Letters to the Spalding Guardian editor – May 28, 2020
Behaviour made me feel ashamed to be human
‘Social distancing,’ ‘second wave’ and ‘past the peak’ are phrases which will be added to dictionaries of the future, accompanied by definitions which will chill those of us who experienced the disaster that is COVID 19.
Whilst breaking curfew on Wednesday night, three more came to mind. The first involved not judging a book by its cover.
Standing in the queue at the Matmore Gate, Spalding branch of Tesco Express, I tried not to do that when I spotted a bare-chested individual peering through the doors, giving loud, seemingly random greetings to people.
Quickly, however, my inner suspicions proved correct as a second phrase proved itself apt. ‘Man is known by the company he keeps.’
Having managed to dress himself, the man was then leapt upon by another individual who yelled at the innocent customer assistant, “Is this two metres? Is this two metres?” I haven’t yet found the humour in mocking a measure which was designed to keep us alive but then I don’t smile a lot these days.
It came as no surprise as I left the store that the two men were part of a larger group who were drinking and (I think) communicating out of a large people carrier with a fashionable slide door. I say ‘think’ as the sounds of grunting and knuckle dragging have long been a part of the simian world but remain unintelligible to me.
Sadly the surprise came when I turned the corner and was confronted by a thing who had decided that it was perfectly fine to expose himself and urinate between the store window and post box, just underneath a stairwell leading up to an occupied flat. As it was still broad daylight, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
I am in no way holier than thou, so I told this oaf exactly what I thought of him, using the profane and feeling entitled to do so. I wasn’t bothered by his equally foul response nor by his reference to my weight, or even to his bizarre comments about how my clothes cost less than his. While he stumbled off, still throwing the odd obscenity my way, I followed and more than volleyed a curse or two over the net.
What bothered me was the response of the other people in the van. When I told them he had been urinating in public and broad daylight, the driver guffawed in a way which led me to question his suitability to drive, while his friends shouted approval and/or told me to go forth and multiply.
I had hoped they would be, at least, slightly embarrassed but that was an unrealistic expectation. I hadn’t thought they would actually be proud, even if they were welcoming back someone with urine on their fingers and feet into the vehicle.
The residents of the flat had appeared by now, carrying their toddler. I had reminded these people that a child could have witnessed this but it fell on deaf ears.
I can only hope that procreation has proved one step beyond these paddlers in the gene pool’s shallow end as indecent exposure, urinating in public and use of foul language seems to be a moral they would instil, rather than deter from.
Anyway, this brief but memorable experience concludes with the phrase, ‘Ashamed to be British.’ However, Sir Tom, the NHS, the veterans of VE day and so many others are far too significant and a reminder of the great things our island and its people do. The vermin associated with the vehicle (incident and vehicle registration reported to the police) actually made me ashamed to be human.
‘Supermarket spirit’ seems a bit hollow
Standing in a queue recently outside a supermarket, the chatter among most there was invariably about the queuing and how long it’s been going on for as the queuing was into weeks, now months, and to some it was – quote – ‘a complete nightmare’.
Irony being what it is, I thought about our family friend Ted who might have had a different outlook on that last quote, considering his queuing exploits, not through choice it should be noted, with one particular event coming to mind.
He did his queuing on a much larger scale as he, along with many others, were there for days on a beach in France at a place called Dunkirk between May 26 and June 4, 1940, exactly 80 years ago this year.
Of the approximately 338,226 who thankfully made it back to these shores, it’s possibly safe to say not many of those would have been too concerned about waiting in a queue to get their groceries as their outlook of being a ‘complete nightmare’ would be somewhat different.
Ted passed away a few years ago and I don’t think he would have minded standing, waiting a few minutes outside a shop today although he may have missed being shot at, a target for dive-bombers, but somehow the term ‘that supermarket spirit’ seems a bit hollow compared to the ‘Dunkirk spirit’.
Eighty years on but certainly not forgotten.
NHS must step up mental health support
As the UK eases lockdown and the number of COVID-19 cases begins to fluctuate, NHS workers in the East Midlands will continue to be on the frontline of this pandemic, risking themselves and their families – potentially storing up trauma for the future.
It is likely that the worst of the mental health consequences on the NHS workforce may be yet to come.
A recent survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that 48% of doctors in the East Midlands are suffering from work-related anxiety, burnout and depression, slightly more than the average for England (45%). Some 35% of these East Midlands doctors say this has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly put a huge strain on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.Prior to the pandemic, the BMA had been openly sounding the alarm about the massive negative impact of healthcare workers’ jobs on their mental health.
COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the challenges staff faced before the pandemic and now it is adding significant new ones: lack of PPE, difficult decisions about scarce resources in our cash-strapped NHS and trying to provide excellent care for the dying when their families cannot visit being only a few.
It is unacceptable that up to 48% of frontline doctors in the East Midlands are carrying this burden alone.
The NHS must step up its mental health support offer to all staff in the East Midlands during and after this pandemic.
Supporting the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority for the NHS for the long-term.
Dr Becky Acres
Chair, BMA East Midlands
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Pentecost
This Sunday, May 31, is Pentecost (the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus).
And they, this early disciples, had a gentle touch of God in their lock down, shut in for fear of the Jews.
Coming out meant death, they thought, thinking the Jews would crucify them as they had done to their leader Jesus.
But here they are, 10 days beyond Ascension, on their own, praying together, awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus, when a hurricane blew in, and tongues of fire made them look like living candles.
Hardly like a gentle dove, but intoxicating as they swept out of the confines boldly proclaiming with confidence and with Godly power their experience of seeing and being with Jesus and understanding his teaching!
Wow! What a difference a touch of God made to their timidity and apprehension.
The listeners were challenged, the disciples engaged with them in their own language, and many were convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Makes me wonder about our contacts with our neighbours at this time, chatting to them, finding common interests other than the virus, and being bold to share our own faith story, and waiting to see how others respond to the Jesus who lives within us!
Rev Frances Ballantyne
Broad Street Methodist Church, Spalding