A View from Crazy Town
Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.
New Flash: in a masterful bid to re-assert "total authority" over Crazy, at his daily press carnival last evening, the present Chief Executive suggested that it would be worth exploring whether it's possible to place UV lights inside the body and to ingest cleaning products to cleanse us of the novel corona virus. (No, I'm not making this up.)
Hundreds of Patriots hurriedly gave up their protests at state capitols to rush home and follow the latest guidelines, thus leaving Washington once again in sole possession of first place in the Crazy League of America, while the nation mourns the loss of some of its dimmest bulbs.
Meanwhile, the makers of Lysol and Clorox bleach have urged customers to only swallow bleach and ammonia in case of Sheer Madness. Crazy alone isn't sufficient to risk such extreme measures, they warned, given the unpredictable side effects.
In other news, Big Tobacco is promoting its latest unbiased, unpaid scientific research to share the good news that nicotine is the latest wonder drug to cure the corona virus. Stocks of Phillip-Morris rose sharply on the news, while trading in shares of pharmaceutical firms producing hydroxycholoquine fell as it was revealed that it's crazy to think malaria drugs can cure the CV.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
Our lonely tree house and swing - waiting for the grandchildren.
John Mole, St.Albans
Overnight the world
has filled with bird song,
whispering to itself
then suddenly emboldened,
taken by surprise.
Listen. This is the sound
of compensatory freedom,
to be overheard
and marvelled at
an airborne language
greeting you in flight
Clean, sort, tidy
Lily, Camberwell, London
Friday 24th April:
It’s four o’clock and the children are each occupied with a computer. The eldest is on Minecraft with a school friend. The sound of another child’s voice is chirruping through from the kitchen, his voice has become familiar over the last week of regular Zoom meet ups. My eldest was usually not friends with this boy at school. He can be hard to be around, or in a class with, but he is also sweet and funny. But now my son acknowledges how they have become close friends. The youngest is playing maths games. Sadly, Zoom and Facetime have not delivered as virtual-playgrounds for him. An early enthusiastic attempt with a dozen reception-class friends was a screen of stunned faces, while other children dashed into view with a succession of toys pushed into the camera lens and mothers and fathers did their best to get their child to speak or listen to their friends. Without the complicated social art of conversation having been mastered and without the physical proximity of each other they were lost.
I did not sleep well last night. I was woken constantly by the pain of my throat. Swallowing was not an easy thing to accomplish. At breakfast the children ended up whispering like me. “Why are we whispering too?” The eldest started to find solutions to my communication limitations, “If you need to tell “the youngest” something you can write it down and I will tell him for you.”
While fighting the virus my immune system didn’t see tonsillitis sneak in. (I remain vague since it’s not possible to say if our house guest for the past week is a normal virus or Covid 19). Fortunately, a whispering phone call with the GP gets me antibiotics so maybe I can feel normal again in the next few days. Since we should still quarantine I will need to see if I can find a neighbour/friend to fetch them for me. Or maybe the pharmacy around the corner can deliver?
This morning I used Zoom for a British Library business development course. I took part silently but I was also distracted by (not being able to swallow, the catching of deep breaths that turned into coughs and) intermittent phone calls and messages from my mother or her carer (who visits 3 mornings a week to annoy but keep Mum busy and fed). My mother’s oldest friend had a stroke a few weeks ago, just before the lockdown. It has been a major preoccupation to her. Initially “we’re going to have a meeting to work out what to do”. And then there were her many phone calls to various friends trying to understand, through the repeated conversations, her emotions and feelings and lack of power. I was there at the time, cleaning her flat, it was disturbing to hear her call the same friend several times to ask the same questions. To have the same conversation again. As if she could eventually get a different more favourable response. A week later she was so happy when he called from hospital, a spark of hope, recovery maybe. To add extra colour there is a villain in this story. His wife (who coincidentally has the same name as my mum) has put up a wall around him. She took his phone away. There is a long history of antagonism between the two women and he did business with my mum in secret from his wife. Often not turning up for a meeting because his wife would be around and he wouldn’t be able to get away. “That bloody woman.”
Today the carer sent me a message to say Mum had found out he has had another stroke. Mum asked the carer to buy her a bottle of red wine. While she was distracted and comforted by a cup of tea and a madeleine the carer, my sister and I (while trying to get my head around marketing) sent messages working out the ethics and rightness of the carer buying wine for our alcoholic mother. Who will (and does) go and buy it for herself anyway.
She just called me by accident. She couldn’t hear me call Hello. Mum Hello, Mum… But I think I could hear that she was out. I fear that she is going to be upset, naturally, sad that her friend, our friend is likely to die. Or will remain in hospital indefinitely. That she will not see him again. That there will be no funeral to collect old friends together. She may just drink and safely get to sleep tonight. But she may also phone me accidently again at 12am as she shouts and screams. She might go out, drunk and unstable, wobble unsafely. Forget her keys again. She might end up with another set of cuts and bruises. Or another break. Or she might just phone me throughout the weekend to tell me her friend has had another stroke.
Reading this over it is all so extreme. Even without the extra layer of corona virus complication. But this has become normal, gradually over the last 8 years. The frequency between the events increases. The “oh there is Mum” conversations are fewer but create the same sense of false hope, “she’s ok again, don’t worry.” But the same questions about what my sister and I are to do for her remain. As does her rebellious nature. As does her need to feel important, vital and herself.
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
At yesterday’s brief briefing by Grant Shapps it was mainly ‘Transport’, he being Minister of. He strained to find much to say, all the headline stuff bring managed by Health and Home, but did introduce a couple of notable, ‘on the ball’ items with impact: to encourage ferries currently experiencing a downturn in trade and thus an increased likelyhood of mothballing, he’s giving a cash subsidy. As an island nation, this seems sensible, particularly as he’s got a trilateral thing going with the ‘other ends’ - France and Ireland. Additionally, planes, trains and automobiles (and ships large and small) in ‘private’ hands eg Coastguard are brought in to add scope to the newly formed Transport Support Unit - “Keeping the Country Moving”. They’re to investigate drone use too, particularly in the delivery of drugs, encouraged no doubt by the pioneering work in and around HM Prisons, where they’ve been a great hit.
The devolved Governments of Scotland Wales and Ireland are ganging up on Westminster to more urgently declare when we might see the beginnings of easing, but that just draws a repeat of the ‘5 Pillars’ mantra - and I guess that’s how it should be. We should only ‘open up’ when it’s safe - though on a personal level I’m growing increasingly uneasy about the prospects of my being able to go on a Bass fishing trip, booked long before lockdown and due on 20th May. So, if it’s all the same to you Mr Hancock I’d like to see small gatherings of, say, three on a fishing boat (and travel to and from said boat) allowed from the 19th.
It emerges via BBC East that an Ipswich Hospital Trust has been asked £16.50 for a PPE-grade coverall last bought for £2. This may well be part of the problem encountered worldwide (and sadly, even within UK sources) when it comes to buying for the NHS. At the same time there’s enormous enthusiasm to provide kit free from small ‘volunteer’ producers, there’s bound to be profiteers looking to screw the biggest profit possible citing worldwide shortage. We can’t write blank cheques to these chancers, but as quickly as this sparks the tiniest flame of compassion for Matt Hancock in his daily work, it’s extinguished because he, and anybody giving these briefings simply will not admit to the problems they face, preferring to ooze unlikely reassurance.
Yesterday’s shopping for sand and cement at B&Q Yarmouth was a civilised success: there’s a limit to those allowed inside, so I queued, suitably distanced from other shoppers for about 20 mins outside then got ushered in with a trolley (part of the distancing thing), directed round the store so as to minimise contact with other shoppers and eased through contactless checkout.
Armed with a passport in the form of a B&Q bill (and a boot full of sand and cement) in case stopped by the Police, we went on to Gorleston and had a lovely breezy walk in the sun. It was no surprise to find we had no problem keeping socially distant, because next to no-one was there. But then ‘they’ would say that’s because we were socially reckless and the rest of the world show more respect. There was a notice demanding to know “WHY ARE YOU HERE?” fixed to a fence, but no-one waiting for an answer and lacking a felt-tip pen I couldn’t add a jaunty riposte. I’m not remotely contrite, is doing us the world of good at no risk to anybody. And we didn’t see any Police.
From Rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
The past few cold and rainy days I have been unable to find any thing of consequence to write about. Having finished knitting a Shetland Hap Shawl, I tried to reconnect with an engraving which is almost finished, but find my concentration at a loss. It will return ~ interest and enthusiasm, it always does ~
Today I rested and browsed my shelves for something to read discovering that I did have a book, ‘A Writer’s Britain’, written by Margaret Drabble (before she was Dame) and have spent a good part of the afternoon following her through Britain’s countryside as seen by writers of different regions and periods ~ so many writers I love and many I don’t know with evocative excerpts and connections, alongside wonderful photographs. Armchair traveling and perfect to abate some of my restlessness.
The woodpile is slowing disappearing up in smoke with all these chilly days ~ the kitchen the best spot to sit and read with the dogs beneath my feet. Tomorrow should be in the 60’s so perhaps we will be back in the garden. No one bangs pots and pans or claps in the early evening here in the country ~ still peaceful and almost detached from what is going on all over. My youngest brother lives in an apartment in the Bronx and he claims he doesn’t know what he will do if this goes on for months. I told him we will all just manage day by day! “Fine for you”, he said, “you enjoy your solitude.” And it is true, despite my lovely friends and family, I do enjoy the quiet of my life in the best of times, and it seems even in the worst.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Catherine, Sussex, UK
Today my attention is focused on my fellow journalers.
Firstly, I am so very glad to read that David H had an uplifting day. Many people seem to be reaching the stage of craving and savouring company, even that of strangers. Nettle soup, by the way, is quite delicious, and you will be pleased you made the effort, Marigolds and all.
I wonder whether the Nicky who ran away from St Chris was the girl who eloped to Gretna Green? It was a thrilling scandal at the time, the more so as that running was done from a dorm just a couple of doors down from my little room under the eaves. (If you are who I think you are, I remember now your surname, though I won't embarrass you further than saying it began with an H.)
I looked at Clarissa's dog with interest. Is he or she howling in utter despair (as I have done, in uncontainable grief when loved ones died) - or is it a shout of expansive joy at being, finally, alone? I wonder. It's a bit like a Rorschach inkblot - what do you see? Personally I find great happiness and solace in being on the beach at low tide.
Several have described disturbed sleep patterns. Peter, I wish I could blow your childhood nightmares away with some fairy dust, but you are too far away. (I have been twice to Blackpool and believe me, you are missing nothing.)
The Thursday night applause:
Harris, I'm somewhat with you. Not because I'm self-conscious (I live in a friendly road, and we have already got to know, and like, one another via WhatsApp) but because I have an undefinable, uncomfortable, feeling that the action is slightly missing the point, and perhaps lulling Those on High into a false sense that we feel all is well with the front-line workers. A sense of approbation. Making the country ever so slightly Midsomerish, where it's always spring and even awful things are gently smoothed over. When, in reality, the Government's awful inaction means the workers are treated like mushrooms and are suffering and dying horrible deaths at horribly young ages (the pharmacist colleague of the hospital social worker across the road died of C19 at 33).
One or two writers have mentioned having C19 themselves. For what it's worth, here is my experience. Sharing my home with two people who go out to work, it was likely that it would happen some time. One of them and I had similar symptoms contemporaneously; in my case they were:-
Two days of dizzinesss.
Five of profound tiredness with feverish feelings though no raised temperature.
One of scratchy bronchial tubes.
Two of a vice tightening round my (upper, thank goodness) lungs.
About five of recuperation, with lingeringly gummy lungs.
An interesting experience, as I had to face up to an unknown outcome. To my surprise, I found that I didn't mind so much, after all.