Lockdown Diary

Thurifer remains in Hampstead

An ambition to cultivate a talent for idleness was long thwarted. The continuing quarantine was not without a degree of quiet satisfaction. Domestic tasks were undertaken more methodically and regularly. I had other work to do connected with trusteeships and articles, such as this, to write. And plenty of time to avoid doing it. And there was time to catch up with reading, some of which had been on the shelves for some time. Bought to read in retirement, postponed or interrupted in recent years, they stood as a reproach. 

*

I have viewed the world through the mediation of the media, tv, radio, online newspapers and a sorry sight it has often been. Most egregious was the pillaging of supermarkets in mid-March. That madness of my fellow citizens and that exhibition of the worst of human nature in its rapacious selfishness was shaming. Sadly, they behaved in a way that was so utterly shameless that I suspect apology or even regret is beyond their moral compass. There is a way of making reasonable provision while recognising the reasonable needs of others. Without being too portentous, it is an unfortunate mark of the decline of religion and of the Christian religion and its good neighbour principle. Of course, there are marked examples of that and I have benefitted in my leafy suburb from a volunteer group. Its existence gave reassurance of possible assistance if required. Too often there was too much elbowing aside, trampling underfoot. Too many took those who passed by on the other side as their model rather than the Good Samaritan. Individual responsibility, a vital principle of civilised living, needs to be grounded in a faith and practical way of life, infused and inspired by self-sacrifice.

*

There was a plethora of comment and sounding-off from the usual subjects in politics and the media but rising impressively above that cacophony were outstanding public servants; Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Advisor and Prof. Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy MO. Their calm, sober, authoritative demeanour and clear, undramatic words had the right degree of gravitas. Their serious message was measured and an implicit rebuke to the scaremongering and hysterical hyperbole of some public discourse.

*

History reminds us that it is not unusual for new governments to find themselves severely tested in their early days. Ministers scarcely had time to settle in behind their desks, although, in one case, there was time to lose the Permanent Secretary in the Home Department, than the crisis erupted, not least the neophyte Chancellor of the Exchequer who had to deliver a Budget within weeks and within a few days thereafter another significant financial provision to begin to tackle the crisis. The Prime Minister does not do gravitas. His sub-Churchillian rhetoric, born of admiration, does not quite fit nor convince. When he exhibits, in the words of the neologism, “boosterism” he feels on safer oratorical and rhetorical ground. Whether that is grounded in reality is another matter. 

*

He might look for a rôle model to HM The Queen. Her statement was a model of calm and reason. Modest and unrhetorical it encapsulated a needed balance and was as ever impressive.

*

Diversions included watching interviews by John Freeman in Face to Face, from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Those of Edith Sitwell and Evelyn Waugh are properly famous but I was struck by the applicability of the peroration of Bertrand Russell to our present circumstances: “We must learn to tolerate each other, to put up with the fact that some people will says things which we would not like. We can only live together in that way. And if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance with is absolutely vital to a continuation of life on this planet.” 

*

Fewer Tube trains, more overcrowding. What is not to understand?

*

The Vice-Chairman of Forward in Faith, Fr McCormack, drew my attention to the following:

The Church of England, 1866: ‘My curates were ill, unable to do any duty – I had been up for several nights running to two or three in the morning, attending to the sick, and more especially to the timid and fearful, – who would not go to bed for fear of ‘the pestilence that walketh in darkness’ – Wearied and at my wits’ end as to how I could possibly help my Vestry through their arduous duty, I had come down to a late breakfast at nine o’clock, when my servant announced Dr Pusey … he offered to act as my assistant Curate to visit the sick and dying … and to minister to their spiritual wants’. [The Revd S Hansard, quoted in Liddon’s life of Pusey]

The Church of England, 2020: ‘We are in a time of great fearfulness. The numbers of those becoming seriously ill and dying is increasing. It therefore remains very important that our churches remain closed for public worship and private prayer.’ [The Archbishops of Canterbury and York]

*

Holy Week was one of painful absence from the ceremonies and liturgies of our salvation.

*

Although there was much that could be done despite limitations, inevitably there were periods of boredom and fatigue but, at least, in banging out these 900 words and you (at least my one reader) having read them, I can take comfort in that I am not the only one to suffer some degree of boredom and irritation.

2020-06-10T13:38:03+00:00 May 2020 Articles|