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Covid 19 (3)

Dear Friend, please forgive this non-handwriting; my hand is getting so shaky that I can’t read my own scrawl these days.  A super surprise this morning to get your card and your long letter, all in a real envelope and in real handwriting and with real hand drawing,- not all this computerised email/ facebook/ twitterised stuff which looks increasingly artificial/ facile as the Lockdown, now in its 11th week, goes on.  I was feeling really fed up with it all when the postie rattled our letter box with your package.  For ten weeks or so it has been such a strange interlude, eerily peaceful and beautiful in many ways, what with all the sunshine and the Spring blossom and the trees coming into their various greenness, and the lack of social contact which, to begin with, quite suited both of us.  Unlike your inner London location, the real danger of infection has seemed remote here – we don’t know anybody who has been ill – so that has added to the feeling of unreality too. But 11 weeks or so lacking REAL human contact and stimulus has begun to wear thin with me. After looking forward to boundless uninterrupted time in which to write (and I started off energetically enough for the first month or so) by now I’m wanting to write less and less and to watch more and more stupid mind-numbing Television, becoming what my old Housemaster, Major “Crapsack” Page, called me all those years ago in his final report: “Lethargic if not Idle”.  Peace and Quiet is all very well for a time, but I do think we also need regular, even abrasive, contacts with the wider world. Now I’m trying to motivate myself into looking forward to getting out and meeting people again soon,- travelling, walking, perhaps starting an art class or two in the Autumn.  Vic and I, usually able to enjoy each others’ sustained and exclusive company for weeks on end, for instance during those long rainy holidays in our camper van, are beginning irritatedly to pick at each other over unimportant details or inalterable habits. Really we both need to “get out more”, as they say, probably independently and certainly seeing more friends and family,- even if that means breaking a few Lockdown rules.  So it is in this increasingly self-destructive state of ennui that it has been so refreshing to receive your little package – communication from a real human being, not just a lip-synced ghost zoomed into a computer.  Good to hear that you are keeping well and creatively busy and that friends and neighbours have been helping with your shopping.  Also about your major rebuilding and the replenishment of your garden (I’ve noticed that DIY projects seem to be the favoured therapy for many of the “furloughed” males around here – perhaps I should try some?).  And all your meticulous bird-watching too…have the swifts returned to those special nesting ledges you told us about? And your memories of Irish Music Night at The Ferryboat Inn.  Yes, The Ferryboat did get a dunking in the February floods; deep flooding (old photos show it drowned over the lintels) seems to happen to it regularly.  But it will no doubt be full of Thursday night fiddlers, plangent pipe players and thumping bodrum (spelling?) drummers again when all the pubs do eventually re-open sometime in an unimaginably “Normal” future.  We’ve been going to Amy’s large garden 2 or 3 days a week while she has been at work; Vic does the flowers while I try to maintain the veg plots.  Both flowers and veg have never looked more glorious, what with our frequent feeding and watering, but such abundance is rather an empty achievement with no one near to appreciate the succession of blossom or to consume all the (now bolting) vegetables. Anyway, as you say, I guess that we Oldies must consider ourselves comparatively lucky, being retired with so little financial responsibility. Yesterday I watched as a drunk, probably alcoholic possibly homeless, young man slept all morning in some bushes across the river; he had been there since the previous evening surrounded by cans and a bottle. I thought that he was dead at first but made no Good Samaritan move to help or investigate.  He got up and slouched away at midday.  Lots of young people we know are in tough financial trouble here in Bridgnorth.  Being like the nearest “seaside” resort for the West Midlands, many look forward to making their main livings in these summer months.  But now most “leisure” businesses have been shut down – from the café owner to the canoe hirer-out to the  engineer who works on the Severn Valley Steam railway – and it must all be very worrying for them.  Meanwhile we observe through our double-glazing much frenzied keep-fitting.  Middle-aged men in Lycra nod furiously up the Wolverhampton Road, biking or trying to jog; perhaps they will all become super-fit and live forever… if the virus or a heart attack doesn’t get them first.  And we see lots of families out taking their stipulated hour’s worth of exercise, including a previously invisible Asian family who live over the Indian takeaway, parading from big to little down the High Street like a set of Russian dolls.  And, as you say, neighbours generally do seem to have more time to be friendly and helpful, while keeping their broom swing’s worth of distance…

But now another aptly named “Pointless” television programme summons its zombie acolytes, so I must Sluggishly slope off, meanwhile wishing you whatever minor pleasures we can grab from this seemingly endless “Lockdown”. As ever, Keith.

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