Wednesday, April 1, 2020, Day 17, Week 3, of Self Isolation.

Global Cases 938,923
Global Deaths 47,314
UK Cases 29,474
UK Deaths 2,352

There have been 564 new deaths in past 24 hours. One of these was a 13 year old boy who died alone in isolation. Another UK doctor has also died.

All other news seems very insignificant and unimportant compared to this, so it feels very flippant just to move on and say that Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, and that Prince Charles is out of isolation after his bout of Covid-19.

On a personal note, my right knee is very sore after all the cycling. I think I’m going to have to rest it today. It’s a bit of a blow, as the walk or bike ride in the fresh air has become the highlight of our day.

But, the good news, actually fantastic news, is that a story I wrote for a competition in January, has got me through to the next stage in the competition. The competition is the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. The story is called Option 3. I paid just under £40 to enter. It takes place over 4 rounds.

In the 1st Round (January 17-25, 2020), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (April 2-5, 2020) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  The judges again choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 3rd Round (May 15-17, 2020) where writers receive new assignments and have 2 days to write a 1,500 word (maximum) short story.  Judges select finalists and the remaining writers are challenged to write a 1,250 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (June 19-20, 2020) in the fourth and final round of the competition.

4700 people have entered this year and I was one of 790 people who made it through to the next round! It’s safe to say I am delighted!

In Round 1, my challenge was to write a story in the Spy genre, with a theme of Mid-Life Crisis and featuring a Martial Artist. I was horrified at first, having never written anything like ths before. It came though in January, when we were in Barbados, and I spent the last few days of the holiday working on it, with lots of help and support from M and our friends. I’ve published it on here in a separate post.

There is a fair bit of interest in how Sweden is dealing with the crisis. Our son lives out there in Malmo, so we have a particular interest in this. They are pretty much carrying on as normal, and have not adopted any of the more draconian lock down measures that other countries in Europe have. They seem to be holding their nerve and pushing on down the herd immunity route, with a more relaxed approach to social distancing which relies on the principles of individual and social responsibly. But, by all accounts from our son, he’s not seeing any evidence that people are being particularly responsible. This is where the UK started a few weeks ago but seemed to lose their nerve when numbers started to rise and they saw what was going on in Italy. It will be interesting to see how it works out for them!

I did a bit of writing in the morning. Finished an article on Mindfulness for our business website. Boosted by the NYC success, I entered Option 3 into the Writers Bureau annual Short Story Competition.

I did a bit of cooking after that, rustling up some cheese and onion scones with some old pasta flour that I found in the back of the cupboard.  I used up some tomatoes and left-over mascarpone to make a creamed tomato and chorizo soup. Not a bad effort, even if I say so myself!



This afternoon, we were reflecting on lessons we have learned so far from all of this. A big one is whether we should plan ahead as much in the future, and maybe be a bit more spontaneous, even if it does risk not getting tickets for things. We actively decided this year to get a few short trips and events planned out, and now they have pretty much all been cancelled or postponed. These included:

  • Tickets for the Nature Valley Classic tennis tournament in Edgbaston
  • Tickets for West Indies v England cricket at Edgbaston
  • Tickets for the Mostly Soul and Jazz Festival in Mosely
  • Tickets, flights and accommodation for the European rugby finals in Marseille

I had every intention of going back to my desk after lunch, to work on the next chapter of Wait for Me, but it just never happened. I phoned my sister and then my mum, they’ve had a case of Covid-19 in their building, and Face-Timed my daughter, being stuck in the house all day with the kids is driving her mad. A couple of friends, that I haven’t seen for a while, passed the house on their daily walk so we had a doorstep chat – keeping 2m apart of course. I went out to the doctors to post a repeat prescription for my shoulder painkillers through their letterbox, and stopped on the way to have a chat to my friend on his second floor balcony.

And so, the afternoon just slipped away …

We’ve got in to the habit of sitting down to watch the news everyday around 4 or 5pm. They have an extended programme every afternoon that wraps around the daily government briefing.

The briefings are becoming a bit monotonous now. Ministers and civil servants from further and further down the food chain are being called in to deliver the briefings, as the others fall prey to the virus. Today we had Alok Sharma, Business Secretary and MP for Reading, who had the charisma of an algebra textbook, and Yvonne Doyle,Medical Director and Director of Health Protection for Public Health England, who was a bit like the proverbial “rabbit in the headlights.”

You have to feel for them. There is a growing uproar about the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and the chaos around testing. The questions from journalists felt increasingly confrontational and their responses increasingly insufficient. I once did a course on Media Communication for Public Health Professionals, where they taught us to always have three things that you want to say, and to say them irrespective of what questions you are asked, even if it means repeating yourself. There is a lot of that going on at the moment!

M cooked dinner – meatballs in a ratatouille style sauce. Very nice! We watched a movie called Uncorked and a few more episodes of Kingdom.

No news from M’s consultant yet – still waiting to speak to her about his prophylactic antibiotics. It’s obviously, and completely understandably, not a priority for her in the current situation. Worrying and frustrating for us but we just have to be patient and think about all the people who are way worse off than him at the moment.


Ye Olde Pounde Café is 50!

Ye Olde Pounde

Anyone who has lived in the Solihull area for a while, will know Ye Olde Pounde Café at the top of Liveridge Hill, just north of Henley-in-Arden. Famed for its all-day breakfast, it’s been there for so many years that it has become a much-loved local landmark. Frequented by business people during the week, and by walkers and cyclists at the weekend, it is bright, clean and friendly and serves inexpensive, good quality, home-cooked food.

ye olde pounde (2)

The Connors

Founded in 1968, in 2018 Ye Olde Pounde celebrated 50 years in business, which is no mean feat in this day and age. During that time, it has been run by just two families. The current owners, Malcolm and Sherry, who have had it for 14 years, bought it from Mrs Connor, who had managed it for the previous 36, with the help of her two daughters, Angie and Kate. Mrs Connor originally bought the business with her husband. Mr Connor, an ex-marine who had a haulage company and was already familiar with the popular “transport café”. When it came up for sale, he persuaded his wife to give up her job as a typist and run it with him. After only seven years, Mr Connor sadly passed away leaving his young wife and daughters to carry on without him. Mrs Connor, now a sprightly 90 year old, who has tragically outlived both her daughters, still lives in Henley just five minutes down the road from the café.

Early History

Although it’s officially only 50, in reality Ye Olde Pounde is much older. Mrs Connor believes there was a catering establishment, of one form or another, on the site for many years before she took over. The house attached to the café was built in 1907 and locals recall an eatery being there during the First World War. At the turn of the century, it is thought that a café on the site catered to the needs of cyclists and early automobilers. Even further back, records suggest that the location was a gathering place as much as three hundred years ago, when the Henley-in-Arden medieval pounde is thought to have been on the site, hence the name, Ye Olde Pounde. In the 17th century the location was probably the turning place for the cockhorses that assisted carriages up Liveridge Hill on their way on to Birmingham.

Recent History

In more recent times, Ye Olde Pounde has been a thriving roadside café for as far back as anyone can remember. In the 70s and 80s the A34 provided a steady stream of customers travelling between the West Midlands and the South. During the construction of the M40 the café was the busiest it had ever been and Mrs Connor had to employ extra staff to cope with demand. Inevitably, the ascendance of the M40 as the main route south, and the downgrading of the A34 to the A3400, had a negative impact on trade. But, despite some challenging times, Mrs Connor and her daughters clung on and gradually built a new clientele from nearby businesses and passing trade.

Famous Visitors

That passing trade often included some very famous visitors in search of a good ‘Full English’. In particular, Mrs Conner remembers serving The Stranglers, The Three Degrees and Cliff Richard.

Sherry and Malcolm

By 2004, when Sherry and Malcolm bought it, the café had become a popular breakfast and meeting spot for field based workforces from the likes of Lucas and MEB. Indeed, Sherry and Malcolm both worked for Lucas themselves, prior to taking it on. While some of that business has since disappeared as the economic landscape in the Midlands has changed, new groups of customers always seemed to have emerged to save the day. Today the majority of customers are local tradesmen, travelling sales representatives and business people. The good Wi-Fi network makes it an ideal location to stop and catch up with some emails in between meetings.


The interior is fresh and airy, skylights flooding the space with natural light. Food is prepared behind the counter, in full view of the diners, on a large, spotlessly clean stainless steel range. The menu is simple: breakfasts, hot and cold sandwiches, jacket potatoes and a few British standards like pies, lasagne and fish and chips. The tea is divine!

Opening Hours

Ye Olde Pounde is open every day except Sundays from 6.30am until 3pm (2pm on Saturdays). So, the next time you are passing, why not pop in for a cuppa and a bacon sarnie? Better still, make a special trip there for a Saturday morning breakfast treat!