Marcia Kuperberg Art
Most recent entry: Arty Mar's Blog
Most recent entry: Arty Mar's Blog
FRIDAY 8 JANUARY 2021
I should have updated this blog earlier. There have certainly been key moments: when the first vaccine, Pfizer-BionTech was approved late in December (hurray!), and then the Oxford-AstraZeneca last week, and today, the 3rd one, Moderna, which won’t reach us until around April. Still, the more the merrier, as this Covid is deadly and we need millions of doses.
Today, it was announced on TV that as many as one in every 20 people in London – one in 20!!!! – is probably already infected and the numbers of those testing positive, arriving in hospital and dying, is growing exponentially. The hospitals will soon be unable to cope if this continues. My son, Danny and his family have had it, and he’s recovering well, thank God (the rest of his family didn’t suffer so badly) but every day was scary for me until I knew he was out of the woods.
But I won’t get this dreaded disease – or at least, if I do, it won’t kill me. Because. I’ve had. The vaccination! First jab of the Pfizer one, two days ago. A rare advantage of being a ‘senior’ who happens to have an underlying "comorbidity" (yes, I've absorbed the jargon). Yay! And even though Pfizer say the booster shot should be 21 days after the first, and our government has changed that to 2-3 months, in order to spread the available vaccines further, I don’t care! I count myself lucky indeed.
I’ve been holed up for nearly a year, and I’m going stir crazy: counting the days until I can resume a near-normal life, see my children and grandchildren and actually hug them. Imagine that! This still may not happen for some months but now, at least I know I'll be around then.
Thankful is hardly the word. What is a word to describe how I feel after receiving the jab? Joy. Relief. Gratitude. Sadness that others have died and suffered. Incredulity, that this pandemic is happening in my lifetime. Yes, there are many words, but none can really express what I feel.
SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2020
Days slipping away. Here in London, we’re in our second lockdown, due to be released on 2nd December – so says Boris. This one does not seem as drastic as the first; I guess we’re resigned and I’m quite sure people are either not quite sure what’s allowed, or tweaking the rules to suit. Schools and colleges remain open as do supermarkets and other essential shopping outlets. I continue my walks with Ruth. The main difference for me is that I can no longer have anyone inside my house, and only meet one other (the person in my ‘bubble’ i.e. Michael) outside.
The numbers of Covid infections continue to rise at an alarming rate as do total deaths. Sadly, the figures no longer have the shock value they used to. The really heartening news is that there are now two vaccines that have been proven to work, with the prevention of 90 – 95% of infections. More data to come, and more vaccines soon to release their results. The most vulnerable together with key workers and NHS staff will be first in line to get vaccinated – maybe even by the end of December. Being over 75 and therefore classed as vulnerable, I’ll probably be amongst those vaccinated fairly early but this may not happen until early in the New Year. Michael, living in a ‘supported home’ may be lucky, and in the second rung to receive the vaccine.
By the time the vaccine(s) are rolled out to encompass everyone, I guess we’ll be into next Summer, so there’s a long way to go enduring this misery. Lockdown and ‘tiered restrictions’ are much harder to bear in Winter. The hope of a successful vaccine gets me through my occasional dips.
I’ve now put a heater in my outside gazebo so Michael was able to celebrate his big Five O birthday with me on Friday 13 November.
I made a big effort to make this a special day, and had helium balloons including a very large ‘50’, birthday banners, birthday cake and goodies. In many ways, Michael has the mentality of a teenager, and this was important to him. I also made a “Vid-Hug” video with clips from over 50 friends and family – each one wishing him a Happy Birthday. He was loaded with presents, cards, and non-stop phone calls. I’ve often pondered about what makes Michael so popular with so many people from different walks of life, and have concluded that he has an openness and a joy of life that few of us possess. Born with a so-called disability, he is blessed with an extraordinary appreciation of all that is good around him. We all want some of that to rub off on us – at least, I do.
I’m still hooked on Sky Artist of the Week. I’ve just posted my latest portrait on Instagram: Baroness Floella Benjamin, a larger-than-life black woman who used to host the kids’ TV programme ‘Playschool’ and is now in the House of Lords. It’s my best so far. I’m learning a lot as I paint along with friends (we have our own WhatsApp group for crits and encouragement). Best of all, I can look at the many hundreds of efforts around the world who are all painting the same subject.
SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 2020
Time has marched on, and it’s now a few months since I posted. We eased out of total lockdown but now cases have zoomed again so Boris has divided England into three tiers: Tier 1 where there aren't a great many infections has few restrictions, Tier 2 which includes London – classed as severe – where we can’t have people from other households to visit indoors and can mix with a maximum of six outdoors only. Tier 3 is almost like the original lockdown but with schools and universities open – I wouldn’t be surprised if London goes into Tier 3 soon along with many cities in the north of England.
Despite these restrictions, I’m only rarely lonely but I really miss being with family and friends – LIVE – not just on Zoom. How can I be bored when there is so much to read, so many interesting programmes to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime and on TV. I’ll never touch a fraction. Right now, at 10 a.m. Facebook Live has a 4-hour programme of Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist of the Week’. They have a model, someone well known in the arts or media, painted usually by a previous winner or runner-up to Portrait Artist of the Year. It is partly hosted by Joan Bakewell and viewers, amateur or professional post our efforts on Instagram and view the efforts of the many hundreds doing likewise. It is wonderfully absorbing, so I’d better stop writing and start painting!
I’ve been standing up painting since 10 a.m. a solid four and a half hours, with no time off chatting to fellow painters since I’m the only one home (of course, since London is now in Tier 2 relating to Covid-19). Fab session on Sky Arts. Even though I’m alone, painting in my living room while watching the model and artist and commentators on TV or laptop, I’m in a world-wide community of other artists all doing the same thing at the same time. Wow – it’s an amazing thought! My painting at this stage is a splodgy mess but I am determined to persevere and push it into shape – even if I have to resort to the dreaded grid to get correct proportions. Interestingly, the onscreen painter did not use a grid and when asked why not, he replied that he found the process too mechanical which is my sentiment exactly. Usually, I can achieve more or less correct proportions by painting in a fairly abstract way, just looking for light, dark and medium tones while constantly comparing one area against another. However, that may be a long way round, so at long last, I am biting the bullet– and gridding up!
Judges chose their three best efforts from the many hundreds posted on Instagram and I liked all three, though there were so very many excellent ones, I probably would have chosen a different one for the winner. Seems a shame to go for purely black and white, even though an excellent drawing with good likeness and interesting technique – when a world of colour exists amongst the other entries with equally good drawing. It would be an interesting exercise to choose my three best! Maybe I’ll do it, and post it here on my website for posterity.
Day 48 FRIDAY 1 MAY 2020
Another month gone by under lockdown. And another day, not too different from yesterday. Another day of miserable rain and even some hail. Hard to believe that not long ago it felt as if we were in the middle of summer.
As usual, I spent the morning working on my art: creating (hopefully) interesting backgrounds for Rosie’s lovely wirework creations. I also spent about 30 minutes on my large painting – going a bit wild with the colours. Inspired by my own work on the Rainbow Fish with its mixed media vivid background, I stuck some purple silk fabric on the background of the large painting and will continue to explore colour and texture.
Too wet for a walk today.
Government news: The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has reached the target set some weeks ago of 100,000 Covid-19 tests. Anyone with symptoms is eligible for a test – especially important in care homes and hospitals so contacts of the infected can go into quarantine to avoid further spread. Once the antibody tests are proven sufficiently accurate they will be rolled out to the public for home testing so those who have been ill with suspected Covid-19 will know for sure if they’ve had it. Still to come will be the evidence that once you’ve had it you will be immune – and for what length of time – hopefully forever. A vaccine, of course, remains the big hope.
The figures: 739 deaths today – these include those in care homes as well as hospitals, so the curve continues to flatten but the death rate is still appalling.
Day 46 WEDNESDAY APRIL 29 2020
Another day. Raining and cold. No afternoon soaking up the sun. A bit of painting in the morning. Delivery of groceries left outside my door by kind neighbour. Latest advice to keep safe: take care when unpacking groceries – put on gloves to take shopping from carrier bags, wash vegetables and outside of containers, leave carrier bags in porch or somewhere out of the way, wash and dry hands, put goods away, wash hands again.
Ahh. Telephone call from Rosie; she has made another wirework piece, a group of three cats so that’s more art for me to tackle. I’ll try to make an interesting background for them. The reaction to the multicoloured fish has been excellent. People like my vivid, mixed media background.
As I was indoors all day yesterday, I went for my afternoon walk with Ruth – a bit muddy in the woods but good to get out.
News today: Boris and his partner, Carrie have had their baby – a boy born today.
There was speculation as to whether Boris would appear at Prime Ministers Question time in Parliament but that was put paid to when the birth announcement was made. Boris is only just back from hospital and sure has a lot on his plate!
Death rates continue to decline from UK hospitals but now that the statistics of care homes and other places are added, the combined totals are awful: 26,097 with 765 deaths today.
Day 45 TUESDAY APRIL 28 2020
Unlike most days of the month so far, today has been dull and raining. I’ve become used to my little routine of working on my art in the morning, sunbathing in the back garden or on my balcony for 2 hours in the afternoon, followed by the daily Government press briefing on TV (though I’m getting increasingly bored and depressed by that), followed by an hour’s walk with Ruth through the forests and glens of Stanmore Country park, then - for the evening: solitary cooking, eating and TV – interspersed with phone calls to friends and family.
What a difference it makes when there’s no sun! And I don’t like walking in the rain – so no walk, my only contact with the outside world.
I am getting mighty fed up with this lockdown.
No end in sight. Deaths in hospital are going down: 586 bringing the total in the UK to 21,678 but the figures in care homes are rising: a further 6,000 deaths. So sad.
One good thing: I’m happy with my latest artworks – Rosie’s Pisces fishes look good on their new background and I've created a richly coloured and textured background for her multicoloured fish.
Day 43 SUNDAY APRIL 26 2020
Another beautiful sunny day. Rosie delivered her latest creation, two fishes to form the Pisces motif. I will now see how well they look on the background originally created for the silver/blue large flower. Rosie made them both in size, shape and colours to work well in that layout - can't wait until I try them out.
I luxuriated in the sunshine for most of the afternoon.
Gazing up through the trees garlanded with cascading pink clematis, it is hard to believe that so many people and families are struck by this terrible virus. Some are struggling to survive and some are struggling with being trapped indoors for the greater part of the day with no outside space of their own. Some are struggling with financial worries due to losing jobs or being ‘furloughed’. I know I am so lucky to be able to enjoy my garden, even if it is on my own, especially in these dire times.
Today’s deaths, though still horrific, are at least a drop from yesterday: 413 with a total (hospital only) of 20,732 to date. I remember one of the government health officials saying some weeks ago, that if the total deaths remained under 20,000 “we’d be doing well”. At the time, that seemed astronomic. Clearly, deaths continue to mount day by day – and there are obviously many more days to go before we can substantially subdue the death rate. I’d say we are not doing well at all.
Day 42 SATURDAY APRIL 25 2020
Thursday was my dear sister, Gilda’s birthday. She’s a very young 79. We spent nearly seven weeks together over Christmas 2019 and New Year 2020 when she flew over from Sydney. She flew back at the beginning of February, just as news was building about the virus. Even then, when we enquired at local chemists about buying face masks for her trip, there was no supply as all had been snapped up.
In retrospect, how lucky we were to have had that precious time together. We made the most of it, going to the theatre and cinema at every opportunity. Who knows when we’ll be able to return to that gad-about life? Ever?
Saturday mornings nowadays are taken up largely by Zoom family conferences from around the world. It's really great - I guess we can thank Corona for that.
The news here is that Boris is now sufficiently recovered so that he is expected to take over the reins again – maybe even on this coming Monday. The hardest decision soon to confront him and the government is when and how this lockdown will be eased. ‘Eased’ is the word, not ‘lifted’ as we seem to have only just reached the peak and there will be a need for a much steeper decline of the curve of infections and hospital admissions before loosening these restrictions.
The vaccine program experiments with human patients began on Thursday with just two people being injected – one with the actual vaccine, the other with a placebo (actually a vaccine against meningitis).
Mentally, I have to prepare myself for months of this: being alone in the house, not going shopping or mixing with others, not going to my art clubs, never going out to cinemas, theatres, pubs or restaurants, not going on holiday. Hmmm. I must make a better daily schedule for myself to broaden my activities. This will be a test of self-discipline – starting now – well, soon!
In the meantime, I'm getting on with my art projects. I've just finished a new background for Rosie's flower. I think it works better than the blue heavily beaded look; the simplicity of the new background shows off the flower better.
Latest figures – without having seen those of the last few days, the current totals are even more horrifying: UK hospital death toll has now passed the 20,000 mark: 20,319 with 813 recorded in the last 24 hours.
Day 40 THURSDAY 23 APRIL 2020
Already my good intentions are slipping: two blogless days! Slapped wrists. I normally write these after I have listened to the daily press briefings which, like these lockdown days, seem repetitive. Graphs showing rising death tolls with comparisons to different parts of the UK (London highest but now flattening the curve a little) as well as comparisons to other countries (UK pretty much following the pattern of France and Italy, Germany is a much better position, the US the worst).
On a more personal level, I need a hairdresser and nail bar! Help! My roots are showing big time (so white!) and my nails are beginning to look like those of Howard Hughes – talons. Re hair: in the end, my temporary roots spray will no longer suffice and I’ll have to resort to buying some hair colour and attempt to do it myself. Or go totally grey – never! As to the nails, when these acrylic ones finally fall off, it’s back to my original horrid own-grown nails. The (sad) compensating factor is that I’m the only one who’ll notice or even see them.
Artwise: I’m filling my mornings working on one art project or another. Rosie has made another wirework jewelled flower and I’m creating a background for it. The first one I made did not really enhance the flower, rather, it seemed to compete with it. I’ve put it aside so maybe Rosie can make some little fishes to swim on it. I’ve now created a simpler background for the silver-blue flower and just have some minor retouching to do.
There’s another wire fish waiting for me and I have some ideas to make a really colourful background, more abstract which will be fun.
Back to Corona: the big news is that the first phase of testing a new vaccine starts today: this one from a team at The Jenner Institute at Oxford University. The second team in the UK, from Imperial College, London, will begin a trial of its vaccine contender in early June.
Mustn’t get too optimistic as the chief medical advisor to the Government, Prof Chris Whitty, says that we’ll all need to get used to social distancing for months to come and it’s likely that vulnerable groups (e.g. me) will need to be shielded for even longer. Best not to look too far ahead.
Day 37 MONDAY 20 APRIL 2020
I’m sitting in my morning room, surrounded by art clutter – but it’s comforting because even when I’m not working on my art, it gives me the illusion that I am. I currently have three things on the go: a wooden square background for one of Rosie’s wirework flowers, another for her wirework fish and a painting on canvas board for a project set by Angela, my Wednesday art group teacher. I don’t want to rush into them; I’ll let ideas form by gathering mixed media materials i.e. tubes of acrylic paint, scraps of fabric, wool, beads and strips of metallic paper. When I start, I’ll play with these to experiment with colour, texture and shape.
I like working on collaborative projects with Rosie – she provides the centrepiece jewelled item and I enhance it with a suitable background. Then we’ll write a bit of descriptive blurb, take some photos and put the artwork on her online Etsy shop. Considering the amount of creative work involved, we are not asking much: £80 - £90 for each square. We won’t make our fortunes with this, but the creative process is great fun. Rosie is also making lovely wirework pendants – really unusual. Her Etsy shop is called Lumience. Here’s the link:
The corona virus has decimated her Acupuncture practice, so this is an excellent substitute – at least for the present.
During the shutdown, it’s important to have a project, a goal. Here’s hoping her Etsy shop takes off.
Latest figures: UK hospital death total – 16,509 with 449 recorded in the last 24 hours. There is still a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE – gowns, goggles, masks etc) and a looming shortage of drugs. Terrible to be a front-line worker where this is occurring.
Day 36 SUNDAY 19 APRIL 2020
A blogless day
Day 35 SATURDAY 18 APRIL 2020
Had a 2-hour Zoom family session from across the globe – finding out how the Netherlands and Australia are handling the crisis. Holland seems similar to the UK, Oz is doing better.
I constantly receive funny videos and images to lighten the psychological load. Here is a poem by Pam Ayres (same vintage as me and many of my friends), so – with thanks to Pam:
TIME FOR US GIRLS
I’m normally a social girl, I love to meet my mates,
But lately with the virus here we can’t go out the gates.
You see, we are the ‘oldies’ now, we need to stay inside,
If they haven’t seen us for a while they’ll think we’ve upped and died.
They’ll never know the things we did before we got this old,
There wasn’t any Facebook so not everything was told.
We may seem sweet old ladies who would never be uncouth,
But we grew up in the 60s – if they only knew the truth!
There was sex and drugs and rock’n roll, the pill and miniskirts,
We smoked, we drank, we partied and were quite outrageous flirts.
Then we settled down, got married and turned into someone’s mum,
Somebody’s wife, then nana, who on earth did we become?
We didn’t mind the change of pace because our lives were full
But to bury us before we’re dead is like a red rag to a bull!
So here you find me stuck inside for 4 weeks, maybe more,
I finally found myself again then I had to close the door!
It didn’t really bother me, I’d while away the hour,
I’d bake for all the family but I’ve got no flaming flour!
Now Netflix is just wonderful, I like a gutsy thriller,
I’m swooning over Idris or some random sexy killer.
At least I’ve got a stash of booze for when I’m being idle,
There’s wine and whisky, even gin if I’m feeling suicidal!
So let’s all drink to lockdown, to recovery and health,
And hope this awful virus doesn’t decimate our wealth.
We’ll all get through the crisis and be back to join our mates,
Just hoping I’m not far too wide to fit through the flaming gates!
To finish on a sombre note, the furlough for those employed but unable to work, will extend to June.
Today’s death toll in hospitals: 888.
Day 33 THURSDAY 16 APRIL 2020
Yesterday was blogless.
Today is notable mainly as a day when I hardly thought about being alone and isolated, or when it would all end. I felt as if I had a purpose again and drifted into my happy painting zone. I’ve now finished the background for Rosie’s pink wire flower and am now planning the next project: a new tile, this time featuring a dolphin. Rosie is also working on another flower which she’ll deliver to me on Sunday.
The gardeners came, mowed the lawn, and tidied up parts of the garden. They are Portuguese and speak very little English, so – what with social distancing – it’s not very productive trying to tell them what I want, so I just let them get on with it for the hour. I do love to see the garden come to life in the Spring, and normally I would be going to my local garden centre to buy plants but I’ve decided to wait a few weeks and buy summer bedding plants online. Needless to say, the garden centres are closed and now is not the time for garden parties!
On my daily walk with Ruth in the country park a short distance from home, we came upon fields of bluebells, also another lake. Beautiful! I took lots of photos and will use some as reference for paintings. This park is natural green belt land and is a revelation.
Sadly, the figures today hide so many family tragedies: 13,729 total, 861 deaths today.
At the daily press briefings, we are told that the lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks - they cannot give us an end time. That will depend on the figures over the next few weeks and months.
Day 31 TUESDAY 14 APRIL 2020
Finally I’ve been able to start a new creative project after these weeks of feeling unable to paint – a kind of ‘artist’s block’. I can thank my niece, Rosie. She creates beautiful wire jewellery – bird, butterfly, fish or flower, and I design a background for it on a wooden tile. It is a true merging of art and craft.
When I received her wire flower today – carefully sterilised and given at a distance, I immediately felt the familiar excitement that a new project brings. I’m already well on the way to finishing it.
And, to complete the joy, Angela (teacher of my Wednesday class), has set a new painting project which I can tackle together with others in our group. I’ll do that when I’ve finished the tile. At last the creative juices are flowing again! Without regular classes or painting groups to attend, I guess I just needed a little external push.
Such a strange world. In a minute I’ll go upstairs, get ready for bed and my screen-sharing movie date with daughter Gina. After this is all over, we should continue the practice. It's a nice way to end the day.
Covid-19: 778 new deaths in the past 24 hours, making a total of 12,107 in the UK to date. As these are only deaths recorded in hospitals, the true total of Corona related deaths that include those in care homes and in the community, will be much higher. When those figures are released, it will be a real shocker I’m sure.
Day 30 MONDAY 13 APRIL 2020
This is Easter Monday and also Passover, generally family get-together times but alas, not now. We have to make-do with FaceTime, Zoom and WhatApp video which at least is something.
I’ve just returned from my once-a-day sojourn outside my home: my walk with Ruth. After the past few sunny days it felt quite icy so we walked the sunniest route, just down the road and around the park – taking care to avoid the usual suspects (joggers, families with kids on bikes, fellow walkers) but there weren’t many around.
At the press briefing today the graphs showed that the lockdown is having an effect, but it seems we still have not “reached the peak”, the phrase most often used together with “flattening the curve”. Despite the government’s best efforts, it appears that in some areas, especially care homes, there is still insufficient PPE which is shocking. It must be terrible for nurses, doctors and frontline staff having to care for corona sufferers without the full means to protect themselves.
Despite being alone in this house, and with constantly breaking news of rising death tolls (717 since yesterday, a total of 11,329) I am remaining reasonably cheerful, helped by the constant stream of comic Corona related images and video clips. Whenever there is darkness, there is also dark humour!
Day 29 SUNDAY 12 APRIL 2020
This is Sunday of the Easter weekend but it feels like yesterday and the day before.
I still have not got down to painting but the bright star on my horizon is that I will undertake a creative project soon, and this is something I can’t slide out of because it is a dual one. My niece, Rosie, will be creating a wirework flower with gemstones and I will create a wooden tile background for it. We’ve done these tiles before, a combination of craft and art. I am inspired by the colours, stones and shapes that she creates and my background enhances her jewellery to make it into a piece of art. I look forward to seeing her flower.
Boris is now out of hospital and thanked the NHS and particularly two named nurses who “brought him back from the brink”. He will go to Chequers, the country house retreat of the prime minister to recuperate for a few weeks.
The weather over the past week has been gloriously sunny but tomorrow’s forecast predicts a plunge in temperature and some rain. Actually, I’m quite happy about that because I’ll probably be able to get down to some actual work instead of feeling an obligation to make the most of the sun i.e. lying down on my sun lounger, snoozing and reading.
Walking in the country park with Ruth today, we came across a field of bluebells – lovely!
I’m writing this before settling down to watch a movie with Gina via Zoom.
Have to finish with the latest figures: total deaths 9,594 – 657 today which is quite a dip compared to yesterday. I’m listing these figures at the end of each blog so I can spot the point where the downturn (“flattening the curve”) happens. Let’s hope this is finally the start of that downturn.
Day 28 SATURDAY 11 APRIL 2020
This is a long weekend but it makes no difference because we're all at home - for me, it's like a permanent holiday but I'm becoming sick of it. I want to resume normal life again - with all its rush and bustle - going out to my painting groups, seeing family and friends - and not by way of an image on a screen.
The glorious sunshine continues and I'm getting quite a tan. With no outside scheduled activities, I'm using the sunshine as my excuse to do so little.
I deliberately only listened briefly to the daily update on the press conference. People in hospital now only became infected 14 days ago and progress of the disease in some can be horrifyingly rapid. One day, it seems, speaking normally to family, the next - suddenly unable to breathe and being rushed into intensive care - like Boris or worse.
The bad news: today’s figures: total deaths 9,875 – 917 in the last 24 hours. Labs all over the world are working to create a vaccine or at least some drug or combination of drugs to treat this scourge. Until they do, I fear the lockdown for me, probably not for younger, fitter people will be in place for many months.
Day 27 FRIDAY 10 APRIL 2020
It’s strange not to have a deadline, places to go, people to see. The days have begun to stretch into each other, punctuated by Danny’s 11.30 am music request online live show, the 5 pm Government TV press briefing, my 6 pm walk with Ruth, my 8 pm catch-up call with Michael, and my 10.30 pm zoom share-screen with Gina when we watch a Netflix movie together. Not to forget making the most of this glorious weather: sunning myself and reading on my balcony. I’m re-reading Isaac Asimov’s Extraterrestrial Civilisations. This is his non-fiction attempt to answer the eternal question: Are we alone? I haven’t got more than half-way through but my guess is ‘No’. The answer to that question right now? Yes.
Boris news: he’s now able to take short walks in the ward – clearly on the mend.
The bad news: today’s figures: total deaths 8,958 – 980 in the last 24 hours which is the highest daily death count to date. According to the experts, we haven’t reached the peak yet, even if the curve may be marginally flattening. It sounds like some kind of football score, not people dying in hospital, alone without family. No-one will say when the lockdown will be lifted but when it is, there’s one thing I know. It will be a long time before it’s safe for me to resume a normal life.
Day 26 THURSDAY 9 APRIL 2020
Another glorious sunny day. We’re approaching the long Easter weekend and the oft-expressed fear heard constantly on radio and TV is that people will disregard the lockdown and flock out to beauty spots joining groups, undoing sacrifices made by others.
The good news: Boris is now out of intensive care and back in an ordinary ward – seemingly in good spirits.
Today I finally received my Boris letter, the one we’ve all been hearing about, sent to every single household. I’m following all instructions and anyway, have been in my own lockdown a week before it was announced for the general public.
This virus is unbelievably transmissible and despite having had no one else in the house now for nearly a month, I still feel fearful. That fear is not unfounded: the virus can last many hours on paper or cardboard and three days or more on hard surfaces. Even when taking in shopping left on my doorstep, I must disinfect the outside of food surfaces – and leave carrier bags untouched in my porch for a few days. And, of course, wash my hands at every possible opportunity.
How could life be turned upside down like this – almost overnight?
On our daily exercise walk this evening, Ruth and I chatted (at a distance) with a neighbour in a nearby road who is a doctor working on the front line at the Royal Free Hospital. He says they are having to make hard decisions re who will be given ventilators, and therefore who will be given a chance of survival. There are 10 patients waiting for each ventilator whenever one becomes available. And this is before the actual peak which we’re fast approaching. When we watched this in Italy, we couldn’t believe it could happen here.
And the bad news – today’s figures: total UK deaths 7,978 – 881 in the last 24 hours. Terrible but totals for the day are marginally down on yesterday’s.
Day 25 WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL 2020
Another day. Another day in lockdown. Tonight will be the first night Seder celebration in the Jewish Passover festival – a night normally spent with family and wider family. Not tonight.
On Chanel 4 news tonight, there was an interview with Stephen Pinker, the well-known psychologist from Boston. He takes a philosophic long-term view of life and Corona. He says that there will always be organisms that evolve to attack us humans and other living species. The difference, he says, is that we humans have weapons to fight back: the ingenuity to develop vaccines and medications to defend ourselves. As to whether life will return to how it was before this pandemic – globalisation, depletion and destruction of the environment – he is less optimistic. He thinks we’ll just revert back to bad habits and not learn many lessons. Or will life in Britain change hugely – more people working from home, shopping in a different way, change to the look of our high streets with the closure of many shops and businesses? There will certainly be a recession. The question is how long and how deep?
The news re Boris is that he's still in intensive care (not on a ventilator), sitting up in bed and able to talk. That's encouraging.
A lovely story told on TV was that of a 98-year-old woman who survived Covid-19, after hospital treatment. She was shown playing her piano and her family had nothing but enormous praise for the NHS.
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 7,097– 938 in the last 24 hours. It’s quite blasé to quote these figures and sobering to think of all the individual family tragedies they represent. Yet again, this is the largest daily death toll to date but the expected upward curve is (perhaps?) beginning to flatten a bit.
Day 24 TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2020
Listening to radio LBC this morning I heard terrible tales from nurses working on the frontline in intensive care units in hospitals and wards full of Covid-19 patients. Whereas normally the ratio of ICU nurses to patients is 1:1, or occasionally 1:2, now – in this pandemic, an ICU nurse may be attempting to look after 6 patients with alarms going off continuously – indicating heart problems or medication needing renewal or some other critical things – it being simply impossible to attend to all that is necessary. Add to that, the fact that nurses are dropping like flies due to exhaustion or they are in self-isolation, or – with insufficient training – having to fill in for other staff. It must be harrowing.
I remember when Louis was in the ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) at Northwick Park Hospital, there was a feeling of hushed calm, broken by sounds of bleeps from all the monitors hooked up to patients, each patient in a separate bay. When we visited, we had to wash our hands and don disposable aprons. Now, certainly no visitors are allowed and I imagine there is less calm, more bustle and a lot more bleeps.
I have just listened to the latest press conference. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, is the designated replacement for the Prime Minister and like a true politician, he seems to find it hard to give a direct answer. When asked if he would be prepared to make a controversial decision if the cabinet was split on an issue, instead of saying “Yes, that is my job, in place of the Prime Minister” he kept waffling on about “cabinet collective responsibility” and “following the path set by the Prime Minister”. It did not engender confidence (at least with me) as to his leadership.
The news re Boris: although he is in intensive care and on oxygen support, he is fully conscious and not on a ventilator. I can’t imagine that he won’t pull through; that is unthinkable. The question is, when will he be able to resume as leader of the government? And the question on everyone's lips is: when will they lift the lockdown?
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 6,159 – 786 in the last 24 hours. This is the largest daily death toll to date. We seem to be tracking Italy in the curve, although a few weeks behind.
With the Easter weekend coming, along with the present lovely weather, let’s hope that people will still heed the message to STAY AT HOME! This is easy for me but it must be so difficult for people who live in flats with no garden or a sunny balcony, especially for a large household with children.
Day 23 MONDAY 6 APRIL 2020
Start of another week under Lockdown. I can honestly say I’m not bored and yet I still haven’t yet done much of my ever lengthening TO DO list. I’ll just have to be more self-disciplined, I suppose – or else just count myself lucky to be able to relax while one of the fortunate ones able to self-isolate with relative ease (with the help of kind neighbours and family) and keep safe.
I enjoy my daily walks with Ruth, exploring the area where I've lived for over 50 years. Had no idea of the visual treasures surrounding me, sometimes just a bush in someone's front garden.
To lighten the mood, here’s a poem by Lyndon Spencer-Smith, a member of Bushey & Watford Art Society:
I hear we have a crisis,
Or is it just a rumour.
But If it’s true, I sure can say,
It brings out British Humour
We’re locked indoors forever,
And wondering what to do,
walk the dog, and stroke the cat,
I’m going mad- boo hoo!
I cut the grass last Thursday,
And combed it well today,
And polished all the goldfish,
What more can I say?
The knicker drawer needs sorting,
Then I’ll start on socks,
I’ve finished my last novel,
Now starting Goldie Locks.
We daily watch the newscasts,
For more depressing news
And try to work out what they mean,
Politicians! And their views.
Our neighbour does our shopping,
Very generous and that’s fine,
But he needed help with yesterdays,
It’s heavy- crates of wine!
Now about this British humour,
It’s all very well and good,
But are we really seeing,
The humour that we should.
The rules of Social Distancing,
To Sound of Music teach – “stay apart”,
But I thought we only did this
When someone drops a f**t!
Now I’m waiting for my letter,
That Boris is going to send,
But I’ve been told not to open it,
Until he’s “on the mend”.
I read - a local postman,
Is going round in drag,
I mentioned it to Postie Mike,
He muttered, “don’t look in my bag.”
Exercise at home is very wise ,
I saw a YouTube Yoga whilst lying in my bed,
On how to drink your wine at home,
Do it horizontal, or standing on your head.
Now this thing Zoom is very well,
With ten of you onscreen,
But can you imagine, ten ladies chat,
All at once it seems !
What would we do without FaceTime,
Email, WhatsApp and phone,
I’m on a call to Canada,
Interrupted by one from Rome.
We miss our children visiting,
And grandchildren too,
We’re out of practice baby-sitting,
And taking to the zoo.
But soon it will be over,
We think and hope for all,
Summer is a’ coming
And then we’ll have a ball!
We heard last night that Boris had gone to hospital as his symptoms had not abated but supposedly he was still in touch with his team and able to carry on working. And now, the breaking news is that he’s been taken to intensive care. This illness can progress suddenly and rapidly.
Boris is only in his 50s and other than being somewhat overweight, has no underlying health issues that we know of. Scary indeed.
After hearing this, I phoned my brother-law, Solly to check how he was. Solly has had Corona symptoms for 14 days now, a continuous temperature, weakness and loss of appetite. Talking to him most days via video, his wellbeing seemed to fluctuate. Happily, tonight he said he felt much better – a great relief.
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 5,373 – 439 in the last 24 hours. These are deaths recorded in hospital, no doubt there are many more in the community. Looking for signs of hope though: the day’s death figure is again, down on yesterday’s.
Day 22 SUNDAY 5 APRIL 2020
As the weather forecast predicted, today has been gloriously sunny and I have made the most of it, relaxing on my front balcony. Normally – strange word in these abnormal times, Danny and family would be coming here for a large Sunday lunch and family-together time – often joined by Michael. In weather like today, a football would be flying in the garden and Rafi would be showing off his football moves.
Not today. Even though I am alone in the house and have been for the past three weeks, my constant contacts have ensured that I don’t feel really isolated. Since Louis passed away, I’ve also had time to adjust to being alone.
Last night, Gina finally enabled her Zoom software to share a movie screen with me. We watched the film ‘Unorthodox’ together. It was almost as if she was here in the bedroom with me, as both our faces were in small boxes at the top of the screen, so we could see each other’s expressions and comment on what was happening. We saw Ep 1 and 2 of the series and I’m not sure how many make up the box set. At 10.30 pm, my time – and 5.30 pm her time, we’ll be tuning in again.
Listening in to today’s Government Press Conference, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, praised those who stayed at home and followed the rules – only going out for exercise or essential shopping, In almost the same breath, he warned that If too many chose not to follow these rules, stricter measures would be enforced i.e. not even leaving the home for exercise: a total lockdown for all. This has been done in France, where you have to have a form explaining why you are outside, and also in Italy. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, as my daily walk with Ruth helps to regulate my day – as well as giving me exercise I might otherwise not be able to do. Shots shown here of flowers or bushes were taken while walking. Well, if truth be told, there are ways to exercise at home but past history shows that I’m not too good at it.
In about 15 minutes, I’ll be meeting Ruth and we’ll set off – as always keeping even more than the requisite two metres apart – she wants to explore a new area not too far away. I’m discovering places near me that I never knew existed!
8pm. I’ve just listened to the Queen’s broadcast, one of only four she’s made in her extraordinary long reign. Although she only mouthed what we all know, I found it moving. Yes, we’re all in this together – and many have suffered losses with many more losses to come. Sometimes, such as when I’m sunning myself on the balcony, it all feels remote – and then, suddenly, the enormity of the ongoing tragedy comes into focus.
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 4,934 – 621 in the last 24 hours. Still huge and tragic but is there a gleam of hope in that the rise is less than that of yesterday?
Day 21 SATURDAY 4 APRIL 2020
Tomorrow marks the start of my fourth week of Lockdown. I began a week before the official instruction from the government to do so. My reasoning was: better safe than sorry.
Today it really feels like the start of Summer – such warm, sunny weather. Because of this, the warnings came loud and clear: STAY AT HOME / Don’t be tempted to throng outdoors or travel to beauty spots / STAY AT HOME / SAVE LIVES / SAVE THE NHS.
Unlike a week or so ago, when we had a similarly warm spell, people largely heeded these words and hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we’ll all see the benefits. Now, sadly that awful curve keeps rising and it’s too early to see if a slight decrease in hospital admissions – or deaths – are significant.
When the sun comes out like today, I bask on my balcony and pretend I’m lying on a beach somewhere, enjoying a holiday. I had thought to go away in June – perhaps to Turkey with a friend, but that’s not going to happen.
I ventured out to see my friend, Millie, a neighbour who lives just around the corner – yards from my house. Millie is 99 and we both look forward to her 100th birthday next year. She sat behind her window and I spoke to her by phone. She lives on her own with a carer coming in three times daily – the carer suitably masked and gloved. Although Millie has a small garden, she feels too unsteady to risk going out there, so is permanently stuck indoors. She never complains and just takes everything in her stride – unsteady though that may be! Perhaps that is the secret to her long life.
Ruth and I continue our daily walks – keeping a good distance apart – listening to birdsong and admiring the spring blossom trees now coming into glorious bloom. This helps to dispel the gloom of what is happening unseen, world-wide.
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 4,313 – 708 up on yesterday. Maybe this is slightly less than the increase expected. Maybe that curve is lessening its ghastly rise. Maybe –
Day 20 FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2020
I’ve had my morning ‘cheer-up’ session: listening to Danny’s live pop music session request show on FaceBook. Up until now, I have not been much of a social media user, but these days that is one of my major means of communication and I know I should be better at it.
I’m sharing a post by Neil Sint, a neighbour I’ve met recently. His post is a plea to broadcast stations to put on a cheerier set of programmes to help the nation through these hard times:
Dear BBC, ITV, SKY and others. Millions of old people are stuck at home with only the TV and Radio for company. They need company and engaging TV to keep sane.
Being told how many people have died all day is not good for their sanity.
In our community we are making calls to the elderly but we can hear the change in their demeanour.
Please adapt your programming to help people maintain their mental faculties.
It made me think that my blog might be turning into just that, a saga of sadness, so from today, (as well as updating the figures which help to give an idea as to the progress of this plague) I will be posting a picture from my garden or from nature What is more cheerful than the golden daffodils that poke up through the earth every Spring?
The bad news - today’s figures: total deaths 3,605 – 684 up on yesterday. We’re all waiting for the time these figures level off – and then start decreasing.
Day 19 THURSDAY 2 APRIL 2020
Another day – much like yesterday, much like the day before.
Today, the gardeners have come so my back garden is once again looking tidier and more beautiful as Spring brings on green shoots.
Speaking of ‘green shoots’, the Chief Medical Officer perhaps spoke a little too soon in his efforts to cheer up the nation in their locked-down homes. The expected rise in the death toll appeared to be ‘stable’ i.e. not rising as fast as the modelling had modelled (!). I’m not sure how today’s figures feed into that – they are rising at an alarming rate but the important thing is that the rise is not steeper than expected.
There’s no doubt that we’re in for a long haul, particularly those of us over the age of 70 – we are classed as the most vulnerable. Also, statisticians are saying that the death toll is actually 25% higher than hospitals claim. This is because dozens of deaths at home or in care homes are not being counted in NHS figures. It's surreal to be talking about death like this. The message that pops up constantly on the TV screen is: STAY AT HOME.
My Pinner Sketch Club is trying to plan for our annual exhibition which takes place in August. August seems a long way away – but will we be back to normal by then? I doubt it.
All mass attendance events have been cancelled with many postponed until next year.
Wimbledon Tennis Championship has been cancelled for the first time since WW2.
3pm. I’ve just heard the very sad news that Charles Clore, Fi’s uncle, has died of Covid-19. A week ago, he was fine. He was 86. The family is devastated.
Tonight, at 8 pm, there will be another mass clap for the NHS and all those carers who are keeping people alive. I’ll be there, on my balcony, as the last
time – madly clapping.
Today’s figures: total deaths 2,921 – 569 up on yesterday. These statistics only become real when you know personally of someone who has formed a part.
Day 18 WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2020
April Fool’s Day – apt, perhaps, for the whole human race.
12.30 pm. I’ve had breakfast, caught up on my emails and messages and listened to Danny’s morning Facebook music request session. It’s now strangely silent. No phone ringing, so TV on, no music playing. Time to review my TO DO list, put on some music and begin painting.
Rather than finish some unfinished work, I may start something new. Yesterday, while on our local countryside walk, Ruth and I discovered places we had not yet explored – lovely lakeside vistas. Now is the time to take stock of spare canvases and paints, and replenish supplies via Amazon or an online art store such as SAA or Jacksons.
I still have not got around to painting. Maybe the deeper reason for this is that I have not really accepted the situation: that I am stuck here at home and likely to be so for quite a time to come.
Some light relief is the constant supply of funny images and videos that arrive daily in my WhatsApp and Facebook inboxes.
The figures today for the UK are depressing - to say the least: 2,352 deaths so far – an increase of 563 which is the highest since the outbreak began.
Day 17 TUESDAY 31 MARCH 2020
Tuesday is normally a Roy Rodgers painting day for me. In the afternoon I join others at The Harrow Arts Centre for his oil painting class. It’s relaxing whilst also being stimulating, and he is a wonderful painter. I get ‘in the zone’ where the minutes and hours disappear, and it is suddenly time to go home. And yet, despite my life-before-Corona being so art-centred, somehow, I haven’t lifted a brush since Lockdown. I’ve heard of Writer's Block. What about Artist's Block?
Anyway, I still have plenty of creative ideas. One is to request an image of a recent painting from members of my favourite art association, The Pinner Sketch Club, (which has been in existence for over 75 years). I produce a quarterly mini 16-page magazine for them showing members at work, art activities etc. In the next issue, I could showcase a piece of work submitted by each member. The magazine's cover could feature a specially created painting of a Corona based image (and I think I know just the member artist for this).
Designing the next issue, along with this blog and updating my website, listening to Danny’s popular music requests on Facebook, painting (when I get back to it), a bit of housework (yuk), my once-a-day-walk with Ruth, social media stint, cooking and phoning – I reckon I’ll be fully occupied.
Now I must get myself off this couch -
11 pm. Bad news of the day: total deaths so far in the UK due to Covid-19: 1,789, up 381 since yesterday.
Day 16 MONDAY 30 MARCH 2020
10 am. We’ve now turned the clock forward to British Summer Time, but my internal clock has not yet adjusted. I’m not turning on the alarm – don’t need to as there are no longer any pressing appointments that I must attend. This means I am getting up an hour later and feeling even more like a slob. Today, though is a housework day – at least I’ll force myself to do a bit of basic cleaning, and by that, I don’t mean handwashing.
We haven’t heard very much as to how Boris is coping with his Covid 19 but he’s putting a brave face on it and working in isolation from home. I have not as yet received my letter from Boris, but I await it with bated breath.
At this time of day, I am not watching depressing news of rising deaths, so I feel at liberty to post some funny images that turn up on social media. The one that made me laugh the most is the Boris one shown here. I roared (all alone here in the house) – not only on seeing it for the first time, but equally on second viewing. For me, it takes premier position in the league of funny Corona-related images.
A bright spot in my morning routine (‘routine’ is a bit of an exaggeration) is watching Danny play his piano requests live on Facebook. I love his easy banter with his unseen audience almost as much as his relaxed jazz-style-piano and improvisation. Natural musical talent! He doesn’t get it from me.
11 pm. Bad news of the day: total deaths so far in the UK due to Covid-19: 1015, up 180 since yesterday.
DAY ONE SUNDAY 15 MARCH 2020
it's a very strange feeling to think about being alone in this house and not go out for four months. This is what the government is soon to recommend for people like me who are over 70 years old or who have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid 19 (I have asthma), the dreaded virus that is now overtaking the whole world.
Who would have believed that in the space of a month the world would turn upside down and whole cities would be in lockdown? Whole countries would be in lockdown: streets deserted, shops, bars, cinemas, theatres, big events and concerts either closed or soon to be closed - people having to work from home - people afraid to go on public transport - even afraid to go in taxis and Ubers.
We're afraid! Certainly, I am - of dying before my time. Boris, our dear Prime Minister, said on national TV that we have to be prepared for “some of our loved ones to die before their time”. Those were his actual words: “before their time”.
Tomorrow I’m thinking of setting up a virtual art group if I can.
One way or another, I'm going to fill my time! Hopefully, it will be productive and I won’t drive myself crazy living such a secluded hermit existence. Did I mention that I have a huge library of unread books (mostly bought by my dear husband, sadly no longer here - who never read them), not to mention my Kindle? I’ll be too busy to think about being lonely … hopefully….
Four months of this? It’s like a dystopian nightmare but one where you can’t wake up.
That's enough for one day’s blog.
DAY TWO MONDAY 16 MARCH 2020
Well, it's now 9:30 pm and I'm coming to the end of my second day in self lockdown. It's been a lovely, sunny spring day. I didn't go for a walk as I had intended as I've been so busy phoning people and trying to set up group video chat rooms (not yet done) and watching the news - such horrible news showing lockdown in cities in France, Spain, worst of all in Italy. This is something that I should definitely ration. Maybe I'll restrict it to watching Boris and his two sidekicks give their daily news session after their Cobra meeting.
I'm trying to remain cheerful. It's only day 2 but I'm finding it really quite hard. I managed to get my son, Michael, on WhatsApp to use the video call system so we could actually see each other’s faces when we talk. He has mild learning disabilities and lives in a supported home. Just as I thought, he hasn’t fully taken in everything he’s been told. He went to Café Nero after work and when I remonstrated with him, he happily told me it was nearly empty. I went over the whole thing again: keep away from public places, keep a 6ft distance from other people etc. “Oh, Mum!” he says, “I wash my hands and use the gel. Stop fussing.”
A funny thing happened this morning. I got a phone call from Spain. It was from one of my next-door neighbours who is now trapped in Spain because flights in and out have been cancelled. She said she was expecting a mobile phone to be delivered to her house and asked me if I could take delivery of it. I said yes, but I won't touch the keypad that the delivery guy will present to me for my signature and instead would write a signed receipt.
Sure enough, he turned up and rang the bell standing just outside with his parcel. I thought I'm not going to open the door because I'll be very close to him so, instead, I opened a window downstairs to talk to him. Only problem was that I had to really push the window hard to open it because it was stuck with built-up paint. After some effort, I managed it and explained that as I was in self-isolation I wasn't going to come out through the front door and handle his electronic gadget. Instead, I dropped the sheet of paper out of the window: a dated, handwritten receipt. “Oh no”, he said. “I can't accept that. You've got to sign on the keypad or I'll have to take the mobile back.” So back it went.
I then found I couldn't close that damned window despite pulling and pushing it and nearly breaking the glass. It remained sufficiently ajar that anyone walking outside could simply pull it open and climb in - so then I had the situation of having to call the neighbour on my other side to come into the house to try to close it. Fortunately, with one tug, he managed it!
So much for good intentions, so much for personal isolation!
The government is still trying to keep schools open here in the UK. I wonder how long that will last? In America, all schools, colleges and universities have been closed, so my twin grandchildren, in their first year of university are now working online at home. Over here, one of my grandsons, Rafi, aged 13 is also home from school as there are no longer enough teachers for his school year. - sick children and/or sick teachers. or maybe parents simply don't want to risk infection through their kids.
Children generally are the least affected but they can be 'super spreaders', spreading the disease to adults and worst of all, to their grandparents. What a problem! It may be that this comes to an end, probably within a week or so, when all public places will be closed as in France, Italy, Spain and other countries as they try to stop the ever-growing fast spread of this awful virus.
Every day brings a bigger death toll.
DAY THREE TUESDAY 17 MARCH 2020
Nearing the end of another day of lockdown. It's a weird feeling to look around me and realise that no one else will be setting foot in this house for a period of months. That's what the government is saying: it could be months -and heaven forbid, not just three or four months but six months or longer – even a year. The message is: be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.
I seem to have been busy all day but when I look back on it I've done very little except talk to people on the phone - long talks via WhatsApp video with my children, a relative who thinks he might have ‘it’ and a couple of friends.
Earlier in the day, I had a phone call from a surprise person: Beth, an old school friend of my daughter, Gina.
Beth and Gina first met when they happened to sit near each other at the entrance exams for North London Collegiate School when they were both 11 years old. They are now 52 years old, married and with families. Beth said on the phone, “I’m outside your front door right now!” Despite being in ‘lockdown’ I ran to the door. No Beth. “No, you’re not,” I said, and called out “Where are you?” She was outside the front door of my next-door neighbour‘s house together with her father and they both came toward me when I called out “Wrong house!”
“Yes”, she said, “I wasn't sure. It looked like your house but I didn’t remember the signs about rottweilers on the windows”. I said, “You’re right, I don't have any rottweilers – but Beth, I have to tell you I'm in personal isolation here, so you can't come too close.”
She was standing there with her 87-year-old father, a man who looked more like someone of 55, tall and straight with unlined skin. She said, “I was visiting my dad who lives in Edgware and I thought I must go round and see how Gina's mum is getting on to see if I could help – maybe with shopping.” Her Dad is refusing to ‘hide away’, saying he’s never had a day’s illness and is on ‘zero medication’.
It’s only day three of lockdown for me, and my fridge and freezer are pretty well stocked but I was nearly out of fresh vegetables, eggs and Flora. Beth took down a list and deposited the goods on my doorstep a short time later. In these difficult times, it's amazing to discover just how kind people are, eager to step in and help. I've had offers of help not only from family members but also from my local community, from neighbours, from some people in my art groups all eager to put themselves out to help in whatever way they can. Extraordinary times bring out extraordinary people.
DAY FOUR WEDNESDAY 18 MARCH 2020
Every day brings another drama it seems. But with all the horrific news and reports there are always some funny sides and some little glimmers that light up an otherwise dark scene. Many of the funny videos and cartoons I receive through social media are to do with the crazy situation where people are panic buying in case of total shut-down - toilet paper rolls have been fought over in the aisles of supermarkets.
Today, Wednesday is normally a very full art day. In the morning I go to Angela’s art group and in the afternoon I spend another three hours painting with the Pinner sketch club.
Needless to say, along with just about every other gathering, Angela has canceled her art session, so she came up with a suggestion via our WhatsApp group that we all start painting in our homes at the normal time of 10 am. Okay, so we haven't yet established a group video conferencing style session (I'm going to work on that later) but nevertheless it's a nice thought that others in the group are all working on the same activity at the same time.
With good intentions, I went to my garage to get my painting gear out of the car so I could start painting as per Angela’s suggestion. Being in the fuddly state that I'm in, I dropped my car key. I heard it clink, but for the life of me, I couldn't see where it had dropped - inside the car? On the driveway? Just at that moment, who should come walking by in the street but Candice, a neighbour and fellow member of Angela’s art group. “Hello, Marcia,” she called, “How are you coping?” I said, “You’ve come at the right time - I dropped my car key somewhere here. I've looked everywhere - just can't find it!”
So, keeping the designated 2-metre distance, she spied it just next to the drain. Saved again. I seem to be saved quite often, in these crazy times. She's also offered to shop for me.
It’s important to give structure to the day. Trying to give that structure, I write my TO DO lists and yet somehow or other I am still spending most of my day, talking to people, commiserating and sympathising, or glued to my computer screen answering/writing emails - all of us stuck in the same boat, though some are worse than others.
The big news of today is that finally Boris and Co have decided to shut down schools and colleges from Friday and exams, such as GCSEs and A levels, will be postponed. Must be a very big problem for students who were about to take those exams - and a huge problem for families having to supervise kids doing online lessons while trying to work from home - if that's possible. Son, Danny and wife, Fi, will be in that position with their two boys.
The pound has plummeted, and I don’t dare look at the performance of my portfolio – funds that I live on to bolster my meagre pension. This could be not just a recession but a depression like the 30s or even worse.
To cap it all, I just received an email from the Harrow Art Society telling me that I must collect my paintings which have only just been hung, as the Arts Centre gallery and the whole building will be closing by the weekend. It's all happening so fast.
I won’t venture out but Danny has offered to collect the work and leave it at a safe distance from my door. This is like living in a leper colony!
London, evidently, is ‘ahead’ of the rest of the UK. In other words, it’s the ‘hotspot’ of the country for cases of Covid 19. When you see on the tv, how hospitals are being cleared and doctors from other disciplines are being trained in intensive care and ventilation procedures, even being given psychological training in coping with the expected number of deaths, it brings home the full horror.
There is a real shortage of ventilators that will be needed when patients are admitted to intensive care. They avoided spelling it out, but of course, they will 'triage' i.e. if there is only one ventilator and two patients - both needing a ventilator to survive, the younger will be given priority for sure. I
I'd better make sure I’m not in the race.
DAY FIVE THURSDAY 19 MARCH 2020
Looking out onto my garden and seeing an overgrown, mossy lawn – untidy, unweeded beds, straggly bushes, I decided that as this is going to be my main view for the coming number of weeks it may as well be a pretty view.
Normally I wait until the end of March before calling the gardeners back in but times have changed. Right now, I feel a bit cheered as my garden view has improved. It’s a horrible dull and rainy day, but the two guys worked happily in the rain. Keeping my 6ft distance I gave them their coffee in paper cups and money in an envelope. In future, I may run out of cash so I’ll get their bank details to transfer electronically.
Harrow Art Society’s (non-happening) Exhibition: first email I received, said to collect work by 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday. Obviously, I can’t go in person, so Danny offered to go for me. The email also said that there would be no further communication. Then another email came today stating that today, Thursday would also be acceptable for collection - so Danny went today.
The entire building was locked up and he banged continuously on a door before a kind caretaker appeared and let him in with three keys to the corridors where much work was still hanging as well as in the smaller ‘white’ gallery. I had sent Danny pictures of the work in order for him to be able to identify mine. There was no-one there to sign it off so Danny could have lifted anything he fancied. Using my pics as a guide he laboriously worked his way around and finally managed to bring my work home to me.
Keeping a safe distance, he deposited the paintings in my porch. I put on rubber gloves and armed with spray disinfectant, retrieved them. Don’t know how many times I’ve washed my hands (also gloves) today!
In a few minutes, I’ll tune in to hear Boris’ latest update. Difficult though it is for me, in comparison with many others, I have it easy. Although I am alone, I have a lovely garden – made lovelier now the lawn is mown, and a supportive family not to mention the support of all my art friends.
Talking of family, today is Rosie’s birthday. Rosie is my Aussie niece, who lives not far from me – daughter of my sister, Gilda in Australia. Rosie has set up a family group video ‘conference’ link, so we had family members from Holland, UK and Australia, all joining in. Unfortunately, daughter Gina and her family in Boston could not join us as it is early hours of the morning over there.
Now for Boris. What further bad news is there?
It’s not reassuring. Despite the optimistic face that Boris always puts on, there are terrifying prospects in store -unless people who are currently completely disobeying urgent requests to avoid places such as bars and restaurants, take heed. TV showed some scenes of people going about their business as usual. Italian deaths have now overtaken Chinese, and hospitals and mortuaries are unable to cope. Italy is only, supposedly 2-3 weeks ahead of London, the worst affected city in the UK unsurprisingly.
I have a neighbour, the same age as me, who has underlying ‘comorbidities’ as they call it. She is cheerfully carrying on with life as usual – going out with friends, going to her leisure club, shopping, going to a few remaining group events. She probably thinks that I am overreacting.
DAY SIX FRIDAY 20 MARCH 2020
Big news today is that Boris has finally closed down public entertainment places – pubs, restaurants, etc and today is the last day of school until further notice.
I’ve had a busy day, as previously, mainly spent chatting and video linking to family and friends – never talked so much!
Decided to venture out into the fresh air and went for a walk with my neighbourhood friend, Ruth. She walked on one side of the road; I walked on the other and we shouted across to each other. Funny, really - except it’s not. I think the seriousness of the situation is coming home to her, but she still went out to get her hair done. What will I do when my grey roots come through? Or my acrylic nails need replacing - which will be soon? I’m not going out to either hairdresser or nail bar. The Vietnamese nail bar staff routinely wear face masks – but these will be useless for Covid 19. No doubt these nail bars, too, will close before long.
Other big news is that the government has announced an enormous financial package to stop firms going under and having to fire staff. Staff wages will be paid even when they cannot work. Unprecedented times need unprecedented financial support.
News from around the world: California’s population, all 40 million, are now locked into personal isolation. Italian deaths keep on rising way above Chinese, but there have been no new cases in Wuhan where it all started. There are so many uncertainties. Not least is how long this will all last. There is a hint that despite Boris’s statement “that we’ll turn the tide in about 12 weeks”, we don’t know what that really means, and we could be self-isolating for up to 18 months! Unthinkable. A new world,
For a brief moment, there was an announcement that my local large hospital, Northwick Park, could no longer take more ITU cases – and this is before the real crisis has hit. Couldn’t believe it! Then the statement was retracted. I know their ITU area very well, as Louis spent 10 days there, after his major op in 2010. It’s a large area but I understand that many wards and operating theatres have now been cleared for the onslaught to come; there will be many more ITU beds with ventilators.
Looking at Italy, and we are supposedly 2-3 weeks behind them, the really scary time is looming. When that happens, will I still have the courage to go outside or will this, too, be stopped as in other countries?
I’ve put my paintings on easels with the idea that they will stimulate me to resume painting but there seems to be so much going on in a world overtaken with Covid 19, that I can’t put my mind to it.
I will, tomorrow.
DAY SEVEN SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2020
Tomorrow, Sunday will mark my first week in self-isolation or self-lockdown. Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day. It will be the first Mothers’ Day that I won’t be seeing at least some of my children. My bet is that Danny and Michael, my two sons here in England, will be sending me flowers and cards. Daughter, Gina, lives in America where Mother’s Day, as in Australia, falls in May. I wonder whether she’ll know it’s Mother’s Day over here? Anyway, I expect to hear ‘Happy Mothers Day to you’ – sung over the phone to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ – and I’ll try not to cry.
This morning, family in different parts of the world joined in a group chat: sister, Gilda, in Sydney, niece Devi and her family in Melbourne, niece Karen and family in Amsterdam, and London family – me here at home, son, Danny and family, and niece Rosie and family – Michael couldn’t join us. It was quite an experience talking on-screen to everyone at once. In Oz, it was late at night, here and in Holland, it was mid-morning, but in Boston, the US, it was night-time, so Gina and her family could not join us.
I’m still spending most of my day on the phone, commiserating with friends and family, though I did spot a neighbour walking by in the street below my balcony and we had long-distance chat- well, more of a shout, as she was right on the other side of the island of trees dividing the road. It took her quite a while to see where the voice calling her name, was coming from. We agreed to go for a walk in the coming days, keeping far apart. She, too, lives on her own.
I didn’t watch as much news as usual. Supermarket shelves are still being emptied by people panic buying. There are loads of funny pictures and videos on social media about the run (excuse the pun) on toilet paper, the use of hand gel, etc. Anything to brighten the doom and gloom.
DAY EIGHT SUNDAY 22 MARCH 2020
It’s Mother’s Day. Doorbell rings at 9 am. It’s a delivery of flowers. I call down and ask for the delivery guy to leave it outside on the porch. I put on rubber gloves after he’s gone and wonder how long the virus can live on cellophane. The flowers are beautiful: red roses, white tulips, and ‘baby’s breath’, the tiny white flowers. They’re from Michael.
A short time later I get the full chorus of ‘Happy Mother’s Day to you’ (sung to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’) by phone from Danny and family. The warmth and love are there – even if my loved ones aren’t. American Mother’s Day falls in May, and anyway, Boston is 5 hours behind the UK, so I won’t be hearing from Gina yet.
Another day of Spring sunshine so I decide to go for a solitary walk to the park. When anyone approaches or walks in my path, I quickly step away to keep that ‘social distance’.
When I was walking along the street, I passed a house where an older lady was standing in the doorway and there was a younger couple several feet away on her front drive – obviously visiting for Mother’s Day but keeping their distance. I did not know them but when I walked by, they smiled and waved to me. I felt strangely emotional. We’re all in this together.
At 5 pm I tuned in to the BBC to hear the latest press conference from Boris. From tv coverage showing that many people are still not heeding warnings, more draconian methods to control the spread are being brought in. A million and a half of the most vulnerable will be sent letters from the NHS telling them to stay indoors and there will be ‘hubs’ set up to do shopping and any necessary care for those who need it. Those who have the most serious ‘comorbidities’ will be asked to stay indoors totally, not even to venture outside!
Although I’m in the suggested age group, I don’t think my asthma is serious enough for me to warrant that level of isolation. Hopefully, I can still go outside for a walk if I avoid others.
If the worst comes to the worst and I must stay at home totally, at least I have a sunny balcony and can watch the world go by from there! At the moment, though, the world may not be going by; it may be grinding to a halt.
DAY NINE MONDAY 23 MARCH 2020
Have scheduled a 3 pm walk with my friend, Ruth. We will keep our 6 ft ‘social distance’. After seeing a desperate plea on TV from NHS staff to “stay at home. Stay at home, please, to save our lives so we can save yours”, I phoned her up and said: “our walk is off’’. I could hear the disappointment in her voice. She has been a bit more relaxed about the measures in that she met up with a few members of her family to celebrate her Mum’s 99th birthday, with Mum safely behind glass. Anyway, with the commonsense advice of daughter, Gina, FaceTiming from America, I phoned Ruth back and said “forgive me. I acted too hastily. Walk back on – of course keeping our distance”.
In normal times, such an argument would be ridiculous. These are not normal times.
I sent an email to my local MP about the dreadful news that those with disabilities who currently get support through local authority funding may no longer receive this. Care needs money. Without the money paid to carers by the LA, who support individuals like my son, Michael, those with disabilities will be abandoned. The bill is being debated in Parliament today – right now, in fact. I only received the email informing me of the situation this morning and shared it immediately on social media. I do hope it’s not too late.
The sun is shining. I’m looking forward to my walk.
The latest from Boris: more draconian measures – more or less a complete shut-down. Meetings: not more than two people should be together (unless members of the same household) – always keeping the distance, all shops other those selling essentials of food and medicine, must shut – fines for breaking the rules. I can’t remember all the details. The most vulnerable i.e. the sickest of the over 70’s should not leave their homes at all. Those like me, who are in the vulnerable group but not the worst, can go out once a day for exercise, keeping social distance. The death toll continues to rise and there still is insufficient PPE (personal protective equipment) for frontline medical staff.
Lovely neighbour, Candy, has taken my shopping order and will deliver tomorrow. Again, have not had time to paint – been too busy on the phone. The beautiful Spring weather is in contrast to the darkness of the world.
DAY TEN TUESDAY 24 MARCH 2020
Normally on a Tuesday I go to my art class with Roy Rodgers in the afternoon. That, of course, is closed, along with just about everything else. Despite having my paintings up on easels in my morning room, with paint boxes open, and brushes laid out, I just can’t bring myself to paint. I have breakfast, read the morning paper (which is still being delivered – how long does virus last on newsprint? Should I cancel my newspaper delivery?) and then the phone rings –
People phone me; I phone them. My grocery delivery is left on my doorstep for me to unpack. Those shiny orange bags: it’s likely they carry the virus, so I spray them wearing rubber gloves and carefully take out the groceries. Then I realise my fridge and food cupboard needs rearranging. By the time I’ve done that, it’s lunchtime. Hey, the sun is shining! Must lie out on my sunny balcony and get some Vitamin D: TV doc said it’s important for the immune system. On the balcony, the phone rings again. It’s Gina from the US on Facetime. She’s soon to start her morning video conference with her Lab (she’s a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience). Would I like to join them for a few minutes?
So, on my balcony in London, I join my daughter in Boston and some of her work colleagues who are all in different locations, working from home.
In strange ways, this world-wide pandemic is bringing us all closer together.
I’m hearing some heart-breaking stories – some doctors and nurses on the front-line still don’t all have sufficient proper protective gear despite the best efforts of the government.
A huge exhibition centre, Excel, where Michael and I went just a couple of months ago, is being turned into a war-zone-like hospital. There will be 4000 beds.
We’re only at the beginning – about two weeks behind Italy. In two weeks’ time, the tsunami will hit. The streets in the West End and elsewhere are generally deserted but tube trains are still full, and throngs of people are still lining the station platforms. Why? One reason could be that many still need to get to work and the number of trains has been drastically cut. Although the directive is that people should work from home where possible, many cannot and are therefore obliged to travel to work – if they don’t want to lose their jobs. This is supposed to apply to ‘essential’ workers only. For others, the government will pay 80% of their wages. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to decide what is ‘essential’.
Cutting train services has had the opposite effect to what is desired. Every single person with unsuspected virus infects on average 2.5 other people so that a single infection results in thousands of more infections which end in hundreds of more deaths. The infection rate is exponential. My brother and sister in law have it, their two daughters’ families also now have it.
This virus has gone viral.
DAY ELEVEN WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH 2020
Heard today that Prince Charles has tested positive. Camilla has not and is keeping her distance. Happily for them, they have a castle to live in, so that should not be too difficult. Hopefully, they have stocked up on loo rolls!
I have not gone out for my once-daily walk; instead, I spent a relaxed afternoon sunning myself on the balcony – and, as usual catching up on emails, WhatsApp messages and chatting.
People are coming up with interesting ways to brighten life in self/family isolation. Son, Danny, a music teacher, and musician, did a 1-hour live video session on his Facebook page, taking piano requests and playing them live (“any song/any band”) on his timeline, whilst giving the requester a “shout-out”. He will be doing it at 11.30 each morning. Just go to Facebook, search for Danny Kuperberg and make your request. He’ll improvise an arrangement around your song choice. I’ve made mine for tomorrow: "Close to You" from The Carpenters. He now has requests going up to the end of next week.
Wednesdays are usually full of painting activities: Angela’s class in the morning, immediately followed by Pinner Sketch Club where we get together to paint a still life set-up or a life drawing session with a model. Strangely, I haven’t had time to miss it as I normally do at holiday times. I’m adjusting to a new life.
DAY TWELVE THURSDAY 26 MARCH 2020
Another day in Lockdown. Even though I'm only going out for a once-a-day walk, I'm still taking care to wash my hands at every opportunity or using hand-gel.
Happy time in the morning when Danny played music requests live on FaceBook. My request was ‘Close to You” by the Carpenters. He gave a ‘shout-out’ “to my creative Mum, Marcia” and also to my sister, Gilda, in Australia. My art friend, Ku, has requested ‘Night Train’ by Oscar Peterson and Danny will play his own arrangement of that – one of the many numbers now on his schedule. Good on ya, Dan! Proud of you! We all need a lift in these dark times.
Main events: chancellor announced benefits to cover the self-employed alongside the benefits previously announced for other sectors. None of the money will arrive until June, so despite the relief of the majority, it still poses problems for some.
All this I’ve heard will cost the Government 10 billion a month – more than 200 billion a year including some of the other measures already announced. Helplines are experiencing a week’s worth of calls in a day. The workforce is depleted: told to work from home, can’t work from home so are ‘on furlough’, sick or in quarantine. It’s hard to contemplate how the country – how the whole world – will recover from this.
Police have been redeployed to take people off the streets who have no legitimate reason to be there. That includes people in cars (no more than two passengers from the same household are allowed per car). Fines of £60, or arrests if they don’t comply. Used to fighting crime, they are now fighting the Corona Virus.
Greatest death daily toll to date: 115 today and we keep being told that the worst is yet to come. In two or three weeks, we’ll know how bad that will be.
At 8 pm all of Britain showed their appreciation of our NHS – the heroism of those on the frontline, putting their lives in danger to save ours. We clapped and shouted from our windows, our balconies, our front doors. London landmarks were lit up in blue in honour of our health care system: our precious NHS.
DAY THIRTEEN FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2020
Today is Gina’s birthday! Happy Birthday, DD (stands for Darling Daughter)! You, too, are in isolation but you are lucky to have your family with you, there in Boston. May you all stay well.
Unlike you, I can’t hold a tune, but I’ll soon be singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to you via FaceTime. The consolation to not seeing you in person is that even if we didn’t all live in a world-wide nightmare, I wouldn’t be able to see you in person anyway, due to our distance. We’ll kiss and hug via FaceTime or Video WhatsApp – my time 1.30 pm, your time 9.30 am; I’ll give you time to have breakfast!
1 pm NEWS: just heard that Boris has tested Positive for Covid-19. I always thought this was only a matter of time, as he has been in the midst of so much activity. Reports say that the symptoms are mild and that he intends to carry on leading the Government response to Covid-19.
I worked until past 1 am to get this website up online – there are a great many imperfections, but I thought that unless I took the leap to publish – no one will ever bother to read the blogs as there will be too many. If nothing else, writing them gives a purpose to my days.
Another glorious Spring day. The latest rules are that we can only go out of our homes for exercise and not travel by car to do so. This is so that we don't all rush off to beauty spots and congregate there. spreading the virus. I’ve arranged with my friend, Ruth, to go for another walk through the Country Park which is just at the top of my road. I’ll wipe the mud off my shoes later.
Another update: one of Boris’ two side-kicks, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has also tested positive. We've seen key members of the cabinet in close proximity to each other; they have only recently been meeting via video conference. I wonder how many will be left standing?
5pm Further NEWS, sidekick no 2, the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty is also suffering from Covid-19 symptoms. Although not yet tested, it’s likely that he too is infected. These key figures at the top of the Government have clearly not been practising what they’ve been preaching. Can we, the general public, do a bit better?
Today, in Italy, despite over 2 weeks of lockdown, more than 1000 people died. Italy is two weeks ahead of the UK.
DAY FOURTEEN SATURDAY 28 MARCH 2020
11 am. It’s overcast today so it looks like my sun-time on the balcony won’t be happening. It’s become part of my daily schedule! Seems I might have to resort to doing something more productive. More productive, I mean, than sunning myself while spending hours on social media.
Strangest thing: yesterday I tried to FaceTime my 85-year-old friend, Jenny who is in hospital after back surgery. I’ve FaceTimed her many times but, on this occasion, somehow the lines were crossed and I found myself talking to another much younger Jenny (not in my contact list) who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
We compared our country’s relative response to the Corona virus: USA, chaotic – state-by-state, with little, seemingly co-ordinated from the Federal government. Here, a desperate shortage of some essentials but a UK co-ordinated effort to sort things before the expected onslaught hits. Some hospitals still haven’t had sufficient supplies even though the army has been brought in to help deliveries.
1 pm. I just spoke to Jenny (the correct Jenny – who lives here in London, not Atlanta). She has now been sent home from hospital. Although not suffering with any Corona symptoms, she has tested positive on leaving hospital (negative on entering) and is still suffering much pain from her op. Her sons are helping from afar, and a selfless nurse will be coming in to take out her stitches and prepare food – presumably – hopefully – in full protective clothing. Get better soon, Jenny!
Went for a peaceful walk with Ruth through open fields in the country park yards from my house. There were just a few people walking their dogs. We followed the rules. They are explicit.
I got home too late for the daily Government press broadcast but I now know the death rate has reached 1019 – up by 260 today. Maybe we are entering the steep rise of the curve of infections they keep talking about.
The best way to stay safe is to STAY AT HOME. Other than my daily secluded walk, you bet I will.
DAY FIFTEEN SUNDAY 29 MARCH 2020
This is now the end of week two of my lockdown. I decided to start several days before it was an official instruction.
Normally, Danny and family come over to me for a meal. In Summer, the boys play football in the garden but in winter it’s either too cold and rainy or too muddy outside so they then resort to watching football on TV. Now we are communicating by FaceBook, WhatsApp or the latest, Zoom, which allows multiple users all at once. This morning we had our weekly family across-the-world video meeting. This is something possibly worth continuing when this is all over.
“When this is all over” is a phrase on everyone's lips. Michael and I tell each other all the wonderful things we’ll do together when “this is all over”. And when will that be? At today’s press briefing we heard that it might be up to six months! They will review the figures after three weeks and gradually lift restrictions as required.
They’re feeding us the bad news in dribs and drabs – obviously trying to prepare us for what lies ahead. Another phrase often used is: “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”. I’m torn between obsessively watching and wanting to not watch at all.
Anyway, at the moment, one of the high points of my day is the once-daily walk I take with Ruth - either to the local park or the country park at the top of the road. We skip rapidly away from anyone who looks as if they're heading in our direction. It would be funny, if it weren't so awful.
Sadly, the first death of a frontline doctor was announced, today, along with the latest grim figures: a total of 1228 deaths in the UK up by 209 since yesterday. We’ve heard that Boris is writing a letter to reach the entire population – 30 million. I think we know by now what it will say. Perhaps he should have saved on the postage and directed the money towards more PPE for frontline staff.
It seems that the Care sector is competing with the NHS for PPE.