PCN Newsletter 26th March 2020
This is the first in a series of newsletters from PCN Britain.
The spread of the coronavirus has meant that we have all had to face restrictions, on our friendship gatherings, our social life, our work, our journeys, our contact with close family. For PCN, as you know, it has meant the cancellation of meetings and conferences.
HOWEVER our friendships have not been quarantined and we can communicate with each other by email, telephone, SKYPE, social media and the good old letter! And so we have decided to make a virtue out of necessity, to find that silver lining, by sending you (if you are happy to receive this) a regular email containing a rich variety of thoughts, stories, musings, even theological debate! And we hope you will contribute by responding with your comments, opinions, articles, light-hearted and serious, via the dedicated page of our website, our Facebook page and other ways. Some of the PCN trustees will regularly offer ideas, perhaps a poem here, a book review there. Let’s turn the enforced inactivity into an active exchange of ideas. And lets also support those who do contract this virus and need our love and friendship.
So……here is my little reflection on today…….
Waking up, turn on Radio 4, wall to wall coronavirus news, reminding me that I am now a vulnerable person since passing the Rubicon age of 70. Pah, nonsense! What about my mother, soon to be 103? But she is in lockdown in her care home and I won’t be able to sit with her for quite some time, no more Pointless at 5.15,
to watch with her. Instead I sit at home and see Boris Johnson at that time. (just as pointless I muse).
After breakfast (and more radio 4) I paint a garden fence. I am going to have the most cared-for garden since Adam delved and Eve span. Such a beautiful spring day here in Sheffield and I glimpse the Derbyshire hills from the top of the house but being discouraged to go walking in tourist areas, I settle for more gardening. (an aside = lets share gardening tips??)
I am about to go out in the car ( its OK I am using the exception of caring for a vulnerable person i.e. mum.) The virus would surely be the end of her. The most I can do is post a letter through the box at the care home, ring a staff member who brings her to the window and we wave to each other.
On the way back through the deserted streets of the city (today 106 confirmed cases out of a population of 582,506), past the closed shops and unusually quiet pavements, I am reminded of what it was like when I was a boy in the 1950s on Good Friday. Nothing then was open save the corner shop selling the papers. Off I went to sing Matins in the church choir, the church pretty full. The Benedicite. O All ye Works of the Lord , Bless Ye the Lord…….
Did this same Lord create the coronavirus which to date has killed over 20,000 people, I wonder? It’s the kind of question my smart grandson, aged nearly 5, might ask me when we Facetime later….. Please Teddy, no awkward questions today to grandad – but my fellow PCN travellers, you might want that debate!
No doubt I will muse with you again, for now keep well.
Adrian Alker, PCN Britain Chair
News has reached us of the death of a PCN group member resulting from Coronavirus. I am sure that you will join us in offering your prayers and best wishes to the deceased’s family and also to the West Yorkshire group who have lost a good friend.
I’ve learned a lot about life from doing the laundry.
It’s a daily practise that has taught me about the power of hope, how to cope with despair, the perils of being over optimistic, the importance of checking the weather forecast, and the marvellous kindness of strangers. Actually it hasn’t taught me anything about the kindness of strangers, I’m making that up. Mainly, the laundry has taught me about the importance of getting on with the stuff of every day life.
We keep our laundry basket in the bathroom, and sometimes I go in there and find myself facing a basket stuffed full of muddy clothes - a chilling sight. Enough to strike fear in to the heart of the bodest among us.
When I begin to tackle it, breaking it down into loads, separating out delicate fabrics and light colours, I tell myself that I’m making progress, that I’ll triumph. But then I return to the bathroom the next day, and as if by magic, the basket is full again. Extraordinary. Devastating. Temporary.
The thing about the laundry is that it’s constant, it’s always ongoing. But every now and then, I have another breakthrough, I get to the bottom of the basket again, and when I do I feel hope surge through me. Of course the wretched thing soon fills up again, and back to work I go, because that’s life isnt it: the constant work of hope in the face of the apparently inevitable.
There is no miracle solution to laundry (other than staff - and we’re just not that sort of household) just as there’s no magic wand which we can wave to get rid of the bigger trials of life. Our challenge is to keep returning to the laundry basket, keep sorting the clothes, and keep hoping for good drying days.
PCN trustee & Laundry slave
Two weeks before Christmas I had an exceedingly odd few hours. They started with a visit to my optician as I had developed a painful eye infection and ended with me collecting my daughter from her nursery Christmas party. In between these two events I found myself sitting in Gloucester Royal Hospital being told that I probably had cancer in my eye, the consultant said very gently to me “Don’t dwell on it and don’t let it ruin your Christmas.” At the time this seemed to be the most absurd thing to say, how could I not dwell on it?
And so I set off home with this news swirling around in my head and went to collect my daughter. She was having a wonderful time, attempting to steal chocolate biscuits from unattended plates and screaming with laughter at everything and nothing in particular. This was her first big party and she was delighted by it all.
In the weeks that followed I had to learn to live with that nagging sense of being unsettled, of not knowing what the future holds. It is very much the same sensation that I have now and I learned one main lesson from that time. The future is not a given, it is a promise that may or may not be kept.
Last Christmas I made sure that I was truly present with my family, when we decorated the tree, when we opened gifts and even when my daughter decided that it was all too much for her and had a sobbing fit on Christmas Day. When you have no certainty about your future you hold on to the present, use it to ground yourself. The consultant was right, fighting that which you cannot change and throwing your energy into anger and self-pity is not helpful. That is not to say that I was an angel, the stress resulted in plenty of tears but for me that was an important part of acceptance. In these peculiar times I am making sure that the future with its as yet unfulfilled promises and its insecurities do not weigh too heavily upon me, I have now and it is enough.
Today my daughter played on her slide and then we sat and read a book, tomorrow will bring what it brings but for now there are another fifteen Poppy and Sam stories in that book and I think she wants them all before bedtime.
Administrator, PCN Britain
PS. The cancer diagnosis was confirmed in January but thanks to the marvels of the NHS I have already completed my treatment and my prognosis is excellent.