Monthly Archives: July 2021
The weather is 28° in the shade, and it’s bright sunshine in a cloudless blue sky. By UK standards – particularly here in the West where the maritime influence is strongest – that’s hot.
Last night I put my rubbish out, as I customarily do on a Monday night. As did my neighbours over quite a wide area. Bin collection here is a Tuesday morning. So that’s all our local streets filled with recycling boxes, bags, and the like.
I went out after lunch expecting, as I usually do, to bring my recycling boxes back in. I was shocked to find them still there: collection hadn’t happened. It still hasn’t happened as I write (16:21). Our streets remain full of household rubbish, festering in the hottest weather of the year. Apparently the collection has fallen victim to the “pingdemic”: too many dustmen told to self-isolate because their bluetooth thinks they’ve been near to a Covid case.
How long before we get a real plague?
Today, July 19th, is Freedom Day here in England, postponed from the originally-announced June 21st. The lifting of most legal restrictions relating to Covid. Music and theatre, eating and drinking out can return to my life. And not least, travel: at last I’m free to get on a bus or train.
Well, up to a point. This is the season when most of cultural life is dormant: the time we needed to be able to do these things was, um, a week ago. As for travel, that would’ve worked very well in June, but now it’s the week school terms end, so the trains will be overrun with family groups. And, no doubt, covid and other maladies. Even in a normal year that makes it one of the worst times (other than Christmas) to try and travel anywhere. So having gone nowhere further than I can cycle for 18 months (albeit not always by bike), I’m not rushing to change that immediately.
And then there’s the general reality, aside from the law. Covid rates are high and rising fast – and will surely be boosted further by the start of school holidays. While dropping the requirement for germ-incubators frees us, many shops still display “please wear a mask” signs, and there’s no way of telling whether that’s a request or just something they’ve failed to remove. So while my visit to the wholefood shop today was the most pleasant shopping I’ve done in a year, I avoided going in to the mask-requesting greengrocer and popped into the Coop instead (the fact that the latter inflicts muzak on us would normally cause me to prefer the greengrocer).
What will be the effect? In the short term it will surely be dwarfed by the effect of all those families travelling on school holidays. But in the medium term? A year ago – when covid rates had come right down – I predicted that bad law would lead to a rise, and put a timescale of end-of-August to see the start of that. This year we may indeed see the opposite. Whereas end-of-last-August covid rates were rising from a very low base, this year they may not yet be in decline, but at least the rate of increase will surely have fallen from its current very high level.
And longer term, it seems the Chattering Classes, and therefore (at least to a point) people more generally, may have learned the importance of ventilation. If only covid had happened a generation ago, I could perhaps have led an altogether more comfortable life, with less conflict over fresh air, and fewer colds! And as I said here in my very first blog post mentioning covid, Coronavirus could leave a really good legacy if knowingly spreading germs could become as socially unacceptable as smoking.
So in summary, a tentative
Back in May, along with the customary joys of the season, came signs of Life returning. Among those, a return of larger-group music making, albeit limited to an outdoor setting. The highlight of that, starting to rehearse for a big pageant: Mayflower 400 (postponed from last year), due to be held today on Plymouth Hoe, with (apparently) capacity for a socially-distanced audience of 15000.
My involvement was in the chorus for a newly-commissioned work “Mayflower”, by Nick Stimson and Chris Williams. Five movements of Incidental Music to the story of the Mayflower. Rehearsals in May started in the Plymouth Argyle football stadium – an open-air venue with ample capacity for a large choir all well spaced out. I liked the venue a lot – particularly since it was an outdoor event we were rehearsing – though of course there’s no way a choir could afford it from our own budget! Life was indeed beginning to return.
The event itself was a lot bigger than just the music. It was conceived as uniting both sides of the Atlantic, including importantly members of the Wampanoag peoples who had lived on the land colonised. We were educated a little on the history – in a similar way to learning of The Real Macbeth before performing in that (Verdi’s opera) some years back. But not to the extent where I could tell you about it, or know more than the bare bones of today’s events. I was very much looking forward not just to my small role in it, but to being a spectator to the whole!
Then on June 16th, email telling us the event is cancelled. The return of life this summer was not to be. We continue to live on in unlife, a close relation to the undeath of fantasy literature. The promised “Freedom Day” next week will do nothing to bring back our lost music.
For the record, today is cold for July, overcast, and here we had a heavy thunderstorm earlier this afternoon. Plymouth – right on the coast – often escapes this kind of thing, so I’ve no idea what the weather might have added to the event. I understand there were indeed contingency plans for shelter (lots of canvas?), but it should’ve been lots of fun even if it meant getting soaked!