What’s next, I ask?

Welcome to the first of my monthly, meandering blogs, put on my website, and emailed to everyone who signed up to receive my news. Let me begin with a warning, this is not primarily about Covid, so you may wish to take yourself off the list. Obviously, I am still following Covid, but no longer closely, and certainly not enough to write regular posts. Having said that here is something everyone should read – “How the risk of side effects could change with Covid-19 vaccine boosters” – we are all, probably going to offered these soon.

At the end of this year, I will end my ‘formal’ working life. No longer will I have someone paying me a salary! It is going to be a milestone and feels rather strange. The question is what next – beyond death and decay, that is. I am strangely unwilling to make any commitments now. There is so much I could do, and I really do need to start making plans. Getting back to Canada and to South Africa are high on the agenda. Anyone coming from South Africa must be quarantined in a hotel near the airport for 11 days, so that is not going to happen soon. Canada is a bit easier.

I have been dabbling in writing a memoir, so doing a course on memoir writing might be a good idea. These are available in Norwich through the Writer’s Centre. This writing is slow going, but I have learnt some very interesting things about my family. For example my father, having served through the second world war with the Indian Army as an engineer, returned in 1945 for a further period of service. During this he was on the Northwest Frontier in Karadinand and then Razmak. He described skirmishes with the forces of the Faquir of Ipi whose troops would lob shells into their cantonment. What a wonderful title for a tribal leader! This is also very relevant today; as we are seeing Afghanistan is not a country for foreigners!

The result of the Covid pandemic, as far as I am concerned, is that so little happened, and it was over such a long time. As I have said before, I think the greatest real victims are the very young, for whom this has taken an inordinate amount of their lives, and the very old who effectively lost time to be with loved ones. However I don’t think I made the best possible use of the time and that annoys me.

I started a weekly blog to keep friends posted on what I thought was important. This replaced my monthly meandering, which I have kept up for many years. After about a year I realised that I could not manage to write something new and interesting every week, so cut the frequency. Finally, about a month ago I stopped. There were several reasons: firstly I felt the pandemic and its response were getting too complex for me to understand; secondly it was a huge commitment of time, even though writing can be quite rapid, the research and thinking took a while; and thirdly I was beginning to find it all quite depressing.

There have been unprecedented and huge strides in the science and that is very welcome. The vaccine development has been exceptional. Therapeutics do not appear to have kept pace, unless there are things I don’t know. The real effect of the pandemic is on economic, social, cultural and political life and frankly we don’t know what this will be. It will emerge over the next few years. There is a chance to influence this of course. I hope but am not convinced this will happen, and that the world will be a better, fairer place, with an appreciation of what really matters.

August 2021 mirrored my mood, it seemed as though the whole month was grey, damp, and oppressive. In addition, the garden, while full of plants and insects, seemed to be a bird-free zone (apart from pigeons, and I don’t count them)! I hoped it was because many of our birds go to the nearby fields at the height of summer. I am very pleased to say that, as I write this in the first week of September, the garden seems to be once again alive with birds. The weather has also changed, and we are forecast to have a spell of warm sunny days. Of course, it won’t be too long before we are scanning the sky hoping for rain!

My reading (both fiction and non-fiction) is generally advised by recommendations from friends and reviews in the newspapers. Pat Barker is a well-known British author who wrote the brilliant Regeneration Trilogy about the first world wars. One of the papers mentioned a recent book, The Silence of the Girls, published in 2018. It is the story of Queen Briseis, the queen of Lyrnessus, a city sacked by Achilles as he besieged Troy. The tale is told by Briseis as she is enslaved and awarded to Achilles, as the ‘prize of honour’. As the ‘blub’ says, this war, and the siege of Troy, was ostensibly a fight over a woman – Helen of Troy – but the book gives the other women a voice. It is a brutal book. In her despair Briseis thinks that this all for naught, but then reflects that the stories will live on, and of course they have. I can strongly recommend it. I am still thinking about it and what it means.

Over the past six weeks Norwich has been hosting the ‘Head out not Home’ initiative. That meant that there were musicians and other entertainers in five of the public spaces around the city each Sunday. They all played five short gigs and, of course, it was all free. The level of organisation that went into it was extraordinary. These types of events are one of the things that made me proud to be a resident of Norwich. We can all play a part in making the city vibrant, even if it is just turning up! I only went to one music event: Tom Moore and Archie Moss. They were great and it made me realise that I had missed out. It is, of course, possible to enter the artists’ names into Spotify or other streaming services and hear the music, but it is not the same.

Over the past few weeks, I went through the process of getting new glasses. It took longer than expected. The test was straightforward, although I have to say my local branch of ‘Specsavers’ really does not seem to care about the time their clients waste waiting. I suspect though it is a model of capitalist efficiency. Two things stood out: first the optician was Canadian, from Edmonton and one of his colleagues put her head round the door, a Canadian from Calgary – why; second the collection of the new glasses had to be postponed because they did not arrive as promised or expected.

The combination of Brexit and Covid is having a negative effect on economic activity in the UK. One of the major bottlenecks currently seems to be trained delivery drivers, there is even a shortage of cab drivers. I arranged to meet Rowan at a pub for dinner a week or so ago, ‘Take a cab’, she said, ‘That way you can have a drink without worrying’. Sensible advice, well I phoned every company in Norwich, but all warned of a wait of at least an hour. In the end I drove and did not drink.

Let me end off there and say thank you for reading this posting. I try to keep them below 1,300 words, and only post once a month, but again please feel free to unsubscribe (you can do so by clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the email).

Feedback is always welcome, either by leaving a comment here or by emailing me: awhiteside@balsillieschool.ca

3 thoughts on “What’s next, I ask?

  1. Hi Alan,

    Just wanted to say thanks for your posts during this last year and a half. I understand why you have “ended” the updates (depressing = not good) and just want you to know that even though you say that you “didn’t make the best use of time,” your posts meant a lot to me. I don’t remember how I found them, but I’m glad I did. :)

    Thanks,

    Suzannah

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s