Thursday, 26 March 2020

Lockdown report - is it still only the first week?

As if to demonstrate to us that the virus is no respecter of wealth and privilege, we get the news that Prince Charles has the coronavirus. Of course, he has been tested while masses of front line workers have not but there have to be limits to the limits on wealth and privilege! The royal-reporters have been quick to reassure us that he only has mild symptoms and is able to continue “working” from home. That’s a relief! They also worked out when they thought he began to be contagious and decided that it was at least a day after he last had contact with his aged mother. Well, that’s also good. I will sleep easier in my bed now. But just imagine having to try to arrange a state funeral at the moment!!

Various Radio 4 news and comment programmes appear to be being broadcast from the presenters’ homes but the television news programmes still come from the studio, albeit without guests except via video contact. Will that have to stop at some point soon? Surely all the technicians and support staff are being exposed to potential hazards. Just a thought that crossed my mind as I watched Emily Maitlis on BBC 2’s Newsnight last night.

The various TV and Radio news programmes and the online newspapers keep having features on how-to-entertain-yourself-during-the-lockdown. And this is not just how to keep the children busy but how to stop the adults getting bored. Lots of people have taken up knitting - or in some cases would like to do so but, while they know how to actually knit, they don’t know how to cast on and cast off - singing in an online choir - really good for the lungs I would have thought - and a whole host of crafty things. As for me, I am doing pretty much what I always do but with rather less in the way of outdoor activities.

I was talking to my Spanish sister, who is even more locked down than I am, and we both expressed our relief that we are readers and always have a stack of books waiting to be read or re-read. Our elder sister apparently phones my Spanish sister at least twice a day as she is growing very bored. She must not regard me as such a sympathetic listener as she only called me yesterday for the first time in ages!

As I stood in the perfectly spaced queue outside the greengrocer’s yesterday, I got involved in an exchange of jokes with a chap a couple of places ahead of me, mostly to entertain the small girl ahead of me growing increasingly fed up of waiting with her father. I contributed my limited range of elephant jokes (How do you fit 4 elephants in a Mini (or 2CV, Seat or Fiat 600 if telling the joke in France/Spain/Italy)? Answer: 2 in the front and 2 in the back. And others of the same kind.) but the principle joker had a vast collection of bubble-related jokes (What sort of music do bubble like? Answer: Pop music!) and I wondered why. And then the father of the bored child commented that he usually sees this chap blowing giant bubbles, with one of those bubble wands, in the local park - a bubble-beggar, in other words. I didn’t recognise him without his jester’s hat!

Phil and I are fortunate not to have to worry too much about our financial situation - lucky us! I read that the benefits system is being inundated with applications for Universal Credit as people find themselves without an income during the current crisis. As if the constant awareness that you need to be careful where you breathe was not enough!

I also read that in the USA singer-sing writer James Taylor and his wife have donated $1million dollars to Massachusetts General Hospital to help cope with the emergency. My Spanish sister tells me that Pep Guardiola has donated money to the Barcelona health service. Manchester City and Manchester United have combines to make a donation to the NHS. It strikes me that if all the really rich donated a fraction of their income/stored wealth we could go a long way towards providing adequate care. Am I too idealistic?

Here’s an odd industry to suffer from the pandemic. Apparently the US had 845,000 weddings planned for March through May but the pandemic has prompted disappointment, delays and postponements. “The near-instant loss or postponement of an entire busy season of weddings is proving disastrous for the 1.2 million people and the nearly 400,000 business that owe at least part of their incomes to the industry of matrimony. Everyone from wedding planners and caterers to florists and furniture rental companies have been blindsided.”

Curious! No doubt the same is true in the UK, if perhaps to a lesser extent.

Here is a link to a set of pictures of places in Spain before and after the declaration of a state of emergency.

And now, a completely different problem. In recent years we have had huge fires in moorland areas, some very close to our home. Although we have had a lot of rain earlier this year, the last week has seen fine and sunny weather, even warm enough to encourage some of our neighbours to sunbathe. So now the Moorland Association, an industry body for landowners, said this week landowners must stop any controlled burning. The instruction came after a managed fire in West Yorkshire got out of control and spread into a mile-long fire front. The fire brigade said: “We are currently trying to focus our resources on supporting the national effort to respond to coronavirus and this is unhelpful to us. We will be making every effort to contact landowners over the forthcoming days and to reiterate this message. “It is not where we want to be focusing our energies at this time.”

Just what we need at the moment!

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