April is here! The lambs are in the field running and jumping hither and thither. Buds are bursting and flowers are proliferating. We have had a spell of sunny and almost warm weather. Normally, this would be a time for rejoicing at the season of renewal.
Who would have thought at New Year that, by April Fool’s day 2020, we would be well into an indefinite period of not being able to get closer than two metres to another person (outside of one’s household). But it’s no April’s Fool joke; how things have changed in three months! It is incredible that the misuse of a bat (or whatever) in Wuhan can have had such a damaging impact, so rapidly, on our globalised world.
I’ve recorded here before that I am much relieved that I am retired during this ‘lockdown’ period. I know of several in our village who are struggling to work from home due to the poor local broadband service quality and I wouldn’t want to be reliant on the Internet. In any case, the ultimate flexibility of my retirement schedule means that I can adapt easily to the new restrictive contact and movement regime.
In practice, my routines haven’t changed very much yet. Because we live in a very rural area, I can still go on walks safe in the knowledge that I will meet, and have to skirt around, almost no-one. I visit the ever reducing number of local shops rather less and my usual walk through the local college grounds has shut. But that just means I am gardening a bit more and trying new, less popular walking routes. Armed with my hand sanitiser, I feel fairly safe.
We are very fortunate that we live in a lively and neighbourly village. Growing an already good community spirit was one of the key themes coming out of a village meeting on climate change that I helped to arrange in February. (Goodness, was it really so recently? Such a gathering would be unthinkable just six weeks on!) One positive is that the virus crisis has engendered that increase in community sprit despite the need for ‘social distancing’.
More people than ever are willing to stop and have a more-than-arms- length chat from their gardens or as one passes in the lanes. The hamlet WhatsApp group Long Suffering Wife (LSW) has established is operational and buzzing with information and produce swaps. The village shop has so many volunteering to deliver essentials that my offer hasn’t yet been called upon. The clap for care workers event last Thursday evening was vibrant and moving. Villagers have shown solidarity in adversity by erecting flags and banners to celebrate the village. All of that has been rather uplifting against the depressing backdrop of economic collapse and the suffering of so many less fortunate.
About 20% Of Homes In Our Village Have ‘Hearts Around Horsley’ Banners Or Flags Out As A Show Of Community Solidarity Against The Virus
A real downside of the lockdown is that I am not able to visit my Mum and Dad. Indeed, because she is in a care home, not even my Dad can visit my Mum now. Dad and I, and some of my sons, are writing letters to her to give her a reminder that she is in our thoughts. There’s no denying though that it is a tough time for everyone giving and receiving nursing and social care at the moment. At least Mum and Dad, and the rest of us in the family, are all free of the virus so far.
It has dawned on Youngest Son (YS) that he is going to be staying with us, and apart from his girlfriend, for some time. He has no work now so is glad of the food and roof over his head, and he is pleased he is out of London. However, no matter how many times we play Monopoly Deal to keep him entertained, he can’t wait to get on with ‘real’ life again. In contrast, Eldest Son (ES) and Middle Son (MS), who work in London in the games and advertising industry, are busier at work than ever. They are responding to the demands of the increased number of couch potatoes playing videogames and watching TV.
Many of the impacts of the virus outbreak have been predictable – in type, if not degree. Others have, for me at least, been more unpredictable. It has been encouraging, for example, to see how quickly air pollution has reduced since the economic slowdown. Humans, as well as nature, adapt quickly to change and it will be interesting to see whether some of the new habits – local shopping, greater reuse of materials, walking not driving, and so on – persist after the lockdown ends.
Levels of (Nasty) Nitrous Oxide (NO2) Measured By Satellite Over China And The UK 2019 Versus Last Week (Relative NO2 Levels Shown In Pink)
I wonder too, whether more people will drift to the countryside from the cities where the infection rates are more concentrated and lockdown leisure pursuits are more limited (we will get fast broadband out here eventually!) Certainly, I feel very lucky that I live in a house large enough to enable its occupants to sit in their own room when they want, amid a garden that, once the weather warms a little more, will be lovely to sit in, and in a spirited village that has wonderful, accessible countryside around it.