It is now more than 15 months since I started working exclusively from home and much like nearly everyone in the same position I have faced the steep learning curve in getting used to dealing with colleagues almost exclusively online. I am lucky that my son Mark works for the same organisation as me, which is useful for communication between us.
As the youngest of our three boys and currently still living with us, you can imagine some conversations between us can become be strained, so the neutral space we create when discussing business is like a form of therapy. Who would have thought it would ever come to this? However, I have to mention, we had a form of catharsis last night where we met on an even plane, outside the realms of work.
Mark, though he lives with us, is very keen to look for his own place and has been buying bits and pieces of furniture, enhancing his current room, but with a nod to the future when he can kit out his own space. Naturally, his thoughts gravitated to Swedish flat-packed, self-assembly furniture: cheap, cheerful and practical. Of course, when I say practical, I am lying through my teeth, for never have I experienced a more impractical form of anything. However, needs must and we set to it last night on his purchases, and after raking about in the garden hut for additional screwdrivers, we commenced the laborious process of building the storage boxes and putting together the chair-come-shoe-rack.
When Mark was wee he was ever present when I visited my siblings (my sister Maureen often reminds me of this fact to this day). But over the years he has, how do I put it? Developed a bit of an abrasive style in the occasional face off we irregularly encounter. Classic alpha male territory: he won't be telt and neither, to be honest, will I.
Unpacking the furniture and laying the various components alongside the build instructions is often a time of fear as the task before you really starts to hit home. Looking down on the various sized screws, bolts and dowels, along with the basic carcass of the furniture, instantly makes me snow blind and any idea of a planned approach simply dissipates before my eyes. But strangely not this time.
Keeping well apart to avoid any mixing of components and showing a level of organisation not witnessed before, we both set about reading the instructions. Not simply just reading them but devouring the contents, so much so, and this is the catharsis I talked of, we both grasped and understood the task ahead as one person. It was a thing of beauty as we busied ourselves in respective tasks – ending up with perfect and unscathed storage boxes and chair-come-shoe-rack – with not one single cross word or expletive uttered throughout the entire process. In fact, the tasks were completed in near silence as we both basked in the warm light of success. Maybe never to be repeated, but a time that will linger long in my heart.
Just as I write, we have received a message from my middle son, Dominic, who advises that after working flat-out for the entire weekend he has now handed in his final piece of project work for his photography degree. It is almost like the planets have aligned for me this weekend.
It won't last...
My early teenage years coincided with a surge in cases of poliomyelitis in the UK. The disease is caused by a contagious virus specific to humans. Like the Covid virus, it enters the body through the nose or mouth and then multiplies in the throat and bowel. Once in the body, it may invade the central nervous system, damaging the cells that control muscles, causing varying degrees of weakness. It mainly affects young children and in a proportion of cases leads to paralysis which, in some 10% of those affected, results in death when the breathing muscles become immobilised. There is no cure for polio once someone is infected and it can only be controlled by immunisation.
Early work on a vaccine for polio was undertaken by Jonas Salk. Working with scientists from other universities in an effort to classify the various strains of poliovirus, Salk confirmed other studies which identified three separate strains. He then demonstrated that the killed virus of each of the three, although incapable of producing the disease, could induce antibody formation. Following field trials in 1955, Salk's polio virus vaccine became the first successful attempt to control the disease.
Salk became a celebrity when the vaccine's success was first made public but he chose to not patent the vaccine or seek any profit from it in order to maximise its global distribution. When asked on a television programme about who owned the patent, Salk replied: 'Well, the people I would say. There is no patent'. The vaccine is calculated to be worth $7 billion had it been patented.
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