Joining the Front Line

Yesterday, I ventured outside for the first time since the lockdown began. At first it felt like when you’re a child doing something naughty. I was heading to the doctor’s surgery to collect my prescription scripts and then going to the pharmacy to get them filled, but it still felt like I shouldn’t be out on the street.

The way people have reacted to the lockdown says a lot. The vast majority of people have closed their businesses and are following government advice. But there was this one shop on the high street, it’s been a florist for as long as I’ve lived in Northern Ireland, and now they’ve covered over the “florist” sign above the door and written “hardware” then they’ve printed off a very self-important piece of paper claiming they are keyworkers and that their shop is an essential business. Now, I actually needed some hardware because our central heating isn’t working properly, so I stepped inside, assuming they had changed what they were selling in response to the crisis.

There was no hardware for sale in this shop. It was just flowers and decorative plant pots. The proprietor was standing 2 feet from someone having a long chat with them, completely ignoring social distancing rules. Honestly people like that are the reason this virus has spread so badly throughout Europe. “The rules don’t apply to me” types. I’ll have to get the thing to fix the heating from Amazon and increase the pressure on our postal workers instead (sorry Mr. Postman). It’s irresponsible of the florist to pretend they’re a hardware store though because it increased the time I was out mixing, it wastes customers’ time, and it means people who are asymptomatic have more unnecessary places to spread their germs.

Anyway, when I got to the pharmacy, they only let 3 customers in at one time so I stood outside the door, 3 metres away from the next person in line, until it was my turn. Then when I got inside, there was tape on the floor around the counter, with 1, 2 and 3 next to these lines, to tell you where to stand. Behind the counter was one of my usual pharmacists and someone in “civvy street” clothes, who it turned out was a pharmacy lecturer from the University who had been drafted into the front lines.

It’s a sign of the times that they couldn’t fill my prescription for my brown inhaler. Usually these are readily available and easy to re-order. But they had plenty of blue inhalers (relievers for asthma attacks). People’s priorities with the panic buying are just odd. Although I suspect that anyone with the slightest whiff of asthma is trying their best to take their inhaler correctly right now because asthma + coronavirus = baddddd.

So anyway, I could clearly see that they were short-handed and it occurred to me, I used to work in a pharmacy for 6 months about half a dozen years ago, I have a really good understanding of procedure and I know my medications quite well, and I could help with this coronavirus outbreak. I asked the pharmacist if she knew of any list of reserve pharmacy staff and she gave me an email to contact. So when my maternity leave ends next week, I am going to be an on-call pharmacy assistant. All GP surgeries are urging patients to nominate pharmacies to collect prescriptions for them now, instead of patients going to the GP to collect their own scripts, and that means a LOT more work for pharmacies. They have never been so busy. And that’s just the community pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies are also busy, and they will also need people to help.

My husband isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t think it’s very smart for me to put myself on the front lines, especially with my asthma, but someone has to, and I just feel like I need to do this. Honestly I think he just doesn’t want to be alone with the baby all day. It’s all hands on deck right now if our population and our health service is going to make it through this crisis. The infection rates are not very bad in Northern Ireland, yet, but they will be. We’re not being as stupid as they were in England at the weekend, but it’s coming.

The UK is in lockdown and it’s all Britain’s fault

That title is probably confusing if you don’t live in Northern Ireland. Basically, “Britain” (or Great Britain) is England + Scotland + Wales. The United Kingdom’s full name is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Here in Northern Ireland we have only had 77 coronavirus cases and 1 death. Britain, on the other hand… well people are sick in the thousands and deaths are in the hundreds. Mostly it’s England. So we were all told to be sensible and cautious, and idiots in Britain went to the beach over the weekend and climbed mountains and went to parks so now we’re all on lockdown. Hopefully, because we’re going to lockdown at such an early stage of the spread in Northern Ireland, the disease should have less impact here. But I can’t help being annoyed that people in England couldn’t just be sensible and stay away from each other instead of going on camping trips to Scotland and other utter stupidity.

Now the whole of society is split between people going “But my dog NEEDS five walks a day” and people wasting police time phoning them to report that their neighbours are outside putting their laundry out to dry.

In other news, my sister in law sent me a “happy mothers day” card. WTF? That’s weird right? My mother has only been dead for 5 years and I think it’s really inappropriate. Seriously, who does that?

Okay I’m going to stop being a grumpy old lady now.

Alternatives to toilet paper and baby wipes.

Okay so this post talks about… bathroom stuff. If that bothers you, now is the time to bail.

Still with me? Then you’re probably also out of toilet paper. At the moment it’s almost impossible to get toilet paper, baby wipes and kitchen roll around the world because scared people are stockpiling it.

Here’s some alternatives to consider (most of these are fine for use on babies too):

  1. Cotton roll soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS, it has to go in the garbage).
  2. A personal hygiene bidet or perinatal bottle (it’s a bottle you fill and squirt it over your private parts to clean them). You’ll still want to pat dry but this might reduce TP usage especially if you have underlying health issues like IBS or hemorrhoids. Fill it with warm water and imagine you live in Japan. I bought 2 of these (one for my husband and one for me) and they arrived while I was writing this article.
  3. A towelling washcloth soaked in water (DON’T FLUSH THIS. You can wash it in the machine on a boil wash with some bleach then re-use).
  4. Newspaper (scratchy much? PLEASE DON’T FLUSH THIS EITHER).
  5. Grass or leaves. Hmmm…. I think I’ll try all the others first, haha.

Got any other alternatives to toilet paper that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments.

Are you also struggling to buy hand sanitizer? This post details 10 great alternatives (and 2 less great ones).

How to sanitize your hands when there is no hand sanitizer

A quick look on Amazon shows lots of hand sanitizer for sale, but let’s take a look at some of those reviews before discussing what REALLY works to sanitize your hands:

There’s a legit-looking bottle of “50ml” of hand sanitizer (doesn’t that sound like a lot… it’s not even 2oz) sold here and the reviews are claiming it’s not got any alcohol in, it’s a scam, and it’s $7 for a tiny bottle. Don’t buy this hand sanitizer but look at those reviews.

I personally wouldn’t buy hand sanitizer on Amazon right now because there’s so many scams involving fake products. I saw one that said they’d been sent a bottle of glue! Hand sanitizer is a relatively recent invention and before we had it, people were able to clean their hands.

Instead of getting scammed by things that won’t protect you from coronavirus, try these other ways to clean your hands:

  1. Soap and water. The absolute best way to keep clean is soap and water. I’ve talked before about how soap works in my article about micellar water. Basically, you don’t need fancy soap. Any soap will do. And you don’t need hot water (bacteria doesn’t start to die until a higher temperature than you would wash in).  It says a lot about people that you can buy plenty of soap on Amazon still.
  2. Liquid soap and a bottle of water. If you’re out and about, get a bottle of water with a sports cap. Rub liquid soap all over your hands, get all the areas, then wash it off by pouring water out of the bottle. This is the best way to clean your hands if you don’t have access to a faucet. No room in your bag for a bottle? Get one of these flat-folding reusable ones instead.
  3. Shower gel. We should all be washing a lot more now, so this Aveeno moisturizing shower gel (soap free) is a good choice.
  4. Bath bubbles. Guess what? Bath bubbles are identical to shower gel but usually more in a more concentrated form. This one has epsom salt, eucalyptus and spearmint in it.
  5. Shampoo. If you can’t get anything else to wash your hands in, a shampoo with LOTS of sulphates is what you want. Those sodium laureth sulphates we usually avoid putting on our hair are super-strong cleaning agents (which is why they can over-clean your hair and make it dry out). Herbal Essences smells really nice and is full of all the sulphates you can shake a stick at.
  6. Baby wipes. Choose a packet with soap infused into the wipe. One of these is basically a cloth covered in soap and water. As a first choice, soap and water, but baby wipes are a much better idea than those really dangerous “vodka and aloe vera” recipes which won’t be strong enough to be effective. Of course, buying wet wipes online is also nearly impossible right now because people are buying them as a toilet paper substitute, but you can probably get them more easily in a local supermarket depending on where you live and what deliveries are happening.
  7. Micellar water. I’ve said it before, but micelles are basically super-gentle soap. This will clean your hands better than fake hand sanitizer if you wash it off with water aftercovering your hands in it and rubbing it in like soap. You can even get it in teeny tiny bottles to carry around on the go.
  8. Micellar wipes. These are still readily available and will clean your hands.
  9. Dish soap (aka washing up liquid in the UK). This works exactly the same way as any other type of soap or saponified cleansing agent and is cheaper than some of the others, but selling out quickly.
  10. Laundry liquid. Another cleansing agent. Biological is best. Wash hands thoroughly.And if you don’t care if your hands flake/dry out/get dermatitis/burn:
  11. Bleach. Kills all known germs. Not recommended as it’s corrosive.
  12. Listerine. It contains alcohol and is designed to kill things that live in your mouth. As a kid, my mother always used to make me gargle with Listerine if I had a sore throat and it really did help.

Remember these things alone will NOT prevent you getting sick, but they can reduce your chances dramatically if you follow proper hygiene practice and handwashing technique.

Out of toilet paper? Check out my alternatives here!

Everything’s out

So we moved to Northern Ireland where we have been for the past 9 months since leaving China. I’ve been trying to start blogging again since I got back but honestly I didn’t know what to write. I had so many ideas for articles but every time I came to write them I didn’t know where to start. I guess that’s writer’s block.

I have one extra tiny mouth to feed now – a side effect of moving to China was their healthcare was completely different to the UK and we finally got the pregnancy support and monitoring to make having a baby possible, after I was told we could never have a baby by doctors in England.

Today I don’t know why I’ve come back to my blog but finally it feels like the drought is over, the clouds have burst and the words are raining onto the page. I have no idea if anyone is still reading this but that’s okay. I just need to get started with the words again.

Here in Northern Ireland, the shops have entire empty aisles because of panic buying. We have two additional problems here, which are that our heating system is oil-fired, and only works when you fill up a tank with oil. Panic buyers are buying it all and we can’t get a delivery anytime soon and ran out earlier today. And we don’t have mains sewerage, so our waste goes into a septic tank, which… you guessed it, has to be emptied by a man in a lorry. So if civilization stays at home we will literally be swimming in it.

I asked a lady at the supermarket when they were getting more toilet roll delivered and she said she didn’t know. We aren’t getting as many deliveries as usual, here. I suspect they’re being diverted to England because they can charge more money for things over there. I guess I picked a bad week to not buy more last week when we could get it still. I’m sick of seeing stuffed shirts on the TV telling people not to panic buy because “the supply chain is fine”. How stupid are these people to not understand that if you tell people to self isolate with the slightest cough/cold, those people then cannot get to the shops so everyone is buying in advance of having to stay home.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty upbeat in general and I will try and get some proper articles out in the near future. Over the past 3 years, I’ve changed, and so the focus of my blog is changing. I’m no longer really going to write much about beauty products, although I’ll still do that if the mood takes me. There will be articles on travel coming. In my absence I visited most of the countries in Asia. Overall, though, I’m going to focus more on lifestyle stuff. I think the world needs to live first, then make itself up later.

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