Missing the Pandemic

I understand that this may be in slightly bad taste and the last thing I would like to do is minimise the devastating effects of a global pandemic but I confess that there are some things I will miss about the lock-down. This is in no way connected to the phone call we received from Aged Parent yesterday informing us that we can now visit her for a socially distanced half hour and, if I thought I heard HOH sighing “Well, it couldn’t last forever” I was probably mistaken.

Peace and Quiet. When the initial call to lockdown came and we all ran scuttling back into our homes, I don’t think any of us were prepared for just what a post-pandemic apocalyptic landscape would look like. But, in the absence of an explosive nuclear wipeout, it looked quite nice. HOH took the instruction to exercise regularly very seriously and I would often find myself being dragged/walking the streets of our neighbourhood at all hours and they were deserted. We are blessed. The photo you see above is about 200 metres from us and to walk this walk everyday or evening was just so perspective-altering and peaceful. Now, it is packed to the drawstrings every hour with people dragging paddleboards out of the back of four-by-fours, long queues for a socially distanced sausage on a roll and children called Quail crying because they keep falling off their new bike.

Gratitude. This was the time when we stopped for a moment and realised what we had. We looked at the workforce and suddenly the heroes were shop workers, delivery drivers, public transport providers, care-home workers and NHS frontliners. Without these people, we would have ground to a halt and, the dramatic but accurate fact is that some of them paid for their service with their lives. We all made rainbow and gratitude signs for our windows and there was a lovely spirit about it all. However, There was also a lot of uncomfortable shuffling about the fact that our new heroes’ pay rates seemed to be set by starting at the bottom of any scale you could mention and seeing if we could go any lower. There have been promises from “Top People” to put that right as soon as is humanly possible. The view from an NHS hero who lives in this house is that no-one at the pointy end is really expecting that to happen. I hope he’s wrong. I suspect he is not.

Re-Assessing. Lots of people have been pushed off the merry-go-round and found that they quite like it. This is a complex issue. Many people have been told to leave work and suspect that they will never get to go back. They are not as thrilled as people called Tarquin are because they have found that they are a dab-hand with the old sourdough. It’s not that they are not pleased for you Tarqs – it’s just that they can’t get past the worries about paying rent, buying food – that kind of thing. But, without ignoring that humongous elephant in the room, there does seem to be a lot of people who don’t want to go back to where they were. People have enjoyed time with families, volunteering is at a massive high and numbers signing in to watch online church services are off the scale. People are on the search for something deeper. It has to be a good thing.

A Why Not Attitude. Even though, as an old person, I may have had palpitations watching people demonstrate on Black Lives Matter marches (I watch these demonstrators walking toe to toe and I keep thinking “Don’t visit your Nan for a couple of weeks love”) I think that the young people especially think that this is a moment and I think Covid 19 may be at least partially responsible for that. In the past, they have been told that this is the way it is and nothing really changes. Well, things obviously do change and seismic alterations to the status quo can happen so why not this and why not now?

These are difficult times. Despite what the behaviour of people who feel that it is ok to arrange a picnic for sixteen with enough beer to rescue several failing local breweries might suggest, there has been no miracle cure. But, many people have lost faith in the government either because of startling hypocrisy which suggests that “Sorry” seems to indeed be the hardest word or just incompetence with a purity that is almost admirable. People are more or less doing their own thing when it comes to lockdown – but, for most of us that means using our own common sense and that seems to be ok.

Am I wrong to think that values may be shifting – just a tad? Has this made us do that thing we used to do as kids when the Go-Kart was going too fast and we used to put our foot out and drag it along the ground to slow it down? Six months ago, it would be hard to imagine us where we are now. There is, I think, a good proportion of people who would like to move forward from this rather than back.

Comfort

This is our comfortable chair just as the sun is hitting it. HOH is in it more than I am because he is really quite a lot older than me and likes to rest his weary legs. Still, it’s a very nice place to be in the afternoon.

I could write a lot of challenging things about the way of the world but I’m not going to at this point. There are wiser people than me to go to and, I generally feel that if you have any interest in what is happening in the world there is plenty for you to see and read out there already. The only comment I have on news developments is around the parents of Madeline McCann. I just cannot imagine the thoughts going through their heads at the moment as it seems their worst fears are about to be realised. It is genuinely awful and I would ask you to add them to your thoughts and prayers if you feel you can.

With everything that is going on, I am pursuing the things on the telly that are like a warm bath – quiet, peaceful and relaxing. Although, I’m never one for hanging about in the bath, to be honest. I have tried all the candle and book folderol but by the time I have lit the stupid thing and got in with a book which I am trying to keep dry, I have lost interest. The new apartment has one of those spa baths and that has just made it all worse. We only seem to be able to put it on the highest setting which is pretty darn powerful I can tell you. The waves keep splashing on the floor and if Captain Ahab sailed past in search of Moby Dick – I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I’m a bit frightened to get in it in case it knocks me over and I drown.

Anyway, back to the things I am doing for comfort. As I said, I’m watching…

BBC

A House Through Time with Historian David Olusoga. This is just really interesting. He examines all the residents of a beautiful home in Bristol over the centuries. Despite what I said about comfort, it’s not the biggest laugh – there is slavery, abandoned babies, cruelty, poverty and mental illness so far but it is fascinating and he is a great storyteller. The house is lovely but for those of us who have moved from an old house into a new one, there is a bit of satisfaction about seeing something that looks a lot like damp above the door and being able to say, like the great Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally – “Tell me I’ll never be out there again.”

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The Repair Shop. Can you see them pitching this idea? “Well we have a big shed with lots of craftsmen in it and then people bring old broken things and then we watch them repair them and then people come back and collect them later. Usually, they shake the repairer’s hand and say things like “Thank you very much. It’s lovely.” Things like that. But it is brilliant. Partly, it’s the skill of the craftsmen, partly the joy of seeing something returned to its former glory and also the quiet gratitude of the people who have had their much-loved heirlooms restored. Also, I like the way the people help each other – “You do the soldering and I’ll do the veneers.”

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bbc

The Great British Sewing Bee. This follows on from the Repair Shop (big night Wednesday) Joe Lycett is really funny (and kinder than he would have you believe) and although to the untrained eye, it appears to be judged by a World War Two Fighter Pilot and your slightly edgy Aunty Margaret when she’s in one of those moods, Esme and Patrick are firm but fair.

This is the kind of thing I’m going for. I’ve even left my beloved Ambulance at the moment because I already feel I’ve watched it when I watch the news. I also recently found a list on the Internet of all the Marvel films and the order they should be watched in so that’s about to make my Disney subscription worth every penny. (HOH jaw has dropped in horror but he has his beloved Cardinal back. He can say nothing).

Being Grown Up

Hello. You join us this evening at Martha Towers where HOH has retired to the balcony with a small glass of red and a good book to soothe away the cares of the day. Good luck with that sunshine.

These are times for grown-ups and no mistake mes braves. The next few days and weeks will see decisions that we are all making because, well, to be frank, we can’t really trust our government to make them one way or t’other so we have to do it for ourselves (Like Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox which was a rubbish song actually but you can’t have everything).

So tomorrow (1st June) the schools will all re-open – a bit. This will be happening without the consent of the teachers, the teaching unions and the parents, as far as I can see. I don’t have any children of school age anymore but I have asked a few teachers of my acquaintance and they seem to be very unhappy indeed. I think that anyone who has tried to separate a five-year-old trying to wrestle a Dora The Explorer toy from another five-year-old can tell you that social distancing – when neither of the small people involved fancy it – is, at the very least a challenge. Having said that, I’ve also spoken to a couple of parents, who have no intention of sending their children to school so, it may not end up being an issue.

And, suddenly, all shielded people can leave the house? What happened? Is there a vaccination? What changed? I have the utmost sympathy for those who are shielded. I got the letter and the phone call (it was a mistake – their records were 20 years out of date – encouraging I know). I remember thinking on the phone, how dispiriting it must be to receive that call and wonder what happens next. Still, this seems to be a bit of a shock – especially to the scientific community. Aged Parent, hasn’t seen it yet and I confidently predict a small, but perfectly formed riot.

As you know, she has been unhappy about the idea of a lockdown since day one. She is convinced that everyone else is secretly meeting their relatives. (One lady is talking to her son through the glass door of the retirement home and the owners are not exactly ecstatic about it). We did phone and ask if it was ok but the manager said – we have done so well – not one case, and we don’t want it to go wrong at this stage. They asked if we could leave it a bit longer and we were happy to do that. Can you think of the person in this story who isn’t happy with that? I bet you can.

This afternoon, I phoned her and it seems that she had been heavily hinting that she thought she had the virus. The carers were, understandably, quite upset and asked her to phone me which, initially, she refused to do. After ten minutes on the phone ruling out the symptoms she was relaying (I said it wasn’t a good idea to give her access to the telly), it seems that it there is nothing wrong. Now I understand that Dementia and Depression are a pretty hard rock combination but she is not winning any popularity contests in there at the moment. I’m never sure if it is my job to be endlessly understanding or to give her a stern warning and tell her to perhaps cheer up a little and perhaps try and think of others. Like I said. Lots of adult decisions. Mind you, when she was feeling particularly ratty this afternoon, she said that if I needed any money to just help myself to her bank account. So – it’s not all bad news. (Joking – don’t call the police. They have enough on trying to work out who is and isn’t allowed out of the house)

On top of all this, racism is alive and well and we are rubbish at stopping it. It probably shouldn’t need stating that Black Lives Matter but – well Black Lives Matter. I saw a clip of a sermon where a white pastor was saying that whenever he says “Black Lives Matter”, well-meaning white Christians come up and say him – “Well, yes pastor and all lives matter” But as he says, Black Lives Matter. These are the sort of people who, when Jesus said “Blessed are the Meek.” would come and find him afterwards and say “Well blessed are, everybody, really Jesus surely.” But that isn’t the issue at hand. Not everybody leaves the house every morning wondering if they are going to get to come back because of the colour of their skin. Not everyone has to teach their children the words to say to calm a mob or a police officer down when they are stopped on the street. Until that is a distant memory, we should concentrate on the issue at hand. (All said from a white, privileged, heterosexual woman who really has no right to be making any kind of pronouncements at all).

We are off tomorrow for a socially distanced picnic with FOW2 – all carefully and responsibly done. Really looking forward to that. I leave you this evening with a photo of FOW1 and his lovely girl’s “We had our wedding cancelled kitten,” They do have two other cats – this is not on a whim. She’s lovely, she’s called Cleo and at the moment we are just making do with photos. Does anyone know if Matt Hancock has made any announcements about kittens? Only a matter of time I suppose. Have a good week.

Choosing

It is all a bit testing at the moment, isn’t it? A bit frustrating to watch politicians and the like just lie and laugh in your face. Normally, I would just cluck a bit and say “oh well, politics you know.” but it’s all in a very sharp focus now because these people are making life and death decisions and it’s a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

As well as this there’s the entirely avoidable death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after apparently resisting arrest. This defence by the police would have been entirely plausible were it not for the fact that footage of the incident shows he was not resisting at all – unless you count his neck providing resistance to the police officer’s knee. The other key fact about this death is that George Floyd was black. That, by the way, is the keyest of all the key facts in this case. As key as the most keyest key fact in a shop window full of key facts in a shop in Key Fact Street.

I was a bit depressed by all this because, as I pointed out to long-suffering HOH, the one good thing about this carry on was that we were going to alter things. Things were going to be different. We would all use this thinking time to think about how we were going to change things and call those in power to account. Well, maybe not quite yet sunshine but it may be that we are beginning to choose sides. Are we going to work for same old same old – where the “powers that be” get to go on as normal or are some people beginning to mass around a different way of doing or seeing things? Where kindness and volunteering and helping support the lost and the lonely defines us. Where the disabled and elderly don’t feel like they are in our way or slowing us down. Witness this brilliant tribute by Rory Kinnear to his sister Karina – a woman who was not disposable.

Maybe we are splitting down different fault lines and maybe more people are moving to the side where people are valued for different reasons that how much they put into the economy. In Joshua, it says “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Maybe we are all beginning to do that.

There’s been a huge thread on Twitter this week from Nadia Bolz Weber – a Lutheran pastor from Colorado. As you can see from the photo above, she’s not your usual looking Lutheran pastor and it’s not really your usual Christian life. She has a colourful grip on the English language and er..lives life to the full. She also has an astonishing story of being saved from the very depths of life which she has documented in some fantastic books. If you struggle with the aforementioned colourful language they may not be for you. I was so in awe of her, it didn’t bother me at all. I think she’s a bit gorgeous. However, she doesn’t really care what you or I think of her anyway.

Anyway, she asked which lines from a song or a hymn broke you up. She had a couple of lines from The Grateful Dead and one from the Disney Movie Moana (I liked that one ) but most were hymns. Examples included

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love

Perfect submission, all is at rest I in my Saviour am happy and blest Watching and waiting, looking above. Filled with his goodness, lost in His love”

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

HOH and I had a chat/argument about this. He came up with

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

I offered

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free. For oh my God it found out me!

(Mine’s better) But an honourable mention from both of us for

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

If you are struggling with stuff at the moment (puts hand up) have a go. The lyrics that tear you up. You’ll feel much better.

So what’s happening?

Nothing, That’s what. I have no news. And so begins half term. Who knew? It’s Bank Holiday tomorrow. Hurrah! I hope that you are all well. Judging by the number of people on the seafront here in Plymouth, there has been a complete Corona cure and we can all get on with it. Many of us are coming out blinking into the light – ever so slowly. I am slightly concerned that nothing much has changed but we are all making plans for a return to normality.

I did hear that when the initial plans to lockdown were announced (approximately three weeks after everyone else) that the government did not expect anywhere near the number of people to be furloughed that were and that whole thing of the British people actually understanding what was needed and going home and staying there, took them by surprise. I expect a lot of that goodwill has been eroded now because of the shall we say, slightly elitist behaviour of the people who are looking after us but there you are.

Our offspring are getting messages from their places of work – shops/restaurants – with tentative plans to re-open. Unfortunately, the university library has not been able to work out a way for students to collect and return books – it has been too much even for the finest minds in Exeter – so that is not available to students at the moment. However, it seems that full fees are payable. Hmm.

And while I am moaning – and yes I do see how much I am moaning. I have not been offered any kind of refund by BT Sport who are not showing anything remotely like Premier League football at the moment. I know there isn’t any Premier League Football to show but that is hardly my problem and a partial refund may be in order I would have thought.

Other than that, I have just been working from home and HOH has been working in the hospital. We are both quite pleased with ourselves because we had to send in his form to ask for retirement from the NHS in August. (He intends to go back part-time). I don’t know about you but lock-down has resulted in a bit of a brain freeze and we filled the form in (well had a bit of a stab at it is probably a better way of putting it) and slammed it off, waiting for the inevitable return of the form with a list of everything that was wrong. But, they didn’t return it. They said, it was fine and thank you. My theory is that standards may have lowered with the old Covid. I don’t think I have ever submitted a government form at the first attempt before.

We are still struggling a bit with the loss of our dog. It’s no good – we can’t have another one, we are out of the house too much at the moment. HOH is having it worse than me and is making friends with every dog we pass on our daily walk. This morning, a young couple were jogging past us with the cutest Jack Russell bitch. We both stared longingly after her and it was only a couple of seconds after HOH has said “She’s pretty isn’t she?” to me, that we realised they may have thought he was talking about the lady. Did they speed up jogging away from us? Probably our imagination.

We went to church/our settee – this morning and the speaker was talking on patience. He was very good but I hope he wouldn’t mind that one of the main things I took from it was a quote from Nicky Gumble. He said that God never forgets any of your prayers, never loses them so keep stacking them up. He is always listening. HOH then reminded me about a boat trip we took to the seafront many years ago – before we moved to Plymouth and we said how lovely it would be to live here. And, many years later, here we are. I have to admit, it’s a good job that God remembered this because I have no recollection of the trip or the conversation. I’m not even sure it was me that he was with. HOH is apparently offended by this. Men are softer than they look sometimes.

Have a good week.