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We hope that you are keeping safe and well. This is our ninth update on developments regarding Coronavirus. We are expanding and experimenting with this newsletter as we go along. We have changed the name from the newsletter to 'Canterbury News' to reflect the wider role we are now playing. And we have changed the design, as you can see. This time we also include our first poem. The issue includes news, updates, views from readers (in the 100-word slots), comments and analysis. A major aim is for us to use this space to consider how we want to rebuild our community.  

CASES in the area

The total numbers of Covid deaths reported in Kent include 116 at the East Kent Hospitals, 1 (which must be a mistake on the reported figures) at Kent & Medway, 11 at Kent Community Trust and 58 at Maidstone & Tun-bridge Wells. There have been 1,518 deaths in the South East Region, putting us 6th out of the seven regions NHS England is dividing England into. Bottom is the South West (650), and 5th is East (just above us, on 1,526). London (3,743) is top. 

The top 10 hospitals in England by numbers of deaths are located in Lon-don (six hospitals), Midlands (three) and the North West (one). The top three are University Hospitals Birmingham (564 deaths), London North West University (374) and Royal Free London (370). The East Kent Hospitals come 47th on the list, out of a total of 188 trusts. 

Kent has risen to the top of the government’s (upper tier) local authority lists of recorded cases — although these stats are not very reliable (because there are vastly more cases in reality than those people who have been tested; and because the proportion of people being tested is rising now; and also because numbers might reflect the availability of nearby testing; and for various other reasons too). Kent has 2,193 cases, followed by Birmingham (2,133) and Hampshire (2,005). Kent is the most populous English county — and drops down the table when the numbers are done on a per capita basis. 

Reflecting on good times; by Barbara Armstrong

In these times of isolation and sometimes loneliness too it is good reflect on happy occasions and beautiful places that stand out and lifted your spirits, or where you have done something creative over a long time.  In our case we fulfilled our dreams and justified our ownership of an old Elizabethan house (1595) and a hectare of land, by leaving it in better shape than we found it.   It is to be hoped that each owner will do the same.  The previous owners left us a lovely message, ‘Happiness to all that dwell with-in’.  Enjoy the beginning of the dawn chorus, the spring sunshine and warmth.

From Bridge; by John Yard

My wife and I start our daily walk around our garden, marvelling at having time to "stand and stare". We then walk out onto the North Downs , marvelling once more at our luck in finding a house on this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our path takes us to the little gem of a church at Bishopsbourne, with the Burne-Jones' window and William Morris' tiles now locked inside. Then off across the meadow, alongside the Nailbourne which is, for the first time since we moved to Bridge three years ago, a fast-flowing stream. We linger on little foot bridges listening to the running water and the bleating of the young lambs.

Very Clean Hands by Sarah Carter (April 2020)

My hands have never been so clean
I wash them all the time
Happy Birthday, Twenty secs
Or other silly rhyme.

The skin becoming paper thin
Translucent, pallid hue
Skidding across reticulation
Of veinage, purple, blue. 

The inside of my hands are creased, 
With vertical finger folds
A smooth expanse in centre palm
Horizontal across the heel.

The fingers look like twiglets now
The nails are growing brittle
The flaking backs, both rough and smooth
Disintegrate little by little

When, I wonder, will the carapace
Of ever-efficient skin
Self-destruct, having lost
Its flexibility within?

Wash your hands, wash your hands
We hear the experts tell;
But never the concomitant need
To moisturise as well.

View from the corner of a small leafy square; by Catherine Davis

In March, when I saw a lockdown was likely, I got over to the  Bekesbourne riding stables for one last ride in the spring sunshine, with skylarks singing above us, before I was confined to the city.  After doing a lot of walking round the square for exercise, I was sent a government text saying I should not leave my property for twelve weeks or until told other-wise, so I use my static exercise bike, and throw balls at the wall, and I have diagrams of exercises I may or may not get round to doing.  I generally feel quite upbeat but have to admit that, with my breathing problems, there are times I do get a bit anxious.  I have plenty of food, thanks to de-liveries from local small shops, and young neighbours and other friends prepared to stand in supermarket queues for me.  The sunshine helps, and I enjoy sitting just inside my front door, waving to the world from a safe distance.

Fresh fruit and veg in the city centre

The Canterbury Fruit Stall is back. It disappeared for a short while during the start of the lockdown and concentrated on home deliveries. Now it is back — in the Whitefriars plaza — and will be there Monday to Saturday from 9am to 3pm. It is concentrating on street sales, rather than taking on more deliveries. The other large fruit & veg stall, the one by Marks & Spencer, is also active. It will be there each Wednesday and Friday, from 6am to 4pm, with its usual array of produce from Spitalfields Market. 

A PS on our interview with Rosie Duffield MP

The interview last week with our MP covered many issues, and so we did not include every comment she made in the Q&A we sent to you a few days ago. But looking back on the notes of the conversation, there is one more sentence that we could add. “The lockdown will be relaxed,” she said, talking of the sacrifices we are making now. Her point was that we need to remember that this is temporary. As with many arrangements in these times, the phone chat with Rosie Duffield was set up with unusual speed. Normally, such an interview would be put in the diary weeks ahead. This time, our request went in at 11.40am on Wednesday, 15 April, the interview happened at 4.00pm, and the newsletter containing it went out two hours later. 

I can keep going now: by an anonymous cafe owner

I got the £10,000 business grant today. I should be able to survive now, pay my bills, help out my staff and reopen without being in debt. I feel much more relaxed. Because this part of the game is less stressed now, I can focus on what I need to plan for the future. More people working from home reduces my customer numbers….The Chamber of Commerce (Tim Sheppard, in particular) were very fast. They didn’t ask for very much information. You felt they were trying to help you. 

Virtual Concert for the Hambrook Marshes

Please join Richard Navarro and 30 other musicians and poets for this virtual concert at 7pm on Sunday 26th April. Donations (which are being asked for instead of ticket sales) will go to clean and restore the area following the burning of the  boardwalk. Much of the concert music has been specially written for the event. Watch live on Facebook or YouTube

Food Bank — the latest

The emergency appeal that was launched to raise £12,000 has now nearly reached double that amount. But the charity is grateful for all donations as it is still feeding four times the number of its usual clients. 

Join the Canterbury Society? Receive this newsletter?

There are two ways to receive this newsletter. You can support us and join the Society (for a minimum of £15 a year). Or you can simply register to receive the newsletter, 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 the newsletter 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 hope to expand our coverage — and will be able to do that more easily on a better financial basis. 

Articles from The Canterbury Society

It's time for a grown-up conversation on climate change by John Yard. 

Where we go from here

We run below three longer articles about where our priorities should be. 

The forgotten carers by Paula Spencer

Throughout all this, my dismay is that the media seems to think or report that it's only the NHS who care and who are risking their lives- of course they are and I admire them all immensely. However, not all carers are in the NHS and not all are equal, there are so many continuing their visits in the community and working in care or nursing homes. These people actually know the people they care for and they may have changed, bathed and fed them for up to 10 years, they are often their friends. I had a letter from my sister's nursing home, where she is dying of MS and associated cerebral atrophy, to say they had their first death from Covid-19. My sister is 56, not all care homes cater just for the elderly- some are for young adults with multiple disabilities and many are housing adults on the autistic spec-rum or who have a learning disability. These people and their carers, who are often on minimum wage, are, it seems, largely forgotten in the news and the statistics. To have 13 residents in your care home die must be unbearable and so difficult to deal with mentally and emotionally. Many do not have the essential equipment to protect themselves and their families. And many are not qualified or don’t have the support to cope with people dying a difficult death from respiratory illness. Even palliative care is not largely their responsibility, but it has become so. The figures for deaths in care homes have yet to truly come to light and the effect on the staff will never be known, but will undoubtedly be underestimated. Please remember these amazing people when you clap on Thursday. No doubt a great many of us will be dependent on them one day.

Giving blood by Dave Wilson

Having been spectacularly risk averse over the past four weeks, my re-cent visit to make a blood donation felt, in prospect, like quite the most perilous thing I’ve done. 

If you’re a regular donor you’ll know how familiar the routine is: turn up, sit, have a pint of fruit squash while you read the usual information and wait (often interminably), get assessed, sit and wait (interminably, again), make the donation, get a cup of tea and a biscuit, and then, eventually, off you go.

But this time, of course, there are changes. A “triage” greeting at the door, with mandatory sanitiser wash. People held in a socially distanced queue – which is why they ask donors not to turn up early – as they operate a one in – one out system. Then inside, only 3 chairs in the waiting area, spread well apart. Staff all wearing face masks, which is the least you’d expect. The compulsory booklet to read, wiped down after you hand it back. Your pre-donation squash in a plastic glass which you’re asked to carry round with you like some revered artefact. The donation seats them-selves more spread out, although according to the staff they’ve only got one less chair than normal, using the space freed up in the waiting area. No hot drinks provided – they slow down people leaving and increase wait times - though they still provided my own personal treat for donating, an orange Club biscuit. But above all: no hanging about. Whisked from one stage to another with astonishing alacrity, in and out in 25 minutes. 

In short, the whole thing was only mildly more risky than my weekly supermarket dash. In fact probably less so given there were no children running around and no dithering over which brand of beans to buy. 

But the key thing is that the NHS needs our blood. There are of course fewer traffic accidents and no elective surgery is taking place, but babies are still being born and people still need emergency operations. And numbers of donors are down as people self-isolate. As a result they still need people to turn up and do that most altruistic of things, give your blood to a stranger. 

So whether you’ve donated before or not, register with the National Blood Service now, and do some good, while you’re not doing anything else. 

Dave Wilson is a Labour Councillor for Barton ward

Coronavirus and Collapse by Geoff Meaden

The advent of Covid-19 has accentuated my deep concern with the pre-sent plight of humanity. I worry that we, and that means everyone, are on the cusp of what Jared Diamond would call "collective collapse". On the whole humankind is collectively slipping into a blinkered "every man for himself" mode. Of course, there are many cases where individuals or groups or circumstances are successfully bringing about positive change, but when examined holistically it seems that human systems are fast col-lapsing. Think about the present chronic situation whereby almost every facet of human existence is in pretty much a dire strait - governance, health systems, education, diseases, care of the elderly, the economy, micro-plastics, cancer rates, biodiversity collapse, ecosystems instability and decline, inequality, poverty, homelessness, retailing, litter, climate change, forest fires, flooding, over-fishing, marine and air pollution, etc, etc, etc. 

My pre-retirement work as a Biogeographer provided an awareness of what happens to individual species over time and space. At some time many, if not most, animals exhibit accelerating exponential growth rates (see graph below for humans), but eventually these growth curves peak and then suddenly a population crash commences. It is hard to believe that this is not exactly what is presently happening with respect to the excessive and unsustainable human population on our planet. OK, we will all keep on doing what we can but it is simply not enough to keep a positive outlook. If we don’t “tell it as it is” then people won’t get the message and indeed we could well get a false sense of security and little effort will be put into seeking solutions. We will all remain like the woodsmen who keep cutting down trees thinking that there are always more trees in the forest. What happened on Easter Island is surely creeping up on all of us and no one seems to be taking any necessary action. Surely information on this lack of leadership and necessary action urgently needs to be disseminated. My major concern is that few others seem to be concerned.

I will be accused of being a pessimist or of only having negative thoughts. But there are times when realism must take precedence over optimism and these times have surely arrived. I make no apologies for telling exactly what this present disease resurgence has promoted in my mind, and I just hope that it will spur others to consider what we might do avert further calamities. I believe that the best thing we can do is to tread far more lightly on the planet. Too many of us have far too much “stuff” and demand un-sustainable (and unnecessary) levels of satisfaction. I urgently request that we go ahead and greatly simplify our lives. On a positive note it would be good to think that in future we will all only acquire things, and participate in activities, that will bring about a greener planet. Is this too much to ask?

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