Chronicles of the Plague Year #9

May 2, 2020

Another week or more gone.  I rarely know what day it is and sometimes it feels like we are inmates on a prison hulk being transported to a new world.

We have fallen into new habits over these last few weeks. Some, like long naps every afternoon, are merely extensions of what went before. But some are quite different. For example, my usual bedtime these days is an hour or more later than it used to be, presumably because I don’t have plans (or European sporting events) early on the following day.

And then there is breakfast.  For many years we used to whip through the New York Times real estate pages over breakfast. Now, we take our time and this interlude often lasts an hour or more. We watch whatever sumo news is available, maybe some old comic skits (often British or ancient SNL), and then settle down with an episode of University Challenge, probably the toughest game show ever devised.   We found a channel on YouTube that has all the episodes going back to the early 2010s and we are watching them in sequence.  Yesterday we saw the final of the 2014 season.  This morning we started in on 2015.

Talking of sports, longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a devotee of a wide range of sports. The virus, of course, has put a stop to live sports quite literally all over the world. What we are left with is reruns and replays. About thirty years ago I used to lawn bowl at what was then called the Terminal City Bowling Club (I even won a rookie cup my first year). I have rekindled my love of that sport by watching many years’ worth of international matches and marvelling at the skills the best players exhibit.  More peculiarly perhaps, I have enjoyed many years’ worth of elite triathlon races. Even I think that is odd.

Thank goodness for YouTube!

Which reminds me, I notice that I have not been reading books during this time at home. No idea why as I have four library books sitting here that I have until the library re-opens. I have, however, been reading a lot of journal material online, watched some mighty fine documentaries, and learned new cooking skills. YouTube has become my TV of choice.

I miss our friends and the endless street cabaret of Commercial Drive. I am a home body at heart but even I want this to be over.



Chronicles of the Plague Year #8

April 25, 2020

A few months ago we got a new dishwasher.  Last week it stopped working.  Normally, the landlord’s plumber/electrician guy would come by and fix it the next day. However, because it is new and therefore under warranty, we had to call the supplier’s repair agent. “It will be in a week,” they said.  “Can’t you come sooner?” I asked.  “No, there’s a medical crisis going on you know. By the way, have you or anyone close to you got covid-19 symptoms?”

So, for the first time in perhaps 25 years, we have been washing up in the old-fashioned way. To be honest, I find it quite pleasant, messing about in a sink full of warm soapy water. The Everloving not so much. Oh well, it should be fixed on Tuesday — maybe.

I went shopping on the Drive today, and looked in to show support for the People’s Co-op Bookstore that is opening on weekends. I also took some time to notice that something less than 20% of folks were wearing masks in grocery stores. It’s bloody selfish, ignoring the needs of those working there and other shoppers.

On the way home, I rested for a while in Salsbury Park and was entranced as usual by the blossoms that seem to have engulfed the trees almost overnight. The park is covered in dandelions which make a wonderful counterpoint to the trees. I hope the Parks folks with their grass-grazing machines stay away for a while.

As I sat there, a guy in shorts and T-shirt started doing sprints up Adanac Hill, from the Park to Victoria. He would run hard up the hill, walk back down, and run again. He kept at it for quite a while.  I imagined a thick sweaty miasma surrounding him, following him up and down the hill, hanging around for others to breathe.  Healthy for him, maybe, but for the rest of us?

Another week almost done. How many more, I wonder?

Chronicles of the Plague Year #7

April 19, 2020

Well, that was yet another week of the lock-down.

The other evening, eighteen members of the Grandview Heritage Group (GHG) had their monthly meeting — by Zoom.  There were a few minutes of “no video” or “no audio” from various participants but we got that straightened out pretty quick, and got on with what was just like a regular meeting. We had three separate presentations, some announcements, and just enough friendly chatter between colleagues who haven’t seen each other for well over a month. It was well worth the effort and I thank the folks who made it all work.

Of course, if you believe some of the Zoom conspiracy stories doing the rounds, all of us GHG folks are now pawns in the hands of the Chinese security police — as if that is somehow worse than being in Facebook’s databanks.

The lock-down is definitely getting tedious.  However, I just spoke with my mother who is a nursing home in England and she set me straight on what real tedium can be.  She has been locked up in her care home now for about four weeks, with no visitors of any kind, none of the weekly entertainments she has grown to enjoy, and with no close friends among the other patients. Almost blind, she can barely enjoy the television, her radio has broken, and the telephone company won’t send anyone to install her new phone during the pandemic.

What’s more, several of her equally aged friends and former neighbours have recently died and she is not there to mourn them. The neighbour who did her gardening is the latest victim.  Her only relief is to sit by the open window and feel the breeze. At 92, she wonders if she will still be alive when the crisis is over.

She sounded so bored, frankly, that I know I have nothing comparable to complain about.


Chronicles of the Plague Year #7

April 16, 2020

I have never been particularly gregarious, preferring small groups to large, and solitary or couple time over any other.  I notice this has grown more pronounced as I’ve aged, possibly as a result of mobility issues adding weight to the preference.  The point is, that this stay-at-home phase of the pandemic doesn’t really bother me.

Or so I thought.  I woke up this morning with an urgent craving to go have breakfast someplace, almost any place, on the Drive; to sit with others and enjoy the street cabaret.  Even if I were to go out, I would find nothing open. So it was one of those pointless longings, but I could not shake it.  And it made me think that if this lock-down was having such an effect on someone quite used to staying home, then it must be awful for those who were previously out there living lives in motion, out and about every day.

But the demographics are not clearly defined. I have people in England even older than me, 80-year old plus friends and relatives of my Mother, who are champing at the bit to get outdoors, hating every moment they are locked up.  But my daughter and my granddaughter, who have always worked hard and enjoyed their jobs, are just blissing out on the relaxation of being home all day. They have even dropped off social media.

It sure is an odd time.  I’ve got bacon cooking on the stove, so I feel better now.


Previous Chronicles.

Chronicles of the Plague Year #6

April 14, 2020

It was time to break out of my isolation to get some banking and pharmacy business taken care of.  My haz-mat gear included latex gloves and an ancient N95 mask that I only just learned how to wear properly. The weather was way too warm for all that stuff.

It is a week of learning; not only did I learn how to wear my mask, but I also finally learned how to make a deposit through an ATM.  I know, I know; I am a slow learner.  But in my defence, most of the cheques I receive are direct deposits and with the few others I prefer a human teller to a machine. So, with the branch closed and a cheque in hand, this was the first time. No idea if it worked.

The always wonderful folks at Shoppers on the Drive had everything ready for me and so I crossed the street to catch a bus home. The first bus to come along passed by with his “Bus Full” sign flashing. It still seems odd to see a full bus with just a dozen people on it.  So I waited for the next, and that gave me a lot of time to really observe the new pedestrian etiquette. I was surprised, frankly, about how serious everyone is taking this:  very deliberate attempts to keep distance; standing in doorways rather than blocking the sidewalk; singles rather than groups; and a lot more masks than last week.  I wonder how much of this we will retain when the new normal arrives.

The longest line up I saw today was at the Post Office where, at one point, a line of about ten people snaked along the block to the corner, each six feet apart.

Finally, as I sat in the Park for a while. There were small huddles of us, singles, couples, dogs, spaced around the green. I saw one of our regular street folks pushing a big Paper recycling bin north along Salsbury, though I doubt that was covid-19 related.



Chronicles of the Plague Year #5

April 8, 2020

I walked across to Salsbury Park at lunchtime, sat on a bench in the sun for a while, fed peanuts to some crows. There was just one other person in the park and she stayed on the opposite side to where my bench sits.  The squirrels were napping. It was quiet, deserted, peaceful, and decidedly odd with no children playing.

After about ten minutes, I strolled back and noticed that the neighbouring townhouse complex is having its monthly landscaping work done today.  I find it hard to believe that having someone else come cut your lawn, trim your bushes, water your plants, etc. etc., is an essential service.

The days seem to get quieter.

Chronicles Of The Plague Year #4

April 7, 2020

Today was our first rely-on-someone-else-for-shopping day of our three week self-isolation.

To set the tone I have to mention that the Everloving is a champion shopper; she could shop for Canada in the Olympics.  She keeps a larder, tracks prices, befriends every storekeeper on the Drive, wants to feel and touch everything, and actually loves going to the grocers.  This isolation business has put quite a dent in her travels. She had been out on a couple of days to do major shopping but for the last week or so she has remained at home as the cautionary warnings have become a more constant drumbeat.

I, too, have been diligent in my stay-at-home-ness, though I did sneak out to the corner store yesterday for some essentials.

So, on to today.  It began yesterday when the latest in a line of good friends called to offer any assistance we might need. (This crisis has shown what an interesting support web one has around one even when the relationships were never designed that way).  Anyway, when he called yesterday, the Everloving was just in the right mood to say yes.

That led to endless toiling over a detailed shopping list, emails, and several clarifying/scheduling calls with the friend.  More calls were needed from the friend when the store he was at didn’t have a particular item requested and alternatives were offered and usually rejected.

And then the waiting.

And when it did arrive we were, of course, grateful and fulsome in our thanks. We wiped down everything before packing them away, and added the few things he had forgotten, like potatoes and peas, to the list we made for our own next trip out.

This coming together of community support is truly wonderful, but there’s a surprising amount of nervous energy involved.

Tonight we stood out on the porch to view the super moon. It was large and shockingly bright. That calmed us down.

Chronicles of the Plague Year #3

April 2, 2020

The novel corona virus has put a stop to a lot of things — work, shopping, gatherings, libraries, arts, culture, sports — but it hasn’t affected the ongoing business of looking after pre-existing medical conditions.  Therefore, I had to leave the house today to get some regular quarterly blood work done.  When we went shopping the other day, there were a couple of things that we couldn’t find so I was also tasked with finding those items. It was a minor adventure.

To get to the clinic I decided to take the bus, the first time for me since restrictions came into force.  I am used to the #20 being crammed to the doors and so it was a pleasant shock to see half the seats marked as not for use, and no-one standing. I found the last available seat and was happy enough. However, I was also glad I had on gloves to deal with all the surfaces and unconscious handling that goes on during a bus ride.

I was early for the clinic so I decided to visit Safeway first.  To get in the store I stood in a line that meandered all the way to Broadway Station; everyone six feet apart and amiable enough. It didn’t take too long. Once in, I went looking for the elusive frozen peas which turned out to be non-existent. Frozen peas?  I barely understand a run on Kleenex, and I have been baffled by toilet paper hoarding. But frozen peas, come on! I did find a baguette and some bagels so I considered myself fortunate.

Most of my shopping is done at SuperValu, the East End Food Co-op, and the smaller grocery stores on the Drive. Other than peas, these places have been pretty good at keeping their shelves stocked.  But walking around Safeway, I was reminded of old US propaganda movies about empty shelves in Soviet stores.

In the end, I walked down to Donald’s where I found a small bag of very expensive organic frozen peas. I had no choice but to snatch up the last pack, along with a couple of nectarines that are probably far too early in the season.  Great paper bag they gave me, though.

In between Safeway and Donald’s I went to the blood clinic.  Normally that too is bursting at the seams with clients. Today it was entirely empty apart from phlebotomists wearing masks and visors, and I was in and out in three minutes flat. The receptionist told me that they were used to 350-400 clients a day but were currently only seeing about 40 a day.  My advice — if you need blood work done, this is the time to go!

Now I am back at home, clothes changed and hands scrubbed.  I’ll be quite content to sit here for another few days now that I’ve had my quota of sunshine and distant social interactions.

Chronicles of the Plague Year #2

March 26, 2020

The Everloving and I have been retired for quite a good number of years now.  That means that we have come to terms with being with each other all day, not having a schedule or routine fixed by anybody else, and having the right and ability to do nothing for long periods of time.  Thus — other than not being able to slip out for coffee — this shelter-in-place business is second nature to us.

That “ability to do nothing for long periods of time” along with serious napping is key.

However, I have noticed on social media that people unused to isolation and relaxation have taken to spring cleaning, or gardening, or building things to pass the time, and telling us all about it. I would urge them all to try serious napping but, in the meanwhile, they have spurred me to action: I decided to empty and wash down our fridge.

My God! Who knew that so many different things — jams and sauces, salsas and anchovies, dressings and dips and strange chopped up vegetables — could be bottled in so many different containers?  Laid out on the kitchen counter it seems impossible to imagine they can all fit in the fridge and still leave room for real food. And I daren’t even look at the best-before dates.

And then there are the left-overs that somehow got pushed to the back of fridge. Some of them are left over from the Middle Ages, I think!

Phew.  Now it’s all clean and we have enough space to order in a truckload of goodies.

That’s my job done for the week.  Now for some serious napping while I plan next week’s job.

Chronicles of the Plague Year #1

March 24, 2020

The Everloving and I finally left our self-isolation today to go shopping for the first time in a week.  We found an Evo car nearby and headed out to SuperValu, Santa Barbara’s, and the corner store.

I was a little surprised at how well stocked the supermarket shelves were (I didn’t check the paper products aisle), but there were a number of signs limiting the amounts one could buy. It certainly wasn’t crowded and most people kept their distance. At the checkout it was like the old days, packing one’s own bags, which were not allowed to even rest on the counter. But then there was the elevator.

There is a small (4-person) elevator going down to the parking. In front of us was a middle-aged lady, and behind us a young woman.  When the elevator came, the middle-aged lady went in. We hung back, not wanting to share such a small space. When she saw we were not going in, the young woman barged around us and into the elevator. The first lady made it abundantly clear that she was not sharing, and the girl backed out, shocked, seemingly oblivious to the current situation.  A minute later, when the elevator returned, we walked in and told the girl we were not sharing either. She was mad but, I have to admit, she didn’t curse and yell.

The Drive looked desolate as we drove back, with so many restaurants bars and cafes closed.  Oddly enough, while Beckwoman’s is not often open even at the best of times, she had decided to be there today.

Next to the corner store on Venables there is a storefront with a large sign inviting customers to a “soon to be open” cafe. It looked forlorn and I suspect that “soon” is not just around the corner.