Early Modern Progressives

On a rather cold and showery May day, I met up with my best chum from university for our long awaited step back in time. Here she is with Mary Wollstonecraft.

We investigated Mary’s old stomping ground, Newington Green 1, with the wonderful app created by Scary Little Girls 2.

This eighteenth century feminist writer (mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein) was born in Spitalfields, London. Her father turned to drink after losing the family fortunes, and then scraped a living as a farmer in Essex, Yorkshire and Wales 2.

As a young woman, Mary along with with her close friend, the illustrator, Fanny Blood, ran a school for girls on Newington Green 2.

Mary got to know the local Unitarian minister and political radical, Dr Richard Price, and the local circle of dissenters. They attended Newington Green Unitarian Chapel, which stands on the corner to this day 2.

The Chapel has had strong ties to political radicalism for over 300 years, and is London’s oldest non conformist place of worship still in use. It was founded in 1708 by the English Dissenters, who had been gathering around the Green for at least half a century before that date. They were Protestants who had separated from the Church of England. They disagreed with the Church on many issues relating to faith, politics and the relationship between church and state.

Unitarians have no creed and accept you into their congregation whatever you do or do not believe. They have a strong tradition of political activism. They have taken part in almost every movement for social justice, in particular, the antislavery movement.

The primary school folded when Fanny got married, but there is a school on the site just off the Green, till this day.

After a spell as a Governess in Ireland, Mary was befriended by publisher Joseph Johnson who set her up with a job and lodgings. They published her ‘ A Vindication of the Rights of Woman ‘ (1792), one of the earliest feminist texts. It called for equal rights for women in terms of education and their place in society more generally. She said the latter kept women as either ‘domestic slaves’ or ‘alluring mistresses’ in a time when they were denied civil, political and sexual rights. She demanded ‘JUSTICE for one half of the human race’. 2

On the west side of Newington Green is the oldest surviving terrace in London. Built in 1658, the four buildings at 52-55 Newington Green have survived the Great Fire of London as well as two World Wars. 3

Dr Richard Price moved into no 54 in 1758. During the next few years, and no doubt due to his sympathies towards the American Revolution, he was visited by many of the American ‘founding fathers’ including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.4

52 -55 Newington Green

In 2020, a sculpture for Mary, by artist Maggi Hambling, went on display on Newington Green. Journalist, Bee Rowlatt, who wrote the fascinating book “In search of Mary’ led the campaign for the statue 5. It has proved controversial. I can not make my mind up about it.

Bee Rowlatt was chairwoman of the Mary on the Green campaign for a statue, and said: “Her ideas changed the world. It took courage to fight for human rights and education for all. But following her early death in childbirth, her legacy was buried, in a sustained misogynistic attack. Today we are finally putting this injustice to rights. Mary Wollstonecraft was a rebel and a pioneer, and she deserves a pioneering work of art. This work is an attempt to celebrate her contribution to society with something that goes beyond the Victorian traditions of putting people on pedestals.”

We then went to Walthamstow, to visit the William Morris Gallery.

William Morris probably needs no introduction. He was a Victorian radical whose designs have been a major influence through the decades. But he was much more than a brilliant designer and craftsman; he was also a writer, retailer, and socialist activist. Read more about his life and work at the gallery or V&A websites 6,7 or by consulting one of my favourite books 8

William was born Walthamstow, then in the county of Essex, at Elm House, on 24 March 1834. He enjoyed a privileged lifestyle, his father being a financier in the City of London.  His mother was Emma Morris (née Shelton), who was descended from a wealthy bourgeois family from Worcester.  William was the third of his parents’ surviving children.

The building which is now the gallery was William’s third childhood home. He was born at Elm House. This was situated opposite the fire station on Forest Road. Sadly it was demolished in 1898.9 When he was aged 6, he moved with his family to the Georgian Italianate  mansion Woodford Hall in Woodford, Essex, which was surrounded by 50 acres of land adjacent to Epping Forest. Another tragedy: this too has been demolished (in 1900) and also has a fascinating history 10

In 1847, Morris’s father died unexpectedly. From this point, the family relied upon continued income from copper mines and sold Woodford Hall to move into the smaller Water House. This now houses the gallery.

The building is a fine example of Georgian domestic architecture dating from about 1744 (the date scratched on a brick found in the upper east wall). Records indicate that there was a house on the site – or perhaps on the moated ‘island’ to the rear of the present house – as far back as the fifteenth century. The existing house was known as Water House, the name deriving from the ornamental moat in the gardens at the back of the house. William lived here with his widowed mother and his eight brothers and sisters from the age of fourteen until he was twenty-two.

A new extension was built upon the same site in 2012 as part of the William Morris Gallery development project.

William Morris wrote some of his earliest poetry seated in the tall window on the main staircase, and his friend Edward Burne-Jones, on a visit to the Morrises in the 1850s, painted studies of the trees on the island.

When the Morris family left the house in 1856, its next occupant was the publisher Edward Lloyd (1815-1890). Lloyd made his fortune from publishing ‘Penny Dreadfuls’, cheap semi-plagiarisms of Dickens’s novels, and bloodthirsty melodramas.

Lloyd left the house in 1885, five years before his death. His son Frank eventually donated the house and grounds to Walthamstow and ‘Lloyd Park’ was opened in July 1900.

William Morris Gallery wiki commons Richard Dunn

You can see details of the artefacts and exhibitions at the gallery website. On a Saturday you can combine your visit with some street food from the Lloyd Park Market or enjoy a picnic in the extensive grounds.

At the end of the day we felt very pleased with ourselves, having updated our knowledge of important figures in the history of political discourse.

References

  1. The Village that Changed the World. A History of Newington Green, London N16, Alex Allardyce
  2. wollstonecraftwalks.netlify.app/podcast
  3. historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/The-Oldest-Terraced-Houses-in-London
  4. wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Price
  5. thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/In_Search_of_Mary:_The_Mother_of_all_Journeys_by_Bee_Rowlatt
  6. wmgallery.org.uk/home
  7. vam.ac.uk/articles/introducing-william-morris
  8. E P Thompson. William Morris : From Romantic to Revolutionary.
  9. shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=845
  10. wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodford_Hall

COVID Recovery? What next?

“But what does it mean, the plague? It’s life, that’s all.”

Albert Camus, The Plague

COVID-19 has demonstrated that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. ” – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

There may have been a fleeting chance humans could have halted spread of SARS-2 and driven it back into nature, as happened with its cousin, SARS-1. But that door was firmly shut long ago.” 1

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Corona_virus_Covid-19_Single_Virion.png
3D-illustration of a single Corona virus Covid-19 particle with alpha.
April 2020WikiCommons HFCM Communicatie

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

On 12 January 2020, it was announced that a novel coronavirus had been identified in samples obtained from cases and that initial analysis of virus genetic sequences suggested that this was the cause of the outbreak. This virus is referred to as SARS-CoV-2, and the associated disease as COVID-19.

According to Worldometer, on 27 January, 2022, 5,648,004 people had died from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. There were 364,164,844 confirmed cases in 223 countries.  

In the UK there have been 16,149,319 confirmed cases and 154,702 deaths. It has the third highest death rate in Western Europe.

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Wiki Commons

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When I was a medical student in Sheffield back in the seventies, we were informed by our Microbiology lecturer, that we would experience a major pandemic at some point in our careers. This prediction was only slightly off the mark. I retired in 2014.

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University of Sheffield 1972 D Dixon Creative Commons

In April 2020 I received an email from the General Medical Council informing me that my registration and licence to practise had been temporarily restored, as part of the UK government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The email stated ‘ You have a choice about whether to return to work’. I am a person with a conscience and what is more I was suffering from ‘survivor guilt’. I didn’t feel as if I had a choice. It just seemed my duty to step up.

An antique is revived

That said, I was aware of the increased risk I faced due to being in my sixties. So, I worked remotely for Test and Trace until I had my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on board I then did my vaccinator training and headed off to the coal face.

Let’s be clear. I had been delighted to retire. I had been stressed out by the pressure of work and my constant fear of making a mistake was getting worse. The idea of returning was not floating my boat. So vaccinating seemed ideal as it was very much needed and yet less demanding than actual GP front line work. And I absolutely loved it. It was tiring and repetitive but the punters were so grateful, the team work fun and the feeling of being part of the effort was amazing.

And now, two years on with cases still through the roof, a pesky variant and a government that doesn’t like taking sensible public health measures, the future remains uncertain. Two big questions are going round and round in my head:

When and how will this end?

What will be the societal effects?

During my retirement I’ve become interested in History, (at school I couldn’t wait to drop it) so I am going to attempt to answer these questions by looking back in time.

How, why and when do pandemics end?

If you listen to this podcast episode (along with Part 2), if will become clear that there is really no excuse for the UK government’s mantra ‘we are in unprecedented waters.’ (Another question is why on earth did they not take lessons from how the Far Eastern nations damped down SARS? 2 ) Heh Ho

My first thought, before ‘looking at the past to see the future’ is that pandemics DO end. That said, previous viruses have not completely gone away; a descendent of the Spanish flu virus, the modern H1N1, circulates to this day, as does H3N2, a non-human influenza virus that normally circulates in pigs and that has infected humans as ‘swine flu’. The end to the pandemic phase will come when the infective agent runs out of enough susceptible people to infect to keep cases high and/or rising; in other words, when cases are at a level where they are low and not growing. We then describe the causative agent as ‘endemic’. Read more here about the difference between endemic, hyperendemic, epidemic and pandemic .

Whatever our politicians may tell you, Covid 19 is not yet endemic. We remain in a pandemic.

In the case of COVID-19, the end could be protracted. As Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation said in his New Year message ‘Narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding by some countries have undermined equity, and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of the Omicron variant.3

The latest estimates indicate that in the UK vaccines have prevented 230,800 hospitalisations and between 119,500 and 126,800 deaths.4 But current vaccines are less good at offering immunity to mild disease because we live in a petri dish which is perfect for the development of vaccine resistant strains. After omicron, other variants could keep coming through in waves. There is no guarantee that each wave will be less deadly, as has been suggested 5. So the emergence of a vaccine resistant and highly virulent variant is a possible nightmare scenario. Dr Ghebreyesus stressed that the longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of this virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict. 

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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, Yale Club, New York
2017
M. Jacobson – Gonzalez – ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland

Put simply, if we end inequity, we end the pandemic. Individuals, political parties and other organisations have been trying to do this but so far have failed. And in fact, inequality has widened during the pandemic6

Through the ACT-A( Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator partnership), WHO and it’s partners are helping to make vaccines, tests and treatments accessible to people who need them, all over the world. Its mission is central to ending the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An editorial in the Lancet concluded that ‘ACT-A is, in many ways, a traditional global health entity’. 7 It continues ‘Funding follows an international aid model, depending on the benevolence of rich donors. The result is a funding shortfall and a system not based on solidarity but rather one that reinforces inequities. This setup must be rethought.’ 

So, despite the amazing and prompt success of vaccine programmes and improved treatments, we enter the third year of this pandemic, with much uncertainty but the chance to end it this year, according to Dr Ghebreyesus, but only if we do it together.  This, he says, is how:

All countries must work together to reach the global target of vaccinating 70% of people in all countries by the middle of 2022. 

Governments must continue using tailored public health and social measures, including testing, sequencing and reporting of variants by all countries.

All of us need to play our part, with masks, distancing, avoiding crowds, meeting outside when possible or in a well-ventilated space indoors. 

We must build a stronger global framework for global health security. 

All countries must invest in stronger primary health care, as the foundation of universal health coverage.

All of this is vital, yet seems extremely ambitious. In January 2022, only 5.5% of people in developing countries have been vaccinated, according to Tortoise Meida. (@tortoise) (Read more about Tortoise’s efforts to vaccinate the world here

And, apart from the death and disease burden caused by COVID-19, the pandemic threatens two decades of progress on health. Millions of people have missed out on other routine vaccinations, services for family planning, treatment for communicable and noncommunicable diseases, and more. 

thanks to Our World in Data

Societal Effects of the Covid 19 pandemic

Tortoise Media reported on a new survey for Adecco, a Zurich-based recruitment group, which looked at big economies’ policy responses to the pandemic. The UK ranks the 20th out of 20. Britain failed to control the spread of the virus despite “massive investments” equivalent to 19.3 percent of GDP, the report says, then risked labour market disruptions by withdrawing support for firms and individuals before most other countries. 

It ranked South Korea first for taming the pandemic, with minimal economic damage and impact on healthcare systems for an outlay of 6.4 per cent of GDP.

Singapore also did well, with the strongest economic upsurge, 80 per cent of its population fully vaccinated and one of the world’s lowest per capita COVID-19 fatality rates;

The conclusion was that prioritising public health and saving lives early in the pandemic was the best approach in economic as well as health terms. It’s not controversial to say that this was NOT the approach of our government in the UK.

Tortoise concludes that our recovery is fragile, from a low base, following a full-blown public health catastrophe.

Does history give us any useful hints on how best to prevent economic and broader societal damage?

Step back in time

During previous pandemics there were fewer interventions available and yet they ended, albeit having inflicted death and disability on a grand scale. There were no flu vaccines available during the badly named ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918. Although basic public health measures (eg social distancing and mask wearing) saved many lives in some areas, this pandemic caused more deaths than the Second World War. A massive question is ”Why did the latter persist in our memory and the former did not (to any great extent)?” Less devastating influenza pandemics have followed.

I remember my Dad being very poorly during the flu pandemic of 1968. (It did him good: he gave up smoking!) It was known that this flu was due to H3N2.

Influenza virus.png
H3N2 Influenza virus, the causative agent of the 1968 global epidemic. Negatively stained virions Magnification: approximately x70,000. Micrograph from F. A. Murphy, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis.

In 2009, Swine Flu, which was due to a new H1N1 variant of Influenza A, emerged. The world finally had the capacity to make hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine 1. To be fair to my lecturer, this pandemic did have some impact on me, though it went largely unnoticed when compared with COVID-19. I remember my daughter having a very nasty fever and being prescribed the antiviral, Oseltamivir,under  a temporary protocol. I also remember being given the vaccine, as a health worker, and feeling a bit ‘off’. The current flu vaccines now target the swine flu virus as well as other circulating strains.

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H1N1, cyber cobra link

During these small scale pandemics, the human immune system learnt to fend off severe infections most of the time. Humans and viruses reached an immunological détente1. Over time the viruses came to trigger small surges of milder illness. Pandemic flu became seasonal flu. The viruses became endemic. If this pattern holds, SARS-CoV2 will at some point join the list of human coronaviruses that cause colds, mainly in the winter, when conditions favour their transmission1 . But all of those pandemics were influenza pandemics. A different pathogen could mean we’ll see a different pattern. It is disingenuous for governments to promote the ‘it will just be a cold’ theory as fact in order to suite their own ideologies.

There may well have been previous coronavirus pandemics; “The Russian flu” of 1889 might actually have been caused by one of the human coronaviruses, OC43, although the likelihood is that this was indeed influenza. All four of the human coronaviruses are assumed to have jumped to people from an animal species; OC43 is believed to have come from cattle.

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The Prevailing Epidemic. Mr Punch in front of a fire eating gruel: ‘It’s no joke being funny with the influenza’ Punch magazine, c. 1891. Engraving by J. Leech. The cartoon refers to the Russian Flu, the influenza pandemic 1889/1890.creative commons
Plagues
Black Death
The Plague of Florence in the 14th century, as described by Giovanni Boccaccio.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Plague affects animals and humans. It is caused by the bacillus bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is found in rodents and their fleas and still occurs in many areas of the world. There are two main clinical forms: bubonic and pneumonic. Bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterized by painful swollen lymph nodes or ‘buboes’. It can be a very severe disease in people, with a case-fatality ratio of 30% to 60% for the bubonic type, the pneumonic kind is nearly always fatal when left untreated. Fortunately nowadays antibiotics are effective against plague, so early diagnosis and early treatment saves lives.

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A flea infected with yersinia pestis, shown as a dark mass.
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. wiki commons
File:Yersinia pestis fluorescent.jpeg
Yersinia pestis, Direct Fluorescent Antibody Stain (DFA), 200x Magnification. CDC 2057 – US Government public domain image

During the earlier pandemics of the middles ages people understood that the illnesses were spread by close contact, social distancing is not a new concept. It was also known that you had to be very careful with goods that were being traded, because the disease could be spread on objects and surfaces.

The Black Death

The Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic, which lasted between 1348 and 1350, killed between 75 million and 200 million people worldwide and about half of the population. Plagues used to be considered “big levellers”. Death rates were similar across different social groups and inequality was reduced, since the catastrophic mortality tended to drive up wages and decrease accommodation costs 8. The Black Death was followed by a dramatic cumulative fall in Gross Domestic Product of 29% . Nevertheless, as a consequence of the scarcity of labour, real farm wages in England went up (cumulatively) by 116.2% whereas those of building craftsmen went up by ‘only’ 42.6%, which makes sense if we consider that avoiding a disruption in farm production was a priority. At the same time, flight from cities led to a downward pressure on rents and, therefore, the incomes of the upper class8.

The Great Plague
Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome Columbina, ad vivum delineavit. Paulus Fürst Excud. The beak contains herbs and spices and prevented transmission by acting as a barrier (nothing to do with the contents, as was thought at the time! )

At the end of August 1665, a consignment of fabric was sent from the London to a tailor in Eyam, Derbyshire. Contained in the bale of damp cloth were fleas carrying plague. The tailor’s assistant, George Viccars, received the bundle and set the cloth out to dry by the fire. After a raging fever, George died on 7 September 1665, and more began dying in the household and immediate neighbourhood soon after.9

As the epidemic spread and those with the means fled, the remaining villagers turned to their rector, the Rev. William Mompesson, and Puritan minister Thomas Stanley. To prevent the disease spreading to neighbouring parishes and beyond, Mompesson and Stanley successfully persuaded the villagers to quarantine Eyam from the outside world.

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Mickie collins / Eyam Plague House / CC BY-SA 2.0
Influenza Epidemic 1918.

The 1918 flu is also known as the Spanish Flu. The first reports emerged from Spain because news in this neutral country was not censored. In other western countries it was suppressed to protect morale in populations already devastated by World War 1. There is no consensus as to where the flu came from but military camps and human/animal contact in farming communities were important in it’s spread if not it’s origin.

There were three waves, the second being several times more virulent than the other two.

The pandemic  lasted until 1920 (with possible small outbreaks till the mid twenties) and is considered the deadliest  pandemic in modern history. Between 50 and 100 million people died worldwide.

The 1918 flu pandemic had a short-lived but devastating effect in Spain itself 10. In Spain, 300,000 died for a death rate of 1.4 percent, around the European average. Unlike previous pandemics, it increased inequality, as the better-off could afford to socially distance to protect themselves. Thus, mortality was not equally distributed across different social classes, being higher among the poorest. Neither did Spanish flu lead to wage increases. Furthermore, its economic consequences were short-lived, and did not result in institutional reforms and economic development.

The mortality differences among different socio-economic groups were really stark. The high-income group (liberal professions and property owners) had an average excess mortality rate of 29 per cent, compared to 69 per cent in the low-income group and 62 per cent in the mid-income group.

A century ago Spain was a developing country. It was unable to control mortality from Influenza in the absence of pharmacological measures and stringent lockdowns. A large part of the population was poor, with neither savings nor property. Education levels were extremely low, and more than half the population was illiterate. Health was also poor, with high infant mortality rates. Life expectancy was slightly more than 41 years.

el dia
‘The fearsome flu… the truth about the evil afflicting Spain.’ El Día newspaper, 3 October 1918. Photo: Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid via a CC-BY-NC 2.5 ES licence

The fact that the Spanish population was aware of the spread of the illness helped. Newspapers regularly published news on the pandemic, and authorities publicised and implemented several measures to fight it. The government recommended hand washing and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces. They cancelled festivals and closed theatres and music halls. Schools and universities were also closed. However, here is scarce evidence of mask wearing and no strict lockdowns and workplace closures. Self-isolation was a personal option, dependent on economic circumstances 9. People in isolation had to survive on their own resources, since public support did not exist.

Unlike with COVID-19, young adults were the most affected in terms of mortality. The peak was in people aged between 25 and 29.

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Gauze Mask to Halt Spread of Plague (Spanish flu) – The Washington Times.September 1918

Turning to the wider picture with regard to Spanish Flu, researchers analyzed mortality data from more than 40 countries 11. These accounted for 92 percent of the world’s population in 1918 and an even larger share of its GDP. The mortality rate varied from 0.3 percent in Australia, which imposed a quarantine in 1918, to 5.8 percent in Kenya and 5.2 percent in India, which lost 16.7 million people over the three years of the pandemic. The flu killed 550,000 in the United States, or 0.5 percent of the population.

There is little reliable data on how many people were infected by the virus. The most common estimate, one third of the population, is based on a 1919 study of 11 US cities; it may not be representative of the US population, let alone the global population.

The researchers estimate that in the typical country, the pandemic reduced real per capita GDP by 6 percent and private consumption by 8 percent, declines comparable to those seen in the Great Recession of 2008–2009. In the United States, the flu’s toll was much lower: a 1.5 percent decline in GDP and a 2.1 percent drop in consumption.

Social distancing saved thousands of American lives 12.

From the first known case, at a Kansas military base in March 1918, the flu spread across the country.

Philadelphia detected its first case of the influenza pandemic on September 17. The next day, in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread, city officials launched a campaign against coughing, spitting, and sneezing in public. Ten days later the city hosted a parade that 200,000 people attended.

Shortly after public health measures were put in place in Philadelphia, a case appeared in St. Louis. Two days later, the city shut down public gatherings and quarantined victims in their homes. The cases slowed. By the end of the pandemic, more than 500,000 Americans had died but the death rate in St. Louis was less than half of the rate in Philadelphia.

Flu cases continued to mount until finally, on October 3, schools, churches, theatres, and public gathering spaces were closed down.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Weekly_excess_flu_death_rates_per_100%2C000_for_4_US_cities_final_16_weeks_of_1918.jpg
Weekly excess flu death rates per 100,000 for 4 US cities final 16 weeks of 1918. creative commons

The most drastic, prompt and sweeping measures paid off. St. Louis, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Kansas City responded fastest and most effectively: Interventions there were probably cut transmission rates by 30 to 50 percent.

20th Century problems

The rise of globalization and urbanization in the past century have made containing a pandemic increasingly hard, while the tools available to respond have remained nearly the same as they have been for centuries. Now as then, public health interventions are the first line of defence against an epidemic in the absence of a vaccine, or until one is developed. These measures are now well known to us and include closing schools, shops, and restaurants; placing restrictions on transport; mandating social distancing, and banning public gatherings.

Another important conclusion is easily reached: relaxing public health measures too early could cause an otherwise stabilized city to relapse. St. Louis, for example, was so emboldened by its low death rate that the city lifted restrictions on public gatherings less than two months after the outbreak began. A rash of new cases soon followed. Of the US cities that kept interventions in place, none experienced a second wave of high death rates. This should be a lesson for the UK which is currently once again relaxing measures to a bare minimum with high cases levels. 1 in 30 people in the UK currently has symptomatic COVID-19. Learn more about this by listening here

What can be done to recover?

Has there been any progress as a result of the pandemic itself? Maybe. Working from home suits some people and is good for the climate crisis. People have been able to participate in events via Zoom etc that were only accessible in real life in pre-COVID-19 times. Maybe vaccine technology was accelerated, telemedicine is a step forward too whatever the tabloids may say.

But in many ways it has been a wasted opportunity. Countries shouldn’t be waiting for the virus to transition into an endemic mode. They should be using the public health measures outlined by Dr Ghebreyesus, which have been shown to stop transmission. We should be developing truly global and integrated pandemic plans and strengthening health systems in the global South.

Although the world economy and the international organisation of production are very different now, the Spanish flu is an example of what happens in a developing economy in which social distancing is difficult (and indeed in poorer sections of developed nations). Social protection and government economic support were scant, the labour market was mainly unregulated, and household savings were scarce. Many people had to work during the worst months of the pandemic and were infected. Without self-isolation, mortality rates were staggering.

So, it is important to look beyond the negative impact of financial stress on the economy and pay particular attention to those who will lose their jobs or take an income hit if they are self isolating. Welfare benefits, which, in the UK are much lower than those in other countries or the OECD average should be representative of the living wage. The pandemic makes a strong case for Universal Basic Income. 13

Looking at the history of pandemics, there is also the hope that wages will have to rise. However, despite labour shortages, there is no sign of this happening currently. It should definitely apply, as a matter of urgency, to those on the front line, such as nurses, whose starting salaries declined in real terms after the last financial crisis. Front line workers in the care sector and those keeping the food chain and transport going (now called ‘essential workers’) are usually on low pay. They are now more valued by fellow citizens but to date the financial reward has not been realised. If I were on charge I would fund these increases by scraping the nuclear weapons programme; but I am not!

Finally, a global, coordinated approach is needed to benefit all. WHO needs to be better funded with income from levies on all countries proportional to their ability to pay. I look forward to a day when the Health Ministries of all countries report to, and provide funding to the WHO. This would be real globalisation. I dream on.



References

1. Branswell, Helen. How the Covid pandemic ends. Statnews.com. May 2021

2. Overby J, Rayburn M, Hammond K, Wyld D. The China Syndrome:the impact of the SARS epidemic in Southeast Asia. Asia PAcific Journal of Marketing and Logistics.16(1): 69–94. Mar 1;2004

3. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation. 2021 has been tumultuous but we know how to end the pandemic and promote health for all in 2022. 30 December 2021 who.int/news-room/commentaries

4.Public Health England. Protecting and Improving the Nation’s Health.Covid 19 Surveillance Report Week 38

5. Feil E, Yates, C. Will coronavirus really evolve to become less deadly? theconversation.com. 1 Feb, 2021.

6. Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review. Professor Sir Michael Marmot Jessica Allen  Peter Goldblatt  Eleanor Herd  Joana Morrison December 2020

7. Editorial: The ACT Accelerator: heading in the right direction? The Lancet, 397, 17 April 2021

8. Milas, C. Covid-19 and economic lessons from previous pandemics. blogslse.ac.uk March 2020

9. wellcomecollection.org. Wool, Fleas, Plague. Photography by Simon Norfolk 11 June 2019

10. Basco,S. Domènech, J. Roses, J. The 1918 flu pandemic left Spain a more unequal country, blogslse.ac.uk March 2021

11. Maas, S. Social and Economic Impacts of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. The Digest 5 May 2020

12. Strochlic, B. Champine, A. Hw some cities ‘flattened the curve’ during the 1918 Flu Pandemic. National Geographic, 27 March 2020

13 Nettle, D. Johnson E, Johnson M, Saxe, R. Why has the Covid19 pandemic increased support for Universal Basic Income? Nature 17 March 2021

Pheasants Galore

Faccombe

Faccombe is a village in Hampshire, situated a short drive south west of our house. The village is on the North Downs.

A large part of the parish is part of the Faccombe Estate which is used for pheasant shooting, which I find deeply disturbing. The pheasants are cute, rather stupid characters who are everywhere. They are fed by the estate, and then duped into being targets. There are many on the roads. They panic when they hear a car and then run straight at it instead of into the hedgerows. They finally realise they need to change direction or take off vertically and flap their wings like mad. Poor things. Should you so wish, you can find out more about the shooting season, which has just begun, below https://www.davidbeardsmoreshooting.com/post/pheasant-shooting-season

File:Pheasant.jpg
Copyright Gary Noon Wikicommons

The estate is, or was, owned by the Landon family1,2 and includes, interestingly, a wind turbine, which has been there since 1993!

Starting from the Victorian Church of St Barnabas, we set out on part of the Test Way3. We passed corn fields and then descended through a wooded glade before being disturbed by the sound of pheasant shooting.

Fortunately the shooting stopped and the party drove off in convoy. We sat by a pile of logs to enjoy our sandwiches.

Note the turbine

Clearly, Mr T had earned a pint! There is nothing traditional about the estate owned Jack Russell 4 This is a new, albeit tasteful, build overlooking the village pond. The Dog House accommodation is distinctly upmarket. I wouldn’t say no to a night there.

All in all, Faccombe is picturesque but rather weird. It could definitely feature in a TV murder mystery.

References

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/aug/28/guardianobituaries.military
  2. arthurlandon.wordpress.com/about
  3. http://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/things-to-do/the-test-way-walk-p1570951
  4. thejackrussellinn.com

Indian Summer

Last Sunday I was beyond excited to get back to Harris Manchester College Chapel.1 My first visit since Covid19 struck, so it must be two years or nearly that. This tranquil space, with its magnificent windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones, specifically caters those who refuse to be designated to any one faith. It is for all to enjoy, regardless of belief. Regular services in the Unitarian and liberal religious tradition are held on Sunday mornings. For me it works well alongside Buddhist Meditation.

The service was led by Bert, The Lapsed Atheist2 , and focussed on the Catholic Roots of Liberation Theology which is way more interesting than it sounds. Essentially, Bert introduced us to some pioneers of social justice within the Catholic Church. A recording will be available soon at ukunitarians.org.uk/oxford/sermons.htm

Harris Manchester College

Harris Manchester College (HMC) is the only college in the University of Oxford dedicated to taking students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, aged 21 or over.

The college was founded for those who could not accept the beliefs of any particular denomination, and this open spirit continues today. The college has a radical dissenting edge, putting inclusivity and diversity at the heart of it’s values.  

Although founded in the eighteenth century, it arrived in Oxford at the end of the nineteenth century and occupies an enviable central position, with fine buildings and accommodation.

History of HMC

in 1757, The Warrington Academy, a dissenting academy, is founded in Warrington, Cheshire. Tutors included Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen.


joseph priestley arlosh hall portrait

The Warrington Academy closed in 1786 and a new dissenting academy was founded, the Manchester Academy. It provided higher education to religious non-conformists, training people for the learned professions and civil and commercial life.

In 1840 The Manchester Academy received a Royal Letter in Council signed by Queen Victoria, making it a Collegiate Society of the University of London, with the same status as University College and King’s College. Thirteen years later, Manchester College moved to London.

Following the abolition of the religious tests at Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham Universities, Manchester College moved to Oxford in 1889. The college was initially housed on the High Street but moved to its current Mansfield Road site in 1893 when construction of the new college buildings was completed.

Chapel Walk along the River Cherwell

After coffee, four of us took off for a walk north along the Cherwell. This river is a tributary of the River Thames. It rises in Northamptonshire and flows southwards for 40 miles to meet the Thames at  Oxford. It is the second largest tributary of the The Thames after the Kennet, which flows through my own home town of Newbury.

We took the bus back to town and then I headed home in the car with a sense of accomplishment.

References

  1. http://www.hmc.ox.ac.uk/chapel#/
  2. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dancing-Mortality-Reflections-Lapsed-Atheist/dp/1838169504

West Sussex in September

A bad forecast, petrol shortage and high rates of Covid19 led us to cancel our trip up to Yorkshire. We were sorry to miss seeing friends and the Halifax area again. There was one good day during the week and we were determined to make the most of it.

Black Down

This is a wild plateau-like landscape 1 of wavy hair grass, purple heather and pine trees. It is internationally important heathland. I found it breathtaking and like nowhere else I had visited. I am in good company. The views also inspired the wonderful Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. ‘You came and looked and loved the view, long known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue with one grey glimpse of sea.’

We were surprised by the ‘sense of timelessness’ described by the National Trust. Not a motor vehicle to be heard, which is unusual in this part of the world. Traders, shepherds and quarrymen have been using these tracks for thousands of years.

The flanks of Black Down have old flower-rich meadows, ancient woodland and copses. The meadows are cut for hay, which is used to feed the cows over the winter. internationally important heathland.

It’s very nice to get an extra chance to sit in the sun so late in the season and with this in mind we prolonged the experience in the garden of The Selborne Arms 2

The Zig Zag Path

The pub is situated right next door to this amazing pathway constructed in the eighteenth century by the naturalist and clergyman Gilbert White 3 and his brother.

The views from the common at the top of the path are well worth the effort. This is part of the Butterfly Walk. Read more here 4

References

  1. nationaltrust.org.uk/black-down
  2. selbornearms.co.uk
  3. gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk
  4. nationaltrust.org.uk/selborne-common/trails/selborne-common-and-the-lythe-butterfly-walk

Greenham 40th Anniversary #GW40

‘When a few dozen women set out with their children to march to Greenham Common one glorious summer day in 1981, they had no notion how radically their lives would soon be changed.  Nor could they have dreamed that their small anti-nuclear demonstration would spark off a mass feminist protest lasting more than a decade, it’s influence felt all over the world.’

So says the journalist David Fairhall, who wrote the wonderful book, Common Ground.  

Prelude

Before the pandemic struck, in Winter 2019 to be precise, three of us spent an hour or so in the Wellcome Cafe talking, amongst other things, about what we could do to mark the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of the peace protesters at the Greenham Common USAF/RAF airbase in September 1981. Back then, one of us had not been born, one was a child and one (that’s me) was a young woman. Only one of us ended up at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. No, actually, it wasn’t me. I was too much of a wimp, had only a vague idea where Greenham was and in any case, I was working very hard in hospitals up North. But I was in awe of the women and how they stuck it out for years, in increasingly difficult circumstances, to bring the imposition onto our soil of American nuclear weapons to the attention of a wide audience.

London's Top Museum Cafés | Londonist
Wellcome Cafe, thank you to the Londonist

Rebecca’s Mum took her to Greenham, which is near Newbury, when she was a child. This made a massive difference to her life. Her mum was radicalised as a feminist and this changed how Becca was raised and led her to go into peace and women’s rights activism.

Image
Rebecca Mordan

 Becca has a background in acting and runs the theatre company Scary Little Girls. This partnered with a fantastic online resource called The Heroine Collective, to undertake an archiving exercise, to make sure the oral histories of the Peace Camp don’t die. The project led to Greenham Women Everywhere.

Dr Sophie Frost is an arts consultant and academic with an interest in feminism and social justice. Like myself, an ex-parish councillor and Newbury resident since 1997, she has been involved in the past in the re-development of Greenham Control Tower

Meet the One by One Digital Fellows - One by One
Sophie Frost

The Peace Camp

Women in the foreground gather before an action in front of some of the underground military buildings in the background. (Bridget Boudewijn)
Women in the foreground gather before an action in front of some of the military buildings (Bridget Boudewijn)

Forty years ago a small group of women, along with a few men and children, marched from Cardiff to protest against the proposed arrival of US nuclear warheads at USAF/RAF Greenham Common. This led to the establishment of the Greenham women’s peace camp, which at its height gathered more than 70,000 women for direct action and became the biggest female-led protest since women’s suffrage.

Women (for it soon became women only), despite being subjected to increasingly harsh conditions due to repeated evictions, maintained a constant presence at the Base for two decades, seeing the arrival and departure of the nuclear war heads as well as the restoration of the base to common land. This amazing saga is described in the books listed below

You can get a sense of the protest and the camp in this clip from ‘Carry Greenham Home’

Next steps

In a nutshell, we held Zoom calls with representatives from Greenham Tower (notably the Awesome Ceinwen Lally and the Talented Professor Andy Kempe) and Greenham Women Everywhere. The former secured funding to host the weekend events from Greenham Trust and the latter from The Arts Council, to fund the march and events on Sunday.

Ceinwen Lally
May be an image of Andy Kempe
Andy Kempe

We just got on with it. The result, after copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears is the march, the joyous weekend outlined below and the related events. Ceinwen and Vanessa, from Greenham Women Everywhere, were the masterminds and main ‘hands on’ people, but there were many others.

Vanessa on the job

The March

First thing to say is that I wasn’t there. However, the amazing photographer, Wendy Carrig, has documented the march on Twitter (@wendycarrig). Wendy held an exhibition “Common People’ in Greenham Control Tower in 2019. She had stayed at the peace camp for two weeks as a student, so was able to show her original black and white work, which formed part of her dissertation. ‘Common People’ rekindled her passion for the camp and she was therefore keen to participate in and document the march.

Wendy Carrig on the March

Also, you can read about each day of the march here

And, just to prove that we went over to Hungerford to meet the march on the penultimate day, here is my photo:

Hungerford Croft

And here is the unofficial arrival of the march on the evening of Friday, 3rd September. We met the marchers at ‘Blue Gate’, on the extreme western edge of the common.

Arrival at Blue Gate, photo GWE

Next, we led the march over to the tower. The last 20 minutes of such a long journey!

Image
The March arrives at Tower. Credit to Lee at O2photo for his drone

GW40 Weekend at Greenham Control Tower

Programme of Events

Saturday, 4 September

We cycled over the Common to the tower. I have covered this 3.5 miles many times but never cease to reflect on the peace and beauty of the place.

File:Cycle Track, Greenham Common - geograph.org.uk - 1471049.jpg
Thanks to Kurt C, creative commons

The restoration of the common in the 1990s would be another huge blog post but I must just mention that the peace women who remained at Yellow Gate after the missiles left played no small part in this legal process.

The Peace Fence

Ceinwen (right) and Maria add the spider! Thanks to Howard Grace

Here is the fence at the end of Saturday

Thanks again to Howard for the photo and to the stitchers, knitters and public!

The Tent

Here is the lovely stretch tent that housed the afternoon’s events.

First up were the Creators of Peace , a global women’s peace initiative that was launched in 1991 at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, Switzerland, by Anna Abdallah Msekwa, a respected politician and trailblazer of women-led organisations in Tanzania. In her inaugural speech she made a call to action to “create peace wherever we are, in our hearts, our homes, our workplace and our community. We all pretend that someone else is the stumbling block … could that someone be myself?”

Elizabeth Laskar and Miranda Shaw have been UK Coordinators for Creators of Peace for over a decade. 

El (right), Miranda and Ceinwen. Photo Howard Grace

The workshop with El and Miranda was really thought provoking. They will work with groups of all types, from my reading group in West Berks to women escaping war zones. I’m sure we will work with them in the future.

The participants complete a peace circle. Photo Howard Grace

From Greenham to Peace Treaties

Our next speaker was the remarkable Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Nobel
Rebecca with the Nobel Peace Prize. (Photo: Ari Beser)

Rebecca is a feminist campaigner for peace, security and justice. She lived at Greenham for five years and also started the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp with two Greenham campers in 1985.  While living at Greenham she helped organise ‘Embrace the Base, Close the Base’ when 35,000 women encircled the airbase on 12-13 December 1982, danced on the nuclear shelters, occupied our control tower, and much more. 

Ninety six cruise missiles (and four spares) arrived at Greenham in November 1983. But eventually the women of Greenham succeeded in their quest to raise awareness about these nuclear weapons and on 1 August 1989 the first missiles left. Their protest contributed to a dialogue that eventually led to the removal of the missiles. It took nearly two years for all of the missiles to be removed, the final missile left for destruction on 5 March 1991.

The political dialogue between the Soviets and the US had eventually led to the treaty between the US and the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics on the elimination of their Intermediate-Range And Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). This was signed by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987.

After the INF Treaty, Rebecca Johnson worked with international activists and Geneva diplomats to ban nuclear testing.  She founded the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy in 1995, and still provides research and implementation strategies for various disarmament treaties.  After spending two years in Scotland as a coordinator for Faslane 365, Rebecca became a co-founding Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons — ICAN — which in 2017 was awarded a collective Nobel Peace Prize for their work to achieve the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  

This is an international treaty banning all nuclear weapons that has been ratified by 51 countries and that campaigners hope which will help raise the profile of global deterrence efforts. It came into force this year. Although in some respects the step is largely symbolic because the world’s nuclear powers have not signed up, the treaty will be legally binding on the smaller nations that have endorsed it, and it is backed by the UN leadership. This Treaty outlaws the creation, ownership and deployment of nuclear weapons by signatory states and places obligations on them to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

Rebecca, second from the right, at the camp. Newbury Today

In 2019 US President Donald Trump US “suspended” the INF Treaty. A day later Vladimir Putin announced Russia would suspend as well.  Freed of the Treaty’s restraints, Russia is now poised to deploy a new generation of medium-range nuclear weapons on its territory again.

This year Boris Johnson’s decided to increase the cap on British nuclear stockpiles by more than 40%, from 180 to 260 Trident nuclear warheads.

Status of World Nuclear Forces; FAS

As ever, Rebecca was captivating and passionate. She invited ‘veterans’ to tell their stories and interspersed these with her own. She punctuated these with serious messages about the fragile state of our peace.

Rebecca Johnson addresses members of the public and ‘veterans’ from the peace camp. Photo HG

Many Newbury residents worked at the USAF/RAF base and still have strong feelings about the Cold War era. Some were strongly opposed to the women, others took a more nuanced view. Other locals actively supported the women. A school boy’s research project revealed a 50:50 split amongst those living very near the base. This can be found in West Berkshire Museum.

Younger people living locally often have no idea of the common’s recent past which is why events like this are so important.

On this occasion, I am told, only one person objected out loud to the presence of Rebecca and the women. He challenged the wisdom of having children at the camp, saying their health was being put at risk by the protesting mothers. (The child in question was present and now a strapping lad!) Another audience member explained that the weapons they were objecting to were far more dangerous. He was whisked away by visitors.

Jemima Brown’s Peace Camp

Jemima and Alexandra

While adults and children were happily engaged with the fence, artist Jemima Brown was holding a Family Sculpture workshop. Thermos flasks, scraps of fabric and other bits and pieces were being used to create sculptures and pictures celebrating the women of the Greenham Common peace camp.

Four little models of women in colourful coats and outfits are stood on a shelf on a wall. Recycled materials have been used to make the models.
Jemima’s third size sculptures o display.

The workshop ran along side Jemima’s exhibition ‘Peace Camp‘ which is at the West Berks Museum until 30 April, 2022. Sculptures also inhabit selected venues frequented by the peace women, including the Control Tower itself.

It was great to meet Alexandra Kokoli at last. Alexandra is working with Jemima on her book to accompany ‘Peace Camp’. She and my friend Chris got stuck in!

Sunday

A beautiful morning dawned and proceeded to be a cloudless day in which temperatures peaked at 28 degrees. (On this day in 1930 my Mum was born in Gorton, Manchester). (RIP)

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We were delighted to encounter Juley Howard the moment we arrived. There she was with her Singer Sewing Machine looking very content. Juley came to Greenham as a teenager and did her A levels at Newbury College. I don’t have a photo of her from today but here is one from Facebook. She is being interviewed on BBC’s Bargain Hunt and is speaking about her motivations for going to live at Greenham Common. The book she wrote with Faith Moulin, Righteous Anger, the story of the decade 1983-1993, gives an understanding of her moral imperative to stop the deployment of Cruise missiles and protest for world peace.

May be an image of 2 people
Juley on Bargain Hunt, thanks to Faith Moulin

Meet the Marchers

I really wasn’t sure about the concept of grown men (friends of mine, dare I add!) dressing up in quasi-decontamination suits and carrying their homemade bomb across the Common from Greenham Business Park. However, when they arrived, along with the Greenham Women, it was a resounding success. It was based on a 1980s procession by Oxford CND.

The marchers were greeted by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond and the Deputy Mayor of Thatcham, Jeff Brookes. Jeff gave an impassioned speech thanking the women for their tenacity, bravery and perseverance. He was very thankful.

Cllr Jeff Brookes, Deputy Mayor of Thatcham

Living Theatre Peace Camp

Thanks to Ceinwen, the Control Tower secured a grant from Greenham Trust. This enabled them to mount an exhibition called ‘Both Sides of the Fence’, secure the lovely stretch tent and hire the pop up loos! The biggest win though was the hiring of Dr Ronan Hatful (Newbury’s home grown Shakespeare scholar and tutor at Warwick University) to direct the dramatic re-enactment of the camp.

Ronan Hatful

In an understated way, the actors chatted, knitted, made tea and sang songs. The actual veteran protesters joined them, flitting in and out and teaching them new songs. It was charming.

I spent the rest of the day wandering and enjoying the relaxed, festival like atmosphere.

The day finished with a cabaret.

The wonderful Frankie Armstrong

And now for the last couple of words…….

Howard’s message, photo Maria Grace

It had been a weekend that surpassed our wildest dreams. We estimate that up to 800 people passed through. Feelings about the protest era in our town still run high and the population can seem divided at times. I hope this weekend has helped to heal wounds. The exhibition aims to tell everyone’s story; the voice of an actor reciting the words of an employee at the airbase who was ‘anti’ the peace women upset a younger activist. Fortunately we were able to calm her. It seems so much needs to be done till the world is really at peace.

Dinner with the Bomb Makers

Thanks to David Hatful for arranging a curry at The Gun, Wash Common (always to be recommended)

Associated Events

DRAWING TOWARDS PEACE

THURSDAY 21ST OCT 2021, THE LOOKOUT STUDIO, THE BASE, 10-1

As part of the ‘Summer on the Common’ programme this workshop with award winning contemporary artist Robert Fitzmaurice will enable participants to explore their personal feelings about Greenham Common, the peace movement and the forms of protest that took place using various drawing techniques and media.

BLOODY WIMMIN’ – 30/9 and 1/10 7.30-9pm Control Tower

A script-in-hand performance of Lucy Kirkwood’s acclaimed play

Opening with a snapshot of life in the women’s camp at Greenham circa 1983 then shifting to a contemporary extinction rebellion, the play gently pokes fun at the petty squabbling of the protestors as a contrast to the serious fights in which they are involved. The play is, in turns, wry, tense and ultimately poignant as a veteran Greenham woman proclaims that ‘it’s very easy to laugh at passion.’

This event will take place in a marquee. The play reading is about 45 minutes. We aim to have some discussion afterwards too.

Do bring warm clothing if the weather is cool.

Further Reading

David Fairhall, Common Ground

Ann Pettitt, Walking to Greenham

Kate Kerrow, Rebecca Mordan, Out of the Darkness

Juley Howard, Righteous Anger

Penelope Stokes, The Common Good

Dukkha

Dukkha is a pali term which roughly translates as suffering or unsatisfactoriness. It acknowledges the difficulties inherent in human existence. Buddhism recognises this in the first of the Four Noble Truths1. These truths normally help me keep dukkha in perspective but recently I’ve really been unable to see through it. I’ve been in glass half empty mode, so not able to blog. Nothing seemed of much interest. All the difficulties were magnified and the joys went by unnoticed. Even things that weren’t difficulties were imagined into being such.

Maybe this is what a pandemic can do to you. We face a second winter of discontent as the current wave intensifies. And not to mention the ‘Brexit’ Shortages.

It took the terrible events associated with Afghanistan falling to the Taliban to bring me to my senses. I’m now focussing on others while trying to be a bit kinder to myself. That might sound obvious but it hasn’t been.

West Sussex

We went to Langham Brewery2 and met our good friends for a walk in the surrounding sussex countryside.

On a trip to the seaside we stopped at The Old Cottage, Bexley Hill. See this tweet. https://twitter.com/timofnewbury/status/1428777782180552708?s=20. A later occupant was the artist, Kit Barker3 . Kit’s brother, the poet George4 , inspired Elizabeth Smart5 to write the wonderful prose poem, ‘By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept’. I thought of her when I was there (Grand Central I mean) and will now need to re-read it. I was going to make a judgment about George but had better not.

AND, we’ve had a few walks from local pubs. We found some rather wonderful, self important hens at The Old Boot, Stanford Dingley.

Sushi

We helped daughter move and then brought her home for a few days. The first day was lovely: a private garden yoga class for the two of us, then lunch in the market. I tried #sushi for the first time. Where have I been? It was delicious! THEN, she got a massage while I went to do some essential shopping. That last bit may sound a bit unfair but the yoga was her present to me and the massage was mine to her.

View over the Solent to the Isle of Wight and Southampton from my swimming spot, and the next best thing

I got some sea and pool swimming done too.

Growing stuff

And the garden continues to produce lovely veg.

Double Vaxxed

Ms Thomas finally got her second Pfizer vaccine and now feels very secure. She still worries about us, being well aware that she can still spread the virus, especially in the context of living in a city with no restrictions other than masks being mandated on public transport. Even that is not a regulation where we live. The whole idea of Freedom Day and ‘learning to live with Covid’ was mad. IMHO. I mean, about a hundred people are dying daily of Covid19. We could have kept more restrictions in place till as the younger were fully immunised, or had had the chance to be.

#Greenham40

We approach the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the peace women in Greenham Common. There will be celebrations over the weekend 4/5 September6 and my friend Jemima7, has a fab exhibition in the museum and around town.

Bits and pieces

I’ve read three very different books and enjoyed them all

  1. The Broken House by Horst Kruger8
  2. Seven Sisters Book One by Lucinda Riley 9
  3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie10

The third is my favourite, set during a period I remember from childhood but never understood. And of course, there has been Garden Yoga. Wonderful and very special.

May be an image of one or more people and outdoors
Shivasana at the end of class, a head massage is thrown in. Photo Thank you YogaDaya

I’m looking forward to getting back to The Buddhist Society classes and also U3A Book Club and Spanish. Some very different things.

Reading all this, the important question hits me. How can this person be upset by Dukkha? The answer is: not so easily if I just observe thoughts and move them out of my head to imaginary shelves. These are marked ‘Fear’ ‘Judgment’ ‘Self Doubt’. With all of this filed away there is no Dukkha but something more positive, calm and kind. Sending everyone joy……..

References

  1. http://www.theravada.gr/en/buddhism/the-four-noble-truths
  2. langhambrewery.co.uk
  3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kit_Barker
  4. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Barker_(poet)
  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_(Canadian_author)
  6. greenhamtower.org.uk
  7. jemimabrown.com
  8. theguardian.com/books/2021/jun/07/the-broken-house-by-horst-kruger-review-the-book-that-broke-the-silence
  9. lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series
  10. theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jan/14/half-of-a-yellow-sun-is-a-masterpiece-truth-fiction

Day Three Bristol: Then Home

Spike Island

Before checking out at 12 we take a nice walk along the Harbour to Spike Island 1.

This comprises the strip of land between the Floating Harbour to the north and the tidal New Cut of the River Avon to the south. The Floating Harbour is the former natural tidal River Avon. It was made into its current form in 1809 when the tide was prevented from going out permanently by a lock. A tidal by-pass was dug for 2 miles through fields producing the New Cut. (this is overgrown on the banks and it’s not currently possible to access a path).

In the Floating Harbour the water level remains constant and it is not affected by the state of the tide on the river in the Avon Gorge.

Spike Island was created by William Jessop in the early 19th century. Historically, it was the site of working quays, shipyards, warehousing and other associated dockside industry.

The Bristol Harbour Railway runs the length of the island, and formerly connected these working areas with the railway network. With the redevelopment of the docks, the Island has become a residential area. There are also restaurants and pubs. Other formerly dock-related buildings have become cultural venues, museums and office space

This area seems very Scandinavian to us. We are pining for Copenhagen.

We eat our breakfast by the harbour. It’s the biggest, tastiest, most calorific, yummy almond croissant I’ve had in a long time. I stick half in my bag to finish off on the platform in Westbury. Said croissant was from Mokoko2. (9 on the map)

Further west from Mokoko we see school kids heading into SS Great Britain3,4 (shown on the map)

File:SS Great Britain - starboard side.jpg
Great Britain credit Mike Peel wikicommons

SS Great Britain is one of the most important historic ships in the world. When she was launched in 1843 she was called ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation’.

By combining size, power and innovative technology, this was a stem ship ahead of it’s time, which changed history. 

Now a museum, this former passenger steam ship was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This is one person deserving of a statue and I stand and admire him at Padding Station whenever I am there. (not much in the Covid era) The ship operated between Bristol and New York City. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Great Britain was the first to combine these features. It was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean, in 1845, in the time of 14 days.

When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. But the protracted construction time of six years (1839–1845) and high cost had left the owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846, having spent all their remaining funds refloating the ship after it ran aground at Dundrum Bay, Country Down. In 1852 it was sold and repaired. 

Great Britain later carried thousands to Australia from 1852 until being converted to all-sail in 1881. Three years later, the ship was retired to the Falklands, where it was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until it was abandoned in 1937.

In 1970, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward paid for the vessel to be raised and repaired enough to be towed north through the Atlantic back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol where it had been built 127 years earlier.

And now, to the station and home, till the next water based jaunt!

PS, Some happy memories thanks to @timofnewbury

References

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_Island,_Bristol
  2. mokokocoffee.com
  3. ssgreatbritain.org
  4. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Great_Britain

Bristol Day 2 Evening

Read on and key will be explained

At The Bridge there is a lovely attentive new owner. The beer is really well kept and the outdoor seating, though roadside, is nice and quiet. The city centre traffic in Bristol really is minimal. It’s amazing. It’s 7 on the map

Hardings Pale Ale at The Bridge

After the pub we head to Fish 2

We get a take away Fish and Chips, with mushy peas for me, from this great place situated on a Dutch Barge. Nice food which you can eat from trestle tables out side by the harbour. It’s 8 on the map

Next we head back to the Cornubia.


Simcoe Smash from Lenton Lane in Notts

Simcoe Smash from Lenton Lane Brewery

References

  1. bridgeinnbristol.co.uk
  2. fishbristol.co.uk

Bristol Day 2

Read on and the key will be revealed

These days I often reflect on the fact that my parents never experienced a pandemic. There again they lived through World War Two. Mum as a child and teenager and Dad in the Airforce and then as a POW.1 Bristol suffered terribly from wartime bombing, as explained in my earlier post on this trip2, so you find a random old building amongst the soulless new.

Typical View on way back from porridge at Pret

Portishead3

We are getting the bus to the coast! Portishead, on the Severn estuary, has a long history as a fishing port. It expanded rapidly during the early 19th century around the docks, with supporting transport infrastructure. A power station and chemical works were added in the 20th century, but the dock and industrial facilities have since closed and been redeveloped into a marina and residential areas.

Unfortunately the beach is mud and not swimmable and I can’t quite get my head round the lido4.

Portishead Marina

We have a lovely walk round the headland, through woods to The Royal Inn5 which has been operational since 1830. Next stop is the Marina.

We get the bus back into town and climb the hill in Brandon Park to Cabot Tower6. (no 5 on the map) This is a grade II listed and was built in the 1890s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the journey of the Venetian, John Cabot, from Bristol to land which later became Canada.

We press on the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery7. We are booked into the exhibition Island Life which presents work from over 60 photographers in Martin Parr’s collection to provide a picture of life in post-war Britain and Ireland. It’s great but I am fading so retire the cafe and resuscitate myself with a pot of Earl Grey. Seriously, there are some fantastic documentary photographs in there. Quigley Point features, which takes me back to my childhood holidays in Donegal.

On the way home we take advantage of the lovely late afternoon weather and stop in busy Kings St at the Llandoger Trow8. (no 6 on the map) This pub dates from 1664. Near the old docks, it was named  by the sailor who owned the pub after Llandogo, just twenty miles away in Wales, a village which built trows (flat-bottomed river boats).

The pub was damaged in World War II, but remained in sufficiently good condition to be designated Grade II* listed building status in 1959. The pub is said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write of the Admiral Benbow Inn in Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe supposedly met Alexander Selkirk here, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. The pub is also supposedly haunted, with up to 15 ghosts, the best known being a small child whose footsteps can be heard on the top floor. The pub has an 18th-century shop front, but three of the original five projecting gables remain.  

QPA Quantock Brewery: Fantastic!
Llandoger Trow : Still standing! thank you gable

References

  1. thevaliantheart.wordpress.com
  2. wordpress.com/post/thommeg.wordpress.com/3188
  3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portishead,_Somerset
  4. portisheadopenairpool.org.uk
  5. theroyalinnportishead.co.uk
  6. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabot_Tower,_Bristol
  7. bristolmuseums.org.uk
  8. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llandoger_Trow