A beginner’s guide to pandemic vaccination

After barely a year it appears that the boffins have come up with something approaching a preventative vaccination against a pandemic virus.

Now we must all be injected. The British National Health Service has pulled out all the stops and during the last weekend, despite some fairly awful weather conditions disrupting travel, managed almost 1,000 jabs per minute across the country in temporary mass vaccination centres.

It was my turn. I received a text message with a link to book the jab in a hotel about twelve miles away. Two days later I received a letter with a similar offer. Having booked the vaccination I was given a ten-minute slot.

On the appointed day I turned up, five minutes early for my 18:00 appointment, and was directed in the gloom and falling snow by a succession of marshals to a parking bay, where I was to wait until summoned. To occupy my time I was given a booklet explaining everything and nothing and a questionnaire, but no pen. I spent ten minutes defrosting the ball-point pen from the glove locker of the car.

Thirty-five minutes later, just as I was dozing off, a brilliant light was shone through the window and I was asked to go into the hotel.

Agitated people with crossed legs (the vaccination plan is still generally for the over-70s) were directed to the toilets and the rest of us took our places, 2m apart, in the reception queue.

We were quickly processed and sent to sit each in one corner of a temporary cubicle with three other uncommunicative occupants. Shortly afterwards two ladies arrived and one marked my section with a large red cross. I have seen documentaries about the plague of 1665, so I was not at all worried…

I soon worked out the system. If the vaccinators arrive first they draw a cross. If the disinfector arrives first they rub it out.

Anyway, after a stream of questions about me, my address, age, full medical history, inside leg measurement, etc. one of these ladies dashed off with her trolley, having apparently run out of vaccine, or needles, or will to live. Soon she returned, having forgotten which question had spurred her temporary disappearance.

Back to business. “Which shoulder do you prefer?” – “Whichever” – “Which hand do you write with?” – “Both, but I lead a horse with the right.” – “Left it is then. Thanks for wearing a T-Shirt.” – “Yes, couldn’t we have done this in Summer? – Ouch!”

“All done. You’ll feel like shit for a few days. Take paracetamol. Off you go. Wait 15 minutes before driving.”

I followed the arrows and left the hotel into an unrecognised part of the car park and searched for my car. As I finally found it one of the ladies ran up and gave me my repeat appointment card that they had forgotten in the excitement. 26th April at exactly the same (theoretical) time.

As production lines go, it’s probably as efficient as it can be without using robots. All credit and thanks to those who spend hour after hour jabbing arms, or directing people and registering details, or sanitising the chairs, or directing traffic in the cold, or answering questions, or any of the unseen behind-the-scenes jobs.

I saw nobody without an apparent smile behind their face mask. Well done NHS!

Ship models by my dad

My dad was a boatbuilder by profession. In 1963 he began to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis that soon affected every joint. Although his hands were encased in plastic splints he started three new hobbies: Water colour painting, Cane chair repairs, Model ship building.


The latter absorbed him most. He scratch-built from pine, matchsticks, cotton and paper a sloop about 4” long, then the 2” (5cm) long “Santa Maria” model ( pictured below)

Next was a much larger, frame-built balsa wood Hong Kong junk, with the challenge of tissue paper and bamboo strip sails that could be properly adjusted using cotton thread and drilled wooden blocks.


When he started making these ships in bottles, including making his own tools like “piece of razor blade on dowel stick” or “pivot-hinged paintbrush with wire control”, folks asked him why he was only charging £2.50 (mid 1970s).
One exchange I remember: “The chandlers in town have them in the window for £10.” Dad: “For how long?”.

A neighbour once challenged him to make a ship in a standard 6v car light bulb. Dad responded with a single-masted sailing yacht on a putty sea, with a stand to fit. He later presented a simple, unadulterated 240v opaque bulb on a stand with a plaque entitled: “Ship in a Fog”

A perfectionist, and with the benefit of hindsight, possibly somewhat autistic. I learned in recent years that his desire for perfection meant that he struggled to keep a job at every boatyard at which he was employed. I wish I had got to know him better as an adult before his untimely death aged 57.