 March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and will not restart until at least 2022.

Mystery floods: Our house was at the top of a hill, so how did our cellar periodically fill with water? We had every agency that has anthing to do with water come to check for leaks etc and never got an answer for the source of this problem. The water was never brackish, suggesting it was coming from some treated source. Our cellar was a storage area, but things had to be raised off the ground. It was where wine was stored, but always having to check that things were not going to be floating up the stairs. Utterly bizarre!