Week 587

Sunday, 22nd March, 2020

These are (almost) unprecedented times. It is hard to understate the position. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe in recent history. It spread worldwide during 1918-1919. Although it is not certain where the virus originated and it was commonly known as Spanish Flu, it is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. My mother-in-law (b. 1914) and my Dad (b. 1915) lived through it. We hope we have inherited their strength.

Spanish Flu Factory – 1918

It feels as if life is changing swiftly and radically and in a way that we may take a long time to turn back.

It was hard to compute the immediacy of this beautiful day with the ongoing climate of fear as the pandemic takes hold. We walked down to the beach at East Preston in sheer, opulent sunshine, delighting in the moment while holding the future in our heads.

East Preston Beach today

Pauline had slow-cooked the most wonderful garlic chicken with root vegetables and sage & onion stuffing for our meal. After staggering home from a 2 hour walk, it tasted like nectar. We are so lucky and we can’t bear to think that our fortune will be threatened by this virus.

Monday, 23rd March, 2020

What bitter/sweet irony these days are portraying. These are days in which oxymoron is exteriorised. Indoors the radio and television news, the newspapers, websites and social media all scream: Virus, Pandemic, Isolate … Outside, the world purrs: Beauty, Freedom, Blue Sky Purity and Strong, Warm, Health-giving Sunshine. We thank our lucky stars that we are in such a lovely, uncrowded place with such good medical support. We are so lucky not to be in Greece on an island with no hospital and hardly any doctors. We are so lucky to have moved from Surrey in an area dense with people many of whom travel in and out of central London daily.

Tesco Carpark – 6.00 am.

We were out at Tesco at 6.00 am today. The carpark was fairly quiet. The store was reasonably quiet and everything was available. They actually had milk, sides of fresh salmon, fresh sweet corn, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, coffee, tea, all the staples of our life. Consequently, there was no panic buying. It felt very normal.

Our Garden Centre

Last Saturday, Pauline went out to have her hair cut and, this morning, she has received a text to say the salon was now closed indefinitely. Today, I thought I would occupy my enforced home stay with some gardening so I went to the garden centre round the corner from my home to buy, seeds, soil, plant food, lawn reviver and broad leaf weed killer. That should keep me busy for a while which s fortunate because we later saw this header on their website. The world is closing down….. Hello World.

Tuesday, 24th March, 2020

The weather outside continues to taunt us. It is glorious outside. Clear, blue sky, strong sunshine, no breeze, warm – only 11C/52F but feels really comfortable in shorts and tee-shirt. Exercise today will include lawn mowing, patio sweeping, garden furniture uncovering and cleaning as well as a long walk in the sunshine.

I am not naturally an especially panicky person so you can imagine that I was absolutely alarmed this morning when I opened the bedroom door. I challenge anyone to be anything otherwise. As I opened the bedroom door I found a strange man sitting on a chair with another standing at his side waiting for me. They had come to take me away. How did they get in to my house?

Through the power of dreams. I was having a dream. I never dream or never remember dreaming. Clearly, I had gone to bed feeling under threat and insecure. These are uncertain times for all of us. Clearly, I have internalised this anxiety and it has sought an outlet and resolution. The dream was so vivid that hours later I could paint the scene that faced me on the other side of the bedroom door. I have surprised even myself.

More serious than Pandemic!

When I opened my bedroom door in real time, I faced an emergency far more serious and immediate than any pandemic. Every television Sky Q Box in the house bar one had lost its internet connection. What a time to lose our window on the world. I wish I could said it was a dream but no. My first thought was that the mooted drop in web bandwidth that the crisis might engender as more home working was adopted may have been the cause. However, my internet connection still gave me 350 mbs download. 

I rushed around the house reconnecting everything. Thank goodness for the WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button. Unfortunately, by the time they were all connected to the web, the handsets had lost their settings. It took me 20 mins to realise that. I had to check Google to be reminded how to reset them and, at last I could relax and just panic about the news of the virus pandemic.

Wednesday, 25th March, 2020

The beautiful, pandemic days go on. We opened the conservatory doors to the sunshine and I had my hair cut in the kitchen. My head feels great now. We went out to Littlehampton to buy fresh fish from the fisherman’s shed. The roads were very quiet and we were lulled in to a false sense of security. We called in at Asda en route. People were queuing around the car park at 2m intervals to get in and shop. We drove on. We came so Sainsbury’s and thought we’d try our luck. People were queuing around the car park at 2m intervals to get in and shop. We drove on. 

When we got to the pier at Littlehampton, it was clear that the fisherman was not open. 

Littlehampton working today.

Although there was plenty of traffic up and down the water, the blackboard outside the shed announced: Sold Out of Fish. So, all in all, not a very profitable trip other than a delightful walk.

Littlehampton Pier

As we drove home, we spotted a Tesco Express which had no admission policy but had a new delivery of bananas and milk which were on our ‘To Find’ list.

Back home, we enjoyed the weather in our back garden, sunbathing, gardening and relaxing. We went out for an hour’s walk in the locality. Later, we griddled chicken in the garden and DRANK WINE. Joy of joys! If I’m going to die, I’m not going to do it abstemiously.

Thursday, 26th March, 2020

You can’t maintain a Blog and ignore a pandemic at the moment. It is at the forefront of most of our minds. As the media constantly updates the number of people infected and the number who have died, as people roam the supermarkets manically hunting for food stuffs, as fellow humans cross the road to avoid those they once spoke to happily, I have been wracking my mind or an echo that has been chiming there. Last night, it suddenly dawned on me. 

In 1975 I was a young teacher working hard during the day and doing a distance learning degree at night. I had little time for television but one thing really gripped me. It was a post-apocalyptic, serial drama created by a man called Terry Nation who was also famous for creating the Daleks in Dr Who and a space drama called Blake’s 7. Fiction does little for me. Science Fiction leaves me cold. I have absolutely no interest at all. Genuine ‘scoping’ of can grip me and one burned into my imagination. 

In 1975, Terry Nation’s drama, Survivors, was broadcast on BBC1. It concerns the plight of a group of people who have survived an apocalyptic plague pandemic, which was accidentally released by a Chinese scientist and quickly spread across the world via air travel. Referred to as “The Death”, the plague kills approximately 4,999 out of every 5,000 human beings on the planet within a matter of weeks of being released. Total anarchy reigned. Small pockets of survivors roamed the streets searching for food and water with no services being run no electricity, no fresh water, etc. Armed vigilantes were the biggest threat, ransacking deserted supermarkets and terrorising others who challenged them. If you thought the current situation was bad, it could all get a great deal worse.

You can’t beat home baking.

Of course, in a crisis, it’s wonderful to have a wife who can bake. This happens every week in our household and has done for the past 40 years. The smell pervades the whole kitchen and gives a confident, relaxing feeling.

Friday, 27th March, 2020

A beautiful, sun-filled day but cooled by an edgy sea breeze. I have spent a large chunk of the day organising and collecting in payments for travel over the coming year that we are now unlikely to enjoy. Already, the IHG Hotel group has refunded bookings for two weeks in Yorkshire and France. Today, I have been addressing two separate months stays through HomeAway in Tenerife. The first is in May and the second in November. It looks as if May is definitely out of the question. Spain currently has a complete lock-down and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against it. If that advice remains for a couple more weeks, we can cancel with full refund. 

Essential Travel Advice

Our November trip can be cancelled with full refund of our deposit at this early stage and that’s what we have done. If the situation clears up by then, we will consider rebooking.  We still have a week in Athens in late August booked. Greece is also in total lockdown currently and we may have to rethink our plans. However, I have not failed to touch Greek soil in any year since 1981 and I will fight hard to keep that link going. It will have to be really serious to make me miss this year.

Our bank balance is beginning to look swollen but our hopes for the year are diminishing. Who knows, good things may come out of all this but first we have to stay alive.

Saturday, 28th March, 2020

The world is quiet – almost in a coma.  In our area, at least, people are respecting the request to stay at home and, largely, stay indoors. It has been made really ironic as the weather is quite delightful This has been beach weather, near a beach but one which is quiet and largely deserted.

Yesterday Angmering, West Sussex / Monastiraki, Athens

It is hard to see tourist areas recovering in time for this year’s summer season. It is hard to see many airlines, hotels and restaurants surviving this trauma.