I must keep on with documenting this thing as I feel that much of what is happening will be forgotten in the bland normality that will evenually recommence.
I was reading about an old people’s home in Spain where rescue workers found a number of the residents dead in their beds; undisturbed for days on end. There were careworkers at the home, but they were so depleted in numbers and energy that they could do nothing about it.
I understand that deep sense of helplessness. There are things hapenning in the world that are beyond my control and well outside of my sphere of influence. Even the longlasting cough that plagues my daughter is beyond any help or advice. She wanted me to set up the cycle turbo for her to, at least, get some exercise done. I set everything up with a video of the climb up Alpe d’huez (stunning views with sunshine), accompanying cycling soundtrack, with added encouragement. It would appear that even Alpine mountain roads are not immune to the outcome of good intentions; her exercise was followed by an hour’s coughing. There is no easy answer.
Mum has continued to self-isolate. I am talking to her as I write, and my sense of admiration for her is growing with each passing day. It is the best part of a decade since my father died and she has more than managed to keep herself moving forwards. I think that he may have not seen in his wife that strong survivor, even though she had managed to stay afloat through the most tempestuous years of their marriage. He left in calm waters with my sisters grieving in a manner that was a display of their love whilst I floated off into my own ocean.
Lately, there have been family fallouts, involving me, my wife and my sisters; we have fallen on different sides of the coin. And in all of this, Mum, who is expecting a giant salami to arrive any day, has kept calm, and kept us together. She has now become the conduit of all her offspring’s conversations and concerns. And, on top of everything else, her best friend’s husband (both old family friends) appears to have given up the ghost and is refusing food. And still she continues.
IT becomes real when it arrives in your neighbourhood or circle of acquaintances. Someone we know very well has, in the last ten days, contracted IT, been admitted to hospital, discharged and asked to recover at home. I think that beds and care are now at breaking point and this was confirmed when my middle daughter told us of her best friend, at university, whose father’s best friend died in his sleep after reporting symptoms, calling an ambulance, and being told to take paracetamol, and sleep. Frontline staff are being told to make hard decisions as to who gets care as there is not enough to go around. The guy who died, after being refused an ambulance, was in his early fifties. That means that I am in the group who have already enjoyed ther fair share of life, so ‘ring o ring of roses’ may be my goodbye song.
I’m putting this down for the record: I have always felt that I could live to a ripe old age. Indeed, I will live so that I can at least become a recognised and self-supporting author that people would not my lending some shelf-space to. The coming weeks may convince me otherwise. I am watching nature red in tooth and claw and ts little lesson is being played out in my back garden.
A number of weeks ago, a family of magpies decided to make the space their own little haunt. There were five of them to begin with and now there are three. There was a runt in the nest, a little one that had no tail feathers. In magpie world having no tail feathers means more than not being able to shake them. In magpie world, no tail feathers restricts your ability to fly over any real distance and reduces you to being an easy target for whatever may wish to devour you. This morning, the tail featherless one watched from the safety of the high branches whilst one of its siblings pecked and bullied away at its much sturdier looking brethren. The little one is still sitting there on an upper branch trying to blend in with the greyness of the sky.
The middle of the night is the worst time. Outside is all silent. Nothing is moving in the dead hours so I am left pondering the world. If I have a cough, or a slight sorenes of my throat, I get to thinking that this is quite possibly the beginning of the end. What happens then is a roll-out of what will happen to me in the coming days and what will happen to my family afterwards. In this way, I doggy-paddle through the grey morning until sleep finally reappears to take me under. Mornings, real mornings, come with renewed relief that another day lies before me, another twenty-four hours to share.
I came across this poem for the first time and felt that it was also something worth sharing:
A Psalm For Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.