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Thursday, March 19, 2020


"I don't think pandemics make us afraid of death, I think they make us afraid of oblivion. They force us to grapple with the futility of effort. Also they make us barf which isn't fun either. Wash your hands, cover your coughs, and find a way to hold in balance, the futility of effort with the necessity to struggle." ~John Green, American author (Looking For Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars).

   Without an adequate response an epidemic can develop into a pandemic, which generally means it has spread to more than one continent. An important thing to remember is that people and gorillas, horses, duikers, pigs, monkeys, chimps, bats and viruses: we are all in this together. It is time for humanity to let go of the ancient idea that we are somehow separate from nature. Covid-19 is not a wake up call; we are way past that. The majority of humans have not been paying attention. We are now, but too many are waking up to the wrong reasons and behaving like the virus that is hunting us.
   Thursday March 12th I listened to an emergency radio broadcast featuring the Governor of the State of Oregon, the Oregon State Public Health Officer, and the Mayor of Portland. We were told that all schools were closing, self -isolating was required, and electric, water, sewer, and rubbish will stay on whether or not folks could pay their bills. The White House also released a notice that the country was now functioning under a national emergency. It was time to get serious about Covid-19.
   I had been seeing and hearing reports of panic buying and hoarder shopping taking place in various countries already struck by the virus and in some States here as well, but I shrugged it off reasoning that if I didn't panic and waited a few days, common sense would no doubt prevail and I could calmly go about my weekly shop for the four of us. With the emergency notice, I decided on Friday the 13th to go out early and get groceries for the week. I vastly over-estimated my Gresham, Oregon neighbors. a light snowfall over night and that morning didn't help.
   Portlandians and their suburban neighbors absolutely melt down if there is 1/8th of an inch of snow on the ground. That alone will trigger panic buying at Coscto. As I cautiously set off on the main road I was shocked as people drove like they were drunk; weaving around other vehicles gong slower, and speeding way too fast in a 35 MPH zone down hill with wet snow accumulating. I drove the quarter mile to Safeway grocers and the parking lot was rammed! I joined the queue and finally pulled in to a parking space. I grabbed my bags, locked my car and walked into the store.
   There were no shopping carts left! The last one was being fought over by a young mom with two small children, from whose hands a large, beefy bloke was trying to wrest it. People coming in behind me went to her aid. I continued into the store and headed for the toilet paper aisle because we actually need a six roll pack! I walked into hell. People had their faces covered with scarves, bandannas, and medical masks, panic shining form their eyes like a fever. They were bumping into others with their cart, shoving, and knocking down aisle displays. There was shattered glass and splattered food in almost every aisle, with store employees frantically attempting to keep people from driving their carts down those aisle and through the mess. I quickly left and decided to drive to Fred Meyers which is a large box chain grocers. It was exceedingly crowded there too but controlled chaos ruled, with store employees out in the aisles to assist and to keep an eye on behavior.
   No loo roll at all! As I stood looking at the bare shelves, a woman came up next to me and surveyed the scene. We began chatting about how ridiculous this hoarding behavior was; how that behavior was now forcing those of us who were attempting to remain calm into buying more than we needed immediately as well, in case others simply stripped the stores bare. I said I guessed I would try Coscto next. She replied, "Don't bother; I just came from there. You know things are serious when Costco's shelves are empty." All right then...
   I rolled my cart over to the diaper aisle and decided to stock up in baby wipes. There were two shelves left. A couple came up behind me and the wife said, "Oooh! baby wipes will work in place of toilet paper." Her husband sighed and said, "No honey we can't use those; they don't flush." I said a quiet prayer of thanks as they moved on. I stopped using loo roll years ago, only using compostable baby wipes and I always place them in the rubbish bin and empty it regularly. I bought $40.00 worth of baby wipes for our two bathrooms and four people. The pack of 56 wipes I would pay £1.00 for in the U.K. sells in the U.S. for $3.59 each, which quickly adds up when buying a case.
   I was shocked at the empty aisles: no kitchen roll, tissue, bottled water, bread, convenience foods such as canned chili, and Kraft Mac and Cheese, Ramen, pasta, milk, prepared spaghetti sauce--all shelves were empty. People were lined up by the fresh meat section because the entire frozen meat and chicken section was bare. I considered the situation and noticed that no one was buying the Bison meat so I stocked up on ground, steaks, and roasts, with a few other essentials; plenty of fresh fruit and veg too, and I cook from scratch so we will be okay. I guess this is a time to consider Crohn's disease a blessing in disguise because the Gluten Free and vegan products remain on the shelves.
   That evening my foster daughter Mary went out to look for loo roll, two percent and lactose free milk, and cat food. She had to visit four stores to get everything. She picked up two-20 lb. bags of food for the cats and my daughter-in-law Kelli ordered two bags of specialty dog food online as the dog has multiple allergies. We also stocked up on cat litter, keeping some of the extras in our cars for storage.
   Each day now we all check the latest news upon waking. My daughter Shiery works four 12 hour shifts a week as a medical technician at an assisted living facility with a frail at-risk population. Her usual commute time is forty minutes to drive fifteen miles. Nationwide now the emergency law is that no visitors are allowed at these facilities except medical personnel or families if it is end-of-life. Shiery fears that a mandatory lock-down will be called while she is at work. The governor of Oregon announced last night that she is considering this very step. Shiery is also at-risk herself with two auto-immune diseases and Diabetes. My daughter-in-law Kelli works as a pharmacy technician for a large wholesale pharmacy chain which fills large orders for assisted living facilities. She has a an hour commute across the I-205 bridge and over the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington, across the river from Portland. We fear that Washington or Oregon will close their border while Kelli is at work and she will be stuck away from home. She too is part of the at-risk population with Type I Diabetes, asthma, and Psoriatic arthritis. As far as that goes, I am also at-risk for being older and having two auto-immune diseases. I keep my trips outside to a minimum, grocery shopping early in the morning or late at night when it is least busy. 
   I went out last night at 8 pm to round up my week's shopping. There were only a handful of us in Safeway; all older or disabled. We were all smiling at each other as we politely kept our six foot distance, carts swerving gently around one another, folks patiently waiting down the aisles for other folks to get something from a shelf and move on. As I was stopped in an empty aisle to find Parma strained tomatoes, I suddenly felt someone right behind me. I whirled around to find a young 20-something on her phone, obtusely focused in on looking for a product, right at my knees. I wanted to shout, "FFS back up and give me my six feet you self absorbed child!" I gave her a look and quickly moved on out of the aisle.
   Viruses are tricky things. They are not really alive. They can build a protective outer walls around themselves and go dormant--sometimes for thousands of years--until just the right environment presents itself and then they magically wake up, open their border walls and begin infecting hosts and they are constantly evolving as they exchange DNA with prospective hosts. I figure I am going to contract it at some point along the way. Let us hope Covid-19 evolves into something less virulent and not more deadly. There are news reports already that Influenza H1N2 is now stalking those that are recovering form Covid-19 but whose lungs are still fragile.
   In the meantime there are blessings to be discovered in all this. With the world population either in hospital or cocooning itself in mandatory isolation, and the lack of world traveling and tourism, nature is beginning to show us how it can recover when humans are not overwhelming and assaulting the environment constantly. The canals of Venice are clear once more. Venetians can see fish swimming in the water, and swans and dolphins have returned. In China, people can actually see blue skies for the first time in years without the ubiquitous clouds of pollution that blanket the country. In Italy, France, Spain and China people can again hear birdsong in city centers.
   As we stay home and self isolate I offer you these virtual ideas for entertainment, enjoyment, and stretching of your minds:

1.The NASA Media Library: the entire media library of NASA--all photos and videos, are available for free online. Indulge the budding astrophysicist in yourself or entertain your inner star seeker!

2. Story Time From Space! Check out this amazing online site that has astronauts at the Space station reading children's stories such as Astronaut Annie, Kalifa and Ahmal Go to Space, Max Viaja a Marte, Lucian Braving the Deep, and other interesting titles. This is a great site to entertain kids.

3. 500 Museums! There are five hundred museums around the world aavilable for you to wander through online, including the British Museum in London, The Guggenheim in New York, The National Art Gallery of Washington DC, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, The National Musem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea, The Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil, and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City!!!

4. Seattle Symphony Live Broadcasts. This web site offers information and schedules of shows/music as well as how to view the live performances on Youtube and FaceBook.

5. Open Culture! Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It's all free. It's all enriching. But it's also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it. This website offers free access to 1500 free online courses from top universities, 1150 free movies online including classics, film noir, Indies, Westerns and many more! You can access 1000 free downloadable audio books, 800 free ebooks for Kindle, iPad and other devices, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), many of which leads to certificates or statements of completion though not degrees. A "$" indicates that the course is free, but the credential costs money. Learn 46 languages online for free and access 200 free kid;s educational resources with video lessons, books, apps, websites and more.

6. The National Film Board of Canada. To access free films please find the word AVAILABILITY on the page tool bar and click the arrow so the menu unfolds. "Free" is one of your options. Currently this site offers free short films (5-30 minutes) featuring First Nations and Native Americans under Indigenous Cinema. This is a fabulous resource, especially for those of us who like documentary films.

7. The Paris Opera! From 17 March, the Paris Opera will be putting its most beautiful shows from its archives online free of charge. From Don Giovanni to Swan Lake and The Tales of Hoffmann, there are many great classics to see or rediscover from home. The website can be viewed en Francais or English. Their schedule of upcoming events is available on this web site and includes: Don Giovani, Manon, Das Rheingold, Die Valkyrie, and other performances.

8. The Monteray Bay Aquarium! You may have had to cancel your spring vacation, but you still can (virtually) visit the aquatic animals housed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Peek at the groups of jellyfish and sharks, do some bird watching in the Aviary, follow the African penguins as they waddle around, and catch a glimpse at the pulsing moon jellies all through the institutions’ free live streams. And for close-ups of the species, head to Instagram. (via Laughing Squid).

9. Storyline Online! The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.

10. Grow Forage Cook Ferment! This web site is a fabulous resource for recipes and Youtube videos showing how to make Mead, hand made soap, herbal salves, Chickweed Pesto, and loads of other interesting and helpful things.

11. British Wildflower Finder. this comprehensive web site was created and is maintained by Roger Darlington, a friend of boater Chris Thorp (NB Ceiriog). It is brilliant and easy to use. I posted this specifically for all my British friends, family and loved ones. As you are out walking along towpaths or National Trust properties, or public walkways through the glorious British countryside you may come across a plant you don't recognize and this site may be quite helpful. xxx

12. Teaching young children the importance of washing their hands! I found this simple video the perfect teaching moment to illustrate to young children, the importance of washing our hands. To replicate it for your children and grandchildren all you need is a shallow bowl or plate, pepper, liquid hand or dish soap, and water. Explain that the pepper in the bowl is pretending to be a virus. Follow the video and watch young children become startled and amazed!

Finally, today is Les' 72nd birthday. We are remembering my Best Beloved at dinner tonight with one of his favorite meals: Three Sisters Chicken and Chorizo Casserole. Unfortunately I couldn't bake his favorite Carrot cake as we are half packed and in the process of moving to a new, larger apartment soon. Happy birthday baby! You are missed and loved, always.

Les at the dinette in April 2013. We were moored up on the Lea navigation just near Waltham. I love that look on his sweet face!


Arthur said...

Jaq, back to your best! We trust you are now much more OK.

Kath said...

What times we live in! At least, as you say, the environment is being given a rest from all the pollutants.
Keep safe.
Kath (nb Herbie)

nb Bonjour said...

Hi Jaq,
what is this obsession people have with toilet paper - it was the first thing to be cleared off the shelves here! I haven't fully researched this yet, but the owner of Cheeky Wipes (UK) uses re-usable baby wipes instead and has done for 6 years - used wipes go in a mesh bag, sprinkled with tea-tree oil (anti-bacterial), then washed in the bag in the normal wash load. I guess if necessary you could sluice them off under the toilet flush as we used to with nappies before putting them in nappy solution. The thing is, any old fabric scraps would do!
Keep well
Debby x

Jennie said...

Strange times indeed Jaq. Stay safe and well all of you and good luck with the move. Jennie and Chris xx

Carol said...

Stay safe and well Jaq during this incredible time. x

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Arthur,

I am glad it seems so to you. Some days are better than others. Les' death did not kill me and it did not make stronger. It was, and always will be scorched upon my heart. I am still wobbling through each day the best I can do. It helps having loved ones to look after.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kath,

Yes I am endeavoring to stay safe and I am deeply grateful for any healing nature can do while humans are incapacitated from doing further destruction to our planet. We do live in odd times.

Give my love to Neil and keep some for yourself. Stay safe, stay well!

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Debby,

Lovely to hear from you! I trust you are self isolating? I have no idea about the obsession with loo roll. I mean in modern times it hasn't even been around the that long! Toilet paper was invented in China. The earliest historical accounts of using wads of tissue paper to clean up after… well, afterward, are found in the 6th century. The first toilet paper was manufactured on a large scale for that particular use, occurring in what is today Zhejiang province in the 14th century but of course the West knew nothing about this...back then.

Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the United States. Gayetty's paper, first introduced in 1857, was available as late as the 1920s. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. NOt many homes in America could afford to spend money on paper to clean one's bottom from 1857 through the 1920's.

Stay safe, stay well! Biggs big hugs to you and Dave.

Jaq xx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jennie,

Thank you love, will do. You and chris also and all the kids and g'kids.

Love Jaq xxx

Maryanne Bainbridge said...

Hi Jaq, I love your blog. We moved off Etive II in December 2018. Bought a cottage in Cornwall. Lovely wild area, 10 min walk onto open moorland. But I still miss the boat, though I wouldn't want to be so close to people on the mooring.

These are very strange times, Tony & I are well, but as my daughter works in a doctors surgery & we have been looking after her son when she's at work. This morning she had a slight temperature, so has to be isolated with him. If it does develop into anything we will get it as well as she collected Lucas from us, as she does every day.
Keep well, love Maryanne xx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Maryanne,

Lovely to hear from you and I am sop pleased you like the blog and still follow along. I suspect those of us who have loved a good life on the cut will always miss it. I am grateful you and Tony are safe but I empathize with your worry over your daughter who is is so brave to keep doing her job in the face of this. Please, please let me know how you are all doing, okay?

Love and Biggs big hugs,
Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs