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THE COVIDIARIES - Day 4 - Friday 20th March 2020

Just back from Braunton, having rushed down to collect a mass of pills including Ventolin. Bridget dropped the prescriptions off yesterday and was assured that they would be ready this morning. Got there at 09.00hrs, supposed to open at 08.30hrs, but changed to 09.30hrs. Not very warm, but stand in a queue outside for forty-five minutes and when I get in they are not ready, “come back in half an hour” and once again join the queue - I'm meant to be self-isolating. Had to come home and try and calm down and lower the heart rate. Dan at home for twenty-four hours so have asked him to do it and put his arctic thermals on while queuing; it would be a shame to get hypothermia as well as Coronavirus. A lot of very frail elderlies there discussing setting up a tea and cake stall for those waiting as a little money spinner. Not a good start to the day, but at least when I eventually get them I will not have to go back for a couple of months.

Our newspaper pile is growing and I suggest that when Jo goes in to ‘do’ for Grandpa that she takes his Daily Telegraph and then at least two choir families will be sorted out. Loved all your comments, which I have just read and the debacle at the chemists is beginning to recede and I am calming down.

In January 1963, aged nearly nine, I returned with my family from a three year tour in Hong-Kong, where we had lived in a lovely three bedroomed , two bathroomed army quarter. We arrived in the middle of what is now referred to as ‘the bad winter of ’63. ‘ My father’s parents lived in Newcastle and my father had three months ‘gardening leave’ and so we decanted around the family. It was so cold that I never took my chilprufe vest off until I had my weekly bath on Saturday night, prior to church on Sunday. The bath at the back of the house had a two gallon tank above it and underneath it was suspended a gas ring. You switched the gas on, held a match to it and with a flash of blue flame and a swoosh it would light and heat your bath water above. There was enough water to cover the bottom of the bath; mother went first, followed by father, then my sister as she was poorly and me last in the scummy, tepid dregs. Ugh!

Worse was to come at Uncle Aidian’s because he did not have a bathroom so it was a trek down the garden path, snow piled three foot either side, to the earth closet and the Daily Mail on a rusty nail behind the door. Sue’s comment reminded me of my Granddad (mother’s father) in Stalybridge, who had a toilet out back of yard and a po under the bed. Cleanliness being next to godliness we went to the public baths on Saturday night where one would meet up with all the Irish Catholic families getting clean for church on Sunday. I loved it because they were all one tight knit community and took me in as one of their own. Patrick remembers vividly the privy at the bottom of the garden and the tin tub in front of the fire for a bath, with his grandparents who brought him up. It is hard to think that in the space of nearly sixty years there has been such a sea change in hygiene.

Just back from my father, who as he has not been out, is largely unaware of the situation, cannot understand my rubber gloves and a spray bottle of bleach. Today has been a low point, with me feeling trapped at the bottom of a pit scrabbling at the walls to climb to daylight. Will try some more of Vanessa’s mindfulness and stop panicking, but it is hard.

Patrick tells me it will all be fine, but it is hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Then I read Estelle’s message and I thought what am I worrying about? “Went to see Esme my sister today as home only locked down for 48hrs but we have been told they lock down on Monday for a month!!! Bit emotional seeing her today, she won't understand what's going on but may wonder why we aren't visiting any more! On the other hand she may not notice! Who knows would love to be her for a day could learn so much! Mums visiting her every day until Monday, I'll go at the weekend and take her for a wander around the lanes or the lodges out door space! So she can get some fresh air before the big lock down! “ Thank you Estelle.

Shona and Vicki both mentioned the school closures to-day; a first in British history and no idea as to their return date. This must be a troubling time for any parents of children of whatever age. I think that Katie will be passing those boxes around the patch for a lot of den building.

Thank you to Maggi for sourcing Calpol for Maria, what a relief that must be for her and I hope that Lolo’s nose is not broken ; Bridget’s was broken by a stray hockey stick and she was delighted to be offered neat cocaine to snort prior to cauterizing the nose bleed that went with it.

Three things to look forward too. Sue’s quiz, no looking it up on your phones girls. Then next Tuesday we have ZOOMmmmm. Might need some mentoring on this one. Lastly free parking in the village.

I always conclude my diary having listened , like Jane B, to Boris Johnson at five o’clock. Really bad today, I feel it cannot get worse, but we know it will. It is so important ladies that we keep this diary going so please, please, keep your messages coming. I cannot do it on my own. I am aware that I have written far too much about myself today so it is down to you ladies to keep me supplied with your thoughts, worries and laughs. If I have missed you out it is because it is very hard to switch from a word document to facebook and back – perhaps I need a spreadsheet. THIS IS OUR DIARY NOT MINE!! It looks like my three months of writing was an optimistic guess; looks more like the rest of the year.

I will leave you with a beautiful poem sent by Patrick’s old school association and it is very appropriate for a choir. “Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, has penned a touching poem about Coronavirus and the valuable lesson it is teaching us as a society. We hope this provides some comfort in these uncertain times”.

Do read to the end; you will see why!

Lockdown by Brother Richard Hendrick:

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other

across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,


Sarah F

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