One thing most people have missed and for which they are now yearning is close physical contact with their relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Most of us have been surrounded by immediate family for over 10 weeks and relations have gotten closer in many cases; we know, too, that hostile and toxic situations in some households have not improved, maybe worsened.
During the extended lock downs and curfews and restricted activities, people have tried to make the best of a bad situation regarding physical contact (see a BBC report). Greetings have had to be modified. Kissing and handshaking were two popular greetings that died rapidly. People came up with alternatives such as elbow or foot knocking, waves or other hand gestures (see some here), but as physical distancing became the norm, it was literally almost impossible to have greetings that involved touch. I’ve come up with my own backward-interlocked arms as a ‘hug’ of sorts.
Caribbean people are very tactile and have suffered more than many other cultures. The awkwardness of not being able to wrap arms around each other or some other warm embrace oozes out of some situations. Thankfully, because we’ve been forced to limit circulation and contact, that awkwardness has not always been apparent. But, I sense that one of the things to look for as people resume what was normal activity is how physical distance remains in place and how people will react when others seek to initiate close contact.
People’s hopes for ‘coming out’ of the pandemic are many: back to gainful employment; children’s education that seems assured and good quality (whatever it was before); freer circulation, so that friendships and family relationships can resume in the way that makes them feel more comfortable; socializing in different places; and more. In the area of socializing, many people had become accustomed to going outside their homes for entertainment, which included leisure trips, eating and drinking out, and attending sports events. That latter is one of the major gaps that many found hard to fill. If, like me, they were happy to watch reruns of sporting events, then were not too unhappy. But, many looked forward to going to watch or participate in sport on a regular basis.
France cancelled its season and declared Paris St. Germain champions (the first major European league to cancel, in late-April, as all major public functions would be cancelled till September).
The Netherlands cancelled its season in late-April and declared no champion in its top two divisions or any relegations or promotions. The cup final cannot be played, so there is no winner this season. It has been decided to place the ticket for the winner to the highest in the rankings, after the Champions League. So, the league leaders Ajax Amsterdam will directly go to the UEFA Champions League playoffs. AZ Alkmaar, who were in the second spot in the league table, will go to the Champions League qualifying phase. Feyenoord Rotterdam, the third placed club, will enter the UEFA Europa League’s group stage. PSV Eindhoven and Willem II Tilburg will advance to the Europa League’s second qualifying round.
At the professional levels, it is big business and mass entertainment. The business side has been put under enormous strain as public events have been cancelled. But, after over two months without the opportunities to perform, signs are that some major sports are going to resume in coming weeks. Amongst them, is professional football.
Actually, Korea and Germany have already resumed over the past couple of weeks, playing matches behind closed doors, with many forms of physical distancing being enforced and other health precautions evident amongst players and personnel.
The matches have been played in the eerie caverns of largely empty stadiums, but the competitions have resumed and the remaining issues of winning, losing and settling places can resume.
Denmark resumed on May 28 and had fans participate through a Zoom wall. FC Midtjylland, the league leader, plays its first game back on Saturday at home against AC Horsens and is planning a “drive-in” where at least 2,000 supporters can watch the game from inside their cars outside the team’s ground. Giant screens have been installed in the stadium’s parking lot and footage of the fans in their cars is set to be screened inside the arena.
English Premier League teams agreed to resume contact training and league games will resume on June 17. There are 92 matches still to play. All matches will take place behind closed doors and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport or Amazon Prime. In the UK, the BBC will show four free-to-air games for the first time some the Premier League began in 1992.
“For the first time since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, the BBC can confirm that it will be broadcasting free to air live games upon the league’s return next month.”
Most people have no idea what life is like before sunrise. I get up everyday well before dawn, and enjoy the change from dark to light as daybreak approaches. I get to enjoy a special quietness broken mainly by the sound of birds and maybe other animals. When most people are up and about, so too is the world full of noise.
Yesterday, was for us a typical day in recent weeks: builders have been rebuilding a house at the end of our yard, and been providing us with the sound of jackhammers, buzz saws, loud voices, and more. A construction at our house has given us loud voices, though quieter than from our neighbouring property, sawing, hammering of boards, hand mixing of concrete, and yesterday the joyous chorus of a cement mixer from 8.30 through 5pm. The saving grace of the curfews of recent weeks was that the noise of industrious labourers didn’t start much before 8am and ended around 4pm. We’re now having the end go later; last night, it went on into the dark hours beyond 7pm.
When the curfews started earlier, say at 6pm, we noticed that some work went on past those hours, but we understood that the neighbour’s labourers were sleeping at the property, to maximize the possible work hours.
But, while my family grumbled about the incessant noise yesterday, I didn’t and can tolerate that because I get a good 3+ hours of relative quiet each morning. I get the blackbirds, though:
As people talk about life getting back to normal, I have a tinge of regret for them, even those who aren’t like me and enjoy the dawn chorus.
We’re not birdwatchers but we have taken to watching birds a lot. Last night, as we had dinner on the patio, we noticed a couple of doves, being all lovey-covey, first sitting together on a rail, then flying off together to set on a roof. A little mating time in the evening?
We’ve seen and heard the barn owls that have decided to come and sit on our roof occasionally, with the distinct creaking sounds of their flapping wings. Last night, we heard one and could see it high in the sky, as it circled, in search of food.
Now, this morning, I again get to enjoy dawn arriving.
As I write at 4.30am, my teenage daughter is sleeping, as she usually is at this time; but today, she has no need to listen to her alarm. School is out. I’m not going to write her story of the spring term of her junior year at high school; I’ll encourage her to tell her own stories in her own words; I think that will be important for her and for many others who have gone through this pandemic.
I hope her autumn tern will get off to the start she hoped for. She is due to graduate in 2021 and the anxieties that go with applying to colleges will start to kick in. In this new normal of online schooling, she has not had the close touch of her teachers and her school mates.
She’s already well on the way to thinking about her choices and she has relished sessions with her college counsellor and going through the processes of applications, getting references and thinking about what she wants to do. She had two sessions this week on studying abroad and thinking about what really makes a student seem appealing to colleges.
She has test scores for the SAT and ACT, having taken them in December. She may do a retake during the summer, if the testing conditions can be established. Meanwhile, she knows that test scores may matter much less for her year; the California college system has done away with the need for them: ‘UC’s new policy, proposed by system President Janet Napolitano, calls for the SAT and ACT to be suspended through 2024 as the university attempts to develop its own testing standard. The tests will be completely eliminated in 2025, regardless of whether a new or modified UC-specific standard has been approved for use.‘ Tests will be option through 2022 and completely disregarded from 2023. As Politico reported: ‘The vote comes after decades of opposition to standardized testing from civil rights groups and education experts who say it favors wealthier, predominantly white students who can pay for extensive test prep.’ The New York Times included an good opinion piece on the topic earlier this week. More US colleges are going test optional.
It’s been a mixed bag for her and she’s not as happy becoming a rising senior as she imagined she would be. But, she’sbeen happy to be at home and enjoy some extraordinary family bonding. I think she’s in good shape mentally and academically, so keep encouraging her to think positively about her coming senior year. She gladly announced that she has some online college interviews and visits lined up for June. She also wants to work part of the summer.
She’s on a good path and I hope she can keep striding confidently along it.
I’m sorry if you do not follow happenings in the UK, or perhaps politics in general, and might not have been aware of the controversy surrounding Dominic Cummings, the chief advisor (political strategist) to Boris Johnston, the UK’s prime minister.
The established facts are that he drove from London to his parents’ home in Durham, about 260 miles away, while his wife had tested positive for COVID19 and he was also displaying symptoms and was supposed to be ‘self isolating’. His stated reason was to find ‘appropriate’ childcare for his children and he argues he did not break the law and was acting “reasonably”. Before, we go further, how reasonable is it to drive your young children in a car for several hours with an infected mother and a possibly infected father in the confined space of a car? How reasonable is it to expose one’s elderly parents to this virus, not just for a few moments, but an extended period, given that they are in a ‘vulnerable’ age group? Remember, ‘self isolation’ was supposedly being ‘practised’ by Mr. Cummings. I ask simply to gauge what reasonable could be for such a person.
The time line is worth following closely. It shows an interesting interpretation of ‘self isolation’, it includes a report by the police that the spoke to the people at the house in Durham after reports had been made of Cummings’s arrival, it also includes an odd round trip to a well-known attraction, Barnard Castle (30 miles away), to check Mr. Cummings’s eye sight before making a longer trip. Make of it all what you will. It could be a remake of ‘Carry on regardless’. When your reputation goes on for “(s)miles and (s)miles”:
Several things seem clear.
One, it’s easy to understand the dilemma of having a sick parent in the home and finding safe and reliable childcare outside of that space.
Two, it’s plain to see that some people do not take the rules that are set as binding on them–we can all find reasons to not follow general instructions. During various COVID19 settings, where movement has been heavily restricted, many people, including prominent public figures (celebrities, professional sports people, and politicians included) have been caught doing this.
Many of the public figures who have been caught flaunting the rules have apologized (eg Kyle Walker, footballer for Manchester City, who apologized for hosting a party just before being a spokesperson for policies on limited movement, then offended again by going on a 40 mile trip to visit his parents, then went on the offensive (not bad for a defender) about subsequent ‘harassment’. Some have resigned (eg Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Catherine Calderwood, who flouted her own lockdown rules, by visiting her second home twice), though Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, wanted her to stay in office, after this ‘mistake’, even though ‘Dr Calderwood had earlier beengiven a police warningfor breaking the lockdown rules after theScottish Sun published photographstaken on Saturday of her and her family visiting Earlsferry in Fife – more than an hour’s drive from her main family home in Edinburgh‘ (as reported by. The BBC). Some, like Mr. Cummings, have given elaborate explanations and neither apologized nor resigned (so far).
Third, doing something ‘reasonably’ in one’s personal opinion does not elevate it to being right, in light of what is supposed to happen. That’s why, if a burglar takes reasonable when robbing someone’s house (eg by cleaning up after the event, only taking some of the valuables, not all), the crime still stands. Things like that don’t seem so hard to understand, even without a great intellect, except if one really has no intention of admitting that a wrong has been committed and that one should own that.
The Tory whip urged MPs to do this and has since apologized but not before negative public sentiment began to flow rapidly and heatedly in the direction of the defenders. Interestingly, public sentiment was well expressed by an MP: “People feel as if they have been taken for fools. Everyone has made a sacrifice, everyone has family members they have been unable to see. One complaint came from someone who had missed their 94-year-old terminal relative’s last birthday. We look elitist, a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ party.”
In a way, I think that sums it up. The world is always made up of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ people, especially amongst the privileged, including politicians. How much of that the public is willing to tolerate when almost everyone has been doing as they were asked to will be interesting to see.
My personal bet is that Cummings (now under police investigation for the trips) will be gone soon. If not, I think the staying power of the government, already on shaky ground for its bungling of policies to deal with the COVID19 pandemic in the UK, will find it’s walking on some greasy downward slope.
One my new realities is that I am in an at-risk group, being over-60 years old. One of the other realities is that a large part of dealing with the pandemic and going forward comes down to personal hygiene practices, taking care to apply social distancing, and ensuring those with whom one has contact also do these things, too.
So, it was a bit surprising how I reacted to the JCF officers who stopped the car my friend was driving on our way back from playing golf. It was the Labour Day holiday weekend and many people had enjoyed the opportunities to get out and enjoy a little freedom over the period. I’d tried to persuade my troops to go for a ride to the golf course and enjoy the expensive open spaces. Instead, they’d happily chilled at home. However, when we got to the course, the car park was almost full. Curfew had ended at 8am, so the normal early birds (6am onwards crowd), of which I am normally part, had to stack up with the later starters. But, not a big deal. We enjoyed the round; I walked most of the front 9 and took advantage of the chance for a good walk, and had taken only a few clubs. We had a quick bit of refreshment after and headed home about 1pm, mindful that curfew would start early, at 3pm.
A dilapidated police truck was in front of us on our way back and my friend overtook it, and I said “Really?” Anyway, within a few moments, we heard the siren and were pulling over. If we’d been a couple I’d have been saying “I told you! Why did you need to go past? You could have waited till we got to the highway.” But, I didn’t.
Two JCF officers approached the car on the passenger side; odd, I thought, but perhaps out of an abundance of caution they did not want to expose themselves to passing traffic. Well, that put them into my wheel house. As the window was wound down, the first officer was uttering his opening words, but I asked him to just hold on a moment. He looked a bit startled. I’d noticed his and his colleague’s masks were around their chin; I was wearing mine. Unrehearsed, I said, “Before you go any further, I’d like you to put on those masks, and perhaps think about why you feel it appropriate to engage us without them.” They pulled them on, and explained that they had not had them up while sitting in the car. Interesting, but not my problem, mate. However, they complied, and their interrogation began:
“Do you have any firearms?” No, only golf clubs. “Oh, you were playing golf?” We were dressed as golfers, but that could easily be a disguise for ‘Grunty’ and ‘Thin Willy’
“Where are you going?” Home. The officers looked over at my friend behind the steering wheel and asked if he was the rightful owner. I said I didn’t know, but he drove the same car each week to pick me up; I opened the glove box to look for the documents. My friend said he was, and the officers seemed happy.
“Well, we’re just doing some spot checks.” The rest was all smiles and polite offering of officers’ names and we were on our way.
I noted as we headed home that the JCF were out in force and cars were stopped on the roadside. The cynical Jamaican would look at the calendar and note that month-end is coming and ‘hunger’ is in much evidence. ‘Food’ must be eaten. I said to my friend as we drove that we are in a new era when all the new practices are being learned as we go. We could easily foresee that ‘at risk’ people like me would have a sticker on the vehicle, as disabled people now do, to alert others to our ‘condition’. But, more important in the moment was the need to make sure that people like me are not exposed to the risks due to the carelessness or lack of thought of others.
Having been to the golf course, we’d seen plenty of evidence that people are mindful of the risks and trying to minimize them. On the course, it’s easy to keep your distance. It’s also easy to practice personal hygiene. Caddies are not getting much work these days as people are wary of more hands touching their equipment.
It was funny to watch on Sunday the Champions for Charity match involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady; they played using individual carts and without caddies. Part of the new normal for golf. No spectators and media and officials were all keeping a good ‘safe’ distance from all the action. All of the non-players wore masks. New guidelines have been issued to aid the resumption of golf in many areas and include instructions on things like raking bunkers and handling flags—things that could involve many hands touching the same object.
How we go about our daily lives anew is evolving. So, it will be for many weeks to come.
Quality media houses have no difficulty issuing apologies for erroneous stories, and placing them with the same prominence as the offending item. I no media house, but I think that’s an admirable principle. So, I need to review my views about the ‘gardener’.
When I spoke to him on Friday about my missing golf balls, he had asked me if I hadn’t found them in the bushes; I hadn’t. Midway through Sunday afternoon, when I was pottering about in the garden one more time for a bit more exercise, I saw a golf ball behind a palm tree, by a wall. I probed it with my golf club, which I had ready to do some practice. “Good Lord, guvna, is that a body?” My eyes nearly popped out of my head as I saw a little nest of golf balls tucked behind the palm tree roots. I called to my daughter to come and see, as I needed a witness, otherwise this would just be another ‘Daddy story’. Down to the garden she trotted, barefooted, as is her way, and I pointed out the balls to her. I then gathered them together, nearly a dozen.
As I backed away to survey my pile, the sky suddenly decided to become the ground and the next thing I knew was the garden fork I had in one hand and the golf club were both flying to the real ground and me with it. I tried to do a minI-somersault and was on my back with my legs tangled in a shrub. Well, what a good thing the paparazzi were there, even though they were in mid-cackle. Buddum! “Mummy, Daddy fell!” Hahahahahaha!
As they would say, don’t try this at home, children.
So, Dylan deserves a partial apology for my thinking he was a near-brainless half wit. The man had method in his seeming madness.
Of course, he could have been more specific about where I might have found the balls in the bushes. Or he could have gone to his hideaway spot and uncovered them himself. That he didn’t makes me wonder if he was indeed playing his own version of ‘Gotcha’. That I had found one golf ball amongst the garbage bags makes me wonder if the man and his evil ways had sent me on wild goose chase with a tempting morsel. I had not bitten that bait, though, and had decided that if the balls were in the bag, so be it and damn his eyes. Now, I have to wonder if the man set pon me an is Obeah him a work.
It’s too early to decide how to play this next. Whether I give him the satisfaction of knowing that I found the balls, or if I probe him and find out why he’d not done more to solve the problem. Why on Earth tuck them away so well?
But, I’m going to treat him with a new degree of caution. The man has the potential to be dangerous.
My teenage daughter asked me a few days ago to write about perception. Well, I don’t write to order, but I thought I’d try. I asked her what pareticular point she wanted to address, and in teen-like fashion, she’s left me groping in the absence of an answer.
That’s a lot to interpret. But, grammar a lesson over, let’s look at that obsolete definition. Those who are my friends on Facebook will have seen the saga I have endured with our ‘gardener’, or correctly, the man who comes to clean up the yard, what Jamaicans may call a yardman. He doesn’t know a lot about agriculture, but knows a lot about cutting and clearing of brush.
To cut those stories short, I’ll just recount the headlines:
He decided that the best way to clear weeds in my pumpkin patch was to use a lawn mower, not something a bit more capable of getting into the small spaces. His answer to my asking if he’d mowed down my vines was “Hardly.” That’s an answer that defines even a great understanding of English. Hardly!
So it has gone on for a good few years. I decided the best thing was to let him have his Friday afternoon fun and try my best to correct any damage over the following weekend. Most recently, I asked why he’d not been putting the cuttings and rankings onto my compost heaps. He nodded and even confirmed his understanding again as he neared the end of his day. As friends know, I then found 5 bags of yard debris put out for garbage. I collected them and added to my compost heap. The folllwing week, I asked him about what he’d done and he agreed to do it this time. Again, I found bags out for garbage. One more conversation and it was clear that he was a man trying to serve two masters, and we know ow that story goes. He’s employed by the landlords, and whatever ‘Mr Tenant’ may say, the payer calls the tune. Now that has been resolved in my mind, I am at peace, or was.
Last week, I went out on Saturday morning to do my walk and daily golf practice. I couldn’t find any golf balls; usually, about a dozen are lying on the grass. I searched the shrubs and pots; nothing. Surely, he hadn’t raked them up, He’s been doing the yard for over three years for us, and he usually puts the ball in a group somewhere obvious. What could have happened? Surely, not… I walked to the garbage area and as I picked up one bag, out came a golf ball, bouncing down the driveway.
Go out and play in the yard doesn’t mean climb a tree, or kick a ball; it can mean go and get into the dirt and plant something. I love gardening; it’s one of my truly relaxing pastimes. I like it for the changes that I see every day and many moments of every day. I love it that seeds turn to plants, turn to fruit or vegetables, turn to food on your table, I love the colours and shapes and feel of leaves that are crisp when living and crunchy when dying.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think the exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar (J$) to the US dollar (US$) was part of the navel string of many Jamaicans. Every time it depreciates, there’s a collective tug on the umbilical cord and a collective wince.
Well, it’s not connected to my navel.
I’ve no idea what the last rate quoted was as the closing rate of the J$ to the US$, but I saw 147 the other day. I only noticed because someone had written ‘another record…sigh 😩’.
I’ve given up trying to explain that the J$ isn’t running away. But, like their visceral fear of lizards, Jamaicans seem terrified of a depreciating dollar. Not for them the calm that should come from knowing that the price has been largely bouncing around a range of about 125-140 for a long time. Part of this fear stems from a belief that the depreciation will feed into higher prices. Well, it might, but for a long time now the pass-through of exchange rate movement to domestic prices has been muted. It could change, but it’s not inevitable. Economic agents in Jamaica may not be able to pass on exchange rate changes, not least because it’s been well-established by research studies that this is harder to do in a recession.
The arrival of COVID19 meant a few things would happen if the world spun on its usual axis. First, many people would rush to ‘safe haven’ financial assets. The US$ has long been that safe haven. Well guess what? The US$ has been the clear winner in the safe haven stakes.
So, if the US$ has been what most of the world wanted in this time of crisis, the other currencies must look weaker when traded against it. Guess what, again? They do!
Lummie! “Pass the Wincarnis, Delores!”
The pound has stunk in those stakes, because it’s suffering from Boris-can’t-get-it-right-itis; it’s trading around 1:20 now after a nose dive and rebound around the December ‘Brexit’ general election. It slumped again from March this year.
But the best measure of the general US$ strength is its index, which hit a high of 102.99 in late—March, and closed yesterday at 99.6.
‘the demand for dollars was not surprising: whenever the world economy seems riskier, investors gravitate toward greenbacks. the demand for dollars was not surprising: whenever the world economy seems riskier, investors gravitate toward greenbacks’
So, the J$ must trade worse against the US$ because people prefer the latter in a crisis. Even in a slower economy, people also have operational needs for FX. That’s the demand part. Jamaicans are just like most of the rest of the world.
The second thing that would happen is that the inflow of foreign exchange to Jamaica would suffer badly; and it did. The main sources were tourism revenues and remittances. Both represent money set to Jamaica from abroad by people confident and able enough to do that, whether strangers or friends and relatives. With that reduced supply of FX, the exchange rate must tend to suffer. Again, it did.
IMF estimates put projected tourism earnings at just under US$1 billion (from over $3 billion previously expected; down 68%) and remittances at about $2 billion (from $2.3 billion, down 17%). Financing of US$520 million approved last week by the IMF will bridge some of the lost FX, but clearly a large FX funding gap remains.
“Frankie, make that a double whisky!”
Put that global demand reaction in search of US dollars with the specific supply problems of Jamaica and the local FX market must be in a more-stressed position, and the rate must depreciate. It’s a market place, after all.
The Bank of Jamaica wrote a nice primer on floating exchange rates, last November, on Twitter, pointing out that a temporary shortage of FX is not a real shortage of FX for the country:
They could have stressed that Jamaica’s net international reserves are still at healthy levels in total (US$3 billion in April) and in terms of the weeks of imports they can cover–the standard measure of reserve adequacy. Which would not imply that those reserves should be spent to support the exchange rate.
Bank of Jamaica governor, Richard Byles said midweek the central bank is pacing its intervention in the FX market.Foreign currency liquidity assistance provided to the financial market since the onset of the domestic crisis in March up to May 15, 2020, amounted to approximately US$338 million, Byles said, adding that the central bank has undertaken several initiatives to assist financial market stability. He warned that at this rate, it “could end up selling more than US$1 billion to the market over the course of the fiscal year, which is unsustainable…Providing $300 million or more over the last two months, that’s not a small intervention, that’s a very substantial intervention. I think you can use that to mark how serious we are about providing liquidity and making sure that every Jamaican has access to goods and services that have to be paid for in foreign currency.”
I suggested to the central bank that they do a bit more to explain to people what would need to move/adjust if the exchange rate was not showing its flexibility, upwards and downwards; they agreed with this suggestion:
Thank you. Good suggestion. We've actually publicly explained it a couple of times before (outside of Twitter), but it bears repeating. Croc O. Doyle has been asked to do an update of this thread (despite his current COVID-19 related duties), so we should be getting that soon.🐊
Many Jamaicans struggle to connect the dots. Most understand that a severe shortage will lead to sharp price increases, and even if they put some of that down to profiteering, they know it occurs. Yet, they seem startled when the same happens in the foreign exchange market, with US dollars being (temporarily) scarcer.
I’m hoping that the penny (or cent) drops soon, because it’s getting mighty tiring to see people go through what is really unnecessary anguish.