If you have a garden and a library

This week we have learned that The Alzheimer’s Society has been cleared by the Charity Commission following whistle blower claims of bullying, harassment and the use of severance monies to suppress complaints by staff and former staff. Not everyone is yet convinced.

This story received relatively little publicity thanks to ongoing preoccupation with COVID-19 and restrictions of normal life designed to limit its spread. There has also been celebration of the 75th anniversary of V.E. Day.

V.E. Day gave plenty material for reminiscing for those who were there and can remember it, and for others for whom it has been part of a family’s history. The lockdown meant that celebrations were smaller scale and perhaps quieter and more thoughtful than they otherwise might have been. Flags and hats, Vera Lynn, flypasts and singing gave a sense of shared joy and relief rather than triumphalism. Care homes were as active as anywhere as the wonderful staff do so much to raise spirits under siege and a death rate which is three times the usual for this time of year.

Most impressive are the stories which tell us what people are finding comforting and helpful during these weeks of social austerity: dogs’ homes are empty as people take on a dog for company and regular exercise, sales of books and digital music are at a high, as are sales of hobby craft work and art materials, seeds and plants (on line). Radio 3 is being more appreciated than ever. Many of these pleasures are simple and honest.

One letter writer reminded us that Cicero affirmed in 46 BC: ‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need’.

Wisdom endures.

A tradition of feeding the needy is prominent in the Sikh religion – food from the langar (communal kitchen) is available day in day out. Langars around the country have increased their output to help during the crisis – mosques, churches, synagogues and other faith centres are similarly engaged alongside Foodbanks and other initiatives which often use faith premises even though not themselves faith-based.

Lessons and practices originating in the past still provide strength and comfort in these novel national and international circumstances.

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