"The Mill" - CODID-19 Recollections Page
JRGS Alumni Society

COVID-19 Pandemic Experiences

- December 2020 -

JRGS Alumni Society


Since this is the Holiday Season for thinking of others and how we can transition through the current COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, we will include in this custom page your current experience and hopes for the New Year, including recently announced vaccines. If you would like to contribute, there are a couple of simple rules. Please restrict your contribution to a handful or paragraphs, and include a maximum of two images, if appropriate.


 Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66) kicks the discussion into play...

The year of the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with the first fallow year of the JR website The Mill, which is rather sad but not to be helped. Like the majority of our colleagues in the JR community, I am of an age to be classified as at risk from the virus. On the one hand I will be glad to be vaccinated reasonably soon in 2021, but that reinforces my slight background feeling of guilt. Despite one or two physical creaks, my wife Jane and I are fit, healthy, reasonably well-off, in a house with a decent garden and living in an area with access to the countryside, all of which we have taken advantage of this year. I know we are in a very lucky minority.
   In any case, lying low suits my character and so the enforced restrictions have often barely felt onerous. However, I do miss live music and theatre as well as being freely able to meet with others, particularly my son and daughter.
   Reflecting on my career at JR, I often feel that one of the major things I gained from school is the importance of thinking critically from first principles and to call out bullshit as what it is. This has meant that the awful and tragic mismanagement of the pandemic by governments in the UK and the USA – plus a few others – has sickened me.
   I have hopes that the 2020 experience will encourage the world to alter its earth damaging course just a little from next year. We shall see.


 Tom Shaw (JRGS 1957-61) empathizes with the future generation...

It goes without saying that most of my fellow alumni are of a similar age to me. The attached photograph says all I need to say right now.


 Anne Smith (JRHS/JRC teacher/principal 1970-99) flies the optimism flag...

Enlivened by fury for the vulgarity, hatred and corruption of our leaders in US and UK (the former trumps ours, I think), I have been more or less in my house, where I live alone, since March. But, like Paul Graham, I am well off, have adequate space, heat and money, and a garden; and I have never had daily phone calls from my son and daughter before! My sisters, all over 70, remain well, as do their children and grandchildren.
   I shall be vaccinated as soon as it is offered me; I’m 82 on Sunday so I hope it is sooner rather than later. And I hope for a better New Year, and wish the same to all Alumni.


 Ray "Sprout" Young (JRGS 1950-55) celebrates a grateful birthday...

What a year this has been! Being elderly, from March my wife Alysoun and I were self isolating. Our village formed a volunteer group that for 13 weeks brought in our shopping and medication. What a grand lot they are. As things eased, we started going out ourselves, fully protected and spaced, just to get activity and meet people. However, in August following a routine scan, an early cancer was spotted by accident on my right lung.
   On September 30th, I was transported to Guys Hospital, London, operated on using Da Vinci Robotic Keyhole surgery on October 1st; my birthday is on October 3rd. I was asked to get up and go to the Admin Area at the end of the ward. When I got there, the whole staff of doctors and nurses - a total of 14 - broke out with Happy Birthday. They had even decked out the area with blue balloons and silver streamers. Then the senior nurse walked in with a huge chocolate and cream cake cut into 36 pieces! The whole ward and staff had a piece. It made me well up, I can tell you
   On October 6th the head surgeon, Mr. Routledge, asked me who would look after me at home. I told him my son and his wife Victoria had self-isolated for two weeks, and completely sanitised an on-suite bedroom for Alysoun down in Hampshire. "Perfect," he said, and arranged for a car to take me all the way to Hampshire! I couldn't believe it.
   I have now almost recovered, am carefully out shopping, and walking the dog in the woods. Thank goodness for our NHS. What a caring lot they are. I shall never forget them.


 Mel Lambert (JRGS 1959-65) checks in from across The Pond...

Here in the US, we continue to suffer from the inadequacies of a White House well past it use-by date, and not known for its appreciation of scientific-based procedures for controlling the spread of such a virulent disease. Most of California recently transitioned into a Governor-mandated Purple Tier, with an uncompromising stay-at-home strategy. Vaccines should be available soon, now that the US Food & Drug Administration’s Vaccines Advisory Committee recommended that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine be approved for emergency use and, reportedly, which will trigger a major distribution effort; hospitals are said to be in standby mode, expecting a green light from the FDA.
   Back in October, the FDA approved the antiviral drug Veklury – also known as Remdesivir - for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older and weighing at least 40 kg (88 pounds) for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. Veklury was the first treatment for COVID-19 to receive FDA approval; clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy in the pediatric patient population are ongoing.
   Day-to-day life for seniors like me involves as little contact with non-family members as possible. I enjoy power walks around my local neighborhood four times a week, covering maybe 2.5 miles in 45 minutes. I use stores very sparingly, and never if they are crowded; deliver services such as GrubHub are life-savers.
   I also journey once or twice a week to my favorite pub, The Robin Hood in Sherman Oaks, some seven mile west of here. Until the recent lock-down, the outdoor seating was open for lunch and dinner; I often enjoyed eggs, bacon and chips there in the early afternoon. Now I order takeout of the weekly specials or old regulars such as bangers&mash or shepherd’s pie; old habits – and food tastes, it would seem – die hard.
   In conclusion, I remain excited at the promise of a new president and VP, who look set to hit the ground running after the January 20 investiture of the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris partnership. Also, I have just finished viewing the fourth series of “The Queen,” which, quite frankly, reminded me of what I do not miss about the UK. A final scene between Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Diane, Princess of Wales, during which the latter commiserates with the former about being “outsiders,’ was particularly revealing of the internal, albeit dysfunctional, workings of the Monarchy.
   And here, just for grins, are two, slightly altered book covers I found on Facebook.

Slightly altered comic-book cover Slightly altered comic-book cover


 Martin Preuveneers (JRGS 1958-65) recalls life abroad, and Latin lessons...

Here in California - like many places in the world - we are in lockdown until early next year. Spending more time in my house, I have had time to reflect on places I have visited and lived in my life.
   One that stands out is Italy. In the early 1990s I lived and worked in Verona. In the summer evenings I would occasionally take a short drive to Sirmione to have dinner. It is a beautiful small town on a peninsula in Lake Garda. I discovered while I was there, that a roman poet, Catullus, had lived in a villa by the lake.
   At JRGS I also remember the Latin classes with Mr. David "Rhino" Rees. Like others, I was terrified he would pick me out to translate a page of Latin. One day he did and asked me to translate a couple of versus by Catullus. I am sure Catullus had no idea, when he was scribbling out poetry overlooking Lake Garda, probably with a glass of red wine, that his poetry would torment schoolboys some 2,000 years later. (I failed Latin O-Level.) This memory and others have helped my sanity during this restrictive time.


 Bob Wane (JRGS 1945-53) remains in lockdown and recalls Kenneth Alwyn...

In the spirit of our webmaster's email, here are a few thoughts from an old timer.
   This year has been one of most damaging for us all, especially the younger ones with their education all but wrecked. For it will be they who will pick up the tab literally in the years to come.
   For those of us in Bedford, we have had to endure lockdown virtually all year, as my wife is in the most vulnerable category following her nine months of chemo. But we have managed to get in our walks by way of some exercise. During the summer, when she was not allowed out, she walked around our garden (cf. Sir Captain Tom ) some 50 times most days, achieving about a mile. Naturally, social contact has been zero and provisions and medicines have been delivered to the front door, which has been a godsend.
   Now life is returning to normal, not withstanding the restrictions on mobility, etc. What wonderful inventions are Zoom and Facetime for keeping in touch at least with relatives and dear friends.
Kenneth Alwyn   Holidays have been cancelled, like most people’s, but we are looking forward in hope that 2021 will permit some breaks for all of us.
   Did any Alumni read the obituary in the Daily Telegraph (14 December, 2020) of Kenneth Alwyn, the orchestral conductor pictured right? Amongst many accomplishments, he was conductor of the orchestra that played “Friday Night is Music Night,” on what was then the BBC Light Programme for many years. Hidden in the obit, was reference, that as a child, Kenneth attended John Ruskin Boy’s Central School, which must have about 1936. According to the BBC obituary, he was born in Croydon in 1925. More details can be found on his Wikipedia entry.
   Didn’t the boy do well! His personal website is here.
  That’s enough from me except to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and sincere wishes and hopes for a happier and healthy New Year.


 David Anderson (JRGS 1964-1971) recalls better times and a memorable DVD...

"My Generation" DVDWhat a year? We never ever thought anything like this would happen. I'm up for the vaccine as soon as possible. We, the Baby Boomers, benefited from the Polio and BCG [TB] jabs when at school, and were safe because of them. I think some younger ones don't trust their life-saving potential and take good health for granted.
   Anyway, let's hope this is all over soon and we can get back to our normal, but maybe changed forever, lives. At least we have had many, many years without worry or restriction. We have been a very fortunate generation.
   Last weekend the BBC repeated a film called "My Generation". Michael Caine tells the story of the 1960s; the explosion in Music, Arts, Culture, Fashion, etc. that happened in that magical decade. I was about five years too young to fully participate, but I do recall a lot of the film's content. I bought the DVD shown right in 2017 when it was released but passed it on to friends. If you can get a copy it is highly recommended and may well lift the spirits by looking back at happier times that have now slipped into Modern History. More
   A very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all the JRGS Alumni. Keep smiling!


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