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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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A decade ago, in 2005, I was in Venice for my sixtieth birthday.  It was a very pleasant evening involving an excellent restaurant and an operatic recital to follow.  This trip we'd be in Italy a bit earlier as I'd intended to spend my next significant birthday in Berlin.

The trip started out as planned.  A week in London then a flight to Sicily for a few days followed by the overnight boat to Napoli (Naples).  I particularly wanted to visit Pompeii because way back in 1975 my original attempt to see it was thwarted by a series of mishaps, that to avoid distracting from the present tale I won't go into.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Now I am seventy

 On the occasion of an afternoon tea to mark this significant milestone...


When I was one, I was just begun;
When I was two, I was nearly new;
When I was Three, I was hardly me;

But then I was sixty, and as clever as clever;
Wouldn't it be nice to stay sixty for ever and ever?

(With apologies to AA Milne)


Hang on!  Now I'm seventy?  How did that happen? 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Luther - Father of the Modern World?





To celebrate or perhaps just to mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg and set in motion the Protestant Revolution, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been running a number of programs discussing the legacy of this complex man featuring leading thinkers and historians in the field. 

Much of the ABC debate has centred on Luther's impact on the modern world.  Was he responsible for today? Without him, might the world still be stuck in the 'Middle Ages' with each generation doing more or less what the previous one did, largely within the same medieval social structures?  In that case could those inhabitants of an alternative 21st century, obviously not us, as we would never have been born, still live in a world of less than a billion people, most of them working the land as their great grandparents had done, protected and governed by an hereditary aristocracy, their mundane lives punctuated only by variations in the weather; holy days; and occasional wars between those princes?

Read more: Luther - Father of the Modern World?

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