From Brenda in Hove: Clinging to the Wreckage

18 April 2021

Today I had my second jab – well within the 12 weeks prescribed for it.

In a previous blog I described the experience of the first jab. Mostly voiced my admiration for all the volunteers who were running this mammoth operation – and their cheerfulness and efficiency. It was an uplifting experience that time.

This time there was a noticeably different atmosphere. While all the volunteers were bright and helpful there was an air of grim determination about the whole thing. No chattiness, no introductions (like “I am Dr Jones and I will be giving you your vaccination”), hardly any sound at all in the whole huge room. All you had to do was give your name and date of birth, show your last vaccination card, present your arm for the needle and hurry out of the way to allow the next in line. And you were left in no doubt as to the fact that you had to hurry. It was like a drill, socially distanced!

As for the people waiting in long lines, they were different as well. Last time we were quite a cheery bunch, happy that we were getting the vaccination and buoyed up by the patent efficiency of the exercise and the friendly volunteers. This time we were a stolid lot. I seemed to be the only one who had made it to a hairdresser since they opened 6 days ago! We were a motley crew. We had all given up on anything that could be described as ‘smart’ clothing, even vaguely co-ordinated clothing. The cold weather has gone on for so long that no change in clothing from winter has even been thought about. Lots of layers – which was embarrassing when you had to get your arm out for someone who was standing, needle at the ready.

We were an elderly lot (first to get the jabs and first to get the top-up) but there did seem to be many more people who were in a bad way, health-wise. There were several wheelchair cases, slumped rather than sitting – with their carers, also unsmilingly determined. Most people seemed to be on their own, some looking very frail, and they stood in line without comment or complaint – and hurried as best they could. Oh dear.  

Mind you, I have to add that my husband told one of the volunteers when he checked in that his wife was very thirsty (we had hoped to stop for a bottle of water and a newspaper to pass the time, but the traffic was heavier than we expected and we didn’t stop after all). She almost ran to get me a cup of water as soon as she possibly could! I didn’t know he had asked for it and was very surprised to be picked out in the line for this service!  Also embarrassing in the midst of more important matters claiming their attention.

The whole scene reminded me of John Mortimer’s autobiography, Clinging to the Wreckage. His was an interesting life, well-lived – and he found this title apt. Imagine what most of us have been thinking after this awful 13 months of lockdown and death tolls. Clinging to the wreckage indeed.

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