Author Topic: Have we been here before?  (Read 1702 times)

Offline groom

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Have we been here before?
« on: Wednesday 22 July 20 17:45 BST (UK) »
I’m re-reading “World Without End” by Ken Follett and have just reached the part when the plague has arrived at the town of Kingsbridge. One of the main characters has returned from Florence after surviving “ La Moria grande.”  He is telling, Caris, a nun who works in the hospital , what the Italians did.

 " In Florence the nuns counselled us to stay at home as much as possible and avoid social gatherings, markets and meetings of guilds and councils. The nuns wore linen masks over their mouths and noses and washed their hands in vinegar after touching the patients.”  Sound familiar?

Have you read any fiction or non fiction that could almost describe how we have dealt with Covid 19?
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Offline Gadget

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Re: Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 18:42 BST (UK) »

I've been thinking about books, groom. It's not Love in the Time of Cholera, more like Day of the Triffids.  Maybe there's one in a Prachett Diskworld  that might be appropriate.
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Offline Greensleeves

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Re: Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 18:55 BST (UK) »
By coincidence, I was reading Daniel Defoe's 'Journal of the Plague Year'  (1665) when the pandemic started so it seemed very topical and interesting to read how the plague spread in London and how the authorities dealt with it.

I was rather impressed to read that in some ways they were better looked after than we were.  If a family was 'locked up', a guard would be appointed to stand at the door to ensure that no-one entered or left without permission; doctors and nurses were allowed entry.  Part of the job of the guard was to run messages for the locked-in family, as well as doing their shopping, and summoning help if required.

Obviously, families who were locked in weren't over-keen on being shut up, and it was not uncommon for them to send the guards off on complicated errands, and in their absence break out of the back of the house and leave London - taking the plague with them, presumably.

There was also a problem with people frequenting taverns and getting drunk after witnessing the 'funerals' of their loved ones.  These consisted of bodies being put onto a cart full of other corpses at night,  driven to a plague pit, and the entire cargo unceremoniously tipped into the pit.

Just the sort of light-hearted reading required for the beginning of a pandemic! 
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Offline dowdstree

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Re: Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 18:57 BST (UK) »
Not a book but some years ago we visited the village of Eyam in Derbyshire.

In 1665/1666 there was an outbreak of the plague and lead by their local Rector they isolated themselves from the outside World for 14 months. Food was left at the entrances to the village from the nearby Chatsworth Estate and was paid for by coins left in vinegar.

We have been there before.

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Offline Greensleeves

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Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 19:58 BST (UK) »
I'd love to visit Eyam, Dorrie - I've heard about how they isolated themselves to prevent spread of the plague.  Am I right in thinking it was the vicar who led them, and supported them, whilst losing his own family?
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Offline groom

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Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 19:58 BST (UK) »
Little bit worrying that we are still doing the same thing 400 years later!
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Offline Greensleeves

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Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 21:46 BST (UK) »
I suppose we are in a similar situation because, as a new virus, we have no vaccine, no magic medicine to make it go away.  To begin with, no-one knew how to deal with it, how it spread, how long it remained on surfaces.  For all our technology, we've been laid low by a collection of proteins.  (I must say I have problems understanding a virus as not a 'living' thing as we know it.  It doesn't hop about, it doesn't think or move of its own volition.  It just exists and multiplies within a host.)

In 'Journal of the Plague Year' Defoe describes a conversation with a plague nurse who spent her time travelling from infected house to infected house, caring for stricken people.  When asked how she avoided catching the plague, she explained that she had a close-fitting bonnet which she soaked in vinegar before she went into each house, and also put vinegar on her clothes and hands.  Seemed to have worked for her.
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Offline River Tyne Lass

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Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday 22 July 20 22:59 BST (UK) »
'Doomsday Book' by Connie Willis is a science fiction novel which has a number of parallels to the present time.  Kivrin who is a university time traveller sent back to observe medieval times first hand finds herself accidentally out of the planned time range and goes through to the time of the Black Death.  Meanwhile forward in the time from which Kivrin has come from people are being laid low from a deadly 'mysterious strain of influenza' and no one is willing to risk a rescue mission for Kivrin.
At times whilst reading this book I almost felt like the author had had a premonition of now.
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Offline groom

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Re: Have we been here before?
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 23 July 20 00:16 BST (UK) »
I'll put that on my reading list!
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