Observations

I was going to post this one anyway, but the first bit, for sure, fits into Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC). belligerent. I was going to update you on my current audiobook, called Renia’s Diary.

As it happens, Renia was about fifteen, a Jewish girl from Poland, in 1939. Of course, we know what happened, in fact we are told up-front that Renia was murdered by the Nazis in 1941. But because it is a diary, she writes so present tense – we know what is ultimately going to happen, but Renia, as she writes, has no idea.

She starts off, in January 1939, mad because they have had to uproot the family home. She has been packed off to live with grandparents, somewhere I can’t pronounce. Her mother is in Warsaw, for reasons I haven’t discovered yet.

In the first few entries, she also talks about school, for school terms in Poland ran absolutely normally in 1938-9. She even goes on her summer holiday at the end of the school year.

When Poland is actually invaded, in September, only Warsaw resists for any length of time (a week!). Again, thinking about the present and the future. We will win, she writes. Poland was invaded by both the Nazis and the Soviets, as a result of their pact at the start of the war. Renia even talks about Stalin’s occupying army, how one of the soldiers was sweet on her.

That is where I’m up to. So far it is pretty much what a teenage girl would write, I guess, but I am expecting Renia to get older very quickly.

Because it is a diary, everything is contemporary, which gives the book a unique perspective. It’s not written as a history book, where the end is known all the way through, where the author is leading us through to some end point. We do, of course, know what finally happened to Renia, but she didn’t. I’m expecting the account to end quite abruptly. And, I wonder if she’d have been so worried about being sent to her grandparents if she’d have known all the things that would happen subsequently?

And it makes me wonder about us. We often have immediate worries and concerns, but only hindsight allows us to know whether we were part of history.

This girl was living through something which ultimately changed the world, although she wasn’t aware of the sheer scale in her diary. And I look at this virus, and can’t help wondering whether we are too? We’ve already been in a situation where a roll of toilet paper is a better bargaining chip than a five dollar bill, where governments are handing out billions and trillions in order to keep their citizens solvent. Governments will presumably want to to claw all that money back one day? I wonder how much joy they will have? Maybe a few hundred years more austerity? How do they think populations will react to that? Maybe we’ll get to the point where a society is not just defined in financial terms, where money is not the be-all-and-end-all?


You guys have probably heard by now that both Prince Charles and BoJo [Boris Johnson] are being reported in the media as positive. I have to say that my immediate reaction was to wonder how they knew? Why they have been tested when even front-line nurses have not been tested yet, although in BoJo’s case presumably he is quite central to the co-ordination effort, so periodic testing is probably justified.

My second thought was a little more positive. If these public figures can pick the virus up, then it wouldn’t surprise me if many others of us have picked it up, too. And we don’t know, because the symptoms happen not to have been particularly bad (in us. They are obviously bad in some people.) And we’ll never know yes/no for sure, because we’ll never get to a hospital and therefore never be tested?

It is just a thought.

Priorities

This post is written for Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC), amount.

My mum and dad both died in 2012 (separately). My dad has a sister, who is now in her early/mid seventies. She emigrated to Australia back in 1970, when I was just a toddler. She got married out there and remains there to this day. I have three cousins who I’ve never met. I do, at least, keep in touch with the aunt via a weekly email exchange.

My mum was the middle one of three. She had an elder sister, and a younger brother. I haven’t seen the brother since I was a teenager – actually he is an interesting guy because he was a lowly market trader, who one day had an epiphany moment (think St. Paul!) and then became a church minister! I’ll tell you more about him one day, but this post isn’t about him.

My auntie – my mum’s elder sister – is somebody with whom I have been in regular contact, especially since my mum died. She was born three years before my mum, and is 79 now. She lives up in Greater Manchester – halfway up the country from me, about a five-hour drive.

Since the stroke, my own mobility has of course been restricted – I posted about this all the time, especially a couple of years ago – and I have not been able to visit her. We make do with a phone call every couple of weeks. When I last spoke to her she hadn’t been feeling well. Her eyes had been hurting, her head was aching, etc. I made sure I called her daily for a few days, as things eventually wore off. She has a daughter (my cousin) who still lives nearby, so I’m not really the primary contact anyway.

A week ago, the cousin contacted me, to say that my auntie had been taken into hospital. Where I’d laid off calling her for a couple of days because I thought she was getting better, she’d actually become bad enough to be admitted to hospital. All I could really do was to call her daily. When I spoke to her, there was a noticeable difference – she had become very anxious about things. She was convinced that she had done something, and that this was her punishment. She was convinced that her cellphone had been tapped, so she would not speak for long. Imagine the secuity services analysing those phone taps – what juicy material our conversations must have been πŸ™‚. She apologised for even knowing me, in case it had somehow jinxed me. But, to her this was all real, and nothing anybody said could convince her otherwise. I mean, it sounded very stroke-like to me, almost a switch flicking in her brain. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, though, and in my years volunteering with stroke survivors, I never came across anything like that. She did have an MRI scan which didn’t reveal anything – but I took that with a pinch of salt because mine was negative too, and now look at me!

Anyway, Fandango issued the prompt of amount, and I’m getting there. It won’t have escaped your notice that there is a little health scare going on at the moment. In the UK, the peak is expected in the next 2 weeks, and the NHS is preparing for it by kicking as many people out of the hospitals as they can.

This can mean things like cancer patients not receiving urgent treatment. Some hospices, too, have been closed. In my auntie’s case, she was discharged on Tuesday, complete with 7 days of anti-psychosis meds and an urgent outpatrient appointment booked for tomorrow. When I spoke to her Tuesday night, she was convinced that she had not been discharged properly (although she wouldn’t know the difference), that she had effectively run away, and that my cousin was about to be arrested for kidnapping her. So, judge for yourselves how cured she was!

Amount, okay. I heard on the tv tonight that this is very much a deliberate strategy by the NHS, and that some hospitals had brought their occupancy rates down to 80%, in preparation for the onslaught. I don’t particularly blame the NHS – this seems like a no-win situation. People without COVID-19 are not being treated, or not being treated properly, and they are the collateral damage. I wonder whether these people will appear in the final Corona data? I suspect not.

Our media is expressing shock, horror, that our medics might have to choose who to treat and who to ignore, as they have done in Italy. It sounds to me like that choice is already being made!

As a postscript, I spoke to my auntie a few hours ago. So far, so good. Actually she sounded better tonight at home than she had all week in hospital, but I guess that’s not surprising.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (25 March 2020)

It is Wedgesday, and time for Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’m gonna take care to answer his question meticulously, to fulfil his FOWC prompt too! Today he asks:

What activities have you cut from your life since this pandemic started that you DON’T really miss?

Just as a general thing, I have to say I am fortunate in this pandemic. A lot of my elderly clients are fortunate. I guess a lot of you are fortunate, too. All of us, just because this isolation malarkey has not changed habits much, because we were all pretty isolated anyway!

I’m glad in some respects, because my weekly voluntary session takes place with clients over the phone, which can happen anyway. So, I spent yesterday afternoon calling my clients as normal. In fact, during the pandemic, the task takes longer than usual. Clients normally ask to be called because they feel isolated, lonely, but actually, you’d be surprised how many are normally out when I call! Last week, for the first time in my eighteen months doing the work, everybody answered. This week, all except one. The result is that the session takes longer.

On top of that, the charity have asked me to call another seven people, on top of my normal ten. I did that this morning. With my regular clients, we can chat about anything – often what the cats have been up to, or what the kids have been up to. With these new people, it was specifically corona – are you getting groceries/meds okay? While my normal calls take three or four hours, I dashed these extra ones off in under an hour.

Normally, I get the bus into Age UK’s office in Salisbury, on a Tuesday afternoon. I leave the house at just before 12pm, and get home about 5pm. Five hours. Of which three are normally spent on the phone to clients. So, that’s two hours just lost in the commute. I wouldn’t mind but when I had my car, Salisbury was just a fifteen minute drive away! The bus journey itself goes through the villages and takes 30 minutes each way, the rest of the time is spent walking between home and the bus stop, or just waiting around.

Because of the virus, we agreed I would work from home. I fire up the browser, then ten seconds later I have accessed their network and can start making calls. Then, when I am finished, it is as simply as closing the tab, maybe firing off a quick email, before I can start doing personal things once again.

So, working from home versus a two hour commute? There’s something I don’t miss.