Friday, May 29, 2020

Lockdown Grief - Story

23rd May 2021

This from last year. Turns out we all had Covid 19. Things are very different now. Yet, who knew that we would still be under restrictions, wearing masks, keeping 2 metres apart? I really thought it would all be over by now. 
Scientists are saying that we'll probably have to endure waves of uncertainty for the next four or five years .

24th May 2020

On Easter Sunday this year I didn't cook dinner or come out of my isolation room except to eat what the others had cooked. Even that was a huge effort and I crawled back upstairs afterwards feeling exhausted and collapsed onto the bed. The fatigue was indescribable. My chest hurt, but not much. I had a temperature, aches and pains and a headache, all of which I was trying to control with paracetamol. We'd been warned not to take Ibuprofen.  
  I'm not sure I had corona virus, all I know is that I was unwell and stayed alone in the tiny bedroom for a week. My husband and two grown up children living with me were also unwell, my daughter much worse than me, suffered for more than two weeks,  at one point looking so grey and in so much pain that I wanted to take her to hospital. She said no - typical nurse. I didn't sleep for two nights worrying about her.
We are all well now and lucky to have come out the other side without too much drama. Many more were not as fortunate.

Below is a story that was published in Please See Me, an online medical publication. 

Lockdown Grief  

Friday 27th March, in a village outside Birmingham, Brian noticed that he wasn't feeling right, that he was much more tired than usual. He managed to get himself to work but cocooned himself away in his office, leaving early, just after four. He went home and headed straight for bed, hoping the extraordinary tiredness he was experiencing would soon lift.

 The next morning, he found it extremely difficult to get up, but managed to drag himself out the door swallowing some pills along with an energy drink.
Being a store manager for one of the big supermarkets his duty called him in, especially with all the drama going on with people panic buying. That morning he was hoping the shelves would be at least half stocked for his customers. Still the toilet roll supply couldn't keep up and it barely made it out to the floor before it disappeared. They'd already limited the amount people could buy.
He struggled through two hours before, reluctantly, handing over to Lesley, his number two. Although she was more than capable, Brian didn't want to give her the weight of the responsibility what with all that was happening.
It never occurred to him that he might have the virus, thinking that his body was just reacting to the stress of the last few weeks, the uncertainty, the unpredictability.

The pains in his legs started the following Monday. Checking the NHS website and finding this was not one of the symptoms confirmed his thoughts. Ok, just rest then, he thought. But the pain was quite severe, so he took some paracetemol and stayed in bed.

"Morning Bri, are you feeling any better this morning?" Marie, his wife of sixteen years, left the tray down by the door. What she wanted to do was sneak in beside him and pull the duvet up over them both. He'd been in the spare room now for over a week and Marie and their three children were obviously worried, but also a bit fed up.
 "When's dad gunna show me the planet thing?" Rory, six, had asked her just before she went to make his breakfast. She didn't answer.
"I think so, chest still hurts though. I think I'll come down today." He did feel better and thought he must be over the worst.

"Ok, well, I'll change the bed while you're up. Mark and Rory will be pleased. And Jess wants help with her science, more your scene than mine" Jess was studious, ambitions. Even at the tender age of thirteen, she had her sights set on becoming a Doctor and was working out what she had to do to make it happen. Brian and Marie were proud of her and amazed at her dogged determination but suspected that eventually she'd change her mind. There was no one in the family in medicine. Marie herself was a primary school teacher.

Although a lot better, he wasn't well enough to go back to work and the recommendation if you had any of the symptoms was to self-isolate for fourteen days. He'd had a temperature and flu like symptoms, including a sore chest, but no dry cough. He now waited his time to get back to work.
In the meantime, he enjoyed having some time with the family, albeit not doing the normal thing they liked to do together, cycling, swimming, and exploring in the woods near their home. He and Jess spent an hour in the morning with her science books, which they both enjoyed, with her intermittently questioning him about his symptoms and looking them up on google.

On the 8th April, Wednesday of Holy Week, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. He woke with a bad headache and slightly breathless.

"Shall we call a doctor?" Marie asked, "you do look a bit grey.

"That'll be low oxygen," Jess studied her father's face, on her own there was a worried frown.

"No, it's not much, it'll settle." He rubbed Marie's shoulder gently, while nodding at Jess.  He knew they were worried, but he also knew he wasn't that bad. And the NHS were telling people only to come in if really bad. Also, he still didn't think it was the virus.
He'd only been back in his own bed for a couple of days, and now took himself back to the little room as much for peace for Marie as anything. He could feel her eyes on him in the night and thought they'd both sleep better if he went.

"Is dad gunna die?" Mark was on the spectrum. His deadpan face threw Marie, even though she knew this was a logical question to him.

"No, of course not," she tousled his head briefly.  He shook her off. He went to his room and shut the door.

From that day Brian went downhill rapidly. By Friday the 10th he was looking grey. He could still speak, but had real problems breathing and a cough had started, although he could still walk and talk easily. Marie phoned 111. A doctor rang back at 10.30 am and said better get to the hospital and be checked, to be safe. He might need some help breathing, oxygen for instance.

Marie drove him the twenty minutes to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which coincidentally has the largest critical care unit in the world. They were guided around the outside of the hospital by signs for suspected Covid 19 cases, which the doctor had told them to look out for.  When they got to the double doors, a nurse looking like a spaceman met them and taking one look at Brian ushered him in.

"Not you mam," the burly porter stood in front of Marie to physically stop her following.
Image result for free images of queen elizabeth hospital birmingham
"Hang on, wait," she called, "Brian, here take this." She held out her rosary, the one with crystal beads, the one she always had in her pocket, the one he bought her on their trip to the Holy Land a year ago when they celebrated their fifteenth anniversary.

The nurse nodded at Brian and he walked back to take it from her. He wasn't catholic and certainly never prayed the rosary, but he was thankful for his wife's expression of love and support, loving him her way.

"Thanks love" he smiled, their shared glance hanging in the air like mist for a moment before it was dissolved by the nurse's voice.  He looked back once before turning a corner. With one hand she gave him a little wave. With the other she wiped her eyes.

"Here's your bed," she pointed, "get settled and I'll be back in a minute"
He dropped onto the hard mattress and looked up and down the ward. Eight beds. A man in the next but one bed, hooked up to all sorts of instruments. Brian had not been in ICU before and did not find the clinical, serious atmosphere at all comforting. Over the next hour his blood was taken, his oxygen levels checked, and he was sent to Xray. When he came back a nurse put an oxygen mask on him saying that his levels were low. A doctor questioned him on his symptoms, then left saying he'd be back when they had the xray results, which wouldn't be long.

"I'm afraid you've got pneumonia.” He spoke softly as if that would help. “Looks like it's the virus so to help your lungs we'll keep you on oxygen and get you to lie on your tummy every few hours, see how you go. Any questions?"

"No," said Brian. He couldn't think of any just now anyway. He was a bit stunned. The words, it's the virus swam round and round in his head.  Where was his phone? He looked around him. Where were his things, his bag? He squeezed the rosary in his hand.

"I'd like my phone please." he said to the nurse when she came to check his obbs, which seemed like an age to him, but in reality was only a few minutes.
"Of course, as soon as I'm finished. But I don't want you to have your mask off for long, so just a couple of minutes, Ok?" she watched the machines, "We need to get your oxygen up, then you'll feel a lot better." She was cheerful, positive almost.

"OK," he said, a bit more relaxed now.
He could tell by Marie's voice and her red face ( the benefits of whatsapp),  that she'd been crying, so he smiled,  tried to comfort her, saying that it wouldn't be long, that he just needed to be monitored for a while, that he was sure he'd be home soon.

"Bye love, love you loads," he stared at the blank screen, his shoulders started to shake and he let the phone fall on the bed.

"Come on Brian, you're doing fine," she gave him some tissues to wipe his face, then put the mask back on.
By mid-afternoon rather than improving he deteriorated. His breathing was more laboured. They turned up the levels.

By next morning, Saturday, Brian was on maximum oxygen and still not improving. The doctor said he may need to go on a ventilator for a while to give his body a rest, because it was working so hard. They moved him to a room on his own now.

"Your wife can come in and see you through the window. Shall I phone her?"  her eyes, all he could see of her, showed compassion and love. How do they do it, he thought as he gave a slight nod of his head. He wasn't sure he wanted Marie to see him like this but he knew she'd want to.

"Here, speak to her," she put the phone in his hand, removed the mask from his face and tilted the bed so he could see. Marie was wearing her red dress, the one he'd told her he liked, had she done that on purpose? They both held their phones. He started coughing, struggling for each breath.

"Hello love," a croaky whisper. More coughing

"Hi, love you. We'll get through this. You concentrate on getting better," she sniffed. "So many people are praying." She touched the glass with her hand, holding it there like it was glued. “I want to hug you, be beside you, read to you, hold your hand"

"I know," more coughing.

"I'm afraid that's enough." the nurse took the phone.   I've had less than a minute, he thought. Marie stood up, looked in.

"He's not doing great, I'm afraid,” the nurse had put Brian’s mask back on and had come to see her, “we're going to have to ventilate him." Marie had been expecting this, but still, it was like she'd been punched in the abdomen.
"How long for? He will get better? What can I do?"

""We'll see how he goes. We're doing everything we can." Marie's mind drifted to the medical dramas, Chigaco Med among others, she watched with Jess. People really did say those things then. They're doing everything they can. She decided she wouldn't use those words to explain to the children what's happening to their dad.

A sense of betrayal came over her as she left the hospital. She should be with him. Every bone in her body ached to stay, to lay beside him, to breathe in the smell of him, but she was ushered out, told they'd ring her, told not to worry.

When Marie got home life went on. She comforted the children, kept them busy, busied herself with work around the house, planned meals, but she was acting out a lie. Things were not ok. Maybe that was the last conversation they'd have, maybe the children would never see their father again. She tried to get involved in the Easter season. In normal times, before Mr Corona Virus' visit, they would have gone to the Easter Vigil, one of the services which Brian would always come to.
But Easter wasn't happening for them this year. There would be no gathering of the family, no egg hunts for the younger cousins, which she always organised. No roast lamb dinner with her parents, her brother and sister and their families, no huge pavlova for pudding, Brian's annual contribution.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, Marie woke to her phone ringing. It was 5.15 am.

"Hello, sorry to ring so early, Doctor Anderson, from ICU. I'm afraid Brian’s gone into a coma. He’s very ill I’m afraid.   You can come and see him from the window if you'd like. I'm afraid we still can't let you in, it's too risky."
 What are these words, what do they mean?

"I'll come straight in." what else could she say?

"That's fine. We noticed he holds a rosary in his hand. Shall we ask a priest to come?"

"Yes, yes please." Why didn't she think of that? Because she didn't want to think he was dying, that's why.

Walking through the hospital, her heart was torn. She'd left the children behind not telling them much, but knowing that Jess would be researching and coming to her own conclusions.

"You can sit here," a new nurse put a chair in front of the window. You smell like lavender, Marie thought. She pictured the lavender plant in her garden, promising to give abundant flowers this year.
Marie looked into the room. This time Brian looked grey, lifeblood being drained out of him.
She stared and stared. 

At 6.20 pm the priest came, dressed in protective clothing. She recognised him as Fr Anthony from a neighbouring parish. Much later, when she could think straight, she would be very grateful that he was there, that he gave Brian comfort at the end, that she was there to see it.  Before he went in he gave her a blessing. 

At 7.09 that evening the doctor came out to tell her they were taking him off the ventilator, that they were really sorry, that they did everything they could. 
Mr Anderson offered her the rosary back.

"No, leave it with him please," she mumbled. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Featured Poet

24th May 2020

The day I was the featured poet for A Poem A Day in April. There were hundreds of participants. It was 3/4/2015 and it had 661 visits and twenty one comments. Not at all bad.
Just thought I'd share it again

Day 3:
 3rd April 3rd poem.

Was inspired today by a walk along the coast . We took a path from the beach up a pretty winding staircase. Each turn gave a different, yet  interesting view which  made me reflect the path our lives take. Not sure I've done justice to it in this poem.

Go This Way

Go this way, tread these winding steps,

                                    Up this steep slope.

                                                     Stop here, rest,

                                                              Take in the view,

                                                                              The castle - almost ruins

                                                                                            Glory days over.

                                                                    Carry on up, round that blind  bend,

                                                         See the lake- veiled in mist,  

                                             Joys hidden in shrouded past

                        Struggle further,up  towards the peak,


                                               The path narrows, stones underfoot slow progress
                                                                    Turn, see the valley

                                                                                      Deep, dark,

                                                                     Holding lost moments of gloom.

                                                                                     But now, for you, up, up, 

                                                                                    Crawl on to the summit,

                                                                 Lift yourself up,

                                          Stand, breathe deep

                           Look around,

                                      All before you takes shape

                                                             Holds together.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Another Day in Lockdown

21st May 2021
22nd May 2020
Another day in lockdown.

The sun shines and the smell of roses creeps into the kitchen. Glancing through the window I see the rose bushes  bent  under the weight of yellow and red blooms and rhodedenrons  with their huge deep pink and purple flowers are beautifying the world.
This morning at 4.0 am the birds sang outside the window as a pink sky crept along the horizon. 
I lay in bed, the curtains open and watched the changing colour with a few wispy clouds dotted around like small flecks of candyfloss. 
Our  plan was  to be in Cornwall for the whole of May, traveling with the camper.
Not to be.
Reading my  words from my journal for this day last year takes me back to our trip to Ireland. I would recommend to everyone, to  keep a journal. I love mine. Pondering those few lines  have me immersed in a particular memory that I might otherwise have only vague recollections of.
It was a day similar to this one - sunny blue skies, hot the way I like it.
Traveling the twisting, narrow roads around the Beara Peninsula, along cliff edges and by the sea, we could just as easily have been driving along the Amalfi coast. Not that we've ever done that, but we've dreamt of it.  
Though now, in contrast, we reality felt like we were in a dream. The Wild Atlantic Way, rightly named,  is a stunning coastal road, full of the drama of nature.
"Stop," I couldn't help but gasp at the view. We pulled over, got out and stood on rocky crags and looked out. The sea way below us had a turquoise, shimmery sheen. We live by the sea and I've seen its many colours, but not this one. Birds of prey circled high above us, their wide wings luminescent in the sun. There were no cars on the road. We were in the middle of nowhere.
Beara, the Irish peninsula that time forgot!A few miles further down the road we turned off towards the Buddhist Centre. A couple we got talking to at a music evening at the Art Gallery in Castletownbere told us we must go, that it was one of the highlights of their holiday so far. When you're on the road, you get to exchange tips and interesting information including places that are worth a visit. I loved these encounters of helpful sharing. It happened all over Ireland, although it was more prominent in the South and West.
At the couple's insistence and with their instructions, we find the place. We'd never have found it by ourselves. The signs were obscure at best and we almost missed where we had to turn off the road. We continued at least a mile down an even narrower lane, or boreen as they're called in Ireland. It was like a long farmyard entrance with bushes and trees trying to pull it back into the natural world.
"There it is. Oh my, look at those buildings, all low and round and an off white colour." I could hardly keep from gasping. The circular shapes and the neutral colours, including some touches of terracotta, had a welcoming warmth which drew us in. Set against the deep blue sky, they reminded me of being in Spain.
We parked in a wooded area where there were a few other cars and followed the signs to the centre. The sound of small birds dancing around the branches and chirruping away made me feel really close to a world which we're not normally part of. Briefly, I caught the scent of lavender drift past.  
Four middle aged women walked in front of us, slowly, chatting quietly, like they were in church. Carrying bulging rucksacks and wearing long, muslin, cheesecloth skirts and wearing open toed sandals on their feet -   hippies?  I assumed they were staying for a retreat. Like them, we also felt we should make as little noise as possible. For those who know us, no, we didn't find it difficult.
Walking around the retreat centre, taking our time, taking it all in we had plenty of time to reflect and ponder. Strangely, everything seemed to take on a slow,  peaceful aura, a bit like these last few weeks in the lockdown. We heard the crickets in the bushes. They seemed to be answering the birdsong.  It was like having our own symphony all around us.
"Just breathe in," he put his arm around my shoulder as we surveyed the wide expanse of sea way below us. "Can you smell that?" It was a bit eerie that, although we couldn't hear the sea, the air was full of it's saltiness. It was a precious moment.
The cafe, small and built in that same curved way, was totally vegan. There was a little space outside surrounded by a low wall, which like the buildings, I think was made of stone, then plastered over in some way and painted white.  And from the wooden chairs there was a beautiful view through trees and crags to the water. We'd already got a meal ready for later in the camper, a vegetable curry left over from the day before, but we looked at the menu anyway. And, because of the peace, the quiet, the beauty, the weather and the place, we decided to have lunch.
Now, for some people, this is an ordinary event, something they do regularly, what everybody does. Not so for us. We rarely eat out or have takeaways. Even in this lockdown when people, bored with the everyday, have been ordered take outs, we have not.  Peter would do more, to be fair, but I'm always thinking of how much it's costs, how much more food we could buy for that money. I suppose I'm a bit mean. I blame it on having to be frugal for so many years bringing up our large family.
The food? I had never had a more delicious plate of vegetables and it included beetroot which is a favourite of mine. Our waiter, Tom, a calm lad of about twenty five with a ponytail and wearing “Jesus”sandals, told us it was his third season of volunteering. He first visited whilst on a tour of Ireland and he fell in love with the place. There are others he said, who do the same. They get a bed and food in recompense for their work and if it's not busy they get to take part in the retreats. He said he'll definitely be back next year. As we enjoyed our crunchy fresh vegetables we chatted  with the  two women next to us, who were feeding some chaffinches, ( I think) who had hopped onto their table.
After lunch, while exploring the grounds, we found the prayer room. It was off by itself, hidden among the trees.
"Just this bit is amazing," he pulled me towards him. We stood on little wooden bridge that we had to cross to get to the room. Looking over the wooded railing we took some moments to watch the water trickle down the stream, glistening stardrops in the sun.  My back soaked in the warmth of the sun. We spoke no words but everything was said.
The room, the size of a small chapel had images of many religions, the Buddha obviously taking prominent place and being the largest, about three feet. There were various stands with candles. A window, the length of one wall, framed the garden area outside, with flowers and a small pond. To think that someone thought of what might be seen, not only in the room, but from the room I found amazing. Then I saw the crucifix and a lovely picture of the Virgin Mary, given pride of place on the wall to the right. I hadn’t expected it. And I realised It was a space for all to come and commune with God. You had to take your shoes off at the door.   To me though, we'd already been walking on sacred ground.
It’s hard to put into words the effects the peace and beauty of that place had on me, but I hope you get a glimpse.
But, back to lockdown time. The sacred ground we step on now, the beach, the downs, the woods.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stuff from Morning Pages.

30th April 2020

Bits from my journal 28th April

The days run into each other a bit at the moment, 
not all exactly alike,   but samey nevertheless. 
I didn't sleep much last night.
Possibly it was because of an insect bite 
that I got on my knee
 when we went to the woods yesterday. 
Got through my thick jeans, of so. 
Or maybe it was the chicken. 
Anyways, it was quite a good day in all, 
starting with The Writer's Hour 
first thing in the  morning.

I love it 
Something creative occurs 
with a little nudge
And nobody's going to 
critique or judge.
While I find I'm in
A scene, a moment, lost
I find an hour gone by
at no extra cost.
It make me focus
on the words before me 
If there's any distraction
I don't tend  to see.
I've written more words 
in just three days
Than in a whole month
trying other ways.
So, I'll turn up tomorrow
And the next day too
for as long as it's offered
I'll know what to do.
I might even get finished
my memoir this year
A definite possibility
I'll let out a cheer.

Later that morning, not that I felt like it, I went with my hubs and daughter to get Dog food for our little puppy. He'd been making do for a while as we were not able to get out because of the virus. 
Observing social distancing my daughter waited her turn to go into Pets at Home, while hubby walked puppy round the car park. I sat in the car, with the sun warming my shoulders, reading. 
Another daughter lives near, so we went to wave at the grandchildren. 
For about twenty minutes we chatted to the six of them and their Dad. 
It lifted my spirits, made my day,
and I think, by the looks on their faces, 
by the stories they shared, eagerly,
 that they liked it too.
One day, someday, 
I'll be able to hug them again,
 sit with them on my lap again, 
nuzzle my face into their hair 
and smell the coconut shampoo again 
 I can't wait... 
Mum was doing an online  course and didn't even know we'd called.

We left their house and headed for the woods, 
me still on cloud nine, all senses heightened, we chatted, we laughed about our few minutes of pure joy with the kids. 

To get to the woods, we amble through a field, 
two butterflies, like brown leaves dance a tango
fly, this way, that way, 
in the distance a farmhouse, white behind green trees,
love to live there,
and now peace, 
no hum of traffic, 
no hum of people, 
other sounds creep upon us,
insects, birds, 
we stop to listen
our own breath,
the rustle of leaves.
The woody aroma fills our lungs.
I count four huge oak trees
their branches - a picture 
of strength- comforting.
Bluebell, Forest, England, Spring

Silver birches, ashes, alders,
hawthorn bushes
and in the clearings,
bluebells spread like 
picnic blankets
with shafts of light like
slabs of lemon drizzle cake,
dotted with small clusters
of delicate, pink woodland
flowers at the edge
of the paths .

Image result for pictures of bluetits feeding youngTwo bluetits fly between 
the branches 
one, a baby and the other the parent
 feeding it.

A little grey squirrel 
scurries round the  
trunk of a thick oak.
I walk, I ponder
I think, I pray
I'm so lucky.
Yes, Lord, it's been a good day.
Thank you. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Lockdown Coffee

15th May 2020

It's Friday again. I know the weekend is coming mainly because there is no Writer's Hour on Saturday or Sunday. So what happen's? Well, what happens is I do no writing,or very little. I might do some morning pages, but that's about it.

And I miss it , I really do. Some mornings I wake up and think shall I stay in bed for a bit longer and not do it this morning, rest my tired bones,  but then something compels me to get out and get at it. It's my great motivator and one of the blessings of being in lockdown. This morning a friend from Buckinghamshire ( you know who you are) joined us and thoroughly enjoyed it.


She sits at the dining room table,
 her computer set up,  notebook and pen,  
a mug of instant beside her
 and it gets me to thinking...

I miss the aroma -  exciting, enticing, inviting 
I miss it wafting around me, witching it's way 
into my dna,
It lures  me in, it says: 
 I'm here for you, we have a date you and I
you know you love me
I'm here, waiting for you, 
 I'm dark , I'm rich, I'm strong,  come on. 

I miss the steps, I know them well 
that take me  through the green door
I miss the welcome awaiting me  
the laughter, the din, music  on low, 
I miss the view from the window
the pier head sitting on the horizon, 
I miss the young girl, Cara, 
who is at uni, lives in halls
has left a boyfriend at home 
two hundred miles away
I miss, all this, 
my favourite place, 
For coffee.

No weak Aldi granules here,
 poured into one lonely mug
no sitting behind  closed doors,
 staring sleepily into space
hollow blank face, 
wondering what the hell's  going on
what is it that's so wrong,
 out there in the world. 
Are there people who  are happy, 
in another distant place?  
Have they found a cafe open for,
A coffee

Image result for picture of having coffee in a cafe


I miss those days when I'd take my book
find my nook,
 in the corner by the window
position myself so I could see the 
 people passing by,  
turn my shoulders just a little 
so the sun warms me from the outside in,
Then, when perfectly relaxed,
 drink my coffee
delicious Cappucino,

I miss meeting friends for a catch up 
when we'd all have our different requests
always latte for Di, with a slice of cake,
"A slither of cake with my coffee," she jests 
A Mocca for Mary
Her coffee

I miss those days before lockdown 
when a frown, 
didn't bring you down 
When getting together, put back your smile, 
and all this while, you enjoyed a coffee.
I miss those days , in so many ways,
meeting friends, was a normal thing
But Mr Corona Virus  has been hard at work
 has us all tied up, dangling on the end of his string
Until cafes open, no
Real coffee

We do have a percolator and some coffee beans to go with it.
But it's not quite the same as making arrangements to go out for a cappucino. 

What do you miss in the lockdown?