It appears that Godzone really is coping with the Covid lockdown, and in good heart. There are several elements to my theory of its success, all beginning, conveniently, with the letter c. Can climate, calving, clapping, camaraderie and the Clarion truly be pulled together into a coherent argument?
I like a challenge, so I’ll try. Though it may prove a little contrived, here goes.
Climate helps, doesn’t it? The six weeks of official lockdown have been extraordinarily dry. If you’re a farmer, that may have been causing you grief. Then there’s been that wicked east wind keeping the temperature down (until today?). As the old joke goes, there’s nothing so chill as that wind from Asia, whipping off the Urinals…
For the rest of us, the almost-non-stop sunshine has been glorious, persuading us into the garden (if only those ordered-and-paid-for-online plants would actually arrive!) and out on legally sanctioned, health-giving walks.
Having lived 27 years (1981-2008) in the West Midlands, regularly negotiating the horrendous M5/M6 interchange, we Traffords deem Northumberland’s roads always quiet: under lockdown they’ve become silent, sepulchral even. But this is a global success. The relative cessation of commuting and air travel have brought about unprecedented reductions in pollution. Why, they say that, from India’s Punjab region, people can once again see the Himalayas, invisible for decades.
If it’s really so clear, I’m going to climb up Cheviot or Ros Castle soon, and see if I can catch a glimpse of K2.
Banksy: the Zen sound of one hand clapping
So Godzone’s journalistic father-figure, Banksy, has given up clapping for the NHS. Not that he’s against the people working heroically in it: but he reckons the weekly ritual has been hijacked by politicians.
He has a point. While no one should feel ashamed of raising (or giving) money for the NHS – hats off to Colonel Tom – we might still question why we need to offer our financial support to a national service which is presumably, er, nationally (ie government) funded. When this crisis is over, we’ll pick up any remaining tab through significantly raised taxes: as we must do, in a democracy that believes in a welfare state.
Me, I’m still clapping: or, rather (sneering at Banksy’s harmonica), I take my trumpet outside, though there are only two occupied households within earshot of even that. But I think we’re making noise for camaraderie, declaring that together we’re hanging in and hopefully winning, as much as specifically applauding those front-line workers.
Community and camaraderie: The Clarion
Banksy could have gone on to argue that, leaving NHS funding to government, we should look to local businesses and community activities threatened by lockdown.
The Clarion has already raised awareness of the plight of some: Heatherslaw Light Railway, a stalwart bastion of local tourism, reduced to crowdfunding to stay alive (and fortunately faring well in that quest); and local farmer Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes. Are there more?
There’s certainly great community activity to be found. They won’t make a fortune, but Milfield’s two catering establishments, the Red Lion and Café Maelmin, are both offering weekly takeaway meals, to the delight of their regulars. Camaraderie more than commerce, I reckon.
Having been full-time in Godzone since February, this Spring we’ve witnessed more than in recent years of the repeated miracles of new life. Trees and hedgerows are now green, with the first May blossom showing. Crops are growing, the ubiquitous hares are active, native birds are nesting and the swallows and martins have finally arrived.
To observe the entire season of lambing and calving has been a joy. Walking the lanes, we’ve noted those moments of bonding between mother and young that melt even the hardened hearts of experienced farmers.
We found ourselves discussing with one (farmer, not cow) how the breeding is managed, and learned that the mother takes 50-60 days to get back on her cycle after calving.
I was astonished. I mean, I’ve seen a fruit fly. Even a horse fly.
But a cow cycle? I can’t wait. Indeed, I’ve left my bike ready in the field for them, and am counting those 50 days.