Announced today: The University of Oxford has reached a partnership agreement with AstraZeneca to ensure its Covid-19 vaccine, if successful, can be manufactured and distributed to those who need it, not just across the UK but also to the poorest countries in the developing world.
This will be on a not-for-profit basis throughout the pandemic.
This is an historic coming together and will have repercussions far beyond the current crisis.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what movie genre you’re living in, and sometimes it’s obvious.
In late October, a press conference was held to announce the discovery of thirty sealed wooden coffins containing 3000-year-old mummies at the necropolis near Luxor, Egypt. Many of them appeared to be priests.
The coffins are exceptionally painted and preserved, but archaeologists haven’t yet deciphered the hieroglyphics on them.
For reasons I can’t quite grasp, the decision was taken to open two of the coffins during the press conference, revealing two mummies with the outer wrappings preserved.
And a few days later, a plague of Biblical proportions began to sweep across the world.
Worked in an office for a while. Several of them. Bylines in the posh papers (and some of the seedy ones). Enjoyed the camaraderie, the social interaction, dodging labour by hiding out by the coffee machine.
But nothing beats working for yourself, choosing your own hours, having space to think and really learn who you are. It more than makes up for the financial insecurity. And let’s be honest, when you’re a writer everything can fall apart in the blink of an eye.
I’m fortunate here in my lockdown prison to have some outside space. In the Old World, pre-coronavirus, I’d take myself off to cafes or pubs or out on the Common to write. If you’ve been shackled to a desk for a living, why would you carry on doing that when you can choose, right?
So now that the sun’s arrived, I’m out in this garden writing whenever I can. With my eleven-year-old MacBook Pro, ailing battery and all. For me, I’m far more productive when I move my writing spot. Variety brings inspiration.
A thousand words between eight and nine in the room where the books are piled. Another 1k between eleven and twelve, outside. Charge the battery while I go for a run, then another thousand between three and four and a final thousand between six and seven.
The danger of isolation: crazy, random online purchases.
When I’ve been stuck in my head all day, turning out the few thousand words I need to meet this deadline, I come out like a raging beast breaking out of a cage. Going for my regular 7km run helps burn off some of the madness of being trapped in my skull. Sometimes I need more.
Can’t go out for a drink or a meal or to the cinema any more. So sometimes I buy stuff like this in a knee-jerk act of revolutionary freedom.
This is a box-set of old, half-forgotten Hammer films from the late fifties. Did I absolutely need it? No. Will I regret getting it? Possibly.
But only till I randomly buy something else in a few days time.
At the end of last year I landed a major book deal, but one with a very tight deadline. To get it done, I decided to head out of London, with its many distractions. I rolled up in the middle of a forest in the Leicestershire countryside. That’s where I was when the lockdown came into force.
There are lots of advantages. Hawks, bats, foxes, owls, silence, trees, babbling brooks, clear skies and starlit nights. Wilderness to go for my daily 7km run. So I’m not complaining, let’s get that straight. I’m very fortunate.
But I miss London, and New York, and LA. I like cities and all they have to offer. Right now, though, those cities are no longer what they were. So if you have to be isolated, where better than here.
Except one thing.
My working life hasn’t changed. I’m still hammering the keyboard for hours on end at the word-mines to meet the deadline. Only all my friends and family have decided this lockdown lark is an extended holiday and surely I’m lying on the sofa swilling vodka from the bottle and watching Ozark.
So they call me up. Morning. Afternoon. Sometimes morning and afternoon when they’ve forgotten something. And when I mention, actually, you know, I’m doing a bit of work here, they laugh.
I could turn off the phone, but then what if it’s an emergency and they need me?
I figure the only answer is to turn everything upside down. Work all night and spend all day lying on the sofa swilling vodka from the bottle and watching Ozark.
At least till all my friends on the West Coast realise what I’ve done. Isolation? Pfft.
Back to the writing mill after four days off over Easter. On my virtual desk, I have two novels to complete, and two TV projects.
Work hasn’t changed much here during the lockdown. It’s still me in front of a screen, roaming around the inside of my head.
But work isn’t just the productive part. My well of inspiration was always fed by getting out into the world, to the pubs and bars, to cafes and restaurants, lounging on the common, seeing life, seeing stories unfold around me.
That’s all changed.
Social media has really come into its own in the last few weeks. It’s no substitute, but I’ve found it a lifeline for keeping up with friends and work colleagues. Isolation isn’t good for the soul. We’ll always find ways to connect.
(You can find me on Insta and Twitter, both @Chadbourn.)
Birdsong, loud and constant, from dawn to dusk. Nesting everywhere, a diversity of type that seems richer than I’ve seen in recent years. Bees in unbelievable number. Butterflies drifting by, after years of absence.
Hunting owls shrieking in the still of the night. Foxes rustling through the garden.
In these days of restricted horizons and lowering cloud, Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways may well be the perfect antidote. It takes us on a quest to other places and other times, and like all the best quests, one that goes inside as well as out.
The book describes a series of journeys on foot by the author, following the tracks of ancient wanderers on paths which have been trodden, often, for thousands of years. At the same time it’s an account of the landscape, and the weather, of myth and folklore, of old ghosts and new demons, of philosophy, and the magical aspects of nature that binds all these things together.
The act of walking – the heartbeat of feet upon the ground, the wind in the face – is a meditative process that allows seeing with new eyes. It provides a connection with the deep past, and it allows us to travel far inside for understanding of who we are and what binds us to those who have gone.
Macfarlane’s powerful poetic prose takes us along with him, to the most dangerous path in Britain, off the Essex coast, which only appears briefly on the mudflats at low tide, along the prehistoric route across the South Downs, through the Scottish Highlands, and even to the Middle East.
His description of a terrifying, perhaps supernatural, event one night while sleeping in Chanctonbury Ring captures the mystical atmosphere that seeps into every votive trek.
I finished reading The Old Ways while in lockdown, where my whole world was a house and a garden, and for a brief time there were no boundaries at all.