25 April 2020

What is this world

by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I've been cooped up indoors for the last two weeks, doing my bit to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, staying at home and protecting myself into the bargain too. I have too much information direct from the front line to know that I don't particularly want to catch this virus any day soon (if at all) and would prefer to wait until my local Intensive Care has the capacity to take me, which, because of my age, it won't at present. Too many people are being cavalier about how they take their exercise and see it as a right to go as often and as far as they damn please. They won't be so smug, when they get to their local hospital and find no room at the inn. The government's advice on exercise is their compromise to stop us all going crazy indoors, but not meant to be an excuse for a day's outing or holiday or whoop-up. We are supposed to be staying at home, where at all possible, and only going out when it is essential.  Short bursts of exercise, short distances. When will people finally get the message? When it's too late?

I have limited my exercise to doing it at home -pilates and yoga both online and from books. I have limited my fresh air to sitting outside my back door and soaking up the sunshine. But yesterday, after two weeks at home, I felt it was high time to stretch my legs just a little bit further from home. Nothing drastic, just a 40 minute walk round the block from my house, taking in the local park. Unfortunately, a lot of people failed to observe the two-metre distancing. One narrowly missed me as he thundered past on his bike. I don't think I'll repeat that in a hurry.

As I walked, the poem above came into my mind and I took advantage of my rare outing to notice those things I normally have little time to notice. Nature is really excelling itself at the moment and the colours are amazing. What is this world, indeed, if we have no time to stand and stare..... Maybe when we get back to normal, we'll take more time to stand and stare and not hurry back to the things that distract us. If Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is to value the simple things in life.

London City skyline from my local park

Local park woodland

Bluebell woods in the park

A witch's stake or the beginnings of a teepee?

A mighty oak

08 April 2020

She is all I have

We are into our third week (or is it more? - it seems forever) of Coronavirus reality in the UK. Each day's television press conference and news seems to get worse and I can feel my anxiety levels rising. We know what it has been like in places like China, Italy and Spain. We know we are only a couple of weeks behind the last two in terms of the pandemic's progress, so we know what is still to come. The statistics roll off the experts' tongues as they stand at their podiums each day. It is difficult to keep those numbers in our heads, yet they seem dire enough whatever they are.

I have been a good girl and stayed inside as best I can.  With modern technology, isolation is not the ghastly thing it once might have been. People I have not spoken to in years are already phoning me, video-calling me and writing to me. I am taking part in online pilates classes, Gareth Malone's online Great British Choir and many more. I have been gardening, tidying cupboards, sorting through the jobs I keep putting off. I am already into my second week alone and it has been no big deal. Worse things happen in a proper war.

Although I am not yet 70, I am only a few months off that milestone and I am pretty sure the virus is not going to be able to tell whether I am 69 or 70 when it strikes. However, I do have an underlying health condition which might make me more vulnerable. I have sarcoidosis - a granulation of the lung tissue - in itself no great problem and I have only minor irritating symptoms for which I do not take any medication, so I must not grumble, but I have no idea how it would react if I caught the nasty coronavirus.  For that reason, I am being cautious and  Kay has given me strict instructions to stay at home at all costs. "You are all I have," she says tearfully, which is true, and she is all I have. For that reason, she moved out 10 days ago into hospital accommodation to protect me, as I explained in my last post, so she is coping with this on her own and so am I. 

She is all I have.  My anxiety is not helped by the fact that at the end of last week she was asked to transfer from her current ward to work in Intensive Care for the foreseeable future. That means she will be even more on the frontline than she ever was before. This wretched virus does not discriminate between old and young any more,  or between healthy and unhealthy. It seems it can strike anyone dead. Its transmission rates are incredible. I wonder if she is more at risk because she is exposed to it more? I wonder? Who really knows? I worry. 

She is all I have. She offered to do my shopping for me to stop me going out and did a massive big shop before she left 10 days ago. I am slowly getting through it, but will need more fresh stuff by the end of this week. She offered to do some more shopping and bring it home for me, dump it on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and drive off. However, I did not want to put her under any more pressure after an exhausting week of very long hours at work, as she is an hour's drive from here, so I tried to get an online delivery from my usual supermarket. I could not get a delivery slot for love nor money at any time over the next three weeks that they publish. On their website they urge you to ring a number if you consider you are in a vulnerable group and have not been contacted, so I tried - a good twenty times over several days - but lines were overloaded and a recorded voice told me to try later. Then the message was changed to one of asking you to register on gov.uk. They would check your eligibility with your GP and get back to you. I was sceptical, but was overjoyed several days ago to get the all-clear and plenty of choice of delivery slots - I now have one organised for Thursday. I feel relieved that I don't have to haul Kay back here to deliver it.

She is all I have.  People are being advised to stay home if at all possible. Except for essential shopping. Except to collect medicines. Except for some minimal exercise a walkable distance from home. Except for work, if they are key workers or cannot work from home. The result is that there have been many people who have abused this. On a local facebook group, there have been idiots who clearly have no intention of heeding the advice and are galavanting about the country visiting the beach, picnicking in parks and clearly not giving a f***.  Idiots, who think they are above the rest of us, maintain they are not doing any harm and can do what the hell they like. One man argued on social media with others in the community,  that he had the right to go out and buy a paintbrush if he considered it essential. He has bragged that he was off to Hastings for the day today and would buy a magnum of champagne if he so wished, as that too could be considered essential. Part of me wondered if he was just trying to rile the rest of the group, but another part of me has seen previous posts from this idiot and I think he was serious. He argues that he is avoiding contact with anyone, but doesn't seem to realise he may already be a carrier and everything he touches, might be touched by someone else following him.  It almost seems like there is a  (thankfully very small) part of the community who thinks this whole thing is a joke and a major irritation in their daily lives. If they could see the deaths my daughter is witnessing on a daily basis, they might think again.   Is it so much to expect people to stay inside for a few months and limit outings to the "essential" if it means they are not the indirect cause of someone else's death? People have given up far worse in wartime, having loved ones on the front, children evacuated, food shortages and living in air-raid shelters to name a few.  Am I to sacrifice the health and maybe even the life of my daughter, so these idiots can do what they damn like?

She is all I have. So please stay at home. We need to isolate ourselves, so that we can isolate the virus and halt its progress. The virus is otherwise having a whale of a time jumping from human to unsuspecting human to repopulate in the next person. If we all get it at once, there is no hope in hell we shall have enough medical capacity to cope with it and more people will die. What if one of those destined to die for lack of vital equipment was your loved one? What if you took an unnecessary car journey, had an accident and the ICU beds were too full to take you? My 28-year-old daughter is having to make decisions who lives and who dies. No human should have to make that decision yet alone one so young and tender. I hear the tension and exhaustion in her voice when I speak to her. If people refuse to observe the advice and courtesies for other human life, what kind of people are they? 

She is all I have. So please stay at home unless you need essentials or some minimal exercise close to home, adhering at all times to the two-metre distance from human contact.  End of.