Saturday 15 May 2021

My thoughts of 2020/21 and a HUGE thank you to my family and the model making community


I have decided to start to write this in the closing days of 2020 as we inched towards a lock down Christmas in Wales UK. I am fortunate in that I share my home with my wonderful wife, daughter and her boyfriend whom we invited to move in with us as we began to enter lock down here in the UK. This was at the beginning of March 2020 and if we are all honest with ourselves I am sure that we didn't envisage the global situation that we are still faced with. I at first treated the virus as something that we shouldn't be that afraid of (its a flu based virus after all) but as the three week lock down over the University holiday turned into my having to adapt my model making space into an online lecture theatre and the UK death toll and infection rate continued to rise I changed my earlier opinion quite quickly. 

I will deliberately avoid the discussion of politics from a particular political viewpoint (no I won't divulge my political inclination as its not really relevant to this post) but I will comment on the unbelievable way that western civilisation seemed to come apart at the seams! We were faced with images of a man being killed on the street by police; cities being torn apart following the outrage; an American president openly blaming another country for the spread of the virus and then threatening to close cities down with federal law enforcement. If that wasn't enough the wearing of a face mask was turned into a political statement rather
than a public health priority. Again I will point out that whether or not you believe in the dangers presented by COVID-19; the wearing of a surgical mask is hardly the end of democracy, surgeons and theatre staff wear them every day! I wear a mask often in the workshops that I teach in and don't find it affects my civil liberties! I was amazed to see videos, articles, tweets, etc from people who said that the face mask is the start of global conditioning of the population; an end to democracy and even an act against God as it disrupted "gods perfect breathing system"; its a bloody face mask not an iron lung!! The absolute worst however was a supposed "factual" video that showed an embedded computer chip in a disposable mask. Despite the temptation to delve into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory I elected not to carry on reading about this for the sake of my own sanity. I suppose I can't write a post without mentioning the "great toilet roll shortage". This was one of the most ridiculous things that I think came out of 2020 but in some ways it did provide a little light relief. The thought that humanity would come crashing down and life would be unlivable if we didn't have some paper to wipe our butts gave me quite a bit of amusement. While I am sure the thought of no loo roll genuinely worried some people; being ex-military I can say with first hand experience that there are many other ways (and products including what nature provides) to wipe your arse effectively!!!!!

Unfortunately despite my best efforts to avoid the laughable conspiracy theories online, in a very short space of time they actually started to hit the mainstream media!!! I was presented with "news" that apparently the whole COVID-19 infection can be attributed to 5G mobile phone signal masts. This is probably one of the most laughable things that I have ever read about! I am an aircraft engineer by trade and can reassure anyone who may be reading this and has the remotest consideration that this may be true; that it most definitely is not! An actual virus which is in essence matter cannot be transmitted through a digital signal. Star Trek is a fictional TV series; we cannot transport matter digitally! A digital signal can also not alter the DNA of anything in the human body. These ridiculous rumours can only have been started by someone with an overactive imagination who has definitely been watching too much Sci Fi on TV or consuming large quantities of hallucinogens. The world is in enough of a state without crap like this being distributed by

people who I am sorry to say have absolutely no idea about science and engineering. If I see one more post that says "I've done my research" and then proceeds to spout inane crap I think I will scream. Research involves the process of reading journal articles published from reputable sources; comparing the results with known experimental data and having prior knowledge of the subject from being taught by an ACTUAL expert in a classroom or lecture theatre whilst reading a great many text books. Once this has been completed, the original research is then replicated to test the initial results and further work is carried out. IT DOES NOT MEAN WATCHING A FEW YOUTUBE VIDEOS OR READING A FACEBOOK POST!!!! If you still don't believe me then consider this; you have a choice of boarding one of two aircraft; the first has been signed as fit to fly by a qualified aircraft engineer of over 25 years experience and teaches the subject at University where they qualify CAA engineers or boarding the second aircraft that has been serviced by persons unknown but has posted on social media that its fit to fly because they have "done their research". Which aircraft would you get on with your family?

This hysteria is not limited to America; here in UK we were presented with the same city wide demonstrations in the middle of a pandemic; statues were torn down and buildings defaced. While I can appreciate, support and agree with the view point that no-one should die at the hands of police after being clearly arrested; I was horrified to see this turned into a political march aimed squarely at destabilising the UK government whilst attacking our police force. While again I am sure that we all have varying views on the UK police; they were not to blame for the death of an American citizen and certainly did not want to be

exposed to the kinds of violence they received in the streets of our cities. My family and I could only look at the unfolding horrors presented to us through our TV screens in our home, through the various social media that we use and in the newspapers that we read. All of this while my wife's business was forced to close, my daughter was forced to work from home in her bedroom and I taught from my living room. To say that our stress levels increased would be an understatement! We are now 12 months into this pandemic with no clear end in sight. Yes there is a vaccine available but with millions of the UK population waiting I fear that it will be some months until we begin to see any semblance of normal life returning to our shores. 

Despite the hardships endured by so many; we as a family have supported each other through this and have complied with all instructions and guidance laid down by our government here in Wales. Again I will refrain from voicing my personal political opinion on the decisions the government has made and simply say that it would be difficult to comment objectively being as no modern western government has had to cope with a global pandemic before. What has really caused me deep upset and annoyance is the total disregard that some people have for the safety and health of others. I have seen people attending house party's, laughing and joking in supermarkets without face masks whilst hugging each other and perhaps one of the worst examples was two older men who had been confirmed as being COVID-19 positive and decided to visit their local pub before going into isolation! The result was that they further infected almost 20 other people

including the families of the bar staff on shift that night. I had previously spoken to my wife about the risks of catching this and I had said that if any of us were to become infected it would be because of the stupidity or ignorance of someone else and not because of one of us. My words would soon come back to haunt me. A woman that works in the same premises that my wife runs her business from decided to visit a friends house that she knew had a COVID-19 infected person. This was just after the announcement that a new more contagious strain was circulating Wales. She then came to work for the next two days despite experiencing symptoms and taking a test. She informed my wife that she was positive after this. Whether the Welsh Government closed businesses or not; my wife would have been forced to close because of this woman's selfish behaviour and unfortunately my wife contracted COVID-19. She has really suffered despite being a healthy 40 year old. We have had to completely isolate from friends and family over the Christmas period and she has spent most of the holidays in bed suffering. As I started to write this post she was still extremely ill and I started to write this as a distraction while she slept. A week later my daughter and I started to experience early symptoms of COVID-19 and were diagnosed as positive shortly after. 

I originally intended on writing about my wife's symptoms but now I can write about it first hand: My first symptoms started off quite mild. I had a headache that progressed into a migraine and started to feel faint from time to time throughout the first two days. During this time and because of my exposure I took the test. I started to joke with my wife who seemed to be over the worst of it that I was experiencing a very mild case in comparison to her. How wrong I was. On the third day I began to ache in every joint and muscle. By the morning of day four I awoke to what can only be described as a fire in my joints, a high temperature and feeling utterly drained despite having 8 hours of sleep. By mid morning I could no longer stay awake and slept through the rest of the day until around four pm. When I woke up to cold shivers and the same pain I managed to drink a cup of coffee and swallow half a dozen vitamin tablets that my wife insisted upon I then decided to return to bed. I woke up at 10 am the following day and still felt tired. On day five it really got bad for me. I still had the burning sensation in my joints, fluctuating temperature, migraine, extreme tiredness and then the cough started! I will at this point state that I have like many of you I am sure suffered from the flu during my lifetime. I was also unfortunate enough to get infected with the SARS virus from an international student many years ago. COVID-19 was a whole new level of suffering in comparison. I will also mention at this point that I am 44, in good health with no pre-existing medical conditions other than noise induced hearing loss and arthritis in my elbow from a past surgery. I am not ashamed to say that on day five I was scared that if it progressed any further that I would become a statistic.

Fortunately by day six my symptoms stabilised and did not progress further however I was still experiencing the same symptoms as day five. Day seven they began to ease and by day eight leading into day nine I was able to stay awake for more than I slept in 24 hours. During the 7 day period that the symptoms were really bad I lost just over a stone in weight. It has now been a few weeks since the initial infection and I am still

experiencing joint pain (although to a lesser extent), I am averaging 4-5 hours sleep a night (insomnia has been identified as a post covid symptom) and I have barely any recollection of conversations with my wife and daughter during the days that I was unwell. If this virus could do this to a healthy man in his 40's with no underlying health conditions I can only imagine the pain and suffering it causes to anyone in the at risk categories. This insidious virus has only been increased in its potency through the stupidity and selfishness of others who have either failed to evaluate the risk or who have been gullible enough to swallow the propaganda surrounding the virus as being nothing more than seasonal flu.    

So why have I decided to write about all of this on a model making site? This pandemic has made me even more aware of what this hobby does for my mental well being. At the start of the pandemic I was forced to convert my model making space into a web classroom. My desk was filled with a laptop, graphics tablet, microphone, camera, etc. I had stopped making models for almost 7 months. I had not realised the impact that this had on my emotional state. My wife pointed out to me after a few months just how unhappy I was. The insidious nature of depression is that one very rarely realises that one is suffering from it until its either highlighted by someone else or its too late to do something about it without help. My wife suggested a small investment in some furniture and clearing some space in our spare bedroom to convert it into a temporary office for me to teach from and thereby returning a hobby space to me. A short trip to Ikea and a few days of re-organisation and I was back at my hobby desk once more making models. I cannot describe the feeling of relief to do something that I enjoy again. I again felt a part of the model making community being able to discuss what I am building with others instead of being an observer to others work only.

Despite the predicament that we as a family find ourselves in at the moment, my wife and I have began conversations again about what model I am making and what she thinks I should do to make it more realistic. She is not a model maker but loves to have an input into the direction of any project that I make (also laying static grass on a dio base). These conversations are ever more important at the moment as they provide some light relief for her to concentrate on for a small amount of time and forget just how horrible she feels because of this virus and its impact on her business. I am very fortunate that I have not suffered from depression in the past and I will not cheapen depression by saying that I suffered from it in a clinical sense during the time I had away from my hobby. I do however have a new found gratitude and appreciation for the positive things I have in my life. I have a loving wife and daughter who support me and I in return them. I have an enjoyable hobby and a permanent place to practice it. I also have some very good friends online from all over the world whom I have never met in real life but we happily share our hobby with one another. (shout-out to the #spruecutters on twitter!!). I also have the outlet to voice my views and opinions on my website; my very own corner of the internet. Without these support networks I can see how a person can slip quite quickly into an ever spiralling pit of depression. While we can't visit friends and family in person at the moment; we can make phone calls, text and video chat. Please make the time to stay connected with one another. It could really make a difference in your and someone else's life.

This pandemic has polarised and split families and communities alike around the globe. Politics and racial tensions has only made this worse and social media has served to add an unbelievable amount of heat and fuel to the fires. The only antidote to all of this madness for me has been my ever supportive family and the small model making community that I am a part of refraining from any other discussion other than the hobby. I will always be grateful for both of these in keeping me sane and as I write this I sincerely hope that you have the same support network surrounding you and keeping your mental health on an even keel. I hope that you have all had a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. I also sincerely hope that you and your family and friends have fared well through all of this and that you are happy and healthy.

A quote from a documentary that I can't remember the title of I think sums up what we are all witness to: "the veneer of civilisation is extremely thin". I think we can all agree that this veneer has slipped on several occasions during 2020 and the beginning of 2021. It is my hope that with a combination of the vaccine and a large number of the population now gaining herd immunity that we can all start to return to some semblance of a normal life once again. No matter what the future holds for me, I will always be grateful to my loving family, my hobby and you; the model making community for keeping me happy and sane (ish).   

Best wishes from my scale model workbench 

No comments:

Post a Comment