coronavirus – an April, May and June view from Padstow

June 12, 2020

With everyone and his dog claiming that ‘lockdown’ is somehow making us better more caring people with an enhanced sense of community is overlooking the bald fact that it’s also turning us into caricatures. Today Kim and Asta and I drove to Bodmin for a ‘click and collect’ at Morrisons. The reason we opted to go there rather than Truro’s Waitrose, which as anyone who has been there this past 12 weeks will know is the equivalent of a grocery spa it’s so orderly and relaxed, is because Kim has a passion for for Thompson Punjana tea and Morrisons’ own richly glutinous ‘The Best’ balsamic vinegar. Last night, before the online shopping deadline for our 10-11am collect slot we added pine nuts, there being a pasta basil pesto on the ‘lockdown’ menu. So there we are, both in wax cotton coats (the forecast was rain), in a Mercedes Benz with possibly the loveliest dog in the county, and smiling young woman who pushed the trolley with our goods to the car explained that some items were out of stock and another had to be replaced. No Clairette du Languedoc wine. What! And the halloumi was exchanged for another brand and one of the two bottles of balsamic vinegar had to be exchanged for a ameliorated version as she only had just the one bottle of the one we wanted. “But that’s why we’re shopping here,” I blurted out whilst recognising the sort of person I would under normal circumstances be laughing at. The young woman gave nothing away and apologised before adding that the only item they didn’t have and couldn’t substitute with an alternative was the pine nuts. “What yelled Kim.” I know I told her, the wrong balsamic vinegar, no Paul Mas wine and now no pine nuts. What is the world coming too? “And what are we turning into?” said Kim.

May 24, 2020

Another example of Padstow’s attitude towards social distancing. Kim and Asta are out for their early afternoon stroll along Sarah’s Lane. Two women approach. Asta is plodding along as usual meaning Kim can’t get far enough away as the women get nearer. One woman, reading the situation, steps aside while the other brushes past just inches away. Kim didn’t have a ruler with her for some reason but the woman was well within the two metre guidelines. Kim thanked the other woman but suggested the other could have made more room. The response. “Fuck off.” When Kim, without swearing or raising her voice, replied that that wasn’t very nice, while acknowledging her more responsible friend the woman blurted “I don’t know why people like that (Kim) want to come out if they’re afraid.” Yet more evidence that Covid 19 is bringing out the best in people.

May 20, 2020

I’m starting to think second home owners in Rock know something we on this side don’t.  As of the weekend there wasn’t a single boat on the moorings on the other side of the river. By lunchtime today there are over 30 with speedboats cruising up to Tregirls beach. This morning was spectacular. Warm and radiant sunshine despite a brisk southerly wind. I counted ten aircraft contrails overhead and numerous holidaymakers on the beach. The building sites that now pepper the town seem to be up to full speed and as Kim pointed out traffic on Sarah’s Lane seems almost back to normal.

May 15, 2020

The ‘R’ rate by which we will know if the coronavirus is spreading is getting higher in Cornwall. It’s not surprising though. In Waitrose in Truro the 30 customers inside (the maximum admitted at any one time) were all courteous and politely keeping their distance, while here in Padstow and in supermarkets in Wadebridge it is as if nothing of concern was going on; people pushing past and leaning across as though  desperate to catch and spread the dreaded infection. Even more alarming is the fact that while west country politicians and tourism managers insist the county is closed to all but those who live here they are happy to send their council employees out two and three inside a cramped vehicle cab to empty street dustbins. The streets here in Padstow have never been cleaner in all the 27 years Kim and I have been coming here and yet the council, so anti people who live beyond The Tamar, is happy to despatch street cleaning lorries with two to a cab sat closer to each other than if they were sharing a bed. This virus is heading our way and it won’t be wealthy second home owners and their guests spreading it, it will be local people; those who have to flout social distancing due to work and others who appear to see it as someone else’s pandemic.

May 14, 2020

The day is bright but the wind still sharp. The buzzard still circles above Tregirls and Kim and I spotted a pointy beaked Nuthatch on the ancient bridge by Prideaux.

May 13, 2020

It’s clear and bright and even a bit warm in sheltered sunshine but the wind is icy. Strong too and doubtless why the season’s first dinghy sailors and windsurfers have appeared.

I’m starting to think local people have given up on social distancing. I guess they figure that being 161st in the UK league table (dropping from 154th) the chances of them catching Covid 19 are a million to one. Kim and I are still doing our bit to keep local people (and ourselves) alive, despite the odd looks we get.

May 12, 2020

Walking towards Tregirls an old man with white hair and what looked like a pair of boxer shorts looked at Asta and us and said “I haven’t seen you before.” Thats funny, I remarked, I haven’t seen you before either. “Well,” he replied inhaling sharply the way unpleasant ill informed pompous idiots tend to do, “I live here.” So do I, I said, to which he said “that’s alright then,” – whatever in the world that was supposed to mean. Far from making us better, more compassionate, thoughtful, supportive and neighbourly this pandemic is reverting us to our genetic nature; tribal, and finger pointing.

May 11, 2020

The government’s relaxation of lockdown – ‘stay alert’ – has had an immediate effect. We have had three applications to stay with us in 24 hours. If any local person is reading this keep your hair on. We have no intention of accepting bookings until the country gets the all clear, although I suspect I’ll be dead and buried before that happens.  There are more day trippers (I suppose they could be the reviled second home owners) evident by the increase in expensive cars prowling the town, many with personalised number plates, reminding me of the black cab driver in London who, when asked why he doesn’t have a ‘white’ black cab he looked in the rear view mirror and remarked “it’d be like driving around with my bollocks out.” Point taken.

May 9, 2020

I’m starting to feel sorry for day trippers and holidaymakers going out of their way to be friendly. Walking down to Tregirls this morning, a walk Kim and I have done, I don’t know, maybe 3000 times in 27 years, we were met by people coming the other way. We stepped aside as we always do and indicated that the elderly lady approaching us could slow down as there was no hurry. As she passed us she said the normally goes the other way. When the couple some yards behind her arrived at the same passing spot and I commented that it’s easier going downhill  the woman smiled and remarked that she too has walked the other way like us,  everyday for years. Needless to say neither Kim nor I have ever seen any of them before.

May 8, 2020

Been a week for birds. First a pair of Arctic Terns fishing off Tregirls, followed by a pair of Cormorants. Then a Falcon and Buzzard and this morning one, or possibly two, Cuckoos, under the bridge past Prideaux Place close to where the photograph below was taken. Happily the longer this ‘lockdown’ continues and the more time people have on their hands, the fewer  Kim and I see on our morning walk. It’s back to the hardcore dog walkers, amounting to never more than six people.

Increasingly sloppy social distancing at the supermarket, despite prompts by long suffering staff to follow customers to follow the rules,  finished me off today. But just as I pledged to cycle or drive to Wadebridge for my newspaper Kim related Sarah’s admiration for how Emma has organised things at the Spa. Hygienic screens keep staff and customers apart with a maximum of just two customers at any given time.

May 7, 2020

There is a bank holiday on Friday that is being linked in with VE (Victory in Europe) Day. It doesn’t matters that dozens, if not hundreds, of old campaigners and their family are dying in care homes the free and healthy are decorating their homes with Union Flags, made of plastic and doubtless produced in China. There are several decked thus in Dennis Road and I’ve spotted one in Sarah’s Lane.

The turn out for the NHS was the best yet with quite a throng at the far end of the road and  for the first time a small gathering outside the cottages to our rear. What has been a good excuse for Asta to howl at the moon – tonight a ‘Super Moon’ sadly partly obscured by clouds, was brought to an abrupt end when someone nearby in their enthusiasm for the NHS and their desire to stage a most spectacular show of support shot a flare above the town that had our pup running for cover.

May 6, 2020

The town seems to have settled into a sloppy sort of self isolation. Old people keeping crashing into me at the supermarket but nobody is talking about second home owners anymore and the artistic among us have stopped scrawling NHS in giant letters on the beach along with ‘go home’. It feels like the fad of hatred is wearing off.

May 4, 2020

Another call his morning about small mindedness and social intolerance. The car of a young woman who moved into an apartment nearby maybe two months ago woke up  to find paint poured  over her car and the gates to her carpark padlocked. The perpetrator clearly some ignorant hothead objecting to out-of-towners. Of course, the young woman is a nurse working on the Covid frontline at Treliske, in Truro during the pandemic.

It’s not all dismal. Lisa Tutton, married to Tim son of Dee and my old sadly departed great friend John, emerged from the Memorial Hall opposite the quay carpark for a chat. She was wearing surgical gloves and a plastic apron because she is co-ordinating the distribution of hot meals and essential foodstuffs for dozens of local people confined to their homes for a variety of reasons: age; social distancing; illness. She says that the food is being cooked by a number of top chefs ‘furloughed’ during the pandemic. Thanks to her dedication and cool head the operation is ticking over with military precision.

May 3, 2020

I’m no fan of Gordon Ramsey but he’s certainly wound up a lot of people around here. It seems he and his family are ‘self isolating’ somewhere close to the two homes he is having built overlooking Porthilly. Funny how nobody bats an eyelid when Cornwall Council reveals that due to Brexit it will £70 million a year worse off (that being the sum it receives annually from the EU) but get into a stew because a chef with  predilection for swearing on camera is across the water behind closed doors. Another day another friend’s birthday. Kim and I left her present on her front lawn and bade her well.

May 1, 2020

May Day and no May Pole, and no Osses. Tall cumulous clouds teeter in the stillness and the sun bright and warm. Summer certainly ‘is a comin”. There are few people in the streets  either in full whites or subtly flying their red or blue colours.  The beach was a bit busier than usual and by late morning there are sporadic bursts of drum and accordion.

April 30, 2020

A woman who lives somewhere in Cornwall and has a guest house or b&b was the first member of the public to be able to put a question to the PM at his 5pm meeting with the media.  She was anxious that relaxing the lockdown would mean holidaymakers coming into the county and infecting people. Why didn’t the PM or his health experts point out that Cornwall, and other parts of the West Country were packed with holidaymakers up to and beyond the February half term, from towns all over the country, and yet despite this huge influx Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is 154th in the league table of nationwide coronavirus infections.

I tried once more to have a photograph of mine shown during the weather segment of Spotlight Southwest. I received an email from someone at the BBC saying he liked my photograph of the Cant Hill through a lilac branch. It wasn’t used.

April 28, 2020

My new neighbours are more clued into Padstow than I. One of them called to me to tell me a wet fish van was selling directly to residents, parked about halfway along Dennis Road. It’s the man who bought Mr.Pucky out some years ago when he used to sell from his van in Duke Street near Hillside. I bought some mackerel that Kim prepared as tempura using a recipe she learnt from Rick Stein maybe 20 years ago.

April 25, 2020

There is an uncorroborated story that two takeaway outlets in town have been threatened by people who believe that by being open they are encouraging Covid-19 infested holidaymakers.

April 21, 2020

We watched a pair of Common Terns diving into the sea off Tregirls this morning, oblivious to a pair of jet black Cormorants skimming the surface nearby at high speed. There were even less people today out and about until we encountered a local b&b host on Trigg Troll. Asta went happily up to his dog ignoring Kim’s pleas to follow us. The dog’s owner, swarthy and big, told her she “should keep the bloody dog on a lead.” I told him not to swear at my wife. “And you can shut your mouth,” he replied to which I repeated the same to him. I’ve seen him around Padstow. He looked at me before turning and walking off. The fact he didn’t instruct me to ‘go home’ suggests he knows who I am. I’ll add him to the list.

fish at Trevisker

With catches not going abroad or to restaurants fishermen are giving the people who live hereabouts a chance to buy fish straight off the boats. I got a call to say someone was selling crabs and lobster on the quay at Padstow last week and this afternoon some of the Trevisker staff were doing a good job with hake and mackerel and shellfish. I bought a hake as long as my arm that was filleted and should provide four generous servings. Price: £10.00.

April 19, 2020

It’s cold and grey and the sand is soft on Tregirls and hard going.  We thought that as this lockdown progressed more and more people would venture to the beach for exercise or to walk their dogs. In fact, the opposite has happened. In the course of the month fewer people venture as far as the beach. We never see more than half a dozen regular faces. Perhaps lockdown is just an excuse to stay in bed longer. By the time I set off for Truro the sun had come out. I took my favourite route through Ladock, across the A30 at Fraddon.  I was making for Waitrose to buy a dear friend some chocolates for her birthday and quite prepared to be confronted by a policeman on route. I shouldn’t have worried. I don’t think I counted two dozen cars there and back.

April 17, 2020

If there is any good news in all of this Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is the 154th most infected region in the United Kingdom, with a total of 349 cases out of total population of 565,968. Despite this people are still complaining bitterly when someone they don’t recognise passes through town. Today’s wildlife count included a rabbit in Moyle Road, a Merlin Falcon high over St.George’s Well, and a pair of Red Legged Partridges on my neighbour’s front lawn.

returning to Padstow

April 16, 2020.

It’s become quite a thing on Thursday evenings at 8pm for many of the locals at the other end of Dennis Road to assemble in their front gardens for the men and women on the front line of this damn virus. They shout across the street at each other and clap and sing support over glasses of intoxicating liquor. The same local people still noticeably absent from the small yet meaningful act of support and appreciation.

April 14, 2020

Another warm, sunny day. You can hear the ‘lockdown’ silence. The morning walk has become something of a wood gathering expedition on Tregirls Beach. Asta likes to help carrying good size branches all the way to Chapel Style before dropping them at the bottom of the steps to Trigg Troll.

April 13, 2020

There are some holidaymakers around despite the best efforts of the government and Cornwall Council and the police to put them off. We see them on our walk in the morning visibly sheepish and evidently feeling unwelcome. We’re still getting scowls from local people who don’t recognise us. A group crowded around a farm vehicle to chat with the driver and giggled when I excused myself clearly looking for a clear passage past them for Kim, Asta and myself. Why are people so difficult? I had to do a small amount of shopping this morning (fruit) and had to duck and dodge and weave my way around the store. It’s as if people were prepared to keep to social distancing rules for the a week or two but because they are still alive they’re past caring. It was a chilling experience more so as the majority of those flouting social distancing were sixty. Maybe they’re behind Cummings’ ‘herd immunity’ solution?

April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday

I didn’t sleep much last night. Despite the alcohol I think I am succumbing to the melancholia that is gripping so many. Another day much the same as the last. The same routine and the only joy eating. To take my mind of ‘it’ this is another bright hot day with the blackthorn  looking like a dusting of snow. I’ve never been much of one for Easter. The chocolate is fine but you can keep the rest of it. Which is pretty much what everyone has done, the Archbishop of Canterbury giving his Easter sermon to a camera from his empty kitchen. I took some chocolates around to our elegant friend in the old town knocking on her door and then nipping back to the car. She looked splendid and I know she enjoys chocs. She asked me if I thought the world would be different if and when all of this ends? I replied that if doctors and nurses and the people behind the tills in supermarkets are more appreciated and valued by society then that will be a step in the right direction. On the way home I noticed another friend’s window open and stopped to have a shouting conversation with her across her front lawn. The day ends with the news that there have been 10,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the UK. How many would still be alive if our government hadn’t wasted time flirting with the prime minister’s advisor’s ‘herd immunity’ concept in which only the strong survive and few oldies die and the economy remains largely untouched? The funerals are a testament to a lost month. Oh and the tories reduced the pandemic budget set up by the last Labour administration by a third. I still have friends who claim the whole pandemic is overblown and that we lose between 10 and 20,000 to flu each year. Maybe so but the Covid-19 death toll is still climbing and how many doctyors and nurses and bus drivers and care workers die of flu each year?

April 10, 2020

Good Friday.

April 9, 2020

Almost a thousand have died of Covid-19 in the UK over the past 24 hours. Our prime minister remains in intensive care and the talk is of Britain expected to have the highest death toll of the virus in Europe: the high number of fatalities due to our woeful tory government wasting a month discussing ‘herd immunity’, only backing off when it realised that such a course of inaction would result in huge numbers of fatalities. Another beautiful, sunny, hot, still day we decided, being short of veg, to drive to the farm shed near St.Eval. I felt uncomfortable all the way in the light of our ‘go home’ message and noticed a number of people giving the car  second and third glances. On route we stopped at Mother Ivy’s Bay for Asta and us to stretch our legs. There were four or five surfers on Constantine and some joggers. For the first time this week the supermarket in Padstow was quite busy, perhaps a sign that some are ignoring the advice to remain at home. Maybe I should go and scrawl ‘go home’ on their cars and ignore the fact that some of the cars may belong to doctors and nurses.

April 8, 2020

It had to happen. We had our first ‘Go Home’ instruction daubed into the dirt on to the front passenger  window. We can’t be certain when it was done but probably while the car was parked up close to the trough near Prideaux Place where we leave it during our morning walk. I’ve noticed people taking a second glance at us either near the supermarket or on the morning walk and wondered when one of them would put two and two together and mount a blinkered high horse?

April 5, 2020

Bumped into some friends walking Asta this morning who said they have had word from a nurse at Treliske that the hospital is fast approaching meltdown. The clear implication is that the authorities, rightly or wrongly, are not giving us the full story.   It was my birthday today- the worst and best I’ve ever had. So many old friends and friends of friends and relatives of friends made contact. We’re all in the same boat, fearful of the unknown and where this virus thing is headed? My old friend Tim, who I went with to journalism college in Portsmouth in the seventies, summed up the ‘reaching out’ that is going on succinctly: “you can’t make new old friends.”

Notable among a raft of birthday presents from whiskey to Branston Pickle, a silk pocket

Finchley backpack

handkerchief and After Eight Mints was a backpack, from my sister, made of recycled plastic bottles sourced on Britain’s beaches.  The Finchley from a range made by a young London company called Roka was made from recycled plastic bottles that would otherwise have gone into landfill;  12 to 15 plastic bottles in each bag. It has shoulder and hand carrying straps with a chunky zip close and cleverly designed compartments inside.  It’s the perfect bag to take to the grocery store on the bike, or as a picnic bag when we’re finally let out of lockdown. Mine’s blue but the Finchley, like the other rucksacks, body bags and wallets in the range, is available in more colours than you can shake a stick it.

April 3, 2020

We left some garden vegetables with an elderly friend of ours in town today. We stayed in the car and she only opened her front door when we yelled and beeped the horn. She looked well but I think this isolation and absence of human contact is becoming a strain on her.  She seemed lost and bemused, her eyes devoid of their usual seductive sparkle. And this is only the beginning. They are talking now of this current lockdown lasting until the end of May.

We drove to Morrison’s in Bodmin, seven days since our last big shop. The same queuing system was in place and most of the customers were happy to keep their distance. But what’s happened to the staff? With the exception of those on the door and behind the tills the staff were worryingly casual; joking, laughing and frequently stepping well within the two metre social isolation zone. It’s as if they bored with the rules and have gone beyond caring.

April 1, 2020

It’s still cold with a sharp north easterly wind. Despite conditions that are tough on birds migrating north many thousands of miles Kim spotted a pair of swallows skitting and zig-zagging above Trig Troll this morning. They’re early and thankfully oblivious to the blight that has brought two thirds of the world to a standstill. Easter is only ten days away and the talk around town now is of unwanted holidaymakers. Those we come across on our walk clearly sense the animosity and acknowledge us with their heads turned down.

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