Saturday, 4 July 2020

Anyone for the pub?

So I’ve used knitting projects to help me get through lockdown. It’s really helpful as it’s mindful and you get to create something for people you care about. That part is especially satisfying. I’m also writing something which is taking time and not just energy but emotional energy. I hope in time it will be valuable. 
Now I’m telling you this because it’s not leaving much space for writing my blog. And life is still in a very predictable pattern which in some ways is comforting and creates a boundary it’s difficult to breach. Not because it will result in anything terrible ( hopefully) but it feels safe. England are opening the pubs today. I can’t be alone in thinking I’m going nowhere near a pub once they open in Scotland. I live in a city with a plethora of pubs, many with ancient history’s of body snatching, stories of loyal dogs, of hauntings or famous visitors. Our pubs have books describing them, there are many pub crawls and even literary ones. 
In a medieval city, they tend to the cosy and dark. Good luck with two meter distancing or disabled access for that matter. The days are long passed where we enjoyed a late night drink in the Grassmarket  and bought fresh rolls in the local bakery to soak up some alcohol before we headed to bed. The old Royal Infirmary was so close to a local pub you could page the on call doctor so they had to leave behind their pint and head back to the ward. ( yes that was a long time ago when rules were made to be broken or just ignored). 
The Old Royal Infirmary Edinburgh 

This city has seen plagues come and go, had hospitals for tuberculosis and special wards for  polio patients. It was where the first big outbreak of HIV and AIDS were identified. Part of the  hospital that housed the specialist wards and ICU for COVID 19 was initially the poorhouse. And of course it’s had asylums for people coming back from wars with shell shock and those whose mental health issues took them away from society. They even housed women who were pregnant out of wedlock who were never allowed home. Edinburgh notoriously dealt with the plague victims in a terrible way. Mary Kings Close now tells of the bricking up of 300 residents to stop the spread of the plague. Leith Links is on top of mass graves as are parts of Bruntsfield. 
Mary Kings Close-the buried City underground 

I’m taking comfort from this potted that times do change and even pandemics that fundamentally have changed the way we live will pass. But not without a terrible impact like those gone before. I would love to see a special garden dedicated to those who suffered during this pandemic. A place where people can mourn their loved ones as this pandemic has robbed many of the normal rituals of grieving. 

But that’s not going to help the thousands who have lost and are losing their jobs. I’m fearful for them too when our social security system is so punishing and the opportunities so few. The balance between protecting health and protecting the economy is incredibly challenging. But encouraging people back to pubs as they are in England seems to  put economy before health and that feels scary from my position in Scotland. Ours has definitely been more of a slow easing and personally I’m grateful for that. But as we witness inequalities widen we must as a compassionate society be prepared to invest in supporting the most vulnerable economically too. 
And not as charity donations, welcome though they will be; this needs to be a fundamental shift from neoliberal economics to investment in all our citizens futures. Crisis can lead to wide scale change if we let them. 

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