Friday 24 November 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 24th November 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 24th November 2023

World COVID Statistics: 698,216,394 officially reported cases and 6,942,772 losses of life.

WHO loneliness causes illness image of man with risk factors in thought bubbles eg. dementia

According to latest NHS figures and reported by COVID Actuaries, hospital admissions with COVID in England decreased by 12% in-week. Biggest decrease NE & Yorkshire (-22%) and the NW (-20%). Acute bed occupancy is down by 10%, on top of a 15% drop last week (although at the end of October England had less than 4,200 beds unoccupied in total, so really needed that decrease).

Monday 13 November 2023

The Ghost In The Attic Mystery Agency Puzzle Game Review Age 14+ (sent for review)

The Ghost In The Attic is an absolutely fantastic 'The Mystery Agency' escape-room type puzzle-solving game for as many players as you like, aged around 14 or over. Play is co-operative, and you'll need all of those different brains with different skills in order to beat the game. I'm proud to say we did, in around 2 hours - all of which we enjoyed immensely. 

The Ghost In The Attic Mystery Agency Puzzle Game outer box front like cardboard packaged parcel

The Ghost In The Attic is an 'escape room' type game, where you follow clues and solve puzzles in order to discover the solution. Sent to us for review by The Happy Puzzle Company, this is without any doubt THE BEST mystery/puzzle/escape type game I've ever played (including in-person escape rooms). It is incredibly well written and beautifully put together.

The Ghost IN The Attic puzzle home escape room game box contents

Friday 10 November 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th November 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th November 2023

World COVID Statistics: 697,638,516 reported cases and 6,937,323 losses of life.

"A&E  depts in England in October saw worst performance this year.
Nearly 30% waited more than 4 hours to be treated or assessed.
Nearly 45,000 had to wait more than 12 hours for a bed after decision to admit."
Some demoralising stats there, neatly summed up by BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym.

101123 COVID Actuaries hospital admissions

Thursday 9 November 2023

The Christmas Express Family Board Game Review (age 6+) Sent by Cheatwell Games For Review

Our latest review for Cheatwell Games is Christmas Express. Designed for 2 to 4 players aged around 6 or over, this a very nicely illustrated family board game with the aim to get your 'train' all the way to the North Pole first -  without sliding backwards down a bridge or getting caught in a snowstorm. 

The Christmas Express Game box front showing large colourful text, and cartoony illustrated snowy forest North Pole scene

The illustrations really are excellent, this is an attractive, bright and colourful game, with a very festive feel. The player pieces are card, with 8 cute animal characters to choose from, so everyone is happy. 

The Christmas Express Game box contents showing colourful bright friendly characters and game board

Movement around the board is via a hand of cards. Each time it's your turn, you pick up cards so that you have 5 in your hand. Most give a number of spaces to move forward, but some are more specialised....

If you collect 3 of the same numbered cards, then you can advance directly to the next train station. In gameplay we've found that has only occurred an average of once each game - it really doesn't happen as often as you'd imagine. 

The Christmas Express Game numbered card examples

Special cards include Hustle Bustle, Snow Storm and Santa, and you choose which card (or cards) to play each time it's your turn. When a special card is played, it triggers a specific action - you can swap places with whoever is in the lead, move other players backwards, make someone miss a turn and other dastardly deeds. 

Cheatwell Games Christmas Express Game playing card examples, showing movement and special cards

The meanest of the cards in my family's opinion is Naughty Elf, which moves another player to the top of the bridge. You can use this to push them back quite a long way if you are battling it out to land on the final North Pole square. You might not want to play this one with a 6 year old in that position, I know it would have caused upset in our house. A 15 year old, not so much. 

The kindest card is obviously Santa, who saves the day by blocking most of the other special cards - even the Naughty Elf. 

For what appears to be a fairly regular 'from start to finish' board game, there can be a lot of strategy in The Christmas Express Game. Having 5 cards to choose from does mean you always have options, and they are really quite varied. You can hold on to certain cards until the perfect moment, and destroy someone else's chance of winning, or streak into the lead. It can actually be quite harsh if you are a very competitive person who is determined to win. Likewise, it can feel very rewarding to block someone else's attempt to snow on your own section of the railway line. 

Three people sitting at a small table playing The Christmas Express

Each game we've played has taken under an hour. The Christmas Express Game has a 'snakes and ladders' feel to it, but with much more opportunity for strategy and gameplay. You find yourself travelling up and down the board a lot, especially when the race hots up, and it's never a straight line 'start to finish'. My competitive boys and partner really love the way this plays - I'm always too soft to be ruthless, so I feel guilty whenever I have to hobble another player, especially when they are younger.

The Christmas Express Game was sent to us by Cheatwell Games for review. It is designed for 2-4 players aged 6+, and ideal for family games night. It's beautifully decorated and a really fun and festive treat, which will make you feel warm and cosy and Christmassy - even the Naughty Elf.

The Christmas Express game in action, showing teenager looking at board while other boy makes a move

Our copy of The Christmas Express Game was sent to us by Cheatwell Games for review. It's available from Amazon for a very good price - just £15.49 at the time of typing, although full RRP is still a very reasonable £22.99. I've left an Amazon affiliate link below with the latest price... 

We were sent our copy of The Christmas Express family board game for review. I was not paid or offered any other incentive, and this review is all my own thoughts and words. Amazon links are affiliate, which means I earn a few pence if you buy through my link, but you won't ever pay a penny extra. 

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Cheatwell Games 'Host Your Own Family Quiz Night' Game Review (age 8+, sent for review)

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night has been sent to us for review by Cheatwell Games. Recommended for 2 or more players aged around 8 or over, you play as 2 opposing teams. All of the cards have 2 general knowledge questions - one of which is more suitable for the adults, and one a little easier (and sometimes more recent) with multiple choice answers for the younger family members. We played adults vs kids, and it was brilliant. 

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night Game Box Front with large logo

The game board is relatively small, so you can play without having to clear a big table, and play is instant - set up from brand new took about 2 minutes. Putting the game away is just as quick.

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night Game opened with contents spread out

The questions are split into 8 themes, and the board has corresponding spaces, so if you land on 'People', then you get a 'People' question. It's really varied, and the questions very well selected, so none of the categories actually became dreaded or favoured (even Geography).

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night Game board showing categories

Whenever you get a question correct, you roll the dice again for another question, and the aim of the game is to get exactly to the centre first. It means occasionally there's a lot of distance between teams, but that advantage can disappear very quickly!

Boy sitting thinking about question answer for family quiz night

Each game we've played has lasted around 30 minutes, which is a really great length of time to play, and means if you are playing with younger children, they won't lose interest and wander off. We could all see quick progress forward, and it actually makes it really exciting and fast paced game. 

Playing a quick 30 minute game is incredibly handy when you are short on time, or want to warm up for something more serious! 

Two teenagers playing family quiz night game

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night is genuine fun. Nothing frustrated anyone, no-one became disappointed that they weren't doing so well, and the mix of board game and general knowledge quiz works really well. The questions really are excellently compiled, they aren't too tricky, or too easy! 

Cheatwell Family Quiz Night game question cards

This is an incredibly user-friendly game too. It's a great choice for a family or group of any ages - as the fact there are 2 different questions means everyone plays on an even par together, and the 2 opposing teams gameplay means anyone else can come into the room and join in with one of the teams at any point. 

Host Your Own Family Quiz Night is recommended for 2 or more players aged 8 or over, and it's an excellent quiz game, especially ideal for multi-generational play, for when you only have half an hour, or if you want a warm up game. The price is also incredibly good, at the time of typing reduced to £17.49 on Amazon (affiliate link below) - regular full price is still very fair at £26.99. 

We were sent our copy of Host Your Own Family Quiz Night by Cheatwell Games for review. We were not paid or offered another incentive, and my review is entirely my own thoughts and words. Amazon links earn me a few pence if you buy through my link, but you never pay a penny extra. 

Friday 27 October 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 27th October 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 27th October 2023

World COVID Statistics: 697,032,594 officially reported cases and 6,932,236 losses of life.

Hospital admissions with COVID in England have gone down for 2 weeks running. It looks hopeful this wave could have actually peaked and be on the downturn. If so, none of the newer, quicker variants have managed to get through our immunity better than their ancestors, and haven't even spread quickly enough to have an impact - whoot! The early booster roll out could also have been a very prudent move. Fingers crossed, what happens next makes a difference to what happens at Christmas.

By latest UK Government count (which is insanely behind):

New Cases 8,560 w/e 21st October

New Deaths (occurrences) 223 w/e 29th September

New COVID hospital admissions 3,367 w/e 20th October

The latest deaths data is also relatively small, with the number of people registered as dying only 1% higher than would be expected. Sadly it adds up.

"CMI calculates 204,800 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 33,200 in 2023.

Cumulative mortality rates YTD (year to date) are 5.5% of a full year’s mortality worse than 2019."

The Health Foundation charity have crunched the numbers and believe the UK NHS waiting list could expand to 8 million people waiting for treatment by the end of 2024 - or in a better scenario, it could have peaked now and be below 7.2 million by the end of next year.

The Health Foundation found (no surprises) the main problem is the ongoing chronic lack of staff and funding. Strikes by NHS workers asking for better pay have only caused an extra 210,000 patients to wait (3% of the 7.75 million backlog as of August 2023).

The longer you wait, the more serious, lengthy and urgent treatment needed, and the longer it takes to fix you and get you back to good health. This is a spiral of gloom, and it began unravelling long before COVID arrived. The NHS has run on less cash than it actually needs and waiting lists have been growing for at least 10 years - because someone (with private medical care) decided it was a good place to save money, and forgot how important health and life are to people, and to the nation as a whole.

As we're on a cheery note, 'destitution' isn't a word most of the world would associate with the UK, as it refers to being unable to meet the most basic physical needs -  to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

Sadly a study released this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (based on data collected up until the end of 2022), found UK destitution has doubled in the last 5 years, and the number of destitute children has tripled:

- Around 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022, a 61% rise since 2019

- Around 1 million children are destitute, an 88% rise since 2019

- This is widespread - the 3 local authorities with the highest levels of destitution are Newham, Manchester and Middlesbrough, and the 3 areas it's rising fastest are London, Wales and the West Midlands.

- More than 6 in every 10 destitute people (62%) have a disability or chronic health problem.

- The foundation point out that as almost 3/4 of destitute households receive benefits, our benefits system is pushing people (including a million children) well below the poverty line, with little chance of ever clambering out.

It's notable that the increase is smaller in Scotland. Scotland doesn’t cap child benefit at 3 children, and pays low income families a weekly top up for each of their children.

"According to the Economist, the world experienced an estimated 5.3 million excess deaths in 2020, 12.6m in 2021, and 6.9m in 2022. So far in 2023, the number is 2.3m, perhaps enough to make Covid, by the end of year, still the world’s third biggest killer."

New York Times journalist David Wallace-Wells neatly summing up the latest worldwide excess deaths news this week.

The COVID pandemic is simultaneously over, and also still killing us in droves. This cat is too snarly to go back in the bag, so instead, we should all just act like we can't see it, and remember the Trump method - less testing = less COVID. Eventually, if no-one tests, no-one dies from COVID. It's a winner. 

While we're on the subject, some of us really are being told in plain English NOT to test for COVID. This week I have seen multiple emails to both UK medical and teaching staff, reminding them that they should be at work unless they are physically too unwell to function, and shouldn't be testing for COVID, as it could keep them off work for longer than necessary if the result is positive.


The COVID inquiry hasn't been quite as explosive over the last 2 weeks, but we did find out Professor Angela McLean (now Patrick Vallance's replacement as UK Govt Chief Scientific Adviser), described Rishi Sunak as “Dr Death the Chancellor” (Muhahaha). She also referred to an unknown person as a "fu€k₩it". Naughty.

On a more serious note, Sir Patrick Vallance has asked that all of his diary entries aren't made public, because he wrote all kinds of brain dump in there, and his mental health is suffering at the idea we might all read it, and Professor of infectious disease modelling and Government advisor John Edmunds made a blistering testimony:

"As I explained to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we either lockdown now and control the epidemic, or it will force you into a lockdown later, when you'll have to lockdown harder and longer. 20,000-25,000 people died. Some would have, but there's no reason for that many people to have died at all.. There was no strategy, no long term thinking."

Guess what's back? Yeeeay, mask wearing in hospitals!

In fact it's only a few UK health authorities and buildings (inc in Sheffield, Worcester) which at this point have asked staff and service users to wear masks.

Hospitals and clinics are literally swarming with sick people, vulnerable people, and staff who don't want COVID every 4 months for the rest of forever. What a mix. It always seemed ridiculous that mask-wearing was universally dropped - although don't forget that air purification has stepped up massively. 

Sad news for the Captain Tom Foundation charity, as it is closing down. They just aren't getting many donations, and it's probably not covering the staff bill. The late Sir Captain Tom's daughter is currently going through an appeals process to keep her illegitimately built home spa pool from demolition. (Thoughts and prayers. Maybe a slow handclap.)

As the charity is coming to an end, a person who worked on the launch has done media interviews. She says she helped set everything up, was in line for loads of industry awards, and then was told she was no longer needed and she couldn't talk about her involvement. Nice.

Captain Sir Tom Moore raised a fortune for the NHS while he was alive. He has his own legacy, and his daughter has hers.

The world's first vaccine against Malaria is doing astoundingly well! Big handshake to all involved in this one. Over 4 years of vaccinating children under 4 years in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, it has cut deaths from Malaria by 13% - saving 1 in every 8 of the children who would have died, and preventing hundreds of thousands becoming seriously ill.

In 2021, malaria killed an estimated 468,000 children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa, so if the vaccine can be rolled out across the entire area, it should mean over 58,000 children's lives saved, and make a massive difference to available healthcare services. 

It is the weekend again! Huzzah! Most of our young people go back to school on Monday, so if you've been juggling work from home and everything else - you made it. The world news is all a bit grim right now, so it's even more important to treat yourself to something nice. You've earnt it, you deserve it and it's good for your mental wellbeing. I'll be having a board game afternoon with my kids, with snacks and pop, because they've earnt it too.

No numbers tonight because I'm travelling, and it's a long one already! Back in 2 weeks... 

Worry About What You Can Change, Find Ways To Work With The Rest. Save The NHS. 



Images hospital stats

Week 1 stats

New Cases 8,560 w/e 21st October

New Deaths (occurrences) 223 w/e 29th September

Deaths data


Addendum to covid stats re scotland

And precis and image

Health Foundation

NHS underfunded Democide


Covid is over, and not. Less testing.

Teacher guidance - don't test.

COVID inquiry

Boris bollocks

150 partygate fines

Mask wearing Sheffield

Worcester did a month ago

Captain Sir Tom Moore:


Friday 13 October 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 13th October 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 13th October 2023

World COVID Statistics: 696,503,623 reported cases and 6,925,559 losses of life.

In England during the month between 1st and 29th September, 866 babies and children were hospitalised with COVID.
That is an increase from 476 during August and 276 during July. 

COVID hospitalisations are rising across England (Scotland is a more mixed picture). Last week there was a 25% increase, and this week a 12% increase. We are still at a relatively low level, but it's been rising fairly steadily since the end of June, despite the fact we aren't routinely testing anyone any more. 

131023 Hospitalisations children and babies chart

Friday 29 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,939,792 reported cases and 6,921,077 losses of life.

Get your flu and COVID jabs UK NHS

Hospital admissions with COVID in England increased by 10% in the week ending 22nd September. Biggest increases are in the NW (+33%) and NE&Yorks (+29%).

290923 CMI hospital admissions England

The UK is still losing more people each week than anticipated, but it isn't at the lofty heights (and extra 8-10%) that it was last year. 
The Continuous Mortality investigation (CMI) weekly Mortality Monitor (week ending 15th September) for England and Wales shows rates were 4% higher than the equivalent week in 2019, based on death registrations data.
"CMI calculates 204,200 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 32,600 in 2023.
Cumulative mortality rates YTD (year to date) are 5.4% of a full year’s mortality worse than 2019."
Better news for this year (but worse for last year), the CMI note that there are far more late registrations than usual, so many of December 2022's registrations were actually added in with January 2023's figures.

Friday 15 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,289,957 reported cases and 6,915,596 losses of life.

Massively mutated COVID variant (current estimate is 33 mutations) BA.2.86 Pirola is agitating a lot of people and causing an upset to our calmly steady COVID stats. It is visibly worrying health officials in the UK, US, Canada, Europe and beyond - although we still see no signs it is more dangerous or deadly, just more easily caught and very quick.

150923 weekly England hospital admissions by age UK HSA

Friday 1 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 1st September 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 1st September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 694,630,525 reported cases and 6,911,550 losses of life.

Hospital admissions with COVID in England are up among all age groups, but from 3 people per 100,000 population overall, to 3.37.
Up, but it's not a really dramatic increase, and could simply be a reflection of us spending more time indoors as the weather cools or more people returning to work after holidays, or something else seasonal.

Meningitis jabs for uni students

Current UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay has offered a 6% pay rise to England’s hospital consultants, and an average 8.8% rise to England's Junior Doctors. He says these offers are final, and is very disappointed that they aren't being accepted. 
Strike dates are planned, including for the first time ever, consultants and junior doctors striking at the same time - 20th September 2023. They will also be on strike simultaneously from 7am 2nd October until 7am 5th October. Many thousands of appointments will not go ahead as planned.
Junior Doctors in Wales are planning future strike action after refusing a 'final offer' last week, and Junior Doctors in Scotland will not be striking, as they have accepted an offer of 12.4%.