On Thursday I was just finishing supper when I heard a noise like dried leaves, insistently rattling, went to the door and discovered it was Clapping Time, to show appreciation to the NHS. I am with the Times cartoon on Saturday which says “Nice thought, but what we need is tests, masks and protective clothing.” Not to hit a man when he’s down and I am sure the Blond is feeling rotten but that was a big Boris slip – to say “we’ve got – the aforementioned items, rolling out figures – when more truthfully he should have said “we have ordered” ditto. And there is always a time delay between order and delivery. Four people asked me yesterday – where is protective clothing coming from, who makes it ? And I cannot answer. Be ironical if all came from China.
But Clapping Time shows you your neighbours, they see you, you share something innocuous and in these times it’s not enough to say “we’re all in this together” – you have to show it. Applause over, I went back inside, watched Mark Kermode on BBC4 (British history in films – MK and compilation- hooray) and when it ended, went to front door and looked the sky before closing up for the night.
And at my feet lay a bunch of roses.
They looked like I felt – a bit tired – and definitely in need of water. No card, still wrapped, corrugated paper round the blooms. But the thought ! I wondered if it was Jim who works unheard of hours at the radio, I wondered if it was my son, the boys next door ? So while the flowers were up to their necks in reviving cold water, I took the key(never go out without the key – see annalog keys and trees) and looked. A dozen or more doorways had roses.
The next morning I met a Scottish social worker who lives locally and after the pleasantries, I told him about the flowers and he said” That’s my neighbour. He works providing flowers for big events, all cancelled of course. So he thought he’d give them away.” I asked for his name and the house number and I wrote a thank you and best wishes to you and yours. Roses for no reason.
There are lists and lists of things you can do online but I cleaned the cooker and did the hated ironing. I watched a bit of Jane Eyre (1943, still a preferred version) and a neighbour called – observing social distance – to see if I had a spanner. I looked and I didn’t. A good range of screwdrivers but no spanner.
I had two long telephone calls and a number of emails including one from a friend in Spain, still in health thank heaven. And eventually I heard from a friend sharing a house with a sufferer from chronic anxiety, exhausted but OK. The handsome Kurd in the supermarket agreed with me that the anxiety is contagious. “Look” she said. “ Last week was insane. I went home, carrying loads of stuff and a couple of hours later, I sat there. Everybody’s OK. Food is in the oven. Why did I buy all those things ? Fear. This week much quieter, we get used to it …”
But will the street man, newly cleaned up in clothes too big for his emaciated frame, some kind of identity tag round his neck, money in his pocket ( I heard it) but nowhere to go for breakfast because nowhere is open ?
Once I had seen the headlines about house sales grinding to a halt, I daren’t ring Bunslove who is selling his biggest mistake, has a buyer, all in progress, no chain: I just pray he is an exception.
I walk up and down the garden and look at what is beginning come through, this is before I hear the weather forecasters listing lower temperatures lowered again by cold winds and possibly snow, and after I read about the Borrowed Days or the blackthorn winter – thank you Paul Simons. So many people hail spring because they see it move on through new life of every kind to the warmer days of summer. I dread spring, the Loki of the seasons, a trickster, unreliable and changeable. Just like these times.
*by Gabriel Garcia Marquez