The Game of Life – Final Rounds.

When my mother planned her funeral five years ago she could never have imagined the service at her local church would be streamed live across the world. Covid has changed how we deal with death, before and after. Mum had outlived my father by twenty four years, at 94 she was happy and ready to go. She was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, who are still hale and hearty, but that’s the game of life.

I wrote my first Game of Life blog in November 2018; here is part of what I wrote.

We have to leave Summertown, the days of being recycled teenagers are over. There is a very real possibility that Cyberspouse will be outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh and my mother.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/the-game-of-life/

Cyberspouse outlived my mother by just over a month, he has been outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh. In this Covid world those with terminal illnesses are among the many who have been isolating and shielded at home, not to cheat death, but to have it on their terms. Cyberspouse achieved his aim of never going near a hospital again; happy sleeping a lot and just doing what he felt like doing. For most of those six months we were on our own, though with various medical teams at the other end of the phone. You can read about our life in lockdown here.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/the-game-of-life-covid-19-edition/

 Covid restrictions eased in August and we soon needed to make up our own rules so family could come and help. It was only in the last fortnight that the district nurses and Marie Curie nurses parachuted in; they were marvellous and worthy of their own blog.

There has been plenty of dark humour along the way. Cyberspouse was always adamant he did not want a funeral, very handy as traditional funerals are difficult or impossible with Covid.

Anyone dealing with cancer or illness reading this, don’t let it scare you; every case is different. Friends much older than us, sending sympathy cards, have had cancer and other dices with death years ago… open heart surgeries, body parts removed and they are still here, that’s the game of life.

Colin Campbell Gogerty 24th January 1952 – 2nd September 2020

Coming soon – The Game of Death 2020

Silly Saturday – Word Blitz Worries

My name is Tidalscribe and I am a Word Blitz Addict.

Of course that is not my real name, we don’t give our real names at the Word Blitz Support Group. I might be able to wean myself off this demonic word game; after all, there was the time I was obsessed with Quiz Planet – perhaps no one wanted to play with me any more, that’s how I came off it. But Word Blitz is stopping me writing or reading blogs and if I pick up my phone or go on the computer and find nobody has played their round, that it is not yet my turn to play again, I am filled with irrational rage disappointment, I need a round before I can check my emails or write a flash fiction.

‘Word Blitz is an action-packed word game where you can face off against your friends and other players. Form words from letters randomly arranged on the playing field. Play every word you can find and get the most points! Don’t forget the bonus fields to step your points up a notch!’

I don’t actually understand the tactics or the scoring and I certainly have no idea who I am playing with; the whole world or friends I actually know in real life, the ones that got me trapped in the first place. I am too busy trying to make words out of sixteen letters, before the time runs out, to have a battle plan. Using X seems to be good, so does having SEX.

The best thing about playing the game on your phone is the annoying ping it makes every time you get a word, delightfully irritating for anyone nearby. But alas, they get their revenge by interrupting you. Word Blitz requires your full attention and there is no time for interaction with human beings or pets. If you are playing against me, the reason for my bad score is not poor brain power or lack of hand eye coordination, but inconsiderate ringing of the doorbell or house phone or inconsiderate inane utterings of humans or dogs.

Do any of you out there need help. Word Blitz is not the only mind pandemic. There are people who have been playing the same scrabble game on line for years, unable to stop…

Unmasked

After months of indecision and confusion from our leaders we are finally wearing facemasks – a bit. On public transport and for customers in shops it’s official, though without much hope of enforcement. Staying at home as a full time carer, the only shop I have been to is the tiny Boots’ pharmacy attached to our doctors’ surgery. Actually lots of people aren’t going to real shops; busy working couples who have been doing on line shopping for years and the ‘vulnerable’ who have discovered on line shopping and don’t trust anything the government says.

At our little chemist the staff have always worn masks and only let one person in at a time, so it feels safe, with the added benefit of privacy for discussing personal medical stuff. But I miss the jolly days crammed in with bored toddlers and having a joke with bored adults as we all waited and wondered who would hit the jackpot and get their prescription next or at all. And of course listening in to other people’s strange medical problems or listening in to the medical problems of strange people…

In Covid times we wait outside, not too many people, but with plenty of opportunity for confusion. You may think someone is pushing in, but they are making their way to the outer door of the surgery to ring the bell and report to the all powerful receptionist, who tells them to wait outside until summoned on their mobile phone; leaving them with the dilemma of which queue to stand in. The rest of us are either queueing to go in to the pharmacy or have already been in but have to wait for our prescriptions.

On my first visit with official mask wearing I got a tickly cough ( NOT a Covid cough ) as soon as I got inside – what to do? Rip off mask and take a sip out of my water bottle? NO, not allowed to touch mask let alone remove it.

One of the regular staff is always friendly and helpful, but a good while ago he was away and when he came back had lost his voice, reduced to a whisper, that was okay without a mask… I had no idea if he could hear my mask voice properly; I was there to collect new prescriptions, with either no idea what they were called or how to pronounce them and also to explain that as we were having a regular medicine in liquid form could we cancel the repeat prescription for the capsules… He checked the computer screen and the bag of medicines and the forms, but he may as well have been speaking in Martian. I understood only his last whispered words Address, post code – for a moment I thought the mask would make me forget my own address, but I managed that bit and just hoped what was in the heavy bag was all the correct stuff.

As I was leaving I did feel, in my stuffy mask, on a hot day, looking forward to taking it off as soon as I got round the corner…  I did feel at last I was part of the Covid Community.

As I was leaving, another staff member came out to give a lady her prescription and asked her address, the woman instinctively pulled down her mask to say her address…

Mum’s The Word

Parents across the world have had a unique experience, an experience that perhaps only parents in refugee camps and war zones would envy. But didn’t parents always home school children in the millennia before it was assumed all children should go to school? How to hunt mammoths, how to plough the fields and scatter, how to count sheep – yan, tan, tethera. But parents of old would not have had to cope with on line learning, nor would they have been trying to teach rebellious teenagers. Modern parents tearing their hair out in a pandemic may well have thought there’s a lot to be said for sending your eight year old out to work as a lonely goatherd or chimney sweep, or your awkward teenager into service at The Big House. It’s not that long ago that children left school at fourteen; my father’s first job was as a telegram boy, he claimed Winston Churchill told him off for whistling in the corridor. I imagine many fourteen year olds would rather have been delivering telegrams than stuck at home with a computer and nagging parents.

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It has been a mixed experience, those parents who already home school have been vindicated, so too those families who conveniently set off early in the year to drive a camper van all round their continent or sail around the world. Though sailing may have had its problems if no port let them in the harbour to fetch supplies.

But I have not seen it even mentioned that being a stay at home mum ( or dad ) is to be valued. Stay at home mothers ( or fathers ) have never been valued by any government, not even in the 1950s ( according to my mother ) when governments wanted women to stay at home and give the jobs back to the men after the second world war.

If someone is at home, permanently, it is not a major disaster when a child is sick or the other parent gets stuck at work and it must have been a great advantage when schools were suddenly closed. I totally understand the many reasons why women want or need to go to work and this varies from needing the money ( for food, not to run a second car! ) to keeping a foothold in your career, with all your earnings going to pay nursery fees.

From the children’s point of view they could be passed round like a parcel with no security or attend an excellent nursery a few days a week which they love going to. Nursery care is more convenient than school as it runs all year round and all day, eight till six, with three meals a day. If you have no family nearby and your husband (or wife ) has to work away from home, you may have to give up work when your child goes to school.

But getting back to mothers ( for they are still the ones who mainly have this dilemma ) – I have always thought that most women have not gained much over the decades, they often end up going out to work and still doing all ( lots ) of the housework. And in this country it is emerging that more working mothers than fathers have been dealing with the home schooling. To be fair to the chaps there are various reasons, many mothers work in the sort of jobs, such as retail, that were immediately closed down, so they were at home, or a lot of women work part time to fit in round the children.

But would we stay at home Mums have coped in our time with a pandemic and home schooling? NO! Staying at home for most mothers meant getting OUT of the house, taking your darling toddlers to every club and playground available to get rid of some of their energy and going round to other mums for coffee and gossip to preserve your sanity. Locked up indoors, with babies and toddlers, husband doing shift work and only 6 days off a month, I would not have survived, physically or mentally. So well done to the 2020 mothers of all sorts who are now faced with another five weeks of school holidays; Scottish mothers cheer as school starts early in August for them.

For those couples now expecting a happy event here is my handy guide to help you plan your maternity leave and work decisions.

Everyone has to eat, food has to be cooked.    Every home has to be cleaned; babies and toddlers make a mess. Washing has to be done and babies and toddlers create a mountain of washing. Going out to work doesn’t make these jobs go away.

Maternity leave of 9 months to a year will flash by in what seems like one month.

On your child’s second day of nursery they will wake up with a raging temperature and you will have to phone granny – if you are lucky, or you will have to phone work.

On the child’s second week of nursery they ( the nursery, not the baby ) will phone you at work to come and fetch your baby because at nappy changing time there was the slightest hint they might have a stomach upset. Before Covid, stomach bugs were the scariest thing, perhaps with all this new handwashing stomach bugs no longer go around but you never know…

Second month of nursery you are in a meeting, the other parent is away on business and you miss the phone call from nursery to say your child has vomited all over the play area and the other children. When you finally get the message you turn up at nursery feeling very guilty and are told to keep baby at home till he has gone 48 hours without being sick.

Good luck to parents everywhere.

What’s On?

What’s on the telly tonight? Good news, you can avoid Covid Crisis and indulge in Covid Comfort. Whether you need relaxation or intellectual stimulation, television can help.

University Challenge is back and I managed to answer quite a few questions, perhaps they are going easy on us in the first round, usually I can’t understand half the questions let alone answer more than three. It is obviously pre-recorded; nobody in a post Covid world is going to sit cosily in teams of four putting their heads together to decide on the answer.

There are many programmes we must enjoy before the pre-recorded stock runs out. Great British Sewing Bee is fabric fantasy, whether you like making clothes or wearing them. The winner, Clare Bradley, turned out to not only be brilliant at sewing, but is also a hospital respiratory consultant and since her win has been helping to save Covid patients. Could there be a post Covid sewing bee? No one allowed to touch the material or each other’s sewing machines, no hugging and congratulating. But perhaps they could do a glamourous slant on making facemasks and scrubs, as long as they only have one contestant at a time…https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/24/great-british-sewing-bee-2020-declares-winner-intense-finale-

All the cookery programmes will have the same problem in future, no one allowed to taste the food, no one will know what the food smells like with their masks on, no presenters hanging over the cook’s shoulders asking how they are getting on. I have never followed cookery shows as it’s too painful to see all that lovely food that we can’t eat. But in lockdown Cyberspouse has been watching them all. There are two main types of shows. Master chefs compete against each other to create beautiful banquets or delicious deserts that are works of art; pudding porn, perfect creations that are then mercilessly stabbed and rent asunder by the judges, who alone enjoy heavenly melting moments. Then there are the celebrities we have never heard of who can’t cook and are sent on an emotional roller coaster, baking perfect pastry or told they have to cook twenty octopuses ( or is it octopi ) for the guests at a posh hotel.

But some programmes are with us in real time. Nature and gardens brought into our living rooms by presenters on their home patch, alone, no irritating chatting with fellow presenters, giving the viewers their undivided attention. Gardener’s World brings calm and peace on Friday evenings. I know every day is the same as a carer in a pandemic, but I like to pretend it’s the end of the week. Monty Don wanders around his own large garden, with trailing dogs, digging and potting. But my favourite parts are viewers’ home videos, enthusiastically showing us an endless variety of inventive gardens of all shapes and sizes, bringing us all sorts of useful tips – and I thought I was obsessive about saving water… some don’t even have a balcony, let alone a garden; apartments filled with plants so you feel you are in a jungle. One young chap even had endlessly circulating water running down the wall into a fishpond.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mw1h/clips

Drama has not been forgotten. Alan Bennet’s Talking Heads have been given a new production with a few new tales; monologues are perfect for social distancing and his characters move us as they gradually reveal their often surprising stories. There has also been a good selection of new short plays with actors having equipment delivered to their own homes, presumably with a few instructions. Filming themselves and conveniently often married to other actors, thus providing a cast of two.

Radio has always been a lifeline since our mothers’ and grandmothers’ day for housewives, mothers and anyone at home all day and I’m sure it was for many confined during Covid. Cyberspouse has listened to Woman’s Hour every day and BBC Radio 4 has three serialised books before lunch. But there is one drama that has let me down. I have been listening to the Archers ( the world’s longest running soap? )  on and off since I was in the womb and I thought Ambridge was a real place in a real county, Borsetshire. Imagine my confusion when farming life carried on as usual, The Bull still open for drinkers, while the rest of England was in total lockdown, everyone isolated. No one in Ambridge even mentioned there was a world wide  pandemic. Opinion was divided on Archers Facebook fan pages and among listeners emailing ‘Feedback’, some were glad of the escape from Covid while others like me thought it ridiculous. Eventually they ran out of recorded episodes and there was the first ever break in transmission, followed by a relaunch of a different type of soap. Endless monologues by any actors who knew how to work the recording equipment at home. For the first time, all those characters we love, or love to hate were expressing their own feelings, creepy or what. Soap operas by their nature are written in the third person, we have to wait till a character opens their heart to another character for insights and we like it that way.

http://www.thearchers.co.uk/

For fiction in real time drop in to my Friday Flash Fiction – tiny tales of ordinary folk in a pandemic.

Have your viewing and listening habits changed since the pandemic? What have your Covid comforts been?

Game Set Match

Game, set, match are words you will not hear this week as Wimbledon has been cancelled, but there are plenty of games people have been able to play in lockdown and isolation, from real cardboard playing cards on a real table to computer games.

Humans have been playing games since forever. Adam and Eve probably got bored playing hide and seek; Eve for sure, that’s why she went looking for new interests like the tree of knowledge. Our cave dwelling ancestors collected shells and stones and drew lines in the dirt, but got annoyed with their children for time wasting.

‘Will you stop playing with those sticks and stones and go and collect some berries like I told you to.’

…and onward millennia to the last years of the twentieth century when parents would be telling teenagers to get off the computer ( the one household computer bought by fathers across the land because it would be educational for their children, though they really wanted to play with it themselves ) and do their homework, or read a book, or get out in the fresh air. At one stage I was heard to say I would never have got married let alone had children if I had known home computers were going to be invented…

And who would have imagined that their son in his thirties would still be playing computer games with his school friends; not still going round each other’s houses, they live hundreds of miles apart, but playing on line with X Boxes …

Call of Duty Warzone – 150 players in teams of 4   – already my mind is boggled. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E44DClsX5Q&feature=youtu.be&fbclid

‘This game uses something called “skill based match making” which uses a combination of different player statistics to fill games with people mostly of the same skill level. The result is that as you get better you never feel like you are getting better. The advantage is that players do not feel like they don’t stand a chance against very good people. It’s very controversial within the gaming community.’

The world of computer games is a total mystery to me, but one advantage of blogging is that you can write from a position of total ignorance. I do understand that computer games have been made by very clever and creative people and they are just as valid an art form and interest as any other. Now portable personal electronic devices are the latest entertainment for older generations to worry are time wasters and just plain bad. Books, radio and television have all been frowned upon in their time.

I informally interviewed a few of the first generation to play computer games, the first parents to not mind their children playing.

In contrast to Call of Duty fans a professional chap enjoys single-player games such as Batman and Uncharted 4 ( which seems to have ‘real people’ in it ) . ‘I don’t have any online friends to play with, or the time to play online. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is probably one of the best games ever made.’

Lego Harry Potter sounds more fun, a favourite of a lady in her thirties. ‘It’s all about collecting studs and learning spells and defeating He Who Must Not Be Named!’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEQ4ky00L8Q

Lego games are all good for children and parents to play together. Another couple have bought a Nintendo Switch and the first game they are trying is Mario Kart, basically racing, to play with their young children.

Why you play is different for everybody, a mum in her thirties says ‘I like to play co-op games rather than competitive ones, otherwise it’s too annoying.’

Another professional man who enjoys computer games for unwinding says ‘How can they be called time wasters, at least they are interactive, not like slumping in front of the television.’

If I wasn’t busy blogging, writing, reading, gardening; perhaps if I tried some of these games I would enjoy them. It’s never too late to start. On Woman’s Hour this week they were talking to some ladies in their seventies who love playing computer games and their grandchildren love being able to play games with them. They like the challenge of… what are all these game about? Getting out of places, through a maze or something completely different?

 Minecraft is a game created by Microsoft where players can explore a 3D world, discover natural resources, craft tools and build houses or other structures. Now that sounds quite fun. I read in the newspaper that an archaeologist has recreated a Bronze Age landmark – with a great deal of technical help from his eleven year old daughter. Doctor Ben Edwards and Bella have created a digital version of Bryn Celli Ddu, a 3000 year old burial mound on Anglesey, with further help from other experts.

https://www.minecraft.net/en-us/

I think I would like a game where you create your own country estate with beautiful gardens which wouldn’t need weeding. If such a game exists let me know.

A more exciting thought; can authors turn their novels and short stories into computer games, will that be the next thing on Amazon KDP? I think some of my writing would be perfect, I just need a few artists and people who do coding, whatever that is…

You’ve read the books, now play the amazing games.

Do you or your family play computer games? Love them or hate them?

Five Seconds of Fame

I keep listening out for the doorbell, I keep looking out of the window, but the street is empty. The postman, greengrocer, Amazon delivery and Co Op groceries have all been, but They never come. Another day when a long pole, with a microphone on one end and a television interviewer at the other end, has not appeared at my front door.

How do they choose all these citizens who keep showing up on the news and breakfast television? I am not talking about science experts, political commentators, journalists and doctors, but ordinary people who sit in their living rooms unashamed of their ghastly wallpaper and awful fashion sense. Out of millions and millions of us how do they get chosen to be interviewed for several minutes in a segment that will be repeated endlessly on the main news and on News 24.

If they happen to have recovered from Covid they obviously have a head start over the rest of us, but it’s not just people pondering on pandemics, I have always been ignored. Every general election, the long years of Brexit, no one knocks on my door or stops me while I’m out shopping for my opinion. Though I would flee in the opposite direction if I did see cameras; too windswept, wrong clothes for television…

But if a reporter did call on me at home they might not get away; all those years of stored up opinions.

 ‘Yes we need more lockdown not less, gatherings of more than two people forbidden, identity cards, everyone to stay inside their own postcodes, disposable BBQs should be banned, litter bugs should be tasered on the spot, private motor vehicles confiscated, air travel banned… it was so nice during the first few weeks of lockdown…. Perhaps you and the cameraman would like to buy one of my books, I just happen to have a box full… or buy all my books…

Maybe a little bribery would secure their release…

Everyone is filmed at home now so if you haven’t had the chance to appear on television you can always pretend. Facetime with your boring family could become one of Alan Bennet’s brilliant Talking Heads – which are perfect for isolated actors and have just been remade.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08ftkkx

Or dust off your bookshelves and pontificate late at night on tomorrow’s newspaper headlines.

In the kitchen you can have your own masterchef celebrity banquet bake off.

‘What are you making?’

‘Bangers and Mash, it could all go horribly wrong… I’m just going to test the potatoes, okay, this is the moment when it could really go wrong, I could end up with third degree burns, I need to strain the potatoes now… make sure the camera lens doesn’t steam up…  yes the sausages all free range, they were running  around in a Hampshire field yesterday… oh oh is that the smoke alarm, I forgot to check the sausages…

Perhaps it would be better to stay in the garden. Gardening programmes are so popular now for peaceful healthy escapism and you can even send in videos of yourself and your delightful children giving a guided tour of your fantastic / unusual / beautiful / bountiful garden. Gardener’s World receives thousands of them, so you might not get chosen unless you have turned your bathroom into a tropical paradise, installed a waterfall in your living room, or turned a six foot sunless concrete square by your back door into the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps it’s best if I don’t film my garden; putting carefully cropped selected flowers on Instagram is my limit. Though if the people with poles do turn up tomorrow I could give them my views on new major projects injecting money into the economy; have all the motorways turned into cycle routes and gardens…

Have you ever invited television cameras into your home?

What’s the Point?

Being in lockdown, isolation, shielding, what ever you like to call it, life has been different for all of us, some more than others; suddenly working from home, or not working at all. Even those who already worked from home, were stay at home parents or retired, still went out and about. How many of us are asking ourselves what’s the point of going out to work, what’s the point of ever leaving home at all? Will there be people who join the true agoraphobics and never leave home again?

If you live on a country estate or an outback station in Australia you probably rarely leave home; it’s a very long way to your front gate. If you live in a city centre with all life on your doorstep in normal times, you did not need to go far. But if you are among the millions and millions who live in suburbs, going out and coming home again is the natural order of things. For generations people have been getting on the train to go ‘up to town’ to the office. Cities are full of offices, new towers of offices are still being built, but why?  When I was very young I asked my father what he did at work and he said ‘write letters’. That sounded very boring so I vowed to avoid an office job and I have, apart from a temporary job when I did commute up to Waterloo station for a few months. I’m sure lots of important things go on in offices, but my little temping job involved chasing up orders that were never ready and seemed unlikely to ever get to where they were supposed to and apologising on the phone to the people that were not going to get them.

Whether you are a big or little cog in your company, we now know you can contribute from a lap top on the kitchen table. All those office blocks could be used to house key workers who at present cannot afford to live near their work and also waste hours commuting.

If the world of work has changed what about leisure and shopping? Will shopping have altered so much there will be no point? I haven’t actually been near a shop except the tiny pharmacy attached to our doctors to collect prescriptions. In our new restricted life even that has taken on an allure of adventure. But will shopping be an adventure or an ordeal now?

When our well known chain BHS, British Home Stores, collapsed, one commentator suggested it did not offer a focussed shopping experience, which is probably why I used to go there, I am an unfocussed shopper. The best buys are when you stop for lunch at a garden centre to break a long journey and end up buying a coat, new trainers and colourful kitchen items you didn’t know you needed. We did have a lovely shop in town that sold an array of colourful and very expensive items that made you want to throw out everything in your kitchen and start all over again. I only looked and didn’t actually buy anything, but they had a nice coffee shop upstairs, strewn with unhygienic cushions, where you could relax and check your social media or write. Where do writers go now?

Whether you enjoyed trying on endless clothes and sampling makeup, or browsing in the book shop before going to your knit and knatter group in that trendy LITTLE yarn shop, the shopping future looks bleak. I imagine only focussed shoppers will be allowed in, two at a time, no browsing, one way system, no turning back, straight to what they need and out again, no idling, no coffee and cake. Jumping casually on the bus, laden with bags of shopping, squashed in by people standing in the aisle, listening in to people’s conversations, observing strange people for your next short story? All that real life is gone; six people on board, strictly spaced out, wait for the next bus. You will be glad to get home and maybe never leave again, glad you have mastered on line shopping.

And what of the great tradition of visiting garden centres?  As well as our travel adventures, we did visit our local centre regularly to actually buy plants, browsing through the reduced stands for ‘rescue plants’, wandering round the water features and overpriced gift section. Then there were the very popular two for one dinners on Thursday evening, masses of people, leaving Cyberspouse with his coffee while I made my final choice of plants. Yesterday’s email outlined the latest rules. Every adult must take a trolley so they keep track of numbers and the strange line ‘We prefer one child per adult and trolley’ … what if you haven’t got  a child, do they hand them out along with gloves and gel or might you have to fit your six foot 35year old son in the trolley? I have had plants delivered by the greengrocer and have ordered some on line, but it’s not quite the same…

Are you planning to leave home any time soon? Can you see any point in going shopping?

The Game Of Life- Covid 19 Edition

Essays submitted to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme detailing its listeners’ coronavirus experiences are to be archived by the British Library.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52487414

The Covid Chronicles were launched in March when presenter Evan Davis asked his audience to write in with personal accounts of life during lockdown. Perhaps this is what I would write, though I have exceeded the suggested 400 words.

The last day life was normal for us was Burns’ Night, 25th January 2020. Friends came round for dinner, my husband cooked. The day before, his birthday outing of choice was a trip to Ikea, our last outing.

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Life hadn’t been completely normal since his cancer diagnosis in autumn 2018, but chemotherapy had gone well and 2019 was filled with what was normal for most of us last year, holiday breaks, long walks, family visits, going out with friends…

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By February this year things had gone off at an unexpected tangent and downhill. Family were flying over, driving down, coming in shifts and helping out with stays in three different hospitals. We were aware of the virus, but the main defence was hand gel; how ridiculous that seems now. The main entrance of Southampton Hospital, where his major operation took place on 2nd March, was like an airport; twenty four hour Costa Coffee, shops, cafes and people, lots of people. The intensive care unit was a quiet little bubble away from all this; you had to phone from the waiting room to be let in, but that was the only restriction.
On two occasions we were called into a little room to talk to a doctor, but after a few days my husband was on a ward. In the background to our little lives hospitals were planning for the virus to get worse, suddenly he was transferred to our local hospital and we were wondering how this Coronavirus was going to pan out. Our physiotherapist daughter had already been organising the NHS and her brothers and now she made sure our house was ready, persuading the ‘social care team’ I would cope fine in my new role as carer. I don’t drive, but I’m fit, we have great local shops, family would continue to come and stay at regular intervals and friends would be dropping in for coffee and jigsaws, what could possibly go wrong? The reluctance to let my husband go suddenly changed to a flurry of Covid 19 bed emptying activity on his ward.

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At home things went as planned, some friends were already voluntarily isolating, but others came round for coffee. Our last family visitors left the evening after Mothering Sunday, by the time they were on their way home, on Monday 23rd March, the Prime Minister was telling everyone to stay home and close everything. We were already confined to home, now everybody would be at home; though I certainly wouldn’t have wished for a world wide pandemic just to feel we were all in the same boat.
My husband soon got The Letter – the most vulnerable people to stay at home for twelve weeks; I was now a shielder as well as a carer. By now we all understood the theory, it was a duty for everyone not to get Covid 19. My humble Covid Challenge, my contribution to the NHS was to keep my husband out of hospital and not get the virus myself as I am his sole carer.

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So here we are in our cosy little bubble, thanks to our kind next door neighbours and the local greengrocers, butcher and Co Op doing home deliveries, I don’t go near any shops. I only venture out for a walk and to our doctors’ little pharmacy; one customer at a time, the staff wear masks and shields. The amazingly fine weather and the garden have given lockdown a holiday feel. As a retired couple with lots of interests we’re used to having relaxing days at home; now every day is a relaxing day at home. Real carers are people who look after severely disabled children or partners or parents with dementia, for year after year. Apart from having to think what to have for dinner and cook every single day, life is easy and there is time for gardening, writing and blogging.

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In the Game of Life, Covid 19 Edition, over 35,000 people have died in the UK.

We have been given another extra turn and got some bonus points; loved ones and friends have been safe so far. Lucky to have a garden, not have to worry about losing a job or trying to home school children. Lucky that what happened to us came just before lockdown.

Have you written a Covid Chronicle or kept a journal?

Just ( NOT ) Popping To The Shops

One of my earliest memories is of being seen across the busy road we lived on and walking by myself to the corner shop. I was well known by the two ladies who worked there. One of them was called Dolly, which seemed a very strange name for an old lady. Among the sweets they sold were Dolly Mixtures which I assumed were named after her. Mum could watch my progress and return ready to signal when it was safe to cross back. What I actually bought on these solo expeditions I have no recollection and I assume it was because my baby brother was asleep indoors, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of popping to the shops – until now…

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Unless you are subsistence farmers or have a team of servants, someone in the household has to go shopping. Whether you live in a beautiful Mediterranean town and gaze down from your geranium filled balcony to the daily market selling freshly caught fish and newly picked vegetables or do a huge weekly supermarket shop with no idea where the food has come from, shopping is an activity or chore that never ends – until now…

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

When my parents bought their first house, on a new housing estate, there were no shops nearby, but we were not likely to starve. The milkman brought a boxful of groceries, there was a greengrocer’s van and the butcher’s boy came on his bike. It was a long walk to the new shopping centre for my mother with a baby and toddler as well as me. Her friend from round the corner had six children, so it was quite an expedition with the added excitement of a route through a large cemetery. Mum used to be amused by another neighbour who would dart back and forth between Fine Fare and Tesco checking the prices. Even in these small shops our mothers would be complaining that they were ‘always moving things around’. Needless to say there was often some vital item forgotten and I would be sent on my bike to another housing estate where they boasted a parade of shops.

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When we emigrated to Western Australia in 1964 all three of us were sent up a sandy track, the unmade section of our road, to the corner shop and later Tom The Cheap Grocer. The shops closed for the weekend at noon on Saturday, so on Saturday morning Mum and Dad would make a frantic dash in the car to stock up at the bigger shops in an older suburb. A far cry from today’s 24 hour shopping.

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Things have come full circle; having your shopping delivered is popular again, especially with busy working families. When someone says they are off to do their Tesco shop they probably mean they are going upstairs to the computer. With the advent of The Virus and isolation, Grandparents are being smugly told by their offspring that they should have learnt how to do on line shopping.

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Our local shops are so good that we had no need for on line shopping and a typical Saturday morning would be a walk along the cliff top, coffee at the Ludo Lounge, then stroll over to the greengrocers – until now…
Anyone with a 12 week sentence ( the medically very vulnerable told by the Prime Minister and the NHS to stay indoors ) or those shielding them, is dependent on supermarket deliveries or family, neighbours and volunteers. But with the sudden popularity of on line shopping you have to log on at one minute past midnight to try and get a slot.
The fun of bargain hunting has been replaced by the excitement of not knowing for sure what you will get in your delivery. Six weeks into our lock down and I think I have cracked it. The poplar local greengrocers which only takes cash, has engineered a major delivery operation using only the phone and Facebook. The free range, outdoor reared and expensive butcher up the road takes orders and payment on the phone. My latest discovery is a website for deliveries from local Co op shops. They seem to have plenty of slots, but this might be because you have to spend a minimum of £15 with a limit of 20 items and an eclectic limited choice of what is available. Type in cheese and you will find cheese. Type in baked beans and up come green beans, jelly beans and coffee beans. Put in peanut butter and up comes butter. With some outside the box thinking I did find Whole Earth Organic peanut butter and it appeared on the shopping list, but the next day showed up as unavailable in the polite e-mail update. The deliveries come by motorbike.
How have your shopping habits changed recently?