Saturday, 12 September 2020

Puddly places. Anxiety. Some semi-scientific thoughts about fires. Testing and tracing and other problems.

This morning I switched off my alarm and fell asleep again. The next thing I knew it was nine o’clock. I had a parcel to take to the post office. Running with a parcel is not easy and so I simply forewent the run and organised myself to walk into the village. This gave me the opportunity to put on my wellies (you simply cannot run in wellies) and check out the section of my frequent running route which has been underwater... well, under muddy puddle. Yesterday someone told me there was a plank-walk across the puddle which made it passable, but when I arrived at the puddly place the “plank” was only two inches wide, just the bit of broken fencing that has been used on and off whenever the puddle had grown too large to step across. Besides, it was so precariously placed that it would take an acrobat or tightrope walker to balance on it. I turned back, retraced my steps and ran up the top path instead. But today I wore my wellies and splashed my way through a good two or three inches of water. I think I need to write to my local councillor asking for some repairs to the path to be carried out. 

Later in the morning my daughter and I spent a good deal of time on a three-way chat with her eldest daughter on Messenger. We do this quite a lot as the daughter in question suffers from anxiety, as I have probably mentioned before, and needs a fair amount of reassurance in her independent living. Since early in the lockdown she has shared her house with an old school friend, an arrangement that suited everyone. The old school friend is about to go back to university and her parents have invited them out to lunch. It’s a good job it’s this weekend and not next because of all the new rules and regulations. 

And at first it was the rules and regulations that were causing problems. All the confusion is enough to freak out anyone, let alone a young person with anxiety. But this morning it was the missing hairdryer, the choice of clothing, the forgetting to paint her nails and put her ear rings in, all those things causing a bit of stress. The record of our exchanged messages give an insight into how anxiety messes with a person’s head.

The promised warmer weather has not yet arrived. Today is windy, with occasional sunny spells, at which point the temperature goes up... provided you are in a sheltered spot anyway. However, this is nowhere near the 26 or 27 degrees the weathermen seem to think we can expect sometime in the next week. That remains to be seen!

On the whole, I am quite relieved not to have the kind of extremes of weather experienced in California. I was reading about the destruction by fire of the small town of Paradise back in 2018. The writers of a book about Paradise tell us, “it approached the community at speeds previously thought impossible, chewing through almost 400 American football fields’ worth of vegetation per minute. It hit like a hurricane. Strikingly, many of the hundreds of thousands of trees in the town were spared – it was the homes that became matches setting fire to the next. The fire was so quick, so hot, that people died seeking shelter under their cars, in the driveways of their homes while holding a hose, or huddled in their bathtub.”

I think the optimistically named town has been rebuilt. There are theories about its name. One is that it was really named for the Pair o’ Dice saloon in the original settlement. Others say that it was someone returning from work and looking down on his place residence who declared, “This is Paradise!” Apart that is from the more frequent forest fires climate change has provoked. 

However, I also read that before there was massive settlement of the western states, areas of forest would spontaneously combust at regular intervals and simply burn themselves out. The Native Americans also set fires at times to clear areas for easier hunting. It kept undergrowth under control but did not destroy bigger trees. Then the settlers started controlling fires, leading to more dense undergrowth and more trees per acre. And so fires when they occur burn more fiercely. Some specialists say old practices should be reintroduced.

Whatever the scientific truth of the matter, fires are frightening, especially when it gets close to cities, which are increasingly at risk apparently. We have seen forest fires in Galicia in north west Spain. And we have seen the aftermath of such fires in Portugal. I remember an occasion, I think it was about three years ago when we arrived in Vigo after an outbreak of fire which had got far too close to the city. Many districts suffered from smoke pollution but in addition to that trees in the streets were burnt, not helped by crazy people actually going put and setting fires in some wooded areas of the city. Crazy folk!

Fortunately we don’t have to worry about fires here in the north west of England at the moment. We have other problems. With rising levels of Coronavirus there is talk of further lockdown. Hmm! Stepping put into the back garden in today’s windy conditions I wonder how a major lockdown would be accepted at this time of year. We went into lockdown with days growing longer and brighter and a long patch of good weather. How different it would be with the nights drawing in and the prospect of cooler weather overall, despite any possible Indian Summer.

Then there is the test and trace situation, which they are talking about on the radio as I type. Someone called Marcus Chown tweeted this: 

“Everyone, I’m getting sick to death of saying this. Stop saying it’s f***ing NHS Test and Trace. It’s a private firm. It’s Serco.

Failing private firms hide behind the NHS logo and our f***ing media help them. So the NHS can be blamed for private failure.”

Whoever is doing the testing and tracing, it’s full of problems. Are other European countries doing any better? I doubt it.

And we are not likely to get international / European cooperation on this while our government is messing up agreements with Europe about Brexit. It’s all a bit of a mess.

No wonder my granddaughter gets anxious!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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