Sunday, 10 May 2020

A Bleurgh sort of day

The weather changed overnight. From the warmth of the spring sunshine to grey skies and a stiff breeze. No sitting in the garden with a summer cocktail, and our walk this morning had a distinctly different feel to it too.

Clad in jumpers and jeans, with back up waterproofs, we walked briskly through the woods taking note of the changing landscape over the past few weeks. The bluebells have gone, the cow parsley is in abundance, here and there buttercups and forget me nots entice you to bend down and admire their fleeting  beauty - captured as everything else is for an Instagram post later in the day.

Today we took paths less travelled and found ourselves at a dead end on several occasions. It mattered not at all - the Ordnance Survey map on the iphone speedily directs us back to the public footpath or woodland walk. In Long Valley Wood we are rarely far from the sound of the Metropolitan railway line, or glimpses of the Grand Union Canal through the trees. Going down a dead end may of course feel like a waste of time to some as it doesn't get you anywhere. But is that in fact the purpose of this government approved exercise? Whilst racking up the steps we are there to enjoy the view and on several occasions it has been the rarely visited woodland at the end of a more difficult to pass track that has surprised us most of all with its beauty.

On arrival home, with it no longer possible to sit out in the garden, the day stretched ahead rather. Whilst working on a Sunday is a regular occurrence when The Kitchen is open, it doesn't feel like the right day to be responding to emails or writing revised Business Plans. The hourly news bulletins are full of speculation as to what the Prime Minister will announce at 7pm, with the easing of our lockdown on many people's minds. My nephew who lives and works in Madrid has smilingly commented that we haven't been under lockdown in the UK and certainly if you compare the restrictions on our daily life to those in many other countries that would appear to be the case.

Some said at the beginning of all this that the public would only tolerate a curtailment of their usual activities for a limited period of time. I think these people were behavioural scientists or some such. I wonder now if perhaps they were not far wrong! Looking at the way some people were out and on the streets on Friday, and the impatience from others to get back to normal, I begin to feel more than ever that not everyone shares my fears regarding the resurgence of COVID-19 and a second wave in the autumn/winter when it will be harder still to manage.

Yesterday evening, whilst cleaning my teeth for the fifth or sixth time of the day (there are no dentists working other than for the very worst kind of emergency) my mind was full of what to write about today. I wish yet again that I had dragged out the laptop and written this then. Or even that I had made notes on my phone or a piece of paper. But try as I might I cannot recall what it was that felt of such significance at 11pm last night. When I awoke at around 8am this morning those ideas had evaporated or perhaps they were absorbed into the disturbing and disruptive dreams which I know I am not alone in experiencing.

As the days go on it is surely harder and harder to take each one of them at a time. Many have jokingly compared the experience to Groundhog Day, and it is true that for many of us it's become almost impossible to remember what day of the week it is. The awful irony of this of course is that many of our key and frontline workers are working harder than ever. Twelve hour shifts in difficult and demanding job - whether in hospitals, supermarkets, or as delivery drivers, carers, postal workers and so many more vital roles. Whilst others amongst us are unable to work at all.

Some of course are furloughed from their regular employment - but how long will that last before companies reluctantly have to make more workers redundant? Others such as the self employed and small business owners are worried sick as to where they will find the money to pay the bills, even with the grants and loans offered by the government. These are of course a lifeline but how long is this going to go on for? If businesses such as The Kitchen are only able to reopen for takeaways, collections, or with just three or four tables there is no way they can be profitable. They will inevitably die a slow death, the danger being our unwillingness to accept this and to keep borrowing or pumping in personal cash until we end up with nothing.

Of course this worry is nothing in comparison to that of those who are unwell, who have friends and family infected with or at huge risk from catching the virus. And at the start of Christian Aid Week my thoughts go out to those in developing countries for whom the threat is greater still with overcrowded living facilities and a lack of good - or even basic - sanitation.

Last night we watched The Darkest Hour, and were taken back to the difficult decisions Churchill had to make at the beginning of the Second World War. Along with entering into his angst I became so very aware of the years the people of the UK spent enduring the fear and suffering of wartime. Who's to say we won't be living in similar uncertainty for several years? We hope and pray that treatments will be found, that a safe and effective vaccine will be developed, that many people will be found to have acquired immunity, or that the virus will in some other way be defeated. But until that time we need to see our loved ones, educate our children, and earn a living. Yes we may be able to forgo the cinema and sporting fixtures, international flights and holidays. How we care for those whose livelihoods depend on these industries is another matter of course. But we cannot remain locked in our homes forever, and perhaps at some point we do need to venture out and live with the new norml.

For this to happen however we need to have confidence that the virus is at the very least under control and that all possible precautions are in place to prevent it from further spreading and peaking again and again.

Well that is all for today. Where has the time gone? A few cake boxes ordered, and cupcake cases for a charitable order this week. Two children's stories read and recorded for some of our younger customers to enjoy. Social media updated, emails and messages replied to. And now of course this blog post written and ready to be shared.

The week ahead feels a little uncertain but as someone said to me yesterday that's how change feels - a little scary at times which is why it's not always popular or something we welcome. At the beginning of the pandemic I had planned to use this blog as more of a daily diary. Documenting what we did every day, with little in the way of analysis. To an extent that is how it begun with daily updates on the sourdough starter for example!

More recently however I feel it may have become a little more reflective. Less regular maybe but perhaps that isn't a bad thing. It's no longer a necessity to record everything we do, as the days are so often very similar. Much of what is happening at The Kitchen is on our social media pages, with the website blog also updated every week or so and email newsletters sent to our mailing list. We are recording podcasts too, so there is no shortage of information as to how this business and indeed this family are spending time during this pandemic.

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