Monday, March 15, 2021

Guest post from Cape Point, South Africa

I've been having a series of guest posts from regular readers of the blog, readers who live a long way from here, the Derbyshire Peak District. They've been telling us about their experience of this last pandemic year. It's been really interesting.

Today I'm delighted to welcome Di McDougal who has been reading the blog for years, and who comments under the name of Marmee. Di lives in a suburb of Cape Town, about 17 minutes drive from Cape Point. Di and I have never met, but we do correspond. She's a good friend.  

Take it away, Di...

Last year I can remember hearing about a corona virus. I took no notice, I thought it would be like with SARS, something somewhere but not here on the tip of Africa. I only started paying attention when things were going badly somewhere in Italy. Italy? I thought…in Europe?? Then we had our first 4 cases and it exploded as this virus does. Our first lockdown was announced and I stood on my balcony and looked out over my bit of the world and I was afraid. Our health system is almost non existent compared to Europe, I felt very sure that I would see bodies in the street before we were done. 

That did not happen thankfully! We had alcohol bans and curfews and travel bans and you can't leave your house, no, not even to exercise. People were ill, people died but during that first lockdown it felt like I was in an alternate reality. Here, in my house with my books, in my garden against the mountainside, all was peaceful, well. I felt so secure, so cut off from the world. Almost - virus, what virus? 

Then  lockdown ended and I was suddenly in the real world. And I was terrified. I was angry. Here I was seventy years old, I had made a good life, the life I wanted, I had learnt so many hard lessons. I was beginning to be the person I wanted to be! And here was a virus and I was afraid of dying, afraid of how the dying might be. I was locked in the fear, stifled by it. I stayed in there, in the dark far too long. A day came when I could see I was doing it to myself and I decided to stop.  First thing every morning I went outside to look at my world with awareness and gratitude for another day, a new day. Morning by morning I got my self, my happiness back.

When we were finally allowed  to go back to the beaches after our second lockdown I  started swimming in a lovely deep little bay. This is the path that takes one there. I love the light on the water, the swells that rise and fall, the penguins, the seagulls calling from a nearby clump of kelp. It is where I find it easy to just be, no thinking. I am hardly human there, just part of the movement and the beauty. 

Looking back now most of us regret that first hard lockdown. It damaged our fragile economy so much. So many jobs were lost. Maybe just the elderly and those at risk should have isolated. For us as for most of the world the pandemic did not so much expose as remind us of the fracture lines in our country  and here in South Africa, and indeed on the continent, it emphasised the chasm between those with deep pockets and those like us who could not buy up vaccines before those vaccines had even been made. 

There is so much in my beloved country that is broken and maybe that is why the good shines so brightly. We were so proud of the field hospitals that were prepared at such speed. We are so proud of the African NGO Gift of the Givers that helped create Covid wards in existing hospitals and supplied vital equipment. We were thankful and more than a  little surprised that for the most part the healthcare system held up. And I for one liked it that the president would announce that we were to have a “family meeting” when it was time for an update on lockdowns.  We were proud that our Professor Salim Abdool Karim (epidemiologist) shared the John Maddox 2020 prize with Dr Anthony Fauci. 

What is the happiest thing just now? That my grandson can see friends and they can run and play and shout and have at least that much that is normal! 



Anonymous said...

Marmee - so good to be invited into your world, after all these years of enjoying your comments on Sue's blog!

In fact, you have been very generous with yourself, and shared feelings that I'm sure many of us would recognise from the last year but maybe haven't voiced. Not least, the fear of being pulled up short, stopped in our tracks. I certainly experienced the heavy thought that maybe those plans of ours might not get to happen after all...

But then, with luck and friends, we somehow take hold and get back on with living - as you did with taking that wonderful path down to the water.

Thank you, Marmee. You are right to be proud.

Thea, xx

Anita said...

Very much enjoyed reading your post from Cape Point. Your little bay sounds wonderful. Thankyou for sharing this with us.