Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Life without a printer

My Epson Stylus Photo 1400 photo printer of 2007 vintage - which I used to produce printed letters as well - wouldn't work when I tried to use it last year. Most likely the ink jets had finally gummed up in a terminal fashion. Or maybe the ancient electronics had developed some glitch. In any event, although it looked in fine fettle (I'd looked after it) it was in fact unusable, and I relegated it to the garage, pending a solemn state funeral at the local tip. 

I can't say I was in tears. It had always been a big bulky presence in my study, occupying space that could have been put to better use. I'd never printed many photos with it. Good-quality photo paper, and particularly the proper Epson ink cartridges that had to be used, made printing pictures an expensive exercise. When I last bought a complete set of six ink cartridges in January 2017, it cost me a whopping £89.94. And any kind of one-off print run would use up half the ink. 

In short, it hurt my purse every time I fired it up for its prime intended purpose. A big discouragement to use it at all. In any case, there was no need. Not many people ever asked me print pictures for them. And I rarely wanted to produce prints for myself. I'm a prolific photographer, but all my output is nowadays viewed on a laptop or phone screen. I don't want paper versions of my pictures. Not even to decorate my walls. I've pretty well run out of space anyway, and the few spots left are reserved for proper paintings, as and when I can afford them.  

For a while there were letters to print, but even these steadily consumed black ink cartridges, and the cost mounted up. Then, a few years back, it seemed that emailing, or completing an online form, had finally become almost universal for the types of organisations I might need to communicate with, making a paper letter in a stamped envelope almost redundant. Printing became an unusual thing to do, and my superannuated printer went into a sharp decline. Latterly it wasn't able to print nearly as well as it used to. It looked as if I were making do with a rather shoddy machine, and treating the recipient with a certain amount of disrespect. That certainly wouldn't do. 

The obvious answer was to junk the old printer and replace it with a new one. If photo-printing was now a thing of the past, then I could buy a simple printer just for the odd letter. But even that looked like a waste of money. I wouldn't use it enough. It would soon seize up from inactivity. 

On the whole, I didn't mind this state of affairs one bit. I'd begun to slim down my computer equipment, and it suited me to get rid of unnecessary, outmoded paraphernalia.  

And emails are fine; perfectly appropriate for most purposes; they cost nothing to send; there's a useful saving on printer ink; on postage even more so; and emailing ensures that the message gets to the recipient in a flash, with the date and time of sending automatically recorded. There's really no snag. 

That said, I wouldn't send a love-letter by email. Nor a heartfelt or delicate message of any kind. That sort of thing needs the very personal touch of a handwritten letter. Such a thing takes extra effort of course, plus a pen, paper, an envelope, a stamp, and a windy walk to the nearest letterbox. But then, that's half the point - the thought and effort that will have to go into it, the skill (possibly labour) of personally writing words on a real sheet of paper, in an individual hand, to create something that can be touched and handled, maybe sniffed, and possibly cherished forever. 

It sounds old-fashioned, but a letter of this kind has a timeless appeal and significance. Handwriting makes the thing extra special. We may still get printed certificates for achievements - passing exams, say - or to record a birth, marriage or death. But the most important public documents - city charters, for instance - are still beautifully handwritten by a scribe on vellum, and sealed. 

Vellum is specially-prepared calves' hide - the ultimate durable luxury writing surface. But hey, I have a stack of unused A4 printing paper. I'll be working through that first!

An email has lately arrived from the organisers of the Appledore Book Festival in North Devon, which I attend almost every year, and will do again this year. The Festival deserves support, and I always pay to be a Friend of the ABF. The cost is only £20. For that you get a priority opportunity to book the events you fancy, and there are bookable Friends-only events too, such as a special evening meal or a drink with literary celebrities. I think £20 for all this is a pretty fair deal. 

So, having read the email, I clicked the link to renew my Friend membership, and paid online, all of that easy-peasy. Within seconds, I was emailed a membership card to show at events. This could be downloaded and printed out if wished, but the obvious thing to do - and what the organisers seemed to prefer me to do - was take a screenshot, and preserve that to show when attending events. So I'd just need to flash the image on my phone screen. Exactly as last year, when I noticed that most people used their phones, and were not fiddling around with bits of paper.

It seems to be the modern way all across the board - whenever you buy a ticket for a ferry, for instance. You simply get an image to show, or a QR Code. They know it's individual to you, because it will have been acquired securely using your personal email address, and a credit card that only you can use. 

So no more of this:

Dear Sirs

I'm thinking of taking my car to the Isle of Wight one day in October, and I wondered if you could explain to me the times of the ferry services, and the various kinds of ticket I might take advantage of, and whether my ten year old son and nine year old daughter, and my dog, can all come free. And if, as a friend tells me, the fares are only half price after 8.00pm. We'll need a snack on both the outward and return journeys - what are the catering facilities like, and will they be open in the evening? We'll be visiting the theme park at Alum Bay and using the chair lift to the beach with the coloured sands - well the dog won't be of course - come to that, the dog will have to descend to the beach with me, using the steps, and I'm not sure the children will be able to use the chair lift on their own - but anyway, do you offer a deal on the bus to get there, included in the ferry cost? 

I usually like to pay by cash, but I can send you a cheque if that's more convenient for you...

Even if churned out on a printer, I don't think this would elicit the desired response - or any response - nowadays! 

(Come to that, not even if quill-penned exquisitely on vellum in fine italic, and embellished with gold leaf and crimson capitals...) 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Old friends

The end of the lockdown is in the air, but it's still months away in reality. The first, very modest, reduction in social restrictions begins in a week's time, on 8th March, with the chance to meet up with one other person outdoors in a socially-distanced way, although still in one's local area. Then, on the 29th March, one can travel any distance for the day (Durham, perhaps, with a break at Barnard Castle?) and enjoy a private meal al fresco with up to six others. But shopping, pub garden meals and overnight stays - all still with social distancing - must wait until 12th April. And not until 17th May will most remaining restrictions be lifted. Only on 21st June will a kind of normality return, and even then it seems certain that some Covid-19 precautions will remain in force. And all this depends on keeping to schedule as regards controlling the virus in its various strains. 

So there's plenty of time at home left to kill. At least for retired people like me. It's just as well that I've still got so much photo scanning left to do before all the prints worth digitising are dealt with. I've been steadily getting through them, but I think I may have - potentially - five or six thousand still to scan. That's too much, even if I decide to leave half of it for next winter. I'll have to be selective. But that'll be quite difficult. Most of the remaining shots are of people - friends and family I knew during the 1990s. I had a lot of friends then, because I was very active socially. And all my close family were still alive. Will I be able to bin pictures of fun times and significant family events? Just to make the scanning go faster? Knowing that all these shots are unrepeatable? I don't think I will have the necessary resolution.  

I haven't looked to see what's actually there. If I did, I would hopelessly divert myself from the task. Most of these pictures have been boxed up for donkey's years, and it would very much be a voyage of rediscovery. I know what I ought to find, but there will be many fascinating pictures of scenes and people I've long forgotten about, or can only vaguely remember. Good shots too, because I would have been using excellent equipment. No duff, out-of-focus pictures to discard; they're all keepers. 

Studying these old prints - all of them taken at least twenty-one years ago, with the earliest of them thirty-two years ago - is bound to call forth mixed feelings. I know I will ponder what we really meant to each other, whether we really were having such a good time. What we could have done, but never did. I will think, with hindsight, things like 'Did Mum and Dad guess, in that merry shot, that they'd never see their son (my brother Wayne) alive again?' or 'We could have been special friends - why didn't we give it chance?' 

I will be keenly aware that everyone in those pictures must have aged as I have aged, and that an entire swathe of older persons will, by now, either be in some home, or will have died without my hearing about it. Really, with very few exceptions, all the people in the prints I'll be looking at are lost to me. We parted company long ago, for whatever cause, and they are now just part of my personal history. And, of course, I am the same thing to them - assuming they remain alive and kicking and able to remember me at all.

Should they remain lost? Should we try to get together again? In most cases, it wouldn't be hard to trace and contact them. 

I've thought about this before. It's an issue that doesn't go away. In fact it gets more and more acute as the years go by, and time starts to run out. There's still sufficient time to revive an old friendship, but that won't always be the case. For some, it may already be too late.

You can't ignore or discount the likely effects of getting older. Ravaged looks are the least of it: those are expected and can be accepted. But the changes may still be shocking. Personality traits will certainly have become accentuated, maybe to the point where they twist a person's demeanour. Tragedies may have scarred and subdued a former ebullient nature or sunny outlook. I'd say that the lives of many older people tend to become narrower, more and more clouded with personal worries and family concerns, real or imagined. They feel weaker, much more vulnerable than before, and take refuge in an inflexible daily or weekly routine. And then, often after some sudden shock or health crisis, spiral into a sharp decline in physical and mental powers. I once had a neighbour who went like that. He lived, mentally and physically, in a time well past. Then one day he died, and that was that, apart from attending his funeral. He had no family, and only one old friend turned up. We learned, too late, about my neighbour's passionate but very private interests, and his former life. It was so sad. 

When scanning my slides from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before last Christmas, I came across several people who by now must be very elderly and not at all as I fondly remember them. To a lesser extent, that must be true also of the older people I knew in the 1990s. I still live life with zest. I am still in the fast lane - when driving anyway! How would I react, meeting up with someone from years ago - someone of my own age - to find that they hadn't thrived at all? That they had instead been physically and mentally crushed by the passage of time? I think I would be deeply disturbed. Appalled and sorry for them; embarrassed that I had escaped that fate; and concerned that it could still happen to me. I'd also feel guilty for making silent, private comparisons, if it were obvious that I'd aged better and was clearly more alert and receptive to the new and the different.     

And there are other aspects too. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on two friends from the 1990s whom I will most certainly see in the print-scanning to come. 

As expected, they were both to be found. Both were on LinkedIn, being professionals. One, a former journalist, was a brilliant technical translator in four languages, with a long-established commercial practice and a local presence as a parish councillor. The other, formerly a highly-qualified company treasurer, had moved on into top-level charity work, and from there into important community projects, for which she had earned an award for outstanding service. 

We had gradually parted company as M--- became dominant in my personal life. But with M--- long gone, there was in theory no reason why I shouldn't renew our acquaintance. And yet... 

Well, two things. First, they had both been hugely motivated people, achieving much, with a host of influential contacts. I hadn't been able to compete with that in the 1990s, and would not be able to now. Second, I'd changed too much. They wouldn't feel I was in any way the person they'd known. I doubt whether they would actually like the kind of woman I'd become. I'd seem less impressionable, much more my own person, more assured and assertive, distinctly more independent, and not nearly so amenable. I really think my self-growth, my late blossoming, would make me seem less attractive.

In any case, can one bridge a too-long gap? If one part of me wants to reach out and reclaim past friends, and never mind a possible rebuff, another part tells me that if lives diverge for too long it will be like two strangers meeting. And just as awkward, if there isn't an immediate bond to smoothe the way. Almost like a blind date. Not that I've been on any date, blind or otherwise, in the last dozen years! But how I imagine a blind date might go. 

Friends do seep back, if the gods will it. I was very pleased to recover a divorced friend from twenty years ago in 2019, twice meeting him in person in 2020. And we plan to meet up this year, when I'm pitched on the Cotswolds. Maybe the same gods will push another friend my way. If so, I will take a chance and see what happens. Life's too short to hesitate.

Sunday, 28 February 2021


I always say that I watch very little television, but that's not quite so true as it used to be. I've discovered the Yesterday channel, and I'm hooked on programmes like Abandoned Engineering, The Architecture the Railways Built and Murder Maps. I watch all these programmes on a live or catch-up basis throughout the month, but particularly in the week that starts on the 20th of the month, when I have the opportunity to binge. Why so? Because my monthly BT Mobile Data allowance of 40GB expires on the 26th and renews on the 27th. It makes sense to use up as much as possible of that 40GB in the week before it's wholly gone. So I am fairly sparing with it up to the 19th, then I take the brakes off for the final few days to the 26th. Assuming that I really do want to settle down and stare at a screen for hours. I usually want to do other things.  

Here's my data usage for the month to 26th February, to illustrate what I mean:

I'll watch live programmes on the steam age TV via the satellite dish and Freeview. But catch-up TV is watched on my laptop, tethered wirelessly to my phone, and therefore tapping into my monthly 4G Mobile Data allowance. Hence my need for a fairly hefty allowance! (If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I had my landline disconnected, and my Broadband stopped, some months ago. Using 4G instead has worked out very well, and it saves me money)  

The Yesterday channel is devoted to a wide range of historical topics of one kind or another. Abandoned Engineering, for instance, looks as various man-made structures and artefacts around the world and tells the story behind them, including why they are now abandoned. These programmes examine things like Cold War missile silos, model prisons, factories, ghost towns in the desert, Mulberry Harbours, tunnels, dams, bridges, and even a huge gun left high on a mountain ridge in the Alps. You don't have to be an engineer or some kind of scientist to be interested - I'm most certainly not. But I still find it compelling. The human stories that go with these cast-off endeavours are more than half the fascination. 

There's a slight downside, of course. There are ads. If watching the catch-up version of these programmes on UK Play, most of the ads are eliminated. But the live version will be full of them. In fact in an hour's viewing, a quarter of the time is spent feeding you advertisements for this and that.

As you'd expect, the type of ad varies with the time of day and the assumptions made about who might be watching. At any time, there are a lot of ads clearly aimed at people who are short of cash, and who aspire to a better life funded with money from gambling, or playing a lottery. These ads make passionate betting look normal. They also suggest that betting is exciting, slick and stylish, and very likely to produce a life-changing win. Whereas only heavy losses should be expected. 

I do not know why it isn't frankly admitted that it is the betting and lottery companies who make the real money, and not the hapless and exploited punters. 

I think gambling is addictive and should be severely discouraged. People are all too susceptible to suggestions that money, in the form of a big glamorous gambling win, will make their dreams come true. I was very struck with one ad that showed a group of young men watching a football match on TV. They were more concerned with getting their bets on, and watching to see whether they might have won, than appreciating the actual game. Well, football will die if it becomes merely a vehicle for another bet. Not that I actually give a monkey's about football, but even I would consider it a shame if a national pastime got ruined by gambling. 

Another series of ads caught my attention. Lottery ads. One showed a dazed but deliriously happy family holding up a huge cheque for £500,000 or so. It was plainly aimed at the kind of folk who yearn to magic away their grey lives by winning money, oblivious to the fact that they'd have to be fantastically lucky to secure a win large enough to make any difference. 

I think it's borderline fraudulent to give the impression that easy money can be had with so little effort and with so much certainty. If people reflected that (a) someone's big win is paid for by most people not winning, and that (b) the lottery company will in any case take a fat share and heartlessly not care who wins, then perhaps they wouldn't throw away their hard-earned cash. 

Sadder still was the lottery ad that showed a much larger amount being won - £20 million I think - and a couple (the winners of this huge sum) embracing themselves in glee. Oh dear! One hardly needs to speculate on the outcome. The win will destroy their marriage, and probably set everyone touched by it at odds with each other - children, friends, and neighbours all. Who can handle so much money, if not used to it? Even if you keep quiet about it, the need to strive will have gone, and so will the need to act wisely. For if a few thousand get wasted, how can that matter? From there it's very easy to slither into foolishness. 

There might be the odd winner who seeks proper advice and invests in future financial security. There might be the odd unselfish winner who ensures that their community benefits, and not them. But most people will splash out on expensive objects of desire - all too soon to be expensive white elephants, causing arguments and recriminations. And if the big win is instead shared out among the family, they will all face exactly the same issues, only with less remaining after the initial spending spree.     

It would be so much better to win a nice, tidy amount that wasn't too large - so that it could make some modest dreams come true, but without inflicting harm. 

I've thought about this, and to my mind £250,000 or so would be a good figure. I could handle that. It wouldn't change me, nor would it alter my circumstances so much that my life was fatally upset. How would I spend it, given that I'm already retired and don't need to build up a pension fund? 

I wouldn't buy a new car straight away; but at some stage, when the electric car I want is finally being made, I could spend £60,000 on it. 

A new caravan? £25,000. 

A new central heating system for the house, using ground heat? £20,000. 

A new larger kitchen with modern appliances, incorporating a rebuilt conservatory? £40,000. 

A new bathroom? £10,000. 

The garage converted into a proper utility and storage space, with a new door into the house? £10,000. 

New triple-glazed windows and modern thermal insulation? £30,000. 

Solar panels? £20,000. 

Redecorate throughout, including replastering? £30,000. 

That all comes to £245,000. So £5,000 left to add to my savings account. Or to spend on a fabulous week somewhere. 

Well, that was a really good plan! Except that I need to win £250,000! And I don't gamble, nor play lotteries. I knew there was a flaw.  

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Not quite what I thought, but not a problem

Hmm. I've now studied the detail of the government's four-stage Road Map out of the lockdown - you can download a long PDF document - and although caravanning is nowhere specifically mentioned, it does seem clear that staying away overnight on holiday will not be permitted before 12th April, even though travel away from home will be allowed from 29th March. So far as I can see, it'll be fine to drive off on a long day trip from 29th March to 11th April, but one must return home in the evening. 

I need to know what the Caravan and Motorhome Club have to say on this asap. But I expect I'll now have to drastically curtail my first bookings for 2021 - not just shift them back - pushing the away-from-home dates well into the second half of April. But I can't push them too far, because I want to have a clear two weeks at home before setting off for Scotland in early May. 

So it looks as if half my late March/early April trip to the West Country will have to be binned. This is disappointing, but I really can't complain. So many people will have to wait until the summer or even the autumn before getting the foreign holiday break they yearn for - if they can book anything at all. It would be extremely selfish of me to pout and moan. Besides, I am determined to support the government's plan. And in any case, my holiday activities in Scotland now look safe, following Nicola Sturgeon's statement today on how the lockdown in Scotland will be eased. That's actually a big consolation, as it is an important holiday.

Still, shifting the now cut-down West Country jaunt into the second half of April, and having only a short gap between that and the Scottish adventure, has consequences for other important things in my diary. 

Among them, the date for Fiona's annual service and MOT. That's definitely got to be before I go to Scotland. I'm confident - of course - that Fiona would have no problems; but wisdom demands that one should avoid spending a month far from home - with plenty of heavy-duty caravan-hauling thrown in - without first ensuring that one's locomotive device is in tip-top condition, and all potential faults identified and dealt with. So the service date will now have to be moved forward. In fact, to late March or early April. I'd better get on with booking that: 'late March' is only a month away!

All this is a great improvement on last year's situation. And there is the glorious prospect of that 'return to normality'. How nice that will be when it comes!

I feel however that the collective experience of the pandemic has altered perceptions, expectations, ways of thinking, and values, quite a bit. Everyone has been inconvenienced. Everyone has felt frustrated. But everyone has also had a chance to consider what is important to them, what matters the most. I would be surprised if there is a sustained return to blind spend-spend-spend mass-consumerism as a way of life. I have some catch-up spending on clothes and shoes to attend to, but beyond that I just want to see people and do things in their company. I have weathered this pandemic with ease; indeed, in many respects it has suited my temperament rather well; but I have missed the meetups and social get-togethers I used to have. Well, not for too much longer!


Fiona is now booked in for her annual service and MOT. And I've just heard (today, 25th February) that the Caravan and Motorhome Club is reopening its sites in England from 12th April. And that all Scottish bookings from 25th April are safe. Excellent. Now do I take the High Road or the Low Road to Bonny Scotland? (The A1 from Berwick-upon Tweed, actually)

Monday, 22 February 2021

At last! The possibility of getting away!

The government have spoken! A four-stage unlocking of the lockdown!

It was always going to be a cautious, careful relaxation of the rules, and I can't blame the government one bit for taking that approach this time around. Previous lockdowns have indeed been abandoned in too much of a rush, for short-term gains, only to be regretted later. So it was no surprise that this time we would 'do it right' and not embrace normal living in a hurry. 

For me the big step forward comes on 29th March, when I can be one of six people barbecuing in a back garden. That could of course be a wet or chilly experience - but never mind, it will be lovely to have some face-to-face social life again! Emails, texts and video get-togethers are fine, but there's nothing like being with real-life human beings.

Also on 29th March, it appears that - at least in England - travel will become possible again, and with it the possibility of caravanning. 

Then, from 12th April, all shops can be open (just in time - I need new outfits and shoes so badly), and 'outdoor hospitality' (pub gardens, beach cafes, ice creams from kiosks) can be enjoyed. 

And finally, from 17th May, while I'm already on my way to Scotland (although still inside England) most restrictions will come to an end. That will allow celebratory indoor meals with the friends I see on my trips north.

Of course, social distancing will still be in force, and will no doubt continue in some form for months to come. And all those dates are subject to revision, depending on how the pandemic is going. That could work either way: the relaxations will slow if virulent new strains take hold; or could be accelerated if the vaccines genuinely prove to be the 'silver bullet'.

My main concern at this moment are my caravan holiday bookings. No deposits are payable, so rescheduling or cancellation won't mean wasted money, but I can see that my first bookings of the year will, at the very least, have to be shifted back one week. Meaning that they will now begin on 31st March. 

I'm watching the Caravan Club website for some definitive guidance. Their argument will be that a highly-regulated site - with well-spaced outdoor pitches, with most caravanners using their own on-board facilities, and all observing social distancing - is a low risk holiday facility. You can indeed be completely self-contained in your own caravan, coming and going with no close contact whatever with the other people there. And that's probably even more true of farm sites. Well, we'll see.

It would be very pleasant to get away on 31st March! 

I did manage to enjoy 58 nights' caravanning from July to November last year, which most people would regard as a lot of holidaying. This year I have 108 nights booked, and as things now stand I may be lucky and savour all of them. The overall site cost will be £1,858, roughly the value of two nice mobile phones, or one decent laptop, and not quite enough for a week at somewhere distinctly upmarket, like the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, a place I'd love to stay at - see my post The Gleneagles Hotel on 26th August 2019. (Though the much-closer George Hotel at Stamford would do nicely too - another place I know)

Taken as a whole, caravanning is not a poor person's game. The caravans, and the tow cars needed to haul them, cost an arm and a leg. But once you have those assets, you can travel around at comparatively little expense. This year's site fees of £1,858, when averaged over 108 nights, work out at just over £17 per night. Less than the typical pub lunch anywhere. Probably less than a gin and tonic at the Gleneagles!

Mind you, I might just treat myself to a posh hotel experience for my 70th birthday next year. It seems like a good idea.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

My first Covid-19 vaccination

I was booked in for 2.10pm at Clair Hall in Haywards Heath, but I arrived early and it was all over by 2.00pm. I then had to wait for 15 minutes in my car, and if nothing untoward had happened to me, I was free to drive home. Nothing untoward occurred, and I was soon home enjoying a post-vaccination cup of tea.

I had expected an efficient operation, but it was even slicker than I'd thought possible. 

I'd turned into the entrance to Clair Hall, and was stopped by a man who told me where to park and what to do next - which was to join a short queue at the entrance to the complex. There another man asked me a series of questions about my general health, and satisfactory replies got me an explanatory leaflet, a white information sheet about the AstraZeneca vaccination (the one I would be having), and a ticket with a number on it (it was '207'). I was then passed to a girl who squirted anti-bac onto my hands and directed me to the threshold of a large room containing a dozen or so well-separated seats that could easily be wiped as they were vacated. But first I had to go to a desk and confirm who I was, state my date of birth, and show the white sheet. A pre-printed sticker with my name, date of birth and NHS number was then put on that, and I was directed to one of the seats. 

Meanwhile numbers were being called out. As I sat down, 199 was called. I wouldn't have long to wait. (In fact only a few minutes had passed since I had got parked) 

With this post in mind, I was itching to take a photo or two of the proceedings. But it was clearly an inappropriate thing to do. So I just studied the other people waiting for their jab. They ought to be, as I was, from the '65 to 70' age group, plus any younger persons who were clinically vulnerable. But not many of them looked particularly old. It was hard to be very certain, as we were (of course) all wearing face masks, but surely most of the people around me seemed younger and sprightlier? Or had younger-looking hair?

Within five more minutes, '207' was called, and I then had to wait at the threshold of a big hall, full of screens that separated the positions where nurses were going to inject the vaccine. My nurse - who was from a Brighton practice - was called Nicky, and she was very pleasant. We ran though my recent medication, and I answered more questions about my health. Then the vaccination itself. Into my upper left arm - quick and virtually sensation-free. After this, a couple of minutes' chat - I think this was to allow time for any immediate allergic reaction to manifest itself - then I was given a vaccination card, told when I should expect the second jab, and shown the exit. It was by then 2.02pm. I duly waited in Fiona until 2.15pm then drove home.

Once home, I had a good look at my arm to see whether there was any skin reaction. I took a couple of photos in different kinds of light:

But as you can see, there was no mark. I couldn't even tell where the needle had gone in. And there was no sore spot, or growing stiffness, to indicate the approximate position. 

And nine hours later, as I type this, nothing has changed. Still no skin reaction; still no stiffness or soreness. Of course, by the time I wake up tomorrow morning, it may be different. But I've never had any trouble with past flu jabs, and since this one is basically similar, perhaps there will be no physical hardship to endure. 

I must wait three weeks before I can fully rely on whatever protection this vaccination will give me; and I'll need the second jab to gain maximum protection. But even so, I feel immensely relieved already. Indeed, it feels like winning a prize for something. Although I'm not quite sure what! 

24 hours later

Well, there's a very slight soreness in the muscle, if I put my left arm in a somewhat unnatural position. Otherwise, there's still no discomfort, and still no mark on the skin. I suppose the vaccine is quietly going about its business. I feel fine.