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Canterbury Society Chair: Richard Scase

CORONAVIRUS in Canterbury

Welcome to the seventeenth edition of our CoronaVirus special editions. Who expected that this strange period of our lives would go on so long? As Canterbury reopens, Dr Tim Noble look backs on how the GP network responded, Canterbury Society Chair Richard Scase looks ahead in his Podcast and Keith Bothwell of the Green Party gives his 10 silver linings of the crisis (which include an appreciation of nature, as in our photo of the St Mary de Castro park). 

These special CoronaVirus issues are not set, it seems, to become virtual fish and chip paper.  They are being given a permanent home in the Cathedral Archives as part of the record that will be kept of how our district came through this crisis (see below). A major reason why we are of interest to this department is the fact that so many readers have written in to us with their experiences and insights. So I say a very big thank-you to all who did. Please carry on (with short, 100-word pieces or longer ones or videos on some angle about rebuilding our community). 

Next issue: Conservative Cllr Neil Baker gives us his 10 silver linings of the coronavirus experience; Julie Board speaks about producing something from nothing.

CASES in the area

The numbers of deaths in the East Kent Hospitals puts our trust in 15th position nationally, out of 220 English trusts. There were 406 here, up until Monday, 6 July.  A spokeswoman at the Trust told us: “We are simply one of the biggest Trusts in the country based on the population we serve so it is logical we will have one of the highest numbers of cases.” We have the most numbers of deaths among the South East trusts, and are followed by Frimley (362) which is in the 18th place.  The four trusts at the top of the English hospital tables are Birmingham (958), Barts (623), London North West (610) and Pennine Acute (545).  In the last week, we had 7 deaths. The week before it was 32. But there could be some deaths to add onto the latest figures since families tend to be notified first. The week before that (starting 13 June) there were 16 deaths. The Canterbury News has requested an interview with a senior manager at the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust. We would be very interested to hear how our hospitals are reconfiguring themselves now. How long do they expect people will have to wait for surgery and treatments that were postponed? And how will the intensive care unit be organised now? Will we have more beds than before? And fewer heavy ventilators? It would be very interesting to know.

Canterbury City Archives 

The Canterbury News and all those people who have contributed to it during the coronavirus crisis are to have their words kept in hard copy within the cathedral for what could be hundreds of years. After all, William the Conquerer’s ‘signature’ is still there. We have been given this statement by the City archivists: “Copies of the Canterbury News will be transferred to the Cathedral Archives to form part of an archive to document life in the city during the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, to be held with the archive of the city.” 

Richard Scase Podcast 2: Fast Forward from Lockdown

The Canterbury Society chair Richard Scase looks ahead in the 2nd of his podcasts for the Canterbury News

Canterbury College Exhibition

Students were asked to show their responses to ‘isolationism, working from home, and lockdown’ in this end-of-year virtual exhibition. Canterbury journalist Neasa MacErlean reviews the stories behind the works in the Flat38 Gallery. Canterbury artist Susan Shaw reviews the art. 

Neasa MacErlean
The skull and the rose; beauty in the dark; upside down and upright; World War I soldiers; grandma and child; light and dark — these are some of the ways that these young artists have chosen to portray the good and bad of lockdown. And then there are others which choose different paths of expression — such as the colourful vibrations of sounds; the rhythmic motion of rollercoasters; instruments; the evolution of animals; and curving emotions. I understood their tales, and I felt they understood mine. Isn’t that what art is about?

Susan Shaw
What a treat to explore the rooms of Flat38 Gallery an imaginatively curated exhibition of Canterbury College’s budding and talented student artists. It was one of the younger students who particularly caught my attention. Iona Clayton is definitely one to watch for the future. Her artwork displays a maturity beyond her years with a series of restrained photographic self portraits enhanced by subtle stitching eloquently making a statement about her emotions. Many others have something to say. See for yourself and send your appreciation directly by clicking on the images that catch your eye. These emerging artists deserve your encouragement.

Black Lives Matter, The Three Tuns, Christchurch and U3A

Greene King, owner of the Three Tuns on Watling Street and the Wheat Sheaf in Whitstable, has updated its website to acknowledge more fully the involvement of its founder Benjamin Greene in the slave trade. The brewery will be making a contribution to Black Lives Matter. We welcome these moves, and would like to suggest the idea that the pubs could work with the local branch of Black Lives Matter. The site says: “After founding the brewery, Benjamin went on to own cane sugar plantations in the West Indies where he was a slave owner. Even in the 1800s, his views on slavery were extremely unpopular and in the brewery’s home of Bury St Edmunds he wrote columns in his own newspaper that were critical of those campaigning for the abolition of slavery.”

Meanwhile, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice Chancellor Christ Church University, acted immediately to terminate the visiting professorship of David Starkey, describing his recent comments as “completely unacceptable”. He said: “Widely reported comments by historian David Starkey during a recent online interview are, in our view, completely unacceptable and do not reflect the values of our university and community.”

And the U3A is running a Zoom talk for its members on ‘Slavery, Race and Imperialism in Kent’. David Reekie, who is giving the lecture, said: “This talk has been inspired by the toppling of the statue of the slaver Edward Colston in Bristol recently. The Jutish Kingdom of Kent was almost certainly financed by a brisk trade in slaves across the Channel. Should we be campaigning to have King Ethelbert’s statue removed from Lady Wootton’s Green or is the current rewriting of history going too far?”

Articles of interest

An article in the Independent — ‘They got it right in Germany in 2020 – and in Canterbury 80 years ago – so why didn’t Boris Johnson learn this lesson?’ — makes a historic comparison with the effects of the pandemic. The author is Patrick Cockburn, our locally-based Middle East specialist on the Independent. There is a firewall but a free registration can be made for one article a month. 

Carl Wright of the Canterbury Climate Action Partnership wrote a piece for the Canterbury Journal recently  ‘Insulate our homes: save money and cut fuel poverty’ on proposals from the Canterbury Climate Action Partnership to change building regulations. The Journal is also running an article by Keith Bothwell on why the Canterbury Society has just submitted one of its most scathing reports on a planning application.

Rough Sleepers

Canterbury City Council is extending by a month the accommodation it is offering to rough sleepers at the Travelodge hotel. It has retained the use of 20 bedrooms until the end of July. During Lockdown it hosted over 30 people there. It says that, working with charities Porchlight and Catching Lives, it has found permanent homes for 18 people and helped two others reconnect with areas they previously had connections with. Talking of the 33 people it was housing at the Travelodge in late June, it says: “All but a small number of these have housing plans that will be realised in the next two to four weeks, such as rooms in shared houses or supported accommodation through local partner organisations.” It also “sadly” reports “that 13 individuals are currently known to be on the streets, either because they have lost their accommodation as a result of their actions or have chosen not to engage with the support available”.

From singing to science: U3A innovates and evolves through Lockdown

The 1,230-strong U3A (University of the Third Age) branch in ‘Canterbury & District’ has evolved and innovated its way through the Lockdown. Aware that its retired or semi-retired members are “cautious” about returning to physical meetings, Chair Christine Plant and colleagues have helped speakers, group leaders and learners use Zoom, Meet and other forms of technology to keep courses and communications going. “What’s made a big difference is people understanding the technology and then helping others to work it out,” she says. So ‘physics in the home’ videos have gone up on its Facebook group; Ursula Steiger’s famous singing group (120 people) is in weekly contact with pieces of music to listen to and emails; Zoom talks attract nearly 100 people (‘Great Writers in East Kent, for instance); and groups from Italian to Art are going strong.

Independence Day - footfall

The opening of pubs, cafes, hairdressers and other outlets on ‘Independence Day’ last Saturday did not result in vast crowds. Footfall numbers from Canterbury BID (Business Improvement District) show that the 8,234 trips along the High Street that day were about a third of the level of Saturdays in May 2019. The numbers were roughly double the averages of April this year (3,168) and May this year (4,549). The Canterbury News tracked the live BID data during the day. Only 1,281 trips had been made by 11am. After that it picked up to between 700 to 1,000 an hour up to 5pm. It then declined to 500, then 300 and 200. Barbers were busy. And lone women waited for their appointment outside many of the hairdressers, chatting to passers-by and generally enjoying the occasion. 

Killer in Chilham? New crime story from Canterbury lecturer

Another Canterbury author has published a new work. Stuart Hutchinson’s Whatsoever is Just came out during Lockdown. Hutchinson, from a small Lancashire coal mining and spinning town, went on to teach literature mainly at the University of Kent, but also in universities in the USA, Germany, and Poland. The new book is set here following Chief Inspector David Warne as he “searches for the killer of the gay heir of a prominent local family, headed by an industrialist from his Lancashire home town. North/South, past/present, white/black, gay/straight, justice/injustice are the themes. The 2003 invasion of Iraq is imminent, and Warne has just been on the big London demo against it….” Hutchinson’s A Loaded Gun, was published in 2015 and is “set mainly in Canterbury during the 1984 miners' strike”.

Join the Canterbury Society? Receive the Canterbury News?

There are two ways to receive the Canterbury News. You can support us and join the Society (for a minimum of £15 a year). Or you can simply register to receive the Canterbury  News, without paying. In the difficult times that we are now living through we are keen to ensure that people who want to be updated can receive this mailing even if they don’t have the money to pay for it. But everything at the Canterbury Society is done by unpaid volunteers and we need funds to pay for insurance, printing of leaflets, room bookings etc — and it all costs money. We would encourage people to support us by joining if you can do that. We hope to expand our coverage — and will be able to do that more easily if we have a better financial basis. 

GP’s view; by Dr Timothy Noble

How did our GP surgeries work together during lockdown? What role did the Canterbury Mosque play? What changes will we notice when we consult our medics in future? Dr Timothy Noble of the University of Kent’s Medical Centre gives his personal account. 

When I was first asked to write an article about my experience of COVID-19 I was in two minds. I thought it would be a very angry piece and not show me in a good light. The daily news briefings were still occurring and the continuing sophistry and obfuscation by the ministers raised my hackles; figures plucked from thin air, empty promises, “Protect the NHS” (not being the same as protecting the nation’s health), the numbers who had “sadly died” with no acceptance of some responsibility and always being “guided” by science. 

However… so much negativity is not good for one. Focus on the positives doctor.

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it”. We have seen this both in the scramble for loo rolls and flour bags, but also in those volunteering to help in many different ways — food banks, grocery shopping and, from my point of view, our staff working above and beyond what had been expected of them. 

Team working whether it is at a practice level or all the Canterbury GPs working together has been magnificent. Local practices have been grouped into Primary Care Networks for some time working closely in developing services and in very successful multidisciplinary teams to look after our frailest patients. When the pandemic started to take off we very rapidly worked together to build and staff a Primary Care Treatment Centre with the support of our local NHS Commissioning Group as well as the University of Kent who provided and adapted facilities to help with requirements. We called it the “Hot Hub”— we were expecting to see, by appointment only, patients with covid symptoms who needed to be physically examined to assess if they could be managed at home. We could not have run it without the support of volunteers as marshals and the Canterbury Mosque who provided refreshments for all. Thankfully the numbers predicted did not realise and we have been able to close the facility. Practices have now had time to begin to “zone” their premises so that these patients can be seen in their own surgery moving forward.

Embracing new technology. We went from seeing 30 patients a day to zero almost overnight. The majority of consultations are now done, at least initially, by telephone. All the local practices are  using “econsult” — you will see this on the front page of their websites — you enter your details and your query/request/list of symptoms and then the practice will respond ideally before the end of the day, or next working day — perhaps by phone call, SMS text or email. This avoids phoning and being held on hold for what can seem like forever in the morning. Photos can also be uploaded on the system which can be useful for some problems.  We are also beginning to use video consulting. I think these approaches will become the new normal. We will want to avoid crowded waiting rooms as social distancing continues. Consulting remotely this way means that one will not need to take time off work for an appointment so I think people will like the convenience of this approach. Not everything can be done remotely and it will continue to be necessary to see and examine people — as part of new presentations of illness or for routine health checks and screening — some services such as childhood immunisations have continued since lockdown. All the health care professionals are becoming used to this new way of working but I think we all miss the face to face contact and the extra information this provides. I think we are all nosey by nature, or should I say curious.

Doctor and Practice Nurse appointments will be different — contact time will need to be kept to a minimum — we will most likely be in PPE (scrubs, gloves, mask, apron) and patients will be expected to bring and wear a mask, you shouldn’t arrive more than five minutes before your appointment and, with obvious exceptions, come on your own. You should let the surgery know if you have a new cough, fever or lost your sense of taste and smell between booking and the appointment timeWhen you come in there won’t be much time for small talk. Remember we are all still open and seeing patients — don’t be worried about contacting your practice.

Moving forward I think there will be some polarisation of society — those, like me, who will continue to keep stick to 2 meters social distancing and lots of handwashing, those under say 25  years of age (I know it’s a bit of a generalisation) who will want to live as they were before lockdown, those currently shielding or very anxious who will be reluctant to expose themselves to risk, those who economically have little choice but to put themselves at risk and some of those over 70 years of age who would rather not spend their remaining years locked down with little contact with friends and family. Or the search for an effective long-lasting vaccine is quicker than we think.

Remember stay alert, keep your distance, wash your hands, and if you do read The Guardian everyday try to balance it with other news sources (that last one is for me).

Will the Covid crisis produce a silver lining? Keith Bothwell of the Green party gives his list of 10 hopes and goals

  1. Many Mutual Aid groups have been set up in streets around the city, with neighbours helping each other out with food collections and deliveries, sharing surpluses, lending tools, etc. If we can keep these groups going we will build a more cooperative society
  2. There has been a real surge in our appreciation of nature — seeing and hearing birds and other wildlife — as the streets grower quieter with less road noise and the skies grow clearer with less air pollution and fewer aeroplane contrails, and as we take more walks in the local countryside
  3. We now realise that we can do without many of our journeys by car and aeroplane and that they are not only undesirable in terms of carbon emissions but not actually necessary at all. All those meetings and conferences in London or far-flung locations around the world, can take place on Zoom or FaceTime and save not only the pollution but also the travel time — to give us more time with our families at home. As we begin to appreciate the local countryside we are considering holidays in England too, rather than jetting across Europe or further afield
  4. We have learned that, contrary to what we were told, there is indeed a ‘magic money tree’ and that government has been using it with abandon — spending billions — to deal with the crisis. So, we could use the magic money tree and spend a lot of money on solving the Climate and Extinction crises, which are even more dangerous than the Coronavirus
  5. There is the dark cloud of job losses … but we now have an opportunity, when putting the unemployed back to work and rebuilding the economy, to spend the money on green industries — a Green New Deal — insulating homes, building solar power stations and wind farms, making electric cars, developing new green technologies
  6. In volunteering to help the NHS and when clapping for carers we have learned who in our society is really valuable and who is not. We need people to stack shelves in supermarkets and drivers to deliver packages, and nurses and doctors to care for us. But do we need fat cats who rake off millions in excess profits and pay themselves obscene salaries?
  7. We have come to appreciate that we don’t need lots of new stuff all the time … that holey jumper works almost as well as a brand new one, those frayed collars and cuffs don’t matter — maybe we can set a new trend! Using lockdown to clear out attics or garages we are finding so many things that are useful either for ourselves or someone else … that we won’t need to buy some things ever again!
  8. Without being able to call on expert help or visit shops, many of us have been learning new skills in making things at home or repairing things, and getting real satisfaction from using our hands creatively!
  9. Some of us have been using the time at home to grow more of our own food, whether just herbs and tomatoes, or something more adventurous. We are also discovering new local sources, such as farm shops and local veg box delivery services. Doing this we are building a more resilient community, making ourselves less reliant on long national and international supply chains which, we have learned, are so easily broken.
  10. Perhaps most importantly of all, being stuck at home has motivated us to get in touch with long-lost relatives and friends — by email or phone or online — reconnecting with people and strengthening our social networks
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