Hot hot sunny weather earlier in the week coincides with three days off. The ranch bursts with life and there is no longer a background hum from the town below. Nature seems happier than ever. Birds, bees, blossom – all free and unhindered and seemingly doing a lot better than last year. This place has literally become heaven on earth. The trees are sprouting bright incandescent green and everything is heightened. Things that bored me before are now exquisitely enjoyable. All is focused on increasing food production. Days of non-stop labour end with hedonistic basking in the hazy afternoon sun until it dissolves behind the bare branches of an ash in Linda’s allotment.
Quiet observation naturally comes to the fore.
I watch a flock of jackdaws on top off Jimmy’s giant muck heap where goat routinely sits and watches the world. Three of them are on her back, picking tufts of her soft white hair for their nests. She doesn’t bat an eyelid.
The family of crows are territorial. I’ve learned that a low raspy rumble in contrast to their gutteral crawk means something else is going on. I look up and two of them are mobbing a buzzard, which glides effortlessly above the field. They are like spitfires attacking a bomber.
Elias observes that the wildflower bed he’s digging over is almost free of worms, yet they are there in numbers around the roots of comfrey plants.
I’ve let myself go over the last week – not cooking, just eating leftover packets from the cupboards and freezer. Drinking too much. Putting on weight. I’m four weeks into being on my own and self-isolating and it’s a bit weird at times. There are some very lonely vulnerable people out there, trapped in complete isolation, dealing with grief, fear and all kinds of other problems.
I’ve snapped out and I’m back to energetic flab-busting concrete-mixing. I’ve rationed TV, radio and social media, otherwise it just gets too depressing. I’m restoring another bed at the bottom of the main allotment. I’ve rigged up an extra shelf of seed trays in the mini greenhouslet and seeds are sprouting beautifully.
Dewy and I, and a couple of close friends have been talking about selling veggie plants commercially. There’s certainly an increased market for clean food.
In contrast, medical staff are dying in increasing numbers and there’s an indescribable harrowing anguish – a frustrated twisting grief swirling with a stark cold quiet rage. All of us carry a pocket of head-fuckedness and we deal with it in our own ways. It pokes out of our skin when we least expect it, completely beyond our control. Mine poked out suddenly and unstoppably when I heard that Bill Withers had died.
UK deaths hit the top of the league table. Our departments is supremely well-organised and well-staffed, but every day there are uncertainties – new situations, conflicting advice. Thankfully autonomous common sense is allowed to rule. The numbers of patients with COVID 19 however steadily rises and who knows when and to what extent we will catch up with London.
With the removal of so many tiers of pointless drudgery, the warrior spirit of doctors and nurses and all healthcare workers is finally allowed to shine. Did the doctors of Yemen and Syria complete their core mandatory training? Thought not. The shop floor atmosphere is difficult to describe. It’s upbeat and very positive, but there’s also an unspoken quiet tension. Everyone has some fear – for themselves, for their colleagues and friends and family. We’re all wearing the same blue scrubs and it’s almost as if the hierarchy has disappeared – all in it together.
In contrast to the harrowing tragedy, humour is not sharp, it is razor. It’s not quick, it’s lightning. Tolerance for narcissistic self-aggrandising, attention-seeking pricks is gone and the village idiot is quick to blurt when the emperor is not wearing any clothes. As for gobshites like me? I’m receiving extra training in keeping my big mouth shut, but there have been some teething problems. Oops.
Quite a few of my predictions have come true. I was right about seeds selling out and I bought extra before they did. I predict a baby boom at Christmas, as so many people, stuck at home, have quality time with their partners. That however will be a pale shadow of the boom that happens nine months after lockdown ends. There will be a grand shagathon, as so many, starved of human tenderness and wracked by grief, will lose all inhibition. The pyramid of shagability will change too – checkout operatives and other key workers will occupy the same tier as footballers, rock stars and film stars whilst front-line healthcare workers will occupy the glittering peak – can’t wait.
My neighbour Jimmy, who has been on the hillside for more than fifty years once pointed out that our allotments and the surrounding green space, provides a wildlife corridor from East to West. A swathe of wild green allows the passage of foxes, badgers, deer and all kinds of birds. A path of least resistance.
Coronavirus has its corridors too, where it runs and ravages unhindered without mercy. The biggest one is the vulnerable and their carers – particularly care homes. Carers are virtually unprotected, carrying high viral loads to their families and the supermarkets where they shop for their charges. The next corridor is healthcare workers. At least they are well-informed and doing their utmost to minimise transmission, but they are still high-risk. The third corridor is large swathes of workers such as bin people and builders – protection measures are virtually non-existent. The fourth corridor is the swathe of morons meeting regularly in large numbers for house parties and so on. Because of these corridors, the virus effectively runs its course unhindered – front-line healthcare workers and the most vulnerable and defenceless take it on the chin for the sake of Bozo’s genocidal herd immunity.
All religions have manifestations of pure good will. In Buddhism, it’s Metta, translating roughly as loving kindness. It involves visualising the kind of love that a mother feels for her child, firstly towards yourself, then to all sentient beings. The clapping is a form of Metta – people warmly extending their goodwill to NHS staff. I’m dysfunctional. I’m a sneering sardonic twat and the clapping does my head in. It’s frustration.
If only the people clapping would harness that good energy when the shitshow is over – investigate, question, then act en mass to change things for the better. The hilarious notion struck me that you could do literally ANYTHING at five-to-eight and people would still clap. My wicked imagination runs riot. I could walk up and down the street carrying a placard saying ‘Your dad had two dicks and you were one of them’ and they would still clap. I open the windows and back door then at 19:58, I play Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher at an obscenely loud volume to drown out the clapping. Just another of my cryptic dipstick gestures.
The Queen’s speeches do nothing for me. My contempt for certain people is diamond crystalline and mercurial. The government stops people driving to isolated places and it won’t let people go to their second homes (what? Two homes, when so many have none?) yet it’s OK for the Prime Minister and his dad to fuck off to their gargantuan mansions miles away. I am deeply sceptical about the government’s handling of this utter catastrophe. They also quietly banned free speech and the social media algorithms are censoring like crazy.
And as for the ruthless people taking advantage of the situation – the hedge-fund managers making millions, the billionaire Etonian politicians in their mansions, those stealing bikes from doctors ….
Blimey, can’t wait to go skiing – even though I’m prone to go off piste with the odd faux pas. Fuck-a-doodle-doo. Suppose I’ll have to be content with flicking through old ski mags – there won’t half be some aprés-ski frolicking when the shitshow’s over.