Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Swans

B.A. and I are lucky enough to live across the street from wooded riverbanks. On the other side of the river is a Victorian factory that has been converted into offices. It has a working clock tower. Thus, we have a flat with a lovely view.

Yesterday I took a break from worrying about Covid-19 to hang up a load of laundry in our dining-room/office/guest-room, and while draping clothes over the radiator, I looked through the window and saw two swans in the river, nibbling at the opposite bank.

I had never seen swans so far up the river, so I called out to B.A. to have a look.

It was a lovely moment, really.

Yesterday we also went for a country walk, the country being a 15 minute walk from our door, and after lunch we spent hours in the garden. In the midst of a health pandemic, the question uppermost in my mind is, "If you have to stay away from people for two weeks, what would you like to do?"

Fortunately for the family finances, I work from home all the time, so there's no change there. And it's spring, so working in the garden is not only pleasant but necessary. Our nearest neighbours, whose gardens are in much better shape, came outside to cheer on our efforts. Going for country walks is one of our favourite shared activities. Because of all the pilgrimages I've been on in the past few years, I now associate long walks with the rosary, so we get in some prayer together, too.

I like talking to my parents on Skype, so I've been doing more of that.

I don't like washing my hands to song anymore, alas, as I have developed what looks like contact dermatitis on the backs of my hands. They itch. Even when they are not red they itch. Naturally I am not keen to go to the local medical clinic, so I'm self-medicating with Vaseline Intensive Care lotion and diaper rash cream. At some point I will consult with Dr. Sister-in-Law. Ma Belle Soeur is not keen on B.A. and I taking public transit, by the way. We are going to reduce our public transit time as much as we can.

My personal opinion on what the Catholic bishops should do for the next few months is what the Polish bishops have done: dispense the elderly, the ill, the children, children's caregivers (I'd add, the caregivers of the elderly), and the merely frightened from their Sunday obligation to assist at Mass while at the same time having more Masses, in part to have smaller congregation, and in part to obtain the grace of more Masses. This is a good opportunity for Catholics, especially Catholic clergy, to be true witnesses to our faith in Christ and hope for heaven, while at the same time not risking sending the vulnerable there before time.  It's also a great time for bearing our discomforts cheerfully, as the superior form of penance, so I will try to think of my itchy hands as a good thing.

I do think, however, that the elderly should be ordered by the bishops to STAY HOME. I suppose the suspension of Sunday Masses by various dioceses (including the Archdiocese of Toronto) may be inspired by a fear that the elderly will keep on going to Mass, and keep on putting themselves and each other in danger of an untimely death, if there is still a Mass to go to. This reminds me that this would also be a good time for Christians to show who we supposed to be by checking in with our elderly neighbours, friends, and family to make sure they have enough food, are staying safe, and are not going squirrelly of boredom and loneliness.


  1. I had been thinking about visiting, but now Canadians have been cautioned about all international travel. Say hello to the swans, roses, and apple tree for me.

  2. Whatever happened to free will? Perhaps those elderly need the graces and the comfort of the Mass and want to go, taking a calculated risk. They're not idiots or children and shouldn't be treated as such, as if they don't know what's good for them. Dispense the obligation by all means but depriving the elderly of Mass despite their own wish to attend is cruel. They know they're likely closer to death than the rest of us and are fair game for the virus. I's mostly the middle aged I see who are in the panics. I'm surprised at this post. Sinéad.

    1. Well, Sinéad, perhaps you are right. Perhaps the bishops were right to leave it up to the elderly themselves. My one thought, though, is that if large numbers of elderly people fall ill, they will be on the respirators that cancer patients and other weak people might need. In Italy the poor doctors are deciding who gets to live and who gets to die. However, you yourself are a medical professional, so I defer to your judgement.

  3. Oh dear please don't defer to me, I am as daft as a brush. I think we need to think a lot more about this elderly situation, why them in particular? What about the immunocompromised, the children (shocking hand hygiene, likely efficiently transmitting to all and sundry) and those otherwise healthy folk who catch every chest cold going? Either they're all on lockdown or not at all. I know of young HEALTHY people on their last legs. Maybe their immune systems are not as robust as the old lady down the road. Who knows?

    I just really dislike the idea of older people being effectively imprisoned and denied the sacraments for fear they catch it - and what is the worst that could happen? Death. But as Catholics should that not always be on our minds?

    My fear is that the elderly are being targeted here, The Daily Fail online reports that Sky News said they may be asked to self isolate for 4 months. I don't use my tv so I don't know how true this is. How are they to be minded? What if they have no family or neighbours to check on them? Can they receive visitors? What about their mental health and the need for fresh air??

    I just think this is sneakier in terms of scapegoating the economically useless (apart from their savings) than we suspect and we ought to be very careful. He prowls like a lion remember seeking whomever he can devour and this is a lovely opportunity to allow processes to happen that we wouldn't bear on an ordinary day were we not overcome with fear and wearing our watchful hats. There's a meanness to it too as well as an ignorance of their needs. Mass is not just a hobby to keep the old folk busy and by God they're not free from sinning either. I've seen that sort of attitude here and it stinks. My mam tested negative this week by the way so I'm not immune to the fear believe me. I will remember you and BA in prayer. I would be genuinely grateful if you would keep me in prayer as it is all set to kick off here tomorrow.


    1. I will definitely pray for you, Sinéad! Yes, it does look like the government is going to ASK the 70+ to stay at home; it can hardly put them under house arrest. (This is freedom-loving Britain, after all.) Hopefully something will be done to alleviate the suffering of the elderly who stay at home. Apparently some people ate better during rationing than before the war: maybe the elderly will get more attention than they did before. I hope so. We'll be keeping our over-70 friends in our thoughts and sending "Are you okay" messages, at very least. And, yes, I've read that children are super-spreaders. It's so sad that they must be kept away from the elderly. How parents are going to manage childcare if schools but not businesses are closed and elderly relations are in danger is beyond me.