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January
Hello, hello? Are you there? Ma? Are you there? I found this rose … a single, white rose on a slender stalk. The pavement where it lay, was wet and muddy, but the rose was unblemished. Now it sits in a vase at my altar and here we are – candles lit, the scent of lavender on the air and you, smiling out of the silver frame. Do you see me smiling back, settling down on the cushion you gave me, years ago? Back then I was quietly irritated by the embroidered words. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference’. I know the difference now and I try but, acceptance is still so hard, sometimes!
Ma, you know I never take flu vaccines. Yeah, yeah! I hear you telling me off! But let’s not get into that old vaccine debate. I don’t do flu jabs, end of. I build up my immunity and self-isolate, October to mid-January. It works for me. Not total isolation. I do the school run. But I don’t visit grandchildren. With their irresistible hugs and kisses, they freely share the germs they pick up at school.
Anyway, Ma, just as I’m ready to resume normal life a virus of pandemic size, is on its way from China! We’ve seen the white-clad workers scurrying like ants salvaging their nest in a flood. They are building emergency hospitals. On social media, we see videos of infected people spitting on door handles and lift buttons. Suspected virus carriers are dragged from their homes by militarized police. Could that happen here? Probably not. One thing is certain … the virus will soon be here. Shall I venture out? I think not.

February
‘Hi Marie. Call me back on Whatsapp … I want to see you!’
‘Okay.
‘Mum, what have you been up to? You look tired.’
‘Not much. Some spring cleaning …
‘What’s wrong with your voice, Mum’.
‘Oh, yes its croaky. I’ve not spoken to anyone for some days!’
‘Oh Mum! Sorry I’ll call you every day from now on.’
‘No need. I know you’re busy’.
‘Yes. There’s talk of likely shortages of ICU beds and safety equipment.
‘Mum, mum, I have to go. Sorry Mum, my boss is on the other line.’

March
The virus is in 200 countries now. In the USA, bodies are being stored in meat transport freezers parked in hospital back alleys. Mass graves are being dug worldwide. People are trapped on cruise ships. Holidaymakers are stranded in remote places. Indian and African families walk hundreds of miles to find food. We Brits buy shit loads of toilet paper. Seriously!

No delivery slots so I ventured out to ASDA. They had no rice, pasta, eggs, cooking oil or hand sanitiser. Who needs it when there’s the new soap? Coronavirus Briefings!
♬ ♬♬ Tan, tada ta!

The Prime Minster and two advisers appear stage centre through well-polished doors. Flanked by the Union Jack they stand on their podia.  Blinking at the cameras they offer the day’s quota of large numbers and give expert guidance. Boris huffs, puffs, waves his arms about, and proclaims. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. Rishi Sunak the Chancellor, shakes the Magic Money Tree  and  even the homeless will get a look in.  It must be serious!

In the other virtual world, everything corona virus is trending. The comments are hilarious, opinionated, or terrifying. Trolls and haters skilfully raise the temperature. Personally, I’m sick of hearing about coronavirus and sick of wondering if I have it. My nerves are on edge. By evening I see shadows and I jump at little sounds. Sleep is unrestful, broken by nightmares. I wake up gasping. I can’t breathe. Where’s my inhaler. I worry that panic attacks are starting up again. I need a plan! Ah yes … gardening! I could focus on that!

All week I’ve tried to buy compost. There’s a shortage and hustlers offer bags at 4 times above retail. Seriously? Who would buy overpriced bags of shite? The spring cleaning, I started in February has morphed into disturbing piles that I step over and try not to make eye contact with. Dirty saucepans and dishes fill the sink and cover every counter top. I eat and drink from salvaged takeaway containers.

My hair! OMG! I wear a scarf night and day – someone might video call or ring the doorbell. The house stinks but I can’t bear to take out the garbage.  I’d have to get out of my pyjamas! I’m a wreck – I’m losing it!

“Hello, Marie.”

“Hi Mum, sorry I didn’t call yesterday. There’s too much going on with home schooling and four of us home-working.  So, how are you Mum?”

“I’m fine.”

“What have you been up to?”

“Oh, same ol …”

“But you’re OK yeah?”

“I’m fine.”

“Sure?”

“OK, I’ve got to go Mum. Sorry, but …”

‘It’s OK.’

“I’ll come this weekend. The weather will be nice. I’ll sit in the garden while you stay inside. OK?”

“OK.”

“Are you alright Mum? You’re quiet.”

“I’m fine. Only tired. See you soon.”

Note to self. Take out the rubbish. Open windows. Shower, brush teeth, comb hair – before the weekend! 

April

Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, Tom Hanks, and Marie’s neighbours got Covid19 and recovered, slowly. More than 16,000 people – mostly the elderly and black people, have died.

On Thursdays Britain claps for carers. But not me! First week I clapped from my front door. Second week it was cold out, so I clapped from my window. Both times I saw no one else but I did hear distant clapping. It was nothing like the community spirited BBC News version. I feel cheated. I wonder if Clap for Carers is staged to compliment the song and dance routines of our NHS staff, unwinding between ICU duties.  But wait! No BAMEs in the chorus line of rosy cheeked dancers?  That’s weird!

 Since the pandemic there’s been much weirdness. Or is it me?  Some say G5 technology is responsible for the virus and towers have been torched by angry people. Others say it’s about population control. First kill off the elderly and the weak. Then mandatory vaccines will be used to implant chips to enslave all the workers of the world and their children, forever. Black people first.

I hate lock down. I mean the word itself. It’s used in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and children’s homes. Most people seem comfortable with it, almost cheerful. Not me. I imagine being locked down with a narcissist, a manic depressive, or an alcoholic. Imagine you’re a child locked down with a paedophile or caught between parents at war. I remind myself it’s not all bad. Homeless people have been housed! Air pollution has dropped, significantly. Wildlife stroll through residential areas, dolphins swim in Venice canals. People cook healthy meals and exercise. Adults are playing again, like children. When I grow up, I want to be like Captain Tom!

Christmas came early! A food parcel arrived, then fifteen bags of compost! Just in time to plant out my seedlings. Fifteen or none the seller said. Woohoo! I’m gardening now.

Tuesday 26th May

Hello, hello? Are you there? Mama? Are you there?

I don’t want to get out of bed. I can’t face anything. I can’t process this! The casualness of it!
The cuffed man; pinned to the sidewalk. A police officer with hands in his pockets, observing the scene. One officer holds down the man’s legs. Another one pushes down on his back, forcing the man’s chest into the ground. A fourth officer kneels on the man’s neck with one hand in his pockets. The man pleads for breath. Pleads for life. Bystanders plead for him too, but the uniformed men are stony faced, unmoved.

Still kneeling on the man’s neck the officer mocks the dying man.
‘What do you want?’
‘I can’t breathe man … please the knee in my neck’
‘Get up then, get up and get in the car!’
The officer’s knee remains on his neck. We all witness a murder by a law enforcement officer.

Yes Ma, I know we’ve seen it all before and we still see it – the cold detachment, the disregard for life, their ability to withhold compassion and to casually torture then kill. There’s nothing new about a Black man dying under the knee of a tyrannical system. It’s the same old system that legitimised public lynching and rapes on the plantations that grew the power and wealth of Berlin, Brussels, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and Washington. A system that gives knighthoods, erects statues, and to this day, celebrates national holidays to honour devilish people who looted, maimed, and killed millions. Men who casually crushed the least show of resistance, with the most obscene and extreme acts of state sanctioned terrorism.  

Yes Ma, more than 400 years of it. Across Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Central America, and the Caribbean. Local people were made to watch as colonial governors ordered foetuses ripped from wombs and anal impalements. Thousands of Congolese men, women and children had their hands chopped off for falling short on rubber harvesting quotas. Law enforcers competed for trophies – penises, scalps, arms, legs, breasts? And, years before Auschwitz, British and German concentration camps operated a policy of death by exhaustion or death by starvation, in Namibia and Kenya.

But this murder is different. This eight-minute-long, live streaming of a public execution is a most powerful and accurate representation of modern civilisation and the human condition, today. It places a powerful spotlight on a centuries long crime and this time, humanity cannot look away. We cannot pretend it didn’t happen. This is the power of social media.

Social Media? Ma, it’s a new communications tool … you would’ve loved it. Anyone gets to have a say about anything. Now, everyone is saying where they stand on the murder of one more Black man. Even those who say nothing about this are being judged!

June

Gardening keeps me sane. The smell of freshly picked herbs makes me smile. The clear blue sky makes me hopeful. Beyond the confines of my garden the world is chanting – Black Lives Matter.  Black, white, young, and old people are marching in solidarity with us. With us! This chokes me up. I get that feeling …  you know, the one. You’ve suffered in silence for a long time. Then someone sees your pain and acknowledges that it’s just not right or fair. You feel you’ve been holding your breath for ever and now; you can start to let it out – slowly, just a little! Yes! That feeling! 

Karen’s post made me cry. A horribly battered, elderly white man is in a hospital bed. The caption states All Lives Matter. Karen asks indignantly ‘Why all this fuss? This man was attacked by a black mugger, no one demonstrated then! I knew Karen as a kind, generous and motherly woman. How can she … anyone be so blind or insensitive?

Yes Ma, there have always been those few who stand with us. Those who educate themselves and see that the Maafa is about profit not Race. Others see it too but say nothing, do nothing. The status quo makes them feel safe. If not for Blacks it would be the Irish, the Chinese or anyone even them – if it’s profitable enough. Then there are those like Karen who leave me feeling confused, angry, grieving and in despair!  

I tell myself that Occupy Movement, Extinction Rebellion, and the Pandemic are drivers of change towards an economic system that puts the well-being of people and planet before profits for the few. I trust that when Black Lives Matter, we will have created a better world for everyone. Till then, I garden. The smell of freshly picked herbs makes me smile. The clear blue sky makes me hopeful. 

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