Phew. Grey clouds spill heavy rain, heralding the return to baseline North-westness. The ground sighs relief, marking the end of a heady run of weeks of exquisite spring sunshine and coincidentally 40 days of living alone and keeping myself to myself. I’m addicted to the sun (Vit D innit). I can’t not be in it when it’s there, so life has been simple in one way (and complicated in others). It’s been work (and let’s not be too dramatic, I only work part-time and we’re very well staffed), plus minimal basics then the rest of the time ranch ranch ranch.
I’ve watched the little orchard transform from bright green buds to a cascade of glorious red, pink and white frothy blossom. The bluebells are out. There are more butterflies and insects than I’ve ever seen before and birds – sparrows; dunnocks; long-tailed tits; finches and mallards are in abundance.
I’m supremely fortunate to have the ranch and yet every square centimetre of it is there by design and hard slog. I’m still a rubbish gardener, but I’m getting better. I haven’t watered enough during several weeks without rain but planting is on track, thanks to some help. The seedlings are thriving in the pseudo greenhouslet. I’ve been able to regulate the temperature by calculating how wide to leave the windows open on evenings when I’m working the next day. It gets as hot as 40 degrees C, and previous years seedlings have become scorched and weak and leggy. Outside, in the various propagators, I have lots planted in pots and I’ve made a new 3-tier plant stand. When it first rained three days ago, I had to go up to the ranch just to see the droplets on the fresh green leaves and observe the water dripping into the tanks from the roofs.
The govt, bless them (more about them later), said it was OK to go to our allotments so I’ve had some help from a couple of close friends (with careful social distancing ). As a result, the main allotment is tidier than it’s been for a decade and jobs that I could never do on my own are quietly getting done – Dewy is sorting the drainage system for the beds in the field and Phil is cracking on with the greenhouse. My vision of generating income from the farmlet for close friends and family is still there. Dewy and I inspected the hive and I got my first honey from a bit of stray honeycomb – deffo different to shop bought – yum.
If, hypothetically, I was to live on the ranch, how sweet it would be to have a charming little chocolate-box portable scooby-doo houslet on wheels. I could drive it up there and tuck it in the corner, so that the sun, when it slipped over the horizon at dawn, would shine on my face. I could cook my meals in it and it could be my writing shed. I could point its nose forward, ready for the next road trip (to the west coast of Ireland hopefully) and I could get cracking with some repairs. I could get t’internet on my laptop via my electronic telephone (it’s called tethering) and I could post my twatterings from there. I could even get a portable television if I wanted one.
I’ve been reunited with my old friend Don Juan. I moved out of my mum and dad’s house when I was twenty-one and I kind of got my shit together for the first time. I soaked up lots of Eastern philosophy and I was introduced to Carlos Castaneda by a friend. The book that particularly influenced me was Journey to Ixtlan – it best portrays Don Juan’s inscrutable impeccability and his take on universal wisdom. I like his coruscating down-to-earthness. I gave my copy to someone ages ago. I’ve just bought another one, and it’s a breath of fresh air. I wrote about it in detail in my book in the chapter Don Juan, The Buddha and me.
His version of what we might call luck, is ‘cubic centimetre of chance’ – it’s a wonderful metaphor for fleeting opportunity. You have to be in the right state of mind – ready and waiting – ‘A warrior knows what he is waiting for ….’ .
The thing you were waiting for finally comes drifting by. Blink and you’ll miss it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for ever, so you have to seize it quick. I know what I’m waiting for. I’ve been asking the universe for ages.
Other great metaphors include controlled folly and not-doing. He talks a lot about omens and fuck, have I had some omens lately.
Every week we have a Clinical Management Team meeting, discussing all aspects of running the department. I think most EDs have similar meetings. Inevitably of late, the agenda is largely taken up by the coronavirus. We’re aware that as the lock-down eases, we’ll have some real challenges treating both non-Covid and Covid patients. We plan to screen off a couple of resusc cubicles.
Once again I have to say what a splendid department we have within a splendid hospital, run by the finest bunch of people you could hope to meet. I still feel like a part-time impostor, but I’m proud to be part of it. We’re still very well staffed and paradoxically not that busy. We anticipate a big backlash when the lock-down ends.
Our humour is ultra-rad – not always repeatable. There’s rapier wit, and the shop-floor banter is of a very high standard indeed. There’s a lot of love between the lines.
After the meeting I scratchily play Bach’s Prelude in D and Joseph Spence’s Great Dream From Heaven on the hopelessly out of tune Stagg Fender copy that I keep in the office.
Each day, I read more little personal stories of front line staff who have died and I am wrenched. Wracked. Harrowed: A beautiful young completely fit junior doctor; two more paramedics; care residents and workers. I can’t absorb it. I can’t equate it. I can’t file it properly. Are you OK? No I’m not. However solace is here – there’s now a well-being app available and I can apply for a well-being pack. Well fuck-a-doodle-do, that’s just what I need. That will really help.
I know you mean well, but apps and suchlike aren’t my thing – I’m not a Zoomer either. I’ve been cynical about the clapping, but this Thursday’s clap-fest at work was something to behold – lots of flashing lights. Just don’t clap for me that’s all – bring me a butter pie instead. Paradoxically I’ve become more reclusive than ever and haven’t been near a supermarket (I’ve run out of hash browns). Corner shops have come into their own again.
Oh this England, at what point did you become so unimaginably, unimaginatively fucking dull? At what point did you lose all your spark and verve? At what point did you lose your unique stark underground intellectual wit? At what point did it become even imaginable that the people of Burnley could elect a bunch of Tory poltroons to supposedly represent them? They’re multi-millionaires FFS – they don’t give a shit about you. What were you thinking? What have you gone and done? (… been listening to John Prine). Thank fuck for mi Irish bitches – I’ve lost faith in the English.
I arrive at work for a 2-10 and tbh, I’m feeling a bit glum. I say to a couple of Irish colleagues that I’ve lost faith in the English. I know what I’m doing. It’s kind of a cat-amongst-the-pigeons thing to say to a pair of Irish stalwarts. Anyhow, it does the trick and they’re off – they launch into what’s essentially a stand-up comedy duo improv that lasts for the rest of the afternoon. I’m the observer and kind of the catalyst. I try and join in, but I’m no match for them once they’re on a roll. They rip the piss out of each other, quoting various southern Irish geographical colloquialisms. The fact that we’re all wearing surgical masks and goggles makes it even more surreal.
‘You wouldn’t survive five minutes west of the Shannon.’
‘I’m seriously concerned about your behaviour.’
‘I’m seriously concerned about your shoes.’
A third Irish colleague arrives and things get even more hilarious and I’m not glum any more.
I suddenly have a huge urge to tour the West coast. I have an intuitive feeling that my irreverent outlook might somehow go down well there.
Last time, I talked about care homes and vit D – this last week, those subjects have had lots of media coverage.
Thank you sweet Tom. We all appreciate your efforts. For the media to appropriate it however, into a WW2 style propoganda fest, irks considerably.
This government (and the appalling way they that they have handled the outbreak) does not represent a single molecule of the steam of my turds, let alone represent me. Neither does Keir unfortunately – a knight of the realm? have you ridden your horse through the run down back streets of the underprivileged Northern towns lately lately? You took 50G from the fascist apartheid state of you-know-where, and you declined to declare it. Please oh please can we have a Jacinda? Surely there’s a niche for a people’s party for ordinary folk like me and mine?
I would so seriously strip these crooks of all their assets, and get them working in social care. They would all become ‘key’ workers, working in care homes for £7 an hour (soz mate – no PPE). If Bozzer was a good boy, he could have a bottle of White Lightning every fourth Friday instead of his customary 2 bottles a day of 180 quid a pop Tignanello. He won’t last long btw. When Murdoch shafts one of his own puppets it generally spells goodbye.
Science is very precise and straightforward and at its heart is transparency and accountability. Decent evidence is published in reputable journals with peer review and above all any conflicts of interest are declared. The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is secret and has paid government employees on board. Its recommendations therefore do not represent the best scientific evidence in any way whatsoever.
International best practice tells us how simple it really is: lock-down early; close the borders and quarantine and test everyone before letting them in (no checks at UK airports – what a shambles); universal international standard PPE for ALL key workers; test and contact-trace en masse.
There is now no country in Europe where the death toll is higher in real terms or per capita than the UK. What a panoramic fuck-up.
April tumbles into May and I emerge from my forty days with a clearer head. May is my month. Coincidentally, on May day, I have a chakra-check. I’m reminded of three years of spiralling misery and indignity like some dark joke. I’m grateful to be OK – in some ways, I’m fitter than I was in my mid-twenties, but I’m aware that like Ulysses, I’m approaching last-chance-saloon age – I’m not into Tarot but someone told me that I’m the King of Swords.
There’s really no time left to fuck about. I resolve to seize what’s important. I need to get making music and vids again.
It’s still just me and the trees and I’m at my Gloria-esque petulant survival best.
This is so great Sage. I hope we walk around taking pictures and talking again.
Yes, more vids.
Wonderful writing and pertinent observations of the fucked up reality of our predicament with these goons in charge.
Keep up the good work both at home and professionally.