Mindscape

It’s important we know the times we live in – but to do that, we first must truly know ourselves – our true self.

What we think, fear, do when we are on our own. Accepting our own imperfections helps us accept them in others. Wisdom without grace is futile as is knowledge without Love.

by Mark Bolton
@MarkCBolton1

below by @tomhcharles

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Keir Starmer’s Middle Way

With a civilian death toll that is likely to outdo even the Nazis’ air bombardment during world war two (70,000) we experience the full impact of the policies of the right. What of the parliamentary left? Labour wound up its foregone conclusion of a leadership contest a month ago. Sir Keir Starmer won, but who is he, politically? A smart move by the Labour electorate? Starmer steers as close to the middle of the road as possible. History will soon demand he chooses which side he’s on.

Starmer is seeking a clear break from Jeremy Corbyn while not entirely abandoning the popular policies of his predecessor. Even Corbyn’s staunchest supporters were worn down by four years of relentless, puerile attacks and the choice of Starmer was surely a relief, even for members who voted for the more leftist candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Starmer is a politician whose style is approved of by the full spectrum of media commentators and the Labour backstabbers who loathed Corbyn.

Narrow Parameters

The contrasting attitudes towards the two men reflects the narrow parameters of thought in British public life. Corbyn was deemed ‘unelectable’ by most Labour MPs and harassed with media absurdities (claims that he was a Czech spy, a fabricated antisemitism crisis etc) that compromised his public image. From the right-wing (inc. Murdoch) media, this was expected. For the centrist liberal media (there is no major left-wing media in the UK) Corbyn’s unforgivable crime was that he didn’t play their game and never would. He treated journalists with respect. But he treated everybody that way, no matter their status. Never distracted by sycophancy, Corbyn wanted to change society. Keir Starmer is more malleable.

The leadership election result also signalled the narrowing vision of western Europe’s largest political party, Labour. It is worth considering the figures that have elected the party’s leaders. In 2015, Corbyn won a stunning victory with 59.5% of the vote in a four-horse race that included ‘electable’ opponents Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham. In 2016 he was forced by the right of the parliamentary party to face Owen Smith in another contest, with Corbyn securing victory with 61.8%. That contest is noteworthy only in that Smith received 38.2% of votes; a miserable defeat, but 193,229 of the Labour electorate backed him and presumably form the basis of Starmer’s support.

The switch from leftist Corbyn to ‘centrist’ Starmer suggests that a lot of Corbyn supporters, socialists, voted for Sir Keir. Labour members have tacitly agreed to a centre-right consensus in British politics: nothing too radical, with the debate framed by a media which spans the centre-left to the far right. The boundaries of what is possible have been reined in.

It is worth taking a moment to consider what might happen if members of leftish political parties just voted for their own interests rather than playing political pundit. In the UK, as in the US, people now vote for the leader they think other people might vote for, rather than for policies. Presumably, the decisive thought here is that the masses have not yet reached the level of enlightenment required to grasp what is being offered to them by straight-talking politicians like Corbyn or Bernie Sanders (who surely would have walked it in November against an incumbent president who advises the population to inject bleach into their veins).

Keir Starmer is the man for this political moment on the left. But by considering just a few of his stances to date, we see trouble brewing for the new Labour leader. He will have to concentrate to maintain his balance.

Sabotage

“The leader of the organisation carries the can, stands up for what goes wrong and takes responsibility” said Starmer during a hustings. He was criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s regime for “turning on its staff” during the so-called antisemitism crisis. This is Sir Keir taking the middle ground, making what he judges to be a politically safe criticism of his predecessor – not of his policies, but of his leadership. The problem is that we now have all the evidence we need that the crisis in the party was a fabrication, one entangled in a marriage of convenience with the Blairites obsessed with overthrowing Corbyn.

A leaked report from within the party since Starmer’s victory reveals the depth of the internal campaign to sabotage Labour’s chances of gaining power under Corbyn. The document shows that senior officials including the then Secretary, Iain McNicol, diverted money to right-wing candidates in safe seats rather than to left-wing candidates in marginals in 2017. This probably extended to Kensington where Emma Dent Coad won a historic victory for Labour in June 2017. When the Grenfell Tower fire atrocity took place days later, McNicol refused to send the help the new MP had requested, presumably for ideological right-left reasons.

The report also reveals the withholding of information from the leader’s office; officials boasting about not working professionally during the campaign; racism; sexism and more. Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner have ordered an investigation into the leaks, but the greatest scandal in the party’s history will need to be dealt with properly if the leadership is to retain credibility within the base – crucial if they are to keep the momentum of grassroots campaigning.

Antisemitism

Some of the disgraced officials featured in the report had been tasked with investigating cases of alleged antisemitism. The report shows that these officials deliberately slowed down the process to create the impression that Corbyn was indifferent to Jewish suffering. It worked, and a lifelong anti-racism campaigner was politically assassinated as an anti-Semite.

At root, the concocted crisis was always about Palestine, which Corbyn would have recognised as a state on day one of a Labour government. British Jews were deliberately and cynically scare mongered for political purposes, surely one of the basest tactics employed in our political history.

Starmer cannot be entirely ignorant of the reality of the antisemitism debacle. He must know that the Home Affairs Select Committee found “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.” And that official Labour party statistics released in January showed that a total of 2,178 Labour members had been accused of antisemitism since 2017, just 0.4 % of the overall membership. Almost all the 0.4% were not genuine cases of antisemitism. A total 56 Labour members had been expelled for alleged antisemitism at the time of the statistics being published, 0.01% of party members. “A third of all cases in 2019 have the same single individual as the main complainant,” states the 2020 document.

Starmer knows that the ‘crisis’ had a major impact on Labour’s public image but he did not miss a beat in declaring his collusion with the illusion in his victory speech: “Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry” and “I support Zionism without qualification.” A strategic move, or perhaps an indication of his willingness to ingratiate himself to power. He had previously made more neutral statements about Zionism, but in victory sought to establish his credentials, sending an apologetic letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, promising to “root out” Labour’s “antisemitism”.

Starmer is also declared supporter of Palestinian rights, opposes President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and has appointed Lisa Nandy, a long-term supporter of the Palestinians, as shadow foreign secretary. For justice in the Middle East, Labour is required to back Palestine’s self-determination and the right of return of seven million Palestinian refugees. Both positions contradict Zionism’s basic premise, an exclusively Jewish state in historic Palestine. When Israel annexes more land, or bombs the Gaza Strip again, Starmer will have to back the oppressor or the oppressed. He will shamefully bow to the Israel lobby while innocents die, or he will take a brave stand for peace and justice. No middle way exists.

Journalism

The new Labour leader opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but once an MP (he was first elected to the Commons in 2015) he voted against a parliamentary investigation into Tony Blair’s misleading MPs Iraq. While giving Blair a pass, Starmer has been determined to see a journalist who exposed the war crimes prosecuted. In 2010, as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) he played a key role in the persecution of Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks, who had just published evidence of a litany of western war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Collateral Murder video. 

As DPP, Keir Starmer fast-tracked the extradition of Assange to Sweden (from where he could be easily extradited to the US) for questioning over the most dubious allegations of rape. Starmer advised Swedish lawyers to reject Assange’s offer to be questioned in London, presumably understanding that the Swedes would have no option but to drop their investigation (the case had already been dropped then resuscitated by a right-wing magistrate). This set off a chain of events that have seen this one journalist harassed, imprisoned and effectively tortured and made ill by the British state on behalf of the Americans.

Emails from August 2012 show a sickening betrayal of Assange by the UK. Responding to a suggestion that Sweden might drop their phoney rape investigation, Keir Starmer’s office sent the following message to their Scandinavian counterparts: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”.

Julian Assange remains in squalid solitary confinement at Belmarsh, the prison reserved for the UK’s most violent and dangerous criminals. Despite his sentence (for skipping bail) having expired months ago, he is forced to stay in this maximum-security prison and wait for a judge to decide on his extradition to the US on surreal charges under the Espionage Act. A dangerous precedent will be set if Assange is sent to the dangerous president, never to be seen again. Who will dare inform the world about war crimes then?

Assange, who has a chronic lung condition, could die in Belmarsh. Perhaps this is what the British state wants, to save them the embarrassment of extraditing him. Parliament is quiet on Assange, but as leader of the opposition, Starmer is obliged to call for his release. 

With Wikileaks, the middle ground is untenable. Starmer either supports freedom of speech and the rule of law (a person cannot be extradited from the UK on political charges), or he does not.

Pandemic

With the government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus, the Labour leader has aimed straight down the middle. He is withholding many obvious criticisms of the Johnson government, presumably until the lockdown phase is over and the public is more receptive to apportioning blame. In PMQs this week, the Labour leader challenged government claims of British “success” when the official figures, which are an underestimate, show 30,000 people have died. But by being eager to offer praise where he can, Starmer fell into the trap of repeatedly saying “hospital deaths are falling”. They aren’t falling, they rise every time somebody dies. It was a strange and possibly revealing use of language on his part.

The pandemic will end with a political divergence. A choice, austerity or socialism, will decide the future of the NHS. That Starmer abstained in 2015 on the Tories’ destructive Health and Social Care bill doesn’t auger well for us.

Jeremy Corbyn was unlucky in the sense that two national disasters – Grenfell and COVID – fell the wrong side of the 2017 and 2019 general elections. Starmer has some media support and a chaotic government that proudly declared a decline in shoplifting on a day that saw 813 people die in agony. He has Exercise Cygnus; Dominic Cummings; PPE; the list is long and growing. With these weapons at his disposal, there will be no need to abstain.

A radical change is needed – will Sir Keir seize the moment? To do so, he must break away from the deadening obsession with respectability and electability that gnaws away at the parliamentary Labour party. The middle way, centrism, is an abstraction. It has no meaning in the real world. Under a so-called centrist Labour government, the sale of parts of the NHS to the private sector was accelerated. Starmer cannot retain his pristine establishment image while delivering a revival of our health service.

Starmer

Like all of us, Keir Starmer is a contradictory person, but unlike most of us, he now holds immense power. In all the scenarios above, he faces a choice: justice or injustice; oppressed or oppressor; freedom of speech or tyranny; truth or illusion.

Soon, he must decide whether he stands for life or for death. If that seems shrill, look at the world around you and the impact of indifference.

A slogan for Keir Starmer’s new Labour? For the many, not the few For the many and the few? Not for the many, not for the few? For the few not the many? For some people, but who?

You?

 

by Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Lockdown Lamentations

I cannot describe my feelings and emotions anymore

constantly twisting turning, a psychedelic Rubiks cube

only balanced when my daughter calls me

being a father, a dad pulls me back into the battle – into line

Something real to cling to

Giving me hope, a reason to keep going…

Not that I just live for my children

but they say they’re the last faces you see before you die!

 

Wandering alone through this dry arid wasteland

A home fit only for demons and jackals

I feel as if I am being prepared for eternity

the poetry has gone from my soul

this spiritual nomad who may be insane

Will I ever write verse again?

Maybe the gift has left me?

Blown away like tumbleweed…

‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas a fitting soundtrack to this movie

in which I play the lead…

 

Boxed in, unable to manoeuvre or gain an advantage

Caged like a dancing bear…

Snatching precious moments with Indiana*…

Looking in the mirror – I’m getting a tan!

Yet this is no holiday…

 

Do I truly know myself?

Or am I deluded? No! Not me, NEVER!

I’ve done too much work on myself!

But the doubts creep in like bog mist.

Passions burn inside-Tormenting-Tempting-Dividing

Am I Going mad?

Where’s my faith? Where’s my God in this?

Has it all been for nothing?

Through this meltdown eventually, I find peace

Re-booting my being-settling my Spirit once more

I love my life with all its problems-idiosyncrasies

I truly love my children – Yeah, you know what?

It’s going to be alright, everything’s going to be alright……………..

 

M C Bolton April 2020

 

* Indiana is my youngest child, aged 14

@MarkCBolton1 @UrbanDandyLDN

 

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by TC

 

14th June 2020

Tuesday marked 34 months since the Grenfell Tower fire. There was, of course, no organised silent walk, but many will have walked in silence, their thoughts drawn again, as so often, to that fateful day in 2017.

The third anniversary moves nearer, and we naturally start to anticipate the feelings it will stir. But on 14th June 2020, there will be no mass gathering in North Kensington.

This is a sacred day for the community, when we remember those lost, remember each other, reconnect and briefly recapture the spirit that served us so well during those long, hot days and nights in 2017.

The official response to the horror at the Tower can be characterised as a dereliction of duty. Where it existed at all, it often faltered and sometimes exacerbated the crisis. But this community did not hesitate or fail. The outpouring of love during those days is something that will live on forever in the memories of all who were there, to be passed on to our children and grandchildren with pride, sure that this was the way humans should respond to a human tragedy.

And in this current crisis, it is clearer than ever that the North Kensington community is far ahead of those that still presume superiority and a right to rule over the nation.

Under the oppression of lockdown, many in North Kensington suffer with health and housing issues, with poverty. Re-traumatised, minds are flooded with memories of the fire, unease haunts our dreams and waking lives.

Death always lurks in the shadows, but we have a heightened awareness of it now, just as we did then.

For 34 months, many, or more likely, most of us have toiled with the shame and guilt that accompany trauma.

In these new COVID circumstances, the wisdom of the Chairman of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to arrange proceedings so that attributions of guilt would be delayed for years must be questioned. Opinions on that are for another article, but it is important to acknowledge here that the pandemic has paused the Inquiry’s hearings, thereby extending an already unnecessarily long period of limbo.

This new delay comes as the full impact of the disaster trauma kicks in for thousands of affected individuals. It takes between two and three years for the full experience of trauma to begin to manifest following an event on the scale of the fire. Easily, imperceptibly triggered, widespread trauma makes mutual support so vital.

The thought of not being together on 14th June is almost unbearable. Nothing can adequately replace the hugs, the connections and the power and comfort of the shared, silent experience. Every individual experiences so much each 14th June, the intensity eased perhaps by a shared feeling of decency and humanity rising within ourselves and in our community…an indescribable, ethereal mix of raw vulnerability and strength

If the thought of not being able to be physically together to mark the occasion in June hurts, you can perhaps take solace in knowing that we were the ones who were there for each other in 2017, we responded with love, and we are ready to do so again. Many already are in the current crisis. Be certain that this humanity can be your comfort and that you can give and receive when the time comes.

There will be light in the darkness, and it will emanate from the North Kensington community.

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By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

 

2020 Vision: RBKC & North Kensington

“This Council – its policies, its leadership, its senior people and its culture – has changed.”

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, Leader and
Barry Quirk, Chief Executive
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, March 2020

 

Since June 2017, Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has claimed to be undergoing a culture transformation. This website has shown that this assertion is untrue; that public money has been spent to thwart resident empowerment, while austerity spending cuts have been imposed on vital services. Two strategies used by RBKC to frustrate North Kensington’s development have been manipulation through public relations and divide-and-rule of the community. We tackle both here, exposing the PR con using contributions from local people who have stayed faithful to the ideals of community through three traumatic years and have come together to produce this piece.

Background

In this article, we update our challenge to RBKC over its claims to have changed following the Grenfell Tower fire. Since June 14th, 2017, we have presented an evidence-based rebuttal to the council, revealing a fraud perpetrated against residents by RBKC before, during and since that crisis. Not once has RBKC disputed our criticisms with evidence. While we have provided real-life examples of serious failings, the council’s response has been to parrot their ‘change’ mantra.

This update was planned before the Coronavirus had impacted daily life so severely. Many people have been quick to predict that positive political, economic, social, philosophical and cultural transformations will spring from the crisis. We believe that only unified, grassroots action changes things and that adversarial journalism is indispensable in this.

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RBKC’s Change Policy

By Tom Charles

The Conservative leadership of RBKC lives in an altered reality. On the ground: no change; in their press releases and public utterances: change. It seems that truth is not important, careful PR management is. RBKC remains intractable in this approach, typified in the quote above from the leader and chief executive of the richest local authority in the country. Over the past three years, we have published the following stories, exposing the lie of Campbell and Quirk, two functionaries for a rotten council that needed root and branch change… Continue reading

Protego (a Poem for Easter)

Every night you hold me in your arms

my head at rest against your heart…

Darkness dutifully invading

daylight gently retreating…

 

I feel my breath leave my body

like a ghost passing through a wall…

So soft your wings-smoothed by eternity’s tide…

Drifting slowly-peacefully into deep sleep

floating away upon love’s rainbow sea…

 

To awake alone-blessed with another day

starting anew this journey of life

with hopeful expectation

of your unseen entrance,

my silent protector…

 

Seeing only your delicate footprints

on past times’ sand…

Forever watching over me

my comings-my goings

in good times-in bad!

 

As to all mankind, that day will come

when I will grasp your hand

entering that tunnel of light

travelling to my Heavenly home

into the arms of my God

saved by the lambs’ precious blood

to be forever with you, my Angel………………

 

M C Bolton, March/April 2020

@MarkCBolton1

 

 

Protego
Photo: ‘Blossom on the walk today’ – Diana Charles

Conspiracy Chickens Roosting

Conspiracy definition: “the act of conspiring together” 

The Coronavirus crisis has been fertile ground for the conspiracy theorists among us. Yesterday 260 people died from the virus in the UK, but some people still refuse to take it seriously. Before, they were bores, now they’re dangerous, to themselves and their communities.

There seems to be a high concentration of conspiracy enthusiasts in Notting Hill and North Kensington – I’ve listened to them banging on for years, with fantasies about global control from the masons to the Illuminati to alien lizards. The focus on outlandish, sci-fi conspiracies is troubles me, especially when there are so many actual conspiracies in the world that they could give their energy to.

Actual conspiracies are usually plans to increase wealth or power for a small group, with destruction, violence or misery for other resulting… Continue reading

Death’s Merry Dance

(Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal)

 

I see dystopia unfolding

like a map being unfurled in a storm

In hysteria-panic a new chaotic world emerging

the big bang in reverse…

 

Unlike the fall of Saigon

no choppers overhead

ferrying the defeated to board ships of hope…!

 

I’m left writing futile words

trying to make sense of it…

Tavener’s song for Athene

a fitting soundtrack, my own lament…

 

Trapped inside my crazy head

yet somehow loving the madness

for this asylum belongs to me

 

finally finding my purpose

sitting amongst the insane

playing never-ending games of chequers…

Sanctuary! Sanctuary! They cry…

 

Bells cease ringing – clocks backward spinning

naked bodies smeared with wode

run crazed into battle

fighting the Legion of the damned

whom they will slaughter without pity

for all showed themselves heartless…

 

Butchered entrails worn like scarves

necklaces of ears

dangle between Amazon women’s breasts

strong – proud – justified

For it is all now over

pretence finally vanquished

the Truth left hanging

haunting, blowing in the wind…

 

Mankind returning to live inside spiritual caves

to be slowly fossilised like their endless dreams…

Only the innocent left, stirring the broth of lost souls

forever trapped in this cauldron of death…

 

I, like Colonel Kurtz, shuffle into the darkness

to quietly await my assassin…

Knowing I will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven 

but surely the most grateful………….

 

 

 

M C Bolton,  March 2020

@MarkCBolton1 @UrbanDandyLDN

 

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Photo from Brittanica.com

North Kensington: Urgent Awakening to Reality

CV
Published with permission: “People have got to take this seriously x”

 

When prime minister Johnson announced new measures and recommendations aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus last night (Monday 23rd) I thought the message was clear: the government will maintain certain freedoms, but we all need to do our bit – if we don’t, then harsher, more dictatorial measures are inevitable. I thought this would be widely understood, but judging by what I saw on Ladbroke Grove today, I was completely wrong. Without an urgent awakening to reality, our remaining freedoms will be lost and we will be on full lockdown. And in these surreal times, we might need to rely on the most unlikely sources to help us through.

Socialism is Here

Overwhelmed by crisis, Johnson and his cabinet mutate daily into Britain’s first socialist government, exercising extensive state power in the face of COVID-19. The Tories are now adopting policies unthinkable to them a few weeks ago such as nationalisation and increased social security. Capitalism as we knew it is over, sweeping emergency socialist policies prop up the economy and society – austerity is gone. 

But this is no social democracy. It is a country in a state of emergency in which the now all-powerful government have spent so long waving flags while cutting back essential services – nurses, doctors, police –  that they have left us all enfeebled.

North Kensington

Given that the health service is teetering on the brink, it is all the more important that citizens do their bit to stop the spread of a virus which has killed 87 people in this country in the last 24 hours alone. Continue reading

From Madrid

My name is Marta and I live in lockdown in Madrid with my husband and our three children aged 14, 17 and 19.

From 2012 to 2014 we lived in North Kensington, London. As the Coronavirus transforms everyday reality in these two cities, I send a contemporaneous account of life in Madrid…

This is the twelfth day we have been locked down, although it is the eighth without leaving home for anything (only one of us goes out to the closest food store every two to three days). A feeling and experience at first so unreal has become a natural routine in our lives. Everything has happened so fast that our mentality has been changing practically from one day to the next, from absolute nonchalance to becoming aware of the risk and it being real and very close to us. From lack of concern we moved to an awareness of our own community responsibility not to spread the virus, then the knowledge of cases nearby and the subsequent alarm when starting to hear that acquaintances or their relatives were dying or in critical condition.

To illustrate this evolution, I will go through the last days through memory:

Sunday, March 8th: With my daughters, my sisters and their children I attend the Women’s March. It is full of people. We proudly tell ourselves that we will not be intimidated by fear of the virus. We do not want the march to fade after the unprecedented success of the event last year in Spain. The celebration is like a bustling holiday.

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International Women’s Day Rally, Madrid, March 8th

Monday, March 9th: I speak to my father (a retired doctor who lives on the Mediterranean coast) on the phone and he asks me to take precautions and try to avoid unnecessary trips from home. I tell him that we are not a risk group, and he replies that it is a community emergency, so it is time to think about the community and not in personal terms. His comment makes me think and I begin to consider limiting our outings. That afternoon I go to a department store and when I’m in line to pay I hear a couple saying that tomorrow will be the last day of class because the government has decreed the closure of schools and universities from Wednesday in Madrid for two weeks.

Wednesday, March 11th: with the closing of the schools, teleworking is promoted at companies. Some after-school clubs and sports competitions are maintained. Some university students and entire families travel to their places of origin or to the beach as if a national vacation had been declared. Most people have not yet become aware. I ask my daughter not to go to her rugby training. She fears her coach will see it as a lack of commitment. Even though I am aware, I still leave the house for an hour a day to walk in the park. I do a mental calculation of the number of people who may need intensive care for the virus. Experts say the virus will affect 60% of the population. Only 10% of that 60% will need intensive care at the hospital, that is, around three million Spaniards. Spain has around 5000 Intensive care beds. I am aware of how important it is to prevent the rapid spread of viruses to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system and the death of many patients.

Thursday, March 12th: I feel a desire to go into myself, to withdraw from the outside, from the media noise and from collective anxiety. People around are recording videos, holding online gatherings, sending thousands of messages to WhatsApp groups. Meanwhile, I just want to be with myself, and with my family. I have enjoyed these first days spending 24 hours with my children and husband. I feel a nice connection and unity. In the morning I think that I like my family and I celebrate that my children are living the confinement with such naturalness and responsibility. That afternoon sparks arise between them. I realise that the closure is not going to be so easy or that romantic.

Friday, March 13th: My market research contracts are cancelled. I run out of projects. I anticipate that it will be a couple of months without work or income. I decide to focus on writing a book that until now was only in my mind as a vague project. I look for the bibliography and start reading.

Saturday, March 14th: The government closes public parks and prohibits non-essential outdoor trips. We spend the day reading or listening to news or experts about the coronavirus. It is like a drug. We cannot stop watching, reading and sharing news. We receive the first calls and messages from friends in London and the USA. We start hearing the first news about homes for the elderly where the virus has spread, killing several people.

Sunday, March 15th: A week ago we were looking at Italy feeling worried for them, but with the distance and complacency of those who feel safe and believe that this will not really affect us. Our perception is now completely transformed. From our window I see the military stopping people and asking them for their identity cards, their address and their reasons to be in the street. Some get fined.

Monday, March 16th: After some days of confinement we already have our own ‘rituals’. At 7:30pm, my brothers and sisters, their children, my parents and my household meet in a videocall and try to cheer up my parents, who are alone. We all talk at the same time; we do not listen to each other, but at least we are together. The call lasts till 8,15pm approx. At 8pm, we all go to our balconies or windows, together with the rest of Spain to applaud the national health system and all its staff who are working so hard for all of us. We like to do the clapping together, even if we are far away from each other (one of my sisters lives in the US). It is a very warm and exciting moment. A boost of energy and hope. Every day at 8pm, I feel like crying with joy.

Tuesday, March 17th: We cook a lot from scratch and try new recipes. We are enjoying eating together. We also watch some TV series together. We begin to hear about the first cases of Coronavirus nearby. There are students and teachers infected in the girls’ secondary schools and at my son’s and husband’s university. Every day we hear of some Spanish politicians or celebrities who have contracted the virus.

Wednesday, March 18th: A close family member has symptoms. She calls the allocated emergency Coronavirus phone number and is told that they will not test her unless the fever is very high. The health services are overwhelmed.

Thursday, March 19th: My father, 83 years old, asks us not to take him to hospital if he gets the virus. He says that in the face of a shortage of resources, doctors will prioritise saving a young life, so he will be safer at home. We keep hearing about tragic job losses and company closures. The economic crisis, they say, is unprecedented and incalculable.

Friday, March 20th: I participate in an initiative to write letters to prisoners, who are now suffering double confinement (visits are not allowed, and they cannot interact among themselves either). There is a similar initiative to write to Coronavirus patients isolated in hospitals. The initiative is a success. The week has been full of small occupations despite not leaving home. My reading for my book has not always been productive. Today for the first time I experienced tedium. I am starting to know about people close to us who are in serious condition (friends’ parents, an acquaintance who is my age…) or who have died (a chancellor of my husband’s university, the former president of Real Madrid football club, a well-known journalist, a friend’s mother…)

Saturday, March 21st: The virus is no longer something alien or intangible. For the first time we feel fear and we see that “people like us” are also affected. The President announces that the worst is yet to come and that we have not yet reached the peak. There are some ‘spontaneous’ protests from some balconies questioning the government’s management of the crisis. The protests generate rejection in me. I feel like this is a time to be united. I do not want noise that does not serve to unite us.

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Madrid, March 22nd

Sunday, March 22nd: Today I feel it is hard for me to focus. I practice meditation. I feel I need some fresh air, although I keep calm. The government has just announced that confinement is extended for two more weeks. No one is surprised. We know it will be long and we are prepared for it.

As I finish typing this for my friends back in England, I note that 1753 people have already died in Spain.

 

 

Marta Delgado