Calm before storm?
SUMMERTIME, and the living is not especially easy. As I write, the Government is encouraging us to emerge from our Covid shells, but, like wary little hermit-crabs, many are cautious as to where the coronavirus may be lurking: in a healthy-looking jogger, leaving a trail of droplets in her wake; a fellow commuter, strap-hanging on the Tube; a much-missed family member, unable to resist the usual bear-hug greeting. Others, of course, are erupting back into the world like corks from shaken champagne bottles, enthusiastic and ready to party.
I realise that we do need to get back to as much normality as possible, but the coronavirus is still there, and we do need to “stay alert”. When I was a teenager, I spent summers working as part of the lifeguard team at an open-air swimming pool. Occasionally, one of us would be sent to help patrol a beach near by; this was because, in certain conditions, rip currents would develop and sweep the unwary out beyond the breakers and into deep water, with all the attendant dangers that brings.
It was usually the weaker swimmers who were caught by the current, tempted into danger because, quite often, the area of sea with the rip looks calmer — perhaps a little choppy, but nothing like the large waves rolling in on other spots. We would put up warning flags and signs, but, inevitably, someone would ignore or not see them, and we would end up in a rescue situation.
Given the way in which social distancing and mask-wearing are being ignored or disparaged by some, I’m hoping our Covid “lifeguards” are alert and ready for the coming rescue.
LOCKDOWN may have eased, but, given my rather temperamental immune system, I am being more hermit crab than champagne cork. Friends of mine were ecstatic to be able to have their hair done when salons reopened, posting pictures on social media of themselves “before”, “after”, and even “during” the event.
Personally, given a choice, I’d opt for a check-up at the dentist rather than a trip to the hairdresser — which is probably why I normally resemble Worzel Gummidge, albeit with better teeth. Mind you, given that my dentist won’t be able to offer routine check-ups for the foreseeable future, I may yet go the full Worzel. Something to look forward to!
Sense of perspective
IF LIFE on earth seems a little fraught at the moment, the heavens have been compensating with an array of astronomical delights. July saw a glorious full “hay moon”, followed by a penumbral lunar eclipse that turned the moon a rosy hue; Jupiter stooped close to the earth, shining more brightly than I can remember seeing so far this year, its bands and moons visible through Number Three son’s quite basic childhood telescope. The star (sorry) of the show, however, was the NEOWISE comet, named after the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope, which first spotted it.
We took a midnight trip to the Stone Jetty at Morecambe to see it — I say “a” trip, but we actually had to make two, as I had initially been mistaken about the co-ordinates for the comet, and we missed it. It was well worth braving the bracing sea breeze on the second night, though, as not only did we see NEOWISE, serenely journeying past our beautiful if troubled planet, but we also spotted the International Space Station. The ISS flew silently over our heads, a fast-moving, brilliant spark in the blackness of the sky.
Of course, the light shining from this feat of human technology was the reflected glory of the sun; standing under the vastness of the night sky, Psalm 8 whispered through my mind: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
Red in tooth and claw
IT HAS become something of a Covid cliché that wildlife has benefited from the reduction in human activity, but that has certainly been the case around us. Our garden has echoed to the sound of birds, suddenly able to hear themselves and others singing — an uplifting sound, even on gloomy lockdown days.
Avian fertility also seems to have been given a lockdown boost, if the number of chicks and fledglings in our patch is anything to go by. One pair of wood pigeons took up residence in a tree just behind the house and began constructing a sturdy nest; soon we realised that eggs were being incubated, and eventually we could see two little beaks begging for food.
The day arrived when we were lucky enough to see the bolder fledgling teeter on the edge of the nest and take flight — actually, “flight” might be a generous description, but it certainly fell gracefully to the ground while the proud parents fluttered around, cooing their pride at the achievement. Such joy was short-lived however, as a few days later I looked out of our window to be met by the supercilious stare of a sparrowhawk who was perched on an exposed branch. The grey feathers on the ground told their own sad tale.
TO HELP those who are still unable to come to church, we continue to live-stream services on YouTube, whose analytics suggest that only 75 per cent of our average 130 viewers are from the UK. “Go figure!” as our American cousins might say.
Elizabeth Figg is an ex-QARANC officer, nurse, midwife, and laughter facilitator, now working as a freelance writer. Her husband is a vicar in the diocese of Blackburn.