Tag Archives | pandemic


I must have been feeling hungry the other morning while I was lying half asleep in bed, as I was dreaming about my home-made bread and eating a slice of toast with honey or butter (but not both – one can’t be too self-indulgent!)

I make the toast in this house because my DBH (Dearly Beloved Husband) likes his cindered and I don’t. Our old toaster suffered from burnout, so we ditched it and acquired a new big toaster with four slots and a number of confusing dials – intended for use at big family weekends – but currently under-used, unfortunately.

The old toaster was simpler but in the end its whims and misdemeanours were almost as devious and unpredictable as the coronavirus. That got me thinking that toasters and viruses may have a lot in common.

It’s not an obvious connection I will admit. But strange as it seems, they have a number of shared characteristics. (I think you’ll find my argument persuasive.)

Firstly, both toasters and viruses have to be watched or they start to misbehave.  Humans think they have them under control – big mistake.

Secondly, they are unreliable and change over time: your brand-new efficient toaster turns into an exasperating and perverse appliance, and an emergent but identified coronavirus mutates into an unstable and relentless ‘chimera’ (fabled monster made up of parts of various animals).

Thirdly, their offspring (toast and illness) pop up when you least expect, either too soon or too late.

Fourthly, both toasters and coronaviruses produce extremes – toast comes out either pale and undone or black and burnt; and Covid-19 can be either relatively minor or extremely serious.

Finally, if you don’t have bread you can’t make toast, and if you don’t have big money you can’t defeat viruses or make vaccines.

I rest my case.

When an old toasters becomes too erratic and destructive, we get rid of it and buy a new model.  Coronavirus is a bit more devious, and to survive it turns itself into new variants, which we combat with new and better vaccines.

This is a fight to the death. Only one of us is going to win this battle – humans or viruses (I believe it will be us) – and the loser will be toast!

The Colours of Lockdown

In many cultures rainbows are a symbol of hope. They appear sometimes as perfect arcs, often during a rainstorm, when the sun shines onto water droplets, shattering its white light into an array of brilliant colours. Everyone loves a rainbow.  It produces that frisson of excitement and wonder which is not dissimilar to watching fireworks explode in the sky.  There are many superstitions connected with this phenomenon – the most common being that there is a pot of gold where the rainbow ends.  There have been popular songs such as:  “Somewhere over the rainbow” about the yearning for freedom such as that which bluebirds enjoy when they soar over the clouds.

The earliest story about a rainbow is the one in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 9: 13 – 17, when God, after causing a flood to wash away humanity’s corruption, put the rainbow in the sky  as the sign of his promise to Noah and his family with the animals in the ark that he would never again destroy the earth with flood. The rainbow became  a symbol of hope, a new day, and a divine promise. And so it has been viewed through the centuries.

However in the 20th century  the rainbow has been adopted by movements of social change. In the 1960s a rainbow flag was used at peace marches in Europe and also at demonstrations against nuclear weapons, symbolising a desire for peace. In the 1970s, Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag for the LGBT community, and the rainbow flag became a symbol of pride, with the different colours representing ‘diversity’ in the gay community. In the 1990s Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term ‘rainbow nation’ to describe South Africa, and this term was used by Nelson Mandela following the 1994 elections, when it became a symbol of reconciliation and unity.

Now in the 21st-century, with the world is living with the catastrophe and the suffering caused worldwide by coronavirus, in the UK we have reverted to using this age-old symbol once again.  Houses adorned with rainbows have become a common sight during lockdown, often in the form of children’s drawings put up in windows.  Rainbows have become a symbol of support for the NHS and public gratitude to all those who are working with the sick and the dying in our communities. It is aligned with the government exhortation to save the NHS.

During 2020 the rainbow with its arc of translucent colours has become once again a symbol of fervent hope that the pandemic will end. It won’t be tomorrow but it may be next year. It is almost inevitable that we will be entering another third lockdown in the new year. And no one knows how long it will last – but many of us suspect it will be some months before things improve with the rollout of the vaccine.

Our optimism is still in check. The future is uncertain. Let’s hope we can see the light and trust in the promise at the end of the rainbow, when the dark clouds finally disappear.



Say it Aloud

I am full of admiration for the fortitude of individuals who have been on their own this summer, confined to their homes and gardens.  Solitude can be a blessing if it is a choice, but enforced isolation is not congenial and causes problems and hardship.  I felt immensely sorry for people in Spain who were not even allowed to go outside during the hot months.  Thousands in this country have had to work from home or have been furloughed or lost their jobs. Coping with this pandemic calls for resilience and compassion.

I have been encouraged by the kindness I see all around me shown by those I know and those I don’t know. We have all made more of an effort to contact those we believe might be lonely and in need of cheering up. Communities and nations have come together to face the threat of the coronavirus, and the suffering and death it has caused. Clapping the NHS has been an example of this.

I hope that when the pandemic has finally run its course that this unity of purpose and energy can be channelled towards resolving the other vital issues which affects the future of our planet: climate change and military conflicts.  Life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change.  Humans need to be less selfish and less greedy and try to live in peace. There has to be a universal commitment to reduce global warming and to end fighting. It won’t happen unless we all want to make it happen.

We can’t control natural disasters – and we just have to deal with them as best we can when they happen. But so many people have died and have suffered from disease, poverty, hunger, and war, and these are all issues that can be addressed. As C.S. Lewis said: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Let’s act now.