- Posted by Cristina A-C
- On April 23, 2020
- Jimmy Burns, London
“London Diary 5” by Jimmy Burns OBE
Monday 13 April.
The pair of swans on Battersea Park lake I have named Siegfried and Odette take turns in the nest to cover the first of the year’s eggs. Right now, it was the male’s turn to sit, his long thick neck and body curled up upon itself asleep, while the slimmer female paddles across the water, diving for food when not in pursuit of the Canada geese who have ventured too close to her.
Along the shore the Egyptian geese are sticking to bonding with their huddle of rapidly growing goslings (born at the end of March), their patch of ground strictly off limits to exploratory mallards and protected from other unwelcome visitors by a fence.
I would like to imagine that I am witnessing a timeless love story on and around the lake which mixes magic, tragedy and romance- but what comes to mind is nature’s self-protective instincts and a mirror image of mankind’s virtues and peccadillos as made manifest in the time of C19.
The lock-down-its flexibility as much its suppression- has provoked tension between those at one of the spectrum who understand the need to be safe for the sake of their own preservation and those still more vulnerable , and others who feel they can and have a right to do what they like and seem impervious to any counter argument.
Tuesday 14th April.
To the question as to how a holistic view of what constitutes the common good should inform public policy-i.e. the common good is greater than the good of any individual, but not something that exists above or apart from the individual, Daniel P. Sumslay writing in The Tablet suggests “the lockdown would prioritize the saving of concrete lives now over the need to keep the economy going. We matter to each other-all of us.” As some measures of the lock down are extended and others selectively eased civility and what constitutes the common good will increasingly be put to the test.
Wednesday 15th April
My local park provides green space in which to commune with nature and keep humanity at a cautious distance. I am in my late 60’s- I have noticed a growing tendency for the young generations to push the boundaries not least the keep fit fanatics and parents of young children who are increasingly seem to be loosening up on social distancing.
Perhaps some of us humans need to turn into swans. But then I believe the one thing the British government got it right was allowing big public parks like Battersea to stay open, relying less on enforcement than on self-control and civility and policing by consent. As a result of guidelines being mostly adhered to –green spaces have proved a real mental and physical life-line far outweighing any potential risk.
By contrast the Spanish government had had parks and kids locked up while dogs and adults have been able to go on limited errands putting a disproportionate strain on the kids, and their parents. As of next Monday, Spanish kids under 14 will be able to accompany their parents, but only it seems on essential errands. How far they will be able to play and when parks and playgrounds and schools will reopen remains unclear. But the renewed taste of freedom for those suffering from extended suppression is going to be difficult to control.
Thursday 16th April
Here in London, where the lock down has been less extended and authoritarian than in Spain, a friend posts a selfie of herself in tears. She says she is doing in solidarity with all those who are feeling the mental strain for different reasons and in different ways. Other emails I receive include those excusing their lack of communication because of an overload of work-professional and domestic-thrown up by the challenges of the lockdown and the fear of being made economically redundant. But if they have no time for relaxation or contemplation whatever online conference call or teaching they are involved in is bringing its own psychological strain on the workaholic parent in the absence of normal social connections.
Friday 17th April
As Boris, looking after his health, out of public view and wondering how best to get back into it, struggles to retain his Churchillian image, the British have found their latest C19 hero-99 year old former army captain Tom Moore, popularly now known as Captain Tom. Far from succumbing to the virus, or letting it diminish his commitment to a good cause, he has , with a little help his zimmer frame, done more than 100 laps of his garden to draw more than £16mi n donations to the National Health Service.
Unlike the much younger and yet still heroic Forrest Gump I suspect he won’t just go on walking just for the sake of it nor should be expected to do so given his advanced years and fragility. He has done his bit for Queen & Country and raised spirits of many, by playing to a national narrative of practicality, resilience and good humor against the odd. Military medals from past wars fought and won cover his chest. But maybe a knighthood, as petitioned by his fellow countrymen, is in order.
Saturday 18th April
Stories of survival. One from a former colleague in the UK , the other from a cousin of mine in Spain Both contracted the virus and pulled through the experience of intensive care units before being been discharged from hospital. Their stories are of pain and fear, of professional dedication, of darkness and light. Both describe rooms of medical staff shielded by masks and protective clothing and the noise of ventilators like hoovers, the sense of feeling adrift, temporarily cut off from loved ones, and yet their lives saved.
And all the time there are people in hospitals and care homes pulling though, as others are dying, and with the large majority of the population not knowing what a return to normality will look like, getting on with what remains of the lock down, a war like no other war, with an enemy you cannot see, still threatening to kill you, without the noise of gunfire or bombs and where we have rediscovered our fragility-ours and nature’s-and wonder how we can emerge from it to build a better world.
Sunday 19th April
Emma, a young disabled woman I know, gets to the park most mornings, rolling herself in a wheel chair, with her golden retriever at her side. I catch up with her on one of her periodical stops to take a breather and observe nature. She is under the canopy of the last of the blossom looking up at the brilliant white and smelling the scent. She tells me that she has everyone organised on the supply front. She is grateful for a new contact I give her in the local community young volunteer group that has sprung up. She tells me that the lockdown would be unbearable if anything ever happened to her dog.
I am following a track into the wildest of undergrowth that the park can offer, before choosing one that leads me through the darkness to a clearing where the leaves shine in the crisp morning light. In this regenerative Spring, unpolluted by fumes and noise, the tree line against the sky in London has assumed a clarity I cannot remember in living memory.