Good morning folks
I trust this finds you safe and sound.
Apologies for the radio silence, it has been a bit of a crazyar$ed time of late.
The 2 occasions that I was going to sit down and scribble some nonsense I got hit with a massive dump of work-to-do (my life is spent almost entirely in Zoomland), so I said (to myself) Sunday morning by hook or by crook, I will cobble something together and here it is…
Where to begin?
A lot has happened since the last blog.
– Fiestas Patrias came and went. 199 years of independence. A 3-day public holiday reduced to one.
– State of Emergency Day 139: 428,850 cases, 19,614 deaths. (If you believe the figures, bone of contention).
– Arequipa is on the hotlist right now (along with Madre de Dios, Áncash, Moquegua, Tacna, Cusco, Puno, Huancavelica, Cajamarca, Amazonas , Apurímac, Ica, Junín, Huánuco and San Martín).
AQP has had its quarantine extended (again) until the end of August, which will make it 168 days in total.
Nightime curfew and all day Sunday. I only go to the supermarket once every 7-10 days, the rest of the time “en mi casa”.
(In theory, if we have all been in lockdown for almost 5 months, one would think that the virus would have been eradicated by now, sadly not the case here).
In neighbouring Bolivia, the Government has finished the school year 5 months early, as many students do not have internet access and therefore cannot have virtual classes.
In Peru during this lockdown period 900 women have disappeared, that is not a typo, nine hundred women have disappeared.
Yet an article about a football player crashing his car whilst drunk (during the nighttime curfew) got more column space, if that is not messed up I don’t know what is.
It is Sunday, nobody should be out today, I look out of the window and see the same woman who wanders round all day, every day, without a mask (although she may argue that if nobody else is out, why does she need a mask!)
Here in AQP the hospitals have collapsed, there are bodies in binbags on stretchers in the passageways, a Mafia organisation has been buying up oxygen cylinders and selling them at at a profit of 1000%, a warehouse full of hospital PPE and medical equipment that was never delivered was discovered, two-thirds of the binmen of the city are in quarantine, I could go on.
That is just here in Arequipa.
There were 3 “temblores” last week, two on Wednesday night/Thursday morning (only 5.3 on the Richter Scale, but the longest lasting quake I have experienced here). As I lay in bed in the small hours, in that dozing shall-I-get-up-or-shall-I just-stay-in-bed state as the building shook and the dogs howled on the neighbour’s roof, I thought “Is this it?!”
It wasn’t with fear, remorse or regret, it was without emotion. That worried me. Don’t give up, not yet!
The Outside World.
My World since March 16th 2020 has been a very small one indeed. From here to Metro Supermercado is a 600m stroll, but that has been the outer limits of my exploration, until last Saturday when I had to go all the way to the place which I used to call “Work”, the Britanico centre in Umacollo, a whopping 2.5 miles away.
So, after suiting up like I was going to clean up some radioactive waste at Chernobyl, I set off and made my way there, feeling almost like I was doing something wrong. I was gobsmacked by the number of punters in the street, it was just like a “normal” day. Facemasks are a contentious international issue right now, but here they are deemed as legally obligatory, i,e. You have no choice! Heaps of folk, without a hint of a mask, even as I walked past one of the biggest Copshops this side of town.
That my friends, is one of the reasons that we are in this huge mess here!
Last time at the Big B 🙁
Dropping a major b0ll0ck!
We do have a plan. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes not.
We decided a while back that we would move back to Blighty.
The current situation is a strange one. Obviously Covid-19 is a massive global problem with 3 possible outcomes.
a) We all die, the World ends.
b) Not everyone dies, the World doesn’t end.
c) Everything goes magically back to normal.
I am banking on the second option personally.
This (deleted expletive) virus has thrown a major spanner in many, many works.
I have a good friend who caught the virus and recovered, I have another friend who sadly lost her Dad to it last week.
It affects different people in different ways.
As a friend said to me, “We have to adapt to the new reality, as the past is not coming back, sad as that may be…”
Our plan is in 3 parts.
1) Empty the house.
2) Get to Lima.
3) Fly to Blighty.
Part 1 is going well, we have flogged a lot of our gubbins and by 29/08 most of it will have been sold, given away or burnt in the street. It will mean that the house will be empty by 31/08 (with our worldly possessions squeezed into 2x23kg bags each) which kick-starts part (2).
Part 2 is tricky. There are no flight in or out of AQP. Lima is a quick 80 minute hop away (flights usually costing around £25 upwards).
Nor are there long distance buses right now, these used to take between 16-20hrs and cost between £10-40.
So, the only option right now is a taxi.
A friend flying back to the States last week, took one from here to Lima, costing him £300!
As of Monday a special permit is needed to travel, this is no problem, I can get one.
The problem is that taxis can only operate at 50% capacity, so we couldn’t go in a car with all our stuff, so it would need to be a mini bus, costing around a Grand!
The problem is that paperwork takes time here (understatement of the year!)
The other problem is that IF AQP is opened up at the end of August, we can just change the dates on our pre-booked tickets and hop on a plane, piece of cake!
Take the SP, or take the early-bird odds, always a dilemma…
Any of transport options would hopefully get us and our gear back up to Lima in early September, segueing us gently into part (3)…
Our original plan (A) was to leave here on 14/09. BA contacted me on Wednesday to say they had changed our flight (again).
The last leg (Heathrow to Manchester) had been cancelled. At that tentative point I could have got out money back, but after speaking to the BA Lima office (located in Germany and manned by a very efficient South African), the flights were all moved to 11/09. Plan B, everything shifted forward 3 days, all good. I made the foolish mistake of believing that maybe, just maybe, everything was slotting into place…
2 days later the government/press announced that the borders would remain closed until possibly 2021!!! (Exclamation marks for extra drama effect and justified in this instance).
There are Humanitarian flights out of here, until now I just wanted us to get home under our own steam.
Humanitarian flights are operated by KLM (Holland) and Iberia (Spain). They leave from a military base and it is not your normal charter flight experience. It is a bit of a lottery.
As the government have not confirmed the dates yet, the original BA flights are still open (but unlikely to fly), the problem is we cannot get a refund, just a credit note, but to be honest if we we ever do get back home I cannot see us flying anywhere in the near future, so a credit note is useless. If the flight is cancelled by BA, we can get our readies back.
Do we risk it for a biscuit and book a humanitarian flight now, or hang on to see if things miraculously open up (as they had been planned to do in September/October. We will be homeless and I will be UB40 as of the end of August.
It will be a game of patience (not the card game, I am crap at that). It isn’t about the money, I’d sell a kidney in a flash for my family, but physically it just isn’t possible to just drop everything and jump on a plane right now. Things are a bit mad, but we’re all ok. Please do keep your fingers crossed for us in September though!
Watch this space…
(Did we really foresee all this back in the 70’s!)
Apologies, no V-log this week, sorry, been a bit under the cosh timewise.
(My phone went missing one day and a few days later found these!)
Adios Tyrekickers !
I was trying to sell my bass and amplifier before we left AQP. Not something I wanted to do, but needs must.
Advertising anything, anywhere at anytime attracts a particular kind of beast, the Tyrekicker.
This breed of to$$pot are people who either enjoy wasting other folk’s time or are just plain out-&-out ar$eholes!
I had already had to endure 4 local punters with no intention of doing anything but be a pain in the poto.
Then, out of the blue a friend in Lima said that her other half was after a bass!
A special deal was struck and a huge breath of relief was released. Get in.
Bonus in that:
a) I don’t have to put up with any more timewasting idiots here in AQP!
b) I sell it to a friend. It is going to a good home.
c) I get another month of practising here.
Ask me in when I get back to the UK.
Red tape unravelling…
My AFP mess got messier, no thanks to the incompetence of a certain Mr. Fabian Mercury, who took 2 weeks to do nothing, he promised to do the paperwork to change my ID number and delivered absolutely diddly-squat, then somebody else took 2 days to do it, but alas all in vain, as the window and cut-off date for withdrawing up to 25% of my pension had opened and slammed shut. I have now entered a whole new world of red tape pain if I ever do want to get my paws on my bra$$ one day. I will be lucky to get a hapenny of my hard-earned.
Meanwhile, I am awaiting confirmation that my CDE (residence permit) has been renewed, without which I can basically do nothing! Fingers and toes crossed it will be done before the end of August.
That is only the start of a red-tape-a-thon when I get back to Lima…
After 16 years in the wilderness, LEEDS UNITED are back in the top flight.
Thanks to the genius of Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds are back where they belong, MOT!
Congratulations also to Harrogate Town, who are back in the Football League, they’ll be up against the mighty Barrow next season.
Back in the days when we could go outdoors, I was training my ar$e off for the Lima Half Marathon (and then had bigger plans, but we won’t talk about them just here).
I really do not like running on the road, but have little choice sometimes. I did find this brilliant pedestrian bridge which is exactly 500m end-to-end, so I beasted myself back-&-forth with speedwork. It was like going down memory lane when I walked across it last Saturday.
I am eternally grateful for my rooftop. 12 x 8 metres of patchwork ceramic tiling with a shabbily painted surrounding wall, with a view that never fails to rouse my emotions every time I set eyes on the towering trinity of Picchu Picchu, El Misti and Chachani. I don’t want to think what mental shape we would be in without our little rooftop…
The GPS on my watch went a bit haywire this week, it took me 80mins to run less than 4 miles. (If it was right then it really is time to give it up as a bad job). With the lockdown being extended until the end of August, I shall do my last run in this fine city on my rooftop, that will be an emotional trot.
It’s all about the bass…
Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
At school I loved Geography and Biology.
I hated Chemistry, French, History and Physics.
I was indifferent about English and German.
I was terrified of Maths.
Art was a dead loss (colourblind).
Music was a lost cause…
Looking back I can see that these likes/dislikes were directly influenced by my teachers.
I had brilliant, inspiring teachers for Geography and Biology.
I had evil teachers for Chemistry, French, History and Physics (especially Physics).
I had lazy, disinterested teachers for English and German.
I had a terrifying Maths teacher.
I had a curse with Art teachers (an overnight death in class, a suicide and a disgraced teacher).
I don’t even remember my Music teacher, but I do remember one class vividly!
It was the final week of classes, exam week. We had 3 whole classes to prepare a “piece” in pairs.
I was paired with a lad called Stuart Dand, a short lad with a crazy mop of ginger hair who was a very handy, little boxer.
He was a funny lad and neither of us had any real interest in music so we just looked busy for 3 classes and then realised with horror, that it was our turn to produce our “piece”, so we hurriedly spent 10 seconds putting some words on paper and arguing about who was singing and who was playing the Glockenspiel. For some reason we chose the biggest Glockenspiel in the class and as I grabbed the sticks (mallets) first, Stuart was forced to sing.
A deathly hush fell over the class…
“Walking through the crowded town, the car windows make me frown. I wish, I had, some sunglasssssses” (Repeated twice to a backdrop of two notes played at opposite ends of the Glockenspiel).
That was it.
After 5 seconds of complete silence, the entire class burst into hysterics and the (normally placid) Music teacher went ballistic!
“Three classes, you had three whole classes to prepare and this is it???”
We were sent outside into the corridor of shame. Escaping the class was only temporary relief as the Headmaster did frequent corridor rounds and collared us immediately. “Why had we been sent out?”, he demanded to know.
That was the year of “Options” and when our music teacher calmed down, she told us, in no uncertain terms, to drop music!
I did try to play bass for a short time a few years later in our short-lived school band “The Half Nelsons”, then bought a double bass (which I never mastered), then got skint and had to sell it all, (bar the double bass, I still have that but it needs attention/a miracle!)
Fast forward to 2020 and after a 20 year sabbatical, I started playing again last year.
First with my 20-stone 5-string with Fender Alex the teacher (making progress until I sold the 5-string and Alex left Peru), then by myself (going nowhere) and then with YOUSICIAN.
Yousician is good fun, useful to a point but essentially painting-by-numbers for the bass. After playing second-rate Guitar Hero for 9mths, to go any further on this learning path I desperately need to learn how to read music (and to play with a bit of style instead of the messy blur of twisted sausage fingers that is my bass playing!)
How I wish I had paid attention in that music class now. Don’t think that Stuart went on to become a famous musician either!
In my day-to-day role as a Placement Examiner (a grand title if ever there was one), I conduct interviews with new/returning students asking a range of (top secret) questions. Mainly hypothetical questions testing the fluency and vocabulary range/fluency of interviewees. One question asks about Social Media, something I dropped some time back and don’t really miss. I say I dropped social media; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (I was too old for Snapchat), but if Youtube is classed as social media, I bloody love it!
The beauty of it is that you can find pretty any song, film snippet or random piece of crap that has ever been produced, plus most stuff you just stumble across in the unique erratic order that is Youtube.
This week I think I may have found the best channel ever, (“best” is a hugely subjective word in this sentence).
SeattleMarksJoint3 is the man who has taken the time and trouble to upload all the Beavis & Butthead back catalogue, a 90’s cartoon off MTV which you either love or hate.
That’s all for now folks. Hopefully back with more nonsense from AQP next week!
Stay safe, stay awesome!
Johnny & the girls
p.s. 48 today! Don’t look a day over 47 😉