Normal – A Moveable Feast?

Another week and another set of announcements for the ‘new normal’. Last Friday it was the beginning of compulsory face coverings in shops, then earlier this week it was the abrupt announcement of 14 days quarantine on returning to UK from Spain and then this morning I heard the seven-day self-isolation for suspected Covid is to be increased to 10 days.

Many people find change difficult, but if you take a moment and glance across the last century for example, you see it is normal for humans to live with a constantly changing world. It is the pace of change, when it is fast and furious, that unnerves us. And, global crises, such as world wars or infectious pandemics or even the invention of the Internet bring with them discernible change. Of course, most change is slower and continuous, we probably don’t notice it, but it is nevertheless happening.

Last week a couple of the old Thames barges turned up and tied up on the Ipswich Waterfront. They were from Maldon, just down the coast in Essex, and they have been the first and only old barge visitors to dock at Ipswich since the lockdown. They are a beautiful example of how we adapt and change and then accept a new normal.

A hundred years ago there were many of them sailing up and down the coast moving the grain grown in East Anglia, the country’s bread basket, down to London. They were an everyday sight for the folk of Ipswich. Nowadays, only a few are still seaworthy, some have been converted to fixed ‘dwellings’, but many have or are rotting away abandoned in the marsh creeks of Essex and Suffolk.

Pin Mill is a picturesque village on the River Orwell and it is also a boat graveyard. A variety of wooden-hulled vessels are slowly disintegrating on the riverbank including several old barges.

Adaptation is a key mechanism of evolution and survival, and so it has been for the Thames barges. They have adapted from transporting grain to hosting curious visitors and have gained a new lease of life as tourist attractions. Yes, the Coronavirus crisis has brought many changes, but taking people on trips down the river, outside on deck, is still possible although with fewer people on board – it’s the new normal.

Old Thames Barge ‘Will’ with, in the background, the Salthouse Harbour Hotel and Neptune Square apartments built on the site of the old dock warehouses.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

18 thoughts on “Normal – A Moveable Feast?”

    1. Thank you and yes I’d love a barge trip. A nice long one away from all this current situation. Seriously though, I have noticed our local barge, Victor, has recently resumed trips down the Orwell although it looks like reduced numbers on board and physically distanced despite being out in the fresh river breeze.

  1. Some things are easier than others. Routines changing is fine: we can adapt. Routines being swept away and not replaced – the joy of singing in a choir for instance – is quite another. But it’s nice to see old friends in your part of the world making an appearance.

    1. Yes, I agree. My sister belongs to a singing group and she is really missing that as part of her life. Singing is an endorphin raising activity isn’t it? And, we could all do with that at the moment.

      1. Oh wow that’s dedication. I know my sister has managed a couple of Tai Chi Zoom sessions, but I don’t think her singing group are up to it!

  2. Watching the UK and US from Canada has been so interesting- while of course we’ve had changing medical opinions, by and large our communities have followed a clear reintegration plan. Various stages of lifting restrictions were explained and how to reach each stage was set out. So far it’s been fairly smooth but have to say, none of us would have rushed off to Spain!! Our border with the US remains closed for the foreseeable future. How wonderful for you to see comforting, familiar sights like the barges.

    1. All I can tell you about the UK is that the messaging has been TERRIBLE – it is now so confusing that nobody knows what they can and can’t do. I even heard a government minister get himself totally confused in trying to explain the current guidelines. We couldn’t have a worse, ineffectual bunch of over ambitious, dissembling politicians in power at such a time of crisis. Nobody I know has a good word for them. Most of us are ashamed to be English at the moment. I think you have a better community spirit in Canada. Wishing you the best. Agnes.

      1. Oh we do have bad actors here too but for the most part people are cooperative – feel badly though for our teachers trying to get ready for September back-to-school. All the best to you and yours.

      2. Yes, agree with you about the teachers. And, over here so many of the women are in their sixties having to work a further five or six years since the pension rules were changed to bring in equality. Naturally, equality didn’t mean men retiring at 60, but women joining men retiring at 65. Who’d have guessed that one and we still don’t have equal pay for equal work. I could go on and on . . . .
        Hope you and yours keep safe in these difficult times.

    1. Not this year – my daughter bought tickets for the mid-summer’s day evening cruise that was cancelled due to you know what. We have chosen to try again next summer, fingers crossed.

      Looking bad in Victoria at the moment. Hope you are keeping safe in NSW. It seems that a few people not behaving appropriately can rapidly cause a spike. It’s happening on a smaller scale here in parts of the UK. Hoping for you that it doesn’t become a curfew situation in your state as that feels like quite a terrifying situation. Good luck to you and enjoy your invigorating winter beach walks.

      1. It appears the Victorian outbreak traces back to interaction between security guards and incoming international travellers held in hotel quarantine. And that’s how easy the multiplier effect works. I suppose one advantage over the UK is that it is feasible to close our borders. All the same, NSW also has clusters, and people are used to travelling distances for work and pleasure, so it’s spreading. Personally, I’ve gone back in to my cocoon. Haven’t even been going downstairs for Happy Hour drinks! (index of consumer confidence).
        There is wet stuff dribbling out of the sky today, so I’ll be laying out the exercise mat instead and doing a few stretches.

      2. It is so difficult isn’t it? I can see that many folk are ‘doing the numbers’ and think it won’t be them, but at the same time many people find it very difficult to understand the multiplier effect and how quickly that can become exponential. I am with you, better safe than sorry and I am keeping away from the old normal life at the moment. Enjoy your at home exercises and keep safe.

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