Day 7 22/3 - end of week one
Madness gripped me, but only temporarily:
a conversation with a farming neighbour about shortages at the Co-op led to a act of wartime friendliness... he admitted he had a sack of potatoes hidden behind some bales and immediately offered me some. Then he told me of a farmshop that still had plenty of veg. I know the place and mentioned it when I got home. I thought I might get a cabbage there.
Sheila with typical directness pointed out it was a) an hour and a half out of my ebbing life and b) about £8 worth of petrol burnt and had I gone crazy. Point taken.
This weekend is the first since get-togethers were banned and TV schedules are, of course, sportless. For something to do, crowds descended on parks and beaches to the extent that today (Sunday) appeals are going out to not do that and specifically Scotland doesn’t want English visitors, Cornwall doesn’t want any visitors at all and Norfolk, very specifically, wants Londoners to stay away, even if they have holiday homes here.
Plans are announced for shops to open early in the morning solely for NHS workers and the elderly, though obviously not at the same time.
A million plus letters are going out to the most vulnerable starting tomorrow, strongly advising 12 weeks of self imposed house-boundness and offering free deliveries of drugs and food. Over 70’s who are well can get out, but should do it with caution. So, more self-isolation on a beach in prospect - but I may have to practise my accent, don’t want to be taken for a furriner and harrangued.
Day Five, 20/3: This must be what Russian shopping for the masses was (is?)like: you bowl out to the Co-op in the hope there may be cabbage. That’s all I want, cabbage. Of course, like yesterday there is no cabbage, no greenstuff of any sort, no vegetables at all apart from some leeks, about a dozen baking potatoes (max 2 per customer) and feeble salad (but no toms). I buy a compensatory box of porridge oats and wonder if it counts as anti-social as I have no need for oats. Being tall, I spot a forgotten pack of hot cross buns at the back of the top shelf... how many sad Babushkas have shuffled past them unaware a little light relief was so close. Rather than cause an unseemly scrum, I add them to my basket.
Overnight, the Queen fled to Windsor and America has told those abroad to ‘come home or take shelter’... more ominous than it seems at first. Italy has overtaken China in the mortality stakes (3500+) and yet here, well, we’re told we’ll have turned this thing around in twelve weeks time if we follow the washing/isolation mantra. At what cost though, in lives or cash.
Today’s 5pm address from No.10 was, literally, extraordinary: in the wake of compulsory closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants from tonight, as well as relief for owners/operators, a hugely expensive raft of compensation for workers is on offer - if kept on standby, the Govt (ie we) will pay them 80% of their wages to do nothing while the world returns to normal. Or what passes for normal.
New boy Chancellor Rishi with the Bank of E has reduced interest to .1% (lowest ever) and pumped £200bn into quantitive easing (most ever). I hate to think what this will do to the price of lugworm.
Day Four, 19/3: now they’re saying schools will be closed after tomorrow (Friday) except for the kids of ‘essential workers’. So far this includes health professionals of course, but also delivery truck drivers, shop staff and bus drivers - but I guess not train drivers as we’re discouraged from real travelling. They haven’t worked out yet how to cope with the backlash from these ‘essential’ kids who will be disappointed they have to go to school when they’re mates don’t. Also, kids on free meals will be invited to turn up for their lunch, but presumably not hang around. Not fully formed yet. And, who’d have thought it - those most important to the country and its economy evidently aren’t the bankers and hedgefund managers and airline bosses after all.
Had a happy thought: with pubs closing for want of customers, but with stocks of beer they’d like to shift, maybe I and a few friends could go and monopolise one for an hour or two to help out. They would just have to give us say 7 to 9pm for a private function.
Day Three, 18/3: France, Spain, Italy all on complete ‘lockdown’ ie enforced ‘stay at home’ policy with jail and fines for those found outside without permitted reason - shopping, getting to work ie absolutely no socialising. We’re being encouraged down the same route here, including working from home where possible. Schools are still open, but Unis are beginning to close down. Sainsburys announce rationing of all product to 2 or 3 per customer to help avoid shelf stripping. Son John is concerned for us (as we are for him) but if we restrict outings to shopping and use sanitizer when back in the car we may get away with it. Beach fishing is allowed, but no organised events for us or anyone else: Chelsea Flower Show cancelled, ditto horseracing, football etc, museums, galleries closed. Pubs and restaurants, having been declared no-go areas will be shutting due to lack of business, maybe to never reopen. Local community groups are being formed for the young and fit to shop etc for old and curfued. Chloe and Lorraine are spearheading ours.
Day One Rural Norfolk, 16/3: we were on our way back from Aldeburgh, Sheila and I, after a warm (for March) and sunny afternoon’s fishing from the beach. About 4.30 the press conference started and we listened with some astonishment to Boris and his assistants announcing a state of war - we’re at war with the Virus. Over 70’s should go into ‘self isolation’ for their own protection, for 12 weeks. Even the younger shouldn’t go to the pub or restaurant of anywhere... cinema, theatre. It’s the collapse of Society as we know it.
Day Two, 17/3: went to Walcott beach to use bait left over from Aldeborough, and for a nearer change of beach. It was pretty well deserted - though I guess that’s its normal state midweek and in term time. Overnight Boris has seen the economic chaos brought in the wake of yesterday’s announcements, and there’s to be another session this afternoon with the Chancellor offering financial help to some sectors. Called in to Tesco, Stalham on the way back about 4 and found the place empty of the most ordinary things - bread, cakes, flour, milk, toilet paper of course, but also soaps, sprays and sanitisers (except washing up liquid, the Herd haven’t realised that too is anti-bacterial) breakfast cereal, pasta, ‘staple’ stuff. Luckily they did have brazil nuts, flaked almonds, granola, honey and frozen berries for our breakfast yoghurt.
Chancellor’s statement is to divert £300bn to giving pubs etc a year off rates, access to Gov backed loans to keep going and 3 months hold on mortgage payments for ordinary citizens. No support for the millions of self employed and zero hours workers cynically created from the unemployed ranks to lessen the stats. Or for renters, also a feature of modern life. By the end of the day the clamour for these forgotten sectors was huge and tomorrow may bring some afterthought help.