Reasons to be cheerful?

Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

Eighteen wheeler Scammells, Dominica camels
All other mammals plus equal votes

Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willie
Being rather silly and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome we can spare it,…

Thank you, Ian Dury. The brilliant punk rock singer and poet put it so well in Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 – there (almost) always is something you can find to be cheerful about. And so it is with Covid-19. Admittedly, it is easier to find reasons to be cheerful living in beautiful Somerset in this lovely spring. It is, of course, typical that the weather is so gorgeous now, after all those weeks and months of rain. Just when we can’t really get out and enjoy it.

But the wonderful and still much-missed Ian Dury had a point.

Here are just a few things we are feeling grateful for:

The kindness of so many people, not only the younger friends who are shopping for us, uncomplaining even when we realise we have forgotten something and they have to go up the town again.

The generosity of so many people, with their time, their creativity (yes, we loved the family singing One Day More from Les Mis), their money and their thoughts. Even social media at present seems kinder – although I know that some good people like Jack Monroe (the bootstrap cook) and Nadiya Hussain (of Bake Off fame) are still subject to vile pathetic trolling.

The number of people who are observing the social distancing rules but still find time to stop and say hello – walking our dog for our permitted daily exercise, I have met and talked with more people around our town these last few weeks than in all the years we have lived here.

Wild goats in Llandudno, bird song heard in the middle of cities, fallow deer grazing on grass around East London flats, a coyote in central San Francisco, a herd of wild boar crossing a street in Spain …

Real food is back – it may be hard to get some ingredients, but when you read and see what people are cooking and the advice they are seeking and the help they are getting, what you find is that people are baking, and making soups and salads and casseroles and pies with the things they have found in the back of the cupboard or forgotten in the pantry.

Nobody is telling us that bleeding beetroot burgers will save the world.

There are swans swimming and fish back in the canals of Venice – will somebody please now ban cruise ships not only from the city’s canals but from the whole lagoon (and while I’m at it, can they also ban cruise ships from Charleston, South Carolina, and from any port or small harbour on the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. Please add your own places that need protecting from these floating tin-town cans!)

Our god-daughter in Hackney realised how polluted the air had been when she saw how clearly she could see other buildings from her flat.

And more of course. Add your own.

We are the lucky ones. We are freelances who work from home, we have a garden, we live in a beautiful rural area, we have lots of independent food shops that are open and happy to take payment over the phone and deliver or give the goods to our friends. We are catching up with friends on the phone and by email. We are finally doing things around the house we should have done before. We are reading the books that have been stacking up. We are watching the boxed sets kind friends have given us. We are never bored.

But there is a real danger of complacency here – and we do know how lucky we are. There isn’t a day when we don’t think of friends who are on their own, friends and family who have to be in full quarantine because of health and immunity problems and the millions who have lost their income and those who live in tightly packed housing estates or tower blocks, struggling to keep children happy and occupied, maybe suffering from domestic abuse, and for whom shopping is a nightmare of queueing and shortages and exercise is confined to pavements and parks, where selfish bunches of cyclists and reckless runners ignore social distancing rules.

Perhaps the biggest reason to be cheerful is that after this things can never be the same again. Can we hope that the government will now properly fund the NHS – will Boris have an epiphany and make sure that health and social care become REAL priorities? Will he sack the useless Home Secretary?

Will governments and city managements around the world look at the improved environment in cities which are not clogged with traffic and take practical steps to ensure this can continue, to benefit the health of the people who live and work there? Will companies realise they don’t need vast flagship buildings, that many staff can work effectively from home, and will governments and councils seize the opportunity and take over the empty buildings to provide affordable homes for the people we now know are the real key workers – the health and social care staff, delivery drivers, refuse collection teams, cleaners, shelf-stackers and the myriad neglected, taken-for-granted people to whom we all owe an incalculable debt of gratitude.

If this virus, following the tsunamis and the hurricanes and the wildflres in Australia and California and Canada and the floods, is another sign of the planet fighting back, can we all please listen and then can we make our voices heard? We may never have a better chance.

Fanny Charles