Thoughts on the Pandemic 5
(added to this page on 27 June 2020)
As you will know if you’ve read my previous scribblings, I did equate friendship with whether or not I’d been in touch with people, or they with me, during this pandemic we’re going through. As any sane and sensible person knows, it isn’t the fact of contact, or the frequency of contact, which determines friendship. Rather it is the depth of feeling and amount of meaningful communication in that contact. Lots of things have been written about friendship over the years but the recent situation in this pandemic had caused me to think a bit more deeply about friendship and particularly about what makes a friend.
My very best friend and I, with a relationship going back sixty years, seldom see each other, seldom phone each other but when we do it means the world to both of us. We start where we left off last time and continue forward, deepening further our understanding of each other and our lives. She is probably the person who knows me best in the whole world as she has known me, girl and woman, as well as all my extended family and then my own nuclear family during that time. She has seen me through good times and bad, as I have her. She’s danced and sung with me at parties; sat on the pavement with me outside a pub during our town’s annual Fair (I have the photo to prove it!); let me cry on her shoulder many a time; and has made me feel six feet tall when other friends let me down. I remember talking to her when in our teens about how lucky we were to meet, quite unusually, and get on so well. We went to different schools, lived in different villages, socialised in different groups but, very fortunately, both knew another girl who introduced us.
All of us, if we’re lucky, have such friends. But are there different kinds of friends? Do I call those people friends whom you would call friends if you felt about them the way I do? Or do you call that type of person an acquaintance? It’s a ticklish problem because we rarely, if ever, talk to our friends (or acquaintances) as adults, about our mutual relationships, as we used to do as children. Do you remember the “Can I be your friend” days? So what in the world really makes a friend? I tend to think it’s someone:
• with whom we share values
• whose company we appreciate, in good times and bad
• who keeps our secrets and knows what is a secret without being told
• who is ready to help, if necessary
• whom you are ready to help, whatever and whenever
• who understands you and you understand, despite not being the same
• without whom life would be worse
• with whom we’ve shared experiences.
Nowhere in that list, which admittedly was off the top of my head and you may think differently, does it mention frequent contact, although I do think frequent contact at some point is necessary to have “shared experiences.” Therefore, is it possible to have a close friend you don’t see for years but did see a lot of at one point and retain a close friendship? The answer is undoubtedly “Yes”! One of my closest friends I saw last thirteen years ago and, although we’ve spoken since, we haven’t really shared experiences for fifty years, except through phone calls. She’s someone with whom I shared a home during student days and those few years together have made us lifelong friends, despite living hundreds of miles from each other since that time.
So what about new friends? They’re the ones I’ve made since coming here following retirement. They’ll never know me quite as well as those who’ve known me thirty or so years – unless I live to get my telegram! However, they’re extremely important, as this pandemic has shown. What would I have done without the lovely friend living nearby who has brought goodies to the door to share? Or the one who has looked over the fence for a cheery word now and again? Or the ones who have phoned me now and again to share our thoughts on lockdown? And on our aches and pains? All of them have been and are important to me. Without friendship life would be so much poorer and, in some ways, this dreadful time has made friends of those who weren’t necessarily friends, more like acquaintances, before. Has sharing the experience and becoming friends been the silver lining? I tend to think so.
Thoughts on the Pandemic 4
(added to this page on 1 June 2020)
Okay, I have to confess that I’ve cracked. After two months of self-imposed isolating followed by lockdown I’m definitely not the woman I was. As frustrated as I am, I find myself getting angry, and even confrontational, over very little, although I don’t see the issues as being very little at the time. As aggression is a symptom of frustration, I’m waiting for the regression, fixation and apathy that can follow. To be truthful, I’m quite looking forward to the apathy stage; it’s less taxing. (I think my husband probably is, too!)
As you can tell, I’m not feeling particularly bad today, when writing this, so maybe it’ll do some good. After all, what’s the point of being angry about every little thing that’s happening in the world when I can do nothing about it? The government is going to continue governing (after a fashion); the virus is going to continue ravaging the world’s population; the tabloids are going to continue writing rubbish; and good old Donald is going to continue sorting out everything with bleach and bombast. And my friends are going to continue dying because we all do at some point. I have to just get used to it.
A very good friend who knows me better than I know myself, hit the nail right on the head when I told her how I was feeling. She said she’d been waiting for me to revert to type, that I was normally a “doer”, very poor at sitting back and realising I couldn’t fix everything. The present situation, she explained to me, is the very thing to make me hugely frustrated, being a time when problems are such that I can do absolutely nothing about them. We agreed that if I could go to Oxford and help the team there to work on a vaccine I’d be fine!
So, the upshot is that I’m sick of being a “human being, not a human doing”! The mindfulness lark didn’t last long, I’m afraid.
(added to this page on 26 May 2020)
I ask you, is it fair? Here we all are, well into retirement, just about getting the hang of it, and along comes Covid-19. Remember when you looked forward to spending time with your spouse? That tingle of anticipation when it was home time? Days when you just longed to do nothing but be in each other’s company? Some of you may have partaken of that particular form of bliss for some time now; others may just be starting out on that stage of life’s voyage of discovery. Strangely, it is a period that is often anticipated but seldom really planned. Pensions may have been put in place from an early age, when all thoughts of retirement were considered as merely a story to scare the young, just something to do with the world of work that had to be done. Or the more daring and brazen might have chosen to put their metaphorical fingers in their ears whilst humming excerpts from Gotterdammerung. However, most couples, if they thought about retirement at all, expected their social and family lives to go along as before, but without the drawback of work.
This way of thinking can still be seen in the newly retired who can be caught still smiling at each other and perhaps planning picnics or invigorating walks – together. This has a short shelf-life and by year two of this utopia, the husband has usually joined Probus and the wife re-joined the W.I. They still plan days out, but generally can’t be bothered with all the fuss of making a flask. Now they’re quite content to drive to the sea and, gazing out of the car windscreen, contemplate mortality and the meaning of life. By now they have settled into a reasonable routine and perfected the art of mental distancing: they may be in the same room but one of them is silently plotting out the vegetable patch for the coming year, while the other might be running scenes from life pre-marriage, and considering a teeny peek at the Facebook page of the sixth-form boyfriend. Of course, these thoughts are non-gender specific, either partner might hold one, or both, of these musings in mind, at one time or another.
Usually, after several years of mental retreat, some sort of unacknowledged pact is agreed on and they gradually sink into the twilight world of the long-time retired: a place where small victories are won in the war of attrition. He may smile as he leaves the toilet seat up – again, and she may feign horror when his best jumper comes out of the wash much smaller than it went in. It is a favourite form of entertainment. They are still together as love takes many forms …..
Into this finely balanced world comes Covid-19 and there will be no more drives to the coast, or the hills. That niggling feeling of ever decreasing opportunities for adventure is a now a reality. There really won’t be an award from the Chelsea Flower Show, and there will be no re-kindled passion via Facebook, with the sixth-form boyfriend. They may actually have to start meaningful conversations again, and who knows, they may discover why retirement can be fun and why they have weathered many a marital storm. They might still look longingly at the world outside their door but they will be looking in the same direction. And by the time the virus is on the run they may even be smiling at each other...
I Miss the Make-believe of Being Young
(added to this page on 26 May 2020)
The day of the visit to the hairdressers where, with a little dye and some expert scissors she takes ten years off me [well maybe not ten!].
The swimming session with the grandchildren in the pool after lessons where we race up and down like kids [well, they are kids].
The new jumper from White Stuff and the outing to meet my Book Group with a little make-up and a big smile and, of course, a glass of wine!
My daughter asking for another INSET outing for the children while she goes to work. Me saying something about ‘getting on a bit’, and her saying, “Nonsense Mum – you’re young!”
A holiday to the Scilly Isles with my husband. A new adventure in a new location. Sun, glorious views, boat trips, flowers, wind in my hair [alright I’m getting a bit carried away – but then this is the holiday that has been cancelled].
And now, no pretence, no dissembling, no claim, no make-believe, just ELDERLY !!
WHAT AM I MISSING DURING LOCKDOWN?
(added to this page on 18 May 2020)
A lot more if I was obeying my doctor!! I locked down on 10th March on the strict instructions of my family followed by my doctor on 24th saying I was NOT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR AT LEAST 3MONTHS!! I am on the at risk register. I was willing to stop shopping and seeing family and friends and all classes, but not giving up my daily walk as well. He now calls it my “Illegal Walk” No gates to open or people to see up close but securing my mental state!. We are so lucky living where we do and for that I am truly grateful.
We have fairly modern wifi and phone equipment to keep in touch. .Adding What’s App zoom etc and forwarding lots of jokes, photos and having long chats by phone. Our two grandchildren have accepted the situation very well and taking things in their stride. BUT let’s hope for the whole world that corona19 can be beaten very soon to stop the dreadful loss of life..
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!. Actually it is a grass meadow being blown into waves by the wind on a really bright afternoon. The “sea” is filled with bright yellow dandelions and white “clocks” the seed parachutes being broadcast far and wide.
Oilseed rape fields abound this year. The smell isn’t pleasant but they are a wonderful hiding place for deer, partridge , pheasant and hares. Stand and stare and eventually you may see periscope ears or antlers appearing.
Bright yellow is definitely the in colour at the moment; oxlips, cowslips, meadow buttercups, celandine, daisies, birds foot trefoil and winter aconite and of course the acres of oil seed rape.
The other prominent colour is the new green of unfurling beech leaves in the wood that was recently filled with heavy machinery cutting out lots of timber. The difference is amazing with so much more light and air movement and bluebells seen for the first time. Finally the birdsong with the more open canopy. Incredible to see a pheasant nesting on the ground in some cut branches, with 12 light turquoise eggs .Too vulnerable on the ground and it didn’t survive. Unseen in the rape must be many more nests.
If I was truly honest yes I am missing family and friends contact. I have mastered online shopping with 4 deliveries since March. A letter 5.5.2020 giving me priority slots will save a lot of stress!
We have charged our car batteries as cars have not been used since 10th March. MOT has to wait!
Got desperate one morning and took my dress making scissors to my nonexistent hair style. Not bad!! Not had the time or inclination to sort our cupboards and drawers they can wait till a really wet day!
The night skies have been extremely interesting with special moons, a very bright Venus and Elon Musk’s Sky train so visible. Checking the Tracking Schedules .gives the times, direction and duration.
To be fair my life through lockdown isn’t so different to usual. I accepted the situation straight away, it is what it is and acceptance makes for a much better mental state. Look forward not back and be patient.
Thoughts on the Pandemic 3
(added to this page on 11 May 2020)
As well as the undoubted care being given to people by workers, especially health professionals of all descriptions, social care staff and all other key workers, at this time of national need, it’s heartening to see the care and concern being given to those in the community by others living amongst them. I am delighted to have become aware of just how many really good people there are; very ordinary people who want no recognition and little thanks for putting themselves out for others. We’ve been told of the thousands of people who have volunteered to help in the NHS but there are just as many, I’m sure, who are helping neighbours and others in their own communities.
It’s to be hoped that this spirit of community responsibility and genuine kindness will continue long after the Covid-19 crisis has ended (if it ever will!) and that the actions of those helping at present will influence others to join them.
I don’t know if I’m being overly optimistic but there seems to have been, too, a shift away from older people being seem as problematic in themselves (too many of us, living too long and costing too much) to a rather protective attitude towards them. Certainly, I think that the general population appears to be disgusted at the situation that pertains in care homes at present or at least those who are disgusted are making their voices heard.
As someone who sits very comfortably in the Over 70s Risk Group, I’ve experienced more concern for my welfare than ever before. Apart from younger neighbours taking a keen interest in my wellbeing and offering support daily if it’s needed, several supermarkets and local shops have contacted me to tell me they’re willing to help. Yes, I know it’s to their advantage for me to shop with them but, let’s face it, recently shops have been able to sell their food to anyone. I’m sure there’s not a food shop worth its salt that hasn’t increased its turnover remarkably this past month or so.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good at present among those who aren’t ill. I read and hear with considerable disquiet about the rise in domestic abuse - both to partners and to children - during the lockdown. It must be absolutely horrendous to have the worry of physical violence on top of the concern that most of us are feeling to some extent about the virus, money worries which many have and concern for vulnerable relatives.
There’s an acknowledgement that the mental health of the population is at risk at present and those of us living where we do are lucky indeed to be able to get outside easily and enjoy the outdoors. Just a small amount of physical exercise outside makes me feel a great deal more positive and happier to return inside again.
Is it just me or does the idea of “celebrating” the 75th anniversary of VE Day seem a bit inappropriate at present? I like to honour and thank those responsible for affording me and mine the opportunity to live the life we do. However, I can’t help feeling that street parties (while maintaining social distance) which have included loud music, dancing and singing (as has happened) are somewhat distasteful at a time when, in our country alone, hundreds are dying every day and over thirty thousand families are in mourning for loved ones lost because of Covid-19. I can understand that being able to forget the reality of life at present, if only for a day, must be attractive but when there are so many in such difficult circumstances, including NHS and care workers at work who wouldn’t be able to enjoy themselves and, indeed, are putting their lives at risk, it seems somewhat thoughtless.
Don’t get me wrong; I like street parties. I’m usually the first dancing and the first to sing in normal times. But these aren’t normal times. It smacks somewhat of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Or am I just getting to be a kill-joy in my old age?
The Good and the Bad
(added to this page on 4 May 2020)
Apart from the Coronavirus, April has been a glorious month. The blossom was at its best, the sun shone, the birds sang, and the village looked wonderful with few people or cars. Some mornings I could lay in bed and forget the awful things happening in the world. Then real-life returned.
I love cooking, but would love a meal cooked by someone else. Cinema, swimming, doing my own shopping, and seeing family and friends. All the things we take for granted are now sadly missed. Thank goodness that I can walk and read, although I am getting desperately short of books.
I have just returned from my walk, where I saw squirrels, many birds, lots of wild flowers, and best of all a kingfisher. The trout have come out of hiding, maybe because it is quieter. People seem friendlier and want to stop and talk.
The garden is getting a lot more attention, though I could do with some compost.
I wonder how much longer this state of affairs will carry on, but in the words of the song, "Things can only get better"
Looking for Positivity!
Five Weeks ...
(added to this page on 27 April 2020)
So far, it’s been five weeks without a supermarket shop: five weeks driving on car-clogged roads; five weeks without a stiff neck after reversing into the smallest space in the supermarket car-park; five weeks without scanning the shelves, reaching up, reaching down, retracing steps; five weeks queuing and queuing and queuing, then loading bags – dairy here, frozen food there, everything thrown anywhere by the end of the process; five weeks of heaving bags from the trolley into the car-boot and back onto the angry road, and then five weeks of not trundling from the car to the kitchen, to the fridge to the freezer, to the shelves and the cupboards.
Instead, it’s been five weeks of phone conversations with a friendly local shop-keeper; five weeks of suggestions as to what is fresh or what can be obtained; five weeks of writing lists that someone else will load into cars; five weeks of smiling people delivering these boxes of delight to my porch. Five weeks when the world has slowed and we have reverted to a rhythm of life that has been lost. It will speed up again but, in the meantime, I will enjoy my release from supermarket slavery and enjoy a cup of tea.
By Eleanor Ford
Positivity in the Lockdown
(added to this page on 22 April 2020)
It seems strange to imagine that we could possibly call ourselves lucky! Both over 70 and confined to barracks aside from ‘permission’ to exercise.
But, how lucky are we to live behind Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Greystones! Five minutes’ walk has us strolling along the Oxfordshire Way bridle path and then on through glorious fields to the River Eye. Along the way we notice birdsong and blossom, dandelions and cowslip.
Our new ‘best friends’ are the dog walkers who frequent the many and varied paths around the reserve in the mornings when we go. We begin to recognise each other and politely stand away from gates as we keep our social distance.
The farm at Greystones stands proud on the hill continuing its work with an automated milking parlour. The cows themselves are delighted to be set free. Just like us pleased to be released from lockdown! They frolic in the pastures. Well perhaps ‘frolic’ is an exaggeration as many of them are heavily pregnant. Still they certainly run about and peer curiously over the hedges at the human escapees.
The River Eye curls around the flood meadows and we gaze at it fondly from the little bridge where the river flows fast enough to play ‘Pooh sticks’. We remember earlier times when the children splashed and paddled in the sunshine. Now it is other peoples’ dogs who enjoy the water.
Water is always a treat on a walk as it glistens in our remarkable spring weather. We pass the lakes on the way to the Rissington road and look forward to when they receive migrating birds.
So, as you can see, we are lucky. Lucky to live in the Cotswolds, in a pretty village and able to comply so readily with the current regulations and still be in the countryside!
By Fiona Freeman - scribbler
(added to this page on 22 April 2020)
Out of bed
Breathe in sweet fresh scents
Blossoms, lilac, new growth
Garden perfume, damp meadows
Evoking memories much missed.
Energising wild garlic
Coconut scented gorse
Wedding veiled hedgerows
(added to this page on 22 April 2020)
If we are to be in lockdown for a year or more, whatever will we look like?
Heads needing hedge trimmers!
Fat and flab oozing out over garments unfastened.
Glazed deadpan faces
Dried up wrinkled sore hands
Toe nails beyond repair
Yes, because we will have forgotten who we are let alone anyone else!
Teddies on the Stairs
(added to this page on 22 April 2020)
I possess about 50 teddy bears. This started because I complained to my mother years ago that I never ever had a Teddy Bear and my brother had one, which wasn’t fair! It was supposed to be a joke! I was almost 40! So, she bought me one, my daughters bought me one each and I won one in a raffle. And so, it started.
During this lockdown, my 7-year-old granddaughter, Rose, decided to play at going to Bourton-on-the-Water as she couldn’t visit Grandma and Grandpa. (they live near Manchester). She put all her soft toys including Teddy Bears on the stairs, as at Grandma’s, and then found her elephants to go with them. I also have quite a few of those. Then she watched Mama Mia - a must when she stays.
During this lockdown time, I am doing a 100-piece jigsaw to while away some of the time. It is very hard, should keep me amused for ages. What is it of? Why, Teddy Bears of course. 20 of them, mostly yellow, fluffy and looking very cuddly.
Thoughts on the Pandemic 2
The Christmas Card Test
(added to this page on 20 April 2020)
I mentioned last time about how lazy I was getting and about how much I was starting to enjoy this particular type of laziness. While still being incredibly lazy compared to heretofore, I’ve become aware of the effort I and my family and friends are making to keep in touch with each other. I’m not quite sure whether it’s an indication of how important we are to each other and we’d better make the most of each other while we can or a bit of boredom. I think and hope the former.
I’ve even had a phone call and text from Younger Brother who, by his own admission, is less than good at keeping in touch. Although we’ve been close all our lives in that when we are in touch we share a great deal, it doesn’t happen all that often- twice a year at most, without births, deaths or marriages.
The situation with my very closest friends, all three of them, is that we’ve talked each week as usual. We don’t meet very often but we don’t need to; we know how we feel.
Similarly with other extended family members and friends with whom I’m in contact usually a few times a year, including Christmas, I’ve found myself either receiving calls or making calls. It’s not that I care for them any differently, or they for me, and so I assume it’s about contact in case of the worst happening. Or perhaps it’s the fact that this pandemic is making us all consider who and what is important to us.
If that’s the case then there are some I should be crossing off my Christmas card list. If the importance of me to them, and them to me, is indicated by whether or not we are in touch at this time, then the situation becomes very clear. You know who your friends are: the ones who’ve picked up a phone to call/text you or the ones you’ve bothered to call/text. I’ve been attempting to reduce my Christmas card list and didn’t know how before now. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you see it, the number I can cross off is very small.
Thoughts on the Pandemic
(added to this page on 16 April 2020)
It has become obvious to me that I’m sinking into the cloud of doing not a lot these days very easily, having been somewhat of a busy bee all my life. The garden and beautiful weather have, between them, beguiled me into being quite comfortable in this lockdown. Ignoring, and how can I, the shock and horror of the increasing number of people suffering, both in their own physical health and also the loss of loved ones, I find myself feeling guilty about the fact that I’m quite enjoying getting up and deciding what to paint next in the garden. Or which book to read. It’s my decision to make.
Probably for the first time in my adult life, I am enjoying the feeling of being my own master (I’m ignoring my husband, too!) with no pressure to do things. As an example I can cite the fact that the spare bedrooms’ bedding has not been washed for weeks, as it would normally have been, just in case of unexpected visitors. (How silly is that- I could just use a dust sheet?)
I’m having the time to enjoy the special things, like the way rose petals overlap, the wonderful birdsong and the circling of the red kite overhead. Having been exhorted to follow the mindfulness way these past few years I’m wondering if it’s happening accidentally, as a result of this otherwise horrendous period of our history. Is this the beginning of a new me? In short, I find myself agreeing with a comment on Facebook – “I’m a human being, not a human doing.”
The MacMillan Mighty Hike Thames Path
I had signed up for the Macmillan Mighty Hike Thames Path (26 miles walk) for those wonderful Macmillan Angels on the 18th July. Not surprising, sadly it has been cancelled. But undeterred I am still training for the next walk I can transfer to when new dates are issued. How am I going to train when we are only allowed out an hour a day? With a reasonable sized garden I am doing a lot of training round and round and up and down and side to side etc., The other morning I woke fairly early about 6 a.m. The sun was shining and I wondered round the garden with my morning coffee. A light bulb moment, I thought no one can see me in my night clothes! In my (PJ's and dressing gown), I decided to add bobble hat and scarf, and off I went, round and round, up and down and side to side. If I was spotted, I hope it started your day with a giggle and a smile and brightened this (although necessary) restrictive life we find ourselves living at the moment. It is now part of my regular walking routine, hence my husband is now looking at ways to devise a piece of equipment to attach............. yes you have guessed it!..................the lawn mower to me?
You may also like to try travelling while in lock down!!!! Yes! Travelling! I myself have decided to visit as many Capitols of the world courtesy of Google Earth and Virtual Reality web sites. Using the VR web sites, I have just walked the Amazon rain forest. Happy travelling with (no inoculations, no crowded airports and waiting in queues and best of all you can have a cuppa in the comfort of your home whilst visiting this wonderful planet.
Keep happy and safe!