Here we go again

So, in the words of Mama Mia 2 – “We’re going again” (or something like that. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t Mama Mia’s biggest fan. I know I stand alone in that but I’m managing to live with it).

COVID 19 – which never really left – has rudely forced its way back into the party and we are all subject to reduced freedoms, etc. again. I don’t know if you feel the same but I am finding the fact that we are back here again more depressing than anything I felt during the initial lockdown. I think it is probably because we are wiser this time. In March, everyone was borderline excited by the novelty – who knew what was happening next? Now, very few people are in the market for baking sourdough, Joe Wicks, or clapping on the street on a Thursday night.

The realities of returning to school, starting university, and keeping the shops open are proving to be very messy and full of trip-ups. Although no one doubts that these things are vital. Boris Johnson says we should be ready to be doing all this for at least the next six months. (BTW. Did anyone else know that Boris is his middle name? His first name is Alexander so, he chose the name Boris which I think probably tells us almost everything we need to know).

So, coping strategies. What are you doing to stop you from running amok? Firstly, because I am blessed not to be shielding I am getting out and doing whatever I can that involved other members of my species. That means shopping, eating out, and talking to the man walking his miniature dachshund puppy until you think he may be tempted to take out some sort of restraining order. (Dashy was the cutest thing I had ever seen)
HOH and I are not big eaters out but we are trying to put a bit of money into local eating places you know. We also added to the gaiety of the nation by ordering via Deliveroo for the first time. It was quite thrilling to use our pin-sharp minds to order on the App and then have a pizza as big as our head delivered to the house within 20 minutes. This is the sort of technological wizardry that the young people are using all the time. No wonder they are all so impatient. And annoying.

Secondly, I’m trying to build a bit of quality in. Lord knows there is definitely a time and a place for lying face down on the settee drinking wine through a straw and listening to Barry Manilow. That’s certainly a top-notch Saturday night in anyone’s book. But even I, with all my years of practice, can’t do it every night. So I’m reading. I read quite a lot anyway but the rules are paper books rather than screens. Speaking of screens, I recently downloaded an app that counted up my screen time each day. I will not share the results with you as I am too ashamed but I am making some alterations there which is freeing up six or seven hours a day.

We have gone back to the cinema as you know. There is a lot of fun to be had, trying to eat Maltesers through a mask but the problem is that very few films are being released at the moment and there is a limit to the number of times you can watch Tenet. (Been twice – still don’t understand it. Can’t say it affected my enjoyment). So, rather than spending screen time watching re-runs of Cash in the Attic and Escape to Australia (never seen either of them so can’t really judge but you get my drift.) We are having film nights. We can overdo it. Last Saturday was While You Were Sleeping followed immediately by Big. I’m sorry to disappoint those who were expecting All Quiet on the Western Front or Battleship Potemkin, but I feel we are all depressed enough.

I’m also dipping my toe back into a quiet time. The idea of a quiet time has had a bad press with lots of jokes about Christian pencils and notebooks with a fish on them. People have also spoken about how legalistic it can be. All that kind of thing may be true but sitting down regularly with the expansive, challenging comforting word is perhaps the most important thing I can do.

Aged Parent, meanwhile is holding up better than expected so far. Partly, this has been achieved by keeping her away from the news as much as possible. This is a lot easier in the winter because if it is at all windy, she likes to keep the telly off in case the wind blows the plugs out of the sockets. She is far happier going down to bingo if possible. Keeping busy is helping her a lot. That, and refusing to take on board anything that she doesn’t have the mental space for.

Me Has Jenny (friend from previous flats) been in touch?

AP Well she has but I didn’t stay on long

Me Why’s that?

AP Well, it’s just all about that chap she has in. She can’t carry on like that at her age. Women that age you know. No wonder she keeps needing the doctor.

I am leaving it there dear reader. We are all too young.

Feet of Clay

Hello all. I hope you are well. HOH and I were discussing how we both felt that our mental health had got worse over the course of the pandemic. Rather than becoming more resilient, we felt more aware of what we have been losing as time has progressed. Last week we came out of the cinema on a Friday night to find a deserted foyer at a time when it would usually be buzzing with people and then out onto the car park with lots of fast food outlets – again nothing happening. It was so sad. People’s jobs disappearing out of the window quicker than we can count and there doesn’t seem to be a plan. Although, what can be done, I wouldn’t like to say. It is difficult and no mistake.

This week saw the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of America. Responsible, among other things, for the right to sign a mortgage for women, the right to have a bank account without a male co-signer, the right to have a job without being discriminated against on the basis of gender. Some achievements there. Yet today, people on Social Media are saying “Not so fast”. She was also responsible for upholding, white, rich people’s privilege and basically not doing enough. Because she was in a position of power, she should have done more and she therefore doesn’t get a pass.

Well of course she didn’t do enough! None of us do enough. Can you honestly take a hard look at your life and say that you have done enough? And I am sure that many of you are fine upstanding members of the community and that many of you – especially because I imagine you work/volunteer in churches and have had the principle of service ironed into the very fabric of your Sunday hats.

Human beings have feet of clay, no matter how heroic. It doesn’t do anyone any good to look into what Martin Luther King got up to on his Friday nights off. Winston Churchill’s understanding of the word “equality” was foggy at the very least. And yet Aged Parent’s Parents described him as a hero who fought like a tiger to defeat the Nazis (Although they wouldn’t actually vote for him.) Biblical giants – all of em have interesting backstories. David – adulterer, murderer, terrible dancer. Samson – weak spot for unsuitable women, blabber. Moses – murderer, coward, confrontation avoider. Jonah – moaner, sulker, liked to tell God how to run his business. And yet… each of these people achieved and their lives were full of service.

I think we see people – especially young people and they look to see people to emulate and instead of seeing people with faults and failures who nevertheless persisted, they see people whose reputations are worthless – sometimes because a lot of people on Social Media – many of whom have strong opinions but very little experience of actually doing anything about anything – have decided that these people just don’t make the grade.

Who would want to go into public service, knowing what may be lying in wait for them if they mess up? We may complain about the quality of our leadership – calling them lightweights (ok, that would be me doing that) but why would anyone put themselves out there? If people look at themselves with any kind of honesty we will know that we are not perfect but it is important to know that we don’t have to be.

There’s a story in the Bible of a woman “taken in adultery” (apparently the man had other places to be) Jesus does not diminish her actions but asks the men (and it would have been men) to look at themselves and only begin to stone her if they could honestly say that they were faultless. One by one, the men disappear. I wonder if it happened today if those who were trying to build a decent Social Media following might have stayed around and lobbed a few rocks anyway.

The Bible is packed to the drawstrings with verses acknowledging people’s frailties and failures.

Romans 3 – Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us

God does not shy away from it yet we are both obliged to have a go at doing good and assured of God’s support and empathy. We all hold this treasure in clay jars. In other words, we are all clay jars – a bit knobbly, vulnerable to cracking under a bit of pressure, and not always sparkling like Ethel Merman in a fifties musical. Taking into account that everyone is like that, I’d just like to see a bit more acknowledgment of the achievements – taking into account the problematic as part of a whole sinful man. More cheering and saying “jolly good try” and “thank you – it was appreciated” and less weighing people in the balance.

Comfort…

No, not as in “and Joy.” We are certainly not saying the “C” word yet, even though Marks and Spencer have Percy Pig Advent Calendars in already. I wouldn’t get too worked up about Christmas anyway. It may get canceled yet.

I just wondered what people were doing for comfort in these interesting times. The answer may well be “sleep” or the telly (this evening, we are trying to decide between Casablanca and a documentary about Dennis Neilson, the serial killer). Or maybe a good book. I am splitting my time between a Tony Curtis autobiography (I like my movie stars to be the kind of people who spill the beans with no thought for privacy or propriety) and a book about how our phones are actually changing the way our brains work. I will report back but it is very sobering reading.

I am working towards getting one of these Lindor Pick and Mix stands installed in our entrance hall. I am sure this will provide the kind of comfort level I am aiming for at the moment.

This week has seen the 400 anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth. The story of the Pilgrims’ voyage is complicated involving as it does, a race of indigenous people who were already in the “New World” and, despite them hunting through all the places where they usually keep the papers that need filing, they couldn’t find any evidence that they had invited these people over to take over their country. It is a big picture but Plymouth, to its credit, is trying to make sure that this is not just some jingo stuffed nonsense.

I can say this because I have met some of the people involved. As part of our charity’s work, we had quite a few meetings with the team who began to plan celebrations years ago. I remember thinking how fantastic it was going to be. There were history trails around Plymouth, works of art, performances, and events. Then COVID happened. Suddenly, there would be no crowds of Americans coming over, no theatre performances, no dancing on Plymouth Hoe. In the end, there was a low key event with the American and Dutch ambassadors launching an autonomous boat called the Mayflower 2. It is an excellent boat that will collect marine samples and actually be useful, which is good. There will be more things to follow, including the opening of a new museum – The Box – which I have visited and will be excellent. But, in the list of things that COVID has kicked the legs out from under, something like this, despite no lives being lost, is still such a shame. However, although I’m not from around here, I was very proud of Plymouth. It looked beautiful and it is trying to tell a complicated story around rights and responsibilities whether it’s the undoubtedly brave souls who set off to pursue religious freedom, the Wampanoag people who suffered so much as a result of the colonists’ actions or the things we can learn about the future of our planet and how we care for it.

It may not have gone as Plymouth expected things to go but there is more to come on this story so watch this City. I don’t think it is finished with this yet.

Night Terrors

So tonight is the night before our esteemed government is bringing in the Rule of 6. This means that only 6 people can meet together (I think) rather than the however many hundreds can do it now. I think Boris’s advisors/svengali/whatever think that it is a snappy phrase – Rule of 6 – that everyone will remember. Unfortunately, Aged Parent thinks she has seen the phrase in Revelation and seems to be taking it as a sign of the Great Tribulation to come. This may or may not be true – I make no comment about the physical manifestation of something that I was always taught was a mainly allegorical lesson. All I will say is that, when you have spent a morning trying to arrange Aged Parent’s wardrobe while she discusses her problems with the lady in the flat next door, you might be tempted to think that you were living through the Tribulation already.

AP It’s awful. She has blood in her bowels

Me Don’t you mean stools?

AP (snappish) She wasn’t on a stool – she was on the toilet! Don’t throw that out! It’s Bonne Marche!

Anyway, I think the Plymouth Constabulary are expecting gangs of marauding teenagers running about in groups of 30, partaking of strong drink and pushing over old women tonight. We shall see.

I, much like yourselves probably, have watched the COVID infection numbers creeping up again and also seen the news evaluation that said it is mainly to do with young people this time who are just soooo desperate to get out that they just can’t take it anymore and must run to a nightclub and secretly dance the night away while passing on invisible infections.

The thing is, I am old but I am quite desperate to get out myself. I miss seeing family and friends. I miss a crowded restaurant (not so much pubs, I’ll be honest) and a buzzing city street. And obviously, church. However, I drag my sorry soul home most evenings, and apart from the occasional cinema/restaurant visit, I tend to stay in, because I am trying not to bring the flamin’ thing back like a roaring lion and throw the few people who still have jobs out of them because we have to shut everything again. And I don’t see why young people get a free pass here – because they are young – bless ’em. People say “Well they are being punished for a disease they don’t even suffer from really” That’s hardly my fault, is it? Just go home, kids. I think young people are mad at governments with good reason and the time for activism will come. But, sit this out kids, like the rest of us. It will be over soon and you can come out into the light – refreshed and full of righteous anger rather than lager.

I love the young people, really I do. They seem lovely, in the main. But, unlike George Benson, I’m not sure that I believe the children are our future. I mean, obviously, they are not my future because I am older than them and will be dead in the future – hopefully before them. I just mean it’s not all about them. It’s a lot of pressure to make them responsible for the future now. I’m all for Greta Thunberg’s message. I’m just not sure this should be her gig quite yet. She looks quite tired sometimes. Older people who are equally despairing at the moment, still have a responsibility to DO stuff. Also – while we are on the subject – the same song “Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all.” In the words of the great Terry Wogan – “It isn’t.”

However. Reasons to be cheeful –

BBC

One – a new Simon Schama documentary on The Romantics. I love Simon Schama. He manages to explain things to me in a way that doesn’t make me feel that I am a knowledge wasteland when it comes to say…William Blake, even though both of us know that I have started watching this without the faintest idea where it will be going. Just brilliant. BBC 2 Fridays, I think.

Two – FOW2 came to stay and brought me the Tony Curtis Biography from her extensive film book library. She says I will love it and he was the walking talking embodiment of the word incorrigible. Hurrah! Does anyone remember him in The Persuaders? I loved him in Persuaders – with Roger Moore. I was always Team Danny rather than Team Brett myself which is a bit disloyal to the Motherland but there you are.

Three – Orange Twirl. See it with your own eyes people! Very nice. Not quite a Chocolate Orange but these are straitened times are they not.

Anyway, have to go now. Back to work tomorrow and I have to clean my pencil case out.

She Fell Over

Just a quick call in. I am, as you know, on leave and had lots of things to catch up on. Like most people, I haven’t had any time off since March and this was my catch up week. Ha! Marching into the City to return trousers to Marks and Spencer’s. (I mean, when it says short – I didn’t think for a minute it meant “Just William” short) I managed to catch my foot on some cobbles and went flying – face first.

A nice young man came running to my aid and sat on the floor with me. That was a bit awkward because I felt well enough to get up straight away and felt it would be a bit rude. When I staggered to my feet, he was very solicitous and said he would watch me walk up the road (more pressure). Anyway, today I find that I have a fat lip, I can’t lift my hands above my head and my ribs are killing but I’m more annoyed at my carelessness than anything else. I have therefore had to cross off sorting out winter clothes from under my bed – that may be a good thing though because we are predicted 22 degrees here next week and, much as I like a polo neck it may be inappropriate at the moment

It’s not all bad news though. I fitted this blog in, made some adult-type lists – things to do etc. and finished this book. I have been waiting for this for ages. I really like Richard Osman – he seems funny and self-deprecating (considering he owns EVERY decent game show in the universe) and I also love what is called “Gentle Murder Mysteries.” Actually, this isn’t all that gentle – the bodies do rack up but it is excellent. It is set in an upmarket retirement complex, with apartments, etc and a place for people with very active social lives. One of the clubs is “The Thursday Murder Club” where some of the residents look into cold cases. Then, there is a murder. A new one. What sets the book apart is his perfectly attuned ear for the way older people live and the things they say. Osman has described himself as determinedly “Middle Brow” and it leads to the most brilliant descriptions of older people’s lives. I know how this sounds, but it made me sad and it made me snigger and slightly concerned that I sometimes talk like that as well. Also, I didn’t get whodunnit either and I am usually in the ballpark so that’s another good sign.

At the moment, it is only in hardback. I rarely buy a hardback and then I try to do it from a local bookshop so you may be able to order it from a library. It’s clever and yet it is cosy and as I keep yelling – that is absolutely possible.

Our daughter is coming to see us for a couple of days. Unfortunately, because of the rules, she will have to leave 29 of her closest friends behind but we are looking forward to seeing her just the same. Also, FOW1 (our son) passed his driving test on Monday. Just as well, apparently the re-test list is 38, 000 people long now.

We’re all doing very well in the queuing department here in the UK, aren’t we?