Friday 8th May The Coronet Diaries

GROVE RD. MITCHAM, MAY 1945. (Photo courtesy of John Haynes.)
Only the dead have seen the end of war. Plato

I am told the May Day holiday has been changed to celebrate, I am not sure what the official title of today is, although I know it is seventy five years since the war ended. I am more concerned, looking at our Street WhatsAp, at the opportunity it has provided for many neighbours, full of understandable glee, to circulate orders of alcohol to be delivered to doorsteps and porches. I don’t want to be a killjoy and it is great to hear people letting their hair down, some of them iconic NHS front liners, but it is going to be a hot day and a noisy night. I cannot feel celebratory about anything with fatalities still counting. It doesn’t feel as though we have made a Coronet break-through yet.

I am beyond ecstatic that neither anybody I know, nor anybody they know, has died of COVID. (One person I talk to would insist that I spit three times, or make a more refined’ Per Per Per’ Yiddish guttural sound, in order not to tempt the ‘evil’ eye, or Lilith. Or, the adverb ‘yet’. ) l resist every addition to magical thinking. I do know people who have had life threatening experiences. I know someone who, now in recovery, discovered that while under sedation they had suffered an undetected stroke. Unnoticed, while they were swathed in bandaging like an Egyptian Mummy. Sadly, I have heard of octogenarians upward dying, including John’s ninety six-year old cousin, Tony in his care home. This was not the case with AIDS when, at the height of the epidemic, it was impossible not intimately to know someone who lost their life to the disease.

I don’t ever want to normalise the extent of the trauma inflicted by premature disease, accidental death, or wanton crime …

As I listen to the daily figures for the UK; particularly London, I find it hard not to have the dangerous disconnect I confess to having when I watch the news about wars in Syria and Libya. Then, I feel like I am watching a violent movie, the difference being that I can and do turn it off. The sight of wounded and orphaned children never fades. Otherwise, I take fool’s comfort in thinking, ‘ It is tragic, but it is so far away.’ In a weird and shocking way the same is becoming true of COVID where that dangerous word ‘normalcy’, if not naive complacency, starts to influence the horrifying stats. I know through a personal experience of witnessing trauma enter into the heartlands of our family when my older grandchildren’s father, Jay was murdered – a racial attack- that the consequences of any traumatic and every COVID death clothes your family with intrinsic trauma forever. And ever. (I have written about this incident in both of my book,s so will not elucidate here.)

On a white note it is sheet changing day again, except it was meant to happen on Wednesday. The slippage grows each week but with a limit that the sheets must be ready for ironing by Saturday when our lovely and lonely housekeeper sneaks in from down the road with her dog Bruno. They iron in solitary and depressed confinement while the ironing basket grows emptier each week. My bed is a ‘bit’ like a magic carpet with children, dogs, and a cat chasing so change-over must take place.

Bed changing, as I have several times remarked throughout, has become an indulged COVID topic. I was speaking to someone yesterday; in spite of everything ‘they’ are preoccupied with politically and emotionally they joined in the with the duvet lament. Bring back the blanket! Their slippage is so intense, or slopped they only manage change-over fortnightly.

I have come off the phone from speaking to someone in France where it is not a holiday. Business as usual. They departed from the UK before lockdown with a feverish cold and dry cough. Briefly, they then lost their sense of taste but were not otherwise ill. They naturally assumed they had COVID and self isolated although no symptoms developed … Who knows anything for certain unless their breathing goes AWOL. Yesterday, they received the results of their antibody blood test approved by the French government. Results show that while they have some COVID anti-bodies their infection was a-symptomatic: There is evidence of the ‘IgG’ count being slightly raised but not to a sufficiently high level to qualify… If my French is up to it, the certificate warns that detection of COVID experienced at an a-symtomatic level does not guarantee anything… with a recommendation to repeat the test in a matter of weeks.

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