A pamphlet containing five of my poems from the first Covid-19 UK lockdown has been published in the ‘Unmasked Writings’ series by Egg Box Publishing of Norwich.
The experiences of those days seem quite distant now. Having WordPress and you, its lovely online readers and writers, was a central part of the experience and crucial to me being able to maintain perspective. The poems in the collection are hereby dedicated to each of you who has ever read, liked, or commented on my posts. Thank you for being out there.
Alongside a prose poem by André P Hughes, the five poems I wrote in this short collection, appear with beautiful Spanish translations by Aida López Milán. If you would like a copy, please order from Egg Box Publishing:
Chilly sunbeams caught the trees with such intensity that the bark shone. In Chapelfield Gardens this mighty specimen’s complex skeleton is revealed.
Although the temperature was barely above freezing, the first crocuses were pushing though to join dangling snow drops and daffodil shoots. What will trigger the opening of the daffodils? Will it be warmth or light that they respond to? There has been the rain to ensure the earth is soft and will separate at their insistence. We wait for the fanfare of silent yellow trumpets to confirm our progress.
Magnolia buds, sticky to touch are fattening, their pinched tips speared with pink.
All the trees are beginning to show some suggestion of colour now as leaves start to form. The townhouses have just a few more weeks to enjoy unscreened sunsets.
There is little traffic today, except that squeezed into the hours at the start and end of the commercial day. I head out to complete a couple of minor errands. The biggest danger is pedestrians stepping into the street without looking for cyclists as they considerately make space for each other.
When I cut through the perimeter of Eaton Park I notice the car park is full and the footpaths busy. In the line of trees running by Southside Avenue starlings are agitating to fly before the onset of evening. Their squabbling is a terrific noise.
I note that infection rates and related deaths are beginning to fall across the United Kingdom. We must hold our discipline and see this through. On the Isle of Man, once a stronghold for Vikings between Ireland and Britain, the pubs are open and a normal life has resumed as there are no known cases in its population of 82,000.
The other local difficulty has taken a worrying turn as Loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland have begun a campaign of intimidation against the local government workers who have the job of processing paperwork on goods moving between the six counties and Britain as a result of Johnson’s farcical Brexit deal.
n.b. The uncertainty seems to be increasing as physical distancing continues. Does anyone know what is happening to us? I write from a place of personal freedom, personal distance, personal isolation. Good days, bad days, happy days and sad.
When I read a book that mentions about going for a drink in a crowded bar, or for a romantic meal in a Paris restaurant; or when I watch a movie where people just move about acting out lives that mean having to be close to others and dealing with the intimacies of existence, I think, ‘Is this how it was, or will be? It doesn’t look or feel right. This is not how it is.‘
Interacting online with everyone is a miracle of technology, but I am tired of it. Everyone is accessible, everyone is removed. What is the game we are playing?
By the time I was ready to get out all light had gone from the sky, bar a faint patch to the south-west above the trees on Carrow Hill.
My brisk march lasted ninety minutes, during which I discovered some of the poshest streets of Norwich. They lie beyond the medieval walls, strung out on the gently tilted south-facing slope which is sliced up by the Ipswich Road and the Newmarket Road.
The posh streets have grass verges, are often avenues and the semi-detached and detached houses have gravel driveways, bay windows, side gates to back gardens, garages and many have rooms in the roof. I did not pause to look for house names and those I saw did not stick; none were surprising.
There were few cars being driven this late Saturday afternoon, although some of the driveways had three or four parked up. There were dog walkers, joggers and solo walkers. A “Good evening”, or a nodded acknowledgement of thanks, or acceptance of gratitude was exchanged for making an adequate physical distance possible, were the sum social interactions of my tour.
I discovered a church with modern stain glass windows and a new circuit that joined up parts of the city to my personal map of Norwich for future use.
Harry’s café remains closed for the lockdown, but still brightly illuminated. I am looking forward to visiting it again one day. I approached the city centre as various bells were marking six o’clock. Saturday night and no one about.
I spotted an arched, empty arcade behind locked fencing on Prince of Wales Road. What it was for and why so designed was unexplained.
As I came back along the river bank to Carrow Bridge, I passed a small gathering of young people trying to have a Saturday evening drink together under a willow tree. Should have I reported them for breaking lockdown regulations?
This is grim. I kept on home as icy flecks fell from the overcast sky. No snow here.
Out briefly today in sunshine. I forgot my gloves, but was surprised by the mildness of the air.
People maintaining good distances from each other; joggers running well wide of pedestrians; people stepping back to let others pass. There is no rush when people are on foot.
A taxi driver tries to squeeze past me when I am cycling through the city centre. He attempts to cut in before some bollards, then realises there isn’t enough room, so has to brake and wait until I am through the gap. Something is said through his open passenger side window as he passes, but I did not hear what. I keep pedalling.
I see him get out of his vehicle by the market. He carefully puts on his mask and goes into a grocery store. Funny he chooses to follow rules on foot, but had no regard for the 20 mph rule on the road. I say nothing.
The city is littered with debris from last night’s gale. Nothing remarkable, just twigs and pieces of branches, bits of rubbish pulled by the wind from bins and strewn around the streets, which are usually so tidy.
It didn’t take long for the snow to go. Just pockets of compacted ice in shaded corners and the decomposing remains of snowmen on the lawns of the parks. The low Sun was wonderful. I walked with my face covering in place for most of the time, so am dubious as to whether I topped up my vitamin D levels. Just being out in the bright light was invigorating enough.
I was out a little later than yesterday, but most people seemed in good humour today too. Was it because it was Sunday, the blue sky and brilliant light, more obvious signs of spring, or the relative warmth? Or is Norwich just inhabited by good-natured pedestrians? Any or all of that might be true or false. The sample size is too small to verify the posited theories. The evidence too subjective.
The Great Clown has enjoyed a reduced presence in the media these past couple of days, which may be another reason why the populace of this fine city are in gentle humour. Who knows? I hope that the hospital teams are able to share in the elevated mood of the weekend.
The last report from Twitter on Friday was that around 600 people are being treated for Covid-19 in the county’s hospitals. The number of infected per 100,000 was recorded in the local newspaper as 628.9 for the past week for the city; now the highest in Norfolk The coronavirus needs host bodies to live in and this is the vicinity where there are potential host bodies in the greatest numbers.
The question now is whether the third lockdown will be sustained until infection rates are minuscule, or until the proportion of those vaccinated is such that we can start a revised social existence.
I understand that the Chinese government is vaccinating everyone up to the age of 50 years first, as these are the most economically active. In the UK it is the most aged and vulnerable groups first, as well as where possible, medical staff. The UK decision is based on cost-effective use of vaccines considering life’s saved per vaccination.
But are all lives equal in the UK?
The life of an 80 year old saved by vaccination provides +1.26 years of saved life.
The life of a 40 year old saved by vaccination would save +41.26 years of saved life, which is 32.75 times more saved life years than saving one 80 year old.
This assumes every one lives to 81.26 years of age, (the average life expectancy in the UK as of 2018 – which is falling apparently as a result of the decade of Tory cuts).
Like you, I am a little unsettled by considering these calculations, but these are the kinds of calculations that are being made to decide how to distribute the government funded vaccine.
Or might the vaccinations be distributed by employment categories? Of these which group would you vaccinate first? All the (low-paid) customer-contacting key workers? Yes! I say.
Another alternative might be to let the richest buy what they can afford and let everyone else enjoy the leftovers, which is how the “free” market works. This pandemic exposes the flaws in that system, I suggest.
Incidentally, this is what the richest countries are doing, leaving the world’s more impoverished nations to get to the back of the queue for vaccines, unless they magic up some of their own, or break the code and infringe the patents, as India had to do previously with other medications.