The Rime Of The Asian Marinader.
There was a young man from Wuhan
who should have ate meat from a can
but, not liking spam, he fried bats in a pan
and that’s how this new virus began.
Called Covid – 19, it’s too small to be seen,
is particularly mean and makes you breath by machine.
There’s no sign where its been
so just keep your hands clean.
How I wish he’d ate pie,
not bats from the sky.
Now we’re all going to die,
or lose our entire life’s savings due to a huge global slump.
One of The Lakes Trio? Wordsworth? Southey? “No, Coleridge!”, I hear you say, but in fact it wasn’t written by him either, although aside of the substitution of a bat for an albatross, in this particular epic, the parallels in style are patently stunning, yet something so topical could hardly have been written so long ago.
OK, I confess, uncanny as the similarities may seem, it was me all the time wot actually just wrote it. Absolutely astounding! Quite clearly me and old Sam are virtually inseparable as regards poetic style and literary status, despite my massive gift being unjustly curtailed long ago.
The truth is that apart from my Dad thinking anyone rhyming more than two words together was clearly some sort of sexual deviant, when at primary school, in a time ruled by Philistines, I was thrown out of an English lesson and caned for my creativity in writing some iconic verse about my teacher, a rather fierce yet matronly old spinster. Thus the world was deprived forever of my awesome talent.
I know I shouldn’t make light of our awful situation, but without a sense of humour, however dark, we may as well give up right now. For those affected this is a terrible disease, and I may yet become just another statistic myself, it is, however, worth reflecting that even should the projected worst case scenario come to fruition, leaving 40,000,000 of us dead across the planet, that tragic figure will be made up by global population growth in just six months. I don’t know which prospect I find the more terrifying.
We must also retain a sense of perspective; According to information gleaned from newspaper reports and other available sources, while 20,000 continue to starve to death every day, since the outbreak began last December there have, across all age groups at time of writing, from a global population approaching 8,000,000,000, been apx 230,000 deaths, worldwide, attributable to Covid – 19, Winter Flu 160,000, Tuberculosis 450,000, HIV/AIDS 500,000 and Malaria 300,000. In that same period Diabetes (predominately type 2) will have seen off over 500,000 of those under 60 years of age alone and another 2.3 million will have succumbed to drink and tobacco related causes.
The clear inference from these and all the other upper end death stats’ available is that no fags, less booze, fewer pies and more exercise remain better life choices than washing your hands and social distancing, even in these trying times. That’s not to say that we should not all continue to take this terrible situation seriously and abide by the rules currently in place. Every premature death is a tragedy.
In Britain the total number of first quarter deaths (ending this year on March 27th) from all respiratory diseases over the previous four years are, according to newspaper reports, as follows; 2020 – 22,887, 2019 – 23,336, 2018 – 29,898, 2017 – 25,800. On the face of it these are almost ‘cheery’ figures, if death can ever be so, showing a year on year reduction if they are to be trusted. Until the end of this three month period the death rate (ultimately of course always 100%) had risen from the normal background of 11,200 per week by 1000 per week, however figures released by the end of Easter weekend suggested it had risen by 6,000 per week and by time of writing the background rate was said to have doubled, indicating an exponential upward trend from the earlier date going forward.
Definitive truth, these days, is I’m afraid almost impossible to find. The best advice on staying sane and safe in these circumstances remains, if you possibly can, ‘Stay at home and just keep calm and carry on’.
The pandemic, a word itself scarcely used previously, has also spawned a new, must use; ‘Furlough’ which appears to mean that you keep your job for the time-being, even if unable to do sod all, and earn at least a percentage of your previous wage. Previous, must use, words which spring to mind include ‘Diatribe’, which arrived and departed with equal rapidity in the nineties, used by smart arsed Yuppies everywhere, to replace words which simple folk understood, such as chat, talk, conversation etc and the awful ‘Gobsmacked’, for those same simple folk, to replace any sense of shock or surprise. Mercifully, this is also on the wane.
In truth all I’m doing is counting my blessings. The garden has been my salvation now that the weather has finally improved to allow us to get on and spend time in it. We are immensely lucky here, and not only in possessing a garden. With the lockdown in place Hever has shed thirty odd years and returned to the haven of peace and tranquility that prevailed when I first arrived. It appears that ‘the invaders have been undone by the tiniest creatures that god in his wisdom has placed upon The Earth’ (with a nod of acknowledgement to H. G. Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ and Mr Morgan Freeman for speaking the line in the film of the same name). Even the phone scammers seem to have departed, I’ve not had one of them after me in weeks. Hopefully they’re all dead and not just self isolating!
A strange effect of the current situation has been that some locals who have shunned me for years have started greeting me like their long lost best friend. I have no idea why. Has some false tale been circulating previously and they’ve only just realised the truth? That I’m just a peaceful old soul who wants to be left alone to enjoy the tranquility and simple pleasures of an unspoilt countryside and will do anything I can to preserve that state of affairs while helping and assisting all similarly likeminded spirits.
One newly arrived asset to our lane did, however, take the trouble of wandering down the other day with a couple of written notes for myself and my neighbour, accusing us not only of spreading rumours about her allegedly flouting the current ‘Lockdown’ laws, but of actually filming her son’s comings and goings. A few years back her direct neighbour similarly accused me of spreading rumours about her having run over a cat.
Now naturally I would prefer to be liked by one and all and do my level best not to offend anyone, but quite evidently I’m not such a shrinking violet that I will not front someone up with any gripe I may have face to face. In both of these instances their accusations have been utterly without foundation and I do now know who the actual perpetrators were.
Neither accuser has since offered any apology for their wholly unjustified behaviour. Yet this is no time for resentment, it is a time for forgiveness and acceptance, a time to build bridges. I bear them no ill will for their petty, mistaken, neurosis and, in these uniquely difficult times, after so many years have passed, I’ve even found it in my heart to forgive the lack of appreciation I once received from my one time English mistress, dear old Miss Bunt. I don’t wish to sound too obsequious but I hope that all of my critics may feel reassured to hear that I continue to have every bit as much concern for their negative feelings toward me as I do for the ongoing welfare of last weeks turds.
No need, perhaps then, for a geographical move after all, just a reverse time shift. Most noticeable in our present circumstance is the return of birdsong. With no road or air traffic to either dissuade or drown it, it is the only background sound left. How privileged we are with all that surrounds us. Even the thought of being shut in an inner-city flat, either in total solitude or with a couple of kids for hours on end, is almost too much to bear, but lets just spare a thought for all those poor buggers also affected by the recent flooding, who now seem, in every sense, to have been swept aside and forgotten by the press in pursuit of a new even more dramatic story.
One downside to the fine weather is that it has bought a return of the cycling fraternity to our area. Shoulder to shoulder in their cosy pelotons, liberally ornamenting our hedgerows with their discarded energy drink cans and cartons, they appear to be not only oblivious to any rules governing the public highway but also those more recently introduced regarding social distancing. In all fairness they must, however, be superbly fit, as they appear capable of journeying out from places as distant as Croydon and Swanley, thundering down every lane in the district, and returning home, all within their allotted one hour of daily exercise. Awesome!
Returning swallows were spotted by my neighbour on 7th April (me on10th). The Cuckoo called once on 24th and I’ve heard it several times since, the best for years, or can we just hear them better in the overall prevailing silence?
The local wildlife is already rejoicing in our misfortune and is quickly reasserting itself in our enforced absence wherever I chance to look. However, with even voluntary work on nature reserves in shutdown, the necessary management work on these has mostly been suspended. Well meaning friends, aware of my interests, have often said, “If I came into money I’d buy a large tract of land and just leave it to nature”. Given our current situation there may be no alternative, the problem with that is that once mankind has intervened the natural balance of an ecosystem is destroyed and, without our continued intervention to maintain an artificial equilibrium, we enter extremely unpredictable territory.
Despite that, the watchword of the last decade or so has been ‘Rewilding’, the cautious, ‘managed’ abandonment of large areas of land assisted by the minimum of human adjustment to establish a self-sustaining habitat.
One of the first advocates / prime movers of this way of ‘unmanaging’ land for nature was Frans Vera, who created the famous Oostvaardersplassen reserve on an area of reclaimed land (polder) once designated for industrial usage in the Netherlands. Long heralded as the way forward, his vision and methods were soon being promoted as the future by wildlife trusts and organisations across the globe. Now I hear there is trouble in paradise. Many of the red deer population have had to be slaughtered to prevent starvation and members of the public have been distressed to see, not only their abandoned, rotting, carcasses but many violent fights among the Konik ponies, introduced to control insurgent scrub.
Left for a thousand years or so I’m sure all would be well. The problem is that complex natural ecosystems, such as rain forest etc, take a huge amount of time to establish and strike that essential balance. Once the hand of man has intervened to tip the scales he must continue to do so constantly or there will be many disasters along the way to reestablishing natural equilibrium. This is why setting land aside in mitigation of habitat lost to development can never be more than a futile short term gesture and why planting new trees to replace the 108 ancient woodlands that will be destroyed or damaged by HS2 is such a nonsense. Replacing trees and other features is easy, it is the ‘ancient’ and all that comes with it that takes so long!