curiosity about the ways of the world

Tag: Covid19

The sound of loosening ice

Pause for thought. I’m not sure why the poetry of Gael Turnbull moves me so much. Perhaps because he was a hands-on doctor as well as a poet – and I often think of my GP brother working at the sharp end of the pandemic, meeting real people in real life, taking the occasional breather to make a black joke.

“I’ll be mighty pissed off if I die in my last year at work,” he texted last March as Covid put paid to his plans for earlyish retirement and the local health authority struggled to meet demand for personal protective equipment. Nevertheless, I was proud to discover, he insists on seeing his patients in person, distrusting the evidence presented on screens: “Doctors need to prod patients.”

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Schools ahead of their time – and ours

What will the future bring? Children at my sons’ primary school down the road had bright ideas nearly twenty-five years ago. 

“…a robot teacher in every classroom, ‘see-through’ classrooms made of glass, blackboards rubbed clean at the touch of a switch and electronically operated toilets.”

The school of the future hasn’t turned out quite as pupils imagined in 1996 though ‘see-through classrooms and electronically operated toilets’ could come in handy to combat Covid-19.  The centenary book my sons and I helped to produce turned up in a lockdown study clear-out. A bit of a museum piece, Broughton Primary 100 casts not always favourable light on the present.  

Writing this for Sceptical Scot’s last issue before the holiday break, I was struck by a cruel irony we had never anticipated at the parent-teacher-pupil editorial meetings 25 years ago: the school of the future would have much in common with the school of the past.  In the late 19th century medical officers of health were acutely aware of the links between ill health, mortality and poverty.  That harsh reality reinforced again by the latest National Register of Scotland report of deaths involving Covid-19:

“People in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times more likely to die with COVID-19 than those living in the least deprived areas.”

National Register of Scotland July 2020

A crucial difference between then and now – in the 1890s local medical officers of health had the power to take pre-emptive action where and when it was needed. 

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Being Ninety

Being ninety we are

the generation whose fathers fought

in the First World War

Old age is a bit of a mystery.  How did we get here?  How much further are we going?

I wrote this for Sceptical Scot poetry section, fired by a new poem by an old friend and prose by John Harris which hit a spot. A tender spot. In a looking glass world, the over-70s face indefinite lockdown while Covid-19 rampages through scandalously unprotected care homes.

I’m not ninety, not yet anyway though I have lived in hope that I might have inherited some of the genes of my Great Aunty Ada who survived Spanish flu, served as a nurse in the Spanish Civil War, dug her new garden as a ninety-year-old and died at the age of 106 just before the turn of the 21st Century.

Would she have survived Covid-19? I don’t know. But I know she did not really consider herself old until she was nearing her 100th birthday. So I also delight in the robust letter of Hella Pick to the Guardian in protest at ‘an insult against a massive group of able-bodied, hard-working people who are making important contributions to society.’ She is 91.

And look to France where plans for Monday’s (11 May) cautious opening up initially excluded the over-70s but government backed-off after a deafening uproar from the ‘soixantehuitards’. Ah, 1968 – the year of revolutions. Lets not give in. We will need plenty adventurous rebels of all ages if we are to discover the means to ‘build back better’. Now, please read on and (if you haven’t already done so) take a trip to Sceptical Scot to explore further.

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