Booking an antibody test for COVID-19

COVID-19 blood test

One of the most fundamental things needed in any competent response to the coronavirus crisis is access to testing. We need to know who has the virus now, so they can self-isolate. That’s achieved with a swab test, which only works reliably while someone is infectious – which is typically for around five days.

But we also need to know who has had the virus and since recovered …

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Swapping crap reality for virtual reality

Oculus Go

I’ve tried a few virtual reality (VR) experiences over the years, from headsets to full-motion simulators seating a dozen people. All had struck me as fun, but none had tempted me to invest in my own kit.

But let’s face it, actual reality isn’t much cop at present, so if there ever were a time to dip a toe into the virtual variety, this has got to be it, right … ?

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The lockdown is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent London

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It feels wrong to begin any upbeat piece about the coronavirus crisis without first acknowledging the terrible tragedy of it. The lives cut short. The family and friends left grieving. The healthcare professionals working long hours in trying conditions without the support they deserve. Those who have lost their jobs or been left struggling financially.

But in any loss, there is also opportunity. An opportunity not to try to return to normal as quickly as possible, but to invent a new normal …

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Not a coronavirus diary …

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It feels like there will come a time when future generations will look back on this time and ask ‘What was it like?’. I feel like I should be keeping some kind of diary – and yet, in truth, I have little to say.

A front-line medic would. A doctor, a nurse, a paramedic, a care worker. Other key workers too; those so recently dismissed by the government as earning too little to justify their place in the UK: the shop workers, the delivery staff, the refuse collectors and all the millions of people needed to keep the country running …

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The Whip

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I guess you can understand the 2018 British government hopelessly casting around for some good news somewhere, but even by those standards, one particular (now-deleted) tweet seems desperate in the extreme.

Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade

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It’s not yet day one of the campaign to rejoin the EU; not for me

Brexit

We did it. Somehow, an entire nation lost its mind. Or 52% of it. Or 26% of it. But however we do the maths, 100% of the UK left the EU.

I wanted to write an upbeat post, about how this was day one of the campaign to rejoin the EU. That’s who I am. I’ve always been an optimist, and at those times I could view the world in one of two ways, I’ve always aimed to choose the more empowering one.

But I’m not there yet with Brexit …

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The Sunset Limited

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This will be a short review, because it’s difficult to say much at all about it without either giving away too much or reducing an incredibly powerful conversation to a mere description.

It’s also impossible to write anything at all about The Sunset Limited without one spoiler. It’s not much of one, because it becomes clear within the opening lines, and is quickly confirmed, but if you don’t want even that much, stop here and just go see it …

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An unlikely piece of laminated card

Those who know my political background will also know how big a deal this is: to align myself with one party.

Historically, I’ve been a big believer in representational democracy: the idea that we elect a representative, not a party. I started out by meeting the candidates, questioning them on the issues that were most important to me each election, and voting for the person I felt would best represent me on those issues …

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The Greatest Play in the History of the World

The Greatest Play

The Trafalgar Studio 2 is an intimate theatre at any time. It seats 100, and is usually not full (though it was tonight). In one of the front-row bench seats, you have your feet on the non-raised stage. The sense of intimacy was heightened by Julie Hesmondhalgh greeting us with a mug of tea in her hand, and chatting with us before the performance like we’d come round to her place for tea …

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An early start in Chicago, and a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of Madison

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It was a schoolboy error: I forgot to switch off my mobile when I went to bed. A colleague called me shortly after 9am UK time, and once I’m awake enough to answer the phone, that’s generally it.

Which is why I found myself out & about, on the freezing winter streets of Chicago, at around 5am, with my meeting not until 11am.

There was one huge upside, though: I got to see The Bean, perhaps my favourite piece of sculpture in the world (though the Fulcrum comes a close second) utterly deserted. There was me and one very cold-looking, very bored-looking security guard – and that was it. No-one else there at all. It was magical.

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Of course, the one downside of having the place to myself was that the usual photo opportunities are missing. Fortunately I had the chance to return again at lunchtime.

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I have friends in Madison,so hopped on a bus to spend the weekend with them. I’m a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, and Madison was his home town, so I was hopeful that I might get to see the Holy Trinity Church and perhaps one or two other FLW buildings.

Little did I understand Gene & Kitty’s idea of hospitality: they pretty much devoted the entire weekend to taking me to see every FLW building within a 50-mile radius. Kitty’s architectural expertise meant that it truly was a guided tour.

We started with that amazing church:

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It was locked when we arrived, but Gene knocked on the door and someone emerged. It’s amazing how well the words “This is Ben and he’s come all the way from London to see the church” can work, and within seconds we were inside. 🙂

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Then toured various homes with the giveaway cantilevered roofs. I was disappointed to discovered that they haven’t held up that well, many requiring remedial work and/or support.

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Another of his more famous buildings is Monona Terrace, right on the shore of Lake Monona (or Ice-rink Monona as it was at the time).

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Who else could make the entrance to the Gents look beautiful?

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We even drove out to his home, though we couldn’t get very far into the grounds:

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March 2008

An afternoon in the Kremlin

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I like to think I’m reasonably skilled at making things happen, and have something of a reputation as someone who can get permission for things that wouldn’t normally be allowed. I must confess, though, that in Moscow I met my match.

The USSR may have been no more, but in 2005 at least, the Soviet mentality was alive and well. Almost everything you asked for, the answer was Nyet …

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Concorde: The most expensive, and best value, dinner I’ve ever had

I’d always considered Concorde to be something truly special. A passenger aircraft conceived in the 1950s, designed & built in the 1960s and which still flew higher and faster than any other airliner in her final year of operation in 2003.

But mostly it was the sheer, timeless beauty of her. An aircraft which first took to the skies in 1969 and yet which still looks futuristic even after she’s been retired.

I was fortunate enough to fly on her six months before her retirement – the realisation of a childhood dream, and every bit as good as I’d imagined. Sadly, nobody will ever again have the same opportunity …

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London: an illustrated life-long love affair

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There are lots of cities I love to visit, a few I could happily live in for a year or two but none that, to me, compare to London.

It’s a city that has everything. Amazing archicture, old and new. Eateries at every level, from Michelin-starred restaurants to greasy spoons. An unbelievable array of theatres, with enough fantastic performances to visit every week (or, er, more often <cough>). Shopping has everything to offer from Harrods to market stalls. There are green spaces everywhere. Cinema. Art. It’s all here … 

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The great website migration begins

I’ve had a blog since long before the term was first coined.

benlovejoy.com began in 1997 as a few hand-coded pages. Yep, in those days you had to use a text editor to create each webpage, and you’d begin something like this:

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″>
<title>Wot I dun in my summer holidays</title>

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