When I went to let the chickens out first thing this morning, there it was, a familiar sound. No, it wasn’t yet another Blackcap pretending to be a Garden warbler. It was the drone. The hum, the incessant background noise. The sound of traffic on the bypass. Perhaps it was a shift in the wind direction, or humidity in the air after such a long dry period. But there it was. The spell was broken.
In truth it has been slowly building over the last week or two. I was trying to figure out who it was who was doing the driving. Second homers secretly heading down to Dorset via the back roads to dodge the police roadblocks set up at what would have been known as “County Gates” in the past. People heading back to work because they think the First Pandemic Wave has crested and everything goes back to normal now – or their boss has phoned them and told them to be at their desk/work station or risk losing their job. Who knows, but it’s a herd movement – in the sense that each individual has its own reasons for travelling, but collectively they contribute to one whole action – and that action brings the familiar background noise of the bypass to my ears. And they are perhaps over sensitive ears.
In the near month since I last wrote something on here, the world has changed. How have I spent the time? I furloughed from work at People Need Nature, and the freelance project which should have been completed weeks ago – well I have at least made a decent start on it. But finding the motivation has been like… searching for a coin in a bucket of treacle. With a pair of sugar tongs. In a blindfold.
Two things have come to dominate my waking thoughts – the dreadful (in the true sense of the word) unfolding drama of the catastrophic handling of the Pandemic by this Government. And my daily walks in nature, which got ever longer, ever more immersive, and with each day took on more of a desperation to find an escape, find solace, find a moment when everything falls away and I am in that moment, listening to that bird (yes it’s another Blackcap), letting the ultra blue of Bluebells saturate my retinas, the neurotransmitters wash through my nerves, wash away the feelings of helplessness, uselessness, panic.
I have found moments of intense experience this Spring in nature. Senses feel heightened, time moves at a different pace, time stops. Just for a second, or a minute if I’m really lucky. Not having that constant background drone of traffic (or airliners) makes such a difference. The birdsong at times feels ridiculously loud, as though the birds know the background noise is muted and sing more loudly, more exuberantly, revelling in the new sound space, filling it. On Maiden Castle I listened, rapt, to the jangling keys of Corn Buntings, a chorus of Skylarks from multiple directions, and then a Stonechat, well, chatting, in the background. I must have stood there for 10 minutes, probably grinning like a fool. Fortunately few other people were around.
Many, many people have died. Many more will live on with lifelong after effects – shot lungs, kidneys. Post Traumatic Stress. Weakened Immune systems.
Families destroyed by the pointless, unnecessary loss of loved ones.
The hundreds of people – Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, Cleaners, Care workers and others, who willingly spent their lives caring for others, by working in the Health and Care services. Have given their lives, have lost their lives, have had their lives taken away from them, because the Government ignored the experts (we know how they feel about experts) and let the Pandemic Stockpile run down. Or told workers that an apron would suffice instead of a gown. Or counted each individual glove when making up figures about how many millions of PPE they had sent out.
We lost one of our GPs – no, he was taken away. He had been a great help when one of us was very ill. He had very recently retired, but I guess went back in to help. Another friend’s son caught the virus at Uni and ended up back home, then in hospital locally, on Oxygen. Back at home, he’s slowly recovering. Now I suspect everyone knows of someone who’s had it, or who has died.
Now we know the many many thousands of our parents and grandparents, who have died a painful and early death from Covid19 in care homes. By the latest reckoning, more people have died in care homes than in hospitals; and the virus continues to rage through these places, even as hospital deaths start to plateau – for now.
That’s not to forget all the people who have died, will die early, or have less healthy lives, because the NHS had no spare capacity and had to let other treatment, therapy, testing and prevention work go by the wayside to focus all effort on Coronavirus – as a result of a decade of vicious cuts to the Health and wider Care service. Another 18000 cancer patients could die in the next year as a result of the spin-off effects of Coronavirus. And that’s just cancer. Add in diabetes, heart disease and so on.
The sun has gone and the rain – welcome rain, rain the ground needs to soak up, has come. On Monday I walked up to Poundbury – the Model Town Prince Charles has created as an urban extension to Dorchester. It was warm, sunny, lots of people were out – a group of daytime drinkers lolling on the grass, ignoring the social distancing rules. Nobody seemed bothered. A hundred metres away a queue for the Pharmacists, everyone diligently spaced 2m apart. Knowing the rain was coming, it almost (fancifully yes) felt like a day in September, the end of the Summer – in late April! I can remember Summers with fewer sunny days than we’ve had these last 5 weeks. Or perhaps that’s just me.
What does the future hold? I can’t think about that. Nobody knows. Next week is long enough away. I hope it doesn’t rain this afternoon, and I can get out for a walk, maybe see the Bluebells a couple more times before they fade.
I could really do with a haircut.