Pandemic Pensées

Posted by on March 31, 2020 in Blog, Covid-19, Health, Living today, Pandemic, Politics, Rants, Social welfare | 8 comments


(Pretentious, moi?) Limited opportunity to rush about means greater opportunity to listen to the thoughts bubbling to the surface in one’s head, and these are just a few, in no particular order, that have surfaced recently.

1. Loo paper – why the obsession? For millennia we never had any, loads of us (e.g. in India) still don’t use it, and have people forgotten, or never known, that babies used to wear towelling nappies that were washed? I’m happy to report that robust friends in Australia, should the worst come to the worst, are planning to use the leaves off their lemon tree and then compost them. Or why not improvise and try the sponge on a stick arrangement favoured by the Romans?

2. It was indeed a moving moment last Thursday when everyone came to their doors and windows to clap the NHS. How many of them, I wonder, voted Tory at the last election . . .

3. There is now no excuse not to tackle domestic tasks that in normal circumstances one can plead lack of time for. My niece has been arranging her pan lids, I myself have washed a jumper that was due several more months at the bottom of the laundry basket, and – oh, the shame for a dame – I’ve even removed the little gritty bits of grime from round the the knobs of the washing machine with a mini pointed sponge on a stick (a theme seems to be emerging here) expressly purchased for the task from Lakeland.

4. The ultimate proof of our appallingly atomised and casualised society was laid bare in an item on the radio last week, when a woman expressed concerns about her elderly mother with dementia, who lives at some distance and is looked after at home by a rota of carers paid for from the mother’s Personal Independence Payments. How long before these carers go down with coronavirus and can longer work, which seems highly likely as they have no protective clothing? Their employer is responsible for providing this; their employer is the elderly woman. You see the problem. This is entirely the wrong sort of handwashing.

5. Why am I not surprised that sundry members of the Government have gone down with coronavirus? It was only last week that a Minister claimed on Radio 4 that MPs were indeed keeping two metres apart, as evidenced by the line down the middle of the chamber, apparently forgetting about all the backbenchers breathing down his neck.

6. One of the long-delayed domestic tasks we’ve undertaken is sorting through decades’ worth of our own photos and several boxes we’ve inherited from previous generations. It was a delight to recover the children’s photos, but many others just induced profound melancholy: unclaimed, unidentified sepia great-aunts, and more recent friends and relatives, whose futures we know but they didn’t, smiling happily.

7. One of the happier consequences of social distancing is rediscovering the phone. Suddenly a terse exchange of emails or texts is not enough. I want to hear the voices of friends and get lost in a long, gossipy, inconsequential conversation.

8. I’ve been trying to do the right thing by my neighbour, a resilient, but terminally-ill 82-year-old. Whenever one of us ventures to the shops we ask her if she wants anything. She seems to be well- supplied with food and other essentials, so all she ever wants is Dettol in all its guises: wipes, surface spray and old-fashioned tins. We haven’t found any yet.

9. For anyone determined to look on the bright side, no matter how bleak their own experience of lockdown, I recommend Helen Dunmore’s novel The Siege, about the siege of Leningrad. At least we don’t have a Russian winter and starvation to cope with.

10. Nevertheless, it’s occurred to me that the pandemic has confirmed our retreat towards the conditions that most people have endured throughout most of history and billions still do, characterised by fear, instability and want. The sunlit uplands of the welfare state and its safety net turn out to have been just a blip, not the consolidated gains of the march of progress.


  1. I do wonder Derbyshire if we are not over reacting to the Corona virus. I say that based on 3 things. Prof John Lee was on Sky News in effect making that point. I do wonder if it is the fact that governmentssee the death toll in real time that is making them over react. To date, Corona Virus is less deadly than normal flu. Whether or not it is an over really think, the cost of the government bail out is huge and we will be paying for it for decades

    • Bear in mind that we apparently didn’t finish paying for WWll until 2004, and didn’t even notice it!

  2. I empathise with most, if not all of your points, Verity, but I love the poem even more….

    • Hi Phil, the poem is fantastic, isn’t it? I was blown away when I saw it on Maria’s Facebook page!

  3. Yes the lemon leaves are becoming an option as all the silly citizens cleared off with all the loo paper before one had time to blink. While Australia is no where as badly affected to date as other countries we still need to step up and do as our health experts and Government is asking. Panicking will not stop the march of this horrible virus so let’s get on and do things as suggested by Verity. Clean out those drawers, re read books that brought us pleasure, laugh and cry as we sort through old letters and photos and do something that will keep our minds and bodies healthy. Meanwhile as an over 70 advised to try and stay home I continue to try and navigate the mysteries of online shopping only to be told due to high demand we cannot register. Oh well off to plant more veggies and learn to make edible bread. Stay happy and healthy everyone.

    • Hi Dee, I hope you didn’t mind me turning to you for inspiration! Good luck with the veggies and the bread

  4. Tres bien Verity! Other bright notes are the good this is doing the environment, and the wonderful range of on-line material. Have been bouncing around like a happy puppy to Joe Wicks and looking forward to watching “One man, Two Guvnors” this evening.

    • I’ve been doing the odd bounce around to the compilation CDs of tracks from my heyday, and we’ve been binging on the first two series of Line of Duty, which we hadn’t seen

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