Surviving Coronavirus

Since returning from the Amazon on the 20th of February it is certainly a very different world to the one that we knew before we boarded the Magellan at the beginning of January. Of course because we were cruising, we had (through idle interest) been monitoring the unfortunate passengers quarantined in port on the cruise ships in Japan, little knowing that this would be the tip of the iceberg. Never thinking that within a few short weeks the transport systems of the world would become taboo. Yes, we knew there was serious things happening in China, but that was China, that was their problem, not ours! How wrong can you be? At present; cruising, flying or taking any form of public transport is not advisable, even mixing socially with our fellow citizens is to be avoided.

“With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter.” ― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Enlightened by the media, new phrases and words have appeared in our vocabulary and most conversations now seem (Brexit like) to be centered on what is known, believed, disbelieved or supposedly understood and advised. One thing is for sure, this minute creature called a virus is dangerous whether we call it Corona virus, Wuhan virus, Corvid 19 or SARS-CoV-2.

“slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

It is thought that this virus likely originated from horse-shoe bat corona virus, as there appears to be a close genetic similarity and there may be a reservoir of the strain in pangolins, from which it may have infected humans, but nothing is certain or clear. In some of us the effect is quite mild in others it can prove tragically fatal. As a species we are no strangers to disease, over the millennia we have developed an immune system that can see off most microbial infections and for those that we can’t, either through frailty or dysfunction we rely on our doctors and chemists to provide relief and a solution. And we are doing so again.

“For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things–taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to many–those that cause putrefaction in dead matter, for instance–our living frames are altogether immune”.H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

The earliest known case of infection was on the 17th of November 2019, and as of 19 March 2020, there were 236,926 confirmed cases of infection, of which 80,928 were in mainland China. The total number of deaths attributed to the virus is 9,834; 86,675 people have recovered from infection.. I have no doubt that there will eventually be an end to this mankind created pandemic and unlike the plot of The War of the Worlds where the Martians were utterly defeated by one of our planet’s smallest life-forms, we will not. But, as the narrator surmised at the end of this classic tale; we should be prepared for the Martians possible return. This pandemic is very much a wake-up call, greater even than that of the 1918 Flu pandemic (Spanish Flu) in which between 20- 50 million died world wide.

When this blight IS eventually seen off, governments, organisations and individuals have to learn from this terrifying global episode. It has to be fully acknowledged that there is only one planet to which we are adapted to live on, we do not have a choice in who or what we share it with . Life is precious. Being the most advanced species to inhabit the Earth (so far), we have a moral duty to look after this ‘3rd rock from the sun’ and by doing so we look after ourselves, it is THE only way to ensure our continuance. The Swedish child activist, Greta Thunberg once said,“I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” Obvious truths about global warming from a young individual has gained her international recognition, but I doubt very much whether it has so far impressed those who really can make a difference. Perhaps a bout of Corvid-19 will give a dose of reality to our political leaders, religious radicals and those in charge of mega-buck corporations and help them understand that we are all in this together. If we do not learn from Corona virus, there will be another pandemic and we as a species only have to lose that battle once.

We had plans to visit Joan and Phil at the end of February, but with a growing concern about flying to Italy we fortuitously decided to wait and see. After an exchange of emails, Joan advised that it wouldn’t be wise to visit at the present, the situation there was much further advanced than in the rest of Europe. They had planned to travel to the UK at Easter but plans were cancelled when flights in and out of Italy were put on hold by the Italian government. Worryingly, she informed us that Phil was not in the best of health and over the last few months had been making several hospital visits. As the country descends into lock down, any travel away from home requires authority and the appropriate piece of paper, without which if stopped, attracts a heavy fine. An added complication you could do without when you are ill! The last email we received contained a warning: “All I can say to the UK and to you and your family is – don’t take this virus lightly, it is serious and has killed many people here and the feeling is that there is a long way to go.” We are certainly heeding that advice.

A couple of days after our return to the UK I received a phone call from Jim in Cyprus. I had thought that we may visit Jim and Brigitte instead of virus ridden Italy, but the news he imparted put an end to Plan B. They had just sold their house to a Russian couple and the timetable for exchange was very quick. Brigitte flew over to the UK a few days later to start looking for a new home in Harborough, their two dogs Harby and Shoby flew into the country the following week. She is staying with her daughter’s family in nearby Oadby. Jim remained in Cyprus to continue the necessary formalities of exchange. Then everything went wrong.

Brigitte found the home she wanted and her offer was accepted. The property needed a bit of work done on it, but it was vacant and certainly in a habitable condition and most importantly in a location that they wanted. She was due to fly back back to Cyprus to complete the signing of the documents a couple of weeks later. However, when all flights between the UK and Cyprus were cancelled for the foreseeable future, she was stuck and so was Jim. Depressingly, Jim heard that flights may not resume until mid July! The situation with the Russian couple is not clear as though all the paperwork can now be done electronically, no one is able to easily physically move anywhere. It appears that things are in limbo. What a mess a tiny little bug can create!

I received an email from Quantas this week suggesting that I may wish to transfer my booking to a later date as they will not longer be flying, at least until the 31st of May. Earlier this year I booked return flights for my New Zealand friend Peter to attend his mother’s 80th birthday and his niece’s wedding near Christchurch. He was due to return on the 16th of May after being six months in NZ. That becomes a problem. He is a New Zealand citizen travelling on a NZ passport and we have now increased (Brexit) regulations at our borders, I believe that it is unlikely that he will gain entry to the country without first applying for a visa, I think there is a 6 month deadline for re-entry, in order to preserve his qualification for British residency. What a mess.

Sue’s sister Philippa and brother in law Paul have had to cancel their upcoming grand tour of South America as Phillipa’s weakened immune system makes it too dangerous for her to be travelling through the continent during a pandemic. Later in the year they also have a cruise up the fjords of Norway to the Arctic Circle which is now in doubt. What a mess.

Jamie and and Ruth also had plans to travel. They have had to cancel their upcoming trip to Berlin, something they were very much looking forward too.

It doesn’t look like the Palmer clan will be exercising their itchy feet for foreign travel any time soon. Damn and blast you virus, there is a cure coming your way, it may take a while, but good riddance to you when it does.

So how has this little bug affected Sue and I? We arrived back in the UK on the 20th of February, aware that the virus that was laying waste to China and the rest of Europe, causing cruise ships to be put into quarantine in foreign ports and had started to affect normal life in Italy and guessed it was likely to turn out to be more serious than the British media and the rest of Europe was treating it. It didn’t seem to be just another flu bug. As a precaution, a couple of days later we acquired a pack of face masks and stocked up with a month’s supply of groceries and essentials, on the premise that it was better to be safe than sorry. We had noted that the Chinese had gone down the route of shutting down large sections of the country and it seemed likely that this was the way to combat the spread of infection. It was a good two weeks before the penny really began to drop that the country certainly was in a serious situation and people began to do likewise. We were fortunate that on our cruise we were privy to two months of news that was not from a European view point and had judiciously ‘jumped the gun’.

We have continued with the activities that we both enjoy, until they are stopped. I still cycle each day, play pool with friends at the club and shop for the necessities of life. Sue does like-wise though her walking groups and other U3A interest groups no longer meet, the cinema has closed and some of her friends have gone into isolation and are no longer visited. A ‘Viking Marauder’ weekend stay in Norah Batty’s cottage in Holmfirth that I have organised for a group of friends has had to be moved from April to November. Not a big deal, but annoying, damn that bug!

As there are fewer places open, most people seem to be reluctant to be out and about as much as usual. It is the start of spring so there is plenty to do in the garden and we have both been busy out there, when the rain permits. I have pruned the fruit trees and soft fruit beds. Given the lawns their first mow with my newly purchased mower. Sowed tomatoes and onion sets. I chopped up three trees that had fallen alongside the river whilst we were away. They have provided us with next winters’ logs. Sue has been busy with the leaf blower and sweeping brush and no doubt pretty soon the spiders that seem to love the hidey-holes in our masonry will be moved on.

Because of our ages, the rest of the family seem very concerned that we appear to be a viral target and are mostly staying away or, only visit briefly. No more kissing goodbye, we now touch elbows! Sarah is in isolation until the birth of the baby and both she and Lee are now working from home, in between doing jigsaws. Charlotte luckily had her spinal injections a few days before the hospitals stopped all urgent operations. Suraj also works from home as he is employed by the NHS, securing their IT systems. Jamie and Ruth seem closer than ever, having been away for the past two weekends to Brighton and London respectively. Sue and I had the pleasure of looking after Ruth’s little Jack Russell dog whilst they were away. Corona virus has turned Jamie into a bit of a hypochondriac, every few days he goes into a panic thinking that he has been infected and floods the family Messenger group with his pleas for sympathy. He spends a lot of his time up in Bottesford with Ruth and unfortunately picked up a speeding ticket the other day, no doubt in the misconception that the virus would be too slow to catch him, it’s a shame the camera did!

Earlier in March, Jamie and I fixed a leaking radiator and now his central heating works, ironically a few days later Charlotte’s central heating developed a fault and it took a week and a plumber to fix that. The 4th of March was my birthday, plans to be travelling abroad had to be shelved, so for once I celebrated the occasion at home. Sue and I dined out at a Nepalese restaurant in Harborough and the children clubbed together and bought me a DNA pack that has been sent off to be analysed. It will no doubt prove once and for all my royal lineage, or not. Watch this space, you peasants!

Below are a selection of some of the photos that we have shared with each other on our family Messenger group during the month of March.

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