The lady lived a few streets up from the town centre. Once it had been a town of aircraft manufacture, printing and textile factories, but like many other places it had sunk into the post-industrial gloom of the late-1980s. The streets of the town were terraces of plain, neat red brick houses, each street was similar to the next, each built to house the factory workers.
With a painted wood front door, a scrubbed doorstep, the house was two up, two down, with a scullery at the back and the toilet in the yard. Typical of those built by the factory owners, the lady’s house was as many of them had once been. It was a time of community decay as well as economic decline and, by the late-1980s, the house had become unlike many of those that had slipped from their former state, it had remained spotless, shining, polished.
The lady’s daily routine changed little; she rose at six each morning, cleaned out the fire and set the one for that day (it would not be lit until later, coal was too expensive to be burned before the chill of evening). Once the fire was set, she would set about giving the house its daily clean with brush, mop and dustpan.
Breakfast followed the cleaning. Apart from mealtimes, the rest of the day would be spent reading her Bible, saying her prayers and thinking. Once a week she went down the street for her shopping, otherwise she saw no-one all day. She had no television, no radio, saw no newspapers, and, apart from her Bible, read no books.
The lady has frequently come to mind in recent days.
Watching the five o’clock daily briefing from Downing Street, each statement has differed little from the one of the day before. The world does not improve in twenty-four hours, the death toll has continues to rise, the speakers are able to offer little by way of good news. Perhaps the fact that things are not as bad as they might have been is something positive.
Sometimes, it seems that when one lives in a world where one can do little to change things, where immutable processes continue, then hearing no news and living one’s own life might not be such a bad state of affairs. Living a solitary life, innocently oblivious to the troubling stories of the day can seem a positive option.