While lots of people regard official Chinese statistics about the pandemic with suspicion, I offer a personal anecdote:
On 3rd September I went to one of the city’s (10m population) large hospitals to collect the results of my annual Health Check done on 17th August. To enter the hospital there was a mask mandate in place and you needed to show your electronic vaccine passport. The hospital was running normally and the only sign of PPE was universal mask wearing. Regular routine procedures were being carried out (like our annual health checks) and there were no waiting lists. Back in August my checks included a CT scan to check a minor lung condition and we requested extra Vitamin D blood tests to ensure our immune systems could work optimally. The staff, nurses and doctors were all relaxed and none showed any signs of stress.
Does this match any hospital in the UK at the moment?
Having had a dramatic spread of the virus following an outbreak in Nanjing Airport discovered on 20 July, affecting as many as 18 provinces, the last few days have shown a big drop in locally spread infections. 3 days ago there were zero new local infections, the first since July, and 3 or 4 in the last couple of days (not including imported cases limited to quarantine situations).
Some cities have had huge testing programmes. Yangzhou (4.4m) has been tested between 7 and 12 times (I’ve seen different reports). Yesterday’s 3 infections were all in Yunnan.
My city of Changsha has now been 24 days free of new cases.
It’s over two months since our beautiful princess, Miss Gege, crossed the rainbow bridge. Sigh. What a beautiful sweet girl. I miss her terribly.
But we have some new life in our home now. Not just one, but two!!!
About a month ago, a neighbour rang our doorbell. We’d not met before, but she found out about us at the estate office on the ground floor. She was looking for a new home for her daughter’s cat, since she could no longer look after it due to work travel assignments. So the estate office told her that there was a foreigner who loved cats on the 10th floor!
In comes Miss Coco!
A small, two year old grey and white British Shorthair. A beautiful sweet thing but very shy and instantly bullied by the others. Now she’s found a hiding place on the balcony whether the others can’t reach her, so she’s there most of the time!
And just this week, ‘the management’ decided we needed another member of the family. This time a 3 month old, very gregarious grey and white British Shorthair. Mowgli has settled right in and seems to have appeased the others within a couple of days! He’s all bounce. Very Tigger-like!
Today around 12:30 p.m. we lost our Gege. In Chinese, 格格，a Manchu for Princess.
I feel desperate to hang on to her and am afraid of forgetting some of the special memories we have of her. Hence this blog.
She came to us in March 2019. A British Shorthair breeder was closing down and we adopted her at about 1.5 years old. She was shy and had a hard time integrating with our other 4. 2 were very gentle but the other two had fights with her quite regularly, but they did diminish. Just yesterday I remarked to Yvonne that Gege was eating her dinner and Yoda came up and sniffed her instead of biting her. He once drew blood; quite a nasty gash actually.
When she arrived she spent the first week in one of the toilets, as recommended by cat specialists to allow the others to get used to her smell etc. I would often lie on the floor and talk to her so that she’d get used to my voice and feel safe.
From instructions from the breeder we knew she had a problem of not drinking enough so I bottle fed her water 3 times a day to make sure she was sufficiently hydrated. Probably around. 18 months ago she developed a UTI and was bleeding in her pee. For a couple of weeks we had to give her some antibiotics – a difficult process as every cat owner will tell you, and up the bottle feeding which had become somewhat irregular.
While she never liked being bottle fed water, she accepted it. She didn’t struggle as she normally would if I picked her up. At the end she’d quickly jump down, but not run away. She’d still let me stroke her. But, often she’d hide to stop me from giving her her essential drink. She didn’t like being removed from her hiding places, but settled down once on my lap. Behind the living room a-c unit was a favourite place, and somewhere she knew the other two couldn’t get her!!!
She wasn’t much of a lap cat, but there were a couple of times when she jumped onto my lap as we were sitting on the balcony and would start ‘making biscuits’!
She was also very friendly at bed time. She would come and sleep beside me, and would like to be stroked. In the morning she’d talk a little to me, and gently touch my chin with her paw. When I sat up, she’d touch my leg with her paw and meow. She only did that in the morning.
While she was shy, she wasn’t like Yoda who goes and hides in the wardrobe if we have visitors. But often she’d go and sleep on our bed during the day, or beside the bed. I think she felt a little safer there from Yoda or Chili.
We had no inkling that she might be ill. Our Chubbies, who lost the use of his back legs over a year ago after another couple of years of difficulty walking and after a major operation, has for 3 years now been on borrowed time according to the vet. But he’s still healthy, loves his morning treats, daily massages, coat combing (he has a really thick coat and sheds tons of fur), and has learned to tell daddy when he needs something. So it’s been a huge shock that the younger Gege shed her mortal coil before him.
Yes she had her habits which weren’t appreciated: taking pees a nod poos in the shower room, but nothing we couldn’t cope with. I can’t remember her vomiting at all, unlike Mr Jack.
I’m sure we’ll remember her daily just as we did when Billy Boy died. For months, we would recall him on Sunday evenings at 18:00; the time he slipped away at the vets. Now Thursday lunchtimes will be a memorial time too.
Someone on the Cole and Marmelade memorial page on Facebook kindly appended this poem and our photo which are particularly meaningful.
Can we please skip this year? Everyone will be so glad to see the back of it in a few weeks time!
I think of you all with care and love, praying for your health and safety. Back in January and February I just thought it was a China problem and was horrified that the centre of it all, Wuhan, was only 300km north of us. And when April arrived we were so relieved that case numbers here were drastically down. Here in Changsha we just had around a 100 cases (mostly in our part of town) and two deaths. We’re so thankful that since then there’s only been one new case in our province and that was last month for a new arrival in quarantine. We had no idea it was going to be so devastating for the whole world. Lord have mercy. Fingers crossed that the vaccines will help though it’s going to take months for them to get distributed and for populations to get immunised.
We’ve only been out of town once this year, back at the end of May. Again so thankful that things were safe enough for us to travel. But it was cut short a bit (2 days rather than 5) because some venues required blood tests for foreigners to ensure safety for everyone else. Since results take a couple of weeks to get back, that wasn’t a route we could take. But still so thankful everyone was being careful. And it was nice to get out even if most of it was in the car driving to and from Jiang Xi, (about 2/3 of the way from here towards Shanghai).
Naturally our singing classes got cancelled. The semester ended anyway at the beginning of January, so it never started up again until September. Our teacher was doing online courses but my limited Chinese meant I couldn’t understand a word. Classes in place are very different where I can see from her demonstrations what she’s getting at and Yvonne kindly fills in with necessary details through her translation. We’re so glad to be back, and safe, particularly as singing is one of the most dangerous activities Coronavirus-wise. All those aerosols going out at extra high rates because of the singing. And we have our usual end of term concert on 27th December and I’ve been asked to do two songs in addition to the big chorus. One solo and one duet with the teacher. I think I’ve learned the words and music, but being put on the spot it a bit different from practicing in the safety and anonymity of our home! The duet is apparently a popular song right now so everyone will know it and know if I get it wrong!!
I have local friends from here who went to Scotland for 3 months in March but have been stuck there ever since. Perhaps it’ll take until March 2021 before they’ll be able to get back. China has cancelled all return international flights for foreigners except for the likes of Embassy staff.
We’re thankful that Yvonne’s parents are OK though being in their late 80’s are obviously getting weaker. But we were able to have them and her brother and family over a couple of weeks ago. We went to our usual inexpensive restaurant underneath the railway bridge, which is always good. Unusually it was pretty empty but the food was even better than usual. Perhaps a bit hotter than usual (the cuisine in Hunan is spicy)!
Yvonne’s daughter Shu Fang is still managing her bubble tea shops and has now started a third! I’m so impressed. The DianDian teashops are very popular. When she opened her first 2 years ago, there were about 20 others in the city. Now there are over 60. So VERY popular. She was able to stay open throughout the dark times of February and March by following the usual safety measure, social distancing of customers, mask-wearing and temperature taking (staff temps being recorded 3 times a day) etc etc.
The cats are all fine. Chubbies finally lost all use of his back legs about a year ago, but is a happy little chap. Of course I have to do the walking for him every few hours day and night. He’s very good at telling me he needs something or other so accidents don’t happen too often haha! He continues to be excited at coffee time and eagerly awaits his treat of a bit of bread from my plate. We get what they call Cheese Bread here. I don’t think it actually got cheese in it but certainly some egg. Chubbies definitely prefers the bits with egg in it, sometimes leaving the dry bits!
We had our annual health checks back in July. I needed one anyway to renew my driving license now I’m 71. But the doc said I should cut down on the alcohol so I’m down to a beer or glass of wine every third day rather than every other day. No particular hassle really. Just thankful for good health.
We’ve got our fingers crossed for a UK visit next summer. We obviously cancelled this year’s plans. But the trip might still be in doubt as the experts say that effect of vaccinations will only start to kick in on a wider basis in the summer. I was just reading that British health experts were saying that mask-wearing might still be necessary in a year’s time! We still wear ours here but on a more limited basis – on public transport, in hospitals and cinemas (yes thankfully they are open again). One thing new for me this year has been listening in to live church services on Sunday evenings (for the morning UK services). I generally listen to two, one where a good friend is the curate, and another where their practices are very similar to those of Mennonites despite it being an Anglican church. For those in the know, it’s the Greenbelt church, St Lukes, West Holloway. That said, I have in fact missed the last couple of weeks! And I also listen to a video podcast by Dave Tomlinson, who used to be a customer of mine when I ran the bookshop at the Mennos. Nice to have a personal contact through the wonders of modern technology.
A few things I’ve learned since January 2020, with references for further information
Warning: I have no training in these areas. I am just quoting those whom I regard as informed because they have had the relevent training and experience. In general, I’ve not mentioned drugs as this subject has classically been a moving target. For example HydroxyChloroquine. Early on there was observational data which looked promising. Subsequently, however, placibo randomised control trials showed that it failed to be efficacious and could even be harmful. Some of the videos and references from early on mentioned this and other drugs but should be regarded as preliminary at best. If you’re wanting current information you need to seek it elsewhere.
If only we’d followed the advice of the Chair of Global Health, University of Edinburgh, 26 January 2020
A retired Nurse Teacher and A and E nurse based in England. Also does some teaching in Asia and Africa when time permits. These videos are to help students to learn the background to all forms of health care. His PhD focused on the development of open learning resources for nurses nationally and internationally.