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Lindy McDowell

Coronavirus may have destroyed lives — but we’re pulling together in a magnificent way

Lindy McDowell



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Ruth Burke and her daughter Brenda Doherty

Ruth Burke and her daughter Brenda Doherty

Ruth Burke and her daughter Brenda Doherty

Mike has been emailing me on and off all week. Mike Coupe is the CEO of Sainsbury's - but he and I are now on first name terms. "Dear Lindy" is how he starts his updates.

One of his missives pinged in late the other night and for a brief, golden moment I thought it might be news of a lottery win (I do it online).

But no. Mike wants to keep me abreast of Sainsbury's strategy re special hours for NHS staff, the elderly and the vulnerable.

You're going about it the wrong way round, Mike.

What you should have is a special hour, as inconvenient as possible, for the hoarders.

Give them a trolley and let them at it like Supermarket Sweep.

But then everything is about face right now.

Our world, as New York mayor Bill de Blasio said recently, has been turned upside down.

I doubt it will ever be the same again.

There are events in history which really do mark a turning point. 9/11 was one of them. Covid-19 is currently recalibrating our universe too.

In a matter of only a few weeks everything has changed, changed utterly.

You can see that even in something as inconsequential as TV advertising which, generally, is still not up to speed with social distancing reality.

Already it looks odd, all that hugging and close proximity interaction.

The commercials will be reflecting soon enough how commerce has been upended. Who knows how, or even if, the economy will recover?

Coronavirus has destroyed livelihoods. And also, of course, lives.

Watching this week two bereaved women, Brenda Doherty, the daughter of Ruth Burke, and Joan Fulton, the sister of Billy Allan, speak of their loss and their love for their precious mother and brother was so very moving.

All the more so because Joan and Brenda were speaking out for the benefit of the rest of us.

Generally when someone you love very much dies you're such a mess you can't even think straight.

But these two women - and others like them - put their own great grief aside temporarily to impress upon the rest of us the need for lockdown.

We're all in this together. Over and over again the same message is being drummed in and if there is any small solace right now it's that the vast majority of people recognise that and have responded magnificently.

The great irony is that social distancing has actually brought people together in the right way. We've left behind all the syrupy air-kissing and hugging and replaced it with a very real reaching out.

Thursday night's Clap for the Carers event gave us a chance to say some sort of small thank you to the foremost heroes of this calamity.

Despite being by nature an emotional gusher - I once cried at a Coca Cola ad - I didn't expect it to be quite as emotional as it was.

In our wee street all our great neighbours were out, clapping, cheering, whooping. In the background fireworks were going off.

So many people to be grateful to. As I clapped I was thinking of those like my lovely friends Janice, here in Belfast, Bridget, in Scotland, and over in Brighton, Conor and Beccy.

The shabby behaviour of the likes of the greedy hoarders my new friend Mike is trying to get a grip on doesn't counterbalance all the good out there.

The Health Minister calls for an army of a quarter of a million volunteers and within a few hours he's got twice that.

Look around your own neighbourhood and you'll see plenty of examples of kindness and caring. Decent people doing their wee bit.

Even our politicians here have stepped up to the plate, pulling together for all of us. Yes, maybe we should be asking why they didn't find it in themselves to do so previously.

For now though, respect.

I don't think it will be quite so easy to lapse back to the way we all were before, either.

We're fighting against something microscopic yet bigger than all of us.

And for now, in that battle, nothing divides us. Apart, of course, from the statutory two metres.

As our country battles on, Harry’s missing in action

Pandemic or no, celebrity attention-seeking continues unabated. Sam Smith posting pictures of himself feigning a meltdown in lockdown. And, my favourite, Madonna offering coronavirus survival advice from her petal-strewn bath - taking Boris Johnson's wash-your-hands mantra to a more comprehensive level.

Needless to say, Harry and Meghan were also on the ball. Belatedly they posted on their Instagram page World Health Organisation advice on hand washing and social distancing which 99% of the population could already recite by heart.

This was garnished in typical Sussex style with lots of waffly "inspirational" messaging.

Meanwhile, we learn Prince Charles has got it. Coronavirus. Not the inspirational messaging.

And Harry and Meghan have now relocated (by private jet naturally) to California. There's some debate about whether Harry should have come back to see his da. Why would he? Presumably with Chas self-isolating (which I suspect is easier in Highgrove than in your average semi) he wouldn't be allowed near him.

But I think a bigger deal where Harry is concerned is that he is seen by the British public as Missing In Action at a time of national crisis - and at a time when the Royal Firm is depleted by reasons of age, scandal and Covid-19.

Harry's often compared to his ancestor Edward VIII who also married an American divorcee. A few years after Edward abdicated the Second World War broke out. The Royals soldiered on without him. Their popularity soared. He sank to irrelevance.

Having similarly taken an early bath from Royal duty, Harry may also be about to see his status go down the plug hole.

What happened when my son offered help

My son dropped in on an elderly lady this week to offer any help she might need amid the current emergency. She told him no thanks, she'd family visiting regularly. She also said that lots of others had checked on her to see if she was okay. He said she was very polite in turning down his offer of help. "Basically I think the wee woman's head's melted with young people offering assistance."

Wouldn’t we all love an escape to a chateau?

Amid lockdown there's not a lot of diversion to be had at home. I've even been ironing. And daytime TV isn't great, is it? But I have become a bit addicted to Dick Strawbridge's wonderful Escape to the Chateau DIY.

The DIY-ing owners are real workhorses, one woman in particular who is single-handedly ripping out a bathroom. Hard graft aside, wouldn't we all love a chateau to escape to right now?

Belfast Telegraph