I took a stroll outside our mass vaccination centre the other day. A cold wind blew through the precinct and rain was not far away but on the breeze was the warming hum of people enjoying a post vaccination coffee sitting in the open air. The few coffee shops were full but nobody seemed to care. They were just enjoying the freedom from lockdown that the vaccine promises and getting away from the depressing media for a while.
A Google search for: “news reporting makes me angry” brought 189,000,000 results in 0.61 seconds. The pandemic has affected TV news editors badly. They are not the most reasonable or happiest bunch at the best of times but success is anathema to them.
Our TV news programmes these days, if you can bear to watch, comprise a sequence of visual cliches: Research; a lady with a multipronged pipette. Vaccine; crowds of colourful little bottles mournfully progressing on a conveyor belt and the vaccination programme: a prolonged frantic, obsessive sequence of long thick needles penetrating arms, enough to make a needle phobic of the most pathetic drug addict.
Then there is the visual cliché of lockdown; an empty high-street. Each evening I shout out; ‘oh look, they are in Folkestone’ but no, it was somewhere completely different. But not completely, in fact not at all different. Every high-street in the country looks the same. Paved pedestrian areas of block and chewing gum, lined with a succession of national stores; well, just buildings with store names above boarded windows.
Then I Google searched; “Town planning disasters” which brought 24,800,000 results. Mind you it took 1.21 seconds so all cannot be bad!
Over the years there have been a series of money wasting exercises in managing town centres. Pedestrianisation, traffic calming and restricted parking, created a central ‘plaza’ with dead-end side streets into which no one dares enter. These changes cannot be called experimental as they were done in every town at once. Towns were slowly strangled by planners who had not a business brain between them.
One by one large chains closed. Disaster. The end of the High Street as we know it. The virus came and closed everything else. But not in Folkestone.
The vaccination programme has given the town an amazing opportunity for a new lease of life. The closing of Debenhams spelled real disaster but having been bought by the Council it can now be the focus of recovery.
Now a vaccination centre serving a wide area of Kent and beyond, the old store draws thousands of people to the town centre every day seven days a week. Many have not visited the town for years, some never before. When people say after their vaccination that they are heading off to explore the town I have felt a self-conscious shudder but I am wrong.
We took a stroll at the weekend by the sea. It was fantastic to see so many on the beach now that the sun has returned . We walked past the beautifully renovated beach huts on to the boardwalk, past the new building to the Harbour Arm and up through the Old High St. there were so many people everywhere enjoying our town; thanks to Sir Roger every step of the way.
But when we reached the town centre precinct there was a lone busker with few to enjoy her singing. Gone was the feeling of summer and of holiday.
On my journey there was so much to enjoy. The beach huts which are part of Triennial 21. The beach, the board walk, the High St and so much more. I have just Googled: “how many outdoor sculptures in Folkestone” 568,000 results.
I copied below from Creative Folkestone: 74 artworks by 46 artists – including Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono, Mark Wallinger, Cornelia Parker, Bill Woodrow, Michael Craig-Martin and Ian Hamilton Finlay – offers an experience like nowhere else in the world: great contemporary art with an invitation to explore, examine and understand the town’s geography, history and potential future.
The Harbour Arm is so successful, let’s have a little healthy competition between it and the Town Centre precinct. Let us advertise all that is nice about Folkestone. Give the people what they want especially now when we have so many visitors who leave our vaccination centres in a great frame of mind in search of a little pampering.
What young talent do we have who could join the lone busker for example? What other entertainment could be provided to those who highly value their visit. Virus has brought an opportunity not given to many towns through the vaccination centres. An opportunity to aid our business recovery.
It is fantastic to seen Castle Hill Ave’s new installation this week. The Triennial starts in September on the same weekend as the Channel Triathlon by Channel Rotary. Two weeks later will be Folkestone Rotary’s Half Marathon. Rotary is doing its bit.
Rana Begum, No.1054 Arpeggio, commissioned for Creative Folkestone Triennial 2021 in partnership with Folkestone & Hythe District Council. Photograph by Thierry Bal
Channel Rotary Club is delighted to announce that Geoffrey Milsted has joined us as a member. Geoffrey brings excellent skills which will be very helpful in our charitable and other work in the Folkestone community and further afield. He was previously a member of Folkestone Round Table and then Folkestone Rotary Club which awarded him a Paul Harris Fellowship for services to the community.
Geoffrey originates from Maidstone and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He oversaw the accounting functions of both Divisions of the Folkestone based family business, Alsted Group and ran the day-to-day operation of the filling stations. When petrol retailing ceased in the mid 1990’s, he continued developing new homes in Kent as Alsted Properties Ltd until his retirement in 2020.
He is married to Rosemary, lives in Folkestone and is an active memberof Sene Valley Golf Club.
Photo shows: Geoffrey Milsted (left) is welcomed to Channel Rotary by President Malcolm Stewart
There are now only 5 Weeks to go until the Channel Rotary Charity Cycle Challenge. Bookings are going well for this fun filled cycle ride and the more entrants we have the more money we can raise for local charities.
Choose your distance from 30, 50 or 70 miles, for beginners, families, clubs or experienced solo cyclists through the beautiful Romney Marsh. Probably the flattest cycle ride in the country.
Rotary has been coordinating volunteers to marshal at the two vaccination centres in Folkestone. There has been amazing support with 550 people giving their time for the 52 marshals needed each day.
As life returns to normal in every way following the success of the vaccinations, people have less free time to support the essential work. But the pace of vaccinations must increase. It is hoped that the Folkestone sites can vaccinate up to 3000 people each day 7 days a week.
Over the next 2 months until it is finished can you give even one session a week? This would ease the pressure on the volunteers who have given so much time over the last 5 months.
I am proud to say that this is the 20th year since I joined Channel Rotary in Folkestone.
Our clubs statement is so true, “We are serious about what we do but don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our foundations are strong fellowship, common purpose and a lot of enjoyment.”
Since our inception in 1980 we have raised around £1 million for local, national and international charities, including 30k in the last 12 months despite covid. We’ve achieved this by holding events including Santa runs, cycle events, golf competitions, triathlons, jazz festivals and many more.
I’ve totally enjoyed my time in Rotary and will continue to do so and would encourage others to consider joining their local rotary club to do something meaningful for the local community.
A recent news report told of how scientists have trained bees to sniff out Covid-19. Exactly how they got this idea is beyond me but some clever chap has managed to harness these poor little creatures and expose them to a variety of smells. When they sniff Covid-19 they are rewarded with a drop of sugar water. After a short while, in Pavlovian fashion, as soon as they smell Covid they stick out their tongue. You can see them here.
Now there is a number of ethical questions about this. Just think of where these scientists are getting the covid containing gunk from; deep in someone’s nose or around their rotting tonsils. No wonder these poor little bugs stick out their tongue in disgust.
And should they be forcing bees to become hooked on sugar. I have never seen a bee with teeth, I guess this is because they eat so much honey, so we cannot be concerned about decay but how about diabetes and obesity not to mention a myriad of other diseases. Do we what a generation of sick bees making our honey?
According to excited scientists, this is the most rapid response test there is for covid and almost 100% reliable. There will probably be a world shortage of honey now as all the bees will be conscripted and deployed around the world. I wish I had the contract to make the harnesses. There really are some weird scientists about.
There are these other guys who are training bumblebees to play football. See this video
If the bee gets the ball into a hole it gets a reward; sugar, you guessed it.
If you are going outdoors from now on, which is all we can do at the moment, you better take some sugar with you because if a bee comes near you and sticks its tongue out, God alone knows what he will do if he/she is not rewarded with sugar. But mind you, the sting will be the least of your worries after the diagnosis.
I think there is a solution here. What if the bee could sting vaccine?
These clever scientists have got carried away with little pests. The chaps up at Oxford have become power crazed with their genetic wizardry. This time they have been interfering with mosquitoes. 750 million of the little blighters have had their DNA altered and sent off to Florida so that when they have their evil way with the local females, (no need for a video here!). The female progeny of these genetically interfered with males die young before they mature to spread disease. It is only the females which draw blood for their eggs and in doing so, spread disease.
So I see a plan forming here. Mosquitoes are clever at painlessly drawing blood so we get their anaesthetic. Honeybees can locate Covid. Bumblebees have good capacity. Given lots of sugar they can be fattened up and, most importantly, they have a whopping big injector. With a little clever genetic engineering from these three little bugs and training, we could train the bumblebee to sniff out covid and painlessly inject vaccine. Problem solved.
That is of course if these footballing bumblebees are more accurate than their counterparts in the premier league.
Just one death was recorded from Covid yesterday, one too many, but a most encouraging sign that the worst may be past. Far too many lives have been lost but the vaccination programme has now protected the most vulnerable and reduced the load on the NHS; its primary goal. Bur as half of the adult population still needs vaccination, does the vaccination programme needs a new and clearer focus to face the remaining challenges to its completion?
Vaccinating the young:
Different flu viruses have affected different age groups over the years. The flu of 1918 which claimed tens of millions of lives, disproportionally killed young people. In the US it killed more soldiers than those killed in the war which had just ended. A flu in 1968 also killed young people disproportionately. But there is research which shows an interrelationship between viruses to which we have gained immunity in early life and the effect in later life of a variant of the same virus, which may explain why a particular age group can be disproportionately affected. In other words, those not affected in one epidemic may succumb in the next because they do not have antibodies.
Today the young generation seems to have become complacent viewing Covid as a disease of the aged and are understandably anxious to resume social life believing that it may not have much impact on spread of the disease.
Exposure by vaccination to the Covid virus may give them protection to a future variant of Covid which from the experiences from 1889 and 1918 may have a serious impact on them.
The next challenge is to counter the antivax theories.
I had a conversation with an acquaintance the other day and was amazed when he told me that he had not been vaccinated and was reluctant to do so. He did not have any background scientific knowledge so although he could list many of the antivax theories he had no foundation from which to question or evaluate their authenticity.
Many of us are inclined to only seek and read material which reinforces our opinions and this seems to be particularly the case in social media where opinions which we explore continuously feed into our devices by default. The person to whom I was speaking had been hospitalised during the first lockdown because of a non-covid related respiratory crisis due to COPD. He seemed unaware of his vulnerability and the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness in patients like him.
Changing false opinion can be very difficult. This can be more likely during the pandemic where someone blames the government for decisions which have adversely affected their families, their income or employment. They will be less likely to trust the advice from ministers of the value of vaccination.
As examples; the recent ‘disruptor’ who threatened security at local vaccination sites and the protester outside Debenhams accusing those inside of murder, will be difficult to bring on board. But every avenue should be tried.
The third reason is potentially the most important; Long Covid
In 1889-90 a pandemic called the Russian flu which is now thought to have been a coronavirus rather than influenza, was followed by many resurgences of the virus over subsequent years. What is striking is that the disease caused lasting neurological disorders and nervous conditions of depression and fatigue. These conditions persisted through the resurgences and occurred again following the next pandemic of 1918; the Spanish Flu, which is said to have affected up to 500 million people worldwide and killed up to 50 million.
In the extreme, the residual mental and emotional effects were so profound that a famine resulted in Tanzania because farmers were unable to plant their crops due to fatigue but similar conditions were reported across the world. It is hard to compare 2021 with 1918 following the slaughter of the war and the subsequent grief of 50 million deaths from flu. The ‘melancholy’ was multifaceted, impairing the economic recovery. Every plague from earliest times has provoked social change, sometimes very profoundly. Historians will record how we respond this time.
But the lessons must be to protect as many as possible from long-covid and to vaccinate the young so that they have some immunity which may help them when this or a similar virus strikes again.
Vaccinating the older early group was an emotional time for the vaccinator and patient alike and the relief felt by the patient was tangible. How can we instil this urgency in the young not only because it is they who suffer worst from the immediate dreadful effects of Long-covid, a condition which may have a lasting impact.
An army of volunteers has been helping the Rotary initiative to support the vaccination programme in Folkestone over the last three months. The NHS Trust has sent messages saying how valued this amazing response of support is. It demonstrates how when a group of people come together to give a little of their time it can grow into a great power for good.
This is the basis of Rotary. An organisation which although it has been around for over 100 years is not understood by many or is sadly talked about in a divisive way of the haves and have-nots. In fact the intention of Rotary is quite the opposite; an intention to bridge that gap.
It is a worldwide organisation which on the one hand is driving the eradication of polio from the world alongside the Gates Foundation while supporting a local school’s hardship fund on the other. Rotary is a non-political group of business and professional people embracing all professions and trades. Its aims are to promote the highest ethical standards in business while showing that every professional’s and tradesperson’s skills offer opportunities of service to the community. There can be no better demonstration of how this can work than the fantastically diverse skills of the 530 volunteers coming together for the good of our community by supporting the vaccination programme.
Rotary locally through the two clubs in our town has demonstrated how having a network of likeminded people with diverse skills who meet mostly as friends can be ready to act immediately when there is a need.
Four of us, Bill Flavell and Derek Harris and me of the Channel Club, and Terry Cooke-Davies of the Folkestone Club volunteered to take on this project when asked to help. I have just realised as I write that we have never met together during this task; just one Zoom call at the beginning was all that was necessary for each to use their individual experience to enable the project to evolve.
It has been fantastically rewarding as all the vaccination volunteers will testify, to be part of the great success story and it has been equally rewarding to experience the network of friendships and cooperation which has grown amongst the army of volunteers and all of the NHS workforce.
We must be able to build on this spirit of cooperation for the good of the Town.
Many volunteers have offered to help with other Rotary projects. Strangely we need marshals for our charity sporting events. On Sunday July 4th is the Channel Cycling Challenge at Romney Marsh. This is a 70 or 50 or 30 mile cycling event which requires many marshals. If you would like a morning in the sun – I hope! – please email email@example.com who is coordinating the marshals for the event.
Or if you would like to take part to help our work in the community have a look, click = >> HERE.
Later in the year on September 5th we will need help with the Channel Triathlon at the Harbour. Or you could take part! HAVE A LOOK HERE
Our charity golf day on May 14th is fully booked with 200 golfers. But there is always next year!
Each week since the start of lockdown I have had a zoom call with family members. Represented in that call are seven countries stretching from Finland and Denmark, through Europe to the UAE and Hong Kong. Each has had its own interpretation of lockdown and its own philosophy on vaccination. It is difficult to understand why there is no consensus derived from combining the experience of what is most effective in every country, that is until one listens to the almost patriotic fervour with which each defends the approach of their own territory.
There is surely no more striking divergence of opinion in relation to Covid than the controversy in relation to the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Denmark will not permit it at all, Spain not for the over seventies, Germany not for the under sixties and of course the UK not for women under 30. There was never a more important time for a united approach.
Now we hear that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been withdrawn temporarily. How can anyone prove or disprove the cause of six cases of clotting or one death out of 6.8 million people or occurrence out of the 20 odd million in the UK and safely blame it on a vaccine?
On the one hand we have the independent regulator in most countries approving the vaccine while the media and in particular individuals on social media who seek to justify the opposite point of view.
After a professional life where I placed my faith in the UK’s regulator, even sometimes when a radical change of direction proposed was uncomfortable to accept, I still could not be deaf to the debate about the AZ vaccine. While one life lost in a million seems such a small risk, it could be a death in my family. That for me was always the basis of professional decision making. I asked myself “what would I do if this patient was my mother or my child”.
As a vaccinator, found myself made uncertain about the use of the Oxford vaccine. My personal dilemma was whether I could continue to inject it and remain part of the programme and how to evaluate the risks.
I know a young mother and know of the father of an unborn child who died of Covid. And I know those who have suffered Long Covid which left very fit young people seriously ill. Covid is not just a disease affecting older people.
The vaccination programme has saved thousands of lives and tens of thousands from serious and often life changing illness. This outweighs the unproven incidents of which it is blamed. The UK’s decision not to use the Astra Zeneca vaccine on young women is a wise precaution at present and has helped in my decision to carry on.
The fact that I am insured and that the NHS ultimately takes responsibility for my actions plays no part in my decision. I do it because I believe it to be the right thing to do.