Western Morning News (Saturday)

Glimmers of light even in the early morning dark

- BILL MARTIN

I’M obviously going to regret writing this as I hear the ‘Beast from the East’ is about to bring more ice and snow, but when I went out yesterday morning there was a definite feel of spring in the air. It was lighter, warmer and for the first time in what seems like weeks it wasn’t raining. It might be just me, but many of my fellow early morning exercisers seemed to be a little lighter on their feet, and had a little more spring in their step. The slight easing of winter’s gloomy grip has been added to by the very faint notion that – whisper it quietly – we might be getting somewhere. Sure, Covid infection numbers remain scarily high, and the death rates are horrendous. But, with millions vaccinated, and the programme seemingly running well, it can’t only be me who can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. In the Martin house there’s been relief that both sets of parents have had their first jab, and while our own may be some way off – still young see – it does feel like we might all be getting on top of things. Each morning my running route takes me past the mass vaccinatio­n centre at Plymouth Argyle’s football ground at Home Park. There’s an atmosphere about the place – very different from match days. I go past just before the doors open and the jabbing begins, but already the volunteers are in place, wrapped in several layers and Dayglo, wearing winning smiles and issuing friendly greetings. I’ve never heard so many “Good mornings,” “Alright thens?” and “Hiyas”. The clientele, at first pretty elderly but now very noticeably younger, are early, cheerful, respectful and united. It’s as if, after months sitting inside their homes feeling pretty hopeless, the jabees feel they are actually doing something that helps. Mum, parentsin-law, and recipients I have heard interviewe­d on the radio have all reported the vaccinatio­n process as being “beautifull­y organised”. A couple of neighbours have reported getting an unexpected call to be dosed at short notice because medics didn’t want to waste a drop of the precious vaccine. A friend, an early recipient because of a health condition rather than her age, told me this week she found the whole mass vaccinatio­n centre experience “really emotional”. She reported “wonderful” volunteers and staff, and an atmosphere among fellow recipients that she felt must be something akin to the “Blitz spirit”. The knowledge that we can actually do something to help other than just sit and watch Netflix is galvanisin­g. Mrs Martin, not content with a punishing charity challenge she has set herself to raise money for Parkinson’s and bowel cancer charities, has volunteere­d. She registered, was contacted shortly after and starts this weekend. That made me proud of her and the organisati­on around this extraordin­ary inoculatio­n drive. I was given an extra lift this week by the wonderful Chris Whitty – a man whose brain seems so big it’s a miracle it fits in his head – and his eviscerati­ng reaction to some numbskull who abused him in the street. When asked at the Downing Street briefing, Whitty said that the odd young lad showing off ‘occasional­ly happens’ and that he was sure the abuser would “become a model citizen in due course”. I’d love to share his confidence in the last bit, but suspect there’s more chance of hell freezing over when the Beast arrives this weekend. But Whitty’s disarming comment, and the reaction to it, I think reflected a nation that’s had its fill of nastiness, and is more than ready to rejoin a refreshed, cleaner and kinder new normal. I sure hope so.

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