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Ramping Up The Cliches (I Usually Avoid Them Like The Plague)
At the end of the day, we are all in it together, trying to navigate the uncharted territory towards an uncertain future. The light at the end of the tunnel is not even on the horizon so we’ll just have to take on board that we are in it for the long haul and take each day as it comes. This crisis came out of left field but I’m sure we’ll all do whatever it takes to remain as fit as a fiddle as we pass through the calm before the storm, but every cloud has a silver lining and we’ll be over the moon when we hear the final whistle. Some say the writing’s on the wall but, right now, staying in is the new going out so, by complying with the rules, our salvation could well be in our hands.
The powers that be seem to have been taking part in a different ballgame at the advent of the crisis, didn’t heed the wake-up call and failed to step up to the plate. Some blue sky thinking might lead to solutions which, without further dither and delay, could enable those in the front line to continue to make a difference. At the moment, they’re not getting it done!
Extract from “A Life Altered” A blog by Bobby Cadwallader
Saturday 4th April 2020
Day 13 of the lockdown. I woke feeling as if I’d drunk a bottle of wine whereas in reality I haven’t had any alcohol since New Year. My shoulder was still aching from yesterday’s Body Combat but, after an inner personal struggle, I forced myself to get up. An improvement on one or two of the previous days. I remembered, with some satisfaction, that I did not have to brave the “one in one out” system at Tesco today. Thankfully I completed that task yesterday. I certainly couldn’t cope with that ritual more than once a week!
I managed both ballet barre and body balance this morning. Thank goodness for Les Mills. A sunshine walk over the fields restored my spirits further. We only encountered two selfish people today. Dog walkers who just hung around the stile, oblivious of our need to pass. Let’s hope Matt Hancock doesn’t ban outdoor exercise because of folk like these. Our routes are really isolated so we don’t see too many people, although we no longer walk the canal paths because they are too narrow to support social distancing. I am increasingly grateful to live in Bierton. I so appreciate the countryside we can just step into: beautiful open fields and a network of public rights of way.
My day improved further when I was able to view my 99 year old mum, courtesy of my brother’s phone, on Whatsapp. Seeing her face to face was a comfort. I am still very worried about her, as she only sees her carer once a day at 8.30am for 30 minutes. She sees no one else unless my brother pops in, which, fortunately, he does at least 3 times a week. I am two hours away and would be rule breaking if I travelled that distance. Besides, my husband is in a vulnerable group so I wouldn’t take that risk. Nevertheless, I feel so torn and guilty. With severe macular degeneration she relies on the radio and listening books for entertainment. On a positive note she did tell me how much her poetry is sustaining her. I am inclined to agree. “Loveliest of trees” seems to have a greater resonance for me this Spring. Although I should be even more wistful than the twenty year old Housman since I am rapidly approaching my threescore years and ten!
Later in the afternoon we played the board game Carcassonne on Skype with my grandchildren in California. Such fun. Why have we never done something like this before? It beats the ordinary Skype call hands down for engagement and social intercourse, despite the fact we were beaten hollow by our 11 year old grandson! Let’s hope we have started a new custom.
In the evening we decided to create our own “night out” at home. We dressed up for a three course meal, with wine, the first glass of the year, and then “went to the National Theatre” to watch “One man two guvnors.” Such a riot. How we laughed. James Corden is a true comic and the rest of the cast weren’t too shabby either. We even enjoyed an ice cream in the interval.
Getting ready for bed, we agreed that the 13th day had proved to be much better than it augured.
The Silver Lining
I am old, quite ancient I think in bear years. I had better not say how many human years as I am just a little younger than my keeper.
For the last few years I have been sitting on a shelf on what I believe is called the landing; I am not sure what lands there as nothing has ever passed by except for my keeper and two other humans, one of whom is quite noisy when he goes into the room next to where I sit. I’ve got used to the sounds at the beginning and end of each day; in the middle of the day it is quiet, but I don’t mind that.
Let me describe myself to you: my species is known as a Teddy Bear; I am quite small in stature as I have on occasion been placed in the company of much larger teddy bears. Some of these could actually produce quite alarming sounds when their stomachs are pressed. I have no such instrument and am glad that I am not pushed and prodded in that manner. I am light brown in colour and my coat is, or was, fur. Unfortunately, over the years I have lost much of my fur and now only have a light coating over my arms and legs – yes teddy bears, unlike other bears, do have arms. I think my look is described as ‘well loved’.
I was well loved – once. Not that I have been mistreated over the years – no, in fact, I have always stayed with my keeper and lived in many different places.
Let me go back to the beginning. The first recollection is being placed in what I now know is called a pram, next to a small human form. This is called a baby and this particular one was what they call a girl. I don’t think it matters whether the human is a girl or a boy, but I believe girls make kinder keepers. I spent a lot of time being carried around by the girl – her name was Christine and she has been my keeper all this time.
Various memories come back to me. Once I had what is known as a scarf which came loose one day when we were in a place called Woolworths. My keeper was very upset and cried as we never found it; I was upset too but I don’t show my feelings.
Another time my keeper was at home unwell in her bedroom where I also lived. Some other small humans called up to the window and I was brought out to be viewed. What happened next was terrible – I was dropped from that great height but luckily fell into the arms of one of the small humans and was eventually reunited with my keeper.
Lots of other things have taken place over the years. I lost both my eyes and some of my nose; my keeper’s mother sewed me some new eyes with black thread, don’t worry it didn’t hurt but it gave me a slightly beady look. My keeper did not like my appearance at all and told her mother so, but she hasn’t changed my features, so I think she likes me as I am.
When my keeper had babies of her own I sometimes found myself thrown in among a cluster of other bears and various other species – rabbits, dogs, cats and lambs come to mind. These new companions were often brightly coloured and wore items of clothing. I have never seen the need for clothing and prefer a natural look, though I have occasionally sported a ribbon tied round my neck which I put up with as I didn’t really have a choice. When these babies grew larger, I was returned to the sanctity of my keeper’s bedroom and allowed to have my peaceful days once more.
Now something unusual has happened to me – I was taken from my shelf and placed in the window downstairs. I can see humans walking by and the smaller ones sometimes point and wave at me. It is very nice to suddenly be interacting with humans again.
I hear it is for what they are calling a bear hunt and the small humans are seeing how many bears they can spot on their daily walks. I don’t think there will be many bears as old as me, but I have heard my keeper say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and right now I am inclined to agree with her.
When this lousy time is over
Hymn in the time of Covid 19
(Sung to the tune of “What a friend we have in Jesus” and apologies to the film “Oh what a lovely war”)
When this lousy time is over
We will meet up in the pub
Go to see our darling mothers
And enjoy their gorgeous grub
No more missing church on Sundays
No more walking miles apart
We can visit all our families
Then our lives again can start
When this lousy time is over
We can go back to the stores
Buy the goods that we are needing
Without stopping by the doors
No more scouring shelves in Tesco
No more waiting in the queue
We will value every loo roll
Tinned goods, tomatoes, pasta too
When this lousy time is over
Lives will settle down again
We can re-instate our rituals
But less stringent to maintain
No more singing happy birthday
Till our hands are rubbed quite raw
We all know it makes such good sense
But it makes them rather sore
When this lousy time is over
We can go back to the gym
Body pump, combat and ballet
At a class with many in
No more exercise on telly
No more yoga in the lounge
We can get to do our down- dog
With lots of others all around
When our lives return to normal
We can meet our friends for tea
We survived corona virus
Oh how grateful we should be
No more isolating issues
No more keeping friends at bay
We will say that we got through it
Lived to fight another day.
Sir Lancelot’s Horse
Twas the eve of the great jousting tournament held annually or once a year aT Camelot. Famous knights would come from far and wide to compete for the hand of the kings daughter, the exotic Spudulica who was much chased, and often caught! The most famous of all the Knights was sir lancelot who at six feet seven inches tall was known to all fair maidens as the longest Knight, Unlike poor sir Ivinghoe beacon, who at only four feet six had the nick name of S.S. or summer solstice, (see what I did then?)
Now it is fair to say that spudulica could never be described as a beauty in any respect. It is said, though rather unkindly, that she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. When god gave out noses she thought he said roses and asked for a big red one. She had but one tooth in her head, the Spanish ambassador referred to her as oneeater, and breath so fowl that it spoilt her first marriage even before it had been consummated. The story goes that it had been arranged for her to marry prince helmit scholl of Germany, a man with the stinkiest feet in Christendom, or anywhere else for that matter. Both very embarrassed by their affliction, helmit and spudulica managed to stay two yards apart, even through the wedding ceremony. On the wedding night whilst getting ready for bed in sperate dressing rooms they both decided that they would have to own up to their afflictions. At the same time they both left their dressing rooms and met at the foot of the marital bed. Spudulica said “helm, i need to confess something to you” but before she could say anything else helm replied, “don’t tell me, you’ve eaten my socks?!
Anyway, I digress. On the eve of the tournament mildew, sir lancelots trusted squire, came hammering on merlin the magicians door. Merlin, or tricky dickie as he was known, opened the door and, in floods of tears, mildew exclaimed “someone has stolen sir lanclot’s horse and as I was charged with getting him ready for the tournament I will get the blame. The wise merlin knew that it would be easier to buy toilet rolls from ye old tesco shoppe than find a spare horse on the eve of a jousting competition at Camelot, so he advised mildew that he feared there was nothing that could be done. Mildew was nothing if not resourceful and he remembered that he had seen a huge dog, a great Dane, in the kings hunting kennels so he borrowed him.
On the morn of the joust, mildew had regaled the great dane in all the finery meant for Lancelot’s horse. When he had finished, he stood back to survey his work. He had to admit to himself that the great Dane looked really strange in armour and a saddle. he thought he would ask merlin for his opinion before presenting the creature to sir Lancelot. when merlin arrived he took one look at the great Dane and said to mildew.
“I wouldn’t put a knight out on a dog like this”
DEJA VUE: APRIL 2020
Anne stood on the grassy hillock, looking out over the bleak moorland, a frost in the air and a few snowflakes whirling. She watched a white flake dissolve as it hit the stone by her side and she rubbed a finger over the damp patch. It was nearly Christmas and she was waiting to meet Jack. Her hand rubbed the dip in the stone and she saw the stains left by vinegar and water. What a tale it could tell. Here the villagers had left money wrapped in rags soaked in vinegar, to kill all germs. In exchange they had collected basic supplies such as flour, eggs, oats and other day to day essentials left by helping hands from neighbouring communities. Letters had been deposited for collection; she herself had left billets doux for Jack.
Here was Jack now. He strode towards her, crossing the boundary stone, and she ran into his arms. It was over and she was well. When they had asked George, the local tailor, to make them new finery for the festivities over a year ago little had the villagers suspected that the bales of cloth sent from London would house an infestation of fleas. George Vicars, and then his family, had been the first to die of the plague – the Black Death. In their small village, Eyam, seventy six families had been affected and two hundred and sixty had died. It was only thanks to the Reverend William Mompesson, who lost his own wife to the disease, that the plague had not spread far and wide. The villagers had heeded his words and sealed off the village to save others. They had prayed hard, joining the Reverend every Sunday for church services in the open space named Cucklett Delph, each family standing well apart from the others to stop the spread of infection. Ann’s parents had been amongst the last to pass and Marshall Howe, the unofficial gravedigger, had helped her lay them to rest. Each family was responsible for burying their own dead, so as to ensure infection did not spread.
As Ann held Jack’s hand they slowly walked across the fields and over the stone stile back to habitation. Along the way they paused for a moment near Riley House Farm, and looked at the Riley Graves, memorials to Elizabeth Hancock’s husband and six of her seven children whom she had buried with her own care worn hands as they succumbed one by one to the sickness.
The history of Eyam is still remembered; the cottages bearing plaques of those who died of the bubonic plague in the fourteen months from September 1665 to November 1666. For three months the village had been an island of grief and tragedy. Annie had studied the history as part of a project in the first year of her degree course. Now it seemed very real.
Feeling stifled Annie had hastily donned her coat and run from the house to take her permitted hour of exercise striding across the moorland outside her cottage. Earlier she had had a video call with Jack and later they had agreed the timing of their walk. She missed him so much but it had only been three weeks; there were at least another three to go. How she longed to touch somebody, to give them a hug. There he was, waiting by the stone marker. Annie came to a halt, ensuring they were two metres apart, as advised. They must ensure the infection did not spread, although they both appeared to be quite well. Their words were lost to the wind as they tried to communicate their love and sorrow at being apart.
They knew the news was terrifying – thousands dead and a steady stream of new mortalities daily, in the hundreds. Temporary hospitals had been built to shelter thousands of sick patients, cavernous buildings had been temporarily converted into morgues and mass graves were being dug as trenches so there was time to give the deceased a swift, dignified and lonely burial. Everybody was sealed into their own community, not just a small village but sixty six million people living in the United Kingdom. Across the world every country was the same – billions sheltering inside to protect their communities. Yet still the virus spread, starting in China and infiltrating across the world through international travel. The tragedy of Eyam magnified. History remaking.
As she paid a hasty farewell to Jack, having espied an unofficial police informer peering out of their window, she took the opportunity to buy some essentials at the village store. The locals were entering one at a time so as to keep their distance. Pulling on her face mask, and donning protective gloves, she made her essential purchase of what staples they had on the bare shelves. There was not much left as the stockpilers had filled their cupboards and freezers. Taking a loaf she paused at the wooden gate of a small, stone cottage. Calling out to its resident, Mrs Jones, she deposited it on the stone wall and took the coins left for her, wrapped in a precious tissue, and hidden in a dip in the stone. As she left she gave her neighbour a wave but there was no chatting or banter. Elderly and vulnerable, Mrs Jones had to scurry straight back indoors with her rations.
Entering her home by the back door she heard her sisters and brothers singing along with the television. They were playing a game – Ring a Ring a Roses – an old rhyming song sung over the centuries by children who did not know the origin of the Plague Rhyme. Annie shuddered.
As she stood outside the front door later that evening, Clapping for Carers, a weekly Thursday ritual at 8 o’clock, she thought back to her studies. She had a sense of Deja Vue. How she hoped they could beat this like the villagers of Eyam. How she hoped it would only be three months of lockdown to stop the spread of the disease. Looking along the street tears came to her eyes as she saw her community standing as one, two metres apart, clapping and banging their pots and pans to thank those looking after them all – NHS workers, Carers, delivery drivers, supermarket workers, refuse collectors, teachers, volunteers and the army of essential workers . Like an open air church service their anthems sounded in the night air – We’ll Meet Again and You’ll Never Walk Alone, the stirring songs of the day, and of other tragic times in the past.
She looked up and saw the Rainbow of Hope displayed in the window across the road. Taking her phone she took a video shot, the singing in the background, and swiftly sent it to Jack with a kiss and the words Take Care, Keep Safe, We’ll Meet Again soon.