Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Still the virus time but no moaning today

It was a sunny day on Sunday - but in an Octobery sort of way, as you'd expect - 

so, since we're not allowed to see our adult family indoors, we went to the beach at Gullane - not far from Edinburgh. It may look balmy in this photo - 

but it wasn't. It was jacket weather. But you know what children are like: you set them down somewhere and they immediately begin to play. 

They had a lovely time. 

Meanwhile the adults took it in turns to go for walks along the beach (to keep warm.)

These people are not us. These people are definitely not me. Still, it's impressive, don't you think? I've swum in this, the North Sea, in the middle of summer, and it's pretty cold then. There's a lot in the news at the moment about how immersing yourself regularly in cold water is very good for you, possibly even warding off dementia. Hmm, well, I'm prepared to risk it. Actually, I shouldn't say this. My grandmother and aunt (her daughter) both developed dementia so it's certainly one of my fears, since there may well be a genetic element.

So that was a lovely day. And then, on Monday, there was an announcement in the paper of the sudden death of one of my friends. It was a huge shock. Nine of who were at school together have been meeting up for lunch for the past few years (it started out as three of us and then others were gradually invited) and this was one of them. Obviously we haven't met since the virus struck, but we've been exchanging emails over the months, and her last email, on September 30, was perfectly normal and cheerful, looking forward, like the rest of us, to better times. Then she died on October 17. I'm so sad for her. She had no children and was divorced - one brother, but none of us knows him. She had a dog, so I  hope the brother's taking him. Of course, 70 isn't a bad age, but she was slim and fit, still working as an editor... . Apart from being sad for her, I was reminded forcefully of the fragility of life for me, for any of us. 

Just last week, I discovered that a girl I was quite friendly with at school, but hadn't kept up with, died in 2012. That was also a shock - not that I knew at all what she'd been doing, but if I thought of her, it was as alive. 

So out of the twenty-eight or so of us in my school class, one died at 23 when she was knocked over by a car, two died of dementia, one died some years ago from cancer, one this year from cancer, and then there are these other two. A quarter of us, already. And that's only the ones I know about.

SO... altogether I think I won't moan today about being restricted by the Covid regulations. 

And here's another reason not to. I've been slowly going through my mother's papers and today read this letter from my (future) father, written from who knows where? but I think maybe Belgium, in February 1945. He was in the Royal Engineers, in bomb disposal and also involved in blowing up bridges when the Germans were coming and making sure they were undamaged if our allies were on the way. He writes: "Life here is so uncertain; one evening one may be sitting in comfort in a nicely furnished room; the next evening one may be crouching in a trench miles from anywhere being shelled and hating it; or one may be standing on a bridge in the dead of night, listening to the guns in the distance and the water gurgling past the pontoons and the cables creaking, carefully checking the vital parts every half-hour to make sure that the bridge is still sound, and then leaning against the girders and watching the moon. And all the time life is so uncertain; for no reason at all, the man one has known and liked for years is suddenly struck down, and is no more, and there's no sense to it... .There's an increased sensitivity to mortality caused by the realisation of how much one doesn't want to lose."

He was 25 and had been in the army since 1939, when he was 19. 

So - no, no complaining from me. Today at least. 



  1. Being on that beautiful beach in the fresh but cold air seems wonderful to me, especially if I'm in nice warm clothes. I love the sea! It's a very calming environment. Glad you got to hang out with your family! I'm so sorry about your friend; that would be utterly shocking and sad. 70 is very young, in my opinion. :(

  2. I enjoyed hearing about your fathers war letter. Life was so uncertain for our ancestors. My dad joined the British army in 1938. He was captured at Dunkirk. He escaped and made his way into German occupied Belgium. My grandmother had a grocery store in Asplare Belgium and would hide British and American soldiers in the attic until they were well enough to move on. My dad was one of those men. My grandmother(in her 60's) was very courageous and was put in prison for working with the Belgium underground. Dad was recaptured and held in different German prison camps until 1945. His ankle and jaw were broken during that time. After the war, he returned and married my mom in Nov. 1945. My sisters were born in England and all immigrated to the U.S. in 1950. I'm their only American born child. My parents lived such interesting lives. At the beginning of this covid crisis, I thought I could endure the lock down as long as it takes since my parents endured so much more. As you say, it's hard keeping our distance from loved ones but it is easier than our parents war. Thank you for letting me tell part of my families story. Patty McDonald

    1. Wow, how interesting. We have such easy lives, in comparison.

  3. Your father's letter made me well up. So beautiful. So wise for a 25 yr old. Thanks for posting it.

    I'm 73 so I know that slow loss of old friends. It's universal but that doesn't make it any less painful.

    Love your life. Such beauty around you. I believe in the cold water is good for you notion. I get mine in the Atlantic Ocean but only once a year, which isn't nearly enough.

  4. Oh to go to the beach -- I'd take it even in cold weather. It looks like you must've had a wonderful time. And what treasures you must be finding in the archives. Thank you for sharing them -- I love stuff like that! And thanks for the beautiful sentiment -- life is very fragile and it's good to remember that when it seems you're surrounded by chaos!