Fringe Box



Schwesterlich News: Don’t Mention the Vaccine ‘War’

Published on: 23 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2021

The latest in our regular exchange of news to and from our twin town of Freiburg in south-west Germany.

They are open letters between Penny Leube, co-chair of Freiburg’s Anglo-German Club, and Barbara Ford chair of the Guildford Twinning Association. See previous letters here.


March 2021

Dear Penny,

Well, here’s the latest from Guildford.  The pandemic is still out there doing the worst it can, but we hope it is now fighting a losing battle in the UK. 

The Covid-19 figures are well down in Guildford, bar a wobble from time to time, our magnificent vaccination programme is going like a train and the sun is shining.  The children are back at school with so far no significant increase in infections, releasing their parents, usually of course their mothers, from home-schooling.

Almost 50% of adults in the NHS area around Guildford have been vaccinated, roughly in line with the national average.

Those of us with gardens are titivating them in anticipation of Boris giving us permission to meet people outdoors – the return of the “rule of six”  (six people or two households)allowed to meet – fingers crossed at the end of this month.

Primroses and miniature daffodils show that spring is here!

I’ve read that sales of firepits, metal containers for outdoor fires, has soared: after all this is Britain and good weather in April, as you know, is not guaranteed.

I do hope we can all continue to hang on till then, and through the following stages towards freedom, without too much more breakage.  There’s so much anger, right across the country.

Of course, the Coronavirus is an explosive topic: who caused it, who should do or have done what to stop it spreading and so on, but also in itself it stokes up that anger, by denying us a means of defusing it.

Exercising heroic self-control and remaining locked down, we are denied the opportunity to, say, engage in “sport as an alternative to war”, or to argue with our friends over a glass of wine at the dinner table or a pint of beer at the pub, using “jaw jaw” instead of war war”.

All that pent-up rage has to find an outlet, most recently a violent protest in Bristol against the Police and Crime Bill, which among other things aims to increase police powers to control violent protest (though holding a violent protest does not look like a good argument against proposed controls).

There’s also a certain amount of ordinary disobedience: not everyone can exercise heroic self-control, or not all the time. Every halfway decent evening will find groups of people, mostly young – presumably because they have more energy and less patience than the oldies – and surely not all members of one household, gathered on the slopes of the Hog’s Back above the town.

Litter left behind on The Mount (July 2020)

And the morning after, 100% decent local residents walking their dogs have to navigate round the rubbish the revellers leave behind.  As the Council rubbish collection services can’t keep up, it’s often those local residents who pick it all up.

But to take a more cheerful view, it is heartwarming to see and participate in the really lovely community spirit which has blossomed across the country.  I told you in my last letter how I’ve been doing “check-in and chat” – whereby some of us 12.7 million (yes, 12.7 million!) volunteers are notified by the Royal Voluntary Service of particular individuals who are in isolation and just need to hear a friendly voice.

For a chatty person like me it’s sheer joy to be actually required to talk to people of all different kinds all over the country.  I’ve volunteered to be a vaccination steward too, but haven’t yet succeeded in responding to a request in time, so many other keen people are quicker off the mark.

Ready for my “volunteer gig”!

Meanwhile, I’ve started a new “volunteer gig” – collecting food bank donations from my local supermarket once a week and delivering them to the Salvation Army for distribution to needy families. The donations are so generous – two and a half trolleyfulls today – that I’ve had to volunteer my husband too, to lend a bit of muscle.

The Tesco’s chap who let me in today told me that a while ago his family had been so hard up they had needed to use the food bank for a couple of weeks, and he is very grateful.  It’s a good feeling to be able to help – I’ve been donating cash regularly, but doing something active is even more rewarding.

The Salvation Army people told me they are currently supplying 250 families, including 450 children – and I calculate that if an average family is 3-4 people, that’s 750-1,000 people in need.  They also supply four schools and five hostels, they supply Guildford Council for its meals on wheels programme, and they are only one of the agencies providing this kind of help.

Pre-pandemic they supplied around 30 families (which is terrible in itself).  The Salvos (Aussie slang for the Sally Army, according to my daughter in Sydney) have included in their current stocks about to be deployed 450 Easter Eggs, one for each child.

The Guildford-Freiburg Zoom quiz – wunderbar!

We are still all “Zooming” heavily. Wasn’t our recent Guildford-Freiburg Zoom quiz wonderful – with 25 of us in Guildford and 25 of you in Freiburg participating!

We Guildfordians did enjoy the opportunity to dress up in funny hats so as to join in just a bit with Germany’s Fasching (Fasnet in the Baden dialect – carnival at its peak at the end of winter) celebrations. An English Shrove Tuesday isn’t nearly as much fun (though pancakes are indeed delicious…).

I haven’t said anything about the Continental vaccine rollout problems because it’s such sensitive territory and our twin towns support each other, but I do hope you and Ernst get your jabs very soon – and everyone else in Freiburg too.

Finally, to put it all into perspective, have you been watching the night sky for the International Space Station with its seven crew members?  You should get several sightings over Freiburg this week, depending on cloud cover (check here).

Watching it pass over – it’s amazingly bright and looks like a fast-moving plane – gives you some perspective on our problems here on Earth, and a much-needed example of international co-operation.

Looking forward to reading or otherwise hearing from you again, dear Penny.  May we all be able very soon to hug and kiss each other, all over the world!

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