Day Twenty-One: It has all gone a bit Shakespearian, vaulting ambition springs to mind. The news is that Bojo our erstwhile leader has not just gone into hospital for tests, but has been transferred to an Intensive Care Unit at St Thomas’s Hospital.
Boris Johnson wanted so very much to be leader of the country, he thought it more important than anything else. And now, he might just pay with his life. If that is so we shift in literary parlance, from Shakespeare to Jacobean tragedy.
I’m not ill-wishing him but I have three words to say and they are not Get Well Soon, but TEST TEST TEST… This instruction from the World Health Organisation that could not be clearer is followed by two more words. Words that keep becoming lost in all the talk of ramping up and the denials of the Herd Immunity approach. Those two words? CONTACT TRACING. That vital component in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. That thing that all those countries did, who at present appear to have a handle on infection rates. Those countries such as Singapore, S. Korea and China who devised methods using technology, to track and halt the virus spread through their population. And yes while it may be unpalatable to Brits, with a whiff of Big Brother and not a cure-all, it would be more effective than just reacting to the pandemic by treating the conveyor belt of patients presenting at hospital.
How many times do health professionals and scientists – who for some reason are not the ones in the inner circle advising the govt – how many times will they repeat that social distancing, and self isolation on their own, do not work in combatting the spread of a virus. Contact tracing is the third side of the triangle.
On a weekend when we learned that the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland spent two weekends away in her second home, while the rest of the country can barely travel 2 miles from their front doors, do we really think that these government officials with their ‘following the best science’ mantra have any real clue as to what to do than you or I?
The UK govt. ignored warnings from countries in the East/failed to see the looming crisis /looked weak on messaging/looked weak on purchasing/ missed the EU ventilator buy-in/ managed to purchase two million antibody tests without knowing their efficacy/ignored and continued to ignore calls for testing and PPE in Social Care, and in doing so put hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society at serious risk.
I said it then, and I’ll say it again: to see Bojo joining in Clap for Carers this week and last, was an absolute joke. Tragic narrative arc rears its ugly head. It was the Conservative party, his party’s policies that systematically stripped away the frontline staff; created a hostile environment for health workers; supported bosses over whistle blowers/repeatedly failed to see the value in supporting nurses and doctors to do their jobs/tried to turn the whole damn thing into a business first, and a place about compassion a lowly second.
This last decade of consecutive Tory governments continuously undermining the NHS may become a very bitter pill for Boris to swallow.
‘As you sow so shall you reap‘
Day Twenty: Almost the end of another week in lockdown. Today was a better day than yesterday. This morning was filled with music. I dug out the album Give Up by Postal Service ( Read Day Nineteen Post Below) and allowed the memories to come flooding back.
I told a friend I was sorry for losing something she’d made me: lost in the time it takes to walk from my front door to my living room. It was a USB she had kindly put some exercises on for me. I felt better after telling her, then enjoyed my bananas on toast for lunch: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
The afternoon was set aside for Art and Bluebeany Art Club #2. The theme was SCI-FI and once again my inspiration came from way back in my memories. One day at school during art class, which year I don’t recall, which school also escapes me, but the class activity I do remember.
Tinfoil was the medium and by taking the foil and placing it dull side up, I drew the monster from my dream, the one from my sleep disturbances (Read Week Two). It’s the same one I would do in my one term of metalwork before switching to textiles and repeating the design in basic applique. Once you are happy with your picture on the tinfoil you turn it over and a mirror image comes out in relief on the shiny side.
It really is quite effective. I remember it being so. Today I hit upon gaps in my memory.
First: I couldn’t remember what surface to place the foil on, something hard or something with a bit of give?
Second: did you use a sharp implement like a sharpened pencil or a blunt one? I tried both and tore through the foil.
Third: the foil has to be really pristine, and mine was not. One corner had carpet print on it where I’d accidentally stood on it. I had wondered whether ironing the foil would have smoothed and prepared it better? I can half picture some ironing happening in the art class, or was it in textiles?
Fourth: trying to copy an image, yes sadly it is a copy, sci-fi fans of a certain age and a certain author might recognise it. Trying to capture that image first on paper through a mirror, then on foil using a method seen once thirty years ago, was perhaps a tad ambitious.
In the end as you can see, I got a bit lucky with the photograph of the drawing. Unbeknownst to me, the Effect I selected before pressing the button, took four shots simultaneously, then neatly stitched them together. Thank God for happy accidents, trial and error and perseverance. It may have just been an inconsequential thing, but there were truths in it. It felt good, to post my image up alongside the dozens of other brilliantly imaginative, out-of-this-world creations. Here endeth the lesson.
Never Give Up Never Surrender!
Day Nineteen: Update from my folks they got to see my sister through the window of her residential home. The general consensus from staff and both mom and dad is that ‘she is okay.’ Which is really the best we can hope for. I am relieved they got to see her and I’m looking forward to being able to send her something for Easter so she knows that I’m thinking about her.
I had a cry this evening for no obvious reason. I could probably put it down to the release of pent up emotion. There were tears streaming down my face, it might have just been hormonal, entirely possible, a hankering for the outside world, human contact or maybe it was tiredness.
Sleeping has been a bit better, but I’m waking early which isn’t like me. Had a weird dream last night where people were having a socially distanced gathering, at the end of the drive of our old house. I went over to see what was happening and went to hug a stranger and everyone told me off. I woke up at that moment. The new social controls have infiltrated every aspect of waking life, and now they are impinging into our dreams.
Earlier this week a friend sent me We Will Become Silhouettes by Postal Service. She told me that one of her favourite memories from when she lived in Hull, was me singing Postal Service songs walking down Beverley Road. If you listen or read the lyrics below you will see just how they mirror our new world.
Filtered water and pictures of you
And I’m not coming out until this is all over
Where the light bends at the cracks
And I’m screaming at the top of my lungs
Pretending the echoes belong to someone
Someone I used to know
Silhouettes when our bodies finally go
And feel something constant under my feet
But all the news reports
Recommended that I stay in doors
Our cells divide at an alarming rate
Until our shelves simply cannot hold
All our insides in
And that’s when we’ll explode
And it won’t be a pretty sight
Silhouettes when our bodies finally go [repeat x 4]
Songwriters: Benjamin D Gibbard / Jimmy Tamborello
Day Eighteen: There’s plenty of lockdown days left to continue with my memoirs, so this is serious face time. While some of us are coping with social isolation on our own, and others isolating with families or extended families; or with partners, flatmates or friends, there are certain people that faced with socially isolating with a partner would rather take their chances with the outside world.
Even before the start of the new measures governing society, Women’s Aid and Refuge were raising the impact of social isolation on survivors, and the potential for a surge in domestic violence incidents across the country. These are same charities who have had their finances and fundraising potential decimated – like most of the organisations that endeavour to make the world a better place to live – and now face another one of those perfect storms.
The government tell people to stay home but home might just be the most dangerous place to be right now. A partner used to going down the pub, having money, a job and freedom, suddenly told they can’t have these things, not only can they not have them now but this new situation will continue indefinitely… you might as well ask a lion to lay down with a lamb. It ain’t going to happen. What will happen is increased violence, increased drinking and drug abuse, and hours of primetime coercive control.
A while back, okay two decades ago, I did a paper on Domestic Violence. Back then there was no accepted reporting standard applied across the country, the response to an incident could vary wildly depending on where you lived. It used to be two women a week are killed by a current partner or former partner in England and Wales.
I’d like to think things have improved but I suspect they haven’t. And with the lockdown, survivors of abuse of all kinds, are likely to find their safety nets closed off to them. No more vitally important talks with a neighbour or friend, no regular face to face contact with support services to explore coping strategies, and a distinct lack of refuges: perfect storm like I said.
I’m pretty sure that the fear of a surge in domestic violence, was the reason behind the BBC hastily programming football, the Saturday afternoon after Bojo told us all to stay indoors.
So if lockdown has become a living nightmare there is support out there. Women’s Aid have put together a package of measures that just might save someone’s life.
Day Seventeen: Despite being beaten by a jar of jam around lunch time, today has been good. Once again I slept better, once again I ate better thanks to the shopping bags left on the door. Just so you know its red pepper soup tomorrow, and the tin has a ring pull so it should be plain sailing.
I also did the clapping for carers out of my window, and while I clap in appreciation for all the work they are doing I also clap to campaign for better working conditions and pay for the NHS and the care community. Bojo should not be stood at No 10 clapping for a sector he has systematically tried to dismantle.
Every blogger knows that Comments on here are like hen’s teeth, so in response to TraceinTime, I will wander once again down the reddish dirt track of the Sudanese memory book.
We had chickens fairly soon after we arrived. My dad built a pen for them so they could wander about, but not get out and get eaten. Remember there was a very high security fence enclosing us on all sides, and also a guard at the gate with a barrier that he lifted to let vehicles in and out of the compound. What I didn’t explain last time but you may have gathered, that there were very few other women on the compound and no other children at all.
The children of the Norwegian firm all lived near the purpose-built school in homes with lush watered gardens and swimming pools (thats how I remember it and they had been out there months and years before we set down in 81) We might get invites to go to a friend’s home and have an after school snack. The Norwegian families were big into fruit and cheese, and they would slice their cheese with a peeler, and balance it on wheat biscuits with a slice of apple. Eplekake (apple cake) was a particular favourite of mine washed down with that aforementioned powdered orange drink.
I can’t remember what it was called but you could make a jug full with iced water and it was really refreshing. You could make it in a glass and if you hadn’t stirred it properly you’d get tangy orange sherbet-like powder to scoop up in your fingers, which turned your fingers, your tongue and your lips orange.
Keeping hydrated was very important, so a topped up water cooler was an essential on journeys. Driving on the dust tracks you didn’t know when you might burst a tyre, break an axle or have some other car-related trouble: my dad flipped his Landrover more than once, never with us in it I might add. I remember coming back from somewhere, it may have been from a school friends or the air strip or maybe a trip out to a plantation. just before home we discovered a culvert near the compound had flooded, leaving us stuck on the wrong side of a washed out road.
When it rained, it really did rain. The entire compound could be turned into a quagmire in less than an hour, hence the house being on blocks. I remember the start of the rainy season, the family had been in the mess having supper with the engineers. That night there was much excitement and celebration, upon the completion of the new swimming pool.
We’d been watching the progress eagerly all week, fascinated by the big hole lined with breeze block walls; the concrete pours and snatches of talk of water-proof sealants and epoxy resin. Tonight heralded the end of the major works on the pool, later there would be a half wall built around it, some covered areas made with log uprights and roofs made from thick grasses, to give some shade and privacy, but for now it was a concrete rectangular hole being filled from a bowser.
We heard the sound of the rains arriving on the roof, and then it hammered down. Cloudburst, with thunder and lightening. You can imagine, all that heat, all that stored up energy just waiting to be released. Looking outside the rain was coming down in sheets, lightning lit up the sky and the thunder roared just after. The once dusty ground had turned to mud and it was decided quite rightly, that we were better off inside. The atmosphere inside was all the more because of the storm going hell for leather on the other side of the door.
Someone suggested that the bowser filling the pool outside, could be turned off to save water and it was. After three hours and what was for us children an extended supper and an exciting adventure in the mess, the rain lessened and my dad suggested we make a run for it: home was no more than 50 metres away.
Others decided to do likewise and I remember as we ran, some of the men went over to the newly built pool. What had been less than a foot of water in the bottom a few hours ago, was now so full it looked as if it was over-flowing. One of the more merry chaps, stripped his shirt off and jumped right in, in his shorts, much to the amusement of his workmates. By time we reached home we were wet through, but we didn’t mind, we had all the promise of a new pool just waiting for us on our doorstep.
Now those of you who know me will be aware that I can’t swim. I didn’t know then the full extent of the damage to my ears. As far as I was concerned I was going to learn to swim: push the float at arms length and kick like my life depended on it, which, in a sort of way it did: and anyway there was always the shallow end.
Swim, swim against the tide!
Day Sixteen: Good news my parents are allowed to go an visit my sister at her care home. They have been in self isolation for two weeks, and have now been deemed safe enough to go and see her from outside the window. It is nothing like a normal visit but it is something. She will know that she hasn’t been forgotten, that we all love her very much.
Mom will be able to explain to her as much as she can what is going on, and why the family can’t visit as usual, and more importantly why she can’t come home for her regular weekends. It is entirely possible that she will refuse to respond, or just tell them to go away. Hopefully it won’t frighten her.
I’m imagining myself in that position and I can see how it could be very unnerving, to have your parents on one side of the glass and to not be able to hug them. This is the same for many families right now and of course for half the world. That human touch, that contact, that squeeze that reinforces your bond with a friend, a loved one.
I have my bear Roden who is my constant nighttime companion, I’m not quite talking to him, it’s not a ‘Wilson’ scenario, not yet. If I start engaging in deep and meaningfuls with a stuffed toy you’ll be the first to know.
I watched Gwoemul (The Host) a S. Korean horror comedy tonight that a friend sent me. I like S. Korean movies they maintain a fizzing pace, highly theatrical with a disturbing sociological question, often at odds with Western ideas. The first S. Korean film I ever saw was I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay from 2006 which riffed on the what it means to be human question, with shades of Cronenberg body horror. I’ve also seen Thirst an alternative vampire tale, and that dystopian one on the train called Snow Piercer: terrible title but a good movie.
Remember when BBC 5 Live came to Hull and put those big pods down in the centre of town. They were doing live shows over two or three days, outside broadcasts of various parts of their weekly schedule. 2009/10 was it? Anyway I was a runner during the Kermode and Mayo Film Review show and I was desperate to ask Mark Kermode a question about S. Korean film. He had talked about it online and on air so I knew it was a particular passion of his. I simply wanted to know why now, why now was it that the West were beginning to take notice of Korean filmmaking.
I never got my chance. Just as I was about to ask him face to face, after the bulk of the show, simon Mayo had to do some outro pieces down the line and I weirdly bobbed down on my haunches as the make-shift studio went silent, and was left with Mark Kermode towering above me. I’d timed it all wrong. I managed to get his autograph, that was something at least. Just one of the exciting opportunities facilitated by the DMJ course, now sadly defunct, at Hull School of Art and Design.
Day Fifteen: At the start of week three I’m considering the way thousands of people are getting food deliveries right now. Those of you who have been reading the self iso adventures chez moi, will know I have been fortunate that my friendship group have left me food on the doorstep, along with a friendly wave and a bit of encouragement and solidarity from outside the gate.
Some households are getting their food through hard won delivery slots from the major supermarkets, others have people leaving bags of shopping from friends, or COVID volunteer groups, set up to respond directly to the needs of the community. Then there are those who rely on food parcels, put together by charities, many of whom are trying to meet increased demand for their services, but with less staff and depleted finances.
Today I gratefully took possession of a controversial soup choice Broccoli & Stilton – delicious by the way – and some sourdough bread. The latter from a very fine bread maker with a timely loaf-shaped start up. I was thinking about food delivery, then remembered how we used to get our food when we lived in the Sudan.
Back in ’81 my family and I lived in the Sudan in a region that now lies inside the new country of South Sudan. We lived on an expats compound where the vast majority were working on the construction of the Trans African Highway, a hugely ambitious but never realised construction project, for a direct route from Cairo, at the top of Africa, to Cape Town, at the southern tip.
The compound where we lived in prefab one-storey homes on breeze blocks, was very remote. The rural village of Torit was a short drive away. Bush country stretched to every horizon. Some urgent deliveries might come in via a small eight-seater plane landing on the airstrip about half an hour away.
The only safe way in for a family with young children, was to fly. Which we did from Nairobi over the border in Kenya with a brief stopover in Juba, the largest town in the south now the political capital of South Sudan. It was then a short hop south-east to the air-strip outside Torit. Those looking after the strip had to clear the landing site by driving very fast in imported Suzuki jeeps or motorbikes, to avoid collisions with birds and animals during take-off and landings.
The majority of our food and that of the entire compound, had to travel overland in great big covered lorries driven by a fleet of very courageous drivers. As I said earlier this was wild country and there were various groups of bandits operating on the border, who wouldn’t stop at holding up a truck and taking whatever they wanted: sometimes even the driver’s clothes. In that way we would get three or six monthly deliveries, of dried and tinned goods sourced in Nairobi; flour, cereal, dried fruit, milk powder etc. You might get some fruit and veg in the local market, but we wouldn’t walk around unchaperoned outside the compound, or outside of the school we went to each morning, built by the Norwegians some years earlier for their children.
I remember going for tea once at the Brigadier’s house in Torit. He was in charge of law and order in the region, we were given a particularly good powdered orange drink and told to sit on the verandah, while my father went inside to discuss business. The Brigadier wore a smart dark green uniform, and after the adults had talked he gave me a six year old white kid from the UK, a gift of wildebeest horns taken from poachers. I wore them round my neck, what else would you do. They were heavy. I can still remember the way I could get them to balance without holding them, as I paraded around. I was six.
I liked Sudan very much, there’s all kinds of magical memories. I recall we often had meals in the mess at a long table with all the engineers. After one of these meals we were invited to go see something special in one of engineer’s chalet.
He’d found and taken in an injured Dik-Dik, one of the tiniest antelope found in East Africa, and he nursed it back to health over the next few weeks. (there’s some question as to how long the timid little buck would have survived outside of the compound’s ten foot wire fence, before finding its way into a pot)
To finish I’ll share one very vivid memory that I’ll never forget, look away now if you have a delicate constitution. As explained earlier in the post, we had deliveries of dried goods in trucks – if they had managed to get through the borderlands unscathed – and we would have cereal for breakfast, maybe with water-melon or paw paw when they were in season.
This morning we sat down at table and became increasingly concerned that there were black specks in the milk. The delivery may have arrived safely but it would seem our cereal had been got at during the journey. Those black specks were a family of weevils who had set up home in the cereal and set free from the larger storage jar, were now doing backstroke in my bowl. I don’t remember now, all these years later, whether I had to finish breakfast that day, but I do remember having a screaming match with my mom over whether weevils were a good source of protein or not. Let us be thankful we are not all eating insects yet….
Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the weevils bite!