from Nike in Katerini, Greece: Hunger

Delphi

July 7. 43 new cases yesterday. 36 of them were from tourists tested at airports.
The post from Anne Chappel on hunger in these times was most unsettling. There are situations in the press here too. The elderly and the very young are being found passed out from hunger in doorways of shops where they go to smell food. I do believe the government of Greece has done a great job during this Covid crisis but I wish they’d pay more attention to its citizens than to bringing foreign citizens here to get money from them.

In the meantime, and just because this place is so special – here’s a picture from Delphi. The place where the two eagles met, sent by Zeus, one from each side of the planet to find the centre of the world.
Delphi contained temples, an amphitheatre for plays and concerts and an arena for athletic games to provide nourishment for the body, mind and soul. And of course it was the home of the oracle.

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: On Isolation and Hunger

July 2. Those of us in lockdown feel, of course, isolated from our friends and family.  We count the days, which in the present uncertainty stretch before us without limit, until we can share our lives with them.

This fragmentation of the population is reflected in other dimensions.  Sitting inside our houses, patrolling our weedless gardens, we don‘t see, literally don’t see, anything of how the rest of the country is experiencing the pandemic. Amongst the consequences of confining to their homes the fit and active of seventy and over is depriving the community of a host of active volunteers who could  both witness and respon to cases of need.

It is very easy to turn off our sensors and concentrate solely on our own misfortunes.  One effect of the lockdown is to throw attention onto the most trivial grievances.  The major event last Saturday in my household was the failure of Sainsburys to deliver the supplements in the weekend papers we had ordered.  No book reviews, no television guides.  It quite spoilt the day.

If you look for it, however, there is evidence that out there people are going without more than just newsprint.  There are those deprived of their income because they don’t qualify for the furlough payments.  There are the daily increasing numbers who are being fired in anticipation of the closure of that scheme.  There are those who legally have ‘no recourse to public funds’ because they have a right to live here but not to benefit from the welfare state.  There are those who had been barely getting by in the gig economy who are now wrestling with intricacies and inadequacies of universal credit.  There is the group described by the money expert Martin Lewis as experiencing a ‘financial catastrophe’ as their businesses have failed leaving them with no safety net of any kind.

The consequence is not just some kind of social poverty, but basic physical deprivation.  The Food Standards Agency has just published a report showing that since the pandemic began between 6.3 and 7.7 million adults had reduced their meals or missed them altogether because of lack of money, and that between 2.7 and 3.7 adults sought charity food or used food banks.*   The food banks themselves have found it difficult to meet the increased demand, despite a ‘Food Charities Grant’ the government has established to provide them with short-term assistance.

Just now, my wife and I are living in a two-person fenced community.  We must be grateful, I guess, that so far the material sufferings of so large a minority seem not to be reflected in the crime figures.

Add Mss 4.  OU brings down French Presidential candidate.  Further to yesterday’s discussion of the work of the Open University, the verdict has just been reported in the trial for embezzlement of the former French prime minister and presidential candidate, François Fillon, and his Welsh-born wife Penelope.  Up to a million euros were paid to Penelope over a number of years for office support that she never undertook.  The offence first came to light in a newspaper interview with Penelope back in 2007, when she admitted in passing that she was too busy to work for her husband.  The reason she gave for her lack of time was that she had just started an OU course in English literature.  She told the journalist that she was studying for a second degree because ‘her five children viewed her as “just a mother.”  She wanted to show them she was “not that stupid”’ (my own mother, in her time, took an OU degree in her sixties for much the same reason).  Both action and motive seem more than sufficient to acquit Penelope Fillon of the charge she faced.  As it is, she has been given a suspended sentence of three years.

*https://www.food.gov.uk/research/research-projects/the-covid-19-consumer-tracker 

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: guest blog from Cathy Buckle in Zimbabwe – god help us …

from Cathy Buckle in Zimbabwe

Cathy Buckle. Dear Family and Friends,
On an early morning emergency dash to collect supplies I was anxious about venturing out and what I would see. It was Day 5 of Zimbabwe’s 21 day Coronavirus lockdown and I knew that by now people who live hand to mouth and eke out a living selling fruit and vegetables from roadside stalls would be getting desperate. Our taps were dry for the second day running and with gloves and a mask on I set out. People were out looking for water already, so far there was no news on where there were supplies of maize meal, the staple food.

I passed a man pushing a wheelbarrow with five empty yellow water containers, heading towards a public borehole. Fourteen people were already there ahead of him, standing in line at the borehole waiting for their turn to use the hand pump and fill their containers with water. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.

Further along a policewoman in uniform ignored me, she was busy taking a selfie photograph of herself on the side of the road, a block or two from the town centre. She wasn’t wearing a face mask. A group of four police men and women armed with truncheons were having an altercation with a man carrying a small cardboard box. None of the police were wearing face masks despite being a few inches away from the man. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.

All week we’ve been seeing pictures of big crowds of people desperately trying to buy maize meal in Harare and Bulawayo. No chance for social distancing, no sign of masks, just a massive squash of people trying to get food for their families, people who have to choose between hunger and an invisible virus. Almost five hundred people have been arrested this week for being on the streets in breach of lockdown, crammed into police lorries and taken away but in the same week 1680 prisoners have been released because prisons are overcrowded and congested. This is coping with Coronavirus Zimbabwe style.

On Day 5 of Zimbabwe lockdown, news had already filtered out that in the early hours of the morning police had raided Sakubva market in Mutare and confiscated three tons of fresh vegetables which were later set alight. Burning food when the country is in lockdown, people are desperate for food and over half the population is dependent on International Food Aid to survive, is very hard to understand.

Almost home from my early morning dash, two police details were standing in the middle of the road and indicated for me to stop and open my window, asking where I was going and why. The police woman who came to my window wasn’t wearing a mask or gloves and the obvious question that came to mind was: what if she’s got Coronavirus, isn’t she passing it on to every person she stops and questions? Isn’t this making a complete nonsense of lockdown, defeating the whole purpose of confining people to their homes to stop the spread of Covid 19? This is coping, or not, with Coronavirus, Zimbabwe style. God help us.


Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe, now in its 20th year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, love cathy 3 April 2020. Copyright © Cathy Buckle. http://cathybuckle.co.zw/