Musings On Covid 19 (Coronavirus) From A Rural Perspective

It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? I was thinking to myself, should I do a post related to THE VIRUS or not, and if so, what could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been  said, felt, or expanded upon already – on the TV, social media, and between people chatting to each other over the phone? Well, I can tell you what it’s like from a rural living perspective where the harsh realities that we’re all hearing about seem a million miles away from us here in the Scottish Borders. Many people who live here will be extremely fortunate not to have their lives too seriously disrupted, especially if they don’t have children, which will soon be tough with the closing of the schools and people having to work from home if they possibly can. And for those of us who live a creative life, like a few of my artist and crafter friends, then it would seem as if the UK’s recent blanket ruling for at least three months of social distancing, where our regular coffee shop meeting places will be shut, actually does provide a silver lining for us introverted creatives who can knuckle down and get more work done.

But, of course, it’s not that simple. I’ve only being able to write or paint in the last couple of days because I’ve been feeling constantly preoccupied with, and dazed by, the sheer magnitude of what is happening in our world and all the many ramifications. From reading about theories based upon the virus being a leaked bio-weapon to wreak global chaos and bring down economies so that other ‘powers’ can move in, right through to people not being able to take it seriously and still going to have their regular pint in their local pub where denial rules OK.  After all, there’s also been the suggestion that there is no Covid 19, there are no casualties, it’s all an elaborate ruse, don’t you know. On a personal level there’s been the back and forth family discussion on whether or not to go ahead with my 81 year old mother’s kitchen and bathroom vinyl fitting date. Should we or shouldn’t we? It’s been paid for after all. But she’s 81, should we risk it? Even if she does stay in the house next door, while the fitters get the job done, and then we give the surfaces a good clean afterwards before she comes back in to admire the ‘new look’. Are we being totally irresponsible to even consider it? It became a yes, as Boris’s live announcements became more and more prohibitive this week. And there are the stories of panic buying – all those toilet rolls, tissues and wipes. All that pasta, paracetamol and rice. Those empty shelves and full trolleys. And a nurse crying after her long shift looking after unwell people when she finds in the supermarket that the well people have taken all the food. Appeal after appeal to give some consideration, please! And here’s me just having read Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, namely, The Testaments, an ironically ominous dystopian story where suddenly the fictionalised oppressive, political, religious regime of Gilead doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all. This is the power of good writing, good story telling, and a deep insight into the vagaries of human nature which we are seeing on display right now. And what we are seeing in reaction to this pandemic covers typically wide extremes: from heart-warming kindness, caring and compassion, with the NHS staff battling valiantly while putting themselves at personal risk, to community groups being formed to care for local vulnerable people most in need, right through to disregard for social distancing and punch ups in the aisles over toilet paper.

‘I got hold of it first!’

‘No you didn’t. I did!’

But for many of us living in the Borders, such reactions and events have wafted our way for assimilation only via the media, like slippery rumours and tall tales, where our outside rural reality bares no resemblance to the images projected into our minds by reported events from more populated areas. For those of us who live amongst the green fields and rolling hills of the Borders, for those of us who live on farms, like me, the hedge sparrows are still chattering, the gardens are still growing with the plump green buds of promise of spring delights to come, and the tractors are still rumbling down the roads to plough the fields and scatter. It all sounds and feels as if Covid 19 is somewhere else far far away. We only have 10 confirmed cases here, so life goes on, while we wash our hands and keep our social distance in numb disbelief.

When I first ventured out on a bright sunshine day to the nearest town, filled as I was with curiosity for signs of a new way of life, I noticed the cars on the roads were few, and as I drove past houses and empty pavements, It was easy to see people were not going out and about as usual. There was just one lady bending her back to work in her already well-manicured garden. When I got to the supermarket, where the tell tale signs should have been most evident, there were only a few empty shelves to testify to the reality of Covid 19. It seemed a mild response.

But today, when I went to the giant of all supermarkets in the Borders, namely Tesco, it was a different story. Only half the flowers were sold for Mother’s Day, presumably the sold bunches to be left on the doorsteps of elderly mothers. And the shelves yawned and gaped everywhere. I wandered among them, not to hope to buy, but to bear witness – something I needed to do – it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see manifest such a social and cultural disruption to our way of life here in the west. There were no groups of shoppers blocking the aisles, no children running around with wild abandon, just bodies keeping their distance and hoping you do the same.

And as the sun blazed outside once again, I realised that all the fresh meats and burgers were gone, not to mention all the frozen food to stock freezers for the duration, all the lager, tonic water, and fizz – and I got an image in my mind of all these private Border barbeques going on, making hay while the sun shines.  And so, I felt dazed all over again. One good thing, at least, to come out of this pandemic is a short reprieve for the animal kingdom so subject to harm from man, and I saw pictures of a dolphin swimming in a Venice canal – an unprecedented sight.

So here’s hoping you manage and survive well this surreal challenge so many of us are going through. There’s only so much thinking you can do, so I hope you find some solace in your creative work, which counts at times like this just as much as ever.

Stay well, and let me know how you are doing in your part of the world…

(In the comments there is a fantastic piece of writing by Paul Kingsworth concerning the virus which you may like to read, highlighted by Pauline from The Contented Crafter creative life blog.)

Namaste from me to you

(images courtesy of pixabay)

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