The weather got very fierce, cold and windy. Elizabeth’s garden was under threat. 9am Andrew Marr had Dominic Raab stonewalling before the 7pm address to the nation by Boris. He looked tired and stressed and spoke as if he was addressing a huge crowd instead of a mike in no 10. He replaced his key slogans with uncertainties saying that those who could not work at home should return to work without using public transport and that people could drive to take exercise as they wished. These comments caused uproar as it turned out he had not consulted Nicola Sturgen in Scotland, the Welsh Ist Minister,the trade unions or Keir Starmer. It all added up to sloppy, Tory arrogance and a refusal to consult before announcing national policies. It pleased no-one and betrayed a refusal to work properly with anyone except his own party.
We stayed in all day and I worked hard rewriting my paper on a National Emergency Service.
The day flew past with reading and sitting in the garden as the sun shone with videos and calls from Rachel and Sarah while we went for another good Stourhead estate walk hoping they will open National Trust gardens soon. We await the words of Boris tomorrow. Far more cars on the road today and it feels as if people are letting up on their lock-down behaviour a bit.
Beautiful run starts a lovely sunny day. As it wore on so did the significance of VE day. Visited Janet and took Dougle for his walk for the 1st time since lock-down followed by a spaced garden chat with J who seems well and in lively mood. She told me about when she was a pre-teen. By mistake the Luftwaffe aiming for Yeovil bombed Sherborne killing 12 and destroying much of the High Street. She remembers her GP father found himself treating the German pilot who had bailed out and seeing her sister climb through the rubble carrying her bike. She was 15 when the war ended and has no memories of VE day.
A strange atmosphere. Also shot the Rogers family playing war time hits beautifully.. Others were organising spaced out teas so we offered scones and cream and met in our neighbour Stephanie’s garden where we practiced social distancing around the tea, scones and shortbread. Julie joined us.
Cooked roast lamb breast, Really good with a fine Bordeaux wine followed by Captain Tom’s amazing story and an excellent BBC programme on the first VE day with Mrs Windsor at her best. The BBC really is amazing the way it can both hit just the right note and address the difficulties.
Deaths. The official toll announced today as 30,315. Also announced that a huge shipments of PPE was unusable as being substandard and other out of date and sub standard equipment had been surreptitiously re-labelled. Trust in the Government’s handling of the pandemic is clearly dropping – certainly it is for me. Now much is being made of the ethnically black and asian sufferers being twice or is it four times as likely to die than whites (Old South African terminology being used) Why? No one is saying anything about the fact that whatever the ethnicity, twice as many men die as women.
Watched more Harari on UTube and then Alister McGraw vs Christopher Hitchens in which McGraw simply states that the resurrection of Jesus is an historical event which Christian Theology and the NT seeks to explain as its starting point. He ignored or twisted Hitchin, though he had a good answer to Hitchin’s rather crass understanding and rejection of “Love you enemies and forgive those who persecute you.”
Watched Ajahn Amaro do a Zoom talk to 173 for the UN celebration of Wesak launched from Geneva. He spoke very well and clearly how he saw the practice of mindfulness being the great gift the Buddha Way can give to those who need to make key decisions regarding war and peace and gave an excellent illustration of how to do this. This very much echoed what Harari said in a UTube talk on his use of mindfulness practice to clear his mind to write, study, think and not take himself too seriously as so many are now treating him as a “prophet” or “Guru”. “I am an historian,” he says..
Ajahn Amaro also explained how the renunciate Sangha must not be seen to adopt any political position, left or right, or even vote, but is there to promote individual training in the Way. At the same time it is the role of the Sangha to draw attention to the Five Precepts – where the first is “Refrain from taking Life.” It is a position which makes sense though I need to think more about it. Also taking part was a well qualified psychologist who is Buddhist chaplain to the UK armed services who said there are around 10,000 of our services who describe themselves as Buddhist. His position and the numbers claimed surprised me. He too saw mindfulness training as very helpful in dealing with really tough situations and drew a distinction between what he called “force” and “violence.”
A perfect, still, sunny day, had a good run, very encouraging email from MP in SA and JP in Wales. Coffee in the garden. In the evening went to UTube and found Harari speaking about the pandemic and saying that the app to test and trace is dangerous because it is a step towards AI gaining access not just to our locations, but to our bodies and feelings in real time and that it needs to be under medical and ultimately democratic control, but that in Israel it is being implemented by the secret police.
He also then spoke about Homo Deus to a London audiance packing out the Methodist Central Hall. Elizabeth joined me and was very impressed. His exposition of his ideas and his answering of questions was quite outstanding. He has to be described as brilliant.
Rather a cold, windy and thus decidedly depressing day not improved by the official news on all the websites that whatever the actual numbers (around 20,000, but impossible to be certain) there seems to be little doubt that the UK has the highest death rate in Europe. It also seems to be the case that it was lack of preparedness with no stockpiled masks and gowns and a shortage of available tests at the start which has caused this. Over self-confident Boris and his Tories whose only thought was BREXIT I fear. Deaths in the care homes continue to rise while the hospitals seem able to cope. The car homes though are still saying, despite “re-assurances” from the Government that many just do not have the necessary PPE kit.
Watched a rather boring presentation – very carefully and knowledgeably prepared -talk on Zoom on Greg’s U3A group. To work Zoom needs discussion unless it is a very topical subject and the volcanoes on Tenerife were not that. The next session will be on Free Will. Looking forward to that.
TV Netflix. Have discovered Heist just goes on and on for over 20 sessions getting ever more outlandish. Still gripping for the first 16.
With no binge and a good sleep I set off on my run and discovered that all the grass paths had been freshly mown. An impressive achievement. It was a beautiful morning and a great run and near its end there was the mower on his machine. I congratulated and thanked him and he told me that as a member of WFC he volunteered to cut the grass to offset the rent for their pitch. What a generous act which I will report on the Wincanton Window.
Late morning had a good Zoom session with JL and DW discussing how each of us had discovered and experienced Buddhist meditation, which we had never done before.
Phoned the health centre to ask if I would be judged in need of extended self-isolationas a result of my triple by-pass. They checked my records and phoned back that apart from age (and sex) if I was careful I did not need to self-isolate. Agreat relief. Now I can contact JM and take Dougle for walks. The garden is looking great. We get enormous pleasure sitting in it with a book or a drink.
Sunny, cold and windy. Andrew Marr at 9. It is increasingly clear that the Government got off to a slow start and has concentrated on saving the NHS at the expense of the care homes where residents and staff have been dying disproportionately and it is from them that a total of 20,000 deaths will be reached. Boris is now back showing appreciation for the way he was treated and how serious the pandemic is and of the need to look ahead after this lock-down,
Cooked a good lunch of sirloin steak and chips. Elizabeth had seen a cut-price single steak which she could not resist and between the two of us it was great. Our first beef steak in at least a year. Yes I know about beef, methane and the environment.
The weather did not encourage going out so we rather TV binged.
A cold and beautiful day. Caught up with my run as Thursday started on a Spanish netflix binge, MONEY HEIST with an incredibly original plot centred on the Spanish mint and involving a cast of amazing characters of ambivalent behaviour and attitudes – good in the bad, weakness in the good and endless complexities and sexual relationships – grabbed hold of me and wasted hours and today Elizabeth joined me for two hours.
Our garden again so beautiful. This really is a weird disconcerting time.
On returning from my run I was accosted by a woman with a trolly and all her worldly possessions packed on it. She spoke politiely and wanted to know where she could catch a bus to Shepton Mallet. I expressed sympathy but ignorance, and suggested our bus station. Back home I discussed with Elizabeth what we night do. Weirdly she (the woman) embodied the problem I had just been thinking about on my run, when does one act to avoid others suffering while living in a world surrounded by so much? Here was an immediate case and I felt I should do something. We drove to the bus station, found there were no buses to Shepton, but spoke to a bus driver who arrived from Yeovil who confirmed there were no buses to Shepton but despite her not being a needed worker, agreed to take her to Yeovil. We then found her sitting in a doorway drinking a hot coffee from the Co-op. I told her the bus to Yeovil was coming and gave her £40 (which by chance I had on me in cash) to get by with saying that if she needed help there was more to be found in Yeovil than here. We did not wish to do more and could not see anything more we could do. Giving her a lift with covid being not on. What would others have done?
Had an awful vivid dream about being back teaching only to be misunderstood and falsely accused of alcoholism – never one of my many real weaknesses. So far I have been sleeping particularly well. Elizabeth has been having far more dreams. We never tell each other the contents – except very rarely. She says that would make them worse. Of course their contents could and can often be hurtful for a partner when other relationships enter the dream world – I mean sex of course. We downplay dreams now, no longer seeing them as a gateway into the supernatural as much of Africa still does. All the same they can be so vivid.
Got together with Jane Langton and Dave Wrathall to try out a session on Zoom. It worked surprisingly well after a confused start.
In the afternoon we did our weeky shop and for the first time with a scarf around my face and gloves I entered LIDL which I always enjoy. We cannot continue with this total lockdown for ever. If we are sensible, keep social distancing, wash hands frequently that should be OK – though the awareness, if not an emotional fear – remains. A programme empahising what can be expected if you go down with it hard sounds really bad, for if one survives a strong dose recovery could be only partial and very drawn out.