Coronavirus week 10 - 24th to 31st May

If this blog is to be any kind of record of these times for me and my family, this week we have to record the furore around Dominic Cummings.  Cummings has been a trusted advisor to the Prime Minister through the referendum campaign and the General Election of 2019.  He is not an elected representative but chosen by the Prime Minister and only capable of dismissal by him.  It emerged some ten days ago that Cummings and his wife had driven to Durham where his parents live while they both had symptons of coronavirus.  They self isolated in a separate property on his parents' farm.  Prior to returning to London Cummings and his wife and son drove some thirty miles to Barnard Castle in order, he claimed, to test his eyesight before making the return journey to London.  The trip to Barnard Castle incontrovertibly broke the rules of lockdown.  He justified the journey to Durham on the grounds of concern about childcare for his son providing "exceptional circumstances".  In the context of a crisis where public compliance with lockdown rules is vital, two senior figures, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and Professor Niall Ferguson from Imperial College, had already resigned for breaking lockdown rules.  Cummings did not resign and the Prime Minister refused considerable pressure to sack him.

Cummings cast the resulting uproar as politically motivated and while he took the unprecedented step as a special advisor of holding a press conference he used that to explain his thinking rather than to apologise.  I can only record here my own responses and observations as clearly and factually as I can.  For the first time in my life I wrote to my MP to express my concern that the affair sent a message to the public, including of course myself, that there is one rule for the general public and one for senior figures in the government.  I think that ordinary people up and down the country have made very considerable sacrifices to abide by lockdown rules and they are ready to do that if, as has often been repeated, "we are all in this together".  Cummings and Johnson have ridden a political wave for the last four years as the politicians who are in touch with the feeling in the country.  It seems extraordinary that they have misjudged the depth of public anger at  this behaviour.  Perhaps they do appreciate the anger and have nevertheless decided to spend some of the political capital of Johnson's eighty seat majority on keeping Cummings in post.  We shall see how this plays out.  It needs a longer timescale to see if there is an impact on public compliance with lockdown rules, and those have now been relaxed so considerably it will be difficult to tie any upsurge of infections to the Cummings effect, and also to see in future years whether the public memory of this will persist and whether the Conservatives will be punished at the polls.  My own view is that because Cummings sees the world in a very polarised way he cannot appreciate that the profound unease at this behaviour is a response which crosses political divides.  In saying this, I don't doubt that there is a political divide between the people clamouring for his head and those urging us to "move on" but I think in the quieter land beyond twitter and the media storm where millions of ordinary people are doing their best with difficult circumstances this whole affair has left behind a profound disquiet.  Many people feel that we have been treated with contempt.  The British people, like people everywhere no doubt, like fair play.


And away from the Cummings furore life continued peacefully up on our hill.  Lockdown rules in England were considerably relaxed with unlimited travel within England for exercise and for meeting up with family, in small groups and outside.  People were encouraged to return to work and while the government and their advisors continue to talk about the importance of social distancing pictures on the television show large groups of people brought outside by the fabulous weather congregating especially on beaches in huge numbers.  Infection levels continue to be high and deaths, while considerably lower than at the peak of the outbreak, are still running in the low hundreds per day.  Presumably it will be quick to see if these relaxations have come too early.  In Wales only the smallest of changes have been announced which allow people to meet friends and family outside, in very small numbers, and only within a five mile radius of home.  That doesn't help us much with our family!



So for us the challenge is the same one: how to make each day count, how to feel purposeful, useful, contented, fundamentally OK in this little private world.  Running helps.  I struggled to work out how to keep running in the early stages of lockdown but I have got it now.  It is hard slogging up the hill but it is good coming down and it pleases me not to let my oh so hardwon fitness go.  Spanish and Welsh help too with the shape of the week dictated by Skype and Zoom calls and the sense of doing something different and often hard.  This week I struggled through an article full of numbers in Spanish in the thousands and millions, making myself laugh with my clumsiness but I will remember it now.  Crochet helps, with my project for my grandson's reading blanket coming along nicely.  The garden helps.  Every day there is something else beautiful happening and the rhythm of caring for plants, checking seedlings, watering and wandering is an anchoring thing.  Talking to family and friends helps too.  Food and drink help.    Most of all sharing the time with Ian helps, sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, making each other laugh, noticing and appreciating each other's achievements.  We are lucky to be doing this together.



How is going for you?  Thoughts?  Experiences?

Comments

  1. Driving 30 miles to test his eyesight? Logicfail in there?!

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    1. No logic to it at all. The logic is that he does as he likes, as far as I can see.

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  2. I feel so sorry for those people who are alone or in a destructive relationship and in small apartments or single rooms. I also know that those of us who enjoy gardening and have a garden are so very lucky. At the start of Lockdown here there were no vegetable seedlings or seeds available as people had rushed in and bought everything. Because of the drought we had not planted our winter garden and I felt quite out of sorts until I was able to get some seedlings and seeds and get gardening - a minor thing compared to the whole pandemic but for me once I could get gardening again it all became manageable. I do realise that we are so much luckier down here as well.

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    1. I so agree with you about the value of gardening. Somehow concentrating on what is growing and the close attention you need to give to seedlings and young plants keeps you in the moment and stops you going down the rabbit hole of "what if..."!

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  3. Life here in Spain, continues in the now called "new normality". Thus, lockdown measures are relaxing everywhere and large groups of people are spreading out in cafeterias, gardens, restaurants and beaches around my house and my city. Maybe in an attempt to forget this pandemic outbreak. But this pandemic isn´t really over! Still there are daily deaths and infected yet the figures are really decreasing.
    At present, I am faced the other side of this pandemic: the social, economic and political impact that this outbreak has just brought us. Although my husband and I have got back to work, we continue not to be able to visit the majority of our family and friends. I continue my usual and new routines: preparing my work, caring indoor plants, Yoga and Pilates by Skype or Zoom, reading English and other lectures on the balcony and the terrace and talking with family and friends by Skype or Zoom.
    Everything feels odd although a little bit less because increasingly I´m getting used to living in a new and different normal life. A new version of our old lives.

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    1. We are also seeing a lot of people (in England, not Wales) responding to the lovely weather and the relaxation of the rules by congregating in large numbers. Some are trying to socially distance, some are not. We will soon see if it leads to problems with a return of the virus. I completely agree with you that we do get used to this new life. I wonder how the next few weeks will play out both for you in Spain and for us in the UK?

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  4. Running is so good, isn't it? Hard but good. I am struggling with the heat and go out later and later in the evening. I have not been myself last week but a weekend of cutting fabric for some simple garments has helped to restore some of my energy.

    Here in Scotland, the lockdown rules have only minimally changed, which suits me. One step at the time. I am looking forward to my first walk with a friend tomorrow. There were some large groups out and about over the weekend, which is worrisome. Over 800 dispersal notices issued by the police.... but I just read in the news that our First Minister, Mrs Sturgeon is considering to tighten up the rules again as a result of the many breaches. She has more backbone than the prime minister, that's for sure. As for Cummings, there is really nothing else to add, he is a disgrace.

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    1. It is fascinating to see the difference between England and the other nations of the UK. If you had designed an experiment to test the effects of different approaches to lockdown it would look something like this! And I so agree with you about running in the heat. It is not for me so I have had to find time at the end of the days. I keep reminding myself that I managed to run in Spain last year so it just a matter of finding the cool and getting it done right then! Good luck with your running too!

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  5. At the eleventh hour for week 10s blog, I'm adding a brief comment. Words have been difficult to find to fully express how the Cummings affair has made me feel - about being "led" by a group of arrogant self serving people. Although no supporter at all of the current Government and the way they act - over Brexit and our future relationships with Europe, at the beginning of all this I had to believe that they would act with integrity and know what they were about - i.e. working towards the common purpose of safeguarding the health of everyone as far as possible in a way that really respects us. I know it was a very hard job that landed on them and that mistakes would be made but I hoped that things would be approached with decency. I had to believe this for my own sense of wellbeing; I had to have some modicum of trust. All that has slowly evaporated as the weeks have gone by and the Cummings affair ended any residual faith I was clinging onto.
    I'm outraged that we are lied to and taken for fools and it makes me frankly embarrassed to be English (come to think of it, I'm half Welsh so will nurture that part of me).
    Now I've got that off my chest I'll look forward to commenting more cheerily (I hope) when Week 11 goes live.

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    1. You perfectly express the journey I've been on from wanting to trust to disappointment and alienation.

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