Sarah Coles

A Journey with Corona Virus. Living in a Pandemic

Illness is the travel of the poor, they say, and I meanly agreed.  I thought how people like Mary Hillier, my daily, lovingly discussed the symptom of illnesses, like places visited on holiday.

Corona virus, or Covid 19.

We’re still in the middle of Corona lockdown, and I told Geordie (15, in Edinburgh) to keep a diary of this weird time, then thought, I’d better make a note myself, since I have actually – I presume – had it. Symptoms are so varied – you can have it without knowing, you can have it badly, and you can have it lightly. Me? No tests, I haven’t officially had it. Most people haven’t been tested. Either it costs too much or it’s not that effective.

I don’t know why they fuss so much. This virus is not remotely like the Black Death or even the flu pandemic of 1919. The only people dying are the elderly with ‘underlying health issues’, the obese and diabetics. (Also black and Asian people, who seem more susceptible). Most fatalities are ‘loved ones’ waiting to die in care homes. This virus is nature’s pruning. How terrified people are of death, their own or others.

Four weeks ago we had a suitably socially distanced (two metres) drink with Pru in her garden. We brought our own glasses. We heard Bella’s parents Fizzy and Guy were ill – after a Skype consultation they were in Winchester hospital, breathing oxygen through tubes for nearly two weeks. ‘You wouldn’t wish it on your worse enemy’ Bella said. No visitors.

Then, having felt more or less fine, I sat on my bed and violently vomited. It was all yellow. Collapsed into bed. Tried to stand, but fell and hurt shoulder. Bruise soon like a thunderstorm. So weak I could not get back into bed until Bob helped me. So weak I could not sit up in bed unless he pulled me. So weak I could not eat anything. So weak could hardly lift up phone. Just lay, either sleeping or looking out of the window at the fleche pointing an east wind on the church tower and St George’s red cross on the flagpole. No church bells. I missed them. But mostly I wanted darkness, with curtains closed.

It wasn’t boring, being ill. For something to be boring you’ve got to be wanting something else. I didn’t want to be anywhere. No pain. Hallucinations from time to time, a vague, unpleasant wobbly fuzz of islands – paracetamol helped, and a relief to click back into the quiet bliss of clarity. I just lay and waited to get better, which I knew I would, one day. Couldn’t read. Since Facebook and Instagram posts are self congratulatory, I managed to take one selfie of myself just lying there, and another of the beams and rafters waving with spiders webs, to show what it is like, being ill, and what I saw all day. Amazed and touched by the response – from Zoe Martin, Tim Maguire in Edinburgh (‘Only dust if you must’ … as if!), Harry Borden, Nick Borden, Eugene Costello in Spain, Lavender, James, Rosie, the dear Jarmans, Ann and Lucy and Hannah, loads more. Ann rang and sent a lot of pictures of cowslips. Rosie Sturgis rang and says ‘of course you were going to recover, you’re not obese, diabetic, black or a man.’ Jane Fuest rang from the Isle of Wight. Could hardly lift the phone, didn’t even want to.

I knew I wasn’t going die, yet, but imagined it – the body consumed by fire, the flames, the ash left, the soul released far beyond.

‘I’ am not confined to my mind. My and your spiritual awareness is shared by every soul who chooses. We are linked. My thought, your thought, your insight of genius, becomes also mine -you thought it, created it and so there it is, in the atmosphere, everywhere around us for all. Intrinsic connection, with people, animals, leaves, stones.

No such thing, ultimately, as good or bad. (Horrors fade into nothingness.)

Bob took my temperature and noted it, sometimes up, sometimes down. Sometimes I was feverish. Sometimes very cold and I put the electric blanket on, then woke and flung it off, too hot. Bob slept in the spare toom. He went up and down stairs with tea, water. Later, a bit of toast and marmalade, A bit of scrambled egg, ‘You’ve got to eat something’. Toby shopped. Margot in Edinburgh got Dr Cribb to ring from Alresford surgery – he rang twice. I thought him an old stick who wouldn’t recognise me from Eve. Drink plenty of water he said. I hope you’ll get better soon. Nice. Bill rings.

After a week I woke up and knew I was better. I could read a book. Slowly clinging to the banister, went downstairs. Went into the garden with stick. The tulips were gold cups streaked with flames, each a holy grail. Walked along path, stumbled on loose paving stone. Fell. Couldn’t get up. Called weakly. Bob shouted Where are you, found me, and helped me up. ‘You mustn’t go into the garden’.

After three days, I got dressed. I felt normal, but couldn’t do up my bra. Thought I must have swelled, but in fact I was weak, and only after a week could I dress as normal. When weak, didn’t realise I was so weak.

Outside in the world, at first stocks and shares swooped in terror, then rose to about a sixth less than pre-pandemic levels.

The country is still in lockdown. ‘Stay indoors.’ ‘Wash your hands’. (Imagine being without a garden!) No unnecessary outings, except for food, or once a day for exercise, they say. Keep socially distanced, two metres apart, say notices in supermarkets and the few shops that are still open. Floors are lines with tape showing where customers must queue, and out on the pavement waiting for entry you stand on circular pads showing of two feet. This is where you must stand, moving forward like slow motion hopscotch until young man sitting on a stool ushers you in. Half the people are wearing scarves or blue masks over their nose and mouth.

In Alresford the newsagent, off licence, butchers, pet food shop, green grocer, chemist, bank, ironmonger and Tesco Metro and the Coop stay open but, except for Tesco and the Coop, shut at noon. In the morning you see people standing suitably distanced outside the chemist, and if you didn’t know you might think they were canvassers or waiting for a friend or collecting for Life Boats. All the dress shops, interior decorators with their bits and bobs, flower shop, coffee shops, tea shop, hairdressers, stationers, the Swan, the Bell, the Globe, the Horse and Groom, the Thai restaurant, the Shapla restaurant, jewellery shops, toy shop, Old Age shop, optician, book shop, dentists – shut indefinitely. The gift shop plastered with suitably upbeat cards in its windows, and other shops with See You One Day Soon notices. At the weekend, you can get a meal from Dave’s fish and chip shop between 5pm and 9pm, as long as you order and pay for it on line first. Mange tout Deli has a table across the door where you can now distance queue and get your take-away coffee. It’s so trendy to walk along, coffee in hand. In the old days Bella’s sister Charlie took a trayful to Western Court.

People don’t smile, even when it’s sunny. They walk in a curve away when meeting on the pavement.

Buses are few, no longer every half hour. Not much traffic. Few people on streets. Easy for us driving out of Bay Tree Yard now.

The country, the world, stays in lockdown. Ann and I agreed, it’s as though the world is on holiday. Repeated this to Lucinda who said sternly, ‘Not for the poor’.

I was glad to have had it, a form of Corona. To have known what it’s like. Also, to be immune, maybe, for a year.

Brother James emailed to say that Fiona and Miles (after 4 or so years) are expecting a baby. I suggested Corona would be a great name for a girl (popular in Spain apparently – it means Crown), but maybe not Covid for a boy.   Thought funny, but maybe not!

The tulips are almost over. The alliums are shaking off their tissue spathes to become purple orbs. The flowers continue.

15th November.  No long Covid happily.  But now everyone in shops have to wear masks (stifling) which are blue paper, cloth, silk, whacky.  And then, thrilled to have an email from Beth Jackson asking me to put a link with this to her website – a government organisation offering support, practical advice, funding, and information – thrilled because I thought no one ever read my blogs!  And so, her site. named The COVID Survival Plan for the Care Home Industry, well worth vising, is:

Business Support and Survival Guide for Care Homes During Covid-19

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