The Winter of Our Discontent – The Corona Diaries – Part Four

For this latest quarterly installment of The Corona Diaries, I’ve borrowed the title from a 1961 novel by the American writer John Steinbeck, best known for his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.  The Winter of Our Discontent, centers around a protagonist, Ethan Hawley, who labors as a grocery clerk in a store once owned by his rich and illustrious Long Island ancestors.  A man of honesty and integrity he sells his soul in a series of successful but unethical get-rich schemes, hoping to satisfy his restless wife and teen-aged children who want more material goods than he can provide.   He becomes suicidal, but is saved at the end by a talisman his daughter slips into his pocket.

No idea why this was on my basement bookshelf, but Donald Sutherland looked young in 1983.

I read this book in high school, because our strict but otherwise excellent English teacher required a monthly book report on one of the classics.  I’m not sure why I chose this one.  Perhaps the title appealed to me, as Canadian winters tend to be long.   Certainly, as a 15-year-old I found it hard to relate to, as nobody in my world was suicidal, (young people weren’t back in the 70’s), but in truth all I remember about it was there was something about a grocery store and the scene of his despair was near the ocean, which I wanted to view some day. 

Steinbeck in turn borrowed the title from the opening speech of the Shakespearean play, Richard the Third, from which the English teacher thankfully spared us.   

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York;  and all the clouds that lour’d upon our house. In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths…..”

A catchy opening phrase, but the subsequent lengthy passage deals with politics, war and who gets to be king, and while I’m sure it was profound, I disliked Shakespeare too.   

None of this has anything to do with COVID, although I suppose you could spin a connection that Ethan Hawley was an essential front-line worker, there’s still a lot of political divisiveness raging, and mental health issues are becoming epidemic the longer the pandemic drags on….but basically I just liked the title.

For many people it has been a winter of discontent, but I’m an introvert so I’m still doing okay…keeping busy….reading lots…..walking every day except for one brutally cold week in February when I could not force myself to leave the warmth and comfort of the house.  (Skin freezes in twenty minutes in sub-zero temperatures.)   Cocooning in the winter is nice, but I’m wondering if I’ll remember how to interact with other people in person.

But I have to admit I’d be a lot happier if I could get a COVID vaccine.  The vaccine roll-out here has been slow, as not having any vaccine manufacturing facilities left in Canada, we are at the mercy of the EU supply chains.   

Turtle by Joni’s mom

It’s a case, of slow and steady does NOT win the race…..against the variants. 

While I’m grateful that my mother, in the over 90 group, was able to get her first shot in early March, with her second booked for five weeks later in April, unless it’s cancelled, I’m not happy that the government recently decided to stretch the dosing interval to FOUR MONTHS, for everyone else in an effort to get more people vaccinated, including for the 80 plus group. While they were able to give the nursing home residents and workers, and health care staff two doses initially as recommended, everyone else has to wait until July for the second dose.  While I understand the rationale behind this, it’s a big gamble, especially with new studies showing that immunity in the older population is substandard to begin with and may not last as long.  Every day now, so much new information is emerging, it’s hard to keep up with it all.

Sea turtle (by Joni’s mom) drowning in a sea of COVID information which changes with the tides…

As for the vaccination clinic itself, well…..that’s a rant best left to Facebook, if I was the kind of person who posted on Facebook.   Where else but in Canada would you have to wait until the ice came out of a hockey rink before you organized a mass immunization clinic.  The general inefficiency of the previous set-up has now been replaced by a new model involving pods of 15 (maximum of 60 in the now ice-free arena) where you register and sit in your pod and the immunizer person comes to you, aiming for a goal of one patient per minute. A great idea, and I’d give the local health unit credit, but they stole the (hockey hub) model from the Gray-Bruce Health Unit.

Unfortunately I was disqualified from getting the vaccine as an essential caregiver, as I do not share the same residence as my mother, even though I am there almost every day as she is 95 now, BUT if she was in a nursing home and I visited her once in awhile, then I would have qualified? (Ministry of Health rules) But at least I will not worry so much now that she will have some level of protection. Otherwise I am waiting patiently for my age group to come up…..they are decreasing by fives.

On to more pleasant things, like food.  There has been entirely too much dessert eating going on here lately…

I had to use up the rest of the spy apples before they spoiled…

So many English trifle parfaits were consumed that we ran out of peach and strawberry preserves.  I felt like the pioneer woman who ran out of provisions before the end of winter.   

Next year make three batches of freezer jam…

I’m still doing the every 2-3 week grocery run, as we have basically been in various stages of lockdown since Christmas.   We had two weeks in the orange zone in late February, so I was able to get a haircut, but locked down into gray again shortly afterwards.  Lots of cases and variants rising – we’re just starting the third wave.

When will the third wave melt?

I fear that by the time I get the vaccine, (and then which one, which is a whole other topic), it won’t work as the strains will have mutated so much we’ll have to start over again.   The Spanish flu took four years to die off, (1918-1922) with the first two being the worst due to WW1 troops spreading it between countries. Sorry to be so depressing….

Where are you my old friend mRNA?

I still have my old biochemistry book in the basement somewhere, but I’m grateful I no longer have to study it. I remember it as a killer course involving stuff like memorizing the Krebs cycle. I’m happy I can now keep my brain active by doing jigsaw puzzles.    

Lots of color and nothing over 500 pieces please….

Someone gave my mother one of her paintings as a puzzle (a great gift idea – simply upload a photo and order online at piczzle.com) and I helped her out a bit and found it fun. The store shelves were empty of puzzles after Christmas, but I managed to snag one on sale at the bookstore.  It’s the kind of mindless activity which is meditative and addictive at the same time….you sit down to do a few pieces and soon an hour has passed.

Speaking of paintings, her art exhibit comes down mid-April.  It’s been up for five months, but the museum has been closed for 3 ½ of those, so very few people had the opportunity to see it, which is a shame as it was such a nice display.  Another museum called last week and asked if we wanted to do a show this year as they will be re-opening soon, but I think I’d rather wait until next spring. I really can’t see going to all the work of setting up another show, until we climb out of this mess.  

Winter’s Swansong

Winter is over and spring, my favorite season, is here. I don’t want to miss it this year, so the blogging schedule may be a bit erratic.  This past month has been pleasant walking weather, with the grass greening and flowers popping up all over.  The robins are back, bringing with them the promise of warmer days ahead…..after Thursdays snowstorm!   

They are playing this song every time a COVID patient is discharged from the hospital.