Finger On The Pulse

Where to start?

They say that a week’s a long time in politics: crikey, the last seven days have completely rewritten the script for mankind by the look of it. There I was a week ago bemoaning the fact that Jane and I are unlikely to get to Australia and New Zealand and now virtually the whole of Europe seems to be in lockdown except the UK which seems hell bent on infecting as many of its citizens as quickly as possible and taking it on the chin.


I watched the news in quiet disbelief last night. At the start of the week, I just thought that the UK government was being its incompetent self, playing the same Brexit card that it’s been using since 2016. But last night the penny dropped. Government policy appears to be to try and infect as many people as possible as quickly as possible. They call it the Delay phase: I call it Dither.

The boffins appear to be suggesting that the objective of the Dither phase is to delay the onset of the peak of cases, and thereby allow the NHS to deal with the onslaught at a lower rate of presentation, but for longer. What Dither appears to rely on is the directive that if you have a fever and/or a cough, you should self-isolate for seven days. But where’s the so-called social distancing: the process of staying out of coughing range of everybody else whenever you’re out and about? Why aren’t the government schooling people in how to practise this art? Folk appear to be just going about their business as usual, waiting on the apocalypse without a care in the world.

It’s coming, and it’s coming to every one of us.

So today while I was out on the bike, I took time to completely re-appraise where I’m at, and what I’m likely to be able to do over the next wee while. You know that old saying “Take each day as it comes”? Well that’s me from this day forward.

Next week I’ll be 67 and that put’s me at increased risk of complications when my turn comes. Of benefit, I guess, is the fact that as far as I know, I have no underlying health conditions, apart from being bonkers enough to ride a bike for three hours every day in winter. It’s a sobering thought. I kind of want to take a duvet day and make it last for three months, hoping that I’m still here on the other side.

I was riding along thinking “How will I know when I’ve got it?” The dry persistent cough’s obviously a giveaway, because COVID-19 wants to make its home in your lungs. But while I was rattling along, my mind suddenly wandered back 35 years to the mid-80’s and my Cumbernauld running squad. There was no internet back then and all of the training programs were designed and monitored with a pen, paper and a calculator. Real back of an envelope stuff. My runners, several of whom may actually read this and reminisce, each had an A4 training diary with weekly tear off sheets. Each sheet had space for the athlete to write stuff about the sessions they were doing, day on day, and score a few boxes with numbers. At the end of the week, I got the sheets photocopied and they took the copy home to their family while I kept the original in order to forward plan the following week. It was all soooo time consuming!

One of those numbers was resting pulse rate, taken first thing in the morning. I’m not sure whether they realised that a higher than normal number on a Saturday morning was a giveaway that they’d been on the ale on the Friday night, but the significance of resting heart rate, for all of us, was to be sure that the training workload wasn’t overloading the athlete. Resting pulse rate doesn’t lie: if it’s higher than you’d expect it to be, then there has to be a reason.

Now roll that forward to today…

If COVID-19 gets into your system, a raised resting pulse rate will be one of the first indicators that something’s amiss. That’s your body sounding the alarm. Raised resting pulse happens way before you feel any physical symptoms: it’s your early warning to prepare for what’s to come.

Am I concerned? In a word, yes.

What do I plan to do when the time comes? Well because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that carries pneumonia as a primary payload, I certainly won’t be going anywhere. Apart from a raised resting pulse, I’m expecting the second indicator to be cycling performance falling off a cliff. That’ll be the day I call a halt to the unbroken run of stages. I can deal with a wee bit of tiredness – hell, I’ve been doing that on and off for years – but no way am I driving this thing deeper into my lungs.

Next week Jane and I are/were booked to go to Belfast to a Peat and Diesel gig at the University Students Union. That’s off. And sometime in the next week or so, I expect we’ll call time on the southern hemisphere gig and claw back what money we can from that too. I feel very sorry for Jane because this was the trip of a lifetime to celebrate her 60th. But the bigger picture is that we’re both still here for her 61st.

This all seems to have come around at the speed of light. I’m especially concerned that the UK government is so out of step with the rest of Europe in not locking stuff down: people are just going about their normal day to day business and spreading this thing. The logic in that strategy defies belief. Today, the UK has 798 recorded positive cases: by the time I write next week’s blog, assuming I’m still fit and able, we’ll have over 4,000 cases. And the week after that, over 20,000 cases. This is only going one way over the next few weeks because of Dither and lack of social distancing guidance from the government. It’s simply not enough to tell folk to stay at home when they start feeling unwell. They’ve already been infectious for days before then, and passed it on to other people. That’s what bothers me. People have got to isolate when they’re out and about.

With that lot as a backdrop, everything else seems to pale into insignificance. Everything except for Wednesday of this week, and the funeral of a long time Inverness Caley Thistle friend, Bronson, up in Inverness. The original plan was to go up on Tuesday and come back on Thursday, bike in the back of the car obviously, but with the coronavirus panic in full swing, I elected not to return to Jane’s mum’s house after the funeral and I came straight back down the road instead. I did however manage to bag 35 miles along the side of Loch Ness early doors on Wednesday morning.

With this sense of impending doom, I feel a real need and a real sense of responsibility to scale back on everything. And not just the miles, but the effort too. It’s like there’s a wee voice whispering “Don’t go so far: don’t go so fast”. It’s like I’m about to wrap myself in cotton wool while I’m trying to keep this show on the road.

I don’t like where we’re at. Do you know the only thing I want for my birthday next week? To be 68 this time next year and still doing this. I hope that’s not too much to ask.

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