Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

by Scribble Monboddo

1666 was a good year for apocalyptic conspiracy enthusiasts, perhaps in much the same way as '2020 vision' or lack thereof will doubtless be the butt of many a weak gag in the history books of the future. But let's stick with a the past, just for a moment.

Years back - well, just over a dozen of them, at least - I was involved in planning for a pandemic, amongst other public health activities. More about that another day, perhaps. But on the rare social occasions in that world it was customary to raise a glass to 'the vicar of Eyam'. 

As it happens, there were actually two of them, since procedural shenanigans around a new book of common prayer had resulted in there being an outgoing incumbent and an incoming new post-holder. The coming of the plague forced something of a 'war cabinet' and they successfully collaborated to perform outdoor services to enable physical distancing and, perhaps more crucially, closed the village so as to avoid the pestilence spreading to neighbouring settlements. Little of the correspondence of the time survives, sadly, but the stone at which coins were left in vinegar to sanitise them is still standing. The sacrifice worked, and although it was another age and a different type of disease, it's an example oft-quoted these days.

I live in the middle of nowhere out in the countryside, where a few people with second homes or supportive relations have retreated to escape the crowded cities. It's a reasonable move, given the extra space, the ease with which one can remain well over two metres from everyone, and the usual country habit of planning ahead for power cuts, being snowed-in and the like. That's where this fortnight's tenuous stationery link comes in, as it happens; when the lock-down started, I contacted some older neighbours who I didn't think were frequent digital communicators, to put it politely, with a good old-fashioned letter to check they knew there was back-up nearby if needed. Of course, they all got back to me to confirm they had matters fully under control... but they liked the handwriting.

Do stay well, and keep in touch with your neighbours - then, when this is all over, come and visit. The fields, mountains and coasts will be there for you still.