I came across this traditional folk song the other day, it popped up when I was searching the internet for something completely different. No, not the Spanish Inquisition, which actually should have been expected as people took great pleasure in denouncing their neighbours. More on that later. The version of the folk song I found was the one made famous by The Dubliners, so I wasted a bit of time listening to it, as one does, procrastination being the number one outcome from web-surfing, and it caused me to pause and take stock.
It was a year ago today that I ran away from my holiday, not on a Yankee clipper ship bound for California but in my car heading to Heathrow, and thence post haste to Charlottetown. I had been in Liverpool for four days, checking out some interesting ‘modern art’ at the Tate, the river and the docks, the ruins of a church bombed during the Blitz, the duelling cathedrals.
I went on the Mystery Tour that took a bus load of tourists to the gates of the orphanage called Strawberry Fields, and past the Cavern Club, where I had my photograph taken next to the bronze statue of John Lennon that stands across the street from those hallowed doors. On Penny Lane we saw the barber’s shop on the corner, and even the shelter in the middle of the roundabout, although there was no pretty nurse selling poppies. Anyone would think the Beatles drew upon the local context for their music.
On the Tuesday, Liverpool played at home against Athletico Madrid, and that evening the hotel was full of very happy Spaniards whose team had won the game. When I got back from dinner, there was a bottle of hand sanitizer on a small table by the lifts (elevators), together with a bowl of apples, but that was the extent of the anti-virus activities.
I knew from the newspapers and television news shows, which being a news junkie I devour even on holiday, that there were 25,000 cases in Italy, which had seen 600 deaths, and hospitals were starting to implode. Indeed, case counts were rising all over Europe. The number of positive cases in Spain had reached 6000 and was doubling every day (it is now at 3.1 million), yet soccer fans were criss-crossing the continent, and in the lobby, I had watched as Spanish and Liverpudlian fans linked arms and sang alcohol-fueled songs which made no sense in either language.
When I spoke to the guide on the tour bus, however, he thought all the doom and gloom stories were just to sell newspapers. Another person on the tour, who had been listening to our conversation, contributed that he thought this was all just a European phenomenon, something which could probably be blamed on the poor sanitation habits of continentals. There were murmurs of agreement.
Not being convinced, and as I mentioned in my blog at the time, somewhat discombobulated by the relentless media coverage, I called Air Canada and got a seat on the first available flight. I left the city, driving past Prince’s Landing where the ferry leaves to ’cross the Mersey, another famous song, and down Skelhorne Street past Lime Street Station. I didn’t see Maggie Mae, I’m afraid, nor any crazy coons running around in their underpants. It was early, though.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you obviously never listened to the Let it Be album, or to Lime Street Blues on the B side of Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale!
Anyway, I got back to Prince Edward Island on the Saturday, isolated myself for 14 days as requested, and have only been off the island twice since then. During the summer the case numbers in eastern Canada were very low, and an Atlantic Bubble was established. This permitted people to move unhindered between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, and I managed to get to both of our neighbouring provinces, albeit only for a couple of days.
Then the numbers in New Brunswick spiked, and the bubble burst. Since then, we’ve been hunkered down throughout the winter, where the biggest news has been the reports of people who ‘came from away’ and didn’t self-isolate properly, or who had gatherings of more than 10 people, or who weren’t wearing face masks when they should be. The habits of six hundred years ago, when people took great pleasure in denouncing their neighbours to the Spanish Inquisition, die hard. So far, the city hasn’t acted on my suggestion that in addition to the fines levied, they also publish the names and photographs of those involved, and erect stocks in the main square downtown for multiple offenders, but I’m sure they’ll come around.
It’s not just people who are breaking the rules, though. The other day someone coming over from New Brunswick was surprised to see a fox going the other way – just trotting along across the bridge! I hope he filled in the Public Health Form first. This is one of the good things emerging from the past year. The relative lack of traffic has helped re-introduce people to the idea that this is shared world. In Barcelona, the city reported that in June 2020 there was an increase of 74% in the number of butterflies, compared to June 2019. Yes, they have someone who counts them. The increase was put down to COVID, because months of lockdown restricted the number of maintenance crews cutting grass and spraying for weeds, aided and abetted by a wetter than normal spring, and less smog as fewer people were commuting to work. It is good to learn that both the pandemic and climate change can have a positive impact in some spheres.
Those of us in the northern latitudes are getting ready for the official end of winter, the Spring Equinox, which takes place on 20 March. It has just been announced that the Atlantic premiers are meeting next week, to discuss the re-opening of the Atlantic bubble and the potential for local tourism to start up again. Our clocks ‘spring forward’ on Saturday night. These are all signs that the summer is coming, and with it the chance to get back into the garden. For those of you in the southern hemisphere who are getting ready for autumn, enjoy!
As we mark the official one year anniversary of the pandemic, I think its time to try to refocus on the positives. I hope that people continue to buy local, even when the big superstores get their supply lines straightened out. I hope that society invests time and money into resolving the staffing crisis at long-term residential care homes. I hope that musicians will be able to play live gigs again, and artists to have gallery openings. I hope some people will continue to work from home, and the number of daily commutes remains lower than it was a year ago. I hope that governments put as many resources into fighting climate change as they did into developing vaccines. I hope that Leeds United finish in the top six of the Premier League.
Ah well, it’s good to have one that you know won’t happen.