Day 16 in the Corona house: It ain't necessarily so

Day 16 in the Corona house.

Day sixteen has mainly been about contingency planning and learning to work with uncertainty. We are well and have only been out for our single walk. When I took Taz for his walk this morning, it struck me for the first time ever, that I could hear birdsong along the length of my walk. The occasional bird breaks through even in London but today was something much more sustained. If ever there was a day that any stray nightingales might be heard were they in Berkely Square, today would have been it.

In addition to the increased birdlife, Taz was kept occupied with a couple of skwirrels, two very large and well fed rats and three urban fokzes. These were all in places usually far to busy to be visited by them during the day. We often imagine our urban cities to be devoid of wildlife and that it would take some time for them to be reclaimed by nature. Based on my experience today, it’s clear that any lull in human occupation would very quickly be filled with the enquisitive rodents and mammals that live mainly unseen in our cities.

Lost a spanner?

Regrettably, it’s been mixed and as yet tentative information about our return to the Shire. Pexit minus three was based on us being able to leave on Friday and that by that time we would have water, limited heating and perhaps a week or ten days to rough it before the kitchen became useable. However, with the closure of all bar essential retail and wholesale, building supplies are already in short supply. So though we have a willing workforce, they have very little in the way of materials with which to work.

At the time of writing, it looks unlikely we’ll be in a position to return for at least a couple of weeks although a discussion with our builder may provide a way forward – just wait and see I suppose.

You might think the blog post in named to reflect the change of plans and indeed, in part, it is. But it’s also describing an underlying theme we’ve spotted today and to a lesser extent last week. We’re all programmed to look for the common sense approach, the actions that seem right, that fit with our natural intuition. However, at present, this seems to be a time where we need to consider the counter intuitive.

Time to challenge default thinking?

An example is the advice to isolate. If you have symptoms, then the currrent advice is to self-isolate for seven days whereas if you don’t have symptoms the duration is longer at fourteen days. Of course, when you understand the reasoning, to allow for an incubation period post infection it makes more sense. But it’s an example of where the intuitive response might give the wrong result.

Contentiously, the increasingly public spat between the government and the London Mayor (Sadiq Khan) may point at another. Transport for London indicate that tube usage is down by 80 percent on normal figures. Yet today, photographs were published showing the usually ram-packed tube trains operating with nobody maintaining the 2m distancing required under current public health policy.

The mayor disagrees with current advice claiming that only key workers should be travelling and went so far today as saying public transport isn’t for everyone just key workers. It’s certainly true that the number of tube trains running at present has reduced. Whether that’s soley down to non-attendance of drivers or a policy decision by TFL/the mayor, is unclear and I make no judgement either way. However, it’s a further example of the counter intuitive move to retain tube services at or near full capacity may well be the appropriate route to reducing futher the spread of infection.

While on the subject of challenging thinking, if you’re hearing news of people ignoring government advice is large numbers, I can only say this hasn’t been my experience today. An 80 percent reduction in tube traffic and approaching 70% of bus traffic, indicates that the contrary is the case. The vast majority of people are complying. My guess is those who are not have little alternative as not to work would curtail their incomes. The pictures below show Peckham Rye at 10am this morning. As you can see a ghost town.

Vaughan focused his walk towards the Camberwell green area which means we’ve checked most of the main route. It was similarly deserted. However, a new cluster of signage appeared in many of the retail premises. Of the forty retail premises in that area four were open (a bakery, hardware store, kebab shop and chip shop). A handful more were providing take away service via uber or similar collection schemes although the premises were not open to the public. The rest were closed until further notice.

However, there is some good news among the more generally depressing backdrop. As large supermarkets struggle to expand delivery and collection capacity, people have turned increasingly to the smaller independent suppliers to fill the gap.

Local veg boxes surge in demand

In Wiltshire (the county I know best), there are hundreds of niche suppliers, farm shops, and food producers. It also has four major providers of fruit and vegetable boxes delivered in the local area.

All four businesses have currently suspended accepting new customers and indeed new orders. However, not for want of supply, merely because they can’t bag, pack, box and deliver at the same speed as the orders are arriving. They are giving themselves the breathing space to cope at the new levels of demand. The news from all four is that they intend to be open for orders again over the weekend with increased capacity. I’m sure that could be repeated for similar suppliers across the country.

In the short term, they at least will be benefitting from the uptake in orders. It struck me that if only ten percent of those people ordering from them over this period stay with them, that will be a huge boost to smaller and independent businesses. It may also represent a not insignificant shift in future buying habits. I’m sure there will be many changes that persist after the crisis has passed. The good news is not all of them have to be for the worse.

A shorter than usual update this evening as during the last two hours we’ve clarified the position re the move back to the Shire. The premises have been secured and neighbours are keeping an eye too, but it now looks like we’re at Gumnut for at least the next three weeks. No building supplies being delivered for at least three weeks. Neither of us mind roughing it for a few days but three weeks with hot water but no heating, no sink and no laundry facilities isn’t a great move when we can just lock the doors at Gumnut and stay put.

Taz niffin the flora

Taz has adapted well to the longer period at Gumnut and has picked up on the fact that things are not following the usual routine.

I have to say he’s a total star and is a welcome member of the street to many of the residents who smile and wave at the extended visitor. He’s even learned to take himself from the house the 15m or so to some rough grass if there is a need to practice standing on three legs, then bring himself back in and look and me lamenting the drop in service standards. However, he’s happy with us here and is gradually clearing the neighbourhood of fokses and skwirrels. It’s as if it was a personal doggy project.


The title from today’s post is taken from Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin. For those who like to hear the track relating to this post, it can be played here, sung by Ella Fitzgerald.


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