Friday, 27th March, 2020

[Day 11]

After I have blogged in the past about the inanities of accessing Ocado, the online supermarket, I think I only need to report that I had to wait three minutes in a queue to join a queue which was more than 262,000 long (more than a quarter of a million) – and which now was ‘being paused! ‘ I think, enough said!

Meg and I were heartened to meet with one of our Waitrose friends in the park today and we held an interesting chat as a distance of some three or four metres. I have noticed that when people know each other and evidently have a regard for them then the distance between them actually increases so that perhaps on a subconscious level one is trying not to do harm to friends and kindred spirits. The park was extremely quiet today and it looks as though the social isolation message is really starting to ‘cut through’ – perhaps the prospect of £30 fines is deterring some people. When we got home and turned on the TV it was to the news that Boris Johnson (the prime minister), Matt Hancock (Health minister) and the Government’s chief medical adviser had all been stricken by the virus (but none, it appears, too severely at this stage)

In these very straightened circumstances, I have been reflecting upon the fact that my mother’s generation who had lived through World War II knew about social isolation (air-raid shelters) and privations and certainly know how to make a little go a long way. My mother tended to bake bread every day and had a range of other habits that seemed to date from her war-time experiences. For example, she always conserved what she called ‘good’ water i.e. water that had been used for one cleaning purpose but was not thrown away as it could then be used for something else. As we eke out our meagre and dwindling food supplies in the weeks yet to come, we may need to relearn some of those old-fashioned virtues of thrift and resilience. In the late afternoon, we FaceTimed some of our oldest and dearest Waitrose friends and nattered for practically an hour (which always seems to fly by) We may meet in the park for a distance at a distance if the nice fine days of spring return in a few days. This evening I spent a pleasant few minutes reading and replying to one of our Hampshire friends who had been reading these blogs and whose supermarket experiences seemed to parallel our own.

As I type, I am listening to Beethoven’s 9th (choral symphony) on ClassicFM and reflect that some things have got better. The various radios we have scattered throughout the house are tuned either to Radio 4 (talk programmes) or to ClassicFM with an occasional foray into Radio 3 when ClassicFM goes a bit downmarket by playing a Strauss waltz (does anybody actually choose that?) I suppose my appreciation of classical music started when I was at a boarding unit in a school in Bolton, Lancashire to which I was despatched whilst my mother trained to be a teacher in the mid-1950s. [As an aside, she was so desperate to get into what was then called a Teacher Training College that she altered the 1911 on her birth certificate to 1914 to make herself look three years younger, the penalty for this sin being that she had to wait for an extra three years before she could draw her state retirement pension!] The school did not have a particularly good reputation but I was in the school choir and the orchestra (and two members of the school were actually in the National Youth Orchestra) But much more prestigious was the school brass band (of which I was not a member being a violinist) and it played reguarly at the Catholic Whit Walks held in the Lancashire towns when all the various civic and ethnic groups (e.g. Ukranians who had come to work in the mines) used to parade in their best uniforms/national dress. On my study wall, I still have a Lowry (print!) showing the Whit Walks in the distance which is a reminder of our Manchester and university days.