Beetley and Covid-19: A Saturday Report

This week the focus has been more about the short heatwave, than anything else. In London, police tried to break up a street party in Brixton, sparking off a small riot during which twelve officers were injured. On the beaches of the south coast, hundreds of thousands of people congregated to enjoy the weather, with little regard to the continuing death rate, the possibility of spreading infection, or respect for social distancing.

One town (Bournemouth) declared a ‘state of emergency’ after almost 500,000 people swamped the beaches in just one day. Equally as ignorant was the unspeakable mountain of rubbish they left behind when they went home.

The hot weather brought crowds to the river bend in Beetley Meadows too. Mums and children playing in the cool water, picnics at the tables provided, and dogs enjoying splashing in the river. Well, when I say ‘crowds’, there must have been at least 25 people there one day.
But this is Beetley we are talking about.

Because my wife works at a Doctor’s Surgery, she had to have a Covid-19 antibodies blood test. This provides a fast result as to whether or not you have already had the virus, and now have evidence of that in your blood. Hers was negative, and it’s hard to say if that is good news, or not so good news. It just is what it is, she hasn’t caught the virus yet.

Shopping in town was remarkably quiet this week, as presumably everyone had made for the coast to enjoy the beaches. Boris made his announcements about reducing the 2-metre rule to 1-metre, and the reopening of pubs, restaurants, and hotels, from the 4th of July.

Some of us might think this is all still too much, too soon. Including me. Others might think us to be grumps and killjoys, or blind to the needs of the ecnonomy, especially the hospitality sector and holiday providers.

Perhaps they should ask the opinion of the families of the 1,114 people who died of the virus last week?

Be careful what you wish for…

It seems as if the weather gods have been reading my blog, and have decided to listen to my complaints, after all this time.

After what seemed like years of daily rain, followed by cold winds and miserable, grey days, we suddenly got a summer. And we got it with a vengeance. The last week has seen temperatures steadily climbing here, with a peak yesterday of 33 degrees C. (91.4 F) It was still hot when I woke up this morning, and the heat is building once more.

This was dry heat, unusual in this country, with high levels of U/V light, and the sun literally beating down on the ground. I could only walk with Ollie for just over an hour, before it became too much for both of us. Even with two large fans operating inside the house, there was no escaping the stifling conditions. Little point sitting outside in the garden either, as once the sun had gone in, clouds of biting insects arrived to enjoy the evening air.

But I am being positive, in 2017. It wasn’t raining, and anything is better than that.

I did have time to think though. Unable to relax after dinner in the uncomfortable heat, and sleep hard to come by, with overnight temperatures in excess of 21 C (70 F). In this country, we are geared up for bad weather. Our houses have deep insulation, to retain the heat, and smallish windows, for the same reason. Our own house has wool carpeting in most rooms, and extra loft insulation to get us through the colder months.

If we are going to get summers like this again, (we had one once, in 1976) then we are going to have to re-think the design of our housing, and look to warmer countries in other parts of the world for inspiration. Shutters, thicker walls, cool stone flooring, even air conditioning in some rooms. Whatever you think of the Climate Change debate, we have seen evidence of extremes lately, and as far as these temperatures go, it is at least four years since we have had anything close to this heat.

At my age, it is something I am unlikely to see developed. But if future generations are going to be able to enjoy ever-hotter summers, then they need to sort out how we actually live, and the conditions we live in.
Let me know what you think.

Staying positive, in the hot summer of 2017. (Can’t last, of course…)

Significant Songs (110)

(Love Is Like A) Heatwave

My liking for the sound of Tamla-Motown is no secret to any readers of this blog. From my first year at secondary school, through to today, I have always loved to be immersed in the magic of Motown. There are so many successful and enduring Motown stars and groups, I would need a whole new blog just to list them all, and to discuss their recordings. There have been a few Motown groups that I liked better than others, and Martha and The Vandellas feature high on that list.

Early Motown records arrived in the UK around 1963, and had an immediately recognisable sound, whoever featured on them. Whether it was the Four Tops, The Supremes, or any of the other amazing line-ups from the Tamla-Motown stable, it had obviously come from the team at Hitsville USA, in Detroit. This was perhaps the first one I ever heard that could claim to have introduced this distinctive style and sound, and my liking for it has never diminished.

From 1963 until 1972, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas provided fans like me with a string of hits to listen to. Some of the titles might sound familiar. Even if you are not a natural Motown fan, you may well know the cover versions; ‘Nowhere to run’, ‘Quicksand’, and ‘Dancing in the street’, to name but a few. They continued with some personnel changes, but when Martha Reeves wanted to embark on a solo career, and Motown intended to move operations to the west coast, the group split, with their last concert in December 1972.

Here is the group performing this song, in 1965. I couldn’t keep my feet still, fifty years later.

The Beetley Heatwave

As Irving Berlin once wrote, “We’re having a heat wave, Tropical heat wave”. The last couple of weeks have seen temperatures rising in Beetley, and every day has been sunny and hot. Even though it makes it hard to sleep at night, I’m not complaining. For too long, we have had damp and cold, followed by rain and damp. This sight of summer is long overdue, and most welcome. Ollie has been feeling the heat though. His coat may be short, but it is thick, and he is listless and uncomfortable. His only relief is to get into the river, something he does frequently on his walks.

I have had to limit the scope of our usual dog walks for now. The other places we go do not have access to any water, and Ollie would get far too hot. I probably would too. There is shade and breeze available over at Beetley Meadows. Away from the exposed sun on the playing fields, trees offer shade, with picnic benches and seats available to rest on. Sitting quietly, you can see the neon-blue damselflies skimming over the water, brilliant against the green of the reeds and river plants. Large brown dragonflies, as big as small birds, patrol their sections of the bank, like WW2 fighters, swooping and diving. Their turn of speed is amazing to watch, and they can change direction in the blink of an eye. Occasionally, they kiss the surface of the water to snatch prey, or tangle with another of the same type, in what appear to be territorial disputes.

The plants in the small river have grown so extensively, it seems as if they will choke its flow. But the water always finds a way through, and continues to trickle rapidly eastwards. At the bend in the river, where access is easy, the summer has brought out the seasonal visitors. Young mums with toddlers, older children with nets and buckets, catching water-insects and tiny fish. Boys fling large stones in, excited by the splashes; some even appear with inflatable boats, determined to explore past the limits of the bend. Picnics are spread out, wet clothes laid out to dry, and new friends are made. Our dogs are eyed with trepidation. We reassure them that they are here every day, and will not harm, or even approach the noisy children. These fair-weather arrivals seek to claim the place for themselves, at least for the duration of the heat, or the holidays. From September until next July, we will see none of them again.

Ollie seems to be confused by their presence, and the absence of attendant dogs. He is only used to seeing other people with dogs, and finds it strange that they would be there without a canine companion. He takes a dip, has a drink, and comes out again. No doubt he wants to escape the squealing and splashing. We wander on, around to the shady dell where the rabbits live. He has a sniff around, but the heat makes him less than enthusiastic to seek them out and chase them. I sit for a while, enjoying the breeze. It is cooler here than inside the bungalow, so makes a nice change from feeling sticky and overwhelmed. The playground and basketball court are both full of children. They only finished school for the holidays the day before, but they are soon out in the fresh air, which is good to see. Seemingly oblivious to the heat, they charge around with footballs, or run up and down slides and climbing frames.

The TV weather news says that it will soon change. Cooler temperatures and heavy showers may well be here by Sunday. But we have made the most of our own little heatwave, and will look forward to when the next one comes around.