Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Here in Melbourne we're entering the 3rd week of a 6 week lockdown. As of last Wednesday midnight, if you are over the age of 12 you must wear a mask when outside your house or face a $200 fine. Masses of testing and tracing is going on. There was a record high of 484 new cases on Wednesday dropping to 300 new cases on Friday. 357 cases today on Saturday. Victorians aren't allowed to cross the border into other states (with some exceptions) and managing this has been very complex and raised a lot of tension and anger. For example, some border communities rely on health services and health workers in both Victoria and NSW. As with the decision to very quickly lock down the 9 high rise blocks of flats earlier, the implementation has been bruising. 

But as the numbers have gone up, I think we're experiencing a renewed sense of danger just being out in the world. People who were previously going to the shops for food have gone back to ordering online. I'm also hearing that friends' kids (in high school & still studying from home) are struggling to get work done, to get out of bed, and to stay in touch with friends. The parents are very worried. My anxieties too are focussed on my kids (thoroughly grown up) who both work in hospitals in countries with zero leadership. I know a lot of the ferocious anger I feel about the politics in those countries is coming out of fear for what could happen to my kids.


Amidst the trials of this lockdown a birthday card from my Member in Parliament turned up in my letterbox. I was really moved to get a personal acknowledgement of my status as an Australian citizen. I am incredibly grateful for the timing: got the decision in November, retired in late November, travelled overseas in December to spend time with both kids, skedaddled back to Melbourne in early March for the citizenship ceremony quickly followed by the lockdown. It's good knowing I can vote.


Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex

I am content. And on cue, butterflies, for the past two weeks, have been weaving around my garden.
Nothing special: notably, a red admiral perched long enough to gather its strength and for me to admire it before it took off again. Such a busy life, being a butterfly. I haven’t tried to identify the others, just enjoying their appearances. This morning I heard a fly buzzing around: not so long ago, that would have been a cause of irritation but on this occasion, like the butterflies, it seemed emblematic of peaceful summers gone by. Nowadays there are still a few still planes far overhead, insects buzzing, woodpigeons cooing (though not, as in extreme youth, the drifting scent of an illicit Woodbine), giving a vanishing impression of bucolic bliss, but horror lurks round every corner… we seem to be living in two worlds at once, innocence and cataclysm. The local infection and death trend continues upwards again.


This week has been a replay of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with all three upstairs rooms being moved round one place, now that I can have the big bedroom. Each must in turn be emptied, the carpet cleaned and dried and new contents installed. Meanwhile, downstairs I have been cleaning, sanding and painting my latest purchase: a welsh dresser, which I have wanted for as long as I can remember. The fumes from the toxic materials involved in both projects have rendered me slightly doolally, making me thrash about at night until I get up and throw open still more windows.


These jobs have of necessity entailed trips to Wickes et al, but I think I have cracked it: get up early and get there shortly after opening, 8.30 or so, when there are few customers. All the same, supply chains are still iffy and shelves are frustratingly bare. I debated hard over the merits and not - to myself v. the environment - of walking to nearer shops (in the feared Arndale) or driving to the farther ones. In the end I chose driving (my own transport bubble, lots of fresh air at the other end), but with a heavy environmental heart. 


My malaise, along with the antibiotics, has finally gone, and I have recovered my energy even if temporarily a bit poleaxed by the chemicals. I am also now free to pace myself however I please, which is enjoyable as well as energy-saving. If I weren’t so occupied with this house-stuff I would be out walking and running again. I realised after writing two weeks ago of being unwell and yet having my house-fixers in that this might have looked foolish and selfish, playing fast and loose with their safety. However, I was honest with them beforehand, explaining the situation and that I would hide upstairs, giving them the choice to come or not: they were still keen. The fact is that the job began when the son of J1’s colleague was scratching around, post-shutdown, for work; I felt sorry for him, and it took off from there.


The police questionnaire turned out to be quite a stiff letter, asking for information about some Rather Awful People in my street, who regard every day and night  as party time. They don’t bother me too much (I have ear defenders for sitting in the garden) but it must be dreadful for their closer neighbours. I suppose the Awful People are furloughed, or otherwise unemployed, and that they will eventually go back to work. Or winter will come and force them indoors, which will halve the nuisance. Meanwhile, there is little the police may actually do.


A while back J2 asserted with the confidence of the young that Covid-19 could not survive in the freezer (his excuse for not sanitising their shopping), as ‘nothing survives that cold’. I had grave doubts about that, and finally looked it up and found that, on the contrary, the virus can live on for another two years in sub-zero temperatures. However, it remains the (current and slightly varying according to the source) assertion that cooking food, for an hour at 60C for clothes and dishes, does kill: otherwise, it’s still down to disinfectant and soap. I have been peeling off shopping-trip clothes and putting them straight in the (less than 60C) wash and myself under the shower, thinking the detergent and soap would do the trick; maybe I have been wasting my time.


I heard a beautiful programme on Radio 4 yesterday called ‘The Susurration of Trees’. It reminded me of the importance of trees to my displaced mother; only latterly did I realise quite how wooded is the country in which she grew up, and how much trees and left-alone nature run in the blood of all its citizens. After she boarded the steamer for England in 1938, her father, scenting war, moved the remaining family out of the city. He wrote to her of his delight at the new area. ‘Outside, pine trees grow below our windows, and squirrels hop about on them. In the evening, lights can be seen through their branches, and when the moon comes up it looks so enchanting. It is a pity that there is still no snow, only mud. One night there was a snowstorm and then the earth was white and clean, and the pines were covered with snow too. Mother got up a couple of times in the night and was amazed at the view.’ The squirrels were, and are, red. Trees provided virtual roots for my mother in a life of exile which was constantly shifting and uncertain. She loved to walk for hours on end through woods, when possible. When I went to Sweden many years ago I was astonished, with a sense of unplaced recognition, at the proliferation of silver birches. They answered a call from the depths of my heritage. I have planted trees in many homes I have had, not least silver birches. I have an artist cousin, also displaced, albeit voluntarily, whose entire oeuvre has been based around her native birch trees.

A ceramic by my cousin

View of treetops from the new flat


Clean, sort, tidy

Lily, Camberwell, London

One reason I like Camberwell and decided to live here is because it is surprisingly green. The streets are lined with trees and there are several parks in walking distance or a short bus or car drive away. And our default destination at the weekends and in the holidays is a park. 


Today is the first day of the school holidays. This morning after an hour of school at the kitchen table (I know it’s mean but I want to make sure that next year is not too hard, and they were fairly willing, it was only an hour) we went to our park at the end of the road; our garden. We spent most afternoons there during lockdown. And now after lunch and a brief trip to Dulwich for high street supplies (all wearing masks for inside the shops) we are in another park (made semi famous last summer when the police were called when Boris had a fight with his girlfriend in her flat that overlooks the park). 


On our walk here, through the paths around the perimeter of the park to the playground I couldn’t help appreciate the goodness of it. The sun was shining in that way that’s makes your skin feel happy. The park is busy with a typical cross section of London with a happy buzz of sounds, friends and families enjoying each other’s company. 


When the playgrounds were closed we played football and frisby but now they are open again and it’s a return to the children framing their play around the various climbing, swinging, spinning apparatus. I’m not required so much. Although I am a check point for injuries, complaints and push me and help me and look at me. 


So I can return to sitting, in the sun, at a vantage point to watch, eaves drop on what concerns people at the moment in their lives, take in the different parenting styles and ways of communicating with children. I can write this on my phone. Helping to make the moment more worthwhile. Time well spent. And enjoyed.


Behind me is a basket-ball court so I can hear the splat of feet on the floor, the bounce of the ball, occasional yells and shouts that give away the progress of the game, underscored by music I don’t know and which therefore shows I am middle aged. But not so much that I am irritated by it. 


In front of me are the toddlers and babies on the small swings, their mother push with a single single arm to a rhythm which means they do not need to look but can turn and talk to their mother peers. 


As is often the case friends from my sons’ school are here so they quickly form a flock or herd moving from one playground topography to the next. Their play taking on a different overall personality depending on the dominant children and mood of the day. 


My eldest son’s school friends have just left but it makes me happy to see he’s joined in with 3 other random children. Pushing each other as high as possible on the round swing. Jumping up high to get extra weight and momentum. Toes point down and are briefly held, paused, at the apex of the jump.


The youngest came over to tell me a little girl said he was stupid. Having reassured him that everyone knows that’s not true he returned to her and they seem to be friends...


A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.


While the U.S. hit 4 million COVID-19 infections and closed in on 150,000 deaths, our Dear Leader put new focus on Crazy. Or rather, cognitive decline. His own (lack of) in particular. Across a series of interviews and public comments He returned time and again this week to His own ¡Amazing! performance in acing the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. A feat the doctors told Him they had rarely seen. The MCA, in case you are unfamiliar, is designed to test for early signs of mental decline associated with aging and ailments such as Alzheimers. Dear Leader, seeking to staunch rumors of His own impending decline (and simultaneously highlighting the supposed deficit of He Who Shall Not Be Named), told us that two years ago asked His favorite doctor, Ronny Jackson, to put Him to the test. "Give it to me straight, Doc, don't pull any punches." (You may recall that in gratitude Dear Leader later nominated Doc Ronny to become Secretary of Veteran Affairs, only to withdraw the nomination when it was revealed that Doc had been a tad too liberal in handing out mother's little helpers to White House staff. But, Gentle Reader, weep not for Doc Ronny. He'll be fine - he's now a Republican candidate for Congress in Texas). Reporting on this two year-old test, Dear Leader proved His ¡Amazing! mental acuity by uttering the above immortal phrase.   Proof that two years later He could remember five words in a row. Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV. Five little words that capture the essence of our Dear Leader's time in office. Words destined to be carved in marble (or in granite on Mount Rushmore) and memorized by future generations of school children. Leaving an astonished nation gasping at His Genius (stable, of course), Dear Leader also reported that He had correctly identified drawings of, among other critters, a camel and an elephant. The latter was met with particular joy by His Faithful, since it is the symbol of Their political party and a message from Dear Leader that He had not forgotten Them.


Crazy Town this week was also treated to a performance of next-level gaslighting by none other than Leading White House Intellectual, Kellyanne Conway, who accused state governors of failing Dear Leader by listening to Him and rushing too soon to re-open their state economies (read: bars) after the pandemic lockdown. In a public performance of Crazy equaled by few, surpassed by none, Intellectual Kellyanne noted that His team had issued clear guidelines, which had then been ignored by those treacherous Republican governors when pressured to do so by Dear Leader Himself. Confused? Clearly you're not sufficiently in tune with Crazy. But spare a little pity for those struggling Republican governors and their constituents too as they look to Dear Leader for help.


Dear Leader is, of course, the Dear Leader of the entire land, Faithful and Faithless alike. Never one to ignore His duty between extended bouts of watching TV (see: test results, above), He turned His attention to the West Coast, Home of the Faithless. In particular, Portland, Oregon. Borrowing a page from Dear Leader's own Dear Leader's playbook (after translation from Russian, natch, as reportedly previously but worth stressing, Dear Leader don't speak no fricky-dicky foreign languages), He deployed little green men to restore order, protect Federal property and reclaim the streets from The Howling Mobs. The nation was transfixed by the scenes of brave, albeit nameless and otherwise unidentified, green men firing waves of tear gas and "less than lethal" munitions at the Antifas, BLMers, and other threats to good order, when necessary snatching them from the streets in unmarked vans in the name of defending the Rule of Law. It was a heartwarming reminder that, in fact, the Rule of Law rests entirely in His hands. But. But. But. Then the Moms and Dads of Portland took to the streets. Those Misguided Mothers, all wearing yellow, interposed themselves in a human chain between the Forces of Order and the Howling Mob, trying to protect the latter from the Righteous work of the former. Not to be outdone, orange clad Dads, wielding serried ranks of leaf blowers, joined the fray, blowing their tear gas back at the little green men. Of course, it was all a bit Crazy and risked mocking Dear Leader's message that He, and only He, stood between us and chaos (or was it falling leaves?). But Dear Leader's Dear Leader sat back and smiled. Clearly, the Color Revolutions - green, yellow and orange - had finally come back to haunt America and His work was nearly done. When it is, Pal Vlad is planning to have one crazy good time, partying down in Moskva.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

Yet another week passed in plaguetime and still majoring on music and other diversions whilst the Holy City descends into ashes.


The past seven days have been really lovely here on the Island. Mostly the weather has been kind, and company and opportunities have been particularly fulfilling - for me at least. The beach hut (aka 'hutch') has played a major part with both myself and best beloved. We have enjoyed happy hours there several times. Indeed, on Wednesday evening we gorged ourselves on delightful Thai takeaway food while at the same time listening to the monosyllabic rantings of a group of rather drunken fellows who had decided to honour us with their close presence. The drunkards' words were sometime intriguing. One of them was on the phone continuously and between frequent 'F' expletives managed to speak of strange things to some unfortunate on the other end. Sheep seemed to figure in the conversation, also cheese and perhaps not surprisingly beer. That has led me to speculate on why the fixation with words that include 'ee'. Why indeed - using one myself!

The Zoom 'open mike' evening has moved to Monday - have I mentioned it before? Many years ago I was a 1960s folkie and used to sing and play the guitar. Up until this week I hadn't touched the guitar for I don't know how long, but it's been many years. Whilst thinking what I could offer at the evening I picked up my ancient instrument to see if I could still play - and surprisingly found that I could. The result was that I sung and played twice in public after only a few minutes practice. My efforts seemed to go down quite well too, which was gratifying.


On the nature front, no sign of the squirrels, but that is common at this time of year. I'm sure they'll become more obvious during the autumn. My 'meadow', the former lawn, has really brought insect life back to the garden. There are butterflies, moths, bees and most noticeably grasshoppers, the latter unseen during mowing days. Where did the latter come from I wonder, but they are very welcome. Down at the beach I've noticed a few Mediterranean Gulls amongst the regular Black Headed variety we get round here. They have appeared in the local nesting grounds over the past few years, but they seem more prominent now than a while back. They seem happy flocking together and seemingly interbreed, which must be fun for the gulls at least!


I've now run out of ramblings till the next diary entry, so I wish all who read this a happy week...


Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands

Our Suffolk holiday was a great success despite the slightly confusing and always differing interpretations of social distancing rules applied in each pub, shop or restaurant we visited. The weather was kind, and we enjoyed meeting up with two lots of distant cousins and an old university friend. As part of the family history theme I referred to last week, we also visited a couple of local churchyards. This is Harkstead Church, where Arthur Parkin’s Suckling grandparents are buried.

And on the subject of churches, I am now on the weekly rota for assisting with Covid security at Sunday Mass where we ask the congregation to wear a mask, sanitise hands on entry, leave contact details (so we have a register of attendees at each service) and sit apart on alternate rows of pews. There are two churches in the parish, a large modern church in the centre of town and a beautiful Pugin chapel hidden away at the edge of town. For practical reasons we are only holding services at the main church. It is noticeable that numbers attending have not yet returned to the pre-pandemic levels, with only around 100 parishioners across the 4 Sunday masses, compared to over 600 in normal times.

The Pugin chapel, dedicated to St Austin (ie St Augustine of Canterbury) celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2017 with great festivities. It was one of the first Catholic churches to be built in Warwickshire following emancipation and the formal ending of 300 years of persecution and discrimination. I read an interesting article a couple of years ago drawing out the parallels between the Reformation breach with Europe in the sixteenth century and our current Brexit divorce from the EU. I suppose Thomas More would be cast today as an arch remainer, prepared to argue with Rome/Brussels up to a point, but in the end believing that supremacy lay overseas, above and beyond our national government. Thomas Cromwell (about whom I have written a couple of times in this journal) would in turn be a Brexiteer, casting off the restrictions imposed by Rome/Brussels about whether the King could divorce his first wife or what level of VAT to charge on particular products. Brexit of course is coming back up the agenda at work, where we are proceeding on the disappointing assumption that the EU will not grant the UK a zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade agreement. From January we therefore expect to be trading with our European distributors on the same WTO terms as we do with our distributors in the Middle East and Australia.


This weekend we are making our first physical visit to see my mother in law in her care home, a good two hours’ drive away. Nora will be brought to the window of the dining room, and Sarah will attempt to communicate whilst standing outside the open window wearing a mask. As only one visitor is allowed, I will remain in the car park. We are not convinced it will be any more successful than the frustrating zoom calls we have been holding with Nora, given her deafness, increasing dementia and general frailty, but we feel we ought to give it a try!


Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

The Bluebird, the Pelican and the Swift 

Lillian BLUEBIRD is suffering from a deficit in the hold me, love me department, thinks Jon SWIFT of one of his dinner partners.


BLUEBIRD: “Are you one of those husbands who think men should be caring and sympathetic in a marriage while wearing an apron?” 

Swift turns, smiles and speculates: new money and no breeding?

BLUEBIRD: “What is it you do?”

SWIFT: “Home maker.”

BLUEBIRD:  “Same. I nurture my girls, and Brian, that’s him over there.”

Swift looks across the dinner table at the stressed, overweight tycoon, chatting the ear off the woman next to him, a lump of gold watch dangling flaccid off his wrist. Swift turns to Marie PELICAN on his left as she loads in a mouth full of fish. Bluebird watching her whispers: “A wonderful bird is the pelican, his bill can hold more than his belican.”

SWIFT: “Ah. Much merit to Mr Merritt.”

BLUEBIRD: “You get your jollies exciting a women’s interest?’

SWIFT: “Only the ones who get that conversation isn’t foreplay.”

BLUEBIRD: “In my experience all men default to rutting.”

SWIFT: “Your husband doesn’t rut with his female colleagues, does he?”

BLUEBIRD: “That’s just business.”

SWIFT: “Exactly. Women are my workmates.”

BLUEBIRD: “We are vulnerable.”

SWIFT: “And men aren’t? Some women lack confidence when talking to a man because they fear their own reactions more than the speaker’s imagined intent.”

BLUEBIRD: “That’s a wicked presumption. I am in a strong marriage to a wonderful, successful man with two intelligent children. We are his bedrock. He couldn’t do it without us.” 


Bluebird flashes her ring finger at Swift; a high carat fetish warding off a presumed horny spirit.


SWIFT: “Rocky marriage? Just joking. What did you do before the Elysian fields of domesticity?”

BLUEBIRD: “Point taken. I was a picture restorer.”

SWIFT: “Any particular period?”

BLUEBIRD: “Anything that needs love and attention.”

SWIFT: “So you are still working?”

BLUEBIRD: “I’m between commissions.”

SWIFT: “Tricky keeping that going with children on the go.”

BLUEBIRD: “A compliment is a mask worn by Deception.”

SWIFT: “Cute. But no.”

BLUEBIRD: “When men engage women they make us feel interesting.”

SWIFT: “Even if they are not? In this case, sadly, no pursuit.”

BLUEBIRD: “I don’t know how I can trust you when you say things like that.”

PELICAN: “Pardon me for interrupting, couldn’t live with that, a man, hands on with the children.”

BLUEBIRD: “No? Why not?” Bluebird cut across Swift.

PELICAN: “It’s not natural.”

BLUEBIRD: “What isn’t?”

PELICAN: “A man at home with the kids. You never know. I mean, no disrespect, but I wouldn’t let him, a man, babysit my children. Anyway, my husband’s not afraid of a hard day’s work.”

BLUEBIRD: “Excuse me. You think what we do is easy? That somehow it doesn’t count as work? That Jon is a pedophile just because he’s a man? That we are all whores because we are women?”

PELICAN: “Well… I didn’t mean…”

SWIFT: “I gave up my career, took mine on when they were very young. They are now non-abused teenagers getting ready to fly out into the world. It’s an impossibly difficult, multi-skilled job carried out from the bottom of the emotional needs tree.”

The Pelican’s breast feathers deflate as she restocks her beak.

BLUEBIRD: “She licks her lips and goes stabbing again.”

SWIFT: “My you are full of quotes. Anything original?”

BLUEBIRD: “Since you consider it your right to investigate my life, I have converted a stable into a studio.”

SWIFT: “Nice light?”

BLUEBIRD: “Obviously. Security, privacy. A sanctuary.”

SWIFT: “Sounds perfect.”

BLUEBIRD: “Nearly. Space to live my own life.”

SWIFT: “Do you do that a lot. Indulge a secret life?”

BLUEBIRD: “What does your wife do?”

SWIFT: “Partner. CEO of Akhenaten, a software house.”

BLUEBIRD: “Akhenaten? Recently launched an IPO…”

PELICAN: “…I do what the good Lord intended — women’s work. Is she here? It’s a man’s job to go into the world and fight.”

SWIFT: “No. She’s out fighting fires.” Swift dismisses her.

BLUEBIRD: “So you get the overwound, burned out, shattered shell home most nights?”

SWIFT: “Yes. When she’s not traveling.”

BLUEBIRD: “Tensions?”

SWIFT: “Can’t stand her meddling in my kitchen. I don’t go into her office and start rearranging things on her desk. She is doing absolutely what she wants. Far more able than I am.”

BLUEBIRD: “And you have women friends?”

SWIFT: “Never happier than being the only man in a room full of women.”

BLUEBIRD: “Did you have a career before being at home?”

SWIFT: “Coder. Computer games.”

BLUEBIRD: “Miss it?”

SWIFT: “Still tinker now and again. It’s not how I imagined my life would turn out.” 

BLUEBIRD: “But you must miss it sometimes? I know I do.” 

SWIFT: “There are moments, yes, when I look at friends with their successful careers and feel a sense of loss, even envy. But really? I have been much happier without 9-5 politics.” 

BLUEBIRD: “Unusual. You must have an exceptional closeness with your children?” 

SWIFT: “That’s worth more than a formal career to me. Teachers, nurses, home makers. Without them we would all be nowhere. Yet we are the least valued by society.”

BLUEBIRD: “I am going to have to go. He’s off to America in the morning.”

SWIFT: “I’ve bored you. Preachy. Sorry.”

BLUEBIRD: “No. I agree.”

SWIFT: “Mine’s going too. Probably on the same flight.”

BLUEBIRD: “Corporate jet.”

SWIFT: “Ouch. Scheduled flight for mine.”

BLUEBIRD: “Don’t worry. You’ll catch up.”

She rises to leave. Swift stands and offers her his hand. Bluebird smuggles a paper napkin into his palm. He watches her, subsumed into her wifely role, walk away duty bound on Brian’s arm. Peeking into the napkin he sees a number written in sultry violet lipstick.

The next morning, after dropping the children off at school, he sends Bluebird a text. Her reply arrives almost at once. “Lunch?” Followed by a set of GPS co-ordinates.


Words from Wood Lane

Susan Neave, Beverley

This has been the oddest week so far. My significant other was due to have some minor day surgery in March, postponed at the last minute because of Covid. Now he has a new date in early August, which means that we are under house arrest for two weeks, self-isolating. Psychologically it feels very different from the beginning of lockdown, when everyone’s movements were restricted, but we could have a long walk every morning, and do essential shopping. I don’t mind not going out, but it means organizing other people to run errands and top up essential supplies. As in theory I have more spare time I resolved to do a few of those things I don’t usually get round to. On Monday I devised a gadget consisting of a paintbrush pegged to a long thin bread knife, to clean behind the kitchen radiator.


On Wednesday evening we had sad news. A close friend, who lives nearby, had died in hospital that afternoon, her husband at her side. She had dementia alongside other health problems, and over the past year I’ve spent time with her once or twice a week so her husband could have a break. That ended once social distancing was in place. Instead I’ve been dropping off shopping and prescriptions, and have managed a couple of distant encounters with her in the garden, but it hasn’t been easy. Last week she was taken into hospital with mobility problems, diagnosed with terminal cancer, and should have been coming home yesterday to spend the last few weeks being cared for at home. I feel very sorry not to have had the chance to say goodbye, but also grateful she was able to stay in her own home more or less to the end of her life, when she could still recognise and enjoy the company of family and friends. 


On a less gloomy note we have booked 3 nights away in Norfolk in late September, definitely something to look forward to.


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Greetings from a masked man! 


A nice easy week of gardening and generally pottering about. Preparing for some more decorating. Clearing books and sorting out yet more “stuff”! A few trips out - one to the supermarket, one for a beach walk, one to see friends, one to the doctors. 


The doctor’s surgery has a new visiting system in place. I attended to collect my regular medications but assume it is the same for all visits. On arrival you gel your hands and ring the buzzer for reception. A masked receptionist then appears and takes your temperature. Then, if you’ve passed the test, you are allowed in. Wearing a mask is mandatory for all. She didn’t speak - just gestured! There is a one way system to follow - so over to the dispensary for me. You gel your hands again. Buzz for the dispenser. A person with twinkling eyes over a blue paper mask appears and asks for your details. She stands behind a counter and perspex screen. After that, verbal instructions are given. For me - it was just “okay - go ahead”. I collected my prescription at the small hatch where disembodied hands in blue rubber gloves deposited the bag of goodies with clinical efficiency. Hey presto! I was done. Followed the way out signs and was gone. 


Do I sound flippant? Complacent? I am not. Of course I know I am lucky. I am retired and live in rural comfort with a garden and easy access to essential supplies. I guess my bemused observations may suggest I am smug. But not so. Always, at the back of the mind, there is concern for the future and for staying safe, keeping what we have already. I have this odd ongoing internal dialogue - well, it is a sort of argument. I hear one voice saying “stay safe, follow the rules, wear a mask, wash your hands etc” and another voice says “oh for crying out loud, calm down, get a life, be safe but don’t go over the top”. 


A whole new enterprise seems to have emerged - selling PPE. There are multi-coloured face masks for sale in the local store. And boxes of latex gloves. Before lockdown I used to buy three boxes of these disposable gloves for £10 at Fakenham market. (Really good for the garden - for dealing with tender plants). Now one box costs £10 plus! 


I’ve had another letter from my aunt. She wonders how much the lockdown and social changes are costing. She writes - “the next generation will be paying for this for years to come”.  Perhaps latex gloves manufacturers are helping to generate revenue!


Hope you’re all well and staying safe x

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