A voice for the Elderly

I must admit that I worry about the general air of panic that seems to have convulsed the various authorities in this country over the Coronabug. I cannot help but feel that it is a generational thing. Some of the old folk are scared and who can blame them with the daily torrent of propaganda that is being thrown at us all, but often what any country needs in a crisis is a good burst of old-fashioned common sense. That came a few days ago in the form of a straight-talking, eighty three  year old great-grandmother, Maureen Eames from Barnsley.

Refusing to be shielded and hide away at home, she gave a street interview to the BBC, telling anyone who would listen – and millions did – that she ‘didn’t give a sod’ about the new restrictions imposed on her and her husband Michael at their home in Yorkshire.

“In my lifetime, I never thought I would feel like I was in a country when Germany invaded,” she said. “This is a free country for God’s sake, or I thought it was.”

Maureen, bless her spoke for millions of us when she insisted that we must continue to live our lives through this pandemic, not be ‘fastened in a house’ at a time when the country needs us to get up off our knees and carry on.

At her age – and she is even older than me – Maureen epitomises an older generation that lived through a world war, has known extreme hardship through much of their lives but carries on regardless. It was a generation that hoped for the best, planned for the worst and made the most of everything that life threw at them. She says and I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot afford a lockdown life ruled by caution. At this stage in proceedings, we don’t any longer want to live in fear, abiding by the Government’s increasingly ludicrous rules and regulations.

Maureen has tapped into a sentiment of rebellion among many of we oldies – who let’s face, it are the ones most at risk – that we will not surrender our freedom to politicians and medical experts who seem to change their minds about the Coronabug threat on a daily basis.

Families banned from meeting together, friends barred from sharing a drink, lovers told to stay apart – what kind of world is that – what kind of life?

“By the end of this year there’s going to be millions of people unemployed,” Maureen said, “and you know who’s going to pay for it? All the young ones. Not me because I’m going to be dead.”

The former housekeeper and long serving Parish Councillor has more sense in her little finger than the thousands of so-called ‘experts’ deciding the fate of this country. Those of us who no longer trust the rule makers and are determined to preserve our freedom salute Maureen. We won’t hold raves but we will see friends and family. Above all, we will get on with life and be ruled solely by the common sense our leaders seem to lack.

“I don’t give a sod about the restrictions,” railed Maureen in another interview, “and I refuse to be fastened to a house when the country needs to get back on its feet.” She then blasted ministers and government scientists, saying: “They’ve got it all wrong – we should never have been locked down in the first place.”

How right she is. Most of us will remember the magnificent Brenda from Bristol when she spoke to Gordon Brown a few years ago. She summed up the mood of the nation when, having been asked about the decision to call a snap election, shouted: “Not another one.”

Well, Maureen is like Brenda and even more pugnacious in the best possible way. And thank God for her because She has hit a jangling nerve with the British people. She has voiced what many are thinking (and what many scientists are now saying) which is that lockdowns simply don’t work. And she is furious about ‘the blanket of fear’ she says is suffocating people – particularly the elderly – having been terrified by a Government that wants to keep them compliant.

Maureen is right. It is the elderly who have paid the highest price during the pandemic. Many of them have been kept prisoner and separated from family at a time when they don’t have much time left. It has been heart breaking to hear stories of old people dying alone because their families were not allowed to touch them or say goodbye. And to watch those kept inside care homes behind locked doors since March who have spent a long hot summer looking out at life rather than living it. Bunter J and his asinine turnips in Cabinet have stigmatised and isolated the elderly, most of whom know full well the risks of the virus.

And yes, like everyone else, pensioners have an obligation not to spread the virus but they are not the ones partying at raves, having rowdy dinner parties for ten or more like a couple of politicians who have been found out lately or indulging in rambunctious sports activities. But many of us are coming to the conclusion that there is more to life than just breathing, which is why we should have the right to make our own health choices as long as those choices don’t affect or endanger others.

And if we, the oldies are prepared to risk getting Covid in exchange for actually living what’s left of our lives, then we must be allowed to do so because the alternative is worse than death by Coronabug – it is death by loneliness, by depression and by mental stagnation. Statistics show that lonely pensioners are more likely to develop degenerative brain diseases and are twice as likely to have a heart condition.

We are forever hearing about the over seventies who favour lockdown but rarely from those, like Maureen Eames or myself for that matter, who do not. She says that throughout lockdown she has been out every day – having lunches and coffee with friends, walking, doing her yoga. And you just have to look at Maureen to see that this is a woman who has chosen to live what’s left of her life to the full and on her own terms.

And that is surely what life all about? It is not the number of years you have left, it is what you do with them. We must trust this wonderfully resilient generation to decide what is best for them. To deny them that is patronising and arrogant – two character traits that have been abundantly obvious in our revered leader and his sidekick the Hapless Hancock.

This is not by any means the Great Plague. Rather it is the Great Panic. That is what we have been living through since March and it shows no sign of abating.

What is panic? Most dictionaries define it thus.

‘A sudden, unreasoning terror, an overpowering but illogical sense of fear… an extreme emotion often leading to exaggerated measures for needless self-protection.’

Does that not sound pertinent to our present situation? More than half the country now labours under lockdown rules, including areas where cases of Coronabug are very low. Even where they are high, the question still stands.

What on earth are our esteemed leaders doing to us?

According to the most recent peer-reviewed paper on Covid-19, how many people who get the virus do you think survive? Eighty percent? Ninety percent? Ninety-five percent? All wildly inaccurate I am afraid. Precisely ninety nine point eight percent live to see another day. Under-seventies have an even higher survival rate – ninety nine point nine six. Put another way, they have less than half a percent chance of dying through this ruddy bug;

And many of those who do turn their toes up are already seriously or even terminally ill from other conditions.

The Office for National Statistics said last week that far from a ‘second wave,’ figures show all UK deaths are currently just one and a half percent above average, and on a normal trajectory for early autumn.

Those panic-inducing graphs we see on the nightly TV news, showing rising numbers of cases, are meaningless and merely frighten folk into obeying the ridiculously futile rules that are currently in place. Why won’t the media focus instead on the figures showing hospital admissions and deaths? These stubbornly poddle along near the bottom of the chart. The relationship between diagnosis and death has radically changed in the last six months as treatments dramatically improve.

But don’t expect government ministers to bring you good tidings as they mouth endless cautionary platitudes. They seem as entrenched in their positions as the General Staff during the First World War.

Even when it became glaringly obvious that trench warfare was an utterly bankrupt strategy, Britain’s army chiefs stubbornly insisted there was no other way of winning the war. They had expended far too much blood and treasure to admit they had got it all horribly wrong.

We see the same desperate spin today. For instance, the new Coronabug warning system begins at ‘medium.’ Why on earth should that be? Every ascending scale I have known through my long life starts at ‘low’. So why ‘medium; high and very high?’ It is a blatant attempt to manipulate our responses and frighten us all. It is also a withering insult to our collective intelligence.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused the Government of quoting highly selective statistics as they bullied the city onto Tier 3. I have never had much time for Mr Burnham but in this case he is quite correct – that’s exactly what they were doing.

God knows where we go from here. Stand by for months, if not years, of pointless trench warfare against an enemy that poses no serious threat at all to the vast majority. Despite the plucky common sense displayed by Maureen Eames and a few other elderly folk – and I repeat that it is the elderly who are in the most risk of dying from this ruddy bug – we are plagued with political leaders with absolutely no sense of how to go about daily life.

I rarely watch the news any more because it only leads to more despair about the way we are going as a nation. That is not the way to live either.

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