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A dying King

Yesterday was not a good day, diary-writing wise.

Quite properly, it is a task that has to take second place to preparation for meetings, discussions about my future activities and the concerns raised by constituents. So I was very late and very rushed.

The most difficult aspect of writing is writing right. All the electronic assistants to writing, I type into app.grammarly.com which is pretty good at highlighting as I type; mis-spellings, poor grammar, infelicitous phrasing, bad punctuation. It can even if you subscribe, do a plagiarism check. But it cannot catch every attempt a tired and inattentive brain will make to mangle ideas before they pass via the keyboard into the resulting diary.

I try to proofread my words after they are written. Re-reading one's words in the form they were written is difficult, very difficult. The author reads what the author thinks they had written, not what is actually "on the page". So a means of mentally resetting one's perception of your words is necessary.

I read the words in the draft of the web blog before publication. The font is different. The flow of the words at page boundaries departs from the original. Errors are spotted and corrected.

I archive my writings using another tool, Scrivener (vide https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrivener_(software)). That provides a further set of checking tools. Sometimes the various tools disagree with each other. That is just fine. A reminder that the human is in charge, and responsible, not the software.

Finally, I generally read the previous day's diary before writing the next. That overnight break invariably, yes - every time, throws in at the very least, some useful fine-tuning. But this morning was definitely substandard. Three bits of writing which could only be described as "I think I know what you mean but ...". So a fair investment in bringing up yesterday's efforts to scratch before starting today's thousand or so words.

It's a bit like how we are tackling the pandemic. Every day we learn more. In December 2019 we did not even have a standardised name and we still variously use "Coronavirus", "COVID-19" and "SARS-CoV-2". And our knowledge of the virus was minimal. So as we climb the steep slope of understanding, we constantly have to revisit decisions made when we were less well-informed, rather like me and my diary.

We didn't know at the start that our sense of smell might be suspended by the virus. I have read with interest of the range of skin conditions that can be triggered by it. But it is a confusing virus. Every symptom it causes can also have an entirely different genesis.

For a number of years, I have had occasional outbreaks of urticaria. The appearance of soft, water-filled blebs, in my case, on my arms. They rarely affect me for more than a couple of hours before skulking off again. And they are infrequent.

As they are another possible symptom of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, I should be alert if they return. More than likely that my symptom has been environmental rather than viral in origin.

The news this morning that one of the success stories of the pandemic, Vietnam, is experiencing a number of local outbreaks is a clear warning that I should continue to keep two-metres away from others and wear my face-mask whenever there are people nearby. We ain't got this beat even if it seems that we are standing over our opponent counting it out after a supposed knock-out.

Not all news is about the pandemic. We have to prepare for a world beyond it. So the news that Openreach will be delivering full-fibre to about eight communities in my constituency will be warmly welcomed by people there. Communications are vital to the modern world.

Personally, I am trying not to be too grumpy about this news. Because the effect on those of us who have yet to gain access to the previous generation of connection, superfast broadband, is to make us even less competitive with towns and cities.

On two occasions, to enable me to undertake the tasks allocated to me as an MSP, I have had to make a nearly 350 mile round trip to my Edinburgh accommodation, just to get an adequate upload speed. Not to visit Parliament, just to get within WiFi distance of a hub connected to superfast broadband.

I have options to speed up my Banffshire connection to some extent - satellite. But I can find no online information about upload performance. It is faster upload that I need. The service is expensive and restricts the amount of download. In any event, the inescapable satellite delay would make interactive video pretty hopeless even at a higher speed.

We are getting into the same territory that we've been in with mobile phones. Moving onto a new generation of technology to improve the service for those who already have a good connection. Whilst doing little or nothing for those left several technology generations behind.

Where we stay, we have zero phone signal from any network. Thank goodness the mobile network serving my phone (it's EE) allows it to connect to my WiFi to make and receive calls. That's an improvement over having to remember a mile or two away from the house to put in the *21*home number# that would divert calls from my mobile to my home number. In the old days, there would be a number of occasions where I would forget to undivert my mobiles. A good way of experiencing blissful, if unintended, silence for a few hours.

I suppose that my being about a mile away from a reasonable phone signal, less than two from superfast broadband and soon, eight miles from full-fibre broadband just rubs salt in the wounds. I have done walks to take me to where all these decent services are delivered. They are among the over 500 miles my feet have covered since the start of lockdown.

But travelling without wheels ain't fast. At best, we have walking speed communications at home.

Not much incentive to remain living here after I retire next year.

"Authority forgets a dying king" - Alfred Tennyson.

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