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Monthly Archives: March 2020

Wartime thinking

I was watching The Darkest Hour last night, and drinking scotch in solidarity with Winston Churchill.  I’m sure I’m not the first to think (and hear) that our experiences during the COVID 19 pandemic are similar to those of people during World War 11.

Well, yes.  But mostly no.

Yes, we have a common enemy.  And we all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens. And it’s going to be a sacrifice of one sort or another.

But things are a lot better today than they were then.  I realize that I’m supposed to look back on those times as being somehow nicer, kinder, when people were more cooperative and could count on their neighbours. But those nice, kind people stood back as thousands of their neighbours were rounded up and sent out of the city, and sometimes out of the province, to what amounted to concentration camps just for the crime of having Japanese ancestry.

Also polio.

My mother left the rural community of Aldergrove to work in Vancouver for the telegraph exchange in 1943 or 1944.  I sometimes wonder how her life was different than mine.

Clothes, for one.  I can go online and order anything I want and it will be brought to my house for my approval.  At the beginning of the war in Canada:

Everyone was given a book of 66 coupons to use to buy new clothes for one year. For example, a men’s shirt cost 16 coupons. This reduced to 48 coupons in 1942 and 36 in 1943.

By mid 1941- silk was no longer available since it was used as the material for parachutes. Therefore, women rushed to purchase all the silk stockings available.[1]

In fact, later in the war, Saba’s, a ritzy store that specialized in silk and other expensive fabrics, had a regular riot on their hands when 500 women stampeded the store to buy 300 pairs of nylon stockings (luckily, no one was hurt). Nylon was just as rare and special as silk.

So clothes had to last as long as they could.  They were darned, mended, rehemmed and remade until they were ready to fall apart, and then they were remade into something else.  None of this fast fashion of today.

And clothes were borrowed and shared.  In the boarding house where my mother lived girls would often exchange clothes to have a “new” look for a date.

So let’s do a little wartime thinking.

So let’s take this opportunity to think about how we mindlessly shop for clothes until we have closets and drawers overfilled with cheap, disposable outfits that we never wear.  Let’s start thinking about how much clothes really cost, think about buying fewer pieces and wearing them more often.



Plague journal

Apparently William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton wrote some of their best stuff while under quarantine for the plague.  I think I can do better than those two dilettantes, so here goes, my own Plague Journal.

I knew it would come, eventually, when I heard about the “flu-like disease” epidemic in China.  People compare this to the Spanish Flu, which travelled around the world in two years.  We all knew it would come to us somehow.  It was all a matter of time. Like smallpox  Or polio.  These bygone diseases would spread through a community, sometimes decimating it.  Our time would come.

When the first cases appeared in Vancouver, just 3 weeks ago, my son and daughter-in-law asked me to stay home and not accept any temp jobs.  I assured them that I would go to the hospital at the first sign of illness.  Of course there were no more temp jobs available.  No one was letting a stranger into their spaces. And the hospitals were already filling up.

Just 10 days ago I attended a choir recital “starring” my oldest grandchild.  I had half-heartedly considered not going, but ….. I rode a crowded bus, bought a coffee at the crowded Starbucks, and sat in a crowded church and listened to those adorable children’s harmony, and watched them perfect Os with their little mouths.

But I don’t do that anymore.  I stay home. And I have been for a week.

Our government closed borders to those from stricken countries, then to most countries, then to all countries. We were urged to avoid gatherings of more than 200 people, of more than 50 people, of more than 10 people.  To stay home. Our neighbours to the south…..not so much.

I thought it summed up the different approaches to the difference between how the pandemic is being managed in Canada and the US to see how the leaders handled press conferences on St. Patrick’s Day. Our PM standing alone in front of the house where he is in a self imposed isolation. The US president crowded by other people on a dais in a closed room in close proximity to the press.

For 12 weeks, their president said that it was a hoax, that it was not serious, that the US certainly had enough tests for the virus, enough ventilators, enough beds in privately-run hospitals.  All were safe.  We wondered why he was so blind to the situation, but of course, we were naive.  The government of the US was downplaying the pandemic to prop up the stock market for long enough for a privileged few to sell their stocks before the crash.  I have never heard of anything so disgusting.  Oh wait, there was that one store in Manhattan who was selling bottled water at a highly inflated price to rescuers on 9-11.

We may see worse before the end of this.

What is our situation now?  I can only speak for myself and my husband.

We are fine.  We are better than fine, luckier than most of our neighbours.  I am retired, and those checks will continue to pop into our bank account whether we leave our house or not. He works for himself, his clients may be in Richmond or in Denmark. He provides voice production, delivered online to his customers.  I bank online, shop online.  Tuesday I awoke to a box of cat food lying outside our door beside the daily newspaper.  Monday a delivery of groceries will appear to feed us through the week.  If I need to top up throughout the week I can go to a local store that is offering special early-morning shopping for seniors. We venture out across the street to the government liquor store as we need to, keeping our distance from our fellow shoppers and dousing ourselves in Purell before we wash our hands at home.

Coffee might be a problem.  We like Starbucks ground coffee, and the local outlets are likely to close in the next few weeks.  We may have to substitute grocery store coffee.  A small price.

We know how lucky we are. I am taking an online guitar course.  I download new books for my Kindle.  I may finally watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maizel.  Yesterday I was contacted about checking my CPAP machine and reviewing my needs.  I explained that I would not be dragging the machine to their office on the bus, and was told that all data could be delivered from my machine to them by BlueTooth!  Fantastic!

We’re not exactly the citizens of Eyam during the plague. But we’re doing our parts.

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