John sam jones

John Sam Jones | Life in a Covid Hotspot

Wales Arts Review asked some of Wales’s top writers to pen some thoughts on the future. This new series brings together a wide variety of perspectives and ideas in a vibrant array of styles and forms, expressing hopes for a new way of doing things when the Covid-19 coronavirus is finally overcome. Political, personal, sociological, ecological, cultural – this is an evolving tableau of ideas for the world as it is and how it might be. Here, John Sam Jones offers a view from his home in Germany.

Jupp and I live in a village at the centre of Germany’s first Corona hot spot – 300 people in the largely rural communities around us were infected at the carnival festivities over the last weekend in February – so we’ve been in lock down since pancake day. Our county, Heinsberg, was on the national news for days, until the rest of the country was hit by the wave of infection. Two of Jupp’s cousins and their families were infected, but they have all recovered; his aunt also got sick and she spent some days in the hospital, but she too has recovered. She’s 84.  The German health system has been praised around the world for its care of people sick with Covid-19.

We have both remained well and have adjusted remarkably. We kept to our daily routine as closely as possible, though Jupp misses his twice weekly Bridge binges and I miss my Tuesday night date with the choir. Jupp started to read ‘classics’ he missed out on – War and Peace, Anna Kirenina, Don Quixote – beautiful leather-bound books that his parents bought once a month by mail-order in the 1960s and which no one had ever read because the print was so small. I decided to knit a blanket with all the left-over sock wool from maybe 10 years of knitting socks… because of my faltering heart I’ve been forced, now and again, into periods of calm inactivity when knitting socks has saved me from despair. My Corona blanket will endure long after Corona virus has burnt itself out.

We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather too, so we’ve been eating lunch out in the garden and walking the dogs around the lake… though the warm, sunny weeks have been a mixed blessing: a wild fire has been raging through the forest just a couple of kilometres from us and the villages just across the border in the Netherlands have been evacuated.  For five days now, every six or seven minutes, helicopters with dangling bright red bladders have scooped up water from our lake to douse the flames.  As if Corona wasn’t enough of a crisis!

Despite the apparent agreement between the leaders of the sixteen German states and the federal government in Berlin on a gradual, step-by-step exit from the lockdown, some of the Länder have been eager to ‘get back to normal’, and their haste has met with rebuke from chancellor Merkel – a scientist by training who perhaps has a clearer understanding of the need for caution than some of the state leaders.

And so the wearing of face masks – until now only recommended – becomes compulsory on public transport and in shops and public buildings – but no one is quite sure at what age this compulsory wearing of masks will be required and the leader of the government in our state, North Rhine-Westphalia, wants to know if the five year old without a mask will be fined.

John Sam Jones’s latest book, Crawling Through Thawns, is available now from Parthian.