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It's now past two years since SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) spread beyond China and became a pandemic.

From the outset, I've covered aspects of the pandemic on this website, beginning with Love in the time of Coronavirus back in March 2020, so the passing of the pandemic's second birthday seemed an appropriate time to review what we've learnt.

The positive news is that: Covid-19 has been far less deadly than the 1918-20 "Spanish Influenza' pandemic. 

This relative success in limiting the number of deaths this time round is entirely due to modern science.

Although historians disagree over the numbers, all agree that the Spanish Influenza pandemic killed a great number. The lowest estimate is 17 million worldwide, while another puts it at between 24.7 and 39.3 million. Most, including the National Museum of Australia and Wikipedia, tell us that over 50 million people died worldwide. This was when the population of the world was 1.9 billion, less than a quarter of that it is today. However, most historians do agree that that virus did not originate in Spain but first crossed to a human in the United States originally from a waterbird (it was H1N1), then possibly, via a pig. The earliest documented case was March 1918 in Kansas. It was carried into the trenches of the Great War by one or more American 'Doughboys', from whence it spread across the world as the war ended.  As Dorothy opined: 'Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.'

In the early 20th century, vaccine development was by trial and error. Although bacteria could be seen using a powerful, optical-microscope, virions (virus particles) were invisible and could only be inferred to exist, like atoms 50 years ago. As a result, attempts to produce a vaccine in the 1920's targeted suspicious bacteria and were totally ineffective against the influenza, as were many attempted and folk-treatments - perhaps injecting disinfectant?  No, no one would be that stupid!

Masks and social distancing provided the only effective mitigation until natural (herd) immunity stopped the spread.

Unlike that, most deadly, to date, of all viruses, this virus certainly originated in China.

 

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Travel

The Greatest Dining Experience Ever in Bangkok

A short story

 

The Bangkok Sky-train, that repetition of great, grey megaliths of ferroconcrete looms above us.   

All along the main roads, under the overhead railway above, small igloo tents and market stalls provide a carnival atmosphere to Bangkok.  It’s like a giant school fete - except that people are getting killed – half a dozen shot and a couple of grenades lobbed-in to date.

Periodically, as we pass along the pedestrian thronged roads, closed to all but involved vehicles, we encounter flattop trucks mounted with huge video screens or deafening loud speakers. 

Read more: The Greatest Dining Experience Ever in Bangkok

Fiction, Recollections & News

Love in the time of Coronavirus

 

 

 

 

Gabriel García Márquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera lies abandoned on my bookshelf.  I lost patience with his mysticism - or maybe it was One Hundred Years of Solitude that drove me bananas?  Yet like Albert Camus' The Plague it's a title that seems fit for the times.  In some ways writing anything just now feels like a similar undertaking.

My next travel diary on this website was to have been about the wonders of Cruising - expanding on my photo diary of our recent trip to Papua New Guinea.

 


Cruising to PNG - click on the image to see more

 

Somehow that project now seems a little like advocating passing time with that entertaining game: Russian Roulette. A trip on Corona Cruise Lines perhaps?

In the meantime I've been drawn into several Facebook discussions about the 1918-20 Spanish Influenza pandemic.

After a little consideration I've concluded that it's a bad time to be a National or State leader as they will soon be forced to make the unenviable choice between the Scylla and Charybdis that I end this essay with.

On a brighter note, I've discovered that the economy can be expected to bounce back invigorated. We have all heard of the Roaring Twenties

So the cruise industry, can take heart, because the most remarkable thing about Spanish Influenza pandemic was just how quickly people got over it after it passed.

Read more: Love in the time of Coronavirus

Opinions and Philosophy

Bertrand Russell

 

 

 

Bertrand Russell (Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)) has been a major influence on my life.  I asked for and was given a copy of his collected Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell for my 21st birthday and although I never agreed entirely with every one of his opinions I have always respected them.

In 1950 Russell won the Nobel Prize in literature but remained a controversial figure.  He was responsible for the Russell–Einstein Manifesto in 1955. The signatories included Albert Einstein, just before his death, and ten other eminent intellectuals and scientists. They warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons and called on governments to find alternative ways of resolving conflict.   Russell went on to become the first president of the campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) and subsequently organised opposition to the Vietnam War. He could be seen in 50's news-reels at the head of CND demonstrations with his long divorced second wife Dora, for which he was jailed again at the age of 89.  

In 1958 Gerald Holtom, created a logo for the movement by stylising, superimposing and circling the semaphore letters ND.

Some four years earlier I'd gained my semaphore badge in the Cubs, so like many children of my vintage, I already knew that:  = N(uclear)   = D(isarmament)

The logo soon became ubiquitous, graphitied onto walls and pavements, and widely used as a peace symbol in the 60s and 70s, particularly in hippie communes and crudely painted on VW camper-vans.

 

 (otherwise known as the phallic Mercedes).

 

Read more: Bertrand Russell

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