I’m just back inside after joining my neighbours (at a safe distance) for the Big Clap to say thank-you to everyone in the NHS. We were on our doorsteps, at windows, in my case and with two others, one of whom works for the NHS, from the block of flats where I live, on the pavement by the car park gates. There were whoops and fireworks. From all the streets around us we could hear the sound of applause. Magical, wonderful, heartwarming and heartbreaking.
This crisis has brought out the best and worst of us. I know of a nurse who is doing thirteen hour shifts on an ICU. Her thirty minute lunch break becomes twenty by the time she has climbed out of her protective clothing and when it is time to climb back into it again. She and all the others working in these conditions are heroes, but had successive governments not run down the NHS so cynically, their task might be more manageable, more hopeful. For years now the NHS has warned it is near to breaking point. Johnson said three weeks ago that “our NHS will cope” now he needs to show strong, practical support, leadership, except leadership is not something any of us expect from Johnson, and reward not just with words. The NHS should not be coping, it should be properly funded, able to step up with confidence when a crisis happens, knowing the government is at its back.
The speed with which neighbourhoods have responded is impressive. One friend who has just turned seventy and who spends much of her time caring for others is touched beyond belief at then offers of help she has received. There are people offering to care for her, and that is something she is not used to.
There is good humour, camaraderie, concern. We send daily messages and make ‘phone calls to check on each other. Locally we seem to have started a jigsaw syndicate.
The flip side is the people who still don’t keep a distance; the incidents of NHS workers being mugged for their badges, presumably so that someone can get an extra hour of shopping at the supermarket (get a life); the anti-Chinese rhetoric by the same old recidivists, eager to exploit the situation and stir up distrust and division for their own nationalist agendas.
Tonight’s Big Clap was not a local thing, it was UK wide, following the example of people in Italy, in Spain. There’s a hashtag (isn’t there always a hashtag now?) clapforourcarers and I am sure if you look on Twitter and Instagram you’ll see plenty of footage. It wasn’t started by the government here, but by a Dutch woman who lives here. There is more than a touch of irony in that I am sure you’ll agree.
My NHS worker neighbour has been working on wards with people who are recovering from coronavirus and will shortly be sent home to make way for the increased number of patients anticipated in two weeks time. We have still a long way to go. On the plus side, she tells me the patients she is with are in their late 80s and 90s, so they have had Covid 19 and have lived to tell the tale. Big Clap for them too say I!
See you tomorrow.