Masked

When I was quite small my mother told me, in the melodramatic way she would often speak about such things, to make sure the bedroom window was open when you slept, otherwise, she said, you might die in the night. I didn’t want to die in the night so, ever since, I’ve made sure the window was open even just a little. Now our bedroom window is only closed when horizontal snow is blowing in. For a long time the window was broken,anyway, so we couldn’t shut it. My mother’s advice at the time was a wee bit over the top as we lived, for most of our young lives, in old manse buildings where the draughts at times would resemble Atlantic storms. If we happened to die in the night it would not be due to lack of oxygen.

In school I remember the rather potted science lesson that we needed oxygen to breath and we expelled the burned-up oxygen, the carbon dioxide. Through the beauty of nature the plants did the opposite which made for a good balance. Inevitably it is more complicated than that but the principle is still intact. Anyhow, I knew, soon enough, that there would be plenty oxygen even in a small bedroom to see me through the night, but the need for fresh air was vital and the lack of it very unsettling.  I know I shouldn’t be, but I am always surprised when I get over the door and the fresh air hits me and my mood and temperament and the feeling in my gut can change so quickly and I am thinking  “So that was what was wrong.” I noticed this especially amongst children who can be cooked up in at home, bad tempered and unbearably irritable but immediately out in the fresh air all of that changes and they can become different poeple.

So I knew, when the call came to stay home and save lives, that it was quite wrong, that it was thoroughly bad health advice and a horrible imposition to force on an otherwise healthy population. To quarantine the healthy must be one of the most foolish things for any government to do. But they did it. No doubt, they will admit to this and other mistakes, in time, as they are already doing. They will fall back on the useful crutch of saying they were following the best scientific advice at the time, or as Matt Hancock bizarrely claimed, the guidance was “really strongly interpreted”, but by then the damage will be done.

Now we are faced with the next phase of governmental insanity with the compulsory wearing of face masks in shops and public transport. Now we are mandated to breath in our own carbon dioxide, just what my mother warned me about. It is true that fresh air will be pulled through the mask but it is inevitable that a  good deal of the air we breath in a mask will be recycled carbon dioxide. It is effectively breathing poison, liable to make you light-headed or dizzy and even sick.   We know that standard medical masks can barely filter out coronavirus yet to use a mask made from an old shirt or sock, or a scarf or a buff, or whatever seems to be ok. It doesn’t make any sense.  The effectiveness of these coverings has never been tested nor could it be. There is so many variables and so many ways in which a mask could be used or misused – touching it, taking it off to drink or use the phone, not sterilising it properly before reuse, and a thousand other things that we see people do all the time. It is totally absurd, but we have to go along with it.

Tomorrow, I leave early for a nine-hour return train journey. I am not looking forward to it. I used to love long train journeys but this looks to be singularly unpleasant. I can feel the claustrophobia already. Now, I am not a rebel and always try my best to obey the law and not step over the line, But, if I do lapse and someone picks me up, I reserve the right to roll my eyes. That is one part of my face they will still be able to see.

Crawford Mackenzie

Fresh Air and Sunshine

It is strange, but now sadly predictable, that in the critical heat of a crisis, common sense is always the first to leave. Watching it all unfold before your eyes is so frustrating, especially when someone comes along with the results of research which seems to prove what your grannie could have told you long ago.  

Today we had the results from a study in a scientific journal, the “Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology”, which find, surprise, surprise, that sunlight can kill the virus in about 30 minutes and being cooked up inside isn’t a great idea.

“Forcing people to remain indoors may have increased contagion among same household dwellers and among patients and personnel inside the same hospital or geriatric facilities.  In contrast, healthy people outdoors, receiving sunlight could have been exposed to a lower viral dose with more chances for mounting an efficient immune response.”

Now I cannot pretend for a minute that I know anything about the subject and there will be other scientist, especially those who favoured the lock-down method of combating the virus, who would take the opposing view, but when the science is not at all clear, I guess it is best to go with common sense.

One thing I do know a bit about is building. Yesterday I read about a study carried out by the Ministry of Housing responsible for building regulations in England. It came up with the finding, again surprise, surprise, that living in a hermetically sealed environment can seriously damage your health. Now I remember being at a seminar when the new regulations over air leakage in new buildings in Scotland were introduced. These define how air tight a new home should be, with strict tests to ensure that a building is compliant. I felt uneasy about it at the time and couldn’t see how this sat easily with the other important requirement, that a dwelling should be properly ventilated. Now we learn that there are serious risks to health directly associate with this regulation. It causes overheating in houses leaving people “stewing in their beds” with consequential “loss of productivity, domestic abuse and even deaths”. The push towards air tightness was driven, of course, by the need to be energy efficient and this is understandable, but the side effect doesn’t seem to have been properly considered.

It is astonishing how the focus on one specific objective seems to create a blindness to other equally important factors. The virus is racing through the population so we lock people in their homes to prevent its spread, not having considered that maybe that action might actually make matters worse. Air leakage from dwellings contributes to heat loss, energy inefficiency and ultimately global warming so we hermetically seal our homes, not having considered that maybe the consequential loss of ventilation might be a really bad thing.

I genuinely wonder how this happens. Is it because people become so locked into their own professionally specialised bubble that they can’t see the wood for the trees.  Is it because the way politics works, the immediate threat or issue, the one the media has locked on to, has to be the one we fixated on and it gets all the attention and resources? Or is it quite simply that, somewhere along the line, we have lost that virtue that we used to call common sense?

Crawford Mackenzie

https://crawfordmackenzie.net/2019/01/21/losing-the-sense/

Just three links

Posting links to other people’s thoughts seems a lazy way of doing things but now and again someone says something which expresses exactly how you feel, which seems so spot on and puts into words what you were thinking but were somehow unable to say. Sometimes they even appear in the main stream media.

Here are three such pieces, published in the past few days, one which I came upon myself, but the others which I have to thank David and Rachel for pointing them out to me.

The first is Jonathan Sumption on what we are doing to our children https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2020/06/12/damaging-generation-children/ ,

The second is Helen Coffey on what we are doing to our church family https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/coronavirus-life-after-lockdown-things-we-miss-church-christian-faith-a9550606.html

The third is Neil Mackay on what we are doing to our humanity https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18510141.opinion-neil-mackay-inventing-post-covid-scotland-stripped-humanity/

Crawford Mackenzie

This is what history looks like

It was something Douglas Murray said. He of the “The Strange Death of Europe” and “The Madness of crowds” and one of the few people who seem to have a handle on where we are.  It was in the course of an interview, when he was describing a story from Tolstoy’s “The death of Ivan Ilych” when the judge thought he was dying and remembered being on a train, convinced it was going one way, when it was always going the other way. “How on earth could something like this happen”, he was thinking, followed by the realisation that it was happening.  It seemed to sum up the way Murray wasfeeling about our present crisis. There was no end and no limit to the absurdity, the irony and the crazy happenings. The thought that “This can’t be happening. This is not what happens” quickly followed by a second thought “Yes this is what happens, this is history, this is what history looks like.” 

It was also something that David Starkey said about history. We think history changes gradually and morphs smoothly into different phases. He said it didn’t. Things slowly build up and then explode. History pivots on one small event. A bullet takes the life of a Duke and the World is catapulted into a war when million are slain. A plane flies into a tower and hundreds of thousands die in a land far away. A cartoon is published in a newspaper and gunmen are on the rampage. A mobile phone video is released and statues are thrown into the sea. History it seemed, turns on a pin and in the case of the current crisis, in a matter of a few days, over a weekend, when the nightmare of lockdown was birthed.

We have seen the build-up, for a long time now. This was best explained for me in the two most incisive studies that I have read on the subject: “Dominion” by Tom Holland which showed how we have what we have and “The strange death of Europe” which showed how we are throwing it all away. The dismantling of marriage and the dismembering of the family, the relativity of truth, the fluidity of reality, the replacing the real with the material, the worship of the gods of health and wellbeing instead of the one true God. David Robertson in “The wee flea” has at the same time consistently shown that by destroying the root we eventually destroy the fruit. In one of his more recent and devastatingly pertinent posts (https://theweeflea.com/2020/06/09/a-free-peoples-suicide-the-end-of-law-and-order-in-the-west/) he suggests that law and order itself is on the point of collapse.   

So with each day as the news become more and more bizarre, it is genuinely quite hard to believe if it is all true, if this is actually happening. Whether it is the sudden obsession with statues, the police kneeling before protestors, the laws clamping down on individual’s liberties but winking at thousands on the march. the insanity of social distancing in schools, or the prime minister mumbling about bubbles. And I was recalling a conversation with one of my siblings recently, when we were wondering about the world and the seismic changes that have taken place in recent years. Could our parents have possibly imagined that this was at all possible? No, they simply would not have believed it.  Truth be told, I would not have believed it either. I would have thought “this is not what happens” but now I realise, when I recognise the sound outside my window, the sound of our world crumbling, I realise “Yes, this is what happens”. This, it turns out, is what history looks like.

And I imagine a history class in a future era where the pupils are studying “The rise and fall of Western Civilisation”. The reasons for the fall were clearly documented and now very obvious but the curious thing is what actually tipped it over the edge. It was a tiny invisible organism that travelled from the East.

Crawford Mackenzie

Beyond Bizarre

We are going to need some new words. Bizarre is no longer strong enough and insanity and madness barely get to the mark. Once we have heard the craziest pronouncement from a government official another one comes along to top even that, when we hardly thought it possible. The theatrical antics on display daily in these strange scenes at the tri-podium draped with a surreal strapline, the minister flanked by their advisors, the chiefs of staff from the twin pillars of science and medicine, with the meek media dutifully waiting their turn to pose an innocuous question, have a strange comic element to them. It is really hard to take seriously. These people must be having a laugh. But it doesn’t seem they are.  Yet you wonder why they would put them themselves through this trial each day. In the age of twitter, it seems hardly necessary. I particularly feel for Scotland’s First minister who seldom seems to be able to trust a depute for the task. Perhaps it gives extra kudos and gravitas to the words being said. Perhaps it carries a level of sobriety to the situation in the hope that the public get the message. But the trouble is with all these things the effect quickly wears off and people can get pretty bored with the figures, the predictable pattern and the school teachery scolding.

One of the weirdest things is the way that Ministers are so suddenly involved in the detail and minutia of our lives. If someone told you this would happen a year ago, you would not believe them. So many activities are now being micro managed, whether its to do with care homes or protective gear of what we can do and where and when and how. So much is now about our personal lives and behaviour. We have, for example, the repeated mantra about handwashing. Goodness me, we have been reminded so often, since we were little, that we should always wash our hands. It was on every sign in a public toilet “Now wash your hands”. We have been told that our hands are the dirtiest part for our bodies and that it is the most important thing in food hygiene. We’ve known that for years, still, it now needs the government, of all people, to tell us, dirty beggars that we are.

And then we have the quite bizarre advice at a recent briefing that our trips should factor in when we might need to stop for the toilet and the even more bizarre advice for couples living separately, when they could meet up for intimate relations. It makes you realise ‘Gosh, they think we are children’ and they say that they want to treat us like adults! Well I suppose that figures. It’s what we say to children – “Now I want to treat like adults”.

The quite unnecessary and over the top intrusion into personal behaviour follows the intrusion into other aspects of public life and work. Two specific areas where I have involvement, the building industry and the church, demonstrate this so well.

THE BUILDING INDUSTRY

The closure of all building sites by the Scottish Government will, I am sure, turn out to be a monumental disaster for an industry that has never really been all that well organised. Yet I wonder if those who advised on the decision have any clue about what goes on in a building site. Most work is out of doors where the possibility of contacting a virus is almost non-existent. Even when the work is indoors the area is seldom sealed. It is most often open to the elements, with air constantly moving and not the environment favoured by viruses. The real dangers are dust and fumes, falling from heights, electrocution and machinery, the later three which account for the majority of accidents on site. In addition, building contractors have strict controls on health and safety and this is one of the reasons why accidents and deaths have been drastically reduced in the past decades. And, there are trade unions who keep a keen watch on the health conditions of workers. Managers of building sites are then perfectly able to act responsibly and deal sensibly with a crisis of this kind. But no, it needs big government to step in and tell them to close and what they have to do when they re-open.

THE CHURCH

It’s the same with churches. Many congregations had already put in place sensible precautions and some had cancelled services well before the lock-down was announced.  But instead of allowing responsible church administrators to make their own judgements about what action to take, the government had to come in, close the churches and will only allow them to re-opened if certain conditions are met and when “it is safe to do so”.  In this crazy new world, it is the government, apparently, who are the arbiters of what is and what isn’t safe. The guidelines themselves, make a mockery of what a church is and what it means to come together to worship God. As with building sites, I suspect that those who have made these decisions have no idea what goes on in a church building. 

Thinking through and trying to picture what a phase three “Covid compliant” opening would look like, makes us realise that it will be almost farcical. Some measures are, of course, quite sensible and actions that any responsible organisations would take: such as a high level of regular cleaning of surfaces and hand sanitisers at entrances, but others would be quite disproportionate.  Take “Social distancing”, as an example, that creepy Orwellian phrase designed to make quarantine sound palatable.  If we hold strictly to this policy, it will cut into just about everything we do and almost every aspect of how we function as a local congregation. It does violence to the whole idea of coming together. There has been suggestion that singing, which increase aerosol range, should be banned and musical instruments too, especially brass and woodwind.  Hymnbooks, bibles, psalteries and all books and leaflets would be removed and tea, coffee and mingling quite out of the question. Have we really grasped what this would mean? How can you welcome a visitor across a strict two metre divide? How can you carry out any meaningful pastoral conversation with that invisible chasm between you and the person? How can you really relate, show sympathy, concern, support or effectively listen from behind a mask? How can you build trust when the overriding message is one of fear and mistrust?  It just doesn’t work. All the important things we intuitively learn from body language, all the small movements that tell us so much, the posture, the movement of the hands and  eye as well as our own attempts to comfort and encourage with the holding of a hand or touching of a shoulder, all of this will be lost.

If it is still our intention to maintain a liberal democracy and cherish freedom then it really is time that  government be told, politely but firmly, to stay out of our lives. How we manage our own affairs, how we conduct our lives is none of their business. It is surely also time for business and organisations, churches, schools, clubs and societies to to step up to the plate and remind the government that they have been doing this for some time now, that they do care and that they do know what they are doing. It is time to say “Gives us a break – stick to your job and we will stick to ours.”

Crawford Mackenzie

Pride is their necklace

(Psalm 73:6)

Pride is the real killer that’s for sure/While Lust, Greed, Envy, Malice, Rage and Bitterness all play their part/And just as surely drag us all the way to hell/Pride does it with far greater efficiency/In time/Lust’s fire will burn out/Greed will sicken itself/Envy will poison its own soul/Malice and Rage and Bitterness will flap their wings/But in the end they will exhaust themselves/Pride stays

Pride won’t let go/Like encrusted food on the fork/defying the scorching spray of the dishwasher/Like greasy film on the cooker hood/that no Fairy can remove/Like body fat scum on the shower tiles/that laughs and laughs at Domestos/Like the chameleon virus/deftly dancing on the edge of our antibiotic shield/Pride sticks

Pride conceals itself/It lies for years undetected/It changes shape and style with every new revelation/It hides in the cloak of religious zeal/It slinks behind a mask of goodness and good intentions/It has no colour, sound or smell

But pride stinks/Like a bloated fish on the foreshore/Like undiscovered rubbish in the bag where maggots gather/Like boiling bones when the pot burns dry/Like putrefying flesh after the massacre

Pride is only defined in the negative/It is what humility is not/Humility is/The sweet fragrance that rises from a life at peace with God/It fills the room and touches all around/It softens the hard heart and brakes the spells of years/It makes the ugly beautiful/It joins the broken bits together once again/It surprises with joy and healing and beauty

It is the loveliness we have only seen/In just one person/The only One/Who though he was God/Didn’t hold on/But let go/Came down/Became a slave like one of us/And made himself humble/Humble to death

And….Pride’s days are numbered

THE NEW NIGHTMARE

Yesterday the Scottish Government produced its route map out of the Coronavirus “Lock-down”.  The message was clear. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we will meet again, but we don’t know when. You will get your freedom back, the freedom we have taken from you,  the freedom to associate, to work, to trade, to congregate, to socialise, to worship, to play, to travel, to welcome strangers, to visit and embrace your family and your loved ones. You will get that back, but only when we decide the time is right. Only when “The Science” tells us it safe to do so. And just in case you become too relaxed about it, if things change, we can reverse things at any point. So be warned.

From the beginning I felt that the prison term “lock-down” had more than a little resonance to the situation we were in. I think I have been right about that. Now we know that before being fully released we will be effectively be in an open prison, allowed out in stages, on day release, where we will be given some freedoms to demonstrate that we can use these responsibly. Once we have proved we can, we will be given more until we have full freedom, but even then, we will still be out on licence and liable to be brought back in at any moment. Too many Portobello incidents, and we will all be back in “lock-down”. That has been clear.

It is really hard to believe that all this is happening. But it is. It is really hard to believe that almost all good people have accepted it with barely a whimper of protest or question. But they have. It is hard to believe that the shaky models, the selected statistics, the loaded graphs, the unequal comparisons as well as that mysterious “R” number have been given such an uncritically free ride. The merest scratch would have shown that the case for the “lock-down” was and is based on the shakiest of foundations and would not withstand any serous intellectual challenge by people who know. Do you think that the government and all their advisers together could hold their case in an open debate with the likes of Jonathan Sumption, David Starkey, Lionel Shriver or Peter Hitchens? No neither do I.

It is unlikely that the politicians and their advisers will have the courage to admit that they made a mistake, an error of judgement, and even in a future enquiry they are likely to shield behind a Nike defence that it was “Right at that time” It is also unlikely that the general population, we who have invested so much in this sacrifice, will want to believe they have been fooled. But I think we have.

What truly scares me is the legacy of the “lock-down” which may survive for a long time after the whole thing has passed by and forgotten like any other seven-day wonder. We can see that legacy already being introduced into the “New Normal” with the continuation of that cruel and inhumane policy of “Social distancing”. Nicole Sturgeon said that Scotland should “take care not to slip back into old and bad ways of doing things”. She didn’t say what the bad ways were. Maybe it was just the filthy habit of not washing hands, or careless sneezing or spitting but I suspect she was hinting at a new normal where social distancing becomes the norm, where the fear of infection eclipses everything else, where we see every stranger as a possible carrier of a deadly disease, and we withdraw into our own bubbles, avoid embracing, touching, reaching out, offering handshakes or any form of physical expression of welcome or concern or comfort to others.

Welcome to the New Nightmare.    

DON’T STAY HOME

Our 80+ year old friend dropped a bag of compost round at our door this morning. We were able to catch her before she was off on her brisk daily walk. She is one of those exceptional octogenarians who has such an enormous energy for life and spends most of her days caring for others, people much younger than herself. She also spends her days in prayer. She wouldn’t stay at home. She told me of a couple she cares for whose family forbad them to go out. “But there is no one to forbid me “ she said with a smile.

From the start “Stay Home” really irritated me. I think it now makes me feel angry. I hated it at first because I hate being told what to do and I groaned each time I saw it. But it was much more than a personal annoyance. It seemed wrong. It seemed a bad idea all together. The more we learn and the more that is revealed, the more I am convinced that it was a thoroughly bad idea.

Reading a report this morning of studies done on the progress of the virus by The University of Maryland, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Oxford amongst others, made it obvious. Sarah Knapton brought together a few strands of science which, in many ways turn out to be little more than common sense. It was what doctors knew long ago, that the sun was a healer, that getting out into the fresh air and wind, sleeping with the window open and exercise all supported your immune system and helped you to recover from illness. Viruses on the other hand fester in crowded spaces, in air conditioned rooms and ducts, behind closed doors, shut windows and pulled blinds.   

“Stay Home” was balmy.

But I now fear it was worse that that. It was created without any thought of what it would mean. “Stay Home” is fine depending on what home is. It is fine if your home has room and you are not crowded, you live in harmony with your house mates, you have a garden and easy access to open space and can enjoy the new stillness, watch the plants grow and listen to the birds singing. It’s not, if your home is a flat on the thirteenth floor, crammed with difficult house mates who don’t get on, not to mention those partial to abuse, with little light or fresh air and no access to any outdoor space far less one with grass or trees or birds or wild life.  And when the bold did venture out there was the police to send them back in. Compelling people, without thought, to lock themselves in for weeks on end like this is a shocking and cruel thing to do and no one should be surprised when it turns out that Coronavirus has had its worst impact in poorer urban areas.

It was the worst possible advice.

The Feeling of Doom

Before we were grounded, I used to meet up with a couple of other guys every Monday morning early, to spend an hour praying together. We could have continued that digitally but it was not something I wanted to do and for me it came to a natural end. But, while it lasted, it was special and the perfect start to the working week. Before we prayed, we would chat about things that were on our mind, things across the world, events in the news, local situations as well as our own personal concerns and worries. It takes time to build up a level of trust but when that trust is won it is astonishing how easy it is to share often quite intimate things. Sometime last year, when asked what was on my mind, I spoke about a deep unease I had, a sense of foreboding and premonition that something big was coming that would shake us to the core, that would undermine all the things we relied on, the things we felt secure about and we were just not prepared for it. When it came to Coronavirus, one of the guys reminded me of that morning and said “Remember what you said? …Well this is it”.  The trouble is I am not convinced that “This is it” nor do I think that when the virus has past, that the crisis will be over. It has probably just begun and I find I “can’t shake this feeling of doom”.The line is from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Age of miracles”

“We can fly through space with the greatest of ease
  We can land in the dust of the moon
  We can transform our lives with the tap of a key
  Still we can’t shake this feeling of doom”

It is not of course, about me. In many ways this period suits me to the ground. I like staying at home and have no particular desire strange places to see. I like my own space and my own time to plan out my day. I like pluttering about doing small jobs, tidying up, cleaning, the odd sketch, working away on tunes on the guitar, learning Arabic, trying to make something creative with the left over vegetables in the cooler tray, sitting on the bench reading till the sun slips over the roofs and writing the odd letter. I can hardly complain. My depravations: not being able to work, to see my family, to play football, to go for a swim, to join in worship or share with my church family, except in two-dimensional, pixelated boxes, are nothing. Compared to what others have to suffer it doesn’t register on the scale.

No, it is not about me. And it is not about the worry over my children, my grandchildren or my family and those I Iove and care for. It is not worry over what they may have to face in a future unlike the one I have known. They will have the resources to survive and prosper, of that I am sure. They will know better than me. I have entrusted them into God’s care and know they are secure in his hands. I have complete peace about it.

No, it is the sense that you can see a terrible disaster unfolding before your eyes and you watch helpless and unable to do anything about it. And that terrible disaster is not the dreaded virus itself but what will come from the fear and suspicion that has been sown and the panicked suspension of the very lubrication that makes our society function. When an engine has ceased up for lack of oil it is no easy matter to get it to turn again, as our leaders are finding out. Once you sow fears in the population they grow and become extraordinarily difficult to root out. Once you tell people to stay at home to save lives it’s hard to turn round and tell them to get back to work, this time to save them from starving.

Now, I know that this extraordinary measure is only meant to be a temporary one, but temporary has a nasty habit of lasting a long time. It has already been extended twice beyond the original timescale and this gives me the jitters. It is likely to be extended again. Now it is over the anxiety of a second peak, but it could be for a third or a fourth. My confidence in those running the show, which was already pretty shaky, has taken a severe battering, especially when we discover that some clearly didn’t even believe in the anti-social policy, they were promoting, themselves. I think we are in danger of killing something it might be impossible to resuscitate. In Joni Mitchell’s words, “We won’t know what we’ve lost till it’s gone”. Without realising it, it could be gone with the wind.

That is what brings me the feeling of doom, that I cannot shake. But it is a feeling and it is not what I know. What I know is hope. A hope not in politicians, nor national institutions, nor in the church, nor in people nor in humanity itself, but in God.   And that’s what keeps me sane.

1968

1968 was a momentous year. I was a student and, in the summer break, working in a cheese factory close to our home on a west coast island. There were milk deliveries each day so the factory worked a seven-day week. After seven full days working, you had a day off. So on the morning of August 21st, my long lie was abruptly disturbed by my father at the bottom of the stairs shouting up to all those still in bed  “Russia has invaded Czechoslovakia”.  The news sent shock waves through my body. There is something about hearing the news of some dramatic event by word of mouth that carries a dramatic tension missing from news you hear over the wires.  When you get around to reading it in the paper or watching it on TV, When Kate Adie or John Simpson get to the scene, you know it’s under control and you can relax. It probably won’t affect me. Normal transmission can be resumed.

1968 was historic, at least in my memory, and not just because it was the year when I first asked a girl out. There was Martin Luther King’s assassination in April and Robert Kennedy’s in November. There was Vietnam, which was on the screen every night, the Tet offensive and the protests in Grosvenor square. There was the massacre at My Lai, though we didn’t hear about that till much later.  There was Apollo 8 and the Beatles white album played over and over in our studio at college. There was Enoch Powell referencing the Tigris and the black panther athletes with their black gloved salutes and then there was the Prague spring which gave its name to every spring after and brutally turned into winter with guns and tanks.

One of the major events during that year, which moved into the next, was Hong Kong Flu pandemic, which accounted for over a million deaths worldwide. In the UK 80,000 people are reported to have died from it yet, strangely, interested in all the other world events, as I was at the time, I have no memory of it. I don’t remember it being talked about or on the news. There was no shut downs or masks or mass testing or tracing as far as I was aware. It must have been just one of these things that a nation and its people live with. I do wonder if there was a lock-down, a policy of inverted quarantine adopted then, if it would have made any difference, in the same way that I wonder if this lock-down has or will.  I really doubt it has. True the spread of infection will have been slowed down. That makes sense. But like the dams we tried to build on the burn, when we were little, they only slowed the water for a little while. It was fun but it didn’t work. You can’t stop the waves with sheer will power that’s for sure. King Canute knew that.