Former Link editor and owner Roger Ogle, 69, retired just over two years ago. He now spends his time as a community champion in West Swindon and travelling to far flung places as much as possible. Here's his voice.
Heading for three weeks into Covid 19 Lockdown, and counting
Trying to express myself in well argued and finely honed prose is just too difficult; it’s the effect of the odd times we’re in.
The disease had been spreading in the city from October last year, but the regional government’s attempts to suppress the news, including arresting the medic who had tried to alert the authorities, had failed. He later died from what was to be later called by the World Health Organisation as Covid 19.
In the next 100 days to 8 April the world changed in an extraordinary way. Economies have been deliberately crashed to try and limit the spread of a new version of coronavirus with no known vaccine. After 25 years of rapid globalisation there was no way to arrest the rapid transmission of this new disease. It wasn’t taken seriously until the full horror started to unfold in the Far East, then Iran, and from 24 January in France, Italy, Spain and across Europe, then the USA. Britain, full of joy or trepidation finally ‘got it done’ and exited the European Union on 31 January.
On 6 March the first death occurred in Britain. A government spokesman says the virus was likely to spread ‘in a significant way.’ Three days earlier Prime Minister Boris Johnson described how he had visited a hospital with a few coronavirus patients and had shaken hands with everybody. Three weeks later he admitted he had symptoms of coronavirus and after 7 days in self-isolation he was admitted to hospital on Day 99 - 6 April. He was later taken into Intensive Care.
UK deaths hit a record of 938 in 24 hours on 7 April, taking the total of just under 7,100 registered deaths. The number is likely to be a quarter more because of the lag in the way deaths are recorded.
The government admits it has no idea when epidemic peak will hit UK and the lockdown is going to continue for an unspecified time. Not to be too alarmist, but the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects that the UK will have had more than 66,000 deaths by August, the highest in Europe and second only to the USA.
So, here are a range of random(ish) reflections:
1. The sky has been so blue, the sun so warm and the twittering of birds welcoming Spring has been so clear, thanks to reduced background traffic and almost no aircraft overhead. Time has taken on a strange, acute, quality. Personally it seems to have slowed down as lockdown has limited the range of activities to be engaged in. Yet, at the same time, it has accelerated. In recent memory there was a general election, several storms and ruinous floods, but those are ancient history.
2. The crisis has brought to the fore the many wonderful people in society who used to be, until about six weeks ago, undervalued and derided by politicians who had a poor regard for 'lower skilled' workers. Now, whilst still low paid, they're seen as highly skilled heroes by society and the politicians have woken up to how essential they are to the functioning of life in this country.
3. There is a significant minority of selfish, irresponsible people only concerned in their own interests at the expense of wider needs of society, who seem incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.
4. And it turns out there is such a thing as society according to PM Johnson, repudiating Margaret Thatcher’s infamous viewpoint, thus questioning the neoliberal, free market based individualistic attitudes that have held sway in Britain for so long.
5. It's great that 'experts' are back in fashion and being recognised for being essential to the future of the nation. So much for Michael Gove putting them down during the Brexit campaign. But the trouble with experts is their honesty and transparency, an anathema to the politicians they have to deal with. And with every media outlet quoting their preferred expert, the key messages become difficult to decipher. We might be in lockdown, but they’re being pressed daily to speculate on an end date. The talk of reaching a plateau, positive signs, green shoots, light at the end of the tunnel raises unrealistic expectations too early. At least the government is now saying three weeks of lockdown is not long enough to assess whether infection rates and deaths are in decline.
6. It's brilliant that Brexit is off the air-waves. Goodness knows where negotiations are, I'm no longer bothered, but I'm glad Farage, Mark Francois, Johnson et al are not droning on and on. Goodness knows when the government and the EU negotiation teams will start talking again, but I very much hope both sides discuss the future with a different focus and the idea of Britain leaving the EU without a sensible trade deal is forgotten.
7. After 10 years of austerity policies, the Conservative government has done a u-turn on its political orthodoxy and gone all European, whereby the needs of all in society are being taken into account. The magic in the money tree is being shaken to support business, employees and the self-employed, as well as no expense being spared on the NHS and getting the homeless off the streets into accommodation. Yet it’s put into sharp relief how social care has been ignored by government in the past and how the elderly and those with special needs continue to be particularly vulnerable.
8. The financial legacy of coping with this crisis will be borne by our children and grandchildren in many years to come. The present government’s approach to running the country is going to be impacted until the next election and probably for the following ten years.
9. I was told I could not go unshaven until the lockdown is lifted. What would I look like in 3 to 6 months? But, without a haircut I’m heading to become a graying hippy. Cutting myself off has allowed me to dig into the back of the cupboard to find the most worn out, torn, clothing without worrying about anybody seeing me. The lovely weather and the worry of the invisible infection has compelled me to spend as much time in the garden as possible and driven me to try even harder in online yoga and pilates classes.
10. Coronavirus has got me thinking quite a bit about mortality. Death comes to us all, but the presence of the grim reaper calling earlier than I expected has made me consider what I’ve achieved and what I still want to do. Being someone in good health and enjoying retirement, I had been expecting to live for another 20+ years. Everything is now uncertain; if the virus gets me, the thought of being taken away, never to be seen again by my loved ones fills me with dread. I keep thinking what I’d do if I start to show symptoms - write a letter, perhaps do a video message. What if my partner succumbs and is suddenly taken away, how does one cope? I know this is very self-centred, but they are thoughts that have occurred to many people I’m sure.
11. The Covid 19 emergency has shown what an essential national broadcasting service the BBC is. The Conservative threat to change the corporation’s licence fee income into a subscription service is stupid and needs to be re-considered.
12. Change is good and this crisis has spurred a new approach to nearly all aspects of life, whether it’s looking differently at relationships, climate change and the environment, the behaviour of others, technological changes and how life has become even more dependent on the internet, how we’re governed. We cannot go back to how things used to be when the dawn of a new normal breaks.
Swindon Link is calling on its readers to write to us about their experiences for our campaign called 'Voices from The Coronavirus'. The idea is that we can share our experiences underlining that none of us are alone.
We want to hear from you from whatever walk of life you come from to hear how you are dealing with this new reality. Everybody has a story to share from keyworkers to teenagers. It doesn't matter what your writing ability is, the whole point of this is to make sure every voice is heard so that people don't feel that they are battling this alone. We will try to publish your story on our website no matter who you are.
All you have to do is write to us with your experiences to email@example.com. Please make sure that you send a picture of yourself to go with the piece and try and keep it under 500 words. Please also include some basic details about yourself. For more details press here
And for previous entries into our Voices from The Coronavirus series press here