Sunday 28 February 2021

Day 349 of self-isolation - New cases down again

New cases down again

Friday's new case number was 7434 - we're back to the numbers last seen at the end of September. Plus, we were given our first dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks ago. and nearly 30% of people have had the jab. Things are looking good!

Gibraltar is the first place to get more than 100 vaccinations per 100 people - remember, these vaccines need two jabs.

Not so great across the channel. France has only had 6 jabs per 100 people, and that's partly because their oven-ready President Macron said on 29 January that the AstraZeneca vaccine is "quasi-ineffective" for people over 65. Whatever that means. "The early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65-year-old people concerning AstraZeneca".


So then on 2 February, France's Health Authority made an official recommendation that the vaccine should not be used for people over 65. Idiots.

So now Macron said on Thursday he would gladly accept being inoculated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine if it were offered when his turn comes.

Mixed messaging is not a good idea in this situation.

In Germany, there are 1.4 million doses sitting unused; Angela Merkel said that she will refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine. And in Germany, only 7% of the population is vaccinated. In Europe as a whole, 80% of doses haven't been used.

What are they thinking?

Meanwhile, the noise about "Vaccine passports" continues. Should we or shouldn't we?

I already have mine. It was issued by the NHS, says which vaccine, which batch, and the date it was given. But it doesn't call itself a "passport". It's a "record card".



Saturday 27 February 2021

Day 348 of self-isolation - Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime

I decided to order some Garth Ennis comics; in my opinion, he's the best comics writer today, and has been for many years.

When I went through checkout, there are three options. Two of them sign you up to Prime, but look different, so when I saw one, I clicked on the other. But actually I should have clicked on an option on the other side of the page, which isn't obviously "I want to order but I don't want Prime".

So, I got signed up for Prime.

Fortunately, it's easy to cancel.

  1. Log in to your Amazon account and click ‘your account’
  2. Click ‘your prime membership’
  3. On the left hand side of your screen, click ‘end membership and benefits’
  4. Click ‘I do not want my benefits’
  5. And then you have to reassure it a couple more times "I really mean it" and "I really really mean it". 

 And, at last, I've escaped Prime.

Friday 26 February 2021

Day 347 of self-isolation - fifteen eight

Fifteen eight

A new low; fifteen stone, eight pounds.

I've complained to the advertising Standards Authority about the MyPillow advert on LBC. The problem is the "Buy one, get one free" claim. They are advertising a "sale", but when something is on "sale" for a very long time, it isn't a sale, it's their standard price. Mypillow are claiming that their standard price is £119.90 for a pillow, and that the "sale" price is £59.95, according to their web site. We#'ll see what happens.

The Covid alert level has been lowered from five to four. The difference is that hospitals are not at material risk of being overwhelmed. This means that we've weathered the latest storm.

Drsolly Towers is still in lock down, and we're planning to stay that way until either the number of new cases is below 2000 per day, or else we both have had our second jab plus three weeks. Because for about a year now, I've been more cautious than our beloved government, from the Cheltenham race meeting, the "eat out to help out" spreader scheme, and (I think) I've been right.

Here's the plan.  March 8, kids back in school; April 12, shops reopen; May 17, hospitality reopens; June 21, we hope, if all things go according to plan, a general reopening. I think that's possible, but we need to watch the numbers as we go along.

Meanwhile, in France, less than six per cent of the population has been vaccinated - 28% in the UK. I really can't understand why France (and Germany, Italy, Spain and so many others) have been so much slower to vaccinate than the UK. Nor can I understand why the people of those countries aren't screaming at their governments to exdigitate.

IRobot have messed up their software, and it will be several weeks before they can fix it. I'm so glad that I failed to buy the iRobot. The Proscenic works fine, and is a third of the price.


Thursday 25 February 2021

Day 346 of self-isolation - Blood test

Blood test

Every few months, I get a blood test, to check my INR (how runny it is). Today's blood test came up good, and my Warfarin dose is the same.

The hospital was almost deserted.

There was one guy at the entrance, to check that I was masked and he was offering hand sanitiser (which I declined, because you're not supposed to use it before a blood test.

The second hand book library has been closed for a year - I totally understand why, but it's always been the high point of my quarterly hospital visit. At £1 per book, I stock up each time.

There was no-one in the reception, no-one in the corridors, no-one in the waiting room. It was like a ghost hospital. This time last year, it was crowded.

I asked the blood test nurse. It's a combination of, more people are consulting remotely, and the timed appointment system. Previously, I was given a date, but I could turn up any time from 9am to 1pm. Now I'm given an exact time.

And I do have to be there for the blood test.


Wednesday 24 February 2021

Day 345 of self-isolation - Perseverence

The ILIFE W400 has arrived, and I'm calling it "Perseverence", after the Mars rover.  Percy for short.  
Unboxing and assembly was easy. It was already assembled. The wall power unit used European pins, which I guess is why I got the thing at a 20% discount, but that just means it has to use a plug adaptor - no problem.
I filled the clean water tank, and released Percy into the utility room.  He trundled up and down in a systematic way, and covered the whole area. I poured out the small amount of dirty water, which was nice because it shows that he's picking up the dirt, and not just moving it around.
So then I released him into the hall. We have a big thick rug there, and I really didn't want that to be mopped. It wasn't mopped - Percy bumped the rug and didn't try to climb onto it. That's good, because Bridget do climb onto the rug and vacuums it. Because the rug is black, it shows every bit of debris, but after Bridget has vacuumed it, it's clean.
Percy leaves a lot of shallow puddles behind.
Although it does a lot better if you remember to put the plug in the dirty water tank. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Day 344 of self-isolation - The environment is changing

The environment is changing

Vaccination is changing the environment for the virus. And a change in the environment, leads to evolutionary pressure. The evolutionary pressure is going to be to resist the vaccine.

It hasn't happened yet. But it will. We've seen this with antibiotics - they slowly lose their ability to kill bacteria, because the bacteria evolve resistance.

Right now, there are two hundred million billion virus particles floating around (that's a quarter of a pint - they are really really small). And their only objective is to make more copies of themselves. But the copying process isn't quite perfect. Mistakes happen. Some mistakes mean that the copy isn't viable, some mistakes make the copy less infectious, some make it more infections. Evolutionary selection is for more infectious.

Some people don't believe that evolution happens. And some people believe that the world is flat.

The probability of a mutation that would evade the vaccines, is really really small. But there's a lot of virus particles, and the longer there's a lot, the more time there is for a vaccine-resistant mutation to occur.

Monday 22 February 2021

Day 343 of self-isolation - Another gallon

Another gallon

I just bought another gallon of alcohol. It isn't for drinking.

Ever since this started, we've been disinfecting. I had about a gallon of hand sanitiser, bought a few years ago for hand sanitising. Because when you're in the middle of nowhere with filthy hands, that's a good way to clean them. And everything that comes into the house, I've been spraying with this (or leaving it for three days). And I'm running out, I'm down to the last litre.

So I bought a five litre container of 80% alcohol (80% is actually more effective than 100%) for £15, which is a really good price.

I'll use it to refill the 500 ml bottles (5 litres is really unwieldy). From these, I refill the spray bottles. Each grocery delivery needs one of those bottles to spray it and (hopefully) kill all bacteria and viruses.

That's the theory.

I don't know if it's actually worked, but the fact that we haven't got Covid has to be a good sign.

Sunday 21 February 2021

Day 342 of self-isolation - Mopping


I used the Bissell Spinwave mopper. It was easy to set up and use, and clean afterwards. But it couldn't get some of the ground-in marks off the floor, such as a couple of peas that had been trodden on. I had to scrub it with my socked foot. When I emptied the dirty water, it clearly had found quite a lot of dirt.

Trundling that mopper up and down left me with a backache.

So I've ordered a robot mop. Because it would be nice to only use the Bissell mopper occasionally. I've bought the ILIFE W400, normally £299, I found it for £226 on eBay. It has two tanks, one for clean water and one for dirty, and it works methodically, up and down and up and down.  It doesn't have a "return to base" capability, but neither does the Bissell. So, I'll charge it up, fill it with water, and put it down to clean the floor. When it's done, I pick it up, take out the water tanks, give it a clean and put is back on charge.

The difference between this and the other two robots (Vicky the Proscenic and Bridget the Bagotte) is that although they have a mopping option, that option really isn't much use, whereas the ILIFE is designed for mopping.

Saturday 20 February 2021

Day 341 of self-isolation - More cleaners

More cleaners

The self-emptying bin for Vicky arrived, so I've set that up. Also the Bissell Crosswave arrived; I've assembled that and put it on charge. We might use it tomorrow.

And the carpet cleaner arrived, the Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution, which is a bit of a mouthful, so I think I'll just call it "Bissell carpeter". That probably won't get used more than once each year, but our carpets haven't been cleaned for 12 years, and in some places you can actually see the dirt.

The Crosswave will replace the mop-and-bucket that we've used since always; ladysolly is quite excited about it. It should be easier to use, and faster, and cleaner.


Friday 19 February 2021

Day 340 of self-isolation - Vicky arrived

Vicky arrived

Vicky is the Proscenic M7 Pro, ordered on Amazon yesterday, arrived today (the big bin hasn't arrived yet). I unboxed it. Assembly was trivial. I plugged in the base station (the kennel) and got my iPhone to install the app.

Just as I expected from the reviews, that didn't go smoothly. It isn't obvious what they're aiming to do, but what I understand is that you install the app, link your smartphone to a router,  Then you connect your smartphone to the Proscenic wifi, and wait until it sorts itself out - I think what it's doing, is connecting to the router using the name and password I gave it.

It says clearly that it only supports 2.4g, not 5G. I don't think any of my routers are 5G, but when I tried to connect to the TP-Link router, it wouldn't work. And the Buffalo router wouldn't work. But when I tried the Netgear router, it worked, and the iPhone was linked to Vicky. I don't know if it was that it liked the Netgear router, or if it was third time lucky.

By the time I had all this worked out, the battery was fully charged, so I told it to clean. I guided it round the whole floor plan, so it knew where all the open spaces were, and then I named them. It uses lidar (like radar, but using laser light instead of radio waves) to navigate. That means that it will be able to work just as well in the dark.

Then I told it to vacuum the whole floor. It cleaned 120 square meters in two hours, and used half the battery. This is very good news - it means that I can just run it and let it go. It didn't get stuck throughout the run.

The way it runs, is to do the perimeter of an area, then fill in the area by systematically going to and fro until it has covered the whole area. Then it moves on to the next area, and does the same again. But for large areas, it doesn't do the whole thing, it does a segment (of several square meters) and finishes that before going on to the next segment.

 After completing the whole floor, it went back to its kennel to recharge.

This seems to me to be a first class vacuuming robot, with excellent suction, excellent navigation, excellent battery life (several times better than the Bagotte). It cost £399, plus £99 for the self-emptying bin, and that £500 compares very well with the iRobot Roomba S9+ for £1500. The mopping function is a joke, and I won't even be trying that out - but I wasn't buying it for that.

So, based on my experience so far, I'd very much recommend it, but with the caveat that the Wifi can be either easy, difficult or impossible to connect. And if you can't use the smartphone to control it, you lose a lot of the functionalty. It would still be a good robot, but not as good as it could be.

Ladysolly says that our floors are cleaner than they've ever been.

I only wish it could handle stairs.


Thursday 18 February 2021

Day 339 of self-isolation - Infection test

Infection test

Now's your chance. If you've always wanted someone to squirt Covid up your nose to see if you get ill, you can volunteer now.

You'd need to be between 18 and 30, and healthy. You'll get £4500 per year.

The main purpose of this, is to discover how much of the virus does it take to cause an infection.

Back in early March (well before the lockdown), I visited the National Space Center in company with Ian, who at the time was infected, although he didn't know it. I spent two hours next to him in the front of his car, breathing in what he breathed out. And I don't think I got infected. I'm pretty sure I didn't get infected. And the explanation for that, must be that I didn't breathe in enough virus to catch Covid. The other possible explanation is the Luck of the Solomons.

This experiment will also give researchers a chance to monitor the progress of the disease from day one of infection.


Wednesday 17 February 2021

Day 338 of self-isolation - Looking for a carpet cleaner

Looking for a carpet cleaner

Apart from vacuuming, our carpets haven't been deep-cleaned for more than a decade. So I had a look around. There's a lot of choice!

 The cleaner I've settled on is the BISSELL ProHeat 2X Revolution which is £229 at Amazon. It's a deep cleaner, so should get the deep dirt out. The main alternative is the Bissell "big green" which is £529, buy that's probably overkill for a home cleaner. The idea is to use it maybe once per year, or if there's a coffee spill.

While looking at this, we also decided not to get a robot mopper, because none of them are really good. But ladysolly said that the main competitor is a mop and bucket, and if we could avoid hauling a bucket around, and dipping the mop into increasingly dirty water, that's what we need.

So it looks like the Bissell Crosswave cordless for the tiled floors. It has two tanks, one for clean and one for dirty water, and it sweeps as it scrubs, costs £329 for the cordless.

Something I learned about looking at reviews - you should sort them in order of most recent first. If you do that for the iRobot Roombas, then you find out that they've upgraded the app, and made it a LOT worse. It used to be very good - not so much now.

The carpet vacuum is probably going to be the Proscenic M7 Pro costing £399 plus another £99 for the auto-empty.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Day 337 of self-isolation - Under 10,000 new cases

Under 10,000 new cases

Today saw 9765 new cases in the UK. That's down from a peak of over 60,000 at the start of January. 

This is really good news. And also, 23% of our population is vaccinated with the first jab.

2021 is starting to look really good!

Monday 15 February 2021

Day 336 of self-isolation - Fifteen million vaccinated

Fifteen million vaccinated

Fifteen million people have been vaccinated in the UK, that's 22%. We're doing better than any other major country. Germany, which did so well at lockdown, has only reached 5%.

We've only had the first jab of two; my second jab should be in April. The first jab should give me 65% protection after three weeks, the second 90%.

Our disabled government has been bungling for a year, starting with their failure to take Covid seriously, and doing the lockdown too late. In this case, all they had to do was get out of the way and let the NHS do it's job. Well, good news. The government did nothing, and so the vaccination program is going well.

Long live zero government

Sunday 14 February 2021

Day 335 of self-isolation - Fifteen stone nine

Fifteen stone nine

I was fifteen stone nine this morning, a new low. Um - not an absolute new low, there was a time in the dim and distant past when I was lower. But a new low in recent history.

Rover got stuck while cleaning. I searched all over, under couches, under beds, I couldn't find her. Ladysolly did a better search than me, and found her stuck in the bathroom, tucked in to a corner by the toilet, and unable to escape.

Experience with Rover has led me to two features that I want.

1) Mapping. I want the robot to make a map of the house, and I want the map to persist, and not be drawn afresh each day. And then I want to be able to say "Clean this part and not that".

2) I want that map to show where the robot is, and I want to know the battery state.

3) I want it to be able to clean, run out of battery, automatically recharge, then resume cleaning where it left off.

4) I want the auto-empty.

And that's why I'm looking at vacuum cleaners like the Roomba S9+ and similar.

Saturday 13 February 2021

Day 334 of self-isolation - Coming soon

Coming soon

It is a really bad idea to announce that you're about to ship a vastly better product than your current products. Because consumers, not being stupid, will hold off on buying your existing products and wait for the much better new product.

The classic example of this, is the Osborne company. They had a very successful portable micro, the Osborne 1. It weighed 25 pounds, so it was portable.

They were selling $1 million per month in 1981, and then catastrophe struck. The company announced the Osborne 2. Instead of a 40 character screen, it had an 80 character screen. And that is a huge advantage. It would have rocketed the company into the stratosphere. But it didn't, because the product was "Coming soon".

Sales of the Osborne 1 collapsed. Everyone was waiting for the Osborne 2. Osborne went bankrupt in 1983.

iRobot have announced the Roomba S9+. The Which report says that this robot vacuum is the bees knees, and is vastly better than the I9+. So, naturally, that's the one we want. 

One of the disadvantages of the Bagotte, is that when the dust box fills up, it doesn't notice, and it continues vacuuming and leave little dust balls lying around - a bit like a cat's fur balls. The dust box is 0.6 litre, which is quite big for a vacuum robot.

The S9+ will go back to its kennel, empty the box, and go on vacuuming. And it has lots of other features that my experience with the Bagotte tells me will be useful, such as "Clean the kitchen" and it knows where to go and what to do. With the Bagotte, I have to put the kennel in the room to be cleaned, close the doors to stop it wandering outside the room, and hope that it has enough battery to finish the job.

The S9+ is on the iRobot web site, and on several other web sites, but is "unavailable". The i9+ is available - but is distinctly inferior. So I phoned iRobot. They told me that it will be available in March, and that probably means April.

If they hadn't announced the S9+, I would almost certainly have bought an I9+. So now I'll wait until the S9+ is actually available, whenever that is.

Friday 12 February 2021

Day 333 of self-isolation - Rover's return

Rover's return

Rover seems to do a random walk around the room for about an hour, and then takes four hours to recharge, So that means that she can only do three stints per day. The manual says that she can run for 100 minutes; then she returns to her kennel for five or six hours of charging.

After each clean, the dust box is either nearly empty (hard floor) or about half full (carpet). The noise level is quiet; it's not nearly as loud as an ordinary vacuum.

She can climb up from a hard floor to a thick rug, but when she tried to clean my bedroom (carpet) she got badly tangled up in a small rug. When I went to look, the rug was folded and pulled around, and Rover was sitting quietly waiting for help. I think she should bark when she gets into trouble. Or at least beep. Barking would be better.

Right now, I'm using her by moving her kennel into the room to be cleaned, and leaving her to get on with it, closing doors to keep her inside (or putting up a line of big things to keep her from wandering out.

I haven't yet tested whether she can avoid falling down stairs. That's going to be fun.


Thursday 11 February 2021

Day 332 of self-isolation - Side effect

 Side effect

My side effect from the Pfizer vaccination, were a feeling that my left arm was a bit bruised. That peaked after about 8 hours, and has been gradually improving ever since.


Wednesday 10 February 2021

Day 331 of self-isolation - Rover arrived

Rover arrived

The Bagotte vacuuming robot arrived. I installed its little kennel, charged it up, and told it to get to work. It vacuumed the kitchen/breakfast room, and ran out of battery. 

There's a lot of square feet in this house. So all it could manage was the kitchen/breakfast room. I've moved the kennel to the hall, and I'll tell it to do that next.

We're calling it "Rover".


Tuesday 9 February 2021

Day 330 of self-isolation - a little prick

A little prick

At last, the vaccination.

We went to Chesham Town hall, suitably masked. Before we entered, we were asked about whether we had a recent infection or inoculation. Then we were checked off on a list, and allowed in. They gave us each our paperwork, and then we went on to the vaccination hall. There was a socially distanced queue - one person in front of us. After a few minutes, we each went to one of the six vaccination stations. Mine was with my usual family doctor.

She asked me a series of questions, except she didn't need the one about whether I was pregnant (no), then she gave me the jab, which I barely felt. Then we were led to the outbound waiting area, where we waited for 15 minutes, and since there was no adverse reaction, we left and went home, and showered, to wash off any virus that we'd picked up externally. That's probably unnecessary, but a shower is no big deal.

The vaccine we got was the Pfizer-BioNTech, which is rated at 95% effective after the second dose (90% after the first). We'll probably get the second dose in April.

So, right now, some messenger RNA is telling my cells to make a piece of the spike that the virus uses to attack cells. When my cells have made that protein, my immune system will say "Hey, what's that!" and start making antibodies to handle it. What this is doing, is boosting my immune system.

There are various quack remedies that are supposed to boost your immune system - I've heard of violet leaf oil, and oregano oil, and there's probably magic crystals sold for the same effect. But a vaccine really does boost your immune system, by giving it something to practice on. So that if it encounters the actual Covid-19 virus, it says "Aha, we've seen that before and we already know how to handle it."

I will continue with my 2000 IU of vitamin D and the 15 mg of zinc tablets, because I know that I'm D-deficient if I don't take supplements (I got tested).


Monday 8 February 2021

Day 329 of self-isolation - Vaccine less effective on variant

Vaccine less effective on variant

The Oxford University/AstraZenica vaccine is less effective against the South African variant of Covid-19

If that sounds surprising, then you need to read more about evolution. 

Organisms, including viruses, have small copying errors. And a virus copies itself billions of times per infection. If that copying error leads to a variant that is less infectious, then it will probably not flourish. But if the variant is more infectious, then it will flourish, and eventaully come to dominate in numbers over the ancestor.

A variant that is better able to withstand the antibodies of the host, will flourish more. Or if it is able to transmit from host to host more readily. From the virus point of view, if it can generate a heavy infection with many virus particles starting from a small virus load, that would be great. Resistance to antibodies - even better.

So the Kent variant is better at transmission from host to host. We got unlucky there.  The South African variant is also more infectious, South Africa got unlucky there. If we take strong action, we might be able to keep the South African variant out of the UK, but I'm not optimistic about that, given our past performance.

I am, however, optimistic about future vaccines. It should be possible to create a vaccine that's effective against the South African variant. In perhaps a year.

We need to speed up the development and testing of vaccines. Evolution isn't going to stop. 

Back in 1988, computer viruses appeared very occasionally. I remember at one point the AV tech people were wondering at the fact that a whole month had gone by without any new viruses. And it was possible to write code to deal with each new virus, to debug that code, and to test it for false positives and false negatives, and if that took a month, no problem.

But by 1990, they were arriving thick and fast, and that's why I invented "Virtran", a way to describe to the Virtran engine, how to find, give exact identification, and remove each new virus. With that, the development time for dealing with a new virus was reduced from days to minutes. I got the Queens Award for Technology for that (I still have the plaque).

The automated system for sorting out true viruses from rubbish files was another development to speed things up, and when polymorphic viruses started to appear in numbers, the "Generic Decryption Engine" was able to shorten the development time for the "nuke Encryption Device" from a week don to a few minutes.

We need the same for biological viruses. We should be expecting Covid-19 and the influenza virus to need us to update our vaccines pretty often. And we need to react to the next big pandemic with a vaccine in weeks, not about one year.

For the computer antivirus, that meant a heavy investment in the tools for dealing with them. For biological viruses, we likewise need a heavy investment in the speed and ability to produce vaccines.

That will be expensive.

But not nearly as expensive as it will be if we don't.


Sunday 7 February 2021

Day 328 of self-isolation - Darcy snowfall

Darcy snowfall

Storm Darcy is expected to bring up to eight inches of snow, but I'm guessing that it'll be less where we are.

We can handle it. We've got our gates locked to open, and the Landrover is fuelled up. So even with a few inches of snow on the ground, we can still get out for our vaccination.

Saturday 6 February 2021

Day 327 of self-isolation - Happy birthday ladysolly

Happy birthday ladysolly

In the lockdown, birthdays pass mostly unnoticed. The year of 2020 passed slowly and painfully. But we survived, unlike 100,000 other people in the UK.

The birthday present is our vaccination on the ninth, which is the path back to normality.


Friday 5 February 2021

Day 326 of self-isolation - An appointment

An appointment

On Tuesday 9th February, ladysolly and I have a meeting with two needles. Yes - it's vaccine time! 


Thursday 4 February 2021

Day 325 of self-isolation - The lockdown is working

The lockdown is working

The number of new cases per day has fallen from the peak of 68,000 a month ago, down to less than 20,000. That's great, but is isn't low enough yet to be able to let up.

Hospitalisations are looking better too. The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 is falling. We're past the peak.

On the vaccination side, ten million people have been vaccinated, that's 15% of the population. This is a better percentage than any other European country, better by a long way.

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Day 324 of self-isolation - Captain Tom, RIP

Captain Tom, RIP

Captain Tom died of Covid-19 and pneumonia. He was 100 years old.

Captain Tom brightened all our lives when he decided to walk round his garden to raise £1000 for the NHS. When you're 100 and walk with a support frame, that's not an easy task. In the end, he raised £33 million. But more than that, he raised our spirits at a very low time.

Farewell, Captain Sir Thomas Moore, and thanks for your service.


Tuesday 2 February 2021

Day 323 of self-isolation - Not Roombas

Not Roombas

I tried to contact, to see if they'd got my order. They emailed back, asking for my email address. So I emailed them again, with my email address, and that email bounced because their despammer said my ip address is on their spam list. So I checked with the despamming service, and it isn't.

Then I used their web form to ask what was going on. But that also bounced. The depammer was refusing messages from their own web form. This is starting to look silly.

I tried to phone them, but that wouldn't work either. So I decided that the only way forward, was to cancel that order by contacting my credit card company, who said that the billing had already been declined. Apparently, they has texted me a six digit number to fill in, which I had, and then they'd texted me a message to ask if the billing was authorised, but we didn't get that text. So, in the absence of that text, the billing was declined.

I just hope that a few weeks from now, a robot doesn't show up at my door, asking where I want it to vacuum.

Also, although their web address is, they're an Austrian company, which gives me two problems - 1) their phone message is in German, and 2) they're in the EU and we're not.

So, back to iRobot, but the bundle deal was no longer available unless I paid an extra £280, a total of £1579.99. Also, they said that it would take two weeks to import it into the UK.

Then ladysolly suggested that, instead of diving in at the deep end, we get a cheap robot and see how it goes. So I got this for £189 from Amazon which looks pretty good and amazing for the price. We'll see how it goes.

And that's the difference between a company who can take orders and deliver, and two companies that cannot.


Monday 1 February 2021

Day 322 of self-isolation - Roombas


First of all, good news on the weight situation - my latest mass was 15 stone 10 pounds.

 So. I was vacuuming the floor, and ladysolly was mopping the floor, and as I vacuumed, I was on automatic. Swish to the left, forward three paces, back three paces, swish to the left, and so on. I was a vacuuming robot. And I had one of those sudden flashes. Why am I doing this?

So I got onto the web, and did some research. There seem to be many brands of robot vacuum and mop, but the leading brand seems to be the Roomba, by iRobot.

I narrowed it down to the i7+, which is their top end model, and also empties itself after vacuuming, so that you only need to empty the trash once per month or so. Sounds good. Also, I can control it from a mobile.

Then for the mop, the choice was the Braava Jet M6. Same control.

On the iRobot web site these two were available as a bundle for £1299, ladysolly agreed, so I bought the bundle. Or I thought I did. After I gave the web site all the information, including my John Lewis credit card, it came back to the same screen, with the same items in the checkout. So I did it again. Same problem. So I went through it all again, but this time via Paypal. Paypal told me that the card was blocked.

So I think what happened is that the card company declined the card, but the iRobot site didn't make that clear. And after three goes, the card company blocked the card.

So I went back to the web, and found the web site (post Brexit, it's become difficult to buy from outside the UK). I found the same models there, and although it wasn't a bundle, the total price was £1228, £71 less than iRobot. I paid for that using my Barclaycard, and I think it went through. With a bit of luck, I'll have them in time for ladysolly's birthday.

But there was unfinished business. I had to make sure that iRobot didn't send me their robots, and I had to tell John Lewis about what had happened.

So, the next morning, I called John Lewis. What I didn't know, was that they'd already contacted ladysolly about the issue, and she'd sorted it out. The next half hour was painful, because I had undone that sorting out by my phone call, and we had to go through it all again. Eventually, everything was straightened out, and iRobot aren't going to get paid, which means they won't deliver the robots, which is fine, because I bought from

If this works out well, then I'll get the same again for the upper floor.