GUEST POST // An Octogenarian’s Pandemic by Barrie Purnell

There’s been some sort of epidemic
So say all-knowing academics,
A kind of dread Chinese infection
Designed to avoid early detection,
Resulting in oxygen deprivation
For which there was no known protection.
The government and the NHS
Said, what to do we can only guess
But until we can make up our minds
You must avoid contact of any kind,
Wash your hands 10 times a day
Put your going out clothes away,
And for restrictions we’ll atone
By paying you to stay at home.
Said if lockdown we don’t apply
Half a million would surely die,
But something they didn’t say
Was all of us would have to pay,
All the costs of shutting down
To the tune of 300 billion pound.
I have to think they’ve lost their mind
Paying ½ billion to save a life like mine.

On the news the professor reported
We’d all go mad before it was sorted,
But when I had the time to reflect
Saw on me it would have little effect.
I was allowed to form a bubble
With neighbour who said, it was no trouble
To do a supermarket shop for me
Of fresh food, bread, milk and tea,
And I booked an on-line delivery
Which hitherto had been a mystery.
My hour long visits to numerous clinics
Were now phone calls over in minutes,
And no waiting in a doctors surgery
With ill people sitting next to me,
Covering me in their coughs and sneezes
Spreading their as yet unknown diseases,
And oh what joy when they disclosed
All the dentists would be closed.
No visits from that demanding relation
Requiring clean sheets on each occasion.
My expenditure had been decreased,
From hugging I had been released,
No longer was I considered rude
When I indulged my love of solitude.
I don’t spend weekends in hotels
Or holiday in the Seychelles,
I have nobody to look after
I have no fear of the hereafter.
I thought now I will have the time
To watch programmes on Amazon Prime,
Then there was Netflix and Catch-Up TV
Opportunities spread out endlessly.
The prospect of gardening reared its head
Or I could do DIY instead.
Then there were all those books to read
Which would increase my reading speed,
And when these became less exciting
I could always try to do some writing.

But as months ran into longer time
I missed the freedom once was mine,
I missed the human interaction
Leading to increasing dissatisfaction.
I wondered if this imposed ban
Affected this old solitary man,
Someone long past his prime
Already living on borrowed time,
How much harder would it have been
If I had been just seventeen?
And here I had to face the truth,
We chose to sacrifice our youth,
They lost out on jobs and education,
On teenage fun and socialization.
My few remaining years protected
By youth, who even if they were infected,
Would avoid serious complication
And wouldn’t require hospitalisation,
But who’d be paying back for many years
The billions spent to keep our conscience clear.
So we mortgaged millions of young lives
To try and help the old survive.
Was this right, we don’t know yet
Or something the country will regret?
Maybe result would have been the same
If they’d just locked up the old and lame,
And supplied any help they needed
Until search for vaccine had succeeded.
Having lived through rationing and the blitz.
The old could surely have survived this?

Each year 600000 deaths are seen
From causes other than COVID 19,
For every 1 that from COVID died
Cancer and heart disease killed 5.
Now on the news a man of 99
Is said to have died before his time!!
What’s new is that now each day,
Presented in graphical display,
Death is there for all of us to see
We’re confronted by our own mortality.
Everyday more of the same
Until we look for someone to blame
For the extra deaths of an aged few,
As if death was something new,
When we have been able to ignore
The millions who have died before.
Only when that eulogy is read
Over the special one we’ve loved who’s dead,
Do we realise death is always with us
Even if it’s something we don’t discuss.
As mortals why do we believe
From death we alone could be reprieved?
Heart attack, cancer or suicide,
Broken heart or homicide,
Immortality is our minds biggest lie
COVID ………just another way to die.

by BARRIE PURNELL
© All rights reserved 2021

Covid Diary pp. 26-27

Dear Diary,

I will not thank God for CCTV. CCTV is the Devil’s work. Or God’s work. Perhaps they’ve collaborated on my humiliation.

Every day I enter the shit hole that is my work space and plop my bottom into a saggy arsed chair before a bank of dull, flyspecked screens. Maybe some people feel like God (or the Devil?) when they’re spying on and controlling human beings from such a vantage point, but I sincerely and wholeheartedly hate this. I would not be here during a pandemic if my job hadn’t been deemed an ‘essential service’.

Honestly, why do people scratch their genitals when they’re the only ones in the lift? Why do they check for nostril hairs in the mirror? Why do they do this whenever they damn well feel like it? And do they think if they spoil the air that their mask will make them invisible to whomever enters the lift next? I don’t know what they’re eating but it smells worse than my own ungodly clam after a session on the exercise bike. I just don’t need this shit.

It’s clear that they’re not computer scientists, aeronautics engineers or high powered executives. They’re human-sized babies. Frankly, they can’t even open a packet of potato crisps without committee approval. And the aforementioned masks? Don’t get me started on the frigging masks! Those thin strips of fabric deprive their tiny brains of oxygen and common sense. They end up with nothing in their heads but a basket of fucks not given. What other explanation could there be for their flagrant disregard for my territory?

Anyway, it may be a minor point to them but not to me. They’re always mucking shit up and I’m forever doomed to supervise it. The best place for my shapeshifting is in the lift, so how am I supposed to bear this ignominy? It’s enough to make you howl in despair…

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

cossack mamay st. (december 4)

fallen leaves covered in hoarfrost
a puddle wrinkles like a face about to burst into tears
a kfc cup getting cold in my chilly hands
i sigh… passing by a small locked down pub
they made the best latte in our neighbourhood

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2020

Covid Diary pp. 19-20

Dear Diary,

I still can’t kick the habit of eating off of a knife. I remember my mother would get mad every time she saw me do it. I’d listen to dozens of reasons as to why I should avoid it. There were rather sensible ones such as hurting my mouth, and completely superstitious ones such as getting an angry temper for the rest of my life.

I did, of course, attempt to state my position. I’d declare dozens of reasons as to why I should be eating off of a knife. There were rather sensible ones such as reducing the amount of dirty utensils that would need to be washed after dinner, and completely superstitious ones such as it helping to develop an immunity to werewolf bites for the rest of my life. But my mother wasn’t having it—and anyway, why shouldn’t she have the last word? She was my mother! Her verdict would always be delivered with the same stinging whip crack as a wet kitchen rag to the neck—which she also did.

All rationales aside—even the irrational ones—I learned not to fall into these habits while my mother was in the room. But at other times? Well, then all bets were off. I didn’t have to concern myself with her displeasure and so I’d often not be conscious of all the wrong things I was doing until after I’d done them. And then I’d get a wicked little smile on my face. I still kinda do.

In these days of lockdown and social distancing, I find myself wishing she was still here. I would love to defy her again, to find new habits with which to earn the pleasure of her displeasure. I wonder… could that be the reason why I still eat off of a knife or walk under ladders or leave umbrellas open inside the house?

And also, I’m not afraid of werewolves, but that’s a completely different story for another time.

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020