Coronavirus diary week 7 - 2nd to 9th May

Have we really been confined like this for seven weeks?  Sometimes it seems unbelievable that so much time has passed.  Sometimes I can barely remember what it felt like to get in the car and drive down to South Wales or Devon to visit children and grandchildren.  Perhaps we need to become acclimatized.  It is the old idea of the frog in hot water, not leaping out if you heat it slowly enough.  Clearly there are ways in which I have become acclimatized.  Watching footage of film from before the pandemic I am astonished at how close together people stand.  Some film of the crowds thronging the streets of London on V. E. Day, seventy five years ago, seems quite astonishing.  Did we really stand so close?  Did we hug and kiss and dance?  

Deaths have continued to rise this week, more slowly in hospitals, still quite rapidly in care homes.  Deaths as of the 8th May stand at 31, 587.  These are deaths where people tested positive for coronavirus so it is widely accepted that the actual figure may be higher.  In the early part of the week there seemed some indications that  when Boris Johnson speaks tonight at 7pm he might say that there would be a variety of ways of easing the lockdown.  Now I think that expectation has fallen away.  Scotland and Wales, who have devolved responsibility for their own arrangements, have already indicated that the easing of restrictions is to be very small scale.  As Anne reported in her comment on my last blog, in Wales we will be allowed to leave home for exercise purposes as often as we like, as long as we stay close to home; garden centres will be allowed to reopen with appropriate distancing arrangements in place; local authorities will be allowed to consider their own arrangements for the possible reopening of tips and of libraries.  So the possible creation of a slightly larger "social bubble" allowing people to meet perhaps a single household will not happen at this stage.  Schools remain closed.  I would be very surprised if the arrangements in England differ very much from those in Scotland and Wales so I am expecting that something very like the present arrangements will stay in place until the end of May when they will need to be reviewed again.  

I am continuing to watch very little television news but I am reading the newspaper coverage quite extensively.  The impact on aviation is extraordinary.  The government is to bring in a 14 day quarantine rule for anyone arriving in, or returning to, Britain.  This would not bear too heavily on retired people like ourselves but the idea of flying again seems almost inconceivable without the invention of a vaccine.  I read articles about the work that is being done and about the time it is likely to take to create a vaccine and my response swings from optimism to gloom.  Best not to think about it too much.  It is, like so much right now, beyond my ability to affect.

And with all that, life here continues full of pleasures but no surprises.  This week there was a full moon, huge and pale yellow and beyond the ability of my phone to replicate.  It hung low and benevolent in the sky above the ridge on the other side of the valley.  Until today, when the temperature has plummeted by ten degrees, the
week has been warm and sunny.  We spend time in the garden, exercising a control here when outside events are totally beyond our control, so that the beds are tidy and neat, the fruit garden weeded and mulched, the potatoes earthed up in nice straight lines.  This is a wild, naturalistic over flowing kind of place.  It is still like that in many places but at the same time, there are places where it has never been so tidy.

I am continuing to read in the way that I did as a child and a teenager, gulping down books, diving into fictional worlds.   I remember  my mother coming up to find me in my bedroom when I was about eleven or twelve, lovingly exasperated.  "I've called you three times for tea.  Didn't you hear me?"  No I hadn't heard.  I had gone down under the water.  Now I am escaping into historical or detective fiction.  At the moment I do not want misery and challenge.  I want other worlds, whether that is Donna Leon's Venice in her detective series, the between the wars world of Nicola Upson or, more cosily, D.E.Stevenson or Philip Pullman's entire other world of The Book of Dust.  And I find myself unashamedly enjoying comfort TV: The Repair Shop with its kindly group of specialist restorers bringing old things back to life, nature programmes, travel programmes.  Tonight I am going to watch Levison Wood walk in the tracks of elephants.

We walk and we run.  For years I have tried to identify birds in the garden and I know most of the ones which visit us.  Now I decide to get better at identifying birdsong.  This is harder than I thought it would be.  I listen to the songs inside on the RSPB website but when I go out and sit, surrounded by the waterfall of song, I find that again and again the only ones I am sure about are the old favourites: the blackbird, the robin, the cacophony of sparrows in the hedge by the hen run.  

Friday 8th May was the seventy fifth anniversary of V.E. Day and in many places there were socially distanced celebrations, with people hanging out bunting and drinking a class of wine in their front gardens and greeting their neighbours.  There is no one to celebrate with up here although we did open a bottle of champagne and share a drink on Zoom with some friends.

And yesterday I decided I would be on holiday.  It was clearly going to be the last of the hot days so I put on the cut off jeans and sleeveless t shirt I normally wear when we are on holiday in our camper in France or Spain.  I had my breakfast outside at the table under the yew tree and gave up achieving things for sitting in the sun and admiring the roses.  I ate my lunch outside and later carried my tea down to the shelter in the corner of the garden.

There are many things I miss, and people most of all, but today, with the expectation of more weeks in lockdown to come, is not the time to contemplate them.  Today it is time for a video call with older son, a cup of good coffee, a run later, some Welsh homework and a glass of wine tonight.  One day at a time.


  1. Hello, I like to read your blog but feel that I have never left a comment until now when you mentioned birdsong identification. May I point you in the direction of Lev Parikian and his pages of the birds? Here is a link:

    1. Thank you for the link - it is very good indeed! I will keep trying with its help with the bird identification!

  2. Yes 7 weeks have gone by and we're adjusting to this strange new normal. The much heralded statement from the PM was delivered with uncustomary gravitas on Sunday evening and caused confusion rather than any real clarity about the future.
    Living with uncertainty is very difficult and it can't be easy to be making decisions which directly affect the lives of so many, but why we were given a "roadmap" and exhortations to return to work the next day if we couldn't work from home, without any attempt at providing any information about attendant issues (childcare, safety in the workplace etc etc), is beyond me.
    And the apparent lack of courtesy and respect in not agreeing a way forward with the devolved administrations was, in my view, unforgivable.
    I'm noticing that the politics of the situation are getting to me more as the weeks go by and wonder whether this is just me or whether others are similarly exercised.
    So.. in between sporadic rants I turn to the usual occupations; knitting, starting a cross stitch embroidery for the baby expected by my nephew in the autumn, baking (I've taken delivery of lots of flour from a local mill!) and reading. Current books are The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a rather odd tale chosen by a member of my book group, and The Light and the Mirror, the last in Hilary Mantel's trilogy. It's an enormous book which I dip into in shortish bursts - the downside of this being that I have to revisit the dramatis personae listed in the front pages on a very regular basis.
    Oh and walking of course - the new freedom gives more scope so more routes will be explored - hopefully the bitter wind of the last couple of days will cease very soon.

    1. I think your rising irritation with the politics of the situation is probably shared by many Lynne. To begin with I think there was a great pulling together in the face of a national emergence and in many ways much of that spirit remains in communities but at a political level differences are re-emerging. I am interested to find in talking to my friend in Spain that there is a similar level of frustration with politicians and fractious political discourse there and from what I read in France also. I am really disappointed that the four nations of the UK have not managed to agree a single unified approach to the relaxation of lockdown. I think it leads to confusion and recrimination. Perhaps there was not the political will on the part of any side to try to reach agreement. Perhaps time will show us pretty quickly whether the continuation of strict rules for longer, as in all parts of the UK other than England, was necessary and desirable or not.
      And I do identify with the concentration problem. I wonder if it a reflection of the mental and emotional effort required to cope with such uncertainty that uses up of your mental energy. That's my excuse any way!

  3. Embarrassingly I have just realised that the title of the Mantel book is the other way round - The Mirror and the Light - an indication of the degree of concentration I'm probably
    bringing to reading it!


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